Lesovsky Indy Roadster

1949 Lesovsky-Offenhauser

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Phoenix, Arizona | January 17-18, 2019

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Classic race cars take a special breed of person. They’re high-maintenance cars and you can’t exactly take them to the local cruise-in. And the older they are, the crazier they can be. Before big money moved in, there were a lot of people with a lot of different ideas building cars that ran within inches of each other. They were individuals, not spec cars. And because of that, old race cars are awesome.

This car was built by Lujie Lesovsky’s L.A. Lesovsky Race Car Engineering, an open-wheel race car constructor active from the late-1940s through the early-1960s. It’s a short-wheelbase car powered by a Meyer-Drake Offenhauser inline-four making 300 horsepower. 

The racing history for this chassis includes:

  • 1948 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ
  • 1949 Indianapolis 500 – 3rd, with George Connor
  • 1950 Indianapolis 500 – 8th, with George Connor
  • 1951 Indianapolis 500 – 30th, with George Connor
  • 1952 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ, with Bill Taylor
  • 1953 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ, with Bill Taylor
  • 1954 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ, with Bob Christie

Well there you have it – three Indy 500 starts with a podium finish. The car was also raced in period by Bill Holland and Len Sutton, the latter of which wrecked the car in a race in 1955. After that, it never raced competitively again. It was preserved and later restored to its “Blue Crown Special” livery.

This Offy-powered Lesovsky is one of very few such cars that survive today. They don’t change hands often, but when they do the prices make you take note. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

The Winner of the 100th Indy 500

2012 Dallara-Honda DW12

Offered by Mecum | Monterey, California | August 25, 2018

Photo – Mecum

The DW12 was IndyCar’s new chassis beginning in the 2012 season. Named for the late Dan Wheldon, the DW12 is expected to be the series’ base chassis through the 2020 season. Built by Dallara, this chassis, #037, won the 2016 Indy 500 with rookie Alexander Rossi behind the wheel.

The engine in this car is a twin-turbo 2.2-liter Honda V-6 tuned to make about 625-ish horsepower. It still wears the distinctive blue and yellow NAPA livery that Rossi took to victory lane as well as the 2016 Honda Speedway aero kit. You’re probably wondering why this “2012” Dallara won the 2016 Indy 500. Well, here’s the Indy 500 competition history for this chassis:

  • 2012 Indianapolis 500 – 12th (with Alex Tagliani)
  • 2013 Indianapolis 500 – 24th (with Tagliani)
  • 2014 Indianapolis 500 – 20th (with Jack Hawksworth)
  • 2015 Indianapolis 500 – 16th (with Gabby Chaves)
  • 2016 Indianapolis 500 – 1st (with Alexander Rossi)

That’s right, it’s run five Indy 500s, winning the last time out (and what a race it was). The official entrant was Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian… which is a mouthful. Indy 500-winning cars rarely change hands and many of them are owned by the Speedway Museum itself. So it’s rare that one is out in the wild – especially one that could technically still compete. Here’s your chance to grab a piece of history. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $1,127,500.

Kurtis KK4000

1952 Kurtis KK4000

Offered by Bonhams | Amelia Island, Florida | March 8, 2018

Photo – Bonhams

Now we’re talkin’. Here is an Indy car from the early 1950s, back when these cars ran on dirt more often than pavement. It predates other Kurtis cars, namely their Indy Roadsters. Frank Kurtis built some of the most dominant race cars of this era and, especially in the early 1950s, they won just about everything.

The KK4000 was new for 1951 but race cars then tended to be fielded for years, even after they ceased to be competitive (a different KK4000 was raced until 1975). The 4000 series was a development of the earlier 3000 series and featured a lighter construction, thus making it faster. It’s powered by a 4.4-liter Offenhauser straight-four – probably the most legendary race car engine of all time.

Only 12 examples of the KK4000 were built and they rarely change hands. The race history of this chassis includes:

  • 1952 Indy 500 – DNQ (with Allan Heath)
  • 1953 Indy 500 – ?
  • 1954 Indy 500 – 21st, DNF (with Pat O’Connor)
  • 1955 Indy 500 – 30th, DNF (with Ed Elisian)
  • 1956 Indy 500 – DNQ (with John Kay)

It was entered in the ’53 500 but I can’t find who drove this chassis that race and if it even qualified. Bonhams doesn’t seem to know either. This car raced up through 1959 before it was retired and sold to a collector. It has been restored to 1955 race spec. This is a very rare, very historically important race car (this was the car Elisian was driving when he pulled over and tried to help Bill Vukovich after his fatal crash). It should sell for between $275,000-$350,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Not sold.

Update: Sold, Mecum Indy 2018, $291,500.

Kurtis Kraft 500G

1957 Kurtis 500G

Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 17, 2018

Photo – Worldwide Auctioneers

Indy roadsters, as this style of race car is often called, are the coolest cars that ever raced at Indianapolis. These were driven by men who muscled them around the track, two hands on a steering wheel that looked like it came out of a bus. Frank Kurtis’ cars – when equipped with that Offy underhood – were unstoppable in the 500.

