IMS Museum Opens Vault For Special Exhibition

Actors Christian Bale and Matt Damon pose next to a 1966 Ford GT40s that raced at Le Mans along with the 1965 Le Mans-winning Ferrari 250 LM. Both cars are part of the collect at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Courtesy IMS Photo

Even diehard racing fans who regularly patrol the halls of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum have seen a mere fraction of what lurks within—due to limited floor space, the museum is only able to showcase about 20 percent of its historic inventory. But starting Wednesday, for the next six months, those treasures will come out of hiding and be displayed to the public in a new exhibit, From the Vault.

From November 20, 2019 through April 20, 2020, the IMS Museum will be whipping out some classic cars, trophies, helmets, and replicas of early official Speedway documents. 

The exhibit is headlined by its most expensive piece: a 1954/55 Mercedes-Benz W196 Grand Prix car. These cars were designed specifically for Formula One racing. The last documented sale of this model was in 2013 for just shy of $30 million

Perhaps the most relevant pieces are the 1965 Le Mans-winning Ferrari 250 LM and 1966 Ford GT40. These cars are tied to the movie Ford v Ferrari, in theaters now: The film chronicles Ford’s quest to beat Ferrari at Le Mans, the annual 24-hour race held in northwestern France that began in 1923. Ford finally accomplished the feat in 1966, though the GT40 on display had to drop out of the race early due to mechanical problems. The ’65 250 LM was the last Ferrari to win at Le Mans. 

Janet Guthrie’s 1978 Texaco Star Wildcat is also on display. Guthrie became the first woman to ever qualify for the Indy 500 in 1977, but she didn’t fully complete the race until 1978.

Arie Luyendyk’s 1996 Reynard/Ford 941 car that set the one-lap (237.498) and four-lap (236.986) qualifying records that still hold will be on display as well. Luyendyk, a two-time Indy 500 winner, and his car only finished 16th due to sustained damage from a collision. 

A couple non-racing vehicles will also be on display: Larry Bisceglia’s Chevy and Dodge vans. Bisceglia was a famed fan from as early as the 1950s to the 1980s who drove from Arizona to Indiana to be the first in line when the Speedway’s gates opened for practice, living in his van for weeks.

Bisceglia’s habit began because he thought getting in line first meant he didn’t have to pay. That wasn’t true, but a tradition was born. It lived on until 1986, when poor health forced Bisceglia to end his streak at 37 consecutive “first-in-line” appearances. He made it back the following year for his last race before dying in 1988 at the age of 90.

More historically significant items will be displayed in the exhibit, including pre-Indy 500 cars such as a 1906 FIAT. 

The exhibit opens to the public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, November 20.