Posts Tagged ‘Australian Motor Racing History’

Whitehead is shown here in the cockpit of his ERA during the abortive – and aborted – Parramatta Park meeting in 1938 (B King Collection)

English international, Peter Whitehead spent quite a bit of time in Australia during 1938 on business. One hat he wore was as a member of the W&J Whitehead famil, Bradford based, wool textiles business, the other was as driver of his much smaller motor racing enterprise.

His success in ‘chasing sheep’ is unknown but his motorsport endeavours were well rewarded with victories in the Australian Grand Prix at Bathurst, and the Australian Hillclimb Championship at Rob Roy in Victoria’s Christmas Hills. See here; and here;

As you will appreciate from the articles, Whitehead was in Australia long enough, and travelled broadly enough, for his views to be fully formed on the state of motorsport play at that time.

(B King Collection)
Blurry and ‘Hatless’ Whitehead during the Australian Hillclimb Championship meeting at Rob Roy in June 1938. He did FTD and set the course record at 31.46 seconds on the still unsealed course which opened a year earlier (L Sims Collection)

Peter Whitehead was spot on with his observations really.

Picking up his points in the order they were made, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) was formed in 1953 to manage, organise and regulate (sic) the sport on a national basis. Perhaps without World War 2 a more focused governing body would have replaced the Australian Automobile Association earlier.

Handicap racing continued throughout Australia well into the 1950s. We had a relatively small number of racing cars spread over a vast continent. Handicaps ensured everybody had a chance of victory, by this means, competitors were prepared to travel vast distances by road, rail or coastal ships to race.

Then the only Australian racers who competed ‘regularly’ on bitumen roads were the West Australians on their Round the Houses road courses in various country towns. Allan Tomlinson’s stunning Lobethal AGP win in 1939 is in part credited to his skill on such surfaces relative to the east coast based competitors aboard his MG TA Spl s/c. See here;

A series of races to attract international competitors did eventually happen, formally with the Tasman Cup – seven/eight races in NZ and Australia in January-February each year – in 1964, and informally with a series of international races for the better part of a decade before that. Peter Whitehead returned and raced a couple of Ferraris here during that period. See here;

The bad-blood, combative relationship between the New South Wales Police and the racing community lasted well into the 1950s and is a story in itself.

The Yarra Falls building site in 1918. Melburnians will note the roofline of the Convent of the Good Shepherd on the north side of Johnston Street, that building is still there on the wonderful Collingwood Children’s Farm site; a visit to rural Australia in inner Melbourne is worth a trip for any international tourist. The Falls site was redeveloped, keeping many of the original buildings, for business and residential use several decades ago (Picture Victoria)


The Whiteheads were customers of Australian wool from the earliest of times. The contents of an article in The Argus (Melbourne) appealed to the economist in me. The piece reported on the business trip of Henry Whitehead, a relative of Peter Whitehead, in January 1920 who is described as having interests in “three of the largest of the great Yorkshire textile works.”

Whitehead’s visit was as a director/advisor of Yarra Falls Spinning Co Pty. Ltd. at 80-110 Trenerry Crescent, Abbotsford – on the shores of the Yarra River in Melbourne where wool was scoured/cleaned – and he commented that “Although Australia is the greatest wool producer in the world she could not have competed with England before the war in the marketing in Australia of goods manufactured out of her own raw materials…But times have changed, and today Australia has the opportunity of making more of her own goods, and particularly of making up her own raw materials.”

Funnily enough, a century on, we are still better at shearing sheep and digging holes in the ground (mining) than manufacturing, that is, value adding to the raw materials we export to others.

Henry Whitehead spoke of the need for immigration of skilled labour to aid growth of the industry and encourage further British investment.

The Yarra Falls Spinning Company was then capitalised at 200,000 pounds, “the great bulk of which is Australian money.” The other directors, with the exception of Whitehead, were Australian, the factory was commenced in 1918 and employed 200 in 1920. The only limiting factor in expanding the business right then beyond relatively simple wool scouring and combing, to the production of worsted cloth (for clothing) was the difficulty of getting specialised weaving plant and equipment made, and imported from the UK.

So, Peter Whitehead would have been busy, apart from his racing…


The Car, December 1938 via the Bob King Collection, Leon Sims Collection, Ted Hood, The Argus January 1, 1920, Picture Victoria


(T Hood)

Peter Whitehead fettles his ERA #R10B in frigid Canberra weather in June 1938. He was taking part in annual speed record attempts in the national capital, weird though that seems.

Mind you, there was a round the houses taxi race in Canberra not so many years ago, the Canberra 400 from 2000-2002.

Mark Skaife, Holden VX Commodore V8 Supercar en-route to winning the 2002 Canberra 400, Parliament House in the background (unattributed)


Phillips-Parsons airborne on the Wirlinga road circuit (

The Jack Phillips – Ted Parsons 1934 Ford V8 was Australia’s fastest of the breed pre-war. Here the machine is aviating at Wirlinga – 10km northeast of Albury – on the Kings Birthday weekend in June 1940 “on the north-south straight heading towards what is now the Riverina Highway,” many thanks John Medley.

The car was one of the most successful of all Australian racing cars in the immediate lead up to the conflict, placing sixth and third in the 1938 and 1939 Australian Grands Prix at Bathurst and Lobethal respectively. “In Victoria for the 1937-38 season, the Phillips Ford was awarded ‘The Car Trophy’ for the most successful competitor,” John Medley wrote.

The duo also won the Interstate Grand Prix/Albury and Interstate Cup on the Albury-Wirlinga road course in 1938-39 and the South Australian 100 at Lobethal in January 1940. On the same day the pair finished second to Les Burrows’ Hudson Terraplane Special in the Lobethal 50.

Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men? Phillips/Parsons on the way to winning the South Australian 100 on New Years Day 1940 at Lobethal (unattributed)

As the lights were progressively turned down throughout 1940, the Phillips/Parsons pair were ninth in the Easter Bathurst 150 mile race won by Alf Barrett’s Alfa Romeo Monza. The car’s final meeting before being put on display for much of the conflict in their Wangaratta Motors Ford dealership was the 75 mile Albury and Interstate Cup Race on June 17, 1940. It was the final meeting on this road course and Barrett set the all-time lap record at 2 minutes 52 seconds but broke an axle and retired from the race. Harry James’ Terraplane won in a steady performance from John Crouch’s Alfa Romeo 8C2300 Le Mans with Phillips/Parsons third.

A great shot but whereizzit? Note the Victorian rego-plate and ‘tuned-length’ exhaust which will have aided driver and passenger comfort in longer races by dispensing with fumes and noise well-aft of the conducteurs. Quality of the body and standard of presentation impressive (

Based on a fire-damaged ‘34 sedan with over 20,000 miles on the clock, the car was modified in the partner’s Wangaratta, Victoria Ford dealership by fitment of a special, swoopy, lighter body. Engine enhancements included twin Winfield carburettors, Scintilla magneto, modified heads and free-flowing exhausts.

Timed at 115mph in top gear, it did 80 in second – at a then heady 6000rpm – using the 3.5:1 rear axle ratio. It was a paragon of solid reliability too, not suffering the overheating afflictions of so many modified Ford flatties.

The masked avengers at Wirlinga in 1939 I think, on the way to a second win on the trot in the Albury and Interstate Gold Cup. Bob Lea-Wright, Singer was second and Les Burrows Hudson Terraplane third after losing a shot at the lead with two laps to run after being hit in the face with a stone thrown up by Phillips. Clearly Phillips/Parsons were well prepared for this possibility and here are using all of the available real estate (B King Collection)

John Medley observed the car’s strengths, “The Phillips Ford simply soldiered on in prewar races on dirt and gravel roads, built tough to last to the finish. It continued to race postwar particularly in Victoria and South Australia where it was raced by South Australian Granton Harrison, by which time the newer breed of generally smaller and lighter V8 Specials could out-pace it.”

“Still it had been the mould in which the later V8s were shaped. In the postwar period, with T-Series MGs, Ford V8 specials were the backbone of Australian road racing.”

The Phillips/Parsons Ford was destroyed when it was crashed into a bridge, the remains were scrapped. Ted Parsons Jnr and his son Rob recreated the car between 2008-2014, the car took its bow at Winton in 2014.

Likely lads, who is the chap at left and where was the shot taken? Bob’s Lobethal 1940 guess isn’t on the money (B King Collection)
Ted (Edwin) Parsons wearing Warren Safety Helmet, goggles, white overalls – the pocket of which had the Ford V8 symbol embroidered – wearing a leather kidney belt. “To look your best under the overalls it was common for Ted to wear a white shirt and tie,” Ted’s son Rob Parsons wrote. Wirlinga 1939 perhaps, chap behind unknown (Parsons Family Collection)

Etcetera: The Warren Safety Aviation Helmet…

WT Warren invented the Warren Safety Helmet in 1912. The spring-equipped pilot safety helmet, made of leather and cork with vented ear collars was padded with horse hair and designed to minimise head injuries, the major cause of aero accident deaths at the time. The helmet was part of RAF listed kit issue from 1920-24.

Later models incorporated an ear audio piece and a breathing mask. By the time Phillips and Parsons used them they had been pensioned off by the RAF. Curtis and Taut & Co made the helmets under licence, the inscription in Parsons’ helmet, retained by the family, reads ‘No 2 Tuatz & Co Patent 17855 Aviators Safety Helmet. Maker Tautz & Co, Hunting Military and Multifit Tailors, 12 Grafton St, New Bond St, London.’

Phillips and Parsons with their distinctive Warren helmets after winning at Wirlinga in 1938 (J Dallinger)

Rob Parsons explained further, “While the helmet was obsolete for aircraft, they were used by Phillips and Parsons from 1935-39. With a lack of sporting regulations, these cars lacked the safety features of safety belts which were not considered a benefit for car racing. Drivers had a steering wheel and the co-driver a grab handle to hold onto. It would be common in rollovers to duck-down and brace yourself, perhaps to be trapped or otherwise flung free of the car, all with grave consequences.”

“Ted Parsons first introduction to motor racing was at the Benalla Airstrip circuit, perhaps a likely place to find such a helmet. On the back page of his photo album, he list drivers who died racing during his involvement, a reminder of the sport’s dangers. He retired from racing after the war to pursue golf and film-making.”

“Jack and Ted wore leather face shields to protect themselves from their own flying stones and other track debris, an idea adapted from the oxygen flying mask. The leather was painted white to match the colour of the car, aviation goggles protected their eyes,” Parsons wrote.

(Der Spiegel)

WT Warren tests his new helmet – as one does – by headbutting the wall of William Ewen’s Hendon flying school, where Warren was a trainee, in 1912.

What follows is the German-English translation from an article in Der Spiegel.

“In a 1912 issue of Flight magazine, British inventor WT Warren’s invention, a protective flight helmet is demonstrated. The image is often erroneously reported to be a football helmet.”

‘The wall against which the helmet carrier ran belongs to the flying school of William Hugh Ewen. The owner (middle) and and his chief pilot LWF Turner (left) are behind. The Lord in the foreground is his student Mr WT Warren. And, no, he has not failed the flight test and is just reacting to his anger.” Clearly the German hilarity is lost in translation.

“Dated 1912, Mr Warren is a tinkerer. He introduced his latest invention to experienced pilots: a protective helmet ‘that will attract considerable attention’, Flight magazine wrote. Warren’s leather cap was padded with horsehair: A system of steel springs should intercept any impact, thus reducing the risk of injury. Head injuries were the leading cause of death in flight accidents.”


‘John Snow:Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley, State Library of Western Australia,, Bob King Collection, ‘The Warren Safety Aviation Helmet’ by Rob Parsons in the July 2021 issue of ‘The Light Shaft’ – Austin 7 Club magazine, Parsons Family Collection via, John Dallinger, Der Spiegel



I’m cheating a bit, this 1934 Ford is a V8 ute rather than a sedan, but you get the jist of it.

The Phillips-Parsons racer was not too far removed from a roadie, rather than an out-and-out bespoke racer, reliant as it was on the standard chassis, axles wheel to wheel, differential and gearbox.

The ute is singing for its supper, doing a meat delivery in country Western Australia in 1937.



It looks pretty good to me, not exactly Margaret River, but hey, what’s all this nonsense about the grim North Sea?

Jack Brabham was never the life of the party, seemingly, but he had a pretty good sense of humour, here making his way to the grid for the 1966 Dutch Grand Prix and addressing head-on media comments about his advancing years, complete with ‘walking stick’ and beard. He had turned 40 on April 2, like a fine wine he got better really, not too many of the over-40s won races in their final season, 1970 in Jack’s case. Ignoring the occasional touring car outings back in Australia.


He had the last laugh too, he had won the previous two Grands Prix in France and the UK and was on the-roll that delivered his third World Drivers Championship that year. He beat Graham Hill, BRM P261, and Jim Clark, Lotus 33 Climax to win at Zandvoort, then repeated the victorious dose at the Nurburgring a fortnight later. See here for a piece on his ’66 championship year;

Two 3-litres ahead of two 2-litres in the Dutch dunes. Brabham and Denny Hulme, Brabham BT19/ BT20 respectively from Jim Clark’s Lotus 33 Climax and Graham Hill’s BRM P261 (MotorSport)

BT19 F1-1-65 defines simplicity.

Spaceframe chassis, and a repurposed one at that, Alford and Alder (Triumph) front uprights and povvo Repco RB620 290-310bhp, SOHC two-valve, Lucas injected V8 with a block donated by an Oldsmobile roadie. Can’t be true, surely? It’s an unusual angle of Jack’s weapon of war for 95% of 1966 in Tasman 2.5 and F1 3-litre Repco guises, it raced on towards the end of ‘67 too, no rest for the wicked, World Champ or otherwise.


wfooshee, Bernard Cahier-Getty Images, MotorSport Images



Brabham rounding up Guy Ligier’s Cooper T81 Maserati V12, he was ninth and last, six laps adrift of the winner. At the end of the season Jack sold Guy one of BRO’s Brabham BT20 Repcos (Denny’s F1-2-66), so impressed was the rugby-international watching them go past at close quarters that season.


“Carl Junker, winner of the fastest time prize at the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island is the most modest man in the motor world. He had so little confidence in himself that it was only the repeated urgings of Terdich (Arthur Terdich, winner of the ’29 AGP) that caused him to enter.

This was his first big race, as he has previously competed in nothing more exciting than hillclimbs, but was formerly a motor cyclist of ability, and is a dirt track fan. Junker’s Bugatti, formerly the property of Sid Cox the NSW motorist, has a guaranteed speed of 115 miles per hour.”

“G McFarlane, winner of the Australian Outboards Championship in Melbourne on Albert Park Lake, is an Adelaide University student, who is in his second season with hydroplanes.”

He raced a boat called Tilmerie, and won the open class title in two heats and a final. At the end of the carnival, in a special speed test, he broke the Australian record averaging slightly over 45mph, beating the existing record of 42mph. McFarlane took the O’Donohue Shield for the championship, and held it for the ensuing 12 months.

“He is following in the footsteps of his father, GH McFarlane, who began outboarding in 1900, and was one of the pioneers of hydro-planing in South Australia. GH competed in several Australian championships with Millawa, and won the Albert Cup in New South Wales with Maltric, and successfully defended the cup in South Australia in 1929. Young McFarlane and his father built the boat in which he won the title on their station (farm) at Brinkley on the River Murray.”

The Referee April 1, 1931
Carl Junker in the Phillip Island winning Bugatti T39 #4607 in Melbourne after the 1931 win (B King Collection)

The 31′ AGP is somewhat controversial even after all these years. The Labour Day weekend, Monday March 23 race, 30 1/2 laps of the 6 1/2 mile rectangular sandy-gravel course, 200 miles in all, was held as a handicap.

“The system of handicapping to be adopted will be an allowance in time, based on the capacity of the engine, plus the knowledge of the speed of each car, and skill of the driver.” The West Australian record on February 12, 1931. “The data obtained by the promoters from the previous car races held on this course will, it is claimed, enable the handicappers to allot starts in accordance with the speed capabilities of each contestant, thus ensuring a better, fairer and more interesting race.”

Handicap racing was common in Australia until the early 1950s as we had relatively few racing cars of vastly differing performance spread over a huge area. Handicapping encouraged a come-what-you-brung ethos as the handicapping system meant everybody got a fair go, whether you raced a Bugatti or an Austin 7. In a perfect world, with the handicappers prognostications spot on – impossible of course – the field would all be bunched up together, mechanical mayhem permitting in the last lap or so of the race.

Cyril Dickason, Austin 7 Ulster, with onboard mechanic James Long won the race on handicap, received the plaudits of the crowd and were given the winners trophy. The early Tuesday morning newspapers reported the win in unequivocal fashion, then the event organisers, the Victorian Light Car Club changed the results and awarded the race to the Carl Junker/Reg Nutt Bugatti T39, which had done the fastest time.


(D Zeunert Collection)

About 5,000 spectators made the trip to Phillip Island to watch the race. Not many you may think, but back then the trip involved a train from Flinders Street Station in Melbourne to Frankston, then another on a branch line to Stony Point, on the shore of Westernport Bay. A shortish ferry ride took you, and perhaps your car if you were one of the fortunate few to own one, to Cowes on the Island. Then one had a walk of a mile or so, or more depending on where you watched the race on the course.

In an absorbing contest – 19 cars entered but only 13 started in a sign of ‘Depression times – Carl Junker’s1496cc straight-eight Bugatti T39, “Off a handicap of 10 minutes, gave a wonderfully consistent performance, and finished the long journey – 31 times around the course – in 2hr 54min 50.25sec. That was the fastest time, and by recording it Junker won the principal prize of 100 pounds. In a supercharged Austin Seven of 748cc CR Dickason (off 30 min) achieved second fastest time (3hr 2min 24.5sec). His handling of such a small machine, particularly on the bad corners, was keenly admired. He lost a minute or so through having to stop twice for minor adjustments. Third on time was the veteran, Harold Drake-Richmond (Bugatti T37 1496cc) off 10min, his figures being 3hr 3min 19.25sec.”

Dickason and May in Austin 7s start their first lap while the heavy metal awaits their turn. From the right; #15 Hope Bartlett and #14 Arthur Terdich, both in AGP winning Bugatti T37A’s off scratch. #20 is Jack Clement’s ex-AV Turner/G Meredith 1927 AGP winning car. #12 is Harold Drake-Richmond’s Bugatti T37, and then #9 is Bill Lowe’s Lombard AL3 (J Sherwood Collection via T Davis)
Front runner, Hope Bartlett, Bugatti T37A s/c #37358 from Cyril Dickason’s Austin 7 Ulster s/c, he has just passed him, Heaven Corner (J Sherwood Collection via T Davis)

“On the handicaps Dickason won comfortably, passing the finishing line for the last time a lap and a half ahead of Junker. Junker and Hope Bartlett were having a thrilling tussle, in the 30th lap, for second when Bartlett, driving a supercharged four-cylinder Bugatti, had mechanical trouble and was obliged to stop…”

The Iron Cross for stupidity went to Bartlett – arguably the most experienced and best credentialed of the drivers who started – who had the race shot to bits in the same Bugatti T37A in which Bill Thompson won the year before, but kept going faster still while well in the lead. Somewhat inevitably, the the supercharged-four blew and with it went Hope’s chance to join the AGP Roll of Honour where he surely belongs.

(T Johns Collection)

All good so far. At the end of the race Dickason was acclaimed the winner of the AGP, received the plaudits of the crowd, probably copped a peck on the cheek from Miss Phillip Island and was handed the AGP trophy for winning the race on handicap. He was formally feted as the 1931 Australian Grand Prix winner, with the Tuesday morning Melbourne Sun – the day after the race – proclaiming as such above.

The 1931 AGP Trophy is the big one in the middle of the third row from the top in Cyril Dickason’s collection. There’s no doubt they gonged him as the winner, the question is why the same mob then took it away. Clearly though, Dickason gave them the 1931 equivalent of ‘Go and Get Rooted’ when the blue-blazer commanders of the VLCC asked for that nice trophy back, he hung onto it (Ann Dickason Collection)

Then, 24 hours later, the fix was on, the Victorian Light Car Club committee had met, and announced Junker as the victor, the AGP winner. Dickason’s wife recorded in a November 6, 1982 letter to assist Birdwood Mill historians with photo details of the image below, “C.R Dickason, in Supercharged Austin 7, passing G Dentry. He won the Grand Prix but the following day the Victorian Light Car Club altered the rules and awarded the race to C Junker in a Bugatti.”

Certainly the Melbourne Sun, published on the Tuesday morning after the race, before the VLCC gave the rules a tickle, published an article which records, “Driving magnificently and making a non-stop run, C.R. Dickason, in a supercharged Austin Seven, off 30 minutes handicap, won the fourth 200 mile Australian Grand Prix, run here today.”

So, in the very early hours of Tuesday morning, when The Sun‘s presses rolled in Flinders Street, Melbourne, the winner of the AGP was Cyril Dickason. That he was presented with the award post-race is supported by the fact that the AGP Trophy remained in his collection. He never gave it back, even if the VLCC was stupid enough to ask for it’s return…

Dickason’s mechanic, James Long thanks Barney Dentry – with wife Bess alongside – for making room, Riley Brooklands (fourth) (H Paynting via A Dickason)

The VLCC committee in 1931 comprised AJ Terdich, H Drake-Richmond, AW Bernadou, OF Tough, AC Tye, A Carlton, F Walch, G Weiss, JW Condon, WJ Middleton and G Wright. At least three, and probably more of these fellas were/had been Bugatti owners/racers. I wonder how many of the establishment car club, VLCC committeemen were Austin 7 owners? Clubs are often terrible things when it comes to governance, who knows what went on and why in the hallowed, dark timber, panelled halls of the VLCC’s Fitzroy premises.

“I mean olde-bean, an ‘Orstin 7 won in 1928, ruddy-hell we can’t have another of those plebian roller-skates beating our French racing aristocrats! Besides, the Austins are grubby-factory cars, ours are amateur entries which are much more worthy and in the spirit of the race. And look, I know Carl Junker is only a Heidelberg butcher and didn’t go to Scotch (College) or Grammar (Melbourne) let alone live in Toorak or South Yarra but he is a protestant stout-chap, has plenty of money, and goodness – happy-hockey sticks – the main thing is he’s driving a Bugatti and that’s what we want winning OUR RACE not a ruddy-Austin…blah-blah, wank-toss-jerk see you at the Club this evening old-China…”

Well OK, maybe I’ve overdone it a bit. We Skips like to think of ourselves as an egalitarian lot and in relative terms compared to some other parts of the world that’s correct. But back then, your family, address, school, clubs, religion and of course bank balance all mattered. A lot. Why did the LCCV seemingly steal that AGP from Dickason and Austin and give it to Junker and Bugatti?

Two of my close mates are on opposite sides of this argument. Austin 7/Bentley historian/author/racer Tony Johns swings one way and Bugatti historian/author/racer Bob King the other. Getting hold of a copy of the supplementary regulations for this race meeting would resolve the good-natured banter about this long ago AGP. That is, hopefully that document makes clear the basis on which the winner of the AGP was to be awarded, on a scratch or handicap basis. In short, we want to know if CR Dickason and Austin were shafted, or otherwise.

Based on the evidence Tony has presented so far – see here; – my view is that Dickason and Austin copped the rough end of the pineapple. If you have a copy of said document found in the bowels of your late uncle’s shed do please send it to me on

Austin Distributors ad which appeared in the Melbourne Truth on 28 March 1931. By that stage Austin Distributors Pty. Ltd, and their lawyers would have been aware the VLCC had reallocated the spoils of victory, so there is a commendable ‘up yours’ element to this piece of corporate communication. By the 1970s the Truth‘s raison d’être had evolved into a compelling mix of titties and lies (T Johns Collection)


The Referee, Sydney, April 1, 1931, Bob King Collection, Tony Johns Collection via The Nostalgia Forum, John Sherwood Collection via Tony Davis, Harold Paynting via Ann Dickason Collection, David Zeunert Collection


(B King Collection)

Carl Junker (right) and mechanic, Mr E Lauder, having a cuppa before the start of the Phillip Island 100 on New Years Day 1934. Persil white overalls would not have looked quite so perfect a couple of hours later. It’s a Bugatti T39 again, but this time chassis #4604. Blow the shot up and suss the characters, wonderful.



Everything you need to know about 37 year-old Bob Muir’s skill behind the wheel is demonstrated in this shot of the grid at the start of the III Gran Premio di Mugello Euro F2 round in July 1976.

The red spec on the front row is Muiro’s Derek Kneller prepared Chevron B35 Ford BDA. Such are the dimensions of his wedding-tackle and blinding, god-given speed he has plonked a privateer Chevron with Ford BDA engine ahead of almost all the factory cars, the four Renault-Gordini V6 powered Elf 2Js (Jean-Pierre Jabouille alongside him on pole, and Michel Leclere) and Martini Mk19s (Rene Arnoux and Patrick Tambay). Then the works-March BMWs (Maurizio Flammini and Alex Ribeiro) and the rest including future/current GP drivers, Keke Rosberg, Vittorio Brambilla, Giancarlo Martini, Hans Binder, Ingo Hoffman and Harald Ertl. Bob’s Ford BDA was the pick of the engines in 1972 but the pecking order on this grid was Renault-Gordini V6, BMW M12/7, Hart 420R then the BDA. Jabouille won from Arnoux and Tambay. Muir was 16th.

In a different time, after tumbling out of the right womb, the likes of Bob Muir would have been funded through Karts by Daddy, funded through Formula Ford and F3 by Daddy, then picked up by one of the F1 Feeder Capital Vulture outfits (still part funded by Daddy, investment to this point circa $A6-8million) and into Grand Prix racing. And yes, I know he is not alone.

But Bob was old school, his formative years, indeed most of his years, were self funded by his motor dealership, so his appearances were usually sporadic and subject to availability of the-readies. I suspect his first real paid drive was with Bob and Marj Brown, in Australian F2 in 1974 and British Formula Atlantic in 1975 with a pair of Birrana 273s. The Browns funded this short Chevron campaign too, then it was back to Australia, where taxis beckoned.

Griffin helmeted Muir in front of Giorgio Francia’s Chevron B35 BMW. Bob had never raced at Mugello before, let alone visited Italy. It seems he rather liked the place (MotorSport)
Meet the fam. Bob and Judy Muir, with Jason and Danielle at Mascot Airport, Sydney in April 1972 with third place booty from the Singapore Grand Prix. Australians 1-3 in this race; Max Stewart, Mildren Ford, Vern Schuppan, March 722 Ford and then Bob’s borrowed or leased Rennmax BN3 Ford
Bob early in the year, 1973 US L&M Championship campaign at Riverside. Legendary engineer/mechanic/driver mentor Peter Molloy at left, John Wright in the middle? Lola T330 Chev (Muir Family Collection)

I was a believer from my very first motor race spectatorship, the 1972 Sandown Tasman round, the AGP no less. His Lola T300 Chev was the most spectacular belle-of-the-ball. See here; and here; , oh-yes, this too:

R.I.P Bob Muir, November 29, 1939-February 12, 2023, thanks so much for some wonderful memories, what a steerer…

The Muirs Sports Cars entry ahead of Teddy Pilette during the 1971 Tasman Cup Warwick Farm 100, Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott 2-litre TC-4V from McLaren M10B Chev. This is the battle for fifth place, resolved in Teddy’s favour. Frank Gardner won in a works-Lola T192 Chev from Chris Amon, Lotus 70 Ford and Kevin Bartlett, Mildren Chev ( Simpson)


MotorSport Images, Getty Images, Simpson, Muir Family Collection, Tony Glenn,, Alan Cox, Derek Kneller,

Bob about to take to Oran Park for the first time in the brand new Matich A53 Repco-Holden, Saturday February 2, 1974 (D Kneller)


As is so often the case the article grows like topsy after the initial posting, in this case thanks to a long discussion with legendary engineer/mechanic Derek Kneller in the UK this morning, February 15.

“Bob was a bloody good driver, really good, he could sort a car too. He went very well in the Lola T330 Chev that he ran in the 1973 L &M (US F5000 Championship). I was over there that season running Frank’s two Matich A51 Repcos. Peter Molloy was over there for a while when Bob first arrived, and he soon hooked up with Jerry Eisert and Chuck Jones. The car was always well prepared but as the season went on they were cobbling together engines. They had a really smart rig but the engines weren’t too good, I remember Bob finishing a heat at Watkins Glen second with the thing running on only seven-cylinders.”

In an amazing run of raw pace despite the tight budget, Bob qualified fourth at Michigan International on May 20 for third in his heat and DNF final. Off to Mid Ohio for Q3 and DNS heat and final, and then to the demanding Watkins Glen, a circuit on which he hadn’t competed before. Q2 behind Jody Scheckter and ahead of Brett Lunger, Brian Redman, Peter Gethin, Mark Donohue, Tony Adamowicz, David Hobbs, Kevin Bartlett, John Walker, Vern Schuppan and Frank Matich was really something. He was fifth in his heat at Road America after qualifying poorly, DNF in the final then missed the last few rounds, out of money. While 23 year old Jody Scheckter was the L&M young star of the series, the older find was 34 years young Bob Muir.

“Bob was unlucky to destroy the A52 (Matich A52 Repco-Holden F5000 car) in later 1973 at Warwick Farm in testing, but there was no question of who we were going to turn to when Frank decided he couldn’t do the race distance at Oran Park.”

“What’s it doing Bob?” Muir and crew in the Oran Park paddock, Matich A53 Repco-Holden (D Kneller)

“The car (Matich A53 Repco-Holden) was brand new, Frank had done a few sessions and we’d attended to a few things, then Bob did three or so laps to get the feel of the thing but the oil pump drive-belt came off and that damaged the engine. We had that changed by late evening and were allowed to do some laps at about 8pm, Bob was quickly down to times in the low 40s but had to start the race from the back of the grid as he hadn’t done a flyer before the oil pump problem.”

“In the race he was soon up to eighth or ninth, doing fast, consistent times before getting stuck behind Gethin or Oxton, then the fuel pump overheated so he was out. Repco had relocated the fuel pump and we hadn’t done enough testing laps to know it needed a heat-shield. Bob did some practice laps at Surfers but FM felt he was ok to do that race, and the final two at Sandown and Adelaide International.”

“I went back to the UK in late 1974 after we had wound down Frank’s (Matich) racing business in Sydney when he retired, then worked outside racing, I didn’t realise Bob contested the British Formula Atlantic Championship in 1975.”

