The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion began life in 1974 under the vision and capable hands of Steve Earle, a notable racer in his own right. Originally billed as the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, that first weekend Earle invited a few friends that had some really cool cars and it was “Race On.” Over the next few years, the August weekend became quite popular and by the mid-’80s, getting a coveted invite was something to brag about. Cars with history and provenance took precedence and even if it was cool, if it hadn’t raced back in the day or was a car that had no one notable behind the wheel, your application would be returned (your check, too) and what you entered usually stayed home.
Since its inception, the original Historics—now the Reunion—has evolved into an eight-day “Car Week” extravaganza where it oozes high-octane fuels, wonderful smells of castor-bean oils, exotics and erotics both domestic and imported, auctions and maxed-out credit limits, two separate track competitions, car shows for the bigs and littles, automotive memorabilia of all things obscure, competition on the track and with the Concours d’Elegance, competition on the grass. The Monterey Peninsula is a place to see and be seen all the while staying at a Motel 6 where the rooms go for sky-high prices. Race folks like Sir Jackie Stewart, David Hobbs, Phil Hill, the Edelbrocks, Brian Redman, David Brabham, Jay Leno (yes, he does wear that denim long-sleeved shirt everywhere, but looks quite good nonetheless), even Bibendum (the Michelin white fluffy mascot) all and more have made an appearance at Laguna Seca in August for “Car Week.”
What most don’t know about this weekend is that the Reunion is NOT a professional race. There are no awards or prizes for finishing positions. There are, however, some really cool (and coveted) awards as each day has a Rolex Award winner that’s voted on by committee with the recipients receiving a Rolex watch. Also of note is the Bonham Cup as the winners are similarly chosen. There are also special awards for best paddock display, best Ford-powered car, outstanding craftsmanship, and others. The highest honor is the Rolex “Spirit of Monterey” Award where a Rolex watch and original painting of the event done by Bill Patterson is presented to the entrant who best embodies the Spirit in presentation and a competition drive on the track. Also not really known is how the event deals with on- and off-track “incidents.” For those that cause damage to either their car or someone else’s, punishment can be severe as the offender is usually banned from competition for at least a year, sometimes longer. The cars are the stars at the Reunion and keeping them intact so they can race another day is paramount. While on-track incidents do happen, they’re rare at most Vintage competitions.
Each year the event features a marque, and this can be a person, car model or manufacturer, race cars of a period in a race series, or race team works cars. For 2016, the marque was BMW. (As of this writing, 2017’s marque has yet to be revealed.) Each year there are a wide variety of cars that compete, are bought and sold, or are just driven throughout the week, and for the Reunion, this list is extensive. Pre-and Post War up to FIA, every imaginable make and model of car that raced—the obscure and one-offs, the weird, the slow, and the blindingly fast—all are captured here for the spectators to enjoy. Currently, the Reunion is featured on television on Fox Sports 1, and in publications such as this one. Over 550 cars competed in this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
For this year’s Reunion, I’ve limited myself to those race cars with Chevrolet power and a few that are just plain really, really cool. So sit back, grab a cold one, and enjoy.
The Canadian-American Challenge Series, or Can-Am for short, was basically a class where there were few rules, unlimited engine sizes, unrestricted aerodynamics, and was as close to any major international racing series ever got to “anything goes.” As the story goes, Jim Hall of Chaparral fame would call Tracy Byrd, who was part of Sports Car Club of America, and Oscar Kovaleski in the late evening hours to discuss the what’s and whatnots of a Pro Series that would continue on from the USRRC (mostly an amateur racing series). Phone rates were cheaper and talks went long into the nights. The result was Can-Am, and as long as the car had two seats (and this was a stretch for many), 32-inch cockpit, had bodywork that enclosed the wheels and tires, and met basic safety standards, it could be a Can-Am car. And the word “Can-Am?” The series started with two races in Canada and the remaining four down in the States under the FIA Group 7 category, therefore being Canadian and American. While most of the chassis were built in England, a few were of American, Japanese, Italian, and eventually German when Porsche entered the Can-Am fray with their 917-10s and the ever-dominant 917-30.
The Series evolved into race cars with outrageous horsepower, wings, active aero, and minimal weights, and boasted unheard of top speeds. There was a European Inter-Series where similar Group 7 cars competed but at a much lower key than in Can-Am. What really made Can-Am a true international series was Sports Car Club of America. The SCCA helped the overseas teams with travel funding so they could get here. Travel expenses were the main hurdle, and any assistance was appreciated. This also allowed notable drivers such as Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Jackie Stewart, Francois Cevert, John Surtees, Chris Amon, and many others to drive in the series when the schedule didn’t conflict with their F1 driving duties 1. F1 engines were limited to 1,500 cc in 1965 and increased to double that for 1966. Imagine coming from Formula 1, the most prestigious racing series in the world, and strapping yourself into a car that had over three times the displacement and power?
And for more history on this iconic series, Johnson Wax sponsored the Elkhart Lake race and the president of the company came out to see what he’d put up bucketful’s of cash for. He came over to Oscar Kovaleski’s pit and saw Oscar’s wife opening a tin of wax … then EATING IT. She looked over and offered the president a spoonful of his wax only to have it be butterscotch pudding. Funny stuff if you were there.
Initially, the series was dominated by Lola but McLaren proved a works team that became known as the “Bruce and Denny Show.” Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme won more than they lost from 1967-’71 until the Porsche 917 juggernaut ran and just plain dominated under the capable hands of Mark Donohue and George Follmer. Porsche withdrew from the Can-Am series and Shadow Cars took their place, dominating and winning the final championship. Can-Am as a dedicated series faded and was replaced by Formula 5000.
The Trans American Sedan Championship was the brainchild of John Bishop, President of the Sports Car Club of America, with the first official race held at Sebring International Raceway in Florida where Jochen Rindt, the 1970 Formula One World Driver’s champion, won overall. Europeans and Americans alike vied for track space and notable drivers from such series’ as Indy Car, NASCAR, and SCCA competed during that first season. All had yet to see success in their own racing series and shared competition with many others who used Trans-Am as a springboard.
Trans-Am continued unfettered until the arrival of Mark Donohue. His first race was in 1967 and the dominance began. Over the next few years, Donohue won a record 29 Trans-Am races while flying Penske livery and placed in the Top Three 43 times. Roger Penske won the Trans-Am Championship three times (1968, 1969, and 1971) teaming with Mark Donohue. Over the next four years, the great rivalry between Ford and Chevy, with a bit of Chrysler and AMC thrown in for good measure, began. American auto manufacturers battled on the track as notables Donohue and Peter Revson raced Chevrolet Camaros and AMC Javelins against Parnelli Jones and George Follmer in Ford Mustangs. Meanwhile, Jim Hall of Chaparral prepared a stunning second-gen Camaro to compete with others such as Sam Posey in a Plymouth Challenger and Swede Savage in a Barracuda. Damn … things were exciting and races were won, and lost, by inches. The closest Trans-Am Championship was won by Jones by one single point over Donohue for the Manufacturer’s title in 1970. The following year, Donohue prevailed yet again and regained the Championship for AMC. 1972 was the last “real year” for the American manufacturer’s juggernaut as the rules changed in ’73 allowing the Porsches and Corvettes, along with Jaguar, et al, to compete in classes.
Since those foundling years, SCCA has changed Trans-Am many times to incorporate new cars into different classes. American Muscle has returned with a vengeance and today, it’s returning to a Ford vs. Chevy battle once more.
1971 Shadow Mk II Can-Am
Team owned by Don Nichols and car designed by the legendary Peter Bryant, this Shadow Mk II raced in the 1971 Can-Am for most of the season. Presently owned and driven by Dennis and Gay Losher, the Mk II runs a 496ci (8.1 liter) Chevrolet V-8 engine, mechanical fuel injection, and puts down approximately 750 hp at 7,500 rpm backed by a Hewland LG500. The weight of this Shadow is a mere 1,800 pounds with a top speed approaching 200 mph that was recognized at Riverside International Raceway.
1974 Shadow DN4-1A and DN4-2A
More than a few say the DN4s were the most elegant and compact of the Shadow line of race cars; it won the 1974 Can-Am Championship for Team Shadow and was the last Shadow raced in this series for the line of cars. These two were driven by Kirt Bennett and Dave Handy: Bennett led the Group 7A field and easily won from start to finish. The DN4 is Chevy powered with over 500 ci (8.3 liters) putting out 975 horsepower at 7,600 rpm and weighs about 1,700 pounds. Like with the Mk II, a Hewland LG500 gets all that power to the ground.
Both of these cars were driven by George Follmer and Jackie Oliver. As a bit of history, also slated to drive the second DN4 was Peter Revson but his unfortunate death behind the wheel of another Shadow, an F1 car, opened the seat for Follmer. During pre-season testing before the inaugural Can-Am race at Mosport, Follmer crashed and heavily damaged the DN4-1P chassis.
