1961 Elder-Crawford Indy Roadster

Front-engined roadsters were a feature of the Indianapolis 500 from 1921 to 1963. Especially constructed for the 150-plus mph oval track, they attracted the best racing engineers that America had to offer, including Harry Miller, Fred Offenhauser, Frank Kurtis and A. J. Watson. Few Indy 500 roadsters survive in unmodified form, mainly because of the nature of racing, as cars are altered and upgraded over the course of many seasons—or simply irreparably damaged. As such, an unmodified car, with full history and celebrity ownership, seldom comes to market.

The preeminent automotive journalist Brock Yates researched this car in detail. It is one of two built in 1960–61 by Edgar Elder in El Monte, CA. The car was commissioned by Ray Crawford, a Pasadena supermarket owner. For 1961, Elder built two new cars, with Offenhauser/Meyer Drake engines and considerable use of titanium, including front spindles, front axle, front and rear hubs, torsion arms, Watts linkage, and knockoff hubs. With Offy engine #212, this car was delivered to Crawford in 1961, painted in yellow and black for McCullough chain saw sponsorship and sent to Indy as number 94. But driver Cliff Griffith could not qualify. It reappeared at Milwaukee on June 4, 1961 at a 100-mile USAC race, where it was driven by Bill Cheesbourg, finished 13th and then won the 20-lap consolation event. Owner Crawford drove it at the Phoenix one-mile dirt oval on November 19, but he crashed.

For 1962, the car was repainted red as the number 96 “Meguiar’s Mirror-Glaze Special” and returned to Indy. Crawford failed to qualify, so Bob Veith took over the car and started in 19th place. But a cam drive failed on lap 14 and the car was retired. Entered in 1963 as the number 47 McCullough Special, it qualified at 147.62 mph but was bumped from the field. This was the car’s last appearance at Indy.

Back at Milwaukee on June 9, Michigan veteran Al Miller qualified 11th and brushed the wall. The car went back to Elder’s shop for repairs, then Bill Cantrell drove it in the Sacramento 100-mile dirt race, finishing 14th. Crawford made one last attempt at Phoenix in November.

At this point the car spent about six years in a glass case outside of one of Crawford’s supermarkets, minus its engine. Offered for sale in a classified ad for $6,500,it passed through several collectors until 1977, when it wound up with Mel Barlow. Barlow had bought Offy #174 and the engine was installed in the restored Elder-Crawford car.

In the summer of 1981, Barlow’s friend Bill Cox fired it up for a blast down an airstrip. It was then parked for 23 years in Barlow’s collection until Brock Yates bought it in 2004. The Elder-Crawford roadster was turned over to noted restorer Joe Fiore of Southbury, CT, and re-commissioned in its number 96 red Meguiar’s livery.

All told, the Mirror Glaze Special was driven by nine Indy 500 drivers, has complete provenance and retains its unique titanium parts and a correct Offy motor. Best of all, it was never butchered or modified and can claim genuine Indy history for three consecutive years.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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