Eagle 1970 Indy car-by-car histories
After the disappointment of the 1969 Eagle 'Santa Ana', Dan Gurney recruited Len Terry to design a new car for 1970. This returned to the rocker-arm front suspension and full-length monocoque of his 1966/67 Eagles, with fuel held in triangular tanks in the sides of the dart-shaped monocoque.
The 1969 Eagle had left the team baffled, and as the one man who understood it, Tony Southgate, left AAR almost as soon as the car appeared to take up his new position with the BRM team, Gurney turned back to Len Terry, the designer of the 1966/67 cars, to design new Eagle Indycars for 1970. Terry worked on the project in England, sending drawings to AAR in California as he went along. Because the drawings did not arrive until February, AAR had manufactured parts for ten cars and were assembling seven before the prototype even turned a wheel. Customers included Leader Card Racers for driver Bobby Unser, Michner-Patrick for Johnny Rutherford, Jim Robbins for Lee Roy Yarbrough, and Gordon Johncock for his own Gilmore-backed team. In testing at the Speedway for the Indy 500, the cars were immediately problematic, with insufficient suspension movement at the rear and a high centre of gravity, and while AAR struggled to get Gurney's car working, Unser, Johncock and Yarbrough quickly abandoned their cars. Rutherford's did not even arrive at the track. Gurney qualified 11th and with the car now largely sorted, finished very well in third place. Sammy Sessions qualified the car Yarbrough had abandoned but his was the only other '70 car to start the race.
The 1970 cars did not race again over the summer but AAR extensively tested their pair of cars and arrived at Ontario for the 500-mile race in September having made radical changes to the aerodynamics. Gurney qualified second but retired while Swede Savage drove a second car with the Gurney Weslake Ford stock block engine. Gurney then retired from driving and ex-Leader Card driver Bobby Unser took over Gurney's car for Phoenix in November. Savage was still assigned to the stock block car and won at Phoenix to boost the team's morale. In early 1971, Unser and Savage continued to race the two 1970 cars until new 1971 cars were ready, but Savage was injured in a F5000 race at Ontario in March and his place in the Indy team was taken by Lee Roy Yarbrough.
One of AAR's cars during 1970, but evidence about its usage is contradictory.
'the Michner/Patrick car (802?)'
The Michner-Patrick team bought a 1970 Eagle but it did not appear at the Speedway that year. Although it may have appeared later in the season, or possibly in 1971, it seems likely that Rutherford stuck with his usual 1967 Eagle "Geraldine" until the team acquired their Brabham. When Swede Savage joined the team for 1972, it is not surprising that he raced the team's Eagle 70 as he had been a part of the development program for that car at AAR. He raced it at Indy in 1972 and it is safe to assume that all other appearances of Savage in a Patrick Eagle also refer to the Eagle 70. Subsequent history unknown. This is believed to be the car seen in the collection of Bob McConnell (Urbana, OH) in 2010 in orange Gilmore colours. Still in the McConnell collection in November 2016.
Driven by: Swede Savage and James McElreath. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R1), 18 Mar 1972. Total of 4 recorded races.
'the Leader Card car (803)'
New to the Jud Phillips half of the Leader Card team for Bobby Unser to race at the 1970 Indy 500. However, Unser preferred his usual 1967 car and the 1970 car was only used in practice. According to a later Hungness yearbook, the car was entered as a spare in 1971 and in 1972 and raced at least once during those three seasons, by Rick Muther in the 1972 California 500. Acquired by Gus and Richard Hoffman (Milford, OH) of Hoffman Racing and entered for Larry Cannon in 1973 as the #59 PEP Gas Treatment Spl. Returned in 1974 and qualified for the 500, now with American Financial Corp backing. Used again in 1975 before the team acquired a newer 1973 Eagle for the 1976 season. Subsequent history unknown but the ex-Unser, ex-Cannon car advertised by Robert Pass (Maryland Heights, MO) in 1992, having been restored by Jim Robinson. Later advertised by Chuck Haines (St Louis, MO) as being chassis 803. The car had been restored to Cannon's 1974 livery. Still listed on Chuck's website as 'available' in October 2020.
Driven by: Bobby Unser, Rick Muther and Larry Cannon. First race: Ontario Motor Speedway (R8), 3 Sep 1972. Total of 9 recorded races.
'the Jim Robbins car (804)'
Jim Robbins (Troy, MI), of auto parts manufacturer Jim Robbins Co. entered a number of cars during the 1950s and 1960s up to his death in a plane accident in September 1966. His son Jim Marshall Robbins took over the team and for 1970 bought a brand new Eagle, to be prepared by crew chief Bill Spangler. It was entered at Indy for Sammy Sessions as the #67 car and finished 12th. It was also entered later that season at Ontario but Larry Dickson could not qualify it. At this point Robbins Jnr took up racing himself, competing in SCCA racing and progressing later to Trans-Am but was obliged by his father's will to continue to enter a car at the Indianapolis 500. The team's 1968 Eagle was sold but the 1970 car continued to be entered up to 1975, looking increasingly forlorn at each appearance. At that point the Robbins cars were for sale, but a year later the Eagle was back at Indy, now with a 305 ci Chevrolet engine in it, used by Robbins as a protest at the costs of running a car. It was next seen in August or September of 1989 when Canadian racing car dealer Jack Boxstrom purchased the car from someone in Indianapolis, and Steve Kaping went to Indianapolis to pick it up and bring it to Canada. Kaping checked over the car and gave it a brief test at a nearby airport. History then unknown until owned by David S. Morrison (Long Beach, CA) and run in the Victory Lane Historic Champ/Indy Car Showcase in June 2005. At the Victory Lane Historic Champ/Indy Car Showcase at Auto Club Speedway in 2011. Chuck Jones advises that Morrison still had the car in October 2020.
Driven by: Sammy Sessions, Larry Dickson and Swede Savage. First race: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R4), 30 May 1970. Only one recorded race.
One of AAR's cars during 1970, but evidence about its usage is contradictory.
'the Gordon Johncock car (806?)'
New to Gordon Johncock for his Gilmore Broadasting-sponsored team and run for the first time in practice at Indianapolis in early May. Both the Eagle and Johncock's 1968 Gerhardt ran wearing #5, the Indy Daily Reports distinguishing them as 5G and 5E. The Eagle was tested on 9 May but ran 4 mph off the pace of Al Unser's Colt and a little slower even than the Gerhardt. Johncock chose to qualify the Gerhardt instead of the Eagle, and the Eagle was not seen again. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Gordon Johncock. First appearance: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R4), 30 May 1970.
Unresolved 1970 Eagles
According to Eurosport CART commentator Luis Mateus, the six 1970 Eagles were chassis numbers 801 (AAR), 802 (Rutherford), 803 (Leader Card Racers), 804 (Jim Robbins), 805 (AAR) and 806 (Gilmore). Although Luis cannot recall his original source for this list, it has proved reliable so far, so is used to identify the cars in these histories. The main question mark is over the way AAR's two cars were used. The French magazine L'Automobile reported on the 1970 Indy 500 and reported chassis numbers for the two 1970 Eagles that started the race, 801 for Gurney and 804 for Sessions. However, an entry form submitted by team sponsor Oscar Olson for the 1970 Indy 500 gave the number 805 for Gurney's car. Subsequent owners of the ex-AAR cars have regarded 805 as Gurney's car and 801 as the second team car used later in the year by Savage. This issue remains unresolved.
'the AAR #48 car'
New for Dan Gurney as the #48 AAR entry at Indianapolis in 1970. Raced again by Gurney at Ontario as the #48, but wrecked. Gurney then retired, and Bobby Unser joined AAR from Leader Card Racers to take his place. Unser raced this car at Phoenix again as the #48, and it is presumably the car he raced as the #2 Olsonite Eagle entry at the opening few races of 1971. Subsequent history unresolved.
Driven by: Dan Gurney and Bobby Unser. First race: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R4), 30 May 1970. Total of 7 recorded races.
