Just a Little History about John Zeitler

 

From the information I can find on Johns racing history, he began auto racing in 1957. He raced Hydroplanes before cars and set records doing it.

Here are some of the tracks and cars he raced.

 

1957 VIR Nationals MGA Car # 53

1958 Watkins Glen ZBF Zeter MK1 Formula Junior Car # 153

1958 Watkins Glen MGA Car # 107

1958 Cumberland Maryland Zeter MK1 Formula Junior Car # 153

1959 VIR ELVA Car # 144

1959 Cumberland MD Nationals Elva Car # 144

1959 Lime Rock Elva Car # 144

1959 Berwick Elva Car # 144

1959 Montgomery Nationals Elva Car # 144

1959 Watkins Glen Elva Car # 144

1960 Marlboro Md Cooper-DKW Formula Junior Car # 142

1960 Watkins Glen Zeter MK2 Formula Junior car #142

1961 Watkins Glen Zeter MK2 Formula Junior Car # 142

1961 Watkins Glen Zeter MK2 Formula Junior car # 143 (driven by team mate Gordon k. Thomas)

1962 Cumberland Md X- Races Zeter MK2 Formula Junior # 142

1962 Cumberland MD Zeter Mk2 # 143 (Driven by Gordon Thomas)

1970 Lime Rock Formula Super Vee car #21

1971 Road Atlanta ARRC Zeitler Formula Super Vee #21

Between 1958 and 1962 John fielded 4 different cars. He ran his favorite MGA, his own designed Zeter MK1, the Elva and his Zeter Mk2. In 1960 John was running his Zeter MK1 in the Berwick Hillclimb in Wilkes-Barre Pa. when he lost control and totaled the car. Within a few months, John had built an brand new car, the Zeter MK2. (see below) It used a DKW 1000cc 3 cylinder 2-cycle engine and a Porche transaxle. The engine was built in Germany and developed 100 hp. Racing had been in John's blood for a long time. In the 1950's he also raced hydroplanes staying mostly in New England!

Johns own Design - Zeter MK1 - Watkins Glen 1960

 

John's Zeter Mk 1

 

This is John Zeitlers original Zeter MK2 Car, now owned by Tim Bishop in the UK. He purchased the car and many boxes of parts and has been restoring it for some time. This is a very RARE Zeitler Car. Power is from a DKW 3 cylinder 2-stroke engine.

 

By 1963, Formula Junior was winding down and the new Formula VEE was becoming popular. John bought an Autodynamics kit and drove it in a few races but wanted to make a lot of changes. John loved changing things to make them better. He took the basic chassis and added a removeable rear bulkhead which made engine and transaxle swaps much easier. He also added extra bracing in the sides and top of the frame making it stiffer and safer. In 1964 he began building his own cars with an all-new fiberglass 7-piece body. He formed Zeitler Racing Design in 1965 and sold complete Formula VEE's and Kit's. The kits could be purchased as basic or deluxe with more parts included and also more already installed. ZRD or Zeitler Racing Design, sold about 40 Formula VEE's between 1965 and 1970.

In 1970 at Virginia International Raceway, there were 5 Zeitler Formula Vee's running. They were:

Dr. Lee Talbot Car #2 (this is the Zeitler that I own now)

Richard Bowden Car #6

Rick Mandelson Car #13

Sheridan Fahnstock Car #78

Eric Traphagen Car #98

About 10 Zeitler formula Vee's are still racing today in Vintage, autocross and hillclimbs.

John with his wife Ginny and fellow Zeitler racer Dale Detrick

During much of John's formula racing career, he was supported by his family. When John went racing, his wife Ginny and step-daughter Valearie went along too. Valerie kept track of his times and became a big part of his team. Wife Ginny was there to root him on and ran the business side of the company leaving John to concentrate on his cars. He always had Friends and team mates around him as well.

 

This photo was taken right after John won the ARRC Championship in 1970. Left to right: Wife Ginny, Dale Dietrick, Ted Roman, in the back is daughter Valerie and John with a huge smile. It was a very happy day for all.

 

John and Valerie.

 

 

John on right with wife Ginny.

In 1970, John was working with Volkswagon of America to start a new class of VW racecars. The leaders of VW wanted a faster, sleeker formula car to represent the trademark. The new 1600 engine had more horsepower than the original 1200 engine required in the Formula VEE class. John and several other top racers including Beach and Caldwell helped develop the Formula Super VEE. John set out to build his own car within weeks. His design was so good that many others copied it. Johns Zeitler Super Vee, with him at the wheel, would be the first car to win a SCCA Super Vee Race at Lime Rock in 1970. His cars would also come in 1st and second in the 1971 SCCA Nationals with John driving the second car and Tom Davey winning in a Zeitler. It was the same results in 1972 when Tom Davey came in first with John coming in a close second after he had an accident.

John Zeitler Super Vee's

 

In 1974 John stopped racing Super Vee's and dedicated his time to supporting other teams. He also began importing Lotus, Modus and Argo Super Vee's and sold them to other teams. In 1975 John sold the rights to the Zeitler Name to John Grubb and he continued building Zeitlers until 1979. By the late 1970's, John had retired from racing and never looked back. He did not return to the race track until the 30th Anniversary of Formula Super VEE, held at Watkins Glen in June of 2001. John was the guest of honor with a dinner held for him and all of his Super Vee Friends. He was proud to announce " Gentleman... Start Your Engines"

John at the 30th Super Vee Reunion held in his honor on June 2nd, 2001 at Watkins Glen, N.Y.

 

More can be found at the 30th Anniversay Site.

John passed away on July 14, 2005 at his home in Lincoln County North Carolina. Here is a wonderful newspaper article about him in The Lincoln Times.

In June of 2009, I was honored to meet and talk with John's wife, Martha Zeitler at her home in the beautiful foothills in Central North Carolina. During our talk, I found out some things about John that I think should be shared.

John was a good man as well as a race driver. I say that because of the feeling I got from Martha. Even though John has been gone for several years, he is still part of her home and life. She had nothing but good things to say about him and photos and momentos of him were all over her home.

This is one of the last photos taken of John at his home in North Carolina..

Thank You John from all of us who looked up to you and had the Honor of knowing You.