Archive for the ‘Rodways Repco Recollections’ Category

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(John Arkwright)

Check out the view Maxxy!

Niel Allen and Max Stewart having a contretemps at Skyline, Mount Panorama, Bathurst, Easter 1969…

The bucolic terrain of New South Wales Central Tablelands stretches into the distance, the view probably not what the two drivers were focussed upon at the time. The race was the 1969 Bathurst Gold Star round, the field of which was substantially reduced by this first lap prang.

The incident happened when Max misjudged his braking behind John Harvey, locked a brake and boofed the fence in his Mildren Waggott 1.6. Niel was right up Max’ chuff in his ex-Piers Courage McLaren M4A Ford FVA 1.6 and couldn’t avoid him. Out of shot is Queenslander Glynn Scott’s Bowin P3 FVA who also joined in the fun!

(D Simpson)

Dick Simpson’s shot was taken at precisely the same time as John Arkwright’s (look at Max in each shot) albeit a bit further down the mountain. Its Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco framed by Allen’s wing with Glynn baring down on the action on the left and about to become a part of it.

Terrific shots both, ‘instant reaction’ stuff but beautifully framed all the same.

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Nice butt shot of Harvey’s BT23E; note wing mounted to cars uprights at rear, ‘RB740’ ‘between the Vee engine’ and oil cooler up in the breeze (oldracephotos.com)

Here (above) is a shot of Harve’s Bob Jane owned Brabham BT23E Repco, it was Jack’s works ’68 Tasman car, sold to Bob at the end of the series then raced by John in the following years. In fact it wasn’t a lucky car for Harvey, he had a big accident at the same Easter meeting in ’68 when an upright broke, rooting the car and John. He was in hospital for quite a while after the prang, his speed undiminished when he returned to racing Jane’s stable of racers, sports-racers and tourers.

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Harvey’s BT23E at Bathurst after his big practice accident on 14 April 1968 (Dale Harvey)

Click here for an article on this car;

https://primotipo.com/?s=brabham+bt23e

These fellas are favourites; property developer Allen was later as quick as Australia’s F5000 ‘Gold Standard’ Frank Matich without nearly as many seat miles, Stewart a multiple ‘Gold Star’ (1971/4) and AGP winner (19734/5) and Harvey a winner in everything he raced; speedcars, single-seaters, big sportscars and touring cars, the Bathurst enduro included.

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Start of the Bathurst ’69 Gold Star race: front row comprises Max’ yellow Mildren Waggott, Niel Allen McLaren M4A FVA and on the inside Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco. The blue car behind is Glynn Scott’s Bowin P3 FVA and Harvey’s red Brabham BT23E, the torque of which clearly gobbled up Stewart and Allen on the steep climb up the mountain for Max to nearly run into him heading down the mountain. The white car is Henk Woelders’ 3rd placed Elfin 600 Ford t/c. You can just see Jacks red Brabham on the outside beginning his charge. He had fuel feed problems in practice so was off grid 7 with times well below the cars potential (Neville McKay)

The race was won by Jack Brabham’s F3 based Brabham BT31 Repco on a rare Gold Star Australian appearance fitted into his European program. This little jigger was powered by a 2.5 litre ‘830 Series’ SOHC, 2 valve Repco V8. Easter Bathurst is an historically significant meeting in Repco terms; it was Jack’s last Repco race and win in Australia. Brabham’s last International Repco races were those contested by he and Peter Revson in the USAC Championship that year in Brabham BT25’s powered by Repco ‘760 Series’ 4.2 litre DOHC, 4 valve, methanol fuelled V8’s.

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Brabham between Skyline and The Dipper, BT31 Repco during the race (Dick Simpson)

Check out, rather than repeating myself these articles on the BT31;

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/26/rodways-repco-recollections-brabham-bt31-repco-jacks-69-tasman-car-episode-4/

and on Brabham’s 1969 and 1970 seasons;

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

This article was inspired by Lindsay Ross uploading quite a few images of this meeting on his oldracephotos.com Instagram page, check it out, they pop up a post every day or so. It seemed an idea to put the images floating around of this meeting in one place. I’ve an Instagram page too, as well as Facebook, just key ‘primotipo’ into the respective search engines and follow the prompts. The FB page has quite a lot of shots I don’t use on primotipo so may be worth a look every few days.

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Brian Page in BT23A with ‘740 Series’ Repco, DNF with broken exhaust on lap 15 in the ex-Brabham/Scuderia Veloce machine (oldracephotos.com)

The first lap accident ruined what could have been an interesting race, Jack cruised to an easy race win by 1.5 minutes from Harvey’s car and Henk Woelders F2 Elfin 600B Ford t/cam.

Historically interesting is that this meeting was on the weekend of 7 April 1969, high-wings were banned globally at Monaco on the GP weekend of 18 May 1969, so it’s interesting to see the ‘Australian State of the Art’ in terms of fitment of said aero devices immediately before they were banned. Brabham tried the ‘bi-wing’ below setup on his BT31 in practice but raced with only a rear wing fitted.

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Of arcane interest, perhaps (from the master of the arcane and tangential) is that all of Jacks ‘works’ Repco engined Tasman cars competed in this race bar one…

Brian Page’s BT23A(1) is JB’s ’67 Tasman car, Harve’s BT23E(1) is the ’68 weapon and Jack raced BT31 the car, late arriving in Australia, which did the ’69 Sandown round only.

Missing is BT19(F1-1-65) the chassis in which Jack won the ’66 World F1 Drivers and Constructors titles, and in 2.5 litre ‘620 Series’ engined form, raced in the ’66 Tasman Series, putting valuable pre-GP season race miles on Repco’s ‘brand-spankers’ V8 at Sandown and Longford.

The only car not in Oz now is BT23E(1) which was, and still may be in the US.

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Jack Brabham guiding BT19 (F1-1-65) into The Viaduct, Longford on his way to 3rd place during the South Pacific Trophy on 7 March 1966, the third race for the new RB ‘620 Series’ V8. The race was won by Jackie Stewart’s BRM P261

Whilst on the arcane it occurs to me is what a versatile, influential and successful design Ron Tauaranac’s BT23 space-frame was in the Brabham Pantheon…

’twas Ron’s clean sheet design for the new for ’67 1.6 litre European F2; it’s variants won a million F2 races over the following years in the hands of aces like Rindt but also in the care of privateer ‘coming-men’. Mind you it didn’t ever win the title despite winning 6 of the ten championship rounds in 1967, ‘graded drivers’ like Rindt were ineligible for championship points. Matra and Lotus took the ‘works entry’ approach more seriously than Jack and Ron during these years, in any event, as a customer racing car the BT23’s won lotsa races, the 1968 Rindt driven BT23C the most successful car of the year.

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Jochen Rindt typically all ‘cocked up’ on the way to a win in the 9 July 1967 ‘GP de Rouen-les-Essarts’, Brabham BT23 Ford FVA. 1.6 litre F2 formula one of great chassis, it not engine diversity, Ford’s Cosworth FVA won every title from 1967 to 1971. F2 was 2 litre from ‘72 (unattributed)

From an F1 perspective the ’67 World Championship winning BT24 Repco was a ‘beefed up’ BT23, to the extent that Ron initially raced his BT24’s with an FT200 Hewland, the Maidenhead gearbox gurus ‘F2 box’ but found that tranny overstressed with ‘740 Series’ Repco V8 torque tearing away at its gizzards, its CWP in particular. I won’t bang on about the BT24 now as I’m in the process of writing an article about the ’67 Brabham/Repco winning season and go into much BT24 detail. Suffice it to say that the F2 BT23 begat the F1 BT24, my favourite Brabham.

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Denny Hulme jumping his BT24 Repco at the Nurburgring during his ’67 Championship winning season. He won the German GP by 40 seconds from Jack (unattributed)

From an Australian viewpoint the BT23 Repco Tasman cars were very important as they provided much needed cars on skinny local grids…

The Tasman Series 2.5 Formula grids were ‘chockers’ with cars and stars, the domestic championship contained quality but not quantity. Budgets for these relatively expensive cars were hard to find in the sixties and Australia’s march to Touring Car domination was already well underway so ‘taxis’ were starting to absorb sponsorship budgets previously devoted to real racing cars.

Funnily enough, even though there was a swag of Repco engined BT23’s running around it was Alec Mildren’s, one off, 2.5 litre Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 V8 engined BT23D(1) which took a Gold Star. Frank Gardner raced this car in the ’68 Tasman, it was then taken over by Kevin Bartlett, the Aussie ace took the ’68 Gold Star in it. Repco never won a Gold Star title, a topic to explore at some stage during the Repco series of articles I am gradually writing with Rodway Wolfe and more recently Nigel Tait’s help.

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Simply sensational Dick Simpson shot of Kevin Bartlett in BT23D Alfa, Hell Corner Bathurst Easter 1968, KB was walking away with the race until a broken rear upright ended his run. Dominant in this car in ‘68/9 (Dick Simpson)

Delving deeper into this BT23 tangent, whilst a BT23 Repco never won a Gold Star, a BT23 Waggott nee Mildren did…

Denny Hulme raced a works F2 Brabham BT23(5) FVA in the ’68 Tasman Series comprehensively boofing the car in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe on 6 January, the series opening round.

Denny’s chassis was Jochen Rindt’s Winkelmann Racing entry in ’67, he won 9 Euro F2 races in it including the Rouen event pictured above. Another car (BT23-2) was sent from England for Denny to race in the rest of the series. Feo Stanton and Ian Rorison of Rorstan Racing bought the wreck and sent it to Rennmax Engineering in Sydney for Bob Britton to repair.

Instead of doing so Bob made a jig from the bent frame and sent a new chassis, the Rorstan Mk1 back to the Kiwis. Seven cars were built on the BT23 jig; the Rorstan, Mildren, two Rennmax BN2 and three BN3’s. Of these the Mildren, so named by Alec Mildren, the Sydney Alfa Romeo dealer, team owner and former Gold Star champion was the most successful. The Britton jig was also put to good use over the coming years repairing cars like Harvey’s bent BT23E!

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Max Stewart ‘harry flatters in top gear’ heading down Surfers Paradise main straight and about to guide his 2 litre Waggott powered Mildren missile under the fast right hander and Dunlop Bridge. 9th in the ‘Surfers 100’ Tasman round in 1970 against the F5000’s. Graham McRae’s McLaren M10A Chev won the race but Bartlett’s 2 litre Mildren Mono Waggott was 2nd on this power circuit (Dick Simpson)

So…the Mildren pictured resting against the Skyline Armco fencing at this articles outset is a BT23 design. Max Stewart was prodigiously fast in the Mildren Waggott, he was one of those guys who seemed to get quicker as he got older, in ’69 he was quick, by the mid-seventies he absolutely flew in his Lola F5000’s. He was one of the very small number of blokes in Oz who squeezed absolutely everything out of these, big, demanding, fast, spectacular, fabulous 500bhp V8’s.

Bartlett, Matich, Allen, John McCormack, Bruce Allison, Warwick Brown, John Walker and Stewart in my book were the F5000 aces with Matich, if I have to pick one, the first among equals. Mind you, on sheer speed Alf Costanzo who came relatively late to the F5000 party could have been ‘the one’. Its an interesting topic to debate, end of F5000 tangent!

One of the pit sights which always amused me, and admittedly small things amuse small minds was big Max, he wasn’t a ‘fat bastard’, but he was 6’2”, crammimg himself into one of his cars before setting off for the dummy grid. If there was a taller bloke than Max in F5000 globally I’d be intrigued to know his name. He must have given away at least 10Kg to the rest of the grid before he even plopped his arse into the tight aluminium monocoque confines of the F5000 Lolas in which he excelled.

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Max was big of stature and heart; here he is after winning the Rothmans International Series ‘Sandown Cup’ on 20 February 1977, his last big win, Lola T400 Chev, sadly not too long before his untimely death at Calder, 19 March 1977 (Ian Smith)

By the time Merv Waggott was building 2 litre variants of his superb DOHC, 4 valve, Lucas injected, bespoke aluminium blocked engines they were outright winners in 2.5 litre Tasman Formula events in the hands on the Mildren Duo, Messrs Bartlett and Stewart. The first Gold Star for F5000 was in 1971; Max’ Mildren Waggott won the Gold Star with about 275bhp from his close mate Bartlett in a much less nimble and reliable 500bhp McLaren M10B Chev in a year of speed and consistency. I don’t care what anyone says, F5000’s driven to their limit were always a little brittle.

So, to join the dots, a BT23 design did win the Gold Star albeit called a Mildren. Stewart’s Mildren Waggott and Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott are tangents too far for this article and a wonderful future topic, there is a sensational article to be written there with Kevin Bartlett’s first-hand assistance on both chassis’ and engine if I ask him nicely…

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Merv Waggott changing plugs in his baby, Wigram 1970. Bartlett’s Mildren Mono ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott (Bill Pottinger/the Roaring Season)

Merv Waggott changing plugs in one of his superb jewels. An all alloy, DOHC, gear driven 4 valve Lucas injected circa 275bhp 2 litre engine. Its in the back Of Kevin Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Sub’ Waggott, shot is in the Wigram paddock, 1970 Tasman round on 17 January on 7 December. KB had a lousy meeting, not setting a practice time and DNF on lap 6 with engine dramas, Stewart was 3rd though in his car, Matich the winner in his McLaren M10A Chev.

The Waggott 2 litre engine was first built in late 1969 and initially developed circa 250bhp, its output later circa 268-275bhp with about 160 lbs/ft of torque. It raced to a win in KB’s hands in the ‘Sub upon debut in the ’69 ‘Hordern Trophy’ at WF, KB won again at the 1970 Warwick Farm Tasman round ahead of all the F5000’s and 2.5 Tasman Formula cars.  2 litre Waggotts won Australias’ Gold Star in 1970 for Leo Geoghegan (Lotus 59) and Stewart in ’71 as noted above.

An article about Merv and his creations is a wonderful feature for another time. Briefly for international readers Waggott’s Sydney shop built race winning engines from the 1950’s, checkout the article below on the WM Special/Cooper T20 Waggott Holden twin-cam 6 cylinder raced by Jack Myers and tested by Stirling Moss in the late ‘50’s as some background.

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

Winding the clock forward, as the ANF1 2.5 litre formula spluttered on in the late sixties a ‘battle to the death’ was fought for the new ANF1 category in Oz between opposing forces who supported either F5000 or 2 litre F2. The latter to commence in Europe from 1 January 1972, F5000 commenced in Europe in 1969 and was born in the US as Formula A earlier still.

Waggott engines were initially of 1600cc, then later 1860cc and used the ubiquitous Ford Cortina block, same as Cosworth’s 1’6 litre FVA wherein Keith Duckworth tested his design ideas in advance of finalising his DFV design. In 1600 form the Waggott would have been Euro F2 legal, it used a production block as the regs required. The 1.6 litre F2 started in ’67 and ended in 1971 when it grew to 2 litres. There were a few FVA’s racing in Australia, the 1.6 Waggott more than a match for them, no Waggott’s, sadly, ever raced in Euro F2.

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Lance Ruting studio shot of one of the engines, Ford block by the look of it so 1600 or 1860 (autopics.com)

Waggott 2 litre engines used a bespoke aluminium block as the stock cast iron Ford block maxxed out at about 1860cc. Beyond that the pistons kissed! Mike Hailwood’s Surtees TS10 won the ’72 Euro F2 Championship running Brian Hart built Ford BDA’s of 1850cc, those competitors running greater capacity than that had unreliability. The final Euro 2 litre F2 regs required production blocks from 1972-75 until ’76 when ‘racing engines’ were allowed. So, in the earliest years of the class the Waggott was ineligible.

Merv’s engines could have raced in F2 from ’76 but he had long before told CAMS to ‘shove it’ after F5000 was chosen (probably rightly given the backing of Ford, Holden and Repco who were building V8’s/wanting to develop an F5000 variant of the Holden engine in Repco’s case) as Australias’ new ANF1 from the 1971 Gold Star competition.

Had the ingenious, beautifully built little engine been Euro F2 Championship legal in 1972 Sydney’s Waggott Engineering had the winning engine! The engines were tried, tested championship winning donks ready to pop into any car. 275bhp and a big fat torque curve, Kevin Bartlett quoted the usable rev range of 6800-8750rpm, would have done the trick in 1972, the BMW M12 changed the F2 game from ’73 of course.

A wonderful ‘mighta-been’ all the same. Merv could have ‘stolen the F2 march’ in 1972 in much the same way Repco did in F1 with its Olds F85 production block based ‘620 Series’ V8 in 1966…

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Max Stewart on the way to winning the ‘Angus & Coote Trophy’, the 1971 Oran Park Gold Star round on 27 June. Mildren Waggott 2 litre, Graeme Lawerence was 2nd in a Brabham BT30 FVC, the little cars succeeding as the F5000’s fell away (Dick Simpson)

Credits…

John Arkwright, oldracephotos.com, Dick Simpson, Dale Harvey, Bill Pottinger/The Roaring Season, Ian Smith, Neville McKay, autopics.com.au

Bibliography…

oldracingcars.com, F2 Register

Tailpiece: A Lotus to end an article on Brabhams…

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Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco with ‘830 series’ Repco V8, started from the Bathurst ’69 pole but out on lap 12 with a gearbox problem, his time would shortly come with this car, winning the JAF Japanese GP later in 1969 amongst a classy field (oldracephotos.com)

Click here for an article on this ex-Clark chassis;

https://primotipo.com/?s=lotus+39

Finito…

 

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Introduction…

As Brabham, Tauranac and Denny Hulme scanned the competitive landscape as 1966 unfolded they formed the view that a similar formula to ’66 stood a good chance of success in 1967. A small, light, responsive chassis, this time designed around the engine. Remember that Jack’s successful ’66 mount, BT19 was an adapted, unraced 1965 GP car Tauranac designed around the stillborn Coventry Climax Flat-16. Ron’s ’67 BT24 was and is a superb car, its race record we shall review in an article about Brabham Racing Organisation’s (BRO) successful ’67 season.

In terms of the engine, keeping it simple and light had paid big dividends for Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. (RBE) in the first year of the 3 litre formula.

The fortunes of Ferrari, BRM, its H-16 engine the antithesis of the Brabham Repco’s in terms of weight and complexity and the Maserati V12 were well covered in my article on the ’66 season. Dan Gurney’s Weslake V12 engine showed promise but reliability continued to be an issue. The Ford Cosworth DFV didn’t race until the Dutch GP in June 1967. Brabham’s needed more power of course, too much power is rarely an issue, but they figured they needed less power than most others on the grid. If Jack and Denny started the season with a reliable, just quick enough package BRO could retain their title as others sought to make what were ultimately potentially quicker, more sophisticated multi-cylinder, multi-cam cars reliable. Click here for my article on Jack’s successful 1966 season; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/13/winning-the-1966-world-f1-championships-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-3/

denny le mans

The beautifully fast, light, forgiving championship winning Brabham BT24 Repco 740 ahead of Chris Amon’s Ferrari 312 at Le Mans during the ’67 French GP. Denny 2nd to Jacks winning sister car, Amon DNF with throttle linkage failure (Automobile Year)

They were an intensely pragmatic group of racers in this Brabham/Repco senior mix…

Repco’s Charlie Dean, Phil Irving, Norman Wilson (designer of the ’67 RBE740 Series V8) Brabham and Tauranac all built winning cars (and bikes in Phil’s case) themselves, as in built with their own hands. Dean created the extraordinary series of Maybach Grand Prix cars, look at my Stan Jones article for much detail about this series of racers built by Charlie and initially raced by him, and then later by Stanley with much success. Norman Wilson built a Holden engined special in his youth covered in brief at the end of this article. Tauranac and his brother Austin built and raced the ‘original’ Ralts before Ron joined Jack in the UK in 1961.

Dean, Wilson, Tauranac and Brabham had been/were drivers. They knew what it took to win races. They understood winning was as much about torque as power. Handling was essential, the circuits then were all far from just requiring top end power, what was needed at Monza was different to the blend of corners and contours at Brands. All had driven cars and lost races due to unreliability. They understood a balanced package was critical, that whatever power they had needed to be put to the road. The point I make is that these guys were practitioners not theorists on ‘an engineering jolly’.

The RB group were about the application of sound pragmatic engineering practice, they didn’t have to think deeply about this stuff it was part of their DNA given the ‘build and develop it yourself’ school from whence they came. These guys weren’t ‘university engineers’ (which is not to say they lacked formal qualifications) but very practical chaps. Let the others chase ‘engineering perfection’ as they saw it, ‘an evolution of what we have is probably enough to do the trick’ was the correct thinking.

It was a whole different ballgame they confronted at the same time in ’68, but this was mid-’66, the game-changing DFV was still a distance away…

rb 740

Repco studio shot of the front of the amazingly compact ’67 championship winning ‘RBE740’, SOHC, 2 valve ‘between the Vee exhaust’, circa 330bhp V8. The ‘mix and match’ of engine parts described in the text is proven by use of 620 water pump, 630 chain timing cover, oil filter American ‘Purolator’, note oil pump below the dry sump pan, and up top the ends of aluminium water cooling rails, Bosch distributor and Lucas fuel injection trumpets (Tait/Repco)

1967 Engine Design Deliberations…

Ex RBE Engineer Nigel Tait; ‘By July 1966 the World Titles had already been ‘wrapped up’ for the year so the team were already thinking about the engine for 1967. Phil, Jack and Ron were all keen on the idea of getting the exhausts out of the airstream to clean up the car in terms of better aerodynamics and also for ease of plumbing the exhausts which otherwise had to negotiate the tubular chassis frame’. The 1966 BT19 championship winning chassis did not present a very effective frontal profile, its exhausts well out in the breeze.

Colin Chapman was far from the first chassis man to be prescriptive about design elements of an engine, as he was to Keith Duckworth in relation to the Ford Cosworth DFV, particularly in relation its integration with ‘his’ chassis.

Between the Vee exhausts had been raced successfully by BRM with its P56 1.5-2 litre family of V8’s in recent years. Ferrari also chose the same approach with its ’67 3 valve V12, its fair to say it was an F1 design trend of the time. In some ways Ferrari’s approach was better than Brabham’s as Ron maintained outboard springs and shocks on both the front and back of his ’67 BT24 chassis. Ferrari, as they did in 1966, used a top rocker and inboard front spring/shock presenting less resistance to the air at the front of the car at least. Ferrari went outboard at the back like Brabham. (and the rest of the grid)

rb 620 and 740

Old and new; ’66 RB620 305 bhp V8 left and ’67 RB740 330 bhp V8 right, F1 champions both. 740 was 3 inches shorter, 4 inches wider across the heads and 15 lbs lighter than 620. Dimensions otherwise the same; 25.5 inches long, 17.25 inches wide across the bellhousing (Repco)

Conceptual Design of the Heads…

RBE Chief Engineer Norman Wilson; ‘ It would have been Jack’s idea to put the exhausts in the centre (of the Vee). Jack asked if it could be done. I remember when i started designing them i spent a lot of time, probably 3 or 4 days, just drawing one cylinder up to try and prove that you could fit everything in. See you have got a whole row of head studs, you have got to have water passages between the port. The whole idea was to prove that you could get the inlet port in, exhaust port and all the head studs. That was a giant task to figure out in a way’.

‘It meant putting the outer row of studs underneath the exhaust ports. I don’t think i have the layout now but i remember spending a huge amount of time and finally i went to Frank Hallam (RBE General Manager) and said i think we can do it. And thats how the 40 Series heads started’. ‘To manage to get everything on one side and the thing is unlike most engines we built as we wanted big ports. So to fit all these big ports in plus the port wall, plus the bolt bosses was a major task. I think it took about three days work for me to fit everything in a rough layout’.

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Jack’s BT24 Repco 740 being fettled during ’67, circuit unknown. ‘Box is 5 speed Hewland DG300 transaxle, note rubber ‘donuts’, Lucas injection ‘bomb’ or fuel pump to the right of the box, also rear spaceframe chassis diaphragm. Getting the exhausts outta the airstream shown to good effect in this shot (unattributed)

The ’40 Series’ Between the Vee 1967 Cylinder Heads Design Detail…

‘…the new cylinder heads retained parallel valves but they were now in line with the cylinder axis (instead of at 10 degrees to the axis as on the ’66 20 Series heads and were flush to the head face’ said Wilson. ‘The 40 Series heads used the Heron head design. In this design the cylinder head is flat and the piston has the combustion chamber in the top of the piston (a bowl in piston arrangement). The other feature of the 40 Series head is that it had a tall inlet port. It had a fairly long, relatively straight section there on Jack Brabham’s suggestion. He had received some highly secret information from Honda that this was the way to go. In hindsight i don’t think so. All these things are better in hindsight, but that’s how we did it’

‘The Heron head, i think everyone agreed, had to be the way to go because the Cosworth SCA (F2 engine) was 1000cc and was putting out 120bhp. At the time in F2 it was winning everything. I think it put out 123bhp. Now if you are looking at a 3 litre engine, thats 369bhp. And at that time that would have been been looking for us a fairly exciting sort of figure. The other point about the Heron head is it allowed us to have a single camshaft which we wanted to have the low weight, simplicity and ease of manufacture’.

‘The 40 Series head was purely made for the car. No other reason. It put the exhausts down the centre of the Vee…thats what Ron wanted, he made the car so why not get what he wanted’.

‘The highest output of the 740 Series 3 litre was only a bit over 330bhp. This horsepower rivalry between the different engine manufacturers at the time, the horsepower numbers were really irrelevant. At the time Maserati claimed about 500bhp, but they were adding on about 100bhp to make up for the exhaust gas pollution in the test cell. But really its about the area of horsepower curve’. ‘If they had 500bhp they would be leaving us behind a lot quicker than they are leaving us behind!’ was a quip Rod Wolfe recalls Jack making to the boys in the RBE engine assembly area on one of his trips to Australia in 1967.

‘One of the philosophies was for the engine to always have a wide power range and good power at the bottom end of it which suited the light car. So if ours was 330bhp there was no way other cars had 400-500bhp claimed. Our power was distributed much more evenly across a wider range of revs. Thus Denny Hulme would say it was great to drive a Repco Brabham because he could overtake competitors in the corners as if they were ‘tied to a fence’.

