“The Gray Line”, the mountain gives back.

The 1940 Gray Line tour car line up.

 As early as 1915 there was a market for tourist travel to the summit of Pikes Peak. While many folks chose to take the Cog Rail line to the top, others wanted a more personalized and private trip to the summit by automobile.

White bus, Pierce-Arrow, Cadillac and specialty designed 1955 Chevrolet tour cars were used on Pikes Peak

The Broadmoor Hotel ran the largest stable of tour cars and ran the program through the Gray Line travel company. Earliest cars that were used began with the White Model 15-25 bus and the Pierce-Arrow cars.  Tradition dictated the drivers to stop at the halfway point for pictures at Glen Cove and for an additional charge, photographs could also be taken a summit house.

Starting in the late 1930’s the Broadmoor Hotel ordered specialty built Cadillac tour cars with a removable canvas roof.   These twelve passenger cars became a favorite with the folks wanted to take in all of the sites along the route. Additional orders continued in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the later cars no longer had the removable top but came with sunroofs featured across the top of the cars to allow for the wonderful views , while keeping the somewhat brisk temperatures at bay.

The program of producing these special cars became such a success that the Cadillac named them the “Broadmoor Skyview” .

By 1955 the cars were all painted a bright red and no longer carried the Gray Line tour company logos . They were used by the hotel for VIP guests. These 1955, 1956 and the last edition of the SkyView Cadillac in 1959 have become very collectible and a few have survived.

The Flxible Bus.

In 1954 a contact to build short wheel base tour buses was given to the Flxible Company of Londonville Ohio, for five buses . Four would go to the Pikes Peak Highway Company and an additional bus for the “Colburn Motors Tours” company also from Colorado Springs.

New buses coming to the Pikes Peak Highway in 1954
The “Flxible bus while on a rest stop on the Pikes Peak Highway.
The Broadmoor Skydview Cadillac in 1959 in bright red .
Picture shows a Broadmoor Skyview Cadillac and a Flxible bus at the summit of Pikes Peak late 1950’s

The Gray Line and Broadmoor tour drivers.

This is the part were the mountain gave back. One of the hardest parts of racing on Pikes Peak is learning the road. The so called “156 turns” can make or break a drivers time to the summit. If you wanted to know the route better as a race car driver , taking a turn as a tour car or a tour bus driver was one of the best ways to learn the course. (Some out of state competitors called it an unfair advantage for the local drivers) .  As early as 1949 Speed Age magazine interviewed successful driver Art Hillis about his knowledge of the course and that time already had 5040 trips up Pikes Peak as a tour car driver. That’s right over 5000 trips !

Best way to know the road was by being a tour car driver . Free Press newspaper 1950


Many race car drivers, Art Hillis, J.C. Shoemaker, Al Rogers ( over 3000), Louie J. Unser, Nick Sanborn,  Bob Finney and many more over the years could count their trips in the hundreds and thousands on the Pikes Peak Highway. .  Not only was it about learning the many turns , but also learning how the weather conditions effected the different road surfaces.

A handful survive !

The mountain took it’s toll on the equipment used in the tourist business, but the care given to the vehicles used was always first class. Several still survive today. The most prominent of the survivors is fittingly still with the Broadmoor Hotel.  A beautiful 1937 Cadillac with the roll back roof is still in their collection and is available to rent for special occasions.

The 1937 Cadillac tour car in front of the Broadmoor Hotel


Two of the Flxible buses survive, one is rumored to be in England and other known bus is located in the USA.  Check out this video below for more details.


Someone had to do it.

As long as companies were providing travel tours up to the summit of Pikes Peak,by automobile someone had to drive. Why not an inspiring race car driver !

If you have additional information, photos or stories about these tour programs please contact me. It is an important part of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb racing history.

Pikes Peak Hill Climb programs over the years.

1916 Pikes Peak Hill Climb program

In the beginning .

The first “Pikes Peak National Hill Climbing Contest” program was really spectacular  for its time.  Thirty two pages in full, with classic ads throughout. Name brands like, Cadillac, Packard, Marmon, Excelsior Autocycles, White Motor Company, Gargoyle Gasoline and many more. Luckily the PPIHC organization reprinted this program during the 100th anniversary in 2016. It is a must have souvenir program even as a reprint. One bit of trivia from the program, is the Broadmoor Hotel advertisement. The actual construction wasn’t completed when the program was printed and the drawing of the Hotel placed in the ad was for a  different design then what finally got approved and built.

