When most people think of Formula Vee race cars their thought goes to paved road race courses on the west coast. The idea of placing an aircooled Volkswagen engine in a light weight tube chassis car was started by privateers before the manufacturer got behind the program. Formula Vee or “FV” racing was an inexpensive way to get into motorsports racing. This style of race car had a very large following that continues still today throughout the country and overseas as well. The cars are easy to work on, easy to haul and don’t take up that much room in a home garage. The class rules help keep cost down and the races have large fields with close competition. Find out more about Formula Vee racing at : http://www.formulavee.us/
In the 1960’s Ken Blockhan owned a service station in Cascade Colorado at the foot of the Pikes Peak Automobile Highway. After hundreds of service calls in his wrecker along the road up to the summit, he learned the course by heart. The racing bug seems to effect just about everyone who lives in the Colorado mountains long enough. It didn’t take Ken long to catch it. He built his first car with a 40 horsepower VW motor and he began running races at the local gravel pit having some success. The first race car proved out his idea, that a light weight chassis with a rear mounted VW engine could be very competitive against the heavier and higher horsepowered cars. Using a friends Formula Vee race car, he made molds of the body panels to use on his new race car and developed a stronger chassis design in order handle the additional stress of hill climbing racing. Additional horsepower was going to be needed the 2nd time around. Ken built up a 1700cc Volkswagen engine using a 64mm stroker crank and dual carburetors, more then doubling the horsepower of his old race car. When finished, the new race car only weighed a little over 800 pounds. In later years, he updated the engine to a 2180 RayJay turbo VW motor running close to 150 hp and still only weighing about 800 pounds.
Not only was the car built to run the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, it was also raced at Los Alamos NM, Deadwood SD, the Indian Springs Road race and several other hill climbs in Colorado. (Ken did get around!)
Racing requirements of the time mandated the four point roll cage over the drivers compartment, making for a sometimes odd looking race car. Safety comes first, and the cage not only kept the driver safe when they would exit the course unexpectedly, it also was designed to keep the wildlife out of the drivers laps. Deer, elk, big horn sheep and bears all call the mountains their home in Colorado.
Ken did his own engine upgrades over the years including the addition of a Rayjay turbo and fuel changes from gas to alcohol. 1700cc and 2180cc motors were both tried, of course bigger is always better, when at 14,115 feet in altitude.
Several local sponsors helped make the car a fan favorite. Bob Young’s Cabaret in Cascade CO and Hueberger VW in Colorado Springs.
Ken Blockhan at the Limestone Quarry Hill Climb 2nd place finishDuring many of Ken’s racing exploits he would strap an 8mm camera onto the cage to help him understand his driving lines. Go Pro’s camera’s are the rage today but Ken was doing this in the early 1970’s. Not only did it supply him with feedback of his driving form, it provided a great historical record of that era of racing. During a few races when he ended up off course or broken down he would unstrap the camera and take footage for friends and families that were racing .
This was the only Formula Vee race car that ever ran the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and it still survives today. Yes, you heard that right, Ken still has his race car. The car he nicknamed “The Roadrunner” over 45 years ago still gets taken out occasionally for car shows and events.
My thanks go out Ken and the entire Blockhan family for preserving and promoting the racing history of the PPHC !