In the previous five sections of this series, we looked at the major manufacturers in the Can-Am — the ones who won races. They were the teams that spent large amounts of money and made major commitments to winning the series. But there were other manufacturers who participated in the series who, for whatever reason, didn’t make the commitment, or didn’t spend the money or the time it takes to be a winner in a major racing series. Their vehicles were no less interesting. We will look at those cars in this final chapter on the Can- Am.
British Racing Motors was begun in the 1950s as a Grand Prix racing team. They entered the Can-Am in 1970. The BRM P154 looked like a flattened wedge, a common shape for sports cars at the time. The body was compact, and stable in the wind tunnel, but the car’s handling has been described as “terrifying”. There were several structural failures during the season and BRM’s Chevy engines were not reliable. George Eaton managed to qualify his BRM in the top eight several times but didn’t finish any races. Pedro Rodriguez finished eighth, fifth, and third in the last three races.
A much revised and much better P167 didn’t arrive in 1971 until the final two races of the season. Brian Redman scored a fourth and Howden Ganley a third. BRM’s Can-Am program suffered from the fact that they were a Grand Prix team that was merely dabbling in the Can-Am.
Designed by Ray Caldwell and financed by driver Sam Posey, the Caldwell D7 of 1967 was one of the first race cars to use a “flipper” wing. Instead of being mounted at the rear and transferring downforce to the wheel hubs, it was chassis mounted at the rollbar. It was operated at first by engine oil pressure and later by compressed air controlled by the driver with a knob. Posey never qualified nor finished better than mid-pack with the car. The D7C of 1968, driven at first by Posey and the by Brett Lunger did no better.
The first Ferrari entered in a Can-Am race was the Dino endurance racer of Pedro Rodriguez, which failed to impress anyone in two races in 1966.
In 1967 a P3/4 endurance racer was driven by Lodovico Scarfiotti, and two P4 spyders (open cockpit), based on the P4 endurance coupe, were driven by Jonathon Williams and Chris Amon. The best finish was a seventh by Scarfiotti.
For 1968, Ferrari built their first true Can- Am car, the 612, powered by a 6-liter V12 engine. The 612 had a steel tube space frame chassis with aluminum body. It carried a movable wing above the engine, just behind the driver. There were two trim tabs on the wing and a perforated panel on the nose that raised under braking to act as air brakes. The car was heavy, the brakes were weak, and both handling and aerodynamics were slightly off. The 612 raced only once (by Amon), at the last race of the season in Las Vegas. It was eliminated in a multi-car accident on the first lap. Pedro Rodriguez also ran the year old P4 in two races but finished neither.
In 1969, Ferrari again got Amon’s 612P into the series late, but this time they only missed three races. Although built on the 1968 car’s chassis, the 612P was lighter and horsepower was up to about 650. Late in the season the engine size was increased to 6.9 liters. Amon qualified well, led several laps, and had a second and a third place finish, but usually he was let down by the engine. He was sixth in the season’s final standings. Jim Adams campaigned the 612P (with engine size reduced to 5 liters) in 1970 and 1971 with little success.
In 1971, Ferrari entered a new car, the 712, in only one race. The car was based on Ferrari’s 512S/M coupe endurance racer but with slightly different suspension, a 680-hp 7-liter engine, and wedge shaped body. Mario Andretti qualified the car sixth at Watkins Glen and finished fourth. Jean- Pierre Jarier drove the 712 a few times in 1972 with his best finish being a fourth.
A few men drove 512S and 512M endurance cars in Can-Ams in 1971 and 1972. Their best finish was a fourth by Herbert Mueller in 1971.
While several cars during the history of the Can-Am were powered by Ford engines, only a few were complete cars built with Ford money and support. The first was a GT40 coupe driven by Eppie Weitzes in the 1966 season. His best finish was a sixth at Mosport, Canada.
The second was the Honker II of 1967, designed by Len Bailey (who worked on the Ford GT40 program), built by Alan Mann Racing, and run by Holman Moody (of stockcar racing fame). The car was sleek and streamlined with a long tail and painted a beautiful metallic lavender. It was named after John Holman, who liked to use the air horns on the big-rig trucks he drove. Powered by a 351 cubic inch engine (and later a 377 cubic inch unit) and driven by Mario Andretti, the car should have been a contender, but Mario never liked the car. The shifter had to be moved, and the handling and the brakes were never right. The car only qualified for two races, failing to start one and failing to finish the other. Mario hated the car so much that he once quipped to car sponsor actor Paul Newman that he’d trade places with him — put Mario’s name of the car and let Paul drive. Quite possibly the prettiest Can- Am racer ever, though.
Another Ford project started in 1967 was the G7A. It was based on the Ford J-car chassis which was similar to their Le Mans winning GT40 MkIV. It was to have all sorts of techno-goodies on it but they never came to pass. It was later sold to veteran race mechanics Charlie and Kerry Agapiou. It was raced three times in 1969, driven by John Cannon, George Follmer, and then Jack Brabham. It failed to finish all three races.
Jack Brabham got to drive a second Ford in 1969, the Alan Mann “Open Sports Ford”. He finished third in its one outing at what is now Texas World Speedway. Frank Gardner also did one race in this car but the car did not finish the race.
March was formed in 1969 to go Grand Prix racing. This it did. It also, belatedly, went Can-Am racing in 1970 with the STP sponsored, Chevy powered 707 racer. While simple in design, it was rather unusual looking. The front of the car looked a lot like the front of the March 701 Grand Prix car, with its twin adjustable canards. This made the 707 look a little like a hammerhead shark. It was low-slung and several inches wider than the typical Can-Am racer. It was also a couple of hundred pounds overweight. Chris Amon drove the car three times, finishing fifth once and fourth twice. Designer Robin Herd looked at 1970 as a warm-up to a major effort in 1971. Alas, there was no factory effort in 1971. Gordon Dewar drove the 707 in the 1971 Can-Am, but with no success.
Bob McKee built cars that were run in the Can-Am from 1966 through 1969. The most famous one was named the Cro-Sal Special. Raced in 1969, it had a turbocharged Oldsmobile engine — the first turbocharged engine in the Can-Am. A second version had a flip-up airbrake mounted on top of the engine’s air induction plenum. Joe Leonard finished eighth at St. Jovite in the Cro-Sal Special. A 4-wheel drive version of this car appeared for one race, but failed to qualify.
Other manufacturers that built cars for the Can-Am were Burnett, Cooper, Genie, Lotus, Mac-It, Matich, Merlyn, and Mirage. And there are yet others (mostly in the early years of the Can-Am). Some were built in some quantity in factories while others were one-offs built by a single person. None were successful nor played a significant enough part in the Can-Am to be mentioned here.