This Man Collects Turbine-Powered IndyCars
Photography by Nate Stevens
Bruce Linsmeyer’s life changed from the moment he saw, at 15 years old, the STP Turbine IndyCar driven by Parnelli Jones. Initially a mechanic, then racing mechanic, acquiring a turbine engine in the ’70s was the next step, as was keeping himself active as a machinist/fabricator for IndyCar and other race teams. On the turbine side of things, he started a business that continues today—Avon Aero Supply Inc.—that specializes in buying and selling turbine engines and parts.
For race cars, well, his stable is incredible. Here’s a short primer on each featured here.
1968 Lotus 56 STP Turbine Indy Car
Linsmeyer purchased this car from the Vel’s Parnelli Jones auction in 1998. It was a rolling chassis without engine—incredibly, the first, the chassis 56/1—that was driven by Joe Leonard 1968 Indy 500. The car was the fastest qualifier, started from the pole position, and nearly won the race but was sidelined with 12 to go by a failed fuel pump drive shaft. (Still, those feats easily make it one of the fastest cars to race that year.) He personally restored the car to its current running condition by 2001, and it has been running flawlessly since.
1968 Howmet / McKee Turbine Le Mans Car
After purchasing the car in 2006, rounding up the parts to make a running Continental TS325 turbine engine was a huge challenge. There were only a hand full of the engines originally built by Continental to compete for the new US Army Turbine Helicopter contract. Continental was not successful so further production did not happen. Ray Heppenstall got Continental to provide engine for his Howmet-sponsored race team, but the engines were eventually returned to Continental. Amazingly, he found the major parts of an engine at an aviation tech school, with the help of Tim Arfons. After building special test equipment for the fuel system, he was able to get the first engine going. Soon after, as it happens, he found a few more spare engines.
1969 Jack Adams Airplane Special Indy Car
He acquired this car from Mr. Egon Hoffer from Austria in 2007. Egon owned the car for several years, and had restored it to running condition. The car has original paint and graphics. To date, he has only displayed the car and may someday do a complete restoration.
1968 Shelby Turbine Indy Car
Linsmeyer acquired the rolling chassis without an engine in 2011. The car was pretty much complete, except an engine, and it was in very rough condition. He completed the mechanical restoration over a two year period and got outside help with body repair, paint, and graphics. The car was restored to running condition with an accurate General Electric T58 helicopter engine.
Linsmeyer hopes the car is invited to compete in the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours, a very good idea indeed: Dawn Patrol needs a turbine-powered wake-up call. For more on turbine-powered cars, check out our two-part feature on them here and here.