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Personal memories of well-known Can-Am driver David Saville-Peck

02 March 2013

Including story of SP1 to SP9 cars

I built the Costello SP7 in workshops in Dover. I had known Mike Rawlings for some time previously and he was great at fibreglass a did the body moulds and made the original body. I had raced other cars for him.

I originally bought a 5 litre Olds engine and a Hewland DG300 gearbox from Tony Marsh that he had used to win the British Hillclimb Championship in 1967. Mark Koenig of Koenig-Heath Engineering ( who also built “Nomad” sports racing cars whom I got to know when I raced in the Motoring News/ Castrol GT Championship in SP6 in the early ‘70s ) made the hubs – modified BRM F1 – steering rack, wheels and many other parts for me. Grand Prix Metalcraft made the main tubs, oil tank etc.

I first ran SP7 at the Rothmans 50000 with the 5 litre engine but it had terminal bump steer and was undriveable. Also the engine had been built for Hill climbing for about 2 minute runs and was useless for longer distance circuit racing.

I then emigrated to Canada with SP7 in 1972 to do the Can-Am series. Brian Costello - my sponsor for 1973 only - and I decided that I should concentrate on developing the car & get the engines done by MRE in California. Gene Crowe had considerable experience with Old engines having already built the “Cro_Sal” a 1966/7 McKee-Olds owned by Budd Clusserath. His partner at MRE was Max Misjuski (sp?) Gene went on to be Paul Newman’s mechanic at BRE Datsun.

Gene had “Hank the Crank” build me some special cranks, which with max overbore of stock Olds Turbo blocks & cut down Z28 rods gave 271ci. ( I went to Lansing myself and bought the last 5 Olds “Jetfire” Turbo blocks directly from GM) Gene then built up these 271ci engines for me with roller tappets – BUT this was a big mistake! As the rollers would turn & destroy the blocks! Hence no good finishes in 1973.

At Laguna in 1973 – after changing over to Bilstein shocks which were fabulous! – I got involved in a major crash when several other cars got together & I T boned Ed Felter who was just sitting in the remains of his car in the center of the track! Broken ribs & a ruined monoque resulted. I had already got GP Metalcraft to make a 2nd tub, had it flown out to Vancouver, took it by trailer to Seattle then flew with it down to LA. Meantime, my mechanic Paul Markgraf, had disassembled SP7 & we built up SP8 with the new tub in MREs shop in California. I qualified for the Times GP at Riverside just 2 weeks after Laguna. Unfortunately, we hadn’t crack tested the steering rack extensions, one broke & I crashed entering the main straight. The car was quite repairable – only minor damage when the LF wheel turned sharp left – but the Dr. wouldn’t let me race as I still had broken ribs from Laguna.

!974 was much better. I built the engines myself going to solid lifters. Approximately 495bhp with small valve heads, 475bhp but more torque with big valve heads. Reline was 6,800rpm. I continued to develop the car until the Series was cancelled. I had to win enough $$s at one race to get to the next! I never missed a race except Atlanta & the Glen in 1973 when we 1st contacted Gene to build the engines after the fiasco at Mosport when the 5 liter engine leaked all its fluids out from everywhere.

!975 I qualified for the Westwood “Leyland” race – hence the “Leyland” reference. I was working with John Davenport of BL to build a TR8 using my Can-Am engines etc. John Shubac of Abingdon Motors in Vancouver had won an SCCA championship in a TR7 which we would use as a basis for the TR8 race car. This was the 1st time I used a front wing. I believe Ed Abate won the race in a Lola?

I had also built a new spare monoque at Viking Aircraft in Victoria. This would have been SP9

1975 Knox Mountain Hillclimb

1975 Elkhart Lake, Road America Handicap. Crashed & burnt in warm up.

Remains & all spare parts including a full 5 liter engine I was working on with liners in the block & the new monoque exchanged for a DB4 Aston with Mike Rigby in Vancouver. He then sold the parts on to John Goldsmith in the UK where the car is to this day! ( Still not finished after 38 years..) ( photos attached)

So in summary: My car was never a Rawlson. SP7 was put together in Mike & Barry’s shop in Dover initially.

SP8 was built by myself & Paul Markgraf in MRE’s shop in California.

SP9 - chassis only - was built by me & Viking Aircraft in Victoria.

I understand that the car that John Goldsmith has was built up from parts & DIDN’T use my SP9 tub.

Badged with a Chevrolet only in the UK then Oldsmobile till 1975, then “Leyland”. Still based on the same original 215ci Oldsmobile Turbo “Jetfire” block of 1962-63. ( The “Repco” engine used in F1 by Brabham was also based on this engine)

All my cars have been “SP” for Saville Peck. I previously raced SP6 – then called an “Ennerdale” in the Motoring News Castrol GT Championship in the early 70s. SP6 was also featured on the Duckhmans Oil stand at the Racing Car show in 1971 or maybe it was 72?

There were even cars SP1 to SP5. Some strange creations though. SP6 was probably my 1st proper car. I shall have to think back as to the others but one was a converted Formula Ford Ginetta 18b for Alex Durant, another was a converted Ginetta Coupe – to an open Group 6 car for Malcolm Clube and another was a sort of 8 cylinder coupe Hillclimb car I built using 2 Hillman Imp engines joined together! It didn’t work very well. Can’t remember the clients name and I don’t think the car ever raced!

Random Photo
007 - Lola Aston Martin DBR1-2 #B0960-HU02 (DBR1-2/1) - Aston Martin Racing