Tag Archives: Ken

Trading Places – 1960 Watson Roadsters

Thanks to Ed Arnadin‘s photos today we will be continuing our 100th anniversary of the first running of the Indianapolis 500 by having a behind the scenes look at Indianapolis in 1960.

Watson, Indy 1960

Our story begins with an invitation from a mutual friend of Ed Arnaudin and the Indy car owner Jim Robbins to visit the garage of the #97 Jim Robbins Special, where a Watson Roadster powered by an upright 4178 cc / 255 cui twin overhead cam Offenhauser is being prepared.

AJ Watson shares the record for building the most cars that won the ‘Indy 500’s’, seven, with Roger S Penske. Watson built his first car ‘City of Glendale’ in 1950, Dick Rathmann qualified 18th on the grid driving the ‘City of Glendale and retired from the race with a stalled motor after 25 laps. After working on aircraft assembly lines for Lockheed Watson was hired as Chief Mechanic by John Zink in 1954.

Watson modified Zinks Kurtis KK500C roadster and Bob Swiekert duly won the 1955 Indy 500 with it, in 1956 AJ built the first of 23 Watson Roadsters for John Zink, these iconic vehicles were to win a further six Indy 500’s in 9 years.

The Watson chassis was narrower than the Kurtis, featured extensive use of 4130 chromoly tubing in place of the steel used by Kurtis, innovative use of magnesium in the drive line and body panels saved further weight. The Offenhauser engine was mounted upright on the left side of the chassis to increase weight bias on the corners of the car closest to the inside of the track rather than tilting the engine at 36 degrees as Kurtis had done and later Eperly / Salih would do with engines 18 degrees off horizontal.

With a 220 lb weight saving the 1,640 lb Watson Roadster design remained fundamentally unchanged from 1956 until 1963, AJ Foyt drove a Watson into Victory Lane at Indianapolis for the last time in 1964.

The car, seen being worked on above was one of three entered in the race owned by Safety Belt manufacturer Jim Robbin’s, the #97 was driven by the man who first put a Watson on the grid of the Indy 500 in ’53, Dick Rathmann. In 1960 Dick qualified for fourth spot on the grid and retired from the race in 31st place after 42 laps with defective brakes.

Dick Rathmann had a varied career spanning 1949 – 1964 encompassing the AAA Championship, NASCAR (13 wins, all in Hudsons, from 128 starts) and latterly the USAC Championship. He started from the Indy pole in 1958 but was collected in an accident on the opening lap by fellow front row starter Ed Elisan, the ensuing 15 car pile up cost Pat O’Conner his life.

As a result of that fatal accident Dick Rathmann became the first man to start from pole not to complete a lap of the race, a stat that has since been emulated by Roberto Guerrero and Scott Sharp. Rathmann’s best Indy 500 finish was 4th in 1956.

Now this story enters the racing twighlight zone, ever since races were organised teams and drivers have made it there business to pull the wool over organisers eye’s. ‘Dick’ Rathmann was actually born James. James had a brother, younger by four years, called Richard and when underage Richard wanted to go racing in 1946 James and Richard simply swapped names, James became ‘Dick’ and Richard became ‘Jim’ a change that ended up sticking for life.

Indy 500, 1960

In 1960 Jim Rathmann was the driver of the #4 Ken Paul Special a Watson Offenhauser Roadster MK2, Jim qualified 2nd and can be seen in the blue car in the middle of the front row as the cars cross the 100 yards of bricks at the start of the 1960 Indy 500 above, his brother ‘Dick’ in the #97 is on the inside of the second row.

Rathman and Sachs, Indy 500, 1960

Jim seen here battling with Eddie Sachs went on to win the 1960 Indy 500, a race memorable because the lead changed a record 29 times. Last year (2010) Jim became the sixth Indy 500 winner to celebrate their 50th Anniversary of the Indy 500 win, Ray Harroun, Jules Goux, Rene Thomas, Peter DePaolo and Louis Meyer were the others.

Three time Indy winner Johnny Rutherford presented Jim with a trophy to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his win, Rutherford who was present at Indy as a spectator for the first time in 1960 remembered the race thus ” We had seats in the North grandstands of the infield on the backstretch. The duel between Jim and Rodger [Ward winner of the 1959 Indy 500] was one for the record books. Little did we know that some 50 years later [the 29 lead changes] would still be an Indy 500 record.”

Jim said of the 1960 Indy 500 “That was a great duel with Rodger. Ward was one of the toughest drivers out there and beating him meant a lot to me, and winning the Indy 500 changed my entire life. Winning the ‘500’ was and still is the all-time highlight of my racing career. To win that day, in that race against Ward means so much to me.”

Slightly off topic after retirement Jim became a Cadillac dealer in Melbourne, Florida and is credited with convincing GM president Ed Cole that GM should set up a deal to supply his friends the astronauts on the NASA space programmes with a pair of new cars each year.

My thanks to Steve Arnaudin for the scans of his Dad’s slides, to B² and Indycar Nation for additional information.

