Posts Tagged ‘Bob Jane’

(W Byers)

Bob Jane, Elfin 400 Repco ‘620’ 4.4 V8 entering KLG Corner, racer Ross Burbidge tells us, 12 February 1967…

It’s a very early race for Bob in his brand new Elfin, this car notable in several ways not least for the fact that it was the first to be fitted with a customer Repco Brabham engine V8- I’ve written a feature on it so let’s not repeat ourselves;

https://primotipo.com/2018/04/06/belle-of-the-ball/

What struck me about William Byers’s photo and the unusual angle and locale in which it is taken is the degree of difficulty in sighting these big Group 7 sportscars through the corners. Admittedly Bob was a ‘short-arse’- mind you there was plenty of bounce in every ounce- but I bet the problem was the same for tall fellas like Dan Gurney.

Who won the sportscar races that day- had Matich debuted the SR3 at this point?, it certainly raced at the Farm and Sandown Tasman rounds that summer- Frank would certainly have given Bob a run for his money if present.

(W Byers)

The top-guns of the meeting were the Tasman 2.5’s of course.

We have photos of second placed Jack Brabham, Brabham BT23A Repco ‘640’, (above and below) Denny Hulme’s similarly engined fourth placed Brabham BT22, sixth placed John Harvey in the 1.65 litre Ford twin-cam powered ex-Stillwell Brabham BT14, and Spencer Martin’s Bob Jane owned Brabham BT11A Climax but not Jim Clark’s victorious Lotus 33 Climax FWMV 2 litre V8- he won five of the eight Tasman rounds that year. A pity, but hey, let’s be thankful for some marvellous photos.

(W Byers)

1967 was the Tasman Series Repco had a red-hot go to win, two cars, one each for Denny and Jack with both drivers contesting all eight rounds- but the might of the F1 World Championship winning team did not triumph over Jim Clark and the very reliable, fast, special 2 litre FWMV Coventry Climax engined Lotus 33 of the Scottish ace.

In 1966, 1968 and 1969 Repco had limited Tasman campaigns, 1967 was the one they should have won, you might say, I’ve covered this series before, so no point repeating the many problems which cost the Maidstone outfit dearly.

Arguably the most important aspect of the Tasman for Repco was to blood their new for 1967 F1 engine- the 740 Series V8- in advance of the GP season, than win the series itself. In the event Repco’s Norm Wilson designed 700 Series block was not quite ready so Jack and Denny raced with ‘640 Series’ motors- the new 40 Series, exhaust between the Vee two-valve heads and 600 Series (Oldsmobile F85 modified) blocks.

(W Byers)

 

Denny had a rather successful 1967 season didn’t he!, taking the F1 drivers title and finishing second to Bruce in the Can-Am Championship aboard one of McLaren’s M6A Chev papaya coloured machines.

The car above, a BT22, is essentially a BT11 frame fitted with BT19 suspension- Allen Brown writes that ‘F1-1-64’ was used by BRO until Denny’s F1 car for 1966 BT20 was ready. Fitted with a Repco-Brabham V8, it was raced by Denny in the Tasman and then sold to Rorstan Racing, who fitted a Coventry Climax FPF 2.5 and ran Aussie Paul Bolton in it, it’s present whereabouts is unknown.

Jack’s BT23A was built on the redoubtable BT23 F2 jig/frame.

BT23A has never left Australia thank goodness, and been very much in the news in the last twelve months with its acquisition by the National Motor Museum from Peter Simms who restored and then raced the car for decades.

It’s post Brabham race record was with Scuderia Veloce, the car driven by Greg Cusack and Phil West before being sold to Brian Page.

(W Byers)

John Harvey (above) drove the wheels off this ex-Bib Stillwell car, the first BT14 raced ‘FL-1-65’, then owned by Sydney car dealer Ron Phillips in 1966.

Prepared by Peter Molloy, the Brabham BT14’s Lotus-Ford twin-cam engine progressively got bigger and not too long after this shot the car was given ‘a birthday’, it was the recipient of a Repco-Brabham 640 Series 2.5 litre V8 fitted with the assistance of Rennmax’s Bob Britton, allowing Harves to run with the ‘big boys’.

In fact the combination is sorta related to Spencer Martin’s Brabham BT11A shown below.

(W Byers)

The very gifted Sydneysider won both the 1966 and 1967 Gold Stars aboard this Bob Jane owned Brabham BT11A ‘IC-4-64’ Coventry Climax FPF- his dices with the similarly mounted Kevin Bartlett in Alec Mildren’s car were highlights of racing for enthusiasts of the period.

When Spencer decided to retire at the end of the 1967 Gold Star campaign Jane offered Harves the ride, and acquired the Brabham BT14 from Phillips. It’s 640 engine was fitted into the BT11A- like the BT14 it was not designed for a V8 motor, and raced by John in the 1968 Australian Tasman rounds.

Harvey in the Bob Jane Racing Brabham BT11A Repco during the 1968 Warwick Farm 100 Tasman round (unattributed)

 

 

 

 

Nice overhead shot from the Longford pits of the Repco 640 or 740 Series V8 installation in the BT11A

Jane then bought Jack’s 1968 Tasman mount, the BT23E at the series end for John to race in ’68 with Harvey very lucky to survive a huge shunt at Easter Bathurst in that car after a rear upright failure.

Harvey and Molloy had largely sorted the BT14 Repco by the end of the ’67 Gold Star, he had won a feature race in it at Oran Park. It does make you wonder why Bob didn’t race that car as it was rather than do the engine swap they did and develop the BT11A afresh- no doubt it all made sense at the time?!

The Jane Estate owns BT11A, the BT14, re-engined with a Ford/Lotus twin-cam is i think still in Peter Harburg’s hands in Australia.

William’s camera also captured some other interesting cars during that meeting.

(W Byers)

Bill Gates superb Lotus Elan 26R, Ross Burbidge tells us Gates raced both this car and an Elan Series 1, both of which are still alive and well in Australia. Ex-Geoghegan car originally?

Queenslanders will know the story better than I but its said that race promoter Bill Goode had the Bee Gees, the Gibbs brothers, performing between events at his Redcliffe Speedway and introduced them to Bill who promoted them on his radio show on 4BH Brisbane thereby assisting them in their climb to global success.

(W Byers)

Ross Burbidge says this is the last time Pete Geoghegan ran his first Mustang at Lakeside.

He won the 1967 one-race Australian Touring Car Championship in the Australian, John Sheppard built, Mustang ‘GTA’ back at Lakeside on 30 July 1967 from the Brian Foley and Peter Manton Cooper S’s after various of the other V8’s fell by the wayside with mechanical dramas. The shot above is on the entry to ‘Hungry’ or then KLG corner.

