Shelby McLaren Plymouth Superbird Dan Gurney

Dan Gurney, Jim Clark, Plymouth, Riverside Raceway, Superbird -

Shelby McLaren Plymouth Superbird Dan Gurney

Shelby McLaren’s most poignant memory of Dan Gurney was not at a race track, but at a small Churchyard in the Scottish Borders on the 10th of April 1968. Almost 7000 people had gathered for the funeral of one the greatest Formula One drivers of all time, Jim Clark. Shelby was chatting with Jackie Stewart and Dan Gurney when James Clark Sr took Dan aside to tell him that the only man his son had ever feared on a race track was Dan Gurney. It was an emotional and solemn moment that Shelby and Dan would reflect on for many years to come, it was an accolade to be cherished and revered.

Shelby had seen Dan Gurney race on many occasions and in a vast range of cars from F1, Indy Car, NASCAR and Can-Am to Trans-Am and even in a Ferrari for the Cannonball Run. He was at Le Mans in ’67 when Dan Gurney spontaneously sprayed champagne while celebrating on the podium, beginning a trend that continues to this day and he was at Spa in ’67 when Gurney won in his own car, the AAR Eagle-Weslake.

In 1969 Dan told Shelby that Chrysler had closed its Missile Division and one of the aero-dynamics engineers, Gary Romberg had gone over to the Automotive Division to see if he could improve the results for Dodge and Plymouth in the NASCAR series. Having a Rocket Scientist in charge sounded ‘interesting’ and it was with some trepidation that Shelby travelled to the Riverside Raceway in California in 1970 as he had heard that the head of Chrysler had called the newly designed cars, ‘the ugliest car he had ever seen’. 

It was the first race of the 1970 NASCAR Series and the Plymouth Superbird was to make its debut on track. The car was definitely unique in appearance but Dan Gurney was determined to show Richard Petty that he could put the new Plymouth on the front row of the grid and he did just that. Petty had only just been lured back to Plymouth from Ford so this was an enormous boost for the Petty team. Dan Gurney finished sixth on the day and never drove that car again but it was a car that very few ever forgot including Shelby McLaren!

Carrera are a hugely respected slot car manufacturer, they produce many of the cars that other makers don’t. An excellent example of this is with NASCARS like those in our historic NASCAR parade in todays photo’s. They offer the largest range of these cars and in the most iconic liveries including the Richard Petty #43, the Dan Gurney #42 and the Pete Hamilton #40 cars. Carrera even released a ‘Rocket Ship’ tribute car that may have been a nod to the inspiration for the design from the Missile Division aero-dynamics of Gary Romberg. Slot car fans either love them or hate them, what’s your thoughts?

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