The Look of the 500: 1950s

Published On October 10, 2014 » 4415 Views» By Heather Lloyd » Blogs, IMS, IMS History, The Look of the 500

The 1950’s. Things were just so … good. Post-depression and World War II, America was booming, as was the economy, and the American dream was becoming a reality for many.

It was also a golden era at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Now under the ownership of Tony Hulman Jr., major improvements were underway both on the track and off. The Indianapolis 500 was being marketed like never before. And the Race Day crowds reflected that.


1954 – Balloon Release



1951 – Fans in the infield

It was also the era of the roadster, the name given by legendary driver Bill Vukovich to describe low-sitting cars with a tubular design, front engine, and large fuel tank in the back. Junk in the trunk? Not so much. But for the first time, racecars start to look like Indy cars.


1952 – Bill Vukovich

By the end of the decade, the fireproof suit was the standard-issue driver uniform. And for the first time, it was required.


1959 – Eddie Sachs fire-proofed uniforms

The Fifties were a time of conformity, uniformity, and conventionalism. And that was reflected in style everywhere from the West Coast to the Midwest. But not in a way that was boring. Instead, the classic look was born.


1951 – Female fans


1955 – Female Fans

Sleek, slender, and sophisticated, it was all about tight tops and tiny waistlines. Yes, we know. You’ve come a long way, baby …



And is it just me, or does every photo from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 1950s look like a scene from the movie “Grease”? Nothing to see here. Just a couple of T-Birds picking up a couple of Pink Ladies. Move along now…


1957 – Jimmy Bryan and Pat O’Conner talking with fans

For the first time, in the late ’50s, we see color pictures pop up. “Darling, you simply must kiss the bricks.”


1957 – Cyd Charisse

Technology was, well…it was coming along. I’m not really sure what’s happening here, but it looks pretty major.



The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network was born in 1952, giving people a new way to experience the race starting in 1953. Sid Collins, the original “Voice of the 500,” called the Indy 500 “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Though IMS records credit Alice Greene, a young copywriter at WIBC, with coining the phrase.



The Fifties were a time of stability, investment, and growth. In the country and at the Speedway. They were building for the future and the challenges that would come with it. Still, nothing could prepare them for the changes that would rock America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the coming decade.


More in “The Look of the 500″ series: 1911-1920, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s , 1990s, 2000s, Today, The Best of The Look of the 500


About The Author

Heather Lloyd

Heather Lloyd is an Indy sports blogger who grew up in Minneapolis, graduated from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, worked as a news anchor, then moved to Indianapolis where she became a professional fan. A die-hard Colts, Pacers, IndyCar, and Big Ten fan, when she’s not watching her teams, she’s either talking about them, writing about them, or tweeting about them. You can find her at and follow her on twitter @TheBlueMare. Ms. Lloyd has been known to blow off barbecues, birthday parties, and baby showers to watch sports. And she isn’t sorry.