Any Brabham is an over Australian $175-200K proposition these days, except one!…

There was a time, a long time, that the Australian Motor Industry was in expansionary mode behind the high tariff walls that allowed us to live in fools paradise along with most other western countries. Said tariffs in Australia started to reduce circa 1972/3. That was a pivotal moment for our automotive sector, it was never the case that our industry would cease to manufacture cars as a result of that policy change, there are a host of factors company by company that led to that outcome, but the quite correct reduction in tariffs was the first factor in a death by a thousand cuts.

The big three of the Australian industry in the sixties were General Motors Holden, Ford and Chrysler Australia. Chrysler/Mitsubishi’s Adelaide, Tonsley Park manufacturing facility is long gone, it is essentially a technology park these days whilst Holden and Ford have ceased manufacture much more recently, Holden in the last month. It was quite eery to drive past the Ford Geelong factory a week ago and see it in silence, the carparks empty of the workers who built engines there for decades.

GMH, Ford and Toyota, the other local manufacturer in more recent times are mere importers these days, a whole sector of manufacturing is gone due to the failure or desire of the local subsidiaries of global transnationals to make cars the punters want. Our cost structures are high, the global transnationals can and do decide where to make cars in a manner which maximises their profits and high cost locations hardly enhance that. Not to mention Government Policy Fuck-Wittery. It’s more complex than that, I’m getting off-point!

Back to 1963, much simpler times.

GMH, dominant in big cars, but with Ford chasing them down, looked enviously at the growth in the small car market and particularly the market share of BMC, (British Motor Corporation) Ford, VW and others.

GMH’s answer was the Vauxhall Viva, provided by GM’s UK subsidiary and first introduced in Oz in April 1964. The two door, small cars performance was ordinary, its virtues cheapness of running costs and a slick gearbox.

From small acorns do big things grow though- the late sixties to early seventies six-cylinder Torana GTR, GTR-XU1 and later the mid-seventies V8 L34 and A9X owe their parentage to the little, wheezy, Pommie Vauxhall Viva.

Its initial Australian performance credentials were bolstered by Class A (cars costing under 900 pounds) victory in the 1964 Bathurst 500, where the Spencer Martin/Bill Brown (car #46 in the ad above) driven Viva triumphed over 5 other Vauxhalls, Hillman Imps, Morris Mini 850, NSU Prinz and VW Beetles.

An updated car- the ‘HB’ Holden Torana was released in May 1967. With its conventional front engine/rear drive format, it found favour amongst traditional Oz buyers compared with some of the opposition- the new-fangled BMC cars and rear engined ‘Gunter-Wagen’ – VW Beetle. Small Fords- Anglia, Cortina always did well here. Perceived positives of the ‘HB’ were just enough power, the ‘box, rack and pinion steering and coil sprung, as against leaf sprung rear end.

By 1968 the 1159cc pushrod OHV engine gave 69bhp. It was to this base that the ‘breathed on’ Brabham Torana was released. It is not my intention to go through the timeline iterations of the Brabham Torana but in essence the package included a free flow exhaust system, twin Stromberg carbs which gave circa 79bhp, not a lot but 20% more than a base Torana ‘poverty pack’. The spec also included disc brakes up front, low profile 6 X 12 inch wheels/tyres on super wide 4 inch rims!, rally GT stripe and Brabham decals. The top speed of the base model Tommy Torana was 80mph, Jack’s did 89…with a huge tailwind I suspect.

It was pretty unimpressive though, ‘me mums Morrie 1100 with yours truly at the helm had no trouble regularly shutting one down on the trip from North Balwyn to Monash University- the fellow parked in a different corner of the Clayton car park to hide its shame.

Progress is an amazing thing though. By 1969 the little Viva had evolved into six-cylinder (as well as the four cylinder) cars, by 1970 the only car I was interested in at the Royal Melbourne Show car display was the ‘LC’ Torana GTR-XU1.

And the rest as they say, is history- a swag of Australian Touring Car Championship and Rally wins. Depending upon the model, these cars were amazingly adaptable motor sport tools.

And Jack started it all!

Not really at all.

For him it was a commercial deal, he had nothing whatsoever to do with the spec of the Brabham Torana’s- but they are the cheapest Brabham’s on the planet albeit not ones built by Motor Racing Developments!

Credits…

Unique Cars and Parts

Tailpiece: Jack Has His Hand On It…

 

 

smedley twin plug FPF

Levin, NZ January 1964 (Smedley)

Geoff Smedley fettles his ‘Twin Plug’ 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF engine fitted to John Youls’ Cooper T55 …

In the late Formula Libre period in Australasia, just before the Tasman Formula commenced on 1 January 1964 the engine of choice was very much the Coventry Climax FPF. In fact the Tasman Formula was specifically designed around the ready availability and price of the 1959/60 World Championship winning 2.5 litre FPF engine to allow the locals to compete against the internationals on more or less equal terms.

Before then (1 January 1964)  ‘the go’ was the 2.7 litre ‘Indy’ FPF, most of the locals and visiting internationals each summer raced with this engine.

But down in Australia’s south, in beautiful Tasmania, a very clever engineer, Geoff Smedley was working on another solution to make the FPF produce more reliable power and torque. His driver was the very quick John Youl, the car an ex-works/Bruce McLaren 1961 F1 Cooper T55. Here is the story in Geoff’s words.

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John Youl cruises thru the Warwick Farm paddock in 1963, Cooper T55 Climax (Smedley)

‘Firstly in 1963 the fad was to re-sleeve the 2.5 Climax to 2.7 litre chasing more hosepower but ‘bigger holes’ was the American way and I was sure a better alternative could be found.

Frank Hallam at Repco Research had been playing around with a twin plug head for one of Brabham’s engines, using two distributors driven from the rear of each cam bank and couldn’t make it work through an inaccurate spark which was put down to windup in the camshafts in the high rev range.

I preferred to stick with a man’s toy, the magneto and two of these more robust spark producers set up properly must be the answer. A total new drive was made up for a second maggy from the crankshaft protruding the front of the sump which allowed comfortable room within the confines of the T55 chassis and the head modified to accommodate a second plug.’

‘1963 saw the end of alcohol fuel for our cars and reverting back to 100 octane caused a few problems leading to the idea of a cleaner more efficient fuel burn. Obviously there are easier methods today but 50 years ago we were still looking in any way we could, without the aid of computers, only perhaps a slide rule and something to write on and a lot of time lost to mistakes but on the occasion when you were successful it was nice being 10ft. tall….’

‘The initial effort seemed rewarding with a test day at Symmons Plains circuit, the result was pleasing and being able to alter each magneto individually the differences were very noticeable.

Living in Tasmania and being able to carry out this work undercover of our opposition (who were based on the Australian mainland) was an advantage, I and my young family were living at Symmons Plains in those days and my workshop was a converted coachouse close to the main homestead where all the chassis work was carried out, but the big advantage I had was having full use of the family workshop (Bedford Machine Tools) where I was able to produce any part required.

The final test for the engine was to take it all to Melbourne and place it on Repco’s dyno at Dandenong to test the result. We were met by Frank Hallam who was very dubious about the whole thing, but some 4 hours later he confessed that our 2.5 Climax had shown better figures than any previous Climax including the fashionable 2.7 litre. The horsepower was up but more importantly the torque figures were so much improved. Those days of satisfaction have melted into oblivion and all that is left is a lot of frustrated old farts that look back and remember when….!!!!’

smedley fpf on dyno

The Smedley twin plug, twin magneto engine being being tested on the Repco Research dyno in November 1963. The engine reverts to ‘standard’ by replacement of the standard CC sump. (Smedley)

Racing the Cooper T55 twin-plug FPF…

‘Gosh! It’s hard to believe more than 54 years have passed since those heady days but it doesn’t seem that long,  but as mentioned I have been pressured into writing my autobiography which has meant scratching back over the coals to bring those great times back to life again and starting with taking the land speed record way back in 1961’.

We will trouble Geoff for that story, achieved by Geoff’s Chev engined Cooper T51 owned and driven by Austin Miller, another time.

‘I went to work for John Youl in 1962 and stayed with him until his retirement in ’65, we had a lot of fun as a team being able to work here in Tassie so privately and then  going to the mainland where the car would be pounced on and inspected for the sign of any tinkering’s that may help our opposition! So in that respect it was always a lot of fun and yes the duel ignition trick really did work wonders on the old FPF engine’.

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John Youl and Geoff Smedley aboard the Cooper T55 ‘twin-plug’ for a debut win- on the victory lap after winning the ‘Advertiser Trophy’ Gold Star round at Mallala, South Australia in October 1963. John won from the 2.7 litre Brabham BT4 Climax of Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell’s Brabham BT1 Ford 1100 (Smedley)

‘Now the very first race for this new configuration was the Gold Star Race at Mallala, South Australia on the 14th October 1963 which we won from Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell. Then came the Hordern Trophy Race at the ‘Farm on 1st December 1963, we won that one as well from David McKay and Bill Patterson’.

‘Then it was off to New Zealand for the 1964 Tasman Series.

