Archive for November, 2017

(SLWA)

What’s it like out there Don? How’d the McLaren go…TV news interview for Don O’Sullivan aboard his McLaren M18 Repco Holden F5000 after winning the West Australian Road Racing Championship at Wanneroo Park on 7 May 1972.

O’Sullivan won the 35 lap race from John Harvey’s Bob Jane owned Brabham BT36 Waggott 2 litre, Bob Ilich in a Brabham BT21B Cosworth SCB 1.5 and Bernie Zampatti’s ZX5 Ford.

Don O’Sullivan is a very successful Perth businessman who mixed a racing career in amongst his property development and road car sales ‘The Chequered Flag’ enterprises. He commenced racing in the early sixties in Western Australia and quickly progressed through a couple of Tasman Cooper Climaxes and was soon racing a Lola T70 Chev.

image

Don O’Sullivan in the hi-winged Matich SR3 Repco ahead of Niel Allen’s Elfin 400 Chev at Warwick Farm in early 1969 (oldracephotos.com/D Simpson)

At elite level in 1968 he raced one of Frank Matich’s Matich SR3 Repco’s and then switched to single-seaters racing several McLaren F5000’s.

The first was an M10A acquired from Matich. Having written that off at Teretonga in early 1971 he bought a new M18 to which a Repco Holden engine was fitted by his ace engineer/mechanic Jaime Gard. This car was raced into 1973.

Don and Jaime then decided to build a 5 litre sportscar and F5000, they therefore acquired an M18/22 Chev from Trojan Cars in the UK as a donor vehicle. But upon close inspection when it arrived in Perth, the M18/22 was of better specification than their low mileage M18 so they decided to race the M18/22 Chev and use the M18 as a parts car for their Gardos Sportscar and Gardos F5000 car. Goddit?! This was all achieved between early 1971 and early 1974!

This piece is the tale of these F5000 cars and the Gardos Sports.

It was all relatively complex until the story was unravelled bit by bit online on various forums by a swag of F5000 enthusiasts. The shared knowledge was then encapsulated in individual car chassis histories on Allen Brown’s oldracingcars.com website. Fifty percent of my articles use oldracingcars as a primary research source, have a fossick on the site if you have not done so, you will be lost for days if not weeks.

Here we go, come back here to the summary if you get confused or lost!

image

Frank Matich at the Thomson Road Course, Singapore GP weekend in 1970- FM destroyed the M10A Chev chassis in a preliminary race accident (E Solomon)

McLaren M10A ‘300-10’ Chev/Repco Holden…

This car, first owned by Frank Matich was the first ‘real F5000’ imported into and raced in Australia. So confident was FM of the CAMS introducing F5000 to succeed the long-lived and much loved Tasman 2.5 Formula as Australia’s next ANF1 that he acquired the car well in advance of that vexed, to say the least, choice between between 2 litre and 5 litre options.

The car arrived in August 1969 and was quickly developed to M10B specs by engineer/mechanic Derek Kneller and FM. Kneller arrived from McLaren the week after the M10A arrived in Australia, fresh from building Peter Gethin’s M10B- the first such chassis built at McLaren, so was eminently qualified to make the modifications from A to B specs. See my Matich F5000 for more details on this car and the modifications made to it.

image

Ian Messner and Jaime Gard tending to O’Sullivan’s M10A Repco with the Matich M10B Repco alongside, Teretonga 1971 (I Messner)

The car was very successful, taking four poles and wins at Pukekohe and Wigram during the 1970 Tasman Series. It was damaged in a preliminary race at the Singapore GP meeting in 1970 and was replaced by a new M10B to which the first Repco Holden F5000 V8 was fitted. This car won the 1970 AGP at Warwick Farm.

The M10A was repaired at the Matich workshop in Sydney, fitted with a Repco Holden F5000 V8, sold to O’Sullivan and entered as a Rothmans Team Matich entry during the 1971 Tasman.

image

Yes blokes its absolutely rooted! M10A ‘300-10’ at Christchurch Airport on the way back to Oz, 1971. No amount of work with adjustments to spring platforms will sort the car in time for Surfers! (I Messner)

Don was 12th in the opening round at Levin, 7th on the Wigram Airbase circuit and failed to finish the NZ GP at Pukekohe with half-shaft failure. During the early laps of the Teretonga round, O’Sullivan pitted to have the cars nose taped in place having hit Malcolm Guthrie’s Lola T192 up the chuff. He set off and crashed into an earth bank after an off at the Hairpin whilst waving another car through, bending the cars chassis but not injuring himself.

image

Another shot of  M10A ‘300-10’ @ Christchurch Airport RIP. The Matich M10B ‘400-10’ is already on the aircraft delivery trolley (I Messner)

As the photos post accident show the tub was destroyed, beyond economic repair so was scrapped, with all salvageable components removed from the tub back in Perth.

Some parts of  ‘300-10’ were used in the Gardos cars. We will come to these racers soon. The more immediate problem was acquisition of a replacement car for the ’71 season which was well underway. The first round of the Gold Star Series was at Lakeside, Queensland in June, a long way from Perth!

Wanneroo Park paddock, BP compound to be precise, 7 May 1972, McLaren M18 Repco, O’Sullivan’s red McLaren LT170 Chev (a fusion of Lola T70 and McLaren bits)  Bob Ilich yellow striped Brabham BT21B SCB (SLWA)

McLaren M18 ‘500-08’ Repco Holden…

Don and Jaime decided to acquire a new McLaren M18, the then current Trojan Cars built, customer F5000 McLaren.

The car first appeared at Wanneroo Park during the WA Touring Car Championship meeting on 19 September 1971, failing to finish.

The M18 was designed for the Chev V8 to be used as a stressed member, the major difference between it and the very successful M10B.

In the M10A and M10 B the engine/’box were attached to the full monocoque chassis which extended beyond the drivers bulkhead, where the tub of the M18 ended, to the rear of the car. Have a look at the photos of the M10A monocoque in the Teretonga shots and the M18 below to appreciate the differences between the two chassis.

