Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

(J Ellacott)

Alec Mildren Racing at Warwick Farm in May 1961, that’s Alec with his back to us and mechanic/engineer Glenn Abbey leaning on the team’s Cooper T51 Maserati’s back wheel…

The ‘Rice’ Trailer behind proclaims Mildren and the Cooper as winners of the 1960 Australian Gold Star Championship drivers award and Australian Grand Prix. In racing terms Mildren, than 46 years old ‘had been around the block’, racing forever.

This article is about Mildren and the happy confluence of factors that enabled him to achieve Mark Donohue’s ‘Unfair Advantage’, win the titles above and reasonably soon thereafter retire from racing himself to ongoing success as a significant importer, motor-dealer and as a team owner/patron of others.

The factors of confluence were experience, his teams engineering capability, his Maserati connections and economic means. Mildren had raced Coopers for years, first a front engined T20 Bristol and then mid-engined F2 T41, T43 and T45, so his choice of chassis was easy! He was a regular enough customer of the boys from Surbiton that they stocked his hue of ‘Mildren Green’ paint. Cooper despatched a brand new Grand Prix T51, chassis ‘F2-22-59’ to Sydney in October 1959.

The engine was trickier though. 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF’s were as rare as hens teeth at that time in the hands of privateers as the works F1 teams had a mortgage on supply. The only dude in Australia who had one was Frank Matich, it was fitted to a Lotus 15 he acquired in the UK- the car was a formidable weapon in Australia’s National F Libre category but not a race winner in Gold Star competition in other than exceptional circumstances. Alec’s single-seater competitors- Bib Stillwell, Bill Patterson and Austin Miller would all be making do with 2 or 2.2 litre FPF’s for a while at least.

The successful Maserati 250S engine, front mounted of course in its original environment, was more of a chellenge to fit, but it could be done, Glen Abbey and Alec had the skills and critically the engine was available, sorted, powerful, and could be acquired by a privateer.

And so it was the Canberra racer cleverly adapted the engine to chassis and gearbox, tested it and then went out, beat the best in Australia and then retired to become the patron, mentor and entrant of Ralph Sach, Frank Gardner, Kevin Bartlett, Max Stewart and others.

Mildren got his timing precisely right- by the start of 1961 he was approaching 46, 2.5 FPF’s were arriving in Australia and Stillwell (born 1927) and Patterson (born 1923) who had also been racing for a long time, but were younger than Alec were starting to peak- win and call it quits, who can argue with that as a good strategy for a professional sportsman?

Mildren was a thoroughly decent man, racer and businessman, the General Motors, Alfa Romeo, SAAB etc dealer was one of those fellas who put far more into motor racing than he ever took out of it.

Mildren with Max Stewart on the Warwick Farm grid in 1970, Mildren Waggott 2 litre’ looks like the tail of Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 59 Waggott next door (BP)

Going back a step or two Mildren’s parents emigrated to Sydney from Surrey in the UK in 1912…

By the time Alec was born in 1915 at Burwood in Sydney’s inner southwest his father had already established a good business as a master-builder to service the needs of the rapidly growing populations need for housing.

Mildrens interest in cars was whetted at an early age by Vauxhalls his father owned- a 14/40 Speedster and 30/98.

Alec’s drive and determination was no doubt in part due to the difficult circumstances in which he was raised.

On the way back from a holiday over the 1930 Christmas period the family were returning home to Sydney when a tyre of the car his father was driving blew causing the car to roll. Both his parents were killed in the accident, with Alec in the back seat the only survivor. One can only imagine the trauma the 15 year old boy/youth felt. He moved in with his 10 years older brother, wife and family but did not last long, moving out to live on his own aged 16. The brother continued the family home constrction business.

Inner city Darlinghurst was a tough place for a youngster to be but Alec moved into a small bed-sit, and despite the economic savagery of the depression found work pumping fuel and as a milkmans mate. On long walks on the weekend he would surf at Bondi and take a shower.

Before too long he walked into the naval depot in nearby Rushcutters Bay, saw a recruitment ad and joined up. His timing was perfect, having run down the military with budget cuts for years the Australian Government were putting money back into defence as global uncertainty increased- Fascism was on the rise most notably in Germany and Italy.

He was posted to the Communications Centre as a consequence of his education, he had completed his Intermediate Certificate whilst living with his brother. He was later posted to the Flinders base in Victoria and served in the Mediterranean. On a trip to the UK in the late thirties he visited Brooklands and saw the German cars at Donington. He returned from this trip with some goodies for his Austin 7 Ulster- a Laystall crank and rods, Scintilla magneto and a close ratio four-speed gearbox.

By this stage he had met future wife and life partner Marjorie- they were married in August 1939 but soon he was off to War together with most of the other young innocents on the planet. He saw active service in intelligence operations aboard HMAS Hobart in Europe but was invalided out of the Navy as medically unfit after a bad fall aboard ship.

After return to Australia and release from Randwick Hospital he sat his accountancy exams- having studied in his spare time whilst in the Navy and soon commenced working for what is now Price Waterhouse Coopers as an auditor in Sydney. In 1942 son Jeffrey arrived.

He soon moved to The Department of Supply and ‘backyarded’ some used cars- how many racers have motor-trading in their CV?! In a further example of his entrepreneurial flair he bought a cab in 1944 and did very nicely ferrying cashed up ‘Yanks’ around Sydney on shore-leave from ships fighting in the South Pacific, in the same year second son Raymond was born.

At the end of the War Alec sold his ‘taxi-plate’- his licence for a tidy sum and again dealt in cars. Soon he was also employed in the game by ‘University Motor Auctions’. At about the same time he started his long racing career with the purchase of a Singer Le Mans, this was soon replaced by the ex-Ben Tarr Ford Spl.

Mildren in the self built AGM Ford V8 Spl at the Nowra naval base, NSW in 1947 (Mildren)

As Mildren’s business flourished so too did the quality and competitiveness of the cars he raced. In Melbourne his fellow contemporary racers Stan Jones and Bib Stillwell were on similar racing and car dealing journeys- Jones with only his own resources like Mildren and Stillwell with adequate family backing to ease his way into the game.

The Mildren family decision to set up shop in Canberra was made after a number of trips ferrying cars from Sydney to Canberra to a friend who was operating from the national capital. He and Marjorie acquired some land in Lonsdale Street, Braddon and built a small dealership premises and an adjoining flat in which they lived. All of the profits of the business were ploughed back in to finance stock- soon they applied for, and were granted General Motors franchises for Vauxhall and Bedford.

Mildren in the Dixon Riley at Sydney’s Parramatta Park track in 1951 (Mildren)

Alec in this posed shot at Gnoo Blas, Orange NSW 1954. Self developed MG Spl (Mildren)

Whilst the family lived modestly behind the dealership Mildren continued to race contesting the 1948 Australian Grand Prix at Point Cook in Melbourne’s west aboard a self-built AGM Ford V8 Spl he built in 1947.

This was replaced by an MG TB he ran from circa 1949 to 1951 prior to acquisition of the ex-John Snow Dixon Riley which was completely rebuilt upon purchase in 1951, but still gave plenty of grief in terms of the cars speed and reliability!

In 1953 he bought a very famous MG, Alan Tomlinson’s MG TA Spl which won the 1939 AGP on Australia’s most daunting road circuit, Lobethal in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. He replaced the old war-horses heavy body with a Clive Adams built central-seat aluminium one which slipped through the air nicely. The mechanically very capable Alec replaced the TA engine with a supercharged TC unit and close ratio gearbox. The car was very quick- Alec accepted an offer from Curley Brydon to buy it after the Gnoo Blas meeting in 1953.

Mildren Cooper T20 Bristol, Mount Druitt (Des Lawrence)

His passion for Rileys undiminished, he next bought the Rizzo Riley before buying his first ‘outright in the right circumstances’ contender, the ex Rodney Nuckey Cooper T20 Bristol which made its debut at Mount Druitt in 1955.

Jack Brabham’s T23 would have been a better purchase when ‘Blackie’ went off to seek fame and fortune in The Land of The Pom but Stan Jones ‘nicked’ that machine from other locals in his ever expanding garage(s).

Acquired in the UK, Alec’s new car was a serious bit of kit which had won the 1953/4 Helsinki GP’s. He remembers the car mainly in a positive way, he liked the cars handling, braking and steering- ‘I won a few short races with it, but no long ones of any consequence. I can’t say that I went out to buy Bristol engines- the one I had was very temperamental’. In long Australian careers all five of the T20/23 Cooper Bristols which came to Australia had their engines replaced by either Holden ‘Grey’ six cylinder engines, sometimes fitted with a Phil Irving designed Repco ‘Hi-Power’ head or Chev Corvette V8’s.

A mistake in the cars preparation when a fuel line leaked onto the exhaust during the Argus Trophy at Albert Park hospitalised the gritty motor-trader overnight and took a while to recover from but his increasing flair was on display at his first post-prang meeting at Southport, Queensland when he finished 3rd behind Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 and Stan Jones Maybach in November 1955.

The organisers of the New Zealand Grand Prix invited him to contest their 1956 event at Ardmore but the Cooper had the look of a start-line special when the Bristol engines head gasket blew having covered only 20 yards after the start. In late 1956 he also commenced racing an Aston DB2/4- profits were on the up! After the 1957 AGP at Caversham, Western Australia, with Alec fifth in a race famous for its vicious heat, he sold the car to local gun, Syd Negus.

Mildren, Cooper T41 Climax, Lowood 1957 (Mildren)

Cooper T41, twin SU fed Coventry Climax 1.5 litre SOHC FWB engine (Mildren)

Mildren went mid-engined for the first time with purchase of Jack Brabham’s 1956 Oulton Park Gold Cup winning F2 Cooper T41 Climax FWB.

‘When I first drove it down my practice strip near home I couldn’t believe how good it was…how the brakes and steering worked and the car drove better than anything I had had. I entered a Bathurst Easter meeting and I couldn’t believe it when I passed the Ferrari’s and Maserati’s (250F) because its such a little car, so handleable!’

By now the self-fulfilling prophecy of better cars giving better results was clear to Mildren- if that was ever in doubt! His next acquisition was his first ‘brand spankers’ racing car- the latest F2 Cooper T43 Climax FPF 1.5 twin-cam.

Mildren wasn’t convinced it was much better a car than its predecessor until taken out to 2 litres with a liner kit, pistons and sleeves he sourced from Coventry Climax via Jack Brabham. In that form he contested the ’58 AGP at Bathurst finishing 7th in the race having been hit during practice and pitting twice.

He won the ’58 Queensland Road racing Championship and Lowood Trophy- beating Stan Jones and Reg Hunts Maser 250F’s, the first time in Oz a Cooper had beaten the Big Red Cars.

This car was sold to Glynn Scott who raced it successfully with Mildren buying a new Cooper T45- delivered to Melbourne prior to the 1958 Melbourne Grand Prix, Alec and Glenn Abbey, then a youth who would become a longtime Mildren mechanic/engineer fitted the 2 litre FPF from the T43.

Alec was in with a shot for the ’58 Gold Star along with Stan Jones and Len Lukey but Stanley won the final round at Phillip Island aboard his Maser 250F and took the title he so richly deserved. Like Alec he was a perennial racer who had been competing nationally for almost as long as Mildren.

Mildren aboard his Cooper T45 Climax 2 litre FPF at Port Wakefield, South Australia in 1959. Those trademark prescription race goggles were made by Merowytch in London- in 1960 he switched to glasses and a visor (K Drage)

Bill Patterson’s T51 tail, Keith Rilstone’s Zephyr Spl with Alec, Cooper T45, Port Wakefield 1959 (K Drage)

In many ways Len Lukey’s successful 1959 Gold Star campaign was a prototype of Alec’s in 1960- buy the very best Cooper available, contest all the rounds with adequate back-up, drive fast and well but play the percentages, and the title will surely be yours.

Lukey won at Caversham and Phillip Island and whilst Alec was victorious at Fishermans Bend and Lowood twice, Lukey took the title by only 2 points from Alex with greater consistency.

Magnificent shot of Alec holding off Stan Jones during the Bathurst 100, Cooper T45 and Maser 250F, Easter 1959 (Mildren)

The title could easily have been Alec’s were it not for some misfortune during the Bathurst 100 round. He led until the 5th lap and then pitted to secure the loose bonnet cover having been black-flagged. He re-entered the race and with red mist in his eyes was up to 2nd behind Ross Jensen’s Maser 250F when a conrod bolt broke- he shut the engine down, but it cost him 6 valuable points to Lukey. When they tore the engine down there was damage only to the conrod- the precious crank was ok.

Cooper T51 Maser 250S, Longford 1960 (R Lambert)

Cooper T51 Maserati 250S, a pair of big Weber DCO3 carbs, Warwick Farm (Bob Britton)

As 1960 approached the Cooper Maserati was made race-ready…

The Maserati engine was no fluke, the approach to the factory was a function of Mildren ‘selling a few at the time’, he was an accredited dealer of the marque. The Cooper Masers in the UK suffered chronically from overheating so Mildren specified his to be built to suit methanol fuel, with the motor having a higher compression ratio than usual. These engines were fitted to the (1957) Maser 250S sportscar- four of which were built so fitted. Other 250S engines were fitted to update earlier Maser sporties with some sold to customers and fitted into other chassis’.

Initially the Mildren car used a Cooper Jack Knight splash-fed gearbox, later Alec acquired a pressure-fed ‘box from Jack Brabham after the Longford 1960 meeting. ‘This helped but by no means solved one of the cars problems, the fragility of its earlier model Cooper gearbox. The punch of the Maserati engine could still create little indentations on its bronze bushes, and easily peel the teeth off first gear, even with careful treatment Mildren described it as a “one practice, one race” gearbox before it needed overhauls’ Graham Howard wrote.

T51 first gearbox, Cooper Knight box, ERSA built original ex-Citroen (B Britton)

Despite the bulk of the 250S engine in relation to the mass of the 2.5 CC FPF for which the T51 chassis was built, Mildren and Abbey were able to mount the engine lower in Owen Maddocks frame than the taller FPF. One top chassis tube was modified to clear the twin 48 DCO Webers, the Cooper chassis ‘slightly strengthened’ with water and oil radiators enlarged due to engines requirements, a learning from experience with the motors use in the UK. The team also managed to fabricate driveshafts of equal length, unlike the Cooper Masers in the UK.

An adaptor plate or bellhousing was cast and machined locally to mate engine to gearbox and exhaust pipes were fabricated to clear the frame and ancillaries to dimensions specified by Maserati. The motor gave circa 270 bhp @ 7800 rpm- more than enough to do the goods amongst the 1960 Oz competitor set. Let’s not forget that the car was the first full Grand Prix specification machine Alec had driven, he was stepping up a class from what had gone before.

Alec’s 2 litre Cooper T45 Climax being pushed thru the Gnoo Blas paddock in January 1960- a successful weekend for the team- Glenn Abbey in blue, who is the other chap I wonder (Kelsey)

The season started well with a win in the Cooper T45 Climax at Gnoo Blas, Orange in late January. Alec won the South Pacific Road racing Championship during the Australian Touring Car Championship meeting averaging 103 mph and taking a second off Brabham’s lap record. He sold the car at the end of the weekend to future CAMS President John Roxburgh.

The 1960 Gold Star season started with the International meetings, the frst of which was at Longford in early March, there Alec was 2nd behind Brabham’s Cooper T51 2.5. Whilst in Tassie he accepted an invitation to compete at the opening Symmons Plains meeting- he and Arnold Glass’s 250F entertained the crowds with lots of passing but the Cooper Maser took the honours and its first win.

Longford paddock 1960, Austin Miller topless beside his yellow Cooper T51 Climax, then Arnold Glass’ Maser 250F and Alex fettling his car beside his ‘Rice’ Trailer (R Lambert)

Mildren at Longford in 1960, lines of Coopers of this era so distinctive (E French/Walkem Family)

Start of the Longford Trophy in 1960, what a marvellous panorama. Cooper T51’s to the fore L>R Brabham, Millers yellow car and Bib Stilwell, the Glass red 250F further right (Ellis/oldracephotos.com)

At Easter for the Bathurst 100 Mildren took a dominant win with the car timed at 160.71 mph over the flying mile. Glass was 2nd and Bill Patterson 3rd in Maser 250F and Cooper T51 FPF 2 litre. ‘The victory was immensely popular with 25,000 spectators, the crowd giving him one of the loudest ovations then heard at the popular track…to slash more than five minutes from Ross Jensen’s record time’.

The next race was the big one, that year the Australian Grand Prix was held on the Lowood, Queensland airfield circuit.

Alec’s track record there was impeccable- he was without doubt the fastest combination in Australia but a wildcard was thrown into the mix with ‘Dame Nellie Melba’- Lex Davison returning from retirement again to race an Aston Martin DBR4 GP machine powered by a methanol fed DBR1 3 litre sportscar engine.

The cars were hopelessly outclassed in GP racing- the front engined machines were too heavy, underdeveloped and arrived two years too late just like Lance Reventlows Scarabs. Some writers describe them as the ultimate expression of the front engine GP car but that does a grave disservice to the Lotus 16 Climax and the 1960 Ferrari Dino 246. Nonetheless, in Australian F Libre with wily, fast Davo behind the wheel the car was very much a contender, as events proved in spades.

Davison in his 3 litre Aston DBR4/250 during the Lowood ’60 AGP (Davison Collection)

Wide and open Lowood suited the Astons long legs, were the race at Bathurst or Fishermans Bend it would have been a different matter, perhaps.

Davison described the Coopers as ‘anti-Climaxes’, he was said to be emotionally attached to the front-engine machines like his Ferrari 500/625 but he was well aware of the Coopers potency given his hillclimb and short-circuit successes in his own air-cooled Coopers- and of course he was to race the machines in the coming years inclusive of a 1961 Mallala Cooper T51 AGP win. Still, Davo’s choice was an interesting one as he had the wealth to pick and choose from all the options. Davison had practiced the car at Goodwood and Phillip Island where he was 2 seconds from Brabham’s lap record.

The following excerpts are drawn from racer/team owner/journalist David McKay’s Sunday Telegraph and racer/historian Graham Howard’s ‘History of the AGP’ race report/chapter.

McKay wrote ‘Davison came to Lowood supported by his experienced crew…he drew first blood by winning the champions scratch race. Mildren had a lucky break here- 300 yards from the start he broke a halfshaft’. A half hour delay in the program caused by a fire after Ern Tadgell’s aero-engine Lotus 12 crashed and caused a small grass fire allowed Mildren’s repairs to be completed, he took the grid alongside Bib Stillwell, Cooper T51 Climax 2.5 and Davison.

‘The interesting aspect here was that, although the Mildren team carried every necessary spare part, the bushes of the top and bottom wishbones for the car had not been pre-reamed and required a lot of hand work in a very short time if the car was to be ready. Mildren himself had to take over- he had, after all, been building his own AGP cars since 1947- to get the work done…’ wrote Howard.

Alec sets to repairing the T51’s halfshafts in time for the race start. Note the rear disc, curvy Cooper chassis frame, transverse leaf spring, Maser 250S engine (Mildren)

The flag has dropped: Stilwell in the middle gets the initial jump with Alec on this side- hoping his car will be ok after the last minute repairs, and Lex on the outside (P Reynell)

 

‘From the flag until the end of the race, Mildren and Davison duelled at speeds between 40 and 160 mph and for most of the time separated by a second or less. The small green Cooper Maserati sounded harsher and accelerated harder than the big green Aston which looked noticeably steadier through the corners. Mildren lost the lead in a spot of heavy traffic and then “butterfingered” his car and the resulting excursion into the outfield dented the Cooper’s snout’.

Green ‘While Mildren did indeed grab the lead from Stillwell and Davison on the opening lap after making an understandably gentler start in second gear…a photo…showed Mildren’s unscathed car trailing the Aston Martin. Howard’s account explained that Davison grabbed the front running on lap 16 at Castrol Corner and that Mildren spun a lap later at Bardahl- perhaps caught out by traffic’.

Both Davison and Mildren led the race twice, here the Aston is in front of the little Cooper just before Alec spun (HAGP)

Davison had a 10 second lead, Mildren recalled ‘I did a silly thing- I had so much confidence that I eased off the throttle and dropped the pace by a second or two. When I tried to regain the time, I had to work very hard and told myself I had been a stupid fool. So I drove as hard as I could and eased back the time lost. It was not just a question of catching, but of course passing him’.

McKay ‘ Mildren retaliated and gave chase in true Moss-like fashion. He closed the gap relentlessly and went ahead again when Davison overdid a corner. Averaging 95 mph, these two held the 25,000 paying customers spellbound. Many excellent performances tended to be overshadowed. Stillwell, his rivals drawing away at over 2 sec a lap, motored cleanly and rapidly in 3rd spot- never challenging or being challenged. Behind him was a race long fight between Hall, Leighton and Glass…The leaders rushed past others as though possessed of immense speed and skill to match, everyone except Stillwell suffered the indignity of being “doubled”, some several times’.

Green, ‘No mention is made of Davison regaining the lead within a lap at Mobilgas, or of Mildren retaking it at Castrol two corners later- but such was the case’.

David McKay on the closing stages one of The Great AGP’s ‘Mildren’s engine , due to the damaged nose, was badly overheating and when Davison closed and went to the front just before the end it appeared as though the veteran driver would never realise his ambition, but in a finish to beat all finishes Mildren ducked inside Davison on the very last corner and in the long straight run to the chequered flag we could hear the Aston’s engine being squeezed as never before in a last effort to overhaul the Anglo-Italian car. Davison got the most out of the Aston alongside Mildren’s cockpit as the flag fell. “Mildren of Lowood” had won by 1/20th of a second’.

Metres from the finish, the big Aston ran out of space to run the little Cooper down- a magnificent finish to a fantastic race- difference in the size of the cars mega isn’t it (J Benson)

‘If he never drives again’, McKay wrote ‘Mildren earned himself a place in Australian motoring history by his magnificent drive that day. It was a victory of the highest order- won from a champion and sportsman who made him fight every inch, every second of the way. Mildren now has a stranglehold on the Gold Star award- that and the AGP are the fruits of many years and thousands of pounds spent in the most exacting sport of all’.

Sportsmanship personified: Lex playfully interviews Alec for the crowd, to right is Qld Governor Sir Henry Abel-Smith with Glynn Scott, first Queenslander home in Alec’s old Cooper at far right (Courier Mail)

 

Winners are Grinners, Alec, Jack Cotterill and Glenn Abbey with the AGP Cup (Mildren)

The Gold Star circus returned to Lowood again on the weekend of 4 September with Mildren again victorious, from Stillwell and Davison, albeit this time Bib was in front of Lex. It was another great race in which the lead changed about a dozen times in the opening 5 laps before Alec took the lead and held it.

Brabham returned for the October Craven A International at Bathurst in October as 1960 World Champion. No way was he going to lose that race, he won from Patterson and Stilwell. All three drove T51’s powered by 2.5, 2.4 and 2.2 litre CC FPF’s. Alec failed to finish with a  gearbox failure on lap 16.

Jones in blue, Mildren, Brabham up front, then John Leighton Cooper T45 FPF and Bib Stillwell in red, front engined car on row 3 is Arnold Glass Maser 250F, Noel Hall and Austin Miller in yellow. Then John Youl beside Bill Patterson’s white car- the other yellow machine is Doug Kelley’s ex-Miller Cooper T41 Climax FWB. The cars are all T51’s except where specified otherwise (NMRM)

Bathurst front row- Jack in the car, Alec #2 Cooper Maser and Stan Jones T51 with Alec back to us talking to Stillwell in the silver helmet? (Aussie Homestead)

A spate of unreliability seemed to have set in with a duff engine at Port Wakefield during the Advertiser Trophy meeting the following October weekend. Lex started from pole and retired on lap 20- the race was won by Stillwell from John Youl, T51 2.2 and Keith Rilstone’s amazing Eldred Norman built, front-engined supercharged 6-cylinder Zephyr Spl. Very much an Australian Special story for another time.

There was plenty of time to take the Cooper back to Canberra and have it well prepared in time for the Caversham, ‘Western Australia Trophy’ meeting on the 5 December weekend.

There Alec’s long desired Gold Star title dreams were realised with victory from Stillwell, his car now fitted with a 2.5 litre FPF and Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax sportscar. Bib needed 12 points to stay in the title hunt and took the lead from the start but Mildren was soon all over him, pressuring the Victorian into a rare error, Bib spun off at The Esses. By the time Bib got his Cooper gathered up and returned to the fray Alec was a half-lap ahead, a lead he was not to relinquish.

The team celebrated long into the night, the win a very popular one amongst his fellow competitors and race fans across the country- one of the sports perennial competitors had reaped the rewards he deserved.

Mildren did not start the final two major meetings of the year with Bill Patterson winning the Lukey Trophy at Phillip Island and Stillwell taking the Warwick Farm Trophy the week before Christmas 1960.

The final Gold Star pointscore was Mildren on 55 points from Stillwell and Patterson on 41 and 20 respectively.

The successful businessman/racer considered his options for 1961 knowing that Stillwell, Patterson, Youl, Miller and Davison who had retired again- and come back again would be formidable competitors, some with 2.5 litre FPF’s fitted into the back of their Coopers.

Clearly Mildren was at least considering a new car as the Cooper Maser was advertised for 5500 pounds in the November issue of ‘Australian Motor Sports’ but it did not sell so a new Maserati ‘Birdcage’ Tipo 61 2.9 litre engine and 5 speed Colotti Type 21 gearbox was fitted but not in time for the early season internationals.

Alec retired in the Warwick Farm 100 with falling oil pressure, the race was won by Rob Walker’s Moss driven Lotus 18 Climax. Arnold Glass had his first race of his Tommy Atkins built Cooper T51 Maserati 250S, a car he grew to dislike as much as he savoured and did so well in the Maser 250F which went before!

The car was trailered to Ballarat for the Victorian Trophy meeting at Ballarat Airfield on 12 February. There Dan Gurney took the only international win for a BRM P48, Alec was 6th, a lap down on Dan, the similarly mounted Graham Hill, Ron Flockhart’s Cooper T53 with Stan Jones the best of the locals in his T51 2.5 FPF, 4th. Glass was 7th in his Cooper Maser.

At Longford in early March Mildren was 6th, still with the 250S engine fitted with Cooper T51 FPF’s dominating- Salvadori won from Patterson, Youl and local boy Austin Miller.

During the lead up to the Easter Bathurst meeting the Birdcage engine was fitted. Bill Patterson won the ‘Craven A’ Gold Star race convincingly in a run which would win him the 1961 Gold Star aboard his very quick T51. Alec was 5th behind Patto, Stan Jones, Stillwell and Glass. Alec felt the car was quicker than before but not very much so.

Warwick Farm May 1961 and here fitted with the 2.9 litre Maser Birdcage Tipo 61 engine number ‘2475’ and Colotti T21 5 speed gearbox (J Ellacott)

In its new Birdcage/Colotti form he was 2nd in a low-key non-championship scratch race behind Bib Stillwell at Warwick Farm in May- in front of the Noel Hall and David McKay T51’s.

Lowood had been a Mildren happy hunting ground more often than not in the preceding years, and so it was he was 2nd in the Queensland Centenary Road racing Championships Gold Star round in June behind Patterson but ahead of Jones.

And in low key style, that was it for Alec’s racing career, he quietly retired to focus on his business and establishment of Alec Mildren Racing Pty. Ltd as a team owner- his and David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce concern created the first professional racing teams in Australia.

Mildren’s exploits and those of his drivers will be a nice Part 2 of the Alec Mildren story.

Alec Mildren Racing at Longford in 1965. Gardner warms up the Brabham BT11A Climax in the foreground whilst alongside the Mildren Maserati is fettled next door (oldracephotos/H Ellis)

In September 1961 the Cooper, fitted with the 250S engine was sold to Ross Dalton on a time payment deal. In his first meeting with the car at the shortlived Toowoomba Middle Ridge road circuit he lost it in practice- locking the front wheels, broadsided some corner posts and somersaulted over the haybales, the car was ‘not too badly damaged’. Whilst advertised again with the 250S engine and Colotti box in AMS in February 1962 Green’s book says the car reverted back to Alec after the accident.

Entered in the 1963 AGP at Warwick Farm for Frank Gardner the now ‘old nail’ T51 Maser was outgunned by much more modern Coopers, Brabhams, Lolas and Lotuses but gave FG valuable big-car experience before he returned to Europe where he was ‘on the climb’. He DNF for unstated reasons. Gardner’s pattern of driving for Alex every Australasian summer at the end of his European season extended all the way through to 1969- and to the end of FG’s single-seater career post his time with Alec’s team through until 1972.

At that stage it was not uncommon globally for uncompetitive Cooper T51’s to be re-birthed as sportscars, perhaps Roger Penske’s Zerex Special (see my article by keying the name into the primo search engine on this sites front page) is the most famous of these exercises.

Abbey and Mildren’s variation on the theme was for the core components of the car- T61 2.9 litre engine, Colotti box, suspension and brake componentry to be built into a car constructed by Rennmax’ Bob Britton who ended up having an enduring, very successful relationship with the team until its end at the duration of the 1970 season.In essence Britton’s car was a Lotus 19 chassis clone with a 23 style of body.

The car was immediately quick in the hands of Ralph Sach, Frank Gardner and Kevin Bartlett who won the 1965 Victorian Sportscar Championship in it. Its life with the Mildren team ended during the 1965 Australian Tourist Trophy, when, with Gardner at the wheel the engine let go in the biggest possible way spreading expensive alloy shrapnel on Lakesides main straight.

Ralph Sach in the Longford paddock 1965, Mildren Maserati (oldracephotos)

Ralph Sach, Mildren Maser during the 1965 Tasman meeting at Warwick Farm (B Wells)

At that point the car was advertised and sold to Ross Ambrose (he of Van Diemen and Marcus Ambrose fame) who renamed it, with Mildren’s agreement, as a Rennmax. Fitted initially with a 2.2 litre Coventry Climax FPF it later had installed the ex-Scarab/Stillwell Buick 3.9 litre V8 by Geoff Smedley, the car raced on and still exists.

What about the chassis of the Cooper you ask?

Badly corroded, twisted from a few accidents and by then living in Abbey’s coastal Narrabeen home garage, it was dumped at the Avalon tip circa June 1965- the cars simply were not worth then what they have been since the mid-seventies!

Bits not used in the sportscar build went to other Cooper owners, especially in Tasmania where a few of the Oz T51’s ended up. The 250S engine sold to Terry Clift in 1966 and played an important role in the cars resurrection when he sold it, in badly damaged form, to Sydney’s Paul Moxham who had started the long process of reconstruction of this famous, clever Australian Cooper.

Mildren before a rin in Paul Moxham’s recreation/reconstruction of his old T51 Maser during the 1985 Adelaide AGP carnival (Mildren)

The chassis commercial airline pilot Moxham found for the project was believed to be one of two created ‘in period’ by Len Lukey who fabricated a T51 jig whilst the 1959 Gold Star winner was racing a T51- not the only such jig in the country either!

Moxham created a fibreglass body from a mould taken off the Noel Hall T51 in 1959 by Bob Britton and Chris Conroy- Sam Johnson of JWF Fibreglass made the body. The car was assembled gradually in consultation with Mildren, Abbey and Tim Wall with new wishbones, bushes, front axles, discs, hubs with the engine and gearbox fully rebuilt by 1985.

Alec drove the car during the (first) 1985 Adelaide F1 AGP carnival and looked as pleased as punch with the car and experience. Moxham used the car in historic events from then until 1989 when prominent American racer/collector Peter Giddings acquired it. It still exists…

Longford Trophy 1960: Stillwell has jumped away from winner Brabham in #4 Cooper T51. Arnold Glass 250F clear, #60 Miller’s T51, #24 Mildren, #9 Patterson T51 and #20 John Youl also T51 with the distinctive rear suspension of Ern Tadgell’s Lotus 12 Climax (Sabakat) at right rear. All of the hot shots of the 1960 Gold Star sans Davison are in this shot (K Thompson)

Etcetera: Cooper Maser T51 Technical Specifications…

Chassis

Number ‘F2-22-59’: Mk4 T51 multi-tubular spaceframe

Suspension- Front- unequal length upper and lower fabricated wishbones and coil spring/shocks Rear- adjustable top links, lower wishbones, single transverse leaf spring and shocks. Steering: Cooper rack and pinion. Brakes: Girling discs outboard on all wheels

Dimensions- Front/rear track 1182/1219 mm. Wheelbase 2311 mm. Wheels Cooper cast magnesium 121x381mm front and 159x381mm rear with 5.25/5.5×15 inch front and 6.5×15 inch rear tyres. Weight circa 472 kg dry

Maserati Engines:

250S

All alloy, DOHC, roller follower, 2 valve, dry sumped four cylinder fed by two 48mm Weber carburettors, alcohol fuel.

Bore/stroke 96X86mm- 2489cc, compression ratio 12.5:1. Power circa 270 bhp @ 7800 rpm on alcohol fuel

T61

General description as above

Bore/stroke 100X92mm- 2890cc. Power quoted as 260 bhp @ 7000 rpm with 100 octane. On alcohol a bit more

Gearboxes

Initially Cooper Knight 5 speed, with Maser T61 engine Colotti T21 5 speed when car fitted with Birdcage T61 motor

Bibliography…

‘History of the Australian GP’ Graham Howard and Ors, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Driven To Succeed: The Alec Mildren Story’ Barry Green, oldracingcars.com, ‘Maserati: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard

Photo Credits…

John Ellacott, Peter Reynell, Bob Britton, Bruce Wells, Kelsey Collection, oldracephotos.com, Australian Motor Racing Museum, Aussie Homestead Racing, Keverall Thompson, John Benson, Mildren- photos from Barry Green book as above

Tailpiece: Australian Grand Prix, Lowood 1960…

(P Reynell)

Mildren awaits the start of the 1960 AGP at the front of a very crowded AGP grid, the period immediately before the race had its pressures too. Stillwell and Davison alongside. #87 Frank Matich Lotus 15 Climax

Finito…

 

 

 

 

Ron Flockhart and Mustang P51, Moorabbin Airport, Melbourne 1961…

I wrote an article three years ago about Ron Flockhart, his win together with Ivor Bueb aboard an Ecurie Ecosse Jag XKD at Le Mans in 1957 (he won in a D Type with Ninian Sanderson in ’56 too) and tangentially about his death in a Mustang P51 fighter in Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges during preparations for his second attempt on the Australia-United Kingdon air record in April 1962. Click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2015/01/17/le-mans-1957-d-type-jaguar-rout-ron-flockhart-racer-and-aviator/

Recently I came upon some photographs of Ron in Australia taken during the 1961 pre-Tasman racing internationals, this led to another ‘Flockhart Google cruise’ and discovery of the substance of this piece which is an article first published in ‘Pilot’ magazine written by Neil Follett and Nick Stroud. That article is from an aviation rather than a motor racing perspective- I found it fascinating, I know many of you ‘crossover’ into ‘planes as well as cars so here ‘tis, the racing bits which are mine, will be clear I think.

Ron Flockhart in red and Ivor Bueb with Jag XKD ‘606’ after the 1957 Ecurie Ecosse Le Mans win (unattributed)

‘One of the first racing drivers to fly himself to meetings in his own aircraft, Ron Flockhart raced at the top level in sports cars and Formula One before a growing interest in long distance record flights led to high adventure and stark tragedy.

William Ronald Flockhart was born in Edinburgh on 16 June 1923. He began his motor racing career in 1951, going on to win the 24 Heures du Mans race in 1956 and 1957 while driving a D-Type Jaguar with the Scottish Ecurie Ecosse team. Flockhart also participated in Formula One races, entering his first−the British Grand Prix−in 1954 and continuing throughout 1956–60. The Scotsman competed in fourteen F1 races with five different teams, his best result being a third in the 1956 Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Flockhart also displayed an early interest in flying, owning Auster 5 G-ANHO during 1954–57, and becoming one of the first Formula One drivers to fly their own aircraft to race meetings. In the early 1960s he became interested in record flights between England and Australia, noting that the record was held by Arthur Clouston and Victor Ricketts in the DH88 Comet G-ACSS Grosvenor House.

The Comet won the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race and was the aircraft in which Ricketts and Clouston flew from London to Sydney (and then on to New Zealand) in 80hr 56min in March 1938. Flockhart considered that this record could be bettered. He was also interested in bettering the standing solo Australia−UK record, held by H F ‘Jim’ Broadbent, who had left Darwin in Percival Vega Gull G-AFEH on 18 April 1938, and landed in England on the 22nd having covered 9,612 miles in five days 4hr 21min, the last pre-war record flight between the two countries.

In October 1960 British holding company United Dominions Trust (UDT), through its subsidiary Laystall Engineering, formed an agreement with the British Racing Partnership to form a motor-racing organisation known as UDT Laystall Racing. As an extension of its racing activities, UDT became involved with the purchase of (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Fishermens Bend, Melbourne built) Commonwealth CA-17 Mustang Mk 20 VH-BVM for Flockhart’s record attempt.

This aircraft had originally been purchased from the RAAF by former RAF and RAAF pilot James L ‘Wac’ Whiteman, who intended to enter the aircraft in the 1953 London to Christchurch (New Zealand) Air Race. Wac withdrew from the race when he realised it would not be competitive with the jets entered and in 1954 its ownership passed to Arnold J Glass, a fellow racing driver against whom Flockhart would compete in the 1961 and 1962 New Zealand Grand Prix races. Used latterly for target-towing experiments, it was sold to UDT for around £2,000 with around 100 flying hours on the clock. Flockhart was also able to obtain 63 gallon combat droptanks for about £7 each’.

Flockhart with the unloaded left front of his Cooper T51 Climax just kissing the Warwick Farm Causeway tarmac in 1961 (J Arkwright)

Racing in New Zealand/Australia, Summer 1961…

Ron organised an ex-works Cooper for his limited campaign of races in the Antipodes in the hot summer of 1961. T51 Climax ‘F2-7-59’ was ‘ex-Works Car No 3 according to the Cooper Register…believed to be Masten Gregory’s regular car during 1959…Bruce McLaren’s race-winning car at both Sebring December 1959 and at Buenos Aires in February 1960…and may be either the works teams spare car during 1960…or the car sold to Fred Tuck for 1960’ according to oldracingcars.com. Whatever the case, whilst the T51 was a good jigger, it was no longer in the full flush of youth with the quicker cars that season the T53 ‘Lowline’ Coopers of Brabham and McLaren, the works P48 BRM’s of Graham Hill and Dan Gurney and Rob Walker’s Lotus 18 Climax driven by Stirling Moss.

Flockhart and Denny Hulme fighting for 4th place during the 1961 NZ GP at Ardmore both in Cooper T51 Climax 2.5 FPF, Ron 4th, Denny 5th (sergent.com)

Moss disappeared into the distance in the 7 January NZ GP at Ardmore but was outed with a badly slipping clutch mid-race giving the win to Brabham from McLaren, Hill and Flockhart a plucky fourth.

With much preparation to do in Australia for his pending flight he missed the balance of the NZ events and re-acquainted himself with the Cooper T51 at the first international meeting held at the new, technically challenging Warwick Farm circuit laid out amidst a horse-racing facility on the western suburban outskirts of Sydney on 29 January.

Getty Images caption dated 2 February 1961 notes ‘The Flying Scotsman’ is travelling from Australia to England on a dual mission- first to marry BOAC hostess Gillian Tatlow and second to attempt to break the Australia-Britain record for single-engine planes..(Getty)

He was fifth in the ‘Warwick Farm 100’ held in scorching hot weather and won by the Moss Lotus 18 with its side-panels removed to help cope with the extreme conditions. A fortnight later he contested the last race of his ’61 tour, the ‘Victoria Trophy’ that year held on a circuit laid out on Ballarat Airfield, Ballarat is in Victoria’s Goldfields region 120 Km from Melbourne.

Flockhart at Ballarat Aerodrome, 1961. This Cooper T53 Climax  (autopics.coma.u)

Ron raced a Border Reivers Cooper T53 Climax to third to the works BRM P48’s of Gurney and Hill with Dan scoring the only ‘international win’ for that chassis that weekend. With that, and a fortnight until his scheduled Mustang departure for the UK he re-focused on a high-performance machine of an altogether different type.

Flockhart with G-ARKD, place? (Pilot)

Preparations begin…

‘With the end of the Antipodean motor racing season in early 1961, preparations began for the flight to the UK. Rolls-Royce ran checks on the Packard Merlin 38 engine, which had only run 110 hours since new, and which had never been ‘through the gate’. The magnetos were overhauled in Scotland and Smiths Australia set to work on overhauling the cockpit instruments.

Preparatory work on the airframe was undertaken at the Illawarra Flying School, which modified the fuel system by introducing a manual device by which the system could be depressurised. Two static vents were incorporated into the airframe under the cockpit sill, each containing a valve. This would enable Flockhart to run the droptanks dry without the risk of sucking air into the system. The system would then be repressurised from the exhaust side of the vacuum pump to assist initial transfer. This worked well, although a stiff bootful of rudder was required to counter the rolling moment causd by the change in lateral balance as a tank emptied.

In the limited space available in the Mustang’s cockpit two German Becker VHF radio sets were installed, which provided 36 communications channels, and Lear T12 automatic direction finding (ADF) equipment was fitted in the position usually occupied by the gunsight. No VOR, ILS, HF radio or marker-beacon receiver equipment was fitted−Flockhart held no instrument rating. Normalair supplied the oxygen equipment, Dunlop provided new tyres, and Lodge delivered new plugs. Rolls-Royce suggested that the Merlin be opened up to maximum continuous power every half-hour during the flight and again briefly during descent and approach.’

Bankstown Airport Sydney 1961 (G Goodall)

G-ARKD lookin’ a million bucks outside Fawcett’s hangar at Bankstown after final prep for the 1961 flight (G Goodall)

‘Final preparations and modifications were undertaken by Fawcett Aviation at Bankstown Aerodrome in Sydney, and the Mustang was officially added to the British register on 24 February 1961 as G-ARKD, in the name of Ronald Flockhart. In the days leading up to his departure for the UK Flockhart had logged a mere twelve flying hours in the Mustang.

In March 1961, Flockhart told British magazine Flight that piloting a Mustang for the first time was like ‘driving an ERA after a sports car; things happen very quickly’. He also admitted that it had taken some time to get used to the Mustang’s long nose and the technique of a curving approach, and had accordingly suffered ‘one or two bumpy landings’, but had quickly come to like the aeroplane very much. Flockhart noted that although the Mustang was big and powerful, ‘it was amply stable for the long hours of steady, level cruise’.

The planned route for the flight was Sydney—Alice Springs—Darwin—Sourabaya—Singapore —Rangoon—Calcutta—Karachi—Bahrain—Beirut—Brindisi—Nice and on to London, with overnight stops at Singapore, Karachi and Brindisi. Flockhart’s plan was to fly only during daylight hours and in segments of a maximum of five hours. All fuelling arrangments along the route were to be made by Esso, which Flockhart found to be ‘unfailingly helpful and efficient’

(Pilot)

Setting off…

‘On Tuesday, February 28, 1961, Flockhart and G-ARKD, painted in an overall bright red colour scheme with white detailing, departed Sydney for the first stop at Alice Springs. En route from the latter to Darwin, Flockhart experienced a magnetically charged dust storm, which affected his ADF equipment. He settled in at 12,000ft and followed the faint line of a solitary railway across the endless red terrain to Darwin.

The next day Flockhart departed Darwin for Surabaya on Java. Well out over the Timor Sea he saw an ominous line in the distance, marking an inter-tropical front piling clouds up to 50,000ft and higher. From 12,000ft he dived to low altitude to find a hole in the milky mist. After ten minutes the Mustang popped through the other side of the front with most of the paint on its leading edges stripped off. The diversion had cost a substantial amount of fuel and Flockhart elected to divert to Baucau on East Timor for replenishment.’

G-ARKD, Darwin 1961 (L Brighton)

‘After a quick refill from fuel kept in 45 gallon churns in a thatched hut, Flockhart took off for what he later recalled as ‘the loveliest part of the trip’−east-north-east over the Balinese islands and coral atolls to Singapore. The maximum endurance of the Mustang was seven hours, for six of which Flockhart could be on oxygen. Typical cruising speed was 225 knots at 12,000ft, although the speed would increase to 280 with the periodic opening of the throttle, as per Rolls-Royce’s suggestion.

The diversion to Baucau meant a late arrival at Singapore, where Flockhart was further delayed by an accident which had closed the runway at his next stop, Rangoon. Having received the all-clear to depart, Flockhart headed into the darkness, his first experience of flying the Mustang at night. Finding that the ADF equipment functioned better at night, he followed airways all the way to Rangoon, where the scarlet Mustang received a great deal of attention, not least from the Czechoslovakian crew of a SA Tupolev Tu-104.’

G-ARKD- 63 gallon drop tanks being filled, place unknown but looks like Australia (I Leslie)

Across India…

‘The following morning there was still plenty of interest in the aircraft, and on departure for Calcutta Flockhart held the Mustang down on takeoff until he could pull up 4,000ft almost vertically into cloud.

Navigating largely by means of contact flying−using established landmarks− Flockhart experienced difficulties on the leg to Calcutta, becoming embroiled in a cloud layer at 2,000ft which caused him to miss the let-down beacon into Calcutta and overshoot, forcing him to put down at Barrackpore, some fifteen miles north of Calcutta.

After a swift refuelling, Flockhart was off again for the longest leg of the journey, across India and Pakistan to Karachi, which he completed in 5hr 50min using 43gal/hr of fuel. Flockhart later related that he ate only a few Horlicks tablets on this leg, and refreshed himself on landing at Karachi with ginger beer kept cold in the ammunition bays.

At Karachi the Mustang was turned around in less than an hour, Flockhart taking off in the moonlight to follow the Iranian coast to Bahrain. As he later told Flight: ‘Navigation at night was wonderful. There is a great tranquillity about it. The isolation and the beauty contrasts sharply with the actions of those on the ground, who try to tie you down with streamers of paper. Flying at night in the moonlight, the only shadows are on the surface’.

It was still night when Flockhart landed at Bahrain, where he discovered that air had been leaking from the port main wheel oleo. This caused little concern, however, and after a safe landing the undercarriage was quickly repaired by the RAF. Flockhart was soon off again, to follow an oil pipeline to the mountains of Lebanon and Beirut. He was cleared−and then recalled−by Damascus air traffic control shortly after passing over the city, but, short of fuel, he elected to continue to Beirut and face the consequences there.

It was indeed at Beirut where the trouble started.

Despite the diversions and delays owing to minor repairs, Flockhart was still well ahead of his own schedule when he taxied out at Beirut for the next leg to Brindisi on 3 March.

Confusion on the ground, however, led to the Mustang’s coolant boiling while Flockhart was held while other aircraft landed. The Mustang finally departed for Brindisi but poor weather forced Flockhart to divert to his nominated alternate, Athens.’

G-AKRD on the deck at Athens Airport. Aircraft later damaged by a cockpit fire, left exposed for years in Athens and eventually scrapped, now seemingly resurrected from the dead (I Leslie)

‘Anxious not to lose any more time, Flockhart refuelled quickly and requested clearance from the Tower, which was refused as no flight plan had been filed. Requesting to file an airborne flight plan, Flockhart was refused again, the Tower demanding that he pay landing fees, despite the fact that these had already been seen to by Esso. As Flight elegantly put it: ‘temperatures rose−in the Tower, in the cockpit and in the cylinder heads’.

