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The Petrolhead Corner

The 7Fifteen Motorworks Troy Indy Special

An übercool openwheeled barnstormer inspired by a handbuilt custom roadster from the late 1950s.

| By Robin Nooy | 7 min read |

In today’s episode of The Petrolhead Corner, our weekly episodic slice of automotive content, we go old-school. Or rather, old-school meets new-school, as we take a look at a car that seems to come straight out of the 1950s but in reality is completely new. The 7Fifteen Motorworks Troy Indy Special, the car in question, is built in the United States and has a fascinating backstory. A story that starts over a century ago, with the birth of Walter J. Troy, the ‘Troy’ in the car’s name. Somewhat styled like a vintage race car from the 1940s and 1950s but with a modern twist to it, the Troy Indy Special surely looks like a hooligan to drive. And with less than 1,000 kilos and around 500 horsepower, it can definitely back up its speedy looks!

Walter J. Troy

The origins of the 7Fifteen Motorworks Troy Indy Special go back to Walter J. Troy, born in Bay City, Michigan in 1914. Soon after birth, his family moved to Detroit, the heart of the American automotive industry, which proved to have a massive influence on young Walter. He was gifted a Ford Model T by his uncle at the age of 14, which he started to tinker around with. He fixed and modified it all by himself, sourcing parts from local scrap yards. Not long after that, he moved to Chicago to pursue a job in the car industry.

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The original 1959 Troy Roadster as built by Wally J. Troy, in between two Troy Indy Specials.

Understanding the basics of automotive engineering quite well from an early age, Walter J. Troy joined the military as a mechanic, which took him halfway across the world until 1946. Done with working as a mechanic, he shifted focus to bodywork and customisation before buying his way into a Standard Oil gas station and setting up Wally’s Garage. Throughout the 1950s, his builds would grab more and more attention at car shows and in magazines and it wasn’t for long until he was regarded as one of the top builders in the country. Towards the end of the decade, he would begin work on perhaps his greatest achievement, a sports car of his own; the Troy Roadster.

The Troy Roadster was Wally J. Troy’s way to fill a void in his heart after servicing and selling a Ferrari sports car in his Garage before having the chance of getting behind the wheel and taking it for a spin. Enlisting the help of fellow-builder Cecil Funk, work began on a custom tubular chassis and a body that would suit Wally’s needs. Hand-shaped out of aluminium, the body looked like something that was perfectly suited to a race track, with a cigar-like shape to it. If you look at it, you’ll see hints of open-wheel racers of that era from the likes of Alfa Romeo and BRM. It featured a double-bubble glass windscreen, much like something you would see on period fighter planes. Up front was a V8 sourced from a Chevrolet, mated to a three-speed transmission from a Corvette.

The finished car was first entered in the 1959 Road Runner’s Autorama, a premier car show back then, and was voted as best-in-show. A couple of years after completing the build, the car was sold and passed through multiple owners. It would be stored away for decades before undergoing a complete restoration. And that is sort of where 7Fifteen Motorworks slowly starts coming in.

7Fifteen Motorworks

Named after the area code where 7Fifteen Motorworks is based, which is Three Lakes in Wisconsin, the company is owned and managed by John Kendall. John and his father, Robert Kendall, were planning on building a car themselves and were going back and forth on some ideas before seeing the original Troy Roadster. A conversation ensued, where both men admired the simple yet beautiful build. The idea came to Robert Kendall that the two men could build this, which stuck with them and turned into quite the engineering challenge!

The original 1959 Troy Roadster was purchased by the Kendalls in 2017 and work quickly started in figuring out all the details. The car was 3D scanned from top to bottom, and work was started on a custom tubular chassis. In March 2019 the car made its public debut at the Amelia Island concourse, as a prototype. A year later production would start, and by now several cars have been built and delivered to customers.

Troy Indy Special

Using the Troy Roadster as a starting point, it was taken apart to figure out how it was built from end to end. Using the 3D scans, a plan was made to rebuild it but in a contemporary style, respecting the original but updating it where needed. The result of said plan is a machine that looks old but really isn’t. It even threw Jay Leno off when we first saw it on display at an event before learning more and inviting John Kendall and the Troy Indy Special over to his Garage;

The Troy Indy Special is built around a newly constructed tubular steel chassis, based upon the original design of the Troy Roadster from 1959. It features an in-board pushrod coil-over suspension system front and rear. Steel arms are combined with billet aluminium lever arms and custom control arms. These hold in place custom-made wheels that look like original Hallibrand wheels from period Indy Car race cars, with real knock-off centre locks. Stopping power comes from high-performance Wilwood Brakes on all four corners. Which you’re going to need, given the car’s weight and power (more in a bit).

Most of this stuff is hidden by the stretch-formed aluminium body that closely matches the original car. The biggest change to the design is the rear section, which now looks like classic Indy Car racers from the same era. You can easily recognize the new design, which resembles cars like the Kurtis Kraft 500 that raced in Indy Car throughout most of the 1950s and 1960s. The double-bubble windshield is also exchanged for a more conventional low-rise windshield. This might not be the purest design if you compare it to the Troy Roadster, but in all honesty, the new windshield perfectly matches the look of the car. The nose section is also quite cool, which offers a glimpse of the in-board suspension system.

Peeling away the front section of the bodywork will reveal the modern 6.2 litres LS3 V8 crate engine by General Motors, which is connected to a Tremec six-speed manual transmission. This will feed between 495 to 525 horsepower (depending on the selected set-up) to the rear wheels through a limited-slip differential. The engine’s exhaust system coils out the side of the engine bay and is neatly tucked up to the bodywork. The entire car weighs just under 1,000 kilos (2200 lbs) with all fluids and everything (minus the driver obviously), and with around 500 horsepower on tap, this thing is very fast! There’s no word on top speed or acceleration but just by going over the specs and checking out the video of Jay driving around, it has plenty of power to have some fun!

Getting in is quite easy, as there are no doors and you basically just step in after you’ve taken off the wheel. The custom-made interior features two seats and padding on the sides and on the integrated headrest to keep you comfortable. Do take care getting out after a drive though, as you could potentially burn yourself on the exhaust. The dash panel can be finished in a number of different ways and comes with vintage-styled instruments.

7Fifteen Motorworks will build only 33 of these, with a base price of USD 195,000 each. The company also offers a lot of customization options, from paint finishes, interior trim, exterior details, and also some performance upgrades. These come at a premium obviously, which you can check out on the company’s website. It’s surely a lot of money for a car that might not be the most practical. But in return, you get a genuine expression of American car culture and a unique driving experience that will put an ear-to-ear smile on your face every time you mash the throttle.

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Editorial Note: The images included in the article are provided by 7Fifteen Motorworks unless stated otherwise.

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