‘500-08’ was adapted by Jaime Gard to fit Don’s Repco Holden F5000 V8 out of the M10A, with the engine, unstressed, supported by a steel A-frame which extended from the rear of the monocoque to the DG300 gearbox bellhousing.

image

M18 rear shot sans DG300 Hewland. Repco Holden F5000 circa 480bhp V8. You can see how the tub ends at the drivers seat bulkhead, and the A-frame supporting the engine which attaches to the rear of the tub and the bellhousing. Clutch twin plate Borg and Beck? (J Bondini)

The excellent detail photos of the car above and below were taken at Repco’s Maidstone factory in the Western suburbs of Melbourne. Redco Pty. Ltd built the Repco Holden F5000 engines here and Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. the F1/Tasman/Indy/Sportscar series of motors from 1966-1970.  Others of this series of shots are included at this articles end for M18 fans.

In essence the M18 was underdeveloped at the seasons outset in Europe and was eclipsed by the Surtees TS8, Lola T192 and the quickest of the M10B’s which had been extensively developed in Europe, North America, South Africa and Australasia. The M10B was one of THE great production racing cars.

O’Sullivan’s racing programs were always sporadic, doubtless fitted in amongst business commitments and pressures, in addition Perth is a long way from the eastern seaboard circuits, trips east a major undertaking.

The M18’s first national event was at the 11 October 1971 Mallala, South Australia Gold Star round (DNS, oil leak) in the first race win for the Elfin MR5 Repco, John McCormack the driver on that occasion.

Jaime then towed the car to Sydney where Don raced at the Warwick Farm Australian AGP on 21 November. He qualified 13th in a field of depth and crashed out of the race on lap 21. His colleague, Frank Matich, won that day aboard the brand new Matich A50 Repco in a splendid display of dominance ‘out of the box’.

These shots of the M18 Repco at Repco’s Maidstone factory for an engine freshen or swap on one of the cars few sojourns east. Messy rear- dry sump oil and catch tank and Varley battery to its right. HQ Holden Monaro to the side  (Jay Bondini)

M18 a bit wedgier in the body than M10B but still related to the 1968 F1 M7A . HD Holden Wagon @ rear (Jay Bondini) 

image

Front suspension detail: wide based lower wishbone, top link and rear facing arm, Koni shocks, coil springs, adjustable roll bar, Lockheed calipers and Aeroquip lines. Nice (J Bondini)

Into 1972 the car raced at the Motorama TT meeting at Wanneroo Park in April for 2 wins. Howie Sangster, later to race both the M18 and M22 McLarens was at this stage regularly racing, and had been for some time, Don’s McLaren LT170 Chev sportscar. That car, an amalgam of Lola T70 and McLaren componentry is a story in itself for another time!

A month later Don won the West Australian Road Racing Championship in the car, that meeting is the one featured in the opening photograph of this article.

The M18 raced in Queensland, at the Surfers Paradise Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy Gold Star round in 1972 and was by that stage said to be updated to M22 spec, still Repco powered but from this point is described as a M18/22. (It is still listed as an M18 in Western Australian records mind you in ‘Terry Walkers Place’)

The car was entered at the Symmons Plains Gold Star round in Tasmania but did not arrive. Perth and Launceston are two ends of the country after all! O’Sullivan raced the car in the Adelaide Gold Star round on his way back to Perth in October for a DNF with handling problems.

Warwick Brown McLaren M10B Chev ahead of Howie Sangster McLaren M18 Repco, Warwick Farm Hordern Trophy Gold Star round, late 1972 (Wirra)

Howie Sangster raced the car for Don at Warwick Farm in the November 1972 Hordern Trophy. He qualified 8th on the technically demanding circuit but DNS for undisclosed reasons.

The car was not entered for the ’73 Tasman but raced in some local meetings at Wanneroo Park in 1973- the first was the Sterling City Speed Classic in March with O’Sullivan taking two wins. At the Autumn Cup meeting in April he again took two wins.

By the time of the WA Racing Car Championships in the Spring Carnival meeting on 16 September O’Sullivan had bought the later ex-Redman/Hobbs/Teddy Pillette VDS McLaren M18/22 Chev. He won the championship in the M22 Chev.

Hobbs, McLaren M18/22 ‘500-01) Chev, Warwick Farm, Esses,  Tasman Series 1972 DNF water temp, race won by Frank Matich, Matich A50 Repco (R MacKenzie)

McLaren M18/22 ‘500-01’ Chev…

Into 1972 it was pretty clear the F5000 way to go was Lola, the T300 and McRae GM2 were the ‘ducks guts’ cars, mind you a Matich bought from Don’s old mate from Sydney would have been a credible choice!

But Don and Jaime had plans to build both a sportscar and an F5000 machine and they had plenty of McLaren componentry already so they started to look at cars for sale. The ex-works McLaren M18/22 ‘500-01’ being offered by Trojan Cars was well known to the Perth boys as the car was raced with some success in the 1972 Tasman Series by David Hobbs. Hobbs won the final round of the series at Adelaide International in it.

It was Gard’s intention to use the M22 ‘500-01’ as the donor components car for the Gardos Sportscar but when the pair landed the it in Perth they soon appreciated that the M22 was a more advanced design than their low miles customer M18 ‘500-08’.

On that basis they decided to keep intact the M22 Chev as their F5000 weapon until their proposed Gardos F5000 car was built and use the bits of the M18 for the Gardos Sports, the build of which is covered later in this article.

image

Gardos Repco Sports in the Phillip Island paddock during the Australian Sportscar Championship meeting in November 1975. M8D design such a sexy beast! By now ‘McLaren’ is writ large on the Gardos’ nose (M Bisset)

The Gardos Sports was built by Gard and his team in Perth to McLaren M8D drawings but using much of the F5000 M18 hardware rather than the usual Can Am kit used by Trojan and McLaren in their customer/works Can Am cars. Powered by a Repco Holden F5000 engine and using a DG300 Hewland gearbox, it was first raced by Don at Wanneroo Park during the 6 May 1973 Australian Touring Car Championship meeting.

The timeline here is interesting, for historians at least!

