Archive for the ‘Sports Racers’ Category

image

Stirling Moss guides his works Jaguar C Type through Fordwater on his way to 5th place at Goodwood sharing with 1951 Le Mans winner Peter Walker…

Britain’s first night race took take place at Goodwood on 16 August 1952. The British Automobile Racing Club hoped to emulate the commercial success of Le Mans, that classic a race of 24 hours duration of course.

The Goodwood enduro was a 9 hour event with a 3pm start to allow the spectators to see the cars in all their spectacular glory in the half light and full darkness.

Modifications were made to the circuits infrastructure by fitting floodlights to illuminate the grandstands and pits, the kerbs were given a coat of luminous paint and a beer tent was laid on, although due to post-war licensing laws it had to stop serving grog before the race ended! Sponsorship and plenty of pre-event publicity was provided by ‘The News of The World’ newspaper inclusive of £2,500 in prize money which represented a powerful incentive for the ‘local’ works teams and privateers to enter in force.

Jaguar and Aston Martin entered three car teams of C-types and DB3’s in the field of 32 cars. Both teams had much to prove. The C-Types were quick at Le Mans in June but all three cars retired with engine cooling related issues. The new Ferrari 250S and Mercedes Benz W194’s had been faster than the Jags, victorious at Le Mans in 1951, at the Mille Miglia in May. As a consequence Jaguar had designed a more aerodynamic body with a slightly smaller radiator. Jag’s cooling problems became apparent in practice, despite hasty modifications, solutions were not found pre-race. Peter Whitehead/Ian Stewart retired with a failed head gasket during the second hour, Stirling Moss/Peter Walker with engine problems in the third and the remaining Tony Rolt/Duncan Hamilton car with a head gasket failure in the fourth hour.

Le Mans 1952: #26 the Poore/Griffith Aston DB3 Spyder alongside the Parnell/Thompson DB3 Coupe, all three factory cars DNF (unattributed)

The new Aston DB3 ‘Spyders’ also failed to finish- Dennis Poore/Pat Griffith in the third hour with water pump failure and Lance Macklin/Peter Collins towards the finish with an accident in the twenty-second hour of the long, unforgiving race. The works DB3 Coupe driven by Parnell/Thompson retired in the second hour with gearbox dramas. The ’52 Le Mans was won by the Benz W194- Hermann Lang and Fritz Riess from the the sister car of Theo Helfrich and Helmut Niedermayr.

The chance to make a good showing on home turf was therefore ‘manor from heaven’.

Jaguar used the same driver combinations they deployed in France whilst Aston’s pairings were Reg Parnell with Eric Thompson, Peter Collins and Pat Griffith and George Abecassis with Dennis Poore.

Other strong entries included Pierre Levegh’s Talbot-Lago T26GS, famously for being so nearly the winner driving solo at Le Mans in 1952 before missing a gear very late in the race. Ferrari 225S’ were entered for Tom Cole/Graham Whitehead and Bobbie Baird/Roy Salvadori, a works Allard J2X for Anthony Hume and George Thomas plus a swag of Healey Silverstone, Frazer Nash Le Mans Rep, Jag XK120, Cooper T14 MG, HRG and HWM cars. In short, an interesting field that lacked only works Ferrari and Mercedes entries.

image

At the start Moss, at right, as usual, won the sprint to his car, but Tony Rolt, to Moss’ right led on lap one, but he was soon overtaken by Parnell’s Aston…

At the end of the first hour the order was Parnell, Rolt, Abecassis, Moss and Baird, Ferrari 225S, then Whitehead.

Then the weather started to improve and as the track dried, the Jaguar’s pace became apparent with both Rolt and Moss passing Parnell. So, Jag, Jag, Jag, Aston, but then Whitehead crashed his C Type.

Disaster struck the Feltham team on lap 91 during a routine refuelling pit stop when Parnell’s car caught fire, burning two of the crew and team manager John Wyer. Parnell showed great leadership and strength of character, whilst his race drive was over he stood in for the injured Wyer to take over the critical team management role.

Eric Thompson came into the pits 3 hours into the race with smoke pouring from the rear of the car. Wyer and mechanic Jack Sopp pulled up the seats to investigate whilst Fred Lowndes refuelled. Spilt fuel from the last churn went onto the tail of the car and ran down onto the undertray where it was ignited by hot oil from a leaking fuel seal- within seconds the car was engulfed in flames and smoke. Wyer and Sopp suffered bad burns, Lowndes not so much but all 3 were taken to hospital whereupon Reg Parnell took charge. Aston DB3/3 was destroyed- and later rebuilt, Parnell, drove it to 5th in the 1953 Mille Miglia (unattributed)

 

At half distance the Moss/Walker Jaguar C Type led from the sister XKC of Rolt/Hamilton. The third C-type had crashed at Madgwick and retired whilst the DB3 of Abecassis/Poore had also dropped out of contention.

By 9pm the drivers had switched their headlights on, the spectacle of racing at Goodwood at night was fantastic but within half an hour of that a half shaft broke on the Rolt/Hamilton C Type which , allowed the remaining Aston of Collins/Griffith through, that car was then overtaken by the quick Ferrari 225S driven by Bobby Baird and Roy Salvadori.

Half an hour later Jaguar’s collapse was complete when the leading Moss/Walker car entered the pits with a broken rear radius arm that would take nearly an hour to repair. It is said that Jaguar boss Sir William Lyons was blissfully ignorant of all of the dramas which befell his team as he had retired to Goodwood House from the pitlane to enjoy what appeared to be a certain win!

image

The doomed Parnell/Thompson Aston DB3/3 earlier in the race prior to its demise (Getty)

In a race of rapidly changing fortunes the Baird/Salvadori Ferrari 225S had gone from from 4th to 1st in little more than an hour, but in a final twist of fate, on its last pit stop, the jack intended to lift the car sank into the patch of tarmac, softened by the earlier Aston DB3 fire! The loss of time was sufficient to let the Collins/Griffith DB3 into the lead with just an hour of the race to run. That pairing duly won despite an exhaust valve breaking an hour before the events end, from the two privateer Ferrari 225S’ driven by Cole/Whitehead and Baird/Salvadori.

Collins in the winning Aston DB3 early in the race (unattributed)

The Telegraph reported that ‘The Nine Hour had all the ingredients of a classic race; the changing weather, the drama of the pit fire and a dramatic fight for the lead, not to mention the fact that so many of the cars were competing on home soil. Yet the spectators were distinctly unmoved, many only arriving once the night racing began, and few staying for the duration. These were people who attended Goodwood for a grand day out – a nine-hour endurance race, where the leader wasn’t always obvious, was simply too long’.

‘When the Nine Hour race returned the following year it did so without any newspaper sponsorship to offer pre-event coverage. Spectators numbers fell as a result and with them the carnival atmosphere that made Le Mans such a success. Those who did go frequently left when it got dark, defeating the event’s raison d’être. It didn’t matter that the racing was first class (Aston would win again in ’53 and, after the race skipped a year, scored a third victory at what would be the last Nine Hour race in ’55) if nobody was there watching it. Perhaps the British will always see night racing as too good an excuse for a holiday abroad.’ the Telegraph concluded.

There was no World Sportscar or Manufacturers Championship in 1952, that competition started in 1953. However the classic race spoils went to Mercedes Benz W194/300SL at Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana with a Ferrari 250S victorious at the Mille Miglia and a Lancia Aurelia B20 at the Targa Florio

Vaino Hollming Jag XK120 leads Pierre Levegh Talbot-Lago T26GS then the Lawrence Mitchell Frazer Nash High Speed, Goodwood 9 Hour (Getty)

Aston Martin DB3 Technical Specifications…

Ex-Auto Union design team member Robert Eberan-Eberhorst first worked for ERA when he come to the UK post-war. He was contracted for 3 years from November 1930 to design a sports-racer for Astons which was to use the AML LMB 2.6 litre 6 cylinder engine and a David Brown 5 speed gearbox.

He chose a period typical ladder frame chassis design, the main members made from 16 guage, 4 inch chrome-molybdenum tubes with substantial cross bracing by three 14 guage 5 inch tubes.

Front suspension was similar to the DB2- trailing links, transverse torsion bars, piston type shocks and a roll bar. At the rear a more sophisticated De Dion rear axle was deployed. This was constructed from three steel sections welded together and was located by a Panhard Rod and parallel locating links. The upper links ran fore and aft, the lower links angled. Each of the lower links engaged by serrations with a transverse torsion bar. Armstrong double piston dampers were used. The car weighed circa 2165 pounds/980Kg with 9 gallons of fuel.

(Autocar)

Steering was by rack and pinion with 2 turns lock to lock, brakes were Al-fin drums, inboard at the rear. Spoked wire wheels were of course used with Rudge-Whitworth knock-off hubs.

The DB3 first raced in 2580cc form, with triple 35DCO Weber twin-choke carburettors. The alloy, DOHC, 2 valve head engine developed 133bhp @ 5500rpm. The gearbox was a DB S527, 5 speed with overdrive top gear, from July 1952 a DB S430/63R 4 speed box was used.

Into 1952 the engines ran Weber 36DCF carbs making 140bhp @ 5200rpm, still way too little. By the 1952 Monaco GP a 2922cc engine developed 147bhp @5000rpm but any increase in capacity of the LB6 engine was impossible as each pair of bores were siamesed.

163bhp was achieved from an engine with 35DCO twin-choke Webers and connecting rods with offset big ends at the Goodwood 9 Hour in 1952.

Bibliography…

Article by Chris Knapman in ‘The Telegraph’ April 2011, ‘Aston Martin: The Racing Cars’ Anthony Pritchard

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, Klemantaski Archive, Don Price, Autocar

Tailpiece…

image

image

Amazing panorama of a hot, happy Riverside crowd in 1959, no details of date or race meeting, race in progress for sportscars…

These days with so much competition for our leisure dollars promoters globally find it hard to get such crowds. In the ‘immediate’ post war years there was pent up demand and plenty of money in a booming post war economy to draw a crowd to just about anything.

By the look of some of the grandstands, it would have been more dangerous as a spectator than as a racer…

Credit…

JR Eyerman

 

 

image

(T Watts Collection)

A favourite car, favourite marque, favourite colour. Bert Howard’s Lola Mk1 Climax at Symmons Plains, Tasmania in April 1968…

It’s a simple enough shot I suppose, a well executed pan with classic blurred background, but too good not to share.

The colour is so clear it could be 2017, but the low roll bar, helmet and background devoid of advertising hoardings gives it away a bit, its 1968. The small, lithe little machine looks like a ‘big banger’ doesn’t it?, but the 1098cc Coventry Climax FWA engined car is anything but that.

The Lola Mk1 was seminal in Eric Broadley’s early commercial success. The story of the car itself, it’s development and specifications is so well told on Lola Heritage, just click on the link here to read about these magic cars;

http://www.lolaheritage.co.uk/history/types/mk1/mk1.htm

Bert’s car, Lola Mk1 chassis ‘BR15’  first came to Australia to the order of ‘Scuderia Veloce’ supremo, David McKay in late 1960…

By the time David McKay landed the sporty and Formula Junior Lola Ford ‘BRJ18’ the former World War 2 veteran, racer and motoring journalist had already been competing since the late forties. He had second place in the 1955 Hyeres 12 Hours in southern France together with Tony Gaze aboard a ‘customer’ Aston DB3S and the 1958 Australian Tourist Trophy, Bathurst, victory as career highlights to that point, the latter aboard his ex-works Aston Martin DB3S.

Most international readers would be by now familiar with McKay from various of my articles. He was a racer at elite level who founded ‘Scuderia Veloce’ to race his own cars circa 1959. The team very shortly thereafter morphed into an enterprise which entered cars for others including internationals, Chris Amon, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart- and into a retail motor dealership on Sydney’s North Shore which sold Ferrari, later Volvo and from 1969 Porsche cars.

McKay also aided and abetted the careers of many drivers from the early days- most notably Amon, Spencer Martin, Greg Cusack and right through into the 1970’s Larry Perkins and open-wheeler Formula Pacific ace John Smith in the latter period.

Throughout this era of the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies McKay was the most influential Oz motoring journalist as motoring editor of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph newspapers.

image

David McKay, Lola Mk1 Climax, Forrests Elbow, Bathurst, Easter 1961. Won the 3 lap under 1500 scratch and was 4th outright and 1st in class in the 10 lap main sportscar event won by the Matich Lotus 15 Climax (J Ellacott)

A mate of McKay’s, dentist David Lewin based in London had written to the Sydneysider and extolled him of the virtues of both Lolas and McKay soon did a deal with Graham Broadley, Eric’s brother to acquire ‘BR15’, which was a works car raced by Peter Ashdown.

The FJ was a new car built for a category which was exploding globally. The shadows of the War by then had to a large extent diminished, globally the worlds economy was performing well and consumer credit was becoming more widely available- many young men could afford to go motor racing and FJ was very much a class of choice.

In Australia, finally some permanent venues were being built- Warwick Farm, Catalina Park, Lakeside, Sandown Park, Calder and others were all opened in the early years of the sixties. In fact McKay was keen to land both Lolas in time for the first Warwick Farm opening meeting in December 1960. ‘BR15’ was not available until the end of the British racing season however.

Between the purchase of the cars and their arrival in Australia the Australian Federal Government had increased sales tax on imported cars to 40%. Much to McKay’s chagrin the changes applied to both road cars AND racing cars including those ‘on the water’! His landed price having increased hugely, McKay quickly did a deal to relieve the financial pressure so created to sell the FJ to Sydney insurance broker Tom Corcoran who had been racing a Lotus 11. Corcoran raced the car under the SV banner thereby getting some support at race meetings and fuel and oil provided by Castrol who had about then done a deal with McKay. David of course raced the Mk1.

image

Scuderia Veloce on Warwick Farm’s pit straight in 1962. Morgan Distributors Morgan Plus 4, Tony Loxley’s Ferrari 250 GT, Fiat Importers Fiat 1800, ‘Old Nail’ Cooper T51 Climax, Lola Mk1 Climax (J Fullarton)

Scuderia Veloce at the time included the little Lola, a Nardi modified Fiat 1800 taken out to 2 litres owned by Fiat Australia which David raced in the burgeoning Appendix J touring car class and his Jaguar.

By early 1960 his first Jaguar Mk1 3.4 ‘Grey Pussy’, the dominant touring car in Australia at the time had been sold to Ron Hodgson. David bought a second Jag, a 3.4 litre Mk1, like the first built by the Jaguar Competition Department, which was co-owned with Australian Jaguar importer Bryson Industries. He won the very first Australian Touring Car Championship, a one race event, at Gnoo Blas, Orange in the red Jag in early 1960 beating Bill Pitt’s 3.4 litre Mk1 and Hodgson’s car which by then was 3.8 litres in capacity.

He also occasionally raced Sydney businessman/yachtsman Tony Loxley’s Ferrari 250GT coupe in GT races.

