Jack Nethercutt's Mirage

Irwindale Speedway Director of Communications Doug Stokes sent this website some photos from his private collection.

Here's one of my favorite cars of all time.  It's the "Mirage" built by Jack Nethercutt in the mid 1960s.  Making this photo even more interesting is the driver:  Ken Miles.

This must be a test run as Richie Ginther drove the car for Nethercutt in pro events.

Unfortunately, this beautifully sculpted piece of automotive art was obsolete the day it was created.  By 1964 aerodynamic aids (spoilers, etc.) slammed the Chaparrals & McLarens of the day to the pavement with massive downforce.  This permitted (and required!) the use of giant V8 engines with huge horsepower.  Laptimes dropped vertiginously as applied science replaced inspiration & craftsmanship in racecar design.

The Nethercutt Mirage was just a little late; two years earlier it would have been a world beater.  At least its beautiful form wasn't hacked up for enormous wheels & tires and fur- ther violated by the tacked-on fender flares & big spoilers common to other cars of the era.

Peter Brock, of Cobra Daytona fame, contributed his memories of Jack Nethercutt & the "Mirage".

"The car was a project initiated by Jack Nethercutt Jr.  ( He was the older of the two brothers... You may remember his little brother Rob was very fast and won the Formula Ford championship, retired and went into business... Sort of a been there done that and gone!) 

Jack, however, wanted to build the ultimate Can Am car just as the series was coming into its own.  The problem was he had to do it against his father's wishes, so it was slow going financially and the car was completed two years later than it should have been.  When it was designed aero downforce had not yet become an important factor in racing.  The Mirage was the last of the "low drag" style cars and altho' it was fairly quick on the straights it wasn't close to the more modern cars in the corners by the time it was completed.  Its whole concept was light weight.  It was in fact one of the very first cars to use a monocoque chassis!  Even the wheels were monocoque! It had a lightweight Olds V8 engine, which might have been trick had the car been completed on time, but everything was obsolete by the time it was finished. It was a "pretty" car but way out of date by the time Jack finished it. 

Bill Fowler (ex Dan Gurney crew chief) did most of the work on the car so 
it was constructed to a very high level of finish.  I never saw Ken Miles drive the car, as Jack wanted to drive it when it was first completed, but later he let other people drive it when he realized it was never going to be a winner. 

Later when Jack tried to take over his dad's company the family split up and JN Sr. ordered the car destroyed.  It was supposedly cut up but rumor has it that it may have "escaped"!  No one will ever know until JN Sr. is dead!  If so it just might reappear as a vintage racer... Who knows?"

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