1924 Barber-Warnock Indianapolis car
The Real Deal
The following is a history of my involvement with some of the key players involved in old time racing, Model T race cars, and the Barber Warnock Indianapolis 500 car.
I first met Donald Lockwood probably in the middle 60’s. At that time I was working for my father in the demolition business and we were parking our equipment at a truck junkyard on Summer Street in Hammond, Indiana. Arnold Strufe was the crotchety cantankerous proprietor of Hammond Truck Parts, the final resting place for spent, used and abused trucks, tractors, and equipment. Arnold and I became very good friends. He was a philosopher and I remember vividly him putting his hands on my shoulder and saying “ Hey kid, remember this: A woman is nothing but a rock around your neck.” It’s been difficult trying to prove him wrong. He was filled with stories about Harry Miller and the Chevrolet brothers. Donald Lockwood and a self proclaimed race driver/hitman for the Chicago mob, Eddie Burbach, would come to see Strufe and they would talk for hours about the good old days which included famous racedrivers, gangsters, mutual friends and the Chevrolet brothers. Sadly, the only Chevrolet I was interested in at the time was my 3 deuce 4 speed 348 and their ramblings passed through my head and into space at the speed of light.
Arnold Strufe was a mechanic and machinist for Harry Miller and during the war worked in New Orleans and Detroit on marine engines for Miller. Arnold felt that Miller was some sort of a genius but that he also harbored an uncanny talent as a deadbeat. It seems that because Miller wasn’t able to pay Strufe for his work, Arnold traded, borrowed, seized, or somehow acquired two Miller-Gulf engines as part of his pay. When you entered Hammond Truck Parts immediately on your right was a long counter behind which was a set of shelves and on the top right section were the two magnesium cased Miller-Gulf engines—their twin cam covers gleaming, illuminated by the fluorescents above them. It was an impressive sight even for a four speed slamming Chevy man.
Arnold Strufe was an old machinist who was known for his drive shaft and flywheel work. It was said that famous racers when they competed at Roby and other local tracks would seek out Strufe for his drive shaft expertise. Strufe was old during the sixties and suffered from a malady he called “dropsie.” I believe now it is known as heart failure. One day probably in the early 70’s my father and I came to Strufe’s shop to move our equipment. We found Strufe sitting in a chair barely able to breathe. We called for his common law wife who lived upstairs and she rushed him to the hospital. We visited him the next day at St. Margaret’s hospital. He was very weak and was racked by these horrible coughing spells. He asked me to help him sit up along side his bed and as I held him he passed. He was buried in Dwight, Illinois, his hometown.
Enter Donald Lockwood again, the thread that runs through this entire anthology. Lockwood was the son of a financial officer of Samuel Insull’s empire. Lockwood was born in the early 1900s with a silver spoon in his mouth and the where-with-all to capitalize on it. He was a collector of all things airplane and race related and he managed to cajole, sweet talk, trick, or swindle the grieving, soon to be destitute widow of Arnold into selling him the two Miller-Gulf engines which he kept with countless other treasures in his basement and garages in Beverly, just east of Western Avenue. In these catacombs he claimed to have all sorts of rare pieces including the Model T Ford based racecar that Henry Ford sat in at the 1924 Indianapolis 500.
Model T fords make me laugh. As a kid I remember them in parades circling the street spraying water on the crowds. There were Leaping Lena’s that when accelerated lept to a wheel stand while heavy set passengers in the rear seat yelled with enthusiasm. The Lena’s were completely out of control and probably would be banned from any modern parade because of countless OSHA violations and they should have been banned then because of common sense. It was great fun and probably the highlight of many a parade, save for a bunch of old Shriners performing precision formation routines on pan headed Harleys.
My father was filled with stories of Model T’s and together we acquired a few putting them in parades, restoring some, and in general had some good times with them. It was more fun for the old man then it was for me but I certainly have warm thoughts over it all.
Through the 70s, 80s, and 90s other interests consumed me. Jobs, degrees, and family all pushed these prior interests behind me. Suddenly it’s 1999 rushing toward the millennium. I was invited by my friend “Gunny” to come down to the annual Newport Hillclimb in Newport, Indiana—the home of the world’s largest storage depot of poisonous gas. It was a hoot. There were all types of prewar cars struggling to climb this hill which begins on the main street in front of the court house and shoots up at a rate of climb that would challenge an F-18 Hornet. The Hillclimb was started in the early 1900s and famous race drivers like Barney Oldfield and the Chevrolet brothers all competed there. Watching the steam cars, Model T’s, Model A’s, and others strain to get up the hill was quite a novelty, but soon it became a background for enjoying the weather, the food, the crowd, and the circus like atmosphere. Then something different happened. The announcer called out “here they come” and suddenly this crackling, snorting, and roaring sound came from the left. It was the Model T modified class. There were speedsters and racecars, minimalist frames with seats and an engine, complete cars with a hopped up engine, and all sorts of unique combinations of thoughts on how to get up the hill the fastest. These cars were light, loud, and fast. The crowd was on its feet for the entire class. They roared up the hill in record time. They peaked my interest.
