Posts Tagged ‘Australian Motor Racing History’

(Adelaide Observer)

A couple of years ago I wrote a long piece about the first car race in Australia, the article asserts that momentous event took place at Sandown Park, Melbourne on 12 March 1904. I’m in a constant search to find an earlier race

Whilst not a car race but a ‘demonstration or parade’, what seems to be the first event of this type in Australia was held at Adelaide Oval on Saturday 11 October 1902. More interesting is that the first claimed motor-cycle race in Australia took place on the same day.

The Adelaide meeting was promoted by the ‘League of Wheelmen’ a cycling organisation at no less a temple of sport than the wonderful, picturesque Adelaide Oval, not at all a venue I would have considered as one at which ‘motor racing’ took place.

Located in North Adelaide, Adelaide Oval is the best sporting venue in Australia. That my friends is a huge statement for a Melburnian member of the Melbourne Cricket Club, our ground is the Melbourne Cricket Ground. We Melburnians reckon the MCG is the best bit of sporting dirt on the planet, but good ole Adelaide Oval is better. It doesn’t win in terms of seating capacity, but the location, surroundings, vibe, the hill and scoreboard, the vista of trees towards St Peters Cathedral cannot be matched. And having seen a few stadiums around the world its ‘up there’ with the best globally in character and comfort if not capacity.

That Saturday the League of Wheelmen hosted a day of racing- cycling, motor car demonstrations and the new ‘sport of kings and millionaires’ as the Adelaide Advertiser put it- motor racing. The motor-cycle racing 5 mile event event was ‘the first motor race in Australia’ the paper reported.

The hallowed turf primarily used for cricket and football (Australian Rules) then incorporated a steeply banked track at its outer perimeter which was ideal for cycle racing and ‘admirably adapted for contests between motor cycles and for the establishment of records’ if not so great for motor car racing.

The days program was dominated by cycling events with many interstate competitors taking part. In addition there were 13 contestants of the motor-cycle races in the afternoon with ‘the final’- my god, a championship! to be held the following week, on 18 October.

An interesting part of the program ‘to indicate the growth of the (motor) industry’ was a parade of cars, motor-cycles, quadri-cycles, cycles and velocipedes, the organisers showing a keen sense of history of transport with a focus on the previous thirty or forty years.

The Adelaide Observer reported that the display created a favourable impression. ‘The big cars whirred around the track with surprising velocity, and so easy were they to control and so graceful in their evolutions that their popularity is assured’. It seems fair to say that the success of the demonstration of cars on that October day, and the following weekend provided some type of impetus for the first car race in Australia at Sandown and the first car race in South Australia, at Morphettville two years later.

Parade of motor cars at Adelaide Oval on 11 October 1902 (Observer)

Context is Everything in History?…

We forget sometimes just how far we have come.

The Adelaide Observer of 18 October 1902, in an article entitled ‘How The World Moves’ comments upon how the dreams of Jules Verne were coming true. At the time the voyage to America from the UK had been cut to 124 hours, ‘with only 70 hours at sea’. ‘In rather less than 400 years the record of Magellan in circumnavigation of the globe has been cut from three years to between 50 and sixty days’.

The article addresses ‘The Age of the Engineer’ and notes that the cheaply constructed great Siberian railway being eventually destined to be recognised as one of the great wonders of the railway world, with ‘the Era of the Canals’ taking 1000 miles out of  global journeys. ‘Many ancient landmarks are threatened and many time honoured routes promise to become ways of the past, interesting as the grass grown coach roads of England, but no more frequented by the conveyances one so familiar.’

In addition to the above more macro view of progress, this extract from the Adelaide ‘Chronicle’ of the same day very concisely places the development of the bicycle, motorcycle and motor car in the context of the up till then omnipotent form of personal transport, the horse…

‘The opening day of the League of Wheelman’s October race meeting marked an interesting epoch in the history of cycling. One of the events on the programme was a motor cycle race- the first held in the Southern Hemisphere, and it was to be the introduction of this novelty and an exhibition of motor cars that the large attendance was due’.

The cycling world is one of rapid evolution. Forty years ago velocipedes equal to a speed of six or seven miles an hour were a favourite means of locomotion. They gradually developed into the ordinary high machine, with which it was possible on a good track to ride a mile in three minutes. It is only a little more than a decade since the ‘safety’ chain-driven machine, with pneumatic tyres, made its appearance in the streets of Adelaide, and the ‘ordinary’ disappeared before its more stylish and faster rival.’

‘From the early nineties the safety revolutionised cycle racing, and record succeeded record at a bewildering rate, until it became common for a cyclist behind pace to eclipse the times of the best racehorses the world has ever produced’.

‘The popularity of the sport developed…the League of Wheelmen…at one time promised to become a very wealthy body…but two or three years later the absence of crack riders from the other side of the world and the lack of variety in the sport, coupled with unfavourable weather conditions, resulted in unprofitable meetings’.

‘Now the motor has come to play its part in the sport, and its advent was enthusiastically welcomed on Saturday…the gate receipts…and next Saturdays takings…will all be profit.’

Mix of old and new cycles, Adelaide Oval 11 October 1902 (Observer)

‘The story of the evolution of the motor car was admirably told on Saturday in the exhibition of ancients and modern methods of locomotion…the early form of the bicycle was illustrated by old wooden velocipedes…40 years old…ridden in the old fashioned costume of top hats and black suits with flying coat-tails…Alongside of these were motorcycles ridden by Messrs TP O’Grady, A Allison, W Baulderstone, W Courtney, R Davis, HM Aunger, RW Lewis, FR Burden, EA Gowan, D Bruce and EF Wilksch were shown.’

‘Most interest was shown in the motor cars, of which four were shown. Mr Gordon Ayres brought his car, a very handsome one…but it could not be taken onto the track…with an old set of tyres one of which blew out. Mr H Thomson’s ‘Swift’, which he has just imported attracted considerable notice. The other two cars which raced around the oval were both locally manufactured. One was shown by Mr V Lewis, and driven by Mr H Bernard, and the other was exhibited and driven by Mr J Bullock. In addition to these Messrs J Bullock, H Bernard and the representative of the Massey- Harris Company had motor quadricycles on the track. With all these machines careering round the oval at their best pace the spectacle was in the highest degree interesting. The exhibition was the success of the day, and when the officials of the league saw the impression it made on the spectators they at once resolved to repeat it next Saturday. Mr Ayers car will then be shown in action with all the others.’

TP O’Grady with his ‘works’ Lewis motor-cycle- winner of the first motorbike race in Australia 11 October 1902 (Observer)

‘The other novelty of the meeting was the motor cycle race of 5 miles’. Originally their were 13 entries with the race divided into two heats, with two machines withdrawing from the first heat.

‘TP O’Grady was off scratch, W Courtney 30 seconds, A Allison 50 and W Baulderstone 1 min 5 sec. Baulderstone was away well and had almost completed a lap when O’ Grady was pushed off. Courtney retired early with a mechanical problem. O’ Grady’s machine took a while to get going, but when it did it was soon seen to be the fastest machine on the track. It lapped the others three times in the 15 laps and covered some of the circuits in 32 and 33 seconds. Its fastest pace was at the rate of 1 min 32 sec for the mile, or 30 miles per hour. O’ Grady an old time racing man, who constructed the motor himself at Mr V Lewis cycle works, was loudly cheered as he finished his five miles journey in 9 min 10 secs. Just after he crossed the line the belt of his motor broke. There was an interesting run for second place between Allison and Baulderstone. The latters machine lost the pace with which it started, and Allison was able to keep ahead’.

