Archive for April, 2019

(N Tait)

‘Victory Swig’: Jack Brabham partakes of the winner’s champagne, Aintree, 18 July 1959…

Brabham won the British Grand Prix from the British Racing Partnership BRM P25 driven by Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T51- Jack similarly works mounted to Bruce.

This story of the race was inspired by a couple of marvellous pieces from Nigel Tait’s Repco Collection. I wrote a largely photographic article about this weekend a while back too; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/01/masten-gregory-readies-for-the-off-british-grand-prix-aintree-1959/

(N Tait)

The reality of the win was a bit more complex than the Telex back to Repco HQ of course.

Brabham was aided by the very latest version of the Coventry Climax Mk2 FPF 2.5 ‘straight port, big valve’ engine as Doug Nye described it, and the very latest version of the modified Citroen-ERSA gearbox which used roller rather than plain bearings and oil pumps to aid the reliability of the transmission which was being stretched beyond its modest, production car design limits by the increasingly virile FPF. The short supply of 2.5 litre Climaxes was such that Denis Jenkinson noted ‘…Lotus have to share theirs between F1 and sportscars and a broken valve or connecting rod means a long delay’ in getting an engine returned from rebuild.

This you beaut gearbox was not made available to Stirling Moss or Maurice Trintignant, driving Rob Walker’s T51’s so Moss elected to race a BRM P25- he had lost leading positions in the Monaco and Dutch GP’s due to dramas with the new Colotti gearboxes the team had been using in their Coopers. The BRM was prepared by the British Racing Partnership given Moss was not confident in the Bourne marque’s standard of race preparation after brake failure of his works Type 25 at Silverstone in May.

(Getty)

Moss in the BRP BRM P25- he raced the cars in both Britain and France (Q4 and lap record but disqualified after a push start) with Brooks #20 trying to make the most of a Vanwall VW59 that lacked the advantages of monthly competitive pressures and consequent development in 1959. The champion marque or ‘International Cup’ winner in 1958 of course.

Ferrari stayed in Italy due to industrial unrest, the metal workers were on strike. On top of that Jean Behra bopped Team Manager Romolo Tavoni in an outburst of emotion after Tavoni glanced at his tachometer tell-tale after the conclusion of the French GP and challenged his driver. His Ferrari career was over, and all too soon, two weeks after the British GP, he died in a sportscar race which preceded the German GP at Avus.

Without a ride in his home GP, Ferrari driver Tony Brooks (works Ferraris were raced by Brooks, Behra, Phil Hill, Cliff Allison, Olivier Gendebien, Dan Gurney and Wolfgang von Trips in 1959- no pressure to keep your seat!) raced an updated Vanwall instead. He was without success, back in Q17 despite two cars at his disposal and DNF after a persistent misfire upon completing thirteen laps.

The Vanwalls were the same as in 1958 ‘except that the engine had been lowered in the frame, as had the propshaft line and the driving seat, while the bodywork had been made narrower and some weight reduction had been effected’ noted Denis Jenkinson in his MotorSport race report. Such was the pace of progress the Vanwalls had been left behind after their withdrawal from GP grids on a regular basis. Nye wrote that the performance of the car was so poor Tony Vandervell gave Brooks all of the teams start and appearance money in a grand gesture to a driver who had done so much for the marque.

(unattributed)

Aintree vista above as the field roars away from the grid, at the very back is Fritz d’Orey’s Maserati 250F- whilst at ground level below Jack gets the jump from the start he was never to relinquish. Salvadori is alongside in the DBR4 Aston and Schell’s BRM P25 on the inside. Behind Harry is Masten Gregory’s T51- and then from left to right on row three, McLaren T51, Moss P25, and Maurice Trintignant’s Walker T51.

(J Ross)

So the race was a battle of British Racing Greens- BRM, Cooper, Lotus, Vanwall and Aston Martin- in terms of the latter Roy Salvadori popped the front-engined DBR4 in Q2, he did a 1 min 58 seconds dead, the same as Brabham but did so after Jack. He faded in the race in large part due to an early pitstop to check that his fuel tank filler cap was properly closed- an affliction Carroll Shelby also suffered. The writing was on the wall, if not the days of the front-engined GP car all but over of course- there were three front-engined GP wins in 1959, two to the Ferrari Dino 246, in the French and German GP’s to Tony Brooks. At Zandvoort Jo Bonnier broke through to score BRM’s first championship GP win aboard a P25.

The stage was nicely set for a Brabham win from pole but it was not entirely a soda on that warm summers day ‘The big drama was tyre wear. I put a thick sportscar tyre on my cars left-front. Even so, around half distance i could see its tread was disappearing…so i began tossing the car tail-out in the corners to reduce the load on the marginal left-front.’

‘Moss had to make a late stop, and that clinched it for me. I was able to ease to the finish with a completely bald left-front’ Brabham said to Doug Nye. The Moss pitstop for tyres was unexpected as the Dunlop technicians had calculated one set of boots would last the race but they had not accounted for Stirling circulating at around two seconds a lap quicker than he had practiced! Moss later did a fuel ‘splash and dash’, taking on five gallons, as the BRM was not picking up all of its fuel despite the driver switching between tanks.

(MotorSport)

Whilst Jack won, the fastest lap was shared by Moss and McLaren during a late race dice and duel for second slot- Moss got there a smidge in front of Bruce ‘…as they accelerated towards the line, which was now crowded with photographers and officials, leaving space for only one car, Moss drove straight at the people on the right side of the road, making them jump out of the way, and to try and leave room for McLaren to try and take him on the left. This was indeed a very sporting manoeuvre…’ wrote Jenkinson. McLaren won his first GP at Sebring late in the season delivering on his all season promise. Harry Schell was fourth in a works BRM P25 and Maurice Trintignant fifth in a Colotti ‘boxed’ T51 Cooper despite the loss of second gear, with Roy Salvadori’s Aston, after a thrilling, long contest with Masten Gregory’s works T51, in sixth.

(BRM)

Nearest is Schell’s fourth placed BRM, then Trintigant’s T51- fifth, and up ahead McLaren’s third placed T51. BRM took the teams first championship win at Zandvoort in late May. No less than nine Cooper T51’s took the start in the hands of Brabham, McLaren, Trintignant, Gregory, Chris Bristow, Henry Taylor, Ivor Bueb, Ian Burgess and Hans Hermann

Photo and Research Credits…

Nigel Tait Collection, MotorSport 1959 British GP race report by Denis Jenkinson published in August 1959 and article by Doug Nye published in December 2009, Getty Images, John Ross Motor Racing Collection, BRM, Pinterest

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

The relative size of the McLaren Cooper T51 and Moss BRM P25 is pronounced on the grid. The pair were to provide lots of late race excitement after Stirling’s second pit stop.

(J Ross)

Wonderful butt shot of the Salvadori Aston Martin, #38 is the Jack Fairman driven Cooper T45 Climax, DNF gearbox, and Graham Hill’s Lotus 16 Climax up the road- he finished ninth.

(J Ross)

Roy Salvadori racing his DBR4 hard, he was at the top of his game at that career stage- if only he had stayed put with Cooper for 1959! He recovered well from an early pit stop but ultimately the car lacked the outright pace of the leaders however well suited to the track the big beast was. Carroll Shelby failed to finish in the other car after magneto failure six laps from home.

Two of these magnificent machines found good homes in Australia in the hands of Lex Davison and Bib Stillwell in the dying days of the Big Cars- Lex only lost the 1960 AGP at Lowood from Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati by metres after a magnificent race long tussle.

Tailpiece: Brabham, Cooper T51 Climax, Aintree…

(MotorSport)

It’s almost as though Jack is giving us a lesson in Cooper designer/draftsman Owen Maddock’s T51 suspension geometry arcs!

Jack was famous for his ‘tail-out’ speedway style of driving, one eminently suited to the Coopers of the era. Lets not forget, according to Jack’s account of the race, he was accentuating this aspect of his driving to save the load on his increasingly threadbare left-front Dunlop.

Jenkinson in his race report observed that ‘The Coopers, both F1 and F2, were going extremely fast, and looking horribly unstable, yet the drivers seemed quite unconcerned, whereas drivers of more stabile machinery following behind were getting quite anxious at the twitchings and jumpings of the Surbiton cars.’

However untidy it may have all been, they were mighty fast, robust weapons of war.

Finito…

(D Lupton)

Denis Lupton’s ‘Team Devione’ Lotus 11 Ford Rep at Calder, ‘whilst the circuit was still being built, marked on the slide is 1960’…

Racer, engineer and mechanic Lupton and ace welder Hedley Thompson met at the Australian Motor Sports Club and soon developed a strong friendship.

Thompson was a foreman in aircraft maintenance at TAA- Trans Australian Airlines was one of two large domestic Australian airlines, Ansett the other. He was regarded by many, including Reg Hunt, as one of the finest, if not the best welder in Australia.

Regular trips to the likes of Boeing kept him up to speed with the latest aviation techniques which of course flowed through to his motor racing sideline. Pat Ryan mused that ‘it would be interesting to know how many cars came out of the nightshift at TAA?!’

Lupton and Thompson saw an opportunity to build some Lotus 11 replicas, the ex-Jon Leighton Lotus 11 Series 1 (chassis 198) provided the car from which to create a jig and working drawings when the pair rebuilt it.

(D Lupton)

Brian Devlin’s genuine Lotus 11, ex-Jon Leighton with Denis Lupton at the wheel, above, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne in 1959.

Little is known of the car’s early history other than that it was bought to Australia when Leighton emigrated here in 1958- first competing at the Hepburn Springs Hillclimb in November 1958, for a class win, Brian Devlin acquired it in 1960.

Between Thompson and Lupton the pair had the requisite skills to build racing cars. The little machine was stripped in the workshop behind Thompson’s home in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburb of Deepdene, (‘down the drop in Whitehorse Road from Burke Road till when it flattens and then in on the left’). When it was a bare chassis Denis took all the measurements and made a set of drawings.

Denis and Hedley made the chassis whilst the aluminium work was done by close friend of Lupton’s and noted racer Ian Cook and Frank Esposito. Whilst the standard Lotus bodies were aluminium, a buck/moulds were taken from the Devlin car with painter Jim Jewitt producing fibreglass bodywork.

Word travelled quickly of course that some beautifully built cars were coming together and the orders quickly flowed in.

This article is very much a ‘work in progress’ from Denis records of the cars, if you can help with the history of an individual chassis please get in touch.

Histories of the cars…

Don Ashton, Hepburn Springs Hillclimb in Victoria’s Goldfields or Spa Country (D Lupton)

No.1 Don Ashton, Gnat  BMC 750cc. ‘A’ type sleeved down

John Partridge, 1100cc BMC A type

Warwick De Rose, 1100cc BMC A type

Ken Hastings,  Atom, 1100cc BMC S/C

???

John Lambert, Current owner

Don Ashton in front of his Ballan, Victoria, garage (D Lupton)

No.2 Alan Coleman, Ford 105E Anglia engine

Shifted from Melbourne to Perth

Stuart Campbell, Car finished off and competed in Perth.

Bruce Campbell, Perth.

 

No.3 Jim Jewitt,

Julian Coker

Dick O’Keefe,  BMC ‘A’ type S/C, currently  active in Historic Racing

Dennis at Calder (D Lupton)

No. 4 Denis Lupton, Ford 100E with Elva cylinder head

Then fitted with 1500cc Cortina GT engine, close ratio gearbox,  disc brakes and wide wheels.

Dr. Les Mendel

Steve Gifford

Colin Dane, Current owner

 

No.5 Bellair Brothers- Mike & Terry

Lindsay Urquhart

Alistair Scholl                                          Graham Hail

Chris Ralph                                              Gavin Sala

Bruce McGeehan                                   Rowan Carter

Joe Farmer                                              John Blackburn (Qld)

 

No.6 Ian McDonald,  Tarquin TC

Wes Nalder, Horsham  fitted with 1500cc Hillman engine

????

Terry Cornelius, Seaspray, (son Rowan) current  owner, Longford, Tas

 

No.7 Geoff Aarons, Hillman Minx engine

R.Slaney, Sebring Motors, 123 Bridge Rd, Richmond.

???

 

No.8 Nev McKay, BMC ‘A’ type  S/C

???

Russell McKenzie,   Ballarat,  current owner.  C/o Redan Motors, Ballarat

 

No.9 Neville Ham, Ford Consul  engine

????

 

No.10 Ian Munro, Ford 100E engine

???

Ed Flannery as it was with Alan Bail with Climax FWB motor (D Lupton)

 

No.11 Ed Flannery, MG TC engine and Gearbox

Syd Fisher, fitted Alfa Romeo engine and gearbox, then Peugeot engine.

Alan Bail, fitted 1500cc FWB Climax, very successful.

Graham Vaughan, Queensland, current owner.

 

No.12 Hedley Thompson, Lola Mk 1 copy.

Ford 1500cc engine.

Geoff Robbins

Ian Wells

???

Bruce Polain

Ray Kenny, NSW,   to Barry Bates   QLD  current owner 2019.

David McKay raced his Lola Mk1 Climax at the Ballarat International meeting in February 1961. During the meeting a radius rod mount pulled out, Hedley was engaged to repair the car, again a jig was made and drawings of the chassis taken.

Long time racer David Crabtree was the first to drive the Lola ‘around Deepdene after we finished the car.’

‘In one of those “I thought you did moments” between us we hadn’t filled the diff with oil, so I took it back to my parents house in Malvern, and cobbled together a repair with all the Austin A30 bits I had.’

These days Crabby has a large successful aircraft maintenance business at Melbourne’s Essendon Airport, back then he was a young TAA apprentice, ‘I used to catch the tram up Glenferrie Road from Malvern and Hedley would scoop me up on the Cotham Road corner, not too far from his place and he would drive me out to the airport. He was a terrific bloke, immensely talented, he taught me how to weld. I did help in the build of the little Lola’.

Postscript…

Within a couple of hours of uploading this article my friend and historian Stephen Dalton raided his collection of magazines and emailed ‘…the history of Lotus 11 Replicas may have been somewhat different had Jon Leighton sold his Scuderia Birchwood Lotus in England. The 13 June 1958 Autosport ran his advert ”Scuderia Birchwood’s Lotus XI Sports, full 1172 trim, extras, enthusiast maintained, very fast, engine now dismantled, 850 pounds ono- Twyford 5 (evenings)”.

