I've posted this on another thread but I guess it's gotten buried.
The V12 engine entered by Bob Olmstead was a Voelker V12.Olmstead was a restorer of Lincolns and that may be where the confusion lies.The Zephyr engine was an L head V12 and even in 1937 was a well known piece of junk.It was notorious for oiling problems and no one who has ever been near one would believe that it could ever be used as the basis for a racing engine.
The Voelker engine on the other hand was a pretty exotic piece of machinery.When new,it displaced 273 cu. in. and in that form,it ran in the 1938 Indy 500,driven by Henry Banks.It retired after 109 laps with rod bearing failure.It was entered in the 500 every year from 1938 until 1949 but never again qualified.It resurfaced in 1977 when Bob Olmstead brought it to the Speedway.Actually he brought two cars,both of which were Antares chassis and one of which contained the Voelker and the other an Offy.Neither left the garage and the 12 cyl car wasn't really put together.Oddly enough,if the Olmstead owned engine was actually a Zephyr,I can't think of a more appropriate chassis for it than the Antares.One piece of junk deserves another.
Olmstead returned the following year with the V12 installed in an old Eagle.It had a wild paint job and was called "TheScreaming Eagle".He kept bringing the car back and in 1981 he even started the engine.After that the car disappeared.
Photographs of the engine clearly show a 4 cam V12.I suppose it might be possible to convert a Zephyr to such a configuration but given the weakness of it's bottom end,I can't believe anybody would have spent the kind of money needed for that kind of project,even in 1937.At any rate,the block certainly doesn't look like a Zephyr.
When Olmstead had it,the displacement was reduced to 159 cu.in. and a turbocharger was installed.Bore and stroke were 3.063 in. and 1.8 in. respectively.That's about the same stroke used in CART engines today and would indicate the potential for serious revs because you wouldn't otherwise go with a stroke that short.Of course,I don't think Olmstead ever had any real intentions of running the thing but he must have had a great deal of fun fooling around with it and I'm certain that it attracted a lot of attention.The photographs show it to be a beautiful piece of machinery.
What I am unable to find is any information as to who Voelker was and how this engine came to be in the first place.However,if you go back through the history of the 500,you'll find numerous examples of cars and engines who's origins are shrouded in mystery.I suppose like so many others,that will be the ultimate legacy of the Voelker.
I love the smell of methanol in the afternoon.It smells like......victory!