He called his cars — made in California — Eagles, and his friends and fans nicknamed him Big Eagle. His company and team were the All American Racers (though they raced Toyotas for some time). He was one of less than a handful of American drivers to win in Formula One, but the only one to do so in an American race car, built in his own shop. He, along with A.J. Foyt and Roy Lunn, helped The Deuce kick il Commendatore’s ass at LeMans, in a car designed and built in Dearborn, Michigan. There was even a lighthearted attempt to draft him to run for president.
Dan Gurney was quintessentially American, one of the people who have made the United States a great country.
With a resume as accomplished as Dan Gurney has, he would be well within his rights to retire to a life of leisure. The man is 84 years old, after all. However, Gurney stays busy at his All American Racers shop in Santa Ana, California and he recently announced that he’s been granted a United States patent on what he calls the “moment cancelling” engine.
Gurney claims that by using two transversely oriented, counter-rotating crankshafts, the vibrations inherent in reciprocating piston engines will be reduced and reliability and efficiency will be improved, along with what he says will be turbine smoothness.
A while back we ran a post on the Gulf Oil liveried 1968 & 1969 LeMans winning Ford GT40 that was temporarily on loan for display at the Racing in America exhibit of The Henry Ford Museum’s Driving America section. The reason for that loan was that the car that normally occupies that corner of the exhibit, the Ford Mk IV that won LeMans in 1967, was at Dan Gurney’s All American Racers shop in California getting a sensitive repair and conservation. That job has now been completed and the Mk IV is now back on display at the Dearborn, Michigan museum, just in time to be rejoined by Mr. Gurney.
Based on a market research study commissioned by Ford Motor Company rumors are circulating that FoMoCo will change the branding for its high performance vehicles from SVT (for Special Vehicle Team) to 999, the name of Henry Ford’s second race car, popularized by barnstorming driver Barney Oldfield. Marketers have seized on “authenticity” as a lever by which they can move consumers and I suspect that reaching back over a century for a brand name may have something to do with that. As someone who likes history I can’t complain about Ford looking into reusing a historic name, but while its true that the name 999 has been associated with Ford racing since before the establishment of the Ford Motor Company, the name SVT means something to today’s car enthusiasts and for most of them 999 is just the number before 1,000. Today’s performance consumers are more likely to recognize the name Ken Block than Barney Oldfield.