The last race for the M18 was at the Wanneroo Autumn Cup meeting on 8 April 1973.  The first race for the Gardos Sports, which used much of the M18 componentry, was at Wanneroo Park on 6 May 1973. Clearly, given the foregoing, the Gardos Sports was completed between those two dates, with critical bits of the M18 removed from that chassis and fitted to the all but complete Gardos Sports. The chassis of the M18 was not used in the Gardos Sports project, but was put to one side for later use in the build of what became the Gardos OR2 F5000.

Several months later, after the Gardos Sports debut, O’Sullivan was 3 seconds a lap quicker in practice for the Australian Sportscar Championship round held at Wanneroo on 14 August.

He DNF’d having qualified equal 3rd, the race won by Lionel Ayers’ Rennmax Repco V8- that car powered by a Repco Brabham Engines 760 series 5 litre SOHC engine.

David Hobbs, McLaren M18/22 ‘500-01’ Chev, in the form up area, Sandown Tasman 1972. 3rd in the race won by Graham McRae’s Leda GM1 Chev (stupix)

M22 business end, Surfers Paradise paddock 1972 (G Owen)

Lets now go back to McLaren M18/22 ‘500-01’, a McLaren works built car, not a Trojan customer car. It would be rather a nice thing to have as you will see!

During 1971 Brian Redman, Peter Gethin, Derek Bell and Reine Wisell raced it entered by Sid Taylor Racing.The car was then returned to Colnbrook, where McLaren updated it as the prototype M22. It was then raced by Hobbs in Australasia. The chassis was returned to the UK and formed the basis of the first ‘real’ M22 which was raced by Teddy Pilette until May when it was replaced by the first Trojan built production M22.

The car was then sold to O’Sullivan as noted above and first raced at Wanneroo in the 16 September 1973 ‘Spring Carnival’ meeting winning the WA Racing Car Championship, as he had done in the M18 Repco the year before.

O’Sullivan and Sangster shared the M22 races in the Cancer Crusade Classic at Wanneroo on 21 October with Don taking one victory and Howie two.

Sangster then drove the car in the AGP at Sandown on 4 November, the meeting in WA gave him valuable seat time in advance of his drive . In fact, in Melbourne, having attended the meeting, the car looked wonderful in a fresh coat of ‘O’Sullivan Dark Blue’, with Howie doing a very good job on the unfamiliar, fast circuit with a strong, reliable 4th from grid 6. Graham McRae won the race in his almost brand new, jet black, McLaren M23 like McRae GM2 Chev. My god that car looked great! I think the GM2 had one race in the UK before being shipped from the Poole factory to Melbourne and a win.

The final round of the 1973 Gold Star was a couple of weeks after Sandown, also in Victoria at Phillip Island on 25 November, so the West Australians raced the M22 there before heading home to the West. Howie retired with throttle problems, again qualifying well in 6th – on this fast, demanding, technical circuit it was a good showing. In fact it’s a shame Sangster’s career did not advance further after O’Sullivan’s closure of his team, there are enough flashes of speed to indicate plenty of talent in the guy.

The M22 was not raced again by the O’Sullivan team who by that stage were well into the build of their new Gardos OR2 Repco Holden F5000 which they planned to run in the 1974 Tasman Series.

As a result the M22 was offered for sale and eventually sold to Adelaide’s Chris Milton, the talented engineer/driver ran it in the ’75 Tasman, ’76 Australian Internationals and into later 1976.

After Milton started to drive the Gardos OR2 several years later, the M22 was sold to Melbourne sportscar exponent Alan Newton who raced it in a couple of rounds of the 1978 Australian International Series, before being out to one side. All these decades later he still has it!

M18/22 ‘500-01’ would be a very nice jigger to own given it’s a factory built McLaren and the large number of pilots of international calibre who sat in its tight fitting cockpit!

image

Keith Poole testing the just reassembled Gardos OR2 Repco at Adelaide International Raceway in February 1976 (K Pedler)

Gardos OR2 Repco Holden…

Whilst Howie Sangster raced the new McLaren M22 Jaime Gard was busy in Perth building Don his new F5000 car using some of the components of the M18. The new car made its debut at the Adelaide Tasman round, the last of the series in February 1974.

The aerodynamic direction of racing cars at the time was ‘up in the air’, there were as many practitioners of the Lotus 72 chisel nose/side radiator school as the Tyrrell bluff nose approach. Examples of the former in F5000 at the time include the Lola T330/332, Matich A53 and of the latter the Chevron B24/B28 and Elfin MR5.

Jaime decided on the chisel nose/side radiator approach for his new car, the aluminium monocoque used the M18 bulkheads, which were slightly modified and in typical F5000 style ended at the bulkhead behind the driver with a steel sub-frame carrying the Repco Holden engine as an unstressed member.

image

Keith Poole and David Craig assembling Gardos OR2 in Adelaide in early 1976. Monocoque chassis bespoke by Jaime Gard but used M18 bulkheads. Suspension geometry different to M18 but used M18 uprights. Note rear/side radiator and Repco Holden, Lucas injected V8 (K Pedler)

They had a choice of engines of course, and stuck with the Repco Holden F5000 unit. A logical choice at the time- the Perth guys were not to know Repco were only months away from withdrawing from motor racing. But in late 1973 their engines were as good as any, Matich had shown the power of the latest Repco flat-plane crank unit was equal to the best Chevs circa 525bhp to be precise, with the big, fat mid range torque the Repco’s were always renowned for a bonus.

Gard revised the suspension geometry of the car, but used M18 uprights. The car was utterly conventional with upper and lower wishbones at the front and multi-link at the rear- single top link, twin lower links and two radius rods for fore and aft location. Coil springs and Koni shocks were used as of course were adjustable roll bars. The steering rack was from the M18.

image

Gardos OR2 pretty as a picture, ready for the off at AIR in early 1976. Airbox off the M18/22 at a guess (K Pedler)

The sad part about the Gardos is that it raced so little ‘in its prime’, that is when first built.

When completed the car was tested at Wanneroo and then entered in the last 1974 Tasman round at Adelaide International Raceway. Howie Sangster raced it qualifying 14th only 1.6 seconds slower than Max Stewart’s 49.7 second pole time in his Lola T330 Chev. He finished, albeit with only 41 laps to his credit with no doubt a range of teething problems.

