Ownership History – 1959 Buick Indy Pace Car?

I purchased this 1959 Buick Electra 225 Convertible out of Maryland from a guy named Bill. He told me that the person he purchased it from told him that he bought it from the original owner. The story went that when the original owner sold the car he told the buyer that he loved the car so much that on the cars 25th anniversary in 1984 he had it repainted and had new upholstery and carpets installed. This all made sense because the paint and vinyl upholstery in the car was rough and looked more than 20 years old. Bill never titled the car so I figured I could somewhat legitimately call myself the third owner.

As the third owner I thought it would be nice to see if I could talk to the original owner (if he was still around) and maybe even get some pictures of when the car was new. Since Bill simply signed over the previous title and I kept a copy, I could see that he had purchased the car from Gerry Kelsch of North Dakota. With a bit of Internet homework I was able to track down a phone number for Kelsch so I thought I’d call him to see if he could tell me a little about the car. I figured it would be nice to know how long he owned it and maybe he could point me in the direction of the original owners he told Bill he bought it from. Anyway, after leaving several messages and even talking briefly to one of his kids about the car, Kelsch never called me back. On my last call he actually answered the phone, but then hung up on me when I told him who I was and why I was calling. I assumed that was the end of it.

About this time I got a call from a guy named Hans who I knew from the Buick-59.com website. Hans worked as a long distance trucker and he knew a ton about 59 Buicks. He wanted to talk about a previous 59 Buick I owned that was being sold on eBay by the new owner. It turns out the 1959 Indianapolis 500 used a 1959 Electra 225 Convertible as the Pace Car that year (I’d never known that). The actual car was white with red interior the same as my previous and current car. Anyway, the new owner had pasted some decals on my old car and was trying to sell it on eBay as a Pace Car replica. As we were talking I told him the story of how I started looking for the original owner of my current car and had quickly reached a dead end. When I told Hans the guy lived in North Dakota he instantly stopped me. He told me that a number of years previous he was making plans to look at a white 225 Convertible that was for sale in Wyoming, but before he could get there the car was purchased by someone from North Dakota. Hans was not only certain it was the same car, but he told me that somewhere he still had the advertisement for the car with a phone number. I was amazed that he might actually be able to provide me with a phone number to the original owner. Sure enough, a few days later a letter from Hans came in the mail with a copy of the Wyoming advertisement from February 2002. There was a big color picture of the car in the ad leaving no doubt it was the same car I owned along with a phone number to call Catherine. This was great I thought, being sold in 2002 meant that not too many years had passed since it left the original owners.

I called the number and I can’t tell you how excited I was when this elderly lady in Wyoming answered the phone. As I started telling her why I was calling she stopped me to say that she wasn’t Catherine. She told me Catherine was her… “daughter,” and she was the previous owner of the car. She did however give me Catherine’s number and she told me that she would tell her to expect a call from me. Needless to say, I started wondering how anyone’s “daughter” could be the original owner of a 59 Buick.

A few days later I finally got in touch with Catherine. Yes she was the previous owner… but she only owned the car for about five years and rarely drove it. She saw it one day parked in front of a local scrap yard with a For Sale sign and thought it would be cool to own a car that was built the same year she was born. She told me that the yard had been owned by the “Skaggs” family and she had bought it from the Skaggs Estate after the owner passed away. She thought that the deceased Skaggs may have been the original owner but didn’t know anything about a 25th anniversary restoration. She also told me that she didn’t think any members of the Skaggs family still lived in the area so she couldn’t help me out any further.

Well so much for being the third owner and the silver anniversary restoration! I guess I figured out the reason Kelsch didn’t want to talk to me. I was ready to once again give up on the thought of finding the original owner but for the heck of it I went back online to see if I could locate any Skaggs in Wyoming. I thought that if I could locate members of the Skaggs family one of them they might still have information on the car and maybe a picture or two from when the car was new.

After some intense searching I couldn’t find any listing for a Skaggs, but I did hit upon an e-mail address that contained the word skaggs in it. After a little more work it turned out that the e-mail address was registered to a car parts store also in Wyoming. It was a long shot, but I got a phone number for the store and called a couple days later. Since I didn’t have any real name, when someone answered the phone I just asked for “Skaggs”. I almost fell out of my chair when the guy on the other end said “this is Kraig Skaggs”.

I started to tell Kraig that I was calling to see if he knew anything about a 59 Buick. Before I could even describe the car he stopped me and asked, “Is it a white convertible with red interior and bucket seats?” Holy cow, he knew the car! He told me that the car had been his father’s and it was sold after he passed away. With my hopes up once again I asked if he had any pictures of when the car was new or if he could tell me anything about it. Unfortunately he didn’t have any pictures, actually he said, his father had only owned the car about seven or eight years and only drove it in a few parades.

After all that searching I was thoroughly disappointed that I hadn’t found the original owner. Before ending the conversation though I asked if he had any idea where his father got the car. Without hesitating he told me that his dad purchased the car from Gary Brodrick…but Gary had died about 15 years ago. He then thought a minute and told me that he knew that Gary’s widow Marleen was still alive, and further, if I’d give him a minute he could probably dig up her phone number. A few seconds later he came back with a phone number. I was thinking it was my lucky day that he actually had this information.