‘Devione’: the name?…

Denis advises the background to the names of his cars- ‘My lady wife is a Francophile, she says “Devione” is French for a “variation from a main theme” and I know better than to argue with her!’

‘So my cars were called ‘Devione’, and I built a few more for people, so we hoped to all race as a team so “Team Devione” was suggested. But people got married, or went sailing or found aircraft, or whatever, so it never got off the ground, pity!’

Credits…

Denis Lupton, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, David Crabtree, Doug Eagar, Stephen Dalton Collection

Etcetera: Denis Lupton, Devione LC2 Ford, Calder circa 1970…

(D Eagar)

Denis is rather a modest fellow, the next Devione piece will be about the Brabham BT23 inspired Devione LC2 Ford Twin-Cam 1.6 ANF2 car built by Denis- the ‘L’ and Ian Cook- the ‘C’, and raced successfully by the pair from 1969 to 1972. A car owned and being restored by Grant Twining in Hobart.

Finito…

(oldracephotos.com.au)

Brian Bowe settles himself into his Elfin Catalina Ford in the Baskerville paddock, 1966…

There is no such thing as an ugly Elfin, this little car looks a picture in the bucolic surrounds of Tasmania. Garrie Cooper’s first single-seater racing cars were built off the back of his front-engined ‘Streamliner’  sportscars success.

The pace of these Catalinas was demonstrated by Frank Matich and others, they sold well with twenty FJ’s/250 Production/275 and 375 Works Replicas built from 1961 to 1963.

This chassis was raced by Melbourne single-seater, sportscar and touring car ace Brian Sampson and was powered by a Ford Cosworth 1.5 litre pushrod motor.

It was bought by Bowe and ‘was Dad’s first factory racing car having competed in specials before that’ John Bowe said.

‘In fact had I had my first drive of a racer in this car at Symmons Plains in private practice. I was twelve, and just about to start high school!’ ‘In discussions with Dad in the weeks before i’d worked out how many revs in top was 100 mph and did just that- when he realised how fast I was going he stood in the middle of the track and flagged me down. Furious he was! Happy carefree days’.

Indeed, John Bowe, by 1976 was a works Ansett Team Elfin F5000 driver, the Bowes were an Elfin family, not exclusively mind you. JB raced an Elfin 500 FV, 600FF and 700 Ford ANF3 en-route to his F5000 ride- and 792 and GE225 ANF2 cars as well.

Lindsay Ross identifies Arthur Hilliard’s Riley Pathfinder racer and towcar at the rear right of the shot by the paddock fence. The blue sporty is Bob Wright’s Tasma Peugeot.

A quickie article about the Bowe Catalina became a feature thanks to Ed Holly posting online some of the late, great Australian motor racing historian, Graham Howard’s photo archive. Specifically shots of the prototype Elfin Formula Junior taken at the time of its birth at the Edwardstown factory and subsequent public launch at Warwick Farm on 17 September 1961.

As a result we can examine these important Elfins in far more detail than I had originally planned, including a contemporary track test by Bruce Polain and owner/driver impressions from Ed.

Bruce Polain testing the Elfin FJ Ford at Warwick Farm in September 1961 (G Howard)

Bruce Polain wrote an article about his experiences that day in ‘Australian Motor Sports’- here are the salient bits of it, lets get Bruce’s contemporary impressions of the car before exploring the design in detail.

‘Taking it quietly over The Causeway, the little Elfin accelerated hard in third gear on the run to Polo Corner. Braking firmly, the speed fell away rapidly and I was conscious of considerable suspension movement as we ran over the bumpy entrance to the corner- a reminder that this was the flooded section of the track during the ‘first ever’ Warwick Farm.’

‘Nevertheless the poor surface failed to affect the comfortable ride and with a slight amount of understeer I swung the car into Polo. The handling characteristics were such that it gave understeer into a corner and a small amount of oversteer on the way out. This is quite a popular setup as through a corner it allows a fast entry to begin with, then as the steering is brought back to a neutral position, the oversteering tendency may be checked by applying more power to the rear wheels.’

‘…I enjoyed the delights of driving this beautifully constructed, fast and most forgiving racing car. The semi-reclining seat was more than comfortable and gave excellent lateral support, which is so important for ease of control in corners. At speed, steering was delightfully light and precise- you could eat your lunch with one hand. The lusty 1100cc Cosworth Ford engine was a  wonderful propellent, easy to fire on the starter button, docile low down, yet bags of power when the accelerator was pressed.’

John Hartnett at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills, Elfin Streamliner Coventry Climax chassis ’13’ (R Hartnett)

Cooper first commenced design of the FJ in 1960, as stated above, off the back of success of the Streamliner series of sports cars built from 1959 to 1963- twenty-three in all.

During this period the name out front of 1 Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown, an Adelaide suburb, changed from ‘Cooper Motor Bodies’ to ‘Elfin Sports Cars’ which was indicative of the evolution of the then forty year old Cooper family business away from coach-building to the sexier but perhaps more challenging world of production racing cars.

Whilst nominally a Formula Junior design the twenty cars built had a range of engines fitted in capacities from 1 litre to 1.5 litres- Ford 105E, 116E, Peugeot, Coventry Climax FWA, Vincent HRD and Hillman Imp. They very quickly proved themselves capable of going wheel to wheel with the best cars from the UK- then THE hotbed of FJ development of course.

Lotus 18 like upright and rear suspension clear in this shot, as is the split-case VeeWee 36HP gearbox (G Howard)

The chassis of the car was a multi-tubular spaceframe of 16 and 18 gauge mild-steel tubing in varying diameters from five-eighths of an inch to an inch. It was strengthened by fitment of a stressed floorpan made of 19 and 20 gauge aluminium alloy.

Rear suspension was clearly inspired by the Lotus 18. It was fully independent with fixed length driveshafts which formed the suspension upper members. The lower wishbones incorporated adjustments for camber, toe and roll-centre height. ‘Driving and braking torques are controlled by long trailing arms (radius rods in more modern parlance) two per side.’ The uprights or ‘pillars’ are Cooper’s design of cast magnesium.

(G Howard)

Front suspension was period typical using unequal length upper and lower wishbones, note the Armstrong shock absorber, adjustable roll bar, unsighted is the Alford and Alder Triumph front upright. Steering was by way of a lightweight rack and pinion, the wheel wood-rimmed with a diameter of 13.5 inches. The brakes were Lockheed 2LS front and rear, the drums alloy bi-metal with radial finning.

(G Howard)

The engine was the Ford 105E which would become ubiquitous in the class. Cooper built the engine in Adelaide.

GC and his team designed and printed a very detailed brochure about the cars, no doubt with the racing car show in mind- giveaways are important at these events.

Its interesting to see how the two Ford Cosworth 105E engines offered were described.

The ‘Poverty Pack’ 250 Production Model FJ was a budget racing car fitted with pressed-steel wheels, cast iron rather than alloy bi-metal brake drums, non-adjustable shocks and non-close ratio gearbox.

It was offered with a Ford Cosworth 1000cc Formula Junior Mk3 ’85 Engine’ producing over 85bhp @ 7250rpm. ‘Every engine is dynamometer tested to at least this output before leaving the factory.’

The engine was fully balanced including crankshaft, flywheel and clutch, connecting rods and pistons.

