Joe Granatelli, Andy Granatelli's older brother who helped fabricate the famed turbine race car that nearly won the 1967 Indianapolis 500, died last Saturday in Woodland Hills, California aged 84.
Joe and youngest Granatelli brother Vince were involved with their flamboyant brother from the time they first purchased a gas station together in Chicago and then first brought a race car to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1946.
Joe Granatelli was the chief mechanic on the Novis when Andy became involved at Indianapolis as a car owner and head of STP Corp. The elder Granatelli was listed as the entrant for Hotel Tropicana Spl. that Bobby Unser drove as a rookie in 1963.
Over the winter of 1966-67, Andy Granatelli decided to build a radical new racecar powered by a turbine engine. There was a rule for such an engine in the USAC book at the time. Joe and Vince built the car in their West Coast shop at Paxton Products that the three brothers had purchased in 1958.
Parnelli Jones, 1963 Indianapolis 500 champion, was hired to drive the car. In the 1967 Indianapolis 500, Jones led 171 laps, but a $6 bearing burned out on Lap 197. The car coasted to a halt. Joe Leonard, Graham Hill and Art Pollard drove turbine powered Lotus cars in 1968 and experienced similar misfortunes.
USAC then changed the turbine air inlet rules for 1969 and the "Whoosh Mobile" became a museum piece.
Joe Granatelli, who was with Andy at the Speedway through 1973 when Gordon Johncock won in an STP car, tested often at the Bonneville Salt Flats. He set a record of 198.9 mph in a straight-line run with the Studebaker Avanti. Granatelli also convinced Carroll Shelby to install one of the Paxton supercharger kits in his famed Cobras of the mid-1960s.
Granatelli served as president of Paxton Products for many years. It was sold two weeks before his death.
Survivors include: wife, Audrey; son, J.R.; daughter, Andrea; brothers Andy and Vince, and four grandchildren.
Cards may be sent to Audrey Granatelli at: 4531 Westchester Drive, Woodland Hills, CA 91364.