Midget racing got its start back in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The cars were small, the tracks were tight circles, and the action was dangerous. It featured a handful of racers ripping through dirt corners in lightweight, powerful machines with little protection, wearing little more than a steely gaze. One of these old machines recently paid a visit to Jay Leno’s Garage, so Jay could learn more about the car and the guys who raced it.
It’s called a 1947 Marchese Special. That name is taken from the last names of the group who maintained, built, and raced the car. One of the drivers was the grandfather of David Salvaggio, who today owns the SpeedKore Performance Group. He’s shown up in Jay’s garage with a few of his creations, but this one is maybe a bit more near and dear to David’s heart.
With help from Kurtis Kraft, David’s grandfather and some uncles built their racing machine and raced it at the Milwaukee Mile and at the Indianapolis Speedway. They even took the car to the Salt Flats to see how fast it would go. We’d imagine the 140 mph top speed the car achieved would feel even faster due to its small size. After all, the thing is only 820 pounds and its 98-cubic inch Offenhauser engine cranks out 140 horsepower.
Now the car is going to leave the family. David’s mother is looking to sell it. It’s always sad to see family heirlooms move on to new owners, but maybe a collector can shine a spotlight on this racing vehicle for years to come.
Unlike most episodes of Jay Leno’s Garage, this car doesn’t start up and Jay doesn’t get to drive it because there are no fluids in it. We doubt Jay could fit into this little thing anyway.