A One-of-a-Kind Racecar: The Uihlein Special

The Uihlein Special was considered a successful race car.
The Uihlein Special was considered a successful race car.

When Davel Uihlein passed away in Mequon, Wis., on Jan. 29, 2010, the racing world lost an enthusiast, friend and expert. Uihlein had a passionate love for the early history of American motor sports and restored many important racing cars from Indy 500 winners to a sports car special bearing his name. He was the founder of the Harry A. Miller Club.

Uihlein was born in Milwaukee in 1920, the son of Joseph E. Uihlein Sr. and Ilma Vogel Uihlein. He was a cousin to the family that owned Schlitz Brewing. After attending the U.S. Brewers’ Academy in New York and the University of Wisconsin, he served as an ambulance driver in World war II. He was married to Margery Holley Uihlein who also had a love of automotive history. Her father George M. Holley was a pioneer automaker and carburetor builder.

One of Dave Uihlein’s favorite racing cars was his Uihlein Special. It dates back to a time, shortly after the end of World War II, when road racing at places such as Elkhart Lake, Wis., started getting popular. Since there was virtually no readily available 1500 cc engine adaptable for racing at that time, Uihlein teamed up with the famous racing brothers Carl and Tudy Marchese and E.J. Healey, to design and build a 1500 cc twin cam engine. They hoped to make it available to other racers through Uihlein’s engineering company.

In 1954, they won two road races with the Uihlein Special and also had two second place finishes and a fourth place finish. The car that carried the engine ran against Ferraris, Porsches, MGs and other European sports-racing cars and only failed to finish one race.

There were a number of reasons the twin-cam engine never made it into production, the biggest one being design changes made in the block that was used. However, the Uihlein Special was considered a very successful racing car and was preserved. It has been seen at historic racing events, such as the Harry A. Miller Club meet at the Milwaukee Mile in July. The 2014 “Millers at Milwaukee-Vintage Indy Car” event will be held on July 11-12. Information is posted on the club’s Website.

About John Gunnell 89 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.
  • Michele Orsi Bandini

    True, but this car is a bandini 1500 delivered to Eng, Uihlein in date 16 february 1954 from italian Ilario Bandini, Uihlein changed the engine but the car still is a Bandini

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