Piers Courage and Sally Curzon aboard Piers Charles Lucas Racing, F3 Lotus 41 Ford Cosworth, Brands Hatch 8 May 1966…

 Courage had just won the ‘Les Leston Trophy’ from Peter Gethin and Roy Pike in a season which was a breakthrough one for him. Lucas ran the Lotus factory team with Courage racing the 1 litre Cosworth powered Lotus as much in Europe as in the UK.

 He won the prestigious Pau GP in April, another Les Leston round at Mallory Park in late May, the Coupe de Auto Club Normand at Rouen in July, another Les Leston round at Brands in late August and the Coupe de Vitesse at Albi in early September.

The European International Challenge, the ‘F3 Grand Final’ was held at Brands on 2 October, Piers was 2nd to Chris Irwin’s Brabham BT18 Cosworth. Behind Piers was Chris Williams, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Brian Hart, Kurt Ahrens and Jacky Ickx. Jonathon Williams was outside the top 10, he was racing an unfamiliar Brabham BT18 rather than the de Sanctis Cosworth with which he did so much damage that year in Europe- he won a lot of races, enough to impress Enzo Ferrari. The depth in F3 never fails to impress.

The pretty lady is Lady Sarah Curzon, daughter of renowned British racer Earl Howe, she and Piers married in 1966, click here for her interesting story, well known to you Brits, but not necessarily to the rest of us;

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3608233/For-the-love-of-a-dangerous-man.html

 Credits…

 Getty Images- Victor Blackman, f2register

 

(Douglas Walker)

Quintessential Australian racer/engineer Tom Sulman loads his Maserati 4CM after the 2nd ‘Lady Wigram Trophy’, Wigram Airbase, New Zealand 23 February 1952…

 Tom Sulman was born in Sydney on 25 December 1899 and died in a tragic accident at Mount Panorama, Bathurst on 30 March 1970 aboard one of his Lotus 11 Climax’. He was the grand old, gently spoken man of Australian motor racing- a racer to the core, he competed all of his life inclusive of elite levels internationally.

Like most of my articles this one was stimulated by finding some photographs, and as is usually the case, doing so whilst looking for something else!

The shots of Tom and his Maserati 4CM in New Zealand in 1951 were simply too good- so evocative of the period not to do something with. The trouble is that his racing career was so long it’s a huge job to do it justice especially with information not readily available, so treat this as summary of his wonderful life with a bit of focus on the Maser, itself a car with an interesting provenance.

Sulman was the son of UK born and later immensely prominent and influential Sydney architect Sir John Sulman. Tom grew up in a rambling home at Turramurra, on Sydney’s upper North Shore. Unlike his formidable father, whose competitive spirit he undoubtedly had, he commenced a career in automotive engineering, very much an industry of growth at the time. In 1923 he built his first racer, the ‘Sulman Simplex’, a road-going cyclecar, which he raced at Sydney’s Victoria Park that year.

Tom Sulman and Fay Taylor with the Sulman Singer at West Ham, London in 1936

During the 1930’s depression Tom travelled to England looking for work and soon established a motor engineering business. His early motor sport endeavours began in 1931 and involved conversion of a Morgan 3 wheeler to a 4 wheeler! so that he could race ‘a car’ on dirt, which was very popular at the time. Later he built a car with a motor-cycle twin-cylinder engine and a ‘vaguely Salmson chassis’ which he raced at the early Crystal Palace meetings and at Greenford.

In fact Tom was right there at the start of organised car-only dirt track racing on motorcycle speedway lines. Outside the reach of the RAC, the first UK race of this type was held on Good Friday 30 March 1934, at Crystal Palace.

There were three teams of three riders and a reserve with ‘New South Wales Champion’ Tommy Sulman captaining the Wimbledon Park team driving a ‘Bitza Special’! During this period he raced at tracks such as Greenford, Crystal Palace, Hackney, Lea Bridge and Wimbledon. To provide some sense of the scale and level of interest in speedway racing at the time there were over 25 tracks in the London extended area alone. In addition to his motor engineering Tom was a professional driver earning money from his race competition.

He was approached by a Singer agent off the back of his performances and growing reputation to build a similar sprint and hillclimb special to his own car using Singer components. Core mechanicals were a Singer Le Mans engine and G.N. chain transmission. When the car was completed, it became the ‘Sulman Singer Special’ after the Singer agent went ‘bust’ leaving Sulman with the car! It soon became clear after the commencement of dirt track racing that the cut down sportscars predominantly used were unsuited to the tight, deep cindered UK tracks with short straights. Tom built the Sulman Singer as a dual purpose machine, but its very short wheelbase was a function of the development work by trial and error he and other leading racers had done to create a car ideal for the dirt.

Sulman raced it regularly in the UK and once in Holland in 1936. On 4 August 1936 Tom contested the very first Midget World Championships at Hackney, in inner London.

The winner with 7 points from his heats was Cordy Milne of the US- Tom was 6th with 3 points, he was 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd in his three heats. Another Australian, Dicky Case was 2nd with 6 points. An interesting sidebar is that Case, a star motorcycle solo-rider was invited into the competition as a fill-in driver due to a lack competitors- and came close to winning the thing! The program does not disclose the chassis the various competitors used.

Into 1937 the Sulman became obsolete, along with most of the rest of the fields with the advent of the ‘Skirrow Specials’. These revolutionary cars built by Harry Skirrow in Cumbria had chain drive to both front and rear axles harnessing the 80bhp produced by their bespoke 990cc twin-cylinder JAP engines rather effectively. As a consequence, Tom built a 4WD car of his own in an attempt to more effectively compete- he crashed badly at Coventry in August/September 1937 and elected then to end his midget racing career. The Sulman Singer, which had been put to one side, was then pressed back into service, Tom raced it at various hillclimbs.

Bathurst 1950, Hell Corner lap 1. Ron Ward MG TC from Sulman in the  #47 ‘Singer then Ron Edgerton #37 MG TC and Gordon Stewart #46 MG Magna (AussieHomestead)

At the end of World War 2 Sulman returned to Australia by signing on as a flight engineer on an aircraft, his very cost-effective way to take the long, expensive 12000 mile journey home was as a crew member of a Lancaster Bomber converted to carry people rather than a lethal payload. The Sulman Singer followed by ship, the car travelled sans bodywork to avoid import duty being imposed upon it by the Fiscal Fiend- the Australian Taxation Office!

Tom first raced the car in Australia at Nowra on the NSW south coast in June 1947, the combination took a win in the under 1100cc scratch race. As a road racer it competed in contemporary events up to and including the Australian Grand Prix, then a handicap event. He was 5th at Bathurst in 1947 and also contested the 1948 AGP race at Point Cook in Melbourne’s outer west, the little car succumbing to the extreme March summer heat like so many others on that day.

Sulman eventually sold the car when he acquired the Maserati, it raced regularly in various hands in the 1950’s but by the 1960’s was mainly used in historic events. The car was sold to AP North, then later to Monty South and finally Ron Reid on 6 November 1965 to start a long relationship of sympatico between driver and owner.

Moustachioed Ron Reid, red ‘kerchief flapping in the breeze with a big smile upon his face was an icon of Australian Historic Racing in the car which still races, after Ron’s demise in 1999, in the hands of Mal Reid, Rons son. Whenever I see this wonderful machine in the paddock it always brings a smile to my face. Drivers and cars come and go, but the Sulman Singer remains a constant in Australian motor racing and would be a finalist for the ‘longest continuously raced’ car on the planet.

Sulman competed in other cars as well though, including an 1100cc HRG sports car. By the late 1950’s, Tom, who had a workshop in the now very trendy inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, had added to his stable the Maserati 4CM. This ex-Farina/Salvadori car, he bought from Australian resident Englishman David Chambers.

Sulman in the Maserati 4CM at Mt Druitt’s Hairpin, Sydney, date unknown (AussieHomestead)

Chassis # 1521, one of about twelve 1500cc 4CM’s, was first delivered to none other than Giuseppe Farina in August 1934, he won Voiturette races in it at Biella and Masaryk and then Modena and Turin. Gino Rovere, who probably owned the car when raced by Farina, raced it during 1935 and perhaps also Gigi Villoresi as part of Rovere’s ‘Scuderia Subalpina’. It then passed into the hands of several UK drivers including EK Rayson, Charles Mortimer and then formed an important part of the nascent racing career of Roy Salvadori post-war.

David Chambers acquired the car in England in 1949, raced it at Goodwood and then shipped it home and made his Australian debut at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne in 1950. Raced at Easter Bathurst 1950, the 500Kg, 1496cc, Roots-type supercharged, 4 cylinder 130bhp @ 6100 rpm car achieved 122mph through the traps on Conrod Straight in top- 4th gear in its Fiat derived gearbox.

New Zealand Hillclimb Championship 1951, winner in the Maser 4CM. Venue folks? (Walker)

Tom bought the car shortly after this meeting and campaigned it in both Australia and New Zealand over the next few years.

Among his New Zealand successes were the 1951 NZ Hillclimb Championship, on that tour he also contested circuit races- the Ohakea Trophy and Lady Wigram Trophy in March finishing 4th and taking fastest lap, and DNF at Wigram. NZ ‘heavy metal’ of the day included cars such as Les Moore’s Alfa Tipo B, Ronnie Moore’s Alfa 8C, Frank Shuter’s V8 Spl, Jack Tutton’s C Type, Ron Roycroft’s Jag XK120 and like Australia a swag of MG and Ford V8 powered specials as well as the early Coopers starting to appear.

Working on the engine of the Maser 4CM, NZ Hillclimb Championship 1951. Mechanical specifications as per text (Walker)

The Maser was period typical in having a channel section chassis, with rigid axle suspension at both ends and semi-elliptic springs front and rear. Sulman was unhappy with the cars handling so modified it by adding 3.5 inches into the front axle, increasing the front track from 3 foot 11.2 inches to about 4 feet 3.5 inches, widening the spring base and inverting the rear shackles. The rear track remained at 3 feet 11.2 inches. When completed he reported the car as extremely predictable and easier to handle.

During practice at Parramatta Park in January 1952 he nipped a brake coming into Rotunda Corner, spun, hit the kerb and rolled landing back on the Masers wheels. Damage was limited to a bent stub axle and minor body twisting. He repaired the car and returned to the Land of the Long White Cloud that summer of 1952, racing again at Wigram and Ohakea for 2nd off the front row and 4th.

