Archive for July, 2014

san juan

The spectacular backdrop of the Andes lost on Regazoni, Rees, Pescarolo, and Courage…San Juan Circuit Argentina (Andrew Marriott)

Argentinian Temporada F2 Series : San Juan 1968…

Sensational panorama of the San Juan circuit with the Andes as a backdrop.

This race was won by the De Adamich Ferrari Dino 166. The cars in shot, all Ford Cosworth powered are Clay Regazzoni Tecno 68, Allan Rees Brabham BT23C, Henry Pescarolo Matra MS7 and Piers Courage Brabham BT23C.

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The Ferrari Dino 166 F2 struggled in Europe against the Ford FVA powered hordes but the 1.6 litre V6 engined cars driven by DeAdamich and fellow Italian Tino Brambilla were competitive in Argentina, Andrea winning in front of ‘F2 King’ Jochen Rindt’s Brabham (Andrew Marriott)

F2 was a 1.6 litre formula at the time using production blocks, the Ford FVA 4 cylinder engine, the dominant engine, producing around 225 BHP at 9000 rpm. It was based on the Ford Cortina ‘116E’ block, Cosworth’s Keith Duckworth famously applying the design concepts intended for the Ford Cosworth DFV engine, Grand Prix racing’s most succssful engine. The FVA and DFV were part of the same Ford contract the FVA being built first…

The Ferrari engine was based on a block Fiat used in its Fiat Dino Coupe, and of course later in the Ferrari Dino 246, one of my favourite road cars. The engines evolved from 3 to 4 valve heads between 1967 and ’68 finally finding form in the ’68 European season ending round at Vallelunga, Brambilla winning the day from DeAdamich. A 2.4 litre 285BHP variant of the engine was developed for the Tasman series in Australasia, that car designated the 246T. Amon won the title in 1969 and Graeme Lawrence in 1970…but that is another story to tell in detail.

The Temporada series was held late in the year attracting the best of Europes cars and talent, the Championship in ’68 won by De Adamich, victorious in 2 rounds,  from Jochen Rindt and Piers Courage.

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DeAdamich # 14 and Tino Brambilla on the Buenos Aires grid 1968. The Ferrari’s are powered by a 1596cc, 4 valve per cylinder, fuel injected, V6 producing 210BHP @ 10500 rpm…they clearly enjoyed the altitudes of the Andes better than the Cosworths and took their end of European Season form to South America winning 3 of the 4 rounds (Pinterest)

 

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Ferrari Dino 166 F2 Drawing

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Photo Credits…

Andrew Marriott, Pinterest unattributed

Finito…

British gp support

(Buzaglo Collection)

Many a driver’s career has been inspired by films, the most iconic race film is surely ‘Grand Prix’, the 1966 John Frankenheimer epic. Australian John ‘Buzz’ Buzaglo worked on ‘Grand Prix’ and became a Formula Ford ace in the UK shortly thereafter…

The opening photograph was taken during the British GP Meeting, John Player British F3 Championship round in July 1973. Fired up in his heat having been unable to fasten his Willans harness, Buzz’ March 733 Ford Novamotor passes John Sheldon’s Royale RP11A on the outside of Woodcote using all of the circuit and surrounds!

He failed to finish but made the final as one of the fastest non-finishers coming seventh from the back of the grid against world class opposition including later F1 drivers Alan Jones, Brian Henton, Larry Perkins, Danny Sullivan and Roelof Wunderink. Tony Rouff won in a GRD 373 Ford from Russell Woods’ March 733 Ford and Jones’ GRD 373 Ford.

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Brands Hatch 1971 paddock, Palliser WDF3, KVG Racing

 Billycarts with Jonesy…

Growing up in the Melbourne’s Balwyn, early ‘motoring’ exploits were shared with local lads including Alan Jones. They took on The Billycart challenge of the eastern suburbs, the formidable drop from Belmore Road down Balwyn Road to Hyslop Park. It was enough to test even the very best ‘gun suspension setup’ of pram wheels up-front and ball-bearings at the rear. How many of us developed a love of oversteer in such sophisticated machinery! Jones and Buzaglo were to meet again a couple of decades later in British F3.

Kangaroo Valley and ‘Grand Prix’…

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Bored with his job, Buzaglo set off  for Europe in 1965 to see the sights and soon set up digs in Earls Court, ‘Kangaroo Valley’. A succession of jobs followed including film extra work. While at Brands Hatch as an extra, Buzz befriended one of the producers and was offered a job as a ‘Second Assistant Director’ on ‘Grand Prix’, at 150-pounds per week. It was too good to resist, off to Clermont Ferrand and Monza Buzaglo and best mate Jeff Morrow went.

Their task was to manage the cars into position to allow the shoot of the day to take place. In the process they got to know both the cast and drivers well including Jochen Rindt, Peter Revson, Bob Bondurant, Mike Spence, Chris Amon, Jackie Stewart and co-star James Garner.

Much fun was had driving the cars into position and into ‘parc-ferme’ in the evenings. James Garner asked the boys to take his Mustang GT350 from Clermont to Monza ‘which took a week, we did it ever so carefully’. The most dangerous part of Buzaglo’s job was an invitation by Frankenheimer’s bored wife to visit her hotel suite. It was immediately clear Scrabble was not her game of choice, discretion was the better part of valour, after one drink Buzz departed, job and hide intact!

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Buzaglo in James Garner’s Mustang GT350 en-route from Clermont Ferrand to Monza in the Swiss Alps

 

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On the ‘set’ of ‘Grand Prix’ at Monza. In front, James Garner, Bob Bondurant, Buzz. Mike Spence is holding the yellow helmet, beside him is Ken Costello (an F3 driver) Peter Revson is wearing the white helmet with the movie Director John Frankenheimer behind Revson and looking ‘sideways’

‘The Revolution Club’and Merlyn FF…

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Buzz on the Brands grid, Merlyn Mk11, June 11 1970, the day of his first win

Buzz’ competitive juices were fired by close proximity to ‘the scene’. He was soon saving hard for a car, working in two clubs, one of which, The Revolution Club was a haunt of racing people including Stewart, Rindt, Frank Williams, Bill Ivy, Mike Hailwood, Piers Courage, Emerson Fittipaldi and many others.

Eventually he chose a Merlyn Mk 11 Formula Ford which was promptly loaded up for a  test session at Brands Hatch. Tim Schenken happened to be watching proceedings, having a quiet ale by the fire in bar. He soon appeared in overalls lapping in the Merlyn and made various changes to the set up- Schenken had won the first British FF Championship in a similar car in 1968 and was running an F3 Brabham that year, 1969.

Buzaglo launched a campaign of club events commencing at Brands, finishing fifth, and Castle Combe, third in late 69′. He soon established a reputation as a young man to watch from Oz- having wound his actual age back by five years in the best traditions of the sport.

