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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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) 

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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 Pilette 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 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 the 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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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(J Bondini)

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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)

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Comments as per previous shot (J Bondini)

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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)

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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.

In his formative years he worked at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, 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.

Mac/Manton works MGB ‘HBL129D’, Sebring 1966 (unattributed)

Manton’s reputation amongst the BMC UK hierarchy was such that he was chosen to partner Roger Mac in a works MGB at Sebring in March 1966, it was a successful weekend too, the pair were seventeenth overall in the 12 hour classic and first in the GT 2 litre class- the race was won by the Ken Miles/Lloyd Ruby Shelby American Ford GT40 X-I Roadster.

In a busy weekend Manton also contested the four hour Governor’s Cup for sedans the day before the 12 Hour. He shared a Cooper S with Paddy Hopkirk but the pair’s 1293cc S was outted with a broken timing chain after only 33 laps- Jochen Rindt won in a works Alfa Romeo GTA shared with Roberto Businello. Businello, well known in Australia after his Alfa Giulia TI Super Sandown 6 Hour win with Ralph Sach in 1964, blotted his copybook in all but destroying the car in practice.

Hopkirk/Manton Cooper S during the Four Hour Governor’s Trophy, Sebring 1966 (Friedman)

As the Issigonis front wheel drive BMC products swept the market Manton was in on the ground floor.

In 1962 BMC released the Morris Cooper in Australia but in August 1961 Manton was one of those behind the ‘Morris 850 Sports’, the little brick was fitted with twin-SU carbs and a set of extractors. The car was sold through Peter Manton Motors in Melbourne and P&R Williams in Sydney, whilst a ‘dealership special model’ the cars had the backing of BMC inclusive of the factory warranty.

In terms of his racing Manton swapped his Marshall-blown Morris Major for a succession of Cooper S’ with which he became synonomous. Manton Motors was a well known destination for a generation or so of Melbourne BMC and racing 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!

Manton from Bob Holden, Ford Escort Twin-Cam and Brian Foley in Warwick Farm’s Esses 1970 (R Thorncraft)

Etcetera: Sebring 1966…

(Friedman)

Sebring main straight vista with the Mac/Manton MGB to the left and back.

#57 Porsche 904GTS of Ripley/Wetanson in front, MGB of West/Charles, one of the Porsche 906’s to the right and alongside the Shelby GT350 Mustang of Kohler/Reina/Biddle and on his own behind that group of three the Porsche 911 of Ryan/Coleman.

(Friedman)

Hopkirk/Manton chasing the Renault Dauphine of Porath/Van Hoozier, ever present Goodyear blimp up above.

(Friedman)

The Shelby Mustang GT350 of Kohler/Reina/Biddle from Mac/Manton- and below the MGB being monstered by one of the 7 litre Ford GT Mk2’s, no doubt Peter Manton spent as much time looking in his mirrors as he did out the B’s windscreen on the wide expanses of the airfield circuit.

(Friedman)

Flying trio.

Mac/Manton MGB from the similar West/Charles entry and then the Ryan/Coleman Porsche 911. Dave Friedman’s photographic archive is wide, rich and deep.

Photo and Reference Credits…

Eldougo, Dick Simpson, Russell Thorncraft, David Knowles, Dave Westerman, article by Craig Watson in uniquecars.com.au, David Friedman Archive, Peter Longley

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

(Simpson)

 

Peter Longley’s great shot of Manton turning in to Longford’s Viaduct circa 1965.

Finito…

 

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(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.

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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/

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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’…

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(SLWA)

 

 

 

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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?

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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’.

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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.

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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’.

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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’.

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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’.

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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.

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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…

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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 Brabhams on the planet albeit not ones built by Motor Racing Developments!

Jack aboard a Brabham Viva at Longford in 1967- Ford jacketed Denny Hulme looks on from the right

Credits…

Unique Cars and Parts, oldracephotos.com.au

Tailpiece: Jack Has His Hand On It…

Finito…

 

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.

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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’.

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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’.

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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.

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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!’

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

 Etcetera…

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‘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.

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(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…

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

 

(Rod MacKenzie)

…in the words of Maxwell Smart, for you aficionados of Mel Brooks’ wonderful sixties TV show ‘Get Smart’.

Kevin Bartlett with an inside wheel off the deck demonstrating the millimetre precision for which he was famous aboard the Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Alfa in Warwick Farm’s Esses, September 1969. Rod MacKenzie has opened his shutter at precisely the right moment.

Another inch or so and the talented Sydneysider would have ripped an expensive corner off the front of a car which was so kind to him. I’m not sure of the racer behinds identity. A Lotus 27 or 32 perhaps?

Bartlett inherited the Len Bailey designed, Alan Mann Racing built, Alec Mildren owned car after Frank Gardner raced it in the 1969 Tasman Series. KB used it to great effect in that years Australian Gold Star Series winning three rounds and the title in it- Symmons Plains, Surfers Paradise and in Bartlett’s Warwick Farm backyard in December.  During a busy season KB and the Sub also won the Macau Grand Prix on 16 November and contested the JAF Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji.

Every inch a GP car of its day isn’t it, just magnificent. Mildren Alfa in its ‘Alfa ultimate form’. Lynton Hemer’s shot captures the car at WF on Hume Straight in July 1970- interesting shot as the Alfa engine is back in the car long after its first Waggott engined race (L Hemer)

It wasn’t the ‘same car’ by the end of the year though as the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 2.5 litre V8 engines with which the chassis was originally designed and built were put to one side and replaced by Merv Waggott’s Sydney built, 2 litre all alloy, DOHC, 4 valve, Lucas injected 275 bhp engine.

The history of my favourite ‘Australian’ racing car is one for another time- it’s a long story as this jewel of a car’s ‘in period’ history starts with 1969 Alfa V8 wins, continues with Waggott engined victories and ends with 1.6 litre Hart 416B success in Australian National F2 form in 1974/5. A fellow named Ray Winter was campaigning this famous car by then.

(Bill Pottinger)

High Speed Precision too…

Bartlett was famous for his tail out style, he was ‘the absolute master of opposite lock’ as Sam Posey described him having raced against KB during the 1973 Tasman Series and in the ‘L&M F5000 Championship’ in the ‘States in 1972/3.

This shot of the car is in ‘neutral to very subtle oversteer’ attitude, a very high speed, delicate drift- was taken by Bill Pottinger whilst Kevin traversed Teretonga’s ‘loop’.

The 1970 Tasman was tough in a 2 litre car, it was the first year of the Tasman F5000 Formula. KB was still quick enough to take 5th at Pukekohe and Teretonga- a second at Surfers Paradise, very much a power circuit was amazing and first at Warwick Farm brilliant but understandable. Bartlett, Matich and Leo Geoghegan were surely the quickest blokes around ‘Gods Own Acre of Motor Racing ‘ out Liverpool way?!

A mighty fine car and a mighty fine driver- thankfully both are still alive and well in Australia, Queensland to be precise…

(Bill Pottinger)

Merv Waggott fettles…

Sydney’s engineering genius Merv Waggott doing a plug change in ‘The Sub’ during the 1970 Teretonga weekend. Alec Mildren had been using Merv’s talents for years and specifically the smaller variants of Waggott’s engines in his other car, the Rennmax Engineering built Brabham BT23 copy ‘Mildren Waggott’ raced by Max Stewart.

When Merv decided to build a bespoke aluminium block to allow a capacity of 2 litres, something the Ford Cortina blocks used hitherto could not, it was an easy decision for Alec to go the more cost effective route with the local engine rather than the 2.5 litre Alfa V8.

