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Fast times at Estrella Warbirds Museum

Modified: Tuesday, Jan 5th, 2010

Speed racer - From left, Estrella Warbirds Museum President Peter Visel and racecar collector Richard Woodland admire the 1961 Indy 500-winning roadster replica, which is the newest edition to the Woodland Automobile Collection housed at the Estrella Warbirds Museum in Paso Robles. Photo by Hayley Thomas.
Race enthusiasts will rejoice at the sight of the 1961 Indy 500-winning roadster replica that is the newest edition to the Woodland Automobile Collection housed at the Estrella Warbirds Museum in Paso Robles.

"I watched this car win in '61 on television," Estrella Warbirds Museum President Peter Visel said. "Guys that are into racing don't forget things like this."

Long, lean, shiny and incredibly fast, the car is a sleek and stunning replica of the vehicle that made driver A.J. Foyt a winner nearly half a century ago. Foyt's average speed during the race broke the record at 139.131 miles per hour, propelling the car into racing stardom. The car was retired to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum immediately following the win but a replica of the vehicle created by famed car builder Floyd Trevis using A.J. Watson's plans was created the same year. The car was born to drive again.

Paso Robles resident Richard Woodland bought the rare replica five years ago, satisfying the longtime dream to own an Indy roadster. No stranger to the roar of racecar engines, Woodland said he grew up racing in a family that relished and participated in the fast-paced sport. Many Woodland family cars are on display at the museum, including a 1960 Ford Jalopy, 1932 "High Boy" roadster as well as midget racers built in '37, 38 and '52. NASCAR Sprint, Modified and Super Modified racecars round out the colorful collection.

Woodland said he felt the cars would be better off in a place where others could enjoy them rather than stowed away in a garage.

"I'm enjoying seeing the reactions and being able to share the cars," he said. "There's been quite a bit of excitement."

The new '61 roadster has attracted a buzz as older race fans and future generations remember the car's turbulent past. At the '62 and '63 Indy 500 races the then-owner of the replica, Pete Salimi, campaigned the car as the Gabriel Shock Absorber Special with driver Allen Crowe. Then the car was involved in a tragic accident.

In 1964 the vehicle, which had been sold and qualified for that year's Indy 500 race as the Clean Wear Special with driver Ronnie Durman, sustained major damages during a gruesome second-lap crash that killed racing competitors Eddie Sachs and Dave McDonald.

The remains of the vehicle were combined with parts from the U.S. Equipment Special, another Watson creation. According to Visel, because the majority of the restorations were made from the original Gabriel Shock Absorber Special, Indianapolis Speedway historians agree...

For the complete article see the 01-05-2010 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 01-05-2010 paper.

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