Leda LT27 and McRae GM1 car-by-car histories
In 1972, Graham McRae, arguably the quickest F5000 driver of the day, joined forces with Malcolm Bridgeland of Malaya Garage and famed designer Len Terry to build a new F5000. The car was initially designated Leda LT27, but was later renamed the McRae GM1.
New Zealander Graham McRae had won the 1971 Tasman series in his McLaren M10B, but his attempt on the 1971 British championship was derailed by the destruction of his new M18, forcing him back into his old M10B. He extensively modified the car during the season, and developed a clear idea of what sort of car he wanted to build for 1972. Malcolm Bridgeland's Malaya Garage team had developed Len Terry's Leda LT25 during 1971, but this was still some way from full competitiveness. For 1972, McRae joined forces with Bridgeland and Terry to build a new F5000. McRae outlined what he wanted, based on the "coke bottle" layout of the F1 McLaren M19, and Terry drew it up. It was initially designated Leda LT27, continuing Terry's Leda design numbering, but McRae always described his personal car as the Leda GM1. In mid-1972 McRae and London insurance broker John Heynes bought out Bridgeland and set up McRae Cars Ltd at Poole, Dorset. As from 1 July 1972 the Leda LT27 officially became the McRae GM1.
The beautifully-engineered McRae, especially Graham's prototype 001, was the top car of 1972 and one of the best of 1973, but the squarer GM2 design lost the momentum and the McRae marque soon faded away. In October 1973, the McRae factory in Poole was sold to Roger Penske to construct his prototype F1 car and all future McRaes would be one-offs. The SCCA required cars in their Pro F5000 series to be fitted with deformable structure for 1974, and while Lola, Chevron and others could sell update kits, the McRae owners were on their own. The curved sides of the McRae meant this was no simple process, and nearly all the US-based GM1s were forced into the amateur ranks, where deformable structures were not yet required.
These cars were for a time among the most sought after F5000 cars for vintage racing, and it has now been possible to trace the fate of all 14 GM1s built. There is an element of doubt around the histories of 008 and 011 as both cars show evidence of having been Gordon Smiley's #21 car. There is also an extra McRae GM1 in the US, built up on a spare tub, and evidence that another one is being built in New Zealand.
This research was originally based on the work of Wolfgang Klopfer with Tony Nicholson filling in many of the gaps. The chassis number identities came chiefly from an article in New Zealand Motorman (Sept 1973 pp37-39) - thanks to Milan Fistonic for tracking that down for us. Thanks also to Dale Campfield, Shayne Windelburn, David McKinney, Roger Cowman, Marcus Pye, Ian Stronach, Todd Peterson, Alistair Hey, Paul Hoey, Jay Esterer, Michael Clark and Chris Lambden for their additions and clarifications.
Built for 1972 season. Graham McRae: raced in Tasman 1972 (won championship), UK 1972 and US 1972 (won championship) - Dexter Dunlop: raced in NZ Gold Star 1972/73, Tasman 1973, NZ Gold Star 1973/74, Tasman 1974. Subsequently burnt out in a trailer fire and, after an insurance claim, the remains of the car were scrapped.
Driven by: Graham McRae and Dexter Dunlop. First race: Pukekohe (Tasman R1), 8 Jan 1972. Total of 34 recorded races.
Built for 1972 season. To Evan Noyes (Cedarville, MI) and raced in UK and US series in 1972, then Tasman 1973, then US series 1973. Advertised by Roy Campbell Autoweek 20 Apr 1974 ... "Race Car Drivers Institute" and sold at bankrupcy auction - Jim Sechser (St Louis Park, MN) probably 1975 or 1976: used in SCCA racing and a single Pro race (R6 1976 only); later DNS at 1977 June Sprints and then crashed heavily in practice for the Uncola Nationals at Brainerd July 1977; rebuilt over the next two years and raced again at the 1979 June Sprints - Fred Schilpin (St Cloud, MN) 1979 or later and used in minor racing; retained until 1996 - Roger Williams (Auckland, New Zealand) 1996 and restored by Tony Nicholson's Robin Automotive, Inc. Won the libre race at the TACCOC Autumn Classic 2002 12 May 2002. Raced by Williams in the F5000 Tasman Revival series from 2003 to 2006. To Alastair Russell (Auckland, New Zealand) and raced in Tasman Revival series from 2006 onwards. Russell was last seen in the car at Hampton Downs in 2016.
