Archive for June, 2021

Jack Brabham, Brabham BT4 Climax, Warwick Farm 1963 (J Ellacott)

The airwaves were abuzz last year with the news of Sebastian Vettel’s departure from Ferrari.

It seems only yesterday he was the ‘enfant terrible’ giving Mark Webber plenty of stick, a decade or so later, the worm turned for him in the form of Monsieur de Clerc.

Still Seb has been on a motza for a decade or so, resort islands are cheap in the post Covid 19 world, back in ‘the good ole’ days’ the commerce of motor racing was a tad tougher.

(New York Times)
Vettel and Leclerc after a territorial dispute in Brazil 2019

Jack Brabham worked all the angles; he built racing cars with Ron Tauranac, raced cars in F1 via his business Brabham Racing Organisation and raced Coopers for the works and via ‘Ecurie Vitesse’.

Not to forget modified cars via Jack Brabham conversions, columns in magazines which were ghosted for him and the sale of this years car to Australian racers at the end of each summer; the Cooper T40 Bristol in 1955, Cooper T39 Bobtail in 1956, Cooper T41 Climax FWB in 1957 and lordy knows how many T45/51/53s from 1958 onwards.

By the Australian summer of 1962/3, he and Tauranac had built and raced their first F1 Brabham, the BT3 Coventry Climax FWMV V8 from the middle ’62 season. They constructed a Coventry Climax FPF engined variant of that spaceframe design for ‘Intercontinental’ use designated the BT4.

Jack took the first of these machines to Australia for the 1962 AGP at Caversham, outside Perth. He was looking good for a win after a furious dice with Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T62 when he tangled with Arnold Glass’ BRM P25 Buick V8, Bruce bagged a nice win.

Not to worry, the car made a good impression on the local hotshots, many of whom had bought Coopers from him, or via him. There were the NZ Internationals to contest and several races in Australia in those immediate pre-Tasman Cup years.

Jack started from the front row of the NZ GP at Pukekohe but cooked a head gasket after only 12 laps- John Surtees’ Lola T4A Climax won. He won at Levin from Tony Maggs and Innes Ireland who were Lola T4 Climax and Ferguson P99 Climax mounted. On the Wigram FNZAF Airfield Bruce McLaren won in the Cooper T62, at Teretonga Bruce won again, with Jack fourth albeit he took the lap record- Maggs and Ireland were again second and third.

While the racing was going on so too was the commerce. David McKay purchased Jack’s BT4 after Teretonga, Bib Stillwell ordered one too which was entered at Warwick Farm. A replacement car was air-freighted to Jack for the Australian races, which in time honoured Brabham fashion he would sell to Lex Davison at the end of the summer.

The Australian Grand Prix was held at Warwick Farm that year on February 10. Brabham BT4s dominated the results sheet; Jack won in his new ‘IC-2-62’, David McKay was fourth in Jack’s ‘old’ ‘IC-1-61’ and Bib Stillwell was fifth in his new ‘IC-3-’62’. Interlopers were Surtees and McLaren – second and third in Lola Mk4A and Cooper T62 respectively.

It wasn’t an easy win for Jack mind you, the ship carrying the new car arrived late so it had to be flown from Melbourne to Sydney, finally arriving late on the Friday night.

As Jack recalled in Doug Nye’s book, instead of Tim Wall having days to prepare the car, he had ten hours. The car was at the Farm early, but lost the first of the early sessions with an electrical short. During second practice, Jack scrubbed in tyres and got the engine running properly, by the end of the day he was happy with the car despite starting from the rear of the grid.

In the race Brabham ‘sliced clean through the field’, then Surtees spun out of the lead on lap 31 of 45, allowing Jack to close right in and slipstream past on Hume Straight into Creek Corner. The resident bugler did his thing and crowd went nuts! (two shots below)

From Sydney, the circus headed north to Brisbane’s Lakeside where Surtees won from Hill, Stillwell and Chris Amon in David McKay’s old Cooper T53. It was one of a series of great performances that summer which saw him scooped up by the Parnell team and taken to Europe.

The teams then had a two week break to prepare the cars and transport them to Melbourne and across Bass Straight for the South Pacific Championship held over the Labour Day long weekend in early March.

