Famous Racing Cars of the 1960s

by Brad King


Take a 4.2 litre American Ford engine and install it in an English AC Ace chassis. Result: one of the most potent sports cars ever created, the brainchild of American driver Carroll Shelby. He began producing and racing it in 1962.

Later the power was upped considerably. There were Cobras with 4.7 litre engines giving 350 b.h.p. at 7,000 r.p.m. and 6.9 litre engines giving a massive 490 b.h.p.

In Europe a Cobra won the GT category at Le Mans in 1964, while the Sports Car Club of America Formula A was dominated by the marque. Production ceased in 1967.


In the early 1960s Henry Ford II decided to develop a car to win the classic Le Mans 24 hours race, dominated since 1960 by Ferrari.

The Ford challenger was evolved by Eric Broadley, the man who had created the Lola, and was built in Britain by Ford Advanced Vehicles. It was called the GT40 because it stood only 40 inches high, with a 4.2 litre engine giving 350 b.h.p. at 7,200 r.p.m. sited in the midway position.

The car was completed in time for the 1964 race, but it failed. In 1965 it was fitted with a 4.7 litre engine giving 390 b.h.p. at 7,000 r.p.m. Six cars were entered for Le Mans, but all retired.

In 1966 came the Mark Two with a 6,997 c.c. engine giving 500 b.h.p. at 6,400 r.p.m. and automatic transmission, and Fords finished first, second and third, the winning team being Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon at 125.38 m.p.h.

Ford then dominated Le Mans, winning again in 1967, 1968 and 1969, by which time they had proved their point and the project was ended.


1969 Merlyn Mk 11A Formula Ford
Formula Ford was evolved in Britain in 1967 to allow young drivers to race single-seaters at low cost. The formula calls for a 1600 c.c. Ford Cortina crossflow production engine with only limited tuning, and road tyres as opposed to racing ones.

The Merlyn, designed by Chris Maskery and Selwyn Hayward, and built by Colchester Racing, soon became the top car in the formula. Australian Tim Schenken entered Formula One racing after being Formula Ford champion in a Merlyn in 1968 and 1969.


3 litre FORMULA 1 American Dan Gurney inspired it and drove it, but the Eagle Formula One car was made in England, hence ‘AngloAmerican Racers', the name that Gurney gave his team.

The Eagle had a chassis by former Lotus designer Len Terry and a 2,997 c.c. V12 engine giving 420 b.h.p. at 10,000 r.p.m. by former Jaguar cylinder-head expert Harold Weslake. Gurney drove it first in the Italian Grand Prix of 1966, then in 1967 the New Yorker won the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch and the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.

But Gurney was soon concentrating on producing a different kind of Eagle to win the big-money Indianapolis 500. He was successful in that ambition, Bobby Unser driving an Eagle to victory in the 1968 race, but Gurney could not devote the same attention to the Formula One cars and they were withdrawn at the end of the season.


When the 3 litre Formula One began in 1966 most teams were developing sophisticated V12 engines, but Jack Brabham gambled on simplicity and cheapness. He used an Australian Repco engine of 2,996 c.c., based on a well-tried General Motors unit. It gave some 330 b.h.p. at 8,800 r.p.m., which made it gutless compared to its rivals, but Brabham had been right; what it lacked in power it made up for in reliability. And the space-frame body designed by Ron Tauranac was light and responsive.

In 1966 Brabham won his third World Championship in it and became the first driver to take the title in a car of his own construction. The following year his team mate, New Zealander Denny Hulme, won the title with Brabham runner-up. But by that time Brabham knew that the Repco had had its day and in 1969 he switched to the ubiquitous Ford Cosworth engine used by the majority of his rivals.


Porsche contributed to Le Mans history in 1964 when a 2 litre 904 (also known as a Carrera GTS) became the first car to lap the 8.36 mile circuit in under four minutes.

The 904, introduced to racing at the end of 1963, was originally a prototype but was homologated as a GT car (meaning that more than 100 were produced). The first Porsche to be offered to customers with the engine sited behind the driver, it had a horizontally-opposed four-cylinder aircooled engine which gave 180 b.h.p. at 7,000 r.p.m. and took a number of class awards.


