Straight for Project Cars we read below that we are getting Indy 500! How awesome will it be to run your own Indy 500 race, cycling through various weather events making an even more exciting race event. Plus you can pause the when you get tired. lol. Read up below.
The speed, the rivalries, the half-a-million race fans, the side-by-side battles, the history, the sheer size of it all, the drivers who have come to fight for the ultimate validation of guts and racecraft—all of it makes the Indy 500 precisely as it says on the box: “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
Back in the day, the build-up to the race would see men from far and wide descend onto Indy with nothing but hastily constructed delusions molded from home-tuned motors and rusty chassis into which a man’s dreams would fold and sometimes die.
Things are a little more organized now, but Indy is still a place for dreamers such as McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
The last European racer who made this much of a splash must surely have been Jim Clark back 1963. The scene for the 500 that year was scripted in Hollywood; a little green-and-gold Lotus with a wee Scotsman lined up against 29 enormous, garishly-liveried roadsters with the hard men who muscled them in the USAC championship year-round: rear-engine, light-weight European road-based sophistication versus front-engine, heavy American oval-based brawn. It really was the future versus the past, with the Lotus positively dwarfed by those fire-breathing Watson-Offy USAC monsters that didn’t come faster or meaner than the one entered by the heir to a hog-farming and refuse-collection business, the scion of war-torn Armenian refugees, J.C. Agajanian, and the car his driver—the hardest of the hard men of Indy, Parnelli Jones—called Ol’ Calhoun.
The road to victory lane is in a roadster
J.C. Agajanian was the son of Armenian refugees who washed up in California in 1913. The family’s rags to riches is one of those classic American Dream stories which becomes relevant when, at 18, “Aggie” bought himself a race car. His dream—entering the deadly dirt-oval racing scene of Depression-era California—ended when his father gave him some sage advice: “Go kiss your mother goodbye, pack your bags since you won’t be living here anymore, and while you’re at it, change your name.”
In 1963, Agajanian stood on the grid beside his pole-sitting hot-rod roadster and turned his Stetson-donned head to a little Lotus squat in the middle of the second row. Colin Chapman may have been one of Europe’s most talented race car designers, but at Indy, he was as foreign as his puny cigar-shaped car. Agajanian and his driver Parnelli Jones—crew cut, and with a jaw as hard as his fists—were both determined that a foreigner wasn’t about to win the Indy 500. After qualifying on pole, Jones had been quoted as saying, “The last thing in the world I was going to see happen was one of them goddam funny cars take the pole.”
Jones came to the race as the fastest man to have ever lapped the Indy Oval, and the first man to break the 150mph barrier—this in 1962. That was the last year the whole 33 car field were Americans. Times, at Indy, were changing, and Clark and his foreign Lotus a sure sign of things to come.Agajanian’s ‘Ol’ Calhoun’ roadster was already ageing by ’63; it had debuted back in 1960 at Indy, built by a man named A.J. Watson out in California. Watson’s roadsters were, by then, already synonymous with Indy. In 1950, Watson himself had come—like so many before him—with his home-made racer weaved from nothing much aside from ingenuity, the last of his savings, and his dreams. Like so many before him, he left Indy a broken man—so broke he had to return to his job at Lockheed Martin. Hope, they say, is the last thing to die, but racing never did for Watson, and in ’54, he was back as chief mechanic to John Zink Jr’s team working on a Kurtis Roadster.
Watson’s roadsters quickly became the cars to have at Indy, and he went on to make 23 of them for other teams. They dominated Indy, taking wins in ’59, ’60, and ’62. One of those was Agajanian’s Ol’ Calhoun.Ol’ Calhoun
Agajanian’s 1960 Watson roadster with Lloyd Ruby turning the wheel finished down in seventh on its Indy debut, but it’d been running third before the rookie driver stalled it during the last pit-stop. For ’61, Agajanian hired rookie Parnelli Jones, painted the car white-red-and-blue with a pig-cartoon painted-on for good measure, and almost won the whole damn thing. The paint-scheme at Indy, back then, had gone very Californian thanks to the work of legendary car-artist Dean Jeffries. He employed classic Californian motifs and colors—candy-stripes, gold leaf, pearl—and became so popular by the start of the ’60s that most of the field (22 out of 33 runners one year) had a car hand-painted by Dean Jeffries.
Jones, meanwhile, won over the crowd when, struck full in the face by a metal shard from another car and half-blinded by the blood pooled up in his goggles, he’d kept his pedal to the metal until eventually fading away with an ailing motor.
For ’62, with Ol’ Calhoun showing its age, Agajanian had his chief mechanic Johnny Pouelsen modify the car; the bodywork was re-worked, the wheels widened to 15 inches, and the car lowered significantly. The modifications worked and Jones led the field from pole. It looked to be a sure-win until Ol’ Calhoun played up again, this time losing its brakes. At Indy, this wasn’t a big problem for a man like Parnelli Jones … except when he needed to pit for three tyres and fuel, that is.
