by Michael Ferner
After building a few track roadsters for CRA competition in the immediate post-WW2 years, Abraham Joseph Watson began his association with AAA Big Cars in 1948 as the mechanic on Conny Weidell’s (Wiedell? Weidel?) first trip to Indy, with Manny Ayulo as the driver and car dealer Bob Estes as sponsor. Weidell’s car was really only a Sprint Car, and with an anaemic Mercury V8 at that, so they never came near qualifying speeds, but on their way there they stopped at the Arlington Downs Champ Car opener in Texas, and in a poor field managed to come home 5th (of 6 finishers), many laps in arrears. A success, sort of.
Watson came back the next year, this time as part of a four-car team of Chicago’s (in)famous Granatelli Brothers. His entry was #43, and the Mercury-powered car appears to have been his first Big Car creation, more of a Sprint Car than a real Champ Car, but in those days the line between those was rather blurred. Anyway, Watson’s Californian buddy Pat Flaherty drove the car, but never made a qualifying attempt. I’m sure the car was later used up on America’s short tracks, but for the moment that’s all I have for it:
- 1949 #43 Grancor V8, ?, Mercury V8, Granatelli Bros., Pat Flaherty (dnq Indy)
Undaunted, A. J. came back in 1950 with a new car – of sorts! It was more of a rehash of existing parts, scrounged from all over the place (= Los Angeles), and earned the nickname “Pots and Pans Special” along the way. It somehow made the 500, and was 6th a week or so later at Milwaukee, and soon after Bob Estes stepped in again and sponsored, then bought the whole operation, including Watson as the chief mechanic and his best pal, Jud Phillips. Soon, a Sprint Car completed the team and took a couple of wins with Joe James (1951) and Jim Rigsby (1952) driving, but then within a very few weeks everything collapsed in a big bam boom: Rigsby and the sprinter both perished in a horrible accident on the high-banked Dayton oval in Ohio, then James, who had left the team for greener pastures the year before, returned for a reconciliation drive at San Jose/California two months later and totalled the Champ Car, succumbing to his grave injuries a few days later. Poof…
- 1950 #45 A. J. => City of Glendale => Bob Estes, white/blue, Offenhauser 270-263, A. J. Watson => R. S. Estes, Dick Rathmann (ret Indy, 6th Milwaukee, ret Langhorne), Joe James (10th Williams Grove, dns Springfield, 7th Milwaukee, dns Syracuse, 7th Detroit, ret Springfield, dnq Sacramento, dnq Phoenix, 11th Bay Meadows, 13th Darlington)
- 1951 #26 Bob Estes, blue/white, Offenhauser 270, R. S. Estes, Joe James (ret Indy, ret Milwaukee, ret Langhorne, ret Darlington, 7th Williams Grove, ret Springfield, ret Milwaukee, dns Du Quoin, ret Du Quoin, ret Syracuse, ret Detroit), Jim Rigsby (12th Denver, 10th San Jose, 11th Phoenix, 7th Bay Meadows)
- 1952 #29 Bob Estes, blue/white/red, Offenhauser 270, R. S. Estes, Jim Rigsby (12th Indy, 4th Milwaukee, 8th Raleigh, 4th Williams Grove, 4th Springfield, 13th Milwaukee, 11th Detroit), Don Freeland (6th Syracuse, 14th Denver), Joe James (ret San Jose)
The team regrouped and in January 1953 Dale Estes, infant son of Bob, famously christened their new Sprint Car at Carrell Speedway with a bottle of milk – poured not smashed! Milk would have been the prefered beverage also in May but, alas, the day of the dirt Champ Car at Indy was over, and the new Watson was an also-ran. Don Freeland, who had been “stooging” for the team in 1952, was made the new driver in the best tradition of Pietro Bordino and Hermann Lang, perhaps the last time such a promotion happened in big time autoracing (though not the last in motor racing, see e.g. Toni Mang!). Freeland was hugely successful until… the day he married! Arranging that date cleverly for a racing-free weekend, he was stumped by a rain-out at Atlanta the week before and the subsequent rescheduling. Bob Veith was his stand-in on the wedding day (at the race track, of course!) and secured a new permanent job by putting the Estes on the pole! Life on the road can be tough…
Overall, it was a fairly successful time, although a Champ Car win continued to elude the little team, but this was offset in part by no fewer than eight Sprint Car wins by Freeland (1954), Jimmy Bryan (1955) and Pat O’Connor (6 in 1956/7), the latter also winning the 1956 Midwest title partly on the Estes car, and the owners title that same year. By that time, however, A. J. Watson had been lured away from the team by Oklahoma businessman John Zink and his son Jack, as we will see in the next installment.
- 1953 #38 Bob Estes, cream/red, Offenhauser 270, R. S. Estes, Don Freeland (2 x 3rd, 1 x 4th, 1 x 5th, 2 x 6th, 1 x FT)
- 1954 #7 Bob Estes, cream/red?, Offenhauser 270, R. S. Estes, Don Freeland (1 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd, 1 x 5th, 2 x FT), Edgar Elder
- 1955 #12 Bob Estes, cream/red?, Offenhauser 270, R. S. Estes, Don Freeland (2 x 3rd, 2 x 6th, 1 x FT), Colby Scroggin, Jack Turner (RD)
- 1956 #16 Bob Estes, cream/red?, Offenhauser 270, R. S. Estes, Don Freeland (2 x 2nd), Bob Veith (1 x 6th, 1 x FT)
- 1957 #7 Bob Estes, yellow/red?, Offenhauser 255, R. S. Estes, Bob Veith (1 x 4th, 1 x 5th, 1 x 6th), Pat O’Connor (1 x 3rd)
- 1958 #26 Bob Estes, yellow/red?, Offenhauser 255, R. S. Estes, Don Freeland (1 x 3rd, 1 x 5th, 1 x 6th), Don Branson
- 1959 #68 Ridgewood Builders, ?, Offenhauser, N. Hall, Don Freeland
- 1960 #68 Ridgewood Builders, ?, Offenhauser, N. Hall, Chuck Stevenson (1 x 6th)
N.B. This car, as well as the Sprint Car and the 1954 Estes roadster are often, but probably incorrectly credited to Jud Phillips instead of A. J. Watson. Both were co-chief mechanics at the time, with Phillips taking over as sole chief in 1955 when Watson was hired by Jack Zink. Designwise, there’s a continuity in the Estes and Zink cars of the time, and anyway most later Phillips designs follow Watson’s very closely. In fact, Watson and Phillips were the first ones to put substantial roll-over bars on their Champ Cars in 1956, and the first ones to follow Meskowski’s 4-bar design in 1959, both simultaneously. Also, there’s a picture in “The Miller Dynasty” (M. Dees, p540) showing what appears to be a sort of press presentation of the 1954 roadster (still in “the white”/metal), with Bob Estes and A. J. Watson posing for the cameras, but not Jud Phillips. There is a line of thinking that perhaps both were responsible for the earlier cars, and I’d very much subscribe to that, however I feel that Watson was the driving force then as well as during their time of “seperation” and the later reunion at Leader Cards. Perhaps the cars should be called Watson-Phillips, or perhaps even Estes, but I’ll stick with plain Watson here.
John S. Zink of Tulsa, Oklahoma had made a fortune in the thirties firstly by producing equipment for the oil industry, then diversifying into the manufacture and servicing of domestic heating and air conditioning devices for his wealthy clientele, so much so that his son John S. (II), commonly known as Jack Zink, had the means to dabble in an expensive hobby like autoracing without too much trouble. “Big Daddy” always remained in the background of his son’s dealings after making sure that Jack confined his activities to owning and not driving racing cars (at least not regularly!), and the Zinks made good use of local talent in the Tex-Okie region: Buzz Barton, Cecil Green, Jimmy Reece and Jud Larson were amongst their earliest chauffeurs, and Troy Ruttman as a native Oklahomian also did his stint for Zink.
By the mid fifties, the Zinks were ready to shift into overdrive, and to this end Jack approached A. J. Watson with an offer to join the team. Watson acquiesced, and began building a new Champ Car and prepare the newly purchased Kurtis 500C for Indianapolis. Apparently, Watson had had a say about driving duties also, because a Californian took to the wheel, Bob Sweikert, and the season was a run-away success story. For the followng year, Watson built his epoch making roadster that brought another Californian cronie, Pat Flaherty into Victory Circle, and the team went from high to high. Too good to last, perhaps, and in September of 1958 Watson and Zink split.
