A Visual History of Can-Am, the Greatest Racing Series Ever


A Visual History of Can-Am, the Greatest Racing Series Ever

the idea’s been 50 years since the first SCCA Canadian American Challenge Cup season in 1966. Cars of which competed inside original 1966–1974 series still draw fans to racetracks to feel them shake the earth in vintage events. Why? Because Can-Am is usually simply the stuff of legends. the idea featured the fastest, most powerful sports cars running under a minimal-rules regime of which allowed the widest scope for innovation. These exotic machines were driven by the top road-racing drivers on the planet, including champion racers coming from Formula 1, Indy-car, along with also endurance racing along with also even the occasional NASCAR or NHRA star. --They were all following the money. A confluence of happy scheduling, visionary rulemakers, along with also a huge influx of cash coming from series sponsor Johnson Wax—eager to connect which has a burgeoning auto-racing fan base in an era when many predicted of which motorsport could soon outpace football along with also baseball in annual spectator count—drew the drivers, teams, automakers, sponsors, along with also fans to North America’s premier road-racing venues. Over the nine seasons, horsepower rose coming from about 0 to more than 1200 or even 1500. The list of famous drivers reining in those ponies without benefit of traction control, ABS, or any more electronics than the idea takes to run your alarm clock included Mark Donohue, Denny Hulme, George Follmer, Peter Revson, Bruce McLaren, Vic Elford, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Graham Hill, Phil Hill, David Hobbs, Bob Bondurant, Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, Jackie Oliver, along with also Dan Gurney.--The series’ origins can be traced to postseason one-off races of which individual track promoters devised to take advantage of the presence of European driving stars who visited North America each autumn for the season-ending Grands Prix of the U.S. along with also Mexico. Before along with also between those events, the promoters found, the European stars could be induced by “appearance money” to show up to race America’s leading lights while drawing crowds to Monterey, California; Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin; Watkins Glen, brand new York; Mosport, outside Toronto; Riverside Raceway near L.A.; along with also Stardust Raceway in Las Vegas. An ad-hoc series of such events in 1965 showed the potential, along with also when Johnson Wax came calling with check in hand, the SCCA made the final leap coming from its “amateurs only” origin to sanction the wildest professional series ever devised.--The series’ golden anniversary was commemorated This kind of year with vintage racing events at Road Atlanta; Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Saint-Jovite, Quebec; Road America in Wisconsin; along with also Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. along with also currently, a brand new book, Can-Am 50th Anniversary, culls the archives of ace lensman Pete Biro for more than 300 images coming from the original series, many of them never previously published, with racing historian George Levy’s storytelling drawn coming from recent interviews with almost 80 original participants. --We attended the Road America round of the Historic Can-Am Association’s meets, looking to meet up with friends made at similar events 25 years earlier. Many, sadly, have passed on, as This kind of generation of racers is usually of an age with the Apollo astronauts along with also the original civil-rights marchers. Just since Levy completed his interviews, we’ve lost brand new Zealand’s Chris Amon along with also America’s Tony Adamowicz, both integral parts of the Can-Am family. The following images coming from the book along with also coming from our visit to Road America This kind of year illustrate our capsule history of the series.Canada’s Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Saint-Jovite, Quebec, hosted the inaugural Can-Am race. The ground shakes along with also your teeth hum when a racer starts up nearby—a whole field of them taking the green excites every nerve in your Centeng. Levy noted of which, although the population of Canada was only slightly larger than of which of the state of California, the first race drew nearly as large a crowd as the first Super Bowl could do four months later. John Surtees inside Lola T70 (#3) won This kind of first race, along with also three