(D Simpson)

John Harvey in Bob Jane’s McLaren M6B Repco-Brabham V8 nailing Warwick Farm’s Esses on May 2 1971.

The late Australian champion, who died on December 20, 2020, raced so many different cars during a career from fifties speedway to noughties historic racing gave a big editorial challenge, what photograph to choose for the opening shot.

Dick Simpson’s shot took my breath away when i first saw it five years ago, it still does. A marvellous car being driven with precision was the John Harvey style- he won the 1971 and 1972 Australian sportscar championships with it. He applied plenty of brio albeit in a precise, economic kinda-way. Piece on the car here; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/09/sandown-sunrise/

In the weeks that followed the death of a man universally respected and liked a swag of photographs hitherto unseen popped up on social media. Treat this as a visual tribute to John rather than a distillation of a career well known to many of us. The shots play to my bias, racing and sports-cars.

(A Howard)

Aboard the McKay Offenhauser at the Sydney Showgrounds in the early sixties.

(S Dalton Collection)

Ron Phillips gave John the opportunity to transfer from speedways to circuits with a Cooper S prepared by the gifted, and soon to be great Peter Molloy. They won plenty of races in 1965-6.

WF Pit Straight (K Starkey)

 

Peter Molloy, Leo Geoghegan and JH @ WF (K Starkey)

 

JH, Peter Molloy and BT14. Elfin Catalina behind, what is car #6? Cooper (K Starkey)

When Bib Stillwell retired from racing, his fourth Gold Star in his pocket at the end of 1965 he sold the lot, including his beautifully prepared, lightly raced Brabham BT14 Lotus-Ford twin-cam ANF 1.5 to Phillips for Harves to drive.

The fast, forgiving little jigger was initially raced at 1.5-litres, John won that years ANF 1.5 title, but the engine was gradually taken to 1860cc at which capacity Harvey gave the slower 2.5s a serious run for their money.

The three shots above were taken by Ken Starkey at Warwick Farm’s May 1966 meeting.

(B Simpson)

It was obvious to all that John’s rightful place was amongst the big boys so a Repco-Brabham 2.5-litre 640 (or 740?) V8 was acquired to pop into the little BT14.

Peter Molloy went to the Repco Brabham Engines Maidstone factory to help assemble the engine. With Rennmax’ Bob Britton leading the charge, Bob and Peter fitted the Repco V8 and beefier Hewland HD gearbox into the spaceframe chassis designed for an in-line small four.

It all sounds easy enough (sic), but it took a while to get the suspension geometry, springs/shocks/bars right, a process not assisted by the Repco’s haughty, flighty behaviour. This phenomena seemed to affect most Tasman 2.5 customers to a greater or lesser extent.

By the middle of the year Harves was happy with the car. Simpson’s shot above is the finest of it on a circuit where the snapper had bugger-all decent background to work with. JH is in the process of winning Oran Park’s Diamond Trophy feature in September 1967.

Ron Phillips, arch enthusiast that he was, found the cost of racing at the top level expensive. His desire to exit the sport was contemporaneous with Spencer Martin’s retirement plans at Bob Jane Racing.

And so it was that Harve’s slender frame replaced the similarly svelte Martin in Jano’s BT11A Climax in the December 1967 Hordern Trophy Gold Star event at Warwick Farm. There, John was second aboard the car with which Spencer had just won his second Gold Star on-the-trot behind Frank Gardner’s ‘spankers Mildren Racing Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo 2.5 T33 V8.

JH in Bob Janes BT11A Repco 740 crossing WF’s Causeway during the February 1968 Warwick Farm 100 Tasman round (D Simpson)

 

John Harvey, Brabham BT23E Repco 740 from Kevin Bartlett, Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo T33 at Mount Panorama early in the Easter 1968 Gold Star meeting before John’s bad accident (G Toughill Collection)

Jane also bought the Brabham BT14 Repco from Phillips in a deal within the Shell Racing fold. Even though Harvey was at the end of Repco development dramas with the BT14 Bob decided to fit the Repco V8 sitting in it into the BT11A in place of its Climax 2.5 FPF. Maybe the slightly older BT11A frame was beefier than the BT14 but otherwise the plan sounds bonkers to me. Surplus to requirements, the BT14 was sold.

Harvey raced the BT11A Repco in the 1968 Australian Tasman Cup rounds, predictably, without much success. Bob Jane had a New Years present for John in the form of Jack Brabham’s ’68 Tasman mount, the Brabham BT23E Repco.

The thing nearly killed Harvey though. Despite the new car having only raced at the Surfers Paradise, Warwick Farm and Sandown Tasman rounds, a rear upright broke in practice for the opening Gold Star race of the year at Bathurst over the Easter 1968 long weekend.

John survived but was out for the year. Jane, typically, looked after him and popped him back in the car at JH’s request, a tad early really, that December. John again contested the Oz Tasman rounds and then raced the car through 1969 and into early 1970. Piece on the BT23E here; https://primotipo.com/2015/12/22/jack-brabham-brabham-bt23e-oran-park-1968/

JH BT23E Repco 830 at the right-hander before the Western Crossing. WF Tasman round, February 1970. These combination engine cover cum wings were common in F1 in 1969 post the Monaco GP hi-wing ban (D Simpson)

 

WF Tasman as above- from the Dunlop Bridge. Front wings @ stall? (D Simpson)

Jack Brabham’s two ex-works RBE830 V8’s (ex-Brabham BT31 two-race 1969 program) provided a bit more mumbo than the earlier spec 740, and the chassis was evolved with high and low wing-body packages as the rules pertaining thereto evolved. A bit like the Gardner/Bartlett BT23D, a BT23E photographic evolution from the ’68 Tasman to mid-1970 would make interesting viewing and give us all an understanding of the forces at play that the bigger local outfits were dealing with.

KB’s speed in 1968 carried him to his first Gold Star in BT23D Alfa and then on into 1969 when the superb Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ powered by the Alfa 2.5 V8, and then the first Waggott 2-litre TC-4V engine late in the season.

Dick’s BT23E Forrest Elbow Mount Panoarama closeup during the Bathurst Easter 1970 meeting. Right at the end of its frontline career. Loved Harve’s Peter Revson inspired helmet (D Simpson)

Harvey’s best result was a win from pole at Sandown in September and second at Bathurst, a year after ‘his biggie’. He was quick everywhere, but the Repco shat-itself at Symmons, Mallala and Surfers Paradise. At Warwick Farm he boofed the car and did not start the Hordern Trophy. He was equal fourth in the title chase with Niel Allen, behind Bartlett, Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco and Max Stewart’s Mildren Waggott.

By this stage of the game Bob and John realised they needed a new car. Bob Britton knew BT23E well having repaired it after Harveys ‘biggie’ and Allan Moffats ‘littleie’ at Sandown when a wheel parted company going up the back-straight. Given 1970 was the last year in which the 2.5s were Gold Star kosher, Jane engaged Britton to build an ‘updated BT23E’.

His brief was to address the suspension geometry- the width and profile of the Firestones Harvey used in late 1969 were quite different from the Goodyears Ron Tauranac had in mind when he whacked together BT23E in late 1967. The bodywork and wing-package was evolved and a tube or three inserted here and there to stiffen things up a bit.

JH McLaren M6B Repco, Mallala October 1970 (J Lemm)

 

JH, Jane Repco 830 during the October 1970 Mallala Gold Star round. DNF suspension, Geoghegan’s Lotus 59B Waggott won the race and series. Nice Stobie pole behind best avoided (J Lemm)

Time is of the essence of course. Harvey’s 1970 Gold Star assault was cruelled a bit with a ‘Jane Repco’ that had insufficient testing time. Mind you, Garrie Cooper could play the same card as to his Elfin 600D Repco, one of his sexiest cars. So too could Leo Geoghegan, but once the Waggott 2-litre was popped into the back of Leo’s new Lotus 59B he had reliability he needed to lift a trophy he thoroughly deserved.

Bartlett was in the US for much of that year so the standard-setter of the last two years was ‘AWOL’, providing an opportunity for the rest. Leo won the title with two wins from six rounds with Max Stewart second and Harvey third- both also took two rounds. Harvey won at Symmons Plains and Sandown. He used BT23E in Tasmania and the Jane Repco from Lakeside where he was second but was 2 laps adrift. At Oran Park he was sixth, his fuel pump failed at the Farm and he had suspension failure at Mallala. Article on the 1970 Gold Star; https://primotipo.com/2019/07/05/oran-park-diamond-trophy-gold-star-1970/

JH, Brabham BT36 Waggott, AGP 1971 Warwick Farm Esses (L Hemer)

Bob Jane never allowed grass to grow under his feet. The Jane Repco was sold sans-engine and had an after-life as an F2 car. At around the same time he placed orders for a Brabham BT36 F2 car and a Bowin P8 Repco-Holden F5000 from John Joyce.

By the time the BT36 arrived and was fitted with a 2-litre Waggott the car was an also-ran as the F5000s by then- the ’72 Tasman, had reliability, sorta, as well as pace.

John raced it in the November 1971 AGP at Warwick Farm (Q3! DNF broken exhaust) and then at ‘home’ Sandown where Q12 and seventh was the yield.

When the Bowin P8 was ready during 1972 the Brabham was sold to Denis Lupton and Ian Cook, sadly Cook died in the car at Sandown in a practice accident in 1973.

John rated the ‘radical’ rising, or variable rate suspension, sinfully sexy Lotus 72 inspired oh-so-compact Formula 5000 car. If you can sense my Bowin bias your emotional intelligence is finely tuned.

JH Bowin P8 Repco from John Walker’s similarly engined Matich A50 in Warwick Farm’s Esses on 30 September 1972 (D Simpson)

Bob Jane Racing’s primary sponsor was Castrol. Most dumb-arse punters liked/like taxis, so Castrol liked taxis. Bob Jane Racing’s best cars (the P8 and M6B) were put to one side and the taxis were given an extra cut and polish.

So we- Jane, Harvey, Bowin’s John Joyce and open-wheeler nutbags never got to see the P8’s full potential. As factory built by Joyce and his team the it was a beautifully integrated bit of kit.

It is ironic that the driver who did the most to establish the Bowin marque, the great John Leffler also, unintentionally, did the P8 the ‘most harm’.

Leffo was mighty quick in two Bowin P4A Formula Fords in 1971-2 then won the 1973 Driver to Europe Series in a rising-rate P6F. He was potentially the F2 Championship winner in 1974 in a rising-rate P8 but the car arrived late. That’s not quite right. He had the car early and then booked it early in the season requiring a rebuild around the ex-Jane P8 tub. When Joyce and Leffler sorted it mid-year it was a jet.

For 1975 John bought a cheap Chev F5000 engine to the by then rebuilt P8 he crashed at Amaroo early in 1974. His team adapted the motor to a car designed for a Repco-Holden. The tight lines of the original were buggered by exhausts up in the airstream and outsized radiators. Worst of all, the critical mating of engine to chassis gave the thing the rigidity of a centenarians-todger so the package handled badly. It nearly won the 1975, wet Surfers AGP mind you, but the reputational damage was done. Leffo went off and bought a Lola T400 and bagged a Gold Star.

Gawd! Wot mighta-been had Bob Jane Racing developed that car with Harvey at the helm!

(D Simpson)

A few touring cars to finish off.

JH was quick in everything, depending on the year he may have jumped between Brabham, McLaren and a Mustang or Holden Monaro or Torana during the same weekend. Such a lucky man, what a diet.

Here it’s Jane’s second Mustang, the thing which was born as a ‘390’ but is here running at 4.7 or 5-litres during the September 1969 Mallala Australian Touring Car Championship round.

