The postwar renaissance in American road racing has,
this year, reached its loftiest plateau. Not since Jimmy Murphy went to Le Mans
way back in 1921 and won the French Grand Prix with a Duesenberg has this
country scored so notably in the sport. The U.S. at last has the world champion
driver; we now seem to be on the verge of another great stride forward—toward a
time in which we will have internationally important road-racing cars as well
Not only are more international drivers performing
before larger audiences in the U.S. (the third U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen,
N.Y. was the first to make money; recent sports car races at Riverside and
Laguna Seca drew 70,000 and 62,500 spectators) but also plans are afoot to
bring the U.S. more vigorously into the sport with a new kind of Grand Prix
car. There is today an Intercontinental formula, but racing under it is all but
dead. The U.S. has proposed to the International Automobile Federation (FIA) a
new Intercontinental rule. This retains a provision for single-seat racers with
"racing" (i.e., special overhead camshaft) engines up to 3-liter piston
displacement but now admits stock engines up to 5 liters.
The stock-engine feature is what intrigues Americans.
We produce few racing engines. Prospects are infinitely remote for an American
engine built to the tiny, 1�-liter maximum size of the present Formula I cars,
in which the world championship is contested.
But we have an abundance of good, cheap, readily
available stock engines. Thus, under the new IC formula American builders can
compete at a fraction of the stupendous cost to be faced when a new racing
engine is created.
Society sportsman Lance Reventlow was the one American
to build to Formula I and the old IC. He spent a fortune and gained little but
experience. But now his technicians are at work on three stock-engined IC cars.
Believing it unnecessary to go all the way to 5 liters, they are souping up
lightweight aluminum 3.5-liter Buick Special V-8s for power units. The
prototype, says Manager Warren Olson, will be completed in a matter of weeks.
"Everybody wants the formula," he says. "I think it will catch on
Even if the FIA rejects the formula at a meeting next
Monday in London (it seems unlikely), the United States Auto Club is prepared
to back it as a national road-racing rule. Consequently, our virtually total
dependence upon Europe for important road-racing cars is coming to an end.
Chances are good, too, that the US AC will, at a
January meeting, reduce the engine ceiling for the Indianapolis "500"
from 4.2 to 3 liters for 1964 and afterward. This would mean that our top
track-racing cars would in effect be IC cars. If equipped for road racing their
usability would be vastly increased. IC cars with racing engines would be
eligible for a 3-liter Indy race, and if stock engines should be admitted to
the "500," then the whole broad range of IC cars could give that
historic race the variety it now so sadly lacks—always presuming that IC will
generate a diversity of new racers here and abroad. Friends of racing fervently
hope it will.