More interesting tidbits about these cars’ histories involves the car numbers. Don Nichols wanted to run the two cars as 101 and 102 which, to UOP, had relevance because the unleaded fuel (remember folks, this was back in the ’70s when unleaded was synonymous with bubonic plague) was capable of producing octane ratings in this range. UOP’s intention was to prove that unleaded fuels would not negatively impact vehicle performance and when the original prototype crashed by Follmer, he insisted that his car be renumbered as 1, not 101, as he’d earned that number by winning the 1972 Can-Am Challenge. He also didn’t want to run a car number higher than that of Jackie Oliver. (NOTE: these cars have the 101 and 102 car numbers).
Chassis DN4-1P (prototype) and now the 2A was retained by Don Nichols and his family but was eventually sold and passed through several owners until Jim Bartel purchased it in 2012. In the past few years, Craig Bennett has driven the DN4-1P to seven victories and numerous championships. A crash in this same car at Road Atlanta earlier this year resulted in major injuries to Craig so the drive was offered to his brother Kirt for this year’s Reunion. Kirt hadn’t been behind the wheel of a Can-Am car for many years and worked quite hard to get fit to drive an absolutely perfect race here at the Reunion. We’re also happy to say that Craig is up and about and those that had a hand in repairing the Shadow say they did a year’s worth of work in two months time.
Chassis DN4-1A, the Jackie Oliver driven Shadow, won four of the five races of the shortened Can-Am season and Oliver won the overall Driver and Car Manufacturer’s Championship. Considered the first production chassis, DN4-1A was retired and put on display at the UOP facilities in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During transit from the UK to USA, this chassis suffered major damage when it broke from the restraints. Don Nichols subsequently retained the car and it went unrepaired until it was purchased by Jim Bartel in 2014. Undergoing a complete restoration by RM Motorsports, every original specification was researched and then made to ensure these two cars are seen today as they were back in the day.
Other Shadow cars that competed in this year’s Monterey Reunion were Dennis Losher and Scott Drnal.
1968 McLaren M6B
This is an original M6B owned and driven by Richard Brown, an engineer at General Motors. Sadly, Brown was killed in practice at the Mosport, Ontario, Can-Am in 1970 but prior to that he and Oscar Kovaleski raced in the Elkhart Lake Can-Am eventually finishing P7 and P8. Huge dicing throughout and fans and teams alike said that was the best racing between two cars and drivers they’d ever seen. Craig Pence had a huge hand in redoing the tub, and present owner Robert Ryan has owned this beautiful M6B for years. Ryan drove in this year’s Reunion, finishing 10th.
1972 McLaren M8-FP
As you would expect, given their heritage, many of the cars at the Reunion have colorful histories, none more so than Jim Stengel’s 1972 McLaren M8-FP. Its gleaming condition in the paddock belies a very checkered past.
“It was wrecked and burnt at Sears Point in the late 1970s,” explains Stengel. He has owned the car for three-and-a-half years, putting it back to original spec. “When we got it, it came with carbon-fiber bodywork,” he explains (instead of the original fiberglass). “The guy who sold it to me offered me a turbocharged engine as well. This one’s got about 900 bhp already, which I reckon is plenty. I may not be the fastest, but I like to think that I’m having the most fun.”
1972 McLaren M8F
A credentialed driver (think Le Mans) in his own right, Rick Knoop, drove this McLaren placing Fifth in the Can-Am race. Knoop’s father, Fred, originally owned this same car but sadly passed away a few years previous. Craig Pence, present owner, actually had this car sitting in his living room … yes, you read that right … for several years until it was built after being wrecked. Pence told Fred’s son Rick “I can’t bring your father back but as I’ve got his car, you can drive it.” Knoop says this car is explosive and has massive acceleration in lower gears; you have to be careful in the slower turns. It’s also a car you drive with confidence but never arrogance—you always leave a little on the table. Given that this same McLaren clocked 197 mph on the straights at Road America, wise advice to be sure.
The McLaren M8F had a bit of a Batmobile-like appearance in body and aerodynamics compared to the earlier chassis. Chevrolet 494 or 495ci engines (depending on who you ask) provided 740 hp and drivers were cautioned to use 7,000 rpm as the limit even though power held and increased up to 7,800 rpm. Denny Hulme asked, and received, a bit of detuning due to excessive wheelspin at some race circuits due to sudden power under acceleration. Also of note were the new intake “trumpets” of two different lengths; these smoothed out the power curve and were fitted to Team McLaren engines during the 1971 season.
1967 McLaren M6A
If you’ve ever purchased Griot’s Garage car cleaning and detailing products, you’re supporting and keeping Can-Am alive as Richard Griot’s beautifully restored McLaren (and other competition cars) looked the part in this weekend’s Reunion races. Griot fueled his passion for all things automotive at an early age. Living in the SoCal area, he grew up with Adam West as a neighbor and West, being a really serious car nut, had a cool Ferrari. Turning 16, West took the starry-eyed Griot for a ride in the Ferrari and on the way back, stopped and tossed him the keys. After that drive, Griot knew his future was with cars. And Adam West, you ask? Batman. The real Batman of the campy television show back in the ’60s. How’s that for a cool neighbor?
