The ex-Herb Ardinger,1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car

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Lot 544
The ex-Herb Ardinger, 1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car

Sold for US$ 216,000 inc. premium
The ex-Herb Ardinger
1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
Historians and enthusiasts of vintage American racing cars will appreciate this mid-thirties Championship car with Indianapolis history. One of only two 'junk formula' cars based on the fast Graham passenger car of its day, the Lucenti Special finished in the top ten at Indianapolis in 1934, wheeled by rookie driver Herb Ardinger on his first attempt at the Speedway.

The 'Junk Formula' was conceived in early 1929 as a replacement for the tiny, supercharged 91 cubic inch Millers and Duesenbergs that had dominated American speedways in the twenties. It was an attempt to reduce the cost of racing, slow down the 'astounding' speeds of the day and bring the passenger car manufacturers back into racing.

The two-man Lucenti car was built originally in 1932 of nearly-stock Graham parts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by Angelo Lucenti, Roy W. Painter and John C. Saunders and given the name Lupasa (LUcenti-PAinter-SAunders). It is powered by a straight-eight Graham engine of 265 cubic inches displacement. A special high-lift cam and large valves were installed to increase its power. (Actually, the engine was built by Continental, as were all Graham powerplants). Ironically, although road-going Grahams carried centrifugal superchargers, the Indianapolis rules of the day did not permit supercharging, so the Lupasa car was given four Winfield Model SR carburetors.

Driver Painter and his riding mechanic, Eddie Shearn, could not get the Lupasa Special going fast enough to qualify at Indianapolis in 1932, when a speed of 108 miles an hour or better was needed to make the race. Later in the year Painter entered the car at a race at Syracuse, New York, where well-known driver Bryan Saulspaugh could only manage a qualifying time on the mile dirt track of 45.45 seconds, 21st fastest and too slow to make that starting field.

The car was not at Indy in 1933, but in 1934 Lucenti, a Pittsburgh-area plumbing contractor, entered this car under his own name. Lucenti was born in Ateleta, Italy November 24th, 1884 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1898.

In 1934 Ardinger, with Shearn again as the mechanic, pushed the Lucenti Special # 24 to a qualifying speed of 111.722 miles an hour in the ten-lap test on the first day of time trials at Indianapolis. He started in the middle of the fifth row, surrounded by legends of the sport including Bill Cummings, Ralph Hepburn, George Barringer, Lou Meyer, Shorty Cantlon and Cliff Bergere. In the race Ardinger was relieved on lap 92 by Danny Day, another first-year driver, who drove the next 40 turns on the Indy bricks. The car finished a creditable tenth, averaging 95.9 miles an hour. Ardinger and Day were the highest-placed rookies that year, finishing ahead of a dozen faster cars that crashed or fell out of the race with mechanical problems.

Ardinger took the Lucenti Special to the race at Springfield, Illinois, on August 25th, qualified 11th fastest at 45.29 (79.488 mph) and finished 8th earning $100. He went back to Syracuse on September 8th, where he qualified 9th fastest and was running in eighth position when a bearing failed at 51 laps. He was awarded 11th place at the end, winning $50 for the effort.

In 1935 the Lucenti car was back again at Indianapolis, entered by Painter, a coal miner's son, as the Frigenor Special. On May 26th Herschell McKee, a 38 year old journeyman racing driver from Indianapolis who had been Chet Gardner's riding mechanic, spun the car in a qualification attempt, hitting the wall but with little damage. The next day Painter turned 106.638mph in a qualifying effort but that speed was not fast enough to make the race, though it was the first alternate starter that year.

The Frigenor Special was reported to have been entered later at several western Pennsylvania races, including Altoona in September, 1935, but the car did not appear there on race day. It may have been campaigned by Painter and others on the outlaw dirt tracks in Ohio and Pennsylvania in the lean years of the Depression, but no other record of the car's history has survived until 1953 when it was found in an orphanage yard in Evanston, Illinois. The children had used it as a plaything, breaking the glass in the instruments on the dash. The finder sold it to the present owner who has held it for the past 53 years.

The Oldsmobile Rocket emblem was added when it was used to attract attention at a Chicago area Olds dealership in the 1950s.

The car is equipped with a standard Graham manual transmission, Graham front and rear axles, starter and generator. It weighs 2,400 pounds, standing on 6:00-18 front wheels and 7:00-16 rears. The specially-built body is of aluminum. Originally maroon, it was painted white in the 1950s. Aside from the paint, the missing tail pipe and unauthentic upholstery, this car is just as it rolled off the race track, more than a half century ago.

The Lupasa / Lucenti Special has been highlighted in the 'Supercharger,' the magazine for Graham collectors, and the 'Alternate' a vintage race publication.

For an owner who fancies a special kind of American racing car, emblematic of the Depression years, or who would like to run at the many vintage race meets held around the United States, this is an authentic Indianapolis car of championship caliber, a comfortable driver for two persons requiring minimal restoration.
The ex-Herb Ardinger,1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Herb Ardinger,1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Herb Ardinger,1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Herb Ardinger,1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Herb Ardinger,1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Herb Ardinger,1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Herb Ardinger,1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
The ex-Herb Ardinger,1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car
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