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Ab Jenkins Runs a Cord at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Amongst our favorite subjects here at The Old Motor are the endurance runs made in the earlier days of motoring. Whether on a race track, dry lake or public road, the effort it took to perform such feats cannot be fully appreciated by anyone who hasn’t spent time behind the wheel of an older car. One of the best known names in the very small fraternity of drivers who have set these records is, of course,“Ab” Jenkins.

In 1927, Rome, New York millionaire Samuel B. Stevens, himself an auto pioneer and pre-war racing veteran, issued a challenge to any man who could average a mile a minute or better for 24 hours in a production car at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stutz and Marmon had succeeded in doing so in 1927 and 1931, respectively. Jenkins took up the challenge and is seen above (center) posed with the 1937 Cord in which he began the run on June 22, 1937.

Jenkins posing with a representative of the Wilkinson Motor Co. of Salt Lake City, Utah, earlier in September of 1936. Photo courtesy of the University of Utah.

But he did not complete that epic drive in the same car. Although he lost his right front wheel on the front straight at almost 90 miles per hour, Jenkins was able to bring it to a safe stop without hitting the wall. He quickly switched to a backup car to complete the event, averaging 79.57 miles per hour for the entire distance, including stops for  fuel oil and tires. However, his heroics did not help Cord sales and production of the distinctive car ceased less than seven weeks later.

The trophy was retired in 1954 after Tony Bettenhausen, Pat O’Connor and Bill Taylor collaborated to raise the mark to 89.89 miles per hour in a Chrysler. Ford made an unsuccessful attempt in 1956 and became the fifth and last team to accept Stevens’ challenge, almost thirty years after it was first issued. You can read more about “Ab” Jenkins long record breaking career in some earlier posts on The Old Motor.

6 responses to “Ab Jenkins Runs a Cord at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

  1. Hello….i am one of three Grandsons to Samuel B Stevens. The Old Man was in on it weren’t He….do You know about the 1916 ‘cannonball’ He did from Ny to S.F. in a Marmon 34 setting a trans -continental record…5 days and change…was broken a month later by a Hudson. He & Willi Vanderbilt started the Ormond Beach competitions….Chasis 60-553 Rolls 40/50 S,G. was the first automobile EVER imported to U.S. shores, Sam’s car arrived in May 1907 and was followed 2 weeks later by chassis# 60-565. Is this the Greenlees site?

    • Jim, Yes I knew everything you listed, but the Rolls was not the first car imported here. I believe the first imports arrived here even before 1900. If you or any other relatives have any good photos of Sam’s exploits or can access them in the Rome, NY library or the Historical Society I would do an article on them.

      • David, been a while since we spoke, i think i told You cousin Sammy passed soon after You & i had made initial contact. I just stumbled across previous comment from Dave Seyse, asking to reach me. I assume You still have my email & cell #….
        Please contact Mr Seyse and give info to Him……i will attempt to contact You via email as well.
        Redoing Our Late Brother Will’s choptop Bug…front suspension built by Man Who built Super Seven chassis for Colin. Porsche’ t-axle, im hanging Lexus 4.0 4 cam aluminum v8 off it. Sincerely,
        jimi stevens

    • Jim Stevens—–I am trying to start writing an article about SB Stevens. Last summer I visited the Rome Historical society and got alot of information. Also got to tour his home nearby. I am originally from Clinton, NY now living in Ormond Beach, Fl. My interest is mostly in his racing here of course and his involvement in promoting the events here. I am in hopes that I can get some good photos of the Stevens Challenge Trophy at Amelia Island this year. Will you or your family be there?

      • Dave, sorry i missed this communication from You. Family is wel scattered now, Boyh Parents gone for most of my life. I hesitate to post my email, but David & i have exchanged some email in past. If You contact Him, as i will immediately after this writing, i ll ask Him to give You my contact info. Brother Will passed in 88…other Bro Mike, Runs Aircraft Brokerage @ LGB in Long Beach, Ca. called aircraft sales ltd. & Plane Fax…..You could contact Mike also…very excited to hear You are writing about Sam. Died before i was born in 53. Hope to hear from You. Jim Stevens

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