The Coniff Special
A wonderful picture of a race car and driver that would make history together. Car owner Joe Coniff had been turning out race cars since 1931. His cars were known for their high speed and great craftsmanship. Until the building of this car , Joe Coniff cars were built to run on dirt circle tracks thru out the mid-west and to also compete in the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. From the start of this new build , his 5th race car, the plan was to build a car that would only run at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race.
$ 15,000 race car
The plan from the beginning was to make this car his best. When completed the car was valued in 1940 dollars at $15,000. ( Inflation adjusted in 2017 dollars = $258,550 ) What motor was the best for the build ? The number one raced motor, at the time in the world famous Indianapolis 500 race was the Offenhauser engine.
The “Offy” as it was nicknamed would go on to win 24 Indianapolis 500 wins from 1934-1960. The “Big-4” design can trace it’s history to the Miller engines of the 30s. A large four cylinder motor, the block and heads made of aluminum, with twin overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Engines easily pushing over 300 horsepower. That is what the newest “Coniff Special” needed.
During the summer of 1946, Joe went to California to purchase a engine for his new car. He came home with the Miller Marine designed 220 cu. in. Offenhauser engine. Taking a big chuck of cash out of the cars budget. Winning the PPHC at the time only paid $3,000 for 1st, $2,000 for second ,$1,000 for third and some additional cash for setting a new record .It would take many years to pay for a car that only raced once a year. Clearly car owners were not in it for the money ! (Still true today)
Enter Al Rogers ,
Alfred C. Rogers, “Al”, was from Pekin Illinois and moved to Colorado Springs Colorado in 1904 . He started his relationship with the mountain as a a tour bus driver on Pikes Peak Highway in 1929. Making more then 3000 trips. (To this day learning the road is the hardest part for competitors to overcome) Mr.Rogers became an expert on the course and started racing the road at the 1936 Hill Climb. Driving for Joe Coniff in a race car that Al helped build . His time of 17:09.6 was good for second place. Becoming a bridesmaid to Louis Unser in his first PPHC race started a new trend. He would get 2nd place to Louis Unser in 1938 and 1939. Those first four years, second place finishes except a “Did Not Finish” in 1937. Frustrating for sure. But second place at the PPHC was still a major accomplishment. Al would also raced with Joe Coniff cars with success and wins outside of Pikes Peak on dirt tracks in the Mid-West and Rocky Mountain region. 1940 the bridesmaid curse was broken, with !st place wins at Pikes Peak and the Lands End Hill Climbs, still running the older cars .
What results would the new car, built for only one race a year, bring to Joe Coniff and Al Rogers . Catch ” Coniff Special Comes Home” to find out more