of the first season’s six (ending November 13 in Las Vegas) on his way to a title of which netted him $70,000 for 60 days’ work. the idea was more money, he has said many times, than he’d earned behind the wheel of a Formula 1 Ferrari while winning the 1964 world drivers’ championship, 10 races spread over the better part of six months. Bruce McLaren (#4) could often keep Surtees in sight, however he failed to win 1 race inside first season.The iconic Chaparral 2E arrived at Bridgehampton, the Long Island road course of which hosted round two of the 1966 Can-Am championship. This kind of photo captures the moment when the planet first saw the first car to fully exploit the series’ unrestricted “run whatcha brung” rule set.--The team brought two cars for Phil Hill along with also Chaparral creator Jim Hall. One didn’t start; Hill drove the one in This kind of photo to a fourth-place finish. For all their creativity along with also speed, Chaparrals managed many pole positions however rarely finished in front. The 2E did win the 1966 season-ending round at Stardust. Can-Am 50th Anniversary author Levy quotes Howden Ganley, who was there with Team McLaren the day the 2E debuted: “You looked at those [Chaparrals], along with also every some other car inside paddock became obsolete right at of which moment.”One fun thing of which happens at modern vintage-racing events is usually of which the race cars escape coming from the track. At Road America, This kind of takes the form of a parade into downtown Elkhart Lake for a concours. of which’s where we—along with also the huge crowd This kind of event draws—could see This kind of Lola T70 Mark 2, known as the Bardahl Special, driving up the town’s main drag like the idea was just another Prius.- This kind of T70 is usually a historically significant example not only because the idea won the second Can-Am race at Bridgehampton inside hands of Dan Gurney, however because of which could be the one along with also only Ford-powered victory inside entire history of the Can-Am series. Not just any Ford, the idea was a Gurney-Weslake–built 305-cubic-inch V-8. the vehicle was entered by Gurney’s All American Racers team (note the eagle-beak-inspired AAR nosepiece), along with also the race was notable for one of the series’ rare close finishes, with Gurney crossing the line less than half a second ahead of Chris Amon in a Chevrolet-powered McLaren M1B.-the idea wasn’t as if Ford wasn’t trying, in This kind of era of its successes at Le Mans along with also in Formula 1 racing. Can-Am fans remember the King Cobra, the Honker, along with also the 429'er, all notable attempts to push the blue oval to the front, however Can-Am was largely a Chevy bow-tie affair until the Porsches arrived.In 1967, Bruce McLaren returned with the Papaya Orange McLaren M6A. The colour mostly pleased sponsor Gulf Oil, however  the idea didn’t always register the same way on the day’s photographic films. the idea was also impregnated inside fiberglass bodywork, circumstances of which have driven scale modelers along with also car restorers crazy in their attempts to match the idea with paint.-The M6A was designed by Robin Herd, the engineer McLaren had lured away coming from the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough where Herd had been working on the aerodynamics of the SST supersonic passenger plane. Denny Hulme (#5) replaced Chris Amon as McLaren’s teammate. Between them, they won a few of the six 1967 races, often finishing 1-2, along with also Bruce McLaren won the championship. Biro’s photo here, though, is usually coming from the Stardust finale, where 1966 champ John Surtees nabbed his only checkered flag of the season. The Chevy engines inside M6A were still pretty much standard stuff, iron blocks along with also all.Bruce McLaren died in a crash while testing a prototype of the McLaren M8D in June 1970. Although the series saw some spectacular accidents (notably at Road Atlanta, where the cars went airborne so often of which drivers who’d had the experience were welcomed into a Flying Club), there were no fatalities at the actual races.  McLaren’s seat for 1970 went to Gurney along with also, for one race, Peter Gethin, both of whom ably supported Hulme, who won the 1970 title.