Carburation was by two 40 DCOE Weber carbs on Cosworth manifolds- they were enclosed within the bodywork and fed by cold air from a duct on the lefthand side of the cockpit. The distributor was modified, the crankshaft pulley was ‘special’ for the water pump drive- visually the whole package was set off by a Cosworth light alloy rocker cover so the ‘psyching’ started in the paddock.

The ‘ducks guts’ 275 Works Replica Model offered the Cosworth Mk4 1100cc engine giving a minimum of 95bhp with ‘the average output of these engines 97-100bhp’.

The trick Mk4 differed from its smaller brother in that it had a bigger bore, special stronger connecting rods, special steel main bearing caps, bigger valves and different combustion chambers. ‘Replaceable valve guides are fitted as standard. Like the Mk3 these engines have a competition clutch, tachometer take-off, oil cooler union and special anti-surge sump.’

When the Ford Cosworth 1500cc engine was later fitted in the Works Replica model it was designated ‘375WR’.

(G Howard)

Gearbox was a split- case VW 36 horsepower which was modified in Adelaide and fitted with close ratios with ‘top gear running on a special roller bearing.’ A lightweight bell-housing mated the gearbox and engine, the final drive ratio was 4.42:1. The gear lever was mounted to the left of the driver. Note the different lower wishbone inner end alternative pickup points.

(G Howard)

When completed the little car (prototype car #4 ) was a handsome little beastie complete with full bodywork from nose to aft of the gearbox.

Success came quickly, its interesting looking at these photographs of the car being prepared for and shown at one of the track days to get the message out there. The motorsport shows the boys from Adelaide attended on the east coast would have been a significant exercise and cost at the time.

I don’t think Cooper’s commercial success in the toughest of markets in the toughest of industries- manufacturing has ever been truly recognised. I  have mostly run and owned small businesses all of my adult life and know full well how hard it is to churn a dollar- Elfins survived and thrived for several decades under Garrie’s stewardship and then that of Don Elliott with Tony Edmondson at the coalface. I’ll stop the Elfin history there which is not to discount what followed, but from a production racing car perspective, that was it.

(G Howard)

The bodywork for the first three cars was made of aluminium by craftsman John Webb who was a constant throughout the whole of Elfin’s ‘glory days’- right up to the construction of the body of Vern Schuppan’s MR8C Chev Can-Am bodied F5000 machine.

On the fourth and subsequent cars the fibreglass bodywork was by Ron Tonkin- this comprised the nose, tail sections and cockpit surround. The side panels were of aluminium and ‘semi-stressed’.

Very pretty wheels were of magnesium alloy, 13 inches in diameter ‘with wide rims, (4.5 inches at the front and 5.5 inches wide at the rear) were finished in black anodite before machining. The wheels and uprights were Elfin’s design and cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne.

‘Unsprung weight is further reduced by incorporating the wheel bearings directly in the front wheels.’

(G Howard)

 

(Ed Holly)

The photograph below is a very well known one to some of us of a certain age who bought or were given for Christmas 1973 (!) a copy of Bryan Hanrahan’s ‘Motor Racing The Australian Way’- this photo introduced the Elfin chapter. A decade or so later it was published in the ‘Elfin Bible’ Barry Catford and John Blanden’s ‘Australia’s Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’.

(G Howard)

Clustered around the Elfin are Tom Stevens and Norman Gilbert from BP- almost from the start Elfin supporters and sponsors, Cliff Cooper, Garrie Cooper and Murray Lewis ‘with the prototype Elfin FJ ready to leave for an interstate race meeting and motor show’.

The car was first shown at the Melbourne Racing Car Show in August 1961 and then raced for the first time at Warwick Farm that September in the hands of Arnold Glass, then an elite level competitor racing a BRM P48.

Barry Catford wrote that Arnold was in Adelaide to contest events at Mallala’s opening meeting on 18 August 1961 and had plenty of time on his hands to visit the team at Conmurra Road having fatally (for the car) boofed the BRM in practice. The story of that car is told here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/16/bourne-to-ballarat-brm-p48-part-2/

Glass offered to drive the car on its race debut, something Cooper and BP’s Tom Stevens were keen to support.

The team of Garrie and Cliff Cooper, Tom and John Lewis took the car to Melbourne and then on to Sydney for its debut. Garrie drove the car initially and whilst it handled well the softly sprung machine bottomed over The Causeway and Northern and Western crossings (of the horse racing track underneath).

Modifications were made that night but several laps early in the day indicated the cars balance was lost- further changes were made, the cars poise had been regained in official practice when GC again drove.

Glass had no chance to officially practice but sweet talked the officials to allow him to run during one of the other racing car sessions- he was within three-tenths of Leo Geoghegan’s well developed Lotus 18 Ford FJ. The weary crew retired at 3 am on race morning having replaced the gearbox and clutch- which was slipping towards the end of the Glass lappery. All the hard work was rewarded with a second to Leo- not bad for the cars first race.

Keith Rilstone’s Catalina Ford ‘6317’ on its first day out at Mallala in very late 1963, factory records have it’s completion that November (G Patullo)

The prototype car, chassis ’61P1′ was sold to Adelaide businessmen and racers Andy Brown and Granton Harrison who had much success with it. Queenslander Roy Morris did well with his Coventry Climax FWA engined car- as did John McDonald’s 1350cc engined car- neither FJ legal of course.

One of the most commercially astute moves Cooper ever made was the appointment of up and coming- well ok!, he had well and truly arrived by then, Frank Matich as the works driver of three cars which were located at his Punchbowl, Sydney Total Service Station. An 1100cc chassis ‘625’, a 1500cc chassis ‘627’ and a Clubman fitted with another Cosworth engine of 1340cc. In addition Matich was appointed as Elfin’s NSW agent.

An interesting aspect is that in the process of deciding who to give the factory cars to, Matich tested the cars, as did Peter Willamson and David McKay with FM the quicker of the three. Perhaps Cooper’s gut feel as to the driver he wanted was validated by this process. The choices are interesting in that Williason was at the start of his career whereas David McKay was in the twlight’ish of his.

Mel McEwin #16 Elfin Catalina 1500 passes Andy Brown in the Elfin FJ Ford prototype during the ‘GT Harrison Trophy’, support race at the 1963 ATCC meeting. Keith Rilstone won the race in the truly wild Eldred Norman built Zephyr Spl s/c- McEwin was 3rd and Garrie Cooper 4th in another Elfin Cat 1500- I wonder if it was seeing the cars up close at this meeting that made up Keith’s mind to get with the strength and buy one! (B Smith)

Whilst Matich was new to single-seaters, his outright pace in various sportscars- Austin Healey, C and D Type Jags, Lotus 15 and 19 Climax was clear. For Frank the deal was a beauty as he had the opportunity to show his prowess in a new field. Catford wrote that FM’s only open-wheeler experience to that point was a few warm-up laps in Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20B Ford when it first arrived in Australia early in 1962.

Critically, Matich put Elfins front and centre to racers in Australia’s biggest market- New South Wales, with subsequent sales reflecting the success of Matich and others.

Cooper got a longer term benefit as Matich turned to him for his first ‘Big V8’ sportscar, the Elfin 400 Olds aka ‘Traco Olds’ in part based on GC’s design talents which he had experienced first hand in the small-bore machines listed above. Matich in turn proved the pace of the 400, outta the box, in winning the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy in his third meeting with the car at Longford in March 1966.