And that was it for the Gardos under O’ Sullivan’s ownership.

The car languished through the rest of 1974 and 1975- not raced locally either before being sold to David Craig of C & C Autos in Adelaide.

Craig acquired both cars- the OR2 F5000 and Gardos Sportscar- Keith Poole, a local motor engineer and Formula Vee champion stepped up to the plate to race both, 5 litre 500 bhp cars! The OR2 was reassembled by K&A Engineering in Adelaide with Jaime Gard doing the final suspension setup for testing.

Chris Milton in the Gardos OR2 Repco ahead of John Leffler Lola T400 Chev and Alfia Costanzo Lola T332C Chev, Sandown 1977 (I Smith)

The team missed the first round of the 1976 Internationals at Oran Park but Keith qualified the car a strong 9th at his home track and finished 7th in a race of attrition. At Sandown he was 12th on the grid and blew a welsh plug, non-starting the final round at Surfers Paradise.

He was 2nd to Paul England in the Australian Hillclimb Championship at Collingrove, in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

The car was unraced in the 1976 Gold Star but Chris Milton leased it to contest the 1977 Internationals, the same fellow who had acquired the M22 ‘500-01’ several years before. Later in 1977, Milton bought a Lola T330/2.

Barry Singleton, Gardos OR2 Repco at Oran Park in 1979. Note the ground effect tunnels and skirts as per text (G Russell)

Craig then sold the Gardos to Queenslander Barry Singleton, who had it rebuilt by Kaditcha’s Barry Lock in Queensland following fire damage which occurred at C&C. It was remodelled by Lock more than once during Singleton’s ownership, eventually having ground-effect sidepods fitted.

Singleton raced the Gardos at Surfers Paradise during the 1979 Rothmans International series and then crashed it at Oran Park. He was sixth at the Australian Grand Prix at Wanneroo Park in March. The car next appeared in June 1980. (a DNS at Lakeside) He was an early retirement from the November 1980 Australian GP at Calder Park- the race run to F1 and F5000 regs won by Alan Jones Williams FW07 Ford GP car.

He put in one last appearance in Sep 1981 at Sandown Park but finished last as F5000 just spluttered along- Formula Pacific was by then Australia’s ANF1.

Singleton then sold the Gardos to Bob Minogue, who sold it on to Brian Sampson. Then Peter Roach, previously the owner of a Matich A50 bought it in the late-eighties and sold it in 1992 to Graham McMinn, who had the chassis rebuilt by Brian Shead of Cheetah fame in Mordialloc, Melbourne before selling to Max Warwick in 1997. In 2001, it was sold again to Chris Watson in NZ and has in recent times joined the healthy Kiwi F5000 Historic grids. Which is great to see it finally reappear.

Gardos Repco Holden Sportscar…

Barry Singleton in the Gardos Repco Sports ahead of Paul Gibson, Rennmax Repco at Amaroo Park in the late seventies (G Russell)

Just to recap the story earlier in this article. Don and Jaime planned to build a sportscar to Australia’s 5 litre limit and acquired the M18/22 ‘500-01’ as a donor car. When the car arrived it was clear to the enterprising West Australians that it was of later spec than their M18- so it was decided that it would be the parts car. The Gardos Sports was to be powered by one of the teams Repco Holden F5000 V8’s, the transmission a Hewland DG300 gearbox.

There was the vexed issue of the design of the car of course.

Depending upon the account, the blueprints to the 1970 Can Am McLaren M8D Chev were provided to the Perth lads to build a car under licence. Peter Agg’s version, the owner of Trojan Cars is that the plans were ‘sneaked out of the factory’. That is, he was not aware of it and no fee was paid. It is not difficult to imagine the Aussies suggesting they should have the blueprints flicked their way given what great customers they had been over the years. And they had been loyal McLaren dudes for quite some while- I certainly would have argued the case that way.

In any event the blueprints/drawings to the McLaren were obtained, the car was built by Gard and his team in Perth and fitted with M18 parts wherever possible. Engine, gearbox, suspension corners inclusive of brakes and wheels all came from the M18. Most of the bare tub of the M18 was consumed in the build of the OR2 F5000 inclusive of its bulkheads, which, modified, were used in OR2 as already related.

The Gardos Sports looked superb when completed, as McLaren M8D’s do!

image

Gardos Repco Sports in the Amaroo Park paddock during Barry Singleton’s ownership (G Russell)

Gardos Sports, look at the badge on the nose, it says Gardos not McLaren, at its first race meeting Wanneroo Park May 1973. Don, Jaime and team, Bernie Zampatti’s ZX5 in the distance. Original bodywork ended up on Stuart Kosrera’s Matich SR3A (R Hagarty)

 

 

 

It was first raced at the Australian Touring Car Championship meeting at Wanneroo Park on 6 May 1973 entered as ‘Gardos’ in the program. Not Gardos Repco, not McLaren M8D Repco but Gardos. This may seem arcane, but the point will become clear in discussing its subsequent re-birthing in the USA. Driven by O’Sullivan the car failed to complete the 10 lap sportscar race, his best time was 62.2 seconds, a good first up effort.

At the 12 August Wanneroo meeting the feature event was the fourth round of the Australian Sportscar Championship won by Lionel Ayers Rennmax Repco V8 with O’Sullivan, the car again entered simply as ‘Gardos’ DNF. Henry Michell, Elfin 360 Repco was 2nd and local lad Stuart Kostera 3rd in an old but quick Matich SR3 Ford. O’Sullivan’s best lap of 59.6 seconds was right up at the pointy end for what was still a very new car.

And that appears to be it for the Gardos in the O’Sullivan teams hands. The team raced their F5000’s and much earlier McLaren LT170 Chev sportscar in WA meetings during the rest of 1973 but did not race the Gardos, it would be intriguing to know why.

The car was potentially a winner of the 1974 Australian Sportscar Championship had the Perth guys been able to commit to a national program. Henry Michell won it in a season of reliability in his Elfin 360 Repco 2.5 V8, without winning a round.

