1963 Watson Indy Roadster

Chassis Num: 022-7
Engine Num: 238
High bid of $240,000 at 2007 RM Sothebys. (did not sell)
High bid of $185,000 at 2010 RM Sothebys. (did not sell)
During the late 1950s, the cars built by A.J. Watson were among the most successful to race at Indy. A.J. Watson was an Air Force navigator, then attended Glendale College on the G.I. Bill and later worked at Lockheed Aircraft.

The first car he built designed for racing was a Ford based Hot Rod prepared for oval track racing. In 1948 he went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway serving as a mechanic. By 1950, he had designed and built his own Indy competitor. The cost of building and campaigning the car was too great so Watson eventually returned to the assembly line at Lockheed Aircraft. He left on day prior to the Indy 500 in 1951, with his sole focus turned on automotive racing. In 1954 he signed with John Zink Jr.'s team serving as the chief mechanic. Using a Kurtis Roadster, he made several modifications and improvements, and in the capable hands of Bob Sweikert, the vehicle emerged from the 1955 Indy 500 in first place. The following year he built a Indy roadster of his own design. The car would emerge victorious. His cars would win again in 1959, 1960, 1962, and 1963. In total, there were 23 Indy Roadsters created by A.J. Watson.

This A.J. Watson Indy Roadster was driven by Len Sutton as the number 7 Leader Card team car. It is shown restored in the 1964 Diet Rite Cola #95 style, as driven by Chuck Stevenson. The car ran the Champ Car circuit through 1966, and was then run as a 'super modified' at Oswego before being restored.

1963 WATSON 'Agajanian Willard Battery Special'

Built by A.J. Watson for car owner J.C. Agajanian in 1960, the 252 cubic-inch Offenhauser-powered machine nicknamed 'Calhoun' won the 1963 Indianapolis 500 in the hands of Parnelli Jones. After finishing seventh in its debut with Lloyd Ruby in 1960, it was driven for the next four years by Jones, who led at some stage every year. After being the first ever to officially lap the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in excess of 150 mph in 1962, Parnelli led virtually all of the first 300 miles until brake failure caused him to fade to seventh at the finish. Starting from the pole again in 1963, he led for 167 of the 200 laps and won at a then-record average speed of 143.137 mph.

In 1963, AJ Watson's design dominated the Indianapolis 500, winning four times between 1956 and 1962. The era also brought transition, as rear-engine designed cars with sleeker aerodynamics emerged as a viable force. This was epitomized by what was considered the main battle at the 63 Indy: Parnelli Jones' 1960 Agajanian Willard Battery #98, powered by its Meyer-Drake Offenhauser engine versus Jim Clark's rear-engined Lotus-Ford: a novelty at the time, but a sign of things to come.

James qualified with then-record 151.153 mph, earning the Agajanian #98 the pole position of Indy two years in a row. Clark expected this, and was banking on the fact that the Agajanian would burn gas faster and require more pit stops during the race. This did indeed happen, but Jones was fortunate in that two of his three stops came under the yellow caution flag, costing Jones 10-20 seconds in total time verses the 50-60 he would have lost under customary racing conditions.

In one of the most contentious moments in Indy history, Jones' victory was tainted by the fact that the Agajanian #98 was accused of 'dropping oil' throughout the race. If this had been the case, the car should have received a black flag, dis-qualifying it from the race. Judges ruled that since no oil actually hit the track, no infraction occurred.

AJ Watson's 1600 lb, single-seat roadster was an exercise in elegant simplicity. Featuring a ladder frame, the roadster was 32' wide at the rear and 29' wide at the front. Four torsion bars were used, two in the front and two in the rear, and were alternately called '4-bars.' A crew member would adjust the torsion bar tension at each corner to increase or decrease roll stiffness.

The Meyer-Drake-Offenhasuesr engine was a double-overhead cam, Hilborn fuel-injected 16 valve, 4 cylinder with a 252 cubic inch engine. The reduction of regulation maximum engine size from 270 cubic inches to 255 cubic inches, as mandated by the United States Auto Club (USAC), inspired Watson to develop a short-stroke 252 cubic inch power plant that generated more horsepower than the more customary 255 cubic inch, long stroke counterpart.
A.J. Watson was the most successful builder of front-engined race cars for the Indy 500 during the fifties.

Watson served as a navigator in the Eighty Army Air Force during World War II. After the war, he returned to California and attended the Glendale College and worked at the Lockheed on their assembly line assembling aircrafts and parts. His entrance into the world of racing came in the late 1940s with the creation of his track roadster which he had constructed for oval-track racing. Within a year he was working at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a mechanic.

In 1950, at the tender age of 26, he constructed his first Indy Racer which was entered in the race. The costs were very steep and Watson was forced to return to Lockheed in an effort to make ends meet.

