Archive for July, 2014

bluebird rain

Campbell, Bluebird and team depart from the salt of Lake Eyre in May 1963 on the causeway from saltpan to road and on to Muloorina Station, rain soon covered the Lake to a depth of 3 inches…surreal shot (Pinterest unattributed)

50 Years Ago Today, 17 July 1964 , Donald Campbell Broke the World Land Speed Record, in Bluebird Proteus CN7, at Lake Eyre , South Australia achieving a speed of 403.10 MPH…

Donald Campbell was to achieve a unique double, the only man to ever break Land and Water Speed Records in the same year, when at Lake Dumbleyung outside Perth he set a record of 276.33 MPH in Bluebird K7 on December 31 1964.

His fathers son…

father & son

Sir Malcolm & Donald Campbell, Daytona Beach , January 1933. Bluebird Campbell Railton

Donald was the son of Sir Malcolm Campbell, a Grand Prix winner and Brooklands racer who turned his hand to record breaking achieving 146.16 mph at Pendine Sands , Wales , 1924 in a Sunbeam V12 .He broke 9 LSR records in all, his final at Bonneville, Utah, on 3 Sept 1935 at an average of 301.337 mph, the first person to exceed 300mph.

He set 4 Water Speed Records , the final in 1939 on Coniston Water in Bluebird K4 . He was Knighted in 1931 and died after a series of strokes in 1948 aged 63.

daytona 1933

Malcolm Campbell, Bluebird , Daytona Beach , Florida. 272.46MPH , February 1933 (Pinterest)

Water Speed Records & The Norris Brothers…


Donald Campbell, Leo Villa (right) in Bluebird K4 ,Coniston Water, Lakes District, Lancashire, August 1949 (Pinterest)

Like many sons of famous fathers Donald set out to both emulate and surpass the achievements of his father.

At the outbreak of World War 2 he volunteered  for the RAF but was unable to serve as a result of childhood rheumatic fever. He became a maintenance engineer and subsequently a Shareholder/Director of a small engineering company named Kine Engineering, the business producing machine tools..

His record breaking efforts commenced after his father died, having purchased the boat ‘Bluebird K4’ from Sir Malcolms Estate. It was gradually coaxed to 170MPH and had circuit racing success.Lew Norris was a mechanical engineer and the workshop manager at Kine Engineering who provided advice on the development of K4.

In early 1953 Campbell began developing his own advanced all metal jet powered Bluebird K7 hydroplane. He approached Ken & Lew Norris to design and build the boat , the brothers collaborating with Australian aerodynamicist Tom Fink.

Norris Bros Ltd became a very successful design consultancy working and manufacturing in diverse fields, amongst their designs was the automatic tensioning device for seatbelts.

Campbell set 7 WSR’s in K7 between July 1955 and December 1964, the first at 202.33MPH, the last at  276.33 He was awarded a CBE for his water speed record breaking in January 1957.

k7 66

Bluebird K7 Coniston Water 1966

From the Waters of Lake Coniston to the Salt of Bonneville, Utah…LSR & Bluebird CN7…


Bluebird CN7 : Air for the turbine was drawn in thru the cars nose, ducted around the driver , the cockpit positioned forward of the front wheels. Wheelbase identical to John Cobb’s Railton (Pinterest)

After Campbells record attempt at Lake Mead in Nevada in 1955 it was put to him that he should ‘go for the double’, to achieve a Land & Water Speed record in the same year .

Campbell had no credentials on land, but undeterred approached the Norris Brothers to build a car capable of 500 mph. The task was enormous with Campbell then in his late ’30’s being described as a ‘financier , impresario, sportsman, adventurer, as well as courageous enough to take on the elements’.

Campbell was a patriot and wanted the car to be the best of British ,it took over 80 companies, in excess of one million pounds to build the car and an equivalent amount to run the operation…enormous sums by the standard of the day.