-For 1971, handsome Peter Revson (#7) was recruited away coming from the Carl Haas Lola team he’d been driving for to pilot the second McLaren. Despite a stiff challenge coming from soon-to-be two-time world champion Jackie Stewart inside L&M Lola, Revson captured his first major racing title. inside heart of the season, Revson had gone on a tear, winning a few of seven races in his M8F. the idea was the fifth consecutive Can-Am title for McLaren—along with also its last.In Can-Am’s first three seasons, Roger Penske entered a series of Lola- along with also McLaren-chassis race cars for Mark Donohue. He won the 1966 race at Mosport, dominated the summer 1967 USRRC series, however didn’t become the boss in Can-Am until the ’70s, when Penske teamed with Porsche. This kind of example of the team’s earlier efforts was seen on the streets of Elkhart Lake This kind of summer.In 1969, McLaren copied Jim Hall’s tall, suspension-mounted wings along with also the Orange Elephants ran the table. The SCCA regulators thought of which, if there were more races, others could have a better chance to stop the Bruce along with also Denny Show. So the season began in June (no more “fall series”) along with also ran into early November. There were 11 races. McLarens grabbed 11 poles along with also 11 victories. -The winged cars—seen here at Road America in 1969—were safe, fast, along with also spectacular. The FIA banned them anyway, under “safety” rules of which governed all of racing, including the “no rules” Group 7 cars.-We’re not saying these overpowered beasts weren’t treacherous, mind you. Car along with also Driver sent writer Charles Fox to drive Sam Posey’s Lola T160 for a currently famous story of which proves otherwise. the idea’s archived here-(along with also before you comment, yes, of which is usually how the story ended).When Can-Am is usually mentioned, the idea’s the mighty McLarens, Porsches, along with also Chaparrals people remember first, however part of what made the spectacle was the deep fields of 30 or more entries. Not only was there big money to win, however the purse was spread deep into the finishing order in order of which deep-pocket amateurs along with also marginally funded race teams could go to a race along with also be all however certain of covering their weekend expenses, which made for full fields of roaring engines. The sound resembled of which of a flight of World War II–era bombers, some said, a comparison many could make coming from firsthand experience. --The Can-Am cars evolved coming from those used in SCCA’s U.S. Road Racing Championship (USRRC) series, which mostly involved stuffing a high-powered American V-8 into lightweight racing chassis. The USRRC crowned a national sports-car road-racing champion beginning in 1963, however for Can-Am, all restrictions on engine displacement, tire size, along with also some other technologies were removed. The Vinegaroon shown racing at Road America This kind of summer is usually a Genie Mark 10, a chassis built by California’s Huffaker Engineering specifically to accommodate Detroit V-8s, in This kind of case an Oldsmobile. Owned by actor Dan Blocker (most famous for playing the character Hoss on Bonanza), the idea was named the Vinegaroon after a desert arachnid (whip scorpion). Driven by Canada’s John Cannon, Lothar Motschenbacher, along with also Hollywood stuntman Bob Harris, the Vinegaroon saw more success in USRRC than in Can-Am.With his wings banned as “movable aerodynamic devices,” Jim Hall shocked the racing world again with the “Vacuum Cleaner” Chaparral 2J suction car. Interviewed by Levy, driver Vic Elford remembers: “My first impression was, I don’t definitely see the idea as very quick, because the idea just sort of goes around corners. however then of course, when the idea got down to analyzing the idea, we found the idea was going around corners about 12 or 15 percent quicker than anything else could.”- When the FIA outlawed the idea, too, at the end of the season, Can-Am’s greatest innovator said “adios.”Ferrari entered Kiwi driving sensation Chris Amon (#16) inside 1968 Can-Am with the V-12–powered 612 along with also, later, 712. The Prancing Horse entry didn’t hold the ponies to match the brand new aluminum-block Chevys of which Reynolds-sponsored McLaren was fielding. “Even the 7.0-liter wouldn’t compete with the pushrod Chevy. of which was a real eye opener for Ferrari. They just couldn’t understand the idea,” Amon told author Levy.In 1972, Roger Penske came back to Can-Am loaded for bear which has a pair of Porsche 917/10s generating 1000-plus horsepower apiece. “Captain Nice” Mark Donohue was injured early inside season so Penske decided to “let George do the idea.”  -“Roger tells me [George Follmer (#7) is usually going to drive” the remaining 917 turbo, chief mechanic Woody Woodard told Levy. “I wanted to say, ‘You’re goddamn crazy.’ however at the end of the day, he won a few races. He won the championship. along with also never put a scratch on of which car. Not 1 scratch.”Recovered coming from his terrible crash the year before, Donohue claimed 1973 as his year at last. He absolutely dominated inside currently 1500-hp Porsche 917/30, a car of which the Brown-educated engineer had developed into a race winner.Two years later, after Donohue’s tragic death coming from injuries suffered in an F1 crash in Austria, Penske said: “There is usually no question of which the ‘unfair advantage’ people always talked about in reference to our team was always Mark Donohue along with also his talents.”America in 1974 was a very different place than the idea had been nine years earlier, reeling coming from the Arab oil embargo. In response, SCCA turned the “no rules” Can-Am series into a fuel-economy formula, requiring an average 3 mpg. Gone were the big, fuel-sucking turbos along with also most of the Porsche entries. When McLaren’s M20 had been so soundly thrashed, of which team had surrendered, too, although not before testing an 8.0-liter turbocharged Chevy. Problem: No one however Porsche had access to transaxles of which could take a 1500-hp beating.-So, suddenly, black is usually the brand new orange. Tony Southgate’s brilliant Shadow DN4, sponsored by Universal Oil Products (UOP)—which touted the octane rating its brand new unleaded gasoline could produce with the numbers on its race cars—won the 1974 series. Follmer along with also Shadow’s F1 star Jackie Oliver were the drivers. however the crowds along with also the money were gone, along with also the season was canceled after a few of eight scheduled races. Looking back on the idea decades later, final champion Jackie Oliver (#101) told Levy of which even without the fuel crisis, the days had passed for unlimited cars: “the idea was a dinosaur period; the idea was unsustainable.” however, he added, “of which was the appeal of the cars. They were unbelievable to drive, along with also they were unbelievable to watch.”The cars are still amazing to watch 50 years later. RM Motorsports of Wixom, Michigan, restored the 1974 Shadow DN4 along with also built a second replica car to take to This kind of year’s anniversary events. The Porsches, Chaparrals, along with also many of the some other headliners of the original Can-Am spend most of their time in museums currently, so the Shadows wound up being the headliners, appearing on the posters along with also program covers for the reunion events.-Unfortunately, Can-Am machines are as treacherous as ever, even if they ride on more modern tires along with also benefit coming from some other safety upgrades. The Shadow bit RM driver Craig Bennett at Road Atlanta in May. Bennett is usually among the most accomplished of vintage racers along with also has been piloting these monsters since even before we met him in 1991, when he was racing an ex–Chuck Parsons Lola T163. A moment’s lapse put the #101 into the barrier, along with also Bennett suffered severe injuries. RM rebuilt the vehicle in 11 weeks; Bennett needed a bit longer before he could even walk, however he drove the DN4 coming from the track to the city in August with his wife,  Leah, riding shotgun.Can-Am 50th Anniversary is usually a collaboration between motorsports journalist George Levy along with also photographer Pete Biro. The most thorough look at the series since Pete Lyons’s long out-of-print Can-Am was published 20 years ago, the brand new book features a foreword by Lyons along with also features more than 300 of Biro’s period photos, most never seen before. Levy’s text is usually based on interviews with more than 80 of the original participants who tell the real story behind one of the greatest series in racing history.-the idea’s available to order coming from Amazon.com. A collector's edition of 300 hand-signed, numbered copies of Can-Am 50th Anniversary is usually also available directly coming from the authors. the idea features a custom slipcase along with also jacket, an author’s page, private online access to original interviews, along with also four frame-ready 8x10 art prints of Biro’s favorite Can-Am photos in a special sleeve inside the back cover. cost: $150, for delivery in December. Contact george@georgeplease.com.

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A Visual History of Can-Am, the Greatest Racing Series Ever

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