Making The Register: The Boyle Special

Like the Shelby Daytona Cobra CSX2287 and the first Meyers Manx dune buggy (“Old Red”), the 1938 Maserati 8CTF (a.k.a. the Boyle Special) exemplifies many of the criteria necessary for entry into the National Historic Vehicle Register. Check out this breakdown on why Indy’s most famous Maserati qualifies as being one of this nation’s most historically significant cars.

Boyle Special

Following the initial announcement of the establishment of the National Historic Vehicle Register at this past January’s Washington Auto Show, the Historic Vehicle Association has been on a roll with special events and ceremonies that highlight what the Register is and why it’s so important for preserving this country’s rich automotive history.

In the past few months, the Daytona Cobra and the world’s first fiberglass dune buggy, Old Red, were named as the first two inductees into the Register. Along with these two history-making cars, 10 additional Register-worthy vehicles were displayed for the public at this past month’s inaugural Cars At The Capital event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Now, to continue this exciting momentum, the HVA traveled to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May to formally announce that the Boyle Special—historic winner of back-to-back Indy 500s in 1939 and 1940—has officially joined this growing “club.” But if you think this incredible Maserati is just a racecar, think again.

More Than a Racecar

This historic feat alone would warrant Register consideration. But the Boyle Special is more than just a racetrack legend and it meets many of our parameters for inclusion in the Register:

Boyle Special Engine

Associative Value – Person (A vehicle associated with the lives of significant persons in automotive or American history)

As important as its back-to-back Indy 500 victories are, the fact that the Boyle Special achieved both with the same driver behind the wheel is truly something.  Wilbur Shaw was already a well-respected driver on his way to becoming a legend when he won the Indy 500 in 1937. By also taking the checkered flag in both ’39 and ’40, Shaw became the first driver to claim back-to-back victories at the Indy 500 in the same car.  Shaw was a nationally revered racer in period, featuring prominently in any coverage of the race. Additionally, Shaw helped save the track following WWII and became the President of the Speedway where he served until his death in 1954.

In addition to Shaw, the namesake of the car itself, Michael Boyle, played an important role in both racing and labor in America. A Chicago union leader and powerful political figure, Boyle was a big player in the Indy pits after he established the Boyle Racing Headquarters and made possible the purchase of the Maserati in 1939. Boyle fielded many successful entries and notable drivers at the Indianapolis 500 from 1926 to 1946. His first victory came in 1934 when “Wild Bill” Cummings drove a Boyle Products front-drive Miller to first place.

Another racing legend that crossed paths with the Boyle Special was Harry “Cotton” Henning, the chief mechanic and engineer for the Boyle Racing Headquarters team. Henning was considered the “Dean of Mechanics” in Gasoline Alley at the Speedway. Not only did Henning personally fly to Italy to purchase the car from Maserati, he ensured the Boyle Special was prepared for both of its wins in 1939 and 1940 and stayed with the car through its post-war years, helping it achieve two third place and one fourth place finish at Indy before the car was officially retired.

Boyle Special

Associative Value – Event (A vehicle associated with an event or events that are important in automotive or American history)

The Indy 500 is one of the world’s biggest and more competitive races, so taking victory there is pretty special. But for the same car to do so twice is nearly unimaginable.

As if winning back-to-back victories wasn’t enough, the car went on to continue competing in the event until the 1950s, after a pause (for both car and race) during the WWII. The Boyle Special is, to this day, considered to be the most successful car to compete at the Speedway.

Boyle Special Number Plate

Design of Construction Value (A vehicle that is distinctive based on design, engineering, craftsmanship or aesthetic value)

Compared to other production cars of that era, the Maserati 8CTF was an extremely advanced racing machine. The Boyle Special featured a state-of-the-art, double-overhead camshaft straight eight with twin supercharges, independent front suspension and much use of light alloys. It was one of the most competitive and successful open-wheel racecar designs of the era and actively competed for well over a decade against the best of the German-made  giants on the Grand Prix and Indianapolis racing circuit.

Boyle Special

Informational Value (A vehicle of a particular type that was the first or last produced, has an element of rarity as a survivor of its type, or is among the most well-preserved or thoughtfully restored surviving examples)

The Boyle special is special for several more reasons: It is the last of the three 8CTFs built. It also survived a pair of grueling races at the Brickyard and is still around to be enjoyed by future generations. Well preserved, retaining virtually all of its original materials and components, the Boyle Special is prominently displayed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum in Speedway, Indiana. A part of the museum’s permanent collection, it will be able to be appreciated and enjoyed by race fans for years to come.

Interested in finding out more about the National Historic Vehicle Register? Click here to visit the HVA’s National Historic Vehicle Register website, and stay tuned for future updates to be announced in the months to come. 

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