- 1955 #6 John Zink, Offenhauser, J. S. Zink, Bob Sweikert (1 x 1st, 3 x 2nd, 2 x 3rd, 1 x 4th, 1 x 5th, 3 x FT)
- 1956 #8/18 John Zink, Offenhauser, J. S. Zink, Pat Flaherty (1 x 5th), Ed Elisian (1 x 1st, 2 x 6th), Pat O’Connor(1 x 2nd), Jud Larson (1 x 1st, 1 x 4th, 2 x FT)
- 1957 #25/2 John Zink, Offenhauser, J. S. Zink, Jud Larson (3 x 1st, 2 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd, 1 x 4th, 1 x 6th, 3 x FT)
- 1958 #5 John Zink, Offenhauser, J. S. Zink, Jud Larson (2 x 1st, 1 x 3rd, 1 x 5th, 2 x FT), Tony Bettenhausen (2 x 2nd, 2 x 3rd, 2 x 5th)
- 1959 #4 => #1 John Zink Heater, Offenhauser, J. S. Zink, Buddy Cagle, Tony Bettenhausen (1 x 3rd, 1 x 6th), Lloyd Ruby (1 x FT)
- 1960 #28 John Zink Heater, Offenhauser, J. S. Zink, Lloyd Ruby, Don Freeland, Bob Tattersall, Wayne Weiler
- 1961 #52 John Zink Trackburner, Offenhauser, J. S. Zink, Troy Ruttman (1 x 3rd), Lloyd Ruby, Chuck Hulse (2 x 6th)
- 1962 #52 John Zink Trackburner, Chevrolet, J. S. Zink, Chuck Hulse
Discourse: The Ladies Car (1)
Not surprisingly, female car owners are a rarity in top level US motorsports. Every once in a while, one finds names like Shirley Bergere, Geneva van Acker or Helen Reynard in entry lists, presumably presenting a form of spousal support, perhaps for legal reasons, and of course there are the enterprising couples like Ray and Cecilia Smith, who supplement each other. But to my knowledge, there were only ever two “genuine” female car owners in Indy and Champ Car racing until the lifting of the “women off limits” in America’s Gasoline Alleys in the seventies. And almost ironically, they both ran the very same car for most of their respective careers, even the entire career in one case. That car was a 1952 Kurtis 4000, delivered brandnew to a Mrs. Guerino Paoli in Springfield, Illinois. How come?
Well, Mr. and Mrs. Paoli ran the Springfield Welding and Auto Body Co. in the Illini capital city, and it was no accident that Bessie Lee, the female part of the couple, was active in the automotive branch, for she was a real petrolhead. The young lass was a regular at the Illinois State Fairgrounds before the war, cheering on the likes of Billy Winn, Tony Willman and Emil Andres, and after the war she had been a frequent scorer at the State Fairs in Springfield, Du Quoin and Milwaukee. Her daily work included doing estimates of damaged cars and trucks, and she was respected in that capacity throughout the state.
Through her scoring work at the Wisconsin State Fair she had become friendly with Carl and Tudy Marchese, brothers of Milwaukee promoter Tom Marchese and paesani of her husband. The Marcheses had been running a Champ Car for many years, and in 1951 had a young and eager driver in Chuck Stevenson, who had come from the West Coast to make it to the big time in the Midwest. Unfortunately, Stevenson and the Marchese had been involved in the terrible shunt at Syracuse in September of 1951, flipping three times. It was the end for the car, but the driver had a lucky escape and was already looking forward to next May: “I need a new car!”
How it all came together in the end will perhaps remain shrouded in mystery, however the fact remains that the Marcheses retired from the car owning business, perhaps tired of the long hauls, and Bessie Lee suddenly faced the opportunity to not just sponsor but outright own a Champ Car! Not thrilled at seeing his wife engage in such an enterprise, “Reno” finally consented on the condition that Bessie sell the car after a maximum of two years of campaigning it. The only thing missing now was a capable and experienced chief mechanic, but somehow Stevenson managed to persuade Clay Smith, head wrench for the Agajanian stable, to perform double duties and service Bessie’s bright red and white car as well!
