Posts Tagged ‘1966 Australian Tourist Trophy’

AH AMS Mar 66 a

Alan Hamilton aboard the first of many ‘serious’ Porsches’ he raced in Australia down the decades, the ex-works 904/8  ‘Kanguruh’ chassis # 906-007 at Calder in January 1966…

Norman Hamilton famously negotiated a franchise for Porsche in Australia having been ’rounded up’ by one of the earliest 356’s on a drive through the Swiss Alps. The business quickly prospered from its Melbourne base, this article is about the ‘906’s raced by Norman’s son Alan from the mid sixties to early seventies and his career during that period.

He raced three such cars; 904/8 chassis # ‘906-007′ and two 906 Spyders; one during 1967 and another in 1971/2, the latter cars used chassis’ supplied by Porsche but neither had a chassis number, giving more than one historian a headache or two…

Alan Hamilton was born on 29 July 1942. After attending Camberwell High School in Melbourne’s leafy eastern suburbs he joined the family firm, which was to expand hugely over the ensuing decades under his leadership. A competition licence quickly succeeeded his road licence at 18, initial competition exploits were in a VW contesting trials and gymkhanas. A 1958 Porsche 356 Super followed, he competed at country meetings and hillclimbs, the car in standard form. A 1959 Convertible followed which was also successful.

In early 1965 Hamilton headed for Europe including a stint working in the Porsche factory, the 904/8 Bergspyder was purchased during that trip and shipped to Australia for the 1966 season, clearly a step up in performance for the young driver…

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Majestic shot of a fabulous road racing circuit, ‘Long Bridge’ Longford Tasman Meeting 1967. Bob Jane leads Noel Hurd in Elfin 400 Repco and Elfin 400 Ford respectively. Hamiltons 2 litre Porsche 906 outgunned at this point by the 4.4 and 5 litre Elfins. (oldracephotos.com/Harrisson)

Porsche 906…

The  906 was produced for the 1966 World Championship of Makes. It was designed for the FIA’s Group 4 regulations, whilst modified variants of the car, using larger engines and/or cut-down Spyder bodywork, were entered in Group 6, the  Sports Prototype category.

The 906 became the last street-legal ‘pure’ racer built by Porsche. It replaced the successful ladder frame chassis’ 904 and was the first substantial product of Technical Director Ferdinand Piech’s new team at Zuffenhausen. The Porsche 904 had additional structural rigidity from its bonded-on fiberglass bodywork, the new 906 featured a modern multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, with an unstressed fibreglass body.

The initial batch of 50 Porsche 906/Carrera 6 Coupes offered light weight, circa 1,300 lb (580 kg) a saving of around 250 lb (113 kg) compared to the similarly-engined 904/6.

The Porsche 901/20 6-cylinder lightweight racing engine was standard equipment, offering circa 220bhp on Weber carburetors.

A handful of factory-entered works cars were powered either by fuel-injected versions of the 6 cylinder engine, or the flat-8 derived from Porsche’s F1 program, both engines air cooled of course.

906 chassis

Porsche 906 Coupe Cutaway; multi-tubular space frame chassis, front suspension; wishbones and coil spring/dampers, rear; inverted lower wishbone, single top link, radius rods and coil spring/dampers. Adjustable bars front and rear. Rack and pinion steering. 6 cylinder SOHC 2 valve engine on carbs, 220bhp, 5 speed Porsche’box with synchros, steel wheels, disc brakes. (Inomoto)

The 906 shape was developed in the wind tunnel, a top speed of 170mph the result at Le Mans, amazing for a 2 litre car.

The cars made their international race debut in the 1966 Daytona 24 Hours, 6th overall and beating the Ferrari Dino 206 in the 2 litre class, the car driven by Hans Herrmann/Herbert Linge. At Sebring, Herrmann won the class again in a Carrera 6, this time co-driving with Gerhard Mitter and Joe Buzzetta, and finished 4th overall.

The Monza 1,000kms was dominated by 906s in the 2-litre class, this time with Herrmann/Mitter in a works entry leading home the customer car of Charles Vogele/Jo Siffert, these two cars placing 4th and 5th overall behind the victorious Ferrari 330P3 and a pair of Ford GT40s.

At the Targa Florio the 906 won outright, Willy Mairesse/Herbert Muller co-drove the Swiss Ecurie Filipinetti car.

The 1966 Le Mans works, prototype Porsche 906LE Coupes finished in 4th-7th places behind the leading trio of 7-litre factory Ford GT Mark IIs, outlasting all of the V12 engined sports-prototype Ferrari P3/4s, while the 2-litre Sports class was again dominated by a standard 906.

The Austrian 500kms event at Zeltweg saw Gerhard Mitter/Hans Herrmann and Jo Siffert (driving solo) finishing 1-2.

In 1967 the 906 continued to be campaigned by prominent private entrants and drivers, while the factory team moved on to race larger-engined 907’s on the relentless climb to development of the outright contender which finally won Le Mans for Porsche in 1970, the immortal 917.

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The Colin Davis/ Porsche 904/8 ‘906-007’ on the way to 2nd place during Targa 1965. The radical cutaway of the body at the front to reduce overhangs on narrow hillclimbs clear in this shot. (Martha)

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Jo Bonnier inserts himself into 904/8 ‘906-007’ during practice, both he and Graham Hill tried the car but elected to race a 904/8 Coupe #174, you can just see the nose of the car, with Hill at the wheel beside the Carabinieri. Car # 94 behind Bonnier is the #94 Pucci/Klass 904GTS. Porsche bought 7 cars to the event, all but 2 ‘T Cars’ started. (Martha)

The Porsche 904/8…

The 904 based ‘Bergspyders’ played an important test role in the evolution of the 904 to 906, the first appearance of these cars was at the Targa Florio on May 9 1965.

All 904’s came from the factory with 2 litre engines; 4, 8 and 6 cylinders. Generally the ‘4 potters’ had ‘904’ chassis numbers, 6 cylinder cars ‘906’ chassis numbers. It was no rule though, the first prototype chassis ‘904-001’ had a 6 cylinder engine, the 8 cylinder coupes had ‘904’ chassis numbers whilst the 8 cylinder Spyders had ‘906’ chassis numbers. Easy really!

Porsche built 5 ‘904/8’ cars for factory use; chassis ‘906-003’, ‘004’, ‘007’, ‘008’ and ‘009’. To be clear, whilst the chassis had ‘906’ descriptor numbers the cars used 904 ladder frames, not the 906 spaceframe chassis.

All 904/8’s had 2 litre flat 8 engines; the Type 771 1962cc engine was derived from the 1962 804 F1 car and produced about 225bhp, fed by Weber carbs.

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A couple of fabulous stationary shots of 904/8 ‘906-007’ at Targa 1965. #72 is the Alfa TZ1 of Panepinto/Parla DNF. (Martha)

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And back…by far the better angle! (Martha)

The cars were made in two body variants. Chassis ‘003’, ‘004’ and ‘009’ had the ‘normal’ Spyder look of a Porsche of the period, the other two cars ‘007’ and ‘008’ were more ‘visually challenging’, that is ugly! The overhangs were shortened a lot for hillclimbing purposes.

‘Bergspyder’ as a name was a misnomer as the cars were raced as well as ‘climbed, they were nicknamed ‘Kanguruh’ (kangaroo) because of the nature of the cars roadholding, the lightweight cars with their firm suspension jumped about on poor roads.

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The Porsche team arrive at Targa, May 1965. Cars are 904GTS Coupes and the Spyder, 904/8 ‘906-007’chassis driven by Davis/Mitter. (PorscheAG)

Hamiltons 904/8 car chassis ‘906-007’ was first raced at Targa 1965, it finished 2nd in the hands of Cliff Davis/Gerhard Mitter behind the winning Ferrari P2 of local lad Nino Vaccarella and Lorenzo Bandini.

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Carabinieri taking an interest in the 2nd placed 904/8. # 94 is the works 904GTS of Pucci/Klass 5th, #106 is the Lancia Flaminia of Raimondo/Lo Jacono, which finished but was unclassified. Privateers the lifeblood of Targa! (Martha)

Gerhard Mitter then used the car to win the 1965 Rossfeld Hillclimb, a 6Km course near Berchtesgaden on 13 June, next placed Herbie Muller was 5 seconds adrift in a standard Porsche 904GTS.

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Mitter on the startline of Rossfeld, Germany 1965. Win for 904/8 ‘906-007’. (unattributed)

Further success followed at the Norisring, near Nurnberg, Mitter raced ‘906-007’ to victory on July 4 1965 leading home 2 Elva BMW’s. The car was then unraced, the last appearance of a 904/8 was in August, in factory hands, Porsche thereafter focussing on production of the new 906.

Alan Hamilton spotted the car in a corner of the racing department…

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Car #2 Mitter at the Norisring, victorious in the 904/8 again. Car #3 is a Lotus 23 driven by Anton Fischhaber, #5 Chris Williams’ Lotus BMW. (unattributed)

Porsche 904/8 ‘906-007’ in Australia…

Interviewed by Journalist Barry Lake, Hamilton said the 904/8 ‘originally had a 2 litre 8-cylinder engine, but I bought it with a new 906 (6 cylinder) engine I had asked them to install. I imported that at the end of 1965 and raced it through 1966.’

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Alan Hamilton in his Porsche 904 ‘906-007’ in one of its earliest appearances in Australia, at the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy, Longford in March 1966. Alongside is Spencer Martin’s Ferrari 250LM and on the far side Frank Matich, in the victorious Elfin 400/Traco Olds. Hamilton was 2nd, Martin 3rd. (Ellis French)

The car was first raced in Australia at Calder, Victoria on 16 January 1966, which is probably when the Autosportsman cover shot used at the start of this article was taken. The car then raced at the Sandown round of the Tasman Series, contesting the sports car events.

Taken across Bass Strait on ‘the Princess of Tasmania’ with the rest of the ‘Tasman Circus’ to contest the Australian Tourist Trophy at Longford, Hamilton was 2nd in the race won by the much more powerful Elfin 400 Traco Olds V8 of Frank Matich.

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Alan Hamilton navigating Surfers Paradise traffic during the 1966 12 Hour. Porsche 904 ‘906-007’. Car #5 the ex-Moss/Stillwell Cooper Monaco Olds of Osborne/Carter/Gibbs. (David Blanch)

The 904 quickly became one of the fastest sportscars in the country, 4th in the 1966 Surfers Paradise 12 Hour with a 2 litre car a top result. Alan shared the 904 with Melbourne driver Brian ‘Brique’ Reed. Jackie Stewart and Andy Buchanan won the race in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM. I wrote an article about this Ferrari a while back, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2014/07/03/pete-geoghegan-ferrari-250lm-6321-bathurst-easter-68/

The Hamilton 904 combination were also first in the 1966 Australian Hillclimb Championship at Collingrove, South Australia, the Victorian Sports Car Championship at Sandown and the South Australian Sports Car Championship at the Mallala ex-airfield circuit.