It was already late when I talked to Kraig so I wasn’t about to call an elderly widow at that hour. I was excited that I had finally tracked down the family of the original owner and I was looking forward to calling her the next day. As I went to bed that night I was thinking that there was something about her name, Marleen Brodrick, that sounded oddly familiar but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I woke up the next morning with a thought. I went outside to the car and looked at the dealer tag that was still attached to the back of the car…”BRODRICK, Powell WY”

Now it was all starting to come together, Gary Brodrick must have been the owner of Brodrick Buick. My car is relatively unique in that it has so many options that it would have cost about as much as a Cadillac in 1959. Now it made sense, the wealthy owner of a Buick Dealership would have loaded up a top of the line 225 convertible with just about every option available if the car was going to be for his own personal use!

After several tries I was finally able to get through to Marleen, but she sounded younger than her years. I started explaining the reason for the call and she told me that yes her husband had owned the car before he died in 1992 and the car was sold shortly thereafter. I asked her if she remembered the car when it was new and if she had any old pictures she could share. Goodness, she chuckled, I’m not that old! She told me that her husband had inherited the car from his father, Gordon Brodrick, when he passed away in 1984. Gordon was the original owner of the Buick dealership. She said that after her husband inherited the car he very rarely drove it, and it was pretty much kept in one of the garages owned by the dealership.

Now I was really disappointed, but before ending the conversation I asked Marleen if Mrs. “Gordon” Brodrick was still around and if she might have any old pictures. She told me that Mrs. Brodrick was still alive but she was up there in years and pretty much wouldn’t be able to remember anything like that. She paused for a second and did tell me however that her deceased husband’s older brother, Mike Brodrick, knew a lot about his father’s cars and he might be able to help. She told me that Mike had moved to Montana years ago but she gave me his number. I couldn’t believe that I came up empty again, but I was still excited about the prospect of at least talking to the son of the original owner, surely he would know something and maybe have a few elusive pictures.

A few more days and I was able to reach Mike Brodrick who was in his 60’s. I started going through the story of who I was and why I was calling. We struck up a great conversation and Mike was amazed that I had been able to track him down and he was tickled pink that an absolute stranger actually wanted to talk about his dad who had died more than 20 years ago and his 59 Buick. When the conversation finally got around to pictures of when the car was new he told me that his dad wasn’t the original owner. Not the original owner, I said? I couldn’t believe it; I asked him if he was sure because the car still had the “Brodrick” dealer badge on it!

Mike then started telling me what he remembered about the car. He recalled that his father had taken the car as a trade-in from someone that was buying a new car at the dealership. He couldn’t be sure of the year because he had already moved out of the house by then after serving in Viet Nam. He figured his father probably got the car sometime in the 70’s. Mike said that his father recognized the car was unique so he decided to keep it himself. He then went on to tell me a little about the Brodrick dealership plate on the back of the car. He told me that his father started the dealership in the mid 50’s as a Chevy dealer in Powell, Wyoming. The name of the dealership back then was “Okay Chevrolet”. Although he did take on the Buick line in the late 50’s, he didn’t change the dealership name to “Brodrick Chevrolet-Buick” until the early 60’s. He pointed out that the dealer tag on the back of my car was glued on, he told me those tags didn’t start until the 60’s. If his dad had in fact purchased the car new it would have had an Okay Chevrolet tag drilled into the car. (Yes he told me; even the Buicks got “Okay Chevrolet” tags the first couple years after his dad took on the Buick line.) In fact he told me, I’m looking right now at one of my dad’s original Okay Chevrolet dealer tags that I keep on a bookshelf as a memento. He told me that he really doesn’t have any use for it anymore and if I wanted it he would be more than happy to send it to me just because he so much enjoyed having the conversation about his dad and the car. He told me he had no idea who might have traded in the car and any possible records would have been destroyed years ago. It was a nice conversation, but I had definitely reached the end of the road with no way to go back any further.

Shortly afterward I got another road-call from Hans. He had made arrangements to go look at my former Electra 225 “Pace Car” which was again for sale and now located in Indiana. Han’s owned a beautifully restored 1959 Buick Invicta convertible but he told me that he always dreamed of owning a 59 Electra 225 convertible.  He had talked to the owner about possibly swapping his car for it and wanted to know what I thought.  I strongly discouraged the swap, I told him that my previous car was in decent condition, but it was definitely nowhere near the condition of his car. Hans appreciated the advice but told me he was going to stop by to see it anyway as it was along one of his trucking routes.

We started talking about my current car and I went on to tell him the saga of all the previous owners that I was able to locate after he had graciously sent me the ad he saved. We talked about that for a while and the conversation somehow got back to the Pace Car. As we talked about the car we discussed some pictures of the real Pace Car that someone had posted on the Internet. Some of the pictures were taken the day of the race and one picture showed the winner of the race, Rodger Ward, and his wife being awarded the actual Pace Car the next day by the Presidents of Monarch Buick and Ogle-Dellen Buick, the two sponsoring dealerships

(Click on the next three images to enlarge)

1959 Buick Indy Pace Car on Indy 500 Parade Lap with Actress Erin O'Brien and Borg-Warner Trophy on Board

1959 Buick Indy Pace Car leads Field

1959 Buick Indy Pace Car Leaves the Track

Indy Program Centerfold

1959 Indianapolis 500 Program Centerfold

What was interesting was that one of the pictures showed that the real car had the very rare bucket seats. Hans told me that no one knew what happened to the real Pace Car and offhandedly said it could be any 59 225 Convertible that was originally white with red bucket seats. The second he said that the same thought crossed both our minds. Now knowing that I wasn’t the third owner of my car, how could we be sure that my car wasn’t the real Pace Car?

