Me and My ASP Formula Vee. Part 1

Eric Dean—who’s magnificent Merlyn Formula Ford restoration remains one of the most popular posts here on The Chicane—is nearly finished with the restoration of his first racing car: A 1968 ASP MKIII Formula Vee. It must have him feeling nostalgic because he’s finally relented in my frequent pleas that he start writing about his racing in Formulas Ford and Vee, and his restorations. This is the first part of a series he’s begun on his relationship with this racing car and her subsequent restoration. I’ll see the car in person at the end of the month and while I’ve spent a great deal of time around this car, both when Eric first picked it up and helping him in the pits over the past several racing seasons, I’m a bit giddy to see how it turns out. Ok that’s enough from me, let me hand it over to Eric.
— Harlo.

Previous Owner Robert Samm

It was tired, worn and I was starting to feel like my car was the roach among all the beautifully prepared vees I race with in the VSCDA. The car is a 1968 ASP MK III, originally built by Wayne Purdy, a former Beach FV employee. The ASP was 1 of 6 or so vees Wayne built before moving on to other racing ventures. This car was raced by a gentleman named Robert Samm very successfully in the southwestern United States and Mexico, claiming at least 3 national titles in Mexico in the MKIII.

I acquired the ASP in the winter of 2004 sight unseen. I knew I wanted to go vintage vee racing but admittedly didn’t do as much research as I should have prior to making the purchase. I was taken by the story and esthetics of the little known ASP rather than the proven race worthiness. A more rational man may have sought out a Lynx or a Zink, brands that dominated FV in the late 60s. I discovered the ASP on a racing classifieds website and the price was right… or so I thought. As it turns out it was just further proof that you get what you pay for.

Despite that, I remember feeling just like a kid on Christmas when it arrived by truck that day late in January. With the help of the driver, I rolled it off the truck through the fresh snow into the garage. I was elated. I couldn’t believe I now owned a vintage open-wheeled racecar. I had wanted to race cars like these since I was a kid. At this point I had only been to track days and autocross events in a street car but I had the racing bug and I had it bad.

I contacted the race director at my local track to see if he could put me in touch with any of the vintage vee drivers in the area. As luck would have it, his former neighbor Garret Van Camp was recently back in vintage vee racing, a former SCCA national champion and he lived 20 minutes from me. Garrett won the 1970 FV championship, raced Porsche speedsters and went on to race super vees as the factory driver for Lynx. Eventually he took a long hiatus from racing to raise his family. In 1994 he decided to once again get behind the wheel. He tracked down his original Lynx, restored it back to the configuration he won with in 1970 and he keeps on winning nearly every race he enters… At 74! Truly inspiring.

I called Garrett and that same day after work he met me at my house to have a look at my car. I’ll never forget what he said upon laying his eyes on the ASP. He said “I wish we would’ve met 3 weeks ago… I never would have let you buy this piece of shit”. We joked about the whole car being held together with cabinet fasteners and zip ties. He was right and I knew it but I was still optimistic. He immediately started educating me on the car and made an impossible list of what needed to be done before the driver’s school began in April. And without his help it would have been impossible.

Garrett would stop by once a week to check on my progress. He encouraged me, taught me and provided endless motivation. Besides that he re-engineered and re-fabricated parts to make the car stronger, safer and the car more competitive. All things that at the time were well beyond my knowledge and ability. I had some background in motorcycle restoration but when it came to racecars I was about as green as they come. Garrett would constantly remind me “if it doesn’t make you go faster, don’t waste your time kid”. Come spring, the car was done but it was a tremendous amount of work… especially for a car that was advertised as “race ready”. Garret was my instructor, is still my mentor and a constant source of inspiration. I consider he and his wife Maggie as 2nd parents and lifelong friends. I completed the school that spring and went on to my first race. There are few things in life I’ve experienced that are as satisfying as finishing a race in a car that you’ve built… Except maybe winning—but that came much later.

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