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  • Writer's pictureDavid Story

What is a Buick Shafer 8?

General Motors employee, Phil 'Red' Shafer built his reputation from 1931-1939, with his famous Buick straight-eight powered race cars. Seven of Shafer's Buick-powered race cars qualified for the Indianapolis 500 from 1931 until 1936.

Stock-block racecars such as the Shafer 8 were a direct result of the Great Depression. Deeply concerned with the effects of the economic collapse of late 1929, Indianapolis 500 day racing officials introduced new rules in 1930 to encourage less-expensive stock-block cars to compete with the sophisticated and dominant Miller and Duesenberg engines. Critics called the decision to expand engine displacement the “Junk Formula.” Eddie Rickenbacker sought to lower costs for the competitors and to lure back passenger car manufacturers to the race, one of the original reasons for the race track. Cars were allowed displacement up to 366 CI. Superchargers were banned except for two-cycle engines.

The straight 8 engine is from a Buick Series 60. (Prowling a junkyard as a kid I remember popping the hood on an old Buick and how impressed I was when I saw a straight 8 engine for the first time that seemed a mile long.) The 344 CID engine develops 200 horsepower, is equipped with four Stromberg 97 carburetors, and is backed by a GM three-speed transmission. Suspension components include heavy-duty shocks from a Buick Roadmaster of that era. The top speed was 130 MPH.


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