The Alfa unit had received no development since first fitted to Mildren’s Brabham BT23D chassis in late 1967. Alfa were focussed on 3 litre engines for both their Tipo 33 Sportscar program and F1. Two litre Waggotts won Australian Gold Stars for Leo Geoghegan in 1970 (Lotus 59B) and Max Stewart in 1971 (Mildren Waggott)

(H Ellis)

Etcetera: Australian Competitor Set 1970…

Startline of the first round of the 1970 Gold Star Series at Symmons Plains, Tasmania in March 1970.

John Harvey’s #2 Bob Jane Racing Brabham BT23E Repco on pole alongside KB in the Mildren ‘Yellow Sub’ Waggott with Leo Geogheagn’s Lotus 39 Repco on the outside, and behind him in the other yellow Mildren Racing entry is Max Stewart in the Mildren Waggott spaceframe Bob Britton/Rennmax built car. Harvey won a top race from Leo and KB.

In a season of change it was Leo’s last championship race in the venerable ex-Clark Lotus, Harves was about to switch to the Britton/Rennmax built Jane Repco V8- yet another car, like the Mildren Waggott built on Britton’s Brabham BT23 jig whilst KB spent much of 1970 racing in the US so did not defend his Gold Star title. It was also the last year of the Tasman 2.5 Gold Star Formula- Geoghegan taking the title in a new Lotus 59B Waggott 2 litre as noted above.

KB gets a shove during the 1970 Tasman meeting- he won in front of the F5000’s. Glen Abbey, Ian Gordon and another fella. Stewart’s Mildren Waggott in the paddock behind (unattributed)

Photo Credits…

Roderick MacKenzie, Bill Pottinger on The Roaring Season, Lynton Hemer, Russell Thorncraft, Harold Ellis

Tailpiece: Bartlett from Geoghegan, Warwick Farm Esses during 1969- Mildren Alfa from Lotus 39 Repco…

(R Thorncraft)

Finito…

 

 

 

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Luvverly shot of a Bristol 401, the typically helpful Getty Images caption dates the shot as between 1940 and 1950 and notes the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe in Paris…

‘From Marble Arch to the French landmark by air ferry’ is a caption clue, so perhaps it’s a promotional shoot for a new service of moving cars around?

I think so, after a ferret around, note the shot below, i am not suggesting the car in the transport is a Bristol, wotizzit I wonder?

ferry

The aircraft is a Bristol Type 70 Mk32, a former military transport plane before its inaugural flight as a car ferry with ‘Silver City Airways’. Flights were between Lympne Airport in Kent and Le Touquet, France in 1949.

Credits…

Bettman, Monty Fresco, J Wilds

Tailpiece…

Captain Bill Pegg with ‘his’ Bristol Brabazon plane and 402 Cabriolet Bristol in Bristol! on 3 September 1949.

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(J Wilds)

 

(K Drage)

Ira Phillips changes a Jaguar XK140 wheel with Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ on the trailer enroute to Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales in late January 1960…

Derek Jolly led a full life, he was a man of many parts.

A visionary with money who had many interests including motor racing, business, photography, music, science and technology, the arts and fine wine- something of a renaissance man really.

Born into the wealth of South Australia’s Penfold Wines family, he played an important role in improving the performance of early Austin 7 engined Lotus cars, designed, built and raced his ‘Decca Specials’ and then two Lotus 15s with much success in Australia. In addition to his motor racing he also played a role in Australia’s nascent music industry from the 1960’s and was seminal in the redevelopment of the Melbourne Street, North Adelaide precinct in the 1960/70’s. Later in life he lost a good deal of his wealth on Australia’s stock market, undeterred he moved back to the Barossa Valley and commenced a new business there.

The focus of this article is Jolly’s two Coventry Climax engined ‘Decca Specials’ and his Lotus 15s chassis # 608/626, the car raced with much success by Derek and later a shooting star named Bevan Gibson- in fact Jolly’s 15 was not one but two chassis, albeit both had the same chassis number or chassis plate as you will see.

This article is drawn from several sources- an unattributed article in ‘Unique Cars’, the recollections of Kevin Drage, a very prominent Adelaide engineer (who deserves his own detailed story) who was Jolly’s mechanic/pit crew for much of the time he raced the Lotuses, Kevin’s account and the dialogue about them on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ are content and context rich. John Blanden’s seminal book ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ was used, various issues of Australian Motor Sports magazines provided race results for the two Deccas, I’m not suggesting it is a complete list however, AMS also provided the technical specifications of Decca Mk2. Where there were divergences of the story as to fact, I have expressed the alternative suppositions or views.

As will be seen, Derek progressed from Austin 7 based cars to his own lightweight Coventry Climax FWA powered Deccas and finally to the Lotus 15, then amongst the fastest sportscars of their type.

The powerful 15’s or more correctly ‘Fifteens’ were fitted with the Coventry Climax FPF, twin-cam, 2 valve, four cylinder engine in either 1.5 (140bhp and 112 lb ft of torque) or 2 litres (170 bhp and 160 lb ft) in capacity. The chassis was an evolution of the Chapman/Costin Lotus 11 design, about thirty were built.

Chapman’s cars were famous for their light weight, the Fifteen tipped the scales at 445 kg, it was competitive with far more powerful cars which were nominally, on paper at least, faster machines. The cars were light, slippery, turned in beautifully and, with a de Dion rear end, put their power down well. During 1958 a well driven Fifteen would see off Jaguar D Types and were only challenged for outright wins by the works Lister Jaguar and Aston Martin DBR1’s in the UK.

Lets start with some background on Derek before turning our attention to the cars he built and raced.

Jolly at Le Mans 1959 (ABC)

Derek Jolly…

Jolly, as stated was from a wealthy background, a member of the Penfold family, the founders of Penfolds Wines, still one of Australia’s greatest winemakers which originated in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

Penfolds was founded on 200 acres at Magill in 1844 with vines brought from France by Christopher Rawson Penfold. Penfold’s daughter married a George Hyland, the descendants adopted the Penfold Hyland name. Derek’s mother Mrs Ernest Jolly (doncha love the patriarchal terminology of 1940 Australia) was the only daughter of HL Penfold Hyland who entered the family firm in 1904. What is not clear to me is what role Derek had at Penfolds, although its said he worked alongside Max Schubert in the 1950’s, for generations he was  the most legendary of Penfolds winemakers especially of ‘Penfolds Grange’, which is not a bad drop in global terms.

Like so many drivers of the period he cut his racing teeth on Austin 7s, in fact he was one of the most competitive racers running these cars. Derek was given one as a twenty-first birthday present by his parents and with encouragement from fellow South Australian A7 expert Ron Uffindell, he went racing.

Ron knew all of the secrets of these machines having competed extensively in them including two Australian Grands Prix. He was seventh in the 1936 AGP at Victor Harbour and eighth at Bathurst in 1938, in that race won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA, Ron drove his little A7 Special from Adelaide to Bathurst, raced it and then drove home again via Victoria’s Great Ocean Road!

Derek’s car was a 1931 Ulster replica chassis ‘11517’ initially raced in chassis form, and for hillclimbing had its radiator mounted behind the engine, for road racing a lightweight body was fitted. Into the late forties and early fifties the car was a regular at events in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, perhaps it’s most notable result was third in the under 1500cc handicap at the 1950 October Bathurst meeting.

