The Pikes Peak Dune Buggy Class 1971 (part 1)

Only PPHC program to have a dune buggy on the cover

 

Newspaper articles prior to race day from 1971

Pikes Peak as a laboratory for automotive construction and experimentation.  

Big changes can result with big rewards. The folks running the 1971 hill climb race certainly were shaking up the program. Gone was the Championship Class that had ran for the last 47 years. In it’s place would be Dune Buggies, Jeeps and Motorcycles, the so called recreational vehicles of the day. The Stock Car class was still included, now called the “Late Model Stock Car” and of course, they had the largest purse.

The Baja 1000 race in Mexico had been a huge success in the late 1960s, and off-road racing was taking over the nation. Pikes Peak had been more associated with the Indy type champ cars and drivers, from almost the beginning. The stock car class was a closer mirror to what was happening in Nascar during the 1960s. Motorcycles had not been back to the hill climb race since 1955. There really wasn’t any classes for the off road racing fans at Pikes Peak Hill Climb until the big change in 1971.  Where would the new classes draw their drivers from, would this new idea even  work ?

The 1971Dune Buggy Class !

Yes, I am a VW fan, so I will be covering what happened in the Dune Buggy class for 1971.  First off, let’s look at the basic rules posted for the class.

Corvair  Porsche and Volkswagen aircooled engines only. Mid or rear engine placement. Full body with open wheels, Pump gas powered motors only and the car had to have two seats. Strange mention to a Meyers Manx type body. Nice plug for Bruce Meyers, but in 1971 there were literally hundreds of spin off body manufactures of dune buggy bodies.

(Let’s not forget that Ted Trevor and Don Wilcox had already taken dune buggies to Pikes Peak in 1966 . Quick rule changes, all but outlawed the buggies until they got there own class for 1971)

Entries for the new class.

1971 class entries Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Not as big of class as the organizers where hoping for the field. ( A class of at least twelve cars were expected ) The second surprise was the engine selection . Corvair engines with Turbo’s was the selection of most of the entries.  Ted Trevor was back and with him was a team of three Deserter dune buggies.

“Crown Manufacturing Team”

The team would consist of Ted Trevor, Alex Dearborn and Reeves Callaway.  All three would bring their own specialties to the mix. Ted was the Corvair engine wizard and owner of Crown Manufacturing.  Alex was the man behind the Deserter race cars and dune buggies and Reeves Callaway was the all around race car driver and engineering specialist.

Gazette Telegraph article July 1971

Alex Dearborn 

The following words are from Alex and his recollections on the race at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1971

Alex’s Deserter was used as a test mule for various suspension and wheel combos at the factory location

“It was a big decision for a small company like our Deserter business 
to mount a Pikes Peak effort” . 

First, there was the distance to the event, then the lack of any 
experience with engine tuning at 7-14,000 feet of thin air. The there was the cost. I had done SCCA road-racing for years, and some small hill climbs, but this was the BIG one! 

We made a deal with Ted Trevor at Crown Manufacturing in California 
(who ran a Corvair-powered Manx at the peak the year prior) to send us 
a Pikes-Peak ready Corvair engine, ready to bolt in. In exchange, we sent him 2 Deserter GS kits. We would run the three cars with Crown 
livery, as a team. We reasoned that Ted’s expertise on the 
modified Corvairs would keep us out of engine-tuning difficulties. 
The Crown engine didn’t arrive in Massachusetts until a week before we 
were to depart for Colorado. We decided to run it in on the 
Autodynamics dyno ,to make sure it was ready……and it seized! 

