Rare Sports Films

“Twenty Years A Champion”

The original B & W film made of the 1939 Indianapolis 500 is now available for the first time ever on DVD - only from Rare Sportsfilms! Created by Wilding Picture Productions and presented by Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, the 26-minute film shows highlights from the race on Memorial Day, as well as how Firestone Tires were made in ’39. Since 1920, every winning driver had won using Firestone tires, so in ’39, Firestone commissioned this film to be made to commemorate Firestone’s winning again in 1939, hence the title, “Twenty Years A Champion”.

The film opens showing 1938-1939 cars being tested at an automobile proving ground. Of course, there is no better test for cars, parts and tires than racing, so the cameras move to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the running of the 1939 Indy 500. Here are great scenes of the speedway and grounds, as well as many famous racing personalities, such as Ralph DePalma, Ray Harroun and Gar Wood. You hear the actual voices of former speedway owner Eddie Rickenbacker, former driver Harry Hartz and Harry Bennett of the technical committee, as well as comments from drivers Wilbur Shaw, Tony Gulotta, three-time winner Louis Meyer, 1935 winner Kelly Petillo, pole-sitter Jimmy Snyder and Babe Stapp with his #31 Alfa-Romeo. Rickenbacker and Hartz talk about the many improvements in automobile safety that originated at the speedway. The drivers mostly talk about tires - Babe Stapp says his car is worth about $20,000, but his Firestone tires give him all the insurance he needs! You’ll also see chief starter Seth Klein with Roscoe Turner. Asked who will win the race, Klein replies “Firestone! Can’t miss – been on every winner for the last 19 years!” Before the race you’ll see many of the cars on the track or in Gasoline Alley, such as Bob Swanson’s #32, George Bailey’s #17 Miller, the #54 Offenhauser of Cliff Bergere, Ralph Hepburn’s #25 Hamilton-Harris special, Louie Tomel’s #58 Alfa Romeo, Ted Horn’s #4 Boyle spl, Tony Gulotta’s #62 Burd Piston Ring spl, Russ Snowberger’s #21 D-X car, Harry McQuinn’s #38 Elgin Piston Pin spl and Jimmy Snyder’s #10 Thorne Engineering car, to name a few.

When starter Seth Klein waves the green flag, pole-sitter Jimmy Snyder takes the lead with Louis Meyer 2nd and Wilbur Shaw 3rd. It’s a fast field and would have set a new race record speed, if not for the tragic Bob Swanson-Floyd Roberts wreck which killed Roberts, the ’38 winner. Clean-up took more than half an hour. A short scene shows the cars burning on the backstretch. Just after the half-way point, leader Snyder pits for gas and Meyer takes the lead with Shaw a close second. From then on, Shaw and Meyer battle for the lead with Snyder third. Meyer is second with only 7 miles to go, but trying to catch Shaw, he blows a tire coming out of the southeast turn and spins into the inside guardrail, flips the car and is thrown onto the track in a spectacular scene! Shaw then breezes home the winner, notching his second victory in three years! After the race, Shaw accepts congratulations from Firestone. Second and third place winners Jimmy Snyder and Cliff Bergere also make post race comments. The last six minutes of the film show the making of “modern day” Firestone tires and remind us all that “Firestone’s are the ONLY tires safety proven on the speedway for your protection on the highway”.

You can get your own copy of this rare film now on DVD for only $29.95 + $5.00 for shipping and handling.
(Illinois residents must add $2.00 sales tax)

1126 Tennyson Lane
Naperville, IL 60540

(630) 527-8890

Go Back