Posts Tagged ‘Bill Kirkham’

(N Tait)

Jack Brabham and his ‘Repco Special’, Hay Street, Subiaco, Perth 1962…

With a bit of detective work from West Australians Ken Devine and Billy Hughes this photo from Nigel Tait’s Collection, which was originally thought to be of Jack Brabham in Sydney was taken during Jack’s 1962 trip to Perth for the Caversham Australian Grand Prix, won by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T62 Climax. Click here for an article about that meeting;

The speedway midget is ‘definitely Bill Kirkham’s WA7 Repco Special driven by Laurie Stevens…looks like Jack sitting in the car and shaking the proprietors hand’ Billy Hughes wrote, another Perth enthusiast/photographer Gary Russell-Brown agrees.

‘Kayes’ was a Repco aligned engine reconditioner in Hay Street Subiaco, an inner Perth suburb. Clearly Kayes’ owner Kirkham had enough ‘pull’ to entice Jack back into the cockpit of a speedway car from whence he came!

Jack’s very first race, a speedway event of course, was at Cumberland Oval, Parramatta on 5 December 1947, click on this ‘Loose Fillings’ link to an interesting article written by Terry Wright article on these formative, successful Brabham racing steps/successes;

Brabham, 22 years old, receives the Australian Championship tray at Kilburn Speedway, Adelaide, 25 February 1949.



Jack during his first raceday at Parramatta Speedway, December 1947 (Brabham Family)

Perth enthusiast, Gary Russell-Brown provides some more information on speedway racing in Western Australia and photographs of the Kirkham midget in particular.

‘Dirt track speedway racing started in Australia in the late 1930’s – solos initially then followed by sidecars and speedcars or ‘midgets’. Before its relocation to the Kwinana Motorsports complex circa 2002 Perth’s Claremont Speedway was recognised as the longest running speedway in Australia, it opened in 1927.’

‘At 641 yards it was longer than most- its long straights resulted in higher top speeds than most as well,this may have been the reason for the venues shocking mortality rate- seventeen over the years. Speedcars were ill equipped in terms of safety until recent times.’

(G Russell-Brown)

Claremont Speedway and panorama #7 Stevens in the Kayes Repco Spl then eastern staters R Clarke from NSW and Victorian D Maher, they were here for the WA round of the 1964-1965 Australian Speedcar Championship’ Gary recalls.

The shot below is of Johnny Stewart in the car, ‘He crashed his own car in Adelaide, the previous weekend in January 1965 and through a connection between Kim Bonython and Bill Kirkham it was arranged for Stewart to use 7+ which wasn’t racing at that stage, Laurie Stevens having retired.’

Claremont is a western suburb of Perth- ten kilometres from the CBD on the north bank of the Swan River.

(G Russell-Brown)

‘Visting internationals came to the track with the peak years of Australian speedway racing perhaps the fifties and sixties. Bill Kirkham was keen to get involved as speedcars gained in prominence, his Subiaco engineering business ‘Kayes Engineering’ acquired, owned and raced #7.’

‘Bills son Ross Kirkham worked for Repco, along the way he moved to Melbourne and became a key engineer on the Repco Brabham Engines F1/Tasman/Sportscar program in the early to later 1960s- he sent west one of the first Repco Hi-Power cylinder heads made which was fitted to the ‘Holden Grey’ six and made #7 very quick.’

‘Laurie Stevens drove the car very well in that era and had amazing success with it against the east-coasters and Americans including some Offy powered cars.’

(G Russell-Brown)

The car above is the original #7, which had the added ‘+” after its first outing with the Repco modifications in 1959.

‘See above the distinctive, tuned exhaust system fitted to the Repco Hi-Power Holden six- it was an aluminium cross flow Phil Irving design, in this application fitted with twin-carburettors, Solexes, i think, which you can see in the shot below.’

‘Lynn Kirkham is fettling the car below with Johnny Stewart up in January 1965.’

‘The yellow version was a totally new car built, perhaps, for the 1961-1962 season

(G Russell-Brown)


(G Russell-Brown)

A couple of Claremont fans looking for an autograph from Laurie Stevens- love the ‘Ringmasters’ office, these days the more grandiose ‘Circuit Manager’ title would be applied!

Bill Kirkham behind his car, Laurie Stevens at the wheel, chief mechanic George Williams and a Claremont official after Equipe Kirkham’s first state title.

(G Russell-Brown)



For the sake of completeness here is a photograph of Ross Kirkham manning the controls of a Repco Engine Lab dyno circa 1964- testing a Coventry Climax four-cylinder FPF race engine of 2.5 or 2.7 litres capacity.

Former Repco engineer/racer/restorer Nigel Tait recalled ‘Then Engine Laboratory Manager and Senior Product Development Engineer Ross Kirkham and Senior Technician Mchael Gasking. Ross was my boss when i started there as an Engineering Cadet- a very clever and terrific guy. The dynamometer is our Heenan and Froude GB4. It’s in a tin shed in an otherwise residential area (Richmond, Melbourne) and as you can see there was no sound insulation.’

‘Work on the RB620 V8 would have commenced by then…by 1965 the first 2.5 litre V8 would have been run on the same dyno- for sure Michael Gasking would have assenbled this one and all of the early engines.’

Photo Credits…

Nigel Tait Collection, Repco,, Billy Hughes, Gary Russell-Brown


(G Russell-Brown)

#7+ Kirkham Repco Special tail shot for the tailpiece! Out back of the Kayes Engineering workshop in Subiaco.