The red Elfin was the Junior, the 1500 was green up until Frank decided to let the 1500 go, which went to Charlie Smith and the red car went from 1100 to 1500′ Ed Holly

Frank’s first meeting in the FJ cars was at Warwick Farm on 14 October 1962- Matich was fourth in the Hordern Trophy Gold Star event- in amongst and ahead of some of the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engine cars, and despite a one minute penalty for a spin! (tough in those days!).

This was indicative of what was to come a fortnight later in the first Australian Formula Junior Championship held at the new Catalina Park circuit at Katoomba in the NSW Blue Mountains, 100 Km to Sydney’s west.

Frank Matich is shown below in the red Elfin FJ Ford alongside Gavin Youl’s Brabham BT2 Ford and Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 22 Ford. The front row comprised the latest Brabham, Lotus and Elfin FJ’s- Leo’s Lotus was literally just off the plane. On row 2 is Clive Nolan’s 5th placed Lotus 20 Ford.

(B Miller)

Matich won the 30 lap race from Youl and Geoghegan in a weekend of absolute dominance , the win was the first of many Australian titles for Elfin and spawned the ‘Catalina’ name for this series of spaceframe chassis open-wheelers.

Catford notes the presence that weekend of Tony Alcock in the team- well known to Australian enthusiasts as an Elfin long-termer and close confidant of Garrie Cooper before going to the UK and returning to form Birrana Cars with fellow South Australian Malcolm Ramsay. International readers may recall him as one of the poor unfortunates to perish in the plane piloted and crashed by Graham Hill upon return to the UK after a French circuit test of the new Hill GH1 Ford F1 car.

Matich contested eight events hat weekend! in the two Elfins- FJ/Clubman and Lotus 19 winning six of them and placing in the other two.

Development work and evolution of the cars continued throughout their production life including incorporation of Triumph Spitfire disc brakes on the front- with Jack Hunnam fitting alloy racing calipers and discs to all four wheels of his car.

Lyn Archer’s Catalina at the Domain Hillclimb, Hobart in November 1964. Lyn raced the car successfully for a few years, sold it, and bought it back. Upon his death a few years back his family still owns it (R Dalwood)

Other notable drivers of Catalinas were Kevin Bartlett in the McGuire Family Imp engine car, Jack Hunnam, the Victorian Elfin agent won 12 races from 18 starts in his supposedly 165bhp 1500cc pushrod Ford engine disc braked car ‘6312’, before selling it to Tasmanian Lyn Archer. He won the 1966 Tasmanian Racing Car Championship in it and was timed at 150mph on Longford’s Flying Mile in 1965. Greg Cusack was quick in the car owned by Scuderia Veloce, winning the 1964 Australian Formula 2 Championship from David Walker’s Brabham and Hunnam’s Catalina. Other Catalina racers included Barry Lake, Keith Rilstone and Noel Hurd.

Perhaps the most unusual application of a Catalina was chassis ‘6313’ which was acquired by Dunlop UK for tyre testing to assist the Donald Campbell, Bluebird CN7 Proteus attempt on the World Land Speed Record at South Australia’s Lake Eyre in 1963 and 1964.

That effort is in part covered here but a feature on the Elfin Catalina aspects of it is coming soon- all but finished, https://primotipo.com/2014/07/16/50-years-ago-today-17-july-1964-donald-campbell-broke-the-world-land-speed-record-in-bluebird-at-lake-eyre-south-australia-a-speed-of-403-10-mph/

‘6313’ Ford on the Lake Eyre salt- steel wheels fitted with Bluebird Dunlops in miniature (F Radman)

 

This corker of a shot is by Gavin Fry- were it not for the presence of the Elfin Catalina on the trailer (who?) it could be an Australian summer beach scene, but it is an early Calder meeting (when?) (G Fry)

The Elfin Mallala was a very important car in the pantheon of Elfin’s history.

The twenty cars built provided solid cashflow for the Cooper family business, off the back of the solid start the Streamliner provided, the company now had a reputation for making fine single-seaters in addition to sporties.

Importantly Cooper had attracted some of the biggest names in Australia to his marque- Matich and McKay to name two. The Catalina ‘hardware’ also spawned a small run of mid-engined sportscars- the Mallala, of which five were built from late 1962 to early 1964.

Ray Strong, Elfin Mallala Ford, Huntley Hillclimb in December 1968. This design, derived from the Catalina, is one of the prettiest of all Elfins in my book- effective too (B Simpson)

Perhaps the only thing which suffered by virtue of this commercial success, albeit still limited capital base, was Cooper’s own driving career as he had neither the time or the spare cash to build a car for himself!

That would be remedied by the ‘Mono’ Type 100, his ‘radical’ single-seater which followed the conservative Catalina- and in which GC was very quick.

The Mono is a story for another time but is told in part here; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/18/clisby-douglas-spl-and-clisby-f1-1-5-litre-v6/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/22/elfin-mono-clisby-mallala-april-1965/

Garrie Cooper in Elfin Mono Mk2D Ford Twin-Cam ‘MD6755’ at Symmons Plains in 1967 (J Lambert)

The Owner/Driver’s Experience…

Ed Holly gives us the Catalina owner/drivers perspective…

‘The works 1500 or WR375 was the first of 2 Elfin “Catalina’s”  that Frank Matich drove.

I bought chassis ‘625’ from Adam Berryman who had quite some success with it before me. As this was the first ever single-seater for me I had no benchmark to compare with, having raced MGA’s for about 7 years previously. It went on to give me success too including the Jack Brabham Trophy put up once a year by the HSRCA for Group M 1st place at their main meeting at Eastern Creek.

For me the transition to single seater was made very easy by this car and looking back there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly in 2000 you could get very good Japanese Dunlops – a beautiful tyre and the car was shod with 450 front and 550 rear. This gave a very neutral feel to the car with the set-up fettled by Dave Mawer for me at that time.

The power was a great match to the chassis. As the engine only had a standard crank I revved it to 6,800 but the torque was tremendous, no doubt the 12.7 comp ratio had a lot to do with that. The gear-change and box were perfect, it had a VW C/R box and standard H pattern.

Race start would invariably see the car launch through the row in front, usually twin-cam Brabhams as they struggled with the dogleg gear-change from 1st to 2nd, the Elfin was a straight through change and very quick, and the engine torque allowed wheel-spin to be kept to a minimum and the power band came in at least 1500 rpm less meaning you were well on your way whilst they were still waiting for the torque to kick in.

Handling wise the car was viceless, the perfect first single seater – in fact I set a Group M class lap record at Eastern Creek with it at 1:45 and it took me about 5 years in my Group M Brabham BT6 (twin-cam 40 more bhp, 5 not 4 speeds and discs all round) to better that. Mind you the tyres as mentioned above were far inferior by the time the  Brabham arrived and in fact I re-set the lap record on 10 year old Japanese Dunlops – the brand new flown in English ones being about 3 seconds slower that same weekend.’

Matich in ‘625’ gets the jump at the start from Leo Geoghegan and the nose of Frank Gardner at the 1963 Blue Mountains Trophy race at Catalina Park- Catalina/WR375, Lotus 22 Ford and Brabham BT2 Ford- all 1500 pushrods. Matich won from Gardner and Geoghegan (J Ellacott)

‘Years later having driven Elfin, Lotus 20, Brabham BT15, BT6, BT21C and BT21 replica – I guess I was in a position to make a judgement about the Elfin.

In my opinion Garrie got it perfect for the time. Loosely based on the Lotus 18 concept, it is a hugely superior car to the Lotus 20 that succeeded the 18.

I spoke at length with Frank Matich about the design and we both agreed that on paper it didn’t look all that wonderful, BUT, it was – the results Frank achieved with it were sensational, often beating the Climax 2.5 powered Coopers.

I’ve never driven a Elfin with 1100cc- but Frank did and with a Junior 1100 he knocked off Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 20 1500 at Sandown. To me that shows that the Elfin was just a little ahead of the competition in that wonderful early 1960’s period. And that is my observation too.

Finally the big race- 20 laps at Catalina for the Formula Junior Championship 1962 where the Elfin was up against the brand new Lotus 22 of Leo Geoghegan’s and the just arrived from UK Brabham BT2 works car driven by Gavin Youl – and other FJ’s – the Elfin and Matich beat them all even after running out of fuel on the last corner!’

(S Dalton)

Events like Melbourne’s ‘Motorclassica’ are fantastic shows of classic and racing cars but they are celebrations of the past.

Its amazing to think that in the sixties, whilst the old stuff had its place, a significant part of a competition car show comprised exhibitions of contemporary, and in many cases Australian made racing cars.

Stephen Dalton provided the cover of the magazine for the 1964 ‘Melbourne Racing Car Show’ put together by Melbourne businessman/racers Lex Davison, the Leech Brothers and several others.

The event was held at the Royal Exhibition Building over three days, 13-15 August 1964, and is somewhat poignant in that it’s purpose was to assist Rocky Tresise’ girlfriend Robyn Atherton raise funds in the Miss Mercy Hospital Quest. Many of you are aware that ‘Ecurie Australie’ founder, Lex and his protege, Rocky, died six months later- Lex of a heart attack at the wheel of his Brabham at Sandown, and Rocky a week later at Longford in Lex’ older Cooper.

Stephen notes that cars displayed included MG, Aston Martin, Lotus, Ferrari, Cooper and many others. Elfin were represented by local agent, Jack Hunnam whose new Mono was on display only several days prior to its race debut at Calder.

Etcetera…

The following is a nice little human interest story ran in ‘Pix’ magazine about Garrie Cooper and Elfin in 1963- courtesy of the Elfin Sixties Sportscars Facebook page.

I’ve included it as it’s very much ‘on point’- Cooper, Catalina, Clubman and Matich.

 

 

 

(Ed Holly)

Charlie Smith in the ex-Matich Catalina at Mount Panorama in 1963, he drove the car well with success. Don’t know much about this guy, had a drive or two in the Mildren Lotus 23 Ford, intrigued to know more.

(S Dalton)

Andy brown loops his Catalina as fellow South Australian John Marston approaches aboard his- Shell Corner at Calder on 20 January 1963. Andy went on to own one of the most famous Elfins of all a few years later, the ‘F1’ Elfin T100 ‘Mono’ Clisby 1.5 V6.

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

 

The photographs above are the balance of the pages of the Elfin Catalina sales brochure produced for use at motor shows not shown earlier in the article.

Credits and References …

oldracephotos.com.au, Ed Holly Collection, ‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ Barry Catford and John Blanden, Fred Radman, Grant Patullo, John Ellacott, Dick Simpson, James Lambert Collection, Brenton Smith Collection, Brian Miller Collection, Reg Dalwood, Article by Bruce Polain in ‘Australian Motor Sports’

(Ed Holly)

One Man’s Hobby. Or is that Obsession?!…

When Ed Holly and I first communicated about this article he sent thru a few pics of some engines he had built. I thought ‘gees! that’s interesting and amazing!’, so here they are.

Ed advises on how his engine building career commenced.

‘Having had a lathe for many years, when I added a mill to the workshop I wanted to learn how best to use it.

As I didn’t have a restoration project at the time, the lightbulb in the head said build a model engine – I flew models as a kid and loved the diesels back then as you didn’t need to buy a battery to start them!

So I searched the web and selected a BollAero18 and set about making one, a 1.8cc simple diesel. Well it took a while to interpret the plans having no technical background requiring that. I steadily worked through the components and the big day came and blow me down it ran !

That sort of started a bit of an obsession till the next project arrived.

(Ed Holly)

 

Now 16 model diesels later I have certainly learnt how to use a mill- more than half the engines are to my design and the English ‘AeroModeller’ January issue published plans and a review of one designed for first up builds. I called it the Holly Buddy.

Plans and build for this engine can be found at https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/jFvcCZYMxgU5nKmqFz21YC

For those into specifics – the aim is one or two tenths of a thou taper in the bore and a squeaky tight piston fit at tdc – that’s the ultimate fit for a diesel. The photo’s show an inline twin before and after assembly.’

So…set to it folks, you too can be a race engine builder!

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

Tailpiece: Elfin 275WR Ford 1100 FJ…

Simply superb cutaway drawing of the Catalina by Peter Wlkinson. Very few Australian racing cars have been so ‘dissected’ in this manner over the years which is a shame.

Mr Wilkinson’s work, I know little about the man, compares very favourably with his peers in England and Europe at the time. Ed kindly sent me this cutaway at high resolution- ‘blow it up’, you can literally see the Elfin’s pixie like face on the wheel caps!

Car specification is as per the text.

Finito…

hawt goodwood

One of the better known photographs in motor racing is Louis Klemantaski’s shot of Mike Hawthorn’s Cooper T20 Bristol attacking the apex of Fordwater at Goodwood in 1952…

The Klemantaski Collection archive describe the photograph thus; Hawthorn is obviously really on the absolute limit with this Cooper-Bristol. And of course he is aiming right for Klemantaski who had positioned himself at the edge of the track exactly at the apex of the very fast Fordwater corner on the back of the Goodwood circuit. What a dynamic image!

This race was the ‘Sussex International Trophy’ for Formula Libre racing cars on June 2, 1952.

Hawthorn won, perhaps somewhat aided by his father Leslie’s long experience with nitromethane. It was Hawthorn’s third outing with a friend’s Cooper-Bristol.

On April 14th at Goodwood he came up against Juan Manuel Fangio, driving another Cooper, and won against the already famous Argentinian driver. Hawthorn won two races with the Cooper that weekend and finished second in the final race of the day to Froilán González in Tony Vandervell’s Thinwall Special Ferrari GP car.

Then Hawthorn entered the Daily Express International Trophy on May 10th with the same Cooper-Bristol to win the first heat, but finished several laps down in the final due to gearshift problems.

His excellent showing with the Cooper at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps where he was fourth and at the subsequent British Grand Prix finishing third led to an offer from Ferrari for 1953- and an eventual World Championship aboard the Ferrari Dino 246 in 1958.

image

1953 French GP Reims July 1953. Mike Hawthorn’s Ferrari 500 and Juan Fangio’s #18 Maserati A6GCM flat out, grinning at one another, Mike won by 1 second after 300 miles of racing (Getty)

‘Hawthorn died in a road crash in January 1959 after retiring from racing at the end of his Championship year, is remembered by his own book Challenge Me the Race and Champion Year and in several biographies, including Mon Ami Mate and Golden Boy. Mike Hawthorn’s grave is in Farnham, Surrey where he is still well remembered and where he and his father had run the Tourist Trophy Garage for many years’, the Klemantaski Collection wrote.