A story about Vivian Lewis and his nascent cycle, motor-cycle and car company is a story in itself, O’Grady was Works Manager, Works Rider/Driver! and a shareholder in Vivian Lewis Ltd.

The Adelaide Observer had this to say about O’Grady’s performance. Thomas Patrick ‘Tom’ O’Grady ‘carried off the honours’ covering the 5 miles in a time of 9 minutes 10 seconds ‘at times he travelled at the rate of 39 miles an hour’. Some of the laps of 612 yards were covered in 33.25 seconds with one mile timed at 1min 33 seconds. It was the first occasion on which the machine had been tested, it was not completed until the Saturday morning, the average of 1min 50 seconds per mile ‘must be considered gratifying, particularly as a strong wind had to be contended with’.

There were six starters in the second heat which was run at a lower pace with interest being lost when R Davis’ belt broke with 3 laps to go when he was overhauling the leaders. J Bullock won from FH Burden, RW Lewis, EF Wilksch and Davis. ‘The final between the first three in each heat will be run next Saturday’.

In a full program of bicycle racing many of the motorised racers jumped onto their normal racing cycles.

The Chronicle concluded its report by commenting favourably on the performance of ‘The Locomotive Band’, which gave a fine rendition of the march ‘Colonels Parade’, that there were no accidents during the day which ‘was well managed in every respect’.

In keeping with the mood of the week a novel race on the road was also advised, this comprised, ‘…a contest between B Thompson’s 4.5 hp car and the Broken Hill Express train ‘in a scamper to the Burra, the chauffeur and the engine driver to shake hands at the Adelaide Railway Station before starting’! Logistically this would have been easy as Adelaide Station is only several hundred metres from Adelaide Oval.

So. What do we take from all of the wonderful prose about the days activities on 11 October?…

Firstly, the claim that the first motor-cycle race in the Southern Hemisphere was run at Adelaide Oval on 11 October 1902 and won by TP O’Grady on a local Lewis machine.

It seems clear the first motor-cycle racers were graduates of bicycle racing.It makes sense doesn’t it in terms of the balance, competitiveness and the need for more speed required!

It also seems the case that the ‘League of Wheelmen’ saw motor cycle racing- and especially car competition which appears from the report to be the most popular event or motorised display on that October day, keys to future commercial success. To turn around their flagging gates.

Of course the bike and car racers would soon go their own separate ways probably when a greater number of venues became available to them both on public roads and specialist, speedway, closed circuits. But for the moment the would be motorised racers needed venues and the cyclists had them, and ‘in good nick’ too.

(Observer)

The 18 October meeting was run in splendid Adelaide spring weather with much expected from the motorised events but mechanical mayhem somewhat ruined the motor-cycle racing program…

The organisers changed the spectator amenities during the week by allowing better viewing of the cars, perhaps by allowing the punters to get closer to the action. His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor conferred his patronage to the carnival. ‘Visiting officers of the Australian Squadron have accepted the Leagues invitation to be present’ the Evening Journal notes in an article published on the day of the race. Its interesting in these modern times to see what was regarded as relevant then but now is very much ‘who gives a rats’ stuff. Similarly the language of the day is wonderful in its eloquence, the prose of times gone by I enjoy I must admit. Long-winded sometimes but enjoyable nonetheless!

O’Grady’s ‘brilliant run’ of the week before stamped him as a certainty for the final, with many returning spectators expecting him to lap the field twice aboard his Lewis over the five mile duration of the final.

The contemporary newspapers reported upon the riders but not the machines, sadly. So, in the main, we don’t have details of the bikes ridden on that important occasion. The final was a race between five competitors with TP O’Grady off scratch, A Allison 50 seconds, VR Burden and W Baulderstone off 1 minute 5 seconds and the limit-man J Bullock on 1 minute 20 seconds.

A warm up for the bikes was provided during the cycle and motor parade which was also a feature of that days events. The competitors for the race had a trouble free run during this morning event.

During the later stages of the afternoon, just before the feature cycling event ‘The Australasian Ten Miles’, won by Victorian DJ ‘Don’ Walker, the ‘Motor Race’ commenced.

Bullock, Baulderstone, Burden and Allison completed a lap before O’Grady was pushed off from the start. There was general disappointment as the locally built Lewis bike was pulled onto the grass by its driver, the engine not firing properly. With 7 laps to go Burden passed the stationary O’ Grady, his ‘machine going splendidly’.

2 laps later Burden lapped Allison and with 4 to go caught Baulderstone again, with whom he had started. With 2 laps to run Burden passed Allison and finished an easy winner in 9 minutes 15 seconds. His time was 5 seconds slower than O’Grady’s over the same distance the week before. Bullock was 2nd in 9 mins 34 seconds and Baulderstone 3rd in 10 min 23 secs. Prize money for the race was ten, three and two pounds from first to third places.

The distance between Adelaide Oval and the fringe of Victoria Park, site of the first Formula One Australian Grand Prix in 1985 is small, 1.5 Km, but the performance difference between the cars displayed and Keke Rosberg’s victorious 900bhp Williams FW10 Honda is immense. In their wildest dreams, a spectator present on that glorious October 1902 day who also attended the AGP on a similarly wonderful, hot day in November 1985 could not have conceived of cars of such vastly different performance and sophistication within their own lifetime?

The Adelaide built Lewis car number 1, the first car built in South Australia on display/parade at Adelaide Oval on 11 October 1902, driver H Bernard. In 1902 form the car was powered by a water cooled 5HP, petrol, single-cylinder engine with ‘electric ignition’. The transmission had belt drive to a countershaft behind the rear axle from where spur gears drove the wheels. The Adelaide Oval event was one of the last public appearances of the first Lewis- motor car design was progressing rapidly and the 2 year old car was becoming dated. Lewis did build a few more cars but the future for the company was importing rather than manufacture, within a few years the business was distributing Napier, de Dion, Talbot and Star brands (unattributed)

Photo Credits…

 State Library of South Australia, Adelaide Advertiser, Adelaide Observer

 Bibliography…

Adelaide Advertiser 11, 17, 20 October 1902, The Daily Telegraph Sydney 13 October 1902, Adelaide Observer 18, 25 October 1902, The Adelaide Register 20 October 1902, earlymotor.com

Tailpiece: Be There on 18 October 1902…

 

 

 

 

 

image001

Looks of wonderment and amazement at the voluptuous lines of the Aston’s Frank Feeley penned body.  The ‘Wow Factor’ of contemporary racing cars never changes whatever the era does it?!…

Here it’s a Melbourne crowd on February 28 1958. Its the end of the long hot Australian summer but the crowd are well rugged up, Melbourne is notoriously ‘four seasons in one day’ sometimes and Fishermans Bend is an exposed windswept place at the best of times. At the wheel of the road-registered, ex-works Aston Martin DB3S chassis DB3S/9 is a youthful David McKay.

McKay aboard DB3S/9 at Fishermans Bend in February 1958. Nose of the car showing minor scars of battle, perspex headlight covers fitted to this car from its birth. First race the ’56 Rouen GP in May, then 2nd @ Le Mans ’56 driven by Moss/Collins, Salvadori was 2nd at Goodwood in September- car retained by Astons into 1957, the DBR1 the front line weapon that year with Brooks racing DBS3/9 at Easter Goodwood for 3rd. It was then used by the works for the last occasions as a practice car at Silverstone for the British Empire Trophy and for the Nurburgring 1000Km before sold by John Wyer to McKay with funds provided by Ampol (Westaway)

At the time he was ascending the driving ranks having cut his racing teeth in MG’s. He made it into the elite group too- let’s not forget were it not for a ropey jumped start call he would have won the 1961 Australian Grand Prix at Mallala aboard a Cooper T51 Climax. David would soon be known as much as a journalist, successful businessman and entrant-entrepreneur via his business ‘Scuderia Veloce’ as a driver though.

McKay raced this car to wins in the sportscar races that Fishermans Bend weekend, and was very successful in it throughout the country, taking 8 wins from 9 starts. His only defeat, 2nd place was at the hands of Doug Whiteford’s ex-works Maser 300S in the Tasmanian Tourist Trophy at Longford in early 1958.

db 3 s engine

Engine of the ex-works/McKay DB3S/9, raced at Albert Park, November 1958 by Stan Jones. 6 cylinder 2922cc DOHC 2 valve, twin plug all alloy engine fed by 45DCO Weber carburettors. Circa 225bhp @ 6000 rpm (Kevin Drage)

His last race in the car was successful, he took an Australian Tourist Trophy victory at Mount Panorama, Bathurst in October 1958 in what McKay described as ‘the faithful old ex-works Aston’s…greatest Antipodean win’.

The race was not an easy one. Initially Bill Pitt’s Jaguar XKD led and then Doug Whiteford, the formidable, forceful three-time AGP winner took the lead from McKay with Pitt 3rd. On lap 10 Doug had an enormous accident when the Maser was caught by a sudden gust of wind after coming over the second Conrod Straight hump threw the car out of control with the Maser spinning and hitting the right hand fence three times. Whiteford was almost flung from the car as it skidded backwards down the escape road and into another fence. Fortunately the St Kilda racer was only bruised by the wild ride.

McKay then led with an intermittent engine miss from Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax, a light rain shower adding to the degree of difficulty towards the end of the race. McKay won from Jolly, Ron Phillips and Frank Matich- Aston DB3S, Lotus 15 Climax, Cooper Jaguar and Jaguar XKC.

The weekend was a brilliant one for the Sydneysider as his new Jaguar Mk1 3.4, just imported for him by Ampol trounced the hitherto dominant Repco headed Holden sedans of John French and Leo Geoghegan in the sedan car handicap, to start the ‘Jaguar Era’ of Australian Touring Car racing.

After the Tourist Trophy win Stan Jones bought the racer but wasn’t really happy with it. The wonderful Le Mans second placed 1956 car then passed into Ray Barfield’s hands in Western Australia where its contemporary racing history ended in the early sixties. A summary of the cars history is in this article, rather than repeat myself;

https://primotipo.com/2017/03/23/bunbury-flying-50-allan-tomlinson-ferrari-500-et-al/

McKay’s first Aston, a production DB3S chassis #102 in the Carrathool paddock during its Australian LSR record breaking weekend in February 1957. Interesting to know who crafted the aero pod beneath which McKay sat and cooked! (Jek)

McKay was a very dab hand at the wheel of Aston’s by the time he bought his ex-Moss car…

He was part of the trio of privately run DB3S,  ‘Kangaroo Stable’ of cars raced by Australians Tony Gaze, Jack Brabham, Les Cosh, Dick Cobden, Tom Sulman and McKay in Europe in 1955.

McKays car, initially delivered to Tony Gaze, chassis DB3S/102 took the best result of the tour cut short by the cancellation of many sportscar races in Europe after the Le Mans disaster- McKay and Gaze were second in the 29 May Hyeres 12 Hour behind the winning Ferrari 750 Monza driven by Canonica/Munaron

At the end of the European Safari which included Oporto (Gaze 8th) and Goodwood (McKay/Gaze DNF distributor drive) David shipped the car straight to New Zealand for a number of races there including the Formula Libre NZ GP in January 1956. He retired from the Ardmore event won convincingly by Stirling Moss in a Maserati 250F. The engine of the car was shipped back to the UK for a rebuild after a major failure during a race at Invercargill. From May 1956 production DB3S’ were fitted with twin-plug 210 bhp engines, it was in this form the engine was rebuilt and delivered from Feltham back to Sydney. The beautiful car was again race ready by early 1957.

The stunning colour photographs were taken of ‘102’ in February 1957 at Carrathool a tiny village 680 Km west of Sydney between Narrandera and Hay in New South Wale western Riverina.

The main automotive attribute of the town was a long, straight stretch of road between Carrathool and Gunbar which was ideal for record setting, and so it was that various Ampol sponsored cars sought to break some Australian speed records. The then current Australian LSR was the 136.4 mph set by Jack Saywell’s 2.9 litre Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 at South Australia’s Coorong in 1939.

After plenty of careful preparation inclusive of incorporating the beautifully made perspex fairing onto his Aston, McKay broke the record setting a time over the Flying Kilometre of 143.19 mph on the morning of 19 February 1957. The ‘Canberra Times’ reported that McKay made two full speed runs on the course, ‘during one run he skidded on a patch of loose dirt at 140 mph’.

This speed was soon eclipsed by other cars but the DB3S held the class record for some years.

David McKay at speed during the Ampol sponsored record-breaking weekend in early 1957. Carrathool a tiny hamlet with now around 300 inhabitants. A straight, flat road with a decent surface a long way from major population centres was ideal record breaking territory! (Jek)

The car was first raced in Australia at Easter Bathurst in April 1957, he was 2nd in the sportscar handicap and won the sedan and sportcar handicap from Paul England’s Repco headed Ausca, passing the very fast special built at Repco Research by England ‘running up to 139.3 mph to do so and clocking fastest quater mile time for the day’.

But the car saw little further use as the quicker ex-works machine arrived in Sydney in September 1957. DBS/9’s first race was the October 1957 13 lap NSW Sportscar Championship at Bathurst, an event the combination won comfortably with McKay taking the lap record despite using only 5200 of the Aston’s available 6000 rpm. Bill Pitt’s Jaguar D Type was timed at 144 mph on Conrod Straight with McKay at 136 mph using his self imposed rev limit.

Both of these extremely valuable cars still exist but sadly left Australia many years ago. Those of you with collections of Australian ‘Sports Car World’ magazine should have a fossick through them as McKay wrote two sensational articles about the ownership of his two Aston’s in the seventies, or maybe the eighties!..

Technical specifications as per text (Tony Matthews)

Aston DB3S Technical Specifications…

The Aston Martin DB3S was built from 1953 to 1957, 32 were constructed excluding the single-seater variant ‘DP155/1′ raced by Reg Parnell in New Zealand in 1956.

Fundamentally Willie Watson’s design was a shorter, lighter and stiffer car than Eberan Eborhorst’s Aston DB3. The car evolved over just four months making its debut in Reg Parnell’s hands at Charterhall on 23 May 1953.

The cars were designed around a period typical ladder frame chassis which was 7 feet 3 inches long- 6 inches shorter than DB3. The frame comprised twin tubular members of 4 inch 16 gauge chrome molybdenum steel and three 14 gauge four, and five inch cross-members. The shorter chassis made the car nimbler than its predecessor if somewhat skittish on bumpy surfaces. The track was reduced from 4′ 3″ to 4’ 1″.

Frank Feeley designed the very stylish body, as sexy as the DB3 was dowdy. More than a nod had been given in the direction of the contemporary Maserati A6GCS it seemed. Overall the car was shorter, narrower and lighter than the DB3 and importantly it ‘looked right’ straight out of the box.

