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1974 Parnelli VPJ4 news, pictures, specifications, and information

In 1921, the American company Duesenberg would place one of its supercharged engines into Jimmy Murphy's 'Banana Wagon' and the car would be entered in the French Grand Prix held at Le Mans. Murphy would go on to win the race, surprisingly, and little would anyone realize that, at that moment, it would be the last American-built grand prix car to be built until an unlikely pairing would bring an American-built car back to the grand prix circuits of Europe in the mid-1970s.

Velko 'Vel' Miletich would gain an important and influential reputation as a general manager of Oscar Maples Ford of Torrance, California. This would lead to Miletich also fostering an interest in starting his own racing team. But he needed the perfect partner.

Miletich's perfect partner would be a rather uneducated man that only really knew cars. Also from Torrance, California, Parnelli Jones would be a struggling racer throughout the 1950s. However, his reputation as a hard, tough racer would take off during the 1961 running of the Indianapolis 500.

Jones would actually come to know Miletich very early on. In the 1950s Miletich would supply Ford engines to Jones for use in dirt car racing. Then, Miletich began building sprint cars specifically for Jones and he would go on to dominate the West Coast sprint car scene.

This success in sprint cars would catch the eye of promoter J.C. Agajanian. Jones would then be given one of A.J. Watson's tubular roadster chassis and would perform one of the most remarkable drives in Indianapolis 500 history.

Cut in the forehead by a piece of flying metal, Jones would spend the remainder of the race driving the roadster with one hand as he was too busy wiping blood from the left eyepiece of his goggles with his other. The amazing thing about the performance is not his tenacity to never give up when he was cut by the metal but that he would hold onto the lead for the majority of the race while dealing with the bloody mess.

This tenacious drive would eventually lead to Jones winning the 500 in 1963 after starting on pole. This would be a very important race as it would really see what was known as the 'funny car' revolution come to the fore. Though Jones would win the controversial race, he would begin to see that motor racing was going to change from then on.

By the end of the 1960s Miletich and Jones would partner together again to form Vel's-Parnelli Jones Racing. The two men would take their roles as team owners very seriously and would set many standards within the Indycar series and motor racing on a whole.

One of the many important things the Vel's-Parnelli Jones Racing team would adopt would be a dedicated design team that would focus on new designs and components throughout a year. This would enable the team to be on the cutting edge and would end up allowing the team to introduce a new car just about every year. This would be another advantage that would pay dividends when Al Unser would pilot VPJ cars to back-to-back victories in the Indianapolis 500 in 1970 and '71.

Seeing as how Jones would be embroiled in the 'funny car revolution' at Indy, and, given the Vel's-Parnelli Jones' success in open-wheel racing in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it seemed to make perfect sense the two men from Torrance would make an assault on Formula One.

The two highly-committed individuals still needed the right designer and engineer to be able to challenge the best Formula One teams straight-away. Thankfully for VPJ, they would be able to gain the talents of ex-Team Lotus designer Maurice Philippe. Philippe would set about designing a car fitting of the ambition of the men at the helm of the team.

Much of the impetus to head to Formula One, however, would come as a result of another employee VPJ would come to hire. Mario Andretti would also come to the team in 1972 and would work with Philippe with the USAC designs he penned. Unfortunately, none of Philippe's designs were even close to championship material. And, with Andretti keen on pushing his driving experience toward Formula One, it seemed the ideal solution to return Philippe to his natural habitat.

Therefore, work would begin on the first American-built chassis in more than 50 years. Being an ex-Team Lotus man, Philippe would draw heavily from his experience with Colin Chapman as he began work designing what would become known as the VPJ-4. Philippe would actually begin his first efforts with VPJ when he became an employee in 1972. He would take his time developing designs and tweaking them so the team could be ensured it would be competitive straight-away.

Obviously, the Lotus 72 had proven to be incredibly successful in Formula One and seemed the perfect direction in which to take the VPJ4. Therefore, Philippe would design a wide, low-profile, wedge-shaped nose with two heavily sculpted, single-plane front wings attached to either side.

The main aluminum-monocoque structure, or 'tub', would be quite shallow giving the car a wide, but low, profile. The upper lines of the structural bodywork would remain low but would ascend ever-so-slightly as it trailed aft.

