Learn about Life in the 1920s

Requirements to Enter a Car in the 1930 Indianapolis 500 Race

YOUNG America is interested in the 500-mile race at Indianapolis, next Memorial Day. Interested, because in a measure the bars have been let down. This year it will not be necessary to spend the large sum for a mount which regulations since the War have required. The youth can take the roadster his father gave him or buy a new one and, without a large investment, have a car for the world's greatest race. This news has started a flood of correspondence toward T. E. ("Pop") Myers, vice-president and general manager of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Some inquiries about the 18th annual race come from the boys who have been racing on the "big time" but they only seek entry blanks to learn the conditions. The great majority of the letters show a lack of understanding of racing but a wealth of enthusiasm and the hope that each can enter his car and win the capital prize.

For the first time in the two decades that the track has functioned, the piston displacement has been increased instead of decreased, and that is the reason why the youths of the country are interested in building cars and obtaining information about the greatest of all automobile speed contests.


The 500-mile race was first run in 1911 on a basis of a maximum of 600 cubic inches piston displacement for the engines. Since that first race the size of the engines has been reduced five times until for the last four years the cars racing have had engines half the size of the Ford powerplant. This did not cheapen the cost of a racing car but increased it to where a youth smitten with the "lure of speed" had to spend from $10,000 to $15,000 for a car, without any of the necessary equipment and any thought of the cost of race time expenses. Last fall the Indianapolis Motor Speedway asked the National Technical Committee of the A.A.A. Contest Board to pass upon their suggestions for a change in specifications for 1930, and to make recommendations. The Speedway, without consulting the engineers, had five times previously fixed its own specifications for the race, which annually carries an aggregate purse of $100,000. The result of this conference was the present specifications for the next five century event.

The engineers suggested that the piston displacement be placed in the range of the engines produced by the factories and used by the motoring public and selected 366 cubic inches maximum, in European terms six litres or 6,000 cubic centimeters. There are only four stock car engines which exceed this classification.

AN erroneous impression has traveled all over the country that the race has been placed on a stock car basis. This is not the case. There is nothing in the rules which prevents the entering of a stock car, although the A.A.A. Contest Board rules would prevent the advertising that such a racer was a stock car, when it competed with specially built racers. No stock examination will be made of any of the cars and except for the specific limitations on parts and accessories, weights, etc., the race driver can take a stock chassis and do anything to it that his genius permits to get speed. However, the car must be manageable and a safe vehicle in the judgment of the technical committee in charge of the race.

Briefly, the 1930 rules provide, in addition to the engine size requirement, that super-chargers cannot be used on four-cycle engines and that not more than two carburetors can be employed. A dual carburetor, even with a single float chamber, is considered two carburetors. Poppet valve engines can have only two valves per cylinder, but two-cycle, sleeve valves, rotary, etc., are not limited. On two-cycle engines a positive displacement supercharger can be used. On Diesel, semi-Diesel and turbine engines there will be no limitation on the number or type of carburetors employed. The racing cars must weigh a minimum of 1750 pounds but there is another provision which provides that the weight must not be less than 7 1/2 pounds per cubic inch of piston displacement. They must have two-man bodies and a tread of 54 to 60 inches. Two sets of brakes, the secondary system independent of the primary system, are required on all cars which are entered.

FROM the rules the layman can see that it is not a very difficult or expensive task to change over a stock chassis to race in the annual classic, and that is just what a lot of the aspirants to a place in the "speed sun" are doing this winter. More inquiries have been received by the Speedway management regarding entry requirements this fall than in any previous year, and the aggregate probably equals the total correspondence of all the events which have gone before.

An Italian youth of Los Angeles writes to know if he can enter a car which is sold on the market and race it under the trade name. He can only do this if the manufacturer consents, and the rules require that if consent is not obtained the distinctive parts of the car such as radiator, hood and hub caps must be changed. He wants the Speedway to tell him whether to buy an Auburn, Graham-Paige, Gardner or Studebaker "8" for his racer. This they decline to do but it shows some of the lines the boys are figuring on. He also wants to know if he can replace the stock body with a racing body. This is almost a necessity and he can get more speed with a streamlined racing body than he can with the stock body denuded of its fenders, splash aprons, lamps, etc.

Another thing which worries this son of Italy is the possibility of his being able to qualify as a driver. No man can participate in this race unless he is physically fit and can pass the hospital examination. Then he has to satisfy the A.A.A. Contest Board representative of his ability to handle the car at high speeds, and even that capability would not make him eligible if he had not put in a stipulated number of miles in practice and qualified the car at more than 85 miles an hour for four laps of 10 miles.