I came home remembering that I had promised my father that I would complete the restoration of his speedster. It would be the ideal platform for the hillclimb. The car was a former dirt track racer with its engine set back, Franklin steering, Warford auxiliary transmission, a Fronty R head and a beautiful set of Buffalo wire wheels. Alas sitting for decades in a garage, the car was a disappointment. The egg shaped crankshaft was sitting on the ground, rods and pistons were scattered all about. Here a push rod, there a push rod, everywhere a push rod. However hopeless it may seem I was on a quest and I took the disassembled mess to my shop and in about 8 months the car was complete. The car was competitive at the Hillclimb but never won. This was unacceptable and I kept searching for parts to go faster.
Enter Don Lockwood again—now in his 90s but still sharp as a tack. I was looking through the racing and performance parts section of Hemmings Motor News when I spied an ad for 3 Fronty engines packed in cosmoline since the 1930s. The area code listed 773 which was almost local for me so I decided to call. On the other end of the line was the voice of an older man and when he told me his name was Don Lockwood I tried to ascertain if he could be the same Lockwood that I had met years before, but before I could be convinced, his photographic memory kicked in and he told me that he remembered me from Strufe’s junkyard. Amazing, thirty years had passed. I was just a pain in the ass kid teasing those old men about their stories and he remembered me before I was sure that it was him.
This guy has the stuff. When you enter Lockwood’s home, the first thing you notice is that the walls are covered with 8X10 race photos. Every square inch is covered, all black and white pictures of big cars and some midgets---everything is old. As he showed me the pictures he identified who every one was, what type of car it was, and where the track was located. Proceeding on through the dining area more pictures and an occasional Bosch twin spark mag were on display. An abrupt right just past the kitchen door led you down into the catacombs—again pictures everywhere. Then looming just ahead of me at the base of the stairs began a pile of parts that appeared to fill the basement. Only a narrow path allowed you to traverse this maze. There were Winfields to the left of me , Frontys to the right, here I am stuck in the middle of this treasure of speed and history. There were Rutherford single stick heads, several Dreyer engines, patterns for casting the twin cam rajo heads, all sorts of parts and cars from T’s to offys. He remembered every piece—what car it came from, and how he got it. Bottom line—Lockwood was a careful, knowledgeable collector since the late 20s. He knew early on what was important to hold on to. This guy has the stuff.
After negotiating for some parts to go faster up the hill we started talking about the old days and the subject of the Barber-Warnock Indianapolis car came up. He told me he sold the car to some millionaire in Riverside, Illinois and that years previously he sold the pointed tale to a salt flat racer from California. He gave me the names of both men but as usual the names entered my ear, rattled around my head for a bit and quickly exited the other ear. I wasn’t interested in something that was already gone. We kept in touch for these past years as he was concerned about my progress at the hillclimb.
In a blink of an eye it’s suddenly 2006. I’m busy preparing a car for the assault on the hill. This time I’ll take no prisoners. I acquired a twin cam Gemsa engine and built a car around it to whip some butt at the hillclimb. Coincidently Joe Gemsa in the 1950s and 60s borrowed Don Lockwood’s rajo patterns to cast these twin cam heads. The hillclimb was rapidly approaching and I began to realize I needed help. I took the car to Gary Bridge and Iron Company where I could count on Steve Truchan and his crew to help me get the car together. Steve is the guru of offy building and has put together race cars all his life. One day Steve asked me if I wanted to go to Chicago to pick up some offy parts. Happy to have any excuse not to go back to work, I went with him to the westside. There I met Glenn Windstrup a collector of Indy cars and a midget racer sponsor. Steve purchased the offy parts and we loaded the trailer. I explained to Glenn that I raced hot T’s and then he told me that he had the 1924 Barber-Warnock car driven by Alfred Moss. It was his intention to complete its restoration. We talked for a while and he let it be known that he purchased the car from Donald Lockwood. He was not willing to part with the car saying he had too much time and money in it. He had sent the car out to be restored. The restorer claimed after stripping the body that they would be better off just building a new one. He began building a new body using the old Barber-Warnock frame. Glenn was unhappy with the results and took back the body and the parts. The bodies and the car were stored in Glenn’s garage waiting new directions.
A few months had passed and after I smashed the record at the Newport hillclimb I received a message from Glenn Windstrup that if I was still interested, he would sell me the car and all the history he acquired. I bought it.
· Along with the car came some history, poor copies of pictures and a great deal of background information. Let’s begin with the general background as Don Lockwood tells it in a statement to Glenn Windstrup dated October 30, 2006.
· Kenneth “Hannum” ---There is a copy of the entries at Roby Speedway dated July 1927 that lists a car driven by Charles Crawford entered by Kenneth Hannum as the Barber-Warnock Special. The entry list includes Wilber Shaw, Dutch Bauman, Carl Marchese, Frank Brisko, and others. I can’t imagine that in this company one could pass off a car as the Barber-Warnock Special if it wasn’t.
· An internet check on the Barber-Warnock Special shows results of an August 2, 1924 Indiana State Fairground race won by the Barber-Warnock Special entered by Malcolm “Hannon.” Quite possibly “Hannum” and “Hannon” could just be misread or misspelled in transcription.
· Ralph Eckstrom, a famous driver in his own right purchased the car from “Hannum” and campaigned it as the Vogue Tire #66 throughout the area. After crash damage to the front the car was converted to a three spring car. I have copies of correspondence from Thomas Eckstrom, Ralph’s son to Donald Lockwood sharing information and pictures. The pictures were from an early copy machine and are not of the best quality.
· Lockwood bought the car from Eckstrom’s widow in 1930, campaigned it until it was no longer competitive, took it apart and stored the carcass in his basement.
· In the 1970s Don Lockwood did search out documentation for this car. I have copies of correspondence with George Moore of the Indianapolis Star and Thomas Eckstrom.
· Glenn Windstrup who bought the car from Lockwood was convinced he had the right car. He spent much time following leads that Lockwood gave him—many of them literally dead ends because the persons being sought had perished. Glenn said that Lockwood told him that when he was purchasing the car from Ralph’s wife in the 1930, Ray Eckstrom (Ralph’s brother) assured him that the car was at least half the Barber-Warnock Special with the tail and front falling to crash damage. Glenn also told me that several of the “old timers” that he consulted were sure that he had the right frame with the proper kick-up to be a Barber-Warnock car. Glenn Windstrup felt that because the car was in Lockwood’s possession since 1930 on and its history had so few owners that the car would have a better shot at authenticity than the vast majority of the cars from that era might claim.
· Rick Linder and Tom Butterworth from the Detroit area set out in the 1990s to build the #27 Barber-Warnock car. The result was a magnificent piece of history. They spent years on their research. They sought help from the Indianapolis 500 museum, the Indianapolis Star, old newspaper accounts, books, magazines, and they interviewed everyone they could find that had knowledge of Barber-Warnock cars. One of the experts they relied on was Al Singer from the Detroit area. Al Singer helped them find the specialized race and mechanical components they have on their car. He was a knowledgeable respected authority on old race cars. When it came time to build the body for the car Al Singer told them that the original car was in Don Lockwood’s home south of Chicago. Rick and Tom went to Chicago to see the car. They tried to acquire the car but could not make a deal. From my experience, Lockwood would rather talk then sell anything. They did measure the car and obtained some useful information from Lockwood. I visited Rick Linder and Tom Butterworth in January 2007 to see their car, photograph it, and take some measurements. They were cooperative and helpful. When it came time to take some critical measurements from the cowl and seat area they told me to measure Lockwood’s car because that’s what they used to build their body.
· Some of the physical evidence that we could have used was inadvertently destroyed when Glenn Windstrup chose to use a novice to begin restoration of the car. The first step done was to strip the body of the car with no regard to the story the underlying layers of paint could tell. I have poor quality Polaroids on the start and completion of that task. The frame however was not stripped and as we inspected it, under several layers of color, on the kick-up was the deep red that we feel is the Barber-Warnock red. The rest of the frame was always black, only the actual kick-up was painted to match the body.
· The rest of the physical evidence comes from the uniqueness of the pile of parts. I’ve used as a reference the Clymer book as the authority. There is a set of Hartford friction shocks that match what should be on the car. The SR head is appropriate. The crankshaft is a genuine heavy Fronty crank and is of the appropriate dimensions for the Indy car. The side drive and water pump match the pictures I have of the Barber-Warnock cars. The header pipe though a bit banged up is the same unit as shown on the car. The steering wheel spider with the unique large acorn nut on it is an exact match to the pictures. Every race car needs the proper nut behind the wheel. The twin spark mag is in the pile of parts. The modified flattened front spring in the pile of parts is a dead ringer for the front spring in the picture. There is a left side view picture of Hunt’s car which shared the same type of power plant as the Moss car and it shows a very unique oil breather/fill cap prominently showing in the shadows of the hood. That cap and pipe are in the pile of parts. There is a complete set of Dayton 72 spoke dental drive hubs and adaptors--the spokes and rims are missing. There is a set of 28 X 4 Century Cord tires—hard as a rock but absolutely right for the car. The one part that’s entirely unique and separates a Barber-Warnock Indy car from any Fronty sprinter is the steering box. The Chevrolet brothers used and recommended the CPC balanced pressure steering box in their sprinters. The Clymer book shows that in fact at the 500 the steering was Ross. The engine pictures I received from the 500 museum of Harder’s car clearly show a Ross box. With a magnifying glass you can read the words on the casting. That same steering box is in the pile of parts.
· I have found nothing in the history given to me, nor in any of the pictures, statements and materials that I found at the museum, Indianapolis Star, internet searches and interviews that is in conflict with any of the previous claims about the car. I will restore it to its former glory in its 1924 livery.