Lucky Casner was the founder, patron and driver of the Camoradi International team – the world’s major independent racing team according to its 1961 press release. It was an ambitious organisation that would soon disintegrate with the charming but erratic Casner roundly blamed.
With a reputation for poor preparation, tension between its star drivers and too many crashed cars, Camoradi unravelled in 1961 as quickly as it had arrived. That Casner enjoyed the high life and was something of a womaniser – counting screen Goddess Brigette Bardot among those he was pictured with – did not help.
Education and Camoradi
A graduate of the University of Miami, he bought and sold used Cadillacs to fund racing an MG and Lotus in 1958 SCCA events. He met Fred Gamble by chance in Fort Lauderdale and they formed a new team – Camoradi (CAsner MOtor RAcing DIvision). There was talk of Casner having been a pilot for Pan-Am but that is uncertain. What is not in doubt was Casner’s salesmanship.
With Gamble’s training in Public Relations and Casner’s gift of the gab, they signed the likes of Masten Gregory, Dan Gurney and Stirling Moss to drive. But the withdrawal of initial support from Goodyear was an early setback and the team struggled financially.
Sports car success with Maserati
With undoubted star qualities, Casner also featured as himself in the 1961 film The Green Helmet. He also drove the team’s "birdcage" Maserati T61 sports car that year – most notably winning the Nürburgring 1000Kms with Gregory. He was then leading the Pescara Four Hours when he crashed avoiding a backmarker. The Maserati overturned and Casner was badly scalded by boiling water.
Although he recovered from his Pescara burns, his luck ran out in 1965 when killed while testing for the forthcoming Le Mans 24 Hours. He was approaching Mulsanne Corner at 170mph when the brakes on his new Maserati 151/4 apparently failed.
Gamble later said that Casner "was a wheeler-dealer. But his downfall was that he didn’t know when to stop. Lucky was a good old-fashioned, handsome, classy, silver-tongued, American used-car salesman." He was living in somewhat reduced circumstances in Paris at the time of his death.