Chevron B39 car-by-car histories
Visually very similar to the 1976 Chevron B34, the Chevron B39 was Chevron's 1977 Formula Atlantic model. Sales were down significantly, and only Keke Rosberg in Fred Opert's team achieved significant success.
Chevron's 1976 single-seater range had comprised the B34 for F3 and Formula Atlantic and the B35 for F2, both of which had been successful, so there were few changes for 1977 when the range was the B38 for F3, B39 for Atlantic and B40 for F2. The new cars' bodywork was similar to the B34/B35 series but with a revised nose, a small screen at the top of the cockpit bodywork and an air intake on the engine cover. Suspension was again entirely orthodox, with double wisbones at the front, and transverse links, wishbones and twin radius rods at the back. Eleven B39s were built, using chassis numbers 77-01 to 77-10 and 77-12, as Chevron traditionally avoided the number '11. Four of these were straightforward customer cars: 77-02 went to Tony Martin in South Africa and thence to Australia; 77-03 went to the island of Ireland and has never left; 77-04 went to the Phillippines and vanished from sight; and 77-05 went to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and stayed there for at least five years. Five more went to Fred Opert Racing: 77-06 intended for a third team driver but rarely used; 77-07 for Gregg Young; 77-08 for Keke Rosberg; 77-09 as a mid-season wide-track car for Rosberg; and 77-12 as an additional car at Trois-Rivières where Opert was running Jacques Laffite and Patrick Depailler as well as Rosberg and Young. Opert then took three of his cars to New Zealand in early 1978 for the Formula Pacific series, which Rosberg dominated. Opert then sold 77-07 to Peter Robinson and 77-09 to Page Roos, while 77-08 was retained for Divina Galica before being sold to Dean Lundreen, 77-12 was retained for Eje Elgh before becoming a hire car, and 77-06 was retained for Jim Crawley and then disappeared.
That explains nine of the eleven cars, leaving just 77-01 and 77-10. Of these, 77-01 was a works car for Gilles Villeneuve in South Africa at the start of the year and after it was crashed, it was returned to the factory and sold to the US. This is believed to be the B39 owned by William Kneeland in 1977 and then allegedly by John Sley in 1978, but Sley only scored SCCA points in Formula C in 1978. The other car is a puzzle, with works records only saying that it was a development car. It seems likely that this was the car used by Divina Galica once in F2 late in 1977, and then sold to Albert Poon, but that car was generally described as a B40.
If you can add to our understanding of these cars, or have photographs that we can use, please email Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A works entry for Gilles Villeneuve in the 1977 South African series, but crashed in testing prior to the first race. It was repaired in time, but handled badly and after two races, Paul Owens persuaded Derek Bennett to fly out to South Africa to test it. He determined a difference in the tub construction so flew back to England, fabricated a new monocoque, and returned to South Africa with the tub as excess hand baggage in time for the car to be rebuilt on it for Villeneuve to drive at Killarney. Villeneuve was still unhappy with the car and his South African season was ended when he hit Ian Scheckter's March 77B during the race. The damaged B39 is believed to have been returned to the Chevron factory to be rebuilt and then sold to the US. However, the US owner has not yet been determined with confidence.
Driven by: Gilles Villeneuve. First race: Roy Hesketh (R1), 15 Jan 1977. Total of 4 recorded races.
New to Tony Martin (Durban, South Africa) and raced in the 1977 South African series. Retained for 1978 as a spare car to Martin's new B45, and and upgraded to B45 specification. Sold for 1979 to Paul England for Peter Larner to race in the early 1979 Australian Internationals. Larry Perkins took over the drive later in 1979, and also drove the car in the Aurora AFX Formula Pacific Championship in New Zealand in early 1980 and the Australian National Panasonic Formula Pacific series in 1981. Some time about 1985 or 1986, the car was sold to Norm Carr (Victoria) who raced it once or twice before damaging one corner at Calder. When Carr acquired it the chassis plate was missing so he had a new one issued by Roger Andreason at Chevron which read "39-77-B-02". It was still owned by Carr in 2003.