The more we talked about it, the more it seemed it was possible. We knew that all of Buick’s original production records from the 50’s were lost, but most experts figure they couldn’t have made more than about 20 or 25 white Electra 225 convertibles with red bucket seats. Also, my car had come equipped with almost every option available; aside from the buckets, the car also has A/C, Triple Turbine Transmission, Air Ride Suspension, Automatic Heat, Wonderbar Radio, and EZ Eye Glass, in fact there were only two minor options that the car didn’t have, Power Vent Windows and Automatic Headlight Dimming. Why would anyone spend Cadillac money on a Buick we thought, unless it was built for a special purpose…like being a high publicity prize for the world’s greatest car race?

Hans and I decided to work together to see what we could find out about the real Pace Car. We knew that the Pace Car was given to Rodger Ward for winning the 59 Indy, but that was about it. If there was any possibility of my car being the real Pace Car, how did it end up in Wyoming? We set a goal to see if we could positively rule out my car as being the real thing. The best possible proof would be to determine if the VIN of the real car was recorded anywhere. Next to that was to begin searching for any possible pictures of the real car, especially pictures of the interior that might show if the car had matching options. Hans was certain he had seen a picture of the interior of the Pace Car at the Indianapolis Speedway Photo Shop. He told me he recalled visiting the shop years ago and could vividly recall a shot of the car with the top down from the passenger side rear fin overlooking the entire dash. Since he was planning on stopping in Indiana anyway to look at the Pace Car clone, he said he would shoot over to the Indy Photo Shop to see what he could find. I decided to start researching the 59 Indy Race.

The first thing I did was contact the Indianapolis Speedway to see if they had a historian I could talk to. After a few phone calls I was given the phone number of Donald Davidson. I was told that Don was the speedway’s unofficial historian who knew anything and everything about the Indy 500. When I finally reached Don he was more than happy to help.

Right off, Don told me he had no idea what happened to the 59 Buick Pace Car. He told me that although the speedway owns numerous Pace Cars, he has seen every one of them and he assured me that the car wasn’t hidden in any speedway garage or basement. He also said that back in 1959 the speedway didn’t record things like the VIN numbers for the Pace Cars. As far as how the speedway chose each year’s the Pace Car, Don informed that procurement of all Pace Cars was always done directly with manufacturer. There were, however, about three years (including 1959) in which the Pace Cars were “officially” sponsored by dealerships because at the time the manufacturers were trying to disavow any official involvement with racing (including providing the Pace Cars). In reality he told me, the manufacturers were always totally behind obtaining and delivering all the Pace Cars and the dealer “sponsorship” during that brief period was just a front. Don did say that 1959 was the first year that the Pace Car was equipped with a two way radio because of the disastrous start of the 58 race. In 58 there was a 15 car pile up on the first lap and one driver died. It was thought that being able to communicate with the Pace Car might help avoid a repeat in 1959. Don also informed that in 1959 the only duty of the Pace Car was to take two laps around the track with the field behind. The Pace Car never came back out on the track after the initial two laps.

Don also told me he had known Rodger Ward personally and he was probably the last winner to use the Pace Car as a daily driver. After that he said, the value of the cars was becoming apparent. Back in the 50’s driving around town in the Pace Car was one of the perks of winning the race. While I appreciated all Don’s help, he really didn’t give me anything to go on other than that Rodger Ward used the Pace Car as a daily driver as was the custom back then. (I later learned that Don was a very close friend of Rodger Ward and was one of the main speakers at his funeral.)

I checked in with Hans and we talked about the next step. Hans had an upcoming truck route through Indiana and he had made arrangements to see my old car (with new Pace Car graphics). We figured that since the new owner of the car lived in Indiana, and he knew enough about 59 Buicks to know that a white 225 Convertible was used as the 59 Pace Car, maybe he knew something we didn’t. Who knows, maybe he had some documents that showed the VIN number of the real Pace Car. When Hans got there, aside from looking at the car (which he decided wasn’t worth swapping his car for), he asked plenty of questions. Turns out the seller was a race buff and knew a lot about the Indy 500 and the Pace Cars. He told Hans that in years past he actually did quite a bit of business with the dealerships that sponsored the 59 Pace Car (Ogle-Dellen and Monarch). He told Hans that Ogle-Dellen went out of business years ago. He also said that he still bought some parts from Monarch, but they were not at the same location they had been in the 60’s, and also that it had changed ownership over the years. Based on this information Hans decided it wasn’t worth pursuing the dealership for information. He had wanted to go to the Indy Photo Shop on the same day but he ran out time so it would have to wait till his next trip.

