Archive for October, 2017

 

Robin Pare, Pete Geoghegan in Ford Mustangs, Bruno Carosi Jag Mk2, Frank Gardner Alfa GTA and Robin Bessant Lotus Cortina on the downhill plunge towards The Viaduct, Longford Improved Production Touring Car race 1967 (oldracephotos.com)

Pete Geoghegan did so many times too! The Sydneysider is here doing his stuff aboard the first of his two Ford Mustangs at Longford during the Tasman round in February 1967…

The Brothers Geoghegan, Leo and Ian or ‘Pete’ were stars of Australian Motor Racing from the late-fifties into the mid-seventies, Leo in single-seaters and Pete in ‘taxis’, touring cars of all pursuations. When he was a youth Pete was quick in a brief career in single seaters and a Lotus 23 Ford but he became a ‘big unit’ so his girth meant he was best suited to cars with a roof.

Geoghegan , Gardner and Carosi off the front row, no sign of Pare- perhaps not the same race grid as above ? (oldracephotos.com)

A supreme natural, Geoghegan made a car sing with flair and feel blessed to some from above. Every car he drove. His band-width extended from GT’s to Sports Cars, Production Tourers and very highly modified Sports Sedans- sedans of considerable power and performance.

His CV included some of the most iconic cars raced in Australia over the decades above including a Lotus 7 , 22, 23, the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM, Holden ‘Humpy’, Jaguar 3.4, Morris 850, the two Mustangs, Cortinas- both GT and Lotus variants, Falcon GT’s, Falcon GTHO’s, Valiant Charger E49, highly modified Porsche 911’s, his iconic, Ford factory built and later Bowin Cars modified Ford Falcon GTHO ‘Super Falcon’ and the superb John Sheppard built Holden Monaro GTS350 Sports Sedan.

That car was as conceptually clever, beautifully built and presented sedan racer as any ever constructed in Oz. Lets not forget his late career drives in Laurie O’Neill’s Porsche 935, a notoriously tricky device to master. Much earlier on he drove O’Neills Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, every bit as exotic as the 935.

Big Pete finesses the Mustang into The Viaduct (oldracephotos.com)

Geoghegan, five times Australian Touring Car Champion 1965-69 was an immensely popular racer with the fans, his bulk, manner and ‘stutter’ part of his appeal. He was not without his issues mind you. Touring Car racing is a religion in Australia, our sedan racing has been the equal of the best in the world for decades and arguably for the last 20 years our V8 Supercar category has been consistently one of the Top 5 sedan racing contests on the planet.

A touch of the opposites on the exit to Newry (oldracephotos.com)

So, the pantheon of talented touring car aces is large, and membership of the Top 10 a subject of much informed pub chatter, tough. Most knowledgeable touring car observers would have Geoghegan in their Top 10, if not Top 5, along with the likes of Norm Beechey, Peter Brock, Allan Moffat, Dick Johnson, Jim Richards (a Kiwi but we take him as our own) Mark Skaife, Glenn Seton, Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander, Jamie Whincup and others.

(oldracephotos.com)

Photo Credits…

Oldracephotos.com- Harrison and David Keep

Tailpiece: Came, Saw, Conquered and then returned to Sydney…

Other Reading…

Pete Geoghegan and his Falcon GTHO ‘Super Falcon’

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/15/greatest-ever-australian-touring-car-championship-race-bathurst-easter-1972/

Pete’s 1965 Mustang notchback

http://www.bowdensown.com.au/collection/ian-pete-geoghegans-1965-mustang

Finito…

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Glenda Foreman focusses on the Heuers whilst Pedro Rodriguez runs up-front at Le Mans 1970…

Pedro’s girlfriends powers of concentration were not tested, the Mexican’s John Wyer Porsche 917K was out of the race on lap 22 with engine failure, he and Leo Kinnunen started from grid 5. Another 917K, the Hans Hermann, Richard Attwood car won the race.

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Rodriguez/Kinnunen JW Porsche 917K Le Mans 1970 (Schlegelmilch)

Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch

Tailpiece: Leo, Pedro, Brian and Jo. Kinnunen, Rodriguez, Redman and Siffert, the 1970 JW Automotive drivers before the off…

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John Surtees struggles to restart his stalled Lola T70 Mk3 Aston Martin at the commencement of the Nurburgring 1000 Km, 28 May 1967…

Alongside him , slightly obscured, poleman Phil Hill in the sensational Chaparral 2F Chev is also slow away, meanwhile a gaggle of Porsche 910’s sprint away, likely culprits the works cars of Rolf Stommelen, Gerhard Mitter and Jo Siffert.

A happy confluence of events was the construction of Aston Martin’s new V8 engine and racer/entrant Jackie Epstein’s approach to Eric Broadley to build a coupe variant of the 1966 Can Am Championship winning Lola T70 Spyder Group 7 machine. John Surtees of course won the very first Can Am series in a T70 Mk2 Chev. Eric Broadley and Surtees formed Lola Racing Ltd as a works development and racing arm, Surtees honed the T70, he outlined his philosophy in developing the car in a MotorSport interview in August 2003.

