Magnificent Period Formula Vee Illustration

1968 Formula Vee Sports Car Magazine Cover

I adore this Formula Vee cover illustration for the November 1968 cover of Sports Car magazine. The late 60’s blend of almost childlike color blocking offset by very accurate proportions and technical details create a charming balance.

Somebody is selling a copy on eBay (no affiliation) and I’m hoping one of you buys it before I have to. Thanks for digging this up, Paul.

Onboard for the Formula Vee 50th Anniversary Race at Road America

The Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association always has a fantastic grid for their Formula Vee group. With 20 or more racers, it has to be one of the most densely packed Formula Vee grids in the States. Last weekend’s Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival, though, brought even more out to the track to celebrate Formula Vee’s 50th anniversary together with a FV-only feature race. (Edit: Paul just wrote in to tell me that the event drew 34 Formula Vees for the weekend. Yowza!)

What I like most about Jeffrey Tschiltsch’s onboard footage here is that it really showcases one of my favorite aspects of the group: they manage to run really tight. Even towards the end of this video, there’s still five or six cars within a few seconds of each other; never more than a turn apart. Keeping together as a pack and drafting one another in the long straights at Road America makes these little 1200cc powered racers an exercise in true racecraft. After all, there’s not a lot of horsepower to rely on when you make even the smallest mistakes. Sure, taking advantage of every newton of momemtum and using every aerodynamic advantage to try and win is true for every race group, but this particular formula really manages to deliver on similar performance and racing characteristics across a variety of builders. It’s just such a joy to watch.

I have to also give kudos to Jeffrey for actually using YouTube’s usually annoying commenting tools to give some honest commentary for the video, pointing out some hairier moments, some near misses, and even his own mistakes to give us some insight into the on-track thoughts and analysis of the moments that defined the race for him. Thanks for sharing these, Jeffery.

Man, I love Road America.

Available in Germany: 1964/5 Volkswagen Single-Cab with Porsche Formula V

Porsche Factory Formula Vee and VW Transporter

If there’s anything I’m terrible at hiding, it’s my love for Porsche, Formula V, and racing transporters. Rarely though, do I have an opportunity to wrap all of that volcanic enthusiasm in a single image. That changes today. Would you just look at that.

Wow.

Porsche Factory Formula Vee

I’ve seen a Porsche-powered Formula V car before. On that occasion, it was evident how much faster the Formula V platform could be pushed with just that bump in power that even a period Porsche powerplant could provide. In that introduction to the concept I believe it was a 356 engine doing the heavy work (or was it 912?). When I first saw this example, I assumed it would also have the higher powered 356 engine back there. This one, however, is powered, like all vintage vees, by a 1200 cc Volkswagen type 1 engine. Why then, are we referring to this as a “Porsche Formula V”, when it’s not much different than any other Formcar? What is that Porsche sticker doing on the engine cover? Is this just someone’s wishful thinking?

Porsche Factory Formula Vee and VW Transporter

No. This one was built by Porsche in Werk 1 and campaigned by Hans Herrmann, Gerhard Mitter and Ben Pon with support from the Porsche factory during their period promoting Formula Vee as a new feeder series. It may have a Formcar frame and a VW engine, but in a very real sense this is an authentic team Porsche open-wheel racing car. There’s mighty few cars that can fit that description. Even with the included (914 powered) custom—and amazing—transporter, this one is sure to be oceans cheaper than any other car that can fit that description. Except perhaps the single other surviving Porsche factory Formcar.

Can you imagine pulling into the paddock at the wheel of this red beauty with that seemingly ordinary Formcar perched so delicately on her haunches? Can you imagine pulling into the false grid at the wheel of a car once piloted by Hermann? Can you imagine doing it in one of the best vintage racing series? Whew.

More information on Jan Luehn’s detail page.

Lyntonh’s Formula Vees at Warwick Park, 1969.

Formula Vees at Warwick Farms, December 1969

Over on The Nostalgia Forum, Lyntonh has dug into his seemingly inexhaustible archive of vintage Formula Vee photography to both showcase the great racing down under and to seek the assistance of the super-geniuses on the forum to help identify racers and cars. The whole Australian vintage vee thread is tremendous; with people swapping photos and stories of their time racing vees. Head on over and dive in. Better yet, get into the conversation and share your own tales of one of my favorite series.

