image

(The Enthusiast Network)

Hoss Cartwright’ checks out his new ‘Can-Am’ Genie Mk10B Traco Olds with driver John Cannon…

As a sixties Aussie kid i grew up on a diet of fantastic American TV, our own tele/movie industry wasn’t what it is today. I have wonderful memories of ‘Flipper’, ‘Gilligans Island’, ‘The Jetsons’, Freddy Flintstone, ‘The Munsters’, ‘The Addams Family’, ‘McHales Navy’, ‘Batman’, ‘Hogans Heroes’, ‘Get Smart’ of course and ‘Bonanza’, all of which explains how i turned out i guess!

‘Bonanza’ was a Western the whole family sat down to watch, Dan Blocker the Genies owner played ‘Hoss Cartwright’ in the popular show which ran from 1959 to 1973, shite thats a long time! This publicity shot was taken on 3 February 1966 at ‘The Western Street’ set, Paramount Studios, Los Angeles.

image

(The Enthusiast Network)

Genie Mk10B Traco Olds…

Blocker, a motor racing enthusiast acquired the car from Ray Huffaker its constructor, Nickey Chevrolet provided some sponsorship with British born Canadian ex-RAF pilot John Cannon engaged as the cars driver.

Cannon contested the 1965 and 1966 USRRC seasons, he finished 2nd in the 1965 Nassau Tourist Trophy and won the USRRC race at Stardust Raceway, Las Vegas in April 1965.

image

Times Grand Prix, Riverside 31 October 1965: John Cannon’s Genie Mk10B Olds 8th ahead of Chris Amon in the Ford GT40-X1 5th. Hap Sharp’s Chaparral 2A Chev won from Jim Clark’s Lotus 40 Ford and Bruce McLaren’s McLaren Elva Mk2 Olds. It was a great performance from Cannon in a car not as quick as many, the field also included McCluskey, Pabst, Follmer, Dick Thompson, Revson, Parsons, Titus, Hobbs, Bondurant, Ginther, Hill, Gurney, Grant and Hansgen! Quite a field (The Enthusiast Network)

In 1966 John won the first USRRC round at Stardust on 24 April and retired at Riverside, Laguna and Bridghampton in May. After another retirement due to an accident at Watkins Glen in June Cannon left the team and bought a McLaren-Elva Mk2 finishing 2nd at Kent on 31 July.

image

The Genie at Bridghampton in 1966 (Frederic Strauss)

In the first, 1966, CanAm series, stunt driver Bob Harris took over the Genie. 15th at St Jovite and 11th at Stardust his best results, the series won by John Surtees ‘works’ Lola T70 Chev.

image

Genie Mk10 as raced by Bob Harris in the ’66 CanAm (Larry Fulhorst)

The Genie passed through various hands but is still extant and runs in historic racing owned by Tom Stephani, the son of Jack Stephani who co-owned Nicky Chevrolet, the Genie’s sponsor when Cannon raced it.

genie1

The Genie M10B as it is today owned by Tom Stephani, the son of original Nickey Chev/Genie sponsor Jack Stephani (Paul Stephani)

Paul Stephani, Tom’s son picks up the story; ‘My grandfather owned Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago (with his brother Ed and sister Jean). Jack was a big racing enthusiast and used Nickey as an excuse to go racing’.

‘It doesn’t stop there as Michael Cannon (son of John cannon) married a close friend of our family and has driven the Vinegaroon to the car show from Road America to Elkhart Lake a few years back. Michael is the head engineer on Conor Daly’s IndyCar entry this year. Here’s how the Blocker/Nickey/Cannon combination went their separate ways after the ’66 CanAm round at Watkins Glen! : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxClHhH4xto

Tom Stephani recalls how Dan Blocker and his father Jack Stephani came to create a race team together; ‘Basically, my Dad met Blocker at the West Coast races in the fall of 1965. Dad saw a natural connection between the two. Both loved racing, Nickey had a fairly substantial racing team and budget, and Blocker could provide a promotional opportunity for Nickey Chevrolet. ‘Bonanza’ was sponsored by Chevrolet so the tie-in really worked well. His personal appearance at the Nickey Dealership in February 1966 drew at least 5,000 people. Shut the whole place down for a couple of days!’

