Auburn Special Racer At 2014 The Great Race

In the 2014 Great Race one of the more interesting cars that entered the Great Race was a 1932 Auburn race car.  A note by a team member said that the car had been built to compete in the Indianapolis 500, but it had crashed in practice for the race and never made the race.  A reader of my website, Dean Beckman, asked me for additional information about the car.  But it turns out that Dan has a close connection with this car.

GR30 Auburn Buick Special (5)

1932 Auburn Race Car

As the car is a 1932 Auburn, I did some research to find out more about its involvement with the 1932 Indianapolis 500.  I found the entry list published the Indianapolis Star in 1932.

1932 Indy 500 Entry List

1932 Indianapolis Entry List From The Indianapolis Star

I cannot find a car on the entry list that is identified as an Auburn; however there are a number of unidentified cars.  I also looked at a comprehensive record from the 1933 Indianapolis 500 and saw no reference to an Auburn car at all.  So if it competed or tried to qualify at Indianapolis it must have been in 1932.

Beginning in 1930 there were several new rules for the Indianapolis 500 that addressed new engine rules and specifications. The allotted engine displacement was increased from 91.5 cubic inches to 366 cubic inches. Superchargers were banned with the exception of two-cycle engines, and riding mechanics were made mandatory once again. In addition, the traditional mandate of a maximum 33-car field was lifted.

This rules package is sometimes referred to as the “Junk Formula”.  But Indianapolis Motor Speedway president, Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I fighter ace and former race car driver, had decided to make these changes in order to lure back the passenger car manufacturers as race entrants and make the cars on the track more resemble those sold to the motoring public. Rickenbacker’s desire was to move away from the supercharged, specialized racing machines, such as the Miller cars, that had taken over the Speedway through the 1920s.  The Indianapolis 500 race cars of this so-called “Junk Formula” era are excellent cars for the Great Race as they are old cars which gives them a scoring advantage, they were two-seaters therefore providing room for both the driver and navigator, and have good performance on the road.  This Auburn Special is a good example a “Junk Formula” era race car used for the Great Race.

GR30 Auburn Buick Special (2)

A Two-Seat Race Car Is Very Useful For A Car Rally

As noted this car was custom-built to race in the Indianapolis 500, but apparently it crashed in practice and never made the race. A man from Skaneateles in upstate New York state found it on a junk pile, repaired it, put a Buick engine in it, and raced it on small-town fairground dirt tracks in the 1950s and ’60s.  Later the car was found in a barn near Watkins Glen, New York by the aforementioned Dean Beckman who then sold it to the current owner.

GR30 Auburn Buick Special (6)

The Car Was Fitted Straight-8 Buick Engine

The Buick Straight-8 engine (Fireball 8) was produced from 1931 to 1953 and sold in Buick automobiles. Buick had been using a valve-in-head/overhead valve design or I-head since their early days and continued this practice in 1931 with their inline-8 designs. Over the years the straight-8 engine was sold in different displacements depending on the model of car and the model year.

I did not have the opportunity to talk to the owner so I am not sure what Buick Straight-8 engine is in this car, but as the car was rebuilt to race in the 1950s, I suspect that it is one of the last versions of the Buick Straight-8 engine available in the early 1950s.  The following is a list of the three Buick Straight-8 that were available in 1952.

1952 Buick Straight 8 Production Engines and Ratings

Engine Displacement Bore x Stroke Power
263 260.3 cu in 316” X 4 18 120 hp @3600 rpm
263 260.3 cu in 316” X 4 18 124 hp @3600 rpm
320 320.2 cu in 716“X 4 516 168 hp @3800 rpm

The Buick Straight-8 engine in this race car is far from standard, so I have no idea how much horsepower it currently has.  In an era where most engines where still using a flathead design the Buick Straight-8 had the valves in the head.


A Buick Straight-8 Engine

The car attracted a lot of interest at the 2014 Great Race start in Maine and the service crew looked very professional.

GR30 Auburn Buick Special (12)

The Crew Accompanied The Car Up To The Starting Line

GR30 Auburn Buick Special (8)

WTF, Wandering Troubadours Of Finland

If anyone who reads this post can provide more information about this car, then I would appreciate hearing about it.

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The Renown Press-On-Regardless Rally Is Coming Soon!