Bruce McLaren won from pole, equally impressive was Bib’s second place only a second adrift of the Kiwi international and then local boy John Youl third in his Cooper T55- both the guys in front of him ran 2.7 FPFs, Youl’s was a 2.5.

Then it was back across Bass Straight for the opening Sandown meeting (above). There Bruce was again on pole from Jack, and won from Maggs and McKay with Jack a DNF engine a lap before the finish.

While Jack did a roaring trade in Brabham BT4s there is little doubt that had there been a Tasman Cup in 1963 Bruce would have won it, a feat he managed in ‘the first McLaren’ – a Cooper T70 – Climax the following year.

Credits…

oldracingcars.com, autopics.com, Ken Devine Collection

Tailpiece…

img_5785

(K Devine)

Brabham’s brand new BT4 Climax during the 1962 AGP weekend at Caversham, ain’t she sweet.

Finito…

(NAA)

A burly Aussie bloke prepares his model car for a race at the Victorian Model Race Car Club (VMRCC) meeting, Como Park, South Yarra, 1945.

I can find no record of the 1945 meeting, but in 1951 Lee Marget’s 10cc model did better than 100mph over a quarter-mile. Not so sure how my near neighbours in South Yarra would feel about motor racing in their twee-suburb now, olde bean…

The VMRCC had classes for cars, the length of which varied from 10 to 18 inches. Proto were the biggest and fastest, then Proto-Spur, Spur and Might. Proto’s did better than 100mph, the tiny-Might about 70mph.

All were powered by 10cc two-stroke engines fed by a methanol/castor oil brew. Fitted with torch-batteries “The batteries are charged on high-speed rollers, and the cars are then attached to a cable, which revolves around a pole in the centre of the track, and are started by pushing them with a pole for a quarter lap or so.”

“The cars quickly gather speed…when maximum speed is attained…the operator signals the timekeeper to start timing…A midget is timed over 6-laps, 440 yards, and is then stopped by the operator tripping a lever,”

In November 1950 the lap record was held by ‘Juan-Manuel’ Bailem of Maribynong at 116mph.

Clubs then were operating in South Yarra, Maribynong, Geelong and Cowra NSW, as well as clubs in South Australia and Queensland. Some club members imported their racers but most were home-built.

I’ll bet it was fun until CAMS got involved…

Credits…

National Archives of Australia-Sketching naval life: the war art of Rex Julius, Trove,

Tailpiece…

(NAA-R Julius)

W.R.A.N (Womens Royal Austraian Navy) driver standing by her ute (brand folks?) at HMAS Rushcutter, April 2, 1944. Why this? Just coz…

Able Seaman Rex Julius enlisted in 1940, he trained in submarine detection, but when the higher-ups became aware of his pre-war career as a commercial artist, he was appointed an official war artist for the Royal Australian Navy in 1944.

He died of a throat abscess and gangrene in New Guinea the same year – great shame, he was a talented man.

The sketch above is one he made of activity around the naval base, HMAS Rushcutter, Sydney Harbour.

(NAA-R Julius)

This one has a particular resonance. While the blokes have a swim off the side of HMAS Lithgow, on the way to Milne Bay, New Guinea in 1944, “One rating sits under the motor boat with a Tommie Gun in case of sharks.” Only ‘in’ Australia!

Finito…

(Tony Johns-SLV)

Former Austin 7 racer and Bentley historian Tony Johns is a regular visitor to the Victorian State Library, there, he browses newspapers and magazines for Austin 7 and Bentley history. If he comes upon things of interest in the writer’s realm, which is mostly to do with Bugattis, he kindly forwards them.

We are aware that pioneering Bugatti motorist and racer Jack Day made superchargers, but have not previously seen an image of one, let alone the object itself. This despite having owned two of the cars that were one-time fitted with JADAY blowers. We knew that they were of a Roots pattern, but little more, other than that Jack made them in his Ajax Pump factory in South Melbourne.

The cover of The Car magazine for October, 1932 above shows the JADAY supercharger in all its glory, as well as its side-draft Solex carburettor, bolted directly to the blower.