Joe Huffaker started building racing specials and Formula Junior’s. He switched to sportscars as the greater market opportunity became clear. The first Genie Mk4 was a ‘G Modified’ car powered by a BMC 1100cc engine.

image

Jack Stephani co-owner of Nickey Chevrolet in the glasses behind the toolbox, ‘Hoss’ Dan Blocker and John Cannon at the USRRC Bridghampton round in May 1966 (The Enthusiast Network)

The Genie Mk10 was an improvement on or evolution of his Mk8, his first ‘big-banger’ USRRC series car. It comprised a multi-tubular space-frame chassis, accommodated a range of American V8’s and utilised the ‘usual’ sixties suspension mix of wishbones and coil spring dampers at the front and inverted wishbone, single top link, coil spring/dampers and radius rods at the rear. Brakes were Dunlop calipers with outboard discs all round, the whole lot clad in a curvy fibreglass body.

The Blocker Mk10B was powered by a Traco-Olds 300cid/5 litre engine fed by 4 48IDA Weber carbs, the transaxle was a BMCD unit. The teams Chief Mechanic was ex-F1 UDT/BRP guy John Harris who extensively modified the car during the winter of 1965/6, the car christened the ‘Vinegaroon’ from then.

The Genie Mk10 retailed at around US$9500 winning a few races but was soon left behind by Chaparral, McLaren-Elva and Lola.

image

(The Enthusiast Network)

John Cannon…

Of Canadian nationality, but born in London on 18 October 1933, John Cannon initially raced a $750 Morgan at St Eugene in 1959. A Canadian newspaper report dates his emigration to Canada from the UK as 1957 so i am not sure that some earlier races in the US attributed to him in some sources are correct. In any event he progressed with an Elva Courier in 1959, 1960 and into 1961. He also raced a Jag  D Type and the Dailu Mk1, results in that car brought him to the attention of NART who teamed him with NASCAR star ‘Fireball Roberts’ in a Ferrari 250 GTO in the 1963 Daytona 3 Hour (15th) and Jo Bonnier at the Sebring 12 Hour (13th).

image

Jim Parkinson/Jack Flaherty MGB DNF follows the NART Ferrari GTO of Bonnier/Cannon 13th at Sebring in 1963 (Bill Stowe)

In later 1963/4 Cannon raced a great variety of cars, proving his versatility; Dailu Mk2/3, Lola Mk1, Comstock EXP, Fiat Abarth, Chev Corvette and Elvas Mk 3/7. For John Mecom he raced the teams Lotus 19, Scarab Mk4/5 and Lola T70.

He progressed through to the Blocker drive and then became a McLaren CanAm customer and ‘foot soldier’ as the McLaren website puts it! Mind you, whilst they claim him as ‘their own’ he raced many cars other than McLarens after 1965!

He was never a member of the works team but his achievements both as a privateer and driving for independent teams earned him a worthy place in McLaren’s Top 50 (38th) drivers ranking.

image

John Cannon circa 1970 (mclaren.com)

He took a superbly opportunistic victory in the rain-soaked Laguna Seca CanAm round in 1968 that pushed his career along.  Driving an aged M1B Olds, Cannon kept his cool when others were slip-sliding in all directions, finishing ahead of the Denny Hulme’s works M8A at the chequered flag.

image

Press launch with John Cannon left beside Jack Saunders in the Mecom Lola T70 before Sebring in 1965. DNF (Lola Heritage)

image

Cannon aboard his F5000 Eagle Mk5 Chev in 1969, Michael Cannon quipped ‘this shot is early in the season as they added an extension to the roll-hoop before the first round at Riverside’. JC won the Riverside and Mosport rounds, finishing the series 5th, Tony Adamowicz won it in another Eagle (Racing One)

In 1969 and 70 he moved into single seaters as well as CanAm, he raced a Can Am McLaren M6B in ’68 and Ford G7 in 1969, contesting the prestigious L&M Continental F5000 series, winning it in 1970 driving a McLaren M10B Chev for  St Louis trucking magnate Carl Hogan’s ‘Hogan-Starr’ operation.

image

John Cannon in the first production McLaren M10B Chev ‘400-01’ the car in which he won the 1970 US Championship, when this shot was taken, and the 1971 Tasman Championship (oldracingcars.com)

Cannon used this success as a springboard to establish his racing reputation in Europe, raising funds to rent a semi-works March 712M in the European F2 championship in which Ronnie Peterson, Carlos Reutemann and Francois Cevert  were leading lights. In this company Cannon performed very respectably, well enough to be invited to drive as a member of the five-car BRM squad in the ’71 US GP at Watkins Glen.  He finished 14th in a P153.