Back to the McLaren … only three of these cars were built and all were considered works cars, but this one was the one Bruce McLaren drove to the 1967 championship. It either won or placed well … or DNF’d. Another car, the second one, was driven by Denny Hulme and was notable as Hulme, having never driven at Elkhart Lake before, took the McLaren out and broke the lap record by four seconds. These McLarens are unique as the design was as simple as possible with single-curvature body lines and square section tubing wherever it could be used. Dry weight (less fuel and driver) is approximately 1,300 pounds. Power was managed by a 5.9-liter Chevrolet V-8 fueled by Lucas injection and backed by a five-speed Hewland LG transaxle. Griot finished 15th in the Can-Am class.
1971 McLaren M8F-1
This McLaren is listed as one of two built by the McLaren factory exclusively for Denny Hulme’s 10 races of the ’71 Can-Am season. Hulme won 3 of these 10 races with Peter Revson winning another five and taking the Can-Am season championship for 1971. After that year’s Can-Am series ended, this car changed hands and raced under more teams, changed engines, traveled continents, and after extensive restoration, is finally with Chris MacAllister who capably drove this M8F-1 to Fourth in the Can-Am race.
1967 McLaren M6A-3
This McLaren was very notable as it’s the car that was driven by Mark Donohue in the final year of the USRRC, winning the 1968 championship along the way. Roger Penske purchased this car from Bruce McLaren (it was a spare chassis) following McLaren’s ’67 Can-Am Championship, possibly in this same car, and it was prepared and modified by Penske, Mark Donohue, and Karl Kainhofer. As for the pinstriping, after the purchase by Roger Penske, the painter was given instructions to just paint the car and when it was done, the striping was met with much surprise. The car was also campaigned in Can-Am in subsequent years by Fred Baker and Jerry Hansen.
The success of McLaren Cars also made them in heavy demand for other teams and for 1968, all 28 of the M6Bs were sold almost as fast as they could be produced. As for the M6A chassis, it evolved into the M8A, which featured a lighter and wider monocoque chassis for wider tires and larger fuel tanks, and the Chevrolet aluminum-block 427ci engine. Only three of these McLaren chassis were produced. What’s interesting about this car is it was in contention for the Can-Am Championship until the final race at Las Vegas … when it wouldn’t start on grid.
1970 Ferrari 512M
Yes, I know it’s not Chevy-powered but it’s kinda cool anyways. This Penske Sunoco/Kirk F. White Ferrari was purchased from Chick Vandegriff’s Hollywood Sports Cars. Penske Racing built this car into a formidable competition machine; it ran at Daytona and Sebring capably driven by Mark Donohue and David Hobbs. It’s only Can-Am race was at Watkins Glen where it did double duty, competing in the WC 6-Hour race the day before. A true workhorse no matter.
For this weekend, the Penske Ferrari was driven by Lawrence Stoll and finished 14th in the Can-Am race.
John Surtees Lolas
John Surtees has the distinction of being the only man to have won world championships on two and four wheels, winning seven on motorcycles, one in Formula 1, and one in Can-Am. During the ’60s and ’70s, Surtees campaigned numerous sports cars, and for Can-Am raced Lola T70s. A catastrophic accident in practice at Mosport Park (failed suspension upright) put the Lola into a barrier. It somersaulted and landed upside down on top of Surtees, fracturing his pelvis and leg, rupturing his kidneys, and severely damaging his spine. Within six months of this near-death experience, Surtees was back behind the wheel and driving for the season Can-Am Championship. He won five times out of eight race starts. Team Surtees became the factory Lola team.
Two stellar representatives of Team Surtees competed at this year’s Monterey Reunion. The winner of Group 5A (1963-’68 USRRC and Can-Am small-block cars) was the 1967 Lola T70 Mk3B Spyder driven by Marc Devis. Devis had such a lead in the USRRC race that even leaving the track at speed, coming to rest at Turn 10, then driving out of the dirt and re-entering the track, he still finished less than a headlamp cover ahead of Johan Woerheide, also in a Lola T70 Mk II Spyder, at the drag race finish. Devis also ran the same Lola in the Group 7A race (1968-’74 Can-Am cars) and finished a remarkable 12th.