All the race logistics had long since been made, so we really couldn’t 
scrap the trip. I borrowed a street-tuned 1600cc VW from a customer, 
and headed to Colorado with this in the Deserter GT/GS, along with a handful of Weber jets. 
(Using his slide rule, Ray Caldwell calculated the jetting for the 
altitude, and we never changed these) 

My wife Carol and I drove out in our new Vega GT wagon, arriving a 
week ahead of the event. The new class for “VW-derived race cars” was 
full of some interesting machinery, mostly Corvair powered, and, it seemed, all pretty radical in the power department. It was daunting to survey the staging area on the morning of the first scheduled practice. In peak tradition, our group practiced 1/3 of the 12-mile hill course each of three days, all between sunrise and 8:00 , when the hill opened to the public. There 
was snow on the top by the third day, which turned out to be no big 
deal for me, since the 1600cc VW couldn’t spin those groovy Goodyears 
at 14,000 feet anyway. Each day after official practice, Carol and I 
would pay the toll and drive up in the Vega with the public, as many 
times as we could fit in. Of the 156 corners, many were blind, so the 
30 mph ones looked deceptively similar to the 80 mph ones. Go 30 
through an 80 mph corner and you lose the race. Go 80 through a 30 mph 
corner and, well, we didn’t. The course was all dirt then and no 
guard rails. Unfortunately for us the dirt was well-packed and gave 
great grip, so we could have used a lot more HP. Each evening at 
dinner, Carol would make me draw the course from memory on the place 
mats at the restaurant until I got most of the 160 corners identified. 

MY GS had run flawlessly all week, so I had the great advantage of 
being able to concentrate on learning the course. On race day, when 
the green flag fell I was about as ready as 
could be. The first car I passed was Reeves’ GS, sidelined . Other 
contestants suffered from various mechanical mishaps as well. These, 
along with some “irrational exuberance” cut the field down to size 
enough for me to finish 4th. 

The Deserter was a cut above the normal Dune Buggies of it’s day. A true tube chassis mid-engined race car. For more information on the Deserter line of dune buggies check out the Deserter Owners Group

http://www.bimelliott.com/dog.html

Reeves Callaway

Reeves’ car was much different from the other two Crown MFG team cars. The car was ran mostly in SCCA racing, prior to Pikes Peak. The non- production Deserter dune buggy body had a Group 7 type Can-Am style nose equipped. The Corvair mid mounted engine was turbo charged with water injection and a Porsche cooling fan system running a Hewland gearbox. Upon arrival at Pikes Peak adjustments in turbo boost to run at altitude and an increase in ride height had to be made.

Top Reeves Callaway at the PPHC,, bottom picture practice with the Deserter before heading to Pikes Peak in 1971

To find out more on Reeves Callaway and what he is up to in the racing world today  :

https://www.callawaycars.com/

Ted Trevor

Seven year veteran of Pikes Peak and a winner in 1966 with a Meyers Manx dune buggy. ( With a Corvair rear engine). This time around in 1971 he would be in a yellow Deserter GT running a mid engine Corvair with his companies Turbo adapter kits.  Ted was the hands down favorite going in to practice week and time trials.

Practice makes perfect and Ted wins the time trails in 1971
Ted’s Crown Manufacturing Corvair powered Deserter dune buggy still survives today. Photo from practice at Pikes Peak 1971

 

Check out part two for the remainder of the field and what happens at time trials and race day !

 

Early Meyers Manx dune buggies at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Ted Trevor at the finish line at the 1966 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race.

Meyers Manx 

Bruce Meyers of Fountain Valley California designed the first dune buggies in 1963 using a fiberglass monocoque shell or what today would be called a unibody structure. His initial dune buggies had a steel frame within the fiberglass body. They were designed to bolt Volkswagen Beetle engine, transmission, front and rear suspension systems to the unibody design. The monocoque dune buggy body shell production started in 1964 with only twelve bodies produced. The cost to make the steel reinforced bodies was to expensive and slow. The next version of the bodies were made of only fiberglass, those were designed to bolt on top of a shortened VW pan. The new fiberglass only bodies, the “Meyers Manx” as Bruce called them, were much cheaper to produce and became a huge success. By 1971 over 6,000 Meyers Manx bodies had been produced and available in 5 different body styles. There would be 100’s of copy cat designers of his dune buggies over the years, but Bruce Meyers was the first and the original “Meyers Manx” dune buggies have become highly desired and collectible.

Volksvair ?

