Bobby Unser’s 1968 Indy 500-winning Eagle-Offy. Photo by Zach Todd, courtesy Canepa.
Dan Gurney’s All American Racers has a more than 50-year track record of taking on the world and winning. From being the only American-built Formula 1 race winner of the modern era-with Gurney at the wheel, no less-to winning three Indianapolis 500s to so utterly dominating the IMSA GTP class in its last two years that it is said AAR’s success proved the division’s undoing, Gurney and his Eagles have put a very distinctive and American stamp on racing like few other teams across so many disciplines.
The number 99 AAR Eagle Mk. III GTP car, which won 8 of 11 events during the 1993 season; it’s sister car, 98, won 2. Photo courtesy AAR.
The Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles will be displaying a dozen or so of the iconic racers in “The Eagles Have Landed: Dan Gurney’s All American Racers,” an exhibit that opens on January 27 with an evening reception that promises a curator tour and “two special guests.” The following day, January 28, the exhibit opens to the general public and runs through January 17, 2018.
Dan Gurney at Indy in 1968. Photo courtesy AAR.
Among the cars displayed will be the pair of Eagle Indy cars that saw Bobby Unser and Dan Gurney finish one-two in the 1968 Indianapolis 500. Car #3, sporting Rislone livery and an Offenhauser engine, powered Unser to the lead for 127 of the race’s 200 laps—including the final one, though victory was never assured with the outright speed of Andy Granatelli’s turbine-powered Lotus 56 racers, all of which failed to finish the race. Gurney’s #48—a traditional number for him—featured Ford power. While Gurney never led a lap, he finished right behind his teammate on the lead lap.
Dan Gurney driving his 1970 Plymouth AAR ‘Cuda in Trans Am competition. Photo courtesy AAR.
Among the most well known of Gurney’s creations is the 1970 Plymouth AAR ‘Cuda, a production-line muscle car that was setup to homologate the car for racing, just like the Camaro Z/28 and Mustang Boss 302. Although some 2,700 or so cars were built to send to showrooms, Gurney also prepared a pair of racers to compete in the SCCA Trans Am Championship, one for Swede Savage (#42) and one for Gurney himself, once again clad in his traditional #48. While the showroom car was successful and the race cars grabbed a handful of pole positions, ultimately AAR never won a Trans Am race with the car that bore its name.
Dan Gurney with his Alligator recumbent motorcycle in 1999. Photo courtesy Petersen Automotive Museum.
One of Gurney’s most unusual creations was this motorcycle he created in the Nineties after years of experimentation. Called the Gurney Alligator A6, its extremely low, feet-forward seating position (with the rider’s posterior just 18 inches off the ground!) was designed to keep the center of gravity lower, a regular goal for a maker of race cars, but seemingly unheard of with motorcycles. With five other prototypes previous (A1 to A5), the lightweight A6 was produced in a small run of 36 bikes, a number chosen because it matched the car number when Gurney drove the Eagle-Weslake Formula 1 car to victory at Spa Francorchamps in 1967.
Dan racing the “McLeagle” Can-Am car, developed with McLaren, in 1968. Image courtesy Petersen Automotive Museum.
Along with the race cars, Gurney will also be sharing various artifacts such as the first full-face helmet worn in competition, naturally by Gurney, to the actual magnum bottle of Moët champagne that he sprayed from the rostrum when he and A.J. Foyt won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1967 with a Ford GT40, starting a tradition that continues across all racing disciplines to this day.
For more information on The Eagles Have Landed: Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, visit Petersen.org.