FROM ITS PURPOSEFUL BEAK TO TITANIUM TAIL, THIS Fl EAGLE OOZES CLASS AND STYLE. PAUL FEARNLEY TALKS TO THE MEN WHO CREATED IT
Len Terry (designer): I was a technical illustrator to begin with, so when I designed something I always tried to make it as goodlooking as possible. That’s the artist in me, I guess. Plus there’s a lot of truth in the saying that, ‘If it looks right, it is right.
Tony Southgate (Terry’s successor): Len’s drawings are some of the best I’ve ever seen. He has a great eye for form and detail, and that’s why the Eagle looks so good.
IT: The biggest satisfaction for me was always seeing a complete car for the first time; if it won races, that was a bonus. I was extremely pleased with the Eagle’s appearance, but I don’t remember Dan [Gurney] saying it was drop-dead gorgeous when he first saw it. Dan Gurney (team boss & driver): I thought it was pretty. It was an evolution of a classic rear-engined car. There weren’t many monocoque cars around at that time, and ours had a nice shape, with compound curves. We also enhanced it with the shape of the nose.
LT: There was a lot of talk of Dan’s father coming up with that nose, but he had nothing to do with the design. He did the Eagle badge. If you look at the Terrier Mkl, my first car, you will see it has a similar nose to the Eagle. DG: We discussed doing something different with the nose and suggested an eagle. If Len claims it was his, I don’t remember it being a bone of contention at the time. We collaborated on the wheels, too.
IT: I designed those six-spoke wheels. They buttressed the rim, which tended to break under the pressure of the air inside, which is why I extended the spokes outwards.
DG: There were lots of really nice details that made that car look good: those swept-back front wishbones gave it a jet-fighter feel, and the colour scheme was simple but strong. It was reversed-out American racing colours — albeit a darker (midnight) blue. I didn’t pay much attention to what the correct proportion between the two colours should be either. I guess we took a bit of a liberty there.
IT: I’m colour blind! That’s why I could never become a true artist. I can see blues, though, so I can appreciate the Eagle’s colour scheme. DG: The whole car was great to look at. Even the engine. And those exhausts! We built them from titanium. We did a lot of stuff in that metal, which was pretty new technology. We were sticking our neck out. Peter Wilkins, a fantastic Australian mechanic, built them, and he did a wonderful job.
TS: I joined in the middle of 1967, and took a quick look over the car. Its basic problem was that it was about 1001bs overweight, so we remade everything in lighter materials. LT: I would have liked the car to be smaller, but Dan was 6ft 2in, and Jerry Grant the other driver I was told would be driving the car, was bigger still. Plus the car had to race at Indy, too, and Indycars are inherently bigger than
Formula One cars.
DG: It was a very good Indycar, in fact. Lloyd Ruby could have won that first Indy 500 for us . And the following year, the one Parnelli Jones nearly won with the turbine, we had the fastest piston-engined car. I had a whole straightaway over A J Foyt, who went on to win. We dropped a valve.
IT: I was originally informed that it was going to be a Formula One team, and that the car would be a one-off. But actually, Indy ended up being the main thrust, and we built five or six. That alters how you do things. A oneoff prototype can be made from sketches; a production run requires engineering drawings so work can be farmed out to sub-contractors. I knew Dan from the Lotus Indy project, but we had only talked loosely. For instance, I thought I was going to be based in Hastings — which is why I bought a house there. I was only in it for 11 days! But working for Eagle, and living in California, which I did from September 1965, was a breath of fresh air — until the first car was built
DG: I wanted to prove that there was some great craftsmanship in California. We built the wooden buck here and went over to a place in LA that did a lot of hammer forming in aluminium and steel. They fitted the panels to this wooden form. Then it was sent back to us and we did the final trimming, building and riveting.
LT: John Lambert was in charge of the workshop. He’d built the Lotus Indycars for me and I took him over to America. We had some really good ex-Brabham guys, too, so I knew we were capable of producing a car as good as anywhere, that there would no trouble with the quality of workmanship. Dan had some good guys, too, and I had no real problem with the outside suppliers — the pattern-makers, the foundries, etc.
DG: It helped that the car had a clear bloodline with Len’s Indy-winning Lotus…
IT: It’s true, there was a lot of influence from that car, Type 38; it influenced my thinking on the Eagle in many ways. But every single item on the Eagle was different. There was nothing really radical on it, I was just determined to do a better version, to make every part that little bit better. I went up on diameter of radii, which meant I could go down on wall thicknesses. This meant parts were no heavier but much stiffer. People get confused between strength and stiffness… DG: On the [later] magnesium-skinned car the rivet pitch is very, very close, which adds something to the look of the car… LT: Yes, it looks nice and impressive. But think of the perforations of a stamp. It’s a built-in weakness. And magnesium does not have a-?
the torsonal rigidity of aluminium.