(L Hemer)

The most hunky Sports Sedan of all was Jane’s John Shepard built Holden Torana GTR-XU1 Repco-Brabham RBE620 4.4-litre V8. See here; https://primotipo.com/2015/06/30/hey-charger-mccormacks-valiant-charger-repco/

Lynton Hemer has caught John at Oran Park in 1971 in the short period the high-wing was run. It upset CAMS so was removed.

(A Lamont)

At the December 1974 Baskerville meeting in the B&D Autos Holden Torana L34 5-litre V8.

(M Thomas)

Harvey and hard-man Allan Grice extend their Holden Torana A9X 5-litre cars during the Wanneroo Park, Perth ATCC round in May 1979. Car #87 is Ric Rossiter’s Torana L34.

Peter Brock won the race in the other Holden Dealer Team car, Harvey was second and Grice third. Bob Morris won the title in Ron Hodgson’s A9X.

(M Thomas)

 

(oldracephotos.com/Jenkins_

Harves blasts the Group A Holden VK Commodore 5-litre around the 3.3km Wellington Harbour track in 1987.

He and Neil Lowe were second in the first World Touring Car Championship round from their Peter Brock/Allan Moffat Holden Dealer Team teamates. It was a most impressive performance with most of Europe’s Group A topliners contesting the event.

Etcetera…

(B Pearson)

JH in Ron Phillips’ BT14 Repco 740 during 1967, circuit unknown.

(S Dalton Collection)

No time to wave to Ron MacKinnon as John plunges past his ‘Mountford’ property on the run down to the Viaduct during the very wet final Longford in March 1968. Not a place for the faint of heart at any time let alone in the pissin’ rain. Brabham BT11A Repco.

(K Bright)

Harvey in BT23E returning to the Sandown paddock during the September 1969 Gold Star meeting, an event he won. A good win too, from Bartlett’s Sub and Niel Allen’s McLaren M4A Ford FVA. That’s Henk Woelders’ Elfin 600B Ford behind.

Credits…

Dick Simpson, Alan Howard, Ken Starkey, John Lemm, Ken Bright, Geoff Toughill Collection, Lynton Hemer, Slim Lamont, Lindsay Ross’ oldracephotos.com, Murray Thomas, Bill Pearson

Tailpiece…

On the dummy grid at Phillip Island historics not so many years ago at all. I wonder what he made of a return-bout with a car he loved in-period despite a race program which was pretty short. Brabham BT36 Waggott 2-litre TC-4V.

Finito…

Comments
  1. Rob says:

    Mark,

    There is an image above captioned “Dick’s BT23E Forrest Elbow Mount Panorama closeup during the Bathurst 100 Easter 1970 Gold Star round” but there was no Bathurst 100 Gold Star round in 1970. I would say that this shot is from a support race for the ATCC round at Bathurst, Easter 1970. The second photo in your story at https://primotipo.com/2018/11/26/bathurst-lap-record/ would tend to support this.

    Cheers,

    Rob Bartholomaeus

  2. Mal O'May says:

    Unbelievable photo that first one (McLaren M6B) Mark. Great article showing how incredibly versatile Harvey was. To those of us just that tad too young to remember him in anything other than touring cars it gives us a great insight. Thanks for that.
    (BTW…are you in Tassie mate ?)

  3. Rob says:

    Mark,

    The photo above captioned “JH McLaren M6B Repco, Mallala October 1970” has me worried. I was at Mallala for the 1970 Gold Star meeting and if I have forgotten seeing that gorgeous McLaren there then I am in trouble! My concerns over my memory are somewhat allayed by the Official Programme which does not list the car but I may not rest easy until I can get access to the Racing Car News meeting report.

    Have a lemonade for me in the Country Club Hotel.

    Cheers,

    Rob Bartholomaeus

    • markbisset says:

      Rob,
      I think that was the meeting John Lemm attributed, but i’m not even sure where he posted the shot now. May well have just popped it in the truck, the promoters were never going to say no to that thing even at the shortest of notice.
      M

  4. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Happy to park that one until I have the RCN report. Meanwhile, in relation to your comment on the Harvey Mustang “here running at 4.7 or 5-litres during the September 1969 Mallala Australian Touring Car Championship round”, I can tell you that the 1969 Mallala ATCC program has it at 4948cc.I should also point out that the ATCC meeting was on 16 June 1969 rather than in September.