The exact specifications of the car ‘had an aura of mystery grow up against it’ according to the 1950-51 Australian Motor Racing Annual given that ‘such an ordinary looking diminutive side-valve runabout can circulate in company with all but the very hottest TC MG’ with ‘light weight and meticulous attention to detail’ its secrets of success.

Derek at Woodside in the Adelaide Hills, December 1948 (S Jonklaas)

 

Derek lifting the inside wheel thru Hell Corner on the way to third behind the Brydon and Pearse MG Spls in the Under 1500cc Handicap at Bathurst in October 1950, Austin A7 Ulster Spl ‘11517’. Car now in the UK ( G McGrath)

The published specifications of the car include a three main bearing engine made of new parts, 747cc, side-valve, cam with standard timing but higher lift. Compression ratio was 7:1 with a single horizontal SU carb, coil and distributor ignition. Gearbox was Big Seven 4 speed, the front brakes slightly modified with a floating anchor pin, brakes standard cable operated. A special lightweight 2-seater aluminium racing body with a rounded tail was built with maximum speed quoted at 92 mph.

It was in the context of racing Austin 7’s that Colin Chapman wanted to meet Derek, Colin was just starting his transition from trials competition to racing and was keen to learn more about the secrets of Derek’s A7 engines.

Derek went to the UK with his girlfriend, Pamela Strange, as well as his very competitive, powerful A7 engine and gearbox as baggage on the ‘Otranto’. His presence in the UK was noted in the August 1951 issue of Motorsport which recorded his three-bearing Austin 7 racing successes in Australia.

Depending upon which story you reference the engine either arrived with Derek or in advance of his time in the UK. Whatever the case (see Appendix) Chapman, after examining the engine, adapted Jolly’s inlet manifold ideas, which in essence turned the siamesed two inlet port standard side-valve A7 engine into a four port motor considerably increasing its power and performance- at this point let’s note that Derek’s A7 secrets were mainly Ron Uffindell’s in terms of apportioning credit where it is really due.

Chapman, in typical style claimed in Ian Lawrence’s book the initiative as his own ‘…an idea which had suddenly come to him after a rather hectic Christmas party…’- maybe Derek Jolly was at that party!?

Whilst some publications ignore the important role Jolly played in the performance of a very significant Lotus raced by Chapman himself in 1951, Derek’s role is now more widely acknowledged.

The Lotus Mk III ‘was constructed and probably very successful due to the assistance of the Allen brothers and Colin’s access to Derek Jolly and his Austin 7 engines’- ‘the car conceived and built between June 1950 and its first race in May 1951’ the Colin Chapman Archive and Resource notes in its ‘The Hills, Spills and Thrills’ article.

Jolly contested a Prescott Hillclimb aboard a Lotus Mark 3 powered by his engine/box but ‘broke down’, John Blanden does not identify the cause of the failure. Whilst in England Derek spent as much time at Hornsey as he did on Penfolds family business, which was supposed to be the primary purpose of the trip.

Clearly very strong relationships were created between the two men, Jolly later acquired two Lotus 15’s, was entered as a works driver at Le Mans in 1959 together with Graham Hill and Chapman awarded Jolly the franchise for Lotus cars in Australia in the later mid-fifties.

Jolly posing with Decca Mk1 Climax FWA in 1956 (ABC)

Decca Mk1 Climax…

Derek returned to Australia and continued racing his A7 Spl but he soon realised he needed a more sophisticated car as the Australian scene progressed with drivers building cars to modern design themes or imported racers from Europe.

He had watched Lotus’ progression through the Mk9 and later the 11 and decided a car powered by the Coventry Climax 1100cc SOHC, FWA engine was the way to go- he acquired an FWA, MG TC gearbox and Borg and Beck clutch on one of his trips to the UK.

His concept was a lightweight Clubman type car of spaceframe construction with a de Dion rear end. The machine, inclusive of its aluminium body and cycle-guards was built by Arthur Williams in Sydenham Road, Norwood, Adelaide, Derek’s home town of course.

The Decca Mk1 Climax made its debut at Port Wakefield on 31 March 1956 but caught fire during the 50 lap ‘Wakefield Trophy’ won by Tom Hawkes Cooper T23 Bristol.

Damage was light with the car racing again at Templestowe Hillclimb in Melbourne’s outer east in May, in a busy day he won the 1100cc sportscar class, then took his cycle guards off and was second in the 1100cc racing car class with only Lex Davison, Bruce Walton and Murray Rainey quicker than the little Decca, regardless of capacity in their Coopers and Walton Special.

Derek and Decca Mk1 shortly after it’s debut, Port Wakefield, SA

Back at Port Wakefield on June 4 Derek started a period as one of the most prolific racers in Australia for the next several years, in those days race meetings were not plentiful, if a competitor wanted to race frequently, he had to travel interstate.

The car raced locally of course at Port Wakefield, again on 8 October for second in the ‘B scratch’ with a class win in the 20 lap sportscar feature won by Bib Stillwell’s Jag XKD. The day was topped off by a win in the 20 lap racing car handicap where 1100cc of Coventry Climax triumphed over the Chev V8 engined Tornado of Ted Gray.

At Collingrove he took first in the 1100cc sportscar class during the SA Hillclimb Championship on 6 October- the car was fourth quickest up the hill that day outright.

At Fishermans Bend in outer Melbourne on October 13/14 Derek won the sports and sedans race, was second in the racing and sportscar race and also contested the 52.8 mile feature ‘Astor Trophy’ getting experience of longer events. He ran as high as eighth, the race won by Doug Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago T26C grand prix monoposto.

The little car was fast, in the 1956 Melbourne Cup, November meeting at Rob Roy, in Melbourne’s Christmas Hills ‘Derek Jolly continued to embarrass the locals with his amazing little Decca Special…’ that day his 27.97 secs was the third quickest time of the day the only faster machines were the specialist hillclimb single-seaters of Lex Davison and Bruce Walton.

Jolly on the inside at Port Wakefield, SA circa 1957, Decca Mk2 Climax FWA, design of car Lotus 11 inspired (unattributed)

So successful was the Mk1, always intended as a prototype to test suspension ideas, that Derek decided to build a quicker car around the same major components.

Mk1 exists today in Fiat engined form but the little car donated its engine, gearbox, rear suspension and wheels to the new machine.

Work commenced on Decca Mk2 in August 1956 ‘using an army of thirty amateur and professional mechanics, the car quickly took shape’ John Blanden wrote. The car’s inspiration were the Lotus 11s Jolly saw on a trip to Europe in early 1956 and was again of spaceframe design and construction this time with the all-enveloping slippery body formed in aluminium. See ‘Etcetera’ towards the articles end for full technical details of this great little car.

Decca Mk2 car was completed five days before the Australian Tourist Trophy at Albert Park in November 1956, Derek’s prolific racing schedule continued with many impressive results, inevitably he won his class but the car was often also an outright contender.

In a splendid debut he was thirteenth in the 100 mile event behind vastly more powerful cars and won the 1100cc class. On the second day of the AGP carnival won by Stirling Moss’ works Maserati 250F Jolly showed the speed of the car again by finishing seventh in the 25 mile ‘Argus Trophy’ behind two Coopers, a D Type, Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco and two Austin Healey 100S.

Derek towed the car back up the Western Highway towards Melbourne and then around Westernport Bay to the opening meeting of the Phillip Island circuit on the 15 December 1956 weekend.

He contested the ‘Bill Thomson Memorial Trophy’, Thomson was thrice winner of the Australian Grand Prix on the original Phillip Island road circuit in 1930/32/33.

