Gerhardt 1966 Indy car-by-car histories
Thanks to some timely publicity from Parnelli Jones breaking the one-mile closed track record during tyre testing, Fred Gerhardt received ten orders for his 1966 design. Gordie Johncock took two second places during the season in the Weinberger Homes car.
1966 was the year that the supercharged Offenhauser became available and Drake Offenhauser claimed 550 bhp for the 168 ci Offy compared with 515 bhp for the Ford V8, but the engine would not fit into many of the older cars. Fred Gerhardt had close connections with Offenhauser and had already completed a prototype of his 1966 car which made it the obvious choice for testing. The prototype had first appeared in November 1965 when Jim Hurtubise raced it at Phoenix as the #46 car. Competition Press described it then as a "Gerhardt-chassied Ford" but whether it actually was a Ford is unclear as there had been talk of the Mecom team running the first supercharged Offy at PIR in a new Gerhardt chassis and further talk of a short-stroke 255 ci Offy having tested at the same track in the weeks prior to the race. Parnelli Jones made headlines at the end of January when he took the prototype 1966 Gerhardt fitted with the new supercharged engine to a new lap record at Phoenix of 122.574 mph during a Firestone test and his performance led to a stampede of orders for the 1966 Gerhardt. Fred reported that ten more cars were to be built for Indy in 1966, five with Offys and five with Fords. The chassis cost $15,000 plus either $17,000 for the new Offy or $25,000 for the Ford. The Jim Rathman "Astronauts" car was innovating further with an Airesearch turbocharger on its Offy instead of a Roots supercharger. All engine options were mated to a two-speed Halibrand transaxle.
As best we can tell, 12 or 13 1966 Gerhardts were built. If you can add anything to these histories, please contact Allen Brown (email@example.com).
The first of Gerhardt's 1966-spec cars was started late in 1965 and must be the #46 car in which Jim Hurtubise appeared at Phoenix (PIR) in November 1965, although 1966 Indy previews only say it was completed in time for testing at PIR in January. Fitted with the supercharged Offy and used by Parnelli Jones in testing in January when he broke the lap record at PIR. Raced by Hurtubise again at PIR in March 1966 and taken to Indy as a backup to his new car. Crew member Dennis Johansen recalls that this car became the #94 later in 1966 in place of the 1965 car after it was destroyed in the fire following Tommy Copp's crash at Atlanta in June 1966. Raced by Mel Kenyon and Bill Cheesbourg later in the season and by Kenyon again at Phoenix in November. Also likely to be the #46 car raced by Kenyon in the opening races of the 1967 season. According to Johansen the #46 car was entered at Indy in 1967 but was being used just as a Thermo King show car until the Friday before the last weekend of qualifying when Goodyear said that they were sponsoring two team cars but had only seen one run. The car was quickly put together overnight by Don Gerhardt, Mel Kenyon and Dennis and was fired up for the first time on Saturday morning, Bob Veith did ten laps and then took a qualifying attempt, making the race comfortably and finishing 11th. Subsequent history unknown, but may be the car that went to Malcolm Boyle.
Driven by: Jim Hurtubise, Parnelli Jones, Mel Kenyon, Bill Cheesbourg, Bob Veith and Art Pollard. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R18), 21 Nov 1965. Total of 8 recorded races.
'the Myron Caves car'
New to Myron Caves, originally from Madison, Wisconsin and by 1966 a long-established Buick dealer in Gerhardt's home town of Fresno, CA. Fitted with a supercharged Offy and run for Mike McGreevy as the #85 Caves Buick Co. entry at the start of the season and also at Indy but despite the efforts of three drivers, it did not qualify. Presumably the same #85 Caves Buick Gerhardt-Offy SC driven principally by Al Miller through to the end of 1966, and at Phoenix in April 1967, where it was wrecked. Caves had a new Gerhardt for the 1967 Indy 500, but this 1966 car may have been repaired and retained as a short track car in 1967, 1968 and even 1969. Next seen when sold to Jack Adams who had entered a car at Indy in 1969 with a Bryant chassis and Allison helicopter turbine engine. The Gerhardt was rebuilt by chief crew Howard Millican to take the turbine and was practiced at Indy in 1970 by Jigger Sirois but could not find the speed to qualify. Raced by Rick Muther later in 1970, finishing eighth at Trenton, and in 1971. The chassis was sold to Mark Stainbrook in 1971 and he later sold it to Gary Bettenhausen. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Rodger Ward, George Snider, Mike McGreevy, Bob Harkey, Bob Wente, Don Meacham, Arnie Knepper, Al Miller, Jigger Sirois and Rick Muther. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R1), 20 Mar 1966. Total of 15 recorded races.