I had left by then. I liked Dan, but I never felt I had a good driver/designer relationship with him. He employed me to design the car, and then went ahead and incorporated his own ideas. For instance, as soon as it was completed it was wheeled out dry no water, no fuel, no petrol and the first thing he said, just by looking at it, was that we’d have to change springs. That annoyed me. I’d spent five months calculating everything induding what effect the weight of the car’s fluids would have on the ride height…
DG: I once got in hot water with Len. I had to change the anti-dive front suspension. I had exhausted every diplomatic way of approaching the problem, and it reached a point where I just had to do it, because it was me risking my neck in the car. I tried to stop that situation from causing any aggravation. It did, though. LT: Anti-dive was very experimental, and the car perhaps had too much built in. But they altered it without discussing it with me. It wasn’t all Dan’s fault. Maybe it was me. I don’t always have the patience required to explain things to people. And he was closely tied to Goodyear, who were calling a lot of the shots. DG: I found Len very easy to work with.
LT: I got a lot of satisfaction from the Eagle. But it was disappointing that it didn’t have the success it deserved. Too much concentration on horsepower, not torque…
Aubrey Woods (engine designer): I left BRM in 1962 after an altercation. Sir Alfred Owen, being Sir Alfred, bought an interest in Weslake, and the plan was for my mentor Peter Berthon and I to do long-term R&D there for BRM. One of the projects was for Shell: a 500cc twin with a four-valve head, built to study highspeed combustion. Dan saw it run on the dyno it was giving 80bhp and was impressed. We had caught on to what Keith Duckworth already knew: narrow valve angles worked, and the worse power losses stemmed from windage and churning in the crankcase. DG: My initial disappointment with the V12 was that its inlet tract came down vertically, then turned to go into the cylinder head. On that Shell research, engine it went straight in. A big difference. It was too late to change it, and that was a crushing realisation. But I had gone into the project knowing that Weslake would have to pull out three miracles a week. AW: The machine shop at Weslake was not quite up to the latest standard, which meant engines were not made as accurately as they should be. I designed the engine so that both heads were identical, but the individual units were machined in situ, were custom-made in effect, which meant they were all diferent and this was a big problem. Dan deserved better, to be honest DG: The basic integrity of the engine was
good: we didn’t have any catastrophic failures, it wasn’t terribly heavy, and was a good size. Its Achilles heel was the scavenge system. Oil would get trapped at the top of the engine when pulling hard; we’d get full power for the first few laps then lose five per cent because of this problem. And we never cured this. If we had, I think we would have had parity with the DFV. AW: Dan had front-row starts and fastest laps, and won at Spa, but we could have been way ahead. We were running up to 12,500rpm, but it was capable of going higher had we got to use the latest ignition systems. I was planning to go with Magneti Marelli, which would have made a significant difference. DG: The package was good on all the circuits
even at Monaco, where I was running third when the fuel metering belt broke. We had a lot of races like that, hampered by a different small problem just big enough to cause us to retire. And that was a matter of budgets. We couldn’t afford [money or time] to test much. AW: Dan’s ‘fiddling’ helped. We came up with an aerodynamic ‘beard’ and a flap at the back of the tail…
DG: I think we had a high top speed, a small aerodynamic advantage over the others. AW: Dan was so far in front in Germany that we were trying to give him the ‘Slow down!’ sign. But it’s a long track and there are big gaps between seeing your driver and it was too late. A halfshaft broke.
LT: That halfshaft wasn’t the one I had originally designed for the car.
DG: Tim Wall, my chief mechanic, would normally work-over the III so it wouldn’t foul at certain angles, but he hadn’t done that to this particular one. He was a stalwart who survived on no sleep, cigarettes and cups of tea, so I couldn’t blame him. But I can’t deny that it was a turning-point. Back-to-back wins, at Spa and the Ntirburgring, might have made people look differently at the project. But this retirement strengthened the forces who wanted to stop us doing Fl.
[By 1968] we had met our limit I had never been stopped like that before and it took a lot of getting used to. I had a lot of empathy for the guys at Weslake and in our own group who had put so much into the project I don’t see it as a failure; if people do, I take responsibility for not finding enough financial support. The car has become an icon. I have never pushed it as such, but I’m happy if people react positively to it, because lam very proud of the car. In terms of it as a business venture, people used to tell me I was crazy to put all that passion into this project but that, for me, is what life is about We earned a lot of respect because of that And I learned that you perhaps can’t do three miracles a week, every week. CI
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