Tag Archives: AMC

Spoiler Homologation Special – AMC Javelin SST Mark Donohue Edition

The AMC Javelin was AMC’s iron in the Pony Car fire to compete against the Mustang, Cougar, Camaro, Firebird and the last entries into the Pony market segment the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Barracuda on offer from the big three in Detroit, it was styled and developed by Richard A Teague and launched in 1968.

AMC Javelin SST Mark Donohue, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

Short of resources the Javelin was developed from the 1966 AMX and AMX II concept cars and only offered with the two door semi fast back body style powered by one of three engine options all of which could be specified to burn either regular octane or premium octane fuel.

02AMC Javelin SST Mark Donohue_8516sc

Despite not having a competition department, any technical support, performance parts or even a test facility of any kind AMC approached Ron Kaplan and Jim Jeffords of Kaplan Engineering to run two Javelins in the SCCA Trans Am series, in 1968.

AMC Javelin SST Mark Donohue, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

The team with drivers George Follmer and Peter Revson who got replaced half way through the season by Lothar Motschenbacher finished a commendable 3rd with an enviable record for getting their cars to the finish.

AMC Javelin SST Mark Donohue, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

Kaplan ran the team again in 1969 with Ron Grable and John Martin who like Revson was replaced mid season by Jerry Grant, things between AMC were not so smooth second time round which was compounded by budget cuts that saw Kaplan take all of AMC’s inventory from their workshop to AMC’s zone office in El Segundo, California at the end of the season.

AMC Javelin SST Mark Donohue, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

AMC did a deal with Roger Penske for the 1970 season who with the aid of Mark Donohue picked up the pieces and developed them in Pennsylvania into a more competitive package.

AMC Javelin SST Mark Donohue, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

In order to run with the duck tail spoiler Mark had developed for the Trans Am race programme AMC built 2,501 Javelin SST Mark Donohue Editions that included the spoiler, a 5.9 litre / 360 cui motor and a variety of other options that makes these cars easy to replicate and difficult to verify in the absence of a specific vehicle identification code.

AMC Javelin SST Mark Donohue, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

Mark was joined by Peter Revson and the team finished 2nd to Bud Moore’s Ford team in the 1970 Championship, before going on to win both the 1971 and ’72 Trans Am championships with the second generation Javelin.

AMC Javelin SST Mark Donohue, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

Today’s featured 1970 Mark Donohue edition belongs to Klass Van Dijk who was so impressed with a 1974 AMC Gremlin he bought in the 1990’s that he founded the Rambler AMC Museum in Berlikum, Holland which now houses more than 50 AMC’s, a small collection of Chevrolet Corvair’s of the type his father drove and an eclectic mix of other vehicles.

Thanks for joining me on this “Spoiler Homologation Special” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t for get to come back now !


Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

A couple of weeks ago Geoffrey Horton visited the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and kindly sent me today’s photographs to share.

Hall Scott The Four, Rolex Monterey Reunion, Laguna Seca

The Hall Scott Four was built in San Francisco for the 1917 Vanderbuilt Cup it used an Reo Model M frame and was powered by a 110 hp Hall Scott aircraft 9.9 litre 605 cc motor that produces the same torque as a modern day Chrysler V10 Viper motor. This car was reconstructed for Dick Deluna by Tom Batchelor in Reno Nevada and Denis Webb in Anaheim California amongst many others.

McCabe, Bugatti, Type 59, Rolex Monterey Reunion, Laguna Seca

Charles McAbe is seen warming up his 1934 Bugatti Type 59 with it’s distinctive wire and alloy wheels.

Chevrolet Corvette C1, Rolex Monterey Reunion, Laguna Seca

Looking particularly purposeful in black above is Bob Patterson’s 1957 second generation Chevrolet Corvette C1, a very successful sports car and racer in it’s day that sold with the strap line “FI = 1 H.P. per CU. IN. x 283″.