There were some problems with 40 Series head porosity during ’67 as ex-RBE machinist/storeman Rodway Wolfe recalls; ‘Norm did a fantastic job to even succeed with the casting and it proved to be a great engine in larger capacity too, bigger valves etc…we were able to fit very large valves without too many seat problems. The 40 series did have a lot of porosity problems with the ports, some we scrapped as the ports actually broke through when we were porting them and there was not the welding equipment available that we have nowadays to repair them. Porosity, a big drama, as i say, one of my jobs was to send the castings to ‘Nilsens Sintered Products’ in Richmond where they placed the heads in a vacuum and impregnated them with hot resin. Vacuum impregnation solved some of these problems’.

jack wf

Brabham on the Warwick Farm grid, WF Tasman round in 1967. In relation to the cooling duct feeding the engine Rodway Wolfe comments ‘There were a few heat problems in the valley of the engine with the 40 series as the fuel metering unit was also located in the valley but small heat shields seemed to correct this problem and it was not an issue once the car was on the track of course’. It seems these ducts were used in the ’67 Tasman rounds on the 640 engines used by Jack and Denny and subsequently sporadically on the 740 engines, Le Mans for example (Bruce Wells)

A typically pragmatic decision to the heads was made in relation to the 1967 Repco block…

Remember that the ’66 engine used a heavily adapted version of the Oldsmobile F85 aluminium block. Repco still had a swag of unused blocks sitting in Rod Wolfe’s Repco store at Maidstone. The blocks had been successful, a world title proof enough of their effectiveness, but the machining and adaption required to make them an effective race tool meant they were expensive but still sub-optimal. But it wasn’t all plain sailing with the block however much it may have seemed so from the outside, Tait; ‘For much of 1966 we had serious blowby issues due to distortion of the dry sleeves and it was not until almost the end of that year that we went to wet sleeves. The F85 Olds blocks came with dry sleeves in situ’.

Repco’s race engine commercial ends were to be served by building and selling engines for Tasman use and for Group Seven sportscars, burgeoning at the time globally; 2.5 litres was the Tasman Formula capacity limit, the F85 ‘maxxed out’ at 4.4 litres which was the capacity used for the sportscar engines. Repco’s first sale of a customer engine was the 4.4 litre 620 Series unit sold to Bob Jane for his Elfin 400.

So Repco decided to ‘have their cake and eat it too’. The new bespoke ‘700 Series’ block would allow all of the F85 ‘600 Series’ bits and bobs to attach to it; heads, timing case, sump the lot. So Repco could gradually use its stock of F85 blocks for Tasman and sportscar use whilst ‘700 Series’ blocks were used in F1 for 1967 and more broadly in capacities up to 5 litres subsequently. As engines were rebuilt the 600 blocks were replaced progressively by 700 series units, 600 blocks ceased to be used when there were none left. Typically practical, sensible and parsimonious Repco!

Whilst the ‘700 Series’ block design decision, to allow 600 hardware to be attached was a ‘functional’ pragmatic decision the aluminium block itself was also improved being redesigned to increase rigidity. The new block design was commenced by Irving, he and others say, prior to his departure from RBE, but the completed block is his replacement as Chief Design Engineer, Norman Wilson’s design.

rb team

The post Phil Irving RBE design team; L>R GM Frank Hallam and Engineers Norman Wilson, Lindsay Hooper, John Judd and Brian Heard (Repco)

Phil Irving’s departure by resignation or sacking by RBE GM Frank Hallam is an important part of the RBE story and will be dealt with in a separate article. I explore not just the difficult relationship between these two characters but also the broader issues of the leadership of Repco, CEO Charles McGrath’s key enduring support of the RBE program and the appointment of Bob Brown as the Director responsible for RBE instead of alternatives including Charlie Dean at the projects outset. The antipathy between Hallam and Irving was partially about personality but also about politics and legacy in terms of who is responsible for what of the RB620 design and build. More on this topic very soon.

For now lets just focus on the RB740 engine which in no way shape nor form was negatively impacted by Irving’s departure…whilst noting that their probably would have been no 740 had it not been for the success of Jack and Phil’s RB620, JB as the engines conceptual designer and PI as its detail designer and draftsman…

block

Machining the RB700 block, note the stiffening ribs referred to in the text (Wolfe/Repco)

Norman Wilson; ‘When i went there (to RBE from Repco Research) John Judd (who had been seconded to Repco by BRO in the UK) had done a new crankcase. So i asked to look at it and John showed it to me and i said we can’t make it. It was impossible because it was the basis of a whole new engine. It became a mutual decision (by the design team) that we make a crankcase that went underneath, on top of and behind exactly what we had’. ‘We couldn’t have made a crankcase, head and timing case all at once. So we made a crankcase and then we did the 40 series heads. We had to have a timing case with the heads but it meant we didn’t have too much to do at once and we just kept progressing’.

Wilson;’The new crankcase was designed from scratch but was also designed so it could accommodate the 20 series cylinder head if we wanted to. It was critical being a fairly small outfit that we had the maximum amount of interchangeable flexibility between all the components that we made. So the 700 series crankcase was designed to overcome the problems that we had seen or experienced with the Oldsmobile F85 600 series crankcase. It had wet liners, that in part was due to the fact that it was easier to cast the cylinder block with a wet liner design in that it simplified dramatically the coring required for the casting of the block’.

‘The Oldsmobile engine showed it had main bearing problems so we altered the main bearing arrangement to be much more rigid. We extended the studs up through into the centre of the Vee with nuts on top to take some of the load up through to the top of the block. The unfortunate part of that was the design was right but people would always do the nuts in the top up tight. And of course what would happen was the cylinder block being aluminium would expand more than the stud and would eventually break it. What they should have done, and no one would listen, was do them up at a much lower torque so when the engine got hot it would put the right load on the stud’.

repco boys

RBE Boys, Maidstone, undated but circa 1966/7. Back L>R Kevin Davies, Eric Gaynor, Tony Chamberlain, Fred Rudd, John Mepstead, Peter Holinger. Middle; Vic Mosby, Howard Ring, Norman Bence. Front; David Nash, Rodway Wolfe, Don Butler (Tait/Repco)

‘The front bearing panel of the block was made stronger because this had proved to be a weakness with the Oldsmobile block. The back of the block was made with the same stud pattern as the Olds block so that all the existing gearbox adaptors could be used. The block was made with the idea of making it as light as possible and that was one of the critical things in design. In the end Frank suggested we put some diagonal ribbing on the 700 series crankcase walls to strengthen them’. ‘The sidewalls of the crankcase were actually bolted to the main bearing caps…cross bolting (and strengthened the crankcase considerably). So i felt the diagonal ribbing was really quite irrelevant. …Frank wanted it and, you know, he was a pretty good boss to work for, so thats what we did’.

‘The other thing about the block was that later when we made the 4.2 litre Indianapolis engines (760 Series DOHC, 4 valve V8 in 1968/9) we could alter the sealing arrangements, in fact the later F1 engines (’68 860 Series) were the same, so we used Cooper rings instead of head gaskets. Cooper rings sealed the combustion chamber and O rings sealed the water passages. But we also then had a groove around the outside of the Cooper ring joined with a shallow slot to the edge of the head so if one Cooper ring leaked slightly there was no way it would pressurise the cooling system’.

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RBE700 Series block, note the cross bolted 5 main bearings (Repco)

‘With the Indianapolis engine (760 Series 4.2) those grooves came out of the inside of the Vee. So you could run your engine in the pits and you could put your finger over the end of each groove and you’d know if any of the Cooper rings were leaking slightly. The 700 block was the same height as the Olds F85 block. And the 800 block (860 F1 and 830 Tasman 2.5) was a (1.5 inches) lower one to make the engine smaller.’

The 700 Series block apart from being stronger was also 15 Kg lighter than the F85 ‘600 Series, Norman Wilson again; ‘The F85 block was designed to be diecast on a diecasting machine, it was perhaps a bit thicker in spots just to make it easier to cast. We got rid of a considerable amount of aluminium around each cylinder…The Repco block didn’t have all the bosses down the centre along the block for the cam-followers. It didn’t have the cam-bearings for the centre camshaft (of the F85) We didn’t have the stiffener plate on the bottom. The bearing caps were bigger but they were done a bit better and they were probably no heavier than what was there. And in all the places where strength was not required we just skinned them down as much as we could’.

brochure

(Wolfe/Repco)

Most of the components for the engine were made by Repco subsidiary, Russell Engineering, few were contracted out.

Wolfe; ‘Most of the RBE engine components were made at the Maidstone factory. The pistons and rings however were other Repco companies and the crankshafts Laystall in the UK but no other F1 engine constructor made their own pistons and rings in 1966, even Ferrari used Hepolite pistons so Repco were unique’.

Harold Clisby’s engineering business in South Australia cast many of the heads. Kevin Drage, the senior engineer at Castalloy, the Clisby subsidiary who made the heads recalled that around 120 cylinder heads of four types’ 30,40, 50 and 60 Series were cast by the company over the period of the RBE program.

The 30 Series head was detailed by John Judd and was two valve with inlet and exhaust ports on either side of the head, ‘crossflow’ inlets between the Vee and exhausts out the side. 40 Series (the ’67 championship winner) heads were detailed by Norman Wilson which had inlet and exhaust ports on the same side of the head, between the Vee exhausts.

Drage recalls that; The two valve 30 and 40 Series heads were soon followed by the four valve 50 and 60 series designs. John Judd drew these up with the 50 Series design having diagonally tangentially ported inlet and exhaust valves resulting in 16 inlet trumpets and 16 exhaust pipes, the 60 Series design having siamesed inlet and exhaust ports’. The 50 Series heads which were built and dyno tested and the 60 Series 1968 F1 4 valve, DOHC design are a subject of a future article. The fact that RBE persevered so long, at GM Frank Hallam’s insistence with the 50 Series heads delayed development of the 60 Series design, to RBE and BRO’s cost during the ’68 F1 season.

The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermens Bend, not too far from RBE’s Maidstone factory made the alloy crankcases and timing covers, note that Wilson went to double-row timing chains with RB740 compared with the single chain of RB620.

Ex-Repco engineer George Wade is often given credit for the camshafts but Rod Wolfe says; ‘we made the camshafts for all of the engines, George Wade profiled them to various specs but we turned the billets with a mimic tracer on our Tovalieri lathe. The very first 620 cams were cast iron but were changed to steel in 1966’.

Lucas fuel injection was of course again used, as well as a Bosch distributor.

Summary of RBE740 F1 3 litre engine specifications/suppliers…

Bore/Stroke; 3.5X2.55 inches, capacity 2996cc. Power 330bhp@ circa 8400rpm, weight 350 pounds

Compression ratio 12:1, valve sizes 1 13/16inches inlet /1 1/2 inches exhaust, valve angle vertical, valve lift .40. Valve timing 50, 70, 50, 70

Pistons, rings and main bearings by Repco, big end bearings supplied by Vandervell

Lucas fuel injection, Bosch coil and distributor, Champion plugs, Esso fuel and oil and Borg and Beck clutch

Denny Hulme and Jackie Stewart, Levin NZ Tasman 1967 (Digby Paape)

Denny Hulme DNF ignition and Jackie Stewart 2nd in their ‘between the Vee’ exhaust Brabham BT22 ‘640 Series’ Repco and BRM P261 respectively Levin, NZ 14 January 1967 (Digby Paape)

Racing the 640: 1967 Tasman Series…

The first race of the 1967 GP season was the South African GP at Kyalami on January 2, Jack and Denny raced 620 Series V8’s, the 740 was running late due to delays in patterns being made for the 700 crankcase. Its an interesting observation given that Hallam told Brabham by letter dated 23 September that the 700 patterns were half finished. In any event, the engine was late so made its debut in the Tasman Series, or more specifically 640 Series engines did; the new heads atop the 600 Series/F85 Olds blocks.

jack south africa

Brabham giving his 620 engined BT20 some welly at Kyalami during the South African GP at Kyalami on 2 January 1967, he was 6th from pole with Denny 4th from grid 2. Pedro Rodriguez won in a Cooper T81 Maserati (unattributed)

RBE staff numbers during the Christmas/New Year 1966/7 period swelled to 37, 23 engines being assembled during this period. Frank Hallam records that due to the great amount of dismantling, assembly and experimentation that took place only four 2.5 litre motors raced in the Tasman Series. The 640 series 2.5 litre Tasman engines gave circa 265bhp@8500rpm.

Brabham’s full ’67 F1 season i will cover in a separate article, here we look at the Tasman races for the 640 and early season F1 races of the 620 and 740.

gasking and bton, pre sandwon

RBE’s Michael Gasking and BRO’s Roy Billington and another mechanic prepare Brabham’s ‘RB640’ 2.5 V8 engined BT23A before the Sandown Tasman round on 26 February 1967, DNF ignition. Repco Maidstone factory (Wolfe)

If you take the view that the ’67 Tasman was a warm up for the ’67 World Championship then it was a success for Brabham and RBE. The 40 Series heads were thoroughly race tested during the annual Australasian summer contest.

Equally important was Jacks mount, his car designated BT23A was an adaptation of Ron Tauranac’s very successful new 1967/8 BT23 F2 design, which won dozens of races in Ford Cosworth FVA 1.6 litre F2 spec. The Tasman BT23A was effectively the prototype of the BT24 which went on to win the ’67 titles, so the Tasman ‘blooded’ both the chassis and engine well before the F1 season. The reliability which flowed from this development process won RBE and BRO the ’67 championships, the Lotus 49 Ford Cosworth DFV was well quicker but had not had the development miles the Brabham Repco’s had…

Jim Clark took the 1967 Tasman title in an F1 Lotus 33 fitted with a stretched to 2 litre Coventry Climax FWMV V8 engine, a quick, reliable, well proven combination. Clark took 3 wins, Jackie Stewart 2 in a similar F1 BRM P261. But the stretched to about 2.1 litres P56 V8 stressed the BRM transmission to its limits, the ‘tranny its weakness that summer. Jack was equal 3rd on the points table to JYS with 1 win.

Jim Clark, Lotus 33 Climax, NZ Tasman, Levin 1967

Jim Clark Lotus 33 Climax, Levin International winner, 14 January 1967 (Digby Paape)

Jack and Denny contested all rounds of the championship with the exception of Teretonga, the last Kiwi event. Jack took a win at Longford and Denny 3rd at Wigram his best. Brabham had a lot of unreliability but the problems weren’t in the main engines; for Denny a radiator hose at WF, gear selector at Sandown and electrical problems at Longford and for Jack a driveshaft breakage at Teretonga and ignition dramas at Sandown.

Denny Hulme, Brabham BT22 Repco, 1967 NZ Tasman, Levin

Denny Hulme’s pretty, effective, Brabham BT22 ‘640’ Repco, Levin 1967. DNF ignition (Digby Paape)

At that stage Repco hadn’t sold customer Tasman 2.5 engines of any type, the engines were made available later in the year in time for commencement of the domestic Gold Star series (640 & 740 Series 2.5 V8’s) in the meantime the more important business of getting the 3 litre ‘740 Series’ V8’s into Tauranac’s exquisite little BT24 was the priority.

jack and denny

Jack from Denny in BT20’s; Jack’s 740 engined and Denny’s 620, Denny won both heats and Jack the final giving the 740 the first of its many wins in 1967. Oulton Park ‘Spring Cup’, 15 April 1967 (Brian Watson)

The first F1 event of the European ’67 season was the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch on 12 March.
Dan Gurney won both heats and the final in his Eagle T1G Weslake, Jack was 9th a ’66 spec 620 engined BT20 with Denny DNF, similarly equipped.

The ‘Daily Express Spring Cup’ at Oulton Park followed on 15 April, Brabham ‘cleaned up’ in BT20’s; Denny won both heats and Jack the final taking a great race win for the new 740 3 litre V8 with Denny 2nd in a 620 engined ’66 chassis.

jack monaco

Jack proved the speed of the new RB740 V8 at Monaco, its championship race debut, plonking it on pole but it went bang with a broken conrod in the races 1st lap, car is Jack’s beloved ‘old nail’ Brabham BT19, his ’66 championship winning chassis. Denny won in ‘last years’ quick and reliable BT20 Repco ‘620’ (unattributed)

BRO fitted its first 740 Series engine just in time for the Monaco GP on May 7.
Apart from the delays caused by late patterns for the blocks, Repco Die and Tool Co forged conrods developed faults. After being unable to establish why the Repco rods were failing the team went the Carillo route, the team using these tried and true products…despite not being made in Oz! Rod Wolfe; ‘We did discover that the champfer at the bolt heads did not match the bolt radius under the head of the bolt and even when tensioned correctly they were not seating properly resulting in a couple of failures’.

The definitive RB ‘740 Series’ engined Brabham BT24 didn’t appear until Jack gave the chassis/engine combination its championship debut at the Belgian GP, Spa on June 18. This was 2 weeks after the Ford Cosworth DFV V8 took the first of 155 GP wins, the 1967 successful Brabham GP season a Repco story for next time…

denny spa

‘Black Jack’ at La Source during the ’67 Belgian GP. Both he and Denny retired with engine problems in BT24 and BT19 respectively. Dan Gurney took a famous and well deserved win in his Eagle T1G Weslake V12, 18 June. Compact nature of the F2 derived BT24 clear (unattributed)

Repco 1966/7 promotional film…

Check out this great footage, the first half covers Brabham’s victorious 1966 F1 season, the other bit the ’67 Tasman season, the debut of the 640 Series V8’s including some factory footage of the engines build.

Etcetera…

test house

Rodway Wolfe ‘The dyno test house at the rear of the Repco Maidstone factory. The silver drum on the side was the fuel tank which was changed when needed. The walls of the building were very thick…when the engines were running at full noise you could hold your hand against the wall and get a massage! Fascinating!’ (Wolfe)

 

Roy Billington and Denny Hulme in the middle of a ratio change in the Wigram paddock. Note the Brabham BT22 Hewland gearbox, high pressure Lucas ‘bomb’ fuel pump and 640 engine of course (J Manhire)

 

jack wf

Repco 640 2.5 V8 power; Jack all cocked up in Warwick Farm’s Esses during the AGP, Warwick Farm 19 February 1967. Brabham was 4th in his BT23A, Stewart won from Clark and Frank Gardner in BRM P261, Lotus 33 Climax and Brabham BT16 Climax respectively (unattributed)

 

repco holden

Repco works Brabham Repcos’ on the move, Tasman Series, Longford, Tasmania 1967. ‘Rice Trailers’ the ducks guts at the time, tow cars are Holden ‘HR’ Panel Vans, 3 litre straight OHV 6 cylinder engines and ‘3 on the tree’ column shift manual ‘boxes (Ellis French)

 

jack sandown

Sandown Tasman, 26 February 1967, Brabham, Brabham BT23A Repco, Stewart BRM P261 and Hulme on the outside, Brabham BT22 Repco, all DNF! Jack with ignition, Stewart crown wheel and Hulme gear selection problems. Clark won in a Lotus 33 Climax. You can see the ducts directing cooling air between the Vee shown in an earlier shot (unattributed)

 

rcn

Jack hooks into the Viaduct ahead of Jim and Denny in David Chintock’s impression of the ’67 Longford Tasman round which Brabham’s BT23A won (Wolfe/Racing Car News)

Etcetera: Norman Wilson RBE740 Chief Designer…

rb norman

Norman Wilson in the study of his St Kilda, Melbourne bayside home in early 2016 (Greg Smith)

Its interesting context to Wilson’s work at Repco Brabham Engines to look at the car he built as a ‘youngster’ before his ‘glory years’ as part of the Maidstone team. The car is both innovative and practical in its adaptation of proprietary parts, a combination applied in his later work.

As the cars current owner Greg Smith observes ‘the Norman Wilson Special is a beautiful study of a late fifties racing car with its Mercedes’ styling and layover engine, side vents and knock-off wire wheels’

rb nw spl

‘Norman Wilson Spl’ in the foreground at Templestowe Hillclimb in then outer eastern Melbourne. Pat Hawthorne’s Lycoming Spl behind. The carbs are Webers, sidedraft right angle alloy castings (Greg Smith)

Norman started his 6 cylinder Holden engined ‘Norman Wilson Spl’ around 1956 aged 29/30. The chassis is a spaceframe, front suspension Wilson’s using inverted Holden uprights and wishbones, his own cross member and geometry. Steering is rack and pinion. The rear end is a ‘cut and shut’ Holden with an offset diff to lower the driver, springs are quarter elliptics with some neat locating links.

The clever bit was laying the Holden engine over at 30 degrees to the horizontal to both lower both the centre of gravity and bonnet line. By the time the car was finished Norman had moved to Repco, where it was completed and furnished with 3 large, single throat Webers Charlie Dean bought for Maybach but never fitted to it when that car was fuel injected. The ‘box was Jaguar, the beautiful aluminium body built by Barry Hudson who also did the Ian Mountain (Peugeot) Spl.

Norman raced the car, mainly in Victoria from 1960-63, it passed through several hands before being ‘chopped up’ in the late ‘60’s. With the interest in historic racing growing, and knowing the historic significance of the car and driver, reconstruction was commenced by Graemme Brown in Adelaide in the mid 1980’s, its first run in 1997. The car is currently being rebuilt by Victorian racer, engineer and raconteur Greg Smith to its precise period spec from whom this history and photos were provided. There is a whole lot more to this incredibly clever car built by Wilson in his youth, we will do a feature on it when Greg is close to its completion, I’ve seen it, the thing is sensational, Smithy will race it during 2017. I also plan to write more about Norman Wilson’s career, too little is known about this fella, now 91. so important in the Repco story.

Bibliography…

Recollections of Rodway Wolfe and Nigel Tait

Norman Wilson quotes from Simon Pinder’s ‘Mr Repco Brabham’, Doug Nye ‘History of The Grand Prix Car’, ‘Phil Irving: An Autobiography’

Kevin Drages comments from ‘The Nostalgia Forum’

Greg Smith’s photos and details of Norman Wilson and the ‘Norman Wilson Spl’

Photo Credits…

Rodway Wolfe and Nigel Tait Collections, Repco Ltd archive

Autocourse, Digby Paape, David Keep, Bruce Wells/The Roaring Season, David Keep/oldracephotos.com, Automobile Year, Ellis French, David Nash, John Manhire

Tailpiece: Jack Brabham guides his Brabham BT23A Repco into the Viaduct on his way to victory in the ‘South Pacific Trophy’, Longford 5 March 1967. He takes the first of many ’40 Series’ Repco 1967 wins…

jack longford

Finito…

image

(Dick Simpson/oldracephotos.com)

Frank Matich’s 5 litre, quad cam, 580bhp Repco V8 powered sports racer ‘SR4’ was one of Australia’s most powerful and the most successful sports-racer car ever built…

Here Frank charges the big bellowing racer across the top of Mount Panorama during the 1969 Easter Bathurst meeting. The circuit is wild now, it would have been staggering to guide this missile around the circuit then, its surface and safety features, note the proximity of eucalypts on the tracks edge, not quite what they are now!

My beautiful picture

Paddock shot of SR4, Calder 1969, some of the competition were more recent than this group! (Ian Pope)

Introduction…

Built for the 1968 CanAm series, both the chassis and engine were late so Matich didn’t ever follow up his exploratory 1967 CanAm part-season in his 4.4 litre Repco powered SR3, instead belting the local opposition into oblivion with the SR4 in 1969.

First raced at Warwick Farm on 1 December 1968, Matich won the 3 round 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship with a perfect score; wins at Warwick Farm, Surfers Paradise and Sandown, in 2nd place was West Australian Don O’Sullivan in Frank’s old SR3 Repco. In between he raced in front of thrilled crowds who were drawn to see the fastest car in Australia regardless of category.

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Matich leads the pack at Warwick Farm, date unknown 1969, SR4 Repco (Tait Collection)

‘The car was last raced about May 1970 at Warwick Farm, Frank was second to Niel Allen’s Elfin ME5 Chev, he drove the car gently as the engine had a vibration which a subsequent tear down at Repco revealed was the front of the crank cracking’ recalls Derek Kneller, an ex Matich engineer/mechanic from 1969-74. ‘The car was kept under a dust sheet in the Artarmon (Sydney) workshop until after the Tasman Series in 1971 when FM asked us to clean it up, it hadn’t been used for 8 months, we delivered it by trailer, still with the engine fitted, to Repco in Maidstone, Melbourne’.

SR4 was then used as a display piece, never to be raced again until the ‘modern era’ when it was restored by its owner, former Repco engineer Nigel Tait who has had a connection with the car since its construction. This bulk of this article is by Nigel, the photos are mainly from his vast archive of shots of this wonderful, very significant Australian racing car.

This piece is a biggie and comprises numerous parts;

.Historical context for the building of SR4; the earlier SR3 (3 chassis) in particular a summary of its 1967 CanAm program

.Biography of Nigel Tait

.Nigel’s story of the cars design, construction, specifications, race record and restoration

.SR4 specifications

.Etcetera; SR4 related snippets

.How competitive would SR4 have been in the ’68 CanAm had it crossed the Pacific as originally intended, this section designed to stimulate discussion amongst Australian enthusiasts of the period!

.Matich Cars; list of all cars built by FM’s business

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Early shot of SR4 when still fitted with a ZF ‘box, LG Hewland fitted later in the year, suspension and engine as per text (Repco)

Frank Matich and Matich Cars…

Matich was one of Australia’s drivers who was as quick as the best in the world during the early sixties Tasman 2.5 Formula when the locals went head to head with the internationals in near enough to identical cars.

Frank then focused on sportscars from 1966 to 1969, as we shall see.

In 1969 Matich returned to single-seaters, F5000 and again proved to be the equal of if not better than the best in the world winning races in Australasia and the US before retiring at the end of the ’74 Tasman Series.

In addition, his team designed and built world class sports and F5000 cars from late 1966 to early 1974. His cars won races after that, John Goss took an exciting 1976 Australian Grand Prix win at Sandown in an A51/3 Repco chassis for example.

A list of the cars Team Matich built is at the end of this article.

I have written some pieces about Frank before, rather than than provide background again click on these links, the best quick career summary is this one, sadly an obituary;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/11/frank-matich-rip/

See this pictorial though;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/27/jaguar-c-type-xkc037/

This monster piece is mainly about his F5000 racing but also includes earlier career material;

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

And this one is about his 1966 Elfin 400 Traco or the ‘Traco Oldsmobile’ as he named it;

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

The latter article about the Elfin 400 is the most important in the context of the Matich SR4, the 400 evolved into the Matich SR3, the SR3 to the SR4…

mayt pits

Matich awaits the start of practice, Road America, 3 September 1967. SR3 Repco (Friedman)

Matich SR3…

The first Matich SR3 Traco Olds was built in late 1966 to replace the Elfin 400 Traco Olds upon which it was based. According to some close observers, including at least one of FM’s mechanics the SR3 chassis was ‘tube for tube’ identical to the Elfin 400 albeit strengthened with the learnings of racing the car from the start of ’66 until it was sold to Niel Allen later that year.

The aerodynamics of the SR3 were entirely different to Garrie Cooper’s 400 design and are a function of the 400’s shortcomings and FM’s ongoing absorption of global design and aerodynamic/styling trends. The 400’s ‘aero’ deficiencies are examined in detail in my Elfin 400 article above.

can am 1967

FM a happy-chappy in the Road America paddock, 1967 (Friedman)

This section is not a detailed article about the 3 SR3’s FM’s team built but rather a summary to provide context about the SR4’s build.

The first CanAm Series was won by John Surtees in a Lola T70 Chev in 1966 but there had been professional sportscar races on America’s West Coast back into the 1950’s.

During the 1.5 litre F1 years (1961-65) big brutal ‘Group 7’ sportscars powered by ever increasing in size ‘stock block’ American V8’s thrilled crowds with their speed on both sides of the Atlantic. The best of the worlds drivers contested the races, rich prize money the reward for success in events of 200 miles, GP length, duration.