Hope you have enjoyed today’s 1960 edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil psycho on tyres’ and that you will join me again for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first running of the Indianapolis 500. Don’t forget to come back now !


RR two is company – Rhodes Ridley Road Train Tractor.

Todays blog comes courtesy of Ken Devine a Nostalgia Forum acquaintance from in Australia who posted this fabulous photo of the truly ‘unique’ Rhodes Ridley truck built in Western Australia in 1955.

The story goes that Don Rhodes was a mining, haulage and road building pioneer around the Pilbara, in Western Australia and that his fleet of British 40 ton trucks were not up to the rough dirt roads which Don’s men were constantly regrading just to keep them open.

Don & Harold Ridley a workshop manager for DFD Rhodes Pty Ltd conceived a fleet of road train vehicles that could carry between 4 – 6 times the iron and manganese ore loads their existing trucks could carry, there were no drawings as such anything that needed to be built for the Rhodes Ridley was drawn in chalk by Harold on his work shop floor.

Construction started in 1955, using custom made axles, a chassis fabricated from 5/8″ steel plate 16″ deep and 4″ wide. Two army surplus 200 hp 6/71 GM diesel motors designed for the M3 General Lee medium tank which had in this instance been originally fitted into a tank landing craft, as had the five speed gearbox and twin differentials fitted to give the vehicle a 32 mph capability.

The truck measuring 33 ft long and 11 ft wide weighed 21.5 tons with a 230 ton carrying capacity was the largest road vehicle in the southern hemisphere when it was completed in 1958.

During the period of construction the laws governing most of the roads intended for use by the Rhodes Ridley had changed, with a restricted area in which to operate plans to build further examples were scrapped and the Rhodes Ridley was reassigned, fitted with a powerhouse on it’s back, an ore screening trailer and a jaw crushing trailer to process freshly recovered ore for further transportation.

It’s not clear exactly when the Rhodes Ridley was abandoned but it’s resurrection came about thanks to former Rhodes employee Terry Joyce who formed a club for people to help him with his enormous task of putting the abandoned vehicle back on it’s wheels at the turn of the millennium.

The vehicle still needs a ‘wide vehicle’ permit to go to shows, more photo’s and the rest of the story can be seen at the Rhodes Ridley website linked here.

My thanks to Ken Devine for bringing this fascinating twin engined vehicle to my attention and for letting me share his photograph of it with you.

Hope you have enjoyed today’s two is company edition of ‘Getting a lil’ psycho on tyres and that you’ll join me tomorrow for the first in a short series of home built vehicles. Wishing all the romantics out there a happy Valentines Day, don’t forget to come back now !

PS slightly off topic Pocono Raceways Solar Photovoltaic System has turned the motor sports facility into the largest Solar Powered sport facility in the world, Pocono has been nominated to receive the 2011 Excellence in Renewable Energy Readers’ Choice Award at the 2011 Renewable Energy World North America Conference & Expo on March 8th. Voting for this event closes today February 14th if you have not voted do so now at http://awards.renewableenergyworld.com/readerschoice/ select ‘Vote’ button and then go down the list and click ‘Pocono Raceway Solar Photovoltaic System’, no registration required no unpleasant advertising either. Thanking you in anticipation of your response. Go Pocono !


Big Cat in Northern Rhodesia – Jaguar XK 140 FHC

The XK 140 was in production from 1954, 1955 model year, to 1957. Improvements over the XK 120 included substantial bumpers, modern flashing indicators mounted in the wings and a more powerful 190 hp engine. Despite the extra weight the XK 140 was still capable of 120 miles per hour.

Continuing on a Jaguar theme today’s blog is a who? what ? where ? when ? to which I have only the following answers.

Who ?

What Jaguar XK 140 FHC

Where some where in Northern Rhodesia now Zambia.

When circa March 1957 (Cover Roan, Antelope, Magazine 03/57)

I hope someone out there might be able to fill in the missing information.

If you have or know of anyone else who has any information about or particularly photographs of any form of motor sport in Northern Rhodesia / Zambia be it rallying, sprints, hill climbs, racing cars or motor bikes, stock cars, bangers, (motorbike) speedway, karting, participants in any capacity, the tracks, particularly track locations, please leave a message below or e-mail me direct arttidesco@netscape.net.

By the end of the year I hope to start editing a no budget photo video on motorsport in Nothern Rhodesia / Zambia any help with information and or photographs would be much appreciated.

Thanking you in anticipation of your responses.

I shall be returning to this subject as the year progresses.

Back with another couple of cats in Hollywood tomorrow on ‘Getting a lil’ psycho on tyres’, don’t forget to come back now !

PS 15/01/11 Wow ! anyone who has any doubts about the power of the world wide web to connect folks check this out, yesterday I received an e-mail from Tim Fulcher who’s dad used to race motor cycles in Zambia, he informed me that the driver above is one Ken Livingstone who played an active part in Nothern Rhodesian motorsport as both a driver and a committee member of Ndola Motor Sports Club. Thanks Tim 🙂