Knoop, Echidna, Rolex Monterey Reunion, Laguna Seca

John Staver, Ed Grierson and Bill Larson based their Echidna race cars on highly modified Corvette frames and mechanical running gear. The cars clothed in bodywork by by Bill Devlin won 8 races outright from 35 races and took 17 class victories. The Bob Hardison’s 1959 example seen here is driven by IMSA Endurance racer Rick Knoop.

Kurtis KK500-H, Rolex Monterey Reunion, Laguna Seca

Frank Kurtis built just one new car for the 1958 Indy 500 the Kurtis KK500-H seen above which featured novel, for the period at Indy, independent rear suspension. It’s best finish was 7th with Duane Carter at the wheel in 1959, running with a more conventional tub rear axle installed by new owner Smokey Yunnick.

Arcerio, Lister, Rolex Monterey Reunion, Laguna Seca

Al Arcerio is seen at the wheel of his 1958 Knobbly Lister above.

Scarab, Mk 1, Rolex Monterey Reunion, Laguna Seca

After seeing first hand the apparent chaos that ruled in the factories of several top European racing car manufacturers Lance Reventlow returned to the United States determined that he could do far better. The first product of his determination was the 1958 Scarab Mk 1 with which Lance won 9 races in 1958. Only two Mk 1’s were built, I believe the example above, owned by Rob Walton, is the first of the two.

Ferrari 250 GT SWB, Rolex Monterey Reunion, Laguna Seca

The Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione chassis #2701 GT was crashed on it’s debut at the Le Mans test weekend after setting the 6th fastest time, fastest in class, in 1961. It was rebuilt and bought for a paltry DM 6,000 in February 1967 by Egon Hofer who won his class with it in a couple of hillclimbs before tackling the Taga Florio with Anatoly Arutunoff where carrying the #74 it failed to finish. Ned Spieker has owned the car since 2004.

American Motors AMX, Rolex Monterey Reunion, Laguna Seca

Dwight Matheson’s 1969 AMC AMX is seen above in the Bruce Morehead Racing colours as raced by Bruce in 1970 in the Sebring 12 hour race where the car failed to finish. Bruce is known to have scored at least one class victory in an SCCA regional race run at Sebastian towards the end of 1970.

My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for sharing today’s photos, please spare a thought for him last I heard the the Rim Fire was causing Geoffrey and his neighbours some concern.

Thanks for joining me on this “Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !

PS Thoughts and opinions on the weekends Belgian Grand Prix can be found here at Motorsports Unplugged.


Balena Close, Poole, Dorset – Penske PC1 #001

After he had finished fabricating the Len Terry designed Eagle monocoques for All American Racers (AAR) in California, John Lambert returned to the Untied Kingdom and started a new business which was located on a small industrial estate outside Poole in Dorset where the rent was cheap. When Len Terry fell out with Frank Nichols they wound up Transatlantic Automotive Consultants based in Hastings where they had designed the AAR Eagle and Terry went to join Lambert, with whom he had worked at Lotus and AAR, in Poole starting a new business together called Design Auto.

In 1969 Len Terry started to design a series of stock block Formula 5000 open wheel cars called Leda’s, John Lambert looked after the construction of them in a facility off Balena Close on the Creekmore Industrial Estate on the outskirts of Poole, Dorset. When Leda Cars ran into financial difficulty they merged into the Malaya Garage Group in 1970. Three years later Malaya Garage Group did a deal with New Zealand racer Graham McRae selling the Leda Cars premises “lock, stock and barrel” with the cars manufactured now rebranded as McRae’s.

At around this time Roger “The Captain” Penske and Mark “Captain Nice” Donohue were experiencing many successes on the US racing scene which included three Trans Am championships, then only for manufacturers, driving the Captains Chevrolet Camaro in 1969 and AMC Javelins in 1970 and ’71.

In 1972 Mark won the Indy 500 in Roger Penske’s McLaren M16 and at the end of the year drove Penske’s McLaren M19 in the Canadian and US Grand Prix finishing a more than credible 3rd in his debut Grand Prix. The following year Mark and Roger won the Can Am championship with the “Turbo Panzer” Porsche 917/30. Having achieved pretty much everything in the US, including a NASCAR Winston Cup win at Riverside driving a Penske AMC Matador to become the last ‘road ringer’ to win a non oval race in that series back in 1973 Mark announced he would hang up his helmet at the end of the season.

