Louis Unser and Cotton Farmers last sprint car ride at Pikes Peak

Needed to be saved.

Earlier this year a close friend sent me a message about an old race car body that needed a new home. I was told it was from a car that raced at Pikes Peak at one time and it needed a new home. The current owner was cleaning out some storage space and something had to go. Messages and phone calls passed back and forth for a few days and then this picture came in my email.

After 50 years !

The blue color, the number 24 and the AMI sponsorship gave it away quickly. This was the last race car that Al “Cotton”Farmer had raced at the Peak in 1967.  Unfortunately, he crashed it that year and broke his back for the third time and never raced any car again.  In addition to it being thee Cotton Farmer race car body, it was also the last champ car Louis Unser raced at Pikes Peak in 1965.  When old race cars crash , what is left usually get striped out to provide parts for other race cars and the remaining parts are sold off to help fund another car. This seems to be the case with number 24. No frame, no  engine, no  transmission or any of the guts. Just the metal body minus the nose with all of its dents and dings and battle scars. The fact that the body had survived 50 years after the wreck in 1967 is special in itself. I was hooked and how can I help.

Louis Unser

The “Old Man of the Mountain” Louis Unser was a nine time champion at Pikes Peak and 1965 would be his last year racing in Championship Class car on the mountain. ( Today it is called the open wheel class). Don McCormick  car owner and chief mechanic of the 24 car, had Louis drive it in both 1964 and 1965.

Louis Unser in the Don McCormick #24 at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1964
Louis Unser in the #24 car at the 1965 Pikes Peak Hill Climb

In 1964 Louis  Unser in the #24 did not finish and in 1965 he finished 12th with a time of 14:20 in the Hartsel Hotel sponsored car. He was 69 years old at the time ! (WOW).

Cotton Farmer

Alvin Farmer got the nickname “Cotton” playing high school football with a full head of blonde hair. He was a  bull riding of all things before he moved into dirt track racing in the late 1940s.  During his racing years he ran with the BCRA (Big Car Racing Association), the AARC ( All American Racing Club) and with USAC ( Untied States Auto Club).  Midget cars, Sprint cars, Indy cars and even Nascar he could drive just about anything on wheels and was successful.  1967 would be his first and only time at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race.

1967 PPHC

The Don McCormick, Cotton Farmer #24 car at the 1967 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race practice.
1967 newspaper photo of the 24 car prior to race day
Newspaper photo 1967 of the Cotton Farmer accident in the 24 car.

The accident was above treeline about a mile from the finish. It would be his third broken back of his career. Once healed up and back on his feet, he went on with his love of racing in several  areas,  just not as a driver, selling products for Wynn’s and Justice Brothers Racing and organizing annual plane trips for fans to the INDY 500 race.

Now what ?

Thankfully with the help of several friends, the body was saved . After picking it up I built a wooden frame with wheels ,so I could see how the pieces came together and give the body a little more dignity while being stored..  I spent several weeks thinking about what to do next. I already have one PPHC race car project and really don’t have the time or energy for another at this point.

My main concern was not to let the body get cut up and the parts being separated and becoming dust collectors in some man-cave or stuck away in a private collection were only a few folks would get to see it.   What I really wanted was to find was someone who would honor the history and make this a complete race car again.  Many figured no way and that I was crazy to think it possible and that it was beyond hope. Crazy, they think, not me, if i thought it was worth saving, maybe there would be others with hill climb fever that thought like me too.  Thankfully once the word got out the response even surprised me. I felt like a parent interviewing for babysitters or those times young men come to the house to date your daughters . Questions, like what was their intentions, have they ever built a complete race car before, would they leave the patina, replace the tail, what year would they base the rebuild one, what sponsors logos, decals  etc. (Daunting being a parent to race car parts)

The best news was many folks were interested  and didn’t think I was that crazy. For the most part  everyone wanted the car to be whole again. After much deliberation, head scratching and careful thought, the body was sold to a good home. A few days later the body was picked up by the new owner and the build of the chassis and drive-train  is slated for early 2018 . The icing on the cake is the body will spend it’s time waiting for it’s recreation with  another PPHC race car that the new owner has already restored.

. The display frame for car #24. No guts and a sexy butt
AMI was instrumental in aircraft design after WW2 and was located in Colorado Springs, CO

Do you know where any PPHC race cars or parts are hiding ?

If you know of any surviving Pikes Peak Hill Climb cars that raced during the first 75 years please contact me. I want to hear the stories.  If you know where there are any bodies like the car #24 or other components  to PPHC race cars that need saved, or for sale, let me know, I can help them find new homes.

In the end, should or can this body be saved? It has lasted the last 50 years since it’s wreck, and it had two very famous drivers taking their last laps in it. I think it deserved another chance. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Louis Unser and Cotton Farmers last sprint car ride at Pikes Peak”

  1. Are you sure that Louis Unser drove this car in 1964? As I know Louis drove in 1964 the second Stroppe-Mercury Marauder (# 16), the first one was driven by Parnelli Jones (# 15). Unser did not finish with the Mercury, he crashed just a few turns before finish…
    You can read the full Story in Hot Rod Magazine Sept. 1964.

    1. That is a very good question. You have entered the “Unser Challenge’ on that subject. The record keeping became very challenging when it came to the Unser family. The “Old man of the Mountain” Louis and Louie Unser get their names crossed many times in articles and results. In 1964 the elder Louis Unser drove in the Championship Class and his nephew “Louie Unser’ who some times went by Louis was in the Stock Car Class in the # 16 Mercury. Great question and thank you for checking out these stories about Pikes Peak !

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