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Great Mix Of Race Cars, Vintage Cars For Fans Saturday At IMS

The 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 gets underway Saturday, May 14 with a unique day of excitement, featuring the 225-mph cars of today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and some of the greatest passenger and race cars of earlier eras.

Indianapolis Star Opening Day/Celebration of Automobiles combines the first day of practice for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 on the 2.5-mile oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and more than 250 classic cars on display at the track.

Gates open at 9 a.m. Admission is $10, with children 12 and under free.

Many of these machines participating in the Celebration of Automobiles have won awards in Concours d’Elegance competition at such venues as Pebble Beach and Amelia Island.

The cars participating in the Celebration are divided into two divisions, one a general collection and the other presenting for the first time anywhere classic cars produced by the 24 manufacturers that competed in the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 1911.

A team of judges will reveal its choices for the best of show in several categories at the elegant Condon-Skelly Celebration of Automobiles dinner Saturday evening, where several exquisite trophies will be presented to winning car owners. 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones heads the judging panel, with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford and 1985 “500” winner Danny Sullivan also serving as judges.

Here’s a look at a few of the cars on display until 3 p.m. during the Celebration:

1935 Duesenberg SJ Mormon Meteor Speedster: The Duesenberg SJ Mormon Meteor Speedster, owned by Harry Yeaggy of Cincinnati, is the epitome of the classic race car. With its art deco design and remarkable speeds, it truly is a sight to see. This beauty is one of only 36 ever made and was driven by AJ Jenkins, who set a 24-hour speed record at 135.58 mph. The car was originally tested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before heading to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, where it set a number of land speed records. Boasting a supercharged 420 cubic-inch, eight-cylinder engine, it is easy to see how in 2007 it became one for the first sports cars to win Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special: In 1936, Mercedes-Benz built the 540K special (540Ks), and due to its high price tag, only 32 were ever commissioned. One person who took a liking to the Mercedes 540Ks was Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, commander of the German Air Force during World War II, and he had one made in his favorite color – blue. The car featured armor-plated sides and bulletproof glass, and it became nicknamed the “Blue Goose.” Then on May 4, 1945, the U.S. 101st Airborne Division found the “Blue Goose” in Berchtesgaden, Germany, where it took possession of the car. Major General Maxwell Taylor used it as his command vehicle. To this day, the “Blue Goose” has visible bullet holes from her days on the battlefield.

In 1946, the car was shipped back to the U.S., where it was featured in a Victory Bond tour. Then it appeared at the first reunion of the 101st Airborne Division held in Indianapolis. Tony Hulman, then owner of IMS, invited reunion attendees to bring the “Blue Goose” to the track to pace two special trophy races. Hulman drove the “Blue Goose” in pacing the Indy cars to a flying start.

1927 Georges Irat Model A Cabriolet: The 1927 Georges Irat Model A Cabriolet was a French automobile manufactured by engine builder Georges Irat and was designed by Maurice Gaultier. This car was one of two ever made and has the distinct honor of being exhibited at the 1927 Pairs Automobile Salon. The car features a 1988 cc (2 liter) four-cylinder overhead valve with a four-speed transmission.

After this car was designed, the company decided the only way it could truly be described is by using the slogan “La Voiture de L’Elite”, meaning “Car of Elite.” In 2005, the 1927 Georges Irat Model A Cabriolet won Third in Class (European Classics) at the distinguished Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance. The automobile also was awarded First in Class at the Meadow Brook Concourse Judges Trophy at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance and Best in Class at the St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance.

1931 Cadillac All-Weather Phaeton 452A V-16: In 1931, Cadillac made its first production car with a 16-cylinder engine that was also the first four-door convertible sedan with grind-up glass windows, the All-Weather Phaeton 452A V-16. Only 250 versions of this model were created.

Adding to the uniqueness of this car are single-bar bumpers, dual horns, a concave monogram bar, a radiator screen, 13-inch Guide “Tiltray” headlights, dual rear lights that match the headlights, triple molding on the dust shield panels of straight sill styles, five doors in the hood and a single matching door in the side of the cowl.

The beauty that is the Phaeton has made it an award-winner on several occasions. It has won the AACA James Melton Memorial Trophy twice, has earned the CCCA Premier Status and has won Best in Class at both the Greenwich and Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance. The Phaeton was also named Most Elegant Car at Amelia Island.

1939 SS Jaguar Saloon: This special 1939 SS Jaguar Saloon was originally gifted to Queen Elizabeth, the wife of King George VI, as a birthday present. Legend has it that the second owner of the car was former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who received it as a gift from Queen Elizabeth after his family’s country home and garage was destroyed during World War II.

Since 1983, the car has been owned by Philip Taxman of St. Louis, who did a full restoration of the car in 2000 and taken the car all over the country to showcase its beauty. The 1939 SS Jaguar has won awards in the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) and Jaguar Clubs of North America competitions. In 2009, Taxman and the car participated in a 1,000 mile CCCA Caravan that traveled through Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas.

The Marmon and Stutz Clubs also will have their collections of classic automobiles on display Saturday at IMS, numbering more than 100 additional cars. A collection of vintage racers also will be showcased, including 1950s roadsters, early rear-engine cars from the 1960s and race cars through the 1970s to the present day.

Practice for the Indianapolis 500 will take place from noon-6 p.m., as preparations start for Pole Day and Bump Day Qualifying May 21-22. Forty-one drivers are expected to attempt to earn one of the 33 starting spots in “The Most Important Race in History.”

Other fan-friendly activities Saturday include a question-and-answer session with 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Jones at 10 a.m. and another Q&A with 1985 winner Sullivan at 2 p.m., both on the Coca-Cola Stage in the Pagoda Plaza. Jones will sign autographs at 10:30 a.m., with Sullivan signing at 2:30 p.m., both in the Pagoda Plaza.

DJ Orion will perform live at 4 p.m. on the Coca-Cola Stage, and fans should keep their eyes on the skies at 4:45 p.m. for a flyover by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron.

Free American Dairy Association limited-edition trading pins will be distributed at 11 a.m. in the Pagoda Plaza while supplies last.

***

2011 Indianapolis 500 tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500, “The Most Important Race in History,” on Sunday, May 29, 2011 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Race Day ticket prices st

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