Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bill Young’s Can-Am Lola T70

This blog does not typically dip into sports car racing, but today we will as 2016 marks the 50th anniversary origination of the fabled Johnson Wax Canadian-American Challenge Cup. The “Can-Am” series as it quickly came to be known was for Group 7 sports cars featured very few rules initially, so long as the car had two seats with the wheels and tires cloaked in bodywork.
A 1968 J-Wax Can-Am sticker from the author's collection

SC Johnson & Son’s backing of the Can-Am series through its ‘J-Wax’ brand of automotive paste waxes meant the series had the level of purses and publicity required to succeed. For the 6-race 1968 season, in addition to an average purse of $35,000 per race, Johnson Wax offered a $126,000 series points fund supplemented by $200,000 in other contingency prize money. These massive prizes attracted top-name international drivers and major sponsors, as well participation by both the major tire companies and camouflaged interest from several automobile manufacturers.

After its first year with the Can-Am championship won by 1964 Formula One champion John Surtees the series co-sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the CASC (Canadian Auto Sports Club)  was dominated by McLaren. Although innovation was the name of the Can-Am game, during the 1969 Can-Am season no other marque besides McLaren won any of the eleven Can-Am races. Over the course of the series’ eight year run, some truly innovative machines were built, but many racers used customer cars, either copies of McLarens built by Trojan or Lolas built by Eric Broadley’s Lola Cars International.
Click to enlarge Bill Young's logo 

Right up until the end of the original Can-Am series in 1974, it constantly attracted amateur sports car drivers who wanted to become professional racers, such as the subject of this article.  Bill Young of LaCanada California was a well-known sports car racer and dealer with an eponymous dealership located at 2100 West Verdugo Blvd in the San Gabriel Valley community of Montrose north of Los Angeles that sold Lotus, MG and Austin cars which Young advertised as “Fun-tastic cars.”

Young began racing in SCCA regional events in a 1961 MG Midget mark I in G-production events in 1960, and by 1963 the Midget fitted with the larger mark II 1098 cubic centimeter (CC) (67 cubic inch) engine became a consistent front-runner. Young scored three class victories during the 1963 SCCA season on temporary courses on the parking lots at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Dodger Stadium at Chavez Ravine and the Riverside International Raceway. In 1964 Young in his MG Midget was crowned the SCCA G-Production Pacific Coast regional champion.     


A photo of Bill Young in his Lotus Elan GT

For the 1965 racing season, Young obtained a Lotus Elan GT roadster from the factory which featured a thinner fiberglass body shell, aluminum transmission bell housing and magnesium wheels that reduced the car’s weight to 1250 pounds, or 250 pounds lighter than a regular Elan. In addition its lighter weight, the Elan GT was equipped with a Cosworth-tuned Ford twin-cam engine that displaced 1557 CC (95 cubic inches) fed by twin side-draft Weber carburetors. The combination of 140 horsepower on tap and its light weight made Bill Young and his Elan GT immediate threats to win in West Coast SCCA C-Production racing.
The program for the 1965 ARRC race

In 1965, by winning the February SCCA national race at the Tucson (Arizona) Municipal airport temporary road course, Bill qualified to race in the American Road Race of Champions (ARRC) the forerunner of the modern-day SCCA Runoffs. In 1965, the ARRC was held on the Daytona International Speedway’s 3.1-mile infield road course at the end of November.

The layout of the Daytona 1965 road course
run counter clockwise


While in Daytona Bill and his good friend Jerry Titus then still a car magazine editor and part-time racer stayed at the Carnival Motor Inn which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean 5 miles from the Speedway. At the conclusion the 45-minute C-production national championship race, held late in the morning on Sunday November 28, it was a Lotus Elan GT 1-2-3 sweep as Young triumphed over Phil Groggins of Schenectady New York and Joe Ward of Riverside California.
For the 1966 season, the SCCA moved the Lotus Elan GT into the B-Production class which was dominated by the Shelby American built Ford Mustang GT350. Young’s Lotus won the February SCCA National race held on the Phoenix International Raceway road course which qualified Bill  to race in the ARRC held at Riverside at the end of November 1966.

Early in the Riverside ARRC race on November 27, Young unavoidably collided with the GT350 of Dan Gerber who had tangled with Frank Search’s Corvette as the pair exited turn nine and ran head-on into the end of the pit wall.  The debris from Gerber’s destroyed Mustang was scattered everywhere which necessitated a red flag as Gerber a Ford dealer and heir to the baby food fortune was transported to the hospital with serious injuries that included two broken legs and spinal injuries.  

Bill Young, Cobra racer Mel Wetzel, and a young Ford Mustang GT350 driver named Mark Donohue were all disqualified from the race because their crews worked on the cars during the delay. Once the race resumed, Pennsylvania car dealer Don Yenko in his Chevy Corvette jumped the restart and ignored the black flag for the rest of the race. Although he crossed the finish line first, Yenko was disqualified and the win was awarded to Ed Lowther’s Cobra    

On April 25 1968, an article in the Glendale News-Press newspaper announced that Bill Young, then 45 years old, would make the leap into the professional racing ranks with a planned start on April 28 at Riverside International Raceway in a Lola T70 Mark 3B. The car Young purchased, Lola chassis SL73/107, was originally sold by Lola Cars’ United States distributor John Mecom to a Southern California stockbroker named Dick Maxwell whose plan was to enlist several investors. Maxwell hired former Shelby employee “Ole” Olsen to prepare the car which was to be driven by John Morton, but only one investor signed up.

Months later the car’s lone investor an older lady got nervous and sold the complete operation - the completed Lola T70 with two complete Ryan Falconer built 359-cubic inch fuel-injected Chevrolet engines, new enclosed trailer and pickup truck – at a loss to southern California racing entrepreneur Chuck Jones. Jones entered the Lola for Southern California driver Rick Muther in the fifth round of the Can-Am series at Riverside at the end of October 1967.  Muther, a regular sports car racer through the 1966 season, had embarked on a United States Auto Club (USAC) championship (Indy) car career during the 1967 season with car owner George Walther.    

Muther qualified for the 10th annual ‘Los Angeles Times Grand Prix for Sports Cars’ with a best lap of one minute 49 seconds, nearly 10 seconds slower than pole winner Dan Gurney in Ford-powered Lola to start 28th in the 36-car field. Muther and the yellow with red trim “J.A.P. Enterprises” #46 Lola retired after 19 circuits around the Riverside 3-1/4 mile course with a broken gearbox as Bruce McLaren edged out Jim Hall’s Chaparral  2G to score his second consecutive series win.        

Two weeks later, at the third annual ‘Stardust Grand Prix’ on the Stardust road course in the Las Vegas suburb of Spring Valley, Muther qualified the Lola in 15th place in the 24-car starting field with his fastest lap just 4 seconds slower than pole winner Bruce McLaren’s best lap. At the conclusion of the race marked by a high attrition rate, Muther brought the “J.A.P.” Lola home in sixth place out of ten finishers albeit five laps in arrears to winner John Surtees.

In early 1968, Chuck Jones sold the car to Bill Young who kept the car in its yellow livery but re-numbered it #99 (his regular racing number) for his entry in the second round of the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) held at Riverside at the end of April 1968 in conjunction with a slate of SCCA Regional races. Young started thirteenth in the 22-car field but the Lola fell out after eleven laps with a broken shifter linkage and Young finished twentieth.

The following week at Laguna Seca Raceway Young qualified 18th at the third USRRC round with a best lap of 1 minute and 9.9 seconds compared to Jim Hall’s pole winning time of 1 minute and 2.9 seconds in the winged Chaparral 2G. At the conclusion of the 90-lap race around the Laguna Seca 1.9-mile course, Bill finished 9th, seven laps behind winner Mark Donohue and just behind under two-liter class winner Scooter Patrick’s Porsche.     

At the end of June, Young rejoined the USRRC series for the sixth round at Pacific Raceway in Kent Washington. With a small entry list, Bill and the #99 Lola finished fourth two laps behind the Carl Hass-owned Lola team cars of Robert ‘Skip’ Scott and Chuck Parsons after mechanical troubles eliminated front runners Donohue, Lothar Motschenbacher, and John Cannon.