Towards the end of 1966 the Porsche workshop in St Kilda, Melbourne started to transfer the mechanicals of the ‘Kanguruh’ 904/8 ‘906-007’ to a new 906 chassis.

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Longford March 1966, 2nd in the Australian Tourist Trophy. 904 ‘906-007’. (oldracephotos.com/King)

Alan Hamilton ‘Later (that is after the 904/8 was in Australia) I imported a new 906 chassis and body and put the mechanicals of the Targa car in that’.

‘Then Jim Abbot bought the Targa car (chassis 904/8 906-007) and fitted a ZF gearbox and 289 Ford V8 engine. His estate or perhaps Jim himself shortly before he died, sold the car to Murray Bingham in this form and it became the Bingham Cobra.’

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Alan Hamilton ‘fairly hooting through here, scary to watch’ in the view of the photographer. Templestowe Hillclimb, outer Melbourne 1966. 904 ‘906-007’. (onelung)

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Another shot of Hamilton in the 904 at Templestowe Hillclimb, 11 September 1966, he broke the climb record on the day. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

Hamilton; ‘Years later, Pat Burke bought the car and sent it to Germany where it was restored to its original 904/8 Targa Florio specification. After Pat Burke fell on hard times it was auctioned at Monte Carlo. I think a man in Sydney bought it, but I have no idea who has it now.’

Lets go back a step to the acquisition of the chassis and related parts by Jim Abbott.

Abbott was a driver, owner of Lakeland Hillclimb in outer Melbourne, publisher of motor racing monthly ‘Autosportsman’ magazine and promoter of an annual Motor Racing Show in Melbourne.

In 1966, 1980 World Champion, Alan Jones was trying to establish a foothold on the motor racing ladder in the UK, wheeling and dealing in cars and campers to provide the money to do so. He acquired an ex-works Sunbeam Tiger and knowing Abbott had an interest in such cars sold it to him. The car was raced and ‘climbed’ by Jim and engineer Paul England before Abbott decided it would make a nicer road car than a racer. He swapped the Shelby modded 289cid V8 for a standard engine and looked around for a chassis into which to plonk his nice, powerful Ford Windsor ‘small block’ V8.

Various Coopers were considered before a deal was done with Hamilton to acquire the Kanguruh 904/8 ‘906-007’.

A suitable ex-Cooper Maserati F1 ZF 5DS 25 transaxle was also acquired. The engine and box (the latter requiring some modification in terms of clutch componentry by Eddie Thomas) was ‘dropped’ into the Porsche chassis at Hamilton’s St Kilda workshop.

A little ‘cutting and shutting’ of the chassis cross-member was needed to fit the V8, a sub-frame was added around the engine to maintain chassis stiffness, but in essence the swap was relatively simple.  Stiffer springs and shocks were fitted as the Ford cast iron lump was around 200lbs heavier than the svelte, alloy Porsche Flat 6. Driveshafts were suitably strengthened by Paul England Engineering.

The original rear bodywork was used but at the front, much bashed and repaired a local specialist fashioned a nose much more attractive than the original, the screen, a concoction of a speedboat parts, met at each end with aluminium panels was not quite so pretty.

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Jim Abbott in 904 ‘906-007’ now called a ‘Porsche Cobra’ in deference to the 289cid Ford engine installed. This shot is probably at Lakeland in outer Melbourne, a venue owned by Abbott. Front of the much bashed and repaired body re-worked. (Autosportsman)

butt shot

Fairly scratchy shot shows the ZF 5DS 25 beefy gearbox if not the engine. Chassis other than minor mods to fit the engine, as built by Porsche. Front and rear suspension sold with the car by Hamilton to Abbott also standard. (Autosportsman)

Abbott’s objective was not to build an outright car but rather a very fast sports car which could be ‘raced, sprinted and climbed’. The completed car made is debut at the Light Car Club of Australia’s annual members meeting at Sandown on Melbourne Cup Day in November 1967, ‘Red Handed’ won the ‘Cup at Flemington that day!, more importantly Abbott set a sub-13 second standing quarter mile at Sandown, also, primarily a horse racing venue.

The car was quickly under the times set by the class record holder, a Cooper Jaguar at Templestowe Hillclimb and was running 4th in the ‘Winton Trophy’ at the picturesque Benalla country Victorian circuit when the car lost its water. Initial troubles centred around the cooling system, which were solved by fully rebuilding it.

AH Abbott PC Templestowe

Jim Abbott, ‘Porsche Cobra’ 904/8 ‘906-007’, Lakeland Hillclimb 1967. These are scratchy shots but included for the sake of completeness. Abbott looks huge in the cars cockpit. Screen is from a boat. (Autosportsman)

AH Abbott PC lakeland

Jim Abbott, Porsche Cobra 904/8 ‘906-007’, Lakeland Hillclimb 1967, 2 years before victorious at the much more grand, Rossfeld, Germany hillclimb. (Autosportsman)

Abbott did not campaign the car for long before his untimely death, it was then sold to New South Wales veteran driver, Tom Sulman who raced it in 1969.

Tom Sulman in the Porsche Cobra at Huntley Hillclimb, NSW on 1 June 1969 (T Arts)

Murray Bingham then bought 904/8 ‘906-007’ and used it very successfully for over 10 years, the old chassis won the Australian Hillclimb Championship again in 1972, a three round Series that year. (Hamilton won the ’66 title in it at Collingrove).

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Murray Bingham in 904/8 ‘906-007’ then known as the ‘Bingham Chev’ in, probably, 1972 at Collingrove, Angaston, SA. Check out the downforce being sought front and rear. (John Lemm)

A ‘Manx’ body replaced the original and the Ford Cobra engine was updated with an ex-Garry Campbell, Alan Smith built Chev F5000 engine out of a Lola T300, Bingham won the 1973 NSW Hillclimb Championship in Chev engined form, the 1971/2 NSW Titles Ford Cobra engined.

The much raced car finally passed into the hands of Pat Burke who restored it before it was sold upon the demise of his business empire in the 1980’s as described by Alan Hamilton earlier in the article.

I am uncertain of the cars current owner.

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Murray Bingham in 904/8 ‘906-007’ in its hillclimbing years, King Edward Park, Newcastle, NSW. Car known as ‘Bingham Cobra’ and ‘Bingham Chev’ when fitted with Ford 289 and Chev F5000 engines respectively. ‘Manx’ body (unattributed)

Hamilton’s first Porsche 906 Spyder…

AH Autosportsman June 67

Australian Autosportsman June 1967 cover depicts the Alan Hamilton Porsche 906 Spyder at Longford in 1967. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

Hamilton’s new 906 chassis came with bodywork, suspension and brakes.

904/8 ‘906-007’ donated its engine and gearbox and some other components, as the narrative and photos show, the 904/8 ‘906-007’car was still as built by Porsche less the engine and ‘box. Alan is a big, tall bloke so elected to build the 906 up as a Spyder rather than a standard 906 Coupe in order to ease access and egress and more easily see out of the car.

At this point we have 2 cars;

The 904/8 chassis car # ‘906-007’, now called ‘Porsche Cobra’ and fitted with a Ford engine and ZF gearbox.

A 906 which was not issued a chassis number by Porsche but which over the years assumed the # ‘906-007’ tag, which was built up as a Spyder but which when restored in Germany in 2003-2009, was rebuilt as a Coupe. This chassis now has a chassis ‘906-007’ plate, at what point the plate was affixed is conjecture.

Both cars have elements of the original 904/8 ‘906-007’…

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Another majestic Longford shot. Hamilton Porsche 906 Spyder 1967. (oldracephotos.com/King)

Back in 1966 none of these problems for future historians mattered to Hamilton, he had a new ‘state of the art’ 906 to contest Australian events.

As the recent article i wrote on the Frank Matich Elfin 400/Traco Olds makes clear, the light 6 cylinder engined Porsche was ‘up against it’ with several very potent, light, well driven V8 powered cars in the hands of Frank Matich, Niel Allen and Bob Jane in 1967. (Matich SR3 Repco, Elfin 400 Chev and Elfin 400 Repco respectively).

The Porsche Team competed the build of the 906, the original 904 chassis ‘906-007’ was put out the back of their St Kilda workshop until acquired by Jim Abbott later in 1967.

The 906 Spyder made its debut in the sports car events at Sandown’s Tasman round in late February 1967. Hamilton took 3 class wins and a class lap record.

To Longford the following weekend the car was third outright. The following week, still in Tasmania, Hamilton raced the car at Symmons Plains, he won his first race and was leading the ‘Tasmanian Sports Car Championship’ event when a conrod let go. Hamilton noted in his ‘Autosportsman’ column that the engine had ‘done 14 months racing, 92 hours so we are more than happy with its overall performance’, Porsche reliability legendary.

In April Hamilton contested the ‘Victorian Sportscar Championship’ winning his heat and finishing second outright and first in class, he also bagged the class lap record.

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The Hamilton 906 in the Warwick farm paddock, May 1967. Note the ‘chin wing’ and pretty front of the car. (WOT)

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Sensational Bruce Wells shot of Hamilton contesting the ‘RAC Trophy’ at Warwick Farm in May 1967, here in ‘The Esses’. Sans the wings in the paddock shot. Porsche 906 Spyder. (Bruce Wells/The Roaring Season)

On 14 May Hamilton contested the ‘RAC Trophy’ at Warwick Farm, he finished 3rd behind two powerful V8’s. The dominant Matich SR3 of Frank Matich was getting in some valuable mileage before leaving to contest the Can Am Series in this car, and Bob Jane’s Elfin 400 which, like the SR3, was powered by Repco’s new ‘620 Series’ SOHC, 2 valve, 4.4 litre V8.

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Warwick Farm 906 ‘butt shot’, May 1967. (WOT)

A week after the ‘RAC Trophy’ Hamilton contested the ‘Australian Tourist Trophy’ at Surfers Paradise. This was a relatively easy tow from Sydney to Queensland’s Gold Coast and gave Hamilton valuable testing time at Surfers to fettle the car to suit the circuit for the international 12 Hour event in September.

Matich won again in his SR3 Repco, but Alan was 2nd in the 906 and his 12 Hour co-driver Glynn Scott 3rd in his Lotus 23B Ford. The other two outright sportscar contenders of that year, Niel Allen and Bob Jane’s Elfin 400’s did not make the trip North.

