Few figures in the history of motorsport have been as pivotally influential as Daniel Sexton Gurney. Apart from being credited with the now-ubiquitous 'Champagne Shower' after a racing victory, Gurney was also a forward-thinking designer and manufacturer. It had always been his dream to build and race his own Formula One car, and in 1964, that dream took shape with the formation of All American Racers in partnership with Carroll Shelby, in Santa Ana California.
By 1966, the fledgling team had developed a bespoke chassis, but a competitive engine was still in the works, causing the first 'Eagles' as they were christened, to run with a 2.7 litre Coventry Climax four cylinder. The cars performed relatively well, but victory eluded the distinctive (and beautiful) American cars. Enter Harry Weslake in Great Britain, who was putting the finishing touches on his Gurney-Weslake 3.0 litre 12 cylinder double overhead cam four valves-per-cylinder engine. Just what the doctor ordered...
After predictable teething problems, the engine and chassis were well-sorted for the 1967 Brand's Hatch Race of Champions, which Gurney won, from pole to finish line. The original aluminum chassis was thought to be slightly overweight, so the next (and last) chassis, #104, was skinned in magnesium and employed titanium to form suspension and exhaust systems. Due to the highly flammable nature of magnesium, Gurney elected not to wear seat belts when racing, hoping to be thrown from the car during an accident, rather then being strapped in and incinerated! Some choice!
With the lightened chassis and the Gurney-Weslake pumping out over 400 brake horsepower, Gurney went on to win the 1967 Grand Prix of Belgium, at Spa, fulfilling his dream to become the first American car manufacturer to win a Grand Prix since 1921. Sadly, although Gurney Eagles qualified in the first two rows of the starting grid in all eleven GP races in 1967, Spa was to remain the only victory, due to recurring mechanical problems. Although achieving only one major victory in Formula One competition, the Gurney Eagles represent a high water mark in American racing, and helped propel their namesake into the ranks of motorsport immortality.
Realart Replicas, the 'Lexus' division of GMP (sadly now shuttered) presented the first of their new line of large, 1:8 scale models with Gurney Eagle chassis #104 in 2005. This striking model broke new ground at the time with its size, beautiful paintwork, extreme level of detail, and cost. Produced in a worldwide edition of only 250, this landmark creation has been unavailable for the better part of a decade, and rarely appears on the secondary market.
This model represents the 1967 Spa winner, and is quite striking in its dark blue, semi-metallic paint, adorned with one stem to stern white racing stripe. Even by today's standard, the level of detail is superb. The distinctive 'Eagles Beak' radiator inlet is beautifully rendered, and features a fine mesh screen just inside. The nose section is removable, revealing brake and clutch reservoirs, lower wishbones, top rockers, and the anti-roll bar. The wheels and tires are spot-on, and feature tiny tire valves, wheel weights, flexible brake lines, metal brake discs and detailed calipers.
Moving aft, the simple cockpit is well rendered, with quilted padding throughout, and a notable lack of seat belts. The aluminum monococque chassis is loaded with rivet detail, even extending into the cockpit footwell. Jump to just behind the rollbar, and remove the two magnetically secured body panels to really begin the magic show. The V12, 60 degree, three litre Gurney Weslake powerplant is an absolute jewel. Just below the delicate protective metal air screen lie the staggered twin rows of air inlet trumpets, all beautifully machined.
There are red individual ignition wire clips to keep things tidy, and the sculptural exhaust headers are a delight. Since the car's bodywork was minimal, Realart Replicas was afforded the opportunity to cram the engine bay with detail, and they did! It takes some time to visually unravel all the componentry. Translucent fuel and coolant lines snake their way around a jungle of suspension bits. Twin Fram oil filters nestle between the spring-mounted exhaust pipes which carry simulated heat bluing. There is a real feast for the eyes back here! Even the tiny throttle linkage return spring is under tension!
This magnificent model is new, in the factory box, and in undisplayed condition. It is accompanied by a lovely book, commissioned by Realart Replicas, and written by noted motorsports photographer Dave Friedman, containing period photographs from every race in which the Eagles participated. The hardbound book is signed by Dan Gurney and Mr. Friedman.
It is difficult to get a sense of the real presence this piece imparts on the display shelf. We have photographed it beside a 1:43 scale model to illustrate just how much of a 'wow' factor there really is. Not only is the Eagle a 'centerpiece' model for the serious grand prix collection, but it is a stunning tribute to an exemplary man, and his realized dream.
Please avail yourself of the opportunity to own this rare and seminal example of the model maker's craft. It is unlikely we'll ever have another.