Derek Bennett was the individual responsible for the formation of Chevron Cars Ltd. He was a brilliant engineer, mostly self-taught, and had a talent for modifying, repairing, and sculpting automobiles. Near the close of the 1950s, he began working in a shop in North England, where he quickly developed a name for himself. When he was not working at the track, he could often be seen at nearby tracks where he raced mostly custom-built racing cars.
Changes in racing regulations had many producers of racers scrambling to create a formidable contender that conformed to the new rules. Bennett had been contemplating purchasing a new racer but with the new changes, he felt he could produce a better machine than other marques were fielding. With no drawings and all the details in Bennett's head, he began construction, beginning with a tubular space-frame chassis. Power was from a modified Ford Kent engine that had been taken from an Anglia. When the vehicle was complete, it carried the marque name 'Chevron'; the name had been inspired by a Highway Code symbol. Up to this point, his vehicles were dubbed Bennett Specials.
The newly created racer, dubbed the B1, made its inaugural appearance in 1965 at Kirkistown, Ireland. Little testing had been done but the car still managed to set an impressive pace and finished in first place. For the next few years, Bennett created racers and gave them various designations. The B1 was introduced in 1965 and followed a year later by the B2. Both were Clubmans which was a British national formula series for open-top sports cars with Ford engines placed in the front of the cars.
The B3 was Bennett's first attempt at Gran Turismo competition. The 1.6-liter twin-cam Ford engine was mounted behind the driver and in front of the rear axle. The car was constructed for Alan Minshaw who had seen a small-scale model on Bennett's desk and had immediately produced funds to finance its construction. The initial estimates to create the car fell short of the actual figure and Digby Martland stepped in to provide the additional funds needed to complete the project. Once the project was complete, Bennett created a second racer, dubbed the B4, and fitted it with a BMW 2-liter engine.
During some initial trial runs of the Martland B3 racer, it attracted the attention of Peter Gethin who immediately ordered one for himself. The B3 made its racing debut a short time later where it emerged victorious. The Ford-powered car was very impressive, whereas the BMW-powered B4 suffered from lubrication problems. The reason for this was the way the BMW engine was installed which sat vertically and prevented the oil from properly draining. A custom dry-sump lubrication system was later installed and resolved these issues.
After securing a deal with BMW Motorsports to supply engines through a dealership at a discounted price, Bennett began creating more examples of the B4 GT car.
The B5 was powered by a BRM 2-liter V8 engine. Brian Redman drove a B5 in international competition in a Group 6 at Brands Hatch where he emerged victorious. This was Chevron's first international race win. Redman would go on to become a works driver for Chevron.
The B6 was very similar to the B4 but with a fiberglass body. It competed in Group 6 prototype competition against tough competition from Ferraris and other big-named marque's. After enough examples were created to homologate the cars, they could compete in Group 4 GT competition. Fifty examples had been required to compete; not all 50 were created - when the FIA stopped by Bennett's shop to perform the count, Bennett proved he had enough materials to create the racers. Only 44 examples were ever created.
The B7 was a single-seat racer that competed in Formula 3 competition. The B8 was the 1968 version of the GT racer. The B9 was a Formula 3 car. The B10 was a Formula 2 racer.
The replacement for these two-liter cars came with the B16 and was quickly replaced with the B16 Spyder which had bodywork inspired by the Porsche 908 Spyder. The Chevron was a continuation of the B8 with styling help from Jim Clark. It had a spaceframe chassis, monocoque design, tubular frames, and a fiberglass body. The engine and gearbox was both placed midship. To make the vehicle easy to maintain, it had a removable front subframe. A 1790cc FVA Cosworth engine was used which provided an impressive 245 horsepower.
The B16 made its inaugural debut at the 1969 Nurburgring 500km race where it was driven by Brian Redman and qualified for pole position. From the start of the race, Redman led the pack and continued this for three-and-a-half hours before crossing the finish line victorious. The car was surprisingly fast though it did suffer from under-steer due to not enough down-force. The problem was later solved by adding two orange box rear spoilers
During the 1970 season, Lola introduced the T210 which had Redman struggling to maintain the lead. It was not long before the T210 was consistently beating Redman and the B16. Redman approached Bennett requesting an open car that was lighter and more nimble. The result was the B16 Spyder of which only one was ever created. This would set the foundation for the rest of the cars for years to come.
The B19 was introduced in 1971 and the B21 in 1972. These were used in Group 6 competition. The B23 was introduced in 1973; the B26 was also a 1973 car; the B31 was the final iteration of Group 6 cars introduced in 1975.
In 1972 the B24 was introduced and intended for F5000 competition. Continuing the tradition of Chevron cars, it won its inaugural race. Driven a year later by works driver, Peter Gethin, it became the first F5000 car to beat the F1 cars. The B24 were impressive racers but the Lola T330 cars were faster. Chevron would finish the season with 32 Top 3 finishes from 35 races while Lola managed 39 Top 3 finishes.
It is believed that eight examples (possibly 10) of the B24 were constructed. One was later rebuilt to B28 specification.
Other interests of the Chevron company during this time were Formula competition such as Formula Atlantic and Formula Two. Examples include the B25, B27, B29, B35 Formula Atlantic/Formula Two cars.
Derek Bennett's passed away after a hang-gliding accident. The company continued for a number of years. Ownership passed through the hands of a few owners.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2007