Bell bottoms, big tires – F1 in the early 1970s

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As a child of the Seventies, I’m still fascinated by F1 cars of the early part of the decade. Cars like the 1973 McLaren M23 (above and below), decked out in Yardley’s classic livery or Chesterfield branding (in red, below).

Elf brought French blue to the 1970 March 701 (third below), which Tyrrell raced briefly while the team set out to build its first car (in secret!). Like a lot of you, I first heard Jackie Stewart’s voice on ABC’s broadcast of the Indy 500. My respect for Jackie led to an abiding love for Tyrrell and his non-corporate approach to F1.

The 1970 Ferrari 312 (bottom) was fast, with three wins in the hands of Jacky Ickx, but it couldn’t take the title from Lotus. All of these cars were designed at the dawn of the “aero” era, and they don’t look as if they were designed by a computer based on wind tunnel metrics. Think of bell bottoms, Ray Bans, fat rear tires, and wide-open racing. And the drivers: three-time world champion Stewart, six-time Le Mans winner Ickx, and the dashing, doomed Revson.

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Tyrell 007 as driven by Jody Scheckter:

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Aussie Rules: Brabham

A 1966 Brabham BT18, F2. (Photo: S. Bloom)

A 1966 Brabham BT18, F2.

The Australian GP immediately brings to mind Sir Jack Brabham, a three-time F1 driver’s champion and a world-class car constructor in his own right. “Black” Jack wasn’t content winning the F1 driver’s championship in someone else’s car, so he formed Motor Racing Developments with designer Ron Tauranac. Together, they built some of the world’s best open wheel race cars in the late Sixties and early Seventies.  If you wanted a competitive, off-the-shelf racer, Brabham was your ticket.  Brabham won another title as a driver/owner in 1966, and Denny Hulme won the championship for Brabham the following year.

Brabham built cars for F1, F2, Formula Ford and sports car racing.  The team was later sold to Tauranac and Jack retired from both sport and business. Most of the cars are raced competitively today, sturdy and accessible grand prix cars for weekend racers. You can see them in action at the Classic Sports Racing Group Opener, at Sonoma on April 4-6. They sound spectacular and look fantastic.

1971 Brabham BT35, F2 (Photo: S. Bloom)

1971 Brabham BT35, F2 

1965 Brabham BT18, F2 (Photo: S. Bloom)

1965 Brabham BT18, F2 

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Orange is the new black

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A few years ago, McLaren tested an orange F1 car, a reminder of the great days when Bruce McLaren owned the team and orange cars dominated F1 and Can-Am.  The retro livery was enormously popular but has never returned.  Today, McLaren is far better known for its silver-foil wrapped car, but orange has its fans.  Especially when it’s a striking 1970 McLaren M14.

Orange, they say, is the new black.  Perhaps it’s the bright burst of color that draws the eye towards an orange car, or maybe it’s just the sheer boldness of an orange race car.  Whatever it is, there’s never enough of it.

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