In single-seaters, for a short time in 1959 McKay raced a new (Victa Industries owned) Cooper T51 Climax FPF 1.9 and after the 1961 Australasian International season- the Victa owned car having been sold to Bib Stillwell he acquired a Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2 from Jack Brabham. McKay realised, approaching forty that his time at the top was limited and he ‘needed to get on with it’ in single-seaters!

image

Mallala AGP weekend 1961, this will be a heat as Bill Patterson started from pole after acrimony over qualifying times and Stan Jones DNS the GP itself after mechanical mayhem intruded. #6 Bib Stillwell in his new Cooper T53 Climax, #14 McKay in ‘Old Nail’ Cooper T51 Climax and #2 Stan Jones Cooper T51 Climax. That’s Gerry Brown tending to Bib and Kevin Drage with his hand on the tail of the car (K Drage)

The ‘Old Nail’ Cooper Jack Brabham had for sale was raced by Ron Flockhart and Roy Salvadori that summer as part of ‘Jack’s team (‘Ecurie Vitesse’) was none other than Bruce McLaren’s ex-works machine (chassis number either ‘F2-5-57’ or ‘F2-7-59’), the chassis in which Bruce took his first world championship GP victory at Sebring in late 1959 and another win at Buenos Aires in February 1960.

It wasn’t in the full flush of youth as a ’59 (or was it 1957!?) car with transverse leaf, as against coil sprung rear end but was still a pretty good thing to go head to head with Cooper mounted Stan Jones, Bill Patterson, Lex Davison, (noting Lex’ interludes in Aston Martin DBR4’s) Bib Stillwell, (ditto!) Alec Mildren and the rest of the local heroes in Australia.

Indeed, the difference between an Australian Grand Prix ‘Old Nail’ win for McKay and 3rd place at Mallala in October 1961 was a jumped start and 60 second penalty in the opinion of the race stewards…but not in the opinion of many informed onlookers! A story for another time. Lex Davison won the ’61 AGP, his fourth and last AGP victory aboard a Cooper T51 borrowed from Bib Stillwell (the ex-Victa Industries car raced briefly by McKay) and Bibs later, quicker!, Cooper T53 with McKay’s T51 third. As I say, that meeting is very much a story in itself for another time.

image

Start of the Australian Touring Car Championship race at Gnoo Blas, Orange, NSW 1 February 1960. Ron Hodgson in Jag Mk1 3.8 ‘Grey Pussy’ at left, McKay in his new Mk1 3.4 right, Bill Pitt behind in another Mk1 3.4 then the Holdens led by Pete Geoghegan’s black 48-215. McKay won from Pitt and Hodgson (unattributed)

So, McKay was a busy boy and Lola was only one of his toys! McKay was well aware of the cars speed which was both demonstrated by the performance of the cars in the UK and Derek Jolly’s Coventry Climax FWA powered Decca’s which raced in Australia from the mid-fifties- and which McKay was well familiar with on-and off circuit.

The dominant sportscars in Australia at the time were Ron Phillips’ Cooper Jaguar, Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Derek Jolly’s 2 litre FPF powered ex-works Lotus 15 and then Frank Matich’s Leaton Motors owned ex-works 2.5 litre FPF powered Lotus 15 from the time it arrived in Australia in 1960. Matich then transferred his raw pace to a Lotus 19 Climax which further accentuated his dominance (which segued to Lotus 19B, Elfin 400 Olds aka ‘Traco Olds’, Matich SR3 Repco and Matich SR4 Repco- a decade of sportscar wins for FM in Australia)

image

‘BR15’ at Symmons Plains 1968: spaceframe chassis, wishbone upper and lower front suspension with coil spring/shocks, 1098cc originally but by now probably 1220cc Coventry Climax Weber fed FWA engine and rubber bungee attached fuel tank all clear (oldracephotos.com)

The Lola was a famously light, beautiful handling car but it was not an outright contender toting only 1100cc so its place in the local order was to win the 1100 or under 1500 class and punch above its weight in outright competition.

McKay’s cars finally arrived from the UK in October 1960, their first outing a test day at Warwick Farm in October before the inaugural Warwick Farm open meeting on 18 December 1960. Bob Atkin had by then been engaged by McKay to look after the Lolas, Atkin formed a career with SV’s and was still Dealer Principal of Scuderia Veloce Motors when it was sold to Laurie Sutton a decade or so hence.

McKay won his class in the famously very wet meeting whilst finishing 2nd outright behind Matich’ Lotus 15 and ahead of Derek Jolly’s 15, Bob Jane’s Maser 300S, Doug Chivas’ Jag D Type and others. In a great day for McKay, he won a sportscar race in the Morgan Plus 4, was 4th in the Appendix J touring car race in the Fiat and took fastest lap as well as winning the 1500 class in the Lola Mk1. A great day at the office!

Over the next 12 months the car was unbeatable in its class with successes at Ballarat Airfield, Hume Weir, Longford and Bathurst.

image

McKay’s Lola ‘BR15’ in very ugly Appendix K GT guise in 1961, circuit unknown. Gives new meaning to ‘slab sided’ ‘dunnit (M Schagen)

The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport adopted Appendix K for GT cars for the 1960 season which made sense in terms of attracting people to buy and race closed coupes such as the Lotus Elite and Porsche Carrera being sold at the time. It left large numbers of sportscars out on a limb in the sense that promoters now chose between running races for the two categories-that is between Appendix C Sportscars and Appendix K GT’s.

CAMS oddly, but sensibly allowed open cars to compete as long as they had ‘a lid’. As a consequence all manner of cars including such exotica as D Type Jags, Maser 300S…and McKays Lola Mk1 were ‘converted’ from open sportscars to closed coupes.

The conversions were usually as ugly as sin, Bob Jane’s Maser 300S arguably the exception, with David’s Lola definitely in the ‘fugly’ category as the photo above proves! The work was done by Clive Adams North Sydney panel shop, ‘ there a master of aluminium work, one Stan Brown, had a small corner where he worked his magic’ as McKay so eloquently put it. ‘That it turned out an ugly duckling there is no doubt’. To make matters worse the increase in weight of the car and ‘top heaviness’ ruined the beautiful balance of Broadley’s original design.

image

1961 GT Racing shot: Bob Jane, Maser 300S Coupe, Leo Geoghegan Lotus Elite, Frank Matich Jaguar D Type Hardtop and the red car is Keith Malcolm’s Skoden, Bathurst October 1961 (MK1220)

McKay in his autobiography describes the silver lining in the GT conversion work as the introduction to him of Spencer Martin, who worked at Adams shop and had started racing in a self built sportscar. Later they would achieve much together with Spencer driving both the SV Brabham BT11A Climax after Graham Hill had finished with it at the end of the 1964 Tasman Series and McKay’s famous, glorious ‘Red Lady’- his Ferrari 250LM.

The Lola ‘GT’ cannot have been too bad mind you, McKay was 2nd in the 50 mile, one race 1961 Australian GT Championship held at Warwick Farm in July 1961. Frank Matich won in a Jag XKD ‘GT’ from Brian Foley’s Austin Healey Sprite Hardtop and Bob Jane’s Maser 300S Coupe.

As McKay focussed on other cars he sold the Lola to Greg Cusack, the young motor-trader and rally-driver from Canberra was a man on-the-rise. Cusack raced the car for the first time, still under the SV banner, at Warwick Farm in December 1961. He achieved the same levels of success with it in the following twelve months as McKay.

Cusack also had an occasional race in the ‘Old Nail’ Cooper T51 Climax during 1962 including a very solid 4th in the ‘Bathurst 100’ Gold Star event on demanding Mount Panorama.