Success followed in Victorian events at Calder and at Hume Weir on the Queens Birthday weekend,  before taking the long haul back to Surfers Paradise for the 12 Hour event on the 3 September weekend .

hume weir

Alan Hamilton awaits the rest of the grid at Hume Weir in 1967. Great little circuit built in a quarry created when land fill was excavated to create the Hume Weir Dam. Porsche 906 Spyder. Top shot shows the lines of this car superbly. (unattributed)

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Hume Weir, Queens Birthday weekend 1967. AH on pole in his 906, #6 is ‘Gold Star’ reigning national champion, Spencer Martin having his first drive of Bob Jane’s Elfin 400 Repco  and the nose of Bevan Gibson’s Lotus 15 Climax FPF. (The Nostalgia Forum)

Hamilton’s co-driver at Surfers was Queenslands’ Glynn Scott, the duo finished 3rd outright and 1st in class. The race was won again by the SV Ferrari 250LM, that year driven by the Australian duo of Bill Brown and Greg Cusack, Paul Hawkins and Jackie Epstein were 2nd in Epstein’s Lola T70 Mk3 Chev.

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Alan Hamilton very fast ‘out of the blocks’ at the start of the ’67 Surfers 12 Hour in the #9 906. #1 is the 2nd placed Lola T70 Mk3 Chev, with Paul Hawkins at the wheel, the winning Ferrari 250LM is alongside Hawkins. The Lotus Elan is probably the McArthur brothers car, the Datsun 1600 #29 the ‘works’ 1600 of Tapsall/Woelders DNF and the Volvo P1800S driven by Keran/Bond/Winkless 10th. (unattributed)

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Hamilton corners the 906 at ‘Lukeys’ during the Surfers 12 Hour. (Peter Baldwin)

Another long tow to Mallala, South Australia was rewarded with victory in the ‘South Australian TT’.

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Hamilton on the Collingrove Hillclimb startline in April 1967. He set a track record of 35.60 seconds in the 906 at this meeting. (John Lemm)

John Blanden noted the versatility of the car and driver, the 906 contested hillclimbs, still pretty important and sometimes televised, the car taking FTD at Templestowe in Melbourne’s outer east and 2nd in the Australian Hillclimb Championship at Bathurst in November behind Greg Cusack’s Tasman 2.5 litre Repco powered Brabham BT23.

A successful year was capped with a win at Lakeland Hillclimb in the Dandenong Ranges, outer Melbourne in December.

Alan had a win at Lakeland Hillclimb close to home in December 1967 (G Fry)

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The Roxburgh/Whiteford Datsun 1600 ahead of the Cusack/Brown Ferrari 250LM and Hamilton/Scott Porsche 906 Spyder. Surfers 12 Hour 1967.(Ray Bell)

The 906 was advertised for sale in the November 1967 issue of ‘Racing Car News’, the car according to John Blanden having reached its Customs Duty limits. This taxation concession allowed Tasman Series competitors, for example, to avoid import duty by ‘exporting’ the cars each year to New Zealand. If exceeded, that is the car stayed in Australia for longer than 12 months, the ‘fiscal fiend’, the taxman, had to be paid.

The car was sold to Richard Wong in Singapore and passed through many hands including Macao businessman/racer/team owner Teddy Yip. As mentioned earlier in this article Hamilton’s first 906 was ultimately restored as a Coupe having been only raced by Hamilton as a Spyder…

Alan Hamilton, Porsche 906, Symmons Plains 1967 (HRCCT)

European Trip in 1968…

Hamilton spent most of 1968 overseas much of it working at Porsche, he did manage to fit in the Nurburgring 1000Km, racing a 911S to 28th place with co driver/car owner Hans-Dieter Blatzheim. The race was won by a factory Porsche 908 driven by Jo Siffert and Vic Elford.

Planning an all out assault on the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship, Hamilton ordered a trick 911T/R, the car arrived early enough to compete in the 1968 ATCC, the last run to a one race format. Pete Geoghegan won the title again in his Mustang, Hamilton in the giant killing 2 litre 911 lost 2nd place on the last lap due to a puncture, Darrell King’s Morris Cooper S just beat him to the Warwick Farm chequered flag.

Porsche still had some spare 906 chassis’ lying around the factory, one was offered to Alan who was happy to oblige, he still had plenty of bits from the earlier cars so could easily build up another car for competition back in Oz.

This 906, like the previous chassis he raced in ’67 did not have a chassis number.

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Hamilton has his 911T/R in a beautifully balanced 4-wheel drift during his run to 3rd place in the one race Australian Touring Car Championship at Warwick Farm in September 1968. A flat tyre cost him 2nd on the last lap. Pete Geoghegan won the title in his Ford Mustang. This car left Oz many years ago.(autopics.com.au)

In the 1969 ATCC he came very close to taking the title with consistent second places, ultimately the title was won by Pete Geoghegan by 1 point, in his Mustang, the 5th win in the event for the beefy, supremely talented Sydneysider.

The battle went down to the wire in the final round at Symmons Plains.

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Alan Hamilton exiting Clubhouse Corner at Mallala on 16 June 1969 during the ‘South Australian Touring Car Championship’, round 3 of the ATCC in 1969. AH was  2nd behind Pete Geoghegan, the first of 4 2nd places he achieved that year, the 2 litre 911T/R did not quite have the ‘Mumbo’ to knock off the big Mustang. (Dick Simpson)

In the middle of his ATCC campaign Hamilton was recruited by ‘Big Al’ Turner to drive a factory Ford Falcon XW GTHO Phase1 in the Bathurst 500 together with 500 debutant Allan Moffat that October.

Moffat was in good form having won the preceding Sandown 500 in his big Falcon. Still a young driver, Turner was keen to exploit Hamilton’s speed, smoothness and mechanical sympathy. It was the start of a relationship between the drivers which would be mutually beneficial over the next decade.

1969 was the famous Bathurst when tyres imported by Turner failed spectacularly, Moffat was called into the pits for a precautionary check after the tyres on the Brothers Geoghegan and Gibson/Seton cars failed. The Moffat/Hamilton duo were easier on the Goodyears than their teammates, the pitstop unnecessary and probably the cause of the pre-race favourite Falcons losing victory. The Holden Dealer Team Holden Monaro HG GTS350 of Colin Bond and Tony Roberts won the race.

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Moffat/Hamilton Ford Falcon GTHO, Bathurst 1969. (autopics)

In 1970 Alan didn’t contest the ATCC but the second Hamilton 906 was assembled. The car had a standard 906 ‘front clip’ but, like the earlier 904/8 ‘906-007’ and 906 was a Spyder, the rear deck modified locally with pronounced ‘spoilers’ to provide some downforce. No wing though.

Minilite wheels replaced the factory steels of the earlier cars, the car was ready for the 1971 Australian Sportscar Championship powered by a 2.4 litre twin plug engine assembled locally from Alan’s cache of trick, Porsche bits.

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Hamilton in his second 906 at Warwick Farm on 2 May 1971. The standard 906 front, Minilite wheels and modified rear deck are all clear. Like his earlier 906 this chassis was not allocated a number by the factory. (lyntonh)

Hamilton’s second 906 Spyder…

1971 was to be a big year of racing for Hamilton. In amongst the rapid growth of Porsche Cars Australia, a strong economy and global growth in the Porsche brand reflected in strong sales in Australia, Hamilton took the big step up to Australia’s premier single-seater class, F5000.

He purchased Niel Allen’s spare McLaren M10B Chev (#400-19) upon Allen’s retirement from the sport. (Ignoring Allen’s short flirtation with a Lola T300 12 months later). Kevin Bartlett bought Niel’s other M10B (#400-02), all these years later Hamilton owns both McLarens, they are being historic raced by Alf Costanzo. In the seventies and eighties Alfie was Hamilton’s driver in a swag of F5000 and F Pacific cars in which the little Italian born Aussie was prodigiously fast. A tangent too far for this long article!

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AH in his McLaren M10 B Chev, F5000, Oran Park June 1971. (lyntonh)

Hamilton missed the 1971 Tasman Rounds but both he and Bartlett had their cars ready for a full Gold Star campaign. Despite being a novice in these big, brutal, challenging cars Hamilton was immediately competitive taking 3rd places at Oran Park, Surfers Paradise and Mallala.

He was 4th at Lakeside, finishing the Series equal second with Bartlett in his M10B. Winner of the Series was the speedy and consistent Max Stewart in his Mildren Waggott 2 litre in a final Championship victory for this superb Australian 4 cylinder DOHC 4 valve engine. Stewart progressed to an Elfin MR5 Repco at the end of the Series and was consistently competitive in the big cars for the rest of his career.

hamo wf mac

Alan Hamilton cornering his McLaren 911 style at Warwick Farm 1971, date unknown. Car is chassis ‘400-19’, Niel Allen’s spare built up by Peter Molloy and sold, together with his race chassis ‘400-02’ to Alan Hamilton and Keven Bartlett respectively. Full monocoque aluminium chassis, 500bhp fuel injected 5 litre Chev engine, Hewland DG300 gearbox…much more powerful than a Porsche 906! (unattributed)

The Porsche Cars Australia transporter did plenty of miles from its St Kilda base in 1971 in pursuit of two national championships and the vast distances across the big Australian continent that entails.

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In the best of company during the 1971 AGP at Warwick Farm. John Surtees from Hamilton, Colin Bond and Graeme Lawrence. Surtees TS8 Chev, McLaren M10B Chev, McLaren M10C Repco and Brabham BT30 Ford. (lyntonh)

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Side on view of Hamilton’s 906 in 1971, here at the RAC Trophy meeting at Warwick Farm, ‘Northern Crossing’ in May 1971. (lyntonh)

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Butt shot of the car, same day as above, the neat upswept tail providing downforce but also not too much drag given the little 2.4 litre flat-6 propelling it all…(lyntonh)

In 1971 Hamiltons 2.4 litre twin-plug Porsche 906 was as out-powered as the earlier cars were in 1966 and 1967.

The fastest combination in the field was John Harvey in Bob Jane’s McLaren M6 Repco, a 5 litre SOHC ‘740 Series’ V8 producing around 460bhp@7500rpm. Best results for the 906 were 3rd’s at Phillip Island in January and Warwick Farm in May.

Whilst outgunned on the track, the nimble 906 was just the thing at Hillclimbs, Hamilton had a passion for these events and at Easter took fastest time of the day on 10 April, a track record and the Australian Title, his second win, the first in the 904/8 also at Collingrove in 1966. The Angaston Hills were alive to the sound of flat 6 music…

hammo collingrive

Alan Hamilton launches his Porsche 906 off the line at Collingrove, Angaston in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. Easter 1971. Hammo set a track record of 33 seconds dead at this meeting. (fredeuce)

At the end of the year Hamilton sold the McLaren to Pat Burke (later the restorer of the 904/8 ‘906-007’) for his driver Warwick Brown, the M10B an important stepping stone for the talented driver on his climb towards the top of the class in both Australasia and the US.

