(AAR)

Eagle Mk1 Climax ‘101’ takes shape at All American Racers, Rye, Sussex 1966…

The Eagle marque was formed when Carroll Shelby suggested Dan as an alternative to Goodyear when the corporate tyre giant determined to avoid a repeat of the Indy tyre debacle of 1964 when Goodyear shod users fitted Firestones for the race.

Goodyear were looking to fund an outfit to build cars in a manner which gave them some control to avoid such a corporate embarrassment again. Shelby was committed with his other business ventures but became a partner in All American Racers until Dan and Evie Gurney bought out his interest in 1970.

Gurney was given responsibility for setting up the business inclusive of finding premises, people and machinery to build Indycars. Simultaneously Gurney secured support to build a GP car in parallel with the Indy contender.

Len Terry, chosen by Dan as the Designer off the back of their time together at Lotus noted that the teams priority was the build of the Indycar variant of what was, with relatively minor modifications to engine, (3/4.2 litre GP/USAC) gearbox and thickness of aluminium used for the monocoque chassis a common, winning design for both USAC and GP racing.

Terry worked on the cars conception, strongly based on his 1965 Indy winning Lotus 38, in the summer of 1965 in the UK, and at the end of September went to California to begin drawing the cars.

Goodyear man with plenty of trust in his driver! Gurney upon the Eagle Mk1 Climax’ race debut, Spa 1966 (unattributed)

What made me chuckle was looking at a photo of the 2.7 litre Coventry Climax ‘Indy’ FPF in the back of Mk1 chassis ‘101’ on the same day that I was fossicking through some Repco records given to me by Rodway Wolfe and Michael Gasking and seeing AAR listed in the July 1966 Repco Brabham Engines Pty Ltd monthly management report’s sales listing.

By that stage RBE had commercial rights or agreement from Coventry Climax to rebuild the engines and provide parts- pistons, rings, bearings and other components. Given the Type 56 Gurney-Weslake V12 was not yet completed Dan bought an FPF and plenty of bits from RBE to tide him over until the quintessential Eagle Mk1 V12 made its race debut at Monza in September 1966.

Despite being out-powered by the new engines used by others in that first 3 litre F1 year, the compact, four-cylinder, but not necessarily light car took Dan to a non-classified seventh from grid fifteen. The car completed 23 of the 28 laps in its very wet debut at Spa in June 1966. This is the infamous race which took out a good share of the field due to a sudden ‘heavy wall of water’ at Burnenville on the first lap.

The combination was fast all things considered- Reims Q14 and 5th, Brands Q3 and DNF, Zandvoort Q4 and DNF and at the Nürburgring Q8 and 7th. Pretty good against all the multi-cylinder heavy metal.

Acquired by Castrol at the seasons end the machine raced on in the hands of Al Pease before being later bought by Tom Wheatcroft for his Donington Collection where it lived until recently.

Rear suspension as per text below, gearbox is Hewland DG300, engine 2.7 ‘Indy’ Coventry Climax FPF (AAR)

The shot above shows Dan fettling the FPF on it’s very first day of testing at Brands Hatch on 8 May 1966.

By that stage the design was sorted as Gurney had already raced the Mk2 Indycar variant. The main initial issue with the chassis was excessive ‘wandering’ and instability at speed which was diagnosed as related to the anti-dive suspension geometry- this was expediently fixed by dialling that out of the cars specification.

Gurney first got to know Len Terry when they worked together in adapting the small-block Ford V8 to a Lotus 19 sportscar. By the time Terry’s Lotus 38 Ford won the 1965 Indy 500 in Jim Clark’s hands Len had already committed to work with AAR for 1966.

 

The car (both the drawing and cutaway above, V12 engined obviously) which drew heavily on his Lotus learnings was based on an enormously strong full-monocoque aluminium chassis in 18 gauge sheet for F1, and the heavier 16 gauge sheet mandated by the USAC, for Indycar use making the latter about 50 pounds heavier than the F1 machine. Bulkheads at the drivers feet, dash, seat and at the rear of the car added structural rigidity.

Suspension up front was period typical- a top rocker and lower wishbone with an inboard mounted coil spring/damper and outboard at the rear- single top link, inverted lower wishbone, two leading radius rods and coil spring damper. Roll bars were adjustable, steering rack and pinion and uprights front and rear made of magnesium-zirconium alloy. Disc brake rotors were 12.25 inch diameter Girlings, who also provided the calipers.

Zandvoort July 1966, Dan in ‘101’, DNF oil leak on lap 10, up front Jack won in Brabham BT19 Repco (unattributed)

The design’s wins included two F1 events-the non-championship Race of Champions at Brands Hatch in March 1967, Dan won both heats and the final from Bandini’s Ferrari 312 and Siffert’s Cooper T81 Maserati.  Lets not forget that memorable 1967 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. On that June day Dan joined Jack Brabham as the second man to win a Grand Prix in a car of his own construction- an honour also achieved by Bruce McLaren at Spa twelve months after Gurney.

In Indy racing the cars won many races and in Mk3 specification Bobby Unser won the 500 in 1968, his chassis powered by the venerable turbo-charged, four cylinder Offy.

From small acorns do big things grow- Mk1 FPF was such an acorn…

Shot shows the cars stunning purity of line- Mk1 ‘101’ French GP 1966. Dan 5th in the race at Reims won by Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT19 Repco, Jack famously becoming the first driver to win a GP in a car bearing his own name (unattributed)

More Eagle Reading…

https://primotipo.com/2018/06/14/gurney-weslake-ford-v8/

Credits…

‘Dan Gurney’s Eagle Racing Cars’ John Zimmerman

Tailpiece: Mexico 1966, Dan in ‘102’ V12, 5th and Bob Bondurant in ‘101’ FPF, DNF fuel system, John Surtees the winner in a Cooper T81 Maserati…

(unattributed)

Finito…

Comments
  1. David E.M. Thompson says:

    The “stunning purity of line” is enhanced by the prohibition of any sponsor signage. I miss that, but the Eagle F1 project might have been far more successful if generous sponsor support had allowed Dan to continue development.

  2. George says:

    Didn’t the Donington get dispersed this past fall? I know they closed the museum.

  3. David Wilson says:

    Don’t want to nitpick, Mark, but Gurney, Surtees, Ginther is right for the grid and heat 1. The final was Gurney , Bandini (Ferrari) , Siffert (Cooper Maserati). I thought that race was fascinating and varied and how things would be the rest of the formula- then came the DFV to spoil everything!

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks David,
      Just rechecked silhouette.com, you are right, many thanks, corrections made. Yes, 1966 was a ‘golden year’ for lots of reasons, not least the variety- I envy all of you that saw a race or two. And yes, the DFV was a game-changer! Good in the sense that grid-sizes exploded but bad in terms of technical variety- god bless Ferrari, BRM, Matra, Alfa Romeo and one or two other interlopers!
      Mark

  4. David Wilson says:

    Of course I didn’t realise those 12s and H16 were overweight dinosaurs. Duckworth was in a class of his own. Keep up the good work. Regards.

  5. Mal Fay says:

    Mark,

    One minor correction. Unser’s 68 Indy winning Eagle was powered by a Turbo Offenhauser. Great article.

    Thanks,
    Mal Fay

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Mal,
      I can’t even say I make that error by relying on memory, because I checked, but somehow my brain scrambled it between reference page and computer! Thanks for letting me know, correction made.
      Mark

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