Home » This Vintage Can-Am Racer Has The Coolest-Slash-Oddest Pedal Box

This Vintage Can-Am Racer Has The Coolest-Slash-Oddest Pedal Box

Shadow Mark I Pedals Ts
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Whether due to possessing potentially fascinating engineering, or it being just plain weird, it’s not all that often that we happen upon some what in the Sam Hill type of automotive technology. Actually, The Autopian is chock-full of it, in fact it’s a cornerstone of this fine publication.

Still, I thought I’d seen it all in regards to pedal boxes. But I was wrong, oh so wrong.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

USA/UK-based Era Motorsport recently posted this brief clip on Instagram of the strangest pedal box that I’ve ever seen, so I had to learn more. And, share it with you. Let’s discuss not only why it’s designed this way, but also a little more about the historic Shadow Canadian-American Challenge (Can-Am) race car that it’s fitted to.

You see that? The driver’s feet are turned sideways and effectively caged in, unable to do any conventional form of pedal dancing between all three like old Group B rally footage. Not only that, but the brake and gas are on top of each other—I’ve seen some tiny distances between pedals before, but not like this.

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It’s got to feel so weird having your feet turned outward/sideways like that when you’re strapped into a tiny race car. Thing looks like it’s as roomy as an iron lung, so when strapped in you probably don’t need any to brace on anything. But still, what a weird sensation.

But here’s the thing: This pedal configuration isn’t the original design.

Shadowmk1 1
Photo courtesy of Harm Lagaaij

But before we get to that, allow me to give a little background. The Shadow Mark I was like every other open-top race car of the era: Very tiny, severely lacking in safety equipment by today’s standards, and brutally fast. Since it was in Can-Am, it was especially fast, though possessed no shortage of cool and innovative technology.

Can Am Shadows At The 81st Members Meeting. Ph. By Peter Summers.
Goodwood Road And Racing – Peter Summers

Originally integrated into its bodywork were movable flaps that acted as air brakes, centrifugal fans were mounted to its tiny 10-inch wheels to help cool the brakes, and the chassis was incredibly modular and easy to disassemble. Sadly, the movable flaps were outlawed by the rulebook by the time it saw action on track.

Looking through this Shadow’s photo album shows just how wild the engineering—and seating position—general was.

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Its original long prototype design meant the driver was almost laying completely flat behind the wheel. Thus, the need for its tiny, rectangular pedal box sporting two pedals.

81mm Jochenvc B3360
Goodwood Road and Racing

That’s right: Originally, just the gas and brake lived in this space, and the clutch was actuated via a hand lever. Sounds awfully tough to get used to, assuming its Hewland four-speed gearbox didn’t require the clutch for every shift once up to speed.

Over time, some things were changed and the seating position became more upright, but the pedal situation remained the same.

Shadowmk1 2 Comp
Here’s a look at the original pedal setup in a Shadow Mk I and the space situation in general. Photo courtesy of Harm Lagaaij

You can see why either Era, or the shop before it, converted its example’s gas, clutch, and brake setup for modern service in historic racing. Such as the very recent 81st Members Meeting event at Goodwood, which included a number of other Can-Am racers by Shadow, Porsche, McLaren, and more. Besides my newfound fascination with weird pedal boxes, I’m quite excited to see more Can-Am mixed in with Goodwood’s normal top-notch coverage of vintage racing.

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BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
29 days ago

Reminds me of Peter Ustinov’s comedy album “The Grand Prix of Gibraltar” The German racecar design required the driver to have one leg in front of him and one leg behind. Check it out sometime, classic comedy gold.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
1 month ago

Astonishing, indeed. Certainly not for the faint-hearted, the non-limbered, or the claustrophobic, that’s for sure!! The ergonomics are singularly terrible, to say the least. Seems like a supine position is pretty well-suited for racing cars, though. Which leads to the question of whether anyone has ever tried a *prone* position for racing cars.
A brief online search did turn up an article by JT on the Old Site but that website is so atrociously unfriendly to mobile devices that it was all but unreadable, at least on my phone.
There have been attempts at prone positions in human-powered vehicles, with some limited success, such as when Richard Byrne achieved 54.9 mph in 1983 with a linear drive using both arms and legs while in a prone position though he had to use a periscope to see ahead:
https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/img/b/R29vZ2xl/AVvXsEilOPVlaM01K3ARb7QqCC932oOR9l6lxtqwnBqvHkof8STL1UW9GUTF0MOlkQr_-cMjUw34naSEK2zi9-iZxhVn7EGjsR6OfALIJzld14uMcugK00hXkulLyUTJ1fJTegU8YdThSqFfr1Rq/s280/Dragonfly.jpg
And in motorcycle drag racing they do use fairly prone positions, with some being more extreme than most, such as the Jade Warrior in 1985 which had an engine producing between 400 and 500 hp behind a rider laying absolutely prone to achieve speeds of about 200 mph:
https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1244/8468/files/dragjade2.jpg?v=1552986317
However, in most forms of racing other than drag-racing or straight-line speed record attempts one would need the ability to turn one’s head to some degree; a prone position would not be conducive to that but surely somebody’s tried that at least once in car racing??