In that series of races we came back with (in heats and championship races) one 1st, two seconds including Lakeside, two thirds including Sandown and fourth’s at Levin, Wigram and in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe behind Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Tim Mayer. We were fifth at Longford in the final round’.

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Levin form up area for the very first Tasman Championship race on 4 January 1964. Youl’s #5 Cooper T55 Climax, the two Cooper T70’s of McLaren #1 and Tim Mayer and then the victor, Denny Hulme’s works Brabham BT4 Climax. Mayer was 2nd, McLaren 3rd and Youl 4th (Smedley)

‘Prior to all this, we, like others using the Jack Knight gearbox on their Coopers, found the crown wheel and pinion was the big weakness and only 2-3 races seemed to be their life span. So i set about making 2 sets myself as I fortunately had access to the family business’s machine shop. The first set of these was fitted to the gearbox just prior to fitting the duel ignition system’.

‘This new CWP was straight cut but considerably stronger using a much higher grade steel than the original. Although a little noisy at first, it soon settled down by fitting a separate oiling system. The same CWP was in the car when John sold it to Arnold Glass in 1965.

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John Youl, Cooper T55 Climax at Mount Maunganui, NZ, December 1963 (Fistonic)

‘The car, then around 1967, I think- Cooper T55 Chassis No. F1/11/61 was sold to a collector in the USA and years later in the nineties the car was sent to England to be auctioned. I have found it there in photos sitting in the pits in places such as Goodwood and the like’.

‘The car is back today in its original form being Bruce McLaren’s  1961 works car it looks great and I have no idea but it could still have the twin plug motor in it, who knows!’

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Smedley with his charge, note the comments about the gearbox in the text, twin plug 2.5 FPF fitted, Longford Tasman 1964 (Smedley)

 Etcetera…

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‘The card was drawn up by John Youl himself as a record of the T55 during his period of ownership’- Geoff Smedley

The shot below is of Youl jumping from second grid slot away from McLaren #10 on pole, Tony Maggs #3 and John Surtees #2, as well as Bib Stillwell in the light blue Brabham BT4 and Chris Amon’s red Cooper T53- its the start of the Lakeside International on 17 February 1963.

McLaren, in a Cooper T62 the two Lola Mk4A pilots Maggs and Surtees and Bib were all driving the latest cars with 2.7 FPF’s, Youl was in a 1961 car, his Cooper T55 with a 2.5 FPF, not Smedley’s twin-plug engine either. Surtees won from Graham Hill’s Ferguson P99 and Stillwell. Youl retired on lap 7 that day.

Its such a shame ‘duty called’ with John Youl, he needed to manage the families large grazing properties in Tasmania, so his racing career was ended way before it should have. For sure he was a driver of world class, as indeed was Smedley as an engineer/mechanic.

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(Smedley)

Special Thanks…

Geoff Smedley, many thanks for this very special account of an interesting engineering obscurity which should be more widely known

Credits…

Geoff Smedley Collection, Milan Fistonic, oldracingcars.com

Tailpiece: John Youl, Cooper T55 Climax in the Levin form up area, January 1964…

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Car #4 is Chris Amon in a Reg Parnell Lola Mk4A Climax, perhaps Denny Hulme’s Brabham alongside him (Smedley)

 

(Rod MacKenzie)

…in the words of Maxwell Smart, for you aficionados of Mel Brooks’ wonderful sixties TV show ‘Get Smart’.

Kevin Bartlett with an inside wheel off the deck demonstrating the millimetre precision for which he was famous aboard the Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Alfa in Warwick Farm’s Esses, September 1969. Rod MacKenzie has opened his shutter at precisely the right moment.

Another inch or so and the talented Sydneysider would have ripped an expensive corner off the front of a car which was so kind to him. I’m not sure of the racer behinds identity. A Lotus 27 or 32 perhaps?

Bartlett inherited the Len Bailey designed, Alan Mann Racing built, Alec Mildren owned car after Frank Gardner raced it in the 1969 Tasman Series.

KB used it to great effect in that years Australian Gold Star Series winning three rounds and the title in it- Symmons Plains, Surfers Paradise and in Bartlett’s Warwick Farm backyard in December.  During a busy season KB and the Sub also won the Macau Grand Prix on 16 November and contested the JAF Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji.

It wasn’t the ‘same car’ by the end of the year though as the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 2.5 litre V8 engines with which the chassis was originally designed and built were put to one side and replaced by Merv Waggott’s Sydney built, 2 litre all alloy, DOHC, 4 valve, Lucas injected 275 bhp engine.

The history of my favourite ‘Australian’ racing car is one for another time- it’s a long story as this jewel of a car’s ‘in period’ history starts with 1969 Alfa V8 wins, continues with Waggott engined victories and ends with 1.6 litre Hart 416B success in Australian National F2 form in 1974/5. A fellow named Ray Winter was campaigning this famous car by then.

(Bill Pottinger)

High Speed Precision too…

Bartlett was famous for his tail out style, he was ‘the absolute master of opposite lock’ as Sam Posey described him having raced against KB during the 1973 Tasman Series and in the ‘L&M F5000 Championship’ in the ‘States in 1972/3.

This shot of the car is in ‘neutral to very subtle oversteer’ attitude, a very high speed, delicate drift- was taken by Bill Pottinger whilst Kevin traversed Teretonga’s ‘loop’.

The 1970 Tasman was tough in a 2 litre car, it was the first year of the Tasman F5000 Formula. KB was still quick enough to take 5th at Pukekohe and Teretonga- a second at Surfers Paradise, very much a power circuit was amazing and first at Warwick Farm brilliant but understandable. Bartlett, Matich and Leo Geoghegan were surely the quickest blokes around ‘Gods Own Acre of Motor Racing ‘ out Liverpool way?!

A mighty fine car and a mighty fine driver- thankfully both are still alive and well in Australia, Queensland to be precise…

(Bill Pottinger)

Merv Waggott fettles…

Sydney’s engineering genius Merv Waggott doing a plug change in ‘The Sub’ during the 1970 Teretonga weekend. Alec Mildren had been using Merv’s talents for years and specifically the smaller variants of Waggott’s engines in his other car, the Rennmax Engineering built Brabham BT23 copy ‘Mildren Waggott’ raced by Max Stewart.

When Merv decided to build a bespoke aluminium block to allow a capacity of 2 litres, something the Ford Cortina blocks used hitherto could not, it was an easy decision for Alec to go the more cost effective route with the local engine rather than the 2.5 litre Alfa V8.

The Alfa unit had received no development since first fitted to Mildren’s Brabham BT23D chassis in late 1967. Alfa were focussed on 3 litre engines for both their Tipo 33 Sportscar program and F1.

2 litre Waggotts won Australian Gold Stars for Leo Geoghegan in 1970 (Lotus 59B) and Max Stewart in 1971 (Mildren Waggott)

Photo Credits…

Roderick MacKenzie, Bill Pottinger on The Roaring Season

 

 

 

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Luvverly shot of a Bristol 401, the typically helpful Getty Images caption dates the shot as between 1940 and 1950 and notes the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe in Paris…

‘From Marble Arch to the French landmark by air ferry’ is a caption clue, so perhaps it’s a promotional shoot for a new service of moving cars around?

I think so, after a ferret around, note the shot below, i am not suggesting the car in the transport is a Bristol, wotizzit I wonder?

ferry

The aircraft is a Bristol Type 70 Mk32, a former military transport plane before its inaugural flight as a car ferry with ‘Silver City Airways’. Flights were between Lympne Airport in Kent and Le Touquet, France in 1949.

Credits…

Bettman, Monty Fresco, J Wilds

Tailpiece…

Captain Bill Pegg with ‘his’ Bristol Brabazon plane and 402 Cabriolet Bristol in Bristol! on 3 September 1949.

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(J Wilds)

 

(Drage)

Kevin Drage changes a Jaguar XK140 wheel with Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ on the trailer enroute to Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales in late January 1960…

Derek Jolly lead a full life, he was a man of many parts.

A visionary with money who had many interests including motor racing, business, photography, music, science and technology, the arts and fine wine. Something of a renaissance man really.

Born into the wealth of South Australia’s Penfold Wines family, he played an important role in improving the performance of early Austin 7 engined Lotus cars, designed, built and raced his ‘Decca Specials’ and then two Lotus 15’s with much success in Australia. He played a role in Australia’s nascent music industry from the 1960’s and was seminal in the redevelopment of the Melbourne Street North Adelaide precinct in the 1960/70’s. Later in life he lost a good deal of his wealth on Australia’s property market. Undeterred he moved back to the Barossa Valley and commenced a new business there.

The focus of this article is Jolly’s two Coventry Climax engined ‘Decca Specials’ and his Lotus 15’s chassis # 608/626, the car raced with much success by Derek and later a shooting star named Bevan Gibson. In fact Jolly’s 15 was not one but two chassis, albeit both had the same chassis number or chassis plate as you will see.

