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Premium Member
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The Eagle Flies Again...
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest racing cars ever devised
Photography by Kurt Oblinger, Steve Johnson and KartPro

June 24, 2012

A little fun outside of slot cars, or in this case, a BIG slot car!

3-time Indy-500 winner Bobby Unser drove this Dan Gurney Eagle to the 1972 Indy-500 pole position, averaging over 195 MPH, a full 17 MPH faster than the record pole set a year before by Peter Revson in the works McLaren-Offy. The Eagle used an AAR-modified Drake-Offenhauser 159 ci., turbocharged engine with its boost run as high as 125 inches, producing power between 800 and 1100 HP and enormous torque.



When Bobby Unser saw our car at the Riverside International Automotive Museum in March 2102 during his guest appearance, he was quite excited when offered the opportunity to drive it once more.
This took place at Auto Club Speedway on June 24th, 2012, during the Victory Lane event run under the HSR-West Racing sanctioning, on the famous 2-mile banked oval.

Over 25 older and newly-built tribute Indy cars as well as a few oval-racing USAC Champ cars participated to the event.
Bobby Unser was the star of the show, signing autographs and kindly listening to everyone's own experiences.



I am working with the RIAM crew (Bill Losee and Morris Jephcott), adjusting the engine before the car's very first run.

Now I am taking the car out for its first drive since assembly. The engine's Hilborn mechanical fuel injection was tuned too rich, making the car difficult to drive as it was fouling its spark plugs under the slightest solicitation of the throttle, and it appeared that the turbo boost was also adjusted too high, causing wheel spin even as 4th gear was being engaged! The tires also needed balancing as the steering wheel was violently shaking at any speeds above 100 MPH.


Regardless of the issues, I drove as many laps as possible to allow for fluid-leak check as well as general issues with the car. It was clear that the chassis was well set, the car being very neutral in corners, while the power when the spark plugs cleaned up, rather awesome. The boost gauge revealed nearly 90 PSI and that was full race setup for the 1972 Indy 500! At that rate, 900 HP were on tap. Definitely an interesting experience when the turbo spools up... in a 1600 lbs. car.



As soon as Bobby Unser arrived with his wife Lisa, he immediately went on all four, tuning the Hilborn fuel injection to his liking with engine builder Stuart Van Dyne (formerly in the 1972 Indy 500-winning Roger Penske crew), and it was obvious that even 40 years later, he remembered everything about the car, the engine, its setup...



Bobby even brought his old Hinchman "Olsonite-Eagle" racing suit and a helmet specially painted like his 1972 "Premier" for the event. Above, Morris Jephcott adjusts the throttle-pedal stop to bobby's liking.



Just to make sure, Bobby asked "which way to the beach" before getting serious about the task at hand.







Bobby drove a few pretty quick laps, reaching speeds of over 180 MPH, but an engine problem and a balky gearbox needed to be fixed before further testing. Regardless, the point of the day was to celebrate an anniversary and this was accomplished in perfect fashion.



Many thanks to all the kind people who helped this anniversary to take place: Bobby and Lisa Unser, Doug Magnon and the RIAM crew of Bill Losee, Morris Jephcott and Tony Adamowicz, Kathy Weida of AAR. Yves morizot of Stand 21 Racewear as well as the kind photographers who allowed their pictures to be published here.
 

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Gerald Lambourn
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998 Posts
I don't think we know enough about the fabulous Offy engine that dominated Indy for so long, can anyone point to a book or other soucrce? A remark on the boost pressures, 125 ins of boost, is that water or mercury? 90 psi sounds an incredible boost pressure. GeraldL
 

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Russell Sheldon
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2,855 Posts
Fantastic! Thanks for posting, Philippe.

Is this chassis 72-03, which was on pole for the 1972 Indy 500 and won four races?



Kind regards,

Russell
 

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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hi Russell,
The tub from that car was crashed and no longer exists as a car. My car is a NOS tub with parts from the pool of spares for the Unser car, a pair of these cars built in full collaboration with Dan Gurney. The way it all happened is explained here.

My car as well as the one I built for Dan are a tribute to two glorious cars that no longer exists.
 
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