(N Tait)

Jack Brabham and his ‘Repco Special’, Hay Street, Subiaco, Perth 1962…

With a bit of detective work from West Australians Ken Devine and Billy Hughes this photo from Nigel Tait’s Collection, which was originally thought to be of Jack Brabham in Sydney was taken during Jack’s 1962 trip to Perth for the Caversham Australian Grand Prix, won by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T62 Climax. Click here for an article about that meeting; https://primotipo.com/2016/05/20/bruce-lex-and-rockys-cooper-t62-climax/

The speedway midget is ‘definitely Bill Kirkham’s WA7 Repco Special driven by Laurie Stevens…looks like Jack sitting in the car and shaking the proprietors hand’ Billy Hughes wrote, another Perth enthusiast/photographer Gary Russell-Brown agrees.

‘Kayes’ was a Repco aligned engine reconditioner in Hay Street Subiaco, an inner Perth suburb. Clearly Kayes’ owner Kirkham had enough ‘pull’ to entice Jack back into the cockpit of a speedway car from whence he came!

Jack’s very first race, a speedway event of course, was at Cumberland Oval, Parramatta on 5 December 1947, click on this ‘Loose Fillings’ link to an interesting article written by Terry Wright article on these formative, successful Brabham racing steps/successes; https://loosefillings.com/2017/07/15/its-amazing-whats-still-out-there-2/

Brabham, 22 years old, receives the Australian Championship tray at Kilburn Speedway, Adelaide, 25 February 1949.



Jack during his first raceday at Parramatta Speedway, December 1947 (Brabham Family)

Perth enthusiast, Gary Russell-Brown provides some more information on speedway racing in Western Australia and photographs of the Kirkham midget in particular.

‘Dirt track speedway racing started in Australia in the late 1930’s – solos initially then followed by sidecars and speedcars or ‘midgets’. Before its relocation to the Kwinana Motorsports complex circa 2002 Perth’s Claremont Speedway was recognised as the longest running speedway in Australia, it opened in 1927.’

‘At 641 yards it was longer than most- its long straights resulted in higher top speeds than most as well,this may have been the reason for the venues shocking mortality rate- seventeen over the years. Speedcars were ill equipped in terms of safety until recent times.’

(G Russell-Brown)

Claremont Speedway and panorama #7 Stevens in the Kayes Repco Spl then eastern staters R Clarke from NSW and Victorian D Maher, they were here for the WA round of the 1964-1965 Australian Speedcar Championship’ Gary recalls.

The shot below is of Johnny Stewart in the car, ‘He crashed his own car in Adelaide, the previous weekend in January 1965 and through a connection between Kim Bonython and Bill Kirkham it was arranged for Stewart to use 7+ which wasn’t racing at that stage, Laurie Stevens having retired.’

Claremont is a western suburb of Perth- ten kilometres from the CBD on the north bank of the Swan River.

(G Russell-Brown)

‘Visting internationals came to the track with the peak years of Australian speedway racing perhaps the fifties and sixties. Bill Kirkham was keen to get involved as speedcars gained in prominence, his Subiaco engineering business ‘Kayes Engineering’ acquired, owned and raced #7.’

‘Bills son Ross Kirkham worked for Repco, along the way he moved to Melbourne and became a key engineer on the Repco Brabham Engines F1/Tasman/Sportscar program in the early to later 1960s- he sent west one of the first Repco Hi-Power cylinder heads made which was fitted to the ‘Holden Grey’ six and made #7 very quick.’

‘Laurie Stevens drove the car very well in that era and had amazing success with it against the east-coasters and Americans including some Offy powered cars.’

(G Russell-Brown)

The car above is the original #7, which had the added ‘+” after its first outing with the Repco modifications in 1959.

‘See above the distinctive, tuned exhaust system fitted to the Repco Hi-Power Holden six- it was an aluminium cross flow Phil Irving design, in this application fitted with twin-carburettors, Solexes, i think, which you can see in the shot below.’

‘Lynn Kirkham is fettling the car below with Johnny Stewart up in January 1965.’

‘The yellow version was a totally new car built, perhaps, for the 1961-1962 season

(G Russell-Brown)


(G Russell-Brown)

A couple of Claremont fans looking for an autograph from Laurie Stevens- love the ‘Ringmasters’ office, these days the more grandiose ‘Circuit Manager’ title would be applied!

Bill Kirkham behind his car, Laurie Stevens at the wheel, chief mechanic George Williams and a Claremont official after Equipe Kirkham’s first state title.

(G Russell-Brown)



For the sake of completeness here is a photograph of Ross Kirkham manning the controls of a Repco Engine Lab dyno circa 1964- testing a Coventry Climax four-cylinder FPF race engine of 2.5 or 2.7 litres capacity.

Former Repco engineer/racer/restorer Nigel Tait recalled ‘Then Engine Laboratory Manager and Senior Product Development Engineer Ross Kirkham and Senior Technician Mchael Gasking. Ross was my boss when i started there as an Engineering Cadet- a very clever and terrific guy. The dynamometer is our Heenan and Froude GB4. It’s in a tin shed in an otherwise residential area (Richmond, Melbourne) and as you can see there was no sound insulation.’

‘Work on the RB620 V8 would have commenced by then…by 1965 the first 2.5 litre V8 would have been run on the same dyno- for sure Michael Gasking would have assenbled this one and all of the early engines.’

Photo Credits…

Nigel Tait Collection, Repco, vintagespeedway.com.au, Billy Hughes, Gary Russell-Brown


(G Russell-Brown)

#7+ Kirkham Repco Special tail shot for the tailpiece! Out back of the Kayes Engineering workshop in Subiaco.



  1. Ken Devine says:

    Mark that’s a coincidence we had a Kayes Engineers here in Subiaco who were also Repco agents and ran a Repco Holden engined speedcar for Laurie Stevens.

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Ken,
      Perhaps they were a national outfit- I’ve done simple Google searches but not found anything about them so far. I didn’t mean to put the article up, I was trying to save it, lost focus and hit the upload button instead of save- two articles within 24 hours!

    • Peter Bates says:

      Remember the car racing in Boulder speedway early sixties 🏁🏁👌

  2. Billy Hughes says:

    That photo was probably taken in 1962 at Kayes Eng in subiaco..Jack was in town for the 1962 AGP at Caversham……Kayes were Repco agents..W.A.7..Laurie Stevens midget.

    • markbisset says:

      Cheers Billy,
      I missed Ken’s point earlier, so it’s not Jack at all but rather Laurie Stevens? Just moved a business from Rokeby Road recently to St Georges Tce- where in Subi was Kayes?

  3. Ken Devine says:

    Hi Mark. they were in Hay St but they left there many years ago. That car may not have been Laurie’s as his no was 7+ and had a very distingtive exaust system. I will make some inquiries with the historic speedway people and obtain a photo of his car. Ken

    • markbisset says:

      Hay Street much more gentrified these days- i’ve not been over since early Feb and that was a quick trip. Hope to be over later in the month or early August, will email you when I know to see if we can catch up. Intrigued to know the answer to this mystery- Nigel is usually spot on with his photos- it could be Jack but the photo is not shard enough to really tell. I did a quick Google- am sure you are both right on the car- just a question as to who is sitting in it!

  4. Billy Hughes says:

    Definately Bill Kirkhams car WA7 repco special driven by Laurie Stevens..Exhaust is on the left hand side and you can see the unique rear bumper – cradle around the tail…Looks like Jack sitting the car shaking the proprietors hand…This car later had a more sleek front end from the windscreen forward…Cheers.

  5. Lynn Kirkham, son of Bill Kirkham, died recently and a friend (Gary Russell Brown) sent me a photo of the 7+ car. You can see this here: https://adobe.ly/2Vu7Zt8. Lynn coached UWA mechanical engineering students who went on to bring home the outright winner’s trophy from the 2008 SAE Motorsport international competition, after gaining numerous prizes in earlier competitions.

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks James,
      Gary has been in touch, when I get his material I will update the piece to include the material you have- wonderful the way the internet works even with an article published a while back!

  6. Gary Russell-Brown says:

    As a close friend of Bill Kirkhams son,(Lynn) I was close to this car. I can add a bit of history including photos of both 7 and 7+ and other Claremont Speedway photos of the period in question if you are interested.


  7. Gary Russell-Brown says:

    I await your response.

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