America at Speed

Vintage Competition Vehicles 1895-1980

June 16, 2007, through October 14, 2007

pic_americaatspeed1Gentlemen, Start Your Engines! “America at Speed: Vintage Competition Vehicles, 1895 – 1990” opens to the public on Saturday, June 16, 2007.

America’s fascination with auto racing is as old as the car itself.

At the beginning of the 20th century, automobiles were rolling out of blacksmith shops, carriage maker&rsqo;s barns and tinkerer&rsqo;s shed all across America. The earliest cars looked like carriages with motors. They were awkward to look at, difficult to operate, and unreliable.

Pioneering car makers faced two hurdles to clear if they were selling cars. First, they had to build a vehicle that could be used as basic transportation. Second, they had to persuade the public to buy them. Racing seemed like a way to both prove that automobiles were reliable and attract the attention of potential purchasers.

pic_98Offy-BruceMyerThe first “race” likely took place when two drivers met informally on a dirt road to “see what their vehicle could do.” The fledgling automobile industry soon discovered that racing was the most effective means for proving and promoting their product. America at Speed provides a glimpse of the cars that raced for the checkered flag from Latimore Valley to Indianapolis during the first eight decades of the twentieth century.

The earliest and latest cars in the show dramatically demonstrate the changes that took place in the automobile during the twentieth century. The 1895 Benton Harbor, manufactured by the Chicago Motor Company, was purpose-built as a race car for competition in the 1895 Chicago Times-Herald Race. One of the first national motor sports events in America, participation in this event guaranteed a manufacturer attention in the press and subsequent interest in his cars. Sporting large wooden wheels, solid rubber tires and candle-powered headlights, the upright, carriage-like Benton Harbor doesn’t necessarily look like a race car. However, at the turn of the century, finishing the race was often as important as winning it.

pic_skoalbanditThe opposite extreme is the 1990 Skoal Bandit Chevrolet Monte Carlo stock car piloted by legendary driver Harry Gant. This car, on loan from the General Motors Heritage Collection, is a completely fabricated race car that formerly saw action in the NASCAR Winston Cup. It is similar to current NASCAR competition cars with its custom chassis, a streamlined body based on a stock car silhouette, and a 600 hundred horsepower V8 engine.

“America at Speed” presents twenty race cars that document a full century of America’s fascination with four-wheeled competition. All major venues are represented including board tracks, dirt tracks, hill climbs, dry lakes, NHRA style drag racing, NASCAR and Indy-style competition.

pic_1911-EMFFeatured vehicles include a 1911 EMF, the first documented racing Pontiac (a 1926 hill climber), front-wheel drive, Miller-powered Indy cars of the 1920s and 30s, a 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt, Dan Gurney’s 1967 Mercury Cougar Trans-Am car and the 1977 Lightning driven by Janet Guthrie as the first woman to earn a starting spot in the Indianapolis 500. Among the other featured vehicles are cars raced by notable drivers such as Mario Andretti, Al Joniec and Jan Opperman. Also included is a selection of legendary home-state cars that helped make Pennsylvania a hotbed of circle track racing. Race cars for “America at Speed” are on loan to the Museum from private collectors, the General Motors Heritage Collection and the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing. Plan your visit soon; this special exhibition only runs through October 14th.

  • 1895 Benton Harbor Motocycle Factory Race Car
  • 1911 E-M-F Stock Chassis Racer
  • 1925 Ford Model T “T Bucket” Speed Record Car
  • 1926 Pontiac Boat-Tail Racer Hill Climber
  • 1927 Miller Front Drive #3 Indy Race Car
  • 1931 Clyde Adams Special, California Racer
  • 1933 Ford Coupe #12 Junior Stock Car
  • 1934 Plymouth Coupe Stock Car
  • 1938 Dreyer #33 “Scopa Special” Oval Track Big Car
  • 1950 Cadillac Series 61 LeMans Racer (reproduction)
  • 1955 Hellegass Sprint Car – Mario Andretti Driven
  • 1960 Lyndwood Eliminator II Front Engine Dragster
  • 1960 Watson Roadster – Indy Race Car (1960 winner)
  • 1963 Ford Galaxie NASCAR Racer – Dan Gurney Driven
  • 1964 Ford Fairlane “Thunderbolt” Factory Drag Car
  • 1967 Mercury Cougar Trans-Am Racer – Dan Gurney Driven
  • 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 Factory Drag Car
  • 1970 Gremlin Modified – Bobby Gerhart Driven
  • 1970 Trevis Spring Car #29
  • 1971 McLaren M12B Can/Am Racer
  • 1973 Edmunds Sprint Car – Don Kimberling Driven
  • 1974 Maxwell Sprint Car – Jan Opperman Driven
  • 1976 Lightning Indy Race Car – Janet Guthrie Driven
  • 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass “Skoal Bandit” #33 NASCAR Racer
  • 2004 Ecotec-Powered “So-Cal” Lakester Concept/Salt Flats Racer