SEMA Seen: 1911 Indy-winning Marmon Wasp

This article originally appeared at, by Larry Edsall, on November 1, 2016

‘Pioneering Performance” is the theme for the Shell Oil Products US display at the 2016 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Among the 25 vehicles in the display are a couple of customized Chevys — a 1960 Impala convertible and 2017 Camaro SS — the 1972 Ford Maverick “Project Underdog,” and one of the earliest and best-known of all customized rides, the 1911 Marmon Wasp that won the inaugural Indianapolis 500-mile race.

If you’re wondering what was customized about the Wasp, it was the non-factory rear-view mirror that allowed racer Ray Harroun to bypass the rule requiring a riding mechanic for the race and to go it solo, checking on any onrushing vehicles via his rear-view mirror.

The original automotive rear-view mirror
The original automotive rear-view mirror

Some credit Harroun for inventing the automotive rear-view mirror. While he may have been the first to use it, he applied the idea after seeing a similar mirror on a horse-drawn carriage and realized the device might give him an edge on the race track.

The Marmon Wasp is at SEMA on loan for the Shell display from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and is shown alongside its Historic Vehicle Association National Historic Vehicle Register brass plate. The Wasp is one of 14 vehicles included so far on the national register.

One of the things that makes the Shell display even more significant is that the cars are parked outside the Las Vegas Convention Center buildings, which means you don’t need a SEMA trade-show badge to see it or any of the other cars on the walkways or in the parking lots in front of the convention center.

The show of the Specialty Equipment Market Association officially opens Tuesday and runs through Friday afternoon.

One open-to-the-public event is scheduled in conjunction with the show. As the show ends Friday, the cars on display drive out of the convention center starting at 3 p.m. and cross the street into the “gold lot” parking area for the annual SEMA Ignited, an event that features cars, music, auto celebrities, food trucks and more. SEMA Ignited runs until 10 p.m.

Ray Harroun didn't need a riding mechanic because he could use his mirror
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