It’s the month of May where the focus of open wheel racing fans traditionally descends on Indianapolis of the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” run, inclement weather not withstanding, on Memorial Day weekend. As in years passed this months Sunday blogs will look at some of the vehicles from Indy’s 103 year history starting with this 1933 Rigling.
Getting the story of US built cars that participated in the Indy 500 up to 1964 right is probably one of the more difficult challenges a motor historian can undertake, in part because the open wheel scene was largely a cottage industry with only a hand full of people in the know and in part because naming rights were sold in return for sponsorship. Identification and histories of cars from the low tech low cost so called Junkyard Formula of the post depression years 1930 – 1939 are particularly hard to discern because of the low budgets and many unannounced deals that took place to keep the grids full.
So far as I know the earliest appearance of a chassis credited to Herman Rigling was in the 1931 Indy 500 when 8 of the 40 starters are credited with being built by Rigling. The Rigling built cars were powered by either Buick, Miller, Studebaker, Clemons or Dusenberg motors. Top Rigling finisher was Phil Shafer in his Buick powered example known as the Shafer 8 he was classified 12th.
There is a photograph showing what appears to be today’s featured car, the #54 Wonder Bread Special, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1933 with rookie George Barringer at the wheel with Earl Allen his riding mechanician. George and Earl appear to have failed to qualify for the race.
Wonder Bread, a brand invented by the Indianapolis based Taggart bakery, did however sponsor the #18 Duesenburg driven by Joe Russo who classified 17th and running with 192 laps completed, while H.W. Stubblefield driving the #8 Abels and Fink Auto Rigling Buick did finish 5th in the The 21st International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race.
George Barringer made his first Indy start in 1934 driving the #18 Boyle Products Miller being classified 15th completing 161 laps before a front axle problem intervened. His best Indy 500 result came in 1939 when he finished 6th driving Bill Whites Well Offy.
Some of the above is at variance with the information displayed with the car at Concours on the Avenue in Carmel by the Sea some years ago, if you have evidence to show my information is incorrect please do not hesitate to chime in below.
My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for sharing his photo’s of the #54 Wonder Bread Special seen at Concours on the Avenue, Carmel by the Sea in 2012.
Thanks for joining me on this “Wonder Bread Special” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me for Maserati Friday tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !