Monday 12 March 2012

The STP Turbocar

The 1960’s were a period of great change and experimentation in American Champ car racing, sanctioned by the United States Auto Club (USAC).

Nowhere was there more experimentation than the annual Indianapolis 500.

For two decades, all of the Indianapolis winning cars were front-engined roadsters, mostly powered by the famous 4-cylinder Offenhauser (Offy) engine.

After Jack Brabham raced a rear-engined Cooper to 9th place in the 1961 race, Colin Chapman took notice, bringing rear-engined Lotus Indy cars to the race, starting in 1963. They finally succeeded in 1965, with Jim Clark winning in a Ford-Cosworth powered Lotus 38.

STP Turbocar

Pen&ink, paint-markers and markers on red archival stock © Paul Chenard 2012

In 1967, another dramatic new racer was presented at the Indianapolis 500. Envisioned by STP President Andy Granatelli, the race car was designed by Ken Wallis, and used a Ferguson 4-wheel-drive systems. The biggest surprise was that it was powered by gas turbine helicopter engine located beside the driver!

For this Indianapolis 500, the grid was almost completely dominated by rear-engined race cars. Granatelli’s STP Turbocar was raced by Parnelli Jones, who loved driving the car.

Jones took an early lead and led the race for 171 of the 200 laps. He was well on his way to victory when a $6 bearing in the gearbox failed, dropping his car into neutral. A. J. Foyt took the lead from Jones in his own rear-engined Coyote and won the race.

It was a frustration end to a near perfect and memorable race for Jones and the famous STP Turbocar.


Ugo Capeto said...

Gotta be in anybody's top 10 of the greatest racing cars. Maybe top 20. That must have been quite something to drive that car. said...

It's was certainly a beautiful and effective race car.