Having developed a passion for engineering through his interest in model aeroplanes Lancastrian Derek Bennett took an apprenticeship in mechanical and electrical engineering to become a mechanic, during this time he was exposed to (British) Stock Car racing.
It was not long before Derek graduated into building, maintaining and racing vehicles in the British Clubmans series for small Ford powered vehicles and into Formula Junior.
In 1965 demand for copies of his Clubmans racer led Derek to establish Chevron cars assisted by mechanic Paul Owen based in a former mill in Bolton, well away from the regular stomping ground for racing car manufactured that with few excetions could be found in the arc from Southwest London, round Brooklands and Heathrow Airport to the East and Silverstone to the North.
In 1966 Chevron branched out into building a successful series of up to 2 litre / 122 cui sports cars and in 1967 the company expanded to build it’s first 2nd and 3rd tier open wheelers for Formula 2 and Formula 3.
In 1972 Chevron built it’s first over 2 litre 122 cui open wheeler the 5 litre / 302 cui stock block Chevrolet V8 powered Formula 5000 Chevron B24 which Lancastrian Brian Redman drove in four races, claiming one victory at Oulton Park driving the B24 having won the previous race at Mondello Park a month earlier in a McLaren M10.
Today’s featured car #B24-73-02 was the second built in 1973, third overall from 8 built according to factory records, though as usual this does not tell the whole story, but I’ll be spare you that particular diversion here.
#B24-73-02 appears to have been entered on three occasions carrying the #32 in British races as a factory entered car for Peter Gethin. The first two races held on consecutive days were at Brands Hatch where Peter won the Rothmans Formula 5000 championship round on the cars debut.
The next day the weekends feature event, The Race Of Champions, was a race for contemporary Formula 5000 cars and Formula One cars including entries from Lotus, BRM and McLaren all of whom had won championship Formula One events in the previous 12 months.
Starting 8th on the grid Peter managed to steer his Formula 5000 stock block Chevron to an unlikely victory as his faster Formula One rivals fell by the way side to hold off Denny Hulme in the latest McLaren Cosworth M23 and formula one debutant James Hunt in an ancient Surtees TS9.
There is a myth that this was the only occasion in which a Formula 5000 car beat a Formula One car in such a non championship challenge race, this is not quite true there was a long forgotten event called the 1969 the Madrid Grand Prix at Jarama in which Tony Dean driving BRM #P2615 powered by a V12 BRM was beaten by Keith Holland driving an F5000 Lola T142 and Peter Gethin driving an F5000 MacLaren M10A, but the field at Brands in 1973 was certainly more contemporary and competitive.
Chevron then entered Peter for one more British F5000 race at Mallory Park where Peter finished forth before the car was sold to Douglas Shierson Racing who entered the car carrying the same Marathon sponsorship for Peter in the US L&M series now running the #8 race number.
The B24 did not prove quite so competitive in the 1973 US series where only championship protagonists Brian Redman driving a Lola T330 and Jody Scheckter a Trojan T101 found victory lane. Peters best result came at Lagunna Seca where finished second.
After 1973 #B24-73-02 remained in the USA where, Roger Bighouse 1974 /1975, Pat McGonegle 1976 continued to enter the car in open wheel F5000 events. For 1977 Pat McGonegle converted the car to closed wheel CAN Am 2 spec, scoring a best 6th place finish at Road America in ’77 driving #B24-73-02 which Pat raced until the end of 1978.
Danny Johnson was the next owner and he raced #B24-73-02 sporadically between 1978 and 1982 scoring a best 5th place at Edmonton in 1981.
Similarly intermittently Mike Engstrand drove #B24-73-02 from 1985 to 1987 scoring a best 4th place finish in the cars last in period appearance in the 1987 Canadian American Thundercars Pueblo event.
#B24-73-02 now belongs to Greg Thornton. In 2012 the car caught fire and was badly damaged and it is seen here at Oulton Park after it’s rebuild from the fire damaged remains.
Thanks for joining me on this “Giant Killer” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l more psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for a look at a another Italian vehicle once owned by John Lennon. Don’t forget to come back now !