6/21/11

Riverside Special c.1939

Bankrolled by Hank O'Day, owner of a Charleston, Illinois tavern that featured an open-secret gambling room with slots just up the stairs. From Bob Lawrence's Vintage Auto Racing Web Ring, "O’Day had owned other big cars before he commissioned Louis 'Curley' Wetteroth, a noted racing car chassis builder in Southern California, to build a new 270 cubic inch Offenhauser powered big car over the winter of 1937 and 1938. The creation was white, trimmed in red scallops, and sported a black number 15 on the tail. It had the best of everything and no expense was spared.  Among the unusual extravagances were a chrome frame, chrome running gear, individually chromed spokes in each wheel, a polished aluminum grill and instrument panel. The O’Day Offy was truly a showpiece and the talk of the racing community nationwide before it ever turned a wheel on a racetrack. It was said to have been the most expensive big car ever built, setting O’Day back somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000. To complete the package, O’Day had a 1938 Diamond-T truck custom built for another $20,000 or so to haul the car around. The truck boasted a partially enclosed bed and sleeping quarters for the crew, rare amenities in the 1930s. O’Day took the car on the road, campaigning it on the American Automobile Association (AAA) Eastern Racing Circuit and in races sanctioned by the Central States Racing Association (CSRA). Johnny McDowell and Joie Chitwood shared driving duties for much of the 1938 racing season, bringing the car home in second place in CSRA points. Early in 1939, Chitwood persuaded track announcer and good friend Jack Story to have Sam Nunis set up sponsorship for the O’Day Offy with Ward’s Riverside Tires. Nunis was the East Coast representative for Riverside and the name “Riverside Special” replaced “O’Day Special” on the car’s cowl." I'm assuming this is the right car. None of the many photos that accompany the borrowed text show the car with vertical grill bars or an exhaust configuration with manifold stacks and tailpipe on one level, nor is there any mention of the car running as #5...

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