Realising that resistance was futile, Flockhart retired for a rest, before trying again in a few hours. With the paperwork sorted, he returned to the Mustang in the early morning, but found on starting that steam was issuing from the cowling. Refilling the coolant system, he found that the coolant was running out between Nos 3 and 4 cylinders on the starboard bank. By this time he was twelve hours behind his schedule, but two days ahead of the solo record.

Exhausted and frustrated, Flockhart left G-ARKD at Athens and continued to London by commercial airliner to be married as planned a few days later on 11 March 1961. The Scotsman subsequently told Flight that it was ‘not the flying, nor navigation, nor preparation which was responsible for the failure. It was an air traffic system out of touch with the individual needs of a type of flying that has not yet, by any means, disappeared from the global scene’.

In September 1961 the Mustang was severely damaged by a cockpit fire while being taxied at Athens airport, putting paid to its use in any further record attempt.’

Arnold Glass’ BRM P48 inside Ron Flockhart’s Lotus 18 Climax, DNF for both – Lycoming Special of Forrest Cardon to the right 16th- Maser 250F to the left of Cardon is Chris Amon 11th  to the Lycoming’s left, Ardmore 1962 (sergent.com)

Racing in Australasia 1962…

There was plenty of the depth in the international fields local drivers confronted in 1962- visitors included Moss back with a choice of Rob Walker cars- Lotus 21 and Cooper T53, McLaren and John Surtees also ran T53’s with Jack in a T55. We had our first look at Jim Clark aboard a Team Lotus Lotus 21 Climax but like Flockhart, Clark was hamstrung a bit by having only a 2.5 FPF- in the hands of the top-liners de-rigeur in ’62 was a 2.7 FPF ‘Indy’ engine. Ron raced a Border Reivers Lotus 18.

In a bit of Mini Cooper racing trivia the first such cars were taken to New Zealand and on to Australia by Bruce McLaren and Ron- a third car intended for Roy Salvadori missed the trip. They raced the ‘bricks’ at several of the meetings in which they contested the feature races with their GP cars. The potential of the machines, despite their size, was not lost of any of the racers or spectators who watched cars which of course became icons which define an age.

Dennis Marwood’s Humber leads Jim Steans Mini and the Coopers of McLaren and Flockhart at Wigram in 1962 (J Steans)

It was a mediocre tour really, Ron’s two NZ races were the Ardmore NZ GP and Wigram with DNF’s due to engine problems and a failed universal joint respectively. Moss won both races, the NZ GP famously a very soggy one in the Lotus 18 powered by a 2.5 FPF.

Fifth at Warwick Farm was much better for Ron and a high point, Moss took that win too, this time aboard the T53 2.7 having tried both cars in practice with Moss preferring the more-chuckable Cooper to the Lotus around the ‘Farm. Flockhart had an early day in the Lakeside International after a collision on lap 20, the race was won by Brabham’s T55.

Flockhart in the Border Reivers Lotus 18 Climax in the Sandown paddock 1962 (autopics.com.au)

Flockhart missed the Longford round won by Surtees and rejoined for the first Sandown International, like Warwick Farm it was laid out within a horse-racing facility and on Melbourne’s then south-eastern outskirts 40 km from the city. Brabham won again with Flockhart suffering bearing failure in what turned out to be his very last motor-race.

Sandown Park is only 10 Km from Moorabbin Airport and 30 Km from Kallista in the Dandenongs, both sadly to loom large for all the wrong reasons shortly thereafter.

Flockhart and mount, outside the Brookes Aviation hangar, Moorabbin Airport, fateful morning of 12 April 1962 (G Goodall)

Take two…

Not to be deterred, within months (of the 1961 Athens airport fire) Flockhart began looking for another Australian Mustang for a second attempt on the record that had eluded him. The aircraft chosen was former RAAF Mustang VH-UWB, acquired on Ron’s behalf by AREF Ltd of Ascot, Berkshire and registered G-ARUK. Flockhart had announced his intention to try and beat the record again, with plans to follow the route Melbourne—Sydney—Darwin—Singapore—Madras—Bahrain—Brindisi—London, starting on 16 April 1962.

‘Jock Garden, chief flying instructor and manager of the Civil Flying School, the flying training arm of the Mustang’s operator in Australia, Brookes Aviation, recalled in his memoirs: ‘Ron arranged to buy VH-UWB from John Brookes, and Brookes Aviation undertook a complete overhaul on the aircraft. Rolls-Royce, as a co-sponsor [of his next record attempt], sent out two engineers from England to service the engine; the aircraft was repainted in red and re-registered in the UK as G-ARUK.

I flew Ron over to Essendon Airport in the [Beech] Debonair early in 1962 and during the flight I asked if he had any recent instrument flying experience. When he told me he had none in the last eighteen months, I suggested it would be wise for him to gain recent instrument flying practice in view of the intended long flight, but he did not follow up on that advice.

‘I had the pleasure of doing the flight-testing of the Mustang on 19 March 1962, after its extensive servicing and it was in perfect condition with the Merlin the smoothest running engine I had ever encountered.’

‘A couple of days before he intended setting out on his record attempt Ron was to fly to Sydney to have maintenance done on his ADF unit. The weather conditions on 12 April were bad, with low cloud and rain, but Ron was determined to go. This proved to be a fatal decision as, within only a few minutes after departure, he lost control in cloud over the Dandenong Range and entered a spiral dive from which he could not possibly recover. He was killed instantly.’

The official report of the accident by the Australian Department of Civil Aviation gives the following conclusion: ‘While there is insufficient evidence to establish conclusively the cause of the accident, the possibility that the pilot temporarily lost control of the aircraft while circling in cloud, and that it subsequently stalled during the recovery and turn to avoid high terrain, cannot be excluded’.

Flockhart was flying the Mustang from Moorabbin to Bankstown to conduct fuel consumption tests and have the ADF equipment serviced. After encountering low cloud, he reported that he was returning to Moorabbin. The Mustang then changed course some 140° before entering a narrow gap between cloud-obscured hilltops in the Dandenongs.

The report stated that ‘the pilot circled in the vicinity of Kallista several times at low altitude and for the most part in cloud. The aircraft then emerged below cloud at a height of approximately 1,300ft, carried out a left turn probably to avoid higher terrain and, in the course of this turn, the nose dropped sharply and the aircraft struck trees and the ground at a steep angle, while rolling and turning to the right’.

At the time of the accident Flockhart held a British PPL endorsed for single-engined landplanes under 12,500lb (5,670kg) maximum permissible all-up weight. His total flying time was 961hr of which 69 were on Mustangs. During the six months immediately before the accident he had flown only five hours. He was not rated for instrument or night flying. In late 1960 he had undergone about 21 hours of ground-based Link trainer instruction on ADF, ILS and VDF procedures, but his logbook showed no record of any instrument flying or Link trainer instruction since that time.

Flockhart’s flying achievements were substantial and deserve a great deal of credit; his Mustang flight from Australia to Athens had been made with limited professional backing by a club-trained private pilot. Sadly, he never got the chance to finish the job — with his death on 12 April 1962, his final race had been run.’

Etcetera…

Flockhart hooting across Warwick Farm’s Causeway during the WF 100 in 1961, Cooper T51 Climax ( J Arkwright)

Flockhart’s Cooper T51 Climax in the Warwick Farm paddock in 1961. Car raced to a Longford win by Roy Salvadori the week later and then sale to David McKay at the end of the summer post the Hume Weir meeting also contested by Roy (J Arkwright)

‘Historic Dandenongs’ tribute to Ron Flockhart

Mustang A68-152, 135 and 175. All aircraft issued to 23 Squadron Brisbane so guessing RAAF Amberley circa late 1952/3. CAC Wirraway’s alongside (L Potts)

Etcetera: The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Mustang P51’s…

Source: airforce.gov.au- Point Cook Museum, Victoria

‘One of the finest American fighter aircraft of World War II, the North American Mustang owed its origin to a Royal Air Force (RAF) specification for a single-seat fighter to replace the Curtiss P-40. The first flight of the prototype NA-73 occurred in October 1940. Production models reached the RAF in November 1941 and these aircraft became known as Mustang Mk I (P-51) and Mk II (P-51A). The original 1,150 hp Allison engine lacked performance at high altitude, and the RAF employed the early Mustangs on low-level armed tactical reconnaissance sorties. Meantime, the US Army Air Force (USAAF) ordered a limited number of P-51s and P-51As as the Apache, to operate in the dive-bomber role.

However, once the basic P-51 design was mated with the proven Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the aircraft became an enormous success. Through P-51B, C and D models, the Mustang became one of the finest Allied fighters of World War II, and was just as capable at long-range escort as short ground-attack sorties. Fitted with a bubble canopy in place of the earlier ‘Razorback’ fuselage, the P-51D was the most widely produced version of the Mustang, with 8,956 built.

Interesting developments of the Mustang included the XP-51F and XP-51G lightweight versions and, the fastest Mustang of all, the P-51H, with a top speed of 487 mph at 25,000 ft. The ultimate development of the aircraft occurred post-war, when two Mustang fuselages were joined, resulting in the USAAF’s F-82 Twin Mustang.

In November 1944, RAF Mustangs were first flown by the RAAF’s No 3 Sqn in Italy.

Mustang P51D cutaway drawing (Haynes)

In 1943, the Australian government arranged for the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) to manufacture the Mustang Mk IV (P-51D) under licence from North American Aviation. The RAAF urgently needed a new fighter, and so the first CAC Mustangs were built mainly from imported semi-finished parts. A prototype Mustang, A68-1001, was used for development trials and the first Australian production Mustang, A68-1, flew on 29 April 1945. This aircraft was handed over to the RAAF on 4 June 1945 and was used for trials by No 1 Aircraft Performance Unit until October 1946. It was placed in storage until 1953 when it was delivered to the Department of Supply at Woomera.

The first 80 Mustang 20s (A68-1/80) were delivered with Packard Merlin V-1650-3 engines, under the CA-17 designation. A second contract called for 170 improved Mustangs, but only 120 were completed. Known as CA-18, the first 40 were built as Mustang 21s (A68-81/120) with Packard Merlin V-1650-7 engines. The remaining CA-18s comprised 14 Mustang 22s (A68-187/200) with Packard Merlin V-1650-7 engines. A CA-21 contract for a further 250 Mustangs was cancelled and, in lieu of the remaining CA-18s and CA-21s, 298 lend-lease P-51Ds and Ks were taken on strength (A68-500/583 and A68-600/813). In addition, the RAAF also accepted Mustangs for the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (N3-600/640).

Produced too late for World War II, RAAF Mustangs were assigned to Japan for occupation duties and, early in 1946, Nos 76, 77 and 82 Squadrons flew into Iwakuni. In 1949 Nos 76 and 82 Squadrons withdrew to Australian and the Mustangs of No 77 Squadron remained to take part in the Korean War from June 1950 until April 1951, when they were replaced by Gloster Meteors.

In Australia, Mustangs remained in service with Citizen’s Air Force Squadrons until they were withdrawn from service in 1959.’

(MOV)

Technical Specifications CAC CA-18 Mustang Mk21…

Type/Airframe- Single seat long range fighter. All metal stressed skin construction

Engine- Single Packard Merlin V1650-7. SOHC, 2 valve, carburettor fed, two-stage supercharged V12. Bore/stroke 5.4×6 inches, 1650 cid, circa 1490 bhp @ 3000 rpm. Weight 1640 pounds

Dimensions- Span 11.28 m (37 ft): length 9,83 m (32 ft 3 in); height 3.71 m (12 ft 2 in).

Weight- Empty 3567 kg (7863 lb); loaded 4763 kg (10 500 lb).

Performance- Max speed 636 km/h (380 kt); Climb, 13 mins to 30,000 ft (9144 m); Maximum rate of climb 1059 m (3475 ft)/min; Service ceiling 41,900 ft (12 771 m); Range 1529 km (825 nm) on internal fuel tanks.

Armaments- Six 0.50 in calibre machine guns; two 454 kg (1000 lb) bombs or up to 10 rockets

Rolls Royce Merlin cutaway drawing (Aeroplane)

CA-17 A68-34 a pretty picture. Issued to 25 Squadron in 1951/2 so probably in the air over RAAF Pearce, Perth (SLSA)

Plane dudes have as much interest in chassis numbers et al as us car chaps of course, here they are..

A68-5 RAAF Serial no / Type CA-17 Mk20 Mustang / Construction no 1330 NA110-34370 (Flockhart’s 1961 plane)

Early build- 5th of a batch of 80 shipped to Oz as kits of parts, delivered to 1 Aircraft Depot ex-CAC 6 July 1945. To 78 Sqdn, then stored 14/11/45 till sold 30/1/53 to ex-Flt Lt JL Whiteman with only 35 hours up, Sydney- reg VH-BVM. To Arnold Glass, purportedly acquired with winnings from a racehorse ‘Johnny Zero’ which the aircraft was then called, Sydney May 1954. Target towing experiments with Fawcett Aviation in 1959, also flown by A Oates. To Ron Flockhart August 1960 with around 100 hours on the clock- reg UK G-ARKD Feb 1961. ‘Abandoned’ in Greece 4/3/61, cockpit fire whilst being taxied in Athens 7/9/61. Rego cancelled by UK CAA as ‘aircraft destroyed’ 26/11/61. Abandoned and left in the open in Athens 1961-1970. Reportedly broken up for scrap in Athens circa 1970.

6 June 2012 re-registered as G-ARKD to ‘Classic Flying Machine Collection Ltd’, Foulsham, Dereham, Norfolk, UK-‘remains/parts storage for restoration’

A68-113 RAAF Serial no / Type CA-18 Mk21 Mustang / Construction no 1438 (Flockhart’s 1962 plane)

Delivered to 1 Aircraft Depot ex-CAC on 1 April 1948. Issued to 78 Wing November 1949, to 1 AD July 1950, 10 Sqdn Townsville May 1953 for target towing duties. Sold August 1957, then again February 1958- Reg VH-UWB. Sold to Flockhart April 1962- reg UK G-ARUK. Flockhart’s fatal crash at Kallista 12 April 1962. Rego cancelled by UK CAA as ‘aircraft destroyed’ on 23/5/62.

CAC production line, Fishermens Bend circa 1945 (T Lyons)

Photo Credits…

‘Pilot’ magazine, Geoff Goodall Collection, W Cdr L Brighton, Ian Leslie, Jim Steans Collection, John Arkwright, autopics.com.au, Lionel Potts, Museum of Victoria, State Library of South Australia, Tony Lyons, Haynes, Aeroplane magazine

Bibliography…

‘Pilot’ magazine article by Neil Follett and Nick Stroud via aeroexpo.co.uk, sergent.com, oldracingcars.com, adf-serials.com.au, airforce.gov.au

Tailpiece: Cool dude- Flockhart, Warwick Farm 1961…

(J Arkwright)

Finito…

 

(Getty)

Jochen Rindt’s winning Lotus 72C Ford in the Brands Hatch paddock at the end of the British Grand Prix, 18 July 1970…

Its a top shot of the rear of a great, long lived racing car. Chapman’s latest masterpiece, the detail design of which was the work of Maurice Phillippe was only several months old- it made its debut at Jarama in mid April, but such were the changes needed to get the concept working as intended, only several months later it was already in ‘C’ specification. I wrote an article about the early 72 and it’s development a while back; https://primotipo.com/2017/05/19/designers-original-intent/

You can see how Chapman was putting more weight on the rear of the car in search of traction- the engine oil tank and cooler and upright Varley lightweight aircraft battery mounted aft of the endcase of the Hewland FG400 gearbox. Look closely either side of the gearbox and you can see the ends of the round tubular torsion bars which provided the spring medium on this car- the two vertical wing stays lower ends pick up on the brackets which support the torsion bars.

I know a bit about the 1970 international season. 1971 was the year of my motor racing awakening, which, having not yet been to a race meeting, was aided and abetted by the 1970 Australian Motor Racing Yearbook and Automobile Year 18 which cover the 1970 season. I borrowed and returned Automobile Year 18 dozens of times during the 1971-1974 period from the Camberwell Grammar School library in Melbourne. I’m such a sick little unit that all these decades later I can pretty much rattle off the winners of each GP and World Endurance event that season!

Keen students of 1970 and thereabouts will know that Jochen Rindt had a shocker of a year with Brabham in 1968- the BT26 Repco was fast but the ‘860 Series’ 32 valve Repco V8’s were fragile so the great Austrian decamped to Lotus for 1969- he finally archieved his breakthrough first championship Grand Prix win at Watkins Glen at the seasons end having comprehensively blown off the reigning World Champion, Graham Hill, from the time he first popped his butt into a Gold Leaf Team Lotus 49 during the Tasman Summer of ’69.

Rindt, Brabham BT26 Repco ‘860’ V8, French GP, Rouen 1968. The ’68 Brabham’s were fast- Jochen started from pole, but the engines were as unreliable as the 1966/7 motors were paragons of reliability. Such a pity Repco and JB didn’t race on into 1969- the ‘860’ 3 litres would have been competitive with development. Ickx’ Ferrari 312 won in France, Rindt DNF with a leaking fuel tank (B Cahier)

Jochen wasn’t a happy Lotus camper at all though, concerned as he was about the fragility of Chapman’s cars, not that his enormous Spanish Grand Prix accident, his worst of the year, was his only component failure or worry. He had raced Brabham F2 cars for years, had enjoyed his season with Jack and Ron Tauranac in 1968 despite the dramas and had agreed terms with Jack verbally to return to the Brabham Racing Organisation for 1970. Jack had told him of the teams plans to build their first monocoque Grand Prix car which promised to have all of the attributes for which Brabhams were justifiably famous- with the added strength, torsional stiffness and  safety afforded by such a design. With an ace secured, Jack planned to retire from driving at the end of 1969.

When Rindt told Chapman of his plans Colin put together a deal funded by John Player and Ford- an offer Jochen simply could not afford to refuse. Jochen put the situation to Jack, the ultimate pragmatist graciously did not hold Jochen to the agreement struck and allowed Rindt to stay at Lotus, win the World Title using a mix of Lotus 49 and 72, and, sadly, die in a Lotus 72 as a result of a brake driveshaft component failure at Monza.

Jack and Ron with Brabham BT33-2, Jack’s 1970 chassis. Car tested at Riverside prior to its South African GP debut win. This photo is at the cars ‘press launch’ at MRD, 9 Januray 1970, no frills for the boys from Brabham- start of the final year of such a successful and enduring partnership between two like-minded men (W Vanderson)

With all the best drivers committed for 1970 Brabham raced on for one final year with Rolf Stommelen bringing money from Ford Germany to secure the other Brabham BT33 seat.

Its interesting to look at the ‘Jack and Jochen F1 races’ of 1970, filled as they are with luck, misfortune and fate…

Jack started the season like a youngster, putting the new car third on the grid together with the new March 701’s of Jackie Stewart and Chris Amon.

Stewart jumped into the lead from the off leaving Rindt’s Lotus 49C Ford and Amon to collide at the first corner, with Jochen winging Jack on his way through but not damaging the car. Ickx Ferrari 312B, Beltoise Matra MS120, Oliver BRM P153 and McLaren McLaren M14A Ford got in front of the Australian as a consequence of all this- but Jack quickly recovered and had passed all four of them by the end of lap 6. In a great, spirited drive Jack set off after Stewart and took the lead on lap 20- and held it to the end winning from Denny Hulme’s McLaren M14A Ford and Stewart’s Ken Tyrrell run March 701 Ford.

No doubt Jochen reflected upon the speed of his friends new car as he awaited Chapman’s wedged wonder!

JB, BT33, Zeltweg, Austrian GP 1970. Q8 and 13th 4 laps behind after a troubled run. Ickx won in a Ferrari 312B, Rindt started from pole in his home race but raced behind Ickx and Regazzoni’s Ferraris before popping an engine. Note the ally monocoque tub, fuel filler, shift for the Hewland DG300 and simple ‘non-structural’ dash (B Cahier)

Jochen was frustrated, the Lotus 72 made its debut at Jarama, Spain- unsurprisingly with a somewhat radical car the 72 was not to have the debut wins of the 25 in 1962 and 49 in 1967, both at Zandvoort.

It was clear the 72 needed substantial work (as detailed in the linked article above) so Chapman also tasked his Team Lotus engineers to tweak the 49 one last time to ‘D’ specification, including changes to the suspension geometry and adoption of the 72’s wing package, to provide Rindt with a more competitive car for Monaco.

So Jochen approached this race with a very negative frame of mind. Nigel Roebuck wrote in a MotorSport article about the 1970 Monaco GP weekend that Colin Chapman said “If Jochen felt there was no chance of winning, quite often he just went through the motions…”

Despite the changes to the ‘old girl’ in the first session his 49 was ‘sixth fastest, but his time – 1m 25.9s – was almost two seconds slower than Jackie Stewart’s March; in the second it poured, and Rindt, disinterested, was slowest of all; in the third he felt queasy, and was two seconds off his Thursday time. The problem was seasickness. That weekend Rindt was sharing a private yacht with his good friend and manager Bernie Ecclestone, and while the future ruler of Formula 1 slept soundly through a choppy Friday night, Jochen did not, and that merely added to his despondency about the race. “No chance,” he said to his wife Nina. “I’ll just drive around…” Roebuck wrote.

Brabham in the Monaco pitlane wearing his ‘Jet Jackson’ aircraft type helmet a few of the drivers tried that season- Stewart and Courage also (unattributed)

The front two rows comprised Stewart from Amon, then Hulme and Brabham with Jochen way back in 8th slot. Stewart took the lead from the start and led Amon, Brabham, Ickx and Beltoise.

What about Jochen? In the early laps he seemed to be in ‘cruise and collect mode’, on lap 3 he was passed for seventh place by Henri Pescarolo’s Matra and there he propped with his position gradually improving by attrition. Ickx and Beltoise’ Ferrari and Matra disappeared early, putting Rindt up to sixth, which became fifth when Stewart’s March stopped with engine failure. At this stage, though, 28 laps in, he was already 16 seconds behind Brabham.

‘At least, though, his interest was awakened. On lap 36 he repassed Pescarolo, and set off after Denny Hulme, whom he got by on lap 41: third now, with only Brabham and Amon ahead.’

With a whiff of possible victory, 15 seconds behind the leaders, Rindt now kept pace with them, closing a little and when Amon’s March retired on lap 61- yet another GP win eluded the luckless Kiwi there was only his old employer in the car he could have driven, Brabham ahead.

Look at that crowd, 1970, protection still basic, Brabham BT33 (LAT)

Rindt bearing down upon Jack- second last lap (Deviantart)

Jack was unconcerned though. With Amon gone and Jochen still 13 seconds back, he seemed set for his first Monaco win since 1959 with only 4 laps to run, his lead was still nine seconds.

‘Then everything began to unravel. On lap 77, at the top of the hill, he encountered Siffert’s March, stuttering along with a fuel feed problem, Seppi paying little attention to his mirrors. Obliged almost to stop, Brabham instantly dropped five seconds to Rindt’ Roebuck wrote. ‘Three laps to go, and the gap was 2.4, with Jochen now inspired. On lap 78 Jack ran his fastest lap, 1m 24.4s, but even this was useless, for the Lotus went round in 1m 23.3s.’

‘Still it seemed as though Brabham would hold on, but even on the last lap the fates conspired against him. At Tabac, before the long drag down to Gasworks, he came upon three backmarkers, lost more time, and probably it was this, more than anything else, that unsettled him when he came across Courage.’ In 1970 Piers raced Frank Williams’ De Tomaso 505 Ford, rather than the Brabham BT26 Ford he raced so well for Frank in 1969- he had been in and out of the pits with the recalcitrant car since the start of the race.

You can see Jack’s track down the inside of Piers’ De Tomaso and onto ‘all the shit and corruption’ off line (unattributed)

‘Into the final hairpin Jack went off line – into the marbles – to get by Piers, and when he put the brakes on, his car understeered straight on, thumping into the barrier, right at my feet.’

‘Rindt, meantime, flicked into the hairpin, looking across at the stricken Brabham, shaking his head in disbelief. Finally Jack got on his way again, and managed to cross the line without losing second place. When he stopped finally, he stayed in the cockpit a long time.’

ka-boomba but not fatally so- the marshall referred to by Jack has not appeared- yet! (unattributed)

Moments after the shot above with Jack furiously hitting the starter button, simultaneously, a marshall sought to push the stricken BT33 clear of he armco, into certain disqualification. As Jack released the clutch in reverse the marshall fell onto the Brabham’s nosecone- once the marshall decamped quickly from the car Jack headed for home and second place, crossing the line 23 seconds after the staggered Rindt.

What was I thinking?! The normally unflappable Brabham close to the finishing line (unattributed)

‘Once the course car had been round, I ran the length of the pit straight, arriving in the area of the Royal Box just as Jochen climbed the steps, shook hands with Rainier and Grace, and accepted the garland and the trophy. Trembling, and with tears rolling down his face, he looked like a man coming out of a trance, and probably he was. After the national anthems, the French commentator excitedly announced his time for the last lap: “Une minute vingt-trois secondes deux-dixiemes!” For the first 40 laps of the race, Rindt’s average lap time was 1m 27.0s; for the last 40 it was 1m 24.9s – a full second faster than his qualifying time…’ Roebuck wrote.

‘I can’t believe my luck!’ Rindt, Lotus 49D Ford (B Cahier)

After the Gala Ball at the Hotel de Paris, Jochen came down to the Tip-Top Bar, as drivers did in those days. At midnight he and Nina arrived, swinging the trophy between them. At the Tip-Top they used to run a book on the race, and Rindt wanted to know what had been the odds on him. “Seven to two,” someone said. “Ha!” Jochen grinned. “Was anyone stupid enough to bet on me?”

The Belgian GP at Spa saw ‘BT33-2′ qualify fifth but its intrepid pilot was sidelined first by an off at Malmedy induced by an oily rag in the cars footwell- and then after he passed Rindt and Stewart, by clutch failure on lap 19. That was the epic race made famous by an incredible high speed dice between the BRM P153 of Pedro Rodriguez and Chris Amon’s March 701- Pedro won by just over a second from Chris. To my mind the 701 is a much maligned machine if you look at the number of times those chassis’ were in winning positions that year.

John Miles Lotus 72B, Jochen’s 49C and Jack’s BT33 in the Spa pitlane (unattributed)

In testing at Zandvoort prior to the Dutch GP Jack suffered a sudden left-rear Goodyear deflation. The car ‘…entered a vicious slide, and the deflated tyre left the wheel-rim, which then hit the road. The car broadsided into the sand, the wheel-rim dug in and we flipped, rolling over and over into the wire catch-fencing in which it wrapped itself up, trapping me inside my cockpit, trussed up like the Christmas turkey. I might not (quite) have been stuffed, but I was terrified I might yet get roasted. Had any leaking fuel caught fire, there was no way I could have escaped’ Jack recalled in his memoir written with Doug Nye.

The BT33 came to rest inverted over a ditch, with Jack hanging from his seat belts. ‘Here I was in another test session – on a deserted circuit – out of sight of the pits, trapped in a crashed car. I really was getting too old for this. I’d have needed wire cutters to make my way out. I could smell petrol. My finger was poised (over the extinguisher button). At last I heard running feet and voices. Hands began to yank the wire away. I took that as my cue to twist my safety belt release – forgetting I was hanging by it – and dropped on my head, with my entire weight twisting my neck. The Dutch spectators then managed to raise one side sufficiently for me to wriggle out…I would have a stiff neck for a while’. The car was virtually undamaged, but after two more punctures during the GP itself the Brabham combination finished twice-lapped, He was eleventh in the awful event in which Piers Courage was burned to death in a most gruesome fashion.

The French GP at Clermont-Ferrand resulted in a win for Jochen on this glorious undulating road circuit, together with his joyless victory at Zandvoort he was well on the way to putting a championship winning season together. To further underline his speed Jack finished third and set fastest lap in France, BT33 was as fast on open road circuits as the twists and turns of stop-start Monaco.

By the July British GP Rindt had told Chapman of his intention to retire at the end of the season, that decision no doubt in part due to the deaths of his friends and colleagues Bruce McLaren and Piers Courage at Goodwood and Zandvoort respectively.

In fine weather Rindt took pole from Jack and Jacky Ickx Ferrari 312B- this machine one of the other cars of 1970- the Lotus 72 Ford, Brabham BT33 Ford, Ferrari 312B and BRM P153 the four supreme machines of the year.

Lap 1, the grid exits Druids Hill on the run to Bottom Bend, Brands, British GP 1970. Amons March 701 in shot, from Q17- wonder what happened to him in practice? 5th place (GP Library)

Jack and Jacky got away best from the start with Ickx holding the lead from Brabham until differential failure outed the Ferrari at the start of lap 7 at Paddock Hill bend. At the same time Jochen lunged for the lead and got through Jack’s defences. Jochen didn’t get away from the BT33 though, the guys were close together throughout the race. Oliver’s BRM held 3rd until lap 55 when the big V12 cried enough promoting Denny Hulme’s McLaren M14 Ford to third.

Rindt and Brabham were this close for much of the race- a nice visual compare and contrast between the brand new edgy, wedgy 72 and brand new front-rad ‘old school’ BT33- both equally fast mind you (Getty)

Sex on wheels- 72 visually about as good as a GP car gets- current GP cars can trace their fundamental layout and looks back to this baby, or more particularly the ’68 Lotus 56 Pratt & Whitney Indycar anyway. Rindt Brands 1970 (unattributed)

On lap 69 of 80 laps Rindt muffed a gear change and Jack was through into a lead he promised to keep until on the very last lap the car ran out of fuel on the run to the line- Brabham was able to coast home second with Denny third and Clay Regazzoni’s Ferrari 312B fourth.

 

Jack glides to the line DFV in silence, but still in 2nd place (Getty)

It was an incredibly lucky win for Jochen and proved to the world, yet again, that at 44 Black Jack- he of the permanent ‘five o’clock shadow’, still very much had his elite level racing mojo.

As Brabham coasted to a stop after finishing, Jack spotted Ron Dennis sprinting along behind him. ‘I thought I bet I know what’s happened, the silly bugger’s left the injection set to ‘Full Rich’ – the setting used to start the engine from cold’ – he shrugged off his belts and leapt out determined to check the setting first. ‘Sure enough, it was on ‘Full Rich’. For thirty years Sir Jack would blame Ron Dennis for the oversight, but at dinner with another team mechanic – Nick Goozee – in 2002, owned up: ‘That wasn’t Ron – it was me’.

Ron Tauranac, Ron Dennis, Nick Goozee? and Jack, Brands pits 1970 (B Cahier)

Rindt won again at Hockenheim and in a season of many different winners- Ickx, Rodriguez, Stewart, Regazzoni, Fittipaldi, Brabham and Jochen, had amassed enough points by the time of his death at Monza in September to win the drivers title posthumously from Jacky Ickx who had a serious shot to overtake Rindt’s points haul in the final three rounds but ‘karma prevailed’, the dominant driver in the fastest car of the year won- albeit he had a bit of luck. Just ask Jack!

‘Cor Jochen, we nicked another one off ‘ole Jack!’ Chapman, Nina and Jochen Rindt (Popperfoto)

One of the many fascinating things about motor racing are its ‘ifs, buts and maybes’- the greatest of 1970 was Rindt winning a World Title in a Brabham BT33 Ford and retiring at the seasons end, alive…

Brabham BT33 Ford cutaway by (Bill Bennett)

Brabham BT33 Etcetera…

Where is that DFV? Never a clearer expression of the structural role played by that particular engine than this one! Austrian GP weekend, Zeltweg (B Cahier)

Ron Tauranac preferred the lightweight, easily-repairable, highly-tuneable, multi-tubular spaceframe chassis construction into 1969, albeit his 1968-69 BT26 and BT26A designs were spaceframes with partially stress-skinned, sheet aluminium to augment the designs rigidity. Whilst the approach could be said to be ‘old school’ compared to the monocoque, the modern expression of which was the Lotus 25 which made its debut at Zandvoort in 1962- the BT26A Ford was one of the fastest cars of 1969 with Jacky Ickx winning at the Nurburgring and Mosport.

1970 revised Formula 1 regulations demanded greater protection for F1 car fuel tanks- bag tanks, which in effect dictated the adoption of fully stressed-skin monocoque construction. Tauranac first monocoque chassis was Brabham’s 1968/9 Indianapolis contender, the BT25 powered by the Repco ‘760 Series’ quad-cam, 32 valve 4.2 litre Lucas fuel injected V8.

Jack’s 1970 BT33 chassis under construction at MRD, Weylock, Weybridge, Surrey 8 January 1970. Technical comments as per text below (Getty)

Motor Racing Developments built three BT33 chassis during 1970- BT33-1 was the car raced by Rolf Stommelen until he damaged it in practice for the British GP. Rebuilt, it was raced by Graham Hill, Tim Schenken and Carlos Reutemann in 1971.

BT33-2 was Jack’s 1970 chassis.

BT33-3 was built after Rolf damaged his car too badly to race during the British Grand Prix meeting- used by him for the balance of 1970, it was raced very competitively in 1971 by Tim Schenken, and by Graham Hill and Wilson Fittipaldi in early 1972.

All of the BT33’s were sold by BRO after the end of their useful frontline racing lives.

The BT33 chassis is an aluminium ‘bathtub’ monocoque with strong bulkheads providing a structure of great strength and structural integrity. Front suspension (see photo above) is inboard by front rocker, lower wishbones and coil spring/damper units. At the rear single top links, an inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and outboard coil spring/dampers are used. Adjustable sway bars were fitted front and rear. Steering is MRD rack and pinion, uprights cast magnesium front and rear.

At this stage of its development the 3 litre Ford Cosworth DFV V8 gave around 420 bhp @ 9500 rpm, the gearbox was a Hewkand 5 speed DG300. The engine, as you can see from the colour shot above is a stressed member- it is a part of the cars structure, it bolts to the rear chassis bulkhead.

Whilst far less exotic in its conception than the Lotus 72, Tauranac’s BT33 didn’t give an inch to Hethel’s finest. Jack got every ounce of performance available from that car but Rindt would have squeezed even a smidge more. Oh to have seen him in a Brabham that year…

Credits…

Popperfoto, Getty Images, LAT, Bernard Cahier, William Vanderson, Deviantart, Bill Bennett

Bibliography…

Automobile Year 18, MotorSport Magazine May 2013 article by Nigel Roebuck, ‘The Jack Brabham Story’ Doug Nye, oldracingcars.com

More 1970 Reading…

Brabham’s 1970 season; https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

Lotus 72; https://primotipo.com/2014/09/08/flowers-mark-the-apex-jochen-rindt-lotus-72-ford-dutch-gp-1970/

Ferrari 312B; https://primotipo.com/2016/02/26/life-is-all-about-timing-chris-amon-and-the-ferrari-312b/

Matra MS120; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/06/venetia-day-and-the-1970-matra-ms120/

March 701; https://primotipo.com/2014/05/15/blue-cars-rock/

Spanish GP; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/14/spanish-barbecue-1970-gp-jarama/

Belgian GP; https://primotipo.com/2014/10/03/ferrari-312b-jacky-ickx-belgian-grand-prix-spa-1970/

The one that really did get away: Brabham, BT33 Brands 1970- leaping out to check the DFV’s fuel injection settings…

Finito…

 

(B Dunstan)

Derek Jolly racing past the Country Club Hotel, Longford on his way to winning the 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy, 7 March 1960, Lotus 15 Climax FPF…

I wrote an article a while back about Derek and his career inclusive of a snippet about this win, but I had a swag of wonderful photos of the Longford meeting, too many for the earlier piece. So here they are courtesy of Kevin Drage, John Ellacott and Ellis French. Some of Ellis’ shots are his own, some from the Walkem Family Collection and Brian Dunstan, hopefully I have the attributions correct.

Sportscar racing has waxed and waned in this country, I guess everything other than touring car racing has really. Mind you, GT racing is a strong class at present, interesting too such is its variety.

The Australian Tourist Trophy has some great names inscribed upon it including Stirling Moss, who won the classic aboard a works Maserati 300S in 1956, Bib Stillwell in 1961/2, Cooper Monaco, Pete Geoghegan drove a Lotus 23 Ford in 1963/5 and in 1977 won with Laurie O’Neill’s much more brutal Porsche 935. Frank Matich had a mortgage on the race for a while, he won in 1964, Lotus 19B Climax, 1966 with an Elfin 400 Olds and in 1967 in his self constructed Matich SR3 Olds and then again the following year in an SR3 this time Repco ‘620’ V8 powered. I saw Paul Gibson’s Rennmax Repco ‘740’ 5 litre V8 win at Winton in 1979, that too a memorable machine. After a period in which the title was not contested the ATT was reinstated in 2007 and usually awarded to the winner of designated events rather than a one-off race as in its earliest days.

Doug Whiteford’s attention to preparation and presentation detail was legendary with all of his cars. Here his Maser 300S during the ATT weekend. Rice transporter of Austin Miller’s Cooper in the background, and a Morris Major- don’t road cars of a period provide wonderful context for a racer of the same era? (J Ellacott)

In the distant past sportscar racing was up there with single-seaters, indeed in the days when the Australian Grand Prix was held to Formula Libre prior to 1964, but especially in the AGP’s handicap days and then before 1960 it was common for sportscars to contest the AGP.

One of the 1960 ATT strongest contenders, Doug Whiteford fitted into that category. The former thrice winner of the AGP entered his ex-works Maserati 300S in the AGP at Longford in 1959- he knew the tricky, demanding place like the back of his hand. Doug was a formidable competitor of vast experience. Even though the Maser was not the latest bit of kit, with his driving skill and car preparation the combination could be expected to be there at the finish- at the front.

Matich D Type and Ampt, beside his Decca Mk2 Climax, #92 Finch D Type, light car to his right the Jack Cooper, dark coloured car nose of Jolly’s Lotus 15. Tall fella in blue driving suit with his back to us in silver helmet is Jolly. Darker red car the Wright Aston DB3S (K Drage)

Frank Matich and Derek Jolly were both coming-men.

Matich was aboard the Leaton Motors Jaguar XKD ‘526’ first owned by the Anderson Family in Brisbane and raced with much success by Bill Pitt. Matich had progressed thru Healey’s then the Leaton Motors C and D Type Jaguars, proving his pace in all of them. The Sydneysider’s career as a professional of elite world class would extend all the way to early 1974. Let’s not forget the race winning cars he and his team built either from 1966 to 1974 either.

Jolly, Lotus 15 in Longford’s pit straight (E French)

Derek’s Lotus speed was proven in his earlier Lotus 15 despite it toting only an FPF Coventry Climax engine of 1475cc- this car met its maker at Albert Park in late 1958, probably due to component attachment failure. Derek raced his replacement Series 3 15 as a works entry at Le Mans in 1959 with Graham Hill, the engine blew with Derek at the wheel when the infamous Lotus ‘Queerbox’ jumped out of gear. The revs went sky high, an errant rod then comprehensively carved the alloy block in half.

image

Jolly at left and Kevin Drage discuss the Lotus in the Longford paddock. Note the 1960cc Coventry Climax FPF fed by twin-throat SU carburettors (E French)

Jolly’s Lotus had only just arrived in Australia, equipped with a 1960cc Coventry Climax four-cylinder FPF engine was the latest bit of 15 kit. In fact it was the most modern car in the field. Derek took a debut win in its first Australian race meeting at Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales in early February winning the ‘South Pacific Sportscar Championship’ from David Finch in a Jaguar D Type.

Finch also entered the Jag at Longford. ‘XKD520’ was first owned by Melbourne car dealer/racer Bib Stillwell and was a car through which Frank Gardner progressed before his departure to Europe. When Frank decamped to the Old Dart Finch raced it with skill, mainly in New South Wales and Queensland. The car left Australia in 1967, the purchaser none other than Grand Prix driver and later Le Mans winner Richard Attwood.

These panoramic shots give a sense of perspective about this part of Tasmania and the exacting nature of the circuit. Here Alan Jack Cooper T39 Climax, David Finch D Type and Geoff McHugh Allard J2 are coming off Long Bridge. McHugh was not entered in the ATT so this is either practice or the Monday LCC Tas Trophy race (E French)

Tom Sulman, by then one of racings senior citizens, entered his Aston Martin DB3S, a car he had raced since its inclusion as a member of the three Aston ‘The Kangaroo Stable’ team in Europe in 1955. Sulman was a driver of vast experience in all kinds of cars and surfaces going back to his mid-twenties speedway days in both Australia and the United Kingdom. But his car was a winner only in the event of mechanical misfortune at the front of the field. Jim Wright entered another ex-Kangaroo Stable DB3S. He was stepping up from the Buchanan TR2 he had raced at Lowood in the ATT in mid 1959.

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Ellis French Collection

The other outright contender was Wangaratta’s Ron Phillips in a Cooper T33 Jaguar. Reg Parnell raced the attractive beast in the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1955, the car was then acquired by Stan Jones who sold it on quite quickly having raced it at Fishermans Bend and Albert Park. John Aldis raced it without much success. Its return to competitiveness was as a result of the combination of Phillip’s driving skill and the racers preparation by Melbourne driver/engineer Ern Seeliger.

Seeliger had looked after Phillips Healey 100S and was the fellow who created Maybach 4- the final iteration of that great series of Charlie Dean designed and built, (Repco Research team duly acknowledged) Stan Jones driven cars. Maybach 3 was modified by Ern by the fitment of a Chev Corvette V8 where six-cylinder Maybach motors previously existed. And some other mods by that clever chap too.

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Ron Phillips enters The Viaduct, Cooper T33 Jaguar (HRCCT)

The Cooper Jag was a real chance with a mix of handling and grunt well suited to Longford’s nature, Ron had raced it at Longford the year before so knew his way around the place. Phillips was also ‘in form’ having won the ATT at Lowood, Queensland in June 1959 from Bill Pitt’s Jag D and Bob Jane’s Maser 300S- the sister works car to Whiteford’s which came to Oz during the 1956 Australian Grand Prix carnival. Phillips and Jolly had jousted regularly when Derek raced his Decca Mk2 Climax FWA in 1956-58 with Ron then racing a very quick Austin Healey 100S. Both drivers had stepped up to more powerful ‘outright’ cars.

Ron Ward MGA from Tony Basile Porsche Carrera (oldracephotos.com.au)

The 22 car field was rounded out by smaller cars of which the John Ampt Decca Mk2 Climax, ex-Jolly, the Eddie Perkins (father of Larry) Porsche Super, Owen Basile Porsche Carrera and Alan Jack’s ex-Bill Patterson Cooper T39 Climax ‘Bobtail’ were the strongest.

Whiteford and Jolly were generally considered favourites for the race, but the ‘Australian Motor Racing Review’ report of the event states that there was confusion over practice lap times and as a consequence that pair and others were placed well back on the grid.

The start: Phillips, away quickly from pole #87 Matich, to his left, partially  obscured is Ampt, arrowed is Jolly,  behind Derek in the Porsche is Eddie Perkins, #92 is Finch, #8 Jack, well back is #10 Whiteford, #16 is T Cleary Austin Healey 100S (K Thompson)

The Phillips Cooper Jag and the Matich D Type were on the front row. Behind them were Alan Jack’s Cooper Climax 1.5 and David Finch’s D Type, then John Ampt in Decca Mk2. Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S was on the next row with Jolly, then Whiteford’s Maser and one of the Porsche’s- and the rest of the field.

Phillips, Cooper Jag, #32 Ampt Decca Climax, #92 Finch Jag D, #8 Jack Cooper Climax- with the two Aston DB3S of #99 Sulman and #126 Wright in line astern behind Jack. Tail of Jolly Lotus 15 is behind Finch, the red of Whiteford’s Maser back a bit centre, Porsche Carrera Coupe is Eddie Perkins and the rest (B Dunstan)

Race…

 The ‘Australian Motor Racing Review’ report of the event follows.

‘With terrific acceleration at the start Derek Jolly moved through the field to the front and soon showed that the other 22 cars in the field would have a hard job trying to catch him.

Moments after the start: Jack, Cooper and Finch D Type. Look closely to the right of Finch’s helmet and you can spot the silver Jolly helmet- he has jumped away at the start. You can see the red of Whiteford’s Maser further back. Porsche is #46 Porsche Eddie Perkins, #16 John Cleary Austin Healey 100S (oldracephotos.com.au)

Ron Phillips in second place, was fighting hard to keep ahead of Matich’s D Type and Whiteford was well behind in fourth place. On the sixth lap of the 24 lap race Whiteford began to increase his speed and on the seventh lap passed Matich to move into third place’.

Matich at speed in the Leaton D Type. He hit his straps and proved equal to the ‘Big Car Challenge’ as Frank Gardner called it during the Leaton phase of his career- Jag C, Jag D and the Lotus 15 to follow the D Type proved his sheer pace (oldracephotos.com.au)

‘On the ninth lap, Phillips, who was experiencing brake trouble, slowed and allowed Whiteford into second position 11 seconds behind Jolly. In the next lap Whiteford put in an amazing burst to reduce this lead by a further 2.5 seconds’.

Whiteford turns his Maser into Mountford Corner during practice. Sex on wheels- few fifties sporties prettier than this. 3 litres wasn’t enough to be an outright contender when they were first built in Europe, but plenty quick in Australia. Such a shame he didn’t buy a 250F when Maserati returned back to Europe at the end of the ’56 AGP carnival, rather than the 300S raced in that carnival by Jean Behra- to see him mixing it with Davison, Hunt, Jones and Gray in that 1956-58 period in a single-seater would have been mega (K Drage)

‘Jolly, having been notified of this by his pit crew, increased his speed. On the fifteenth lap Phillips retired from the race with smoke steaming from his car. By the seventeenth lap Whiteford had closed to within 5 seconds of Jolly but the speed of the Lotus was again increased until, on lap 26, Whiteford had dropped back to 13 seconds behind.’

Cruisin’ @ high speed through the Tasmanian countryside, perils of the formidable Longford circuit readily apparent. Jolly, Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ (J Ellacott)

‘In the closing stages Whiteford seemed to have lost one or more of his lower gears and Jolly went on to win from him with Matich a long way behind in third place’. Another report has it that Whiteford’s problem was a slipping clutch. John Ampt was fourth in the 1100cc Climax FWA engined Decca Mk2- this little car had a wonderful track record in Australian Tourist Trophy races despite its modest capacity, it was 5th in 1958, 4th in 1959 as well as its 4th in March 1960. Tom Sulman was fifth in his Aston DB3S and then David Finch sixth in his Jaguar D Type.

An elated winner. Jolly, Series 3 Lotus 15 Climax FPF 1960cc. Works entered @ Le Mans 1959, it was a trick, schmick car. Jack Cooper T39 and the Matich D Type further back (Walkem)

Winners Are Grinners…

To the victor the spoils of success. Well warranted and well deserved.

Derek had completed his apprenticeship, having first started racing Austin 7’s in his native South Australia in 1948 and progressed through his Decca Climax FWA powered specials in the mid-fifties into the outright Lotus 15. The best if not the most powerful car in the field, and one he drove with great skill.

Lets not forget his winning Lotus 15 was a Team Lotus works entry at Le Mans in 1959, the drive shared with Graham Hill. He was no slouch. In many ways it is a shame business pressures forced Derek out of racing, he had not peaked, there was still more to come I think.