To cut a long season short, Chuck and Bessie wound up winning the crown jewel of the dirt track season, the Milwaukee 200, and for good measure added the homestate 100 miler at Du Quoin eight days later. Stevenson won the National Championship for drivers, and in the car owners championship Paoli finished second to J. C. Agajanian, a Clay Smith 1-2! The champion driver then elected to join the champion team, and so Bessie was forced to look for a new shoe to put in her chariot, eventually tapping Jimmy Reece, AAA’s best rookie performer in 1952 (there being no Rookie of the Year award yet). The young Oklahoman then managed to make a pig’s ear out of his qualifying attempt, and promptly got the walking papers when Art Cross came by, looking for a ride. The veteran Midget driver from New Jersey made the cut, brought the car home second and won the first ever Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award.
Since Cross wasn’t interested in running the dirt miles, Bessie secured the services of a young Sprint Car driver from Arizona, Jimmy Bryan. Together they won at Sacramento and scored enough good finishes for Paoli to again finish second in owner points, and for Bryan to get started on a career that would include three National Championships, an Indy 500 win and a Monza Two Worlds trophy. And due to a bouncing cheque, it was said, Bessie was forced to forego her arrangement with Reno that called for stopping to campaign the car after the two seasons, and so she soldiered on, but the drive was gone and chauffeurs came and went through a revolving door. Finally, in the fall of 1955, another prospective buyer appeared, and this time the credentials were excellent – the car would from now on be owned by HOW! Who?
HOW are you? Who are HOW? “Hulman Old Wheels”? No, not really. To the best of my knowledge, HOW stood for Tony Hulman, George Ober and Roger Wolcott. Anton (II) “Tony” Hulman does not really need any introduction, but perhaps I should add here that Mary Antonia “Mari” Hulman (George) was not his wife, but his daughter; his wife was Mary Josephine (Fendrich) Hulman. As for George M. Ober, he was one of those persons who love to stay in the background of affairs. An Indianapolis Judge, he was close to the Hulmans, and instrumental in the formation of the USAC in 1955. Roger G. Wolcott, then, was an Indianapolis businessman and civic leader, it is said. He was also very close to the Hulmans, and in 1949 he was part of the IRC conglomerate that purchased the remains of the once famous Mike Boyle racing team.
The main attraction of the IRC team was the “Shaw Maserati”, the two-time Indy 500 winning Maserati 8CTF ’3032’, but by 1951 the glamour of the car was fading fast. Equipped with a supercharged 2946 cc Offenhauser engine, veteran Sprint Car driver Johnny McDowell managed to qualify it for a last time, but retired within half an hour of the start of the race. McDowell was devastated – once he had been one of the brightest prospects for racing stardom, back in California in the days of Legion Ascot. Then that track had suddenly closed, with McDowell barely twenty years old, robbed of his finest opportunity. Johnny moved eastwards, and was a terror on midwestern short tracks for many years, never getting a real break like fellow Californians Jimmie Wilburn or Spider Webb, though. And now he felt the clock ticking, with WW2 stealing some of his best years to boot. How many would he still have, what was left of all the promise?
Wolcott was ready to listen when Johnny explained his plans: all he needed was a sponsor who’d help him finance a car like the one that had just won the Indy 500, the #99 Belanger. It was not for sale, true, but how about going to one of the many race shops in California, and have a close copy of it built? Wolcott supplied the dough, and McDowell himself went to work at Frank Kurtis’s shop. For all the effort, he qualified barely faster than the year before with the obsolescent Maserati/Offy, and finished a soul destroying 21st, and last. Worse: a week later, while trying to qualify for the Milwaukee 100-miler, the car caught a rut, dug in and somersaulted along the track, throwing handsome Johnny out, killing him. Many thought the car was at fault.
