• The Jerry Bendl Collection

    Anyone who knows me knows how much I love the original SCCA Canadian-American Challenge Cup. This series, which ran from 1966 to 1974 for Group 7 sports cars has been a lifelong fascination of mine, and something I've studied from a young age. The Can-Am was really the ultimate formula, which, for much of its life, was not hindered or strangled by endless rules designed to make every car on the grid essentially identical in order to fabricate close, controlled racing. Indeed, it was quite the opposite. The Can-Am allowed free expression, and it seems every car designer had a different theory as to the ultimate racing sports car. This wonderful creativity led to some of the most ground breaking race car designs that were well advanced of those even seen in Formula 1. It also led to some of the most disastrous.

    As enthusiasts of motor racing history, we tend to view that history through rose tinted glasses, and to really study the Can-Am soon reveals this was not a series in which there was a lot of close, intense, and unpredictable racing. Indeed, most races were processional, and predictable. The only real unknown was reliability.

    In the nine seasons the Can-Am was contested, the championship was won by just four teams. Perhaps, for pure good old fashioned racing, the first year was the best. John Surtees wound up as champion, in his Lola T70, and from the seven heats held over six rounds, there were five different race winners. Once Team McLaren domination took over, so the results became mostly predictable. By 1969, McLaren had a complete stranglehold on the series. That year, a factory McLaren was first across the line in each of the eleven races. Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme claimed the front row in every round, except the final at Texas Motor Speedway, where Mario Andretti managed to sneak his customer M6B up alongside pole man Hulme. That year, the two Team McLaren M8Bs crossed the line first and second in eight of the eleven races, and when Dan Gurneys customer McLaren M6B ‘McLeagle’ broke in practice at Michigan, Bruce loaned him the spare M8B, with which Gurney placed third in the race, behind Bruce and Denny.

    But somehow, the racing itself almost played a secondary role to the creativity, the noise, the colour and wonderment of the cars themselves. This is what made the Can-Am so special, and why Can-Am cars at historic events today are such a draw-card. There really is nothing else like them, and there has never been and could probably never be, another series like the Can-Am. It was the right formula at the right time, and despite its faults, it shone brightly for nine short, wonderful seasons.

    This beautiful set of photographs was taken by Jerry Bendl, during the Edmonton rounds of the Can-Am in 1971 and 1972. That Jerry was able to gain access to and get up so close and personal to these cars, and their teams, is something we can enjoy and study. For Jerry's photos really show the Can-Am in its best light, as the creative monster it was. I have to say a huge thanks to Roaring Season member Bryan Colechin, who approached and gained permission from Jerry to post these stunning photos. We're lucky to have members like Bryan on our team.

    The rest of the collection can be viewed here > >

    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Jerry Bendl Collection started by Steve Holmes View original post