Shockers at Indianapolis

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The other day a net dropped on my desk telling me that the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race has been won for the 20th time since 1959 by a car equipped web Monroe shock-absorbers. This year, when the race was won at a record average speed by Rick Mears driving a Roger Penske March 84C Cosworth, this 20th suceess was secured for Monroe, the March being equipped with their gas-filled dampers, as were more than half the Indy field, with Monroe-equipped cars finishing in five of the first six places. Monroe Auto Equipment of Sheffield are the World’s biggest independent shock-absorber manufacturers, they tell us, supplying replacement equipment to fit over 1,200 European, Japanese and American vehicles.

This is a far cry from the days when Andre-Hartford friction shock-absorbers were almost universal, challenged only by Gabriel snubbers and a few rarer makes of damper. At Indianapolis in 1913 the winning Peugeot of Jules Goux used Hartfords, as did almost the entire entry, and this remained the norm for many years. By 1923 Duesenberg were using their own shockers, but it wasn’t until the stock-car regulations of 1931 that makes other than Hartford began to impinge on the Indy scene, Gabriel, Gemmer, Watson and Delco-Remy dampers breaking up the Hartford monopoly. The winning Bowes Seal Fast Miller of that year was assisted in staying on the bricks by Gabriel shock-absorbers. The victorious FWD Hartz-Miller of 1932 remained faithful to Hartfords, although the Delco-Remy Lovejoy two-way hydraulic dampers were by now in evidence and Monroes were on the Hudsons.

When Louis Meyer won at record speed in 1933 his Tydol-Miller was Gabriel damped, Bill Cummings used Hartfords on the winning Boyle-Products Miller in 1934, as did Petillo to win with the Gilmore Special Miller in 1935. A Hartford Gabriel combination was favoured by Meyer on the 1937-winning Ring-Free Miller. When winning at record pace in 1937 Wilbur Shaw had Hartfords on the front, Houdailles on the back of his Gilmore-Offenhauser. The Burd Piston Ring Miller that look the chequered flag in 1938 relied on the same combination but Maserati shock-absorbers figured on the Boyle Special Maserati (8CTF) that took Shaw to Victory Lane in the Indy 500 of 1939, but, winning again in 1940, although the torsion-bar operated Maserati friction dampers were retained at the front, linked to the ifs system, at the back Houdailles dampers had been substituted.

But since 1959 Monroes have ruled supreme, which is where we came in . . . W.B.

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