1949 Rounds Rocket
Offered by RM Auctions, Boca Raton, Florida, February 25, 2012
This beastly mid-engined Indy car was built by Indy car-building legends Lujie Lesovsky & Emil Diedt for a man named Nathan Rounds, who provided the funding and the original drawing of the car that he modeled after the brilliant pre-war Auto Unions.
Because both Diedt and Lesovsky were busy building their own successful race cars, this car was barely ready for the 1949 Indy 500 where it as entered with Bill Taylor as the driver. He did not qualify. In 1950 both Sam Hanks and Bill Vukovich gave the car a run and failed to make the show. Bill Vukovich was a man among men at Indianapolis and – even though 1950 was his rookie year – if he couldn’t get the car in, there was scarcely hope.
Intrigue: Nathan Rounds was close friends with Howard Hughes and it is suspected that Hughes money was behind the project. After failing to make Indy in 1950 the car was shipped to Beverly Hills where it sat in storage, although it did appear in a Mickey Rooney film in 1949.
Bill Harrah (of course) discovered the car in 1969 and bought it. When his collection was parted out the car was purchased and restored and eventually purchased by the Milhous Collection in 1998.
Here is your chance to purchase a car that was extremely ahead of its time. Indy cars would be front-engined for at least another 10 years and here was this brilliant car that had come along and said “the way of the future” (that’s a Howard Hughes quote from The Aviator).
It features an Meyer-Drake Offenhauser straight-four engine (naturally), making about 350 horsepower. It’s fast too – it was tested at Bonneville after it was completed and was clocked at 140 mph. The no reserve pre-sale estimate is $250,000-$350,000. For the complete catalog description, click here and for the rest of the collection click here.
Update: Sold $275,000.