Driven by: Evan Noyes and Jim Sechser. First race: Laguna Seca (US R1), 7 May 1972. Total of 25 recorded races.
Built for 1972 season as a Leda LT27 and entered by Leda Cars for Trevor Taylor in the UK series until Graham McRae bought the Leda Cars operation. Rebranded as a McRae GM1 (plated "LT27 GM3") and sold to Jock Russell (Midlothian, Scotland) July 1972. Raced by Russell in the 1972 UK series (also raced by Brett Lunger at two races). Raced again by Russell in the UK series in 1973.
Russell retained the McRae until 1999 when he sold it to Noel Butler (Birmingham). To Roy Lane 2000, and restored in Lane's orange colours. To Peter and Aaron Burson (New Zealand) Oct 2006, and raced by Peter at The Phillip Island Classic in March 2007. The orange #51 car was then raced regularly by Peter Burson in the F5000 Tasman Revival series in 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12, including the Australian Grand Prix support races in 2009 and 2010. Raced by Peter Burson at Hampton Downs Jan 2012, at Invercargill Feb 2013, and Christchurch Feb 2015. Raced at Hampton Downs January 2017 and January 2018.
Driven by: Trevor Taylor, Jock Russell and Brett Lunger. First race: Silverstone (UK R6), 22 Apr 1972. Total of 18 recorded races.
Built for 1972 season. Evan Noyes as spare tub for 002 (see Motoring News 11 Jan 1973). Then with 002 through Roy Campbell, "Race Car Drivers Institute" and Jim Sechser to Fred Schilpin (St Cloud, MN). Schilpin sold the complete 002 to Roger Williams in 2001 but is believed to have retained the 004 monocoque until his death in 2005. Acquired at that point by Williams (NZ). Sold to Alistair Hey (NZ) in 2008 and entrusted to Graham McRae to be built up.
Built up into a complete car for Hey by Motorsport Solutions (Christchurch, NZ) and sold to Chris Lambden (Christchurch-born but a long-time resident of Melbourne, Australia) Feb 2011. Lambden raced it in the F5000 Tasman Revival from 2011 to 2013. Sold back to Hey in mid-2014 and he did some demonstration laps in the car at the Howden Ganley/NZFMR Festival in January 2015. Raced for Hey by Michael Collins in New Zealand rounds of the Tasman Revival in 2017/18.
Built for 1972 season and raced by Graham McRae in rounds of the 1972 British F5000 series that could be fitted into his campaign in the US series. McRae won at Brands Hatch in July and at Oulton Par in October in this car. He then used 005 in the 1973 Tasman series, winning three races and taking the Tasman championship. He used it again for the early races of the 1973 British series, winning at Mallory Park in April, before shipping it out to the US for the first two races of the US series. It was then replaced by a newer car and sold to Gregg Young in May 1973. Young failed to start either of his two races in the car and it was sold to dealer Fred Opert who planned to run for Tim Schenken at Elkhart Lake. For 1974 it was sold to Randolph Johnston (Suitland, MD) and raced in the Pro events at Mosport and Watkins Glen. Johnston advertised the car in Autoweek 21 Sep 1974.
In 1975, the car was owned by Sue Diamond (Melrose, MA) who was announced by her sponsor, Fabergé Inc, as a professional racing driver, and pictures of Diamond in her green McRae appeared in Fabergé's cosmetics adverts. Her only known race was a NERRC race at Thompson in June 1975, where she retired. She advertised the McRae from late 1975 to early 1977 as the 1973 Tasman series winner. It was acquired by John Sorbello (Lafayette, MA) and converted to Can-Am specification using a body built by Bill Hough. First raced by Sorbello at the Mid-Ohio Can-Am in June 1979. The car was typically entered as the Sorbello GM5 and was raced through 1979, 1980 and 1981, in both SCCA A Sports Racing and in Can-Am. Subsequent history unknown but in April 1986, a Can-Am/ASR McRae "#005" was advertised by Richard Sparks' Nine Lives Racing (Denver, CO).
