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Duane Feuerhelm
Datsun Racing Team

Before BRE swept up on the West Coast, Nissan USA
backed Duane Feuerhelm's
Datsun Racing Team

(Above image - Duane Feuerhelm, Granada Hills, 1968)

Duane Feuerhelm was the owner of Auto Works, a Saab and Triumph dealership in Granada Hills, California. Indeed as a Triumph deaer Duane took delivery of the very first Triumph Spitfire imported to the USA. 
Duane's racing career started with MGs in the early 1960s. He was soon to move to Triumphs, where his greatest achievement included an impressive drive of a factory Triumph 'GT' Spitfire at Sebring in 1965, beating another factory Spitfire, driven by Bob Tullius snd Charles Gates, by just one lap.

Click on the Sebring patch for detail's of Duane's outing at Sebring

Duane was related to Lee Wiley, Nissan's Head of spare parts operations and an early member of Mr Katayama's team. In the mid-1960s, Wiley also took charge of all Nissan's competition activities. Duane soon became a Datsun dealer, which, like many other Datsun dealerships of the time, soon prospered. With his racing background, it was not long before Duane set up a racing team of his own with Lee Wiley's support, and the first factory backed Datsun race team on the West Coast was formed. 

The Datsun Racing Team, as Duane's team came to be known, was also granted the West Coast contract to supply would-be racers with Nissan approved competition parts, alongside Bob Sharp's dealership  on the East Coast. The first Factory-backed parts book was published, which included competition price lists from both dealerships.

Auto Works Parts List Datsun's first Competition Catalog
Click for a sample of the Auto Works Competition Price List                        

An Auto-Works advertisement
Click for a larger image

Duane's racing team had reasonable results in the SCCA's F Production class, including some notable wins. However, their early success with the 1600 was not matched by their showing with the  2000s, despite the factory backing, and expectations were not realised. Dan Parkinson, a 4 time National Champion, was the team's most experienced driver. Others included Lee Herbert, Jon Woodner and Dwayne himself. Even Jim Fitzgerald was seen at the wheel of a Datsun Racing Team 1500 in 1969.

At this time Datsun were keen to assist other Datsun race-drivers. One of Dwayne's roadsters, an early 2000, chassis number SRL-00004 was handed to privateer and Datsun dealer Jack Scoville. Feuerhelm had raced the car at Riverside. It had popped out of 5th gear going down the straight and had blown a hole in the block when he over-revved. Mr Katayama presented Jack with a new engine, and Jack was soon competing against Duane's factory team.

It was not long before Dan Parkinson would move on, still racing Datsun roadsters, now as a privateer, with his father as chief mechanic. Nissan USA maintained its support for Dwayne's team, believing that the roadster would never be made competitive. (Nissan put Bob Sharp's success on the East Coast down to lack of serious competition). Even when the ambitious Peter Brock knocked on Nissan's door, Lee Wiley and his recently appointed assistant, Dick Roberts, another Datsun Roadster campaigner, stood by Duane's Team, and refused Peter and his BRE Team any factory backing. This refusal led to some embarrassment, when Nissan Tokyo agreed to fund Brock with two cars and financial support. Even more embarrassing to Dick Roberts was the success of BRE, which won the Pacific Coast Divisional Championship in 1969 and boasted the two favourites for the National Championship. By contrast, the Datsun Racing Team's showing was worse than a number of the Datsun Roadster privateers, Dan Parkinson included, although it must be remembered that Nissan was extending support to a number of privateers.

When Yutaka Katayama inevitably decided to extend Nissan USA's support to BRE, against Dick Roberts' wishes,  this effectively concluded Nissan's partnership with the Datsun Racing Team. Duane went back to concentrating on his successful dealership, and Jon Woodner carried on racing adn rallying, notably winning the National F Production title at the wheel of an MG Midget in 1972. He also raced a factory Triumph TR8. Much later Jon was to die tragically in an experimental aircraft accident, although he is remembered in car rallying by the annual presentation of the Jon Woodner Cup, awarded in the SCCA PRO Rally series to the fastest 2-wheel drive competitor of the season.  

Looking back, in terms of the numbers of  trophies won, Duane Feuerhelm's Datsun Racing Team may not have been the most successful of competition ventures. However, it is important to remember that the team was one of the first two factory backed outfits in the USA, playing a key role in setting the scene for the string of Datsun/Nissan competition successes which followed.

Rob Beddington



Datsun Racing Team

Datsun Racing Team Gallery

Press photos
Dan Parkinson Dan Parkinson campaigning a Datsun Racing Team 1600
Press photo from 1967
Double win Duane Feuerhelm and Jon Woodner
A rare double win in FP for Duane at Stardust, Las Vegas

Duane takes a win in his 1600
A win in FP for Duane in 1968

Taking delivery of the new Datsun 2000
Nissan's Lee Wiley, Duane Feuerhelm and Dan Parkinson, with one of five 2000 racecars delivered to Nissan USA from Tokyo in 1968.
Duane's Datsun 2000 follows the BRE 2000 of Frank Monise
Frank Monise is seen testing the new BRE Datsun 2000 in late 1968 - Duane's car follows.

Photo Gallery
Jon Woodner at CDR Jon Woodner at Continental Divide Raceway (CDR), June 1968
Jon's C Production Datsun 2000
Front row of the grid, June 1968
Jon and Dan Parkinson on the front row, Bob Hindson behind
Jon Woodner and Dan Parkinson at CDR, June 1968
Jon and Parky battling for CP honors.
Jon Woodner and Dan Parkinson at CDR, June 1968
The following lap, Jon at the limit.
Dick Roberts' 1967 Auto Works Datsun 2000
In Datsun Racing Team livery this car was believed to be one of the few factory 'lightweights'. Dick made the 1968 ARRC in C Production racing this car.

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Information and images on these pages were kindly supplied by Peter Brock, Jim Kellar, Les Cannaday and Dennis Currington

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These pages and images, unless otherwise stated, are copyright ©1999, 2000 and 2001, Rob Beddington & The Classic Fairlady Roadster Register. Do not redistribute in any form without the prior permission of the owners.