|More on Paul Cunningham
from Michael Heinecke:
"My dad did drive another Special that
was aluminum bodied, painted red, and powered by a Dodge V8 but it was
only driven at a time trial at El Mirage Dry Lake.
Since we were sponsored by Pontiac Motor
Division of General Motors our cars obviously were Pontiac-powered, 215ci
aluminum V8 & 421ci Steel block V8 w/ aluminum heads and a car that
never got to the track I'll tell you about later.
At the time of my dad's death at Willow
Springs, our team members included Mickey Thompson, and crack mechanic
Jim Malan, an english lad, and of course our local sponsor representing
our connection with Pontiac Motor Division.
While we were campaigning the Pontiac-Kurtis,
our efforts were noticed by none other than 'Bunky' Knudsen who headed
up Pontiac's NASCAR program. He was impressed with the brute force and
presence of the Pontiac-Kurtis and the potential for widespread appeal
to the public that flocked to the various premium events such as the Riverside
Grand Prix, Laguna Seca, etc. I was young then (17-18ish) and wasn't
involved in the business meetings re:racing but I did hear bits and pieces
of the conversations and issues. We had always entered and made the
grid at the events and had our share of spectacular moments, but never
had the refinement in our cars that would get us in the winner's circle.
That was to change, 'Bunky' Knudsen had
6 engine blocks (421ci Pontiac) cast in aluminum and further machined to
incorporate steel reinforcement to keep the blocks from distorting under
race conditions; this was done to lower the weight to improve our power
/weight ratios. Also, our sponsor had negotiated with Lotus (Colin
Chapman) to modify their then under 2000cc sports car chassis ( I believe
it was rear engined but could have been mid-engined)to mate up with the
now all-aluminum 421ci Pontiac V8 (est @800hp).
The engine and chassis were both near
completion when my dad died, the racing team disbanded and I have no idea
where all the parts went, I can only assume that the existing cars were
sold, and Pontiac took back all their engines and various parts. To my
knowledge our local sponsor (Edward O. Roe and his wife Nan who owned Chieftain
Pontiac in Los Angeles) sold the dealership and went into the luxury yacht
business (???), in the San Francisco area.
That would have been some combo, it would
have been one of the first CanAm cars that became so popular, too bad my
dad could not have been in the forefront of that era along with his counterparts.
I have many other recollections and first
hand accounts of his racing career, and remember him frequently.
Gentlemen Start your Engines!
Vroooom! Vrooom! Vroo-o-o-oo-om!"
Yeakel Remembers Paul Cunningham:
"I was very interested in the write-up
on Paul Cunningham. I bought my first Corvette at the race track at Santa
Barbara on Memorial Day weekend 1963. I had been watching sports car races
since the first LA Times Grand Prix in 1958.
When I went to Riverside Raceway for
my first CalClub drivers school, I was assigned to the group Paul Cunningham
was instructing. I was sure that I knew everything there was to know! I
had owned an Austin Healey 100-4 and a Alfa Romeo Gullia previously. I
had watched races all over Southern California for 5 years as well
as working corners for CalClub. This did not include my extensive
"Mulholland Drive" experience.
The first session of the school, we all
just followed the lead car around as Paul showed everyone the correct line.
The next session we were all allowed out on the track, while Paul drove
one students car with the student in the passenger's seat. We would be
called into the pit, he would then get into another student's car for a
few laps of instruction.
At this point I still thought I was hot
stuff. The first lap I thought that Paul was pretty quick. I did not realize
that he was only checking the car out. The second lap when we went down
that long back stretch (this was before they added the dog leg) I was positive
that we would not be able to get slowed down enough to make Turn 9. We
were going to hit that dirt backed Armco. WE WERE GOING TO DIE!!
Well, we made it without a problem. Paul
taught me the difference between the spectator's and driver's view. Here
is a link to a picture
taken that first day of driver training in #97x .
Paul was a great instructor and helped
this fledgling racer through driver's schools at both Riverside and San
Luis Obispo. I was in the same A & B production race at Willow Springs
that claimed his life. It was the last race of the day and as you would
come around Turn 9 the sun was directly in your eyes. I was coming out
of Turn 8, on I believe lap 1, when all of a sudden there was this huge
cloud of dust at Turn 9. We all drove through Turn 9 not being able to
see anything. I was very sad when told what had happened.
I missed Paul Cunningham then and I still
miss him today, even though I never got to know him that well."
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