|Details on the car and it's builder are in part 2 of this report.
Here's a really interesting and fun thing that's part of the very serious and negative story that Hostess Brands is in the midst of shutting down its businesses and operations!
I'm talking about this incredible piece of Hostess and Indy Car Racing history that should be part of the story. The race car is a circa 1931 Indy Race Car called the Hostess Wonder Bread car and it's an incredible tribute to Hostess. The history and nostalgia that this collector race car represents is truly phenomenal. The fact that the car still exists and is in Concours d' Elegance condition is attributable to its current owner, Pat Phinny, of Carmel, California.
Pat, an ex-Indy Car Racer himself is a true steward of the sport and of the classic car culture. I first saw this car in 2009 in Pat's private garage that is a really fun place that is home to approx. 20 or more classics. I was doing an interview with Phil Berg who is a freelance writer that was doing a story on CarProperty.com.
The Hostess Wonder Bread race car caught my attention almost immediately as I started to look around the incredible garage that I was so lucky to be able to hang out in. I would say that the Wonder Bread car must be one of Pat's most prized collector cars, if not the most prized car.
One year later, while on assignment at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, I was walking the 18th fairway taking a look at a special Indy Car class that was on display that year, and low and behold, there was the Hostess Wonder Bread race car. The car had the corner end slot in the class, which gave it the best visibility for the people attending the car show and it really looked great.
A couple of years later in 2012, the car was featured in the Indy 500 pre-race ceremonies as one of the classic Indy cars to drive around the track. The Hostess Wonder Bread race car was driven by Al Unser and the other classic race car was driven by Mario Andretti.
With all of the talk and news around the fact that Irvine, Texas based Hostess Brands has filed for bankruptcy again and that management of the company are trying to shut down the entire company, there has been a lot of interest from the public in Hostess again.
Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Chocolate Cup Cakes that are the famous treats that America used to love (and still does from a nostalgic point of view) are in hot demand. It seems to me that the 1930's era Hostess Wonder Bread Race Car should also be included in the wonderment and nostalgia that we all seem to feel towards Hostess Brands. I know that with the right ownership, this classic race car will survive and live on no matter what else happens.
This 1931 Rigling & Henning 'Wonder Bread' Special crossed the auction block in 2005 and found a buyer willing to part with $125,000 for this wonderful piece of history. Herman Rigling and Cotton Henning were based in Indianapolis and renowned for their race winning chassis and proven 'Specials.' Their specialty were using Buick straight-eight engines mounted in steel-rail frames. A Special driven by Phil Shafer of Des Moines, Iowa piloted his Rigling & Henning Shafer 8 to a very impressive 12th-place finish at the 1931 Indianapolis 500 race. The car proved it had the endurance and the speed to compete in major competition. It was brought back to the Indy 500 race in 1933 where it finished in fifth, by far its best accomplishment.
Racing Specials were promoted by the Indy racing officials during the early 1930s as a way to rekindle public interest in the sport. During the 1920s, the race had become dominated by prominent marques and many were loosing interest in the sport. As The Great Depression came into focus, the racing officials introduced new regulations which allowed the home-grown mechanic with their racing specials an opportunity to enter the race and compete for overall victory.
This 1931 Rigling & Henning 'Wonder Bread' Special is a result of those regulations. It has seating for two; the driver and the mechanic. It is not entirely known why rules required a riding mechanic during this time. It did double the chance for fatal accidents, and the Indy 500 saw many tragic accidents during the 1931 through 1937 period. During the early period of racing, the mechanic serviced two primary duties. The first was to change the tires, fix the car, and to keep a close watch on the vehicles temperature gauge, oil pressure, and other dials. The second purpose was to serve as the mirror; the early cars did not have side or rear-view mirrors, so the duties of the riding mechanic extended to watching rear traffic.