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The following text is hopefully (eventually) going to lead to some kind of published book or series of articles. I am making the working text available to the world for various reasons, not least of which is to give people an opportunity to criticize and comment on errors and omissions.
Unless stated otherwise, all text is copyright John Robinson with updates and additions by David R. Flesher. Where possible sources of information are acknowledged.
If you can add information please get in touch .
I am interest in building this site because I run a Royale RP9-18 Aircooled Super Vee in various historic race meetings, including the UK-based Derek Bell Trophy series. Since I am currently the only UK-based driver racing these cars I am keen to hear from anyone who currently runs or owns a similar car. I am aware of several cars running in the German Historischer Formel Vau series, a few cars running in the USA and several UK-based cars which are currently undergoing restoration, so we do have a little Super Vee community building up. We would all like it to be bigger - so if you have any interest in the Super Vee formula please get in touch.
I have copies of two books on Super Vee. "The Racing Bugs: Formula Vee and Super Vee" by Ross R. Olney and Ron Grable was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons of New York in 1974. Although this book is oriented very much towards the North American reader, it provides good coverage of both Formula Vee and Super Vee. A second publication, "Super Vee" by Sylvia Wilkinson, was published by Children's Press of Chicago in 1981 as part of the "World of Racing" series. This book was oriented towards the younger reader, and therefore has the advantage that it is written in terms simple enough for Formula Vee drivers to understand. Although naturally lacking in detailed historical information, this book has nevertheless provided a few little gems to add to the following discourse. Various other sources have been used which (so far) include some copies of the "official Journal of the Formula Vee Association Europe", and a few assorted magazines.
I also ought to mention Andrew L. Shupack's book "Formula Vee/Super Vee, Racing, History, and Chassis/Engine Prep", 1981, from which various people have sent me photocopies. I have yet to trawl this book in detail so I guess there is more to add from this source.
Formula Super Vee was created to act as a platform for the promotion of VW products, playing much the same role in the 1970s as formulae such as Formula Renault play today. The idea for Formula Super Vee is generally attributed to Josef Hopen, who worked as the Special Vehicles Manager for Volkswagen of America. It was Hopen who sold the idea for the new formula to the SCCA, sanctioning body in the USA, who in November 1969 decided to launch a championship for the new car for the following year, despite the fact that no cars existed at that time. We can but reflect on the similarity to today, where new formulae are readily accepted by the governing body (at least in the UK) so long as they come with manufacturer support .
To assist the launch of the new formula Hopen commissioned Gene Beach, an established constructor of Formula Vee cars, to design and build the first Super Vee and put this car on display at the Daytona 24 hour race. Beach was one of the first three constructors of Formula Vees, along with Autodynamics and Formcar. It is therefore appropriate that the Beach Super Vee was soon joined by a Super Vee designed and built by Ray Caldwell's Autodynamics concern. This second Super Vee (the Caldwell D-10) was put on display at the New York Auto Show. Other manufacturers soon followed suit, with Formula Vee constructors such as Zink joined by more mainstream firms such as Lola. John Zeitler also built his first cars around the same time as Beach and Caldwell. As a matter of fact, John Zeitler won the very first super vee race at Lime Rock Park in 1970. This race was run with the FF class.
David Flesher asked David Isselhard: How did so many Caldwell D-10s get built in 1969 when the series was not announced until November 69? [reprinted with permission] The answer is: Josef Hoppen, VW's Racing Boss badgered the SCCA into creating a class and it took him a year to do it. Never before, or since, has the SCCA approved a new class prior to the time that the cars had "proved" themselves in competition. In 1968, Hoppen started his crusade to utilize the drive train components of the to be introduced 1969 Fastback and Squareback models. He recognized that the 1600cc motors would have the capability to destroy the current Formula Vee chassis and pressed the SCCA for a new class. He guaranteed a minimum of seven professional races with prize money of $7500.00 to $10,000.00 per race. Hoppen offered to have a car built for inspection by the 24 hours of Daytona in January, 1970. When the SCCA was convinced that Volkswagen of America was prepared to support and promote the new class, Formula Super Vee was recognized as a national championship class in November, 1969. What the SCCA did not know was that Josef Hoppen was so sure of himself that he commissioned two builders to create cars to the specifications that he "sold" to the SCCA. Those two builders were Gene Beech and Ray Caldwell. Gene Beech used a modified Formula Ford chassis and his was the car shown to the press at Daytona as Hoppen had promised. Ray Caldwell used the Caldwell D-9 Formula Ford chassis, modified the chassis to conform to Hoppen's "Formula" (i.e. the specs) and there was the D-10, using the VW 1600 drive train, axles and brakes, 6x13 wheels and treaded tires.