Frank Matich had ample opportunity to hear first hand during the Tasman Series about the US scene from Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Bruce Mclaren, Phil Hill and Jack Brabham all of whom contested CanAm races, not least Bruce who had also been building Cooper based cars and McLaren/Elvas to contest the races for years.

Matich determined to contest the 1967 CanAm to test his mettle against the best in the world knowing their was little point being ‘king of the kids’ in Oz. The reality is that whilst the domestic single-seater Gold Star competition had some depth, in sportscars their was little at all.

mat repco

Naked SR3 Repco in the Road America paddock, 1967. Spaceframe chassis RBE ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre, SOHC, Lucas injected, 400bhp V8 (Friedman)

Repco were also finally selling their engines to customers (as against providing works engines to Brabham with which Jack had contested the ’66 Tasman and won the ’66 F1 World Title) so Frank figured the 4.4 litre, sohc, ‘620 Series’ 400bhp V8 would be a much more competitive proposition than the highly stressed aluminium, pushrod Olds V8 engines he used in the Elfin 400/Traco Olds and his first SR3.

It was a big ask.

McLaren had persevered with the lightweight aluminium Oldsmobile engines until 1966 when he fitted 6 litre cast-iron Chevs to his spaceframe McLaren M1B. His 1967 M6A, a joint design effort between Bruce and Robin Herd were stunning, simple, monocoque cars superbly driven by Bruce and Denny Hulme to 5 wins from 6 races with Bruce taking the drivers and McLaren the manufacturers titles. The ‘Bruce and Denny Show’ rolled on thru to the end of ’71 when Porsche finally ended the party.

Matich raced two SR3 chassis in a limited campaign in the ‘Non Works McLaren’ class!

As a warm-up Matich won the RAC Trophy at Warwick Farm on May 4 and the ‘Australian Tourist Trophy’ at Surfers Paradise on 21 May 1967 from Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 and Glynn Scott’s Lotus 23B Ford. The SR3 was Olds powered.

mat gaggle

Matich SR3 Repco leads a group of cars, John Cannon in a McLaren M1B Chev the car behind him, Road America 1967. FM retired with a stone thru his radiator on lap 15, Denny Hulme won in a McLaren M6A Chev (Friedman)

The 1967 CanAm started at Road America, Wisconsin on 3 September and finished with the sixth and last round at Las Vegas on 12 November, the well oiled McLaren Team crushed the opposition winning all but the final round which ’66 champion John Surtees took in a Lola T70 Chev.

McLaren deservedly won the title from Hulme despite Denny winning 3 rounds (Road America, Bridghampton, Mosport) and Bruce 2 (Laguna Seca, Riverside).

Matich and his small team contested the Road America, Bridghampton, Laguna Seca and Riverside rounds. Fundamentally the car, sweet handling as it was, was outgunned. Its 400bhp Repco having way too little grunt and lacked the reliability for these Grand Prix length sprints of 200 miles.

At Road America the SR3 qualified on 2:22, 18th  to McLarens pole of 2:12.6, retiring on lap 15 with a radiator holed by a stone. In the glorious Hamptons in New York on 17 September he qualified 15th 1:33.49 to Hulme’s 1:29.85, but again DNF this time with fuel starvation.

Frank’s team missed the Mosport, Canada round on 23 September which Hulme’s M6A won.

In California for a couple of races FM gridded 13th at Laguna Seca on 1:05.07 to McLarens blistering pole of 1:02.69, a race Bruce won. Interestingly the Ferrari P4/350 CanAm (a P4 lightened, modified and increased in capacity) did their first ’67 event, Amon finished 5th but qualified behind Matich in 16th on 1:05.77.

Matich and Amon, the latter in in David McKays Ferrari P4/350 CanAm had some sensational scraps that Australian summer in the sportscar races which supported the Tasman Series rounds with the Repco powered car demonstrably quicker than the exotic, long distance derived V12 powered Ferrari.

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Matich, wife Joan his mechanics, Peter Mabey at left and Firestone technicians on the Riverside pit apron, CanAm 29 October 1967, John Surtees Lola T70 Mk3B Chev behind. Bruce won the race, Matich crashed and Surtees DNF with ‘rear end’ problems (unattributed)

Still in California, at Riverside on 29 October McLaren won, Hulme was on pole with 1:39.30, Matich 20th on 1:45 and Amon 15th on 1:44.40. Frank crashed out on lap 20. With that the team decamped back to Oz to prepare for the Tasman Series encounters with Amon, with Matich winning each of these battles. Click here for an article on the Ferrari P4/CanAm 350 ‘0858’ inclusive of the Matich/Amon battles;

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

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Jack Brabham, Brabham BT19 Repco and a very young Nigel Tait at the Sandown Tasman meeting, the second race outing for the first ‘RB620’ engine, 2.5 litres in Tasman spec, 27 February 1966. The young engineer had just graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and has ‘landed on his feet at Repco Brabham Engines. Tait maintains this car for Repco all these years later. One of a kind BT19 is Jack’s 1966 championship winning mount (Australian Post)

Nigel Tait…

Having qualified in Mechanical and Automotive Engineering at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Nigel commenced work at Repco in 1966 as an Engineering Cadet. His first placement, you can be lucky!, was in the engine laboratory in Richmond where the Repco Brabham engines were built and tested. He helped to plan and implement the move of the Repco Brabham project to another plant, in Maidstone, this involved manufacture of shadow boards for the new machine tools being installed for further manufacture of the racing engines.

He progressed to assist the head engine builder (Michael Gasking) with assembly, dynamometer running of the engines and worked on BT19 (Jack’s ’66 championship winning chassis) when it was being prepared for the ‘620 Series’ 2.5 litre Tasman V8 for Jack Brabham to use at the ’66 Sandown Tasman meeting. He also worked with other project engineers on test and development of the range of engine components being manufactured at the various engine parts manufacturing factories of the Repco empire for fitment to the race engines.

These project engineering tasks continued for some years and included a 4 month transfer to England to work in some of the companies to which Repco was licensed.

By the mid 70’s Nigel was running the engine laboratory in Richmond, which had become the Repco Engine Technical Centre. In conjunction with the University of Melbourne he supervised a major Federal Government contract for the testing and evaluation of diesel and petrol engines running on alcohol fuel mixtures. He also spent some years as chief engineer of the engine parts plant at Richmond before returning to the engine laboratory, which became his base as Chief Engineer of Repco’s Engine Parts Divison.

He was closely involved with original equipment product development and sales to local car companies and travelled throughout Australia and New Zealand extensively giving product knowledge lectures and writing technical articles. He made a significant contribution to the engine component design sections in the Repco Engine Service Manual (later to be reissued as the ACL Engine Manual).

The division was sold to a management buyout group in 1986 and became ACL (Automotive Components Limited). Nigel was one of the 9 in the buyout group and continued in the role of chief engineer until his retirement in 2005.

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The Matich SR4: One of Australia’s most famous and successful racing cars. Here Matich slices the car, with typical pinpoint accuracy into Warwick Farm’s Esses, 4 May 1969. Interesting in an historic context, hi-wings were banned during the Monaco GP weekend of 18 May…

Overview..

 Frank Matich had already won the Australian Sports Car Championship four times by the time he commenced work on the SR4; he won in a Lotus 19 in 1964, Elfin 400/Traco Olds in 1966 and in the Matich SR3 in 1967/8.

He had competed in the USA in 1967 as recounted earlier. His dominance of sports car racing in Australia was legendary and led to the catchphrase: ‘Doing a Matich’. (Pole position, winning, fastest lap time and lap record). Frank’s record with the SR4 is impressive.  He raced at Bathurst, Calder Park, Catalina Park, Sandown, Surfers Paradise and Warwick Farm.

SR4 took nineteen starts for 15 wins, one second with eight outright lap records and winner of the 1969 Sports car Championship.

SR4 Owners..

Rothmans Team Matich (1968-1970), Repco (1970-1986) Automotive Components Limited (1986-2005) and Nigel Tait (from 2005)

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SR4 in Repco’s Maidstone, Melbourne workshop in 1971, great shot of the nose/spoiler assy and carefully ducted, both ‘in and out’ of radiator, suspension as per text. Note front lights mandated by Oz rules (Jay Bondini)

Build, sponsorship and first ownership..

It’s not certain who actually owned the SR4 as built. It was constructed at Frank Matich’s workshop in Sydney and as far as I know largely funded with sponsorship from Rothmans (tobacco) and perhaps others. The engines belonged to Repco.

Some time after the first logbook was issued from CAMS it was mislaid and Frank wrote to apply for another, stating ownership as ‘Rothmans Team Matich’. In his book ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden wrote that ownership transferred to Rothmans while the car was still in competition, that’s the period from December 1968 to January 1970. It’s also known that Rothmans made a practice of owning the cars that Matich raced under their sponsorship.

The car was retired in early 1970 so that Frank could concentrate on F5000. Repco wanted the car to use as an advertising tool and in return, it is my understanding, that an arrangement was made for the car to be transferred to Repco’s ownership in return for ongoing supply of engines and sponsorship for F5000, these being made at the old Repco Brabham plant in Maidstone. (That’s where I started work for Repco in 1966 as a cadet engineer). This division was renamed Repco Engine Development Company (REDCo) under General Manager Malcolm Preston.

Frank Hallam, Repco Brabham’s General Manager, and incidentally my first boss, had by then been transferred to Repco Research, and one day acidly described to me his life out there as ‘a career careering between obstacles’. He wasn’t happy about being put out to pasture.

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Shot as above after delivery to Repco in Maidstone, Melbourne. Note wing spec then, it would be interesting to know which meetings it competer in this spec, noting changes were ongoing apart from those mandated by the FIA from the ’69 Monaco GP weekend, hi-wings banned from then (Jay Bondini)

Anyway, the car was sent down from Sydney to Repco in late 1970 (I was working for Repco in England at the time so can’t be sure of dates) and was first placed at the Repco Apprentice Centre in North Melbourne. Then it was sent to Maidstone to rest, for some years, in a room next to the REDC0 drawing office. It was in a forlorn state with an empty engine and at the time of little interest to Repco or anyone really.

Anyway once REDCo had closed down after F5000 had finished (at least for Repco) I had the car and all of the Repco Brabham/REDCo drawings and files and other hardware transferred to our Richmond engine laboratory that I supervised. Another division of Repco was to occupy the Maidstone building but not the two engine dynamometer cells, which I was to run, not very successfully as it turned out, on a commercial basis.

By that time Don Halpin had transferred from the Maidstone plant of Repco Engine Parts to our Richmond laboratory and he undertook a cosmetic restoration of the car so that Repco could use it for trade displays and shows etc. It was not a running vehicle at this stage since there was no engine, only a few parts to make it look OK.

Various divisions of Repco used the car for displays as intended and the car also spent quite some years on public display at the Birdwood Museum in the Adelaide Hills, and then the Auto Museum in Launceston, Tasmania.

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BP advertisement photo is pit straight, Sandown Park, Melbourne (BP)

From Repco to ACL..

During the early 80’s Repco underwent considerable change in its upper management and ownership. (You could read ‘corporate raiders’!). By about 1985 Repco had sold off some of its manufacturing divisions, Repco Research, the Brake and Clutch Division and the machinery manufacturing division and it became clear that manufacturing was of no interest to the Board. Clearly the factories manufacturing engine parts in Melbourne, Brisbane and Launceston were next to be offloaded. Indeed while the Repco Board instructed the Divisional General Manager of this division to advise his staff that it was not for sale, it on the other hand instructed him to find a buyer!

So in August 1986 a management buyout team comprising 8 of its senior staff (including myself), and our Divisional General Manager, purchased the whole division from Repco. At a price of $A28 million and with very little equity and huge borrowing, the team pulled off what was the largest management buyout of its type in the country’s history. There were almost 1,000 employees spread over 5 states. My role was to continue as chief engineer.

The new company adopted a name that was actually one of Repco’s 1960’s takeover targets, ACL, and the new company became ‘Automotive Components Limited’. (Repco had no need to use this name and allowed its use by us).

All of the assets of the then Repco Engine Division were transferred to the new company, these included the Repco Brabham BT19 and all associated drawings, items and trailer and also the Matich SR4 which was still in its cosmetically restored state. So the Matich became the property of ACL from August 1986.  ACL continued to display the car publicly including the museum in Launceston and other venues.

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SR4 in the Birdwood Museum, Adelaide Hills, at this stage the ‘cosmetic’ restoration had been done by Don Halpin as per text, car not ‘a runner’  (The Roaring Season)

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Niel Allen’s ex-Matich Elfin 400 Chev (named Traco Olds by Matich) ahead of FM’s SR4 and Bevan Gibson’s ill-fated Elfin 400 Repco, sadly Bevan died during this race, Easter, Bathurst 1969. This event is reported in full in the Elfin 400 article, a link for which is at this articles outset (Dick Simpson)

An engine was found..

Towards the mid to late 90’s with the growth of interest in historic racing there were numerous approaches made to ACL to buy it. These were made direct to the Board or sometimes to myself, and always we advised that the car was not for sale, but would be restored once an engine could be located.

Luckily that did happen. Aaron Lewis, who is prominent in historic racing circles and the owner of some magnificent cars, advised me that Les Wright of Sydney had a 4.2 litre Repco Brabham engine in his Brabham Buick. CAMS had advised that this was not the way the car was originally raced and that Les would need to remove the engine and obtain the correct Buick engine to obtain a CAMS permit to race the car. On behalf of ACL I bought the engine for $30,000. Les ran it on the floor and it worked pretty well so was transported to Melbourne. This was circa 2000.

At last we had an engine and I was able to have the car brought back to life. Jim Hardman (ex F3 racer, mechanic, engineer and builder of the superb Hardman F2 cars of 1980) undertook this restoration, which was essentially to make it mobile, look good and be safe for display and demonstration running.  This work was undertaken by Jim at his rented area within Heckrath Engineering in Cheltenham and paid for by ACL.

I sent the body to Richmond TAFE who had offered to spray it. It turned out to be a very poor job where even the colour was wrong and I had to engage a panel beater near us at Maidstone (Houdini) to do it again. More about the colour later.

Once in running condition at Heckraths Jim Hardman became the first person to drive the car for over 30 years. Albeit this was in Bricker Road, Cheltenham on a quiet weekend morning, a quick blast lest the local police took interest!  More ‘legal’ trials were held at Calder in outer Melbourne, with Jim doing most of the driving though I squeezed myself into it several times.

Subsequently the car was displayed many times from around 2002 to 2005, at Motorclassica, the Australian Grand Prix, various circuits and trade shows and even at a Repco function.

Jim made up a seat for me and I took it to several meetings at Eastern Creek, Winton, Phillip Island etc and we also used it as a display vehicle for our numerous company functions. When Jim drove it at Phillip Island it dropped valves in both heads (probably stones down the intakes) and we had to undertake a fairly extensive rebuild. (Not having wire screens on the inlet trumpets was a bad mistake, as others have also learned).

Assembling Repco Brabham engine

Repco engine assy area, Maidstone factory, Melbourne in early 1968, the engine towards the front is  a 3 litre ‘860’ F1 engine, behind are ‘760s’, capacities unknown (Repco)

Engines..

 The whereabouts of the original 5 litre ‘760 Series’ engine used when Frank Matich raced the car is unknown. I doubt that it came back to Repco. There is some suggestion that it resides somewhere as the base of a coffee table and I hold out hope that one day this engine might come to light, if only as an important part of the car’s history for the next generation.

4.2 litre: I’ve already explained how we came by the 4.2 litre engine ex Les Wright. The 4.2 litre ‘760 Series’ quad cam engines were made only for Indianapolis for Jack Brabham and for Peter Revson. I think there may only have been two or perhaps three, the records are not clear. The engine in the ex Revson BT25 of Aaron Lewis is undoubtedly the one from that car. Sir Jack Brabham told me that one of his engines used in his 1968 BT25 Indy car that he lent to Goodyear ‘disappeared’ and I have a feeling that the engine I have might be this one.

It is as original though as a result of the dropped valve at Phillip Island one of the bores had to be honed slightly oversize to remove some marking and hence the piston and rings in this cylinder are a little larger. Otherwise the engine is as run by Les and still has the same cams etc. It runs on Avgas. I use 50 cc of two stroke oil per 20 litres of Avgas for lubrication of the metering unit.

Its output would be around 550 BHP at about 8,000 RPM but I have never pushed it beyond 6,500 RPM. I have rebuilt it a second time just as a check and little work was needed.

Assembling valve train for quad cam Repco Brabham engine

Peter Reilly assembling an ‘860’ 3 litre F1 engine valve train assy, the engines problem area!, refer to the text, beautiful workmanship clear. ‘860’ the only gear driven cam engine, ’20 and 40′ Series driven by chain (Repco)

5 litre: Some years ago I discovered that I had enough parts from which to commence build of a 5 litre ‘760 Series’ engine. I had a block of the right type (to take the Cooper rings rather than head gaskets). Crankshaft Rebuilders made sleeves and a crankshaft, rods were made by Argo, pistons by Special Pistons Services and the heads that I had were completely rebuilt at Head Stud Developments. Luckily I had the gear casings all of the gears (the quad cam engines have gears, not chains) and a spare sump of the right type with integral oil pressure and scavenge pumps.

Build of this engine took me about 2 years including the time for manufacture of the parts by Crankshaft Rebuilders. A much larger than original torsional vibration damper was made for me by Tuffbond in Sydney.  Minimizing crankshaft torsional vibration protects the valve gear and camshafts etc. as well as being better for the crankshaft itself.

Actually the engines used by Frank were of 4.8 litre capacity, the bores being reduced slightly to overcome sleeve cracking due to being too thin. I have made my engine to true 5 litre capacity with the steel sleeves and was able this way to utilize off the shelf ring sizes. Also I had the rods made to 6” length which enabled the use of much shorter and lighter pistons in keeping with modern engine design practice.

The result is a very nice engine with noticeably more torque. Though I have not had it on a dyno it would no doubt see around 600 BHP, though as with the 4.2 I do not use any more than 6,500 at which point the cams are in and there is plenty for me!

The 5 litre encountered what I thought was a mild overheat at Geelong* in 2014 so I have rebuilt this over 2015/6. There was no bore damage but the crankshaft needed grinding and otherwise the engine is in good condition and ready now for further use.

*Note: I have learn’t that apart from needing a better bleed for the cooling system (now done) I have let the engine rev too slowly upon first start up. The water pump speed is only half engine revs so now I run the engine at 2,000 RPM from any cold start to make sure the coolant is flowing properly.

 Reverting to the 4.2 litre engine in Aaron Lewis’ BT25, it is currently in build and it would be nice to see it running. (at the time of uploading this article Aaron has run the car at Eastern Creek, Sydney) At this stage the two quad cam Repco Brabham engines (and now Aaron’s) that I have for the SR4 are the only Repco quad cams that run, anywhere.

I have nearly enough parts to commence a third engine build but this would have to be with a block that uses head gaskets and these would need to be re-torqued thus would need either a dynamometer run or engine removal from car after first run.  Or with luck I’ll find another Cooper ring type block.

Sale from ACL to Nigel Tait..

I was still hard at work as ACL’s Chief Engineer up until my retirement in July 2005. Consequently outings with the car and indeed also the BT19, were rare and had to fit in with my work rather than being at my will.

With retirement imminent it became obvious that with no one else at ACL interested in the two cars we’d have to consider their future. Repco had a first option to buy BT19 and it was decided to sell this back to them around June 2005, for $1.3M.  I had been looking after it since it was bought from Jack Brabham in 1970. Repco asked if I would continue to be its carer/minder, which I do to this day.

The Matich was to be sold and my bid was the highest, thus securing for me a car that i’d been looking after virtually since its acquisition by Repco. I paid my company $160,000 for it and the various spares and display material and engines, (including the 3 litre quad cam ‘850’ diagonal port engine). I also purchased the trailer that was made for us by MRT Trailers, for $10,000.

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Spaceframe chassis back at Jim Hardman’s shop after sand blasting and stove-enamelling (Tait)

As earlier mentioned the first restoration by Don Halpin was to allow the car to be on static display.The second, once we had the engine from Les Wright, was by Jim Hardman and resulted in the car’s first outing in 30 years.

Once I had purchased the car in 2005 Jim advised that we should undertake a complete bare frame restoration and rebuild. Jim still had the facility at Heckrath’s and i was able to devote some time to the menial tasks such dismantling, cleaning the frame ready for spraying and running around getting parts etc as needed.

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Chassis, big and butch to take the big Repco’s power and torque, quoted weights of ’68 McLaren M8A and Matich SR4 similar. Given the Repco engine was way lighter than the ally’ block Chevy of the M8A, the difference in weights is a bit of a mystery as Tait quotes the Matich bare frame at 38Kg (Tait)

 

 

Hardman replaced all of the aluminum skins, undertray, all firewalls etc and repaired and strengthened the frame as needed. In fact there was no real problem with the frame, one part of the outrigger on one side had partially cracked and the bar that was the top mounting for the seat belt upper harness was too small. Everything else was terrific. A great testament to its builder, Henry Nehrybecki.  I photographed all stages of the restoration and rebuild which took exactly 6 weeks from the May Winton meeting to being ready for Speed on Tweed later that year.

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Wishbone front suspension, coil spring/Armstrong damper and ventilated front discs, steering rack also in situ, Matich designed, CAC cast (Tait)

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Big radiator in place, 3 pot calipers are Girling (Tait)

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Front suspension, radiator and ducting detail, quality of workmanship clear (Tait)

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Heart of the matter in place as is Hewland LG600 ‘box, car first raced with a ZF. Rear suspension period typical; single upper link, lower inverted wishbone, coil spring/dampers (then Koni now Armstrong) and twin radius t rods for fore and aft location. Note big oil reservoir and beefy rear chassis diaphragm above ‘box (Tait)

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And now the body (Tait)

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Proud custodian Nigel Tait with SR4. Jim Hardman an outstanding race mechanic/engineer and car builder ‘in period’ and now a restorer of similar calibre (Tait)

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The view of FM’s SR4 derriere all the other drivers saw (Tait)

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Australian Champion driver John Bowe aboard SR4 at Calder (Tait)

Multiple Australian Champion John Bowe expressed interest in doing a track test for ‘Unique Cars’ magazine. This was shortly after our 2006 rebuild. He planned on a run at Calder for this but that day could not be scheduled as intended. Instead John’s first drive of the car ended up on the road circuit at Murwillumbah’s Speed on Tweed. Organised by Roger Ealand, who so sadly we have just lost, this event ran for several years and in fact culminated in its final event with a stage of the Repco Rally being held also on the same circuit, but at night.

John drove the car for its 4 or 5 runs but even after the first he requested some suspension changes, which had an immediate effect. Subsequently John’s planned track drive at Calder came off and he drove numerous laps following a camera car and some at speed. A successful day and John loved the car. His only request was for the height of front and rear to be changed to change the undertray height to be higher at the back to improve downforce.

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My Licence.

I have a level 2S licence. In my earlier days of racing it was the equivalent of a Level 1, but some 25 years ago I lost one eye resulting from an infection during a skiing holiday in New Zealand. That’s one reason why my driving is limited to display regularity and super sprint etc but the other reason is quite pragmatic; there are few drivers around, and I’m not one of them, who could handle this car to its full potential.  With over 600 BHP and a weight of just 625kg the car commands great respect.

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Start of the fateful race which took Bevan Gibson’s life, Easter, Bathurst 1969. Gibson in Bob Jane’s red #6 Elfin 400 Repco, Niel Allen #2 alongside in his Elfin 400 Chev and Matich to the right in the hi-winged SR4 (Wayne McKay)

Contact with Frank Matich..

 I took the car to Eastern Creek in Sydney on several occasions in the years before and after its bare frame restoration in 2006.

Frank was at some of these meetings and was delighted to see and hear it in action. He was full of praise for the standard of the restoration and for my efforts in bringing it back to life. We spent quite some time discussing technical aspects of the car and he noted that someone had replaced the Koni shock absorbers with Armstrongs, a pity he said because he set the Konis with very little bump and mostly rebound, something that I can’t do with the Armstrongs.  Frank was apologetic that somehow his people had done a cleanup in his factory and had discarded many spares including patterns and wheels etc that he would have given me. These were good conversations and it was fun also to meet his daughter Katrina and his granddaughter Paige and to have photos of all with the car. He said that he was glad the car was in good hands.

Unfortunately relations deteriorated somewhat in Frank’s latter years when he claimed that he had not sold the car to Repco and wanted it returned! This after a period of over 30 years since Repco’s acquisition during which there had been no communication from or to Frank and with the car having been through two changes of ownership.

Subsequently Frank’s attention was drawn to the reference in John Blanden’s book stating that ‘It initially ran with Rothmans signage and subsequently Rothmans acquired ownership of the car’.

 There was no further communication on this issue. It was disappointing but didn’t diminish my admiration for Frank as a brilliant driver and one of the great legends of Australian motor sport. To this day I can recall the car running at Sandown and steaming into Peter’s corner (I was an official there) with all brakes locked up, tyres smoking when the throttle had apparently stuck.  That was a great era.

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Matich ‘locks em up’, a stuck throttle the cause, on Sandown’s pit straight just before Peters/Torana corner in 1969 (Tait Collection)

Henry Nehrybecki..

Henry was the builder of the car, at least the chassis and suspension and no doubt he had a team of helpers. Indeed I’ve heard that some of the time during the build Henry was not well and Bobby Britton (of Rennmax Engineering) may also have been involved.

I had numerous discussions with Henry in the early days after we got the car going and took it to Eastern Creek. He was thrilled the car was back in action after being out of circulation for 30 years. A small coincidence is that Henry’s granddaughter Gabrielle lives in Melbourne and is in the same friendship group as my daughter and her friends.

Derek Kneller; ‘Henry drew and fabricated the chassis, the conceptual design of which was Frank’s and his, Bob Britton was also involved. The chassis was then transferred to Franks facility, the Castle Cove BP Garage in Eastern Valley Way, which comprised a ‘servo’, the race ‘shop and Firestone racing tyre warehouse. It was in late ’69 that FM switched from testing and selling Firestones to Goodyear’.

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John Mepstead and Matich ponder the SR4’s brakes in the Sandown paddock after its big brake lock-up. Mepstead an ex-Repco mechanic/engineer hired by FM to look after the car in ’69 (Tait Collection)

‘Peter Mabey assembled SR4 at Castle Cove, he had been with FM for some years including the SR3 race program in the ‘States. After that Peter looked after the Servo side of the business before returning to the race side of things on the F5000 program with me. SR4 was maintained and race prepared in 1969 by Tony Williams and John Mepstead on the chassis and engine respectively’.

Others to drive the Matich SR4..

Apart from Frank there have been no others to drive it in any competition except John Bowe and Laurie Bennett. We will not count my many demonstration drives, super sprints and regularity events and even in the Top Gear event at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

As earlier mentioned John drove it at Speed on Tweed just after its 3rd restoration. Laurie drove it at Mallala in one Super Sprint. His Elfin 600 had expired and I let him take it out. Effectively he won this having started last on the grid and passed all of the others by the last lap, while being stuck in 2nd gear.