Despite the low profile of the chassis itself, it would be tall enough in height that Philippe could employ rocker-arm front suspension. However, Philippe would be a bit adventurous because of the design of the car. Instead of utilizing a coil/damper system for the car, he would use a torsion bar suspension. This was very advanced at that point in time, but it would allow the whole thing to be hidden with the bodywork of the car. This meant the only thing protruding out in the airflow would be the control arms of the suspension, the disc brakes and the cooling vents for the disc brakes.

The 'V' pattern of the chassis as it travelled aft would continue steadily until just before the rear wheels when it would turn outward a bit more sharply. In that portion of the car's bodywork the radiators would be positioned. By turning them outwards, more airflow could get to the radiators to help cool the engine.

Speaking of the engine, VPJ would be able to secure the engine of choice at that time. They would have use of a 3.0-liter Ford Cosworth DFV DOHC V8 producing, at that time, about 450bhp. Mated to a Hewland FG 400 5-speed manual gearbox, the VPJ4 would be capable of zero to 60 times of around 4 seconds.

The rush of speed would be something the driver would greatly experience sitting so high up on top of the car instead of down inside it. Protected only by the steeply-contoured piece of fiberglass that fit tightly around the driver's shoulders, the pilot still sat relatively exposed with such a larger opening all around the cockpit.

Speaking of large, and though it would go through changes over time, the airbox fitted atop the Cosworth engine would, as with many in that day, be quite tall and large. However, the shapes of the inlets itself would change race to race. Triangular-shaped, oval-shaped, they would all be tried in an effort to throw as much air to the engine as possible.

The rear of the car would be quite conventional, for that period in Formula One. The oil coolers would be attached at a point way toward the tail of the car, capturing the cooler air as it flowed past and under the large rear wing.

Speaking of the rear wing, Philippe would design a rear wing that would have a triangular-shaped leading edge and that would also boast of a deeply contoured underside. This was meant to increase the speed of the airflow passing under the rear wing, which only increased downforce. Of course, a trade off to this would be an increase in drag. One of the other interesting design elements to the VPJ4 would be the car that would be taken in designing the cooler air ducts for the rear-wheel disc brakes. Closely-fitting, rectangular air scoops would protrude just above the casing of the Cosworth engine, and then, would turn inward toward the center-mounted rotors. This would help to open up the area at the rear of the car in an effort to reduce instability at the rear of the car.

When the car was finished and first taken out for testing at Riverside, it wouldn't be instability that would be the car's biggest problem. Despite the talents of Mario Andretti, the VPJ4 couldn't lap anywhere close to the times he had set at the course in F5000. This was absolutely alarming for the team, especially when Jones wanted to keep to the timetable of making its debut at the Canadian Grand Prix, the second-to-last round of the 1974 Formula One World Championship.

This caused for some rather drastic measures to be taken. Therefore, the team would bring in John Barnard to look over the design and try and figure out why it couldn't perform as expected. Barnard would look the car over and would immediately want to start over from scratch. This wouldn't work, so he focused on what changes he could make to the car. This meant throwing away the torsion bar suspension and employing a more conventional spring/damper arrangement. The reaction from Andretti after the initial test had been that the car was way too soft, which made it virtually un-drivable. The spring/damper arrangement wouldn't solve the problem but it would go a long way to stiffening the ride.

The Vel's-Parnelli Jones Racing team would make its debut in Formula One with the VPJ4 at the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport in 1974. In spite of issues with the car still being too soft, Andretti would qualify the car a respectable 16th and would end up finishing the race just a lap down in 7th place. In their first race as a team in Formula One, the team would miss out on a championship point by just one place.

Things would seem to be getting better when Andretti stunned the Formula One paddock by qualifying 3rd at Watkins Glen. The bumpy nature of the circuit and the incredibly soft ride of the VPJ4 would actually compliment each other so that Andretti could use all of his experience to put the car up near the front of the grid. Unfortunately, an electrical problem in the race would lead to Andretti being disqualified for receiving outside assistance. Still, the VPJ4 looked promising. It just needed a little more time to work out its issues.

The 1975 season would certainly be more successful, but also, quite frustrating. Still covered in the red and white Viceroy livery, the VPJ4 would have numerous top ten performances and would even lead on the streets of Spain, before unreliability would come and spoil the day. Often times, the unreliability would hit within sight of the checkered flag, and therefore, would make things all the more frustrating for Andretti and the team.

Still, in only its second year of competition, the Vel's-Parnelli Jones Racing team would have some reason to celebrate. Many teams come and go from Formula One without having scored even a single championship point. But, a 4th place at the Swedish Grand Prix and a 5th at the French would help the team score 5 championship points and would leave them 10th in the standings at the end of the year.

The 1976 season would be the final year for both the VPJ4 and the Vel's-Parnelli Jones Racing team. Financial difficulties would lead the team to take part in just two early rounds of the World Championship. Still, at the South African Grand Prix, Andretti would come across in 6th place earning one last championship point for the team and the VPJ4. Andretti would depart the team following his retirement from the United States Grand Prix at Long Beach and the team would fold its Formula One efforts at the same time.

The departure of Vel's-Parnelli Jones Racing from Formula One meant America would have to wait once again before another home-built Formula One team graced the grid of a Formula One race. To some this would happen again with British American Racing at the beginning of the new millennium, but that team would be based solely in the U.K. Therefore, it could be perhaps another 50 years before another American-built team arrives to compete in Formula One.

Sources:
'The Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing Team Story', (http://vpjracing.com/History_files/VPJ%20Racing%20Book.pdf). VPJRacing. http://vpjracing.com/History_files/VPJ%20Racing%20Book.pdf. Retrieved 24 January 2013.

Fox, Charles. The Great Racing Cars and Drivers. A Ridge Press Book/Madison Square Press/Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., New York. Copyright 1972.

'1974 Vels-Parnelli VFJ4 Formula 1', (http://www.fantasyjunction.com/cars/1035-Vels-Parnelli-VFJ4%20Formula%201-Ford%20Cosworth%20DFV%20DOHC%20V-8). Fantasy Junction: Brokers of Fine Collector Automobiles and Vintage Race Cars. http://www.fantasyjunction.com/cars/1035-Vels-Parnelli-VFJ4%20Formula%201-Ford%20Cosworth%20DFV%20DOHC%20V-8. Retrieved 24 January 2013.

'Full Profile: Parnelli', (http://www.f1rejects.com/teams/parnelli/profile.html). F1Rejects.com. http://www.f1rejects.com/teams/parnelli/profile.html. Retrieved 24 January 2013.

'Cars/Parnelli/VPJ-4', (http://www.racingsportscars.com/type/photo/Parnelli/VPJ-4.html). Racing Sports Cars. http://www.racingsportscars.com/type/photo/Parnelli/VPJ-4.html. Retrieved 24 January 2013.

'Parnelli: 1974 Parnelli VPJ4', (http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/parnelli-vpj4-450-Hp/1564977741.htm). Histomobile.com. http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/parnelli-vpj4-450-Hp/1564977741.htm. Retrieved 24 January 2013.

'1974 World Drivers Championship', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1974/f174.html). 1974 World Drivers Championship. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1974/f174.html. Retrieved 24 January 2013.

Wikipedia contributors, 'Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 November 2012, 17:41 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vel%27s_Parnelli_Jones_Racing&oldid=521231371 accessed 24 January 2013

Wikipedia contributors, 'Parnelli Jones', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 December 2012, 21:31 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Parnelli_Jones&oldid=529882929 accessed 24 January 2013

