Significant pieces of Porsche motorsport history live in an Ohio basement
Ron Thomas has created one of the greatest Porsche collections (and car collections in general) in the country. When he adds cars he does so with passion and attention to detail, obtaining as much history and memorabilia about each car as possible. One area in particular where the history may surprise even the most hardcore Porsche fan, is his collection of open-wheel race cars. This includes a Porsche Formula One car, and two Porsche IndyCars, including the one I immediately recognized from the last time I saw it on a historic day in 1989.
Ron’s personal collection, mostly stored below his home just north of Columbus, Ohio, could be an amazing car museum in its own right. His open-wheel racers sit in just one small corner of his collection. He personally raced most of these single seaters with many regional and national Formula Continental victory trophies on display. “I decided to create a space where each class of open-wheel racer was displayed – from Volkswagen powered Formula Vee’s all the way up to IndyCar and Formula One.” Ron shared. “Along with each car I try to match it with race programs, paintings, model cars, and as much race history as possible.” His collection is an example of the open-wheel ladder system and includes Formula Ford (typically the first step on the ladder), Formula Vee (VW Bug based), Formula Continental, F2000, Formula Atlantic, IndyCar (CART), and Formula One.
As a Porsche collector, Ron Thomas wanted to find any Porsche open-wheel examples for his collection. Unfortunately, despite their rich history and decades of dominance in sports cars there just isn’t much in the way of success for Porsche in open-wheel racing. They only have one total Formula 1 victory from back in 1962 (though they provided engines for McLaren that won the championships from 1984-1986). Here are three of the most significant pieces of Porsche open-wheel motorsports history that most people have never heard of… all in one personal collection.
IndyCar – 1989 No. 8 Quaker State March 89P-Porsche Indy V8
After the Porsche 962 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1986 (their 6th in a row) it was time for a new challenge. One thing Porsche had never done was win an IndyCar race. From 1988-1990 they entered a car with the most powerful engine in the series featuring their 720hp 2.65L turbo V8. Seeing the #8 in Quaker State livery in Ron’s basement immediately brought back memories. I remember seeing this car at my first ever motorsports event, the 1989 IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio my dad took me to at 9-years-old. That was the day I became a lifelong motorsports fan.
History was made at Mid-Ohio when Teo Fabi piloting the #8 won that day, marking Porsches first and ONLY IndyCar win. Despite their engine being more powerful than the field of Ilmore Chevys and Cosworth-Fords, it wasn’t enough to overcome an uncompetitive chassis most races. After just over 2 seasons of racing and a combination of struggling to find the handling they needed, dealing with the death of the head of the Porsche North America’s Motorsports Division, and fighting against some questionable political rules made specifically against their cars, Porsche pulled the plug on their IndyCar program after the 1990 season. A total of 44 races, and 1 win.
Porsche hasn’t returned to Indy racing, leaving this the only Porsche to ever win an IndyCar race. It’s quite a sight to see it in person again after over 30 years, unrestored. It still has chips in the paint and the original (read: hard as a hockey puck) Goodyear Eagle Racing Radial 15” tires. Don’t take “unrestored” to mean unloved though. Ron has spent a great deal of time and effort to surround this car with as much original memorabilia and records as possible. He even commissioned Bill Patterson to do a painting of the car, now one of his favorite pieces of memorabilia, displayed next to the team uniform.
There are also original media kits, team banners, posters, and even Teo Fabi’s actual race used helmet. Ron has done an amazing job preserving this significant piece of Porsche motorsport history. Watching the race online now, as Fabi crosses the finish line announcer Paul Page shouts “Porsche has done it! At Mid-Ohio they have scored their first victory in Indycar! The crowd is loving it, they recognize the significance of this moment.” Pretty epic call, even if we didn’t understand how significant that win would be at the time.
That is a day, and a car, I will never forget. Ron was able to save this part of Porsche history after purchasing it directly from the Porsche Museum in Germany. As it sits in his basement the car still can start and run today.
Formula 1 – 1991 Porsche Footwork FA11C
In 1987 Porsche left F1 racing after supplying motors for McLaren the previous few years. Those motors were never badged as Porsche; instead they were labeled as “TAG”, and helped McLaren win three drivers’ championships and two constructors’ championships.