1965 Lola T70 Mk 1
This Lola T70 was originally sold to Carroll Shelby with a (gasp) Ford engine. Another Californian, Dan Gurney raced the T70 under the All American Racers team (AAR), driven by Jerry Grant. Grant won the USRRC at Bridgehampton in 1966 in this Lola. After crashing the car hard at Mosport and killing a corner worker who ran across the track to assist another crashed car, there was rumor that as the Mk II was now available, the Bardahl Special was rebuilt with the more modern chassis.
Under Can-Am livery, teammate Dan Gurney blew his engine and claimed the engine in Grant’s Lola, leaving Grant high and dry for the St. Jovite race. Jerry Grant “borrowed” a Traco engine from Chuck Parsons, and Penske’s team lent some headers and rear springs so Grant could start the race. This car is probably one of the very few that were campaigned with a non-Chevrolet engine. The Lola finished well up in the USRRC field, Fifth, with Byron DeFoor handling the driving duties this weekend.
1970 Pontiac Trans-Am
Jerry Titus, a noted racer in the 24 Hours of Daytona, SCCA events, even an attempt to qualify for Indianapolis 500, and team driver for Carroll Shelby, built three of these cars for the 1970 Trans-Am season. Tragically, he lost his life during practice at Road America when the steering failed causing the car to hit a bridge. The Pontiac Trans-Am that Titus was driving was allegedly taken to Canada for post-crash analysis and then crushed; the only part on that car that is purported to remain is the trunk lid.
This stellar representative of the Titus stable of three, now two, is owned and campaigned by Robert Kauffman. Kauffman finished 14th in the Trans-Am race this year.
1970 McLaren M8C
This McLaren has the distinction of never being raced in the Can-Am series and was one of three M8Cs to be shipped to Argentina when it was new. It’s a beautiful car and so glad to see it back on the track here in the States.
Nick Colonna drove this gorgeous McLaren in the Can-Am race, finishing 13th.
1965 McLaren Mk 1B
This beautiful McLaren was one of two Drummond Racing Mk IIs originally raced by Skip Scott and Peter Revson in the 1966 Can-Am series. Originally powered by Ford, when it was sold the Ford mill was removed and the subsequent owner Jerry Entin installed a Bratz Chevy small-block to run the ’67 season. Entin, a notable racer in his own right, campaigned this McLaren in the SCCA race series, USRRC, and, of course, in Can-Am, competing at Road America, Riverside International Raceway, and Laguna Seca.
For the 1968 Can-Am season, Entin left the McLaren for a Lola T70 and ran that car that same year. The McLaren was sold and disassembled to reappear as a Chrysler-powered “dragster” sports car that never was finished. In 2011, the car reappeared once more and was restored to former Can-Am specs and glory before being reunited with Jerry Entin who drove it at Coronado Speed Weeks a couple of years later. Presently, the McLaren is owned and driven by Robert Hunt.
1968 Chevrolet Camaro
Smokey Yunick, legendary in so many types of motorsports, built this Camaro for Trans-Am racing and while he set several land speed and endurance records with the car, it never won a Trans-Am race while Yunick owned the car. Later sold to Don Yenko, it had good success in the series. That said, while the Camaro looked like a Camaro and sounded like one too, it’s acid-dipped panels and thinner glass reduced weight, the front end was tilted downward and windshield laid further back for better aerodynamics, all four fenders were widened and the front subframe modified to optimally change suspension geometry … even the driprails were narrowed and floorpan altered all in the course of higher performance and that advantage that Yunick was so well known for.
Vic Edelbrock, Jr. located and purchased, then restored the Camaro to Trans-Am specifications and has campaigned the car over the past two decades. His daughter Christi raced her way to 21st place in the Reunion this year.
Budweiser-sponsored Chevrolet Monza that had some “special secret sauce” done by Doane Spencer. Spencer did major fabrication setting back the radiator and many other mods that other Monzas that raced never had. Lee Dykstra, Al Holbert, Chris Cord, and Horst Kwech, among many others, raced these cars in IMSA and there were about 110 of these cars built for teams. This Budweiser car is probably the most special of them all.
If you need to tighten a wheel, here’s your “go-to” socket.
1974 Sting GW1 Can-Am
This car may look like a McLaren M8F but is actually a one-off “copy.” Designed and built by John Collins for a wealthy privateer, a Kansas cattle rancher, Gary Wilson of the United States Sting Racing Team, the big-block car embodies many of the features of the M8F with the aerodynamics of the Porsche 917. In its second outing at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, the Sting managed a fine Fifth place which, by itself, is remarkable for a non-factory effort.
Undergoing a complete restoration a few years ago has the Sting in its past racing livery. The engine is Ryan Falconer-built and is, of course, a Chevy big-block with 540 ci throwing down about 750 hp. Driven by Tim DeSilva, the Sting finished 18th at this year’s Reunion. Other drivers say the Sting is “quite wide and extremely difficult to pass on track.”