Jack Brabham won in a Cooper Bobtail from Stillwell’s Jag D Type, Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco and Ron Phillips Austin Healey 100S. Derek duelled for third with England and Phillips but retired on circuit with undisclosed dramas with 2 laps to run- the competitiveness and speed of the car seems apparent from its earliest of events.

‘Brand spanking new’, road registered Decca Mk2 Climax in the Albert Park paddock in November 1956 accompanied by a lovely lady and a couple of Melbourne’s finest- lines of car derivative but distinctive (K Drage)

 

Sportscar support race, 1957 Caversham WA Australian GP meeting. Derek at left Decca Mk2 Climax, J Wynhoff Healey, R Ashley Healey, #39 A Collett MG T Type, #30 Paul England Ausca Holden Repco, A Melrose Healey, E Kinnear Healey and out front Ron Phillips Healey 100S. Derek was ahead before battery problems intervened giving the win to Phillips AH 100S (E Steet)

In early January 1957 Jolly and his small team towed Decca across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth to contest the Australian Grand Prix carnival at the Caversham ex-airfield circuit, the meeting was held in notoriously hot conditions.

Derek was fourth in his qualifying 20 lap AGP heat from Brabham’s Cooper T43 Climax on the Saturday. 25,000 people arrived to watch the races on Monday which was even hotter than the preceding days.

Derek led the 40 lap sportscar preliminary until a battery lead came adrift, Jolly jumped out of the car near the Olympic Hairpin and remedied the problem but by then Ron Phillips AH 100S had passed him, a lead he was not to lose.

Not only that but Derek doubled up and contested the 70 lap AGP, held to F Libre rules. It was an amazing act of endurance, some drivers including the winner, Lex Davison, Ferrari 500/625 had a co-driver (Bill Patterson in Davo’s case) whereas Jolly did the race on his own and finished in seventh place! The achievement was even greater as Jolly’s crew were still refuelling Decca when the flag to start the race fell, Jolly was push-started by his crew after the rest of the field had departed.

In the AMS report of the race, an outright event, the days of handicap Australian Grands Prix were over, they list handicap placings which give Jolly fourth behind Syd Anderson Alta s/c, A Melrose AH Healey 100/4 and Len Lukey Cooper T23 Bristol.

In March Derek again won his class and finished fifth outright at Albert Park in the 100 mile 1957 Victorian Tourist Trophy, this time the ‘heavy metal’ in front of his small car comprised Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Bill Pitt in a Jag XKD, Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax and Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco.

He returned to Victoria in June to race the car in the VSCC Fishermans Bend Sprint meeting, with the AMS report quipping ‘Derek Jolly once again took the opportunity to visit us with his spectacular Decca. His XK140 is probably able to find its own way back to South Australia..’

Travelling even further afield to Broken Hill in July, Derek took fastest time of the day at Peak Hill ‘..the glamour car of the meeting scored an easy victory..’

Undeterred by the 520 km trip to Broken Hill Derek pointed the trusty Jag in the direction of Sydney where the car was to stay until after Bathurst.

Derek contested the New South Wales Hillclimb Championships at Silverdale, near Camden on 15 September taking the 1100cc class AMS reporting ‘…the Decca went up very quickly and treated all corners with utter contempt’ taking a class record in the process. The car was the sixth quickest present that day, a few future big guns present were Frank Gardner, Jag XKC , Leo Geoghegan in a Holden FX and lets not forget Ron Tauranac’s Ralt, Lex Davison in his Cooper Irving s/c and Brian Foley Austin A30.

Derek Jolly & Decca Mk2 at Caversham during the ’57 AGP weekend, wonderful colour shot of the cars lissom lines (D Foley)

 

Next on the agenda was a trip from Sydney to Coonabarabran for some record breaking for a whole swag of Commonwealth Oil Refineries supported drivers, of whom Derek was one.

On 28 September 1957 he set a Class G Australian Land Speed record in Decca Mk2 recording 116.75 mph, the little car modified to suit by fitment of a head fairing.

Off to Bathurst for the ‘Bathurst 100’ meeting in October Derek competed as an F Libre car rather than a sportscar.

The event was a scratch race as part of the Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship but was run as a handicap. Derek actually lead the race (on handicap) for quite a long way until easing towards the end with a brake duct that was coming adrift. Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 won from scratch in 75.54 minutes with Jolly third on handicap in 83.54 minutes behind Tom Hawkes Cooper Holden Repco and Frank Gardner’s Jag C Type.

Home in Adelaide Derek contested the Gold Star meeting at Port Wakefield on the 14 October weekend, he placed fifth in the championship ‘Wakefield Trophy’, behind the single-seaters of Davison, Hawkes, Lukey and Keith Rilstone’s Zephyr Spl.

It really makes you wonder how DJ would have fared in one of the more competitive single-seaters of the day- a Lotus 12 with a 2 litre FPF could have been quite a good thing in Australia in 1957/8.

On the road again to Hepburn Springs Hillclimb, not as far as Melbourne, over the Victorian border, Derek took his customary first in the 1100cc sportscar class on 20 October.

Still in Victoria for the Phillip Island Gold Star round on 27 October Derek placed second in the sportscar support race behind Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax and then fourth in the F Libre Gold Star race behind Lex Davison Ferrari 500/625. The Melburnian won the very first Gold Star awarded that day, Tom Hawkes Cooper T23 Holden Repco and Eddie Perkins (father of Larry) Porsche Spl were second and third.

Derek stayed in Melbourne for the week for the Victorian Hillclimb Championship final on the 5 November, he was again first in the 1100cc sportscar class, Bruce Walton took FTD that day at Rob Roy in his Walton JAP Spl.

Into 1958 the cars competitiveness continued with first in class and eighth outright in the F Libre Victorian Trophy at Fishermans Bend.

On 7 April Derek again won his class at the SA Hillclimb Championships at Collingrove.

In 1958 he contested several rounds of the Victorian Hillclimb Championship- he was first in the 1100 sportscar class at Rob Roy on 4 May and again at Hepburn Springs on 18 May.

It was time to move on and up to a faster car.

As a driver and car constructor Derek had certainly proved his capabilities over the last two years so he placed an order with Chapman for a Lotus 15. In a wonderful piece of symmetry, Derek raced his new Lotus to second in the 1958 Australian Tourist Trophy at Bathurst in October whilst Gavin-Sandford Morgan was first in class and fifth outright in the borrowed Decca Mk2 Climax!

Decca Mk2 raced on in the hands of Victorian John Ampt in 1959/60, he very much did it justice, the car lives on in Frank Moore’s collection of Australian Specials in Queensland and has done for many years.

Lets now turn ourselves to Chapman’s Lotus 15 design.

Lotus 15 cutaway (Tony Lofthouse)

Design and Construction…

The first Fifteens (lets do ‘15’ to save space) had the engine laid over at about 60 degrees to starboard, allowing a flat, gorgeous bonnet line between the wheel arches. There was a trade-off though in that there was an absence of space for additional diagonal bracing to the top of the engine bay. In all other ways, the early Series One cars did not noticeably differ from the finalised Series One. Derek Jolly’s car ‘608’ as landed in 1958 was to later S1 form.

The chassis of the 15 was a 30 kg space-frame in 18 and 20 gauge mild steel with the 15 and F2/F1 Lotus 16 having many components in common. The front suspension with wishbones incorporating the roll bar as the front half of the top A-arm components were common with the Series Two 11s, the 7s, the Elite and Lotus first single-seater, the F2/F1 Lotus 12- the 15 and 16 also shared the variations in engine inclination and Chapman Strut rear suspension.

