Posts Tagged ‘Brabham BT31 Repco’

My theory is that there are only a relatively small number of ‘T-Intersections of Life’ decisions which are key in determining the paths which follow…

Its interesting to read Tony Davis’ biography (with Akos Armont who has directed the accompanying documentary due in cinemas early next year) of Jack and pick what those may be.

Johnny Schonberg’s wife and her pressure on him to give up racing in 1948 gave Jack his start- that it was a speedway car meant Brabham both got a taste of competition and also entered the sport in Australia at its professional end- that is he quickly realised there was a dollar to be made if you were good.

David Chamber’s suicide meant his Cooper T23 Bristol was available when it landed in Australia in 1953- Jack was able to buy it with his savings and assistance from his parents and REDeX. Whilst Jack was a name in speedway the RedeX Special put his name in lights on the circuits. Cooper inclined, he bought Peter Whitehead’s Cooper Alta to race in England- a shit-heap as it transpired, but he attracted the attention of the John and Charles Cooper with it when he moved to the UK, donned some overalls in Hollyfield Road, initially on an unpaid basis and six years later had bagged two World F1 Titles with the team.

Jack poses with Number 28, the Midget he and Johnny Schonberg built which was then powered by a 996cc 8/80 JAP engine. It’s his first race night in a 23 year career, Parramatta’s Cumberland Oval on 5 December 1947 (T Wright)

 

Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol REDeX Spl at Mount Druitt circa 1954. The sponsorship arrangement and advertising, not allowed by CAMS, caused Jack plenty of grief (Nye/Brabham)

Betty Evelyn Beresford was the right choice of Jack’s partner in life- she allowed Brabham to have absolute focus on his racing whilst she brought up the family of three boys- all successful racers themselves of course.

It transpires that Brabham was ‘Jack The Lad’ and not averse to a bit of Hanky Schpanky outside the matrimonial boudoir, this ultimately caused the end of his marriage in 1994. Jack’s second marriage to his secretary, Margaret Taylor, in 1995 is not explored in the book, a shame as she looked after him for over two decades but maybe this was simply too painful for the Brabham boys who unsurprisingly adored their late mother. Conversely, Gary Brabham’s charges and jail for child sexual offences in 2009 and 2016 are covered in brief, to the credit of Davis and the Brabhams.

The partnership between Ron Tauranac and Jack was key of course, this relationship dates back to 1951. Brabham involved him in consulting on major modifications to the Cooper T45/51 whilst he and his brother Austin were building the first series of Ralts before he came (home in a way, he is a Brit by birth) to England to commence Motor Racing Developments Ltd with Jack at the dawn of the sixties.

It transpired they needed one another too- Davis explores Jack’s ‘relevance deprivation syndrome’ and mental health after he retired to the bucolic splendour of outback Australia and Ron had been shafted in the sale of MRD to Bernard Charles Ecclestone within twelve months of Jack jumping a Qantas 707 to enjoy his boat on the Georges River.

Yeah, well you may well be the boss of McLaren in a decade cocko but to soften the front bar turn it the other way! Tauranac, Brabham and Ron Dennis at Monaco in 1970- BT33 Ford Cosworth, second after that last lap mistake- Jochen Rindt the winner in Lotus 49D Ford

 

Repco RBE640 2.5 litre ‘Tasman’ V8 in the back of Jack’s Brabham BT23A at Warwick Farm in the summer of 1967 (B Wells)

The precise start of Brabham’s relationship with Repco- when they gave him his first free part is unknown and never will be but from little acorns did big things grow. Jack saw close up Charlie Dean and his Repco Research Team and their work in building and racing the Maybachs, got a further sense of their facilities and capabilities in the manufacture of the Repco Hi-Power cylinder heads for the Holden ‘grey-six’ cylinder engine- designed by one PE Irving. At some stage, probably via Charlie Dean, Jack met ‘Dave’ McGrath, Repco Ltd CEO, Frank Hallam saw on opportunity to look after Jack’s Coventry Climax FPF’s in Richmond circa 1962, and the rest- a cuppla world titles is history.

The final T-Intersection call was to retire at the end of 1970- its significant in that Brabham pulled the stumps at the top of his game and was able to die in his Gold Coast bed, an opportunity Bruce McLaren, Piers Courage and Jochen Rind- statistics in 1970 did not have. Davis relates how Jack thought he still had a year or three in him but Geoff Brabham speculates that Brabham knew it was getting harder for an older guy to run at the front as cars became more aero dependent and developed greater G-forces. Jack was 44 in 1970, Ronnie Peterson was 26 to put the Australian’s challenge into some kind of competitive perspective…

She’ll be ‘comin down The Mountain, Easter Bathurst 1969. Brabham BT31 Repco RBE830 2.5 V8- its practice, he raced with the rear wing only- first place in his last commitment to Repco in Australia (D Simpson)

 

Betty, Jack and his self built monoposto, all enveloping bodied Cooper T40 Bristol during his championship F1 debut at Aintree in 1955. Happy times and the world at their feet (S Dalton)

This is the fourth book on Brabham but the first biographical account- what makes it different are the perspectives of Geoff and David Brabham, Ron Tauranac, Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Denny Hulme, Frank Matich and many others rather than the account being largely Jack’s perspective.

There is plenty of ‘nuts and bolts’ for we uber-enthusiasts, i do like Tony’s ‘Cooper T45 Climax’ rather than ‘Cooper’, much of the story will be familiar to those of us of a certain age but there are a heap of fragments which were new to me. What was interesting throughout the process- i need to declare a bias here as i was engaged twelve months ago to read and comment upon the manuscript along with a few others, was to get to know Tony and understand some of the commercial elements of publishing. The intended readership is much broader than you and i, targets extend to more casual observers and those from outside racing, i believe Tony has made that ‘straddle’ of ‘average punter’ to enthusiast masterfully.

Australian readers of the Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review will be aware of Davis as a motoring writer but he is also a noted author of adult and kids fiction as well as a number of motoring books. He is the son of Pedr Davis, who turned 90 in November, one of the doyen of Oz ‘muttering rotters’ from the sixties to nineties.

After reading the first few chapters of the manuscript i rang Tony and advised him that he was a Perick! ‘Why?’, he enquired. ‘Because you write with a beautiful descriptive fluidity, and i have been made acutely aware of my own limitations’ i responded.

Do buy the book, its a great read over the festive season or otherwise!

‘Brabham- The Untold Story of Formula One’, published by Harper Collins, ISBN: 978 1 4607 5747 5 (hardback) and ISBN: 978 1 4607 1122 4 (ebook)

Photo and other Credits…

Terry Wright’s ‘Loose Fillings’, Stephen Dalton Collection, Dick Simpson, Getty Images, Nye/Brabham, Bruce Wells

Jack loved the races he did for Matra in 1970- all he had to do was rock up and drive rather than have responsibility for ‘the lot’.

Here he is in the MS650 3 litre V12 prototype during the Brands Hatch 1000km- he shared the car with Jean-Pierre Beltoise to twelfth, Jack’s best result was a win at Montlhery later in the year, the Paris 1000km, his co-driver on that occasion was Francois Cevert in an MS660.

Finito…

 

 

(T Walker)

Jack Brabham attacks the Longford Viaduct in 1964, Brabham BT7A Climax…

His differential failed on lap 21 of the ‘South Pacific Trophy’, victory went to the Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT4 Climax driven by Graham Hill from Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T70 Climax.

I’ve accumulated a heap of photos of Jack Brabham, many of which are ‘human interest’ type shots taken in the paddock or at other important events. I’ve packaged them up in chronological order with some comments around the shot or the event, I hope you enjoy the selection.

(Fairfax)

Speedcar: Parramatta Speedway, Sydney 26 February 1954…

This photo is late in Jack’s speedway career, I’m not sure which chassis he is aboard above, he travelled to the UK in 1955 remember. In 1948 and 1949 he won the Australian Speedcar Championship in his #28 JAP 880 Midget.

In ’54 he was also racing his highly developed road racing Cooper T23 Bristol, contesting amongst many other events the ’54 AGP at Southport and the NZ GP at Ardmore. It was his showing in NZ which was one of the factors which convinced him to try  his hand in Europe.

Brabham’s first road racing competition was with his dirt midget, fitted with four- wheel brakes he won the 1951 Australian Hillclimb Championship in it at Rob Roy, in Melbourne’s outer east at Christmas Hills!

Cooper T43 Climax FPF: ‘Rochester Trophy’ Brands Hatch, 5 August 1957…

Jack and Geoff Brabham in the Brands paddock prior to this F2 race, he won both heats from two other Cooper T43’s of George Wicken and Ronnie Moore.

Jack looks so young- but he is already 31 and a veteran of nine years of competition, much of it on the dirt speedways of eastern Australia. Geoffrey is five- his racing car debut was in an Elfin 620 Formula Ford in 1972 or 1973, his first full season was aboard a Bowin P6F Formula Ford in 1974. Click here for an article on Geoff;

https://primotipo.com/2015/03/31/geoff-and-jack-brabham-monza-1966/

That season Brabham also won F2 events at Brands in June, the London Trophy at Crystal Palace, the Prix de Paris at Monthlery and the International Gold Cup at Oulton Park. In Grands Prix he contested the Monaco, French, British and Pescara events driving 2 litre FPF powered T43’s, his best, sixth place at Monaco.

Bursting onto stage…

Quite literally, Jack motors into the Dorchester Hotel, London ballroom to be presented with a BRDC Gold Star in 1960. By then he had won two World Titles on the trot of course, in Cooper T51 and T53 Climax in 1959 and 1960 respectively.

Jack and Bruce, Sandown Park, 12 March 1962…

Two great buddies, Jack instrumental in Bruce going to Europe and in ploughing the same path Bruce took with his own cars, three years later.

Jack has just left Cooper’s and ran a private ex-works Cooper T55 Climax 2.7 FPF in the Australasian Internationals that summer. Bruce also ran a Cooper T53 Climax FPF 2.7, like Jack, his own equipe prepared and entered the car.

Jack won the ‘Sandown Park International’ on the Sunday with Bruce third behind John Surtees in another (Yeoman Credit) T53 FPF 2.7. It was the opening meeting of the Sandown circuit, built as it is within the confines of a horse-racing facility. Its still in use, long may it continue!

Which Cooper are they leaning on? Dunno.

There are quite a few shots and information on that meeting in this article I wrote about Chuck Daigh a while back. Click here for a peep;

https://primotipo.com/2016/01/27/chucks-t-bird/

(Getty)

 

Icy Pole…

There are quite a few shots of Jack cooling down and warding off dehydration with a medicinal treat! Here its aboard his Lotus 24 Climax during the 1962 Belgian GP weekend at Spa. He was sixth in the race won by Jim Clark’s Lotus 25.

He left Cooper at the end of ’61 and raced the Lotus until the new Brabham BT3 was ready- its first appearance was in the German GP in early August.

Click here for an article about Jacks experience with the Lotus and the first F1 Brabham BT3; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/06/brabhams-lotuses-and-first-gp-car-the-bt3-climax/

(K Drage)

Sandown Park paddock 1964, Brabham BT7A Climax…

This is the business end of the ‘Intercontinental’ Brabham shot in this articles first photograph at Longford.

Bruce won the first ’64 Tasman Series in the ‘very first McLaren’ his self built Cooper T70 Climax but Jack had a pretty good tour winning three of the races with Graham Hill picking up another in the David McKay owned BT4 as did Denny Hulme in his Motor Racing Developments BT4.

2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine and using a Hewland HD5 gearbox- this very successful model, the BT7A and its BT11A successor won many races in Australasia and South Africa.

‘Warwick Farm 100’ paddock 12-14 February 1965…

Long time BRO mechanic Roy Billington looks on as Jack makes final adjustments to the Repco built and maintained Coventry Climax 2.5 litre FPF engine.

Jack finished second in the 45 lap race behind Jim Clark’s Lotus 32B Climax- Jim won the race, and three others to take the 1965 Tasman for Team Lotus. It was the start of an unbelievable year for the talented Scot who also won the F1 World Championship and Indy 500 in Lotus 33 Climax and Lotus 38 Ford respectively.

Repco obtained the rights to build CC engines in the early sixties- they did a nice trade supplying the locals and Internationals CC 2.5 bits, for many years the engine de jour of the category.

The Charlie Dean/Stan Jones fifties Maybach racing programs run out of Repco Research in Sydney Road, Brunswick created the ‘Repco Racing Culture’ and a swag of gifted engineers, fitters and mechanics who went on to do great things within Repco- and outside it.

The short ‘Coventry Climax Phase’ under Frank Hallam’s leadership in Richmond was an important bridge to the ‘Repco Brabham Engines Phase’ at Repco in terms of men and Hallam’s assembly of the necessary equipment to build and maintain the engines. He bought tools, milling machines, lathes etc. Frank used his budgets wisely to both buy new clobber and refurbish older but far from inadequate machinery.

In essence, the Repco Board believed they had the capacity to build racing engines when Canny Jack pitched the RBE 2.5 litre, Oldmobile F85 based Tasman V8 engine to them in 1963/4.

So, lets not forget the role the maintenance and limited development of the oh-so-successful Coventry Climax 2.5 litre FPF played in Repco’s ultimate 1966-1979 success. Why 1979 you say? The final national championship won by an RBE V8 was Paul Gibson’s win in the 1979 Australian Tourist Trophy at Winton in a Rennmax Repco powered by a 5 litre ‘740 Series’ RBE V8.

Monaco 1966, Brabham BT19 Repco at rest…

Jack resting with a Coke whilst being offered some encouragement from a couple of supporters. He wasn’t well, feeling off-colour, in addition BT19 was late due to a waterside workers strike in the UK.

He had just taken the newish BT19 Repco ‘620 Series’ V8 combinations first win in the Silverstone ‘International Trophy’ a fortnight before so much was expected of the combination in the principality of dreams. In the event the car jammed in gear from a lowly starting position leaving Stewart to win in a BRM P261- a 1.5 litre F1 car with a 2 litre ‘Tasman’ V8 fitted.

Jack’s title winning run started at Reims in July. Click here for my feature on the ’66 season;

https://primotipo.com/2014/11/13/winning-the-1966-world-f1-championships-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-3/

OBE from HM The Queen…

Betty, Jack and Geoff Brabham having collected Jack’s Order of the British Empire from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1967. He was further honoured with a Knighthood, ‘Knight Bachelor’ in 1979.

Jack looks pretty schmick in tails but I imagine he could not get the ‘Topper’ off his head quick enough!

Victorious French Grand Prix, Le Mans 1967…

Jack won the race from Denny with Jackie Stewart third in an old BRM P261. I wrote an article about this meeting, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2016/02/03/le-mans-french-gp-1967-powerrrr/

It was the fifth event of the championship season and the first win for the reigning champion. Meanwhile Denny was racking up a more than handy pile of points- which would win him the title from Jack and Jim Clark’s new Lotus 49 Ford DFV.

Ain’t she sweet! Ron Tauranac’s ’67 Brabham BT24 was one of his nicest, most cohesive, balanced GeePee designs. It had just enough of everything to do the trick and no more.

Note the characteristic duct to take cooling air within the Vee to keep stuff cool down there, not least the Lucas fuel metering unit. Duct used in the warmer ’67 races.

Mixing With The Big Shots, Melbourne Reception 1967…

Jack with Sir Charles McGrath, long time CEO and later Chairman of Repco Ltd and longtime Premier of Victoria Sir Henry Bolte to honour the achievements of both Brabham and Repco in 1966.

Jack’s suit lapel contains Repco and Goodyear pins reflecting the enormous contribution made by those companies to that success. Jack was a Goodyear early adopter and reaped all the benefits, in no small measure due to his ongoing testing feedback about the product.

McGrath was a Brabham believer, without his ongoing support there would have been no engines. At the time Repco Ltd were an Australian Stock Exchange Top 100 listed company, ‘Dave’ McGrath oversaw the exponential growth of Repco both within Australia and overseas from the time he was appointed Managing Director in 1953. He strode the local corporate scene like a colossus as a Director of Repco and other companies. Click here for his biography;

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcgrath-sir-charles-gullan-dave-15173

Gelato @ Monza ’67: ‘Streamliner’ Brabham BT24 Repco…

Proof positive he likes his icecream!

However light Ron Tauranac’s BT24 chassis was, the Repco ’67 ‘RB740’ V8 was still only good for 330 or so neddies compared with the 400’ish of the quad-cam 32 valve, new Ford Cosworth DFV. This aero experiment was successful in making the car slip through the air better but Jack had difficulty placing the car accurately through the complex, compound curvature of the screen so the project was abandoned. A works BT23 F2 car was also tested in similar manner.

This was the famous race in which Jack lost out on a last lap, last corner, braking manoeuvre with John Surtees Honda RA301 V12- losing out to finish second with Denny again behind in third. The big, beefy ‘Hondola’ had heaps more power than the Aussie V8 but equally as much bulk- the ‘pork chops’ of the era were the Hondas and BRM P83 H16. The leading ‘lithe and nimbles’ were the BT24 and Lotus 49.

Click here for an article on the ’67 Brabham BT24 including a ‘compare and contrast’ with the Lotus 49 Ford DFV;

https://primotipo.com/2017/12/28/give-us-a-cuddle-sweetie/

Biggles Brabham at Bankstown, Sydney…

Brabham was a leading light of the fifties and sixties racer/pilots wasn’t he? Chapman, Hill, Clark and Reventlow all spring to mind. But there were plenty of others.

Here Jack has just arrived from the UK to Bankstown, Sydney on 11 February 1968.

That year he did a truncated two race Tasman in a beautiful Brabham BT23E Repco ‘740 Series’ V8. It was another lightweight purpose built Tasman jigger built on Tauranac’s F2 BT23 jig that could have nicked the title had he raced at all of the rounds. Mind you Jack would have had to knock over the two Gold Leaf Team Lotus Lotus 49 Ford DFW’s of Clark and Hill to do so. Clark was on tip-top form winning the championship with four victories.

I wrote an article about the BT23E, click here for it;

https://primotipo.com/2015/12/22/jack-brabham-brabham-bt23e-oran-park-1968/

Michael Gasking in the light grey, Jack and the rest of the Repco crew, ‘830 Series’ 2.5 litre SOHC V8. That is an old helmet he is wearing!, it musta been lying around in the Repco Maidstone workshop. A Bell Magnum it ain’t! (M Gasking)

The Lowest Mileage Works Brabham: BT31 Repco…

Jack testing his 1969 Tasman mount, his just assembled BT31, in the late afternoon at Calder the day before it’s race debut at Sandown for the final Tasman round. Chris Amon won the race and the series that year in his works Ferrari Dino 246T V6.

My mate, Repco’s Rodway Wolfe helped Jack assemble BT31 that February day. Years later he owned the car, read his definitive story of this two races in period only, works Brabham!