Just call M 2425 and ask for Jack and you can have one for 22 pounds, 10 shillings (Tony Johns-SLV)

John Albert Day of Melbourne was a well-known racing car driver in the twenties, thirties and forties.

Like so many others of the period, he had success on push bikes before taking to four wheels. His first job had been delivering hats on a bicycle when he was 10 years old – suggesting an early entrepreneurial bent. It is not known whether he was related to Syd Day, a pioneering motorist who competed in the Sydney to Melbourne Dunlop Reliability trial of 1905.

Our first record of him in a motoring event is in 1923 when he drove a 2.3-litre SCAT in a Hill Driving Contest at Greensborough. In 1924 he drove a 1100cc Salmson at Malpas Hill, 17 miles North of Melbourne. This event famously crossed the Hume Highway; traffic being stopped for each run.

At a later Malpas hill climb he drove an Alvis which was also driven in the ladies contest by L. Day. Mrs Day took part in the 1927 Alpine trial in a Riley ‘9’.

Jack Day at the wheel of his Type 37, 37145 (Bob King Collection)

His first appearance in a Bugatti was in May 1927 when he ran at rural, and nor urban Melbourne, Wheelers Hill.

His 11/2 litre unsupercharged Type 37, chassis number 37145, had been delivered new to Melbourne less than a year before, having been sold via the Bugatti agent Sporting Cars to one of its directors T.E. Barnett for his son Dudley. Later that year the car was owned by Lyster Jackson who, plagued by misfiring, was all too ready to on-sell it. According to Jack in a recorded interview, he bought it when Lyster and he were contesting a hill climb at Lorne as part of the Victorian Light Car Club’s Dependability Trial in October, 1926.

Jack: “Lyster revved and revved and revved, on only about 11/2 cylinders, and I said to him: ‘That will never get up the hill’ and he said, ‘I’ll beat you up.’ So, I had a big-port Alvis, and of course I took the hillclimb away from him”. Lyster said he would sell it and Jack “bought it on the spot.” Jack cured the misfiring by making “special KLG’s” in which he removed the negative electrode, substituting it with platinum “only the thickness of a pin.”

37145 when owned by Dudley Barnett as a new car (Bob King Collection)

Jack entered his now reliable Bugatti in the 1928 100 mile AGP at Phillip Island. He was one of the favourites for the race having won a half mile speed trial in lieu of the rain-postponed race at 84mph.

Unfortunately, early in the race he lost his way in the dust, shooting through a fence and taking considerable time to regain the track. Although noted to be travelling at great speed, he would have been disappointed to finish in sixth place, some 10 minutes behind the winning Austin ‘7’ of Arthur Waite.

A clear demonstration of the dust encountered during the 1928 AGP at Phillip Island – was this the moment Jack ‘lost his way’ (Bob King Collection)

Seeking improved performance, in late 1931, Jack supercharged it with a JADAY supercharger driven from the nose of the crankshaft by a shaft that protruded through the lower part of the radiator.

We have not seen a photograph of this installation, but the blower must have been supported between the dumb irons; the radiator having a piece cut out of the bottom of the core through which the drive-shaft passed.

This radiator with a patch over the blower drive-shaft hole, subsequently found its way on to its sister Type 37,37146, subsequently leading to misidentification of these consecutively numbered cars.

Post-war sister car 37146 was campaigned vigorously by Herb Ford. In this shot taken at Rob Roy, the blower drive cut-out in the radiator can be seen – the radiator had been swapped from 37145 (Bob King Collection)

Jack’s second foray into Bugatti supercharging was with the 1931 Australian Grand Prix winning Type 39, 4607 which he bought in 1933.

The Type 39 was a 1 1/2 litre, normally aspirated straight-eight. He again drove the supercharger from the nose of the crankshaft by means of a long, tapered extension. This shaft remains in the care of the writer – it is his favourite large punch. Jack was not known for his finesse, and this is corroborated by the finish of said shaft, the forward end of which is crudely hack-sawed most of the way through, the last part being snapped-off, leaving a ragged end.

