You can buy hundreds of collectibles including die-cast miniatures of the world’s fastest cars, emblems, patches, lighters, t-shirts, flags and the like, but there’s nothing quite like having an extensive collection of memorabilia from the race’s greatest drivers behind panels of glass. The San Diego Automotive Museum in historic Balboa Park has just that, from three of the sport’s most renowned drivers.
In the cases at the Automotive Museum are collectibles from 1959 and ’62 Indy 500 winner, Rodger Ward, 1963 winner, Parnelli Jones, and a well known driver who first participated in the 1946 Indy 500 and competed all the way up through 1991, but never won, Andy Granatelli.
“Rodger Ward began racing midget cars in 1946,” Executive Director for the San Diego Automotive Museum, Bob Swanson says, “after he was discharged from the military.” The Ward collection at the museum features many pictures of Rodger in such vehicles. There’s a yellowed newspaper from Indianapolis with a smiling Ward positioned in front of the track.
Swanson, an avid Indy 500 fan himself, likes to let visitors in on Parnelli Jones’ real name. He’ll pull his biography from the collection’s bookshelf and thumb to the page at the start of the book that identifies the prolific driver by his real name – Rufus Parnel Jones. There are trophies from Parnelli Jones’ personal collection on the many shelves of the case and pictures of his big win in car #98 a favorite number of the car’s owner, J.C. Agajanian. In 1967 when Jones drove #40 at the Indy 500 that racecar was owned Andy Granatelli.
The Andy Granatelli case at the San Diego Automotive Museum reflects the Indy driver’s colorful personality. There are pictures of Andy and his brothers Vince and Joe dressed in their legendary white coveralls with STP stickers all over them and stickers plastered all over their racecars. As you may recall, Andy created the line of STP oil and gasoline treatment products and appeared in TV and radio commercials promoting them in the ’60s. One picture features Andy and famous Southern California promoter and racecar owner, J.C. Agajanian. There’s even a can of STP on the shelf in the Granatelli case. Bob Swanson beams as he holds up Andy’s autobiography and reads the title aloud, “They Call Me Mister 500.”
For a complete listing of the pace cars from the Indy 500 by year visit: Dan Vielhaber’s Indy Speedway Site