1962 LESOVSKY INDIANAPOLIS ROADSTER
Blue with black upholstery
Engine: Meyer & Drake Offenhauser inline 4-cylinder, dual overhead camshafts, Hillborn-Travers mechanical fuel injection, 252ci (4130cc), 325bhp at 6,600rpm; Gearbox: 2-speed manual with reverse; Suspension: solid axles with torsion bars and tube shocks; Brakes: disc.
By 1962, most entries for the Indianapolis 500 were Offenhauser-powered roadsters purpose-built for the unique demands of the Indianapolis 2 1/2 mile brickyard. These cars infrequently raced elsewhere; most of the USAC Championship was run on dirt or small ovals for which a completely different set of performance attributes were important. Lou Salih and Frank Kurtis popularized, respectively, the laydown (with its 4-cylinder Offy laid almost horizontally) and offset (with its vertical Offy situated on the left side of the chassis) Indy roadsters and by the mid-'50s they dominated the field. Chassis builders typically doubled as chief mechanics at Indianapolis and the rest of the Championship Trail, learning their lessons in the crucible of competition.
Lujie Lesovsky was one such mechanic-constructor. As early as 1951 he installed a 241ci Offy in the #99 Kurtis Midget chassis owned by Murrell Bellanger which won that year's 500 in the hands of Lee Wallard, then finished fourth in the 1952 driven by Duane Carter. Los Angeles-based Lesovsky's constructions became more common as the decade went on including cars Rodger Ward, Jim Packard and George Amick used to win Championship events on both dirt and pavement in 1957-60. A Lesovsky laydown roadster driven by Johnny Thompson took the Indy pole in 1959, finishing third in '59 and fifth in '60.
In 1962 Elmer George and his wife Mari Hulman George (daughter of Tony Hulman, owner of the Indianapolis Speedway) commissioned Lesovsky, who had already built a midget and a sprint car for the Georges, to build this car, an offset Meyer & Drake Offenhauser-powered Roadster with solid axles, tube shocks and torsion bar suspension in the Watson style. Sarkes Tarzian sponsored the car which Elmer George qualified 17th at 146.092mph for the 500 that year, finishing in the same position after the engine seized at 146 laps. It was idle until the 1963 500 when George qualified the car 28th at 147.893mph but retired after twelve laps. George sold it to Richard Kemerly just before the 1964 500. Paul Russo's 148.644mph qualifying run wasn't sufficient to make the field, nor did Bob Christie make the show for Kemerly in 1965 even with a qualifying speed of 153.472mph. However when Kemerly put Mel Kenyon in the Lesovsky roadster for the traditional Indy 500 encore at the Milwaukee Mile the combination finished 5th, but at Langhorne, Pennsylvania later that year a blown engine caused Kenyon to crash. (The accident cost Kenyon the fingers of his left hand. Far from ending his career, Kenyon adopted a special glove that mates with a pin on the race car's steering wheel and has gone on to win a record seven USAC Midget championship).
After the Langhorne accident the Lesovsky roadster was stashed in the attic of Kemerly's car dealership. Acquired in partially repaired condition, it was restored four years ago for its present owner by John Hajduk to its 1962 Indy 500 condition and Sarkes Tarzian livery. It has since been demonstrated on several occasions and displayed at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles and the Louis Vuitton Classic at Rockefeller Center in New York.
This example of the classic Indy Roadster, powered by the Meyer & Drake Offenhauser is one of the greatest racing engines of all time. It comes from a collection known for the meticulous preparation and presentation of its cars, is both historic and ready to take to the track or show, and is an exemplary representative of the roadster era at Indianapolis.