The one and only ‘Repco Record’ in surreal surroundings, the Wairakei geothermal field near Taupo in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in 1959…
After the end of Maybach’s useful life, the racing brainchild of Charlie Dean well covered in my article on Stan Jones, the talented Repco Engineer looked for a new project. https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/
Dean, Head of Repco Research, the large transnationals ‘Skunkworks’ turned his attention to the creation of a road car which would form a test bed for the companies products, a promotional tool and an expression of Repco’s innovative capabilities.
Dean recruited Tom Molnar (Chief Engineer of Patons Brakes) and Wally Hill (Repco Research) to assist with development of the car; Molnar with its engineering and brakes, Hill built the body with some assistance from Bob Baker to Deans design, a process completed in Dean’s spare time at his Kew, Melbourne kitchen table!
The cars construction took 4 years, the yellow coupe made its debut at the 1959 Melbourne Motor Show, where it was ‘The Starlet’ painted a distinctive shade of yellow.
The ‘Repco Experimental Car’ as it was then unimaginatively called was a mobile test bed designed to trial the groups products, but that didn’t stop contemporary reports speculating about series production. In the context of its time it was a highly specified, comfortable high speed car of potentially modest cost using largely production based components.
When originally built it was fitted with a Ford Zephyr engine with a Raymond Mays cylinder head Dean bought to fit to his company car, and an MG TC gearbox. A Holden engine was slotted in when the Repco ‘Hi-Power’ head was developed, a David Brown Aston Martin ‘box replaced the MG unit at the same time.
‘Sports Car Worlds’ Peter Costigan tested the Record with Dean on board and raved about its comfort, performance, roadholding and handling. Less impressive was the David Brown ‘box and brakes which faded after repeated high speed applications. The car cruised comfortably at 100mph with a top speed of 120 mph, the Repco modded Holden engine in ‘touring tune’. Heavier shocks, improved brakes and an oil cooler were suggested improvements.
The pretty Coupe was used during the filming of ‘On The Beach’, a Hollywood movie shot in Australia featuring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire during 1959.The film was based on a novel by British/Australian author Nevil Shute.
The car was one of several used in the productions racing scenes filmed at Phillip Island. It was during breaks in filming that SCW magazine drove the car, it was about this time someone dubbed the car ‘Repco Record’ a name never officially endorsed by Repco but an appellation which stuck!
After testing of various Repco subsidiary components and the changing of the cars livery and especially rear window treatment the Record was sold after a few years into private hands, it is still in Australia, last sold several years ago and pops up occasionally at historic events.
The Record used the then contemporary (1948-1962) Holden 6 cylinder ‘Grey Motor’ bored to 2360cc. It featured a cast iron block, 4 bearing crank fitted with Repco Hi-Power crossflow, OHV semi-hemispherical cylinder head, 2 Weber 36 DCLD7 downdraught carburettors. On a compression ratio of 8.7:1. the engine developed circa 133bhp@5500 rpm and 141lbs/ft of torque@4000 RPM. For more on the Repco Hi-Power head see the separate section below.
The chassis was of integral construction with a tubular backbone, the steel body was welded to the frame to provide stiffness.
Suspension comprised modified Holden components; wishbones, coil springs and telescopic dampers at the front. At the rear a Holden live axle, quarter elliptic leaf springs and telescopic dampers was used. Rear axle was ENV spiral bevel, its ratio 3.66:1, Gearbox was a David Brown 4 speed manual with synchromesh.
Brakes were hydraulic drums front and rear with a Repco PBR booster, Steering by recirculating ball. Tyres: 6.40-13 on steel wheels
Fuel Capacity: 42 litres (9.5 gal) Height: 1320 mm (52 in) Length: 3810 mm (150 in) Weight: 1018 kg (2240 lbs) Wheel Base: 2286 mm (90 in)
Max. Speed: 120 m.p.h. (1st gear: 48 m.p.h., 2nd gear: 66 m.p.h., 3rd gear: 98 m.p.h., 4th gear: 120 m.p.h.) Acceleration: 0-60 m.p.h. in 10.5 secs. 0-100 m.p.h. in 21.2 secs. Standing quarter mile: 17.2 secs.
Repco Hi-Power Head…
All countries have production car engines which, with tuning provide a staple for road going sedans, racing or sportscars, sometimes all three!
