The death of the former Formula One boss Don Nichols who employed many great drivers during the 1970’s has been announced. The American designer designed many cars for formula one and Can-Ann for Shadow team.
His career started with spells at various teams, where he designed cars which gained a cult following. This was because of the combination of attractive cars, fast drivers and a battle to achieve results, with a quiet and mysterious owner, earned the team a lot of fans.
Before he entered motorsport, Nichols served in the US Army, serving in both World War II and the Korean War. He then went on to work for Goodyear and Firestone tyre companies, before returning to America and forming the Advanced Vehicle Systems team.
He planned to take on the world of Can Am, a series where ‘anything goes’ creating almost a go-kart style race car with a Chevrolet V8 big-block, whose cooling depended on air rushing into a radiator that was…built into the rear wing!
This put him up against the brilliance of McLaren and Porches. for 1973, the team hired Tony Southgate (ex-BRM designer) to pen a Formula 1 car and a Can-Am car.
The DN2 Can-Am car suffered reliability issues; the DN1 Formula 1 car looked great and, in the hands of Follmer and Oliver. This when he began to look at Formula One.
But it was a disastrous start for the team, Peter Revson was killed in testing before the 1974 South African Grand Prix. Then an up turn in performance with the arrival of Tom Pryce and Jean-Pierre Jarier showed plenty of pace.
Jarier took pole for opening two races of the season, although his car failed on the warm-up lap in Argentina and then failed again while dominating in Brazil.
Disaster followed again in 1977, after a fire caused Price to go off killing a marshal. The season did get better despite the shattering blow, as Alan Jones took victory at the Osterreich and finished seventh in the drivers’ championship, matching the team’s achievement in the constructors’ championship.
Things soon reached a low point as the team was torn apart by the arrival of Arrows, meaning they could only achieve a handful of points. The team’s last hurrah came in the ’79 finale when rookie Elio de Angelis scored a fourth place in the US GP.
Soon that took its toll and with the team struggling to find sponsorship it was soon sold to Theodore Racing.