(Walkem)

A great mighta-been is how he would have fared aboard a single-seater Lotus 18 or 21 FPF engined ‘Tasman’ car in the early sixties- he was the Australian Lotus distributor after all. His battles with Frank Matich, seen below congratulating Jolly from the cockpit of the Leaton Motors Jag, would been great to behold. So too those with other top-liners of the period such as Lex Davison, Stan Jones, Bib Stillwell and David McKay.

(B Dunstan)

Etcetera: Other Longford ATT Photographs…

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Doug Whiteford and Maserati yet again, on the grid for the Monday Light Car Club of Tas race- #120 is the very neat Zephyr Special of Jim Barrie (E French)

Kevin Drage doing a plug change on the Jolly Lotus 15 in the Longford paddock (K Drage)

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Doug Whiteford again, the photographers are drawn to these wonderful red cars! Maser 300S near the start line

Pre start vista with the Ampt Decca Climax, Jolly Lotus and Finch D Type in view(oldracephotos.com.au)

Refuelling Whiteford’s Maser 300S and the Ern Tadgell owned Lotus 12 Climax FWB ‘351’ aka ‘Sabakat’. Ern, unclassified, contested the F Libre Longford Trophy won by Brabham’s Cooper T51 Climax. Recreation of Sabakat still extant (K Drage)

Related Articles…

 Lotus 15

https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

 Aston Martin DB3S

https://primotipo.com/2017/09/28/david-mckays-aston-martin-db3ss/

 Jaguar XKD

https://primotipo.com/2015/01/17/le-mans-1957-d-type-jaguar-rout-ron-flockhart-racer-and-aviator/

 Maserati 300S

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/

Longford 1960

https://primotipo.com/2015/01/20/jack-brabham-cooper-t51-climax-pub-corner-longford-tasmania-australia-1960/

Bibliography…

‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ G Howard and Ors, Australian Motor Racing Review 1959/1960, Ellis French Collection

Photo Credits…

 John Ellacott, Kevin Drage, Ellis French, Walkem Family, Brian Dunstan, Keverall Thompson, oldracephotos.com.au, Ken Devine Collection

(K Devine)

Arcane and Irrelevant: The Last Sportscar To Enter an Australian Grand Prix?…

I think it was Jeff Dunkerton’s Lotus Super 7 Ford 1.5 pushrod, above, which contested the ’62 AGP at Caversham- he was classified 9th having completed 46 of the 60 laps covered by the winner, Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T62 Climax 2.7 FPF.

In the days when full 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF’s were as rare as hens teeth in Australia- they were in the hands of F1 teams, Frank Matich’s Lotus 15 Climax 2.5 FPF was the last ‘competitive’ sportscar AGP contender, i reckon. His ex-Team Lotus car was delivered with a 2.5 FPF, much to the annoyance of the locals running single-seater Cooper T51’s who couldn’t get their hands on one.

FM failed to finish the 1960 Lowood AGP only completing 9 laps. The race was won by Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati 2.5 by a ‘bees dick’ from Lex Davison’s glorious front engined 3 litre Aston Martin DBR4 GP car. I’m not saying Matich would have knocked off Alec and Lex but the 15 had the pace to finish 4th– in behind Bib Stillwell’s Cooper T51 Climax 2.2 FPF. He would have given Bib a run for his money too!

Anyway, its interesting how long sportscars were a part of our great race…

Tailpiece: Kevin Drage’s Longford paddock panorama in March 1960…

Kevin was Derek Jolly’s mechanic/crew, the Lotus 15 is centre stage with the Geoff Smedley built Kenley Vincent Special alongside (K Drage)

Finito…

John Surtees looking very cheery prior to the 1960 Solitude GP aboard his Rob Walker/works/AFN Porsche 718/2, 24 July 1960…

And so he should, not long before he had won the 500cc motorcycle GP aboard an MV Agusta before jumping into his car for the Formula 2 Grand Prix, his fortunes in that event not so good.

I found this photo randomly on Getty Images, this brief Porsche chapter of the great mans career was not one I was familiar with but a couple of my online buddies identified the event- many thanks to Roger Virtigo and Glenn Ducey.

My initial plan for this article was a quickie on Surtees’ first year in cars but then I became rather enamoured of the Solitude circuit, in particular the significance of the 1960 race for reasons which will become clear when you read the great Denis Jenkinson’s MotorSport account of the weekend.

Whilst still the benchmark in grand prix motorcycle racing – he would retain both his 350cc and 500cc world titles aboard MV’s in 1960 – Surtees at 26 years of age, stepped into cars that year.

Surtees ventures onto Goodwood, Cooper T52 BMC FJ 19 March 1960 (LAT)

Clark from Surtees, Lotus 18 Ford and Cooper T52 BMC, Goodwood, 19 March 1960 (LAT)

His first race on four wheels was in Formula Junior at Goodwood on 19 March. He finished second to rising star Jim Clark’s Lotus 18 Ford during the BARC Members Meeting in a Ken Tyrrell Cooper T52 BMC. Click here for a short article about his debut; https://primotipo.com/2016/01/18/surtees-first-car-races/

Two months later he made his F1 world championship start at the Monaco GP in late May- Q15 and DNF gearbox on lap 17 in the race won by Stirling Moss in Rob Walker’s Lotus 18 Climax FPF.

In Surtees home GP in July, the British at Silverstone, he finished second, an amazing performance, Jack Brabham won on the way to his second World Championship aboard his works Cooper ‘Lowline’ T53 Climax.

Whilst the Lotus 18, Colin Chapman’s first mid-engined design was in many ways the 1960 ‘Car of The Year’ it was still amazing stuff, the transition from two to four wheels never done as smoothly before or since.

Surtees, works Lotus 18 Climax, on the way to 2nd in the 1960 British @ Silverstone-ain’t she chunky but pretty sans roll bar. And fast (unattributed)

It was with his tail up that Surtees headed off to the Solitude Grand Prix, that year an F2 race for cars of 1.5 litres or less in capacity.

The 7.1 mile Solitude circuit, a few miles out of Stuttgart had been in existence for many years- used mainly for motorcycle racing it took its name from Schloss Solitude, an old German castle on top of one of the hills overlooking the valley in which the circuit lay. The circuits narrow width precluded its use for cars until that was addressed, an international Formula Junior race was run in 1959 with the 1960 F2 race appropriate for a circuit Denis Jenkinson, who had raced on it as a motorcycle competitor, rated as one of the best in Europe.

The entry was excellent with the works Porsche, Ferrari and Lotus teams competing, as well as Jack Brabham with a Cooper

Porsche fielded five cars altogether, determined to win on their own proving ground with Bonnier, Hill and Herrmann driving the regular three factory cars. The Rob Walker car had been retrieved, a standard Porsche racing gear-change put back on it and loaned to Surtees, while a brand new car was finished the night before practice and driven by Dan Gurney, so the whole BRM team were being used!

Team Lotus entered three works Lotus 18’s driven by Ireland, Clark and Trevor Taylor, the last two also driving in the Formula Junior race with other 18’s.

Scuderia Ferrari sent two entries, one a normal front-engined 246 with a Dino 156 engine driven by Phil Hill, and the other a new version of the F2/60 rear-engined experimental car, driven by von Trips. ‘This car was basically the rear-engined model (246P) that appeared at Monaco and Zandvoort, but had undergone a lot of modifications. The construction of the wishbones had been altered and also their size and positioning on the chassis, so that although there were still double-wishbones and a coil-spring to each wheel they were of a new pattern. The 1 1/2-litre V6 Dino 156 engine was coupled to the gearbox/final drive unit used on the car at Zandvoort, still with inboard disc brakes, but instead of the clutch-operating mechanism being mounted on the last chassis cross-member it was now on an alloy casting bolted to the rear of the gearbox casing and curving round the left side of the clutch body, which was still exposed. Consequently the chassis tube extensions beyond the gearbox were cut off and the space frame finished under the gearbox. There was no water header tank over the engine and the vertical distributor had been replaced by a horizontal one on the front of the engine, so the high head faring could be done away with and the rear decking was made flat, like a Lotus, with a perspex bubble open at the front over the three downdraught Weber carburetters. The tail of the car ended in an aperture fitted with a grille that would have made a nice radiator cowling for a front-engined car, and two long thin megaphone exhaust pipes stuck out the back, protruding well beyond the extremity of the body. The short, stumpy nose of the car was much as before, with the radiator fed from a typical 1960 Ferrari cowling and the cockpit having a wrap-round screen’.

The significance of the above car, the mid-engined 1.5 litre V6 Ferrari 246P will be clear to most of you, the car referred to above was the prototype of the machines which would dominate grand prix racing in 1961, the commencement of the new 1.5 litre F1. I wrote about this car a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/04/monaco-panorama-1958/

GP gridding up. #22 Gurney Porsche 718/2, #4 Bonnier and #5 Herrmann ditto 718/2, #7 is the mid-engine Ferrari 246P 1.5 of Von Trips and the subject of extensive coverage by Jenkinson above. #6 Hill G Porsche 718/2, #14 Wolfgang Seidel Cooper T45 Climax, #16 Innes Ireland Lotus 18 Climax, #11 Jack Lewis Cooper T45 Climax (unattributed)

Jack Brabham represented Cooper with a 1959 car built up from bits and pieces, either a T43 or T45 and was looked after by his own mechanic- they were still cobbling the car together as practice got underway, whilst the rest of the Coopers were private entries.

‘With rain pouring down during the first session of practice there was little hope of judging how things would go, except that von Trips was outstandingly fast in the rear-engined Ferrari, at one time being 30 sec faster than anyone else and passing the factory Porsches on the winding leg of the circuit and leaving them. Although the car was sliding and slithering about in the wet von Trips seemed quite unconcerned, feeling perfectly safe in the car.’

‘The second session was a lot better…The rear-engined Ferrari was still going well and was soon down below the old sports-car record of 4 min 34.4 sec, and went on to get below 4 min 30 sec. The only driver to challenge von Trips was Jimmy Clark, who was benefiting from double practice, being out with the Formula Junior cars as well as the Formula 2 cars, and as the afternoon wore on he went faster and faster. The only other driver to get below 4 min 30 sec was Hans Herrmann and he was down to 4 min 28.3 sec, but von Trips had done 4 min 24.1 sec, while just as practice finished and the track was at its driest for the day, Clark did 4 min 23.6 sec…Practice took place again for 11/2 hours on Saturday afternoon, but once again rain completely washed things out and everyone’s times were nearer 5 min than 41/2 min.’

The challenges of the road circuit resulted in Australian rider Bob Brown’s death later from head injuries sustained when he fell from his Honda 250-4 during the motorcycle practice session.

The 30 year old, born at Little Plains near Inverell, New South Wales trained as motor mechanic and worked as such and as a taxi-driver in Sydney before local success led to seeking fame in Europe in 1955.

After doing well on privately owned bikes he was picked up by Gilera in 1957. In 1959, riding his private Nortons he was third in both the 350 and 500 World Championships beaten only by the works MV’s. Because of his experience aboard the Gilera fours in 1957 he was offered a works Honda 250-4 in 1960 on a race by race basis. On one of these technically very advanced machines, commented upon by Jenkinson below, he was 4th at the IOM TT becoming the first Western rider to score points on a Japanese bike.

Bob Brown, place and date unknown (AMCN)

Solitude was only a month later, Brown crashed on dirt or grit brought onto the surface by errant cars on the ‘notorious sand pit curve’ on the twisty Mahdenthal section of the course. Another theory has it that he was cruising back to the pits with a misfiring engine which suddenly popped onto all four cylinders- whatever the case he was tossed off his mount sustaining head injuries to which he later succumbed.

Even though he only contested four of the seven 500cc championship rounds in 1960, Brown was still 4th in the championship standings aboard his trusty Norton behind three MV’s- at Assen he was 2nd where he split the MV entries. In an lovely tribute to this little known Australian, Honda in its book ‘The Race for Leadership: 1961 World Championship Road Race’ the company produced to celebrate its maiden World 125/250 titles won by Tom Phillis and Mike Hailwood-Honda wrote that ‘Brown untiringly helped the Japanese riders who were new to the game and actively helped to improve the Honda-Four. Bob Brown was one of the foundations of Honda success’.

GP, the off. Bonnier from Hill and Hermann all Porsche 718/2, then Von Trips Ferrari 246P and to the outside of him Ireland’s Lotus 18, #19 Surtees and #22 Gurney both Porsche 718/2 with Jim Clark’s distinctive Lotus 18 to Gurney’s outside and the rest (Getty)

‘Sunday was happily fine and sunny and a crowd of 250,000 lined the circuit to watch first of all the motorcycle races, then a vast procession of publicity vehicles, and finally, the Formula Junior and Formula 2 car races.

In the 250-cc motorcycle race the outstanding thing was the Japanese Honda machine which finished third, this having a four-cylinder twin-overhead camshaft engine with four valves per cylinder and developing its peak power at 13,500 rpm, while it would safely run up to 16-17,000 rpm.

The technical variety of engine development in the motorcycle-­racing world was something which made the Formula 2 racing world realise that we are stagnating for want of new engine designs. The 250-cc motorcycles had vertical twins, transverse fours, single cylinders, and two-strokes both air- and water-cooled, and there seemed to be no accepted layout which everyone was following.’

Surtees on the way to his 500cc MV Agusta Solitude GP win (unattributed)

‘The 500-cc class saw the usual easy win for John Surtees on the MV Agusta four-cylinder machine, and then we passed to Formula Junior.

The race was a complete sweep for Lotus-Ford cars, the works car of Jimmy Clark having an unchallenged win after Henry Taylor in Tyrell’s Cooper­-BMC had blown up his engine. Trevor Taylor was confidently following Clark in second place and they forgot the opposition so much that they overlooked Ouveroff in another Lotus-Ford, who suddenly closed on them two laps before the end and split their confidence, finishing in second place. Of the first six cars, five were Lotus-Fords, odd man out being Ballisat with Tyrell’s second Cooper-BMC.’

Grid of the FJ race. #1 Clark Lotus 18 Cosworth, black Cooper alongside Keith Ballisat Cooper T52 BMC?, #9 Juan-Manuel Bordeu Lola Mk2 Ford, #3 settling into his car Pater Arundell Lotus 18 Cosworth and the rest (unattributed)

‘Finally we came to the race of the day, with weather conditions perfect and twenty cars lined up on the grid, the only non-starter being de Beaufort, whose Climax engine was beyond repair…The race was to be run over 20 laps, a distance of 228.340 kilo­metres and the start was perfect, with Bonnier just leading the field towards the first corner. At the end of the opening lap the first nine cars were so close that it was relatively unimportant who was leading, though in fact it was Graham Hill in front of Bonnier, with Herrmann, von Trips, Gurney, Ireland, Surtees, Brabham and Clark following.

With the track nice and dry for the first time this little lot were really motor racing, the standing lap being in 4 min 24 sec, and the first flying lap in 4 min 15.1 sec (virtually 100 m.p.h. average). Bonnier led on lap two, von Trips on lap three and Clark on lap four, while the others were nose-to­-tail in varying orders, there being no signs of a procession begin­ning as yet. With the exception of Clark and Taylor, who had just driven in the Junior race, none of the others knew anything about the circuit in the dry, so we were witnessing, in effect, the first really serious practice session, and it was really serious. While Trevor Taylor was a bit out of his depth in this race, only his second with an F2 car, Clark was really profiting from his Junior race and his progress on the first few laps was 9th, 6th, 3rd and 1st, and having got the lead he drew away steadily, driving most beautifully, setting a new lap record at 4 min 08.0 sec.’

Clarks’s Lotus 18 Ford during his victorious run in the FJ race, he won from two other Lotus 18’s- Aussie Steve Ouvaroff  and Lotus teammate Trevor Taylor (unattributed)

‘Meanwhile the rest of the runners were learning the circuit in the dry, and Herrmann led von Trips, Bonnier, Gurney, Graham Hill, Brabham and Ireland, while Surtees was having gear-change trouble and dropping back a bit, to be caught by Phil Hill in the front-engined Ferrari. Then came Lewis all on his own, having outstripped the rest of the private owners, but not quite fast enough to keep up with the works drivers, and already Schlesser had fallen out with crankshaft trouble. On lap six von Trips passed Herrmann once more and Graham Hill passed Gurney, but on the next lap Gurney was in front again, and at the end of the field Bianchi retired with a broken oil pipe and Seidel gave up as he thought his shock-absorbers were not working.’

On lap eight Clark had 1/2 sec lead but Herrmann was back in second place and Phil Hill had moved up a place into ninth position ahead of Surtees, and still the first ten cars were all pressing on at unabated speed. On lap nine Clark began to get worried about rising water temperature, for there had been signs of a head gasket leak on the starting line, while Herrmann and von Trips were now getting into their stride and the Ferrari brought the lap record down to 4 min 07.5 sec, and for the first lap since the start of the race there was no change in the order anywhere through the field. Halfway round lap 10 the leading Porsche and the rear-engined Ferrari were gaining rapidly on the Lotus and as Clark finished his tenth lap he drew into the pits, just as Herrmann and von Trips went by. In a flash the next eight cars were past, while water was poured into the Lotus and Clark restarted in tenth place, for Lewis also drew into the pits to retire with two broken main-bearing caps and a ruined crankcase. Behind the leading bunch came Trintignant, Taylor, Gregory, Gendebien, Laureau, Barth and Cabral in that order but spaced out.

Having got the lead Herrmann really flew and lapped in 4 min 07.0 sec, but von Trips was not giving in and two laps later recorded 4 min 06.4 sec and closed on Herrmann, and the two of them were now leaving Bonnier behind, who was being followed by Graham Hill and Gurney, who were changing positions continuously, and behind them came Phil Hill and Ireland, also chopping and changing places, while some way back Trevor Taylor had got in front of Trintignant. On lap 11 Brab­ham gave up with a split head gasket, never having been in the picture, and Surtees was slowing visibly, his continual gear-­selection trouble having caused missed gears and subsequent bent valves.

On lap 13 von Trips was only a few lengths behind Herrmann’s Porsche, on the next lap he was right on his tail and he stayed like that for two more laps, while the two of them drew 16 sec ahead of Bonnier, but Graham Hill and Gurney were urging each other along and were catching Bonnier. On lap 16 Herrmann did 4 min 06.0 sec, but on lap 17 von Trips replied with 4 min 04.7 sec and sailed by into the lead, and the Ferrari really showed its possibilities by pulling out a 11/2-sec lead over the Porsche. Graham Hill and Gurney were still passing and re-passing and were now up with Bonnier, while Ireland and Phil Hill had not yet settled their battle.

On lap 15 Trevor Taylor had retired at the pits when a cam-­follower had broken and on lap 16 Surtees had run wide on a corner trying to take it in a high gear to save the trouble of sorting the selectors out, and had spun on some loose gravel and stalled. Clark was still running, but a long way back from the leaders, and most of the tail-enders had been lapped. The rear-engined Ferrari was now safely in front and von Trips was making no mistake and he finished the 20 laps nicely ahead of Herrmann, having thoroughly trounced the Porsche team on their own door­step. On lap 19 Graham Hill got into third place, but on the last lap Bonnier got by him down the straight and led him over the line with Gurney right behind them, and a little way back Phil Hill led Ireland on the penultimate lap only to be re-passed yet again on the last lap.

For once this had been real motor racing, with the first seven cars all going as hard as they knew how for the whole race, and if this was a foretaste of 1961 Grand Prix racing then no-one is going to be disappointed. Dan Gurney summed up this excellent race very nicely when he said : “I’ve never had to drive so hard in my life just for fifth place”. DSJ.’

Beautiful shot of Surtees Lotus 18 on the cobbled pave of the Oporto streets (LAT)

Surtees further showed his mettle at Oporto, the Portuguese Grand Prix held on 14 August.

In only his third event in 2.5 litre Grand Prix cars he put his Team Lotus 18 on pole on the unfamiliar challenging portside/coastal circuit.

Surtees lost out in the early skirmishes as Dan Gurney’s BRM P48 grabbed the lead, but he soon overcame Stirling Moss, Lotus 18 Climax – returning from injuries sustained at Spa – to run 2nd. The Lotus then closed on Gurney and was poised to challenge for the lead when the BRM hit engine trouble. Moss now moved forward and started applying pressure to Surtees, only to have to pit for a plug change on his Lotus 18. That left Surtees comfortably clear of reigning world champion Jack Brabham.

But Surtees had been battling with a fuel leak and, eventually, his petrol-soaked feet slipped off the pedals. The resulting incident burst the Lotus’s radiator and forced Surtees out of the race, but he looked at home up front of the field, which is rather where he belonged!

Another shot of Surtees on the run at Oporto (B Cahier)

Did you say the motel was to the left or right? Surtees on the road @ Riverside 1960. Lotus 18 Climax (Getty)

With his motorcycle commitments the only other F1 championship appearance for the great Brit that year was at Riverside, site of the 1960 US Grand Prix in late November.

There he qualified his Team Lotus 18 6th but spun and was collected by teammate Clark causing John’s retirement. Clark soldiered on using the nose cone off Surtees car! Stirling Moss won the race in the Walker Lotus 18, the fastest combination of the year- and noting Moss’ monster accident at Spa in June which outed him from mid-June till late November.

Surtees made a huge impact in his first season in cars- he was off to UDT Laystall for 1961 on an inexorable rise which took him via Lola to Ferrari in 1963 and a world title in 1964. Click here for an article on his Ferrari 158 championship year;

https://primotipo.com/2014/11/30/john-surtees-world-champion-50-years-ago/

Etcetera: Denis Jenkinson’s description of the wild Solitude road circuit…

‘The starting area is wide and level and a short straight leads into a series of four left-hand bends, they can be taken in one complete arc, to form a very large-radius hairpin, “Glemseck,” turning the direction of the road through 180 degrees. Between the start and the first corner are the pits, intelligently placed at an angle to the main track, the first pit being some 20 feet from the edge of the track and the last one being about 10 feet from the edge, thus allowing everyone in the pits a fairly unobstructed view and making a very large wedge-shaped pit area.

After turning through 180 degrees the road climbs steeply up the side of a hill, round a very tight hairpin to the right, “Hedersback,” and on up the hill on a gradient of nearly 1 in 61/2, levels out a bit on a left curve and then climbs up round a fast right-hand curve to the top of the hillside. Here it takes a long fast left-hand bend over the brow, “Frauenkreuz,” and down the other side, followed by another very fast downhill right-hand curve, and drops over a sharp brow to plunge down into a sharp left-hand corner, in thick woods. As the road levels out here this corner can be taken faster than imagined for the sudden cessation of losing height as you hit the corner means that the car gets a terrific downward thrust from its own weight, helping the cornering power of the tyres. From here the road is more or less level and to all intents and purposes is straight, although in actual fact there are two left-hand curves, but these are flat out. This ends in a very sharp right-hand hairpin that drops downhill to a left­hand hairpin that continues to drop downhill and is followed by a short straight rush down to a lake.

Here the road turns sharp left round the edge of the lake and from here to the start the road runs along the bottom of a valley and is flat, but by no means straight. From the lake to the starting area there is a series of fast and slow corners, running through woods with a high bank on the right. This is the most difficult part of the course, for so many of the corners look alike and all are rather similar as regards surroundings, making them difficult to identify, and for 31/2 kilo­metres after leaving the lake, on this home stretch, there is no straight and the car has to be whipped from one lock to the other. The last of this long series of swerves is a left-hander which brings you out of the woods and onto the short pits straight.

The circuit measures 11.417 kilometres to the lap (approximately seven miles) and contains just about every situation one could wish for in a racing circuit, and the whole thing is on normal public roads, closed for the occasion of racing, and sports cars lapped it at 150 kph (approximately 93 mph).’

