Offered by Mecum | Indianapolis, Indiana | May 13-21, 2022
Russ Snowberger competed in 15 Indianapolis 500s as a driver between 1928 and 1947 with one pole position and a best finish of fifth (two years in a row). He was the king of the “junk formula” that debuted in the 1930s that required stock-ish engine blocks.
He built and entered some of his own cars, including this Hupmobile-powered roadster. After his career as a driver ended, he became the chief mechanic for the Federal Engineering racing team based in Detroit. This lasted until 1961 and included prepping this Federal Engineering Detroit Special in 1956.
The chassis is based on a Kurtis 500C, and it’s powered by a 4.2-liter Offenhauser inline-four. No specific competition history is listed, but it was driven in period by Tony Bettenhausen, George Amick, Billy Garrett, and Tom Pistone. It’s currently owned by Ray Evernham, who is thinning his collection a bit at Mecum in Indy. Click here for more info.
Offered by Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, California | August 13-14, 2021
When it comes to classic Indy cars, not much beats a Kurtis-Offenhauser. The 500C was introduced either in late 1953 or early 1954. Only nine were built. Despite their build date, the cars were raced for years at Indianapolis – as late as about 1959.
This particular car is interesting in that it started out as a 500C that debuted at the Speedway in 1954. It ran there through 1957, including:
1956 Indianapolis 500 – 8th (with Rodger Ward)
After 1957, it was sold to a different team, who had Eddie Kuzma cut the car up and update it with Kuzma parts. At that time, the Kurtis chassis was discarded and ultimately purchased by someone who would go on to have it restored in the 1980s to as it was in 1956. So, from that first original car, there are now two cars, one of which is still a Kurtis. Kind of weird, but that’s what happens.
Power is from a 4.2-liter (255ci) Offenhauser inline-four estimate to produce 400 horsepower with Hilborn mechanical fuel injection. The car is expected to sell for between $250,000-$450,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Monterey, California | August 12-14, 2021
Wayne Ewing worked for A.J. Watson in the body department, and in 1960 he designed and built his own Indy Roadster. The car would be sponsored by long-time open-wheel team owner Al Dean, owner of moving company Dean Van Lines. His race cars were dubbed “Dean Van Lines Specials” and driven by some pretty big names, including A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti.
This car was similar to the dominating Watsons of the era, but had some slight differences. It featured a 4.1-liter (252ci) Offenhauser inline-four mounted ahead of the driver. This car went out and won the pole for the 1960 Indy 500 in its first try. Its competition history includes:
1960 Indianapolis 500 – 21st, DNF (with Eddie Sachs)
1961 Indianapolis 500 – 2nd (with Sachs)
1962 Indianapolis 500 – 3rd (with Sachs)
1963 Indianapolis 500 – 8th (with Chuck Hulse)
That’s a pretty impressive Brickyard resume, especially considering it won the pole in ’61 as well. After 1963, the car remained in the Midwest, where it was modified into a super modified. It wasn’t until nearly 1980 that a future owner realized what the car actually was and set out to restore it. The engine is now a 4.4-liter (270ci) Offy.
This car has participated in many shows and events and has had two long-term owners since 1982. The auction catalog lists this as a “1961” – it was apparently restored to its 1961 spec. Anyway, you can read more about it here and see more from this sale here.
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Amelia Island, Florida | March 6-7, 2020
This car is listed in the auction catalog as a “Silnes-Offenhauser Tomshe.” It was apparently built by Fred Tomshe, but was entered in various races as a Silnes-Offenhauser with Tomshe/Bardahl listed as the entrant. The car was commissioned by gangster George “Babe” Tuffanelli, who was part of the Chicago Outfit.
Power is from a fuel-injected 4.4-liter Offenhauser inline-four. It was entered in the 1951 Indy 500 with driver Ray Knepper, who failed to qualify. It did compete at Milwaukee and Langhorne later that year.
It’s been used at historic events since 2010, including the Monterey Historics. The constructor confusion here could be easily explained by that the possibility that the Tomshe build was based on a Silnes car. Who knows… the people who were there are no longer here. The pre-sale estimate is $125,000-$150,000. Click here for more info and here for more from RM at Amelia.
Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Auburn, Indiana | August 31, 2019
Though not as well-known, Quin Epperly is a name that sits right there with Frank Kurtis, A.J. Watson, Eddie Kuzma, and Lujie Lesovsky when it comes to legendary builders of race cars during the “Roadster” era of the Indianapolis 500. Epperly actually worked for Kurtis before opening his own shop in the mid-1950s. His cars appeared at Indy from 1955 through 1960 and beyond.
The history of this car is interesting. Howard Keck had just won two consecutive 500s with Bill Vukovich driving his cars and was going for number three in 1955. Epperly had designed this streamlined special for Vuky to drive, but it wasn’t completed in time for the race. Instead, Vukovich drove a Kurtis for another owner. He was killed while leading the race.
Epperly completed the car with Keck’s help (money) anyway and installed a 385 horsepower, 4.4-liter Offenhauser inline-four instead of the V8 that was originally planned. IMS president Tony Hulman knew of the car and wanted it in the ’56 race, paying the entry fee for it in advance. But with Vukovich’s death, Keck lost all interest in racing and the car ended up stored in his shop until 1985.
The car became more or less legend until it was purchased and restored in 1990. And now it’s being offered for public sale. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
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.