The 15 was delivered with either wire or cast-magnesium 15-inch wheels to customer order, which, like the Eleven, had the same rim width front and rear. In 1958 this was four inches, carrying 4.50 front and 5.50 rear tyres and in 1959 perhaps four-and-a-halves. Chapman’s primary design priority until around 1960 was minimisation of unsprung weight by keeping both wheel and tyre as small as possible. The 15 had the standard Lotus track and wheelbase of the day – that is, an 88-inch wheelbase and just under 48-inch track- these dimensions, established with the 11, were used with the 7, 12, and 16.

Also carried over from the single-seater Lotus 12 was the controversial Lotus five-speed gearbox, aka the ‘Queerbox’.

‘A thing of Swiss-watch subtlety and elegance, but still of doubtful reliability nearly a year after its introduction. Rear-mounted in unit with the differential, it carried its five ratios in less than nine cm (3 1/2 inches) of length, with the output gears fixed on the long differential pinion shaft, and the input gears spinning free until progressively selected by a migrating spline which was itself splined to the tailshaft.

This gearbox was very much the Achilles Heel of the 15, and in fact substitution of the less-subtle, but infinitely more reliable, BMC B-series gearbox bolted to the engine, and of the proven Lotus Elite diff-case, distinguished the Series Two cars introduced later in 1958’ Unique Cars reported so eloquently.

Rear of the Jolly 15 ‘608’ at Bathurst in October 1958, 2nd in the Australian Tourist Trophy to David McKays Aston DB3S that weekend (unattributed)

‘At the start it was the engines that gave the biggest headaches. For Lotus aficionados it is almost heresy to consider what Lotus committed on those early engines, and the engineers at Coventry Climax undoubtedly felt the same way. To accommodate the inclined engine, one of the dry-sump scavenge pumps was discarded and the other modified, and the sump itself was drastically reshaped; the inlet ports were counterbored to take spigots for the manifolding, which had to incorporate a 30-degree droop. No matter how hard Climax tried (and to give them their due, they tried hard) the inclined engine was about nine horsepower short of upright-engine figures, and suffered cooling and oiling problems’.

None of these things was happening to the FPF engine in rival Coopers, so for Le Mans Lotus bit the bullet and produced two cars (a 1.5 and a two-litre) with engines inclined a mere 17 degrees the other way – just one degree different to the Cooper! This gave the upright-engined 15’s a distinctively long and slim bonnet-blister which, not so aerodynamically strong, but reliability was improved. Apart from a continuing series of enlargements to the water and oil cooling radiators, the 1958 15 specifications had been finalised.

Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ in Series 3 form at Longford in March 1960 during the Australian Tourist Trophy weekend, a race the car won. Kevin Drage is changing plugs, note the chassis engine bay cross bracing tube referred to in the text. 1960cc CC FPF (K Drage)

‘For 1959, the Series Three car was announced, offering a simpler chassis mainly resulting from re-positioning the front anti-roll bar to become the rear link – instead of the front – in the top wishbone. Engine position, and the important diagonal across the top of the engine bay, carried on from the upright-engine 1958 car. A small change was visible in the cockpit, where the Series Three now had two small down-tubes from the dash, meeting a transverse tube which ran across the floor, whereas the earlier 15s had relied solely on the stressed tailshaft cover to strengthen the floor and to provide gearbox mounting for the B-series box’.

‘Press pictures of the 1959 car show it with the BMC gearbox but at least two cars were built with the very compact, front-mounted ZF S4-12 all-synchro four-speed box, and another had a unique development of the Lotus five-speeder which carried the gears astern of the differential. The existence of at least two ZF-gearbox cars can be supported because there were two such cars in Australasia – one the Leaton Motors Frank Matich driven 2.5-litre car, the other a 2 litre which went to New Zealand for Jim Palmer. A unique five-speed box was fitted to Derek Jolly’s car. That raises the question of how a 1959 gearbox found its way into a 1958 car. The answer involves what is probably the most contentious item of 15 history’.

Jay Chamberlain/Pete Lovely works Lotus 15 FPF 1.5 ‘608’ at Le Mans in 1958 DNF accident (Revs)

Jolly’s car, chassis ‘608’, was one of two 15’s Team Lotus ran at Le Mans in 1958.

‘One was a 1.5-litre, the other a 2 litre FPF which caused quite a stir with its fast practice laps, but which retired embarrassingly early (blown head gasket) in the race itself. The 1.5, shared by the American Lotus drivers Jay Chamberlain and Pete Lovely, went well in patches between pit stops, and became one of the victims of violent rainstorms during the night when it crashed avoiding a slower car and was in turn centre-punched by a spinning Ferrari’.

Jolly was initially offered chassis ‘607’ by Chapman but it was allocated before Derek responded so he acquired ‘608’ instead, the car raced by Chamberlain and Lovely. It was repaired after Le Mans and raced by Cliff Allison on 19 July at the British GP meeting at Silverstone in a sportscar support event.

Lotus records show the car was then prepared for sale to Jolly equipped with tonneau cover, long-range tanks and fitted with 1475 cc Coventry Climax FPF #1054- it was popped on the SS Orsova and arrived in Australia in August 1958.

Derek’s choice of the 1.5 litre FPF rather than a larger one may have been a function of availability or choice. It may be he saw it as a stepping-stone from the 1100 single-cam Climax FWA used in his Decca Special’s, perhaps he also thought it a gentler companion for the Lotus 12 type gearbox fitted to the car.

Jolly in 15 ‘608’ upon its Australian debut at Forrests Elbow, Bathurst, Australian Tourist Trophy in October 1958. 2nd behind the McKay ex-works Aston DB3S (unattributed)

The car’s first event in Australia was at Bathurst, the October 1958 Australian Tourist Trophy, which was contested by a field of great depth.

The ATT was the support event to one of the most thrilling Australian Grands Prix of all- the spectacle of Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Ted Gray battling away in Ferrari 500/625, Maserati 250F and Tornado Chev V8 on this toughest of road circuits is one held in reverential terms by those who attended the meeting.

David McKay won the Tourist Trophy race in his ex-works Aston Martin DB3S from Jolly’s little Lotus off grid 3 and Ron Phillips Cooper T38 Jaguar, a gust of wind took one of the favourites, Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S out of the race and into the barriers on Conrod Straight.

The following day Jolly scored his first win, walking away with the sportscar 10 lap support race to the Australian Grand Prix, from the D Type Jag of Bill Pitt and Frank Matich’s Leaton Motors C Type- the speed of the Lotus, which was timed at 137.4mph on Conrod Straight was not lost on Frank who would get his hands on his own Lotus 15 in time!

Jolly raced the car closer to home, at Port Wakefield a week later on 13 October finishing third in the F Libre Wakefield Trophy behind a pair of Cooper Bristol single-seaters.

The little car was then towed to Melbourne a week later for the Victorian Sportscar Championship meeting at Fishermans Bend.

In a very successful weekend Jolly won the race- like Bathurst, a power circuit, from Bob Jane, making his race debut in his ex-works Maserati 300S, Derek’s task was made easier by Phillips DNF in the Cooper Jag with a broken oil line.

