Archive for the ‘Rodways Repco Recollections’ Category

(R Burnett

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder of course, and we often attached to a particular era, this unique McLaren M6B Repco ‘740’ 5 litre V8 ticks all the boxes for me…

Here it is in repose in the Symmons Plains paddock on 12 November 1972 before John Harvey goes out and bags his second Australian Sportscar Championship on the trot.

Only Harves and car owner Bob Jane ever raced this thing and Bob never sold it- he died a cuppla years ago and it is still owned by his (very messy) deceased estate.

It’s a special jigger too- Bob knew Bruce McLaren well, McLaren built the car for Bob to suit the Repco engine- its a factory built McLaren not a Trojan Cars Ltd customer jobbie- I’m not bagging Trojan just making clear the ‘pedigree’ of a car which is one of Australia’s most iconic racers.

Duncan Fox wrote that ‘Bob’s M6B was an out of sequence car produced late in 1968 at Colnbrook by Bruce as a favour to his long time friend. It is basically an M12 with M6 bodywork that Bob had stylishly reworked. Personally I think it is the prettiest McLaren sportscar in existence. John Harvey told me they did this because he had difficulty seeing the apex over the original front guards.’

‘It was delivered to the Tilbury Docks in London on a car trailer behind the ‘whale’ (the US Ford Station Wagon McLarens had) by Kiwis Chris Charles and Clive Bush who managed on the way to do extensive side damage with the trailer to a gentleman’s Rolls Royce.’

‘It arrived in Australia in CKD (completely knocked down) less engine and transmission on the freighter SS Port St Lawrence sometime early in April 1969. It was invoiced at US$6000 and carried chassis serial number #50-01.’

‘The engine was a Repco Brabham engines #E26 (740 Series) ‘and the dyno chart I have (17/7/71) shows it developed a maximum of 452bhp @ 6500rpm and 405ft/lbs torque @ 5000rpm.’

The fella leaning into the cockpit of the first photo is John Sheppard, Jane’s Chief Mechanic- he said to me a few years back, ‘whenever you are ready lets do another article on the McLaren’. Sheppo was very generous with his time in putting together a detailed feature on the Clark/Geoghegan Lotus 39 Climax/Repco which John prepared for Leo before ’emigrating to Mexico’ (Victoria) to take charge at Janes, Brunswick, Melbourne race workshop circa 1970.

I must give him a buzz.

(R Burnett)

 

Bob and Harves after that 1972 win (H Ellis)

The great shame is that the McLaren was not ready to race at the start of 1969, the year Matich crushed all before him in the Matich SR4 ‘760’ 4.8 litre V8, his way too late intended Can-Am contender.

So Bob and John were late to that particular party, but Harves did contest the final 1969 round at Sandown finishing second to Matich. Repco then acquired the SR4 from FM to use as an exhibit and devoted their mutual development and race energies to the Repco-Holden F5000 program. The first of these engines was fitted to FM’s McLaren M10B in mid-1970, the combination won the November 1970 AGP at Warwick Farm.

The perfectly competitive SR4 with a trick, fresh John Mepstead built 5 litre ‘760’ Repco was set aside leaving the way clear for Bob and Harves to ‘mop up’ the ASCC with the M6B. I’m not sure why they didn’t race the thing much in 1970- Harve’s focus on the Gold Star and the new Torana Repco perhaps, but in 1971 John won three of the four rounds and five of the six 1972 rounds before they too put to one side the curvaceous racer. Team sponsor Castrol wanted them to focus on the teams ‘Taxis’ rather than the ‘Racing Cars’ which at that point comprised the Bowin P8 Repco-Holden F5000 and the McLaren.

Sad but true…

The full story of the M6B is one for another time.

(E French)

Credits…

Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Rob Burnett, Ellis French, Duncan Fox on The Nostalgia Forum, Harold Ellis

Tailpieces…

(R Burnett)

 

(E French)

Finito…

(HRCCT)

Michael ‘Moose’ Warner, Holden 48-215 leads Tony Edmondson, BMW 1602 Repco at Symmons Plains circa 1974…

Touring Cars (a ‘Sports Sedan’ in this case) are not my thing but that BMW is powered by a Repco Brabham 4.4 litre ‘620 Series’ V8 so by definition it’s of interest!

The Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania continues to post wonderful photographs on its Facebook page- just pop the name into the FB search engine and have a look. Grab a beer before you do so, you cannot do the job properly in less than two or three hours.

(B Smart)

 

(B Smart)

Edmondson, who started racing a Ford Cortina GT with a good deal of pace in his native Tasmania circa 1970 was the latest in a long list of drivers whose career was aided and abetted by Tasmanian businessman Don Elliott- others include Robin Pare, John Walker and Mark McLaughlin.

The pair raced this BMW, then the ex-McCormack Valiant Charger Repco-Holden F5000 V8 and later still the two K&A Engineering built Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV Chev V8’s- he had a really nasty accident in the first of these at Surfers Paradise.

Later still, in the mid-eighties, they acquired Elfin Sportscars, bless ’em- after Garrie Cooper’s untimely death and built some fantastic FV, ANF2 and one Formula Holden before the economic realities finally caught up with them and the business changed hands to become a builder of road/race cars rather than racing cars. (i’m truncating)

Edmondson and Grice top of The Esses at Baskerville in 1978 looking as though it could turn to tears at any moment’ indeed Grant Twining, but did it!? (K Midgley)

I always admired Edmondson’s aggression, pace and mechanical ability- another guy wasted on Sports Sedans I thought, if he handles 5 litres so well why not jump aboard the ‘real F5000 deal’…

I do recall the BMW, not that I ever saw it race in Victoria- did it ever race on the ‘Big Island’ i wonder? No doubt it did.

The Baskerville photos, circa 1973, are great, particularly Tony’s cavalier disregard for his racegear- perhaps he was ‘just tootling around’ on a day of testing.

Bruce Smart, the photographer advises that is exactly what the team were doing ‘I took the photos in mid-1973 on the main straight at Baskerville. It was a private test day and they were the only ones there. The Repco BMW was still being developed and they were having issues with cooling. It had a boot mounted radiator, you can see the hastily cut vents in the rear guards which were made to enhance airflow.’

‘Tony was only driving slowly, hence no helmet, in fact it was barely fast enough to get a speeding ticket in the Hobart CBD. They would do a couple of laps, return to the pits and scratch their heads, then do a few more laps. Eventually the cooling was sorted.’

I’m very interested to know who did the engine installation- presumably a Borg Warner four-speeder is attached to the back of the RBE V8 but i’m just guessing. Which particular RBE 620 izzit, where did it come from and where is it now? Where is the BMW shell too I guess, although that is of less interest. The Holden ‘was one of the best Humpy’s going around, unfortunately it fell over one day and was binned’ wrote the HRCCT’s Grant Twining.

Lindsay Ross advises Don Elliott is about 90 years old and that Tony Edmondson still works for his ‘Elliots Self Storage’ business in Hobart. He also recalls the ‘Repco 4.4 gave them so much grief with cracking blocks.’

Correspondence welcome!

Don Elliott supervises proceedings at Baskerville, hungry Lucas mouths atop RBE620 (B Smart)

 

oldracephotos.com.au/Harrisson)

Top shot above is of Edmondson a few months later with the car now complete at Baskerville, 1973.

Credits…

Bruce Smart via Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Keith Midgely

Etcetera…

 

(B Smart)

‘Its not too noisy, no cops about, how bout we swing past mums on the way back to Hobart’, or some such. As I say, very interested to find out and publish the fullest technical specifications of this car we can come up with.

Social media suggests the car ended up in Western Australia at some point?

(HRCCT)

That’s not Edmondson in the ‘Fastman’ race suit- he is almost fully obscured by blue-cardigan man- who is the other racer?

Tailpiece: Turn-in is real noice…

(B Smart)

‘Hmm, maybe time to put my fire-proofs on’ is perhaps the drivers thoughts. And ‘Shit! This thing gets up and boogies.’

Note the Mawer Engineering wheels and ‘well back’ location of the engine. Intriguing to know the difference in weight between the cast iron block, alloy head BMW four and all alloy Repco V8.

This conversion is a ‘well-travelled path’ in the sense that the 1970 similarly engined Bob Jane Racing, John Sheppard built, Holden Torana GTR-XU1 ‘620’ 4.4 V8 showed just how quick this combination of compact car and very light ‘racing’ V8 could be.