This article is drawn from several sources. An unattributed article in Unique Cars, the recollections of Kevin Drage, a very prominent Adelaide engineer (who deserves his own detailed story) who was Jolly’s mechanic/pitcrew for much of the time he raced the Lotuses. Kevin’s account and the dialogue about them on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ are content and context rich. John Blanden’s seminal book ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ was used. Various issues of Australian Motor Sports magazines provided race results for the two Deccas, I’m not suggesting it is a complete list however. AMS also provided the technical specifications of Decca Mk2. Where there were divergences of the story as to fact, I have expressed the alternative suppositions or views.

As will be shown Derek progressed from Austin 7 based cars to his own lightweight Coventry Climax FWA powered Deccas and finally to the Lotus 15, then amongst the fastest sportscars of their type.

The powerful 15’s or more correctly ‘Fifteens’ were fitted with the Coventry Climax FPF, twin-cam, 2 valve, four cylinder engine in either 1.5 (140bhp and 112 lb ft of torque) or 2 litres (170 bhp and 160 lb ft) in capacity. The chassis was an evolution of the Chapman/Costin Lotus 11 design. About 30 were built.

Chapman’s cars were famous for their light weight, the Fifteen tipping the scales at 445 kg and was competitive with far more powerful cars which were nominally, on paper at least, faster machines. The cars were light, slippery, turned in beautifully and, with a De Dion rear end put their power down well. During 1958 a well driven Fifteen would see off Jaguar D Types and were only challenged for outright wins by the works Lister Jaguar and Aston Martin DBR1’s in the UK.

Lets start with some background on Derek before turning our attention to the cars he built and raced.

Jolly at Le Mans 1959 (ABC)

Derek Jolly…

 Jolly was from a wealthy background, a member of the Penfold family, the founders of Penfolds Wines, still one of Australia’s greatest winemakers which originated in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

Penfolds was founded on 200 acres at Magill in 1844 with vines brought from France by Christopher Rawson Penfold. Penfold’s daughter married a George Hyland, the descendants adopted the Penfold Hyland name. Derek’s mother Mrs Ernest Jolly (doncha love the patriarchal terminology of 1940 Australia) was the only daughter of HL Penfold Hyland who entered the family firm in 1904. What is not clear to me is what role Derek had at Penfolds, although its said he worked alongside Max Schubert in the 1950’s, for generations the most legendary of Penfolds winemakers especially of ‘Penfolds Grange’, which is not a bad drop in global terms..

Like so many drivers of the period he cut his racing teeth on Austin 7’s, in fact he was one of the most competitive racers running these cars.

Derek was given one as a twenty-first birthday present by his parents and with encouragement from fellow South Australian A7 expert Ron Uffindell, he went racing.

Ron knew all of the secrets of these machines having competed extensively in them including two Australian Grands Prix. He was 7th in the 1936/7 AGP at Victor Harbour and 8th at Bathurst in 1938. In that race won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA, Ron drove his little A7 Special from Adelaide to Bathurst, raced it to 8th place and then drove home again via Victoria’s Great Ocean Road!

Derek’s car was a 1931 Ulster replica chassis ‘11517’ initially raced in chassis form, and for hillclimbing had its radiator mounted behind the engine. For road racing a lightweight body was fitted. Into the late forties and early fifties the car was a regular at events in SA, Victoria and New South Wales, perhaps it’s most notable result was third in the under 1500cc handicap at the 1950 October Bathurst meeting.

The exact specifications of the car ‘had an aura of mystery grow up against it’ according to the 1950-51 Australian Motor Racing Annual given that ‘such an ordinary looking diminutive side-valve runabout can circulate in company with all but the very hottest TC MG’ with ‘light weight and meticulous attention to detail’ it secrets of success.

Derek lifting the inside wheel thru Hell Corner on the way to 3rd behind the Brydon and Pearse MG Spls in the Under 1500cc Handicap at Bathurst in October 1950, Austin A7 Ulster Spl ‘11517’. Car now in the UK ( G McGrath)

The published specifications of the car include a 3 main bearing engine made of new parts, of 747cc, side-valve, cam with standard timing but higher lift. Compression ratio was 7:1 with a single horizontal SU carb, coil and distributor ignition. Gearbox was Big Seven 4 speed, the front brakes slightly modified with a floating anchor pin, brakes standard cable operated. A special lightweight 2-seater aluminium racing body with a rounded tail was built with maximum speed quoted at 92 mph.

It was in the context of racing Austin 7’s that Colin Chapman wanted to meet Derek. Colin was just starting the transition from trials competition to racing and was keen to learn more about the secrets of Derek’s A7 engines.

Derek went to the UK with his girlfriend, Pamela Strange as well as his very competitive, powerful A7 engine and gearbox as baggage on the Otranto. His presence in the UK was noted in the August 1951 issue of Motorsport which recorded his three-bearing Austin 7 racing success in Australia.

Depending upon which story you source the engine either arrived with Derek or in advance of his time in the UK. Whatever the case (see Appendix) Chapman, after examining the engine, adapted Jolly’s inlet manifold ideas, which in essence turned the siamesed 2 inlet port standard side-valve A7 engine into a 4 port motor considerably increasing its power and performance. At this point let’s note that Derek’s A7 secrets were mainly Ron Uffindell’s in terms of apportioning credit where it is due.

Chapman, in typical style claimed in Ian Lawrence’s book the initiative as his own ‘…an idea which had suddenly come to him after a rather hectic Christmas party…’- maybe Derek Jolly was at that party!?

Whilst some publications ignore the important role Jolly played in the performance of a very significant Lotus raced by Chapman himself in 1951, Derek’s role is now more widely acknowledged.

The Lotus Mk III ‘was constructed and probably very successful due to the assistance of the Allen brothers and Colin’s access to Derek Jolly and his Austin 7 engines’- ‘the car conceived and built between June 1950 and its first race in May 1951’ the Colin Chapman Archive and Resource notes in its ‘The Hills, Spills and Thrills’ article.

Jolly contested a Prescott Hillclimb aboard a Lotus Mark 3 powered by his engine/box but ‘broke down’, John Blanden does not identify the cause of the failure.

Whilst in England Derek spent as much time at Hornsey as he did on Penfolds family business, which was supposed to be the primary trip purpose!

Clearly very strong relationships were created between the two men, Jolly later acquired two Lotus 15’s, was entered as a works driver at Le Mans in 1959 together with Graham Hill and Chapman awarded Jolly the franchise for Lotus cars in Australia in the later mid-fifties.

Jolly posing with Decca Mk1 Climax FWA in 1956 (ABC)

Decca Mk1 Climax…

Derek returned to Australia and continued racing his A7 Spl but he soon realised he needed a more sophisticated car as the Australian scene progressed with drivers building cars to modern design themes or imported racers from Europe.

He had watched Lotus’ progression through the Mk9 and later the 11 and decided a car powered by the Coventry Climax 1100cc SOHC FWA engine was the way to go. He acquired an FWA, MG TC gearbox and Borg and Beck clutch on one of his trips to the UK.

His concept was a lightweight Clubman type car of spaceframe construction, with a de Dion rear end. The car, inclusive of its aluminium body and cycle-guards was built by Arthur Williams in Sydenham Road, Norwood, Adelaide, Derek’s home town of course.

The Decca Mk1 Climax made its debut at Port Wakefield on 31 March 1956 but caught fire during the 50 lap ‘Wakfield Trophy’ won by Tom Hawkes Cooper T23 Bristol.

Damage was light with the car racing again at Templestowe Hillclimb in Melbourne’s outer east in May. In a busy day he won the 1100cc sportscar class, then took his cycle guards off and was 2nd in the 1100cc racing car class with only Lex Davison, Bruce Walton and Murray Rainey quicker than the little Decca, regardless of capacity in their Coopers, and Walton Special.

Derek and Decca Mk1 shortly after it’s debut, Port Wakefield, SA

Back at Port Wakefield on June 4 Derek started a period as one of the most prolific racers in Australia for the next several years. In those days race meetings were not plentiful, if a competitor wanted to race frequently, he had to travel interstate.

The car raced locally of course at Port Wakefield, again on 8 October for 2nd in the ‘B scratch’ with a class win in the 20 lap sportscar feature won by Bib Stillwell’s Jag XKD. The day was topped off by a win in the 20 lap racing car handicap, 1100cc of Coventry Climax triumphed over the Chev V8 engined Tornado of Ted Gray.

At Collingrove he took 1st in the 1100cc sportscar class during the SA Hillclimb Championship on 6 October. The car was fourth quickest up the hill that day outright.

At Fishermans Bend in outer Melbourne on October 13/14 Derek won the sports and sedans race, was 2nd in the racing and sportscar race and also contested the 52.8 mile feature ‘Astor Trophy’ getting experience of longer events. He ran as high as 8th, the race won by Doug Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago T26C grand prix monoposto.

The little car was fast, in the ’56 Melbourne Cup, November meeting at Rob Roy, in Melbourne’s Christmas Hills ‘Derek Jolly continued to embarrass the locals with his amazing little Decca Special…’ that day his 27.97 secs was the third quickest time of the day the only faster machines the specialist hillclimb single-seaters of Lex Davison and Bruce Walton.

Jolly on the inside at Port Wakefield, SA circa 1957, Decca Mk2 Climax FWA, design of car Lotus 11 inspired (unattributed)

So successful was the Mk1, always intended as a prototype to test suspension ideas, that Derek decided to build a quicker car around the same major components.

