The idea had promise. Dual rear axles were efficient on trucks, so might they work on a racecar?
One of the drivers for Pat Clancy’s Memphis, Tennessee-based trucking company asked that question around the fall of 1947, and the following year one of the more unique cars in Indianapolis 500 history hit the track.
The “Pat Clancy Special” had six wheels with four in the rear, on two axles connected by a universal joint. Otherwise the car had the same Kurtis chassis and Offenhauser engine run by several other teams, but the extra wheels added length and a lot of skeptics.
“Everyone laughed about it, but it qualified and a lot of other cars that were there did not,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson.
Veteran driver Billy DeVore drove it in the 1948 Indianapolis 500 and though the car was a challenge through the turns on the oval with those rear axles, it completed 190 laps and finished 12th. DeVore, who finished higher than he started in six of his seven “500” starts, was an ideal driver for the unorthodox car.
Clancy’s car returned to IMS in 1949 but finished just 22nd with rookie driver Jackie Holmes when a drive shaft broke after 65 laps. It then ran a few dirt races in other states (Clancy himself was an old dirt racer before building his trucking company) before being modified to the standard four-wheel setup for the rest of its life.
After 1949, a six-wheeled car was never seen at the Indianapolis 500 again – though one was later seen in Formula One. In 1976, the Tyrrell P34 had four small wheels in front and was a sensation, winning the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix. But the design didn’t have staying power and was abandoned after 1977.