One of the oldest rallies and best rallies in North America is coming up quickly.  The Press-On -Regardless Rally has been held annually for 66 years!  Once again on September 12 & 13, 2015 the Detroit Region of the SCCA will be hosting this event.  For years I have wanted to do this event, but so far the opportunity has not presented itself.

The complete rally starts at 11:00 AM on Saturday September 12 and will end at 3:00 AM on Sunday September 13, so be sure to have your lights in full working order.

I am including a note about this year’s event prepared by Tom Woodside about this event:

Rallymaster Bruce Fisher and I just completed the Safety Pre-check of the POR route last night and I can assure you its awesome!  Great historic roads that Bruce assembled in part from ancient routebooks, with a bit of everything for everybody.  Starting and ending further south in West Branch, it features some gorgeous sweeping forest roads and even a bit of non-car-breaking two-track.  Included are some iconic stages like Mosquito Alley, East Fireline, Sterling Truck trail (the smoothest parts!), and a section of old Northern Lights stages thrown in as well.  The speeds are more historic (slower) as well though the road conditions are SO MUCH better than when I ripped the sump out of my ’68 Cortina doing control layout in 1970.  I guarantee you’d like this event.

Whether you run or work, come out to support this historic event.  Lots of worker spaces are open and these are nearly all accessible in an everyday street car (and we’ll reserve the harder worker spots for those with more equipped vehicles).

There aren’t many events in the U.S. that can boast a 66 year uninterrupted history.  Come out and be a part of that legacy as we once again Press On Regardless!

Tom Woodside  (248 703 7656 if easier)

The hotel mentioned in the flyer is holding the special rate until September 12.

For more information and the entry form for the Press-On-Regardless click on the following Word file:


This should be another great rally.

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Peru Withdraws From Dakar Rally Due To Weather Concerns

In what must be a huge setback for the organizers of the Dakar Rally, the government of Peru has cancelled its participation in Dakar Rally events in 2015 and 2016 due to concerns about extreme weather conditions caused by El Niño.

Earlier this week Peru’s tourism ministry announced the decision, two weeks before the country was set to host the Inca Challenge, an off-road race starting in Lima and ending in the deserts of Ica. Peru has also cancelled its participation in the 2016 Dakar Rally.


The statement from Peru’s tourism ministry says in part: “Given the impact that the El Niño phenomenon may have in different areas of the country and, in anticipation of the effects on the population as a consequence, it has been decided to cancel our participation in the 2015 Dakar Series and 2016 Dakar Rally motor sport events,”

As a result, the upcoming Inca Challenge and the Dakar Rally scheduled for January will have to be rerouted to include only Argentina and Bolivia.  This will be a major headache for the organizers of these events given how close we are to these events.

Weather experts have forecasted a strong El Niño starting this December.  The Peruvian government has allocated $79 million for projects to help mitigate the damage of the weather phenomenon in which warm surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean causes increased rainfall and anomaly ocean swells.  It should be noted that extreme weather conditions caused by El Niño in the summer months at the end of 1997 and beginning of 1998 are estimated to have cost the Peruvian economy $3.5 billion.  I suppose the Peruvian government has decided to use funds allocated for supporting the Dakar Rally to create a “rainy day” fund to deal with El Niño.   Given the popularity of the Dakar Rally, I think that the Dakar Rally would have a positive effect on the Peru economy.

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Some Other Triumph TR4 Rally Car Photos

Ed Homsey continues to share his treasure trove of Triumph TR4 rally photos.  Following the conclusion of the 1964 Shell 4000 Rally, Standard-Triumph sold the rally cars in the USA rather than take them back to England.  One car, widely known as 5VC ,was purchased by Dick Switzer a Triumph/Volvo dealer in Rochester, New York, who loved rallying and autocrossing with it.  This was the car that Thuner/Fidler drove in the 1964 Shell 4000 Rally.


Dick Switzer Taking Part In A SCCA Rally In 1964

I know a fellow who used to repair Dick Switzer’s cars after Dick returned from participating in a rally.  Apparently Dick was quite hard on cars.  In the photo above the 1964 Shell 4000 rally sticker/plate is still on the hood.  The license plate on the front of the car seems to indicate that it is the Appalachian Rally in 1964.

Dick Zwitzer rus 5VC in 1965 Canadian Winter Rallye121

Dick Switzer’s Triumph TR4 In The 1965 Canadian Winter Rally

One other Shell 4000 Triumph TR4 also was in the Rochester, New York area for a while.  The shot below shows the Triumph TR4 known as 3VC, which was the car driven by the Canadian team in the 1964 Shell 4000 rally.  Note that by this time the car had been repainted a darker color.