By Jeremy McMullen
Monoposto
Chassis Num: 101
 
In 1974 the Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing Team was competing in the USAC Indy cars, SCCA Formula 500, USAC Silver Crown dirt cars, SCORE off-road and NHRA funny cars. The only thing missing was FIA Formula One, which they entered at the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport in October, 1974. The 'Parnelli VPJ-4' was an incredibly tidy and tiny racecar designed y Maurice Phillippe. Phillippe's earlier work included the Lotus 72 and the VPJ-4 could be thought of as an updated 72. With Mario Andretti driving, the car was immediately fast although often unreliable. Early in 1975, Firestone pulled out of F1 and the switch to Goodyear tires did not suit the Parnelli chassis. New designer/engineer, John Barnard re-worked the cars during 1975 and it displayed considerable speed but the unreliability remained. Early in 1976 the Formula One VPJ team was disbanded and the team set its focus on Indy cars once again.
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1974 Formula One Season
PosTeamConstructorChassisDriversPoints
Yardley Team McLarenMcLarenM23 United Kingdom Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood
United Kingdom David Wishart Hobbs
Germany Jochen Richard Mass 
73
Scuderia FerrariFerrari Austria Andreas Nikolaus 'Niki' Lauda
Switzerland Gianclaudio Giuseppe 'Clay' Regazzoni 
65
Elf Team TyrrellTyrrell
006
007 
France Patrick André Eugène Joseph Depailler
South Africa Jody David Scheckter 
52
John Player Team LotusLotus Belgium Jacques Bernard 'Jacky' Ickx
Sweden Bengt Ronnie Peterson
Australia Timothy Theodore 'Tim' Schenken 
42
Motor Racing DevelopmentsBrabham
BT44 
Brazil José Carlos Pace
Belgium Theodore 'Teddy' Pilette
Argentina Carlos Alberto Reutemann
United Kingdom Richard Robarts
Liechtenstein Frederick 'Rikky' von Opel 
35
Hesketh RacingHesketh
308 
United Kingdom James Simon Wallis Hunt
South Africa Ian Scheckter 
15
Team Motul BRMBRM New Zealand Christopher Arthur Amon
France Jean-Pierre Maurice Georges Beltoise
France François Migault
France Henri Pescarolo 
10
UOP Shadow Racing TeamShadow
DN3
DN1 
France Jean-Pierre Jacques Jarier
United Kingdom Thomas Maldwyn Pryce
United Kingdom Brian Herman Thomas Redman
United States Peter Jeffrey Revson
Sweden Bertil Roos 
7
March EngineeringMarch
741 
Italy Vittorio Brambilla
New Zealand James Howden Ganley
Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck
Sweden Reine Wisell 
6
10 Frank Williams Racing CarsIso-Marlboro Denmark Tom Belsø
France Jean-Pierre Alain Jabouille
France Jacques-Henri Laffite
Italy Arturo Francesco 'Little Art' Merzario
Netherlands Jonkheer Gijsbert van Lennep 
4
11 Team SurteesSurtees
TS16 
United Kingdom Derek Reginald Bell
France Louis José Lucien Dolhem
France Louis José Lucien Dolhem
France Jean-Pierre Alain Jabouille
Austria Helmuth Koinigg
Germany Jochen Richard Mass
Brazil José Carlos Pace 
3
12 Embassy Racing with Graham HillLola
T370 
United Kingdom Guy Richard Goronwy Edwards
United Kingdom Peter Kenneth Gethin
United Kingdom Norman Graham Hill
Germany Rolf Johann Stommelen 
1
 Team GunstonLotus South Africa Paddy Driver
South Africa Ian Scheckter 
 Blignaut Embassy RacingTyrrell South Africa Eddie Keizan 
 Scribante Lucky Strike RacingMcLaren
M23 
South Africa Dave Charlton 
 John Goldie Racing with HexagonBrabham Brazil José Carlos Pace
United Kingdom John Marshall 'Wattie' Watson 
 Scuderia FinottoBrabham Italy Carlo Giovanni Facetti
Austria Helmuth Koinigg
France Gérard Larrousse 
 The Chequered FlagBrabham United Kingdom Ian Hugh Gordon Ashley 
 Team Canada F1 RacingBrabham Canada Egbert 'Eppie' Wietzes 
 Allied Polymer GroupBrabham Italy Maria Grazia 'Lella' Lombardi 
 Hesketh RacingMarch United Kingdom James Simon Wallis Hunt 
 Dempster Internacional Racing TeamMarch United Kingdom Mike Wilds 
 AAW Racing TeamSurtees
TS16 
Finland Leo Juhani 'Leksa' Kinnunen 
 Dempster Internacional Team SurteesSurtees
TS16 
Austria Dieter Quester 
 Team EnsignEnsign Australia Vernon 'Vern' Schuppan
Liechtenstein Frederick 'Rikky' von Opel
United Kingdom Mike Wilds 
 Trojan-Tauranac RacingTrojan
T103 
Australia Timothy Theodore 'Tim' Schenken 
 Maki EngineeringMaki New Zealand James Howden Ganley 
 Chris Amon RacingAmon
AF101 
New Zealand Christopher Arthur Amon
Australia Larry Clifton Perkins 
 Pinch Plant LtdLyncar New Zealand John Nicholson 
 Token RacingToken
RJ02 
United Kingdom Ian Hugh Gordon Ashley
United Kingdom Thomas Maldwyn Pryce
United Kingdom David Charles Purley 
 Vel's Parnelli Jones RacingParnelli
VPJ4 
United States Mario Gabriele Andretti 
 Penske CarsPenske United States Mark Neary Donohue, Jr. 
 Marlboro Team TexacoMcLaren
M23 
Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi
New Zealand Denis Clive 'Denny' Hulme 