My next idea was to go to the library to find out what local newspapers were sold in Indiana at the time of the 59 race. I thought that maybe one of them would have published a story on the Pace Car along with their race coverage. It turned out there were three newspapers at the time, and they were all preserved on Microfilm. I ordered the microfilm of the entire month of May and the first two weeks of June of all three papers (the race is always held on Memorial Day which in 1959 was on May, 30). When they arrived at my library I spent two solid days on an old microfilm machine looking over every single page of every newspaper. So what did I find out? After nearly going blind all I learned was that the Pace Car had special shocks installed for the race and the tires were filled to 100lbs of pressure. I also found another picture of the actual Pace Car with the owner of the speedway (Tony Hulman) sitting at the wheel, but it didn’t give me any new information. Oh well, so much for that idea!

As I continued searching I located a guy that was selling VHS copies of various Indy races including the 1959 race which included two versions of the race by two different motion picture companies. (The speedway custom at the time was for several filmmakers to produce different versions of race highlights for different sponsors.) The price for the video was only $25 so I quickly ordered it figuring it might have some good footage of the Pace Car. Unfortunately, the guy e-mailed me back stating that he no longer had the 59 race available and had no plans to make it available in the future. I got him on the phone the next day and he told me that he collected and owned all the original film reels of the entire 1959 race from several different filmmakers. He also told me it wasn’t worth making any more VHS copies (nobody uses VHS anymore) and it was too expensive to have them converted to DVD because there was virtually zero interest in the 59 race. He told me that although he hadn’t watched the 59 race in years, he assumed he had footage of the Pace Car. He then offered me a deal. He told me that if I was willing to fly out to Indiana for a racing session he was attending he would bring all his original reels of the 59 race and let me view them…for only $500.00. I passed!

Around this time I got another road-call from Hans, he told me he was back in Indiana and on his way to the Indy Photo Shop. He told me he would call back as soon as he found the picture he had seen years ago of the Pace Car interior which we hoped would show us if the options matched the ones on my car. We felt like this was the moment of truth! Although a picture of the dash couldn’t prove that my car was the original, if it showed that the Pace Car didn’t have the exact same options it would definitely rule out my car as being the real McCoy. We figured that any decent interior shot of the dash would show if the car had A/C, but with any luck we might also be able to see if it had Automatic Heat, Power Vent Windows or Wonderbar Radio… maybe we could also see the shift quadrant to determine if the car had a Triple Turbine. When he finally called back after what felt like an eternity, he didn’t have good news. He told me he spent hours searching every picture and drove the staff crazy checking every possible source, and although he found quite a few shots of the exterior of the car, he couldn’t find the picture he remembered of the interior (or any other interior shot for that matter). About the only thing he could determine for sure from the exterior pictures was that the car didn’t have the Autronic Eye option (Automatic Headlight Dimming) and neither did mine. Without being able to rule my car out, we went back to the drawing board!

I started doing some searches on Rodger Ward and eventually came across the following obituary:

by Tim Kennedy
LOS ANGELES, CA.- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rodger Ward passed away Monday, July 5, 2004, at a hospice in Anaheim after battling ailments and diabetes in recent years. The 83-year old racing icon will be remembered as one of the all-time legends in Indy 500 racing history. The oldest living winner of the Indy 500 and one of the most revered open-wheel champions was the subject of a 25-inch obituary by Shav Glick in the July 6 Los Angeles Times. A photo of Rodger sitting in his Indy 500 winning Leader Card roadster accompanied the tribute.

Ward won the Indy 500 in 1959 during his initial season with Milwaukee-based car owner Bob Wilke and car builder/chief mechanic A. J. Watson. They comprised the famous three Ws racing team that was a major force in champ car racing for many years. In addition to his ’59 Indy 500 triumph, Ward finished second in ’60 (recognized as one of the best 500 races in history), third in ’61, first in ’62, fourth in ’63 and second in ’64. For decades historians recalled that record as the most successful six-year finishing record in Indy history.

My personal memories of Ward go back to the mid-1950s when I read Bob Russo’s stories in Speed Age magazine about him and other AAA Championship Trail drivers. Ward was a journeyman driver with limited success in mid or back of the pack cars until he hooked up with car owner Roger Wolcott in the mid-50s. That collaboration led to his becoming part of the front-line Wilke-Watson operation in 1959. My first chance to see Ward race in person came in October 1957 when I watched him race the Wolcott # 8 champ dirt car to victory at the California State Fairgrounds dirt mile. His wife Jo and their small dog also appeared in Victory Lane photos. My first trip to see the Indy 500 in person was in 1959 and Ward won that exciting roadster-era race. His on-track duels with Jim Rathmann, Pat Flaherty and Johnny Thomson made it memorable.

Ward was an avid gin rummy player and golfer who shot in the low 80s when he and wife Diane lived in Indianapolis. He loved home-made ice cream. Rodger considered his best season to be 1963 when he won five of 12 USAC National Championship races, including three of the last four. Foyt also won five. Rodger won the USAC National Championship in 1959 and 1962 when the circuit had point races on both dirt and paved tracks. He won 26 National Championship races, second only to Foyt at the time. Ward also raced sports cars and stocks cars and was the AAA 1951 National Stock Car champion.

