Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

(P O’May)

Here he goes again, more Longford!…

Well yes, and tough-titties to those who have had already too much of a good thing!

The wonderful thing about the internet is that it provides a means for enthusiasts to share their information, knowledge and photographs.

In this case it is some of the collection of Peter O’May of the 1959, 1960 and 1961 Longford meetings- his son Malcolm uploaded the material onto ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ a month or so ago.

What makes Peter’s work special is the different perspectives forced upon him as a spectator- he lacked the photographers pass to shoot from the ‘usual spots’ the pros frequented so his work tends to be from different angles than many of the photos we see. In addition, the shots are all colour- as rare as hens teeth back then.

Mal picks up the story ‘…my dad was 25 when the AGP was at Longford in 1959, he and his brother Neil (whose car the front window shots were taken from) attended every Longford event from the first one that the cars were raced, through to the 1968 finale. I have been insanely jealous of this right from the first stories he told me about these days when I was a young bloke right through to now!’

Since these photos were posted in mid-March 2019 Peter, who had been quite ill, passed away so this article is a tribute to him, his enthusiasm, ‘eye’ and passion for a sport he clearly loved.

RIP Peter, thanks to you and Mal for making the wonderful, evocative shots available for us to see and enjoy.

Given I have covered either cars or some of the events before, I decided to group the cars by year as Peter shot them and provide links to relevant information I have already published.

The photo identification process was made easy as my friend/historian Stephen Dalton did all of that research using his formidable memory and resource base.

The opening shot choice- gees it was hard to make that one!

But in the end bias prevailed and it had to be a muscle-shirted Stan Jones willing his Otto Stone prepared Maserati 250F to 1959 Australian Grand Prix victory- a mightily well deserved one which was a long time in coming.

Its such an Australian scene!

The clear as a bell sky, grey’ish greeny blues of the hills in the distance, sprawling eucalypt tree and the unmistakable light browns of parched summer toasted grasses in the foreground. Add in some water towers and characteristic farmers barbed-wire fence and it could be a scene in many places across the Great Brown Land- but for the big, red racing car at far right of course!

Keith Malcolm, Skoden Sports lining up for the entry to The Viaduct (P O’May)

1959: 2 March Labour Day long-weekend…

Longford was first used by cars in 1953 when several races were provided for four wheelers in amongst the motorcycle program- we have the bikies to thank for Longford folks.

Tasmania had not hosted an Australian Grand Prix until 1959- the circuit could not be denied of course.

The big outright cars first raced here in 1958 when Ted Gray prevailed in the Tornado Chev, the following year Stan Jones won the race having also been awarded the Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship the year before.

(P O’May)

Stan’s was a wonderful win- and timely, the era of the front-engined Grand Prix car was coming to a close. There is little doubt that had Len Lukey’s Cooper T45 (above) been fitted with a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF rather than one of 2 litres in capacity that Len would have won on that memorable day- he was 2 seconds adrift after 1 hour and 11 minutes of racing, 25 laps, 110 miles.

(P O’May)

I’ve done Stan to death here; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

and on that ’59 GP here; https://primotipo.com/2016/01/08/stan-jones-agp-longford-gold-star-series-1959/

and more on the Maserati at Longford here; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/11/1958-longford-trophy/

(P O’May)

John Lanyon’s MG Spl ahead of Max Stephens Cooper T40 Bristol on the run into The Viaduct- click here for a piece on the T40; https://primotipo.com/2017/07/04/max-stephens-cooper-t40-bristol/

and again; https://primotipo.com/2015/07/16/60th-anniversary-of-jacks-first-f1-gp-today-british-gp-16-july-1955-cooper-t40-bristol-by-stephen-dalton/

Its not just any T40 mind you, its Brabham’s self built 1955 Australian Grand Prix winning car- Jack had a somewhat lucky win that day at Port Wakefield at the expense of Stan Jones and Reg Hunt.

Max retired the car after completing 18 of the Longford laps- it was a machine that had a woeful reputation for reliability albeit it held together for Jack on that important Port Wakefield day!

And below the Cooper on The Flying Mile- he is close to Mountford Corner is my guess.

(P O’May)

 

Another character I have written extensively about is ‘Dicer Doug’ Whiteford, here below leading Frank Coad, Vauxhall Spl into The Viaduct.

(P O’May)

This car was one of Australia’s most iconic for the five or so years Whiteford raced it throughout the country.

He ran it in both sportscar events and in ‘single-seater’ events such as the AGP which was to run to Formula Libre at the time- until 1964 when the ‘Tasman 2.5’ Formula was introduced.

By then (1959) it wasn’t quick enough to win the AGP, an Australian Tourist Trophy eluded him too- not that he didn’t win plenty of races in it.

I have opined before that he should have bought a 250F from Officine Maserati rather than a 300S at the duration of the 1956 Albert Park AGP, the Maserati guys brought five cars along to that meeting- three 250F’s and two 300S. Whiteford and Bob Jane owned the Maseratis for years, Bob for decades.

See Doug here; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/05/doug-whiteford-black-bess-woodside-south-australia-1949/

and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/16/1953-australian-grand-prix-albert-park/

The photo above is in practice or during a sportscar support race- Coad did not contest the AGP, the lovely Vauxhall Special still exists by the way, the 300S has long since left our shores after decades in the hands of the Leech brothers.

Whiteford was out before completing a lap of the AGP with a major driveline failure as the car jumped the Tannery Straight railway crossing. Alec Mildren was extremely lucky not to chest mark a bit of uni-joint at 100 mph- the offending part ‘only’ hit the crown of his helmet in a desperate attempt by Alec to duck to avoid the heavy, lethal, exotic missile.

 

(P O’May)

A wonderful crowd pleaser in 1959-1960 was Ron Phillips in the big, booming Cooper T39 Jaguar- here dropping into The Viaduct, a spot Peter clearly spent a bit of time at in 1959, what a spectacular place that must have been and accessible to all.

Click here for this ex-Whitehead/Jones machine; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/05/mount-tarrengower-hillclimb/

Phillips started on row 3 of the grid only a half a second behind poleman Jones but retired after completing 18 laps with differential failure.

 

In a sea of Coopers Austin Miller’s cars were always easy to pick in their distinctive yellow hue.

(P O’May)

The crop-duster pilot come hotelier prepared his own cars and did a great job both in and out of the cockpit.

Here he is aboard his ‘Miller Special’ Cooper T41 Climax FWB- he failed to finish having completed 8 laps with a leaking gearbox casing.

Reminds me I have a feature on Aussie 95% complete! I’ve owed Guy Miller a call for at least 12 months just to finish the sucker off! Click here for a quickie on Aussie; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/20/aussie-miller-cooper-t41-climax-trevallyn-hillclimb-launceston-tasmania-1959/

 

Arnold Glass loomed large on the local scene in a variety of exotic front and mid-engined cars funded by the cashflow of his ever more successful Capital Motors automotive empire in Sydney.

(P O’May)

Arguably the car from which he extracted the most was his ex-Bib Stillwell Maserati 250F, his weapon of choice from 1959 to 1961- here he is bellowing a melodic six-cylinder song along The Flying Mile, not far from the Mountford braking area.

He finished a strong third in the AGP having started from grid slot 3 and set the fastest race lap- 97.01 mph, he was two seconds behind Stan and Len at the races end.

Click here for a piece on Mr Glass; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/

 

Alec Mildren’s Cooper T45 Climax singing its way along The Flying Mile, he was fourth in the AGP in his little, new for 1959, 2 litre FPF powered Cooper- the story of his lucky to survive race was related above. Alec was two seconds behind Stan as well- what a race finish to see that would have been.

See the Water Towers in the distance- they are to the drivers left as they travel up the Pit Straight hill towards the right-hand, fast plunge downhill towards The Viaduct. Alec will shortly brake hard for the 90 degree right-hand Mountford Corner into Pit Straight.

The following year at Longford, Mildren’s clever concoction of Maserati 250S engine and new Cooper T51 chassis made its race debut.

By the end of the season the Sydney motor dealer/racer had won both the Gold Star and a sensational AGP win at Lowood from Lex Davison’s Aston Martin DBR4 3 litre in a nail-biting, split second finish. Alec’s story, or Part One of it, is told here; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/08/mildrens-unfair-advantage/

 

(P O’May)

Geoff McHugh, Allard J2, The Viaduct entry.

He wasn’t entered in the AGP but rather contested one of the other events- the big beast was timed at 137mph over The Flying Mile during the 1955 Tasmanian Trophy.

This J2, chassis ’99/J/1731′ is the first to race in Australia and achieved much success in the hands of Stan Jones and then Tom Hawkes before sale to Geoff McHugh- I wrote about it a while back; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/07/allard-j2-tom-hawkes-collingrove-hillclimb-1952/

 

(P O’May)

Let’s end 1959 with Stanley- plunging into The Viaduct.

 

(P O’May)

1960: 5 March weekend…

The steady ascension of Touring Car Racing was underway even back in 1960- here ‘perhaps Ron Marshall, red Holden FE, #71 David McKay in the red Jaguar and #69 Ron Hodgson grey Jaguar, then #14 the Dick Crawford Morris Minor having a moment at Mountford’ Stephen wrote.

(P O’May)

David McKay looking typically natty in blue top replete with British Racing Drivers Club badge and red-spotted cravat- no doubt the Dunlop man is happy with the results.

McKay would have been full of confidence having won the first, one race, Australian Touring Car Championship at Gnoo Blas, Orange New South Wales only a month before on 1 February. There the same Mk 1 3.4 litre Jaguar as above won the 20 lap race in a Jaguar rout from Bill Pitt and Ron Hodgson’s similar cars.

McKay is covered here; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/03/pete-geoghegan-ferrari-250lm-6321-bathurst-easter-68/

and here; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/12/bert-and-davids-lola-mk1-climax/

The Jaguar Australian Touring Car period is here; https://primotipo.com/2014/10/20/australian-touring-car-championship1962-longford-tasmania-battle-of-the-jag-mk2s/

 

(P O’May)

By the time of the 1960 meeting Jack was the reigning, just minted 1959 World Champion.

Here in the paddock he is alongside his Cooper T51 Climax chassis ‘F2-4-59’.

Thats local grazier/racer John Youl in the shades sussing out Jack’s wheels as his next potential purchase! Tim Wall to the right- who is the fellow Jack is speaking to? Twelve months hence John would have a new T51 of his own- in which he was mighty impressive.

Click here for an article on John; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/02/john-youl/

(P O’May)

Look into the distance of the photo above and you can see Ron Hodgson’s ex-McKay ‘Grey Pussy’ Jaguar Mk1 3.8 and the distinctive blue Cooper Jaguar of Ron Phillips.

That’s Jack’s Dad to the far left in the braces, but who is it on the end of the trailer- he always helped Jack manage things when in Oz- he pops up in so many of the shots for a decade it is not funny! Then the Dunlop chappy- who is he? Note the open tailgate of the Holden FC Station Wagon as we call ‘Estate’ cars in Australia.

The Cooper T51 is chassis ‘F2-4-59’, said by Allen Brown’s oldracingcars.com to have been ‘…Brabham’s main car during the early part of 1959 and then became a spare car when ’27-59′ appeared at Zandvoort’.

(P O’May)

The ‘Longford Trophy’ 17 lap feature race on the Monday of the long weekend was won by Jack- seven seconds in front of Alec Mildren’s new T51 Maserati mentioned earlier in this piece. Brabham is shown below lining up his Viaduct entry.

(P O’May)

Bib Stillwell was third in his T51 Climax 2.5 and then came Arnold Glass in the best placed of the front engined cars. Then followed the Jon Leighton Cooper T45 with Glynn Scott Cooper T43 Climax the last of the finishers in a pretty skinny field of only twelve cars.

Click here for an article on the 1960 meeting; https://primotipo.com/2015/01/20/jack-brabham-cooper-t51-climax-pub-corner-longford-tasmania-australia-1960/

 

(P O’Day)

In many ways equal billing to the single-seaters in 1960 were the Sportscars contesting the 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy, in effect the Australian Sportscar Championship.

Arguably, that grid of sporties was the best ever at a Longford meeting?

The race was one by Derek Jolly’s ex-works Lotus 15 Climax shown in the paddock above, next to a Vauxhall.

‘In the background is a red Triumph TR2, #99 the Tom Sulman Aston Martin DB3S and the Sid Sakawski/Tony Basile #15 white 356 Porsche Carrera’ adds Stephen.

Click here for an article about Jolly and the Lotus 15; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

and here for one on the ATT; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/17/1960-australian-tourist-trophy/

Oh, and one on Tom Sulman; https://primotipo.com/2018/04/19/tom-sulman/

 

(P O’May)

On the other side of the same Vauxhall mentioned immediately above is Arnold Glass’ 250F being fettled for the Longford Trophy.

Twelve months on it was twelve months harder for one of the grandest of front-engined Grand Prix cars in a sea of mid-engined machines. Before too long Arnold would have a Cooper T51 Maserati of his own.

 

(P O’May)

1961: 5 March weekend…

Dianne Leighton, Triumph Special with Ray Long’s Elfin Ford Streamliner looking for an inside line into Mountford Corner- the distinctive tree looms on the right inside the barbed-wire fence.

(P O’May)

Brabham was defeated in the 1961 South Pacific Championship by his former 1958 Cooper teammate Roy Salvadori in a Cooper T51 Climax- here Jack enters The Viaduct.

Mind you, it was an ‘Ecurie Vitesse’ Brabham owned car Roy drove, chassis ‘F2-5-57’, an ex-McLaren works machine.

Brabham had halfshaft failure in his own T53 ‘Lowline’ after completing 18 of the 24 lap ‘Longford Trophy’. The chassis number of that car is ‘F2-8-60’, a car Brabham raced in F1 in 1960.

That year there were fourteen starters in the feature race of which eleven were Coopers of varying vintage. Salvadori won from Patterson, Youl, Miller, Davison (in Aston DBR4) and Mildren- all in T51’s of varying Climax capacity, and in Mildrens case, a Maserati 250S 2.5 litre engine.

Click here for an article about Roy’s win and career; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/22/roy-salvadori/

 

(P O’May)

Murray Carter plucks second gear on the downshift before Mountford- the Carter Corvette became a familiar sight at Longford and the other Tasmanian circuits raced as it was by Bert Howard, a local for some years into the late sixties.

What a sound that booming 283 CID Chevy V8 would have made along The Flying Mile- click here for Murray and his car; https://primotipo.com/2017/01/19/forever-young/

1963: 4 March weekend…

(P O’May)

Bill Patterson’s Cooper T51 Climax with Lex Davison’s Len Lukey owned Ford Galaxie in the background.

Click here for an article on Patto- 1961 Gold Star winner and co-driver for some very hot laps with Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 AGP win at Caversham in 1957; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/02/patto-and-his-coopers/

The South Pacific Trophy Longford feature event was won that year by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T70 from Bill Stillwell in a Brabham BT4 and John Youl in a Cooper T55, all three Coventry Climax FPF powered.

 

(P O’May)

Drivers Eye View: Long Bridge…

Every section of a circuit is critical for lap times of course, inevitably the really quick stuff are the bits that sort the men from the boys- no doubt the dauntingly quick left hand entry onto, and left hand exit off Long Bridge is one of those stretches of road.

Amon set the fastest ever Longford race lap in David McKay’s Ferrari 350 Can-Am sporty in 1968- to have seen that lap in this particular part of the Tasmanian world would have been really something.

Peter O’May has done us a big favour with three photos to give those of us not fortunate enough to drive Longford, let alone race on it, a bit of an idea what it looked like from a car. Dalton’s educated guess is that the shots were taken in 1961.

(P O’May)

The car is almost in the middle of this short bit of road, below The Viaduct here- you would not have exited too far to the right tho- you need to be to the left to be able to get on the noise early for the run towards Kings Bridge- the other crossing of the River Esk.

Checkout the hay-bales, it’s still that era of course. Better a hay bale than a bluestone bridge all the same.

I did a long (very) piece ‘Longford Lap’ a while back which may assist in piecing the challenging track together; https://primotipo.com/2018/07/05/longford-lap/

This piece is just on this Viaduct section of the track; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/28/longford-viaduct/

(P O’May)

The shot above, as is clear, is on the start-finish Pit Straight.

The paddock is to the right, within a year or so a footbridge is in place and a little later a marvellous pit and spectator viewing facility. That helps date the shot.

Looking up the hill you have exited the right-hand Mountford, which is behind you and would be plucking the gears, protecting yourself on the right, but otherwise working your way to the left of the road after you pass the Water Towers and over the brow of the hill (see below) to line up for the fast right towards The Viaduct.

Credits…

All photographs in this article were taken by the late Peter O’May- via Malcolm O’May

Stephen Dalton for the car identifications, oldracingcars.com.au, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden

(P O’May)

Tailpiece: The Viaduct vista 1960…

What a stunning image to finish with.

The final shot is taken from the top of the hill, to the left of the railway line looking back up the hill to the quick right-handler towards The Viaduct itself.

Stephen’s call on the cars is the rear of the Alan Jack Cooper Bobtail, Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Ern Tadgell’s Sabakat (Lotus 12 Climax), Alec Mildren’s Cooper T45, another Cooper, the Geoff McHugh Allard J2X and perhaps David Finch’s Jaguar D Type.

Checkout the attire of the crowd.

A few ‘flat caps’ which is sorta unusual in Oz? What are they looking at though?, it’s not the first lap group of cars but must be an aircraft overhead or perhaps a really stunning looking chick up on top of the bridge?!

It could be a warm up lap of course although Whiteford has moved a bit our way to protect his line from the better braked Lotus, sorry, Sabakat of Tadgell behind him.

Finito…

(oldracephotos.com.au)

Brian Bowe settles himself into his Elfin Catalina Ford in the Baskerville paddock, 1966…

There is no such thing as an ugly Elfin, this little car looks a picture in the bucolic surrounds of Tasmania. Garrie Cooper’s first single-seater racing cars were built off the back of his front-engined ‘Streamliner’  sportscars success.

The pace of these Catalinas was demonstrated by Frank Matich and others, they sold well with twenty FJ’s/250 Production/275 and 375 Works Replicas built from 1961 to 1963.

This chassis was raced by Melbourne single-seater, sportscar and touring car ace Brian Sampson and was powered by a Ford Cosworth 1.5 litre pushrod motor.

It was bought by Bowe and ‘was Dad’s first factory racing car having competed in specials before that’ John Bowe said.

‘In fact had I had my first drive of a racer in this car at Symmons Plains in private practice. I was twelve, and just about to start high school!’ ‘In discussions with Dad in the weeks before i’d worked out how many revs in top was 100 mph and did just that- when he realised how fast I was going he stood in the middle of the track and flagged me down. Furious he was! Happy carefree days’.

Indeed, John Bowe, by 1976 was a works Ansett Team Elfin F5000 driver, the Bowes were an Elfin family, not exclusively mind you. JB raced an Elfin 500 FV, 600FF and 700 Ford ANF3 en-route to his F5000 ride- and 792 and GE225 ANF2 cars as well.

Lindsay Ross identifies Arthur Hilliard’s Riley Pathfinder racer and towcar at the rear right of the shot by the paddock fence. The blue sporty is Bob Wright’s Tasma Peugeot.

A quickie article about the Bowe Catalina became a feature thanks to Ed Holly posting online some of the late, great Australian motor racing historian, Graham Howard’s photo archive. Specifically shots of the prototype Elfin Formula Junior taken at the time of its birth at the Edwardstown factory and subsequent public launch at Warwick Farm on 17 September 1961.

As a result we can examine these important Elfins in far more detail than I had originally planned, including a contemporary track test by Bruce Polain and owner/driver impressions from Ed.

Bruce Polain testing the Elfin FJ Ford at Warwick Farm in September 1961 (G Howard)

Bruce Polain wrote an article about his experiences that day in ‘Australian Motor Sports’- here are the salient bits of it, lets get Bruce’s contemporary impressions of the car before exploring the design in detail.

‘Taking it quietly over The Causeway, the little Elfin accelerated hard in third gear on the run to Polo Corner. Braking firmly, the speed fell away rapidly and I was conscious of considerable suspension movement as we ran over the bumpy entrance to the corner- a reminder that this was the flooded section of the track during the ‘first ever’ Warwick Farm.’

‘Nevertheless the poor surface failed to affect the comfortable ride and with a slight amount of understeer I swung the car into Polo. The handling characteristics were such that it gave understeer into a corner and a small amount of oversteer on the way out. This is quite a popular setup as through a corner it allows a fast entry to begin with, then as the steering is brought back to a neutral position, the oversteering tendency may be checked by applying more power to the rear wheels.’

‘…I enjoyed the delights of driving this beautifully constructed, fast and most forgiving racing car. The semi-reclining seat was more than comfortable and gave excellent lateral support, which is so important for ease of control in corners. At speed, steering was delightfully light and precise- you could eat your lunch with one hand. The lusty 1100cc Cosworth Ford engine was a  wonderful propellent, easy to fire on the starter button, docile low down, yet bags of power when the accelerator was pressed.’