At the close of the 1954 racing season, Watson became chief mechanic for John Zink, Jr.'s racing team. Watson modified a roadster built by the legendary Frank Kurtis and in the capable hands of Bob Sweikert, it completed the race ahead of the competition. The following year, Watson constructed a racer of his own design. The racer was constructed to take advantage of proper weight distribution which allowed for higher speeds through the corners. During practice/qualifying, Pat Flaherty set a lap record and earned pole position by achieving 145.596 mph. The roadster went on to win the race.

For the following years to come, the Watson race cars were in high demand and often dominated the race and provided many podium finishes for the drivers and teams.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2008
A.J. Watson first came to Los Angeles during World War II as a navigator with the Eighth Army Air Force, and returned to California after the war. He went to work on the assembly line at Lockheed Aircraft, but after seeing his first race at Bonelli Stadium in nearby Saugus in 1947, his life changed forever. In 1950, he arrived at the track in Indianapolis as a mechanic, and, two years later, he had built a car for the big race. Eventually, his innovative designs would prove to be the dominant cars in the series, winning the Indy 500 in 1959-60, 1962 and 1963. When A.J. Foyt recorded the last 500 victory for a front-engined car in 1964, he too, was driving a Watson Roadster. This example was built by Watson in 1963, and was driven by Roger McCluskey. Built with a tube-frame chassis, the car has a net weight of 1,550 pounds, and is powered by a 450-horsepower Meyer-Drake Offenhauser engine. Watson eventually built a total of 23 Roadsters.
This 1963 Watson Indy Roadster was driven by Johnny Rutherford at Indianapolis in 1964, starting 15th and finishing 27th, as the Bardahl/Racing Associates #86. This was the last roadster to run at Indianapolis in 1966 and is restored to that year as driven by Bobby Grim.

The engine is a 168 C.I.Offy Turbo installed in 1965 which replaced the 252 Offy.

YEAR - No - Driver - Car/Entrant - Engine - Start/Finish
1963 - 46 - Ebb Rose - Racing Associates - Offy 252 ci - Bumped
1964 - 86 - Johnny Rutherford - Bardahl/Racing Associates - Offy 252 ci - 15/27
1965 - 86 - Bobby Grim - Racing Associates - Offy 252 ci- N.Q.
1966 - 39- Bobby Grim - Racing Associates/Herb Porter - Turbo 168 Offy - 31/7
1966 - Bobby Grim also raced this car at Milwaukee, Atlanta, IRP, Trenton, Fuji Japan and Phoenix.
This Indianapolis Roadster is one of eight built by A.J. Watson for the 1963 season. Watson made a total of 23 race cars during his career and this is number 21. It was entered for the 500 by Ebb Rose (whose mechanic was the late Herb Porter) in 1963, but it didn't make the cut. Better qualifying times for 1964 meant the car was driven by Johnny Rutherford in its first Indy 500. Bad luck saw the car bumped once again in 1965 but it returned for a last appearance in 1966 with a new Turbo Offenhauser engine. This was not only its last time at the Brickyard but also the last time an old-fashioned Roadster would appear; 1966 was the year of the rear engine revolution. Throughout its Indy career it was owned and prepared by Racing Associates. After some modified USAC racing it was acquired by its present owner in 2008 and returned to its debut livery.

Of particular interest, this car's current restoration was completed in 2009 by the car's original builder, A.J. Watson, in his Indianapolis shop. The car is restored exactly to its debut livery in 1963 when it ran the Speedway for the very first lap.
This Watson Roadster debuted at the Indianapolis Speedway in 1963, driven by previous winner Jim Rathmann. This particular Watson Roadster is one of the 23 roadsters built by A.J. Watson, who had seven winning cars in the Indianapolis 500 from 1949 through 1984. The car was never damaged or modified in racing, and after retiring from the track it lay untouched for more than four decades. The striking blue-and-orange roadster was recently restored under A.J. Watson's supervision to its exact livery when it appeared in the 1963 race.
This is a Kaiser Aluminum, Leader Card, Watson Roadster. It was built in 1963 for two-time Indianapolis winner Rodger Ward who started and finished in fourth place that year. It is powered by a 255 cubic-inch Offenhauser engine rated at 450 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. The car weighs 1,550 pounds and holds 55 gallons of alcohol.
This Watson Roadster is possibly the last of the 23 that A J Watson built for the Indianapolis 500. It was completed just in time for the 1963 race.

The car was driven by Eddie Sachs, who was also known as the Clown Prince of racing, in its only appearance at the speedway.

The roadster with Eddie at the wheel ran up front with Parnelli Jones, AJ Foyt and Jimmy Clark the entire race. On lap 181 Sachs spun and hit the wall in turn 3 due to oil leaking from the car of Parnelli Jones. Later at the banquet Sachs accused Parnelli of cheating because of the oil leaking on the track. Parnelli didn't want to hear that and promptly dropped Eddie with a left hook.

The #9 was sold later that year and became a successful super modified in the New England area and Canada.

Eddie Sachs perished in the horrible crash at the start of the 1964 Indy 500 along with Dave McDonald.
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