1938 Marchese Championship Racer news, pictures, and information
Chassis Num: 75
|Sold for $99,000 at 2007 RM Auctions.|
In 1938, Carl and Tudy Marchese built their fist 'Big Car' as their entrant to the Indianapolis 500 that year. It was powered by an eight-cylinder Miller engine cooled by two radiators mounted in side pods and sitting in a chassis created from round tubes. By positioning the radiators in the side pods, the frontal area was able to be made narrow giving them an aerodynamic advantage at top speeds. The car was driven by Harry McQuinn who qualified the car in 25th position and finished the race in 7th.
By 1940 a number of changes and improvements had been made to the car. It was now fitted with a supercharger. It was brought to Indianapolis driven by both Tony Willman and Harry McQuinn but did not make the race. The following year Paul Russo qualified the car in 18th position and finished 9th overall.
Racing was halted during the Second World War, but when it came to an end, racing resumed. The car was brought to the first post War Indy 500 and was joined by many prewar cars. The field was mixed, with a variety of styles and configurations, one even sporting a V16 engine. The Marchese still had its 8-cylidner Miller engine but featured a restyled nose and grille. The car was driven by Tony Bettenhausen who qualified the car at 121.860 mph but not started the race as the car was withdrawn.
The following year, in 1947, the Marchese brothers ordered an Offenhauser 270 cubic-inch engine from Meyer and Drake. The Miller 8-cylinder unit was removed and replaced with the new engine in preperation for the Indianapolis 500 in 1948. The side pod radiators were removed and the car was given a more traditional appearance. It was driven by Myron Fohr during qualifying to a time of 121.531 but not good enough to start the race. This left him as the 2nd alternate starter. When the car was given the opportunity to race later in the season, its true potential was shown. At Springfield and Milwaukee the car came in first place. It finished in forth at DuQuion and earned the car the Triple A owners' championship for the Marchese brothers with Fohr finishing second in the driver's championship.
At the 1949 Indy 500 the Marchese was driven by Fohr to a fourth place finish. Fohr would finished the season in second place in the AAA Drivers Championship.
For 1950 the car was sponsored by Bardhal and qualified at 131.74 mph and in the 16th position. As the checkered flag fell, the car was in 11th place. The following year, and still with Bardhal sponsorship, the car was driven by Chuck Stevenson from Fresno, Ca. He drove the car to a speed of 133.764 in qualifying. During the race, the car caught on fire on the 93rd lap; it would finish the race but was awarded 20th place.
The car was repaired and brought to the 100-mile race at Syracuse, NY. unfortunately, the car was involved in a bad wreck but miraculously Stevenson was unharmed. The racing career of the car had come to an end.
The car was purchased by David Uihlein shortly after the race. Many years later, it was brought back to its 1951 configuration with the help of Buster Warke, Fred Nickels and Joe Silnes. In present day form, the car is fitted with the original Offenhauser 270 engine and fitted with a set of Riley carburetors and a two-speed gearbox. It has a tube frame chassis and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes actuated through the hand lever.
This vehicle was brought to the 2007 Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by RM Auctions, where it had an estimated value of $180,000 - $220,000. It was offered without reserve which worked well for the buyer who got a bargain for the selling price of $99,000 including buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
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