Mk1 exists today in Fiat engined form but the little car donated its engine, gearbox, rear suspension and wheels to the new machine.

Work commenced on Decca Mk2 in August 1956 ‘using an army of thirty amateur and professional mechanics, the car quickly took shape’ John Blanden wrote. The cars inspiration was the Lotus 11’s Jolly saw on a trip to Europe in early 1956 and was again of spaceframe design and construction with the all-enveloping slippery body formed in aluminium.

See ‘Etcetera’ towards the articles end for full technical details of this great little car.

‘Brand spanking new’, road registered Decca Mk2 Climax in the Albert Park paddock in November 1956 accompanied by a lovely lady and a couple of Melbourne’s finest. Lines of car derivative but distinctive (K Drage)

Decca Mk2 car was completed 5 days before the Australian Tourist Trophy at Albert Park in November 1956. Derek’s prolific racing schedule continued with many impressive results, inevitably he won his class but the car was often also an outright contender.

In a splendid debut he was 13th in the 100 mile event behind vastly more powerful cars and won the 1100cc class. On the second day of the AGP carnival won by Stirling Moss’ works Maserati 250F Jolly showed the speed of the car again by finishing 7th in the 25 mile ‘Argus Trophy’ behind two Coopers, a D Type, Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco and two Austin Healey 100S.

Derek towed the car back up the Western Highway towards Melbourne and then around Westernport Bay to the opening meeting of the Phillip Island circuit on the 15 December 1956 weekend.

He contested the ‘Bill Thomson Memorial Trophy’, Thomson was a three times winner of the Australian Grand Prix on the original Phillip Island road circuit in 1930/32/33.

Jack Brabham won in a Cooper Bobtail from Stillwell’s Jag D Type, Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco and Ron Phillips Austin Healey 100S. Derek duelled for 3rd with England and Phillips but retired on circuit with undisclosed dramas with 2 laps to run. The competitiveness and speed of the car seems apparent from its earliest of events.

Sportscar support race, 1957 Caversham WA Australian GP meeting. Derek at left Decca Mk2 Climax, J Wynhoff Healey, R Ashley Healey, #39 A Collett MG T Type, #30 Paul England Ausca Holden Repco, A Melrose Healey, E Kinnear Healey and out front Ron Phillips Healey 100S. Derek was ahead before battery problems intervened giving the win to Phillips AH 100S (E Steet)

In early January 1957 Jolly and his small team towed the Decca across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth to contest the Australian Grand Prix carnival at the Caversham ex-airfield circuit, the meeting was held in notoriously hot conditions.

Derek was 4th in his qualifying 20 lap AGP heat from Brabham’s Cooper T43 Climax on the Saturday.

25,000 people arrived to watch the races on Monday which was even hotter than the preceding days.

Derek lead the 40 lap sportscar preliminary until a battery lead came adrift, Jolly jumped out of the car near the Olympic Hairpin and remedied the problem but by then Ron Phillips AH 100S had passed him, a lead he was not to lose.

Not only that but Derek doubled up and contested the 70 lap AGP, held to F Libre rules. It was an amazing act of endurance, some drivers including the winner, Lex Davison, Ferrari 500/625 had a co-driver (Bill Patterson in Davo’s case) whereas Jolly did the race on his own and finished in 7th place! The achievement was even greater as Jolly’s crew were still refuelling Decca when the flag to start the race fell. Jolly was push-started by his crew after the rest of the field had departed.

In the AMS report of the race, an outright event, the days of handicap Australian Grands Prix were over, they list handicap placings which give Jolly 4th behind Syd Anderson Alta s/c, A Melrose AH Healey 100/4 and Len Lukey Cooper T23 Bristol.

Derek Jolly & Decca Mk2 at Caversham during the ’57 AGP weekend, wonderful colour shot of the cars lissom lines (D Foley)

In March Derek again won his class and finished 5th outright at Albert Park in the 100 mile 1957 Victorian Tourist Trophy, this time the ‘heavy metal’ in front of his small car comprised Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Bill Pitt in a Jag XKD, Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax and Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco.

He returned to Victoria in June to race the car in the VSCC Fishermans Bend Sprint meeting, with the AMS report quipping ‘Derek Jolly once again took the opportunity to visit us with his spectacular Decca. His XK140 is probably able to find its own way back to South Australia..’

Travelling even further afield to Broken Hill in July, Derek took fastest time of the day at Peak Hill ‘..the glamour car of the meeting scored an easy victory..’

Undeterred by the 520 km trip to Broken Hill Derek pointed the trusty Jag in the direction of Sydney where the car was to stay until after Bathurst.

Derek contested the New South Wales Hillclimb Championships at Silverdale, near Camden on 15 September taking the 1100cc class AMS reporting ‘…the Decca went up very quickly and treated all corners with utter contempt’ taking a class record in the process. The car was the sixth quickest present that day, a few future big guns present were Frank Gardner Jag XKC , Leo Geoghegan in a Holden FX. Lets not forget Ron Tauranac Ralt, Lex Davison Cooper Irving s/c and Brian Foley Austin A30 too.

Next on the agenda was a trip from Sydney to Coonabarabran for some record breaking for a whole swag of Commonwealth Oil Refineries supported drivers, of whom Derek was one.

On 28 September 1957 he set a Class G Australian Land Speed record in Decca Mk2 at Coonabarabran recording 116.75 mph, the little car modified to suit by fitment of a head fairing.

Off to Bathurst for the ‘Bathurst 100’ meeting in October Derek competed as an F Libre car rather than a sportscar.

The event was a scratch race as part of the Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship but was run as a handicap. Derek actually lead the race (on handicap) for quite a long way until easing towards the end with a brake duct that was coming adrift. Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 won the race from scratch in 75.54 minutes with Jolly third on handicap in 83.54 minutes behind Tom Hawkes Cooper Holden Repco and Frank Gardner’s Jag XKC.

Home in Adelaide Derek contested the Gold Star meeting at Port Wakefield on the 14 October weekend. He placed 5th in the championship ‘Wakefield Trophy’, behind the single-seaters of Davison, Hawkes, Lukey and Keith Rilstone’s Zephyr Spl.

It really makes you wonder how DJ would have fared in one of the more competitive single-seaters of the day. A Lotus 12 with a 2 litre FPF could have been quite a good thing in Australia in 1957/8.

On the road again to Hepburn Springs Hillclimb, not as far as Melbourne, over the Victorian border, Derek took his customary first in the 1100cc sportscar class on 20 October.

Still in Victoria for the Phillip Island Gold Star round on 27 October Derek placed 2nd in the sportscar support race behind Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax and then 4th in the F Libre Gold Star race behind Lex Davison Ferrari 500/625. The Melburnian won the very first Gold Star awarded that day, Tom Hawkes Cooper T23 Holden Repco and Eddie Perkins (father of Larry) Porsche Spl were second and third.

Derek stayed in Melbourne for the week for the Victorian Hillclimb Championship final on the 5 November, he was again first in the 1100cc sportscar class, Bruce Walton took FTD that day at Rob Roy in his Walton JAP Spl.

Into 1958 the cars competitiveness continued with first in class and 8th outright in the F Libre Victorian Trophy at Fishermans Bend.

On 7 April Derek again won his class at the SA Hillclimb Championships at Collingrove.

In 1958 he contested several rounds of the Victorian Hillclimb Championship; he was first in the 1100 sportscar class at Rob Roy on 4 May, and again at Hepburn Springs on 18 May.

It was time to move on and up to a faster car. As a driver and car constructor Derek had certainly proved his capabilities over the last two years. So he placed an order with Chapman for a Lotus 15. In a wonderful piece of symmetry, Derek raced his new Lotus to 2nd in the 1958 ATT at Bathurst in October whilst Gavin-Sandford Morgan was 1st in class and 5th outright in the borrowed Decca Mk2 Climax!

Decca Mk2 raced on in the hands of Victorian John Ampt in 1959/60, he very much did it justice. The car lives on in Frank Moore’s collection of Australian Specials in Queensland and has done for many years.

Lets now turn ourselves to Chapman’s Lotus 15 design.

Lotus 15 cutaway (Tony Lofthouse)

Design and Construction…

The first Fifteens (lets do 15’s to save space) had the engine laid over at about 60 degrees to starboard, allowing a flat, gorgeous bonnet line between the wheel arches. There was a trade-off though in that there was an absence of space for additional diagonal bracing to the top of the engine bay. In all other ways, the early Series One cars did not noticeably differ from the finalised Series One. Derek Jolly’s car ‘608’ as landed in 1958 was to later S1 form.

The chassis of the 15 was a 30 kg space-frame in 18 and 20 gauge mild steel with the 15 and F2/F1 Lotus 16 having many components in common. The front suspension with wishbones incorporating the roll bar as the front half of the top A-arm components were common with the Series Two 11’s, the 7’s, the Elite and Lotus first single-seater, the F2/F1 Lotus 12. The 15 and 16 also shared the variations in engine inclination and Chapman Strut rear suspension.

