Ray Harroun is best known for the 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 8 seconds it took him to win
the first Indianapolis 500 automobile race, at an average speed of 74.6 mph. But while the
Marmon Wasp, the car he drove to victory that day in 1911, made him famous, it did not
make the man. Rather, the man made the car.
A part-time racer, Mr. Harroun was foremost an engineer for the Marmon Motor Car
Company, an early 20th century producer of passenger cars that are frequently cited as
exemplars of the golden age of the American automobile. He designed the six-cylinder
Marmon Wasp, so named for its yellow and black color scheme, from stock Marmon
engine components. Unlike most racecars of the period, the Wasp was built with a
smoothly-cowled cockpit and a long, pointed tail to reduce air drag. Mr. Harroun also came
up with another innovation—a little item called a rear view mirror. He was the first driver to
race without a riding mechanic to watch for cars from behind.
Only 29 years old at the time of his victory, Mr. Harroun soon retired from competitive
racing. However, he was far from finished with any other aspect of his career or life.
He showed his staying power by taking a 50th anniversary lap in the Wasp at the Indy 500
Not long after Mr. Harroun’s return to Indy, Marmon-Herrington Company, a successor to
the old Marmon Motor Car Company, joined a growing group of businesses that had been
acquired by brothers Jay and Robert Pritzker. At the time, the group included a dozen
businesses, but lacked a name. In 1964, Marmon was chosen to connote excellence in
engineering and performance.
Today, we remain proud to associate ourselves with the heritage of innovation and quality
exemplified by Ray Harroun and his Marmon Wasp.