Ted Trevor founded the “Crown Manufacturing Company” in Newport Beach California in 1960. In just a few years time Ted was the leading manufacturer of kits to adapt the Chevrolet Corvair flat six engines into air-cooled Volkswagen Bugs, Karmann Ghia’s and dune buggies that were based on the VW motors. These were called ‘Volks-Vair’ kits. The additional horsepower that the Corvair engine could make was a big step up from the Volkswagen stock motors. Crown Manufacturing would eventually sell 15,000 such kits. In later years, Ted’s company would go on to be known for their kits to adapt V-8 engines into the Chevrolet Corvair’s .

Volks-Vair dune buggies at the 1966 Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Ted Trevor and Don Wilcox entered two of the Crown Manufacturing Volks-Vair equipped monocoque bodied Meyers Manx, dune buggies in the 1966 PPHC. (That’s a mouthful!).  When they showed up for practice week nothing like that had ever been seen at the hill climb. The dune buggies arrived with windshields, passenger seats and license plates. The rules committee decided a few changes had to be made in order for the cars to enter in the Sports Car Class. Behind the scenes no one except Ted and Don figured the buggies would even have a chance , let alone win. To meet the class requirements and to keep the old guard at the PPHC content the two drivers adapted a few changes. The windshields were removes along with the passenger seats and a tonneau cover was used to cover the interior.

Ted Trevor’s purple dune buggy ran the carburetor equipped Corvair engine and Don Wilcox’s blue buggy was using a turbocharged Corvair Spdyer motor. Of the two, Don’s was lighter by 200 pounds and was the fastest. During practice folks started to take notice. Hot Rod magazine said ” The power-to-rate ratio is very good and traction for acceleration off the corners is second to none thanks to the rear engine location”. The biggest surprise was at quailing were Don Wilcox’s time in the turbocharged buggy beat all of the sports cars regardless of engine size AND was faster then all of the stock cars and most of the championship class cars too.  Ted Trevor wasn’t as fortunate, he was still dealing with carburetor issues adjusting the engine for the altitude.

Time trail results 1966 Pikes Peak Hill Climb Sports Car Class

Race day would show a reversal of fortune for the two dune buggy drivers.  Don Wilcox lost a coil wire at the gravel pit area and would sit along the side of the course for quite some time. After figuring out the issue he continued to the summit with a time of over an hour. Ted Trevor’s car was running much better with adjustments since time trails and took the win in the under 3000 liter sports car class with a time of 15:43.

After Pikes Peak

Gates Tire Company of Denver Colorado was a large sponsor for the hill climb in 1966 and liked what the buggies were about and used Ted’s dune buggy in its advertisements after the race.

The pair would go on to race their dune buggies in slalom and autocrosss races events after Pikes Peak. Both cars were successful and became very famous in the California dune buggy culture.

Don at a slalom race shortly after the PPHC, the buggy still wears decals and numbers form the hill climb

 The purple dune buggy that Ted drove would later be totaled in an a racing accident but the engine would go into a legendary dune buggy racer the “Purple People Eater” and would carry on the winning spirit. Ted Trevor was close to Bruce Meyers the originator of the Manx dune buggies. Bruce, to this day still has a chuck of the purple metal flake body from Ted’s accident his office. There are few color pictures of either dune buggy. Below is the only known of Ted’s purple car, looks to be at a slalom event perhaps. notice the license plate is the same from the PPHC newspaper clip above.

Don Wilcox’s dune bugging would be modified after Pikes Peak and finished forth in class at the Mexican 1000 Baja race in 1968 driven by Eric Ressier and Glen Forte. Don Wilcox would buy the buggy from Crown MFG. in 1969 and over the years convert it back to the way it was when he raced at Pikes Peak. After more then forty years of ownership he still has his PPHC dune buggy. In 2015 he was invited to show it at the Carlise Import and Kit Nationals.

The Don Wilcox Pikes Peak Hill Climb Meyers Manx dune buggy in 2015. Still owned by Don ! Notice the 1966 PPHC time trial winning trophy in the back seat

There would be other dune buggies entered in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in later years. But being the first only happens once. The fact that only 12 monocoque Meyers Manx dune buggies were built and two of them raced at Pikes Peak and one STILL survives is amazing. If you have additional information or pictures of dune buggies racing at the PPHC please slip me a line.

Thanks for checking out this blog !