View Full Version : The Open Sports Ford

Steve Holmes
04-27-2011, 03:24 AM

In my opinion, for what its worth, I consider the 1969 season to be the pinnacle of the SCCA Can-Am series. Despite the completely one-sided race results in which the McLaren team won all 11 rounds, 8 of which were 1-2 McLaren finishes, and at Michigan they even managed a 1-2-3 when Dan Gurney drove the spare M8B after his own car had failed in practice.

But this was the last season in which the series really was devoid of the stifling enforcements that would that would slowly choke it over the following years, where the rule book was notably short of rules, which itself promoted free-spirited thinking. Just prior to the beginning of the season, the FIA outlawed the tall rear wheel hub mounted aerofoils teetering on spindly struts after several of these had failed in Formula 1. Fortunately, although the FIA would demand these aerofoils be gone by 1970, they accepted their immediate banning of the devices, on which several cars had been designed around, might do more harm than good. And so the '69 Can-Am became the year of the aerofoil.

And is it coincidence that the last year of the free-spirited Can-Am seasons also produced arguably the most beautiful cars? The all-conquering McLaren M8B, the McLaren customer M12, which shared much of its silhouette with the M6 road car, the Autocoast Ti-22, the Lola T163, and the magnificent Ferrari 612P. To some, the chunky Chaparral 2H may not be considered beautiful, but I beg to differ. The 'white whale' may not have shared the slim lines of its competitors, or of earlier Chaparrals, but it was a striking looking car, particularly in its high downforce guise, with massive overhead wing fitted.

But to my mind, the most beautiful of all the cars of the 1969 Can-Am, for that matter, of all the Can-Am seasons, was the curiously named 'Open Sports Ford', which made its race debut at the penultimate round, at Riverside. Built by Alan Mann Racing, in England, the Open Sports Ford was a magnificent looking machine that epitomised everything the '69 Can-Am was about. Finished in a two-tone metallic blue and gold colour scheme, it featured 6-spoke wheels with centre spinners, and the obligatory hub mounted rear aerofoil. The tub was made of alloy, as was the body. Beneath its swoopy rear bodywork lay an alloy 494ci fuel injected Boss motor reportedly producing 740hp. The Boss motor delivered its power to the 24” wide rear wheels via a Hewland LG600 5-speed transaxle. 0-100mph (160kph) was said to be achieved in 5 seconds.

The Open Sports Ford, in its debut race, qualified 10th with Frank Gardner at the wheel, but retired early with suspension failure. However, it returned for the final round of the '69 Can-Am season, at Texas International Speedway, driven by another Australian international racer, Jack Brabham. Brabham qualified 7th, and worked his way through the field to lie 2nd late in the race, until he was slowed by an engine oil leak which dropped him back to 3rd behind winner Bruce McLaren, and George Eaton, in a customer McLaren M12.

Certainly, the potential was there. And yet, the Open Sports Ford vanished as quickly as it appeared. Perhaps a victim of Ford Motor Companies lack of commitment to the Can-Am, or its drastic racing budget slash for 1970, or Alan Mann Racing closing its doors at the conclusion of the '69 season, but the Open Sports Ford never raced again.

I'd often wondered what became of the Open Sports Ford. Did it survive? Was it scrapped? Finding information on the car was damn-near impossible. And then, suddenly, I learned that not only had the Open Sports Ford survived, it had literally been rolled off the transporter following its second (and final) race, and parked up.

One evening, back in 2008, a Can-Am enthusiast named Tim was scoping Ebay, looking for a Can-Am car to purchase. He'd followed several leads on various cars, all of which had come to nothing. On this occasion, he accidentally stumbled upon an auction titled “Ford Canam racercar”, and when he went inside the auction, was immediately hit with a photo of the Open Sports Ford, at Texas, with Brabham at the wheel. He contacted the owner, and arranged to go view the car. On arrival at the sellers house, he found an overgrown property littered with cars and out-buildings, and was eventually led to a concrete block building with a plywood door. After yanking the door open, the inside of the building was dark and cramped, provided little natural light, and had no electricity. It was full of car parts, and after some of these were cleared, and some of the blocks were removed from the back wall to let a little light in, the Open Sports Ford revealed itself.

What sat there was the ultimate 'barn find'. The car was completely original, still wearing the paint of its last race at Texas, in 1969. The engine had been changed at some stage, but other than this, the Open Sports Ford was complete and original, and still wore its 1 of 1 chassis tag.

Tim did offer to buy the Open Sports Ford, but another buyer ended up getting it instead, and Tim later found himself a Lola T310, the 1972 Lola factory car, as driven by David Hobbs. It may have passed into the history books as just another “what might have been”, and we'll never know its true potential, but at least the Open Sports Ford survives, and more than that, is original and intact.

Steve Holmes
04-27-2011, 03:30 AM
Here are Tims 'as found' photos.




Steve Holmes
04-27-2011, 03:32 AM
More photos...




04-27-2011, 08:50 AM
Now that what i call a "real" engine!! OH OH AR AR is how Tim(the tool man)Taylor would say it!!


04-27-2011, 10:36 PM
Man that is way cool,so who did buy it and where is it now?
Wouldnt it be great to see that out here at The Festival!

Steve Holmes
04-28-2011, 04:11 AM
Not sure who bought it but it was photographed at a historic event more recently, although it didn't race.

06-10-2011, 05:46 AM
Here is a picture of the Open Sports Ford at the 1969 Texas Can-Am. This picture is in the February, 1970, edition of AUTO RACING.


Steve Holmes
06-11-2011, 12:56 AM
Thats a really great photo Chad, thanks heaps for posting it. Eaton would eventually hunt down the OSF and finish second.

04-18-2012, 08:03 AM
I've always loved this car too - such a good looking beast and with 494 cubic inches of aluminum awesomeness one can only image what it would have been like to drive it.

I've collected a few snaps off the web over the past few years;






04-18-2012, 08:07 AM
And following Steve's 'found it' photos, I did some searching and found these photos of how she looks now;






04-18-2012, 08:57 AM
It looks fantastic, but that airbox?

04-18-2012, 09:19 AM
It looks fantastic, but that airbox?

These photos were the first time I've seen that airbox on this car. It only ran twice and I'm quite sure it was not used on either occasion. It may have been built with the car and not used...

I have other photos of the car that I need to scan from a Can-Am book that shows the car in more detail - and also the G7A. Will dust off the scanner and post them up soon.

04-18-2012, 08:07 PM
What about the 4 barrel when most of the action shots show the more usual 8 trumpets?

Steve Holmes
04-18-2012, 09:08 PM
My understanding is that the engine was removed, and the one now in the car isn't the original, hence the carb. Also, that airbox was just sat there, for whatever reason. Its completely unrelated to the car, isn't even the right shape for the opening.

04-18-2012, 09:36 PM
Built by Alan Mann Racing designed by Len Bailey, engine by Holman and Moody. Had the car been built and tested pre-season and developed properly as the McLarens were the car may have done well, it certainly showed potential. But, I guess the same could be said for a lot of the CanAm field, if they had gone about things as McLaren did the results for the series could have been so much different.





Steve Holmes
04-18-2012, 09:45 PM
Wow, those are sensational Gavin! The most detailed pics I've ever seen of this car. Thanks for posting.

Yep, like you say, motorsport is littered with stories of cars that never realised their true potential through lack of development and/or time. The Peter Bryant designed Ti22 driven by Jackie Oliver was another example of this from the '69 Can-Am season.

04-18-2012, 10:06 PM
Interestingly the car only raced twice, it arrived for Round 10 of the 1969 CanAm at Riverside driven by Frank Gardner, qualified 10th, got up to 5th during the race and retired with a broken half shaft. At Round 11 in Texas, Jack Brabham drove, qualified 7th and finished 3rd. Now, by Texas some of the regulars cars were probably getting tired, but it was still a great result and I guess another motor racing if only! By the way the engine apparently had a special magnesium block which probably explains why the original engine is no longer with the car.

Re the Ti22, the book 'CanAm Challenger' written by the late Pete Bryant is a must read for anybody interested in CanAm racing.