Ward eventually retired to the San Diego area and was active with the San Diego Automotive Museum at Balboa Park, where his memorial service was held Sunday, July 11 at 5:00 p.m. Survivors include wife Sherrie, sons Rodger, Jr, 62, David, 58, Rick, 40 and daughter Robin, 39. His son David raced CRA sprint cars briefly as a 1972 CRA rookie in the # 46 sprint car. Ward’s death now leaves Jim Rathmann, his long-time friendly rival and winner of the 1960 Indy 500, as the oldest living Indy 500 winner at age 75. Rodger leaves us all richer for the way he lived his life and contributed to the history of auto racing at the highest level.


Nice obituary, but it didn’t give me too much to go on. I noticed that it mentioned three different wives (Diane, Jo, and Sherrie) and all of his kids. I wondered if I could find a way to get in touch with one of the members of his family to see what they knew. I thought that maybe Tim Kennedy, author of the obituary, might be able to help so I took a long shot and sent him an e-mail asking if he knew anything about the Pace Car and/or if he had any contact information on any of the Ward family. A few days later I got a response from Tim telling me he didn’t know anything about the Pace Car, but he did send me Rodger Ward Jr.’s E-mail address. What luck I thought, if anyone could help with Pace Car information it would have to be Rodger Ward’s oldest son.

After some thought I came up with a few questions to ask Rodger Jr. about the car. Did he know the whereabouts of the Pace Car? If not, did he have any documentation that might have the VIN? What did he remember of the car, would his dad have removed the lettering to make the car less conspicuous? Where was his dad living the last time you saw the car, etc. After getting my thoughts together I wrote a nice letter to Rodger Jr. asking him the above questions.

Rodger responded a week later by providing his phone number and asking me to give him a call. I considered that a good sign! When I reached him he was the nicest guy you would ever want to talk to. He willing to answer any questions I had, but he didn’t have a clue as to what happened to the 59 Pace Car. He told me he was 17 years old at the time his father won the race. He said his mother and father were divorced at the time and none of the kids were living with him. He recalled that he only saw the 59 Pace Car once a few years later while visiting his father in California but he never rode in it. (He did say that his brother still owned the 62 Studebaker Pace Car that his father received for winning Indy in 1962.) He remembered that the 59 car did have the lettering on it the one time he saw it and his father was not the type to take it off. He said his father loved attention and he would have enjoyed driving the car with the lettering if only for the commotion it would cause. He also told me that in 1959 when his father won the race he was basically living paycheck to paycheck and he was certain he used the car as a daily driver for a few years. He surmised that his father probably sold it as he made more racing money in the following years. He told me his father was not very sentimental, and since there was no value associated with the Pace Car at that time, he would have sold it just like any other used car he ever owned. He also stated that his father was living in Indiana at the time he won the 1959 Race and the Pace Car more than likely would have been first registered in that state, but that he had moved to California a few years later and that he likely sold the car from California. He advised that his father’s wife at the time he won the race, Josephine (Jo), would have been the type to remember everything, but she died at a young age decades ago.

After coming up empty yet again the wind was pretty much out of my sails. I thanked Rodger for his time and was ready to hang up when one last question came to mind. Rodger I asked, you wouldn’t happen to recall if your dad knew anyone or had any association with anyone from Wyoming would you? He paused on that question for a long moment and then stated that the Hulman family (owners of the Indianapolis Speedway) had a ranch somewhere in Wyoming and he knew that his father and other race drivers would sometimes go out there for gatherings.

After I picked myself off the floor I asked him a few more questions on the topic but he didn’t know anything else. Talk about excited! Could Rodger have driven the car out to the Wyoming ranch and sold it to someone out there? I couldn’t believe that there was a plausible explanation for the Pace Car ending up in Wyoming. Could it be that I was actually on to something about the most famous 59 Buick ever built?

Now that there was a possibility (however remote) that my car could actually be the Pace Car I was on a mission to get as much information as I could. I went back online with a vengeance desperately trying to find the location of the Hulman ranch but couldn’t find a single match. I started looking up anything I could find about the Hulman family and came across a page that listed all the members of the family. I found out that the current owner of the speedway, Mari Hulman-George is the daughter of Tony Hulman, the original owner of the speedway (Tony is the guy standing outside the Pace Car when it was awarded to Rodger Ward). Mari Hulman-George in turn has four kids: Anton “Tony” George; Nancy L. George; Mary Josephine “Josie” George; and Katherine Marie “Kathi” George. As I searched I found an article about several race drivers of the 50’s and 60’s paying tribute to the Hulman family. One of the tributes was from A.J. Foyt and stated the following:

A.J. FOYT (First four-time Indianapolis 500 winner): “They had an impact on the whole world of motorsports, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To me, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is just like the Kentucky Derby, there is only one. You have a lot of great races, but regardless of where you go, everyone knows the Indianapolis 500. Mari and I are the same age, so I’ve known them ever since I started coming up there in 1957 and 1958. I’m not part of the family, but my kids and her kids are all a year or two apart, and we’ve spent a lot of Christmases together. When I was sleeping in the back seat of cars early in my career, they gave me a place to sleep. Anthony IV went up to Josie’s ranch in Wyoming recently and was up there hunting for a couple of weeks. It is hard to forget things like that, but that’s just the way the family is. Mr. Hulman, I just admire him for what he’s done through the years.”

Wow! So Josie George (Tony Hulman’s granddaughter) has a ranch in Wyoming. That had to be the Hulman ranch Rodger was talking about.