McKay played an important role in Chris Amon’s nascent career, running the young Kiwi in the Australasian International season aboard his Cooper T53 Climax in 1963- it was during that summer that Reg Parnell spotted Chris’ talent and spirited him off to Europe.

Chris had a few drives of McKay’s Coopers (Old Nail T51 and T53) in Australia in the second half of 1962 at Sandown and Mallala during practice and at the Gold Star season ending round at Warwick Farm in mid-October where he raced the T51 to 3rd place in the ‘Hordern Trophy’ behind Bib Stillwell and John Youl. The talented young Kiwi also raced the Lola Mk1 at Sandown in September to a class win in the Victorian Sportscar Championship.

The Lotus 23’s then beginning to appear gave the Lola a taste of competition for the first time. Cusack could see the writing on the wall so acquired two Elfins, a Catalina single-seater and Mallala mid-engined sportscar with which to take his career forward.

Cusack remained close to McKay, he would several years hence drive the teams Brabham BT23A Repco after Spencer Martin’s departure from Scuderia Veloce.

Lola was offered for sale and sold to to another very quick young driver, John Martin of Katoomba in Sydney’s Blue Mountains who had been competing in a Lotus 15. He first raced the car in January 1963 and achieved much success despite the more competitive grids in which the Lola now competed.

image

Pete Geoghegan in ‘BR15’ giving Niel Allen’s new Elan heaps at the ’66 Warwick Farm Tasman meeting in February. It was a very effective ‘demo’ of the little cars pace despite advancing years and race miles. Geoghegan was doing as many laps in little lithe Lotuses at the time as the Touring Cars for which he was famous- he would have found Lola very much to his liking I suspect (B Wells)

Frank Demuth, a Sydney accountant was the next owner having bought the car in early 1964. He gradually got the hang of it, as a newcomer to racing, but soon traded it in after 12 months on the Lotus 23B Ford raced by Pete Geoghegan, the Geoghegan brothers were Australia’s Lotus importers.

Rather than leave the car sitting on the Parramatta Road used car lot, Pete decided to have a run in it to remind everyone Lola was about and for sale. He had the car painted the wonderful shade of yellow and added 8 inch wheels to get a bit more grip. By now the car’s Climax FWA was said to be 1220cc in capacity.

Geoghegan entered it in the 1966 Warwick Farm Tasman meeting sportscar races and gave Niel Allen’s ex-Leo Geoghegan Lotus Élan 26R and Demuth plenty of curry in the 23 he has just acquired! Still, Pete was a rather handy steerer whatever the theoretical superiority of the 1.6 litre mid-engined, Lotus/Ford twin-cam powered Lotus 23! The feature race, for the record was won by Greg Cusack in a Lotus 23B from Demuth, Geoghegan and Bob Jane’s E Type Lwt.

It was at this point that Bert Howard responded to the Geoghegan’s March 1966 ‘Racing Car News’ advertisement, asking price $A3400- read it and weep! It was a long drive from Hobart to Sydney and back but no doubt Bert had a big smile as his car towed ‘BR15’ onto the ‘Princess of Tasmania’ at Port Melbourne for the final leg of the 1600 Km trip home.

image

Longford 1968: Bert Howard’s Lola in front of Doug Whiteford, works Datsun Fairlady, John Roxburgh Lotus 23C Ford and Ian Maudsley, Lotus Super 7 (oldracephotos)

There the car was beautifully prepared and presented for years at Longford, Symmons Plains and Baskerville, if increasingly outdated as the mid-engined hordes grew exponentially throughout the 1960’s. In the smaller capacity classes these cars included the Lotus 23, various local 23 ‘clones’, the Elfin Mallala, Elfin 300 and others.

Bert sold the car in the early seventies to Kent Patrick who raced it in various historic events before selling it to Kerry Luckins, well known in motorsport as the General Manager of Paul England Engineering in Melbourne, a Light Car Club stalwart and the ‘on-circuit’ Sandown commentator.

Kerry stripped the car and rebuilt it fully with the assistance of  Jim Shepherd. It is in this period in the earlyish days of historic racing that I remember the Melbourne based car and later when raced by Ian and his son Nick McDonald, the car always looked ‘a million bucks’ and was very fast as the McDonald cars always are.

The car left Australia circa 2000 when sold to Tony Moy of Page and Moy, the specialist UK motor racing travel agency. Forty years had elapsed between the cars departure from and return to the UK- a great pity as the lovely little car had been an enduring and ever-present part of the Oz racing scene and a ‘belle of the ball’ wherever it appeared.

It never looked better than in its yellow phase in Bert Howard’s hands mind you…

Etcetera: David, Graham and Friends…

image

Warwick Farm function during the Tasman, guessing 1964, the year Graham Hill drove McKay’s Brabham BT11A but its a guess only. L>R unknown, McKay, unknown, Geoff Sykes Warwick Farm promoter and manager, GH and Mike Kable, motoring journalist (Warwick Farm)

Bibliography…

‘David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce’ David McKay, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Lola Heritage, oldracingcars.com, Terry Sullivan and Ray Bell on ‘The Roaring Season’, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Photo Credits…

T Watts Collection via Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Geoff Harrisson/oldracephotos.com, John Ellacott, Kevin Drage, Marc Schagen via Aussieroadracing, J Fullarton, MK1220, Bruce Wells/The Roaring Season

Tailpiece: David McKay at Catalina Park, Blue Mountains, NSW, Lola Mk1 Climax, date unknown, beautiful isn’t it…

image

(M Schagen)

 

(B D’Olivo)

Jim Hall and his Chaparral 2G Chev look surreal juxtaposed against the Mojave Desert, Stardust GP, Las Vegas in November 1967…

Other worldly really, which of course they were. Like so many of us outside North America i missed the Can Am but have always been fascinated by it. One of THE great racing categories ever with some marvellous circuits, Bridghampton for me the most photogenic and Las Vegas the least. But not this monochrome, sundown shot by Bob D’Olivo which has a magic, eerie, feel to it. Hall failed to finish the race won by John Surtees’ Lola T70 Mk3B Chev.

Wings were well and truly a Chaparral paradigm by then, it wasn’t until 1968 they appeared in Grand Prix racing.

image

Chap 2G Chev, Road America pitlane September 1967. Jim Hall, Q7 and 4th in the race won by Denny Hulme’s McLaren M6A Chev. First race of the ’67 Can Am. The Papaya McLaren era is underway (D Friedman)

I wonder if the demonstrable pace of the winged 2F’s throughout Europe in 1967, campaigning in the World Manufacturers Championship effectively forced other designers to look at an area of aerodynamics they didn’t understand? That is, they could be ignored in the US as some sort of big car Can Am aberration, but the monthly sight of the things on ‘your own doorstep’ performing so well, if somewhat unreliably, forced a closer look. Check out my 2F article;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/22/chaparral-2f-chev/

And so it was that wings flourished unfettered in F1 during 1968. And were then reigned back in after CSI dictates over the 1969 Monaco GP weekend in response to some appalling engineering, make that under-engineering of said wing support structures.

image

Series of body and aero shots of the Chap 2G at Road America (D Friedman)

Innovation is such an interesting thing. I mean that literally. Stuff being different to an existing paradigm makes it interesting because of its difference. Same, same, is boring doncha reckon?