Steve Holmes
04-18-2012, 10:20 PM
I didn't know that about the magnesium block! Amazing! Yes, you're right about the attrition rate at Texas. They used part of the high speed Texas speedway, which would have added more strain to some already tired race cars. 24 cars started, 12 finished, including only one McLaren team car, which definitely helped Brabham. He was actually running second late in the race but was slowed by an oil leak and slipped to third.

08-22-2016, 09:08 AM
Digging up an old thread for some updated photos. I recently found some 'new' old photos of the Allan Mann 'Open Sports Ford', and then some sensational new photos taken within the past few months;





08-22-2016, 09:12 AM
And as she looks today with its owner Tom Cantrell. The last 3 sensational photos I've saved from the Aerosport Photography facebook page;





Steve Holmes
08-22-2016, 08:01 PM
Wow, EPIC photos! What a beautiful car that is. Thanks for posting these.

Steve Holmes
09-05-2016, 06:24 PM
Great little video here:


Ray Bell
09-06-2016, 09:14 AM
Is this the car they called the 'Honker'?

09-06-2016, 09:31 AM
Definitely not, Ray. Here are a couple of shots of the Holman and Moody Honker from 1967.



09-06-2016, 09:47 AM
Wow thanks for the video post Steve - although I'm now somewhat disappointed!!! It's a replica !!! Although it is quite something amazing in itself as it looks stunning - and oh doesn't that Boss sing like an angel....

09-06-2016, 11:03 PM
Is that car running the same model of engine Philip Mules originally ran in his lightweight Cobra replica??

Steve Holmes
09-07-2016, 01:50 AM
Definitely not, Ray. Here are a couple of shots of the Holman and Moody Honker from 1967.



Sadly, despite its Total Performance programs during the 1960s, FoMoCo never really committed to the Can-Am. They did dabble briefly a couple of times, and the Holman-Moody 'Honker II' was just one example.

This car appeared at one or two races in 1967, driven by Mario Andretti. Its was painted a light metallic purple, and really didn't achieve anything. Prior to the start of the season, there were rumors that Ford would enter the Can-Am swinging heavily, with a couple of two car teams; one run by Holman-Moody, the other Shelby. The Shelby car did make one appearance, driven by Jerry Titus, but was even more underwhelming.

And that was it, until they returned in 1969, but again, despite some impressive machinery, their commitment was fleeting at best.

Steve Holmes
09-07-2016, 01:52 AM
Wow thanks for the video post Steve - although I'm now somewhat disappointed!!! It's a replica !!! Although it is quite something amazing in itself as it looks stunning - and oh doesn't that Boss sing like an angel....

Yeah I know what you mean. I thought I was watching the real thing, until about halfway through. But I sort of understand their reasons. The original car, as outlined at the start of this thread, is so incredibly original, its possibly too risky to try and race it. I believe it still even wears its original paint.

Steve Holmes
09-07-2016, 01:53 AM
Ford Honker II


09-12-2016, 07:39 PM
Keep in mind there's a reason the Honker looks sort of familiar ... The two cars are "sisters" !
There are 5 "children" in the family . You could say there are three sisters and two brothers if we count the two cars with hard domes "males" . Starting in 1967 you get the first two . The Honker II is constructed by Alan Mann Racing and is shipped to Holman and Moody who Ford has chosen to race it . With that car we see the first family characteristics exhibited . Pay particular attention to the nose from the center of the front wheels forward , and to the rear half of the car from just aft of the roll bar . You'll see them again later . In the same time period at JWR John Wyer's crew is constructing the Ford GT40 variant known as the Mirage M1 . The outstanding feature of that design is the roughly triangular shape of the dome of the roof .
Now we move to 1968 and Alan Mann Debuts the P68 or F3L Ford prototype . It bears two of the prominent family features . If you look at it from the nose to the back of the cockpit it's basically the Honker with the Mirage roof on it ! Sure the lower lip of the radiator inlet is a little more pronounced and the whole car is a little slimmer and lower but you can't miss the look .
On to 1969 where the mostly unsuccessful P68 becomes the high-winged P69 roadster (which basically looks like an upside-down pontoon boat and other than being a bunch of curvy shapes doesn't share much with the other cars looks-wise) Meanwhile Alan Mann Racing is constructing another Can Am car for Ford and Holman Moody . Originally tested with a 377 Cu. In. Gurney Weslake engine (based on a 351 Windsor block) it got shipped to Holman Moody where it was fitted with the experimental Ford owned Magnesium 494 . The OSF retains it's family resemblance as from at least the roll bar back it retains a great resemblance to the Honker .
The point of all this description of the sequence and the similarities is to show how a man's mind gets on a track and tends to follow it as he evolves it . Over time you see the evolution and in the case of the P68 , the combination of different concepts in the cars .The reason all of these cars are a "family" is because they are successive designs from one man . Ford had a talented aerodynamicist named Len Bailey . He designed all five of these cars .

