Photo by Eli Solomon, courtesy FIVA.
In neither of its two entries in the 24 Hours of Le Mans did the severely aerodynamic CD SP66 No. 52 actually finish the race, but that hasn’t stopped the current caretakers of the Peugeot-powered car from continuing to take it out on Circuit de la Sarthe, with its most recent outing there resulting in a Preservation Award from the Fedération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens.
While often described as a Peugeot – and maintained in race condition by a group dedicated to vehicles built by the French manufacturer – the CD SP66 only used a Peugeot engine. The car itself and its entry in Le Mans resulted from the dissolution of the Charles Deutsch and Rene Bonnet partnership in 1961. Deutsch, who initially formed CD to focus on Panhard-powered vehicles, decided in 1966 to enter a trio of slippery cars designed by aerodynamicists Lucien Romano and Robert Choulet and powered by the recently released Peugeot 204’s single overhead-camshaft 1130cc four-cylinder.
While the little 1.1L engine developed just 103 horsepower (or 108, depending on the source), the Romano/Choulet design knocked the coefficient of drag down to 0.13, far less than any production car then or now, and not much more than the Summers Brothers Goldenrod streamliner. That combination made the mid-engine SP66 theoretically capable of a top speed of 245 KPH, or about 153 MPH.
Built with interchangeable long (with tailfins) and short (without) tails to be swapped out depending on the track, the SP66 debuted at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans in the long-tail configuration. With Pierre Lelong and Alain Bertout at the wheel, No. 52 withdrew about a quarter of the way through the race with clutch problems. Its companions, No. 51 and No. 53, both DNF’d as well.
Photos courtesy FIVA.
Its fate at the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans proved no better with another DNF due to mechanical problems. It fared better, however, in at least a couple other races, with a second-in-class finish at the 1966 Magny-Cours and a third-in-class finish at the 1967 12 Hours of Reims.
Deutsch hung up his automaker’s hat after 1967 to become director of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and, later, to become France’s Minister for Transport. While one of the two surviving SP66s, No. 53, now resides in the 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum, No. 52 went to l’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS, an organization dedicated to preserving French cars.
According to comments made to Le Blog Auto, l’Aventure’s drivers haven’t quite reached the claimed top speed of 245 KPH but has let the SP66 stretch its legs at vintage racing events.
The SP66 is the second severely streamlined car to take FIVA’s Preservation Award this year, after the 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ Coda Tronca prototype that won it at Villa d’Este.
For more information about the FIVA Preservation Award, visit FIVA.org.