Bill Bailey's Dark Blue 3VC in 1964 autocross

Driving Triumph TR4 3VC In A Local Autocross

In 1964 Best Motors of Rochester and Standard-Triumph sponsored a three-car rally team to compete in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) rally series. The Triumph team competed in eight National events that year, with total entries ranging from 47 at the Rebel Yell, run out of Alexander, Virginia, to 95 in the Ohio Andiamo rally. They were two-day affairs and very competitive with strong teams from Chrysler and Ford. Ed Homsey and his wife finished 4th place driver and navigator in the manufacturer’s class that year.

1964TeamTR at Best Motors

The 1964 Triumph TR SCCA Rally Team At Best Motors

The above photo shows the 1964 Triumph TR SCCA Rally Team at one the team sponsors place of business, Best Motors in Rochester, New York.  The members of the team from left to right were  Ed & Shirley Homsey; Bob Henderson (still, at 82, very active in motor sports), the late Bill Bell (former attorney, newspaper and radio car news reporter); Gene and the late Katu Hondorf. Katu was in public school education, and regrettably died at a relatively young age.

1964TeamTR at Virginia Reel

The Triumph TR Rally Team After The 1964 Virginia Reel Rally

The picture above shows the Triumph TR Rally Team after the 1964 SCCA Virginia Reel Rally.  The middle crew shown , Gene and Katu Hondorf, finished in third place.  Their trophies are shown on the ground in front of the light-colored TR4.  Exactly what the trophies are  supposed to be is a mystery to me.

Thanks to Ed Homsey once again for sharing these photos.

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More Photos From The Triumph Works Team At The 1964 Shell 4000 Rally

As  a followup to my recent post about the Triumph TR4 works rally cars in the 1964 Shell 4000 rally, Ed Homsey, who was the navigator in Car #131 (more widely known in the Triumph world as 6VC), sent me some more pictures from that event.  I have included most of Ed’s pictures that he sent to me in this post.

Team Manager, Graham Robson, Ed Homsey, Gordan Jennings953

Team Manager Graham Robson, With Ed Homsey, and Gordon Jennings

The picture below shows the crew after completing pre-event scrutinizing.  This was the first time that they had the car to themselves.

Ed and Gordon leaving scrutineering in Vancouver956

Ed Homsey And Gordon Jennings After Scrutineering

The picture below shows the car leaving the starting ramp in Vancouver British Columbia.  As a rally navigator I always notice what the navigator is doing in photos like this.  Note that Ed is looking at the clock to make sure that they are leaving at the correct time.  Despite the angle, the second-hand can be seen to be at the bottom of the minute.  Note that the start time appears to be about 11:00 PM.

6VC leaves start of Shell 4000 Gordon Jennings driving Ed Homsey navigating122

They’re Off! Starting the Rally In Vancouver

The photo below shows the car entering Cranbrook, British Columbia.  This would have been the next day after the late evening start in Vancouver.  Looking closely at this photo, navigator Ed Homsey is driving while the main driver, Gordon Jennings, tries to get some sleep in the passenger seat.

6VC arriving Cranbrook, BC, Homsey driving, Jennings sleeping123

Entering Cranbrook, British Columbia

The picture below shows the crew gassing up at a Shell gas station in Cranbrook, British Columbia.  If you look just in front of Ed’s knee you can see the front portion of another car fueling as well.  The other car is using a separate external wheel drive on a front wheel to drive a rally odometer.  As a rally navigator here’s a hint: the external odometer driver should be placed on an undriven wheel on the same side of the car of the car as did the rallymaster when he measured the course.  Usually and for more accurate results, the external odometer driver should be on the side of the car that measures the distance along the centerline of the road.  The car in the photo below will measure along the right side edge of the road.  If you need to be on time, all the time, then this will throw off the odometer on a road with lots of curves.

6VC refueling in Cranbrook, BC, Homsey on left, Jennings in middle at rear of car124

Gassing Up In Cranbrook, British Columbia

The series of photos below were taken in Toronto, Ontario after a very rough drive in northern Ontario.  Ed said that some of the roads in northern Ontario were very heavily rutted.  Ed was concerned that the exhaust system got damaged and even might have leaked into the cockpit.