1968 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
Built by original owner, Duane Winkel, this ’68 Camaro Z/28 was campaigned on many of the East Coast tracks in 10 Trans-Am races. This gorgeous car unfortunately never allowed the dreams of the owner, driver, and builder to materialize as the factory teams were way too powerful. After the Trans-Am series ended, the Camaro continued in many Regional and National SCCA and IMSA races in A Sedan and GT1. Presently owned and driven by Bill Godwin, the Camaro finished 16th out of the 38 entrants in Group 8A for the Reunion.
1968 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster
Larry Park was a National Champion in SCCA Solo II (autocross) and when he decided to go road racing, this was his first Corvette built. Park raced the car during the early 1980s in SCCA Trans-Am and IMSA throughout tracks on the West Coast. Park and the Corvette had notable wins and finishes, shattered lap records (ones he had already set) at Laguna Seca and Sears Point, and besting Big Bore cars in the process. This car won the PCRRC Championship in 1981, and in its present livery, is the same way as it was campaigned by Larry Park over 35 years ago.
1968 Lola T70 MkIII Spyder
This is the Carl Haas/Simoniz Lola driven in the USRRC series by Skip Scott. Scott won several races in this car, most notably Bridgehampton, New York, and Seattle, Washington races and the Elkhart Lake 500 co-driving with Chuck Parsons. Scott also drove this car in the first two Can-Am races in 1968 while waiting for his Lola T160 to be finished for competition.
Steven Hilton piloted this car in the Monterey Reunion and finished 23rd in the USRRC and Can-Am (small-block) race.
1969 Lola T163
This Lola was originally driven by Tony Settember in the Can-Am series and was restored by current owners John Boxhorn and Don Hoevel.
Boxhorn capably handled the track and finished 9th in the Can-Am race at the Reunion.
1971 McLaren M8E
This gorgeous McLaren was campaigned by Vic Elford and Sam Posey in the 1971 Can-Am Series Championships. Currently owned and driven by Duncan MacKellar, the car sports a massive 496ci (8.1-liter) Chevy producing 750 hp with 737 lb-ft of torque. It weighs about 1,650 pounds and is the only original McLaren Can-Am to race in a similar series race in Australia.
MacKellar drove a stellar race and finished 8th.
1964 Pontiac Tempest/GTO
Nicknamed “The Grey Ghost,” this really cool Pontiac was a crowd pleaser no matter if it was resting in the paddock or navigating through traffic on the track. The history is there. Herb Adams, the legendary builder and a brilliant Senior General Motors Engineer in his own right, originally built this car for his wife. A few years later, along with a few other engineers, they built, then brought this old car to one of the Trans-Am Championship races with none other than Bob Tullius handling the driving. Featuring a de-stroked engine to meet the current rules and a somewhat modified rear axle with a hint of negative camber, folks were amazed with a bit of shock witnessing this drive that started from the back of the field working its way up the grid to eventually compete for the lead before retiring with engine-related troubles. While engine issues continued to plague the car throughout the season, it did have some notable finishes (three Top Fives) for that 1971 season.
Currently campaigned by John Hildebrand, the Pontiac finished a credible Sixth in the Trans-Am race for the Reunion. And no, I don’t give a fig that it doesn’t have Bow Tie power. It’s cool … so there!
1971 McLaren M8E/F
This car was originally an M8E owned and driven by Pete Sherman, a privateer, but with the “short doors” was converted to M8F bodywork. The reason for the shorter doors is simple … the E has a shorter wheelbase than the F. Tragically, Sherman and his wife were killed in their recently restored P-51 Mustang while attempting to land at Oshkosh several years ago.
For the Monterey Reunion, the McLaren was driven by Roger Williams who finished 22nd.
1965 McLaren M1A
Originally called, “The Million Dollar McLaren,” this car was purchased new by Chick Vandegriff of Hollywood Sports Car legacy and driven by Jim Adams. At Willow Springs, Adams was out dirt biking with Dan Gurney and the rest of the AAR gang when he ended up on the losing side of a fence post. Broken or bent knee, then a cast, required extensive modifications so the McLaren could complete, which led Vandegriff dubbing the car its moniker. Adams, meanwhile, was slated to drive at Daytona and when he arrived, Doane Spencer took a die grinder and cut the plaster cast off entirely and Adams drove that day. What’s unique is that the McLaren was prepared by Spencer who also is renowned for his development with the Dekon Monza bodywork. Spencer is legendary for his work with hot rods and custom builds yet had a capable hand in creating these two amazing cars.