Garrie Cooper’s Elfin MS7 appeared mid-season and won two rounds and shifted the local sportscar goalposts but potentially the Perthies may have had a win or two on board by the time the MS7 hit Adelaide International where Garrie first tested and raced it in August. Lionel Ayers Rennmax Repco V8 5 litre was the other outright contender that year and winner of two of the four rounds.

image

Rear happy, crappy Kodak Instamatic shot of the rear of the Gardos Sports at Phillip Island in November 1975 (M Bisset)

By 1975 the Gardos Sports peak had passed, Cooper was on top of his game with the superb Elfin, the best Australian sportscar of the era.

Other than the Gardos OR2 Repco F5000 debut at Adelaide International in early 1974 neither O’Sullivan or Sangster raced any of the team cars throughout 1974. Both Gardos cars, as related earlier were sold to C&C Autos in 1975 when O’Sullivan withdrew from the sport.

Poole raced the Gardos Sports locally in South Australia and contested the one race 1975 Australian Sportscar Championship at Phillip Island that November. Garrie Cooper won the race in his Elfin MS7 Repco Holden from Henry Michell’s Elfin 360 Repco and Fred Gibson’s Alfa Australia Alfa Romeo T33 V8 Coupe with Keith a DNF.

The other main race at the ‘Island was the final round of the Australian F2 Championship won by Geoff Brabham in a Birrana 274 Hart. He took both the round and the title, I can well recall an excited conversation with the likeable bloke in the paddock after his win. And then off to Europe he went, Ralt RT1 Toyota F3 in 1976.

By then the bodywork of the Gardos proclaimed ‘McLaren’ on its nose- which is of course far sexier than ‘Gardos’. It seems to me the name of the car is rightly Gardos Sports Repco or Gardos McLaren Repco, but of course that does not ‘gas up’ its commercial value, even if it is factually correct.

Both Gardos cars, OR2 F5000 and Sports were sold to Barry Singleton in Queensland who raced them a lot and did them justice.

image

Gardos Sports cockpit, complete with McLaren steering wheel, and an array of Smiths instruments, at Phillip Island in November 1975. Shift lever and linkage is attached to a DG300 Hewland ‘box (M Bisset)

Eventually the Gardos Repco Sports found its way to the US and into the Matthews Collection but the car now tagged ‘M8D G’ (Gardos) owes nothing at all to its specifications as built by Gard in Perth.

As built the car had a Repco Holden F5000 engine, it now has a Big Block ally ZL1 Chev. As built the car had a DG300 Hewland, it now has an LG600. As built the car had M18 suspension, brake and wheel componentry. The car was rebuilt to full M8D spec sometime in 1993/4, with all the M18 pieces removed and replaced by sportscar bits. Owners of cars can do what they like of course- I’ve no issue with that.

In the early nineties the car was passed off as a ‘real M8D’ but nowadays it is said to be accepted for what it is- that is, as I have depicted the cars history and its conversion in the US to a car of M8D ‘full specification’. The Matthews Collection’s attempt at documenting the cars origins on its website is incomplete and inaccurate. There are 21 modern photos of the car in 1970 works papaya colours. None are of the car in Australia in period. Why let history get in the way of a good story after all?

Etcetera: Repco Maidstone McLaren M18 Repco ‘500-08’ shots…

As as related earlier the shots below are the balance of those taken by Jay Bondini at Repco, Maidstone. Rare, detail period shots for McLaren F5000 nutters of whom I am one!

image

(J Bondini)

image

Conventional rear suspension- single top link, inverted lower wishbone, coil spring/damper, twin radius rods, mag alloy uprights. DG300 Hewland 5 speed ‘box, note oil dry-sump tank and catch tank. Varley battery plonked up high (J Bondini)

image

Comments as per previous shot (J Bondini)

image

Repco Holden Lucas injected F5000 V8 engine, circa 480 bhp @ this stage for a ‘customer’ engine. Matich motors had a bit more. Aeroquip brakeline running atop top radius rod (J Bondini)

image

The McLaren F5000 tubs of this period are all related in design to the 1968 F1 M7A- M10A, M10B, M18 and M22. Note ‘A-frame’ to carry the engine as per text, wheels 13 inch in diameter (J Bondini)

Bibliography…

oldracingcars.com, Terry Walkers Place, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and Ors, The Nostalgia Forum especially the contributions of Duncan Fox and Ray Bell

Photo Credits…

State Library of Western Australia, oldracingcars.com, Eli Solomon, Jay Bondini, Neil Stratton, Geoff Russell, Stupix, Rod MacKenzie, Ian Smith, Kym Pedler, Ian Messner, Wirra, Brendon Hagarty, Greg Owen

Tailpiece: O’Sullivan cruisin’ the Wanneroo Paddock in the M18 Repco…

(B Hagerty)

 

 

 

 

(Eldougo)

Peter Manton, Austin 1800 tow car and his ‘Improved Production Touring’ Cooper S, perhaps at Surfers Paradise in 1970…

Manton is long way from home, the Gold Coast is 1720 kilometres from Melbourne, the Mini aces home base. That cut down Austin 1800 is a really nice rig but I don’t fancy towing that Mini with that car, even if it has a couple of SU’s bolted to the side of the ‘B Series’ head. It lacks the ‘mumbo’ needed for such long tows across our big, brown, parched continent. Nice thing to ponce around Surfers Paradise in mind you.

By 1970 Peter was winding down a long career in the sport which dated back to the thirties. Born in 1922 Gerald Peter ‘Skinny’ Manton began racing at 16 in his mothers Austin 16.

He worked at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend in product engineering leaving to work for John Ould Motors and later Monaro Motors, of which he later became a partner.

Monaro Motors sold MG’s and developed performance parts for the marque. They were agents for Wade Superchargers and became sole distributors in Victoria for SU carburettors. ‘Skinny’ progressed to design and research developing many twin-carb manifolds and other bits. As the Issigonis front wheel drive BMC products swept the market Manton swapped his Marshall-blown Morris Major for a succession of Cooper S’ with which he became synonomous. He formed Peter Manton Motors which was a well known destination for a generation or so of Melbourne enthusiasts

Was the Mini King of Oz Peter Manton or Brian Foley? Are the honours equally split?, without doubt they were the Mini Kings of Victoria and New South Wales respectively throughout the sixties in any event!