6VC arrives in Toronto 127

Arriving For Service In Toronto, Ontario

The dirt on the hood is clearly indicative of a rough drive.

6VC arrives in Toronto end of Day 5125

In Toronto

6VC in Toronto, Homsey lifting rear to check exhaust126

Ed Homsey Jacking Up The Car To Check For Exhaust Damage

The picture below shows the crew coming off the starting ramp on the way to Montreal.  Like a good navigator, Ed Homsey is checking out the rally route instructions.  I wonder why the car’s Shell 4000 entry number on the passenger’s side door is not visible?

8-02 pm and off to Montreal958

Off To Montreal For The Finish Of The 1964 Shell 4000 Rally

As I have noted to Ed Homsey directly, I am very thankful to Ed for sharing these photos from the 1964 Shell 4000 rally.

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A Shell 4000 Triumph TR4 Works Rally Car

This past week I was quite pleased to get a message from Ed Homsey who participated in the 1964 Shell 4000 Rally as the navigator in one of the three Triumph Works Team TR4 cars that were entered.  Ed also sent along some contemporaneous pictures of the car both before and after the rally.  I was pleased that some of these pictures were in color rather than the more commonly seen black & white pictures of that era.

Triumph Shell 4000 finish Montreal 1964

The Triumph TR4 Rally Car In Montreal After The Shell 4000 In 1964

I mentioned to Ed in a message that the TR4 looked “tired” after the event.  He said that he and his driver, Gordon Jennings, had decided to leave the dirt on the car as they had hard-earned that dirt during the course of the rally and felt that it deserved to be there.  There is no doubt that this was a challenging event which left a lot of well-know drivers, including some top European rally drivers, finishing well down the field or not finishing at all.

Triump Shell 4000 finish Montreal 1964 (2)

In Montreal At The Conclusion Of The Shell 4000 in 1964

The Triumph TR4 Team won the GT Team Prize in the 1964 Shell 4000 rally. While Ed Homsey was the navigator of Car #131, the driver was Gordon Jennings who was writer for Car & Driver magazine.  Later Jennings would be with Cycle magazine.  In Graham Robson’s book, “Works Triumphs In Detail“, Gordon Jennings is portrayed as an inept rally driver, but Ed Homsey says that Jennings was a passable driver from California who simply lacked experience on snow & ice-covered roads.

Triumph Ed at back of his and Gordon's TR-4 in garage in Vancouver

Ed Homsey With The Triumph Before The Shell 4000 In Vancouver

The final preparations for the Shell 4000 were done in Vancouver.  One major change to these cars was that the steering was changed from right-hand drive to left-hand drive for the North American rally.

Triumph TR4 Shell 4000 1964

Note That The Cars Were Fitted With Halda Speedpilots For The Navigator

The initial preparation of the Triumph TR4 cars for the Shell 4000 Rally was done by Kas Kasner, Triumph USA’s Competitions Manager, at his workshop in Los Angeles.  During the 1964 Shell 4000 rally he also drove the Standard-Triumph service vehicle behind the cars from Vancouver to Montreal accompanied by Graham Robson.

Triumph Robson Kasner

Standard-Triumph Team Manager, Graham Robson, And Triumph USA’s Kas Kasner With Their 1964 Shell 4000 Chase/Service Vehicle

Standard-Triumph entered three TR4 cars in the 1964 Shell 4000 rally.  Their prime team was Jean-Jacques Thuner with Roy Fidler as the navigator.  While this was the fastest of the TR4 cars, they found the timing and navigation much more challenging than they were used to in England and in Europe, as a result, road penalties caused them to finish last among the three team cars.   No doubt that Gordon Jennings was selected as a driver of one car to hopefully get some post-event publicity as he was a writer for “Car & Driver”.  Ed Tomsey, as an expert North American navigator was likely selected to look after Jennings, who had little rally experience.  The third team car was driven by Bert Rasmussen who was a technician employed at the Toronto headquarters of Standard-Triumph (Canada) and who was an experienced local rallyist, eventually finishing highest among the Triumph TR4 works cars.

Triumph Cars Shell 4000 1964

The Three Triumph Works Cars With Oregon State Registration

The car that Jennings/Homsey drove in the 1964 Shell 4000 rally first began to be rallied in 1962.  The 1964 Shell 4000 rally was the last event for this car as part of the Standard-Triumph team.  The car was sold in the USA after the Shell 4000 rally, but I understand that the car is now back in England and converted back to its original right-hand drive.