 Winning in Jochen’s overalls…

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A couple of happy chappies- Jochen Rindt, Buzz and Bob Bondurant during the filming of ‘Grand Prix’, Monza 1966

Into 1970 the car was raced frequently, picking up several wins at Brands Hatch. His first, on June 11, 1970 was achieved wearing a pair of overalls given to him by Rindt. ‘Jochen came into the club one night and asked if I had bought a car yet, he immediately offered me a pair of overalls and delivered them the following week telling me to make sure I had some wins in them. They were beautiful plain light gold, triple-layer nomex, he had hardly worn them.’

‘Emerson Fittipaldi offered to help me by talking to my sponsor after an enormous lose from bank to bank in the Snetterton Esses on some oil dropped by motorbikes in the previous practice session.’

‘I was sitting there in the middle of the track thinking WTF!?, and he shouted down to see if I was alright. He was towing his F3 Lotus 59 back to the pits over the bridge and saw the whole thing. He walked me down to the track to show me the oil which was there in the earlier car session. It was a wonderful gesture, he and his wife Maria came into the Revolution Club for a meal on me a few nights later. An amazing, genuine and ever so friendly bloke.’

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First win, Merlyn Mk11, Brands June 1970

At Oulton Park Buzz and another car touched, the Merlyn was rolled into oblivion. Fellow Aussie Brian McGuire extricated him from the wreck with Buzaglo finally waking up in Cheshire and District Hospital on the following Wednesday. Buzz was out for three months- no racing and no income.

Buzaglo saw Rindt ‘steal’ a lucky 1970 Brands Hatch British GP win from Jack Brabham. His BT33 famously ran out of fuel on the last lap. Very late for work in London, good mate Mike Hailwood gave Buzz the ride of his life making it back to London in record time, ‘the Honda 750/4 was a stunning bit of kit’, he recalls.

Another memorable Brands day involved Buzz and his girlfriend being picked up by Frank Williams in London and schmoozed in the plush Grovewood Suite in the belief The Revolution Club could assist in Williams’ future campaigns. FW was not too miffed to learn Buzz was the manager- such was his work ethic, Williams figured he owned the place!

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 Palliser in 1971…

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Palliser WDF2

Upon recovery from the shunt he and Richard Knight (winner of the first Australian FF Championship in a Bib Stillwell Racing Team Elfin 600 in 1970) built up a pair of Palliser WDF3 Formula Fords to attack the 1971 season.

Buzz continued his run of success, a win in a championship round in front of Tony Brise and a BARC Silverstone round over Richard Knight in identical cars, both setting lap records were highlights.

KVG Racing and 1972 success in an Elden Mk10a…

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Victorious weekend in 1972 at Castle Combe, 2 wins and the lap record. Johnny Gerber between Buzz and the mechanics. Elden Mk10a

 

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In the KVG Elden Mk10a, Mallory Park hairpin, before the Falconer wide-body was fitted

Strong 1971 results attracted KVG Racing sponsorship in 1972 to support a two car team- a new Palliser WDF2 for Buzaglo and Buzz’ WDF3 for Ian Grob.

Early in the season it was decided to replace the Pallisers with a pair of Elden Mk10a’s, the ‘ducks guts’ in FF equipment at the time. Buzz was having a strong season, and tipped to win the BOC Championship before a bad accident at Croft in March hospitalised him again, this time with a broken leg and ribs.

Ken Grob, of KVG Racing, wanted to focus on sportscars for his son to drive, so Mexican driver Johnny Gerber bought Grob’s car with the other given to Buzz. The cars were made more competitive by the purchase of two Dennis Falconer very slippery and contentious bodies- ‘they good for an extra 250rpm over the standard Elden body down a decent straight and a tad more downforce depending upon how the bodywork was supported’ according to Buzz. At this time British businessman, lawyer/shipbroker Tony Vlassopulos of Ippokampos Shipping, Johnny Gerber’s sponsor, provided financial support.

Johnny and Buzz won many races that year with Buzaglo taking the Castle Combe FF lap record which stood for eight years, and the BRSCC South Western FF Championship.

paper article

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Buzaglo in the Elden Mk10a leads Rob Cooper and the rest of the pack for a Silverstone win, 1972.

There was a strong Australian contingent at Snetterton for the inaugural Formula Ford Festival on November 5, then as now the launchpad of many a Grand Prix career.

Larry Perkins took the very first Elfin 620 to the UK- he had raced and pranged it at Amaroo Park before its shipment to England. John Leffler was in the Bowin P4A in which he finished second in the 1972 Australian ‘Driver to Europe’ FF Championship and the winner of that title, Bob Skelton, took over the very latest, variable-rate suspension Bowin P6F. Peter Finlay entered the Palliser WDF2 in which he would finish third in the EFDA/European FF Championship in 1973 before shipping the car home and doing so well in 1974/5- second in the 1975 DTE.

Future F1 drivers in a field of great depth included Danny Sullivan, Patrick Neve, Tiff Needell and Hans Binder as well as Perkins of course.

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Formula Ford Festival, Snetterton 1972. Doug Bassett goes straight on at the Hairpin, Larry Perkins, Elfin 620 leads Tiff Needell’s Lotus 69, Chris Smith’s Elden and Buzaglo in the Ippokampos Elden Mk10a and the rest

Buzz qualified well and finished second to Sullivan in his semi-final but back in the pack of the final having initially run third off the front of the grid and moving forwards. Then the distributor moved, causing a misfire which pushed him back down the field. The final was run over 25 laps, a long race by FF standards with the cars refuelled after the warm-up lap! Ian Taylor in a Dulon LD9 won from Derek Lawrence in a Titan Mk6.

The best placed of the Aussies was Perkins who was third and at the start of what turned out to be a five year sojurn in Europe. Finlay was tenth in his Palliser, finishing one slot behind future GP driver Hans Binder’s Merlyn. They would have many a battle during the European Formula Ford Championship the following year- Binder won that title in his Merlyn Mk24 and the F3 prize car and drive for 1974 with Peter second in his Palliser. (Bengt Gilhorn who is usually listed as the winner in most references of the series was disqualified from the final Brands Hatch round ‘proof of the finishing positions of the 1973 Euro was that Binder won the F3 car…’Peter points out.

Finlay recalled ‘I was amazed that I was the best placed Aussie after Perkins…the car had been damaged in a prang (not my direct fault) at Oulton Park, when we assisted Leffo to run there and it took a while to get it sorted at the Festival’. The visiting Aussies all did the Oulton meeting to have a run on the tyres used in the UK before Snetterton.

Leffler was third in heat 1 and Skelton fourth in heat 4. Buzz recalls the guys as ‘great blokes with the cars creating huge interest and making a strong impression’ in what was the global Formula Ford Grand Final for 1972.

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The FF year finished with a meeting at Zolder in Belgium. ‘It was a two race format, in the first race Patrick Neve won, I was third , I won the second race and set the lap record winning overall’ recalled Buzz. 1972 had been a mixed year with the accident, but a successful one despite the ‘might-have-beens’ particularly at the FF Festival.

