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Chevron: a Lancastrian company
Chevron was notable for its proud Lancastrian nature - unlike the rest of the British racing car industry which tended to be based in an arc running from South West London (the old Brooklands circuit and Heathrow Airport round to Silverstone, Chevron remained based in a mill in Bolton, and many of its most celebrated drivers including Brian Redman and Jim Crawford were also Lancastrians. Many of Chevron's notable customers were also from the North of England including John Bridges (the "B" in the Chevron type numbers marks not Bennett's name but Bridges' financial contribution to the company), Digby Martland, and John Lepp.
Derek Bennett was born in 1933 in Manchester; he was brought up in Prestwich. He was a largely self-taught, intuitive engineer and a talented amateur racing driver.
In his early years Bennett took a keen interest in model aircraft, in which field he excelled. He took an apprenticeship in mechanical and electrical engineering before becoming a mechanic, but he soon fell in with motor racing scene in the North of England, initially in local stock-car racing events.
Bennett soon graduated to building, maintaining and also driving racing cars for himself and other local enthusiasts, and established himself as a competitive driver at club level, particularly in the Bennett Special, running in a series for 1172cc Ford powered cars; he later moved into the Clubmans category. Bennett also built a one-off Formula Junior car which was only a modest success - rear-engined competition from Lotus and Cooper was more than a match for this and the era of the special-builder in FJ was over.
By 1965 there were sufficient requests for replicas of his Clubmans car that establishing himself as a constructor seemed feasible. Aided by a small staff of like-minded enthusiasts (particularly Derek's friend and assistant Paul Owens) for a decade and a half Chevron produced successful, beautiful racing cars.
Derek Bennett never proceeded beyond Formula 3 in his own driving but remained quick enough to test and develop many of his cars, especially at the nearby Oulton Park and Aintree.
Bennett was working on a Formula 1 Chevron when killed in a hang-gliding accident in 1978.
Chevron was particularly noted for its small-capacity sports cars and its Formula Two, Formula Three and Formula 5000 single seaters. Although a Chevron F5000 did beat a representative Formula One field once in a race open to both categories (Peter Gethin at the Race of Champions in 1973), the marque never seriously addressed F1; one F1 car was built but not finished in Bennett's lifetime and when complete was run only in the national-level Aurora F1 championship in Britain.
Although the first Chevrons were developments of Derek Bennett's Clubmans special (Clubmans was a British national formula for front-engined open-top sports cars with Ford engines) the firm's customers soon started looking to more ambitious racing, and a line of Gran Turismo cars was soon established with the B3 (early type numbers were applied retrospectively when the cars were homologated for Group 4/5 racing) which developed into a line of successful BMW and Ford-powered cars capable of competing internationally in the two-litre sports car class. The replacement for these cars was the beautiful B16, but driver Brian Redman pointed out that with heavy coupé bodywork it would be beaten on most circuits by lighter open-topped 'spyders' from marques like Abarth. The B16 Spyder was introduced, with a body inspired by Porsche 908 Spyder (which Redman also drove!) and this started a long line of successful two-litre sports racers (B19, B21, B23, B26, B31...).
Chevron was active in single seater formulae during this period, concentrating mostly upon Formula Two and Formula Atlantic (aka SCCA Formula B) with minor variants of the same basic design, and with occasional forays into Formula Three.
The heyday of the marque ran through to the late 1970s and ended with Derek Bennett's death after a hang-gliding accident in 1978; Chevron continued in its original form owned by Derek's sisters for a couple of years with Tony Southgate as 'consultant designer' then passed into other hands - some new cars were manufactured. Several key Chevron employees also worked on the short-lived Maurer Formula Two cars.
Chevrons in historic racing
Chevrons are popular cars in historic racing and various businesses still refettle and supply spares for the cars. A roadgoing replica of the B2 Clubmans car has just been launched.
r cars==The Cars== The following models of Chevron were built. Known not to be complete - someone else please add post-Bennett cars that are missing!.
|B3-Ford||GT||1966||B3-B6, B8 and B12 all basically similar|
|B12-Repco||GT||1968||Lengthened B8 for John Woolf's Le Mans entry|
|B16 Spyder||G6||1969||Effectively the prototype for B19 - Porsche 908-like spyder body on B16 chassis|
|B19||G6||1971||Progenitor of the B19/B21/B23/B26/B31 line of open sports cars.|
|B24||F5000||1972||Beat mixed F1/F5000 field in Peter Gethin's hands.|
|B30||F5000||1975||3.5l Cosworth V6, not 5.0l Ford V8. F5000 champion with David Purley.|
|B32||Special||1975||One-off hillclimb special (owing much to F5000 practice) for John Cussins with 5.7 Chevy. Ran in match race against a motorbike on part of the Isle of Man TT course.|
|B37||F5000||1976||Only one ever B37 built chassis number B37-001. built for Peter Gethin and run by the VDS team and equipped with a Chev V8 5 litre engine. car was sold to Australian Bruce Allison and competed in the tasman series. was sold again in 1980 to the Briliant engineer Australian Ivan Tighe. Ivan competed in numerous circuit races including the 1980 Australian Grand Prix in "the 5000". the "5000" slowly retired from circuit racing to become a hillclimb car culmanating in an outright win in the 1985 Australian Hillclimb championship for Ivan Tighe (at the tender age of 55, another win came shortly after his 60th birthday in 1990) the car was retired until 1995 when Ivan's son Dean restored the car and continued to hillclimb the vehicle as well as do demonstrations at historic event. Dean's best result was equal second outright at the 1997 australian hillclimb championship in the rain on slick tires. the vehicle was sold back to the uk in 2000.|
|B39||Atlantic||1977||Very similar to B35!|
|B41||F1||1978||Essentially hand-built by Bennett himself and unfinished at the time of his death. Effectively obsolete before it turned a wheel as it was not a ground effect car. Raced as a 'scholarship car' by Graham Eden racing with Durex sponsorship in the Aurora AFX F1 series in Britain, with different young drivers trying the car.|
|B48||F2||1979||Tony Southgate became 'consultant designer' and updated the existing cars with ground-effects for 1979.|
|B52||Sports 2000||1980||First raced August 1980. Continued in low-level production when Robin Smith owned Chevron.|
|B53||F3 (planned, not built)||1980|
|B53||Atlantic||1981||Built when Robin Smith owned Chevron.|
|B54||S2000||1981 or 1982|
|B56||Atlantic||1982||Raced in 1982 UK Atlantic series. Built when Robin Smith owned Chevron.|
|B60||Thundersports||1982||Built for the British Thundersports category and ran with a 2-litre engine and B36 bodywork. Built when Robin Smith owned Chevron.|
|B61||Thundersports||1983||May have been used as a Sports 2000 as well. May have been the only car current when Smith sold Chevron to Roger Andreason.|
|B62||Group C2||1985||Built when Roger Andreason owned Chevron. 1 built.|
|B65||Group C2||1986||Built by Race Cars UK for Chevron Race Cars USA. 1 built.|
The reader will note that there are no B11, B22, B33, B44 -- Derek Bennett was involved in an accident at Oulton Park to which the number 11 was variously connected, and as a result of this acquired a superstition about using the number, and its multiples. This superstition extended to the numbering of individual chassis, with no genuine Chevron car numbered in a multiple of 11 - any 'Chevron' chassis with one of these numbers should have its provenance examined with great care!