The car was shipped back to Australia in time for the April 1952 AGP at Mount Panorama- finishing 6th in the race won by Doug Whiteford’s Talbot Lago T26C taking the second of his three AGP wins.

Probably his best run in the thoroughbred single-seater was at Gnoo Blas, Orange, NSW in April 1953- his haul five race wins. Less happy was the car ‘chucking a rod’ through the block at Mount Druitt, Sydney in 1954.

Tom Sulman Aston DB3S, Doug Whiteford Maserati 300S and Bill Pitt Jaguar XKD on pole, Victorian Tourist Trophy, Albert Park 17 March 1957. Whiteford won the 100 mile racefrom Pitt, Tom DNF on lap 16 (unattributed)

Tom was invited to become a member of ‘The Kangaroo Stable’ which planned a long distance sportscar racing program in Europe in 1955 with three Aston Martin DB3S customer racers. At that point the Maser was sold, it remained in Australia into the mid-sixties but left the country many years ago, living on in historic racing.

He acquired DB3S ’103’ new from the Aston, Feltham factory, the car was registered in NSW as ‘OXE-473’ and raced it in England-the Goodwood 9 Hours and at Aintree during the British GP meeting sportscar events, Portugal- the Lisbon GP, France, with the best result a 2-3-4 finish for The Kangaroo Stable behind a Ferrari in the Hyeres 12 Hour in the Provence-Cote d’Azur region of France-Tom was third. His co-driver was none other than Jack Brabham, then in his first year of a long and rather successful racing career in Europe. The Kangaroo Stable’s racing plans were to a large extent scuttled by the ’55 Le Mans disaster and the cancellation of many events in Europe as a consequence that year.

Tom returned to Oz, with the Aston his mount for years. Sportscar racing was especially healthy in Australia at the time with a mix of XKC and XKD Jags, Maser 300S, Aston DB3S, Cooper Jaguar, the Ausca Holden Repco, a swag of Austin Healey 100S and various Climax engined Lotus 11 and 15’s thrilling large crowds. The customer Astons were front third of the field cars. When David McKay’s ex-works DB3S car- DB3S/9 arrived it was the class of the field. Other quicks of the time Bill Pitt’s D Type, Frank Gardner’s C and D Types, Doug Whiteford’s ex-works Maserati 300S and the Derek Jolly and Frank Matich Lotus 15 FPF’s when they appeared later in the decade. Tom’s best results aboard ‘103’ were 2nd , 4th and 4th in the South Pacific Sportscar Championship at Longford in 1958, 1959 and 1960. He was 5th in the hotly contested 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy at Longford won by Jolly’s Lotus 15.

Gnoo Blas Orange 1960. Derek Jolly Lotus 15, Frank Matich Jag XKC, David Finch Jag XKD and on row 2 the Aston DB3S’ of Warren Bloomfield and #58 Tom Sulman. Date and results folks? (Aussie Homestead)

Tom took the car to New Zealand for their summer races in 1956 commencing with the NZ GP held at Ardmore, then Wigram, Dunedin, Ryal Bush and Ohakea, his best results in the two month stay were 6th and 7th at Ryal Bush and Ohakea.

At a time the Australian Grand Prix was still a Formula Libre race, with ‘outright’ sportscars regular entrants. Tom the took the Aston on the long trip, 3920 kilometres for you Europeans- you have to be keen!, from Sydney to Western Australia to contest the 1957 race held at Caversham in outer Perth. It was a long way to travel for a DNF, but many cars did not survive another AGP held in scorching hot Australian summer heat. Lex Davison took a famous, and fortunate win in that race co-driven by Bill Patterson. Fortunate in the sense that lap-timing confusion awarded the race to Lex rather than Stan Jones.

In addition to Jack Brabham driving the car, the Aston’s provenance was further enhanced when Stirling Moss took the wheel and gave a journalist the ride of his life during several practice laps at the 1961 Warwick Farm opening meeting.

Sulman, Lotus 11 Climax, Silverdale Hillclimb, NSW (Bruce Wells)

In the early 1960’s he bought a locally built Lynx Ford Formula Junior and in 1961 the first of two Lotus 11 Climax’.

Chassis ‘343’ was an S2 Le Mans spec car powered by several Coventry Climax FWA engines. The Aston was sold to Ron Thorp, it remained in Australia for some years before it too made its way to the UK. In 1963 he bought his other 11, a Climax FPF engined car, chassis ‘305/552’ which had originally been raced by Ron Flockhart and Roy Salvadori in the UK. This period is confusing for historians as it is not clear which car he raced where- and he raced them everywhere! At sprints, hillclimbs and circuit races.

Remember, by 1960, he was 61 and had been racing for the best part of 40 years. Tom’s racing was diverse though, he contested rallies, hillclimbs and sprints as well as circuit racing. His rally/reliability trial experience included the famous, legendary RedeX Round Australia Trials of the 1950’s including the first one in 1953 as a member of the Humber Super Snipe team. He entered touring car races too- as that aspect of the sport grew including the Mount Druitt 24 Hour race and the 1962 Bathurst Six Hour aboard a new-fangled Datsun Bluebird.

Some of the cars he raced such as the ex-Alan Hamilton Ford Cobra powered Porsche 904 were very potent devices, he ran this car circa 1969. He contested the 1966 Surfers Paradise 12 Hour enduro as co-driver to Ron Thorp who by then was racing a booming AC Cobra, very much a crowd favourite, the duo won their class, that event won outright by Jackie Stewart and Andy Buchanan aboard the famous Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM.

Lotus 11 Le Mans Climax FPF 1500, Lakeview Hillclimb, ACT date unknown (AussieHomestead)

In March 1970 Tom loaded the little Lotus 11 ‘343’ onto its trailer in Surry Hills and headed out of Sydney west towards the Bells Line of Road for the 200Km trip to Mount Panorama, goodness knows how many times he would have made that journey? He was off to the Easter Bathurst meeting, at that time there were two race meetings a year at the famous circuit, not just the annual touring car 500 miler.

Journalist Barry Lake recounts the events of Sulman’s final drive in the insignificant 6 lap ‘Sir Joseph Banks Trophy’ sportscar scratch race at Mount Panorama. ‘At the Easter Bathurst meeting on 30 March 1970 the quietly spoken Tom, now 70 years old and as keen to race as ever, moved slightly to the right and simultaneously slowed down between the two humps on Conrod Straight. Vincent Evans who was a short distance behind, could not avoid the impact of his left-front mudguard with the right rear bodywork of the Lotus 11 driven by Sulman. The Lotus 11 swerved to the left of the circuit (its inside) into the gravel on the verge and rolled into a locked (farmers) gateway, hitting the gatepost on the drivers side. Sulman’s head hit the post causing his instant death’.

‘Shortly before the accident there had been a ‘Tom Sulman Trophy’ race at Warwick Farm for historic cars to commemorate his very long racing career. At the age of 70, Sulman was one of the oldest racing drivers in activity at the time’ Lake’s tribute concludes.

It was a terrible case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and hitting the fencepost when it could just as easily have been open space. Australian motor racing was rocked by another fatal accident at Bathurst twelve months after the last, Bevan Gibson’s Elfin 400 Repco became airborne on one of Bathurst’s humps at the same meeting a year before.

Sulman had lived a good life, a long full one despite its untimely end. He was one of those fellows who put more into the sport than he took out, and loved it to its core. A racer through and through right to the very end.

Tom Sulman at Lowood, circa 1959 (R Wittig)

Bibliography…

Obituary written by Barry Lake published on ‘Motorsport Memorial’, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Maserati: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, Derek Bridgett on ‘Midget Car Panorama’. MotorSport magazine December 1936, ‘Bugattis Did It Too’ article in ‘Loose Fillings’ December 2015

Photo Credits…

Douglas Walker Collection, Aussie Homestead, Simon Lewis, Bruce Wells, Ron Wittig

Tailpiece: Sulman aboard his remarkably adaptable Sulman Singer at Kennel Corner, Shelsey Walsh in 1938. A rare UK shot of the car…

(Simon Lewis)

(B Harmeyer)

Brian Redman’s Carl Haas Racing Lola T332CS Chev awaits the off at Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada 12 June 1977…

That’s Jim Hall in the Texan hat and you can just see a glimpse of Brian’s driving suit to the far left of the photo. Randy Lewis’ Shadow in front of the Lola I think. Redman was the ‘King of 5 Litre Racing’ in the US having won the American F5000 championship from 1974 to 1976 aboard Lolas- T332, T332/400 and T332C respectively.

When I first spotted Bob Harmeyer’s photo, I thought, ‘what a beauty, I can do something with that pit scene’. Then I looked a bit closer at the date and venue and realised it was the weekend Brian came close to meeting his maker-it was not the only ‘biggie’ in his career either.

Its the very first race meeting of the single-seat 5 litre Can Am formula- Brian and his Lola are about to indulge in some involuntary aviation, the landing sub-optimal in comparison to takeoff.

Carl Haas in the blue shirt and Brian Redman (who is the other Shadow bloke?) in the Mid Ohio pits, August 1975. #1 is Brians T332 ‘HU45’, #48 Vern Schuppan’s Eagle 755 Chev- Brian won from Al Unser and David Hobbs aboard T332’s, Vern was 5th (unattributed)

With F5000 on the wane a bit, in part due to the dominance of the Lola T330/332, it was decided to spruce up the show by creating a single-seat Can Am series for 5 litre cars- in essence F5000 in drag.

Gordon Kirby wrote about that first single-seat Can Am season in the June 2010 issue of MotorSport- ‘The death of the old Can-Am left the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) with Formula 5000 as its primary series. For a few years the American F5000 championship was pretty healthy, attracting big fields and top drivers like Mario Andretti, Al Unser Sr, Jody Scheckter and Brian Redman, who won the title for three consecutive seasons in Carl Haas and Jim Hall’s Lola-Chevrolets. But the SCCA and its promoters longed for the return of full-bodied Can-Am cars.

Burdie Martin ran the SCCA’s professional racing department in those days and says the series wouldn’t have come together had it not been for Haas. “Carl had sponsorship for his team from First National City Bank,” says Martin. “But he also talked them into sponsoring the series and, of course, thanks to Eric Broadley and Lola he provided the cars to make it happen. I talked to Carl and said we could make these 5000s into closed-wheel cars and call it Can-Am. I said it wouldn’t cost a lot of money and the cars were out there. We could add the 2-litre cars because there’s a lot of them around and they’re not that much slower. That would fill out the field. So Carl and I got on the phone and called some people, and all of a sudden we were putting a programme together.’

Team VDS Lola T333CS ‘HU2’ with standard Lola bodywork- albeit with the front wing added by the team- see text below

‘The SCCA’s last-minute decision to replace F5000 with the closed-wheel, single-seat ‘new era’ Can-Am didn’t inspire much confidence, or interest, from the racing industry. All the uncertainty surrounding the new series meant few teams were ready for the start of the 1977 season. In fact, Haas/Hall was the only Can-Am team able to do any serious pre-season testing and it quickly learned that the new nose for the enclosed wheels didn’t produce enough downforce. The team designed and built its own replacement, which incorporated an F5000 nose in place of the flat, cow-catcher nose of Lola’s T333CS ‘conversion kit’. The result was a car that looked more like an F5000 car with fenders rather than a sports/racer’.

Redman aboard his T332CS- note comments above in relation to the cars body/aero compared with the standard Lola body kit on Peter Gethin’s car above (Harmeyer)

‘Most Lola customers had installed the conversion kit on their F5000s and were pretty upset when Haas/Hall rolled out its unique car in first practice for the opening Can-Am race at St Jovite in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains. But it soon turned out that in some circumstances even the Haas/Hall aerodynamic package wasn’t up to the job.

In the middle of St Jovite’s backstraight was a humpbacked rise over which the Can-Am cars of Paul Hawkins and Hugh Dibley had taken flight in 1966. Ditto Jackie Oliver in 1970. In afternoon practice Elliott Forbes-Robinson became the first driver to fly a new-era Can-Am car through the air when his flipped as he tried to go over the hump on full throttle. Miraculously, the car cartwheeled through 360 degrees and landed upright on all four wheels. Forbes-Robinson jumped unscathed from the wreckage.

Later that day Brian Redman had a much more serious accident. Redman’s car did a violent backflip, landing upside-down and leaving him unconscious and in a critical condition with a broken left collarbone, a cracked sternum, two broken ribs and a fractured vertebra in his neck. Redman lay heavily sedated in hospital for a week while the swelling and contracting of his brain’s epidermis ran its course and his doctors assessed the damage to his brain and nervous system.’

Harmeyer’s shot of Redman’s car back in the paddock. The Lola aluminium monocoque has stood up to the impact remarkably well, look closely tho- the roll over hoop is gone, torn off/flattened in the huge physics upon landing. Redman a very lucky boy (B Harmeyer)

‘Deeply shaken by Redman’s accident, the Haas/Hall team withdrew from the race and headed home. With the three-time F5000 champion in hospital, a makeshift chicane was installed before the backstraight hump.’

Redman recalled that ‘…the roll bar broke and my head went down on the road. My helmet was worn away on each side. But as the car rolled off the track onto the surrounding land, it landed on its wheels, which was a good job. Because my heart had stopped and the track doctor was a heart specialist- he got that going again. And then on the way to the hospital the ambulance blew a tyre!’

Tom Klausler in the Schkee DB1 Chev at Road America in August. Truly wild coupe like so many cars in this series Lola T332 based (oldracingcars.com)

The Mont Tremblant race was run in half wet, half dry conditions and was won Formula Atlantic standout Tom Klausler driving the unique Schkee coupé, a quite sensational looking Lola-based car built by veteran Can-Am builder Bob McKee. Unfortunately the little team didn’t have the money to race or develop the car and ceased to exist by the seasons end.

Haas/Hall missed the next race at Laguna Seca whilst they looked after Brian’s needs and sought another driver to replace their pilot of the previous near half-decade.

Brian in the Mont Tremblant pitlane, not sure of the chassis number of his T332CS. Randy Lewis Shadow DN4B Dodge # 00 alongside. The car behind the Shadow looks like a T332CS with ‘standard Lola body’ but am not sure which car (B Harmeyer)

During practice in California there were more problems with ‘Cessna 180’s as Aussie F5000 ace, Warwick Brown’s VDS Lola T333CS took off going over the fast brow beyond the pits.

Brown- already a ‘Lola Limper Club’ member by virtue of a T300 F5000 accident at Surfers Paradise in early 1973 broke both legs in the big accident. Teammate Peter Gethin, a vastly experienced driver with an Italian Grand Prix victory amongst his many credits withdrew from the race until a proper solution could be found. Clearly the aero treatment was ‘unresolved’, as the lawyers would put it.

Tambay in the Haas Lola T333CS Chev ‘HU6’ on the way to a win at Mosport on 21 August 1977 (B Cahier)

Kirby- ‘Haas signed up-and-coming French driver Patrick Tambay to replace Redman. A smooth, fluid driver and a gentleman too, Tambay won six of the seven Can-Am races he started in 1977, all from pole, and easily claimed the championship. “I was also doing my rookie F1 season with Ensign, so I had a lot of miles under my belt that year, not only aeroplane miles but driving miles,” he recalls. “The Can-Am car had a lot of power, gave good grip and was a good tool to do mileage to make me sharp for my F1 ride. My Can-Am successes helped me build a strong confidence.”

Back to Brian. As we all know Redman was a racers-racer with several successful comebacks- that he did in 1981 driving a Lola T600 Chev. The Cooke-Woods run car won the IMSA GTP championship on top of the 24 Hours of Daytona, a classic Brian won at the seasons outset together with Bobby Rahal and Bob Garretson in a Porsche 935 K3.

The Redman/Sam Posey Lola T600 Chev during the Road America 500 miles in 1981, 2nd (M Windecker)

Credits…

Bob Harmeyer, Bernard Cahier, Getty Images, oldracingcars.com, Mark Windecker, MotorSport magazine article by Gordon Kirby 2010

Tailpiece: Calm before the storm, Mont Tremblant…

Finito…

What a couple of pert, perky, taut little tooches!? I do like a finely formed little rump, the Lotus Elan and Jag E Lwt, two of the tightest…

Its Leo Geoghegan chasing Bob Jane through Hell Corner for the blast up Bathurst’s Mountain Straight, I’ve my money on the punch of the Jag’s mid-range torque not to forget its beefy top end over the delicate little Elan. Timeless, twin-cam designs both.

I’ve written about these blokes often enough for international readers to know they were both prominent Australian champions- Bob best known for exploits in touring cars and Leo in open-wheelers. Here they are on ‘neutral ground’, sportscars, during the Easter meeting in April 1965.

Jane got the better of Leo in both the 5 lap preliminary and 13 lap NSW Production Sportscar Championship, winning both races from the Sydneysider, top speeds of the cars were 147.05 and 142.85 mph (Elan) on Conrod Straight.

I notice Bob’s Jag has a Victorian number plate. The successful businessman lived just off Kew Boulevard in Melbourne’s leafy inner east, no doubt it got some exercise on that marvellous stretch of road from time to time. I’ll get around to an article on Jano’s E Type one day, for now enjoy these shots of a couple of great sixties sporties.

Credits…

autopics.com.au, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Tailpiece: Leaning into Hell Corner…

 

 

Colin Bond in the Holden Dealer Team’s ‘new’ LC Holden Torana GTR XU1 V8 during the Easter Bathurst meeting in 1972…

New in the sense that this ‘cleverly disguised’, pensioned off 1970/71 Series Production V8 re-engined car fitted with rear wing, wide wheels was a ‘sleeper’- the prototype of the General’s (General Motors Holden) proposed ‘308 V8’ powered 160 mph 1972 Series Production Bathurst contender, make that winner.

The machine also featured widened 6X13 inch steel wheels and a full-width front spoiler incorporating brake ducts intended for the road-going variant.

During the weekend the V8 bullet was demonstrably quicker than the normal LJ 202 cid Series Production XU1’s winning the 5 lap Touring & Sports Closed Scratch Race from Ron Gillard’s XU1 and Graham Ryan’s Charger.

Bondy was a bit lucky as Bob Jane’s ‘full blown’ Torana V8 4.4 Repco ‘620’ Sports Sedan blasted away to an early lead only to slow, pit and rejoin the race back in 11th. But a win is a win, the only one for the car. Bond did a best lap of 2:39.6 to win, in comparison, he did a 2:43.9 in his Series Production LJXU1 to win the ‘Better Brakes’ Series Production Touring Car 17 lapper earlier in the day.

Its hard for me to picture my parents as ‘rampant rooters’, but they are of that generation who, free from the pressures of the war years hit the bedroom and created us ‘Baby Boomers’- that statistically big post-war rump of the populace who are still grimly hanging onto power.

Critically, we are a huge mob worldwide who drove demand for all sorts of consumer products throughout the sixties and seventies buoyed by a strong global economy and the expansion of consumer credit. The latter in essence allowed us to live beyond our means doing so as the houses we bought gained capital values of almost obscene levels (in Australia) thereby taking care of our debt/equity ratios. None of us are complaining mind you, even if our kids are!

In the US the car manufacturers noticed we youngsters, particularly our  burgeoning wallets and therefore the potential to flog us stuff. They delved into their parts bins and packaged existing hardware- engines, gearboxes and chassis underpinnings into very attractive packages. Ford’s Mustang and Chev’s Camaro being ‘Pony Car’ cases in point.

By 1966/7 those components were finding their way to their Australian subsidiaries and were packaged into yummy stuff such as the 289 cid V8 powered 1967 XR Ford Falcon GT and 1968 HK Holden Monaro GTS327. They were mighty fine racing cars compared with the Morris Cooper S and Ford Cortina GT/GT500 which had been the top guns at Bathurst till then.

The inexorable rise in Australian touring car racing gathered apace in the sixties and had morphed into three classes. ‘Series Production’ were essentially showroom stock cars, the class to which the Bathurst 500 was run. ‘Improved Production’, as the name suggests allows greater modification- was the class to which the Australian Touring Car Championship was contested. The category allowing the wildest modifications was ‘Sports Racing Closed/Sports Sedans’.

Inevitably motor racing played it’s usual part in the corporate brand building of the manufacturers and ‘moving metal’ of these new machines or rather the more modestly specified brothers of the race intended cars. The ‘win on Sunday, promote the shit out of it on Monday, flog on Tuesday’ adage has been a good, fairly accurate one down the decades.

For enthusiasts the cars modified for intended race use were what we sought and could buy if one had the readies as sufficient numbers had to be built and sold for road use to allow ‘Group E’ Series Production homologation for racing eligibility.

Holden initially raced V8 engined Monaro’s very successfully in Series Production winning a Bathurst 500 or two, 1968 and 1969 to be precise. Mount Panorama pickings were decidedly slimmer once the marketing focus changed to the six-cylinder Holden Torana in 1970.

There was nothing to stop privateer teams running the ‘Top Gun’ Holden Monaro GTS 350, some did, but the ‘factory’ Holden Dealer Team had to run the cars Holden’s marketing needs demanded. There was not the budget/resources to, say, develop, prepare and race Monaro’s on tarmac and Torana’s on dirt, that choice would have been the optimal one.

Without going into all of the detail for international readers, Ford and Chrysler competed locally with factory teams. General Motors Holden, the local GM subsidiary was a bit more ‘prim and proper’ over observance of the supposed American Automobile Association ‘no motor racing ban’, did so via the back-door ‘Holden Dealer Team’, a small outfit operated by ‘The Fox’, Harry Firth, former racer, mechanic, engineer and Bathurst 500 winner out of premises in Queens Avenue, Auburn, a twee inner-eastern Melbourne suburb.

Mason/Mason Mazda R100 and Cooke/Mason Monaro GTS350 Bathurst 1969. Digby Cooke qualified the Monaro 2nd, DNF with Trevor and Neil Mason 21st in the race won by the Colin Bond/Tony Roberts HDT GTS350 (S Jek)

Cooke/Bowden Monaro 350GTS Bathurst 1970 Q2 and DNF gearbox, Bathurst below (S Jek)

In creating the first ‘race variant’ of the Torana- the 1970 LC , ohv, 186 cid six-cylinder engined GTR XU1 Harry Firth and his small team including long time mechanic, Ian Tate, driver Peter Brock and GMH created the first in a series of the best all round competition ‘taxis’ in Australia. The LC and later 202 cid LJ 1971-73 XU1’s were supreme road cars (the LC ‘praps not so much, it was way too choppy in spring/shock rates to take your babe to the drive-in) and winners in rallies, rallycross and on the circuits.

The problem was, whilst there was an Australian Manufacturers Championship, run over rounds at Sandown, Bathurst, Surfers Paradise, Adelaide, Phillip Island (depending upon the year) the only race that mattered to the punters watching the Teev at home was the Bathurst 500- and Ford had a mortgage on that classic with their mighty, four door, 351 cid V8 engined Falcon GTHO’s.

Colin Bond’s HDT Torana LC GTR XU1 in the Bathurst pitlane 1971, 4th in the race won by Moffat’s works Falcon GTHO Phase 3 (autopics)

Whilst the Torana’s were continually developed they simply lacked the mumbo to win at the Mountain. The solution was simple, build a V8 variant of the XU1. The prototype of the car is the beastie Bondie is wheeling around Bathurst in the opening photo, it was put together in late 1971 using a cast-off HDT Series Prod LC XU1 raced by the team in 1970/71.

Fitted with a 5 litre Holden ‘308’ V8, M21 4 speed gearbox, suspension tweaks and away they went, the car was driven by Brock, Bond and Larry Perkins.

Repco Holden F5000 V8. Phil Irving designed, with assistance from Brian Heard, engine produced circa 470-520 bhp throughout its life (Repco)

Lets not forget that the Holden 308 V8 parts competition bin was deep. Repco had built and been racing the F5000 variant of the engine for about two years by the time the HDT boys started playing with the 308, inclusive of two Australian Grand Prix wins in cars driven by Frank Matich- 1970 in a McLaren M10B and 1971 in his self-built Matich A50

Bond, Hell Corner, Bathurst Easter 1972, XU1 V8

The test-bed car was registered for road use and carried the Victorian number-plate KSN-116 and was first raced by Bond as shown here at Bathurst.

Brock then raced the car at Adelaide International with Larry Perkins given the task of driving it across on the Great Western Highway and also racing in one of the support events. Firth was starting to get an idea of how their Bathurst contender would fare later in the year.

Perkins in Gary Campbell’s Elfin 600B/E Ford during the 1972 Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy at Surfers Paradise, first F2 home (G Ruckert)

Larry drove and tested for the HDT in 1972, mainly competing in Rallycross, his primary race program that season was driving Garry Campbell’s Elfin 600 B/E Ford ANF2 car to the national Australian Formula 2 title. He was off to Snetterton for the Formula Ford Festival with Garrie Cooper’s first Elfin 620FF late in the year, he won the Australian FF ‘Driver to Europe Series’ in 1971 but took his prize a year later knowing he would be better prepared, the rest is history.

Larrikins in the HDT Rallycross LC XU1 supercharged ‘Beast’ at Catalina Park in Sydney’s Blue Mountains in 1972. What a career!- FV to F1, Rallycross to Le Mans, he did, raced, built and won in everything (autopics)

Brock raced the LC V8 car at Calder on 14 May in the ‘Marlboro Trophy Series’ minus spoilers but with the widened steel wheels shown in the Bathurst shots earlier in this article, in a combined sports Sedan and improved tourer race running as a support event for the ‘Repco Birthday Series’ event for F5000 cars.

He raced mid-field amongst much faster sports sedans including Norm Beechey’s Monaro, Bob Jane’s Camaro, Alan Hamilton’s 911S and John Harvey’s Torana Repco V8 and barely rated a mention in the race reports.

That the car was ‘slipping under the radar’ was perfect from the HDT’s perspective.

Ford Falcon XA GTHO Phase 4’s come together at FoMoCo’s Oz ‘Skunkworks’ at Lot 6 Mahoneys Road, Broadmeadows on Melbourne’s north-western fringe.  Note the 36 gallon tank beside the standard item. 4 cars built (unattributed)

Whilst Holden were beavering away on their 1972 Bathurst contender, out in Mahoneys Road, Broadmeadows on the other side of Melbourne Ford were working on the new XA Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 4 whilst in Tonsley Park, Adelaide Chrysler were working on a V8 engined RT Charger, the E55.

For enthusiasts and racers these were mouth watering machines with enormous performance potential and engineering integrity.

GMH were proceeding to develop the production version of Harry’s V8 prototype ordering three GTR (not XU1) V8’s, which were sent down the Elizabeth, South Australia plant production line on 13 April 1972 for use by the Experimental Engineering team at GM’s Port Melbourne plant in inner Melbourne.

And then along came the media hysteria ‘Supercar Scare’ which was a frenzy of journalists and politicians whipping themselves into a lather over ’18 up year olds driving around the streets of our cities at 160 mph’.

This topic has been well ventilated down the decades amongst enthusiasts in Australia, their is little point adding to it here. Not that there is any doubt of the performance capability of any of these cars. Arguably a drum braked, cross-ply tyre shod, terminal understeering six-cylinder, ‘poverty pack’ Holden Belmont was a more lethal weapon than a well engineered ‘Supercar’ which was fit for purpose. A Belmont wasn’t fit for anything other than as an inner city cab operated at less than 35 mph.

So, the cars were all ‘pulled’ (or considerably softened as a luxury cruiser in Chrysler’s case) by manufacturers keen to maintain the high tariff walls the pollies provided which enabled them to produce sub-standard crap, flog it to the punters and make a poultice.

‘Let’s not piss the pollies off’ was the main aim of GMH, Ford and Chrysler management, the price of not building a few hundred high-performance machines was a cheap one to pay to keep the self serving State Governments and Canberra dickheads at bay.

(carthrottle.com)

It’s a shame really as the spec of the XU1 V8 would have been sweet- slinky, small (floppy in race terms) body, 308cid 300 bhp’ish V8, M21 4 speed box, Detroit locker diff, 6×13 inch Globe Sprintmaster wheels, long-range fuel tanks and aerodynamic aids. The car would have been a great 160 plus mph package with the slightly heavier V8 sitting back a bit in the chassis relative to the venerable Holden ‘Red’ six.

Torana racer/engineer Lee Nicholle had this to say about the prospects/charcteristics of XU1 V8’s on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’.

‘They do flex-horrid little car but they were also a great race car! I suspect though that Harry, Brock and Larry probably would have done the things that help- take all the rubber from between the front crossmember and chassis rails, that stiffens up the front no end plus of course the roll cage helps too, even the basic alloy ones in vogue then. Plus maybe some basic seam welding, though the car was road registered’.

‘That car (the HDT prototype) as an experiment seemed to work ok. I have seen no end of 308 LJ’s over the decades and they are NOT an evil monster, whatever the newspapers of the day insinuated. They are nicer to drive than a standard XU1 as the engine (V8) is far smoother than the lumpy, grumpy 6’.

‘With the right bits it (the V8) it is nearly a bolt in. There were over 30 built by a nearby country Holden Dealer here in South Australia as well as a few others by dealers interstate. They would not have been a great deal faster than a 6 cylinder XU1, unless the engine was worked’. (note the Repco parts bin comment earlier in the article)

Lee continued ‘My XU1 Chev Sports Sedan highlighted that. A 300bhp Phil Irving head Holden 6 was as quick as my then 380bhp Chev, though my engine bill was a LOT less which was the reason originally (to change from the Holden 6 to Chevy V8). Later with over 500bhp I was considerably faster than the sixes of course’.

With their V8 plans scuttled the HDT gave the specifications of the LJ six a tickle, by use of a wild ‘HX’ camshaft and with engines balanced and blueprinted they gave circa 212bhp. Globemaster Sprint alloy wheels were used and some revisions to the suspension- they evolved a good package which gave Peter Brock his first Bathurst win- the last solo win as it happens in 1972. In truth the win was as much down to Brock as the car.

The later V8 L34 and A9X Torana’s incorporating lots of Repco goodies would of course come soon but the LJ V8 is a wonderful mighta-been with KSN-116 proof positive of just what a weapon the XU1 V8 was…

Brock on his way to LJ XU1 victory, Fiat 850 Coupe behind, Bathurst 500 1972 (unattributed)

What  Happened to the Cars…

Depending upon your source there are some differences, but here we go all the same, he says with trepidation, ‘taxi’ enthusiasts are far more rabid then we open-wheeler nutbags.

1.HDT’s LC GTR-XU1 V8 Prototype

The ex 1970/71 HDT team car, KSN-116 was converted back into a 6-cylinder XU1, sold and has never been seen again, amazing given its significance

2.The three GTR V8’s were built in GM’s Elizabeth factory on 13 April 1972…

They were painted three different colours, lets identify them in that manner

Its said that Holden Experimental Engineers- Ed Taylor’s crew, fitted 308 V8’s with full spec ‘XW7′ parts with Harry Firth given the Pink and White cars to finish off, and, when completed, then handed them back to GM

.’Sebring Orange’ LGN-307

Registered by GMH on 6 September 1972 with a V8. Referred to as the ‘Lockwood Special’ due to the bonnet pin locks so fitted! Brock drove it as a loan car but the 308 V8 had been replaced with the 202 LJ 6

GM’s Administrator of Motorsport and PR also used the car as his company vehicle for a while before it was finally retired to Holden’s Engineering section.

Tendered for sale by GM in February 1975. Stolen in Melbourne’s Bundoora, Victoria in 1985 and never recovered.

.’Strike Me Pink’ LDH-255

Initially registered by GMH on 28 April 1972 with a 6 cylinder engine, a V8 was fitted later by Experimental Engineering

Tested by Brock at Calder where it was a ‘bit of a pig’ and then taken back to Queens Avenue, Auburn for attention to the suspension- spring rates, shocks and suspension bushes. When tested again at Calder by Brock on 31 May 1972, running a 2.78:1 diff and Detroit Locker it was a second a lap quicker than a normal XU1 driven by Colin Bond at the same test.

Brock recalled the car gave 271 bhp on Jack Hunnam’s dyno

.’White’

Intrigued to know the story

Photo Credits…

Dick Simpson, autopics.com, plannerpower, Sharaz Jek, Graham Ruckert

References…

Various online Holden forums, The Nostalgia Forum comments by Lee Nicholle, HDT Club of Victoria magazine, shannons.com, strikemepink on shannons.com, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Afterthought: Bruce Hodgson in the only 1972 Australian Supercar that ‘got away’…

(plannerpower)

Bruce Hodgson with Fred Gocentas aboard their Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 4 during the Southern Cross Rally, Mount Faulk Road outside Port Macquarie in October 1973.

For all the plans by Chrysler, GMH and Ford for the Supercars of ’72 only one ever competed albeit as a rally car, hardly the function for which Howard Marsden and the boys at FoMoCo intended!

Of Ford’s four Phase 4’s constructed, the least built up racer, the spare was given to John Goss, it was sold via McLeod Ford, assembled for road use.

Hodgson and Gocentas, Phase 4, rally and date unknown (unattributed)

The first and most developed of the racers was sold to a chap in Toowoomba and is now in the Bowden Collection.

The second racer was given to Hodgson, a Ford works Escort rally exponent who rallied it for several years before the machine was involved in a head on accident with a Holden Commodore, the wreck exists.

The production model was sold, via a car yard to an astute Sydney dentist in 1978 who is believed to still own it.

Tailpiece: ‘The Beast’- HDT Sports Sedan, the ultimate V8 LJ Torana XU1, Colin Bond, Warwick Farm, May 1973…

This race meeting must have been one of the last open ones at Warwick Farm. Car built quickly by HDT with an old shell, the essential element of which was a 480bhp Lucas injected Repco Holden F5000 V8. Mawer alloy wheels clear, a crowd pleaser, the car was too basic in spec by then to be a winner even in the hands of Brock and Bond

Finito…

Front wishbone and lever arm shock and lower transverse leaf spring. Chev Corvette 283 cid V8 topped by 2 Carter 4 barrel carbs, note how the engine and drivetrain are offset to the right with the driver sitting nice and low to the left rather than above the prop-shaft. Bob Burnett built this body as he did the other Maybachs. Handsome brute (Q Miles)

Stan Jones, Maybach 4 Chev in the Lowood, Queensland paddock, June 1959…

I love Quentin Miles wonderful clear period photo of the fun of the fair and especially the business end of the last car built in the most famous range of Australian Specials- not that the ‘Special’ descriptor does justice to the quality of the design and construction of the Maybachs under Charlie Dean’s leadership at Repco Research in Sydney Road, Brunswick, in Melbourne’s inner north.

In essence my article about Stan Jones is also a piece about Maybach- it together with the 1954 Southport Australian Grand Prix feature provide plenty of background on the cars and their progressive evolution from Maybach 1- the 1954 NZ GP winner, the shortlived Maybach 2 which should have won the ’54 AGP but instead died a violent death during that race, and the replacement Mercedes Benz W154 inspired Maybach 3- the final iteration of the Maybach 6-cylinder engined machines. Maybach 3 became Maybach 4 when Ern Seeliger skilfully re-engineered aspects of the car to accept the new, lightish Chev, 283 cid ‘small-block’, cast-iron, pushrod OHV V8. Click here for Stan and Maybach;

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

and here for the ’54 AGP;

https://primotipo.com/2018/03/01/1954-australian-grand-prix-southport-qld/

Jones’ forceful speed and the ongoing evolution of the Maybachs kept the cars at the forefront of Australian single-seater racing into 1955 but game-changers were the arrival of modern ‘red cars’- Lex Davison’s acquisition of Tony Gaze’ Ferrari 500/625, Reg Hunt’s Maser 250F powered A6GCM and his subsequent 250F to name two.

Stan gave up the unequal struggle and acquired a 250F, ultimately doing very well with it- winning the ’58 Gold Star and the ’59 AGP at Longford, thank goodness he finally won the race in which he had deserved to triumph for the best part of a decade.

Even though the Maser was his front line tool he was not averse to giving Maybach a gallop, as here on the Queensland airfield circuit.

Jones at speed on the Lowood airfield circuit, Maybach 4 Chev, June 1959 (Q Miles)

As Stanley focussed on the Maserati, Maybach 3 languished in a corner of Ern Seeliger’s workshop in Baker Street, Richmond. Ern was a successful racer, engineer/preparer and a close friend of Jones. With a view to selling it Stan handed Seeliger the car telling him to ‘do what he liked with it’.

The essential elements of Maybach 3 were a chassis built up from two 4 inch diameter steel tubes, the Maybach 3.8 litre, 260 bhp, SOHC 6 cylinder engine fitted with a Charlie Dean/Phil Irving designed and carefully cobbled together fuel injection system, the engine laid down at an angle of about 60 degrees to the left to lower the bonnet line, like the W196- the car was also styled along the lines of that Benz. The cars front suspension comprised upper wishbones and a lower transverse leaf spring and at the rear utilised quarter elliptic leaf springs and radius rods. Brakes were PBR drums and the gearbox a 4 speed manual.

Towards the end of its life the limiting factor of Maybach 3’s performance was the end of Charlie Dean’s supply of Maybach engines, no more power could be squeezed from them- and there were none left in any event!

In addition there were now plenty of competitive well sorted cars. The only locally built racer capable of running with Hunt, Davison and Jones was the Lou Abrahams owned and built, Ted Gray driven Tornado Ford V8- and from late September 1957, Tornado Chev V8. There is little doubt that Ern looked long and hard at a machine that was prepared only 1.5 Km from his own ‘shop for inspiration. Click here for the Tornado story;

https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

Pretty soon a 283 Chev was on its way to Australia, Seeliger modified the 4.6 litre V8 by fitment of two Carter 4-barrel carbs, the cylinder heads and valve gear were ported, polished and lightened, with the oilways modified and the unit dry-sumped. The motor produced about 274 bhp @ 6000 rpm and had a truckload of torque- around 300 lb feet of it at 3500 rpm. Ern and his band of merry men did not just plonk the engine into the space formerly occupied by the German straight-six however.

Seeliger thoroughly overhauled the machine, lengthening the chassis to accept the de Dion rear end he designed to better put the cars power and torque to the road. The W196 was of course fitted with such a setup. A transverse leaf spring was installed instead of the quarter elliptics and an anti-roll bar used at the front incorporating brake torque rods. The rear track was widened by an inch and a larger 30 gallon fuel tank fitted to feed the thirsty Chevy.

Seeliger designed and built a multi-plate clutch which used the existing Maybach 4 speed ‘box and diff albeit modified with shortened axles and cv joints to mate with the de Dion tube.

Stan Jones and Alec Mildren at Port Wakefield in 1959. Maybach 4 Chev and Cooper T45 Climax (K Drage)

Ern made the cars debut in this form at Fishermans Bend in March 1958, his bid for victory came to an end with stripped tyres- the car was quick right out of the box, Seeliger a mighty fine design and development engineer.

Whilst a very good driver he was not in Stan’s league- Jones was stiff not to win the ’58 AGP at Bathurst aboard his 250F- as was Ted Gray unlucky to dip out in Tornado 2 Chev, but Seeliger finished 2nd in the Maybach with Lex Davison, always a lucky AGP competitor, the winner. Be in no doubt my friends Maybach 4 Chev in Jones hands was a winning car- had he felt so inclined in 1958 but he was busy winning the Gold Star aboard the 250F in any event.

Into 1959 Maybach 4 was still competitive in Ern’s hands, and Stanley took a win in the Gold Star, South Australian Trophy event at Port Wakefield in late March and 3rd place in the Lowood Trophy race as pictured in this article behind the Cooper Climaxes of Alec Mildren and Bill Patterson. Before too long Stan would show his speed in a Cooper T51.

The reign of the ‘Red Cars’ was quickly coming to an end In Australia but lets never forget the dark blue Tornado 2 and silver/blue Maybach 4- Chev V8 engined locally engineered devices very much as quick as the more sophisticated, twin-cam, exotic, expensive factory cars from Italy’s north…

Photos/References…

Quentin Miles, Australian Motor Sports Review 1959 & 1960

Tailpiece: Winners are Grinners: Stan, Maybach 4, Port Wakefield 1959…

(K Drage)

Finito…

 

(oldracephotos/King)

Bob Jane, Elfin 400 Repco, during the Longford Tasman round in 1967. Sweet Repco V8 music @ 7000 rpm flat out in fifth gear…

Idle moments in front of the Teev provide a male multi-tasking opportunity, looking for ‘that shot’ which inspires an article. Breathing, lookin’ at the telly and searching for photographic inspiration simultaneously- three things at once, my girlfriend can scarcely believe it.

There are some cars which are more prolific in terms of the number of photos in circulation though, usually for the same reasons. That is, they are sensational to look at, were race winners and in Australia raced nationally over a number of years and therefore every ‘snapper in the country, both professional and amateur has had a crack at them- and, kindly, circulated said photos on that internet thingy for us all to enjoy!

So…

In the decade from 1960 to 1970’ish there are several cars which are prevalent as defined above- Pete Geoghegan’s second Mustang, Allan Moffat’s Mustang Trans Am, Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco, Frank Gardner/Kevin Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’, Frank Matich Matich SR3’s and Bob’s Elfin 400.

Delivery of the new 400 to the Bob Jane team, Elfins Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown factory, Adelaide in late 1966. The factory was not flash but the sense of history and those who had been there before was palpable when I inspected my humble Crusader Elfin Vee mid-build in the early nineties. From a modest place did some amazing cars originate (B Mills)

I’ve already done the Elfin 400 to death really…

But there are just too many wonderful photos of Bob’s car not to do this article which I originally intended to be pictorial.

One long previous article was specifically about Frank Matich’s Elfin 400 Olds aka the Traco Olds, the first completed. That piece also covered at somewhat laborious length the design and development of the car, here ‘tis;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/28/elfin-400traco-olds-frank-matich-niel-allen-and-garrie-cooper/

The other was another lengthy tome, mainly about Hume Weir circuit but it also included a piece within it on Bob’s car, the third 400 built, click here;

https://primotipo.com/2016/05/06/hume-weir/

Bob Jane in one of his first runs, the first race meeting?, Warwick Farm Tasman round in 1967. Top gun that weekend Niel Allen in his Elfin 400 Chev (J Ellacott)

Elfin 400 Repco ‘BB67-3’ was raced by some mighty fine drivers whilst owned by Bob, here is the man himself during the Warwick Farm Tasman round in February 1967…

Jane raced it, so too did 1966/7 Australian Gold Star Champion Spencer Martin. Lets not forget Melbourne up and comer Ian Cook had some drives in 1968, he sadly lost his life at Sandown in 1973 in an ex-Bob Jane Racing machine too. And another young charger, Bevan Gibson took the wheel in 1969, and soon lost his life in it at Bathurst during the 1969 Easter Meeting.

What changed the direction of the article was re-discovery of my copy of ‘Gentleman John Harvey’, the biography on Harves which has some great first-hand material about Bevan by both Bob Jane and John Harvey. I couldn’t find the book when I wrote the Matich Elfin 400 piece, which would have been the right place for its contents, but given the limited print run of Tony McGirr’s book I thought getting these perspectives out there and more readily accessible worthwhile.

In researching Ian Cook i made contact with Grant Twining who owns the Devione Ford, a car raced by Ian. Grant was able to provide some much needed detail to flesh out his story- many thanks to him.

This 400 is significant in Repco Brabham Engines history too as it was fitted with the first customer, as against works engines provided to Jack Brabham. It was a 4.4 litre ‘RB620 Series’ V8.

Ken Hastings aboard the rebuilt ‘BB67-3’ at Sandown on the fast left drop to Dandenong Road circa 1970. Note the change to the bodywork at front and addition of a rear wing. Unguarded horse racing fencing an ever present danger back then. It’s practice by the look, the Pat Crea VW Beetle and ‘Chocolates’ David Robertson Ford Capri V8 sports sedans in the distance (L Hemer)

After the Gibson Bathurst tragedy the car was acquired by Melbourne racer Ken Hastings who rebuilt it. The car passed through several hands over the years before being bought by Elfin enthusiast/racer Bill Hemming, well known to Australians for the Elfin Heritage Centre which houses his collection of cars including ‘BB67-3′.

http://www.elfinheritage.com.au/

The car was rebuilt around a new chassis some years back albeit the very much shagged original frame remains ‘part of the package’- that is the CAMS ‘Certificate Of Description’ recognises the existence of the second chassis precluding the possibility of a ‘B Car’ being built. A neat solution I thought- history and safety are recognised.

Bob Jane leads Spencer Martin and the Elfin 400 Repco at Hume Weir, Queens Birthday meeting in June 1967. John Sawyer in the blue shirt behind, blue car is ex-Jones/Phillips et al Cooper Jaguar  (M Leirsch)

Elfin 400 Technical Specifications…

Lets cover the cars technical specs in brief as it’s covered in detail in the first of the articles referenced above.

The 400 was the third series of sports cars Garrie Cooper and his band of merry men in Edwardstown built. The first were the front engined ‘Streamliners’, the very first Elfins, then came the Clubman and later the mid-engined small-bore Mallala.

The 400 Series sporties were the first ‘big bangers’ he had built, a trip to the UK before he progressed the design too far got him up to speed with what was happening in Europe. The Group 5 Ford GT40 and Group 7 Lola T70, McLaren Elvas and Chaparral’s were the standout cars at the time for different reasons.

Rare colour shot of the Jane 400 in the paddock, date uncertain. Suspension as per text, note the wide based upper wishbone, magnesium uprights and solid Girling brake rotors. See the shot below, car now has a more substantial, but unbraced roll bar (S Lambert)

Whilst Garrie was building his first monocoque chassis car, the single-seater F3/F2/ANF 1.5 Type 100 very successful ‘Mono’ he decided an appropriately stressed multi-tubular spaceframe chassis would do the trick for the sportscar. After all, Ferrari were still winning plenty of races so equipped and the Australian market was conservative, a spaceframe was easier to maintain and to repair ‘in the field’ than a monocoque. Such a design could accommodate different engines he knew customers would want to fit to the cars. The frame was of square, round and oval section tubes, the aluminium undertray was stressed as were subsidiary bulkhead panels

Four chassis were built- first completed was the Matich ‘BB66-2’ which used a Traco Olds V8, then came the Globe Engineering ‘BB66-1’ a pushrod and later DOHC small-block Ford powered car,  Jane’s ‘BB67-3’ received a Repco ‘RBE620’ 4.4 litre V8 and ‘BB67-4’, originally owned by Andy Buchanan a big block Chev.

Bolted to these engines were various Hewland transaxles; HD4 for the Matich car LG500 for the Globe and Buchanan cars and DG300 for Jane’s.

Superb early 1967 shot of the Jane car. Engine is the first customer Repco engine delivered. Repco ‘RB620 Series’ 4.4 litre SOHC, 2 valve, Lucas injected V8, circa 400 bhp @ 7000 rpm. ‘620’ is the Olds F85 modified block and first series crossflow heads- this design was the 1966 F1 championship winning design in 3 litres capacity. Note the tubes to the chassis, oil dry sump to the right. Fuel tank capacity 28 gallons- with the option of more. Array of Smiths and Stewart Warner instruments, see chassis plate on dash left and vestigial roll bar- soon altered to a higher and full width hoop albeit unbraced. Simply superb bit of kit (S Lambert)

Suspension was period typical. At the front by upper and lower wishbones with coil spring/Armstrong shocks. Uprights were cast magnesium, adjustable roll bars were fitted with rack and pinion steering.

At the rear, beautiful cast magnesium uprights were used, inverted lower wishbone, single top link and two radius rods, again with coil springs and Armstrong shocks. Roll bars were again adjustable.

Wheels, cast magnesium Elfin jobbies, were 15 inches diameter, 10 inches wide at the front and 12 inches at the back. Owners progressively increased the amount of rubber on the road appreciably over the coming years in accordance with the incredible advances in tyre technology at the time.

Brakes were Girling alloy ‘BR’ calipers with the rotors 12 inches  in diameter at the front and 11 inches at the rear. The bodywork was designed in house, as you will see in the various articles the ‘aero’ of the car was far from ‘fully resolved’ when completed.

Bob Jane aboard his 400 in 1968 (T Parkinson)

And they say Enzo Ferrari kept his drivers on their toes! So too it seems did RF Jane…

It was only in gathering the photos of the 400 that I realised how many fellas drove the 400 in a short period of time.

Bobs race team plans were changed suddenly when Spencer Martin decided to retire having won the second of his Gold Stars with Bob in 1967- they won two on the trot in 1966-7 using Bob’s Brabham BT11A Coventry Climax.

Spencer Martin had this to say about the 400 ‘What caused the accident (to Gibson) was an aerodynamic design fault with the car. I had driven the car in ’67. It was the quickest thing around at that stage. It had a 4.4 litre Repco V8 in it, and was very, very quick. But the aerodynamics on the car were not right. Unfortunately, Bevan paid for it with his life.’

Martin then commented about seeing the sportscars on circuit at Longford in 1967 when Bob Jane raced the 400. Spencer ran the Brabham BT11A and was therefore on hand to watch the sportscars practice.

Noel Hurd in the Globe Products owned Elfin 400 Ford became airborne at high speed during practice, mowing down a row of fence posts after spinning several times but leaving the driver unhurt. ‘It was an Elfin 400, and I saw them coming down the long straight at Longford, in Tasmania. I wasn’t at all happy with the aerodynamics of the car. Looking back I think I was very fortunate. If I hadn’t retired I would probably have been in that car’ (at Bathurst Easter 1969)

Whilst testing the Elfin at Calder early in 1967 Martin was circulating in 44.2 secs, nearly a second under Niel Allen’s lap record in his 400.

Shell boys at Warwick Farm in 1966: Jane, Kiwi Jim Palmer, Harvey and Jackie Stewart- quite an array of talent, champions all (WF)

John Harvey had shown what he was made of in the RRC Phillips owned Brabham BT14 Repco- so Bob hired Harvey, (born 1938) bought the BT14 and popped the Repco engine from it into the back of the BT11A and off they went to contest the ’68 Tasman Australian rounds.

The logic was that the F2 BT14 chassis wasn’t man enough for the Repco, whereas the older ‘Intercontinental’ BT11A was. Harvey did the Hordern Trophy late ’67 in the car, Climax engined before the Repco for Coventry Climax engine swap was performed. Harvey’s ‘compare and contrast’ of engines in that chassis would be interesting. As Australians know Harves was Bobs ‘main man’, his contracted driver from then right through until Frank Gardner returned to Australia in 1974- joining Jane for 1975.

