Rare Car Network

Rare Car Network
Unique Classics, Replicas and Build Culture
						Offy Sprint Car 6
Offy-Powered ’20s Sprint Car

Early Sprint Car with Offenhauser 270 engine

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, eBay

**This car has since sold here on eBay for a sum of $40,000.**

“If the Offenhauser engine isn’t the best racing engine of all time, what is?” — Stewart Van Dyne

Sprint car racing is arguably one of the most influential forms of motorsport to be born here in the United States. Back when Sprint Car racing began, they ran on dirt ovals that normally hosted horse racing, and the Sprint Cars (or Big Cars as they were called) were seen as a side attraction.

As America roared into the ’20s and the automobile took on a more prominent role in American culture, Sprint Car racing exploded, finding its way into small town U.S.A. at state fairgrounds the country over. Chopped up Model T’s were the norm back then, and overhead-valve conversion engines like Arthur Chevrolet’s Frontenac powered the fastest cars. But all that changed upon the advent of, what some have called, the most successful racing engine of all time, the Offenhauser.

In its earliest stage, the Offy design started as a dual overhead cam engine presented to Peugeot by three French engineers. The four-valve racing engine was brilliant for its time, and was spun off by Harry Miller’s machine shop here in America. Under Miller’s shop supervisor, Fred Offenhauser, the engine saw continued development, known as the Miller engine.

Offy Sprint Car 2

Miller’s engines had become extremely successful by the 1920s, but unfortunately he went bankrupt around 1930, with Offenhauser buying the rights to build engines going forward. By 1933, the engines bore Offenhauser’s name, and saw several improvements as well. The first checkered flag for the Offy came in 1935, and they kept coming into the 1970s. In fact, Offenhauser engines powered the winner’s of the Indianapolis 500 for 17 years straight, from 1947 to 1964. Also, from 1950 to 1960, Offy engines powered all three podium finishers.

The secrets to the Offy engine’s success are reliability, simplicity and huge power. Thanks to its durable, unit design, there was no separate cylinder head, eliminating any head gasket or head stud problems. It also allowed Offy engines to run much, much higher compression ratios; such as 15:1 in the 251.89-ci twin-cam four-cylinder, which made a colossal 420 hp.

The Big Car for sale here on eBay sports Offenhauser’s successful 270 ci engine, and as he suggests, it’s quite a valuable piece. He believes the engine was overhauled recently, and has turned it over a few years back, but a serious buyer would likely inspect the engine closely before starting it. The engine does appear to be in very good condition and sports a cool swept exhaust manifold and a pair of Riley racing carburetors.

The rest of the car is in good condition for being nearly 100 years old and pulled from a collapsed barn. As such, much of the original bodywork was damaged in the incident, but a good body man could likely revive the original pieces. Suspected to be a “Riverside Tire Special” by the owner, the car may have more known history, adding to its value if the owner has any proof.

For any aficionado of early American motorsports history, this Big Car is a treat for the senses and surely an absolute throwback to pilot.

**This car has since sold here on eBay for a sum of $40,000.**

Comments for: Offy-Powered ’20s Sprint Car

comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories You Might Like