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Frank Lockhart – American Speed King

On April 25, 1928, eighty-four years ago today on the sands of Daytona Beach, the life of a very bright racing star tragically came to an end. Frank Lockhart died on his second attempt to set the land speed record in a beautifully built V-16 powered car of his own design.

Racemaker Press has just completed the publishing of a Frank Lockhart – American Speed King, by Sarah Morgan-Wu and James O’Keefe and has chosen to announce it in today in honor of Frank Lockhart and his many incredible accomplishments.

As a handsome, intelligent young man, gifted racer and mechanical genius, Lockhart has long captured the imagination and curiosity of generations of automobile racing fans as a classic example of the question: “What might he have accomplished if he had lived?” Thus there remains a certain mystery about Frank’s amazing talent and fearless driving ability.  The product of years of serious research, the book focuses on much long-forgotten or hidden information that sheds important light on Frank’s character and incredible, if all too short, influence on American automobile racing.

“Previous authors have generally focused on his 1926 Indy 500 win and Land Speed Record attempts. They have never delved fully into the life and the details of his career, “ notes Joseph Freeman, Publisher and creator of the new Racemaker Press American Racing History Series. “Another point of this book was to actually check and verify many questionable stories that have been circulated about Frank Lockhart’s life and career.”

In their careful historical effort to set the story straight, authors Sarah Morgan – Wu and Jim O’Keefe have combined their efforts to delve into all aspects of Frank’s life. They have left no stone unturned in an attempt to uncover the true historical record of this remarkable man.


Lockhart was an incredibly talented mechanical genius who while working as a mechanic started his racing career in 1923 at a track in San Luis Obispo, Calif., in an AAA event on a one-mile track. Frank turned out to be a gifted driver who in only his second year of racing in 1924, was nipping at the heels of  the pros in his overhead valve Ford racing cars, and is seen below in the first photo being flagged the winner in a race at Ascot Speedway in a race. The second photo shows him wearing the “Italian Crown” also at Ascot after winning a race.

His career quickly advanced and in 1925 he can be seen in a Miller 122 at the Culver City track in February 1925 in photo three below. By 1926 the rising star had achieved nation-al success seen in the last photo below, after having won the Indianapolis 500 only three years after his racing start. The race was called for rain on the 160th lap, but by that point in the race Lockhart was three laps ahead of the driver who finished in second.

In the winter of 1926-1927 Lockhart the natural born engineer, along with a group of others, went to work on improvements for the supercharger used on Lockhart’s Miller racing car and also went on to develop and patent his own design of intercooler. In early April 1927, he and his Miller racing car with its changes, set a two-way speed mark of 164 mph on the Muroc dry lake.

In July of 1927 Lockhart announced that he was going after the land speed record and backed by Stutz, he started construction of a very innovative car of his own design. This car carried a custom built supercharged and inter-cooled V-16 engine, that used four Miller dohc straight-eight blocks and two crankshafts geared together, seen in the first thumbnail photo at the top.


The first attempt at Daytona in February of 1928 ended after several runs, when Lockhart on an attempt on the last day of the speed meet at over 200 mph ran into a rain squall. With no visibility, he ended up in the soft sand on the beach and lost control and crashed into the sea, a scene which can be seen in the second thumbnail photo at the top.

A determined Lockhart after a short recovery, returned to Indianapolis and announced that the crew would rebuild the car and he would return to Daytona try again. They were back at the beach on April 2oth and in practice runs with carburetion problems he was only able to attain a speed of 200.33 mph towards the 206.956 mph record set by Donald Campbell. Ray Keech in the White Triplex mean while was able to raise the record to 207.55 on April 22nd.

On April 25, the fateful day with unfavorable beach conditions, Lockhart tried again. On the first leg of his second two way run he attained a speed of 203.50. On the return trip only 700 feet from the timing stand, his car went into a skid (believed to be caused by a tire blow out) and then tumbled violently, throwing Lockhart out of the car and injuring him severely. He was rushed to the hospital, but sadly he died of his injuries less than a half an hour after the crash.

This new book by Racemaker goes into to the complete Lockhart story along with showing many very interesting photos which have not been published before. It also tells the story of the aftermath and the continued lives Lockhart’s other cars and engine from the record car. It is an incredible story of a very determined Frank Lockhart that you are sure to enjoy.

Frank Lockart; American Speed King  is available at  or by calling 617-723-6533.  The book is 256 pages, with 190 images, many full-page photographs, hardbound and dust-jacketed.

9 responses to “Frank Lockhart – American Speed King

  1. TWO straight eights = one v-16. I think miller used two 4 cylinder blocks to make his eights, the closeup engine clearly shows each block only has valves enough for a four banger. Looking frward to reading the book, sounds like a winner. Thanks, Koke

  2. A sad day in racing history, but very fitting for the release of the new book on Frank Lockhart. I look forward to getting a copy at Lime Rock or Hershey. The V16 Lockhart engine would power the Sampson Special at INDY in 1939 and 1940 driven by Bob Swanson. The car is restored and in the INDY 500 Collection.

  3. Great men of vision often see the path and chase relentlessly the dream only they can see. Gotta admire the courage and resilience of guys like this. Truly heroic efforts and an iron will.

  4. I am going to get this book as soon as I can!!! Frank Lockhart is my great great great Uncle and I would love to learn more about him

  5. I have a early card with him setting in the car no.15 the miller special in 1926 , i believe it to be from the tobacco cards.

    • Some corrections to the facts is necessary. The car owner of the #15 Miller Special was Peter Kreis and is listed as the Winning Entrant for the 1926 Indy 500. Pete Kreis contracted the flu, attempted to qualify the car but Lockhart talked Pete into “some laps” in the car and Frank was much quicker in time trials. Pete hired Frank Lockhart to drive his “Miller Special” in the 1926 Indy 500, while Pete checked himself into an Indianapolis Hospital due to his illness, Frank won the 1926 Indy 500 because of an agreement with Pete Kreis to drive his car. I question the validity, without additional information whether an after-cooler was placed on Pete’s “Miller Special” but do not deny Frank Lockhart’s development of an after- cooler. The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America has incorrectly documented in Frank Lockhart’s induction to their organization that Harry Miller was the car owner of the #15 “Miller Special” in 1926. Pete Kreis was the official car owner of record and Harry Miller did not determine, nor did he contract with Frank Lockhart to drive Pete Kreis’s “Miller Special to the 1926 Indy 500. It is true Frank bought the car after the 1926 Indy 500 but he bought the car from my second cousin, Peter Kreis.

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