Skip to main content

1931 Duesenberg Cummins Diesel Indy Racer news, pictures, specifications, and information
 
Taking advantage of revised rules which encouraged a return to racing of regular automobile manufacturers and production-based vehicles, the Cummings Engine Company of Columbus, Indiana, fielded a diesel-powered car in the 1931 Indianapolis 500. Housed in a specially-built Duesenberg chassis, the 360 cubic-inch, four-cylinder Cummins Diesel was able to complete the entire 500 miles without making a single pit stop. Driver Dave Evans and riding mechanic Thane Houser completed the marathon in five hours and 48 minutes at an average speed of 86.170 mph.

In 1931, Chessie Cummins drove this car on Daytona Beach setting the record for a diesel-powered car of just over 100 mph.
The Indianapolis 500 race grew in popularity straight from the beginning. It was a phenomenal race that tested a machines abilities and drew a large crowd. Competition was fierce, as the rewards were great; not only was there prize money to be won, but also an increase in sales if one finished strongly. But as the Great Depression began showing its ugly head, the prize money began to decrease, companies had fewer resources to dedicate to racing, and the popularity was beginning to fade. In 1930, the purse for the winner dropped from $50,000 and a total of $98,250 to $18,000 and $54,450 respectively.

In an effort to increase the number of competitors, the racing organization created the 'junkyard formula' which relaxed the rules for many home-grown mechanics and allowed stock-block engines up to 366 cubic-inches. This served as an affordable alternative to the high-priced and exotic superchargers of the day. These changes worked, and by 1933 a record of 42 cars were on the track.

Seeing an opportunity, Cummins decided to get in on the action using a modified marine engine. The car was allowed to compete as a 'special engineering' entry which meant it could win no prize money, and as long as it maintained at least a 70 mph average.

A Duesenberg passenger-car chassis was used. It was modified to house the 361 cubic-inch four-cylinder marine diesel engine that had an available 85 horsepower. During qualifying it placed in the last position at 96.871 mph. During the race it averaged 86.1 mph and finished 13th out of the 40 starting cars.

Diesels had some advantages over its rivals, which were mostly with their fuel economy. The diesel engine could go much farther on a single tank of gas. Another advantage that since less fuel was needed, it meant a reduction of overall weight.

Three years later, Cummins returned to the Indy 500 with two Duesenbergs. One was fitted with a two-cycle engine and the other a four-cycle diesel engine. Each of the engines displaces 364 cubic-inches and given a boost in power thanks to a Roots-Type supercharger. Both cars qualified for the race but failed to finish the race. The two-cycle car made it 200 laps before its engine seized. The four-cycle car had transmission problems after just 81 laps and ended its day prematurely as well.

Cummins returned in 1950 with the help of legendary builder, Frank Kurtis. Kurtis created a tubular chassis that was specially designed to house the 401 cubic-inch magnesium-block diesel truck engine. A Roots-Type supercharger was added resulting in 340 horsepower at 4000 RPM.

The car qualified near the back of the pack and its inaugural racing career would not be that much different. After just two laps, the car was forced to retire due to an engine vibration that shattered a damper.

Two years later, in 1952, Cummins was back at Indianapolis, this time with a Kurtis built roadster and a 401 cubic-inch turbocharged diesel engine that produced 380 horsepower. This was a historical accomplishment, as it was the first turbocharger ever to be used in the Indy 500. The car was very modern, having a very low center of gravity thanks, in part, to having its engine on its side allowing it to sit low in the chassis. The body was aerodynamic and streamlined. Piloting this machine was Freddie Agabashian who drove it to a very impressive pole position. It had captured the single-lap qualifying speed record at 139.104 mph.

After many years of trying, Cummins now had a chance at winning the Indy 500. Sadly, the car would retire after just 70 laps when rubber particles made its way into the engine and choked the engine. Disappointed, Cummins withdrew from Indy competition and has not fielded a car since that time.

By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2008
"
HONDA GEARS UP FOR THE 100TH RUNNING OF INDIANAPOLIS 500 WITH LAUNCH OF ROBUST 'FASTEST SEAT IN SPORTS' EXPERIENCE
◾IndyCar® 'Fastest Seat in Sports' experience adds 360-degree video: https://youtu.be/KDTEHcYg-OE ◾Country music star Keith Urban to take 'Fastest Seat in Sports' ride with Mario Andretti in Honda-powered two-seat Indy car at Indy 500 ◾Racing fans can enter sweepstakes to take their own 'Fastest Seat in Sports' Honda Indy car two-seater ride throughout racing season ◾Honda is most successful carmaker of all-time at the Indy 500 TORRANCE, Calif. – As Honda readies for the 100th runni...[Read more...]
MILLIONS ON THE LINE FOR MAZDA ROAD TO INDY FINALE
 • Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 championships to be decided at Mazda Raceway
IRVINE, Calif. (September 10, 2015) – Millions of dollars in prizes and Mazda scholarships are on the line this weekend as the Mazda Road to Indy season reaches its climactic conclusion. Championships for Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 will be decided with doubleheader races for each of the categories at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca September 11 - 13. Each of the three categories are powered by Ma...[Read more...]
American Honda Lends Support to RRDC Evening with Bobby Unser in Long Beach
 HILLIARD, Ohio (April 6, 2015) - American Honda Motor Co., Inc., will support the RRDC Evening with Bobby Unser presented by Firestone by hosting the cocktail reception for the sixth consecutive year at the Road Racing Drivers Club's seventh annual West Coast banquet, held prior to the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Calif.). 'American Honda is profoundly pleased to support the Road Racing Drivers Club in its salute to racing legend Bobby Unser,' said John Mendel, Executive Vice ...[Read more...]
Mazda6 Becomes First Diesel To Win At Indianapolis Motor Speedway
July 26, 2013 (INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.) Over the past four decades, Mazda has scored hundreds of race wins at tracks across the county, and around the world. But until today, Mazda did not have a win at what is perhaps the most famous racetrack in the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That box has now been checked. In the Grand-Am Brickyard Grand Prix, the #70 SpeedSource Castrol Edge Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel scored the GX class win. The win was the fifth in a row for the al...[Read more...]
BORGWARNER INTRODUCES NEXT-GENERATION EFR TURBOCHARGING TECHNOLOGY AT 2012 SEMA SHOW
• BorgWarner Hosts 2012 Indianapolis 500 Winner Dario Franchitti on October 30
• Borg-Warner Trophy™ on Display October 30 - November 1
BorgWarner (NYSE: BWA) will introduce its next-generation EFR-7163 (Engineered for Racing) turbocharger as well as its current EFR and AirWerks™ Series turbochargers at the 2012 SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center on October 30 – November 2. Featuring an innovative light-weight aluminum bearing housing and mixed-flow turbine, BorgWarne...[Read more...]

Grand Prix Racers
Model A
Model J

© 1998-2016. All rights reserved. The material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.