Be that as it may, Roger Wolcott now found himself owning a veritable pile of scrap iron that was practically brandnew. And then there was that little Hulman girl, barely eighteen years old and begging “Uncle Rog” to help her purchase a racing car for her boyfriend (?) to drive! Wolcott had his hands full with a new team of Chrysler powered Indy Cars, so he had no use for the McDowell wreck anyway, and agreed to send it to California to have Frank Kurtis rework it into a Sprint Car. Since Mari Hulman was still a minor she needed an “umbrella” for her racing activity, and that’s how HOW came to be: Wolcott supplied the car, Ober the legalities and Papa Hulman the finance. And Mari ran the Kurtis Sprint car, it has been rumoured, for her boyfriend of the season: Jerry Hoyt in 1953, Eddie Sachs in 1954 and Elmer George from 1955 onwards, although that may well be a myth! In any event, it is unlikely that there were any such requirements to get a drive in the “HOW Special”, because amongst its chauffeurs we also find the likes of Don Branson and Tony Bettenhausen…
All of which is another, rather long-winded way of saying: the HOW Champ Car was a Kurtis, not a Watson! True, it got a good once-over by A. J. during the winter of 1955/6, including a new nose piece, but that is nothing unusual, and in fact most (if not all) racing cars went through mostly the same routine every once in a while in one of the many race shops in the country, be that at Eddie Kuzma’s, Lujie Lesovsky’s or Frank Kurtis’s – as long as major parameters like body work, dimensions or suspension geometry remain largely unchanged (as in the case of the HOW), I can see no reason to change the name of the “car make”.
The HOW Kurtis was run through the end of the 1961 season, and then sold to Bill Ward – yes, that’s right: you can also delete the #26 Ward Machine (1962) and the #26 Bill Ward Enterprises (1963) from your list of Watson dirt cars!
Let’s begin with the car from the “Vintage Motorsport” article, kindly copied for me by Luis! It’s actually the 1959 car, the watchword here being “entity” again! I was rather surprised to learn that A. J. himself identified it as a 1963 car, and I guess we have to accept that, although it just may be possible that Jimmy Bryan’s death in the original car has played a role in that. However, there are still a lot of reasons to believe that at least the entity survived: (1) the car has been described as the 1959 car and/or the Bryan death car. (2) the older car disappeared from the face of the earth. (3) some dimensions, body and suspension parts appear to have been carried over or at the very least have been duplicated, as they are different from the sister car built in 1962, and other later cars as far as I can tell. Finally, but whisper it quietly, the 1963 rebuild has also been credited to Jud Phillips, the car’s new chief mechanic…
Be that as it may, the original four-bar Watson Champ Car had had an exciting and eventful career up to then, already. To begin with, it was crashed on its very first appearance in April of 1959 at the new Daytona International Speedway, of all places, and in hot laps (free practice) at that! Its temporary chauffeur (Rodger Ward was driving the new roadster) had been Jerry Unser, just a few weeks before his untimely death, but thankfully he’d have one more opportunity to save his reputation in another dirt car at Trenton, where Ward finished second to show the potential of the Watson Champ Car.
Apart from its suspension, another break from tradition was its unusual left-hand exhaust pipe, roadster style. It appeared concurrently on the new Phillips Champ Car, underlining again the close relationship between Jud and A. J., but proved to be only a short-lived fad, copied by very few. By 1961 it was gone, but that year Watson stunned his colleagues by modifying the car to accept “coil-overs” (coil spring/damper units) instead of torsion bars! It ran well in that form, even winning at Syracuse, but for the western swing at the end of the season it was back to four-bar spec, scoring another win and a second place to squash the fears of A. J.’s rivals of yet another design revolution! Coil-overs were also tried and rejected on the Watson roadsters of that year, but six years later A. J. was again experimenting with them on a new Sprint Car, indicating that perhaps driver wishes were at play.
With a new car for Ward in 1962, this one became a back-up, initially for Len Sutton who developed an unhealthy attraction for Milwaukee concrete walls, though, banging them twice in ten weeks. Sutton went in for some interior redecoration, while Watson brought his old pal Jud Phillips in to mend the damaged roadster. Jud suggested to let his former shoe Don Branson try out the backup dirt car, and Don went 2-3-1 in his first three races to secure a new job. According to the VA article, the car was retired in 1970 after four years of service under Bobby Unser, which is good news for the researcher who had a couple of possibilities and question marks for the car’s further history…
- 1959 #52/5 Leader Card Duo, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Jerry Unser, Rodger Ward (3 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 2 x 3rd, 2 x FT), Jud Larson, Al Keller (1 x 5th), Don Freeland
- 1960 #1/10 Leader Card Duo, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Rodger Ward (1 x 1st, 1 x FT), Jimmy Bryan, Chuck Stevenson
rebuilt as CC-61, then CC-61B (from October)
- 1961 #2 Leader Card Duo, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Rodger Ward (2 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 1 x FT)
- 1962 #7 Leader Card Duo, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Len Sutton, Don Branson (2 x 1st, 3 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd)
rebuilt as CC-63
- 1963 #7 => #4 Leader Card Duo, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Len Sutton, Don Branson (1 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd, 1 x 5th, 1 x 6th)
- 1964 #5 Wynn’s Friction Proofing, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Don Branson (1 x 2nd, 4 x 3rd, 1 x FT), Jud Larson (1 x 6th)
- 1965 #4 Wynn’s, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Don Branson (2 x 1st, 2 x 6th, 1 x FT)
- 1966 #4 Leader Card Racers, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Don Branson (1 x 1st, 3 x 4th, 1 x 5th, 1 x 6th, 2 x FT)
- 1967 #6 Rislone, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Bobby Unser (1 x 6th, 1 x FT)
- 1968 #3 Rislone, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Bobby Unser
- 1969 #1 Bardahl, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Bobby Unser (2 x 3rd, 1 x 5th)
- 1970 #3 Wagner Lockheed Brake Fluid, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Bobby Unser (1 x 2nd)
The second works car was built with a slight offset to the left and a few other detail changes. This was A. J.’s car during the time of the “two teams compete as one” period. – Trivia: in 1969 Mike Mosley managed to qualify for all four dirt track races the team entered, but was the second car out three times, first car out in the other race. – Bob Wilke died in November of 1970, and his son Ralph R. Wilke took over the team. Mosley was injured before the start of the Dirt Track Championship in 1971, so “Ziggy” Snider took over as a substitute, then managed to beat McElreath, Foyt et al to the title!
There’s some uncertainty about the car’s post-Leader Cards history, it is said (by Joe Scalzo, sadly without being more specific) that it campaigned for about three more seasons, so this would fit with the Mataka entry, but that seems to have been the Watson-copy built by Hank Blum (ca. 1962, ex-Weinberger & Wilseck).
- 1962 #3 Leader Card, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Rodger Ward (1 x 1st, 1 x 5th), Len Sutton
- 1963 #1 Kaiser Aluminum, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Rodger Ward (4 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 3 x FT)
- 1964 #2 Kaiser Aluminum, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Rodger Ward (1 x 2nd, 1 x 4th, 1 x FT)
- 1965 #2 Wynn’s (Moog Saint Louis?), Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Jud Larson (1 x 5th), Johnny Rutherford (1 x 4th, 1 x 5th, 2 x 6th)
- 1966 #12 Wynn’s, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Chuck Hulse (1 x 2nd, 1 x 5th)
- 1967 #90 Leader Card Racers, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Jim Hurtubise (1 x 5th), Jerry Daniels, Chuck Hulse
