$2,000,000 Vintage Racing Car Won ’31 Indy 500

The Bowes Seals Fast Race Car that won the 1931 Indianapolis 500-mile Race was for $2 million at Dana Mecum’s 2011 Monterey, Calif. auction. The car was part of the David V. Uihlein Collection. A noted car collector and the sparkplug of the Harry A. Miller Club, Uihlein, of Mequon, Wis., died in 2010.

The 1931 Indy winner was driven by Louis Schneider with Jigger Johnson as riding mechanic. The car has a Stevens chassis and special 151-cid Miller in-line 8-cylinder engine. The engine plate on the car indicates it is Miller No.2. It is not the second Miller Eight made, but may be the second produced for the 1931 race or the second 151-cid Miller eight-cylinder engine produced.

The 151 has an unusual piston displacement. The normal Miller eight-cylinder engines were 91 cubic inches or 183 cubic inches. The engine itself is beautiful in appearance and represents a true piece of Harry A. Miller’s automotive art. The car featured near perfect paint and bodywork, lots of bright work and eye appeal. It is Miller all the way and was sought after by collectors.

According to http://johnsonindy500.trackforum.com/indy500/museum.html a total of 90 cars have been winners in the 95 races held in the 100 years since Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted the first 500. Speedway “Hall of Fame” director Ellen Bireley has said that only 75 of those cars are known to exist.

On May 21-22, 2003 this car participated in the Speedway Hall of Fame Vintage Car Show and parade laps on “500” Festival Community Day. On March 12-14, 2004 it was displayed at the Amelia Island (Fla.) Concours d’Elegance.

Indy car values in general have been climbing. In June 2008, the 1960 Watson Indy Roadster was sold by RM Auctions in Tustin, Calif., for $495,000. In Aug. 2009, the 1964 Offenhauser Dean Van Lines Indy roadster was sold by Gooding & Company at Pebble Beach for $231,000. In August 2009, the 1951 Offenhauser Blue Crown Special Indy Car was sold by Gooding & Company at Pebble Beach for $110,000.

An Indy 500 winner is much more valuable than non-winning Indy cars because its rarity gives it extra appeal to museums, foundations and serious private collectors. In addition, Uihlein’s Bowes Seals Fast 1931 Indy 500 winner was a unique Miller and Miller racing cars are extremely rare and prized today.

About John Gunnell 104 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.
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