The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car

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Lot 543
The ex-Frank Brisko, 1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car

Sold for US$ 160,000 inc. premium
The ex-Frank Brisko
1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
This car appears to trace its origins to the great American designer and racing car builder, Harry A. Miller. Run as the Elgin Piston Pin Special at Indianapolis in 1936, it qualified 20th at 114.213 miles an hour and was running as high as fifteenth when it ran out of gas, 21 laps from the finish.

Fans of historic American racing know the early thirties as the 'junk formula' years, so-called since the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association decided in early 1929 to rule off the tracks the high-strung single-seat supercharged 91 cubic inch 'specials' of the twenties in favor of large, unsupercharged two-man cars. It was an attempt to cut the racing speeds that had reached as high as 124 miles an hour and entice the passenger car manufacturers back into competition. Coincidentally, the Great Depression began in October of 1929 and the new formula allowed the use of many inexpensively-built racing cars over the succeeding seven years. The result was the entrance of many cars derived from passenger car chassis, some of them relatively crude in construction by comparison to the beautiful cars of the earlier decade.

The 'Elgin Piston Pin' car was built by 36 year old Frank Brisko, of Milwaukee, a talented machinist, designer and racing driver. Brisko reportedly took a few parts from an earlier wrecked Miller to assemble the chassis and bought engine castings from Dick Loynes, a speedboat racer who had gotten drawings and patterns from Miller's bankruptcy sale. From Loynes' parts Brisko put together a four-cylinder, 255 cubic inch overhead cam engine that was described variously as a 'Miller' and as a 'Brisko'.

The frame and steering were said at the time to be Miller, the transmission, clutch and rear axle came from a Ford V-8 passenger car, the front axle from an early 1930s Chrysler and the engine was equipped with a pair of Winfield carburetors.

In the 1936 race Brisko had to make six pit stops totaling nearly 21 minutes to patch a leaky fuel tank and repair a leaking water pump. On his 179th lap he exhausted the 37 ½ gallons of fuel then allowed for the 500 miles and coasted to a stop, out of the race. He was credited with 20th place.

Records of the car's later career are sketchy, but Brisko entered a similar car at the Roby track in Hammond, Indiana, on September 21st, 1936 and finished third. The following month he took an Elgin Piston Pin Special to the George Vanderbilt Cup race on Long Island, where he qualified 37th at 59.680 miles an hour. The field included, among others, Americans Wilbur Shaw, George Connor, Billy Winn and Henry Banks and Europeans Tazio Nuvolari and Guiseppe Farina. During the 300 mile, 75 lap race on on October 13th, 1936, Brisko had to make a long pit stop. Arthur J. Daley of the New York Times said Brisko's mechanics "did repairs in 16 minutes that in an ordinary garage would have taken two days." The Elgin Piston Pin car finally fell out of competition after 65 laps, finishing 20th.

The subsequent history of this car is unknown. Brisko entered a rear-drive car at Indianapolis in 1938, driven by Emil Andres, as an 'Elgin Piston Pin Special.' but it had a 6-cylinder Brisko engine and the chassis was described as being built by Clyde Adams. Another rear-drive car was entered at Indianapolis in 1939 as an 'Elgin Piston Pin Special' with a Brisko engine, but existing records describe the chassis as a 'Blume.'

This car finally turned up in the Chicago area in August, 1953, when the present owner bought it. It presently has a Ford V-8 engine of the late 1930s, a tubular front axle from a 1937 Ford and a steering wheel and instruments from a 1940s-era passenger car, possibly an Oldsmobile.

Accompanying the car itself is the original hood from the 1936 race, part of the number '14' still showing. There is also with this car an incomplete Miller Marine 151 cubic inch four cylinder engine acquired by the owner in the late 1980s. It is not believed to be the original engine of 255 cubic inches, although it does have a crankcase of Brisko design.

Brisko continued to enter cars at Indianapolis through 1949. His best races at Indianapolis came in 1934 and 1940, when, in both years, he finished in ninth place. Brisko died in Milwaukee on November 26th,
1990.

For a buyer interested in the fascinating era of the thirties when the Depression and the racing rules forced the building of ingenious racing cars out of road vehicles, or who would like to drive with a passenger in vintage race meets in relative comfort, the Elgin Piston Pin Special is a real Indianapolis car with championship history.

Research on the Elgin Piston Pin Special is on-going at time of printing, and we hope to have additional information at the time of the sale.
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Frank Brisko,1936 'Elgin Piston Pin' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
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