We are unaware of what modifications may have been made to the radiator as this item disappeared after many years fitted to a Brescia Bugatti in lieu of its normal pear-shaped radiator. As the JADAY blown Type 37 and 39 seemed to see very little service, it might be concluded that the modifications were not entirely satisfactory. Could Jack have miscalculated the volume of the necessarily long inlet tract, leading to an unsatisfactory performance?

Day at Phillip Island for the Jubilee Handicap, May 6, 1935 in the Type 39 (Bob King Collection)

As to other JADAY supercharger installations, we have little knowledge. It is possible that one of Jack’s superchargers was fitted to his AL3 Lombard, and it is rumoured that he was involved with the Cozette supercharging of another Lombard AL3 then owned by W.H. Lowe who was the importer of these delightful, petite, 1100cc twin-cam cars.

The patterns for the beautiful finned inlet manifold of this car were certainly of local manufacture – they survived until relatively recent times. Lowe later made his name as the first licenced Ferrari agent outside Italy.

Bill Lowe in his Lombard at Rob Roy just one week after the Black Friday Bushfires, January 30, 1939 (Spencer Wills)

One last twist in the tail of JADAY superchargers brings us to the early post-war WWII years. Jack Day and Norman Hamilton, also a racing driver and a subsequent Porsche importer, investigated the possibility of adapting their turbine technology for one of the worlds great engineering projects, the nascent Snowy Mountain scheme.

With this in mind, Norman and Jack visited Switzerland to study hydro-electric schemes in 1951. During the course of this visit, Norman’s rented Oldsmobile was rounded up by a low slung, silver missile on the Grossglockner Pass. They came upon car and driver; racing driver and motoring journalist Richard von Frankenberg and his car, a prototype Porsche further up the road at an Inn.

After discussion and inspection of the car, the entrepreneurial Hamilton followed Von Frankenberg back through the Alps to the factory. After a tour of the facilities and a meeting with Ferry Porsche, Hamilton walked away with a hand-shake deal for the Porsche commercial rights in Australia and New Zealand. This led to Hamilton’s being only the second foreign Porsche agents outside Germany (Max Hoffman in the US was the first), somewhat in synchrony with the history of Lowe’s Ferrari dealership.

Ken Harper and Norman Hamilton, Porsche 356 Coupe, prior to the 1953 Redex Trial (PCA)

This was not, however, the end of the Jack Day story. His next modification to the Type 39 Bugatti was much more radical – he removed the fragile Bugatti engine, substituting it with a Ford V8, the first of many Australian specials thus powered.

The success of this car pioneered the ‘quick-fix’ for tired European racing cars – take out the sophisticated aluminium and steel machinery and substitute American black iron.

Jack and his collaborator Reg Nutt had many successes with the car in this form, including ftd at Mitcham and Rob Roy hill climbs (Day). Post-war the car went on many more successes in the hands of the legendary Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray.

Meanwhile Day reverted to his passion for complicated European machines, importing one of the 1927 Grand Prix Talbot Darracq (a 1500cc straight eight supercharged jewel) in which he shared driving duties with Reg Nutt.

(Bob King Collection)

The Day Special mocked up during the construction phase.

(Bob King Collection)

The ‘Day’ was often driven by Reg Nutt. Here he is seen in action at Lobethal during 1938 South Australian Grand Prix.

(unattributed )

Jack Murray is seen here, on the inside, battling it out with Jack Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol in the Day Special at Mount Druitt.

(Bob King Collection)

Reg Nutt aboard the Talbot Darracq TD700 at Fishermans Bend.

(unattributed)

Jack , in his later years in his Jaguar XK120. He was a founding member of the Victorian Light Car Club (later LCCA), and a life member of the RACV. He died in 1975, aged 86.

Credits…

Bob King and his archive, Tony Johns and his archive, Spencer Wills, Porsche Cars Australia

Finito…

Bryan Falloon’s Rorstan Mk1a Porsche at rest in the Pukekohe paddock during the 1972 New Zealand Grand Prix weekend.

I’ve written about this rare car, built by Bob Britton at Rennmax Engineering in Sydney on his Brabham BT23 jig in early 1968. The story of the car is here, including poor Bryan’s demise on this Pukekohe weekend; https://primotipo.com/2020/08/17/rorstan-mk1a-porsche/

The rare colour photograph was too good to simply add to the existing piece.

