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IMS Writers’ Roundtable, Volume 10: Prettiest Indy 500 Car

Today’s question: What do you think was the best-looking car in Indianapolis 500 history, and why?

Curt Cavin: Any of the all-yellow Pennzoil cars meet my criteria for a fine-looking car, which leads me to single out the yellow Marmon Wasp in which Ray Harroun won the inaugural “500” in 1911. I appreciate it more each time I see it, and you can imagine how it popped with color in its day. I’ll also note the car I’m most drawn to: the beautiful maroon Maserati known as “the Boyle Special.” In addition to giving Wilbur Shaw victories in 1939 and ’40, it nearly won again in ’41 (Shaw led 107 laps) and returned after World War II to finish third, third and fourth with Ted Horn. Lee Wallard led with it in ’49 and Bill Vukovich took his rookie test in it in ’50. A case can be made it’s the most successful car in “500” history.

Zach Horrall: Give me an orange race car, and I’m certain I will love it. There’s something about a blur of orange racing down the main straightaway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that screams the perfect blend of speed and awesome. I have two that stick out in my mind. The first is Dan Wheldon’s orange-and-white William Rast machine he drove to victory in 2011. It looked so clean and cool. I would have loved that car just as much if he would’ve finished second, but that he won with it makes it that much better. It’s always the first car I gravitate to when I walk into the IMS Museum. Second on my list is the papaya orange McLaren Johnny Rutherford drove to victory in 1974 and ’76. What a cool-looking car for it’s time. I would have loved to see how that car popped among the field of 33 back in the day.

Paul Kelly: Curt, you stole one of my favorites and a car that is overlooked by many when asked this question – Wilbur Shaw’s Boyle Special Maserati. What a gorgeous, sexy race car. But my true favorite is the car that carried the greatest racing driver of all time – Jim Clark – to victory May 31, 1965, the day after I was born. It’s the No. 82 Lotus 38-Ford, designed by the mythical Colin Chapman. Everything about it is beautiful. It’s painted the prettiest color on Earth – British racing green – with perfect yellow accents. The Lotus 38 was business up front and party in the back, with that low-slung nose and its small, round opening and that maze of yellow exhaust pipes atop the Ford V8 engine. The Lotus 38 was a scalpel of a race car – simple, lean, fragile but efficient. Chapman penned many gorgeous race cars, but the 38 was a true gem.

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