Jim Watts: 17 Cars & Cycles on the Coast

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 08/2022
  • posted in: Great Garages

Jim Watts has two ’52 Jowett Jupiters, one with a history out of this world.

He and his wife Pam steward a collection of nine cars and eight motorcycles in San Clemente, California, just north of San Diego. They own a whale watching and fishing expedition business in nearby Newport Beach.

Their two-acre cul-de-sac home has a driveway that circles back to the 1,700-square-foot garage in the rear and a work shop.


The nine cars are, chronologically: a circa-1930 Studebaker open wheel race car; a 1934 Ford Victoria; the 1952 Jowett Jupiters, red and green; a drag-racing 1963 Plymouth 426, similar to the one he bought new in 1963; 1956 Buick Roadmaster Convertible; 1953 Studebaker Commander; 1959 Willy’s Jeep/4×4 Wagon; and a 2003 Mercedes SLK32 AMG roadster. His cycles, mostly older, include a vintage Simplex Auto Motorbike with only 20 miles and a Matchless cycle he once rode on a 100-mile-plus daily commute.

He was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1942. “My older brother and I ran a speed shop back in the early ’60s,” he recalls. “We raced two top fuel cars and a super stock Plymouth at that time. We also built drag-race cars and did a lot of Corvette work, especially for the college kids in town.”

In 1988 he bought a 1930 front-drive Ruxton from his brother’s estate. “It was at that time, because I had all this room on the property, my collection began,” he says. “It’s not for public view, but we have friends that like to come over for happy hours and hang out in the shop.”


We’ll let Jim tell the cars’ stories:

Circa-1930 Studebaker open wheel race car –– “The car runs and drives well. I don’t have any history. It looks like it came out of a river, but that’s the way I like it.”

1934 Ford Victoria –– “This was my first car. I paid $100 for it in 1961. It was my daily driver for several years. I drag raced it on weekends in Modified Sportsman Class and later moved up to C Gas class on the weekends.


“I was living in Peoria, Illinois, at this time.  In 1965 I moved to California; I sold the car for $650. Years later, I tried to find the car. When I did, it took 28 years before I bought it back for $20,000. My wife and I have driven the car on four Americruises. We’ve been to Canada, Denver and many other trips. She is still my favorite car.”

1952 Jowett Jupiters, red and green –– “I bought my first Jowett Jupiter, in red, at a Mecum auction about six years ago. I had been looking for a Jupiter because my father and oldest brother both owned Jowett Jupiters.
“These are unique cars. They have chromaloy tube frames, four-wheel torsion bar suspension, a water-cooled 4-cylinder Boxer engine, 4-speed trans and a hand-pounded aluminum body.

“They have a rich racing history, too, having won LeMans in 1950, ’51 and ’52 in the 1500 CC class, plus many other races.


“I found the green one for sale in Canada in 2021 during the pandemic; it’s the newest car added to my collection. After lots of paperwork and expense, I finally got the car out of Canada. When I tried to register it, I ended up at the California Highway Department trying to get it okayed.

“After they ran a history, we found out that the car I just bought had belonged to my deceased older brother 46 years ago. He had a collection of about 50 cars. In 1975 he and his wife were killed by a drunk driver, so naturally this car has a very special meaning to me.”

1953 Studebaker Commander –– “I bought and restored this car because in high school my best friend had one and we spent a lot of time riding around in that car.”


1963 drag-racing Plymouth 426 Max Wedge –– “My wife gave me this car for my 60th birthday.” From 1962 to 1964, Chrysler offered the muscle car power plant in the B Platform Dodges and Plymouths.

1956 Buick Roadmaster Convertible –– When I bought this, it was in horrible condition. It really wasn’t worth restoring in terms of the market value, but then they are hard to find and I wanted one, so I spent many years restoring it.”

1959 Willy’s Jeep/4×4 wagon –– “In 1969 I bought a 1955 Willy’s 4×4 wagon that I used for hauling motorcycles to ride in the desert. I even drove the Willy’s the length of Baja California before the road was paved. My wife saw pictures of the Willy’s and liked it, so she found one and bought it.”


2003 Mercedes SLK32 AMG roadster –– “This car was bought absolutely by accident at Barrett Jackson in Las Vegas, when I put my hand up to bid and no one bid after me as I hoped.”

Eight motorcycles –– “These are mostly older, including a vintage 1947 Simplex Automatic Motorbike that is an unrestrored perfect original bike. I also have a Russian Voskhod Model 2 motorcycle that is said to be the only one in the United States; it’s in perfect unrestored condition. I also own a 1955 Matchless G80 competition Scrambler that I rode in the desert and to downtown L.A. to work for several years. About 10 years ago, I spent six years restoring it.”

If you or someone you know has a GreatGarage and would like it to be considered for an upcoming issue, please email us at info@highline-autos.com. The writer thanks Jim and Pam for their assistance in preparing this article.