“I learned how to slip the car on purpose, so I could come off the corners with the car running freer and keep my speed up, which was one of the reasons I had an edge with that car. In those days the tyres were tall and skinny and the drivers were fat compared to today’s young guys,” Jones told Motor Sport Magazine many year later.
Agajanian—that man who had pioneered the air jack—instructed his crew to stack up as many tyres as they could down pit-lane as Jones came in for his stop, aiming Ol’ Calhoun at the tyres and hitting them to slow down while scrubbing off speed using the pit-wall.
For ’63, Ol’ Calhoun was modified again with a few aero-pieces and the exhaust—chrome, what else?—extended even further back behind the rear Firestones. The external oil tank got a new paintjob, too, and the car a new name—the #98 Willard Battery Special—painted, once again, by Dean Jeffries.This is the lovingly scanned roadster that you will drive in Project CARS 2.A race of strong men, hard racing, and the good ol’ boys who stitched one up for the home team
In terms of the roadsters that had dominated open-wheel racing in the US after the war, Ol’ Calhoun stands as one of greatest examples. It weighed in at 730KGs and had a 4-cylinder Offenhauser motor capable of about 470hp using a fairly combustible nitro-methanol fuel mix.
In ’62, Ol’ Calhoun led 125 laps: in ’63, it would annihilate every other roadster at Indy.
The problem for Agajanian and Parnelli Jones, though, was the car starting in the middle of the second row on the grid, a slender little Lotus 29 with a Ford Fairlane V8 stuck at the back shoving out 370hp and weighing just over 500KGs, was anything but a roadster. Part of the Lotus’s weight came from the fuel-tanks that were buried in every conceivable mouse-hole in the chassis; 40-gallons worth of fuel sloshing around Jim Clark who was literally sitting in a tub of explosive fuel and who expected to pit but once in the race.
The roadsters were expecting a three-stop minimum.
Back in Europe, the light-weight philosophy of the British race car scene had already rendered the big-horsepower Continental tradition obsolete. It was about to do the same to the Americans. There were four rear-engined cars that day that took the start—one, belonging to Dan Gurney, became Clark’s reference point all the way through the first laps as the wee Scotsman massaged himself into the race, surrounded by what appeared to be bus-sized roadsters all around him.
By lap 70, Clark went by Gurney and, with the big roadsters headed to the pits to the sound of hammers on wheel-nuts, took the lead. On lap 96 of the scheduled 200, Clark pulled into the box for his one and only stop. The stop was a slow one, and Clark re-emerged in mid-pack.
Problem for Clark was, he couldn’t risk getting close to Jones’s car because it was now not only smoking but visibly dumping oil on the racing line. Roger McCluskey spun on the oil and went out, and with two laps remaining, the chief steward of the race—Harlen Fengler, an old friend of Agajanian, and a man who’d run the Indy 500 almost half a century before—walked over to starter Pat Vidan and, to Agajanian’s horror, handed him the black flag.
Jones crossed the line as winner with an angry Clark coming in second. Clark wasn’t the only driver to harbor some bitter feelings; at a luncheon the day after for the drivers in a hotel in downtown Indianapolis, Eddie Sachs and Roger McCluskey both remonstrated with Jones that they’d spun out on his oil. Jones listened for a while before turning to Sachs to deliver his verdict: A right cross that floored him.
No-one mentioned the oil after that.
In ’65, Clark came back and led 197 of the 200 lap Indy 500 with the Project CARS 2-bound Lotus 38, and that was it for the front-engined roadsters of lore.
“I get a chance to drive ‘Calhoun’ every once in a while at Indianapolis and it’s like putting on an old glove,” Parnelli Jones is quoted as saying in the Motor Sport special Great Racing Cars. “I gave that car its name. One day I said, ‘Let Calhoun have the ball’. And from then on, it took on that name. We put a lot of happy miles in that car.”
If you’re headed to Indy this year, go stop at the museum: you’ll see Ol’ Calhoun there, parked right up beside Clark’s Lotus from that epic race in 1963. There’s a ’photo, too, of Jones and Clark standing in pit-lane at Indy in March 1968—the two men were testing the Project CARS 2 Chapman-Granatelli STP twin-turbine Lotus 56 with which they would both contest the 1968 Indy 500.
Jim Clark, sadly, never made it; he died at Hockenheim in April of that year.
Ol’ Calhoun, the Lotus 38, and the 1968 Chapman-Granatelli STP Pratt & Whitney twin-turbine Lotus 56 are all coming to Project CARS 2, along with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in late 2017 for the PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One, and PC.
See ya on the Track!
Check out our Sponsors: