2017-08-24 17:51:04 UTC
By: David Malsher, US Editor
The motorsport world yesterday lost a man whose team produced one crazy racecar and then several sexy ones and employed driving talents such as Peter Revson, George Follmer, Tom Pryce, Alan Jones, Jackie Oliver and Riccardo Patrese.
The “tiny-tires” AVS Shadow Mk.1 was a Can-Am car of the whacky, wonderful WTF? variety, but Shadow's Can-Am dominator of 1974 and most of the squad’s Formula 1 machinery were OMG-beautiful. Few other teams with such a brief span of success have produced such a cult following, but if the cars are gorgeous and jet black, the drivers go fast but struggle to gain results, and the owner is quiet and mysterious, that's a highly attractive blend. Don Nichols will remain a quiet hero to many.
Elton, Missouri-born Nichols served the U.S. Army in World War II and the Korean War, went on to sell Goodyear and Firestone tires in Japan, and then returned to the U.S. in 1968 to form the Advanced Vehicle Systems team. His plan was to take on the Can-Am world, where free-thinking and brilliance could be rewarded.
Even by the “pretty-much-anything-goes” standards of Can-Am racing, what designer Trevor Harris came up with was so far outside the box it made Smokey Yunick look like a drab follower of convention. In a bid to reduce drag, Harris’ guiding tenet was to reduce frontal area. He somehow persuaded Firestone to supply tires that were just 17 inches (front) and 19 (rear), compared with the 24 and 26 seen on normal Can-Am cars. The driver then sat in what appeared to be a bewinged go-kart but containing a Chevrolet V8 big-block, which looked huge-block in these circumstances, and whose cooling depended on air rushing into a radiator that was…built into the rear wing!...
What's kind of weird is that he died in the same week that the "mountain man" kidnapper Don Nichols, age 86, was released on parole in Montana.
More on that, if you like (the case was turned into a 1987 TV movie)