Joe's Garage - The MacPherson Collection

14 June 2008

Lot 223

1960 Meskowski Bowes Seal Fast Special

To be auctioned on Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sold for $462,000

  • Chassis no. 270109


Specifications:
255 cu. in. Offenhauser double overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine, two-speed transmission with reverse, tubular front axle, Halibrand Championship rear end with three-inch open tube axle, front and rear cross-torsion bar suspension, and Halibrand four-wheel disc brakes.

The Ex-A.J. Foyt, Championship-Winning

The late Wally Meskowski remains a true legend of USAC Sprint and Indy car racing. A colorful and formidable competitor, Meskowski is best remembered as a constructor, mechanic and car owner with the ability to extract the highest levels of performance from car and driver alike. Despite a reputation for volatility that was not entirely deserved, Meskowski consistently attracted the most competitive drivers, and was instrumental in their development, among them A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, and Bill Vukovich, Jr.

In late 1959, Meskowski was engaged to build a new dirt Champ car for the Bowes Seal Fast team of legendary chief mechanic George Bignotti and co-owner Bob Bowes II, for the 1960 USAC season. Completed in early 1960, the new car was a masterful blend of art and engineering, with a beautiful, streamlined body that was strongly reminiscent of the dual-purpose cars of the early 1950s, which competed on both dirt ovals and the venerable “Brickyard”, prior to the rise of the specialized Indy roadster.

A proven, 255 cubic inch Offenhauser inline four-cylinder engine provided the power, and was the standard engine choice for USAC race cars for many years. Originally designed for powerboat applications, the “Offy” boasted advanced engineering features that included fuel injection, dual overhead camshafts, and deep-breathing cylinder heads with four valves per cylinder. Utilizing a “bulletproof” short-block, and nearly square bore and stroke dimensions, the Offenhauser was capable of delivering a staggering 1.77 horsepower per cubic inch, and in turbocharged form powered Indianapolis cars well into the 1980s. This venerable power plant was mated to a Meyer-Drake two-speed transmission, and a proven Halibrand Championship rear end assembly.

The final ingredient required was a driver. The long-running Bowes team endured several major accidents in the late 1950s, including serious burns suffered by Johnny Boyd, and the death of George Amick at Daytona. A young A.J. Foyt, in search of a ride after a disagreement with a former car owner, proved to be a wise choice. Foyt, who won his first USAC Midget race in 1957 and competed in his first Indianapolis 500 in 1958, was recognized as a fierce competitor with the strength of character and versatility to become a champion.

The Bowes team overcame early growing pains and campaigned both the Meskowski-built sprinter and a Watson-Trevis Indy roadster. Success came during the 100-mile event at DuQuoin, Illinois, on Labor Day of 1960. Foyt scored the first of an eventual 67 USAC National Championship wins by grabbing the lead at lap 77 and holding on to take the checkered flag over Tony Bettenhausen. From there, Foyt and the Bowes team scored three more victories and two more podium finishes. Foyt displayed his signature aggressive driving style, prevailing over the legendary Rodger Ward for his first of an eventual seven USAC National Championships.

Interestingly, the Meskowski sprinter was refinished by a rising star of the growing L.A. car culture, Dean Jeffries. Between the 1960 and 1961 seasons, Jeffries applied a white, red and black finish to the Meskowski car, matching the team’s brand-new Watson-Trevis Indy roadster. Jeffries, a friend and contemporary of Von Dutch, further adorned the Meskowski with his signature pinstripe accents. In fact, in association with Mobil, the self-taught Jeffries reportedly pinstriped 21 Indianapolis contenders at this time.

The Bowes team continued their winning ways in 1961. Foyt drove the team’s Watson Indianapolis roadster to victory in the Indianapolis 500, and followed up with three victories in the Meskowski dirt car in three 100-mile dirt track events. In the process, Foyt bested such drivers as Parnelli Jones, Shorty Templeman, and Bobby Marshman en route to a second USAC National Championship.

However, a growing rift between Foyt and George Bignotti caused Bowes to end his involvement with racing, leaving Bignotti in search of new sponsors. Although Foyt briefly joined the competition, he returned to his original team late in the season, but was unable to prevent Rodger Ward from taking the 1962 USAC Championship. With new sponsorship from Sheraton Hotels and Thompson Industries, the 1960 Meskowski became the first of a series of Sheraton-Thompson Specials. Foyt continued winning in the Meskowski, capturing three events and reclaiming the USAC Championship in 1963. However, at the close of the 1963 season, the car offered here was retired after winning 13 of 26 races entered.

The Meskowski continued in competition, passing through a series of owners, and gained a rollcage along the way. Despite its glorious past, further victories proved elusive for the old warrior. Nonetheless, in the hands of Darrell Harrison, the aging racecar placed third behind Mario Andretti at Sedalia, Missouri in the mid-1970s.

When Harrison offered the Meskowski for sale in the late 1970s, Bob Benchoff, guided by Buster Warke, purchased it for Lynn Paxton to drive in USAC Championship Division events. Campaigned for one season with Chevrolet V8 power, the Meskowski was unsuccessful. Realizing that serious structural modifications were required, a decision was made to restore the historic car instead and Paxton, an accomplished racecar driver, purchased a half interest from Benchoff, and began the restoration process.

Returning the car to its 1960/1961 glory, the roll cage was removed, and Warke located and installed a correct 255 cubic inch Offenhauser engine. Bodywork was performed by Frank Murray, while Jim Reeser and Leroy Shaeffer returned the car to its Bowes Seal Fast livery, with the handsome Dean Jeffries paint scheme and pin striping. Completed in 1981 and used sparingly, the Meskowski was eventually sold to Joe MacPherson in 1998.

This remarkable car, one of less than two dozen Championship dirt cars constructed by the great Wally Meskowski, has been carefully maintained since its acquisition by Joe MacPherson and remains in excellent, period-correct condition throughout. Outstandingly successful, it provides a link to A.J. Foyt’s stellar USAC career and is well suited for the growing number of vintage oval track events.

Addendum

Please note that this lot is being sold on a Bill of Sale Only.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alain Squindo


Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

Alex Classick

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United Kingdom

Alex Classick joined RM Europe in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Nottingham University with a degree in Business Mana... read more

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California, USA

Alexander Weaver joined RM Auctions in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born into ... read more

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Germany

With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Dan Warrener

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Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, USA

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Auctions in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and restora... read more

Ian Kelleher

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New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Politica... read more

Jack Boxstrom

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Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Auctions in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in Monte... read more

Max Girardo

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United Kingdom

Max Girardo started his career in the vintage automobile industry in 1998, joining Brooks Auctioneers (now Bonhams) as a car specialis... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Auctions, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Graduati... read more

Peter Wallman

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United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Rob Myers

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Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, USA

Shelby Myers literally grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to w... read more

Vinnie Mandzak

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California, USA

Vinnie Mandzak joined RM Auctions’ California office in 2012 as a car specialist, following more than 30 years’ experience... read more