(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…

Comments
  1. Wayne Giles says:

    I don’t wish to be picky especially given the great job you do with these articles, but I think the Matich in the leading photo is the SR3 rather than the SR4.

  2. Derek Kneller says:

    Your first photos states that FM is in his SR4 , look again Mark the car is his SR3

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Derek,
      Slippa the brain! Fixed, plans for the UK firming, should be there from about 17 July to 21 July- quick trip for wedding in Bourne End. You about??
      M

  3. The 23b with the two dark stripes is Bob Muir and the partly obscured 23b is probably Glynn Scott. Then Ray Stong in the Mallala followed by Doug MacArthur and then John Leffler.

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Dale,
      Between you and Neil Stratton the names and date are sorted, I’ve updated the article and included you both in the credits.
      What about the photographer tho? More often than not I can make a pretty good guess these days but that one has me tossed- any clues? Lance? – but it’s not his typical sort of shot either.
      Mark

      • Terry Sullivan says:

        Mark

        In the third photo of Matich at Warwick Farm the following car is NOT Hamilton in a Porsche.

        It is Ted Proctor in the Proctor Climax.

      • markbisset says:

        Thanks Terry,
        Have changed the caption accordingly. A new car on me, wonder if it still exists?
        Mark

      • Dale Harvey says:

        When I return home in a couple of days I will see if I can get the name of the photographer.

      • markbisset says:

        Thanks Dale,
        There are a whole lot of us intrigued- I’d not seen it before but clearly others have. Nigel Snowdon, random guess?!
        Mark

      • The photo i have is almost identical, it shows all the cars in the same positions, but it has been taken from a different angle and it is credited to Bruce Leeson. So both shots taken at the same time but from different positions. The outcome of all that is we still don’t know who took the shot you have.
        Dale.

      • markbisset says:

        Thanks Dale,
        I’ve not heard of Bruce Leeson. It is a great angle/spot isn’t it. There seem to be relatively few photographs in circulation taken from there. The photo posted was a ‘random Google pop up’ searching for something else- I can’t even bring the thing up again to see the secondary source unfortunately.
        Mark

  4. Rob says:

    Mark,

    I remember how inspired I was by that lead shot when I saw it as a kid and I still find it very evocative. Magic.

    When you refer to “the timing of the ATCC “, do you mean ATT?

    Rob

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Rob,
      I’ve been fiddling with the article on and off throughout the weekend but failed to notice the ATT boo-boo. Have another look at it- any thoughts on the circuit depicted by David Atkinson as the end piece?
      Mark

  5. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Beats me! I guess the flat Surfers environment wasn’t exciting enough for David so he invented something extra!

    Rob

    • markbisset says:

      Hey, I love the work of The Impressionists!
      It does have a touch of the Nurburgrings about it tho. Of the various RCN cover artists David is my favourite. I’ve now got access to my RCN’s again, not that its a complete set, I must do some short articles around some of the covers, they really do deserve being shared more widely with our international friends.
      Mark

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