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago

I have to imagine it would take a VERY special driver who would be willing to have their head be the first thing to hit the wall in a crash.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

No kidding!! Such people can and do achieve some degree of immortality (!!) like Rollie Free attaining 150 mph at the age of 47 on a Vincent motorcycle while clad only in a bathing suit, shoes, and a helmet as seen in what many people call the most famous photograph in motorcycling https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4a/Rollie_Free%2C_record_run.jpg and Burt Munro setting at least one still unbroken Bonneville speed record (two-way average of 184 mph plus an unofficial record top speed of some 205 mph) at the age of 67 (his first Bonneville attempt was at age 62) on this rather alarming-looking machine https://hagerty-media-prod.imgix.net/2023/08/2023-Burt_Munro.jpg?auto=format%2Ccompress&ixlib=php-3.3.0&w=600
The film The World’s Fastest Indian is a highly authentic (& highly recommended!) docudrama from 2005 about Burt Munro (the film is actually surprisingly accurate but it combines incidents from various Bonneville trips into one trip so it’s more…accurate to describe the film as authentic) with Anthony Hopkins playing Munro and this image from the film shows just how alarming the motorcycle is, especially without any protection to the face: https://www.heraldtribune.com/gcdn/authoring/2006/02/03/NSHT/ghows-LK-4b387a18-7c3f-42e5-8135-b338c75a3eb2-b9f06a9f.jpeg?width=399&height=599&fit=crop&format=pjpg&auto=webp
Actually, it’s perhaps not so surprising about the level of accuracy in that film as it was directed by the same director who had made an actual documentary film about Burt Munro in 1971, when he was still alive, titled Burt Munro: Offerings to the God of Speed.

Last edited 1 month ago by Collegiate Autodidact
Hamish48
Hamish48
1 month ago

I followed Can Am for several seasons all over the north-eastern US and Canada. It was a sensory overload. There were virtually no rules. The cars were ridiculously fast and beautiful and the noise was deafening. In those days you could get very close to the track and you could actually feel them going by. I was a McLaren fan, the M8 being my favourite.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago

The Chaparral 2E peddle arrangement is kind of interesting and ingenious in it’s simplicity.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

So many crazy vehicles in Can-Am.

Chaparral has some spectacular vehicles. From the 2C with its adjustable massive wing that was connected direct to the axle, to the 2J with its fan system used to actively create a vacuum under the vehicle (which could have full-downforce even at low speeds).

This one seems rather tame.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

2e not 2c. You have to see the shadow parked next to other CanAm cars to appreciate how insane it is. It’s tiny.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Ah, you’re right. As memorable as their vehicles might be, the names are pretty bland.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
1 month ago

Crazy cars, very fun to watch, almost too much innovation, haha. And of course safety what???

Swing_Axle
Swing_Axle
1 month ago

Is… is that a leg/foot position that people can normally do?

I just tried, and I don’t think that’s happening for me unless I dislocated my knees, ankles, or both.

Comet_65cali
Comet_65cali
1 month ago
Reply to  Swing_Axle

I would say some-people can normally do.

I’m duck-footed (naturally toed-out) thanks to family genes. My toe direction is about 30-degrees apart from each other. I heel-toe how old school race-cars used to do: Heel on the brake, toes for the throttle.

Besides learning the how to operate that pedals, yeah I wouldn’t have any problems..

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
1 month ago
Reply to  Swing_Axle

I can do it, but it depends on the angles of my knees and hips.

Comet_65cali
Comet_65cali
1 month ago

I would also say, depending on gravity, its harsher standing up on your weight, leaning semi-reclined state would make the task way easier.