Great Scots: Lakeside 1967, winner Clark Lotus 33 Climax chases Stewart BRM P261 (Tasman Book)

Hulme, Clark and Stewart, Tasman 1967…

https://primotipo.com/2014/11/24/1967-hulme-stewart-and-clark-levin-new-zealand-tasman-and-beyond/

Photo Credits…

William Byers, oldracephotos.com.au, ‘Tasman Cup’ Tony Loxley and Others

References…

Ross Burbidge, oldracingcars.com.au

Tailpiece: Bob Holden, Improved Touring Morris Cooper S…

(W Byers)

Bob Holden won the 1966 Bathurst 500 in a Series Production Cooper S, co-driving the works BMC Australia car with rally-ace Rauno Aaltonen.

In a year of dominance the Cooper S took the first nine placings in the race! This car, not the same machine, is built to Improved Touring rules, the category to which the Australian Touring Car Championship was held at the time- mind you Bob didn’t return that July to contest the title race. He is still racing…

In the background Denny’s Brabham BT22 is being pushed past with perhaps the light coloured car Frank Gardner’s Mildren Racing Brabham BT16 Climax?

Finito…

Frank Matich in his new Elfin 400 Olds nee ‘Traco Olds’ at Warwick Farm during the 1966 Tasman Meeting (Russell Thorncraft)

The very best of the seasons greetings to you all, wherever you may be. May all of us get the luck we deserve in addition to a healthy, wealthy, wise and generous 2019…

It was May 2014 when I first started fiddling around with what has become somewhat of an obsession, I have promised myself I will re-commence racing my Van Diemen RF86 Formula Ford in 2019- ‘doing it’ rather than just writing about it!

I have no strategy with primotipo other than writing about what interests me, the article ideas are generated by a photograph and it is in that context that the direction of the thing has shifted much more to an Australian bias this past year.

DIY Davo: Jon Davison looking after a wheel or pressures in the Oran Park pitlane prior to the 1977 AGP. Car is his ex-Walker Matich A50 Repco. Davo become a mighty fine F5000 driver with the purchase of an ex-Teddy Yip/Alan Jones Lola T332 Chev 12 months hence. Behind Jon are the Team VDS entries of race winner, Warwick Brown, Lola T430 Chev and Peter Gethin Chevron B37 Chev (Adam Thurgar)

A limiting factor until recently has been access to lots of interesting Australian photographs. This has changed in that Bob Williamson’s ‘Old Motor Racing Photographs-Australia’ and the ‘Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania’s’ Facebook pages and meeting Bob King and Ken Devine in recent times has allowed me to explore topics I never would have contemplated without the visual stimulation of ideas provided by their archive/collections.

So special thanks to those organisations/fellows in addition to the photographers who have been very supportive right from the get-go. John Ellacott, Rod MacKenzie, Lindsay Ross, Dick Simpson, Lynton Hemer, Kevin Drage and Dale Harvey. Terry Marshall’s New Zealand work gets a regular run too.

Len Lukey’s Lukey Bristol chases Bib Stillwell, Maserati 250F, Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park 1958. Stirling Moss won in a Cooper T45 Climax- Len was 5th and Bib 4th (Simon Wills via Bob King Collection)

Bob King’s ‘Words from Werrangourt’ articles have been very popular, Rod MacKenzie’s and Bruce Polain’s pieces were beauties, and I have unpublished manuscripts from Peter Finlay and Ray Bell to pop up in the coming months- thanks to you all.

Ray, Stephen Dalton and Rob Bartholomaeus have been great ‘sub-editors’ in advising errors post-upload of articles which has helped the accuracy of primotipo big-time. Stephen and Rob have also provided research material which has given me ‘reach’ beyond my own collection. The collective global wisdom of The Nostalgia Forum is also an ongoing source of nuanced information which goes way beyond the books we all have.

Stan Jones and Cooper T51 Climax at Caversham, West Australia in October 1959. WA Road Racing Championships Gold Star round. Len Lukey won the race in the green Cooper T45 alongside, Stan was 2nd. He won the AGP at Longford in March aboard his Maserati 250F (Ken Devine)

The readership has increased nicely again by over 30% with the Australian readership now 30% of the total compared with 17-20% of the last two years. So, it seems you International folks aren’t turned off by the greater Australian content. The top ten countries in terms of readership in order are Australia, US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Japan, the Netherlands and Brazil. Exactly the same as last year actually, albeit the order was a smidge different.

Last, but far from least, thanks for reading it!

The balance of this piece are some randomly chosen photographs from the sources above I’ve not published before…

(Chris Robinson)

Bob Skelton contesting the Symmons Plains round of the Australian Formula 2 Championship in September 1973.

He was second to Leo Geoghegan’s works Birrana 273 Ford Hart that weekend and was third in the seven round series behind Geoghegan and Enno Buesselmann in another 273.

Skello first raced this chassis- the very first Bowin P6 built, in the 1972 Formula Ford Festival at Snetterton in the UK before returning home and ditching the Ford 711M Kent motor and Hewland Mk9 gearbox in favour of a Brian Hart built 1.6 litre Lotus-Ford, Lucas ‘416B’ injected engine and five-speed Hewland FT200 ‘box as well as wings and slicks etc.

He did well in 1973, it was a shame he did not race on in the Finnie Ford supported car- without doubt the 1972 FF Driver to Europe Winner (Bowin P4A) had talent aplenty.

Ex-Lotus engineer, Bowin Designs John Joyce’s spaceframe P6 and monocoque P8 designs bristled with innovation having the Lotus 56/72 wedge shape and hip-mounted radiators and JJ’s own very clever variable or rising rate suspension front and rear. Whilst the P6F won an FF title in John Leffler’s hands in 1973, F2 and F5000 Championship success eluded these wonderful cars.

 

(Matt Liersch)

Stirling Moss and minder wander down the new Sandown pitlane with ‘Peters Corner’, the left-hander onto the Back Straight behind them. Notice the kerb, trees and lack of Armco on the outside of Pit Straight and between the circuit and pitlane.

The March 1962 ‘Sandown Park International’ was the track’s first meeting with Moss fifth his Rob Walker Lotus 21. Jack Brabham won from John Surtees and Bruce McLaren- in Coopers T55, T53, and T53- all powered by Coventry Climax 2.7 litre ‘Indy’ FPFs.

(Matt Liersch)

Jack Brabham either pulling into or out of pitlane in the Cooper T55 Climax which was then acquired by John Youl and raced by he and engineer Geoff Smedley with great success over the next couple of years.

(Matt Liersch)

Melburnian’s of a certain age will remember Channel 9 sports broadcaster Tony Charlton here getting the story from Moss and Brabham. He was more a cricket and footy kinda-guy but did a workmanlike job whatever the sport.

https://primotipo.com/2016/04/08/ole-935/

 

(Brian Caldersmith)

Maybach 3 was Charlie Dean’s Repco Research built cars definitive specification in six-cylinder Maybach engine form- Maybach 4 was this chassis modified by Ern Seeliger in various ways inclusive of fitment of a Chev 283 cid small-block V8.

Here the car is showing off its Phil Irving developed fuel injection at Gnoo Blas, Orange during the January 1956 South Pacific Championship weekend.

