Birth of the Marmon Wasp

The attached articles are a nice discovery in that they are first-hand accounts of the development and testing of the first car to win the Indianapolis 500, the Marmon Wasp. Contrary to the idea popularized by the now ancient Indianapolis 500 history book, Al Bloemker's "500 Miles to Go," the Marmon Wasp was not designed especially for the inaugural Indianapolis 500 but a year earlier for the first full-blown race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 1910 after the track was paved with 3.2 million bricks. All these articles appeared in the Indianapolis newspapers from January through April 1910.
Note that elsewhere on First Super Speedway you can find coverage of the wreck of the Marmon Wasp, an accident so severe the company considered scrapping the machine. It was restored and racing just a few weeks later though. Although not this specific accident you may find Harroun's description of what it was like to be in a high-speed accident interesting in another article elsewhere on First Super Speedway. Further, you can also find on this site an article where Ray Harroun predicts his own victory just days before the 1911 Indianapolis 500 contending that his car, the Marmon Wasp, was now a year old and had been thoroughly tested during races throughout 1910.
The first article, in attachment MarmonWaspNews011710, was originally published in the January 17, 1910, Indianapolis News. The article asserts that the Marmon machine would be the first high power racing car produced in Indianapolis. It is described as a six-cylinder machine with a "cigar-shaped" body specially designed for racing. The expectation was that the car's first outing in competition would be in Southern California at Ascot Park (February) and Playa Del Rey (March). The article also reports that the Marmon entry would be classified with the Blitzen Benz and the Fiat Cyclone - widely regarded as the fastest cars on the planet.
The second article, in attachment MarmonWaspNews012510, was originally published in the January 25, 1910, Indianapolis News. This article makes it clear that the Marmon Wasp was built with Ray Harroun in mind as the driver. His multiple wins in the 1909 season made him the premier pilot for the factory. 
Note that the article leads with reference to Marmon "Yellow Jackets," the press nickname for the company's entries the previous year. This is particularly interesting as the company eventually dubbed the new purpose-built racer the Marmon Wasp. Again, the team's plans to race on the West Coast are noted, but also we learn that they intended to have Harroun race the car at Atlanta Speedway in early May and then on to the Brickyard for the "Decoration Day Meet."
Note that the car is said to weigh "about 2,200 pounds" and that it would sport a "pointed radiator to "cut wind resistance." Apparently, the aerodynamic front did not prove feasible and the finished product had a conventional, boxy radiator. The pointed tail that did come to fruition is mentioned as well, and it is particularly interesting that the design intentionally sought to "overcome back suction." The fact that the car was a one-seat design is highlighted and, again, the desire to reduce wind resistance is cited as the reason. The 32-inch "disc covered" wheels are explained as allowing a low profile.
The next article attached here announced the intentions of the Nordyke & Marmon company to create a special racing car is "Marmon013010," (January 13, 1910, Indianapolis Star) and while the article is short on details it does highlight something significant about the famous car's name. The previous Marmon racers were yellow and black and had already been referred to as "Yellow Jackets" and "Wasps," so the name of the first "500" winner was not entirely new at the time. Also, Ray Harroun is referenced as a driver with a credit for having won the Wheatley Hills road race. This event was a support race for the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup. One further note - I had already reviewed this article elsewhere on First Super Speedway and simply forgot. You might want to check out that more detailed analysis.
The next article "MarmonWasp031710," (March 17, 1910, Indianapolis Star) brings up at least some interesting points of trivia. The Marmon Wasp was first tested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on March 16, 1910. The drivers did not include Ray Harroun but instead company executive Howard Marmon and Harry "Sunshine" Stillman who, along with Harroun, drove in a number of races for the company. There was still construction work going on at the Brickyard at the time so the test was inconclusive. Objectives, however, were ostensibly modest and the engineers were satisfied with Stillman's work. Stillman was very respected.
The article "MarmonWasp032010" (March 20, 1910, Indianapolis Star) is perhaps the most interesting in that it was written by Howard Marmon. In it, he discusses the merits of the new American Automobile Association (AAA) Contest Board rules package, especially Division C, class 5, which allowed for the special breed of racing car of which the Marmon Wasp was a member. He weighs the importance of aerodynamics and weight and is especially excited about the design elements of the car that will allow it to slice through "wind resistance."
Published on the same day as Howard Marmon's piece another article (Wasp032010) written by Indianapolis Motor Speedway Director of Contests Ernie Moross appeared. This writing not only helps the reader understand the events surrounding the development of this important race car but also gives insights into the incurable promoter's style. For example, check out the language of this excerpt:
"This modern invention of restless humanity, the speeding automobile designed to travel at record speed in this desperate and dangerous sport, is designed along new lines to extract that speed, speed and still more speed from that invisible nowhere. Long, clean and veritably lithe; close clinging to the earth over which it will speed faster than any bird of the air, it is built for power to push and cunningly contrived to slip through the air with the least resistance to that drag upon all motion of matter - the atmosphere of the earth."
There is a sense of flim-flam in his floral delivery that could hardly be called efficient communication. The important point of his message is that the Marmon Wasp was an inspiration of aerodynamics in a time long before even the concept of wind tunnels or computer-aided design could even be imagined. The engineer and the mechanic went with their gut and the product was truly tested - even developed - at the Speedway.
I want to make a point about the Marmon Wasp that I have not seen presented anywhere else. I believe the idea of the single-seat race car in this instance was born of a conviction to make the machine slip through the air as efficiently as possible. The pointed "stinger" tail was an educated design based on a genuine understanding about how air flowed over an arrow-shaped body. Everything about it made it more "slippery" than its competition and this was enhanced by the simple fact that the vehicle had only one seat. The lack of a disruptive bulge in the fuselage-like body that would have been created by the riding mechanic's seat definitely provided a less bulky airflow pattern. That's just my observation but I am sticking to it.
More Moross verbosity proves entertaining. With the benefit of hindsight consider the following: "The car which may become the chariot of fame in the hands of a skillful pilot, but without such a master and guiding hand, a derelict on the sea of racing automobiles."
Obviously, Moross' concerns proved unfounded as history holds "the chariot" in the highest regard. There certainly could have been no more skillful hands to guide it than those of Ray Harroun. The article closes with this from its colorful author, "Great things are being predicted for the new Marmon creation which will be exploited by the star of the Marmon team, Ray Harroun."
The fifth article, "MarmonWasp041710," (April 17, 1910, Indianapolis Star) is also written by Moross. This follow-up to his earlier item which talks of witnessing the great machine practice at the Speedway as well as the role Ray Harroun would play in preparing the car and driving it. Interestingly, this article suggests that the Wasp could be a match for the two cars most held in awe at the time: the Fiat "Giant" and the Blitzen Benz.
Note also that Howard Marmon was doing the test driving himself at the Brickyard. This is because Harroun was in Los Angeles the day this article was published having a very successful effort during the multi-day race meet at America's first board track speedway, Playa Del Rey. Harroun was driving Marmon stock cars scoring important victories such as a two-hour timed race and a 100-mile event. Check out the articles at the links below for the original articles and my analysis:

The April 17 article underscores the tremendous success of Marmon cars in previous months. Check out an ad published elsewhere on First Super Speedway for details.

MarmonWaspNews011710.pdf649.16 KB
Marmon013010.pdf381.67 KB
MarmonWasp031710.pdf380.97 KB
MarmonWasp032010.pdf1003.94 KB
Wasp032010.pdf202.8 KB
MarmonWasp041710.pdf407.01 KB