International expansion inevitably followed, with the formula appearing in Europe. "Racing Bugs" includes a couple of rather strange photographs showing what appears to be a match race between a Beach Super Vee and two old Mercedes Grand Prix cars, dating from 1938 and 1955. Presumably a publicity stunt, this event was held at Hockenheim. If anyone can provide any more information on this event please do get in touch. From Nick England -- I have a copy of a Feb 1972 letter from Josef Hoppen to Gene Beach - he included photos of the original Beach SV posed with the Mercedes GP cars at Hockenheimring. Hoppen says that the cars were tested there and the SV was faster.
It would appear that Super Vee was often referred to as Formula Vee 1600, at least in Europe. This reflects the occasional use of the term "Super Ford" to refer to Formula Ford 2000.
The Formula Super Vee regulations mandated the use of certain key VW components, such as discs and calipers, but allowed the formula car manufacturers considerable freedom in chassis and suspension design.
The specifications forth for the original series required the following: Engine: Type 3 1600cc ( actually a stroke of 69mm and a bore of 85.5mm for a displacement of 1582cc ). Dry sumping not allowed. Cooling: air, with external oil coolers and oil filters. Carburation: free, however most used Weber 48 IDA or Solex 40P11 dual downdraft. Some use of Weber IDF and DCNF. (note: two dual dual down draft cards allowed, any manufacturer with dual port VW or aftermarket intake manifolds). Transmission: stock VW from the 1969 Square back/fastback series. However, gear ratios were open and almost immediately Webster and Hewland gearsets were adopted for the VW transaxle. Ignition: coil and distributor. Clutch: VW stock, with Hydraulic linkage. Brakes: Girling hydraulic with VW discs front, VW Drums in the rear. Wheels: 6" X 13" front and rear., Magnesium allowed. Tires: 5:00/8:30 X 13 front, Treaded (no slicks) 5:50/9/20 X 13 rear, Treaded (no slicks) Steering: Rack and Pinion Suspension: free, front and rear shocks: free, front and rear Swaybars: free, front and rear Rear uprights: free (and usually proprietary by car manufacturer) Curb Weight: Dry, without driver, 825 lbs minimum. Wheelbase: free (most manufacturers were between 88" and 94") Track, Front/Rear: Up to 92" Fuel Tank Capacity: Free, but most manufacturers located the tank under and behind the driver but in front of the firewall, which pretty much limited the capacity to 6.0 gallons. Construction: tubular space frame, flat bottom, no wings or tabs to induce downforce. Body: any material, but full coverage (including engine compartment) required.
Although "The Racing Bugs" implies that regulations initially allowed 1600cc air cooled engines of either type 3 (as used in the Beetle) or type 4 (as used in the VW-Porsche 914 sportscar), my information from British-based racers indicates a different scenario. The regulations initially specified a type 3 1600cc engine, however at a late stage VW had a change of heart and decided that the type 4 engine would be a better option. The type 4 engine is without doubt a better engine. However, this motor was never produced in a 1600cc version so VW decided to produce a "special" 1600cc version through their industrial engines division (the 127V unit), with smaller pistons and barrels which reduced the capacity to 1600cc.
As with any formula, Formula Super Vee progressed through a number of changes during its life. Initially, for example, the cars ran without wings and used drum brakes at the rear. Later the regulations allowed the use of wings and rear disc brakes. In 1974, 8 inch rear wheels, rear wings, and 34 mm exhaust valves. Since slick tyres had yet to be introduced into racing, the cars ran with treaded tyres initially, but later moved onto slicks.
