|Date: 12/16/2014 8:51:17 PM|
Original Ken Brenn 1966 Ford Gerhardt Indy car unveiled
By DINO OBERTO
(BRODHEADSVILLE, PA) Gary Mondschein has driven open wheel cars practically his entire adult life. Midgets, Sprints, Silver Crown and Super Vee. And like most anyone who has come from that discipline of motor racing his aspiration was to eventually drive an Indy car.
Although that dream to compete in the highest level never happened, it none the less did not stop him from getting behind the wheel of an Indy car, although for Mondschein it would be in the form of a vintage racer.
The last two years he spearheaded the vintage cars being part of the POCONO INDYCAR 500 at Pocono Raceway.
As a fan of the 1960’s Indy era, Mondschein got to take in the Indy Vintage Festival at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a few years ago and last year the opportunity to drive in the event was offered to him. Of course he accepted.
But while he was “living the dream” from that golden experience, he had already been in the process of putting together his own vintage Indy car and during a special unveiling held Saturday evening, December 14 at his Dimension Design shop in Brodheadsville, PA, located just a few miles from Pocono Raceway, the wraps came off an immaculate 1966 Ford Gerhardt Indy car.
The car was the original Ken Brenn owned No. 57 that was driven by Bob Harkey and several others including Denny Zimmerman and Bruce Walkup. Brenn, Harkey, Zimmerman and Walkup were all in attendance during the ceremony.
Lothar Motschenbacher, Gene Bergin, Bruce Jacobi, Jim McGuire, Jerry Karl and Juan Carlos Salatino also had seat time with it. It first raced at Phoenix International Raceway on 10 Apr 1967. There is a total of 28 recorded races.
The restoration was an absolute masterpiece of craftsmanship. Every detail was meticulously done and the car looked just as it did when Brenn first received it from Good-Year nearly 50 years ago.
“The whole idea started when I was a kid. I was a big IndyCar fan and a big Jim Clark fan and once I was done racing competitively I set out to do the vintage deal,” said Mondschein.
“I always wanted to have a model 38 Lotus so about five years ago I began checking into the prices of what it would take to buy one and it was well into the seven figures. It was at that point I decided that I would build a replica of the Jimmy Clark car that won ’65 at Indy.”
After making numerous inquiries on putting a duplicate car together, Mondschein was pointed in the direction of going for the real thing. He had met race car restoration expert Walter Goodwin and was advised to not go the replica route but rather find and put his money into an original car, reasoning that he would never get the return on his investment.
Then the discovery of the Brenn car came his way and his pursuit to obtain it soon began. It last ran as a Super Modified with Geoff Bodine as the driver.
“Growing up I’d seen this car race and I knew it was (Ken) Brenn’s car and I was obviously a big fan of his, being an east coast guy. So knowing that the car existed and knowing about (Bob) Harkey and all the other stuff that went along with it, I wanted to find this car,” said Mondschein.
His search eventually led him to Bob McConnell in Urbana, Ohio. McConnell has spent the past 30 years restoring race cars, with an emphasis on Indy cars. After a few months of negotiating, Mondschein was the proud owner of the 1966 Gerhardt and the project was quickly underway to refurbish the mount. The job lasted just over three years and was well worth the wait.
Over 100 guests marveled as Mondschein proudly displayed his effort. Brenn, Harkey, Zimmerman and Walkup all spoke of their experience with the car and gave their appreciation to be able to be part of the special moment.
Next up will be to get the car on track. The plan is to be at Indy in May for the Vintage Festival as well as the SVRA event in June. Pocono will be next during the August POCONO INDYCAR 500 weekend and then it’s off to Louden, NH for the annual vintage meet the week after. Mondschein is also eying up a possible trip to the west coast at Fontana.
While the car is now complete, for Mondschein he still has one more segment of work before compete satisfaction.
“The relief will come once I get the car on the track and all the bugs are worked out, there’s no leaks and everything’s good. It’s then that I’ll really start to enjoy it and the whole process.”
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