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.
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.
The following words are from Alex and his recollections on the race at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1971
“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
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.
To find out more on Reeves Callaway and what he is up to in the racing world today :
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.
Check out part two for the remainder of the field and what happens at time trials and race day !