The 15 was delivered with either wire or cast-magnesium 15-inch wheels to customer order, which, like the Eleven, had the same rim width front and rear. In 1958 this was four inches, carrying 4.50 front and 5.50 rear tyres and in 1959 perhaps four-and-a-halves. Chapman’s primary design priority until around 1960 was minimisation of unsprung weight by keeping both wheel and tyre as small as possible. The 15 had the standard Lotus track and wheelbase of the day – that is, an 88-inch wheelbase and just under 48-inch track. These dimensions, established with the 11, were used with the 7, 12, and 16.

Also carried over from the single-seater Lotus 12 was the controversial Lotus five-speed gearbox, the ‘Queerbox’.

‘A thing of Swiss-watch subtlety and elegance, but still of doubtful reliability nearly a year after its introduction. Rear-mounted, in unit with the differential, it carried its five ratios in less than nine cm (3 1/2 inches) of length, with the output gears fixed on the long differential pinion shaft, and the input gears spinning free until progressively selected by a migrating spline which was itself splined to the tailshaft. This gearbox was very much the Achilles Heel of the 15, and in fact substitution of the less-subtle, but infinitely more reliable, BMC B-series gearbox bolted to the engine, and of the proven Lotus Elite diff-case, distinguished the Series Two cars introduced later in 1958’ Unique Cars reported so eloquently.

Rear of the Jolly 15 ‘608’ at Bathurst in October 1958, 2nd in the Australian Tourist Trophy to David McKays Aston DB3S that weekend (unattributed)

‘At the start it was the engines that gave the biggest headaches. For Lotus aficionados it is almost heresy to consider what Lotus committed on those early engines, and the engineers at Coventry Climax undoubtedly felt the same way. To accommodate the inclined engine, one of the dry-sump scavenge pumps was discarded and the other modified, and the sump itself was drastically reshaped; the inlet ports were counterbored to take spigots for the manifolding, which had to incorporate a 30-degree droop. No matter how hard Climax tried (and to give them their due, they tried hard) the inclined engine was about nine horsepower short of upright-engine figures, and suffered cooling and oiling problems’.

None of these things was happening to the FPF engine in rival Coopers, so for Le Mans Lotus bit the bullet and produced two cars (a 1.5 and a two-litre) with engines inclined a mere 17 degrees the other way – just one degree different to the Cooper! This gave the upright-engined 15’s a distinctively long and slim bonnet-blister which, not so aerodynamically strong, but reliability was improved. Apart from a continuing series of enlargements to the water and oil cooling radiators, the 1958 15 had been finalised.

Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ in Series 3 form at Longford in March 1960 during the Australian Tourist Trophy weekend, a race the car won. Kevin Drage is changing plugs, note the chassis engine bay cross bracing tube referred to in the text. 1960cc CC FPF (K Drage)

‘For 1959, the Series Three car was announced, offering a simpler chassis mainly resulting from re-positioning the front anti-roll bar to become the rear link – instead of the front – in the top wishbone. Engine position, and the important diagonal across the top of the engine bay, carried on from the upright-engine 1958 car. A small change was visible in the cockpit, where the Series Three now had two small down-tubes from the dash, meeting a transverse tube which ran across the floor, whereas the earlier 15’s had relied solely on the stressed tailshaft cover to strengthen the floor and to provide gearbox mounting for the B-series box’.

‘Press pictures of the 1959 car show it with the BMC gearbox but at least two cars were built with the very compact, front-mounted ZF S4-12 all-synchro four-speed box, and another had a unique development of the Lotus five-speeder which carried the gears astern of the differential. The existence of at least two ZF-gearbox cars can be supported because there were two such cars in Australasia – one the Leaton Motors Frank Matich driven 2.5-litre car, the other a 2 litre which went to New Zealand for Jim Palmer. A unique five-speed box was fitted to Derek Jolly’s car. That raises the question of how a 1959 gearbox found its way into a 1958 car. The answer involves what is probably the most contentious item of 15 history’.

Jay Chamberlain/Pete Lovely works Lotus 15 FPF 1.5 ‘608’ at Le Mans in 1958 DNF accident (Revs)

Jolly’s car, chassis ‘608’, was one of two 15’s Team Lotus ran at Le Mans in 1958.

‘One was a 1.5-litre, the other a 2 litre FPF which caused quite a stir with its fast practice laps, but which retired embarrassingly early (blown head gasket) in the race itself. The 1.5, shared by the American Lotus drivers Jay Chamberlain and Pete Lovely, went well in patches between pit stops, and became one of the victims of violent rainstorms during the night when it crashed avoiding a slower car and was in turn centre-punched by a spinning Ferrari’.

Jolly was initially offered chassis ‘607’ by Chapman but it was allocated before Derek responded so he acquired ‘608’ instead, the car raced by Chamberlain and Lovely. It was repaired after Le Mans and raced by Cliff Allison on 19 July at the British GP meeting at Silverstone in a sportscar support event.

Lotus records show the car was then prepared for sale to Jolly equipped with tonneau cover, long-range tanks and fitted with 1475 cc CC FPF #1054. It was popped on the SS Orsova and arrived in Australia in August 1958.

Derek’s choice of the 1.5 litre FPF rather than a larger one may have been a function of availability or choice. It may be he saw it as a stepping-stone from the 1100 single-cam Climax FWA used in his Decca Special’s, perhaps he also thought it a gentler companion for the Lotus-12-type gearbox fitted to the car.

Jolly in 15 ‘608’ upon its Australian debut at Forrests Elbow, Bathurst, Australian Tourist Trophy in October 1958. 2nd behind the McKay ex-works Aston DB3S (unattributed)

The cars first event in Australia was at Bathurst, the October 1958 Australian Tourist Trophy, which was contested by a field of great depth.

The ATT was the support event to one of the most thrilling Australian Grands Prix of all- the spectacle of Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Ted Gray battling away in Ferrari 500/625, Maserati 250F and Tornado Chev V8 on this toughest of road circuits is one held in reverential terms by those who attended the meeting.

David McKay won the race in his ex-works Aston Martin DB3S from Jolly’s little Lotus off grid 3, and Ron Phillips Cooper Jaguar. A gust of wind took one of the favourites, Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S out of the race and into the barriers on Conrod Straight.

The following day Jolly scored his first win, walking away with the sportscar 10 lap support race to the Australian Grand Prix, from the D Type Jag of Bill Pitt and Frank Matich’s Leaton Motors C Type- the speed of the Lotus, which was timed over at 137.4mph on Conrod Straight was not lost on Frank who would get his hands on his own Lotus 15 in time!

Jolly raced the car closer to home, at Port Wakefield a week later on 13 October finishing third in the F Libre Wakefield Trophy behind a pair of Cooper Bristol single-seaters.

The little car was then towed to Melbourne a week later for the Victorian Sportscar Championship meeting at Fishermans Bend.

In a very successful weekend Jolly won the race- like Bathurst, a power circuit, from Bob Jane, making his race debut in his ex-works Maserati 300S, Derek’s task was made easier by Phillips DNF in the Cooper Jag with a broken oil line.

Jolly at Fishermans Bend prior to winning the Victorian Sportscar Championship in 1958, Lotus 15 ‘608’. Lotus 11 behind, various Austin Healey 100S and Coad built and driven yellow Vauxhall Spl to right (K Drage)

The Lotus then returned to Adelaide to be prepared for a fortnight of racing at Albert Park on the 23 and 30 November weekends.

In the 100 mile Victorian Tourist Trophy Derek was an excellent 3rd behind Whiteford’s 300S and Ron Phillips Cooper Jag. Phillips and Derek had many dices when they were racing the Decca and Austin Healey 100s, Phillips, like Derek had stepped up to a bigger car, in his case a Cooper Jag. On the following day in a support event Derek was split between Doug Whiteford’s winning Maser and Bill Pitt’s Jaguar XKD.

The feature event the following weekend was the Formula Libre Melbourne Grand Prix won by Stirling Moss’ Rob Walker owned Cooper T43 Climax.

Derek’s heat went well enough, he finished 5th or 6th. But things went terribly awry whilst running in 7th place during the main race.

Kevin Drage ‘The front anchorage point of a rear radius arm failed…and the Lotus rear steered into a tree. Derek was taken to hospital for facial surgery where the Perspex screen impacted on his visor and fractured his cheekbone. I think he also fractured an ankle’.

John Blanden’s account of the accident is that ‘halfway around on the last lap Derek crashed badly. He later put the accident down as three-quarters due to exhaust fumes and tiredness and the balance perhaps contributed by the left hand radius rod pulling away from its mounting. No amount of research revealed whether the radius rod pulled out and dug into the roadway or whether, while on that side of the road to take a left-hand bend, the offside front wheel mounted the kerb as he ‘blacked out’- as the car had done this two laps earlier, it is the more likely explanation. All Derek could remember was a sudden jolt (probably the wheels mounting on the kerb) and the tree looming up in front which was hit a split second later’.

In essence, was the broken radius rod anchorage the cause or effect of the accident? The answer is that nobody can be certain.

