November 2006 Club Night – Can-Am Night
Guest Speakers David Franklin and Ted Williams
The November club night was Can-Am themed, and was a celebration of the era of unlimited sports racing cars, huge, powerful engines, and a blank sheet for innovation. Some of the world’s best drivers comprised the 9 earth shaking years of the original Canadian – American Challenge Cup.
We were honoured to have with us two old friends, who both have a wealth of experience and tales to tell of driving over the last 20 plus years some of the finest examples of Can-Am machinery - David Franklin and Ted Williams.
Martin Emsley acted as host for the evening and got things underway with an Introduction – adapted from a piece written by Tony Beale in the book – Can-Am Racing. Reproduced below Martins introduction gave an excellent feel for what the Can-Am series was all about.
If ever a motor racing championship series could be said to have captured the spirit of an era, then the Can-Am was a true ‘child of the sixties’. It was a time of liberation and upheaval throughout society, with an ‘anything goes’ attitude and an emphasis on enjoying everyday life to the full. The Can-Am embraced all those philosophies and produced a legendary form of pure motorsport that will surely never be repeated, especially in the more excessively regulated 21st century – it was a fantastic free-for-all on four wheels.
The Can–Am came to represent a new motor racing ultimate in performance, innovation and excitement. The rulebook was remarkably thin, with basically few restrictions apart from the safety requirements of the day. There was no minimum weight limit; engines could be of any size, tyres of any width and vehicle construction materials left to the imagination of the designer.
Big block Chevrolet V8s mixed it with the largest displacement Ferrari V-12 ever produced and flat 12 Porsche turbos in a storm of raw horsepower. Space age features rubbed shoulders with good, old fashioned, backyard special building techniques, cars sprouted huge sprint car style wings and even motorised fans to enhance down force as what started out as racing sports cars evolved into outrageous machines that went faster than anyone had thought possible. Of course, the idea of producing a hybred sports car racer by putting an American V8 into a lightweight home-built or European chassis had been around for many years before Can-Am.
The Can-Am championship in its prime lasted for only nine short years, between 1966 and 1974, the cars and drivers that took part were some of the best around and have since become legends; Denny Hulme (The most successful Can-Am driver), John Surtees, Bruce Mclaren, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, Jackie Oliver, Mark Donohue and many others; plus classic race cars from Mclaren, Lola, Shadow, Ferrari, Porsche and Jim Hall’s never-to-be-forgotten Chaparrals.
While the racing itself could sometimes be rather processional, the awesome sight and sound of a pack of Can-Am cars hurtling through a corner was enough of a spectacle to thrill the many thousands of spectators who flocked to the tracks across North America.
Can-Am was a glorious adventure and one that couldn’t last, but as long as cars are raced it will be remembered as an intoxicating period when motorsport was free-spirited and FUN.
We then had a short film clip of the cars in action from the 1969 season.
David and Ted then went onto to describe their experiences of competing in different Can-Am Cars and told us how they started off with Ted purchasing a March 707, and David a Mclaren M6B. We were told how this involved trips to the US to track down the cars. David and Ted then told us about their exploits in the 1980’s historic racing series in the cars. David went on to tell us about his exploits in the huge Ferrari 712 and Ted, told us about the Mclaren M8E and Lola T160.
We then had a question and answer session with many excellent questions coming from the audience, following the formal session Ted and David kindly spent some time socialising with club members and guests, and everyone ended up staying much later than intended. There was also an excellent display of exhibits to look at, brought along by both our speakers and club members.
Our thanks go to our speakers Ted Williams and David Franklin, as well as to Martin Emsley who organised and hosted the evening.
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