Stock vs. Purpose-Built Race Cars

This article was originally published in the Sunday, March 20, 1910 Indianapolis Star. It was part of  a special supplemental section about the upcoming March 28 Indianapolis Automobile Show presented by the Indianapolis Automobile Trade Association (IATA). Key features of the event were the Floral Parade, contests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and concluding banquet at the Denison Hotel.
The focus of the article concerned a topic of general interest to those in the auto industry and especially motorsport. The subject of ongoing debate was the value of special, purpose-built cars for racing. The contention of many manufacturers was that the cost of preparing such machines was unnecessary as it did little to help designers impove their products or help consumers with their purchase decisions concerning which model car best suited their needs.
The writer posits that days of the "special" racing car had passed and that stock cars could be tuned for outstanding speed while illustrating the quality of a product the consumer might acquire. The article also reports that much had been learned through racing stock cars because inherent design flaws could be addressed by engineers at respective factories.
This position flew in the face of much heralded plans by Nordyke & Marmon to deliver a purpose-built race car (which would later be dubbed the "Marmon Wasp," and more than a year later win the first Indianapolis 500). Contrary to the position represented in this article Howard Marmon and others at his firm believed the high powered Wasp could incorporate features not found in touring cars to be tested and perfected for potential use in their consumer issue.
Interesting, too, is that other reports have it that while factories may have contended their race entries complied with the American Automobile Association's (AAA) stock car classification rules many did not. Reliability was the big focus of the still-nascent auto industry and replacing parts like crankshafts with expensive chrome-nickel steel units (instead of common machine steel) was seen as a likely infraction given the cursory tech inspections of the day. Such a swap-out would undoubtedly not only improve reliability but also speed as higher revs could be attained without failure.
As an aside an excerpt from the article provides interesting commentary in comparing auto racing to other sports: "Automobile racing, it must be admitted, has not the same element of sport about it that is associated with baseball, football and similar pastimes, owing to the mechanical factor which must be a part of the contest. Yet it cannot be denied that automobile speed contests bring with them an excitement and pleasure that can hardly be surpassed. Those whose good fortune it has been to witness the great races of the past cannot have lacked a thrill as they beheld the cars flash into view, running at almost incredible speed."

StockCar032010.pdf1.62 MB