LEGENDARY ENGINE BUILDER PORTER DIES AT 84 INDIANAPOLIS, June 17, 1999 -- Herb Porter, whose name was synonymous with fast racing engines, died in an Indianapolis hospital June 16. Porter was 84. He passed away 27 days after suffering...
LEGENDARY ENGINE BUILDER PORTER DIES AT 84
INDIANAPOLIS, June 17, 1999 -- Herb Porter, whose name was synonymous with fast racing engines, died in an Indianapolis hospital June 16. Porter was 84. He passed away 27 days after suffering critical injuries in an auto accident and 26 days after being inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame. Porter and partner Rick Long owned Speedway Engine Development, Inc. located on Gasoline Alley, a couple miles south of the Speedway. Porter was affectionately known as "Herbie Horsepower" for his affinity for finding a way to make engines produce more speed. The turbocharged engine was one of Porter's specialties. But with the formation of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, he concentrated on the normally aspirated Oldsmobile Aurora engine. Racing engines and the Indianapolis 500 were the only loves of his life. "I'm married to the engine and that joint (Speedway) over there," life-long bachelor Porter said in a 1998 interview about the world's most famous racetrack. Porter was critically injured in a highway accident May 20 while returning from dinner with close friends Ebb and Jean Rose. He had been at Methodist Hospital since. The night after the accident, Porter was inducted, along with driver Eddie Sachs, into the Speedway Hall of Fame during the annual Hall of Fame/Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers dinner. "He was like a father to me," Long said. "I was involved with Herbie for 25 years, and he taught me everything I know. "Herb was a terribly knowledgeable person. He thrived on reading and learning to improve himself." Porter was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and reared in the small railroad town of Parsons, Kan. His big breakthrough at the Speedway came in 1968 when he prepared the turbo-Offenhauser engine for driver Bobby Unser's first victory. "We kicked the turbine's (butt)," the crusty Porter said. Porter went to work with Goodyear Tire soon thereafter and prepared engines for Unser, Peter Revson, Mark Donohue and Johnny Rutherford. Then he turned his talents to the Ford engine and built the powerplant that enabled A.J. Foyt to win the Indy 500 for the fourth time in 1977. In that 1998 interview, he summarized his career this way: "I've just been an engine man since I was a kid, what makes them go, what are their problems. When you beat (the other teams) you get satisfaction. That's what keeps your ego up." Calling hours will take place at the Conkle Funeral Home, 4925 W. 16th St., Indianapolis, IN 46224, from 2 to 7 p.m. June 21. Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. June 22, also at Conkle. Burial will be at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. Donations may be made to the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers Club, P.O. Box 24404, Speedway, IN 46224-0404.