31 October 2007
1981 March 81C Indy Car
- Chassis no. 001
Sold for £27,500
Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000
Engine No. DFX 143
From the Brazilian Collector Mr. Abraham Kogan
Up to 840bhp, 2,650cc, Cosworth DFX engine, Bendix fuel injection, Weismann transmission, inboard coil springs, top rocker arms and lower wishbone front and rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes.
Wheelbase: 106in. (2,692mm).
In 1969 March Engineering was established to provide racing car chassis for customers competing in many different racing categories. The four co-founders were Max Moseley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker, and Robin Herd.
The company grew rapidly, entering Formula 1 in 1970, with Jackie Stewart taking two victories. March cars also appeared in Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula Ford, and Can Am.
By 1980 Robin Herd was the only founder of March still with the company, and he decided to expand into the American market with an IndyCar and an IMSA GTP car. McLaren’s Gordon Coppuck initially headed the IndyCar project before newly recruited Adrian Newey took over.
In their debut season, 1981, March IndyCars won two races, including A. J. Foyt’s victory at Pocono, which came just under a month after their very first race. In 1982 they won five times and seven times in 1983. Five consecutive Indianapolis 500 wins came in 1983–7 and the company won the CART title with Al Unser in 1985 and Bobby Rahal in 1986.
The March 81C presented here is the first of the nine cars built. It was invoiced to Don Whittington of Florida on 8 April 1981 for $80,000 plus $38,200 for the Cosworth DFX engine. Chassis numbers 003 and 004 went to his brothers Bill and Dale.
Bill Whittington finished 21st at Indianapolis in this car in 1981 and Don finished 6th the following year in s/n 001, qualifying at 200.725 mph. Such was the success of March’s debut season that in 1982 some 17 March cars were entered in the Championship.
Don and Bill Whittington had won Le Mans and the World Endurance title in 1979, co-owned the Blue Thunder Racing Team, and owned the Road Atlanta circuit. By 1986 Bill was in a Federal penitentiary for drug smuggling. Don followed him in 1987 on money laundering charges. It emerged that a number of drivers were funding their racing by smuggling marijuana into the US from Columbia.
March 81C-001 was seized by Federal Marshals and sold to Peter Schomer in May 1991. Not long afterwards, Abba Kogan acquired the car from Schomer, adding it to his growing collection – where it has remained ever since.
The car has been up-rated to 1983 specification and comes with Historic Indy Race Group papers; it is also CART and USAC registered. The car has a comprehensive history file from the Whittington brothers including ownership history, specification details, and a copy of customs C&E 388 form.
This important March IndyCar is in need of a re-build, and although it has not been run for several years it is described as being complete, with the engine turning freely and showing good oil pressure.
The March 81C proved to be the foundation of March’s success in IndyCar racing and the financial saviour of the whole company. The example offered here, s/n 001, is the very first of that distinguished line.