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​​​​One last ride: Auburn’s IndyCar builder finishes final vintage roadster

LOCAL NEWS

by: Britt Salay, Taylor Williams

Posted: Dec 2, 2021 / 09:42 PM EST / Updated: Dec 3, 2021 / 04:14 AM EST

AUBURN, Ind. (WANE) — A living legend in the IndyCar building world has completed his final car in Auburn. You might not know Gary Babineau’s name but for car enthusiasts, you have no doubt seen his work at car shows and on television.

“I have cars all over the country, I have one over in Belgium, California, you name it,” Gary Babineau said. “I have one guy who’s 87 years old (Bud Taylor) and I built him his car 20 years ago and he and his wife have traveled all over the country with their race car. I hope I make it that long.”

Babineau and his final car a 1959 Novi Indy Car.

For the past 25 years, Gary Babineau has worked in his Auburn shop building one-of-a-kind handmade cars. Over that time he’s built 20 Vintage Indy Roadsters.

“There’s very little we can buy for these cars, we have to make everything,” Babineau said. “You build the car from the ground up. It takes two years to build a car.”

The Connecticut-born engineer and car enthusiast moved to Indianapolis to be closer to racing. Building his first street rod at 18 and after years of building street rods and hot rods, he wanted something less cookie-cutter. That’s when he met his friend A.J. Watson, a six-time Indianapolis 500 car builder winner, who mentored Babineau in IndyCar building. Then after a trip to Auburn during Labor Day weekend, Babineau knew he had to move to the ‘Home of the Classics.’

That friendship paired with Babineau’s lifelong passion for cars and racing has made him a living legend, though you wouldn’t know it. During his interview, he joked and humbly said that he was just a man who loves cars. However, the names of some of his friends and the cars he’s built for them would make any racing fan jealous.

WANE 15 sat down with Babineau Thursday night in front of his “last car.” His last car is a 1959 Novi IndyCar. It’s a recreation of Dempsey Wilson’s car and the new owners are Wilson’s sons who commissioned Babineau to build them their father’s car.

“They couldn’t find one and with cars like this they are hard to find,” Babineau said. “They haven’t seen it yet, I think they will be happy with it, I can’t stop looking at it. People always ask me, well, don’t you get attached to you know, you work on something that long, don’t you get attached to it? And I go well, yeah, a little bit. But now this one is the last one, yeah, it’s tugging at me. So that’s why I keep staring at it. Because I’m not going to build another one.”

He says right now he’s focused on his health which includes beating cancer.

“That’s why there’s no engine in it,” Babineau said. “I was doing good, getting the motor put together. And just all of a sudden, I had this pain in my chest, and I actually heard it pop up, my colon actually broke.”

That incident led to several hospital visits and a pet scan that ultimately found cancer. He says he was devastated but now feels optimistic about his odds.

That’s why Thursday night, before his last car leaves for Indianapolis, Babineau and his wife invited friends and family to his Auburn garage for a celebration.

“We are thanking God first of all for my talent and I feel like I have completed my life’s work,” Babineau said. “I’m so grateful. I am ready to retire…I want to spend a lot more time with my wife and my dog.  Because it takes a lot of time, a lot of sacrifices when you work for yourself.”

Babineau starts chemotherapy next week and his final ride will be on display at the PRI Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis.

My Last Indy Roadster,  20 in total. I set a goal of 23 to catch my mentor and friend A.J.Watson I came close working mostly by myself.