The Champions of 1955 & 1956
by Dan Elliott
advertising value to Mercury Marine; their graphics were similar to the fancy graphics seen on the 1956 300B Daytona cars. Although the vans originally were Ford-powered, at some point at least some of the 6 vans were equipped with Chrysler 300 engines, according to Kiekhaefer team folks. They were driven so hard and fast to make race dates and car reconstruction between races that after just a few trips, all brakes would need to be replaced. The rear two feet of the large Chryslers overhung the van reefer beds, so the cars were balanced on rods placed into holes at the rear of the car frames so as to elevate them slightly and maintain a steady load. Not only were the vans loaded with tires and tools, but also the top part of the cargo area was fitted with an auxiliary fuel tank holding a few hundred gallons of either Texaco or Standard Oil high test to use in place of the lower quality Pure Oil Gasoline supplied by NASCAR, if possible. Nitrogen gas for tires and gas tank purging and liquid nitrogen or dry ice for fuel-pump application during pits stops was stocked in the vans. In short, the vans were a first amongst competitors who previously had flat-towed their cars from race to race; they were yet another step ending the racer-on-a-shoestring-budget days of NASCAR racing before 1955.
Other innovations used by Kiekhaefer have been well documented elsewhere. They included strict driver conduct rules before races, extensive testing at or close to the site of a race via rental of nearby tracks or airport fields, accounting for weather changes and atmospheric pressure changes, use of team uniforms, monthly driver salaries and team bonuses based on winning,
As was stated above by Speed Age, Carl sold off his race cars after the 1956 season ended. According to Kiekhaefer team folks, factory components were reinstalled, the race modifications that would make them unsuitable for the street were corrected back to stock specifications, and the cars were sold for 50% of the original list price. There very likely is one of these cars owned by a fellow in North Carolina, 300B #1051. Apparently Carl kept just one car, first shown at a museum in Florida for a few years following 1956, and then kept at his estate at Fond du Lac. Of course, he kept the 1955 Mercedes, too. Many have concluded that this one car is the only fairly complete physical evidence of how the cars looked and were prepared, other than photographs. After Carl's death reputedly there was an auction at which some of the remaining engines and equipment was sold, but it must have been a very local auction because the legend suggests that much of the gear did not sell and was junked.
There have been repeated attempts over the years to discern which serial number the remaining race car is or was, since the car no longer carries its vehicle identification number. Although Carl's personal secretary and confidant, Rose Smiljanic, prepared in the early 1990's a list of remaining team cars as of December 1956, it does not show which car was kept by Carl. However, the list is quite tightly held, so this writer has not seen page 2. To further confuse matters, it shows the one manual transmission 1955 300 manufactured at the factory, car #2689, to have been converted into a 1956 300B. Some have suggested this car is the remaining car. Tim Flock said that he signed the doorpost of a Kiekhaefer car that won Daytona, and that he could still see his signature on the remaining car doorpost. An important distinction between 300's and 300B's is windshield wiper shafts that are much closer to the windshield on 1955 300's compared to those on 1956 300B's. The remaining car looks like a 300B, and the cowl/windshield wiper location is the same as 300B. The front bumper is a 1956 Windsor bumper.
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