Formula Vees at Warwick Farms, December 1969

Formula Vees on the Nürbugring Südschleife

It was only the big events that were raced on the combined glory of the North and South loops of the Nürburgring into it’s complete 17 mile configuration. Of course, the Nordschleife got all the fame and left it’s little brother Südschleife to languish away alone: oft-forgotten and little loved (even in its prime) compared to the more challenging technical turns of the Nordschleife.

Today, while much of the public roads remain, the connecting pathways to the Nordschleife were destroyed during the construction of the GP circuit. This Formula Vee race from 1968 though, shows the Südschleife in all its glory. It must be hard to be considered great when the basis for comparison is the Nordschleife but on it’s own this looks like a hell of a track. Also, helicopter footage of the F-V race? Who would have thought….

Let’s hope at the Nordschleife lives on in more than just videos of this kind 50 years from now.

High Flying Formula Vee Action

Nick Brittan takes the road less traveled at the 1967 Monaco GP support race

You’ve heard me extoll the virtues of the Formula Vee racing class. I adore it for it’s simplicity: A stock VW Beetle front beam; a 1200 cc Beetle engine; and a stockish tranny. How could that not be a good time? On top of that, the grids for the vintage Vees tends to be a good spot for tight racing with skilled drafts and dramatic overtakes.

Compared to this image from the support race for the 1967 Monaco GP, though, today’s Formula Vee races are positively tame. Apparently the rough and tumble formula vee racers weren’t a great cultural match with the champagne sipping Auto Club Monaco crowd and went on to prove it by opening their event with the bumping and pushing that you might expect of the unwashed.

This shot of Nick Brittan’s rather unconventional overtake near the yacht harbor chicane really probably didn’t do much to improve their reputation in the principality as evidenced by this bit from the Motoring News GP Report: “The Formula Vee race opened proceedings and proved only that such unstable cars should not be allowed near a race track. The only British driver involved, Nick Brittan, arrived at the chicane on his first lap to find a French-driven car sideways on in front of him; he hit it and rolled, falling back on his wheels, fortunately with no personal damage.”

More history of Formula Vee at Volkswagen Motorsport.

A Weekend in the North Woods

I spent part of Labor Day weekend at Minnesota’s Brainerd International Raceway for their Jack Pines Sprints racing weekend. Fans of CanAm racing will better recognize the Donnybrooke Speedway name as host to several events in 1970-72 where Denny Hulme, Peter Revson, and Francois Cevert took home victories.

The weekend also featured the Muscle Car Shootout on the drag strip that forms part of the main straight in the track’s 3.1 mile configuration. Thankfully, 2009’s addition of a 2.5 mile configuration of the track means that road racing and drag racing can happen at the same time.

This event was also a major personal milestone in that it was my 2-year-old son’s first vintage race weekend. Having him perched on my shoulders for much of the day didn’t make photography any easier, but here are some of the snapshots that I was able to grab in my now standard one-handed-phone-cam-while-steadying-a-squirmy-toddler photographic method.

Wandering back and forth between these two very different motorsport events is a great way to gain a greater appreciation for the variety within out sport. Seeing that there were many spectators trying to follow both the drags and the several road racing events of the weekend makes me realize that there’s less division between race fans than many motorsports outlets would have you believe.

Vintage sportscars on the twisty bits. Vintage Detroit iron on the drags. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday, eh?

Formula Vee. Nassau. 1964.

Usually when I can’t identify much in a photo, it languishes on my hard drive waiting for the day that I can turn up something meaningful to share about it. This one, though, I haven’t been able to bring myself to just let it sit.

I’ve rummaged through race results, searched on the Googles for anything I can dig up… It haunts me for some reason. I think it’s because I just love this notion of waking up in the morning in a seaside hotel, hopping in the Vee and driving her across town to the pits to get ready for the afternoon’s main event.

It’s a simple enough scenario, but this idea of racing cars on the street among everyday traffic is just so foreign and thrilling to my contemporary eyes that it conjures a romantic sentiment that I can’t easily shake.

I’ve had no luck finding Formula Vee results from any of the Bahamas Speed Weeks. This photo from the Henry Ford Museum Flickr stream says it was 1964. Anyone recognize the driver?