(Brian Caldersmith)

 

(Brian Caldersmith)

Stan Jones was running well in second position behind Reg Hunt’s new Maserati 250F, and ahead of Brabham’s Cooper T40 Bristol in third when the Maybach motor let go in the biggest possible way on lap 23, an errant rod broke causing the car to spin down the road.

With little in the way of spares now remaining- and the speed of Hunt’s Maseratis (A6GCM and 250F) apparent Jones ordered a 250F and Maybach 3 was put to one side until Seeliger’s mechanical magic was worked upon it.

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

(Chris O’Connor)

Cheetah as a marque all too often slips under the radar, a bit like the car’s designer, builder and driver Brian Shead- he won the 1979 Australian F2 Championship in a Cheetah Mk6 Toyota.

Shead built ANF3 and 2 cars, two Clubmans and a Formula Holden, well over forty cars in all in his small Mordialloc, outer Melbourne bayside workshop. ‘The Two Brians’ Shead and Sampson (above) dominated ANF3 in the mid-seventies, the 1975 Bathurst 1000 winner (together with Peter Brock in a Holden Torana L34) is on the downhill plunge into Dandenong Road corner at Sandown in 1973 or 1974.

The car is a Cheetah Mk4- a spaceframe chassis powered by a pushrod, OHV, ‘Motor Improvements’ modded Toyota Corolla 1.3 litre, twin-42 DCOE carbed 135 bhp engine. Motor Improvements was Sambo’s business in the Nepean Higway St Kilda, at the time ANF3 was a 1300cc OHV/SOHC category.

https://primotipo.com/2018/06/26/anf3/

(Dennis Cooper)

Clark, Amon, Hill: Lotus 49 Ford DFW by two and a lone Ferrari Dino 246T, Longford 1968.

Not the South Pacific Championship Tasman race mind you- that was held in the pissin’ rain and won by Piers Courage’ McLaren M4A Ford FVA. This is the dry Saturday preliminary which was won by Clark.

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/20/longford-tasman-south-pacific-trophy-4-march-1968-and-piers-courage/

Credits…

Russell Thorncraft, Quentin Miles, Adam Thurgar, Simon Wills- Bob King Collection, Brian Caldersmith, Matt Liersch, Chris Robinson, Ken Devine Collection, Dennis Cooper, Chris O’Connor

oldracingcars.com

Tailpiece: Bob Janes and Jaguar E Type Lightweight, Lakeside circa 1965…

(Quentin Miles)

Ron Thorp’s AC Cobra is on the second row, it looks hot so perhaps its the summer Tasman meeting.

The Jag was an interesting choice, it was never going to be an outright machine in the sportscar sprint events which predominated in Australia at the time. The Bib Stillwell Cooper Monaco, Frank Gardner/Ralph Sach/Kevin Bartlett Mildren Maserati, Lotus 23’s and increasingly V8 mid-engined cars ruled the roost.

Nonetheless the E was a welcome addition to the local scene and a car Bob retained in his collection for decades- it shared garage space with a Maserati 300S, Jag D Type, Brabham BT11A Climax, McLaren M6B Repco, Ralt RT4 Ford, Chev Camaro ZL1 and various other bits of mouth-watering kit.

Finito…

(M Bishop)

Bryan Thomson’s VW Chev V8 ‘Volksrolet’ at Hume Weir in 1975…

I love photographer Mark Bishop’s wit in relation to this mega-shot-‘Look closely- proof even Doctor Who went to Hume Weir Raceway to watch Bryan Thomson’. It’s the marshalls communications phone box, PMG issue at the time behind Bryan- Post Master General’s department, the precursor of Australia Post and Telstra.

Check out Thommo’s form as he tips the McLaren M10B F5000 ‘parts-bin’ Volksrolet sideways into Pit Straight with the right-front pawing the air. What an iconic, awesome and tricky beast it was, tamed so well by Shepparton’s finest.

Thommo this time hiking the front left at Calder’s ‘Tin Shed’, in front of the landlord, Bob Jane’s Holden Monaro GTS350 in December 1974 (B Keys)

Photo Credits…

Mark Bishop, Bruce Keys

Tailpiece: Thomson and Jim McKeown, Porsche 911 Turbo, Hume Weir 1975…

John Mann’s Cortina Repco Holden and Mike Stillwell’s Escort BDG in the distance (M Bishop)

Finito…

Holden LJ Torana ad-shoot at Sandown Park circa 1972…

The Tommy Torana is of no interest other than that GMH are promoting a mid-spec Torana-Six rather than the huffin’ and puffin’ 202 GTR-XU1, surely one of Australia’s finest all-round touring-car racers on tarmac and dirt?

Two of Bob Jane’s cars form the backdrop- the Tasman Formula Brabham BT36 Waggott 2 litre and McLaren M6B Repco 5 litre ‘740’ V8 sports-racer. John Harvey raced the Brabham and both Harves and Jano shared the one of a kind, Repco powered McLaren- albeit it was with John at the wheel that the car won the 1971 and 1972 Australian Sportscar Championships.

John Harvey, McLaren M6B Repco, Warwick Farm Esses 1972 (oldracephotos)

Both cars are superb jiggers and still extant, the McLaren still in Australia and owned by Bob (ongoing family litigation duly noted). Jane’s taste in racing cars down the decades has been flawless, his machines included but are far from limited to a Maserati 300S, Jag XKD, Jag E Lwt, Elfin Type 100 ‘Mono’ Ford, Brabham BT11A Climax, Elfin 400 Repco, Brabham BT23E Repco, the Rennmax built Jane Repco, Bowin P8 Repco, Ralt RT4 Ford plus twenty or so touring cars/sports sedans the most mouth watering of which were the Shelby built Ford Mustang, John Sheppard built Holden Torana GTR-XU1 Repco and Holden Monaro GTS350 and Pat Purcell constructed Chevy Monza. Lets not forget the Porsche 956 tho it was a lease deal not a car he owned. I’ve lost touch with exactly which cars he retains but I think the scorecard includes the Brabham BT11A, Ralt RT4, McLaren, Monaro and a 635 CSI BMW rings a bell- be great to hear from those who know.

Many other fellas raced these cars other than Jane- the uber successful businessman put way more into racing than he ever extracted- the tabloid family stoushes of recent decades are a sad final chapter in a great mans life.

Sandown old-timers know this bit of real estate rather well. The racers are facing the wrong way in the pitlane, the models are standing more or less on the spot, depending upon your car, that brakes and a downshift or two into second gear would be considered for the ‘Peters’ or ‘Torana’ (depending upon your era) left-hander and then the blast up the back straight.

Harvey again, Brabham BT36 Waggott, into the WF Esses 1972 Tasman round (unattributed)

Etcetera: Bob Jane Racing brochure circa 1971 from Murray Thomas’ Collection…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credits…

Greg Feltham Collection, Murray Thomas Collection

Tailpiece…

 

 

 

 

 

‘When You’re Hot- You’re Hot’ absolutely captured the performance variants of the Torana at the time- the GTR ‘poverty pack’ and ‘ducks-guts’ GTR-XU1. But, at fourteen years old at the time, overall I thought ‘Going Ford Was The Going Thing’! Fords ‘Total Performance’ approach to motor racing globally was intoxicating for a teenaged racing nut- this one anyway!