Bill Young returned to his amateur racing roots on September 1 as he took part in the 16-car class A & B/Sports Racing event at the SCCA regional races held on a temporary course at the Santa Barbara Airport in Goleta and took the overall victory.  Three weeks later, flush with his regional success, Young hauled his Lola north to the Golden Gate Road Course in Cotati built on an abandoned airfield 45 miles north of San Francisco where he scored another victory in the A/SR race.

A week later found Young entered in the ‘Klondike Trail 200,’ the third round of the 1968 SCCA Can-Am series held on the Edmonton International Raceway in western Canada.  The Agapiou Brothers a pair of Southern California racing mechanics hauled the #99 Lola north of the border along with the #45 entry for driver/owner Jef Stevens. Young qualified in 22nd place, 12 ½ seconds behind top qualifiers Hulme and McLaren, but then the Lola retired with just 18 of the scheduled 80 laps completed after the Chevrolet engine blew a sump gasket.

Young had entered his Lola for the ‘Monterey Grand Prix’ at Laguna Seca Raceway the fourth round of the 1968 Can-Am series but the car did not appear.  Prior to his next race, Bill Young landed a sponsorship deal with Mac’s Super Gloss Company Incorporated, an automotive chemical company founded by Robinson MacIssac of Pasadena California in 1955. 

An early bottle of Mac's Super Gloss Wax

Based in Los Angeles, ‘Mac’s’ also owned a 30,000 square foot manufacturing plant and warehouse in the Mount Lookout neighborhood in Cincinnati Ohio. ‘Mac’s’ catalog featured over 30 automotive chemicals as well as charcoal lighter fluid, and during the nineteen sixties the company adopted its trademark “flying V” logo with the phrase ‘Don’t wax it - Mac’s it.”

Bill Young's Lola T70 Mark 3B at the 1968 Stardust Grand Prix
photo by Ken Eastman 

Bill Young showed up at Riverside at the end of October with the Lola carrying the “Mac’s Super Gloss” logo on its flanks for the eleventh annual ‘Los Angeles Times Grand Prix for Sports Cars’ which offered racers an incredible total purse of $101,230.  On the familiar Riverside course, Bill qualified nineteenth out of 40 cars but lost many laps in the pits with unspecified mechanical problems and had completed just 40 of the scheduled 62 laps when Bruce McLaren took the checkered flag.  

Young joined the Can-Am regulars for the final race of the 1968 season at Stardust International Raceway for the ‘Stardust Grand Prix’ where the car was photographed by Ken Eastman. Young qualified 28th in the 35-car field led to the green flag by pole sitter Bruce McLaren, but the #99 yellow Lola retired on lap 30 of the 70-lap race with a broken gearbox.
An AP press photo of Jim Hall's flip at Stardust

Denis Hulme won the race which was highlighted by Jim Hall’s spectacular flip and fire in his Chaparral 2G after contact with second place Lothar Motschenbacher’s crippled McLaren on lap 59. Hall suffered two broken legs, a broken jaw, and burns; he returned to the SCCA Trans-Am sedan series in 1970 but never drove in the Can-Am series again. 
After the 1968 season, Young sold his Lola T70 to San Diego racer George Hollinger who intended to use the car to replace his aged Lola T70 Mark II chassis. Unfortunately Hollinger flipped the car while testing it at Road Atlanta in March 1969 and the remains were in storage for many years before it was restored to its original condition by Lilo Zircon.

While Bill Young never raced in the Can-Am series after 1968, Mac’s Automotive Chemicals returned to the series in 1970 as the sponsor of the bizarre four-engine machine built by former Shelby American employee Jack Hoare.  The “Mac’s It” entry was powered by four Rotax 800 CC two-stroke engines that each reportedly produced 110 horsepower and were connected to a central driveshaft via centrifugal clutches and belt pulleys.  The noisy, smoking car, piloted by Japanese driver Hiroshi Fushida, appeared at  the Laguna Seca Can-Am round but its best lap was nearly thirty seconds slower than the pole winning Chaparral 2J “sucker car” and Fushida did not start the feature race.  

There are some excellent color photographs of the LolaT70 as built by Olsen and Morton in John Morton’s excellent book entitled Inside Shelby American: Wrenching and Racing with Carroll Shelby in the 1960s

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