Dan Gurney's Eagle MkI: F1's 'most beautiful' car up for auction


Dan Gurney's former mechanic Jo Ramirez remembers working with the stunning Eagle MkI, which is going up for auction

F1 Eagle Mark 1s

The Eagle Mk1's estimate is £2.5m-£3.3m

Gooding & Company. Photos by Mathieu Heurtault.

It’s thought of as one of the most attractive F1 cars of all time, and now it could be yours – for just a little over £3m that is.

The Eagle MkI chassis 101 was created for racing legend Dan Gurney’s Anglo-American Racers team in 1966. It started, in the words of its mechanic Jo Ramirez, “a really good adventure” – and is still just as breathtaking to look at now as when it was originally unveiled.

The MkI is going up for auction at Gooding & Co’s Amelia Island concours on March 3-6, and is expected to fetch between £2.5-£3.3m.

Featuring its original Coventry Climax 2.7-litre engine, gearbox and monocoque, the car is one of just four Eagle F1 car chassis made, and the first of 158 competition machines created by Gurney’s AAR team across grand prix racing, IndyCar and sports cars.

Ramirez Gurney

Ramirez in one of Gurney’s cars

The car is the first and only American grand prix machine that won a world championship race in the hands of a US driver. Its rarity, condition and not inconsiderable historical significance all contribute to the hefty price tag, but Ramirez says the car was admired just as much in period as now – the first creation of a squad brought together by Gurney and motor sport mastermind Carroll Shelby with funding from Goodyear.

“All of the teams when they saw the car said ‘Wow.’” Ramirez tells Motor Sport. “They were stunned. It was a step up in the design of F1 cars.”

Though the four Eagle chassis were beset by reliability issues, the cars – particularly in the hands of Gurney – usually had pace.

From the archive

Ramirez remembers the devoted team he was part of that supported the ‘Big Eagle’ driver and produced the MkI, which was penned by Len Terry – the designer of Jim Clark’s Indy 500-winning Lotus 38.

“The other teams couldn’t believe the revolutionary way the cars were made,” he says.

“The guy that did the fabricating was called Pete Wilkins. The way he worked was second to none, he was an unbelievable perfectionist and used to do the exhausts in titanium. They would get this beautiful blue-orange glow when hot by the engine.

“It was beautifully built, made with beautiful lines – very clean. You could measure the distance between the rivets and they were perfect. Pete was able to do anything.

Dan Gurney in Eagle at 1967 F1 Belgian Grand Prix

Eagle-Weslake MkII took a landmark victory at Spa in ’67

Bernard Cahier/Getty Images

“Dan’s mechanic from Brabham, Tim Wall, looked after the engines. He was very familiar with the Coventry Climax and was great at building a ‘new’ engine from two or three second-hand ones the team bought.”

Though the MkI was underpowered with the 250bhp Coventry Climax before the bespoke 400bhp Weslake V12 was installed later in the season, Ramirez says the car was easy to work with in the configuration Gooding & Co is auctioning it in.

“That car was designed to take the V12 Weslake engine – therefore with the little four-cylinder Coventry Climax it was a doddle to work on the car – really very easy.

“You didn’t have to take the Climax out to fix things, unlike with the Weslake, which was a tight fit. We would sometimes have to change the engine overnight.”

Despite its good looks, the birth of the car was difficult, with two points finishes and five retirements from the ’66 season’s eight races.

“Being down on power, the car was only good at tracks where a driver like Dan Gurney could make the difference with his hands and feet,” says Ramirez.

He also on remarks on what it was like to work under such a creative motor sport force as Gurney, the MkI and its descendants being part of the result of this.

“Dan was a great innovator,” says Ramirez. “He created the Gurney flap on the rear wing, the Gurney bubble, was the first guy to shake and spray the champagne bottle on the podium, the first guy to use the full-face crash helmet. It was nice to be involved there when a lot of things were changing – and they were changing for the better.”

Dan Gurney in Eagle at 1967 F1 Belgian Grand Prix

Eagle-Weslake MkII took a landmark victory at Spa in ’67

Bernard Cahier/Getty Images

The MkI would provide the springboard to the MkII and AAR’s first win with Gurney at Spa in ’67, a victory which Ramirez speaks of with great pride.

“For me, it was actually the first grand prix win that I was involved with, out of 116 [in total]. That one was really super – the first win by an American driver with an American car.

“We made history, and that was a dream of Dan Gurney and Carroll Shelby.”