The Auburn Auction

Lot 33
1955 Quin Epperly "Fuel Injection Special" Indianapolis 500 Streamliner

Selling on Saturday Evening

1955 Quin Epperly

• Aerodynamic design conceived for two-time Indy 500 Winner Bill Vukovich
• Built by legendary Indy car builder Quin Epperly for the 1955 Indy 500
• Powered by an Offenhauser twin OHC fuel-injected engine
• Incredible history and design and eligible for a plethora of events

270 cid Meyer-Drake Offenhauser DOHC inline four-cylinder engine, fuel injection, 385+ HP, four-speed manual gearbox, solid front and live rear axles, hydraulic four-wheel disc brakes

A larger-than-life legend, Californian Bill Vukovich remains one of the all-time top-ranking American racing drivers. Starting at age 18 and quickly rising to prominence driving midgets on West Coast dirt tracks, Vukovich won consecutive URA midget car championships in 1945 and 1946. The winner of the hotly contested Turkey Night Grand Prix at Gilmore Stadium in 1948, Vukovich also won six of the last eight races held at that popular venue before it closed.

Going from strength to strength, “Vuky,” as he was known by his racing peers, soon stepped up to big championship cars, driving Howard Keck’s Kurtis-Kraft 500 “Fuel Injection Special,” the first of the new crop of Offenhauser-powered Indy Roadsters that would rule Championship racing through the early 1960s. Following a lackluster rookie season in 1951, Vukovich’s performance in the 1952 Indianapolis 500 was outstanding, moving quickly from his starting position in the middle of the third row to take a commanding lead for 150 laps before his steering gear failed on lap 192 of the 200 laps. Back-to-back wins at the Indianapolis 500 in 1953 and 1954 cemented the Vukovich legend. According to racing statistics, “Vuky” led 72% of the total laps he drove at Indianapolis and he stands as the only driver to lead the most racing laps at the Speedway for three consecutive years.

Keck and Vukovich were determined to win again at Indianapolis in 1955. This time, however, the “Fuel Injection Special” intended for Vukovich was brand new, designed with the latest aerodynamic principles. The radical new car was built by legendary Indy car builder Quin Epperly, with assistance from Jim Travers and Frank Coons, who would later be renowned as the brains behind Traco Engineering. Known as the "Indy Whiz Kids," their aim was to design and build the most advanced and competitive racecar of their day. In addition to its sleek and slippery “envelope” body, the new Fuel Injection Special incorporated a driver-adjustable rear spoiler referred to as an “elevator.” The car also featured a unique offset engine position and cockpit, both optimized for enhanced weight distribution on the Indianapolis oval track. An all-new, purpose-built V-8 engine was under development by Leo Goossen of Offenhauser fame as well.

The futuristic new streamliner could quite possibly have reinvented Championship racing. However, Epperly was unable to complete it in time for the 1955 race, prompting Vukovich to drive a Kurtis-Kraft roadster for Lindsey Hopkins. Tragically, Vukovich was caught behind a chain-reaction crash on turn two and was tragically killed while attempting to avoid the other cars on the outside. While Keck’s enthusiasm for racing diminished, Coon, Travers and Epperly did complete the streamliner, but the V-8 engine project was abandoned in favor of installation of a regular DOHC four-cylinder Offy engine. Articles state that legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony Hulman wanted the streamliner in the 1956 race and paid the entry fee, a possibility supported by the entry list for the 1956 Indianapolis 500 including an unnamed car entered by one Walter J. Travers. One day, without warning, Keck's secretary called the “Whiz Kids” and told them Keck was no longer involved in racing; the beautiful car remained in Keck's workshops until 1985, never to turn a wheel in competition. Having achieved mythical status, the last “Fuel Injection Special” was rumored to exist, yet few had seen it. It was then sold to a Memphis businessman who had it restored by Jim Robbins in 1990 and that June, Open Wheel magazine published an article featuring the streamliner, complete with photographs.

Well-known to noted Indy racing enthusiasts and collectors, the streamliner not only represents the vision of Howard Keck, the creativity and design genius of Epperly, Travers and Coons, but also the prowess of its intended driver, racing legend Bill Vukovich. An incredible masterpiece of design engineering, its style and presence create a lasting and coveted impact.

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