Tony Dean and his little Porsche 908 that Beat the Mighty McLarens

by Harry Kennison

Harry Kennison is a fan with a camera and a gift for telling good stories.  This is another in a series of stories of the sixties and seventies. We hope you enjoy them.

Tony Dean leads

Tony Dean leads a string of big-block Lolas, McLarens and a Ferrari 512 through Hurry Downs during the 1970 Elkhart Lake CanAm.

Back in the late Sixties, the CanAm series was at the zenith of its popularity. With unlimited engine displacement and very few other restrictions, the series attracted the fastest sports cars in the world.

The CanAm cars led by the McLaren's of Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren, were so fast that in 1969 they would have out-qualified the Formula One Cars by more than a second at the U S Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, New York, the same track that hosted the CanAm series that year. Fact is, starting in 1968 through September of 1970, the McLaren team was so dominant that they had won 19 CanAm races in a row.

So who would be the one to break the mighty McLaren's winning streak? It was none other than Englishman, Tony Dean. Dean was attracted to the CanAm series largely because of the prize money it paid. He'd purchased a Porsche 908-2, a former factory world endurance car, from the Porsche factory and hauled it to the CanAm races in a converted English bus. He figured that a quick, reliable car would be the ticket to consistent, top-ten finishes. And, he was right.

Tony Dean's Porsche 908-2

Tony Dean's ex-factory Porsche 908-2 sits on the starting grid at the 1969 Elkhart Lake CanAm.

In 1969 Tony drove his diminutive 3-liter 908 to eight place in the championship, finishing as high as fifth at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. In 1970, Dean's 908, sporting a new fly-yellow paint job with red trim, continued to qualify mid-field and finish in the top ten, with his best finish being a fourth at Mosport, up until his fairy-tale weekend at Road Atlanta.

In that race, the McLarens suffered accidents and were out, the Chaparral lost its suction, Revson's Lola had a flat tire, Eaton's BRM blew up, which left the virtual unknown Porsche driver, Tony Dean, in the lead with just nine laps to go. He crossed the finish line 72 seconds ahead of the second place Lola to win his first and only CanAm and break the McLaren's win streak.

Dean died earlier this year at the age of 75.