Roger Penske made plans for a Formula One team in 1974 and sent Heinz Hofer to look at Graham McRae’s ‘low profile’ premises on the Creekmore Industrial Estate in Poole, Dorset UK as a possible base and concluded a deal for the premises. The Ford Cosworth DFV powered Penske PC1 was built to a design by Geoff Ferris and Mark Donohue was persuaded to come out of retirement to drive the car on it’s debut in the 1974 Canadian Grand Prix where he qualified 24th and finished 12th 2 laps down.

Penske Ford PC1, US Grand Prix, Watkins Glen

At the US Grand Prix, where Mark Donohue and Roger Penske fan, Brian Brown took today’s photograph of Mark in the PC1 at Watkins Glen the car started 14th on the grid, but retired after 27 laps with rear suspension problems. Brian recalls his first visit to a Grand Prix thus :-

“I was of course very excited to be seeing Mark race again, but being that it was my first live Formula One event, I was equally excited to be seeing Mario’s effort with Vel’s Parnelli Jones and the rest of the grid in person. We owned a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona and a 246 GT Dino at the time, so were very supportive of the Ferrari effort too.

My brother, friends and I spent a great deal of down time in the Kendall Garage watching the teams go about their business of working on the cars. One thing that was apparent was the absolutely professional presentation of the Penske team. Everything was spotless, just like their successful Indy Car counterpart that I’d observed in person since 1969 at Indianapolis. I was then, as now, a huge fan of Mark Donohue and Team Penske, but that aside, I always felt that they had too many positive resources not to be successful in Formula One.

I knew racing well enough to understand how tall the task Mark and the Penske team had ahead of them, but I also had the highest faith in their collective talents that I felt, given time, they would come right. I look back now and remember how I’d call in to our local ABC news tv affiliate to get the results of the races in 1975, always asking about the top six finishers along with Mark and Mario’s results.

Then came Austria and it was over for Mark and eventually Penske stopped the project – I was always appreciative that they carried on to get the victory with John Watson in Austria a year after Mark’s accident, something of a vindication for the mighty challenges that Team Penske faced in their Formula One foray. Watkins Glen 1974 was the last I ever saw Mark in person and despite the nearly 40 years that have passed, it seems like yesterday.”

Penske ended up building 3 chassis to the PC1 design chassis #001 seen here achieved a best 5th place finish, from 16th on the grid in the 1975 Swedish Grand Prix. Three races later Penske ditched the PC1 in favour of a March 751 which was raced until a new challenger until the new Penske PC3 was ready. As Brian alluded to above Mark Donohue was killed during practice for the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix after a tyre deflated pitching him off the track in to an accident which killed a marshal. Although Mark initially survived the incident he died the next day from a cerebral hemorrhage.

The debut of the Penske PC3 was delayed until the 1975 US Grand Prix where John Watson drove it in practice. Due to a misfire with the motor in the new car the team elected to wheel out today’s featured chassis one more time, John qualified 12th, finishing the race in 9th.

The following season Penske entered John in the PC3 and later PC4 models. With the latter the team won the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix, despite this success The Captain closed the Formula One program down at the end of 1976, deciding his future lay in the US racing seen where he would become the dominant force in Indy Car racing, with many of his winning cars being built in Poole, Dorset. Penske maintained facilities in Poole Dorset up until 2006. When the factory was closed one employee, Ivor, remained who had been part of the story going back to the Leda days, through the McRae years and into the Penske era.

In 2012 Brad Keslowski won his first NASCAR Championship driving a Penske entered Dodge a hitherto elusive goal on ‘The Captains’ to do list.