We don’t get a lot of innovation in most of our motor racing classes these days, be it single-seaters, sportscars, or ‘taxis’. The rules either mitigate against it or mandate conformity of approach. Not least in F1. Often such rule changes or evolution has occurred to ‘contain costs’ and ‘ensure the drivers can compete on equal terms’. Who says that the latter is a good idea other than in the most junior of formulae where history tells us that uniformity of core package has worked well.

image

Jim Hall, Road America, September ’67 (D Friedman)

The funny thing about Jim Hall, Chaparral and innovation is that the powers that be were happy to allow their creativity to run free whilst the cars weren’t race winners. But when they were, or appeared to be, with the 1970 2J ‘Sucker’ it was legislated out of existence. So, in that sense we can be thankful that Jim, Hap, and Phil didn’t win more races or perhaps these wonderful cars may have been restricted by the intervention of vested interests of the paradigm much earlier!

God bless the innovators though, we need some. Now. And rules that allow differences of approach. Times are more complex than the sixties though. My polemic on F1 a while back supported innovation amongst other changes but how can it be afforded?

https://primotipo.com/2017/08/31/halos-are-a-brilliant-f1-idea-so-too-is-to-get-rid-of-those-dangerous-open-exposed-wheels/

image

Chap 2G looks as modern as tomorrow- as a reference point one needs to look at its sportscar and single-seater peers. Road Am ’67. Aluminium monocoque 2C based chassis. Engine aluminium 427 cid Chev 90 degree, pushrod OHV injected V8, circa 525 bhp @ 6000 rpm. Chaparral/GM 3 speed ‘automatic’ transaxle, circa 780 kg (D Friedman)

Jim’s wings, automatic gearboxes and fibreglass monocoques were relatively simple (but very clever) whereas innovation now, will probably involve ‘power units’ of massive complexity and cost akin to the current ones used in the highly restricted and complex F1. Which means major manufacture involvement and resultant ‘winners and losers’, ‘haves and have nots’ in terms of the approaches which are successful and those which are dogs. Teams ability to afford such equipment is an issue with potential impacts on grid size.

But that’s probably a good thing, smaller more interesting grids of different looking and sounding cars has to be preferable to the highly contrived, boring sameness we see now?

Anyway, here is to innovators, god bless em…

image

Exquisite detail wherever you look, 2G cockpit, Road Am ’67 (D Friedman)

Photo Credits…

Bob D’Olivo, Dave Friedman

Tailpiece: Truly wild in profile, Chaparral 2G Chev, Road America, 3 September 1967…

image

(D Friedman)

 

Gary Knutson and Jerry Mallett with their Lotus 11 Climax at the ‘Garden of The Gods’, Colorado Springs, Colorado circa 1959…

Knutson went on to become one of the ’main men’ during the McLaren ‘Papaya Period’ after doing stints with Traco and Chaparral, but here he is posing with his later business partner and their new car just acquired from Jim Hall.

Its amazing how you find stuff such as this wonderful photograph. I was trying to find the correct spelling of Gary’s surname which I always get wrong- off to Google. Click away. Bingo! The trouble is the photo is on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, the most content rich motorsport website on the planet. I can never deal with a new thread on TNF in less than an hour.

Tyler Alexander and Gary Knutson tend to their charge in the Bridghampton paddock, 1968. Bruce waits patiently. Both M8A’s had engine dramas this race- Bruce ran a bearing and Denny’s chucked a rod. Mark Donohue won in Roger Penske’s M6B Chev (P Lyons)

Contributions to this thread of TNF include bits by Wally Willmott, Howden Ganley, Jerry Entin and others. Here are some snippets, its not a comprehensive article about Knutson but a pot-pourri of bits and bobs plus a link to a fantastic, detailed article in Hot Rod magazine on development of the Big Block Chev ZL1 V8- Knutson was up to his armpits in that project of course.

The connection to Jim Hall was via Jims brother Chuck who was going to the University of Colorado, at Boulder, as was Knutson. Gary prepared Chuck’s Corvette with which he was third in class at Pikes Peak in 1958.

Knutson and Mallett shortly thereafter saw a sportscar race in Phoenix and were hooked- they then approached Jim via Chuck to buy the 1.5 litre Coventry Climax powered Lotus 11 Le Mans Series 2.

Bruce McLaren and Robin Herd’s superb, simple monocoque M6A Chev- the ’67 Can Am Champ. ’67 engines developed on Al Bartz’ dyno in Van Nuys, Cal by Knutson as McLaren then did not have a dyno- look closely on the rocker cover and you can see the Bartz tag in addition to the McLaren Flower Power one! Cast iron Chev 350, four-bolt main bearing caps, 2.02 /1.60 inch intake/exhaust valves with 4 Weber 48IDA carbs 525 bhp @ 7600 rpm. An additional 25 bhp was gained with the adoption of Lucas fuel injection- Knutson used Traco throttle bodies on a Mickey Thomson cross-ram intake manifold intended for Webers. Also used was a Corvette Rochester fuel injection distributor to drive the metering unit and a Vertex magneto instead of a distributor. McLaren was reported disappointed with the power gain but the improved throttle response and driveability was significant with the M6A’s winning 5 of the 6 rounds and Bruce the championship from Denny (unattributed)

Knutson, born in 1937 lived in Colorado Springs where his mother was a teacher and father a photographer. His mechanical interest started with Soapbox Derby devices, a Maytag washing machine motor powered trike and Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engines, then ‘Whizzer’ ‘bike engines and soon an Ardun flat-head Ford V8 engine which went into a 1932 ‘5 window’ Ford which was ‘dragged’ and hill-climbed. Gary won a dirt hillclimb event in the car aged 16 at Georgetown.

Mallett recalls ‘When we ran the Lotus 11, both of us worked two jobs each to pay for the thing, but we would roll out of Colorado Springs on Friday night at about 7 pm and drive all night to Salt Lake City, Utah, New Mexico or Texas. The first race was in Dallas, Texas and after the all night drive, a shower and a cup of coffee, we really thought we were in the big leagues. Around 8 am a trailer showed up with four Ferraris. It was a long day’.

1967 Chev 350 McLaren engine detail at Road America. Note the Traco throttle bodies and Mickey Thomson magnesium manifold referred to above. Below is the Vertex maggy and roller-rocker valve gear- by whom I wonder? (D Friedman)

Knutson worked for Chaparral in the early days when the Chap 2 was first built and the team comprised Jim Hall and Hap Sharp, chief mechanic Franz Weis, ace fabricator Troy Rogers, with Gary as the engine man. At Traco Engineering before commencing McLaren’s in-house Chevy engine program, he worked on a ‘Who’s Who of all branches of motor racing engines doing 14 hour days with Wally Willmott, with Gary having oversight of the Ford Quad Cam Indy to McLaren F1 engine project.