Photo Credit…

Eldougo, Dick Simpson

Tailpiece: Manton’s Cooper S being monstered by Shell teammate and 1970 ATCC champion Norn Beechey’s Holden HG Monaro GTS350, at Calder…

(Simpson)

 

 

image

(SLWA)

To keep a sponsor happy that is! Here it’s Perth racer Gordon Stephenson presenting the prizes to the winners of a department store lawnmower racing competition…

WTF you may well say?

Boans was an iconic department store in Western Australia for almost a century. Remember when every State or City had such emporiums of shopping pleasure for those so inclined?- Myer in Victoria, Grace Brothers in New South Wales, Malcolm Reid in South Australia and so on. Now the buildings may still exist but the companies have been absorbed into a small number of conglomerates over the last forty years. Boans were chomped up by the Myer Group in 1986.

A sign of the times, competition and change is the rise in online retailing in the last decade or so- at the time of writing, mid November 2017, Amazon have just launched in Australia. The potential impact has executives of our major local retailers soiling their under-garments with fear. And rightfully so. Change is the continuum.

image

Stephenson showing the kids his Tasman Cooper T70 Climax, I wonder if he fired it up and did a lap or two of the Boans, Morley carpark!? Car taken to Perth by Don O’Sullivan who acquired it from Bill Patterson in Melbourne, Stephenson only raced it for 12 months (SLWA)

It seems that Boans organised a ‘cross-promotion’ to raise their profile, to flog a few lawnmowers and roll BP into the fun. Poor BP sponsored Gordon drew the short straw that day to display his car and hand out the prizes. The local media did the rest to maximise exposure.

FTD was awarded to the kid who pushed his mower ‘for Chrissakes pick a Victa two-stroke son it will be lighter than the four-stroke Scott-Bonnar’- across Boans, Morley store carpark the fastest. Morley is 10 Km from central Perth.

The Cooper is an interesting and significant car. It’s the Cooper T70 Climax FPF 2.5 raced by Bruce McLaren and Tim Mayer in the 1964 Tasman Series and then by ’61 World Champ, Phil Hill, mildly updated in the 1965 Tasman. It was purchased by Richard Berryman in the mid-seventies and was restored and is owned by his son Adam Berryman, a Melbourne mate of mine.

The history of the two T70’s car is covered in the two articles below rather than relate the history of one of the two ‘first McLarens’ built.

https://primotipo.com/2016/11/18/tim-mayer-what-might-have-been/

https://primotipo.com/2017/11/02/levin-international-new-zealand-1965/

Stephenson was a stalwart of WA racing for decades, mainly in Touring Cars. He had a busy season in 1968 racing both his ex-Alec Mildren Racing Alfa Romeo GTA and the Cooper in local circuit races at Caversham, having several wins in the T70, and hillclimbs at Mount Brown, York.

The story of the Mildren GTA’s is told here, inclusive of their extensive West Australian history;

https://primotipo.com/2014/11/27/the-master-of-opposite-lock-kevin-bartlett-alfa-romeo-gta/

image

Racers checkin’ out the opposition, helmets only required for the BP decal attached and related photo op! (SLWA)

Credits…

State Library of Western Australia, Terry Walkers Place

Tailpiece: Racin’…

image

(SLWA)

 

 

 

image

1981 Williams FW07D Ford (P D’Alessio)

I’d forgotten about the speed of Patrick Head’s Williams 6-wheelers and what a serious attempt they were to address the teams position in 1981/82. And the rule changes to ban them such was their apparent speed…

Williams couldaa-wouldaa-shouldaa won World Titles in 1979 and 1981 to go with the ‘Jones Boys’ win in 1980.

In ’79 the ground-effect FW07 arrived late and took a while to find the reliability to go with its speed apparent from the start. In 1981 team orders and more ‘cooperation’ between Jones and Reutemann would have secured a title for one of them instead of ‘none’ of them.

The two ‘numero-unos’ caper seldom works does it? I am a Buddhist in some ways but I still love the way ole AJ totally crushed Lole at Vegas in that last round ’81 championship showdown. Sheer force of will and balls. Attributes the ebullient, combative Balwyn Boy had in spades.

By late 1981 the turbo teams were finding reliability to go with their speed. Renault only missed out on the ’81 title because of unreliability, Ferrari were new to the turbo game but the engine was great even if the chassis was not. Brabham had formed a partnership with BMW. The best of the Cosworth runners was the McLaren MP4, which, with the very first carbon-fibre chassis was putting to the road all the venerable DFV had to offer. Maranello unsurprisingly knocked back William’s request for a customer Ferrari V6 turbo.

What to do was the question the Didcot hierachy faced as the FW07 series of cars were at the end of their development cycle?

image

Alan Jones, Wlliams FW07D Ford, referred to as FW07E also, Donington Park, November 1981 (Sutton)

To make things worse, Alan Jones made a very late call to quit GP racing and become a farmer. He bought a property at Glenburn, in the Kinglake/Yea area of Victoria forcing the Williams team to shop around on the second-hand driver market. The population difference of 250 people in Glenburn and greater London’s many millions is a change in domicile of some scale! Frank and Patrick eventually signed Keke Rosberg to partner Carlos Reutemann. It turned out to be rather a good choice.

Patrick Head set upon two design paths in parallel; the FW07 replacement ‘FW08’ and a six-wheeler project. By mixing the two projects, Head accounted for the six-wheeled concept in the FW08 design. The FW08’s wheelbase was kept short to accommodate the addition of four-wheel-rear-drive, its short wheelbase is partially the explanation of FW08’s stubby looks.

What follows is a truncated version of a great 8W: Forix article on six-wheelers, click on the link at the end of this article for an excellent summary of six-wheelers starting with the 1948 Pat Clancy Special and finishing with the 1982 Williams FW08D. In addition I have drawn on the recollections of the Williams six-wheeler designer, Frank Dernie in a MotorSport article.

The Williams six-wheel configuration would be four smaller driven wheels at the back in a direct effort to improve straightline speed by getting rid of the big aerodynamically inefficient rear tyres and improve traction out of corners due to the increased rubber contact. A bonus was to allow the free flow of air along the sidepods all the way to the rear axle of the car.