Kevin Drage ‘The Lotus was extensively damaged. Derek took photos of the failed anchorage point and asked Colin Chapman to rebuild the car free of charge. Chapman agreed on the condition he could run the 15 as a factory entry at Le Mans in 1959. Derek in turn agreed on the condition he co-drive at Le Mans and retain the 2.5 litre FPF engine to be fitted’.

Whilst there is no doubt that bits were transferred from the original chassis to the rebuilt car, what was contentious was whether or not the original chassis was repaired or replaced.

Drage picks up this point ‘I was Derek’s race mechanic/pitcrew during most of the time he had the 15 and was always under the impression that the car that returned to Australia was ‘rebuilt’ not a new one. Of course the car was extensively damaged at Albert Park and it may well have been a new chassis and panels’.

John Blanden provides the answer to this repaired old/new chassis point it seems.

When ‘608’ was returned to Cheshunt, it was stripped by works parts chief Jay Hall who assessed the frame as not being economically repairable. The chassis was scrapped (taken to the tip), the 1475cc CC FPF engine fitted to another chassis and what undamaged bits were left built into a new chassis, frame number ‘626’.

Blanden cites photographic evidence of this chassis (626) plate at Le Mans but before being shipped to Australia- the car went back to the factory, a new ‘608’ chassis plate was affixed complete with the correct 2 litre Coventry Climax engine number- ‘1160’.

The Lotus invoice to Derek characterised the work done as chassis repairs and replacements to remove the obligation for Derek to pay Australian import duty on what was a new chassis rather than a repaired one. This kind of jiggery pokery is what still goes on of course, why wouldn’t the ‘fiscal fiend’ be avoided if at all possible- but it does create havoc for historians decades hence.

Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’…

In terms of the new cars identification, lets call it ‘608/626’ as John Blanden i think correctly does.

Series Three features were used wherever possible in the build of the car. Externally, the most easily recognised is the later style of bonnet, which extended right to the dashboard and carried the centre section of the carefully-curved perspex screen – whereas Series Ones and Twos had a shorter bonnet and a separate scuttle panel, very much in the style of Lotus Elevens.

Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ at Le Mans during scrutineering in 1959. Car driven by Graham Hill and Derek Jolly. The largely new car was fitted with chassis plate ‘626’ at Le Mans but replaced by a new ‘608’ plate before shipment back to Australia (John Hendy)

Team Lotus had earlier in the year announced its intention to contest Le Mans with a pair of customer-owned 2.5-litre 15’s, in the end the factory entry was none other than ‘608/626’, with Jolly’s co-driver, soon to be rising F1 star, Graham Hill.

The car arrived at La Sarthe initially fitted with a 2 litre FPF, ‘this was replaced with a Lotus-owned 2.5 after the first practice session and the untested gearbox showed itself keen to unscrew the nut on the end of the pinion shaft because this shaft now rotated in the opposite direction to previous gearboxes. Nonetheless, despite these indications of preparation haste, the car survived practice and in fact ran for more than 10 hours of the race’.

‘Graham Hill at one stage had the car as high as 7th outright – before its habit of jumping out of gear caught Jolly out at 120 mph, changing up to fifth on the very fast run to Arnage. In traditional Climax fashion, number four rod hacked the block almost in half, and demolished the starter-motor for good measure’.

Having again failed at Le Mans, the car was returned to the factory, now moved from the cramped Hornsey site to a large factory in Cheshunt, to be readied to go to Australia.

Drage recalls that a 2.5 litre crank could not be obtained in time for the post Le Mans rebuild so the car returned to Australia with a 2 litre crank inside a 2.5 litre block and therefore raced at a capacity of 1960cc.

In rebuilt form the car also had a very different style of engine bulge – wider based, more gently curved, and open at both ends. There may have been aerodynamic reasons for this.

‘Additionally, the original five-speed gearbox – in which the gears were carried just ahead of the differential – had been replaced by a new design, with the gears astern of the crown-wheel and pinion, but on the same fore-and-aft centreline. This meant gears could be swapped far more easily, and it was announced this box would be an option for sports cars. In fact, it seems likely that only the one box was ever built, although the same principles were used – in a slightly different casing – for Grand Prix Lotus 18s, and the closely-related Lotus 19 sports car’, Unique Cars reports.

Derek looking pretty happy with the car ‘608/626’ in the Gnoo Blas paddock February 1960. Is that Jack Myers he is speaking to? Jolly’s tow car XK140 behind, car with bonnet up is Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S. You can see the slight canting of the FPF engine, cars spaceframe chassis and cross bracing in the engine bay referred to in the text (Kelsey)

Returned to Australia aboard the SS Athenic in August 1959 and then Adelaide, the Lotus was not raced for a while given mounting business pressures.

Entered at Gnoo Blas, Orange in New South Wales in the Australian Touring Car Championship meeting on the 1 February 1960, Derek took a first up win in the ‘South Pacific Sportscar Championship.’

The photo which starts this article is of Kevin doing a roadside wheel change between Adelaide and Orange- a distance of 1150 Km, the new cars first Australian meeting was a long way from home base!

No doubt Derek had tested the car around the Port Wakefield circuit or the Adelaide Hills to ensure everything was hunky-dory before the long tow north. What a mouth watering thought that is, there are some marvellous roads in the hills close to Adelaide. Some of these very roads were explored by Fangio, Moss and other stars on the ‘Climb To The Eagle on The Hill’ which was an annual part of the Adelaide GP carnival. Fangio blasting a 300SLR past at speed up the hill is a straight-eight image and sound I will never forget!

Kevin Drage attending to the 15’s mirror, ‘608/626’ in the Gnoo Blas paddock, February 1960, note the twin-choke SU carbs on the 1960cc Coventry Climax FPF, silver car #29 is Brookes Austin Spl (Kelsey)

The win at Gnoo Blas was a good one defeating David Finch in a Jag D Type, Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S and others.

The car was giving away plenty of capacity but the its power to weight ratio, aerodynamic properties and ability to put its power to the ground ensured its competitiveness. As a driver Drage said that Jolly ‘On his good days was a pretty good driver on other occasions he could be just average. When Derek got the bit between his teeth and had a bit of a challenge he usually rose to the occasion’.

‘I can remember towing the Lotus 15 all the way from Adelaide to Sydney to the opening very wet meeting at Warwick Farm.(1960) Derek putting it into the fence after 1.5 laps of practice and then having to turn around and drive all the way back to Adelaide. Derek flew. The only good part was that the tow car was an XK140 Jaguar’. Of that car KD recalls ‘the XK140C with C Type specs…as certainly quick. I recall one trip with Derek (without trailer) from the outskirts of Melbourne to the outskirts of Adelaide in a bit under 5.5 hours’. Quick to say the least!

At speed at Longford en-route to Australian Tourist Trophy victory in March 1960 Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ (J Ellacott)

Success at Gnoo Blas was a portent of even better to come at the Longford International meeting in March 1960.

On the same 5 March weekend that Jack Brabham won the Longford Trophy in his Cooper T51 Climax Jolly triumphed in the 24 lap Australian Tourist Trophy from Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S.

Three time Australian Grand Prix winner Whiteford was somewhat impacted by a slipping clutch, but it was a great win with Frank Matich in the Leaton Motors D Type 3rd. In a thrilling weekend for the Adelaide driver Victorian John Ampt was 4th in the race in Decca Mk2.

Kevin Drage recalls that weekend with pleasure ‘When we went to Longford for the Australian TT in 1960 Derek wasn’t keen to pay for the tow car and trailer on the ferry (from Port Melbourne to Launceston- an overnight trip). Fortunately he had somehow managed to have the Lotus 15 road registered so I left the Jaguar and trailer in Melbourne and had the ‘onerous task’ of driving the Lotus from Devonport to Longford and back again. Perhaps this may have been the last time a TT winning car was driven to and from the meeting?’ Kevin mused.

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Derek being congratulated after his 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy win at Longford (Walkem)

His recollections of the ‘Queerbox’ are also of arcane interest. ‘An interesting fact about the Lotus Queerbox is that the gear change lever on Jolly’s original 1475cc 15 always returned to a central position and as a consequence you were never quite sure what gear was engaged. When the 1960cc version returned after the Le Mans rebuild the gear change lever was a migratory type and the gear positions were marked on the tunnel and you at least knew what gear had been selected’.

The Penfolds family at the time were going through the process of listing the family company on the Australian Stock Exchange which was no doubt for the ‘usual’ reasons. As families grow larger there are many who don’t want to be involved, a public listings makes their interest more liquid and also gives access to greater amounts of capital to expand- Penfolds at the time had increased in size enormously from its original Magill base mind you.

As a consequence Derek was under pressure to devote more time to the business, one last success was achieved by the 15 when Derek won the 1962 Caversham 6 Hour co-driven by John Roxburgh. The pair won by 10 laps despite being hampered by a jamming throttle and a leaking gearbox.

The car was then offered for sale, the process took a while with Frank Coad giving it an occasional run in Victoria to remind people of the cars existence.

By 1962 the Lotus 15 was old hat of course with mid-engined Lotus 19, Cooper Monaco and the like much more competitive cars, but eventually in 1964 it passed into the hands of somebody else who made it sing.