Having put in place the funding and  corporate support to deliver the project technically Norris Brothers designed a car capable of 500mph. the design concept was simple ; a jet engine, run drive shafts out of each end to the front and rear axles, and build a steel frame to house the engine, driver, and wheels. The driver sat forward of the front wheels, air was  ingested through a front intake and ducted around the driver into the turbines and then the engine.

The technical specifications of the CN7 are outlined below, but in essence the car was of advanced aluminium monocoque construction  ,had 4 driven wheels, was 30 feet long, weighed 9600 pounds and was powered by a Bristol Siddeley free turbine , or what would  be described today as a ‘turbo prop’ engine, developing 4450 shaft horse power or 4000 BHP at 11-11800RPM.

The aerodynamics were similar to John Cobbs Mobil Railton Special which almost achieved 400MPH using petrol engines.

Bonneville 1960…

bonneville sept

Campbell testing CN7 at Bonneville , September 1960, days before the accident

Bluebird was completed in Spring 1960 and after testing at Goodwood circuit was shipped to Bonneville , Utah, the scene of Malcolms last LSR triumph in September 1935.

Initial testing went well but on his sixth run Campbell crashed at 360 mph , writing off the car and hospitalising himself with a fractured skull, burst eardrum and extensive cuts and abrasions.

Campbells confidence was badly shaken, he suffered mild panic attacks and for some time doubted he could go back to record breaking. He learnt to fly light aircraft as part of his convalescence but by 1961 he was feeling better and planning the rebuild of CN7.


Bluebird was rooted, destroyed in Campbells near fatal accident, the cars structural integrity saving him. Campbell did not have a background in motor racing, unlike his father, the challenge of driving and controlling the immense car without that is almost beyond comprehension…bravery in the extreme, and self belief despite the self-doubt it is said Campbell also had

CN7 Rebuilt…


Some of the team at Lake Eyre…scale of the operation in this remote location clear…

Sir Alfred Owen of BRM Trust, and later the owner of BRM outright, fame stepped forward and offered to rebuild the car, various of his Rubery Holdings Group companies having constructed the car initially.

Campbell thought that Bonneville was too short, the salt having a total length of 11 miles and after researching various alternatives identified Lake Eyre, 700 Km north of Adelaide as a more appropriate location.It had 450 square miles of dried salt lake and rain had not fallen for over 20 years.The surface of the 20 mile long ‘track’ was rock hard, which allowed a very long ‘run in’ to the measured mile and importantly plenty of space to stop the massive car, not easy despite the sophisticted braking system, their being little or no ‘engine braking’ from such engines.


Sussing the Lake Eyre salt in 1962 (National Geographic)



By Summer 1962 CN7 was rebuilt , 9 months later than planned , it was the same car albeit with the important addition of a stabilising fin and reinforced fibreglass cockpit cover , it was shipped to Australia in late 1962.


Unloading Bluebird at Lake Eyre 1963 (John Kennedy)

Lake Eyre, South Australia…1963 and Craig Breedlove , Bonneville ’63…


The task of getting Bluebird to Lake Eyre, and then onto the surface was immense. 100Km of road were constructed by the government and then a 400 metre long causeway from road onto the lake Surface far enough in to clear the soft outside of the Lake. 1963 (John Kennedy)

The Australian and South Australian Governments saw the attempt as a means by which to promote both the country and the state.

Lake Eyre is remote, to say the least, the South Australian Government creating a gravel road 100 Km long from Marree to Muloorina Station and from there to the shore of the Lake. Then the difficult bit started…the crust of salt lakes is hardest in the middle, underlying the crust is water saturated blue mud. It was necessary to build a causeway 400 metres long  to allow transport vehicles to access the salt from the road itself .

