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Thread: Photos: The Bill Sutton Collection

  1. #1

    Photos: The Bill Sutton Collection

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    Another exciting new collection of historic photographs to share with you all. I have Derek Sutton to thank for sending me these wonderful images, taken by his father Bill, during 1967 and 1968.

    Bill Sutton was a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Tech Inspector, and while he wasn't checking over the legality of race cars, he took the time to snap these photos.

    These images are all from the Bryar Trans-Am races during 1967 and 1968. Most have never been shared before, so this is quite a privilege. The history of the Trans-Am series during its 1966 through 1972 period is a personal passion of mine, so I'll try to provide as much info as I can.

  2. #2
    I'll run through all the 1967 photos, followed by the 1968 photos.

    First up, I believe this shot was taken during practice. I'll detail my reasons for this in a later posting. But pictured here is Mark Donohue in the very first Penske Camaro, built from a road going Z28 Camaro. Donohue would go on to become a driver/builder/developer of huge significance, but in mid-1967 when this photo was taken, he was still very early in his professional racing career. He'd already done some driving for Ford of their mighty Ford MkII and MkIV sports cars, but was still quite uncertain if he had what it took to make a career as a racing driver. He started racing for Penske in early 1966, but quit the team at the end of the season, until Roger Penske lured him back.

    The Penske team were one of the very first to try racing a Camaro. There was no instruction book in which to follow, and they were all at sea for much of 1967. They couldn't get the car to handle, or stop, or put its power to the ground. Here at Bryar the Camaro broke an axle in practice and flung Donohue into a wall. It broke another axle in the race and Donohue was out on lap 93 of 156.

    Chasing Donohue here is Milt Minter in the Shelby Mustang.

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  3. #3
    This is the Canadian driver Craig Fisher. Fisher was an incredibly talented driver, and he was also very good at setting up a race car. But he was also an incredibly shy person, who never talked himself up, and as a result, didn't go as far in his career as he should have.

    Fisher was the very first person to score Trans-Am points for the Camaro. The Trans-Am series didn't actually have a Drivers Championship until 1971. Up to that point, there was only a Manufacturers Championship. The Camaro as a model made its Trans-Am race debut at the Daytona 300 mile race, which was support to the big Daytona 24 Hour, in February 1967. There were four Camaros that lined up on the Trans-Am grid, including the Penske car, and Fisher finished the race in second, driving this car, behind Bob Tullius in a Dodge Dart. He was the highest placed Camaro driver, and as the Trans-Am only paid points to the first car from each manufacturer, Fisher scored Chevrolets first T/A points.

    Fisher would later team up with Donohue in the Penske Camaro in the endurance events, and did very well. He also combined with fellow Canadian Terry Godsall to run the first Pontiac Firebird in the Trans-Am series in 1968, which would eventually lure Pontiac into the series for 1969.

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  4. #4
    This is the great Jerry Titus, a hugely influential motoring journalist, as well as incredibly talented race car driver. He was lead driver for the factory back Shelby racing team, run under the guise of Terlingua Racing Team. Titus would win four races during the 1967 Trans-Am series, to help Ford win the Manufacturers Championship.

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  5. #5
    This is the second of the factory Mustangs, although the car was actually owned by Grady Davis. The racing dentist Dr Dick Thompson drove the Mustang during the early part of the season, including here at Bryar, where he finished third. He decided to retire from racing following Round 8 at Continental Divide.

    Following Thompson is Ed Leslie, driving one of the two Bud Moore run factory Mercury Cougars. The Cougars were usually driven by Parnelli Jones and Dan Gurney, but they had other commitments this weekend, and were replaced by Leslie and Peter Revson.

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  6. #6
    This is the Penske Camaro during practice, where it broke an axle, and flung Donohue into the wall. Conveniently, it happened right in front of Bill Sutton, who snapped a couple of photos.

    Whats interesting here is the illegal rear spoiler fitted to the Camaro. Trans-Am rules stipulated only production aero parts were allowed to be fitted, but in their desperate plight to get the unwieldy Camaro to handle, the Penske team extended the rear spoiler, by quite a lot! Amazingly, the SCCA Tech Inspectors never picked up on this.

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  7. #7
    Same incident, a few moments later as the fire crew jump in to prevent the Camaro catching alight.

    As the Penske team battled to get a handle on developing the Camaro into a race winner, as part of their efforts, someone went to great lengths to have Fisher Body punch out a full set of replacement bolt-on body panels in thin-gauge steel to save weight. This was before the teams all figured the best way to save weight was to simply acid dip everything. In Mark Donohue's book An Unfair Advantage, he wrote he'd heard these special lightweight panels cost about $15,000 at the time. They were fitted just prior to this event, and promptly destroyed right here when the axle broke.

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  8. #8
    Bill snapped this photo of a beautiful Series II E Type in the Trans-Am pit during the Bryar event. Judging by what appears to be temporary stickers on the door, I assume this is one of the parade cars that take the drivers around the track to wave to the crowd prior to the race. This would have been a brand new car at the time, and probably the first Series II Bill had seen, hence the photo.