Bevan Gibson, Lotus 15 ‘608/626’, Spencer Martin Elfin 400 Repco and Alan Hamilton Porsche 906 Spyder at Hume Weir, Albury/Wodonga, Queens Birthday weekend 1967. Shot is somewhat poignant as Bevan is to die in the Elfin at Bathurst 2 years hence. Drives in the 15 earned him the Bob Jane cars drive (Bryan Liersch)

The Gibson family are well known Benalla, Victoria racing identities, all of ‘Hoot’ Gibson’s sons raced- Bevan, Paul, Grant and Carl, in sportscars.

At the time Bevan was making a name for himself initially in karts, then in a Triumph Spitfire and was ready for the next step, into the 15 so Hoot bought the car. Bevan had just two races in it before end-for-ending it five times at Warwick Farm during the 1965 Tasman meeting in a highly spectacular crash which left him unhurt on the grass as his car somersaulted onwards.

Two months later the car reappeared at The Farm, Bevan won the race from the back of the grid. It was the start of a period in which the Gibson team campaigned the car at virtually every available Victorian and NSW meeting until the end of 1968.

The engines capacity was raised to 2.3 litres which put small-capacity lap records out of consideration, while the over 2 litre class was the territory of the big V8 cars, so that outright and class wins were relatively few, although the car held the Phillip Island sports lap record for many years. What made an impression was Bevan’s natural speed and commitment despite the 15’s inherent shortcomings against much younger cars.

The bodywork was progressively hacked about to repair minor damage and to accommodate wider rims and tyres, and the gearbox needed lots of caring fettling.

The Gibson family owned Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ in the Winton paddock circa 1970, Paul starting out not long after Bevan’s death. Journalist Ray Bell wrote about the family maintenance of the ‘Queerbox’-‘they sometimes wore out their crownwheels, these were too expensive for cinema operator Hoot to replace thru Lotus spares (ZF made them exclusively for Lotus) and so Vauxhall crownwheels were lapped in running with grinding paste on the lathe overnight to suit. The gearchange was always dicky with this car, but when Grant Gibson took it to England he was able to set it up properly with a hacked-up unit alongside and found some spacers in the wrong place’ (G Clarke)

But by early 1969 the old beast had served its purpose, Bevan was recruited by Bob Jane as one of his drivers doing some laps in the Brabham BT11A vacated by Spencer Martin and becoming the primary driver of Bob’s Elfin 400 Repco sportscar.

This car was a very serious weapon powered by a 4.4 litre ‘RB620’ V8, unfortunately Bevan died in it at Bathurst in 1969 whilst pursuing Frank Matich’s much quicker Matich SR4 Repco, that day slowed by a fuel injection problem. The Elfin took to the air on one of Bathurst’s Conrod Straight humps. This story is well told in my article on the Elfin 400. Click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/?s=elfin+400

Ugly as a hatful of arseholes, awful innit?! Bevan Gibson at Hume Weir in the 15 in 1969, with modified nose. The old beast ‘608/626’ had done a few tough race miles by then (oldracephotos.com.au)

The Lotus 15 remained in the Gibson family for decades raced by various of the boys before being restored by Grant Gibson, partially during the period he worked as Nigel Mansell’s engineer whilst at Williams.

The car looked fantastic when completed but sadly left Australia a few years ago, its still alive and well…

What Happened to Derek?…

After the Penfolds float Derek moved away from the racing scene, the Geoghegan family in Sydney took over the Lotus franchise after Jolly relinquished it.

But he was a big mover and shaker in swingin-sixties Adelaide.

He built Gamba Studios in ‘Deccas’ Place’ at what is now 97 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide, its a wonderful part of town i lived in Sussex Street for 3 1/2 years not so long ago.

But back then it was moribund, Derek’s development included a restaurant and state of the art recording studio with the highest quality recording equipment available. He encouraged an open door policy inviting musicians and performers to use the studio to experiment. To enhance that he imported the first Moog synthesiser in Australia, in fact its said to be the first used outside the US.

Derek at right in the Gamba Recording Studio, Deccas Place circa 1971 (ABC)

Many Adelaide folk of a certain age remember the ‘Futuro’ house, a flying saucer like round pre-fabricated building in Melbourne street in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was originally designed as a ski-house by Matti Suuronen, a Finn. It was seen as a home of the future by Derek, eventually less than 50 were built. Derek’s was relocated to a country site some years ago.

Derek planned Decca’s Place as a cultural centre with his initial drive and enthusiasm being credited as responsible for the mix of shops, restaurants, apartments and boutiques in the area today.

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Deccas Place and Futuro house in the 1960’s, at what is now 97 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide (ABC)

Unfortunately Derek lost much of his fortune in the 1987 stockmarket crash although he continued to be a force in the arts. He and his wife Helen moved back to the Barossa Valley in 1996 opening a multi-media gallery, they were instrumental in establishing the annual Barossa Music Festival which is still held today.

Jolly still popped up to the occasional car event, a close friend who owns a Lotus Elite Super 95 once Derek’s recalls him as guest of honour one year at the Lotus Club Of Australia annual Easter get together.

Derek died in 2002, aged 74 as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident 12 months before- his stationary car was slammed into by an out of control driver at about 90kmh. It was a sad end to a man of many parts, he was also battling cancer at the time.

Jolly was a man of considerable achievement, he used his inherited wealth to achieve much in motor racing, business and the arts.

Its tempting to speculate what he may have achieved had he raced on rather than retired in his early thirties but the scene was becoming more professional- his own racing of the Fifteens is an example of that. In that sense his career bridges post-War amateurism with late fifties-early sixties professionalism.

Lets remember one of the largely forgotten men of Australian motor racing…

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Jolly in his Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ at Warwick Farm during the summer 1961 International meeting. He was second to Frank Matich’s Leaton Motors Lotus 15 2.5 FPF during this meeting, giving away some power to the quick FM driven car- the fastest sportscar in Australia at the time (J Ellacott)

Bibliography…

Uniquecarsandparts.com.au, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Colin Chapman Archive and Resource, ‘The Story of Lotus 1947-1960’ Ian Smith, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ G Howard and Ors, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ magazine various issues, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, northkentlotusgroup.org, The Nostalgia Forum, Ray Bell

Special Thanks…

Kevin Drage, Ellis French and Rob Bartholomaeus- in Kevin’s case for the recollections and photos on The Nostalgia Forum which inspired this article and in Ellis’ and Rob’s case material from their collections to plug important research gaps

Photo Credits…

Kevin Drage, John Ellacott, John Hendry, ABC, Doug Foley, Tony Lofthouse, Bryan Liersch, oldracephotos.com, Geoff McGrath, Gary Clarke, Ellis French Collection, Walkem Family Collection, Eddie Steet, Ron Lambert, Kelsey Collection

Etcetera…

Austin 7 Engine..

At the time Chapman was starting out to race his Lotus 3 the UK 750 Club rules required the use of the standard two siamesed inlet ports, which could be opened up to improve performance.

Derek Jolly’s secret, probably learned from South Australian Austin 7 exponent Ron Uffindell was to de-siamese the ports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The technique Jolly used was illegal in the UK as noted. Chapman’s interpretation was to have Michael Allen create an illegal four pipe inlet manifold with two hidden sparators attached to the manifold face which slid into the opened out ports when fitted thereby effectively creating four rather than two ports. They bound up the manifolds four pipes using asbestos tape to hide the pipes and make it appear that it had just two. Unless the manifold was removed the development would be invisible.

The Lotus Mk 3 was a very successful car in 1951 with Chapman behind the wheel. Its speed was due to a combination of Chapman’s talent, the chassis and the engine.

Decca Mk2 Climax FWA..

Whilst superficially similar to the Lotus 11 the Decca is different in many respects.

The chassis is a spaceframe with two tubes either side spaced 12 inches apart vertically . The lower tube is one inch square 17 gauge, the upper one one inch round of 20 gauge. It has only one intermediate cross member at the bellhousing, most chassis bracing is left to the 24 gauge sheet aluminium undertray which is fastened to the lower side tubes and to the tail shaft tunnel, this acts as a large box section.

Jolly jumps back aboard the Decca Mk2 during the 1957 Caversham AGP support race, battery sorted but race lost. He then contested the AGP itself finishing 7th in the amazing, pretty little car (unattributed)

In front a massive box section crossmember welded up from 15 and 20 gauge sheet steel gives massive strength and torsional rigidity. To this is attached 1956 Renault front suspension more or less complete together with its rack and pinion steering gear modified to give 1 3/4 turns lock to lock. The brakes are 9 and 8 inch Alfin drums front and rear.

Decca Mk2 Climax, Collingrove Hillclimb circa 1957. Coventry Climax 1097cc FWA SOHC, 2 valve, twin SU carbed engine to ‘Stage 2’ tune giving circa 83 bhp @ 6800 rpm (K Drage)

At the rear a de Dion system is used. The diff housing is cut down Austin A70 with inboard rear brakes built to it. The driveshafts are as long as possible, their outer universal joints contained within the hub housing, these having been machined down from 6 inch solid duralumin. The de Dion tube itself is made of 3 1/2 inch chrome molybdenum tube and is located by twin trailing arms on each side and a Panhard rod for lateral location. Coil springs are used and tubular shock absorbers.

