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2000 Newsroom Archive


Indy/Rocket Car Resurrected After 54 Years in Waiting News Conference:
Sacramento City Hall Wednesday, May 24, 2000, 11 a.m.

Sacramento, California, May 17, 2000 - The rockets will glow red in a 66-year old machine at Sacramento City Hall on Wednesday, May 24th, when Tom McRae, founder of The History Channel Great Race, roars to the front steps of City Hall announcing the final countdown to the Great Race.

McRae is resurrecting automotive history originally penned by Don Hulbert in 1934, and later by none other than Andy Granatelli in 1946. Appropriately named the Indy Rocket Car, McRae will ignite the relic from racing's past in front of City Hall for a media preview and video shoot.

Heather Fargo, District 1 Councilmember; and Steve Hammond, President and CEO of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau will greet Tom McRae. In addition, Brendan Cooke, a Sacramento businessman and resident who has entered his 1959 Morgan sports convertible in The Great Race, will be among the guests on hand. The 1959 Morgan is appropriately named the "Spirit of Sacramento." Cooke's 1959 Morgan had sat decaying in a barn in the United Kingdom for decades before he brought it to Sacramento and fully restored the vehicle to its original specifications.

Tom McRae's Indy Rocket Car is the feature car for the History Channel Great Race June 11-24, 2000, which starts in Boston and finishes in Sacramento. The 18th annual transcontinental rally-race features a collection of vintage cars valued at nearly $3 million. Racers travel 4,000 miles and visit 42 cities in 14 days, competing for a purse valued as $275,000. It is the world's richest vintage car event.

The Don Hulbert Special was created for the 1934 Indy 500 by famed Indy car builder "Pop" Dryer. The exotic, one of a kind, aluminum body featuring an 18" dorsal fin stabilizer created a sensation in racing circles.

Car owner Don Hulbert, a Chicago Ford dealer, required the car to look somewhat like a Ford, hence the '34 Ford grille and Ford drive train. Unfortunately, the 220 cubic flathead V-8 was not competitive with the Offenhauser engines which ruled Indy into the sixties.

Following the Special's retirement from Indy, the Granatelli brothers, owners of a Chicago hot-rod shop, purchased the car in hopes of going racing one day. In 1946 Al Sweeny, a mid-west dirt track promoter, approached the brothers Granatelli about building a rocket-propelled car. The youngsters immediately answered, "No problem" and 23-year-old Andy jumped at the opportunity to drive. The tail of the Special was fitted with eight JATO rocket and "Grancor" graphics applied.

Although it was Granatelli's first ride in a racecar, he was billed as "Antonio the Great" the famed Italian Speed Ace on the mid-west dirt track circuit in the summer of 1946. Coming out of turn four, Antonio would fire the rockets in stages to avoid uncontrollable speeds. Track hucksters claimed speeds of "up to 650 mph" to build paid admissions.

Tom McRae purchased the car in August 1999 and Granatelli verified the authenticity of the car. Andy confirmed it as the original and tearfully reminisced of his antics 54 years past in "The Rocket Car".

Granatelli noted it was impossible to reach over 85 mph on ½ mile dirt track, but the rockets made so much noise, smoke and dust no one could see the car, much less determine his speeds. The advance publicity generated by the promotions at county and state fairs throughout the mid-west in 1946, made "Antonio" a regional celebrity and Andy was hooked on the spotlight forever. The rockets have not been ignited since Andy's historic campaign in 1946. McRae retrofitted rockets for demonstration purposes. The "Don Hulbert Special/Grancor Rocket Car" calls The Great Race Automotive Hall of Fame in Granbury, Texas, home.

More than 300,000 spectators will attend Great Race stops between the start in Boston and the Sacramento finish line. Pre-1960 vehicles and their owners come from around the world to compete in the vintage car adventure of a lifetime. The Great Race Finish on June 24th is one of Sacramento's 150th Anniversary celebrations. Festivities on Capitol Mall begin at 11a.m. with entertainment, food booths, interactive automotive programs for children and adults and a classic automobile show.

For more information, visit The Great Race web site at, or the City of Sacramento 150th Anniversary web site at