After some fast drives in a borrowed Rennmax early in the 1974 Australian F2 Championship, Muir was engaged by Adelaide couple, Bob and Marj Brown to drive their pair of Birrana 273 Hart-Ford 416-B 1.6-litre cars. Bob finished second in a very tight, thrilling title-chase with works-Birrana driver Leo Geoghegan who raced their latest 274 model.

Muir, Birrana 273-009 Ford BDA, Mallory Park August 24, 1975, DNF fuel surge. Jim Crawford’s Chevron B29 won

The Browns decided to expand their specialist glass-making business to the UK in 1975. Taking the Birranas with them to contest the British Formula Atlantic Championship would be an ideal way to create interest in the new venture. Bob was the driver with his family of four relocating to Bishop Auckland (in Durham, the very north of England not too far from the border with Scotland) where the equipe was based. Dean Hosking, a young Adelaide driver who had raced a Formula 3 Birrana 374 Toyota for John Blander in 1974 and did very well also went along to drive one of the cars. Importantly, Tony Alcock, the design-partner in Birrana Cars, came along to engineer the cars, he was at a loose-end when Tony and Malcolm Ramsay, his business partner, decided to cease volume production of Birranas in Adelaide at the end of 1974.

Dean picks up the threads, “Bob’s business had developed the technology to make the type of glass that enabled one to see inside hot domestic ovens. He sold the company to Pilkington Glass and was subject to the usual ten year non-compete clause. So he approached the UK Government with the idea of setting up over there, that’s why the factory was in Bishop Auckland, the incentives were provided there in an area employment opportunities were needed.”

British Formula Atlantic was at its peak then, grids of 20 cars fought for two championships in 1975, the John Player British Formula Atlantic Championship and the Southern Organs British Formula Atlantic Championship. Tony Brise and Gunnar Nilsson went head to head, Brise won the former and Ted Wenz the latter with Nilsson second. Other big hitters that year included Brian Henton, Danny Sullivan, Jim Crawford, John Nicholson, Ray Mallock and Brett Riley.

Bob Muir and Tony Alcock entered 14 of the 21 rounds with the two year old Birrana for bests a pair of third placings at Silverstone and Oulton Park. In an impressive first UK season, Muir’s raw speed was again demonstrated with six top-five qualifying performances, two on the front row, one alongside Jim Crawford’s Chevron B29 at Mallory in August, and another beside the similarly mounted Gunnar Nilsson at Oulton in October. “He led a race at Mallory until the subframe broke (June 15), that was pretty impressive,” recalls Dean. While he was fifth in his first outing at Mallory Park in March, generally the little equipe got better results from late May after they had dialled the car in to the circuits and tyres.

“The deals were that Tony and I were paid, not a lot in my case, but enough to live on, to prepare the cars and me to have an occasional drive. Bob traded in cars of course! He had some friends in the London motor trade, that’s how he supported his family while he was over there.”

Muir, Minos Ford BDA at Thruxton during the 1976 BARC 200. DNF in the race won by Maurizio Flammini’s works-March 762 BMW (MotorSport)

“The first time I drove one of the cars was at Silverstone (April 13). I could certainly feel the extra 70bhp of the BDA compared with the 135bhp Corolla motor in the 374 but soon got used to that after a few laps. In fact I got to the far side of the circuit and was pondering what was the right gear for that corner and somebody went past me – Zot – clearly it wasn’t third!” Dean quipped. Bob qualified 15th that weekend in 273-009, and Dean 18th in 273-006, both cars retired, so not a good weekend.

“Tony Brise was head and shoulders above everybody else, I was convinced he would be the next British world champion. I thought Richard Morgan was impressive up close too. Ted Wenz not so much. But we held our own in cars that were two years old. I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world, but I wasn’t getting the drives I expected, money was perhaps a little tighter than Bob Brown may have hoped.”

It appears that Dean’s final race was at Snetterton on June 29. “Bob was great to be with, easy-going, a typical Sydney good-time guy! There was no prima-donna stuff, one one occasion we swopped cars as mine had the setup he was after. I came back and drove both contemporary cars for John Blanden, an ASP 340C Clubman, and some of his historic cars. I’ve always remained close to the scene with my involvement in the Sporting Car Club of South Australia and so on.”

At the end of 1975 Alcock took the fateful decision to join Hill Grand Prix, “I knew Tony well, he was with Matich for a while and came with us to the US when we did a couple of L&M races in the McLaren M10C Repco-Holden in early 1971. We lived close together in Sydney and saw one another quite a lot socially, both wives were Brits.” Kneller recalled affectionately.

“When Bob got in touch with me to help finish off the Minos Ford F2 car after Tony left – in essence it was a 273 rebodied and fitted with 295bhp Cosworth Ford BDX engine – it required assembly and finishing off, the hard stuff had already been done by Tony and Bob. I moved up to Bishop Auckland in this period and lived with Bob and Judy.”

“We took the car behind our little van to Thruxton (April 19) for the second round of the European F2 Championship. Bob was doing quite well in practice despite the fact that the car hadn’t turned a wheel before, 15th quickest time or thereabouts, but he only completed a lap in the race before the distributor drive failed.”

“We next set off for France to run in the Pau Grand Prix (June 7). What became clear in practice was that the Minos was flexing a lot when forced to change direction quickly, a problem not apparent at Thruxton. The Birranas had a chassis comprising an aluminium monocoque front and centre section and a tubular steel A-frame to which the engine was attached. It was built for 200bhp twin-cams not a 295bhp 2-litre BDX, the thing was twisting in the middle with the greater forces applied to it. I got some bits and pieces to brace the frame to the tub, including some radius rods Ron Dennis offered, but time ran out and we didn’t qualify.”

Derek Kneller’s shot of the Brown’s new Chevron B35 Ford (#35-76-10) after he had completed its assembly at Bolton in June 1976. B35 alongside’s owner? Chassis number of the half finished car please…? (D Kneller)

“The next thing I knew was Bob Muir asking me to go down to Bolton to assemble a new Chevron B35! Bob and Marj thought, stuff-it we need a new car.”

Derek Bennett himself helped me get the thing together, then off we set for Rouen (June 27). What should have been a good weekend quickly turned to tears, every time Bob applied the brakes at the bottom of the hill the car’s front wheels wanted to come off. The car assembly process at Chevrons involved going to the spares department to get the bits and pieces as you needed to attach to the chassis. The front suspension corners were complete sub-assemblies, all I had to do was bolt the wishbones, already attached to the upright assembly to the chassis. But left-hand hubs had gone onto right hand uprights, and vice-versa, so the wheels were trying to come undone under braking loads. What should have been an easy fix couldn’t be done in the paddock as none of the Chevron runners had the necessary parts.”

“We got the bits we needed out from England, then headed straight for Mugello which was held a fortnight later (July 11). We had heaps of time so Bob finally did lots of laps, getting himself and the car really dialled in. Don’t forget that when he got to the UK he didn’t know the circuits and the same applied in Europe of course. We had problems with the metering units of two engines, they weren’t getting the lubrication they needed from the Avgas we used.”

“We had great support from Swindons as we were the only ones running Ford engines. We needed another engine for the race so Bob Brown hired a plane, and he flew down with a Swindon works engine and one of their mechanics to look after it. When Bob put the car on the front row alongside Jabouille it was unbelievable. Our little team against the might of France complete with factory 320bhp Renault-Gordini V6s. Incredible really.”

Dicing with Alex Ribeiro’s fourth placed works-March 762 BMW early in the Mugello GP, Chevron B35 Ford BDX (MotorSport)

“Muiro led from the start of the 30 car grid, for about two laps our immaculate – Muir was fanatical about presentation – little red car led the field then he fell back a bit with clutch problems. The Aeroquip hydraulics line from stores was a fraction too short and vibrated loose, but he still ran sixth for a long while without a clutch, then slipped to ninth and eventually finished sixteenth. It was such a shame, without that who knows where he would have come.”

“And that was it. The Browns decided they had had enough and sold the Chevron. I’m not sure what became of the Minos, we sold it to a bloke from Scotland who ran it in the British Group 8 series for a while. Bob and Judy returned to Australia, I kept in touch with both of them, Judy too after they divorced, I last saw her at Frank’s (Matich) funeral in 2015. We kept in touch with Tony Alcock’s wife as well. After the plane crash (that killed most of Graham Hill’s team) she lived with her mother in Sussex for a while, she is still alive. The funny thing is, that light plane ride that Bob Brown took with the BDX from Bristol to Florence whetted his interest in flying, he and Marj took that up as another expensive hobby after they were finished with car racing!”

Three fabulous Muir Family Mugello happy-snaps, probably taken by Bob Brown as Derek Kneller is pushing the car in one shot and shirtless in another. Chevron B35 Ford BDX, the car on pole is Jean-Pierre Jabouille’s Elf 2J Renault


(T Glenn)

Super-sub. Bob Muir settles himself into Frank Matich’s brand new Matich A53 Repco-Holden at Oran Park just prior to the Tasman Cup round that in February 1974.

Matich had electrocuted himself in a near-fatal boating accident days before, FM ‘threw the keys’ to Bob after practicing the car and realising he wasn’t sufficiently well for the OP round, Q15/DNF. Frank was well enough to contest the remaining three Australian races – in which he was, as usual, very fast – his final races as events transpired.

The roll call is Peter Hughes in the white T-shirt, Lugsy Adams in yellow, then Grant O’Neill with the builders-cleavage, his woolly head obscuring Derek Kneller who is working on the left-front, all members of Frank Matich Racing. These are the machinists/fabricators/welders/mechanics who built A53-007, the very best of the Matich F5000 breed.

When I first posted an article incorporating this shot four years ago I captioned it on the basis that the fully-optioned, rather attractive young lady tending to Bob’s black helmet was his wife, a reasonable guess I thought. Not too long after, Bob’s ex-wife commented on social media that the blonde in question wasn’t her at all. There ya-go, my case rests, Muir met another of the tests of an elite level driver, the occasional away-game on the home front…’jokin of course.



Australia’s incipient love of touring cars started about here at Phillip Island on October 21, 1962, or in the first event two years before anyway.

These State Library of Victoria shots are showing signs of age but are all the more potent for it, so evocative as they are of a time long ago.

The group above is the tiddler – cars costing less than 900 pounds – class, the other three classes have already been flagged away. The #51 Triumph Herald is crewed by Hoot Gibson/Paul England/Jack Madden, #49 is the Doug Whiteford/Lou Molina VW, the Morris 850 was raced by George House/Clarrie Head. ‘Row three’ comprises the #48 George Reynolds/Jim McKeown VW – who won the class – #47 the Stan Martin/Les Park Triumph Herald, #50 the VW of Tony Theiler/Bob Foreman/Reg Lunn and the Graham Hoinville/Kevin Burns Ford Anglia. The #40 and #43 Minis are crewed by Jack Hunnam/John Hartnett and D Hooker/Terry Allan, finally, the #45 Triumph Herald in between those two Minis is the George Poulton/R Poulton/M Watson car.

There are plenty of fellas among this lot who were or became prominent in the sport; drivers – Paul England, Doug Whiteford, Lou Molina, George Reynolds, Jim McKeown, Jack Hunnam. Administrator/co-driver/team owner/engineer – Graeme Hoinville, Hoot Gibson, John Hartnett and Paul England.

We’ve been here before, towards the end of this piece, click here; and here;

Nice! Stephen Dalton’s programme complete with autographs of the victors, Messrs Firth and Jane

It’s not a big deal flagging the cars away separately by class, back in the day there was no overall winner, the awards were entirely class-based. But the taxi-lobby needed a winner as the race is part of the Bathurst continuum, and not having a winner wasn’t an option for them. So decades later, the car that did the quickest time was adjudged the winner, the Ford Falcon XL driven by Harry Firth and Bob Jane. Car 20B above is another of the works-Falcon entries, this one driven by Ken Harper, John Raeburn and Syd Fisher. The chasing #49 Volksy is that crewed by Whiteford/Molina.


Hmm, where is the wayward Bill Buckle/Brian Foley Scuderia Veloce Citroen ID19? It could be the area to the right as you exit Siberia perhaps, but if that is the case WTF is the driver doing there? Whatever the case, that car’s suspension would have absorbed the worst of the Island’s infield without difficulty, they finished fifth in Class A too, so no damage was done. Doesn’t it still look futuristic 60 years later, the French made distinctive cars then?


Yet another car in need of a compass is the fifth in Class A, Wal Gillespie/Vic Croft Chrysler Valiant. That’s Kildunda in the distance, I think he is off to the right on the entry to Southern Loop (turn one in the dull shit-boring parlance of today). Mind you, if you lost it on the way in there, that spot is not the likely one where physics would take you, but perhaps he copped a Rock Hudson on the way-in? Thoughts?


Harry Firth or Bob Jane – winners aboard the Firth prepared works-Ford Falcon XL – in search of an apex at MG, or is it Honda? I’ve done hundreds of laps at Phillip Island but the undergrowth is a good deal different in recent times than not long after the circuits opening in 1956.


State Library of Victoria, Wikipedia, Stephen Dalton Collection



Simpler times, not a hospitality pantech or marketing-stroker to be seen. The Copse is in the distance and main straight to the left of the finish line. Wasn’t the latter a staggering statement of the obvious that is positively feminine…


(N Tait Collection)

Frank Matich listens intently to the basso-profundo engine note of his Repco Brabham 4.8-litre, quad-cam RB760 V8 at Calder Park in early 1969…

Nigel Tait – the current custodian of the Matich SR4 Repco – and I did an epic piece about this 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship winning car years ago, so best not to rabbit on again, see here;

What caught my eye are the cool-dude Simpson Firestone works-driver fireproofs and his even more schmick Heuer Autavia watch. I defer to you horologists on such matters, but I think that’s what it is. And yes, to head off the state-the-obvious among you, the watchband is different.



Nigel Tait Collection


FM tips the SR4 into Peters corner at Sandown in 1969, points awarded for ID’ing the driver of the Lotus 23 or whatever it is.

By the time this ad appeared in late 1969 or 1970, Matich had switched his affections away from this sportscar to a McLaren M10A Chev single-seater, with the Repco-Holden F5000 5-litre V8 in its early stages of development. See here;



Terry Perkins, Elfin 620 Formula Ford leads Peter Larner’s Wren and another Wren – Murray Coombs’ F3 car – back to the Calder paddock as they run down the old circuit exit in 1973…

A swag of Australians pursued a motor-racing career in the UK down the decades, it would be interesting to create a definitive list. My own interest are those guys who gave it a crack that I had seen race in Australia prior to heading across the oceans to the world’s racing capital.

Those who spring to mind – its not an attempt at a definitive list from 1972 – are The Brabham Boys – Geoff, Gary and David (F3), Paul Bernasconi (F3), Chris Farrell (F3), Andrew Miedecke (F3 briefly), Gerry Witenden (FF2000), Gary Scott (F3), Lucio Cesario (WEC in Italy), Mark Skaife and Craig Lowndes (F3000), Steve Harrington (F3), Mark Webber (FF), Will Power (F3), Daniel Ricciardo (FBMW), John Martin (FF)…and Terry and Larry Perkins in F3. There are others post 1972 I’ve not seen…or forgotten, so spare me the pedantry.