An interesting insight into this part (1970-1) of John Cannon’s career was provided by his son John M Cannon on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ in 2007, he wrote/posted;

‘After the 1970 F5000 season, my dad went down to do the Tasman Series. He already had an agreement with Carl Hogan to do the 1971 US series and wanted to stay sharp by racing the winter series.

At Sandown, he crashed the McLaren M10B beyond repair and was offered Chris Amon’s Granatelli Lotus Cosworth F1 for the last round at Surfer’s. (in fact he raced a Granatelli F5000 Lotus 70 Ford at Surfers to 7th place but probably had a steer of an F1 March 701 raced mainly by Chris Amon during the series in practice somewhere, that car was powered by the ‘Tasman’ Ford Cosworth DFV variant, the 2.5 litre ‘DFW’ engine) Well this car was a total revelation for him – he loved the nimble handling of the F1 car and decided then and there that he would do everything possible to pursue a ride in F1.

image

John Cannon’s March 701 DFV in the 1971 Questor GP, Ontario Motor Speedway 28 March 1971. This was a combined F5000/F1 race won by Mario Andretti’s Ferrari 312B, Cannon DNF on lap 29 (MotorSport)

He was able to run an STP backed March F1 car at the Questor GP and this only whetted his appetite further. He broke off his agreement with Hogan (who was one of the nicest and fairest people you’d ever have wanted to meet by all accounts), grabbed every dollar he had and headed off to Europe to do F2. At the age of 38, he was a rookie in what was probably the most fiercely competitive series in the world!

The early season stuff went fairly well as was able to buy what he called a ‘stonking great (Ford FVA F2) motor’ from Jackie Stewart. However, once that motor blew and money began to get tight, things got tougher. He effectively ran out of money late in the season and I don’t know that he even finished the series.

image

John Cannon cruisin’ his year old BRM P153 thru the Watkins Glen paddock, US GP 3 October 1971, the race was won by Francois Cevert’s Tyrrell 002 Ford from Jo Sifferts BRM P160 and Ronnie Peterson’s March 711 Ford (Chris Kennedy)

That autumn, (1971) he did the USGP in the 5th BRM. It was a bit of an old nail and the ‘qualifying engine’ was 500 rpm down from his practice motor… Anyway, he did finish the race and the team kept in touch, offering him a ride for 1972. He wouldn’t get paid but he would get a share the prize money. Now my dad had been earning his living as a driver for many years and thought this to be a ridiculous offer-if he wasn’t paid, he wasn’t going to do it.

That was the last time F1 came calling…’

image

Cannons P153 running very soft roll bars! ahead of Siffert’s 2nd placed BRM P160 Watkins Glen 1971, BRM entered 5 cars. Cannon Q24, finished 14th. Amongst the other ‘guest/one off drivers’ Posey Surtees Q17 and Revson Tyrrell Q19 were quicker but so were their cars. Cannon was faster than regulars such as De Adamich. It would have been interesting to see how he would have fared with a regular BRM drive in 1972 but BRM was a ‘bear pit’ in the sense of running too many cars for too many drivers all fairly poorly! Beltoise’ P160 ’72 Monaco win duly noted. (Norm MacLeod)

In a varied and long career Cannon also contested 15 USAC events between 1968 and 1974, his best result 2nd at Mont Tremblant in 1968. He had two ‘cracks’ at Indy in 1970/4, failing to make the cut on both occasions.

image

Riverside CanAm 28 October 1973: Bob Nagel’s #17 Lola T260 Chev 4th with Cannon’s #96 McLaren M20 Chev Turbo DNF up his chuff and boxed in by #64 Bob Peckham’s McLaren M8C Chev 6th. #11 Steve Durst McLaren M8F Chev 8th, #34 Tom Dutton’s McLaren M8R Chev 7th. Race won by Mark Donohue’s Porsche 917/30 Turbo (Schlegelmilch)

image

Cannon in his McLaren M10B Chev during the ‘Warwick Farm 100’ 14 Feb 1971 Tasman round. Cannon was 7th on this technically challenging circuit, where locals always have an advantage! Gardner won in his Lola T192 Chev (Lynton Hemer)

John Cannon was a popular,  fast Tasman Series’ competitor; he contested the ’71 Tasman in NZ and Australia and the Rothmans F5000 International Series in Australia (The Kiwis went F Atlantic/Pacific from ’76) in 1976 and 1978. His 1978 Rothmans appearances were essentially his last races.