I called Don Davidson from the speedway again to see if I could confirm what Rodger Jr. told me. Don confirmed that the Hulman family did indeed have a Wyoming ranch and race drivers of the 50’s and 60’s definitely went out there for gatherings and the ranch now belonged to Josie. He told me he thought the ranch was located in Cody, Wyoming.

OK, now I was getting somewhere. My car was traded in at the Brodrick Chevy-Buick dealership in Powell, WY; I wondered how far the distance between them was. I went to mapquest to get driving directions from Cody to Powell and this is what came up:

Start: Cody, WY

1: Go WEST on SHERIDAN AVE / US-14 / US-16 / US-20 / WY-120 toward 16TH ST. <0.1 miles

2: Turn RIGHT onto 16TH ST / US-14A / WY-120. Continue to follow US-14A. 24.0 miles.

3: Turn LEFT onto S BENT ST. 0.1 miles.

4: Turn RIGHT onto E 2ND ST. <0.1 miles

5: End at Powell, WY US

Total Est. Time: 29 minutes Total Est. Distance: 24.27 miles

Was I reading that right? Could it be that the Hulman ranch where Indy race drivers including Rodger Ward hung out was less than 25 miles from where my car was traded in? I started going over this in my mind… how many white 225 convertibles could they have made with red buckets? If Rodger Ward (or someone else associated with Indy) did drive the Pace Car to the ranch, what were the odds of an identical car being in the same remote Wyoming location? My stomach was in knots!

Not knowing where to turn I decided to give Mike Brodrick from Monatana another call. The last time I called we talked about his father and I was disappointed that he was not my car’s the original owner, now I was calling him again with some nutty Pace Car story. When I got him on the phone I asked him if he recalled any race drivers visiting his father’s dealership. What n’ hell are you talking about, he replied? I then went on to tell him the whole story about the Pace Car and the ranch. The more I told him the story the more excited he got. Turns out Mike was an Indy fan and Rodger Ward was one of his favorite drivers. He didn’t know a thing about the Pace Car but he did know that Ward won the race in 59 and again in 62. He could scarcely believe what I was telling him. He had no idea that the Hulman’s had a ranch in Cody, and he had never heard of any race drivers in the area. Just the same, the odds of two white 59’s with red buckets being in the same place were too much of a coincidence for him. I asked if any dealership records were kept on who traded in cars and he assured me there weren’t any. I asked if his family may have kept a copy of the title showing where the car came from, again he said no. I gave Mike my number and asked him to give me a call if he thought of anything but he didn’t leave me with much hope. Another dead end!

I decided to contact the motor vehicle agencies in Wyoming, Indiana and California to see if they could do a title trace on my VIN. Wyoming was the best shot because the car was last registered there, Indiana because that was the most logical place for the Pace Car to have been first registered, and California because Rodger Ward had moved there (maybe with the car). I obtained the necessary forms to fill out for Indiana and California and mailed them (estimated 2 to 4 weeks turnaround time), I was getting nowhere with Wyoming.

While I was waiting to hear back from IN and CA I decided to do a little more digging and found out that the May 28, 1960 edition of The Saturday Evening Post had an article about Jo Ward (Rodger’s wife). The article was titled “Race Driver’s Wife” and it was timed to hit the newsstands just before the 1960 Indy. I thought that maybe it would have some useful information. I located a copy on eBay and received it a few days later. It had pictures of Rodger and Jo, and mentioned they were married in 1956. It had some great shots of fatal Indy car wrecks and some copy about how nerve wracking it was for the wives during the race. The one thing it didn’t have was one plum word about the Pace Car! This was killing me.

After a few agonizing weeks I got letters from Indiana and California. Each letter had the potential of revealing that Rodger Ward held the original title to my car. Twice I was so excited that my hands were nearly shaking while opening the letters, and twice I was let down because neither state’s computer records went back far enough.

About this time I was surprised to get a call from Mike Brodrick wanting to know how I was making out. I told him I hit a dead end and it didn’t look good. You know, he said, I’ve been thinking about your car and how to find out who traded it in to my dad’s dealership. I don’t know how they do it in other states, he continued, but in Wyoming they used to keep carbon copies of every vehicle Title ever recorded in the basement of the County Court. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re still down there he told me. You might want to call the County Clerk and ask them to check for you. You’re going to have to twist some arms he told me, but if you tell them your story you just might get someone to help. I thanked him for the tip and I told him I’d fly out there and twist arms, bring gifts, buy dinner, and do anything else if it would help.

I called early the next morning and after being transferred through about eight people over 20 minutes I finally got the County Clerk on the phone. Based on her voice I’d say she wasn’t a day under 90 years old. Hi, I hope you can help me I started, I’m from NJ and I’m researching the biggest mystery in Indianapolis 500 history! Aaannnd… how can I help you with this, she replied? I then went into this big story about the mystery of the famous 59 Indy Pace Car. I told her that people had been searching for this car for generations and if it were ever found it would forever re-write Indy Pace Car history. I told her about the Hulman ranch in Cody and how world famous Indy racers would visit the ranch back in the 50’s for parties (hell, old as she was I thought maybe she was at some of them). She patiently listened to the whole story without saying a word and asked again, …aaannnd I can help you how? At this point I told her that a car matching the description if the Pace Car had been discovered in Wyoming and it had been traced back to being traded in at a Powell dealership in the 1970’s. I told her that the only way to verify if the car was the real Pace Car would be to find out if a famous race driver traded it in. She started telling me that old records were kept in the basement, but it would be next to impossible to… Before she could finish I started telling her again about how those records just might hold the secret to the world’s last remaining Indy mystery, wasn’t there anyone that could check it out?

