Automobiles of London

31 October 2007

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Lot 269

1981 March 81C Indy Car

  • Chassis no. 001

Sold for £27,500


Estimate: €29,000 - €44,000
Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000

Engine No. DFX 143

From the Brazilian Collector Mr. Abraham Kogan

Specifications:
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.

Addendum

Please note that this car is sold on Bill of Sale Only.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 9... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. He is a life-long automobile enthusiast and ... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Jonathan Sierakowski

jonathan@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more