There is a historical trope in the racing world, which suggests that a talented craftsman could build a simple, small displacement racecar—like a Formula Ford—and his prototype’s success would catapult that individual into becoming a major racing car manufacturer, eventually reaching the pinnacles of the sport, F1 and the Indianapolis 500. Names like Colin Chapman (Lotus) and Eric Broadley (Lola) spring immediately to mind. However, the tale of the Eagle DGF is the exact opposite of that story! After building a racing empire founded on Grand Prix and Indycar victories, American racing icon Dan Gurney elected to go the other way. Gurney’s Santa Ana, California-based All American Racers (AAR) was building race-winning Indycars and F5000 cars, but Gurney thought there might be opportunity in expanding his offerings into the more “mass market” world of entry level Formula Ford. According to Gurney, “There was a time there, where we thought that Formula Ford was going to go somewhere and it was one of the steppingstones for up-and-coming young men, and we thought we’d like to put our version into the arena.” AAR had the talented design staff, the manufacturing facilities and expertise, so why not diversify and grasp a larger share of the market, while at the same time, creating a pipeline for young drivers to come up through the ladder. If all went well, ideally one day they would buy and race more sophisticated Eagles. It was a logical move, yet oddly, it didn’t go entirely as planned.
While Gurney and AAR certainly had the staffing and resources to build a Formula Ford, what they lacked was an in-house “FF expert,” someone with a wealth of FF experience who could both drive and develop the car. While, in retrospect, Gurney is unclear who first passed the name on to him, it may very well have been fellow constructor Ray Caldwell, who had enjoyed the fruits of a talented young driver named David Loring.
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