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“Meanwhile we hear that Swede Reine Wisell, who together with Ronnie Peterson, Tim Schenken and Emerson Fittipaldi dominated F3 last year, will be joining his sparing partners in F2.” Autosport, March 12th 1970.
“On his first visit to Thruxton, Reine Wisell went well before an unlucky retirement in the new Chevron B17C.” Autosport, April 2th 1970.
Luckily for us, and we suspect you, we have already listed for auction a Chevron B15 Formula 3 machine (Lot 69), so we won’t waste your time banging on about the importance of the junior formulae for the young racer aspiring to reach Formula 1 but the logical steps are clearly as simple as Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. If you have already boned up on the B15 then the B17 was simply the next forward step for Chevron as their 1970 Formula 3 offering and very successful it was too. The issue Chevron had going into the 1970 season was that the Formula 3 class of 1969, if they were going to keep progressing, now needed to be on the next step of the ladder. The success of the B15 meant two things; strong demand for the B17 and a loyal group of Chevron drivers keen to make the move into Formula 2 with their manufacturer of choice. With the factory flat out screwing B17s together, not to mention then having to repair them along with a significant number of still competitive B15s, Derek Bennet and his team had little spare time to design and build a bespoke Formula 2 car though the B18 model name was already assigned to the project. With the B18 looking unlikely to break cover until late in the 1970 season, pressure was applied to the factory, not least by Works Driver Reine Wisell, to come up with something to fill the gap and the B17C was born. Essentially a strengthened version of the B17 designed to not only handle the increased power of the Formula 2 Cosworth FVA engine but also take advantage of the bigger brakes, stickier tyres and aerodynamics allowed by the more senior formula. The increased thirst of the larger engine and longer race distances meant a larger fuel capacity would be required so additional tanks were fitted and their sheet steel cladding further improved chassis rigidity.
With the B18 clearly the long term solution for Chevron, just two B17Cs were produced; one for their Golden Boy Wisell (Chassis Number F2-70-1) as the Works European Formula 2 entry, the car offered here, and a second machine for Steve Thompson which ran in Formula Libre specification with an 1800cc Cosworth FVC power unit. It must be said that with just two cars produced and only one of those run in Formula 2, the individual histories of the B17Cs is somewhat easier to trace than that of a B15 for example!
Much has been written about the success, or rather lack of it, that Wisell had with the B17C in the early part of the 1970 season and it is probably fair to say they didn’t set the circuits alight. After a promising start in the Thruxton Easter Monday meeting where he went out in the final avoiding an errant John Watson, a 14th place finish at the Nurburgring hardly constituted a stellar season (or half season as it turned out). An email on file from Reine Wisell to the car’s owner confirms his five works outings at Thruxton, Nurburgring, Zolder, Rouen and Paul Ricard. One should bear in mind that the car was being run on a shoestring budget supplemented by Wisell’s Scandinavian personal sponsors ‘Publicator’ (who depending on who you talk to were either publishers of ‘racy’ magazines in the true Scandinavian sense, or an advertising company); as a result, testing and development were limited and reliability frustratingly poor. Interestingly with time and presumably budget to develop his car properly, Thompson was utterly dominant in the BOC Formula Libre Championship that season, taking fourteen wins and one second place; perhaps there was not all that much wrong with the design after all. The Factory did attempt some limited development work on F2-70-1 in an attempt to reduce the high speed understeer it displayed and this resulted in the alternative pick-up points for the suspension which are still evident on the car today (please see the photo gallery). By mid-season the B18 was ready to race and Wisell naturally transferred to the new machine with fellow Swede Gustaf Dieden taking over the 17C at Mantorp Park but he buzzed the engine into early retirement. With even limited development now definitely at an end, the potential of the B17C was arguably never fully exploited.
The following season the still FVA powered Chevron was raced in Formula Libre by sometime dealer Bob Howlings before he sold it on at the end of the season. By 1974 Uwe Jantzen owned the car and again it was exercised in Formula Libre along with some sprints and hill climbs. Bob Howlings again had the car for sale in 1978 after Jantzen had advertised it for sale in 1976. Tony Pollock drove the car in a Libre race at Brands Hatch late on in 1980 and it was still running an FVA engine at that stage before passing through the hands of Rob Gordon and Keith Ashley in the early 1980s, ending up with Len Bridge in 1985. He restored the car and raced it in the HSCC Pre-1971 Formula 2 series, blowing the engine up at Brands Hatch. The current owner bought the Chevron as a rolling chassis via Roger Andreason at the end of 1985 and he raced it again with the HSCC from 1986 to 1989 with a BDA engine installed, winning the Best Single Seater Novice award in 1986 along the way.
Now fully rebuilt including its BDA engine and Hewland FT200 gearbox, with just one Silverstone Club Circuit (a very driver-rusty 61 second lap) test session completed, this historically significant Chevron is ready to again return to the tracks where it would be admirably suited to the increasingly popular HSCC Historic Formula 2 Championship, Derek Bell and Classic Racing Cars series’. New Avon slicks, a spare set of wets and a body mould are included in the sale along with a comprehensive history file detailing its use in period and more recently.
Underdeveloped in its day but a design that is proven to be sound, this is a not only a great Historic Race Car with plenty of opportunities for on track use but it is also a significant part of Chevron History. Featured in many books, contemporary and more recent magazines it really is a piece of working History.
Chassis Number: F2-70-1