HomeCar CultureCommentaryA celebration of old Indy cars

A celebration of old Indy cars


Bruce Revennaugh attended his first Indianapolis 500 in 1964, and even though the cars were about to become motorsports dinosaurs, he “fell in love” with the big, old-style, front-engine “roadsters” he saw racing around the track. It may have helped that a fellow Texan, A.J. Foyt Jr., drove one of those roadsters to victory that May and in what would be the last such trip to Victory Lane at the Brickyard for that style of car.

Revennaugh went on to a successful career as a financial manager for several large corporations, and at one point had quite a collection of 1932 Fords, both those in stock configuration and those that had been hot-rodded.

But that youthful interest in Indy roadsters remained strong and in 1995 Revennaugh fulfilled what he called a “lifelong dream” by purchasing the 1961 Edgar Elder Stearly Motor Freight Offy which, as it turned out, was the first Indy car that a young Mario Andretti had driven.

Bruce Revennaugh awaits his time to take his 1961 Edgar Elder Stearly Motor Freight Offy out onto the track | Larry Edsall photos

Revennaugh’s car, and several others, including several Andretti had raced at various times in his long and successful career, were at ISM Raceway (nee Phoenix International Raceway) this past weekend for the Vintage Desert Classic showcase and a celebration of Andretti’s final race at the track 25 years ago. Oh, and there also were Verizon IndyCar, U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown and .25 Midget (the new name for Quarter Midget racing) events on the track.

Built in 1961 by Edgar Elder in El Monte, California, Revennaugh’s car was driven at Indy that year by Cliff Griffith. Elder sold the car to Doug Stearly, who put Ronnie Duman behind the wheel for the 1962 500, only to be bumped from the starting field during qualification trials. Afterward, Stearly, who was from Pennsylvania, entered the car only at the Milwaukee and Trenton events; it was at Trenton in the spring of 1964 that Andretti drove the car, finishing 11th.

After its speedway career, the car was purchased by Toby Tobias, who converted it into a super-modified sprint car and raced it that way for a few years before parking the car, which sat idle until Revennaugh bought it and restored it to its Stearly configuration.

Revennaugh catches up with Eastwood Special

Back in the day, old race cars weren’t considered objects to be preserved. Frequently they were simply disposed of after being picked apart for any components that might still be of use.

Revennaugh also owns a 1972 Coyote Indy racer, but there are few opportunities to exercise such cars so he does his vintage racing in a Lotus 18 Formula Junior and a Lotus F1 car.

The lack of places for old Indy cars to run is one reason why Gary Mondschein started organizing such events a few years ago. Mondschein ended up with three such cars of his own and launched Classic Racing Times as a newsletter for the vintage Indy owners community.

Laps over for now, it’s back to the paddock until the next session

The cars don’t really race each other at these events, but they do run laps at speed and it’s quite a show, and not just for the cars. At Phoenix, the cars ranged from a 1948 Kurtis-Offenhauser to a 1993 Rahal-Hogan Racing-Ilmor Chevrolet, and during the weekend both Indy veterans Dick Simon and Lyn St. James drove some laps in the cars.

It is believed that there are at least 100 vintage Indy cars being maintained in running order around the country, and others are out there as well (I found two for sale in a quick search of the ClassicCars.com Marketplace and at least four from the Rolland Racing Museum were on the docket at a recent Leake auction).

Classic Racing Times has another event scheduled August 17-19 at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, where Mondeschein lives. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host a roadster reunion in May. The Harry Miller Club stages its annual Millers at Milwaukee event July 13-14, and there’s an annual Vintage Racing Celebration at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, this year the weekend of August 26-27.

His crew greets Revennaugh back in the paddock after first lapping session
Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


      • Ooh! I am from Indy, and my first race was 1964, too- but I was 5, so that one isn’t strong in the memory. I had a streak, partly from my folks and partly from being a member of Harvey Gill’s Indianapolis Boy Scout Band, of 15 Indy 500’s in a row, but I was too young to see the roadsters run in anger at Indy.
        I guess I would be considered a rear engine fan, and always a Fort, Unser, Andretti, and perhaps oddly, Lloyd Ruby supporter. I saw Swede Savage burnt, Art Pollard die (and he was good), and AJ win three out of his four. I saw Danny Sullivan spin and win, and I saw the Joe Hunt Magneto Special, running boat headers at qualifications.
        FYI- I totally disagree with the single chassis rule. Indy used to be the bleeding edge of what would come to Detroit- remember the Miller cycle? And Miller led to Offenhauser, whose engines dominated for how long? And years later Mazda picked up the Miller tech, and runs their Skyactive motors at 13:1 on unleaded- yowza. And every one had an idea about what would run the oval best, so there was several chassis for each motor.
        But all in all, I saw Mario win, and he was (and is) such a personable, role model kinda guy, who took time out to sign a lil’ Boy Scout’s program when adults were pressing, and was/is such an advocate for racing and young people…
        I don’t think racing has changed for the better. I remember walking in the pits and through the garages on Gasoline Alley in my Scout uniform, meeting and being shown stuff as a boy. I met Teo Fabi in the parking area, simply because I stopped to take a picture of his black on black Porsche 930 Turbo. He was a Scouting supporter, and a very polite, gracious guide to a small boy blown away by just a handshake. I have memories of meeting many of those who made Indy what it was, and the distance put between the drivers and fans, and the forced uniformity of the cars by the modern ruling bodies, has seen that I no longer go to Indy.
        Have you influence, let ’em know. I’m old now, and have money to spend, and hate NASCAR for exactly the same reason(s) I don’t go to Indy anymore. Cookie cutter cars with generic engines. Where’s Smokey Yunick when ya need him?
        Full disclosure: I am a Tony Kanaan fan. Given a not-generic car, who knows what he could accomplish?
        Taters! -R

      • Cars cars cars! Love them all especially Classic and all racecars and convertibles. Can’t wait to next year like to go to Phoenix and see the display hopefully they do annual showing look on the Internet to see your schedule. Thank you!


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