Like Father, Like Son …

Posted: May 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

Region Racers at the Indianapolis 500 – The Truchan’s –
Racing, building cars a Truchan family affair for more than 75 years

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune — May 22, 2010
Speedway, Indiana

Those who spend a lot of time around auto racing can attest that it doesn’t take long for it to get into your blood. Such was the case for the father and son tandem of Steve Truchan, Sr. and Steve Truchan, Jr.

Steve Truchan, Sr.

With a car building and driving career that began in 1934, Truchan, Sr., had a thirst for speed that continued through 1950. He was one of early region racing’s true barnstormers, building his own Indy-car creations and putting them to task on the dirt tracks of middle America.

His career boasted runs with the Central States Racing Association and later the premier sanctioning body in all of racing during this era, the American Automobile Association (AAA). He pushed the limits of his own cars on tracks such as Langhorne, DuQuoin, Atlanta, Springfield, Hammond Speedway, Jungle Park and the Milwaukee Mile. Truchan was a winner some of the time, a competitor all of the time.

The year of 1946 was the most visible for Truchan in Indy cars as he took second at Atlanta, besting the likes of Ted Horn, Rex Mays, Emil Andres and defending Indianapolis 500 winner George Robson. That year also bought his best chance to run Indy. The first Indy 500 following World War II relegated many a driver to very old racecars. Truchan had just such a fate while driving an antiquated Offy for longtime Indy 500 mechanic Jimmy Chai. The car just didn’t have the muscle and Truchan lost his only Indy opportunity.

One of his closest shaves in an Indy-car race happened at a track where he didn’t even end up driving. Showing up with his own car at DuQuoin in October 1948, Truchan was called home from the track (turning over his car to Mel Hansen) because of the impending birth of his son, Steve, Jr. That day on the dirt at DuQuoin, the legendary Ted Horn lost his life.

By the late 1940s, Truchan had been reducing his racing endeavors, a process that had started slowly in 1941 after he left the employ of U.S. Steel and started his own business, which eventually became the Gary Bridge and Iron Company.

The Truchan name became synonymous with machining and fabrication excellence during this period and with the addition of Truchan, Jr., engineering soon became a major part of Gary Bridge and Iron’s expertise as it became a key supplier of fabricated structural steel for the construction of some of the city of Gary’s municipal and school buildings, Indiana University Northwest and various construction projects in Chicago.

Steve Truchan, Jr.

A graduate of Lew Wallace High School, Truchan, Jr., knew early on that engineering was his passion. He earned a civil engineering degree from Purdue and a Master’s degree in urban planning from Governor’s State. He balanced his early career by teaching engineering at Purdue Calumet, while working with his father. After 18 years of teaching, he took a position as the city engineer for the city of Hobart, while still managing operations at Gary Bridge and Iron.

The racing in his blood emerged at the age of 19, as he and his father constructed a stock car in 1967 to compete at Illiana Raceway, Grundy County Speedway, and Hartford Motor Speedway in Michigan.

In 1984, Truchan, Jr., moved into open-wheel racing with a car in the USAC Silver Crown series that he raced until 1992. He left racing at that time after the United States Auto Club made it difficult for him to campaign his car, due to an inability to understand his engineering designs. Car construction during this period was tightly controlled and Truchan, Jr.’s unique engineering approach created political unrest in the series that officials dealt with by outlawing his designs. With little patience for people who couldn’t grasp his innovative designs, Truchan, Jr., left competitive racing.

Assuring an American Legacy

It was during the 1980s that Truchan Sr., began assisting an occasional vintage race car owner with their restoration projects involving Offenhauser (Offy) engines, (whose manufacturing operations ceased decades ago.) Then in the mid 1990s, Truchan, Sr., pulled together all of the parts of one of his own Indy cars and completed a full restoration.

Truchan, Jr., soon became involved in helping others restore their vintage race cars, too. In a matter of no time, word surfaced in the vintage race car community of his immense skills. He is now one of the premier restorers in the country. His engineering expertise has also led him to be the key supplier of one-off cast parts for the legendary Offy engine, a success that many thought might never be accomplished. To see his work visit the website of Gary Bridge and Iron

Truchan, Sr., who died in 1998, and Truchan, Jr., have been an integral part of the racing history of the region for more than 75 years. Whether it was the father’s commitment to racing or the son’s enormous engineering expertise, Region Racers are words that clearly define their legacy.

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