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.
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.
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.
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 !