This M10B chassis was then used as the donor car for Bryan Thomson’s ‘Volksrolet’ VW Fastback Sports Sedan project, before being restored, around the original tub, which had never been destroyed, many years later, by Alan Hamilton as mentioned above.

hamilton lola 79

A lap or so from disaster, Dandenong Road corner. AGP Sandown 1978. AH was running a comfortable 2nd in his Lola T430 Chev, behind race winner Graham McRae McRae GM3 Chev when he lost the car across The Causeway section of the old circuit, at high speed hitting Dunlop Bridge and hurting himself very badly. Fortunately he survived, the car was carved in half, destroyed. In the last 5 years it has been reconstructed by the ‘NZ F5000 Industry’ around the cars remains which comprised ‘half its vinyl Lola nose badge’…(G Howard ‘History of The AGP’)

Hamilton returned to F5000 in 1978, that campaign ended in near tragedy at Sandown when he crashed his ex-Team VDS Warwick Brown Lola T430 Chev at the high speed Dunlop Bridge, the car was destroyed, carved in half, Alan lucky to survive, he became a diabetic as a consequence and has been unable to hold a full licence since.

Not that it stopped him winning 2 Australian Hillclimb Championships in 1981 at Ararat and 1989 at Gippsland Park, both in Victoria in Porsche Spl and Lola T8750 Buick respectively. He was lucky to survive the Sandown accident and was a significant patron to other drivers, notably Costanzo post prang.

In 1972 Hamilton continued to campaign the 906, John Harvey won the title again in the Bob Jane McLaren M6 Repco with Hamilton second in the title, 20 points adrift of Harvey with 2nds at Phillip Island, Adelaide International, Warwick Farm and Surfers Paradise.

The Championship had a bit of a renaissance that year with some new cars appearing, notably the Elfin 360’s of Phil Moore and Henry Michell, also the Rennmax of Doug Macarthur all powered by ex-Tasman Series 2.5 litre V8 Repco engines now surplus to requirements with F5000 as the new ANF1.

hammo sports sedan

Victory lap, Sports Sedan race at Oran Park May 1972. Alan Hamilton #9, Jim MkKeown in 911’s, Pat Peck in a Holden Torana GTR XU1 and Bill Brown #7 in another 911. (lyntonh)

Alan also raced a Porsche 911S sports sedan during this period but the 906 racing days were over. The car was rebuilt as Coupe in the 1980’s by the Porsche workshop in Melbourne. It appeared occasionally, notably at a couple of Adelaide Grand Prix historic demonstrations, the car finally sold by Hamilton in the 1990 via auction to a Japanese owner.

porker

Hamiltons second 906, originally raced as a Spyder in 1971/72 now restored and rebodied as a Coupe and pictured here at Sandown in 1985. Restoration done in the Melbourne/Dandenong Porsche Cars Australia workshops. (Historic Racing Cars in Australia)

Hamilton raced on in a variety of cars and became a very generous team owner after his own front line racing days ceased post accident, he is still active in the historic scene and lives on a property at Red Hill on Melbourne, Victorias’ Mornington Peninsula.

Etcetera…

AH Autosportsman Apr 67 BP ad

Australian Autosportsman April 1967

904/8 ‘906-007’.

pits

Refuelling 904/8 of Davis/ Mitter, Targa 1965. (Bernard Cahier)

engine

Type 771 flat-8, 2 valve, DOHC, Weber carbed engine a development of Porsche’s 61/2′ F1 program. Circa 225bhp. (unattributed)

suspension

904/8 rear suspension and engine. Upper and lower wishbones, coil spring/dampers, radius rods. Disc brake, fuel tank all clear to see. 904 chassis of ladder frame type. (unattributed)

Bibliography…

‘Historic racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, The Nostalgia Forum, Australian Autosportsman Magazine March 1966 and April 1967

Stephen Dalton for his research and access to his archive/collection

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com, ‘onelung’, Bernard Cahier, lyntonh, G Howard ‘History of The AGP’, autopics.com, Dick Simpson, Bruce Wells, The Roaring Season, freduece, Ray Bell, David Blanch, Ellis French, John Lemm, Peter Baldwin, Jean Charles Martha, Yoshihiro Inomoto, Gavin Fry, Tony Arts, Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania

Finito...

 

allen and matich bathurst 1969

(oldracephotos.com/Dick Simpson)

Niel Allen’s Elfin 400 Chev ‘BB662’ leads Frank Matich’s hi-winged Matich SR4 Repco and Bevan Gibson’s ill-fated Elfin 400 Repco, Easter Bathurst 1969…

There are so many historic elements to Dick Simpson’s wonderful shot of the three cars in ‘The Dipper’ on lap 1 of the Sunday feature race.

Allen is in Frank’s old car, the first Elfin 400/Traco Olds ‘BB662’, Matich’s 5 litre quad-cam Repco ‘RB760’ engined car slaughtered the opposition in 1969. It was intended for the 1968 Can Am but was completed too late, its high wings will be shortly outlawed as all such appendages were over the 1969 Monaco GP weekend…and tragically Bevan died during this race, a victim of circumstances and the aero of the 400 which was not, with the knowledge of the time, ‘fully resolved’.

I have not written an article about one of our ‘Racers Retreat’ Peter Brennan’s restorations for a while, this article features his ex-Frank Matich Elfin 400/ Traco Olds ‘BB662’ Sports Car.

I had almost finished it a few weeks ago and then the tragic news of Frank Matich’s death on May 11 came through.

With the assistance of his former colleagues at the time, Bruce Richardson and Geoff Smedley i have been able to fill in some gaps and i think portray an objective account of the Elfin 400’s design and construction, which has been somewhat contentious down the decades.

This article is dedicated to this incredibly talented racer, constructor and businessman. Truly a great Australian. Frank Matich.

autosportsman mag matich

‘Auto Sportsman’ cover July 1966 depicts Frank Matich ‘Australian Tourist Trophy’ win at Longford in February. Elfin 400/Traco Olds ‘BB662’.

Historic Context…

It’s interesting to look at the explosion of motor racing post war as the vestiges of conflict faded away and people started to live their lives again and indulge in their passions.

Consumer credit became more available, manufacturers introduced new models of cars and of course wanted to extol their virtues and promote their brands via motor racing.

In the US, sports car racing was the focus of road racing at the time, single seater racing being mainly the province of speedways. The Europeans slugged it out with local specials powered by increasingly larger capacity V8’s. Ferrari and Maserati built cars such as the 340 America and 450S as cars like the Allard Cadillacs, their 6 litre engines providing stiff competition to the D Types, 300S Masers’ and Monza Ferraris’ the latter three began to dominate based on numbers alone.

A ‘game changer’ was the introduction of the small block Chev V8 introduced into 1955 model cars. The engine was 100 pounds lighter than any other production V8 at the time and compact. Lance Reventlow exploited its virtues in his Scarabs in 1958.

The Cooper Monaco and Lotus 19, mid-engined cars powered by the Coventry Climax FPF brought a level of subtlety to the fields but it wasn’t long before the small block Chev, Ford ‘Windsor’ V8 introduced in 1962 and the F85 aluminium Oldsmobile engines found their way into the backs of the Coopers and Loti. These ‘small and big block’ modern V8’s established a new paradigm globally for sportscar racing, they won everything up to and including Le Mans.

The focus of the European and English racing car manufacturers was the US market where there was much money to be made supplying this strong sportscar scene which launched the careers of Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney and Richie Ginther into Europe in the ’50’s.

In Australia the bigger racing budgets were devoted to single seaters although we had a smattering of Jag C and D Types’, 300S, Lotus 11’s and 15’s all of which could double up in events like the Australian Grand Prix which was run to Formula Libre until 1961.

In the early 60’s Frank Matich and Bib Stillwell slugged it out in both single seaters and sportscars; Stillwell in a Cooper Monaco I wrote about a while back and Frank Matich in a Lotus 19 and later, after the earlier car was destroyed in a Warwick Farm testing accident, a Lotus 19B. Both cars were Coventry Climax powered. (Stillwells Cooper was fitted with an ex-Scarab Traco Buick engine later)

‘Cranky Franky’ was an awesome competitor and engineer, his later self built cars were of world class and won Australian Sportscar and Gold Star (Single Seater) Championships.

In 1962 Matich raced Elfin Clubman, Formula Junior and 1.5 litre cars as a factory driver, in fact he ‘cut his single seater teeth’ with Elfin and was appointed the firms NSW Agent. Elfin is the South Australian company created by Garrie Cooper in 1958, it evolved from his fathers body-building business and became Australia’s largest and most successful producer of racing cars, building over 350 cars and winning dozens of Championships until well after Coopers death in April 1982

The modest, understated Cooper, a titan of Australian Motor Racing was to play a key role in Matich’s next championship winning sportscar.

19b wf

FM cutting the grass in the Lotus 19B Climax, Homestead Corner, Warwick Farm. This car was extensively and continually developed by Matich and his team and had some Brabham components; wheels and brakes at the end of its life which occurred at Lakeside in 1965. Chassis number unknown, car taken to Elfin and used as a reference for the 400 design, car last seen atop a workshop at Elfins many years ago…destiny unknown. (John Ellacott)

Destruction of Lotus 19B Climax…

Matich had success in his Lotus 19’s, winning the Australian Tourist Trophy in the 19B at Longford in 1964. He was the favourite to win the title at Lakeside in 1965, but the competition was to be stiffer than the year before with no less a driver than Ken Miles competing in a factory Cobra a long way from home.

Frank decided to contest a sports car event during the Lakeside Gold Star Meeting in July as his final preparation for the ATT  in November.

Matich was out in practice when he lost it behind the pits, the throttle of the car stuck open, he crashed the car  through the fence at around 120 miles per hour badly damaging it and giving Matich second degree burns to his hands and back.

cranky

Frank Matich pictured later in his career at Wigram, NZ. Tasman Series 1973. The car is his self built F5000 Matich A50 Repco, and here he is typically deep in thought pondering the setup changes he needs. He was 4th, the race won by his Kiwi rival in the constructor/driver stakes, Graham McRae in his McRae GM1 Chev. (Shane Lee)

The result was that Total, the French Oil Company and Matich’s sponsor, withdrew their support, the local distribution company had recently been taken over by Boral in Australia.

Ray Bell ‘They (Total) had been looking to Frank to win the Gold Star in the Brabham and continue blitzing the field in the 19B, but he was now out of racing for some time and they bailed right out of their deal with him’.

