Auburn -- Today's Indy race cars are faster and sleeker. But they don't hold a candle to the beauty, or the danger, of the classic race cars from the 1950's and '60's. These handbuilt machines, driven by the likes of A. J. Foyt, Dan Gurney and Parnelli Jones, weren't as fast as todays racers, but the look of these speedsters from yesteryear has never be matched.
Gary Babineau grew up idolizing those early Indy drivers and their machines. So much so, he's dedicated his life to recreating some of the most famous cars ever to burn rubber at the Brickyard. Babineau hand builds exact replicas of the cars that mesmerized the world half a century ago. Current projects in his Auburn garage are a 1946 Gulf Miller, Paul Russo's 1956 Novi, and a nearly complete Watson Roadster that will look like an exact copy of Roger Ward's 1962 winning Indy car.
"We'll completely disassemble the car, send the frame out to be powder coated, all the metal parts get either plated or polished," Babineau said. "'Course we have it painted and I have a guy come out and he hand letters it. We even have the decals recreated."
Babineau builds every piece of the car from scratch by himself. they're powered by vintage engines, like this Masarati V8 that Babineau finds on the Internet. When finished, the cars look and drive exactly as the originals. These are a few samples of this artist's work, gorgeous machines whose owners are happy to fork over $80,000 to $100,000 for. Before he built vintage race cars, Babineau had a long career in industry, machinist, CNC design and setup, tool and die making. But molding these iconic automobiles from raw metal rewards their maker like nothing else ever could.
"Had I stayed in industry, I probably could have made a much better living," Babineau said. "But I didn't want to go home hating my job everyday. And I can honestly say I like what I do and it's fun."
How could it be otherwise, making history come alive, one nut and bolt at a time.
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