The in-house CanAm project started with the ’67 McLaren Chev 350 cid engines which produced about 525 bhp @ 7600 rpm on Webers, before Knutson adapted Lucas fuel injection…

At this point, click on this link to a wonderful article in ‘Hot Rod’ magazine about the development of the McLaren Chev aluminium, big block ‘Rat Motors’ in which Knutson was the major player, it’s a beauty;

http://www.hotrod.com/articles/unlimited-rat-motor-racing/

1968 7 litre Chev ally LT1 ‘Rat Motor’. Development work initially done with cast iron block and the new L88 ally heads till the blocks became available. 4.25 inch standard bore and 3.76 inch stroke with Moldex steel crank, Cloyes roller timing chains, cam by Vince Piggins group at Chev R&D. Production solid lifters, Forgedtrue pistons and Carillo rods. Dry sump pumps by Weaver and magnesium dry sump pans by Chev R&D. The L88 heads had 2.19/1.84 inch intake/exhaust valves with the ports enlarged and re-shaped. Crane aluminium roller-rockers. Magnesium intake manifolds had a 2.9 inch bore for each cylinder with a fuel injector into each of the curved and tuned length steel velocity stacks. Intakes were modified Crower with MacKay making the intakes, Lucas metering unit, Vetex magneto and tach drives from magnesium. That lot generated  a real 650 bhp @ 7600 rpm with McLaren quoting 620 in-period . In ’68 the M8A won 4 of the 6 rounds and Denny the title. McLarens won every round of the series (HotRod)

Bibliography…

The Nostalgia Forum, classicscars.com

Photo Credits…

Gary Knutson Collection, Pete Lyons, Dave Friedman Archive, hotrod.com

Tailpiece: Moss, Hulme and Knutson astride another McLaren mechanic, McLaren M6A Chev, Road America 1967…

Stirling Moss is interviewing the winner Denny Hulme whilst Knutson looks pleased that his engine has won first time out. Road Am the first ’67 Can Am round on 3 September. Donohue and Surtees were 2nd/3rd in Lola T70 Mk3B’s with Bruce #4 below out with an oil leak on lap 6 (D Friedman)

Finito…

 

image

(SLWA)

Lionel Ayers and Stuart Kostera shake hands after Ayers’ victory in the 35 lap Wanneroo Park, West Australian round of the Australian Sportscar Championship (ASC) on 12 August 1973…

Lionel’s car is a real weapon, a Rennmax, ‘the Big Bertha’ of all of the sportscars built by Bob Britton, powered by a Repco ‘740 Series’ SOHC Lucas injected, 5 litre 500 BHP V8. Stuart raced a Matich SR3 Ford into third place behind Henry Michell who was second in an Elfin 360 Repco 2.5 V8.

Both Ayers and Kostera were ‘sportscar stalwarts’, they raced two-seaters for a decade and more and all over Australia- not easy as Ayers was a Brisbane boy with Stuart from Perth.

A majority of the motor racing in Australia is in the Eastern Seaboard states of Victoria and New South Wales so these blokes would have done a million miles over the years travelling from home base to chase the Tourist Trophy or ASC. As the name suggests the ASC was a national series, the distance from Brisbane to Perth and return for Ayers was about 8600 Km for example!

image

Lionel Ayers tips his MRC Lotus 23B Ford into The Viaduct at Longford in 1968. What a shot! (oldracephotos.com/DKeep)

Ayers cut his racing teeth in an MG TC and then progressed into single-seaters such as the Cooper MG and Lotus 20 Ford before racing the first of three Rennmax Engineering built sportscars over the next decade.

The first was the MRC Lotus 23B Ford in which he contested the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy at Longford. Later came the MRC Mk2 Repco, the last the Rennmax Repco which used the Repco ‘740 Series’ 5 litre V8 and Hewland DG300 ‘box from the MRC Mk2.

MRC ‘Motor Racing Components’ was Ayers company, which prepared the cars and part assembled them in Brisbane but the three cars were Rennmax built. Lionel was a pharmacist but he was also a pretty handy engineer.

image

John Harvey and Phil Moore, Wanneroo Park 18 August 1972. Howie Sangster won the ASC round at Wanneroo that year in a McLaren LT170 Chev- this car an amalgam of Lola T70 chassis and McLaren bits (SLWA)

Star of the sportscar ranks at the dawn of the seventies, post the sixties ‘Matich Decade’ was John Harvey in Bob Jane’s superb McLaren M6B Repco.

You could liken Harves to an Australian Mario Andretti in some ways, he was a champion in Speedway Midgets before hitting the circuits and was soon into single-seaters after an initial season in a Cooper S.

The shame is that he wasn’t in 2.5 litre Tasman cars earlier, that he never did a full Tasman Series (only the Oz rounds) and in the F5000 era Bob Jane popped the Bowin P8 to one side way too early. Sponsor, Castrol wanted Bob to run ‘taxis’, so it was tourers and sports sedans the team raced- and in which John excelled.

Harvey won the ASC title at a canter in 1971 and 1972, the car only raced sporadically after that as the team focussed on Touring Cars/Sports Sedans. Bob of course still owns it.

image

John Harvey in the Symmons Plains paddock, McLaren M6B ‘740 Series’ Repco V8, November 1972. He won the title in ’72 and that round. Love the juxtaposition of the 1967/8 ‘futuristic’ racer with the (mainly) Holden ‘roadies’ in the background (E French)

The South Australian ‘Elfin 360 Repco twins’, Phil Moore and Henry Michell won the ASC in 1973 and 1974 in two different chassis’.

Garrie Cooper built two very clever cars there (three 360’s were built, the other for Bob Romano was Ford twin-cam powered). In essence they comprised spaceframe chassis sporties built of single-seater F2 Elfin 600E hardware into which he dropped (surplus to requirements with the advent of F5000) ex-Tasman Repco Brabham 2.5 litre V8’s and FT200 Hewland gearboxes. In so doing, he created two light, chuckable, circa 300bhp little rockets which were driven with considerable skill and brio.

image

Phil Moore Elfin 360 Repco and Stuart Kostera, Matich SR3 Ford in the Wanneroo Park formup area August 1971. Pinocchios is Howie’s club (SLWA)

In 1973 Moore won the ASC convincingly taking four rounds, Phillip Island, Sandown, Symmons Plains and Oran Park, the latter a night meeting. I would love to have seen those cars, lights ablaze in the dark. Lionel won at Wanneroo and Adelaide International.

The photo below is at the Sandown round in July and shows Phil diving down the inside of  Lionel’s Rennmax at Torana/Peters Corner before the blast up the back straight where I suspect 5 litres of Repco V8 triumphed over 2.5 litres of it! Phil won the round mind you.

image

(Aust M Racing Year)

The following year, 1974, Ayers again won two of four rounds, at Adelaide and Calder with Henry Michell taking the title in a year of speed and consistency.

Garrie Cooper took the other two wins in ’74 in his new, epoch shifting, Elfin MS7 Repco Holden. This one off car was a mix of monocoque chassis and bibs and bobs from his F5000 MR6 parts book including uprights, wheels, suspension and brake componentry, Repco Holden 500bhp V8 and of course the ubiquitous DG300 Hewland transaxle.

The car (below) was a crowd and sponsor pleaser, you can just make out the Ansett logo against the bare aluminium body on the nose of the MS7 which is making its race debut at Adelaide International, just down the road from Edwardstown, where the car was built.

Its 25 August 1974, Ayers won the two ASCC rounds before the Elfin raced, Garrie won the other two at Phillip Island and Symmons Plains. In an unfortunate turn of events Lionel broke both of his arms in a low speed motorcycle accident after the first two rounds of the series, perhaps missing out on a title it would have been wonderful to see him win- mainstay of sporties as he had been.

image

(G Cooper Elfin MS7 Repco Holden from Stan Keen, Boral Ford, August 1974 (R Davies)

He promptly retired from the sport and sold the Rennmax but remaining close to the scene. A decade ago he did a brilliant job restoring the Mildren Waggott ‘Yellow Submarine’ made famous by Kevin Bartlett and Frank Gardner. He died in 2013 but his memory lives on in that wonderful car retained and used by his family.

The Rennmax did achieve a national title though- after Lionel sold it.

