Regular #SpeedRead readers will recall Marshall Pruett’s eight-part series on “Weird and Wonderful Cars of the ‘500’” that appeared in the weeks leading up to the 100th Running of the Indy 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Now, the feature continues with one car featured biweekly.
Daring to be different made the Indianapolis 500 what it is today, and in one of the better examples of a team defying convention in pursuit of victory, A.J. Foyt’s 1973 challenger made no effort to follow the pack.
Designed by the great Bob Riley, Foyt’s all-new 1973 Coyote strayed from the front-wing treatment employed by rival chassis manufacturers. Whereas Eagles, McLarens and Parnellis affixed individual front wing elements on both sides of the nose, Riley’s Coyote went in the opposite direction.
The seemingly odd choice of front-wing placement also started a practice that continues in today’s Verizon IndyCar Series.
“It was A.J’s idea to cover the front wing on the nose so people wouldn’t see it,” Riley wrote in the new book “The Art of Race Car Design,” penned with Jonathan Ingram. “I think it was credited to me, but it was A.J.’s idea. Now it’s a ritual on Indy cars. It kind of makes people think you’ve got something others don’t have. That was half the fun at Indy, seeing what other people were doing.”
If it appeared counterintuitive at the time—a contrarian central-wing design while other constructors migrated to narrower noses and wide outer wings—the fruits of Riley’s labor awaited the Foyt team a few years down the road.
The 1973 Indy 500 was, in almost every regard, a disappointment for the new Coyote chassis as Foyt and teammate George Snider qualified no higher than 23rd, led zero laps and suffered a pair of mechanical failures in the race. In hindsight, Riley’s new concept needed more development to reach its prime.
An evolution of the Coyote 73 followed in 1974 where Foyt moved the sidepod-mounted radiators to the nose and earned pole position, and with two years of lessons applied to a new chassis in 1975, Super Tex went on to finish third at the “500.”
Using the same Coyote 75 model (with updates), Foyt returned in 1976 to earn second and by 1977 Riley’s unique commitment to the shape paid off with A.J.’s fourth Indy 500 win.