100 Years of Buggy History – 1957-1959

Previous ArticlesIntro & 1920; 1921-1923; 1924-1927; 1928-1932; 1933-1935; 1936-1939; 1940-1945; 1946-1949; 1950-1953; 1954-1956

This week, the 100 Years of Buggy History series takes a look at the late 1950s, which sees ATO reach then-record heights before tumbling off their mountain (however briefly). Plus, we’ve got rain dates and our first single Raceday since the shift to the Prelim-Finals structure.

1957

Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 10 at 10:00am; Finals on Saturday, May 11 at 10:00am

Sweepstakes Committee: Unknown

Race Results: (1) ATO – Golden Goose (2:25 – TIED COURSE RECORD); (2) PiKA; (3) Beta(?)

Design Comp: (1) PhiKap; (2) Men’s Dorms

Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 76-78 Degrees on Friday; Cloudy/Possible Rain, 66-75 Degrees on Saturday

The digital archives are missing most of the Tartan issues for 1957, though we do have the one prior to Spring Carnival.  So we’ve got a bit of info previewing the race, but the rest of our information comes from later sources (primarily the 1966 History of the Sweepstakes article).

  • Limited Practice Time.  It may not surprise our readers, but Spring weather in Pittsburgh wasn’t very good in 1957!  Due to a lot of rain in April, most teams were unable to practice as much as they wanted to.  Therefore, the Tartan expected that no course record would be set (though that didn’t exactly turn out to be true).
  • More Buggies Hit The Course.  20 buggies were entered in the race, with 19 coming from fraternities and 1 from the Men’s Dorms.  The Men’s Dorms, in particular, sparked a lot of interest from the buggy community as they brought out a new buggy, competing for the first time in several years. Of the 19 fraternity buggies, 14 of them came from 7 fraternities, as ATO, Beta Sigma Rho, KapSig, PhiKap, PiKA, SAE, and Theta Xi each rolled out 2 buggies.  Meanwhile, Beta, DTD, DU, SigNu, and Tau Delta Phi each trotted out just 1.
  • And One Driver Hits The Course.  We don’t have a copy of the May 14 Tartan (which would have contained the race results), so we don’t know much about the race.  But according to the History of the Sweepstakes article in the 1966 Buggy Book, there was one major scare during the race.  The Tau Delta Phi buggy encountered some issues, presumably in the freeroll, and lost a wheel.  That caused the driver to lose control, and the buggy crashed into a parked car that had mistakenly been allowed on the course by the police.  The driver of the buggy was injured; the 1966 article notes that it’s the only recorded injury in the last 12 years of Buggy (1953-1965).
  • Other Results.  We have no other information about the Prelims, but based on the 1966 History of the Sweepstakes article, it appears that ATO, PiKA, and Beta were the 3 teams that advanced to the finals.  That article noted that PiKA’s and Beta’s pushers were faster (and implies that ATO had the freeroll advantage).  ATO’s buggy, Golden Goose, cruised to victory in the Finals, tying their course record of 2:25 from 1956 and earning ATO its 5th straight victory.  Meanwhile, the design comp victory went to PhiKap, with the Men’s Dorms taking 2nd.
  • 1957 Photos. Below are some photos from 1957:
1957 – ATO’s Golden Goose, the 1957 Winner (from the 1957 Thistle)
1957 – Beta’s 3rd Place Buggy being pushed on the Back Hills (from the 1957 Thistle)
1957 – Hill 2 (into the freeroll) of an unknown heat (from the 1957 Thistle). The buggies are unknown.
1957 – PhiKap’s Design Comp-winning buggy (from the 1957 Thistle)
1957 – ATO celebrates their 5th straight winning trophy (from the 1957 Thistle)
1957 – PiKA’s Shark/S-1, 2nd Place Buggy, being pushed towards the Finish Line (from the 1957 Thistle)
1957 – Hill 1 of an unknown heat (from the 1957 Thistle). All 3 buggies are unknown.
1957 – An unknown buggy with the shell removed and being held (from the 1957 Thistle).
1957 – Men’s Dorms new buggy, which placed second in Design Comp (from the 1957 Thistle)

1958

Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 2 at 10:00am; Finals on Tuesday, May 6 at 5:30am*

Sweepstakes Committee: Unknown

Race Results: (1) ATO – Andy I (2:28.4); (2) PiKA – Shark/S-1 (2:43); (3) ATO – Golden Goose (2:45)

Design Comp: (1) PhiKap; (2) ATO

Weather: Sunny, 60-69 Degrees on Friday; Rain on Saturday, May 3; Overcast, 45 Degrees on Tuesday

The 1958 races saw the first postponement of Finals since 1946, with a curious rain date that led to both celebration and trouble.