‘As ground effects were permitted within the wheelbase of the car, Head cunningly interpreted this rule as being from front axle to the most rearward axle! In Head’s mind, these would be ground effects perfection. The leading rear axle was placed four inches ahead of its original place, with the driveshafts angled to cope. The most rearward axle was driven by an additional final drive added on the back of the transmission. Hewland provided assistance on the gearbox, using vital experience gained from Roy Lane’s March 2-4-0 hillclimber’ which you will recall was also two wheels up front and four down the back.

Jones briefly tested the car at Donington Park in November 1981 shortly after winning at Las Vegas, but still decided against continuing his GP career. Its said the weather was so cold in Leicestershire that day that Jones had to pour hot water on his Jaguar door locks to get into his car. It’s not that the concept of the six-wheeler was poor, simply that AJ needed a break.

He returned to Australia to race Formula Pacific and Sportscars but was back to Grand Prix racing soon enough, his decision to opt for the bucolic pleasures of country life in Australia was premature.

‘In November 1981, at a cool but sunny Paul Ricard Keke Rosberg climbed aboard the six-wheeled FW07 hack, which for reference purposes we shall call the FW07E, as its reported name (‘FW07D’) later became the designation for the regular 1982 FW07.

Reports in Autosprint magazine led everyone to believe that Keke’s times at Ricard were unusually fast indeed, although many warned not to read too much into winter testing times. However, Alain Prost’s lap record of 1.04.5 had been set on October 26, just two weeks before Keke and his FW07D/E lowered it to 1.04.3 on November 7.

Jonathan Palmer also tested the car at Croix-en-Ternois in the North of France to see what its performance would be like on a tight and twisty track, and matched the times set by the regular FW07C.

Eventually though, the FW07D/E wasn’t used in racing as the team found a major obstacle to its ‘perfect’ ground effects – the lower wishbones of the rear suspension.

So Head decided on incorporating this dilemma into the design of the FW08, which as stated above was predesigned to accommodate six wheels. The FW08 solution used fixed-length driveshafts that would be used as lateral lower location members as well, thus freeing the underwing tunnels from any obstruction’.

image

Williams FW08 Ford 1982: Aluminium honeycomb monocoque chassis, wishbone and rocker pullrod suspension at front and wisbones and rockers at rear, coil spring dampers, Ford Cosworth 3 litre DFV V8- about 490 bhp @ 10750 rpm in ’82 spec, Hewland FGA400 5 speed box (P D’Alessio)

1982 Season…

‘Buoyed by the performance of the latest FW07 regular development, the FW07D, the team started the season with this car, ‘Lole’ immediately taking second after the super-license affair at Kyalami, with Rosberg fifth.

While the politics continued unabated in Brazil, Williams were confronted by Reutemann’s shock retirement from racing but lifted by Rosberg’s strong second place at Long Beach, yet still behind Niki Lauda in McLaren’s miracle chassis.

The Imola boycott allowed the team to prepare two FW08s for Zolder where there was more drama in store for the Grand Prix community. With the Renaults faltering yet again, Keke grabbed another second place, this time following home John Watson in the other MP4/1’.

‘In the following races Rosberg and new team mate Derek Daly continued to be beaten by the McLaren and the Brabham BT49D, while the turbo-engined Brabham won its first race.

image

Williams Team FW08’s in the Detroit paddock June 1982 Derek Daly 5th behind his car. Rosberg was 4th, the race won by the carbon-fibre McLaren MP4 Ford of John Watson (unattributed)

In France, turbos finished one-two-three-four.

Obviously unaware of the final Championship result, the Williams team then pressed on with its six-wheeler project and during the summer of 1982 a new car surfaced.

This time an adapted FW08-01 codenamed FW08D, hit the Donington Park track. Its four wheel drive times were stunning. In fact, they were so good that the FIA issued their 1983 regulations including a clause that outlawed six-wheelers and four-wheel drive’.

Frank Dernie spoke of his FW08 six-wheeler design in MotorSport.

‘The biggest problem with traditional ground-effect cars is that the downforce is generated a very long  way forward so you need a draggy rear wing to balance it. The big plus with the six-wheeler was that its side-pods ran comfortably inside the narrow rear tyres, right to the back.’

‘I managed a sufficiently rearward centre of pressure, without too much loss of the underbody, to do away with wings; the car had a slotted-flap type underbody, part of it around the exhaust, part of it in the normal place. I couldn’t have done that with a four-wheeled car. When skirts have to stop ahead of the rear tyres, you’re knackered’.

‘The lift to drag ratio of FW08 was 8.2, and the FW08B six-wheeler was not much more…But the final quarter scale model of the six-wheeler that would have gone into production had a lift to drag of 13 point something’. With neither front nor rear wing, any necessary trimming was to be supplied by a Gurney type flap at the bodywork’s rear’.

image

Keke Rosberg aboard FW08D in 1982 (LAT)

Keke Rosberg, Jacques Laffitte, Jonathon Palmer and Tony Trimmer all tested FW08B as late as October 1982.

‘It was quite progressive’ said Palmer. ‘It was great fun to throw around, to get a bit sideways, because instead of one wheel losing grip, and, therefore losing 50% of your grip, if one wheel lost grip you still had three others giving you some grip’. The car showed promise on all types of track from the high speed sweeps of Silverstone to the twists of Croix en-Ternois.

Dernie again ‘Patrick was sure that the only limitation would be, with four driven wheels pointing straight ahead, masses of power understeer. But after only a few laps of ‘Croix, Laffitte admitted he had forgotten it was a six-wheeler’.

image

Jolly Jacques aboard FW08D at Crois en-Ternois in 1982 (unattributed)

‘If you get the weight distribution right for the tyres and make sure the aero is consistent, there is no reason why it wouldn’t feel like any normal racing car. To get the ultimate from it, though, tyres  specific to the rear would have been required. At that time however, we were just running six fronts’.

In a busy time for Williams GP Engineering Dernie was actively assessing active suspension, Rosberg was stringing together a consistent run in one of F1 nuttiest seasons, FW was courting Honda as an engine provider and as a result the six-wheeler slipped down the priority list.

