James Allison

A Biography of the Engine Manufacturer and Indianapolis 500 Cofounder

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About the Book

Among the engineers fueling the rapid rise of the automotive industry at the dawn of the 20th century was James Allison, a fountain pen maker who joined with Carl G. Fisher in 1904 to found Prest-O-Lite, an early manufacturer of the power source for automotive headlights. This biography tracks Allison’s involvement in the Indianapolis 500, which he cofounded with Fisher and two others, as well as his machine shop’s construction of the Liberty engine, the first mass-produced aircraft engine, and also the V1710, the workhorse of World War II military aircraft. Through his unique ingenuity and perseverance, Allison created a legacy that still resonates today at the Indianapolis 500, Rolls-Royce, and Allison Transmission.

About the Author(s)

A native of Indianapolis, Sigur E. Whitaker, is the great great niece of James Allison, one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A retired banker, she lives in Norfolk, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Sigur E. Whitaker
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: 19 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6165-3
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8639-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Introduction      5

1. The Early Years      9

2. The Birth of the Automobile Industry      13

3. Development of the Automobile in the United States      17

4. The Early Races      23

5. Prest-O-Lite: The Early Years      30

6. The Marriage      33

7. Prest-O-Lite Expands—and Explodes      36

8. Prest-O-Lite Explodes—Again      41

9. An Indianapolis Racetrack Becomes Reality      46

10. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Opens      51

11. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Racing      58

12. The Town of Speedway, Indiana      68

13. The Second Year of Racing      70

14. The Inaugural Indianapolis 500      75

15. Prest-O-Lite Building Collapses      84

16. Prest-O-Lite Thrives      90

17. Riverdale Springs      93

18. The Second Running of the Indianapolis 500      102

19. The Europeans Dominate the 1914 Race      110

20. The Lincoln Highway      113

21. The War Years      116

22. Racing Resumes      126

23. Miami Beach      132

24. The Miami Aquarium      135

25. Prohibition      150

26. Allison Assumes Indianapolis Motor Speedway Presidency      155

27. Allison Engineering      159

28. Allison Hospital      167

29. The Divorce      173

30. The End      176

31. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Thereafter      181

32. Allison Engineering in the Aftermath      192

Epilogue      202

Chapter Notes      205

Bibliography      215

Index      219

Book Reviews & Awards

“this biography of the self-made millionaire details Allison’s role in the Indianapolis 500 as well as his machine shop’s construction of the first mass-produced aircraft engine and production of other aircraft milestones during both World Wars”—Reference & Research Book News; “Having been the motorsports editor of a national automotive magazine and before that the auto racing reporter for a significant Midwestesrn newspaper, I thought I knew a lot about the early history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway…. But now that I’ve read Sigur E. Whitaker’s biography of her great aunt’s husband, one of the Speedway’s co-founders, I’ve discovered some huge holes in my knowledge, holes delightfully filled by Whitaker’s well-researched work”—izoom.com.