MATTERS OF THE HEART AND SOUL
Feared and respected by the opposition,
feared and respected by its drivers, the
brutal Porsche 917K is still regarded by
many as the pinnacle of an era when
sports car racing was at its best.
It had 520hp in early 4.5-liter form,
630 in 5-liter 1971 spec, and with its
low-drag bodywork it could hit 240mph on
the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans – a race
it won in ’ 70 and ’ 71. Supremely fast and
reliable, rule changes outlawed it, but in just
two years, the 917K had become an icon.
How the wheel turns! Lotus was not
exactly pilloried for the ease with which
the 1963 Lotus 29 kept up with the far
more powerful roadsters of the day, but
certainly Colin Chapman’s gang wasn’t
made welcome. Five decades later, its
descendant, the car that finally grabbed
Indy 500 victory from the front-engined
hordes, is in the RACER readers’
top-three favorite racecars of all time.
Chapman and Jimmy Clark paid their
Brickyard dues – an unlucky miss with the
29 in ’ 63, the tire-troubled 34 of ’ 64. By
the time the 38 arrived, USAC stars were
accepting the inevitable; the top five cars
on the grid at Indy in ’ 65 were all Lotuses.
Aside from the 38’s significance in
being the first mid/rear-engined car to
win the “500,” the car’s aesthetics are
still attention grabbing. In ’ 65, Formula 1
cars were pretty but spindly, with anemic
1.5-liter/200hp engines. The 38 had a
4.2-liter (256 cu. in.), 500hp Ford V8, and
its necessarily more substantial chassis
Close your eyes, run your hands over
those glorious curves and you know
you’re in the presence of beauty.
Then be enraptured when that
four-liter V12 jewel fires up. Producing
450hp in a car that weighed under
1,750lbs, it was enough to send
the P4 beyond 200mph.
The GT40 is renowned as the Ford
that finally beat Ferrari at Le Mans in
’ 66, but Enzo had his revenge when
P4s finished 1-2-3 in the Daytona 24
Hours just seven months later.
What goes around
comes around. Dan
Gurney lost a dominant
win at Spa in ’ 64 on
the last lap to Jimmy
Clark. When Clark had
problems in ’ 67, it was
right that Dan should
be the beneficiary.
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gives the car a more aggressive stance
than its European contemporaries. Yet
it’s clothed in that sleek, handsome
Chapman/Len Terry-designed body
that perfectly suits the glorious British
Racing Green and yellow color scheme.
Finally, another reason for the 38’s
enduring popularity is surely the fact
that Clark is revered as much here in
the U.S. as in his native Scotland.
The idea of yellow
garish, but looked as
sensational as the
car performed – and
as the driver drove it.
IT’S NOT JUST AESTHETICS.
After David Malsher wrote about
his favorite racecars of all time
on RACER.com, he invited
readers to send in their own
choices. A combination of
shape, livery, memories, driver
association, success and
personal experience combined to
influence your choices…and ours.