Eric Haga piloted the spiffy M1A to 8th in the USRRC & Can-Am (small-block) class at this year’s Reunion.
1972 McLaren M8F
This is the original car driven by Roger McCaig; he drove this car in the Can-Am series in 1971. McCaig was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer that year. While McCaig was undergoing chemotherapy, legendary driver Chuck Parsons drove the McLaren for the California races at Riverside and Laguna Seca that year.
For the Monterey Historics, this beautiful McLaren finished 20th.
1965 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster
Born with a 396ci Chevy big-block, original owner/driver Gary Meek campaigned this 1965 Corvette in SCCA’s A Production. Over time, the 396 mill was swapped for B Production eligible 327ci engine and continued in that class for several years. After its competition days wound down, the car eventually was shelved and parked for about 10 years.
Gallant Racing resurrected No. 61 and restored, then campaigned, the Corvette in West Coast Historic Races. Notable driver Andy Porterfield raced the car three times at the Monterey Historics (now Monterey Reunion) with successful results. When sold yet again, the Corvette sat for more years until being purchased by present owners Larry and Margo Savio.
The Corvette still has the 327ci Chevrolet engine backed by a Muncie close-ratio M22.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro
Originally sold to a teenaged girl for her “first car,” the Z/28 proved a bit too much so was traded in for something more sedate. Spied and bought, then built and campaigned by Richard Sterns and William MacFarlane, the Camaro competed successfully in Trans-Am for several years with much success. Sporting all authentic Trans-Am livery and restored, the Camaro is now owned and raced by Chad Raynal. Raynal finished 7th in the Trans-Am for the Monterey Reunion.
1970 Chevrolet Camaro
This Camaro was purchased directly from the manufacturer as part of the “Employee Purchase Program,” and after a year of use as a daily, Bob Clemens and David Skibowski got the bug to go racing and the transformation of the Camaro from street car to Trans-Am racer was done. Long nights and almost every weekend was spent getting this Camaro ready for the 1972 season where it competed at Watkins Glen and Road America, along with a SCCA National event at Michigan International Speedway. Bob Clemens drove in all of the competitions that year. At the end of the season, the Camaro was sold to other privateers eventually ending up with Gene Rutherford who raced the car in SCCA events throughout the southeast United States for the remainder of that decade.
The “Clemens Camaro” finished third in the hotly contested Trans-Am race for the Reunion.
1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Never a street car, this early second-gen was initially campaigned in the Trans-Am series by Don Duncan. Early in this car’s career, Dick Brown did the driving and originally was campaigned as No. 93. The present paint scheme was brought onboard in 1972 when it was selected to run under the Sunoco of Canada banner. The car number was changed to what it is today, No. 86, with Dick Brown continuing his stint as driver.
The Camaro has been restored to period-correct livery as raced in Trans-Am and is powered by a 305ci Chevrolet carbureted engine and backed by the ever-popular Muncie M21 four-speed. What is unique are the brakes. Both the front and rear are Girling, Porsche 917-style calipers. They’re quite rare and are period-correct for this car and legal per the SCCA GCR’s for Trans-Am.
In 1971, the Camaro was unremarkable, but in the 1972 Trans-Am series, there were two Top Ten finishes and only one DNF in four races. Dick Brown also won the Mayor’s Cup Race at that year’s Molson Grand Prix/Trois Rivieres race weekend in this same Camaro. Leon Desimone drove this Camaro to 8th place in the Trans-Am race.
1971 Lola T222
This particular Lola didn’t compete this year but is a notable car in its own right. It ran two years in the Can-Am, 1971 and ’72, and was fielded by two drivers, Hiroshi Kazato and Charlie Kemp. Hiroshi Kazato began his Can-Am racing in ’71 and moved to the Chicago area to be near Carl Haas, Lola importer for the U.S., who provided track support. Working with a translator, Kazato was able to successfully navigate the U.S. racing scene. Such an amazing feat for not knowing the U.S. tracks and with help and advice from other drivers in the series, good positions in qualifying and finishes were achieved. Another racer, Chuck Parsons, “led” Kazato around some of the tracks in practice sessions, upping the speeds with each lap, to demonstrate the racing line and help the Japanese racer get up to speed. Kazato used this excellent reference to place well in races. Kazato met an unfortunate death behind the wheel of another race car in a race in Mt. Fuji, Japan several years later.