Believed to be the car raced by Ken Petrie (Parker, CO) in vintage racing in the early 1990s. Raced by Petrie fairly consistently over the next 20 years, although Petrie also owned GM1 '014' between the late 1990s and 2008, so exactly which car he raced is unknown. A car also wearing #95 but with more original wings raced by Petrie at Road America July 2012. Raced by Petrie at Road America in July 2013 and July 2014.
Driven by: Graham McRae, Gregg Young, Randy Johnston, Sue Diamond, John Sorbello and Tony LaRosa. First race: Brands Hatch (UK R10), 13 Jul 1972. Total of 30 recorded races.
Built for 1973 season. Gordon Meffert (Waunakee, WI): raced in US 1973 (3 races: Road America R6 29 Jul 1973, Road Atlanta and Pocono). Advertised by Meffert in Autoweek from late 1973 up to June 1974 or later: "McRae … 3 races old … Fresh Kinsler Lucas F.I."). Subsequent history unknown but possibly the car advertised by Gregg Peterson (Sunnyvale, CA) in Autoweek 14 Dec 1974 ('3 races old … not used in 1974').
Next seen when raced by D. David France (San Francisco, CA) under Hat Racing banner at Laguna Seca Sprints 28/29 June 1975 (Formula Aug 1975 p32 and Sports Car Sep 1975 p34). Also second at 'Portland Rose Cup' National 15 Jun 1975 (Sports Car Sep 1975 p29) and later second in class at Sears Point National 24 Feb 1977 (Formula Jul 1977 p30). From France to "Bushell's Furniture" (Olympia, WA): driven by Sam Darnell. Entered by Dale "Campfire" for Sam Darnell at 1984 Runoffs. To Dale Campfield (Apalachin, NY) mid-1980's and retained until sold to James L. Stengel (New York, NY) early 2010.
Fully rebuilt and restored by Chris Schneider of Executive Autosport and raced for the first time at the KIC at Road America July 2010. Retained 2011 and James planning to run the full 2011 F5000 series in it. Raced by Stengel at The HAWK at Road America with Brian Redman July 2013. Still with Stengel in Sep 2013 when he reported that the car was in Quicksilver Racing livery. Raced at the Coronado Speed Festival in September 2014. Raced at the HAWK at Road America in July 2015, at the Monterey Pre-Reunion a month later, at Road America July 2016, and at Road America again in July 2017. Raced at VARAC Mosport Park 16-17 June 2018, and the WeatherTech International Challenge at Road America in July 2018.
Driven by: Gordon Meffert, D. David France and Sam Darnell. First race: Road America (US R6), 29 Jul 1973. Total of 16 recorded races.
Built for 1973 season. McKechnie Racing Organisation for Alan Rollinson: raced in Tasman 1973, UK 1973 ... Rebuilt for Rollinson as the "Contender F5000" and run by Derek Robinson (Frome, Somerset) for him at Thruxton 26 May 1975; advertised by Robinson August 1976 and March 1977 ... Alex Seldon (Farnham, Surrey) raced in libre races; advertised by Seldon March & April 1979 … Steve Cuff (Frome) at Prescott Sep 1979 (still as "Contender") … bought (from Robinson?!) by Brian Redman February 1982: raced once by Redman and once by his mechanic, John Bright (a win at Watkins Glen 7 Sep 1986) - Richard Schoenfeld (Muttontown, NY) May 1988.
Next seen when owned by Jim Swartzbaugh and raced at VARA Willow Springs March 1991. Reported to be in southern California 1994. Appeared again when advertised in Victory Lane October 1995, and raced by John Maroney at VARA Willow Springs 21-22 October 1995. Reported to be still with Maroney (Northridge, CA) in 2001.
In January 2017, the car was in New Zealand being rebuilt by Garry Pedersen. Further details to follow soon from Garry.
Driven by: Graham McRae, Alan Rollinson and Stephen Cuff. First race: Baypark Raceway (NZGS R5), 31 Dec 1972. Total of 16 recorded races.