‘With a long distance car you can’t have something that rides on a knife edge like a top F1 car…You are trying to get consistency, you don’t want an unpredictable and volatile character. By the time the T70’s got some running in them they were very driveable, very predictable cars which you could drive up to the limit and perhaps a little bit over. This gave the driver confidence’.

Surtees in ‘SL73/101’ at the Nurburgring upon the Lola Astons race debut. The sensational body of the Mark 3 was designed by New Zealander Jim Clark for Specialised Mouldings to make. It was the first racing car to use carbon-fibre reinforced bodywork. Tony Southgate, then at Lola, spent many hours in the Imperial College wind tunnel to give both low drag and some downforce front and rear. The cars side windows were made of Perspex and had small diagonal flaps which could be set open to aid cockpit ventilation, as here (Schlegelmilch)

Surely one of the swoopiest, voluptuous and sexiest racers ever- the Lola T70 Mk3 Coupe ‘SL73/101’ was the first Lola Aston built and was shown to rapturous crowd approval at the annual Racing Car Show at London’s Olympia in January 1967. Tadek Marek’s new Aston Martin ‘DP218’ V8 engine also made its first public appearance at the show on the Surtees Racing stand, the announcement of the relationship between the concerns- Lola, Astons and Surtees was made at the show.

On the face of it the association had every chance of success.

The combination of one of sportscar racings best chassis, a lightweight, powerful engine which promised to provide the Lola with better balance than the Chev engined T70’s and John Surtees track testing ability and sheer speed promised much. Aston Martin chief David Brown was of the view that ‘racing improves the breed’ whilst his chief engineer Tadek Marek was not especially enamoured of the a high risk strategy. After all, his new engine was designed as a road car motor not a race engine.

Undaunted David Brown proceeded and Aston Martin Lagonda supplied special versions of Marek’s design with a capacity of 5008.5cc- bore/stroke of 98x83mm. The all aluminium, duplex chain driven quad cam, 2 valve, dry-sumped, Lucas fuel injected V8 was quoted by Astons as producing 450bhp @ 6750rpm and 413 lb/ft of torque at Le Mans 1967.

‘SL73/101’ in the Nurburgring paddock. Note the shape of the aluminium monocoque chassis, high pressure fuel pumps, note that the engine is now Lucas injected compared with the Webers used at the Le Mans test weekend. DOHC, but 2 valve and chain driven cams. The two suspension radius rods are clear as is the top of the coil spring and roll bar. Ditto the ‘luggage box’ (Schlegelmilch)

‘DP218 was first tested in a T70 Spyder in Autumn 1966. At that first development stage, using a compression ratio of 11:1 and fitted with four Weber 48IDA carburettors the engine was quoted as giving 421bhp @ 6500rpm and 386 lb/ft of torque. Testing showed there were many problems with the engine most notably the motor popped a rod through the side of its aluminium block due to oil starvation. Eventually a much developed engine, one of a batch of ten that had been delivered, with attention to the dry sump system, was installed in March 1967 into the new Coupe for Team Surtees to run. The most obvious problems in testing were a bad vibration and an inability to rev beyond 6100 rpm.

Surtees aboard ‘SL73/101’ at the Le Mans test weekend in 1967 running ahead of the Claude Dubois Shelby Mustang GT350

The big, booming car was the third fastest machine present in the dry and fastest in the wet at the Le Mans test days on April 8 and 9…

The car was fast through the corners but was unable to top 186mph as a consequence of not being able to pull more than 6000rpm on the Mulsanne. Aston’s were convinced that Lucas fuel injection, which was shortly to be installed would cure the problem. The quickest cars were the works Ferrari P4’s of Bandini, Amon, Scarfiotti and Parkes with Bandini at the end of the day the quickest. The two Fords driven by McLaren and Donohue ‘rumbled ominously but did not press the button’. Mind you the Mark 4 was timed at 205mph and Ferrari 198 on the Mulsanne.

T70 ‘SL73/101’ exposed at the Le Mans test weekend. Note the Weber 48IDA carbs and wild exhaust system- two variants were tried that weekend. Gearbox is Hewland LG600 5 speed. Surtees with helmet to right (LAT)

The MotorSport report of the test weekend wryly observes ‘…the two giants (Ford and Ferrari) kept an eye on Lola, Ford knowing that their whole racing effort was born of the brain of Eric Broadley and Ferrari knowing that Surtees can never be underrated’… ‘Although on paper Ferrari left Le Mans as top dog, no one was being fooled by the freak circumstances, for had it been dry on Sunday it might have been a different story and both teams were very impressed with the Lola Aston Martin efforts, remembering their own experiences when running a brand new design for the first time. It seems that Ford did not want to run in the rain for fear of a repetition of the accident to Hansgen last year…’

So, in short, Lola Astons peers were impressed by the car and the threat it potentially represented.

Great front end shot of ‘SL73/101’ at the Nurburgring- the aluminium monocoque chassis, upper and lower wishbone front suspension, magnesium upright and 12 inch ventilated disc brakes. The brakes were a mix of Kelsey Hayes rotors, Girling calipers with some Lola bits too. Steering rack was from the BMC Austin 1800 and wheel widths 8 inches at the front with 10 inchers at the rear. Beautiful Lola knock on mag-alloy wheels  (Schlegelmilch)

Lola Astons first race appearance was at the Nurburgring 1000 Km on May 28…

It was planned to race the car at Spa but it was not ready in time so the beautiful beast made its race debut at the daunting Nurburgring. Lucas fuel injection was amongst the latest refinements to DP218.

On the face of it the car was far from the most nimble present, nor was the Phil Hill/Mike Spence Chaparral 2F Chev on pole, but Surtees popped ‘101’ second on the grid, he shared the drive with David Hobbs. Porsche 910’s were the next quickest group of cars.

Surtees stalled the unfamiliar car at the start but was soon up to 7th place by lap seven when a rear wishbone broke going down through the Fuchsrohre. Surtees managed to stop the car without damage to either the machinery or the driver, but that was the end of the meeting- and of useful testing miles. Udo Schutz and Joe Buzzetta won the race in a 910.

Great contrasting shot of the ‘standard’ T70 rear bodywork at left and ‘more streamlined’ aluminium body at right. #12 Irwin/de Klerk ‘SL73/101 and #11 Surtees/Hobbs ‘SL73/121’. Note mandatory ‘spare’ mounted atop the ‘box. The T70 standard rear bodywork was aerodynamically groundbreaking at the time by rejecting the usual fastback and ‘Ferrari ridge spoiler for a flat rear deck with a slot down the middle to provide visibility for the pilot and largely undisturbed air for the engines injection trumpets. Porsche/John Wyer famously adopted a similar configuration in evolving the 917 from its original far from satisfactory ’69 rear body to its race-winning 1970/71 configuration (Friedman)

At Le Mans the team had both ‘101’ and a new chassis ‘SL73/121’ which was fitted with a longer tail made of aluminium, the standard cars body was in fibreglass made by Specialised Mouldings. The new car was to be driven by Surtees/Hobbs, the other by Chris Irwin and Peter de Klerk.

Both cars had problems in practice caused by overheating, with the Lola mechanics looking after chassis setup claiming the engines ignition timing to be 180 degrees out. Some sources have it that the overheating was caused by the different aerodynamics of the longer tail which enclosed the engine. In addition, against Aston’s advice, Surtees negotiated a sponsorship agreement to use Marchal spark-plugs. The stage was set for the disastrous events which followed.

Before the off, Le Mans ’67. Surtees/Hobbs car in shot with the sister car behind- well down the grid after dramas in practice. Another angle on the unique for Le Mans rear body of chassis ‘SL73/121’ (Friedman)

Poor Surtees started the classic from grid 13 and then only covered 3 laps when ‘121’ was outed by a burned piston. ‘101’, the car started by Chris Irwin was back on grid 25. The drivers struggled with the car for 2.5 hours during which time the mechanics replaced a broken camshaft driveshaft, the engine lost oil pressure, overheated and finally broke a crankshaft damper.

The race was won by the Shelby American entered Ford GT Mk4 driven by the all-American crew of Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt.

Post race the Lola Astons were were returned to Slough, the ‘DP218’ engines removed and both cars re-engined with Chevrolet pushrod V8’s, the Aston experiment was over. It was clear the short term prospects of getting the engine race worthy were slim.

When the race engines were returned to AML and stripped it was found that the blocks had twisted and cracks were found in the main bearing housing. The engine went through a major redesign to strengthen the motors bottom end which prevented the launch of the Aston Martin DBS V8 road car until 1969, initially 6 cylinder variants were sold.

Early laps with Surtees T70 ahead of one of the John Wyer Mirage M1 Fords. Lola a handsome beast (Friedman)

Surtees had this to say about the Lola Aston Martin program…

‘The Aston V8 could have achieved so much but was a total disaster. We didn’t expect to compete on out and out speed- we were hoping to a degree that weather would play a hand. If it rained a bit as it did at the Nuburgring and the Le Mans practice we were very competitive. Before Le Mans we did a long test at Goodwood, ten or twelve hours, but in the race we only lasted a few laps because Aston Martin had changed the design of the head gaskets! As soon as we got the cars back from Le Mans we took the Aston engines out and that was the end of that’.

In addition Surtees felt the T70 Mk3 chassis was inferior to his Can Am T70 Mk2 ‘I didn’t like the Mk3. The front suspension was altered and i hadn’t done any development or testing on the changes. I didn’t like the effect on the character of the car, it lacked the positiveness of the original and didn’t suit my style of driving. I didn’t mind a car being a little loose at times, but i couldn’t stand something which you couldn’t point where you wanted. Some people tried to compensate by playing with the aerodynamics, but i just stopped using the Mk3. Luckily the previous years car was still in America so we dragged that out of retirement’.

In the same MotorSport article Surtees notes the contribution of Firestone tyres to the package. He did most of the Firestone testing in the UK, with a lot of work done on springs and dampers, and working closely with Koni to keep pace with tyre development, a spin-off of the Firestone/Goodyear war of the time. ‘That brought its problems too, because as you improve the tyres you put greater stress through everything, but the car retained its user-friendly character’.

There are some contradictions in the quotes above, Surtees was a tough character, after all, despite the Lola’s shortcomings he was off the front of the grid at the Nurburgring so the chassis cannot have been too bad!

In the end the Lola Aston Martin program was one of unfulfilled promise, but David Brown was right- racing did indeed improve the breed. The rigours of competition identified design shortfalls in the original DP218 engine which were not apparent during road testing. As a consequence the modified production V8 proved to be a strong, reliable unit- and the basis of a good race engine in the decades to follow!

From Surtees perspective he had bigger fish to fry. He was juggling multiple race programs on both sides of the Atlantic with the Lola/Honda F1 exercise, Lola T100 Ford FVA F2 car and in the Can Am where Lola’s dominance was being overtaken by the ‘papaya menace’- Bruce McLaren’s M6 McLaren Chevs. John’s endurance T70 program was best advanced by bolting Chevy’s into the back of the cars in place of the Aston engines. Only a week after Le Mans Surtees ran at the front of the pack so engined at the Reims 12 Hour…before popping his Chevy engine. Unfortunately the Chevs rarely provided the reliability the T70 needed for endurance success in the blue riband events. But what a car all the same!…

Another engine shot similar to one above. Nutty, mandated spare wheel/Firestone clear. Aston all-ally engine very compact and light compared with the cast iron pushrod Chevys which usually inhabited this space. Nurburgring 1000 km’s 1967

1967 Endurance Season…

I wrote an article a while back about the Ferrari P4 which also profiled the main protagonists of sportscar racing in ’67- Ford Mk4, Ferrari P4 and Chaparral 2F Chev which may be of interest. The article also has photos of the Lola Astons at Le Mans.

https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/

See also this article on Le Mans 1967.

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/24/le-mans-1967/

Bibliography…

‘Aston Martin: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, ‘Lola, The Illustrated History 1957 to 1977’ John Starkey, MotorSport May 1967 and August 2003, Team Dan

Photo Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, Dave Friedman Archive, Autosport, MotorSport, LAT

Etcetera…

Tailpiece: The Lola Aston Martin relationship was rekindled a while later, here the Lola B08/60 Aston Martin 6 litre V12 in 2009…

 

 

 

2017 works Spectrum 015 FF driven by Jayden Ojeda (Borland)

Australia’s ‘Auto Action’ magazine has an ‘Under The Skin’ section of its online publication which analyses the design and engineering of racing cars in some detail, its worth keeping an eye on…

 A short while ago AA interviewed Mike Borland about his latest Formula Ford design, the Spectrum 015, the article is also of interest in relation to the general health of FF in Australia.

All Australian enthusiasts will be well aware of Mike’s facility in Melbourne’s Braeside, down by Port Phillip Bay on the cities southern outskirts. Mind you, Borland Racing Developments have had plenty of success in the UK, the US and New Zealand with both Formula Ford and Ford 2000, the latter in the ‘States. So Spectrum are hardly an unknown marque globally these days.

Mike is the nephew of Brian Shead, designer, builder and racer of the very successful series of Cheetah racing cars so the desire to build cars was almost a natural part of his growing up process. Borland’s business originally prepared and ran ANF2 cars for customers in 1984 but soon morphed into construction of FF and F Vee racers. By the time I first met him in 1996 he was on the cusp of national FF success, Jason Bargwanna placed 2nd in the ’96 Australian FF Championship in a Spectrum 05C with Adam Macrow and Christian, son of Alan, Jones taking first and second in the 1998 championship aboard the 06 model.

In 2006 a Spectrum 011 raced to victory at Brands Hatch and more recently the company has had ongoing success in both Formula Ford and Ford 2000 in the US in addition to its position as market leader in Australia. Historic racers know the business for its restoration work and project engineering skills recently deployed on programs like Chris Lambden’s ‘Thunder 5000’, the prospective Australian National Formula 1 category/car.

Salutory is that Borlands have outlived all of the well known racing single-seater and sportscar marques of Australia with the exception of Elfin- and there is little doubt Mike will achieve that in the coming years. Mind you, at eighty Bob Britton is still working, Rennmax Engineering lives on, that business was started in the early sixties or perhaps even a little earlier. Bob Britton and Mike Borland, we salute you!

Australia does of course have vast engineering resources devoted to ‘Taxis’- V8 Supercars and Sports-Sedans to a lesser extent, and its great that large numbers of people can make a living out of the sport/business. But it is galling how small the engineering aspects of the purist end of the sport are, perhaps a global trend given the proliferation of one-make categories these days.

Click here for the Spectrum 015 Ford Duratec FF article;

https://autoaction.com.au/2017/06/20/skin-formula-ford-australia-world

Slinky, sexy, cost-effective and fast Spectrum 014 Ford 2000 160bhp car at Phillip Island in March 2017 running in the ‘Trophy’ class amongst an F3 field, Paul Zsidy up (Borland)

Postscript: On racing car production numbers in Australia…

I am not suggesting above that Elfin exists as a going concern still building racing cars, but rather that Elfin in its various guises inclusive of the Garrie Cooper period had a longer life than Borlands so far. Michael has eclipsed the lifespan and production numbers of Asp, Birrana, Bolwell, Bowin, Cheetah, Elwyn, Farrell, Hardman, Hustler, JMW, Kaditcha, Malmark-Elfin, Matich, Richards, Shrike, Spectre, Turnham, Welsor, Wren.

There are many others but these are constructors who have built five’ish cars or more off the top of my head. I dips me hat to anyone who can make a living out of building racing cars over time. I’ve been in small and medium sized businesses all of my working life and know just how hard it is- I can think of few markets more difficult than racecar manufacture in which to make a dollar!

Borland Racing Developments…

https://borlandracing.com/

Who would have thought our ‘Black Jack’ would be a street art star…

 But he is! Even if he looks a bit like his good mate Graham Hill, replete with moustache!

Brabham is depicted aboard his 1966 F1 World Championship winning chassis- the Repco ‘RB620 Series’ V8 powered Brabham BT19, click on the links for articles on this bolide at the end of the article.

The artist didn’t realise just how perfect the placement of this sizable work is. Its on a wall in Richmond only 1.5 Km or so from the Doonside Street, Richmond Repco factory where the first of the RB620 V8’s were built and burst into life prior to the shift of Repco Brabham Engines Pty Ltd to Maidstone, in Melbourne’s inner west, in early 1966.

I came upon the art by accident whilst on a walk, its funny the way sometimes these things happen in a serendipitous kinda way.

‘Dimmey’s was an iconic department store in Swan Street Richmond. Its been redeveloped in the last few years- thank the good lord above that the developer was forced to retain the buildings base structure and façade, with the usual, small dog-box apartments contained therein. The big mural is painted on the side of the Dimmeys building. Initially I thought the work was some sort of history of Richmond but its a timeline depiction of ‘Great Australians’ and Oz icons, of whom our Jack is definitely one.

Melburnians can check out the art and have some nice nosh closeby whilst you do so- see the work on the Green Street sidestreet wall, corner of Swan Street. It won’t last forever mind you, it ain’t guarded like the Mona Lisa, if you want a look do so soon before the ‘taggers’ attack it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It gives me the pip that in popular listings of ‘Great Australian Sportsmen’ Brabham never pops up in the top 10 or 20.

He is a member of the Sport Australia ‘Hall Of Fame’. To me, hopelessly biased as I am, Brabham’s triumphs in 1966/67, lets put to one side his Drivers Championship wins for Cooper in 1959 and 1960, make him the greatest of any Australian sportsman/athlete.

Don Bradman the cricketer is usually rated at #1, big deal, most of you globally will have never seen a game of cricket. You are lucky, it’s a dull, shit-boring invention of the Brits. Often a ‘Test Match’, the elite form of the game, goes for 5 days without a result. Cricket even makes modern Petite Prix racing look exciting!

Brabham, Ron Tauranac and Repco made the ‘bat and ball’ and then they went and belted the best in the world with it. No-one else comes close to Brabham as our #1- not Ken Rosewall, (tennis) Mark Ella, (rugby) Betty Cuthbert, (sprinter) Rod Laver, (tennis) Herb Elliott, (distance runner) Dawn Fraser (swimmer) or Bradman, none of ‘em match his achievements in my book…

Footnote…

In 1966/1967 Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme won the World Drivers Championship aboard Brabham BT19 and BT19/20/24 respectively. Brabham/Motor Racing Developments were the Champion Constructor in both years powered by Repco RB620 and RB740 Series 3 litre V8 engines.

https://primotipo.com/2014/08/07/rb620-v8-building-the-1966-world-championship-winning-engine-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-2/

https://primotipo.com/2014/11/13/winning-the-1966-world-f1-championships-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-3/

I’ve deliberately not captioned the mural shots- I don’t know all the names of the dudes depicted myself, so I’ve left it to Aussies to have some fun picking those people and events you can and wonder who/what the ones are you can’t identify! It’s great, do take the time to go and have a look.

Tailpiece…

 

 

 

Geoghegans were the Australian importers and distributors of Lotus cars from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies when Jim Smith’s Peter Manton Motors in Melbourne stepped up to the plate

The brothers Geoghegan are no doubt well known to most primotipo readers by now, even you international mob. Between them they had ‘Taxis’ or Touring Cars and Open-Wheeler racing covered in Australia. Ian or ‘Pete’ Geoghegan was a multiple national champion aboard cars with a roof and Leo was similarly a champion on many occasions in the more rarefied and refined single-seater world, not always in Lotuses mind you.