  • Battle Over Bearings.  Wheel technology has long been important, but when it comes to the late 1950s, the major differentiator was the ball bearings used with the wheels.  A letter to the editor in the April 29, 1958 Tartan, written by “Wheelan Daxle” (get it?), a sophomore in Drama, argued that buggy was starting to lose some of its enjoyment as a friendly competition.  He claimed that the science had improved so much, and the competition had become so intense, that no team could be expected to finish in the Top 3 without spending at least $250 in the “battle of the ball bearings” (in addition to the many hours of labor). Another view of Buggy came from junior Electrical Engineer John M. Clayton, who pointed out that few members of fraternities actually know about the design or engineering of buggies.  He argued for a Buggy Symposium to allow fraternities to discuss the theoretical aspects of buggy design and the improvement of racing conditions (safety and course maps), proposing a level of openness that the normally secretive buggy organizations did not necessarily support.
  • Prelims.  The sun shone brightly for Prelims on Friday.  And although we don’t know the full breakdown of what happened, we do know the top 3 finishers.  ATO, looking for their sixpeat, easily advanced to the Finals with Andy I putting up a time of 2:25.6.  PiKA and ATO’s 2nd buggy, meanwhile, battled it out for the 2 other spots, and ultimately ATO’s Golden Goose prevailed, putting up a 2:33.8 time, while PiKA settled for the 3rd and final spot in the Finals with a 2:36.8.
  • Rain Wreaks Havoc.  Cloudy skies moved in later in the day on Friday, and soon the clouds got worse. By Saturday morning, the skies had opened.  Saturday’s Finals had to be postponed for the first time since 1946.  But rather than push it back to the following Saturday (as had been done in past years), the race was instead rescheduled for 5:30am on Tuesday, May 6 (with the city’s permission and police support).  Rain fell on that Tuesday as well, but the race was run early enough in the day that the rain had not yet started.  A massive crowd of 70-80 spectators were on site to watch the race.
  • Tuesday Finals. Whatever hopes either ATO or PiKA had of breaking records, or even putting up impressive times, were dashed once the rain fell on Saturday.  The move to Tuesday morning dulled everything about the race, including most of the excitement.  Ultimately, there was no match for ATO’s Andy I, which dominated the race in easily earning ATO their 6th win in a row.  Andy I put up a time of 2:28.4, slower than Prelims and the first time since 1948 that a new course record had not been set.  But while they lost 3 seconds from their Prelim time, they fared far better than their competition.  PiKA’s Shark/S-1 actually moved up to 2nd, but slowed to a 2:43 (6 seconds slower than Prelims), while ATO’s Golden Goose fell to 3rd with a 2:45, an 11 second decline in time.
  • ATO Parties Hard.  A sixpeat is impressive, so ATO decided to celebrate.  Doing it on a Tuesday, rather than the Saturday of Carnival, however, may not have been the best choice.  We don’t know exactly what happened at that celebration, but we do know that the Council of Fraternity Presidents’ Court of Justice handed ATO a one-week social probation (running from May 7-May 14) as a result of its activities during its victory celebration following the race on May 6. The Council had been established in 1950 to dole out punishments to fraternities that violate the school’s social conduct policies.
  • 1958 Photos. Below are some of the photos from 1958:
1958 – Dick Hartman (MCS ’58 and future Army Missile Command Research Physicist) gets strapped in for the first heat for an unknown org (from the 1958 Thistle)
1958 – Starting Line of an unknown heat (from the 1958 Thistle). Jess Quatse (MCS ’58) is pushing the Lane 3 buggy, which appears to be the Men’s Dorms. Other 2 buggies are unknown.
1958 – ATO’s Andy I crosses the Finish Line in victory (from the 1958 Thistle).
1958 – PiKA’s Shark/S-1 (2nd place) at the Finish Line with Lu Marquet pushing (from the 1958 Thistle)
1958 – PhiKap’s Buggies on Display (from the 1958 Thistle).
1958 – Hill 1 from an unknown Prelim Heat (from the 1958 Thistle). From Left to Right (Best Guesses; if you disagree please let us know): PiKA – Shark/S-1 (Lane 1); SAE (Lane 2); Unknown (Lane 3)
1958 – Hill 1 of an unknown heat (from the 1958 Thistle). Jess Quatse (MCS ’58) is pushing the Lane 3 buggy, which appears to be the Men’s Dorms. Other 2 buggies are unknown.
1958 – Hill 1-2 Transition from an unknown Prelim Heat (from the 1958 Thistle). Lane 2 is ATO’s Andy I; Lane 1 is unknown.
1958 – PiKA’s Shark/S-1 (from the BAA Archives, submitted by Roderick A. Dibble, ’59). Driver, Jim Phillips in red jacket bending over the Shark buggy; right from Phillips are Don Woodward (back to camera), Bill Ladd & girl (unknown), Sally Day, Dave Kratovil (back to camera), and Al Albright in red shirt. All were PiKA brothers (except for the females, of course!)
1958 – An unknown buggy (possibly SigNu?) crosses the Finish Line (from the 1958 Thistle)