The 1920s and 30s

No race from 1917-1919. When racing resumed after World War I in 1920, the program was reduced to a four page handout for the remainder of the 1920’s. Not many of the folded paper versions of the program have survived.

The 1925 PPHC program hand out.
1925 Pikes Peak Hill Climb program 4 page handout.

In 1935 once the original contract for ownership use of the road was completed, no one picked up a new contract. The wasnt a race in 1935. The local VFW (Veteras of Foreign Wars) picked up the sponsorship for the hill climb race in 1936 up until the race stopped in 1941 for WW2.  The format was more like a traditional program with a thicker cover type with more pages (6-8 pages).

1936 Pikes Peak Hill Climb program.
PPHC 1938 program


The paper handout style was used one last time in 1940. The first use of color since 1916 appeared on the cover in 1941.

missing 1946 program cover image please help

The 1950’s

The use of photography, graphics and color would signify the programs of the 1950’s. The “Princess Power” contest ladies made the cover in 1954 and the Dodge Pace Car made the cover in 1955. The first full color race car photograph cover was in 1956. (Keith Andrews). The famous PPHC fish logo, made the cover in 1957 and stayed for the last three years !

The 1960’s

The cover graphics got a little boring in the early sixties with the fish logo theme, but the wonderful cover photograph covers from 1966 and on would make up for it.

The 1970’s.

In addition to the use of photographs on the covers, several years, the covers would receive an artist touch. Note worthy covers were , Peter Helck in 1973, and Leonard Wheatley in 1977 and 1978.  Buick Pace Cars made the cover in both 1975 and 76 and the only dune buggy to ever appear on the cover was in 1971.  Artist H. Gene Yancey would finish off the decade with the cover art in 1979, including drawings inside the program of Rick Mears and the PPHC flagman Art Walsh.

The 1980’s.

What can you say about the 80’s ?? Graphics would take over most of the cover designs. Buick would once again have a Pace Car on the cover (1981), except the Indy 500 targa top pace car on the cover wasn’t used at Pikes Peak, but a more subdued T-Top car was used. Artist H. Gene Yancey did the wonderful cover in 1980. Modern computer art made the cover in 1982. There was an art contest done for the 1984 cover and the winner was Lori Pate of Littleton Colorado with her colorful tire tread design. The 1988 cover illustration was done by automotive airbrush artist Mark Westfall. My personal favorite, in the 1980s, was the 1989 cover with a Newman-Dreager open wheel race car artwork. Chevrolet provided limited edition posters to it’s dealership with that image in 1989 to celebrate some of the greatest Chevrolet wins at Pikes Peak. ( PPHC fans will notice that the car on the cover,is actually going downhill at that location on the course.)

The 1990s.

Race cars and photographs would take the majority of the covers in the 1990’s. Bill Brister in his Wells Coyote took the cover in 1990 starting the decade off with a bang. The cover artwork in 1992 was by Jim Swintal and was also used for posters that year. Those marvelous posters have become a much desired PPHC collectible.  Besides the drawing in 1971, the cover in 1994, was the first year for a motorcycle photo to make the program cover. Likewise the first semi-truck made the cover, ( Kenworth driven by Glenn Brown) in 1998. The program from the “75th Running of the Race to the Clouds” in 1997 is also a much sot after collectible for hill climb fans.

PPHC Programs available for viewing !

The Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections department has 31 programs available for the public veiwing. You can’t check them out but they have a great room to read them in and the folks are great to work with. Here is the list of what years they have and contact info.


The Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs also has around 20 programs that the Library doesn’t have. A little harder to get access too but available by appointment only. Contact info below:

Welcome to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

Did you like this blog post ?

Hope you enjoyed seeing the many years of Pikes Peak Hill Climb program covers. (If you have a picture of the 1946 program cover please contact me)

What other items from the race are you interested in besides the race cars and drivers? Posters, diecast, books, clothing etc……?

If there are enough folks responding to this post, there could be additional posts of  PPHC memorabilia in the future.  There is a bunch of stuff out there, but getting harder to find as the years go on.

Thanks for checking out the blog.  Nice to see many of you folks coming back time and time again!

The “Old Man of the Mountain” and the Maserati 8CTFs

Louis Unser drove the “Smiths Buffet Special” a Maserati  8CTF in the 1946 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. The 24th annual PPHC was also the richest purse in the history of the race,with prizes totaling $10,650. Louis at the time was already a six time winner and the car, he claimed, the Maserati was “Most powerful he had ever driven in the Hill Climb”. Surely he would get win number seven !

A Maserati  8TCF ?

The Maserati brothers began building race cars for Diatto in the early 1920s. By 1926 three of the brothers started their own company and continued building cars for European Grand Prix racing. Rule changes in the series lead to the development of the 8-Cylinder ‘Testa Fissa” race car In early 1938  (I believe ‘testa fissa’ means fixed head ??)  Better known as the  Maserati 8CTF.  Three cars were built, and  became very important part of Pikes Peak history.  The serial number were , 3030, 3031 and 3032. The cars were powered by a 3.0 liter straight eight cylinder, with two superchargers, Menin carburetors and Scintilla magneto .They weighed in dry at 1720 pounds.  Early efforts in Europe had mixed results. With World War II pending  the cars were sent to the USA.

The 1939 Indianapolis 500 shocker.

The american public found out about the Maserati 8CTF at the Indy 500, first in 1939 and again in 1940, taking the win in back to back years ! The winning car was serial number 3032 and it was the first European race car since 1919 to win at the brickyard . ( It wouldn’t happen again until 1965 with a Lotus)  Racing under the “Boyle Racing” headquarters team it would become the most successful race car in Indy 500 history. Besides the back to back wins at Indyin 39 & 40. The car would claim 3rd place finishes in 1946 and 47 and a fourth in 1948. This car is currently in possession of the Indianapolis Hall Of Fame Museums and has been with there since the 1960s.

The Boyle Special , (3032)  did not run at Pikes Peak, but is the most famous of the three Maserati 8CTF race cars.

For more info on the Boyle Special :

1938 Maserati 8CTF “The Boyle Special”

Louis Unser racing a Maserati 8CFT at the PPHC .

Thursday August 29th 1946, the fastest time at time trials was Louis Unser in the “Smiths Buffet Special”, with a time of 6’57.5. He was racing the Maserati 8CTF serial number 3031.  The car was owned by Russ Snowberger.   Only nine drivers were in the field for the first race back, since the end of the World War II.  Going into race day the 1941 winner and fastest qualifier, Louis Unser was certainly the favored. Race officials said the crowd was the largest ever to witness the PPHC. Ab Jenkins of land speed fame was the Grand Marshall of the race and even Colorado Governor John C. Vivan was in attendance.  The weather was sunny but cool with a slight clouding, but not obscuring the sun. The road was in great shape. ….. Of course Louis WON ! ! …. He took wins in the Maserati 8CTF (serial number 3031) in both 1946 and 1947.  Finished in 7th with it in 1948 and Russ Snowberger would race, 3031,  in 1949 and finish in 7th.

Louis Unser Maserati 8CTF Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Louis Unser Maserati 8CTF at Pikes Peak 1947
Louis Unser Maserati 1948

The clue to identifying the Louis Unser Maserati by year is the sponsorship.

  • 1946 – “Smiths Buffet Special” with the large banner look
  • 1947 –  “Village Inn Restaurant
  • 1948 – “Smiths Buffet & Restaurant”

All three of those years his car was the 8CFT serial number 3031 and the car was number 25

Russell Snowberger would drive 3031 in the 1949 Pikes peak race and it carried the number 21.

The car still survives !

Joel Finn a vintage racer and historian, is the current owner of 3031.  The car can be seen at various concours events throughout the USA.


Serial number 3030

1949 was the only year that the Maserati 8CFT serial number 3030 ran at Pikes Peak, Louis Unserwas the driver and Federal Engineering of Detroit was the sponsor. The car ran the number 35 and placed 4th. In thrilling fashion, Louis spun out just feet from the finish line, put it in reverse and crossed the line backwards.  One of the most remarkable finishes in Pikes Peak history.