John Hartnett at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills, Elfin Streamliner Coventry Climax chassis ’13’ (R Hartnett)

Cooper first commenced design of the FJ in 1960, as stated above, off the back of success of the Streamliner series of sports cars built from 1959 to 1963- twenty-three in all.

During this period the name out front of 1 Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown, an Adelaide suburb, changed from ‘Cooper Motor Bodies’ to ‘Elfin Sports Cars’ which was indicative of the evolution of the then forty year old Cooper family business away from coach-building to the sexier but perhaps more challenging world of production racing cars.

Whilst nominally a Formula Junior design the twenty cars built had a range of engines fitted in capacities from 1 litre to 1.5 litres- Ford 105E, 116E, Peugeot, Coventry Climax FWA, Vincent HRD and Hillman Imp. They very quickly proved themselves capable of going wheel to wheel with the best cars from the UK- then THE hotbed of FJ development of course.

Lotus 18 like upright and rear suspension clear in this shot, as is the split-case VeeWee 36HP gearbox (G Howard)

The chassis of the car was a multi-tubular spaceframe of 16 and 18 gauge mild-steel tubing in varying diameters from five-eighths of an inch to an inch. It was strengthened by fitment of a stressed floorpan made of 19 and 20 gauge aluminium alloy.

Rear suspension was clearly inspired by the Lotus 18. It was fully independent with fixed length driveshafts which formed the suspension upper members. The lower wishbones incorporated adjustments for camber, toe and roll-centre height. ‘Driving and braking torques are controlled by long trailing arms (radius rods in more modern parlance) two per side.’ The uprights or ‘pillars’ are Cooper’s design of cast magnesium.

(G Howard)

Front suspension was period typical using unequal length upper and lower wishbones, note the Armstrong shock absorber, adjustable roll bar, unsighted is the Alford and Alder Triumph front upright. Steering was by way of a lightweight rack and pinion, the wheel wood-rimmed with a diameter of 13.5 inches. The brakes were Lockheed 2LS front and rear, the drums alloy bi-metal with radial finning.

(G Howard)

The engine was the Ford 105E which would become ubiquitous in the class. Cooper built the engine in Adelaide.

GC and his team designed and printed a very detailed brochure about the cars, no doubt with the racing car show in mind- giveaways are important at these events.

Its interesting to see how the two Ford Cosworth 105E engines offered were described.

The ‘Poverty Pack’ 250 Production Model FJ was a budget racing car fitted with pressed-steel wheels, cast iron rather than alloy bi-metal brake drums, non-adjustable shocks and non-close ratio gearbox.

It was offered with a Ford Cosworth 1000cc Formula Junior Mk3 ’85 Engine’ producing over 85bhp @ 7250rpm. ‘Every engine is dynamometer tested to at least this output before leaving the factory.’

The engine was fully balanced including crankshaft, flywheel and clutch, connecting rods and pistons.

Carburation was by two 40 DCOE Weber carbs on Cosworth manifolds- they were enclosed within the bodywork and fed by cold air from a duct on the lefthand side of the cockpit. The distributor was modified, the crankshaft pulley was ‘special’ for the water pump drive- visually the whole package was set off by a Cosworth light alloy rocker cover so the ‘psyching’ started in the paddock.

The ‘ducks guts’ 275 Works Replica Model offered the Cosworth Mk4 1100cc engine giving a minimum of 95bhp with ‘the average output of these engines 97-100bhp’.

The trick Mk4 differed from its smaller brother in that it had a bigger bore, special stronger connecting rods, special steel main bearing caps, bigger valves and different combustion chambers. ‘Replaceable valve guides are fitted as standard. Like the Mk3 these engines have a competition clutch, tachometer take-off, oil cooler union and special anti-surge sump.’

When the Ford Cosworth 1500cc engine was later fitted in the Works Replica model it was designated ‘375WR’.

(G Howard)

Gearbox was a split- case VW 36 horsepower which was modified in Adelaide and fitted with close ratios with ‘top gear running on a special roller bearing.’ A lightweight bell-housing mated the gearbox and engine, the final drive ratio was 4.42:1. The gear lever was mounted to the left of the driver. Note the different lower wishbone inner end alternative pickup points.

(G Howard)

When completed the little car (prototype car #4 ) was a handsome little beastie complete with full bodywork from nose to aft of the gearbox.

Success came quickly, its interesting looking at these photographs of the car being prepared for and shown at one of the track days to get the message out there. The motorsport shows the boys from Adelaide attended on the east coast would have been a significant exercise and cost at the time.

I don’t think Cooper’s commercial success in the toughest of markets in the toughest of industries- manufacturing has ever been truly recognised. I  have mostly run and owned small businesses all of my adult life and know full well how hard it is to churn a dollar- Elfins survived and thrived for several decades under Garrie’s stewardship and then that of Don Elliott with Tony Edmondson at the coalface. I’ll stop the Elfin history there which is not to discount what followed, but from a production racing car perspective, that was it.

(G Howard)

The bodywork for the first three cars was made of aluminium by craftsman John Webb who was a constant throughout the whole of Elfin’s ‘glory days’- right up to the construction of the body of Vern Schuppan’s MR8C Chev Can-Am bodied F5000 machine.

On the fourth and subsequent cars the fibreglass bodywork was by Ron Tonkin- this comprised the nose, tail sections and cockpit surround. The side panels were of aluminium and ‘semi-stressed’.

Very pretty wheels were of magnesium alloy, 13 inches in diameter ‘with wide rims, (4.5 inches at the front and 5.5 inches wide at the rear) were finished in black anodite before machining. The wheels and uprights were Elfin’s design and cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne.

‘Unsprung weight is further reduced by incorporating the wheel bearings directly in the front wheels.’

(G Howard)

 

(Ed Holly)

The photograph below is a very well known one to some of us of a certain age who bought or were given for Christmas 1973 (!) a copy of Bryan Hanrahan’s ‘Motor Racing The Australian Way’- this photo introduced the Elfin chapter. A decade or so later it was published in the ‘Elfin Bible’ Barry Catford and John Blanden’s ‘Australia’s Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’.

(G Howard)

Clustered around the Elfin are Tom Stevens and Norman Gilbert from BP- almost from the start Elfin supporters and sponsors, Cliff Cooper, Garrie Cooper and Murray Lewis ‘with the prototype Elfin FJ ready to leave for an interstate race meeting and motor show’.

The car was first shown at the Melbourne Racing Car Show in August 1961 and then raced for the first time at Warwick Farm that September in the hands of Arnold Glass, then an elite level competitor racing a BRM P48.

Barry Catford wrote that Arnold was in Adelaide to contest events at Mallala’s opening meeting on 18 August 1961 and had plenty of time on his hands to visit the team at Conmurra Road having fatally (for the car) boofed the BRM in practice. The story of that car is told here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/16/bourne-to-ballarat-brm-p48-part-2/

Glass offered to drive the car on its race debut, something Cooper and BP’s Tom Stevens were keen to support.

The team of Garrie and Cliff Cooper, Tom and John Lewis took the car to Melbourne and then on to Sydney for its debut. Garrie drove the car initially and whilst it handled well the softly sprung machine bottomed over The Causeway and Northern and Western crossings (of the horse racing track underneath).

Modifications were made that night but several laps early in the day indicated the cars balance was lost- further changes were made, the cars poise had been regained in official practice when GC again drove.

Glass had no chance to officially practice but sweet talked the officials to allow him to run during one of the other racing car sessions- he was within three-tenths of Leo Geoghegan’s well developed Lotus 18 Ford FJ. The weary crew retired at 3 am on race morning having replaced the gearbox and clutch- which was slipping towards the end of the Glass lappery. All the hard work was rewarded with a second to Leo- not bad for the cars first race.

Keith Rilstone’s Catalina Ford ‘6317’ on its first day out at Mallala in very late 1963, factory records have it’s completion that November (G Patullo)

The prototype car, chassis ’61P1′ was sold to Adelaide businessmen and racers Andy Brown and Granton Harrison who had much success with it. Queenslander Roy Morris did well with his Coventry Climax FWA engined car- as did John McDonald’s 1350cc engined car- neither FJ legal of course.

One of the most commercially astute moves Cooper ever made was the appointment of up and coming- well ok!, he had well and truly arrived by then, Frank Matich as the works driver of three cars which were located at his Punchbowl, Sydney Total Service Station. An 1100cc chassis ‘625’, a 1500cc chassis ‘627’ and a Clubman fitted with another Cosworth engine of 1340cc. In addition Matich was appointed as Elfin’s NSW agent.

An interesting aspect is that in the process of deciding who to give the factory cars to, Matich tested the cars, as did Peter Willamson and David McKay with FM the quicker of the three. Perhaps Cooper’s gut feel as to the driver he wanted was validated by this process. The choices are interesting in that Williason was at the start of his career whereas David McKay was in the twlight’ish of his.

Mel McEwin #16 Elfin Catalina 1500 passes Andy Brown in the Elfin FJ Ford prototype during the ‘GT Harrison Trophy’, support race at the 1963 ATCC meeting. Keith Rilstone won the race in the truly wild Eldred Norman built Zephyr Spl s/c- McEwin was 3rd and Garrie Cooper 4th in another Elfin Cat 1500- I wonder if it was seeing the cars up close at this meeting that made up Keith’s mind to get with the strength and buy one! (B Smith)

Whilst Matich was new to single-seaters, his outright pace in various sportscars- Austin Healey, C and D Type Jags, Lotus 15 and 19 Climax was clear. For Frank the deal was a beauty as he had the opportunity to show his prowess in a new field. Catford wrote that FM’s only open-wheeler experience to that point was a few warm-up laps in Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20B Ford when it first arrived in Australia early in 1962.

Critically, Matich put Elfins front and centre to racers in Australia’s biggest market- New South Wales, with subsequent sales reflecting the success of Matich and others.

Cooper got a longer term benefit as Matich turned to him for his first ‘Big V8’ sportscar, the Elfin 400 Olds aka ‘Traco Olds’ in part based on GC’s design talents which he had experienced first hand in the small-bore machines listed above. Matich in turn proved the pace of the 400, outta the box, in winning the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy in his third meeting with the car at Longford in March 1966.

The red Elfin was the Junior, the 1500 was green up until Frank decided to let the 1500 go, which went to Charlie Smith and the red car went from 1100 to 1500′ Ed Holly

Frank’s first meeting in the FJ cars was at Warwick Farm on 14 October 1962- Matich was fourth in the Hordern Trophy Gold Star event- in amongst and ahead of some of the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engine cars, and despite a one minute penalty for a spin! (tough in those days!).

This was indicative of what was to come a fortnight later in the first Australian Formula Junior Championship held at the new Catalina Park circuit at Katoomba in the NSW Blue Mountains, 100 Km to Sydney’s west.

Frank Matich is shown below in the red Elfin FJ Ford alongside Gavin Youl’s Brabham BT2 Ford and Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 22 Ford. The front row comprised the latest Brabham, Lotus and Elfin FJ’s- Leo’s Lotus was literally just off the plane. On row 2 is Clive Nolan’s 5th placed Lotus 20 Ford.

(B Miller)

Matich won the 30 lap race from Youl and Geoghegan in a weekend of absolute dominance , the win was the first of many Australian titles for Elfin and spawned the ‘Catalina’ name for this series of spaceframe chassis open-wheelers.

Catford notes the presence that weekend of Tony Alcock in the team- well known to Australian enthusiasts as an Elfin long-termer and close confidant of Garrie Cooper before going to the UK and returning to form Birrana Cars with fellow South Australian Malcolm Ramsay. International readers may recall him as one of the poor unfortunates to perish in the plane piloted and crashed by Graham Hill upon return to the UK after a French circuit test of the new Hill GH1 Ford F1 car.

Matich contested eight events hat weekend! in the two Elfins- FJ/Clubman and Lotus 19 winning six of them and placing in the other two.

Development work and evolution of the cars continued throughout their production life including incorporation of Triumph Spitfire disc brakes on the front- with Jack Hunnam fitting alloy racing calipers and discs to all four wheels of his car.

Lyn Archer’s Catalina at the Domain Hillclimb, Hobart in November 1964. Lyn raced the car successfully for a few years, sold it, and bought it back. Upon his death a few years back his family still owns it (R Dalwood)

Other notable drivers of Catalinas were Kevin Bartlett in the McGuire Family Imp engine car, Jack Hunnam, the Victorian Elfin agent won 12 races from 18 starts in his supposedly 165bhp 1500cc pushrod Ford engine disc braked car ‘6312’, before selling it to Tasmanian Lyn Archer. He won the 1966 Tasmanian Racing Car Championship in it and was timed at 150mph on Longford’s Flying Mile in 1965. Greg Cusack was quick in the car owned by Scuderia Veloce, winning the 1964 Australian Formula 2 Championship from David Walker’s Brabham and Hunnam’s Catalina. Other Catalina racers included Barry Lake, Keith Rilstone and Noel Hurd.

Perhaps the most unusual application of a Catalina was chassis ‘6313’ which was acquired by Dunlop UK for tyre testing to assist the Donald Campbell, Bluebird CN7 Proteus attempt on the World Land Speed Record at South Australia’s Lake Eyre in 1963 and 1964.

That effort is in part covered here but a feature on the Elfin Catalina aspects of it is coming soon- all but finished, https://primotipo.com/2014/07/16/50-years-ago-today-17-july-1964-donald-campbell-broke-the-world-land-speed-record-in-bluebird-at-lake-eyre-south-australia-a-speed-of-403-10-mph/

‘6313’ Ford on the Lake Eyre salt- steel wheels fitted with Bluebird Dunlops in miniature (F Radman)

 

This corker of a shot is by Gavin Fry- were it not for the presence of the Elfin Catalina on the trailer (who?) it could be an Australian summer beach scene, but it is an early Calder meeting (when?) (G Fry)

The Elfin Mallala was a very important car in the pantheon of Elfin’s history.

The twenty cars built provided solid cashflow for the Cooper family business, off the back of the solid start the Streamliner provided, the company now had a reputation for making fine single-seaters in addition to sporties.

Importantly Cooper had attracted some of the biggest names in Australia to his marque- Matich and McKay to name two. The Catalina ‘hardware’ also spawned a small run of mid-engined sportscars- the Mallala, of which five were built from late 1962 to early 1964.

Ray Strong, Elfin Mallala Ford, Huntley Hillclimb in December 1968. This design, derived from the Catalina, is one of the prettiest of all Elfins in my book- effective too (B Simpson)

Perhaps the only thing which suffered by virtue of this commercial success, albeit still limited capital base, was Cooper’s own driving career as he had neither the time or the spare cash to build a car for himself!

That would be remedied by the ‘Mono’ Type 100, his ‘radical’ single-seater which followed the conservative Catalina- and in which GC was very quick.

The Mono is a story for another time but is told in part here; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/18/clisby-douglas-spl-and-clisby-f1-1-5-litre-v6/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/22/elfin-mono-clisby-mallala-april-1965/

Garrie Cooper in Elfin Mono Mk2D Ford Twin-Cam ‘MD6755’ at Symmons Plains in 1967 (J Lambert)

The Owner/Driver’s Experience…

Ed Holly gives us the Catalina owner/drivers perspective…

‘The works 1500 or WR375 was the first of 2 Elfin “Catalina’s”  that Frank Matich drove.

I bought chassis ‘625’ from Adam Berryman who had quite some success with it before me. As this was the first ever single-seater for me I had no benchmark to compare with, having raced MGA’s for about 7 years previously. It went on to give me success too including the Jack Brabham Trophy put up once a year by the HSRCA for Group M 1st place at their main meeting at Eastern Creek.

For me the transition to single seater was made very easy by this car and looking back there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly in 2000 you could get very good Japanese Dunlops – a beautiful tyre and the car was shod with 450 front and 550 rear. This gave a very neutral feel to the car with the set-up fettled by Dave Mawer for me at that time.

The power was a great match to the chassis. As the engine only had a standard crank I revved it to 6,800 but the torque was tremendous, no doubt the 12.7 comp ratio had a lot to do with that. The gear-change and box were perfect, it had a VW C/R box and standard H pattern.

Race start would invariably see the car launch through the row in front, usually twin-cam Brabhams as they struggled with the dogleg gear-change from 1st to 2nd, the Elfin was a straight through change and very quick, and the engine torque allowed wheel-spin to be kept to a minimum and the power band came in at least 1500 rpm less meaning you were well on your way whilst they were still waiting for the torque to kick in.

Handling wise the car was viceless, the perfect first single seater – in fact I set a Group M class lap record at Eastern Creek with it at 1:45 and it took me about 5 years in my Group M Brabham BT6 (twin-cam 40 more bhp, 5 not 4 speeds and discs all round) to better that. Mind you the tyres as mentioned above were far inferior by the time the  Brabham arrived and in fact I re-set the lap record on 10 year old Japanese Dunlops – the brand new flown in English ones being about 3 seconds slower that same weekend.’

Matich in ‘625’ gets the jump at the start from Leo Geoghegan and the nose of Frank Gardner at the 1963 Blue Mountains Trophy race at Catalina Park- Catalina/WR375, Lotus 22 Ford and Brabham BT2 Ford- all 1500 pushrods. Matich won from Gardner and Geoghegan (J Ellacott)

‘Years later having driven Elfin, Lotus 20, Brabham BT15, BT6, BT21C and BT21 replica – I guess I was in a position to make a judgement about the Elfin.

In my opinion Garrie got it perfect for the time. Loosely based on the Lotus 18 concept, it is a hugely superior car to the Lotus 20 that succeeded the 18.

I spoke at length with Frank Matich about the design and we both agreed that on paper it didn’t look all that wonderful, BUT, it was – the results Frank achieved with it were sensational, often beating the Climax 2.5 powered Coopers.

I’ve never driven a Elfin with 1100cc- but Frank did and with a Junior 1100 he knocked off Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 20 1500 at Sandown. To me that shows that the Elfin was just a little ahead of the competition in that wonderful early 1960’s period. And that is my observation too.

Finally the big race- 20 laps at Catalina for the Formula Junior Championship 1962 where the Elfin was up against the brand new Lotus 22 of Leo Geoghegan’s and the just arrived from UK Brabham BT2 works car driven by Gavin Youl – and other FJ’s – the Elfin and Matich beat them all even after running out of fuel on the last corner!’

(S Dalton)

Events like Melbourne’s ‘Motorclassica’ are fantastic shows of classic and racing cars but they are celebrations of the past.

Its amazing to think that in the sixties, whilst the old stuff had its place, a significant part of a competition car show comprised exhibitions of contemporary, and in many cases Australian made racing cars.

Stephen Dalton provided the cover of the magazine for the 1964 ‘Melbourne Racing Car Show’ put together by Melbourne businessman/racers Lex Davison, the Leech Brothers and several others.

The event was held at the Royal Exhibition Building over three days, 13-15 August 1964, and is somewhat poignant in that it’s purpose was to assist Rocky Tresise’ girlfriend Robyn Atherton raise funds in the Miss Mercy Hospital Quest. Many of you are aware that ‘Ecurie Australie’ founder, Lex and his protege, Rocky, died six months later- Lex of a heart attack at the wheel of his Brabham at Sandown, and Rocky a week later at Longford in Lex’ older Cooper.

Stephen notes that cars displayed included MG, Aston Martin, Lotus, Ferrari, Cooper and many others. Elfin were represented by local agent, Jack Hunnam whose new Mono was on display only several days prior to its race debut at Calder.

Etcetera…

The following is a nice little human interest story ran in ‘Pix’ magazine about Garrie Cooper and Elfin in 1963- courtesy of the Elfin Sixties Sportscars Facebook page.

I’ve included it as it’s very much ‘on point’- Cooper, Catalina, Clubman and Matich.

 

 

 

(Ed Holly)

Charlie Smith in the ex-Matich Catalina at Mount Panorama in 1963, he drove the car well with success. Don’t know much about this guy, had a drive or two in the Mildren Lotus 23 Ford, intrigued to know more.

(S Dalton)

Andy brown loops his Catalina as fellow South Australian John Marston approaches aboard his- Shell Corner at Calder on 20 January 1963. Andy went on to own one of the most famous Elfins of all a few years later, the ‘F1’ Elfin T100 ‘Mono’ Clisby 1.5 V6.

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

 

The photographs above are the balance of the pages of the Elfin Catalina sales brochure produced for use at motor shows not shown earlier in the article.

Credits and References …

oldracephotos.com.au, Ed Holly Collection, ‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ Barry Catford and John Blanden, Fred Radman, Grant Patullo, John Ellacott, Dick Simpson, James Lambert Collection, Brenton Smith Collection, Brian Miller Collection, Reg Dalwood, Article by Bruce Polain in ‘Australian Motor Sports’

(Ed Holly)

One Man’s Hobby. Or is that Obsession?!…

When Ed Holly and I first communicated about this article he sent thru a few pics of some engines he had built. I thought ‘gees! that’s interesting and amazing!’, so here they are.

Ed advises on how his engine building career commenced.

‘Having had a lathe for many years, when I added a mill to the workshop I wanted to learn how best to use it.

As I didn’t have a restoration project at the time, the lightbulb in the head said build a model engine – I flew models as a kid and loved the diesels back then as you didn’t need to buy a battery to start them!