1974 Season Review
RaceCircuitDateWinning DriverConstructor
 Argentine Grand Prix  Oscar GálvezJan 1974  Denis Clive 'Denny' HulmeMcLaren 
 Brazilian Grand Prix  InterlagosJan 1974  Emerson FittipaldiMcLaren 
 South African Grand Prix  KyalamiMar 1974  Carlos Alberto ReutemannBrabham 
 Spanish Grand Prix  JaramaApr 1974  Andreas Nikolaus 'Niki' LaudaFerrari 
 Belgian Grand Prix  Nivelles-BaulersMay 1974  Emerson FittipaldiMcLaren 
 Monaco Grand Prix  MonacoMay 1974  Bengt Ronnie PetersonLotus 
 Swedish Grand Prix  ScandinavianJun 1974  Jody David ScheckterTyrrell 
 Dutch Grand Prix  ZandvoortJun 1974  Andreas Nikolaus 'Niki' LaudaFerrari 
 French Grand Prix  Dijon-PrenoisJul 1974  Bengt Ronnie PetersonLotus 
 British Grand Prix  Brands HatchJul 1974  Jody David ScheckterTyrrell 
 German Grand Prix  NürburgringAug 1974  Gianclaudio Giuseppe 'Clay' RegazzoniFerrari 
 Austrian Grand Prix  OsterreichringAug 1974  Carlos Alberto ReutemannBrabham 
 Italian Grand Prix  MonzaSep 1974  Bengt Ronnie PetersonLotus 
 Canadian Grand Prix Canadian Grand Prix MosportSep 1974  Emerson FittipaldiMcLaren 
 United States Grand Prix  Watkins GlenOct 1974  Carlos Alberto ReutemannBrabham 

Formula One World Drivers' Champions
1950 G. Farina
1951 J. Fangio
1952 A. Ascari
1953 A. Ascari
1954 J. Fangio
1955 J. Fangio
1956 J. Fangio
1957 J. Fangio
1958 M. Hawthorn
1959 S. Brabham
1960 S. Brabham
1961 P. Hill, Jr
1962 N. Hill
1963 J. Clark, Jr.
1964 J. Surtees
1965 J. Clark, Jr.
1966 S. Brabham
1967 D. Hulme
1968 N. Hill
1969 S. Stewart
1970 K. Rindt
1971 S. Stewart
1972 E. Fittipaldi
1973 S. Stewart
1974 E. Fittipaldi
1975 A. Lauda
1976 J. Hunt
1977 A. Lauda
1978 M. Andretti
1979 J. Scheckter
1980 A. Jones
1981 N. Piquet
1982 K. Rosberg
1983 N. Piquet
1984 A. Lauda
1985 A. Prost
1986 A. Prost
1987 N. Piquet
1988 A. Senna
1989 A. Prost
1990 A. Senna
1991 A. Senna
1992 N. Mansell
1993 A. Prost
1994 M. Schumacher
1995 M. Schumacher
1996 D. Hill
1997 J. Villeneuve
1998 M. Hakkinen
1999 M. Hakkinen
2000 M. Schumacher
2001 M. Schumacher
2002 M. Schumacher
2003 M. Schumacher
2004 M. Schumacher
2005 F. Alonso
2006 F. Alonso
2007 K. Raikkonen
2008 L. Hamilton
2009 J. Button
2010 S. Vettel
2011 S. Vettel
2012 S. Vettel
2013 S. Vettel

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