The 1930s was an odd decade in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history. The depression raged through the first part of the decade. Louis Meyer and Wilbur Shaw each won two races in the decade. The other six winners are some of the more obscure winners in race history. Fred Frame, winner of the 1932 contest, deserves more recognition than he gets today.
Fred Frame began his racing career in California, racing on dirt tracks in 1922. He set a world dirt speed record in 1924.
Frame began his Indianapolis career in 1927. He started last and finished 11th, completing 199 laps. He followed that race with finishes of eighth and 10th in 1928 and 1929. In 1931 frame started eighth finished second to Louis Schneider.
1932 got off to a bad start for Frame as he qualified 27th. In the race he charged to the front nd took the lead for good on lap 152. Frame led a total of 58 laps. It was not only an incredible feat to win from starting near the rear of the field, but Frame also set a new record for the race, beating Pete DePaolo’s record which had stood since 1925.
Harry Hartz, Frame’s car owner, also received a special prize. Hartz won possession of the Wheeler-Schebler trophy. The trophy was awarded to leader after 400 miles. If a car owner’s machine won the trophy in three races, the owner took permanent possession of it. Billy Arnold led at 400 miles in both 1930 and 1931 in a Hartz car.
The 500 win ended a four year stretch at Indianapolis in which Frame had finishes of eighth, tenth, second, and first. He would race three more years in the 500, but did not have the success of his middle years.
Riding in a Winning Car
My personal connection to Frame is much more distant than my connection to either Troy Ruttman or Floyd Davis. I never met Fred Frame. In 2014 in Milwaukee, I signed up for a charity lap in a vintage race car. My first choice, the Gilmore Red Lion Special, overheated as we pulled out of the garage. I climbed into a 1932 Ford V-8 stock car. the driver told me it was the car that won the 1933 Elgin National Stock Car road race with Fred Frame behind the wheel.
We ran the required three laps, the driver asked if it would be okay if we did a few more. He had to ask? The thing I remember about the ride is how stiff the springs were. The next day I rode in a pace car. A lot of progress was made in suspensions in 80 years.