So I searched the web and selected a BollAero18 and set about making one, a 1.8cc simple diesel. Well it took a while to interpret the plans having no technical background requiring that. I steadily worked through the components and the big day came and blow me down it ran !

That sort of started a bit of an obsession till the next project arrived.

(Ed Holly)

 

Now 16 model diesels later I have certainly learnt how to use a mill- more than half the engines are to my design and the English ‘AeroModeller’ January issue published plans and a review of one designed for first up builds. I called it the Holly Buddy.

Plans and build for this engine can be found at https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/jFvcCZYMxgU5nKmqFz21YC

For those into specifics – the aim is one or two tenths of a thou taper in the bore and a squeaky tight piston fit at tdc – that’s the ultimate fit for a diesel. The photo’s show an inline twin before and after assembly.’

So…set to it folks, you too can be a race engine builder!

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

Tailpiece: Elfin 275WR Ford 1100 FJ…

Simply superb cutaway drawing of the Catalina by Peter Wlkinson. Very few Australian racing cars have been so ‘dissected’ in this manner over the years which is a shame.

Mr Wilkinson’s work, I know little about the man, compares very favourably with his peers in England and Europe at the time. Ed kindly sent me this cutaway at high resolution- ‘blow it up’, you can literally see the Elfin’s pixie like face on the wheel caps!

Car specification is as per the text.

Finito…

(unattributed)

Frank Matich ahead of the Australian sportscar pack at Warwick Farm in 1968- the car is his Matich SR3 Repco ‘720’ 4.4 V8, 5 May …

The chasing pack comprises the ex-works Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 350 Can-Am driven by Bill Brown- filling Chris Amon’s shoes after he departed back to Europe, Niel Allen’s white Elfin 400 Chev, Bob Jane’s #2 Elfin 400 Repco 4.4 driven by Ian Cook and then the #5 Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM of Pete Geoghegan.

Pete and Leo G shared the car to win the Surfers 6 Hour enduro later that year, both had a drive or three of the ‘Old Red Lady’ as David McKay referred to his favourite car, in preparation for the race.

The #16 car is Tony Osbourne’s Argo Chev driven by Peter Macrow- then the twin-dark striped Lotus 23B Ford of Bob Muir another obscured Lotus 23- that of Glynn Scott, then the distinctive shape of a mid-dark coloured Elfin Mallala Ford driven by Ray Strong in front of Doug MacArthur, Lotus 26R and then, finally, John Leffler’s Cooper S Lightweight at the rear. His ‘Sports-Racing Closed’ Mini is somewhat of a fish outta-water amongst this lot.

Of the ‘big bangers’ racing in Australia at the time, the Lionel Ayers MRC Oldsmobile is absent as is the Noel Hurd driven, Globe Products owned Elfin 400 Ford. Oh, there is no sign of Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 or was he in between 906’s at the time perhaps?

There was no Australian Sportscar Championship in 1968- but the order of this race, in its first lap and just after the start is pretty much indicative of the state of competitive play at the time.

For the sake of completeness, the one race Australian Tourist Trophy, a prestigious event, was run at Mallala in January 1968 and won by Matich at a canter from Geoff Vercoe’s Cicada Ford, three laps adrift of FM’s SR3. Of the cars in the opening photograph, only the Jane Elfin 400 made the trip to South Australia.

Perhaps the timing of the ATT was sub-optimal as most of the top guns ran in the Tasman Series sportscar support races- at Surfers, Warwick Farm, Sandown and Longford over four weeks from 11 February to 4 March. The Adelaide race was tempting fate so close to the start of the Tasman and logistically Adelaide and the Gold Coast are a long way apart regardless of a team home base in Melbourne or Sydney.

Happy chappy. FM sits in his brand new Matich SR4 Repco 4.8 ‘760’ during the cars press launch at the ‘Rothmans Theatre’, Sydney Showgrounds on 26 November 1968. Car made its race debut the following weekend at Warwick Farm on 1 December

The ball-game changed into 1969 off course, Matich’s SR4 4.8 litre Repco 760- four cam ‘Sledge Hammer’ first raced at Warwick Farm on 1 December 1968. Then Bob Jane’s McLaren M6B Repco ‘740’ 5 litre and Niel Allen’s Chev F5000 engined Elfin ME5 joined the grids during 1969.

But Matich blew the grid apart with the SR4 all the same, and then, thankfully for all of us, jumped back into single-seaters (F5000) where he belonged.

But Lordy, didn’t he provide some fizz, fire and sparkle to sportscar racing for a decade or so? Just ask Chris Amon how quick FM was in a sporty during that Tasman Summer of Sixty-Eight…

Photo and Other Credits…

Snapper of the opening photograph unknown- i’d like to attribute it as it is a beaut shot if any of you can assist, Getty Images, Dick Simpson, Mike Feisst, Dave Friedman and Brian Caldersmith Collections.

‘Australia’s Top Sports Cars’ article by Graham Howard in Racing Car News May 1967. Thanks to Dale Harvey and Neil Stratton for assisting with car identification and the event date of the opening photograph.

Frank Matich and the SR3 Oldsmobile during the Warwick Farm Tasman meeting in 1967- the car’s race debut. That’s Ted Proctor’s Proctor Climax behind. Traco tuned ally Olsmobile V8, ZF 5 speed box and chassis all but identical to the Elfin 400 which preceded this car with some tubes added (D Simpson)

SR3 Etcetera…

I’ve not quite gotten to the Matich SR3’s yet, in terms of an article but click on the SR4 piece referenced below- there is a bit at the end of it about the SR3 and a complete Matich chassis list which will tell you what is what.

The 1967-1968 period is an interesting one from a technological racing history perspective.

Huge advances were made in tyres thanks to the application of vast wads of polymer chemistry research dollars to create products which were grippier than those which went before with consequent reduction in lap times.

Then of course their was the exponential progress in aerodynamics pioneered by Jim Hall and his boys at Chaparral in Midland, Texas well before their adoption by Ferrari and Brabham in F1 first, in 1968.

Sandown Tasman meeting the week after Warwick Farm, Peters Corner. This series of SR3’s were beautiful racing cars in all and whatever form. Note that the rear spoiler is bigger than that used the week before (B Caldersmith)

Of interest perhaps, is that it seems Matich and his crew have changed the roll-bar section of the chassis between its debut at Warwick Farm, see the colour photo above, and Sandown. Look how high it is in Sydney, and how low in Melbourne the week later whilst FM appears to be sitting in the same spot.

The car ran in as finished and completely unsorted state at the Farm with FM treating the whole weekend inclusive of races as a test and development exercise- Niel Allen won the feature race at that meeting in the ex-Matich Elfin 400 Traco Olds.

(M Feisst)

Peter Mabey prepares to alight the new SR3 he helped build, in the Sandown paddock. The gorgeous dark green machine with its neat gold ‘Frank Matich Pty Ltd’ and ‘SR3’ sign-writing and striping is about to be scrutineered.

The body, to Matich design, was built by Wal Hadley Pty. Ltd. at Smithfield in Sydney’s outer west, no doubt Wal and his crew enjoyed working on a racer rather than the hearses which were and still are their mainstream business!

The chassis was constructed by Bob Britton’s Rennmax Engineering in Croydon Park, also to Sydney’s west but closer in. Various independent sources have it, including Britton, that the spaceframe is pretty much tube-for-tube Elfin 400 with a few additional sections added to assist torsional rigidity.

Graham Howard credits the wheel design as Britton’s, said items of beauty were cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne- also suppliers to Garrie Cooper.

Peter Mabey did the Can-Am tour with FM in 1967, I wonder where he is these days, his story of the Matich years would be interesting?

FM beside the SR3 Repco 4.4 V8 at Road America on 3 September 1967. Note the front spoiler, car still fitted with ZF tranny. The plan was to return to the US with the SR4 in 1968. If the team had done that, fitted with a reliable 5 litre 560 bhp V8 it is conceivable FM could have taken a Can-Am round whilst noting the 7 litre 1968 McLaren M8A Chev’s were almighty cars. If, if, if… (D Friedman)

So, the delicate looking Matich SR3 Oldsmobile which made its race debut at the Warwick Farm Tasman round in 1967 is ‘effete’ in comparison to the fire-breathing 4.4 litre Repco RB720 V8 engined car- blooded in battle during several Can-Am rounds in 1967, which took on, and slayed Chris Amon’s Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 350 Can-Am in the three 1968 Tasman sportscar races Matich contested that summer.

For whatever reason, I am intrigued to know why, FM did not contest the final round at Longford- the last ever race meeting at the late, lamented road circuit. To have seen Frank and Chris duking it out on that circuit, in those damp conditions, on that day- Amon took the all-time lap record in the Ferrari remember, would really have been something!

(B Caldersmith)

The two shots from Brian Caldersmith’s Collection above and below were taken during the 1968 Warwick Farm Tasman- Chis and Frank had some great dices with the hometown boy coming out on top.

In similar fashion to Matich, Amon didn’t do the whole Can-Am in 1967, he joined the series after two of the P4’s which he and his teammates had raced in the manufacturers championship were ‘sliced and diced’ into Can-Am 350 lightweight Group 7 form. But Chris had seen enough of the SR3 stateside to know his Australian summer would not be a cakewalk.

This SR3 is considerably lower with much wider tyres of a diminished aspect ratio compared with twelve months before- at this stage FM was the Australian Firestone Racing Tyre importer/distributor and doing plenty of test miles.

No high wing was fitted to the car yet- despite FM looking closely at what Chaparral were up to in the US, but that would come of course.

(B Caldersmith)

Further Reading…

Ferrari P4/Can-Am 350; https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/

Elfin 400/Traco Olds; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/28/elfin-400traco-olds-frank-matich-niel-allen-and-garrie-cooper/

Matich SR4 with some SR3 bits; https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

Longford with plenty of 350 Can-Am; https://primotipo.com/2018/07/05/longford-lap/

Matich, SR3 (RCN-Dickson)

Tailpiece: O’Sullivan, Matich SR3 Repco from Niel Allen, Elfin 400 Chev, Warwick Farm early 1969…

(D Simpson)

Roll on another twelve months to Warwick Farm 1969 and Matich is up front in the distance aboard the all-conquering SR4 Repco 760 4.8 V8 with Perth businessman-racer Don O’Sullivan racing the now winged SR3 Repco 720 4.4 V8.

The car following O’Sullivan through the ‘Farm’s Esses is the Elfin 400 Chev aka ‘Traco Olds’ raced by Matich in 1966- sweeping all before him that year before building the first SR3 and selling the Elfin to Niel Allen. Niel and Peter Molloy modified the car in several ways, most notably replacing the Olds/ZF combination with a 5 litre Chev and Hewland DG300 gearbox- but not really troubling Matich with the modified, faster car.

Lets not forget the role Garrie Cooper played in contributing to the design of the SR3- it is all but a direct copy of the Elfin 400 chassis- that story told in the Elfin 400 article link above.

Superb ‘Racing Car News’ cover by David Atkinson of Matich in the SR3 ahead of Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 Spyder.

The 1967 Australian Tourist Trophy was won by Matich from Hamilton and Glynn Scott’s Lotus 23B Ford on 21 May 1967 at Surfers Paradise.

The scene depicted has a bit of creative licence in terms of the earth banks on the right, if indeed it is meant to be Surfers?

Finito…

(K Drage)

‘If the 10,000 odd spectators who saw an attractive white racing car at South Australia’s Easter Mallala race meeting on 18/19 April 1965 thought no more about it, they may be excused. It won no events and did not complete the days racing…

Yet the Elfin Clisby, as it is called, is potentially Australia’s first internationally competitive Formula One racing car. Virtually every part of it has been built in Australia, by Australians with remarkably few resources.

The chassis is basically Elfin Monocoque, (Elfin T100 or more colloquially and commonly referred to as the ‘Elfin Mono’) the latest design by Garrie Cooper of Elfin Sports Cars, at Edwardstown South Australia’.

 

I’ve hit gold, in my own mind anyway- I’ve found a first hand account of the Elfin T100 Clisby V6 race debut at Mallala, South Australia over the Easter weekend in 1965.

It was written by ‘The Canberra Times’ journalist Bill Norman and published on Saturday 8 May, here it is in all of its contemporary glory untouched by me. The photo choices are mine though as the newspaper photo reproduction ain’t flash at all, as are the captions except one which is attributed to Bill.

An introduction to Australia’s only F1 car is here; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/18/clisby-douglas-spl-and-clisby-f1-1-5-litre-v6/

‘The previous spaceframe open-wheeler (the FJ/Catalina) handled so magnificently that it is doubtful whether the Monocoque is much better in this respect. However, frontal area is much less, and all up weight is down by 60 lb. This, combined with four-wheel disc brakes (which most variants of the Catalina had) and general refinement, make it as advanced a design as anywhere in the world.

Despite its stressed skin, aircraft-type construction using vast numbers of pop rivets, the builders say it is both easier to construct in the first place, and easier to repair following a crash rather than the ‘birdcage’ (sic-spaceframe!) Elfin before it.’

 

Early Elfin Mono sketch by Garrie Cooper sent to his friend/Elfin employee Tony Alcock, and later Birrana Cars partner/designer, then in England, 6 May 1964 (J Lambert)

 

Early stages of chassis construction- car ‘off the peg’ in the sense the car was designed for the pushrod Ford and Lotus-Ford twin-cam engine, not a V6 (R Lambert)

 

Burning the midnight oil- the racers lament (J Calder)

 

Ron Lambert further along in the build process, front and rear suspension being assembled, engine in situ (K Drage)

 

‘But the Clisby engine is the heart of the car, and the most interesting part of it. This is because no Australian has previously been ambitious enough to attempt to build a Formula 1 racing engine right from scratch.

This gives a clue to Harold Clisby’s character. He is a man who believes implicitly that “anything you can do i can do better”. Very often he is right. He is a master at finding an efficient way of doing things. His air-compressor business is a model of self-contained, compact manufacturing  and as well as marketing air-compressors in Australia, he has built up a growing export market.

Interests? Clisby seems to be interested in everything interesting. In a section of his workshop, alongside the Elfin Clisby are several perfectly restored veteran cars, including a steam locomobile. Ancient motor-cycle engines adorn his workshop. He recently bought the ex-Eldred Norman 14 inch Cassegrainian telescope, which is still the largest privately owned telescope in Australia. When Hovercraft were news some years ago, Clisby built one for fun.’

 

‘The sting to its tail…Mr Harold Clisby’s unique V6 engine is mated to a Volkswagen gearbox and differential. This photo was taken immediately after the first try out at Mallala when vibration shattered all four distributor caps and broke an exhaust bracket. The problem is now cured’ (Bill Norman words) In fact the photo is not at Mallala but outside Elfins- i’ve used his caption for this photo which is almost identical to a monochrome shot used in the article referred to above which will not reproduce in any way adequately.

 

‘His engine would take an entire article to describe in detail and i won’t attempt to do so.

The important thing to remember is that Clisby designed and buily every part except the electrical sysytem, in his small factory. Aluminium alloy castings, nitrided steel crankshaft machined from a solid billet, 120 ton vibrac conrods: the lot. He even built the two triple-choke carburettors- a tremendous task on their own.

Basic engine configuration is a 1.5 litre V6 with a bore of 78mm and stroke of 58.8. Cylinder banks are set at an angle of 120 degrees, using duel overhead camshafts for each bank and hemispherical combustion chambers. Each camshaft drives its own distributor, and each distributor has its own coil. Although complex, his two spark system should give reliable ignition far past the normal maximum rpm of 9,500.

In fact the engine has been tested to 11,500 rpm without trouble. When one looks at the components it is easy to see why. Short, chunky connecting rods, rigid crankshaft with big bearing areas and solid, but light, short skirt racing pistons all go to make it virtually unburstable.’

 

Engine from rear- ring gear machined into periphery of flywheel which is attached to the crankshaft by 6 sturdy cap screws (SCG)

 

Dummy run to mount the engine (MRA)

 

‘Lubrication is by dry sump, using 80 psi pressure. With this system, a primary pump provides oil pressure for the bearings, while a large scavenge pump keeps the sump empty of oil and passes it to the oil tank in the nose. It combats oil surge positively and makes it simple to cool the oil properly.

Dynamometer tested recently, the engine gave 165 bhp on a compression ratio of 9:1. Since this, the ratio has been raised and power should be now closer to 180 bhp. Assuming further developments to bring this figure to 190 horsepower, and considering the car’s much lighter weight, South Australia may soon have a Climax eater.

A modified Volkswagen gearbox differential unit is direct coupled to the motor, and power is transmitted through rubber universals and Hillman Imp halfshafts to the rear wheels.

The Easter Monday racing debut of the Elfin Clisby was promising in some ways and disappointing in others.

When well known driver Andrew Brown drove it in the first scratch race, two things were at once obvious. Firstly the engine had a a bad carburetion ‘flat spot’ in low to medium range, and secondly, the tremendous acceleration once this point was passed.

No one who saw the car apparently getting wheelspin in third gear really doubts that sufficient ‘urge’ is there. A healthy bark came from its two 2.5 inch exhausts and acceleration in each gear seemed almost instantaneous once the ‘flat spot’ was passed.

In his first race, Brown drove to a creditable fifth place against some very hard driven machinery. This despite a self-imposed rev limit of 8,000- well below maximum power at 9,500- and relatively slow acceleration away from the corners due to carburetion troubles.

A rear tyre blew out in lap one of the second race, and the Elfin Clisby ‘went bush’ in a cloud of dust. The suspension sustained some damage and ended the days racing for the car.

Inevitably there are a few teething troubles, but none seem very serious. The carburettor chokes are too large for good low speed torque when used in conjunction with a gearbox of only four speeds. Bottom, second and third gear ratios were not suited to the circuit, which magnified the first problem. High frequency vibration- always troublesome in a V6 engine- was a difficulty at first but now has been all but cured.

Undoubtedly the car has great potential. Perhaps come 1966 and the new Federation International de L’Automobile Formula One of 1.5 litres supercharged, we may see a supercharged Elfin Clisby taking honours overseas for Australia.’

 

Mk 1 Mono distinctive rear suspension (K Drage)

 

VW gearbox and battery of distributors clear. Car first raced with stack type exhausts, see article linked for later, conventional setup (K Drage)

 

(K Drage)

 

(J Lambert)

Credits…

Article by Bill Norman in ‘The Canberra Times’ Saturday 8 May 1965, Ron Lambert, James Lambert Collection, James Calder Collection, The Nostalgia Forum, Motor Racing Australia, Kevin Drage, Sports Car Graphic

Tailpiece: Ain’t She Sweet- Australia’s only F1 car, Elfin T100 ‘M6548’ Clisby, Elfin’s, Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown 1965…

(K Drage)

Finito…

1953 AGP grid. Front row L>R Davison HWM Jag, Jones Maybach 1, Whiteford Talbot-Lago T26C, car 11 on row 2 is Ted Gray Alta Ford V8 (Dacre Stubbs)

The allocation of the 1953 Australian Grand Prix to Albert Park was the result of over two decades of work by the Light Car Club of Australia…

I live 800 metres from Albert Park Lake, I awoke this morning to F1 music at 7.05 AM- the sound of two-seater Minardi V10 engined cars ferrying their lucky cargo around gods motor racing country at high speed. The dawn of the 2019 race seems an apt time to upload this article on the 1953 event- the first Albert Park AGP.

Barry Green in his wonderful book ‘Glory Days’, writes that there was a strong push to race at Albert Park in 1934. The Light Car Club of Australia, (LCCA) the promoter of race meetings at Phillip Island were aware of the ‘Islands growing unsuitability given its loose gravel surface as speeds increased.’ Extensive negotiations secured Albert Park as the venue for a race meeting to celebrate the Centenary of Victoria in 1935.

The ‘Sun News Pictorial’ one of the Melbourne daily tabloids, and then as now a good thing in which to wrap ones fish n’ chips, announced the event on June 4 1934.

In doing so the ‘paper lit the fuse of naysayers who brought about the events cancellation, but not before racers Arthur Terdich, Bill Lowe, Barney Dentry, and Cyril Dickason in Bugatti, Lombard, and Austins respectively, lapped the track with mufflers fitted to prove noise wasn’t the issue.’

Stan Jones at speed in Maybach 1, Albert Park 1953, DNF. Stan made this series of cars sing, Maybach 1 won the ’54 NZ GP at Ardmore but none of the Maybachs- 1,2,3 or 4 won an AGP, such a shame! If the Chamberlain 8 is Australia’s most brilliant and innovative special surely the Maybachs are the greatest? Hopeless bias declared! (R Fulford /SLV)

Post war things were little different, but a partnership between the LCCA, the Australian Army- who had a facility at Albert Park, and Victorian Labor Senator Pat Kennelly was more successful.

The three groups/people provided the combination of race organisation, promotional ability, logistical capability- the Army being able to ‘man’ Albert Park, a site of some 570 acres, and political power and influence.

For all, the ability to raise funds in the aftermath of World War 2 was important. For the army, it was money for war widows and orphans, for Kennelly to finance much needed improvements to the park for to upgrade the local amenity, and for the LCCA, the betterment of motor racing.

The parties all were aware they needed to be very careful with the use of the facility so the event was a one day affair, with practice in the morning, racing in the afternoon with the roads open to the public in between. Total time absorbed by the racing activities was less than seven hours!

And so, the 1953 Australian Grand Prix, held at Albert Park over 64 laps, 200 miles in total, on Saturday 21 November, was won by Doug Whiteford in a Lago-Talbot, the last AGP win for ‘French Racing Blue’.

Doug Whiteford’s Talbot Lago T26C passes the abandoned MG Spl of Jack O’Dea on the way to victory. Writing on the side of the car is a list of race wins. Whiteford owned two TL26C’s- this one, 1948-ex Louis Chiron chassis ‘110007’ and later, an earlier but higher spec car, chassis ‘110002’. Vern Schuppan is the current owner of ‘110002’. Crowd right to the edge of the track (R Fulford/SLV)

Entry…

The entry list was headed by local Melbourne businessmen Doug Whiteford, Stan Jones and Lex Davison.

Whiteford was perhaps the form driver, he won the AGP at Mount Panorama the year before in the same Talbot-Lago T26C. Doug was a tough grafter who owned an automotive repair and sales business a drop kick from the shores of Albert Park Lake in Carlisle Street, St Kilda.

The preparation and presentation of all of his racers was legendary. His career stretched back well pre-war to motor cycles circa 1932. He raced Norman Hamilton’s blown Ford. V8 Spl at Phillip Island circa 1935, an MG Magnette and a supercharged Ford Roadster before building the Ford Ute based ‘Black Bess’ his 1950 AGP winner.

A racer to the core, he competed all the way through into the early to mid seventies, after his long time at elite level, as a works driver for the Datsun Racing Team in small sedans and sportscars.

What a shot! Not at Albert Park I hasten to add, Fishermans Bend is my guess. Whiteford changing plugs on his TL T26C. A mechanic by trade, he toiled on his own cars, his race record, standard of preparation and presentation legendary. Date unknown (R Fulford/SLV)

On the up was Stanley Jones, another tough nugget from Warrandyte, rapidly building an automotive retailing empire which would fund an impressive array of racers over the decade to come- all of which would come tumbling down in the credit squeeze of 1961. Jones had thrown in his lot with Charlie Dean and Repco a year or so before- Jones bought Maybach from Dean with Charlie and his team at Repco Research in Brunswick continuing to maintain and develop it. Jones was as forceful as Whiteford was stylish- both were impressively fast.

Also on the rise was Lex Davison, native of St Kilda but then a resident of Lilydale and fast building the shoe manufacture, importing and retailing business he inherited from his father.

Lex by this stage had learned his craft on a varied mix of cars, most recently an Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 GP car. He had just bought an ex-Moss/Gaze F2 HWM to which he fitted a Jaguar 3.4 litre six-cylinder DOHC engine to ‘C Type’ specs and gearbox, this clever combination took his first AGP win at Southport, Queensland in 1954- a race Jones had a mortgage on until the chassis failure of Maybach 2 at very high speed.

Elite Racers All: L>R Jack Brabham Cooper T23 Bristo, third in this group, #3 Lex Davison HWM Jag and #8 Ted Gray Alta Ford V8. Shot included to show the HWM and Alta- Victoria Trophy Fishermans Bend 22 March 1954. Lex is soon to win the ’54 AGP, Jack is soon to travel to the UK and Gray is soon to get a competitive mount in Tornado 1 Ford! (VHRR)

Lex was an urbane man of considerable wit, bearing and charm- but he could and did go toe to toe with racers of Whiteford and Jones ilk and beat them. His career, which had far from peaked in 1953 stretched all the way to early 1965 when he shared the front row of the NZ GP grid with Clark and Hill, a couple of fellas ‘still in short pants’ in 1953.

Frank Kleinig and his Kleinig-Hudson straight-8 Spl could not be discounted nor could the Ted Gray driven Alta Ford V8 Spl- much more would be seen of this outstanding pre-war driver who cut his teeth on the country speedways of Victoria in the years to 1960 with the Lou Abrahams owned Tornados 1 and 2.

Oh to have seen this bloke drive at his best!- as here at Rob Roy Hillclimb, 2 November 1947. Frank Kleinig, Kleinig Hudson 8 Spl, a remarkable marriage of MG chassis, Hudson mechanicals and various other donor parts continuously developed over a couple of decades. A car which shoulda won at least one AGP. Kleinig another driver/mechanic ace (G Thomas)

Kleinig should have won an AGP or two, or three.

The Sydney driver was one of the very quickest immediately pre and post war but times had changed. The AGP was now a scratch race, not a handicap and Frank’s machine, development of which never stopped simply wasn’t quick enough to win outright whatever the undoubted skills of the bloke behind the wheel.

Ted and Frank both needed the ‘guns’ up front to retire and have a dose of reliability themselves for the long 200 mile race to win.

The Reg Nutt, Talbot Darracq 700, DNF dropped valve on lap 14 (Dacre Stubbs)

The balance of the entry was a swag of MG Specials, pre-war GP cars, sports cars and a sprinkling of Coopers including several new fangled JAP mid-engined cars.

Above and below. Davison, Jones and Whiteford. Further back #11 Gray, his Ford V8 creating the smokescreen, #7 Kleinig, #10 Hayes Ford V8 Spl #6 Vennermark/Warren Maser 4CL (unattributed)

Practice and the Race…

Practice commenced early at 8.30 AM and before too long their was drama aplenty amongst the topliners.

Davison’s HWM suffered bearing problems in practice, the session started at 8.30am, the team linished them as best they could prior to the race start at 2.30 pm, but the same affliction stopped the car during the race.

Another top driver I didn’t mention above was Sydney ex-speedway star Jack Brabham but his new Cooper T23 Bristol succumbed in the morning session, like Davison, to bearing problems. The ace engineer/mechanic did of course turn this car into rather a formidable weapon- one which inspired him to try his hand in England a year or so hence.

Also having practice dramas was Whiteford, who had a lose, the car was quickly loaded up and trailered back to Doug’s ‘shop closeby ‘…where the front suspension was stripped. Jim Hawker used the table of a mill as a surface plate and found a bent stub axle he straightened in a press. The Lago also needed a new flexible hose; without a word Whiteford took a pair of side-cutters, walked across to the pre-War Triumph his nephew Doug McLean was rebuilding and liberated precisely the correct hose. This was fitted, the brakes were bled…’ wrote Graham Howard.

The Jones Maybach in for the pitstop which changed the race, albeit the car retired in any event. Passing is the Jag XK120 of Frank Lobb or John Calvert (Dacre Stubbs)

From atop a double-decker bus race officials and a crowd estimated by local newspapers variously at between 50000 and 70000 people saw Whiteford, Jones and Davison form the front row with Lex’ HWM leading into the first corner under heavy, muggy skies.

The start was fraught and chaotic as several crews were still with their driver and car as the flag dropped!

Davo’s lead was shortlived, Stanley passed him on the first lap and then drew away. McKinnon was a lap 1 casualty when he nosed the hay-bales but got going again, Arthur Wylie spun the Jowett Javelin Spl at Jaguar Corner but he too got going.

Early in the race Jones led Whiteford, Davison, Arthur Wylie’s Jowett powered Wylie Javelin and Curley Brydon’s  ex-Bill Patterson MG TC Spl.

Davo was out on lap 3, he watched the balance of the event from Stan’s pit.

Bob Pritchett in Australian Motor Sports (AMS) wrote that ‘The trouble with the HWM was that the oil pressure relief valve was cockeyed on its seat allowing all the oil to rush right back into the sump through bypass: most surprisingly, the XK120 oil pressure gauge is so hooked in that, under such circumstances, full pressure was still indicated. Lex’s boys did their best with emery strip and managed to have the car on the line for the GP, but it was of no avail.’

Same scene as above from a different angle- Charlie Dean at bottom right (unattributed)

By half distance Stan still had a good lead over Whiteford, but on lap 40 he pitted for fuel and with his Maybach straight-six engine overheating- the car also needed a water pump drive belt.

His crew were not expecting him and in the confusion Stan was bathed in methanol fuel which necessitated a speedy dismount and then being doused in water before returning to the fray.

Whiteford could not believe his luck.

He perhaps lacked the pace to win, although Pritchett observed on the other hand that he didn’t think ‘Doug was unduly worried…Every few laps he would come up from his half-minute or so back and have a a look at the Maybach and then fall back into line again, so he must have had something up his sleeve’? Stan always pushed hard and was said to lack mechanical sympathy, something Doug had in spades. Jones retired Maybach on lap 56 with clutch failure.

Whiteford’s right rear separates from the Talbot Lago on the exit of Dunlop Corner (AMS)

It was not an easy win though.

Melbourne weather is capricious, the skies darkened and rain tumbled down and cars spun- Wal Gillespie’s HRG (shared with Thompson) amongst others. Spectators added to the challenge with ‘suicidal disregard for their own safety…John Calvert rammed a strawbale…when he had to take avoiding action. I suppose they just can’t understand that towards the end of the straight, the quick drivers are covering the best part of fifty yards each second…’ Pritchett mused.

Whiteford slows the TL 26C at the pits to change wheels having lost his right rear tyre. Fortunately the separation happened close to the pits and his efficient crew (Fairfax)

Two laps from home the right-rear tyre of the T26C came off its rim, fortunately only 300 metres from the pits.

After a stop of 30 seconds to change the wheel, with a huge gap to his pursuers, the local lad was on his way to win the race ‘in a Largo Talbot by 5 laps at an average speed of 82 mph for the 200 miles’ The Melbourne Sun, with its characteristic great attention to motor racing reporting detail, recorded in its 22 November account of the race.

Curley Brydon, a member of the RAAF’s crack 78 fighter squadron during the war, was second in his MG TC Spl 5 laps adrift and South Australian Andy Brown third in an MG K3 Magnette. Then came former AGP winner Les Murphy, MG Q Type and Lou Molina in the MM Holden Spl sportscar

Third placed Andy Brown’s very pre-war MG K3 in for a pitstop. K3 ‘030’ still in Oz- ex-Bira/Snow/Dunne/Davison/Brown and many others! (Dacre Stubbs)

Graham Howard in his ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ (HAGP) account of the race reports on some post race controversy which reader and owner of the Curley Brydon TC, Richard Townley develops further in his note below this article.

Howard wrote ‘…Curley Brydon, who had provisionally been placed third, protested that too many people had assisted with Whiteford’s tyre change, and indeed it was suggested one of the helpers was no more than a gate-crashing spectator; but it was agreed that Whiteford could have changed the wheel single-handed and still had time to win, and Brydon’s protest was withdrawn.

Curley Brydon, in the 2nd placed MG TC Spl s/c leads the 16th placed John Nind MG TB Spl (K Wheeler)

Whiteford is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) as saying ‘Our pit was very congested and there were more spectators around than mechanics. Evidently someone we didn’t know tried to help.’ Note that the SMH report states the protests were heard on Sunday 22 November, the day after the race.

As Richard Townley relates in his comments post publication of this article, Phil Irving wrote in his autobiography that Whiteford ‘…was not immediately declared the winner, through an unofficial report that he had been helped by a bystander to get the Talbot back on course after over-shooting a corner. Not having the use of a telephone, the marshal on the corner concerned wrote out a report to be delivered to the Clerk of The Course, who did not receive it until long after after the race had ended.’

‘Doug, who knew the rule book by heart was aware that the official report of the incident had not been lodged within the stipulated half-hour of the race finish, and shrewdly claimed that it was ultra vires and could not form the basis of a protest. This view being upheld by the stewards, Doug was awarded his third AGP, but it was not a very popular victory’ Irving wrote.

Let’s come back to this after dealing with the balance of the protests.

Howard continues ‘However, he (Brydon) also protested Andy Brown’s second placing, and after investigation it was agreed Brydon was second: Murphy protested Brown as well, claiming to have passed him on the last lap, but this was not upheld.’

‘Fifth was Lou Molina first time out in the neat little Holden-engined MM Special, and the first AGP finish for a Holden engine, Sixth was Jim Leech, a nice reward for his part in securing Albert Park for the race.’

‘Seventh, with a plug lead off, with only first and fourth gears useable and with his seat belt broken, was Frank Kleinig; from six AGP starts, going back 15 years to 1938, it was the cars first finish, and very popular. Nonetheless, the days of 15-year old AGP cars could not last much longer’ Howard concluded.

No doubt Kleinig was well pleased with the result as Pritchett wrote that he left Sydney very late for the meeting with trade-plates affixed to the racer to run it in on the Hume Highway!- when that process was complete the car took its place on the trailer for the balance of the trip south.

So what do we make of Phil Irving’s claims of Whiteford receiving outside assistance?

I can find no record of this in any of the published information I have access to.

It is not mentioned in any of the contemporary newspaper reports of the meeting- not in Howard’s AGP account in HAGP, Howard’s ‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’, Barry Green’s superb long piece on the meeting in ‘Albert Park Glory Days’ or in the November or December 1953 issues of Australian Motor Sports.

Lets not forget that the protests were heard and decided, according to the SMH, on the day after the race- Sunday 22 November.

The Stewards of the meeting, given all of the circumstances, and I have in mind the logistics of communication at the meeting, could choose to admit as evidence what they saw as appropriate- and call witnesses.

By that i mean the Marshal concerned could have been called, and no doubt others who were stationed on the corner at the time to give their account of what Irving wrote occurred, to the Stewards, and for them to then make a determination accordingly.

So, on balance, and in the absence of other accounts which agree with Irving’s I don’t believe his version of events to be the correct one. I am happy to alter that position if other proof, a photograph or first-hand spectators recollection, for example can be made available.

I wonder if Phil, writing his book years later- it was published after his death in 1992, is somehow linking DW’s Saturday morning practice spin with the Saturday post-event protests? Irving makes no mention in his book of the other protests addressed by Howard, Green and the SMH in their reports.

Intriguing isn’t it?

(Fairfax)

Winners are Grinners: ‘Dicer Doug’ has won his third and last AGP.

His birthdate is a bit of a mystery but a consensus seems to be during 1914, so it makes him 39, still a young man albeit a racing veteran of not far short of 20 years then.

A great shame to me was his purchase of a 300S Maserati when the factory lobbed with five cars- three 250F’s and two 300S for the 1956 AGP right here at Albert Park- those machines were driven by Messrs Moss and Behra.

I mean it’s a shame in that, if he had bought and raced a 250F he would have been right in amongst Jones, Davison, Reg Hunt and Ted Gray with an equal car. He made the 300S sing but a 250F would have been a more appropriate car methinks

Things go better with Melbourne Bitter- Coke in this case for ‘Dicer Doug’ (Fairfax)

’53 AGP Australian Motor Racing Context…

This excerpt from the 1953-54 LCCA Annual Report is self explanatory and whilst it is self-serving does provided valuable information about the positive impact of the event in terms of the public’s perception of motor racing.

‘When your committee finally obtained permission to conduct the Australian Grand Prix on Albert Park circuit the victory was only half won.

To overcome public prejudice has been the major bugbear of organised racing on public roads and any incompetent handling of this delicate situation could easily have touched off an explosion of indignation.

That we did not receive even one complaint can be attributed to good fortune and untiring organisation of directors and officials. As it can be said that enthusiasts will make the best of the most adverse conditions, our achievements at Albert Park was the greater in having gratified both the general public and the competitors.

In justifying the faith which the Albert Park Trust, inexperienced in motor racing, was prepared to place in our ability, we have broken down one of the few remaining barriers to a more general acceptance of motor racing as one of the national sports.’

Etcetera…

Whereizzit?! Whiteford sneaks a peek at what he already knows- his pit is close and he has 5 laps in hand, but still a heart in the mouth moment.

Bob King recalls the moment ‘My memory says I saw Doug on the bare rim at Melford Corner, but this must be wrong. This photo is probably taken on the way from Jaguar Corner (which is still there if you look for it) and the pits. After all, I was only 15 and it was my first motor race: A life changing event.’

(S Wills)

Ted McKinnon’s 15th placed Maserati 6CM1500. An ex-works car, this machine first raced in Australia at the 1951 AGP at Narrogin, WA, raced by visiting Englishman Colin Murray.

Car #57 alongside is not entered in the AGP (Dacre Stubbs)

(Dacre Stubbs)

 

(R Townley)

Bibliography…

‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and ors, ‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘Phil Irving: An Autobiography’, ‘Glory Days’ Barry Green, Australian Motor Sports December 1953,

Melbourne Sun 22 November 1953, Sydney Morning Herald 23 November 1953

Photo Credits…

Dacre Stubbs Collection-Martin Stubbs, R Fulford Collection, State Library of Victoria, VHRR Collection, Fairfax Media, Ken Wheeler via Richard Townley Collection, Spencer Wills via Bob King Collection

Tailpiece: Whiteford on the way to victory, Talbot-Lago T26C…

(R Fulford/SLV)

Finito…

 

The #26 Ron Ward sixth placed MG TB, #32 Alby Johnson DNF MG TC and a distant Gordon Stewart DNF, MG Magna L-Type, during the 16 June 1947, Championship of New South Wales meeting at RAAF Nowra airbase…

This event was to have been the ‘New South Wales Grand Prix’ until the intervention of the Australian Automobile Association, the governing body of motorsport in Australia at the time, a week before. They deemed the ‘Grand Prix’ title as one reserved exclusively for the Australian Grand Prix. Contemporary newspaper reports of the day indicate the confusion about the name of the race, variously describing it as ‘The Grand Prix’, ‘Grand Prix Speedcar Championship of New South Wales’- the official title seems to be the ‘1947 Championship of New South Wales’.

The race was a 110 mile handicap conducted over 25 laps of a 4.35 mile course laid out on runways and connecting taxiways of what, over the years, was variously named RAAF Nowra, HMS Nabbington and in more recent times HMAS Albatross. The airfield also hosted a race in 1952, on that occasion using taxiways, hard-stands and aprons for a shorter lap distance of 1.6 miles.

Luvvit! Alf Barrett’s road registered Alfa Monza at Rob Roy circa 1949. The fastest combo in Australia in the immediate pre and post war years (J Montasell)

The event organisers, the Australian Sporting Car Club secured all of the aces of the day- Alf Barrett in his Alfa Monza, Frank Kleinig’s Hudson Spl, John Crouch in the Delahaye 135CS imported by John Snow pre-war and the latter in his Dixon Riley.

Some past, present and future racers entered a variety of MG’s including Curley Brydon,  Alf Najar, Bib Stillwell, Bill Patterson, Hope Bartlett, John Barraclough and Ron Edgerton. Other notables were Lex Davison, Mercedes 38/250 s/c, Tom Sulman in the immortal Sulman Singer, Ted Gray in the ex-Mrs JAS Jones Alfa 6C1750 SS by then fitted with a flat-head Ford V8, ‘Wild’ Bill Murray, Hudson, Alec Mildren, AGM Ford V8 Spl and others.

(J Hunter)

The Nowra grid ready for the off. From left to right- #5 Jack Murray MacKellar Ford V8 s/c,  #3 John Crouch Delahaye 135CS, #14 Alec Mildren, AGM Ford V8 Special, #4 Frank Kleinig, Hudson Spl and #1 Alf Barrett’s Alfa Romeo Monza.

Frank Kleinig didn’t take the start with piston failure so perhaps this an earlier event. I am intrigued to know.

John Crouch on the way to Australian Grand Prix victory in the John Snow imported Delahaye 135CS at the Leyburn Airfield circuit in 1949 (unattributed)

There were thirty-eight entries in all from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria which reflected the pent up demand for racing in the early post-war years.

Crowd estimates vary from between 15,000 to 25,000 people- they saw Manly, Sydney driver Tom Lancey’s MG TC win the race from a field of 30 who took the starters flag.

Lancey had raced for three years before the conflict in an MG NE Magnette and spent six years with the RAAF during the war so it was a nice bit of symmetry for an RAAF bloke to take the win at an RAAF base- he was off a handicap of 21 minutes and 30 seconds. The Barrett Alfa raced off scratch.

Second and third places were also taken by MG’s- Bill MacLachlan in an MG TA monoposto off 14:30 and Curley Brydon aboard an MG TC, 21:30 with Dick Bland’s Ford V8 Spl off 11:00 in fourth place.

John Medley wrote, ‘Tom Lancey packed his wife and young daughter into his fully equipped, road registered MG TC at his Manly home- drove to Nowra, unpacked, removed the screen and hood, started in the NSW GP as an early marker- and won it…’ Then he did the whole process in reverse. The simplicity of it all is wonderful.

Was thrilled to find this shot which is captioned as the ’47 Nowra NSW GP/Championships but is according to John Medley Hell Corner Bathurst during the October 1939 meeting. #5 is the ‘Salmon Special’ McIntyre Hudson of Kevin Salmon, #6 is the Edison Waters Jaguar SS100, #1 Alf Barrett’s Alfa Monza, #4 John Crouch Delahaye 135CS and #9 John Barraclough, Alvis Terraplane (Fairfax)

The race favourite was Australia’s immediate pre and post war ace, Alf Barrett in his beautifully prepared and presented Alfa Romeo Monza which ‘is considered the fastest car in Australia’.

Alf and John Snow in the Dixon Riley ‘were fighting a fierce duel from the back mark’ (Snow raced off a 2 minute handicap) but Alf lost time with a tyre change earlier in the race and engine problems later on- he was ninth and set the fastest race lap. Snow retired with magneto or spark plug problems on lap 18.

The newspaper reports of the day focused on Barrett’s top speed of 120 miles per hour which provides perspective on the average performance levels of commuter bolides of the time.

Barrett’s day was not altogether lost with a win in the Open or Over 1500cc Championship scratch race in which the thoroughbred straight-eight Grand Prix Alfa prevailed from Frank Kleinig’s self built and developed Kleinig Hudson Spl and John Snow’s Dixon Riley.

There are plenty of photos of ‘Dirt Track Charlie’ Frank Kleinig aboard his self built Kleinig Hudson Spl because he raced the ever developing steed for so long but this is my favourite. He is re-taking the Rob Roy Hill record he first set in the car in 1939, in November 1948 setting a mark of 28.72 secs- his last trip to the Christmas Hills. You can see and feel the energy and effort going into the big, powerful car- as was always the case with this very fast, if somewhat, its said, inconsistent driver (G Thomas)

Kleinig’s amazing machine, competitive over a couple of decades, was an amalgam of many parts but particularly an MG L-Type chassis and very highly developed Hudson 4186cc straight-eight engine. He finished the race 14 seconds adrift of Barrett. It was subsequently found that a piston broke, fouling the oil system, running a rear big end bearing and ruining the crankshaft in the process.

One of the great pre and post war ‘what ifs’ is Kleinig in a thoroughbred car- not that his commitment, brio, engineering nouse and application was in any way lacking in his endeavours with his Special! Kleinig in Snow’s Delahaye or Barrett’s Alfa for example would have been a sight to see. End of digression!

Amongst the long list of Nowra DNF’s was 1960 AGP and Gold Star winner Alec Mildren’s attractive and fast, self-built AGM Ford V8 Spl. The big beast, off a handicap of 12 minutes, overheated, with Alec retiring on lap 14, a common affliction of these engines in modified form (Mildren)

Pre-war Maroubra Speedway ace, Hope Bartlett won the Under 1500cc championship in his MG TA s/c after a race long battle with Alf Najar’s MG TB s/c. Gordon Stewart in an MG Magna L Type was well in the lead of the Under 1100cc title- and then, having to coast to the finishing line after a last lap fuel blockage was passed by Tom Sulman in his self-built Sulman Singer and Bruce Myers Riley Imp in the final stages.

Some excitement was added to the meeting ‘when a privately owned plane landed on the strip which was being used for the car racing. Service and local police ordered the pilot to remain until after the meeting’!

WW2 shot of RAAF Nowra (RAAF)

Postscript: The state of Australian circuits in 1947…

A sign of the times and the use of a venue such as Nowra was the September 1947 meeting of the Australian Automobile Association in Perth during which the allocations of the AGP was announced for the next few years- NSW 1947, Victoria 1948, Queensland 1949, South Australia 1950 and Western Australia 1951. It was noted that ‘Victoria had not a suitable circuit for the Grand Prix at present but it was hoped that such property could be secured on Phillip Island’.

Of course Phillip Island was reinstated as the racing venue we know and love but not until December 1956- the Albert Park Lake facility ended up being the ‘in period’ AGP Victorian venue in 1953 and 1956.

In fact the race allocations went ahead as planned- in NSW, 1947 at Bathurst, 1948 at Point Cook just outside Melbourne, 1949 at Leyburn, 200 km from Brisbane, 1950 at Nuriootpa in SA’s Barossa Valley and 1951 at Narrogin south of Perth in WA’s wheatbelt.

Nowra, Point Cook, Mount Druitt and Leyburn were all current or past RAAF bases with Narrogin a ‘Round the Houses’ venue used on numerous occasions whilst the Nuriootpa road circuit was not used for motor racing after its time in the sun as a one off AGP venue. The search and challenge of finding permanent road-racing venues was on throughout Australia in earnest.

At the time of the Australian Automobile Association meeting Mr J Austin Patterson said that ‘the greatest desire (of the AAA) was to help the sporting bodies and the sport generally. At present motor sports were up against police opposition. This could not be overcome unless it could be shown that meetings could be held without danger and undue inconvenience to the public.’

In a similar vein the NSW Light Car Club put a proposal to the Blue Mountains Chamber of Commerce for the establishment of a race track at Katoomba in October 1947, it took a while but Catalina Park opened in February 1961.

Of course the ‘floodagtes’ of circuits opened in the mid to late fifties and early sixties with Port Wakefield, Warwick Farm, Lakeside, Sandown, Calder, Mallala and others opening but such numbers of permanent facilities were a long time coming.

Car rally from Canberra to Nowra in recent times- one flat airfield looks pretty much the same as another really! (unattributed)

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

The Sydney Morning Herald 17 June 1947, Fairfax Media, John Hunter, The Telegraph Brisbane 22 July 1947, J Montasell, George Thomas, Alec Mildren Collection, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Finito…

(J Mepstead)

How many Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. race V8’s were built during the 1965 to 1969 period of the companies existence?…

Not sure that I know the answer in full.

Lets build a list which will be ongoing Work In Progress as we determine the number built, the car they were initially fitted to, a bit of history perhaps and the perfect world would be their ultimate destination inclusive of owns them now.

The article was stimulated by ex-RBE man John Mepstead, above, sending this photo of a very late 760 Series V8- the 4.8 litre ‘E41’ which was fitted to Frank Matich’s Matich SR4 and raced through 1969. ‘Shidday’, I thought, thats a pretty late RB Meppa is giving a tug! It must be towards the end of the production of the engines?

So, I had a bit of a fossick through Rod Wolfe’s suitcase of goodies and found a couple of source documents I knew were there to get us started. One is an ‘Engine Position’ list dated 17 July 1968, another is ‘Management Memorandum Number 1’ dated 30 June 1967.

Rod also has Graham Bartil’s notebook of engine settings made when he was assembling or rebuilding them, so in a couple of cases we have the ‘birth-date’ of the engines. I love Graham’s use of branded Repco stationery below, the first record in this exercise book is on 20 June 1966 and the last on 27 July 1966.

Malcolm Preston, in his book cites particular engines as used in various cars or events.

 

(G Bartils- Wolfe)

 

Race motors are grandfathers axe of course- blocks and heads and other bits and pieces are replaced either as a matter of routine maintenance, as a consequence of a moment of destruction or an upgrade to the latest and greatest componentry.

So an engine- ‘E6-620’ may have started as a 620 but had its block replaced in 1967 with a 700 Series block- the 20 Series heads and timing chest etc will bolt straight onto the 700 block- and thus becomes ‘E6-720. Do you get my drift?

Given my articles so far do not cover all of the engine types built, we have only done 620 and 740 in detail there is a summary towards the end of this piece of each engine you can use as a ‘ready reckoner’ of what engine is what.

What started conceptually as a list of engines changed when I went searching for information and was reminded of the Facebook ‘veins of gold’ represented by dialogue between RBE folks which deserved to be captured permanently and packaged into some semblance of order.

There is some quite exquisite detail amongst the online badinage between Rodway Wolfe and Nigel Tait over about five years with others such as Michael Gasking, John Mepstead, David Nash and the late Don Halpin adding facts, perspective, anecdotes and flavour.

Then, as momentum built amongst a few folks Rodway went back through his diaries from 1967 to 1969 and came up with some wonderful- and in a couple of cases hugely important snippets, these bits start with ‘Rod’.

Denis Lupton gave me David Nash’s number a couple of weeks ago, but of course I hadn’t got around to calling him- he gave me a yell on 18 February offering the engine list assembled by the late Don Halpin- typed and dated 15 December 1972 but with additonal annotations by hand, who surely built more of these engines in the last fifty years than anyone.

As a consequence the piece is a big, long bastard at over 12,500 words. Ridiculous really, so grab a couple of ‘longnecks’ and a nice cold glass before the off!

Special thanks to all of those who have provided assistance in recent times or online some years back- very little of this article is from a book- such a publication does not exist.

Other Notes

I have put in build years as headings which are indicative rather than definitive but at least serve to help structure the article. The engine numbers do not all run ‘in sequence’ as much of the article had been written by the time I had the full list of numbers, and it is a big job to re-format.

This is Repco anoraks only stuff of course, I assume you will have read the links immediately below, that is I’m operating on the basis you have a base level of knowledge as I do not ‘join all the dots’ throughout.

Finally, by way of introduction any errors of commission or omission are mine.

Remember this piece is WIP- if you can add bits to the puzzle or knowledge of these wonderful bits of engineering do get in touch.

Homework before you start this piece are these articles on the RBE-620 Series;

https://primotipo.com/2014/08/07/rb620-v8-building-the-1966-world-championship-winning-engine-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-2/

and; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/13/winning-the-1966-world-f1-championships-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-3/

and again; https://primotipo.com/2019/02/08/man-of-the-moment/

and this one on the RBE-640 and 740 Series;

https://primotipo.com/2016/08/05/rb740-repcos-1967-f1-championship-winning-v8/

and this one; https://primotipo.com/2017/12/28/give-us-a-cuddle-sweetie/

To cut to the chase RBE Pty. Ltd. built about 51 engines, that is engines or part thereof allocated a number, Redco Pty. Ltd built 1, Don Halpin 2, plus various bibs and bobs which will become apparent via the responses this article attracts.

Finally, that RBE count does not include ‘special projects’ inclusive of the Repco-Brabham Pontiac Project…

Here we go.

 

(SMH)

 

The photograph above is Ron Tauranac and BT19 ‘620’, the 1966 championship winning combination, at the ‘Shifting Gear’ National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne exhibition in 2015.

Click here for an article about that fantastic gig; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/13/shifting-gear-design-innovation-and-the-australian-car-exhibition-national-gallery-of-victoria-by-stephen-dalton-mark-bisset/

 

1965-1966

 

RB620-E1

The very first 2.5 litre engine built in Richmond, first run on the dyno in March 1965 ‘Wade 185 camshaft’ noted in (undated sadly) Graham Bartil’s book entry.

It may well be he has transcribed the details of E1 into his book as a point of reference for another engine he was working on.

 

(G Bartils- Wolfe)

 

As at July 1968 it was a ‘mock up display engine’- which presumably means no gizzards inside.

No more on this engine as it’s build is well covered in one of the articles by Rodway and I referenced above.

David Nash owns E1 presently, built as a 4.4 litre 620, he plans to fit it to Peter Holinger’s first Repco engined hillclimber he also owns.

 

Repco Brabham engine #1 RB620 ‘E1’. This was the only engine fitted with Webers, this set of carbs were borrowed from Bib Stillwell, the Oz champion racer’s car dealership and race shop were in Kew, several kays from Doonside Street (Repco)

 

Phil Irving, Jack Brabham and Frank Hallam with Roy Billington fettling- Brabham BT19 Repco 620 2.5 E2 at Longford 1966

 

When I looked at this photo I thought ‘Shit! The only guy missing from the core 1966 Championship winning team is Ron!’ But its not quite that simple of course…

The Repco F1 engine program came about as one of a series of progressive motor racing steps starting with Dave McGrath’s purchase of Charlie Dean’s Replex business- the Repco Board did not decide ‘out of the blue’ to build a Tasman 2.5 / F1 3 litre engine.

Repco’s motor racing history can be characterised as having distinct phases as follows.

They are the Charlie Dean Maybach period from the early to late fifties- racing Maybach’s 1 – 4 with Stan Jones as driver. Then the Repco Hi-Power head period- a program initiated by Dean with the head designed by Phil Irving. Whilst aimed at road use, these heads which sat atop Holden ‘Grey’ six-cylinder motors had huge racing take up.

The Coventry Climax phase was run by Frank Hallam from 1962 onwards when Jack sought assistance to prepare and supply parts for his 2.7 litre and later 2.5 litre FPF’s. Michael Gasking primarily built and tested the engines.

Then comes the RBE program initiated by Jack in 1963’ish, sponsored at Board level by Dave McGrath, CEO of Repco Ltd and Charlie Dean, by then a Repco Director. Bob Brown, a Repco Director was appointed by McGrath as Director of RBE Pty Ltd- the entity which built the motors with Frank Hallam as General Manager. Phil Irving and Norman Wilson were the Chief Engineers in 1965/6 and 1966-9 respectively.

The final phase was the Repco Holden F5000 era from 1969 to 1974 with Dean the Repco Director in charge of REDCO Pty Ltd. (Repco Engine Development Co) Malcolm Preston was General Manager/Engineering Chief…and in the words of the great Gomer Pyle ‘Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!’- Phil Irving returned as Chief Engineer.

Phil was ‘brought in from the cold’ by Charlie and Mal given Frank Hallam was out of ‘earshot’ at Repco Research in Scoresby, a long way from Maidstone! You can bet your left nut that Hallam would not have been a happy camper when that particular bit of news made its way to his part of the Repco Empire.

I may have laboured the point- which is that by the time of the RBE program Repco was a corporate with a racing culture and ethos- if not throughout all of the conglomerate at least embedded in part of it.

Click here for a feature article on the Repco-Holden F5000 program;

https://primotipo.com/2018/05/03/repco-holden-f5000-v8/

 

Repco Boardroom, St Kilda Road, Melbourne probably late 1965 L>R Bob Brown, Frank Hallam, Jack Brabham, Sir Charles ‘Dave’ McGrath, Ted Callinan and Charlie Dean – all but Hallam and Brabham were Repco Ltd Directors (Tate/Repco)

 

Building on that, the key planks of Repco motor-racing participation and success start with Charlie Dean, a racer to his core- Maybach car builder, AGP competitor and the rest.

But of course he wouldn’t have been able to run the Maybach program within Repco and develop a whole swag of engineers and a ‘racing culture’, especially within Repco Research in Sydney Road, Brunswick without Managing Director and later Chairman ‘Dave’ McGrath’s ongoing support of him- and later Jack in a very personal kind of way.

McGrath’s patronage of the various race programs went all the way through to his retirement from Repco.

Frank Hallam was a good choice as RBE General Manager- he marshalled the forces within the typically political nature of a large multi-national very well and managed the Coventry Climax program with Jack and other customers effectively.

The misgivings by some close observers of Repco about Hallam are the enormous over-reach in his engineering design claims generally and for RB620 in particular- at Phil Irving’s expense. Without ventilating that again, see here for my thoughts on the topic; https://primotipo.com/2017/04/21/repco-rb620-inside-story/

McGrath made the decision to give senior executive responsibility for the RBE program to Bob Brown, in part because the Coventry Climax project was run within Brown’s Repco division. It was Brown to whom Hallam reported and who in turn was accountable to the Repco Board. In some ways the more logical choice would have been Dean for all the obvious reasons, whereas Brown was not a racing enthusiast at all, quite the opposite in fact.

It seems to me what McGrath was after was the commercial objectivity Brown would bring to the table- success was far from assured at the outset after all, rather than Dean’s racing knowledge. Dean at the time was Director of another division of Repco. Brown would assess the corporate promotional value and engineering technological rub off of the race program far more objectively than Charlie would as a ‘died in the wool racing enthusiast’ perhaps. Upon reflection it was another astute management choice by McGrath, one of the outstanding Australian industrialists of his era.

I won’t chase the McGrath tangent but see here for the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Sir Charles McGrath; http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcgrath-sir-charles-gullan-dave-15173

To those key people you can add those around the car in the Longford pitlane- Phil Irving, RB620’s designer, brought to the table by Dean, Brabham- ‘architect and instigator’ of the entire program and its lead driver, Roy Billington, BRO’s Chief Mechanic and Ron Tauranac, designer and constructor of Brabham cars. Lets not forget Denny Hulme as well in the second car.

The cast for 1967 changed a bit with Phil’s departure but for that first year the folks mentioned were both the project foundations and the ‘tip of the spear’ on the Grand Prix and other grids.

 

The BRO 1966 crew- Bob Ilich, Roy Billington, Hugh Absolom, John Muller, Cary Tayor, Denny Hulme, Jack Brabham, Ron Tauranac, John Judd and Phil Kerr. Car is a BT20 620

 

RB620-E2

2.5 litre

BRO

Used by Jack in BT19 in the two 1966 Tasman races at Sandown and Longford

As at July 1968 it was a mock up display engine

Rod ‘4 March 1969 620 3 litre E2 received from Mayne Nickless’

Engine fitted to BT19 when restored

 

1 January 1966 first race for a Repco Brabham Engines V8, South African GP East London. Jack is on pole in car #10 Brabham BT19 620 fitted with engine E3, winner Mike Spence is in the #1 Lotus 33 Climax with Denny’s #11 Brabham BT20/22 Climax FPF completing the front row. Car #12 is John Love’s ex-McLaren 1965 AGP winning Cooper T79 Climax (unattributed)

 

RB620-E3C

3 litre

BRO 1966.

This motor had slightly larger inlet valves, ports and throttle diameters compared with the 2.5 and gave 280 bhp @ 7500 rpm.

It was flown to England after 6 hours testing, fitted to BT19, tested at Goodwood briefly and then transported to South Africa for the non-championship GP at East London on 1 January 1966

BRO is ‘Brabham Racing Organisation’

MRD is ‘Motor Racing Developments Ltd’, a company owned by Jack and Ron Tauranac which built Brabham racing cars.

BRO was one of Jack’s businesses which raced the works cars.

It acquired the cars from MRD, hired drivers, entered races, prepared them, banked the prize money etc- initially it was owned entirely by Jack, and later, from about 1966 after Ron, quite reasonably chucked a wobbly, Tauranac also had an equity interest.

Don Halpin wrote that engines E1 and E2 were built at Richmond.

 

The move from the corner of Burnley and Doonside Streets (81 Burnley Street) Richmond to 87 Mitchell Street Maidstone…

 

Generally speaking moves of business premises tend to be to a location close by- employers more often than not do it that way to keep the team in the boat.

Whilst 14 kilometres is not too far the decision of Repco management to move the ‘sexy bit of Repco’ was a biggie in local terms as the shift was from Melbourne’s inner east of the Yarra to the not-so-inner west, then very much the ‘wrong side of the Yarra’ especially to those east of the river, which was most of the RBE employees at the time.

These days the West is much more gentrified with places like Williamstown, Seddon, Spotswood, Yarraville and Footscray attractive places to live (Williamstown always was top-shelf mind you). But Lordy, in the pre-Westgate Bridge days, which slowly started the transformation of the west, that was shocker of a commute.

For someone like Phil Irving, commuting from Warrandyte, then and now semi-rural Melbourne outer east it was a ‘cut lunch and camel ride’ away. In fact, dealing with that daily drive and Phil’s flexible working hours was a big factor in the melt-down of the relationship between Contractor Irving and Company Man Hallam.

Stories abound of Phil’s nocturnal hours and his raids on the biscuit barrel overnight leaving the cupboard bare.

Tait, ‘All of Phil’s Repco Brabham drawings (he drafted all of RB620, Tait has sighted every drawing made and signed by Phil) and those of our other designers are now preserved in the RMIT University Design Archives’ in Melbourne.’

Wolfe recalls ‘When I joined in late 1965 the project had just arrived at Maidstone. The General Manager was Frank Hallam. In the drawing office, the Chief Engineer was Phil Irving, he was assisted by a young guy named Howard Ring. All the drawings from part number 620-001 (crankshaft) were in that office.

Peter Holinger was the Production Engineer, the Production Superintendent/Factory Manger was Kevin Davies. We also had a Commercial Manager, Stan Johnson who came and went’.

‘Around this time Michael Gasking also transferred from the Richmond Laboratory- he was Chief of Engine Assembly and Testing. Nigel Tait helped him as did Graeme Bartils who was a qualified mechanic helping assemble the engines at Maidstone. All the engines were tested at Richmond until we got to the second stage of our own test house’ recalled Rodway.

Tait ‘Mike Gasking was mostly at Richmond because we didn’t move the Heenan and Froude GB4 dyno until late in 1966 and all of the engine running for RB was on the GB4 until late 1966 by which time the new cells were ready (see snippet later) and the new G49EH H & F dyno was bought.’

On the machine tools as leading hand was David Nash and John Mepstead who was a great all rounder and about five other guys. Even the old capstan lathe on which I first made the RB engine studs for E4 onwards had been set up at Maidstone in late 1965.’

 

Equipe Repco Brabham out the front of the RBE Works at 87 Mitchell Street, Maidstone during the 1967 Tasman rounds. Tow cars are HR Holden Panel Vans as we call such things in Oz! (E Young)

 

Tait remembers the move ‘The plant there, in fact the whole site had been bought by Repco about a year before, it basically housed the old ACL companies (the land and buildings had been acquired by Repco as part of acquiring the businesses themselves).

The one we used for Repco Brabham was the old Glacier factory, on the corner was the Perfect Circle factory. There were still hundreds of bearings stocked there.’ Wolfe remembers ‘I transferred from Replacement Parts (another Repco subsidiary) and when I arrived Kevin Davies took me next door to watch them making piston rings and the girls production line packing them.

