Ole Bardahl was the embodiment of the American dream aged 20 he arrived in Seattle from Norway in 1922 with $32 in his pocket and unable to speak a word of English, by 39 he had become a millionaire building contractor and went on to found the Bardahl Oil Company in Ballard Seattle.
From 1950 to 1959 Bardahl sponsored Offenhauser powered Kurtis cars started in every Indy 500, two third places from Sam Hanks in 1952 and 1953 were the teams best results in this period. In 1956 a Bardahl showed up with the unique Ferrari powered Kurtis for Giuseppe Farina but the car proved too slow.
For reasons that have not been determined during the research for this blog for 1957 Bardahl had Kurtis build two left hand drive Offenhauser powered 500G’s,all the other ’57 Kurtis Indy cars were right hand drive so far as I have been able to determine the #16 was driven by Al Keller and the #19 seen here by Jack Turner. Al Keller started the ’57 Indy 500 from 8th on the grid but crashed on lap 75 and was classified 27th, while Jack Turner started 19th and classified 11th last car on the lead lap.
The ’57 Bardahl Kurtis Offy was by no means the only left hooker Indy car the manufacturer built, regular readers will remember that the Ross Page Special I looked at a couple of weeks ago was also a left hand drive machine, but the question remains as to why so few left hookers were built at all when almost all the other vehicles that participated in the Indy 500 at the time featured either a central driving position or a right side driving position ? If you have any references for an answer please do not hesitate to chime in below.
For the 1958 Indy 500 Al Keller, perhaps best known as the first driver of a foreign car, Jaguar, to win a NASCAR sanctioned race, Linden, in 1954, took over the car seen in today’s photographs taken by Geoffrey Horton at the Concours on the Avenue in Carmel By The Sea a couple of years ago. Renumbered #52 Al qualified 21st completed all 200 laps and was classified 11th as had the cars previous driver Jack Turner in 1957.
For 1959 Bardahl returned to the 500 with a conventional right hand drive Kurtis for Paul Russo who finished 9th. Through the 1960’s Bardahl entered Kurtis, Watson and Eagle cars with a best result of 3rd for Bobby Unser who drove a Bardahl entered Lola in the 1969 Indy 500 which appears to have concluded the teams participation in “The greatest spectacle in racing”.
My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for sharing his photographs which I have used in all of this months Indy 500 blogs, and to E.B. at The Nostalgia Forum for confirming today’s featured car was driven by Al Keller in the 1958 Indy 500.
Finally congratulations to Tony Kanaan for winning the 2013 edition of the Indy 500.
Thanks for joining me on this “Bardahl” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !