Tech & Momentum - 1910


There was never a time when the technology and momentum of automobiles, aircraft, and motorcycles were more intertwined than at the dawn of the 20th Century. The most enthusiastic auto racing fans and historians understand that the fundamental technology of the day — the internal combustion engine — enabled a number of applications in industrial machines, airplanes, automobiles, and agriculture. The possibilities seemed endless to people with the ability to think big.
People like Indianapolis Motor Speedway Founder Carl Fisher who saw his facility as not just a race track, but a proving platform for cars, bikes, and aircraft. Engines drove drive trains which, for the most part, used beefed up chains analogous to those found on bicycles, in many ways the device that was a forerunner to automobiles.
The vision of how the airplane would fit into society and the economy was foggy. Some even imagined that they could replace automobiles and relieve the country of the task of building expensive roadways. The idea of flying mechanized planes of silk and metal tube wings to the village general story may seem preposterous to us now, but in the time people were sorting out the possibilities.
Fisher envisioned an aircraft construction business and produced the first Indianapolis-built airplane in the service garage of his dealership. At his Speedway he had an Indiana Aero Club clubhouse constructed in the infield, along with an aerodrome nicknamed “The Nest” by the press who called pilots, “birdmen.”
The Nest was a prototype airplane hangar, complete with a fully-equipped workshop and storage space for parts and deflated passenger balloons. Along with motorized dirigibles, the gas balloons were still considered for their role in the future of air travel.
Many famous drivers such as Ray Harroun, Harris Hanshue, and Caleb Bragg built and flew airplanes. The fascination with the potential of the internal combustion engine was all about imagining the future.
This image is of electric timing visionary Arthur Pratt Warner flying his Glenn Curtiss-built airplane over the Speedway infield in the autumn of 1909. The Speedway would host its first aviation show in June 1910.
As we said at the top, the real aficionados of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and auto racing, in general, get it. Without the context of the age, you will never fully understand the foundations of the sport you love. You can get so much more of at First Super Speedway.