My thanks to Brian ‘ B² ‘ Brown for kindly agreeing to share his photograph; to kayemod, Nigel Beresford, Tim Murray, Tony Matthews, Dogearred and Doug Nye at The Nostalgia Forum for their help in piecing together the story behind Roger Penske’s presence in Poole, Dorset and a tenuous connection in the form of Lambert & Terry and their Leda Cars premises between the AAR Eagle and Penske Formula One efforts.

Thanks for joining me on this “Balena Close, Poole, Dorset” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !

PS Shortly before this blog was posted some confusion has come to light about which buildings in Poole Penske and McRae occupied and when, local resident kayemod and Nigel Beresford who worked for Penske have confirmed that Penske took over the Balena premises from McRae, while artist Tony Matthews is sure he visited a second facility a couple of miles away on Factory Road to do cutaway drawings for McRae and Penske is not so sure the Balena Close address is correct. If any further developments come forth I shall post them below, and if you know the answer to the riddle please do not hesitate to chime in.

PPS Nigel Beresford has kindly confirmed with another former Penske employee Nick Goozée that the Balena Close facility is the only one Penske purchased from Graham McRae. My thanks to Nigel and Nick for settling the matter so promptly.


Balena Close, Poole, Dorset

Kayemod Rob from the Nostalgia Forum has kindly sent me this photo showing “how that corner of Balena Close looks today, the small unit to the right is the original Penske UK base, formerly McRae Cars. The three parked cars more or less cover the width of the premises. The ‘Elegance’ unit to the left of Penske was once FKS Fibreglass, later Griffin Design. My ex-Specialised Mouldings chum stylist Jim Clark worked at FKS, and as well as Penske’s stuff, they also did almost everything for the Gulf GT40s and Mirages among others, their unit extended leftwards to fill the corner of the block. Penske later rented an identical unit to the right of the pic, which doubled their floor area, after some of the dividing wall was removed, they used to run their F1 operation out of that.”

Thanks Rob.


007 @ Beaulieu – Bond In Motion

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Beaulieu opening as a visitor attraction, 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise and 40th anniversary of the National Motor Museum “Bond in Motion” is an exhibition of 50 vehicles from the James Bond franchise films at Beaulieu National Motor Museum which I visited last month. Here are seven of my favourites from the exhibition.

Aston Martin DB5, Goldfinger, Bond In Motion, Beaulieu

The first Bond car I can remember was the Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger which featured swivelling number plates for overseas duty, a passenger ejector seat for unwelcome guests, forward machine guns, rear bulletproof shield, smoke screen and oil slick dispensed from the rear light clusters, evil tyre scythe in the rear hubs for puncturing enemy tyres, radio telephone and a Sony route finder with which to track enemy movements. Despite the usefulness of all these gadgets the car came to a sad end crashing into a wall of a factory belonging to Bond’s foe Mr Goldfinger. The special effects won Goldfinger an Oscar in 1965.

Mercury Cougar XR7, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond In Motion, Beaulieu

George Lazenby replaced the quintessential Sean Connery in the role of Bond in “On Her Majesties Secret Service” after a ski chase Bond jumps into a car driven by his amour Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo played by Diana Rigg who drives the Mercury XR7 through the gates of an ice racing event in her attempt to get away from Blofeld and his henchmen. This is the film in which James Bond finally get’s hitched, though not without a tragic ending.

AMC Hornet, The Man With The Golden Gun, Bond In Motion, Beaulieu

Roger Moore took over the role of Bond after a final reprise by Connery in “Moonraker”. The debonair Moore’s first appearance in the role of Bond was in “Live and Let Die” which featured numerous boat chases. Moore’s second Bond role was in “The Man With The Golden Gun” in which Bond commandeers an AMC Hornet from an AMC showroom in Bankok and with Sherrif J.W.Pepper in the passenger seat the car executes a 360 barrel role over a sunken bridge. This is said to be the first ever stunt to be calculated with the aid of computer modelling and was performed in a single eight camera take by the uncredited stunt man “Bumps” Willard.

