The mighty Offenhauser engine thoroughly dominated Champ Car and the Indianapolis 500 from 1935 through the mid 70s. Then the Cosworth high performance engines took over. Chevrolet had very limited success with an occasional open-wheel race on the Indy circuit, but that all began to change in 1984.
Ilmor Engineering and Chevrolet were brought together by Roger Penske to begin a new chapter in the sport and in the Chevrolet brand.With technical assistance from GM, Ilmor’s Paul Morgan and Mario Illien fashioned a turbo V8 that soon became the preferred powerplant in CART racing. From its debut in 1986 until 1992, it won 64 of 78 Champ Car series races.
This incredible run included six consecutive Indianapolis 500s, starting with Rick Mears’ 1988 win in a Penske chassis. Emerson Fittipaldi followed the next year in the same combination for Patrick Racing. Arie Luyendyk scored the Indy 500 win in 1990 for Doug Shierson Racing with the Ilmor Chevrolet in a Lola chassis for Chevrolet’s third straight Indy 500 win. Rick Mears and Penske Racing came back with top honors in 1991 with the Chevrolet/Penske combination.
A Chevrolet engine found its way into a Galmer chassis with Al Unser Jr. behind the wheel representing the Gales Racing Team for the win in America’s race in 1992 for the fifth Chevrolet win in a row. Emerson Fittipaldi wrapped up the sixth straight Indy 500 win for Chevrolet with a Penske chassis while driving for Penske Racing.
The combination was so successful that Ilmor teamed up with Chevrolet again in 2012 when they brought the twin-turbo V-6 engine to Indy Car.