One of my favourite Facebook pages is the Repco-Brabham one Jay Bondini started for us Repco nutters yonks ago.

It’s chock full of good stuff, much of it contributed by the boys who produced the RBE V8 magic at Maidstone in the day- it has cred you might say!

This shot gave me a chuckle.

The works Repco billy-cart is poised on Bendigo’s View Street hill during the 1954’ish Easter Fair. The team’s #1 driver aboard the exotic machine is Les Holt. His old-man, Arthur Holt, worked at Repco Bendigo.

Then I thought, in the words of the great George Pell, bugger-me! that’s Mac’s machine. I’m sure I’ve seen it before somewhere!

Sure enough there is later Elfin/McLaren triple Gold Star champion John McCormack aboard the same missile at Burnie, Tasmania at roughly the same time. Dunno if he won but it seems a reasonable assumption.

You will all be pleased to know John is in great shape, sharp as a tack. I had a good chat to him at Baskerville a fortnight ago, all was good until I asked about the MR6, which was not his favourite car…

(M Preston)

 

McCormack’s MR6 Repco-Holden hooks into Sandown’s Shell Corner during the 1975 Sandown Park Cup- second behind John Goss’ Matich A53 Repco (I Smith)

It begs the question of course. Why?

The MR5 may have been getting a bit long in the tooth by the ‘74 Tasman but it was very successful in McCormacks hands – the 1973 Gold Star and 1973-4 NZ GPs at Pukekohe are the most notable of the combinations victories.

Ansett Team Elfin’s ‘unfair advantage’ was to have been the Repco-Leyland aluminium V8 fitted to a new, compact chassis designated MR6. This gave a lighter car than the opposition and handling balance those using cast-iron Chevs and Holdens could only dream of. That all turned to custard when Repco withdrew from racing in mid-1974, pretty much leaving Leyland Australia and Ansett Team Elfin high and dry.

The P76 V8 (P38 was the joke of the day ‘wannit- the P76 was only half a car) block was structurally weak, the standard nodular crank was junk for racing purposes and the ports were a poor shape which limited flow, and therefore power. Ignoring the fact the block probably couldn’t handle any extra mumbo anyway. Most of this would have been fixed had Repco applied their full engineering armoury to the problems but that was not the case. So the thing was slow and unreliable throughout the 1974 Gold Star.

On top of the engine issues Garrie Cooper repeated some of the MR5’s chassis shortcomings in his new MR6. The front bulkhead was weak, the car had bulk understeer as the front suspension geometry was sub-optimal and the critical engine to monocoque attachment wasn’t stiff enough so the whole package flexed- inspiring little confidence in its intrepid pilot.

MR6 Repco-Holden, perhaps Surfers Paradise 1975 (autopics.com)

 

Bruce Allison, Lola T332 Chev, McCormack’s MR6 Repco-Holden to the left and Vern Schuppan, Elfin MR8 Chev to the right. Calder ‘Soccerpools’ F5000 race, March 14, 1976. Max Stewart won both heats. Significant shot as it’s Vern’s first race drive of the MR8, having tested it at Adelaide International in early March (unattributed)

Mac and his crew, Dale Koenneke and Simon Aram fixed the chassis problems step by step. The engine dramas were solved by removing the light, gutless, unreliable Leyland and bolting in the heavy, potent, reliable Holden. Putting the smart-arse line to one side, the Repco-Holden had by then five years of development under its rocker-covers, the best of them gave a good 520bhp. The Leyland unit was a babe in the woods in terms of comparative development.

So equipped, McCormack finished fourth in the 1975 Tasman Cup behind the very quick Lola T332s of Warwick Brown, Graeme Lawrence and John Walker. He was second at Wigram, Teretonga and Sandown finishing seven of the eight rounds. At home he won the Gold Star taking victories at Oran Park and Calder. John Walker was second and Max Stewart third, both in Lola’s, again the MR6 was reliable, finishing four of the five rounds.

McCormack contested both the 1976 NZ GP and Australian Rothmans Series that summer, but the combo was off the pace of the fast boys at the very pointy end.

Mac had fallen out of love with the MR6 and Elfin more generally. He acquired a 1973 F1 McLaren M23 sans 3-litre Ford Cosworth DFV V8 from Dave Charlton in South Africa. Into that engine bay John, Dale and Simon very skillfully fitted the Leyland V8 which McCormack had not given up on!

After much test and development work from McCormack and Phil Irving, including new cylinder heads, the circa-435bhp M23 Leyland won its first Gold Star round at Calder in October 1976. He was victorious in the 1977 championship from John Leffler’s Lola T400 Chev.

The MR6 became a display car before its sale while the M23 raced on in F5000 and had a trip to the US where McCormack ran in a couple of races as a central-seat Can-Am car. See here for a feature article on the MR6 and particularly the M23; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/24/macs-mclaren-peter-revson-dave-charlton-and-john-mccormacks-mclaren-m232/

McCormack’s McLaren M23 Leyland from Garrie Cooper, Elfin MR8 Chev and Dave Powell, Matich A50/51 Repco at Dandenong Road, Sandown International Cup 1977. Max Stewart’s Lola T400 won, Cooper third, Powell fourth and Mac fifth (autopics.com)

Credits…

Gary Nichols and Robert Reid for the Bendigo information, ‘From Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, Ian Smith, autopics.com, oldracingcars.com, Repco

Tailpiece…

(Repco)

Repco publicity shot of their Repco-Leyland F5000 engine in its original form as fitted to the Elfin MR6 in 1975. See the McLaren M23 link above for engine specifications and the changes made as it evolved when fitted to the McLaren.

Finito…

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