The initial runway selected was abandoned after trucks grading it sank through the surface, another being chosen and graded after government equipment returned having worked on public, impassable roads which had not seen water for years…


Shortly after Easter, in addition to Bluebird there were 5 Fordson tractors, 2 Commer 5 ton trucks, a Humber Super Snipe car an Elfin Catalina single seater for tyre adhesion tests, several Commer vans for refuelling etc, multiple Land Rovers, and other assorted cars belonging to reporters and photographers.

There were around 80 men at Lake Eyre either in houses or caravans, then a mechanised unit of the army and police arrived swelling numbers to 150-200 depending on the day, making food and other supplies difficult when roads were impassable. It was a military operation, supported by the Australian Army to provide the logistical support to move around 200 people into the remote location to support the record attempt.


A new course was marked out , several test strips being prepared so that Ted Townsend, the Dunlop technician, could work out their relative effectiveness. This was done by driving the Elfin Catalina, a small single seater powered by a Ford Cosworth 1.5 litre engine, and doing deceleration runs using a recording ‘Tapley ‘ meter. The object was to find a course with a high coefficient of friction to aid the momentum of the car, to aid the cars grip of the surface. The tyres used on the Elfin were the same Dunlops fitted to Bluebird, albeit scaled down from 52 inches…


Dunlop Engineer Ted Townsend at the wheel of the Elfin ‘Catalina’ Ford used for surface testing, the car mounted with 13 inch scale replicas of Bluebirds 52 inch tyres. Car was used with testing equipment to find salt with the optimum coefficient of friction (Pinterest)

The task of making the strips was huge as Ken Norris wanted a tolerance of o.25 inches variation in height of the salt surface over 100 feet.


Bluebird Lake Eyre test run 1963 (John Kennedy)

Campbell arrived in late March, low speed attempts at around 240MPH being carried out, this also allowed the team to do their ‘turn around drill’, the return record timing run  needing to be made within an hour of the first.

Then the rain came…By May 1963 Lake Eyre was flooded to a depth of 3 inches, the first rain in years and the attempt was abandoned. Campbell had to move the car off the lake in the middle of the night to avoid it being submerged. He was criticised at the time for this but the good citizens of Great Britain did not understand the ‘on ground’ realities of Outback Australia howver large the entourage.

Meanwhile, at Bonneville Craig Breedlove had driven his pure thrust jet car, the ‘Spirit of America’ to 407.45 mph in July 1963 . The ‘car’ didn’t comply with FIA regulations about the ‘cars’ having a ‘minimum of 4 driven wheels’, but in the eyes of the world he was the fastest ‘man on wheels’, it was not the first time the regulators lagged behind the technology being deployed.

Campbell was bitterly diappointed but had to push on knowing Bluebird was capable of going much faster if circumstances smiled upon him.


Campbell hands has mascot, ‘Mr Whoppit’ , who rode in the car together with several other items, he was highly superstitious, to wife Tonya, Lake Eyre 1964

Lake Eyre 1964…

loads up

Campbell returned to Australia in Spring 1964 but the course could not be used after yet more rain.

BP pulled out as his main sponsor, Australian Oil Company Ampol stepping in. Campbell was still being criticised heavily in the press in the UK because of his administration of the project, in many ways unfairly, he hardly had control over the weather.

The course was never fully dry, but under pressure, Campbell was forced to make the best of it. In July he put in some speeds which approached the record. On 17 July, taking advantage of a break in the weather , he made 2 courageous attempts on a shortened, damp course, posting 403.10 mph.

CN7 covered the final third of the measured mile at an average of 429 mph peaking at 440 as it left the measured distance …the car would have gone faster then 450MPH had he been able to make the long run into the ‘measured mile’, he had gone to Lake Eyre for in the first place…

But it was the record all the same.


Civic Reception at Adelaide Town Hall…


Civic Reception in Adelaide, King William Street had not seen anything quite like it! 200,000 people turned up, an enormous percentage of the local population at the time (Pinterest)

Campbell drove CN7 through the streets of South Australia’s capital with a crowd of more than 200,000 in attendance. CN7 then toured the country and throughout the UK after its return in November 1964. Bluebird was eventually restored in 1969, having been damaged in a demonstation run by a stand-in driver at Goodwood,but  has never run again.