'the AAR #42 car'
A new car built later in 1970 to use the Gurney Weslake Ford 318 ci stock block engine. It was entered as #42 as a backup car for Dan Gurney at the California 500, but after he qualified his regular #48 Offy car, the stock block was handed over to Swede Savage, who qualified it but retired. Savage then raced it again at Phoenix in November, winning the race. This car was then fitted with an Offy turbo engine for 1971, when it was the team's backup car at the Indy 500, so it is presumably the #42 car that Savage and Lee Roy Yarbrough had used in the Rafaela, Phoenix and Trenton races held prior to the Indy 500. It was entered as the #48 backup car at the Indy 500, but was raced by Jim Malloy as the #42 entry after Yarbrough wrecked his original #42 1971 Eagle and then withdrew. As both 1971 Eagles were damaged at the 500, it was then raced by Bobby Unser (as #2) at Milwaukee in June. Subsequent history unresolved.
Driven by: Swede Savage, Lee Roy Yarbrough, Jim Malloy and Bobby Unser. First race: Ontario Motor Speedway (R12), 6 Sep 1970. Total of 8 recorded races.
1970 Eagles in 1971
In 1971, AAR continued to run 801 and 805 at the start of the season, but none of the other 1970 Eagles were seen on track that season. The Michner-Patrick chassis 802 evidently stayed with the team, because they used it in 1972; Leader Card Racers must have retained 803, again because it was pressed into service in 1972; Jim Robbins retained 804 for many years, albeit unraced; but Gordon Johncock's unraced chassis 806 was not seen again. Later in 1971, one of AAR's cars was rebuilt to the latest specification with McLaren-style rear wing and front wings, and was used by Unser to win at Milwaukee in August, and then raced by Swede Savage in the remaining three races of the year. This car appears to have been one of AAR's two 1970 cars, 801 and 805, but it has not yet been possible to determine with confidence which one it was.
'the August 1971 Milwaukee car'
At the Tony Bettenhausen 200 at Milwaukee in August 1971, Bobby Unser drove an updated 1970 Eagle for the AAR team, in place of his usual 1971 car. This car had a new single fuel filler on the side, the same style as the twin fuel fillers used on the 1971 Eagle. The car had the same McLaren-style rear wing and front wings used on Unser's 1971 Eagle at Michigan. The mirrors on the car were the same as Unser's early season car, hinting that it was the same car, updated. However, a press report in 1972 suggested that Savage's late-season car was the car Jim Malloy had raced at the 1971 Indy 500, which would make it AAR's other 1970 Eagle. Its identity is not yet resolved. Unser took pole at Milwaukee and won in this revised car, and it was then assigned to Swede Savage for his return to the AAR team at the California 500 at Ontario. Savage used this car in three races, but did not finish any of them. This car was then sold to Mary & Tom Page, and entered by their Page Racing for Mike Hiss through the 1972 season. It became the #60 entry at the Indy 500 when STP bought a share in the car. In early 1973, Bob Criss was killed while testing the Page Racing Eagle prior to Phoenix. Reports suggest that the car was comprehensively destroyed in the accident.
Driven by: Bobby Unser, Swede Savage, Mike Hiss and Bob Criss. First race: Milwaukee Mile (R9), 15 Aug 1971. Total of 11 recorded races.
1970 Eagles in 1972
In 1972, AAR's updated 1970 Eagle went to Page Racing, but AAR's other 1970 car cannot be tracked. Of the four customer cars, Michner-Patrick entered chassis 802 for former AAR driver Swede Savage during 1972; Leader Card Racers pulled out chassis 803 for at least one race; Jim Robbins still retained 804 as a showpiece; and the ex-Johncock chassis 806 was still missing. However, Lindsey Hopkins fielded a 1970 Eagle in 1972 for Wally Dallenbach and later for Lee Kunzman. This car was sponsored by Gilmore, so it may have come from Johncock via Gilmore, who had been Johncock's sponsor in 1970 before transferring his sponsorship to Clint Brawner in 1971 and then to Hopkins in 1972. Gilmore may have owned this Eagle throughout. Alternatively, the car may have remained with Duane Glasgow, Johncock's 1970 chief mechanic, who moved to the Hopkins operation for 1971 to become Dallenbach's chief mechanic.
