The 1957 Indianapolis 500 | A Sideways Step into the Unknown of Auto Racing History

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Pit action at the 1957 Indianapolis 500– the Belond Exhaust racecar represented a new dawn in auto racing engine design.

After 12 years of chasing victory at the Indianapolis 500, Sam Hanks finally realized his elusive dream in a screamin’ roadster sporting a near horizontal engine designed by George Salih, chief mechanic on the winning #99 Belanger car of 1951. The world was introduced to the “lay-down” style with this history-making roadster chassis design– fitted with an Offenhauser engine that was tilted 72-degrees to the right, giving the racer a very low profile of just 21 inches off the ground. Advantages of this design were a lower center of gravity, a reduced frontal area, and improved counter-balance in the turns.

Salih found no financial backers for the revolutionary design, so he went it alone and built the innovative engine at his California home. Sandy Belond (legendary for his line of performance exhaust systems) was the racing sponsor, and now all that was needed was the perfect driver– 42 year old veteran Sam Hanks, the legendary driver who’d come very close to winning the Indy 500 several times joined-on to take a shot at history. As it turns out, this would be Hanks’ last chance to leave his mark in history. The vintage video is rich with amazing sights, sounds, and insider detail that make you feel like you were there– definitely not to be missed.

Sam Hanks at work behind the wheel of the horizontally mounted engine roadster in 1957's Indy 500.

Sam Hanks at work behind the wheel of the horizontally mounted engine roadster in 1957′s Indy 500.

 

The 1957 Indy 500 race to innovation.

The 1957 Indy 500 race to innovation.

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Taking the turn at over 130 mph at the 1957 Indy 500.

Taking the turn at over 130 mph at the 1957 Indy 500.

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Indy 500 1957 pit crew fury

Indy 500 1957 pit crew fury

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30 second pit stop at the legendary 1957 Indianapolis 500.

30 second pit stop at the legendary 1957 Indianapolis 500.

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The 1957 Indy 500 race for design supremacy.

The 1957 Indy 500 race for design supremacy.

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Sam Hask relishes sweet victory at the Indy 500 after years of coming up short.

Sam Hanks relishes sweet victory at the Indy 500 after years of coming up short.

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1957-- Driver Sam Hask emerges victorious after years of battling for an Indy 500 victory.

1957– Driver Sam Hanks emerges victorious after years of battling for an Indy 500 victory.

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Winner of the 1957 Indy 500 Sam Hask and wife.

Winner of the 1957 Indy 500 Sam Hanks and his relieved wife. With this win, Hask retired from racing. Hanks received a record $103,844 purse, the first driver to win a $100,000 single-race payday. The total race purse was also a record, over $300,000 for the first time.

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Sam Hanks raced the Belond Exhaust car in 1957, the year he finally succeeded in winning the Indy 500. His race speed was almost 136 mph.

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Jimmy Bryan neared a race speed of 134 mph when he won the Indy 500. It was a back-to-back victory for the innovative Belond Exhaust car.

Jimmy Bryan (A cigar-smoking champion hailing from Phoenix, Arizona) neared a race speed of 134 mph when he won the Indy 500 in 1958. It was back-to-back victories (1957 & 1958) for the innovative Belond Exhaust car.

7 thoughts on “The 1957 Indianapolis 500 | A Sideways Step into the Unknown of Auto Racing History

  1. Those are amazing pictures. The Indy doesn’t have the same feeling that it once had though. It was classy and exhilarating but now it’s….well, not so classy. Nonetheless, I love the type on the jumpsuits and cars. They seem to have been put on with care, rather than just stuck on like the ones we see today. Great post.

  2. It’s amazing that this guys are going 180 mph in these machines (basically a coffin with a massive engine) wearing just a thin cotton coverall and an old school helmet. Some guys (check the pics) were driving in just a plain white tee and helmet!

  3. Speaking of racing in the ’50s, it was interesting to hear Sir Sterling Moss being interviewed at Le Mans last weekend. He was asked about the old days and remarked that cars of that era weren’t fun to drive at all; beautiful machines that I imagine were a handful even in capable hands. And these guys surely had bigger balls than drivers today, with their carbon safety pods and A/C.

    • …and the guys and gals today will seem to have more courage ( my preferred phrase) then the people that race 50 years from now. But compare these guys to the guys that raced in Ray Harroun’s and Tommy Milton’s time with thin tires, no safety belts, 6-7 hour long races and you’re the chief mechanic. I think that would take BRASS ones!!!

  4. Pingback: JAMES “HUNT THE SHUNT” | THE 1970′s HIGH-FLYIN’ LOTHARIO OF FORMULA 1 « The Selvedge Yard

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