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  9. #9
    This is just prior to the start, during the pace lap, and as you can see, the track was wet, as the heavens had opened just before the start. Pictured here are the two factory Cougars of Leslie and Revson, as well as Titus and Minter in the Mustangs.

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  10. #10
    Remember I said I thought that opening photo of the Penske Camaro was from practice? This is why. Note the headlight covers here, compared to those of the earlier photo.

    Here Donohue is being pursued by Ed Leslie. Leslie was the only one of the lead contenders to start the race on rain tyres, and while this dropped him back during the early laps when the track was only greasy (remember, even the dry weather tyres these cars used were grooved), as the rain got heavier, so he surged through the field.

    Note on the infield is the stricken Titus Mustang. As Titus came up to lap the Mustang of Ken Duclos, he either lost control, or Duclod clipped him accidentally, and he spun a full eight times before heavily clouting the bank on the outside of the corner, and eventually coming to rest on the infield with a chunk of the rear bodywork missing.

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  11. #11
    Porsche 911s actually contested the Trans-Am series from 1967 through 1969. Considered a production sports car, Porsche overcame the FIA Group 2 touring car ruling to which the Trans-Am series was based on in its early years, by producing the 911R. Someone here may know for sure how the FIA decided what was and what wasn't a sedan at this time under the rules, but its my understanding it was based purely on how many seats the car had.

    Porsche built the 911R with a tiny rear seat, thus allowing it to run as a sedan in the Trans-Am Under 2,000cc class against Alfa Romeos, Lotus Cortinas and the like. And while the Alfas were actually quite competitive with the 911s, Porsche won the U2 Manufacturers Championship in 1967, 1968, and 1969 before the FIA then decreed them to be a sports car, at which point they were banned from the Trans-Am, and were forced to run in production sports car races.

    Pictured here are two of the top 911s from 1967; Bert Everett, chased by Hans Ziereis in the Valvoline-Opert Racing (usually driven by Fred Opert) variant. Everett actually spent some time leading this race outright in the wet conditions, before eventually being overtaken by eventual winner Peter Revson. But he went on to finish second outright, and first in U2.

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  12. #12
    Here is the Fisher Camaro once more, leading the Lyle Davis/Peter Sachs Lotus Cortina.

    During the first year of the Trans-Am series in 1966, the little European Fords were in the running at many tracks for outright wins, even though they were U2 cars. In fact, Allan Moffat (the same Allan Moffat who'd carve out a hugely successful career in Australia) drove his Alan Mann Racing Lotus Cortina to outright victory at this track twelve months earlier. But by 1967, the Cortinas were just making up the numbers at many tracks. Moffat was actually running a two-car Lotus Cortina team at some 1967 races, but not here.

    The Davis/Sachs machine went on to finish 17th from 18 finishers, while Fisher was just one place ahead.

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  13. #13
    By the way, this first Penske Camaro went to Europe following the 1967 Trans-Am season. Can anyone guess which notable person drove it in Europe?

    Heres a clue: he holds a position of great importance in modern day Formula 1.

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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Holmes View Post
    By the way, this first Penske Camaro went to Europe following the 1967 Trans-Am season. Can anyone guess which notable person drove it in Europe?

    Heres a clue: he holds a position of great importance in modern day Formula 1.

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    Helmet Marko?

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Grant Ellwood View Post
    Helmet Marko?
    Top of the class Grant! Indeed, Dr Helmut Marko drove this car early on his his brief career that took him to F1 as a driver, and to victory in the Le Mans 24 Hour race before his career ended when a stone flicked up from another car in an F1 race and pierced his visor, blinding him on one eye.

  16. #16
    Here is Ed Leslie in one of the factory Mercury Cougars. Leslie was really the star of the show at Bryar, working his way through the field in the tricky conditions to pass both Everett's 911 and his own team mate Peter Revson in the other Cougar to lead the race. Had his motor not blown on lap 96 of 156, he quite likely would have won the race. Furthermore, he was also highly spectacular, power sliding the Cougar throughout.

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  17. #17
    This is the other Lotus Cortina that raced at Bryar. This car was driven by Gene Henderson. Henderson finished the race in 13th from 18 cars that went the full race distance.

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  18. #18
    More U2 class battles with the dominant Porsches. This is the Ziereis car shown earlier with its distinctive paint scheme, alongside the John Kelly/Bob Bailey example. The Kelly/Bailey machine finished 4th overall and 2nd in class.

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  19. #19
    After 156 grueling laps in trying conditions, Peter Revson crossed the line first in his factory Bud Moore run Mercury Cougar. Like so many drivers of the era, Revson could drive anything fast, including heavy Trans-Am sedans, booming big block Can-Am cars, or nimble Formula 1 cars.

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  20. #20
    And victory lap for U2 class winner Bert Everett. I love how the class winner at each event in the Trans-Am was also given their deserved accolades.

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