Wheels are Borrani with 4.5 inch and 5 inch X 15 inch tyres, front and rear.

The car is 11 feet 3 inches long, 5′ wide and 28″ high at its scuttle, its weight 9 1/2 hundredweight. The body itself is made of 18 and 20 gauge aluminium welded together and is arranged such that with the removal of three bolts the whole upper shell can be removed. More routine maintenance can be done with front and rear body sections which are hinged.

The 8 gallon tank gave a racing range of 200 miles and was raced in ‘touring trim’ – and road registered which would have made it a mighty fine, fun, fast road car!

Lotus 15 ‘608/626’..

Wow Factor: Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ in the Longford paddock in March 1960, Jolly’s Australian Tourist Trophy winning weekend (R Lambert)

Tailpiece: Lets end the article the way we started- Equipe Decca in Adelaide, before the long trip to Gnoo Blas, late January 1960…

(K Drage)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Gordon)

Jim Clark’s Lotus 35 Ford Cosworth SCA 1 litre F2 car at rest in the Pau paddock on the 25 April weekend in 1965…

You forget what delicate little flowers these cars were. When I glanced at Ian Gordon’s wonderful shot I initially thought it was a ‘screamer’, a 1 litre F3 of the same era. Not so.

Remember the pantheon of single-seater formulae at the time was 1.5 litre F1 engines giving 205-215’ish bhp, 1 litre pushrod F3’s breathing through a single carburettor choke giving about 100bhp and 1 litre OHC race engine F2’s giving 115 initially towards 150 bhp plus by the formula change to 1.6 litres in 1967.

Jim won at Pau from Dick Attwood’s Lola T60 SCA and Jochen Rindt, also SCA powered in a Brabham BT16.

The engine in Clark’s winning Lotus is Keith Duckworth’s conception based on the production Ford 116E block. The SCA (single cam series A) was the dominant F2 engine of 1965. It won all of the ‘Internationals’- there was no European F2 Championship until 1967, with the exception of the ‘Autocar Trophy’ at Snetterton in May. Graham Hill took that win, BRM P80 powered, aboard a John Coombs Brabham BT16.

Hewland ratio change in Jacks BT16 in the Pau paddock- there were lots of them as Brabham tried to match ratios to the peaky 1965 variant of Honda’s RA302E engine. Brabham raced much of the ’65 F2 season in SCA powered cars as Honda development continued (Gordon)

Ian Gordon became a well known and respected Australian race mechanic, later working for Alec Mildren Racing and Max Stewart amongst others. He was on a racing holiday in 1965 and snapped these fantastic photos of the ‘F2 Engines of 1965’ during the Pau Grand Prix weekend. The engines are the SCA, BRM P80 and Honda RA302E.

For Jim it was the first of five F2 wins in ’65- that amazing season of Clark domination (F1 World Title, Tasman Championship and Indy 500 win), the others were at Crystal Palace, Rouen, Brands Hatch and the Albi GP late in the season.

The real threat to Cosworth SCA dominance into 1966, not that it was necessarily apparent at the time, were the 1 litre DOHC, injected Honda 4 cylinder engines fitted to various of Jack’s works Brabhams during 1965. The peaky nature of the engines power delivery was the primary issue which was addressed in spades over the winter. Click here for my article on Brabham Honda dominance in 1966.

https://primotipo.com/?s=brabham+honda

Duckworth’s First Cylinder Head Design…

By the beginning of 1963 new F3 and F2 categories were announced, the former to replace Formula Junior to take effect from 1 January 1964.

Duckworth, armed with 17,500 pounds of support from Ford set to work on the new ‘SCA’ engine which would use the Ford 116E block known so well to them.

Sitting atop it would be an aluminium cylinder head with a line of vertical valves, two per cylinder ‘It was really an overhead cam version of the last Formula Junior engine’ Duckworth quipped in Graham Robson’s wonderful ‘Cosworth’ book.

The engine was notable for its bowl in piston combustion chamber or ‘Heron Head’ design. ‘My simple argument was that at the compression ratios we could use, and the valve sizes needed to ensure good breathing, that a bathtub type of chamber ended up masking the valves. It was an awfully long way around their periphery. I argued with myself, that if I put the combustion chamber in the piston, then for most of the time the valves would be out of the way, and that they wouldn’t impede the flow’ Duckworth said.

The steeply aligned inlet port of the SCA owed much to the Mk XVII pushrod 1963 engine engine which was heavily modified by having tubular downdraught inlet ports brazed into the casting. It wasn’t easy to do or cheap to make but improved gasflow. The SCA in some ways mirrored that approach.

KD ‘The SCA was the first cylinder head that I ever designed, and now I think their was quite a lot wrong with it. We had all sorts of trouble with the combustion- we couldn’t make it burn- but it was still good enough to win a lot of F2 races. In the end there was so much spark advance, that it wasn’t reasonable. We ended up with 49 degrees. The SCA chamber suffered from a lack of circumferential swirl’.

Colin Chapman sub-contracted the running of his F2 team to Ron Harris, the two wheels of the car alongside Clark’s Lotus 35 in the opening photo are those of his teammate Brian Hart- Brians 35 is BRM P80 powered and is shown above. The story of BRM’s 4 cylinder P80 F2 engine is one for another time but its vital statistics are an all aluminium, DOHC, 2 valve, Lucas injected 998cc (71.88X61.6mm bore/stroke) dry sumped motor giving circa 125 bhp @ 9750 rpm. (Gordon)

Duckworth- ‘It might not have been right, but we had to make it work. It won the F2 Championships of 1964 and 1965…and…until the Honda engine of 1966 with four valves and twin overhead camshafts, tungsten carbide rockers and torsion bar valve springs appeared in Jack Brabham’s cars. We’d run out of breathing at 11,000 rpm so we obviously needed more valve area. That’s what started me thinking about 4-valve heads’.

‘Mike Costin  and I exercised great ingenuity- we had ports that curved around, we had the piston of the week with every kind of shape, dint and odd hole- but the combustion was not good, the mixture never burned properly’.

All the same, the dominant F2 engine of 1964 and 1965 did so producing between 115 bhp @ 8700 rpm in its original Weber 40 IDF carburettor form and ultimate ’66 spec Lucas injected form 143 bhp.

Ford 5 bearing 116E block. Single, (train of seven gears) gear driven overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder , Cosworth rods and pistons, Laystall steel crank. 997cc- 81mm x 48.35mm bore-stroke.

SCB variant 1498cc 175 bhp – 3 engines only built including the Brabham BT21B raced by ex-Brabham mechanic Bob Ilich in Western Australia

SCC variant 1098cc 135 bhp for North American sportscar racing

Bibliography…

‘Cosworth: The Search for Power’ Graham Robson, tentenths.com, F2 Index

Photo Credits…

Ian Gordon, Peter Windsor

Tailpiece: Jim Clark’s Lotus 35 Cosworth SCA on the way to victory in the 80 lap, 221Km Pau GP on 25 April 1965. Its only when you look hard you realise that it is not an F1 Lotus 33!…

(Windsor)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I joined a couple of much younger enthusiasts at Prahran’s ‘The Alps’ for a couple of ‘shandies’ on a warm Spring Sunday last week and was amazed to see them on their ‘duelling’ iPads cackling away to some of Brockbank’s magic…

 I shouldn’t have been surprised though as the work is timeless.

Russell Brockbank died in 1979 so has not been with us for a while. I think the first time I saw his work was in a batch of Pommie magazines my dad had been given by a mate in my early teens. A while ago.

He wasn’t born a Brit though, he was Canadian by birth, born in Niagra Falls in 1913, he was educated there and then went to Chelsea School of Art in London. He left art for industry in 1932 and then industry for art in 1936.

The 1960’s English editor of Automobile Year recalls he was a fairly well known motoring artist when Brockbank asked for his advice on how to break into the automotive business over a post Donington meeting drink. Confronted by such brilliant competition, Gordon Wilkins thought he showed sound sense in deserting art for writing.

Brockbank’s career started in the thirties as a contributor to ‘Speed’ magazine producing scraper images of the racing cars of the time.

Throughout his war service in the Royal Navy he contributed to Punch, Lilliput and The Aeroplane, his art reflecting the state of society then.

By 1949 he was the Art Editor of Punch. His passion and knowledge of cars and motor racing shines through in the technical accuracy of his work as do his characters-Major Upsett with his outmoded ‘tache and clapped out Austin 8. Not to forget the ‘Old Biddy’ haranguing her long-suffering husband, the Rolls driver and Latin racing drivers. Nothing missed his eagle eye.

In England he lived in the country and frequently gave lifts to grannies who had missed the hourly bus. He even thought of starting a ‘100 mph Club’ – ‘Bless their hearts, they chat away at a Porsche ton and don’t know it. The observant few watch the tacho, read 40 and are happy’ he quipped.

He died at the early age of 66.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography…

Automobile Year, Article by Sue Ellis

Credit…

Russell Brockbank, Brockbank Partnership

Tailpiece…