One hundred years ago on this upcoming Memorial Day, Sunday, May 29, 2016, this Duesenberg team racing car, driven by Wilber D’Arlene finished in second place in the 1916 Indianapolis “300.”
Yes, the Indy “Three-Hundred” – the only time the “Memorial Day Classic” has run at that shortened distance. The race was the last to be held on the famous brick-paved oval track until after World War One was over and racing resumed in 1919. Dario Resta won the race in a Peugeot EX3 entered by Alphonse Kaufman, the America importer of the Peugeot.
- At the 2012 Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance Duesenberg display with dirt on its tires from an earlier run at Churchills Downs. It was the first racing car to run again on that track since 1910 when the last race was held there.
The 1915 racing car D’Arlene drove in 1916 at Indy was the most advanced of the team cars, and is powered by one of Fred and Auggie Duesenberg’s 16-valve “walking beam” 300 c.i. four-cylinder engines; it followed the earlier 8-valve version. After the race, it was fitted with the latest version of bodywork and later sold to racing driver Jimmy Benedict of New York, who was a riding mechanic for the Duesenberg brothers on occasion.
The car survived its long racing career at the hands of the colorful second owner Lou Hoyt, who raced it until the early-1930s. In 1941, it was purchased from Hoyt’s widow by Charlie Fisher who was assisted by the late Duesenberg Historian Fred Roe. The pair towed it home from Haverstraw, NY to the Boston area behind Roe’s 1926 Cadillac sedan and Fisher first ran it at Thompson Speedway in Connecticut just after World War Two.
- The four cylinder 16-valve engine has two intake and exhaust valves per cylinder and twin spark plugs. The valves are actuated by two camshafts and eight vertical 16-inch long rocker arms per side (intake on right, exhaust on left). In this view the cast aluminum valve covers are removed. The original tubular exhaust header has survived.
In 1993 vintage racer, author and publisher Joesph Freeman of Boston, MA purchased the Duesenberg and ran it that year in the Montery Historics at Laguna Seca. Since then it has competed in vintage racing events at: Savanah, GA, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Lime Rock, the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England, Churchill Downs and other venues along with numerous concours.
Your editor has been fortunate to maintain the Duesenberg and drive it in vintage races on occasion for the last twenty years. For the last four years, it has been on display at both the Larz Anderson Museum and the Owl Heads Transportation Museum. Over the fall, winter and spring it has been prepared here at The Old Motor for the return to Indy to take part in the on-track vintage racing event May 26-28, 2016 as part of the celebration of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
- The four-inch exhaust pipe sweeps down the right-hand side of the Duesenberg just below the riding mechanics elbow. The exhaust note at idle sounds much like a large caliber gattling gun set on high that turns into an angry howl at racing speeds.