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Human Interest Photos: Mechanics Working in Gasoline Alley at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Part I

Updated: Earlier in the formative years of The Old Motor, a sizable portion of the coverage contained pre-World War II racing cars and race meets which can be found in the category “Auto Racing 1894 – 1942” in the drop-down categories menu located in the right-hand column of the site.

Today’s feature images are courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway collection at the Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis Library. Instead of concentrating on cars and drivers during the race and other activities in this new series, the mechanics and other workers “behind the scenes” the unsung hero’s that work to “make it happen” will be the focus of this coverage.

To begin here today in the lead image from 1947 contains race driver George Weaver in the cockpit of car number 44, a pre-war Miller front-wheel-drive racing car with a supercharged Miller straight-eight engine, one of as many as ten built by Harry Miller in the late-1920s. Behind him and the old and outdated Miller which did not qualify for the race is Chief Mechanic Jim Hoe and mechanic Hal Stetson.

Race driver and sportsman George Weaver went on to build the Thomson Speedway Road Racing Track in the fifties. Mechanic and racer Jim Hoe later became a Duesenberg restorer and built his own Model “J” Duesenberg based racing car.

Because of finding this photograph a mystery may have inadvertently been solved? A graying George Weaver may be the unknown man and possible sponsor standing by Jim Hoe’s Model “J” Duesenberg Special Racing Car in an article posted here earlier on July 2, 2018?

Update: Photo below of Jim Hoe working on the stripped chassis and rear motor mount of the Miller number 44 chassis. The unique Miller differential and transmission is visible in the right-bottom of the picture. 

10 responses to “Human Interest Photos: Mechanics Working in Gasoline Alley at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Part I

  1. It’s nice to see some of the “behind the scene” individuals acknowledged. Often they were the difference between winning and losing. A few names come to mind: Chickie Harishima, Clay Smith, Jean Marcenac, Eddie Kuzma, Jim Travers and Frank Coon among so many others.

  2. No wonder they didn’t qualify, the 1947 field was pretty diverse with a number of foreign makes in the lineup. Alfa Romeo, Maserati (3rd place), Mercedes along with a couple of Novi’s (4th place) and a Ford V-8 (flathead of course). The winners in the two Blue Crown Spark Plug specials were running in Diedt chassis, a pretty sleek design for the time. The tires in the photo here really show how dated this entry was, if those were the actual tires used for qualifying. Times had really changed after WWII, with all sorts of developments in materials, streamlining, etc.

  3. Oh, I forgot to mention that there was also a Tucker car present, driven my Al Miller with a Miller engine and chassis , front wheel drive and a rear engine! Magneto trouble dropped it on lap 33!

  4. As a former USAC Champcar Indy mechanic, I find it refreshing that we are noticed as the men behind the cars.
    I had the pleasure of working with Chickie i,n the mid 70’s at Vels/Parnelli Jones Racing , He was one of our engine
    builders. Can’t wait to see more.

  5. I’m fairly certain George Weaver and Jim Hoe were early members and officers in the SCCA. Jim lived in Weston, Ct. and SCCA headquarters were in Westport the next town south. I’ve got a few business cards and a 1938 lapel pin from an AAA Mechanician, how long did they use that title? Bob

  6. Bob Swanson is most likely right – Jim Hoe and George Weaver were friends and totally involved with the early years of sports racing in New England as well as the Indy 500 after WW II. In Floyd Clymer’s 1947 Indy 500 History , pages 44 & 45, Charles Lytle gives an in depth description of what happened to George Weaver’s #44 Miller while trying to get it qualified.
    Jim Hoe, Hal Stetson and Frank Harlow were a part of the team that tried to get it into the race after having breakage of the supercharger drive to cause cracking of the rear camshaft cap. Then a burnt piston caused further delay but the racer was ready for the last hour of qualifying. Unfortunately a qualified driver was not found in time.
    Mr. Lytle, who had attended all the Indy 500 races in the 1930’s/40’s as a photographer gives a long description of their search for someone to qualify #44.
    STAN SMITH

  7. I have a picture I took of a picture from my late Mother’s senior care facility. I believe it’s related to the story, but I don’t know how to send it, assuming Old Mo is interested

  8. “Inside” (private) photos of any kind of race cars cars being built — were typically not used for “bragging rights” to Competitors! They are valuable for (decades later) historians, but at the time of the photo —care was taken to not reveal important “speed secrets”, If the photo was meant for the public or other racing teams.

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