Bill Hemming and David Hardman (Jim’s son) also enjoyed some practice laps at Mallala and Winton respectively. Also Brian Sampson who would have loved to own the car took it for a few laps at Winton after the third restoration. He really enjoyed it however we had a problem with a badly set up throttle mechanism which made it difficult to drive.

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On the Calder dummy grid in 1969, #34 an Elfin Streamliner (Ian Pope)

The body was made in Sydney by JWF Fibreglass. It was not intended to be this way. The plan was for it to be made from aluminum and they went a long way towards completing this but the task became too hard and too slow. What had been made was used as a mould for the fiberglass body. This was one of the reasons the car didn’t go to the 1968/9 CanAm, the other was that Repco was late with the engine.

When we restored it at ACL it was strengthened with some extra layers internally as it was very flimsy and cracked in many areas. It’s a little heavier but still OK.

I’ve mentioned earlier the colour. After the debacle of the Richmond TAFE attempt we’d lost the original colour since every panel was by now the odd purple colour, so there was no colour match possible. Houdini Panels suggested an off the shelf colour common to a road car of the time and as it looked more vibrant and could be retouched more easily I chose this.

It appears there were two bodies, or at least two rear sections. When the car raced at the Easter Bathurst meeting Frank had the very high wing and it was attached to the rear hubs by uprights that went through holes in the body.  After Bathurst the car reverted to low wing, no wing and various iterations in-between, but always body mounted. The wing on the car now is about 300mm above the rear deck and I am not sure if the car competed in this way or if the wing was experimental in the latter stages of the car’s life with Frank.

Just last December (2015) I found another rear body section for the car. It came to light in an outer suburban junk yard along with the body from Colin Hyams’ T190 Lola F5000. How these came to be at this property is something we’ll never know. Anyway I bought the Matich rear body (for much more than it is worth), as it is definitely the one Frank used at Bathurst, with the holes for the wing supports and is the original dark blue. It still has the Repco and other stickers on it. I don’t intend to use this but it would fit straight on still having the original brackets.

Chassis number..

The chassis was number 07. When I decided to have a brass plate made I asked Henry if he knew what the chassis number was and he advised it was number 1 so I had the plate made this way. He was probably referring to the fact that it appears another chassis was made, very similar to mine, but never actually made into a car. So Henry was thinking about SR4 chassis of which mine was the first. I suppose I could re-engrave the plate on my car.

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SR4 in the Surfers Paradise paddock, note the car is now fitted with a Hewland LG500 ‘box rather than the ZF in the earlier rear shot (Tait Collection)

Gearbox..

 The car was made with a ZF. It seems the side plates of this gearbox were not strong enough and also the 4 speed Hewland LG500 that replaced it was more common at the time and ratio changes were easier. There is a reverse but to set up the adjustment to get this compromises engagement of the forward gears so it does not go into reverse at all. I don’t have any spare ratios. The only places 4th gear is used is at Eastern Creek, Calder, briefly, the back straight at Pukekohe, NZ and the Grand Prix circuit at Albert Park. Also Sandown and Phillip Island. Given a good straight the car would reach 200 mph.

Derek Kneller; ‘I helped fit the Hewland LG gearbox to SR4. We were converting Frank’s F5000 M10A McLaren to M10B spec, i built the first of these at McLaren’s before leaving the UK for Oz. A DG300 Hewland was fitted to the M10A, the LG was popped from the M10A into SR4. Henry Nehrbecki fabricated a new rear cross-frame with a bellhousing designed by us and cast by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Melbourne, we made a pattern which we could adapt for a Chev or the Repco. The change in ‘box was around November 1969’.

Tyres..

Very early in the piece Kris Matich (of Goodyear in Sydney) tried to find tyres of the original size as raced by Frank but these were no longer available. I have used Avons, supplied by Russell Stuckey and they are F5000 fronts (with treads cut by Russell) and a sports car category treaded tyre imported from Japan. The sizes are: Front: 10.5/23/15 Rear: 15/26/15

These are a little smaller in outer diameter than raced by Frank and we have set the suspension up to suit. Any difference in ratio is of no consequence.

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FM after winning the ASSC round at Surfers Paradise on 18 May 1969, time for a new set of raceboots Frank! Note air reliefs atop SR4 RHS guard (Tait Collection)

Roll bar..

The roll bar height is too low for me since my seat was made for me to sit further away from the pedals. It was marginal in height for Frank. For my purposes it is OK but will need to be rebuilt in accordance with CAMS standards in due course. I think this will require a bare frame exercise.

Brakes..

These are as raced but I have slightly softer pads for quicker warm up. John Bowe felt that these might be too soft for serious racing.

Fuel tank..

The car was raced with a large bladder tank in the left pod. This was not serviceable, Jim Hardman made an aluminium tank of about 30 litres capacity and foam filled it. The car uses about 1 litre per kilometre so a larger tank would be needed for any serious racing.

Ignition..

A Lucas Opus system was on the 4.2 engine ex Les Wright though most likely Frank raced with a Bosch twin point distributor.  The Opus modules are no longer serviceable. John Heckrath made up a special distributor so the Bosch module could be hidden inside the Opus unit and this worked well. There was some initial hilarity when it was discovered that the donor distributor from a V6 Holden had the wrong number of teeth for a V8! (The timing was only ever right for the first few degrees of engine rotation and had to be retimed numerous times until the oversight was discovered). More recently Performance Ignition made up a Scorcher system and this now works perfectly albeit is not as the car was raced.

Cam covers..

The car raced with cam covers designated ‘REPCO’.  I built my 5 litre engine accordingly but the 4.2 litre engine, being ex Jack Brabham Indy, had ‘REPCO BRABHAM’ cast onto the top. I’ve chosen to leave it this way, i have spares of both types. (An early photo shows the car with Repco Brabham cam covers and also shows the ZF gearbox).

CAMS Certificate of Description (Australias more rigorous equivalent of FIA historic racing certification)..

For what I do with the car a C.O.D. is not needed but I was persuaded that it would be a good idea to have this so the car could be documented as raced, for future reference. A C.O.D. was obtained in 2015. It is # 0.040.03.02.

New Zealand

 I have taken the car to New Zealand twice, both times to Hampton Downs, and on the first occasion to Pukekohe as well. I was included in the demonstration events on each occasion and had plenty of track time with F5000’s and other sports cars. This was especially so at the most recent of the visits to Hampton Downs where there were so few of the big sports cars entered they needed me to make up numbers, at least in the practice, qualifying and even on the warm up lap of every race! The two events were to celebrate Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme respectively.

Importantly the Matich ran very well and was popular with the locals.

 Future..

My plan is to continue with displays and demonstrations, regularity and Super Sprints as much as possible given my other passion, snow skiing. This sidelines me for most of the winter months in our small apartment at Mount Buller. I hold out hope that I can get the roll bar rebuilt soon, the 5 litre should go back in later this year and it would be nice to make another trip to New Zealand.

My longer term mission is to see the car in the hands of someone with the necessary technical ability, driving skill and passion to continue to present the car, whether racing or not, in the manner that reflects the great legacy for its terrific driver, Frank Matich and Repco for its amazing engines.

Nigel Tait June 2016

MatichSR4promocardtext

This card, and the shot just below was produced by Repco and handed out at race-meetings trade shows and the like in period (Tait)

Matich SR4 specifications…

Engine: Repco Brabham quad cam. Repco designed and manufactured ‘700 Series’ aluminium crankcase/block cast at Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne.

Four valve per cylinder, DOHC, gear driven,  ’60 Series’ aluminum heads designed by Repco and cast at Castalloy in Adelaide.

Lucas mechanical fuel injection system with metering unit driven from the same jackshaft which describes the distributor Port mounted Lucas injectors running at 100psi. Throttle slides for engine control.

Ignition: car was originally raced with a Bosch twin-point distributor, later Lucas Opus and now Scorcher with reluctor in the distributor

Lubrication: pressure and scavenge pumps in the sump interconnected with short shaft, driven from the crank. Oil tank external

Crankshaft made by Crankshaft Rebuilders, Forged pistons by Special Pistons Services, Connecting rods made by Argo, NSW.

Capacity: 4.2 litre ‘Indy’ version Bore: 96mm Stroke 71.9mm

Capacity: 4.8 litre as raced by Matich in 1969: Bore 96.5mm, Stroke 82mm

Capacity: 5 litre Nigel Tait built: Bore 96.5mm Stroke 86mm

Chassis: Tubular steel spaceframe: Weight 38 kilograms (bare frame)

Suspension: Front; Lower wishbone, upper camber arms with radius rod. Rear; Reversed lower wishbone with upper camber arm and upper and lower radius rods. Shock absorbers: now Armstrong but raced originally with double-adjustable Koni’s

Steering: Matich manufactured rack and pinion, cast by CAC. Uprights: Matich design and manufactured, steel fabrications

Brakes: Girling, 3 pots per wheel

Wheels: Matich design cast magnesium, front 10.5 by 15”, rear 17” by 15”

Tyres: Avon, front 10.5” by 23” by 15”. Rear 15” by 26” by 15”

Track: front 57”, rear 60”, wheelbase 90”

Body: Fibreglass, manufactured by JWF in Sydney.

Matich SR4 photo from Ian Pope

How competitive would the SR4 Repco have been in the 1968 Can Am Series?…

In ’67 the dominant McLaren M6A weighed 590Kg/1300lbs and was powered by a 6 litre 530bhp Chevy, the ’68 M8A by a 7 litre 620bhp alloy block Chev, the car weighed circa 1350lbs.

On the face of it FM’s ‘760 Series’ 5 litre, 4 valve, DOHC  Repco V8 toting about 580 bhp, the car quoted at 1361lbs would have been ‘in the hunt’. Certainly in relative terms SR4 would have been more competitive than the ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre, 2 valve, SOHC 400bhp powered SR3 was in 1967.

Whilst the Repco V8 was giving away some power to the Chev, the car similar in weight to M8A, the Matich was potentially a better handling car than M8A given the distribution of the weight. The Repco alloy V8 weighed about 380lbs, the Chev lump circa 550lbs. There was no question about the handling of the Matich cars; ask Chris Amon who’s beautiful handling P4/CanAm 350 Fazz V12 was beaten by Matich in SR3 soundly on every occasion they met during the Australian Tasman rounds in the summer of ’68.

The engines had to last the 200 miles of a CanAm event of course, the Repco ‘860 Series’ F1 engines having major problems in 1968, mainly valve gear related. RBE Project Engineer Norman Wilson’s account of the engine problems in F1 in 1968 is as follows; ‘On a visit to Cosworth after the 860 engine problems Cosworth partner, Mike Costin, said that he realised what our problem was with the valve gear, that it was torsional vibration’.

‘This is where the project started to get unravelled. Frank (Hallam, GM of Repco Brabham Emgines) had sort of admitted the problem but at the time i think Frank had just about left, and Charlie Dean who replaced him wouldn’t understand that the problem was a torsional vibration problem. It 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 Cosworth Ford DFV engine and we could have fixed it’.

‘What happens is at certain speeds the front of the camshaft will tend to go a little bit like a tuning fork and as it rotates this front of the crankshaft oscillates back and forth and this 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 has 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 and we were working on doing that when Charlie Dean arrived on the scene and said it was a lubrication problem.’ This was after the end of the 1968 F1 season mind you, Hallam resigned after Deans arrival, after that disastrous season.

The ‘760 Series’ 4.2 litre, 4 valve, DOHC Repco V8 Indy variant with the same block and heads as the 5 litre finished the Indy 500 in 1969, Peter Revson’s Brabham BT25 finished 5th in the race won by Andretti’s Hawk Ford. Critically, Peter Revson took the only international win for a ’60 Series’ engine when we won the Indianapolis Raceway Park road event in his Brabham BT25 Repco on 27 July 1969.

None of these engines were fitted with the torsional vibration damper or spring gizmo to which Wilson refers. Its said the the bigger ‘760’ engines were simply not revved as hard as their F1 liddl’ ‘860’ brother thereby avoiding the oscillation rev range which was problematic.

denny m8a

Denny Hulme, McLaren M8A Chev, Laguna Seca 1969 (unattributed)

For Australian enthusiasts a great ‘mighta been’ is how FM would have gone against the mighty papaya ‘Big Macs’ in 1968?…

Would the SR4 have been quick? You betcha, much faster than SR3. Would the ‘760 Series’ engine have finished 200 mile races? Yes again if the similar Indy variant results in ’69 are a guide. Could SR4 have achieved CanAm podiums in ’68?, probably yes.

Could he have won a race? Maybe, if the planets were aligned noting that year the ‘dynamic duo’ didn’t win two rounds; John Cannon took a great victory in the wet in an old M1B McLaren at Laguna and Mark Donohue at Bridghampton in the Penske M6B when both Bruce and Denny had major engine failures. Could FM have prevailed at these events? Sure, SR4 was quick enough to knock both car/driver combinations off.

‘If yer Aunty had balls she’d be yer Uncle’ of course, ifs, buts and maybes mean nothing in motor racing, as in life. The chassis was late. The engine was late. FM didn’t contest the ’68 CanAm and as a result we were all deprived of seeing Matich take on Bruce, Denny and the rest of the CanAm circus all of whom he knew and respected well.

So Frank raced the car in Oz in ’69, crushed the local opposition and then moved into F5000 supported by Repco…

rb brochure

Rothmans brochure featuring both the old, SR4 Repco and the new, McLaren M10A Chev F5000 in 1969 (Tony Johns via Nigel Tait)

The obvious question is, having missed the ’68 series  why didn’t the car contest the 1969 CanAm instead of being ‘King of The Kids’ in Oz?..

The answer is simple, the Repco Brabham engine program was over, Jack raced a Cosworth DFV in F1 in 1969, the final races in that partnership the Indy races in 1969.

The Repco board decided to close down Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd, there is no certainty Repco would have committed to F1 in 1969 even had Jack wanted them to. Cost was a big issue for Repco throughout 1968, the failure of the engines that year made it easier to withdraw, particularly given the sort of investment which would have been needed to match the reliability and power of the Ford Cosworth DFV. Its impotant to remember that Rindt put ‘860 Series’ F1 powered Brabhams on pole twice in ’68. The 3 litre ‘860’ Repco was potent! With further development there is no reason the ‘860’ F1 engine could not have won races, it proved its speed in Rindts hands in ’68 if not its reliabilty. And every Tom, Dick and Harry raced DFV’s in ’68; McLaren, Lotus and Ken Tyrrell’s Matra International team, pole amongst that lot was an achievement, the Ferrari’s also quick that year.

So, whilst Repco were happy to provide Matich with an engine, they would not back an assault in the US with the resources required. Matich employed ex-Repco engineer John Mepstead to look after SR4 during ’69, he wasn’t provided by Repco. Matich didn’t have the funds to race in the US and had already acquired an M10A Chev McLaren F5000 car in advance, well in advance of CAMS decision to agree the next ANF1 as F5000. 2 litre F2 was the alternative.

There was some ‘dogs bollocks’ from the Matich camp at the time about ‘multi-valve’ engines not being legal in the ’69 CanAm which is rubbish, obfuscation. Count the number of Ferrari’s alone which ran that year, the last time i looked they weren’t powered by pushrod OHV V8’s.

Repco’s commercial interests were best served, they quite rightly believed, by building an F5000 variant of the 5 litre Holden V8 to participate in this rapidly growing category. The engine was an immediate success, Matich won the 1970 Australian Grand Prix in a McLaren M10C Repco that November.

There was not the funds to race an SR4 ‘Stateside, customer F5000 engines were a better commercial proposition for Repco and so an interesting and immensely successful, Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. chapter of Repco history ended, with a big, quad cam 5 litre bang mind you!

As an aside the last championship won by an RBE engine was Henry Michell’s victory in the 1974 Australian Sportscar Championship aboard an Elfin 360 powered by an ex-Tasman RBE ‘730 Series’ 2.5 litre V8…

The SR4’s 1969 Australian Competitor Set…

The sinfully sexy, wedgy, state of the art, but oh-so-twitchy Elfin ME5 Chev of Niel Allen at Warwick Farm in 1969, below.

Garrie Cooper’s latest big car had a nice, stiff aluminium monocoque chassis but the short wheelbase device, even with Allen at the wheel, very much Matich’s equal in F5000 was never a winning car and with only 480bhp was ‘gutless’ compared to Matich’s 580! Never thought i would say that about a 5 litre injected Chev!

sr me5

(oldracephotos.com)

Bob Jane below in the sensational McLaren M6 Repco at Hume Weir in 1969, le patron at the wheel of the car raced mainly by John Harvey including the Australian Sportscar Championship in 1971/2. Also Repco powered but ‘only’ an SOHC 5 litre ‘740 Series’ V8, Harvey was very much an ace but the car not on the same page as Matich’s beastie. Its time would come…but only after SR4 was popped away as a museum piece within months of its championship win.

sr jane

(oldracephotos.com)

Don O’Sullivan in the hi-winged Matich SR3 ‘3’ Repco slicing into Warwick Farm’s Esses in early 1969. Behind him is Niel Allen in the ex-Matich Elfin 400/Traco Olds, now 5 litre Chev engined car. The chassis of the SR3 was either identical to or very, very similar to Cooper’s Elfin 400 design.

sr sr3

(oldracephotos.com/Dick Simpson)

Matich Cars: The Chassis List…

Matich listed ‘his cars’ by chassis number as below. After discussion with Frank Matich, Darryl Duff who owned one of the SR3’s at the time in the early eighties prepared a document listing ‘Franks’ sportscars. A truncated summary of it is set out below. To that I have added Matich’s single-seaters, all F5000’s the source, Derek Kneller, his engineer/mechanic throughout the entire F5000 period;

sr3 wf

Matich in SR3 ‘3’ Repco ‘620 Series 4.4 litre V8, the last one built, at Warwick Farm in 1968, this is the chassis with which he belted Chris Amon in the ’68 Tasman support rounds, Amon in David McKays/Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/Can Am 350 (Dick Simpson)

1.Sports Cars: All of multi-tubular spaceframe construction

#1 Lotus 19B Climax: (the second of FM’s 19’s, highly modified with many Brabham bits and ultimately destroyed in FM’s big ’65 Lakeside shunt)

#2 Elfin 400 Olds: (aka ‘Traco Olds’ first raced Sandown early ’66, still exists)

#3 SR3 (1) Olds/Repco (still exists) Built with 5 litre Traco/Olds, ZF 5 DS-25 ‘box

First race Warwick Farm early ’67, won ’67 Victorian (Sandown) and NSW (Catalina Park) sportscar championships and Australian Tourist Trophy at Surfers Paradise. To Marvin Webster, California, sans engine in June 1967. Tony Settember raced the car for Webster.

#4 SR3 (2) Repco (still exists) RBE ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre V8 # ‘RB620E22’, from late 1969 Traco/Olds 5 litre from ex-SR3 (1), ZF DS25 ‘box

Built, sold and exported to Kent Price, California US, first raced 3 September 1967, Road America, Elkhart Lake by Matich. Its only US race. Returned to Oz, it was sold on Price’s behalf, by Matich to Malcolm Bailey in 1969. Bailey fitted the ex-Elfin 400/Traco Olds/ SR3 (1) V8 from Niel Allen to the car.

#5 SR3 (3) Repco (still exists) RBE ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre V8 engine # ‘E25’, ZF 5 DS-25 ‘box

First race by Matich, 17 September 1967 Bridghampton, raced in Oz later in ’67. Won RAC Trophy and Australian Tourist Trophy at Warwick Farm and Mallala respectively in 1968. This is the chassis which beat Amon’s Ferrari P4/CanAm 350 throughout the ’68 Tasman support races. Sold to Don O’Sullivan late in ’68

#6 SR4 Repco: (still exists, ’68 intended CanAm contender, late, only raced ’69 in Oz, won ASSC that year)

#7 SR4B Ford/Lotus twin-cam (still exists, customer car built for John Wood)

image

Matich A51 Repco on the Watkins Glen pit row in 1973 (D Kneller)

2.F5000’s: All aluminium monocoques

Note The Matich Team reskinned their McLaren M10B Repco tub after its Oran Park 1971 practice shunt, their first monocoque experience. Six virtually identical tubs were built by Matich/Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and built up as follows;

#8 A50 Repco Chassis # ‘001/002’ (1971 AGP and 1972 Gold Star winner, still exists)

#9 A50 Ford # ‘003’ (exported to the US, bits incorporated in sportscar) 1972

#10 A50 Repco # ‘004’ (customer car, John Walker ’73 US L&M later to Jon Davison, still exists)

#11 A51 Repco # ‘005’ (US ’73 L&M Series sold to J Goss, converted to A53 spec, ’76 AGP winner, still exists)

#12 A51/52 Repco # ‘006’ (US L&M Series as A51 converted to A52 spec back at Brookvale in time for the Surfers Gold Star round that September, destroyed in a Warwick Farm testing accident shortly thereafter driven by Bob Muir, scrapped)

#13 A53 Repco # ‘007’ (’74 Tasman car sold to J Goss after FM retirement, still exists)

On the basis of the above the Matich Team built 11 cars; the list above less the Lotus 19B and Elfin 400 which were built in Cheshunt, London and Edwardstown, Adelaide respectively.

FM’s logic of including the Lotus and Elfin as ‘his cars’ is not spelt out in Duff’s document but I suspect FM’s thinking was that he modified the cars to such an extent that they were more ‘Matich’ than Lotus/Elfin which may be true of the Lotus but ‘praps not the Elfin… Both these cars are covered in my ‘Elfin 400’ article the link of which is early in this article.

In Period Race Footage…

SR3.

SR4.

Shot below by Dale Harvey and is at Catalina Park in the Blue Mountains, not Warwick Farm.

Etcetera…

sr 4 drawing

Racing Car News June 1968 (Dalton)

Matich SR4 RCN cover (2)

Racing Car News cover July 1968 (Dalton)

wf poster

1970 Frank Matich Vicki Fry

1970 shot of FM in natty check strides, Vicki Fry and journalist and later motor racing publisher, Chevron Group founder Ray Berghouse. Hewland box missing, nice shot of suspension detail (Ray Berghouse)

Special Thanks…

To Nigel Tait for entrusting me with his manuscript

Derek Kneller for his recollections of the 1969/70 period at Team Matich

Credits…

Nigel Tait Collection, Dick Simpson, oldracephotos.com, Repco Ltd, Dave Friedman Collection, Ian Pope, Jay Bondini, The Roaring Season, Derek Kneller, Dale Harvey, Peter Ellenbogen, Stephen Dalton Collection, Ray Berghouse

Tailpiece: Matich is his local ‘backyard’, aboard the SR4 Repco, Warwick Farm’s Esses, now ‘Bell Star’ equipped, 1970…

mat wf

(oldracephotos.com/Dick Simpson)

 

brabham op circuit

(R Rice)

Jack Brabham shakes down his 1968 Tasman contender the Brabham BT23E Repco for Sydney’s media at Oran Park, 14 February 1968…

Nestled in the back is Repco’s latest ‘RB740’ 275bhp 2.5 litre V8, the Tasman variant of Brabham’s successful 1967 F1 3 litre (330bhp) engine. Denny Hulme took the drivers title from Jack in a BT24, with Brabham Repco winning the constructors championship for the second year on the trot.

jack, op

Brabham in the OP pitlane February 1968 (R Rice)

 

barbham op

Jack Brabham at Oran Park, Sydney 1968. He might have raced a Holden touring car there in the mid-seventies but didn’t in his ‘heyday’. Built in the 1960’s 60Km west of Sydney near Camden, OP was extended in 1974 hosting the F5000 1974 and 1977 AGP’s. Subsumed by Sydney’s western sprawl ‘Oran Park Town’ will house around 25,000 people (R Rice)

 

BT23E being fettled probably in Sydney during the Warwick Farm weekend, Jack hands on as ever,  RBE740 2.5 V8, Hewland FT200 gearbox (unattributed)

The Brabham BT23E/1was again built on Ron Tauranac’s BT23 F2 jig and powered by a 2.5-litre Repco V8- as it was for the BT23A he campaigned in the 1967 Tasman before its sale to David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce- BT23A used RBE640’s throughout the 1967 Tasman whereas BT23E used both RBE740 and a new design- the RBE830 (short F1 block and between the Vee crossflow, SOHC, two valve heads) on raceday at Sandown.

Jack Brabham made limited appearances in the 1968 Tasman series, he raced the BT23E twice, at Warwick Farm and Sandown Park in February.

bt 23e wf

(Brian McInerney)

Brabham in BT23E in the Warwick Farm pitlane several days after the cars Oran Park shakedown.

The car in front of Jack’s is Pedro Rodriguez’ BRM P261, behind him is the nose of Piers Courage’s McLaren M4A Ford FVA F2 car, third in the race. Jack was seventh in the ‘Warwick Farm 100’ on 18 February, Jim Clark ran away with the race from teammate Graham Hill’s identical Lotus 49 Ford DFW. Click here for an article on this meeting;

https://primotipo.com/2015/04/14/warwick-farm-100-tasman-series-1968/

At Sandown on 25 February Clark again won the race and the title, Jack’s new Repco ‘830’ engine failed. It was a bit of a portent of the F1 year he and Jochen Rindt were to experience with the Repco engines.

The Ford Cosworth DFV, in its second year, challenged the new quad-cam 32 valve Repco RB860 V8, its fragility was as problematic as its RB620 and 740 brothers had been reliable…

Sandown AGP 1968. Clark, Lotus 49 Ford DFW, Chris Amon, Ferrari Dino 246T and Jack in BT23E/1. Row 2 is Graham Hill and Leo Geoghegan in Lotus 49 Ford DFW and Lotus 39 Repco 740 respectively. The other glimpse of a car beside the fence is Frank Gardner’s Brabham BT23D Alfa. Jim won in a thriller diller of a race by a ‘bees-dick’ from Chris (HAGP)

 

RBE830 engine cobbled together to fit in the BT23E frame- the blocks were different, note oil cooler and breather arrangements (R MacKenzie)

The car was then sold to Bob Jane Racing and driven by John Harvey, but he was injured in a massive accident in practice on his first outing in the car at Bathurst during the Gold Star meeting.

It was repaired before Harvey recovered from the life threatening accident, which was a bumma for John but also in terms of the ’68 Gold Star competition, it would have been great to have Harves give Kevin Bartlett, who won that year in Alec Mildren’s Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo Tipo V8 a run for his money- Leo raced his ex-Clark Lotus 39 Repco.

Bob Jane gave Ian Cook a run in the car at Lakeside in July and then by Allan Moffat at Sandown Park in August, Moffatt crashed it again and it was out of action until the 1969 Tasman series. Moffat had returned to Australia after making a strong name for himself in the US in the two years before in Lotus Cortinas, a Ford Mercury Cougar in late 1967 and sharing a works Shelby Mustang at Daytona and Sebring in the first quarter of 1968.

