THE CHEVRON CAR COMPANY was started in 1965 by Derek Bennett, a racing driver who had already spent many years building various types of racing car. He began in 1961 on the English speedway tracks, building midget racing cars for the oval speed ways, but then turned to pure track racing by building specials for the 750 and 1172 formulae.
These formulae required the utmost ingenuity from constructors as only the old Austin 7
and side-valve Ford engines were eligible, so that power outputs were fairly similar and the fastest car usually had the best chassis design. Bennett was quite successful in this sphere of club racing, but he decided to move up the ladder to the Clubman's Formula, after a short spell with a Formula Junior car.
The Clubman's Formula allowed a good deal more latitude, both in chassis design and engine tuning, and Bennett's first car, called a Chevron, was immediately successful. Other competitors were soon coming to Bennett, asking him to build replicas. A number were built, most of which were raced very successfully. By 1966, the Special Grand Touring category was becoming a popular class in British club racing, being dominated at the time by the Ginetta G12 and Lotus 47.
The B6, Powered By Lotus
Derek Bennett decided to enter this category of racing and developed the B6. By now, he was a full- time manufacturer in Bolton, Lancashire, England. The new B6 featured a steel tube space-frame chassis with aluminium panelling to provide stiffening. Double-wishbone independent suspension and disc brakes were fittted on all four wheels. Power was provided by the 1600 cc Lotus-Ford twin-cam engine, this unit being mated to a Hewland five-speed gearbox.
In the hands of Digby Martland, John Lepp and Bennett himself, the car found almost immediate success, winning races against much stronger opposition. The big breakthrough into international racing came in 1967, when it was decided to move up to the 2-litre class, using a BMW engine. On the surface, this looked to be a risky move, as the BMW engine was an ordinary road-car unit with only one single over-head camshaft, but Bennett concluded an agreement with the BMW factory in Munich to utilize factory tuning parts. The engine produced around 180 bhp initially but, by 1968, it was developing around 200 bhp.
The B8, Powered By BMW
This car, the B8, swept the board in British club racing and put many larger-engined cars to shame. Orders began to arrive in Bolton from all over the world and the FIA homologated the B8 into Group 4, allowing the car to compete in international GT races. With drivers of the calibre of Digby Martland, John Burton and Brian Redman at the wheel, the car was successful in Europe as well as Britain. Although the car was not able to beat the much more expensive Porsches in the 2-litre class, it often featured high up in results. A notable victory was scored by Brian Redman in the Nurburgring
500 km race in 1969.
In fact, this victory was achieved on the debut of a new model, the B16, which was essentially a lighter, lower version of the B8, with a much more aerodynamically efficient body shape. Power was provided by the Cosworth- Ford FVA, 1600 cc engine which gave about 230 bhp at 8500 rpm.
Peter Gethin in a Chevron B24 Formula 5000 at Brands Hatch Race of Champions 1973. Gethin went on to win the race, defeating all the more highly fancied Formula One cars.
Chevron B25 Formula 2, shown here being driven by Gerry Birrell. After a great performance at Thruxton in early 1973, Chevrons suffered a severe blow when Birrell was killed at Rouen. Team mate Peter Gethin took up the challenge, but wothout much luck as the cars were plagued by engine trouble all season.
Chevron B8 at the 1969 Targa Florio.
The car was not very successful in the South African Springbok series later that year, but all the troubles were ironed out for 1970. With the 2-Iitre FVC version of the engine, Chevron won the newly instituted European 2-litre Sports Car Championship, with victories at Paul Ricard, Hameenlinna, Nurburgring
The B16, Powered By Lotus, BMW and Mazda
Drivers who contributed to the win were Brian Redman, John Burton and Vic Elford
. Other engines fitted into B16s included the Lotus-Ford twin-cam, the BMW 2-litre and even a Japanese Mazda Wankel engine. Redmari's victory at Spa
was achieved in another new model, the B19, which was essentially an open two-seater version of the coupe B16.
This proved to be Chevron's most successful car, winning numerous races in Europe and other countries, especially South Africa where Redman and Richard Attwood won the Springbok Championship with six wins. The B19 continued winning right up to 1973, although the rival Lola T220 had become more competitive and was taking its share of victories.
Although much success had been gained in two- seater racing, Derek Bennett did not neglect single-seaters: in 1967, he produced his first Chevron open wheeler, the B7. This was not very successful; nor were the other models which followed, until the B 15 was introduced in 1969.
The B7 Open Wheeler
This was raced by such known drivers as Reine Wisell, Howden Ganley, Cyd Williams and Alan Rollinson, and a number of wins were gained. Chevron also built a Formula Two car, but, as in Formula Three, they suffered from the fact that they lacked the resources to run a factory team.
The B24, Powered by Chevrolet
A move into Formula One had been rumoured for some time but, in 1972, Chevron decided to take part in Formula 5000 with a new monocoque car, the B24, powered by the ubiquitous Chevrolet V8 engine. This car proved to be very fast and, in the hands of Peter Gethin, Brian Redman, Keith Holland and Steve Thompson, it notched up several wins.
For 1973, the car was further improved and Chevrons notched up no less than seven major wins in international F5000 races, the most notable being Peter Gethin's win at the Race of Champions meeting at Brands Hatch, when not only did he beat the other F5000 challengers, but he also trounced a high-class Formula One field. Belgian driver Teddy Pilette clinched the European F5000 Drivers' Championship in a Chevron B24 owned by the Belgian Team VDS.
The B30, Powered by Ford
The marque finished fifth in the 1974 World Championship for sports cars thanks to high placings by privateers John Lepp, John Hine and lan Grobb. In Formula 2 the B27 worked well on fast circuits, whilst the Formula 5000 B28 was a better slow-circuit car.
Development of these chassis continued in 1975, the. factory relying on sales of customer cars, but the most notable success was David Purley's European Formula 5000 Championship victory in the 3.4-litre Ford V6 engined B30. In Formula Atlantic Jim Crawford used the B29 to take second place in the Championship. 1976 was a good year for Chevrons, 56 cars were built, many-being B36 sports cars for Italy and the USA.
Italian Ricardo Patrese won the European Formula 3 Championship in the new B34, and in Formula 2 Austrian Hans Binder showed promise in the works B3S in European Championship rounds. For 1977 three new models were introduced: the B38 for Formula 3, the B39 for Atlantic and the B40 for Formula 2.
Showing so much promise, it all 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, including designer Paul Brown and chief mechanic Paul Owens, also worked on the short-lived Maurer Formula Two cars, and later at Reynard Racing Cars.