Jolly at Fishermans Bend prior to winning the Victorian Sportscar Championship in 1958, Lotus 15 ‘608’. Lotus 11 behind, various Austin Healey 100S and Coad built and driven yellow Vauxhall Spl to right (K Drage)

 

The fairly comprehensively rooted ‘608’ at Albert Park looking sad and forlorn before the trip back to Adelaide in November 1958 (P Skelton)

The Lotus then returned to Adelaide to be prepared for a fortnight of racing at Albert Park on the 23 and 30 November weekends.

In the 100 mile Victorian Tourist Trophy Derek was an excellent third behind Whiteford’s 300S and Ron Phillips Cooper Jag. Phillips and Derek had many dices when they were racing the Decca and Austin Healey 100s, Phillips, like Derek had stepped up to a bigger car, in his case a Cooper Jag. On the following day in a support event Derek was split between Doug Whiteford’s winning Maser and Bill Pitt’s Jaguar XKD.

The feature event the following weekend was the Formula Libre Melbourne Grand Prix won by Stirling Moss’ Rob Walker owned Cooper T43 Climax.

Derek’s heat went well enough, he finished fifth or sixth, but things went terribly awry whilst running in seventh place during the main race.

Kevin Drage ‘The front anchorage point of a rear radius arm failed…and the Lotus rear steered into a tree. Derek was taken to hospital for facial surgery where the Perspex screen impacted on his visor and fractured his cheekbone. I think he also fractured an ankle’.

John Blanden’s account of the accident is that ‘halfway around on the last lap Derek crashed badly. He later put the accident down as three-quarters due to exhaust fumes and tiredness and the balance perhaps contributed by the left hand radius rod pulling away from its mounting. No amount of research revealed whether the radius rod pulled out and dug into the roadway or whether, while on that side of the road to take a left-hand bend, the offside front wheel mounted the kerb as he ‘blacked out’- as the car had done this two laps earlier, it is the more likely explanation. All Derek could remember was a sudden jolt (probably the wheels mounting on the kerb) and the tree looming up in front which was hit a split second later’.

In essence, was the broken radius rod anchorage the cause or effect of the accident?- the answer is that nobody can be certain.

Kevin Drage ‘The Lotus was extensively damaged. Derek took photos of the failed anchorage point and asked Colin Chapman to rebuild the car free of charge. Chapman agreed on the condition he could run the 15 as a factory entry at Le Mans in 1959. Derek in turn agreed on the condition he co-drive at Le Mans and retain the 2.5 litre FPF engine to be fitted’.

Whilst there is no doubt that bits were transferred from the original chassis to the rebuilt car, what was contentious was whether or not the original chassis was repaired or replaced.

Drage picks up this point ‘I was Derek’s race mechanic/pitcrew during most of the time he had the 15 and was always under the impression that the car that returned to Australia was ‘rebuilt’ not a new one. Of course the car was extensively damaged at Albert Park and it may well have been a new chassis and panels’.

John Blanden provides the answer to this repaired old/new chassis point it seems.

When ‘608’ was returned to Cheshunt, it was stripped by works parts chief Jay Hall who assessed the frame as not being economically repairable. The chassis was scrapped (taken to the tip), the 1475cc CC FPF engine fitted to another chassis and what undamaged bits were left were built into a new chassis, frame number ‘626’.

Blanden cites photographic evidence of this chassis (626) plate at Le Mans but before being shipped to Australia- the car went back to the factory, a new ‘608’ chassis plate was affixed complete with the correct 2 litre Coventry Climax engine number- ‘1160’.

The Lotus invoice to Derek characterised the work done as chassis repairs and replacements to remove the obligation for Derek to pay Australian import duty on what was a new chassis rather than a repaired one. This kind of jiggery pokery is what still goes on of course, why wouldn’t the ‘fiscal fiend’ be avoided if at all possible- but it does create havoc for historians decades hence.

Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ at Le Mans during scrutineering in 1959. Car driven by Graham Hill and Derek Jolly. The largely new car was fitted with chassis plate ‘626’ at Le Mans but replaced by a new ‘608’ plate before shipment back to Australia (John Hendy)

Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’…

In terms of the new cars identification, lets call it ‘608/626′ as John Blanden i think correctly does.

Series Three features were used wherever possible in the build of the car. Externally, the most easily recognised is the later style of bonnet, which extended right to the dashboard and carried the centre section of the carefully-curved perspex screen – whereas Series Ones and Twos had a shorter bonnet and a separate scuttle panel, very much in the style of Lotus Elevens.

Team Lotus had earlier in the year announced its intention to contest Le Mans with a pair of customer-owned 2.5-litre 15’s, in the end the factory entry was none other than ‘608/626’, with Jolly’s co-driver, soon to be rising F1 star, Graham Hill.

The car arrived at La Sarthe initially fitted with a 2 litre FPF, ‘this was replaced with a Lotus-owned 2.5 after the first practice session and the untested gearbox showed itself keen to unscrew the nut on the end of the pinion shaft because this shaft now rotated in the opposite direction to previous gearboxes. Nonetheless, despite these indications of preparation haste, the car survived practice and in fact ran for more than 10 hours of the race’.

‘Graham Hill at one stage had the car as high as seventh outright – before its habit of jumping out of gear caught Jolly out at 120 mph, changing up to fifth on the very fast run to Arnage. In traditional Climax fashion, number four rod hacked the block almost in half, and demolished the starter-motor for good measure’.

Having again failed at Le Mans, the car was returned to the factory, now moved from the cramped Hornsey site to a larger premises in Cheshunt, to be readied to go to Australia.

Drage recalls that a 2.5 litre crank could not be obtained in time for the post Le Mans rebuild so the car returned to Australia with a 2 litre crank inside a 2.5 litre block and therefore raced at a capacity of 1960cc.

In rebuilt form the car also had a very different style of engine bulge – wider based, more gently curved and open at both ends, there may have been aerodynamic reasons for this.

‘Additionally, the original five-speed gearbox – in which the gears were carried just ahead of the differential – had been replaced by a new design, with the gears astern of the crown-wheel and pinion, but on the same fore-and-aft centreline. This meant gears could be swapped far more easily, and it was announced this box would be an option for sports cars. In fact, it seems likely that only the one box was ever built, although the same principles were used – in a slightly different casing for Grand Prix Lotus 18s, and the closely-related Lotus 19 sports car’, Unique Cars reports.

Derek looking pretty happy with the car ‘608/626’ in the Gnoo Blas paddock February 1960. Is that Jack Myers he is speaking to? Jolly’s tow car XK140 behind, car with bonnet up is Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S. You can see the slight canting of the FPF engine, cars spaceframe chassis and cross bracing in the engine bay referred to in the text (Kelsey)

Returned to Australia aboard the SS Athenic in August 1959 and then on to Adelaide, the Lotus was not raced for a while given mounting business pressures.

Entered at Gnoo Blas, Orange in New South Wales in the Australian Touring Car Championship meeting on the 1 February 1960, Derek took a first up win in the ‘South Pacific Sportscar Championship.’

The photo which starts this article is of Kevin doing a roadside wheel change between Adelaide and Orange- a distance of 1150 Km, the new cars first Australian meeting was a long way from home base!

No doubt Derek had tested the car around the Port Wakefield circuit or in the Adelaide Hills to ensure everything was hunky-dory before the long tow north. What a mouth watering thought that is, there are some marvellous roads in the hills close to Adelaide, some of these were explored by Fangio, Moss and other stars on the ‘Climb To The Eagle on The Hill’ which was an annual part of the Adelaide GP carnival. Fangio blasting a 300SLR past at speed up the hill is a straight-eight image and sound I will never forget!

