Sunday, July 31, 2011
The Roof Car
Okay, it's not like I didn't know it was there because it was one of the first things I heard about when I moved to Indy. I will say that I expected something a little more distinguished; I'd thought a guy put his race car on top of his business, and maintained it's appearance. One is supposed to honor and respect the people, animals and machines that do well for you. Not this.
The car is a roadster, built by Kurtis-Kraft in 1954 and designated model KK500C. It was sold by Frank Kurtis to a pair of Indianapolis car dealers to compete in the 1954 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Driven by Bill Homeier, the car started eleventh, but finished last after a pit accident on lap 74. The following year, it was driven by Sam Hanks, started sixth but finished nineteenth after experiencing transmission problems on Lap 134.
The car had it's best result in the 1956 race, finishing second, again with Sam Hanks as it's driver. After the 1957 race, the car was sold to a group of Indianapolis businessmen who owned the Safety Auto Glass Company on Southeastern Avenue. Despite several attempts over the next few years, the car never again qualified for the "500." During it's last appearance on the track in 1961, the car was backed into the Turn Four wall by driver Bill Randall.
Since it was probably outdated and had become uncompetitive, the car's owners put the car on the roof of the business, crumpled tail and all, where it has been since. It was blown off the roof during a storm in 1964, but was quickly returned to it's perch.
The car has borne the dreams of men with honor, been driven by two who went on to win the Indy 500, and itself finished as high as second. From distinguished career, to decoration, to derelict it straddles the corner of the building. Traces of its lettering and numbers remain as it decays, like the painting of Dorian Grey, taking on the ravages and disappointments of time. Each year we renew our own Indy hopes and dreams with newer, faster cars and young men and women to drive them.
We age, but the dream remains young.