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  Parnelli VPJ4 Cosworth
 

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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1974 - 1975
Numbers built:3
Designed by:Maurice Phillippe for Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 21, 2014
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIn 1969 former racer Parnelli Jones partnered with Velco Miletich to create Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing. During the first years the team fielded a Colt, effectively a modified Lola T150, for Al Unser, scoring back to back Indy 500 victories in 1970 and 1971. When the ageing Colt was due for replacement, Parnelli recruited several ex-Lotus engineers including Maurice Phillippe, who had designed the World Championship winning Lotus 72. After three USAC (Indy) cars, Phillippe set about creating Parnelli's first Formula 1 car.

Known as the VPJ4, it was effectively a development of Phillippe's Lotus 72 design. The first American Formula 1 car in quite some years was built around an aluminium monocoque, which used the readily available Ford Cosworth DFV engine as a fully stressed member. The front-end featured torsion bar suspension, while at the rear the brakes were mounted in-board. One of the Lotus 72's most characteristic features, the hip-mounted radiators were also carried over. Thanks to the low and sharp nose, and the modest air-intake the VPJ4 was an elegant machine.

The first example was ready late during the 1974 season, enabling the team to compete in the 'home' races in Canada and the United States. As in the USAC events, Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing driver was Mario Andretti and the effort was sponsored by Viceroy cigarettes and Firestone Tyres, who had been involved with the team since its inception. Andretti finished a promising 7th at the car's debut in Canada and was due to start from third on the grid in the United States. Engine issues prevented him from taking the start and while the problem was soon after solved, he was disqualified for receiving help outside the pit lane.

Longtime partner Firestone's withdrawal from motorsport at the end of 1974 left Parnelli and Miletich with a significant gap in the budget for 1975. Despite the encouraging start to the team's F1 adventure, no other title sponsor was found. The team, once again with Andretti as the sole driver, nevertheless persevered but struggled to live up to the expectations. Development was limited, although towards the end of the year the torsion bars in the front suspension were replaced by coil springs and a taller air box was used. Andretti finished in the points just twice; fourth in Sweden and fifth in France. He also placed third in the International Trophy at Silverstone.

Over the next winter, the car evolved into the VPJ4B, which boasted a sleeker body. Sitting out the opening round, Andretti finished sixth in Brazil but retired from the United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach. This was the final appearance of the Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing Team in Formula 1 as the funds had finally dried up. With just six points scored in a season and a half of racing, the program was a disappointment and typical of American teams' difficulties to get a grasp on Formula 1.

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  Article Image gallery (29) 001 Specifications