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BOOK REVIEW • SHADOW: The Magnificent Machines of a Man of Mystery

• Another winner from Pete Lyons

Of all eras in motorsport, the Can-Am series which ran from 1966 to 1974 and the Formula One series in the 1970s are two of the truly great ones. The writer and photographer Pete Lyons was on the scene for both of these eras and is one of the best qualified to write about them. Earlier he wrote the definitive history of the original Can-Am series in his book by the same name. Now he has drilled down on one man, Don Nichols, and the series of ‘Shadow’ race cars which ran during that time in Can-Am, Formula One and Formula 5000. It covers the entire racing history of all the Shadow cars from 1970 to 1980.

Even if you are too young to have remembered this epic period, you owe it to yourself to learn about it. And, even if you think you know all about this time, this book will give you a new insight and window into the story. Usually a history of this time is focused on the big names: Lola, McLaren, Chaparral, Porsche in Can-Am and Tyrrell, McLaren, Lotus, Ferrari in F1. This book which deals with a secondary, but significant, player gives a valuable, different perspective of this history.

The publishers blurb says, in part: “Enigmatic Nichols — D-Day paratrooper, Army counter-intelligence officer and controversial entrepreneur — created a racing marque that seems as cloaked as the man himself. Shadow was the only US-based team to win a Can-Am championship and one of only three to score a victory in Formula 1. Pete Lyons lifts the veil from this secretive man and the innovative racing cars and world-class team he created. The author draws on considerable first-hand experience: he was present for Shadow’s two big débuts, in Can-Am at Mosport in Canada (1970) and in Formula 1 at Kyalami in South Africa (1973), and his numerous interviews for the book included six days with Nichols himself not long before the ‘Shadowman’ died in 2017.”

IMG 7899The Shadow DN4 in a 'vintage race' at Road America in 2012 (GRW photo)

To be honest, I don’t have a distinct memory of seeing the Shadow Can-Am cars in their day. I do remember seeing them in some of the their semi-demonstration races after the Can-Am series per se ended. For sure, I do remember the Shadow F1 cars. Graham Hill used a customer car when he started his own F1 team. Many name drivers drove for the cars including Jackie Oliver, George Follmer, Peter Revson (who unfortunately lost his life when his F1 Shadow crashed in South Africa), Jean-Pierre Jarier, Danny Ongais and Alan Jones.

Future champion Alan Jones scored his first F1 win in a Shadow at the 1977 Austrian GP. I was there and I remember Jones carrying off the big trophy through the crowd after the race.

The Can-Am Shadows carried on into the 1974 season of the series, its final year after the all-conquering Porsche 917-30 withdrew and a now-dominant Oliver won the first four of the five races in the foreshortened calendar to win the championship.

IMG 8676The 1976 Shadow DN6B F.5000 car in a 'vintage' race at Road America in 2012 (GRW photo)

After that, Shadow, in an effort to fulfil it obligation to its sponsor UOP, converted some F1 cars into F.5000 cars with Dodge V-8 engines. The Dodge engines were overweight and underpowered, so this venture did not go so well. When the F.5000 series was replaced by the second ‘Can-Am’ series using full-fendered cars based on the F.5000 single-seaters, Nichols continued here for a while until he closed down his team for good.

The book covers the entire history of the Shadow racing story with brief reports on every race they entered in every series. In addition, Lyons has stuffed the book with side-bar articles based on interviews with every one of significance -- driver, designer, etc, – who had a role in the Shadow story. Plus lots and lots of great photos, the best by Lyons himself.

Pete Lyons is a second-generation motorsports journalist. In this period he covered the Can-Am series for AutoWeek (among others) and, when the Can-Am ended, he moved to England to cover the F1 series for Autosport magazine. I have always considered him to be one of the best car racing writers and photographers of his time. His book ‘Can-Am’ (by a different publisher) is the comprehensive history of that series. With this new book, he has added a wonderful addition to that previous book, focusing on a single team and its struggles to be one of the best.

My only quibble with this new book is that it lacks a detailed package of results of all the races mentioned in the book. As for Can-Am, Lyons did compile the results of every race and he published them in his book ‘Can-Am’; unfortunately it is now out of print but perhaps you can find a copy on eBay (I recommend it highly). As for the details of F1 history – results, laps charts, etc. – I have them in my collection of ‘Autocourse’ annuals. You can probably find all or most of this nuts-and-bolts info via Google (wikipedia and ‘oldracingcars.com’).

SHADOW: The Magnificent Machines of a Man of Mystery
by Pete Lyons

ISBN 978-910505-49-6

CDN Price: $115
464 pages
600 photos, many in colour

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