Built for 1973 season. Cuddy Racing for Jon Woodner: raced in US 1973 (first seen R1 Riverside 29 Apr 1973). It was advertised in Autoweek 22 Dec 1973 by Carroll Smith, Bill Cuddy and Woodner. Subsequent history unknown but a tub with chassis plate 008 plus bodywork and wings was bought off Graham McRae's trailer after the final 1981 Can-Am round by Dan Furey (Columbus, OH). How it came to be back in McRae's hands isn't clear. The tub was left next to a garbage dumster but was not taken away so Furey decided to store it. Eventually "re-assembled" and raced by Hoey in historics from 1994 to 1997. Retained until sold to Paul Hoey (Olympia, WA) in 2004. Hoey believes he may have the Josef Scott car as he has detected a yellow and black #21 on the flanks. However, Rick Habersin also found #21 livery on 011 when he bought it so there is a puzzle remaining to be solved.
This car sold to Jay Esterer (Canada) July 2008 and raced in January 2009 Tasman Cup Revival Series in New Zealand. Sold February 2009 to Peter Burson (Auckland, New Zealand), also the owner of 003, and used in practice for the Tasman Cup Revival race at the Australian Grand Prix meeting 26-29 March 2009.
Raced regularly by Aaron Burson (Auckland, New Zealand) in the F5000 Tasman Revival series almost every season from 2009/10 to 2017/18, wearing #29. Burson also drove a #1 Talon in 2015 and 2016, but has since returned to the McRae. Raced at the VHRR Phillip Island Classic in March 2018.
Driven by: Jon Woodner and Bill Cuddy. First race: Riverside (US R1), 29 Apr 1973. Total of 10 recorded races.
Built for 1973 season. Quicksilver Racing (Rockville, MD) for Jim and Chuck Sarich: raced in US 1973 (debut Watkins Glen R5 17 Jun 1973), US 1974 (1 race: Laguna Seca); advertised Autoweek 26 Apr 1975 - Ted Wenz and Peter Marcovicci (of Marcovicci-Wenz Engineering) 1986: raced by Wenz in US vintage racing 1986-1998 - Stan Redmond (Christchurch, New Zealand) 2003. Retained 2004 and used in the F5000 Tasman Revival series in 2004 and 2006. To Alistair Hey (Christchurch) 2007, and used by Chris Hyde to win the 2007/08 F5000 Tasman Revival Series. To Steve Ross (Dunedin) 2009, who continued to run it in the F5000 Tasman Revival series (#5 orange). Raced by Ross in the 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14 Tasman Cup Revival Series, winning all three. Changed to Quicksilver livery in 2014. Raced at the Monterey Pre-Reunion in August 2015, and at the Skope Classic in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Driven by: Jim Sarich and Chuck Sarich. First race: Watkins Glen (US R5), 17 Jun 1973. Total of 4 recorded races.
Quicksilver Racing (Rockville, MD) ordered two cars (Autoweek 17 Feb 1973) but only used one. This would be the car advertised in Autosport (21 Jun 1973) as "Quicksilver Racing … offers … McRae … Kinsler fuel injected … fully sorted but not raced".
Unknown through late 1973 and all of 1974. Next seen with Rodney Green (Aurora, Colorado) who won the Formula A class at Lake Afton in August 1975, giving him nine points which would be enough to tie the 1975 Midwest Division FA title with John Mulholland. His only Pro race appearance was at Laguna Seca October 1975 where he only ran in practice. He won his class in the Hutchinson Grand Prix, a SCCA National in May 1976. Green retired from the Pueblo, Colorado National 15 May 1977 but won his class at La Junta Raceway in September 1977. He won the FA class in the GM1 at Pueblo in July 1978, and at Lake Afton in August 1978, and at La Junta in September 1978. Green also set the final ASR lap record at La Junta in May 1979. Retained by Green until 2006 when sold to Paul Hoey (Olympia, WA), also the owner of 008. Sold to James Stengel (New York, NY) February 2008 and raced in US vintage racing throughout 2008. Stengel later acquired chassis 006 as well.
Raced in US in 2009 (#59 red/white). Retained 2011 but for sale; and then sold to Jay Esterer (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) to replace chassis 014 after that was damaged in an accident at Manfeild Nov 2011. Raced by Esterer at Hampton Downs Jan 2012 when it was red-and-white, carried #59 and had Rodney Green's name on the side. Jay still had this car in April 2016, still with its original paint and in its 1975 specification.