Click here for a piece in part about this car, the Charger Repco and Corvair Chev; https://primotipo.com/2015/06/30/hey-charger-mccormacks-valiant-charger-repco/

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

Nigel Tait ‘After much research i’m now pretty sure the 3 litre 740 engine in the Brabham BT24 raced by Jochen Rindt in early 1968 was E27 and if so it went into the XR37 Healey that competed in the 1970 Le Mans but had an electrical fault with only 20 minutes to go.’

‘Then subsequently in a Palliser hillclimb ( A Griffiths) car with numerous owners (including John Cussins?) until the car was wrecked and the engine, which had been enlarged to 4.2 litres ended up in the Brabham BT17 that I bought in from England in 2018- and now that it is apart its actually 4.4 litres not 4.2!’

 

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…

(M Williams)

Jack Brabham in his 1966 F1 Championship winning Brabham BT19 Repco during the Sandown Tasman weekend, 27 February 1966…

The pretty little poppet with the camera is far more attractive than the RBE crew from the factory in Richmond/Maidstone. I guess she has been dispatched from Repco HQ in St Kilda Road to catch all the action. Which rather begs the question, what became of the footage missy captured?

The car is powered by a new Repco Brabham Engines ‘620 Series’ 2.5 litre V8- the motor in 3 litre capacity made its race debut in South Africa on 1 January. BT19 was a very busy car in 1966 and well into 1967.

I’ve done this story to death of course, here on the engine; https://primotipo.com/2014/08/07/rb620-v8-building-the-1966-world-championship-winning-engine-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-2/

and here on Jack’s 1966 season; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/13/winning-the-1966-world-f1-championships-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-3/

but these two photos were too good not to share.

Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill created a BRM sandwich for Jim Clark that ‘Sandown Park Cup’ weekend- second in his Lotus 39 Coventry Climax FPF, the BRM lads were aboard 1.9 litre P60 V8 engined P261’s. Jack was out on lap 6 with a failed oil pump causing substantial engine destruction.

That is RBE620 ‘E2’ 2.5 in its engine bay. Over the next 12 months or so it would have no shortage of Repco RB620, 640 and 740 V8’s popped into and out of it (M Williams)

As is well known, the one and only Brabham BT19 ‘F1-1-65’ was built by Ron Tauranac in 1965 to suit the dimensions of the stillborn Coventry Climax FWMW 16 cylinder engine and lay unused until pressed into service as the first car into which the Repco RB620 V8, designed by Phil Irving, was installed.

Utterly conventional in design, Jack put the light, chuckable car to rather good use throughout 1966- see Werner Buhrer’s outline and drawing of the car below.

Etcetera…

I’d actually finished this piece and then cruised through my archive and noticed how many other photographs I had of this particular weekend.

Some are only of ‘proof quality’ recently posted by Repco-Brabham engineer/racer/historian Nigel Tait, but they are still valuable to share to document RBE history.

So here they are, in sort of chronological order…

(N Tait)

Mike Gasking giving an RBE620 2.5 a whirl in the Richmond test cells in late 1965- is it the engine in Jack’s car at Sandown?- more than likely it is ‘E2’ with those long inlet trumpets, yes.

Gasking was in on the ground floor- he was apprenticed at Repco and was involved in building and testing Jack’s Coventry Climax FPF engines and then throughout the Repco Brabham Engines period to its end.

Dyno is a Heenan & Froude GB4 which remained in Richmond for a while before being transported to RBE’s new digs at 87 Mitchell Street, Maidstone- this move took place in the early weeks of January 1966.

(N Tait)

Off she rolls from the truck, ‘Peters Corner’ and the start of the run up the back straight in the background.

BT19 has been a busy already. Fitted with a 3 litre RBE620 V8 the car was shipped to South Africa from the UK fitted with engine # ‘E3’ for the non-championship GP at Kyalami on 1 January.

