Karissa Hosek ©2016, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

When Formula A offered a 5-liter class in 1968, the series took off in the United States as the “American Grand Prix.” The springboard was the adoption of the Chevrolet V8, tuned by Traco to deliver more than 400 horsepower. Dan Gurney instructed All American Racers designer Tony Southgate to modify the 1968 Eagle Indy chassis for the new series.

Other competing manufacturers included Lola, McKee and Le Grande, but Gurney’s Eagle was more sophisticated. For 1969, Formula A was renamed the Continental Championship and the series was expanded to 13 races. For the 1969 series, Eagles won six races, with Tony Adamowicz beating Surtees-mounted David Hobbs to the championship. Eagle chassis number 510, the chassis presented here, would become Adamowicz’s championship ride.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1969 AAR Eagle Mk 5 F5000
Years Produced:1968–69
Number Produced:14
Original List Price:$11,500 (bare chassis, no engine, gearbox or wheels)
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $198,000; high sale, $198,000 (this car)
Chassis Number Location:Tag on tub
Engine Number Location:Pad on block below right cylinder head
Club Info:Formula 5000 Registry, SVRA
Alternatives:Lola T-140, McLaren M-10, Surtees TS-5
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 212, sold for $198,000, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Sotheby’s auction in Monterey, CA, on August 19, 2016.

There is a long and distinguished tradition of successful race car drivers who went on to develop and build their own lines of automobiles: Enzo Ferrari, Bruce McLaren, Jack Brabham and Carroll Shelby, to name a few. Dan Gurney easily fits with the top rank of these racer/entrepreneurs.

Gurney was the first of three drivers to win races in sports cars (1958), Formula One (1962), NASCAR (1963), Indy Car (1967), and had podium finishes at Indianapolis as well (2nd in 1968 and 1969, 3rd in 1970) — the latter in cars of his own manufacture.

He started road racing in 1955 driving a Triumph, where he caught the eye of Frank Arciero, who offered him a ride in the Frank Arciero Special — an evil-handling, overpowered beast that drivers such as Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles weren’t willing to drive. He took 2nd (to Shelby in a Maserati) at the inaugural Riverside Grand Prix, and in doing so established himself as a first-rank talent. He ended up in Europe racing for the Ferrari Formula One team in 1959, then moved on to BRM in 1960. Though not formally trained, he was a natural engineer, and a series of painful incidents along the GP circuit taught him not to trust other engineers. It was better to learn the machines he was driving and pay personal attention to the mechanical details that could spell victory or tragedy.

Porsche and Brabham

Gurney moved to the Porsche Formula One team for 1961, where both his development as a driver and his education in engineering and team management continued. Porsche was a meticulous, engineering-centered factory and team. Calm decisions, precise engineering, and careful preparation of the racing cars were the hallmarks of Porsche, and Gurney learned to embrace them.

For 1963, Gurney moved to the Brabham organization and was very successful there. He stayed for three years, but his mind had moved on to thinking about manufacturing his own cars, particularly for the Indianapolis 500 and Champ car series.

By early 1965, he was ready to retire from the GP circus and focus on building American cars for American races (and eventually take those American cars back to European GP). All he really needed was serious funding.

The All American Racers

Fortunately, this was at the height of the tire wars between Firestone and Goodyear, with Goodyear particularly eager to find a way to break Firestone’s domination of the Indy 500. Gurney and Carroll Shelby were close friends, and Shelby’s company was closely associated with Goodyear, so he brokered a deal wherein Goodyear would provide major funding for Gurney’s enterprise as a way to get their tires on a front-running manufacturer and team.

Gurney had always liked the idea of naming his cars Eagles, but in a meeting with Goodyear’s President, it was suggested that the company be named “All American Racers.” Gurney didn’t feel that he could say no, so the company became AAR and the cars themselves were called Eagles.

The first job was to design and build a racer capable of winning at Indy. Gurney’s team set to work with the 1966 Indy 500 as their goal. Lead designer Len Terry had been responsible for the Lotus 38 that Jim Clark won with in 1965, finally breaking the dominance of the front-engined Indy roadsters, and the new Eagle largely followed that design.

Learning-curve issues, racing luck and stiff competition kept the Eagles away from the front in 1966 and 1967, but they got better quickly. For the 1968 season, British designer Tony Southgate joined the team and led a major redesign of the chassis, lowering, widening and stiffening the monocoque tub and revising the suspension. The new car was the ticket to success, and Eagles finished 1st, 2nd and 4th.

Formula 5000

Indy wasn’t AAR’s only focus. In 1967 the SCCA had established an “American Grand Prix” series for what it called “Formula A” cars using a 3-liter displacement limit in a professional series. For 1968, the engine size was lifted to 5,000-cc pushrod, and both the series and the prize money more than doubled, so customers were hunting for competitive chassis. AAR had just the ticket.

The 1968 Indianapolis design required virtually no modifications to be adapted to the new formula, save less expensive (heavier) materials to hold down the cost, so AAR set itself to building what would become known as Formula 5000 racers.

Only two Eagles ran the 1968 series, but they won seven of the eight races held, and for 1969 it was the car you had to have if you wanted to win. The series was renamed the “Continental Championship” and expanded to 13 races in the U.S. and Canada, creating an open-wheel equivalent of the burgeoning Can-Am Challenge series.

The 1969 Eagle F5000 retained the chassis designation but was in fact a seriously improved car. The gearbox was changed to the 30-pound-lighter DG Hewland, cooling was improved, titanium was used for the exhaust and various bits, and tubular anti-roll bars were incorporated.

The biggest change was wings. Starting in mid-1968, racing had discovered aerodynamic downforce, and for 1969 it was an essential part of the package. The nose sported twin canard wings and the rear used a single post-mounted wing that attached directly to the rear uprights (if this appears precarious, it was, and the FIA banned them after 1970 for safety, so this version of wing only lasted for two seasons). For the 1969 Continental Championship, Eagles won six of the 13 races. Tony Adamowicz won the series in our subject car.

Value in the fun

As a general rule, Formula 5000 racers are not considered collectible; their purpose and value is in how much fun you can have going out and playing with them. There is a well-established and well-attended group of these cars at virtually every vintage racing event in the U.S. these days, and the cars are easy to drive, easy to maintain and relatively cheap to race.

If you want big-horsepower bang for the buck, an F5000 is probably the best place to be. The problem is that the series ran into the mid-1970s and the later cars are wildly faster than the early ones, so if you’re in it to win it, you’ll want a 1973 or later version. Generally, the late 1960s cars don’t sell for more than $120,000 or so.

Obviously, our subject car is a very special circumstance — if there ever was a collectible F5000, this is it.

First, the AAR Eagles have become highly desirable in their own right: They were the only American marque since Duesenberg to win an international Grand Prix, they are particularly lithe and handsome designs, and there are relatively few of them available.

Second, this is an extremely original example and a championship winner as well, and third, it remains a very usable and enjoyable toy to take to the track.

Expensive, yes, but I’d say probably worth it. Call it fairly bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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