Finally she just sighed. Okay she said, what information do you have? I told her it was a white 1959 Buick Electra 225 Convertible. I told her the VIN, the name of the dealership, and that it was traded in during the 70’s. Alright she said, I can’t promise anything but I’ll try to go down there today to see if I can find anything. I’ll call you back she promised.

If I said that every minute seemed like an hour it would be an understatement. I was pacing up and down all day waiting for her call. Was my car traded in by Rodger Ward or some other racer? Was it all just a coincidence?

About five hours later she calls back. Well she says coughing, I’m down here in the basement looking through all these dusty records and I think I found what you’re looking for. My heart stopped! I located the title bound up in one of binders down here. It says that the car was purchased by Brodrick on June 17, 1977. Okay, okay, I said, but who was the seller? Well hold on for just a minute she tells me, it’s not too clear, let me find my glasses. (This lady was going to be the death of me!) After just short of forever she gets back on the phone and tells me…it was sold by someone named Stephen Martin Goldberg…from Encino, California. My heart sank…again! Does that help you out any she asked? I told her it wasn’t what I had hoped, but I thanked her profusely and told her it was going to be a big help (I lied). So that was that, it was the end of the road and the roller coaster ride was over. Stupid car!

I hung up the phone and was busy sulking when the phone rings 5 minutes later,…it was the ancient lady still in the courthouse basement. She tells me that when she started putting the binder away it fell out of her hands. She said that when she picked it back up she noticed that there was an older Title under the first one with the same VIN. My heart started racing …again. Do you want to know what it says, she asks? (What a dumb question!) I sure do, I tell her. Another eternity goes by before she starts talking again. Well, this title was issued on May 31 she says and then she pauses. May 31st???, I knew that the Indy was held on May 30, 1959, I read that the Pace Car was awarded to the winner the next day! What year, I ask her, what year? (I’m praying that she says 1959) What’s that, she asks? Oh jeez! MAY 31ST OF WHAT YEAR I said more loudly? Oh, she say’s,…1977. (Dammit!) She goes on to say that the title shows that it was sold to Goldberg by someone from Long Beach, California on May 4, 1976. Thank you so much I tell her, this is another big help (how many times has this frickin’ car changed hands I’m thinking). Is there anything else on there I ask. No, she say’s, just the usual stuff and she starts casually reading it off:

Body Type: 2 door; Vehicle Type: pace; Model: convertible.

Hold on just a second I tell her,…what did you just say? It’s a “convertible” she answers. No, no, the one before that. Vehicle Type: pace, she says. Vehicle Type: “Pace” I say, yeah that’s right she answers again. I was speechless for a second,…are you saying that under Vehicle Type the Title lists “PACE”???. Yes that’s right she say’s a third time.

OH MY GOD!!! My heart was jumping out of my chest. Can you fax me over a copy of that I asked trying not to sound as if I didn’t just wet my pants. Well she says, we don’t normally do that. At this point I just about lost it. You don’t understand I said almost yelling, you may have just discovered the secret to the long lost Indy Pace Car. Please I begged, I’ll fly down there in the morning to purchase a copy if I need to, but I really need to have that faxed over right away! I know I said a few more things but she finally agreed. Okay she said, but it’ll take me a few minutes to take apart the binder to get the pages out, I hope they don’t tear. When I get them out I’ll go upstairs and fax them to you.

I couldn’t believe it! I could scarcely breathe as I was sitting there waiting for the fax. When it finally rang I damn near had a heart attack. I had never before realized just how slooowly fax paper comes out of the machine. The page finally drops and I start frantically scanning it for the word “Pace,” but I don’t see anything, I look more closely, and this was the first Title she told me about showing the sale to Brodrick. DAMMIT I’m thinking, she sent the wrong page! Just then the fax machine comes back to life and starts printing out another page. If the first page printed slowly, it was like this page was never going to come out of the machine. The instant it dropped I ripped it out the machine and started pouring over it. Once again, I couldn’t find anything, WHERE THE HELL WAS THE SPOT SHE WAS READING FROM? Then I found the spot and this is what it said:

Body Type: 2 door;…..Vehicle Type: pass;…… Model: convertible

I almost started crying, it didn’t say “pace”…it said “pass”…as in passenger car.

I was done! The old lady damn near killed me; I had to wave the white flag before the car sent me to an early grave.

So is my car the real Pace Car?

(Click on the below image to enlarge)

Rodger Ward with his wife and dog being awarded the actual Pace Car by the Presidents of Monarch Buick and Ogle-Dellen Buick (Sponsoring Dealerships).