Another individual who has never driven before and who is a tiller of the soil in Lapeer County, Michigan, is anxious to enter and is overjoyed to know that if he buys a stock car he can change it to suit his ideas. He was stumped by the fact that the car could not resemble the stock production, as he drives this make of car and wanted to prove to his friends in Lapeer County that it was speedier than any other make. He finally decided that if he had to make the necessary changes he would buy a Rolls-Royce radiator "to give it lots of class."

Mr. A., who operates a garage and machine shop in Milroy, Ind., has heard about the ban on super-chargers and does not understand that it applies to four-cycle engines. He is planning to build either a two-cycle or Diesel engine. He has been advised that a positive displacement type of super-charger can be used on the two-cycle, but that he must have a mechanical means of cranking the engine.

Mr. B., who grows cotton near Prendergast, Ga., asks ten questions, which have to do with the speed of previous contestants and the money paid to winners. Evidently he is sure he will win a place in the first 10 positions, or he is weighing the expenditure he must make to become an entrant. Mr. C., who lives in Los Angeles, has received the specifications but still wants to know if overhead camshafts are barred. There is no stipulation as to valve operation.

From Butte, Montana, comes a letter from a girl who modestly states she is one of the best "range riders" in the West and has won money in rodeos. She wants to disguise as a man and enter her car "if it is all right with Captain Rickenbacker." She is advised that no matter what Captain "Rick" might decide, the hospital examination and the A.A.A. rules would preclude her competing.

Miami is the home of Mr. D. and his letterhead shows that he operates a radio store. Like many of the others the question of a stock car's status worries him. Mr. E., who admits he is a good mechanic and who lives in McKees Rocks, Pa., is interested in entering a Mercer. He has been given the information but the request brings back memories of the famous Mercer teams, from 1911 to 1915, when the entry list of Mercer included the names of Ralph DePalma, Barney Oldfield, the late Spencer Wishart, and the late Hughie Hughes.

From Paris comes a request on crested note paper from a scion of a family famous on the Bourse for information on the race. The letter is written by his secretary and inquires if it is necessary to have a car completely stock to start in the race. Mannheim, Germany, has a sportsman who is anxious to enter a stock Mercedes car but is worried as he has understood super-chargers will be barred and this device is stock on this car. He opines if they are barred he will not come, as his car would not be as fast as the Duesenberg. He has seen a stock car of this make.

Mr. F. is almost sure he can win the race, (perhaps he has spent part of his winnings at this writing) if he can enter a car which previously appeared at Indianapolis. He wants to use a stock engine in this racing chassis and is worried for fear he must also use a stock radiator. Nothing is farther from the point. He is anxious to know if he has to use stock pistons and rings, if he can install an extra water pump and increase the oil pressure. He has been told that the things he wants to do are permissible.

Lexington, Ky., is the home of a youth of 17 who is bound to be disappointed. He has a Pierce-Arrow, a birthday gift, which he wants to strip down and drive at Indianapolis. He was told that he must be 21 years old to enter any A.A.A. race. Perhaps he will bring the car to Indianapolis and find a driver.

Whether or not the car must carry fenders, runningboards and headlights will decide if Mr. G. of Worcester, Mass., will enter the race and the stock car bugaboo is mentioned. He has it in mind, to purchase and prepare for the race a popular priced and popular make car. Mr. H. of Columbus, Mo., asks almost identical questions, and inquires if the Speedway will furnish room and board at the track for the entrants, while preparing for the qualifications.

Mr. J. of St. Louis is in a quandry on the question of brakes. The rules require that the primary braking system operate on four wheels, while this car has its primary system working on the transmission shaft and braking only on the two rear wheels in the secondary. This is one car that must have many changes made to pass the technical committee.

From the U. S. Veterans Hospital in Kansas City comes a letter from a lad who maintains he has a car ready now and all that he needs is an entry blank but bemoans the fact that the manufacturer would not give him permission to carry the trade name. Mr. K. resides in Dallas, Tex., and naively admits he never sat in a racing car but knows, after 15 years of cross country driving, that if he can get the fastest car only death will prevent him from winning. He wants his name put on the list of available drivers.

These are just a few of the more than 150 requests which have been received by the Speedway, other than the bare demand for an entry blank. The interest suggests that the next race will bring a lot of new blood into the racing game and that at Indianapolis the group of stars who have appeared year after year will be in the minority, at least until after the qualification trials.

Source: MoToR Magazine, January 1930