This year marks the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, more commonly known as the Indy 500. Since the race’s inception in 1911, men and women from around the world have participated, but only 5 drivers have come from Scotland. With 2015 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first Scottish win at Indy, here is a look at the five Scots who brought their talent from Dunfermline, Glasgow, Bathgate, Milton, and Kilmany to the Brickyard.
Jim Clark (1936-1968) became the first Scottish driver to compete at the Indy 500 in 1963, going on to start the race in five consecutive years (1963-1967). In his Indy rookie year, Clark took second place, 34.04 seconds behind Parnelli Jones. After dropping out of the 1964 race with suspension problems, Clark rebounded the next year by crossing the finish line in his Lotus-Ford 38/1 almost two full minutes ahead of Jones. The year 1966 witnessed another second place finish, this time to Graham Hill, and 1967 saw an early exit after 35 laps due to piston problems. Unfortunately, Clark would not have the opportunity to compete the next year, as he was killed during a Formula Two race in Hockenheim, Germany on April 7, 1968.
From its first running in 1911, the Indianapolis 500 has been the most prestigious automobile race in the United States. But in the early 1960s, it was falling behind the technological times. Lithe, rear-engine cars lit up Formula One circuits everywhere, while Indy remained tied to heavy front-engine roadsters not fundamentally changed in a decade. It would take an English designer and a Scottish driver, with some help from an all-American racer and a Big Three automaker, to break the mold 50 years ago this month.
The Indianapolis 500 is America’s premier motorsports event. Since its inaugural run in 1911, Indy has exemplified our country’s obsession with speed. It is ironic, then, that one of its most significant victories came from a Scottish driver in a British-built (though American-powered) car. In one fell swoop, Jim Clark’s 1965 win in the Lotus-Ford Type 38 marked the end of the four-cylinder Offenhauser engine’s dominance, the end of the front engine, and the incursion of European design into the most American of races. The Henry Ford holds many important objects, photographs and documents that tell this fascinating story.
By the early 1960s, four-cylinder roadsters were an ingrained tradition at the Indianapolis 500. Race teams were hesitant to experiment with anything else. American driver Dan Gurney, familiar with the advanced Formula One cars from the British firm Lotus, saw the potential in combining a lithe European chassis with a powerful American engine. He connected Lotus’s Colin Chapman with Ford Motor Company and the result was a lightweight monocoque chassis fitted with a specially designed Ford V-8 mounted behind the driver. Scotsman Jim Clark, Team Lotus’s top driver, took the new design to an impressive second place finish at Indy in 1963. While Clark started strong in the 1964 race, having earned pole position with a record-setting qualifying time, he lost the tread on his left rear tire, initiating a chain reaction that collapsed his rear suspension and ended his race early.
Based on his past performances, Jim Clark entered the 1965 race as the odds-on favorite. Ford was especially eager for a win, though, and sought every advantage it could gain. The company brought in the Wood Brothers to serve as pit crew. The Woods were legendary in NASCAR for their precision refueling drills, and they were no less impressive at Indianapolis where they filled Clark’s car with 50 gallons in less than 20 seconds. This time, the race was hardly a contest at all. Clark led for 190 of the race’s 200 laps and took the checkered flag nearly two minutes ahead of his nearest rival. Jim Clark became the first driver to finish the Indianapolis 500 with an average speed above 150 mph (he averaged 150.686) and the first foreign driver to win since 1916. The race – and the cars in it – would never be the same.
Many of The Henry Ford’s pieces from Clark’s remarkable victory are compiled in a special Expert Set on our Online Collections page. The most significant artifact from the 1965 race is, of course, car #82 itself. Jim Clark’s 1965 Lotus-Ford Type 38 joined our collection in 1977 and has been a visitor favorite ever since. Dan Gurney, who brought Lotus and Ford together, shared his reminiscences with us in an interview in our Visionaries on Innovation series. The Henry Ford’s collection also includes a set of coveralls worn by Lotus mechanic Graham Clode at the 1965 race, and a program from the 1965 Victory Banquet signed by Clark himself.
Photographs in our collection include everything from candid shots of Gurney, Chapman and Clark to posed portraits of Clark in #82 at the Brickyard. The Henry Ford’s extensive Dave Friedman Photo Collection includes more than 1,400 images of the 1965 Indianapolis 500 showing the countless cars, drivers, crew members and race fans that witnessed history being made. Finally, the Phil Harms Collection includes home movies of the 1965 race with scenes of Clark’s car rolling out of the pit lane, running practice and qualifying laps, and leading the pack in the actual race.
Jim Clark died in a crash at the Hockenheim race circuit in Germany in 1968. It was a tragic and much-too-soon end for a man still considered to rank among the greatest race drivers of all time. The Henry Ford is proud to preserve so many pieces from his seminal Indianapolis 500 win.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford
This week, the 2013 Goodwood Revival kicks off in the United Kingdom, celebrating classic auto racing from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s in a three-day period-themed festival. The Henry Ford team will be there, and so will our Lotus-Ford race car usually on exhibit in Driving America. In honor of the Lotus and the driver who drove it to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500, we’ve digitized several dozen photos of the car, the race, and Jim Clark. View this photo of Jim in the car at Indy, plus other highlights from this digitization effort selected by Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation, in a set titled Jim Clark and the 1965 Indianapolis 500.
Visitors to Henry Ford Museum can often be found gathering under the Douglas Auto Theatre “Driving America” sign for photo opportunities and to marvel at the larger-than-life artifact. But recently visitors and racing fans gathered by the sign to honor Henry Ford as a racing innovator.
In honor of what would have been Henry’s 150th birthday on July 30, 2013, Ford brands Motorcraft/Quick Lane and Ford Racing honored his legacy with a special paint scheme in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway July 26-28, 2013 race, with Wood Brothers Racing and driver Trevor Bayne.
The car’s paint scheme features an iconic Henry photo – posed on top of the Sweepstakes with Spider Huff riding on the sideboard, the car that would take him to victory in 1901 at a race track in Grosse Pointe, Mich.
Why was that race so important? To be honest, it was important because Henry already had one business flop on his hands, the Detroit Automobile Company. His win with the Sweepstakes against opponent Alexander Winton not only netted him the $1,000 prize but the investors needed to start Ford Motor Company.
As Henry’s great-grandson, and special guest that morning, Edsel B. Ford II pointed out, if Henry hadn’t won that race, Ford Motor Company might not be here today to celebrate the innovator.
In addition to Edsel, the Wood Brothers and driver Trevor Bayne were on hand to unveil the special car in Henry Ford Museum that morning, sharing some of their appreciation for Henry and his body of work.
While all of the morning’s guests were more than familiar with the collections of The Henry Ford, Trevor and the Wood Brothers are especially familiar and proud as their No. 21 2011 Ford Fusion Stock Car is in our Car Court, currently on loan to us. As Trevor pointed out his former car to the audience, while showing off his tuxedo-themed racing suit for the Brickyard race, he commented, “It’s pretty cool that they’re still celebrating his (Henry) birthday 150 years later!”
We like to think it’s pretty cool, too. Here’s to 150 years of celebrating our founder, Henry Ford, both on AND off the race track.