Let’s focus on the latter brothers, primarily their single-seater exploits in Europe, do grab a wine or a couple of Carltons before you start though, a 1,500 word quickie has become an 11,500 word epic with a tangent or three thrown in, I really have wandered all over the joint with this one…

Larry explores the limits of his Perkins Vee- Hume Weir 1969 (D Simpson)

Quite possibly the Calder meeting at which Perkins T was photographed in the opening shot in 1973, a mixed FF and ANF3 grid, common in the day. I’ll take advice on who most of the cars/drivers are but it appears to be a red Elfin 600 and a Wren on the front row. That’s Terry on row 2 in car #2 Elfin 620 whilst on row 3 on the far side is, I think, Peter Larner whilst the white #78 is Brian Sampson’s Cheetah Mk3 Toyota-unusually far back (unattributed)

The path through motor racing in Australia for the Perkins brothers from Cowangie, a small whistle-stop between Ouyen and the South Australian border, aided and encouraged by their ex-racer/rallyist father Eddie was similar.

Both started in the Victorian Formula Vee ranks and progressed to Formula Ford winning the prestigious TAA Airlines Driver To Europe Australian FF Championship, and then off to the UK they went. Larry was scooped up by Bib Stillwell into his two car Elfin 600 Formula Ford team in 1970, winning the title in 1971, whereas Terry was victorious in 1974 aboard an Elfin 620 supported by Doncaster Ford Dealership Strapp Ford. Ted Strapp was a supporter of motor racing at the time.

Larry figured he wasn’t quite ready to take his DTE prize in 1971 so stayed in Australia driving, and helping to prepare Holden Dealer Team Torana’s of various types and won the Australian F2 Championship in Garry Campbell’s Elfin 600B/E Ford, no doubt the wings-‘n-slicks circa 180bhp experience stood him in good stead when he entered F3 in 1973.

Larry in Garry Campbell’s ANF2 Elfin 600B/E during the 1972 Surfers Paradise ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’ Gold Star round. The Sydney ‘Provincial Motors’ motor dealer was a wonderful supporter of Perkins inclusive of his initial foray in Europe (G Ruckert)

There was a strong Australian contingent at Snetterton for the inaugural Formula Ford Festival in 1972, then as now the launchpad of many a Grand Prix career. The roll-call included Larry Perkins in Garrie Cooper’s first Elfin 620, John Leffler’s Bowin P4a and Bob Skelton’s Bowin P6f all arrived from Australia whereas Peter Finlay’s Palliser WDF2 and Buzz Buzaglo’s Elden Mk10A both had been campaigning in UK/Europe. Future F1 drivers Danny Sullivan, Patrick Neve and Tiff Needell, in addition to Perkins were also entered.

Buzz qualified well and finished second to Sullivan in his semi-final and was back in the pack in the final having initially run third off the front of the grid, and moving forward before the distributor moved, causing a misfire which pushed him back through the field. Best placed of the Aussies was Perkins, third in the final and at the start of a five year sojurn in Europe which took him all the way to F1.

Whilst Doug Bassett goes straight on at The Hairpin in the background, Larry Perkins Elfin 620 leads Tiff Needell, Lotus 69 at left, with Chris Smith’s Elden #44 up his chuff and Buzz Buzaglo in the distinctive, white, Falconer bodied Elden Mk10A on the inside and the rest, Snetterton FF Festival 1972

Elfin Racing Car News ad extolling the virtues of the Elfin 620. Larry took the first chassis to England having won the 1971 FF Driver to Europe award in one of Bib Stillwell’s Elfin 600s

Profile shot of the Elfin 620, Adelaide International perhaps, Terry Perkins in 1973 or 1974 (unattributed)

Perkins set about finding an F3 car for 1973 quickly. He settled on a GRD 372 Ford-Novamotor, a sound choice of car made by ex-Lotus Components lads led by David Lazenby. His campaign was funded by savings and financial assistance/sponsorship  from David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce and Garry Campbell’s Provincial Motors, both Sydney businesses, BP and Singapore Airlines. First race was at Silverstone’s short circuit on 18 March, round 2 of the BRSCC North Central Lombard F3 Championship. Larry DNF, with Alan Jones the victor in a GRD 372 at the start of a season which would finally see him break free of F3 after four years of banging away at it.

To Snetterton on April Fools Day, again DNF, Jones the winner, then to the BRDC International Trophy Meeting at Silverstone DNF, and again on April 20 DNF accident at Oulton Park – a BRSCC John Player F3 Championship round. Not a great start but it was clear he was trying hard, Larry finally got a score on the board at Mallory on April 23 during another BRSCC round, sixth in his heat and ninth in the final with Jones up front.

Perkins took in a couple of French Championship rounds on the way to the Monaco F3 GP on 1 May, starting at Magny-Cours where he finished third behind Jacques Laffitte and Jean-Pierre Paoli, the pair raced BP sponsored Martini Mk12 Ford-Holbays. At Pau on May 6 he was a DNF with Laffitte again up front. Still in France, Larry won the GP de La Chatre on 20 May to take his first win on European soil from Bernard Beguin and Laffitte.

Larry therefore went to Monaco with his tail up for the 2 June F3 GP Automobile de Monaco, but failed to qualify after an accident on lap 12 of his heat. Jacques Laffitte won the extremely prestigious race in a Martini Mk12 Ford, and raced to a European F2 Championship victory with Tico Martini the following year on his way to F1.

On June 17 he contested the Trophee d’Auvergne finishing sixth, and then on to Rouen on 24 June he was out on lap 4 due to accident damage, plenty of damage which could not be quickly repaired given the small Team Cowangie budget. The bundle of GRD bits Larry presented for inspection to Ron Tauranac referred to shortly was caused by this particular accident…

In the British GP support race Larry cadged a works Ensign LNF3 Ford from Mo Nunn. He was ninth in his heat and had an accident in the final. Another important race, this one was taken by USA’s Tony Rouff in a GRD 373, the best placed Aussies were Alan Jones, third in his GRD and Buzz Buzaglo’s splendid seventh in his smell-of-an-oily-rag budget March 723 Ford.

By 11 August Larry had convinced no less than BC Ecclestone to let him have the use of a Brabham BT41 into which Larry dropped his Ford-Novamotor engine for the Lombard F3 round at Oulton Park. DNF accident on lap 5 would not have left BCE best pleased, but nonetheless Perkins had created the start of a relationship which would see him in a bigger Brabham, an F1 jobbie in three years. Better was eleventh at Mallory on 26 August, Tony Brise was up front that day in a March 733, with further improvement to sixth at the Oulton Park BRSCC Lombard F3 round on 8 September, Brise was again the winner.

Third behind Brian Henton’s Ensign LNF3 and Tony Brise’ March 733 Ford at Brands round 11 of the BRSCC John Player British Championship on 30 September must have been a great boost to Larry’s confidence as well. A DNF followed at Oulton Park after an oil pipe failure on 7 October, the Jones boy triumphed again that day. At Mallory Park he was seventh in mid-October, then fifth, one slot in front of Jones in the Motor Show 200 at Brands on 21 October, Brise won.

Looking at 1973 in perspective, Tony Brise won the BRSCC John Player Championship by two points from Jones, Larry was twelfth, he had done well having started the process of establishing his name and racing on a wide variety of circuits in both the UK and France but he had run out of money. As a consequence his racing in 1974 was rather limited, albeit the year did include a somewhat premature, unplanned crack at F1.

Huge Brands grid 21 October 1973. Ian Taylor, March #1, Tony Brise alongside and Michel Leclere Alpine on the outside. #25 is Alan Jones GRD 372, #4 Masami Kawashima and #61 Larry Perkins, white Brabham BT41 Ford on the inside and the rest. Brise won from (K Hyndman)

Larry Perkins, Amon AF101 Ford, German GP practice, Nürburgring 3 August 1974 (Sutton)

Larry had discussed with Chris Amon joining Chris’ team in 1974 driving either a second F1 car or one adapted to F5000. No doubt Chris saw in Larry somebody who would muck-in with the build, maintenance and preparation of the cars.

When lack of sponsorship put paid to that, Larry organised a few F3 outings to keep his name out there. His first race was in a Trivellato March 743 Ford-Holbay at Monaco in May where he was seventh in his heat, but was a DNF due to accident damage after five laps in the final. That year there were sixty cars which sought to qualify for the final. He raced again for Trivellato in the Monza Lottery in June finishing ninth, and was tenth a month later at Alessandria in the Coppa Autodromo di Casale.

What should have been a career high-point was his first GP chance at the Nürburgring on 4 August aboard Amon’s car, the sub-optimal Amon AF101 Ford. The car appeared at the Nürburgring having missed a couple of races with the front brakes inboard again, the water radiators placed either side of the engine and new wings front and rear as well as lots of other bits-and-shits.

Team Chris was immediately in trouble on Friday, only one lap revealed overheating problems so the crew were kept busy modifying radiator mounts for the balance of the day. As Saturday dawned Chris had developed a streaming cold or sinusitis depending upon the source, so Larry took on the formidable challenge of qualifying the recalcitrant car on the most demanding of all circuits, not one he had raced on before and in a year when he was hardly match fit given the paucity of racing he had undertaken.

The first part of Saturday practice was dry, the second bit was wet compounding the challenge! Some reports have it that he went off but Denis Jenkinson’s account does not record that if it occurred. Unsurprisingly he missed the cut along with Francois Migault, Tim Schenken, Guy Edwards and Howden Ganley, Clay Regazzoni won that weekend in a Ferrari 312B3.

Whilst innovative, the Gordon Fowell designed, John Dalton and Chris Amon financed Amon was uncompetitive in the extreme, not even Chris’ renowned testing prowess could make it good. By the end of the season he had jumped out of the fat and into the flames and raced another shit-heap vastly beneath him in the BRM P201. He ran the car at Mosport and Watkins Glen. It’s said that there was nothing wrong with the P201 that a good ‘ole Cosworth DFV could not fix…

Redemption of Amon’s Formula One career of sorts would come in Morris Nunn’s 1976 Ensign N176 Ford in a drive which had a Larry Perkins twist we will come to shortly.

Chris Amon drove ‘all the classic marques’ of the period including BRM but the Bourne team’s ‘glory years’ of 1959 to 1971/2 were long gone by 1974, here at Mosport, 1974 Canadian GP, BRM P201 (nwmacracing)

Terry Perkins, Elfin 620, Paul Bernasconi, Mawer 004, Andrew Miedecke, Birrana F73, Peter Finlay, Palliser WDF2 and the nose of Geoff Brabham’s Bowin P6F at Oran Park in 1974. Perkins, Bernasconi and Brabham all raced Ralt RT1in Europe, Miedecke did a few races in a March 763 and Finlay had just returned to Australia having finished second in the 1973 EFDA European FF Championship in the Palliser (N Bennett)

Andrew Miedecke, Birrana F73 trying to hold off a hard charging Terry Perkins Elfin 620, with another 620 giving chase at Calder’s Tin Shed corner in 1973 (N Bennett)

While Larry was wrestling the recalcitrant Amon around the Nurburgring, by that August weekend Terry was well into his second Australian Formula Ford season which saw him win three of the ten Driver to Europe Series rounds – at Adelaide International and the Oran Park June and September rounds. His mount was an Elfin 620 albeit he won at Oran Park in September aboard Peter Lissiuk’s Titan Mk6C. Terry won the title with 71 points from Andrew Miedecke and Geoff Brabham.

I recall American visitor Peter Lissiuk’s win in this car at Sandown in July, he was one of some great drivers in a season of depth which included second placed Andrew Miedecke. He had three wins in his Birrana F73 (one of the great Australian FF chassis raced later by Richard Carter and Gary Brabham amongst others). Geoff Brabham was third in the ex-Leffler 1973 DTE winning Bowin P6F with one win, while Paul Bernasconi was fourth in the lust-worthy, ex-everybody and still extant Mawer 004 with two wins. Peter Finlay was just back from Europe mid-season in the Palliser WDF2 in which he finished third in the 1973 European FF Championship. He would be a force in 1975 with Grace Brothers sponsorship and the Pommie cars suspension optimised for the Goodyear slicks then used in Oz FF.

The grids also included later single-seater aces, Peter Larner, Elfin 600, Stephen Brook, Bowin P6F and John Davis who raced the Bowin P4X in which Jack Brabham won his last ever race, the Calder Formula Ford ‘Race of Champions’ in mid-1971. With his Elfin sold prior to the last round of the championship in October, Terry decided to join his Big Bro in England in 1975 with the aim of buying a Ralt, if the car looked up to snuff…

Larry Perkin’s search for a quicker F3 car for 1975 to create the forward momentum needed to capture the spotlight of those who matter coincided with Ron Tauranac’s desire to jump back into the production racing car business. Tauranac recalled Larry pulling up in front of his house with a “rather tatty Formula Three GRD which he was using in races all over Europe. I put in a few rivets for the lad and gave him some helpful advice and I had often thought it would be nice to provide him with something really competitive to race, so I decided to design a chassis which he and his mechanic could build up themselves,” Tauranac recalled in July 1978 Motorsport interview.

In another Motorsport interview he said “(Larry) had no money and asked me to help him redesign a Formula 3 car he had bought. After looking at it, I said, ‘We can do better than this’, so I built him a car with Greg Siddle doing the management bit. Larry began to progress.”

And so it was, in the final months of 1974 Ron Tauranac sat down to design “a simple, easy to maintain, yet competitive racing car, one which could be updated and modified and redeveloped as the years wore on,” arguably the RT1 was the greatest of his production racing car designs…Mind you other contenders would be the Brabham BT3/4/7/11 F1/Intercontinental, BT23/C F2, BT30/36 and lets not forget the RT2/3/4/5, and theres more…whatever the argument, the RT1 was a corker of a car in the hands of a vast number of drivers.

Alain Fenn, who had worked with Ron at Motor Racing Developments, re-joined Tauranac from Fred Opert in the US to assist with the sourcing of componentry. They identified premises at Snelgar Road, Woking and were soon underway in the build of an initial batch of five Ralts. Make that an initial batch of ‘Ralt Twos’ as the very first Ralts were built by Ron and Austin Tauranac in Sydney in the early post-war years.

The first Ralt Norton ES2 powered machine’s construction commenced in 1949 after Ron befriended the first men to build a ‘500’ in New South Wales. Jack and Bill Hooper were Sydney motor-cycle engineers, this car was powered by a Triumph single. Ron later modified the Hooper machine which Austin raced.

Ralt 1’s first event was a Sprint meeting in late 1949, later after running at the Hawkesbury hillclimb in 1950 Australian Motor Sports noted that he made a ‘promising rather than auspicious’ debut on a day when John Crouch, Australian GP winner, took FTD in a Cooper 1100. Tauranac’s relationship with Jack Brabham commenced when RT bought a 500cc MSS Velocette engine Jack had for sale, the two men, both of whom served in the RAAF towards the war’s end struck an instant rapport. As is well known, ‘Ralt’ was derived from the initials of Ronald Sidney Tauranac and his brother Austin Lewis Tauranac, viz Ron Austin Lewis Tauranac – RALT.

There is a certain symmetry about the first batch of Ralt Twos being five cars, as the batch of Ralt Ones that RT was preparing in 1960 was also a batch of five when he jumped on a plane – popping his family, wife Norma and daughter Jann on the ‘Fairsea’ from Circular Quay to Southhampton – off to the UK via an event at Riverside looking after Jack’s Cooper Monaco to join Brabham Enterprises to commence the path we all know so well. The five cars were built as Lynx Formula Juniors after Ron sold the plans and patterns for the design to Lynx Engineering for a nominal sum.

