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Lot 223

1960 Watson Indianapolis Roadster

  • Engine no. 210

Sold for $577,500


Please note that this lot is offered on a Bill of Sale.

255 cu. in. DOHC Offenhauser inline four-cylinder engine with fuel injection, Meyer-Drake two-speed manual transmission with reverse, tubular steel chassis with solid axles and torsion bar suspension, and Halibrand four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 96 in.

  • One of 23 original Roadsters built by A.J. Watson
  • A three-time entrant in the Indianapolis 500
  • Beautifully restored by Floyd and Ron Trevis
  • One of the most authentic privately owned Indy Roadsters


The “Roadster Era” at Indianapolis was characterized by lower, wider, offset-driveline cars that began after World War II. It was an exciting and very dangerous time, with drivers earning their rides at Indy by exhibiting skill, tenacity, and bravery while driving their midgets and sprint cars on rough and tumble tracks from coast to coast. The unique chassis and body designs varied from builder to builder, but the most famous of these powerful brutes were powered by the famously rowdy Offenhauser four-cylinder engines.

THE WATSON ROADSTERS

A.J. Watson built his first track car for CRA Hot Rod races in 1947, but ultimately, he became disinterested in driving. Instead, he came to Indianapolis off-and-on as a builder and mechanic; that is until 1954, when he was hired as the chief mechanic for renowned racing team owner and sponsor John Zink Jr. Success came quickly, with Bob Swiekert driving Zink’s Kurtis KK500C Roadster, which had been modified by Watson, to victory in the 1955 Indy 500.

The following year, Watson built the first true Watson Indianapolis Roadster for Zink. Recognizing that saving weight would translate into higher speeds, he departed from the usual Kurtis-derived design, narrowing the chassis slightly and removing any steel or bracing that he considered unnecessary. Rather than placing the Offy powerplant 36 degrees to the right, he mounted it upright, which allowed for increased left-side weight bias and easier maintenance. Lightweight 4130 chromoly tubing was used wherever practical, and the driveline parts were made of magnesium, with sheet magnesium used for body panels. At 1,640 pounds, the finished car was 220 pounds less than the winning Kurtis of the previous year.

Not surprisingly, driver Pat Flaherty handily won the 500 in this car in 1956, and Watson would continue on to build another 22 Roadsters, with some slight refinements and design work being performed by Larry Shinoda, of Corvette fame. Watson Roadsters would win the Indianapolis 500 six times in just nine years.

THE ANDREWS’S WATSON ROADSTER

The Roadster offered here was built in 1960 for Pete Salemi and Nick Rini, of Cleveland, Ohio. It was driven in the 1960 Indy 500, as the S-R Special #9, by Len Sutton, who qualified a strong 5th before engine trouble forced him out of the race on lap 47. The team went on to run four other races with the car that year, and it ultimately won at the Milwaukee 200.

For 1961, Len Sutton was back and posted strong qualifying times prior to that year’s 500. In this car, which was now sponsored as the Bryant Heating and Cooling Special #8, Sutton qualified 8th and ran with the leaders early in the race. Unfortunately, a clutch failure ended his race on lap 110, resulting in a 19th place finish. This did not deter Sutton, as he went on to score a 2nd place finish at the Milwaukee 200 that year.

For the 1962 Indianapolis 500, the Watson returned a third time, as the S&R Racing Special #83, and it was driven by rookie Allen Crowe. After qualifying in 22nd place, Crowe bumped another car while attempting to pass in turn four on the 17th lap, which resulted in a wreck that ended the racing season for Salemi and Rini. This was the last time that this particular Watson Roadster ran in competition.

The car faded into oblivion until the summer of 1981, when Mike Fulper found it by chance in Wauseon, Ohio, where it was owned by the proprietor of a local Dairy Queen. The car still showed the scars of Allen Crowe’s crash, and it looked much as it had when it left Trevis’s shop, with its 1962 race-day paint largely intact. A deal was quickly made for its purchase.

Bud Miller and Bill Chapin subsequently purchased the Watson from Fulper, and they had well-respected Indy Roadster fabricator and craftsmen Floyd Trevis and his son, Ron, restore it back to its original condition, which took two years to do. Originality was paramount and guided by Floyd’s knowledge and craftsmanship, which was supplemented by careful examination of period photos of the car. The 1961 Bryant Heating and Cooling Special livery was chosen for the car specifically for its striking blue color.

Chapin eventually bought out Miller’s interest in the car, and in 1992, he returned it to Indianapolis as one of seven privately owned Indy Roadsters invited to take a few parade laps prior to that year’s 500. Fittingly, Chapin asked Len Sutton to drive his old mount for a sentimental trip around the track. Thereafter, the car was purchased by well-known collector Joe MacPherson, who displayed it at the NHRA Museum and, later, at his own Joe’s Garage facility in Tustin, California, from where it was acquired by the Andrews’ in 2008.

As offered today, this car remains in wonderful condition, and it is extremely period-correct, which is a testament to its restorers’ attention to detail and perfectionism, as well as to its maintenance in the Andrews Collection. Complementing its rarity, it has never been butchered or turned into a Supermodified, which adds greatly to its stature among other restored Watson Roadsters and significantly contributes to its utterly remarkable history.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more