Front suspension was independent by trailing links, torsion bars, piston type dampers and a roll bar. A De-Dion rear axle was used sprung by a torsion bar and located by trailing links and a Panhard rod, again with piston type shocks.

Naturally a David Brown gearbox was fitted, the S430 ‘box a 4 speeder with reverse, final drive was by spiral bevel in a light alloy casing with a ZF slippery diff usually fitted. Brakes initially were two-leading shoe Alfin drums- 13 inches in diameter at the front and 12 inches at the rear. From 1955 Girling disc bakes were specified, the rotors were 11.5 inches in diameter front and rear. Precise rack and pinion steering was fitted, two turns were required lock to lock.

A 2922cc all alloy DOHC, 2 valve, 6 cylinder engine provided the cars heart. It had 4 main bearings and wet cylinder liners with the valves disposed at an included angle of 60 degrees. Initially fitted with 35DCO Weber carburettors the engine gave 182 bhp @ 5500 rpm and 182 lb/ft of torque at 3800 rpm on a compression ration of 8.5:1.

The cars were of course developed extensively throughout their racing life with the works cars fitted with twin-plug heads and 45DCO Webers from May 1954 giving 225bhp @ 6000 rpm.

The ‘Kangaroo Stable Cars’ (DB3S/102 Gaze-McKay, DB3S/103 Sulman, DB3S/104 Cosh) delivered in early 1955 all had the 200 bhp Weber 40 DCO engine- when announced at Earls Court in October 1954 the production cars had a feeble and uncompetitive 180 bhp on triple SU’s.

For the sake of completeness special works engines included a supercharged 240 bhp car raced at Le Mans in 1954 and a 2992cc normally aspirated variant raced at Dundrod in 1955.

In an era of unlimited sportscars the production based 3 litre DB3S was rarely an outright contender, the big guns, depending upon the year were the Benz 300SLR, XKD Jags and Ferrari V12’s of varying capacity. But with a change to 3 litres for the manufacturers championship and a more uncompromising approach the DB3S’ younger brother triumphed at Le Mans in 1959 and won the manufacturers title to boot. The path to that success was in part via the DB3S journey…

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce’ David McKay, ‘Aston Martin: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘The Canberra Times’ 20 February 1957

Photo Credits…

Don Westaway, Kevin Drage, Ampol, Sharaz Jek, Tony Matthews

Tailpiece: McKay at high speed in DB3S/102 during a practice run at Carrathool, in New South Wales western Riverina in April 1957…

(Ampol)

 

 

(SLSA)

AG Bungey’s or GB Woodman’s Humberette 5HP on the startline of the Magill to Norton Summit Hillclimb, Adelaide, Saturday 16 December 1905…

The first of these events run by the Automobile Club of South Australia (ACSA) was held a year before, on 17 December 1904. I was terribly excited at finding a shot of a competitor in the first hillclimb in SA, but upon further research it appears the superb photograph is from the 1905 event, the second of three, the final in-period event being held in 1906.

The photo took my breath away, there is so much going on. I find fascinating the clothing and attire of the drivers, officials, kids and teenagers. Love the deer-stalker hat and pipe of the dude on the left. The officials with writing pads are HR Harley and HR Hammer- do let me know if any of you are related to them. The Steward at the start line is the Club Secretary RJ Hancock, perhaps he is the fella to the right of the car?

The competition was held in ideal Adelaide summer weather with what slight wind there was, blowing down the hills, perhaps impacting times slightly.

Bungey’s time for the 4 mile journey from the East Torrens Hotel at Magill (corner of what is now East Street and Magill Road) up into the Adelaide Hills finishing line at the White Gate, Norton Summit, was 42 ½ minutes which suggests he was either incredibly slow or had some type of mechanical drama. Woodman completed the distance in 30 min 7 seconds. Fastest time of the day, to use modern phraseology, was recorded by ES Rymill’s Darracq 15HP who did a time of 9 minutes 10 seconds. So keen was Rymill to win the event that his car was rebuilt, ‘like many cars it had been dismantled for the occasion’. Great to see the competitive spirit from motor racing’s most formative stages in South Australia!

Pictured below are the Rymill brothers, notable pioneering South Australian motorists, aboard their fast Darracq at the top of Belair Hill on the way to Victor Harbor during the ACSA Reliability Trial held during Easter 1905, 21 and 22 April. These type of reliability events were very popular in Australia in the early years of motoring with this one the first organised by the ACSA.

Adelaide’s ‘The Advertiser’ newspaper characterised communal views on the car at the time: ‘The average citizen considers that the principal characteristic of a motor car is its fickleness. In his opinion it will go sometimes, but often it will not go. To disabuse people of this erroneous idea the club inaugurated the trial, which has had the effect of proving that as a general rule the motor car is reliable, and, considering the distance covered at a high speed was 228 miles, there were comparatively few mishaps, and all of those were of a trivial nature. Of the 14 cars which competed seven (including the Rymill Darracq) succeeded in accomplishing the entire 228 miles, constituting a very severe test, within schedule time, and gained the full number of marks’.

(SLSA)

This trial comprised two legs, the first of 120 miles on Good Friday from Mitcham, an Adelaide suburb to Victor Harbour, site of the 1936 South Australian Centenary Grand Prix aka ‘1937’ Australian Grand Prix held in December 1936 on the Fleurieu Peninsula. On the Saturday, 108 miles were covered from Adelaide to Mannum.

Twenty one cars and five motor cycles contested the Norton Summit Hillclimb with the competitors arranged in classes according to their quoted power ‘and sent away at different times to obviate passing each other’ with ‘officials stationed at all the sharp curves on the road’. The quickest bike was N Jackson’s 2.5HP water-cooled Lewis, his time was 10 minutes 6 seconds.

The Advertiser’s report notes ‘There was not one breakdown or mishap, which speaks volumes for the excellence of the cars owned by South Australia’.

Just a brief note to put these early, formative motor sporting contests into the broader framework of motoring competition in Australia at the time. When I wrote about Australia’s first ‘Motor Car Race’ at Melbourne’s Sandown Racecourse on 12 March 1904, (link below) respected Australian motor racing historian/author/racer John Medley said ‘that was brave!’ meaning the topic is somewhat contentious. It would be great to hear from others who may feel an event other than the Sandown contest was the first.When was the first ‘race’ in New South Wales for example?

https://primotipo.com/2015/11/17/australias-first-car-motor-race-sandown-racecourse-victoria-australia-1904/

In South Australia, for the record, it appears the first hillclimb, legal one anyway!, was the 17 December Norton Summit event on Saturday 17 December 1904 and the first ‘car race’, ‘where motor cars take the place of horses, and race in competition at their top speed’, was held at Morphettville Racecourse, 10 Km from Adelaide on Saturday 12 November 1904. This meeting was also promoted by the Automobile Club of South Australia.

FS Rymill had earned the nickname from Adelaide tram and cab-drivers of ‘The Flying Dutchman’ for his fast driving exploits in traffic. He and his Darracq 15HP were the stars of the show that Morphettville November day winning the 3 mile ‘Tourist Car Race’ from scratch, in this race a full complement of passengers were carried averaging at least 10 stone or over in weight. Rymill then won heat 1 of the ‘Starting Competition’ (starting the car by handle and then racing) and finally the 3 mile ‘Heavy Car Race’. Perhaps the latter was the premier event of the day, where Rymill again won off scratch from the De Dion 12HP of A Allison and De Dion 8HP of Dr Gault.

