Smokey Yunick Indy Car

I question the aerodynamics of the open hand bumper on the front of the car. What was Smokey thinking with those?

In 1964, Smokey Yunick showed up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with one of the most radical cars ever to enter the 500-mile race. Called the Hurst Floor Shift Special, it featured a catamaran-like layout with the driver placed in a pod adjacent to the traditional body containing the engine, front and rear suspension, fuel tank, and radiator.

Unfortunately, driver Bobby Johns (the guy who almost won the Daytona 500 with Smokey’s Pontiac in 1960) had trouble adjusting to the car’s handling characteristics and eventually backed it into the wall during the last day of qualifying.

The driver sits in the second pod on the right side of this photo.

The plastic in the driver’s seat is from covering the car from the night’s dew and showers. Look at the gauges on the driver’s right side. Did Smokey think it was a good idea for the driver to turn his head 90 degrees at speed to check these?

This car just blows my mind! If this car ever hit the wall driver’s side first there would be no hope for the driver.

Here are some photos of another Smokey Yunick Indy Car that is a bit more conventional.

This 1957 Kurtis Kraft 500G Roadster built by Frank Kurtis for McNamara/Kalamazoo Sports. Andy Linden started in 12th place after he qualified the car at 143.244 mph for the 1957 Indy 500. He finished 5th in this car. In 1958 the car was sponsored and owned by the City of Daytona/Smokey and driven by Paul Goldsmith who qualified the car in 16th with a speed of 142.744. He finished in 30th.  Goldy was involved in a multi-car crash and out of the race with 199 laps to go. Yunick returned in 1959 with what he called Smokey’s Reverse Torque Special, driven to a Seventh-Place finish by Indy great Duane Carter. In 1960, Yunick hit a home run. He and Chicky Hiroshima teamed up with driver (and team manager) Jim Rathmann to win it all in the Ken-Paul Special.

For more on Smokey and a Video on Smokey, Click Here


  1. Smokie just was an amazing guy with amazing ideas,although he had some that were so radical they were on the verge of crazy. I was lucky enough to meet him a few times at Indy in the 90’s He would show up every year the Indy 500. At the 99 Brickyard 400 he was hanging out with Jay Segornie, (IROC owner and chief bottle washer)and all the drivers including a young Dale E Jr. Thanks for all of the Smokie information you guys have posted your site

  2. The reason for the hands as bumper was because he built the car without them. When he got to Indy, he was told one would be required. The hands were traced from my brother, Smokey.

  3. Mike, I am not sure what your comment is in response to but as the creator of this site I can assure you that Smokey knew far more about cars in general than I ever hope to know. He was one of a kind and a real hero to many of us.

  4. Like Trish said, they were traced from little Smokey’s hands, on some moly plate, and chromed. A new rule came up that you needed front and back bumpers and surprised Smokey, so he thought he would surprise the inspectors; he did. He already had the acceptable front bumper fabricated but didn’t put it on until he raised a few eyebrows (and their blood pressure).

  5. Smokey got the idea for this side car design from one of his bombing missions over Germany in 1944 (B-17 pilot). He noticed a Blohm und Voss bv 141 hauling ass (has he put it). As it turned out, he discovered that two small shapes with the same total frontal area a one single shape had less parasitic drag, but he didn’t realize it until 1962.

    However Smokey’s “Capsule Car” as he called it, got the kibosh when a USAC rule change aimed at Granitelli’s turbine car and Mickey Thompson’s “roller skate” cars (as Smokey called them), noted that “no part of the body can exceed a line pulled from the inner rim tire edge from the front to rear.” Well, that killed the Indy run in October for a Goodyear tire test, plus any future at Indy for the Capsule Car.

  6. If you check The Henry Ford’s incredible Flikr Photostream, you’ll see many pics of the Yunick “Aapsule Car” and none of them show the “handprint” front bumper. I suspect, based on the numerous pics at the link above, that they wre never on the car when it was practiced or qualified.

  7. When Bobby Johns crashed the car during practice he said that one of the brakes systems had malfunctioned or didn’t function at all. That means he did not have brakes on either the front end or the rear end of the car. It spun out so fast that he bit his tongue and then it hit the rear end first into the wall and rung his bell. I think he was incredibly brave to have driven it at all. —— When you look at the car up close and in person you see that transverse leaf spring on the front end and those aluminum brake drums from a 59 Buick. All of the sportsman cars of that era were running that brake system. I have raced just about every variety of race car there is. I was never afraid for my own safety. But this car scares me just to look at it. It sure is pretty though.

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