CSRoad
CSRoad
1 month ago

Can-Am cars were crazy, I used to go to Mosport and watch the madness.
BITD Can-Am racing was well covered by most automotive publications and you could get a hint of the scale of things. There were some rules, but not many.
I think one of the best pieces of writing that gets the spirit and rawness of the cars was “The Danville Incident” by Charles Fox for the old Car and Social Commentary magazine, in and around Christmas 1969, I think.

Hamish48
Hamish48
1 month ago
Reply to  CSRoad

best spot at Mosport: inside of entry to corner 2 just before the marshal stand. 2nd choice: Moss Corner. I loved the Bruce and Denny Show. and what ever happened to George Eaton?

CSRoad
CSRoad
1 month ago
Reply to  Hamish48

George Eaton? Like many other Group 7 privateers he went to Formula A I think he quit to look after the family business. He had almost enough talent to be great and shed the spoiled kid aura, but then came to his senses.
Too bad about the department store.

Speaking of the “Canadian” privateers, I was always impressed by John Cannon.

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago
Reply to  CSRoad

“The Danville Incident” sounded interesting and I managed to find a copy: https://www.virhistory.com/vir/69-jun/lola-art.html

CSRoad
CSRoad
1 month ago
Reply to  Phuzz

Thanks for finding it!
All ready for me to read again, my paper copy is long gone.
I hope you liked it.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago
Reply to  Phuzz

I remember that issue of Car and driver, it was laid out like a road test.

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
1 month ago

“ and the clutch was actuated via a hand lever”

… like every sprint car and midget?

CSRoad
CSRoad
1 month ago
Reply to  NosrednaNod

And most motorcycles.
It is surprising how adaptable humans are once they get the memory playing along.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

Saw the 1971 Canam race in Edmonton. Denny Hume won in a McLaren M8D, a Shadow came in 3rd. Nagged my father for a year to see that race. The Canam series was incredible imo. I’ve seen a few F1 races in Montreal and they didn’t quite compare.

Hamish48
Hamish48
1 month ago
Reply to  James Carson

I agree. Mosport was my favourite track for Can Am. It was also in its time an F1 track for the Canadian Grand Prix and the spectacle was nowhere near the same.

Last edited 1 month ago by Hamish48
James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago
Reply to  Hamish48

Never had a chance to see any races at Mosport. Caught a Nascar race at Tremblant years ago. Was interesting to see stock cars running on a road course.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
1 month ago

I had never realized how small these Can-Am cars were. V8 go-karts.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

800 hp go carts

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago
Reply to  James Carson

I’ve seen this car a few times, if most CanAm cars are big block go karts , the AVS Shadow was a somewhere between a big block skateboard and a big block creeper dolly. The suspension used springs about the size of valve springs as I recall. The first version with the horizontal fuel injection system instead of the velocity stacks and before they started adding wings was really amazing looking.

Whose idea was it to paint it red? The original black livery is beautiful.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Oh, I see these are in period photos before the black paint.

I had this pinned above my desk when I was a kid
http://shadowmk1.weebly.com/uploads/4/0/0/6/40067559/1416676854.png

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

IIRC the shadow at edmonton was a mk2 and was painted white. Too lazy to hunt down the photos.

Hamish48
Hamish48
1 month ago
Reply to  James Carson

I watched them many times. They were actually violent on the track, especially on acceleration. My favourite ever racing series.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago
Reply to  Hamish48

Only saw them live once. They were the maddest race cars ever imo. Used to watch them on tv whenever I got a chance. We lived too far to get to see them regularly.

Angular Banjoes
Angular Banjoes
1 month ago

Just about a week ago, I fell down a Shadow rabbit hole on YouTube. I was aware of Shadow, but never really knew that much about the cars. There’s an interview with the designer of the MK1 that was really cool to see. He actually talked about why they had a weird pedal setup and hand clutch – basically the whole idea was to reduce the frontal area as much as possible.

https://youtu.be/me2i4xAdJso?si=IinydpRLbCVoQrBu

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
1 month ago

Both of the MK1s were at a show in the Detroit area last year. They’re both insane cars and you really need to see them in person to appreciate how small they are. I would have loved to have been able to go to Member’s Meeting this year to see them on track.

The history of Shadow Racing and its founder, Don Nichols is a fascinating one, I’d recommend going down that rabbit hole. There’s a lot of truth to the old saying that Shadow was a team that was ran by a spy.

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