The original regulations specified a non-Hewland gearbox and cars ran with fixed ratio VW boxes. In Europe a company called Metso began building Hewland-like boxes which provided the ability to change ratios to suit each circuit and exploited the wording of the regulations, which had simply banned Hewland boxes rather than explicitly specifying the fixed ratio VW box. Once the cars started to use Metso boxes the regulations were changed and Hewlands were also allowed. This change, combined with start money being offered by Hewland to drivers using its products, effectively put Metso out of business, although the company did build boxes for other formula cars such as Formula Fords.
Much later, engine regulations were also opened up, allowing water-cooled engines from the VW Golf (or Rabbit as it is known in North America). The water cooled engines inevitably replaced the air-cooled which were rendered uncompetitive, and (at least in the UK) many air cooled cars were converted to accept the water cooled engine. I was grateful to Dr. Michael Kaske for pointing out to me that the SCCA in the USA did allow 1700cc air-cooled engines towards the end of the air cooled period, to remain competitive while the water cooled cars joined the grid.
Ultimately the most developed version of Super Vee was to be found in the USA, since they continued with a Super Vee series years after the formula had died away elsewhere. Indeed by the mid-80s Super Vee in the USA had taken over from Formula Atlantic as the feeder formula for Indycars, often being referred to as the "Mini-Indy" series. In the mid-80s the Ron Tauranac designed Ralt RT5 had a virtual monopoly in the USA series.
In Britain, the RAC sanctioned a Super Vee championship for the first time in 1971. Sponsored by the British Volkswagen importers, Volkswagen Motors, the "Volkswagen Motors Silver Cup" was organized by the British Automobile Racing Club (BRACE) in association with the Formula Vee Association GB. An international Super Vee race was also held at Thruxton on 12th April 1971. The Formula Vee Association was based in Volkswagen House, Purley, Surrey and was staffed by Super Vee driver John Morrison and Jan Bannochie. The association promoted Formula Vee as well as Super Vee.
Formula Super Vee always struggled to attract the support required to become a major force in UK racing. Perhaps this is not surprising when one considers the strength of the F3 scene in the country. Indeed, the series seemed doomed to remain a strictly club formula as the following review of the 1974 season, taken from the 12th December 1974 issue of Motoring News, illustrates:
The two Volkswagen based formulae are still balanced precariously on a knife handle, if not actually on a knife edge. So popular on the continent, where they are cheap but intensely competitive substitutes for F3 and FF, Formula Super Vee and Formula Vee have no essential place in the British motor racing set-up. Although they represent very good value for money in performance terms at their respective levels, they have no obvious slot to fit into here, and because of this have never really got off the ground. Indeed, Formula Vee appears to be slipping slowly downhill at present, with small grids and little new blood to enliven them. Brian Urlwin was an easy winner of the championship, and other leading names like Peter Wimhurst and Malcolm Horwood will be familiar to Vee fans of long standing. FSV was rather better, with more cars than before and a wider variety of makes. Perhaps Tom Pryce's rise to fame will encourage more people to try what has so far been a white elephant, its life hanging by a thread bairly strong enough to support it. The VW Silver Cup series offers good prize money, although a fuller program of events might help. Chris Barnett came out champion in a Royale, but Bruce Venn, Olly Hollamby, Ron Grant, Mark Litchfield and others made sure he worked for his living.
The British series ran for 10 years, finally being dropped due to lack of support at the beginning of 1982.
A VW-backed European Championship existed for some years and in the early 1970s attracted grids in the high 20s.
In 1975 two European-wide series were promoted, the Castrol GTX Trophy and the more important, and lucrative, Volkswagen Gold Cup.
By the early 80s the "European" championship was largely German-based and there was concern when VW withdrew their support at the end of 1982 to concentrate in building Formula Three engines. Germany also had a national Super Vee championship, and in 1982 Austrian Walter Lechner won both the European and German national championships. Indeed, support for Super Vee in Continental Europe generally exceeded the interest generated in Britain, were the formula never really flourished.
Super Vees also ran in Austria, although they appeared to run in mixed grid races (at least in 1982) together with Formula 2 and Formula Ford.
With the demise of Formula Super Vee in Europe, the cars often found homes in grasstrack racing and oval racing.
In the mid-1970s Super Vee was the pre-eminent formula in Brazil, with two championship series being held during 1975. Fields of around 50 cars, and a prize fund of £10,000 at some races, were being reported (Motoring News Oct 23 1975).