 Lookin’ Good: F3 in 1973…

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In the Peter Bloore owned March 733 Novamotor , British GP meeting 1973, an amazing weekend and ‘tigerish’ drive

Ippokampos were happy with the results of both drivers and provided some support to Buzz’ mount for the last year of the 1.6 litre F3, a March 733 Novamotor (Ford Lotus Twin Cam) owned by Kiwi Peter Bloore. The car and engine were great choices in what would be a year of phenomenal F3 depth.

There were dozens of F3 races in England in 1973 with Alan Jones, Larry Perkins, Brian Henton, Richard Robarts, Tony Brise and Mike Wilds to name the future F1 drivers who ran in the three main championships. These fellows did the lot, Buzz did six selected rounds as funds permitted.  Jacques Laffite, Lella Lombardi, Conny Andersson, Jean Ragnotti, and Michele Leclere ran occasional forays in the UK in the midst of their domestic European campaigns.

Buzz’ first F3 year was an impressive one particularly given he did no testing pre-season, and the self run, self prepared nature of the car.The first time he sat in the thing was at its first race meeting.

Competing in six meetings, as noted, his best results in the BARC Championship were seventh, eighth and second at Silverstone, Brands and Castle Combe, also setting fastest lap and the lap record, behind winner Ian Taylor there at an average speed of 103mph- the lap record stands in perpetuity as the F3 1.6-litre record.

His best in the Northern Central Rounds was a ninth at Brands. Buzz memorably ‘save Perkins life in the tunnel under the circuit’ as Jones threatened to ‘effin knock those ice-cubes (glasses) off your nose’ if his Cowangie driving habits were not altered! It would have been amusing to see that exchange between the three Victorians!

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Caught it! Sideways at Woodcote corner sans seatbelts in the heat. Scheckter lost his McLaren M23 in the British GP at the end of lap 1 the following day here taking out half the field

Contesting the British Grand Prix in the BRSCC F3 Championship round was a huge thrill with a strong seventh in a field which included six future F1 drivers, only two of them- in works cars, Jones and Henton finished in front of him in the leased March.

‘I started my heat on the second row behind Jones. Before the start, for the life of me I couldn’t get the belts done up. While trying to do them up, in a panic I missed the drop of the flag and just about the whole field passed me. I drove like the clappers and passed John Sheldon on the outside of Woodcote putting three wheels into the dirt. A stone went through the fuel filter a lap later so I DNF’d but I had one of the fastest non-qualifier laps so I made the final.

‘From the back row I worked myself up to seventh getting a European F3 Championship point- I remember AJ saying to me later you really had your eyes on this weekend.’

It had been a very promising first F3 season, his sponsor was happy, things were looking good and on the rise. Australia’s ‘Sports Car World’ Magazine ran an article about Australian drivers doing well in Europe. Buzaglo was in the best of company being featured along with Tim Schenken, Alan Jones, Larry Perkins, Vern Schuppan, Dave Walker and the late Brian McGuire. Roll on 1974.

A year which seemed full of promise: March 743 Ford Holbay in 1974…

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Buzaglo in the Ippokampos March 743, following Luis Correia Moraes GRD 374 at Bottom Bend , Brands Hatch in a test session

Ippokampos provided a 150,000-pound budget to run a two-car team in 1974. Unlike today, when control classes largely hold sway throughout the open-wheeler world, the choice of chassis and engine was critical.

1974 was the first year of the 2-litre F3. The choice of a March 743 was a good one, the Holbay engine, based on the Ford Cortina SOHC unit, was not. The good ‘ole Lotus Ford Twin-cam, suitably bored and stroked and prepped by Novamotor in Italy would have been the better choice and therein lay the problems of the season.

Buzz blames himself as the budget was adequate to purchase Novamotors. He knew them well and they offered their engines at a favourable price, but Holbay offered a ‘works deal’ with engines free- ‘it made sense at the time.’

Some good qualifying results were ruined in races where the engine lacked competitive power and torque. Poor car preparation also let the team down with a bad run of results for both drivers early in the season, Buzz’ best results sixth, seventh and eighth at Oulton Park, Silverstone and Snetterton respectively. The next race was the most prestigious of the season, the ‘XVI Grand Prix de Monaco Formule 3’.

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Buzz’ Ippokampos March 743 Holbay Ford in the Oulton Park paddock- he finished 6th, April 1974.

Monaco, or not…

Buzz was excited, he was entered for Monaco, and picked up a ‘special engine’ from Holbay’s John Reed . ‘We have given you a special engine you can rev to 9,000 rpm, you have had so much bad luck’, which was fitted to the car the week before the event.

Whilst helping the mechanics fit the engine, Ron Dennis and Neil Trundle called into the workshop suggesting removal of the rear bodywork due to the expected heat in the principality and fitting a bigger rear wing- great blokes Buzz thought!

On the Monday before the event Buzz was summoned to Tony Vlassopulos’ (Ippokampos) office to be told his seat was being taken by Tom Pryce, who duly won the race.

Rondel Racing (Ron Dennis and Neil Trundle) ran Pryce in their Motul M1 F2 car in 1973, the Token was to be their Motul F1 car for 1974. Motul’s (French oil company) withdrawal of funds meant the F1 project was sold by Rondel to Tony Vlassopulos and Ken Grob, they re-named it Token, an acronym of their names.

The car was a dog. Pryce’s Monaco F1 entry was refused as a consequence of poor results in preceding Grands Prix. The F3 ride was a calculated way of re-launching Tom’s career. Buzz, further down the team-totem-pole was pushed aside.

Pryce won his heat by 16 seconds from Tony Brise and the final by 20 seconds, again from Brise, unheard of margins at Monaco given the driver depth. Brise another star of that generation was no slouch, to say the least. Buzz wishes he had been in the car such was its pace. Unbeknown to Buzaglo, the engine was ‘a cheater’ with a device which allowed air past the restrictor, then as now mandated by the class, allowing more revs and power.

He feels no ill will to Pryce, whom he knew and believes had no knowledge of the ‘special engine’ either. As Buzz put it ‘it was the one and only 2-litre F3 race Pryce ever did, he had no point of reference to the performance of a ‘normal Holbay’. No other Holbay engined car was in the top 15 finishers. By the end of the year Holbay’s ruse was known and Novamotor were dominating with their variant of the Toyota 2TG DOHC, four valve engine.

What was memorable was that Buzz and his girlfriend were flown from Luton to Nice in Ken Grob’s Learjet, living it up for the Monaco weekend. If only! For Buzz it was all over. Tony V was focussed on Grand Prix racing not on his Formula 3 team, no further 1974 F3 appearances were made.

 Brands Hatch 1000 Km…

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John McDonald’s Chevron B19/23 Ford shared with Buzaglo, Brands 1000Km 1974

For Buzz with no money, his career was over but for a one-off drive in fellow F3 driver John McDonald’s 2-litre Chevron B19/23 Ford 2-litre sports car in the 1974 Brands Hatch 1000 Km race.

