Class "H" Modified -- 4

    Don Racine races the Panhard-powered "Aardvark" in historic races today.  (It's FAST!!!  TM)

Racine in the "Aardvark" in the corkscrew at Laguna Seca.  The noisy, quick little car is a fixture at the "Monterey Historics".


From Don:

"The dictionary defines an Aardvark as "a large burrowing nocturnal African mammal that has an extensible tongue, powerful claws, large ears, and heavy tail and feeds on ants and termites."  If you look closely at the Aardvark Special long enough, you can see just how the shape and appearance of the car inspired the name of the feisty, purposeful car.

Looking for a fun car for a low price, John Porter designed the car in 1952 for that purpose.  Porter used a standard Dyna-Panhard chassis and engine as the basis for the Aardvark.  Through some crafty home engineering, he reduced the weight of the car and then strengthened it by welding in some small tubes in all the right places.  The little 745cc, 42 horsepower Dyna-Panhard engine could actually breathe a little easier with less weight to move around, and the Aardvark was once clocked at 85mph.

The tiny car was driven around tracks named Torrey Pines, Pomona, and Santa Barbara in the fifties by drivers as obscure as the car itself -- Paul Lee, Faith Towers, Eliza- beth Galbally, Stu Haggart, and Charles Metcalf.  The Aardvark was even raced by a team called Ecurie Fatigue.  The car's successes were mixed, but it often gave larger cars fits with its quick, nimble handling.

If you see the Aardvark Special at a vintage event today, you will do two double takes.  The first one is obvious -- the way the Aardvark looks!  but the second double take will surprise you -- the impressive speed and handling as current owner, Don Racine, tosses the hearty little car around the track.

What does Don Racine think about the car, which was carefully and properly restored in his restoration shop in California?  He simply says,  "A little Aardvark never hurt anyone!"

This photo shows the super-clean restoration of the front-drive 2-cylinder Panhard power plant of the little car. 
The growth of class H-Modified racing on the West Coast has been supported by both experienced and novice drivers. This drive is due to the increased cost of racing, the steadily increasing speed in the over and under 1500cc classes, and the obvious spirit of fun and competition which has developed among the class H enthusiasts.

At first the class was composed of production Panhards and like machines, but before long a few modified Panhards with Devin bodies began cutting up the field.  This move started the ball rolling until current events riddle the starting grid with all-out specials, from blown 425cc Citroens to full-race Crosleys.  Body styling on these cars has gradually evolved into a parade of brilliantly colored, individually styled creations.  Unfortunately, most of these cars are so new that technical information is sparse.  I typed up a passel of questionnaires to solve this problem (self addressed envelopes even), but have gotten back only a very few... I guess they thought I was selling advertising for Trend Books.  Therefore, the class H portion of the portfolio will be mainly a photo section.

No article on class H would be complete without including the strange little Aardvark of John Porter.  I often wondered why John called his car an Aardvark, until I looked it up in the dictionary: "Aardvark, A large nocturnal, burrowing mammal of Africa, subsisting largely on termites, and having a long extensile tongue, claws, and conspicuously long ears.  Overall length 5 to 6 feet, with a 2 to 2 1/2 foot tail.

This little machine was no bomb, but it cornered on three wheels, maintaining the same speed as it had on the straight.  As a training car it was perfect, setting John up with the rudiments of road racing without getting into uncontrollable trouble, and allowed him to become completely familiar with racing procedure.  It was a sad day when John sold his trainer for graduation into a 550  Porsche Spyder.  The ad read: "Aardvark Panhard.  Get into racing in the most reasonable class.  This car has warn down many faster opponents with its dependability.  Two engines, two transmissions, two chassis, 13" wheels and tires.  Two new pistons and rings, Amal carburetor, my blessings $2000.  REMEMBER: A LITTLE AARDVARK NEVER HURT ANYONE."

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