Well, I was able to trace the car back 32 years through nine different owners. I have the name of the last owner from Long Beach, CA who sold the car in 1976, but I still haven’t had the stomach to try to research it further. Although the two earliest owners both have California addresses, both of them registered the car in Wyoming suggesting that they owned places out there. I do know that Rodger Ward moved to California a few years after he won the 59 Indy, and maybe he brought the car out there and sold it, but I have no proof of that yet. All I know is that regardless of the circumstances, unless someone can come up with iron clad documentation linking Rodger Ward on a Title or to a VIN there is no way to conclusively prove if this car (or any other car) is the real thing

~ Tom Sidoti
1959 Buick Electra 225 Convertible

16 Responses to “Ownership History – 1959 Buick Indy Pace Car?”

  1. Brian Fortune says:

    I drive the same car. Was told it was the pace car. As you say I cant prove it. Let me know if you want any details on my Electra. Gladly help. On Team Buick under Milord

  2. 1fine59 says:

    Hi Brian.

    Thanks for commenting on my Pace Car story…

    I’d love to hear more about your Electra 225 Convertible, how long have you owned it. Is it also white with red bucket seats, I’d love to see a couple pictures if you can send some. Who knows, maybe if we put our information together we can find out more.

    Look forward to hearing back from you

    ~ Tom Sidoti

  3. Kevin Campbell says:

    We found some 8MM film of the 1959 Indy race at a garage sale. We played it in the old projector that came with it. It shows the pace car. I am not sure if it would be any use to you, but I will make a DVD of it and if you are interested, I can send you a copy.

  4. 1fine59 says:

    Hello Kevin,

    Wow…footage of the 59 Indy, what a fabulous find! I would be extremely appreciative and grateful to have a DVD copy for my records. Thank you so much for thinking of me. Please let me know your costs and I will be happy to send you a check.

    My address is:
    Tom Sidoti
    180 Lexington Ave
    Passaic, NJ 07055
    Cell – (201) 906-3375

  5. Tom, fascinating article… I was on the edge of my seat! Have you checked the bottom of your dash for any extra screw holes that could indicate something such as a two-way radio having been installed?

  6. Gerald G. Schmidt says:

    Tom, I drive an Electre 225 conv. also less the air & buckets,want to ask you a question on the motor clamps on the lh side.

  7. kari thorkildsen says:

    Do someone know where i can find the VIN on my Buick Electra 225, 1963?

  8. kevin wasser says:

    Have you contacted Buick themselves to see if they can render any assistance with documentation or

  9. kevin wasser says:

    Any information or the VIN# of the pacecar they used for the ’59 race? Sorry my comments got chopped off above….trying to do it from a smartphone one handed doesn’t always work out so well lol.

  10. David Zornig says:

    Greetings. Enjoyed reading the story of your Buick.
    I saw a Craigslist link to a `59 Buick project car for sale in Las Vegas.
    It has a strange looking front end though. With no canted headlights. And it’s not a `60 either. Just curious if you were familiar with a different front end. Possibly a Canadian Buick or something. I can forward you the link if you like. Thanks for your great website. dave

  11. dion says:

    Wow what a fascinating read!!! Thanks for the article it was written very nicely! Thanks again and best 2u

  12. Craig says:

    Does the air ride suspension sit at a different level at the back compared to springs??

  13. 1fine59 says:

    With the Air Ride suspension the rear height was adjustable so it might or might not sit at the same level as the springs

  14. Richard Cunningham says:

    Great story! Why let it die in Long Beach, especially since you have the owners name? You’ve gone so far! I’d have to pursue it to the very end.
    I own a 1962 Buick Electra 225 Convertible, which is how I stumbled across your restoration website. Thank you for all the time and effort you have devoted to creating it. Very enjoyable read.

  15. Joe Chadwick says:

    In 1959 I worked in a Standard Oil Station at
    10th & Lynhurst in Speedway IN. “The” Buick
    Pace Car was brought in for service. I was told
    that it was “The Pace Car”. It was said that one
    of the other cars had something different or
    extra on it, so Rodger swapped The Pace Car
    for the other one. The sole reason I believe
    this story is true, is that this car had a card-
    board overlay on the speedometer with the
    “exact speeds’ on it. We all know that most
    speedometers then were inaccurate and they
    needed to know exactly how fast they were
    going. I know this for sure true. I test drove
    it West on 10th St. and it went like a bat out
    of Hell! 10th St. was open country back then.
    I knew most of the drivers then, just to say
    Hello to, including Rodger. A lot of them
    hung out at the old “White Front Tavern on
    16th St. I have no proof of any kind of the
    the “swap”, but my source was very reliable
    and I believe him. I am pretty sure that I
    really did test drive the “Real” 1959 Indy
    500 Pace Car! Joe C.

  16. Eric GORDON says:

    Tom Sidoti , Passaic NJ

    Well, what a great writer you are. I was spellbound and enjoyed the anecdotes how various foibles were/are constantly pushed in your way. Yet you press on.
    I stumbled onto your internet-site because I was looking for a ’59 Buick convertible photo angle that is similar to the partial photo I have of my father with his white ’59 Buick convertible.

    Tom Sidoti, your endurance will pay off someday.

    I also experienced an unbelievable “find again” story of a ONE OF A KIND 50’s car.
    Please enter http://oldcarandtruckpictures.com/EricGordonsKaiserConvertible/phaseIIa.html IN GOOGLE
    Please give me your valued opinion on my story !

    Also from NJ ,
    Eric Gordon…now Daytona Beach, FL

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