Ever since my first visit in 1973 to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum (the predecessor to the current Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum), the Marmon Wasp has been one of my favorite race cars. I find it intriguing to imagine what it was like to race in the first Indy 500 when auto racing was still in its infancy. Even more amazing is to think about surviving the 500 miles and winning the race like Ray Harroun did in 1911 in his pioneering Marmon Wasp.
I am not the only one fascinated by that magical yellow car. How many cars can you think of that have been depicted on United States postage stamps? The Marmon is about to make it on a stamp for the second time.
Over the years, I have collected some Marmon-related items including die-casts, decanters, pictures and post cards. I even have a custom hand-carved Marmon, complete with Fred “Pop” Wagner waving the checkered flag. It was made by my uncle, Dr. Roger Hasey, an award winning wood carver.
This winter, with the Centennial Anniversary of the Marmon’s win in the inaugural Indy 500 approaching, I decided to try and make my own Marmon replica using some leftover ¼ inch oak plywood I had laying around. Since I have little woodworking skills, and I struggle to properly assemble snap-together model car kits, I’m not sure what drove me to do it. It must have been a “Field of Dreams” experience.
I began by doing some internet research. I found some diagrams of the Marmon Wasp that claimed to be scale. If the diagrams are accurate, I estimate My Marmon Wasp is about 1/12th scale (length from nose to tail is 14 inches).
After printing the diagrams out, I enlarged them and used them as a guide similar to the approach A.J. Watson used to build his Roadsters in the 1960s. Legend has it that A.J. didn’t have any fancy jigs or molds; he relied on chalk marks on his shop floor when assembling his Indy 500 winning race cars.
Everything you see in the model came from the one sheet of leftover wood, with the exception of some different size round and square dowels and the engine cover strap which is a shoe lace. I designed the pieces as the work progressed. I bought some special drill bits to make the wheels, but the remainder of the model was done with a basic hand-held electric jig-saw, a drill, a rusty hack saw, a couple of files, a utility knife, sand-paper, and lots of glue and paint. The most difficult area was the tail section. I made the decals for the numbers using actual photos of the Marmon and special decal paper.
I don’t want to try to estimate how many hours I spent on the project as there are over 80 separate pieces, each one custom hand-cut, sanded, assembled and painted (there are twice as many pieces in the scrap pile from my trial and error style). I probably didn’t use the proper tools or techniques, and I’m lucky I didn’t cut off any fingers.
It may not be perfect, and it may not have all the details that it should, but it is My Marmon Wasp. After working on it, I am looking forward even more to this year’s 100th Anniversary Indy 500.
Remember a few months ago when Brian Darrow shared his amazing IMS Lego replica with us at the Hall of Fame Museum? Have you ever created something to honor the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? What are you doing to prepare for this year’s 100th Anniversary Indy 500?