Louis Unser in Maserati 8CFT serial # 3030 in 1949

Check out the link below for what # 3030 looks like today.  (AMAZING)

1938 Maserati 8CTF


Only three built and all three survive.

When you think about the time frame these cars were built , just getting out of Europe before the ball dropped. Only three cars made, the odds were not in their favor for survival.  But they did ! Today, 3030 is the only one to keep its original Maserati motor during its entire time. 3031  is considered the most original., plus it has the PPHC lineage.  3032 is considered the most historic with its Indy 500 success. (They even made toy cars of it )

The cars were extremely well built, with great looks, prewar heritage and success at Indy and Pikes Peak. No wonder all three  survive today.

Personally , I  have never seen any of them. (yet).      Have you ?


Update 5-1-2017

I have a photo from the 1954 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race that brings up some questions. Entry list shows Al Rogers driving a Maserati  Cott-Jewel Special.  Another note stated this was serial number 3032. Can not verify that information. Asking for help. 

Any ideas? car above has a weird bump at front edge of hood going into the nose. Engine listed as an Offy.

Pikes Peak Hill Climb program with Maserati 8CTF







The first Four Wheel Drive at the PPHC

The ideal traction getter on the road up to the summit,  either on the dirt,  or now on the pavement is All Wheel Drive or Four Wheel Drive. Most people think of the invading, 1980s  “Group B” rally cars bringing the AWD Audi Quattro and Michelle Mouton to Pikes Peak as the early pioneers of four tire traction on the hill climb.  Bill Milliken was actually the first and the story of his race car started way back in the 1930s.

FWD Auto Company and Harry Miller

The story of the FWD-Miller race car is covered in depth in a wonderful book by Griffith Borgeson.   There really isn’t a short way to explain the history of Harry Miller and his racing machines. Cars built by Miller won the INDY 500 nine times and cars with his engines add three additional wins. The Miller race cars started winning Indy in 1926.  Floyd Clymer and W. Charles would be the first to drive a Miller race cars at Pikes Peak in 1925.

The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company (FWD) started in 1909 in Clintonville Wisconsin.  The company’s claim to fame was building the first four wheel drive commercial trucks.  Their trucks were an important part of the allies success in WW1 and WW2.  The company still builds trucks today, under the Seagrave Fire Apparatus name in Clintonville.

To find out more about the history of the Four Wheel Drive Auto Company  you can check out their museum site below.


The two companies joined efforts in 1931 to build two FWD race cars. The cars were ready for the 1932 Indianapolis 500. Over the next five years the two cars competed at Indy with the best finish in 1936 with Mauri Rose driving. The FWD Company tucked their race car away for storage in 1937. The second Miller car was raced in Europe for a short time before the engine blew up at a race, with Adolf Hilter nearby in the viewing stand (!)

Bill Milliken at Pikes Peak

William F Milliken Jr was an aerospace engineer, automotive engineer and a racecar driver. Check out his book ” Equations of Motion” for more details.

He first raced Pikes Peak in 1947 with a Bugatti 35A placing 6th. Knowing of the FWD Company’s Miller race car that had been in storage since 1937, he made a deal with them to race the car at the 1948 PPHC.

Newspaper article from 9-1-48
FWD SPL. with Harrison radiator

By this time Fred Offenhuaser had taken over the Miller engine program and the engine at Pikes Peak was listed as a Miller-Offy 225. The car was still sponsored by the FWD Company but the race prep and mechanical changes handled by Bill Milliken and his crew. An odd note was the Harrison radiator that was on the car when it showed up at the first practice date. Few pictures are available, it was only on it for the morning of the first day and was determined not to help with cooling issues. Another odd feature with it being an Indy car from the 30s, was the starting system. Indy cars of that period (1930s)  did not carry batteries and were started by a battery cart. The FWD Special at Pikes Peak had to have the 24 Volt batteries strapped in the riding mechanics floor area. Not really an issue by 1948 there wasn’t any riding mechanics. You just would not want to crash and have 24 volt batteries on your lap.

Most of the pictures from the race week seem to always includes lots of curious folks checking out the FWD car and Bill himself. Even with the car being a prewar build, the craftsmanship and 4wd technology was the talk of the town in 1948.