McDonald was struggling with the car in practice but eventually gave the Australian a few laps, qualifying the car around fifteenth. ‘I was black flagged after 19 laps for dropping oil so that finished the race, I was really pissed off as I was in my element driving this great handling car, from memory I was up to seventeenth at the time I was stopped.’ Outright victors were the the two Jean-Pierres- Beltoise and Jarier in a Matra MS670C, its banshee like 3-litre V12 wail ‘was enough to blow smaller cars sideways’, Buzz recalls.

Not forgotten by March, who had a high regard for his skills, he test drove the prototype March 75S 2-litre sports car in late 1974, giving his feedback about a car which ‘was not much chop’. Subsequent results proved this analysis pretty correct.

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John McDonald in the Chevron B19/23 he shared with Buzaglo, Brands Hatch 1000Km  1974

Post racing and home…

And that was it, Buzz had run out of money and ideas.

He had a reasonable run, partially supported by sponsors along the way but did not have the chance to hone his skills and put aside a bad trot and maintain enough support to go forward in the way Perkins and Jones did. It took them four and three years respectively to jump out of F3, incredibly competitive then as now, Buzaglo represents one of Australia’s ‘might-have-beens’.

He started his career late, won his first race within six months in a second hand, self run car and was beating future grand prix drivers with extensive karting experience by 1971. Buzz achieved fourteen FF wins at a time the category was at its most competitive anywhere in the world. He also set four lap records, three in FF- Silverstone in 1971, Castle Combe and Zolder in 1972 and the Castle Combe F3 lap record in 1973.

You wonder what he may have achieved with a little more luck, or funds, or a mentor/patron? Buzz never raced in Australia other than a few Grand Prix Rallies, these fun events were a contrast to the International races he contested a couple of decades before.

Wanting to stay in the UK, good friend and future F1 entrant/entrepreneur John (RAM Racing) McDonald organised a job at his Datsun outlet. From 1975 he worked for well known dealer/entrant ‘The Chequered Flag’ selling Lancias helping to build the number one Lancia dealership in Europe. He then joined old mate, Richard Knight’s then fledgling Mazda dealership before finally returning to Australia in 1982/3. He joined Allan Johnstone’s Penfolds Dealership group selling Mazda’s in Melbourne’s Burwood before retiring to Albert Park and an wasy walk to the lake.

Buzz keeps in touch with many of his UK racing friends, meeting journalists Joe Saward and Mike Doodson each year at the AGP. Good friend Jo Ramirez, the well known ex-Eagle/McLaren Team manager gave Buzz his most prized possession- the empty Moet Magnum sprayed by Senna and personally signed and marked ‘Adelaide 1993’ by him, after his last GP win.

Sadly ‘those overalls’, along with many other items were lost in a container which never arrived home from the UK .

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Ramirez with the Moet Magnum sprayed by Ayrton Senna after his last Grand Prix victory in Adelaide in 1993..one of Buzz’ most prized possessions

So many Aussies have taken the European racing plunge over the years. Then, as now, success is difficult for even the well funded- ‘it was a blast, magic’ as Buzz puts it, and a great ‘might have been’ at the same time all fired by ‘Grand Prix’ and the enthusiasm of his Revolution Club racer mates.

Photo and other Credits…

Alan Cox, Mike Dixon, Buzz Buzaglo, Peter Finlay, F2 Index

 


Etcetera…

 

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Buzz with Jo Ramirez in recent years, a regular visitor to Australia for the AG Prix

 

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Buzz in the KVG Elden Mk10a, Druids’ Brands Hatch 1972

 

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Castel Combe 1972…last lap thrash to the flag, Buzz leading Roger Orgee, Gerber and Rob Cooper. Victory by 0.8 of a second and the lap record held for around 8 years. Buzz observed the Falconer wide-bodied Eldens pulled an extra 250 revs at places like the ‘Combe but were banned as contravening the FF regs in relation to aerodynamics the following year

 

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FF Festival Snetterton 1972. Buzaglo’s Elden leads Aussie John Leffler’s Bowin P4a and Tiff Needell in his Lotus 69

 

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Nerve settling drag on the fag…11 June 1970…just before ‘the off’ and a race win. Merlyn Mk 11

Finito…

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Olympia Racing Car Show…

Model Venetia Day tries to get comfy atop the monocoque of Matra’s 1970 F1 challenger, the MS120.This famous shot was taken on the preview day of Londons ‘Racing Car Show’ at Olympia in January 1971.

The compound curvature of the Matra is more than matched by Venetia’s lissom lines- the raincoats of the ‘snappers seem apt, all struggling with the correct focal length of their shot.

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Matra MS120…

Jackie Stewart won the Drivers and Constructors World Championships for Matra in 1969 with the Tyrrell Teams Ford Cosworth powered MS80. Matra entered F1 with Ken Tyrrell’s team in 1968, his cars Ford powered. In addition their own V12 engined MS11 cars made their debut.

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Matra make their GP debut at Monaco ’68. Beltoise Matra MS11 with ‘MS9’,  induction between the cams V12. Q8 & DNF after an accident. Short ‘snub’ Monaco nose fitted (The Cahier Archive)

In 1969 Matra focussed on developing their V12, the MS80 was designed for the Ford DFV only, the strategy was successful, few new teams have won a World Championship so soon.

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Jackie Stewart in his ’69 championship winning Matra MS80 Ford. French GP, Clermont Ferrand.(unattributed)

 

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Monaco GP 1970. Henri Pescarolo ahead of Pedro Rodriguez’ BRM P153, the Matra V12 powered car finished 3rd , Pedro finished 6th in his car, also V12 powered. Rindt’s Lotus 49 achieved a great victory having pressured Jack Brabham into a last lap error (unattributed)

Commercial Considerations…

For 1970 Matra ‘went it alone’ running cars powered  by the French aerospace company’s own V12. Matras boss, Jean Luc Lagarde, did a deal to sell his Matra 530 sports car through the Simca dealer network. Simca were owned by Chrysler, who were not about to have a Ford engine powering ‘their racing car’.

Tyrrell was offered the  MS120 for 1970, Stewart  tested the car at Albi, but felt the DFV the more competitive engine and after most of  1970 running a customer March 701, Tyrrells own Ford DFV powered cars made its debut, Stewart taking two more titles in 1971 and 1973. Tyrrell and Stewart were correct in their assessment, Tyrrell’s first Derek Gardner designed ‘001’ was similar in many ways to the MS80 which was always one of Stewart’s favourite cars.

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Equipe Matra, British Grand Prix ’70 , Brands Hatch . DNF for both Beltoise & Pescarolo . Rindts Lotus 72 won the race after Brabham’s BT33 ran short of fuel . These paddock shots clearly show the different aerodynamic approach adopted by Matras’ Bernard Boyer (unattributed)

MS120 Design…

Chassis Designer Bernard Boyer created a new monocoque with  cockpit sides and upper surfaces shaped to use the airflow over the car to develop downforce. New approaches to aerodynamics in 1970 by the March 701 , the stunning wedge shaped Lotus 72 and MS120 were stark contrasts to  the ‘cigar shapes’ of the ’60’s. The other aero approach was the ‘pregnant coke bottle’ adopted by the BRM P153 (see picture of Rodriguez in Monaco) to get the fuel load as low as possible in the car.

Front suspension geometry was developed directly from the MS80 but the wheelbase was 10cm longer due to the difference in length of Matras V12 relative to the DFV.

Matra’s 48 valve, 3 litre V12 was further developed by Gerard Martin’s team with a new block, which, DFV style, allowed the engine to be attached directly to the rear bulkhead of the monocoque to  carry the loads of the rear suspension and Hewland FG400 5 speed transaxle.

The engine developed around 435bhp @ 11000 rpm , about the same power as the DFV which had the benefit of being lighter and more fuel efficient.

The DFV was ‘the engine’ of the 3 litre formula, Ferrari’s flat 12 its only true competitor over the longer term and even then it was hamstrung by the chassis which sometimes carried it…the DFV had no such problem as so many teams used the ubiquitous engine.

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Matra ‘MS12’ 3 litre, 60 degree, 48 valve, Lucas fuel injected V12. Developed circa 435 bhp @ 11000 rpm from 2993cc. Engine used as a stressed member, suspension mounts bolting directly to the engine. ‘Aeroquip’ brake lines running along top radius rod, Lucas fuel injection & metering unit in shot.(unattributed)

Drivers and Results…

The MS120’s were driven by Frenchmen Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo in 1970, finishing 9th & 12th respectively in the Drivers Championship . Whilst both were fast, neither was an ‘ace’, Matra finishing 7th in the Manufacturers Championship , Jochen Rindt won the Drivers Title posthumously and Lotus the Constructors Title for points gained by both it’s old 49 and ‘revolutionary’ 72.

1970 was a very competitive season with the Brabham BT33, BRM P153, Ferrari 312B, Lotus 49 and 72 and March 701 all winning  Grands’ Prix. The MS120 was a little heavy, was thirsty and lacked the reliability of much of its competition, JPB had 5 retirements out of 13 rounds and 6 top 6 finishes whilst  Pesca had 3 retirements and 4 top 6 finishes.

The team lacked  an ace behind the wheel and someone with real depth of F1 testing and race experience to be able to fully develop the car. French Car, French Engine, French Sponsors and French Drivers all sounds great and made political sense given the Government funds involved but in reality, in 1970, they needed Ickx, Amon, Rodriguez, Rindt or Stewart. Of course this analysis excluding drivers ‘rusted on’ to their own teams.

french gp start

Clermont Ferrand, start of the ’70 French GP. Stewart March 701, Rindt Lotus 72, Pesca MS120,Rodriguez BRM P153 obscured, Jack Brabham Brabham BT33, Denny Hulme McLaren McLaren M14A, Ronnie Petersen March 701, Ignazio Giunti Ferrari 312B, Francois Cevert March 701…talent aplenty in 1970…(unattributed)

 

image

French Grand Prix 1970, Pescarolo 5th in his MS120 at Clermont Ferrand , Beltiose 13 th in the race won by Rindts Lotus 72 (The Cahier Archive)

Withdrawal from F1…

Matra withdrew from F1 as a chassis constructor at the end of 1972, despite blinding speed shown on occasion by Chris Amon in 1971 and 1972. They eventually won Grands’ Prix as an engine supplier in Ligier chassis in the late 70’s and into the 80’s.

The 3 litre V12 was  fabulous, its screaming note one of racings most evocative, shrill best . It also achieved endurance success, the French company winning Le Mans in 1972/3/4 with its ‘670’ series of cars.

Matra’s were superbly designed, distinctively different and exquisitely built racing cars, the aeronautic background of the company obvious in the execution of the cars construction. The Grand Prix scene was the poorer for their absence but from  a commercial perspective it was ‘mission accomplished’ for Matra with an F1 Constructors Championship and 3 Le Mans victories on the trot.

The other car behind Venetia is a Surtees TS9 by the way, or perhaps you didn’t notice…

jpb from rear

JPB MS 120 1970…the more you look the more you see! Just a beautifully engineered and built car

 

boof

Beltiose all ‘cocked up’ at Monaco ’68, this kiss of the kerb causing his retirement. MS11.(unattributed)

 

image

Matra MS120 family : top to bottom 1970 MS120, 1971 MS120B & 1972 MS120C (Pinterest)

 

matra cutaway

‘MS12’ cutaway…3 litre, 60 degree, 48 valve V12. Lucas fuel injection.Designed to be used as a stressed member, bolted directly to the monocoque rear bulkhead.matra badge

 

 

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(Matra)

 

boys

The 1969 Matra Squad: Matra’s Henri Pescarolo and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, and the Tyrrell duo of Johnny Servoz-Gavin & Jackie Stewart. (unattributed)

Short History of Matra Sports…

http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/con-matra.html

Photo Credits…

The Cahier Archive, Getty Images

Finito…

pete

‘Pete’ Geoghegan in the SV Ferrari 250LM, Hell Corner, Easter Bathurst ‘Gold Star’ meeting April 1968, crowd listening to the howl of that V12 on the downchanges. (Dick Simpson)

Pete’ Geoghegan  hard on the brakes of the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari , before he leans it into Hell Corner, the left hander out of Pit Straight and onto Mountain Straight…

David McKay signed the brothers Geoghegan, Leo and Pete to share the car in the Surfers Paradise 12 Hour race later in ’68 , Australian spectators treated to the spectacle of the multiple Australian Touring Car Champion extracting all the ‘Red Lady’ had to offer in a series of sprint events earlier in the year to familiarise himself with the car. Over the years some fine drivers raced it, but McKay rated Geoghegan over most.

Pete

Pete Geoghegan 3 wheeling ‘6321’ into ‘The Dipper’ , Bathurst Easter ’68. Up ahead was teammate Bill Brown in the SV Ferrari P4/350 Can Am (Bob Jane Legends)

McKay’s ‘Scuderia Veloce’ was arguably the first of Australia’s professional racing teams, initially McKay was the driver but later SV’s entered cars for others including Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and nurtured the careers of local drivers including Spencer Martin, Larry Perkins and John Smith.

McKay was a remarkable man. He was a World War 2 veteran , a world class driver, the most influential motoring journalist of his day and a successful businessman with both SV the racing team, and Scuderia Veloce Motors, retailers of  Volvo, Porsche and Ferrari, for whom he was the NSW concessionaire.

martin

‘Australian Autosportsman’ magazine July 1965. Shell ‘Advertorial’! Spencer Martin on the cover in the SV Fazz 250LM, picture taken at the Easter meeting, i think, ‘Hell Corner’, which leads onto the uphill ‘Mountain Straight’ having gone past the pits. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

In some ways purchase of the 250LM didn’t make a lot of sense as the car was a heavy endurance machine…

Locally it was competing with lightweight sports-racers built for sprint events, it was competitive in 1965 , but into 1966 the appearance of Frank Matich’s Traco Olds/Elfin 400 and other similar cars made the going tough. By then the car had been sold to Kiwi Andy Buchanan but was prepared and entered by SV.