Finito…

It’s the end of the swinging-sixties- the Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and others ‘Pop Art’ phase is in full bloom…

It’s interesting to look at the graphic design and advertising imagery of the period which is wonderfully full of it, the style even extended to some stickers in Australia’s ‘Racing Car News’ magazine.

For the princely sum of 20 cents the six decals would be in your letterbox within the week, don’t you love the immediacy of snail-mail? The cheap giveaway was a time honoured technique in the pre-internet days of building a database of potential customers, oh for simpler times when identity fraud was rare rather than something to be mindful of in our daily online interactions.

The cars and drivers are all well known to Australian enthusiasts and include some of the stars of the day many of whom I have written about in whole or in passing.

The first image is Kevin Bartlett’s Alec Mildren Racing Mildren Waggott ‘Yellow Submarine’, a car first raced by Frank Gardner in the 1969 Tasman Series and then used by KB to win the Gold Star later that season. Click here for more; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/14/missed-it-by-that-much/

Frank Matich’s Matich SR4 Repco was built to contest the 1968 Can-Am series but ran hopelessly late so crucified local opposition in the 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship instead. Click here for a long feature on it;

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

Whilst the Niel Allen sticker says McLaren M10B, the car depicted is the M4A he acquired at the end of the 1968 Tasman Series from Piers Courage. This piece on the ’68 South Pacific Trophy at Longford, won by Courage tells a bit about this car; https://primotipo.com/2015/10/20/longford-tasman-south-pacific-trophy-4-march-1968-and-piers-courage/

The final three cars featured are Pete Geoghegan’s Australian built Mustang above (as in built for racing), Norm Beechey’s Holden HK Monaro GTS 327 with Bob Jane’s Shelby constructed Mustang as the ‘Tailpiece’. All of these machines are covered in an article I wrote about the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship won by Geoghegan. Here ’tis; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/01/1969-australian-touring-car-championship/

 

Credits…

Bob Williamson Collection

Tailpiece…

Finito…

What a couple of pert, perky, taut little tooches!? I do like a finely formed little rump, the Lotus Elan and Jag E Lwt, two of the tightest…

Its Leo Geoghegan chasing Bob Jane through Hell Corner for the blast up Bathurst’s Mountain Straight, I’ve my money on the punch of the Jag’s mid-range torque not to forget its beefy top end over the delicate little Elan. Timeless, twin-cam designs both.

I’ve written about these blokes often enough for international readers to know they were both prominent Australian champions- Bob best known for exploits in touring cars and Leo in open-wheelers. Here they are on ‘neutral ground’, sportscars, during the Easter meeting in April 1965.

Jane got the better of Leo in both the 5 lap preliminary and 13 lap NSW Production Sportscar Championship, winning both races from the Sydneysider, top speeds of the cars were 147.05 and 142.85 mph (Elan) on Conrod Straight.

I notice Bob’s Jag has a Victorian number plate. The successful businessman lived just off Kew Boulevard in Melbourne’s leafy inner east, no doubt it got some exercise on that marvellous stretch of road from time to time. I’ll get around to an article on Jano’s E Type one day, for now enjoy these shots of a couple of great sixties sporties.

Credits…

autopics.com.au, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Tailpiece: Leaning into Hell Corner…

 

 

(oldracephotos/King)

Bob Jane, Elfin 400 Repco, during the Longford Tasman round in 1967. Sweet Repco V8 music @ 7000 rpm flat out in fifth gear…

Idle moments in front of the Teev provide a male multi-tasking opportunity, looking for ‘that shot’ which inspires an article. Breathing, lookin’ at the telly and searching for photographic inspiration simultaneously- three things at once, my girlfriend can scarcely believe it.

There are some cars which are more prolific in terms of the number of photos in circulation though, usually for the same reasons. That is, they are sensational to look at, were race winners and in Australia raced nationally over a number of years and therefore every ‘snapper in the country, both professional and amateur has had a crack at them- and, kindly, circulated said photos on that internet thingy for us all to enjoy!

So…

In the decade from 1960 to 1970’ish there are several cars which are prevalent as defined above- Pete Geoghegan’s second Mustang, Allan Moffat’s Mustang Trans Am, Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco, Frank Gardner/Kevin Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’, Frank Matich Matich SR3’s and Bob’s Elfin 400.

Delivery of the new 400 to the Bob Jane team, Elfins Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown factory, Adelaide in late 1966. The factory was not flash but the sense of history and those who had been there before was palpable when I inspected my humble Crusader Elfin Vee mid-build in the early nineties. From a modest place did some amazing cars originate (B Mills)

I’ve already done the Elfin 400 to death really…

But there are just too many wonderful photos of Bob’s car not to do this article which I originally intended to be pictorial.

One long previous article was specifically about Frank Matich’s Elfin 400 Olds aka the Traco Olds, the first completed. That piece also covered at somewhat laborious length the design and development of the car, here ‘tis;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/28/elfin-400traco-olds-frank-matich-niel-allen-and-garrie-cooper/

The other was another lengthy tome, mainly about Hume Weir circuit but it also included a piece within it on Bob’s car, the third 400 built, click here;

https://primotipo.com/2016/05/06/hume-weir/

Bob Jane in one of his first runs, the first race meeting?, Warwick Farm Tasman round in 1967. Top gun that weekend Niel Allen in his Elfin 400 Chev (J Ellacott)

Elfin 400 Repco ‘BB67-3’ was raced by some mighty fine drivers whilst owned by Bob, here is the man himself during the Warwick Farm Tasman round in February 1967…

Jane raced it, so too did 1966/7 Australian Gold Star Champion Spencer Martin. Lets not forget Melbourne up and comer Ian Cook had some drives in 1968, he sadly lost his life at Sandown in 1973 in an ex-Bob Jane Racing machine too. And another young charger, Bevan Gibson took the wheel in 1969, and soon lost his life in it at Bathurst during the 1969 Easter Meeting.

What changed the direction of the article was re-discovery of my copy of ‘Gentleman John Harvey’, the biography on Harves which has some great first-hand material about Bevan by both Bob Jane and John Harvey. I couldn’t find the book when I wrote the Matich Elfin 400 piece, which would have been the right place for its contents, but given the limited print run of Tony McGirr’s book I thought getting these perspectives out there and more readily accessible worthwhile.

In researching Ian Cook i made contact with Grant Twining who owns the Devione Ford, a car raced by Ian. Grant was able to provide some much needed detail to flesh out his story- many thanks to him.

This 400 is significant in Repco Brabham Engines history too as it was fitted with the first customer, as against works engines provided to Jack Brabham. It was a 4.4 litre ‘RB620 Series’ V8.

