by Michael Ferner
Floyd A. Smith entered the racing lime light in the mid-to-late-twenties with the “Whippet Special”, a Miller 122 chassis with a Fronty-Ford engine. The car was merely sponsored by Willys-Overland, and apparently contained no Whippet hardware. Around the same time, Johnny Gerber also obtained sponsorship from a Whippet dealer and called his car “Whippet” – in his splendid autobiography “Outlaw Sprint Car Racer”, he divulges that he had no qualms about naming the car thus even though the only part of Whippet origin was the radiator. It was not unusual for car manufacturers to sponsor pure-bred racing cars, e.g. Earl Cooper ran his Miller 122 as a “Studebaker Special” in 1924.Smith and his driver, Wilbur Shaw had some success on the dirt tracks, and then wanted a bigger piece of the action. Since most dirt track cars in those days were highly strung 4-cylinder machines, it occured to Messrs. Smith & Shaw that a record attempt could be made to beat the fastest time made by a four-cylinder car so far. It just so happened that no 4-cylinder car had been used for land speed record breaking since 1911, when Bob Burman had driven the famous Lightning Benz (né Blitzen Benz) to a 141 mph clip. The old Model T-based Fronty went up in flames trying to beat that monster car’s speed, and then Smith and Shaw reset the parameters of dirt track racing for the next 30 years by introducing the Miller 151 marine engine to automotive high speeding. Incidentally, they failed again to beat Burman’s record, but this was achieved two years later by Shorty Cantlon with a development of the “Miller Marine”.
By this time Smith was heavily involved providing a two-man car for Wilbur Shaw, and with sponsorship from Empire State Motors built a very conventional one from mostly Miller hardware, with very Miller-ish looking frame rails – perhaps the “Whippet Special” had found a new “incarnation”? The following year, he built a like car for William Yahr, and also obtained one of the front-drive Cooper chassis to modify it for the junk era. In this one as well as his own rear-drive chassis he dropped a pair of 1921 vintage, 8-cylinder Miller 183 engines bored out to 3554 cc, and managed to have both cars lead the 500, and run 1-2 on one occasion!
Smith ‘IC-30’, chassis ’1’
- 1930 #3 Empire State, black/white/red, Miller-Schofield 183, F. A. Smith, Wilbur Shaw/Louis Schneider (7th Langhorne), Wilbur Shaw (ret Indy, 1st Detroit, 7th Altoona, 7th Akron, 1st Bridgeville, dnq Altoona, dns Syracuse)
- 1931 #31 => #3 Empire State, black/red/silver, Miller 183-217, F. A. Smith, Paul Bost (ret Indy), Bill Cummings (3rd Detroit, 2nd Altoona), Shorty Cantlon/Bill Cummings (3rd Syracuse)
- 1934 #18 Boyle Products, ?, ?, M. J. Boyle, George Barringer (ret Springfield, 4th Syracuse, ret Mines Field)
- 1935 #4 Boyle Products, white/red/blue, Miller 255, M. J. Boyle, Al Miller (ret Indy, 3rd, 3rd, ret)
- 1936 #12 Boyle Products, white/red/blue, Miller 255, M. J. Boyle, Al Miller (ret Indy)
Smith ‘IC-30’, chassis ’2’
- 1931 #59 Miller, white, Miller 151-159, W. M. Yahr, Sam Ross (15th Indy, 5th Detroit, 8th Altoona, 2nd Syracuse)
- 1932 #12 Yahr Miller, ?, Miller, W. M. Yahr, Sam Ross (dnq Indy, 5th Detroit, 5th Roby, 4th Syracuse, ret Detroit)
- 1933 #27 Yahr Miller, cream/red, Miller, W. M. Yahr, Kelly Petillo/Sam Hoffman (ret Indy), Kelly Petillo (6th Detroit), Sam Palmer (8th Syracuse)
- 1935 #28 Yahr Bros., ?, Miller, W. M. Yahr, Gene Haustein (dnq Indy), Dave Evans (dnq Saint Paul), George Barringer (2nd Springfield, dnq Syracuse, ret Altoona), Freddie Winnai (dns Langhorne)
- 1931 #3 => #31 Empire State, black/red, Miller 183-217, F. A. Smith, Bill Cummings (ret Indy), Paul Bost (dns Detroit)
- 1932 #17 Empire State, red, Miller 183-217, F. A. Smith, Paul Bost (ret Indy)
- 1933 #38 Art Rose, rose/silver, Studebaker P8-250, F. A. Smith, Dave Evans (6th Indy)
- 1934 #8 Schroeder, black/silver, Studebaker P8-250, F. A. Smith, Tony Gulotta (ret Indy)
- 1935 #41 Art Rose, black/silver, Studebaker P8-250, F. A. Smith, Frank Brisko (ret Indy)
- 1936 #53 Boyle Products, white, Studebaker P8-250, M. J. Boyle, Zeke Meyer (9th Indy)
- 1937 #52 Joel Thorne, ?, Studebaker P8-250, J. W. Thorne, Zeke Meyer (dnq Indy)
Last updated by Michael Ferner on 14 Dec 2009.
All text is copyright Michael Ferner 2009 - 2020.