A half century has passed since the first Shadow made its competition debut at Mosport in the opening round of the 1970 Can-Am season. In 2021 the 26th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will honor the 1974 Can-Am Champion and 1977 Austrian GP winner with a special class of the marque’s winners and its original radical racer – “the two-dimensional car” – the AVS Shadow Mk I, of the 1970 season, the car Road & Track called “the most radical Can-Am yet.”
The Shadows were fan favorites. The menacing black UOP Shadows — the sponsors name was always spoken aloud by Shadow fans — were products of a less structured time of wild and occasionally weird design ideas without hard boundaries.
George Follmer bravely qualified the radical AVS Mk I in sixth position for the 1970 Can-Am season opener at Mosport. It lasted 24 laps.
The AVS Mk I Shadow never finished a race during the 1970 season. Every modification took the Mk I further from designer Trevor Harris’ original minimalist ultra-low frontal area concept.
>Vic Elford (Amelia’s 2012 Honoree) was brought in to tame the tiny terror but ended up claiming it was a car he should never have driven! Ti22 Designer Peter Bryant was hired to put things right. His Shadow Mk II of 1971 looked a bit more conventional and behaved better. Le Mans winner Jackie Oliver arrived from Bryant’s Ti22 Can-Am team to fill the vacant seat. But the most important component of the low-line Bryant-designed Mk II was the acquisition of a new sponsor: UOP — Universal Oil Products — whose logo and livery were a perfect match for Shadow’s pleasingly sinister graphics that gave the Shadow a strong visual presence on Can-Am and F1 grids.
As the Can-Am succumbed to the economic pressures of the 1973 oil embargo, the mighty Can-Am wobbled. Shadow creator Don Nichols didn’t. New Shadows to combat the turbocharged Porsches were created. And so was a Shadow Formula 1 racer. Tony Southgate designed the first F1 Shadow and the final Shadow Can-Am challenger, the graceful and elegant DN4. Powered by a thunderous Chevy V-8 but incorporating many lessons learned from Formula 1, The DN4 won the championship and all but the final race of the original “unlimited” Can-Am’s season (1974).>
“Shadow belongs to an elite group of racecar builders,” said Bill Warner, founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “Shadow is the sole American Can-Am Champion. And only the Shadow, McLaren and Porsche marques have won races in both the original unlimited Can-Am and a World Championship Formula 1 Grand Prix.”
“At one end of America’s Grand Prix history there’s Duesenberg at Le Mans in 1921,” said Warner. “At the other is Shadow, winner of the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix. We always remember Dan Gurney’s Spa-winning Eagle and the 1976 Austrian GP-winning Penske, and we should, but sometimes the Shadow gets overlooked.”
“Brian Redman raced for Shadow and summed it up best when he said, ‘I think they should be remembered with considerable honor.’ And that’s what we’re going to do on May 23, 2021,” said Warner.