There’s just something about Can-Am cars. Actually, there are many things: The almighty engines, (typically with fuel injection intakes pointing out at funky angles), the noise, that low-slung, wide-tyred presence and the unbridled ferocity of the things…
It’s also worth noting that these were among the first racing cars that could match (out-do, perhaps?) contemporary Grand Prix cars for outright pace over a lap. Unlike lithe and delicate Formula One machinery though, these things were running simply enormous motors which comfortably churned out more power than today’s F1 cars. Let that sink in for a minute.
‘I’d say about 800bhp’ says Stephen Hepworth when asked the output of the V8 in the BRM P167 you see here. ‘It’s a Reynolds aluminium big block Chevy, although we haven’t dyno’d it yet. Might be a bit less.’ As if ‘a bit less’ than 800bhp would make much difference.
Stephen’s father, David, raced the car in the Interserie series in 1973, but after that the car did nothing at all until this year’s Festival of Speed. ‘We finished building it at FoS!’ Stephen explains. Incredibly, when the car drove to the start line it was the first time it had moved under its own power since 1973. ‘It was awesome! It just wanted to go fast!’ he says of the car’s nature. ‘You never really have enough power, though.’ We should point out that Stephen was deadly serious when he said this.
David Hepworth bought the car from BRM part-finished and completed it at home in Brighouse, West Yorkshire, before competing in Interserie as a privateer against the might of the Porsche 917s in 1973. As a nice touch, they also brought along the lid and overalls David wore that year.
Incredibly, casting numbers confirm that the monstrous engine is the same one that left the BRM factory in 1973. In all that time, the only thing it needed was new valve springs (and of course, gaskets). That’s all. Astonishing. Can there be many race engines out there that could boast such low-maintenance?
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Can-Am cars are awesome.
Photography by Antony Fraser