Bill Vukovich at the Indy 500, 1953 by Dion Pears


Long before the Unser's, Andretti's, or the Penske Team became household names, Bill Vukovich blazed a trail across American racing that few have rivaled. Graduating up through the ranks of midget track car racing, Vukovich finally made it to the big time, Indianapolis, for the 1950 running of the 500 mile race. He failed to qualify driving a Maserati 8CTF, the famous Wilber Shaw Indy-winning 'Boyle Special', now seriously outclassed by more modern cars. 

The following year he returned with a new mount, qualified 20th, and climbed to 10th position before being sidelined with a broken oil tank. In 1951 he placed his car in the third row in qualifying, but a steering arm failure put him into the wall, and out of the race on the 192nd lap while he was in the lead.

Sensing that an Indy victory was within reach, in 1953 he stormed onto the track, captured the pole, led for 195 of 200 laps, and finished victorious. The race was forever known as the 'Hottest Indy', as ambient temperatures were in the '90s, while the track surface measured 130 degrees. Several drivers had to be relieved throughout the race, and one, Carl Scarborough actually died at the infield hospital from heat prostration.

1954 saw Vukovich return to Indy, and although qualifying 19th, he set the fastest lap time, and went on to win, making him only the third driver to achieve back-to-back victories at the Brickyard. In 1955, Vukovich mounted an effort to make it three in a row, but tragedy struck on the 57th lap, while he was leading, and approaching back markers. One of the cars in front of him crashed, creating a chain reaction. The only escape route open to Vukovich was closed by a spinning car which he slammed into, launching him end over end above the retaining wall. He died instantly along with his dreams.

The British artist Dion Pears (1929-1985) was born into a family of marine and sports painters, undoubtedly influencing his favorite subject matter; sailing yachts, railways, and motor sports. Here, Pears has depicted Bill Vukovich, piloting his 'Fuel Injection Special' at Indy during his victorious race in 1953.

The oil painting is more of an impression of the event rather than an exacting description, adding to the illusion of speed. The artist has managed to impart a slightly unsettled stance to the race car, mimicking the precarious ballet that is the power drift. Interestingly, Pears has added tire tracks cutting across the infield grass, perhaps alluding to the inherent dangers of the sport.

The oil on canvas measures an impressive 36 x 24 inches unframed, and is in excellent condition, showing no staining, yellowing, sagging, or pigment losses. Pears usually did not date his works, but we can logically assume that this piece is at least 31 years old. Special crating will be required for shipment, so please contact us prior to purchasing for an estimate of the packing and shipping expenses. This is an excellent opportunity to own an original artwork from an internationally recognized painter.  

  • Visa
  • MasterCard
  • PayPal