From Salesman to Sculptor
is passionate about his hobby
captures beauty of racing
with his bronze masterpieces
(December 2012) Carl Hungness left home when
he was 15 years old to follow his dreams for a better life. Over the
years, the dream evolved from writer to publisher to sculptor. At every
stage, his finely honed skills as a salesman enabled him to convince
others to take a chance on his current dream generally to
the benefit of all.
carves his race cars
out of wood at his
studio, located on
in Madison, Ind.
Now living in Madison, Ind., the 68-year-old Hungness
focuses on the latest dream of creating works of art. Looking back on
a life filled with both triumph and challenge, Hungness says, Now,
Im just looking for something to carve.
Upon leaving home, Hungness took a job as salesman at Meyer the Hatter
hat shop in New Orleans and soon became the stores top seller.
Hungness used his salesmans prowess at every stage. After years
of effort, he sold the University of Colorado on admitting
him as a student, even though he had not completed high school.
During his senior year of college, Hungness produced Speed Wheels, a
weekly newspaper in which he shared his love of racing with readers
and began his long-running Peeled Eye column.
The column ran for over 27 years, says Hungness. To
this day, whenever I write a piece on racing, its under the Peeled
In conjunction with his racing writing, Hungness attended an Indy car
race in Denver where he was introduced to United States Auto Club officials
and first saw the USAC News, the racing organizations newsletter.
It was horrible. I thought that a club of that status should have
a better paper.
Sure that he could produce a quality newspaper that would bring USAC
racing to life, Hungness created a dummy version and drove to Indianapolis
to sell his idea. As luck would have it, officials were scheduled to
have their semi-annual meeting the next day. Hungness presented his
ideas and was hired on the spot.
As Hungness dreams and love of Indy racing evolved, he set his
sights on producing an annual Indianapolis 500 Yearbook to capture the
highlights and stories of the Indianapolis 500 race. Once again, his
best sales skills were needed to convince a skeptical management team
that he was the person to produce the yearly album.
After four years, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway management granted
Hungness permission to produce the 1973 yearbook. Hungness excitement
was short-lived. The race was considered both the longest (due to rain,
it took three days to run) and the shortest (the race was called after
133 laps or 332 miles). To make matters even worse, accidents led to
How was I supposed to make a yearbook out of that dismal race?
asks Hungness. Somehow, Hungness pulled together a yearbook and used
his sales skills to convince a printer to put out 1,000 copies. Orders
came pouring in. The yearbook became so successful that Hung-ness would
produce Indy yearbooks for the next 27 years.
While Hungness was finding success in his writing and publishing career,
he developed an interest in art. A childhood injury had left his right
thumb immovable. Despite this obstacle, Hungness produced a bronze sculpture
titled Wheel of Life depicting a life-size version of a
racers hands grasping a steering wheel. He quickly sold three,
providing the funds for him to undergo an operation to repair his thumb.
With his now fully functioning hand, Hungness approached Al Stancel,
master violin producer, about doing an apprenticeship with him. Stancel
accepted. Eighteen months later, Hungness produced a copy of a 1707
Stradivarius. His love of art rivaled his love of racing.
Upon seeing Hungness Wheel of Life, Jim Williams commissioned
Hungness to create another sculpture. He wanted a sculpture to
commemorate the Roger Penskes great achievement of putting three
cars on the starting line of the Indy 500, says Hungness. I
built it to one-eighth scale, including every detail of the cars. Im
really proud of that one. It greets visitors at Penskes museum
in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The work sealed Hungness reputation as a sculptor. Hes added
several more sculptures with racing themes to his repertoire.
Upon ending his career with the Indy yearbooks, Hungness moved to Madison.
I visited one Christmas and fell in love with the Christmas lights
downtown and the people.
He owns a studio, where he intends to pursue his love of art through
more sculpture. Id like to move beyond racing, says
Hungness. Right now, Im considering a sculpture of a violin
maker, perhaps testing his latest violin.
The salesman in Hungness, however, still reigns. Hungness purchased
a dilapidated building on Mulberry Street and lovingly restored it with
a first-class pool hall on the first floor and luxury apartments on
the upper floors. I want to sell the pool hall to someone who
can take it and make it a great success.
Whether writing, sculpting or rehabilitating an historic building, Hungness
finds the beauty in his subject and connects others to the beauty he
sees. If all goes well, he will find something to carve and
a way to sell it.
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