- Written by webmin
Photo courtesy Ron Cummings
Ever since the mention of a mysterious Crosley V-8 engine a few years ago sent me off in search of the elusive wee beast, I’ve come up with information on exactly one such configured Crosley-based engine, and it wasn’t the one I’ve been looking for. Then, a few months ago, Ron Cummings, via the H-Mod mailing list, enlightened me to Whitey Thuesen’s Mar-Chris Special.
In about 1953, Thuesen, a machinist and old-school midget racer out on the West Coast (I’ve also seen his name spelled Theusen and Thueson, but I believe Thuesen is correct), partnered with Bob Montgomery to build a racing special for the SCCA’s F-Modified class, in which cars were limited to an engine size of 1.5 liters. According to Harold Pace and Mark Brinker, who devoted a few paragraphs to the Mar-Chris Special in their book “Vintage American Road Racing Cars, 1950-1970,” Thuesen and Montgomery built a chromemoly ladder frame with a rubber-sprung solid axle torsion-bar front suspension, a deDion-type independent rear suspension, and Bendix disc brakes all around. The handmade aluminum body helped keep the car’s weight down to about 1,200 pounds.
What really set the Mar-Chris Special (named after Thuesen’s machine shop) apart was the Crosley-based V-8 that Thuesen built for it. He set two 1951 Crosley blocks atop a 4340 steel crankcase of his own devising, both turning a custom-made billet crankshaft. Two Franklin aircraft oil pumps provided the pressure for the dry sump oil system; a 1929 Studebaker President distributor provided the spark for the eight plugs; and four Amal carburetors (two to each block) provided the fuel. Ron told us a little more about exactly how the engine worked:
Whitey’s motor is very complicated. Just an example: The Crosley had a bevel gear shaft in a tower at the front of the motor to drive the overhead cam, like a Duesenberg in line eight cylinder motor. Since Whitey reversed one Crosley, it looks like he made a shaft that went from one front cam drive tower to the rear of the other motor to drive the second cam. That also means he must have had one motor running backwards (I think my logic is sound!).
The ignition drive must have come off of one end of the crankshaft or one of the cams.
Whitey was not just a machinist but one hell of an engineer to make this SOB work at all.
From the engine, power was then sent back through a rear-mounted three-speed Indian motorcycle transmission to a Pat Warren two-speed rear end (Thuesen apparently built those units for Warren). The Mar-Chris Special debuted in 1954 and ran at Willow Springs and Torrey Pines over the next couple of years. It was even the focus of an article in the September 1954 issue of Car Craft. But by 1956, with intense competition and multiple rule changes taking place in the F-Mod class, Montgomery and Thuesen split. Montgomery kept the V-8, while Thuesen kept the car, which he eventually repowered with an Offenhauser engine. The repowered car, now named the Solitary Wasp, went on to race at least through 1959. It’s currently in the hands of Reagan Rulau, who plans a restoration of it to its Solitary Wasp configuration.
Nobody has reported a definite sighting of the V-8 since then, but there was a mention of another Crosley-based V-8 in the collection of the late Des Telmont…