Driven by: Tony Martin, Peter Larner and Larry Perkins. First race: Roy Hesketh (R1), 15 Jan 1977. Total of 32 recorded races.
New to Patsy McGarrity (Belfast, Northern Ireland) and raced in the Irish Formula Atlantic series. Raced by Patsy's brother Harold McGarrity (Belfast, Northern Ireland) in 1978. Later raced by Eddie Jordan (Dundrum, County Dublin) at Phoenix Park in 1980. Sold to Paraic Mooney (Dublin) who raced it at Mondello Park two weeks later, and in the 1981 and 1982 series. Also raced in Formule Libre at Kirkistown in 1983. Later sold to Ronnie Le Bas and used by him in Irish hillclimbs. Still owned by Ronnie Le Bas in November 2020.
Driven by: Patsy McGarrity, Harold McGarrity, John Smith, Eddie Jordan and Paraic Mooney. First race: Mondello Park, 17 Mar 1977. Total of 33 recorded races.
New to Eddie Marcelo (Philippines) and presumably the car raced by him in the Malaysian Grand Prix and Penang Grand Prix in April and May 1977. He was also entered for the 1978 Malaysia Grand Prix. This may be the car driven by Chong Kim Fah as part of the Rothmans team in Malaysia in 1979, but Chong had previously driven a B34 and may have upgraded that car with B39 bits. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Eddie Marcelo. First race: Shah Alam (R1), 24 Apr 1977. Total of 2 recorded races.
New to Ken Duclos (Boxboro, MA) and raced in Northeast Division SCCA Nationals in 1977. Sold to Gaston Andrey (Framingham, MA) for SCCA Nationals in 1978, and advertised by Andrey in August 1981. Subsequent history unknown, but by 2002, the car was said to be with Cy Moreland (Trainer, PA). Reports that it went to Simon Hadfield in 2003 proved to be inaccurate. At the Monterey Historics in 2013, this car with this chassis number was driven by Chris Locke. Chris Locke raced the "ex-Ken Duclos" Chevron B39 in US historic racing in 2011 and 2012. Locke still had the car in 2014, when it was driven by Lyn St James. By 2018, this car was being raced by Robert Gray Gregory. Also raced by Ethan Shippert in 2021. Raced by Gray Gregory at Laguna Seca in April 2022.
Driven by: Ken Duclos and Gaston Andrey. First race: Charlotte Motor Speedway, 24 Apr 1977. Total of 10 recorded races.
New to Fred Opert Racing and raced in the Labatts Formula Atlantic Championship. Believed to be the car raced by Francisco Romero at the opening round. Believed to be the car intended for Didier Pironi at St-Félicien in August, but crashed in practice. Repaired and entered for Patrick Depailler at Trois-Rivières and Québec City as the team's #2 car. Retained by Fred Opert Racing for the 1978 New Zealand series, where it was the team's #2 entry raced by Bobby Rahal. Then raced by Jim Crawley in two North American races in early 1978. It is then likely to be one of two B39s retained by the Opert team later in 1978, and as such may be the car raced by Rosberg at the final race of the season. Opert again had two B39s for the 1979 season, one in red bodywork and one in orange. He advertised both these cars in December 1979, one in "original red gelcoat" and one "repainted orange", describing them as ex-Rosberg and ex-Rahal cars. Rahal only drove 77-06, and as that was originally blue, it cannot have been the "original red gelcoat" car in the advert so must have been the orange car. Subsequent history unknown, but in December 2005 "Joe" from Northern New Jersey was seeking information about chassis "39-77-06". He said he had contacted Fred Opert who had told him that it had been used by Rosberg in New Zealand, and by Jacques Lafitte, Patrick Depailler and James Crawley in the Canadian series. It had orange bodywork, again indicating that it had been Tolama's orange car. "Joe" advertised it for sale on the Autosport Forum in January 2006. A restoration then began that included a new monocoque by Prince Race Cars and the car was advertised on race-cars.com in dark blue bodywork. It was next seen when restored by The Progress Group (Placentia, CA) in 2011/12 with pale blue B39 bodywork and white Excita signwriting, and raced by Chris Cord at the Monterey Historics in 2013. It was driven by Chris's son Bill Cord (Corona Del Mar, CA) at Monterey in 2014 in pale blue Excita livery, at the CSRG "David Love Memorial" in April 2017 and at Laguna Seca in May 2018. Still with Bill Cord in November 2022.