I am grateful to Tony Kaye (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the following excellent contribution to the Brazilian Super Vee story:
Formula Super Vee began in Brazil in competition with a well established and successful Formula Ford series. Fortunately Brazil had long been one of Volkswagen's key markets, which ensured that the Company would provide financial support for the fledgling series. Additionally, the presence of a local production plant meant that spare parts would be immediately available over the counter and without the otherwise unavoidable delays of air freight from Germany.
The first race took place on 15th of September 1974 at the Goiania circuit. The formula was immediately successful and by the end of the year six events had been held, each one consisting of three heats and a final. More than 20 drivers had taken part with six different chassis (Polar, Magnum-Kaimann, Heve, Lonex-Newcar, Manta and Mueller). All of them were designed and constructed in Brazil, except for the Magnum-Kaimann, which was built locally, but under license to the Austrian company. The Polar, which was designed alliteratively by Ronald Rossi in Rio, was the only monocoque chassis.
Marcos Troncon in a Polar won twice at Interlagos and was the first champion by a single point over Francisco Lameirao. Polar was also the champion constructor. Ingo Hoffman, who flirted with Formula 1 in 1976 and 1977, was third, but more significantly a young man by the name of Nelson Piquet (it was spelled Piket in those days) finished fourth, winning the penultimate round at Cascarel.
For the most part the early one-off chassis disappeared from the scene during 1975 leaving the field to Kaimann, Polar, Heve and the Formula Ford constructor Avallone. The fields had grown steadily and at the last round 41 cars took part. Surprisingly perhaps, with a whole year available the number of races was still only six, no more than in the four-month inaugural series. Francisco Lameirao driving a Polar was the formula's second champion. In part to add depth to the Super Vee series, FV 1300 was reintroduced to Brazil in 1976. At every event spectators now had twice as many single-seater races for their cruzeiro. FV 1300 became the farm series for the 1600 cc cars and each year's champion would expect to move up to the faster cars the following year. Another change that year was in the regulations which allowed the Super Vees to sprout wings.
During 1976 the Polar chassis began to dominate the races, eventually filling the first ten places at the final event. The standard format of each meeting now consisted of two heats and a final and there were ten rounds in the championship. Against this, the average car count was down a little. This was the year Nelson Piquet in a Polar finally won his first championship. However, with the title under his belt, he immediately departed to a higher formula, presumably much to the relief of his fellow competitors. At any rate this gave Alfredo Guarana, his successor in the Gledson team, the opportunity to take the 1977 championship, just ahead of Marcos Troncon. By now the series had virtually become a one-make formula; at the final race at Interlagos all the cars but one were Polars. Ominously the car count at this race fell to 19 and there were two less races in the series than in the previous year.
On the chassis front 1978 saw little change. Polar achieved total domination and it has to be said that not only were these cars extremely effective, but also very attractive, resembling miniature Formula 1 cars of the time. Nonetheless, the lack of variety in the cars should have alerted someone to what happened to the 500cc Formula 3 in the late 50's, when the starting grids consisted of nothing but Coopers. The championship was won by Alfredo Guarana in, you guessed it, yet another Polar. He won five of the nine races that year.
1979 continued with about 15-18 Polars in each race. Mauricio Chulam emerged as a convincing champion in the nine-race series, winning four and finishing second in two others.
The same nine events made up the schedule for 1980 and, in the absence of Chulam, Castro Prado ran away with the championship scoring almost twice as many points as the runner-up. However this could not conceal the fact that the average car count had fallen to only 14 cars. The supporting FV 1300 fields were still healthy, but the writing was becoming evident on the Super Vee wall. Unless a remedy could be found the series would be in jeopardy.
The Formula Super Vee Series in the USA started with the Series 1 FSVs and were built to the specs set down by Josef Hoppen and adopted by the SCCA as a Championship Series in the fall of 1969.
The first National Race, (as opposed to Regional) SCCA occurred on July 4, 1970 at Lime Rock and FSVs manufactured by Beech, Caldwell, Zink and Zeitler were entered in that race. However, these cars had raced prior to that time in SCCA Regional events, under the "Formula" specified by the SCCA in November 1969. John Zeitler won that first National Race in his own car.