John Harvey on Warwick Farm’s pit straight during the 1968 Warwick Farm 100 meeting. DNF gearbox in Janes BT11A ‘IC-4-64’ Repco. Clark won in a Lotus 49 DFW. The Brabham was and is a famous car- first owned by David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce and raced in the ’64 Tasman successfully by Graham Hill it was then raced by Martin to two Gold Star wins. Still owned by Jane and restored to CC engined form (autopics.com.au)

Early in his time with Bob John had a bad accident at Easter Bathurst 1968 when an upright in the near new Brabham BT23E broke hospitalizing him for some while with a recuperation period even longer. His first meeting post accident was at Warwick Farm later in 1968. It was a meeting John was glad to get behind him as his eyesight, fine early in the day, had a bit of double-vision later as the day wore on.

Naturally on Jane’s part, if not Harvey’s, there may have been a question about him racing again after an accident Jane said could have been fatal. He needed another driver until Harves was fit.

Jane in the Longford pits in 1967, nice rear view of the 400 Repco (E French)

Ignoring the touring cars/sports sedans to focus on the cars which matter, Harvey raced the BT11A, then the ex-Brabham ’68 2.5 Tasman BT23E Repco, the Rennmax built Jane Repco 2.5, Brabham BT36 Waggott 2 litre and finally the Bowin P8 Repco Holden F5000. He raced the McLaren M6B Repco sportscar from 1969, with Bob. He drove the Elfin 400 only once and had this to say about it.

Bob drives and Harves carries the booty. McLaren M6B Repco, they have just won the final round of the 1972 Australian Sportscar Championship at Symmons Plains on 12 November- Harvey won 5 of the 6 rounds that year. Sex on wheels (oldracephotos.com)

‘I drove that Elfin only once and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all. It was the sort of car that probably I could have been persevered with, and make it work properly. Or, at least to suit me. Maybe other drivers, including Bevan, were quite happy with it. But I certainly wasn’t. And that was the result of only driving it one time. I didn’t like it so I never drove it again’.

So, the 400 seems to be the car which Jane, who also raced it a lot, shared around a bit.

Ian Cook, Elfin Mono Ford, Calder 1967 (autopics.com.au)

 Ian Cook was a Melbourne boy (born 1941) who made a name for himself in single-seaters winning the Victorian Lucas Davison Series in 1.5 litre Elfin Monos in 1966 and 1967…

He drove an ex-Granton Harrison Mk1 in ’66 and in Garrie Cooper’s prototype Mk2 in 1967. This chassis was the car which Alf Costanzo drove the wheels off and shot to prominence after sold to him by Cook.

Ian, in addition to his Elfin raced Melbourne car owner Tony Osborne’s Argo Chev sportscar in 1967, no doubt his skill behind the wheel of this Cooper derived sporty, a far less sophisticated machine than the 400, was instrumental in him joining the Jane organisation in late 1967.

Ian Cook, Elfin 400 Repco on the Longford dummy grid in 1968. Car now has seat belts. Notice the different injection trumpets on the engine from the earliest 1967 shots

His first drive of the Elfin 400 was at Calder in January 1968, taking 2 wins. The Jane team then took the car to the Bathurst Easter meeting in 1968, together with the BT23E crashed by Harvey in practice.

Bob and Ian were both down to drive the 400 but must have had problems with it in practice as it failed to start any of the events, certainly Cook drove it in practice. Or perhaps John’s serious accident was enough to ‘up sticks’ for the weekend. Their experiences in the 400 that weekend would have been interesting given the sad events which were to transpire 12 months hence.

(R MacKenzie)

Grant Twining reports that Ian Cook was the quickest of all the Elfin 400 drivers who raced the cars at Longford- Matich (noting the advance in tyres between 1966 and 1968) Jane and Noel Hurd. The photo above is of the front row of the ’68 Longford Tasman sportscar support race- #5 Peter Macrow in the Argo Chev vacated by Cook, Ian in the 400 and Chris Amon on pole in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/CanAm 350. Amon took the win, am keen to know the placings.

Four months later Jane won the Victorian Sportscar title at Winton in the 400 after Niel Allen retired his Elfin 400 Chev with a split gearbox housing.

After the Tasman BT23E was repaired Cook raced the car at the Lakeside, Gold Star round in July for 4th place. He doesn’t appear to have had another steer of the car, which is unfortunate.

Allan Moffat then raced the BT23E at the Sandown Gold Star round, bending it. More of that shortly.

The first race after repair of the BT23E was in John Harvey’s hands, at Warwick Farm in a support race late in 1968. His first championship steer was at the Sandown Tasman round in February 1969. John had engine dramas and failed to finish the race won by Chris Amon’s Ferrari Dino 246T. Amon also took the Tasman title that year.

Cook aboard the 400 at Hume Weir in 1968 (unattributed)

Ian Cook and Footscray Service Station proprietor, racer, ace machinist and later Brabham expert Denis Lupton were old friends.

Lupton ‘spannered’ Cook’s two Elfin Monos with great success. When the Jane drive came to an end they were keen to buy a Brabham BT23 to run in ANF2 but could not afford to do so. So the pair built the ‘Devione’, a car which took the BT23 track and wheelbase dimensions but was otherwise Lupton’s own design and build.

Ian was a skilled sheet-metal fabricator, between the two mates they had all the skills and experience to build a beautiful car. The spaceframe chassis used F2 Matra MS5 front and rear cast magnesium uprights. A Lotus/Ford twin-cam engine and Hewland 5 speed transaxle completed the cars major specifications.

The car was raced by both men, Cook doing the more ‘senior events’ inclusive of some Gold Star rounds whilst Lupton did club events. The car was built and then raced in the 1968-72 period.

Around 1970 Cook, a talented development engineer moved to Adelaide to join Chrysler, to assist Leo Geoghegan with the road and race development of the Valiant ‘VF’ Pacer, a four door sedan which was proposed to contest the showroom stock, ‘Group E Series Production’ racing which was booming at the time.

Cook was involved in establishing the Pacers road going specification, ensuring a nice balance of engine and braking performance and sorting ride heights, shock absorber settings and roll bars to get the right blend of handling, safety and performance. The first test of these cars was at Sandown in June 1969 during a 12 Hour record setting day.

Niel Allen’s Chev engine 400 ahead of Cook in Jane’s Repco engine variant during the 1968 Warwick Farm Tasman round. They are attacking The Esses. Results folks? Note the different noses on the cars (oldracephotos.com)

Into 1969 the Elfin 400 drive was Bevan Gibson’s, with John Harvey racing the Brabham BT23E and McLaren M6B, the latter with Bob.

Janes Brabham BT36 (BT30-27 was a late build BT30 to BT36 specifications) was raced only sporadically by John Harvey. 2 litre Waggott powered, it was a jewel of a machine but arrived in amongst the F5000’s and too late for the 1971 Gold Star series in which he could have given Max Stewart and Kevin Bartlett a ‘good shake’ at the title Max won.

Bob Jane Racing sold the car less engine to Lupton and Cook who owned it in partnership. They converted it to ANF2 form by the simple fitment of a Lotus/Ford 1.6 litre circa 200bhp engine. The car was to be shared by the friends as before with the Devione.

Lupton withdrew from the arrangement with Ian when he needed to raise some cash to care for one of his young children who needed hole-in-the-heart surgery.

On a cold, wet, foggy Sandown practice day Ian was being looked after by some ‘stand ins’ rather than his usual crew including Lupton- who was dealing with family matters.

Grant Twining, the owner of the Devione and a confidant of Lupton says their theory is that the Brabham’s tyre pressures were probably incorrectly set too low. During practice for the June 1973 meeting the car lost a tyre from a rim, slid into one of the Shell, over the circuit sign, concrete supports, killing him instantly.

A Melbourne driver, his is a story which deserves to be told in full. Suffice it to say, a fine engineer, competitor and man died way too young in very unfortunate circumstances.

Ian Cook accepting the plaudits of the unruly but respectful! Warwick Farm crowd, February 1968. Elfin 400 Repco (D Harney)

Most of us think of Allan Moffat (born 1939) and Janey as arch rivals which they undoubtedly were.

The droll, deadpan, Canadian ‘Marvin’ played the ‘Baddie Role’ so well, it was easy as a kid to dislike him as much as you liked his car! The Trans Am Mustang that is.

But not long after he returned from his successful sojurn of several years in the US, in 1968 he had a couple of drives for Bob- ‘Stuffing the nose of the 400 into the fence and hay-bales at The Causeway at Warwick Farm, and at the following Sandown he had a more comprehensive issue with the Brabham’ (BT23E) wrote journalist Ray Bell. The meeting Bell referred to was the September 1968 Gold Star round, the car, crashed in practice, did not start the race.

400 in the Longford paddock Tasman round, February 1968. Jim McKeown’s Lotus Cortina Mk2 alongside (D Cooper)

I’ve never seen any photos of Moffat aboard either car. Please share them if you have any Instamatic happy-snaps or better!

Moffat didn’t cover himself with glory it seems, not that it impacted his career trajectory! Factory Ford Series Production rides and the Trans Am were both happy 1969 events for both Moffat and we fans. What a ride he gave us all!?

Hume Weir front row of the sportscar feature, Queens Birthday weekend June 1967. Alan Hamilton’s white Porsche 906 Spyder, Spencer Martin in the Jane Elfin 400 Repco and nearside Bevan Gibson Lotus 15 Climax (M Leirsch)

Bevan Gibson (born 1946) I wrote about not so long ago in the article about the ex-Derek Jolly Lotus 15 which Bevan drove to within an inch of its life, bringing himself to the attention of Jane and others. Click here for a link to my article about the Lotus 15.

https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

Gibson really was an interesting prospect- considerably younger than all of the other drivers. At 22 he was aboard one of the fastest cars in the country- also a tricky one. I’m not suggesting Bevan was in over his head. He had plenty of experience in the 200 plus bhp Lotus 15 and had done some laps in the BT11A Repco during 1968 ‘with a strict rev limit’ to be observed whilst driving the circa 280bhp single-seater.

Pre driving deal. The Shell contracted Bob Jane Elfin Mono Ford alongside the Shell contracted Gibson family owned Lotus 15 Climax, perhaps at Calder, date unknown (unattributed)

Whilst racing the family Lotus 15 Climax Bevan worked in the workshop of Jane’s Chrysler Valiant Dealership in Sydney Road, Brunswick. The racing department was in the same premises.

