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Splash & Go writes:
"Why Indy? Part 1"
Posted by Uptight Motorsports Nerd on May 15, 2012
Viewed 252 times

   

It is easy for people in the 21st century to understand why certain events are held where they are. For example, NASCAR puts its biggest race in Daytona because the weather is nice in winter, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is held in Alaska because the weather is terrible in winter, etc. It confuses people to learn that one of the world's largest auto races is held in a cow town like Indianapolis. Of all the things associated with Indianapolis, "fun" is not one of them. Based upon visitindy.com, Indianapolis does not appear to offer many things not already found in other American cities, unless you happen to be a very big fan of Kurt Vonnegut, President Benjamin Harrison, or jazz.

If you ask someone in the 21st century to name an American car maker, they will probably give you the name of one of the Big Three or a subsidiary thereof. If you posed such a question in 1909, you would probably get the name of a car maker you have probably never heard of, and they would probably be based out of Indiana. The Brickyard was conceived as a test track where the Indiana based companies could test their prototypes at high speed, and a 500-mile race would later be added to help pay the bills. Today's automakers like to own their own private test tracks in remote areas where their prototypes and test mules are free from prying telephoto lenses. But where did those companies go?

MARMON - Marmon looks like the best place to start searching. The Marmon Wasp won the inaugural Indy 500 while piloted by Ray Haroun. Marmon had a few good decades until 1933 when it was forced to stop producing automobiles at the height of the Great Depression. Marmon survived by selling automotive parts until the 1950's when it became Marmon-Herrington and began manufacturing commercial vehicles such as trucks and trolleybuses. Today Marmon-Herrington makes driveline components for commercial trucks and is partially owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Headquarters have moved from Indianapolis to Louisville, Kentucky.

NATIONAL - National won the second Indy 500, but internal combustion was not their forte. National focused on electric cars; given the battery technology of the day, their business model seems flawed. National eventually folded in 1924.

STUTZ - For my research, Stutz never won the Indy 500, but finished third in 1913 and second in the 1927 24 Hours of Le Mans. Stutz stands out for using safety glass in their street cars decades before it was mandatory. Despite their luxury and innovations, Stutz also succumbed to the Great Depression and folded in 1935.

DUESENBERG - Duesenberg was a staple at the 500 until it folded in 1937. Duesenberg was not a victim of the Great Depression; it was merely purchased by a terrible parent company. Auburn Automobile bought Dusenberg in 1927. Auburn also owned Cord whom was famous for introducing front-wheel drive to production cars, but infamous for unreliability. Cord's failures caught up to Auburn and Dusenberg was taken down with them.

The point is that more cars were built in Indianapolis than I can enumerate and you are welcome to do your own research on all of these brands and more. The important thing is why a big race started in Indianapolis. Why does it stay in Indianapolis? That's for me to know and you to read in Part 2.


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