In 1970, the ARRC (American Road Race of Champions) was moved from Riverside Raceway in California to Road Atlanta in Georgia and was run Nov. 28/29, 1970. The Championship race ran the Formula Fords against the Formula Super Vees (still in Series 1 Specs). The Ford drivers were shocked when the FSVs took the first three(3) places. The order of finish was:
1st: Tom Davey - Zeitler FSV 2nd: Harry Ingle - Zink FSV 3rd: Jim Clarke - Caldwell D-10 FSV 4th: Skip Barber - Caldwell D-9 FFord 5th: I do not know 6th: Ray Calwell - Caldwell D-10 FSV 7th: John Zeitler - Zeitler FSV
In 1973 there were nine(9) races for FSVs, still under the exclusive control of the SCCA.
For 1974, Josef Hoppen decided that he owed no particular loyalty to the SCCA and he moved half of the Super Vee series of races to IMSA, which was by this time headed by former SCCA chief John Bishop. Also the decision was made to allow slicks and in 1975, wings and tabs for down force were allowed. The wings were approved for the first race at Daytona in 1975, but the approval came so late that none of the FSVs had wings. The winged cars started appearing at Sebring in 1975., The Series 2 FSVs are the 1974 and later cars.
The VW Gold Cup was established in 1974 as a Professional Road Racing Series and began a very confusing period because the USA now had two series of races for Formula Super Vees. One was the SCCA series which ran seven(7) races and the second was the IMSA series which also ran seven(7) races.
Political disagreements ensued, and in 1976 Josef Hoppen pulled the Robert Bosch Gold Cup for Super Vees out of IMSA as punishment. IMSA replaced the Super Vees with Formula Atlantic.
The first of the water-cooled FSVs appeared in 1978 and their first race was at Phoenix International. The specs limited motors to the 1600cc water cooled overhead cam engine from the VW Rabbit/Sirocco/Dasher. These cars are considered the Series 3 FSVs. Ultimately the motor size went to 1800cc and for a time the aircooled cars were allowed to go to 1700cc to try to remain competitive with the water-cooled cars.
Because of the politics involved with the SCCA and IMSA there are people such as the "Monoposto Register" that do not acknowledge that the Series 1 cars even existed and do not have a class for those cars to run competitively in Vintage Racing. The allegation has been made that there never were flat bottomed, tube framed, air cooled FSVs on 6 inch rims running treaded tires without wings. Those people are not well informed nor have the read the literature relating to those early days of Formula Super Vees. Unfortunately, some of the "Vintage" race groups simply adopt the Monoposto Register classes as gospel and in so doing require the Series 1 FSVs to run against later F-5000, Formula B and the Series 2 and Series 3 FSVs in an "Exhibition Class", rather than against the 1968 to 1973 Formula Fords were the Series 1 FSVs were originally classed.
The majority of this information is available in print in the Brochures of the original manufactures and from a text entitled: Formula Vee/Super Vee, Racing, History, and Chassis/Engine Prep by Andrew L. Schupack. 1981. Published by Tab Books Inc. (Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214).
Some of the information is from my own knowledge and experience. I purchased my first FSV, a CALDWELL D-10 (Serial #02) from the first Owner and Driver, Tim Sharp (whose family owned Sharp Volkswagen/Porsche in Carlsbad, CA) immediately after the 1971 ARRC race at Road Atlanta in November 1971.
Additionally: USAC picked up the IMSA series in 1977 calling it 'Mini-Indy'. In 1979, the SCCA class, FSV, was replaced by Formula Continental [FC]. The Type IV air-cooled engines were not allowed to go to 1679cc until at least 1980.
Mike McHugh (Nov 2005) contributes: In Oct. 1988, I went to England, met with Gary Anderson (later the designer/engineer for Jordan-Michael Schmacher's 1st GP ride, Stewart, and Jaguar), Richard Barnes and Bob Simpson (now SPA). I purchased the whole Anson Race Cars company, with the goal of building the cars in California. 2 months later, PanAm flight 103 went down over Lockerbie, Scotland with the two top executives in VW who were instrumental in VW's support of the SV Series. It soon became known that we were a lame duck series, and the market for the cars disappeared.
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