80 years ago today, on May 30th, 1939, Wilbur Shaw would go on to win the Indianapolis 500 in his formidable Maserati 8CTF a.k.a. “The Boyle Special.” Although it was not Shaw’s first win at Indy, it was this win that started the long streak of podiums and high finishes that would cement “The Boyle Special” as the winningest chassis in Indianapolis 500 history.
Shaw would go on to win the race again the following year in the Maserati, becoming the first to ever achieve back-to-back victories, but was forced to retire the following year. The historic race was not run for several years after due to the outbreak of WWII, but it would be brought back in 1946 under a new track owner and the Maserati was ready to get back on the grid. Despite being nearly a decade old, the car was able to finish 3rd in 1946 and 4th in 1947. It was entered in the 1949 race, 10 years after its first Indy win, but did not finish.
A single car being so dominant in the Indy 500 for an extended period of time is an amazing feat all on its own, however, the car’s origins help play into the mind-boggling story behind the infamous car. Maserati developed the 8CTF as an interim Grand Prix car to run in anticipation for new regulations to come during the 1939 season. Its engineers had little intention of running the car for more than a season of street course races in Europe, barring no mind or idea to the car participating in endurance races on oval tracks. Despite this, Shaw was determined to run the car at Indy and reportedly paid ~$15,000 in 1938 (~$270,000 today) to purchase the car for his team. Once Shaw was behind the wheel of the 8CTF, he was able to run away from the field of cars built specifically to run at the Brickyard in his unconventional European GP car.
“The Boyle Special” became the third car ever inducted into the National Historic Vehicle Register for its historical significance with the Indianapolis 500, it’s associative person value with the Shaw brothers, its long-term dominance over its peers on the racetrack, and its well-preserved original components. The car now resides in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum among many other winners and even went back on the track for a few parade laps in 2014 before the 98th running of the Indy 500. It’s unsure if “The Boyle Special” record will ever be beaten, but we welcome any contender that wishes to take a crack at being as dominant as this historic vehicle was on the track.