SOLD 03/24

1958 Demler
Special #99 Indianapolis 500 race car

Quinn Epperly's incredible piece of American racing History. Four-time Indianapolis 500 veteran including 2nd in1958 and 3rd in 1960. Water-tight documented history, restoration by the late Phil Reilly, and accompanied by extras including fresh spare "lay down" Offey engine and period pit cart.

  • VIN99
  • Exterior ColorYellow
  • Interior ColorRed
  • MileageTMU
  • Engine255c.i. Offenhauser DOHC Inline 4-cylinder
  • Engine no.188
  • Transmission2-Speed manual
  • StatusSold
  • StockFJ2837


1958 Demler Special

Car No. – 99
Exterior Color – Yellow
Interior Color – Red
Engine – 255 cu. in. Offenhauser DOHC inline 4-cylinder
Transmission – 2-Speed manual

The power, speed, and excitement of the late 1950s/early 60s Indianapolis 500 racing series remains among the most impressive combinations of motorsports grit, courage, and engineering. Racing through the 30s and 40s had always been filled with chills and spills, but as technology advanced into the late 50s, drivers were rapidly shattering speed records regularly exceeding 140 mph in cars that had no roll bars, no aerodynamic aids, and brakes that barely kept up with the demands of the high-speed Indy track.

The motorsports period of 1956-1968 is known for spawning legendary racing heroes including rookie racers, innovative builders, engineering giants, and masterful marketeers who would build the Indy 500 into the billion-dollar juggernaut it is today. One of the longest running racing events in history, the Indy 500 has spanned more than 100 years of racing and annually serves more than a quarter million attendees on this singular event generally held on Memorial Day weekend. The Indy 500 is the only American racing event to comprise the “Triple Crown” of motorsports racing keeping company with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix. Billed as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” the Indy 500 is well known for spectacular finishes, unforgettable stories of survival, and record-breaking feats of courage and innovation from drivers and their intrepid team members.

Every aspect of this legendary and dynamic period is embodied in the iconic and remarkable Demler Special. Conceived, developed, and raced at the Indy 500 an astonishing five times, this technically advanced “laydown” roadster achieved 2nd, 3rd, and 5th place, spanning eight years of competition including a 1966 run as one of the first turbine powered cars to run at Indy.

The history of The Demler Special begins with George Salih, crew chief for the 1951 Indy 500 winner. Perceiving that the Offenhauser engine had reached its peak of performance output, the only way to gain speed over competitors was to reconfigure the chassis. Salih determined that by lowering the chassis’ center of gravity, this would reduce roll forces transmitted to the outside tires. By transferring some of the cornering burden to the inside wheels, greater speeds could be obtained as the outside wheels reached their adhesion limits. Because engine mass could not be physically reduced, Salih chose to tilt the Offey engine to one side, allowing it to lay down (earning the now famous name “laydown roadster”). This lower profile engine allowed for a smaller frontal cross section, a lower hood, and dramatically lower driver position. Salih then teamed up with California-based builder Quin Epperly to construct the chassis. Two cars were completed for the 1957 race where they shocked everyone in attendance with an astonishing performance crossing the finish line in first and second place - a testament to their new and now proven innovative laydown configuration.

With the success of the first iteration laydown chassis and engine combination, in 1958 Epperly built four cars including the subject car offered here. New York businessman and racing enthusiast Norman C. Demler commissioned the $13,000 chassis construction along with $9,000 for Meyer-Drake Engineering to build the 255 Offenhauser engine. With the total build exceeding $25,000 at a time when a brand-new car could be purchased for $3,000, Demler was serious about winning. The completed car was finished in bright yellow livery and christened “The Demler Special”. George Amick, a USAC winner in 1956 at Langhorne and 1957 at Lakewood Park was hired for driving duties as the team prepared for the 1958 Indy 500. Though qualifying was strong, the field was quite competitive even for the Indy rookie who would have a lot of work ahead of him starting in 25th position. Despite his starting spot, Amick was undeterred once the race was underway. He would not only turn in a spectacular performance at the wheel, his smoothly executed 2nd place finish would earn him the coveted “1958 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year” award while driving the Demler Special.

In 1959 Paul Goldsmith assumed driving duties achieving a 5th place win after qualifying at 142 mph, returning in 1960 to finish 3rd. By 1961 Jim Hurtubise would take the wheel qualifying as the third fastest car at 146 mph. His promising efforts were unfortunately thwarted on lap 102, finishing 22nd in the field. Bad luck would follow Hurtubise in 1962 during time trials when high heat resulted in slippery track conditions sending him into the wall. Damage was rebuildable trackside as Hurtubise returned the following week with more track heat causing him to once again lose traction hitting the retaining wall. The car was subsequently rebuilt, and plans developed to advance yet another innovation in Indy racing history. Remarkably, in 1966 Demler stepped it up one more notch outfitting the car with a General Electric Turbine engine, making it one of the first turbine powered cars to run at Indy. Entered as the “Jack Adams Aircraft Special” the car was very fast in the qualifying laps driven by Al Miller and Bill Cheesboug but declared unsafe due to the braking system.

In 1997 the car was purchased by the patriarch of the current family owners as part of a substantial motorsports collection of vintage race cars. Under the guidance of Quin Epperly, the original builder and Indianapolis 500 Hall of Fame Museum Inductee, the owner enlisted legendary restoration expert Phil Reilly to perform a comprehensive restoration returning the car to the 1958/59 Indianapolis 500 period successes achieved by this exceptional car.

Offered with a spare Offey engine, historic GE Turbine engine (both on stands), trackside parts caddy finished in original livery colors, reams of documentation, numerous period photos, period articles, reference materials, and scores of historic artifacts, this outstanding example of racing innovation, passion, and motorsports excellence represents one of the most important Indianapolis 500 participants to ever cross the finish line.

The above vehicle information is complete and accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time it is posted to this website. Corrections or additional information is always appreciated. All advertised prices exclude government fees and taxes, any finance charges, any dealer document preparation charge, and any emission testing charge. Vehicles are subject to prior sale. All advertised to be true but not guaranteed. We assume no liability for errors or omissions.

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Fantasy Junction  •  510-653-7555  •  1145 Park Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608