1967 Dan Gurney All American Racers Eagle By John Lamm
No, that isn’t Dan Gurney winning at Spa in 1967. This would be 1921 with Jimmy Murphy taking the winner’s flag at the French Grand Prix in a Duesenberg. This was the only other time an American race car with an American driver has won a European Grand Prix. To say the least, the French were miffed, first toast of the evening wasn’t for Murphy, but third place French driver, Jules Goux.
It was an All-American 9 days in Europe in 1967, with Gurney and A.J. Foyt winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40 MkIV on June 10-11 and Gurney going on to victory in the Belgian Grand Prix on June 18 driving the Eagle.
On lap 21 at Spa, Gurney passed Jackie Stewart--here seen behind the Eagle--for the lead. The American went on to win by more than a minute, setting a Grand Prix record race speed of 145.98 mph and establishing a new race lap record of 3:31.9 on the fast 8.8-mile circuit.
Spa wasn’t the only win for Gurney and his Eagle. In March he won the non-championship Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. That event featured two heat races followed by a main event. Gurney won all three and set the fastest lap. Often at the front of the grid, Gurney was leading the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring and had established a new lap record when, with just two laps to go, a universal joint broke.
Gurney throws a flower from the winner’s bouquet after victory in the Belgian Grand Prix. To his right is the runner up, BRM’s Jackie Stewart, and on his left is Chris Amon, who finished third in a Ferrari.
All American Racers came into being because Goodyear wanted to beat rival Firestone in the Indianapolis 500. The tire company asked Gurney and Carroll Shelby to create an Indy car plus a Formula 1 equivalent to race in Europe. Castrol and Mobil also provided funds, as did many American race fans to sent checks to support the effort. Gurney later bought Shelby out of AAR, which is still in business today. Check in on it at http://allamericanracers.com.
AAR Eagle AAR104, seen here, was different from the other Eagles. While they had an aluminum monocoque, this car’s is made of magnesium. Remember that demonstration in chemistry class when you were shown the flammability of that metal? Gurney was surrounded by it and inside that were the fuel tanks. He is reported to have once said racing AAR104 was like “driving a Ronson cigarette lighter.”
Thanks to the use of exotic materials, the Spa-winning Eagle weighs in at 1192 pounds. The wheelbase is 97 inches. Gurney has written of AAR104, “The car was both light and strong, the magnesium chassis with its titanium exhaust system was as light as any 12-cylinder car. It incorporated the lineage of an Indy car...”
Designer of the AAR Eagle was Englishman Len Terry. He had worked for Colin Chapman at Lotus, creating a number of successful race cars, including Jimmy Clark’s 1965 Indy-winning Lotus 38. Moving to AAR in 1965, Terry designed the Eagles for both Indy and Europe and they have long been considered among the most beautiful of race cars.
This is the view Gurney had when driving the Eagle. Pure analog, of course, and consider how open it is compared to modern day Grand Prix cars in which the drivers are cocooned down in the cockpits. Next time you read of Formula 1 cars possibly getting protective halos for the drivers, think of Gurney and his contemporaries driving out in the open in these surroundings.
Although first raced with Coventry-Climax fours, the Eagles’ purpose-built engine was an Aubrey Woods-designed V-12 made by Weslake Company in Rye, England. The 3-liter, 48-valve 60-degree vee engine was said to have eventually produced more than 400 horsepower...and we can guarantee it has a memorable sound.
Dan Gurney confirms the famous nose shape is, “the vestigial beak of an Eagle,” and was worked by his dad and designer Len Terry.
Suspensions of the Eagles were conventional for the time, with a single upper link and lower wishbone, the front layout having in-board shocks and coil springs.
Why the Eagle name? In 1966, Gurney was quoted in Popular Mechanics magazine, saying, “The eagle has been a symbol of battle all through history. And this is an American racing team that is in battle with the best of the rest of the world.”
On the AAR website, Dan Gurney credits Pete Wilkins with fabricating the titanium exhaust system which he says, “...in terms of its artistic beauty had no equal. It was done by pounding dry sand into the straight tubing, then applying heat and bending it with the sand inside in order to retain the round shape.”
AAR does stand for All American Racers but also Anglo American Racers. That was the English facility in Rye, Kent from which the Eagles were maintained and prepared for the European races.
Some stories have the Eagle being made in England, but the Formula 1 car was designed, constructed and assembled at All American Racers in Santa Ana, California.
The 1968 Italian Grand prix was the Eagle’s last race. Gurney explains on the AAR website, “After that our budget did not allow us to continue our Formula One effort anymore. I took the Eagle out of circulation and closed down our facility in England with a heavy heart, but with the knowledge that we had put the Europeans on notice that we had put an American Grand Prix victory in the history books for all time.”
The Collier Collection is proud to be the home of All American Racers Eagle AAR104, a testament to Dan Gurney’s All American race driver status and his commitment to winning.