Saturday, August 01, 2009

Winner of first Indianapolis 500 Race, it was lighter, more reliable than the competition... and had one thing they didn't. Rear view mirror.

thanks Steve!

found on

For a 2009 replica of the Wasp;

This Marmon Wasp won the first Indianapolis 500 Race in 1911... at that time, all race cars held two men, a driver and a co-driver/mechanic.

The Marmon was a single seater, unlike every other car on the track which had a seat for a driver and riding mechanic.

Marmon figured that shaving the weight of the mechanic from the car reduced the weight making it faster around the track and streamlined the car. It was widely speculated the car won because of its lighter weight.

Officials wanted drivers to have a riding mechanic so they could have an extra set of eyes on the track to avoid collisions. To skirt this rule, a mirror was hastily fixed to the hood and track officials were told that the driver could now see behind him, negating the need for a co-driver with a second set of eyes.

But the mirror vibrated so much, it was useless

This was the first rear view mirror ever used on a race car (or a passenger car as well). The driver, Harroun, was an Indiana native and still holds one Indy 500 record. No one has ever come from the 28th (or worse) starting position to end up winning the race.

Between the years of 1903 and 1933 Marmon Motor Cars, made approximately 250,000 cars. Fewer than 350 exist today.

If you’d like to help support the ongoing preservation of automotive history like Ray Harroun’s Marmon “Wasp” and many others like it, contact Greta Allen at the Museum at (317) 492-6779 to reserve your Hall of Fame Museum license plate, or check out this link for more information: IMS Hall of Fame Museum License Plate


  1. I appreciate dimensioned drawing of the the Marmon Wasp, front of the car.
    Can you provide links to other such drawings of the Marmon wasp?

    1. I was researching the 1911 Indy and came across your site. I was very impressed with its depth and the quality of information.

      I was wondering if you might be of help? I am working on a sketchbook of the first 30 years of the Indy 500. It is a combination of artwork and information. (I am a retired homebuilder and with of all things an art education and a penchant for cars)

      My question is this: there is difference in the size of the numbers on front of the radiator of Marmon Wasp. Photographs from the time of race show something different than the numbers that are on the currently restored Wasp. Which is correct?

      Dave Story
      Inkom, Idaho