‘As I recall, the move over from Richmond to Maidstone took place over 1966 with new machinery coming in, and as a Cadet Engineer my bit was to make shadow boards for the new machines.  I was never officially at Maidstone apart from the shadow board work and helping Mike Gasking with assembly of some of the early engines which he and I then ran back at Richmond’ Nigel’s ever sharp brain recalls.

Amongst all of the parts moved was a stock of Coventry Climax 2.5 and 2.7 FPF components which Mepstead recalls moving in his van over the 1965-1966 Christmas period to Maidstone.

The Climax stock of parts was shifted from the east to the west of the Yarra and lasted all the way to 1970 when Malcolm Preston was still doing ‘mailers’ to get rid of unwanted stock in the formative Redco F5000 era. Amusing amongst Rodway’s collection is the customer list complete with the ‘lousy payers to whom credit was not to be extended’. I shall protect the names of the innocent.

Wolfe recalls there were 12 un-machined Climax blocks (provided by CC in the UK, not cast in Australia as some sources would have it- which were progressively sold when fully machined) as well as a good stock of pistons and rings, Wolfe made Climax main bearing studs on the old Herbert capstan lathe- no Coventry Climax engines were bench tested in Maidstone- that work had all been done in Richmond.

 

Jack in the BT17 Repco 620 4.4 at Oulton Park in 1966, Brabham’s only race in the car (N Tait)

 

RB620-E4

4.3 litre

BRO 1966.

Sent to the UK at short notice and fitted to the Brabham BT17 sportscar, the only Group 7 car MRD ever made- a car acquired by Nigel Tait in mid 2018.

Hallam instructed Irving to build this engine, which had not been scheduled and interrupted the F1 build program, causing ructions internally- in fact the engine was a 3 litre F1 unit, which was pulled down and rebuilt to 4.3 litres in capacity.

Producing circa 350 bhp, the motor had considerable blow-by, which was addressed with a dose of ‘Bon Ami’ washing powder down the inlet trumpets, to bed in the rings.

Irving in his autobiography records that his suggestion of a teaspoon of Bon Ami sprinkled into the air-intake had been interpreted as a teaspoon full into each cylinder! The engine, as a result, ‘had to be dismantled to get rid of the abrasive, which had smoothed up the bores nicely but had enlarged them by about six-thou. The engine was running again by Sunday evening and was duly crated and sent off by air…’ Irving wrote.

It was ironic that Nigel would buy the car whose 620 engine he had worked on in 1966 five decades later albeit then fitted with a 5 litre 740 V8 the second owner acquired with the car when sold by Brabham.

The blow-by was caused by distortion of the dry sleeves which was solved by the adoption of wet sleeves in the 700 and 800 series blocks.

April 1966

Returned to RBE and dismantled as at July 1968. Scrapped

 

(M Gasking)

 

The document above is Mike Gasking’s RB620 reference note to check the timing of the engines before testing it. Gold, isn’t it!

 

RB620-E5A

3 litre

BRO 1966

Second 3 litre engine used by Denny in the French GP

Ongoing development of the 3 litre 620 V8’s yielded 310 bhp @ 7500 rpm and 260 bhp from 6000 to 8000 rpm

E5 had one new block

 

RB620-E6B

3 litre

BRO 1966

E6 rebuilt with 3 new blocks

July 1968 ‘Now in South Africa’- Luki Botha ex- BRO

 

E6 RB620 dyno plots by Nigel Tait

 

RB620-E7A

3 litre

BRO 1966

Dyno tested on 20 and 27 June, 12th (Wade Climax 133 cam) , 14th ,19th (133 cam) and 27th (after second rebuild) July 1966

 

(G Bartils- Wolfe)

 

Given the pages of details on this motor, it appears that it was used as a development engine at RBE at least until the dates recorded above.

E7 rebuilt with 1 new block

Dave Charlton, South Africa ex-BRO

 

(G Bartils- Wolfe)

 

 

Repco Brabham RB620 3 litre (Repco)

 

The RB620 first coughed into life in March 1965 in the Doonside Street, Richmond Engine Lab and was still winning races in Australia into the seventies- it had a nice long life.

In all of the bullshit about who gets credit for this motor, having listened to lots of different people and read all manner of material Brabham is its conceptual designer. His outline to the Repco board was a simple race engine comprising the Olds F85 block, SOHC, two-valve heads and fuel injection.

The detail designer inclusive of ALL of the drawings was Phil Irving, with Brabham ‘keeping an eye over his shoulder’ during those late night sessions in the UK at Phil’s flat in early 1965 with the Repco design team finessing ports, valve sizes and bibs and bobs after Phil was given the flick by Frank Hallam. Or resigned, depending upon the account.

Hallam marshalled the forces of the clever artisans of Maidstone to build it- a considerable contribution in itself.

Developmental issues in use involved various elements and solutions.

The ‘Fordson Major’ tractor oil pump gears were machined from steel after the 1966 Sandown Tasman failure.

The Lucas fuel distributor ‘was originally driven by the portside camshaft at the rear. After the South African disaster (in fact after Sandown) where the belt failed while the engine was winning its first GP Phil moved the distributor into the front of the valley and it was driven by a common shaft with the Bosch ignition distributor…The Lucas petrol injection is referred to as a fuel distributor rather than a ‘metering unit’ in that it does not pump fuel to each injector. The fuel is supplied by a 100 psi (‘fuel bomb’) pump to the fuel distributor which meters the fuel to each injector’ wrote Rodway.

Wolfe ‘We started fitting stronger dry liners after, i think, Monaco as a liner split. Jack sent the engine back to Maidstone and we bored the cracked liner out and found a cavity under the crack. (The liners in the 600 blocks were cast into the aluminium by Olsmobile) From then on we just shrunk the liners in, after boring out the cast in liners we heated the blocks, took the liners out of the dry ice and dropped them in. The 700 and 800 blocks had wet liners.’

 

 

The newspaper advertisement above is a very early one, the car shown is BT19 with ‘E2’ 2.5 fitted whilst in Australia early in 1966. Repco have no race wins to promote just yet, but they would come soon enough.

 

RB620-E8

3 litre

BRO 1966

Assembly on 23 June 1966

July 1968 ‘Now in Switzerland’ – to Guy Ligier (France) ex-BRO then to Silvio Moser?

 

(G Bartils- Wolfe)

See Michael Gasking’s dyno test data sheet below on E8-306 bhp @ 7750 rpm in November 1966- amazing to think Jack won the World Title with a smidge under 300 bhp that year.

 

(Repco Collection)

 

RB620-E9

4.4 litre

Rod ‘Supplied to Bob Jane after rebuild on 3 November 1967’

July 1968 At RBE dismantled. Scrapped

 

RB620-E10

4.4 litre

Bob Jane- fitted to Jane’s Elfin 400 in late 1966- first raced in the 1967 Tasman Rounds, this engine was the first customer motor sold by RBE as against works engines used by Brabham

 

Bob Jane, Elfin 400 Repco ‘620’ 4.4 litre, Lakeside Tasman meeting 1967 (W Byers)

 

Bob Jane rebuilt and sold the 400 to Victorian Ken Hastings after Bevan Gibson’s tragic Easter 1969 Bathurst death in the car but sans engine.

M Richardson acquired the engine for a boat

Click here for an article on the Jane 400; https://primotipo.com/2018/04/06/belle-of-the-ball/

 

 

Jack Brabham and Commerce…

 

Jack was a tough nut, he was in the business of motor racing, not motor sport, after all.

Repco’s spare parts business was enhanced in that Jack sold cars fitted with engines which in theory at least, were on loan to him as part of his sponsorship arrangements with Repco…

Wolfe ‘We never ever received a going engine back from Jack. Not even the Indy engines. Jack sold anything he could get. In 1967 five Repco Brabham engines started the South African Grand Prix- Jack and Denny were the only ones with our (RBE) engines. The others were Jack’s deals’- that is engines fitted to cars sold by Jack to other drivers.

‘Don’t get me wrong, Repco didn’t worry. I had to write up a (internal) sales docket for each engine sent to the UK but there was no payment made, we were sponsoring BRO. But Jack was a lethal businessman and i don’t blame him…It was in his interests to not be specific about which engine is which (in terms of keeping track of individual engines)

‘…he sent back the remains of BT19 to Australia, all that there was, was a very dilapidated chassis…a very clever restorer called Jim Shepherd did a brilliant job…i don’t know who paid the bill but it wouldn’t have been Jack. Repco purchased the BT19 from Jack but every time i ever talked to him at various Adelaide GP’s and wherever since he kept saying he owned it.’

 

Charles McGrath and ‘Deals on Wheels’ Jack Brabham after their 1966 successes (Repco)

 

Frank Matich picked up the theme in a September 2012 MotorSport interview with Australian journalist Michael Stahl.

‘Matich says his 1964 season was handicapped by the absence of his best Climax engine and the forged rods and pistons he’d had made in the US. Repco was proposing to build Climaxes under licence, Brabham had suggested they borrow Matich’s for development.

He was again leading at the next round, Lakeside (having started from pole at Warwick Farm) when his cobbled-together Climax blew up. “Denny Hulme came over and said, “Frank we’ve got the same bits, I worry we might have the same problems”. I said “What do you mean the same bits?”, he said, “Well I’ve got your pistons and rods”.

“And this was what Jack did a lot. He was f**kin’ ruthless. He was an old villain! He’d look you in the eye and just laugh at you. You’d get the shits with him, but there was no point, he’d just do it to you the next time. That’s how he won”.

‘Earlier this year (2012), Brabham was named one of Australia’s living treasures. Matich doesn’t dispute that for an instant’.

“Well he is a national treasure! Mate, I admire the bloke. Anything I say that’s critical, please don’t take it the wrong way. I’ve been bitten by him, but I just put it down to being a mug. I knew what he was like, because i’d been told by Bruce and others. But we’ve always been friendly. We never had cross words” Frank concluded.

Let it be said that FM was not exactly a ‘shrinking violet’ himself!

Name a World Champion who wasn’t or isn’t a tough nut! Jack could charm the birds from the trees when required but he was a hardened professional who understood what it took to win and his market worth from his earliest pro-Speedway years in the late forties.

Without doubt every dollar invested in BRO by Repco was returned tenfold by Jack and the team.

 

Jack Brabham customer deals? Team Gunston launch prior to the 1967 Rhodesian BP at Bulawayo, Sam Tingle and John Love, both Repco 620 powered. #4 Tingle’s LDS Repco built by Louis Douglas Serrier and #1 Brabham BT11 Repco ‘with Cooper suspension’ (wheels.24.co.za)

 

RBE Dyno House…

The test house, ‘down the back’ of the Mitchell Street site was ‘Designed by the Repco Architect and Ross Kirkham who was the Manager of the Engine Lab (in Richmond) and by the way a brilliant engineer’ wrote Nigel Tait.

‘The concept was that the exhaust from the engine went into a space in the walls which was cleverly attenuated and there was no back pressure or need for silencers.’

‘Ross, no longer with us sadly, was one of the nine in the Automotive Components Ltd buyout in 1986 and for quite some years he was the Manager of the ACL Bearing Company in Launceston (Tasmania)’.

 

RB test house at Maidstone- first stage, engine testing continued at Richmond until the second stage of the building was completed (R Wolfe)

 

Wolfe recalls ‘a tape recording of Mike and Barty testing the ’66 German GP engine..’ (where is that Rod?) ‘the second test house was built a fair bit later and the hydraulic dyno added’.

The conditions in Doonside Street Engine Lab in Richmond were altogether more Dickensian with Rod’s favourite photo the one below of Mike Gasking on the dyno and Nigel Tait manning the throttle with his wedding tackle rather too close to the action for me- neither protected by a safety wall.

The Dyno was ‘actually in a temporary tin shed 100 metres down Doonside Street with no acoustic sound absorbing on walls or roof. And the tube from the exhausts went straight out into the open air. The noise was so great that Vickers Ruwolt who had their factory across the road said the cracks in their wall was caused by us! Quite likely’.

‘The front entrance to our building was known internally as “Lavatory Lane” since that’s where they were’ recalled Tait. Wolfe’s response- ‘World Championship Winning F1 engine built in a Tin shed on Lavatory Lane, Melbourne, Australia’…

 

(Repco)

 

Mike Gasking was almost the Repco ‘in house model’, he is in so many of the PR shots in part because it was his role to assemble and test the engines but no doubt also due to his youthful good looks!

Gasking recalls Ron MacLaine and Peter Telford from Repco Head Office at 618 St Kilda Road as the pair who contracted David Holmes as the official Repco photographer across the group.

‘We were not very good at publicity with many of the dyno shots done at very short notice, so i always had to dress well’.

 

(Repco)

 

‘The noise in the dyno room was unbelievable and frightened most everybody. You can see with the 4.2 Indy engine percolating very well (at Maidstone above), everybody had left the room except the photographer and me. Then i would work the engine as you can see, my photo says it was around 7000 rpm. I have the Db reading somewhere.’

‘To think we ran fifth at Indy (Revson in 1969) was fantastic. Norman Wilson and Don Halpin were there, i only did the dyno work and final assembly- notice no guards or other protection.

I can’t recall ever an angine failure on the Dyno. We ran the 2.5 and 3 litre in excess of 9000 rpm or a bit more but did not necessarily tell Jack or Denny about this!’ quipped Michael.

Australian engine builder/race engineer/driver mentor and allround guru Peter Molloy recalls it as ‘spooky with the controls in the room, years back i was in THE room, with Mike doing (John) Harvey’s 2.5 and was glad to get out’.

‘I have seen a flywheel ring gear split and spear the wall separating Merv’s (Waggott) office from the Dyno Room at Waggott Engineering (in Greenacre, Sydney). It had the effect of wanting to hitch your pants up!’

 

1967

 

Denny, BT24 ‘740’ Mosport 1967

 

The ‘sheer economy’ of Ron’s 1967 BT24’s always blows me away.

One of my favourite GP cars had just enough of everything- power, torque, chuck-ability and forgiving handling, it was as aerodynamically efficient as anything out there at the time and more reliable than other machines up front.

The only thing it didn’t have much of was weight…Oh, it didn’t use much fuel either.

 

RB640-E11C

2.5 litre

David McKay- fitted to McKay’s Scuderia Veloce ex-works Jack Brabham 1967 Tasman car BT23A raced by Greg Cusack, Phil West and others

Rod ‘8 November 1967 E11B sent out for display (no record of return)’

Rod ‘3 January build up’ and 9 January 1968 E11C dyno 265 bhp’

Rebuilt with 700 Series block, described as 740 in July 1968

2.5 litre 640 Series V8’s gave around 277 bhp and were 6 Kg lighter than the preceding 620 2.5

Rod’s diary notes delivery, after a rebuild, to SV on 16 June 1969

I Harvey for a boat- ex-McKay

The engine has turned full circle- fitted to the BT23A owned by the National Automotive Museum as an RB740 E11C 2.5 litre

 

RB640-E12

2.5 litre

July 1968 At RBE dismantled. Scrapped

RBE/BRO had a full-on attack on the 1967 Tasman- two cars with Jack racing BT23A and Denny a BT22. Am guessing this was one of the float of engines used that summer

Rebuilt with 700 Series block, described as 740 in July 1968

 

One of the 1967 Tasman ‘640’ 2.5 Brabham Repco’s in the Levin paddock (M Fistonic)

 

 

 

 

 

Denny not best pleased with his Brabham BT22 ‘640’ 2.5 at Wigram in 1967 (Classic Auto News)

 

RB640-E13

2.5 litre

The Repco lists I have do not mention it but this engine was first fitted to the RC Phillips owned Brabham F2 BT14 raced by John Harvey in 1967.

The car, prepared by Peter Molloy when sorted was quick, inclusive of a ‘Diamond Trophy’ win at Oran Park later in the year.

When Spencer Martin retired from racing, having won two Gold Stars in 1966 and 1967 Jane hired Harvey to replace him- and acquired the BT14 with this engine.

For whatever reason, Jane’s team removed the motor and fitted it to Jane’s Brabham BT11A- rather than race the BT14 which had its teething problems behind it.

 

The BT14 was sold.

John Harvey raced BT11A in the 1968 Australian Tasman rounds.

E13 was then fitted to Jane’s ex-Brabham 1968 Tasman car – the Brabham BT23E which was raced by Harvey from 1968-1970.

Rod ‘3 January On dyno 259 bhp’

Rod ‘9 January 1968 E13B delivered to Bob Jane’

Rebuilt with 700 Series block, described as 740 in July 1968

To Peter Simms and fitted to BT23A in the modern era. Is now the spare engine of BT23A in the hands of the National Automotive Museum as RB740 E13B 2.5 litre (with E11C fitted to the car)

For the sake of completeness BT23E was also fitted with RB830 V8’s later in its life- the two 830’s were ex-Brabham BT31 1969 Tasman car (Sandown Tasman and Bathurst Gold Star). Rodway Wolfe recalls being instructed to deliver/allow the collection of these engines by Bob Jane Racing free of charge

 

RB40-E14

2.5 litre

July 1968 ‘Never completed’- described as 740- rebuilt or built again with 700 Series block

 

RB640-E15B

2.5 litre

July 1968 ‘Block only- at RBE’- described as 740

Rod 4 February 1969 ‘E15 returned for overhaul from Geoghegan’

17 June 1969 ‘started block changeover’- Wolfe diary

Used by John McCormack in his Elfin 600C- replacing the ex-Brabham BT4 Coventry Climax FPF first fitted to that chassis, in 1970

Then to Bob Wright for his Tasma (nee-Wren) Repco in Tasmania

 

RB640-E16

2.5 litre

Fitted to Leo Geoghegan’s ex-works Clark Lotus 39 Coventry Climax FPF 1966 Tasman car

Described as 740 in July 1968

Engine adapted beautifully into this chassis by John Sheppard and Bob Britton creating one of the prettiest of all sixties open-wheelers. An iconic car in Australia- and still here restored, sadly in my view, in Coventry Climax form

For the sake of completeness the Lotus 39 was also fitted with RB730- Preston says E16 was fitted with 30 Series heads- so at that stage is a 730

Later the 39 was fitted with an RB830 V8 in 1969/1970- perhaps this engine with 800 block?

Rod ‘Leo Geoghegan’s engine returned to the factory after bearing failure on 6 January 1969’. ‘8 January Geoghegan engine E16C on dyno’

Mark Beasy advises he has E16 640 Series- ‘with a hole in it! Would like to get the rest of the castings and turn it into a coffee table one day’ !

E16 730 was fitted to the Rennmax BMW sportscar circa 1971. Doug McArthur acquired the engine from Leo Geoghegan after Leo sold the Lotus 39- the Rennmax Repco is still fitted with the engine all these years later, I think its 3 litres in capacity now and owned in 2019 by Jay Bondini in Melbourne.

Click here for a feature article about the Clark/Geoghegan Lotus 39 Climax/Repco;

https://primotipo.com/2016/02/12/jim-clark-and-leo-geoghegans-lotus-39/

 

Repco Brabham RB740 (Repco)

 

Norman Wilson led the team which designed ‘740’, a masterful extension of the original 620 but with a bespoke block cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne.

It was designed in such a way that the 20 Series heads, front case etc bolted to the new block thereby allowing the upgrade of the original motor cost-effectively.

Use of the ’40 Series’ exhaust between the Vee design was dictated by Tauranac or Tauranac and Brabham rather than the ’30 Series’ which, whilst designed at the time, came later in a production sense when twinned with 700 or 800 block to create the ultimate Tasman 2.5 engines.

‘The redline was 8200 rpm or as Jack said 8800 at a pinch!’ quipped BT24 owner Brian Wilson.

 

Cary Taylor, Bob Ilich, John Muller and Roy Billington in 1967 (Repco)

 

Brian Wilson ‘The car above is Brabham BT24-1 (a car he owned and raced for some years) A more common sight at GP’s was the cam-covers off (than the view above).  Wear on the cams was an issue with the 740 engines. Peter Molloy fixed it by cutting microscopic holes in the lower section of the cam lobes’.

Rod Wolfe ‘It was not a problem on the 3 litre 40 Series (740), may have been on the 2.5 engines, but not enough for us to worry about it. Denny won in 1967 with our standard 740 Series. On the quad-cam (860) it sure was, it’s what destroyed our chances in 1968.’

‘Mike Costin’s ran cast Iron cams with steel buckets in the Ford Cosworth FVA after they had problems. We ran steel cams and steel buckets in our FVA (860) engines. I reckon that’s why we had collapsed cam buckets. Remember Phil (Irving) specified cast iron cams in our early engines’.

We will come back to the problems with 860 a little further on in this article.

 

RB740-E17

3 litre

BRO 1967

740 Series 3 litre engines developed around 350 bhp @ 8400 rpm

 

RB740-E18

3 litre

BRO 1967

Nigel Tait advises Alan Hamilton’s Tiga hillclimber has E18-740 fitted to it. Before that the motor was fitted to Roger Harrison’s Elfin 600C hillclimb car- the Tiga succeeded it.

Nigel has a spare block which is E18A- ‘My E18A has had a rod through the side but is welded up and renumbered’.

