#TBT: 104 years later, vintage National still turning laps at IMS

Published On June 11, 2015 » 2107 Views» By John Schwarb » #TBT, Blogs, IMS, IMS History, Indy 500

To hear owner Brian Blain describe it, his car at the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational isn’t exactly a finely tuned machine.

“It’s real stiff. The steering is very heavy. Takes two arms and a foot to turn it,” he said. “And the rear brakes aren’t worth a darn.”

You’re going to have those kinds of issues with a 104-year race car. But so what?

There are hundreds of cool cars this week at the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s IMS stop, but they don’t come much more “vintage” than Blain’s 1911 National, the seventh-place finisher at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.


And this is not just a show piece – the National is running during the four-day event, turning laps on the same oval it ran on more than a century ago and on a road course that wouldn’t arrive for decades after the National’s prime.

The National Motor Vehicle Company made cars in Indianapolis from 1900-24 and one of its presidents, Arthur C. Newby, was a founding father of IMS. The company won the second Indy 500 with driver Joe Dawson.

Blain acquired the 1911 car around seven years ago and painstakingly restored it to era-specific specifications, no easy feat given the obvious lack of parts. You can’t exactly find a replacement hand crank at Pep Boys.

But it was a labor of love, and the rewards come on weekends like this one when he gets to answer countless questions about the car and have pictures taken and, best of all, drive it. And for all of its foibles, Blain still offers a strong assessment of its overall performance:

“It handles well.”


About The Author

John Schwarb

I joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway communications team in July 2014 and love sharing stories from the World Capital of Racing, particularly its rich history. Most of my professional career has been in racing or golf, so if I'm not in the IMS media center, the office at 16th and Georgetown or milling around Gasoline Alley, maybe I'll be standing over a birdie putt at Brickyard Crossing. Follow us at @IMS or drop me a line at @JohnSchwarb and come back to the blog often for more stories.