One of the things my friends have to tolerate about me is my total, lifelong, love affair with Formula 1. The cars, the technology, the competition, the glamor and excitement of Formula 1 grabbed me when I was a teenager and hasn't let go since. While most of my childhood friends had heroes named Petty and Pearson and Yarborough, my heroes were named Moss and Fangio, Ascari and Clark, Hill and Gurney.
So, this post is dedicated to an All-American hero, Dan Gurney, and his 1967 Eagle II F1 race car, the only American built F1 car ever to have won a Formula 1 race. Coincidentally, it just happens to also be one of the most beautiful race cars ever produced. 1967 was the last year that totally mechanical F1 cars were made, for after '67, F1 cars, and eventually all race cars, would have aerodynamic wings attached to them and ground effects soon became the single most important aspect of a car's performance.
Here is my homage to the '67 Eagle.
|My rendering of the Eagle II from a photo I took at the Amelia Island Concours de Elegance in 2002.|
|The Titanium Eagle at The Dutch Grand Prix in '67. Gurney qualified on the front row and ran at the front of the field but had to retire due to mechanical problems.|
|Gurney and team take a victory lap at Bands Hatch, site of the '67 British Grand Prix.|
If I could choose any car to drive before I die, it would be a toss-up between two '67 Formula 1 cars, the Gurney Eagle, or Colin Chapman's wonderful Lotus 49, in which Jim Clark won two world championships.
Of course, Dan Gurney is an international racing legend and the first driver ever to win races in Formula 1, NASCAR, Indy Cars, and Sports Cars. What makes this feat even more significant is that it was done at a time when one out of four race drivers lost their lives in competition. It was Gurney's spontaneous celebration of spraying the crowd with champagne after winning the '67 24 Hours of Le Mans that began the podium tradition that continues to this day.
To give you a little idea of just how fast and dangerous these cars and the courses they ran were, here is a clip from the best computer racing simulator ever created, Grad Prix Legends. It's based on the '67 F1 season and was uncannily accurate, devilishly difficult, and the first racing simulator that allowed you to play online against fans from all over the world. This clip is from Spa Francorchamps, the Belgian GP, which was Gurney's first win. It features an Eagle II and a Ferrari. Great fun.