The Double…

lake d

Campbell achieved his seventh WSR at Lake Dunbleyung near Perth Western Australia on 31 December 1964 at an average speed of 276.33 mph, just getting his second record within the same year as he had planned.

k7 1967

Short But Sweet..

Campbell’s LSR was short as the FIA admitted jet powered cars from October 1964.

Campbell’s 429mph on Lake Eyre remained the highest speed achieved by a wheel driven car until 2001. CN7 is now on display at the National Motor Museum in Hampshire, England.

Bluebird Rocket Car and another WSR attempt…

Norris Bros were requested by Campbell to undertake design studies to achieve Mach1.1 , using a rocket car to do so.

To increase publicity for the program to get the necessary community and business support Campbell sought to break the WSR again, this program commenced in Spring 1964.K7 was fitted with a lighter & more powerful Bristol Orpheus engine from a Folland Gnat aircraft developing about 4500 pounds of thrust.

The modified boat was taken to Coniston Water in November 1966, the boat failing when the engine ingested debris from collapsed air intakes.

Some runs at 250 mph were made but the boat had fuel feed problems limiting maximum engine power, this problem was fixed by the engineers, better weather was then required.

4 January 1967…

The weather at dawn that cold, gloomy day was was ok.

Campbell set of for his first run at 8.45 am, he went past the first marker at 285MPH, 7.525 seconds later leaving the measured mile at over 310 MPH. Instead of refuelling and waiting for the wash to subside, he made his return run, this was something he had done before.

His second run was faster , at a peak speed of 328MPH the boat was bouncing its starboard sponson with increasing ferocity, the most intense bounce dropping speed from 328 to 296MPH. Engine ‘flame out’ (failure) occurred , perhaps caused by fuel starvation, damage to a structural element , disturbance of the airstream or all 3 factors. Shorn of nose thrust, and resultant nose down momentum K7 glided before completely leaving the water. It somersaulted before plunging back into Coniston 230 metres short of the measured mile. K7 cartwheeled across the water before coming to rest.

The impact broke the craft in half, forward of the intakes where Campbell was sitting, killing him instantly. K7 then sank. The wreck of was found by Navy divers on 5 January, but Campbell’s body was not.


Coniston Water 4 January 1967


The wreckage of K7 was recovered between October 2000  and May 2001, Campbells body was recovered on 28 May 2001, he was  interred at Coniston Cemetery on 12 Sptember that year. None of this was without controversy the family split on the issue, Campbell himself having allegedly said in 1964 ‘skipper and boat stay together’.

As of 2008 K7 is being restored by ‘The Bluebird Project to full aerospace standards of working condition in North Shields, Tyne & Wear using as much of the original craft as possible.


Adrian Newey , doyen of Formula 1 designers in the last 20 years had this to say about Bluebird CN7 in the January 2013 issue of ‘Racecar Engineering’ magazine… ‘Motorsport as an industry is a user of technologies developed in other industries, aerospace in particular… terms of the biggest advances made, although not strictly speaking a racing car , Bluebird was the most advanced car of its time. …It was the first car to properly recognise and use ground effects. The installation of a jet engine is a nightmare, and it was constructed using a monocoque (chassis) working with a lot of lightweight structures. It was built in the way you build an aircraft , but at the time motor racing teams werent doing that..’

Campbell was a remarkable, extraordinarily driven man. He started his World Record Breaking late, after his fathers death, Sir Malcoms Estate passed to his grandsons partially to avoid Donald pursuing the path Sir Malcolm followed , the Estate having some of the old Bluebirds. But Donald did it anyway.

