Market Finds: Would You Drive This Vintage Sports Racing Car Built For A Beer Baron?

Would You Drive This Vintage Sports Racing Car Built For A Beer Baron?

By Andrew Golseth
August 12, 2016

Photography courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Aside from running and automobiles, there’s only one other “hobby” I routinely partake in: consuming beer. If these three pastimes don’t equate to a balanced lifestyle, I don’t know what does…because I’ve never been happier. The car you see here has an unusual connection with two of those life pleasures: one incredible vintage racecar and Meister Bräu brew—could there be a better car for someone like me (or you)?

No, definitely not. But before I get into the details of this very rare and stunningly beautiful 1959 Bocar XP-5 Meister Bräuser III, let me go back to the roots of how it came about.

The end of World War II ignited an automotive movement worldwide. Cars were simply getting better and better by the year, and while major manufacturers were busy cranking out world record-smashing sportscars and competition racers, small outfits driven by men of great determination thought they could build even better performance machines.

Denver native Bob Carnes started racing in 1953. His first competition car was a Glöckler Porsche Spyder. Yearning for more, Bob then wheeled a Jaguar XK120, which he engine swapped a Cadillac V8 into. Now, you and I? We’d probably be pretty content with either of those two racecars, but Bob? He thought he could do better. He knew he could do better. So, in 1958 he started Bocar—a sports car manufacturing business that fused American muscle powertrains, European competition-inspired chassis, and lightweight fiberglass bodies.

Within Bocar’s first year, models XP-1 through XP-4 were produced, albeit in very limited numbers. By 1959, Bob Carnes completed the model you see here: the XP-5. Built on a chromoly tube frame with torsion bar suspension pulled from a Porsche 356, drum brakes from a Buick, and Corvette V8 mounted front-mid engine, the XP-5 was a Frankenstein of performance parts that worked far better than it probably should have. Carnes even mounted the engine just off-center towards the passenger side to counter the driver’s weight.

With ample muscle on tap, a rigid space-frame chassis, and a slippery Barchetta style fiberglass shell, the graceful racer was capable of reaching 150 mph! Chassis number 003 was originally purchased by Harry Heuer Jr., the great grandson of Peter Hand—the Meister Bräu brewmaster and founder of Hand Brewing of Chicago. As an enthusiast, Harry Heuer Jr. did what we’d all do with a family financial safety net: hit the tarmac!

The young gearhead convinced his father to sponsor his competition endeavors. The team’s first racer to wear the Meister Bräu livery was a Scarab. In the 1959 season, Heuer Jr. began competing behind the wheel of this Bocar XP-5, nicknamed the Meister Bräuser III. Its first outing was at the 1st Annual Meadowdale where Heuer Jr. took third place overall. The brewmaster Bocar competed alongside teammate Augie Pabst, who drove the Meister Bräu Scarab and won the 1959 USAC Championship and 1960 SCCA Championship.

The Bocar was retired from racing in 1960 and sold to Gordon Mertens. In 1970, the Bräu racer was purchased by racing enthusiast Worth Hill, who stored the car in a climate-controlled facility for more than four decades before selling the car in 2014. The tired XP-5 was given a full ground-up restoration and refinished in the iconic Meister Bräu blue and white livery. Renewed, the car was publicly unveiled at the 2015 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance where it took home an award for “Pre-1959 Race Cars.”

In 1962, the Bocar build ‘factory’ caught fire, leaving Bob Carnes’ road racing dream in ashes. It’s believed that just 15 (or less) XP-5 were built before the fire, making this low-production vintage racer not only rare, but the most successful Bocar XP-5 in history. Included in the sale are restoration photos, spec sheets, and a most importantly, a Minnesota title!

Time to find a suitable vanity plate before crashing the local cars & coffee

– Brilliant design and advanced fiberglass coachwork by Bob Carnes
– Raced by future SCCA champions Augie Pabst and Harry Heuer
– Car #2 of the Meister Bräuser team’s inaugural 1959 season
– Expertly restored to concours standards in 2014
– One of an estimated 15 examples built

~315 horsepower, 283 cu. in. OHV Chevrolet Corvette V-8 engine with Rochester fuel injection; Borg-Warner four-speed manual transmission; Corvette posi-traction rear-end; chromoly steel tubular space frame with clamshell glass-reinforced polyester body; independent front suspension with dual trailing arms, torsion bars, and shock absorbers; live-axle rear suspension with trailing arms, torsion bars, and shock absorbers; and four-wheel Buick drum brakes. Wheelbase: 91 in.

Vehicle information
Chassis no.: 003
Identification no.: 1121EL

Auction house: RM Sotheby’s
Estimate: $500,000 – $700,000
Price realized: Auction on August 19

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Martin Philippo
Martin Philippo
7 years ago

You know…
Perfectly restored as it is now it looks beautiful but all its race history is gone.

7 years ago

Does anybody know why it has 2 shift knobs? It’s definitely not 4WD.

Absolutely stunning. It’s a tragedy all the pretty small American sports cars came from tiny manufacturers.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
7 years ago
Reply to  jolocho

Parking brake?

The car has a license plate, so is it street legal? If so, it would need a parking brake.

Good question!

7 years ago
Reply to  jolocho

It’s for reverse. I actually helped on the restoration of this vehicle.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
7 years ago
Reply to  jolocho

Thank you Adam!

This car looks beautiful.

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