Harvey in the bi-winged Brabham BT23E 740 at Bathurst Easter 1969 before the big accident caused by upright failure, the mangled mess is shown below. The car was run in this form only once (oldracephotos.com)

 

(J Davis)

 

(D Harvey)

 

Harvey and the marshalls push BT23E 740 to the inside on the run out of Dandenong Road at Sandown in February 1969- Jochen Rindt’s Lotus 49B Ford DFV sings past (R MacKenzie)

When John and the car were ready to race again he contested Bob Jane Racing’s home race at Sandown but failed to finish after having engine problems.

Harvey raced it through the 1969 Australian Gold Star series, winning at Sandown in September and finishing second at Bathurst at Easter but retired from four races- due to oil pressure at Symmons Plains, undisclosed engine problems at Mallala, a cam-follower at Surfers Paradise and an accident in practice at Warwick Farm. Kevin Bartlett won his second Gold Star in 1969 aboard the Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Alfa from Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco and Max Stewart in the other Alec Mildren entry, the Mildren Waggott TC-4V 1.9 litre.

During this period the car evolved in look a lot- constant experimentation with wings and engine- Bob Jane acquired the latest circa 300bhp RBE830 series V8 prior to the commencement of the Gold Star, the team yielded a performance dividend but not a reliability one. Repco Brabham Engines’ Rodway Wolfe recalls being instructed to give the two works RBE830 engines used by Jack Brabham in his little raced 1969 Tasman campaigner, the Brabham BT31 to Jane after Jack’s last event with that car- a win in the 1969 Easter Bathurst Gold Star round, so Bob/Harvey should have had the best of Repco Tasman V8s.

Harvey, BT23E, Warwick Farm 1970 (R Thorncraft)

 

Harvey, BT23E 830, Warwick Farm 100 Tasman round 1970. That neatly integrated engine cover/cowling wing assembly was fabricated by ex-Repco man John Brookfield in Melbourne (D Simpson)

Formula 5000 cars were eligible to enter the 1970 Tasman Series but despite that a good 2.5, or 2.4 litre car in fact won the championship- Graeme Lawrence won in the same V6 Ferrari Dino 246T chassis Chris Amon used to win in 1969. Bob Jane Racing entered only the Warwick Farm and Sandown rounds- Harves was a good fifth at the Farm where KB won in the Sub 2 litre Waggott powered whereas at Sandown he had an oil leak and retired the car- Niel Allen won ina McLaren M10B Chev.

He raced BT23E in the first round of the 1970 Gold Star series, winning at Symmons Plains in March from Leo Geoghegan and Kevin Bartlett but from the following round at Lakeside the teams front line tool became the Jane-Repco 830 V8- a machine built on Bob Britton’s Brabham BT23 jig but optimised to suit the latest generation of Firestone tyres- with more reliability Harvey had the speed to win the Gold Star that year. The story of that year is told here; https://primotipo.com/2019/07/05/oran-park-diamond-trophy-gold-star-1970/

After the sale of the car by Bob Jane it was converted to an F2 car with a Ford twin-cam engine and raced by Woody Curran in Tasmania from 1970-1977, it was sold to Bill Marshall who restored and historic raced passing via Ray Delaney into the hands of Art Valdez in the United States, and then a consortium in the UK in 2017, in more recent times it was acquired by Australian racer/restorer Aaron Lewis who has rebuilt it in RBE830 engined form.

Symmons Gold Star round 1970. From left Leo Geoghegan, Lotus 39 Repco 730, Kevin Bartlett, Mildren ‘Sub’ Waggott TC-4V 2 litre- Max Stewart on the row behind in the Mildren Waggott TC-4V 2 litre and John Harvey, Brabham BT23E Repco 830. Harvey won from Geoghegan, Bartlett and Stewart (H Ellis)

The last few races for the BT23E in its Repco heyday seem to be the 1970 Symmons Plains Gold Star round (above) on 2 March 1970, the ANF1 races during the Easter Bathurst meeting (no longer a Gold Star round due to safety issues) and finally the ANF1 races held during the RAC Trophy sportscar championship meeting (below) at Warwick Farm on May 3 1970

Harvey, BT23E 830 in its final front-line Repco engine race at Warwick Farm on 3 May 1970 (R MacKenzie)

 

(M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

Aaron Lewis’ restoration of the car is superb, as shown it is fitted with an RBE830 2.5 litre V8 and sans wings- that is the specification in which it raced in the 1968 Sandown AGP. This is the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings in Carlton during ‘Motorclassica’ in October 2018.

Surrounding cars include the ex-Alan Jones Williams FW07 Ford, the green ex-Nelson Piquet 1981 AGP Ralt RT4 Ford BDA, ‘Ansett’ Elfin MR8 Chev F5000 and red Allan Hamilton owned McLaren M10B F5000.

Etcetera…

(oldracephotos.com

Bob Jane Racing Council of War at Symmons Plains in March 1970, I guess that weekend they may have run the Shelby Mustang, Brabham, McLaren M6B Repco sporty and a series-production Monaro GTS350 perhaps.

Bob, Harvey, Pat Purcell, an obscured fellow and John Sawyer at right. Harvey is sitting on the rear tyre of the BT23E.

(R MacKenzie)

Three photographs of John Harvey at Bathurst in 1970- this was the famous meeting/event at which Niel Allen set a lap record for Mount Panorama in his McLaren M10B Chev F5000, which stood for a couple of decades .

Note that in the shot above at Easter the car has a separate wing rather than the integrated engine cover cowling and wing- cowling at Symmons in on 3 March, separate wing above on 27-30 March and back to the cowling fot that final meeting at Warwick Farm in May 1970- perhaps they were testing a different wing for the pending Jane V8?

Note the tyre going flat in the closeup shot below on the way down the mountain.

(Wirra)

 

Bathurst Easter 1970 grid (R MacKenzie)

 

(P Townsend)

Photograph in the Warwick Farm paddock during the May 1970 RAC Trophy meeting. That near engine over/wing does have a 1969 F1 Matra MS80 touch about it.

Credits:

R Rice, Brian McInerney, Wirra, Rod MacKenzie, Peter Townsend, Dale Harvey, oldracingcars.com, Harold Ellis, Dick Simpson, ‘History of the AGP’ G Howard and ors, M Bisset, Jeff Davis

Tailpiece: Jack’s BT23E cruisin’ the Warwick Farm paddock…

brabham bt 23e

(Wirra)

Brabham, Brabham BT23E Repco 740, Warwick Farm Tasman meeting 1968, all gorgeous in its turquoise/gold stripe livery.

Finito…

 

brabham life 2

This 1967 ‘Life’ magazine was staring at me, waiting for me to pick it up in my favourite ‘bric-a-brac’ store in Chapel Street, Windsor. I  was more than happy to give it a good home. It celebrates Brabham Team achievements in 1967…

Articles on motor racing have never been mainstream in such global publications, of course the article has a lot of general rather than specific enthusiast interest stuff. But i thought the photos worth posting and a little of the contents.

jack evocative

Jack Brabham pondering setup changes. US GP 1967. (Life)

All of these photos were taken during the US Grand Prix weekend, held on 1 October at Watkins Glen.

By that stage of the season the new Lotus 49’s had the consistency as well as the speed they demonstrated from debut at Zandvoort in May, Clark and Hill finished 1/2 at the Glen in the Ford Cosworth DFV engined cars.

Denny Hulme was 4th and Jack 5th. Denny won the ’67 Drivers title and Brabham the Constructors for the second year on the trot.

Those spaceframe BT24’s powered by 3 litre Repco ‘740 Series’ SOHC, between the Vee exhaust V8’s were chuckable, fast, successful cars. Still quick in Jochen Rindt’s hands early in 1968 against even more formidable opposition, despite having only 320bhp or so.

denny evocative

Denny Hulme, Watkins Glen 1967. (Life)

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Betty Brabham and Jack. Car is BT24 Repco. Watkins Glen, US GP 1967. (Life)

‘Life’ credit ‘The pre-eminence of Australia and New Zealand in automobile racing to Brabham…He is responsible not only for the Brabham Racing Organisation (the F1 team), but also for Motor Racing Developments Ltd, which constructs the Brabham designed cars (Ron Tauranac may have a view on that!) ; Jack Brabham conversions Ltd which produces go-faster kits and treatments; and Jack Brabham Motors Ltd, a garage and car dealership’.

Jack was a busy boy indeed! I think at that stage he was still ‘ghosting’ a magazine column or two as well in addition to managing the relationship with engine partner Repco.

mc laren

Bruce McLaren in his McLaren M5A BRM, US GP 1967. DNF with water hose failure. With Cosworth power from 1968 his GP cars found success. (Life)

‘It isn’t only Jack Brabham and Denis Hulme who bring glory to their part of the world…Contributing to the lustre are Bruce McLaren, 30, as well known as a manufacturer of racing cars as a driver, and Chris Amon, 25, who was in fourth place in the World Championship standings going into the final race (the Mexican GP)…McLaren has won 3 GP’s during his career. Amon…still seeks his first victory which could come at any time’.

amon

Chris Amon, Ferrari 312. Watkins Glen 1967. DNF in the race with engine failure. (Life)

jack trailer

Jack Brabham; post race, happy mode in the Brabham pit. Looks like an apple in hand! Watkins Glen 1967. (Life)

Credit…Life Magazine 30 October 1967

Repco Record NZ

The one and only ‘Repco Record’ in surreal surroundings, the Wairakei geothermal field near Taupo in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in 1959…

After the end of Maybach’s useful life, the racing brainchild of Charlie Dean well covered in my article on Stan Jones, the talented Repco Engineer looked for a new project. https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

Dean, Head of Repco Research, the large transnationals ‘Skunkworks’ turned his attention to the creation of a road car which would form a test bed for the companies products, a promotional tool and an expression of Repco’s innovative capabilities.

Dean recruited Tom Molnar (Chief Engineer of Patons Brakes) and Wally Hill (Repco Research) to assist with development of the car; Molnar with its engineering and brakes, Hill built the body with some assistance from Bob Baker to Deans design, a process completed in Dean’s spare time at his Kew, Melbourne kitchen table!

The cars construction took 4 years, the yellow coupe made its debut at the 1959 Melbourne Motor Show, where it was ‘The Starlet’ painted a distinctive shade of yellow.

repcorecordrear

The ‘Repco Experimental Car’ as it was then unimaginatively called was a mobile test bed designed to trial the groups products, but that didn’t stop contemporary reports speculating about series production. In the context of its time it was a highly specified, comfortable high speed car of potentially modest cost using largely production based components.

When originally built it was fitted with a Ford Zephyr engine with a Raymond Mays cylinder head Dean bought to fit to his company car, and an MG TC gearbox. A Holden engine was slotted in when the Repco ‘Hi-Power’ head was developed, a David Brown Aston Martin ‘box replaced the MG unit at the same time.

‘Sports Car Worlds’ Peter Costigan tested the Record with Dean on board and raved about its comfort, performance, roadholding and handling. Less impressive was the David Brown ‘box and brakes which faded after repeated high speed applications. The car cruised comfortably at 100mph with a top speed of 120 mph, the Repco modded Holden engine in ‘touring tune’. Heavier shocks, improved brakes and an oil cooler were suggested improvements.

recoord 1

Repco shot with the car posed in front of Repco Research’ new home in Dandenong, Victoria. Late 50’s. (Repco/From Maybach to Holden)

The pretty Coupe was used during the filming of ‘On The Beach’, a Hollywood movie shot in Australia featuring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire during 1959.The film was based on a novel by British/Australian author Nevil Shute.

The car was one of several used in the productions racing scenes filmed at Phillip Island. It was during breaks in filming that SCW magazine drove the car, it was about this time someone dubbed the car ‘Repco Record’ a name never officially endorsed by Repco but an appellation which stuck!

Repco SCW 03

Repco ‘Hi-Power’ headed Holden ‘Grey Motor’ 2.3 litre OHV 6 cylinder, cross-flow engine fed by 2 Weber carbs. Circa 133 bhp with a ‘cooking cam’ and extractors. (SCW Magazine)

After testing of various Repco subsidiary components and the changing of the cars livery and especially rear window treatment the Record was sold after a few years into private hands, it is still in Australia, last sold several years ago and pops up occasionally at historic events.

Repco Record 2014 PI

Contemporary shot of the Repco Record at Phillip Island in 2014, changed frontal treatment not for the better. (Stephen Dalton)

Specifications…

The Record used the then contemporary (1948-1962) Holden 6 cylinder ‘Grey Motor’ bored to 2360cc. It featured a cast iron block, 4 bearing crank fitted with Repco Hi-Power crossflow, OHV semi-hemispherical cylinder head, 2 Weber 36 DCLD7 downdraught carburettors. On a compression ratio of 8.7:1. the engine developed circa 133bhp@5500 rpm and 141lbs/ft of torque@4000 RPM. For more on the Repco Hi-Power head see the separate section below.

The chassis was of integral construction with a tubular backbone, the steel body was welded to the frame to provide stiffness.

Suspension comprised modified Holden components; wishbones, coil springs and telescopic dampers at the front. At the rear a Holden live axle, quarter elliptic leaf springs and telescopic dampers was used. Rear axle was ENV spiral bevel, its ratio 3.66:1, Gearbox was a David Brown 4 speed manual with synchromesh.

Brakes were hydraulic drums front and rear with a Repco PBR booster, Steering by recirculating ball. Tyres: 6.40-13 on steel wheels

Fuel Capacity: 42 litres (9.5 gal) Height: 1320 mm (52 in) Length: 3810 mm (150 in) Weight: 1018 kg (2240 lbs) Wheel Base: 2286 mm (90 in)

Max. Speed: 120 m.p.h. (1st gear: 48 m.p.h., 2nd gear: 66 m.p.h., 3rd gear: 98 m.p.h., 4th gear: 120 m.p.h.) Acceleration: 0-60 m.p.h. in 10.5 secs. 0-100 m.p.h. in 21.2 secs. Standing quarter mile: 17.2 secs.

Repco AMS annual advert

Repco Record contemporary press ad. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

repco high power

Repco Hi-Power headed Holden engine complete with optional aluminium rocker cover. Engine variously named ‘HighPower’ ‘Hypower’ and ‘Hi-Power’ the latter the name it was finally marketed as…notwithstanding the name on the rocker cover! (Maybach to Holden)

Repco Hi-Power Head…

All countries have production car engines which, with tuning provide a staple for road going sedans, racing or sportscars, sometimes all three!

The BMC ‘A and B Series’, Ford 105E through Kent engines, the small block Chev and Ford V8’s and more recently Ford Zetec and Toyota 4AGE engines spring to mind. In Australia the Holden ‘Grey’ and ‘Red’ 6 cylinder engines were the tuners weapon of choice for 2 decades starting in the early ’50’s.

Repco were active in racing throughout this period, largely starting with the efforts of Charlie Dean and his Repco Research colleagues based in their Sydney Road, Brunswick, inner Melbourne base.

Phil Irving of Vincent and Repco Brabham RB620 Engine fame, his exploits well covered in the articles I have written about the 1966 World Championship wins by Brabham and Repco, designed the ‘Hi-Power’ cylinder head to meet market needs and exploit the knowledge Repco had gained about improving the performance of Holden’s 2200cc, 6 cylinder, iron, 4 bearing, OHV engine which in standard tune gave, according to Irving, a claimed and real 62 BHP at 4000 rpm. Click here for an article about Irving’s 1966 F1 Championship Winning Repco engine;

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

RepcoHi-Powerhead_preview

Contemporary ‘horsepower press’ ad from ‘Wheels’ magazine July 1962 edition. (Wheels)

Irving, a noted author himself wrote about the Repco head in Barry Lake’s late, lamented and sadly shortlived ‘Cars and Drivers’ magazine in 1977, this piece is based on Irving’s article, the quotes are just that…

Irving’s simple proposal to Dean was to design a head which would increase the engines power, Dean agreed on the basis that the design be interchangeable with the original head, inexpensive and simple enough to be machined with little or no special equipment. In effect this precluded the head being made of aluminium so cast iron it was.

‘The valves were arranged in two rows with the 1.375 inch exhaust valves vertical and on the near side, while the inlets were inclined at 25 degrees on the opposite side, their heads being 1.56 inches in diameter’.

‘The 6 circular exhaust ports were short and direct, while the rectangular shaped inlets were arranged in two groups of 3, springing from the 2 galleries, these formed partly in the head and partly in the manifolds. The manifolds were simple open sided castings, made in several types to suit vertical or horizontal carburettors’.

The pressed steel side plates were replaced by an aluminium plate. ‘This feature enabled the head to be widened to give room for desirably long inlet ports and inclined rockers which oscillated on a hollow bar… Another bar carried the exhaust rockers, both bars mounted to pedestals integral to the head and thus free from flexure under load.’

Cost pressures meant the rockers were made of nodular iron, hardened locally and proved failure free.

Most of the development work was done by Repco subsidiaries; Warren and Brown the patterns, Russell foundry the head castings, Brenco the heavy milling and Repco Research the final machining.

‘There was no fancy work done on the ports, the first head was slapped on an FE Holden engine that was fired up in the middle of the night…after playing about with jet sizes and ignition settings we obtained 85bhp with a single Holden carburettor on a mocked up manifold’

‘The compression ratio was only 7.5:1 to suit the 90 octane fuel of the day which most people today (1977 at the time of writing) wouldn’t even put in their lawn mowers!’

‘It was an encouraging start with 100bhp, it was enough to push a road car along at over the ton…but more was needed for serious racing…which wasn’t difficult to get by changing camshafts, raising the compression ratio and boring .125 oversize…with each carburettor supplying 3 cylinders it was discovered the induction system came into resonance at around 4000rpm’.

irving and england

Ropey shot of Phil Irving and Paul England, ‘Racers’ in thought word and deed both! They are fettling the first Hi-Power head on the Russell Manufacturing Co dyno, Richmond, Melbourne. This was the same cell in which the first RB620 F1/Tasman engine burst into life in 1965. This first head was fitted to England’s Ausca sportscar, the car very successful, a car i must write about. (P Irving/Cars and Drivers magazine)

The bolt on kit was priced at £150, a fully rebuilt engine with camshafts and carburettors of the clients choice was £450. ‘The most popular choice was the 140bhp version with 2 double choke progressive Weber down-draft carburettors which gave a road speed (in a Holden sedan with three ‘on the tree’ speed gearbox) of 114mph’.

‘The harmonic balancer was the weak link with bad, critical oscillations at 6200rpm…crankshafts were prone to break if run consistently near 6200rpm…’

103 heads were made most going into road cars or speed boats ‘In a couple of seasons Hi-Power heads just about dominated sedan racing with drivers like John French, the Geoghegans, Stan Jones, Bob Holden and Ray Long on top of the pile’. Lou Molina fitted one to his MM Sportscar, (later supercharging the engine), Tom Hawkes to his Cooper in place of the Bristol original for a while holding the Phillip Island lap record together with Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625.

‘General Motors failed to evince any interest in our design which would have kept them ahead of the game for years…The end of the engine was hastened by the advent of big V8’s…and by a change in (racing) regulations which prohibited replacing the heads on production cars’.

hi power engine design

Phil Irving’s drawing of a cross section of his Repco Hi-Power head, his notes self explanatory. (P Irving/Cars and Drivers magazine)

Etcetera…

record 2

The Record worked hard as test bench, promotional tool and ‘function starlet’, here at such a function. The controversial and ever evolving rear fin is well shown in this shot. In the context of its time, an attractive car, front on view arguably its best angle? (Repco/From Maybach to Holden)

hi power ad

repco record

‘Repco Record’ at the Phillip Island Classic in 2008. Front treatment has changed along the way, not for the better! (Dick Willis)

repco price list

Repco Hi-Power head and related parts price list 1956. (From Maybach to Holden)

Credits…

Stephen Dalton and his collection for the provision of ‘Sports Car World’ March 1960, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ May 1959 and ‘Modern Motor’ January 1960 as reference sources, Dick Willis, ‘Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, ‘Cars and Drivers’ Magazine Number 2 1977 Phil Irving Repco Hi-Power head article, Don Halpin Collection

Tailpiece…

(D Halpin Collection)

Love this shot of Phil Irving and Charlie Dean trying to keep a straight face during a Repco promotional shoot to promote their new head. FE Holden, lovely head, extractors and twin-Strombergs clearly visible.

Finito…

jack

Dick Simpson

Jack Brabham winning the 1969 Australian Gold Star Series event at Easter Bathurst in his Brabham BT31 Repco…he is heading across Mount Panorama between ‘Skyline’ and ‘The Dipper’…

Introduction…

Those who have read the first three Repco articles may recall that we have been chronologically going through the history of Repco’s F1 and Race Engine program of the mid 60’s partially through the eyes of Rodway Wolfe who worked for the company as both technician and storeman during the glory years from 1966.

This article is out of sequence, its’ about Jacks’ 1969 Tasman mount, the Brabham BT31 powered by the Repco ‘830 Series’ 2.5 litre V8, logically the 1967 and 1968 F1/Tasman/Sportscar engines and race records come first. Rodways’ manuscript is running ahead of my own research so we will run with this article now, one he is intensely passionate about for reasons which become obvious, i will re-number once we have covered 1967 and 1968 down the track.

‘In the historic vehicle world there are some fascinating stories of various cars and some seem to just keep accumulating historic events and happenings throughout their existence. The BT31 Repco Brabham is one such car. The following story is mine, I was lucky enough to purchase the BT31 early in its history making saga…

bathurst race

Brabham, BT31, Bathurst Easter 1969. It is such a shame the car did not arrive early enough to compete in the 1969 Tasman and/or the 1970 Tasman, it was potentially a winning car in 1970. ’70 Tasman won by Graeme Lawrences’ ’68 updated Ferrari Dino 246T despite F5000 cars also being eligible that year…(Unattributed)

BT31/1 was constructed by Brabham Cars  for Brabham Racing Organisation…(Sir Jack Brabhams works racing team, a separate entity from Jack and Ron Tauranacs’ race car production entity) It was built especially for the 1969 Tasman series, not just a modified Formula 3 car as some have suggested. It was bright red, unique itself as the FI BRO cars were all green and gold.

The engine was a ‘Tasman’ 2.5 litre ‘830 Series’ the car fitted with low profile wheels and tyres and various other features. It was consigned by sea freight to Australia, there seemed to be ample time for its arrival for the start of the Tasman series of races in New Zealand in January 1969.

I managed Repco Brabham Engine Company’s spare parts operation, we awaited the cars arrival with great anticipation. By a twist of fate the Melbourne ‘wharfies’ went on strike due to some industrial problem. They were cooperative and sympathetic to us and offered to unload the car if possible. A search revealed the car crate to be under many hundreds of tons of freight so it was not to be.

Eventually the strike ended and the crate arrived at RB on the Wednesday prior to the last race of the ’69 Tasman Series at Sandown Park, Melbourne. It was very disappointing but Jack being Jack he still wanted to be on the Sandown grid, Repcos’ home town race.

If anyone has been lucky enough to purchase a new Brabham they will know what I am talking about. The cars arrive in a very long crate just wide enough for the chassis and suspension, tanks and body parts are packed along the crate in front of the chassis. In this case a tubular space frame.

jack dandown 1969

Brabham Sandown, Dandenong Rd corner. Brabham BT31 Repco, Tasman 1969. (Unattributed)

The Car That Jack and Rodway Built…

As despatch and receiving was part of my job I had the great pleasure of assisting Jack to unpack the car. I have been lucky in my life to have many days I enjoyed to the fullest but that Wednesday with Sir Jack has to rank as the best. I spent the day helping the World Champion assemble his car, imagine a star of today doing that!

Every part went together like a dream, Jack sat in the cockpit while we fitted instruments, adjusted pedals, steering wheel reach etc. We discussed many subjects including his flying in Europe. He asked if I had seen any ‘Brabham Holden Toranas’ in my travels. At the time he had done a deal with General Motors Holden, it was possible to buy a Torana with Brabham badges and gear knob, steering wheel. It was truly a memorable day for a boy from the bush!

Meanwhile my RB colleagues were power testing the ‘830 engine’. It was one of the best and most reliable of our engines. Finally it was fitted and the car was ready for testing mid Friday afternoon prior to the Sandown meeting on Saturday/Sunday.

We loaded the car on an old open trailer of Jacks and set out for Calder Raceway, near Keilor, an hour from Melbourne. Kevin Davies went in his car, I went in mine and I think Michael Gasking took his too. (1959 Australian Gold Star Champion) Len Lukey and his wife took Jack and Betty Brabham and one of the toddler Brabham boys.

brabham testing at calder

Brabham testing at Calder the day before Sandown and the day the cars assembly was completed by Brabham and Wolfe…the DIY World Champion! Brabham is belted in but driving in a ‘parka’, no racesuit.(Rodway Wolfe)

Len Lukey towed the trailer. We stopped at Keilor and Jack disappeared into a house for a few minutes. He borrowed the key to the circuit from Calder owner, Jean Pascoe. We proceeded to the circuit, unloaded the car and with just a handful of us there Jack started testing.

The fuel cam was causing a hesitation coming out of corners but Michael Gasking had a selection of test cams and soon had the fuel mix OK.

Len Lukey parked his car on the infield and they all stayed in the car watching. At one stage Jack walked over and carried his small son to BT31 and took him for a few laps as he sat on Jacks lap, no wonder all those boys raced! Another memorable moment for me. It was such a lovely casual setting with Jack just wearing his Parka jacket, no fireproofs.

We had been there about an 1.5 hours, Jack seemed happy with everything and suddenly into the gate roared a car which skidded to a stop and out jumped a very irate man. He started shouting at us all, especially Jack who was still sitting in the cockpit. He yelled something about no engines were to be started at the circuit after 6pm at night and it was a council by-law etc. He would report us etc. When he finally managed to get a word in Jack calmly said ‘we will pack up now fellas’ the irate man left as fast as he had arrived.

I have often wondered how funny it was that he never knew he was abusing our World Champ!’

Needless to say the car was at Sandown next day for practice…

bt 31 dandenong road

Jack Brabham, Brabham BT31 Repco, Sandown Tasman 1969, ‘Dandy Road’ corner. Winged in the race, he tested also sans wing. Note the ‘old style’ Buco helmet…Jack was wearing Bell Magnums in Europe, i suspect this is an old helmet left in Oz, ditto the goggles! (Rod MacKenzie)

sergent.com reported the race as follows…

‘It was a battle for pole again between Amon and Rindt, although the dark horse of the meeting was Jack Brabham hurriedly arranging a marriage between a Brabham BT31B F3 chassis and the 2.5 twin-cam Repco V8 engine. It was certainly the smallest and lightest of the V8 powered cars at the meeting, and although he fitted a wing to the rear, Brabham was down on horsepower compared to the other Internationals.

