The Moore-Unser Special.
Bobby Unser had 13 overall wins at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. Seven of those wins were in one car. The Unser-Moore Special.
The Kurtis Kraft KK4000 race car serial number 356-52 started life in 1952. The car was built for John Zink to run at the Indianapolis 500. Jimmy Reece, Jerry Holt and Gene Hartley raced the Offy powered car at the brickyard in the 1950s. The best finish was 7th in 1952, with Jimmy Reece driving the car # 37 the “John Zink Special”. The details of how the car went from “Zink” racing team to Bobby Unser are not totally clear. The first mention of the car at Pikes Peak was in 1958. Still owned by John Zink, with Louis J. Unser driving and it was still being called the “John Zink Special” . By that time in 1958 the car was running a Pontiac engine. The 360 inch motor was built by Denny Moore, the chief mechanic for John Zink. The engine was dyno tuned on alcohol at 380 horsepower. The car had handling problems but was fast on the straight aways, Louie took 1st in qualifying and 4th on race day with a time of 14:12.5. ! Younger brother Bobby took the win in the Jaguar powered “Ugly Duckling”. ( check my other post for info )
Louis J. Unser best known as “Louie” was the twin to Jerry and the two were the elder of the four Unser boys. (Jerry, Louie, Bobby, Al )
Bobby Unser takes the reigns
My guess is after the 1958 season the Unser family bought “356-52” from John Zink. At the 1959 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race the car showed up with Bobby’s number 56 and in Unser racing colors, sponsored by the Grandview Hotel. The car ran a worked over, Pontiac 360/380 HP motor with Tri power carburetors in 1959 . The handling gremlins from 1958 must have been overcome. The results with Bobby at the wheel, second place in qualifying and FIRST on race day with a time of 13:36.5.
Unser-Moore Results at PPHC
- 1959 Grandview Hotel (sponsor) #56 Pontiac Tri-Power 1st 13:36.5
- 1960 Jerry Unser Special #56 Pontiac FI 1st 13:28.5
- 1961 Jerry Unser Motor Co. #92 Pontiac Hilborn 1st 12:56.7
- 1962 Jerry Unser Motor Co. #92 Pontiac ” ” 1st 12:50.8
( Bunkie Knudsen of Pontiac supplied the motors 59-62 )
- 1963 Sproul Homes Inc. #92 Chevrolet 327 1st 12:30.6
- 1964 Sproul Homes #92 Chevy 327 2nd to Al
- 1965 Bobby drove a rear engine car,Slim Roberts raced the Unser-Moore to 9th place . 1966 rule changes on minimum weight effected all rear engine cars
- 1966 Sproul Homes Special #92 Chevy 1st 12:23.8
- 1967 Rislone Oil Additive Spl. #92 Chevy 5th
- 1968 Rislone Oil Additive Special # 92 335 Alky Chevy 1st 11:54.9
The 1968 race !
Several factors would make the 1968 PPHC remarkable. Going into the race Bobby was looking at beating his uncle’s record for the most PPHC wins. Additionally his racing endeavors were taking off in other type of race cars, mainly the Indy cars. The purse money at the hill climb race had also diminished, since he first started at the Peak. If this was going to be his last time at the Peak (it wasn’t), he was going to give it his best. The engine and car set up was left to his older brother Louie. in later years, Bobby would say , “ I never had what you would call a great engine at Pikes Peak until 1968 when I had Louie build me one. The 335 Chevrolet V-8 was built at a cost of $10,000. It ran Hilborn fuel injection, a Vertex magneto, 650 horsepower and a Borg Warner tranny. Bobby Unser set three records in 1968, fastest qualifying at 5:11.29, fastest time on race day 11:54.9, ( the first person to break in the eleven minute mark), and the most wins by an Unser ! That was the last time that Bobby would run in the Championship class but, he would get additional wins in the stock car and rally classes. ( Career total of 13 PPIHC wins)
The car still survives and is publicly available .
You can see the Moore-Unser Pikes Peak Hill Climb Special at the Henry Ford Museum. Details can be found :
If you think it is odd for a Pontiac and Chevrolet powered Kurtis Kraft race car to be in a Ford museum.,Don’t feel bad. I thought it was odd at first too. The Unser family used a Ford F-100 to pull their race cars over they years to Pikes Peak. It made for an impressive package with the truck, trailer and race car all in Unser red , white and blue racing colors. . They have the entire package displayed at the Henry Ford Museum. Quite impressive !!