Reprinted from the Automotive Motorsports Foundation Journal, August, 1999
by Bill Tybur


Mario Andretti at Indy, May, 1965


To most race fans who can rightfully be called baby boomers at least, AARP-candidates at most, it may seem hard to believe that front-engined Indy roadsters have now been extinct for four decades.

Yet history shows that beginning in 1961, with the appearance of Jack Brabham’s tiny Cooper-Climax, the roadster’s fate was sealed. By 1964—the last year a roadster won at the Brickyard—the rear (mid) engined car was not just the hot setup, it was the only setup. And by the following year’s Memorial Day 500, a brand new genre of smaller, lighter and a whole-lot-faster Indycars had completely taken over American pavement racing.

One such machine was Mario Andretti’s 1965 Brawner-Hawk.

The Hawk was built at the crossroads of progress, when frames were still welded cages of chrome moly steel tubing instead of monocoque tubs built from aluminum first, carbon fiber twenty years later. At a time that many believe was the true golden age of Indy racing, the Hawk was a prime example of the last generation of race cars that could actually be built by hand—provided the builder/designer/dreamer had the necessary skills and temperament.

Clint Brawner was certainly one of those men.

The Hawk was hatched in the winter of ’65. Realizing they had absolutely no experience with building rear-engined race cars—but knowing they had no chance to win Indy without one—Clint Brawner struck a deal with fellow USAC car owner John Zink. Zink had bought a new Brabham/Ford for driver Jim McElreath, but the car was destroyed beyond repair in a testing accident. Brawner wanted to buy the wreck and build his own car from the specs, but Zink told Clint the only way he was going to raise a new car from the Brabham’s ashes was by building two new cars, and giving one to Zink.

Clint agreed. He and Jim McGee moved the wrecked racecar into their shop and carefully disassembled it, taking precise measurements and studying the chassis, suspension, steering, drive line, everything. Then, using the standard 4130 steel tubing so common to all race cars of that time, they welded together a brand new chassis as the basis for their new champ car. They installed the Ford DOHC engine and 2-speed transaxle, fabricated and mounted the suspension pieces and steering, and within weeks had a brand new, rear-engined race car. Yes, it was based on the Brabham, but with a few slight modifications and improvements that could only come from the hands and mind of Clint Brawner.

They christened the new car ‘Hawk’ and then built another car just like it.

The rest, of course, is history. In May of 1965, Mario Andretti qualified fourth fastest and finished third in his inaugural Indy 500, earning rookie of the year honors. Amazingly, Mario drove the car to his first USAC national championship that season, also the first for a rear-engined champ car. Andretti would later repeat the feat in 1966 and 1969, still at the wheel of Brawner Hawks.

As a tribute to his cousin Clint who passed away in 1987, Tom Brawner and his sons decided to restore the #12 Hawk in 1990. Like Clint, he completely rebuilt the frame from 4130, and hand-formed the slick aluminum and fiberglass body at the very same vintage-fifties race shop in north Phoenix. He had the original engine rebuilt by Joe Bogosian, the same builder Clint used, and took great care to paint and decal the Hawk exactly as it had been in 1965. Most of the components, including suspension pieces, wheels, transaxle, steering wheel, instruments, and even the fuel filler cap are original.


  1. nick dichiara

    I love the pics of the car! I grew up in phx and was 10 yrs old in 65.i used to work with gene aycock [painting billboards] who lettered one of brawners indy cars in the late 60’s.

  2. Darell Robinson

    January 29,2014 by Darell Robinson

    I was privileged to view Mario finish 3rd in the 1965 Indy `500` with the Brawner-Hawk. Also did see Mario out-duel A. J. Foyt at RaceWay Park for his first Championship win later that year in `65.

  3. Evo Gamboni

    I had the privilege to meet Mario in 1965. Dad was originally from Nazareth, and on one of our summer visits to see my grandparent’s dad took me to his house to meet him
    Mario autographed for me, a black & white 8×10 of him in the Brawner-Hawk

  4. Rick Shumpert

    My Father was Senior Vice President and later President of Deam Van Lines, remember when Mr. Dean hired Mario in 1964 after that “Unforgettable Season”. I liked Mario but Mr. Sachs was my Favorite. Rick Shumpert -Dallas, GA.

  5. Tony

    Does anyone know what brand and type of wheel was used on the 66 version of the brawner hawk as I’m building a true scale slot car of one and I’m not sure if any slot car manufacturer made a wheel that resembles the hawk wheel. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Email Tony at

  6. I was working in the parts dept of a Jaguar dealer down the street from Brawner’s shop and he started coming in late in ’64 to buy XKE suspension parts for a car he working on. One day he brought in this little skinny guy with a crew cut and very quiet. He introduced him as his new driver and he was building a car for him for Indy. He made visits a couple times a week until spring when his project was complete and testing was next. The “little skinny guy” was Mario and the car was the Hawk. We had some interesting conversations. In the 70’s I used to supply him with the annual Castrol “girlie calendar” (still have some) that made his day. Terrific person, incredible builder. Gone too soon.

  7. This is great to be able to read about. Clint was my Uncle so I had the privilege of growing up around these cars, drivers and his shop. Great memories and I’m very proud to be a part if that legacy. Thank you to all who posted memories of Clint and the cars.

  8. This is great to be able to read. Clint was my Uncle so I had the privilege of growing up around these cars, drivers and his shop. Great memories and I’m very proud to be a part if that legacy. Thank you to all who posted memories of Clint and the cars.

  9. Norman

    I love the fact that this car is still at the same intersection of Indy Car builder philosophy as the roadster, that being “start by copying a good car and make it yours” just as the “Watson” roadster was cloned by at least eight different builders. As I recall, over time there were at least four different “Brabham” cars at Indy, who-knows-how-many “Lotus” cars at Indy, many “non-Gurney” Eagles et al. That, and add in people like Bignotti who would buy a car (Lola) and then clone it himself…and then make a whole new car. Including interchanging four-wheel and two-wheel drive on the same car!

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