Archive for the ‘Icons & Iconoclasts’ Category

(B Howard)

The Light Car Club of Australia achieved a major promotional coup by securing Juan Manuel Fangio’s attendance at the fiftieth anniversary of the first Australian Grand Prix held at Sandown, Melbourne on 10 September 1978…

Here (above) the great man ponders his car during practice. Fangio raced a Mercedes Benz W196 2.5 litre straight-eight engined Grand Prix car, the design with which he won his 1954 and 1955 World Championships- whilst noting the two wins he took in Maserati 250F’s in 1954 before joining Mercedes from the French Grand Prix.

JMF wanted to drive in a Polo-Shirt as he did in the day but the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport would have none of that, hence the overalls over his normal clothes.

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/09/mercedes-benz-w196-french-gp-1954/

Fangio W196 on display behind the Sandown grandstand- the ‘Interstate Betting’ is a function of the place’s prime function- donkey races (mouserat159)

(S Dalton Collection)

Fangio hooks the big Mercedes into Dandenong Road corner at Sandown (I Smith)

The Sandown event created huge interest far beyond the racing fraternity, including articles in such unlikely places as the ‘Australian Womens Weekly’, normally the province of the Royal Family, cooking recipes and similar – such was the mans immense global stature decades after his last championship win in 1957. He won five F1 titles of course- in 1951 in an Alfa 159, 1954/5 Benz W196, 1956 Lancia-Ferrari 801 and the final in 1957 aboard a Maserati 250F.

It was the Argentinian’s first visit to Australia, he had planned to race in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games GP at Albert Park, a race won by Stirling Moss in a Maser 250F, but in the end conflicting commitments scuttled the idea. He returned to Melbourne in 1981 and came to Adelaide twice I think, the sight of him blasting along Adelaide roads during the wonderful 1986 ‘Eagle On The Hill’ run from the city up through the Adelaide Hills to the top of Mount Lofty is not something any of the large number who saw it will readily forget either. He drove a Mercedes sports-racer, a 300SLR on that occasion. If memory serves he may have boofed an Alfa Romeo Alfetta 159 of the type he raced in 1951 at Adelaide doing a demo- by that stage he would have been well into his late seventies mind you.

Fangio contested a ‘Race of Champions’ at Sandown which included Jack Brabham aboard his 1966 championship winning Brabham BT19 Repco ‘620’, and former Australian Champions Bill Patterson in a Cooper T51 Climax and Bob Jane in a Maserati 300S. Both were cars they had raced in period and retained.

(mouserat159)

All eyes were on the Fangio, Brabham ‘battle’ over the three lap journey of course, the footage well known to most of you says it all in terms of the speed and spirit in which the cars were driven, note that JMF was 67 at the time and had suffered two heart attacks in the years before his visit.

(C Griffiths)

The sight and sound of Fangio driving the big, noisy W196 on the throttle, kicking it sideways in the manner for which he was famous lap after lap in practice around Sandown’s third-gear Shell Corner onto Pit Straight is forever etched in my memory. He could still boogie at that stage- well and truly.

As you all know, normally the paddock is a hive of activity with mechanics and engineers getting on with necessary preparation of their steed for the next session or race. Sandown’s then layout afforded those in the paddock a great view of the cars on circuit from or near the pit counter. On the occasions that Fangio was on circuit the tents in the cuddly-small Sandown paddock were empty as drivers and mechanics watched Fangio strut his stuff. It was simply not to be missed whatever the competitive needs of the moment were.

It’s always funny to re-live discussions of ‘that weekend’ with fellow enthusiasts as so many of us were there from all over this vast land, all having a different experience or highlight but equally excited recollections of it all despite the elapse of forty years. As a student at the time I was there from the meetings start to finish, it was sad when it was all over, I was very conscious of the fact that I had witnessed something special.