Articles on the Cooper Bristol T20/23…

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

https://primotipo.com/2017/02/24/the-cooper-t23-its-bristolbmw-engine-and-spaceframe-chassis/

https://primotipo.com/2016/06/24/jacks-altona-grand-prix-and-cooper-t23-bristol/

Credits…

Louis Klemantaski, Raymond Groves

Check out The Klemantaski Collection;  https://klemcoll.wordpress.com/about/

Tailpiece: The tie dear boy, the tie…

hawt funny

(Raymond Groves)

Finito…

image

Veruschka von Lehndorff and Hiram Keller displaying the fine fashion of April 1969- Maserati Ghibli as a backdrop…

You are aching to know, I can feel it! German Countess Vera von Lehndorff-Steinort, the first Supermodel looking particularly fierce, wears a Mila Schon double faced pant suit with a yellow and black gilet, (a light sleeveless padded jacket apparently) he, an American actor and model, sports a black and white cotton print shirt by Carlo Palazzi. The photograph was for a Vogue magazine shoot dated 1 April 1969.

(B Betti)

Maserati unveiled the original Ghia/Giorgetto Giugiaro designed Ghibli at the 1966 Turin Motor Show as a two-seater.

Two ‘rear seats’- a cushion and backrest, enabled the car to be marketed as a 2+2. The 4.7 litre, DOHC, two-valve, dry-sumped, quadruple Weber fed V8 gave around 306 bhp and hit the road via a five-speed ZF manual or three-speed automatic gearbox. Front suspension comprised upper and lower wishbones with coil spring damper units. At the back was a good ‘ole fashioned live axle on semi-elliptic springs, dampers, and torque arm. Roll bars were fitted front and rear.

Spyder and 4.9 litre 330 bhp Ghibli SS variants were introduced in 1969, the total production run was circa 1295 cars.

Credit…

Franco Rubartelli, Bruno Betti

Finito…

(unattributed)

Frank Matich ahead of the Australian sportscar pack at Warwick Farm in 1968- the car is his Matich SR3 Repco ‘720’ 4.4 V8, 5 May …

The chasing pack comprises the ex-works Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 350 Can-Am driven by Bill Brown- filling Chris Amon’s shoes after he departed back to Europe, Niel Allen’s white Elfin 400 Chev, Bob Jane’s #2 Elfin 400 Repco 4.4 driven by Ian Cook and then the #5 Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM of Pete Geoghegan.

Pete and Leo G shared the car to win the Surfers 6 Hour enduro later that year, both had a drive or three of the ‘Old Red Lady’ as David McKay referred to his favourite car, in preparation for the race.

The #16 car is Tony Osbourne’s Argo Chev driven by Peter Macrow- then the twin-dark striped Lotus 23B Ford of Bob Muir another obscured Lotus 23- that of Glynn Scott, then the distinctive shape of a mid-dark coloured Elfin Mallala Ford driven by Ray Strong in front of Doug MacArthur, Lotus 26R and then, finally, John Leffler’s Cooper S Lightweight at the rear. His ‘Sports-Racing Closed’ Mini is somewhat of a fish outta-water amongst this lot.

Of the ‘big bangers’ racing in Australia at the time, the Lionel Ayers MRC Oldsmobile is absent as is the Noel Hurd driven, Globe Products owned Elfin 400 Ford. Oh, there is no sign of Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 or was he in between 906’s at the time perhaps?

There was no Australian Sportscar Championship in 1968- but the order of this race, in its first lap and just after the start is pretty much indicative of the state of competitive play at the time.

For the sake of completeness, the one race Australian Tourist Trophy, a prestigious event, was run at Mallala in January 1968 and won by Matich at a canter from Geoff Vercoe’s Cicada Ford, three laps adrift of FM’s SR3. Of the cars in the opening photograph, only the Jane Elfin 400 made the trip to South Australia.

Perhaps the timing of the ATT was sub-optimal as most of the top guns ran in the Tasman Series sportscar support races- at Surfers, Warwick Farm, Sandown and Longford over four weeks from 11 February to 4 March. The Adelaide race was tempting fate so close to the start of the Tasman and logistically Adelaide and the Gold Coast are a long way apart regardless of a team home base in Melbourne or Sydney.

Happy chappy. FM sits in his brand new Matich SR4 Repco 4.8 ‘760’ during the cars press launch at the ‘Rothmans Theatre’, Sydney Showgrounds on 26 November 1968. Car made its race debut the following weekend at Warwick Farm on 1 December

The ball-game changed into 1969 off course, Matich’s SR4 4.8 litre Repco 760- four cam ‘Sledge Hammer’ first raced at Warwick Farm on 1 December 1968. Then Bob Jane’s McLaren M6B Repco ‘740’ 5 litre and Niel Allen’s Chev F5000 engined Elfin ME5 joined the grids during 1969.

But Matich blew the grid apart with the SR4 all the same, and then, thankfully for all of us, jumped back into single-seaters (F5000) where he belonged.

But Lordy, didn’t he provide some fizz, fire and sparkle to sportscar racing for a decade or so? Just ask Chris Amon how quick FM was in a sporty during that Tasman Summer of Sixty-Eight…

Photo and Other Credits…

Snapper of the opening photograph unknown- i’d like to attribute it as it is a beaut shot if any of you can assist, Getty Images, Dick Simpson, Mike Feisst, Dave Friedman and Brian Caldersmith Collections.

‘Australia’s Top Sports Cars’ article by Graham Howard in Racing Car News May 1967. Thanks to Dale Harvey and Neil Stratton for assisting with car identification and the event date of the opening photograph.

Frank Matich and the SR3 Oldsmobile during the Warwick Farm Tasman meeting in 1967- the car’s race debut. That’s Ted Proctor’s Proctor Climax behind. Traco tuned ally Olsmobile V8, ZF 5 speed box and chassis all but identical to the Elfin 400 which preceded this car with some tubes added (D Simpson)

SR3 Etcetera…

I’ve not quite gotten to the Matich SR3’s yet, in terms of an article but click on the SR4 piece referenced below- there is a bit at the end of it about the SR3 and a complete Matich chassis list which will tell you what is what.

The 1967-1968 period is an interesting one from a technological racing history perspective.

Huge advances were made in tyres thanks to the application of vast wads of polymer chemistry research dollars to create products which were grippier than those which went before with consequent reduction in lap times.

Then of course their was the exponential progress in aerodynamics pioneered by Jim Hall and his boys at Chaparral in Midland, Texas well before their adoption by Ferrari and Brabham in F1 first, in 1968.

Sandown Tasman meeting the week after Warwick Farm, Peters Corner. This series of SR3’s were beautiful racing cars in all and whatever form. Note that the rear spoiler is bigger than that used the week before (B Caldersmith)

Of interest perhaps, is that it seems Matich and his crew have changed the roll-bar section of the chassis between its debut at Warwick Farm, see the colour photo above, and Sandown. Look how high it is in Sydney, and how low in Melbourne the week later whilst FM appears to be sitting in the same spot.