Innes Ireland clipping the grass for the Solitude organisers during his victorious run during the 1961 GP- his works Lotus 21 Climax won from Jo Bonnier’s Porsche 718 and Dan Gurney’s similar car. Here he leads Jack Brabham Cooper T53 Climax not long after the start. The fast, open, wooded terrain of the circuit shown in this marvellous shot (Sutton)

Bibliography…

Solitude GP race report by Denis Jenkinson in MotorSport August 1960, Autosport, oldracingcars.com, Australian Motorcycling News article by Don Cox, ‘Motorcycle GP Racing in The 1960’s’ Chris Pereira, F2 Index

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, LAT, Sutton, Bernard Cahier, Australian Motorcycle news

Tailpiece: Likely Lads- Ireland, Clark, Surtees and Chapman, what an array of talent! Team Lotus, Oporto, Portugal 1960…

Finito…

 

Repco Holden F5000 engine fitted to an Elfin MR5, date and place unknown, I suspect the wing has been airbrushed blue to obliterate the white/red Ansett logo which would have been there (Repco)

The progressive conclusion of the very successful business relationship between Repco and Jack Brabham throughout 1969 lead to another race winning Repco program with General Motors Holden, an F5000 V8 which first raced in 1970…

Common elements of both programs were the Tasman 2.5 litre Formula and engineer Phil Irving.

Jack Brabham’s brainchild for a cost effective competitive engine to replace the ageing Coventry Climax FPF in 2.5 Tasman Formula racing- the General Motors F85 Oldsmobile based Repco Brabham RB620 V8 was designed and drawn by Phil Irving and then adapted for rather successful 3 litre F1 use.

The end of the Tasman 2.5 Formula, the need for Repco to replace the Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. engine program with another promotional tool, the selection of Formula 5000 as the new Australian National Formula 1 and Phil Irving’s talents led to the design of a very successful race engine using Holden’s then new, designed and made in Australia ‘308’ 5 litre V8.

But it’s not as simple as all that of course! Australia’s change of our premier class over time- Australian National Formula One has usually been vexed in the extreme as those committed to and with an investment in the prevailing category hang on for grim death whilst those with an objective perspective can readily see the need for change.

Tasman ANF2.5 to F5000, F5000 to Formula Atlantic/Pacific, Formula Pacific to Formula Holden, Formula Holden to Formula 3 and the current push to modern F5000 ‘Thunder 5000’ cases in point. In fact the only agreeable change of ANF1 down the decades was the shift from Formula Libre, which had served us remarkably well since the dawn of time, to Tasman 2.5…

Pre-Tasman F Libre Longford 1961. Stan Jones looks our way from his Cooper T51 Climax whilst Bib Stillwell settles into his Aston Martin DBR4/250 (R Lambert)

Frank Matich’s Brabham BT7A Climax chases Graham Hill’s BT11A through Longford during the 1965 AGP, 2.5 FPF powered both. A local competing with the best in the world- a world class local BTW!  (HAGP)

Frank Hallam and Michael Gasking testing Weber carb jets on a Coventry Climax FPF engine at Repco, Richmond in the early sixties. Repco developed pistons, rings and bearings for these motors- which they eventually had a licence to build in full. RBE were still carrying and selling CC parts right thru the sixties (M Gasking)

The Tasman 2.5 Formula was immensely successful for Australasia…

The Formula neatly embraced the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine, F1’s champion engine in 1959/60 and in so doing allowed the locals access to a cost-effective competitive engine. New chassis were available, particularly from Motor Racing Developments (Brabham) so drivers could buy a car and go head to head on more or less equal terms with the best drivers in the world.

Both aspirants and world champions came here every summer for some competitive racing and to escape the European winter. That started to change when the F1 season became longer, winter testing more common and driver deals became more lucrative as a consequence of advertising on cars from 1968- sponsorship increased. Driver contracts themselves became more restrictive of competition outside F1 as sponsors had investments in drivers to protect. In short if you didn’t need to do the series to make the money and your contract precluded it anyway you didn’t make the long trip south, better to spend the winter in Zurs with a pretty lady of choice.

The first five helmets and their cars- Attwood, BRM 126 V12, Gardner Brabham T23D Alfa V8, Piers Courage McLaren M4A Ford FVA 4 cylinder, then Brabham’s Brabham BT23E Repco V8 and then a BRM P261 V8 belonging to Pedro Rodriguez. Warwick Farm Tasman 1968 (B McInerney)

Arguably the high-water mark of Tasman 2.5 racing was the 1968 Series which provided a truly mouth watering mix of cars- Lotus 49 Ford DFW V8, Lotus 39 Repco V8, BRM P261 V8, BRM P126 V12, Ferrari Dino 246T V6, Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo V8, Brabham BT23E Repco V8 various Ford FVA 1.6 four-cylinder F2’s and a good number of Repco V8 and Coventry Climax FPF engined Brabhams. Who needed an F1 GP when you had Clark, Hill, Rodriguez, McLaren, Amon, Brabham, Gardner and Attwood plus all the local hotshots ‘in town’ for eight consecutive weeks!?

The 2.5 Tasman Series provided the best motor racing Australasia has ever had. Full stop. But the domestic 2.5 championships, here the Australian Gold Star series was a different thing entirely.

To cut to the chase, the Australian motor racing economy, which banned other than trade support advertising on cars until 1968 simply could not or would not support enough 2.5 litre cars to create a grid of critical mass.

Why is this? It’s still the case now mind you, that is the inability to support an elite level single-seater category in this country. As much as we ‘purists’ dislike it, Australians like, make that love, touring car racing.

The tourers ascent started in the late fifties, accelerated in the sixties with an economy bubbling along well enough for drivers to be able to acquire and race interesting cars built in Europe and especially the US from the mid-sixties- and then we started building some sexy stuff ourselves. Throw in some charismatic characters and yerv gotta a pretty good show for both enthusiasts and ‘fringe people’ who could rock up to one of the short circuits popping up all over the place, take the babe, chomp on a burger and chips (they were chips pre-Maccas, not fries) and see how the blokes in ‘your’ Holden were going against the enemy in a Ford or Valiant.

Allan Moffat’s winning works Ford Falcon ‘XW’ GTHO Phase 2 leads a Holden Torana GTR XU1 and Ford Escort Twin-Cam through Murray’s Corner Bathurst during the 1970 500 (unattributed)

In comparison racing cars exited stage left.

Sweet spots were the teams of ex-drivers David McKay and Alec Mildren, Lex Davison’s death in early 1965 ended the Ecurie Australie team he was assembling after his intended retirement as a driver. And remember at this stage sponsorship was not allowed so the much higher costs of the cars relative to tourers could not be ameliorated or recovered.

So where did the available dollars and promoters go? With the touring car spectacle of course. It’s not quite that simple but it’s not much more complex either.

Hill, Amon, Clark, Lotus 49 Ford DFW, Ferrari Dino 246T and Lotus 49 Ford DFW. Front row of the grid for Saturday’s dry preliminary race Longford 1968, sadly the last. It rained cats and dogs on Monday, Piers Courage taking an historic win in his F2 McLaren M4A FVA (HRCCT)

Early in 1968 the Tasman 2.5 Formula was extended by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) to the end of 1970 whilst a new formula was worked out- the battle for the new ANF1 was on in earnest.

The mathematical average grid size of a Gold Star event in 1968 was 16.8 cars, the average number of 2.5 litre cars on those grids was 3.83 cars, the balance was made up of ANF1.5 or ANF2 cars- the speed of which sometimes put the 2.5’s in less than desirable light. It was tragic really, until the 3 litre F1 of 1966 we were racing the fastest single-seater road racers on the planet- that period from 1961 to the end of 1965 when F1 was a 1.5 litre formula.

So, something had to change, our illustrious and much maligned (usually rightly) organising body, the CAMS led by long serving chief John Keefe and founder Donald Thomson started to consider the alternatives.

Formulae openly canvassed were Euro F2, a 2 litre racing engine category, F5000 or Formula A as it then was in the US and the extension of the ANF 2.5 formula, not that many thought the latter would be the case.

In June 1968 ‘Racing Car News’ (RCN), then Australia’s national monthly magazine bible of racing ran a feature article about the creation of Formula A in the US. The magazine played a great role of dissemination of information throughout the period in question.

Formula A started in the US in 1967 where the 5 litre machines ran with Formula B, a class for 1.6 litre twin-cams. Even into 1968 these cars were clunkers really- the spaceframe ‘ex-T70 parts bin special’ Lola T140 and monocoque Eagle Mk5’s etc were noisy, spectacular cars in a way but hardly cars to lust about compared with our sophisticated beloved ANF 2.5’s. 5 litre numbers advanced again in 1968, but I wouldn’t have bet on FA/F5000 in early 1968 as our new ANF1.

Both cutaway and program cover are John Cannon and his Eagle Mk5 Chev- a man who was to become an Australasian F5000 regular

The RCN July 1968 issue ran an article entitled ‘Tasman: Death of a Series’ written by Rob Luck. The (I’m truncating heavily) article pronounced the series dead as a consequence of;

.Longford’s cessation as a circuit, the organisers simply could not afford to continue without a significant increase in the level of Tasmanian State Government investment- and the granting of ‘Longford’s first weekend in March’ by the FIA to the South African GP.

.The poor financial state of Lakeside and Sandown which limited Warwick Farm’s ability to fund drivers ‘on its own’.

Pro-actively RCN proposed a package of changes it saw as an attractive one to promoters and the punters- going alone from the Kiwis, with four meetings and a $100k prize pool with a bill comprising an international sportscar race of 100-200 miles, ANF1 and two 50 mile races, an event of the promoters choice and a 50 mile Formula Vee race.

The article says that Can Am may have been limited to 5 litres at the time, which didn’t happen- but that 5 litre Formula A was growing and that ultimately ‘we would have to fall in line with an international formula’ – which of course we eventually did.

The article predicted only 2/3 top drivers for the 1969 Tasman and questioned ‘Do we stop it now or PROCEED WITH THE DISASTER’ (RCN’s bolds)

Hengkie Iriawan testing his Euro F2 Elfin 600C Ford FVA upon delivery to the Indonesian international at Mallala, South Australia in early 1969. She is literally brand new (R Lambert)

European F2, 1.6 litres from 1967 was going gang-busters (and going 2 litres from 1972- not that that had been determined in 1968). We had seen some of these cars in Oz- Hulme’s Brabham BT23, Hill’s Lotus 48 and Piers Courage’s McLaren M4A spring to mind, the speed of the cars and ready availability of engines and chassis was clear to all.

Pure racing engines of 2 litres had appeal with the speed of the 1.6 litre Euro F2’s indicative of likely pace of more powerful 2 litre engines.

So it’s interesting to look back at the way things moved in both Australia and globally in that short two years to see how CAMS landed on 2 litres, then recanted and admitted F5000 and 2 litres but only for a while whence ANF1 became F5000 alone…

I don’t purport to cover all of the ‘realpolitic’, much of that happened behind closed doors but all of the moving parts at this time are germane to the outcome.

Merv Waggott changes plugs in his 2 litre motor- its Alec Mildren’s Kevin Bartlett driven Mildren Waggott at Teretonga in early 1970. KB gave the F5000’s plenty to think about during that series which included a win at home at Warwick Farm (Bill Pottinger)

Merv Waggott built a simply brilliant engine in his small Sydney workshop during 1968.

This operation at Greenacre in Sydney’s south-west was a mecca for racers and had ‘bread and butter’ work which included camshafts and general machining but Merv had a very comprehensive workshop and small foundry onsite and in the late-fifties built a chain driven, DOHC, 2 valve aluminium head to suit the Holden six-cylinder pushrod OHV ‘grey motor’- the engine which motorised the masses in Oz post-war.

The Waggott Holden engines raced successfully in sedans and small sportscars before CAMS changed the sedan racing rules, rendering the motor ineligible at the stroke of a pen. So, Merv was not unaware of the sometimes capricious nature of the Confederation’s decision making processes. Its a digression, but the corporate governance processes of CAMS- witness the obscene ‘process’ (its obscene to describe the process as a process!) which resulted in more recent times in the choice of Formula 4 in this country- and fucking over Formula Ford and the businesses which supported the FF class in F4’s introduction show CAMS decision making processes are no more advanced now than they were in the organisations infancy.

Waggott Holden engine in John French’s Australian GT Championship winning Centaur Waggott in 1962 (unattributed)

Nice Waggott Engineering collage focussed around the Waggott Holden motor- in car is the Centaur Waggott (Waggott Engenieering)

 

Nonetheless, Merv could see the commercial opportunity of building an engine to take on the Ford FVA 1.6 litre motor, and did just that with the intention of supplying it locally and regionally. Waggott first put design pen to paper in June 1968, the engine was announced circa October 1968 with feature articles in both RCN and Australian Autosportman magazines at the time. It first raced in early 1969.

His 1.6 litre Waggott TC-4V, Lucas fuel injected motor was based on the good ole Ford Cortina block, as was the Cosworth FVA- initially found success in one of Alec Mildren’s chassis but was soon being built in 2 litre form with a bespoke block. It still blows my tiny mind to think of what Merv achieved with the resources he had, there has never been a more successful series of motors produced in Australia with so little money. The CAMS were well aware of what was going on in Sydney of course.

At the ‘big end of town’, and there is a bit of the usual Melbourne/Sydney rivalry in all of this, (CAMS were and are Melbourne based) Holden and Ford, both based in Melbourne were pushing their new V8 engines.

Whilst Australian’s talked V8’s they still bought what they could afford- 6 cylinder engines, but yer dad was ‘the big swingin dick’ in the local ‘hood if he drove a V8- the first local pony car and 1967 Bathurst winner was Ford’s Falcon XR GT four-door sedan, powered by FoMoCo’s 289 cid Windsor V8. So, Holden and Ford wanted F5000, it dovetailed in with their racing programs and marketing ends.

Barry Cassidy’s Ford Falcon GT ‘XR’ at Longford in 1968. XR GT the first in a long line of great road and racing cars (HRCCT)

The V8 Fever taking hold in Oz accelerated hard (sic) in 1968 with the build of the Ford Falcon XT GT 302 V8- and the release of the General Motors Holden Monaro, the 2 door coupe variant of Australia’s best selling four-door 6 cylinder car. The range topping Munro was powered by the Chev small-block 327 V8, there was also a 307 V8 version. Bang for buck these cars, and those which followed them over the next decade or so were phenomenal cars globally.

The GTS 327 won the Bathurst 500 in 1968 and Group E Series Production racing exploded with the availability of fast, locally built cars for which a driver had a halfway decent chance of attracting a bit of sponsorship from the local dealer to go racing.

The point here is that the promoters were getting plenty of bums on seats to see Series Production and Improved Production V8’s- the single-seater boys almost needed to compete on equal V8 terms to maintain their relevance. In the eyes of many, especially the promoters, a sophisticated, small, light, four-cylinder high revving engine simply wasn’t going to cut the mustard with the punters.

Repco Brabham RB860 3 litre V8 aboard a Brabham BT26 during the 1968 GP season. Cars were quick but unreliable, Rindt was on the front 2 rows on 3 occasions amongst all the DFV’s- 6 that year (Sutton)

Meanwhile over in Europe Repco were having a shocker of a season in Formula Uno.

There was nothing wrong with Ron Tauranac’s BT26 Brabham chassis but Repco’s new, complex, gear driven, four-valve, DOHC 3 litre ‘860’ V8 was late arriving as Repco persevered with the ‘850’ radial-valve engine for way too long- a call made by Frank Hallam well after his engineers pronounced the thing a dog, and an engine which would have been almost impossible to fit into a car in any event, given its exhaust system. Repco should not be criticised for pursuing an innovative approach, BMW were amongst others trying this cylinder head design at the time- but Repco’s hitherto pattern of building its new season engines early enough to test them in race conditions during the Tasman before the F1 season commenced had served them well in 1966 and 1967, and was to its cost in 1968.

I’ve not written about the 860 engine or ’68 F1 season yet, the point here is that Repco were enduring a season which would cause them, and Jack Brabham, to call time on their very successful partnership which stretched back to the dawn of the sixties development of Jack’s Coventry Climax FPF engines in Repco’s Richmond, Melbourne workshops.

Repco would soon be looking for a cost-effective promotional race program for 1969 and beyond, and a means to keep its highly experienced race engineers gainfully employed building and maintaining race engines.

I love this shot of two great mates- car owner Glynn Scott and his Bowin P3 Ford FVA with Leo Geoghegan loaded up for a race in Glynn’s new car, Oran Park 1968/9 (Bowin)

Throughout 1968 Sydney’s John Joyce, back from a several year stint at Lotus, was building the first Bowin- the P3 was an advanced monocoque chassis to which was fitted a Ford Cosworth FVA 1.6 engine owner/driver Glynn Scott acquired from Piers Courage at the end of of the ’68 Tasman. By the end of the year Scotty had a somewhat lucky Sandown Gold Star victory in the P3’s debut season.

Also on the Australian chassis front Garrie Cooper built the first of his Elfin 600 spaceframe cars in early 1968 and promptly won the Singapore Grand Prix in it- this series of cars raced and won in FF, F3, F2 and ANF2.5 V8 from 1968-71 and beyond. The 600 was another local car which was designed for 1.6-2 litre racing engines- the point that Australia’s Adelaide based ‘volume producer’ of racing cars had such a design in production was probably not lost on the Confederation.

Bob Britton’s Rennmax BN3 design, built on his Brabham BT23 jig, was another car to which 1.6-2.5 litre engines were suited.

Jochen Rindt on the way to a soggy, stunning ‘Warwick Farm 100’ Tasman win in 1969, Lotus 49 Ford DFW (D Simpson)

Despite the predictions of disaster about the 1969 Tasman Series by many, it ended up being a beauty!

Chris Amon brought back his factory Dino’s with Derek Bell this time driving a second car albeit running it  to a tighter rev-limit than Chris. Team Lotus entered Lotus 49 DFW’s for ’68 World Champ and new-signing Jochen Rindt who was a man on an awesome mission to prove he was the fastest fella on the planet. Piers Courage returned but this time with a Frank William’s owned Brabham BT24 Ford DFW, his performances in the Pacific that summer were a portent of speed in Williams ex-works Brabham BT26 Ford DFV that F1 season. Alec Mildren rose to the challenge with a new monocoque Alan Mann Racing built Mildren Alfa- it used the same Tipo 33 2.5 V8’s from the year before- perhaps the cars only shortfall was the lack of a wing package from the start of the series. Together with all of the locals it was a great Tasman- Amon was victorious in his Dino 246T with logistics taken care of by David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce.

At the start of 1969 Formula 5000 had been adopted in the UK and South Africa, it was also of course going ahead in leaps and bounds in the land of its birth. By way of example twelve 5 litre cars were entered at Laguna Seca’s October 1968 meeting with twenty-six cars at Mont-Tremblant, roughly 12 months later, in early September 1969.

Blonde haired George Eaton checks out the progress of his new McLaren M10A ‘300-02’, the first Trojan built customer car together with Paul Cooke in Toronto just before the first American FA championship round at Riverside in early 1969. Note the lovely ‘full’ monocoque chassis and beautiful quality of build and fabrication. First M10A was the McLaren built works car Peter Gethin drove to the first British Championship win that year (unattributed)

Bruce McLaren saw the commercial opportunity and adapted his M7 F1 design into the M10A F5000- the first 5 litre car that was the ‘real deal’- John Surtees’ Len Terry designed Surtees TS5 was another worthy F5000 of that year- the class very much had momentum.

In Melbourne motorsport entrepreneur Jim Abbott- he of Melbourne Motor Show, Lakeland Hillclimb and AutoSportsman magazine fame bought Alec Mildren’s Brabham BT23D- the car in which Kevin Bartlett had won the 1968 Gold Star and fitted a Trac0-Olds V8 and ZF gearbox so creating Australia’s first F5000 to give we locals an eyeful of what such machines looked like. Its another digression but Australia’s first F5000 was arguably Austin Miller’s Geoff Smedley modified Cooper T51 Chev Oz Land Speed Record holder but that too is a story for another time.

Pretty as a picture and just as fast. Max Stewart’s Mildren Waggott during the Sandown Tasman round, Pit Straight, in 1970 (D Simpson)

Over in Greenacre Merv Waggott had put the finishing touches to the first of his Waggott TC-4V 1.6 litre engines and supervised its installation into Alec Mildren’s Bob Britton built Mildren spaceframe machine which had originally been fitted with an Alfa Romeo F2 1.6 litre, four valve, injected motor in mid-1968.

Max raced the Waggott engined car in the opening round of the 1969 Gold Star championship at Symmons Plains in March- he qualified 5th amongst the 2.5’s and raced strongly until fuel metering unit problems intervened.

Throughout 1969 Waggott developed the 1.6 litre prototype engine, an 1850cc variant using the Ford block- it first competed at Surfers Paradise in October as well as a jewel of a 2 litre engine which was built around Waggott’s own bespoke aluminium block/cast iron crankcase- the first of these engines won the Gold Star season ending Hordern Trophy race at Warwick Farm in the hands of Kevin Bartlett. The then circa 260 bhp engine was fitted to the Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ monocoque racer originally built with the Alfa 2.5 V8 raced by Gardner in the ’69 Tasman.

 

In early 1969- March, we had four 1.6 litre 4 valve cars racing in Oz- the Stewart Mildren, Scott Bowin P3 and McLaren M4A’s raced by Niel Allen and Alf Costanzo (Tony Osborne’s car) with plenty of Waggott engines to come.

Whilst 5 litre momentum gathered, the 4 cylinder motors could not be denied- they were not ‘maybes’- they were out there racing and impressing with their speed. The pressure was well and truly on CAMS. Australia now had a local engine and plenty of alternative chassis into which it could be installed.

In April the much respected Peter Wherrett penned an RCN article ‘F5000: The Sound and Fury’ in which he revealed the views of many from within the sport- there was support by most interviewed, reservations generally were about the purported lower cost of F5000, which few saw as being likely.

Much respected Warwick Farm promoter Geoff Sykes saw F5000 as ‘…no real alternative anyway’ with Scuderia Veloce/journalist David McKay and the Holden Dealer Team’s Harry Firth all in the 5 litre push. Mind you, Firth was hardly independent of thought- he was paid to think as Holden thought.

Drivers Kevin Bartlett, Leo Geoghegan ‘expressed their reservations about F5000’…Geoghegan doubting it would be as relatively inexpensive as it’s promoters claimed….Garrie Cooper thought it a good thing but with the rider that it would be just as expensive as the 2.5 litre formula.

So, at this stage I know which way I would have been jumping had I been CAMS. With Ford, Holden, Repco, spectacle and local chassis manufacturers capable of building either class of car, and locals being able to take their cars and compete overseas I would have announced F5000 as the new ANF1.

But no!

In July 1969 the CAMS National Council (Board) met in Melbourne and announced 2 litre as the new ANF1. RCN got in behind the decision and proclaimed ‘…the 2 litre formula is here- and here to stay, and it will be the greatest success Formula ever in Australian motor racing history’.

The reaction to the decision was immense both from fans across the country and within the industry- it was a sport but even by that stage a business which employed thousands both directly and indirectly.

Frank Matich wanted- and bought an F5000! The speedy Sydneysider was back in a single-seater for the first time since early 1966, when he commenced his very successful sportscar period.

His McLaren M10A Chev arrived in early August 1969 just after CAMS made their 2 litre decision and first raced in Australia in September 1969. Frank knew just how the Americans rolled having competed in the ’67 Can Am with his SR3 Repco V8. He could see- and did compete in US F5000 with his own cars powered by the Repco Holden F5000 V8’s, his clarity of vision for what F5000 could mean for local competitors was 100% clear. That is, the ability to race at home and overseas in a global category on equal terms.