He sought the advice of his fathers mechanic, Leo Villa, and evolved K4, selling his share in his engineering business, and losing his second marriage in the process to fund the Norris Bros initial work on K7.

Other than the family background in record breaking he had no expereince of his own until his fathers death of controlling and racing boats or cars.

His family name was a huge start but the ability to create a team to fund, design, build, develop, and then compete is extraordinary. He was a ‘Racer’ to his core.

He was a deeply passionate, patriotic Brit with all of the best ‘derring do’ associated with adventurers of a past age, an inspiration to all around him and an iconic figure to a generation.


Donald Campbell CBE, with Bluebird CN7, Lake Eyre 1964. an amazingly brave adventurer from a bygone age.

YouTube Footage of the Lake Eyre Record…

Specifications…Bluebird Proteus CN7

cutaway watts

Designer/Builders Norris Brothers

Engine : Bristol Siddeley Proteus 705 gas turbine. Compressor , 12 axial flow stages, 8 combustion chambers , 2 two stage turbines

4000 BHP @ 11-11800 rpm

Transmission : 2 David Brown single split gearboxes with differentials, no clutch. Spiral bevel drives front & rear

Chassis : ‘Aeroweb’ sandwich, 0.48 inch thick light alloy spaced 3/4 inch apart by resin bonded 1/4 inch mesh honeycomb of 0.002 inch thick light alloy . Body built by Motor Panels Ltd

Suspension :Independent by ball jointed wishbones. Girdling oleo pneumatic suspension struts with rubber rebound buffers

Steering : Burman recirculating ball

Brakes : Girling disc , inboard mounted, 16 3/4 inch external & 10 3/8 inch internal diameters

Wheels : Dunlop split rim disc wheels

Tyres : Dunlop 7.8 inch section , 52 inch external diameter

Dimensions :Length 13 ft 6 inches, Track F & R 5 ft 6

Weight 9600 pounds

Fuel Capacity 25 gallons of aviation turbine kerosene


CN7 instruments were complex , their images being reflected onto the windscreen where Campbell could read them ‘heads up display’




References & Photo Credits…

Land Speed Racing History, Greg Strapling

Australian Broadcasting Commission

The Bluebird Project

Cutaway drawing, Laurie Watts


John Kennedy, National Geograghic, Ted Townsend

Pinterest, various photos unattributed



Fabulous shot of Derek Bell ‘on line’ on the approach to La Source hairpin, he finished 8th sharing this ‘Ecurie Francorhamp’ 512S with Hughes De Fierlant…

Jo Siffert and Brian Redman won the race in the dominant car of 1970/71, the Porsche 917K. These 5 litre 12 cylinder , 450-500 BHP cars are still spoken of in awe 45 years later by those fortunate enough to see, or drive them.

Ferrari were very busy in 1970 with F1 and their beloved sportscar programs. Porsche kept it simple, subcontracting the preparation and racing of the cars to John Wyer Engineering and Porsche Salzburg, they were not distracted by F1.

On paper, the V12, spaceframe chassis 512S should have given the Flat 12, space-frame chassis 917 a better run for its money than it did…

The early season Sebring 12 Hour win flattered to deceive. The suitably ‘tweaked 512S ,’71 updated 512M showed  early potential to ‘serve it up’ to the 917 horde, but the Ferrari factory didn’t race it in ’71, the 15 cars built or converted from 512S spec were raced by privateers only, there is an interesting article to be written there!

The 512S is one of my ‘Top 10 Racing Cars’ a fabulous device if not Maranello’s most successful…



25 512S all in a row?…Maranello late 1969…

Twenty five cars were required by the governing body, the CSI for homologation into Group 5

The cars are all lined up ready for inspection, the yellow ‘Francorchamp’ car stands out.

The investment was huge compared with the small production runs of previous models, only three P4’s were built (and one P3 converted to a P4).