Its forte was long distance events, for which it was designed!, McKay and Spencer Martin, the young star McKay was nurturing, won the Caversham 6 Hour race in Western Australia in 1965. The Swan Valley event did not have great depth of field in the outright class ,’6321′ winning by 12 laps from Ron Thorp’s AC Cobra.

Here is a link to an article about Spencer Martin and David McKay which also includes additional pictures of the 250LM and Martin’s driving impressions of the racer; https://primotipo.com/2015/04/30/spencer-martin-australian-gold-star-champion-19667/

caversham

David McKay & Spencer Martin won the Caversham 6 Hour race in ’65, opening the 250LM’s long distance success ‘account’ (Terry Walker)

 

martin

Evocative Longford shot of Spencer Martin, Long Bridge, 1966 (Alan Stewart Collection)

Keith Williams was a great promoter of his new circuit at Nerang outside Surfers Paradise, the LM won his 12 Hour enduro three years on the trot

In 1966 it was driven by Andy Buchanan and Jackie Stewart, 1967 by Australians Greg Cusack and Bill Brown and in 1968 by the Geoghegans, all of the victories were against cars which were faster on paper but not ultimately having the LMs combination of speed and reliability.

In 1968 McKay had pleasure and pain- victory for the LM but defeat of his Ferrari P4/350 Can-Am car, acquired earlier in the year with the express aim of victory in a race he thought was by then beyond the old LM. For those interested in the P4, click on this link to an article on the full history of this car; https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/

surfers

Scuderia Veloce’s team in the Surfers dummy grid, 12 Hour ’68. The winning Geoghegan Bros 250LM at left, 275GTB of Phil West/George Reynolds centre, and P4/Can Am 350 ‘0858’ of Bill Brown/Jim Palmer on the right, DNF accident (Rod MacKenzie)

 

lm

The Roxburgh/Whiteford Datsun 1600 being rounded up by the LM, and Hamilton/Glynn Scott Porsche 906 Spyder , Surfers 12 Hour 1967 (Ray Bell)

By 1968 the car was owned by Sydney businessman Ashley Bence but Mckay soon repurchased it and kept it as a much cherished road car.

I missed its racing heyday but saw McKay drive it at the Sandown meeting in late 1978 at which Fangio demonstrated/raced his Mercedes Benz W196. Unfortunately an oil line came adrift causing McKay to spin and hit the fence at The Causeway. Graham Watson, later ‘Ralt Australia’ and a ‘Gold Star’ national champion himself repaired the car.

bridge

McKay in ‘6321’ tootling across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the late ’70’s. This shot was part of a ‘Sports Car World’ magazine article McKay wrote about the car, the trials and tribulations of delivery amusing…

A share in the car was sold by McKay to Spencer Martin, its original driver in ’65, the car contested some international historic events before ultimately being sold to Ralph Lauren…its life now a good deal easier than being taken to its limits by the likes of Pete Geoghegan.

ad

Racing and Development of the LM In Period: Letter from Ferrari’s Mike Parkes to David McKay dated 1 February 1966 about ongoing development of the cars in Europe…

‘…Passing now to your LM you will no doubt be pleased to learn that the car has been homologated in the 50 car GT category, as has the 4.7 litre Ford GT, although infact neither they nor us have made 50 cars.

We are still making one or two LM`s, David Piper has probably given you all his ‘gen’ on modifications. He has gone up to 7″ front rims, also I think 8″ rears, and has increased the top speed considerably by lengthening the nose and making it similar to the 1962 GTO.

He has had quite a number of gear-box failures, some of which I suspect may have been due to Fax, his mechanic, but it is clear that the crown wheel and pinion should be changed after between 18-24 hours use, depending on the ratio employed, and the same applies to the pinion bearings.

I incidentally cannot recommend in the interest of liability, attempting to fit other than ex factory spares. My research incidentally, reveals that Fiat 500 bearing shells should not fit.

We have introduced a somewhat complicated modification to improve the gearbox life which includes machining out the bearing housings in the casing to take bigger bearings. I can probably send particulars if you decide that it is worth while.

We do not official recommend the use of ‘M’ tyres, and infact suspect that customers gear-box failures were due to their using ‘M’ tyres, but my own view is that the introduction of the ‘M’ tyre coincided with the limit of fatigue life of many peoples gear-boxes. You should use 550 front and 600-660 rear and probably reduce the camber a little at the rear and should find the car faster.

You can obtain variations of the intermediate gearbox ratios by using some of the ratios from the Targa Florio box should you find the standard LM ratios not suitable for your circuits.

For an engine overhaul, as I think I told you, you should definitely change valve springs checking carefully to ensure that you have the correct fitted length. Bearing shells need only be changed where they appear necessary, also rear main oil-seal. Valve seats should not be changed unless absolutely necessary, this being determined by how far they have sunk into the head. I would not think that it was worth changing the big end bolts.

I am at a loss to understand why you have to grind down the rear pad, but can assure you that you have the correct calipers. We have never carried out compression checks ourselves but your system seems very sound, the engine presumably being hot. I can give you no indication of the valves to expect.

I would be most interested in hearing about any sort of racing programme you could offer me in Australia for 1966-67. Yours, Mike Parkes’

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‘6321’ now part of the Ralph Lauren Collection

250P and 250LM…

Ferrari’s rebuff of the sale of his company to Ford in 1963 resulted in a ferociously competitive response by FoMoCo in sports car racing; Eric Broadley’s GT40 design in the prototype class and Carroll Shelby’s Ford engined AC Cobras /Daytona Coupes the response in the GT category.

In ‘GT’ the dominance of Ferrari’s ‘250 GTO’ was being challenged by the Cobra’s, Maranello’s  response was essentially to add a roof to its championship winning 1963 Prototype, the 3 litre V12 ‘250P’, call it the ‘250 Le Mans’ and seek to homologate it into the ‘GT’ class. The CSI were onto Ferrari though, only 32 cars were built rather than the 100 mandated by the rules, so the cars raced as Prototypes until the CSI eventually relented and agreed to ‘GT’ homologation.

All but the first few cars were built with 3.3 litre V12’s, the first were 3 litres, but the 250LM name stuck, rather than 275LM as Ferrari naming convention dictated. (250 cc x 12 cylinders is 3000cc…275cc x 12 cylinders is 3300cc).

The McKay car, chassis # ‘6321’ was one of the last cars built.

The 250 LM’s were popular customer endurance racing cars but not considered outright contenders for ‘Blue Riband’ events but the race failure of the Ferrari P2 and Ford’s GT40 and Mk11 resulted in a famous victory for ex-F1 driver Masten Gregory and future World Champion Jochen Rindt at Le Mans in 1965. The two drivers flogged the NART LM # ‘5893’  to within an inch of its life, to their surprise winning the event, Rindt famously expecting to be back in Paris early enough for dinner.