Driven by: Francisco Romero, Didier Pironi, Patrick Depailler, Bobby Rahal, James Crawley, Keke Rosberg and Marco Tolama. First race: Mosport Park (R1), 22 May 1977. Total of 18 recorded races.
New to Fred Opert Racing and raced in the Labatts Formula Atlantic Championship by Gregg Young as the team's #6 Valvoline entry using Opert's usual pale blue bodywork. Young damaged the car at Trois-Rivières and raced one of the team's Ramada-liveried B39s at the final race at Québec City. Retained by Fred Opert Racing for the 1978 New Zealand series, where Jacques Laffite had been its intended driver but it ended up being used as a spare car for Keke Rosberg, still in pale blue bodywork. Sold to Peter Robinson (Madison, Wisconsin) and raced in SCCA Nationals and in a couple of Labatts Championship Pro races in 1978. He scored 19 points in Central Division in 1978. He was not seen in 1979, but reappeared with the car in Southwest Division in 1980, now as a member of Lone Star Region, and qualified for the Runoffs. He converted the car to Formula C for 1981, and retained it until 1984 at least, when it was advertised from Austin, TX. Subsequent history unknown, but some time around 2003, the car was acquired by Jeff Mckay (Tacoma, WA) from the estate of a collector in Texas. Mckay sold the car in 2004 to John Bradshaw (Manchester). Bradshaw found the tub was creased so had a new tub made by ex-Chevron fabricator Dennis Aldred at Motorsport Components in Bolton. After running the car in the Chevron 40th anniversary event at Oulton Park in August 2005, Bradshaw sold it to Sandy Watson, who raced it in European Historic F2 and HSCC Derek Bell Trophy from 2006 to 2009. Then sold to Roland Wiltschegg (Austria) who raced it from 2010 to 2013. Raced in the Histo Cup event at Brno in May 2018. Raced at the Hockenheim Historic in May 2022.
Driven by: Gregg Young, Marco Tolama, Keke Rosberg and Peter Robinson. First race: Mosport Park (R1), 22 May 1977. Total of 13 recorded races.
New to Fred Opert Racing and used in the Labatts Formula Atlantic Championship. One of two cars run by the team for Keke Rosberg, this one having narrower track, but Rosberg used a B34 at four races that season and exactly how he used this B39 remains uncertain. Retained by Fred Opert Racing for the 1978 New Zealand series, where it was Rosberg's main race car as he easily won the championship. Then believed to be the car raced by Divina Galica at Long Beach in early 1978. It was sold to Dean Lundgreen (Franklin, MN) later in 1978 and raced in SCCA Nationals, scoring 13 points that season. He scored 15 points in 1979, and continued to race the car in 1980 and 1981. Advertised by Lundgreen in April 1982 and February 1983 as "Rosberg's Tasman winner". Sold to Mike Rand later in 1983, then sold on to Joe Ostrowski (Trenton, NJ) who raced it from 1984 to 1986 at least. The car remained in Ostrowski's garage until 2004, when he sold it to Mark Wehrman. It was then sold to Lee Brahin (Philadelphia, PA) in 2006 and raced by him in red bodywork with non-standard sidepods in 2008 and 2009. Then to Martin Lauber (Tiburon, CA) in August 2011 and raced by him in pink Excita livery (but still with the same distinctive sidepods) from 2012 to 2019. It was sold to Laurent Parmentier (Los Angeles, CA) in January 2020, and raced by him in 2020 and 2021.
