In the mid 1960s, the British Invasion was the term given to the large number of British rock bands — such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, etc. — that became wildly popular in the U.S..
What: Lotus Indy 500 Car with a rear-mounted Ford V-8 engine.
Who: Driver Jim Clark “The Flying Scot”, Designer Colin Chapman
Where: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana
Why: Why not.
The British Invasion not only set pop music on its ear, it also revolutionized auto racing in the U.S.. Until 1963, the Indy 500 was dominated by American drivers and large, heavy, front-engine roadsters designed in the U.S.. That’s when Lotus arrived with its sporty but comparatively underpowered rear-engine Formula 1 cars. (To accommodate oval racing which only has left turns, the chassis was modified with the car body situated asymmetrically between the wheels.)
Lotus drivers Clark and Graham Hill, gained experience with oval racing and more powerful engines were mated with their superior chassis. In only two years, the rear-engine Lotus/Ford dominated Indycar racing. In 1965, Jim Clark became the first non-American to win the Indy 500 since 1916. He led 190 of the 200 laps and is the only driver to win the Indy 500 and Formula One World Championship in the same year. Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt, and Mario Andretti, were some of the well-known Americans who drove Lotus cars in the ’60s.
Clark won the 1965 500 in the No. 82 car, (middle of the front row above) which is now housed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. It was the Flying Scot’s only Indy 500 win. Clark, who many hail as the greatest Formula One driver of all time, was killed in a racing accident in 1968 at Hockenheim, West Germany.
I dropped by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum in June 2022 during a visit to my hometown for a high school reunion. Nicknamed “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing”, the Indianapolis 500 has been held annually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.5 mile (4 km) oval circuit with slightly banked turns, every year since 1911 with the exception of the WWII years 1942-1945. With race-day attendance of 250,000 to 350,000, the Indy 500 is the world’s largest single-day sporting event.
In 1967, I sold cokes in the stands at the 500 on qualification days and race day. Even though it didn’t pay well, I enjoyed access to all of the grounds except the pits and garage area. That experience created an interest in auto racing. I attended several 500s as an adult. It doesn’t matter if you like racing or not. If seeing 33 cars at the 500’s flying start enter Turn 1 at top speed doesn’t make your heart pound, you’re probably dead.