Spencer Martin had been staying with Bob at his place in Kew, just off the Kew boulevard, a well known and challenging ‘racetrack’ then. Bob suggested he move out into a place of his own- sharing with Bevan, the pair ‘shacked up’ in a unit at Princes Park (Carlton) organised by Bob, the arrangement ran from 1966-7, at which point Spencer retired from racing and returned to his Sydney hometown.

Bevan Gibson having a steer of Bob Jane’s Brabham BT11A Climax in August 1968 (unattributed)

Its interesting looking at the history, the connection to the Gibson family via Hoot Gibson, Bevan’s employment by the Jane Organisation, and ‘batching’ with Martin that Cook got the 400 drive in early 1968 rather than Bevan.

Perhaps it was simply that they (Bob and Spencer) didn’t think Bevan was quite ready for it at that time? There is no doubt that they saw plenty of each others races, photos of various of the Jane cars with the Gibson 15 in shot show them sharing the Shell facilities at race meetings. I’m not suggesting Cook wasn’t worthy of the Jane drive- most certainly he was, I am merely musing over the reasons/timing of the decision to give the drive to Ian rather than Bevan in 1968.

400 in the Calder paddock in May 1967- I wonder if its Bevan’s Lotus 15, which was painted red for a while, alongside. No roll bar in this shot (T Thompson)

At the 1969 Sandown Tasman meeting, the race and championship won by Chris Amon’s Ferrari Dini 246T, Gibson took the fifth of five in a row wins in Jane’s Elfin 400.

Barry Catford, somewhat prophetically, wrote the following note as a reporter covering the meeting for ‘Australian Motoring News’. ‘During the sportscar race I noticed on each lap the nose of the Jane Elfin lifted markedly after hitting a bump on the main straight before the start/finish line. The bump would affect the other cars, but not as noticeably as it did the Elfin. It seemed as though the Jane car needed less ride height at the front and maybe more at the rear which then may have resulted in less air getting under the front of the Elfin as it lifted over the bumps’.

The accident at Bathurst happened that Easter, on 7 April, three months later

Bevan Gibson ahead of Niel Allen at Calder in March 1969, 400 Repco from 400 Chev (oldracephotos.com)

In ‘Gentleman John Harvey’ Peter Molloy recounts how John Harvey was completely shattered by what had happened to Bevan. ‘I really think that John wanted to give it away then and there’. But, ever the complete professional, he saddled up in the Brabham BT23E and contested the Gold Star race- won by Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT31 Repco after the Gibson accident with the remnants of the fire fighting foam still on the track and debris off to its side. On a track which bit him badly due to component failure only 12 months before.

Bob Jane had this to say about Bevan- ‘Hoot Gibson (father of Bevan)…were a family devoted to motor racing. ‘Hoot’ went back to the rallies from years before. Along with a lot of my mates like Lou Molina and all those sort of people. Young Bevan was a very promising driver. He was very aggressive. When I say aggressive I mean very brave. Unfortunately, that element of bravery brought him undone’.

‘The car he was racing, my car, was an Elfin. Obviously with the knowledge we have today about aerodynamics, things would be different. The car had a flat bottom, and Mount Panorama was a very fast track. It had two bumps and the end of the straight which brought a lot of people undone. The car took off, went upside down, and caught on fire. It was just a terrible, terrible tragedy’.

Gibson pictured with the Jane Elfin Mono, at Calder, date unknown (unattributed)

It wasn’t my intention to spend time dealing with the accident which befell Bevan at Bathurst.

As I mentioned at this articles outset, what started as a pictorial has ended up a feature. There are quite a lot of ‘I reckons’ about the accident online, my article includes these too. What is persuasive or a least informative are the views of those from within the Bob Jane Team, and Harvey details with Bevan sensitively and the accident in full, on that basis I include the following lengthy view of a friend and insider.

‘Bevan was a very bright young bloke. He had extremely good car control, and was very fast. He was a bit like a lot of us in our younger days, he was a bit wild at times. But he was able to harness that wildness, that energy, and put it into his driving. He was very good in competition and making excellent progress’.

‘Also some drivers may have a ‘devil may care’ sort of attitude. This can lead to some ‘spirited’ driving. I never felt this would bring Bevan into harm, but I did sometimes think he was a bit on the wild side. I felt that at times he threw caution to the wind. I have no hard core evidence for this…but I just remember feeling that at times’.

‘Quite apart from what I thought, he was certainly a good young driver. He had a lot of talent. Had he survived he would certainly have been good at his craft, and would have won lots of races…’

Lap 1 of the fateful Easter Bathurst Sportscar race 1969. The event was not an ASCC round- but was an important race with all the ‘top guns’ present. Niel Allen ahead in his ex-Matich Elfin 400 Chev, Frank Matich, suffering fuel feed dramas is 2nd, Matich SR4 Repco then Bevan Gibson, Elfin 400 Repco. Note the winglets on the front of the Allen car, big rear wing and front tabs on the SR4, Jane car devoid of these aero appendages (oldracephotos/Dick Simpson)

Bathurst Easter 1969…

John Harvey continues ‘On the Saturday night Bevan discussed with us the fact that the Elfin was lifting off the road coming over the last hump. I said to him”You can’t have it lifting off the road. If it lifts off the road it will go upside down”. We suggested that maybe the car was getting a bit ‘light’ going over the hump. I really didn’t know what technical things he could do to alleviate the situation’.

‘We expended the conversation to include Bob Jane and John Sawyer (Bob Jane Racing Team Manager/Chief Mechanic). Bevan suggested we may put some air ‘flippers’ on the front of the car, or some little winglets. This was late on the Saturday night, and hardly the right time to initiate things like that. The conclusuion was that we didn’t know if it would work. These are the sorts of things you have to test under controlled conditions. Raceday, particularly at Bathurst, is not the place to test.’

‘The only comment I made was “In all the years I have been coming to this place in whatever cars, if the car does not feel stable over the last hump- or even the second last hump- or if its a windy day- always lift off the throttle”. To do this may only drop your speed only a few miles per hour, but what it does is drop the nose of the car. Drop the nose of the car, and reduce the amount of air under the car. The car will therefore feel that little bit safer, and that much more stabile’.

‘So, that was that. there were a number of drivers who were aware of the problem and did just as I said. All we could do was pass this advice on to Bevan- all I can recall is that Bevan was running third. He then passed Niel Allen (ex-Matich Elfin 400) or Niel had some problem and Bevan was in second place’.

Bob Jane team and Elfin 400 at Calder, date uncertain. John Sawyer in blue suit behind the car. No roll bar fitted in this shot (unattributed)

‘Bevan then started to catch the race leader, Frank Matich  (Matich SR4 Repco ‘760 Series’ quad-cam 4 valve Repco 5 litre V8- a normally vastly faster car than the Jane Elfin 400).  Franks car had gone onto  seven cylinder for some reason, but he still had a good lead. Bevan was starting to catch Frank. Maybe Frank’s car now went onto six cylinders. I don’t know. All we knew was that Bevan started to catch Frank fairly rapidly, Bevan went across the top of the mountain behind Frank, and down through the Esses. From there it was on to Conrod Straight’.

‘It appeared to us that if he caught Frank he would bide his time and pass where it was safe to do so. At this stage no one was thinking about aerodynamics. Plus, i’m not at all sure what role that may or may not have played. It appeared that Bevan ‘drafted’ Frank down the straight. He caught right up on Frank and surely knew he had him. I think by this time there were a couple of laps left to go in the race.’

‘Naturally I have no way to know what is going on in Bevan’s mind. But I can easily imagine him thinking “I’ve caught up to Frank Matich. I can pass him and win this big race at Mount Panorama”. Which, of course would be a big win to have’.

‘So Bevan drafted Frank down the straight. He seemed to me to pull out just before the last hump. He pulled out to get the run down the inside of Murray’s Corner, and beat Frank under brakes. I suppose they were travelling at 160-170mph, and Bevan had pulled out just before the last hump. When Bevan hit the fresh air the car seemed to accelerate. The Elfin lifted, went up in the air, and came to earth upside down. The car almost instantly caught flames, and that was that’.

‘There was no doubt in my mind that Bevan died in that first upside down impact. The rest of the destruction and the fire, didn’t really matter’.

John then sensitively deals with the hours and days which follows, and points out that despite over 25,000 miles of testing, and the advance of aerodynamic understanding in the decades which followed the accidents which befell Mercedes Benz at Le Mans not so few years ago. Two flips to Mark Webber.

Bevan Gibson, Elfin 400 Repco, Bathurst Easter 1969. An outstanding young talent taken too soon. RIP Bevan Gibson (oldracephotos.com)

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Gentleman John Harvey’ Tony McGirr, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘Elfin’ Barry Catford and John Blanden

Special thanks to Grant Twining for insights and information about Ian Cook

Photo Credits…

Ellis French, Dennis Cooper Collection, Dale Harvey, J Ellacott, oldracephotos.com, Dick Simpson, M Leirsch, S Lambert, Bob Mills Collection, GTRX, Tony Parkinson Collection, Wayne Wooton Collection, T Thompson, Tim Watts

Etcetera: Niel Allen from Noel Hurd and Bob Jane, Elfin 400’s all …

 

Mixed sportscar bag in country NSW. Jane at Hume Weir in early 1968 from a Lotus 11, Meyers Manx VW beach buggy! and Geneer Outlaw VW (oldracephotos.com)

 

Bob Jane off the line at a Calder Raceway drag meeting in, I think 1968. He took out ‘Competition Eliminator’ with an 11.78 second/117.80 mph pass for the standing quarter (W Wooton)

 

Ken Hastings at Sandown circa 1971, note the changes to the 400 body and addition of the rear wing (T Parkinson)

 

Bill Hemming in his beautifully restored ex-Jane 400 Repco at Phillip Island in recent years (G Russell)

Tailpiece: Butt shot for the tailpiece seems apt. Niel Allen Elfin 400 Chev, bodywork by Frank Matich, compare and contrast with the standard rear of Bob Janes 400 Repco. They are heading over Sandown’s old Causeway and about to swing left into the approach of the very quick Dunlop Bridge in 1968…

Tailpiece 2: End where we started with Bob Jane- at Longford in 1967, alongside is Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906. We have liftoff…

(T Watts)

Finito…