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Studebaker President Roadster Sets Records at Muroc Dry Lake – Hunt Special Runs Well at Indy – Wins Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Updated – Selling new cars during the Great Depression was a very hard thing to do. Studebaker officials knew they had a winner on their hands, and set out to let the car buying public know that the “President” model had both record breaking performance and at the same time excellent fuel economy.

Record setter Ab Jenkins was working for Studebaker at the time to do what he did best, which was setting AAA records. Ab went to work and set up the small army that was needed to run a record attempt and worked with the AAA to officiate and time it. The Company’s Research Engineer George Hunt was slated to drive the “President” in the 1931 record attempt. Hunt was in charge of developing the racing cars and engines for Studebaker that it ran in competition events.

Studebaker and AAA Record

  •  George Hunt behind the wheel of the President “Speedway” Roadster with the AAA timing crew.

The first order of business to prepare for the run was to develop a 7 to 1 high compression cylinder head, a high-lift camshaft with .375 lift, a 3.47 rear axle and carburetor jet changes. For a production record to be recognized by the AAA it required a run of 100 of the modified roadsters to be built. Studebaker named the special car the “President Speedway” Roadster and offered it in grey or black with red chassis, wheels and leather upholstery and a flame red cylinder head. The 337 c.i. nine-main-bearing L-head eight produced 122 h.p.

The scene of the speed run was the Muroc Dry Lake in California were the AAA timing crew set up a circular course and its timing equipment. At the end of the day, 10-new records were set including both the one-mile standing (66.63 m.p.h.) and flying start (91.35 m.p.h) and a 100-mile flying start run covered at a 90.35 m.p.h. average. The AAA officials also tore the car down after the run to ensure that it was the same specifications as the production model.

Studebaker President at Muroc Lake

Studebaker also proved that the President Eight was not only fast, but it also had excellent fuel mileage. The big eight and a six cylinder model were both entered in a Gilmore-Wrightwood economy run in California and ended with an outstanding finish taking first and second places. Mrs. William Hurter with five passengers in her “President” average 17.5 m.p.g. on the 200-mile run.

The record run photos are courtesy of The Revs Institute Research Library.


1931 Hunt Special Studebaker Indy car

  • George Hunt and Ab Jenkins stand behind the “Hunt Special” driven by Tony Gulotta in the 1931 Indianapolis 500. Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This car has survived.

George Hunt and Ab Jenkins also built the “Hunt Special”, the first stock block racing car for Studebaker. Apparently not willing to gamble its reputation on an Indianapolis 500 entry, the automaker let Hunt enter it under his own name in the 1931 Indy 500 race. It was driven by Tony Gulotta, who 80 laps from the finish was given the signal to run flat out. Gulotta passed 18 cars in the next 46 laps and was running in first place when he hit a patch of oil left over from a crash, and went into the wall ending its run.

Russ Snowberger 1931 Studebaker - powered

  • Russell Snowberger finished 5th in his own car powered by a Studebaker President engine in the 1931 race Indianapolis 500 Race. Photo courtesy of Racemaker Press.

Racing car driver and expert mechanic Russell Snowberger entered his own car with a Studebaker President engine in the 1931 race. He won the pole position with a speed of 112.79 m.p.h. and finished the race in 5th place. Studebaker made light of the engine’s performance in its advertising.

1931 Studebaker Hunt Special engine

The Hunt Special Studebaker engine – “Automotive Trade Journal” July 1931. 

The Hunt Special was repaired after the Indy 500 race and was entered in the 1931 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Driven by Chuck Myers over a rough course on the last run of the day, he tore up the hill and won the event while setting a new record of 17 minutes and 10.3 seconds.

1931 Studebaker Pikes Peak Win

  • Chuck Myers wins the Pikes Peak Hill Climb – “Automobile Trade Journal” October 1931. 

12 responses to “Studebaker President Roadster Sets Records at Muroc Dry Lake – Hunt Special Runs Well at Indy – Wins Pikes Peak Hill Climb

  1. Beautiful car. Anyone happen to know the date when these tests were performed? What year(s) the President Speedway model was sold? How many Speedway models still exist?

  2. “….. Tony Gulotta, who 80 laps from the finish” (i.e. at lap 120) “ was given the signal to run flat out. Gulotta passed 18 cars in the next 46 laps and was running in first place when he hit a patch of oil left over from a crash, and went into the wall ending its run.”

    The Motor report of the race states on three occasions that Gulotta was in second place, not first, when he crashed. And far from passing 18 cars between laps 120 and 167, he was already in second place by lap 80 and held that position, behind Billy Arnold, until he crashed on lap 167. Gulotta’s progress through the field was 8th (10 laps), 6th (40), 3rd (70), 2nd (80) etc. Since he started in 18th position, the bulk of his passing took place during the first 40 laps, long before he was given the supposed signal to run flat out.

    I wonder which version is correct.

  3. Pretty impressive for a stock car in that era. Those huge headlamps on the President sure didn’t do it any favors in the speed run. I would think it would have done some good to fair in smaller units. Would have looked sportier too.

  4. Lucky enough to own a restored version ……..and just drove it 1500 miles on the
    CCCA Canadian Caravan……and enjoyed every minute.

  5. During the ownership and restoration of #37 my father and I got to meet both Tony Gulotta and Chuck Myer. The racer was painted green for the Indy races but Chuck was not happy with that. He painted it blue for the hill climb plus made some modifications to the transmission. Made second gear a closer ratio to top gear so that the engine rpm wouldn’t drop too much. Also he used the sponsors engine oil in both the transmission and rear axle to minimize drag when winding up to speed between the switchbacks.
    When I asked Tony about what does the riding mechanic do during the race he said three things. Watch for racers coming from the rear, watch for pit signals, and light my cigarettes. He’d duck under the dash, light one and pass it to Tony. They were out on the track for 5 hours and one couldn’t smoke while in the pits!

  6. Muroc “DRY LAKE” is NOT a Sodium Chloride “salt flat” as much as Bonneville IS!!!. It is an Alkali Soil Lake. The two Model “A” Fords probably belong to the AAA , American Automobile Club, but chances are — that it is an AAA Affiliate Club, The Automobile Club Of Southern California. In later days, most of the Speed Record Timing was done by the SCTA , or The Southern California Timing Association, which still sponsors events, yearly, through the Auspices of Edwards Air Force Base, formerly The US Army Air Corps. Formerly this porperty was owned by the CORUM Family (spelled backwards: “MUROC” (Dry Lake) The Corums decided to Sub-divide the property, which included BOTH the DRY LAKE and surrounding Hill Property. My Grandfather became one of the purchasers of part of that property, which was sold to the U.S. Army Air Corps, which became a significant part of the Lake and E.A.F. ; Edwards Air Force Base, as it is known, now. Each year, the “lake” becomes a race course , once more , by special permission of the EAFB- USAF! Edwin – 30 –

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