Archive for October, 2018

(NAA)

Jack Brabham testing the ‘Jack Brabham Ford’ Bowin P4X Formula Ford normally raced by Bob Beasley, August 1971…

I’ve rattled on a couple of times before about Jack’s last ‘in-period’ race victory being the Calder Raceway ‘Race Of Champions’ on 15 August 1971- he beat a stellar field.

Jack carried #1 on the flanks of the Bowin in the Calder race- its hard to know where this photo is taken, maybe its at Calder on the weekend of the meeting or perhaps Jack is putting in a few test miles elsewhere to get the hang of the car- its 100 bhp and Goodyear RR12 all weather tyres rather than the 440 bhp, slick shod F1 Brabham BT33 Ford he raced in 1970.

Maybe he is thinkin’- ‘i’ll just soften the rear bar a smidge and see if i can get a bit more bite from the back’…

Check out this article for heaps more on the Bowin Formula Fords;

https://primotipo.com/2018/08/30/bowin-p4a-and-oz-formula-ford-formative/

(R Beckman)

 

Front to rear, Stillwell Elfin 600, Brabham Bowin P4X and Matich Aztec- at right front Jane in the other Stillwell Racing Elfin 600 (Bennett)

The Calder race was a wonderful bit of promotion by Bob Jane- here is Tom Naughton’s ‘Racing Car News’ race report from the October issue of ‘The Monthly Bible’…

‘With all the pomp and ceremony of a Grand Prix, Calder staged a ‘Race Of Champions’ for their 15 August meeting.

Coming out of retirement were Jack Brabham and Bib Stillwell (Australian Gold Star National Champion 1962-1965) along with some of todays champions, and all mounted in borrowed Formula Fords, they turned on a most entertaining race. The ‘Master’ showed the way home, easing effortlessly away from the main scrap and showing that he had lost none of the skill after his period of retirement’. (only 8 months at the time!)

‘Brabham lined up in his own (Jack Brabham Ford, Bankstown, Sydney) FF normally steered by Bob Beasley, while Bib Stillwell took over his number one car (Elfin 600) usually driven by Larry Perkins (he won the Driver to Europe Series that year).

Allan Moffat (in fact the only driver without racing car experience) (not quite true, he had an outing or two in Bob Jane’s Brabham BT23E Repco Tasman car boofing it at Sandown in 1968) took over David Green’s car (Wren).

Bob Jane hopped into Mike Stillwell’s Elfin 600, Alan Hamilton into Graeme Peart’s (Wren) and Kevin Bartlett into Murray Coombs’ car (Wren). Frank Matich took over Mike Hall’s Aztec, while Leo Geoghegan slipped into Peter Edwards’ car (Elfin 600)’.

Moffat Wren, with 3 Elfin 600’s behind him- perhaps Leo G immediately behind him and Jack ranging in, partially obscured to his outside, Jack is ranging in (autopix)

 

Frank Matich in Mike Hall’s Aztec. In August 1971 FM is up to his armpits in the build of the Matich A50 Repco F5000, so my guess he may have preferred to stay in Sydney, in which he was to win the November AGP at Warwick Farm – wonder what he thought of the Melbourne, Ould brothers built Aztec? (AMRA)

‘That was the field and at the flag Jane was first away, leading from Moffat, Brabham, Geoghegan and Hamilton. By lap 2, the front three had closed up and on the following lap both Moffat and Brabham slipped by at Repco. Geoghegan came up to challenge Jane, while Brabham took the lead on lap 4. He started to ease away from the rest, while Jane slipped Moffat at Toyota, these next three keeping close company. By lap 6, Geoghegan took Moffat, and then inherited second spot when Jane slipped wide at Repco, dropping back behind Stillwell’.

‘Oops! The same thing happened the last time I drove one of these open-wheeler thingies’. Moffat in David Greens slightly second-hand Wren (Bob Jane)

In lap 9, Stillwell started a challenge on Moffat and Hamilton, but in front Brabham was well clear. He took the flag in true champion style, with Leo second, then a scrapping duo of Hamilton and Moffat, with Stillwell hard on their heels, then came Jane, Matich and Bartlett. Leo did the fastest lap, a 48.6.’

The three Brabham sons all had stints in Australian Formula Ford before heading off to Europe, Geoff in 1973/4 aboard Bowin P4X/Elfin 620/Bowin P6F, Gary in 1982 with the Birrana F73 and David in 1986/7 with Van Diemen RF85/86. There is a neat bit of symmetry in the ‘old man’ also having a race win in Oz FF- was it his very last race win I wonder?

Credit…

‘Racing Car News’ October 1971, Laurie and Nick Bennett Collection, Bob Jane Heritage Collection, Autopix, Australian Motor Racing Annual, Jonathon Koch Collection for the program and RCN, National Archives Australia, Lynton Hemer, Russell Beckman

Etcetera…

From the Calder 15 August meeting program. Car in the photo is Jack’s last Tasman mount, the Brabham BT31 Repco at the Sandown Tasman meeting in February 1969

The race certainly had a great entry, for overseas readers, Stillwell, Bartlett, Matich and Geoghegan were all Gold Star Champions and Moffat, Jane and Hamilton national title holders on multiple occasions aboard Touring Cars and Sports Cars in Hamilton’s case. Jack probably requires no introduction…

For the sake of correctness, the car driver/combinations did not quite start as listed in the program.

Brabham was aboard the one off Bowin P4X- slightly different in the suspension to production P4A’s, Matich the Aztec, Jane a Stillwell Elfin 600, Geoghegan the Edwards Elfin 600 with Moffat, Bartlett and Hamilton aboard Wrens.

Brabham doing a parade lap in the P4X at Oran Park on 26 March 1972 (L Hemer)

 

 

 

Tailpiece: ‘It feels a bit like the ‘Stang, gearchange is on the right anyway’…

Moff saddles up in David Green’s Wren Formula Ford, these cars (not to forget his ‘Mk2’s constructed in the later 1970’s) were built in reasonable numbers by Bill Reynolds in his Carlisle Street, St Kilda workshop, not too far away from Calder.

Finito…

(Repco)

Frank Matich aboard his dominant 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship winning Matich SR4 Repco ‘760’, 4-cam, 4-valve 5 litre V8 at Calder Raceway in 1969…

Clearly the Repco PR snapper was there on the day to capture proceedings, i’m not sure of the meeting date, the championship rounds that year were at Warwick Farm, Surfers Paradise and Sandown- the photo is after the Monaco GP high-wing ban, which as you will see in the article attached is the form in which the car raced early in the year. An awesome machine in every respect.

Nigel Tait, the restorer/owner/driver of the car and i did a long feature about this wonderful machine, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

(Repco)

Credits…

Repco Ltd

Tailpiece: Where is Meppa when I need him?…

Repco’s John Mepstead was seconded to Matich’s Sydney operation to look after the several-of-a-kind, DOHC, 32-valve, ‘760 Series’ Repco, circa 560bhp 4.8-5 litre V8’s which powered this machine.

SR4 was Matich’s proposed 1968 Can-Am contender- it ran way too late in its build so he raced it in Oz in 1969- it was like taking a sledge-hammer to crack a nut such was its local dominance!

Finito…

image

It can only be a Formula Libre race, somehow I doubt 4 year old Ray Dones had a future as a race promoter…

This shot of the little dude and his eclectic grid of racers was taken at the Denver Toy and Hobby Show on 3 April 1965, but it could just as easily be me at the ‘Scalextric’ track at Rosebud on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in 1969.

We ‘useter holiday at McCrae during the long, hot Australian summer- in between working on the ‘tan my brother and cousin spent lotsa time and money on donuts and laps at that place up the road in the Summer of ’69.

I never did parlay my Scalextric pace at 11 to exceptional Formula Vee speed at 21, sadly!

Credit…

Georgia Lowell

image

McCrae in the summer of ’69

Finito…

Start of the 50 Mile Handicap heats: Hunter in the Mrs Jones owned Alfa 6C1750 at left, Thompson’s obscured Bugatti T37A and two six-cylinder 4077cc Chryslers of E Patterson and #72/14 HJ Beith (Fairfax)

Bill Thompson’s Bugatti T37A swept all before him at Gerringong Beach on 10 May 1930…

Sydney’s finest was very much the form driver of the meeting, in fact many would say he was Australia’s best driver pre-War. He had not long before won the 1930 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island during the 24 March weekend- it was one of his three wins in Australia’s premier event. Bill was also coming off the back of record times at Penrith Speedway and at Kurrajong Hillclimb that season.

Gerringong is 130 Km south of Sydney on the Illawarra Coast, then as now it is a popular holiday destination. Throughout the 1920’s the relatively deserted Seven Mile Beach, between Black Head and Beecroft Head was a place where members of the Royal Automobile Club raced their cars, far enough from Sydney and the long cold stare of the law. These occasions were as much society events as they were motor racing ones.

The Smith/Harkness Anzac Rolls Royce arrives at Gerringong in December 1929 (Kiama Tourist)

Gerringong was very much in the public mind at the time as Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith had set an Australian Land Speed Record testing his Rolls Royce engined ‘Anzac’, at 128.571 miles per hour only months before on 1 December 1929. Wizard and his exploits, and the skill of Don Harkness, a racer himself, and his company which built ‘Anzac’ is a story for another time.

The beach had been the site of horse racing since the 1860’s but the noble beasts ‘could not compete with the speed and excitement of the motor’, mind you the take up of motor vehicles in Australia is indicated by the October holidays in 1919 when there was record volumes of motor traffic through the town, in just two hours, 12 vehicles were counted driving through Fern Street.

The weather on the 10th of May was awful for racing, with rain the night before and drizzle prevailing for most of the day from the 11.40am start of the meeting- only 300 hardy souls watched the race action.

The sand was wet, to the extent that all competitors of the first event had to be pushed out of the sand, into which they had sunk before the race started! The conditions became more difficult for the organisers, the Sydney Bicycle and Motor Club, as the programs timeline grew in inverse proportion to the usable width of beach- which was down to two cars  by the end of the days proceedings. ‘Another five minutes’, a club official said and ‘the tide would have beaten us’.

The ‘Sydney Referee’ report made note of the other difficulties as soft and slippery sand at the turn posts, drizzling rain and some ‘competitors whose race tactics, were, to say the least of it, unsafe’.

Thompson and a young admirer after his Gerringong win (Fairfax)

Thompson’s win of the feature event, the ’50 Mile Handicap’ for cars under 2000cc was described as a ‘great win’, a ‘fine individual effort’ ‘even though there have been better races held in Australia’.

Thomson won the race in the Bugatti T37A in which he was victorious at the AGP in the month before, chassis ‘37358’, which is still in Australia in the process of restoration. See my article at the end of this one on the 2015 Melbourne ‘Motorclassica’ for some information about that car.

Thomson won in 39 mins 4 secs from the CN Jackson MG Midget 847cc s/c, HG Potts Lea Francis 1496cc s/c. Other starters in the final were Charlie East’s Bugatti T37A, RR Hawkes Austin 7 Sports 748cc, N Hodge Morris Minor 847cc and the JAS Jones owned Alfa 6C1750 SS s/c driven by A Hunter, DNF due to splashing through a wave whilst on course. It is not clear if the other cars completed the distance.

The engine of Thonpson’s T37A is fettled before the off (Fairfax)

 

In other races, Charlie East won the final of the Four Miles Over 1000cc from the JO Sherwood Chrysler and J Aubrey Jones also in a Chrysler. There were three heats in all- won by Bill Thomson’s Bug, John Sherwood’s Chrysler and E Patterson’s Chrysler.

The Eight Miles Club Championship final was won by Thomson, the heats won by HJ Beith Chrysler Sports and Thomson’s Bugatti. Maroubra legend, Hope Bartlett in a Bugatti, did a very quick first lap in heat 1 but forgot the second lap! No pitboards were in use at Gerringong it seems.

The Handicap for Closed Cars was won by J Aubrey Jones Chrysler and the Handicap for cars under 1000cc was taken by the N Hodge Morris Minor.

Thomson said that such was the narrow course- it hardly gave him enough width to clear oncoming cars, that he was about to pull out. ‘It was the hardest event I’ve been in, much worse than the the Phillip Island race’, the ‘Island was famous for the challenging nature of its gravel roads, dust and undulations.

After the conclusion of the meeting Bill Thomson hoped to beat the Gerringong Flying 1 Mile record of 33 3/5 of a second set by Don Harkness in a Hispano Suiza in 1923 but failed to get there given the conditions, his 36 4/5 seconds not as good as he had hoped having changed into top gear a little too early with a head wind doing the rest of the damage to his time.

Another grid this time with two Chryslers to the left, #72 the E Patterson and HJ Beith Chrysler Sports, Charlie East Bugatti T37A to right (Kiama Tourist)

The only major incident of the day occurred when Mrs JAS Jones ‘winged’ one of the Chrysler mechanics (below) when competitors in the second heat of the over 1000cc Four Mile Handicap passed the finishing post and turned too quickly, and spectators pressed forward. Jones, in last place arrived at race speed and had to swerve several times to avoid cars and bystanders. She almost got through but struck Curley, breaking his leg.

(Fairfax)

The ‘Referee’ concluded its report of the meeting by saying ‘All things considered it was a successful meeting. But the supervision left a lot to be desired. It was this fault, plus stupidity on the part of certain competitors, that led to a serious accident. After crossing the finishing line several of the competing cars turned back towards the oncoming cars and one even swung out suddenly across their path. Thereafter the officials made their presence felt. But one subsequent offender should have been severely cautioned’.

Mrs JAS Jones aboard her Alfa 6C1750- a much respected racer and car. Raced by many latterly into the fifties Flathead Ford V8 powered inclusive of an AGP and still in Oz (Fairfax)

Motor Car Racing in Australia in 1930…

I wrote an article a while ago about Penrith Speedway and a championship meeting held there in 1930, click on this link to read it, not least for some context on the state of car racing, especially road racing at the time in Australia.

https://primotipo.com/2017/06/08/penriths-world-championship-race-1930/

Here are some snippets from that article, but do read the whole thing if you have not.

The Australian Grand Prix was held for the first time on an oval dirt layout around the showgrounds at Goulburn, New South Wales in 1927. The 1928 AGP, ‘The 100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island, the first proper race in Australia on a road, run on a large, rectangular, gravel course was more indicative than Goulburn of the direction Australian racing would take and was indeed the race which started the tradition of road racing in Australia.

Gerringong Corners- two of them, one at end end of the beach, tide issues clear! (Fairfax)

At the time Australian motor racing was largely amateur, a ‘run what you brung’ approach prevailed with most competing cars driven to and from the track. The sport evolved from hillclimbs, sprints and races on horse-tracks, the province of the gentry pre-War, to hillclimbs at Waterfall Gully, Kurrajong, Mount Coot-tha and Belgrave, beach racing at Gerringong and Sellicks Beaches to venues such as the clay pans of Lake Perkolilli in Western Australia, and the Aspendale, Maroubra and Penrith Speedways.

John Medley wrote that ‘it was some time before other groups followed (the Light Car Club of Victoria’s Phillip Island) road racing direction, preferring the simpler expedient of running trials with speed sections included (rather like modern rallies) or contests on simple dirt speedways- both of these being more easily controlled by the organisers and also less accessible to the long arm of the law. One consequence was that their was very much a casual air to the whole occasion, with ‘chop picnics, family gatherings and exuberant overnight parties.’

E Patterson’s 4 litre Chrysler, desolate nature of the area at the time clear, Gerringong 1930 (Fairfax

I have not used the term speedway racing as the ‘forked road’ the sport took in later years had not yet occurred, competitors entered a variety of events as above. In addition solo intercity record-breaking attempts were important with Graham Howard recording that ‘…intercity records…were the most consistent form of competitive motoring in Australia until the late 1920’s, and produced our first household-name drivers…’ In fact the police made illegal the ‘Intercity Record Breaking’ in 1930 with Wizard Smith a household name as a result of these exploits.

A lot would change in terms of road-racing between 1930 and the war- ‘Round the Houses Racing’ in towns became common in Western Australia at places like Albany, Bunbury and Goomalling. Australian Grands Prix were held at Victor Harbor and Lobethal in South Australia and most importantly the Mount Panorama Scenic Drive, at Bathurst- which doubled as a racetrack, opened in March 1938- the 1938 Australian Grand Prix was held there on that weekend. By the war the foundations for car road racing in Australia were well and truly established, something which could not be said in May 1930.

Professor Neville Burkitt’s Mercedes Benz SS- came close to colliding with Bill Thompson’s Bug, or more particularly his Bugatti Thompson was driving!, in his heat (Fairfax)

Bill Thomson and his Bugatti T37A…

https://primotipo.com/2017/06/08/penriths-world-championship-race-1930/

Bibliography…

Sydney Morning Herald 6 May 1930, Sydney Sun 10 & 11 May 1930, Sydney Evening News 10 May 1930, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, kiama.nsw.gov.au

Photo Credits…

Fairfax

Tailpiece: Thompson’s Bug blowing off a Chrysler, Gerringong Beach 1930…

Finito…

(unattributed)

‘It is not common for racing cars to be photographed from the rear- more usually from the side or front.
Here are a few rear views (or views of rears) from my archives’ – Bob.
Jack Saywell, above, in his only appearance at Bathurst in his 2.9 Alfa Romeo P3, Easter 1939.
He could do no better than 6th when his engine was reluctant to start after a pitstop to adjust the brakes. The photo below is from ‘The Magnificent Monopostos’ by Simon Moore- this pitstop one of several during the very hot 1939 AGP at Lobethal, the heat caused major tyre problems for the heavier cars which did not afflict winner Allan Tomlinson’s nimble, light MG TA Spl s/c, Jack was 6th again.

(GP Library)

My anal side, not dominant at all in normal life kicks in with a wonderful selection like this- I feel the need to pop in chassis numbers where I can- but I am going to resist given the time required to do so! Good ole Google works pretty well- ‘Jack Saywell Alfa Romeo P3 chassis number’ will give you anoraks a path to finding what you want, otherwise just enjoy these magnificent photographs from Bob’s archive, Mark.

(unattributed)

Paul Swedberg drove John Snow’s Delahaye 135CS to 2nd place at the Bathurst 1939 meeting, in John’s absence overseas. Paul’s own Offenhauser Midget, in which he was virtually unbeatable on the on speedways, was not entered.

(unattributed)

Ted McKinnon finished 13th in the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in his Maserati 6CM. Doug Whiteford won that day aboard the first of his two Talbot-Lago T23C’s.

(S Wills)

An unknown car exhibiting the disadvantages of a swing rear axle system. Something tells me that this is DW Stephenson in his DWS? Templestowe Hillclimb in outer eastern Melbourne, September 1954.

(S Wills)

Maserati’s chief mechanic Guerino Bertocchi is leaning into the cockpit of Moss’ victorious Maserati 250F at Albert Park during the AGP weekend in 1956.
Having debuted as a riding mechanic with Alfieri Maserati in the 1926 Targa Florio and subsequently being riding mechanic in thirteen Mille Miglias as well as the 12 Hour of Pescara, it has always saddened me that he should die in 1981 as a passenger to an American during a trial drive of a modern Maserati. Car enthusiast Peter Ustinov told an amusing story concerning Bertocchi. Guerino delivered a new Maserati road car to Ustinov in Switzerland and said to Peter “I don’t know who you are Senor Ustinov, but you must be important to have me, Bertocchi, delivering your car”.

(S Wills)

Reg Parnell enters Jaguar corner in his Ferrari Super Squalo during the same wonderful 1956 AGP weekend.
The 30mph sign would not have deterred him. It also serves to remind us that ridiculous speed limits are not a new phenomenon – this sign was at the start of Albert Park’s main straight.

(S Wills)

This photograph shows the large SU required to feed the highly modified supercharged Vincent engine in Lex Davison’s Cooper. Phil Irving was the designer and the modifier of this motor – still labelled H.R.D on its timing cover. Templestowe 1957.

(S Wills)

Stirling Moss in the Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre, Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park, November 1958.
This photograph is taken during practice – the race was held on a hot day and the Cooper was denuded of much of its rear body work in an endeavour to keep the driver cool. The long shadows show that the photograph was taken in the early morning – I seem to recall that practice was at 6.30am.

In spite of the hour, note the huge crowd at Jaguar corner. In a previous post I have mentioned that Moss really only showed his sublime skill during the 1956 AGP when it began to rain with just six laps to go. On this morning Stirling was struggling with locking brakes and again demonstrated phenomenal car control – I was crowd marshalling at about the point from where this photograph was taken.

(S Wills)

Almost a rear view – note the missing engine cover to cope with the heat. Moss won the 32 lap, 100 mile race from Jack Brabham’s similar Cooper T45 Climax FPF, Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S and Bib Stillwell’s Maserati 250F.

Sadly this was the last race meeting at the ‘Park until the modern AGP era.

(S Wills)

Len Lukey (5th) in the Lukey Bristol tailing Bib Stilwell in the 250F Maserati through Jaguar corner in 1958.

(S Wills)

Ted Gray in the Tornado 2 Chev- again at Albert Park of course in 1958, Ted retired the Lou Abrahams car after completing only 4 laps.

(S Wills)

Len Lukey in the eponymous Lukey Bristol at Templestowe 23/3/1958 – or was it still called the Cooper T23 Bristol until it got its Vanwall inspired body?

(S Wills)

JW Philip in an Austin Healey at Templestowe on 20/04/1958. We know nothing of this car and driver.

(S Wills)

Jack French in a  Cooper Norton of only 499cc, but still good enough to break the magic (to me) 30 seconds. His time 28.15 Rob Roy, 1959. Coopers with various power plants were ‘King of the Hills’ in those days.

(S Wills)

At Templestowe in 1958; Bruce Walton in his Walton Cooper. Six times Australian Hillclimb Champion from 1958 to 1963.

(N Hammond)

And lastly, me at Rob Roy in my Type 35 Bugatti in 2008.
Credits…
Bob King Collection
References: ‘AGP – Howard et al’, Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing John Medley, ‘ The Magnificient Monopostos’. Simon Moore. ‘Bugattis in Australia and New Zealand, 1920-2012. King and McGann
Tailpiece: Spiro (Steve) Chillianis, Rob Roy 1960, with some work to do …

(S Wills)

Car is the ex-Eddie Perkins rear engined Lancia Lambda Special, now fitted with an Austin A70 engine, or should we say ‘was fitted’. He recorded a time of 80.88 seconds- perhaps the ambulance broke the timing strip?
Finito…

(D Lupton)

Andy Brown’s unique Elfin Mono Clisby V6 in the Calder paddock during the 21-23 May weekend in 1965…

Melbourne racer, restorer and Brabham expert Denis Lupton sent this photo to me yesterday- it is magnificent in its colourful detail so I thought we might finish the weekend as we started it- with a Clisby theme. I’ll pop it into the other article too, but it was too good to ‘lose’ within there, so here it is in all of its detailed glory.

Click on the link to the earlier article for the engine’s full technical details, the following occurs to me in absorbing the photograph.

https://primotipo.com/2018/10/18/clisby-douglas-spl-and-clisby-f1-1-5-litre-v6/

Isn’t it an exquisite little thang! Denis’ shot is so sharp we can easily see the beautiful finish of the cam-covers, ‘Clisby’ script and contrasting coloured retaining bolts. Three of the four Bosch-Clisby distributors are clear, as is the battery of four coils to provide lotsa spark for each of the twin-plugs per cylinder.

Blow the shot up and the intricate, beautifully fabricated, ‘Rose’-jointed throttle linkage is clear- as are the two triple-throat Clisby carburettors- boy they look yummy, so nicely made and finished. Die or sand cast?

Garrie Cooper designed the Type 100 Elfin or more colloquially the ‘Mono’ to suit the Ford pushrod and Lotus Ford twin-cam inline four-cylinder engines- I wonder if the tub of this chassis, Mk1 ‘M6548’ is different to the rest, perhaps Mono Experts Ron and James Lambert can let us know.

Either way, routing the exhausts to clear the top of the aluminium full-monocoque tub and then through the rear suspension linkages was a challenge and a test of the pipe-benders art. The nickel plated top radius rod on this side is clear as is the similarly shiny gear linkage which pops from under the fibreglass body and travels between the cam-covers to the Elfin modified VW case- Southcotts cut the gears in Adelaide if my memory of a conversation with James Lambert last weekend is correct.

The oil filter is atop the ‘box, as is the rear black roll-bar which is set to full soft at this stage of the Autumn weekend. That engine is low, the conceptual thinking of the 120 degree V6 is clear in terms of getting the masses as low down in the chassis as possible.

Wow. A visual feast.

And, if only…

Photo Credit…

Denis Lupton

(A Clisby)

Harold William Clisby was one of those guys who did it all, above hurtling along in his 1952 Clisby Douglas Special…

Born in Norwood, Adelaide on 3 August 1912 he was a talented intuitive engineer/inventor from his childhood Meccano set fiddlings. He worked initially for his father in the family clothing business, for GM in an engineering capacity during the war, then post conflict made his fortune building Clisby Air Compressors and the Clisby/Sherline Lathe amongst many other products- Clisby Engineering Pty. Ltd. continues to this day. Click on the link at the end of this article for a comprehensive account of some of Clisby’s life.

(clisby.com)

In addition to the above he built his own stone castle, complete with miniature railway line in the Adelaide Hills, various cars and motorcycles and a 120 degree, DOHC, 2 valve, 1.5 litre V6 GP race engine! This motor was fitted into an Elfin T100 Mono chassis- in so doing creating the first, the only, all-Australian, make that South Australian Grand Prix car.

This article started as a quickie on Harold’s ’52 hillclimber but a ‘teaser’ on the V6 at the articles end turned out longer than planned- that is a marvellous feature story for another time, but a précis of the Elfin Clisby V6 forms the second part of this piece.

Clisby built this home/castle in the Adelaide Hills at Teringie- set on 1.62 ha it has a dungeon, catacombs, a tower with views across Adelaide and its own miniature railway- even a cannon to keep Ferrari’s lawyers away…

 

The Clisby home included its own miniature railway- what a place in which to grow up as a kid?! Clisby commenced construction in 1953, the home completed over a 15 year period

 

Harold was one of the instigators of the Sporting Car Club’s Collingrove Hillclimb built on land owned by the Angas family.

He spent a lot of time driving all around the large property with Robert Angas looking for a suitable hillclimb location in Angas’ Land Rover. Eventually the duo settled on a marvellous, challenging bit of geography- the land was surveyed and the Sporting Car Club of South Australia soon accepted a proposal to run the venue- which they do to this day, its one of the longest continuing motorsport venues in Australia.

Of course, as a co-instigator of the project Clisby needed a car to compete in the first meeting, the ‘South Australian Hillclimb Championship’ in March 1952, having cut his racing teeth in a modified MG TC he raced at Lobethal, Woodside and other local venues.

‘Having only three weeks to go before the maiden run, Harold decided that he would like to build a vehicle to compete…A rough layout was was drawn on a blackboard using the engine and gearbox of a Douglas motorcycle, time was short so all of the details had to be carefully planned’ clisby.com state.

‘The springs came first, as they would take the longest time to manufacture. A single tube of 3 inches in diameter was used for the chassis: the engine located on the front end of the tube, using a brake drum, the rear end to be attached to the gearbox, used the rear cover of a differential.

The wheels were from scrapped motorcycles, a chain drive drove a  large sprocket on the rear axle and incorporated the single rear drum brake.

Universal joints were used to produce independent rear suspension; a six foot long tailshaft of 7/8-inch diameter was supported on one end of the engine and one of the gearboxes.

The steering box was rack and pinion coming from a previously built incomplete automobile. The front wheels included their own drum brakes. A tapered fuel tank came from a pedal assisted motorcycle, the steering wheel from an MG and the seat supplied by Colin Angas from a farm implement.(!)

The engine was stripped, the ports were polished to accommodate slightly larger carburettors and the pistons were shortened and lightened by removing the bottom piston ring. A motorcycle speedometer was re-calibrated to show engine revolutions per minute. A racing magneto was used to replace the magdyno.’

Great shot shows the key elements of this amazingly simple but effective racer. Note independent rear suspension- fixed length uni jointed driveshafts and forward racing radius rods for location. Chassis and gearbox clear (A Clisby)

‘All these elements were collected and assembled within 2 weeks allowing a week to test the box of tricks prior to the hillclimb.

Harold had trouble registering the vehicle for the road, as they did not believe the car weighed just 350 pounds!

With one week to go, he then decided to drive the car to the town of Angaston some 60 miles away (from Adelaide) on a Saturday morning wearing a flying suit, arriving about 1 1/2 hours later.

He then drove the car up the hill (Collingrove Hillclimb) using maximum acceleration. Returning to Robert Angas home (on the property where Collingrove was built), he then discovered the tailshaft had twisted like a long letter ‘S’! He then proceeded to straighten the shaft using an anvil and carefully drove the car home.

With only a matter of a few days remaining, a new 2 inch diameter shaft was provided, still only supported at each end. At high engine revolutions, the shaft also distorted. A third shaft was made of 1 inch diameter, 16 gauge tubing cut into three sections, the centre section was supported by ball races within the 3 inch diameter main tube.

This easily withstood the engine revs of 8000 rpm. The following Saturday morning, the car was now ready to attack the hillclimb and was driven again to Angaston.

After a number of other vehicles had successfully climbed the hill, Harold’s turn finally came in the under 500cc class. He pressed the accelerator pedal until the rev indicator showed 8000rpm, then took his foot straight off the clutch, the rear wheels spun on the tarmac and the car shot off up the hill in a satisfactory manner.

There was little trouble in changing gear into the various bends until reaching the top, where the descent back to the paddock was made on a rough rock track. One rock knocked a hole in the crankcase, allowing all the oil to drain out.

Returning to the pit area, the car was rolled on its side and the hole was welded up with acetylene and oxy torch supplied by an oil company. The vehicle was now ready for a second run. Using the same procedures used from his first experience, the time was improved setting a record that wasn’t broken in its class for seven years’.

(Australian Motor Sports April 1952)

 

‘After the success of his hillclimb vehicle, he was then approached by several of his friends to design and build small competition cars with 125cc engines as the driving force. These were constructed out of steel tubing with rack and pinion steering and front and rear transverse independent suspension all round. The wheels were cast aluminium and fitted with 8 X 4 wheelbarrow tyres. Looking back he felt the cars led the way into the go-kart era in Australia’ clisby.com records.

Clisby Bantam: ‘This car is one of 6 examples developed and constructed in 1954…originally owned and raced by Lindsay Lemussurier of Adelaide. Used in a number of AHCC events including the 1954 Championship at King Edwardd Park, Newcastle, where it competed against Jack Sheppard and Jim Gosse in similar Clisby Bantams- and Ron Tauranac in his Ralt 500, who won. The Clisby Bantams were given the moniker of ‘screaming blowflies’ by track event announcers’ (From the VSCC Mt Tarrengower October 2018 program courtesy of Bob King)

Collingrove opening March 1952 meeting entry- Harold’s opposition included a youthful Bill Patrerson’s Cooper 500. Stephen Dalton advises he also competed in a production sports MG TD. Love the cigarette butt warning!- tidiness or bushfire avoidance?  (S Dalton)

Specifications…

Chassis-

Backbone frame of single 3 inch by 16 gauge steel tube. Engine mounted on clutch housing welded to front, gearbox mounted on steel pressing welded to rear. Independent front suspension by twin transverse leaf springs. The transverse leaf springs mounted above and below clutch housing. Independent rear suspension by splayed quarter elliptic springs and halfshafts located by radius rods trailing at 30 degrees. Rack and pinion steering. Motor cycle wheels- front 19 X 2 1/4 inches, rear 19 X 2 3/4 inches, 3 inch motorcycle ribbed tyres at front, grip tread at rear. Mechanical brakes- non-compensated 6 inch BSA cable operated at front, single central rod operated 8 inch Douglas at rear.

Transmission/Gearbox-

7 inch single dry plate clutch mounted direct on engine. Three piece tubular steel drive shaft running on ball races mounted within tubular backbone chassis. 4 speed positive stop Douglas gearbox with hand operation- overhung at rear of the chassis with final drive by chain to differential-less swinging halfshaft back axle

Engine-

Douglas air-cooled, horizontally opposed, pushrod OHV two cylinder engine. Bore/stroke 60.8 X 60mm, 348cc. Wet sump lubrication, BTH magneto ignition. Bottom piston ring removed and piston skirts shortened by 1/2 inch, ports bored out and polished, two Amal carbs, compression ratio 8:1, 30bhp, maximum rpm 9000

Monoposto body to be fitted, weight when registered 325 pounds.

Construction quoted as commenced on 19 February 1952, inaugural Collingrove meeting 15 March 1952 during which a time of 50.1 seconds was achieved. The class record was set at the second Collingrove meeting at 47.2 seconds for the up to 750cc class- the report says the car used the standard engine in the first meeting, with presumably the modified engine at the second. ‘Since then it has had further runs, but Mr Clisby is now faced with excessive wheelspin and so is tackling the problem of weight distribution’.

(Courtesy Australian Motor Racing Annual No 3)

That ‘F1 Car’- Elfin T100 ‘Mono’ Clisby V6, chassis ‘M6548’…

(K Drage)

Elfin boss Garrie Cooper and legendary ace welder, Fulvio Mattiolo ponder the next step in the build of Andy Brown’s Clisby V6 engined Mono at Edwardstown, Adelaide during 1965.

Those with strong knowledge of the GP formulae will appreciate that 1965 was the final year of the 1.5 litre F1 and that therefore the little Clisby V6 was a tad late to the party!

The Elfin Clisby only raced on four occasions- at Mallala on 19 April 1965 when a rear tyre blew destroying the cars rear suspension, at Calder on 23 May when Brown retired with water porosity problems, back home in South Australia at Mallala on 14 June when the car popped an oil line in practice, non-starting the race. The cars last appearance was a championship one, Brown started the 11 October 1965 Mallala Gold Star round but retired from the race won by Bib Stillwell’s Brabham BT11A Climax after 8 laps when the engine locked up beneath him in the straight gyrating from high speed for 300 metres until coming to rest gently in the infield.

With that the project, one engine, was put to one side forever, there is a Repco epilogue however.

The chassis, engine and gearbox (using a VW case) were all made in South Australia, hopefully one day this extraordinary piece of Australian history- our only ‘all Australian’ GP car will run again.

An engine and the Elfin chassis are extant, sufficient of the engine patterns and moulds exist, with the will of all involved- chassis owner, the very keen James Calder, the Clisby family, and, critically Kevin Drage, the senior engineer on this project all those years ago this stunning machine will run. It must run- the combination is a national engineering treasure. Some very recent chatter online is promising too…

(Clisby)

Ferrari had been racing Vittorio Jano designed 1.5 litre F2 and 2.5 litre F1 DOHC, 65 degree V6 engines in the late fifties, Mike Hawthorn won the 1958 drivers title so equipped. Their 1961 championship winning car, the mid-engined 156, was powered by a 1.5 litre V6, initially with a Vee angle of 65 degrees and later 120 degrees. By the way, the first track test of Ferrari’s 156 120 degree V6 engine was at Modena, the car driven by Phil Hill, in April 1961.

During a long fact-finding trip to Europe in 1960 Clisby chose a 120 degree, DOHC, 2 valve V6 design for his proposed GP and sportscar engine. He set about the design process on a portable drafting machine in the cabin of the ship which brought him back to Australia.

In order to construct the engine he also needed to upgrade his Prospect, Adelaide, Clisby Industries factory facilities to ‘manufacture our own con-rods, pistons, distributors and oil pumps…plus build our own manufacturing equipment such as sand foundry, electric melting furnace, sand mixer, crankshaft grinder, camshaft grinder, nitriding furnace etc’ Clisby Development Engineer at the time Kevin Drage recalled.

The essential elements of the all aluminium engine (the extent of local content extended to the Comalco aluminium used, the bauxite and alumina was mined and processed in Australia) was a four main bearing, billet steel crank, twin overhead gear driven camshafts, two 14mm plugs per cylinder fired by conventional coil and ‘…dual ignition circuits- there were four distributors, one master and one slave for each of the two ignition circuits fired from each camshaft. This allowed the spark requirements to spread across 4 coils’ said Kevin. The distributors were Clisby modified Bosch components. A generator was in the front of the engines Vee, a starter motor at its rear.

The engine capacity was 1476cc, its bore and stroke 73 X 58.8mm with the engines ultimate potential size circa 2 litres. Clisby saw a gap in the market in Europe for engines of 1.5 to 2 litres for both GP and sportscar use. With a very modest initial compression ratio of 8.5:1 and cam timing derived from the BSA Gold Star motorcycle, around 170-180 bhp was expected from the early engines.

Carburetion caused a big problem, conventional twin-choke Webers would not feed the wide angle engine. Drage wrote to Weber to enquire about purchase of some of its triple choke carbs, only to be advised of their exclusive supply agreement of said units with Ferrari. The Scuderia’s lawyers followed this up with a salvo several months later advising ‘that they (Ferrari) owned the copyright to the 120 degree, V6 layout and that we should cease building our engine forthwith and certainly not attempt to market it!’ KD recalled.

Clisbys therefore decided to build their own carburettor bodies to which were fitted standard Weber chokes, auxiliary venturis, jets etc sourced from twin choke carbs Weber were happy to supply. ‘Harold drew up the triple carburettor body and had a set of patterns made. We joked that we should have left and right hand carburettors to make the fitting symmetrical. A few days later, Alec Bailey, who was working on the engine with me, came in to work with a set of left hand carburettor patterns which he had made up at home in the evenings! So we did finish up with a pair of left and right hand triple choke carburettors after all!’

Ron Lambert ponders the next step in the Elfin Clisby- he is still spritely and fettling Elfins in Tasmania (K Drage)

 

Kevin Drage in the Calder paddock 23 May 1965, Andy Brown a DNF in his Elfin Mono Clisby that weekend. Installation of 1.5 litre V6 into a monocoque chassis designed for the Lotus-Ford twin-cam inline four beautifully done (R Lambert)

The 260 pound, incredibly low, compact engine broke cover from about March 1961 with articles in Sports Car World, Road and Track, Sports Car Graphic and other publications following in 1962.

By then the BRM P56 and Coventry Climax FWMV 1.5 litre V8’s were dominating GP racing- Ferrari was developing its own V8, its ultimate 1.5 litre F1 weapon was the Ferrari 1512- a Flat-12 engine which formed a structural member of the cars semi-monocoque ‘Aero’ chassis in 1965. The point here is that by the time the Clisby engine was announced, let alone run, the game had well and truly moved on, but it does not matter in terms of the engines Australian historical significance.

Denis Jenkinson in his March 1963 MotorSport ‘Continental Notes’ wrote of Jack Brabham’s prospects for that GP season ‘…it looks as though the Australian is getting the design sorted out nicely…He will be dependent upon Coventry Climax and Colotti for the major components of the car…but the cars should be well in the running and he may even be patriotically inspired to try a Clisby V6 engine in a Brabham…’ if only it were true and had come to pass?!

As the engine came nearer to the stage of being installed in a car Kevin Drage initiated discussions with multiple AGP winner and Gold Star Champion, the wealthy Lex Davison. Kevin Drage recalled ‘…Lex was interested in seeing the Clisby engine run in a car…Initially he was prepared to fund an Elfin Mallala but later with the advent of the forthcoming Australian 1.5 litre Series he proposed building and campaigning an Elfin Mono. However by this time Harold had lost interest in the V6 project and was devoting his time to building model steam railway engines.’

‘I didn’t want to see four years of my involvement sidelined so I had discussions with Lex and Garrie Cooper regarding getting the Elfin Clisby Mono project off the ground. However, Andy Brown stepped in and offered to fund the Elfin Mono and Harold agreed for Andy to proceed- and the rest, as they say, is history’.

In fact Lex did order and pay a deposit on a Mono to be fitted with a Ford 1.5 twin-cam- this car was to be raced by young up-and-comers, but with Lex’ death at Sandown in early 1965 the project did not proceed.

Once on the dyno and in the car the V6 design’s problems surrounded engine balance and porosity of some of the castings- nothing which could not have been sorted with time and development.

Saucy titillating shot of the Clisby Mono- shot captures the Elfins ally monocoque- Cooper’s first such design, the challenge of accommodating the exhausts and ultra low layout of the 120 degree Vee Six (A Clisby)

I’ve already gone further with this teaser than I had planned, lets come back to this marvellous project with a feature later and finish on the thought below.

The sad thing is that Clisby should have persisted with the motor’s development in Australia at a capacity of 2 litres. Both BRM and Lotus (Coventry Climax) with 2 litre variants of their F1 V8’s engines proved to be Tasman Series winners despite a category limit of 2.5 litres and therefore those motors giving away capacity to fellow competitors. Mind you it’s easy for me to say ‘push on’, Clisby’s was a family business, I hate to think how much in cold hard cash, diverted resources and opportunity cost this amazingly ambitious project cost.

Harold Clisby with the original cross-sectional drawing of the Clisby V6 above the drawing board in his office (K Drage)

And that Repco epilogue, you ask?

When Repco Brabham Engines in Maidstone were looking for an Australian concern to cast their cylinder heads for the race program from 1966 to 1969 they chose Clisby given the problems they encountered in making the complex aluminium castings of their V6, and the learnings they had made as a consequence!

There is something rather neat about Australia’s first but largely unraced GP engine contributing to the World Championships of its Repco successors!

(K Drage)

I had a chuckle at this Kevin Drage photo of Harold Clisby (left) and Phil Irving in the Sandown paddock during the circuits opening international meeting on 12 March 1962…

‘No Phil, I’ve already got a copy of “Tuning for Speed”, I don’t need another’ is perhaps the conversation between these two great engineers. For sure the weather is not their interest.

At that stage Clisby is well into the build of his V6 whereas Phil is a couple of years away from starting the design of the aluminium GM Oldsmobile F85 block based 1966 World Championship winning ‘RB620’ V8.

The interesting bit in that context is that the Lance Reventlow owned, Chuck Daigh driven, mid-engined Scarab RE Buick V8 was competing at Sandown that weekend. If Jack, winner of the Sandown Park International in a Cooper T55 had not seen that GM motor before- its the brother of the F85, he most certainly did that weekend as i’ve posted a photo before of Jack looking lustfully at the engine and perhaps pondering its possibilities!

With Repco’s resources, Phil’s first 2.5 V8 ‘RBE620’ ‘E1’ burst into life about twelve months after he first put ink on paper, in Repco’s Richmond test-cells in March 1965- at about the same time as Harold’s V6 was being installed into Andy Brown’s Elfin Mono after a journey which started in 1960- whilst noting that Clisby Engineering and Repco Ltd were enterprises of vastly different sizes! Harold and his two offsiders also built an engine from scratch, most of it in-house too, whereas the first Repco jobbie did use plenty of components off the shelf, albeit to rather good effect!

(Clisby)

Credits…

Kevin Drage on The Nostalgia Forum, ‘Harold Clisby: The Life of a Restless Engineer’ on clisby.com, Australian Motor Sports April 1952, Andrena Clisby via Kevin Drage, Kevin Drage, Ron Lambert, Stephen Dalton Collection, Bob King Collection

Harold Clisby’s Biography, in part…

http://clisby.com/hwc.html

Tailpiece: Forty year old Harold Clisby with his Clisby Douglas Special in 1952…

(A Clisby)

Its a photograph of crystal clear clarity in terms of mechanical layout- from the flat-twin Douglas engine and mount, simple tubular chassis, independent front and rear suspension and seat which appears to be from a tractor!

‘Hang on Harold’! is the message as he departs the startline!

Ones legs getting dislodged from the pedals and touching terra-firma at speed does not bare thinking about!

Finito…