Tag Archives: Sweikert

AJ Watson RIP – Racing Associates Watson Roadster

Today’s post is dedicated to the memory or AJ Watson who passed four days past his 90th birthday on May 12th. AJ designed and built 23 Watson Roadster Indy Cars after redesigning John Zinks 1955 Indy 500 winning Kurtis KK500C driven by Bob Sweikert.

Rathman Watson, Sachs Ewing, 1960 Indianapolis 500

AJ’s own designs won the Indy 500 in ’56 with Pat Flaherty driving John Zinks car followed by Rodger Ward in the ’59 Leader Card Watson and Jim Rathman in the 1960 Ken – Paul Watson seen above being chased Eddie Sachs in the Van Dean Lines Ewing.

1962 Indianapolis 500

Rodger Ward won again in the Leader Card Watson in ’62, seen in the middle of the front row above, followed by Parnelli Jones in JC Agajanian example in ’63 seen below.

Jones, Agajanian , Watson, 1963 Indy 500

Finally AJ Foyt, seen above drove the Ansted-Thompson Racing Watson to victory in ’64 which would become the last Indy 500 victory for a front engined Roadster.

Foyt, Ansted-Thompson Racing Watson, 1964, Indianapolis 500

Today’s featured car is perhaps the ultimate development of the Watson line, it was built in 1963 for Racing Associates who entered Ebb Rose. Ebb got bumped off the grid, but the following year the car was entered for Johnny Rutherford who qualified 15th and was classified 27th.

Racing Associates Watson, Goodwood Festival of Speed

For 1965 Bobby Grim was entered in the Racing Associates Watson and failed to qualify the 252 cui Offy powered machine.

Racing Associates Watson, Goodwood Festival of Speed

In 1966 Racing Associates has a 168 cui Offy fitted which gave an additional 50 hp thanks to the white pipes and turbocharger fitted to the exhaust. This time Bobby Grim just qualified 31st and was classified 31st after being involved in the start line pile up, on what would be the last appearance of a Watson in the Indy 500.

Racing Associates Watson, Goodwood Festival of Speed

This was also the beginning of a new and final chapter in the story of the famous Offy motor which in turbocharged form would power Bobby Unser to victory in 1968; Mark Donohue ’72, Gordon Johncock ’73, Johnny Rutherford in ’74 and ’76 interupted by Bobby Unser in ’75 and would continue to be used until 1983 when the two Offenhauser Volstedts failed to qualify.

My thanks to Steve Arnaudin for sharing his late Dad Ed Arnaudin’s photo’s of the Watson Roadster’s in their heyday.

I hope you will join me in wishing AJ Watson’s family and friends including GALPOT contributor my sincerest condolences.

Thanks for joining me on this “AJ Watson RIP” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Hot One Of Fifteen – 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Indy Pace Car

For 1955 Chevrolet launched it’s second generation full size Bel Air range, to replace the almost entirely new 1954 Bel Air. with two tone paintwork and for the first time a new 4.3 litre 265 cui V8 ‘small block’ engine option that would remain part of General Motors product mix with many improvements over several decades.

Chevrolet Bel Air, Goodwood FoS

The crisp clean styling of the 1955 Bel Air was set off by a Ferrari inspired chrome square potato chip grill as seen on the car below photographed at last years Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Chevrolet Bel Air, Goodwood FoS

Alongside two straight six motor options the new ‘small block’ came tuned with either a 162 hp Turbo-Fire with twin barrel carburetor, 180 hp Power Pack Super Turbo – Fire with four barrel carburetor or towards the end of the model year a 195 hp competition option with a high compression motor.

Chevrolet Bel Air, Goodwood FoS

Being selected to perform pace car duties for the 1955 Indy 500 is reckoned to have given Chevrolet’s Bel Air marketing campaign a terrific boost, it is said that a fleet of 15 two tone Red & White Bel Airs were in attendance at what proved to be an unforgettable race.

Chevrolet Bel Air, Goodwood FoS

Chevrolet Sales Manager Thomas H Keating was given the honour of pacing the field for the Indy 500 on May 30th 1955 and he can be seen at the wheel of what Keating claimed to be a 180 hp vehicle, on this linked photo, sitting beside him is thought to be Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman. The linked photo is telling for what it does not show, namely it is quite clearly not about to pace the Indy 500 and as we shall see it might not even be the actual vehicle used to pace the event.

Chevrolet Bel Air, Goodwood FoS

The give away as to which vehicle paced the event can be seen at 13m 37 secs into this linked clip when the pace car that actually led the field away can be clearly seen to be carrying a movie camera in the boot / trunk necessitating a rather large slit to afford the camera rearward vision and to accommodate the upper film reel. No one knows for sure what happened to that particular car after the event.

Chevrolet Bel Air, Goodwood FoS

Bill Vukovich looked to be on course for a third straight Indy victory in 1955 with a 17 second lead on the 57th lap, of 200, when he ran into someone else’s accident and ended flying over the back stretch perimeter fence and coming to rest up turned and on fire giving the two time defending champion no chance of survival. Bob Sweikert who had worked his way up from 14th on the grid, and was second in the John Zink Special at the time of the accident crossed the line 3 hours 53 mins and 59 secinds after the Bel Air pace car had entered pit road to start the race.

Bob took home one of the fifteen Bel Air pace cars with his wife and their kids, he went on to win the 1955 AAA big car championship and Midwest Sprint Car Championship, becoming the only winner of what is known cumulatively as the American Motor Sports Triple Crown. The following year Sweikert was killed in a sprint car accident at Salem Speedway racing Ed Elisan whom he had raced as a teenager in his home town of East Bay California.

Thanks for joining me on this ‘Hot One Of Fifteen’ edition of ‘Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres’ I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !