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						1952 Indy Racer 8
Golden-Era Indy Racer

Barn-find 1952 Indy roadster for sale

By Dean Larson

They call it the golden era of Indy, and when you start to look at the evolution of the cars and personalities of the 1950s, you’ll start to see why. The track was better than ever with increased promotion, a new tower, additional grandstands and the entire surface (except for the main straight) was now paved with asphalt.

The cars were also quickly evolving, and the 1950s saw some of the wildest Indy racers to yet. The Indy cars of the day were coined “roadsters,” identified by their front-engine layout, tube chassis, solid axles and large fuel tank hanging off the rear. By the early 1960s, it was clear the roadster era was coming to a close as firms like Lotus were beginning to perfect rear-engine cars. But the front-engine roadsters of the golden era are still some of the most captivating early race cars, and are rolling testaments to American ingenuity.

This 1952 Indy roadster on eBay was completely restored 15 years ago after it was found in a barn in 1999. No expense was spared during the restoration, and the car is said to perform as well as it looks. The shape of the low-slung racer is unique, and clearly comes from the latter portion of the roadster era. The front-mounted engine and rear fuel tank are still present, but everything is toned down and smaller in scale than the earlier “big cars,” a term that separates the upsized Indy cars from the smaller Midgets. 

1952 Indy Racer 6

The seller offered these comments on the car’s history at the end of the listing:

“The owner in ’99 who had the car in his barn in Indiana for 25+ years told Scott it was the Shannon Motors car from Dayton. He is now deceased. I bought it from Scott who is 86 and in bad health, and spoke to the owner of the restoration shop who did the work in 1999. It's not Shannon Bros 1st Kurtis, it's the Watts that Gene Force drove when it had the Offy. Watts was Shannon's engineer, and built the car for Shannon Bros, copying much of the Kurtis, but changed some things, according to news sources, etc.”

The seller’s messages are a bit mixed here, but there are a couple interesting facts conclusions to be had. Any astute enthusiast would recognize the term “Offy,” referring to Offenhauser, who built an Indy-dominating four-cylinder engine. This particular car had its Offenhauser engine removed after it failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 1957. The engine was replaced with an early ’50s Oldsmobile 303 ci V8.

Digging deeper, there is some mention on the web of a Shannon Bros. Kurtis Kraft Indy car, and indeed, Kurtis did build the dominant Indy car for many years. However, he refers to this car instead as a “Watts,” which borrowed heavily from, and improved on the Kurtis. Research concludes that a Watson Roadster Indy racer did exist which was an improved version of the Kurtis, although most Watson Roadsters look slightly newer than this one. It would likely take a true Indy expert to say if this is for sure a Watson or not.

Check out this link for more reading on what separates the Watson Roadster from the Kurtis Kraft. 

At the end of the day, this is a largely complete and unique racer with some vintage racing potential. Check out the eBay listing here.

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