The KK 500G was an evolution of earlier Kurtis 500 cars but with upgraded aerodynamics. This particular chassis was at one point owned by Smokey Yunick – his first “major league” open-wheel race car. It’s competition history includes:

  • 1957 Indianapolis 500 – 5th (with Andy Linden)
  • 1958 Indianapolis 500 – 30th, DNF (with Paul Goldsmith)

After it’s brief history on the Championship circuit, it was used a supermodified car before being rescued by a major Indy roadster collector and restored to the condition you see here. It’s still powered by the legendary 4.2-liter Offenhauser straight-four. Only 14 Kurtis-Kraft 500Gs were built and they’re one of the best-looking of their type. This one should bring between $300,000-$375,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $308,000.

Watson Indy Roadster

1960 Watson-Offenhauser Indianapolis Roadster

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Fort Worth, Texas | May 2, 2015

Photo - RM Sotheby's

Photo – RM Sotheby’s

A.J. Watson and Fred Offenhauser are two legendary names associated with the Indianapolis 500 – names that, to Indy faithful, are right there with Foyt and Unser. Watson built his first car (for himself) in 1947. In 1955 he modified a Kurtis KK500C which ended up winning the 500. In 1956, Watson built his first Indy Roadster from scratch. He would go on to build only 22 more.

This car was built in 1960 and was run for a few years thereafter. Its competition history includes:

  • 1960 Indianapolis 500 – 30th, DNF (with Len Sutton)
  • 1960 Milwaukee 200 – 1st (with Sutton)
  • 1961 Indianapolis 500 – 19th, DNF (with Sutton)
  • 1961 Milwaukee 200 – 2nd (with Sutton)
  • 1962 Indianapolis 500 – 31st, DNF (with Allen Crowe)

The ’62 500 was the final race for this car (because it was crashed), which didn’t fare too well there. It is powered by a 4.2-liter Offenhauser straight-four. The car was discovered in the early 1980s and was restored thereafter to its 1961 Indy livery. It has been back to Indy since (driven by Sutton in some warm up laps) and was displayed at the NHRA museum.

Watson Roadsters are very rare – even more so in private hands. This one should bring between $700,000-$800,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $577,500.

STP Turbine Indy Car

1968 Lotus 56

Offered by Barrett-Jackson | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 17, 2015

Photo - Barrett-Jackson

Photo – Barrett-Jackson

In 1967, Andy Granatelli entered the turbine-powered STP-Paxton Turbocar in the Indianapolis 500. The car nearly won the race at the hands of Parnelli Jones but a transmission bearing failure with eight laps to go ruined those plans.

Team Lotus took note of this impressive performance and they designed the Lotus 56 around a modified version of the Pratt & Whitney ST6B used in the Turbocar. The STN 6/76 made 500 horsepower in the 56. This car also has four-wheel drive.

So it dominated qualifying, with Joe Leonard taking the pole in one of three 56s entered for the race (a fourth was built, but was destroyed in Mike Spence’s fatal crash in testing). This car was raced by Graham Hill in the ’68 500. He crashed in turn two on lap 110, resulting in a 19th place finish. None of the 56s finished the race, but Joe Leonard was leading with nine laps to go when his fuel pump broke.

This car was owned by Richard Petty for many years and it has been restored to working, race-day condition. For the past year, it’s been on display on at the Speedway Museum in Indy. It’s an awesome piece of machinery and Indianapolis 500 history. Click here for more info and here for the rest of Barrett-Jackson’s lineup.

Update: Not sold, high bid of $1,200,000.

Update: Not sold, RM Sotheby’s Monterey 2016.

1954 Indy 500 Pace Car

1954 Dodge Royal 500 Indy Pace Car Edition

Offered by RM Auctions | Hershey, Pennsylvania | October 10, 2014

Photo - RM Auctions

Photo – RM Auctions

There’s a lot of cars to choose from that we could’ve featured this week. RM’s Hershey sale was chock full of rare antique automobiles and we’ve featured a number of them. But this is the last car from this sale we got to feature and I couldn’t pass it up. It’s a beauty.

It’s very striking – yellow with black graphics and top and wire wheels with whitewalls (tongue twister alert). There’s a continental kit out back as well. The Royal was a new model for Dodge in 1954, the same year of Dodge’s inaugural pacing of the Great American Race. The Royal was the top model for Dodge in ’54 and it used a 150 horsepower 4.0-liter Hemi V-8 to muscle it along.

Dodge built 701 Pace Car Edition Royal Convertibles. This car was restored by its current owners and it looks amazing. Suddenly, this rare edition has become one of my must-have 1950s American classics. Go figure. It’ll cost me between $50,000-$70,000, though. Too bad. Click here for more info and here for the rest of RM’s Hershey lineup.

Update: Sold $49,500.