Fiat ‘took over’ Ferrari’s road car division in 1969 and put racing support arrangements in place going forward, without that their would have been no 512 program, the company probably would not have had the working capitial to build so many cars with sales not exactly certain.

Spa 1000 Km 1970 pits

(CA Caillier)

More 512S all in a row, mechanics fettle Bells’ car, #21 is the Schetty/Merzario Scuderia Ferrari 512S which finished seventh, the best placed 512S was the Ickx/Surtees machine in second.


512 spa camera

Busy pit stop for the Ickx/Surtees 2nd placed 512S. Surtees jumping in, Ickx clear in the helmet behind, Spa 1970 (Rainer Schlegelmilch)


Andretti at Daytona in 1970


Engine, transmission and rear suspension detail of one of the works cars, Daytona 1970




The Ferrari compound above at Le Mans in 1970.

The Dick Attwood/Hans Hermann Porsche 917K won the race with the best place of the eleven 512S which started the race was the NART entry driven by Sam Posey and Ronnie Bucknum.

#8 is the Art Merzario/Clay Regazzoni entry DNF after 38 laps with a collision, the #5 Jacky Ickx/Peter Schetty was also involved in a collision in which a marshal was killed after completing 142 laps. The car to the left without a number showing is the Derek Bell/Ronnie Petersen car which had a valve fail after only 39 laps- worse was bearing failure of the #6 Nino Vaccarella/Ignazio Giunti 512S after only seven laps were completed. Not a memorable Le Mans for Ferrari at all.

512S Long-tail during the filming of ‘Le Mans’ in 1971 (Getty)

Photo Credits…

A Caillier, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Getty Images


512 spa schetty

Peter Schetty, 7th Ferrari 512S chasing the winning Siffert/Redman Porsche 917K, Spa 1970 (Rainer Schlegelmilch)



berger 1

Pole position and a win after waving teammate & champion elect AyrtonSenna into the lead…and having the favour returned late in the race giving Berger his first McLaren win…

Even though it was ‘only’ built in the ’60’s this Honda owned track must be one of todays classics, by any measure? Even though ‘130R’ has been ‘softened’ the track is still a formidable test of man and machine and on my circuit ‘bucket-list’. Its a non-‘Tilke Template’ track which is a positive.

Honda’s first V12 since the Surtees ‘Hondola’ Era…

Neil Oatley’s new chassis carried the Honda ‘RA121E’ 3.5 litre V12, replacing the previous very successful V10’s. The chassis was longer to accomodate a larger fuel cell for the thirstier V12 but still torsionally stiffer than its predecessor.Early testing by Berger and Ayrton Senna was not promising, they were unconvinced of the engines superiority over the V10… but the car still won its first 4 races in Senna’s hands.

engine honda

Honda ‘RA121-E’ ,3493cc, circa 720BHP @ 13000 rpm. McLaren MP4/6 Monaco 1991(Pinterest)

Williams FW14 & Mansell…

Williams FW14 then found mid season form and reliabilty. Adrian Newey , recruited from March where he created some stunning cars on small budgets was now deploying far greater resources well! He designed a superb car, the Williams Renault had a semi-automatic, 7 speed gearbox following the trail blazed by the Ferrari 640 the year before. It was regarded as a more advanced car, technically and aerodynamically than MP4/6, albeit the McLaren was more reliable and consistent.


Monaco 1991, Ayrton Senna 1st. McLaren MP4/6

Ongoing Development…

Honda focused on improving the engine management system and  frictional losses, introducing new heads, cams and rods, Honda’s ongoing development legendary! Oatley evolved aspects of the car as well incuding its sidepods and wings. Linked rocker arms to reduce roll, as well as a cockpit operated ride height adjustment meachanism were also created. All of the foregoing, as well as some reliability issues and misfortunes at Williams turned the tide back in McLaren’s favor, the car winning 8 Grands’ Prix and 10 poles.

McLaren took their fourth straight Constructors title and Senna his third, and last, Drivers Championship.