From 1960 to 1965 Ferrari were all-powerful in the Le Mans 24 hours race. The cars took first and second places in 1960; first, second and third as well in the next four years.

By 1964, the year of this picture, all Ferrari competition cars were rearengined (though the forward position was retained for road-going cars). Ferrari 3.3 litre 275P cars and 4 litre 330P cars shared the honours at Le Mans that year, first place going to the 275P of Jean Guichet and Nino Vaccarella at 121.5 m.p.h. But the shadow of Ford was looming over them by then.


The Lotus 30 mounted a 4,727 c.c. 350 b.h.p. Ford V8 engine at the rear of a glass fibre body. It made its first appearance in 1964 and Jim Clark won with it at Silverstone and Goodwood, but it was not a great success.


Motorsportfotografie by Vit Schank

After helping to deliver Ford's GT40 baby, Eric Broadley returned to his works at Slough to create more cars bearing the Lola badge. One of the first was the 170 sports car.

The Mark Two version, introduced in 1966, used a Chevrolet 4,990 c.c. V8 engine producing 430 b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m. (though an Aston Martin engine was also used). Driven by John Surtees, Denny Hulme, Frank Gardner, Chris Craft and many others, this car won sports car races all over the world.


Mexico City 1969: McLaren M7A

Bruce McLaren died in June 1970 while testing a Can-Am car at Goodwood. His fellow-countryman Denny Hulme took over as leader of the McLaren team and, despite burned hands suffered in practice for the Indianapolis 500, managed to come fourth in the Drivers' World Championship that year.


Chris Amon (NZ) 1969 Ferrari 312

The first full 3 litre Grand Prix car of 1966 was the Ferrari V12. Initially it had two valves per cylinder, later three valves per cylinder, and the light alloy engine of 2,985 с.c. developed 436 b.h.p. at 11,000 r.p.m.

New Zealander Chris Amon (seen in the picture) was its chief driver but the car's failures became notorious. He left Ferrari at the end of 1969 to join March.


Restored 1968 Australian-built Elfin Formula Vee

Formula Vee originated in the United States in 1963 with the same object as Formula Ford. It requires single-seat cars built from standard Volkswagen parts, including the 1300 c.c. engine, clutch, gearbox and suspension. Many small firms have produced these cars and Helmut Marko is one top driver who graduated from Formula Vee. In 1970 Super Vee was introduced to cater for cars with 1600 c.c. engines.

HONDA 3 litre FORMULA 1 

John Surtees, Honda RA301 at 1968 German GP
Honda embarked on the 3 litre formula in 1966 with a bulky 2,992 c.c. V12 engine developing 420 b.h.p. at 9,500 r.p.m. John Surtees became the chief driver in 1967 and won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza but little else.

In 1968 Honda introduced a lightweight air-cooled V8 engine of 2,987 c.c. giving 430 b.h.p. at 10,500 r.p.m. Jo Schlesser of France drove it at Rouen, but crashed in the rain and died in flames. Honda withdrew from racing at the end of the year and Surtees went to BRM.


Cooper's star had waned after the Formula One championship years of 1959 and 1960. In 1965 the firm became part of the Chipstead Motors group, which imported foreign cars, and as a result, arrangements were made to utilize a 2,989 c.c. Maserati V12 engine for the 1966 3 litre Grand Prix formula. This engine gave some 350 b.h.p. at 9,500 r.p.m. in a monocoque body – the first Cooper utilized, which was designed by Tony Robinson.

John Surtees, Jochen Rindt and Pedro Rodriguez were the drivers, but though the car was reliable it was heavy and slow, and in 1967 a new Maserati engine with three valves per cylinder was adopted. This gave more power, and Rodriguez won the South African Grand Prix, but reliability suffered. In 1968 Cooper switched to a BRM V12 engine, but the car was still uncompetitive and the name faded quietly from the racing scene.

1 comment:

Marcos Balvin said...

I still remember this Cobra model, it is not the best, but it has remained in history en registro publico vehicular

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