Wednesday, May 9, 2018

"Inaugural IMS Winner" Louis Schwitzer Dies - February 29, 1880

February 29, 1880 - May 9, 1967
Louis Schwitzer (center) 
(Photo credit;
Born in Bielitz, Austria-Hungary.
Schwitzer, an automotive engineer, was winner of the inaugural race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In front of some 12,000 spectators, Schwitzer completed the two-lap, five-mile inaugural race with average speed of 57.4 mph. He is known to have started five races at IMS in 1909 and 1910. He also drove relief, for Harry Cobe, in the first Indianapolis 500.

After leaving racing, Schwitzer remained active in the sport's development, joining the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Technical Committee in 1912 (he was its chairman from 1919 through 1945). He served in the United States Army Motor Transport Corps during World War I, then returned to Indianapolis to start his own business, which later became Schwitzer-Cummins. After developing improved automotive cooling systems and water pumps, Schwitzer began producing superchargers for gasoline and diesel engines, which helped both truck and boat engines produce increased horsepower. He then moved on to so-called "turbochargers," the first of which was introduced on a Cummins diesel-powered racing car which won the pole position for the 1952 "Indianapolis 500".

In 1965, Schwitzer suffered a stroke while riding a horse on his farm. He was paralyzed, and for a time lost his ability to speak English, reverting to Hungary where he died on May 9, 1967. He is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

In recognition of Schwitzer's contributions to the early developmental history of American motorsports, the Louis H. Schwitzer Award for Design Innovation is presented annually after each running of the "Indianapolis 500"

In 1970, Schwitzer was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

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