He raced his Hogan-Starr US Championship winning McLaren M10B Chev in 1970 his best results two 5ths at Levin and the Pukekohe NZGP rounds. He retired at Wigram, Teretonga and didn’t start the Sandown round as noted above. At Warwick Farm he was 7th and in the Lotus 70 Ford, 7th again at Surfers Paradise.

image

Getting settled into Carl Hogan’s McLaren M10B before the off at Levin, NZ 1971. That oil cooler? duct would have cost a few RPM (Ian Peak Collection/The Roaring Season)

The Tasman was very strong in its early F5000 years, perhaps more so than the US Champion expected!

In well developed McLaren M10B’s were Graham McRae, Frank Matich, Niel Allen and Teddy Pilette. Frank Gardner raced his works Lola T192, other top-drivers somewhat hamstrung by poor/under-powered equipment included Graeme Lawrence Ferrari Dino 246T, Kevin Bartlett Mildren Chev, Max Stewart Mildren Waggott. Especially Chris Amon, at the peak of his career, the STP March 701 DFW and Lotus 70 Ford were inferior amongst such tough competition. Graham McRae won the first of his Tasman Cups in 1971.

image

John Cannon’s one-off March F2 722 based F5000, the March 725 Olds at Silverstone in 1972 (oldracingcars.com)

March were led into F5000 by John Cannon, notes Allen Brown on his definitive race history website oldracingcars.com.

‘Cannon won the 1970 F5000 US series before becoming a March customer in F2 in 1971. For 1972, Cannon ordered a new 722 F2 tub to be fitted with a Race Engine Services Oldsmobile V8 for F5000. The car was called the ‘725’.

Brown; ‘Cannon missed the first four rounds of the UK championship but then took a surprise pole in his debut at Nivelles, Belgium the fifth round, some 1.3s ahead of McRae’s Leda/McRae. He was pushed back to fifth on the grid at Silverstone but qualified second at Mondello Park in 30 April, where he finished fifth. He then took the car to North America for the lucrative L&M championship where he took pole position at Watkins Glen in June but was let down by reliability problems.

He returned to the UK in time for the race at Silverstone in early August where he finished second. He had time to rush back to the US for the Riverside race at the end of September before returning again to England for the last few races of the season’. The 725 never appears to have raced again but Cannons attraction to the marque was well established!

image

Cannon’s March 73A/751 Chev in the Sandown Park pitlane during Saturday practice, 1976. I watched the final laps of the race from the pit counter here, hoping with each lap that the ‘falling off’ airbox wouldn’t ruin a great run/dice and cause a black flag, fortunately it didn’t and John scored a very popular win! (Stupix)

Cannon returned to Australia in 1976 with the car he had been racing in the US which was a blend of March 73A F5000 and March 751 F1 components. In the US the cars best results were a 4th and 8th at Riverside in 1975 and 1976 respectively.It was a great looking car and fast amongst the local highly developed Lola T332/400’s, Elfin MR8′ s and Matich’s.

The series that year had depth, contestants included; David Purley, Vern Schuppan, Kiwis Graeme Lawrence and Ken Smith and Australians John Goss, Kevin Bartlett, Bruce Allison, John Leffler, Max Stewart and John McCormack. Schuppans Theodore Racing Lola T332 won the series.

image

Cannon’s March sets off after David Purley’s Lola T330 Chev at Adelaide International in Feb 1976. Not a soul to be seen, Friday practice i suspect. Ken Smith’s Lola T330 won, Cannon 13th 16 laps down with dramas, Purley crashed on lap 28 (Kym)

can sandown start

Sandown Rothmans start 1976; L>R Bruce Allison’s black Lola T332 Chev, JC March, John Walker orange Lola T332 Repco and John Leffler white Lola T400 Chev on the inside fence (unattributed)

can book

‘Great Australian Motor Racing Pictures’ with a Canadian on the cover, go figure! JC leading on the Rothmans ’76 first lap into Dandenong Rd corner. Following are Allison, Leffler, John Goss in the blue Matich A51/3 Repco and John Walker (Bryan Hanrahan)

He took a fantastic Sandown win by less than a half a second from Vern Schuppans Theodore Racing Lola T332 Chev, i can clearly remember the cars airbox coming loose and hoping the ‘underdog’ wouldn’t be black-flagged in the last couple of exciting laps! In NSW he retired from the Oran Park round with electrical problems and was well back, 13th in Adelaide.

