Formula Super Vee was a type of open-wheel motor created to act as a platform for the promotion of VW products, playing much the same role in the 1970s as formulae such as Formula Renault play today. The idea for Formula Super Vee is generally attributed to Josef Hopen, who worked as the Special Vehicles Manager for Volkswagen of America. It was Hopen who sold the idea for the new formula to the SCCA, sanctioning body in the USA, who in November 1969 decided to launch a championship for the new car for the following year, despite the fact that no cars existed at that time.
To assist the launch of the new formula Hopen commissioned Gene Beach, an established constructor of Formula Vee cars, to design and build the first Super Vee and put this car on display at the Daytona 24 hour race. Beach was one of the first three constructors of Formula Vees, along with Autodynamics and Formcar. It is therefore appropriate that a Super Vee designed and built by Ray Caldwell’s Autodynamics concern soon joined the Beach Super Vee. This second Super Vee (the Caldwell D-10) was put on display at the New York Auto Show. Other manufacturers soon followed suit, with Formula Vee constructors such as Zink Cars joined by more mainstream firms such as Lola. John Zeitler also built his first cars around the same time as Beach and Caldwell. As a matter of fact, John Zeitler won the very first Super Vee race at Lime Rock Park in 1970. This race was run with the Formula Ford class.
Initially the series allowed 1600cc air-cooled engines of either type 3 (as used in the Beetle) or type 4 (as used in the VW-Porsche 914 sports car), however at a late stage VW had a change of heart and decided that the type 4 engines would be a better option. The type 4 engine is without doubt a better engine. However, this motor was never produced in a 1600cc version so VW decided to produce a "special" 1600cc version through their industrial engines division (the 127V unit), with smaller pistons and barrels, which reduced the capacity to 1600cc.
As with any formula, Formula Super Vee progressed through a number of changes during its life. Initially, for example, the cars ran without wings and used drum brakes at the rear. Later the regulations allowed the use of wings and rear disc brakes. In 1974, 8-inch rear wheels, rear wings, and 34 mm exhaust valves. Since slick tyres had yet to be introduced into racing, the cars ran with treaded tyres initially, but later moved onto slicks.
The original regulations specified a non-Hewlandgearbox and cars ran with fixed ratio VW boxes. In Europe a company called Metso began building Hewland-like boxes which provided the ability to change ratios to suit each circuit and exploited the wording of the regulations, which had simply banned Hewland boxes rather than explicitly specifying the fixed ratio VW box. Once the cars started to use Metso boxes the regulations were changed and Hewland Gearboxes were also allowed. This change, combined with start money being offered by Hewland to drivers using its products, effectively put Metso out of business, although the company did build boxes for other formula cars such as Formula Fords.
Much later, engine regulations were also opened up, allowing water-cooled engines from the VW Golf (or Rabbit as it is known in North America). The water-cooled engines inevitably replaced the air-cooled, which were rendered uncompetitive, and (at least in the UK) many air-cooled cars were converted to accept the water-cooled engine. The SCCA in the USA did allow 1700cc air-cooled engines towards the end of the air-cooled period, to remain competitive while the water-cooled cars joined the grid.
Ultimately the most developed version of Super Vee was to be found in the USA, since they continued with a Super Vee series years after the formula had died away elsewhere. Indeed by the mid-80s Super Vee in the USA had taken over from Formula Atlantic as the feeder formula for Indy cars, often being referred to as the "Mini-Indy" series. In the mid-80s the Ron Tauranac designed Ralt RT5 had a virtual monopoly in the USA series.
The original Formula Super Vee series specifications
Engine: Type 3 1600cc (actually a stroke of 69 mm and a bore of 85.5 mm for a displacement of 1582cc). Dry sump not allowed.
Cooling: air, with external oil coolers and oil filters.
Carburetion: free, however most used Weber 48 IDA or Solex 40P11 dual downdraft. Some use of Weber IDF and DCNF. (Note: two dual down draft carbs allowed, any manufacturer with dual port VW or aftermarket intake manifolds).
Transmission: stock VW from the 1969 Square back/fastback series. However, gear ratios were open and almost immediately Webster and Hewland gear sets were adopted for the VW transaxle.
Ignition: coil and distributor.
Clutch: VW stock, with Hydraulic linkage.
Brakes: Girling hydraulic with VW discs front, VW Drums in the rear.
Wheels: 6" X 13" front and rear. Magnesium allowed.
Tires: 5:00/8:30 X 13 front, Treaded (no slicks) 5:50/9/20 X 13 rear, Treaded (no slicks)
Steering: Rack and Pinion
Suspension: free, front and rear
Shocks: free, front and rear
Sway bars: free, front and rear
Rear uprights: free (and usually proprietary by car manufacturer)
Curb Weight: Dry, without driver, 825 lbs minimum.
Wheelbase: free (most manufacturers were between 88" and 94")
Track, Front/Rear: Up to 92"
Fuel Tank Capacity: Free, but most manufacturers located the tank under and behind the driver but in front of the firewall, which pretty much limited the capacity to 6.0 gallons.
Construction: tubular space frame, flat bottom, no wings or tabs to induce downforce.
Body: any material, but full coverage (including engine compartment) required.