The car was an older race car and that being said, it was a chore to maintain and being a limited build, one of two built, parts availability was scarce . The team was told by the FWD Company to run the center differential unlocked and the car handled, not much better then the rear wheel drives at the race. The car was already twice as heavy,  as most of the other race cars and down on horsepower too. On the last day of practice the team decided to try the car out with the center differential locked.  Bill’s trip up the course was the fastest by far, for the FWD team and the car handled wonderfully . Unfortunately the advise given by the FWD Company was correct, the aluminum housing on the transfer case could not handle the additional stress and cracked near the top splitting gears and finishing any attempt at running on race day.

Part of spread sheet used at PPHC

All was not lost, the race was intended to be a fact finding mission for Bill and the

FWD Company. The team took copious notes on just about everything you could think of on the car.  The amount of detail Bill put in the reports about Pikes Peak is amazing and available in his book “Equations of Motion”.  The data from the PPHC would help the team to continue racing at Mt. Equinox, Watkins Glen, Niagara Falls Speed Trials, Glenwood  Hill Climb and many other races over the next few years.

They only raced this car once at Pikes Peak , but it was the first four wheel drive at the Peak and the knowledge learned in 1948 helped the FWD Company and Bill Milliken for many years.

The FWD Special still lives !!!

Check out part two for what happened next.


Johnny Mauro and an Alfa Romeo Tipo 308 at Pikes Peak

Johnny Mauro Pikes Peak Hill Climb 1948

The story began in 1938   

The second world war was looming and the Grand Prix organization needed to make changes.  A new 3 litre engine class size was implemented for 1938. In Milan Italy the Alfa Romeo company ,would build four cars for the  new class. The 308 or 8C-308 was born. The cars were entered in the Pau Grand Prix, the Tripoli Grand Prix and the  Millie Miglia.  With just a few hill climb wins and a couple second place finishes overseas the results were not a great success in 1938-1939 . The next stop would be the Indy 500 .

Serial number 422022  (maybe)

The history line is confirmed on the car but the serial number is a maybe. This Tipo 308 was raced at the Indy 500 in 1940 by Chet Miller placed 17th,  1941 Louis Durant placed 6th,  and Walt Brown in 1947 with a 7th place at Indy. Not bad for a car built in 38.

Johnny Mauro a native of Denver Colorado a used car dealer, bought the car in 1948 just days before Indy. He raced it at the Indianapolis 500, ended up with an 8th place finish after being relieved as driver by Louis Durant. Prize money was enough to cover his cost of the car and his entry  They would attempt to qualify for Indy two more times 1949 and 1950 but didn’t make the field. Top qualifying speed for the car was by Mauro in 1948 with a speed of 121.78, (the car could hit upwards of 170 mph in the straightaways)  Best Indy finish 6th in 1941,  Louis Durant.

The Pikes Peak Hill Climb years.

Johnny Mauro and family Alfa Romeo Tipo 308

The Mauro family lived in the Rocky Mountain region and anyone in that area was or would be overtime a Hill Climb fan. Johnny brought many top notch race cars to the Peak. The Kurtiss Kraft KK2000 from the Clark Gable movie,  several Offenhauser powered cars, this Alfa Romeo, and even a Ferrari 375 . (He competed 14 times from 1933-1956)

Alfa Romeo in Indy race trim before PPHC practice days

There would only be a few changes to the car from its Indy race trim to being ready for the PPHC. Carburetion , fuel change and larger rear tires. Some say the Tipo 308 was a mechanics dream.

This  bright red Alfa Romeo was raced by Johnny in 1948 to 3rd place overall with a time of 16:54, The following year in 1949 he did not finish,  skidding out of control at the last corner just ten yards  before the finish line and ran into several parked cars badly damaging the nose of the car.

Johnny would go on to race his Ferrari 375 for the remaining years on the Peak. In 1952 the Alfa Romeo Tipo 308 would have one more ride up America’s Mountain. Charlie Bryant would be the driver of the car and was sponsored by the Johnny Mauro dealership “Import Motors”. The car was becoming an old warhorse in the fast world of race car development.  The expensive damaged grill from the 49 race was missing, just a big gasping hole in the nose and the Alfa motor had been changed to a smaller Offy.   The last ride would be it’s fastest . 16:07.15, which was only good for 7th.   Times change , race cars can either be parted out, passed on or be put away.