Laurie O’Neil was a wealthy Sydney businessman who had the franchise for Peterbilt Trucks, he had and would for many years own cars others raced, he was a sponsor of the Lotus 19B and would support Matich in a new car.

chassis and engine

The Matich 400 ‘BB662’ coming together at Elfins, Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown. Side pontoons, Traco Olds 4.5 litre F85 engine and Hewland HD5 gearbox. Key elements of the engine; Engle roller cam, stock rockers but fabricated steel rocker stand or pedestal, JE pistons, Warren machined ‘H Beam’ rods, Moldex steel crank, 4 48 IDA Webers, conventional Delco Remy distributor and coil ignition, Traco inlet manifold, McLaren supplied exhausts; circa 350-365bhp at 6500 rpm. By 1966 the Olds even at 5 litres wasn’t enough to do the job in the ‘States, but in Oz it was more than sufficient, the engine 200 pounds lighter than a 5.4 litre Chev with consequent benefits in terms of running gear, weight transfer etc. (Bob Mills Collection)

Birth of The Elfin 400…

According to Barry Catford in ‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ Garrie Cooper was developing his own ideas for his first ‘big banger’ sports car as he had been approached by an existing customer, Noel Hurd to build a car powered by a Ford 289cid V8.

Cooper visited the UK looking at the latest racers and had commenced the design process of the car according to Noel Hurd who confirmed as such to journalist Ray Bell in August 2002. Still, the somewhat contentious part of this story is the input Matich had into the design of the Elfin 400, which was to be the new cars type designation, as against Cooper himself.

Geoff Smedley was Matich’s engineer at the time and recalled ‘I started to work with Frank after John Youl retired from racing (a world class driver of Cooper Climaxes from Tasmania) and have memories on the birth of the Elfin 400, it was in 1965 after the demise of the 19B at Lakeside. Garrie Cooper came over from Adelaide to Sydney, Frank and i picked him up and we had a long lunch, about half the day. We discussed the layout of the car, the ideas were drawn up on a restaurant serviette incorporating salvageable bits from the Lotus.’

‘At that stage we assumed we would use the Coventry Climax FPF from the Lotus, the decision to go with the Traco was made later. Garrie designed the car using the general layout we discussed and agreed. The final design couldn’t be finalised until we decided what could be used from the 19B. The Hewland HD5 box’ was used and i think the car was set up on the 19 uprights but i am not sure the car ever raced on them.’

‘I spent much time at Elfins’ in Adelaide machining many of the components as Garrie had a lathe but not a machinist which was my core skill. Garrie Cooper was a brilliant man and all the credit must go his way for the 400, it was an Elfin’ Smedley said.

‘Total had kept me on to sort out the sale of all of the bits left over from the Lotus and Brabham race program, but it all got too hard and complex so i left to work on other projects

g cooper ian smith

Lovely portrait of Garrie Cooper taken in the late 1970’s by Ian Smith. The ‘Ansett Team Elfin’ F5000 MR5/6/8/9’s were mainstays of Australian top level single seater racing for the best part of a decade from 1972. Cooper a remarkably successful designer/constructor and fine driver. (Ian Smith)

After Geoff Smedley’s departure, Bruce Richardson was employed to work on the program ‘I worked with FM on the Leaton Motors owned D Type Jag and Lotus 15 from around 1958 and then left to go overseas. I was working for Reg Parnell Racing in Europe at the time Total/Matich were looking for a competitive sportscar and made the introductions on their behalf to UDT Laystall which resulted in the purchase of FM’s first, ex-Moss 19.’

‘When I returned to Australia Laurie O’ Neil had decided to get actively back into motor racing by supporting Frank Matich into another car, which became the Elfin 400. He bought the wreck of the Lotus 19B from the insurers, employed me to look after the car and employed FM on his books as a salesman. early on Frank and i had discussed the various cars we liked at the time including Bruce McLaren’s ‘Zerex Special’ Cooper, all of which was later discussed with Garrie Cooper’

Laurie soon despatched me to Adelaide to pick the 400 up, I had only just got married so off my wife and I went on the long trip from Sydney by road South West. When we arrived in Edwardstown Garrie was surprised to see us, the car was far from finished!’

The Noel Hurd, Globe Engineering owned car was the prototype and given the chassis number ‘BB661′ but was soon relegated to the second built, with the Hurds’ generous consent, to allow the Matich car to be completed first. Frank wanted to contest the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy at Longford in February 1966.

Richardson, ‘I stayed in Adelaide and helped build up the car together with Fulvio Mattiolo, a great bloke and fabricator, John Webb who built the body, Bob Mills and others. To my recollection none of the parts from the 19B were used in the 400.’ (other than the Hewland gearbox as noted above by Geoff Smedley)

‘The engine was a brand new Traco Olds based on the F85 block, Laurie was always bringing in cars from the US so he plonked it in the boot of one of his imports! I had several trips for Laurie to see the Traco guys in Culver City, both Jim Travers and Frank Coon were remarkable people and very professional to deal with’.

‘The engine itself was very good, the problems were inherent with the lightweight block once they developed over about 300BHP. The block distorted quite a lot causing loss of oil pressure. We used Merv Waggott’s dyno in Sydney and had him make some steel sleeves to fit into the block where the cam followers ran which helped the problem. Repco had similar issues with the same block they used in F1, solving them by building their own blocks from the 1967 season.’

‘With time running short, we planned to do the sports car events which were part of the 1966 Tasman Series Australian rounds, especially the Tourist Trophy, at Longford we took the car back to Peterbilts headquarters in Sydney. There the finishing touches were completed including the rear body, John Webb came to Sydney to do that, the exhaust system, painting etc. The car made its race debut at Sandown having been tested at Warwick Farm.’

body

The body of the 400 was hand formed by John Webb in aluminium with a fibreglass female mould taken from the nose section.. (Bob Mills Collection)

Matich related his version of the 400’s design and build in a ‘Vintage Racecar Journal’ article published in August 2002, unfortunately 20 years after Garrie Coopers’ death and therefore ability to respond…

‘Garrie Cooper of Elfin came to see me (after Matich destroyed his Lotus 19B) as he had orders to build a big sports car and had a proposition. They would do the work and build the car to my design if they, with some modification, could apply the design to their own version.  VRJ: So your own car was known as the SR3?

FM: The first car for me was called the Traco Olds. I was a bit embarrassed and didn’t want to call it a Matich…My good pal, Laurie O’Neil, was involved with me and had bought an engine from friends at Traco Engineering in America and we agreed to call the car a Traco. They were flattered but there was a bit of criticism as everyone thought there was some disagreement between Elfin and us. There was no disagreement, but there
was a little problem as BP had an arrangement with Elfin where they used to pay a bonus for every race that an Elfin car won. As a result of that, Elfin wanted me to call the car an Elfin; then they offered me a part of what BP was paying but I wouldn’t agree, so it all became too bloody complex. So from then on I decided to call them Matiches’.

In fact the ‘spin’ by Frank started very early, in an Australian ‘Auto Sportsman’ October 1966 article written by Ray Simpson. The article says ‘ The early stages of construction were carried out with the help of Garrie Cooper at the Elfin works in Adelaide. Completion of the project however took place at the Peterbilt Works in Sydney where Bruce Richardson and Rennmax exponent Bob Britton finalised the design and finished the car’.

The photos in this article clearly show the car being built at Elfins in Adelaide, the account of Geoff Smedley and Bruce Richardson confirm both the design and construction of the car by Cooper/Elfin in Adelaide with only the finishing touches made in Sydney, the bodywork itself completed by Elfin’s John Webb there.

Britton had no role in the design or construction of the 400. He did build the Matich SR3, Franks’ 1967 Repco powered Can Am contender, the chassis of which is ‘as good as a copy’ Elfin 400 according to Bruce Richardson, ‘something Bob Britton and i had a chuckle about in recalling all the fun times, challenges and success we had with Matich at his recent funeral’.

What seems likely is this; That Cooper had started the design of what became the 400 before Matich ‘boofed’ his 19B. That Cooper and Matich met in Sydney, at whose instigation is unclear. That the general conceptual layout of the car was agreed and ‘documented’ on a serviette. That the remains of the Matich 19B  were used as reference points only, no parts of the Lotus other than the Hewland HD5 ‘box were used in the ‘BB662’ build. That Cooper designed the car, which he had commenced, perhaps changing the detail of the design to be consistent with the ‘conceptual serviette layout’ and whatever learnings were to be taken from the very dead but still useful 19B…

The basic dimensions of the car were referenced from, or compared with depending on how far Coopers design had progressed when the Lotus arrived in Adelaide, the 19B. It was critical to both Matich and Cooper that the car was successful from the start.

Peter Brennan, having owned and restored ‘BB662’ 25 years ago comments; ‘…the rear frame is similar to the Lotus, the centre bulkhead is of the Lotus diaphragm type, the 400 uprights are very similar, Elfins perhaps took a pattern from them, the Lotus in standard form didn’t have a Hewland box, the Elfin had cast front uprights, the Lotus Alford and Alder uprights’.

The Lotus was a source of reference as was the ‘conceptual serviette’ but the car is entirely of Elfin detail design and manufacture as Geoff Smedley and Bruce Richardson confirm.

Matichs’ conversations with Cooper about the dynamic attributes and qualities of the car he sought would have been readily understood by Cooper, a champion driver himself. Matich had been racing ‘big sports cars’ for over a decade; C and D Type Jags, Lotus 15 and Lotus 19/19B. He knew what he wanted and what was needed to win. Garrie hadn’t raced a ‘big car’ to that point nor built one.

To say that they collaborated closely on the conceptual design of the car, that the detail design was Coopers’ and the cars construction was by Elfin is an accurate way to describe the design and build elements of the project.

400 chassis

400 space frame was fusion welded square, round and oval mild steel tubing. Lotus type centre diaphragm clear. (Bob Mills Collection)

Garrie Cooper designed a conventional space frame chassis which was fully triangulated and constructed of square, round and oval section tubes. The aluminium undertray and subsidiary bulkheads were stressed to add rigidity to the light structure. His first monocoque Elfin, the very successful Type 100 or ‘Mono’ single seater was winning races at the time and whilst the monocoque Lola GT, Ford GT40 and Lola T70 raced during 1963-5, a good space-frame could still do the job, time was of the essence and the successful Lotus 19B was a spaceframe…

Front suspension comprised upper and lower wishbones, coil springs and Armstong dampers, the uprights are cast magnesium, the roll bars adjustable. At the rear a single top link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and again coil spring damper units using Armstrong shocks was deployed. The sway bar was adjustable.

400 rear peterbilt

Rear shot of the Matich ‘BB662’ Olds in Sydney. Rear chassis diaphragm, Hewland HD5 ‘box, muffled! aluminium Traco Olds engine, inverted lower wishbones, Elfin cast magnesium uprights, driveshafts and adjustable sway bar all clear. Rear tyres 15 inch diameter X 12 inch wide shod with Firestone tyres to whom FM was contracted at the time. L>R Bruce Richardson, Matich, Laurie O’Neil. (John Ellacott)

The rack and pinion steering was Triumph Herald, the offset seating position encouraging Cooper to use this component.

Brakes were discs, 12 inch front and 11 inch rear using Girling BR calipers. Wheels were also of Elfin design and like the uprights were cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Fishermans Bend, Melbourne. They were 4 stud magnesium alloy, 15 inch X 10 inches in diameter at the front and 15 x 12 at the rear…to comply with Australian sports car regs a spare was also carried, mounted under the wrap around perspex windscreen.

The wheel base was 91 inches, track 55 inches, width 68 inches, length 148 inches, height 32inches and weight 1300 pounds.

Four Elfin 400’s were built; ‘BB661’ for Dick Bassett and Noel Hurd , ‘BB662’ for Laurie O’Neill and Frank Matich, ‘BB67-3’ for Bob Jane Racing and ‘BB67-4’ for Andy Buchanan in New Zealand.

All of the cars still exist and have interesting histories. For example, the Bassett car was fitted with a Ford Windsor V8 engine with DOHC heads developed by Globe Engineering for a period. The Bob Jane car was fitted with the first Repco Brabham RB620 racing engine sold to a customer, Brabhams engines all factory supplied as part of Jacks deal with Repco.

400 side rear

Car at Peterbilts’ Alexandria, Sydney base. Elfin 400 Traco Olds, February 1966. Car delivered completed without rear bodywork and all of the exhaust system. Rear body finished and fitted in Sydney by Elfins’ John Webb. Matich in the car, Laurie O’Neil and Bruce Richardson in overalls. (John Ellacott)

‘BB662’ without rear bodyword was taken to Sydney on February 8 1966 for completion and testing prior to the Australian Tourist Trophy which was contested during the Longford Tasman meeting on March 7.

Matich initially raced the car with the bodywork and its distinctive ‘front horns’ containing the headlights in place but these were later removed to attempt to overcome the aerodynamic lift that was characteristic of the car.

400 front peterbilt

Front of ‘BB662’ post painting in Sydney fitted with its controversial and aerodynamically unstable, original ‘front horns’ nose. The aero issues are explored in the text. It looks great, ‘edgy’ for its day but the aero was not ‘fully resolved’. (John Ellacott)

Elfins body-builder John Webb and Bruce Richardson accompanied the car to Sydney, the 400 being race ready to compete in the sportscar events at the 27 February Sandown Park, Victoria, Tasman meeting where it was immediately competitive. The body was completed the car pounding around ‘Franks Backyard’, Warwick Farm in Sydneys’ west before heading south to Melbourne and then across Bass Strait for the fabulous Longford meeting.

The ‘Racing Car News’ report of the ‘Elfin Traco Olds’ Sandown debut explains that the 365bhp car was barely slower than the 2.5 litre Tasman single-seaters. Matich won the race comfortably at a canter from Alan Hamiltons Porsche 906 and Spencer Martins’ Ferrari 250LM taking half a second off Bib Stillwells’ Cooper Monaco lap record ‘doing it so easily he’s saving a few seconds for the future…there just isn’t anything in the country that can come close to it in Sports Cars’.

Other than routine pre-race preparation the car was nicely ‘run in’ for its Australian Championship encounter the following weekend.

longford program 1966

(Ellis French Collection)

matich longford

ATT grid Longford 1966; #2 Matich Elfin 400/ Traco Olds, #1 Spencer Martin Ferrari 250LM, the red helmet on the far left is Alan Hamilton, his Porsche 904/6 Spyder invisible, #11 on row 2 is Lionel Ayers, a long way from Queensland in his Lotus 23B Ford . (Richard Blanden)

Frank Matich shares the front row of the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy grid at Longford with Spencer Martin’s Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM, his brand spanking new Elfin 400/ Traco Olds gleaming in the Tasmanian autumn sun…

The feature event of the annual carnival of racing at Longford was the Tasman race for 2.5 litre single-seaters, in ’66 the race was won by Jackie Stewarts BRM P261 but all eyes were on Jack Brabham and his BT19 Repco, the new partnership of Brabham and the RB620 engine making only its third start, the engine made its debut in South Africa, raced at Sandown the week before finishing 3rd behind the 2 BRM’s in Tasmania. The testing was all critical to give the package the reliability it needed to win the World Title, which of course Brabham did in 1966, doubling up with Denny Hulme in ’67.

The Australian Tourist Trophy was also an event of great stature, Matich took an easy win in an 8 lapper which opened the meeting, setting a lap record of 2:28 winning from Martin’s Ferrari and Frank Demuth’s Lotus 23B.

matich and ambrose

The latest Elfin Sports Car passes the first…Ross Ambrose (father of V8 SuperCar driver Marcus) is passed by Matich. Elfin Streamliner and 400 respectively. In fact FM muffed a gear under brakes and was nearly hit up the chuff by Ambrose. ATT Longford 1966. (oldracephotos.com.au/David Keep)

matich and richarson longford paddock

Mechanic Bruce Richardson and FM ponder changes to the Elfin 400/Traco Olds in the Longford Paddock. Note the sartorial elegance of the 2 Aussies in the background…Longford was always hot! (oldracephotos.com.au/David Keep)

matich tassie

Matich crosses the South Esk River, Longford 1966. The couple in the boat looking relaxed and dropping in a line…(Alan Stewart Collection)

The ATT was contested over 23 laps on day 2 of the carnival. ‘Racing Car News’ reported the event as follows ‘Martin made a slow start and allowed Hamilton’s Porsche 906 to follow Matich into the first corner, but took over 2nd towards the end of the first lap. Second time past the order was Matich, Martin, Hamilton, Demuth, Mitchell (RM1), then Ayers and Bolton…’

‘The pace was fast and furious but positions did not change greatly in the early laps…already Matich had lapped Bob Holden (Lolita) and Greg Ellis…Martin was forced into the pits on the 6th lap with a loose undertray and rejoined the race exactly as Matich went past.’

The order was Matich a half a lap ahead of Hamilton, Demuth, Ayers, Bolton and Holland, the latter 2 drivers in Lotus 23B’s.

‘The next 2 laps the big Ferrari regained 2 places..on lap 17 Matich was coming into Newry about to lap Carosi’s Bolwell when Carosi spun into the bank on the inside of the circuit barely giving Matich the room to pass…In the closing stages of the race Martin gave the Ferrari everything, making up 5 seconds a lap but he was unable to catch the fantastic white Porsche’

‘Matich was untroubled in the final few laps, his times dropping to 2:45’s and his top speed from around 160mph to 130. The fleet footed although bulky looking  Elfin took the flag some 13.4 secs ahead of the Porsche with Martin another 29 seconds away in 3rd’.

The meeting was indicative of the dominance of the car Matich winning many races in it in the short time he raced it, but he needed to do his own thing, he resigned from Peterbilt, who employed him, in September 1966 to pursue his own programs with his Rennmax built but ‘as good as a copy’ Elfin 400 chassis Matich SR3 cars…The success of these fabulous devices is a story in itself for another time.

wf feb

Peter Windsor’s shot of the RAC Sports Car Trophy race at Warwick Farm in May 1966. Matich is on pole in his new car with Alan Hamilton alongside, Porsche 904/6 with Kevin Bartlett on the outside in the Alec Mildren Racing Alfa Romeo TZ2. Windsor captions the 2 Lotus 23B’s behind as driven by Frank Demuth and Niel Allen, you can also just see Spencer Martin’s Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM…the heavy long distance racer well back amongst all these ‘Sprinters’. (Peter Windsor)

rcn cover 400

RCN cover with David Atkinson’s watercolor of  duelling Elfin 400’s; Allen in ‘BB662’, from Noel Hurd in the Globe Engineering Ford Windsor powered car and Bob Jane in his Repco 4.4 litre engined device…

allen bathurst

Wonderful Dick Simpson shot of Bill Brown in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/350 CanAm with Niel Allen slipping up the inside at Hell Corner in the Elfin 400…on this occasion the exotic V12 bested 5 litres of Chev V8. Brown set the Bathurst top speed record of 181 mph and Allen took the lap record, then DNF in this Sports Car Trophy race. Love the crowd, vestigial safety fencing, ‘Murrumbidgee Road Racing Club’ overalls and ‘King Size Daggi Dog’ health food stand…(oldracephotos.com.au/Dick Simpson)

Laurie O’Neil sold the 400 to Sydney property developer and up and coming racer, Niel Allen…

Bruce Richrdson again picks up the story, ‘When FM left to do his own thing with the SR3 program Laurie said to me one day that Niel Allen was interested in buying the car, they did the deal, I went to work with Niel, looking after the Elfin and the other cars in his stable until I was injured in a fuel explosion. I left, Peter Molloy took my place. I took 12 months off and then worked for a succession of touring car teams as well as doing my own stuff; McLeod Ford with John Goss, Ron Hodgson with Bob Morris including a Bathurst win. I helped Charlie O’Brien run a BMW 635CSI at Bathurst, which was my introduction to electronics, at that stage I decided if that was the way things were going I would quit racing! Frank Gardner lived next door to me on the Gold Coast, I did work with them on a casual basis including helping them with their Bathurst win’

Allen initially raced the car with the Traco Olds but after blowing the engine ‘BB662′ was fitted with a 5 litre Chev V8 and ZF gearbox by Peter Molloy, Allen’s engineer till the end of his later, successful F5000 program. He continued to develop the car including changing the suspension pick-up points to suit the ever wider tyres available and fitment of Matich wheels to suit.

At the 1967 AGP Meeting at Warwick Farm Allen broke Matich’s lap record by 0.8 seconds and won the race. A month later he broke Franks’ Sandown lap record in a handicap race, FM having set it earlier in the day on the debut of his new Matich SR3.

Niel Allen was the only driver ever to set an outright lap record crossing the finish line backwards. This occurred at Symmons Plains, Tasmania, there being a tight corner that leads into a curve over the finish line there. At the end of the second lap he spun… and crossed the line backwards with a new lap record!

elfin 400 chev allen 1

Now with 5 litre Chev V8 in Niel Allen’s ownership, the installation done by Peter Molloy. ZF 5DS ‘box fitted at the same time. Wider Matich wheels fitted. (oldracephotos.com.au/David Keep)

Check out this YouTube Footage of the 1968 Warwick Farm Tasman Sports Car support race; wonderful race between Chris Amon in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/CanAm 350, Allen in the Elfin 400 and victorious Frank Matich in his Matich SR3 Repco…

wf stanley

Niel Allen ahead of Ian Cook in Bob Janes car. The 2 400’s are pictured at Warwick Farm’s Creek Corner during the Tasman meeting in February 1968, Matich having first tested the car 2 years before at the ‘Farm. Later nose clear to see, aerodynamically better? but fugly! (John Stanley)

400 bathurst grid

#12 Niel Allen Elfin 400 sharing the front row of the 1967 Easter Bathurst Sports Car grid with #7 Bob Jane Elfin 400 Repco ‘BB67-3’, Fred Gibson’s Niel Allen owned Lotus Elan 26R on the far left and Ron Thorp’s AC Cobra and another Elan on row 2. ‘BB662’ certainly did a few racing miles at Mt Panorama! (oldracephotos.com.au/Stuart Phillips)

Allen won both races he started at Hume Weir, near Albury in December 1967 s breaking Spencer Martins’ lap record set in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM.