Shelby Turbine Indy Car

1968 Shelby Turbine Indy Car

Offered by Mecum | Monterey, California | August 14-16, 2014

Photo - Mecum

Photo – Mecum

Everyone remembers Andy Granatelli’s STP turbine indy cars from 1967 and 1968 – back in the day when the Indianapolis 500 stood for speed and innovation. The STP-Paxton Turbocars were driven by Parnelli Jones and Joe Leonard and dominated the races but always failed prior to the finish.

Well in 1968, Carroll Shelby also built a similar turbine-powered open-wheel racer and entered it in the Indy 500. The team practiced two cars – this one was driven by Bruce McLaren. USAC changed the rules surrounding turbine cars and while the STP cars were still legal, the Shelby cars were not able to compete and were withdrawn prior to qualifying.

The powerplant here is a General Electric T-58 shaft-drive turbine putting out a crazy 1,325 horsepower. This car is pristine and is currently on display the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum in their Turbine Indy Car exhibit. It’s a pretty cool opportunity that should command a pretty princely sum. You can read more here and see more from this sale here.

Update: Not sold, high bid of $450,000.

The 1974 Indianapolis 500 Winner

1974 McLaren M16C

Offered by RM Auctions | Monterey, California | August 16-17, 2013

1974 McLaren M16C

I guess I can get right to it: the competition history for this car includes:

  • 1973 Indianapolis 500 – 9th (with Johnny Rutherford)
  • 1974 Indianapolis 500 – 1st (with Rutherford)
  • 1974 Milwaukee 150 – 1st (with Rutherford)
  • 1974 Pocono 500 – 1st (with Rutherford)
  • 1974 Michigan 500 – 4th (with Rutherford)
  • 1974 Trenton 300 Race 1 – 4th (with Rutherford)
  • 1974 Trenton 300 Race 2 – 7th (with Rutherford)
  • 1974 Phoenix – 7th (with Rutherford)

As I think you’ll agree, only that second line really matters. It makes this car huge. Only a handful of Indianapolis 500 winning race cars are in private hands (that won prior to 1996). Rutherford started 25th, battled with A.J. Foyt for 50 laps and then took off, lapping every car on track with the exception of second place Bobby Unser – who finished 22 seconds behind J.R. That’s a beast of a race car and driver.

The M16C was introduced in 1973. This was a McLaren-factory car campaigned for the entire USAC season with Rutherford behind the wheel (Peter Revson was his teammate). This car won the pole at Indy in ’73. It was slightly redesigned for ’74 and Rutherford had to wait until Bump Day to make the field. This car was sold by McLaren to a privateer team, who failed to qualify for the 500 with it in 1977 and 1978.

When it was restored later on, the car was reverted to as it was in victory lane in 1974. It changed hands for a record price in 1991 and has been used (by Rutherford) at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The engine is a 2.6-liter turbocharged Offenhauser straight-four making 800 horsepower. That’s more than current Indy cars. At any rate, it’s rare that a 500 winner can be bought. This one should sell for between $1,250,000-$1,750,000. Click here for more info and here for more from RM in Monterey.

Update: Sold $3,520,000.

S/N: M16C-5

Chrysler Newport Pace Car

1941 Chrysler Newport Indianapolis 500 Pacemaker by LeBaron

Offered by RM Auctions | Fort Worth, Texas | April 27, 2013

1941 Chrysler Newport Indianapolis 500 Pacemaker by LeBaron

The Chrysler Newport Dual Cowl Phaeton was a limited-production car built by Chrysler in 1940 and 1941. U.S. automotive production ceased at the end of 1941 to make way for war production, making this the last truly grand pre-war American automobile.

Ford had just introduced the Continental and GM was showcasing its concept car in the form of the Buick Y-Job. Chrysler needed to show that they could do style as well and the Newport project was born. Walter P. Chrysler died in 1940 and soon after, his successor approached Ralph Roberts at the famed coachbuilder LeBaron to design a two-seat and four-seat concept car. The two-seater was the Thunderbolt, and the four-seat was the Newport. One of my favorite parts of this story is one of legend: that Roberts wanted to show what a 1941 Duesenberg Dual Cowl would have looked like had they stayed solvent.

Chrysler liked what they saw and ordered five more examples (of each) to be built – in 90 days – in time for the 1941 auto show season at the end of 1940. The Newport had flowing lines and hideaway headlights and drove up excitement for other Chrysler models. This particular car was the only Newport built that had exposed front headlights. And it was chosen to pace the 1941 Indianapolis 500. After the race, it became the personal car of Walter P. Chrysler Jr.

The engine is a 143 horsepower 5.3-liter straight-eight. This car was in all-original condition when it was acquired in 2000 by its then-owner. It was painted light green with green interior – what Walter Jr. wanted after he took the car home. It was sold by RM at Amelia Island in 2009 for $687,500. It has apparently been restored – or at least repainted to its, presumably, original color scheme. It is expected to sell for between $900,000-$1,200,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $880,000.