Vintage car racer/restorer Philippe de Lespinay did not set out to restore the Kimberly Cooper that Jack Brabham drove to 9th place at the Indianapolis 500 in 1961—far from it. He was in the midst of restoring a pair of Brabham BT8s and needed some parts for a 2.5-liter Climax engine. What he got was the remains of a rare 2.75-liter Climax engine. This changed everything.
“Some guy from Texas said he had parts and sent me a whole bunch of photos,” says de Lespinay. “I looked at the photos and I realized very quickly this was almost certainly one of the Indianapolis engines.” He had the parts shipped to his shop in Southern California and after close inspection confirmed they were indeed the parts of one of only two 2.75-liter Climax engines built specifically for the 1961 Indy 500. Tantalizingly, a new gasket set with Roger Penske’s name on it was included. This put de Lespinay not in search of the Kimberly Cooper, but in search of Penske’s Zerex Cooper that this engine had powered to victory in the 1962 Riverside Grand Prix and several other races that year.
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