Triumph TR4 RAC Rally 1962

The Same Triumph TR4 During The RAC In 1962

The original Triumph TR4 registered as 6VC was in a wreck and written off during the 1963 Alpine Rally.  Mike Sutcliffe who was the driver was OK, but his co-driver Roy Fidler was badly injured, but soon recovered.  Back at Triumph, a new 6VC was created from a new TR4 using many parts from the original 6VC.

Triumph TR4 6VC Wreck


The Original Triumph TR4 6VC Was Written Off After The Bad Accident

Ed Homsey also sent me a copy of the letter that he sent to Neil Revington in which he describes some portions of the Shell 4000 rally.  It is great reading and with Ed’s permission I have attached it to this post.  Click on the attached file to read the tale.

Personal account of segments Shell 4000 1964

It is very enjoyable to hear about this rally from someone who actually competed in it.  For more information on the Triumph TR4 Works Team cars read Graham Robson’s books “The Works Triumphs” and “Works Triumphs In Detail”.

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The Tojeiro Climax Mk. II

Many people interested in cars might not have heard of John Tojeiro, but most people interested in cars know of his work.  John Tojeiro was an automotive designer and racer who in the early 1950s designed the AC Ace which later was selected by Carroll Shelby as the car that he put a Ford V8 in to create the famous Cobra.  Later in the 1950s he was asked to design a sports class race car for a couple of English racers.  The result was the Tojeiro Climax Mk. II.

Tojeiro Climax 1958 (7)

Tojeiro Climax Mk. II

As can be seen by photo above, I saw a Tojeiro Climax Mk. II at the Lime Rock Historic Festival last year.  As can be seen the car is a lovely design – certainly it is a classic 1950s sports car design.

Tojeiro Climax 1958 (5)

Tojeiro was primarily an expert in chassis engineering.  He built a number of successful racing cars with the Ecurie Ecosse team, using engines supplied by Jaguar, Buick,  Bristol, and Climax.  Ecurie Ecosse, which is French for “Team Scotland”, was a well-known racing team from Scotland. The Ecurie Ecosse team was founded in November 1951 by Edinburgh businessman and racing driver David Murray and mechanic Wilkie Wilkinson.  Ecurie Ecosse won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1956 and 1957.  Ecurie Ecosse’s cars were always distinctive in their Flag Blue Metallic paint.

Tojeiro Climax 1958 (3)

The Tojeiro Climax Mk. II Has A Look Like A D-Type Jaguar

Despite being a chassis specialist Tojeiro formed the aluminum body into a very smooth design.  This is especially noticeable when viewing the car from the rear.

Tojeiro Climax 1958 (1)

The Climax engine in the Tojeiro had a very humble beginning.  It was a 38 hp 1020 cc straight-4 single overhead camshaft engine was designed as the motive unit for a portable service fire pump. This engine was known for its lightness, with a bare weight of 180 pounds.  As the engine was designed as a fire engine component which had to have the ability to be quickly placed in service, one unique requirement the Climax engine was the ability to be run at nearly full throttle without a full warm-up. This required careful attention to lubrication and thermal expansion rates of its parts, which translated into the engines legendary durability in rough racing environments.  Another feature of this engine was that the intake and exhaust valves were tilted to the same side of the engine where intake and exhaust ports are located.  The intake and exhaust ports were located fore and aft of the cylinder bore center, this arrangement allowed intake and exhaust flows to swirl in the same rotational direction in the combustion chamber thus improving the breathing and scavenging of the exhaust flow of the engine.

In 1953 it was adapted for automotive racing as a 1098cc retaining the cast crank 3 main bearing construction of the original engine, but with distributor ignition in place of magneto, an improved camshaft and a higher 9.8:1 compression ratio. With a bore of 2.85 inches and a stroke of 2.625 inches the engine initially produced 71 horsepower.

Tojeiro 1100cc Climax Engine 1958

The 1100cc Coventry Climax Engine

The plain interior of the Tojeiro reflects its racing car design intent.

Tojeiro Climax 1958 (4)

Space For At Least Two People Were Required For The Sports Car Class

This car was raced in 18 races in 1959, completing 16 races with 4 firsts, 2 seconds, 3 thirds, and never finishing lower than 6th when running.  Tojeiro hoped that this car would go into production, but that never happened.  Too bad.

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