At the traditional Bathurst Easter meeting in 1968 Bill Brown set a top speed record in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/Can Am 350 at 181mph but Allen seriously challenged the Fazz setting a lap record of 2:18:4, 8 seconds ahead of Matich’s previous mark. Sydneysider Matich was on a business trip to the US to plan his 1968 CanAm assault, which ultimately did not eventuate due to the late completion of his SR4. Niel was a DNF forlornly parking the Elfin at the top of the mountain. Brown won the race from Pete Geoghegan in the SV Ferrari 250LM and Fred Gibson in Allens’ Lotus Elan 26R.

He also broke the record at Winton in Central Victoria in 1967 before selling the car to Sydney racer and tuning specialist Fred Gibson.

Allen bought Piers Courage’ McLaren M4A FVA at the end of the 1968 Tasman series in his inexorable rise to the top of Australian Motor Racing. He never won an Australian Title but took victory in the 1971 New Zealand Grand Prix in his McLaren M10B Chev, by rights perhaps he should have won the Tasman that year…FM said he didn’t understand how Allen was so fast given his need to divorce himself from his business pressures as a ‘weekend racer’, FM was a fulltime professional who tested religiously and relentlessly doing endless miles around Warwick Farm and being paid by the lap  as part of his Goodyear contract. FM was very fast but he worked hard at his craft.

Niel Allen wasn’t finished with Elfins’ sports cars either. He bought Cooper’s first monocoque sporty, the short wheelbase, tricky to drive, Elfin ME5 Chev 5 litre in 1969, success in that car was tough as by that time Matich was absolutely at the top of his game with his Matich SR4 Repco, the space frame car powered by a DOHC 4 valve, 5 litre RB760 engine, the car designed for the ’68 Can Am series for which it was late is a story in itself.

RCN oct

Niel Allen advertises the ‘fleet’ for sale to concentrate on his ex-Courage F2 McLaren M4A FVA. RCN Oct 1968. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

elfin 400 bathurst

Start of the fateful Easter Bathurst race which took Bevan Gibson’s life, 1969. Gibson is in Bob Jane’s red Elfin 400 Repco, Allen is alongside in the Elfin 400 Chev ‘BB662’ and Frank Matich on the right in his hi-winged Matich SR4 Repco. SR4 the  fastest car in Australia of any type in 1969, winner of the ASS Championship and the only year in which it raced. Allen gets the jump at the start. (Wayne McKay)

Nose Lift and Aerodynamic Instability at High Speed…

The aerodynamics of racing cars in the 1960’s was still very much a black art, perhaps the most early experiments in gathering data on the flow of air over and around racing cars was in the latter stages of Fords Le Mans program and the ongoing, seminal and defining work of Jim Hall and his band of ‘GM quasi-works’ boffins at Rattlesnake Raceway in Texas, the Chaparrals simply iconoclasts.

Without taking a tangent too far Jim Hall spoke about his early aerodynamic testing and calibration in the article i wrote about the Chaparral 2F, those with an interest in his work may find it of interest, the relevant bit is about half way through the article;

https://primotipo.com/2014/06/26/67-spa-1000km-chaparral-2f/

Cooper designed the body with ‘John Webb wanting the underside of the horns extensions to be horizontal, as a continuation of the whole underside of the 400, to avoid the possibility of aerodynamic lift , but Garrie insisted they curve upwards to avoid the nose fouling the track’ quoted Barry Catford in his Elfin book.

Interestingly, in the ‘Auto Sportsman’ article mentioned earlier Matich claims credit for the body design ‘ The body styling was inspired by the very successful Chaparral Sports Car …Jack (sic) Webb fabricated the design from drawings supplied by Matich and it features front ‘Fish Gill’ spoilers which added to its gruesome appearance. Matich has recently run the car with a ‘blunt nose’ unit but plans only to use this on short circuits’. Taken at face value this statement suggests Matich did not think the car had high speed instability, if he planned to use the blunt nose on short circuits only, it implied he was happy with the original bodywork on fast ones.

Whatever the case Matich removed the distinctive horns on ‘BB662’, probably to cure aerodynamic lift, possibly to differentiate the look of the car from other 400’s.

During the 1967 Longford meeting in practice Noel Hurd in the Globe 400 ‘BB661′ became airborne at high speed, he mowed down a row of fence posts after spinning several times but was unhurt. The car was repaired at Elfins’ with the ‘horns’ removed.

When Peter Brennan acquired ‘BB662’ he spoke to Niel Allen about his experience of the car which was complimentary overall but ‘Niel said on the fast straights he used to have to touch the brakes to get the nose down before applying the brakes hard. The horns were already off the car at this point but Niel was still having problems with front adhesion. It was pretty clear these early cars had little or no frontal downforce’.

Once he cut the air slots in the guards he said it cured the problem ‘The horns were not the problem causing the lift, it was air damming under the guards which could not escape, all that was required was to cut slots in the rear of the front guards. I discussed this at length with Niel, he found out the cause later and would not have cut the original nose off had he understood the real nature of the problem’.

Peter raced the car at Adelaide in 1990 ‘at 175 mph down Brabham Straight without a problem, in fact it was making so much downforce we had to reinforce the nose brackets at the meeting with the belt of one of my pitcrews pants!’

Unfortunately all these learnings were in the future, lets not forget that even with technology no-one in their wildest of dreams could imagine in 1966 that Mark Webber aviated in his Mercedes on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans on consecutive days only a decade ago…

And so it was that Bevan Gibson, the young up and coming Benalla driver lost his life in Bob Jane’s Elfin 400 at the Bathurst Easter meeting in 1969.

Barry Catford described the race ‘Matich was favourite for the race with a practice time of 2:14.9. After practice the faster drivers reportedly discussed the aerodynamic lift they had experienced over the second hump (this is pre ‘The Chase’ which now slows the cars on Conrod) on Conrod and resolved to treat that section of the track with caution.’

‘Niel Allen roared away (in BB662) followed by Gibson and Matich. Frank took over at Forrests Elbow and then on lap 2 Niel had a lose on the Mountain and dropped back and the Matich SR4 Repco began having fuel pressure problems. Bevan closed…on Mountain Straight making up more ground and the next lap drew alongside as they headed into Shell again’.

Bevan sensed a victory (which would never have been on had the SR4 been running properly, it was an opportunity which would seldom come) and tried harder on the 4th lap…the Elfin became airborne on the 2nd Conrod Hump, turning on its back and killing Bevan instantly. Matich, Allen and others retired almost immediately’

Gibson SCW cover

(Stephen Dalton Collection)

Elfin 400/ Traco Olds/ Elfin 400…now the ‘R&T Chev’

Fred Gibson was then an up and coming driver and proprietor of a Randwick, Sydney tuning business called ‘Road and Track Automotive Services’ hence the new name when Fred purchased the car he had occasionally driven for Allen.

The 400 was extensively rebuilt but mechanically unchanged, the notable difference the new bodywork designed and built by Denis Julian which used the original body as a mould but gave the car a lower line. Gibson also added a wing.

The engine was a 5 litre Chev with Crower cam, Warren rods, again on 48IDA Webers and gave circa 450bhp.

rand t chev gibson

Fred Gibson in ‘BB662’ as the ‘R&T Chev’, Surfers Paradise 1970. (Unattributed)

Gibson didn’t race the car for long, his career was on the rise, he became a Ford factory driver in their Series Production racing program with the iconic Falcon GTHO’s, the car being sold to Allan Newton in Victoria.

Newton raced the car regularly for years both in Victoria and interstate only selling it after a ‘big hit’ going up Bitupave Hill at Sydneys Amaroo Park in 1977.

rand t

Geoff Russell’s shot of the Elfin 400 after its big Amaroo shunt on 29 May 1977, front of the car clearly shortened considerably by its impact against one of the circuits earth banks. See ‘Etcetera’ below for a sequence of photos which captured the accident. (Geoff Russell)

He sold the car to a friend, Dennis Burdon who cut away the badly damaged rear of the chassis to fit a 4.4 Litre Leyland P76 V8 and Hewland F1 FGA gearbox.

This process took years, Brennan was aware of the cars location, knew Newton and eventually when Burdon tired of the car he bought ‘the steering wheel, 4 corners which were complete, the centre section of the chassis from roll bar to the pedals and the engine and gearbox which were sold, respectively to Andrew McDowell and Chas Talbot for his self built Formula Holden’

And so, our intrepid racer set off on a mammoth reconstruction project…

r t chev winton

R&T Chev ‘BB662’ in the bucolic Winton, Benalla, Victoria paddock in 1974, still very much as Fred Gibson modified it. The car was a regular in Victorian events at the time, i saw it race many times, Allan Newton drove it well. The cars either side are Lotus 23B’s, the bright yellow car the Gibson Family (as in Bevan Gibson who died at Bathurst) which if memory serves was fitted with a Repco V8, at the time the car was driven by Paul Gibson. Australian readers will know the popular Gibson’s as Benalla Auto Club stalwarts. (oldracephotos.com.au/Neil Hammond)

salas shop

Elfin 400 ‘BB662′ getting towards the end of its restoration by Peter and Gavin Sala’s team. Car has been tested at Calder sans body, and is in the final stages of completion in late October 1990. Look closely and you can see the other 2 400 chassis’ in the workshop at the time. (Peter Brennan Collection)

Restoration of Elfin 400 ‘BB662’…

Having acquired the car, or rather it’s remains the restoration challenge was a big one, essentially Peter had the bones of a car, the project was largely one of reconstruction or resurrection rather than a rebuild.

Brennan liked the combination of the original bodywork and 5 Litre Chev engine, a Traco Olds was pretty much impossible to source, the Hewland HD5 and ZF boxes were also rare so it made practical, economic sense to choose a combination of core components with which the car had raced in its long racing life which could be sourced at sensible money.

That decided, Peter wrote to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport and was given written approval from the CEO, John Keefe to rebuild/reconstruct the car to that spec.