The car ran in as finished and completely unsorted state at the Farm with FM treating the whole weekend inclusive of races as a test and development exercise- Niel Allen won the feature race at that meeting in the ex-Matich Elfin 400 Traco Olds.

(M Feisst)

Peter Mabey prepares to alight the new SR3 he helped build, in the Sandown paddock. The gorgeous dark green machine with its neat gold ‘Frank Matich Pty Ltd’ and ‘SR3’ sign-writing and striping is about to be scrutineered.

The body, to Matich design, was built by Wal Hadley Pty. Ltd. at Smithfield in Sydney’s outer west, no doubt Wal and his crew enjoyed working on a racer rather than the hearses which were and still are their mainstream business!

The chassis was constructed by Bob Britton’s Rennmax Engineering in Croydon Park, also to Sydney’s west but closer in. Various independent sources have it, including Britton, that the spaceframe is pretty much tube-for-tube Elfin 400 with a few additional sections added to assist torsional rigidity.

Graham Howard credits the wheel design as Britton’s, said items of beauty were cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne- also suppliers to Garrie Cooper.

Peter Mabey did the Can-Am tour with FM in 1967, I wonder where he is these days, his story of the Matich years would be interesting?

FM beside the SR3 Repco 4.4 V8 at Road America on 3 September 1967. Note the front spoiler, car still fitted with ZF tranny. The plan was to return to the US with the SR4 in 1968. If the team had done that, fitted with a reliable 5 litre 560 bhp V8 it is conceivable FM could have taken a Can-Am round whilst noting the 7 litre 1968 McLaren M8A Chev’s were almighty cars. If, if, if… (D Friedman)

So, the delicate looking Matich SR3 Oldsmobile which made its race debut at the Warwick Farm Tasman round in 1967 is ‘effete’ in comparison to the fire-breathing 4.4 litre Repco RB720 V8 engined car- blooded in battle during several Can-Am rounds in 1967, which took on, and slayed Chris Amon’s Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 350 Can-Am in the three 1968 Tasman sportscar races Matich contested that summer.

For whatever reason, I am intrigued to know why, FM did not contest the final round at Longford- the last ever race meeting at the late, lamented road circuit. To have seen Frank and Chris duking it out on that circuit, in those damp conditions, on that day- Amon took the all-time lap record in the Ferrari remember, would really have been something!

(B Caldersmith)

The two shots from Brian Caldersmith’s Collection above and below were taken during the 1968 Warwick Farm Tasman- Chis and Frank had some great dices with the hometown boy coming out on top.

In similar fashion to Matich, Amon didn’t do the whole Can-Am in 1967, he joined the series after two of the P4’s which he and his teammates had raced in the manufacturers championship were ‘sliced and diced’ into Can-Am 350 lightweight Group 7 form. But Chris had seen enough of the SR3 stateside to know his Australian summer would not be a cakewalk.

This SR3 is considerably lower with much wider tyres of a diminished aspect ratio compared with twelve months before- at this stage FM was the Australian Firestone Racing Tyre importer/distributor and doing plenty of test miles.

No high wing was fitted to the car yet- despite FM looking closely at what Chaparral were up to in the US, but that would come of course.

(B Caldersmith)

Further Reading…

Ferrari P4/Can-Am 350; https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/

Elfin 400/Traco Olds; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/28/elfin-400traco-olds-frank-matich-niel-allen-and-garrie-cooper/

Matich SR4 with some SR3 bits; https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

Longford with plenty of 350 Can-Am; https://primotipo.com/2018/07/05/longford-lap/

Matich, SR3 (RCN-Dickson)

Tailpiece: O’Sullivan, Matich SR3 Repco from Niel Allen, Elfin 400 Chev, Warwick Farm early 1969…

(D Simpson)

Roll on another twelve months to Warwick Farm 1969 and Matich is up front in the distance aboard the all-conquering SR4 Repco 760 4.8 V8 with Perth businessman-racer Don O’Sullivan racing the now winged SR3 Repco 720 4.4 V8.

The car following O’Sullivan through the ‘Farm’s Esses is the Elfin 400 Chev aka ‘Traco Olds’ raced by Matich in 1966- sweeping all before him that year before building the first SR3 and selling the Elfin to Niel Allen. Niel and Peter Molloy modified the car in several ways, most notably replacing the Olds/ZF combination with a 5 litre Chev and Hewland DG300 gearbox- but not really troubling Matich with the modified, faster car.

Lets not forget the role Garrie Cooper played in contributing to the design of the SR3- it is all but a direct copy of the Elfin 400 chassis- that story told in the Elfin 400 article link above.

Superb ‘Racing Car News’ cover by David Atkinson of Matich in the SR3 ahead of Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 Spyder.

The 1967 Australian Tourist Trophy was won by Matich from Hamilton and Glynn Scott’s Lotus 23B Ford on 21 May 1967 at Surfers Paradise.

The scene depicted has a bit of creative licence in terms of the earth banks on the right, if indeed it is meant to be Surfers?

Finito…

 

The Benowa/Southport road circuit taking in 5.7 miles of Gold Coast hinterland was shortlived…

The November 1954 Formula Libre Australian Grand Prix for cars was run and won there by Lex Davison in an HWM Jaguar after Stan Jones massive accident due to chassis failure of Maybach 2 gifted his fellow Melburnian the win.

https://primotipo.com/2018/03/01/1954-australian-grand-prix-southport-qld/

 

 

The Oz Motorcycle Tourist Trophy was contested on the 16 October weekend in 1955 and won by Eric Hinton, see here for a summary of his career; https://amcn.com.au/editorial/erichinton1/

These two photos are uber-rare colour shots of the circuit and capture the nature and flavour of the place marvellously.

The ‘bike is an AJS 7R, the name of the rider unknown. Checkout the scene; plenty of ciggies in evidence and hats and trousers which date the photograph- whereas colourful white hatted ‘cool dude’ in centre shot would fit right in at Burleigh Heads now. Similarly, the fellow in the dark T-Shirt, perhaps one of the riders, looks contemporary.

Do get in touch if you have a program and can assist with the names of the riders and their mounts.

Hazell and Moore (the truck) were importers and distributors of motorcycles and operated their business in most of the Australian States, what company were they absorbed into I wonder?

 

 

Benowa was soon replaced as Queensland’s main racetrack by the Lowood Airfield- you can still drive the Benowa/Southport roads but the built-up urban nature of the Gold Coast, now a major growth corridor, bares absolutely no resemblance to these scenes. Mind you, it was sixty plus years ago.

There is a bit about Lowood towards the end of this article; https://primotipo.com/2016/03/18/lowood-courier-mail-tt-1957-jaguar-d-type-xkd526-and-bill-pitt/

 

Right hander near the Nerang River with the Golf Course entrance on the left. Perils of the road track readily apparent (Fisher/Pearson)

 

Credits…

I’ve managed to lose the photo credits in my excitement, perhaps one of you citizens of Bob Williamson’s Old Australian Race Photos Facebook page can set me straight. Speedway and Road Race History, Alec Fisher/Maurice Pearson Collection

 

Tailpiece: Morry Minor, Miss Coolangatta Glenys Wood and Eric Hinton on 1955 victory parade lap…

 

(Fisher/Pearson)

 

Finito…