Driven by: Keke Rosberg, Divina Galica, Dean Lundgreen and Joe Ostrowski. First race: Westwood (R4), 17 Jul 1977. Total of 20 recorded races.
New to Fred Opert Racing and raced in the Labatts Formula Atlantic Championship. One of two cars run by the team for Keke Rosberg, this one having wider track. Believed to have been new for Rosberg at Halifax in August. Then used by Didier Pironi at St-Félicien a week later after damaging his intended car in practice. Then raced by Jacques Laffite as the team's #1 entry at Trois-Rivières and Québec City. This may be the car raced by Page Roos in 1978. This may also be the car acquired by Dick Leppla and advertised by him in On Track magazine September 1982 as "ex Opert" and "chassis number B39-D9". It was retained by Leppla until 1987 at least. Subsequent history unknown, but a chassis "09" was advertised by Vintage Racing Services in Hemmings magazine in June 2009.
Driven by: Keke Rosberg, Didier Pironi, Jacques Laffite and Dick Leppla. First race: Halifax (R5), 7 Aug 1977. Total of 4 recorded races.
Chevron records show this car as a works test chassis. It is likely to have been the Albert Poon car.
New to Fred Opert Racing and raced in the Labatts Formula Atlantic Championship. This car was new for Keke Rosberg to race at Trois-Rivières in September 1977. It was retained by Opert for 1978, and raced by Eje Elgh at the opening two rounds as his #5 Sheik Condoms entry before his new Chevron B45 was available. The B39 is then thought to be the #5 car raced by Divina Galica at Hamilton in August 1978. As Opert's other B39s all seem to have been sold off, this is probably the #6 Opert entry for Riccardo Patrese at Trois-Rivières, the #4 Excita B39 driven by Keke Rosberg at Montréal on 24 September, and then later the pink #5 Chevron raced by Marco Tolama for Opert at Road America in July 1979 after preferring it to his regular B45 and Opert's new March 79B. Then probably the #4 entry for Doug Titus at Montréal later that season, where he did not start. Subsequent history unknown, but this is likely to be the red "ex-Rosberg" B39 advertised by Opert in December 1979 and in February 1982.
Driven by: Keke Rosberg, Gregg Young, Eje Elgh, Divina Galica, Riccardo Patrese, Bob Earl, Marco Tolama and Doug Titus. First race: Trois-Rivières, 4 Sep 1977. Total of 7 recorded races.
The main puzzles to be resolved for the B39s are the identities of the cars raced in North America by Bill Kneeland and in the Far East by Albert Poon. Kneeland only raced his car during 1977 and as he previously had a Chevron B29, it is not yet possible to be certain when he first raced the B39. His B39 cannot be tracked with certainty after 1977 but it seems very likely to be the car raced in 1978 by John Sisk, who lived less than 200 miles from Kneeland. If so, it is chassis 39-77-01. The identity of Poon's is less certain, as his car has been described as both a B39 and a B40. The Rothmans "B39" of Chong Kim Fah at Penang and Batu Tiga in 1979 is more likely to have been the B34 he raced the previous season.
The exact usage of Fred Opert's five B39s in 1977 is still the subject of ongoing research as the point at which 77-08 and 77-09 joined the team still requires clarification. We know that 77-06, 77-07 and 77-08 were all used in New Zealand in January 1978, and it appears that Opert retained 77-06 and 77-12 throughout 1978 and 1979, and they would be the cars he advertised in December 1979. By this time, 77-07 and 77-08 had gone to Peter Robinson and Dean Lundgreen respectively, but there is still some uncertainty over whether Page Roos acquired 77-09. We are keen to talk to Peter Robinson, Dean Lundgreen and Page Roos, or to anyone who knows about their cars.
William A Kneeland (Springfield, VA) raced a new Chevron B39 in SCCA Formula B in 1977, but exactly when in the season the B39 replaced his previous second-hand B29 remains unresolved. As the first owners of all the other B39s has been established, it seems likely that this car was 39-77-01, the car raced by Gilles Villeneuve in South Africa in January and February and then rebuilt at the factory and sold to the US. If so, this ex-Villeneuve car then went from the US to New Zealand, but the link between Kneeland's car and the car in New Zealand has not yet been determined.