Driven by: Rodney Green. First race: Hutchinson, 30 May 1976. Total of 3 recorded races.
Built for 1973 season. Josef Scott for Gordon Smiley: raced in US 1973 (debut Michigan R3 20 May; 2 races); for Vern Schuppan (2 races: R6 Elkhart Lake and R7 Road Atlanta); for Scott: raced in US 1974 (1 race - crashed at R5 Ontario 2 Sep 1974); advertised Autoweek 1 Feb 1975 - Rick Habersin (Miami Shores, FL) 1970's: retained 2003. See also 008.
Driven by: Gordon Smiley, Vern Schuppan and Josef Scott. First race: Michigan International Speedway (US R3), 20 May 1973. Total of 7 recorded races.
Built for 1973 season but unused (completed June 1973, advertised 5 July 1973) - later to Roy Lane: raced in British Hill Climb Championship 1974, 1975 (won championship) and 1976 (won championship). Advertised by Lane wth "spare new monocoque" in Sep 1976 and sold to Dave Harris 1976: raced in British Sprint Championship 1977, 1978 and 1979 - Stephen Cuff (Frome, UK) for 1980 … Phil Prince (Parbold, Wigan, UK) 1981: sprints and hillclimbs and used to set some UK speed records - Roy Lane (again) 1983: raced in British Sprint Championship 1983, 1984, 1985.
Later sold via Peter Marcovicci and Ted Wenz of Marcovicci-Wenz Engineering to Ray Boissoneau (Bedford, NH) 1996. Run by Boissoneau at the VSCCA Vintage Celebration at New Hampshire International Speedway 26-30 June 1996, where it was described as being Roy Lane's multiple championship winning car. Retained 2006. Raced by Ted Wenz in 2008 US Vintage events. Raced by Boissoneau at the US Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen September 2012, and at HSR The Mitty in April 2014 and April 2016. Raced at VARAC Mosport Park 16-17 June 2018.
Driven by: Roy Lane, Dave Harris, Stephen Cuff and Phil Prince. First race: Prescott (R1), 31 Mar 1974. Total of 118 recorded races.
Built for 1973 season. Graham McRae: raced in US 1973 (5 races - from R3 Michigan 20 May 1973 to R7 Road Atlanta 19 Aug 1973). Next seen with dealer Derek Robinson (Frome, Somerset) and advertised by him in May 1975. Sold, dismantled and less engine, via Alan Rollinson to Ian Stronach (Manchester): raced widely in libre racing during 1976 and 1977, usually at Oulton Park and Aintree. Advertised in August 1978 and sold to Larry Bradley 1978, then to Ian Higgins (Boston, Lincolnshire) late 1980s or early 1990s.
Then sold to the US and next seen when owned by Ken Petrie (US) 2001 and present at Pueblo F5000 reunion May 2001. Sold by Petrie to Jay Esterer (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) March 2008 and restored to its 1973 Graham McRae specification of dark red STP livery and carrying #1. Raced by Esterer at Teretonga Feb 2011. Badly damaged in a startline accident at Manfeild Nov 2011 when Kenny Smith's Lola T332 snapped sideways and knocked Esterer's McRae into the pit wall. Esterer reported that "Both front corners were knocked off, all four wheels were wrecked and the tub was smashed in and twisted". He shipped chassis 010, which he had bought from Jim Stengel earlier in the year, out to NZ to complete the series.
By September 2013 the car had been completely renovated, and Esterer raced this car in the US in 2015, still dark red and carrying the number '1X'.. Esterer reported in September 2013 that the car has been freshly renovated since the accident. He raced this car, now dark red and carrying the number '1X', during 2015.
Driven by: Graham McRae and Ian Stronach. First race: Michigan International Speedway (US R3), 20 May 1973. Total of 10 recorded races.
