As originally conceived, The Sumar Special was designed to carry an elegant, all-enveloping bodywork. Which led many motoring writers to describe it as one of the most beautiful cars ever to run in the Indianapolis 500. Except that of course… it wasn't.
Yes, there are plenty of photos and even models available that imply that this may actually be the case. And, swoopy the bodywork may have been. But effective? Well, no. Don’t be ridiculous!
It was too heavy. It created lift which ruined the handling. It roasted the engine, the tyres, the brakes and driver. Who, in turn, moaned that the limited vision made it difficult to “place” on the track.
And the clever solution was?
Take the bodywork off! Unfortunately though, what skulked underneath that panel-beater’s fancy wasn’t really up to the same aesthetic standards.
So, the next time you’re reading of how the dazzlingly beautiful Sumar Special wowed the crowds at Indianapolis, in 1955 remember, this is the sight that the Indiana public were actually treated to on race-day.
This was not the end of the tale however much it should have been, and on February 11th 1959 Marshall Teague, AKA the King of the Beach tried to top 177 mph at the Daytona International Speedway in order to break the closed course speed record that had been set in 1957 at 177.38 by Tony Bettenhausen in Monza, Italy, during qualifying for the Race of Two Worlds.
And guess what...he decided to do it in the reconfigured Sumar Special. Judging by this photo, not much reconfiguring went on with the bodywork. The bodywork, remember, that "created lift which ruined the handling, roasted the engine, the tyres, the brakes and driver"!
The outcome was unfortunately as predictable as it was tragic. On February 11th 1959 at about 140 mph, Teague spun in turn three, pitching the car into a roll. He was ejected, still strapped into the seat, landing 150 feet away and sadly died almost instantly.