Racing Tests Cars

This article was first published in the February 27, 1910 Indianapolis Star. An interesting piece, it editorializes that high speed road or oval track racing is the best way for manufacturers to develop automobiles. The qualification on that commentary is that the cars need to be stock machines, not purpose-built racers. The contention is that specially designed race cars provided the manufacturer little meaningful input concerning the product they were offering the market and for customers considering a purchase. This was the debate of the times as the manufacturers, reresented to the American Automobile Association (AAA) by the Manufacturer's Contest Association (MCA), were not interested in spending the money to develop the special cars that would only be used to race. They saw it as needless extra expense. Race fans, however, were known to enjoy the exotic, big-engine high-speed cars. The derogatory term for such cars was "freak."
The endurance events such as the Glidden Tour are dismissed by this writer as a less relevant test of stock machines. The contention here is that in such contests professional drivers "nurse" the cars and that penalties threatened by the organizers were not always taken seriously as feedback as drivers argued that the rules were flawed or incorrectly enforced.
The writer states the case that high speed racing stressed cars to the breaking point and forced designers to create stock cars that could withstand the strain. Further, the races could provide more meaningful input to engineers in a matter of hours than events like the Glidden Tour could in weeks. An excerpt makes this point and within that context amusingly suggests that drivers of "limited intelligence" were preferable, assuming that they would be braver. Check it out:
"Road and track racing is not boys' play. It is a very serious business, and calls for the limiting of the driver's intelligence and the utmost endurance of the car. This is particularly true as regards long races. It is hard to realize what enormous strains a car is subjected to in running hundreds of miles at a mile-a-minute clip. The vibrations and stresses are so great that the slightest weaknesses in material, design or workmanship are brought out. All of this information and experience redounds to the advantage of to both manufacturer and buyer if the car is a stock model."
Despite this viewpoint some manufacturers held a different view. Check out this article written the same month about how the Marmon company had decided to build a "special racer" destined for iconic status as the Marmon Wasp, winner of the first Indianapolis 500.

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