Fangio was the President of Mercedes Argentina and owner of two dealerships when he visited Oz and had to ‘sing for his supper’ over the week he was here. He did a range of promotional events, dinners and drives with motoring writers to promote, mainly, the ‘Benz 450 SEL 6.9 which was the range-topper at the time, a snip at $A68,500 in 1978.

(C Griffiths)

Postscript…

The 1978 AGP, held to F5000, was a race of attrition won by Graham McRae in his see-through perspex cockpit McRae GM3 Chev from John David Briggs and Peter Edwards in Matich A51 Repco and Lola T332 Chev respectively.

In fact it was an entirely forgettable AGP- very bad accidents hurt both Garrie Cooper, Elfin MR8 Chev and Alan Hamilton, Lola T430 Chev. These very high speed shunts, together with a tangle that eliminated second placed Jon Davison’s T332 and Vern Schuppan’s Elfin MR8 Chev on lap 28- and a broken head-gasket for pole-sitter John McCormack’s unique ex-F1 McLaren M23 Leyland conspired to rob a race which had lots of potential.

An arcane end to this piece.

It’s a long story, but a decade or so ago, an Australian enthusiast ‘discovered’ in contemporary newspaper reports that a very short race named ‘Australian Grand Prix’, was contested on an oval layout at Goulburn’s racecourse, New South Wales on 15 January 1927.

This race was shortly thereafter recognised by many, but not all historians as ‘the first Australian Grand Prix’ thereby replacing the previous event which held that honour, the ‘100 Miles Road Race’ held at Phillip Island in 1928, later recognised as the first AGP.

So, Juan Manuel Fangio was here in 1978 to celebrate the fifty-first AGP not the fiftieth…

https://primotipo.com/2017/04/14/1936-australian-grand-prix-victor-harbour/

Photo / Other Credits…

Bruce Howard, John Stoneham aka Stonie, Chris Griffiths, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpiece: I wonder which particular W196 chassis Fangio ran here in 1978?…

(mouserat159)

Big butt isn’t it? All fuel and oil tank, its an object lesson in Vittorio Jano’s design intent with the D50 Lancia to get the fuel between the wheelbase via his pannier-tanks. I’ve a vague recollection this particular chassis was fitted with a 3 litre SLR engine for demonstration purposes rather than the GeePee 2.5? Interesting the way the body comes together too.

Finito…

 

(Popperfoto)

John Cobb at Brooklands during the 17 May 1937 Gold Trophy Coronation Race, Napier Railton…

What an awesome 23.944 litre, 580 bhp machine this is- there is little point waxing lyrical about a superb racing car which is a well known national icon in the UK, so I will keep it short and hopefully sweet.

Cobb was a big man and clearly liked his racing cars on some scale, a passion his fur-broking business Anning Chadwick & Kiver allowed him to indulge. Reid Railton designed the car which was built by Thomson & Taylor with the specific brief of taking the Brooklands lap record, a feat it achieved for all time, at 143.33 mph on 7 October 1935. It was an exercise he likened to ‘trying to see how far you can lean out of a window without actually falling!’.

Brooklands, Cobb, Napier Railton, date unknown (B Museum)

John Cobb and the Napier at Brooklands on 31 March 1934 (Pinterest)

Railton specified a slow running Napier W-formation aviation engine in a suitably butch chassis with massive side members, twin cantilevered back springs and a finely muscular front axle. Typical of its time, the cockpit was capacious and it needed to be for record-breaking runs of up to 3000 miles or so.

Successful from the start, the car won its first race at the Brooklands Bank Holiday Meeting in 1933, the big beast recorded a standing lap of 120.59 mph and a flying lap of 123.28 mph. ‘When running for long spells, very large Dunlop special racing tyres were required, imposing a heavy task for the mechanics changing wheels at pitstops’. In addition to three times breaking the lap-record at ‘The Track’ the car broke world records at Montlhery and at Utah. The BRDC 500 Mile Race was won at 121.28 mph and the 500 Km version at 127.05 mph with the Napier Railton timed over the kilometre at 151.97 mph.

‘Pandora and The Flying Dutchman’ starred the Napier Railton in a fantasy romance with Ava Gardner and James Mason. Here ‘Dunlop Boys’ Freddie Hicks and Sidney West push the Napier towards a run on the Pendine Sands. Love the fags in mouths- photo used by Dunlop as a PR shot (unattributed)

 

Napier Railton on duty for GQ parachute testing circa 1951 (B Museum)

In 1949 Cobb hired the Napier Railton to the Romulus Film Company to make ‘Pandora and The Flying Dutchman’, a film about a racing driver. In 1951 John sold the car to the GQ Parachute Company who used it to test aircraft brake parachutes at Dunsfold Airfield- GQ modified the car and fitted it with test equipment to deploy parachutes at high speed and then retract them at about 30 knots.

Cobb, who served as an RAF pilot during the war, was killed trying to achieve the Water Speed Record in the jet-boat ‘Crusader’ at Loch Ness on 29 September 1952- the boat hit an unexplained wake.

The Napier Railton was in the best of hands when Patrick Lindsay acquired it-after a rebuild by Crosthwaite & Gardner he raced it in vintage events. It was then bought by Bob Roberts for his Midland Motor Museum, it was kept in running order after ‘being completely overhauled, except the engine’ by Hodec Engineering, Surrey in 1975. Aston Martin’s Victor Gauntlett was the next owner in 1989, and then at auction it passed to a German industrialist and finally, thankfully, became the Brooklands Museum’s car when offered to them in 1997 via a Swiss classic car dealer who ‘discovered it’ in the German’s collection. It is regularly demonstrated, many of you will have been fortunate enough to see it on circuit.

An awesome machine in the true sense of the word, goodness only knows how it felt on the limit for 500 miles on Brooklands famous concrete bumps…

 Etcetera: Technical Details of the Napier Railton as MotorSport reported them in 1933…

Credits…

Getty Images- Popperfoto, MotorSport August 1933 and July 1997, brooklandsmuseum.com

Tailpiece: Reid Railton designed Crusader being towed out into Loch Ness in 1952…

(unattributed)

Finito…

 

(Davey-Milne)

Albert Park, March 1955- ‘Albert Park Trophy’ with #10 Patterson, #9 Davison and #81 Jones on pole…

Rather a sign of the times, Cooper were on the march to world domination, their mid-engine, air-cooled  designs perfected over the early forties into the fifties.

Between these three fellows were six AGP victories, or perhaps five given Davo and Patto shared one of them- and three Gold Stars, one apiece. They were front-running Victorians for well over a decade and shared a passion for cars and business- all three Holden dealers at one point in time.

Bill Patterson’s green machine is a Mk5 JAP, Lex Davison’s a Mk4 Vincent and Stan Jones a Mk4 JAP. Patto took the Albert Park win in a race of attrition from Gib Barrett’s BWA and Otto Stone’s MG K3- Jones pitted with a misfire and Lex also retired.

Stan behind, and Reg Robbins leaning on the Cooper Mk4 at Rob Roy (L Sims)

Jones aboard the Cooper Mk4 at Rob Roy, date folks? (L Sims)

Jones chassis ’10/53/50′ was imported by Melbourne Cooper distributor Keith Martin in early 1951 and was claimed to be an intermediate version having a Mk5 chassis and Mk4 bodywork. Fitted with a 1098cc JAP race motor, the 95bhp machine sat in Martin’s showroom for a year before acquisition by Stanley who first raced it at Rob Roy in March 1952.

‘The car became one of the top under 1500cc cars for both circuits and hillclimbs- the battle for hillclimb records between Jones, Davison and Patterson was a highlight of motorsport in the early fifties’ John Blanden wrote.

Holder of many outright records the car was offered for sale in AMS in December 1953 and finally acquired by Earl Davey-Milne in December 1955, he raced it first at Albert Park in 1956 and still retains the car which is said to be the lowest mileage air-cooled Cooper of them all.

Davey-Milne resplendent in collar and tie racing the Cooper at Albert Park during the Australian Tourist Trophy meeting in November 1956- DNF in his ‘rapid little Cooper-JAP’ in the Argus Cup (Davey-Milne)

Credits…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Davey-Milne Family Collection, Leon Sims, Graham Noonan, ‘Glory Days’ Barry Green

Tailpiece: Jones aboard the Cooper Mk4, circa 1954…

(L Sims)

Finito…

 

 

 

 

The prototype Ferrari 250 GTB SWB on test at Modena Autodrome on 29 October 1959…

Carlo Chiti, Chief Engineer is behind the car, to his left in overalls is the legendary Enzo Ferrari Lieutenant Luigi Bazzi, by then I think ‘Technical Consultant’. You can just see the tip of Richie Ginther’s head over Bazzi’s shoulder.

I wonder if Richie had a steer of the 250 or whether he was focussed on the GP 246 Dino, the nose of which can be seen at left.

This session is in the huge gap between the Italian GP at Monza on 13 September in which Hill was second behind Moss’ Cooper T51 Climax, and the US event at Sebring in December. There Tony Brooks Dino was third behind the Cooper T51’s of both Bruce McLaren and Maurice Trintignant.

Ferrari got the hang of the mid-engined caper in 1961 with the Tipo 156 but 1960 was to be a year of slim pickings, the front-engined Dino was well past its useby date.

What a car the 250 SWB proved to be!?

Shorter in wheelbase than the 250 ‘cruisers’ to lower the cars weight and increase it’s agility. High power- between 237-276 BHP from the 3 litre V12 and well sorted suspension by the design and development team of Chiti, Giotto Bizzarini and the youthful Mauro Forghieri made it a winner. Around 176 were built in both steel and aluminium ‘Lusso’ and ‘Corsa’ forms.

The car below is chassis ‘3218GT’, imported to Australia by WH Lowe Automobiles Pty. Ltd. in 1962. Bill Lowe was the Australian importer of Lancia’s and Ferrari’s for decades.

(unattributed)

I was a Camberwell Grammar School prat nearby Lowe’s factory/showroom and regularly dribbled over the showroom window in Whitehorse Road, Balwyn, Melbourne from 1969-1974. I admired everything but particularly 246 Dinos. I was as infatuated with those almost as much as the perky, pert, teenage temptresses at Fintona Girls School just round the corner. Both were unattainable of course.

‘3218GT’ was Lowe’s daily drive until he sold to Jim Leech in 1964. Jim and his brother Bill Leech were ‘Light Car Club of Australia’ stalwarts, racers pre and post war and owners of some wonderful cars. From memory they had a Lombard AL3- this car was raced by Bill Lowe in the Australian GP at Phillip Island from 1929-33, Cisitalia D46, Maser 300S, Bug T37A and some great road stuff including this Ferrari- the 58th steel bodied car built, RHD too. It was a familiar beast at many Victorian events forever, inevitably it was sold overseas, cars such as this are global commodities after all.

Here ‘3218’ is participating in the Geelong Sprints along Ritchie Boulevard, on Geelong’s waterfront circa 1970 at a guess.

Not a bad bit of kit?!…

Credits…

Klemantaski Collection

At 8.10am on 17 July 1964 Donald Campbell aboard Bluebird CN7 Proteus set the World Land Speed Record on South Australia’s Lake Eyre salt pans…

I wrote about this achievement a while back, in fact it was my first longer article, click here to read it;

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/

One of the wonderful things about the internet is the constant appearance of material on every topic, in this case a nice batch of photos popped onto it by ‘The Adelaide Advertiser’, here they are, too good not to share.

To celebrate Campbell’s achievement the people of Adelaide turned out in droves- about 200,000 flooded the streets of the small city on 25 July to see and hear Bluebird drive up King William Street to the Adelaide Town Hall. Mind you, ‘Beatle-Mania’ hit Adelaide five weeks before when 300,000 fans of the worlds greatest supergroup flooded into the capital.

Campbell also set the World Water Speed Record in 1964, achieving 276.3 mph at Lake Dumbleyung near Perth in Bluebird K7.

Photo Credits…

Adelaide Advertiser

Etcetera: Adelaide Excitement…

Tailpiece…

 

Dan Drinan prepares Michael Andretti’s March 86C Cosworth DFX at Indy, 19 May 1986…

Its the final few days of preparation before carb day and the final chance to test the car before the Memorial Day classic on 31 May. Michael’s cheque for qualifying third on the grid is on the wall.

Bobby Rahal won in a similar March with Michael sixth from grid 3 having led 45 of the 200 laps including the first 42. In a rout for March, the Bicester concern had cars in nine of the top ten placings, the only interloper was Al Unser Jr’s Lola Cosworth in fifth.

Rick Mears, Kevin Cogan and Rahal battled for the lead. In an emotional win, Rahal got the jump from Cogan after a lap 194 restart and took the victory for his team owner Jim Trueman who died of cancer eleven days later. Rick Mears was third.

Michael Andretti, Indy 500 1986, March 86C Cosworth (B Harmeyer)

With an opening photo like that the focus has to be on that magnificent engine and it’s conversion from F1 ubiquity to CART interloper.

John Barnard’s appointment to replace Maurice Philippe as Designer for the Vels- Parnelli F1 and Indy team was at the behest of his former Lola colleague, Jim Chapman, then VPJ Team Manager.

Barnard achieved much with both VPJ and Chaparral before returning to Europe and staggering F1 success with McLaren, but its his role in development of what became the Cosworth DFX V8 turbo which is of interest in this article. His primary job at VPJ was to design and develop the ground-breaking Parnelli VPJ6B and 6C which introduced the turbo Cosworth DFX to Indycar racing. Over the next dozen years the DFX dominated, winning 151 races, including 10 consecutive Indy 500s between 1978-87.

When Barnard arrived at VPJ in Southern California in 1975 he was thrown into the deep end, fettling the team’s F1 car and designing the drivetrain for Parnelli Jone’s off-road Ford truck- you can’t argue with those extremes of variety.

Danny ‘On The Gas’ Ongais, Parnelli VPJ6B Cosworth , Indy 1977 20th from Q7 (B Harmeyer)

Al Unsers VPJ6B rear, Indy 1977. Note turbo plumbing and wastegate outlet (B Harmeyer)

Through the early and mid-1970s Indycars were allowed to run unlimited boost with the ageing four-cylinder Offenhauser pushed beyond its limits. “I was on USAC’s rules committee and we kept blowing up engines,” says Parnelli Jones in a Gordon Kirby article published in MotorSport. “You could not buy an engine from Drake Engineering (manufacturers of the Offy) and run 500 miles. You couldn’t even run it 100 miles because of porosity in the engines. We had a machine to impregnate the engines so we could keep ours together, but you had to pull it all apart and blueprint it after you bought it…Then USAC cut the fuel mileage back to 1.8 mpg and I said to Vel, ‘We’ve got those little Formula 1 Cosworths. I think they could work’.”

In amongst the team’s F1, USAC and F5000 programs Barnard was beavering away ‘converting’ the F1 design into a USAC car by means of a variety of changes including turbo-charging the Cosworth DFV F1 motor.

John Barnard picks up the design changes: “It was actually a completely new chassis. We put coil springs on the rear, but I kept the torsion bars on the front. The Brit strengthened the car by double-skinning the monocoque and designing a much stronger front bulkhead. “That proved very useful,” Barnard says. “In ’77 we were practising at Indy and Al ran over Janet Guthrie’s turbine wheel, which came out on the track, and had quite a big accident. But he walked away. I was glad I had double-skinned that front bulkhead.”

The resulting VPJ6B was a much smaller overall package than the existing Offy and Foyt/Ford-powered chassis then racing.

Ongais again in 1977, note front suspension linkages, torsion bars the spring medium up front (B Harmeyer)

Unser 1977, Q3 and 3rd in the race won by AJ Foyt’s Coyote Foyt/Ford V8 turbo and Tom Sneva McLaren M24 Cosworth who started from pole (B Harmeyer)

Barnard also designed many key components for VPJ’s DFX development program. “There was a lot to do on the engine — inlet manifolds and all sorts of things. I was drawing conrods and pistons, an oil pump system, fuel injection and God knows what else. It was fantastic for me because I had never really got into engines much, but we had our engine shop so we could do this stuff to every part of the car and engine. It was fantastic, just like having a toy shop.”

But there was little support from Keith Duckworth for turbocharging the DFV. Duckworth famously didn’t believe in turbos. “I remember him giving me a lecture about turbos,” Barnard adds, “and another one about why 4WD wouldn’t work. I remember Vel reporting that Cosworth told him he was a bit of a twit trying to get all this horsepower out of an engine that was designed to generate 500bhp, and there we were getting more than 800,” Barnard says. “Vel told me, ‘Those bloody guys at Cosworth don’t mind selling me pistons and heads all the time. I’ve spent $100,000 with them just on pistons.’ But they told him we were idiots for making a turbocharged version of their engine.”

Unser and Andretti ran a few practice laps at Indianapolis that year in an early version of the VPJ6, and the first complete 6B made its debut in Unser’s hands in 1975’s season-closing race at Phoenix, finishing fifth. “Once we got in the right ballpark with wheel and spring rates we had pretty good balance, and it got better and better,” Barnard remembers. “We continued to muck about with the engine. It was an ongoing programme. I was making wastegates and all sorts of things.”

Unser scored the Parnelli-Cosworth’s first win in the Pocono 500 in June 1976, then won again at Milwaukee in August and Phoenix at the end of the season. “We proved that the engine worked and we brought Duckworth over to Pocono because we wanted to get a distributorship for the Cosworth Indy programme,” Parnelli recalls. “So Duckworth came over and damned if he didn’t turn around and steal Larry Slutter and Chickie from us.”

Ongais 1977 (B Harmeyer)

Unser 1977, gorgeous bit of engineering kit. Won the first Cosworth DFX  Indy win aboard a Chaparral Lola in 1978- 11 of the 33 starters were Cosworth powered  (B Harmeyer)

Barnard took a dim view of Duckworth’s manoeuvre. “As soon as we won Pocono, Cosworth saw the light. It wasn’t long afterwards that they nicked Larry Slutter and set their own engine shop up right there in Torrance, which to be honest I thought was pretty mean. “I was told by somebody at Cosworth many years later that the turbo Indy engine programme — the DFX as they called it — was their most profitable programme of all. So I wasn’t impressed with the way they did that. Vel and Parnelli were the ones putting their hands in their pockets to develop this car and engine, and I don’t think they ever got the proper credit.”

After all the money and effort VPJ had put into developing the engine, not being able to turn it into a commercial enterprise was a big blow, playing a role in the team’s demise a few years later. “Of course,” Jones says, “we were in a catch-22 because you had to satisfy your sponsors and we needed to order parts from Duckworth. We could have sued him, but we decided to try to work with him.”

For the 1977 season both McLaren and Penske built new Fl-based cars with DFX engines and Tom Sneva won the USAC Championship aboard Penske’s Cosworth-powered McLaren M24 and Penske PC5. Johnny Rutherford also won four USAC races in the works McLaren DFX while Unser and new team-mate Danny Ongais each won a single race, with Big Al taking the California 500.

Barnard quipped “I didn’t start the Cosworth programme,” he adds, “but I had most of the input making a car work around that engine. Looking back, I learned massive amounts and enjoyed it, too. It was bloody hard work, but I was a young man and ready to do whatever it took.”

Unser 1977, classic aero of that just before ground effect period. The F1 Lotus 78 raced throughout 1977- the first of the Lotus g/e’s (B Harmeyer)

Bibliography/Credits…

MotorSport article by Gordon Kirby 2013, Getty Images- Bettman and Bob Harmeyer

Tailpiece: Cosworth factory DFX studio shot…

Finito…

(unattributed)

Peter Brock in his Birrana 272 Ford at Winton in 1973…

Brocky was very hot property in 1973 having seized the public spotlight with the last solo Bathurst win aboard his Holden Dealer Team Torana GTR XU1 in October 1972. Every young bloke in Australia wanted to emulate him, and many women wanted to shag him including Miss Australia as it transpired!

Brock, on the way to winning the 1972 Bathurst 500, Holden LJ Torana GTR-XU1, Murray’s Corner (Getty)

Purists were delighted when he bought 272-002, Tony Alcock’s first monocoque Birrana, to contest the Australian F2 Championship, but sadly he didn’t race the car for long, soon returning to the touring car ranks.

John Goss in Birrana #1- the F71 Formula Ford at Oran Park in September 1971. JG gave McLeod Ford value- he raced an HO, his self-built Tornado Ford sports racer and the Birrana that year! (L Hemer)

Tony Alcock’s first Birrana, the F71 Formula Ford was built in Sydney and initially raced by one of Brock’s touring car sparring partners, John Goss. Then Tony returned to his Adelaide home town and started to build Birrana’s in numbers in partnership with Malcolm Ramsay- in 1972 building two F72 Formula Fords and 272-002. Their first ANF2 car was raced by Ramsay, dual Australian F2 champion Henk Woelders and Gold Star champion Leo Geoghegan before being sold to Brock.

Brock Birrana 272 Ford, Oran Park 1973, note the ‘Isuzu-GM’ decal. Car powered by an injected Lotus-Ford twin-cam but not the ‘ducks guts’ 205 bhp Hart 416B twin-cam which came into F2 in big numbers from that year (unattributed)

Brock, Birrana 272 Ford, Hume Weir, 22 April 1973 (R Davies)

PB raced it at Hume Weir, Winton and Oran Park to get his hand in prior to the start of the 1973 F2 Championship which commenced at Hume Weir in June.

Brock was 2nd to that years champion Leo Geoghegan at Oran Park on 5 August and then 6th at Amaroo on 19 August, in a Birrana 273, chassis 273-008. He updated to the best car of the season, Geoghegan galloping to the title with wins in every round but one. Its not clear exactly how many meetings Brock did in the two cars but he certainly raced the 272 at Hume Weir, Winton, Calder and Oran Park and the 273 at Oran Park and Amaroo Park.

Brock, Birrana 273 Ford, Oran Park 5 August 1973- he was 2nd in the AF2 championship round that day to Geoghegan’s ‘works’ 273 (autopics)

Running the Lotus Ford twin-cam engine was said to be a commercial barrier to the continuation of Brock’s F2 program given his Holden Dealer Team contract, but perhaps the reality of running his own car again with the assistance of his dad was just all too hard compared with being a works driver with all of its benefits. It was such a shame, Brock’s sublime skills deserved to be deployed in racing cars as well as the tourers of all sorts in which he excelled.

Brock in the famous self built with mates Austin A30 Holden sports sedan with which he started racing and wowed everyone, Hume Weir circa 1969 (unattributed)

Brock’s talent was clear from the start aboard his Holden engined Austin A30- his aptitude very quickly accepted once others drove that car, none of those who raced it or track-tested it could work out how he did the times he did- not Ross Bond, Peter Wherrett or Rob Luck. The little rocket was a mix of lightweight Austin stripped shell, highly modified Holden 179 6 cylinder ‘red motor’ giving circa 200 bhp using triple 2 inch SU carbs, Holden three, and later four speed ‘box, rear axle assembly wheel to wheel with a Holden front end and Triumph Herald steering rack with disc front brakes and drum rears.

In the crude but fast HDT Torana XU1 Repco Holden F5000 V8 engined ‘The Beast’ sports sedan, Calder circa 1975 (unattributed)

During the early-mid seventies glory F5000 years it always seemed to me the union between Holden and Repco would see him aboard a big, powerful single-seater car at some point, but the closest that ever came to fruition was the Repco Holden F5000 V8 engined Torana sports-sedan ‘The Beast’, which was not exactly what I had in mind at all. Still, what was in that for Holden or Repco I guess? Holden sold sedans not racing cars, so they hardly needed PB racing one of those dangerous things and Repco’s works F5000 driver was Frank Matich. A guest drive in a Matich would have been nice all the same…

In the Bill Patterson Group 5 BMW CSL 3.5 litre at Le Mans in 1976 with Brian Muir. Q48 and DNF with gearbox problems, the race won by the Ickx/Van Lennep Porsche 936 prototype, the best placed Group 5 entry was the 4th placed Schurti/Stommelen Porsche 935  (unattributed)

Marshall/Brock first in class and second overall in the 1977 Spa 24 Hour, Vauxhall Firenza Magnum 2300, 23 July 1977. The Joosen/Andruet BMW 530i won (unattributed)

Steps in the right direction were his international drives at Le Mans in 1976 aboard a Bill Patterson supported BMW 3.5 CSL Group 5 machine paired with Aussie International Brian Muir. Now that would have been a career to emulate in terms of a mix of sedans and sportscars based in the UK?

Spa in a works Vauxhall Firenza Magnum 2300 paired with Gerry Marshall yielded an amazing second outright in the 24 Hour classic in 1977.

Brock’s status as one of the best Touring Car Drivers of them all was confirmed by MotorSport in 2005 who rated him the greatest in an article contributed to by an array of global commentators of the top-20 of all time.

Brock in the Bob Jane Porsche 956 during the Silverstone 1000 Km on 13 May 1984, 21st sharing with Larry Perkins from Q11. Mass/Ickx won in a works 956. The team did Silverstone as a warm-up event pre Le Mans (unattributed)

The Bob Jane supported attempt on the 1984 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Brock partnered by Larry Perkins in a customer Porsche 956 captured all of our imaginations and to me was exactly where that pair belonged and deserved to be. Sadly the warm-up Silverstone 1000 Km and Le Mans was as far as it went. At Le Mans they retired after an LP mistake during the night.

Rallycross at Calder circa 1971- HDT supercharged ‘LC’ GTR XU1- this car earlier in its life doubled as a sports sedan on the circuits as well as in the dirt and mud (autopics)

1979 round Australia Repco Reliability Trial- winner with Matt Philip and Noel Richards in an HDT 6-cylinder Commodore (unattributed)

If only Brock had raced the 1974 Australian F2 Championship in a good car amidst one of the best grids of any single-seater championship in Australia ever- with success his career direction may have encompassed racing cars as well as tourers, rallycross, rallies.

Not half versatile was he?

About to clip the Dandy Road grass at Sandown, HDT Torana SLR5000 V8, Sandown 250 enduro 1974. He was 10th in the race won by Moffat’s Ford Falcon XB GT Hardtop (unattributed)

Birrana Cars Feature…

https://primotipo.com/2016/04/29/birrana-cars-and-the-1973-singapore-gp/

Photo and Other Credits…

autopics.com.au, Robert Davies, Lynton Hemer, Getty Images, tentenths.com

Tailpiece: Outta my way big guy. Sydney during the PR build up to Le Mans 1984, Porsche 956 chassis ‘110’…

Finito…