Kevin Drage attending to the 15’s mirror, ‘608/626’ in the Gnoo Blas paddock, February 1960, note the twin-choke SU carbs on the 1960cc Coventry Climax FPF, silver car #29 is Brookes Austin Spl (Kelsey)

The win at Gnoo Blas was a good one defeating David Finch in a Jaguar D Type, Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S and others.

The car was giving away plenty of capacity but its power to weight ratio, aerodynamic properties and ability to put its power to the ground ensured its competitiveness. As a driver Drage said that Jolly ‘On his good days was a pretty good driver, on other occasions he could be just average. When Derek got the bit between his teeth and had a bit of a challenge he usually rose to the occasion’.

‘I can remember towing the Lotus 15 all the way from Adelaide to Sydney to the opening very wet meeting at Warwick Farm (1960). Derek putting it into the fence after 1.5 laps of practice and then having to turn around and drive all the way back to Adelaide. Derek flew. The only good part was that the tow car was an XK140 Jaguar’. Of that car KD recalls ‘the XK140C with C Type specs…as certainly quick. I recall one trip with Derek (without trailer) from the outskirts of Melbourne to the outskirts of Adelaide in a bit under 5.5 hours’. Quick to say the least!

Success at Gnoo Blas was a portent of even better to come at the Longford International meeting in March 1960.

On the same 5 March weekend that Jack Brabham won the Longford Trophy in his Cooper T51 Climax Jolly triumphed in the 24 lap Australian Tourist Trophy from Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S.

Three time Australian Grand Prix winner Whiteford was somewhat impacted by a slipping clutch, but it was a great win with Frank Matich in the Leaton Motors D Type third. In a thrilling weekend for the Adelaide driver Victorian John Ampt was fourth in Decca Mk2.

Kevin Drage recalls that weekend with pleasure ‘When we went to Longford for the Australian TT in 1960 Derek wasn’t keen to pay for the tow car and trailer on the ferry (from Port Melbourne to Launceston- an overnight trip). Fortunately he had somehow managed to have the Lotus 15 road registered so I left the Jaguar and trailer in Melbourne and had the ‘onerous task’ of driving the Lotus from Devonport to Longford and back again. Perhaps this may have been the last time a TT winning car was driven to and from the meeting?’ Kevin mused.

At speed at Longford en-route to Australian Tourist Trophy victory in March 1960 Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ (J Ellacott)

 

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Derek being congratulated after his 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy win at Longford (Walkem)

His recollections of the ‘Queerbox’ are also of interest. ‘An interesting fact about the Lotus Queerbox is that the gear change lever on Jolly’s original 1475cc 15 always returned to a central position and as a consequence you were never quite sure what gear was engaged. When the 1960cc version returned after the Le Mans rebuild the gear change lever was a migratory type and the gear positions were marked on the tunnel and you at least knew what gear had been selected’.

The Penfolds family at the time were going through the process of listing the family company on the Australian Stock Exchange which was no doubt for the ‘usual’ reasons. As families grow larger there are many who don’t want to be involved, a public listings makes their interest more liquid and also gives access to greater amounts of capital to expand- Penfolds at the time had increased in size enormously from its original Magill base mind you.

As a consequence Derek was under pressure to devote more time to the business, one last success was achieved by the 15 when Derek won the 1962 Caversham 6 Hour co-driven by John Roxburgh. The pair won by 10 laps despite being hampered by a jamming throttle and a leaking gearbox.

The car was then offered for sale, the process took a while with Frank Coad giving it an occasional run in Victoria to remind people of the its existence.

By 1962 the Lotus 15 was old hat of course with mid-engined Lotus 19, Cooper Monaco and the like much more competitive cars, but eventually in 1964 it passed into the hands of somebody else who made it sing.

The Gibson family are well known Benalla, Victoria racing identities, all of ‘Hoot’ Gibson’s sons raced- Bevan, Paul, Grant and Carl, in sportscars.

At the time Bevan was making a name for himself initially in karts, then in a Triumph Spitfire and was ready for the next step into a quicker car, so Hoot bought the 15. Bevan had just two races in it before end-for-ending it five times at Warwick Farm during the 1965 Tasman meeting in a highly spectacular crash which left him unhurt on the grass as his car somersaulted onwards.

Bevan Gibson, Lotus 15 ‘608/626’, Spencer Martin Elfin 400 Repco and Alan Hamilton Porsche 906 Spyder at Hume Weir, Albury/Wodonga, Queens Birthday weekend 1967. Shot is somewhat poignant as Bevan is to die in the Elfin at Bathurst 2 years hence. Drives in the 15 earned him the Bob Jane cars drive (Bryan Liersch)

 

‘My late brother’s Lotus 15 airborne and upside down at Warwick Farm on 14 February 1965. Bevan had diverged slightly offtrack to avoid a spinning car at The Causeway and unwittingly drove into sand covering the horse track. This caused the Lotus’ nose to dig in, flipping the car end over end. Seat belts were not compulsory and this threw Bevan out, suffering only minor injuries. He can be seen on the ground between the railings. The photo won Racing Car News photo of the year’ wrote Mark Gibson

 

Sunday Drive: Bevan and Hoot Gibson cruising the back streets of Mansfield, Victoria circa 1964 (Mr Ramsay)

Two months later the car reappeared at The Farm, Bevan won the race from the back of the grid. It was the start of a period in which the Gibson team campaigned it at virtually every available Victorian and NSW meeting until the end of 1968.

The engines capacity was raised to 2.3 litres which put small-capacity lap records out of consideration, while the over 2 litre class was the territory of the big V8 cars, so that outright and class wins were relatively few, although the car held the Phillip Island sports lap record for many years. What made an impression was Bevan’s natural speed and commitment despite the 15’s inherent shortcomings against much younger cars.

The bodywork was progressively hacked about to repair minor damage and to accommodate wider rims and tyres, and the gearbox needed lots of caring fettling.

The Gibson family owned Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ in the Winton paddock circa 1970, Paul starting out not long after Bevan’s death. Journalist Ray Bell wrote about the family maintenance of the ‘Queerbox’-‘they sometimes wore out their crownwheels, these were too expensive for cinema operator Hoot to replace thru Lotus spares (ZF made them exclusively for Lotus) and so Vauxhall crownwheels were lapped in running with grinding paste on the lathe overnight to suit. The gearchange was always dicky with this car, but when Grant Gibson took it to England he was able to set it up properly with a hacked-up unit alongside and found some spacers in the wrong place’ (G Clarke)

 

Another photo from Mark Gibson ‘…taken not long after (the aviating one above) following subsequent repairs, at Hume Weir’s Scrub Corner, the broken half windscreen can still be seen, aa new one not yet available. Bryan Thomson Elfin Mallala follows, David Bailey #8 Asp Clubman further back’ (M Gibson)

But by early 1969 the old beast had served its purpose, Bevan was recruited by Bob Jane as one of his drivers doing some laps in the Brabham BT11A vacated by Spencer Martin and becoming the primary driver of Bob’s Elfin 400 Repco sportscar.

This car was a very serious weapon powered by a 4.4 litre ‘RB620’ V8, unfortunately Bevan died in it at Bathurst in 1969 whilst pursuing Frank Matich’s much quicker Matich SR4 Repco, that day slowed by a fuel injection problem. The Elfin took to the air on one of Bathurst’s Conrod Straight humps. This story is well told in my article on the Elfin 400. Click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/?s=elfin+400

The Lotus 15 remained in the Gibson family for decades raced by various of the boys before being restored by Grant Gibson, partially during the period he worked as Nigel Mansell’s engineer whilst at Williams.

