Die-cast: Automodello’s 1981 AAR Gurney Eagles
Automodello’s Gurney Eagles are beauties …
Dan Gurney stopped racing at the enf 1970, but his influence on open-wheel racing continued for decades afterward. Yet the 1970s and early 1980s were the zenith for his All-American Racers (AAR) Eagles.
Gurney’s Santa Ana, Calif.-based shop turned out highly competitive Eagle chassis for the Indy Car series. Eagles were consistent winners. Even the ultra-successful Team Penske used them for a while as they were outperforming Penske’s own chassis.
Yet in 1981 AAR went a whole new route with its design, making virtually everything behind the driver’s cockpit into a wing that created terrific downforce to increase cornering speeds.
Now, Automodello joins Replicarz in creating high-quality 1/43 scale resin historic Indy racers with its model of the AAR 1981 Eagle that sat on the front row for the Indy 500 and won a race in Milwaukee. It also makes a second Eagle that was entered in the 1981 race.
The radical Eagle design with its broad, flat rear side pods and extension behind the rear wheels, plus a small wing atop what was essentially a lower wing, caught everyone at the 500 by surprise. Mike Mosley, a speedy Indy veteran with tough luck, was the driver of Gurney’s famous No. 48.
In addition to its design, including two large air scoops hanging off the engine cover to feed air to its fragile Chevrolet V8, the Eagle was painted a bright yellow and white and labeled the Pepsi Challenger.
AAR’s Eagle used what its designers called BLAT, “Boundary Layer Adhesion Technology,” that helped it adhere to the track and boost its speed. BLAT created twin vortices under the rear-end to create monster downforce.
Mosley narrowly missed sitting on the Indy 500 pole, but started second with a speed of 197.141. Sadly, the car’s pushrod stock block Chevy V8 conked out on lap 17 and Mosley finished 33rd. Redemption came the following weekend in Milwaukee, where problems had left Mosley as the last starter via a promotor’s option. Mosley climbed through the field and won the race by more than a lap. However, it was this Eagle’s sole win before the car’s design, like turbines before it, was outlawed by USAC, then the sport’s governing body.
Automodello creates both Mosley’s No. 48 Indy 500 car and the same car as driven later in the year to a pole position start at Riverside Raceway by Geoff Brabham. Both are bright yellow and white Pepsi Challenger models.
Automodello also offers the similar No. 49 Eagle driven by Chip Mead at the 1981 Indy 500, where it failed to make the race, ironic considering Mosley’s car was second fastest. The Mead car is equally stunning visually, in two-tone blue with white nose and a White Castle (hamburger chain) logo on its engine cover and UPS markings on its cockpit’s side.
Both cars offer sleek profiles with crisp molding of their bodies, including the thin front wings, small rear wing, body panels and lower skirts to direct air into the black mesh radiator vents. The racers have fins just in front of the rear tires, and the No. 48 includes air scoops to feed the V8, while the No. 49 is scoopless.
There are metal gas tank filler plates, a thin black roll bar behind the cockpit, a black racing seat and 3-spoke race steering wheel inside along with three visible gauges beyond the wheel. Seatbelts appear to be thin decals on the seats.
Both are Tribute Editions with 150 of the Mead car and 148 of the Pepsi Challenger being made. Another 192 of the Pepsi Challenger as Mosley drove it to the Milwaukee win are being made and include hand-signed Dan Gurney autographs. These cost a bit more at $194.95.
Vital Stats: 1981 AAR Gurney Eagles
Stock No.: 43A012 (Pepsi) / 43A011 (White Castle)