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Blog

the Streamliners

Posted on August 17, 2009 at 12:26 PM

1954 was the year when three of the top owners of the day decided to build streamline cars for the 1955 INDY 500. Many of you have taken a look at my "streamliners" photo album on the "Photo Gallery" page, so I decided do a blog with a little history on each of these very interesting roadsters.

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The #33 Belond Miracle Power Streamliner

This car was based on Kurtis 500B chassis that was raced at Indy in 1953 and 1954. After the '54 500, Quinn Epperly used this frame to build the 1955 Belond streamliner for muffler king, Sandy Belond.

Unlike the other two streamliners, this car used streamline fairings rather than fully enclosed "fenders".

The car, with a 270 OFFY and driven by Jim Rathmann, finished 14th, but failed to qualify in 1956.

I do not know current ownership or location of this car or if it even still exists...

Anybody have any current info on this car????


The #48 Sumar Streamliner

This car was commissioned by Terre Haute Indiana businessman, Chapman S. Root .

The car was built in the Frank Kurtis race shop and was based on a brand new Kurtis 500D chassis and 270 OFFY engine,

 Driver Daywalt, immediately, complained of claustrophobia under the canopy and complained about not being able to see the front wheels.

The stunning car was stripped of its canopy and much of the wheel enclosing bodywork. It went from being one of the most beautiful Indy cars ever to one of the ugliest.

Daywalt drove the car to a respectable 9th place finish, but only after destroying the original spirit and intent of the car.

  Had I been the owner, after spending a lot of money, time, and effort to create this car, I might have tried another driver who was more receptive, adaptable and experienced with the original concept of this car.. Maybe a top sports car or LeMans racer.

 The car failed to qualify in 1956.

  The car was reassembled and tested at the new Daytona Speedway in 1959. After setting a new closed course speed record of over 171 MPH, driver Teague lost control and died in the crash.

The car has been restored and is still owned by the Root family. It is on display in the Root family museum in Daytona Fla.


The #4 Keck Streamliner

Howard Keck, owner of the 1953 and 1954 Indy winning Kurtis 500A roadsters, envisioned the most advanced Indy car ever built for the 1955 race. The car was to have fully enclosed streamlined bodywork and a supercharged V8 engine.

The car was designed and built by the top technoids of the day including Norman Timbs, Quinn Epperly and "whiz kids", Jim Travers & Frank Coon.

  It was the only "clean sheet of paper" design rather than a "rebody" of an existing chassis.   Eng. Timbs actually built models of the car for testing at the Cal Tech wind tunnel. The car was equipped with a full width aero tuning plane on its trailing edge.

  The engine that Keck wanted to use was the NOVI, but that plan failed to happen when NOVI owner, Lew Welch, refused to sell Keck an engine. Plan B was to commission OFFY designer, Leo Goosen, to design a new, NOVI like, supercharged V8.

In early 1955, it became obvious that neither the car or the engine would be ready in time for Indy, so Keck released his driver, Vukovich, to drive for Lindsey Hopkins.

While leading the race in the Hopkins Kurtis 500C, Vukovich got involved in someone else's crash on the back straight and was fatally injured.

  With Vukovich gone, the eccentric Keck lost interest in the race team. Travers and Coon finished the streamliner, but the Goosen V8 engine project was abandoned and a standard OFFY 270 was installed.

  Shortly after, Keck closed down the shop and quit racing. The streamliner sat, untouched and unseen, until 1985 when Keck sold it to an unidentified Memphis businessman. Its last known location was "on display" at the Kruse collection in Auburn Ind.

It may still be there.

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Looking back, These guys, including the standard roadster builders, appeared to have a purty good eye for pure streamlining but much less knowledge of the other aero forces, such as lift, downforce, turbulence and high pressure air build up inside the bodywork, under the nose and wheel wells, as understood today.


The Belond, with its open top "fenders" was, certainly, less effected by "spinning wheel" turbulance and pressure than the full bodied cars.


  At Indy, due to driver comfort issues, Sumar bailed out on their streamliner body before they gained any meaningful aero knowledge and experience.

I have never read or heard of the Sumar using any wind tunnel data or any other scientific testing when developing their car.

Unfortunately, when they reassembled the aero bodywork for the Daytona runs, it resulted in Teague's fatal crash. Running at speeds 30 MPH faster than Indy, they were certainly dabbling with aero unknowns.. Aero forces such as lift and instability could have been the main factors in the crash.

  Maybe Daywalt was right in rejecting the fully enclosed bodywork, even though it was for different reasons. Had he proceeded with the original bodywork, he may have encountered some of the same unknown aero effects, as Teague, on the back straight at Indy.


Although the other streamliners may have had some formal aero evaluation and information, the Keck was the only car with documented aero testing, so, the "whiz kids" may have had some or all of the aero answers. We'll never know since it never ran. The Keck remains an enigma


One thing that all of the Indy streamliners had in common was that they were all beautifully built, they were all working with relatively "on the edge" aero science and they were popular among the fans, even to this very day.


Photos of these great cars can be seen at the following quick link:

  http://indyroadsters.webs.com/apps/photos/album?albumid=5279350


mac miller in INDY

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6 Comments

Reply Ed Dooley
1:42 PM on October 13, 2009 
the Keck streamliner was sold at auction I believe in Monterey, Ca a few years ago. I have a print out from the the auction somewhere about it.
Reply ★ Owner
3:03 PM on October 13, 2009 
Ed, Some more current info. The "Keck" was sold, again, at the Kruze Auction in Auburn Ind. in early Sept '09 for 375 thousand. Asusual, the name of the buyer was not disclosed. mac miller in INDY
Reply MIKE HENDRICKS
9:28 PM on January 31, 2011 
Ed, the car is owned by Dean Kruse, and it is located in Auburn Indiana. It in Dean's private collection. I have seen the car recently, and it is good condition. (Jan 2011)
The car was up for sale about a year ago, but did not sell. I do not believe it is for sale at this time.
Reply Randy Robinette
12:27 PM on January 5, 2016 
Mac,
Do you have any more information about the Belond? I'm trying to reproduce the car using a 1976 Chevelle frame, LT1 motor and tranny. Let me know if you would like to see pictures? It is my understanding that the Belond was dismantled after failing to qualify for the 1956 Indy.
Reply mac miller
10:25 AM on January 6, 2016 
Randy Robinette says...
Mac,
Do you have any more information about the Belond? I'm trying to reproduce the car using a 1976 Chevelle frame, LT1 motor and tranny. Let me know if you would like to see pictures? It is my understanding that the Belond was dismantled after failing to qualify for the 1956 Indy.

Hi Randy,
I thought I had a good "4 view" drawing of the Belond car, but my drawing is of the Keck streamliner..
The car was built on a Standard Kurtis 500B chassis.Its last appearance at Indy was 1956 so I don't know if it was it was converted back its standard configuration, parted out or still exists somewhere with the streamliner. No one, I know seems to have any info on the car after the 1956 Indy 500.
mac miller in INDY
Reply mac miller
10:34 AM on January 6, 2016 
Certainly, any pix of your build would be welcome!