At the end of the Rothmans he shipped the March to the UK and did several early rounds of the ’76 Shellsport F5000/F1/Libre Series without much success.

image

Cannon, Sandown, 1978, March 73A/751 Chev. An attractive car, relatively narrow track compared with the Lola’s, quick in a straight line. Pretty circuits ‘double life’ for horse racing clear in the background grass and fencing (Robert Davies)

In 1978 he returned to Australia with the same March to again contest the ‘Rothmans’, like so many of the F5000’s by that stage the March was getting a tad long in the tooth.

1978 contestants included Warwick Brown, Keith Holland, Derek Bell, Alfredo Costanzo, John Walker, Kevin Bartlett, Vern Schuppan, John Goss, Graham McRae and John McCormack. Brown took the series in his new VDS Racing Lola T333/332C.

Cannon had a good run at Sandown again, 3rd in the race won by Warwick Brown’s Lola T333/332C Chev but had mechanical dramas elsewhere. Driveshaft flange/circlip problems in Adelaide and Surfers respectively and falling oil pressure in his Chevy engine at the final Oran Park round.

can sandown paddock

JC cruises thru the Sandown paddock in 1978 (unattributed)

image

Sandown Rothmans 1978: Cannon’s March 73A/751 Chev 3rd turning into ‘Shell’ or turn 1, ahead of John Goss’ Matich A51 Repco 6th. Race won by Brown’s Lola T333/332C (Anthony Loxley)

John Cannon, then 45 ended his racing career and focussed on  his businesss life which included an LA Ferrari distributorship. His son Michael who followed in his racing footsteps, has been one of the most respected race engineers in Indy Racing for over 15 years.

Ever the ‘thrillseeker’ John very sadly died as a result of injuries sustained when he crashed an ultralite ‘plane in New Mexico on 18 October 1999.

Etcetera…

image

(Sports Car Graphic June 1966 cover courtesy of Thomas Voehringer)

image

Cannon’s Eagle Mk5 Chev in 1969, note the lip addition to the roll bat compared to the earlier shot (Eric Haga via Michael Cannon)

image

Shit that thing is fast! John Cannon is thinkin’!? of Matich’s M10B Repco L>R Aussie driver Don O’Sullivan, Cannon and Frank Matich during the 1971 Tasman, not sure where. JC probably thought his car would be quicker than it was in the ’71 Tasman but McRae’s M10B developed in Europe and Matich’s Repco engined M10B/C were mighty quick conveyances not to mention the Frank Gardner, Niel Allen and Teddy Pilette driven bolides…(unattributed)

image

image

Photo Credits…

The Enthusiast Network, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Lynton Hemer, Robert Davies, Stupix, Kym, Ian Peak Collection/The Roaring Season, MotorSport, Bill Stowe, Norn MacLeod, Anthony Loxley, Paul Stephani, Larry Fulhorst, Frederic Strauss, Racing One, Eric Haga

Bibliography…

‘Montreal Gazette’ 3/4/63, Daniel Vaughan, Don Capps, mclaren.com, Allen Brown and his  oldracingcars.com, Sports Car Graphic cover courtesy Thomas Voehringer

Special thanks for Paul and Tom Stephani’s recollections and photos

Tailpiece: c’mon John just let me do a lap of the set, the horses will be ok and we will be done before anybody gets wind of it?!…

image

(The Enthusiast Network)

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Paul Stephani says:

    Nice article! My dad (Tom Stephani) runs this car and recently had a new body built to resemble what it might have looked life after Cannon’s crash at Watkins Glen with Mark Donahue. It’s heading to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in March for the sort of debut of this livery.

    • markbisset says:

      Paul,
      Thanks so much for getting in touch, if there are other elements to the cars history, like the accident with Donohue (where and when was that?) drop me a line and I will add them in to the article.
      Send me a couple of current images of the car and I will drop those in too.
      All the best to you and your dad with the car, thanks for making contact.
      My email is mark@bisset.com.au
      Mark

  2. Drew Cullen says:

    Anyone know how to get in touch with John’s son Michael – I have a question about the Elva Courier that John raced early in his career and beat Donahue in, also racing a Courier, several times at SCCA National events 1959-61.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s