Phil Irving describes the 3 litre engine as ‘…built up from scratch, with the cylinder heads as drawn for the original 2 1/2 litre, except that the inlet ports were enlarged and re-shaped to improve gas-flow and throttle-slides as developed for the 2 1/2 litre engine, were used. After assembly and short running-in, full power tests returned an output of 310 bhp (in his book Malcolm Preston quotes 280 bhp @ 7500 rpm with 310 bhp achieved several months later)…there was just time for an afternoon shake-down run (Goodwood) before the car was loaded onto the boat (to South Africa)…’

That SA GP was won by the works Lotus 33 Climax 2 litre FWMV of Mike Spence, Brabham retired when the fuel-injection pump seized having set pole and led for all but the last nine of the sixty laps.

BT19 was then air freighted to Melbourne’s Essendon Airport and trucked to Richmond where the 3 litre ‘E3’ was removed and the 2.5 litre ‘E2’  installed for the Sandown.

Many of you will recall Roy Billington, front and centre below, as a Brabham Racing Organisation mechanic for many years. All of Nigel Tait’s Christmases have come at once- he had just commenced at Repco as a graduate Cadet Engineer, his first assignment looking after Brabham’s new car- it does not get better than that at 22! Phil, leaning on the Lukey exhausts with ever-present fag in his mouth!

(N Tait)

Nigel Tait, Roy Billington and Phil Irving are fussing over ‘RBE620’ 2.5 ‘E2’ In the Sandown paddock on the Thursday or Friday prior to the meeting.

Plenty of pressure, it was the home teams first home race resulting in a massive crowd turnout of 55,000 people on raceday to see Brabham and his ‘all-Australian’ racing car make its local debut.

Irving quotes over 250 bhp was given by the 620 2.5 litre- not much greater than the FPF but the V8 had good mid-range torque and could be revved past it’s power-peak without self-destruction, unlike the short-stroke FPF’s which tended to be rather brittle if over-revved by even a smidge.

(N Tait)

Frank Hallam now joins in the fun between the exhausts- left to right Hallam, Billington, Tait, the very obscured Irving and Black Jack. On the pit counter beyond is lanky Norman Wilson, Peter Holinger, a nun identified fellow and Bob Brown, a Repco Ltd Director.

The sergent.com race report has it that the car was troublesome during practice, with 30 bhp being found overnight to put Jack right in amongst the front-running BRM’s of Stewart and Hill. Nigel recalls Phil getting cross with him on the race weekend , ‘We were working on the throttle slides on the BT19 the night before the Sandown meeting and it turned out to be a very long and late night. I went out to the all-night hamburger place and bought one for Phil but he spat it out. How was i to know he didnt like onions?- a great bloke and very clever’.

(I Nicholls)

Look at that crowd! Kidlets, Billington- who is the guy in the cap who always looked after Jack whilst he was in Oz and is in ‘all’ the shots?, Nigel Tait at right having cast aside his grotty lab-coat.

At Sandown Jack set a new lap record in his heat, the Exide Cup- the results of two heats determined grid positions.

The Tasman race engine seizure occurred in ‘…that the start of the race was delayed and everyone started with cold engines. The Repco V8’s oil-pump relief valve failed on the first lap (actually the sixth lap according to the various race reports) of the race the oil pressure went up to 160psi, the pump gears stripped and the engine locked up at about 7000 rpm’ according to Phil Irving.

Tait recalls ‘That night…I had the task of removing the pump and dismantling it. Frank Hallam and his wife Norma were there as was Phil’.

The oil pump gears were from a Fordson Major tractor out of an FM diesel model- they were amongst some components from proprietary vehicles used in RB620- which from that day were not sintered but machined from steel.

Rodway Wolfe noted that ‘I remember on the Monday after that Sandown race…when I arrived at the Maidstone factory at 8 am the drawing of the oil pump gear with new specifications was on Kevin Davies, the Admin Manager’s desk. Phil had made the modifications overnight. He (famously) didn’t keep the same hours as other management but he didn’t knock off at 5.30 pm like other management either!…’

‘Frank Hallam arranged for new steel gears to be made while Roy Billington helped me to remove and dismantle the engine. We found two crankpins were badly overheated and the crank was bent, so the crank and the main bearings were replaced, but fortunately the pistons, rings and cylinder liners were undamaged.

Although changing the crankshaft entailed almost completely dismantling the engine, the timing case and oil pump could be handled as units and we had the engine re-assembled with new pump gears and brake-tested by Tuesday afternoon. We stuck it in the car that night and it went off to Tasmania on the Wednesday (to Longford)…’ Phil wrote.

(T Brandt)

Jim Clark and Jack saunter through the Sandown paddock. Not the greatest of weekends for either!

In Jim’s case the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine in his Lotus 39- which had been the motor of choice in the Tasman series since its inception in 1964 was now being found wanting by the V8’s of BRM and Repco.

Clark returned the following year with Lotus having taken a leaf out of BRM’s book- their 1967 weapon was a 1.5 litre F1 Lotus 33 fitted with a 2 litre Coventry Climax FWMV V8, with which Jim took the 1967 title convincingly from BRM and Repco Brabham.

(T Brandt)

And again above…meanwhile below the boys are about to pop the car into the truck for the drive back to Richmond and overnight checks before the start of official practice.

‘The start’ of a rather fruitful partnership wouldn’t you say…

Credits…

Max Williams & Nigel Tait Collections, Tony Brandt, Ian Nicholls, sergent.com, ‘Phil Irving: An Autobiography’

(N Tait)

Finito…

(R Wolfe)

Bugger!

Led Zeppelin first recorded ‘Communication Breakdown’ in 1969, although it was part of their live set from 1968. My whacko brain thought of that song and riff upon seeing this bit of ye olde school communication…

It would have been perfect if the song originated from 1967 given the date of the Brabham Racing Organisation team-leader’s (thaddl be Brabham JA) letter to the General Manager of Repco Brabham Engines Pty Ltd, Frank Hallam Esq is, according to Rodway Wolfe’s handwritten scrawl, 24 May 1967.

These days we have that internet thingy which makes our lives so instant in terms of communication, back then it was ‘snail mail’ or Telex machine if you were from the big end of town. I guess airmail from Surrey, UK to Maidstone, Victoria, Australia was three days or thereabouts? And the same in return with a neato ‘Par Avion’ sticker and a more expensive stamp affixed.

Jack’s note was sent between the Monaco and Dutch GP’s.

BRO had shown plenty of pace early in the season with Brabham and Hulme on pole and with fastest lap respectively at Kyalami albeit Pedro Rodriguez took the South African GP win in his Cooper T81 Maserati.

Jack flicking BT19 around with the abandon so characteristic during 1966-7. RBE740 powered, here ahead of Jim Clark’s Lotus 33 Climax FWMV 2 litre DNF, with Jack’s motor about to go kaboomba (unattributed)

At the following championship round- Monaco, Jack was on pole deploying the new RBE740 Series V8’s power and big, beefy mid-range punch for the first time in a championship round. But an unhappy early ending to the weekend was the Aussie’s new moteur breaking a rod on the first lap of the race. Denny won his first GP in a 620 engined BT20, so it was far from all bad from the team’s perspective- the race tragic for the sad demise of Lorenzo Bandini after a fiery crash aboard his Ferrari 312.

Merde! or Australian vernacular to that general effect- Brabham checks the hole in his nice new 700 Series Repco block, carved up somewhat from an errant conrod- Monaco 1967

But all the same their would have been a bit of consternation in the camp at the time, no doubt a phone call to Hallam was made about the buggered rod, or maybe Frank read about it in the late edition of Monday’s Melbourne daily ‘The Sun’?

The Lotus 49 Ford Cosworth DFV changed the GP world when it appeared in the hands of Clark J and Hill G at Zandvoort on June 4- the need to lift was clear!

So, lets address Jack’s requests.

Sorry about that sketch of Brabham’s requested 700 Series block modifications! Sadly we don’t have it- which is a bumma.

The modified Daimler rods and caps are RB620 bits, not 740- so Jack is after some bibs and bobs to keep alive some of the RB620’s by then in circulation in Europe. Not to forget Denny was still using RB620’s until he got a 740 for Spa in mid-June. The ‘620 Series’ Repco was the first of the Repco Brabham Engines series of race V8’s and was based on the standard Oldsmobile F85 block- ‘600 Series’ block and ’20 Series’ cross-flow heads in Repco nomenclature. The ‘740 Series’ was the new for 1967 motor- ‘700 Series’ bespoke Repco designed block and ’40 Series’ exhaust within the Vee heads.