It passed through Melbourne’s Jim Phillips hands, he raced the car for a few years and then sold it to the ‘Racing Gibsons’ in Benalla. There, at Winton in 1979, with yours truly watching the race, I was contesting the Formula Vee support races that weekend, Paul Gibson won the Australian Tourist Trophy- from none other than Stuart Kostera in the Elfin MS7 Repco Holden. The presentation of the Australian Tourist Trophy to Paul was a very proud moment for father ‘Hoot’ Gibson, a racer himself who raised a family of racers!

image

Stuart Kostera’s Matich SR3A Ford looking as ugly as sin. Wanneroo Park 9 June 1975 (SLWA)

Kostera cut his racing teeth in sedans but progressed through an Elfin Catalina Ford to the Matich SR3- this famous car was ex-Matich and Don O’Sullivan- who finished 2nd in the 1969 ASSC in it behind Matich’s famous SR4 Repco.

Stuart continually developed the car, 5 litre Ford, not Repco ‘620 Series’ 4.4 V8 powered as it had originally been to the stage that it won the West Australian Sportscar Championship in 1975 having finished second in 1972 and 1974. At national (ASC) level he was 9th in 1972 and 1973, 12th in 1974, and 5th in the single race ASC at Phillip Island in 1975, the winner Cooper’s MS7.

Stuart Kostera, Matich SR3A Ford Wanneroo Park 1976 (SLWA)

He bought the MS7 Repco Holden from Garrie Cooper, running it as a quasi-works machine, the car mainly based at the Elfin works in Edwardstown, Adelaide rather than Stuart’s hometown of Perth.

Kostera’s first big win in the car was at Phillip Island twelve months after Coopers MS7 victory in the one race 1975 Australian Sports Car Championship. Kostera won the 1976 Australian Tourist Trophy at the same fast, demanding circuit tailor made for powerful devices such as the Elfin.

Kostera was a talented driver, I saw him race both the SR3 and MS7 at most of the Victorian circuits on numerous occasions, he always got the best from these big, demanding cars. The Elfin drive ended after Garrie Cooper’s demise in 1982.

Lionel Ayers, Lakeside, MRC Mk2 Repco Brabham V8 circa 1970 (unattributed)

All of the cars mentioned in this article still exist, the MRC Lotus 23, MRC Mk2 Repco, McLaren M6B, Elfin 360’s, Elfin MS7 and Matich SR3.

The Rennmax has been in Jim Phillip’s ownership (back to him post the Gibsons period of ownership) for decades, and will hopefully one day see the light of day outside the outer east of Melbourne garage where it resides. So too do the two 360’s mind you one of those has been in a garage not too far from the Rennmax for about the same time period!

 Etcetera…

Matich SR3 ‘3’ Ford

This ex-Don O’Sullivan/Frank Matich car evolved, as cars do over time. Attached are a few shots of the battle Stuart Kostera fought to keep the chassis which defeated Chris Amons Ferrari P4/Can Am 350 during the 1968 Tasman Series sportscar races competitive against more modern designs. The story of the SR3’s and a comprehensive chassis list of all the Matich built cars is in this article on the Matich SR4;

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

image

Stuart Kostera Matich SR3 Ford, Wanneroo Park 18 August 1972. Body of the SR3 not too from the car as built albeit guards modified to take much wider tyres than those of 1967/8 (SLWA)

Credits…

State Library of Western Australia, Terry Walkers Place, Ellis French, Robert Davies, Australian Motor Racing Year

Tailpiece: Phil and Stuart, ready to roll, ASC Wanneroo August 1972…

image

Phil Moore and Stuart Kostera in the Wanneroo Park form up area in 1972. Elfin 360 Repco and Matich SR3 Ford. Howie Sangster won the ’72 Wanneroo ASC round that year, McLaren LT170 Chev from Kostera and Moore (SLWA)

.

image

(Nissan)

The victorious Nissan/Datsun R380-3 of Kunimutsu Takahashi and Yoshikayo Sunago during the 2 November 1969 Surfers Paradise Six-Hour enduro…

Unfortunately this event had ‘run out of puff’ by 1969, the entry was decidedly skinny but that shouldn’t diminish Datsun’s achievement in winning and placing second in cars the original variant of which were built by Prince prior to its acquisition by Nissan in 1966.

David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce had a mortgage on this race or rather his Ferrari 250 LM ‘6321’ did. It won three times on the trot with Jackie Stewart and Andy Buchanan aboard in 1966, Bill Brown and Greg Cusack in 1967 and the brothers Geoghegan, Leo and Pete in 1968.

The first two events were of 12 hours duration, the latter two, ’68/9  six hours. Into 1970 the Twelve Hour was run for Series Production or Group E ‘showroom stock’ sedans, this class of racing was booming in Australia at the time and much easier for the punters to understand than sports prototypes.

The Y Nanda and K Okuyama Datsun 1000, winner of the under 1 litre class of the 1958 Mobilgas Around Australia Trail. First competition win for the marque in Australia (L Richards)

Datsun (the Datsun name was dropped in favour of Nissan in March 1986) very cleverly used motor racing to build their brand in Australia. The Melbourne based Datsun Racing Team ran cars in Series Production touring car events, Rallies and Production Sportscar racing with Doug Whiteford their name driver, a former thrice winner of the Australian Grand Prix, no less.

Whilst Datsun’s prominence in Australia dates from the-mid sixties it is reported that some of its Austin 7 like products were imported to Australia in completely-knocked-down form circa 1937. I am intrigued to hear from old cars folks who have ever tripped over one of these, which truly would be as rare as hens teeth. In 1958 a Datsun 1000 also won the under 1000cc class of the Mobilgas Around Australia Trial won outright by Eddie (father of Larry) Perkins VW Beetle.

image

Prince factory brochure which shows the R380 in its original form (Nissan)

Its interesting to reflect back on the growth of Japanese cars in the Australian market in the sixties given the dominance which followed.

It was entirely product driven as their was some animosity, particularly by those of a certain age, towards the products of both ‘The Japs’ and ‘The Krauts’ given the war was only twenty years before. Everybody had relatives who died in theatres of war in which the folks of the above countries fought. Let alone the atrocities committed.

It very quickly became clear just what great cars they were- the Mazda 1500, Toyota Corolla and Datsun 1600 to name three. All were vastly superior, than the British equivalents. I was a small Ford guy at University, my car was a Mk 2 Cortina GT. A mate and I useter wreck Mk1’s- they were a popular student car at the time so we pulled ’em to bits and advertised the clobber on the Monash University Union noticeboard.

Lots of my Uni mates had Datsun 1200’s 160o’s and Corolla’s all with heaps of miles on them. I drove them and considered them vastly superior to the small Fords or the Morris 1100/1500, Austin 1800, poverty level Holden Torana’s and the like. The first Honda Civic, circa 1972, was a revelation, I couldn’t believe how good it was compared to the competitor set.

So, it was no surprise why, at the price point, prejudices were put to one side by our parents a decade before as they bailed out of BMC, VW, Holden and Ford products into stuff made in the Land of The Rising Sun.

Datsun 240Z and Japanese model at the Melbourne International Motor Show on 5 March 1971 (L Richards)

They were put together rather well, some had a flash overhead camshaft, let alone rear ends (sometimes) using other than cart springs and had carpets and car radios as standard equipment for chrissakes!

By the time Datsun raced in the 1969 ‘Chevron Paradise 6 Hour’ the brand was well known in Australia. Amongst enthusiasts Datsun went up two gears in perception with the release of the 240Z in 1969. Ok, it owed a nod or three to the E Type but what a stunning car it was. Never did quite buy one but drove several and was amazed at how good for how little they were.

The first R380 was borne of Prince’s failure to win the 1964 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka with its modified S54 Prince Skyline GT. A Porsche 904 took the win, Prince did come first in the Touring Car class however.

To go one better in 1965 engineering head Shinichiro Sakurai resolved to build a sports-prototype.