Jerry Melton’s 1968 Detroit SCCA Regionals


From yesterday’s shots of the ’67 LeMans—perhaps the biggest sportscar race in the world—to today’s snaps from a regional track in the midwest; there’s virtually no end to the historic images and stories that drive our sickness passion for vintage racing.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Waterford Hills Road Racing course. This was my home track growing up. It was where I saw my first club racing and my first vintage racing. I vividly remember 911s and even VW Golfs lifting a wheel at the crest of Hilltop Turn; and seeing more than a few cars lift 2 and sometimes 4 wheels if they overcooked it. That was it. I was hooked. So when Cliff pointed me to these Jerry Melton photographs from the June, 1968 SCCA Regionals at my beloved Waterford, I couldn’t just keep them to myself—could I?

I can’t resist sharing one more: Many of us know Garret Van Camp through his dominance in Formula Vee. It’s marvelous to see him in his earlier incarnation racing a Porsche Speedster. Check out that strap to the roll bar holding the door shut!

I’d seen Formula 1 cars thunder down the closed city streets of Detroit, their cacophonous engine notes echoing off the windows of the Pontchartrain Hotel and reverberating through Atwater Tunnel. But it was these smaller club events at local tracks that made me a lifelong racing fan. Even today, it’s these regional events that give me the greater thrill. A thrill that Jerry has managed to capture beautifully in these images from the June ’68 SCCA Regionals. Check out more of Jerry Melton’s archives on Etceterini.

Me and My ASP Pt. 4: She’s Finished!

The ASP is done! Last Thursday I rolled the car in the trailer and headed for Gingerman Raceway on the west side of Michigan but not before taking a few photos that Harlo posted here last week. My good friend and famed photographer Fabrizio Costantini also came by to take some beautiful photos as well.

I arrived at the track late in the afternoon to shake the car down at their test and tune night. I got to chase around several other open-wheeled cars of various formula. The ASP felt like an old familiar friend and it handled better than I remembered. It might have something to do with changing the geometry of the tie-rods for better bump steer and definitely has something to do with calling over Garret Van Camp (the set up maestro) to help me dial in the camber and toe. I took it pretty easy as I made about 10 laps around increasing my speed with each lap, seating in the new piston rings.

The car felt good, sounded good and then after about 20 minutes of remembering why I love FV so much something went amiss. I couldn’t seem to find any gear other than 4th, so i pulled into the paddock to find out what was going on. A broken shift rod was what was going on. Upon further inspection, it appeared to be made of paper thin steel tubing that must not have held up to the nickel plating process. Perhaps it’s the one part on the car that was designed by Collin Chapman to be as light as possible. I was done for the day. The next morning I began my quest to find some adequate steel to remake a part that would last. I found a steel supplier conveniently located a few miles from the track and the guys at Trackside Motorsports which is as the name suggests is conveniently trackside. They assisted me in remaking a new and improved shift rod that had me back in action for Saturday’s qualifying session.

It is my hope that the rings are still seating and that is what landed me 11th on the grid out of the 30 cars but in truth it was probably some combination of my time out of the car, the rings and the stiff competition. The car did seem to make more power as the weekend went on though… or at least I imagined it did. For the start of the race on Sunday I got away quickly and managed to get around 3 cars before turn 1. By the 3rd to last lap I had made my way into 5th place but then was passed back by Guy Dennehy. I stayed on his gearbox for the next lap hoping I’d be able to draft around him on the back straight. As we came up to the Turn 5/6 combination he went in a little too hot and back end of his Lynx started stepping out and I sensed he was going to lose it.

The car spun left and I went right, then he tried to correct and it snapped back across the track in front of me and I went waaayyy right off the track (as to not spear my pal Guy). I tried to not give the wheel any sudden input and edge it back toward the track surface but as has happened so many times before when two wheel are on grass and two on pavement, my car too snapped into a spin. Most every car I’d worked to get around, got around me in an instant, and several of them too close for my comfort… I had a front row seat to oncoming racecars. As soon as the last car went by I whipped around in anger (just an expression) and started trying to chase down the pack. With only 2 laps to go I knew it wasn’t likely but my heart was pumping and my tires were sticking. I passed all of the lapped traffic before the last lap and had Guy and the rest of the pack in my sights but they had just made up too much ground. If I’d had one more lap who knows. I finished lucky 7th, feeling lucky that I could roll the car back on the trailer unscathed to fight another day.

See the complete restoration story here.

Stay tuned for details on the next project which is nearing completion… a 1969 Merlyn MK11A Formula Ford.