Simanaitis Says

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MOUNT EQUINOX F3

RACING A really small car up a really big hill may not seem like the most logical activity for the likes of me, but it was certainly a ball. The car was a Formula 3 Cooper Mark VIII of the 1950s; the ride was offered by kind enthusiast David Cooper (no relation, he says). The hill was Skyline Drive on Mount Equinox, just outside Manchester, Vermont. The Vintage Sports Car Club of America runs this event each summer; my adventure was back in 1995.

The Equinox Skyline Inn has since been replaced by a Visitor Center. A Carthusian monastery resides in a valley nearby.

Mount Equinox has been a venue for automotive hillclimbs since 1950. In fact, the late Bill Milliken (see http://wp.me/p2ETap-b1) won the first event in an FWD Miller Indy car. The surface was shale then; it’s paved now.

The road climbs 3100 ft. in 5.2 miles. It has 40 turns and a couple of straights where the more powerful cars reach 100 mph, all the more exhilarating on what’s essentially a bumpy narrow two-lane.

F3 cars are perfect for those into minimalism. My team owner David Cooper devised the gadget at the rear wheels to eliminate push-starting.

The Cooper Formula 3 car has a J.A. Prestwich (known colloquially as a JAP) air-cooled single-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels. The engine, its progressive gearbox and chain drive would look familiar to any motorcycle enthusiast of the era.

The 497-cc air-cooled single-banger gives the driver a good thump with each firing. Visible are its methanol fuel tank, hairpin valve springs and chain drive.

F3 enthusiasts appear to spend a considerable amount of time tinkering with their cars, in remedying this and that. As I noted in R&T, December 1995, there has never been as much safety wire in one place as on a properly prepared Formula 3 car.

The little Cooper proved capable of getting me up the 3100-ft. change in elevation, its wheels adopting all sorts of interesting angles along the way. Images from R&T, December 1995.

The Cooper liked to understeer, although its locker rear end tended to pitch the back end out on the hairpins—just the thing for maintaining all-important momentum.

The Carthusian monks must have put in a good word, as all three of the F3 cars entered that year made it to the top. From right to left, David Cooper in his Cooper Mark IV, Mark O’Brien in a Kieft and the author in David’s Mark VIII.

The event certainly had its social aspects. Drivers congregated at the top until the lot filled, then came back down the hill together for another run.

What goes up must come down. The truth here is I’m coasting slowly, thus justifying the unbuckled helmet.

F3 cars originated in Great Britain after World War II as inexpensive means of motorsport. Plenty of well-known drivers raced these nimble little cars, among them, Stirling Moss, Peter Collins and the fellow shown below.

Who is this evidently enthusiastic F3 driver? Image from R&T, December 2006.

It’s Bernie Ecclestone. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012

2 comments on “MOUNT EQUINOX F3

  1. Tom Tyson
    October 14, 2012

    Sounds like lots of fun. What I want to know is, are those rear view mirrors clamped to the front suspension links of young Bernie’s car?

  2. Doug Milliken
    November 5, 2012

    Dennis,

    Thanks for this lovely memory.

    For another perspective (and helmet cam videos) of the VSCCA Mt. Equinox event, check this blog from a young competitor in 2010 — http://www.at-speed.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=341:08-21-2010-mt-equinox-hill-climb&catid=38:race-reports&Itemid=71

    Bill (Dad) was the guest of honor for the 60th anniversary and the club treated us royally. We didn’t have the FWD (Four Wheel Drive) Miller this time, but, John Fitch (sadly just passed) was in good form that weekend and gave us both rides up the hill in his Phoenix.

    — Doug Milliken

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This entry was posted on October 14, 2012 by in Classic Bits and tagged , , , .
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