By David G. Firestone
9 Days in Summer is a documentary produced by Ford showing the development of the Cosworth DFV and Lotus 49. These two cars would only go on to race in 9 of the 11 races in 1967. Although it is produced by Ford, and isn’t as neutral as documentaries should be, this one is really interesting when compared to the way things are done now in auto racing.
The film shows designer Keith Duckworth silently working on his board, mixed with video of racing cars, and stylized guages. Then the film shows a 1966 meeting of four people, Duckworth, Fred Hayes, Colin Chapman and Harley Copp in Ford’s Design and Engineering Center in Essex, discussing the development of a new race car. After this discussion has proceeded for a while, the film jumps to the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix, where both of Ford’s new cars drivern by Graham Hill and Jim Clark, retire. This provides some of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes I have ever seen, because the film will show footage of racing mixed with random shots of farm animals. The editing is a little schizophrenic.
The scene then sifts back to the DEC, and Ford building the first series of engines. The various issues including size and weight are discussed, and the engines are machined using a series of automated machines, which were revolutionary in 1967 are obsolete in 2017.
The movie cuts to the LeMans Forumla One circuit. The track is described as “a Mickey Mouse track.” Both cars suffer engine problems, and fail to finish. After the race, Ford goes back to the shop, and tries to figure out what the problem is. The size of the engine, a 3L 90 degree V8 is designed to work with the chassis. It’s a new experiment, designing the engine and car specifically for each other. In fact, the engine makes up part of the chassis.
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is the next event, Ford brings both their cars to the event with a lot of confidence. The power of the car is clear, but the reliability is dubious. Despite this, Graham Hill does an interview where he praises the new car design. Afterwards, other aspects of the car design are worked on by the team.
A new engine design is delivered to Lotus, and the engineers proceed to mount the engine to the rest of the chassis. After this is done, Graham Hill wrecks at practice for The Grand Prix of Germany at the Nürburgring. The jumps cause a series of suspension problems, and both Lotus cars retire. Hill spins at the begining of the race, and is at the back of the pack. I also love the total lack of safety gear at the track, no walls, no fences, and sharp cliff drop-offs.
Next is shown footage of Lotus testing the new car setup. This time at Snetterton. Graham Hill is testing, and says that, among other things, “It’s got some poke, not a bad old tool.” This part shows some obviously staged shots of the testing, and the short montage and then cuts to the rainy Canadian Grand Prix. There are a number of double-exposed shots of the cars racing in the rain, and the cars seem like they have got the problems fixed. Rain derails Clark’s race, plauging the electrical system. Hill keeps going, but rain causes him to finish fourth.
Graham Hill is shown relaxing with his family before the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. This bit of fun and merrient seems sad when looking back. Damon Hill, who would go on to have his own racing career is featured in this scene. The two drivers featured, Graham Hill and Jack Clark wouldn’t be around for much longer. Jack Clark would die in 1968 in a plane crash, and Graham Hill would die in 1974 in a racing accident. Once the relaxing is done, the work begins anew at Monza.
At Monza, Clark shows some speed initially, and jumps to the front. Graham Hill looked decent, but yet another engine failure plagues him. Clark blows a tire, makes a lap back, and loses the race in a photo finish. The camera shows the closeness of the finish. It’s a badly-needed boost for the new engine design.
The next scene is Jim Clark examined a rainy and empty Watkins Glen. He kicks a rock, and walks into a car. Suddenly it’s race day. Clark and Hill start at the front, and have a great start to the race. This time however is different, as Clark and Hill finish first and second respectivly.
The final race in the Formula One season is Mexico, which had Clark and Hill battle each other for the lead. It’s obvious that, like the Lotus testing, some shots were clearly staged. Hill breaks a universal joint, and his race and season are over. Jim Clark goes on to win his second race of the season. The film ends with a model of the car on a desk, with some trophies in the background.
Again, it’s more of a promotional film than a documentary, but it did something that wouldn’t be done today, take a viewer into the whole design process of an engine and chassis design. The secrecy that Formula One, and other racing teams is such that often, teams don’t want cameras around their engines. This film takes the veiwer into the engine design process, to a degree that’s uneard of.
The editing is pointless artsy sometimes. Also, the farm animals, the double-exposure, and the obviously staged shots take away from the whole feel of the documentary. Still, it’s worth a watch, if you are a racing fan, but there are a lot of better documentaries out there.