That victory was Ferrari ‘s last at Le Mans…

nart

North American Racing Team ‘NART’ victorious 250LM ‘5893’ at Le Mans ’65. Drivers Masten Gregory & Jochen Rindt (unattributed)

 

lm cutaway

Ferrari 250LM cutaway showing its 3.3 litre V12, 5 speed transaxle, spaceframe chassis and all independent suspension by wishbones and coil spring/dampers ( G Betti )

Etcetera…

spencer at sandown

First race meeting for ‘6321’, Sandown Tasman meeting 21 February 1965. Spencer Martin at the wheel. A win after Frank Matich retired his Lotus 19B Climax. (Ray Bell)

 

martin

Fabulous shot of Spencer Martin in the LM, Warwick Farm, August 1965. (John Ellacott)

 

caversham

Spencer Martin ahead of Lionel Beattie in the Byfield Ayres Repco Holden Spl during the ‘Le Mans 6 Hour’ race at Caversham, in WA’s Swan Valley in 1965. Martin drove to victory sharing with car owner David McKay. (Alan Yates)

 

spencer caversham

Another Caversham 1965 shot, by the look of the helmet perhaps David McKay at the wheel. LM ‘6321’. (Lionel McPherson)

 

Pete Geoghegan during the RAC Trophy meeting in May 1968, Warwick Farm (G Lanham)

 

LM Launch

‘Automobile Year’ coverage of the 250LM launch at the Paris Show in October 1963

Race History (inaccurate and incomplete ) of 250 LM ‘6321’…

http://www.barchetta.cc/english/all.ferraris/Detail/6321.250LM.htm

Photo and Other Credits…

Dick Simpson, Roderick Mackenzie, Giulio Betti cutaway drawing, Bob Jane Legends, Terry Walker, Automobile Year, John Ellacott, Alan Yates, Stephen Dalton Collection, Ray Bell, Lionel McPherson, Mike Parkes Letter from ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, Geoff Lanham

Tailpiece…

scud

Finito…


 

austria

Ayrton Senna amongst the flowers and fields of Zeltweg, 200 km South East of Salzburg…

Nigel Mansell won the race from teammate Nelson Piquet , Senna, finished 5th after stalling at the restart and running up the chuff of Michele Alboreto’s Ferrari, a pit stop necessary to replace a damaged front wing.

Piquet won the ’87 World Championship in his Williams FW11B Honda, Sennas’ Lotus 99T similarly powered.

Senna had 2 wins back to back in Monaco & Detroit early in the season , but ,dissatisfied with the performance of the Lotus ,left for McLaren at the seasons end and starting the bitter rivalry with Alain Prost …

Photos : Pinterest unattributed

monaco

Senna victorious in his Lotus 99T Honda, Monaco ’87

san marino

San Marino pitlane ’87. Ayrton Senna , Lotus 99T Honda…2nd in the race won by Mansell’s Williams Honda

on track

Ian Ross Lola THL1 Hart, Peter Brennan Arrows A1B Ford & John Bowe March 741 Ford on circuit

This exciting event was organised by the Sporting Car Club of South Australia on the sunny weekend of 12/13 April.

A Hillclimb up Windy Peak , Belair, was held on the Saturday ,the ‘main event’ a sprint meeting  at Victoria Park on the CBD fringe on Sunday using a circuit encompassing part of Wakefield Road and the permanent section of the Adelaide GP/ Clipsal circuit.

vic park

There was a large display of road and competition cars at Victoria Park, Adelaide’s old CBD horse-racing facility now converted to a public park

The meeting was a big hit with both spectators and competitors,  SCCSA’s Peter Whelan commenting that ‘the event fills a gap in the local Motorsport calendar and was a commercial success albeit the date will likely be shifted towards the end of the year in 2015′.
Their were some tremendous displays of cars in Victoria Park with the F1 cars the highlight of on-circuit activity. Mike Bennetts ex Graham Hill ’58 Lotus 12 Climax, the ex Stuck March 741 driven by John Bowe, Paul Faulkners’ex Jones Williams FW07, Peter Brennans’ex Patrese Arrows A1B, and Ian Ross’ ex Jones Lola THL1 all exciting to see and hear.

lot 12

Mike Bennetts’ Lotus 12 Climax ‘353’, Graham Hills ’58 GP car

The event was a wonderful celebration of Motorsport and a reminder of South Australia’s place in Australian motor racing’s rich past, the Australian Grand Prix contested on road circuits in Nuriootpa, Lobethal, Victor Harbour and Port Wakefield as well as the Adelaide GP circuit, and of course Mallala , a permanent facility built on an ex RAAF base.


 

gilbert

Amazing ‘Gilbert’ F5000/USAC car & Peter Whelans ex Patrese/Millen Macau GP/Malaysian GP winning Chevron B42 Ford

 

artist

Artist in residence…all the fun of the fair

lotus front

Superbly restored by Mike Bennett, Lotus 12

 

march & arrows

John Bowe March 741 Ford, Peter Brennan Arrows A1B Ford

 

lancia

Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider …with hardtop

 

queerbox

Cockpit of the ex-Hill Lotus 12 with the gear selector for the Lotus ‘Queerbox’, or sequential gearbox to the left

march

Bowes March 741 Ford, Sean Whelans Ralt RT4 Ford, yellow Lola T140 Chev, white Lola T560 Ford on the ‘dummy grid’

Faulkner

Paul Faulkner’s Williams FW07 Ford & Brennan’s Arrows A1B Ford with the Ross Lola partially obscured on the ‘dummy grid’

imagehttp://www.motorsportmagazine.com/f1/a-formula-1-revolution/

RB Cover

This is the first Repco brochure about the RB project which fired my imagination to become a part of the project and off to Melbourne i went (Repco)

Mechanical Childhood…

I was born in Melbournes’ Kew and moved to Traralgon, in Victorias La Trobe Valley a long time ago! I suppose I can blame my lifelong interest in all things mechanical on my grandfathers as they were both blacksmiths. I have never been keen on horses and so I am possibly lucky that I was born after the motor car.

From a young age I was fascinated by anything with wheels or gears that whizzed around . My dad bought a new Ford Consul when I was 9, I studied it closely and learnt all I could. It was one of the first production cars with independent front suspension , dad would pull up in the main street and people would come up and push the mudguards up and down to show their mates how it worked, he used to get so annoyed!

He was a civil engineer and had 400 guys working for him at the local paper mill. In the early 1950’s he bought a derelict farm 10 km out of town. He loved farming but wasn’t very practical and he stayed at the paper mill and gradually improved the property on weekends.

In 1954 when I was 11 he bought a new Fordson diesel tractor. There were not many diesel’s on local farms, it was our pride and joy. I still have and use it! I learnt a huge amount from it. I remember when dad was at work I removed the Simms injector pump and pulled the governor apart and various pieces, Dad was due home so I stuck it all back together and went to start it, it wouldn’t! I hurriedly checked everything and figured out that because the injector pump had a small block coupling it could be put back 180’ degrees out of timing so I quickly removed all the pipes and refitted the pump and just managed to start the engine as dad drove up the driveway.

