The ex-Steve Chassey,1981 Gurney AAR Eagle Single-Seater Indianapolis Racing Car  Chassis no. 8102

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Lot 456
The ex-Steve Chassey, 1981 Gurney AAR Eagle Single-Seater Indianapolis Racing Car
Chassis no. 8102

Sold for US$ 38,025 inc. premium
The ex-Steve Chassey
1981 Gurney AAR Eagle Single-Seater Indianapolis Racing Car
Chassis no. 8102
In 1981 it was announced that the following year Indianapolis would outlaw special turbo- supercharged racing engines such as the dominant Cosworth and the venerable Offy, leading several owners to put stock-block engines into their cars a year early in order to get a season's experience with passenger car powerplants. It is believed that Max Dowker, a Michigan-based owner of USAC dirt track sprint cars, now deceased, saw it as an opportunity to get into Indianapolis car racing at a fraction of the cost of buying a Cosworth turbo V-8 engine.

Dowker is saud to have enlisted Bob Soltow of Jet Engineering Inc., a manufacturer of titanium components, as his sponsor, and for $140,000 that company bought him a Dan Gurney All-American Racers "Eagle" chassis with which to contest the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series in 1981.

The AAR Eagle made extensive use of strong, lightweight titanium metal for bulkheads, wheel spindles, axles, brake rotors and other structural parts, complementing and advertising the sponsor's business.

Steve Chassey, a 36 year old USAC sprint car champion who had previously driven for Dowker, was hired to pilot the Eagle, fulfilling Chassey's dream of going to Indy. Dowker installed an un-supercharged aluminum block 358 cubic inch Chevrolet V-8 engine, equipped with all the speed secrets he had developed over many years on the sprint car circuit. Throughout his four years on the Indy Car circuit, Dowker hired dirt track drivers and raced them on both paved ovals and road courses.

When the car appeared at Indianapolis it was one of the most beautiful there and won an award as the best-looking entry from PPG Paints, sponsor of the 1981 race series.

Challenging the Cosworth engine and Roger Penske's equally-dominant Indy chassis was a tall order in 1981. Engine problems dogged the Dowker car and Chassey, a rookie at Indy, had to take his driver's test in another car. On the final day of qualifying he got into the field on his third attempt at 185.672 miles an hour. Unfortunately, with just minutes remaining, Tom Klauser bumped Chassey out of the race with a speed of 186.732 mph.

Chassey drove the car in nine CART races during 1981, with a best finish a 5th place on the road course at Watkins Glen on October 4th. Overall the car ran at five oval tracks and two road courses that year.

The expected switch from the Cosworth engine did not happen and at Indianapolis in 1982 Dowker again had to run against the special racing engines with his stock-block Chevrolet V-8s. Bob Frey, another veteran of the dirt tracks was his driver and was not able to run fast enough to qualify.

Although the No. 64 car never qualified at Indianapolis, it is believed complete and in running condition. It has been driven by the present owner in vintage events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Road America. Set up with a Chevrolet V-8 running on gasoline,it can be easily, authentically and relatively inexpensively maintained for vintage racing without the cost of the sophisticated, hard to drive, Cosworth turbo engine.

This car is said to have a new 40-gallon fuel cell and an on-board Tilton starter. It is set up for road courses with a differential, but an oval-track solid rear axle spool is available as are extra Halibrand wheels and many spare parts.

The car is accompanied by its USAC and CART logbooks

Racing record, AAR Eagle Chassis no. 8102

5/24/81, Indianapolis, (2.5 mile paved oval) Steve Chassey, DNQ, bumped
6/7/1981, Milwaukee (1 mile paved oval) Steve Chassey, started 12th, finished 24th, engine
6/28/1981, Atlanta, (1.522 mile paved oval) Steve Chassey, started 16th, finished 23rd, engine
6/28/1981, Atlanta (1.522 mile paved oval) Steve Chassey, started 22nd, finished 22nd, U-joint
7/25/1981, Michigan Int'l Speedway, (2 mile paved oval) Steve Chassey, started 34th, finished 20th, engine
8/30/1981, Riverside, (3.3 mile road course) Steve Chassey, started 21st, finished 15th, engine
9/5/1981, Milwaukee, (1 mile paved oval) Steve Chassey, started 19th, finished 15th, running
9/20/1981, MIS (2 mile paved oval) Steve Chassey, started 23rd, finished 12th, running
10/4/1981, Watkins Glen (3.377 mile road course) Steve Chassey, started 19th, finished 5th, running

5/30/1982, Indianapolis, (2.5 mile paved oval), Bob Frey, DNQ
8/1/1982, Milwaukee (1 mile paved oval) Greg Leffler, started 19th, finished 21st, lost oil
8/29/1982, Riverside, (3.3 mile road course) Greg Leffler,started 21st, finished 6th, broken valve
9/19/1982, Elkhart Lake (4 mile road course) Greg Leffler, started 23rd, finished 13th, engine
9/26/1982, MIS (2 mile paved oval) Greg Leffler, started 21st, finished 24th, crash

Saleroom notices

  • Lot 456, a 1981 Gurney AAR Eagle Single-Seater Indianapolis Racing Car, is incorrectly listed in the catalog as "believed complete and in running condition" should be attributed to lot 457. Lot 456 is complete, but is not fully-assembled. Additionally, the estimate for lot 456 has been revised from $60,000-80,000 to $40,000-50,000.
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