Offenhauser was a racing engines manufacturer that operated from 1933 to 1983.
The Offenhauser engine, familiarly known as the "Offy", was developed by Fred Offenhauser and his employer Harry Arminius Miller, after having spent some time maintaining and repairing a 1913 Peugeot Grand Prix car of the type which had won the Indianapolis 500. Impressed by the double overhead cam, four valve per cylinder design, which was a great leap forward at the time and would not be out of place today, they designed an engine on similar principles. Originally sold as a marine engine, in 1930, a four-cylinder, 151 cubic inch (2.5 L) Miller engine installed in a race car set a new international speed record of 144.895 mph. Miller developed this engine into a twin overhead cam, four cylinder, four valve per cylinder 220 cubic inch (3.6 L) racing engine. When Miller went bankrupt in 1933, Offenhauser and another Miller employee, Leo Goosen, bought the shop and the rights to the engine, which they further developed into the Offenhauser engine.
One of the keys to the Offenhauser's success was, as might be expected, sheer power. Thus a 251.89 cubic inch (4128 cm³) twin-cam four-cylinder racing Offy with a 15:1 compression ratio and a 4.28 x 4.38 bore and stroke, could produce 420 horsepower (313 kW) at 6,600 rpm; 1.77 horsepower per cubic inch (81 kW/L). Other variants of the engine produced up to 3 horsepower per cubic inch (137 kW/L). The Oldsmobile quad-four engine bears and uncanny resemblance to the Offenhauser unit, once the plastic covers are removed and it's bolted up to a rear wheel drive transmission.
From 1934 through 1960 the Offenhauser engine dominated American open wheel racing, winning the Indianapolis 500 24 times. By then, the company had already been sold, right after World War II, to Meyer-Drake, who continued to build the engines. From 1950 through 1960, Offenhauser-powered cars won the Indy 500 and achieved all three podium positions, winning the pole position in 10 of the 11 years. In 1959 Lime Rock Park held a famous Formula Libre race, where Rodger Ward shocked the expensive and exotic sports car contingent by beating them on the road course in an Offenhauser powered midget car, normally considered competitive for oval tracks only.
When Ford came on to the scene in 1963, the Offy lost its dominion over Indy car racing, although it remained competitive through the mid 1970s even with the advent of turbocharging. However, the Ford Cosworth DFX soon proved to be unbeatable and the Offy's last victory came at Trenton in 1978, in the hands of Gordon Johncock's Wildcat. The last time an Offy-powered car raced was at Pocono in 1982 for the Domino's Pizza Pocono 500, in an Eagle chassis driven by Jim McElreath, although two Vollstedt chassis with Offenhauser engines failed to qualify for the 1983 Indianapolis 500.
Formula One Indy 500 summary
|Season||Cars Entered||Winning Driver||Second Driver||Third Driver||Polesitter||Race Report|
|1950||31||Johnnie Parsons||Bill Holland||Mauri Rose||Walt Faulkner||Report|
|1951||32||Lee Wallard||Mike Nazaruk||Manny Ayulo||Report|
|1952||30||Troy Ruttman||Jim Rathmann||Sam Hanks||Fred Agabashian||Report|
|1953||32||Bill Vukovich||Art Cross||Sam Hanks||Bill Vukovich||Report|
|1954||34||Bill Vukovich||Jimmy Bryan||Jack McGrath||Jack McGrath||Report|
|1955||35||Bob Sweikert||Tony Bettenhausen||Jimmy Davies||Jerry Hoyt||Report|
|1956||32||Pat Flaherty||Sam Hanks||Don Freeland||Pat Flaherty||Report|
|1957||31||Sam Hanks||Jim Rathmann||Jimmy Bryan||Pat O'Connor||Report|
|1958||31||Jimmy Bryan||George Amick||Johnny Boyd||Dick Rathmann||Report|
|1959||33||Rodger Ward||Jim Rathmann||Johnny Thomson||Johnny Thomson||Report|
|1960||33||Jim Rathmann||Rodger Ward||Paul Goldsmith||Eddie Sachs||Report|
In their 11 F1 years, Offenhauser partnered for at least one race with the following 33 constructors: