Sumar Special

1955 Sumar Special Blackand White1.jpg

I haven't made much of anything with my hands, and very much appreciate those who do. Not everything will work out, of course, and that's why we get to talk about race cars like the Sumar Special, an entrant into the 1955 Indianapolis 500 that went faster with less bodywork.

That's right: what started as the car you see above ended up as the almost body-less car you see below. In theory, an enclosed Indy car makes a lot of sense if you're looking to reduce drag. Less drag equals a higher top speed, and, like Speed Racer would do, you'd be able to blast past your competition on one of Indianapolis Motor Speedway's long straights.

When noted Indy driver Jimmy Daywalt first took the wheel, the car was slow. Nothing more than a Kurtis-Offenhauser 500D under swoopy bodywork, Daywalt found it claustrophobic under the bubble, and difficult to place the car into corners. Finishing an eventual 9th in the race, he never had serious pace to challenge the leaders, but I think this is the very first example of a purpose-built race car that went faster without his bodywork. 

You could argue that the Luigi Colani-designed Eifelland Type 21 was in the same boat as the Sumar Special as going faster once it's "aerodynamic" bodywork was peeled away, and that's a fair statement—only the Colani's main problem was apparently engine cooling, not the driver unable to see…

Of course, just because something looks faster doesn't necessarily mean it is—a Jimmy Daywalt fan site cited period reports of the car that said,

"With the streamlining, air packed up inside the fenders and had no place to escape, adding several hundred pounds of drag. Along the aerodynamics line, the ultra streamlining of the body caused air rushing over the surface to act just like air over an airplane wing. The result was that at high speeds airflow tended to lift the rear of the racer right off the ground. this made it practically impossible to handle on the curves..."

And that was Indy's streamlined race car—sadly, not a great success.

Sources