A recent assigment from Speed Sport was to complete a soon-to-be-published retrospective of Phil Walters, an exceptionally talented postwar American racer who started out on Northeast bullrings under the pseudonym Ted Tappett, and who walked away from the sport for good following the 1955 spectator bloodbath at Le Mans. Walters made his rep in Midgets when they were the dominant craze in American motorsports, running seven times a week, or more, just after the war. A big part of Walters’ stardom was linked to his time driving the gorgeously turned-out Midgets of the Caruso family, originally from Long Island but now based in Las Vegas, where Brian operates a machine shop, and invites visitors to tour the family’s racing heirlooms that are gathered upstairs.
Here’s what you’ll find upstairs. On the left is the legendary Caruso Kurtis-Offenhauser Midget, here lettered as it was raced by “Iron Mike” Nazaruk, the combat-decorated ex-Marine who was fatally injured in a Sprint car at Langhorne Speedway. Tappett also drove the car, as did one of Midget racing’s true immortals, “Bronco Bill” Schindler, the one-legged star from Long Island who also met his end in a Sprint car. Arrayed to the right are a collection of smaller-bore Quarter Midgets.
In this alcove are several Midget engines, including a couple of Offys and a downsized Ford V8-60 flathead, One of the crankshafts on the table has a special history: The family patriarch, Mike Caruso Sr., lightened it by slicing away some of its counterweights before Schindler hustled the Kurtis to quick time while qualifying for a race inside the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1946. Schindler won 53 major Midget meets aboard the Caruso car in 1947, then backed it up with another 53 wins the following year. Counting in his prewar victories, the legendary Schindler ultimately owned an estimated 200 Midget triumphs with the Caruso family, an astonishing record.
Here’s what we really like. The big car on top of the display case is a quarter-scale model of Jim Rathmann’s winning Offy-powered Watson roadster from the 1960 Indianapolis 500, the model formed from a mold created by racer and artist Bob McCoy. The 1960 race, marked by a titanic battle for the win between Rathmann and Rodger Ward, is considered one of Indy’s greatest. If you’re just as amped by this stuff at us, and planning to hit Sin City, give Brian a call at 702-871-4300 to arrange a tour. In the meantime, check out the family’s full history in motorsports by clicking here. You can also go here to learn about the specialty fabricating services they provide.