Sunday, February 12, 2017

an exact replica of the 1959 Indy 500–winning AJ Watson Indy roadster built to race at Bonneville.

Wendt wanted something different for Bonneville and got geeked about the Indy class. The record is 176 mph, but Wendt wanted to get into the 200 MPH Club. The rules say you must start with a race car configured from the era it represents, so no later engines or swoopy bodywork are allowed. In fact, anything out of the norm must be proved to the SCTA rules committee to have existed back in the day.

The hurdle for Wendt at every turn (no pun intended) was to find examples Watson built with wind-cheating features, then present photographic proof to the rules committee. What better way to sift through the 10 or so years of Indy roadsters and Champ cars than to enlist the maestro; Watson himself was still residing in Indianapolis and, once approached, became an enthusiastic participant.

Per the rules, the engine must be from the era, so it was Wendt’s job to find the largest Indy engine he could find, which was a 270ci Offenhauser. These four-cylinder, racing-only beasts were the de facto choice for all Indy cars throughout most of the 1950s and into the 1970s, and were available as both a 255ci and taller-deck 270ci versions. The cast-iron block integrated the head like a Harley engine. Today, finding a complete engine not already in a museum piece is rare, and even individual parts are impossible to find; when found, they are usually damaged take-outs from back in the day. Wendt was fortunate to piece together a complete engine through Offy expert Jim Himmelsbach in Cincinnati. Other than the pistons and rings, every engine component needed massaging or a rebuild to be serviceable in Wendt’s roadster. Don Enriquez rebuilt the mechanical Hilborn fuel injection, while Himmelsbach handled the rest of the build.

The gauge panel, instruments, steering wheel, seat, and interior are all correct to 1959. The exhaust is actually off of a vintage Indy roadster, so authenticity is assured. The paint scheme and every decal is correct and in its proper location to the winning car.

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