 

RB740-E19

3 litre

BRO 1967

Brian Wilson communicated that ‘The 740 engine in BT24-1 was E19. This engine was in the car when Basil van Rooyen got it from Jack in South Africa. Still in it when we had it. Amazing. The engine in BT24-1 now has no number. We built it up from scratch here as a spare.’

‘Jochen apparently drove the spare BT24 (BT24-3) a few times early in 1968 (he did, in South Africa and Monaco- whilst Jack assessed the 860 as ‘race ready’ and Dan Gurney raced it at Zandvoort as a third BRO entry) It actually finished some races unlike the RB860 engine BT26’s. The spare BT24 is the car which ended up in Switzerland looking a bit like a Lotus 49 and with a DFV. It was being restored in that form I last heard’.

 

(N Tait)

 

RB740-E? (BR 740/127E RAC)

Nigel Tait recently acquired Brabham BT17, ‘the engine number is ‘BR 740/127E RAC’, clearly not stamped by us at Repco.

Rod Wolfe observed ‘Is it possible that it had to be officially stamped for a particular race event, eg Healey ran a 740 3 litre in the Le Mans 24 Hour. In the US the Indy car guys had some strict rules.

When Jack arrived at Indy (in 1968) we got an urgent request for money to be paid before we could run ‘Repco’ on the side of the car. Also we had the latest Magnaflux crack-tester in Maidstone but for Indy all the engine internals had to have certificates from a registered aircraft crack-tester company…’

 

RB740-E20

3 litre

BRO 1967

 

RB620-E21

July 1968 ‘At RBE dismantled’.

Scrapped – block South Africa

 

RB620-E22

4.4 litre

In production as at 30 June 1967 for Frank Matich who raced two Matich SR3 sportscars in most of the 1967 Can-Am Championship.

He then raced one of the cars (having sold another in the US) back in Australia giving Chris Amon a comprehensive belting in the ex-works Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 350 Can-Am in the sportscar supporting events which were part of the Australian 1968 Tasman rounds.

There are plenty of details about their tussles that summer in this feature on the Ferrari P4/350 Can-Am;

https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/

 

Matich, Matich SR3 Repco 620/720 4.4 at Calder, late 1968 (unattributed)

 

This engine was sold by Matich to Bob Jane.

Janey found a great home for it in creating one of Australia’s most iconic sports-sedans, the John Sheppard built Holden Torana GTR-XU1 Repco 620 4.4, the engine bay of which is shown above.

Sheppo is well advanced with a recreation of this car, it will be a joy to behold. Elfin Historic Centre owner Bill Hemming has the Elfin 400- it will be intriguing to know the engine number of Bill’s engine and the numbers of John’s ‘cache’ of Repco V8’s!

 

John Harvey driven, Bob Jane owned Holden Torana GTR-XU1 Repco 620 4.4 at Wanneroo Park in 1971. John Sheppard’s attention to preparation detail in all of his cars ‘concours’ (R Hagarty)

Article here on Australian Sports Sedans including some information on the Sheppard/Jane Torana Repco;

https://primotipo.com/2015/06/30/hey-charger-mccormacks-valiant-charger-repco/

 

RB740’SSS’-E23

3 litre

‘SSS’- Short Stroke Special experimental lightweight, magnesium 700 block. Aluminium liners, magnesium pistons, light 2.5 litre crankshaft and 5 litre head- 1.9 inch inlet and 1.6 inch exhaust valves

Preston writes ‘A 3 litre 740 Series engine E23 was rebuilt with a magnesium 800 series cylinder block and later scrapped’

 

RB620-E24

3 litre

Scrapped

 

RB720-E25

5 litre

Rod ‘2 January 1968 completed and despatched’ in preparation for the Tasman Series sportscar support races

To Bob Jane ex-Don O’Sullivan

 

RB730-E26 X ‘Experimental’

5 litre

Rod ’22 November 1967 Sent for Repco advertising in Adelaide’

Later built as 740 for Bob Jane and fitted to the McLaren M6B sporty

 

RB740-E27 X

5 litre

Sold to A Griffiths for a hillclimb car, later to John Cussins

 

RB840-E28 X

3 litre / 5 litre ? Aluminium block

‘Mock up parts used in E28’ Don Halpin

 

(M Bisset)

 

Repco and Innovation- The Diagonal Port 850 Series Engine Program…

 

So far I’ve not done features on the experimental 50 Series engine or the definitive, problematic 1968 quad-cam, gear driven, thirty-two valve Repco Brabham RB860 3 litre F1 engine- Repco’s DFV challenger if you will.

So we need to go into a bit of detail for the purposes of this engine-number exercise but not too much as I will come to each engine in due course in feature pieces.

Repco, Brabham and Tauranac read the play well for 1967, the mainly all new 740 did the job but only because the Ford Cosworth DFV- which won upon its debut at Zandvoort, was unreliable in its first year- without doubt the Lotus 49 Ford was the fastest car that year, driven as it was by Messrs Clark and Hill.

For 1968 ‘they all’ as far as I can see agreed they needed a more powerful engine given the number of DFV’s in circulation that year- Team Lotus, McLaren, Matra International and Rob Walker had the motors- the DFV won all but the French GP as it transpired, Ickx took that one in a Ferrari 312.

Frank Hallam, to his credit, pursued the innovative diagonal port path then also being blazed by BMW with their Apfelbeck 1.6 litre F2 engines.

Nigel Tait ‘The idea of the diagonal port quad cam engine is to obtain maximum airflow, hence power. With the inlet valves placed diagonally rather than side by side their theoretical diameter is greatest. But the opportunity for siamesing the ports is lost so this means there have to be inlets and exhausts on each side of the cylinder banks. Thus 16 inlets (and injectors) and 16 exhausts in total.’ See the photographs which illustrate the point.

Depending upon which account you believe the engine either gave about 400 bhp without development or not that much after a lot of development- circa 360 bhp.

The really important aspect here is the time taken to develop the 850, before, eventually the engine was put to one side.

 

RB850-E30

3 litre Radial- four valve engine bench tested but never installed in a car

360 bhp @ 7600 rpm with twin plugs and dual ignition to improve combustion

Rod ‘8 November 1967 Had the 750 cylinder heads vacuum impregnated (to fix porosity)

Rod ’13 January 1968 E30 start-up 365 bhp @ 9200 rpm’

Now owned by Nigel Tait

When I composed the photograph below at ‘Shifting Gear’ in 2015 I was juxtaposing the conservative BT19 and in particular its 620 engine with the ‘radical or edgy’ nature of 850.

I love the fact that Repco- Frank Hallam had a crack at gaining the ‘unfair advantage’ with this approach having two World Titles under their belts. His error of judgement, given that time was rapidly ticking, was to persevere with it long after his Chief Engineer, and others suggested it was time to move on.

Lets come to Chief Engineer Norman Wilson’s perspective in a moment.

 

(M Bisset)

 

In that lost time context Rod Wolfe’s 22 November 1967 diary note ‘Forwarded 850 Series mock-up to BRO’ is really interesting.

I mean in that if the shit had not already started to hit the fan in terms of the degree of difficulty Tauranac was going to have trying to adapt the engine with all of its induction and exhaust plumbing challenges to his spaceframe chassis for 1968- it well and truly would have when the engine mock up arrived at MRD.

With the notoriously conservative Tauranac and Brabham- very successfully so I might add, vehemently opposed to the 850, Hallam finally gave Norman Wilson and his team their head in developing the 860 motor.

But it was all too late.

Using the Tasman series in whole or part as a developmental exercise was a factor in the success of 620 and 740. Jack did only a limited 1968 Tasman campaign in a 740 2.5 engined Brabham BT23E with the 2.5 830 Series making its race debut in the final Tasman round at Sandown. 860 was not raced as it was not ready and not built in 2.5 litres in any event- there was not the time to do so.

RB860 is much maligned but should not be- the Rindt/Brabham BT26 860 combination were very fast in 1968 when the engine held together, which was not often and never for too long.

Lets not forget Jochen put the circa 400 bhp BT24 860 on pole at Rouen and Mosport- and started from grid two at Zandvoort and grid three at the Nürburgring- so the thing was not a slug, but reliability was woeful.

All of this was capable of being made good, in fact the motors fundamental problem was similar to that experienced by the DFV in 1967.

Norman Wilson ‘We discussed and explored a radial valve idea (for 1968) but we ended up using a combination of new ideas and old. What we finished with was the lower 800 Series blocks with twin overhead camshafts, four valves to the cylinder heads but without the radial valve idea’.

‘The radial valve thing didn’t work. Originally it was made so the gas went in and rotated. But this was really a blind spot Frank had. The gas went in and the heavier fractions of the gas got centrifuged to the outside’.

‘When you are lighting a fire in the combustion chamber you light the richest portion of the mixture first because that is the bit that will burn better faster. And with the spark plug in the centre we were igniting a very lean mixture. The problem was with the best engine we produced we had a 56 degrees ignition advance and so the piston is only half way up the cylinder at ignition. The pressure before it reaches top dead centre is just incredible and that’s negative work’.

‘Frank really wanted to do it, was absolutely desperate to do it. I think this is probably where the disagreements with Jack started with Frank. Frank was pushing this thing, it was stretching our resources more then it should have’.

‘I must be quite honest. I knew this would happen but I just never thought it would be as bad as it was. So we are into hindsight again. At the time you are flat out trying to get the 1968 engine built’.

‘I cobbled up some cylinder heads (the 50 Series) and went up to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (in Fishermans Bend) to get them cast. We put two plugs in different positions away from the centre, but there were virtually no water spaces because of the complexity of the porting.’

‘We did what we could as a cobble up to try to get some dyno figures and see if we could ignite the mixture on the outside, the rich part, and get the thing to work. But it was quite obvious after talking to Jack about it that if we did get the thing to work it was pointless because Ron wouldn’t use it anyway (because of the installation difficulties in the chassis). I think this was the first sort of real breakdown between Frank and Jack.’

The 50 Series heads were never used in a car ‘In fact the engine (850 prototype) would have only done probably 15 – 20 dynamometer hours’ concluded Norman Wilson.

However, at the end of the unsuccessful 1968 season a confluence of events resulted in Repco Brabham’s withdrawal from F1. These were Brabham’s need for a competitive engine in 1969 with the DFV his preference, Repco Ltd having a new Managing Director when Charles McGrath stepped down in 1967 (he remained as part-time Chairman until 1980) and the fact that the company had largely achieved its brand building globally via the most cost effective three year raid on the World F1 Championship ever staged.

And all of this from an outfit that had not built an engine from scratch of any sort, let alone a race engine before 1965.

But lets for now leave the radial-valve 850, short block 2.5 litre 830 and 3 litre 860 and the 700 Series ‘long block’ Big Muvva 4.2, 4.8 and 5 litre 760 engines for the feature article they all deserve.

Back to the count, and the 860 engine shortly…

 

RB840- E31

2.5 litre

Bob Jane

 

RB840- E32

2.5 litre

Rod ’13 January 1968 magnesium block engine 264 bhp’ (Tasman engine)

Scrapped

 

Jochen Rindt in. Brabham BT24-3 at Monaco in 1968, perhaps fitted with E37 740?

 

RB740-E37

3 litre

BRO 1968

Rod ’11 April 1967 E37 3 litre 740 sent to BRO 330 bhp’

At the end of the 1967 season Jack and Denny’s BT24’s were sold with engines. Chassis BT24-3 was raced, as written earlier, by Jochen Rindt and once by Dan Gurney in earlier 1968- perhaps this was the engine fitted to that chassis?

 

(Repco)

 

The Engine assembly area at Maidstone…

Rod Wolfe ‘From left to right- Michael Gasking, Don Halpin, Michael Clement aka ‘Rivella’ a Swiss ‘who didn’t know a word of English’, Graeme Bartils and John Mepstead.

Tait ‘That’s an interesting photo. The quad cam engines shown are almost certainly 4.2 Indy engines because they appear to be 700 Series blocks (as against the 3 litre F1 jobbies which used the short 800 Series block). Also they have Repco-Brabham cam covers- the 4.8 litre and 5 litre engine for Frank Matich (fitted to the SR4) had “Repco” only. One of these 4.2 litre engines is my spare for the Matich SR4. In the same photo is a 2.5 litre or 3 litre 40 Series engine with its central exhausts’.

In looking at these Maidstone factory photos its interesting to see the way RBE geared up to produce the engines in commercial quantities with reliable spare parts back-up.

That is, spares were available and when ordered would fit.

This is in no small part due to Frank Hallam’s well documented by him, and agreed by others, process of both using his Capex budget to buy modern machinery and his maintenance budgets to properly look after and update older equipment.

As a consequence engines of a particular type were the same rather than bespoke- in the latter case requiring a lot of hand fettling to assemble and run. I have in mind the problems Dan Gurney had with the Weslake V12’s in writing this sentence. Cosworth Engineering of course geared up with modern machinery to build an enormous number of production racing engines.

 

(Repco)

 

The engine mill shown above is perhaps the first such tape- controlled mill in the country.

Rod Wolfe recalls that ‘When we first set it up Peter Holinger (Production Engineer) made a tape for the reader- the thing that looks like a fridge on the right of the machine. He set the (mill) table up and started up the machine. With a loud hydraulic roar the table moved, north, south and west and then east and with a loud grunt everything stopped and silence.’

‘A big blue light came on the control panel. Me being my usual kid from the bush, I asked Pete what the blue light meant? In typical very dry Peter Holinger style he said “It means it didn’t bloody well understand what I asked it to do!” All the boys were standing around watching and old Phil Irving wandered up and said “Well its done its first job successfully, it has brought all production in the shop to a complete standstill!” They were wonderful days’.

Nigel Tait points out that ‘In the background against the wall are three crankshaft making machines which for some odd reason we bought from the BMC (Zetland) plant in Sydney. I doubt they were ever used’. Rodway ‘You are right Nigel, I never saw one go at all. They were set up with all the tools and everything for the BMC crankshafts, but I am not sure which models. I think Frank Hallam did have intentions of using them but the budget reductions later brought it to a halt. Bill Santuccione worked on getting them going for a time so he would know their story’.

 

(Repco)

 

Geoff Walker, above, around 1968/9 milling a quad-cam cylinder head. It could have been for an 860 engine of 3 litres or 760 of 4.2, 4.8 or 5 litres. Geoff is recalled as a very good programmer of the NC (numerically controlled) equipment and came from one of the machine tool companies.

 

1968

 

RB860-E33

3 litre

BRO 1968

 

RB740- E38

3 litre

Bob Jane (makes no sense- the capacity I mean for Tasman racing)

 

RB740- E39

3 litre

Block only- South Africa

 

RB860-E40

3 litre

Dismantled

Rebuilt as 2.5 litre 830 for Bib Stillwell, ex-Brabham BT31, later Ian Ross and fitted to his Elfin 600C in the modern era

 

RB860- E42

3 litre BRO 1968

Fitted to Peter Simms BT26 in the modern era

 

(A Lewis)

 

RB860- E43

3 litre

Scrapped

In recent times built by the late Don Halpin into a 2.5 litre Tasman engine for the Will Marshall owned Brabham BT31 and most recently fitted into the Aaron Lewis restored ex-Brabham/Jane/Harvey Brabham BT23E

 

RB860- E44

3 litre

Not completed?

 

RB860- E45

3 litre

REDCO display mag block

 

The 700 and 800 Series ‘conventional’ four-valvers…

 

Note that the short 800 Series block engines were of either 2.5 litres ‘830 Series’ SOHC parallel two valve, crossflow type or 3 litre ‘860 Series’ DOHC four-valve crossflow type.

The large capacity four valve engines were all ‘760 Series’ of 4.2 ‘Indy’ and 4.8 and 5 litre ‘Matich SR4’ type

 

 

(B Watson)

Jack Brabham, sprouting wings- Brabham and Ferrari led that charge in F1, at Oulton Park contesting the International Gold Cup in August 1968.

He started the race one second adrift of Graham Hill on pole and DNF’d with an oil leak- Jochen lasted 8 laps less with a similar ailment. Stewart won in a Matra MS10 Ford in a year of dominance for Cosworth.

The background to the F1 860 V8 for 1968 we covered in the context of the failed radial valve 850 experiments.

As outlined, the net effect of persevering with 850 for too long was an under-developed 860 for 1968.

The 3 litre Repco Brabham 860 Series V8 was almost as nicely packaged as the ‘industry standard DFV’ albeit a bit heavier and was not built to be used as a stressed member of the car as the DFV was specified to be by Colin Chapman to Keith Duckworth.

RBE Chief Engineer Norman Wilson ‘The Cosworth DFV was different to the Repco-Brabham 860. The Cosworth engine was the first engine to be designed as a stressed member (in fact I think Vittorio Jano’s 1954 Lancia D50 may have that honour). The design philosophy of the crankcase and oil scavenging were all totally different. The 860 was a heavier but I think stronger engine, while the Cosworth was running sort of 9000 rpm we should have been looking to run 10000.’

A 400 bhp, reliable Brabham BT26A RB860 was a winning chassis in 1969 as indeed, twice, the BT26A Ford DFV was.

There were plenty of 860 engine failures during 1968, the fundamental problem was similar to that experienced with the DFV in 1967- torsional vibration of the valve gear which ‘…was wrecking the cam followers. And the solution to the problem was fairly simple. All we had to do was modify the cam drive like the Ford DFV engine and we could have fixed it.’ said Wilson interviewed in Simon Pinder’s Frank Hallam biography.

 

(Sutton)

 

Wilson ‘What happens is that at certain speeds the front of the crankshaft will tend to go a little bit like a tuning fork and as it rotates the front of the crankshaft oscillates back and forth and the oscillation is transferred up through the timing gears. It was making two of the camshafts do the same thing. So when the cam lobes were going around they were ruining the cam followers. The Cosworth engine had a little spring gizmo in the first timing gear to absorb this so it is not transmitted through the whole system.’

‘And Frank realised we needed something like this (after a discussion between Cosworth’s Mike Costin and Norman Wilson) and we were working at doing that when Charlie Dean arrived on the scene and said he thought it was a lubrication problem. That was the cause of a fair bit of argument between Charlie and i.’

‘The engine could have been as good as the Cosworth, there is no problem about that. It was a tiny bit heavier than the Cosworth but that really wasn’t the problem because we could have put the thing on a diet and saved some weight. The first thing we could have done is changed aluminium components to magnesium, so there was room for weight saving’.

Wilson ‘Really we should have fixed the camshaft drive, got rid of the rest of the projects and just gone for it’, where ‘gone for it’ means just concentrate on F1 not do F1, Tasman, Indy, Special Projects and customer engines…

Rodway picks up ‘the rest of the projects, ‘…I agree with Norm’s claims about other projects. We had one of our best engineers working on the crankshaft lathes from BMC. We were designing and building the Pontiac (303 cid race engine) for GM. We also machined a batch of Volvo cylinder heads and spent many hours dyno and car testing. Let alone machining Frank’s Austin 1800 cylinder block and fitting a Derrington head and Weber carbies…’

Whatever the commercial imperatives, all of the above impinged on the limited resources the team had for core programs in 1968- F1, Indy and customer needs globally.

 

Repco RB760 4.2 litre ‘Indy’ V8 (Repco)

 

Wolfe of the engine above ‘Possibly a 4.2 Indy engine, one of 3. It has the later sump with the scavenge pump fore and aft’. Tait ‘Its quite possibly the one used by Jack. Some years ago he told me that one of the two engines he had disappeared after being lent to Goodyear in the US’.

The one that’s in my SR4 at present seems to have been one of the first, if not the very first 4.2 quad cam. Its throttle slide upper cover has been milled from solid aluminium as opposed to later ones which were of cast magnesium. I came by this engine with help from Aaron Lewis who knew that Les Wright had removed it from his Brabham Buick in order to fit its Buick based engine- the engine number panel is blank. I have no idea how the Repco engine ended up in the Brabham Buick. The Matich SR4 didn’t ever race with a 4.2, though that’s all I had until I built up a 5 litre…’

Rodway Wolfe in relation to the V8 missing in the ‘States ‘The story I got was that the engine was being used by the Gulf Oil Company for research! I did try a few avenues a few years ago and drew a blank. As far as I recall…E35, E36 and E37 were the 4.2 Indy engines. I don’t recall what the 2.8 was. I still have the intake manifold for the disbanded 2.8’.

 

(I Lees)

 

Ian Lees fettling Jochen’s BT25-1 at Indy in 1968.

Tauranac’s BT25 was famously Brabham’s first monocoque chassis, interestingly, despite the BT25 and F1 BT26 coming together at MRD at about the same time Tauranac chose a tried and true spaceframe for his new F1 design- albeit with the use of sheet aluminium riveted and glued to the frame to add rigidity.

It does make you wonder why he didn’t do a variant of the Indy chassis for F1 in 1969- perhaps unwanted weight is the answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RB760-E35

4.2 litre

BRO Indy campaign in 1968/9

Fitted to Brabham BT25 chassis- engine despatched from Maidstone to Indianapolis at 1.30 pm on 28 May 1969, together with a very comprehensive inventory of spare parts running to 5 typed foolscap pages, inclusive of a 700 Series block.