- 1968 #90 Zecol-Lubaid, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, George Snider (2 x 3rd)
- 1969 #90 Zecol-Lubaid, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Mike Mosley
- 1970 #9 G. C. Murphy, Offenhauser, R. C. Wilke, Mike Mosley (1 x 4th, 1 x 5th)
- 1971 #4 G. C. Murphy, Offenhauser, R. R. Wilke, George Snider (1 x 1st, 2 x 2nd)
The next car was for a customer who would soon be no customer anymore… I should add, however, that some people insist on calling the car a Kuzma – if indeed it was, that means it must’ve been a “blueprint job”. I really have not much of an idea what became of this one, it may have ended up with a Ford as the #12 King O’Lawn, which indeed it resembles in a couple of areas, but Faas ran a second car with an Offy in 1972, although I have a picture of it and it doesn’t look at all like the fromer ’98 Agajanian. After that, nada! :\\
- 1964 #98 Agajanian Bowes Seal Fast, Offenhauser, J. J. Agajanian, Parnelli Jones (1 x FT)
- 1965 #98 Agajanian Hurst, Offenhauser, J. J. Agajanian, George Snider (1 x 2nd), Ronnie Duman (RD)
- 1966 #98 Agajanian’s REV 500, Offenhauser, J. J. Agajanian, Dick Atkins (1 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 1 x 6th)
- 1967 #98 Agajanian Rislone => Agajanian’s REV 500, Offenhauser, Agajanian/Jones, Grier Manning, Billy Vukovich (1 x 4th, 1 x 5th, 1 x 6th)
- 1968 #98 Agajanian’s Wagner Lockheed Brake Fluid, Offenhauser, J. J. Agajanian, Grier Manning, Billy Vukovich (2 x 3rd, 1 x 4th, 1 x 5th, 1 x FT)
- 1969 #98 Agajanian’s Wagner Lockheed Brake Fluid, Offenhauser, J. J. Agajanian, Billy Vukovich (1 x 3rd, 1 x 4th, 1 x FT)
- 1970 #98 Wynn’s Spitfire, Offenhauser, Agajanian/Faas, Bruce Walkup (1 x 6th)
- 1971 #98 Agajanian-Faas, Offenhauser?, Agajanian/Faas, Sam Sessions
- 1972 ? #12 King O’Lawn, Ford?, L. A. Faas, Sam Sessions (1 x 4th)
The next works entry appeared in 1972, it was a Ford and had coil-over suspension, again. By this time, Agajanian and Wilke had joined forces so the car carried Aggie’s favourite number. Here is definitely more research needed, it becomes quite unclear how long that car ran, and where it went.
- 1972 #98 Vivitar, Ford, Wilke/Agajanian, Larry Dickson, Al Unser, Mike Mosley
- 1973 #98 Lodestar, Ford?, Wilke/Agajanian, Johnny Parsons (1 x 2nd, 1 x 6th)
- 1974 #98 Lodestar, Ford?, Wilke/Agajanian, Tom Bigelow (3 x 2nd, 2 x 4th)
- 1975 #2 Leader Card Lodestar, Ford, Wilke/Agajanian, Tom Bigelow (3 x 1st, 1 x FT)
- 1976 #2 Leader Card Racer, Ford, R. R. Wilke, Tom Bigelow (1 x 1st, 3 x FT)
- 1977 #7 Thermo-King, Ford, R. R. Wilke, Tom Bigelow (1 x 1st)
- 1978 #7 Thermo-King, Ford?, R. R. Wilke, Sheldon Kinser, Tom Bigelow
According to one source, no less than three cars were built in 1977 or ’78, but I can’t find no confirmation for that. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, just that obscurity knocks…
- 1978 #3 Thermo-King, Chevrolet?, R. R. Wilke, Sheldon Kinser
- 1979 #30 Hubler Chevy/WNDE, Chevrolet?, R. R. Wilke, Bobby Olivero (2 x 1st)
- 1980 #1 Hodgdon-Curb, Chevrolet?, R. R. Wilke, Bobby Olivero (1 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd)
- 1981 #5 Moran Electric, Chevrolet?, R. R. Wilke, Bobby Olivero
- 1982 #16 Hodgdon-Curb, Chevrolet?, R. R. Wilke, Bobby Olivero (1 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd)
- 1983 #5 Moran Electric, Chevrolet?, R. R. Wilke, Bobby Olivero
Another of those three (?) cars is supposed to have ended up with Ray “Junior” Kurtz, who ran this one car successfully for 13 years (1980-92) for drivers like Billy Vukovich, Jerry Weeks, Rick Hood or Chuck Gurney. Gurney alone won 10 races in this car, and placed in the top 3 more than 20 times (1982-91), for a “batting average” of better than 50 %!
We have now covered four and a half decades of Champ Car racing with A. J. Watson designed and built cars, and most of the time we have talked about winners. Watsons were winners, most of the time.
Last updated by Michael Ferner on 14 Dec 2009.
All text is copyright Michael Ferner 2009 - 2023.