The Marmon V-16 howls again in this 1933 Indianapolis racer
One look at John Hollansworth’s reproduction of a 1933 Cooper Indy car and immediately you hear the ghostly echoes of its Marmon V-16 engine as it whined around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ralph Hepburn at the wheel. Not this car, exactly, but one very much like it in spirit.
Hollansworth, 81, of Hot Springs Village, Ark., loves recreating famous cars from the past, and he’s had several. He commissioned a copy of the Pierce-Arrow-powered car that Ab Jenkins drove to a record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1932, and he competes in the Great Race and other vintage events in his 1917 Green Dragon, a Peerless-powered open-wheel racer.
The copy of the 1933 Cooper started when Hollansworth acquired the pieces of a V-16 Marmon engine in Cripple Creek, Colo. He wanted to find a car in which it could be used. His research uncovered photos of a 1933 Cooper Indy car that was powered by a V-16 Marmon engine.
Using photographs of the original car, Hollansworth engaged Bob Schumacher of Vintage Fabrication in Independence to create a body while Pete and Jake’s of Peculiar prepared a chassis. Paul’s Rod and Bearing and Built Right Engine, both in Parkville, overhauled the engine and put it back together.
Schumacher, along with his son, Bruce, Tim Morgans and Tim Brogan, spent about a year re-creating the aluminum body from scratch based on original photographs. They made a wooden buck over which they hand-formed aluminum panels. The grille shell, which recalls the famous Miller Indy cars, was completely hand-built, as was the exhaust.
Schumacher has been in business for about 20 years and has more than 100 custom cars and hot rods to his credit. This Indy car was something complete new for him, he said, and it “meant more to me to be accurate as possible.”
Hollansworth grew up in Kansas City and went to East High School. For years, he raced against local legends such as Jud Larson and Bill Chennault. In 1967 he was ready for a shot at qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 but missed out when a teammate used up both engines in practice. He competed at the Pike’s Peak Hilllimb twice and raced an Indy car at Fuji Speedway in 1966. His son, John Hollansworth, Jr., ran at Indy in 1999 and finished 13th.
On July 6-7, Hollansworth drove his Marmon for the first time at the Vanderbilt Cup Centennial at the Millers at Milwaukee Meet. “Oh man, it drove like a champ,” he said over the telephone with a smile in his voice. “The car ran great, no overheating or anything,” he said. “I got around pretty fair in it.”