The Unser Racing Museum.
The Unser racing family have built a truly wonderful museum in Albuquerque New Mexico. Winners in all sorts of automotive racing series, dirt cycle track, hill climbs, IROC and Indy cars. Four generations of race cars are on display. If you are race car crazy, like me, this is a must see on your bucket list. As the brochure states:
” Look Explore, Step Back in Time. A multidimensional museum experience utilizing modern technologies to educate and immerse the viewer into the exciting world of racing. “
Dreaming of a “Unser Museum lottery”
The list or rotating cars at the museum includes Indianapolis 500 winning cars, the family has “NINE” Indy wins, famous dirt track cars, hot rods , Pikes Peak Hill Climb winning cars and much more. The other day, I was daydreaming, what if the museum held a lottery and the winner could pick out one of the Unsers’ cars to keep. Being a huge PPHC fan, I would lean more towards those race cars. But with so many legendary and winning Pikes Peak race cars which one would I choose ? After giving this fictitious idea too much thought, my answer surprised me.
The 1955 #58 Jag powered Pikes Peak Special.
Jerry Unser Sr. was the father of the four Unser boys, twins Louis and Jerry Jr, Bobby and youngest son Al. There are several books about the history of the Unser family, pick one up to find out more info. Jerry Sr was a master mechanic and could do miracles with Imports. He hot-rodded a Jaguar engine for Bobby to run in his first PPHC in 1955 . The engine was a XK, 3.5 liter Jaguar straight six motor, punched out to 3.8 liters. A first for racing Jaguar engines. Jerry went to California to have special pistons, cam grind and redesigned valves made for the engine. The “Secret Unser Recipe”, it would later be called. All together the changes added another 80-100 to the standard 3.5 jag motor.
The rest of the homemade high-bodied sprint car was principally built from Ford parts, per Hot Rod magazine (Sept 1956). The Jag motor was considered small compared to the big league V-8s that traditional won at Pikes Peak. Bobby’s car wouldn’t have the same top speeds on the straight-away’s , but would be lighter and much easier to handle in the corners. Painted in the Unser family colors, of red white and blue with a shining chrome grill and four carburetors sticking out the right side it was ready to go racing at Pikes Peak in 1955.
Pikes Peak Hill Climb results 1955-1958
1955 was the year of the Uncle Louie “fiasco” and Bobby ended up letting his older brother Louie Jr drive the Jag motored car while he quickly built and raced the “Ugly Duckling” . (Check out my post on that car !) On race day the brake handle broke off on the way up and Louie had to spin out at the summit just to stop the car. The 14:50 time was good enough for 3rd place.
1956 Bobby gets his first of many Pikes Peak Hill Climb wins !! 14:27
1957 Bobby takes 3rd with a 14:19.2
1958 Bobby wins AGAIN and sets a new record . He was the first driver to get into the 13s at Pikes Peak with a time of 13:47.9
In 1959 Bobby decided to junk the jag car, moving on to faster and more modern equipment.
How can you not like a race car that gets compared with a tractor for advertising ?
See the car today at the Unser Racing Museum
My answer to the, what if I won, “Unser Museum Lottery” question, the car would be the 1955 #58 Jag powered car. Not just for the fact, it was the car that got Bobby’s first PPHC win. The entire process of the homemade build, going with an out of the box motor and figuring out how to hot rod it before anyone else. The family connection with Bobby and his dad building the car and then Bobby letting his brother drive it first. Plus the good looks of it, with the “Jerry Unser Motor Co” lettering, the red white and blue color scheme . Let’s not forget the large chrome grill and the high-bodied front end. I even like the red painted stock steel wheels .
Yep, that would be my pick, of all the other cars. What about you ?
Please visit the “Unser Racing Museum”when you get a chance. You wont regret it, and check out the 1955 #58 Jag powered race car.
Man it’s great to be a lottery winner. Wait ……. it was just a dream ???? Noooo !!!