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Studebakers @ Earliest Indiana Drag Races

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  • Studebakers @ Earliest Indiana Drag Races

    Another interesting "side" at The 2008 Indianapolis World of Wheels car show yesterday was quite a rarity: A fellow with an old Kodak Corousel slide projector, showing a continuously-running rotary tray of period slides on a screen entitled: Stout Field Drags: 1955-1957.

    Now that really got my attention! Before Indianapolis Raceway Park was built, before The Muncie Dragway was built, even before the earliest real drag strip I know of in central Indiana was built (Bunker Hill Drag Strip), the earliest drag racers in central Indiana raced at two venues: aviation airstrips at the small Converse Indiana airport, per Ted Harbit, and at The Indiana National Guard facility in southwest Indianapolis: Stout Field.

    The fellow with the slide show (Harry ??) from Indianapolis, was only 2 years old in 1955. However, as an adult, he had befreinded an older fellow (Don ??) who ran a Sinclair Service Station in Indianapolis during the 1950s and 1960s. Don had been one of the first drag racers in central Indiana, participating at the crude Stout Field drags in the middle 1950s.

    Don had also been an amateur (very amateur) photographer, but had nonetheless shot several rolls of color slide film(!) while at Stout Field, circa 1956, and had saved the slides until his passing. Before passing, Don had given the slides to Harry. Harry was nice enough to set up the show and have them running during the 2008 Indianapolis World of Wheels.

    I sat down, introduced myself, and told Harry I wanted to watch the whole slide show, looking for Studebakers. He was more than happy to permit that, and sped through the slides until each of several slides with competing Studebakers appeared. He had been through the slides enough times that he knew where there were a few Studes.

    Ultimately, four Studebakers appeared; three in competition, plus a red 1953/1954 Starliner I could see in the spectator parking area. A solid white(!) 1956 Sky Hawk could be see running a 1956 Chevrolet 210 2-door sedan and, unfortunately, appeared to be a bit in back of the chebbie when the shutter was opened. [xx(]

    A 1956 Golden Hawk was seen in the pits with the hood open. Now keep in mind, this would have been a current-model-year car! The slides were in color, so it was easy to see the Golden Hawk being exactly the same second-series tangerine and white two-tone as is the 56J on Page 42 of the February 2008 Turning Wheels! []

    Finally, the most interesting car I saw was a solid white or light cream 1953/1954 Commander Starliner; the slide was too old and not focused well enough to clarify the year.

    Here's why that Commander was interesting: Ted Harbit remembers competing at Stout Field with his 1951 Commander convertible. It's no surprise Ted's convertible was nowhere to be seen in these slides, because he said he only went to Stout Field a couple times.

    However, when Ted was at Stout Field, he remembers meeting and getting to know fellow Studebaker enthusiast, our recently-departed friend Tom "Snurdley/Dr. Dork" Stephany! Tom lived fairly close to Stout Field at the time, and both he and Ted told me he [Tom] frequently ran his 1953 Commander Starliner in the early Stout Field drags. Further, Tom told me before he passed away that his Commander was a solid light cream.

    Therefore, based on available data and Tom Stephany's personal accounts of his adventures at the early Indianapolis' Stout Field drag races tendered before his passing, I'd say there's every possibility I saw "Snurdley's" 1953 Commander in a rare period slide of the event yesterday. (The Commander wasn't in competition when the photo was taken; it was waiting to run in a line of cars. And it was 'way too far away from the camera to try to identify the driver, I'm sorry to say.)

    Pretty cool, I thought, and this was indeed a rare set of sl
    We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

    Ayn Rand:
    "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

    G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

  • #2
    What a great opportunity. I am sure a lot of us here are very jealous that we did not get to see that great slide show!

    Joe Roberts
    '61 R1 Champ
    '65 Cruiser
    Editor of "The Down Easterner"
    Eastern North Carolina Chapter
    Joe Roberts
    '61 R1 Champ
    '65 Cruiser
    Eastern North Carolina Chapter

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    • #3
      What a great opportunity. I am sure a lot of us here are very jealous that we did not get to see that great slide show!

      Joe Roberts
      '61 R1 Champ
      '65 Cruiser
      Editor of "The Down Easterner"
      Eastern North Carolina Chapter
      Joe Roberts
      '61 R1 Champ
      '65 Cruiser
      Eastern North Carolina Chapter

      Comment


      • #4
        San Fernando Raceway Summer 1955

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        • #5
          San Fernando Raceway Summer 1955

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