The AVS Shadow was a lowline prototype built for the 1970 Canadian-American (Can-Am) challenge.
It was unusually low and captured the attention of Road & Track who put it on their cover and called it the "most radical Can-Am yet". Others have called it the ‘go-kart’ or ‘roller-skate’. The car's creator, Don Nichols called it “the two dimensional car."
Don Nichol's started Advanced Vehicle Systems Incorporated with the sole intent of winning the Can-Am. He had designer Trevor Harris design the first car which became known was the Mk1. It used 10x11 inch wheels up front and 12x16 wheels in the rear to achieve a low stance. The idea was to have a severely reduced frontal area to maximize top speed potential.
This setup unfortunately left little room for much more than the engine. For instance, the suspension travel was severely limited, forcing the use of small wishbones and triple mini-springs. The brakes were machined down to an eight inch diameter, and required special active cooling to pull air from the area.
The driving position was cramped and required the driver to straddle the horizontal steering column and use 45º pedals. Just behind the driver was a huge big-block Chevrolet engine (8095 cc) with massive intake plenium that dominated the cabin. There was no room for a clutch so that was relocated within arm's reach and only used for starting.
A special Hewland LG600 gearbox was built that could withstand clutchless shifts and also included a custom gear set to deal with the small tires. It had enough strength to deal with Chevrolet's potent all-aluminum ZL1 engine with over 600 bhp on tap. Many different engines were built-up for the Shadow included the production L88 and each was fitted by Fred Larsen with a custom oil scavenger and pan to reduce engine height.
The chassis was built from box-sectioned aluminum and the body was thin unstressed fibreglass. Many of the box sections of the chassis were removable and modular for ease of repair. Two 90 liter fuel tanks formed part of the chassis on either side of the engine.
Work began on the first car in the middle of 1969, but the final specification wasn't ready until the season opener at Mosport in 1970. Later the car received a massive integrated rear wing that increased the height of the car substantially.
Despite a theoretical top speed of 250 mph, the Mk1 was relative failure on the track, with overheating being a main issue. George Follmer should be well credited for driving such an avant garde and powerful car.
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