Brab­ham, Gard­ner & Hawkins

Australian Muscle Car - - Can-Am -

Aus­tralian driv­ers can’t boast the pro­lific suc­cess – or any­where near the num­ber of Can-Am starts – of their New Zealand coun­ter­parts, but the quar­tet who did con­test events cer­tainly didn’t lack for dra­matic ex­pe­ri­ences or ex­otic ma­chin­ery.

The sus­tained suc­cess of New Zealan­ders in the Cana­dian-Amer­i­can Chal­lenge Cup is in stark con­trast to the hap­haz­ard and poorly re­warded in­volve­ment of Aus­tralia’s lead­ing driv­ers in the famed se­ries. While Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren were Can-Am’s only two mul­ti­ple se­ries champions, it wasn’t un­til the fi­nal ap­pear­ance of an Aussie in the se­ries that a driver from New Zealand’s great sport­ing ri­val even man­aged to fin­ish on the podium.

That was Jack Brab­ham in Texas in Novem­ber 1969, the sec­ond of his two out­ings in the se­ries for Ford. Prior to this was a string of frus­trat­ing and event­ful out­ings for the four Aus­tralians cred­ited with a Can-Am start: Brab­ham, Frank Gard­ner, Frank Matich and Paul Hawkins.

It was the lat­ter who got things rolling – quite lit­er­ally – for his coun­try­men when he fronted for the very first Can-Am race, at St Jovite, Canada on Septem­ber 11, 1966. Hawkins be­came the in­au­gu­ral mem­ber of the ‘CanAm Fly­ing Club’ when his Lola T70 took off in prac­tice.

Car owner Jackie Ep­stein re­called the in­ci­dent in the Ivan McLeod-writ­ten Hawkins bi­og­ra­phy Hawk­eye.

Left: Blue oval big­wigs twisted Frank Gard­ner’s arm for a one-off out­ing at River­side, 1969 in its ‘Open Sports Ford’. This car was one of Ford’s many half-baked Can-Am ma­chines. Note how the wing sup­ports are con­nected to the rollover hoop.

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