1959

Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 1 at 10:00am*; Saturday, May 2 at 10:00am

Sweepstakes Committee: John Kahler (Chair)

Race Results: (1) PiKA (2:29.7); (2) SigNu (2:30.3); (3) PhiKap (2:32.5)

Design Comp: (1) ATO; (2) PhiKap

Weather: Sunny, 54-58 Degrees on Friday; Sunny, 66-75 Degrees on Saturday

For the first time since the creation of the Prelim-Finals system, 1959 was limited to a single Raceday for an unexpected reason, and that change resulted in devastation for the reigning champs.

  • Safety Inspections.  Sweepstakes made a couple of rule changes for the 1959 Raceday.  One rule change for the year was about safety inspections, which included tests to ensure that (i) the brakes work, (ii) wheels are securely attached, (iii) steering mechanisms are adequate, and (iv) detachable buggy parts are secure enough that they won’t come loose during the race.  The change was that safety inspections would now take place during Design Competition, which began at 7:30am on Friday (before Prelims). 
  • One Raceday Or Two? One additional rule was added in 1959, driven by the Tuesday morning Finals of 1958, and that rule still exists today. If one of the two Racedays is rained out, the winner will be determined based on the Prelim times, rather than postponing Finals to a different day.  This second new rule would end up playing a bigger role in Raceday 1959 than expected.
  • Teams and Heats.  In total, 18 buggies were entered on Raceday, and they were divided into 6 Heats.  The Heats were:
    1. Heat 1: KapSig, ATO, SAE
    2. Heat 2: SAE, PiKA, DTD
    3. Heat 3: PhiKap, Beta Sigma Rho, Theta Xi
    4. Heat 4: Beta, DU, ATO
    5. Heat 5: Men’s Dorms, PhiKap, SigNu
    6. Heat 6: Beta, SigNu, PiKA
  • Friday Races Cancelled.  The weather was beautiful on Friday for Prelims.  The course, however, was not.  For some reason that wasn’t printed in the Tartan, a significant number of cars remained parked on the buggy course.  As a result, Sweepstakes was unable to hold races on Friday and had to fall back on their 2nd new rule – 1 day of racing for all the marbles.
  • ATO’s Streak Meets Its Unfortunate End.  On Saturday, Heat 1 was headlined by ATO and their new buggy, Andy II.  The new creation from the six-time winners sparked quite the commotion, and tons of spectators flocked to the starting line to see if the new buggy could turn in win #7 for the fraternity.  But the massive crowd had an unintended consequence; the crowd was so large around the starting line that the judges were unable to see the start of the race, resulting in a timing error.  Due to the timing error, ATO was granted a reroll at the end of the day, where they would roll alone. ATO did just enough to win, putting up a time of 2:29.5 (just 0.2 seconds ahead).  However, elation quickly turned into devastation when Sweepstakes determined that a member of ATO had paced the buggy, and therefore the defending champs were DQ’d for Pacing.
  • PiKA Finally Breaks Through.  After spending years finishing 2nd behind ATO, the Pacing DQ finally opened the door for PiKA.  Led by Ants Mikk (Buggy Chair) and Jack Hubacker (Asst. Chair), PiKA put up a time of 2:29.7 with their top buggy, Shark/S-1, which was just fast enough to hold off the upstart SigNu.  SigNu, led by chair Jim Flowers, ended up 2nd with a time of 2:30.3, while PhiKap, led by chair William Nusso, settled for 3rd in 2:32.5.
  • 1959 Photos. Below are some photos from 1959:
1959 – ATO’s Golden Goose crosses the Finish Line (from the 1959 Thistle)
1959 – Prelim Heat 5, Hill 1-2 Transition (from the 1959 Thistle). From Left to Right: Men’s Dorms (Lane 1); PhiKap (Lane 2). Not Pictured: SigNu (Lane 3).
1959 – PiKA’s Shark in the shop (from the BAA Gallery, courtesy of Rod Dibble (’59)). The Shark being fitted with energy absorbing material to give the driver’s head some protection. Doing the fitting is the builder, Fred Ferrentino. The hat was honoring our booth theme, which had something to do with the South Sea Islands.
1959 – Unknown Buggy approaching the Finish Line (from the 1959 Thistle).
1959 – Beta Sigma Rho’s Buggy, with Joel Edelman driving (from the 05-06-1959 Tartan)
1959 – PiKA enters the freeroll trailing (from the 1959 CIT Alumnus)
1959 – Unknown Buggies making their way to the course (from the 1959 Thistle). Leftmost buggy is possibly SigNu?
1959 – An unknown buggy being loaded (from the 1959 Thistle).

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