By 1972 this 1967 spaceframe design – a modified F2 car was an old-clunker among the latest F5000s which made up the bulk of the field. But the impecunious Ian Rorstan / Bryan Falloon combination were having-a-crack.

The car was powered by a Porsche Type 771 twin-cam, two-valve, flat-eight. The design started as a 1962 1.5-litre F1 engine fitted to the Type 804. Engines grew to 2-litres – and here 2.2-litres, as measured by Alan Hamilton – for Porsche 907 sports-prototype use later in the sixties.

Incredibly complex in terms of bevel-drive operation of the camshafts and auxiliaries – Hamilton advises that the factory allowed 240 hours for the assembly of each engine – Rorstan bought the engine off Porsche Cars Australia when looking for a replacement for the geriatric Coventry Climax 2.5 FPF which powered the machine before.

The engine looks bulky and heavy, it is not – of magnesium and aluminium construction, it’s light. The disposition of horizontally opposed cylinders pops the weight nice and low too. The vertically mounted Bosch high-pressure fuel injection pump – driven off the inlet cam – and fuel metering unit add to the impression of size. Inboard of that, hidden, are eight-inlet trumpets.

Note the throttle linkage and small wing – given its shallow shape and chord, you wonder how much downforce was generated.

I’m intrigued to know exactly how Britton mated the engine and chassis, critical of course. Clearly, from the way he has strengthened the roll bar area, by bracing it down into the cockpit, the top horizontal mount heading aft is important.

More questions than answers of course, my curiosity about this car is at least partially stated!

Porsche 771 cutaway, yes it’s wonky, best I could find. Note, inter alia, the bevel-drive to the cams

Credits

Bill Mason

Finito

(GBCCC)

Bob Jane belting down Mental Straight, his 3-litre straight-six Maserati 300S howling with delight at a high-speed gallop through the Gnoo Blas, New South Wales countryside in October 1959.

What strikes at first-glance is the extreme narrowness of the road.

Man these cars are a hard one to toss as winner in a line-up of the sexiest fifties sports-racers? Lord knows, in that decade there were more contenders than in most. I’ll try and not let my sixties bias intervene in this little jolly.

By October ’59 the Brunswick-brawler had been racing his ex-works #3059 for a year. He was starting to get the hang of it – Lex Davison’s gybes about moving his boat further into Albert Park Lake to ensure his families safety from the ravages of Jano’s driving were at an end.

We’ve done Bob’s 300S before, no point making you suffer again; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/ Gee-whizz, there is this masterpiece on Gnoo Blas too, a bit of a mess, she’s clearly grown like topsy over time but in a most un-savoury kinda-way; https://primotipo.com/2014/08/05/gnoo-who-gnoo-blas-circuit-jaguar-xkc-type-xkc037/

I’ve been to Orange three or four times along the journey but never done a dedicated Gnoo Blas walk – I really must do it. The place has a mystique about it, and is significant in the pantheon of Australian tracks, not least as the first to host an international meeting – the 1955 South Pacific Championship. See here for that one; https://primotipo.com/2020/04/09/1955-south-pacific-championship-gnoo-blas/

(GBCCC)

Bill Murray’s Alfa Romeo Tipo B Alvis leads a bunch of cars during the October ’54 meeting – I’ll take your advice on the following pair.

Murray was timed over the flying-quarter-mile at 134.4mph during this meeting.

Chassis 5002 was raced by Murray to third in the 1952 AGP at Bathurst. First imported to Australia by John Snow for Jack Saywell to race in the ’39 AGP at Lobethal, its race history is a chequered one for another time.

In simple terms, the ex-Scuderia Ferrari Alfa’s engine rebuild was botched in Sydney immediately pre-war. Enroute to Italy for a rebuild, the ship carrying the valuable 2.9-litre straight-eight gurgled to the bottom of an ocean, perhaps after a submarine torpedo attack.

The car raced on post-war, fitted with an Alvis-six , GMC truck engine and Chev V8 before being rescued by Doug Jarvis. He restored it in Adelaide before sale to the UK in the mid-sixties, and multiple owners since.

