1938 Marchese Championship Race CarSOLD

RM Auctions - Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction - August 16-18

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Estimate: $180,000-$220,000 US

Offered Without Reserve

Est. 325bhp 270 cu. in. Offenhauser dual overhead camshaft inline four-cylinder engine, Meyer-Drake two-speed manual transmission with reverse, live axle suspension with semi-elliptical leaf springs, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes.

The Marchese brothers were Milwaukee ’ s racing dynasty. They were 1920s auto repair shop owners who added machine tools as needed to become a full-blown race car shop. Starting with hopped up Model “ T ” Speedsters for the street they went on to build a Rajo equipped race car. Carl proved to be a skillful driver, winning at local tracks. In 1929 Carl drove a Miller to a fourth place finish in his first and only Indianapolis 500. When they upgraded to a D.O. Gallivan head to keep ahead of the competition, Tudy, the innately skilled machinist whittled a counterbalanced crankshaft out of a steel billet on the shop lathe, no small feat. Tom, who was a skilled promoter known for his honesty and fair treatment of both the fans and racers, owned Wisconsin Auto Racing and promoted races at the famed Milwaukee Mile for decades. They are credited with a number of innovations including being one of the first shops to recognize the advantages of tubing for frame rails instead of hand-fabricated channel. They also developed lightweight center lock magnesium wheels well before their advantages were recognized and popularized elsewhere. Carl and Tudy Marchese built their first “ Big Car ” in 1938 for the running of the Indianapolis 500 that year. The innovative round tube chassis supported a 151 cubic inch straight eight Miller engine cooled by two radiators mounted in side pods positioned in the lower cowl area on each side of the body. This allowed for a streamlined nose that they hoped would give an aerodynamic advantage at top speeds. Driver Harry McQuinn performed well starting in 25th position and finishing in 7th.

At Indianapolis in 1940, Leader Card sponsored the car, now supercharged, and both Tony Willman and Harry McQuinn attempted to put it in the show. The car was the first alternate and did not make the race. For the 1941 500, Paul Russo was the driver and the sponsor was again Leader Card. Russo started in 18th and finished 9th. At Indianapolis, the years after WWll were a combination of diversity and creativity. The first postwar Indy 500 drew a full field of mostly leftover prewar cars including a collection of Alfa Romeos and Maseratis that had spent the war years in internment. Shorty Cantlon and Danny Kladis made the show in Miller-Fords, Kladis with flathead V8 power and Cantlon ’ s repowered with an Offenhauser four. George Robson in Joel Thorne ’ s Sparks Six won and there were Novis, Millers, Lenckis, Briskos, the Sampson V16 in a Stevens chassis sponsored by comic bandleader Spike Jones and even the Fageol Twin-coach Special of Paul Russo powered by a pair of Offy Midget engines. For the 1946 500, the Marcheses retained the 8 cylinder Miller engine but added a restyled nose and grille to update the body design. Tony Bettenhausen qualified the car at 121.860 mph but it was withdrawn and did not compete in the race.

The Marcheses ordered an Offenhauser 270 cubic inch engine from Meyer and Drake in 1947. This engine, serial no 75, was installed in the car, replacing the aged 8-cylinder Miller. In preparation for the 1948 500 the side pod radiators were eliminated and the car took on a more traditional appearance. Driver Myron Fohr ’ s qualifying time of 121.531 kept him from starting the race, leaving him the 2nd alternate starter. The talent of the Marchese brothers, the quality of the car they built and Myron Fohr ’ s driving skill showed when the Marchese Special campaigned the rest of the Triple A schedule, winning at Springfield and Milwaukee and finishing fourth at DuQuion, the latter two with co-drivers. That record won the 1948 Triple A owners ’ championship for the Marchese brothers with Fohr finishing second in the driver ’ s championship to Ted Horn. For the 1949 Indy 500, the Marcheses again assigned the driver ’ s seat to fellow Milwaukee resident Fohr. He completed the 200-lap grind with a very respectable 4th place finish. Interestingly, this position duplicated Carl Marchese ’ s Indy finish 20 years earlier. Fohr again claimed the second spot in the AAA Drivers Championship. Bardahl sponsored the car for the 1950 Indy 500. A qualifying speed of 131.714 mph put driver Myron Fohr in the 16th starting position and he finished 11th. For the 1951 500, the car again appeared in Bardahl livery but with a new driver, Chuck Stevenson, who hailed from Fresno, CA. His qualifying speed was 133.764 mph. The car caught fire on the 93rd lap, ending his day with a 20th place finish. The car ’ s next outing was the 100-mile race at Syracuse, N.Y. Here, the car was involved in a bad wreck and the brothers, fearing the worst, were afraid to even look in the direction of the mangled cars. Chuck Stevenson walked away unscathed, which greatly relived the Marcheses. The car wasn ’ t so fortunate and its racing days had come to an end. David Uihlein purchased the damaged car directly from the brothers shortly after the event. Decades later, Buster Warke, Fred Nickels and Joe Silnes all participated in getting it back to its 1951 configuration for display in the Uihlein Racing Museum. The original Offenhauser 270 engine breathes through a set of Riley carburetors and drives through a two-speed gearbox. It has a tube frame chassis as expected for a car built by the Marchese brothers, pioneers in that form of construction. Four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes are actuated through the hand lever typical of the Big Cars of the period. Friction lever shock absorbers are installed and the unique Marchese brothers ’ two-speed quick change rear axle has provision for mounting an additional set of hydraulic shocks. It rides on wire wheels, despite the Marchese brothers ’ development of magnesium center lock wheels. This car is beautiful in its brutality. It harkens back to days when a brave driver overcame a deficiency in power or handling with guts, skill and tenacity. To days when guys long on innovation and skill but short on cash reconfigured, repowered, rebodied and reinvigorated their racecar year after year, always dreaming of putting their driver ’ s face on the Borg-Warner trophy. In the long term care of David Uihlein ’ s legendary collection, the Marchese brothers ’ Offenhauser powered special is a time capsule of American racing history, a fourth place finisher at Indianapolis in the early postwar years and twice runner up in the AAA National Championship. A wonderful snapshot of racing in this period, it is marvelously preserved and ready to be used either as a show car or with some careful and sympathetic preparation taken to historic racing events where its history and participation will be widely appreciated.

Please note that this vehicle is a race car and therefore offered on a Bill of Sale

Reference Number 10131

as of 6/1/2007

Car 1938 Marchese Championship Race Car
VIN 75 
Exterior / Interior Color      White /      White 
Configuration Central Steering 
Transmission Manual Shift 
Options Exterior: Wire wheels 
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