We review CAN AM 50TH Anniversary – Flat Out with North America’s Greatest Race Series 1966-74 – a compelling book for any motorsport fan, with personal tales by author George Levy and photographer Pete Biro.
The Can-Am race series- Canadian American Challenge Cup- which ran events throughout the United States and Canada from 1966- 1974, helped turn sports car racing into a top-tier sport. Spectators flocked to the events which were recognized for the high level of competition, quality of vehicle engineering and the awe-inspiring performance of the cars. These facts helped Can-Am attract some of the biggest names in the motorsport world, including noted wheelmen like Mario Andretti, Stirling Moss, George Follmer, Jim Hall and Sir Jackie Stewart.
Author George Levy and photographer Pete Biro
In honour of the 50th anniversary of the series the creative team of author George Levy and photographer Pete Biro decided to tackle the subject matter by focusing on the personal stories and characters involved in the series, rather than just being a historical account of races and events past. As a result, there are whimsical first-hand accounts of the exploits of iconic racers, but also those of many individuals who worked behind the scenes, whether it be turning wrenches in pit lane, greasing the wheels of business, or getting the word out in the media room.
Can-Am Series: the history
While there were other more established racing series during this period –like USAC Indy Car, Formula 1, and NASCAR, the appeal of the Can-Am Series was that there was a very thin rulebook. Innovative and crafty engineers, mechanics and suppliers were therefore free to explore the outer limits of race car design and test new ideas in a highly competitive arena.
Racing machines from now legendary marques Ford, Ferrari, Lotus, and Porsche were rubbing fenders with smaller outfits from Cooper, Lola, Chaparral, Shelby, Scarab, Shadow and McLaren. Motorsport titans like Roger Penske and Dan Gurney used the series as a means to build racing empires, and the world’s best drivers flocked to the track for the opportunity to test their mettle against each other in what were arguably the world’s fastest cars.
Can-Am machines were basically Formula 1 machines wrapped in lightweight bodywork to enclose the wheels, and there were no limits to engine options or output and no restrictions on aerodynamic aids. There were no templates governing the shape of the car’s body, but it did require a passenger seat to be fitted.
The photography of Biro is incredible, and very effectively helps to bring Levy’s words to life. His driver portraits are particularly good, as they reveal emotion, and the mixture of both black and white and colour images used throughout the tome are sure to grab your interest and spark your memory bank.
Many of the photographs are being published for the first time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book as a visual record of the evolution of racing cars from this period. The Can-Am Series was responsible for the development of many of the aerodynamic and performance advances featured on today’s vehicles, as engineers and mechanics dabbled with concepts such as downforce, spoilers, wings, tunnels, and other mechanical voodoo like never before.
This book deserves to be on the shelf of any true motorsport fan, as it helps paint a complete picture of what the Can-Am Series was all about, when the quality of the racing was the main focus and guiding principle rather than the wants, needs and demands of sponsors and marketing teams.
Buy the book – Amazon – $50 CAD
Title: CAN AM 50TH Anniversary – Flat Out with North America’s Greatest Race Series 1966-74
Authors: George Levy and Pete Biro
Pages: 256 pages
Publisher: Quarto Publishing Group USA