Dan Gurney died last month. I never met him. What I knew of him was from interviews, articles in various publications and images on TV.

I subscribed to Autoweek when it was a weekly automotive newspaper. I remember reading about Ford’s great win with Gurney and A.J. Foyt at Le Mans in the GT40 in 1967. Even though I never met Dan Gurney, I felt I knew him.

Illustration: Dave Story

Gurney remains the only American to win a Formula 1 race driving a car of his own construction. Not only did Gurney build his own car, but also the engine that powered it.

Porsche owes its only success as a manufacturer in F1 to Dan Gurney. Driving an eight-cylinder Porsche 804, he and Porsche won the 1962 French Grand Prix in Rouen.

The race started with Graham Hill as the man to beat, followed by John Surtees, Jim Clark, Bruce McLaren and Jack Brabham. In sixth place was Gurney in the Porsche.

As the race continued, Brabham dropped out on lap nine with a broken suspension, and then McLaren lost fourth gear and spun off the track.

Surtees was sidelined four laps later with ignition problems. On lap 13, Clark pulled off with a broken front suspension. It looked like Hill in his BRM had the win all locked up.

But on lap 42, he was stopped with fuel injection problems. Suddenly, Gurney found himself in the lead. He made no mistakes, the Porsche ran strong, and Zuffenhausen gained its only Grand Prix victory with its own car.

At his death, it had been nearly 50 years since Gurney had driven in a major ace, but he remained one of the glamour names in American racing. He is part of a group of greats that includes A J Foyt, Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones and Richard Petty.

All were drivers who transcended the Golden Age of auto racing. Mario Andretti summed it all up when hearing of Gurney’s passing, “He was the epitome of his class.”

Illustration: Dave Story