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/26/rodways-repco-recollections-brabham-bt31-repco-jacks-69-tasman-car-episode-4/

Tribute to Brabham Meeting, Brands Hatch, November 1970…

Brabham accepts the plaudits of the crowd after the last ‘drive in anger’ of his BT33, seven demonstration laps, it was his farewell appearance in the ‘Salute To Brabham Meeting’, behind him is Ron Tauranac his business partner and designer of their cars.

Many of this crowd of 8000 will have seen Jack lose the British GP at Brands only months before due to too little fuel in the car- the cars Lucas fuel injection was left on its starting ‘rich’ setting before the off by mechanic Nick Goozee. The details of the BT33 are here; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/24/jochens-bt33-trumped-by-chunkys-72/

Tailpiece: Suss the atmospherics of this Sandown Tasman shot 1965…

(R Lambert)

Whenever I see this fence I think of the number of times I jumped over it as a youngster. Not right there mind you, that spot was way too public. Clark’s victorious Lotus 32B Climax FPF is at left- he won five of the seven Tasman rounds and Jack’s Sandown winning Brabham BT11A is being fettled by Roy Billington and the chief himself. The senior advisor, Gary Brabham is just short of 5 years old i think. Check out the ‘Sandown muffler’ on JB’s car.

And the crowd takes it all in.

The original Sandown paddock did get a bit squeezy but boy it was a wonderful place to look at cars, drivers and the racing from the pit counter. Them was the days my friends…

Bibliography…

oldracingcars.com, F2 Index

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, Fairfax Media, Kevin Drage, Michael Gasking, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Ron Lambert Collection

Endpiece: JB, Jack Brabham Ford, Bankstown, Sydney 11 March 1971…

Jack retired from F1 and racing, sort of, he actually won a Formula Ford Race Of Champions in a Bowin P4X in 1971, at the end of 1970. Then there was his touring car ‘Dame Nellie Melba’ return in Taxis in the mid-seventies.

He sold his interest’s in Brabham Racing Organisation and Motor Racing Developments to Ron Tauranac and returned to Australia, at that stage having essentially an aviation business, Jack Brabham Ford on the Hume Highway at Bankstown and a farm at Wagga Wagga, 450 Km from Sydney, where he hoped to keep his sons well way from motor racing!

I’m such a sad little unit I can identify that tyre as a G800 Goodyear, not a bad radial in 1971 when this shot was taken. Jack was a ‘Goodyear Man’, I suspect this is some sort of promotion for the tyre and or the Ford Falcon XY behind the great one. Jack Brabham Ford offered a range of ‘tricked up’ Fords.

I wrote an article about Jack’s 1969/70 and retirement returns, click here;

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

Finito…

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(John Arkwright)

Check out the view Maxxy!

Niel Allen and Max Stewart having a contretemps at Skyline, Mount Panorama, Bathurst, Easter 1969…

The bucolic terrain of New South Wales Central Tablelands stretches into the distance, the view probably not what the two drivers were focussed upon at the time. The race was the 1969 Bathurst Gold Star round, the field of which was substantially reduced by this first lap prang.

The incident happened when Max misjudged his braking behind John Harvey, locked a brake and boofed the fence in his Mildren Waggott 1.6. Niel was right up Max’ chuff in his ex-Piers Courage McLaren M4A Ford FVA 1.6 and couldn’t avoid him. Out of shot is Queenslander Glynn Scott’s Bowin P3 FVA who also joined in the fun!

(D Simpson)

Dick Simpson’s shot was taken at precisely the same time as John Arkwright’s (look at Max in each shot) albeit a bit further down the mountain. Its Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco framed by Allen’s wing with Glynn baring down on the action on the left and about to become a part of it.

Terrific shots both, ‘instant reaction’ stuff but beautifully framed all the same.

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Nice butt shot of Harvey’s BT23E; note wing mounted to cars uprights at rear, ‘RB740’ ‘between the Vee engine’ and oil cooler up in the breeze (oldracephotos.com)

Here (above) is a shot of Harve’s Bob Jane owned Brabham BT23E Repco, it was Jack’s works ’68 Tasman car, sold to Bob at the end of the series then raced by John in the following years. In fact it wasn’t a lucky car for Harvey, he had a big accident at the same Easter meeting in ’68 when an upright broke, rooting the car and John. He was in hospital for quite a while after the prang, his speed undiminished when he returned to racing Jane’s stable of racers, sports-racers and tourers.

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Harvey’s BT23E at Bathurst after his big practice accident on 14 April 1968 (Dale Harvey)

Click here for an article on this car;

https://primotipo.com/?s=brabham+bt23e

These fellas are favourites; property developer Allen was later as quick as Australia’s F5000 ‘Gold Standard’ Frank Matich without nearly as many seat miles, Stewart a multiple ‘Gold Star’ (1971/4) and AGP winner (19734/5) and Harvey a winner in everything he raced; speedcars, single-seaters, big sportscars and touring cars, the Bathurst enduro included.

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Start of the Bathurst ’69 Gold Star race: front row comprises Max’ yellow Mildren Waggott, Niel Allen McLaren M4A FVA and on the inside Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco. The blue car behind is Glynn Scott’s Bowin P3 FVA and Harvey’s red Brabham BT23E, the torque of which clearly gobbled up Stewart and Allen on the steep climb up the mountain for Max to nearly run into him heading down the mountain. The white car is Henk Woelders’ 3rd placed Elfin 600 Ford t/c. You can just see Jacks red Brabham on the outside beginning his charge. He had fuel feed problems in practice so was off grid 7 with times well below the cars potential (Neville McKay)

The race was won by Jack Brabham’s F3 based Brabham BT31 Repco on a rare Gold Star Australian appearance fitted into his European program. This little jigger was powered by a 2.5 litre ‘830 Series’ SOHC, 2 valve Repco V8. Easter Bathurst is an historically significant meeting in Repco terms; it was Jack’s last Repco race and win in Australia. Brabham’s last International Repco races were those contested by he and Peter Revson in the USAC Championship that year in Brabham BT25’s powered by Repco ‘760 Series’ 4.2 litre DOHC, 4 valve, methanol fuelled V8’s.

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Brabham between Skyline and The Dipper, BT31 Repco during the race (Dick Simpson)

Check out, rather than repeating myself these articles on the BT31;

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/26/rodways-repco-recollections-brabham-bt31-repco-jacks-69-tasman-car-episode-4/

and on Brabham’s 1969 and 1970 seasons;

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

This article was inspired by Lindsay Ross uploading quite a few images of this meeting on his oldracephotos.com Instagram page, check it out, they pop up a post every day or so. It seemed an idea to put the images floating around of this meeting in one place. I’ve an Instagram page too, as well as Facebook, just key ‘primotipo’ into the respective search engines and follow the prompts. The FB page has quite a lot of shots I don’t use on primotipo so may be worth a look every few days.

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Brian Page in BT23A with ‘740 Series’ Repco, DNF with broken exhaust on lap 15 in the ex-Brabham/Scuderia Veloce machine (oldracephotos.com)

The first lap accident ruined what could have been an interesting race, Jack cruised to an easy race win by 1.5 minutes from Harvey’s car and Henk Woelders F2 Elfin 600B Ford t/cam.

Historically interesting is that this meeting was on the weekend of 7 April 1969, high-wings were banned globally at Monaco on the GP weekend of 18 May 1969, so it’s interesting to see the ‘Australian State of the Art’ in terms of fitment of said aero devices immediately before they were banned. Brabham tried the ‘bi-wing’ below setup on his BT31 in practice but raced with only a rear wing fitted.

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Of arcane interest, perhaps (from the master of the arcane and tangential) is that all of Jacks ‘works’ Repco engined Tasman cars competed in this race bar one…

Brian Page’s BT23A(1) is JB’s ’67 Tasman car, Harve’s BT23E(1) is the ’68 weapon and Jack raced BT31 the car, late arriving in Australia, which did the ’69 Sandown round only.

Missing is BT19(F1-1-65) the chassis in which Jack won the ’66 World F1 Drivers and Constructors titles, and in 2.5 litre ‘620 Series’ engined form, raced in the ’66 Tasman Series, putting valuable pre-GP season race miles on Repco’s ‘brand-spankers’ V8 at Sandown and Longford.

The only car not in Oz now is BT23E(1) which was, and still may be in the US.

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Jack Brabham guiding BT19 (F1-1-65) into The Viaduct, Longford on his way to 3rd place during the South Pacific Trophy on 7 March 1966, the third race for the new RB ‘620 Series’ V8. The race was won by Jackie Stewart’s BRM P261

Whilst on the arcane it occurs to me is what a versatile, influential and successful design Ron Tauaranac’s BT23 space-frame was in the Brabham Pantheon…

’twas Ron’s clean sheet design for the new for ’67 1.6 litre European F2; it’s variants won a million F2 races over the following years in the hands of aces like Rindt but also in the care of privateer ‘coming-men’. Mind you it didn’t ever win the title despite winning 6 of the ten championship rounds in 1967, ‘graded drivers’ like Rindt were ineligible for championship points. Matra and Lotus took the ‘works entry’ approach more seriously than Jack and Ron during these years, in any event, as a customer racing car the BT23’s won lotsa races, the 1968 Rindt driven BT23C the most successful car of the year.

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Jochen Rindt typically all ‘cocked up’ on the way to a win in the 9 July 1967 ‘GP de Rouen-les-Essarts’, Brabham BT23 Ford FVA. 1.6 litre F2 formula one of great chassis, it not engine diversity, Ford’s Cosworth FVA won every title from 1967 to 1971. F2 was 2 litre from ‘72 (unattributed)

From an F1 perspective the ’67 World Championship winning BT24 Repco was a ‘beefed up’ BT23, to the extent that Ron initially raced his BT24’s with an FT200 Hewland, the Maidenhead gearbox gurus ‘F2 box’ but found that tranny overstressed with ‘740 Series’ Repco V8 torque tearing away at its gizzards, its CWP in particular. I won’t bang on about the BT24 now as I’m in the process of writing an article about the ’67 Brabham/Repco winning season and go into much BT24 detail. Suffice it to say that the F2 BT23 begat the F1 BT24, my favourite Brabham.

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Denny Hulme jumping his BT24 Repco at the Nurburgring during his ’67 Championship winning season. He won the German GP by 40 seconds from Jack (unattributed)

From an Australian viewpoint the BT23 Repco Tasman cars were very important as they provided much needed cars on skinny local grids…

The Tasman Series 2.5 Formula grids were ‘chockers’ with cars and stars, the domestic championship contained quality but not quantity. Budgets for these relatively expensive cars were hard to find in the sixties and Australia’s march to Touring Car domination was already well underway so ‘taxis’ were starting to absorb sponsorship budgets previously devoted to real racing cars.

Funnily enough, even though there was a swag of Repco engined BT23’s running around it was Alec Mildren’s, one off, 2.5 litre Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 V8 engined BT23D(1) which took a Gold Star. Frank Gardner raced this car in the ’68 Tasman, it was then taken over by Kevin Bartlett, the Aussie ace took the ’68 Gold Star in it. Repco never won a Gold Star title, a topic to explore at some stage during the Repco series of articles I am gradually writing with Rodway Wolfe and more recently Nigel Tait’s help.

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Simply sensational Dick Simpson shot of Kevin Bartlett in BT23D Alfa, Hell Corner Bathurst Easter 1968, KB was walking away with the race until a broken rear upright ended his run. Dominant in this car in ‘68/9 (Dick Simpson)

Delving deeper into this BT23 tangent, whilst a BT23 Repco never won a Gold Star, a BT23 Waggott nee Mildren did…

Denny Hulme raced a works F2 Brabham BT23(5) FVA in the ’68 Tasman Series comprehensively boofing the car in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe on 6 January, the series opening round.

Denny’s chassis was Jochen Rindt’s Winkelmann Racing entry in ’67, he won 9 Euro F2 races in it including the Rouen event pictured above. Another car (BT23-2) was sent from England for Denny to race in the rest of the series. Feo Stanton and Ian Rorison of Rorstan Racing bought the wreck and sent it to Rennmax Engineering in Sydney for Bob Britton to repair.

Instead of doing so Bob made a jig from the bent frame and sent a new chassis, the Rorstan Mk1 back to the Kiwis. Seven cars were built on the BT23 jig; the Rorstan, Mildren, two Rennmax BN2 and three BN3’s. Of these the Mildren, so named by Alec Mildren, the Sydney Alfa Romeo dealer, team owner and former Gold Star champion was the most successful. The Britton jig was also put to good use over the coming years repairing cars like Harvey’s bent BT23E!

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Max Stewart ‘harry flatters in top gear’ heading down Surfers Paradise main straight and about to guide his 2 litre Waggott powered Mildren missile under the fast right hander and Dunlop Bridge. 9th in the ‘Surfers 100’ Tasman round in 1970 against the F5000’s. Graham McRae’s McLaren M10A Chev won the race but Bartlett’s 2 litre Mildren Mono Waggott was 2nd on this power circuit (Dick Simpson)

So…the Mildren pictured resting against the Skyline Armco fencing at this articles outset is a BT23 design. Max Stewart was prodigiously fast in the Mildren Waggott, he was one of those guys who seemed to get quicker as he got older, in ’69 he was quick, by the mid-seventies he absolutely flew in his Lola F5000’s. He was one of the very small number of blokes in Oz who squeezed absolutely everything out of these, big, demanding, fast, spectacular, fabulous 500bhp V8’s.

Bartlett, Matich, Allen, John McCormack, Bruce Allison, Warwick Brown, John Walker and Stewart in my book were the F5000 aces with Matich, if I have to pick one, the first among equals. Mind you, on sheer speed Alf Costanzo who came relatively late to the F5000 party could have been ‘the one’. Its an interesting topic to debate, end of F5000 tangent!

One of the pit sights which always amused me, and admittedly small things amuse small minds was big Max, he wasn’t a ‘fat bastard’, but he was 6’2”, crammimg himself into one of his cars before setting off for the dummy grid. If there was a taller bloke than Max in F5000 globally I’d be intrigued to know his name. He must have given away at least 10Kg to the rest of the grid before he even plopped his arse into the tight aluminium monocoque confines of the F5000 Lolas in which he excelled.

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Max was big of stature and heart; here he is after winning the Rothmans International Series ‘Sandown Cup’ on 20 February 1977, his last big win, Lola T400 Chev, sadly not too long before his untimely death at Calder, 19 March 1977 (Ian Smith)

By the time Merv Waggott was building 2 litre variants of his superb DOHC, 4 valve, Lucas injected, bespoke aluminium blocked engines they were outright winners in 2.5 litre Tasman Formula events in the hands on the Mildren Duo, Messrs Bartlett and Stewart. The first Gold Star for F5000 was in 1971; Max’ Mildren Waggott won the Gold Star with about 275bhp from his close mate Bartlett in a much less nimble and reliable 500bhp McLaren M10B Chev in a year of speed and consistency. I don’t care what anyone says, F5000’s driven to their limit were always a little brittle.

So, to join the dots, a BT23 design did win the Gold Star albeit called a Mildren. Stewart’s Mildren Waggott and Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott are tangents too far for this article and a wonderful future topic, there is a sensational article to be written there with Kevin Bartlett’s first-hand assistance on both chassis’ and engine if I ask him nicely…

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Merv Waggott changing plugs in his baby, Wigram 1970. Bartlett’s Mildren Mono ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott (Bill Pottinger/the Roaring Season)

Merv Waggott changing plugs in one of his superb jewels. An all alloy, DOHC, gear driven 4 valve Lucas injected circa 275bhp 2 litre engine. Its in the back Of Kevin Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Sub’ Waggott, shot is in the Wigram paddock, 1970 Tasman round on 17 January on 7 December. KB had a lousy meeting, not setting a practice time and DNF on lap 6 with engine dramas, Stewart was 3rd though in his car, Matich the winner in his McLaren M10A Chev.

The Waggott 2 litre engine was first built in late 1969 and initially developed circa 250bhp, its output later circa 268-275bhp with about 160 lbs/ft of torque. It raced to a win in KB’s hands in the ‘Sub upon debut in the ’69 ‘Hordern Trophy’ at WF, KB won again at the 1970 Warwick Farm Tasman round ahead of all the F5000’s and 2.5 Tasman Formula cars.  2 litre Waggotts won Australias’ Gold Star in 1970 for Leo Geoghegan (Lotus 59) and Stewart in ’71 as noted above.

An article about Merv and his creations is a wonderful feature for another time. Briefly for international readers Waggott’s Sydney shop built race winning engines from the 1950’s, checkout the article below on the WM Special/Cooper T20 Waggott Holden twin-cam 6 cylinder raced by Jack Myers and tested by Stirling Moss in the late ‘50’s as some background.

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

Winding the clock forward, as the ANF1 2.5 litre formula spluttered on in the late sixties a ‘battle to the death’ was fought for the new ANF1 category in Oz between opposing forces who supported either F5000 or 2 litre F2. The latter to commence in Europe from 1 January 1972, F5000 commenced in Europe in 1969 and was born in the US as Formula A earlier still.

Waggott engines were initially of 1600cc, then later 1860cc and used the ubiquitous Ford Cortina block, same as Cosworth’s 1’6 litre FVA wherein Keith Duckworth tested his design ideas in advance of finalising his DFV design. In 1600 form the Waggott would have been Euro F2 legal, it used a production block as the regs required. The 1.6 litre F2 started in ’67 and ended in 1971 when it grew to 2 litres. There were a few FVA’s racing in Australia, the 1.6 Waggott more than a match for them, no Waggott’s, sadly, ever raced in Euro F2.

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Lance Ruting studio shot of one of the engines, Ford block by the look of it so 1600 or 1860 (autopics.com)

Waggott 2 litre engines used a bespoke aluminium block as the stock cast iron Ford block maxxed out at about 1860cc. Beyond that the pistons kissed! Mike Hailwood’s Surtees TS10 won the ’72 Euro F2 Championship running Brian Hart built Ford BDA’s of 1850cc, those competitors running greater capacity than that had unreliability. The final Euro 2 litre F2 regs required production blocks from 1972-75 until ’76 when ‘racing engines’ were allowed. So, in the earliest years of the class the Waggott was ineligible.

Merv’s engines could have raced in F2 from ’76 but he had long before told CAMS to ‘shove it’ after F5000 was chosen (probably rightly given the backing of Ford, Holden and Repco who were building V8’s/wanting to develop an F5000 variant of the Holden engine in Repco’s case) as Australias’ new ANF1 from the 1971 Gold Star competition.

Had the ingenious, beautifully built little engine been Euro F2 Championship legal in 1972 Sydney’s Waggott Engineering had the winning engine! The engines were tried, tested championship winning donks ready to pop into any car. 275bhp and a big fat torque curve, Kevin Bartlett quoted the usable rev range of 6800-8750rpm, would have done the trick in 1972, the BMW M12 changed the F2 game from ’73 of course.

A wonderful ‘mighta-been’ all the same. Merv could have ‘stolen the F2 march’ in 1972 in much the same way Repco did in F1 with its Olds F85 production block based ‘620 Series’ V8 in 1966…

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Max Stewart on the way to winning the ‘Angus & Coote Trophy’, the 1971 Oran Park Gold Star round on 27 June. Mildren Waggott 2 litre, Graeme Lawerence was 2nd in a Brabham BT30 FVC, the little cars succeeding as the F5000’s fell away (Dick Simpson)

Credits…

John Arkwright, oldracephotos.com, Dick Simpson, Dale Harvey, Bill Pottinger/The Roaring Season, Ian Smith, Neville McKay, autopics.com.au

Bibliography…

oldracingcars.com, F2 Register

Tailpiece: A Lotus to end an article on Brabhams…

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Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco with ‘830 series’ Repco V8, started from the Bathurst ’69 pole but out on lap 12 with a gearbox problem, his time would shortly come with this car, winning the JAF Japanese GP later in 1969 amongst a classy field (oldracephotos.com)

Click here for an article on this ex-Clark chassis;

https://primotipo.com/?s=lotus+39

Finito…

 

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Dick Simpson

Jack Brabham winning the 1969 Australian Gold Star Series event at Easter Bathurst in his Brabham BT31 Repco…he is heading across Mount Panorama between ‘Skyline’ and ‘The Dipper’…

Introduction…

Those who have read the first three Repco articles may recall that we have been chronologically going through the history of Repco’s F1 and Race Engine program of the mid 60’s partially through the eyes of Rodway Wolfe who worked for the company as both technician and storeman during the glory years from 1966.

This article is out of sequence, its’ about Jacks’ 1969 Tasman mount, the Brabham BT31 powered by the Repco ‘830 Series’ 2.5 litre V8, logically the 1967 and 1968 F1/Tasman/Sportscar engines and race records come first. Rodways’ manuscript is running ahead of my own research so we will run with this article now, one he is intensely passionate about for reasons which become obvious, i will re-number once we have covered 1967 and 1968 down the track.

‘In the historic vehicle world there are some fascinating stories of various cars and some seem to just keep accumulating historic events and happenings throughout their existence. The BT31 Repco Brabham is one such car. The following story is mine, I was lucky enough to purchase the BT31 early in its history making saga…

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Brabham, BT31, Bathurst Easter 1969. It is such a shame the car did not arrive early enough to compete in the 1969 Tasman and/or the 1970 Tasman, it was potentially a winning car in 1970. ’70 Tasman won by Graeme Lawrences’ ’68 updated Ferrari Dino 246T despite F5000 cars also being eligible that year…(Unattributed)

BT31/1 was constructed by Brabham Cars  for Brabham Racing Organisation…(Sir Jack Brabhams works racing team, a separate entity from Jack and Ron Tauranacs’ race car production entity) It was built especially for the 1969 Tasman series, not just a modified Formula 3 car as some have suggested. It was bright red, unique itself as the FI BRO cars were all green and gold.

The engine was a ‘Tasman’ 2.5 litre ‘830 Series’ the car fitted with low profile wheels and tyres and various other features. It was consigned by sea freight to Australia, there seemed to be ample time for its arrival for the start of the Tasman series of races in New Zealand in January 1969.

I managed Repco Brabham Engine Company’s spare parts operation, we awaited the cars arrival with great anticipation. By a twist of fate the Melbourne ‘wharfies’ went on strike due to some industrial problem. They were cooperative and sympathetic to us and offered to unload the car if possible. A search revealed the car crate to be under many hundreds of tons of freight so it was not to be.

Eventually the strike ended and the crate arrived at RB on the Wednesday prior to the last race of the ’69 Tasman Series at Sandown Park, Melbourne. It was very disappointing but Jack being Jack he still wanted to be on the Sandown grid, Repcos’ home town race.

If anyone has been lucky enough to purchase a new Brabham they will know what I am talking about. The cars arrive in a very long crate just wide enough for the chassis and suspension, tanks and body parts are packed along the crate in front of the chassis. In this case a tubular space frame.

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Brabham Sandown, Dandenong Rd corner. Brabham BT31 Repco, Tasman 1969. (Unattributed)

The Car That Jack and Rodway Built…

As despatch and receiving was part of my job I had the great pleasure of assisting Jack to unpack the car. I have been lucky in my life to have many days I enjoyed to the fullest but that Wednesday with Sir Jack has to rank as the best. I spent the day helping the World Champion assemble his car, imagine a star of today doing that!

Every part went together like a dream, Jack sat in the cockpit while we fitted instruments, adjusted pedals, steering wheel reach etc. We discussed many subjects including his flying in Europe. He asked if I had seen any ‘Brabham Holden Toranas’ in my travels. At the time he had done a deal with General Motors Holden, it was possible to buy a Torana with Brabham badges and gear knob, steering wheel. It was truly a memorable day for a boy from the bush!

Meanwhile my RB colleagues were power testing the ‘830 engine’. It was one of the best and most reliable of our engines. Finally it was fitted and the car was ready for testing mid Friday afternoon prior to the Sandown meeting on Saturday/Sunday.

We loaded the car on an old open trailer of Jacks and set out for Calder Raceway, near Keilor, an hour from Melbourne. Kevin Davies went in his car, I went in mine and I think Michael Gasking took his too. (1959 Australian Gold Star Champion) Len Lukey and his wife took Jack and Betty Brabham and one of the toddler Brabham boys.

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Brabham testing at Calder the day before Sandown and the day the cars assembly was completed by Brabham and Wolfe…the DIY World Champion! Brabham is belted in but driving in a ‘parka’, no racesuit.(Rodway Wolfe)

Len Lukey towed the trailer. We stopped at Keilor and Jack disappeared into a house for a few minutes. He borrowed the key to the circuit from Calder owner, Jean Pascoe. We proceeded to the circuit, unloaded the car and with just a handful of us there Jack started testing.

The fuel cam was causing a hesitation coming out of corners but Michael Gasking had a selection of test cams and soon had the fuel mix OK.

Len Lukey parked his car on the infield and they all stayed in the car watching. At one stage Jack walked over and carried his small son to BT31 and took him for a few laps as he sat on Jacks lap, no wonder all those boys raced! Another memorable moment for me. It was such a lovely casual setting with Jack just wearing his Parka jacket, no fireproofs.

We had been there about an 1.5 hours, Jack seemed happy with everything and suddenly into the gate roared a car which skidded to a stop and out jumped a very irate man. He started shouting at us all, especially Jack who was still sitting in the cockpit. He yelled something about no engines were to be started at the circuit after 6pm at night and it was a council by-law etc. He would report us etc. When he finally managed to get a word in Jack calmly said ‘we will pack up now fellas’ the irate man left as fast as he had arrived.

I have often wondered how funny it was that he never knew he was abusing our World Champ!’

Needless to say the car was at Sandown next day for practice…

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Jack Brabham, Brabham BT31 Repco, Sandown Tasman 1969, ‘Dandy Road’ corner. Winged in the race, he tested also sans wing. Note the ‘old style’ Buco helmet…Jack was wearing Bell Magnums in Europe, i suspect this is an old helmet left in Oz, ditto the goggles! (Rod MacKenzie)

sergent.com reported the race as follows…

‘It was a battle for pole again between Amon and Rindt, although the dark horse of the meeting was Jack Brabham hurriedly arranging a marriage between a Brabham BT31B F3 chassis and the 2.5 twin-cam Repco V8 engine. It was certainly the smallest and lightest of the V8 powered cars at the meeting, and although he fitted a wing to the rear, Brabham was down on horsepower compared to the other Internationals.

John Harvey was having his first competitive drive in the Bob Jane Repco Brabham BT23 Repco V8 since his Easter accident at Bathurst in 1968, and was using the outing as an extended test session for the coming Gold Star rather than trying to drive a hard race first time out. This was born out by Harvey’s practice time which put him 14th on the grid among the 1.6 F2 cars.

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Brabham BT31 #9 beside Derek Bells’ Ferrari Dino 246T, Sandown Tasman grid 1969. Grey haired gent just in shot is Scuderia Veloces’ supremo, David McKay who entered the successful Amon/Bell Ferraris’ in both 1968 and 1969 Tasman. (Mildren Films)

Rindt (Lotus 49 DFW) got the start and lead the field through Shell Corner and held it through the very slow Peter’s Corner, but Amon (Ferrari Dino 246T) used his better gearing for the straight and took the Austrian as they headed over the hill and down toward the Esses. Hill (Lotus 49 DFW) had started in third position but dropped back sharply on the first lap when his throttle linkage came adrift and Courage (Brabham BT24 DFW) broke a previously twisted half shaft down the back of the circuit.

Amon and Rindt started to open a gap to Brabham, who was holding off Bell for third place. Kevin Bartlett (Brabham BT23D Alfa) pulled sharply into the pits on lap 5 with a broken exhaust which threatened to set fire to exposed oil and fuel lines while Hill re-joined the race and set about climbing back through the field. John Harvey spun when his Repco engine overheated and poured out scalding water at Dandenong Corner and he retired with a very sore neck from the results.

Meanwhile Hill was forcing his way back up and he took Levis on lap 33 for sixth place but couldn’t get any higher after his four lap deficit after the start. Garrie Cooper drove steadily throughout the race to finish eighth and first resident Australian home in his own Elfin 600B. Leo Geoghegan hadn’t started as mechanics found a leaking fuel cell in the Lotus 39 Repco V8 and they couldn’t repair it in time.’

Amon won the race and the Tasman Series that year from Rindt and Courage. Rindt and Brabham were second and third in the race.

Check out this fabulous film made by Alec Mildren Racing of the Australian Leg of the 1969 Tasman Series…

After that Sandown event, Jack returned to Europe to commence his F1 campaign for the year.  Brabham’s BT26’s fitted with the Ford Cosworth DFV V8 for 1969 rather than the RB 860 Series 3 litre V8’s which had been so unreliable for he and Jochen Rindt in 1968, and caused his decision to bring the F1 partnership with Repco to an end.

The BT31 returned to the Maidstone factory, the engine was removed and the car stored for a while. We had two 830 2.5 litre engines for the car, one of course the spare.

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Brabham, Bathurst Easter 1969. (Dale Harvey)

In April 1969 the car was brought out of mothballs and taken to Bathurst for the Easter ‘Bathurst 100’ race

‘This race has also been widely reported over the years needless to say the BT31 started from the rear of the grid and hosed off all the Australian cars and set a new lap record for open-wheel cars of 2 min 13.2 seconds.’

I wrote about this weekend in another post a while back; https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

‘Of course that was the old track layout with the full Conrod Straight and notorious hump. Typical of Jacks foxiness, he fitted both front and rear high wings for Saturday practice which resulted in some teams working frantically all night to install front wings as well to their cars. Of course Jack rolled out the BT31 on race morning minus the high front wing’.

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Bi-winged during Easter Bathurst practice. One-off car based on BT28 F3 chassis. Multi-tubular space frame, front suspension by upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/damper units. Rear suspendsion by single top link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods, adjustable sway bars front and rear. Cast magnesium front and rear uprights. Repco ‘830 Series’ 2.5 litre SOHC 295bhp V8, Hewland FT200 5 speed box. (Rodway Wolfe)

The car was suffering some fuel starvation problems in practice. Very hastily the electric fuel pump was borrowed from Charlie Deans’ Lancia road car, some of you may remember Deans contribution to Australian motor racing in the Stan Jones article published a while back;

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

It assisted fuel flow into a reserve pot arrangement in the fuel system and a switch fitted to the instrument panel. Jack turned the pump on each lap for either the climb up the mountain or the run down Conrod I cannot recall which.

I do remember how great the car sounded down Conrod. It was the days of the apple orchards at Bathurst and BT31 looked magical going down through the apple orchards. When I purchased the car later it retained the Bathurst gearing, Peter Holinger and i calculated 5th gear at 186 mph at 9500 rpm so it was flying!

After the Bathurst meeting the car went to Sydney for display at Jack Brabham Fords’ Bankstown showroom.’

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Brabham during Bathurst practice pondering fuel starvation problems…(Rodway Wolfe)

‘Finally the BT31 was returned to our Repco factory at Maidstone…Jack Brabham had since returned to the UK, the cars engine was removed and it sat in a corner gathering dust.

Meanwhile Repco had been negotiating with Jack to purchase the car for the Repco Export Company to place on display in Japan at the upcoming ‘Expo 70’. Repco exported engine components around the world, most people would not know that Rolls Royce in the UK were supplied with Repco piston rings. So the display in Japan was a crucial part of the company’s export drive.

We will never know the details of Repco’s purchase of BT31, all I know it was involved with import duty with the amount paid dependent on the car being used as a race car or for advertising purposes.In other words, if the car was raced a higher level of duty applied than if the car was not.

One morning the works superintendant, Kevin Davies came out of his office and went down to John Brookfield in the welding shop, (John was our magic welder of all things aluminium) and was an excellent engineer. We all heard a bit of a discussion and Kevin disappeared back into his office. John was a big guy, his nickname, ‘Lurch’. We all knew something was wrong as Lurch came out of his welding bay with a red face, set to explode.’

‘Chop up BT31…

He told us with an incredible look on his face; ‘Kevin came and asked me to cut the BT31 chassis in half!!!??? I told him to F….k off and if he wanted it cut in two pieces he would have to find someone else to f…….g cut it for him…’

‘We all rebelled, the entire factory agreed on no destruction of BT31. It was something to do with Repco buying the car from Jack for advertising only, a space frame cut in half of course destroys the car and prevents it being raced. Anyway it was all to do with the usage of the car and the marketing idea at ‘Expo 70′ in Japan was to setup a display using a tunnel with the rear of the car disappearing in one end and the nose coming out of the other.

After a lot of discussion and refusal to damage the car the nose was removed and the bracket holding the radiator cut off the front. I didn’t visit Expo 70  but I understand the display did feature the car entering a tunnel. The car’s front high wing, the nose cone and the front wheels were in my care in our RB store until the car was returned in 1971’.

Editors Note: Without being an expert on Australian race car import laws of the past, the legislators allowed racing cars to be imported free of duty into Australia on the basis that the car left the country annually…perfect for Tasman series competitors as the cars left Oz for NZ to compete each year before returning. Eventually, when the car stays in Oz, duty is payable, therein commenced, often, a lot of ‘jiggery-pokery’ with chassis numbers as impecunious racers, seeking to avoid the taxmans net, applied very old chassis numbers to very new cars!  Repco, as an audited public company could not afford to play ‘ducks and drakes’ in this manner. I suspect the scenario Rodway outlines is around the points outlined here. That is, how to minimise the punitive duties whilst remaining ‘kosher’ in the process as large public company.Mark.

bt 31 cockpit

BT31/1 cockpit shot taken in 1983 at Sandown. Quintessential 60’s English racing car cockpit; Smiths chronometric tach, oil/water temps/oil pressure, leather bound Mota-Lita wheel and right hand change for the 5 speed Hewland FT200 gearbox. Chassis tubes clear as is aluminium fuel tank to left and right. (Mark Bisset)

‘When the car was returned by sea freight from Japan Repco had undergone huge changes in their motor racing policy…

The whole Repco Brabham project had been dismantled and the factory in Maidstone was being converted to a new company, Repco Dynamics, which was to construct a new concept in automotive wheel balancers. Most of the RB employees, about 70 at the time, were given their marching orders but a few were selected for the new entity or other Repco companies.’

In essence what occurred was the commercial flow on of Jack Brabhams decision to change from Repco to Ford Cosworth power in F1 with effect the 1969 F1 season.

RB Engines raison d’etre was the supply of engines to Brabham; Brabham received race winning engines and Repco reaped the advertising and promotional spinoffs.

The sale of Tasman 2.5 and 4.4/5 litre sports car and other engines in Australia and elsewhere did not generate a commercial return, the parent companies subsidy to keep its RB Engines subsidiary afloat was increasing each year. The PR rub off ended when Jack turned to Cosworth and had lost its gloss in ’68 due to the engines unreliability in F1. Whilst the 2.5 Repcos’ won Gold Star races they never won a Tasman or Gold Star series. Frank Matich’s 1969 Australian Sports Car Championship Matich SR4 Repco win was laudable but again did not, in Repco’s view, justify the significant investment made.

Repco therefore ‘flipped’ the stock of unsold engines and other assets of RB Engines into Redco, a new company, which it continued to support. The deal was probably done that way to maximise the tax effectiveness of the transaction, with Redco then looking after the needs of RB Engine customers needing spares etc, and taking on development of the new Holden ‘308 V8’ as a race F5000 engine, CAMS having finally made the vexed decison of the new ANF1 category between 2 litre race engine and 5 litre F5000 stock block alternatives.

These are topics we will explore in later articles, in essence this is a summary of the circumstances around the issues Rodway addresses above.

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Bi-winged BT31 during Bathurst practice. At ‘The Dipper’. (Unattributed)

‘In a corner of the RBE factory a wall was constructed with big doors and ‘No Entry’ signs, the new domain of  ‘Repco Engine Development Company’ (REDCO) was set up with Mal Preston as Chief…

The former General Manager of Repco Brabham Engine Co, Frank Hallam was transferred to Repco Research at Dandenong. Don Halpin, John McVeigh, John Mepstead and Brian Heard were placed in the new company with Malcolm Preston.

Being the spoilt brat from the bush, i refused to accept the closing of Repco Brabham which was my life really. I wrote a nice letter to the board and thanked them for employing me through the RB project and told them I was returning to Gippsland. I asked them to re-employ me when they started building F1 engines again. I had been offered a job as Service Manager assistant to Michael Gasking who was the new Chief Engineer of  Repco Dynamics.

It did have a huge future and I could not have found a better guy to work with than Michael Gasking but I was young and stubborn.

One day Charlie Dean arrived and said ‘What’s all this about you going home to the farm Rod’ I explained to him how I was not keen on the heavy cast iron 308 Holden engine. I had loved and appreciated my time on the Repco Brabham Engines. Anyway he said ‘right, I want you to work with Malcolm, he will need you to keep up the RB spares around the world as we have to maintain supply’.

‘The Repco Brabham engine spares represented $340,000 in value at that time!, were retained by REDCO,  to sell the parts to RB engine owners. I ended up behind the wall with Don Halpin and the other boys. Looking back it was great to have Charlie Dean tell me I couldn’t leave! The time I spent at REDCO with Malcolm is another story altogether.’

bt 31 bathurst bi-winged

Bi-winged BT31 during Easter Bathurst practice, car won sans front wing…and high wings shortly to be banned globally by the FIA during the 1969 Monaco GP weekend. (Dale Harvey)

Buying the Brabham BT31…

‘BT31 arrived back from ‘Expo 70’ in its crate and no one cared. Repco Brabham Engine Co did not exist, all the staff had gone. Mal Preston had not seen the car and was not interested as Charlie was continually on his back about Holden F5000 developments.

I did not envy Mal in those early months of the F5000 project he was under lots of pressure. Charlie Dean was like a small tornado wherever he went.

One day Mal asked me to unpack the BT31 as it was needed for a car show in Mornington. I spent a couple of days reassembling it around a mock ‘830 2.5’. It was rare for us to display a going engine. I recall once doing so with our one magnesium 3 litre, (which disappeared off the planet anyway) so at all times we used mock ups. They were mostly complete but had no internals.

There was no interest in the car, so i decided to write to the Repco Board asking to acquire it. I was a lot younger then but I did have some nous. I decided not to discuss it with anybody as I knew I was a ‘very small gear in a massive gearbox’. I pulled out a figure I would pay and got secretary Coral Allen to type the letter for me but I left a gap where the price offered was to be added later by me! Coral typed it and I duly posted it to the Repco Board. I trusted Coral completely but not all the bosses she typed for!

I really didn’t think I had any chance and I had not even given a thought to how i would pay for it. Malcolm asked if I would take the car to Mornington for a car show that Jim and Bill Leech had a lot to do with. I loaded the car on Jacks old farm trailer and took the car to the show, kept it polished and handed out Repco brochures and answered questions.

It was about mid afternoon when up bowled ‘Tornado’ Charlie Dean. Charlie told me he had read my letter and asked why I wanted to buy the car. I very politely (in Repco you rarely got to speak to a director anyway) told him I loved the cars history and it was important to both Repco’s and Australia’s history. He quickly replied yes we will discuss the matter next week.

He then commented on how good it looked and went to leave but just at that moment up walked one of the Leech brothers, these guys owned some serious cars including a Maserati 300S and Bugatti T37A, Jim was enquiring about the value of BT31, the conversation fortunately stopped when the entourage of Lancias’ arrived which Dean and the Leech boys joined…a close call!

A couple of weeks later I was cleaning the car. All of a sudden the double doors flew open with a crash and out came Mal Preston in ‘full flight’ RODWAY he shouted, ‘Did you write to the Repco Board offering to buy this car without even consulting me? I am your boss and the least you could do is tell me’ He was furious. He asked ‘Why didn’t you consult me first’. I replied in a rather shocked state, because you possibly would have talked me out of it Mal. He shouted at me for a minute then disappeared back to his office again. I was very low. I realised I had done my dash and might not even have a job!

A few minutes later Mal appeared very quiet and subdued. ‘I am very sorry for that outburst Rodway, I have thought about your reply and you are probably right, I would have bloody well talked you out of it’. It is of great credit to Malcolm that he was that sort of boss. He treated us all as equals and he got the most out of his employees that way. As he went to depart I called to him. Are you with me or against me Mal, he turned and said I will help you all I can. The matter was never discussed between us again.

During the following weeks I heard all kinds of stories about BT31. Several people wanted to buy it internally. BT31 was built in 1968, by then it was 1971, it had only raced twice by Sir Jack himself and was still setup as he raced it including all decals, accessories, gear ratios etc. It certainly was not an old car as some have suggested. There must have been many discussions and arguments about what was going to happen to the car within Repco until one night about 6 pm I was consigning some parcels, when Mal Preston came storming out of his office over to my desk.

RODWAY  he shouted again, ‘I want you to get that F…..g car out of this f…..g workshop tonight, load it on a f……g trailer and I never ever want to see the f…….g car again ! As he stormed back to his office I called what about the money, as I had to get it. He shouted out he didn’t care at all about that just get it out of here now’.’

program

‘And so, BT31/1 was Mine…

BT31 spent the night on Jack Brabham’s old trailer in suburban Burke Road, Kew where I was living at the time with not much car parking. Anyway it was still there next morning! I rang up my good friend Peter Holinger who was now, after the Repco Brabham closure working in his own workshop in Warrandyte. He was happy to store the car in return for making a duplicate chassis for himself. He had decided to build another hillclimb car to replace the Vincent powered one that had brought him so much success.

Now that I had it I had to pay for it!, fortunately a wealthy uncle, who had a large, successful bakery business came to the party. It took a while for Repco to process my cheque, i firmly believe had i not paid for the car no-one would have asked for the money.

I left the car in Holingers’ care, it was in the safest of hands. He photographed the suspension and measured all the lengths of the components and duplicated the space frame so well that years later at Morwell Hillclimb he borrowed the shock absorbers and a few bits from BT31 and won the event with some of my suspension parts. He even used the fibreglass seat insert to make a pattern for another one.’

brabham letter

‘830 Series Engines, Paperwork and BT31’s Rarity…

repco 2.5 830 series

Repco ‘830 Series’ 2.5 litre ‘Tasman’ V8. SOHC gear driven per bank, Lucas fuel injection, 295bhp @ 9000rpm. Note the heavily ribbed block, and below the ribbing socket head cap screws to ‘cross bolt’ the main bearing caps. This engine is ex Garrie Cooper Elfin 600D and has the later ‘Indy’ sump assy and combined oil pressure/scavenge pump. (TNF)

BT31 was fitted with Repcos’ latest ‘830 Series’ Tasman V8. The engine was first used by Brabham in his BT23E in practice for the 1968 Sandown Tasman round, he raced with an ‘840 Series’, which failed, Jim Clark winning the race in his Lotus 49DFW.

The ‘830’ incorporated the shorter, more rigid ‘800 Series’ block developed for the 1968 F1 engines by Norm Wilson with the ’30 Series’ cross-flow SOHC heads. With a bore and stroke of 3.34X2.16 inches, the engine developed 295bhp @ 9000rpm and weighed 150Kg.

‘The 830 was such a good reliable engine Jack stated that had Repco developed a 3 litre version (despite what people may tell you, we never EVER built a 3 litre 830 but I think Don Halpin has since) we would have quite possibly have retained the World Champioship in 1968.

Jack said that the 830 was such a great engine in 2.5 form and was so much lighter than the oposition despite being down on horsepower by comparison. I remember Jack saying to us fellows in the engine assy area one day. ‘If Ferrari had the horsepower they claim to have they would be leaving me behind by a much bigger margin than they are leaving me behind’ !!! We will never know what the 830 would have produced at 3 litres capacity?’

At the time, two 2.5 Litre 830’s were built for the car. Other 830’s were subsequently built for other Tasman competitors.

‘Now as our commercial manager Bob Sippo had been moved on to the Repco Replex Company we had no-one really able to make any commercial decisions. One night the Bob Jane Racing fellas turned up and I was informed that we were lending them one of the 2.5 litre 830 engines. (for the Bob Britton built ‘Jane Repco’, a car constructed on Brittons BT23 Brabham jig at his Sydney, Rennmax facility)

What the various companies and individual teams were charged was up to the manager and the accountants, this applied to all customers including Jack Brabham, he was of course sponsored by Repco.

So I did as I was told. Later the Bob Jane Racing boys arrived again, their car was going to Tasmania for the next meeting and they needed a spare! Well that of course meant the spare BT31 engine went too. Now as this was while the car was in Japan on display with a mock up engine and I never of course dreamed of ever owning the car I just did as instructed. The person instructing me never really had the authority to lend either engine but the factory was in disarray and the Jane organisation had been great ambassadors of our engines, the decision made sense at the time.

Neither engine ever came back of course as many others did not either. I knew about stock control and the hazards of stuff being squirreled away, the amount of stock of RB parts and even engines that were removed from my store illegally is staggering. No names, no packdrill!

I was not the least concerned about obtaining an engine, i had a good mock-up engine anyway and their were still enough bits around to build an engine.

I was not ambitious enough to buy the car to drive it as at the time I believed it was ultra valuable as an historic car, totally original as described above.

To me it is as collectible as BT19, Jacks 1966 World Championship car now in the Victorian Historic Racing Register, Melbourne, museum in Box Hill. One of the BT31 engines lay under a work bench at Bob Jane Racing for quite a time so was available to any collector.

In contrast I went to Sydney and called at Jack Brabham Ford to see BT19 when it arrived from the UK. A salesman showed me what was left of an F1 car. There was not too much of the car there, no engine and lots of parts missing. I am not sure if the wheels were there. Later BT19 was totally restored by Jim Shepherd to as new condition, Don Halpin built an original ‘620 Series’ Oldsmobile engine for it.

What I am saying is that BT 19 did not have an original engine or body and was mostly built up to original, BT31 in contrast even had the Bathurst tyres still on it and was totally original with an original engine available.’

rod and bt 31 sandown

Rod Wolfe, Brabham BT31/1 and faithful Leyland P76 towcar, mid ’80’s Sandown.  Car fitted with mock-up ‘740 Series’ exhaust between the Vee, V8 in this shot. (Rodway Wolfe)

‘Working on the Repco F5000 Engine and home to Gippsland…

With the BT31 safely stored with Peter Holinger I continued at REDCO assisting with the new Repco Holden F5000 engine. We were all busy with only 5 of us to do everything, Mal Preston had a big job to do. Don Halpin was in charge of the workshop, he was exactly the right choice to work with Malcolm. Malcolm was always thinking, I mean always! so he would expect problems before they had a chance to happen in an uncanny sort of way and Don was seemingly unruffled at any problem so the combination worked very well with some very amusing conversations between them at times.