'the first Walther car'
New to George Walther of Dayton Steel Foundry, fitted with a 255 ci Ford and entered as the #77 Gerhardt for Carl Williams until it was wrecked in his qualifying crash at Milwaukee in August 1966 and replaced with a new car. The damaged monocoque from Williams' accident was later sold at the George Walther Jr Estate Auction in Walton, OH, in October 2002. In 2010 the car was reported to be in the US being restored.
Driven by: Carl Williams. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R1), 20 Mar 1966. Total of 4 recorded races.
'the #4 Leader Card car'
The Leader Card Racers team of Bob Wilke and AJ Watson acquired two new 1966 Ford-engined Gerhardts and ran them as #4 and #91. Assuming there was no number swapping, the #4 was Don Branson's first choice car during 1966 and was then taken over by Bobby Unser, who crashed it in practice at Trenton in September. It was retained for 1967 and was the #86 backup car for Unser at the Indy 500 and his mount at Langhorne in June when it wore #6. Unknown after June 1967.
Driven by: Don Branson and Bobby Unser. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R1), 20 Mar 1966. Total of 8 recorded races.
'the Lindsey Hopkins car'
New to Lindsey Hopkins and entered as the #78 GC Murphy Spl at Indy 1966. Tentatively identified as the car sold to Gordon Van Liew and entered as the #7 Vita Fresh Orange Juice Gerhardt-Offy for Larry Dickson at Milwaukee 29 Aug 1966 and at three other short track races that season. It would then presumably be the #22 Vita Fresh Gerhardt driven by Dickson at Phoenix in April 1967. Dickson crashed early in the race and suffered burns. Photographs show that Hopkins' 1966 #78 Gerhardt-Ford was Gordon Van Liew's #23 Vita-Fresh Orange Juice entry at the 1967 Indy 500, qualified by Ronnie Bucknum but later bumped. The bodywork had been altered to a 1967 shape, but the car is clearly of 1966 construction. Bucknum later drove this car at the road courses at Mosport Park, Indianapolis Raceway Park and Mont-Tremblant, where it was described in press reports as the "only Gerhardt in existence with the chassis set on centre", i.e with symmetric suspension. Last seen in 1967 when run by Arnie Knepper in practice at Riverside but crashed and badly damaged. Photographs show that this was the car acquired by Pete Salemi after Ronnie Duman's fatal accident at Milwaukee in June 1968. Salemi fitted the ex-Van Liew with a turbo Offy and ran it as his #81 Central Excavating entry for Jigger Sirois in three races in late 1968. Salemi's team did not return for 1969, and the subsequent history of this Gerhardt is unknown.
Driven by: Roger McCluskey, Masten Gregory, Larry Dickson, Ronnie Bucknum, Arnie Knepper and Jigger Sirois. First race: Trenton Speedway (R2), 24 Apr 1966. Total of 12 recorded races.
'the Bob Hurt car'
New for Bob Hurt (Potomac, MD) and entered at the 1966 Indy 500 by Robert J Ricucci (Washington, DC) as the #36 Viking Racing Offenhauser car. Run by Viking Racing for Hurt at a few races later in the season. In 1967, Hurt returned in a Gerhardt but the #29 REV 500 car entered by Malcolm J Boyle. It would seem reasonable to assume that this is the same car. Hurt continued to race this #29 Gerhardt through the 1967 season. This is not the same car that was owned by Boyle and entered by PMB Racers Inc as the #26 Central Hardware Spl at Indy in 1968, so the subsequent history of the 1966 Bob Hurt car is unknown.
Driven by: Bob Hurt. First race: Trenton Speedway (R2), 24 Apr 1966. Total of 16 recorded races.