Ken Hastings aboard the rebuilt ‘BB67-3’ at Sandown on the fast left drop to Dandenong Road circa 1970. Note the change to the bodywork at front and addition of a rear wing. Unguarded horse racing fencing an ever present danger back then. It’s practice by the look, the Pat Crea VW Beetle and ‘Chocolates’ David Robertson Ford Capri V8 sports sedans in the distance (L Hemer)

After the Gibson Bathurst tragedy the car was acquired by Melbourne racer Ken Hastings who rebuilt it. The car passed through several hands over the years before being bought by Elfin enthusiast/racer Bill Hemming, well known to Australians for the Elfin Heritage Centre which houses his collection of cars including ‘BB67-3′.

http://www.elfinheritage.com.au/

The car was rebuilt around a new chassis some years back albeit the very much shagged original frame remains ‘part of the package’- that is the CAMS ‘Certificate Of Description’ recognises the existence of the second chassis precluding the possibility of a ‘B Car’ being built. A neat solution I thought- history and safety are recognised.

Bob Jane leads Spencer Martin and the Elfin 400 Repco at Hume Weir, Queens Birthday meeting in June 1967. John Sawyer in the blue shirt behind, blue car is ex-Jones/Phillips et al Cooper Jaguar  (M Leirsch)

Elfin 400 Technical Specifications…

Lets cover the cars technical specs in brief as it’s covered in detail in the first of the articles referenced above.

The 400 was the third series of sports cars Garrie Cooper and his band of merry men in Edwardstown built. The first were the front engined ‘Streamliners’, the very first Elfins, then came the Clubman and later the mid-engined small-bore Mallala.

The 400 Series sporties were the first ‘big bangers’ he had built, a trip to the UK before he progressed the design too far got him up to speed with what was happening in Europe. The Group 5 Ford GT40 and Group 7 Lola T70, McLaren Elvas and Chaparral’s were the standout cars at the time for different reasons.

Rare colour shot of the Jane 400 in the paddock, date uncertain. Suspension as per text, note the wide based upper wishbone, magnesium uprights and solid Girling brake rotors. See the shot below, car now has a more substantial, but unbraced roll bar (S Lambert)

Whilst Garrie was building his first monocoque chassis car, the single-seater F3/F2/ANF 1.5 Type 100 very successful ‘Mono’ he decided an appropriately stressed multi-tubular spaceframe chassis would do the trick for the sportscar. After all, Ferrari were still winning plenty of races so equipped and the Australian market was conservative, a spaceframe was easier to maintain and to repair ‘in the field’ than a monocoque. Such a design could accommodate different engines he knew customers would want to fit to the cars. The frame was of square, round and oval section tubes, the aluminium undertray was stressed as were subsidiary bulkhead panels

Four chassis were built- first completed was the Matich ‘BB66-2’ which used a Traco Olds V8, then came the Globe Engineering ‘BB66-1’ a pushrod and later DOHC small-block Ford powered car,  Jane’s ‘BB67-3’ received a Repco ‘RBE620’ 4.4 litre V8 and ‘BB67-4’, originally owned by Andy Buchanan a big block Chev.

Bolted to these engines were various Hewland transaxles; HD4 for the Matich car LG500 for the Globe and Buchanan cars and DG300 for Jane’s.

Superb early 1967 shot of the Jane car. Engine is the first customer Repco engine delivered. Repco ‘RB620 Series’ 4.4 litre SOHC, 2 valve, Lucas injected V8, circa 400 bhp @ 7000 rpm. ‘620’ is the Olds F85 modified block and first series crossflow heads- this design was the 1966 F1 championship winning design in 3 litres capacity. Note the tubes to the chassis, oil dry sump to the right. Fuel tank capacity 28 gallons- with the option of more. Array of Smiths and Stewart Warner instruments, see chassis plate on dash left and vestigial roll bar- soon altered to a higher and full width hoop albeit unbraced. Simply superb bit of kit (S Lambert)

Suspension was period typical. At the front by upper and lower wishbones with coil spring/Armstrong shocks. Uprights were cast magnesium, adjustable roll bars were fitted with rack and pinion steering.

At the rear, beautiful cast magnesium uprights were used, inverted lower wishbone, single top link and two radius rods, again with coil springs and Armstrong shocks. Roll bars were again adjustable.

Wheels, cast magnesium Elfin jobbies, were 15 inches diameter, 10 inches wide at the front and 12 inches at the back. Owners progressively increased the amount of rubber on the road appreciably over the coming years in accordance with the incredible advances in tyre technology at the time.

Brakes were Girling alloy ‘BR’ calipers with the rotors 12 inches  in diameter at the front and 11 inches at the rear. The bodywork was designed in house, as you will see in the various articles the ‘aero’ of the car was far from ‘fully resolved’ when completed.

Bob Jane aboard his 400 in 1968 (T Parkinson)

And they say Enzo Ferrari kept his drivers on their toes! So too it seems did RF Jane…

It was only in gathering the photos of the 400 that I realised how many fellas drove the 400 in a short period of time.

Bobs race team plans were changed suddenly when Spencer Martin decided to retire having won the second of his Gold Stars with Bob in 1967- they won two on the trot in 1966-7 using Bob’s Brabham BT11A Coventry Climax.

Spencer Martin had this to say about the 400 ‘What caused the accident (to Gibson) was an aerodynamic design fault with the car. I had driven the car in ’67. It was the quickest thing around at that stage. It had a 4.4 litre Repco V8 in it, and was very, very quick. But the aerodynamics on the car were not right. Unfortunately, Bevan paid for it with his life.’

Martin then commented about seeing the sportscars on circuit at Longford in 1967 when Bob Jane raced the 400. Spencer ran the Brabham BT11A and was therefore on hand to watch the sportscars practice.

Noel Hurd in the Globe Products owned Elfin 400 Ford became airborne at high speed during practice, mowing down a row of fence posts after spinning several times but leaving the driver unhurt. ‘It was an Elfin 400, and I saw them coming down the long straight at Longford, in Tasmania. I wasn’t at all happy with the aerodynamics of the car. Looking back I think I was very fortunate. If I hadn’t retired I would probably have been in that car’ (at Bathurst Easter 1969)

Whilst testing the Elfin at Calder early in 1967 Martin was circulating in 44.2 secs, nearly a second under Niel Allen’s lap record in his 400.

Shell boys at Warwick Farm in 1966: Jane, Kiwi Jim Palmer, Harvey and Jackie Stewart- quite an array of talent, champions all (WF)

John Harvey had shown what he was made of in the RRC Phillips owned Brabham BT14 Repco- so Bob hired Harvey, (born 1938) bought the BT14 and popped the Repco engine from it into the back of the BT11A and off they went to contest the ’68 Tasman Australian rounds.

The logic was that the F2 BT14 chassis wasn’t man enough for the Repco, whereas the older ‘Intercontinental’ BT11A was. Harvey did the Hordern Trophy late ’67 in the car, Climax engined before the Repco for Coventry Climax engine swap was performed. Harvey’s ‘compare and contrast’ of engines in that chassis would be interesting. As Australians know Harves was Bobs ‘main man’, his contracted driver from then right through until Frank Gardner returned to Australia in 1974- joining Jane for 1975.