Bibliography…

‘The Advertiser’ Adelaide 20, 22 and 24 April, and 22 December 1905, ‘Chronicle 12 November 1904, ‘Adelaide Observer’ 19 November 1904

Photo Credits…

State Library of South Australia

 

The finalists are off to a flying start in the 6 October 1930 ‘World Championship’ for under 1500cc cars on dirt, Penrith Speedway, Sydney…

The glass plate negative, wonderful monochrome photograph creates such an evocative feel apart from the scene itself. From the outside is John Sherwood’s cumbersome looking Lea Francis Hyper, then the Sam Aggett and Charlie East driven Bugatti T37’s and on the inside Tom Lord’s, Geoff Lowe owned Austin 7 Brooklands. On the very inside verge is a touring Lea Francis slowing having paced the competitors for a lap before the championships 3 lap journey, East was the winner in his Bugatti.

Event and Competitors…

A record entry of 79 cars was received for the meeting. The winner of the feature event, Charlie East, described as an ‘old hand track and competition driver’, was proclaimed World Champion for cars under 1500cc on dirt tracks.

The 6 entries for this 3 lap race were all rather local notwithstanding the grandiose title of the Light Car Club of New South Wales promoted event, not that there is anything new in promoters ‘puff’ to put bums on seats!

The Nepean Times reported that the race was ‘No mere crow attracting stunt, but a legitimate worlds championship event’. The ‘International Racing Organisation…specified certain electrical timing apparatus, this to be controlled by officials sanctioned by the leading motor body of the state’. The event was supervised by the Royal Automobile Club of Australia, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport was not formed until the 1950’s.

The Sydney Morning Herald noted Mr TF Lord’s supercharged Austin 7 Brooklands was a new car with Messrs Charlie East and Sam Aggett entering 1496cc (T37) Bugatti’s. Tom Sulman had a career which went all the way from the early 1920’s in the UK to his unfortunate death in a Lotus 11 Climax at Bathurst in 1970, was entered in a 1096cc Salmson.

John Sherwood was a luminary as a driver, businessman, motoring and motorsport administrator down the decades, he entered a 1496cc Lea Francis. Sherwood was the driving force of the NSW Light Car Club as well as the key individual who created the Mount Panorama track at Bathurst. From a pioneering motoring family, he was a formidable competitor and later, as a Director of Empire Speedways, was a big contributor to the growth of Speedway Racing in Australia.

WH Northam was the final entry in another 748cc Austin, a combination which had many wins at Penrith and who later raced to 6th place in the 1932 Australian Grand Prix aboard this car. Bill Northam had an extraordinary life of achievement in commerce, sport and as a charity fund raiser. Long after he stopped motor racing he took up yachting in his mid-forties making the Australian Olympic Team and winning the Gold Medal in the 5.5 metre class at the Tokyo 1964 games. He was knighted in 1976 and died, aged 83, in 1988.

Other races on the ‘Eight Hour Day’ Monday public holiday card were an all powers handicap over 5 miles, a handicap for under 850cc cars over 3 miles, a four mile scratch race and finally the NSW LCC handicap over 3 miles.

The Championship Race…

Four starters took the flag with Sulman and Northam knocked out in eliminations conducted over 1 lap, a mile, with each car having a flying start. Aggett was the fastest qualifier at 66.91 mph from East, Lord, Sherwood, Sulman and Northam the slowest on 60mph.

The racers were given a rolling start behind JA Fields Lea Francis, then East immediately took the lead in his Bugatti from Lord’s Austin, then Aggett’s Type 37 and Sherwood’s Lea Francis ‘handicapped by a cumbersome body’, ‘Sherwood’s Lea Francis could not be opened up except in the back stretch’ in 4th. East drew away to a lead he never relinquished, and led Aggett by 100 yards from Lord. East’s lead stabilised at about 400 yards from Aggett, who was handicapped by an oiled plug, Lord was 100 yards further back and then Sherwood last.

In the final quarter of a mile Lord and his little supercharged Austin seized an opening through the dust, coming alongside Aggett’s Bugatti in 2nd. ‘Aggett swung a trifle wide on the last turn onto the home stretch, and, straightening up, cut down to the inner edge of the racing course. The two cars touched with the Austin spinning wildly. ‘Lord’s car spun on its side, dragging the driver, who was half out, and half in the Austin. Lord sustained abrasions to his legs and face. Charlie East one of the Maroubra stars, won in a time of 2 minutes 33 seconds at 70.58 mph by 100 yards with a wheel, literally, between Aggett and Lord in 2nd and 3rd. Sherwood’s Lea Francis was last car home.

The excitement was far from over though. ‘With Lord in the hands of the ambulance people, the stewards took prompt action. They disqualified Aggett and ‘sent him out’ (banned him from competition) for six months’. ‘The Referee’s’ report of the race then pointed out the unfairness of this process which was so speedy, their was no call for full evidence and Aggett appealed. I’m uncertain of the response of officialdom to this request.

Aggett and Lord make contact, the accident attributed to the Bugatti T37 driver rather than Lord aboard the tipping Austin 7 Brooklands (Fairfax)

John Sherwood’s Lea Francis  won the final of the open class ‘Widgery Cup’ Handicap, the ‘Clyde Battery Cup’ handicap for cars under 850cc final was won by CB Tye’s Austin 748cc and the All Powers Scratch Race final by CO Spurgeon’s Rajo Ford with the Club Handicap for under 2000cc cars won also by Tye’s Austin. In a day of interesting racing a special match race between Captain Hammond’s Gypsy Moth aircraft was won by the plane over J McCutcheon’s Morris Midget by a few lengths, the distance a flying mile, pun intended!

Penrith held the international spotlight for a week during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the town is 50Km west of Sydney on the Nepean River, it was the site of the whitewater rafting and rowing competitions. But the hype about the Penrith 1930 World Championship race inclusive of its title were not indicative of the events true local nature.

The competitors were all from New South Wales, a notable absentee was Bill Thompson, three time winner of the Australian Grand Prix and in sparkling form in 1930. Earlier in the year he won his first AGP at Phillip Island and had swept the board in the same AGP winning Bugatti T37A during the Gerringong Beach racing carnival on NSW’s Illawarra Coast in May. Thompson was reported to be entered at Penrith but did not race, his entry was received ‘out of time’ and so was refused. Talk about a promoter putting due process in front of ‘the show’! ‘The Referee’ report noted the ‘the field was unworthy of a world championship. Without entries from Thompson, Drake-Richmond and Terdich, to mention but three of the missing cracks, the field was not even truly representative of Australia’. Both Harold Drake-Richmond and Terdich were Victorian stars, Arthur winner of the 1929 AGP at Phillip Island aboard a Bugatti Type 37A.

Charlie East, all smiles aboard the winning Bugatti T37, Penrith, October 1930 (Sydney Morning Herald)

Not that the quality of the final lacked talent in the context of Australian Motor racing, very much nascent at the time…

The Australian Grand Prix was held for the first time on an oval dirt layout around the showgrounds at Goulburn, New South Wales in 1927. The 1928 AGP, ‘The 100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island, the first proper race in Australia on a road, run on a large, rectangular, gravel course was more indicative than Goulburn of the direction Australian racing would take and was indeed the race which started the tradition of road racing in Australia.

