I’ve had such a good career as far as driving a lot of different vehicles. But, at least in terms of open-wheeled cars, one of the cars that I enjoyed driving a lot was the Lotus 70 Formula 5000 car. I only ran, I think, four races with it in ’69. That was a fun car, with really good handling. You could do a lot with it. When it was right, it was a really good handling little car. We ran one of the few examples that had a Ford engine in it, but that’s what it was built for. A lot of the other ones that were around, the people put Chevys in them, and they never worked.
However, if I had to pick one car overall it would probably be the Shadow DN4, their last Can-Am car, which was an excellent car. For a Can-Am car it was fast, it cornered well, the weight was good on it, the balance was good. It was a very good driving car. I mean, I actually went faster in that car then I did in ’72 and ’73 with all the horsepower in the Porsches we raced. So the DN4 was an excellent car.
I think one of the main reasons it sticks out in my mind is that it just handled so well. I mean it just had better cornering power and, of course, speeds were much higher than anything I had driven up to that point. You’ve got to remember that every year things got better. Tires got better, the cars got better, power got better, so as you moved along, each year you’re gonna’ theoretically have a better racecar. In most cases you always did.
Surprisingly, it was faster than the Porsches I drove in ’72 and ’73, and the Shadow was doing it with a normally aspirated Chevy! It just had very good balance, it accelerated well and it stopped well; it had good throttle control in the corners. The Porsches were extremely fast, and they did well, but the early Porsche, the 917/10, wasn’t too friendly on high-speed corners. It was more of a handful because it was such a short wheelbase car. So, even though we were fast, and we had a lot of horsepower, and it stopped very well, they weren’t the most friendly racecars on a high-speed track. You get someplace like Riverside, going up through the esses and they were a handful.
I think the real strength of the DN4 was the fact that you could drive it into the corner—it would turn and go into the corner—and you could catch it and hold it there. It would get the power back on quickly. Maybe one of the reasons that I think so highly of the Shadow was that it suited my driving style, more than somebody else’s.
For me, I always wanted more power and the ability to put that power to the ground. The sooner you could pick the throttle up, and the more you can put on it, the better, the faster you’d go.
With the Shadow, you could get it loose a little bit and control it with the throttle real easy—it was very responsive. And that made it fast because you had the power on much of the time you were in the corner. As a result, your ET from that corner to the next was faster and that’s always been the fast way around a road course.
So for me, the DN4 was probably, of the Can-Am cars at least, the best one of the bunch. I liked it the best.