Rod 29 February 1969, ‘Ordered new gear-cases for Indy engines to be cast in aluminium due to cracking’

Rod’s diary notes the departure of Norman Wilson and Don Halpin to Indy on 13 May 1969, and E35 sent to the US on 6 May 1969

One of the BT25’s, with 4.2 litre ‘760’ in situ at MRD in early 1978 (P Blood)

 

The photos are of the BT25’s being built at the MRD  works, at Byfleet, Surrey beside the canal. Many readers will be wistful at this view because quite a few of you did a stint working in this factory in either the Brabham or Ralt era.

 

RB760-E34

4.2 litre BRO Indy campaign in 1968/9

Fitted to Brabham BT25 chassis

Rod Wolfe’s diary records that on Thursday 11 April E34 4.2 litre ‘off dyno’ so it is safe to assume the car with engine fitted at MRD is the chassis raced by Jochen in 1968, fitted with engine E34, given the other engine, E35 did not leave Melbourne until 28 May 1968.

 

Three BT25 chassis being built at MRD in 1968 (P Blood)

 

‘The photos are of the two BT25’s being built early in 1968. It’s probably the third tub behind. It was not used until revised into the BT32 Offy-turbo Jack raced in 1970’ wrote Aaron Lewis who restored one of the BT25’s a couple of years ago, and fitted with engine E34- some of you may have seen David Brabham race the car in a tribute to Jack at Goodwood.

Lewis ‘I found my car hanging upside down from the roof of Bill Simpson’s North Carolina shop’.

 

RB760-E36

4.2 litre

Scrapped

Now owned by Nigel Tait- one of the engines fitted to his Matich SR4

BRO Indy campaign in 1968/9

In 1968 BRO entered one car for Jochen Rindt, he qualified sixteenth of thirty-three cars and was out after 5 laps with a holed piston, the race was won by Bobby Unser in an Eagle Offy.

Rod Wolfe’s theory in response to my question as to why the engine went kaboomba is as follows; ‘ No-one ever came up with an answer! Personally my theory is as follows. But I only hold an A-Grade Mechanic ticket so you might need greater brains than mine! The 4.2 Indy engines ran the later type sump with two scavenge pumps (one each end) the original Irving system used one scavenge pump at the front with an inertia valve in the sump.

Under acceleration the valve moved backward and opened a gallery at the sump rear and under braking the oil all moved forward and a gallery opened in the front. The 4.2 Indy engine, as said above, had a pump at both ends and was pumping oil mist and oil and air continually.

Jack had problems with this sump system with the gaskets being sucked into the sump. He cured this by fitting an extra screw between each original 5/16 inch stud. As with lots of engines the RB V8 uses oil spray under the piston for lubrication and cooling the piston crown. My own thoughts have always been that the combination of nitro-methane (fuel) and “perhaps” a diminished oil spray internally made that little difference and caused the detonation. All engines have a difference in cylinder temperature dependent upon coolant flow or their location in the block. I won’t bore you any more but the picture shows (below) it ran very hot’.

 

(R Wolfe)

Speaking of pistons, Nigel Tait chips in ‘Incidentally you may recall that our pistons were made from castings made at Richmond (Repco) by Jim Hawker. I understand that when Jack appeared at Indy with the 4.2 the scrutineers asked for the Certificate of Forging and they couldn’t believe the pistons came from castings!’

‘Jim Hawker was our Foundry Manager at Richmond. I’m pretty sure he accompanied Phil Irving as ‘tail end charlie’ on the first Repco Reliability Trial in the Chamberlain tractor. He was originally at Rolloy when it was owned by the Chamberlain family. He also made a V8 Peugeot from two 403 cylinder blocks. About as bizarre as the diesel Holden engine made by the delightful Ruggero Giannini but that another story!’ Nigel concluded.

I’ll avoid the Jim Hawker tangent other than to say his role at Chamberlain is covered in this article;

https://primotipo.com/2015/07/24/chamberlain-8-by-john-medley-and-mark-bisset/

The soundness and competitiveness of the 860/760 design was proved by Peter Revson’s performances with it in 1969.

He started the 500 from slot 33 and finished fifth and was stiff not to win the Rookie of The Year title- Mark Donohue started from position 4 and finished seventh and bagged the rookie award.

Doug Nye wrote that Peter’s Brabham Repco Indy result ‘effectively began the elevation of Revvie’s career from self-funded dilettante privateer into a genuine front-line professional racing driver.’

Later in the season Peter drove his BT25 760 4.2 to a win in the Indy 200 GP at the Indy Racing Park road course on 27 July.

This event was run over two 100 mile heats, Peter won heat 2 from Q3 ahead of Mario Andretti, George Follmer and Al Unser and was third behind Dan Gurney and Al Unser in Eagle Ford and Lola Ford respectively in the other heat- winning the event overall.

The point to be taken from both the Indy 500 fifth place finish, and the Indy 200 win is that the 4.2 760 engine seemed to have overcome the 860 ‘gremlins’ from the year before albeit without fitting the anti-torsional vibration spring ‘gizmo’ Norman Wilson wrote of earlier.

I wonder if for whatever reason the torsional vibration of the valve-gear was in part a function of the different blocks- the tall 700 and short 800? That is, the tall 700 didn’t have it whereas the short 800 did? The maximum quoted revs of both engines were the same- 8500 rpm for the 3 litre 860 and 4.2 litre 760.

The 760 4.8 litre and 5 litre V8’s fitted to Frank Matich’s Matich SR4 also did not have the valve-gear problem. The Matich example is not as good a test of the engine design’s endurance as the Indy successes in that the Australian Sportscar Championship rounds were much shorter and the competition nowhere near of the same depth- in essence FM was not pushing the SR4 as hard as Revson was his Brabham BT25. John Mepstead, who looked after FM’s 760 engines in 1969 and into 1970 can give us a perspective on this.

Its an intriguing question, keen to hear theories from you engineering types.

 

840 2.8 turbo inlet manifold from Rodway’s Repco Collection

 

RB840-E?

2.8 litre turbo-charged BRO Indy campaign 1968

Rod ‘800 block for 2.8 litre started’ 17 June 1969

This is a mystery engine in terms of its number. There is no doubt it was built and tested but none of the lists I have access to discloses its number.

Norman Wilson ‘Ron Tauranac wanted it. Ron felt we could have won with a turbo engine. In 1968 I had visited AiResearch and another turbocharger maker in Chicago. The engine used the 40 Series heads and we got some pretty good power out of it. We had a carburettor Jack supplied from BRM which was probably not a clever idea because with the very high G-forces which you get at Indianapolis there’s no way the thing would have worked properly’.

‘We needed fuel injection so we had proper control from both the drivers point of view and from a fuel consumption point of view because there was a fuel consumption limit…But fooling around with that SG carburettor and all that stuff was just another blind alley. We should have sat down and thought it through and not done it. We should have done the 4.2 litre and left it at that.’

 

Evolution of Cylinder Heads and Budget Constraints…

 

‘The first (20 Series) heads were cross flow but incorporated a throttle slide track as part of the casting, the 40 Series are centre exhaust and inlets in the valley…’- Wolfe.

Rod Nash then chimed in ‘…the 30 Series followed the 20 Series but Ron Tauranac vetoed the 30 Series as he wanted exhaust pipes in the Vee, for a more streamlined effect- the 30 Series didn’t eventuate until much later.

‘When we were testing new conrods, we didn’t want to risk compromising the 40 Series heads as these were our production heads at the time. So (when) we assembled the 30 Series heads and used then on the test engine, and found they gave more horsepower than the 40 Series. The result was too late to use in F1 (the first 830 2.5 was installed in the back of Jack’s BT23E at the final Tasman round in February 1968) so we used the 30 Series in the later Tasman 2.5 engines’.

Tait ‘We only had one size of the magnesium housings for the inlet tubes, so the only choice was to vary the height’.

Wolfe ‘Nigel is right there as unlike some other F1 engines our problem with the RBE engines was not getting air into the engine- it was to burn the fuel/air more efficiently that which was getting in there’.

‘In the 2.5 the longer inlets enabled the ability to use the air column compression effect to stuff a bit more in as the valve closed. This the area of building racing engines that costs so much to research. When we built the 760 quad-cam 5 litre we used the same valve sizes in the 860 3 litre quad-cam. Repco just didn’t have the money to spend on playing with valve sizes or inlet diameters’.

Peter Molloy then commented ‘What you are trying to say is you didn’t have ‘induction energy’ that increases the port velocity, called the ‘supercharge effect’ that gave you a later closing valve, one of the problems you had Rod was poor combustion. But we all go through theses scenarios, I loved getting the end result, understanding the energy that is a available in engine geometry.’

‘Remember the Three C’s- Calculators, Common Sense, Compronise’

‘And the fourth is Cash!’ added Tait.

 

1968-1969

 

Tasman 830’s…

 

 

Here is a rare photograph of German racer Dieter Quester in Bob Harper’s ex-Cooper Elfin 600C Repco ‘830’ 2.5 E29 during the 1969 Macau Grand Prix weekend.

Three 600C’s were built- this one, an FVA engined car for Hengkie Iriawan and a third for John McCormack. The latter was initially fitted with a 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF from John’s ex-Brabham BT4 1962 AGP machine, and later with a 740 Series RB V8 E15B for the final period of the ANF2.5 formula in 1970.

Garrie’s car was sold to Steve Holland (or was it Bob Harper) after the 1969 JAF Japanese GP at Fuji. Steve Holland was ‘out of his depth in the 600C at Macau’ so Bob Harper considered giving the drive to Dieter Quester who did a 2 min 41.5 seconds lap- jumping out of the BMW he raced that weekend.

Eli Solomon wrote that ‘…eventually Holland got the drive. Steve Holland’s issues with the #87 Elfin Repco V8 ended on lap 37 when he pulled out with suspension troubles, having been in 4th position’. Quite how he could have jumped out of the BMW sent for him by the factory into the Elfin is a bit clouded- but Quester’s few laps at Macau in 1969 is an obscure bit of Elfin and Repco history.

Further Elfin/Repco history is that GC took his only Gold Star round win aboard this chassis at Mallala in October 1969 when the car was back at Edwardstown for a freshen/rebuild.

Malcolm Ramsay raced the car in Asia in 1970 and throughout the Gold Star, won that year by Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 59B Waggott.

 

RB-830-E29

2.5 litre

BRO –

One engine initially built- and fitted into Brabham’s BT23E in the final 1968 Tasman round at Sandown for the race

Rod ‘8 January 1968 E29 830 2.5 on the dyno 278 bhp @ 8750 rpm’

Then to Elfin Racing Cars Garrie Cooper on 21 February 1969- fitted to GC’s Elfin 600C, raced in Asia then to Malcolm Ramsay as his 1970 Gold Star car.

Then fitted to Henry Michell’s Elfin 360 sportscar in 1971 after the end of the 2.5 litre ANF1- and still installed in that Elfin.

 

RB840-E31

2.5 litre

BRO 1968 Tasman for Brabham’s BT23E

Then to Bob Jane

 

RB840-E32

2.5 litre

BRO 1968 Tasman for Brabham’s BT23E

Scrapped

 

RB-830-E50

2.5 litre- Elfin Racing Cars Garrie Cooper- fitted to GC’s Elfin 600D, his 1970 Gold Star contender

Then fitted to Phil Moore’s Elfin 360 sportscar in 1971, as it still is

 

(The Matich SR4 fitted with 4.8 litre 760 ‘E41’ Repco)

 

Big Bertha- The Big Repco’s…

 

Frank Matich’s new Matich SR4 at Warwick Farm’…photo taken on the day of the cars first test run late in 1968, the ZF gearbox was changed to a Hewland LG gearbox in November 1969′ advises Derek Kneller.

‘It took at least 8 hours to change the ratios in the ZF ‘box due to the synchromesh, and you needed specialised tooling, it was easier to change the crown wheel and pinion. FM had two ZF ‘boxes set up with different ratios, if was far easier to change the whole ‘box’ Kneller recalls.

 

RB760-E41

4.8 litre

Frank Matich for the Matich SR4, winner of the 1969 Australian sportscar championship- this was his race engine throughout 1969. The motor was assembled by ‘Meppa’- John Mepstead, dyno tested and tweaked by him and then maintained by him throughout the year as he travelled with Matich during the season

Engine now owned by Nigel Tait, together with the SR4- we wrote an article about this car a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

See RB760-E48 ‘A second 760 4-cam was built when I came back from Sydney, a 4 cylinder 2.4 litre engine was built and fitted to Frank Hallam’s Volvo’ wrote John Mepstead.

 

Frank Matich SR4 and RBE General Manager Frank Hallam at Oran Park in late 1968 (Repco)

 

1969-1970

 

RB830-E47

2.5 litre

BRO for Brabham BT31

Rod Wolfe helped Jack assemble BT31 at Maidstone as told in our article linked below. Its interesting looking at Rod’s diary entries that week prior to the final, Sandown 1969 Tasman round.

Wednesday 12 February

BT31 arrived (unassembled in a box) at 3.45 pm. Brabham arrived at 8.30 pm- ‘BT31 assembly commenced’

Friday 14 February

4.15 pm took car to Calder for test

Sunday 16 February

Sandown International, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Chris Amon Ferrari Dino 246T, Jochen Rindt Lotus 49 Ford DFW, Jack Brabham, Brabham BT31 Repco 830

Rod ’28 February 1969 E47 ready for BT31′

7 April 1969 Rod records Brabham’s Easter Bathurst ‘Bathurst 100’ Gold Star win in BT31 and his lap record of 2:13.2 seconds

Several RB 830 2.5’s were built, the photo above is of Jack in BT31, his 1969 Tasman car, at Sandown the story of which is told here.

Rodway and I wrote an article about BT31- a car he owned for many years; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/26/rodways-repco-recollections-brabham-bt31-repco-jacks-69-tasman-car-episode-4/

Rod Wolfe advises both ‘BRO’ 830 V8’s were provided to Bob Jane Racing for use by John Harvey in Jane’s ex-Brabham, Brabham BT23E and the Bob Britton/Rennmax Engineering built ‘Jane V8’ Harvey raced in the 1970 Gold Star.

Where are these two motors now- of which E47 is one?

 

Brabham in BT31 with, probably engine E47 830 2.5 fitted at Sandown in early 1969 (R MacKenzie)

 

RB760-E49

5 litre- Frank Matich for the Matich SR4

Mepstead ran the engine on the Maidstone dyno on 29 December 1969, and again on 19 January 1970

Peak power was 558 bhp @ 7500 rpm and 392 lb ft of torque. The big, fat, flat torque curve stretched all the way from 5500 rpm-428 lb ft through 415 lb ft at 6500 to 392 lb ft at 7500 rpm

‘E49’ is the bad-arse Repco motor- the most powerful of all the engines inclusive of the later Repco Holden F5000, pushrod engines, the best of which were the flat-plane crank engines which maxxed out at 525’ish bhp

Rodway Wolfe recalls ‘The SR4 (5 litre) engine was brought back to Maidstone for an overhaul. There were only two guys capable of a proper rebuld. Don Halpin or John Mepstead. Mal Preston would not give either the time as he was under pressure from Charlie Dean for the F5000. So the SR4 engine sat fully dismantled on a trolley next to my desk. It stayed there for months and gradually the parts disappeared!!!’.

Nigel Tait chips in ‘…aha the mystery deepens, or does it? Derek Kneller assures me that the SR4 had its 5 litre in it when it was sent down to Repco but the Koni shockers went onto the A50. I’ve always wondered where the engine went’.

 

John Mepstead’s plot of 760 5 litre ‘E49’ power curve in January 1970- ‘only’ 558 bhp- if only that engine was built in January 1968- as well as SR4, for the 1968 Can-Am! (J Mepstead)

 

FM and the SR4 outside the Matich BP Servo in Castle Cove 1969 (B Caldersmith)

 

RBE760-

4.2 litre

Nigel Tait owns two engines for the SR4, the first was mentioned earlier in the article but lets now them to the count.

‘…the engine in my Matich SR4 at present is a 4.2 litre. The engine number panel is blank. This is the engine that we bought from Les Wright about 2002, I think, he had taken it from the Brabham BT21C Buick as this was the wrong engine for the car.’

What Nigel is alluding to is Les needed to fit the Buick engine to the Brabham as that was the motor it ran in period- and was therefore the motor it needed to have fitted in order to get a Log Book and Certificate of Description to compete in Australian Historic Racing. Therefore the luvverly 760 4.2 was surplus to his requirements, and duly sold to Nigel.

 

RBE760-E30 over-stamped to E34

5 litre

This motor is the second of Nigel’s SR4 engines and is ‘The spare I built up from a variety of parts I had. It is a true 5 litre capacity (unlike the 4.8 litre E41 first fitted to the SR4 in 1969 which was usually in press reports at the time quoted at 5 litres, but like E49 which raced in SR4 in 1970 and is now ‘missing’- having as written above, probably, progressively walked out the factory door)

The engine number has been changed but seems to be RB760 E30 overstamped to 34. I have marked it 5 litre’ Nigel advises.

 

Lionel Ayers, Rennmax Repco ‘740’ 5 litre, Karrussel, Lakeside 1973 (G Ruckert)

 

RB740-E48

5 litre- Lionel Ayers for MRC and later Rennmax Repco

12 May 1969 ‘5 litre for Lionel Ayers’ is this receipt of order or delivery of the engine?

 

Brewster with the Ex-Ayers Rennmax Repco 5 litre in the time Jim Phillips raced it (Tom Condon)

 

RB760- E51

5 litre

REDCO built for Jim Phillips / Hoot Gibson for the ex-Ayers Rennmax Repco

 

RB830-E53

3 litre

Don Halpin built for J Long boat

 

RB830- E54

2.5 litre

Don Halpin built for Will Marshall 1995, also a note to the effect ‘mag block’

 

Repco Brabham Engines Description and Specification Summary…

 

 

Obiter Dictum…

Is a Latin phrase meaning ‘by the way’ its used by Judges as a remark made in passing as they make their judgement upon the poor unfortunate before them.

In this context the important material below was provided by people in response to the article, they are ‘by the way Mark whilst you are standing in judgement just be aware of this’ –  important aspects of clarification, correction or context.

 

Without the Irving and Hallam Combination there would have been no World Championship…

Rodway Wolfe ‘The Hallam/Irving saga makes good reading but it wasn’t quite as it seems.’

‘We had to have Frank, I miss the guy, he was a machine-tool master. He only employed people that he trusted to do the job, he asked them to do the work using the method he specified. Lots of very skilled operators will not take instructions on how to do the job. As a result Frank was very careful of who he trained. He was obsessed with machine tools.

Phil was absolutely hopeless at “anything” other than design. He couldn’t work with people and was in his own little world. For example, when Phil finished a phone call he just hung up…no good bye or see you later…he just hung up at the end of a sentence and continued his drawing. Phil drove a beat-up old Land Rover diesel that had tears in the canvas top…at one stage the ACL employees next door complained to Frank that Phil used to scratch their cars when he arrived at work at 11am.

What I am getting at, is we had to have both of them. Without that combination there would have been no World Championship.’

Well said Rodway Wolfe.

 

Pay attention Frank! Norman Wilson, who succeeded Phil Irving as Chief Design Engineer holds a fuel metering unit circa 1967, with Frank Hallam, General Manager (Repco)

 

The Purchase of BT19 from Jack Brabham and its Restoration…

Nigel Tait ‘The BT19 was purchased by Repco from Jack Brabham at the instigation of Repco Director AB ‘Tony’ Avery, who later left Repco after contracting throat cancer. He is still around and I see him from time to time.’

‘I have the correspondence from Jack accepting the purchase price of $10,000 for the BT19. The car was (i think) actually sent to us from Japan, probably from Honda. It had a 2.5 620 engine at that time. I have previously noted that Don Halpin provided a 3 litre (E2) he had in exchange for the 2.5.’

‘The car was restored at Repco’s cost by Jim Shepherd (spelling?). Repco’s Warren Dick, of our Marketing and PR Division, was appointed for coordination of the project, while i with help from Don Halpin took over the project once completed. Warren kept a log of every single expense and only a few months ago i gave this to Repco to keep with the car.’

‘Once completed, the car was taken, mostly by me, to a great number of places interstate (eg Speed on Tweed) and the last time Jack drove it was during the last day of the Commonwealth Games Torch Relay at Albert Park in 2006.’

 

Brabham, BT19 at Albert Park during the soggy torch relay Nigel Tait describes (Getty)

 

Bibliography / Information Credits…

Rodway Wolfe Collection, Michael Gasking Collection, John Mepstead Collection, ‘From Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, ‘Mr Repco-Brabham: Frank Hallam’ Simon Pinder, Nigel Tait/Repco Archive, MotorSport September 2012 article by Michael Stahl and October 2011 article by Doug Nye

 

Photographs…

In addition to the above

Classic Auto News, Peter F Blood, Rob Hagarty, LAT, wheels24.co.za, Getty Images, Eoin Young Collection

Tailpiece: Happy Jack with one of the ’66 Championship winning RBE620’s…

 

(Repco)

 

That’s all folks- about 55 engines or so overall, but the count continues, do get in touch if you have information to add or suggested corrections to make.

 

Finito…