Some years later, after the car had been racing, the CAMS Historic Commission changed their view on the matter, what followed was a decade of protracted arguments and negotiations about all manner of the detail specifications of the car which was finally resolved with compromise being reached; the car could race as rebuilt but when sold by Peter the nose of the car is to be similar to that used by Niel Allen during the period he raced it; in essence the car could race in the spec chosen by Peter and confirmed as such by the CAMS CEO at the projects commencement…

salas handiwork

Gavin Sala’s  handiwork on display. Brennan says’ Be fair to say Gavin played an equal part in the resto work, he is a craftsman for a butcher, hard to believe the work he produces with virtually no qualifications’. ‘Old Midnight’ is in situ, its a spaceframe chassis, the aluminium side pontoons are clear. Gear linkage sitting atop the pontoon this side, exhausts have been ‘dummy fitted’. (Peter Brennan Collection)

Having agreed on the specs of the car with CAMS a handy confluence of events accelerated the cars resurrection from mid 1990…

Our intrepid racer sold his Melbourne ‘Carbitune’ business and decided to give himself a well earned break before starting his new venture, the Australian Grand Prix was in Adelaide in November, with a little bit of luck ‘BB662’ could be a debut starlet in the Historic Racing support events, these races always popular with the punters and owners alike.

The repair choice was made easy as Gavin Sala, a Victorian Racer/Restorer/Dealer and Owner happened to have the ex Bob Jane ‘BB67-3’ and ex Buchanan ‘BB67-4’ cars in his outer urban Melbourne workshop for restoration at the time.

The most difficult part of the job was the chassis. Elfin still existed, it was only money to buy uprights, wheels and so on but the 400 chassis jig no longer existed. Having the other cars alongside made the task of using the remains of the original chassis as a base; from rear bulkhead to the pedals, then carefully measuring and fabricating the required frame, brackets, diaphragm and related aluminium panels relatively straight-forward for skilled fabricators such as Ken Leigh, Gavin and Peter himself.

400 butt shot

‘BB662’ resto assembly butt shot. DG300 ‘F5000’ Hewland ‘box. ‘Old Midnight’ 5 litre Chev circa 500bhp on 48IDA Webers. Cast Elfin uprights, upper and lower wishbone/coil spring damper suspension and beefy front bulkhead and rear chassis diaphragms all clear, ditto LHS aluminium pontoon. Car sans exhausts here, but the ‘overhead’ headers came with the bits acquired from Newton. (Peter Brennan Collection)

The suspension was complete but gently sand blasted, crack tested and either reused or replaced using the originals as templates. The wishbones and radius rods were then nickel plated with new spherical joints used throughout.

The cast magnesium uprights were again crack tested, found to be ok, and then reassembled with new bearings.The Triumph Herald steering box was checked and re-used. The lightweight aluminium radiator was a pair of Nissan Pulsar rads’ alloy cores welded together.

salas front scoop

400 front end showing Gavin Sala’s  beautiful aluminium radiator surround/support/duct fabrication work. Not bad for a fella apprenticed as a butcher as PB says! (Peter Brennan Collection)

Peter acquired a Hewland DG300 transaxle. The engine was bought from F5000 Racers Peter and Mary Middleton. ‘Old Midnight’ was originally the great Max Stewarts’ spare engine, we covered its history in the story about the restoration of Peters’ ex Lella Lombardi Lola T330 ‘HU18’, a while back.

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/10/lella-lombardis-lola-peter-brennans-restoration-of-lola-t330-chev-hu18-episode-3/

Peter, ‘Its nickname was ‘Old Midnight’ as the motor was usually slipped into his Lola after midnight when the race engine was cactus for the weekend.I bought it as a ‘long motor’ less injection. The block was shaved of all unnecessary production lugs and lightened as much as possible.It has Bow-Tie heads, TRW pistons, Carillo rods, a Crane ‘574’ roller cam, Z28 crank, Vertex magneto, and like most of Max’ engines is on Weber 48IDA carbs, it produces 505bhp@7500rpm’.

The bodywork was provided by Elfin, or rather the front mould, which had been run over by a truck! Peter repaired it in order to ‘take a flop’ from it. The original Matich rear body was long since gone, so a production 400 rear ‘glass panel was used, again sourced from Elfin.

calder

Calder test less bodywork 3 weeks before the 1990 AGP in October. (Peter Brennan Collection)

With time getting tight Peter tested the car sans bodywork at Calder to carry out systems checks, ‘BB662’ behaved itself well although Peter was stunned by the very heavy steering which Kevin Bartlett diagnosed as the offset of the rim from the centre line of the kingpin, ‘scrub radius’.

The car then returned to Gavin’s shop for the final fitment of the body, making its debut, as planned in November 1990, where it was undoubtedly one of the stars of the show for many misty eyed enthusiasts who remembered the cars heyday in the hands of the supremely talented Frank Matich and Niel Allen.

body on

Peter has dated this shot on the front guard…its 10 October with 3 weeks to the 1990 AGP…with still a great deal of work to do. Sala’s workshop. (Peter Brennan Collection)

400 at agp 1990

Last minute pre-event fettling out front of Noiges’ pit, AGP Carnival Adelaide 1990. (Peter Brennan Collection)

400 3

Peter Brennan at the AGP Meeting 1990. Photo signed by Niel Allen, Lola Mk1 at rear. Elfin 400 Chev. (Peter Brennan Collection)

The pointless squabble with CAMS meant the car disappeared from sight for a bit but otherwise the 400 is a regular entrant at Historic Meetings around the country and is always punted with verve and skill, much as Matich did during his ATT win at Longford all those years ago…

tour to tarrengower

Peter had the important job of ferrying Lorraine Cooper, on the Elfin Owners and Drivers Club’ Tour To Tarrengower’ in 1994. The 400 is pictured at Bendigo, the start of a road trip for around 35 racing Elfins on the public roads of Victorias’ Goldfields district to Mount Tarrengower Hillclimb at Maldon, 45 kilometres away. I did it in an Elfin Crusader F Vee…it was fun in that, the 400 and various F5000’s entered had a wonderful time! (Peter Brennan Collection)

DSC01368

More recent shot of ‘BB662’ at an Albert Park GP. Brennan’s standard of preparation and presentation outstanding. Car has its original Elfin nose, if you look at the top right of the nearside front guard you can see the ‘gills’ or air reliefs let into the bodywork which eventually addressed the front end lightness of the car by releasing air pressure at high speed. McLaren M1 alongside. (Peter Brennan Collection)

brennan in 400

‘Racers Retreat’ Peter Brennan, in Elfin 400 ‘BB662’, a much cherished car for over 25 years. Albert Park AGP several years ago. (Peter Brennan Collection)

scrab at traco

Amazing shot of the first Scarab Chev out the back of the Traco shop, ‘Thunder Alley, Culver City in 1958. Looking at the fuel tank on the right are Phil Remington and Harold Daigh, Dick Troutman is in the doorway. The Scarab body builder Emil Deidt is at the back of the car, beside him in the check shirt Marshall Whitfield. Jim Travers and Frank Coon are ‘midships with the suited Leo Goosen leaning against the car, beside him at the front of the car is Sonny Balcaen. (Photo Warren Olson Collection/Jerry Entin for ID of those pictured)

Etcetera Traco Engineering…

Traco Engineering was formed by Jim TRAvers and Frank COon in 1957, the pair made their names as mechanics for Bill Vukovich in his successful Indy wins in 1953 and 1954. Well before that they were pre-war hot-rodders racing on the dry lakes of California.

Their ‘shop’ was based in ‘Thunder Alley’, 11928 West Jefferson Boulevard, Culver City in the LA ‘Megalopolis’. The area was so named due to the number of ‘big hitters’ based in the area including James Garner and Lance Reventlow who tested their cars on the block.

The fledgling company was off to a strong start when Lance Reventlow contracted Traco to work on the front-engined Chevy powered sportscar Scarabs’ in 1958. AJ Foyt’s victory in the Mecom owned Scarab at Nassau gave the firm it’s biggest push with engines soon being supplied to Gurney, McLaren, Mecom, Brabham and Lola amongst others.

The bulk of the work in 1965/6 was on the Chev and Olds F85 engine although Bruce McLaren’s team used the companies talents to decrease the capacity of the Ford DOHC Indy engine for F1 use in 1966.

The payroll included some engineers who went on to become great engine builders in their own right; Al Bartz, George Bolthoff to name two.

In 1965 Traco built 48 complete engines and rebuilt 68 more, a ‘Sports Car Graphic’ 1966 article reported that ‘The average Traco built engine takes from 4-6 weeks to complete and requires approximately 100 man hours’, the engines were priced at the time from US$5000-6000.

In 1986 Travers and Coon retired after selling the business to then chief engine builder Jim Jones.

traco in shop

Frank Coon (L) and Jim Travers in their Traco shop building an engine in 1966. (Sports Car Graphic)

traco

Etcetera…

lt kay cutaway

(Laurie Kay)

match hospital

Brisbane ‘Courier Mail’ article of Matich’s Lakeside Lotus 19B crash. (Facebook Elfin 60’s Sportscars Group)

sandown elfin olds

image

Sports Car World cover shot at Longford 1966 during the Matich ATT win. Overhead shot shows a different angle of the body.

 

 

 

longford matich

Matich Elfin 400/Traco Olds with its AT Trophy laurel wreath. Longford paddock March 1966. (Ellis French)

matich lakeside

Matich in the Elfin 400/ Traco Olds, Lakeside, Qld 1966. (John Stanley)

400 rear

Rear shot of ‘BB662’ during Niel Allen’s ownership circa 1968, circuit undisclosed. (Mike Feisst Collection/The Roaring Season)

r and t 2

Chequered Flag magazine captured Allan Newton’s May 1977 accident which all but destroyed ‘BB662’, the old but sturdy spaceframe protecting Newton from worse injury…in much the same way the monocoque chassis of the Elfin MS7 saved him when his throttle again stuck open, this time at Calder, Victoria in 1984. He was a very lucky boy that day…(Chequered Flag)

elfin 400 bp ad

BP ad shot, taken, i think at Sandown, Victoria, ‘Peters Corner’ upon the cars debut, February 1966. (Facebook Elfin 60’s Sportscars Group)

Bibliography…

‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ John Blanden and Barry Catford, Ray Bell/The Nostalgia Forum, Sports Car World, Australian Auto Sportsman, Sports Car Graphic, Chequered Flag

Facebook ‘Elfin 60’s Sportscars’ Group. This is a very dedicated group of Elfin enthusiasts, key the group name into the FB search engine and apply to be to be admitted

Special Thanks…

To Bruce Richardson and Geoff Smedley for their affectionate, respectful accounts of their time working with Frank Matich

Stephen Dalton for the research assistance and access to his extensive collection

Photo Credits…

John Ellacott, Bob Mills Collection, Wayne McKay, Ellis French, John Stanley, Peter Windsor, Laurie Kay, Alan Stewart Collection, Ian Smith, Shane Lee, Peter Brennan Collection, Richard Blanden, Warren Olson Collection/Jerry Entin, Chris Snowdon, Mike Feisst Collection, Geoff Russell

Lindsay Ross of  Oldracephotos http://www.oldracephotos.com/content/home/ for the use of the Dick Simpson, David Keep, Stuart Phillips and Neil Hammond shots

Finito…