09-12-2016, 07:47 PM
One other quick comment . When the OSF was disposed of by H&M it basically went out the door with a bunch of other old "stuff" including the M6 "429'er" in a sort of fire sale . When discovered years later the injected , magnesium 494 was gone . It had been replaced with what was surely a .040 overbore , iron-blocked , carburated , 429 but with the magneto out of the 494 . Keeping in mind that Holman & Moody had raced Nascar cars with the Boss 429 in them it's pretty likely the engine in the car was a left-over Winston Cup enginre they had lying around . The tall intake manifold and Dominator carb are kind of a give-away .

Steve Holmes
09-12-2016, 08:27 PM
One other quick comment . When the OSF was disposed of by H&M it basically went out the door with a bunch of other old "stuff" including the M6 "429'er" in a sort of fire sale . When discovered years later the injected , magnesium 494 was gone . It had been replaced with what was surely a .040 overbore , iron-blocked , carburated , 429 but with the magneto out of the 494 . Keeping in mind that Holman & Moody had raced Nascar cars with the Boss 429 in them it's pretty likely the engine in the car was a left-over Winston Cup enginre they had lying around . The tall intake manifold and Dominator carb are kind of a give-away .

Those are a great couple of first posts! Thanks for your input. And yes, I agree in every way, the very strong family resemblance is obvious to see among the AMR built machines, and in particular, the P68/P69 and Honker II. I wrote a small piece on the F3L a few years back, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the similarities: http://www.theroaringseason.com/showthread.php?588-The-Ford-F3L

Out of interest, do you know if the Open Sports Ford shared the same wheelbase as the earlier cars? One of the criticisms of the P68/69 was the very short wheelbase, which made handling at or near the limit quite challenging.

khyndart in CA
09-12-2016, 09:35 PM
I may be a bit late but this a nice site for Alan Mann racing.


I remember reading about the Ford 3 L and how Bruce McLaren had driven it at Brands Hatch in the BOAC 500 in April 1968 without much success and as he was driving home he heard on the radio the devastating news that Jimmy Clark had died at Hockenheim that day.

(Ken Hyndman )

Ray Bell
09-12-2016, 11:15 PM
I wonder how much they had in common with the Mildren Mono and the Mildren Chev, also Len Bailey cars from the same era?

khyndart in CA
09-13-2016, 10:31 PM
When I see the racing at Goodwood last weekend and then look back to the days when we would take cars to test at the circuit, you realize how much everyone, thanks to the Earl of March have renovated the track back to it's glorious past.
I used to look along the hills in the distance (The South Downs ) and wonder where it was that my uncle clipped power lines / hilltop and plunged into the edge of a small village close to Goodwood with deadly results in a Mosquito fighter bomber in 1944.
As you can see it was a popular track for testing in the late sixties and seventies.
1969. Frank Gardner testing the Ford Can Am car.
Gardner heading out. Compare the background to what is there today !

(Ken Hyndman photo )
Nov. 1973. March F1 team testing at Goodwood. Note in each photo except one the red and yellow Landrover which is what I rode around in when the track custodian showed me the areas where Stirling Moss and Bruce had had their accidents and other track memories. Back then it looked like the track was about to be closed down. That is why last weekend was great to watch.

(Ken Hyndman )

khyndart in CA
09-14-2016, 06:43 PM
I am not sure where this car is now but this is how it was advertised 5 years ago in 2011.
Perhaps some good Kiwi ingenuity could sort this beast out and we would see it in action again. It is a good looking vehicle.

(As seen in Sports Car Market magazine. Oct. 2011 )

(Ken Hyndman )