Rare Sports Films


“THE ’55 500”

     No one knew of course, that of the 33 drivers who started the 1955 Indianapolis 500-mile race, 14 would be dead within eight years. The mid-1950's was indeed a dangerous time to be a race driver. The '55 500 was an exciting race, featuring a well-deserved victory by a comparative newcomer to the track, however it will always be remembered as the tragic end of the Vukovich era. Bill Vukovich, the "Fresno Flash", almost won three Indianapolis 500's in a row, and actually came close to four in a row, except for a broken steering pin in 1952 (while leading) and his tragic crash in 1955, also while leading. The two years in between, he won the race (1953 and 1954)! Both original films, “The ’55 500” and "The Unforgettable 500" have now been digitally restored by Rare Sportsfilms and are now available for the first time ever on this new 47-minute DVD!

     Three nice driver interviews begin the program. First, National Champion Jimmy Bryan talks about his season in 1954 and last year's 500. Then, soon-to-be-winner Bob Sweikert is heard talking to his young chief mechanic A.J. Watson about pit board signals for the upcoming race. In another garage, Jimmy Davies talks about the engine in his #15 Bardahl Special. Next, drivers Bill Vukovich, Tony Bettenhausen and Johnny Boyd are featured with flashbacks of them in previous Indy 500's. Jack McGrath in his cream-colored Hinkle Special is shown setting a new track record of 142.580 MPH in qualifying. Before the race, other drivers are shown in nice color closeups: McGrath, Pat Flaherty, Jim Rathman, Shorty Templeman, Johnnie Parsons, Cal Niday, Art Cross, Walt Faulkner, Jimmy Davies and Al Herman. Pole-sitter Jerry Hoyt, Bettenhausen and McGrath make up the front row, with Vukovich starting fourth as the red and white '55 Chevy pace car leads the field for the start. When the green flag drops, Jack McGrath beats the others into turn one to take the lead. However, lead-footed Vukovich, who has already passed Hoyt, takes second away from Bettenhausen on the second lap, one second back of McGrath! By the end of lap three, Vukovich has also passed McGrath and is now leading! However, McGrath re-takes the lead, as the two begin a nip and tuck battle that thrills the fans for the first 50 miles. Bob Sweikert, who started 14th, is up to 4th place after 125 miles. Even though McGrath has been putting up a terrific fight with Vukovich during the early part of the race, a broken magneto brings him in after 54 laps, his car smoking badly. While McGrath is shown working on his car in the pits (Jack is his own mechanic), Jimmy Bryan takes over second place behind Vukovich, who is setting new records as he attempts to become the only driver to win the race three years in a row.

     The beginning of the tragic 4-car wreck on the backstretch is shown by cameras in turn two, which catch the skid that starts it all. Rodger Ward spins out just before the bridge. Al Keller, trying to avoid Ward's mishap by driving to the inside, spins out of control. But instead of staying to the inside, his car slides back across the track toward the outside wall. Just behind Keller are Johnny Boyd and Vukovich, trying to squeeze through on the outside. Keller slams into Boyd, blocking Vuky's path and propelling his Hopkins Special up over Boyd's car and out of the speedway! The car is shown flipping many times outside the retaining wall and hitting several parked vehicles before it comes to rest upside down, trapping Vukovich inside. Film from three other sources shows the accident from different angles inside the track just opposite the bridge. Keller's car is shown coming to a stop and Boyd's car lands upside down on the track, trapping Boyd underneath! Ed Elisian, although not involved in the accident, is shown dashing across the track to aid Vukovich, as Keller runs to Boyd's car. With the help of track guards, Keller is shown helping roll Boyd's car upright!

     During this caution, Tony Bettenhausen is shown pitting. Cal Niday pits. Jimmy Bryan is now the leader and is shown pitting also. Bob Sweikert is now second. Vukovich is now long overdue on the main straightaway, and Vuky's crew is shown straining in vain to see Vukovich coming out of the fourth turn.

     After about 25 minutes of cleanup, the green flag flies again, and after 90 laps, fuel pump failure brings in Jimmy Bryan for good. Part of Cal Niday's crash in turn four is shown, and finally Don Freeland in the #12 Bob Estes Special exits the race with a bad transmission.

     Great shots of car owner John Zink and crew in the pits as the final laps wind down and Bob Sweikert takes the checkered flag. A happy Sweikert with wife Dolores and race queen Dinah Shore are shown in Victory Lane, ending a truly unforgettable 500!

     To get your own copy of BOTH of these newly restored films, now available on DVD for the first time ever, send only $29.95 plus $4.00 for shipping. (Illinois residents must add $2.00 tax).

1126 Tennyson Lane
Naperville IL 60540
(630) 527-8890 

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1126 Tennyson Lane Naperville, Illinois 60540
(630) 527-8890