John Harvey was having his first competitive drive in the Bob Jane Repco Brabham BT23 Repco V8 since his Easter accident at Bathurst in 1968, and was using the outing as an extended test session for the coming Gold Star rather than trying to drive a hard race first time out. This was born out by Harvey’s practice time which put him 14th on the grid among the 1.6 F2 cars.

bt 31 sandown grid

Brabham BT31 #9 beside Derek Bells’ Ferrari Dino 246T, Sandown Tasman grid 1969. Grey haired gent just in shot is Scuderia Veloces’ supremo, David McKay who entered the successful Amon/Bell Ferraris’ in both 1968 and 1969 Tasman. (Mildren Films)

Rindt (Lotus 49 DFW) got the start and lead the field through Shell Corner and held it through the very slow Peter’s Corner, but Amon (Ferrari Dino 246T) used his better gearing for the straight and took the Austrian as they headed over the hill and down toward the Esses. Hill (Lotus 49 DFW) had started in third position but dropped back sharply on the first lap when his throttle linkage came adrift and Courage (Brabham BT24 DFW) broke a previously twisted half shaft down the back of the circuit.

Amon and Rindt started to open a gap to Brabham, who was holding off Bell for third place. Kevin Bartlett (Brabham BT23D Alfa) pulled sharply into the pits on lap 5 with a broken exhaust which threatened to set fire to exposed oil and fuel lines while Hill re-joined the race and set about climbing back through the field. John Harvey spun when his Repco engine overheated and poured out scalding water at Dandenong Corner and he retired with a very sore neck from the results.

Meanwhile Hill was forcing his way back up and he took Levis on lap 33 for sixth place but couldn’t get any higher after his four lap deficit after the start. Garrie Cooper drove steadily throughout the race to finish eighth and first resident Australian home in his own Elfin 600B. Leo Geoghegan hadn’t started as mechanics found a leaking fuel cell in the Lotus 39 Repco V8 and they couldn’t repair it in time.’

Amon won the race and the Tasman Series that year from Rindt and Courage. Rindt and Brabham were second and third in the race.

Check out this fabulous film made by Alec Mildren Racing of the Australian Leg of the 1969 Tasman Series…

After that Sandown event, Jack returned to Europe to commence his F1 campaign for the year.  Brabham’s BT26’s fitted with the Ford Cosworth DFV V8 for 1969 rather than the RB 860 Series 3 litre V8’s which had been so unreliable for he and Jochen Rindt in 1968, and caused his decision to bring the F1 partnership with Repco to an end.

The BT31 returned to the Maidstone factory, the engine was removed and the car stored for a while. We had two 830 2.5 litre engines for the car, one of course the spare.

bt 31 bathurst dale harvey

Brabham, Bathurst Easter 1969. (Dale Harvey)

In April 1969 the car was brought out of mothballs and taken to Bathurst for the Easter ‘Bathurst 100’ race

‘This race has also been widely reported over the years needless to say the BT31 started from the rear of the grid and hosed off all the Australian cars and set a new lap record for open-wheel cars of 2 min 13.2 seconds.’

I wrote about this weekend in another post a while back; https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

‘Of course that was the old track layout with the full Conrod Straight and notorious hump. Typical of Jacks foxiness, he fitted both front and rear high wings for Saturday practice which resulted in some teams working frantically all night to install front wings as well to their cars. Of course Jack rolled out the BT31 on race morning minus the high front wing’.

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Bi-winged during Easter Bathurst practice. One-off car based on BT28 F3 chassis. Multi-tubular space frame, front suspension by upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/damper units. Rear suspendsion by single top link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods, adjustable sway bars front and rear. Cast magnesium front and rear uprights. Repco ‘830 Series’ 2.5 litre SOHC 295bhp V8, Hewland FT200 5 speed box. (Rodway Wolfe)

The car was suffering some fuel starvation problems in practice. Very hastily the electric fuel pump was borrowed from Charlie Deans’ Lancia road car, some of you may remember Deans contribution to Australian motor racing in the Stan Jones article published a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

It assisted fuel flow into a reserve pot arrangement in the fuel system and a switch fitted to the instrument panel. Jack turned the pump on each lap for either the climb up the mountain or the run down Conrod I cannot recall which.

I do remember how great the car sounded down Conrod. It was the days of the apple orchards at Bathurst and BT31 looked magical going down through the apple orchards. When I purchased the car later it retained the Bathurst gearing, Peter Holinger and i calculated 5th gear at 186 mph at 9500 rpm so it was flying!

After the Bathurst meeting the car went to Sydney for display at Jack Brabham Fords’ Bankstown showroom.’

jack

Brabham during Bathurst practice pondering fuel starvation problems…(Rodway Wolfe)

‘Finally the BT31 was returned to our Repco factory at Maidstone…Jack Brabham had since returned to the UK, the cars engine was removed and it sat in a corner gathering dust.

Meanwhile Repco had been negotiating with Jack to purchase the car for the Repco Export Company to place on display in Japan at the upcoming ‘Expo 70’. Repco exported engine components around the world, most people would not know that Rolls Royce in the UK were supplied with Repco piston rings. So the display in Japan was a crucial part of the company’s export drive.

We will never know the details of Repco’s purchase of BT31, all I know it was involved with import duty with the amount paid dependent on the car being used as a race car or for advertising purposes.In other words, if the car was raced a higher level of duty applied than if the car was not.

One morning the works superintendant, Kevin Davies came out of his office and went down to John Brookfield in the welding shop, (John was our magic welder of all things aluminium) and was an excellent engineer. We all heard a bit of a discussion and Kevin disappeared back into his office. John was a big guy, his nickname, ‘Lurch’. We all knew something was wrong as Lurch came out of his welding bay with a red face, set to explode.’

‘Chop up BT31…

He told us with an incredible look on his face; ‘Kevin came and asked me to cut the BT31 chassis in half!!!??? I told him to F….k off and if he wanted it cut in two pieces he would have to find someone else to f…….g cut it for him…’

‘We all rebelled, the entire factory agreed on no destruction of BT31. It was something to do with Repco buying the car from Jack for advertising only, a space frame cut in half of course destroys the car and prevents it being raced. Anyway it was all to do with the usage of the car and the marketing idea at ‘Expo 70′ in Japan was to setup a display using a tunnel with the rear of the car disappearing in one end and the nose coming out of the other.

After a lot of discussion and refusal to damage the car the nose was removed and the bracket holding the radiator cut off the front. I didn’t visit Expo 70  but I understand the display did feature the car entering a tunnel. The car’s front high wing, the nose cone and the front wheels were in my care in our RB store until the car was returned in 1971’.

Editors Note: Without being an expert on Australian race car import laws of the past, the legislators allowed racing cars to be imported free of duty into Australia on the basis that the car left the country annually…perfect for Tasman series competitors as the cars left Oz for NZ to compete each year before returning. Eventually, when the car stays in Oz, duty is payable, therein commenced, often, a lot of ‘jiggery-pokery’ with chassis numbers as impecunious racers, seeking to avoid the taxmans net, applied very old chassis numbers to very new cars!  Repco, as an audited public company could not afford to play ‘ducks and drakes’ in this manner. I suspect the scenario Rodway outlines is around the points outlined here. That is, how to minimise the punitive duties whilst remaining ‘kosher’ in the process as large public company.Mark.

bt 31 cockpit

BT31/1 cockpit shot taken in 1983 at Sandown. Quintessential 60’s English racing car cockpit; Smiths chronometric tach, oil/water temps/oil pressure, leather bound Mota-Lita wheel and right hand change for the 5 speed Hewland FT200 gearbox. Chassis tubes clear as is aluminium fuel tank to left and right. (Mark Bisset)

‘When the car was returned by sea freight from Japan Repco had undergone huge changes in their motor racing policy…

The whole Repco Brabham project had been dismantled and the factory in Maidstone was being converted to a new company, Repco Dynamics, which was to construct a new concept in automotive wheel balancers. Most of the RB employees, about 70 at the time, were given their marching orders but a few were selected for the new entity or other Repco companies.’

In essence what occurred was the commercial flow on of Jack Brabhams decision to change from Repco to Ford Cosworth power in F1 with effect the 1969 F1 season.

RB Engines raison d’etre was the supply of engines to Brabham; Brabham received race winning engines and Repco reaped the advertising and promotional spinoffs.

The sale of Tasman 2.5 and 4.4/5 litre sports car and other engines in Australia and elsewhere did not generate a commercial return, the parent companies subsidy to keep its RB Engines subsidiary afloat was increasing each year. The PR rub off ended when Jack turned to Cosworth and had lost its gloss in ’68 due to the engines unreliability in F1. Whilst the 2.5 Repcos’ won Gold Star races they never won a Tasman or Gold Star series. Frank Matich’s 1969 Australian Sports Car Championship Matich SR4 Repco win was laudable but again did not, in Repco’s view, justify the significant investment made.

Repco therefore ‘flipped’ the stock of unsold engines and other assets of RB Engines into Redco, a new company, which it continued to support. The deal was probably done that way to maximise the tax effectiveness of the transaction, with Redco then looking after the needs of RB Engine customers needing spares etc, and taking on development of the new Holden ‘308 V8’ as a race F5000 engine, CAMS having finally made the vexed decison of the new ANF1 category between 2 litre race engine and 5 litre F5000 stock block alternatives.

These are topics we will explore in later articles, in essence this is a summary of the circumstances around the issues Rodway addresses above.

bi winged

Bi-winged BT31 during Bathurst practice. At ‘The Dipper’. (Unattributed)

‘In a corner of the RBE factory a wall was constructed with big doors and ‘No Entry’ signs, the new domain of  ‘Repco Engine Development Company’ (REDCO) was set up with Mal Preston as Chief…

The former General Manager of Repco Brabham Engine Co, Frank Hallam was transferred to Repco Research at Dandenong. Don Halpin, John McVeigh, John Mepstead and Brian Heard were placed in the new company with Malcolm Preston.

Being the spoilt brat from the bush, i refused to accept the closing of Repco Brabham which was my life really. I wrote a nice letter to the board and thanked them for employing me through the RB project and told them I was returning to Gippsland. I asked them to re-employ me when they started building F1 engines again. I had been offered a job as Service Manager assistant to Michael Gasking who was the new Chief Engineer of  Repco Dynamics.

It did have a huge future and I could not have found a better guy to work with than Michael Gasking but I was young and stubborn.

One day Charlie Dean arrived and said ‘What’s all this about you going home to the farm Rod’ I explained to him how I was not keen on the heavy cast iron 308 Holden engine. I had loved and appreciated my time on the Repco Brabham Engines. Anyway he said ‘right, I want you to work with Malcolm, he will need you to keep up the RB spares around the world as we have to maintain supply’.

‘The Repco Brabham engine spares represented $340,000 in value at that time!, were retained by REDCO,  to sell the parts to RB engine owners. I ended up behind the wall with Don Halpin and the other boys. Looking back it was great to have Charlie Dean tell me I couldn’t leave! The time I spent at REDCO with Malcolm is another story altogether.’

bt 31 bathurst bi-winged

Bi-winged BT31 during Easter Bathurst practice, car won sans front wing…and high wings shortly to be banned globally by the FIA during the 1969 Monaco GP weekend. (Dale Harvey)

Buying the Brabham BT31…

‘BT31 arrived back from ‘Expo 70’ in its crate and no one cared. Repco Brabham Engine Co did not exist, all the staff had gone. Mal Preston had not seen the car and was not interested as Charlie was continually on his back about Holden F5000 developments.

I did not envy Mal in those early months of the F5000 project he was under lots of pressure. Charlie Dean was like a small tornado wherever he went.

One day Mal asked me to unpack the BT31 as it was needed for a car show in Mornington. I spent a couple of days reassembling it around a mock ‘830 2.5’. It was rare for us to display a going engine. I recall once doing so with our one magnesium 3 litre, (which disappeared off the planet anyway) so at all times we used mock ups. They were mostly complete but had no internals.

There was no interest in the car, so i decided to write to the Repco Board asking to acquire it. I was a lot younger then but I did have some nous. I decided not to discuss it with anybody as I knew I was a ‘very small gear in a massive gearbox’. I pulled out a figure I would pay and got secretary Coral Allen to type the letter for me but I left a gap where the price offered was to be added later by me! Coral typed it and I duly posted it to the Repco Board. I trusted Coral completely but not all the bosses she typed for!

I really didn’t think I had any chance and I had not even given a thought to how i would pay for it. Malcolm asked if I would take the car to Mornington for a car show that Jim and Bill Leech had a lot to do with. I loaded the car on Jacks old farm trailer and took the car to the show, kept it polished and handed out Repco brochures and answered questions.

It was about mid afternoon when up bowled ‘Tornado’ Charlie Dean. Charlie told me he had read my letter and asked why I wanted to buy the car. I very politely (in Repco you rarely got to speak to a director anyway) told him I loved the cars history and it was important to both Repco’s and Australia’s history. He quickly replied yes we will discuss the matter next week.

He then commented on how good it looked and went to leave but just at that moment up walked one of the Leech brothers, these guys owned some serious cars including a Maserati 300S and Bugatti T37A, Jim was enquiring about the value of BT31, the conversation fortunately stopped when the entourage of Lancias’ arrived which Dean and the Leech boys joined…a close call!

A couple of weeks later I was cleaning the car. All of a sudden the double doors flew open with a crash and out came Mal Preston in ‘full flight’ RODWAY he shouted, ‘Did you write to the Repco Board offering to buy this car without even consulting me? I am your boss and the least you could do is tell me’ He was furious. He asked ‘Why didn’t you consult me first’. I replied in a rather shocked state, because you possibly would have talked me out of it Mal. He shouted at me for a minute then disappeared back to his office again. I was very low. I realised I had done my dash and might not even have a job!

A few minutes later Mal appeared very quiet and subdued. ‘I am very sorry for that outburst Rodway, I have thought about your reply and you are probably right, I would have bloody well talked you out of it’. It is of great credit to Malcolm that he was that sort of boss. He treated us all as equals and he got the most out of his employees that way. As he went to depart I called to him. Are you with me or against me Mal, he turned and said I will help you all I can. The matter was never discussed between us again.

During the following weeks I heard all kinds of stories about BT31. Several people wanted to buy it internally. BT31 was built in 1968, by then it was 1971, it had only raced twice by Sir Jack himself and was still setup as he raced it including all decals, accessories, gear ratios etc. It certainly was not an old car as some have suggested. There must have been many discussions and arguments about what was going to happen to the car within Repco until one night about 6 pm I was consigning some parcels, when Mal Preston came storming out of his office over to my desk.

RODWAY  he shouted again, ‘I want you to get that F…..g car out of this f…..g workshop tonight, load it on a f……g trailer and I never ever want to see the f…….g car again ! As he stormed back to his office I called what about the money, as I had to get it. He shouted out he didn’t care at all about that just get it out of here now’.’

program

‘And so, BT31/1 was Mine…

BT31 spent the night on Jack Brabham’s old trailer in suburban Burke Road, Kew where I was living at the time with not much car parking. Anyway it was still there next morning! I rang up my good friend Peter Holinger who was now, after the Repco Brabham closure working in his own workshop in Warrandyte. He was happy to store the car in return for making a duplicate chassis for himself. He had decided to build another hillclimb car to replace the Vincent powered one that had brought him so much success.

Now that I had it I had to pay for it!, fortunately a wealthy uncle, who had a large, successful bakery business came to the party. It took a while for Repco to process my cheque, i firmly believe had i not paid for the car no-one would have asked for the money.

I left the car in Holingers’ care, it was in the safest of hands. He photographed the suspension and measured all the lengths of the components and duplicated the space frame so well that years later at Morwell Hillclimb he borrowed the shock absorbers and a few bits from BT31 and won the event with some of my suspension parts. He even used the fibreglass seat insert to make a pattern for another one.’

brabham letter

‘830 Series Engines, Paperwork and BT31’s Rarity…

repco 2.5 830 series

Repco ‘830 Series’ 2.5 litre ‘Tasman’ V8. SOHC gear driven per bank, Lucas fuel injection, 295bhp @ 9000rpm. Note the heavily ribbed block, and below the ribbing socket head cap screws to ‘cross bolt’ the main bearing caps. This engine is ex Garrie Cooper Elfin 600D and has the later ‘Indy’ sump assy and combined oil pressure/scavenge pump. (TNF)

BT31 was fitted with Repcos’ latest ‘830 Series’ Tasman V8. The engine was first used by Brabham in his BT23E in practice for the 1968 Sandown Tasman round, he raced with an ‘840 Series’, which failed, Jim Clark winning the race in his Lotus 49DFW.

The ‘830’ incorporated the shorter, more rigid ‘800 Series’ block developed for the 1968 F1 engines by Norm Wilson with the ’30 Series’ cross-flow SOHC heads. With a bore and stroke of 3.34X2.16 inches, the engine developed 295bhp @ 9000rpm and weighed 150Kg.

‘The 830 was such a good reliable engine Jack stated that had Repco developed a 3 litre version (despite what people may tell you, we never EVER built a 3 litre 830 but I think Don Halpin has since) we would have quite possibly have retained the World Champioship in 1968.

Jack said that the 830 was such a great engine in 2.5 form and was so much lighter than the oposition despite being down on horsepower by comparison. I remember Jack saying to us fellows in the engine assy area one day. ‘If Ferrari had the horsepower they claim to have they would be leaving me behind by a much bigger margin than they are leaving me behind’ !!! We will never know what the 830 would have produced at 3 litres capacity?’

At the time, two 2.5 Litre 830’s were built for the car. Other 830’s were subsequently built for other Tasman competitors.

‘Now as our commercial manager Bob Sippo had been moved on to the Repco Replex Company we had no-one really able to make any commercial decisions. One night the Bob Jane Racing fellas turned up and I was informed that we were lending them one of the 2.5 litre 830 engines. (for the Bob Britton built ‘Jane Repco’, a car constructed on Brittons BT23 Brabham jig at his Sydney, Rennmax facility)

What the various companies and individual teams were charged was up to the manager and the accountants, this applied to all customers including Jack Brabham, he was of course sponsored by Repco.

So I did as I was told. Later the Bob Jane Racing boys arrived again, their car was going to Tasmania for the next meeting and they needed a spare! Well that of course meant the spare BT31 engine went too. Now as this was while the car was in Japan on display with a mock up engine and I never of course dreamed of ever owning the car I just did as instructed. The person instructing me never really had the authority to lend either engine but the factory was in disarray and the Jane organisation had been great ambassadors of our engines, the decision made sense at the time.

Neither engine ever came back of course as many others did not either. I knew about stock control and the hazards of stuff being squirreled away, the amount of stock of RB parts and even engines that were removed from my store illegally is staggering. No names, no packdrill!

I was not the least concerned about obtaining an engine, i had a good mock-up engine anyway and their were still enough bits around to build an engine.

I was not ambitious enough to buy the car to drive it as at the time I believed it was ultra valuable as an historic car, totally original as described above.

To me it is as collectible as BT19, Jacks 1966 World Championship car now in the Victorian Historic Racing Register, Melbourne, museum in Box Hill. One of the BT31 engines lay under a work bench at Bob Jane Racing for quite a time so was available to any collector.

In contrast I went to Sydney and called at Jack Brabham Ford to see BT19 when it arrived from the UK. A salesman showed me what was left of an F1 car. There was not too much of the car there, no engine and lots of parts missing. I am not sure if the wheels were there. Later BT19 was totally restored by Jim Shepherd to as new condition, Don Halpin built an original ‘620 Series’ Oldsmobile engine for it.

What I am saying is that BT 19 did not have an original engine or body and was mostly built up to original, BT31 in contrast even had the Bathurst tyres still on it and was totally original with an original engine available.’

rod and bt 31 sandown

Rod Wolfe, Brabham BT31/1 and faithful Leyland P76 towcar, mid ’80’s Sandown.  Car fitted with mock-up ‘740 Series’ exhaust between the Vee, V8 in this shot. (Rodway Wolfe)

‘Working on the Repco F5000 Engine and home to Gippsland…

With the BT31 safely stored with Peter Holinger I continued at REDCO assisting with the new Repco Holden F5000 engine. We were all busy with only 5 of us to do everything, Mal Preston had a big job to do. Don Halpin was in charge of the workshop, he was exactly the right choice to work with Malcolm. Malcolm was always thinking, I mean always! so he would expect problems before they had a chance to happen in an uncanny sort of way and Don was seemingly unruffled at any problem so the combination worked very well with some very amusing conversations between them at times.

I had a variety of duties as I did stuff including porting cylinder heads and all the consignment of RBE parts and acquisition of F5000 bits. I enjoyed working with all my mates from the RB project and despite our regular ‘innings’ on various subjects I admired Mal Preston very much and learnt a lot from his rather unusual management style. He did tell me once after one of our sparring matches that out of all the boys I was the one most likely to end up working for myself eventually! I never worked out if it was a compliment or not.

Mal Preston was the right man for that F5000 project, his passing recently was very sad.

As I was not that happy with the situation, it was not a personal reason but a Repco political situation, eventually I resigned to go home to Gippsland. I ended up at Peter Holinger’s working with Pete and his wife Bev, after a period with them I departed Melbourne and towed BT31 behind to Gippsland. The car was a bit out of place on a farm in the country and various articles were appearing in motor magazines about it.

In my spare time I used to fully dismantle it and got to know every nut and bolt. My small son was toddler size and I used to make up a bed for him in the cockpit where he slept until the early hours of the morning and loved it. I am sorry to inform subsequent owners that my son holds the record for most hours in the cockpit!

I had the chassis gently sand cleaned and repainted by a good friend. You have to be very gentle with a space frame as you can upset the tension of the various tubes if it is sandblasted too severely. It was a satisfying pastime getting to know exactly what went into a Repco Brabham design.

I was a Kawasaki motorcycle dealer for a time and used BT31 as a display feature in the country showroom, it enabled me to meet lots of interesting people.

I would have loved to convert the BT31 to a hill climb car for myself as I had hill climbed a Cooper Mini and usually won my class at Morwell Hill Climb and loved it but I really believed to break that magic of Jack Brabham being the only driver and all original condition I would be a fool. One of my aims was to get recognition of Repco Brabham in Australia, even Phil Irving told me how Repco had totally missed the boat when it came to claiming the fame that they should have been recognised for.

I wrote to Ampol (Australian oil company) first giving them all the details and informing them of their association with the car. The car still had the Ampol decals on the nose cone too. A little secret here, we never did use Ampol oil, it was Shell ‘Super M’ in Ampol drums but that’s normal in advertising, only because Ampol did not make a racing oil. But even at director level they were not really interested. I have a file of old letters from various Australian Companies and museums. There was just no real interest.

I eventually moved to Metung on the Gippsland Lakes in the late ’70s and began a new sort of engineering with boats and became a Volvo Penta service agent.

BT31 gave me a huge insight into motor racing and motor sport generally. Many people were attracted to the car and i got to know them as a consequence. The legendary race car engineer John Sheppard spent holidays at Metung, we had many hours talking about his times including managing the Holden Dealer Team after Harry Firth.

The great Peter Brock and his engineer at the time, Bruce Nowacki spent hours leaning on the cars rear wing, Pete was a fantastic source of driving and handling technique so I was in another world. He and Bev even came and stayed at our holiday accommodation in Metung.

One day a guy showed up wanting to see BT31. He introduced himself as Austin Miller, or Aussie Miller. He was a fantastic character, he owned a crop dusting and spraying company in Northern Victoria. On looking up his past I realised just who he was. The fastest man on wheels in Australia prior to the Bluebird of Donald Campbell. A legend of Australia’s Motor Sports’ past and in the Guinness Book of Records.

I also featured the car on display at various race meetings. One Sandown meeting was very special. I met and talked for an hour or more with the great John Surtees. He was so down to earth and discussed the Italian Grand Prix between he and Jack Brabham at Monza in 1967. I also met and talked to Tom Wheatcroft, he told me all about Donington Park, his race circuit in the UK.

All these people could see my dedication to the Repco Brabham engines and they responded by letting go on their own particular  Motor Sport interests.’

babe

BT31/1 and ‘Penthouse Pet of The Year’ Tracey Wallace..shot of poor resolution sadly. AGP Calder auction 1980. (Rodway Wolfe)

‘Time To Sell…

Finally as the salt air beside the lake at Metung was getting to the car, I was disappointed with the lack of interest in preservation of BT31.

So I sent the car to auction prior to the 1980 Grand Prix at Calder. I set a reserve price, there was lots of hype and Alan Jones and Tracy Wallace (Miss Penthouse of the year)  and other Australian motoring greats.I passed it in after a very good bid but slightly under my reserve. So I returned to Metung and kept the car for another term.

One day I received an offer from a museum owner who wanted the car for his collection. At last I thought I was on to something to keep me happy with the RB history. I believed this guy had the resources to purchase a going engine from Bob Jane. The guy purchased the car and forwarded a deposit and made several payments but never the full amount so the sale fell through.

I decided if Australia didn’t want the car I would advertise it in ‘Road and Track’. There were problems in placing the ad as they decided the car was a replica and didn’t want to run the advertisement! In the meantime a guy showed up in a Rolls Royce asking about it. He was a Sydney specialist Doctor. He specialised in repairing people after bombs had exploded, especially facial damage. He made up new jawbones from other body parts etc. It was a gruesome job, he had worked for many years in Ireland for experience. He never smiled and actually reminded me a bit of the film star Jack Palance. The Rolls Royce was filthy, covered in mud and he explained it had been in a motorkhana the weekend before!

He wanted BT31 and as I was browned off generally as all my attempts to preserve it for Australia had flown out the window. I had the advantage of already obtaining most of the required funds due to the museums closure and failure of the previous sale. So I agreed to sell the car, it was 1984. We did a deal and Don Halpin arranged to construct an engine for him.

Finally the ‘R&T’ ad bore fruit as Bib Stillwell contacted me. He was President of the LearJet Corporation in America at the time and wanted to buy  BT31. Of course being a mate of Jack Brabham’s he knew all about the car. I explained that I had received a deposit and had sold it to the Sydney doctor subject to his final cheque arriving. Much to Bibs’ frustration, he tried hard to convince me to sell the car to him but i had committed to Dr William Marshall. Bib got his wish and did buy the car later, he won a lot of races ‘in period’ with Brabhams and was keen to own it.

Marshall put a team together and did race the car for a time and had a fairly serious crash during his term of ownership.’

bt 31 sandown bo sippo

Dr William Marshall in the cockpit, older gent former RBE Commercial Manager Bob Sippo and a mechanic, Sandown, not long after the cars ‘re-debut’. (Rodway Wolfe)

‘Bib Stillwell and BT31…

Some time later I was invited to an historic Sandown meeting and sure enough there was Bib Stillwell with BT31 looking great in the Stillwell green colours, he bought the car from Marshall in 1987. I was looking at the car in the pits and had not made myself known and said in my typical fashion. ‘Hey what’s with this green’ a big guy stood up and said and why shouldn’t it be green. I piped up that it was built red, raced red and Bib hearing all this came over and said hello.

We ended up very good friends. At one stage he said ‘You should have sold it to me first Roddy’. I was impressed with his driving that day. He really put in. I also suspect a little extra effort because I was there in his pit, when he came back he was covered in perspiration and all red in the face. He walked over and put his arm around my shoulder and said ‘How was that Roddy did I do a good enough job?’. I was pleased that he cared what that I had kept the car in original shape for so long. He was a born racer as Bob Jane was as well. They were not just collectors they were users and drivers.