Given no-one in the company had any experience of this type of car a used Brabham BT8 open sportscar was acquired which enabled the team to unlock Ron Tauranac’s secrets and reverse engineer them.

A multi-tubular spaceframe chassis was constructed and curvaceous aluminium coupe body, a Hewland 5 speed transaxle was a key component and a bespoke racing engine built.

The ‘GR-8’ six cylinder, DOHC, 4 valve engine was an oversquare aluminium design with a bore and stroke of 82X63mm giving a capacity of 1996cc. Fed by three 42DCOE Webers the unit produced 200 bhp @ 8000 rpm.

Brakes were Girling, the car weighed a relatively hefty 615 Kg.

See below at the end of the article a Nissan factory table with detailed specifications of the design as it evolved from 1965-1969.

image

Prince R380 cockpit, spaceframe chassis. See steering rack beyond drivers feet, LH change for 5 speed Hewland transaxle not the ‘norm’ (Nissan)

The first R380, as the car was designated, was finished in October 1965, in time for the 1965 Japanese GP but the event was cancelled!

Undeterred, all dressed up but with nowhere to go, Prince chased speed records.

The car, driven by Yukio Sugita, a Prince test driver, at the Yatabe Test Track on 6 October 1965 took several Japanese records in Class E over distances of 50, 100 and 200 Km at 233.33, 234.69 and 234.93 km/h.

image

Yukio Sugita at speed, Prince R380 at Yatabe test track, 6 October 1965 (Nissan)

Prince was absorbed into Nissan in 1966, the new parent was delighted to inherit the cars and its team and put to one side a similar racing project in its early planning stages.

Nissan upon taking over the project modified the cars bodywork to be ‘more flowing’ with vents and ducts also refined. Some extra power, a bit more than 200 bhp, was extracted from the engine. This car, designated the R380A-2 ‘Type 1’ weighed 660 Kg compared with the 615 of the original.

image

Line up of Prince R380 before the 1966 Japan GP in May. Fuji Speedway, 65 Km e west of Yokohama. #11 is winner Yoshikazu Sunako (Nissan)

Porsche returned with one Carrera 906 to the 1966 Japanese GP at Fuji.

Despite the R380 being heavier and less powerful than the 220 bhp German car the team of four modified R380A-2’s triumphed taking first and second places, the winning car, #11 above, was driven by Yoshikazu Sunako.

image

1966 Japan GP vista, uncertain of the driver of this R380, car still badged Prince at this stage (Nissan)

Nissan further modified the cars in time for the 1967 season…

 Modifications included changes to the track which was widened front and rear. The engines power was increased from a bit over 200 bhp to 220 bhp @ 8500 rpm in part by fitment of bigger, 45 DCOE Weber carbs.

image

’66 Japan GP, driver unknown R380 (Nissan)

ZF gearboxes replaced the Hewland transaxles which were designed for sprint, rather than endurance use. Whilst the wheel size remained at 15 inches, wheel widths widened and tyre widths, in keeping with tyre development at the time, increased by 20 mm at the rear.

One of the Nissan R380’s ahead of the Tetzu Ikuzawa Porsche 906. Keen students of F3 and F2 may recall Tetzu’s competitiveness in Europe in the late sixties in these classes  (Nissan)

Despite these upgrades in specification of the cars, now designated R380A-2 Type 2, Porsche took their revenge in 1967, with Japanese driver Tetsu Ikuzawa (above) winning the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji  in one of three 906′ entered. The R380A-2’s placed 2nd/3rd/4th/6th.

image

Nissan R380-2 during the Yatabe speed records in October 1967. Wonderful shot showing beautifully braced spaceframe chassis, Weber 45DCOE fed, DOHC 4 valve 2 litre engine and, by then ZF transaxle. Suspension conventional single upper link, inverted lower wishbone and two forward facing radius rods, coil spring/shocks and adjustable roll bar (Nissan)

image

(Nissan)

In that October further land speed records (above) were set with the cars, this time both Japanese and International records.

The earlier land speed record attempts in 1965 whilst setting Japanese records were not International marks as the Yatabe course was not FIA approved.

Two years later the course was duly certified and Nissan again went record hunting on 8 October 1967, this time T Yokoyama of the Nissan Racing Team was the driver.

Seven new International records were set with speeds between 250.98 km/h for the 1 Hour to 256.09 km/h for 50 Km.

image

Moto Kitano aboard the winning 1968 Japan GP winning Nissan R381. Chev 5460 cc pushrod OHV V8, Weber 48 IDA carbs circa 450 bhp @ 6000 rpm. Hewland LG600 gearbox, spaceframe chassis (Nissan)

For 1968 Nissan developed the R381 open Group 7 sportscar (powered by a Chev 5.5 litre 450 bhp V8) which won the 1968 Japanese Grand Prix in the hands of Moto Kitano, #20 above. But development also continued on the R380, creating the R380-3 Type 3.

Changes to the car involved longer and further evolved, heavier body work. Despite changing to fibreglass from a mix of aluminium and fibreglass the cars now weighed 660 Kg, up from the 640 of the year before.

The engine now produced 245 bhp @ 8400 in part due to the adoption of ubiquitous Lucas fuel injection in place of the faithful Webers. Tyre widths also, of course, grew.

By this stage some of the R380’s were in the hands of privateers as Nissan focused on their more powerful cars. Three were entered in the 1968 Japanese Grand prix yielding 3rd/4th/5th places.

image

(Nissan)

Nissan developed the R382 as its frontline tool for 1969, a sensational 6 litre V12, 600 bhp open Group 7 sportscar, which again won the Japanese Grand Prix, the driver this time, Moto Kurosawa with H Kitano second.

These amazing cars (R381 and R382) are stories for another time, the photos are a tease!

Oh for them to have raced in the Can Am in the respective years! Timing is everything, and the timing in a corporate sense was not right even it was from an enthusiasts perspective.

image

Nissan 1969 R382: spaceframe chassis, ‘GRX-3’ 5954cc DOHC Lucas injected V12, circa 600 bhp (Nissan)

The two cars, entered for the 1969 Surfers 6 Hour were Nissan Motor Co works entries designated R380-3.

The bodies were a little longer than the year before at 4210 mm compared with 4080 mm. The car was 20 Kg heavier, now 680 Kg and 5 bhp more powerful, so a total of 250 bhp @ 8400.

In that sense the cars brought to Australia were the ‘ultimate’ R380 specification. It would be interesting to know what became of them.

The winning car crewed by Takahashi/Sunago completed 257 laps from the 2nd placed sister car of Moto Kitano and Motoharu Kurosawa on 253 and then the Brisbane Lotus Elan of Glynn Scott/Joe Camilleri/Ann Thompson on 236 laps. The Lotus 47 crewed by Sydney drivers Bob Beasley and Brian Davies was 4th with 233 laps. Not to forget the 5th placed Datsun Racing Team Datsun 2000 of Doug Whiteford/John Roxburgh/Barry Tapsall, 231 laps.

The R380’s raced on into 1969 and 1970 taking 2nd in the ’69 Fuji 1000 Km and 2nd in the 1970 Fuji 200 mile event.

Interesting cars aren’t they and as occasionally happens, a topic I tripped over looking for something else.

Etcetera…

Prince/Nissan R380 Specifications 1965-69..

image

(Nissan)

Prince R380 press release above and below in 1965 (Nissan)

(Nissan)

Bibliography…

nissan-global.com, rffrfrnzclub.net, japanesenostalgiacar.com, earlydatsun.com

Photo Credits…

Nissan Motor Co, Laurie Richards Studio

Tailpiece: T Yokoyama setting records in October 1967 at Yatabe, Nissan R380-2…