The Consul developed a bad flat spot when you accelerated . I reckoned it was a challenge , I pulled the downdraught Zenith carbie  to pieces. It had this funny looking thing held on with three screws on the side of the carbie and the book called it an economiser. I pulled that apart and the small rubber diaphragm had a hole in it. I put it all back together and during the week got another diaphragm from the Ford dealer. I fitted it on the following weekend and the Consul ran perfectly.

Dad told the whole world what a great mechanic I was, repairing something that the paper mills top mechanic could not etc,  that was my first mechanical victory!

ford consul

Dads Ford Consul taught me a lot and the independent front suspension was a Traralgon novelty (Wolfe)

Over the next few years I  had a Bedford truck given to me which I loved and knew every nut and bolt on as well. Dad bought me another ‘problem’ , in the mill workshop they had a small machine called a Calfdozer. Its a baby bulldozer built in England by Aveling Barford. The mechanics couldn’t start the engine, a Dorman single cylinder petrol unit. Dad bought it for me for 40 pounds, $80 now, and we lugged it home we could only unload it at a gravel pit we had so every bit of spare time I had was at the gravel pit trying to start this weird machine. It has a Zenith carbie as well, I first tested for spark of course and it had a wonderful big orange spark, after much fiddling with the magneto, timing and points it finally had a nice small blue spark and the thing duly burst into life. I still also have the Calfdozer and give it a run on occasion.

Bedford

This Bedford truck , bought by my Dad was one of a range of vehicles which taught me basic mechanics (Wolfe)

Motor Apprentice & Repco Rep…

All of this ‘fettling’ of machinery made my career path clear , dad agreed to me leaving school which I disliked very much! , but on the strict condition that I completed a motor mechanics course with RMIT by correspondence, which I did over 4 years, completing the practical elements some years later. I was encouraged to read books, no TV in those days but it was starting in the cities. I read all the motor magazines I could including ‘Wheels’ and ‘Modern Motor’, writing letters asking advice about my various farm engines. Phil Irving and Charlie Dean were my heroes, I read all I could about their projects including the Repco Cross-Flow head for the Holden ‘Grey’ motor.

I became interested in motor sport and bought the first Mini Cooper to be sold in East Gippsland, entering many hill climbs and usually winning the up to 1000 cc class. The first Coopers were 997cc ,only later did the 1275cc ‘S’ arrive . A few of us formed a new club, the Latrobe Valley Motor Sports Club’, its now known as the Gippsland Car Club .

In 1963 I read a local paper advert for employees required by Repco , they were opening an automotive workshop and parts store in Traralgon, I had since married and needed a better income than that derived on the farm . They didn’t offer me the manager’s job much to my disappointment but instead a drivers job distributing parts, engines and parcels . A new EJ Holden ute was mine, I did a huge amount of miles ,in those days, travelling up and down the Latrobe Valley in Gippsland Victoria sometimes twice in the one day. It taught me how to drive as things were totally different to today . The highways were pretty much free for all and there was no speed limit but if you exceeded 60MPH you had to prove in the case of an accident or incident that you were driving within your ability and safely. To give you an idea, the local police station in Traralgon had one car, a Ford Anglia with a top speed of about 70 MPH.

I enjoyed the job immensely and learnt lots of stuff in the workshop. Crankshaft grinding and cylinder head surfacing, clutch rebuilding etc. and of course engine assembly. I was lucky to work with the grandson of the Chairman of Repco’s Board, Sir Charles McGrath.

Mr David McGrath (brother of Sir Charles) was the managing director of our parts company and his son David junior was spending time in our particular branch learning the internal operations, he became a good mate and through him I learned a great deal about the parent company.

Repco owned ‘Brenco’ in Moonee Ponds Victoria , a machine tooling company,’ Warren and Brown’ in Footscray, a hand tool company and ‘PBR Brakes’ in Moorabbin and so the list went on. Each entity had a director on the Repco Board ,i was to learn a lot more of the politics of Repco as time went on.

On the road to Repco Brabham Engines…

RB fullspread

One of my tasks was to organise brochures etc, to be packed in each parcel we consigned. One day I received a bundle of these telling of the proposed development of a Repco Brabham Formula One engine. I read every word and decided that was what I wanted to do!

The following week the Melbourne Motor Show was on, I took the long train ride Melbourne for the show. Pride of place on the Repco stand was the prototype RB engine. There was a young fellow in a suit looking after the display , I asked him a few questions. He couldn’t really answer me and told me he was a student draughtsman helping Phil Irving in the drawing Office. That was enough for me, if this guy worked there so could !

I got him to divulge where the engine was being built, out in Maidstone near Footscray to Melbourne’s inner West. The following day, Monday, I took a ‘sickie’, hired a taxi and ventured out to Maidstone. After a lot of driving and walking around I found a small group of factories. They were ACL factories (Automotive Components Limited). ACL was operating under licence to an American Company , they manufactured in Australia, ‘Perfect Circle Piston Rings’, ‘Glacier Bearings’ and ‘Polson Pistons’. In the prior year the American company made moves to take over ACL, as this would have been a disaster for Repco, it was decided by Repco to buy ACL. So I arrived at these 3 factories, one of the empty ones had been assigned for the RB project.

I banged on the door , a guy answered but no way was he going to let me in. He explained that it was a special project and not open to the public. I gave him my whole story, he seemed to be happy that I was already a Repco employee. Finally Kevin ,let me in , I could see about 8 machines and 6 guys working making various components. I explained to Kevin that I would love a job there.

He was a bit taken back ,he told me these are Repco’s top guys and very special operators. I was young and confident and told him I would sweep the floor or anything if he would consider me. We stood and watched a guy turning something in a lathe, as I stood there an older guy wandered across to talk to the lathe operator. It suddenly struck me that this was the legendary Phil Irving standing beside me. In person, I could not believe it!

I took up the subject of a job again and he asked if I would like to look over a piston ring factory ? Anything to please Kevin as by this time I learned he was the works superintendent. He took me into the adjacent factory and introduced me to the manager, saying he would see me later and off I went , the Manager was good ,he stopped the machines, mainly operated by women , to show me what they were doing and held up various production lines to show the finished products . I now know that Kevin had arranged the factory inspection to have a second opinion on me.

I went back to Kevin and he said’ look we have decided to give you 3 weeks trial, but you will have to accept a lesser wage than you are presently getting in the country’. That didn’t worry me to work for Phil Irving, I would have worked there for nothing ! So I had to go home and tell my poor young wife that we were moving to Melbourne. I did not have a clue where to, all I knew was I had my job at Repco Brabham Engine Co and I was happy!

And so, an incredibly challenging but successful part of my life commenced…

RB detail 2

performance 2

 

film

tailpiece