We Repco boys were invited to Geelong on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay for a special sprint meeting on the waterfront. The Geelong sprints are a wonderful spectacle on a good day. During the afternoon Don Halpin came in to the RB tent and said to me ‘Bibs gone in’ of course meaning an accident. We did not all rush down there of course and later I became aware that somehow it had been a very bad accident and Bib had multiple fractures of his legs. He had an extensive stay in Geelong hospital and sadly I think that he never recovered fully from that accident.

It was a long and tough call on Bib and he was no spring chicken. He also had lots of problems as the bottom had dropped out of new car sales in Australia. Sometime later he tragically collapsed and died of a heart attack in his Kew showroom. I don’t think that the BT31 had added much to his fine racing career.

The car was rebuilt and sold overseas and has since changed hands numerous times, but is back in Australia.

Nowadays I have the great pleasure of occasionally seeing BT31 in flight under various owners and I was impressed to see the car looking so good at Phillip Island in 2014. It gives me a lot of satisfaction in my older age and the reception I get from the younger owners is pleasing to say the least.

Long live BT31, the only one built and built specially as a works car for Sir Jack Brabham to race in Australia. You cannot get a car much more historic than that’.’

bib stillwell and bt31

BT31 Phil Irving and Bib Stillwell, Sandown, late 1990’s. Stillwell won 3 of his 4 1960’s Australian Gold Star Championships in Brabhams, a World Class steerer in his day. (Rodway Wolfe)

bartlett brabham bt31

Kevin Bartlett track testing BT31, whilst owned by William Marshall in 1987 at Oran Park, Sydney for ‘Wheels’ magazine. Bartlett typically sideways! (Wheels)

Etcetera…Track Test of BT31/1 by Kevin Bartlett in 1987…

Australian Gold Star Champion in 1968 and 1969, Bathurst Winner and ex-Brabham racer Kevin Bartlett track tested the car for ‘Wheels’ magazine, the article written by Graham Howard was published in August 1987. These are excerpts from that article;

‘…The car fires up and Bartlett hops right into it, giving it three hard bootfuls of throttle on the way to the first corner. Just so the car knows whos’ boss right? To the onlookers there is no doubt. All the gearchanges go in, the throttle work is smooth and confident. Progressively he is getting faster everywhere, braking later-tho still a bit early, it seeems, and now after a few laps starting to find the outside of the kerbs on the way out of corners’. Then he comes in.

KB, ‘It doesn’t like getting its power to the ground, does it. And the brakes are a worry. The front to rear balance is not right. The throttle needs heavier return springs’. He removes the seat and goes again. ‘Its a good torquey little engine from 3100-3200’. He suggests shock and tyre pressure changes. Present day Australian Historic Regs don’t allow a wing which Bartlett concludes it needs.

‘You can see the understeer into the corner but his exits are clean, decisive much steadier as he steers the car with its own noise, vanishing away with successive upward shrieks of acceeleration, gearchange, more acceleration. He is fast and accurate and the impressive thing is how, with a very peaky engine and a car with a willingness to break into wheelspin, Bartlett is stringing together lap after lap without a slip. No extravagant wheelspin, no attitude on the car, this mate, this is car control.’

Says KB, ‘Its understeering, just, which is the way they used to be. A bit, thats all on turn in, but you fix that with the throttle. It is better with the lower tyre pressures and stiffer rear shocks, not perfect but better. The engine starts to work at 5000 and at 6000 the cams come in, so you’ve got to drive it between 6000-7500. Any engine like this you have to work it right thru its range. No point having your gears too close. Its a good engine though, a good car.’

Graham Howard asked KB how his 1968 Gold Star winning Brabham BT23D Alfa (2.5 litre T33 V8 engine) would go up against BT31…’It would be very even, it would depend on the driver. I feel the chassis we had, with the Alfa V8, might have got the power to the ground better. But with the right tyres and a wing this car could be fantastic. The actual driving position is full of memories. I did my championship years in cars like this. It feels like home again.’

bartlett brabham bt 31 1

Bartlett BT31 in profile, Oran Park 1987. KB raced Brabhams BT2 Ford, BT11A Climax, BT23D Alfa, BT43 Chev and others in his successful single-seater years…(Wheels)

Photo Credits…

Rodway Wolfe, Dale Harvey, Rod MacKenzie, Dick Simpson, Mildren Films,The Nostalgia Forum, Bob Frankel

Bibliography…

sergent.com, ‘Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, ‘Historic RacingCars in Australia’ John Blanden, Wheels magazine, Rodway Wolfe Collection, Racing Car News

Tailpiece: Brabham, Mount Panorama Easter 1969…

(B Frankel)

Finito…

Jack Brabham Oulton Park Gold Cup 1966, Brabham BT19 Repco

Jack Brabham wins the Oulton Park ‘Spring Cup’ 1966. Brabham BT19 Repco (Brian Watson)

The second episode covered the design and building of the 1966 ‘RB620’ V8, the engine which would contest and win the World Constructors and Drivers Championships in 1966, this is a summary of that season…

Brabham BT19 cutaway

Cutaway drawing of Brabham BT19 # ‘F1-1-65’, JB’s 1966 Championship Winning mount. Produced in 1965 for the stillborn Coventry Climax Flat 16 cylinder 1.5 litre F1 engine and modified by Ron Tauranac to fit the ‘RB620’ engine, which was designed by Phil Irving with Brabham/Tauranacs direct input in terms of ancilliaries etc to fit this chassis. A conventional light, agile, driver friendly and ‘chuckable’ spaceframe chassis Brabham of the period. Front suspension independent by upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/ damper units. Rear by upper top link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and coil spring/ damper units. Adjustable sway bars front and rear. Hewland HD500, and later DG300 ‘box. Much raced and winning chassis…still in Australia in Repco’s ownership (Motoring News)

The 1966 South African Grand Prix…whilst not that year a Championship round was the first race of the new 3 litre F1 on 1 January.

In December 1965 the first 3 Litre RB620 ‘E3’ was assembled and with slightly larger inlet valves, ports and throttle bodies than the ‘2.5’ produced 280bhp @ 7500rpm. After six hours testing it was rebuilt, shipped to the UK and fitted to Jacks ‘BT19’, a chassis built during 1965 for the stillborn Coventry Climax 16 cylinder engine, the rear frame modified to suit ‘RB620’.

Brabham started from pole and lead until the Lucas injection metering unit drive coupling failed. He achieved fastest lap but was the only 3 litre present.

Straight after the race the car was flown to Melbourne and fitted  with  Repco 2.5 engine ‘E2’ for the Sandown Tasman round on February 27, Repco’s backyard or home event…

BT19 on the factory floor in Melbourne

Roy Billington prepares BT19 for fitment of the’RB620′ 2.5 Tasman engine in place of the 3 litre used in South Africa on 1 January 1966 (Wolfe/Repco)

 

Brabham and Frank Hallam, Sandown 1966

Jack Brabham with RB Engines GM Frank Hallam at Sandown 1966. Publicity shot with BT19, long inlet trumpets give the engine away as a ‘Tasman 2.5’. Car sans RH side ‘Lukey Mufflers’ exhaust tailpipe in this shot ‘, sitting across the drivers seat. Rear suspension as described in cutaway drawing above, twin coils, fuel metering unit, HD500 Hewland, battery and ‘expensive’ Tudor oil breather mounted either side of ‘box (Brabhams World Championship Year’ magazine)

During a preliminary race the car set a lap record- the race won by Stewart’s BRM. But in the main race but an oil flow relief valve failed, causing engine damage, Stewart won from Clark Lotus 39 Climax and Graham Hill in the other BRM P261.

Upon dissasembly, it was found a sintered gear in the pressure pump had broken. The engine was then rebuilt for the final Tasman round at Longford Tasmania.

In a close race, with the engine overheating, the car ran short of fuel and was beaten by the two 2 litre BRM P261’s (bored out 1.5 litre F1 cars) of Stewart and Hill, Jackie Stewart easily winning the 1966 Tasman Championship for the Bourne team.

Brabham BT 19 refuelling, Longford 1966

BTT19 being filled with the sponsors product, Longford paddock 1966 (Ellis French)

In early January 1966 the engine operation was transferred from Repco’s experimental labs in Richmond to the Maidstone address and factory covered in episode 2 where the operations were ‘productionised’ to build engines for both BRO (Brabham Racing Organisation) and customers.

So far the engine had not covered itself in glory but invaluable testing was being carried out and problems solved.

Meanwhile back in Europe other teams were developing their cars for 1966…

All teams faced the same challenge of a new formula, remember that Coventry Climax, the ‘Cosworth Engineering’ of the day were not building engines forcing the ‘English Garagistes’ as Enzo Ferrari disparagingly described the teams, to find alternatives, as Jack had done with Repco.

Ferrari were expected to do well, as they had done with the introduction of the 1.5 litre Formula in 1961, they had a new chassis and an engine ‘in stock’, which was essentially a 3 litre variant of their 3.3 litre P2 Sports Car engine, the ‘box derived from that car as well. The gorgeous bolide looked the goods but was heavy and not as powerful as was claimed or perhaps Repco’s horses were stallions and the Italian’s geldings!

Ferrari 312 1966 cutaway

Hubris or too little focus on F1 in 1966…on paper the Ferrari 312 shoulda’ won in ’66…when Surtees left so did their title hopes, Ferraris’ decline in the season was matched by Brabhams’ lift…

Cooper also used a V12, a 3 litre, updated variant of the 2.5 litre engine Maserati developed at the end of the 250F program in 1957 when it was tested but unraced.

Cooper T81 Maserati engine 1966

Coopers’ 1966 T81 was an aluminium monocoque chassis carrying a development of Masers’ 10 year old ‘Tipo 10’ 60 degree V12. DOHC, 2 valves per cylinder, Lucas injected, and a claimed 360bhp @ 9500rpm. The cars were heavy, reasonably reliable. Surtees and Rindt extracted all from them (Bernard Cahier)

Dan Gurney had left Brabham and built a superb car designed by ex-Lotus designer Len Terry. The T1G Eagle was to use Coventry Climax 2.7 litre FPF power until Dans’ own Gurney-Weslake V12 was ready. Again, the car was heavy as it was designed for both Grand Prix and Indianapolis Racing where regulation compliance added weight.

Denny Hulme stepped up to fulltime F1 to support Jack in the other Brabham.

The dominant marque of the 1.5 litre formula , Lotus were caught without an engine and contracted with BRM for their complex ‘H16’ and were relying also on a 2 litre variant of the Coventry Climax FWMV 1.5 V8…simultaneously Keith Duckworth was designing and building the Ford funded Cosworth DFV, but its debut was not until the Dutch Grand Prix in 1967.

BRM, having failed to learn the lessons of complexity with their supercharged V16 1.5 litre engine of the early 50’s, and then reaping the benefits of simplicity with the P25/P48/P57, designed the P83 ‘H16’, essentially two of their 1.5 litre V8’s at 180 degrees, one atop the other with the crankshafts geared together. They, like Lotus were also using 2 litre variants of their very fast, compact, light and simple 1965 F1 cars, the P261 whilst developing their ‘H16′ contender.

Honda won the last race of the 1.5 litre formula in Mexico 1965 and were busy on a 3 litre V12 engined car, the RA273 appeared later in the season in Richie Ginthers’ hands.

Ginther Honda RA273 , Monza 1966

Richie Ginthers’ powerful but corpulent, make that mobidly obese Honda RA 273 at Monza, the heaviest but most powerful car of 1966…it appeared too late in the season to have an impact but was competitive in Richies’ hands, a winner in ’67 at Monza…(unattributed)

Bruce Mclaren produced his first GP cars, the Mclaren M2A and M2B, technically advanced monocoque chassis of Mallite construction, a composite of balsa wood bonded between sheets of  aluminium on each side.

His engine solution was the Ford ‘Indy’ quad cam 4.2 litre V8, reduced to 3 litres, despite a lot of work by Traco, the engine whose dimensions were vast and heavy, developed way too little power, the engine and gearbox weighing not much less than BT19 in total…He also tried an Italian Serenissima engine without success.

Bruce McLaren, McLaren M2A Ford Indy, Riverside 1966

Bruce testing M2A Ford at Riverside, California during a Firestone tyre test in early 1966. M2A entirely Mallite, M2B used Mallite inner, and aluminium outer skins. Note the wing mount…wing first tested at Zandvoort 1965. L>R: Bruce McLaren, Gary Knutson, Howden Ganley and Wally Willmott (Tyler Alexander)

So, at the seasons outset Brabham were in a pretty good position with a thoroughly tested engine, but light on power and on weight in relation to Ferrari who looked handily placed…

Variety is the spice- 1966 MotorSport magazine visual of the different F1 engine solutions pursued by the different makers

Brabham contested two further non-championship races…with the original engine in Syracuse where fuel injection problems caused a DNF and at Silverstone on May 14 where the car and engine achieved their first wins, Brabham also setting the fastest lap of the ‘International Trophy’.

Brabham , Silverstone Trophy 1966, BT19 Repco

First win for BT19 and the Repco ‘RB620’ engine, Silverstone International trophy 1966 (unattributed)

Monaco was the first round of the 1966 F1 Championship on May 22…

Clark qualified his small, light Lotus 33 on pole with John Surtees in the new Ferrari alongside. Jack was feeling unwell, and the cars were late arriving after a British seamens strike, Jack recorded a DNF, his Hewland HD 500 gearbox jammed in gear.

Mike Hewland was working on a stronger gearbox for the new formula, Jack used the new ‘DG300′ transaxle for the first time at Spa. Clarks’ ‘bullet-proof’ Lotus 33 broke an upright, then Surtees’ Ferrari should have won but the ‘slippery diff’ failed leaving victory to Jackie Stewarts’ 2 litre BRM P261.

Richie Ginther Monaco 1966

Richie Ginther going the wrong way at Monaco whilst Jack and Bandini find a way past. Cooper T81 Maser, BT19 and Ferrari 246 respectively. Nice ‘atmo’ shot (unattributed)

Off to Spa, and whilst Brabham was only fourth on the grid…he was quietly confident but a deluge on the first lap caused eight cars to spin, the biggest accident of Jackie Stewarts’ career causing a change in his personal attitude to driver, car and circuit safety which was to positively reverberate around the sport for a decade.

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The rooted monocoque of Jackie Stewarts’ BRM P261, Spa 1966. He was trapped within the tub until released by Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant who borrowed tools from spectators to remove the steering wheel…all the while a full tank of fuel being released…(unattributed)

Surtees won the race from Jochen Rindt in a display of enormous bravery in a car not the calibre of the Ferrari or Brabham, Jack finished fourth behind the other Ferrari of Lorenzo Bandini. Denny Hulme still driving a Climax engined Brabham.

At this stage of the season, the ‘bookies pick’, Ferrari, were looking pretty handy.

BRM P83, Stewart, Oulton Park 1966

Another major new car of 1966 was the BRM P83 ‘H16’…love this shot of Jackie Stewart trying to grab hold of the big, unruly beast at the Oulton Park ‘Spring Cup’ 1966. The car got better as 1966 became 1967 but then so too did the opposition, the message of Brabham simplicity well and truly rammed home when the Lotus 49 Ford appeared at Zandvoort in May 1967…free-loading spectators having a wonderful view! (Brian Watson)

Goodyear…

Dunlops’ dominance of Grand Prix racing started with Engleberts’ final victory when Peter Collins won the British Grand Prix for Ferrari in 1958.

Essentially Dunlops’ racing tyres were developed for relatively heavy sports prototypes, as a consequence the light 1.5 litre cars could compete on the same set of tyres for up to four GP’s Jimmy Clark doing so in his Lotus 25 in 1963!

Goodyear provided tyres for Lance Reventlows’ Scarab team in 1959, returned to Indianapolis in 1963, to Europe in Frank Gardners’ Willment entered Lotus 27 F2 at Pau in 1964 and finally Grand Prix racing with Honda in 1964.

In a typically shrewd deal, Brabham signed with Goodyear in 1965, it’s first tyres for the Tasman series in 1965 were completely unsuitable but within days a new compound had been developed for Australian conditions, this was indicative of the American giants commitment to win.

By 1966 Goodyear was ready for its attack on the world championship, we should not forget the contribution Goodyears’ tyre technology made to Brabhams’ wins in both the F1 World Championship and Brabham Honda victory in the F2 Championship that same year.

Equally Goodyear acknowledged Brabhams’ supreme testing ability in developing its product which was readily sought by other competitors at a time when Dunlop and Firestone were also competing…a ‘tyre war’ unlike the one supplier nonsense which prevails in most categories these days.

Dan Gurney Eagle T1G Climax, Spa 1966

Dan Gurney, Eagla T1G Climax, Spa 1966. In my top 3 ‘GP car beauties list’…Len Terry’s masterful bit of work hit its straps 12 months later when the car, by then V12 Eagle-Weslake powered won Spa, but in ’66 the car was too heavy and the 2.7/8 Climax lacked the necessary ‘puff’…Goodyear clad cameraman exceptionally brave!, shot on exit of Eau Rouge (unattributed)

The French Grand Prix was the turning point of the season…

Brabham arrived with three cars- Hulmes’ Climax engined car as a spare and finally an ‘RB620’ engined car for the Kiwi. Perhaps even more critically for Brabham, John Surtees had left Ferrari in one of the ‘Palace Upheavals’ which occurred at Maranello from time to time, fundamentally around Surtees’ view on the lack of F1 emphasis, the team still very much focussed on LeMans and the World Sports Car Championship, where the marques decade long dominance was being challenged by Ford.

Surtees was also, he felt, being ‘back-doored’ as team-leader by team-manager Eugenio Dragoni in choices involving his protege, Lorenzo Bandini. The net effect, whatever the exact circumstances was that Surtees, the only Ferrari driver capable of winning the ’66 title moved to Cooper, Bandini and Mike Parkes whilst good drivers were not an ace of 1964 World Champ, Surtees calibre…

Reims was the ultimate power circuit so it was not a surprise when four V12’s were in front of Brabham on the grid, the Surtees and Rindt Coopers and the two Ferraris. Surtees Cooper failed, and Jack hung on, but was losing ground to Bandini, until his throttle cable broke with Brabham leading and then winning the race.

It was Jacks’ first Championship GP win since 1960, and the first win for a driver in a car of his own manufacture, a feat only, so far matched by Dan Gurney at Spa in 1967.

It was, and is a stunning achievement, but there was still a championship to be won.

Jack Brabham French GP 1966 Brabham BT19 Repco

Brabham wins the French GP 1966, the first man to ever win a GP in a car of his own construction. Brabham BT19 Repco (umattributed)

 

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Brabham’s BT19 leads out of Druids at Brands Hatch, ’66 British GP. Gurney Eagle T1G Climax, Hulme’s Brabham BT20 Repco, Clark’s Lotus 33 Climax and the two Cooper T81 Masers of Surtees inside and Rindt, then Stewart’s BRM P261 and McLaren’s white McLaren M2B Serenissima and the rest (unattributed)

At Brands Hatch Ferrari did not appear…

They were victims of an industrial dispute in Italy. Cooper were still sorting their Maser V12, the H16 BRM’s did not race nor did the Lotus 43, designed for the BRM engine. BRM and Lotus were still relying on 2 litre cars. Brabham and Hulme were on pole and second on the grid, finishing in that order, a lap ahead of Hill and Clark.

At Zandvoort, in the Dutch sand-dunes

Brabham with beard Dutch GP 1966

Jack was tough but had a sense of humor…he had just turned 40 a month or so before, there was a lot in the press about his age so JB donned a beard, and with a jack-handle as walking stick approached BT19…much to the amusement of the Dutch crowd and press (Eric Koch)

Brabham and Hulme again qualified one-two but Jim Clark drove a stunning race in his 2 litre Lotus leading Jack for many laps, the crafty Brabham, just turned forty playing a waiting game and picking up the win after Clarks’ Climax broke its dynamic balancer, the Scot pitting for water and still being in second place when he returned, such was his pace. Clark fell back to third, Hill finishing second, the Ferraris and Coopers off the pace.

Brabham in BT19 Repco, Dutch GP 1966

Bernard Cahiers’ famous shot of Brabham ‘playing with his Goodyears’ in the Dutch sand-dunes is still reproduced by Repco today and used as a ‘promo’ handout whenever this famous car, Jacks’ mount for the whole of his ’66 Championship campaign, still owned by Repco, is displayed in Australia

 

German GP grid 1966

German GP grid, Nurburgring 1966. I like this shot as it says a lot about the size of 1966 F1 cars and the relative performance of the ‘bored-out 1.5 litre cars vs. the new 3 litres at this stage of the formula. The only 3 litre on the front row, is Ferrari recent departee John Surtees Cooper Maserati #7, Clark is on pole #1 Lotus 33 Climax, #6 Stewart BRM P261, # 11 Scarfiotti Ferrari Dino, all ‘bored 1.5’s. Row 2 is Jack in BT19, and #9 and #10 Bandini and Parkes in Ferrari 312’s, all ‘3 litres’. The physical difference in size between the big, heavy Ferraris, and the little, light BT19 ‘born and built’ as a 1965 1.5 litre car for the stillborn Coventry Climax Flat 16 engine, is marked (unattributed)

The Nurburgring is the ultimate test of man and machine…

Brabham qualified poorly in fifth after setup and gearbox dramas. Clark, Surtees, Stewart and Bandini were all ahead of Jack with only Surtees, of those drivers in a 3 litre car!

The race started in wet conditions, Jack slipped into second place after a great start by the end of lap one and past Surtees by the time the pack passed the pits, Surtees suffered clutch failure widening the gap between he and Brabham, Rindt in the other Cooper finishing third. Hulme was as high as fifth but lack of ignition ended his race.

Hill and Surtees were still slim championship chances as the circus moved on to Monza.

Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme, German GP 1966

Denny and Jack ponder the setup of Hulmes BT20, practice conditions far better than raceday when Jack would triumph (unattributed)

Ferrari traditionally perform well at home…and so it was, Ludovico Scarfiotti winning the race on September 4.

Another power circuit, Brabham was outqualifed by five ‘multis’ the V12’s, the Ferraris of Parkes (pole) Scarfiotti and Bandini, the Cooper of Surtees and the H16 Lotus 43 BRM of Clark in third.

The Ferraris lead from the start from Surtees, but Brabham sensing a slow pace took the lead only losing it when an inspection plate loosened at the front of the engine, burning oil, the lubricant not allowed to be topped up under FIA rules. Hulme moved into second as Jack retired. The lead changed many times but Surtees retirement handed the titles to Brabham, Scarfiotti winning the race from Parkes and Hulme.

The cars were scrutineered and weighed at Monza.

The weights of the cars was published by ‘Road and Track’ magazine. BT19 was ‘Twiggy’ at 1219Lb, the Cooper T81 1353Lb, BRM 1529Lb, similarly powered Lotus 43 1540Lb and Honda RA273 1635Lb. Lets say the Repcos’ horses were real at 310bhp, Ferrari and Cooper (Maserati) optimistic at 360 and BRM and Honda 400’ish also a tad optimistic…as to power to weight you do the calculations!

Jim Clark Lotus 43 BRM Monza 1966

Jim Clark jumps aboard his big, beefy 1540Lb Lotus 43 BRM whilst Jacks light 1219Lb BT19 is pushed past, ’66 Monza grid. Love the whole BRM ‘H16’ engine as a technical challenge…(unattributed)

 

Scarfiotti and Clark Italian GP 1966

2 of the ‘heavyweights’ of 1966, Ludovico Scarfiottis’ Ferrari 312 leading Jim Clarks’ Lotus 43 BRM at Monza, Scarfiottis’ only championship GP win (unattributed)

Jim Clarks’ Lotus 43 BRM achieved the ‘H16’s only victory at Watkins Glen…the Scot using BRM’s spare engine after his own ‘popped’ at the end of US Grand Prix practice. Jack’s engine broke a cam follower in the race, Denny also retiring with low oil pressure.

jack us

Front row of the Watkins Glen grid. #5 Brabham’s BT20 on pole DNF, Bandini’s Ferrari 312 DNF and Surtees Cooper T81 Maser 3rd (Alvis Upitis)

The final round of the 1966 was in Mexico City on October 23…

The race won by John Surtees from pole, in a year when he had been very competitive, and perhaps unlucky. Having said that, had he stayed at Ferrari perhaps he would have won the title, the Ferrari competitive in the right hands. Brabham was fourth on the grid, best of the non-V12’s with Richie Ginther again practicing well in the new, big, incredibly heavy V12 Honda RA273. Surtees’ development skills would be applied to this car in 1967.

Surtees finished ahead of Brabham and Hulme, despite strong pressure from both, whilst Clark was on the front row with the Lotus 43, the similarly engined BRM’s mid-grid, it was to be a long winter for the teams the postion of many not that much changed from the seasons commencement…

Mexican GP 1966, Surtees, Brabham and Rindt

John Surtees, Jack and Jochen Rindt, Coopers T81 Maserati X2 and BT19. Mexican GP 1966. Ferrari missed Surtees intense competitiveness when he left them, the Cooper perhaps batting above its (very considerable!) weight as a consequence, Rindt no slouch mind you. The Coopers’ competitive despite the tough altitude and heat of Mexico City. (unattributed)

Malcolm Prestons’ book ‘Maybach to Holden’ records that 3 litre engines ‘E5, E6, E7 and E8’…were used by BRO in 1966, in addition to E3, all having at least one replacement block.

Some engines were returned to Melbourne for re-building and at least three were sold in cars by Brabham to South Africa and Switzerland, whether Repco actually consented to the sale of these engines, ‘on loan’ to BRO is a moot point!, but parts sales were certainly generated as a consequence.

Detail development of the ‘RB620’ during the season resulted in the engines producing 310 bhp @ 7500rpm with loads of torque and over 260bhp from 6000-8000rpm.

Brabham team with BT19 1966

Back In Australia…

The Tasman ‘620’ 2.5 litre engine was not made available to Australasian customers in 1966, they were in 1967, a Repco prepared Coventry Climax FPF won the ‘Gold Star’, the Australian Drivers Championship in 1966, Spencer Martin winning the title in Bob Janes’ Brabham BT11A.

4.4 litre ‘RB620′ engines were built for Sports Cars, notably Bob Janes’ Elfin 400, we will cover those in a separate chapter.

Development of the F1 engine continued further in early 1966 in Maidstone, whilst production and re-building of the ‘RB620’ for BRO continued, we will cover the design and testing of what became the 1967 ‘RB740′ Series engine in the next episode…

Meanwhile Brabhams’, Tauranacs’, Irvings’ and Repcos’ achievements were being rightly celebrated in Australia where ingenuity, practicality and brilliant execution and development of a simple chassis and engine had triumphed over the best of the established automotive, racing and engineering giants of Europe…

Repco 'RB620' 3 Litre F1 V8

‘RB620’ 3 litre V8 in Brabham BT19, 1966 F1 World Champions (Bernard Cahier)

Etcetera…

Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme , Mexican GP 1966

Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme, 1st and 4th in the World Drivers Championship 1966. Mexican GP 1966, lovely Bernard Cahier portrait of 2 good friends. Graham Hills’ BRM P83 ‘H16’ at rear.

