This month’s Sunday posts will feature 5 Formula One cars that ran in the 1974 season for which the then 31 year old Le Mans winner Chris Amon decided to follow in the foot steps of Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren by building a car bearing his own name.
It would appear Chris had plans to build both Formula 1 and Formula 5000 cars the latter to race in the lucrative US series with up and coming Australian Larry Perkins; a driver, engineer and sofa surfer who was making his way through the junior ranks in the UK. However despite financial backing from amateur racer John Dalton only the Formula One spec AF101 featured here ever saw the light of day.
Chris commissioned Gordon Fowell to provide him “with a sophisticated chassis” powered by a Ford Corsworth DFV motor driving the rear wheels through a Hewland gearbox. Gordon had designed the attractive, if underpowered, Martini sponsored 1973 Tecno E731 that Chris drove in practice at three meetings in 1973 but had never raced.
The AF101 chassis, fabricated by Thompson who were also responsible for fabricating the Tecno E731 and Ferrari 312 B3, was certainly sophisticated with unique, for the time, central fuel cell that would become deriguer once ground effects were better understood with the introduction of the Lotus 79 in 1978. The car also had titanium torsion bar suspension and inboard front brakes, as did the well proven Lotus 72.
Responsibility for the aerodynamics was handed over to Professor Tom Boyce, and almost every time the car appeared it had a different nose including a high wing when it was first tested, a chisel nose in Spain where it first raced, a shovel at Monaco where the car qualified but did not race and then a lower full width wing was tried when the car failed to qualify in Germany and Italy.
Unfortunately the AF101 proved a little to sophisticated for Chris’s budget, despite Larry Perkins saving a fortune in hotel bills with his sofa surfing skills, the little team folded having clocked just 22 laps in the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix before a brake shaft broke. Looking back on the project Chris conceded that he had attempted to build, what turned out to be a fragile hi tec vehicle on a backyard budget when he might have achieved more with a vehicle that was a little less ambitious and a little more reliable.
Larry Perkins loyalty was rewarded with an attempt at qualifying the Amon in the German Grand Prix after Chris was taken ill, unfortunately the combination of the Nurburgring, a rookie driver and a fragile car proved too much of a challenge for the team.
After out qualifying Ricky von Opel and his works Brabham BT44 in the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix Chris was offered the second works Brabham drive for the rest of 1974, but turned it down out of loyalty to his own employees. Just as in 1973 when Tyrrell stepped in to offer Chris a couple of end of season drives after the demise of the Tecno team, at the end of 1974 BRM stepped in to offer Chris a couple of drives in the wonderful BRM P201, a model I’ll be looking at in a couple of weeks.
Post Italy 1974 the Amon was abandoned, restored and languished in a German Museum before it was restored to running condition in 2005. It is currently owned and raced by Ron Maydon in the Grand Prix Masters Series, Ron is seen driving the AF101 at Silverstone a few years ago.
Thanks for joining me on this Backyard Hi Tec edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be starting a new GALPOT feature “Maserati Monday”. Don’t forget to come back now !