1965 GERHARDT INDY CAR - $185,000
- Chassis # 002
- Engine # LMI7189
- Offered With Both FIA & HSCC Certifications
- Fitted With The Ubiquitous Ford 255ci Four-Cam V8
- Known Early Racing History & Widely Event Eligible
- An Important Indy Car From a Bygone Era
Although the Indianapolis 500 has been held for well over 100 years now, the modern Indy car series is a relatively new division. Going back to the early 1960s one of the main sanctioning bodies for racing in the United States was the USAC or the United States Auto Club. The USAC hosted various different racing events on various different track surfaces, including dirt ovals, and was responsible for both the Pikes Peak Hill Climb as well as the infamous Indianapolis 500, or as it was called at the time, the International 500 Mile Sweepstakes. The USAC series lofted many names into the spotlight but at the same time provided the ability for many smaller teams, drivers and even car builders a shot at the big times. One of these builders who managed to make a name for themselves was Fred Gerhardt.
Fred Gerhardt was a true racing enthusiast. He began building racing cars in the 1930s and was responsible for producing a number of highly successful midget racing single seaters from the 30s to the 50s. When he wasnt at the track he was managing his company; Commercial Body Sales & Manufacturing, located in Fresno California. Gerhardts first Indy car was built for the 1964 season and was described as a lookalike of the successful Lotus Indy cars of the time. This car failed to qualify for the 1964 Indy 500 and out of disgust Fred sold the car shortly after. Doubling down on his effort Gerhardt built 3 cars for the 1965 season all of which qualified for the Indy 500 that year, a huge success for a small team like Gerhardts. Freds big brake came in early 1966 when Parnelli Jones, behind the wheel of a supercharged Offenhauser engined Gerhardt built car, set the lap record at Phoenix International Raceway. Once news leaked out of this amazing feat, the orders rolled in with a total of 10 cars being built for the 1966 season. Fred Gerhardt would continue building cars throughout 1970, with teams experiencing various levels of success behind the wheel of his designs. Although his cars never achieved the level of success that might catapult him to the fame of teams like Lotus or Eagle, Fred showed everyone that even a smaller builder like him could compete on the big time stage against teams and builders who were much better funded, a true win for the small guys out there and a testament to American spirit everywhere.
The example on offer here, chassis # 002, is a 1965 Gerhardt Indy Car. According to a marque expert and available documentation, chassis # 002 was built in1965 as the Gerhardt/Offenhauser prototype, #46. Although it ran an Offenhauser engine for the first 3 years of its existence, the tub was built to allow a 4-cam Ford V8 engine. The first race for #46 took place on November 21st, 1965 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). Driven by Jim Hurtubise, car #46 finished 16th due to some engine trouble. Over the 1966 season winter testing at PIR, a supercharger was fitted to the Offenhauser engine of car #46 and the driver, Parnelli Jones, proceeded to break the lap record for the track. For the 1966 Indy 500, it is known that #46 (Chassis # 002) was present at the race as a backup car for Jim Hurtubise who was driving his #56 Gerhardt/Offenhauser car, but it is unclear if #46 turned a wheel during the 1966 Indianapolis 500. Through our research, one misconception has been confirmed as stated by others in the past. That this is indeed, not the Gordon Johncock Gerhardt as previously described both in auction catalogs and other historically relevant documents. Through our research it is also believed that the Gordon Johncock car is also no longer around, having been written off years ago.
Car #46 would get a swift bump into the spotlight when the Gerhardt house car #94 was destroyed in fire following driver Tommy Copps crash on the first lap of the Atlanta 300 on June 26th 1966. Due to this accident the #46 car inherited the number #94 and would now run as the Gerhardt house car. Mel Kenyon took over driving duties but unfortunately placed low in his next two outings at the Milwaukee Mile and PIR, both due to accidents occurring during the race. In October of 1966, now wearing #94, Chassis # 002 was shipped to the Fuji Speedway in Japan for a road course race, where it finished a respectable 7th place with driver Bill Cheesbourg behind the wheel. For the 1967 season, the #46 designation was returned to the car with Mel Kenyon opening up the season at PIR with a 10th place finish. Kenyon would also go on to finish a respectable 5th at the Trenton 150 in New Jersey on April 23, 1967. For the 1967 Indy 500, it is claimed that car #46 was used as a show car until Goodyear complained that they were sponsoring 2 Gerhardt team cars but only 1 car was running. Fred Gerhardt jumped in and with the help of a few others, got the car put together overnight and fired it up for the first time on Saturday, the last day of qualifying. Driver Bob Veith easily made qualifying times with the car and would go on to finish 11th overall at the 1967 Indianapolis 500. According to our sources the car was finished in a reddish color with silver leaf trim on the nose section at the time of the race. Less than a month later, during testing at Indianapolis, car #46 was crashed bad enough to remove it from the remainder of the1967 season. It is believed that Gerhardts team went to work and rebuilt the car for road course purpose, replacing the Offenhauser engine with the engine that is still fitted today, a Ford 255ci 4-cam V8, more commonly found in the Ford GT. The newly rebuilt Gerhardt car, now wearing #11 instead of #46, opened up the 1968 season, March 31st, at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas where it finished in 8th place driven by Art Pollard. Gary Bettenhausen would take over driving duties for the remainder of the 1968 season putting up some respectable finishes but unfortunately suffering from a myriad of problems that ultimately hampered him placing higher in the standings.
After the 1968 season, the trail of history for Chassis # 002 was relegated to privateer entries in the 1970s, 1980s and although not at the top professional level as by this time it was no longer technologically relevant enough to be competitive at the top. By 1994 the car received a restoration, and shortly after it received both its FIA and HSCC Certifications, both of which accompany the car today. While not competitively run on the track since the 1990s it has been run on occasion and remains in functioning condition under the Current owners care since 2006.
This was a state of the art car built by a small team and was meant to compete with the titans of the time such as Lotus, Eagle, and Lola. In a race series that was in its infancy, but which already gave advantage to the teams with bigger financial backing. The few Gerhardt Indy cars that remain today are a testament to the willpower of the little guy to compete in the big leagues of professional motor racing. A truly collectible piece of racing history and an important additional to any serious collection.
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- RefCode: TA1184014