Page Racing was a tightly-funded operation owned by Tom and Mary Page of Santa Ana, California, but what they lacked in funding was more than made up for by the talented team: Mike Hiss as driver with chief mechanic Dave Klym assisted by George Huening. Hiss surprised a few people by finishing tenth and seventh at his first two races, and Klym, who had been Hiss's mechanic at Charlie Hayes Racing in Formula B, was nominated for rookie chief mechanic of the year thanks to the immaculate preparation of the Eagle. After Hiss moved to the Gerhardt team for 1973, Klym moved to AAR to run Wally Dallenbach's car at the 1973 Indy 500, then was Jerry Grant's mechanic in 1975 on Fred Carrillo's Spirit of Orange County entry, and won the mechanics' award with Carillo in 1977. He left Carillo to found FABCAR in 1977, first building Wheeler Formula Super Vee cars, designed by Gary Wheeler, and moved on to build new Lightning Indycars for Lindsey Hopkins in 1980, designed by Dave Bruns, and later a series of very successful GTP cars. Huening moved to Patrick Racing and was George Bignotti's assistant in 1975, then became chief mechanic at Longhorn in 1978, before returning to Patrick Racing as Gordon Johncock's crew chief.
There were few appearances of the 1970 Eagles from 1973 onwards. The Page Racing car was destroyed in testing in Bob Criss's accident at the start of the year; the Hopkins car may have made one final appearance in 1973 before going to Patrick Santello for 1974; the Leader Card Racers 803 went to Gus Hoffman for Larry Cannon to race; and the late Jim Robbins' car continued to be entered at the Indy 500 but never went on track. There were no more sightings of the second AAR car or of Michner-Patrick's 802 in 1973.
'the Lindsey Hopkins car'
For 1972, Lindsey Hopkins added a 1970 Eagle to his already crowded stable for Wally Dallenbach to drive as the #10 entry. The origins of the Eagle are presently unknown but it could be the redundant ex-Gurney AAR car or the unwanted Gordy Johncock car. Dallenbach drove it in the opening races of the season but was bumped at the Indy 500. He then joined the STP team to replace the injured Art Pollard and Hopkins recruited Lee Kunzman to take over the #10 Eagle. A 1972 Eagle replaced the 1970 car at some point, but a photograph shows Kunzman drove the older car at Texas World Speedway in April 1973, so exactly where Kunzman raced this car instead of the new '72 Eagle is not clear, and photographs are needed to completely resolve this. Photographs indicate that this was the 1970 Eagle acquired by Patrick Santello (Syracuse, NY) for 1975. His mechanic Willie Davis fitted it with one of Richard Moser's DOHC Chevrolet V8 engines, but the car did not race until near the end of the season, when Larry Dickson raced the #65 City of Syracuse Spl at Phoenix in November 1975. Retained by Santello for the 1976 season as a backup to a newer 1972 Eagle, and raced by Dickson, Lee Kunzman and Jerry Karl. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Wally Dallenbach, Lee Kunzman, Larry Dickson and Jerry Karl. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R1), 18 Mar 1972. Total of 14 recorded races.
'the AJ Watson "Cicada"'
Early in 1972, AJ Watson took a 1970 Eagle, stripped off the outer skins and completely rebuilt it. The front and rear suspension uprights were retained, but Watson changed the inner mounting points and used suspension based on the Jim Robbins 1968 Eagle that the team had bought. The wheelbase was lengthened to 103.5 inches. This appears to be the car that had 'Cicada' on the front of the cockpit, and was referred to in the Indy 500 Daily Reports by that name throughout the month. Mosley tried that car in practice, setting a quick time on 12 May, but returned to his 1968 Eagle, and the revamped car was then driven in practice by Bruce Walkup and Jigger Sirois. Sirois attempted a qualifying run in the Cicada but the engine blew up on his first warm-up lap. Subsequent history unknown.
This story of the extensively rebuilt 1970 Eagle comes from George Moore's 'Speaking of Speed' column in The Indianapolis Star 13 February 1972. Ray Marquette in the Indy Star on 16 Jan had mentioned an "old" Eagle with extended wheelbase, and two weeks later Marqueet quoted JC Agajanian, who had joined the Leader Card team as team manager and sponsor-finder, talking about "a couple of old Eagles", one of which had never been used before. Later articles only refer to Mike Mosley's car being a rebuilt Eagle, which could just as easily be the 1968 Eagle that he is known to have raced at Indy in 1972. George Moore referred to Mosley's 17 May car as "brand new", having been built "around the tub of an older Eagle". Robin Miller only confused matter in the same paper at the end of the year by saying the Eagle was three years old, making it a 1969 chassis! Photographs suggest that Mosley's backup car, the one wearing 'Cicada', was the same Cicada that Jigger Sirois qualified in 1974, but a member of the Cicada team from Plymouth, Wisconsin, said that work on that car did not start until December 1972. At present, the identity of this car remains unresolved.