Whilst the Lotus Racing halo internationally was huge in the mid-sixties for all of the obvious reasons the Geoghegan connection must have polished the Lotus brand considerably in this part of the world too. Who wouldn’t want to buy a car from them and then have it serviced there? Why, if you were lucky during February, you might even time your trip to have the Webers of your Elan tickled with the visit of Team Lotus who based themselves in the Paramatta Road, Haberfield dealership for the Warwick Farm Tasman weekend.

(Dalton)

The Lotus franchise in Australia is a bit of a ‘hot spud’ really- no one has distributed the things for a long time.

Not even those who were multi-franchise dealers and therefore had the earnings of other marques with greater volumes to support the lower financial contributions of what has always been a very niche brand in Australia, the brothers Geoghegan probably the longest of the dealers.

Some well known motor racing names have been involved in flogging the wonderful but idiosynchratic cars down the decades.

Alec Strachan was the original importer, he was based at Waitara, Sydney and negotiated the rights with Chapman off the back of purchase of a Lotus 6-the first of Chapman’s machines in Australia. Then Derek Jolly with his impeccable racing and engineering connections to Chapman himself took over, but that was never going to really work, Adelaide is a long way from the main East Coast markets especially back then. Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Hobart had tiny population for such a niche product.

Performance Automobiles sold a few in Hobart, John Roxburgh in Melbourne and Dick Thurston at Pitstop Motors on the Nepean Highway, Brighton way, moved a few when I was a teenager. At the same time Lance Dixon sold plenty of used ones, many times I rode by bike from North Balwyn to Doncaster to dream about a red Europa or Elan. The Zagame Group in Melbourne have the rights these days.

Whad’ll she do mister? Leo Geoghegan’s ex-Clark Lotus 39 Repco sitting forlornly on the 253 Parramatta Road lot in 1970. Leo raced the car finally, having acquired it from Team Lotus after the 1966 Tasman Series, in the 1970 Tasman, then it was put to one side to sell whilst Leo raced to Gold Star victory in a new Lotus 59 powered by a Waggott 2 litre DOHC, 4 valve injected engine (Fistonic)

These photos by Milan Fistonic capture the late-sixties flavour of the Geoghegan’s dealership in Sydney’s Parramatta Road, ‘Auto Alley’.

The shots are very much dated as being late 1970 the year in which Leo stopped racing his evergreen ex-Clark Lotus 39 Repco V8. There it is, the 1969 JAF Japanese Grand Prix winner sitting on the used car lot just waiting for a punter with the necessary readies. Click here to read my article about this wonderful car; https://primotipo.com/2016/02/12/jim-clark-and-leo-geoghegans-lotus-39/

It was not an easy car to move at the time with F5000 in the process of becoming the new ANF1, to replace the 2.5 litre Tasman Formula. The nutbags at CAMS made F5000 cars eligible to contest the 1970 Tasman Series but not the domestic 1970 Gold Star- that title was won by Leo G in the Lotus 39’s replacement, a brand new Lotus 59B to which he bolted a superb circa 275bhp 2 litre Waggott engine built not too far from the dealership. The 39 fell into the very best of hands, John Dawson-Damer, who did a brilliant job restoring it to its original, ex-works 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine form. It’s still in Australia, happily!

It seems fitting to provide some period written flavour to accompany the photos. To do so I have reproduced the wonderful recollections of ‘DanTra2858’ he contributed to ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, Daniel worked for the brothers Geoghegan right at that time, the late sixties. I’ve positioned his thoughts around several different headings to preserve some semblance of flow.

(Dalton)

On assembling Lotuses in Australia.

The cars arrived by ship from Hethel ‘CKD’ or in Completely Knocked Down form… ‘…1969, also working there at the time was Barry Lake (racer and very well known racing journalist) and Wally Willmott (for many years Bruce McLaren’s right hand in the nascent years of BM Motor Racing in the UK) Service Manager was Bob Everitt.

With a little help to remove a Europa from its crate and the motor/gearbox and diff assemby, it took me about 10 hours to assemble a car ready for registration.

There were some long days assembling the cars mainly due to the clutch plates attaching themself to the flywheel. Of course this did not show up until the installation of the motor/gearbox into the car on initial start up, sometimes it could be rectified by starting the car in gear but not always. Then out with the motor/gearbox as that was easier then split, fix the problem then put it all back together again, good days!

When Lotus cars were imported…they came in a open frame wooden crate with the car wrapped in plastic sheeting, that was the full extent of protection (during the long voyage from England) The motor/gearbox assembly was in a wooden box complete with the suspension, tailshaft , diff and wheels. Each crate/box had identification numbers on them to match the motor to body, so the first thing to do was match up the components to assemble a car.

When this was done the body crate was opened, plastic wrapping removed and using 2 trolley jacks the body was moved into the workshop and placed on modified jack stands. Then the motor box was opened and all suspension parts/wheels were removed and taken into the workshop ready for assembly, by this this time it was time to stop work for morning tea!

