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Vintage Indy cars display variety at Monterey

Diversity in engine placement and car constructors spiced Indy racing in the 1960s and ‘70s

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Historic Trans Am racing cars are the featured marque this week at the 2021 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and there are 42 such cars present from the 1966-1972 seasons.

But at least three other groups of cars were drawing a lot of interest when we visited the track Thursday. Those were cars from La Carrera Panamerica, the famed Mexican Road Race; the Ragtime Racers, a group of racing machines from the first two decades of the 20th Century — complete with what looks like their own vintage garage; and, making their Motorsports Reunion debut, a selection of Indy cars from the years 1963 through 1978. 

Note that these cars come from an era in which the Indy 500 made the transformation from front-engine roadsters to sleek rear-engine, formula-style cars. 

One aspect of the era that, in retrospect, seems hard to believe is the variety of constructors building Indy racers. We’ve become used to single-marque racing, albeit with a couple of engine manufacturers. But among the vintage Indy vehicles parked under a large tent between exhibition laps were cars from Lotus, Eagle, Watson, Huffaker, Vollstedt, Antares and Parnelli Colt.

Indy cars, Vintage Indy cars display variety at Monterey, ClassicCars.com Journal
It was West Coast sports car dealer Kjell Qvale who worked with Joe Huffaker to create the Offenhauser-powered 1964 Huffaker Indy car. A.J. Foyt showed the car to be fast at Phoenix and the car qualified at Indy with Walt Hansgen driving.
Indy cars, Vintage Indy cars display variety at Monterey, ClassicCars.com Journal
A.J. Watson built a trio of these front-engine roadsters for the 19 62 season, offsetting the engine 6 inches to the left to help the car turn left. This car, the last front-engine roadster to race at the Brickyard, competed at Indy for four years, running the full distance each time and finishing third and fifth .
Indy cars, Vintage Indy cars display variety at Monterey, ClassicCars.com Journal
This is one of three 1965 Lotus Type 34 used in practice at Indy by Jim Clark and Dan Gurney. A.J. Foyt drove the car at Milwaukee, but suffered transmission failure on the first lap. In 1965 Foyt’s team made some modifications and he won the pole at Indy. This time the transmission lasted 115 laps. But later in the season he drove the car to five victories and seven pole positions

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.

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