Unconventional, Never Raced – 1968 Shelby Turbine Indy Car

ShelbyTurbine

Indianapolis, more than any other race track, has had an interesting relationship with turbine-powered race cars. The 500 was very nearly won by turbines in both 1967 and ’68, and for a short time turbines looked like they could be the way of the future at the Brickyard. By 1969, however, the USAC had issued rule changes that effectively rendered them uncompetitive and relegated them to footnote status in the history books.

While turbines were still viable Ken Wallace, designer of the almost successful 1967 STP Oil Treatment Special, approached Carroll Shelby with a plan to do another car for the 1968 race. Working with Wallace to refine his earlier design, Shelby planned to build three cars with extremely expensive GE gas turbine motors and a hydraulic all-wheel-drive system by Einar Johnson. Two cars were completed at Wallis’s shop in California and were to be driven by the dynamic duo of Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme.

The 1968 USAC rule changes limited the inlet size in turbines and made trouble for those teams utilizing the alternative powertrains. The Shelby was already lacking in top speed, and Wallis’s team was having a hard time extracting adequate power with the new limitations. Worse, it was discovered that Wallis was cheating in the inlet setup to get around the problem. Shelby’s chief engineer Phil Remington resigned as soon as he found out to avoid any association with the scandal, and the two cars were never run in competition.

This car is one of the two, and was run at Phoenix and Indianapolis in testing by Bruce McLaren. It still has its GE T-58 Shaft Drive Turbine and has been on display in the turbine exhibit at Indy. With no shortage of great names attached to it, this is a fascinating machine that is yet another “might have been” in racing history that unfortunately never got to run with the big boys.

This 1968 Shelby Turbine Indy Car is available at the upcoming Mecum Monterey sale, scheduled for August 14-16, 2014.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Are there pictures of the cheetahs?

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