5 Facts You Will Want to Know About the First Indy 500 Winner, the Marmon Wasp

5.     Luxury Performance –

Initially avoiding the trend set by Ford for low-priced, high-volume cars, Marmon focused squarely on the high-end market with an eye on speed.  Early marketing included hiring Helen Keller as a spokeswoman, fielding cars in races around the country – where Ray Harroun won over forty-one races in 1910, and sending a 1916 Model 34 across country in six days breaking the previous record held by Cannon Ball Baker.  Their production cars gained a reputation as reliable and fast upscale automobiles.  Marmon, like its luxury competitors, couldn’t survive the Great Depression, however.  Despite introducing a lower cost car in the late 1920s, the company built its last automobile – the sixteen-cylinder Series 16 – in 1933.

4.     Factory Hot Rod –

Ray Harroun, an engineer for the Marmon Motor Car Company, designed the six-cylinder Marmon Wasp from stock Marmon engine components, adding two cylinders to the production Model 32 engine on which it was based.  The Marmon, originally dubbed “Yellow Jacket” by the media and later shortened to “Wasp,” was built with a cowled cockpit and a long pointed tail to reduce air drag, and adorned with a yellow and black paint scheme.  The car also featured another important innovation – the rear view mirror.  Ray Harroun was the first driver to race without a riding mechanic to watch for cars from behind and it is believed that the Marmon was the first car equipped with this vital piece of equipment.

3.     Must Drive 75 – The 1911 International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race Grid

Out of the 46 entries, only 40 were able to achieve the 75 mph along the quarter-mile straight required in order to qualify.  Cars started based on their entry date (also their car number) rather than qualifying time.  Joining Harroun for the historic rolling start were racing legends such as Ralph de Palma in a Simplex, Bob Burman in a Benz and runner up Ralph Mulford in a Lozier.

2.    One and Done  –

Ray Harroun and the Marmon Wasp started in row 6 in the 28th position.  He completed the 500 -mile race in 6 hours, 42 minutes and 8 seconds with an average speed of 74.49 mph.  Harroun, preferring his engineering career over that of a motorsports celebrity risking life and limb never raced again.  Marmon likewise retired from official competition, content with the boost in sales provided by the 1911 victory.

1.     Birth of a Legend –

The inaugural Indy 500 made an indelible mark on international motor racing, quickly becoming one of the premier motorsports competitions in the world.  Despite a few off years due to WWI and WWII, the race has been run continuously since 1911.  This year marked the 100th running of what has become the largest single day motorsports spectator event in the world.

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