When you think of the history of the Indy 500 you think of names like Unser, Andretti, and Foyt. Move further into the folds of the photo album, and you’ll find the builders behind the drivers. Huge innovators in the sport like Miller, Watson, and Gurney—to name a few—have been the driving forces of change at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the years. In the rich tapestry of the sport, the Pacific Northwest claims a few names of note as their very own. Tom Sneva from Spokane, WA carried the banner and Rolla Vollstedt from Portland, OR enacted change to name a few. Another great name that earned his place in the record books is Grant King.
Born in China in 1933, Grant King and his family immigrated to Victoria, British Columbia early in life. Like many, King became addicted to racing at a young age. Working in his brother’s machine shop, a customer brought a sprint car by and that was all to took for young King to become enamored with racing. According to the Sprint Car Hall of Fame’s archives, King stated: “I was still in school at the time in machine shop class, instead of making screwdrivers and chisels like everyone else, I was making sprint car parts.”
After a stint living in Portland, OR and working alongside the renowned car builder, Rolla Volldesdt, King moved to Indianapolis to be close to the big show. He made a home and eventually race shop on Crawfordsville Road that stands today. Nephew of Grant, Billy Throckmorton grew up on the property and keeps the memory of his uncle alive to this very day.
The current owner and operator of Grant King Racers, Throckmorton and his wife Stephanie live on the very property that Grant’s shop and original house were built. They own hundreds of hours of old footage, photographs and memorabilia as well as numerous cars built by King. After a devastating fire in 2015, the shop had to be rebuilt and inventory had to be taken. Today, the Throckmortons pride themselves in running the business as part museum, part operational race shop. They work in restoration, host events and have on display incredible amounts of photos and crew clothing. Each item has a story, and each story the Throckmortons are more than willing to tell you.
From Indy cars, sprint cars, modifieds, and midgets, it is estimated that King built over 250 cars from scratch. King worked alongside Vollsedt, A.J. Watson, the Granatelli brothers, and many others before forming his own IndyCar team in 1970.
Many, many, many well-to-do drivers of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s drove King’s cars—Indy Cars and otherwise. It is easy to look straight to drivers in the record books, but those who were part of the team are just as important. In his lifetime, King helped win the Indy 500, numerous dirt car championships in multiple disciplines and frankly, stood out as one of the only Asian-American around the paddock through the decades. From the stories to the physical pieces of history that the Throckmortons have on display, there are lots to see at this little shop. They welcome visitors and will take any chance to tell a great story and share memories. An excellent way to honor a memory, it is worth the stop for any enthusiast of IndyCar history.