Driven by: Bruce Walkup and Jigger Sirois. First appearance: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R3), 27 May 1972.
Chuck Bartlebaugh's "1970 Eagle"
In 1976, Chuck Bartlebaugh used an unidentified Eagle in an F5000 race at Riverside. He described it as a 1970 ex-Indy Eagle, still set up for ovals and acquired directly from AAR. The only 1970 Eagle AAR would logically have still owned in 1976 would be either 801 or 805, whichever one did not go to Page Racing.
'the Chuck Bartlebaugh car'
Chuck Bartlebaugh (Rochester, MI) drove a "1970 Eagle" at the Riverside F5000 race in October 1976 but failed to start. The car was entered as the #26 Bartlebaugh Eagle, and set the 38th fast time in practice. Chuck Bartlebaugh later ran the Center for Wildlife at Missoula, Montana and recalled that this was an ex-Indy car, acquired directly from AAR, and still set up for ovals. The throttle stuck open during practice at Riverside, and although Chuck was able to bring the car to a halt without injury, the engine was damaged and he could not start the race. His brother sold the car in the Chicago area, where it was to be raced on short ovals. Nothing more known.
Driven by: Chuck Bartlebaugh. First appearance: Riverside (US R7), 17 Oct 1976.
The 1970 Eagles today
Of the two AAR cars, one appears to have been destroyed in 1973, and of the four customer cars, the Michner-Patrick's 802 was in the Bob McConnell collection in 2014; the Leader Cars 803 was for sale with Can-Am Cars Ltd in 2020; and the ex-Jim Robbins 804 was owned by David Morrison in 2011; leaving only the second ex-AAR car and the ex-Johncock (Hopkins/Santello?) 806 to be located.
Two 1970 Eagles existed in 2020 which are yet to be resolved but are likely to be those two missing cars: Tom Hollfelder's car and Chuck Jones' car, acquired from Can-Am Cars Ltd in 2020.
'the Lilo Beuzieron car'
In 2020, Chuck Jones owned a 1970 Eagle that he had bought from Chuck Haines' Can-Am Cars Ltd. According to Jones, that car was acquired from AAR by Lilo Beuzieron in the mid-1980s, then sold to Doug Schreier (Topanga, CA) in 1998, then to Haines in 2014. Jones also advises that Justin Gurney has verified that it is one of AAR's two 1970 cars.
'the Tom Hollfelder car'
Tom Hollfelder owns a 1970 Eagle, reported to be chassis 806. He ran the Eagle in a VARA historic event Willow Springs in October 1995, where it wore number #48 and its nose and water pipes were in 1970 works form, but it had 1972-style front and rear wings. Hollfelder also ran the car at Road America in 2009. Still in Tom Hollfelder's collection in February 2021.
Simmo Iskül and 'gbl' have been a huge amount of help figuring out the 1970 and 1971 Eagles, and I am also grateful to Simon Hadfield for his assistance, and to Chuck Jones for sharing the results of his research into these cars and for helping make sense of the sometimes contradictory evidence. Also to former owner Chuck Bartlebaugh. Thanks also to Rich Bunning, Paul Castagnoli, Richard Deming, Kenneth Lawrence, Tom Schultz, Jim Stephens, Bill Wiswedel and Steve Zautke for the use of their photographs.
As AAR's 1970 cars were modified with different bodywork through 1970 and then the team's 1970 and 1971 cars were further modified through 1971, it appears that the most reliable way to tell the 1971 cars from their older siblings is that the 1971 cars had two fuel fillers on the side, while the older cars had only one.
Many contemporary newspaper reports were used in the construction of these histories, as well as Autoweek reports. Special mention must go to Ray Marquette's columns in the Indianapolis Star, as he covered the teams' activities in much greater detail than most reporters.
These histories last updated on .