The Indianapolis 500 Museum

Where should a one of four built Italian race car with over 15 years of racing be put to rest?  In the USA ,the longest running race is the Indy 500 with Pikes Peak being second. The Motor Speedway Hall of Fame museum inside the Indy track is known world wide . That is where great cars go. Details are a little hazy , and the timing unsure (1960’s) . That is where Johnny’s car is now. Restored with a new nose and paint, looking good, not always on display but often rotated onto the main floor.  If you go, be sure to check it out, or if not on display ask the staff how its doing. A wonderful car with a wonderful story and a great place to stay.







The Legacy of the Coniff Special and Al Rogers

Prior to World War II,  driver Al Rogers and car owner,Joe Coniff built and raced several cars . Successful at the oval tracks and competitive at Pikes Peak. Not yet having the results that would take them into the category of legends.The car that would put them on that map, was the car built  in early 1947. The white with red scallops  number nine , with the Offenhauser motor that raced only at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb .Once the troops started coming home from the war, racing was back to the forefront of the nation.  Pikes Peak was in that spotlight and the cars were fastest and better built then ever.

The decision to build the car for the hill climb only was going to pay off big.  Circle track racing is about building up speed and keeping it going around the track the same direction for many laps. Pikes Peak is more like a series of drag races with turns at the end going either left or right.  At the hill climb you need big horsepower to deal with the altitude of the climb, you lose power as the air thins out at the upper levels.  Large horsepower at a circle tracks means less traction.  Building one car for both venues of racing is a matter of making sacrifices to suit the track and never fully getting everything you want for that days race. That fact is still true in 2017, many of the PPHC cars are ONE race a year only specialty built cars just for the Peak. Al and Joe where surely thinking ahead of their times.

Al Rogers and mechanic Fred Peterson 1947

With the new “Offy” motor and the car set up to only run a the Peak,  things started happening for the Joe and Al, with the Coniif Spl.  Time trails the first time out in 1947, Al takes first place beating the other “Offy” being ran by George Hammond and Johnny Mauro in a McDowell ford. (Same engine kind Coniff had in 46) What would race day bring?

Bridesmaid again……..what….yes!  Second place to guess who….Louis Unser in the Maserati.  It was close .36 of a second difference. At the last turn just in front of the summit house, Al slid wide and hit a stack of rocks protecting the electric timing device wire, slowing him down enough to make the difference between 1st and 2nd.   Unser 16:34.77 ,Rogers 16:35.13 Overall having a newly built car , first in time trails and second on race day 1947 was a good year. Now for the legendary stuff.

The start of a  legacy .

Winning in 1940 and second place in 1937, 1939, and 1947 plus a win at the Lands End Hill Climb in 1940. Not the stats of a legend ,  but enough not to give up hope that things could change. Change it did !!

1948 1st in time trails, 1st on Race Day

1949 1st in time trails, 1st on Race Day

1950 1st in time trails ,1st on Race Day

1951 2nd in time trails, 1st on race Day

FOUR Pikes Peak Hill Climb Wins in a row !


Newspaper, magazines and even on the Radio, Al Rogers and the Coniff Speical was getting press.

Firestone and Al Rogers wins again with the Coniff Special

Al Rogers drove for Joe Coniff one last time in 1952 placing third.  But his  heart was in the new Pan America race in Mexico which he ran in 1950 to 1953. Three additional heroes of the Peak would drive in the few remaining years of the cars passing glory.  Jerry Unser in 1955, 9th place, Louis Unser 1956-DNF  and in 1957 5th place. Ted Foltz 1958-15th and in 1959 5th and final year for the Coniff Special ,with the cars fastest time to the top of  14:09.5 5th place.

It takes a team to make a legacy. Thirteen years, from 1947 to 1959 racing the same car an the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. .That is a long time for any team, let alone the same car.  From the car owner and  drivers, the mechanics and crew, to all the family members and fans.,the “Coniff Special” had what it took to become a Legend of Pikes Peak.  The story doesn’t stop here, there is still one more chapter.

Check out “The Coniff Speical Comes Home”


The beginning of the Coniff Special


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