However, Porsche wanted back in, and they wanted to do it on their own this time. They returned in 1991 using a 3.5L V12. Unfortunately, the car came in overweight and underpowered compared to the competition. Porsche lasted just six races before the Footwork Arrows team withdrew from their partnership saying the German manufacturer had fallen far short of their contractual obligations. They never finished a race.
This #9 example was driven by Michele Alboreto at the Monaco, Canadian, and Mexican Gran Prix’s. Ron shared, “This Porsche Formula One car is the only one left in the world with the original V12 motor. I was able to get this directly from the Porsche Museum. I’m still waiting for the gearbox to arrive, but once that happens this piece of history will be able to drive.” Pretty sure people throughout Columbus will hear when he fires up that V12.
IndyCar – 1980 TSM Interscope Porsche Type 940
Understanding the value of what performing well in the Indy 500 could do for their brand in the states, Porsche reached an agreement with Interscope Racing to enter the 1980 Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, it was bad timing to be a new team as IndyCar was struggling with fighting between the governing body (USAC) and the teams (CART). Porsche built a car that met all the rules and went testing.
The results were more than impressive with their reported speeds scaring a lot of the traditional team owners. AJ Foyt eventually lobbied USAC for a rule change that would severely limit the turbo power of only the Porsche and threated to quit USAC if they didn’t agree. The Porsche team and driver Danny Ongais were ready to qualify for the 500 and expected to compete for the pole when just one month before the race USAC gave in to Foyt and changed the rules. Despite all the time and money invested in their IndyCar plan, Porsche took the only course of action available and shut down the program. In addition to the car, Ron has collected a lot of the rare marketing materials created to promote what was to be Porsche’s historic Indy 500 debut. “This is one of only 3 that Porsche ever built. I was able to get this on Bring A Trailer without a powerplant and plan to add a correct motor so it can run it in the future.”
Ron also has an extensive Porsche car collection that has proved to be helpful for his business as owner of AASE Sales, an online Porsche parts store. When someone calls with a question about a particular part, his team can literally go look at one of Ron’s 40+ Porsches to find the answer. They feature over 17,000 parts on their website with the majority being “new old stock”, including everything from posters to vintage restoration parts for all Porsche models.
Do any other Hagerty members have unique pieces of automotive history you would like to share? Email us at: HDCcommunity@hagerty.com and share your story.
We would love to feature more stories in future newsletters. You never know, your car may be one that someone else had seen as a child that impacted their life. Like Ron Thomas’ Porsche IndyCar did for me.
I thought the Fabi car was in the Porsche museum.
I know Ron purchased this directly from the Porsche Museum. Not sure if they had an additional one? Obviously the team used more than one during the season.
I was at the Portland 200 in 1989 and had some good fortune. I had drawn #8 in one of our pools, and won some cash when Fabi took the pole position. Good times!
I was at Mid Ohio at the sun. I still have a hat from victory lane they tossed.
Such a cool memory!
Any chance of setting up a HDC members visit to see Ron’s collection?
I have the carbon fiber pit board and all the numbers/letters for it from the Fabi IndyCar, probably one of the few things Ron doesn’t have. But that’s pretty much it for racing or Porsche memorabilia that I have.
JEALOUS! Would love to hear how you got that.
Is it for sale?
I’d like to know more about Ron Thomas himself.
Where can I get this information?
I would love to know more about that light blue w/ black stripes & ducktail 911 in picture 23!
It’s Ilmor, not Ilmore. Saw Fabi and the Indycar win the pole in Denver. The altitude gave them brake-cooling challenges.
A clarification. What is referred to as a Porsche 940 Indy car, is the Porsche flat 6 engine installed in a Parnelli P6B or C Indy Car chassis from 1978-9. This was one of the test mules for the Porsche program to develop the engine. Porsche did not build this chassis, it was only used to test the engine. The original plan was for the Porsche flat 6 to go in the Roman Slobodynskyj designed chassis. After Porsche withdrew from plans for the 1980 Indianapolis 500 over the USAC turbo boost reduction, Roman’s chassis was fitted with a Cosworth DFX, and the chassis then became known as an Interscope, or more popularly referred to, as the Batmobile. Danny Ongais also drove this car with the Cosworth power plant. Oh how I wish the Porsche would have been able to compete in this combination with Ongais and Interscope Racing.
I wonder whatever happened to the Porsche twin engine Indy car they were building in the 60’s. I remember reading and seeing pictures about how fast it was.
It’s so nice
I love it