(FAR LEFT) Mario
Andretti chats with his
crew chief Jim McGee
at the 1972 Indy 500.
That mass of plumbing
at the back of his
Parnelli VPJ-1 belongs
to the ’72-spec Offy,
which was still the
and by results) engine.
(LEFT) Beginning of
an era: Al Unser gives
the DFX its Indy 500
debut in 1976.
revealed: A.J. Foyt’s
is stripped of its outer
panels, showing the
pre-turbo Offy engine.
When the Cosworth DFX made its
debut in the 1976 Indy 500, the
writing was on the wall for the
venerable Offy. Just four years
later, the 4-cylinder lump made
its final bow at the Brickyard. The
DFX was the new king.
NUMBER OF ENGINES
1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981
Harry Miller, American racing’s great
innovator, learned everything about the
mono-block engine while rebuilding them
after Peugeot withdrew from competing at
Indy. He applied those concepts to his own
racing engines which would go on to win
Indy 12 times between 1922 and ’ 38.
With Miller employees Offenhauser and
draftsman/designer Leo Goossen
responsible for much of the work, Miller’s
peerless 3.0-liter, 4-cylinder mill underwent
heavy revisions until an all-new 3.6-liter
engine was produced for 1931. Despite its
domination at Indy, Miller’s business was in
decline and, by ’ 33, bankruptcy loomed.
The Offenhauser Engineering Company
sprang to life in 1934 and, after purchasing
all of Miller’s 3.6-liter designs and tooling,
he and Goossen began manufacturing the
renamed Offy engine at $2,000 apiece.
In ’ 35 it won its first Indy 500, and by the
time the design made its final start at the
Brickyard in 1980 – 49 years after it first
barked to life at Miller’s Southern California
shop – it had amassed 27 Indy victories.
(BELOW, left) sold
his engine business
to three-time Indy
500 winner (and
first to drink milk in
Victory Lane) Louis
Meyer (right) and
Dale Drake in 1946.
incredible Offy won
Indy 500s between
1947 and ’ 64,
thanks not only to
its ubiquity, but to
1946: THE MILK
As the only man to have won races with
the Offy (six), an F1 World Championship
with the DFV (1978) and an Indy car title
with the DFX (’ 84), Mario Andretti’s history
is interlinked with the three engines.
“By the time turbocharging came to the
DFV, the technology was pretty advanced,”
he explains, “so turbo lag wasn’t really an
issue for the DFX like it was on the Offy. The
DFX made so much power and was pretty
reliable, too. Everybody was trying really
different things with the Offys, but with the
DFX, it wasn’t like that. It evolved, of course,
but it was like the DFV in how you could
just plug in and, if you had a good car, you
could win races. You just had to drive.”
The DFX won 10 consecutive Indy 500s
from 1978 to ’ 87. Yet. compared to the
Offy, it was an infant when the Chevy Indy
V8 relegated it to a backmarker in ’ 88.
With CART’s engine wars beginning to
boil, time finally caught up with all-purpose
designs like the Offy and the DFX, but in
the pantheon of Indy car racing’s great
engines, these two still take center stage.