Tag Archives: USAC

Blakely Oil Special – Schroeder Offenhauser

The Blakely Oil Special was designed and built by Gordon Schroeder for owner John McDaniel to enter in the 1951 Indianapolis 500.

Blakely Oil Special, Schroeder Offenhauser, Desert Classics, Concours d'Elegance

The #52 qualified 29th and finished 5th, having run has high as second, with rookie Bobby Ball at the wheel. Schroeder and Clint Brawner were on the crew led by Myron Stevens formerly of Miller who was also responsible for the fabrication of the chassis and the body work.

The Blakely Special was powered by a 4 cylinder 4.4 litre / 270 cui Offenhauser motor as were all the other cars in the 1951 Indy field apart from the two Novi powered Novi Purelube entered Kurtis chassis. Indy 500 historian Michael Ferner informs me that the The Blakely Oil Special failed to qualify for the 1952 500 after Bobby Ball crashed the car in practice.

Blakely Oil Special, Schroeder Offenhauser, Desert Classics, Concours d'Elegance

The Blakely Oil Specials next appearance in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing came in 1953 with Jimmy Bryan at the wheel. Jimmy qualified 31st and was classified as a runner in 14th place with 183 laps completed.

Blakely Oil Special, Schroeder Offenhauser, Desert Classics, Concours d'Elegance

In 1954 Andy Linden and Len Duncan driving for entrants Brown Motor Company and Brady qualified 23rd and 26th were classified 25th and 31st respectively driving Schroeder Offenhausers. Today’s featured car, seen in these photographs by Geoffrey Horton at last years Desert Classics Concours d’Elegance, did not qualify for the ’54 Indy 500 after Frank Mundy failed to complete his rookie orientation programme.

Blakely Oil Special, Schroeder Offenhauser, Desert Classics, Concours d'Elegance

John McDaniel nearly had a third DNQ at Indy in 1955 when Duke Nalon failed to make the cut, but rookie Keith Andrews saved the day by qualifying 28th and was classified 20th with 120 laps completed.

Michael Ferner has also told me that Tony Bettenhausen raced the car on dirt tracks in 1954 as did Bill Cheesebourg in 1956 when the car ran as the #23 McDaniels. Dick, father of 1979 Le Mans winners Bill and Don, Whittington bought the car in 1957 and ran it in dirt events and at Pikes Peak where the #36 came home with 21st fastest time slowest of the USAC entires to complete the course.

The car has been restored by Gary Schroeder, Dick Russell and Gary McCourt the original body by Wayne Ewing and Jerry Weeks, upholstery by Darel ‘Whitey’ Morgan and the motor by Phil Reilly & Co.

My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for sharing today’s photographs and to Michael Ferner at The Nostalgia Forum for sharing his wealth of knowledge.

Thanks for joining me on this “Blakely Oil Special” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again for Ferrari Friday tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


La Machine – #17 Vollstedt – Offenhauser 77

As I have blogged elsewhere in 1978 the USAC Championship came to England and I was lucky enough to see the one of the two championship races at Silverstone and meet some of those involved at a meet and greet at Jubilee Gardens on the banks of the Thames in Central London.

Vollstedt Offy 77, Jubilee Gardens

One of the enduring memories of those two events was seeing the striking lines of Rolla Vollstedts #17 La Machine – Vollstedt – Offenhauser 77, to my mind one of the most visually arresting open wheelers ever built, one that has a place of special veneration reserved at the top table in Art Tidesco’s Automotive Temple of Speed.

Vollstedt Offy 77, Silverstone

1960 US Olympic Team Skiing alternate Dick Simon was the driver of the immaculately turned out Vollstedt. Simon’s best finish in 1978 was 4th at Phoenix he also scored three further top tens finishing the season 18th in the Champ Car Series standings.

Vollstedt Offy 77, Jubilee Gardens

The master mind behind the car was Rolla Vollstedt, a man with more stories to tell than I’ll ever have hot dinners. Rolla has been devoting his life to racing since 1937 when he took part in unsanctioned Oregon street races with a Buick Coupé in 1937.

Working with modest budgets among Rolla’s many achievements since starting his team in 1947 are building the first rear engined Offenhauser powered Indycar complete with rear wing to improve traction and counting the legendary Jim Clark, in 1967, along with Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete in the Indy 500 among the drivers of his Championship cars. Rolla was also the last owner to attempt to qualify an Offenhauser powered for the Indy 500 in 1983.

I would like take this opportunity to wish Rolla a happy 93rd Birthday Day and thank him for building one of the most alluring automobiles it has ever been my privilege to see.

Thanks for joining me on Rolla Vollstedt’s Birthday edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil psycho on tyres’, I hope you’ll join me again tomorrow for Ferrari Friday. Don’t forget to come back now !