Now refreshed it was time to fit the suspension and wheels so the car was now a roller which made it easier to work on. When assembling the rear suspension the diff, drive shafts, Hillman Imp rubber doughnuts etc were all fitted. Now for lunch.

So with a full belly it was time to bring in the motor/gearbox, tailshaft and fit them into the car, along with the exhaust system. When this assembly was bolted in, cooling hoses, electrics and other parts were fitted. Then it was time to present to this ‘new arrival’ its first full meal of lubricants including brake fluid, so we then bleed the brakes. By this time it was about 4 in the afternoon so a cuppa was in order, then back to work.

Now that the car was fully assembled the work really started. Re-check that all previously assembled parts were correctly assembled and all bolts/nuts were tight, oil levels were correct and that there were no leaks in the brake hydraulic system and fluid was at correct levels. Next I checked that the clutch operated correctly and if not then one of two steps were taken to rectify the adhesion of the clutch plate to the flywheel/pressure plate. If there was no trouble with the clutch it was time to connect the battery and start the motor, let it warm up, check for fluid leaks and bleed the heater system in the cabin of the car by slackening the bleed screw on top of the heater core remembering to tighten it after all the air was bled off. If there was clutch trouble the first thing we did was to start the car while in gear, this usually caused the clutch plate to release then operate correctly. If not then it was out with the motor/gearbox assy to fix the problem then pop it back into the car- this would add 3 hours to the assembly time.

If all went well it was now about 6 pm but still the to-do list list included wheel alignment, checking that all lights operated correctly and that all of the electrics worked. Then tyre pressures were set with a final check for leaking fluids. By this time it was about 8pm and another 12 hour day was complete leaving the road test for first thing the next day- that also included cleaning up wood crates and plastic wrapping. Then onto normal service work with another assembly starting the next day. Well folks that is how it was done at Geoghegans I may have missed a few steps somewhere along the way, it is a long time from 1969…you have the picture’.

Plenty of lonely S2 Europa’s in 1970 (Fistonic)

On The Hot Sellers of the Lotus range…

‘The sales section always required stock on the floor that covered the Lotus range excluding Super 7’s. (Not sure why they were not imported to Australia, Chapman didn’t do the deal with Graham Nearn at Caterham cars to take over the rights to build 7’s until 1971 from memory, so Lotus Components were certainly still building them in the late sixties)

The slowest moving car was the Elan Plus 2 so every time one was sold we would assemble another but that did not happen often, the most popular was the Elan Coupe followed by the Europa, we would assemble 2 or 3 a week depending on sales of the model.

I found the Europa quicker to assemble than the Elan. My first experience driving a Europa along Paramatta Road (a main artery into and out of Sydney, in the days before freeways it was the ’normal’ way to go between Melbourne and Sydney so there was plenty of local and interstate traffic inclusive of large semi-trailers) was just straight out frightening especially when a double decker bus pulled up alongside me while waiting for the traffic lights to change to green. Sitting in the Europa I found myself looking up at the centre of its wheels with the bus towering over me, a feeling of vulnerability quickly came over me.’

Tried and true technique of naked ladies to get us blokes to scan the pages of a brochure in a thorough manner. Lotus Elite brochure , must be US issue, way too racy for 1960 Australia (Dalton)

On Painful Customers…

‘Pete Geoghegan did not come down to the service section much at all…on one of those times he was showing off on a motor bike, doing wheel stands in the lube bay then the 6 foot dash from the lube bay through our parts area into the Lotus workshop then back again with the biggest smile I have ever seen on a guy that has just achieved what no-one else has done.

One Elan FHC I do remember very well. Its owner arrived at our service area unannounced while we were having morning tea wanting something fixed right away, I told him that I would look at it as soon as I finished my coffee but that was the wrong answer for this guy.

He then spoke to Bob Everett, the Service Manager and was told by him that I would look after his car as soon as I had finished my coffee, this slowed him down a bit but he kept on looking to his watch. So I finished my coffee quickly…went into the service bay held out my hand and introduced myself, without a blink he shook my hand introduced himself told me what the problem was, I fixed it in 10 minutes and he was on his way, oh his name…Warwick Brown, I serviced his Elan from then on…’(In 1969 20 year old WB would have just been starting his racing career in a little Brabham owned by Pat Burke- who was still his patron when he won the Tasman Championship in 1975 aboard a Lola T332 Chev F5000)

Photographer Milan Fistonic with an eye for Plus 2 Elans (Fistonic)

Lotus equals ‘Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious’…

‘Whilst at Geoghegans I only worked on one Elite, was very impressed by the construction of the car as a full mono-fibreglass enclosure setup…it was on sale in the yard so it would have been a quick mechanical check up prior to the car going on sale. The main thing that had to be done, as with all fibreglass Lotus’ was to make sure that the electrical earth set up was not corrupted by corrosion on the body to chassis alloy mounting bobbins in the body. That was number one check on all Lotuses even new ones. The alloy bobbins on the Elite are for suspension mounting, but there again steel bolts into alloy bobbins, which means corrosion of the bobbin which have been known to become loose in their fibreglass enclosure- meaning fibreglass repairs.

