4900 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley, CA.
I had a great morning yesterday, heading over to the Canepa Motorsport Museum in Scotts Valley south of San Francisco. The freeway ends up as a nice twisty road through the trees heading up to the valley. It was a pity that the large “slow vehicles stay in right lane” signs were ignored as this was a road to enjoy, even putting the rental into Sport mode and using the box in sequential mode was fun!
Bruce Canepa is an ex racer with a two storey building that has three distinct sections:
1. A showroom for customer cars for sale.
2. A workshop for classics and race prep.
3. The Motorsport Museum, upstairs above the showroom and workshop.
The showroom has lots of Porsches (clearly Bruce’s passion) and then some great classics like a Ferrari 512BB and a Lamborghini Countach. There were some other American and European classics in there too, all for sale and in great condition. The cars were on consignment by the owners, so I didn’t take any photos in this section.
My first impression was of amazement, it is rare to get up so close to the exhibits and they all had history – lots of history. For many of the European cars, I remember them being raced when they were first developed during the 70s and 80s, so it was quite exciting to see them in the flesh.
2007 Porsche RS Spyder
The 9R6-704 model with a 3.4 litre V8 producing just over 500hp. This is an 1,800 lb weapon – pulling 4G’s in corners and an amazing 8G’s under braking. It was designed for the LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype) Class but was actually faster than some of the LMP1 cars! Only 11 were built with Porsche keeping two in their factory museum and this example is the only one in a private collection in the US.
This car was driven by many top US based racers including Marino Franchitti, the brother of the Indy winner, Dario. It finished 1st in the LMP2 class at the 2010 Sebring 12 Hour race.
1961 Cooper T56
An ex Steve McQueen car! During the early 60s he lusted after being a top flight racer and had just finished a successful TV series. He ran this car with a BMC 1 litre motor fitted to it. He was persuaded to sell it to carry on being an actor. Later when he ran his own production company, he managed to combine both acting and racing, mixing both for the famous Le Mans race film. This car was very successful with later owners, although it had a variety of engines fitted including Cosworth and Alfa Romeo!
1961 Estes Sprinter
Built for Bob Estes, these are the types of cars never seen in European racing and their days were numbered once Cooper and Lotus entered the fray with their rear engined sleek racers.
This one was built in 1961 for Estes, a Southern California based team owner with a long history of racing in the US. It is fitted with a 4 cylinder 4.4 litre Offenhauser motor giving 360hp. It raced for 6 years and took out the 1964 USAC National Championship.
Built by Eddie Kuzma using similar technology as the Estes Sprinter, the engine of choice during the 50s was Offenhauser and this continued into 1960. This one was built for J.C. Agajanian, a race team owner and race promoter. Known as the Willard Battery Special, it was run by Lloyd Ruby first and then Parnelli Jones winning the Hoosier Hundred in 1963 and 64. This is not the car that won the 1963 Indy 500, although is the last dirt car to enter the famous race. Parnelli Jones qualified with this car and then switched to a Watson built car for the race – which he won under a cloud thanks to an oil leak that caused a protest by the British teams who could have won the race that year with their rear engined cars. It is still a fabulous car!
1976 Tyrrell P34
I remembered these cars from my youth! This was the famous 6 wheeled racer that Ken Tyrrell hoped to get success with. These were classic standard fit F1 cars – a unique monocoque with a 3 litre Cosworth DFV and Hewland gearbox hanging out the back.
The uniqueness was furthered by the 4 front wheels of the design – 8.5 x 16 wide and standard rear wheels of 15 x 26 wide. The idea was to reduce the height at the front end. What I didn’t realise was the size of the whole car – very small compared to seeing them on film or TV.
1969 Porsche 917K
Another absolute classic from the Ford/Porsche/Ferrari battles of the late 60s. This particular car won the 1970 Daytona 24 Hours race and is in “K” format which means it has a short tail. The length of the car was found to be a factor in winning or losing, slower circuits meant more drag for a long or normal tail, so the K was developed to counter this. Ferdinand Piech (now head on the VW Group) was Porsche racing boss at the time and can be credited with getting the team to build this car.
1972 Porsche 917-10 (Long Tail)
This is an evolution of the 917 with a long tail, designed for racing in the US with longer, wider circuits. I thought the later RS Spyder was a beast and then I saw this one – 200 lbs lighter (1,600 lbs) with a whopping 1,100hp on tap. Remember, these were racing over 40 years ago!
1985 Porsche 962C
This example is a factory car. The 962 was based on the earlier hugely successful 956 with a 2.8 litre 6 cylinder turbo motor. Only 56 were made and like the 956 were also very successful.
1969 FIAT Abarth 1000 Berlina Corse
An oddity when compared to the cars around it in this collection! A tiny little racer with only 110hp although the car it was based on (the 500) had much less! Gradually the power was increased as they were developed for differing race series. This was before FIAT owned Abarth which was an independent tuner (aka their version of AMG or Alpina for those German lovers).
1969 Ford Torino Cobra
Richard Petty campaigned this car and I wanted to get a shot of the inside to show it’s spartan cockpit and no nonsense approach to speed.
Petty only drove a Ford for one year – Chrysler had stopped supplying big wing Plymouths to him, so he went to the Blue Oval. This car is like the 917K – it is a short model for road courses. He used another, the Ford Talladega for the speedway tracks which is a longer, more aerodynamic version (like the 917-10). So this car is really very rare!
1976 Maxwell Sprint Car
Driven by Bruce Canepa himself. This is another exciting car, a 6.5 litre Chevy V8 producing 800hp powers a 1,200 lb chassis! It is designed to go sideways at 100 mph! It has been rebuilt recently and looks fabulous.
This shot shows how cramped it is inside – apparently there is a dent in the roll cage when Canepa’s head hit it during a crash. I couldn’t see it due to the excellent refurbishing and not having my glasses to hand, however there is a picture of the incident near the car.
1970 Chaparral Camaro
This is another rare car. Penske had ditched Chevy for an AMC Javelin so Jim Hall at Chaparral was asked to build some cars. This is one of them, in fact the only one of the three built! It had a good track record with many podium wins.
Behind the RS Spyder is a door with a sign that simply says “Shop View”. It should say “Wide eyes found behind this door”. What can I say? I walked through on to a balcony overlooking a clean shop with several cars being worked on: many Porsches, a couple of Ferrari’s and a Jaguar XJ220! You might even spot a late 50s SL convertible…
I spent some time absorbing the smell and visual delights of the shop and looking at the wide variety of ages in the cars being worked on plus the technology being used. I loved the car jacks that rose out of the floor, so simple and elegant.
This has to be added to any motorsport enthusiast’s list when visiting North California, you won’t be disappointed!
Update: October 2015
I spied this in a recent classic car magazine: