1971 George Bignotti Original Vel-Parnelli Johnny Lighting Team Jacket
This is Jacket was a personal possession of one of the greatest mechanics to ply his trade in North American motorsport George Bignotti. Born in 1918 in San Francisco, he had two older brothers, both of whom were mechanics, meaning George learned how to handle a wrench at an early age. The three boys eventually bought a midget and raced the car several times a week, with George as the substitute driver. If the regular driver didn’t show for a race, George would drive, and one year he achieved 14 victories out of 18 starts. However, George decided that his place was as a mechanic.
He came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a crew member for the first time in 1954 after winning four midget car championships as chief mechanic in the San Francisco area. In 1956 Bignotti, was working with Frank Kurtis, was credited with the producing the first Indy roadster. He accrued more National Championship victories than any other chief mechanic, he won 85 such events including a record seven victories in the Indianapolis 500 (A.J. Foyt in 1961/64, Graham Hill 1966, Al Unser in 1970/71, Gordon Johncock 1973, and Tom Sneva 1983). Bignotti was a co-owner of the cars in two of those wins, in 1961 and 1983. Bignotti-prepared cars won a total of nine United States Auto Club National Championships.
During 1968, Bignotti and Unser ran the season in the wedge-shaped, part Lola, part Lotus, and part Bignotti car. In 1969, those ideas went into the 1970/71 winning Colt chassis when he affiliated with Vel-Parnelli Jones Team. in 1970 Al Unser Sr. won both the Indianapolis 500 and also the series Championship. In 1971 he would win his second Indy 500 driving again in the famous colors of the Johnny Lightning blue and yellow.
This jacket manufactured by Bowlers Shirt and Uniform Co is from the 1971 season. Its bright blue main color has the iconic branding of the Topper Toys Company ‘Johnny Lightning’ cars on its back, which was the major sponsor of the blue, yellow and red lightning bolt decorated Ford powered Colt Johnny Lightning Special. All of the logos on this jacket are chain-stitched on to the jacket. The yellow edged in red band that runs around the middle of the torso and arms are also hand stitched to the jacket. In this band are the Vel-Parnelli teams other sponsor luggage manufacturer Samsonite chain-stitched lettering to the back. On the front it has a Topper toys patch on the right and a image of a suitcase to the left. On the upper chest there is ‘George’ stitched on the left along with a Firestone patch just above. On the right is a Castrol Oil patch.
This truly fantastic piece of memorabilia is not only is a rare one off item, but also a part of the history of the greatest spectacle in motorsport the Indianapolis 500.