On July 27, 1975, a racing transporter showed up at Rick Dresang’s Riverside Service shop in downtown Plymouth, Wisconsin. The team in question had just got done running at Elkhart Lake’s Road America round of the SCCA F5000 championship. It was a day that wasn’t fondly recalled by the squad after a suspension breakage in a heat race with their state-of-the-art car. Upon leaving the track, matters got even worse, as they had a wheel bearing failure on the transporter and needed a place to remedy the situation, and quickly- as heavy rains had moved in late in the afternoon.
So it was that Rick Dresang usually kept his shop open on race weekends for racers to use in case of big issues- a lift and fully-equipped shop came in quite handy. As Dresang was a massive racing fan, there was no fee for racers using the shop, but a coffee can was there with ‘Donations’ written on it should the team in question feel the need to reimburse for the assistance.
On that late afternoon, Dan Gurney’s All American Racers team transporter, adorned with Jorgensen Steel logos came limping down Hwy 67, stopping at the intersection of Mill St. A member of the team came in and asked if they could use the shop. Dresang tossed him the keys to the place and said he was running out for dinner, showed him where all the tools were, where new wheel bearings were kept and mentioned if they finished, to just leave the keys on top of the soda machine.
When Dresang returned from dinner later in the evening, the team was just wrapping up- they had swapped the wheel bearing and were ready to head out. Dresang saw them off and locked up. When he came back to work on Monday morning, he opened the door and the wind blew the donation can over, and $300 came out.
In November, 2021, a gust of wind again came blowing in. This time, from Santa Ana, and in the form of All American Racers’ 1977 AAR Eagle #7701, a car Dan Gurney lovingly nicknamed ‘The Sidehack’ for its asymmetrical-chassis design. The Dresang family’s Kettle Moraine Preservation & Restoration will be its home-away-from-home for the near future, as the car longed to return to flight. Under the leadership of KMPR’s Paul Jay as it lead caretaker, it proudly will.
‘The Sidehack’ is the same Jorgensen blue as the 1975 F5000 Eagle that was in that transporter that day- an AAR factory-run car. But this one-off Eagle was never destined for road racing- its mission was to triumph on the large ovals of USAC Indy Car competition- competition that was starting to overwhelm with early Cosworth DFX motors, which were starting to align themselves perfectly with USAC’s ever-tightening rule book.
But Dan Gurney and chief designer Gary Wheeler were never ones to align themselves with any rule book. Victory is always found in the margins, and an advantage sought comes in the form of seeking out answers beyond what is already known. So it was, ‘The Sidehack’ became the last USAC Indy Car to be asymmetrical in chassis design, something that was not in vogue during the winged era of the sport. It was also one of the narrowest cars on the grid in 1977, packing a minuscule hole in the air. It had to, as it was using the 19° 159 c.i. Drake-Offenhauser that USAC kept restricting turbo boost to. It would prove to be fast in the hands of Duane ‘Pancho’ Carter at banked ovals on the schedule, but Carter quit the team after the Cal 500 and moved on to Morales Racing’s Alex Foods’ squad.
After the nine races where it went into battle as AAR’s lone entry, Eagle #7701 became the last All American Racers creation to have a Drake-Offenhauser power plant. It was the lone car that AAR used the combination of Gary Wheeler as lead designer and Jack McCormick as chief mechanic. For all of its one-off traits as a transitional car between two designers who would leave long legacies at AAR, Eagle #7701 was also on the cusp of what Gurney later nicknamed ‘BLAT,’ but that was to be shelved for another time, and another very distinctive model.
Although KMPR is going to be the caretaker of #7701 going forward at its Hubertus, Wisconsin shop, the Eagle’s home will forever be 2334 S. Broadway in Santa Ana. Since September 1977 when it last touched the racing surface of Ontario, a track lost to time, #7701 has been stationed in All American Racers’ private museum, still showing all the race battle scars of its final day of competition. It’ll stay that way- it is a complete time capsule in every sense of the word. But soon, it’ll fly again.
As you may have noticed from our September 21 post, our Craigslist find Lotus Seven that came to us last October was found to have raced in in the UK by the late John Bedford before being exported in late 1963.
At the time of our post, I included a shot of 'J.V. Bedford' passing off the arm sash to non other than Colin Chapman at the August 11, 1962 Silverstone 6 hr. Relay.
In early September, I reached out to the University of Leeds library, as they are the caretakers of Mr. Bedford's historical research. A head researcher there by the name of Rhiannon Lawrence-Francis was touched by my request for John's racing history, especially pertaining to a man who himself researched his entire life for his trade of antiques and 'dabbled' in motorsport in the early 1960s.
Rhiannon put me in touch with some of Mr. Bedfords friends and colleagues, who were all-to-happy to share what they knew of him, including 16 photographs, and photographing some of his trophies, which in turn led to more results due to what was engraved on them.
I can't help to think if John ever wondered what happened to his old Seven before his passing in 2019, and I'd like to think he'd be thrilled to know it still is around.
I'm so glad I sent an email to Leeds, as if I hadn't, I'd have never known so much about the car, and for that matter John Bedford.
Little did we know he painted it red as soon as it became a race car!
Special thanks to Ms. Lawrence-Francis, Paul Clarke, Richard Noye and Louise Goosen for their tremendous help in honoring John.
Today, after a two year restoration with Paul Jay's many talents making it all come together, we had our first test with the Elden Mk10B our late friend Michael Argetsinger raced in Europe in 1973.
As suspected with any restoration, we had a few small issues with the car we remedied throughout the day, and a gearbox issue that meant the final session was taken in only third gear.
In that final session, I went for it on a drying track surface, and the Elden was ridiculously quick despite only using that one gear- we had to find out what the car had, even if I had to lug it through some of the slower corners Blackhawk Farms features. I think Michael would have been pleased his old ride still has magic in it.
What a fun little car. Tons of grip, kart-like positive steering that begs you to stomp on the throttle, letting the back of the car say hello at various angles, and is super quick in its reactions when you modulate the pedals.
As I've thought digging through history and results from overseas, the Hampsheir's penciled a dynamite little Formula Ford for treaded tyres.
Special thanks to Paul Jay, Jeff Werth, Alan Burke, Ron Nelson and Bill Nesius for making the trek to Blackhawk today.
It was a day I'll never forget.
The Elden is all prepped and ready for next Friday at Blackhawk Farms, my favorite track.
A lot to shake out, but even more to honor.
Rick Dresang and Gary Welk got KMPR'S 1972 All American Racers Eagle #7225 set up at this weekend's American Speed Festival. Come say hello!