The water rail changes appear routine race experience evolution, in fact whilst the whole letter is dealing with normal stuff its still interesting, if you know what i mean? And the engine fitters will have been given the bief to watch the chain tensioner fit.

Jack’s checklist of engine parts is interesting.

I thought all of the RBE engine rebuilds happened at Maidstone but clearly that is not the case, some engine work was being done in The Land of The Pom. Interested to hear from you RBE lads on this point.

Brabham and Hallam at Sandown with their newborn, January 1966 (R Wolfe)

The photograph above is of the two participants in the above correspondence at Sandown Park, Melbourne during the 1966 Tasman round. It is a ‘pose for the press’ shot given the race debut of the Repco V8 in the companies home town.

It was the second race for the RBE620 Series V8- the first was a 3 litre unit used by Jack during the non-championship South African GP weekend on 1 January, DNF with a fuel injection pump problem.

The engine above is a 2.5 litre jobbie- easily picked by its long Lucas injection trumpets, this time an oil pump broke- the chassis is the one and only BT19 which carried Jack to the 1966 title, and as can be seen in the Monaco photographs, well into 1967. The RBE620 became a paragon of reliability after some initial traumas were rectified…

The RBE 620 Series engine story is here;

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

The RBE 740 Series engine story is here;

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

Tailpiece: Denny en-route to Monaco victory aboard an RBE620 powered Brabham BT20, Jo Siffert’s Rob Walker Cooper T81 Maserati behind DNF…

Credits…

Rodway Wolfe Collection, Getty Images, Bernard Cahier

Finito…

(N Tait)

Jack Brabham and his ‘Repco Special’, Hay Street, Subiaco, Perth 1962…

With a bit of detective work from West Australians Ken Devine and Billy Hughes this photo from Nigel Tait’s Collection, which was originally thought to be of Jack Brabham in Sydney appears to have been taken during Jack’s 1962 trip to Perth for the Caversham Australian Grand Prix, won by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T62 Climax. Click here for an article about that meeting; https://primotipo.com/2016/05/20/bruce-lex-and-rockys-cooper-t62-climax/

The speedway midget is ‘definitely Bill Kirkham’s WA7 Repco Special driven by Laurie Stevens…looks like Jack sitting in the car and shaking the proprietors hand’ Billy Hughes wrote. ‘Kayes’ was a Repco aligned engine reconditioner in Hay Street Subiaco, an inner Perth suburb. Clearly Kayes owner Kirkham had enough ‘pull’ to entice Jack back into the cockpit of a speedway car from whence he came!

Jack’s very first race, a speedway event was at Cumberland Oval, Parramatta on 5 December 1947, click on this ‘Loose Fillings’ link to an interesting Terry Wright article on these formative, successful Brabham racing steps/successes; https://loosefillings.com/2017/07/15/its-amazing-whats-still-out-there-2/

Credits…

Nigel Tait Collection, vintagespeedway.com.au

Tailpiece: Brabham, 22 years old, receives the Australian Championship tray at Kilburn Speedway, Adelaide, 25 February 1949…

(vintagespeedway.com.au)

Finito…

 

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s not as simple as all that of course!

Australia’s change of our premier class over time- Australian National Formula One has usually been vexed in the extreme as those committed to and with an investment in the prevailing category hung on for grim death whilst those with an objective perspective could readily see the need for change.

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

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

 

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

 

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

The Tasman 2.5 Formula was immensely successful for Australasia…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In comparison racing cars exited stage left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

But no!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics and power is never pretty is it?!

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

Holden and Repco F5000 Partnership…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(A Trowbridge)

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

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

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

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

A case of racing improves the breed!

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

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

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

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

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

Malcolm Preston is also sanguine about forged pistons.

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

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

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

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

Don Halpin in this Repco PR shot (Repco)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

The development of the engine was relentless and ongoing…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

John McCormack recalls the Repco Holden engines with fondness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credits…

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

Etcetera…

Repco Holden Technical Specifications…

(Repco)

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

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

(B Ramsay)

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

(B Ramsay)

 

(B Ramsay)

Bibliography…

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

Tailpiece: Repco’s ‘Veggie Cart’ F5000 …

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

Finito…