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the "Laydowns"

Posted on August 13, 2009 at 9:00 PM


  1. My next project could be a "laydown" engine roadster, so I decided that, maybe, a blog about the "laydowns" would be appropriate.


  My biggest technical issue when building a new "laydown" replica is finding an inline 4 cyl. engine that will work in the "laydown" position.

  The problem is getting the oil to drain back from the top of the cylinder head to the oil pan. A few guys have suggested existing engines that are installed as "laydowns", which I am checking out.

  The other option is to use a current DOHC 4 cyl engine, such as a Focus, Duratec, Miata or, even, Olds quad four or Alfa.

 The modifications, to be made, include plumbing of the cam covers to insure proper drain back to the oil pan. It would also require a newly designed or modified oil pan. A dry sump oil pump system is, probably, the most likely solution to the oil scavenging and pressure system. And, of course, the exhaust and intake manifolds are always tricky on an engine installation like this.

The engine would be mounted, at its relative horizontal (probably 20 degrees) angle, to the front side of the motor plate bulkhead. Its matching transmission will be mounted, straight up, on the back side of the motor plate.

  I don't think that there are any unsolvable technical problems, no matter what engine I use.


The first of the OFFY powered "laydown" roadsters was the 1957 Belond Spl. built by George Salih, Howard Gilbert and Quinn Epperly, on a shoestring budget.

   Salih worked at Meyer & Drake and built his first "laydown" engine from used and spare parts he collected around the OFFY shop.

   In 1960, Salih built his second "laydown" roadster, the Metal Cal Spl. It was a great looking car, but never as good as the original Belond.

From '58 through '61, Quinn Epperly built 6 "laydown" cars, of his own design, including the #99 Demler, #33 Jones and Maley, #1 Hoover Motor Express, #8 Bowes Seal Fast , #5 Autolite and another Hoover Motor Express #3.

The 1958 D A Lubricants Kurtis 500H and the 1959 Bowes Seal Fast Kurtis 500J were, both, Kurtis "laydown" designs. Also, there were several of the Kurtis 500G cars that were converted from "upright" to "laydown" engines.

Eddie Kuzma built three "laydowns" including the 1959 #44 Schmidt Spl, the 1960 #32 Ansted Rotary Spl. and the very nice #17 Jim Robbins Spl.

Eddie also modified a couple of his previous "upright" engine cars to "laydowns".

Lujie Lesovsky built the great looking pink #3 Racing Assoc. "laydown" which set on the Indy pole in 1959 and won at Milwaukee the very next week, and, also, the 1960 Kelso Autodynamics "laydown" that never made a race.

Lujie was involved with most of the laydown conversions of other builder's "upright" cars, especially the Kurtis 500Gs. The "Lujie" design was, also, used, in 1961, by Herb Porter to build a new #86 Racing Assoc. car for Ebb Rose.

Other builders who built a "laydown" car were Fred DeOrion for Fred Gerhardt, Denny Moore for John Zink and Floyd Trevis for Jim Robbins.


With most of the top builders involved, it is surprising that there was never an absolute consensus as to the definitive layout. There were three different layouts used by the various builders.

  Salih used the right side driver/left side engine,tilted, top to the right on the Belond but switched to a left side driver/right side engine, tilted top to the left layout on the Metal Cal car.

  Epperly used a right side driver/left side engine, tilted top to the the right on the his first four cars but switched to a radical right side driver/left side engine, tilted top to the left, much like a supermodified, for the Autolite #5 and the Hoover #54. Kuzma also used this layout on the Jim Robbins #33.

  All of the "Lujie" cars used the left side driver/right side engine, tilted top to the left and the Kurtis cars used the right side driver/left side engine tilted top to the right,

There was nothing really special about the construction of these cars. They all used a conventional tubular space frame with standard suspension and driveline component design and installation.

Their main selling points were better aerodynamics and lower center of gravity. I suspect the lower CG was far more important than the lower hood... Actually, it would be interesting to put a Watson "upright" and an Epperly "laydown" in the wind tunnel and compare numbers.

  Considering the top builders and drivers, of the day, that were involved with the laydown cars between 1957 and 1963, these cars were not all that successful, scoring only three wins.

  The cars always ran well and had a number of top finishes but, for some reason, they couldn't break through and become consistant winners.

  A lot of people believed they were star crossed with bad luck but, maybe, in the final analysis, they just weren't technically any better than the "uprights".

  Of course, of the races they won, two of them were Indy 500s, so at least the, original laydown, Belond Spl. had to be considered a great success.

I'm not sure how many of these engines existed, but records show that only eleven of them were officially built in the Meyer & Drake shop. Certainly, there were other good engine guys, like Herb Porter, who were capable of assembling their own versions of the "laydown" OFFY.

 My research indicates that there were 21 new "laydown" cars built between 1957 and 1961. I also believe that there were 3 existing "upright" cars converted to "laydowns" in 1958.

  You can check out many of the "laydown" roadsters at the following quick link:


You can also check out some preliminary design drawings of my tentative "laydown" roadster project at the top of the page.

                   mac miller in INDY

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Reply Steve Miler
8:50 PM on September 27, 2009 
If you notice, the picture I included when I signed on is of my Supermodified. I noticed that you don't like supers, but I only mention this because of the 32degree tilt of the engine. If you think I might be of any help with your laydown project due to my experience with this or with the Racing Associates laydown, let me know.
Have you given any thought to a twin cam Saturn engine?
Steve Miller
Reply ★ Owner
7:32 AM on September 29, 2009 
Hi Steve,
Nothing against supermodifieds. I 've worked on them. Its just that on the "fans in the stands" type websites, when they start talking about building a new style Indy roadster, to replace the current specracer cars, it always turns into an Madera/Oswego style supermodified discussion. This website is focused totally on a certain group of race cars (indy roadsters) from a certain time in history ('50s/60s).

Hopefully, This "laydown" project will happen. The way things are right now, the guys that can afford this sort of thing, are sitting on their money, waiting out this economy. I will, definitely, keep you up to date about this project
I had not thought about the Saturn engine but it certainly has the "look"!

mac miller in INDY
Reply Dave
9:09 AM on March 26, 2013 
The first laid down offy was the cannon mk4 spl. Sports car built by Ted cannon and my father, jim SEELY about 1951. Dad was a wrench on the Schmidt spl as well. Looks like a great project!