Road and Track - December 1979


On the appointed day of the "reunion." we all met at Laguna Seca. Phil and Dan arrived in Phil's Blower Bentley, and the pair of them looked like a couple of retired race drivers who had lost their way to Brooklands. The car was still on the trailer because it was the original trailer, and Mike Shoen wanted to impress us with the authenticity of the whole rig. After being duly impressed, we helped unload the car and Mike gave the keys to Dan, who climbed in.
Mike Shoen pointed out to us that the car still had what was originally known as the "Dan Gurney FIA windshield." When the car was raced, the FIA regulations were very strict in regard to the dimensions of the car. For instance, the car's trunk lid is bulged to accept the regulation HA suitcase and the windshield was required to he a certain height. Dan and the other drivers were never happy with the windshield and wanted it lower, so a modification was made so it could be inspected in the regulation position. but after the race started the wind blew it down to a position where Dan was comfortable with it.
Left Trurn
Dan turned the key and hit the starter button. The engine burst into life with the loud blatting sound characteristic of a tuned V-8. After a minute or two for warming up, he took off up the track like he really meant business and we could hear him accelerating all the way up the hill. then shifting down for the corkscrew and accelerating down the hill before braking hard for the 90-degree turn leading back onto the pit straight. He certainly wasn't hanging around and after several more laps he came in, slammed on the brakes and jumped out with his face wreathed in smiles like he was in his second childhood. His first remark was that it felt like it was only a week ago, instead of 15 yeah, since he raced the Cobras.
Phil went out next, and he got straight on it too, not to be outdone by Dan. Being able to get Dan and Phil together was a stroke of great good fortune, because the two of them used to spend a lot of time in each other's company and they competed with one another both on and off the track. There are many hilarious stories of the tricks they played on each other.
When Phil came in, he also said the car was exactly as he
remembered it and he could recall vividly how it understeered but that this could easily be corrected with the throttle. He also recalled the considerable amount of brake pad knockoff. This refers to the way in which flexing of the suspension due to hard cornering or a rough surface caused the brake discs to knock the pads back so you had a low pedal when you applied the brakes. Although disconcerting, it was not serious and could be controlled by pressing the brake pedal with the left foot to bring the pads back into position before braking heavily.
To Dan. driving the car brought hack a host of happy memories. Driving the Cobras was one of the most exciting times in his life, and the main reason was that it involved a bunch of guys from Los Angeles taking on the cream of the European racing establishment with cars they had designed and built themselves, which was absolutely true.