'the "Astronauts" car'
New to American astronauts Gordon Cooper and Virgil Grissom, who had former 500 winner Jim Rathmann acting as chief crew, and fitted with a supercharged Offy. Entered at the Indy 500 as the Pure Firebird 76, the car was crashed in practice by both Lee Roy Yarbrough and Greg Weld and did not make the race. Raced for the rest of the season by Art Pollard. Entered by G. C. R. Inc as the #76 again at Indy in 1967 and driven in practice by Rick Muther but did not attempt to qualify. Unknown after May 1967.
Driven by: Greg Weld, Lee Roy Yarbrough, Art Pollard and Rick Muther. First race: Milwaukee (Wisconsin State Fair Park) (R4), 5 Jun 1966. Total of 6 recorded races.
'the Federal Engineering car'
New to Dan Levine of Federal Engineering (Detroit, MI) and entered as the #22 Federal Engineering car for Bud Tingelstad during 1966, initially with a supercharged Offy but reportedly with an Offy 252 in the latter races. Federal bought a new Gerhardt-Ford for 1967 so this 1966 car is presumably the #10 Tingelstad used at Trenton in April and then the #38 team car used by Al Smith at the 1967 Indy 500 and then by Smith and Sam Sessions in the latter half of 1967. This car was partly updated to 1967 specification and was then the team's #31 Gerhardt-Offy in 1968. Federal then bought a 1968 Gerhardt, and this 1966 model was sold to St Louis owners but not raced again. Eventually to collector Bob McConnell (Urbana, OH), and from him to Jack Layton (Howell, MI) who intended to restore it but found a roadster project instead. Sold to Gerald Whitney (Fenton, MI) in November 1986. In 2017, Gerald was progressing the restoration as a retirement project.
Driven by: Bud Tingelstad, Al Smith, Sammy Sessions, Sonny Ates and Carl Williams. First race: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R3), 30 May 1966. Total of 18 recorded races.
'the Sid Weinberger car'
New to Sid Weinberger to be the #72 Weinberger Homes Gerhardt-Ford that Gordon Johncock drives all season, and then the #49 Weinberger Homes Gerhardt-Ford that Norm Brown used in practice at the 1967 Indy 500 before the team's second Eagle was ready. Brown then crashed a #49 Weinberger Homes Gerhardt-Ford at Milwaukee a week later, and again on the opening lap of the IRP race in July. When the team used a Gerhardt later in the season, photographs show that it was a 1967 car. The 1966 car presumably met its end at IRP.
Driven by: Gordon Johncock and Norm Brown. First race: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R3), 30 May 1966. Total of 10 recorded races.
'the Jim Hurtubise car'
A new car built by Fred Gerhardt for Jim Hurtubise to drive as the #56 Gerhardt with supercharged Offy at Indy and thereafter during 1966. Last seen at Phoenix in November 1966. Unknown after November 1966. Bought by Don Lyons (Dowagiac, MI) about 1992 and restored to Hurtubise's orange-and-black 1966 livery. Appeared in a parade of old cars at the 2004 Indy 500. Sold at the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Auctions in August 2009. Unknown since 2009.
Driven by: Jim Hurtubise. First race: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R3), 30 May 1966. Total of 6 recorded races.
'the #91 Leader Card car'
One of two new 1966 Ford-engined Gerhardts acquired by Leader Card Racers for 1966 and retained as the #91 backup for Don Branson at the 1966 Indy 500. Raced by Bobby Unser at Phoenix in November after he had damaged the usual #4 car. Sold to Nick Fulbright, owner of the Four Flags Garage in Niles, Michigan, in March 1967 but he was unable to find a sponsor and sold the car to Walt Michner who entered it for Mickey Shaw at the 1967 Indy 500 as the #60. Raced later in the season by Mike Mosley and Rick Muther. May have been retained in the Michner stable and plausibly the #63 Gerhardt backup car entered for the 1969 Indy 500. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Don Branson, Bobby Unser, Mickey Shaw, Mike Mosley and Rick Muther. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R16), 20 Nov 1966. Total of 5 recorded races.
'the second Walther car'
George Walther (Dayton Steel Foundry) acquired a second 1966 Gerhardt to replace the car wrecked in Carl Williams' qualifying crash at Milwaukee in August 1966. The replacement car appeared in September 1966 and was driven by George Snider, Rick Muther, Arnie Knepper, Bruce Jacobi and Al Smith until it was wrecked by Smith at Milwaukee in 1967. Presumably the same car was rebuilt and appeared again as the #77 Gerhardt used by the team in the first half of 1968. Walther then withdrew from Indy racing (until 1970) and the Gerhardt is unknown after June 1968 but reappeared in the UK some time in the mid-1990s. With Paul Coombs of SVS Ltd (Eccles, Gtr Manchester) by 2006 . Bought by Alex Elliott in February 2007. When Alex removed a piece of post-68 bodywork, the car was found to still have the livery and stickers from the 1968 Indy 500. In July 2015, Alex advised that the car "now lives in New York and has been restored to full working condition".
Driven by: George Snider, Rick Muther, Arnie Knepper, Bruce Jacobi, Al Smith, Larry Dickson, Bill Puterbaugh and Ralph Liguori. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R16), 20 Nov 1966. Total of 5 recorded races.
Almost all the 1966 cars can be tracked into 1967, the single exception being the #56 Jim Hurtubise car. Of the others, the #46 prototype continued to either Indy '67 at least, Walther's first car had been written off, Myron Caves' car was retained for early 1967 at least and probably longer, the #4 Leader Cars car was last seen in June 1967, the Hopkins car was last seen in November 1967, the Bob Hurt car appears to carry on through 1967, the Federal Engineering car apparently to November 1968, the Weinberger car to Indy 1968, Jim Rathman's car to Indy 1967, the second Walther car to early 1968, and the #91 Leader Card car apparently to 1969. So it would appear that of all the new Gerhardts that appear at Indy in 1967, only one can possibly be a 1966 car.
However, the only unexplained 1967 car that appears to have been a 1966 chassis was Kenny Brenn's car which is said to have been unraced prior to Brenn getting it.
'the 1967 Ken Brenn car'
ARDC midget owner Ken Brenn Sr (Warren, NJ) ran a #57 Gerhardt for Bob Harkey in 1967 (also driven by Lothar Motschenbacher at Phoenix) and then ran a #88 Gerhardt in 1968 for a variety of drivers. According to Gary Mondschein, these were two different cars, the first being a '66 car and the second a '67 car, and Brenn told him both cars came from Goodyear and were unraced. The '66 car went to Bulldog Stables for 1968 and would be the #36 Gerhardt-Chev run on the USAC trail in 1968 and the #68 in 1969 for drivers such as Gene Bergin, Bob Harkey and Denny Zimmerman. It was joined by a Gerhardt-Offy towards the end of 1968 and the team ran both cars a few times early in 1969. The ex-Brenn #68 then reappears as Jerry Karl's Trackstar Helmet entry (photos in the Hungness yearbook 1969 p41 and 1970 p103 show the car almost unchanged) becoming his #52 entry in 1970 and presumably his #102 Winters Transmission entry in 1971. It was then sold to Geoff Bodine who added a roll-cage and set it up as a Super-Modified and raced it at Oswego Speedway (near Syracuse, NY) in 1972, taking a fourth place finish in a race on 3 June 1972. The car was later in the collection of Bob McConnell (Urbana, OH), still unrestored in Bodine's colours. Sold to Gary Mondschein in 2011 and was being restored in 2014 by Walt Goodwin. The car appeared, fully restored, at the Indy 500 vintage meeting in 2015. Appeared at the Historic Indycar Exhibition in May 2016.
Driven by: Lothar Motschenbacher, Bob Harkey, Gene Bergin, Bruce Jacobi, Denny Zimmerman, Jim McGuire, Bruce Walkup, Jerry Karl and Juan Carlos Salatino. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R1), 9 Apr 1967. Total of 29 recorded races.
'the Rex Broker car'
Unknown until acquired from Rex Broker (Wichita, KS) by Todd Krahl (Salinas, KS). Rex had bought the car in pieces and had restored it with an Offy engine. Bought by Krahl around 1999 and used in vintage racing. Sold in 2015 to Mike Moss (Ottsville, PA). Appeared at the Historic Indycar Exhibition in May 2016. Still owned by Moss in January 2018.
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