Frank Matich’s new McLaren M10A Chev before it’s first race at Warwick Farm in 1969. At this stage the car is powered by a Traco prepped Chevy on carbs (D Kneller)

In September RCN ran a ‘Formula Forum’ in which letters from interested parties put their view, the push for F5000 was strident both in RCN and across the sport talking to those who were around at the time.

Also at the big end of town, in St Kilda Road Melbourne to be precise were Repco. By that stage Repco Ltd Director, former AGP competitor and Maybach builder Charlie Dean was in full control of Repco Brabham Engines Pty Ltd. Dean was keen to both promote Repco’s engineering expertise and products and give the RBE boys something to do as the RBE V8 build and maintenance program progressively wound down.

Malcolm Preston wrote of Repco’s representations to adopt F5000 as follows, note that at what stage of the CAMS decision making deliberations the Repco Boardroom lunch described below took place is not stated.

‘CAMS were fence sitting. Charlie Dean hosted a private lunch with CAMS executive Donald Thomson and myself in the Repco directors dining room of the Repco Ltd head office, a magnificent period building situated at 630 St Kilda Road…Don Thomson was a co-founder of CAMS and a somewhat rebellious individual, who firmly believed that mototsport should be freely accessible to all competitors at all levels. He was opposed in principle to corporate bodies such as Repco and GMH gaining a controlling interest, or exercising undue influence on any sphere of motor sport. As a long time fellow participant with Charlie in ground level motor sport during the early post-war period, Donald eventually yielded to him in not opposing the introduction of F5000.’

Within two months of its initial 2 litre ANF1 announcement, in response to the punters and more powerful forces, CAMS rolled over and announced the new ANF1 would now include F5000 and free design 2 litre cars.

CAMS saw this as a compromise to keep all the factions happy, but it was rather a complete mess, the rollout in particular. It went like this;

.The 1970 Tasman Series was run to Tasman 2.5 (allowing 2 litre engines of course) and F5000

.The 1970 Gold Star was run to Tasman 2.5 regs (again allowing 2 litre engines) which meant those who owned an F5000 left it on the sidelines for a year, they were ineligible to race in Oz championship events. However, the November 1970 Australian Grand Prix- the AGP was normally part of the Gold Star admitted F5000 as well as ANF2.5’s. The AGP that year was not a Gold Star round. Confused?

.The 1971 Tasman and Gold Star were both run to F5000 and 2 litre categories, 2.5 Tasman cars were Tasman legal but not Gold Star eligible

.From 1 January 1972 F5000 was the Tasman and Gold Star formula albeit 2 litre cars did also score points

As is often the case compromises keep no-one really happy. That was the case-in which case the compromise could be said to be equally fair on everyone- all were pissed off!

Merv Waggott and his 2 litre engine, annoyed though he was, was a big winner. His engines were eligible and as it transpired won both the 1970 and 1971 Gold Star’s and made some of the F5000’s look like slugs in the 1970 Tasman Series. He built at least eleven of his TC-4V motors, many of which are still around with several running in historic racing. Had 2 litre not been allowed CAMS would have ‘hung Merv out to dry’, but they did not.

Its important to note that the Waggott 2 litre engines, with their bespoke block were not Euro F2 legal from 1972 to 1976, when, finally, ‘racing engines’ were admitted by the FIA. Renault wanted it, so the FIA, of course agreed. Ford solved its Euro F2 block problem by homologating the 2 litre BDG aluminium block by fitting enough of them into RS Escorts- the Ford cast-iron blocked BDA wouldn’t stretch happily beyond about 1850-1860cc as Merv knew so well. Waggott could not solve his homologation problems quite so easily as Ford. Merv’s 1.6 litre TC-4V was Euro F2 legal, using the homologated production Cortina block until the end of the 1971 season when the formula changed from 1.6 to 2 litres, but sadly no one ever raced one of the engines against the Europeans on their own turf.

The F5000 supporters were happy of course but in some ways the pickup of the category in Australia was slower than it might have been had F5000 been mandated on its own from 1 January 1971.

For example, Leo Geoghegan and Max Stewart went down the 2 litre Waggott route rather successfully- winners of the Gold Star in 1970 and 1971 (Lotus 59 and Mildren) whereas they would have to have gone down the F5000 route otherwise. As Australian enthusiasts know, Max did go F5000 in 1972 and Leo retired from open-wheelers- but only for a bit coming back to win two ANF2 titles with Birrana 272/3/4’s in 1973/4. The point is our competitors had a choice of alternatives rather than being forced down one path at the time of the change.

Into 1972 there was some momentum in F5000 numbers with FM’s Matich A50 Repco, Bartlett, Muir and Campbell in Lola T300’s and Cooper, McCormack, Stewart and Walker in Elfin MR5’s plus ‘occasionals’ like Don O’Sullivan and Stan Keen after he bought Walker’s MR5 when he jumped across to a Matich.

Politics and power is never pretty is it?!

With the category decision finally made, the race amongst competitors was on to find the money, chassis and engine to be competitive in the new class.

Holden and Repco F5000 Partnership…

Both Phil Irving and Malcolm Preston, Designer of the engine and General Manager of Redco Pty. Ltd. the Repco subsidiary which built them have sections of their books devoted to the design and development of the engine, much of the balance of this article comprises quotes from those books with some in-fill from me.

Irving’s material is in normal font and Preston’s in italics. Hopefully this is not too confusing, but it seems to me worthwhile- with such great firsthand information i am keen to use it verbatim rather than the dilution inevitable when one interprets others words.

The extensive race success of the engine will be a separate article, the focus here is on its design, construction and development.

As written earlier, I’ve not yet written about the 1968 F1 season and Repco’s windup of their Grand Prix program with Brabham. But in brief, in 1969 Repco competed at Indy with Brabham- Don Halpin looked after Jack at Indy together with Brabham mechanic Ian Lees. Repco continued to support Repco 2.5’s V8’s in Tasman and Gold Star competition- including an appearance by Brabham at Bathurst that Easter, and sponsored Frank Matich’s Matich SR4 5 litre ‘760’ V8 in the Australian Sportscar Championship- John Mepstead was given the task of looking after the engine and was based in the Matich Sydney north-shore workshops during the season.

There was also a race engine project for Pontiac, more of that another time and the build of a 5 litre ‘740’ V8 for Queensland sportscar racer Lionel Ayers, so there was more than enough to do to keep the RBE Maidstone team busy.

Charlie Dean put a proposal to the Repco Board that some of the RBE facilities and staff be retained to service existing customers. In essence the Repco Engine Development Company (Redco) was formed and inherited some of the existing RBE team, Maidstone space and facilities- which it shared with Repco Dynamics, a company also under Dean’s control which made wheel balancing equipment.

RBE and Redco was in the powerful, motor racing very friendly hands of Charlie Dean…

Dean appointed RBE Chief Engineer Norm Wilson to run Redco with Brian Heard as design draftsman, David Nash as workshop foreman and CNC programmer/machinist. Don Halpin was leading hand/fitter, John McVeigh machinist/fitter, John Mepstead machinist/fitter, John Brookfield machinist, David McCulloch apprentice and Rod Wolfe storeman. The balance of the RBE team were redeployed throughout the Repco Group or left the organisation.

At the same time as the ANF1 debate was proceeding Norm Wilson declined the opportunity to run Redco with Dean then offering the role to Malcolm Preston who had been employed by Holden and therefore ‘understood’ their ways- he accepted the position of General Manager in July 1969.

I had the opportunity to speak with Malcolm a number of times during the last 12 months of his life- John McCormack introduced me to him for input into the article I wrote on Mac’s McLaren M23 Repco Leyland. A delightfully understated, modest man he spoke of his inexperience in the design and build of racing engines, and that he saw his role was to get the best out of a team of people who had done it before. A role he did admirably!

‘Soon after my appointment Charlie Dean and I met with Holden’s Chief Engineer George Roberts and Fred James, who, together with Designer Ed Silins (known as ‘cylinder-ed’) had been largely responsible for the design of the new Holden V8 engine.’

‘Fred James proposed that if Repco undertook to use the Australian designed and manufactured Holden V8 engine as a basis for development in accordance with proposed Formula 5000 regulations, then Holden would supply engines and parts at cost price. Holden further agreed that they would give consideration to modification of parts supplied in line with requests by Repco, and in accordance with minor variants which might be feasible without disrupting production tooling. This was in the form of a gentleman’s agreement with no formal contract’.

Charlie Dean engaged Phil Irving as a consultant to lead the design of the new engine.

Repco aficionados will appreciate the irony of this- the return of the prodigal son who was banished, or walked out of Maidstone after the progressive breakdown in the relationship between he and his RBE Pty Ltd boss, General Manager Frank Hallam in early 1966.

With Charlie Dean in control of Redco and Frank Hallam a long way away on the other side of Melbourne at Repco Research in Dandenong the way was clear for Irving- who had first collaborated with Dean on Maybach 3 in the mid-fifties, then designed the Repco Hi-Power cylinder head for the Holden six-cylinder ‘Grey Motor’ and of course later still the 1966 World Championship winning ‘RBE620’ V8 to return to the fold.

Phil Irving at Adelaide International in 1974- he was there that weekend to oversee John McCormack’s Repco Leyland F5000 engine Elfin MR6- a story for another time (J Lemm)

Malcolm Preston wryly and affectionately observed in relation to P.E Irving, OBE’s return;

‘…With a degree of grumbling Phil eventually adjusted a drawing board and frame to his liking, and reviewed the drawings and components which GMH had supplied to Redco…Irving’s contract with Redco was on a relatively informal basis. He was expected to attend on most days, Monday to Friday, for as many hours as was convenient for him between the hours of 8 am and as late as he wished. At this time he had a new partner Edith Neilson, who managed to introduce a degree of orderly timing into his life, such that we generally had a good idea as to when and how long we could rely on his attendance, with a fair degree of probability. When he wasn’t about, work proceeded unabated, whilst when present his valuable advice was often sought by both design and workshop staff.’

I rather suspect Frank Hallam would have appreciated Edith Neilson’s presence in Phil’s life in 1965/6 in order that he also had a greater degree of predictabilty as to the great designers whereabouts!

The Formula 5000 regulations mandated that the block and cylinder head castings of the base engine must be used as well as push-rod valve actuation. Metal could be removed freely but ‘the addition of metal’ was not allowed.

Phil Irving on the process of design and construction of the motor- ‘We had a lot of Holden’s engine drawings and production V8 components to study while we worked out how to turn a mass-produced engine into some sort of a racer’.

Holden’s new family of Australian V8’s comprised 253 and 308 cid engines, both were considered as the base engine for the project.

‘The Holden 308 engine had a capacity of 5047cc, with a bore of 4 inches and stroke of 3.062 inches, whilst the smaller 253 cubic inch version (4146cc) had a bore of 3.625 inches with the same stroke. The 253 block could not be bored out further on account of its larger water passages. The options were thereby to retain the 4 inch bore and machine new crankshafts or retain the crankshaft size and alter the bore size.’

‘In order to achieve the specified engine capacity of less than 5 litres, it was initially planned to machine the nodular iron crankshaft castings, provided by GMH to a reduced stroke of 3 inches. This option proved to be prohibitively costly so it was decided to use a smaller bore size of 3.960 inches. To this end, part machined 308 cid cylinder blocks were obtained from GMH and machined at the Repco city (Melbourne) machine shop to a bore size of 3.960 inches, to achieve a capacity of 4990 cc. Technically this might have been seen as ‘adding material’, however since the castings were fairly generous in dimensions, no concerns were raised.’

Repco motor in Dave Powell’s Matich A50 ‘001/2’ in the mid-seventies, note the raised inlet ports (A Trowbridge)

(A Trowbridge)

‘The cast-iron block appeared to be reasonably rigid, and although it was not possible to cross-bolt the main bearing caps there was enough material in the main bearing panels to allow the intermediate main bearing caps  to be converted from two-bolt location to four-bolt.

For the racing engines we obtained blocks from Holden with the bores unmachined. This enabled us to reduce the bore by 1 mm from the production 101.6 mm, which then brought  the capacity to the 5 litre ceiling and allowed us to get the required finish on the bore surfaces.’

‘Repco workshop manager Tom Jarvis personally supervised the line boring and other operations on F5000 engine components which always met Redco’s exacting specifications.’

Irving wrote that ‘The only major change made to the Holden block was early in its racing life, after some problems with the rear main bearing oil seal. Holden told us the alteration would cost us the staggering sum of 1200 pounds, which Repco would have to pay. I replied that if they cared to actually examine their patterns they would find that the proposed changes would cost virtually nothing. They did look at the patterns and realised it was a simple thing to change and all the production Holden V8’s used the revised block after that’.

A case of racing improves the breed!

‘The crankshaft needed a lot of work. A specially manufactured racing crankshaft was ruled out as being too expensive, and we had to adapt the production Holden crank. I did not feel happy about its oilways and modified the big-end oil supply to be similar to that used on the Repco-Brabham V8’s. The basic Holden item was a nodular iron casting and quite high quality for a production engine. We arranged to have the finish grinding done at Repco, where we could apply racing standards of finish, and this also allowed us to use a larger fillet radius. Combined with careful balancing  and special heat-treating we were eventually able to get a racing life of around 16 hours from the essentially standard crankshaft- which was handling nearly double it’s production power and revs’.

Derek’s shot of Irving’s Repco valve gear on the move, technical details as per the text (D Kneller)

‘The rules for Formula 5000 obliged us to retain pushrod valve operation, but individual components could be redesigned or replaced. I drew new cam followers, with a curved contact surface, to replace the standard flat Holden follower, and designed new rockers which pivoted on needle-rollers and used eccentric bushes for valve clearance adjustment without needing the extra weight of the usual ball and locknut method. The pushrods were made up in the usual way using silver steel tubing, but we had some inexplicable breakages. I decided that if the pushrods were determined to break I might as well decide where the break was to take place. Accordingly, I redesigned them as two-piece pushrods, using an intermediate slider which in turn operated a short pushrod which worked the rocker.’

‘The sliders were made from mild steel, case hardened, and ran in the cylinder head pushrod tunnels, suitably bored out. This two-piece pushrod system never caused any problems and usefully increased the stiffness of the valve train.’

The Repco Holden engine, like all previous Repco racing engines, used cast pistons manufactured by Repco itself. Forged pistons were considered essential by many people who specialised in American-style V8’s, but my view was that Repco had the capacity to make a very good cast piston and, on average, I would say our cast pistons were more reliable than any of the forged ones’.

Malcolm Preston is also sanguine about forged pistons.

‘In practice many of the readily available forged pistons are a compromised design with deep, heavy crowns and extended gudgeon bosses, to suit a range of applications, without being optimum for any.’

‘The piston ring package was designated by Nigel Tait to provide good combustion sealing per the Dykes type top ring, together with minimum friction of the oil control rings through reduced spring loading on the scraper segments. The rings were chrome faced which necessitated particular care with cylinder honing to ensure bedding of the rings.’

‘Nigel also assisted in specification of the gudgeon pins along with engine bearings and sintered bushes, all of which were manufactured by (Repco subsidiaries) Russell Manufacturing and Repco Bearing Company’.

‘Phil designed fully machined connecting rods which were extremely expensive to manufacture. Rods were also machined from forgings supplied by Repco Forge Company which, whilst of adequate strength, were heavy and difficult to balance into sets especially when a replacement was required. The availability of suitable connecting rods remained a critical item throughout the F5000 engine project’ Preston notes.

Don Halpin in this Repco PR shot (Repco)

 

Irving- ‘The Holden V8 was broadly similar to the Chevrolet V8 which was the most popular alternative Formula 5000 engine, but the Holden engine was slightly more compact and slightly lighter. During the development of the engine for racing we took the opportunity to redesign some components, such as the valley cover, the slide-throttle housings and the elbows for the intake trumpets from magnesium. The special drive housing for the distributor and the fuel injection was made in aluminium, as were the drive pulleys at the front of the engine for the water pump  and the belt-driven dry-sump pumps.’ Malcolm Preston notes that Brian Heard designed the slide throttle (later replaced by butterflies) inlet manifolds and the auxiliary drive assembly on which to mount the Lucas fuel metering unit, high pressure fuel pump and distributor.

‘Ready for installation in a car, the Repco-Holden weighed 490 lbs’ Irving said.

Early slide injection Repco Holden V8, with these exhausts, its  probably destined for a boat (Repco)

The RCN February 1970 issue reported that ‘The Repco modified 253 (sic) Holden engine to be used by Frank Matich in the M10A McLaren went on the engine dyno on Saturday January 24. If everything checks out alright the engine will go straight into the car for the Australian rounds of the Tasman…Matich may have to resort to the so far very reliable Chev’ the report says which was always the plan, that is, to run the Chev that Tasman.

Irving- ‘The cast iron Holden heads were not ideal for maximum power, because the inlet ports were difficult to reshape and were laid out to suit the production inlet manifold. However, using about 11:1 compression ratio and a camshaft with 100 degrees of overlap, we obtained around 440 bhp at 6800 rpm by mid-1970’.

In fact the first engine was not tested in January but in February 1970 when ‘RGM1’ for ‘Repco General Motors’ burst into life on the GB490EH dyno cell in Maidstone.

‘The ignition timing and fuel had been set fairly conservatively, that is slightly retarded and rich…The engine was cranked over for a minute of two with the plugs removed…With plugs installed the engine eventually staggered, rather than sprang to life.’

‘The engine was run for an hour or so at around 4000 rpm, with a high loading to bed in the piston rings and also the cam followers to the camshaft…Variations of ignition timing and fuel metering settings were evaluated, along with alternative plug types and heat range. Valve lash clearances were established by hot checks and stroboscopic light observation. The injection timing had very little effect on power. It was later found in subsequent tests that mounting the injectors high in the trumpets was beneficial to both power and drivability, despite the fuel mist visible above the trumpets.’

‘Once optimum settings of ignition and fuel had been established, maximum power checks were conducted at 500 rpm intervals between 4000 and 7000 rpm. A maximum figure of around 425 bhp was achieved at 6500 rpm. To be competitive a minimum of 450 would be necessary, whilst our short term goal was 475 bhp and ultimately 500 plus, so there was much development ahead’.

‘A Morse Test was conducted by operating the engine at full load whilst progressively disconnecting the high tension leads from one cylinder at a time. The power loss for each cylinder was indicative of its efficiency.

It was later confirmed that the end cylinders produced slightly less power than those located near the centre of the heads, which did not relate to gas flow through the ports. The shape of the inlet passages and their entry to the combustion chambers of the cylinder heads is a slightly different configuration for the inner and outer cylinders with the Holden heads.’

Early dyno tests included evaluation of alternative inlet passage lengths, by means of alternative trumpets attached to the slide throttle body passages. Variations of exhaust pipe primary length were tried. Later on different megaphone taper and dimensions were tried. As a result of the uneven firing pulses of the conventional V8 crankshaft, the Holden engine was not as responsive to exhaust tuning as the purpose built RBE V8’s which used single plane crankshafts, with which the firing phases of each cylinder head are evenly spaced.

‘After about four hours testing, whilst running at moderate speed and load the engine suddenly haemorrhaged…with a connecting rod projecting through the cylinder block, amidst a profusion of oil and water…A gudgeon pin had become displaced on account of a dislodged circlip…The engine was rebuilt as RGM 1A, the pistons of which were fitted with tangless circlips, together with minimum end clearance of the fully floating gudgeon pins’.

During further testing the engine was responsive to inlet passage length changes, slightly more power was shown with shorter trumpets at high rpm. Major changes to the exhaust had little effect, as noted above, at a later stage a cross-over exhaust was tried to little effect. Any of you who remember Garrie Cooper’s Elfin Chev running in that configuration will recall how wild it sounded. The adoption of a flat plane crankshaft was the solution to unlock a big chunk of power and was adopted later in 1973.

As the time approached to track test the first engine Frank Matich was given a mock-up of the engine, by that stage he had bought a new McLaren M10B to replace his M10A, albeit this car had been modified to all intents and purposes to M10B specifications.

The engine had a 10 mm aluminium plate interposed between the water pump and timing cover for attachment to the McLaren aluminium monocoque. Frank’s team provided Redco with framework representing the McLaren’s rear bodywork which the Maidstone lads attached to another engine mock up which was then sent to Lukey Exhausts for construction of a system to all the prescribed lengths of primary and secondary pipes to fit within the confines of the McLaren’s chassis.

‘…RGM 1C…was tested with the (M10B) car exhaust system and with further tuning produced an output of 470 bhp @ 7500 rpm following which it was forwarded to Matich…he conducted extensive testing on Warwick Farm’s short circuit, some of which I attended with a Redco technician’.

The Repco Holden F5000’s first race was at Warwick Farm on 12 July 1970.

Frank got a poor start in the feature race but led by lap 9 ahead of Niel Allen’s McLaren M10B Chev. On lap 12 the torsional vibration damper of Niels Chev engine broke- and cut the cars brake lines whereupon Niel ploughed into Frank at Creek Corner outing both cars. It was a promising debut all the same. At Calder on 16 October Frank won an open racing car event against little opposition and established a new lap record of 42.6 seconds.

Development of both car and engine continued, it’s first major appearance the November 1970, Australian Grand Prix.

Frank’s car was fitted with engine RGM2 and Don O’Sullivan in Frank’s M10A with RGM4.

Six other F5000 cars- five with Chevrolet power and Aussie International David Walker’s Lotus 70 powered by a Ford- ran in this race along with cars using 2.5 litre engines- Garrie Cooper and John McCormack Elfin 600 Repco’s, Graeme Lawrence’ Ferrari Dino 246T, and 2 litre overhead camshaft engines- Leo Geoghegan and Max Stewart Lotus 59 and Mildren Waggott engined cars.

The Repco Holden McLaren took pole position, set fastest lap and won the race- it was very much mission accomplished and a triumph of design and development by the Repco team.

Matich slices his McLaren M10B Repco through the Warwick Farm Esses during his historic win of the 1970 ANF2.5, ANF F5000 and 2 litre AGP (unattributed)

Repco engine with its neat engine cover made the M10B a distinctively flowing F5000 to look at. And fast. 1970 WF AGP (unattributed)

‘Against considerably stronger opposition Matich ran well in the 1971 Tasman Series and might have won won the series if he had not run out of fuel when leading the Sandown race. As he coasted to the finish he was passed by two cars, and with only one race remaining in the series he had insufficient points to win.

Later in 1971 he took his McLaren to the United States and won one round of their Formula 5000 series and finished second in another. Later that year he used a Repco Holden engine in a new car he built himself (Matich A50 Repco), he again won the Australian Grand Prix.’ Phil Irving recalled.

Matich on Warwick Farm’s Hume Straight during the 1971 AGP weekend- first on debut for the Matich A50 Repco (unattributed)

 

Matich and bi-winged Matich A50 ‘001/2’ Warwick Farm 1972 (T Glenn)

The development of the engine was relentless and ongoing…

Looking after the demands of works driver Matich was one thing but by late 1971 the engines were fitted to four Elfin MR5’s as well- the cars of Garrie Cooper, John McCormack, Max Stewart and John Walker. Customer needs had to be accommodated, and were. Before too long the cars of McCormack and Walker- his Repco engines fitted later to a Matich A50 and his Lola T330/2 were running at the front of the field in addition to Matich.

Matich A50 Repco ‘001/002’, Adelaide International 1972 (V Hughes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank Matich as works driver had a float of engines which alternated between his Cremorne, Sydney base and Repco in Maidstone. Repco were very much a beneficiary of the relentless testing regime FM conducted for Goodyear- whilst he was the distributor of the company’s race products in Australia he was also a contracted driver, his testing abilities valued greatly by the Akron giant.

Interestingly the photo of FM’s A50 ‘001’ above at Adelaide International in 1972 shows Repco at the time were playing with injection inlet trumpet length. The very sharp shot also shows the three top mounting points for the top radius rod as well as the aluminium monocoque chassis. The ‘A-frame’ from the rear chassis bulkhead aft, which helps locates the engine/gearbox is also clear.

