The Can-Am Series
Ah Can-Am. The series that sounds as if it only exists in dreams. The series we all don’t really need, but definitely a series we need back. Can- Am started in 1966, containing 2 races in Canada and 4 races in the states each season. It also contained some of the craziest feats of motorsport engineering ever seen. Technically the series used Group 7 sportscar racing regulations. Although these regulations were not very strict as they allowed the car to have pretty much anything you wanted on it, providing the car ran on commercial gasoline, had two seats, fenders, two doors, headlights, a windshield, and the capability to self-start.
The Chaparral 2J “Sucker Car (unknown)
As you can imagine this led to some crazy designs such as Jim Hall’s Chaparral 2J “Sucker Car”, which sported two massive fans on the back that acted like a massive vacuum cleaner, sucking the car to the track. Ferrari’s biggest ever engine was also surprisingly not used in Formula One or at Le Mans, instead it was used in Can-Am. The Ferrari 712 Can Am had a monstrous 6.9 Liter V12 engine paired with a 4-speed manual transmission. The goal was to produce more torque than their competitors in order to lose less time around the rough North American racing surfaces. The engine produced around 680 horsepower which at the time was insane. However, when compared to the Penske operated 1972 Porsche 917/30KL, which produced roughly 1580 horsepower in qualifying trim, Ferrari’s V12 seems tame.
The Ferrari 712 Can Am (Ferrari)
Thanks to the lack of regulations, Can- Am cars were at the time, the fastest road racing cars to be found on earth. The list of drivers the series attracted as a result was just as impressive as the cars. The likes of Keke Rosberg, Al Unser Jr., Bruce McLaren, John Surtees, Peter Revson, Jacky Ickx, Alan Jones, and Patrick Tambay, all competed in the series. The most successful team in the lawless era of Can-Am racing was McLaren with the dynamic duo of Bruce McLaren and Dennis Hulme. With a total of 4 titles between the two men as well as a further title with Peter Revson. By the early 70’s Can-Am’s future started to look in doubt, after all 6.9 Liter V12’s and a fuel crisis do not mix well together. As a result, at the end of 1974 the original Can- Am series folded. Formula 5000 cars took over the North American racing scene until the Can- Am series was revived again in 1977. However, the group 7 cars were replaced in favor of a more economical formula essentially based on F5000 cars with closed wheel body work. This 2nd generation series started out strong, arguably having just as competitive grids as the first series. It also had just as many radical designs such as the Adams VSE Escort Chevrolet, which the driver sat completely to the left of the car between the left front and left rear wheels. However, the caliber of competition began to drop by the mid 80’s and by 1987 the series was no more. Can- Am cars can still be found racing around North America in a variety of Historic racing classes to this day. We can only dream that one day Can-Am will be revived.
The monstrous Porsche 917/30KL (Corel Photos)