Lotus Elans were bad for water leaks at the top of the A-pillar and in the boot. We tried re-gluing the door sealing at the top of the A-pillar but all to no avail as the inside plastic section of the seal kept on pulling it down leaving a small opening at the top where the seal assembly transferred to the horizontal. The final Geoghegan factory fix was to push the seal assembly up as hard as you could into the top of the A-pillar while your offsider drilled a one eighth inch hole through the vinyl inside section of the seal and into the fiberglass body, then insert a pop rivet and pull it home and there was a permanent fix with nothing but happy customers. By the way we didn’t leave the pop rivet just plain silver so it would show, we concealed it by painting it with a black texta.

For me the hardest thing while working at Geoghegans was learning how to spell their name, Smith or Brown would have been much easier!’…

Photo Credits…

Milan Fistonic

Bibliography…

DanTran2858, The Nostalgia Forum, Stephen Dalton Collection

 

 

 

(P Mellor)

John Surtees cruising his Lola Mk4A Climax around the Lakeside paddock during the 1963 Australian summer…

No doubt he is on the way to or from scrutineering, the Lola devoid of its usual slinky ‘Specialised Mouldings’ fibreglass body. These cars were designed by Eric Broadley as F1 machines, they were the front line weapons of the Bowmaker Racing Team during the 1962 season.

Strong results at championship level were skinny even when the too flexible spaceframe Mk4 chassis was braced with aluminium to become the ‘semi-monocoque’ Mk4A. The last of the Mk4’s was modified in this manner and is the car Surtees raced in Australasia in the summer of ’63- chassis ‘BRGP44′. The chassis made its debut in the non-championship Kanonloppet at Karlskoga in Surtees hands on 12 August 1962 and was then raced in the GP’s of Danske and Italy before being converted for Surtees’ use in the South Pacific.

The Mk4’s were fitted with both the Coventry Climax FWMV 1.5 litre V8 for F1 use and the 2.5 or 2.7 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine for the Intercontinental Formula and for Formula Libre as the Australasian summer races then were.

The global stock of FPF’s found a ready home in Australasia after the commencement of the 1.5 litre F1 as the ‘engine de jour’ in our Formula Libre, Gold Star and Tasman races until 1966 when ‘multi-cylinder’ engines arrived. The BRM P261 V8 won the Tasman in 1966 in Jackie Stewart’s hands, soon the Tasman was awash with interesting engines from BRM, Repco, Ferrari and Ford. Mind you, the good ‘ole FPF was still a contender in Gold Star events with Spencer Martin and Kevin Bartlett consistently knocking off Repco V8’s in domestic Australian events into 1967.

Surtees was on the cusp of four-wheel greatness of course. In 1964 he won the World F1 Drivers Championship for Ferrari in a Tipo 158, an additional title to match those already won on bikes.

Surtees in the Bowmaker Racing Lola Mk4A chassis ‘BRGP44’ Coventry Climax 2.7 FPF during the 1963 Australian GP weekend at Warwick Farm in February. He was 2nd in between winner Brabham and 3rd placed Bruce McLaren in Brabham BT4 and Cooper T62 respectively, both 2.7 FPF powered (Ellacott)

Bowmaker Racing entered cars for John and Tony Maggs that season in Australasia achieving a good measure of success. Competition was stiff too. That year the internationals included Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Graham Hill (Ferguson P99) and coming-man Chris Amon. In addition Australian and New Zealand Champions included Bib Stillwell, Lex Davison, John Youl, David McKay and Jim Palmer- not all of these blokes did the whole series mind you.

The Lakeside International was held in blistering Queensland summer heat with Surtees taking a fine win from Graham Hill and Bib Stillwell. He was first in the NZ GP at Pukekohe early in January too, having gearbox dramas at Levin and Wigram and a distant 9th at Teretonga with undisclosed problems. He then contested the Australian events at Warwick Farm, finishing 2nd in the AGP at Warwick Farm, took the win at Lakeside and then jetted home to the UK and testing duties with Ferrari. The rest, as they say is history…

Photo Credits…

Peter Mellor on The Roaring Season, John Ellacott

Surtees Article…

https://primotipo.com/2014/11/30/john-surtees-world-champion-50-years-ago/

Amon on the way to 7th in the Lola Mk4A ‘BRGP44’ now re-engined with a Coventry Climax FWMV V8, at Rouen, French GP June 30 1963. Clark won in a Lotus 25 Climax (unattributed)

Tailpiece: Chris Amon, Lola Mk4A Climax, French GP 1963…

Lola Mk4A ‘BRGP44’ raced on into 1963. The car was converted back into an F1 machine, the 2.7 FPF was lifted out after its sojurn in Australasia and an FWMV Coventry Climax V8 re-fitted back at Lola in Bromley. Chris Amon was allocated the car for the ’63 F1 season, although Maurice Trintignant raced it at Monaco. The cars best result that year was funnily enough Amon’s first race in it- 5th in the Glover Trophy at Goodwood.