Pete DePaolo’s Duesenberg is a beauty …
Last time we laid eyes on Replicarz’s 1/18 scale Indy-winning Duesenbergs they were prototypes. Now comes the real deal, and just in time for next month’s 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
Granted Duesenbergs haven’t been ripping up the Speedway recently, but they were a force in the 1920s. And Peter DePaolo may have been the best-known racer of his day, and Duesenberg’s main man too. So this 1925 Indy winner should be the fastest mover of the three winners (also 1924 and 1927) now available.
Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Co., founded by August and Frederick Duesenberg, was based in Indianapolis (my hometown), and was the first car to win Indy that used a supercharger.
DePaolo was the nephew of 1915 Indy winner Ralph DePalma and served as his uncle’s riding mechanic for years before getting behind the wheel himself. He first drove at Indy in 1922 and finished fourth.
His win in 1925 propelled him into the spotlight. But his personality made him a fan favorite and after his career he capitalized on that by writing a memorable autobiography, Wall Smacker.
But in 1925 DePaolo was famous for being the first driver, and car, to average more than 100 mph for the entire 500 miles at Indianapolis. His record was 101.127 and lasted until 1932. Likewise, DePaolo set the Indy lap speed record that year of 114.285 mph.
Those records speak to the power and quality of Duesenberg high-tech engines that included superchargers and aluminum pistons. Duesenberg also was the first race car at Indy to use hydraulic brakes and the firm marketed its engines and chassis to other racers at the time.
While DePaolo dominated the 1925 race, leading 115 of the 200 laps, his hands were battered and bleeding when he pitted and car owner Fred Duesenberg put Norm Batten in as a relief driver for 21 laps. Meanwhile DePaolo had his hands bandaged before returning to the race. By then, his car had fallen to fifth place and he set out to regain the lead and the win. DePaolo also won the driver’s championship that year.
DePaolo was a fixture at Indy for years after retiring, singing Back Home Again in Indiana before the 1971 race. He also ran a successful NASCAR team in the 1950s, winning 21 times with 109 top 10 finishes. The team later became the famous Holman Moody entry. DePaolo died in 1980 at the age of 82.
This bright yellow racer is an eye popper. The only other markings are the black No. 12s outlined in red, one on either side of the hood and car’s tail.
That hood comes off in two pieces and is secured by three leather straps that look to scale and authentic to the 1920s racers. Plus I like how Replicarz has notched the lower left hood panel to hold it in place.
Under the hood is a silver replica of Duesenberg’s powerful 122cid straight 8 engine that’s fully plumbed and has wires running to the center-mounted distributor. There’s a big black pipe coming off the supercharger too and that pokes out the left side of the racer’s hood.
Cool too that there’s a Duesenberg radiator cap up front too. While down below is the engine crank to start it up. I can picture all these Duesenbergs, Millers and such firing up on the bricks at Indy and the choking exhaust that would have poured from these primitive machines.
While the other Duesenbergs that Replicarz is making in 1/18 scale have standard black wire wheels front and rear, DePaolo’s Duesy was special. It featured silver streamlining covers on the rear wheels. The aim, of course, was speed, but it’s likely these only helped modestly, if at all. Still the discs look great and give this racer a more modern look. If you’re an Indy follower you’ll recognize that some Penske entries and a few others have tried this aero look on wheels in the last 20 years or so too.
This yellow Duesy has the black wire wheels up front and the tires are Firestone branded. Not a lot of bling here, but a chrome gas cap behind the driver, and detailed suspension pieces and cables, simple as they were in the day. Plus there’s the black steering rod along the left side.
Inside the cockpit is simple with a 4-spoked black steering wheel with silver hub, and five reflective gauges on the straightforward silver dash. There’s a brake pressure pump handle to the right of the dash, and full set of pedals on the floor and a gear shift lever that would have rested between the driver’s legs. No glass windshields at this stage, just a painted windscreen to help protect the driver from stray stones or other track debris.
The seat resembles matte black leather and features silver rivets around the top edge that would have mounted it to the body.
Vermont-based Replicarz also has models of the 1924 winner, driven by L.L. Corum and Joe Boyer along with the 1927 model driven by rookie George Souders. We’ll give them a harder look soon.
Vital Stats: 1925 Duesenberg Indy 500 winner
Stock No.: R18021