For the 1972 Can-Am season, the Lola was bought by Rinzler Motor Racing/Holiday Inns and campaigned with Charlie Kemp doing the driving. After the death of Kazato, a Japanese friend and business owner named Minoru Koybayashi contacted Carl Haas wanting to purchase the Lola to display in his racing-themed business, The Pit Inn. The Can-Am livery for the NO. 88 T222 was restored and the car remained in Japan for many years afterward. The Lola eventually made its way back to the States and was sent through one of the Monterey auctions, sold to a U.S. buyer. The T222 is now owned by John Church, who has plans of driving the Lola in future Monterey Reunion events.
1965 McLaren MII B
While Bonanza’s Dan Blocker was mostly known for the television series, he also ventured into the Can-Am and USRRC racing series with his cars known as Vinegaroons. Nickey Chevrolet provided the build and track support for Dan Blocker Motor Racing, and while his first racer was a Huffaker-built Genie-Chevrolet driven by John Cannon (it wrecked in an accident with the Penske Lola T70 driven by Mark Donohue at Watkins Glen), Blocker saw the light and moved to McLaren when he purchased two of the M1Bs. Car No. 96 is one of those two. What’s interesting is the first McLarens campaigned by Blocker had Oldsmobile engines. After getting spanked at a couple of races early in 1966, McLaren switched to Chevy power and never looked back. While other McLarens also ran under the Nickey Chevrolet sponsorship, this is the fourth MkII and I believe that Earl Jones campaigned this car back in the day.
Finishing sixth in the USRRC, this Nickey Chevrolet Vinegaroon McLaren was capably piloted by Andrew Beaumont.
1972 McLaren M8F/P
This McLaren was one of the Commander Motor Home’s fleet of five and the only one painted white. It was supplied by Trojan (exclusively licensed supplier for all customer production (P) McLaren M8F tubs) and is slightly different than the factory models. This chassis sustained heavy damage at Edmonton while being raced and was scrapped, which necessitated the creation of their fourth car, a M8F that took over racing under No. 98. While the tub was provided by Trojan, it didn’t come with either a Trojan or a McLaren chassis plate or serial number. More interesting bits were those upgrades the second No. 98 received. The bodywork was changed from a basic nose to a “shovel” nose whose scooped shape combined with the new louvers over the front tires to resemble the bodywork seen on the Porsche 917s. The additional downforce added more front tire traction. Other modifications moved the rear wing even more rearward, better wing supports, and bigger rear tires. Can-Am rules mandated that the wheels and tires needed to be covered by bodywork, which necessitated emergency fender flares on this McLaren. As for the “right” tires? These were the big Goodyear meats that were developed for the Penske Porsches and as John Cannon now took over driving duties after Hopkins was injured in the crash of the first No. 98, he also got this good rubber. After testing at Laguna Seca, the Commander team felt the Goodyears were worth a half second per lap. And the final upgrade was better front suspension as McLaren M20 magnesium uprights and control arms replaced the M8F parts.
As part of the history for this race team, Commander Motor Homes owner Mike Slater hired Charlie Agapiou to start the team and eventually purchased five McLarens for a three-driver program. Two of these five cars are pedigreed as they were the cars that McLaren Motor Racing teammates Peter Revson and Denny Hulme had driven to the easy 1971 Cchampionships. After changing hands once, the McLarens ended up with Commander Motor Homes, underwent extensive overhaul, and were rebuilt and refreshed under the capable engineering of Carroll Smith. The main driver for the No. 98 McLaren was Danny Hopkins. 1973 was the only year Commander Motor Homes fielded cars in the Can-Am series. Emmett Murphy drove the stunning white McLaren in the Can-Am class finishing 7th.
Lola T70 Mk I
A casual check of the Autoweek ads in 1974 found this wrecked chassis listed under “Parts” and a phone call sealed the deal. Owner David Pozzi told me he’d always liked this body style and original plans for the T70 involved turning it into an A Modified autocrosser. Thankfully, Vintage Racing became prominent a few years later and this beautiful Lola wasn’t lost to obscurity on airport tarmacs and parking lots. Pozzi spent several years researching and then repairing the chassis. Once ready, he undertook SCCA Competition Driver’s School where, in the rain, the Lola took a loop and was rudely punted by a Pinto. Pozzi took a year and ran in Solo I (think hot lapping on a race track sans traffic) to get experience with the car and then began competing in Vintage competitions. Since then, Pozzi and the Lola have driven in about 25 Monterey Historics/Reunions and several other events throughout California.
Over the years, Pozzi has been able to research his car’s racing history and discovered the Lola raced at Bridgehampton and Nassau Speed Week with John (Buck) Fulp. Two years ago, Pozzi undertook a complete restoration of the Lola’s chassis and body, and returned the T70 to the original Fulp livery. A stunning example of a period-correct T70, and not a bad purchase for $600. Yes … you read that right!