The BMC ‘A and B Series’, Ford 105E through Kent engines, the small block Chev and Ford V8’s and more recently Ford Zetec and Toyota 4AGE engines spring to mind. In Australia the Holden ‘Grey’ and ‘Red’ 6 cylinder engines were the tuners weapon of choice for 2 decades starting in the early ’50’s.
Repco were active in racing throughout this period, largely starting with the efforts of Charlie Dean and his Repco Research colleagues based in their Sydney Road, Brunswick, inner Melbourne base.
Phil Irving of Vincent and Repco Brabham RB620 Engine fame, his exploits well covered in the articles I have written about the 1966 World Championship wins by Brabham and Repco, designed the ‘Hi-Power’ cylinder head to meet market needs and exploit the knowledge Repco had gained about improving the performance of Holden’s 2200cc, 6 cylinder, iron, 4 bearing, OHV engine which in standard tune gave, according to Irving, a claimed and real 62 BHP at 4000 rpm. Click here for an article about Irving’s 1966 F1 Championship Winning Repco engine;
Irving, a noted author himself wrote about the Repco head in Barry Lake’s late, lamented and sadly shortlived ‘Cars and Drivers’ magazine in 1977, this piece is based on Irving’s article, the quotes are just that…
Irving’s simple proposal to Dean was to design a head which would increase the engines power, Dean agreed on the basis that the design be interchangeable with the original head, inexpensive and simple enough to be machined with little or no special equipment. In effect this precluded the head being made of aluminium so cast iron it was.
‘The valves were arranged in two rows with the 1.375 inch exhaust valves vertical and on the near side, while the inlets were inclined at 25 degrees on the opposite side, their heads being 1.56 inches in diameter’.
‘The 6 circular exhaust ports were short and direct, while the rectangular shaped inlets were arranged in two groups of 3, springing from the 2 galleries, these formed partly in the head and partly in the manifolds. The manifolds were simple open sided castings, made in several types to suit vertical or horizontal carburettors’.
The pressed steel side plates were replaced by an aluminium plate. ‘This feature enabled the head to be widened to give room for desirably long inlet ports and inclined rockers which oscillated on a hollow bar… Another bar carried the exhaust rockers, both bars mounted to pedestals integral to the head and thus free from flexure under load.’
Cost pressures meant the rockers were made of nodular iron, hardened locally and proved failure free.
Most of the development work was done by Repco subsidiaries; Warren and Brown the patterns, Russell foundry the head castings, Brenco the heavy milling and Repco Research the final machining.
‘There was no fancy work done on the ports, the first head was slapped on an FE Holden engine that was fired up in the middle of the night…after playing about with jet sizes and ignition settings we obtained 85bhp with a single Holden carburettor on a mocked up manifold’
‘The compression ratio was only 7.5:1 to suit the 90 octane fuel of the day which most people today (1977 at the time of writing) wouldn’t even put in their lawn mowers!’
‘It was an encouraging start with 100bhp, it was enough to push a road car along at over the ton…but more was needed for serious racing…which wasn’t difficult to get by changing camshafts, raising the compression ratio and boring .125 oversize…with each carburettor supplying 3 cylinders it was discovered the induction system came into resonance at around 4000rpm’.
The bolt on kit was priced at £150, a fully rebuilt engine with camshafts and carburettors of the clients choice was £450. ‘The most popular choice was the 140bhp version with 2 double choke progressive Weber down-draft carburettors which gave a road speed (in a Holden sedan with three ‘on the tree’ speed gearbox) of 114mph’.
‘The harmonic balancer was the weak link with bad, critical oscillations at 6200rpm…crankshafts were prone to break if run consistently near 6200rpm…’
103 heads were made most going into road cars or speed boats ‘In a couple of seasons Hi-Power heads just about dominated sedan racing with drivers like John French, the Geoghegans, Stan Jones, Bob Holden and Ray Long on top of the pile’. Lou Molina fitted one to his MM Sportscar, (later supercharging the engine), Tom Hawkes to his Cooper in place of the Bristol original for a while holding the Phillip Island lap record together with Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625.
‘General Motors failed to evince any interest in our design which would have kept them ahead of the game for years…The end of the engine was hastened by the advent of big V8’s…and by a change in (racing) regulations which prohibited replacing the heads on production cars’.
Stephen Dalton and his collection for the provision of ‘Sports Car World’ March 1960, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ May 1959 and ‘Modern Motor’ January 1960 as reference sources, Dick Willis, ‘Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, ‘Cars and Drivers’ Magazine Number 2 1977 Phil Irving Repco Hi-Power head article.