John Harvey on Warwick Farm’s pit straight during the 1968 Warwick Farm 100 meeting. DNF gearbox in Janes BT11A ‘IC-4-64’ Repco. Clark won in a Lotus 49 DFW. The Brabham was and is a famous car- first owned by David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce and raced in the ’64 Tasman successfully by Graham Hill it was then raced by Martin to two Gold Star wins. Still owned by Jane and restored to CC engined form (autopics.com.au)

Early in his time with Bob John had a bad accident at Easter Bathurst 1968 when an upright in the near new Brabham BT23E broke hospitalizing him for some while with a recuperation period even longer. His first meeting post accident was at Warwick Farm later in 1968. It was a meeting John was glad to get behind him as his eyesight, fine early in the day, had a bit of double-vision later as the day wore on.

Naturally on Jane’s part, if not Harvey’s, there may have been a question about him racing again after an accident Jane said could have been fatal. He needed another driver until Harves was fit.

Jane in the Longford pits in 1967, nice rear view of the 400 Repco (E French)

Ignoring the touring cars/sports sedans to focus on the cars which matter, Harvey raced the BT11A, then the ex-Brabham ’68 2.5 Tasman BT23E Repco, the Rennmax built Jane Repco 2.5, Brabham BT36 Waggott 2 litre and finally the Bowin P8 Repco Holden F5000. He raced the McLaren M6B Repco sportscar from 1969, with Bob. He drove the Elfin 400 only once and had this to say about it.

Bob drives and Harves carries the booty. McLaren M6B Repco, they have just won the final round of the 1972 Australian Sportscar Championship at Symmons Plains on 12 November- Harvey won 5 of the 6 rounds that year. Sex on wheels (oldracephotos.com)

‘I drove that Elfin only once and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all. It was the sort of car that probably I could have been persevered with, and make it work properly. Or, at least to suit me. Maybe other drivers, including Bevan, were quite happy with it. But I certainly wasn’t. And that was the result of only driving it one time. I didn’t like it so I never drove it again’.

So, the 400 seems to be the car which Jane, who also raced it a lot, shared around a bit.

Ian Cook, Elfin Mono Ford, Calder 1967 (autopics.com.au)

 Ian Cook was a Melbourne boy (born 1941) who made a name for himself in single-seaters winning the Victorian Lucas Davison Series in 1.5 litre Elfin Monos in 1966 and 1967…

He drove an ex-Granton Harrison Mk1 in ’66 and in Garrie Cooper’s prototype Mk2 in 1967. This chassis was the car which Alf Costanzo drove the wheels off and shot to prominence after sold to him by Cook.

Ian, in addition to his Elfin raced Melbourne car owner Tony Osborne’s Argo Chev sportscar in 1967, no doubt his skill behind the wheel of this Cooper derived sporty, a far less sophisticated machine than the 400, was instrumental in him joining the Jane organisation in late 1967.

Ian Cook, Elfin 400 Repco on the Longford dummy grid in 1968. Car now has seat belts. Notice the different injection trumpets on the engine from the earliest 1967 shots

His first drive of the Elfin 400 was at Calder in January 1968, taking 2 wins. The Jane team then took the car to the Bathurst Easter meeting in 1968, together with the BT23E crashed by Harvey in practice.

Bob and Ian were both down to drive the 400 but must have had problems with it in practice as it failed to start any of the events, certainly Cook drove it in practice. Or perhaps John’s serious accident was enough to ‘up sticks’ for the weekend. Their experiences in the 400 that weekend would have been interesting given the sad events which were to transpire 12 months hence.

(R MacKenzie)

Grant Twining reports that Ian Cook was the quickest of all the Elfin 400 drivers who raced the cars at Longford- Matich (noting the advance in tyres between 1966 and 1968) Jane and Noel Hurd. The photo above is of the front row of the ’68 Longford Tasman sportscar support race- #5 Peter Macrow in the Argo Chev vacated by Cook, Ian in the 400 and Chris Amon on pole in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/CanAm 350. Amon took the win, am keen to know the placings.

Four months later Jane won the Victorian Sportscar title at Winton in the 400 after Niel Allen retired his Elfin 400 Chev with a split gearbox housing.

After the Tasman BT23E was repaired Cook raced the car at the Lakeside, Gold Star round in July for 4th place. He doesn’t appear to have had another steer of the car, which is unfortunate.

Allan Moffat then raced the BT23E at the Sandown Gold Star round, bending it. More of that shortly.

The first race after repair of the BT23E was in John Harvey’s hands, at Warwick Farm in a support race late in 1968. His first championship steer was at the Sandown Tasman round in February 1969. John had engine dramas and failed to finish the race won by Chris Amon’s Ferrari Dino 246T. Amon also took the Tasman title that year.

Cook aboard the 400 at Hume Weir in 1968 (unattributed)

Ian Cook and Footscray Service Station proprietor, racer, ace machinist and later Brabham expert Denis Lupton were old friends.

Lupton ‘spannered’ Cook’s two Elfin Monos with great success. When the Jane drive came to an end they were keen to buy a Brabham BT23 to run in ANF2 but could not afford to do so. So the pair built the ‘Devione’, a car which took the BT23 track and wheelbase dimensions but was otherwise Lupton’s own design and build.

Ian was a skilled sheet-metal fabricator, between the two mates they had all the skills and experience to build a beautiful car. The spaceframe chassis used F2 Matra MS5 front and rear cast magnesium uprights. A Lotus/Ford twin-cam engine and Hewland 5 speed transaxle completed the cars major specifications.

The car was raced by both men, Cook doing the more ‘senior events’ inclusive of some Gold Star rounds whilst Lupton did club events. The car was built and then raced in the 1968-72 period.

Around 1970 Cook, a talented development engineer moved to Adelaide to join Chrysler, to assist Leo Geoghegan with the road and race development of the Valiant ‘VF’ Pacer, a four door sedan which was proposed to contest the showroom stock, ‘Group E Series Production’ racing which was booming at the time.

Cook was involved in establishing the Pacers road going specification, ensuring a nice balance of engine and braking performance and sorting ride heights, shock absorber settings and roll bars to get the right blend of handling, safety and performance. The first test of these cars was at Sandown in June 1969 during a 12 Hour record setting day.

Niel Allen’s Chev engine 400 ahead of Cook in Jane’s Repco engine variant during the 1968 Warwick Farm Tasman round. They are attacking The Esses. Results folks? Note the different noses on the cars (oldracephotos.com)

Into 1969 the Elfin 400 drive was Bevan Gibson’s, with John Harvey racing the Brabham BT23E and McLaren M6B, the latter with Bob.

Janes Brabham BT36 (BT30-27 was a late build BT30 to BT36 specifications) was raced only sporadically by John Harvey. 2 litre Waggott powered, it was a jewel of a machine but arrived in amongst the F5000’s and too late for the 1971 Gold Star series in which he could have given Max Stewart and Kevin Bartlett a ‘good shake’ at the title Max won.

Bob Jane Racing sold the car less engine to Lupton and Cook who owned it in partnership. They converted it to ANF2 form by the simple fitment of a Lotus/Ford 1.6 litre circa 200bhp engine. The car was to be shared by the friends as before with the Devione.

Lupton withdrew from the arrangement with Ian when he needed to raise some cash to care for one of his young children who needed hole-in-the-heart surgery.

On a cold, wet, foggy Sandown practice day Ian was being looked after by some ‘stand ins’ rather than his usual crew including Lupton- who was dealing with family matters.

Grant Twining, the owner of the Devione and a confidant of Lupton says their theory is that the Brabham’s tyre pressures were probably incorrectly set too low. During practice for the June 1973 meeting the car lost a tyre from a rim, slid into one of the Shell, over the circuit sign, concrete supports, killing him instantly.

A Melbourne driver, his is a story which deserves to be told in full. Suffice it to say, a fine engineer, competitor and man died way too young in very unfortunate circumstances.

Ian Cook accepting the plaudits of the unruly but respectful! Warwick Farm crowd, February 1968. Elfin 400 Repco (D Harney)

Most of us think of Allan Moffat (born 1939) and Janey as arch rivals which they undoubtedly were.

The droll, deadpan, Canadian ‘Marvin’ played the ‘Baddie Role’ so well, it was easy as a kid to dislike him as much as you liked his car! The Trans Am Mustang that is.

But not long after he returned from his successful sojurn of several years in the US, in 1968 he had a couple of drives for Bob- ‘Stuffing the nose of the 400 into the fence and hay-bales at The Causeway at Warwick Farm, and at the following Sandown he had a more comprehensive issue with the Brabham’ (BT23E) wrote journalist Ray Bell. The meeting Bell referred to was the September 1968 Gold Star round, the car, crashed in practice, did not start the race.

400 in the Longford paddock Tasman round, February 1968. Jim McKeown’s Lotus Cortina Mk2 alongside (D Cooper)

I’ve never seen any photos of Moffat aboard either car. Please share them if you have any Instamatic happy-snaps or better!

Moffat didn’t cover himself with glory it seems, not that it impacted his career trajectory! Factory Ford Series Production rides and the Trans Am were both happy 1969 events for both Moffat and we fans. What a ride he gave us all!?

Hume Weir front row of the sportscar feature, Queens Birthday weekend June 1967. Alan Hamilton’s white Porsche 906 Spyder, Spencer Martin in the Jane Elfin 400 Repco and nearside Bevan Gibson Lotus 15 Climax (M Leirsch)

Bevan Gibson (born 1946) I wrote about not so long ago in the article about the ex-Derek Jolly Lotus 15 which Bevan drove to within an inch of its life, bringing himself to the attention of Jane and others. Click here for a link to my article about the Lotus 15.

https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

Gibson really was an interesting prospect- considerably younger than all of the other drivers. At 22 he was aboard one of the fastest cars in the country- also a tricky one. I’m not suggesting Bevan was in over his head. He had plenty of experience in the 200 plus bhp Lotus 15 and had done some laps in the BT11A Repco during 1968 ‘with a strict rev limit’ to be observed whilst driving the circa 280bhp single-seater.

Pre driving deal. The Shell contracted Bob Jane Elfin Mono Ford alongside the Shell contracted Gibson family owned Lotus 15 Climax, perhaps at Calder, date unknown (unattributed)

Whilst racing the family Lotus 15 Climax Bevan worked in the workshop of Jane’s Chrysler Valiant Dealership in Sydney Road, Brunswick. The racing department was in the same premises.

Spencer Martin had been staying with Bob at his place in Kew, just off the Kew boulevard, a well known and challenging ‘racetrack’ then. Bob suggested he move out into a place of his own- sharing with Bevan, the pair ‘shacked up’ in a unit at Princes Park (Carlton) organised by Bob, the arrangement ran from 1966-7, at which point Spencer retired from racing and returned to his Sydney hometown.

Bevan Gibson having a steer of Bob Jane’s Brabham BT11A Climax in August 1968 (unattributed)

Its interesting looking at the history, the connection to the Gibson family via Hoot Gibson, Bevan’s employment by the Jane Organisation, and ‘batching’ with Martin that Cook got the 400 drive in early 1968 rather than Bevan.

Perhaps it was simply that they (Bob and Spencer) didn’t think Bevan was quite ready for it at that time? There is no doubt that they saw plenty of each others races, photos of various of the Jane cars with the Gibson 15 in shot show them sharing the Shell facilities at race meetings. I’m not suggesting Cook wasn’t worthy of the Jane drive- most certainly he was, I am merely musing over the reasons/timing of the decision to give the drive to Ian rather than Bevan in 1968.

400 in the Calder paddock in May 1967- I wonder if its Bevan’s Lotus 15, which was painted red for a while, alongside. No roll bar in this shot (T Thompson)

At the 1969 Sandown Tasman meeting, the race and championship won by Chris Amon’s Ferrari Dini 246T, Gibson took the fifth of five in a row wins in Jane’s Elfin 400.

Barry Catford, somewhat prophetically, wrote the following note as a reporter covering the meeting for ‘Australian Motoring News’. ‘During the sportscar race I noticed on each lap the nose of the Jane Elfin lifted markedly after hitting a bump on the main straight before the start/finish line. The bump would affect the other cars, but not as noticeably as it did the Elfin. It seemed as though the Jane car needed less ride height at the front and maybe more at the rear which then may have resulted in less air getting under the front of the Elfin as it lifted over the bumps’.

The accident at Bathurst happened that Easter, on 7 April, three months later

Bevan Gibson ahead of Niel Allen at Calder in March 1969, 400 Repco from 400 Chev (oldracephotos.com)

In ‘Gentleman John Harvey’ Peter Molloy recounts how John Harvey was completely shattered by what had happened to Bevan. ‘I really think that John wanted to give it away then and there’. But, ever the complete professional, he saddled up in the Brabham BT23E and contested the Gold Star race- won by Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT31 Repco after the Gibson accident with the remnants of the fire fighting foam still on the track and debris off to its side. On a track which bit him badly due to component failure only 12 months before.

Bob Jane had this to say about Bevan- ‘Hoot Gibson (father of Bevan)…were a family devoted to motor racing. ‘Hoot’ went back to the rallies from years before. Along with a lot of my mates like Lou Molina and all those sort of people. Young Bevan was a very promising driver. He was very aggressive. When I say aggressive I mean very brave. Unfortunately, that element of bravery brought him undone’.

‘The car he was racing, my car, was an Elfin. Obviously with the knowledge we have today about aerodynamics, things would be different. The car had a flat bottom, and Mount Panorama was a very fast track. It had two bumps and the end of the straight which brought a lot of people undone. The car took off, went upside down, and caught on fire. It was just a terrible, terrible tragedy’.

Gibson pictured with the Jane Elfin Mono, at Calder, date unknown (unattributed)

It wasn’t my intention to spend time dealing with the accident which befell Bevan at Bathurst.

As I mentioned at this articles outset, what started as a pictorial has ended up a feature. There are quite a lot of ‘I reckons’ about the accident online, my article includes these too. What is persuasive or a least informative are the views of those from within the Bob Jane Team, and Harvey details with Bevan sensitively and the accident in full, on that basis I include the following lengthy view of a friend and insider.

‘Bevan was a very bright young bloke. He had extremely good car control, and was very fast. He was a bit like a lot of us in our younger days, he was a bit wild at times. But he was able to harness that wildness, that energy, and put it into his driving. He was very good in competition and making excellent progress’.

‘Also some drivers may have a ‘devil may care’ sort of attitude. This can lead to some ‘spirited’ driving. I never felt this would bring Bevan into harm, but I did sometimes think he was a bit on the wild side. I felt that at times he threw caution to the wind. I have no hard core evidence for this…but I just remember feeling that at times’.

‘Quite apart from what I thought, he was certainly a good young driver. He had a lot of talent. Had he survived he would certainly have been good at his craft, and would have won lots of races…’

Lap 1 of the fateful Easter Bathurst Sportscar race 1969. The event was not an ASCC round- but was an important race with all the ‘top guns’ present. Niel Allen ahead in his ex-Matich Elfin 400 Chev, Frank Matich, suffering fuel feed dramas is 2nd, Matich SR4 Repco then Bevan Gibson, Elfin 400 Repco. Note the winglets on the front of the Allen car, big rear wing and front tabs on the SR4, Jane car devoid of these aero appendages (oldracephotos/Dick Simpson)

Bathurst Easter 1969…

John Harvey continues ‘On the Saturday night Bevan discussed with us the fact that the Elfin was lifting off the road coming over the last hump. I said to him”You can’t have it lifting off the road. If it lifts off the road it will go upside down”. We suggested that maybe the car was getting a bit ‘light’ going over the hump. I really didn’t know what technical things he could do to alleviate the situation’.

‘We expended the conversation to include Bob Jane and John Sawyer (Bob Jane Racing Team Manager/Chief Mechanic). Bevan suggested we may put some air ‘flippers’ on the front of the car, or some little winglets. This was late on the Saturday night, and hardly the right time to initiate things like that. The conclusuion was that we didn’t know if it would work. These are the sorts of things you have to test under controlled conditions. Raceday, particularly at Bathurst, is not the place to test.’

‘The only comment I made was “In all the years I have been coming to this place in whatever cars, if the car does not feel stable over the last hump- or even the second last hump- or if its a windy day- always lift off the throttle”. To do this may only drop your speed only a few miles per hour, but what it does is drop the nose of the car. Drop the nose of the car, and reduce the amount of air under the car. The car will therefore feel that little bit safer, and that much more stabile’.

‘So, that was that. there were a number of drivers who were aware of the problem and did just as I said. All we could do was pass this advice on to Bevan- all I can recall is that Bevan was running third. He then passed Niel Allen (ex-Matich Elfin 400) or Niel had some problem and Bevan was in second place’.

Bob Jane team and Elfin 400 at Calder, date uncertain. John Sawyer in blue suit behind the car. No roll bar fitted in this shot (unattributed)

‘Bevan then started to catch the race leader, Frank Matich  (Matich SR4 Repco ‘760 Series’ quad-cam 4 valve Repco 5 litre V8- a normally vastly faster car than the Jane Elfin 400).  Franks car had gone onto  seven cylinder for some reason, but he still had a good lead. Bevan was starting to catch Frank. Maybe Frank’s car now went onto six cylinders. I don’t know. All we knew was that Bevan started to catch Frank fairly rapidly, Bevan went across the top of the mountain behind Frank, and down through the Esses. From there it was on to Conrod Straight’.

‘It appeared to us that if he caught Frank he would bide his time and pass where it was safe to do so. At this stage no one was thinking about aerodynamics. Plus, i’m not at all sure what role that may or may not have played. It appeared that Bevan ‘drafted’ Frank down the straight. He caught right up on Frank and surely knew he had him. I think by this time there were a couple of laps left to go in the race.’

‘Naturally I have no way to know what is going on in Bevan’s mind. But I can easily imagine him thinking “I’ve caught up to Frank Matich. I can pass him and win this big race at Mount Panorama”. Which, of course would be a big win to have’.

‘So Bevan drafted Frank down the straight. He seemed to me to pull out just before the last hump. He pulled out to get the run down the inside of Murray’s Corner, and beat Frank under brakes. I suppose they were travelling at 160-170mph, and Bevan had pulled out just before the last hump. When Bevan hit the fresh air the car seemed to accelerate. The Elfin lifted, went up in the air, and came to earth upside down. The car almost instantly caught flames, and that was that’.

‘There was no doubt in my mind that Bevan died in that first upside down impact. The rest of the destruction and the fire, didn’t really matter’.

John then sensitively deals with the hours and days which follows, and points out that despite over 25,000 miles of testing, and the advance of aerodynamic understanding in the decades which followed the accidents which befell Mercedes Benz at Le Mans not so few years ago. Two flips to Mark Webber.

Bevan Gibson, Elfin 400 Repco, Bathurst Easter 1969. An outstanding young talent taken too soon. RIP Bevan Gibson (oldracephotos.com)

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Gentleman John Harvey’ Tony McGirr, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘Elfin’ Barry Catford and John Blanden

Special thanks to Grant Twining for insights and information about Ian Cook

Photo Credits…

Ellis French, Dennis Cooper Collection, Dale Harvey, J Ellacott, oldracephotos.com, Dick Simpson, M Leirsch, S Lambert, Bob Mills Collection, GTRX, Tony Parkinson Collection, Wayne Wooton Collection, T Thompson, Tim Watts

Etcetera: Niel Allen from Noel Hurd and Bob Jane, Elfin 400’s all …

 

Mixed sportscar bag in country NSW. Jane at Hume Weir in early 1968 from a Lotus 11, Meyers Manx VW beach buggy! and Geneer Outlaw VW (oldracephotos.com)

 

Bob Jane off the line at a Calder Raceway drag meeting in, I think 1968. He took out ‘Competition Eliminator’ with an 11.78 second/117.80 mph pass for the standing quarter (W Wooton)

 

Ken Hastings at Sandown circa 1971, note the changes to the 400 body and addition of the rear wing (T Parkinson)

 

Bill Hemming in his beautifully restored ex-Jane 400 Repco at Phillip Island in recent years (G Russell)

Tailpiece: Butt shot for the tailpiece seems apt. Niel Allen Elfin 400 Chev, bodywork by Frank Matich, compare and contrast with the standard rear of Bob Janes 400 Repco. They are heading over Sandown’s old Causeway and about to swing left into the approach of the very quick Dunlop Bridge in 1968…

Tailpiece 2: End where we started with Bob Jane- at Longford in 1967, alongside is Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906. We have liftoff…

(T Watts)

Finito…