‘We didn’t expect it to be banned. Though we thought that maybe it would be after everyone saw how quick it was’.

‘We didn’t have sufficient time or money to bring it to fruition. We only had one Hewland gearbox, for example. Its casing was completely different because the suspension mounts were different. The gear linkage was unique too. We would have to have made lots of new bits before racing it, and inevitably it was going to be a heavier than a normal car’.

image

Sibling similarity between four and six wheelers clear in this Monaco 1982 shot of Rosberg’s FW08, DNF collision. Ricardo Patrese won in a Brabham BT49 Ford (unattributed)

Williams’ efforts had come to nought. And with Keke suddenly picking up one useful placing after the other – outpacing the unreliable McLarens in the process – and taking his debut win at Dijon, the Didcot team stopped having reasons for arguing too strongly with the FIA. And they had their negotiations with Honda going on anyway.

8W:Forix ‘Joining them – as Lotus had done, as McLaren would ultimately do – instead of beating them became the new motto for the new Formula 1 era. It had no place for six-wheelers, just as it refused four-wheel driven turbine cars. Many years later, at the 1995 Festival of Speed, the Williams FW08D turned out one more time in the hands of Jonathan Palmer. On the hill at Goodwood it showed why it was outlawed before it got the chance to show it was a winner. The doctor comfortably set an FTD that was only narrowly beaten by Nick Heidfeld four years later, in a pukka 1998 McLaren’.

‘Today the answer to the question is simple again. ‘What does a racing car look like?’ It’s got four wheels and a steering wheel, with the engine in the back driving the rear wheels. Apparently, the 21st century is no time for playing around in another ballpark. Or it must be in The Thunderbirds.’

The last sentence says everything that is wrong about modern F1 of course- the sameness of the cars as a consequence of rules which are way too prescriptive.

image

FW08D, Paul Ricard 1982- four driven wheels. This shot shows just how long and far back those ground effect tunnels extend! (unattributed)

Bibliography…

http://www.forix.com/8w/sixwheelers.html

MotorSport March 2017

 Photo Credits…

Paulo D’Alessio, Sutton, Pinterest, LAT, F1 Fanatic

Etcetera: Williams FW08D Ford Goodwood 2012…

image

Top rear, rear! suspension shot- beautiful magnesium upright, lower wishbone, top rocker, G/E tunnel, fixed skirt, wonderful (F1 Fanatic)

Tailpiece: Williams FW08B Ford 1982- F1’s last six-wheeler, last 4WD…

 

 

 

What a great commercial, symbiotic relationship it was between Gulf Oil Corporation and JW Automotive…

The success they achieved together with the Ford GT40 in 1968 and 1969 carried through into the Porsche years of 1970-1971 and beyond of course.

In 1968 the GT40, then getting long in the tooth, won the Manufacturers Championship and Le Mans. In 1969 the reliable old war-horse, again in Gulf-Wyer colours won at Le Mans, narrowly from the Porsche 908, undoubtedly the car of the year. It was one of the few races the 3 litre flat-8 Spyders and Coupes did not win- albeit not by much. The Jacky Ickx/Jackie Oliver GT40 ‘1075’, also the ’68 Le Mans winning chassis (driven by Pedro Rodriguez/Lucien Bianchi) beat the Hans Hermann/Gerard Larrousse 908L by only seconds, or around 120 metres after 24 hours of racing.

The Porsche 917, first raced in the Nurburgring 1000 Km in June, showed promise towards the end of 1969, winning the Osterreichring 1000 Km in the last Manufacturers Championship round on 10 August. It made sense for Wyer to race Porsche in 1970, and the German’s were happy to contract the racing of their cars to JW- with Gulf again providing commercial support. This event at the Carlton Tower Hotel i assume is the announcement of the parties plans for 1970.

JW were very successful in 1970, they won the lions share of the races- Daytona, Brands Hatch, Monza, Spa, Watkins Glen the Osterreichring and Targa, the latter won by a 908 Spyder. But they didn’t win Le Mans, nor did they do so in 1971.

In both cases Porsche Salzburg won the blue-riband endurance event. At the time JW signed with Porsche Wyer didn’t know about the Porsche family plans to cover its bases with two factory teams- Porsche Salzburg, owned by the Piech family being the other. Cunning plan. The right plan.

The car pictured at The Carlton is interesting to show the September 1969 917 paradigm, especially it’s aerodynamics.

Shortly after the JW engineers and drivers got hold of the 917, working with Weissach, the winning cocktail of changes which made the car so successful in 1970/71 was quickly determined.

One was a Lola T70 Mk3/3B type rear deck which cured the aerodynamic instability issue, the other involved changes to the suspension geometry both front and rear to both make good what was never quite right- and was needed anyway to suit the latest generation of wider and lower profile tyres to be used in 1970.

And the rest, as they say is history…

Compare the 1970 917K of Leo Kinnunen during the Brands 1000 Km with the 1969 917K spec of the original design shown in the brochure below. The Brands race is the one made famous by Pedro Rodriguez, who in this car mesmerised spectators and fellow drivers alike with his wet weather skills to win in this twitchy, difficult to master, high powered car (unattributed)

Photo Credits…

Wesley, Getty Images, Porsche AG

Porsche 917 in 1969…

Check out my article on the Porsche 917 first year of competition;

https://primotipo.com/2015/01/03/porsche-917-1969-the-first-season/

Etcetera: 1969 Porsche 917 ‘Sales Brochure’ in a mix languages…

Finito…

 

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

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

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

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

Back to 1963, much simpler times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Jack started it all!

Not really at all.

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

Credits…

Unique Cars and Parts

Tailpiece: Jack Has His Hand On It…

 

 

smedley twin plug FPF

Levin, NZ January 1964 (Smedley)

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

smedley fpf on dyno

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

Racing the Cooper T55 twin-plug FPF…

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

image

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

 Etcetera…

image

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

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

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

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

image

(Smedley)

Special Thanks…

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

Credits…

Geoff Smedley Collection, Milan Fistonic, oldracingcars.com

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

image

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