The two Perkins brothers Ralt RT1’s in the Ralt, Snelgar Road Woking factory in early 1975. #44 Larry, chassis # ‘RT1/75-2’ and Terry # ‘RT1/75-3’ (G Siddle)

The first RT1 chassis to take to the track (a total of 165 RT1s were built from 1975 to 1979) was Larry Perkins’ works loaned car- RT1/75-2, Italian Roberto Marazzi bought one (chassis RT1/75-1) via Ralt’s agent in Italy, Chuck McCarty. Ulf Svensson acquired another which went to Bertram Schafer (RT1/75-4), both McCarty and Svensson had been Brabham agents. Terry Perkins machine was RT1/75-3 and longtime Brabham customer, the very quick Hong-Konger John McDonald bought the fifth, RT1/75-5. What about that Ralt logo or wordmark? I loved it from the moment i saw it, the hippy-script was designed by thirteen year old Julie Tauranac!

Perkins, in the second year of 2-litre F3 had chosen wisely, a Ford Novamotor twin-cam was a smart choice for him as he was familiar with the engine of a car he was to self-prepare, the Toyota 2T-G Novamotor would become the engine to have before the season’s end, and was fitted to Larry’s chassis before the year ended.

Larry decided to target the FIA Formula 3 European Cup not having sufficient a budget to run the more prestigious BP series in England, mind you, some sources have it that the FIA F3 European Cup was only announced in the FIA’s June bulletin by which time three of the six Euro rounds had been run and won…

Team Cowangie had tested the car thoroughly enough before the start of the season commenced, and, critically had Greg Siddle – to become a very successful motor racing entrepreneur/driver mentor/team organiser – was in their camp. Larry was fifth at the opening BARC round at Thruxton on 31 March where Gunnar Nilsson was the winner, the first of many that year.

Siddle (an article in itself) managed the careers of Nelson Piquet and Roberto Moreno for periods of time in addition to Perkins and many others down the decades, and as a long term admirer of Tauranac “It was Siddle who nominated him and rounded up influential referees” which culminated in the award of an Order of Australia to RT in 2002, wrote Michael Stahl.

Ron Tauranac and Greg Siddle in 1975- racers both (G Siddle)

Brands Polydor Records Trophy, 7 September 1975 front row. Larry this side and Dick Parsons, Modus M1 Ford alongside – first and second – Danny Sullivan in another Modus was third (G Siddle)

Silverstone on 27 April on the short circuit was not a good weekend for the brothers with LP twelfth and DNF whilst Terry was a non-starter due to accident damage. Off to Monaco for the most prestigious race of the year, the first round of the European Championship on 10 May. Larry won his heat from Conny Anderson and Patrick Neve but was out in the final after 12 of the 25 laps with accident damage. Renzo Zorzi’s GRD 374 Lancia won. Nonetheless, an important marker had been put down, the entry list that year ran to 67 cars including the non pre-qualifiers.

Back in the UK for BARC round 5 at Thruxton on 26 May, Larry was seventh and Terry DNS with head gasket failure, Nilsson won again and then to Snetterton on 15 June, Larry was 19th and TP a no-show. Larry had missed the previous two Euro rounds at the Nürburgring on 1 June, and Anderstorp on 8 June, where Freddy Kottulinsky, Modus M1 BMW M-10 and Conny Anderson, March 753 Toyota won respectively.

Team Cowangie headed off to Italy for round four with LP winning the prestigious Monza Gran Premio della Lotteria on 29 June by forty seconds in a field which included future F1 drivers Piercarlo Ghinzani, Renzo Zorzi, Danny Sullivan, Patrick Neve, Gunnar Nilsson, Alex Ribeiro, Conny Andersson, Loris Kessel, Alessandro Pesenti-Rossi, Gianfranco Brancatelli and others.

LP was quickest in practice – which suggests the Ford-Novamotor did not lack power – and that the RT1 was a pretty slippery jigger, Larry’s task was made easier as Gunnar Nilsson had a big accident in practice and was unable to start the race. Larry had a race long scrap winning from local heroes Fernando Spreafico’s GRD 374 Toyota-Novamotor and Alessandro Pesenti-Rossi’s March 743 Toyota-Novamotor. It was a big win mentally and put some valuable funds into the team coffers.

Brands Hatch ‘Polydor Records Trophy’ meeting on 7 September. Larry in #44 won and Terry in #45 was ninth (G Siddle)

Terry’s car at Silverstone during the British GP weekend (A Raine)

Larry spins whilst a Modus and #46 Stephen South Ray BR3 go thru the Woodcote Chicane (T Marshall)

Off to Silverstone for the British GP meeting on 19 July, the FOCA Trophy, and again an important meeting with all of the F1 hierarchy in attendance. The trophy was won by Gunnar Nilsson, he took the British BP F3 Championship that year in a works March 753 Toyota. Terry had his best run of the year to finish fourth, with Larry back in ninth after recovering from an early race spin shown in the photograph above.

Perkins’ Monza victory gave him a serious tilt at the European Championship, so the team transporter headed back across the Channel to Croix-en-Ternois for the Trophee d’Arras on 20 July, the fifth round. Larry was fourth on the grid and Terry sixth in a small field of fourteen cars, with LP the winner and Terry out with accident damage after only two laps.

Then it was on to Denmark for the final Euro round at Djurslandring- the Danish Grand Prix on 2 August. In a wonderful weekend for the Brothers Perkins Terry was fourth in the first of two heats, while Larry won his, Terry bagged the 40 lap Grand Prix! It was a good win too, in front of Anders Olofsson, Conny Andersson, Renzo Zorzi and others. Larry was ninth with undisclosed dramas but had accumulated enough points to win the European Championship. His 18 points and two wins trumped Conny Andersson on 14 and Renzo Zorzi 11 points. The brothers stayed in Denmark to contest the Wrangler GP at the Jyllandsringen on 24 August finishing third and sixth, Larry from Terry with two Scandinavians up front, Jac Nelleman and Conny Andersson in GRD 375 and March 753 respectively.

Larry had a point to make back in the UK, the British F3 Championship was the toughest of F3 contests that year so it was back there to race in a few rounds of the BARC BP Super Visco British F3 Championship before the season’s end, starting with round 15 at Silverstone on 31 August. Larry finished a strong second behind Eddie Cheever, Modus M1 Toyota with Terry only two seconds adrift of Larry but still in fifth place, such was and is the competitiveness of the category. Larry used a Toyota 2T-G Novamotor engine at this meeting for the first time. A week later Larry won the Polydor Records Trophy at Brands, again Toyota powered in a field which included Danny Sullivan, Alex Ribeiro, Gunnar Nilsson, Terry (ninth), Rupert Keegan, Ingo Hoffman etc- it was a good win and indicative of the Toyota advantage over the venerable, long-lived Ford/Lotus twin-cam.

Oulton Park- Gunnar Nilsson, March 753 from Ingo Hoffman in another 753 then Larry with a bunch of three; Eddie Cheever Modus M1 on the inside then Alex Ribeiro and Stephen South both in March 753s, all Toyota 2T-G powered (Toyota)

Ralt Racing Equipe in 1975, Perkins’ RT1 with Ron Tauranac and Greg Siddle off to the right (G Siddle)

Back to Italy on 14 September for the Coppa Autodromo di Casale, on the Autodromo di Casale Monferrato at Alessandria, Larry was fifth, TP not making the trip.

Larry held his Brands Hatch form, winning the BARC BP round 16 on 21 September from Ribeiro and Nilsson, a week later at Silverstone for round 17 he was second behind Nilsson. A week further on, 4 October, the British F3 circus was at Oulton Park for the penultimate BP round, this time the winner was Ingo Hoffman’s March 753 from Alex Ribeiro, then Larry from Nilsson, Cheever, Stephen South and Rupert Keegan- 30 seconds covered these first seven cars.

Off to Thruxton for the final BP round on 26 October, Larry was fifth behind Ribeiro, Sullivan, South and Patrick Neve, Modus M1 Toyota. Then back to Thruxton again on 5 November for the BARC Forward Trust BBC-TV race of 1975 where Larry was again fourth, this time from Nilsson, Cheever and Neve. Team Cowangies’s final race for the year was at Hockenheim on 9 November when Terry raced his Ford Novamotor powered RT1 to seventh in round 12 of the German Championship at Hockenheim, Eddie Cheever won.

The team – Tauranac, Siddle, Perkins L and Perkins T – would have been pleased, make that ecstatic at the season’s results, Larry won the FIA Euro Championship with Terry was equal fourth. Conny Andersson was second and Freddy Kottulinsky third.

Despite contesting, at best, half the rounds Larry was fifth in the more important, if less outwardly prestigious BARC BP Super Visco British F3 Championship. The top four were Gunnar Nilsson, then Alex Ribeiro, both in works March 753s, then Danny Sullivan, Modus M1 and Patrick Neve, Safir RJ03. All of these fellows would race an F1 car with the exception of Terry and Kottulinsky.

Tauranac’s faith in the Perkins brothers was well founded, their speed and success in the RT1s provided a foundation piece for the Ralt sales success which was to follow over the next decade or so. Ron has been quoted many times about how Ralt was a far more profitable business than Motor Racing Developments ever was, lets not forget that first and foremost it was a family business.

Terry Perkins needed another year of F3, having established his potential clearly, no doubt the Danish Grand Prix cup still has a prominent place in his study, he returned to Australia, I’d love to hear from anybody who can tell me his story since then…

Rikky Von Opel, Ensign LNF3 Ford F3, Thruxton 1972. One can’t help but ponder the effectiveness of those wings- not so much the inclination but rather the shapes, very successful design mind you (unattributed)

Von Opel during the 1973 British GP, Ensign N173 Ford. Q21 and 13th, six laps adrift of winner, Peter Revson’s McLaren M23 Ford (unattributed)

Former Team Lotus F3 racer Morris Mo Nunn ran German nobleman and very quick driver Rikky von Opel to victory in the 1972 Lombard North Central British F3 Championship. His prototype F3 car, the Ensign LNF1 was built behind the garage of his Walsall home and was raced with success by another ex-Team Lotus F3 pilot, Bev Bond in 1971. The LNF3 was the 1972 production car was raced with success by the likes of David Purley and Colin Vandervell with Von Opel, great grandson of Opel founder Adam Opel, winner of the Lombard F3 Championship in 1972. You will recall that Larry did a race in a works Ensign LNF3 after damaging his GRD in France in mid-1973.

Keen to progress to F1 the wealthy Rikky financed Mo Nunn’s venture into F1. Dave Baldwin joined the team to work on the F3 cars while Morris designed the Grand Prix Ensign 173 which raced throughout 1973. Rikky’s best was thirteenth in the British GP at Silverstone. In 1974 von Opel decamped to Brabham early in the season after unhappiness with the team’s progress and was replaced by Vern Schuppan, Teddy Yip funded the drive, his best in the N174 (a revamped N173) was fifteenth in the Belgian GP at Zolder. Mike Wilds drove the car late in the season.

For 1975 Mo attracted sponsorship for a two car team comprising the N174 and new Ensign N175 Ford, a beautiful bit of kit, from Dutch company HB Bewaking who were insistent on Dutch drivers. Roelof Wunderink and Gijs van Lennep were signed. Van Lennep, 1971 Le Mans winner in a Porsche 917 together with Helmut Marko and very quick in a Lola T330 Chev F5000 in European F5000 in 1973 was the more successful of the two 5-litre graduates, Gijs’sixth place at Hockenheim gave Ensign their first F1 Championship points.

Late in the season Chris Amon joined the team taking a pair of twelfths and most importantly gave Nunn a driver who could develop the speed inherent in the evolved N176, which was so quick, but sadly so fragile in 1976, Chris’ last year in F1 and a period in which he showed he had lost not a tenth of the raw pace he always had.

Perkins, Ensign N175 Ford, 1976 Monaco GP practice overhead shot shows the pure lines of the Baldwin/Nunn design to good effect. Griffin helmet, looks like brake cooling was an issue- see added on ducts at the rear

During late 1975 there was a spat between Nunn and HB Bewaking which was resolved by HB taking possession of Ensign 175 chassis MN04 which had been raced by Van Lennep, Wunderink and Amon throughout 1975. Larry Perkins was chosen to drive the car in 1976. The car was prepared from the a base in Bovenkerk, Holland by the Bob and Body Hoogenboom (BOb and ROdy = Boro) with plenty of input and work from Perkins, who was very impressive in the way he went about F1 in DIY fashion! In fact F1 in the manner he had run his F3 program, necessity being the mother of invention.

Designed by the well credentialed Baldwin and Nunn, the Ensign N175 was a typical Cosworth kit car of the era with an aluminium monocoque chassis, with upper and lower wishbone front suspension, coil spring/Koni dampers, and a single top link, twin lower links, twin radius rods and coil spring/Konis at the rear. The trusty Hewland FG400 transaxle was mated to the Cosworth Ford DFV which gave around 485bhp at the time. Brakes were ventilated discs, outboard at the front and inboard at the rear.

Money was tight so Larry had done little testing by the time the team arrived at Jarama for the fourth round of the 1976 World Championship, won that year by James Hunt’s McLaren M23 after Niki Lauda nearly lost his life when his Ferrari 312T2 crashed at the Nürburgring mid-season. As is so often the case, adversity and injury creates opportunity for others and so it was for Larry later in the season, indirectly as a result of Lauda’s prang.

Larry did well upon debut, he qualified 24th and finished 13th “circulating tidily and keeping out of trouble” as Denis Jenkinson described his race, after a slow pitstop to change a flat tyre. There were six non-qualifiers that weekend among the large number of teams contesting Grands Prix at the time. Hunt won the race in his McLaren with Perkin’s F3 1975 compatriot, Gunnar Nilsson impressing all with his performance behind the wheel of a Lotus 77 Ford.

Onto Zolder, Belgium, Larry achieved his best ever GP finish, eighth from Q20 in a grid of 24. Lauda won from his teammate Clay Regazzoni in a Ferrari 312T2, Larry passed the two Shadow DN5Bs of Jean-Pierre Jarier and Tom Pryce to secure eighth behind John Watson’s Penske PC3 Ford. In the latest Ensign N176 Chris was Q8 and running fourth when a wheel detached itself from the car, causing Chris to crash and roll, but he emerged unscathed.

LP on the hop, Ensign N175, Jarama 1976

Mosport 1977. Larry Perkins in the big cumbersome Brabham BT45 Alfa in front of the big cumbersome but faster Ligier Matra of Jacques Laffitte (N MacLeod)

Despite having demonstrable F3 speed at Monaco Larry was unable to wrestle sufficient pace out of the Ensign to make the cut, but the degree of difficulty was high. He was doing much of the preparation himself inclusive of belting said self into the six-point Willans, before setting off. But hey, he was in F1 and in a decent car to boot.

At Anderstorp, Sweden, Larry had an engine failure near the chicane giving him a long walk back to the pits and plenty of time to watch the competition at close quarters as he trudged home having qualified 22ndof 26. Amon proved the pace of the N176 having put it into a stunning third on the grid and chasing Depailler hard whilst running third, only to have the left-front corner part company with the rest of the car which sailed through two catch fences and then head on into the barriers. Chris, very shaken, climbed out with badly bruised legs.

Down the back, Alan Jones qualified the Surtees TS19 with which Larry was to become familiar in 1977 eighteenth, and finished thirteenth. This was the weekend the Tyrrell P34 six-wheelers finished a marvellous one-two after Mario Andretti’s DFV went kaboomba, swallowing a piston while in the lead with his Lotus 77.

Off to the Dutch team’s home race at Zandvoort, Larry was Q19 of 26. Jenkinson commented upon Larry’s car control “…There was a lot of pressing on, even from those near the back and both Merzario and Perkins had spins leaving the Tarzan hairpin, the Australian doing a textbook job of declutching at precisely the right moment to avoid stalling the engine, keeping his sense of direction and driving off as soon as the nose swung the full 360 degrees and was pointing the right way up the course.”

Larry was given some work to do after an incident with Peterson’s March 761 late in the afternoon. “…Peterson was out in his spare March and thought he would outbrake and chop across the front of Perkins at the end of the main straight, but the Ensign driver didn’t reckon on being bullied with the result they collided and spun off the road. The Boro-Ensign was wheeled back to the pits more or less undamaged but the March had to be retrieved by a breakdown truck!” Denis recorded.

Larry ran as high as thirteenth behind Ickx, driving the Ensign N176 vacated by Chris Amon after the German Grand Prix but “spun off into the catch fences in a cloud of sand due to a moments inattention on the fast right-hand bend leading ono the main straight,” in the race won by Hunt’s M23 McLaren after a titanic dice for much of the race with Watson’s Penske.

The Italian Grand Prix was amazing as it marked the return to racing of the gritty, oh-so-tough, mentally strong Niki Lauda back in the cockpit of a Ferrari. Ronnie Peterson won that weekend taking the very first works March F1 win in a 761 Ford.

In first wet practice Larry was one of few to brave the circuit and provided an exercise in high-speed aquaplaning to the assembled masses in the pits with a big spin on the straight. Larry made good on Satuday though. “One driver who was embarrassing a lot of people was the bespectacled Australian, Larry Perkins, running his whole show himself, and recording a time that must have given him a “double-A for effort” in anyone’s book, for he split the two works Lotus drivers on the final grid.”

Larry qualified a splendid 13th of 26 and was running 13th in the race, immediately behind Jones’Surtees TS19 when his precious 3-litre Cosworth blew spectacularly whilst passing the pits. It was a cost the team could ill-afford.

It was at this point that one of the consequences of Lauda’s accident played to Perkins’ advantage.

Scuderia Ferrari immediately post-accident correctly saw Niki’s position as grim. His life was at risk in the early days post accident and even if he did survive it was far from clear that Lauda could or would race again. They needed a driver to race the second car alongside Clay Regazzoni, with Carlos Reutemann easily seduced across from Brabham where he had raced Gordon Murray’s race winning Cosworth engined BT44/44B, but was now lumbered with the Alfa Romeo flat-12 engined, heavy, unreliable BT45. Doubtless the deal Bernie did with Alfa Romeo was a good one financially but the cars were not race-winners despite the undoubted talents of the two South Americans, Reutemann and Carlos Pace.

Ecclestone recruited Rolf Stommelen to replace the car vacated by Reutemann before Monza. He did well too, Q11 and DNF, but then Bernie offered Larry the car for the last three races of 1976, the Canadian, US East and Japanese Grands Prix. If he did well there was the chance to do a full season the following year. The task was not an easy one as Pace was quick, he had three years in F1, was already a GP winner and was familiar with the BT45, he would be a tough benchmark for Larry as a teammate.

LP, BT45 Alfa Watkins Glen 1976- doncha lerv the Martini livery on any car! (D Phipps)

Perkins sitting on Carlos Pace’ BT45 in the Kendall Centre, Watkins Glen 1976 (D Phipps)

Denis Jenkinson reported the changes at Brabham in his Canadian Grand Prix race report as follows, “Bernie Ecclestone’s Martini-sponsored team brought along a brand new Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT45 for Carlos Pace to drive, this being chassis number 5 which featured several minor chassis alterations and weight-saving changes plus wishbone rear suspension and revised rear bodywork, with newly “faired-in” cold-air ducting for each bank of the 12-cylinder motor. The car was also using the carbon-fibre brakes once more and the Brazilian seemed reasonably happy with it on the first day, although his best of 1 min 13.438 sec. on Saturday was only 12th quickest.”

“In the second car, vacated permanently by Carlos Reutemann, Ecclestone had decided to reward the initiative and determination demonstrated by bespectacled Australian Larry Perkins whilst he was driving the old HB Ensign MNO4 in the European races he could afford to compete in. Perkins was thus installed in the second Brabham (BT45/3) and did a neat and tidy job on his first outing with a works team even though he was forced to take over the team spare BT45/1 after his original mount suffered engine failure on Friday, and then the replacement engine developed a severe internal vibration on Saturday.”

Larry qualified 19th and Pace 10th, Jones Q14. Early in the race Larry ran 14th but had “a wild old spin dropping him to last” circa lap nine. Larry finished 17th, Jones 16th and Pace seventh, the race was won by Hunt’s McLaren M23 from Patrick Depailler’s Tyrrell P34 and Mario Andretti’s Lotus 77, Lotus’ renaissance was well and truly on.

Picking up the Amon thread throughout this article, Chris cried ‘Enough!’ after the first of the two German GP race starts. Lauda’s accident was the last straw, so he stepped out of the Ensign which was so fast in his hands but so fragile too. Neither Hans Binder nor Jacky Ickx, who then drove the car made the chassis sing as Chris did.

But several races after this decision Amon was cajoled back to join Wolf-Willams, he was down to drive an Wolf-Williams FW05 in the Canadian GP. The luckless Kiwi spun “very slowly on a downhill left-hander whilst moving over to make way for a faster car during the second session. Before he could restart he was hit by Harald Ertl, who simply lost control on his own, the impact wrecking both cars and putting both drivers out of circulation with badly bruised legs and damaged muscles”, it was insult to further injury in such a mixed season for Chris.

The circus then decamped across the border to the beautiful Watkins Glen circuit in the Fingers Lake region of upstate New York.

The Glen difficult, technical circuit wasn’t one on which Larry had competed before, Q13 was a good effort only three slots behind the experienced Carlos who crashed in the race. Larry had suspension failure, a front wishbone pick-up pulled away from its mounting after the Aussie had finished 31 laps.

Their was plenty of tension in the air that weekend as the championship was at its pointy end. James Hunt needed to win to keep his hopes alive, which he duly did, taking victory from Jody Scheckter’s Tyrrell and Niki Lauda’s Ferrari.

It was the first time in a while that three Australians were on an F1 grid, Alan Jones and Warwick Brown were also race qualifiers. Chris Amon was hobbling around Watkins Glen on crutches, unable to take the start in his Wolf Williams, which had been rebuilt around a fresh monocoque. Frank Williams sought Vern Schuppan’s services but found another Australian in California instead, and so it was that F5000 ace Warwick Brown got the gig, sadly his only F1 ride.

Denis Jenkinson observed that “Larry Perkins put in a very respectable show in the second Brabham-Alfa Romeo, (in practice) lapping faster than Clay Regazzoni who tried both his regular Ferrari and the spare (028-2) during the afternoon but really seems to have lost a great deal of his determination since he has been advised that Ferrari won’t be needing his services again in 1977.”

Perkins ended up qualifying only a tenth-shy of Pace, Q13 and Q10 and ran as high as 12th in the race ahead of Jones, Ickx and Fittipaldi before yielding his place to Jones, then having the suspension failure which ended his race. Jones was Q18 and eighth after a trouble free run whilst WB was Q23 of 27 and finished 14th, slowed with gearbox problems throughout, with “the Australian driving the last few laps without third and fifth gears operative on the Williams but keeping out of everybody’s way as he did so,” wrote DSJ.

Off to the Mount Fuji and its amazing outlook to the dormant volcano for that amazingly wet race that decided the 1976 title in Hunt’s favour, the race win taken by Andretti’s Lotus 77.

Larry’s qualifying performance was ordinary- Q17 with Pace Q6 “…in Brabham BT45/3, the Brazilian having started practising with BT45/1 but taking over the newer car from team-mate Larry Perkins after it had developed a misfire. The Martini sponsored team was down to only two machines for this final race of the season as the new lightweight BT45/5 had been sent home after Pace had tangled with Mass’ McLaren at Watkins Glen and damaged the chassis quite badly in the ensuing accident.”

The start took place in diabolical conditions, but Hunt made the most of a good start and edged his McLaren into the lead whilst Larry “crept into the pits to retire his ill-handling Brabham-Alfa, the Australian’s car not feeling quite right after being hurriedly repaired after he’d crashed it during the untimed morning session.” Pace withdrew after only seven laps, having similar misgivings about the conditions as Lauda. Alan Jones was Q20 and finished a typically gritty fourth, adrift of Hunt.

And that was it, the Brabham drive for 1977 went to John Watson, on the market from Penske, and, in all the circumstances, the logical decision for Bernie Ecclestone to make.

Interlagos 1977, BRM P207. “I thought you said that was the best engine- the thing wouldn’t pull me’ granny off the top of the piss-pot at Cowangie!”- or words to that general effect

Yours for $A10,000, LP’s Griffin helmet from his Brabham Alfa and BRM days (Perkins Engineering)

To most pundits surprise BRM were returning to Grand Prix Racing in 1977, with an ‘all-new design’- the P207 was the second quickie-car from the hand of the very talented Len Terry who had first pulled the fat out of the fire for the Bourne concern with the 1968 BRM P126. With four months and a minimal budget, the car was unveiled at the swanky Dorchester Hotel on 3 December, 1976. Without time to test properly, it was given a few straight-line runs on a Cambridgeshire airfield where the it boiled as merrily in the English winter, as it did in the South American summer shortly thereafter.

Larry had a taste of how an F1 team should operate with Brabham, and was optimistic – mind you, he had to be as he was hardly spoiled for F1 choice – he joined BRM for 1977.

“Sometimes,” he says, “a driver finds himself in a good situation, the next moment you’re thinking, “Christ, will another opportunity come along?” Well, BRM came along, and I reckoned it was better than nothing. There were some capable people at BRM, and I’m a hands-on sort of guy who reckons you should be able to turn things around if you have good people around you” reflected Perkins, 26 years of age at the time.

Chief Engineer Aubrey Woods, pissed off at Len Terry’s appointment ‘over his head’, and Len, disagreed with the cause of the overheating. Woods and Perkins thought it was a radiator/airflow problem “…but I reckoned it boiled down to the design of the water pump housing. The pump I designed was intended to send the water in two directions, diagonally opposite to each other. But because of a lack of finance, the actual pump was a cobble-up of two pumps cut in half. As soon as I saw it, I knew we would have trouble with it. The interior of the pump was such that it was stirring rather than circulating – and the water was just sitting in the head.”Len Terry recalled.

This was a small problem which should have been easily solved, but the issue preventing a fix was a clash of personalities and ego. Terry, “I was saying that the main problem with the car was the engine, and Aubrey was saying it was a fundamental design problem. He wouldn’t accept it, and I wouldn’t accept it. In fact, looking back, it was neither an engine problem nor a design problem.”

Poor Perkins landed in the middle of this shit-fight, which then descended to complete farce when the car would not fit into the plane to South America from Gatwick. Measurements had been made for a commercial aircraft with two doors whereas the passenger jet on offer had only one. The steam coming out of Perkin’s ears as he awaited his team at Buenos Aires airport is reasonably easy to visualise.

Jody Scheckter shook the established McLaren/Ferrari order with a strong win in the new Harvey Postlethwaite designed Wolf WR1 Ford. A last-minute deal with Brazilian airline Varig meant the BRM arrived at Interlagos in time for the year’s second GP.

Dennis Jenkinson observed the efforts of the team when he wrote about practice in the February 1977 issue of Motorsport “…Mention of Perkins brings us to the subject of the BRM P207, that new car from Bourne which has been designed by Len Terry. Barely ready to move, let alone race, the BRM predictably overheated madly in the Brazilian heat and minor problems with certain aspects of its fuel system couldn’t detract from the fact that the whole team was in a state of total unreadiness. Perkins could only manage 2 min. 42.22 sec. with the BRM and, since we saw him qualify 12th out of 24 at Watkins Glen in a Brabham BT45, we feel we know what conclusion it would be accurate to draw. Some people never learn; or perhaps they don’t want to.”

Whilst Carlos Reutemann drove a fast, consistent race in his 312T2 to win the race, many others lost control on one particular corner which had a surface like ‘black ice’ poor Larry “Totally unnoticed by most of the spectators…crawled into the pits to retire with all of its water blown out after a single lap.” It wasn’t an auspicious start to a season which was an embarrassment to all fans of this grand-marque.

‘Yeah mate it feels great- at this speed’, LP P207 at the Dorchester launch (Getty)

Larry in the Kyalami pits, BRM P201B 1977

Kyalami was next.

The team managed a little testing at home, but broke enough bits to eliminate the use of the P207 in the South African GP. They team took a P201 instead, Perkins quipped that “I think it had Jo Siffert’s name on it”. The machine hadn’t run since Argentina 12 months before. Loaded onto the slow boat to Cape Town – there wasn’t enough cash to fly it – it arrived, according to one journalist, looking as though it had been used as the ship’s figurehead.

The frazzled team trailered it to Kyalami in what turned out to be a tragic weekend with the death of Tom Pryce and a young marshall. Larry popped the car in Q22 “…simply because it would not go any faster” – only Brett Lunger’s private March was slower. The car would do no more than 148.5mph on Kyalami’s long straight. Larry at least finished the race in 15th place albeit five laps behind the winner and bringing up the rear running on about 10 cylinders”, his hands and arms numbed by the vibration caused by missing wheel weights.

Niki Lauda’s Ferrari 312T2 won the challenging race in a Ferrari very low on water and even lower on oil as a consequence of picking up on circuit metal left by the remains of poor Tom’s Shadow and Jacques Laffitte’s Ligier on-circuit.

The P207 returned to battle in the traditional non-championship Brands Hatch’s ‘Race of Champions’ on 20 March, but withdrew when some old ‘parts bin uprights showed signs of wear. The car was far from all-new, Terry’s brief was to use as many existing components off the shelf or what Perkins described as “old rubbish recycled”.

Larry said in 2001, “You dream that someday you will become an F1 driver, and now here I was doing it. I couldn’t believe it. But then I couldn’t believe that, having got there, you could be treated so badly. The car had some nice bits. The engine lacked power initially, but they found 50bhp with a new sump. It sounded beautiful. But then it would break. The gearbox was lovely, too. There were some good engineers at BRM.”

Larry was off though, he had had enough, there was no prospect of a performance improvement, indeed the car did not qualify for any race for the rest of the season despite the best efforts of Conny Andersson (Spain, where he blew an engine on the first day and the car became stuck in gear on the second. Belgium – both V12s blew. Sweden – one engine lost oil pressure, the second blew whilst a third engine flown in overnight also blew and in France where both engines blew) Guy Edwards (Silverstone) and Teddy Pilette (Germany, Holland and Itay).

‘”I wasn’t politically correct; I don’t remember having a long chat about it all, I think I just rang up and said, ‘You won’t be seeing me again’ Larry said. Len Terry left the team at about the same time. It was his last foray in F1: “There was a lot of energy and ideas, but much of it was at cross-purposes, especially between Aubrey and me. It was one big cock-up.” Woods stayed on and reckons his reworked V12 was giving a very competitive 480-490bhp. Pilette concurs, but also remembers that it kept dropping valves: “There was just no money. There was a patch on one block that was leaking. So we sealed it with Araldite”…

Perkins, BRM P201, Interlagos 1977 (unattributed)

Andersson’s BRM P207 in slight undress at Spa in 1977- front inboard rocker suspension clear, DNQ

What to do next?

