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Racing legend Dan Gurney

by Patrick Rall on

Last week, the American racing world lost a legend when Dan Gurney passed away at the age of 86 due to complications from pneumonia. Gurney’s success began as a driver, winning in a variety of leagues around the world, before he became the owner of the popular All American Racing team.

Gurney’s Mopar Connection

While Dan Gurney is best-known in the racing world for his success in open wheel racing, Mopar fans may know him best for his #48 Plymouth AAR Cuda road racing machine. To promote sales of the all-new 1970 Plymouth ’Cuda, Gurney worked with Chrysler to develop a race car based on the AAR road car. The 340 V8 was destroked to just 304 cubic inches (the SCCA Trans Am class requirement was 305ci or less) and the mandatory four-barrel carb replaced the factory triple-two-barrel setup.

AAR Cuda model

Today, Gurney’s AAR Cuda is arguably the most-recognizable classic Mopar road racer. However, to the rest of the world, Gurney was far more than a Trans Am racer in a Cuda.

Gurney’s Global Success

Dan Gurney’s success in the world of open-wheel racing was significant because, at that time, few Americans raced on the global scale. Gurney began competing in the European Grand Prix series for Ferrari in 1959, allowing him to win races in France, Mexico, and Belgium. According to his team information, Gurney competed in 312 races in his career across a variety of different racing associations and in 20 different countries, winning 51 races during that time. That included seven Indy Car wins and two second-place finishes in the Indy 500, along with five NASCAR wins.

That success in multiple types of racing made Dan Gurney the first person to win races in Grand Prix, Indy Car and NASCAR. He also won the 1967 24 Hours of LeMans race in a Ford prototype race car with co-driver A.J. Foyt.

In the mid-1960s, Gurney and Carroll Shelby founded All American Racers, a racing team that would go on to introduce their own open-wheel racer – the Eagle. That car would help Gurney win the Grand Prix of Belgium a week after he won LeMans and over the years. All American Racers would develop a great many different race cars for Indy Car, Formula One, Formula 5000, and Can-Am, with AAR Eagle race cars winning the Indy 500 in 1968 and 1973.

Dan Gurney is survived by his wife Evi and their sons, Justin and Alex, along with four kids from a previous marriage – John, Jimmy and Danny Gurney and Lyndee Gurney-Prazak.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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