Legacy of the No. 5 Cummins Diesel

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Cummins founder Clessie Cummins, driver Stubby Stubblefield and mechanic Bert Lustig with the No. 5 car.
Cummins founder Clessie Cummins, driver Stubby Stubblefield and mechanic Bert Lustig with the No. 5 car.

The No. 28 Diesel Special from 1952 is one of the more famous Cummins-powered race cars – but have you heard about the No. 5 car? It also played an important part in the Cummins racing legacy.

Cummins had two race cars entered in the 1934 Indianapolis 500. One, the No. 6 white car with a Duesenberg chassis and a four-stroke engine, is currently on display in the Cummins museum at the Corporate Office Building in Columbus, Indiana. Next to the No. 6 car is the engine for the No 5 car – that engine had been converted from a four-stroke design to a two-stroke design. There had been an ongoing debate about which type of engine was superior.

Clessie Cummins hoped to resolve the debate by racing the two cars in the same race. The two-stroke No. 5 eventually finished the Indianapolis 500 in 12th place and averaged nearly four mph faster than the No. 6, though the engine was in poor condition after the race. Cummins has not pursued a two-stroke engine design since that time.

But the No. 5 car wasn’t done making history. In 1935, the chassis was lengthened, and a six-cylinder, four-stroke engine was installed in the car to prepare it to compete for a land speed record in Daytona Beach, Florida. After two runs, the car’s top speed averaged 137.195 mph, more than enough to break the old record.

After many years in storage, the No. 6 car was restored, and parts were taken from the No. 5 to complete that project, rendering the No. 5 car inoperable. The No. 5’s chassis eventually went to the basement at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, and was recently found and retrieved by Cummins History Team member Bruce Watson in hopes of future restoration. The No. 5’s engine is currently on display with the No. 6 car in the Corporate Office Building in Columbus. The museum is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Additional Resources

YouTube – Cummins History: 1934 Indianapolis 500

Cummins Engines: Our Racing Heritage

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