Over at Team Surtees the ‘Monza Gorilla’, Vittorio Brambilla managed to blow-off all of his younger teammates, Hans Binder was his latest victim in the early races in 1977, mind you, whilst Binder qualified well behind Vittorio he did finish races Vittorio did not. Perkins was given the drive in the other TS19 Cosworth for what was said to be just the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder in early June. There he qualified the Franger F1, Durex sponsored TS19 Q23 – six spots in front of poor non-qualifier Conny Anderson in the BRM Larry had vacated, he finished a steady 12th, Vittorio was Q12 and fourth.

It is interesting to read Jenkinson’s July Motorport report of the June 5 Zolder race and the realisation of the extent of the ‘Unfair Advantage’ Colin Chapman and his team had, as expressed in the Lotus 78 Ford, some excerpts are below. Note that the first Lotus 78 Ford GP win was at Longbeach in early April and then at Jarama a week later.

“Overnight (after practice) the speed of the Lotus was discussed in all quarters. It was accepted that Andretti was a good driver, but not that good, and anyway Nilsson was well placed, so it had to be something about the Lotus 78 that Chapman and his team had done. It wasn’t super-special Cosworth engines, for Andretti was using a John Nicholson prepared engine and Nilsson was using a normal run-of-the-mill Cosworth Engineering prepared unit. Lotus had got a special-development Cosworth engine, but were not using it, it was sitting in the transporter.”

“It could not be special Goodyear tyres, because by the Constructor Association “gentleman’s agreement” everyone had the same type of tyre – or had they? It couldn’t be that Goodyear were preparing for the appearance of Michelin into Formula One, by letting some special tyres slip out. If they had, they are unlikely to have had them for Andretti and Nilsson. It could not be the special low-percentage slip differential, for Nilsson wasn’t using one.”

“The only common factor seemed to be the much-vaunted (at the beginning of the season) air-flow under the side-pods, giving additional down-force. From appearances both Lotus cars seemed to be running with their rear aerofoils at a shallower angle than most people, thus providing little down-force, but more important they were producing less drag. Observers remarked that Andretti was not only much faster round the long right-hand sweep that brings the track along behind the pits; but looked uncommonly steady. Perhaps the inverted aerofoil sections under the sides of the Lotus are now really working, having sorted out the other variables.”

“When Colin Chapman returned on Sunday morning (he had returned home to England for a family gig on Friday) he was both pleased and angry, for while he expected Andretti to be on pole position he intended that he should have done it by a few tenths of a second, not a whole second and a half. Team Lotus had shown their hand unnecessarily.”

And then this from his report of the latter race stages, “The nice drying wind was still doing its stuff and as things improved Nilsson’s Lotus came into its own and the Swede began to reduce the gap on the leading Ferrari at an astonishing rate. Within ten laps on the dry road the Lotus was right up behind the Ferrari and on lap 50 the Swede out-braked the Ferrari into the chicane behind the pits, as if he was overtaking a back-marker, and was gone over the hill into the lead, just like that. There was nothing Lauda could do about it, and with all respects to Gunnar Nilsson’s driving ability, it just had to be a case of a vastly superior car.”

“…Once away from Lauda, the younger Swede was able to ‘roll it off’ and cruise home untroubled, revving to a mere 9,500 r.p.m. in the gears, instead of the normal 10,800 r.p.m. The Lotus was just remarkable, and Nilsson was doing a great job of work with it…Nilsson cruised round to complete the 70 laps.”

The next two races were terrible for Larry, DNQs at both Anderstorp and Dijon where Brambilla was Q13/DNF and Q11/DNF respectively. In the French GP Larry drove only in Friday practice, then Big John bundled him off to one side and popped Patrick Tambay into the car, he too missed the cut.

Vern Schuppan drove the Dinger Spl at Hockenheim for Q19 of 24 and a distant seventh, a lap adrift of winner Lauda, but a finish all the same. At the Osterreichring he was Q25 of 26 and 16th, two laps adrift, then DNQ at Zandvoort with Lamberto Leoni getting the gig at Monza – DNQ…Hans Binder was reinstated at Watkins Glen, Q25 and 11th, two laps adrift…I guess the point of all of this is that it is very hard for a driver to get into some sort of rhythm-and-sync with a car and team unless there is the time and commitment to do so…

And that was it, Larry’s F1 career was over.

Belgian GP 1977 (Motorsport)

So, what do we make of it all, at least to this point in their careers?

Terry Perkins proved he deserved another year of F3 but returned to Australia, never to be heard of in a racing sense again, hopefully via this article I can fill in the last forty years or so. While I have made attempts to get in contact with Terry via social media a while back, hopefully this article will be a catalyst to make a connection and then close things off.

Larry did exceptionally well with the Ensign N175, better than Wunderink and Amon’s best results in 1975. Only Van Lennep’s sixth place bested him and let’s not forget Larry was preparing the car in addition to being chief cook and bottle washer on race weekends, perhaps only Arturo Merzario acted in this manner as a driver after Perkins did. So, the Brabham ride was well deserved.

At Watkins Glen Larry proved he could go almost as fast as Pace in the same car despite giving away three years of F1 experience and a season racing the BT45. Who knows if Bernie pulled Larry and Carlos into the pits in Japan? The net effect was that Larry lost one of his three races in which to establish his credentials. Certainly if I were Bernie I would have grabbed John Watson rather than Larry to pop into the car in 1977- shit happens.


Mind you I would have done what Larry did too in all the circumstances – make a hero of yourself in a poor car has paid off many times in the past but the Stanley Steamer was junk. Whatever management merits ‘Lord’ Louis Stanley had in the past – enabling Tony Rudd and emasculating the Ray Mays/Peter Berthon duopoly duly noted –  part of ancient history, BRM was crying out for leadership of a still good team of engineers/mechanics but the pompous stereotype of aristocratic incompetency was never the answer. Taking Rotary Watches money was almost theft. Stanley-BRM are lucky they didn’t go the wallies for deceptive conduct or something similar.

It would have been better to pop a DFV in the back of Terry’s P207 chassis, who knows how good it really was, engine problems meant decent chassis testing was never achieved, and go forward from there, put some results on the board and find the funds to build a new engine. The precedent of Bourne using engines made by others outside its cloistered high-ceilings was established. The Coventry Climax FPF 1.5 it used in F1 in 1961 and the Chevs installed in the back of the Can-Am cars in 1970/1971 are examples but Larry, unfortunately, landed in the middle of this clusterfuck and did the only reasonable thing he could do- walk, or run perhaps in the opposite direction. At least he had the satisfaction at the end of the year of knowing he did better than the poor, equally optimistic missguided souls who followed him, viz Messrs Andersson, Edwards and Pilette, not to forget Mike Wilds later.

Surtees, who knows…

Jones, Lunger, Andersson, Takahara, Binder, Perkins, Schuppan, Leoni, Tambay all didn’t do so well with the TS19 but Vittorio Brambilla made the thing go, albeit not necessarily finish. To be fair AJ did finish in the top six three times in 1976 and second in the non-championship Race of Champions behind Hunt’s McLaren M23 at Brands Hatch, and he was still on the rise as a GP driver, something made difficult for the rest of the guys mentioned above without a test session or three. It would be intriguing to know how many test laps away from a GP weekend Binder, Perkins, Tambay, Schuppan and Leoni copped from Surtees in 1977. Not many…

Jones has gone on the record in various publications about the degree of difficulty he found in getting John Surtees to make changes suspension/wing changes to the TS19, as he, Surtees had tested the car and therefore knew its attributes…to which Jones acid response was that the car handled and reacted somewhat differently when being driven on the pace than the way it did pottering around a couple of seconds off it…

Surtees was committed to Brambilla, Beta Tools money ensured that, whereas the pilots of the Durex machine were changed as often as one does a used condom..

And that was it, back to Oz Larry came.

With his blend of skills you can easily see how Larry could have become a seventies/eighties version of Frank Gardner in Europe blending an F1 test role(s) with race programs in sedans and sportscars but it was sadly not to be, he had given Europe a red-hot- go over five years and made it right near the top of the pyramid. How far had he come from rattling around the surrounding bush of Hume Weir in his FV in 1969? It was time to come home to Australia to make a living in touring cars, a taste of which he had received in his annual Sandown/Bathurst co-drives with The Captain – Peter Janson.

Larry Perkins and Gregg Hansford won the 1993 Bathurst 1000 from pole- a great win and Larry did so in a Holden VP Holden whereas most of the other GM hotshots raced Holden VP Chevs. Only Larry tickled all that was left from the venerable, old Holden ‘308’ V8 (unattributed)

The purpose of this article is not to examine Perkin’s staggering touring car race and business career once he returned to Australia at the end of 1978. He won countless races and six Bathurst 1000’s and had an amazing career as a car builder, initially leading the construction of the Holden Dealer Team cars and later on his own trading as Perkins Engineering. His own race team was successful for decades, not to forget his aviation interests or becoming the first man, together with adventurer Hans Tholstrup, to cross Australia in a solar powered vehicle in 1982, ‘The Quiet Achiever’ was built by Larry and Gary Perkins…

Once Larry returned to Australia he had not entirely finished with open-wheelers, racing David McKay/Graham Watson’s Ralt RT1 Ford BDA in the 1978 New Zealand Formula Atlantic Championship against Keke Rosberg, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Brett Riley and others. He also contested the 1979 Series against another group of young thrusters including Teo Fabi, Eje Elgh, John Smith, Jeff Wood and in 1980, but the Chevron B39 he raced that year was not the greatest or latest bit of kit.

After getting ‘match fit’ in January and February 1979 in New Zealand Larry jumped aboard a works Elfin MR8C Chev and won the 1979 Rothmans F5000 Championship from Alf Costanzo’s Lola T430 Chev and Warwick Brown’s Lola T332C/333 Chev.

He raced Paul England’s Chevron B39 at the dawn of Formula Pacific racing in Australia and the a RT4 in the first F Pac AGP in 1981…having boofed the tub of his car during practice he quickly organised a spare from Ron Tauranac who was roaming the paddock that weekend, I watched, fascinated for a long while at Larry’s efficient pace at getting the good bits from the rooted tub on to the newie, the practical skills which helped get him to F1 were still well in evidence and are still deployed today.

Click here for some of LP’s latest exploits…

Larry Perkins, Mercedes F1 in the Northern Territory. Mercedes Benz Unimog U4000 (P Blakeman)

Other Larry Perkins articles are here;  and here; ,


Larry grew up on a farm at Cowangie in Victoria’s Mallee, wheat farming country on the Ouyen Highway not far from the South Australian border, Adelaide is 290km due west and Melbourne 540km to the south.

Larry’s grandfather, Clifton Perkins was granted 793 acres under the Soldier Settlement Scheme after World War 1, having served and been injured during the Battle of the Somme as a member of the 1st Australian Imperial Force.

Larry’s father, Eddie Perkins, a racer/rallyist gave him a love of all things mechanical and the basic skills Perkins deployed to great effect in both his racing and business career. For the record, LP was born at Murrayville on 18 March 1950, his full name is Larry Clifton Perkins.


Larrikins does his thing in the Warwick Farm Esses during his successful 1971 Driver to Europe campaign.

Former Australian Gold Star Champion Bib Stillwell (or perhaps more accurately ‘BS Stillwell Ford’) owned two Elfin 600s, Richard Knight won the 1970 championship in one of them with Perkins in the other car, whilst Larry’s sidekick in 1971 was Mike Stillwell, Bib’s son, who was pretty handy in Formula Ford, after a brief stint in an ANF2 Elfin 622 he found his niche in a Ford Escort BDG, remember how he made that thing sing in 1972-3?

Bib sold the two 600s at the end of 1971, a bummer, as these drives were eagerly sought seats at the time, he was not the only Ford dealer who supported a car at the time but he was the only one who did it ‘properly’- good budget, well prepared cars with the best of everything.

Chris Amon and the boys chew the fat at Monza during the Italian GP weekend in September 1974.

‘WTF do we do now guys?’ seems to be the vibe of dejection.

The Amon AF101 was a noble if misguided attempt at building an innovative, competitive Cosworth/Hewland ‘kit’ GP car, but Chris was off to BRM enroute to a better situation at Ensign. Whilst No Nunn gave Chris a competitive car in the N176 it was the last straw in the sense that the cars fragility and resultant accidents ‘did Chris’ head in’ as to confidence in the equipment and the Kiwis’ view as to the probable longevity of his life…

As a devout, one-eyed, hopelessly biased Chris Amon fan, the 1973 to 1976 period brings absolute frustration at such a waste of talent driving, mainly, GP junk.

Seldom has a ‘DIY’ F1 effort done so well in the modern era- Bob Anderson springs to mind with his self run Brabhams in the sixties. I don’t think Larry has ever really got the credit he deserves for his stint in Ensign 175 ‘MN04’.

(D Phipps)

The Alfa Romeo 3 litre flat-12 installation in the Brabham BT45 at Mosport in 1976. Circa ? bhp but with significant bulk and thirst, just fine in the 33TT/12 sportscar but sub-optimal as an F1 engine.

A trio of Belgian Grand Prix shots at Zolder in 1976- the car is TS19-1, the first chassis built raced by Brett Lunger and Henri Pescarolo in 1976, Hans Binder and Vittorio Brambilla as well as Perkins in 1977.

Perkins practiced TS19-2, the chassis Alan Jones raced in 1976, at Anderstorp and in Dijon first practice- Surtees gave the race drive to Patrick Tambay.


Motorsport articles published in July 1978, January 1994, July 2001 and January 2014 written by M.C.S, MK, Paul Fearnley and Michael Stahl respectively. Motorsport 1976 and 1977 GP race reports by Denis Jenkinson. F2Index F3 race results,

Photo Credits…

Alan Raine, Greg Siddle Collection, Graham Ruckert, Yoshiaki Hirano, nwmacracing, Mike Dixon, Ken Hyndman,, Tim Marshall, Peter Blakeman, Motorsport/D Phipps, Eric Hautekeete, Nick Bennett Collection, Sutton Images, Getty Images

Tailpiece: Larrikins Ralt RT1 BMW, Thruxton 1978…

(Y Hirano)

Larry aboard the Manfred Cassani owned Ralt RT1 BMW during the first round on the 1978 European Formula Two Championship at Thruxton on 27 March 1978, Bruno Giacomelli won that weekend, and the title that year, in one of the great F2 Marches, a 782 BMW.

In a one-off drive Larry  was the first RT1 home in ninth place behind six 782s and a duo of Chevron B42’s.

LP was RT1 fit, he had raced the David McKay/Scuderia Veloce Formula Pacific variant in the 1978 New Zealand Formula Atlantic Championship against the likes of winner Keke Rosberg, finishing second in the series against the might of Fred Opert Racing.

An aside is that on the same day Larry raced at Thruxton the next generation of Australian RT1 hopefuls contested the BP British F3 Championship 15 lapper. Paul Bernasconi was seventh, Geoff Brabham ninth and Gary Scott 12th- the only interloper was Barry Green’s 16th in a Chevron B38, he of Elfin 620B Formula Ford and Indycar owner fame.

Derek Warwick won that day from Nelson Piquet, both aboard RT1’s.


(B King Collection)

This is the first in an ongoing series of pieces based on my (vulgar) first response to a photograph that makes no sense to me. Regular readers will appreciate that an inferior intellect like mine elicits such responses often.

When I first saw the photos – the first one above and the second last – I thought no way were they in Australia, both had a USA feel to me, wrong on both counts.

The first is from me’ mate Bob King’s Collection and was taken at the Warragul Showgrounds pre-War. The last was shot at Drouin, just up the road, that both photographs were taken in two small West Gippsland townships close together 100km to Melbourne’s east is coincidental.

King’s caption for the ‘bike race photograph reads “Darby – in front – was killed in this race.” Sadly that is the case. A bit of judicious Troving confirms that the small Warragul community ran grass-track meetings on their local showgrounds from the mid-1920’s until 1941, with a final meeting, perhaps, in 1953. Ploughing through the results of meetings in the 1930s revealed that Leslie Edwin Darby is our man.

The Auto Cycle Union of Victoria sanctioned events were usually run over the Easter long-weekend on a track “6 1/2 furlongs” (1308 metres) long, timed after the speedway and trotting (nags) seasons had ended, these ran from November-April. As the photo shows, the crowds were huge, 6000-8000 people, not bad for community of less than 500 at the time.

Warragul Showgrounds really looks a nice place, it’s still there too. I often go the long way to Phillip Island via Drouin-Poowong-Loch-San Remo, a fabulous driving road devoid of The Fuzz, so time to do a Warragul detour next time. No details of the above (SRRH)
Two riders at Warragul, no details (SRRH)

Darby was a star of the sport, holding over 30 Australian and Victorian grass track championship wins and over 150 placings. He had won four Victorian and Australian championships at Warragul in the 350 and 500cc classes. He also competed with success in road racing, holding the 250cc lap record at Phillip Island, in 1937 he set FTD at Rob Roy hillclimb, besting all the cars present.

Showing his adaptability, Darby also contested sidecar events, winning the Victorian Sidecar Championship in 1934, and placing third in the famous Victorian Tourist Trophy at Phillip Island held over 75 miles that same year.

Les had a lucky escape at Warragul in April 1936 when he crashed at high speed, somersaulting over a perimeter fence when his ‘bike struck it. Unharmed, other than by cuts and abrasions, he jumped aboard another machine and won the Australian All Powers Three Mile Championship. Warragul claimed three lives, its variety of ever present dangers were demonstrated by Bud Morrison who was thrown from his bike into an adjoining creek and nearly drowned before ambulance officers intervened, during the same 1936 meeting.

Poor Darby’s luck ran out in tragic circumstances on Boxing Day 1940. Shortly after passing the finish line at the end of the the final of the Gippsland Solo Scratch – in which he was battling Edward Smith for the win – Smith, narrowly the victor, lost control of his machine just after the line and fell. Darby swerved in avoidance and hit the fence at over 70mph before cannoning into the crowd. He was declared dead at West Gippsland Hospital shortly afterwards, aged 32. Two spectators were seriously injured but survived.

Les Darby is buried at Kew Cemetery, close to where I grew up, I shall make a pilgrimage to pay my respects soon.

(The Gazette – Warragul & Drouin)

Thankfully the Drouin shot is happier but no less impactful.

William Russell is putting the four-gallon monthly ration of petrol into a customers car at Drouin in 1944. The sign is for the benefit of United States servicemen using the Princes Highway, a main Melbourne-Sydney artery.

The photo is one of a series of Drouin shots taken by government photographer Jim Fitzgerald (Australian Dept of Information) to document the impact of the war on ordinary people, they were used here and in the US.

William Russel & Son Pty. Ltd. the biggest servo in Drouin had two sites employing 16 people and appears a good business with franchises for Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac. Aged 80, William was still on-the-tools…

Born in Brechin, Scotland in 1865, a year later he emigrated to Australia with his parents and older brother, a voyage which took 95 days. William was apprenticed as a blacksmith, wheelwright and coach builder, acquiring the Monroe and Morse, Drouin business in 1890. As horsepower evolved from hooves to wheels the business evolved into a garage, car showroom and servo. William died on May 11 1950 and was such a highly respected member of the local community the hearse taking him on his final journey was followed by over 100 cars.


Bob King Collection, Trove – various newspapers, The Gazette-Warragul and Drouin,, Speedway and Road Race History – SRRH

(B King Collection)


After I posted this article I sent it straight to Bob King who provided the shot, or more specifically I scanned it during one of our many illicit, keep-ya-sanity, Covid 19 trysts at his place in the winter of 2020. We Victorians were locked up tighter than a nun’s chastity belt by our beloved Dictator Dan (State Premier Dan Andrews) for most of that year, and a good chunk of 2021, bless the Chinese Alchemists and their magic potions.

His response was “All good stuff, I now recall the name of the patient who gave me the Darby photo, John Soutar, I believe. I think he raced against Darby, my last contact with him was 30 years ago, I just googled Soutars Garage, which is still in Warragul, may be worth a visit.”

There ya go, that explains the WTF photo above.

King’s caption for it is “John Soutar”. The scan was in Bob’s album above the one of Darby in action. I’m sure he made the connection two years ago when we were scanning away, this time the geriatric at fault is me not him…Still, we got there in the end, albeit I think Mr Soutar was a young fan rather than a competitor.


In Australia at least, there has never been anything quite like the sphincter-puckering blend of excitement and fear as a 10,000bhp grid of 20 5-litre, fuel injected, thundering V8 missiles are launched by their intrepid pilots.

Many thanks to Michael Strudwick for his photographic artistry.

Warwick Brown, Racing Team VDS Lola T430 Chev gets the jump from pole here at the Surfers Paradise, Rothmans International Series round in February 1977. Quite where Peter Gethin and Vern Schuppan – second and third on the grid – are out of shot I’m intrigued to know. John Leffler is in the white Lola T400 Chev with the partially obscured Alfredo Costanzo’s red Lola T332 Chev behind him. The white helmeted dude behind Brown is Alan Jones aboard Kevin Bartlett’s T332. The Jones boy had crashed and written-off his newish Sid Taylor-Teddy Yip Lola T332C in practice so the pair did a lease-deal to allow AJ to race KB’s car. The blue machine to the right of Jones and back is John Goss’ Matich A51/A53 Repco-Holden.

Alan Jones blasts down Surfers main straight in Kevin Bartlett’s Lola T332 Chev HU22, fifth place (M Strudwick)
Goss’ fourth placed Matich A51/A53 Repco Holden. #005 is one of the two A51s FM took to the US in 1973, and later updated by Goss and Grant O’Neill to A53 side-radiator – and the rest – specifications. This is Goss’ ’76 AGP winning chassis (M Strudwick)
Duulling T332s; great Kiwi Graeme Lawrence HU28 in blue, tenth place, and great Italian/Australian Alfie Costanzo’s ex-Bob Evans HU36 in red, DNF engine. Lola perves will note the 332C factory engine cover come air intake on Alf’s car compared with the very neat one produced by Graeme and his crew in NZ – always distinctive on this car (M Strudwick)

Brown won the race from pole, Peter Gethin’s VDS Chevron B37 Chev was second – the budget required to maintain adequate spares for two different makes within the one team doesn’t bare thinking about – then Leffler, Goss and Jones.

It was a great Rothmans International Series, the three big international Aussies at the time were Jones, Brown and Vern Schuppan, who raced a works Elfin MR8C Chev. The strongest locals were Goss, reigning Australian GP winner, the Lolas of Bartlett, Leffler, Costanzo and Max Stewart, plus John McCormack’s fast but brittle ex-F1 McLaren M23 Leyland.

Brown won two races, Surfers and the AGP at Oran Park, the opening round on February 6. Jones – on the front row alongside poleman Brown – jumped the start at Oran Park by a fortnight, so was pinged a one-minute penalty which he could not make up, so the AGP went to Brown, from Gethin, Goss, Jones and Schuppan.

Karma ruled in that WB got the AGP win he should have had in 1974 at Oran Park, and Jones got his at Calder in 1980. That day he disappeared into the distance in the Formula Libre event aboard one of his works Williams FW07 Fords.

John McCormack tips his one-of-a-kind ex-F1 McLaren M23 #2 Repco-Irving-McCormack Leyland into the harry-flatters-in-top big-balls right hander under Dunlop Bridge Last man standing in an open-face helmet at this level. The integration of the Leyland P76 aluminium V8 into the space usually occupied by a Cosworth DFV was superbly done, without butchery to the chassis. No matter what they did to that motor, new heads and all, it was always a Hail Mary jobbie by the mechanics as they waved J-Mac onto the circuit. He was 12th and last at Surfers. Still, he won the 1977 Gold Star with it (M Strudwick)
The business end of Max Stewart’s Lola T400 Chev, HU3. DNF dropped valve. MS probably won more races than anyone else on the planet in a T400, including the 1975 AGP – at Surfers – in HU2. Max got better and better as he aged, but died in this car at Calder a month later, March 16. The saddest day I’ve ever had at a race track (M Strudwick)
John Leffler in the gorgeous Grace Bros (chain of NSW department stores) liveried Lola T400 Chev HU15, third place. Won the 1976 Gold Star in it (M Strudwick)

Surfers was the second round, the circus then travelled 1,750km south to Sandown Park in Melbourne’s southern suburbs from the Gold Coast. During that week Sid Taylor brought a replacement T332 to Australia for Jones, who put it third on the grid behind Gethin and Schuppan. Brown shoved the nose of his Lola under the Dandenong Road fence during the warm-up lap, so the man in grid-slot four couldn’t take the start.

Jones jumped Gethin and Schuppan at the drop of the flag – remember those? – but one-by-one, in turn, each of Alan, Peter and Vern retired with overheating, fuel pressure and engine failure respectively. Max Stewart took a popular win from Costanzo, Garrie Cooper in the Elfin chief’s MR8C Chev, Dave Powell in the very first Matich A50 Repco-Holden and McCormack’s McLaren, seven laps adrift.

Off to Adelaide for the final round on February 27, Jones finally won the round he had been threatening to do from the off. He was awesome to watch in these cars, thrilling.

Other than those who had last seen him compete at Sandown in the 3-Hour Production Touring Car race in 1968 (second in a Holden Monaro GTS327 shared with Clive Millis), it was the first time Australian fans had the chance to see him in action. He had been paying his dues in the UK and Europe climbing the greasy-pole in the interim. As a kid, Jones was a silver-spoon-special but by the time he embarked on his racing career, father Stan’s money was long- gone. Jones did it the hard way.

Jones was on pole at Adelaide International, from Brown’s repaired Lola T430 by a half-second, and won the hot race from Brown, Goss, Gethin and Stewart.

Brown won the 1977 Rothmans International Series with 24 points from his team-mate Peter Gethin’s 15, and Alan Jones, third on 14 points.

Peter Gethin in the VDS Chevron B37 Chev #37-76-01, second place. Some of you may have seen it raced by Gethin and Pilette in the US, some by Gethin in Australia and some by Bruce Allison in Australia and in the UK in the 1977 UK Group 8 Championship. Bruce did so well that year he won the premier Grovewood Award (M Strudwick)
The one-off Jaime Gard built Gardos OR2 Repco Holden was built for Perth entrepreneur Don O’Sullivan. Here, Chev powered, it’s being fettled for Adelaide driver Chris Milton (M Strudwick)
Garrie Cooper, Elfin MR8C Chev #8761. Pretty much the equal of the best F5000s, the three MR8s were raced with success by Vern Schuppan, John Bowe, Larry Perkins and James Hunt (M Strudwick)

Formula 5000 was at a crossroads when it was shot in the head at the end of 1976 by the Americans. They wanted Can-Am type crowds, so they ditched F5000-Formula Lola and created…central-seat sportcar-Formula Lola. The Lola T332 had been the star of the show since 1974, and the T332 decked out in a less attractive frock remained the star of the show – as the T332CS/T333CS – into the late 1970’s.

Those other countries who had F5000 as a premier/key category therefore had decisions to make, car constructors would react accordingly and change their focus as the biggest market changed direction.

In our neck of the Tasman-woods the Kiwis jumped with Formula Atlantic as their national premier class, while Australia stuck with F5000 for waaaay too long. New Zealand got the very best of Formula Atlantic chassis diversity and young thruster drivers from the US and Europe, by the time Australia really committed to Formula Atlantic/Pacific, the chassis interest was gone, it had become Formula RT4 (Ralt).

Tasmanian racer David Powell aboard the very first F5000 Matich, A50 #001 Repco Holden. FM’s 1971 AGP and 1972 Gold Star winner (M Strudwick)
American racer Ed Polley’s Polley EP1 #76-13, Lola T332 copy. Polley had a background in big bore sports cars and sprint cars before graduating to F5000 in the US (M Strudwick)
Goss, A51/A53. Relatively light car, the flat plane crank Repco’s gave 520bhp without loss of their legendary flat-fat torque curve. Repco Engine Developments exited Australian motor racing in July 1974 so development of this engine, and then new Repco Leyland V8, stopped then. Phil Irving/John McCormack later evolution of the Leyland unit duly noted (M Strudwick)


Michael Strudwick,


(M Strudwick)

Warwick Brown’s VDS Lola T430 Chev #HU2 in the Surfers Paradise pitlane.

VDS bought two new T430s for the 1976 US F5000 Championship. Brown raced this car twice in the US, then throughout the ’77 Rothmans before HU1 and HU2 were acquired by Australian Porsche importer/racer/team owner – and thoroughly great bloke – Alan Hamilton at the end of the series.

‘Hammo’ raced HU2 for the balance of 1977 and into 1978 – Derek Bell’s drive at Oran Park in the ’78 Rothmans round duly noted – until nearly killing himself in it in a high speed accident at Sandown’s Causeway during the ’78 AGP. While Hamilton survived, HU2 was broken in two.

HU1 (below) was then built up by the Porsche Cars Australia crew led by Jim Hardman, and raced by Alf Costanzo to many race wins, and one Gold Star for Hamilton (1980) in a long relationship which also achieved much success with a McLaren M26 Chev and several Tiga Formula Pacific chassis.

The Hamilton/Costanzo T430 HU1 being tended to at Calder circa 1979-80 (M Strudwick)

Lola returned to the brew which started their F5000 run of success when they married an F2 T240 chassis with a 5-litre Chev V8 and Hewland DG300 transaxle to create the T300 raced by Frank Gardner in later 1971. Gardner, then Lola’s development driver/engineer and works driver, and Lola’s Bob Marston concepted the T242 prototype, and T300 production models.

The 1976 T430 – nicknamed The Flying Bracket by VDS mechanics – was a blend of T360 Formula Atlantic chassis, 520bhp’ish 5-litre Chev and DG300.

The Americans were very attached to their T332s, even moreso after the initial lack of speed of Lola’s 1975 variable rate suspension T400, so they stuck with, or bought new T332/T332Cs rather than the T430, only three of which were sold – to VDS and Carl Haas. Lola’s T400 update kit worked, the two VDS cars were quick in Europe, as were Max Stewart’s and John Leffler’s in Australia, but the Americans weren’t convinced.

All three T430s are extant in New Zealand, where HU2 was reconstructed around its chassis plate which for many years was on the pinboard in Hamiltons’ Church Street Richmond office!

More F5000 to keep you going for an hour or so; Which was the quicker, F5000 or F1? the ex-Revson/Charlton John McCormack McLaren M23 Leyland Frank Matich’ A50-A53 F5000 cars Garrie Cooper’s Elfin MR8s and Vern Schuppan’s Elfin MR8 Can-Am not to forget the Lola T300 Then there is Warwick Brown and a bit on Max Stewart