 

Brabham 'Championship Year' magazine

BT19 cutaway

BT19 Repco cutaway (unattributed)

 

london Racing Car Show 1967

Brabham BT19 Repco on ‘centre stage’ at the 1967 London Racing Car Show (unattributed)

 

RB Nose

Brabham after Rheims victory 1966

A fitting photo to end the article…the joy of victory and achievement after his Rheims, French GP victory. The first man ever to win a GP in a car of his own manufacture, Brabham BT19 Repco (unattributed)

Bibliography…

Rodway Wolfe Collection, ‘Jack Brabhams World Championship Year’ magazine, Motoring News magazine, The Nostalgia Forum, oldracingcars.com, Nigel Tait Collection

‘Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, ‘History of The Grand Prix Car’ Doug Nye

Photo Credits…

The Cahier Archive, Brian Watson, Tyler Alexander, Ellis French, Eric Koch, Alvis Upitis, Rodway Wolfe Collection

Tailpiece: The Repco hierachy at Sandown upon the RB620’s Australian debut, 27 February 1966. Phil Irving leaning over BT19 and trying to grab another fag from Frank Hallam’s packet. Norman Wilson with head forward leaning on the rear Goodyear, Kevin Davies and Nigel Tait in the white dust coat…and Jack wishing they would bugger ‘orf so he could test the thing. Nigel Tait recalls that the car probably had 2.5 engine #E2, had no starter motor and he the job of push-starting the beastie…

sandown

(Tait/Repco)

 

bt 24

BT24/1 was Brabhams’ car for the ’67 Grand Prix season, the title won by his Kiwi teammate Denny Hulme that year…

Looks comfy in there; no belts, they arrived in GP racing in’68, Smiths chronometric tach, ‘tell-tale’ showing 8600 RPM, leather bound steering wheel, aluminium fuel tanks by your hips on each side, no ‘bag tanks’ till 1970 so fire risk in the event of an accident enormous.

Bandinis’ horrific ’67 Monaco Ferrari crash a case in point.

‘Varley’ lightweight battery is under the cover over which your legs will stretch. Grey ‘stove enamelled’ chassis rails of the ‘space frames’ used by Brabham F1 cars till the end of ’69 under the shift lever, who needs those new-fangled monocoques anyway?! Fibre-glass body apparent on all sides.

Right hand shift controls a ubiquitous and reliable 5 speed Hewland DG300 gearbox. Its attached to a Repco ‘740’ Series SOHC 2 valve V8, being gently warmed up at 3400RPM. The engine gave circa 340BHP, far less than the new Cosworth DFV but enough to do the trick in ’67!

Oh! The little red plaque riveted to the dash says ‘Speed Should Not Exceed 170MPH’!

Brabham Racing Organisation always saw the lighter side of life under the surface of intense competitiveness and success.

Oh so period, just luvverly…

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Brabham in BT24-1 at Silverstone , British GP ’67, he finished 4th. Trusting photographer on the inside of Woodcote Corner (Mike Hayward)

Photo Credits…

‘Jack Brabham with Doug Nye’, Mike Hayward

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Jack Brabham, Repco engineer Nigel Tait, and Brabham BT19 Repco. Sandown Park Melbourne for its Tasman Series debut, January 1966. RB620 ‘E2’ engine in 2.5 litre capacity. (Australian Post magazine)

 

rb 620

Repco Brabham ‘RB 620 Series’ 3 litre SOHC V8 engine. The ’66 World Championship winning engine. Circa 310 bhp @ 8000 rpm. Weight 160 Kg, the ‘600 series’ block was F85 Oldsmobile based, ’20 series’ heads early crossflow type (Repco)

In this Repco article we start with a summary of the events leading to Repco’s involvement in Grand Prix Racing, then identify key team members, the equipment used to build the engines and finally have a detailed account of the 1966 championship winning engines construction…

records

RBE factory records ’60’s style (Wolfe)

Why did Repco Commit to Grand Prix Racing?…

Younger readers may not know the background to Australian automotive company, Repco’s involvement in Grand Prix racing in the mid-sixties.

Coventry Climax, the Cosworth Engineering of their day caused chaos for British GP teams when they announced they would not build an engine for the new 3 litre F1 commencing in 1966.

Repco had serviced the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF four cylinder engines, the engine ‘de jour’ in local Tasman races, but were looking for an alternative to protect their competitive position, Jack Brabham suggested a production based V8 to them.

Brabham identified an alloy, linerless V8 GM Oldsmobile engine, a project which had been abandoned by  them due to production costs. Jack pitched the notion of racing engines of 2.5 litre and 3 litre displacements using simple, chain driven SOHC, two valve heads to Repco’s CEO Charles McGrath.

GM developed a family of engines comprising the F85 Oldsmobile and Buick 215. They were almost identical except that the F85 variant had six head studs per cylinder rather than the five of the 215 and was therefore Brabham’s preferred competition option.

Jack had first seen the engines potential racing against Chuck Daigh’s Scarab Buick RE Intercontinental Formula mid-engined single seater in a one off appearance by Lance Reventlow’s outfit at Sandown, Australia, in early 1962.

The engine’s competition credentials were further established at Indianapolis that year when Indy debutant Dan Gurney qualified Mickey Thomson’s 215 engined car eighth, the car failing with transmission problems after 92 laps. It was the first appearance of a stock block engined car at Indy since 1945.

scarab

Jack Brabham looking carefully at the Buick 3.9 litre engine in the mid-engined Scarab RE at Sandown Park, Melbourne in 1962, filing the information away for future reference! (Doug Nye with Jack Brabham)

Whilst the engine choice was not a ‘sure thing’ its competition potential was clear to Brabham, as astute as he was practical.

At the time the engine was the lightest mass production V8 in the world with a dry weight of 144 kg and compact external dimensions to boot. Its future at GM ended in 1963 due to high production costs and wastage rates on imperfectly cast blocks, about 400,000 engines had been built by that time.

New Kid on the Block…

‘Having talked my way into the Repco Brabham Engine Co with a promise of hard work and a 3 weeks trial I was very happy’ recalls Rodway Wolfe.

I was given a nice grey dustcoat with a lovely Repco Brabham insignia on the pocket and shown around the factory and introduced to everyone- I was the seventh employee. Repco had picked the cream of their machinists from throughout the empire to work at RBE, they were great guys to work with and willing to share all their skills.

The three-week trial period was a gimmick, after a few days I had settled in as one of the team. After the trial my wage was increased to slightly higher than my previous job in the Repco merchandising company.’

People: Key Team Members…

dyno

L>R: Phil Irving, Bob Brown, Frank Hallam and Peter Holinger dyno testing the first 2.5 litre Tasman RB620 engine at Russell Manufacturing’s engine test lab in Richmond in March 1965. Weber carbs borrowed from Bib Stillwell, the engine did not race in this form. The engine initially produced 235 bhp @ 8200 rpm, equivalent to a 2.5 Coventry Climax engine. ‘Ciggies a wonderful period touch (Repco)

The first prototype RB engine was built at the Repco Engine Laboratory in Richmond, Victoria, an inner Melbourne suburb, then a hub of manufacturing now a desirable inner city place to live, 1.5 km from the CBD.

It was designated the type ‘RB620’, which was the nex file number of the various laboratory, research and development projects in process at the time.

‘Frank Hallam was General Manager and Phil Irving was Project Engineer together with Nigel Tait and others. Peter Holinger made the components and Michael Gasking tested the engines. There were others involved before my time, those mentioned were involved at Richmond’.

As an industrial site using steel garages in Richmond the RB project received comment in various overseas publications as the ‘World Championship Fl engine built in a tin shed in Australia’.

When I joined in late 1965 the project had just arrived at the Maidstone, Melbourne factory. (87 Mitchell Street, Maidstone, then an industrial Melbourne western suburb, 10 km from the CBD) The Manager was Frank Hallam. In the drawing office, the Chief Engineer was Phil Irving, the Production Manager Peter Holinger, Production Superintendent Kevin Davies and the machine shop leading hand was David Nash. We also had a Commercial Manager, Stan Johnson who came and went’.

hallam

Frank Hallam and Jack Brabham discuss the turning of camshaft blanks on the Tovaglieri lathe (Repco)

‘Around this time Michael Gasking also transferred from the Richmond Laboratory- he was Chief of Engine Assembly and Testing.  Also on the machine tools was John Mepstead who was a great all rounder and later appointed to help Michael with engine assembly. He eventually joined Frank Matich to ‘spanner’ the 1969 Australian Sports Car Championship winning Matich SR4 Repco.

Frank Hallam arranged for me to attend RMIT night school, Repco picked up the bill. Those Tuesday and Thursday nights for 4 years helped me immensely, over the period I obtained a certificate in ‘Capstan and Turret and Automatic Screw Machines’ operation and a certificate in ‘Product Drafting’. My status was as a First Class Machinist in the Repco Brabham factory.

If I had any queries I would also ask Phil Irving who loved a yarn and was a huge bank of knowledge. I felt so honoured to to work for him, and learned so much’.

RBE formation

‘Repco Record’, the internal Repco staff magazine announces the formation of Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. (Repco)

Machine Tools…

‘Frank Hallam was a machine tool enthusiast.

It was a big help, he made sure we worshipped our machines, blowing away the swarf with an air hose. I learned respect and cleanliness of all machine tools. Few machine shops were as clean or free of swarf and mess everywhere with the exception of Holinger Engineering, Peter was also fastidious.

We were lucky to have top machines in the workshop. Our biggest was an Ikegai horizontal boring machine. RBE had two lathes- a Dean Smith & Grace English machine and also a Tovaglieri Italian unit.

We had a small Deckel horizontal borer and a couple of mills- a Bridgeport and a French Vernier. The older machine was a Herbert capstan lathe, I used this to make every stud for all the future Repco Brabham engines- main bearing and cylinder head studs, a very big variety in different steel types, it was repetitive stuff that would normally be boring but I didn’t care, we were winning the World Championship’…

‘When he drew a new design of stud, Phil Irving would come out and check my thoughts on being able to make it with what we had and other various things. We would do a yield point test in a vice where we measured the length of the new stud after I made a sample and then tension it to a nominated foot pound tension and we would keep increasing the tension until the stud refused to return to the original length. That tension was known as the yield point so Phil would pick a tension somewhere in a safe range under that yield point’.

RB620 Series Engine: Machining and Modification of the Oldsmobile F85 block…

olds

Not the sharpest of shots but a rare one showing the ‘production’ Olds and RB620 engines. RB620 on the right. The engine was the lightest production V8 in the world at the time (unattributed)

‘When I arrived there were a lot of aluminum cylinder blocks along one factory wall. Repco acquired twenty-six Oldsmobile cylinder blocks from General Motors in the US. (2 of the 26 were prototype engines E1 and E2 which were built up in Richmond)

One of my first jobs was to remove all the piston assemblies from those twenty-four blocks. They were not short blocks as known in Australia (here they are complete without sump or cylinder heads) but these were not complete to that stage. They had crank bearings in place, all main bearing caps and the 3.5 inch liners were cast into the block. We didn’t use the cast iron main bearing caps or bolts, replacing them with steel caps and high strength studs.

The RB 620 used the original 3.5 inch cast in sleeves but practically everything else was changed.

All surfaces were re-machined for accuracy, all bolt thread holes re-tapped and recessed to accept studs of superior material. The camshaft bearings were in the valley of the block of course but we pressed them out and rotated them 45 degrees and pressed them back in place to cut off the original oil galleries as our engine ran twin overhead camshafts, one per cylinder bank.

The front original camshaft bearing was left intact and the second camshaft bearing was removed and fitted was a sleeve with an INA roller bearing.

We made up little jackshafts which were driven from the crankshaft by a duplex chain, which also drove the single row chain driving the overhead camshafts. These jackshafts used the first original Oldsmobile slipper bearing and a small roller type bearing in the second original cam bearing location. The chains etc, were all enclosed inside the RB chain-case.

rb 620 chain case

RB600 F85 Olds block from above. Note the valley cover of aluminium sealed ‘with a sea of Araldite then painted over with Silverfros- those blocks which are still in service today still retain the Araldited plate and still do not leak’ comments ex RBE engineer Nigel Tait. Phil Irving’s design had lots of clever bits including the timing chain arrangement which allowed the heads to be removed in the field without disturbing the engine timing- and was also clever in that the same head could be used on either side of the engine (Tait/Repco)

 

 

block & timing case

600 block and timing case, ‘Purolator oil filter housing, timing chain single row (Repco)

‘A lot of people in 1966, including the international motoring writers, did not realise the extent of the machining required to the F85 Oldsmobile cylinder block to use as our race engine base. It was more work and and involved to adapt the F85 than in machining our new Repco cast blocks (700 and 800 Series) used later in the project.

It used to annoy all of us when our engine was referred to as ‘based on a Buick’ in various world motoring magazines. It also added insult to injury by them adding ‘Built in a tin shed in Australia’!

We then had to close up the large cavity in the valley where there used to be a cover plate, pushrods and cam followers in the original engine.

We spent many hours fettling aluminum plates by hand and fitting them into the valleys to cover the original cam followers and holes etc. When we had a very good fit of these plates we mixed two pot resin (Araldite) with additional aluminum powder and filled up the valley seams around the plate.

Then with some elaborate heating systems we invented, we dried the Araldite in place. This also gained us the reputation of the ‘The Grand Prix engine held together with Araldite’ in various magazine articles!’

rb 20 block

RB600 block on the left, Olds’ F85 unmodified block on the right. The 600 block has the pushrod holes covered with the Araldited aluminium plate. ‘The 1/4 inch thick block stiffener plate protrudes from the top of the modified block. This gives the effect of cross bolting…note also the Repco designed magnesium sump’ notes Tait (Tait/Repco)

‘I finished the job of dismantling the blocks, we only worked on two or three at a time during the early months of 1966. Unless the parts were an easy item or required substantial machine set up we only made a few of each component as design changes were ongoing. Not critical large changes but small subtle ones’.

‘We didn’t have any problems with the Oldsmobile block by there was one race in 1966 when a cylinder liner failed. As explained, we used the cast in liners and retained the 3.5 inch bore.

BRO, (Brabham Racing Organisation) sent back the failed engine block and we bored out the remains of the cylinder liner. There was a casting cavity behind the liner which caused the weakness and failure. This was a problem that could not be dealt with without boring out all the liners and fitting sleeves. Otherwise there could be more failures due to bad castings. From that date we used dry liners and eradicated the risk of it occurring again.’

block

Jack and Phil specified this aluminium plate to add stiffness to the production F85 Olds block, big holes to provide rod clearance obviously. ‘This block would have had dry sleeves which led to considerable blowby problems due to distortion and eventually wet sleeves were specified by Phil Irving’ notes Nigel Tait (Tait/Repco)

UK Components: Crankshaft etc…

Phil Irving completed most of the design of the engine in England, he rented a flat in Clapham in January 1964 close to BRO and together with Jack they settled on a relatively simple single overhead camshaft configuration compatible with the block and fitment into the unused Brabham BT19 spaceframe chassis. This simplen specificaton is what Jack pitched to the Repco board at the projects outlet.

The BT19 frame had remained unused throughout 1965 when the engine for which it was designed, the Flat-16 Coventry Climax FWMW, was not released to Brabham, Lotus and Cooper as planned.

To expedite things in the UK, whilst simultaneously mailing drawings to Australia, Phil  commissioned Sterling Metals to cast the heads. Prior to his return to Australia in September 1964, HRG machined an initial batch of six heads, fitting valves and seats to Irving’s specifications.

‘Laystall in the UK also made the crankshaft. Constructed from a single steel billet the ‘flat’ nitrided crankshaft was a wonderful Irving design. I don’t recall any updates or changes to the design of the crankshaft over the years the RB engines were built. It was supplied in 2.5, 3 litre and 4.2 litres for the Indy engines- also 4.4, 4.8 and 5 litre sportscar versions. All crankshafts were of the same bearing dimensions etc’.

‘The term ‘flat-crank’ refers to the connecting rod journals being opposite each other and not in multi-plane configuration as is usual in production V8’s. It meant the engine was not such a well balanced unit at low revolutions but it actually converted the engine to virtually two four cylinder units and either cylinder bank would run quite smoothly on its own. The layout also enabled the superior use of exhaust configuration eliminating the need for crossover exhaust pipes to obtain full extraction effect’.

crank

Crankshaft was made by Laystall to Phil Irving’s design, pistons and rings by Repco subsidiaries. (Repco)

Pistons…

‘Repco is a piston ring manufacturer and very experienced in ring design which meant that we were well ahead in that regard.

The famous SS55 oil rings were well known already around the world. The pistons were Repco Products.

No other F1 engine constructor of the sixties made their own pistons. The experience we gained with the supply of Coventry Climax pistons and rings contributed to this success.’

Bearings: Vandervell Interlopers and ‘Racing Improves the Breed’…

‘Repco was already supplying engine bearings to various manufacturers globally from the Tasmanian based Repco Bearing Company, we obtained these components as required.

During 1966 an advert appeared in a British motoring magazine, ‘French Grand Prix won on Vandervell bearings’. Vandervell are of course a British bearing company, Repco were furious and telex messages to and from BRO (Brabham Racing Organization) revealed that Jack Brabham was not happy with the depth of the lead overlay on our copper/lead crankshaft bearings.

Our bearings had a lead overlay of .001 inch and the Vandervell bearings an overlay of .0005. So I was instructed to pack away all our existing bearings and mark them not for use, our bearing company came up with the improved design bearings with the lesser overlay in time for the next GP. Racing certainly improves the product!

Before I transferred to the RB project, i worked in Repco merchandising and received brochures and information about a new Repco alumina/tin bearing known as the ‘Alutin’ and advertised by Repco as a new high performance product. Repco were promoting them as a breakthrough design.

I learned these new bearings had been unsatisfactory under test in the F1 engine and within a short period no more was said about the new product ‘Alutin’. They were inclined to ‘pick up’ on the journals at high rpm – another example of how racing  improves the product. This problem had not been evident in the engine testing of the product by Repco to that date.’

ad

‘Racing Improves the Breed’…Repco Ad 1966

Outsourced Items…

‘There were some components we did source outside the Repco Group.

There were cam followers, Alfa Romeo cam buckets, valve springs from W&S, valves manufactured by local company Dreadnaught. The ignition system was sourced from Bosch by Brabham.

The collets were from the UK and were a production car or motorcycle collet, the name escapes me. We made the valve spring retainers and collet retaining caps. Over the project we made  changes to the collet retainer material from aluminum to heat treated aluminium bar and later titanium. Not a lot was gained as titanium fatigues as well, as we found out.’

Lucas Fuel Injection…

‘The fuel injectors and fuel distributor were Lucas items, the system was in early stages of development. It consisted of an injector for each cylinder, in our case installed in the inlet trumpet a short distance from the inlet port in the cylinder head.

The system is timed with a fuel distributor in the engine valley driven from the chaincase by the distributor drive gear. The fuel is supplied at 100psi from an electric pump. The fuel pressure supplies and operates small shuttles which are constantly metering supply according to the length of shuttle travel. The amount of fuel supplied to the injectors is controlled by a variable small steel cam which is profiled to suit the particular engine size etc. The steel cam therefore controls the actual fuel mixture and is linked to the throttle inlet slides’.

‘It is interesting to note that although the fuel distributor can be timed to any position in the engine cycle, injecting at the point of the inlet valve opening or with it closed or wherever, it does not make any important difference in engine performance but as Phil Irving explained to me there is a point of injection that lowers engine performance so therefore the fuel distributor is timed in each installation to avoid the undesirable point of injection. The air inlet trumpets were cut to length spun and profiled.

The chaincase was a magnesium casting and the ‘620’ 1966 World Championship engine used a single row handmade chain imported from Morse in the US. We cut all the sprockets and manufactured all the camshaft couplings etc. We used an SCD hydraulic chain adjuster, a standard BMC component.

The cam chain was driven by a small jackshaft which was fitted in the front two original camshaft bearing spaces of the original Olds block. The jackshaft was driven by a Morse duplex chain from the crankshaft sprocket, also Repco made. The crankshaft had a small gear driving the oil pump mounted underneath the chain case.’

chain case

Assembly of chain in the magnesium timing case of an RB620 engine (Repco)

Oil Pump…

‘The oil pump was a wonderful Irving design, simple to service but a small work of art. It featured flexible supply hoses with snap fittings and was a combination of oil supply pump which supplied the engine with oil up through a gallery in the chaincase and also a slightly larger scavenge pump connected to each end of the engine sump- it was also a magnesium casting. The pump assemblies, sump and all components were made by Repco.

The system consisted of a sump with an inertia valve located in its lowest point. If the car was braking the inertia moved the valve forward which opened a cavity in the front of the sump causing oil to be drawn from the front. Under acceleration the inertia valve moved backwards and the forward cavity closed and the rear cavity opened. This meant a minimum of blowby and air to be pumped by the scavenge system. I don’t recall any failure of this system apart from the  Sandown debut race of our ‘620’ Series 2.5 litre engine in January 1966′.

‘The ‘Tasman’ cars were held on the grid for rather a long time and as a result the oil had cooled in the Repco Brabham. Jack left the line with plenty of revs, the cold oil and resulting oil pressure split the pressure pump gears. The first engines used cast Fordson Major tractor pressure pump gears and one gear had split due to the extreme pressure. Jack Brabham did  3 or 4 laps from memory.

I arrived at work on Monday morning and in typical Irving style found a drawing  for the supervisor for the construction of new steel gears and a ‘Do Not Use’ request for all the Fordson gears in stock. Phil had arrived at the drawing office on Sunday evening after the Sandown meeting and made the modifications straight away’.

‘The chaincase featured a couple of inspection caps which were removed to allow for chain tension adjustment etc. We made these caps and when it came to cutting the retaining threads in the chaincase we could not obtain the required thread tap anywhere. Phil had specified similar threads to the Vincent Motorcycle chain adjuster cap threads so that’s exactly what we used. Irving brought in the original Vincent motorcycle thread tap and we used that to thread all the chaincases under manufacture at the time, actually going back to valve spring collet retainer caps.

I recall that the first engines used BSA motorcycle collet retainers. One of the things I enjoyed so much working with Phil was that he did not waste time on risk taking design, he used tried and tested systems from his past. He once said “There is really nothing new, it is just changed around in some way”- well he sure proved that with the first RB620 engine!’

chaincase componentry

Cylinder Heads…

‘The cylinder heads were cast aluminum of crossflow design, the cam covers cast magnesium. All our cast magnesium and aluminum components were supplied by CAC in Fishermans Bend, Melbourne, with the exception of the first batch of six heads cast in the UK. (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation).

Phil was remarkable with his engine design skill in that he could see the item in reverse or three dimensions and could design all the sand boxes etc and patterns required to arrive at the finished item.

The engine used no bolts as the original Olds did. Cylinder heads, cam covers, main bearing caps, sump, oil pump and chaincase were fitted with, or retained by high tensile studs.That was my department and apart from the first couple of prototypes I made all the studs for the 1966/67 RB engines. Some were quite a challenge, the thread specification and tolerances were exacting.

The crankshaft rear bearing seal was a slipper ring design with a bolted on ring retaining flange. The slipper rings were supplied by our Russell Manufacturing Co, we made the outer flange in the factory. The steel flywheel was also turned and made by Repco’.

Conncting Rods and Ease of Servicing…

rod

RBE conrod drawing (Repco)

‘We used modified Daimler connecting rods and competition Chevrolet and Repco rods. In later engines we occasionally used Warren rods from the US. In the valley of the engine a small drive housing held the vertical ignition distributor and also the fuel distributor. Sometimes in the larger engines we also fitted a mechanical fuel pump to this housing.’

‘The type 620 engine engine had throttle slides running on small grooves with 1/8 inch steel rollers to prevent lock ups which would be a disaster. The slide covers were  fastened directly to the cylinder head and in later engines were changed to fully assembled units and fastened directly to the cylinder heads for ease of changing if required. They were then complete units with studs bolting them to the inlet flanges’.

A big feature of servicing the RB620 engine was that either cylinder head could be removed without disturbing camshaft timing or the camshaft from the cylinder head, a great time saver. (See the photos in the block section above which clearly shows this)

The oil pump can be removed in one small unit and replaced with no other dismantling. Or the two cylinder heads can be removed without disturbing the timing of the camshafts or the chain case. All very important design features for use ‘in the field’.

engine assembly

RB620 engine assembly early 1966, Maidstone (Repco)

First Test…

The first engine, a 2.5 litre Tasman engine designated ‘E1’ was fired up on March 26 1965, almost twelve months to the day Phil Irving commenced its design.

It was initially run with Weber 32mm IDM carbs and after a checkover fitted with 40mm Webers. The engine produced 235BHP @ 8200RPM, equivalent to a good Coventry Climax 2.5 FPF at the time.

Repco committed to build 6 engines for the 1966 Tasman Series, later changed to three 2.5 litre Tasman engines and two 3 litre F1 engines, the first race for the new engine was the non-championship South African Grand Prix on January 1 1966, the next part in the Repco story is the 1966 race program for the new engine.

rb 20 dyno long shot

‘2.5 litre 620 V8 E1 on the Heenan and Froude GB4 dynamometer in Cell 4 at Richmond, 1965. The exhausts lead straight out through a hole in the wall. Also there was minimal noise insulation in the tin shed that served as a test cell. Vickers Ruwolt across the road blamed us for the large crack that developed in their brick wall on the other side of Doonside Street!’ recalls Nigel Tait (Tait/Repco)

Photo & Other Credits…

Autocar, ‘Jack Brabhams World Championship Year’, Repco Record, ‘Doug Nye with Jack Brabham’, Australian Post, ‘From Maybach to Repco’ Malcolm Preston, Rodway Wolfe Collection, Nigel Tait recollections and his Collection, Repco Ltd photo archive

Etcetera…

letterhead

Original RBE Pty.Ltd. Letterhead. Jack Brabham had no financial (equity) or directorship involvement in this company, it was entirely a Repco subsidiary.

 

wade

‘E1’ was the RB620 prototype Tasman 2.5 litre engine. Most of the entries in this exercise book are dated, this one is not, but its mid 1965, the book records the use of cams with the ‘Wade 185’ grind and the valve timing, no dyno sheets sadly! (Wolfe/Repco)

 

repco 1

Have a look at this Repco film produced in mid-1965…

It covers some interesting background on the relationship between Brabham and Repco, footage of Jack at home in the UK, the Brabham factory in New Haw, some on circuit footage at Goodwood and then some sensational coverage of the 1965 Tasman Series in both NZ and Oz. The latter segues nicely into footage of the first ‘RB620’ 2.5 Tasman V8 engine ‘E1’ on the dyno at the Repco Engine Laboratory, at Russell Manufacturing, Richmond in ’65…

Tailpiece: #1-RBE620 2.5 litre ‘E1’, the prototype Tasman 2.5 V8, fitted with Webers on the GB4 dyno- Repco Engine Lab at Russells, Richmond 1965. The box over the Webers is for airflow measurement notes Nigel Tait…

rb 620 on dyno

(Tait/Repco)