At the time Australian motor racing was largely amateur, a ‘run what you brung’ approach prevailed with most competing cars driven to and from the track. The sport evolved from hillclimbs, sprints and races on horse-tracks, the province of the gentry pre-War, to hillclimbs at Waterfall Gully, Kurrajong, Mount Coot-tha and Belgrave, beach racing at Gerringong and Sellicks to venues such as Aspendale, Maroubra and Penrith Speedways. Racing on Sydney’s banked, concrete  Maroubra Speedway track was very professional. Maroubra was owned by a commercial enterprise, not a car club, there was prize money to be won, the approach of the top competitors was consistent with that- the importation of cars and preparation thereof with a view to commercial success prevailed.

Some brave kids watching a competing car at Kurrajong Hillclimb, 75Km northwest of Sydney in the lower slopes of the Blue Mountains, October 1920, the competitor has the two outside wheels in the dirt on turn in! Hillclimbs were incredibly popular forms of motorsport in Australia at the time either as stand alone events or as part of trials which were events mixing navigation and speed events, usually sprints and hillclimbs. Between 1915 and 1926 there were at least 50! different hillclimb venues used across the country (Michael Terry)

John Medley wrote that ‘it was some time before other groups followed (the Light Car Club of Victoria’s Phillip Island) road racing direction, preferring the simpler expedient of running trials with speed sections included (rather like modern rallies) or contests on simple dirt speedways- both of these being more easily controlled by the organisers and also less accessible to the long arm of the law. One consequence was that their was very much a casual air to the whole occasion, with ‘chop picnics, family gatherings and exuberant overnight parties.’

I have not used the term speedway racing as the ‘forked road’ the sport took in later years had not yet occurred, competitors contested a variety of events as above. In addition solo intercity record-breaking attempts were also important with Graham Howard recording that ‘…intercity records…were the most consistent form of competitive motoring in Australia until the late 1920’s, and produced our first household-name drivers…’

A little snippet in the ‘Nepean Times’ article is a reminder of the important co-existence, with the motorcycle dudes the leaders, of ‘bikes and cars racing at the same meetings. The article notes that the Penrith meeting was ‘the only all car one in New South Wales for about five years’. It is also reported in terms of contemporary competitor numbers (79) that the meeting had ‘a record entry for a car race meeting for any part of Australia’. Also amusing, the ‘Times notes ‘Women are barred, (from entering the championship race) which means that Mrs J.A.S Jones will not be driving her supercharged Alfa Romeo. (6C1750) But it is hoped this fine car will race even with a mere male at the wheel’!!

Penrith Speedway’s first meeting was at Easter in 1924 and morphed through lap distances of 1 mile 80 yards to the 1 mile course used in 1930. The track was touted by international competitors who raced there as ‘The Worlds Greatest Dirt Track’ but its life was relatively short-lived. The Commonwealth Defence Department compulsorily acquired the land in 1941 and the circuit was consumed in that process.

RG Potts racing the Mrs JAS Jones owned Lea Francis on Gerringong’s Seven Mile Beach, 50 Mile Handicap on 10 May 1930. You can just see the pole at left which Potts is turning around to head back the other way on this beach near Kiama, 130 kilometres to Sydney’s south. There was no road racing in NSW at the time so racers did ‘the lot’- sprints, the hillclimbs which were often part of the trials conducted by local car clubs, the speedway at Penrith, and here upon Gerringong Beach. Sellicks Beach on Adelaide’s Fleurieu Peninsula was also used by ‘bikes and cars to race (Fairfax)

The six ‘World Championship’ entrants were all experienced New South Wales competitors with Sherwood and Sulman later entrants in Australian Grands’ Prix. Sherwood’s car appears to be a Lea Francis ‘Hyper’, a competition variant of the marque successful in the UK at the time and powered by a supercharged 1496cc 4 cylinder engine.

I can find no details of Sulman’s Salmson and am keen to hear from any of who may know about his car. Tom Sulman is revered in Australia as a doyen of racers who simply never stopped until the sport eventually took his life. I was at Winton a fortnight ago and looked again at the Sulman Singer, the amazing self-constructed dirt car Tom built and raced in England in the 1920’s before his return to Australia. It was a constant in Australian motor racing in both contemporary circuit events, and later from the mid-seventies, in historic racing when driven by Ron Reid. Upon his death not so long ago, his sons continue to race a car which must have done more racing miles than any other on the planet!.

Somewhat bizarre is that the ex-Charlie East Bugatti T37, chassis  ‘37104’ sits in Earl Davey-Milne’s garage in Toorak, Melbourne one kilometre from where I am writing this article right now! Chassis ‘37104’ was the fourth T37 built and shipped to Sydney’s  Russell Taylor, the prosperous owner of the Advanx Tyre company. It was raced for him by Charlie East, a driver whose stature was growing at the time. East was a Maroubra regular, one of its stars having first raced there in 1926 and subsequently lapping at over 96mph and on one occasion his lap was timed at over 116mph. Davey-Milne bought the car in 1943, it remains in the Chev Corvette V8 engined, open chassis form Earl rebuilt it to in the late 1950’s. East didn’t race the car in an AGP but ‘37104’ was raced in the 1933/4/5 events at the ‘Island driven by Cec Warren in 1933 and John McCutcheon in ‘34/5.

It isn’t clear if either or both the East and Aggett Bugatti T37’s were normally aspirated or to T37A, supercharged specifications. I can find no references as to which particular Bugatti Aggett raced and am keen to hear from any Bugatistes who can help with the identity and specification of the car and the drivers background. Similarly, whilst Lord’s Austin 7 is reported to be of blown Brooklands specification I have no details of the Northam Austin 7. All details again gratefully received. These snippets of history are all interesting i think!

In this case the photo which inspired the research and the resultant article popped up on that internet thingy when I was messing around looking for shots of Bill Thompson after reader Rob Bartholomaeus corrected the caption of an article I’d written about Thompson and his Bug T37A. Its funny how one thing can lead to another!…

Intercity record breaking was a popular form of solo road competition in Australia until outlawed in 1935 due to accidents. Here is the 25.5hp Th.Schneider with Arthur Barnes at the wheel and mechanic Bill McCulloch alongside- they have just taken the Broken Hill, NSW to Adelaide, SA record covering the 533 kilometres of unmade roads in 8 hours 3 minutes. The car is parked out front of Booth’s Garage, 411 King William Street in Adelaide’s CBD. 12 August 1925 (WS Smith)

YouTube Footage of Penrith…

Makes clear the speed and danger of the place! I looked at the film enthralled but the danger was readily apparent before discovering other footage of a multiple fatality when a car crashed into spectators in 1938. When ‘shit happens’ at speed, without protective barriers, its all over in the blink of an eye. Racing entry tickets still have the ‘Motor Racing is Dangerous’ message to this day, and so it was for all, spectators included until not so long ago!

Bibliography…

‘Nepean Times’ 27 September 1930, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ 30 September and 7 October 1930, ‘The Referee’ Sydney 8 October 1930

‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’, John Medley, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and Ors, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden

Photo Credits…

Fairfax, Sydney Morning Herald, State Library of South Australia, WS Smith, Michael Terry

Finito…

 

 

 

image

Seeing this book by Bill Tuckey amongst the display collection Michael Gasking brought to the Repco Brabham Engines ex-employees get together brought a smile to my face…

I didn’t ever own it but it was one of a very small number of racing books in Camberwell Grammar School’s library when I started there, aged 12.  Having only recently become interested in racing I was like a sponge for information. What was significant about this tome is that it was written by a talented journalist, Bill Tuckey, who edited both ‘Wheels’ and ‘Sports Car World’ magazines, the latter became one of my monthly bibles along with ‘Racing Car News’. The book covered a very broad canvas comprising all the Australian Grands Prix, portraits of the champion drivers at the time (the early sixties) as well as our circuits and the round Australia epic trials of the fifties.

It was a great read and provided important historical context for my contemporary obsessions at the time which were F5000 in Oz and F1 ‘over there’. I must suss it on Ebay.

Anyway, I thought I would share the cover art, the circuit depicted is Sandown, the Cooper T70 like car is just hooking into Shell Corner or Turn One, its vanilla name these days.

Bill Tuckey died not so long ago, this obituary in ‘Wheels’ is a great tribute to a talented man;

https://www.wheelsmag.com.au/news/1605/obituary-bill-tuckey/

Credits…

Michael Gasking Collection/Bill Tuckey, cover art by Phil Belbin

image

Jack Brabham ponders wing settings on his Brabham BT26 Repco during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend at Mont Tremblant, 22 September 1968…

I blew my tiny mind when Nigel Tait sent me the photo, neither of us had any idea where it was. A bit of judicious googling identified the location as Mont Tremblant, Quebec, a summer and winter playground for Canadians 130km northwest of Montreal.

Regular readers will recall  Nigel as the ex-Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. engineer who co-wrote the recent Matich SR4 Repco article (a car he owns) and has been helping with the series of articles on Repco’s racing history I started with Rodway Wolfe, another RBE ‘teamster’ a couple of years ago.

When Nigel left Repco in the ACL Ltd management buyout of which he was a part, he placed much of the RBE archive with his alma mater, RMIT University, Melbourne. Its in safe hands and available to those interested in research on this amazing part of Australian motor racing history. The archive includes Repco’s library of photographs. Like every big corporate Repco had a PR team to maximise exposure from their activities including their investment in F1. The Mont Tremblant shot is from that archive and unpublished it seems.

Its one of those ‘the more you look, the more you see’ shots; from the distant Laurentian Mountains to the pitlane activity and engineering of the back of the car which is in great sharpness. It’s the back of the BT26 where I want to focus.

The last RBE Engines article we did (Rodway, Nigel and I) was about the ’67 championship winning SOHC, 2 valve 330bhp 740 Series V8, this BT26 is powered by the 1968 DOHC, 4 valve 390bhp 860 Series V8. It was a very powerful engine, Jochen plonked it on the front row three times, on pole twice, as he did here in Canada in 1968. But it was also an ‘ornery, unreliable, under-developed beast. Ultimately successful in 4.2 litre Indy and 5 litre Sportscar spec, we will leave the 860 engine till later for an article dedicated to the subject.

image

Check out the DG300 Hewland 5 speed transaxle and part of the complex oil system beside it to feed the 860. Also the big, beefy driveshafts and equally butch rubber donuts to deal with suspension travel. It’s interesting as Tauranac used cv’s in earlier designs, perhaps he was troubled finding something man enough to take the more powerful Repco’s grunt, the setup chosen here is sub-optimal in an engineering sense.

The rear suspension is period typical; single top link, inverted lower wishbone, radius rods leading forward top and bottom and coil spring/damper units. It appears the shocks are Koni’s, Brabham were Armstrong users for years.

The uprights are magnesium which is where things get interesting. The cars wings that is, and the means by which they attach to the car…

See the beautifully fabricated ‘hat’ which sits on top of and is bolted to the uprights and the way in which the vertical load of the wing applies it’s force directly onto the suspension of the car. This primary strut support locates the wing at its leading edge, at the rear you can see the adjustable links which control the ‘angle on the dangle’ or the wings incidence of attack to the airflow.

I’ve Lotus’ flimsy wing supports in mind as I write this…

Tauranac’s secondary wing support elements comprises steel tube fabrications which pick up on the suspension inner top link mount and on the roll bar support which runs back into the chassis diaphragm atop the gearbox.

image

 

The shot above shows the location of the front wing and it’s mounts, this time the vertical force is applied to the chassis at the leading front wishbone mount, and the secondary support to the wishbones trailing mount. This photo is in the Watkins Glen paddock on the 6 October weekend, the same wing package as in use in Canada a fortnight before. The mechanic looking after Jack is Ron Dennis, his formative years spent learning his craft first with Cooper and then BRO. Rondel Racing followed and fame and fortune with McLaren via Project 4 Racing…

image

Jim Hall and Chaparral 2G Chev wing at Road America, Wisconsin 1968 (Upitis)

 

 

The great, innovative Jim Hall and his band of merry men from Midlands, Texas popularised the use of wings with their sensational Chaparral’s of the mid sixties. Traction and stability in these big Group 7 Sportscars was an issue not confronted in F1 until the 3 litre era when designers and drivers encountered a surfeit of power over grip they had not experienced since the 2.5 litre days of 1954-60.

During 1967 and 1968 F1 spoilers/wings progressively grew in size and height, the race by race or quarter of a season at a time analysis of same an interesting one for another time.

image

Hill’s winged Lotus 49B, Monaco 1968 (Schlegelmilch)

In some ways ‘who gives a rats’ about the first ‘winged Grand Prix win’ as Jim Hall pioneered ‘winning wings’ in 1966, the technology advance is a Group 7 not F1 credit; but Jacky Ickx’ Ferrari 312 win in the horrific, wet, 1968 French Grand Prix (in which Jo Schlesser died a fiery death in the air-cooled Honda RA302) is generally credited as the first, the Fazz fitted with a wing aft of the driver.

But you could equally mount the case, I certainly do, that the first winged GeePee win was Graham Hill’s Lotus 49B Ford victory at Monaco that May.

Chapman fitted the Lotus with front ‘canard’ wings and the rear of the car with a big, rising front to rear, engine cover-cum-spoiler. Forghieri’s Ferrari had a rear wing but no front. The Lotus, front wings and a big spoiler. Which car first won with a wing?; the Lotus at Monaco on 26 May not the Ferrari at Rouen on July 7. All correspondence will be entered into as to your alternative views!

image

Jacky Ickx’ winning Ferrari 312 being prepared in the Rouen paddock. The neat, spidery but strong wing supports clear in shot. Exhaust in the foreground is Chris Amon’s Fazz (Schlegelmilch)

 

 

Lotus ‘ruined the hi-winged party’ with its Lotus 49B Ford wing failures, a lap apart, of Graham Hill and then Jochen Rindt at Montjuic in the 1969 Spanish GP. Both drivers were lucky to walk away from cars which were totally fucked in accidents which could have killed the drivers, let alone a swag of innocent locals.

A fortnight later the CSI acted, banning high wings during the Monaco GP weekend but allowing aero aids on an ongoing basis albeit with stricter dimensional and locational limits.

image

Mario Andretti has just put his Lotus 49B on pole at Watkins Glen in October 1968, Colin Chapman is perhaps checking his watch to see why regular drivers Hill and Jackie Oliver are being bested by guest driver Andretti who was entered at Monza and Watkins Glen at seasons end! Andretti put down a couple of markers with Chapman then; speed and testing ability which Chapman would return to nearly a decade later. More to the point are the wing mounts; direct onto the rear upright like the Brabham but not braced forward or aft. Colin was putting more weight progressively on the back of the 49 to try and aid traction, note the oil reservoir sitting up high above the ‘box. Stewart won in a Matra MS10, Hill was 2nd with both Andretti and Oliver DNF (Upitis)

 

 

 

Chapman was the ultimate structural engineer but also notoriously ‘optimistic’ in his specification of some aspects of his Lotus componentry over the years, the list of shunt victims of this philosophy rather a long one.

Lotus wing mounts are a case in point.

Jack Oliver’s ginormous 125mph French GP, 49B accident at Rouen in 1968 was a probable wing mount failure, Ollie’s car smote various bits of the French countryside inclusive of a Chateau gate.

Moises Solana guested for Lotus in his home, Mexican GP on 3 November, Hill won the race whilst Solana’s 49B wing collapsed.

Graham Hill’s 49B wing mounts failed during the 2 February 1969 Australian Grand Prix at Lakeside, Queensland. Then of course came the Spanish GP ‘Lotus double-whammy’ 3 months after the Lakeside incident on 4 May 1969.

image

Faaaarck that was lucky one suspects the Lotus mechanics are thinkin’!? The rear suspension and gearbox are 200 metres or so back up the road to the right not far from the chateau gate Ollie hit. It was the first of several ‘big ones’ in his career (Schlegelmilch)

For the ‘smartest tool in the shed’ Chapman was slow to realise ’twas a good idea to finish races, let alone ensure the survival of his pilots and the punters.

I’m not saying Lotus were the only marque to have aero appendages fall off as designers and engineers grappled with the new forces unleashed, but they seemed to suffer more than most. Ron Tauranac’s robustly engineered Brabhams were race winning conveyances generally devoid of bits and pieces flying off them given maintenance passably close to that recommended by ‘Motor Racing Developments’, manufacturers of Ron and Jack’s cars.

The Brabham mounts shown earlier are rather nice examples of wings designed to stay attached to the car rather than have Jack aviating before he was ready to jump into his Piper Cherokee at a race meetings end…

‘Wings Clipped’: Click on this article for more detail on the events leading up to the CSI banning hi-wings at the ’69 Monaco GP…https://primotipo.com/2015/07/12/wings-clipped-lotus-49-monaco-grand-prix-1969/

Credits…

Nigel Tait, Repco Ltd Archive, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Cahier Archive, Alvis Upitis

Etcetera…

Hill P, ‘Stardust GP’ Las Vegas, Chaparral 2E Chev 1966

image

Now you see it, now you don’t; being a pioneer and innovator was the essence of the Chaparral brand, but not without its challenges! Phil Hill with 2E wing worries at Las Vegas in 1966, he still finished 7th. Jim Hall was on pole but also had wing problems, John Surtees’ wingless Lola T70 Mk2 Chev won the race and the first CanAm Championship  (The Enthusiast Network)

The 13 November 1966 ‘Stardust GP’ at Las Vegas was won by John Surtees Lola T70 Mk2 Chev, CanAm champion in 1966. Proving the nascent aerodynamic advances were not problem free both Jim Hall, who started from pole and Phil Hill pictured here had wing trouble during the race.

The Chaparral 2E was a development of the ’65 2C Can Am car (the 2D Coupe was the ’66 World Sportscar Championship contender) with mid-mounted radiators and huge rear wing which operated directly onto the rear suspension uprights. A pedal in the cockpit allowed drivers Hall and Hill to actuate the wing before corners and ‘feather it’ on the straights getting the benefits in the bendy bits without too much drag on the straight bits. A General Motors ‘auto’ transaxle which used a torque converter rather than a manual ‘box meant the drivers footbox wasn’t too crowded and added to the innovative cocktail the 2E represented in 1966.

Its fair to say the advantages of wings were far from clear at the outset even in Group 7/CanAm; McLaren won the 1967 and 1968 series with wingless M6A Chev and M8A Chev respectively, winning the ’69 CanAm with the hi-winged M8B Chev in 1969. Chaparral famously embody everything which was great about the CanAm but never won the series despite building some stunning, radical, epochal cars.

phil

Phil Hill relaxed in his 2E at Laguna Seca on 16 October 1966, Chaps wing in the foreground, Laguna’s swoops in the background. Phil won from Jim Hall in the other 2E (TEN)

Hill G, Monaco GP, Lotus 49B Ford 1968

image

Interesting shot of Hill shows just how pronounced the rear bodywork of the Lotus 49B was. You can just see the front wing, Monaco ’68 (unattributed)

Hill taking a great win at Monaco in 1968. Graham’s was a tour de force of leadership, strength of mind and will. Jim Clark died at Hockenheim on 7 April, Monaco was on 26 May, Colin Chapman was devastated by the loss of Clark, a close friend and confidant apart from the Scots extraordinary capabilities as a driver.

Hill won convincingly popping the winged Lotus on pole and leading all but the races first 3 laps harnessing the additional grip and stability afforded by the cars nascent, rudimentary aerodynamic appendages. Graham also won the Spanish Grand Prix on 12 May, these two wins in the face of great adversity set up the plucky Brits 1968 World Championship win. Remember that McLaren and Matra had DFV’s that season too, Lotus did not have the same margin of superiority in ’68 that they had in ’67, lack of ’67 reliability duly noted.

graham

Hills 49B from the front showing the ‘canard’ wings and beautifully integrated rear engine cover/spoiler (Cahier)

Ickx, Rouen, French GP, Ferrari 312  1968

image

Mauro Forghieri, Ferrari’s Chief Engineer developed wings which were mounted above the engine amidships of the Ferrari 312. Ickx put them to good use qualifying 3rd and leading the wet race, the Belgian gambled on wets, others plumped for intermediates.

Ickx’ wet weather driving skills, the Firestone tyres, wing and chaos caused by the firefighting efforts to try to save Schlesser did the rest. It was Ickx’ first GP win.

jacky

It looks like Rainer Schlegelmilch is taking the shot of Jacky Ickx at Rouen in 1968, note the lack of front wings or trim tabs on the Ferrari 312 (Schlegelmilch)

Tailpiece: The ‘treacle beak’ noting the weight of Tauranac’s BT26 Repco is none other than ‘Chopper’ Tyrrell. Also tending the car at the Watkins Glen weighbridge is Ron Dennis, I wonder if Ken’s Matra MS10 Ford was lighter than the BT26? If that 860 engine had been reliable Jochen Rindt would have given Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill a serious run for their money in 1968, sadly the beautiful donk was not the paragon of reliability it’s 620 and 740 Series 1966/7 engines generally were…

image

 

 

image

Introduction…

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

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

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

denny le mans

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

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

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

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

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

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

rb 740

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

1967 Engine Design Deliberations…

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

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

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

rb 620 and 740

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

Conceptual Design of the Heads…

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

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

jack butt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jack wf

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

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

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

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

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

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

rb team

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

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

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

block

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

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

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

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

repco boys

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

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

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

rb block

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

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

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

brochure

(Wolfe/Repco)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of RBE740 F1 3 litre engine specifications/suppliers…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Racing the 640: 1967 Tasman Series…

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

jack south africa

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

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

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

gasking and bton, pre sandwon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jack and denny

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

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

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

jack monaco

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

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

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

denny spa

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

Repco 1966/7 promotional film…

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

Etcetera…

test house

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

jack wf

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

repco holden

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

jack sandown

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

rcn

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

Etcetera: Norman Wilson RBE740 Chief Designer…

rb norman

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

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

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

rb nw spl

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

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

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

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

Bibliography…

Recollections of Rodway Wolfe and Nigel Tait

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

Kevin Drages comments from ‘The Nostalgia Forum’

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

Photo Credits…

Rodway Wolfe and Nigel Tait Collections, Repco Ltd archive

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

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

jack longford