BP PR shot perhaps- Matich with the wonderful SR4 Repco RBE760 5 litre powered machine in 1969 (T Caldersmith)

 

Matich had been supported by Repco since 1967 when he first acquired a customer RB620 4.4 litre V8 for his Matich SR3, a car he raced in the US Can Am. Repco owned the SR4 he raced, Repco 760 5 litre powered to the 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship, his Repco sponsorship then extended right throughout the F5000 period till FM’s retirement at the end of the 1974 Tasman Series. The relationship as a continuum was very much in due to union of professionals of like mind.

The engines slide throttles were difficult to repair in the field, often clogged with circuit detritus as they were so Brian Heard was tasked to  design paired butterfly throttle manifolds in early 1972. These were initially 2 1/8 inch throat diameter, with testing a throat diameter of 2 3/8 inch was settled as optimal. The injectors were generally timed to fire at about 30 degrees before the inlet valve opened.

If Only…Bob Jane’s John Harvey driven Bowin P8 Repco during a ‘Repco Birthday Series’ round at Calder in 1972. John Joyce’s design, it first raced in 1971, bristled with currency and innovation most notably the machines variable or rising rate suspension. The small, beautifully built and concepted car needed development which didn’t happen as Janey focused on his ‘taxis’, as sponsor Castrol wanted (unattributed)

Bowin P8 rear suspension and Repco Holden F5000 installation, gearbox is Hewland DG300. Oh for Matich’s car development skills to have been applied to that design! (Bowin)

‘Redco were handicapped…by lack of alternative cam profiles compatible with the radius end cam followers, especially since Wade Camshafts experienced difficulties in grinding camshafts to the required profiles…Phil revised the design to flat face followers which were free to rotate, and thereby simplified their installation. It was then possible to evaluate a variety of profiles, which, together with an increase in lift and valve diameter, provided a significant gain in power, together with with a higher operating speed and wider torque band…These were in part due to the development for Redco of computer designed cam profiles by Dr Harry Watson and Erik Millikens at Melbourne University , who also conducted load deflection and inertia measurements of the Holden F5000 valve operating components…To Phil’s pleasure no significant discrepancies were found. He designed lighter and stiffer two-piece pushrods to further enhance the operation. Mike Webb, a very clever GMH engineer, also generated some effective profiles for the F5000, along with other engine variants developed by Redco. George Wade later utilised Mike’s skills to design cams for him’.

The changes above were fitted to engines provided to Matich during mid-1972 and then progressively to customer engines as they were rebuilt.

Three Repco engines and Matich cars in FM’s Military Road, Cremorne Sydney ‘shop during the build of the two A51’s bound for the US L&M Series in early 1973. The very successful first A50 ‘001/002’ is in the far corner (D Kneller)

During 1973 Frank Matich raced two cars in the US L&M F5000 series with John Walker also contesting some races with his A50- Matich took 4 engines and Walker 2. Click here for an account of that adventure;

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

In the ‘year of the Lola T330’ both drivers were competitive but neither achieved a podium with Matich experiencing lost power and oil pressure on long corners, on account of oil accumulating in the engine. Ken Symes, Redco’s technician looking after the engines in the US replaced the bearings in one of Matich’s engines due to excessive wear, fortunately the crankshaft itself was not damaged.

John Walker documented his L&M ‘on tour’ experience in a note to Malcolm- ‘The engine (RGM32) went ok for the races and the total miles were 1008. In that mileage we checked the bearings once and replaced the head gaskets once. The head gaskets were ok sealing perfectly, the bearings were not even marked, the engine power equal to most other chaps. The main thing with the cars was the front washing out all the time. I think the reason is the tracks over here are a lot faster and in Australia are more stop and go. The oil trouble with Frank’s car is the oil tank (smaller in the A51’s than Walker’s A50) but the trouble with oil staying in the engine should be fixed. Thanks for building me an A1 engine for the series’ the 1979 Gold Star and AGP winner concluded.

When Matich was back in Sydney Tony Wallis was despatched from Maidstone to Cremorne to investigate the oil-starvation Matich encountered on the long, high-G force corners of a type uncommon in Australasia.

To do so he jacked the car up on one side and ran the engine for a minute or so at 4000 rpm, after which the engine oil dry sump tank was empty.

‘When Tony came back to Melbourne an engine was mounted on the dynamometer, laid over at 45 degrees and run up to 7500 rpm, following which it was found that oil did not drain from the low side cylinder head back to the sump from where it was scavenged. Instead, it accumulated in the rocker cover, with a slight but measurable loss of power.’

‘The solution was to add an additional scavenge segment to the oil pump, which drew oil continuously from both cylinder heads for return to the oil reservoir. The oil pumps on all engines were from then on fitted with an additional scavenge segment’.

The great Garrie Cooper’s Elfin MR5 Repco at Surfers Paradise in 1972. All of the MR5’s were Repco powered as was his MS7 sportscar design (G Ruckert)

If Only 2: John McCormack’s Elfin MR6 was designed around the very light Leyland P76 V8, developed by Repco in partnership with Leyland Australia. Unfortunately the engine was unsuited to the rigours of racing – here Mac is at Teretonga in 1975 with Repco Holden engine fitted. He did eventually get the Leyland V8 to work, just, taking a Gold Star in his unique McLaren M23 Leyland (The Roaring Season)

In the constant quest for power, development on the engine continued with a new motor fitted with a flat plane crankshaft ground by Paul England’s Moonee Pond’s workshop- like George Wade, racer/constructor/engineer England had done his apprenticeship at Repco including time at Charlie Dean’s Repco Research ‘skunkworks’ in Sydney Road Brunswick. A lot of these fellas and their relationships went way back. With a specially tuned exhaust the engine produced 503 bhp at 7800 rpm. John McCormack had a similar crank made for him in England for his engine.

Matich fitted the flat-plane crank engine to his new, side radiator, chisel nosed A52 and disappeared into the distance with it in the Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy Gold Star round at Surfers Paradise in early September 1973.

In Surfers with the folks on holiday I well remember the Ford Cosworth DFV on steroids sound of the engine- wild, fantastic! and saw the cars withdrawal from the race- the intense high frequency vibrations caused by the crank literally shook the lightweight Varley racing battery internals to bits- McCormack won the race in his normal configuration Repco engined Elfin MR5. 

As we come towards this long articles conclusion it’s interesting to get the ‘users’ experience.

John McCormack recalls the Repco Holden engines with fondness

‘I used a customer engine in my first F5000 year in the MR5 but for the 1973 Tasman I leased a current spec Repco from Malcolm Preston and bought my Goodyears direct from the ‘States rather than via Matich in Sydney. We tested with the new tyres, and the engine, ‘RGM30′ at Adelaide International and thought we could do well in NZ.’

‘In the NZ GP at Pukekohe it was Matich, McRae, then me, Matich muffed the start, I lost 3rd gear on lap 7, Allan Rollinson in a McRae GM1 came up close but could not get ahead, I won from Rollinson, Thonpson and McRae.’

‘There is a lot of talk about power at the ‘horsepower hotel’ away from the track, in design terms the Chev had better ports but Repco persevered, it was never smooth and really angry to 5000 rpm with bags of torque the Chevs didn’t have. I was competitive at Wigram in the MR5 in 1974, going at it hammer and tongs with Warwick Brown’s new Lola T332- my car was the fastest on the straight, 185 mph at 8300 rpm. I used 7800 through the gears with maximum power @ 7600 rpm. The engine valve-gear would run to 9000 rpm although Repco did not tell us that!’

Derek Kneller’ s time as FM’s right-hand and senior/chief mechanic coincides with FM’s F5000 period completely-from the McLaren M10A’s arrival in Sydney in 1969 to the sale of the Matich cars and equipment in mid-1974, he has this to say about his close association with the Repco Holden V8’s.

‘The Repco engines were bloody good, extremely good, the engineering precision was excellent. Everything was made by Repco, the rockers were forged steel, it had articulated rockers to resist the bending motion which breaks them, it had cast magnesium rather than aluminium manifolds. It was just a beautifully engineered and built engine. We had about 460bhp at the start, that rose to about 480-490 by Tasman ’73 and the flat plane crank engines gave about 520bhp when they came on stream in the ‘States in early ’73. Other drivers didn’t believe the power we had such was the strength of the engines, they had strong torque characteristics.’

‘The problems with Repco were around fiddly things. For example, we were forever changing head gaskets in the field, gaskets lifed to 4 hours had 3 hours use on the dyno when an engine was delivered, meaning a change in the workshop or at a meeting. Checking of valve clearances with limited time before a session or race and then having them leak, that kind of thing.’

‘We always had a Repco engineer, often Ken Symes to look after the engines at race meetings. The engines were great, Repco’s ability to solve problems was excellent but some of their procedures were a bit nutty! Despite wanting dyno-sheets and they produced them of course, we were never given them but the engines had plenty of power and torque.’

John Walker’s unique Lola T330 was unique powered as it was by Repco Holden V8’s- this shot peering into the car from Torana Corner at Sandown gives us a glimpse of the engine installation. The shot below is of the car as a T332 after the cars original chassis was boofed and replaced by the later tub (R Davies)

If Only 3: If John Walker won the Sandown Tasman the following day! Walker and Repco would have won the Tasman Cup, instead JW’s beautiful car was destroyed but he cheated the grim reaper in a shocker of an accident, Lola T332 Repco (R Davies)

As Kneller notes above the flat-plane crank Repco V8’s gave circa 520 bhp, it was with one of these engines that John Walker came close to winning the 1975 Tasman Series fitted to his Lola T332- a title Warwick Brown won in his Chev engined T332. Click here for an article about the 1975 Tasman;

https://primotipo.com/2015/03/12/the-mother-and-father-of-lucky-escapes-john-walker-sandown-tasman-1975/

Repco Holden V8’s were successful right throughout the long (too long) F5000 ANF1 period in Australia long after the closure of Redco and the withdrawal from motor racing by Repco Ltd in early 1974.

The ‘perfect storm of events’ which resulted in this decision was;

.Charlie Dean’s retirement from Repco and his replacement by Bob Brown who was no fan of motor racing

.The extreme softness of the Australian economy at the time, decline of the automotive sector in particular and as a consequence the financial fortunes of Repco Ltd led to the usual cost reviews with Redco drawing a good portion of the Groups’s marketing budget in the firing line

.Frank Matich’s decision to retire after the 1974 Tasman Series to look after his biggest supporter and fan- his wife Joan who was ill.

John Goss won the 1976 Australian Grand Prix in a Matich A51/3 Repco- there was more success to come but the race record of these wonderful engines is a story for another time.

The King is Dead, Long Live The King: John Goss bought FM’s best car, the A53 ‘007’ and immediately did justice to it, here, still in FM’s Repco livery, he is testing it at Oran Park in mid 1974. Gossy had raced a fast self built mid-engine Ford 6 cylinder powered sports racer, his Tornado Ford in Tasmania and the mainland after he moved to Sydney, his transition from the Falcon GT Group C cars he was then racing to F5000 was very smooth (T Glenn)

Photo Credits…

Repco, Andrew Trowbridge, Sutton, Brian McInerney, Tony Glenn, Brett Ramsay, Vic Hughes, Derek Kneller, Dick Simpson, Robert Davies, Bowin Cars, Ron Lambert, Tony Caldersmith, Graham Ruckert, The Roaring Season, John Lemm

Etcetera…

Repco Holden Technical Specifications…

(Repco)

Repco F5000 engines were also sold for boat racing, here the Ramsay family Cheeta at Albert Park Lake, Melbourne in the mid-seventies…

During 1971 ski-boat manufacturer Les Ramsay bought a Repco F5000 engine- RGM3 which he fitted to his race boat ‘Cheeta.

(B Ramsay)

He had success immediately, winning the 300 cid open class race at Albert Park and other successes competing against boats fitted with much larger engines. As a result of the association Redco developed performance kits for the standard 308 for Ramsay Marine- the basic kit provided about 190 bhp and a higher performance one 320 bhp.

(B Ramsay)

(B Ramsay)

Bibliography…

‘Phil Irving- An Autobiography’, ‘From Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard & Ors, various issues of Racing Car News magazine, Derek Kneller, John McCormack

Tailpiece: Repco’s ‘Veggie Cart’ F5000 …

The Repco lads mocked up their Maidstone chariot, an ex-Victoria Market veggie-cart as a ‘racer’- here an engine is on the way to the dyno house, out back of the main factory. Left > Right- uncertain, Ken Symes, John McVeigh, Don Halpin, Brian Slader.

Finito…

Kevin Bartlett from Spencer Martin and Greg Cusack on the plunge down the mountain, Bathurst March 1967…

David Atkinson’s depiction of Kevin Bartlett’s dice and achievement of the first over 100 mph lap of Mount Panorama shows the Brabham BT11A Climaxes of  KB and Spencer from Greg’s Brabham BT23A Repco V8.

Bartlett first raced a Morris Minor at Bathurst in the late fifties, he knew the place as well as anyone- the sense of achievement was great. ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ is the title John Medley gave his wonderful ‘biography of Bathurst’ and goes a long way to making clear the significance of this wonderful place and it’s importance in the continuing pantheon of Australian motor racing.

Only Lobethal and Longford match it for its majesty and Warwick Farm, Phillip Island and Albert Park it’s importance.

During a couple of torrid dices in a preliminary race and in the NSW Road Racing Championship round Bartlett and Martin both broke the lap record and 100mph mark repeatedly but Kevin was the first to do so.

Frank Gardner casts a paternal eye over his younger teammate and his old BT11A in the Longford paddock in 1968. It’s not wet so it’s not raceday! (oldracephotos)

In many ways I see Kevin and Spencer as the Australian ‘Bobsy Twins’ of the time…

Both Sydney boys, both born in 1940, both motor mechanics by profession, both drove for one of the best teams of the day in Alec Mildren Racing and Bob Jane Racing- both raced Brabham BT11A’s powered by 2.5 litre Coventry Climax four cylinder ‘thumpers’ and both were sublime practitioners of the single-seater driving art. Driver’s-Drivers if you will.

Spencer had greater experience of these powerful single-seaters than Kevin but the Curl-Curl Kid was learning fast, a classicist with god-given intuitive feel and car control that thrilled the crowds and record books for decades.

Oopsie. Spencer post WF Tasman contretemps with The Causeway, 1967- late in the race won by Jackie Stewart’s BRM P261 from Jim Clark’s Lotus 33 Climax (B Wells)

Bartlett from Martin during the WF 100 race, Tasman Series 1967. KB was 6th, Spencer’s shown in the shot above. Both cars Brabham BT11A Climax (B Wells)

Bartlett declared his intent in practice with an over 100 mph lap of  2:18.6 with KB setting a time of 2:17.7 in a 6 Lapper for Racing and Sports Cars in a fierce battle with Spencer- in the process Martin matched KB’s 2:18.4 he had set on lap 3, only for Bartlett to do a 2:17.7 late in the race.

In an amazing weekend for Bartlett he contested four races winning three- two single-seater events in the Brabham and a touring car race in Alec Mildren’s Alfa Romeo GTA- he was second to Bob Jane ‘s Mustang in the other race. But the thriller of the four was the feature race.

Peter Wherrett, then racer and later immensely gifted automotive TV broadcaster covered the meeting for Max Stahl’s monthly Australian motor racing bible ‘Racing Car News’, his account brings the thrilling weekends racing to life.

‘The feature event in the nine race program was the 1967 NSW Championship for Racing Cars…it was a thriller but disappointing as well…Geoghegan and Harvey were installing new engines and were indisposed…Then right there on the grid…poor Greg Cusack and his team pushed and shoved the Brabham all over the place, but the big Repco V8 refused to start’.

‘Bartlett had pole after his fabulous practice time, but there was determination written clearly all over Spencer Martin’s face. When the flag dropped they raced neck and neck for Hell Corner. Since Bartlett had the inside running he also had the advantage and was first out but accelerating away up Mountain Straight Martin again drew alongside. Up and over the mountain they raced with Bartlett leading Martin by the depth of his tread.’

‘Down Conrod and into the braking area it was still Bartlett, now by a car’s length , as they crossed the line after a standing lap of 2:21.3, already 4.4 seconds inside the lap record. Martin again caught up going up the hill but once more it was Bartlett who led down Conrod.’

‘Those who saw them said none have ever gone down the Esses like this pair. Bartlett, particularly was breathtaking!’

‘It seemed he simply twitched the car from one corner to the next, setting the booming Brabham up in the middle of one corner so that it was as near as possible to be spot on line for the one following, and then upsetting the whole thing in the middle of the corner so that he would be right for the next one and so on.’

‘Already way back in the field Max Stewart led the 1500’s…F2 Rennmax…Phil West 1100 Brabham running in close company with Alton Boddenberg in the Lotus 32’.

Brian Caldersmith’s wonderful painting of the battle

‘But it was the Bartlett-Martin duel which was drawing the attention of the masses. Bartlett’s second lap put him 30 yards in front and this was not surprising when it was announced that the lap record was now  2:17.4. Too much!’.

‘Spencer was right in there though, and on the third he picked up a bit. Into the fourth they went and again Spencer seemed to catch Kevin going up the hill and Kevin seemed to gain it all back again on the straight.

On the fifth of thirteen, people began to doubt they could both withstand the pace. Again Bartlett was in the 17’s but this time Martin joined him with a personal best of 2:17.8 and then…it was just too good to last.

We crazy money-paying enthusiasts are just not deserving of such joy. Going up to XL Bend for the sixth time Spencer slowed and with oil pressure failing withdrew the ailing Brabham. Bartlett slowed (?) to the low 20’s and could not be beaten. Stewart took second place, mad with glee, and Phil West gained a creditable third from Boddenberg, Barry Lake and Peter Cohen, who was in and out of the pits and only completed three laps’.

‘All but one of Bartlett’s laps were under the old lap record, and six of them were under the magic 100 mph lap (2:19.5)’.

Warwick Farm 100 1968, The Causeway, KB Brabham BT11A Climax DNF halfshaft in the race won by Jim Clark’s Lotus 49 Ford (oldracephotos)

Its interesting to look at the speeds recorded through the flying 1/8th of a mile that Easter long weekend. Cusack’s Repco V8 powered Brabham was the quickest open-wheeler at 162.45 mph, a time he recorded in practice with Bartlett and Martin doing identical times in their identical cars during the NSW Championship race- 159.57 mph. The quickest car over the weekend in a straight line was Bob Jane aboard his 4.4 litre Repco RB620 V8 engined Elfin 400 sporty, with 163.63 mph.

‘Ron Hodgson, who probably thought he was on a good thing with his offer, had to part with 100 bottles of bubbly for the first 100 mph lap, and these were added to Kevin’s 25 bottles scored on Sunday for fastest practice lap’ Wherrett wrote.

Martin inside Bartlett at Murray’s Corner

Bartlett’s recollections are recorded in Alec Mildren’s biography-

‘…We were at it hammer and tongs. We were both pretty gung-ho. I was probably a bit more aggressive…Alec was really on the ball…I wouldn’t have attempted what I did otherwise. I came in after first practice and he said “Where do you reckon you can get the laptime” He knew the circuit, look, he knew it…”What if you short shift here, leave it that gear there, what revs are you using? He was at me’.

‘I was the train (engine) and Spencer was the guards van. He broke the 100 mph mark, too don’t forget. Always remember that. But because I was leading and crossed the line first, I got the credit. And when it came to the run of the race. I out braked him by outbraving him- it was one of those do or die things. I said to Alec later “Spencer and I got pretty close, Alec”. “We nearly lost the lot”. He said “Yeah, but you outbraved him didn’t you?” That was the way he talked’.

Later ‘When  Alec asked me what I was going to do with the champers, I said I don’t want it, you have it, and he said “Good, I’m going to throw a party”. Anyone and everyone in motor racing was invited to the splash-out at the Mildren Newport (Sydney North Shore ocean beach suburb) residence…Alec was never a boozer- he was an orange juice man. But I’m sure he had a champers or two that night’ Bartlett recalled.

Bartlett amongst the Repcos in 1967: Leo G Lotus 39, KB Brabham BT11A and John Harvey Brabham BT14, ‘Angus & Coote Trophy’ Oran Park (Rod MacKenzie)

Whilst Bartlett was the hero of the day at Bathurst, Martin again won the 1967 Gold Star, as he did in 1966 with two wins (Surfers Paradise, Mallala) to Cusack and Bartlett’s one apiece (Symmons Plains and Lakeside).

The two BT11A’s would have been the most highly developed cars of their type in the world with Martin and Bartlett both having, just, the legs of the Repco V8 engined cars of Cusack, Leo Geoghegan and John Harvey- Brabham BT23A, Lotus 39 and Brabham BT14 respectively. Spencer’s Bob Jane Brabham was more reliable than KB’s however, Spencer took the title with a points haul of 30 from Cusack 23, and Bartlett 16.

Formative KB single-seater years, 17 December 1961 Warwick Farm in the Lynx BMC FJ. Race won by Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20 (J Ellacott)

Another Big Bathurst Moment…

Bartlett and John Goss in the Bell cap (Greg Bartlett is the kiddo with his back to us) on the Bathurst 1000 victory dais in 1974.

What a sweet win for them both- especially KB who had a bad accident at Pukekohe at the seasons outset during the Tasman Series, he became a ‘Lola Limper’, breaking a leg when his T330 Chev came to grief, a lengthy recovery period followed.

That’s a walking stick in the young veteran’s left hand, quite a few of his fans shed a tear watching his gritty performance that day and this presentation on the telly, me included.

(autopics)

Etcetera: Spencer Martin HDT Holden Monaro GTS 350 alongside Allan Moffat’s works Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 1, warm up lap, Sandown 3 H0ur, September 1969…

There are plenty of Fords behind- Moffat/John French won from Tom Roddy/Murray Carter and Fred Gibson/Bo Seton all in HO’s.

Spencer had been retired for a year or so when he took a call from new Holden Dealer Team team manager Harry Firth to share a Monaro with KB during the HDT’s first event, the 1969 Sandown Datsun 3 Hour.

Ex-Ford racer/engineer/team manager, now Holden new boy Harry Firth was prevailed upon to hire a couple of single-seater drivers to race his new toy, Firth more of a believer in taxi drivers racing taxis, so to speak.

In a story for another time Martin had a massive brake failure at about the 45 minute mark of the endurance classic at the end of Sandown’s main straight, he skilfully backed the car into the Shell Corner armco minimising the damage to his good self but the car caught fire. The accident is variously attributed to boiled fluid, ‘brake booster system’ or standard brake pads being mistakenly fitted to the car prior to the race.

The Monaro was repaired after the race and sold by tender, it still exists. Spencer retired from a meeting he only entered after agreement with his new wife that a race in a touring car was relatively safe! His comeback to racing in the historic scene was a couple of decades hence.

In 1969 Bartlett had many successes in front of him including the second of his two Gold Stars aboard the Mildren Alfa/Waggott, in Asia and the US with much Formula 5000 and plenty of touring car wins including a Bathurst crown…

Slightly singed but not fatally damaged Monaro in the slip road on the outside of the Sandown track on pit straight, scene of Spencer’s high speed handbrake turn into the fence. KB did not get a drive during the race (unattributed)

Photo & Other Credits…

Racing Car News May 1967, Rod MacKenzie, autopics.com.au, Brian Caldersmith, oldracephotos.com.au, Bruce Wells, John Ellacott, Bob Jane Collection, ‘Driven To Succeed: The Alec Mildren Story’ Barry Green, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Tailpiece: Bartlett at the wheel of the McLeod Ford / John Goss Ford Falcon GT during the Bathurst 1000 in 1973- they won in the same car in 1974 but I like the look of the big yella beastie the year before…

Finito…