Driven by: Jim Fitzgerald and William Kneeland. First race: Roebling Road Raceway, 29 May 1977. Total of 7 recorded races.
LC Kwan (Hong Kong), owner of the Equipe 66 garage, bought a Chevron B39 in late 1977 from Fred Opert for Albert Poon (Hong Kong) to drive in Formula Pacific in Southeast Asia. The car was in the UK, not the US, for reasons still to be determined, and before it was shipped to Asia, it was borrowed by Ardmore Racing for Divina Galica to race in the Donington Park F2 event in October 1977, using a Swindon BDX engine. It was described as a brand new B40, and had been fitted with a set of Ardmore's blue, white and red bodywork to which Olympus signwriting had been applied. It was then shipped to Hong Kong in time for the Macau Grand Prix a month later. Although Poon entered his car as a B40, an article in the Malaysia Grand Prix race programme in May 1978 described the car as a "new car which he has just bought in the US". Also raced by Kevin Bartlett at Macau in 1978 and by Andrew Miedecke at Macau in 1979. Then raced by Poon at Macau in 1980, 1981 and 1982. Retained by Kwan in Hong Kong until 1989 when it was sold to Gordon Norris and returned to the UK. Sold in 2022 to Bruce Balchin (Southampton).
Driven by: Divina Galica, Albert Poon, Kevin Bartlett and Andrew Miedecke. First race: Donington Park (R13), 30 Oct 1977. Total of 12 recorded races.
In 1978, Formula Ford graduate Page Roos (Hillsborough, CA), an heir to the Roos-Atkins clothing store chain, raced a Chevron "B39" at the Long Beach Formula Atlantic race. In a preview of the car, Sports Car said Roos "lists on with Fred Opert", implying his car had come from Opert or was at least being run for him by Opert, but his entrant was given as "Page Roos Racing". The only photograph found of it so far shows it was red but the engine cover appears to be that of a Chevron B34, not a B39. Roos then advertised the car in The Wheel newsletter in May 1978 as a 1977 Chevron B39 with "three races on chassis". No further results have been found of Roos racing the car, but he advertised it again in January 1982 as "Keke Rosberg's Atlantic car 1977". Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Page Roos. First race: Long Beach (R1), 1 Apr 1978. Only one recorded race.
John Sisk (Lahaska, PA) raced a Formula B Chevron in a NERRC event at Lime Rock in April 1978. At the end of that season New Zealander Grant Campbell bought a Chevron B39 from the US to use in the New Zealand Formula Pacific from January 1979 onwards. Kiwi journalist David McKinney noted that the car wore the '01' chassis plate and was told by Campbell that it had previously been raced by John Sisk. It was retained by Campbell for the 1979/80 and 1980/81 seasons in New Zealand, then taken to Australia for the National Panasonic Formula Pacific series before the start of the 1981/82 New Zealand season. To Steve Cameron (Auckland) for the 1982/83 season. David McKinney advised that it then went to Charlie Thomasen, who also owned the ex-Dave Oxton B34, and then to John Wigston (Auckland) in 1985. Reported to be still in Wigston's collection in October 2016.
Driven by: John M. Sisk Jr, Grant Campbell and Steve Cameron. First race: Lime Rock (R1), 29 Apr 1978. Total of 39 recorded races.
My thanks to Chris Townsend for his groundbreaking work on this model of Chevron. Thanks also to Paul Owens for information on '01 and '02, to Tim Colman at Chevron Cars, to Bryan Miller, David McKinney, Ian Hebblethwaite, Tony Garmey, Brian Speake, Andrew Fellowes and Dan Rear, and to owners Kim Mather, Jeff Mckay, John Bradshaw, Gordon Norris, Laurent Parmentier and Bruce Balchin. Thanks also to Peter Viccary, David Pearson, Jude Neylon, Bill Wagenblatt and Jeff Luebker for the use of their pictures.
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