After suffering from Parkinson's Disease and being in care for more than eighteen months,
Ralph Watson sadly passed away peacefully on the 23rd August 2006.
He is sadly missed by his many friends.  

It has been said and it is probably true, that the average Kiwi bloke has in the past been able to fix any mechanical contrivance, given a piece of number eight fencing wire. When this characteristic is coupled with a high degree of technical knowledge, precise engineering skill, enterprise and dedication, the results can be truly extraordinary.

This publication combines a number of articles published some time ago, together with new material, as a means of celebrating such a Kiwi and special engineer, Ralph Watson. In some instances the reproduced articles include similar items within their text, but editing has been avoided in order to retain authenticity. The format is plain by intent, with the object of creating a book rather than an illustrative magazine. Size and binding reflect a limited budget and production has been dependent on amateur skills.

In the past, a number of articles have been published including incorrect information covering Ralph's cars and projects, much to his annoyance. An important object of this publication is to correct this trend, which unfortunately continues sometimes involving amplification and reiteration.

“Special”, as applied in this publication may require defining for those outside the field of motor sport, or more specifically amateur motor sport. A special can be defined as a car, built for maximum performance within an intended area of competition, at minimum cost by an amateur constructor, either entirely to his own design, or by combining components from various makes. Many may find it astonishing that anyone would attempt to build a special car from scratch, or from available bits and pieces, in an attempt to compete with works built racing machinery. However this has been accomplished, as is hereby confirmed in our coverage of a gifted and very special engineer.

Also evident, will be the extent of Ralph's participation in motor sport, as a driver of his own creations. Over a period exceeding 50 years he has competed in hundreds of events with many successes. He has become well known and respected throughout the country, having driven long distances to speed events in the cars he has built for use in competition, all having been registered and warranted for normal road use.

The work Ralph put into the cars he owned and used in motor sport, placed them apart from others of their kind. As a result all have become highly valued and survive to this day, still being used in accordant competition by the current owners. The history of these cars is recorded here.


Ralph Watson in Profile.

Letter from Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd.

Commencement of Motor Racing Engineering.

The BSA Special.

Type 35A Bugatti.

Bugatti Jaguar.

Alfa Romeo P3.

4.5 Litre Ferrari.

Ferrari Monza.

Miscellaneous Work.

The Lycoming Special.

Lycoming Fuel System Illustrated.

Life After Death.

Ralph Watson at Laguna Seca.

Performance After Restoration.

36 ft Yacht, "Chesapeake."

Touring N.Z. Racing Circuits in the BSA.

Developing the Rotary Valve BSA engine.

Le Mans Singer.

Rotary Aero Engine.


Workshop and Plant.

Memorial Trophy.

Design Data covering the Lycoming Special.


Ralph Watson holding a component from his final project, a rotary, seven cylinder, aero engine.


The photographs presented are in the main from Ralph's personal collection and most originated as amateur snap-shots. Some are reproduced from previously printed matter, the originals having become lost. As a result there are images included which are not perfect. Adjustments only have been made during production, without modifications, so that their historic content is preserved.

The majority of drawings, sketches and graphs, have been reproduced directly from notes and work books, there having originally been no thought of them ever being published.

Research, editing, supporting text, design and production, by T. R. Sheffield.

Website development by Phil Skuse.

Copyright 2005 by T. R. Sheffield.