Here is Roger Penske with John Mecom’s Zerex Special on his way to winning the Guards International Trophy race at Brands Hatch on August 6, 1963. Behind Penske came Roy Salvadori and Tim Mayer, both in Cooper-Monacos which were just not quite as quick as the Zerex.
The Zerex Special had begun life as a Cooper T53 Formula 1 car which ran in the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in 1961, entered by Briggs Cunningham’s team and driven by Walt Hansgen. After that race where the Cooper crashed and was a dnf, Roger Penske acquired the car and, by careful reading of the SCCA rule book, transformed it into a sports-racing car by fitting a sports car body which included a tiny passenger seat but retaining its central seat driving position. Penske also acquired one of the rare and more powerful Indianapolis 2.7 liter Climax four cylinder motors. In essence he now had a modern F1 car which he could run against normal sports-racing cars. Ultimately, the original chassis had to be modified to be more compliant with changes in the rules, including a more “real” second seat and an offset driving position. The Zerex was then sold on to John Mecom, but with Penske still the driver. It remained a very competitive car for a full two years.
In late 1963, the Zerex Special was acquired by Bruce McLaren and fitted with a modified alloy Oldsmobile V8 which gave greater power than the Climax with almost no increase in weight. To take the torque of the V8, McLaren modified the chassis again to make it stiffer. In this guise it had another successful season in 1964 and became the progenitor of a long and successful line of McLaren sports-racing cars.
Photo by Colin Waldeck ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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