The car looked fantastic when completed but sadly left Australia a few years ago, its still alive and well…

Ugly as a hatful of arseholes, awful innit?! Bevan Gibson at Hume Weir in the 15 in 1969, with modified nose. The old beast ‘608/626’ had done a few tough race miles by then (oldracephotos.com.au)

 

What Happened to Derek?…

After the Penfolds float Derek moved away from the racing scene, the Geoghegan family in Sydney took over the Lotus franchise after Jolly relinquished it.

But he was a big mover and shaker in swingin’-sixties Adelaide.

He built Gamba Studios in ‘Deccas’ Place’ at what is now 97 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide, its a wonderful part of town i lived in Sussex Street for 3 1/2 years not so long ago.

But back then it was moribund, Derek’s development included a restaurant and state of the art recording studio with the highest quality recording equipment available. He encouraged an open door policy inviting musicians and performers to use the studio to experiment, to enhance that he imported the first Moog synthesiser in Australia, in fact its said to be the first one used outside the US.

Many Adelaide folk of a certain age remember the ‘Futuro’ house, a flying saucer like round pre-fabricated building in Melbourne street in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was originally designed as a ski-house by Matti Suuronen, a Finn. It was seen as a home of the future by Derek, eventually less than fifty were built, Derek’s was relocated to a country site some years ago.

Jolly planned Decca’s Place as a cultural centre, his initial drive and enthusiasm being credited as responsible for the mix of shops, restaurants, apartments and boutiques in the area today.

Derek at right in the Gamba Recording Studio, Deccas Place circa 1971 (ABC)

 

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Deccas Place and Futuro house in the 1960’s, at what is now 97 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide (ABC)

Unfortunately Derek lost much of his fortune in the 1987 stockmarket crash although he continued to be a force in the arts. He and his wife Helen moved back to the Barossa Valley in 1996 opening a multi-media gallery, they were instrumental in establishing the annual Barossa Music Festival which is still held today.

Jolly still popped up at the occasional car event, a close friend who owns a Lotus Elite Super 95 once Derek’s recalls him as guest of honour one year at the Lotus Club of Australia annual Easter get together.

Derek died in 2002, aged 74 as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident twelve months before- his stationary car was slammed into by an out of control driver at about 90kmh. It was a sad end to a man of many parts, he was also battling cancer at the time.

Jolly was a man of considerable achievement, he used his inherited wealth to achieve much in motor racing, business and the arts.

Its tempting to speculate what he may have achieved had he raced on rather than retired in his early thirties but the scene was becoming more professional- his own racing of the Fifteens is an example of that, in that sense his career bridges post-War amateurism with late fifties-early sixties professionalism.

Lets remember one of the largely forgotten men of Australian motor racing…

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Jolly in his Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ at Warwick Farm during the summer 1961 International meeting. He was second to Frank Matich’s Leaton Motors Lotus 15 2.5 FPF during this meeting, giving away some power to the quick FM driven car- the fastest sportscar in Australia at the time (J Ellacott)

Bibliography…

Uniquecarsandparts.com.au, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Colin Chapman Archive and Resource, ‘The Story of Lotus 1947-1960’ Ian Smith, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ G Howard and Ors, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ magazine various issues, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, northkentlotusgroup.org, The Nostalgia Forum, Ray Bell

Special Thanks…

Kevin Drage, Ellis French and Rob Bartholomaeus- in Kevin’s case for the recollections and photos on The Nostalgia Forum which inspired this article and in Ellis’ and Rob’s case material from their collections to plug important research gaps

Photo Credits…

Kevin Drage, John Ellacott, John Hendry, ABC, Doug Foley, Tony Lofthouse, Bryan Liersch, oldracephotos.com, Geoff McGrath, Gary Clarke, Ellis French Collection, Walkem Family Collection, Eddie Steet, Ron Lambert, Kelsey Collection, Mr Ramsay, Mark Gibson, Stuart Jonklaas, Philip Skelton via Tony Johns Collection

Etcetera…

Austin 7 Engine..

At the time Chapman was starting out to race his Lotus 3 the UK 750 Club rules required the use of the standard two siamesed inlet ports, which could be opened up to improve performance.

Derek Jolly’s secret, probably learned from South Australian Austin 7 exponent Ron Uffindell was to de-siamese the ports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The technique Jolly used was illegal in the UK as noted. Chapman’s interpretation was to have Michael Allen create an illegal four pipe inlet manifold with two hidden separators attached to the manifold face which slid into the opened out ports when fitted thereby effectively creating four rather than two ports. They bound up the manifolds four pipes using asbestos tape to hide the pipes and make it appear that it had just two. Unless the manifold was removed the development was invisible.

The Lotus Mk 3 was a very successful car in 1951 with Chapman behind the wheel, its speed was due to a combination of Chapman’s talent, the chassis and the engine.

Decca Mk2 Climax FWA..

Whilst superficially similar to the Lotus 11 the Decca is different in many respects.

Jolly again built a spaceframe chassis with two tubes either side spaced 12 inches apart vertically. The lower tube was one inch square 17 gauge, the upper one one inch round of 20 gauge, the chassis had only one intermediate cross member at the bellhousing, most chassis bracing was left to the 24 gauge sheet aluminium undertray which was fastened to the lower side tubes and to the tail shaft tunnel, this acted as a large box section.

Jolly jumps back aboard the Decca Mk2 during the 1957 Caversham AGP support race, battery sorted but race lost. He then contested the AGP itself finishing 7th in the amazing, pretty little car (unattributed)

In front a massive box section crossmember welded up from 15 and 20 gauge sheet steel gave massive strength and torsional rigidity, to this was attached 1956 Renault front suspension more or less complete together with its rack and pinion steering gear modified to give 1 3/4 turns lock to lock. The brakes were 9 and 8 inch Alfin drums front and rear.

Decca Mk2 Climax, Collingrove Hillclimb circa 1957. Coventry Climax 1097cc FWA SOHC, 2 valve, twin SU carbed engine to ‘Stage 2’ tune giving circa 83 bhp @ 6800 rpm (K Drage)

At the rear a de Dion system was used, the diff housing was cut down Austin A70 with inboard rear brakes built to it. The driveshafts were as long as possible, their outer universal joints contained within the hub housing, these having been machined down from 6 inch solid duralumin. The de Dion tube itself was made of 3 1/2 inch chrome molybdenum tube and was located by twin trailing arms on each side and a Panhard rod for lateral location. Coil springs were used and tubular shock absorbers.

Wheels were Borrani with 4.5 inch and 5 inch X 15 inch tyres, front and rear.

The car measured 11 feet 3 inches long, 5′ wide and 28″ high at its scuttle, its weight 9 1/2 hundredweight. The body was made of 18 and 20 gauge aluminium welded together and  arranged such that with the removal of three bolts the whole upper shell could be removed. More routine maintenance can be done with front and rear body sections which are hinged.

The 8 gallon tank gave a racing range of 200 miles and was raced in ‘touring trim’ – and road registered which would have made it a mighty fine, fun, fast road car!

Lotus 15 ‘608/626’..

Wow Factor: Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ in the Longford paddock in March 1960, Jolly’s Australian Tourist Trophy winning weekend (R Lambert)

Tailpiece: Lets end the article the way we started- Equipe Decca in Adelaide, before the long trip to Gnoo Blas, late January 1960…

(K Drage)

Finito…