There is a bit about the car here; https://primotipo.com/2018/12/11/coorong-speed-records/

(GBCCC)

Another pugnacious little dude was Stan Jones.

The path of Australian racing history was changed at Gnoo Blas in 1956.

I’ve had an engine run-a-bearing in a race, which wasn’t impactful in the Formula Vee. Oh-fuck, whatever it is I can’t afford it was my 22-year old thought!

I imagine a rod breaking was more of a Nagasaki-near-the-crutch moment for Stanley when Maybach 3’s lovely SOHC, injected Maybach straight-six grenaded at warp-speed – well over 6,000rpm.

Instantly the car spat him down the road at high speed on its own Mobiloil.

Stan hung onto the car, which evolved into Maybach 4 Chev in Ern Seeliger’s delicate hands. Stan won in it too.

But it was the end of the Maybach Troika which had been so effective since 1951 – Charlie Dean and Repco Research, Maybachs 1,2 and 3, and Jones had been one of the major forces in Formula Libre.

Jones was keen on attractive Italians, he soon had a red Maserati 250F in his Yongala Road, Balwyn garage.

All of the promise was finally delivered with some help from Otto Stone, who prepared the car and seemed to calm Stan down a bit. He became a bit more of a percentage driver, ‘to finish first, ‘yer first have to finish’ and that kinda stuff.

The ’58 Gold Star and ’59 AGP fell to the Jones Boy and his 250F, see here; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

Make no mistake, that phase started at Gnoo Blas with a mighty-blow-up.

Credits…

Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club

Tailpiece…

(GBCCC)

Bert The Builder’s Bridge at Gnoo Blas.

You really would have to ensure your eight-year old didn’t drop his Choc-Wedge or Coke at an inopportune moment.

Commonsense suggests the bridge would not have been used during competition. Mind you, commonsense is an uncommon commodity.

Finito…

(G Wiseman Collection)

Stan Jones’ Maserati 250F chasing Len Lukey’s Cooper T45 Climax 2-litre FPF through Tannery Corner during the March 1959 Australian Grand Prix at Longford.

Geoff Wiseman uploaded onto social-media this wonderful colour shot from a spot not often used by the pro-snappers. It is a decent walk from Longford village to Tannery. Isn’t it a beauty?

That’s the race for the lead folks – a battle of old vs new technology, thankfully for we Stan-Fans, the tough-nugget from Warrandyte prevailed- Jones it was from Lukey.

Check it out in this piece here; https://primotipo.com/2016/01/08/stan-jones-agp-longford-gold-star-series-1959/

The short straight leads to the quick left-hander onto Long Bridge.

(G Wiseman Collection)

This time I’ve cropped the shot a bit. I love the way the photographer has framed the action between the spectators, makes you feel kinda-like you were there.

Etcetera…

If I had known the Lukey/Jones shot was going to be posted when I was at Longford in January and March I would have taken a one from exactly the same locale, but I didn’t!

What I can offer are three shots of a planned, but not yet written, modern ‘drivers eye lap of Longford’.

The first above is about halfway along Tannery Straight – towards the corner above, our feature shots. That’s the old Tannery building on the left, these days a lovely home or accommodation.

Jones would have whistled through this flat-biccie right-kink – yes, there is a kink none of the published maps show – at about 160mph.

By this point he has been in top-gear for a long while, Pub Corner is way, way back behind us. Amongst its many tests, Longford had two, long, top-revs throttle openings. The Flying Mile on Pateena Road is the other.

The next one is very deep into the Tannery braking area.

The corner (right) would have been taken in second gear (of five), I’m guessing a corner speed of 50-60mph. He isn’t quite turning in yet, but would be finishing his final shift and having a glance in the mirror, perhaps, before initiating the turn.

The final one is immediately after exiting Tannery – the straight leads to the now non-existent Long Bridge .

The location of the farmers gate is about where Len Lukey is in our first shot. There is a stile to the right so you can easily enter the property and walk up 400-500 metres to the River Esk waters edge.

I don’t think Jones would approach the following left hander before Long Bridge in top, but mighty quick in fourth.

Credits…

Geoff Wiseman, Mark Bisset

Finito…