The 1967 Lola T70 Mk3b Spyder
One of only five lightweight spyders ever made by Lola, it was originally ordered by Penske for Mark Donohue to campaign in the 1967 Can-Am season. Its first race was a United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) event at Mid-Ohio in August where Donohue finished first. The other four Lola T70’s went to Dan Gurney, John Surtees, Parnelli Jones, and one was just used for parts.
Donohue described this Lola in his autobiography “The Unfair Advantage”. On page 85 Donohue recounts, “One of the things we tried on my car was a cold ram-air system. We had gone to bigger fifty-eight millimeter Weber carburetors for more power but they were only available as side drafts. For those carbs we mounted huge pontoon-shaped cold-air boxes off to both sides of the roll bar. They were the greatest things! They made the car look like a spaceship. We didn’t realize that they were interfering with airflow to the rear spoiler, which probably offset any gains in horsepower. And they would crack, and they would fall apart, and we even sucked their screens into the carburetors. Still, it was beautiful. It was a very impressive car. The experiences with Lolas did a lot for my career.” Donohue ended the 1967 Can-Am season tied for third place with John Surtees but behind the dominant McLarens of Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren.
After the 1967 season came to a close, Shelby Racing acquired the car in early 1968 through Ford Motor Company. Shelby Racing used the car to test different power plants and suspension settings. He planned to enter a car in the 1968 Can-Am series and he needed to know which Ford power-plants would be best suited for the grueling races. On June 30th 1968, Peter Revson set a new course record and qualified on the pole at a USRRC race at Kent, Washington. Unfortunately, starting from the pole position did not help him win the race. The aluminum 427 Ford-powered Lola retired after just two laps due to a failure of the #2 rod bearing.
Later in 1968, Charlie and Kerry Agapiou were encouraged by Ford Motor to start a Can-Am team using this Lola and Ford powered motors. The Agapiou Brothers had been with Shelby American for many years and had helped Shelby win the World Championship in 1965. Striking out on their own they hired Ronnie Bucknum to drive the car for them during the 1968 Can Am season. Prior to the season, John Holman of Holman and Moody fame, offered to paint 75/124 for the cash-strapped Agapiou Team for free, as long as he could paint it his favorite color which was gold. So starting a gold car with no sponsorship, a shoestring budget and no previous experience in Can-Am, the team struggled the early part of the season. With Ronnie Bucknum behind the wheel, the team lost its first three races. After Foulger Ford, a Southern California dealership, stepped up with some sponsorship dollars, Bucknum was replaced for the last three races of the 1968 season by George Follmer. Follmer had a 2nd place finish at Las Vegas and remarkably the team was able to finish 7th in the overall Can-Am standings after a very slow start. Follmer remembers that the car used a 464 cubic inch Ford motor with an iron block. “It was heavy”, he said, “but very, very fast.” After the domestic Can-Am season ended, George raced the car at the first Japanese Can-Am in Fuji, Japan.
Throughout the early 70’s and 80’s the car changed hands several times. During that time the spyder body work was replaced by a coupe body and it eventually landed at the Miles Collier Collection in Florida.
In 1982 Skip Gunnell, a yacht builder from Fort Lauderdale, bought the car. It was given a complete restoration in 1996 and returned to its original Sunoco livery including a new 365 c.i./600hp Traco Chevrolet motor. It has been raced at many vintage events around the United States and Canada. Today it is a faithful representation of the car that Penske Racing took to the track in 1967. At the 2006 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the car was given special recognition and awards for its place in racing history. Further, at the 2008 Road America Kohler International Challenge, the car was awarded the Best in Class and Best Race Car trophies by Road and Track magazine for its historical significance and correctness.