    Cheers,

    Rob Bartholomaeus

  5. Rob says:

    Mark,

    The photo captioned “Winning the 1976 ATCC round at Symmons Plains in the B&D Autos Holden Torana L34 5-litre V8.” is, I believe, not from the 1976 Symmons ATCC race. The image of Harvey’s winning B&D Autos Torana on page 48 of the 1977 “Australian Competition Yearbook” shows it to be carrying No. 5. Furthermore the image illustrating his race win in the “Official History of the Australian Touring Car Championshio – 50 Years” shows him side-by-side with the No. 2 Falcon Hardtop of Allan Moffat and carrying No. 5 on the Torana.

    These Symmons photos can also be seen at https://www.facebook.com/HRCCT/posts/4340495092643938?comment_id=4340632605963520

    I think the No. 235 photo may be from a Baskerville non-Championship Touring Car race, but I can’t be sure of that.

    Cheers,

    Rob Bartholomaeus

  6. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Further to the above, B&D Autos entered Harvey in a No. 235 Torana at the 8 December 1974 Baskerville meeting. Please see entry at bottom of Entry List at http://oldmotorsportphotos.com.au/gallery_images/Motorsport_Photos/Baskerville/Race_Entry_Lists/1974_12_08_Baskerville_Entry_List.pdf

    Cheers,

    Rob Bartholomaeus

  7. Rob says:

    Mark,

    I think there has been a mix-up in regard to the Group A endurance races held at Wellington in 1987. Above we have “Harves blasts the Group A Holden VK Commodore 5-litre around the 3.3km Wellington Harbour track in 1987. He and Neil Lowe were second in the first World Touring Car Championship round from their Peter Brock/Allan Moffat Holden Dealer Team teamates.”

    That would have been Round 1 of the Nissan Mobile 500 Series. Please see http://touringcarracing.net/Pages/1987%20Nissan%20Mobil.html

    The opening round of the 1987 World Touring Car Championship was held at Monza and won by Harvey and Allan Moffat. Please see http://touringcarracing.net/Pages/1987%20WTCC.html
    Note that the tenth round of the WTCC was held at Wellington and was won by the Eggenberger Motorsport Ford Sierra RS of Klaus Ludwig and Klaus Niedzwiedz. Harvey wasn’t there though.

    Cheers,

    Rob Bartholomaeus

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Rob,
      My Auto Action colleague Heath McAlpine pointed this out to me on the weekend at Baskerville. I really must steer clear of taxis, I loathe the fuggin things and know nothing about them. So why bother? I won’t!
      Many thanks.
      Mark

  8. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Further to the discussion above re the the photo captioned “JH McLaren M6B Repco, Mallala October 1970”, I have obtained a copy of the relevant Racing Car News report and can now say that it makes no reference at all to the McLaren competing at that meeting. It is hard to image that the car would not have rated a mention had it been there. Given that it is not listed in the Official Programme and that is not mentioned in RCN, I would have to conclude that it was not there that weekend.

    Cheers,

    Rob Bartholomaeus

  9. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Harvey is shown as No. 71 in the Programme for the Mallala round of the 1971 ASCC and the SCCSA race results sheet also shows him as No. 71. The image published with the RCN report of the meeting shows his car to be numbered as 71, as does the image from the report in Auto Action. So I would say that we can rule that out. Personally, I don’t think that the photo is from Mallala, given the amount of Armco in the shot. It looks more like Calder to me.

    Cheers,

    Rob Bartholomaeus

    • markbisset says:

      Thats a bummer! Not Calder, of that I am sure. No other track jumps out at me either, I raced at Mallala in 1998 but the place would have been a bit different 20 years before I guess.
      M

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