Demise of Manual ‘boxes & V12’s…

MP4/6was  the last Grand Prix car car with either a conventional manual ‘box or V12 engine to win a World Title…Oh, now,  for both manual ‘boxes and the mix of skill required, and punishment of mistakes made, and the race interest thus produced… let alone the sweet scream of V12 engines in the current F1!

front suspensio

MP4/6 Monaco…linked rocker arms were used later in the season to reduce roll and a cockpit activated ride height system…sheer artisrty isnt it?



Hold your breath…and remember these duels! Mansell & Senna , Williams FW14 Renault & McLren MP4/6, the 2 dominant cars of ’91. Mansell takes Senna for second…and later wins the race, Senna 5th. Spain, Catalunya, Barcelona sept ’91.

 The Previous Generation of Honda V12’s…


The previous generation of Honda V12’s…John Surtees in the Honda RA300, Mexican GP ’67, 4th. This car won the ’67 Italian GP in a last corner pass and dash to the flag, Surtees beating Jack’s Brabham BT24 Repco. The chassis was built by Lola , the T130, based on the successful Indy winning T90, hence the appelation at the time ‘Hondola’, Surtees having an enduring close association with Lola’s Eric Broadley.The ‘RA273’ engine was a 48 valve , 3 litre V12 producing circa 400 bhp. Honda’s 5 speed transaxle was also fitted. (The Cahier Archive)



Credits…, Pinterest,The Cahier Archive

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.

de adamich

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.


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)



Ferrari Dino 166 F2 Drawing


Photo Credits…

Andrew Marriott, Pinterest unattributed


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.


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 who took on THE billycart challenge of the eastern suburbs, the formidable drop from Belmore Road down Balwyn Road to Hyslop Park, enough to test the ‘gun suspension setup’ of pram wheels 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 in 1973.

Kangaroo Valley and ‘Grand Prix’…


Bored with his job Buzz 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, whilst 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 cast and the 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 the 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, and after one drink Buzz departed, job and hide intact!


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



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…


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’ and 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.

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

 Winning in Jochen’s overalls…


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 11 June 1970 was 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.

Buzz saw Rindt ‘steal’ a lucky 1970 Brands Hatch British GP win from Jack Brabham whose 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!


 Palliser in 1971…


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



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, 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 businessmen, shipbroker Tony Vlassopoulo, of the 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.

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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 5 November then as now the launchpad of many a Grand Prix career.

Larry Perkins took the very first Elfin 620 built 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.


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 before 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 with whom he 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.


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…


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 3 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 in 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 ‘saving 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!


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 but i had one of the fastest non-qualifier laps so 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…


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 thousand pound budget to run a 2 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 Formula, 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 9000 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 Vlassopoulo’s (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 but Motul’s (French oil company) withdrawal of funds meant the F1 project was sold by Rondel to Tony Vlassopoulo and Ken Grob, they re-naming 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, and 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 Buzz and his girlfriend being flown from Luton to Nice in Ken Grob’s Learjet and living it up for the Monaco weekend. If only! For Buzz it was all over though, 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…


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

Buzz 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.

Mc Donald 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 ‘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 proving this analysis pretty correct.

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John McDonald in the Chevron B19/23 he shared with Buzaglo, Brands Hatch 1000Km ‘ 74

Post racing and home…

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

He had a reasonable run being 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 a contrast with the International races 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 building it to be the number one Lancia dealership in Europe, before joining old mate, Richard Knight’s then fledgling Mazda dealership 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 walking distance to the track.

Buzz keeps in touch with many of his UK racing friends, meeting the 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 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





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



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



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



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



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.


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)



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.


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.

matra engine

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.

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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)



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



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



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







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…

Photo Credits…

The Cahier Archive, Getty Images



‘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 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.


‘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;


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



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;


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)



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.


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.


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’


‘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…


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 )


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)



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



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’…

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