Lotus Esprit, Wet Nellie, The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond In Motion, Beaulieu

Secret Service Quartermaster ‘Q’ issues Commander Bond, still played by Roger Moore, with a Lotus Esprit for the film “The Spy Who Loved Me“. The Esprit, known as ‘Wet Nellie’, is equipped with a surface to air missile, torpedoes, cement sprayer, rear mounted ink jet, mine launcher, periscope and is convertible for submersible amphibious operations.

Aston Martin V8 Volante, The Living Daylights, Bond In Motion, Beaulieu

Moving forward a decade to 1987 and the fifteenth Bond film saw Timothy Dalton take over the role of Bond in “The Living Daylights“. His Aston Martin V8 Volante is equipped with optional extra twin heat seeking missiles, jet booster engine, ice tyres and retractable ski’s which come in handy during a getaway sequence in Bratislava.

BMW 750iL, Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond In Motion, Beaulieu

Tomorrow Never Dies” released in 1997 saw Pierce Brosnan playing the role of Bond for the second time. By now Bond drives a somewhat unlikely bullet and fire proof BMW 750iL which is armed with high voltage security system, missiles mounted in the sunroof, grenades, wire cutting bonnet badge and conventional, for Bond, smoke and tear gas jets and can be controlled remotely from a cell phone. The car comes to a premature end in an Avis showroom.

BMW Z8, The World Is Not Enough, Bond In Motion, Beaulieu

Th final car in this brief overview of the Bond in Motion exhibition at Beaulieu National Motor Museum is the BMW Z8 which featured in the 1999 release “The World Is Not Enough“. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond features remote control pads in the ignition key, bullet proof windscreen and radar guided Stinger missiles “AND six beverage cup holders”. The car meets it’s match in the form of a helicopter rotor blade which slices the car in half.

Thanks for joining me on this “007 @ Beaulieu” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be revisiting Queens Square for Coffee & Croissant with the Avenue Drivers Club. Don’t forget to come back now !


Standard Air Conditioned Rambler – AMC Ambassador SST Sedan

The AMC Ambassador, also known as the Kenosha Cadillac after the town in Wisconsin in which it was built, went through eight generations of development between 1958 to 1974. Marketed up to the third generation as the Ambassador by Rambler the model was marketed as the Rambler Ambassador under the direction of George Romney, Chairman and President of AMC in 1962.

AMC Ambassador SST

When George became 43rd Governor of Michigan in 1963, Roy Abernethy took over at AMC and convinced the board at AMC to phase the Rambler name out starting 1966 in what subsequently proved to be an ill conceived decision.

AMC Ambassador SST

By 1968 the Ambassador was in the second phase of the sixth generation and a new for ’68 SST trim line was made available in which air conditioning was standard with a ‘delete option’ putting the Rambler ahead of Cadillac and Lincoln and on a par with the likes of Rolls Royce in the air conditioning (A/C) stakes.

AMC Ambassador SST

A 1968 Ambassabor is easy to spot by the federally mandated wing / fender mounted marker lights, the body coloured headlight bezels and flush mounted paddle operated door handles.

AMC Ambassador SST

Along with the A/C the luxurious SST package, which was available with a Sedan or Hard Top Coupé body, came with individually reclining front seats, federally mandated seat belts, wood look interior trim, an electric clock and buzzer to warn occupants if the headlights were left on.

AMC Ambassador SST

The 280 hp 343 cui / 5.6 litre V8 with 4 barrel carburetor was introduced in 1967 for 1968 this was topped by a 315 hp 390 cui / 6.4 litre motor with smaller 232 cui / 3.8 litre straight 6 and 290 cui 4.8 litre V8 motors also available.

AMC Ambassador SST

From the rear the ’68 Ambassador is distinguished by the horizontally divided tail lights, recessed into body coloured bezels like those at the front.

AMC Ambassador SST

Despite a new advertising campaign which broke with convention of not attacking the competition, while overall AMC sales went up, Ambassador sales fell by 13% in 1968 and the Rambler name was phased out of the Ambassador by the end of the ’68 model year and out of all US market AMC products in 1970.

Thanks for joining me on this ‘Standard Air Conditioned Rambler’ edition of ‘Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres’, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !