Tom Cantrell’s world revolves around excellence, and it seems he will go to any length to achieve perfection on, and off, the racetrack. The owner of a successful construction business in the Pacific Northwest and a collector of vintage cars, Tom has also built a formidable race team. With a true passion for racing history and a penchant for high horsepower machines, Tom’s stable of racecars is like a who’s who of excellence from the Big Bore era — including the remarkable project seen here.
As a frame of reference for Tom’s project, we first need to set the stage. While small displacement engines dominated racing through the post-war 1950s and early ’60s, the rapidly developing V8 engine quickly became the power plant of choice by the late 1960s. Across Europe and North America, throngs of eager spectators filled the grandstands, infields and surrounding hillsides at every racetrack to witness the spectacle of Big Bore racing.
Grand Touring and Gran Turismo Omologato class sizes swelled, filling with iconic racecars, including Ford’s GT40s, Ferrari’s 250 GTs and Shelby’s Cobras. Seizing on the opportunity to capture a larger share of the car-buying crowd, auto manufacturers Ford, General Motors, Ferrari and others stepped up their game. The horsepower wars were on, reaching an on-track crescendo from 1966 to 1973 in the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, better known as Can-Am.
Unlike many of the previous formulae and series, the Can-Am series adopted essentially a formula libre rulebook. Translated as “free formula,” the only regulations governing a Can-Am car’s specification were the basic configuration and safety. This effectively opened up a blank slate for car builders.
This new, anything goes racing arena attracted a different breed of racer and car builder. A host of smaller enterprises and privateers flocked to the series, fielding cars that broke the conventional norms in every way imaginable. Horsepower was king, resulting in the development of massive wings and slicks to try and tame all that muscle to the track surface. Creativity flourished, and Can-Am cars thrilled crowds everywhere they raced. Today, true Can-Am-era racecars are among the most sought-after vintage racecars on the planet, and only the lucky and courageous few ever attempt to field one.