Built for 1973 season with a longer wheelbase. Graham McRae: raced in UK 1973 (practiced at Misano 10 Jun and raced from R10 Mallory Park 8 Jul 1973 onwards). Sold to Ian Ward Racing early 1974 and modified as "Ward KS1" but not raced. To Chris Featherstone (Maidstone, Kent): raced in UK 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977 (also raced by Keith Holland UK 1977) and in the Australian Rothmans series in February 1978. Sold to Gary Dumbrell (Melbourne, Australia) February 1978, then to Bob Tomlinson October 1978, and then to Salt Walther Feb 1979 and raced in the 1979 Rothmans series. Sold to Ray Gibbs (Australia) September 1979 and kept by him until sold to Stuart Lush (Auckland, New Zealand) 2000. Appeared in practice at the TACCOC Autumn Classic 2002 12 May 2002. Raced in the 2004 Tasman Cup Revival series, appeared in UK 2005, Tasman Cup Revival series 2006. This car wears a massively overstamped plate ending '005'.
Raced by Lush in the 2009 Tasman Cup Revival Series. Chris Hyde (2007-2008 F5000 Tasman Champion) drove 015 in the 2009-2010 Tasman Series for Stuart Lush Motorsport NZ, winning the Australian GP support race. Driven by Lush in the F5000 Tasman Revival series in 2010-11 and 2011-12, then bought by Greg Thornton (UK) for the 2012-13 series. Raced by Lush at Road America in 2014, and then in the 2014/15 F5000 Tasman Revival.
Driven by: Graham McRae, Chris Featherstone, Keith Holland, Gary Dumbrell and David "Salt" Walther. First race: Mondello Park (UK R11), 22 Jul 1973. Total of 41 recorded races.
The mystery cars
The following McRaes are not yet fully explained.
'the Mark Felson car'
In February 1974, Mark Felson (Denver, CO) finished third in an SCCA National at Phoenix, driving what was reported to be a McRae GM1. Felson was a Ferrari dealer in Denver. Cuddy Racing's chassis 008 and Quicksilver Racing's unused second car 010 are the only real possibilities for this car. As chassis 010 was next seen in Aurora, Colorado, an eastern suburb of Denver, that car is most likely. Nothing more known.
Driven by: Mark Felson. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R2), 24 Feb 1974. Only one recorded race.
'the 1981 car'
Advertised by Graham McRae in On Track 28 May 1981. McRae's own cars were 001, 005, 014 and 015, all of which have well-documented sales or later histories. Dan Furey (see 008) bought his car from McRae at the end of 1981 so it's quite likely this is the same car. How it got from Cuddy Racing back to McRae isn't clear.
'Ray Boissoneau's second car'
When Ray Boissoneau (Bedford, NH) acquired GM1-012 from Roy Lane in 1996, he also acquired a spare monocoque, which at the time was identified as "011". At a later date, the car was said to have been given the 014 chassis plate which was found in a toolbox in England. At some point, this car was built up as a duplicate of Boissoneau's 012, and he raced both cars in US vintage racing. The car was first reported in 2001, when it was said to be black and using a 6-litre engine. By 2012, Boissoneau was clearly running two different GM1s at different events, but it is not yet clear which was 012 and which was his second car. The car sold to Frank Lyons (Felsted, Essex) in 2013, is believed to be the "extra" car. Raced by Frank Lyons at Silverstone in October 2013, and in October 2016.
There are a few other references to McRaes in contemporary magazines that are now thought to be errors in the reports:
- Formula Dec 1976 p43 reports that Donald De Maagd raced a "McRae" at the Hoosier National 18/19 Sep 1976. Like the Midgley car immediately below, this is believed to have been a McKee, in this case DeMaagd's ex-Reinold Mk 12.
- Formula Aug 1977 p41 reports that Ed Midgley won his class at Wentzville, Missouri, 8 May 1977 in his "McRae FA" and later did not start at the 1977 June Sprints. This is believed to have been Midgley's McKee Mk 18.
Also, Phil Henny (Van Nuys, CA) advertised a "new Leda LT27" in Autoweek on 22 Jul 1972. Phil advises that he placed the ad because Len Terry asked him to try to sell a LT27.
There was also an unexplained advert by Bill Kontes (Vineland, NJ) in Autoweek 10 Aug 1974 for a "virtually brand new" GM1.
In April 2012, Jim Crawford's Motorsport Solutions (Christchurch, NZ), released photographs of a new McRae GM1 monocoque under construction, with the comment that "we are recreating a McRae GM1 001". Nothing more has been revealed but during 2015 there was a bout of online discussion about how much of 001 had survived the 1974 fire.
These histories last updated on .