Auctions and Brokerage
*Please note this vehicle is sold on a Bill of Sale.
Leader Card, Inc./R.J. Wilke, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (acquired new from car builder and chief mechanic A.J. Watson in 1963)Jack Conley, Brighton, Michigan (acquired from the above circa 1965)Jack Greedy, Ontario, Canada (acquired from the above circa 1967)Pat Hodgson, Ontario, Canada (acquired from the above in late 1969)Rick Batters (acquired from the above circa 1975)Dave Morton (acquired from the above circa 1975)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 1978)
Indianapolis 500, May 1963, Rodger Ward, Kaiser Aluminum No. 1 (4th Place)Milwaukee 100, June 1963, Rodger Ward, Kaiser Aluminum No. 1 (1st Place)Trenton 150, July 1963, Rodger Ward, Kaiser Aluminum No. 1 (3rd Place)Milwaukee 200, August 1963, Rodger Ward, Kaiser Aluminum No. 1 (4th Place)Trenton 200, September 1963, Rodger Ward, Kaiser Aluminum No. 1 (26th Place)Phoenix 100, March 1964, Rodger Ward, Leader Card 500 Roadster No. 2 (5th Place)Indianapolis 500, May 1964, Jud Larson, Kaiser Aluminum No. 85 (DNQ)Trenton 100, April 1965, Bobby Grim, Leader Card 500 Roadster No. 95 (15th Place)Indianapolis 500, May 1965, Branson/Grim, Leader Card Roadster No. 95 (DNQ)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Special Roadster Tribute, May 2001Goodwood Festival of Speed, Sussex, England, June 2008 and 2013
Spearheaded by Frank Kurtis, the Roadster Era at Indianapolis marked a technical quantum leap, with some of the most successful examples built by A.J. Watson. Having worked through the ranks during the late 1940s and early 1950s, Watson rose to become John Zink Jr.’s chief mechanic by 1954. Bob Sweikert drove Zink’s Watson-modified Kurtis to victory at Indy in 1955, and by 1956, the first “true” Watson debuted and vastly improved upon the basic Kurtis design. Pat Flaherty handily won the 500 in a Watson in 1956, and the company would build another 22 roadsters, earning an impressive record with six Indianapolis victories in nine years.
For the 1963 season, Watson constructed eight new roadsters, with the car offered here entered as the Kaiser Aluminum Special, bearing no. 1 and driven by reigning 1962 Indianapolis champion Rodger Ward, who had previously won the 1959 race, also in a Watson. Countering the new rear-engine cars, Watson reduced weight to make his 1963 roadsters his lightest ever with numerous aluminum parts utilizing the metal’s light weight and versatility. Starting from fourth, Ward drove the car to a strong 4th Place finish at Indianapolis. Ward drove the Watson four more times during the 1963 season, winning the Milwaukee 100 and scoring 3rd Place at Trenton, followed by 4th at the Milwaukee 200 and 26th at the Trenton 200. With four-cam Ford power for 1964, the Watson was driven by Ward for the last time at the Phoenix 100 as the “Leader Card 500 Roadster #2,” started and finished 5th. Further entries in 1964 and 1965 were fruitless, ending this Watson’s front-line racing career.
Around 1966, the venerable Watson was sold to a new owner, and by 1967 it was converted into Supermodifed form, the fate of many old Indianapolis roadsters, with the car raced in both Canada and the US. The consignor, a renowned collector of classic Indianapolis cars, purchased the Watson in 1978 and eventually commissioned Steve Miller to restore the car to its original glory, with the car retaining an original two-speed Offenhauser transmission and once again under “Offy” power. Its post-restoration debut was on the track in 2001 with Miller driving at the special roadster tribute held during the final practice sessions preceding the Indianapolis 500. Numerous showings followed, including two appearances at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where the car was very well admired.
Exceedingly rare as one of the 23 immensely successful Indianapolis roadsters built by A.J. Watson, and thoroughly documented and depicted in all of its iterations, this Watson beautifully represents the end of the glorious Indianapolis Roadster Era. Now offered from its long-term collector/owner, the Watson is accompanied by rich documentation and comes complete with an onboard starter. Most importantly, it stands as a definitive – and usable – piece of American racing history, ready to be shown, enjoyed, and appreciated.