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In the next five years the Novi's solitary achievement was to lead the first lap of the 1963 race. Granatelli retired the legend in 1966 when Rookie Greg Weld slammed the last model into the wall in practice. Andy sold the pieces to Studebaker—just what they have always needed, a bagful of race car—and now keeps it, rebuilt, in the STP offices near Chicago. Often, in the evening, when everyone has gone home, he will go and sit in the thing, all alone and dreaming.
And then came the terrible, tangled series of events that shook the Indy racing world more than anything before, turned track brother against track brother, stirred up historic passions, generated a bitter lawsuit and floated that definitive cloud of purple that still hangs low over Indiana.
Understand, a turbine car had to happen in racing sometime, and it was simply a natural that Granatelli, with his background of controversy, would end up with it.
The scheme began with a British technical type, Ken Wallis, who had a workable plan for harnessing a gas turbine to a race car. Wallis first presented the idea to Dan Gurney, who looked up, bemused, over a stack of his own Eagle horsepower this high and shook his head no. Wallis then offered the plan to Carroll Shelby, the very sex symbol of auto racing. And Shelby said (according to later court testimony), "Hogwash."
Wallis' next move was to the door of Granatelli's garage, and there, wearing his let-me-remember-you-always-like-this look, stood Andy. The actions that followed were controversial, full of legal elephant traps and punctuated with bursts of high temper—but they were fast.
Wallis and crew moved in with Andy's brother Joe at STP's Paxton division in Santa Monica, and they began work on the turbocar in January 1966. It was Andy who introduced a side-by-side concept—that is, putting the engine at the driver's left, which was the next stunt he had been planning for the Novi to counteract its terrific torque. Granatelli also added four-wheel drive—an item that was to change the entire race pattern of Indy—and the car came out of the shop looking fat and sassy, like Son of Namu the Whale.
The new turbocar weighed 1,680 pounds in its metal skin and bones, a few hundred pounds more than Wallis had promised, and since the Indy minimum is 1,350 pounds and weight hurts speed, it looked as if Andy was running Buster Mathis in among the Rockettes. But the car boasted better than 550 horsepower, a torque converter eliminating the need for a clutch pedal and gearshift, air cooling and a tiny oil tank that never needed refilling. It would run on anything combustible, including kerosene or Jack Daniel's and soda—and idled at 54% of full throttle, which meant that the driver didn't even have to step on the gas to pull away; all he had to do was ease his foot off the brake.
Enter Rufus Parnell Jones, he of the thinning crew cut and beautifully chiseled Mount Rushmore face, the master mold from which all American hero-image drivers are cast. As a well-to-do member of racing's old elite, Jones, after earning a great pile of money and winning Indy once (in 1963), was gradually retiring from the game. He had indicated he would not drive in 1967 unless he had a supercar he figured had no way to lose.
Andy offered him two inducements: the turbocar itself, which floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, and a $50,000 fee to drive it, plus the promise of half of any prize money he might win.
As everyone knows, they came shatteringly close to victory. Jones qualified the car at 166.075 mph—which was just what Granatelli had said the car would run—and a lot of people, happy to see that there were five familiar piston cars ahead of it, were deceived into believing that it was just another good car. They had overlooked the simple arithmetic of Indy.