I had a variety of duties as I did stuff including porting cylinder heads and all the consignment of RBE parts and acquisition of F5000 bits. I enjoyed working with all my mates from the RB project and despite our regular ‘innings’ on various subjects I admired Mal Preston very much and learnt a lot from his rather unusual management style. He did tell me once after one of our sparring matches that out of all the boys I was the one most likely to end up working for myself eventually! I never worked out if it was a compliment or not.

Mal Preston was the right man for that F5000 project, his passing recently was very sad.

As I was not that happy with the situation, it was not a personal reason but a Repco political situation, eventually I resigned to go home to Gippsland. I ended up at Peter Holinger’s working with Pete and his wife Bev, after a period with them I departed Melbourne and towed BT31 behind to Gippsland. The car was a bit out of place on a farm in the country and various articles were appearing in motor magazines about it.

In my spare time I used to fully dismantle it and got to know every nut and bolt. My small son was toddler size and I used to make up a bed for him in the cockpit where he slept until the early hours of the morning and loved it. I am sorry to inform subsequent owners that my son holds the record for most hours in the cockpit!

I had the chassis gently sand cleaned and repainted by a good friend. You have to be very gentle with a space frame as you can upset the tension of the various tubes if it is sandblasted too severely. It was a satisfying pastime getting to know exactly what went into a Repco Brabham design.

I was a Kawasaki motorcycle dealer for a time and used BT31 as a display feature in the country showroom, it enabled me to meet lots of interesting people.

I would have loved to convert the BT31 to a hill climb car for myself as I had hill climbed a Cooper Mini and usually won my class at Morwell Hill Climb and loved it but I really believed to break that magic of Jack Brabham being the only driver and all original condition I would be a fool. One of my aims was to get recognition of Repco Brabham in Australia, even Phil Irving told me how Repco had totally missed the boat when it came to claiming the fame that they should have been recognised for.

I wrote to Ampol (Australian oil company) first giving them all the details and informing them of their association with the car. The car still had the Ampol decals on the nose cone too. A little secret here, we never did use Ampol oil, it was Shell ‘Super M’ in Ampol drums but that’s normal in advertising, only because Ampol did not make a racing oil. But even at director level they were not really interested. I have a file of old letters from various Australian Companies and museums. There was just no real interest.

I eventually moved to Metung on the Gippsland Lakes in the late ’70s and began a new sort of engineering with boats and became a Volvo Penta service agent.

BT31 gave me a huge insight into motor racing and motor sport generally. Many people were attracted to the car and i got to know them as a consequence. The legendary race car engineer John Sheppard spent holidays at Metung, we had many hours talking about his times including managing the Holden Dealer Team after Harry Firth.

The great Peter Brock and his engineer at the time, Bruce Nowacki spent hours leaning on the cars rear wing, Pete was a fantastic source of driving and handling technique so I was in another world. He and Bev even came and stayed at our holiday accommodation in Metung.

One day a guy showed up wanting to see BT31. He introduced himself as Austin Miller, or Aussie Miller. He was a fantastic character, he owned a crop dusting and spraying company in Northern Victoria. On looking up his past I realised just who he was. The fastest man on wheels in Australia prior to the Bluebird of Donald Campbell. A legend of Australia’s Motor Sports’ past and in the Guinness Book of Records.

I also featured the car on display at various race meetings. One Sandown meeting was very special. I met and talked for an hour or more with the great John Surtees. He was so down to earth and discussed the Italian Grand Prix between he and Jack Brabham at Monza in 1967. I also met and talked to Tom Wheatcroft, he told me all about Donington Park, his race circuit in the UK.

All these people could see my dedication to the Repco Brabham engines and they responded by letting go on their own particular  Motor Sport interests.’

babe

BT31/1 and ‘Penthouse Pet of The Year’ Tracey Wallace..shot of poor resolution sadly. AGP Calder auction 1980. (Rodway Wolfe)

‘Time To Sell…

Finally as the salt air beside the lake at Metung was getting to the car, I was disappointed with the lack of interest in preservation of BT31.

So I sent the car to auction prior to the 1980 Grand Prix at Calder. I set a reserve price, there was lots of hype and Alan Jones and Tracy Wallace (Miss Penthouse of the year)  and other Australian motoring greats.I passed it in after a very good bid but slightly under my reserve. So I returned to Metung and kept the car for another term.

One day I received an offer from a museum owner who wanted the car for his collection. At last I thought I was on to something to keep me happy with the RB history. I believed this guy had the resources to purchase a going engine from Bob Jane. The guy purchased the car and forwarded a deposit and made several payments but never the full amount so the sale fell through.

I decided if Australia didn’t want the car I would advertise it in ‘Road and Track’. There were problems in placing the ad as they decided the car was a replica and didn’t want to run the advertisement! In the meantime a guy showed up in a Rolls Royce asking about it. He was a Sydney specialist Doctor. He specialised in repairing people after bombs had exploded, especially facial damage. He made up new jawbones from other body parts etc. It was a gruesome job, he had worked for many years in Ireland for experience. He never smiled and actually reminded me a bit of the film star Jack Palance. The Rolls Royce was filthy, covered in mud and he explained it had been in a motorkhana the weekend before!

He wanted BT31 and as I was browned off generally as all my attempts to preserve it for Australia had flown out the window. I had the advantage of already obtaining most of the required funds due to the museums closure and failure of the previous sale. So I agreed to sell the car, it was 1984. We did a deal and Don Halpin arranged to construct an engine for him.

Finally the ‘R&T’ ad bore fruit as Bib Stillwell contacted me. He was President of the LearJet Corporation in America at the time and wanted to buy  BT31. Of course being a mate of Jack Brabham’s he knew all about the car. I explained that I had received a deposit and had sold it to the Sydney doctor subject to his final cheque arriving. Much to Bibs’ frustration, he tried hard to convince me to sell the car to him but i had committed to Dr William Marshall. Bib got his wish and did buy the car later, he won a lot of races ‘in period’ with Brabhams and was keen to own it.

Marshall put a team together and did race the car for a time and had a fairly serious crash during his term of ownership.’

bt 31 sandown bo sippo

Dr William Marshall in the cockpit, older gent former RBE Commercial Manager Bob Sippo and a mechanic, Sandown, not long after the cars ‘re-debut’. (Rodway Wolfe)

‘Bib Stillwell and BT31…

Some time later I was invited to an historic Sandown meeting and sure enough there was Bib Stillwell with BT31 looking great in the Stillwell green colours, he bought the car from Marshall in 1987. I was looking at the car in the pits and had not made myself known and said in my typical fashion. ‘Hey what’s with this green’ a big guy stood up and said and why shouldn’t it be green. I piped up that it was built red, raced red and Bib hearing all this came over and said hello.

We ended up very good friends. At one stage he said ‘You should have sold it to me first Roddy’. I was impressed with his driving that day. He really put in. I also suspect a little extra effort because I was there in his pit, when he came back he was covered in perspiration and all red in the face. He walked over and put his arm around my shoulder and said ‘How was that Roddy did I do a good enough job?’. I was pleased that he cared what that I had kept the car in original shape for so long. He was a born racer as Bob Jane was as well. They were not just collectors they were users and drivers.

We Repco boys were invited to Geelong on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay for a special sprint meeting on the waterfront. The Geelong sprints are a wonderful spectacle on a good day. During the afternoon Don Halpin came in to the RB tent and said to me ‘Bibs gone in’ of course meaning an accident. We did not all rush down there of course and later I became aware that somehow it had been a very bad accident and Bib had multiple fractures of his legs. He had an extensive stay in Geelong hospital and sadly I think that he never recovered fully from that accident.

It was a long and tough call on Bib and he was no spring chicken. He also had lots of problems as the bottom had dropped out of new car sales in Australia. Sometime later he tragically collapsed and died of a heart attack in his Kew showroom. I don’t think that the BT31 had added much to his fine racing career.

The car was rebuilt and sold overseas and has since changed hands numerous times, but is back in Australia.

Nowadays I have the great pleasure of occasionally seeing BT31 in flight under various owners and I was impressed to see the car looking so good at Phillip Island in 2014. It gives me a lot of satisfaction in my older age and the reception I get from the younger owners is pleasing to say the least.

Long live BT31, the only one built and built specially as a works car for Sir Jack Brabham to race in Australia. You cannot get a car much more historic than that’.’

bib stillwell and bt31

BT31 Phil Irving and Bib Stillwell, Sandown, late 1990’s. Stillwell won 3 of his 4 1960’s Australian Gold Star Championships in Brabhams, a World Class steerer in his day. (Rodway Wolfe)

bartlett brabham bt31

Kevin Bartlett track testing BT31, whilst owned by William Marshall in 1987 at Oran Park, Sydney for ‘Wheels’ magazine. Bartlett typically sideways! (Wheels)

Etcetera…Track Test of BT31/1 by Kevin Bartlett in 1987…

Australian Gold Star Champion in 1968 and 1969, Bathurst Winner and ex-Brabham racer Kevin Bartlett track tested the car for ‘Wheels’ magazine, the article written by Graham Howard was published in August 1987. These are excerpts from that article;

‘…The car fires up and Bartlett hops right into it, giving it three hard bootfuls of throttle on the way to the first corner. Just so the car knows whos’ boss right? To the onlookers there is no doubt. All the gearchanges go in, the throttle work is smooth and confident. Progressively he is getting faster everywhere, braking later-tho still a bit early, it seeems, and now after a few laps starting to find the outside of the kerbs on the way out of corners’. Then he comes in.

KB, ‘It doesn’t like getting its power to the ground, does it. And the brakes are a worry. The front to rear balance is not right. The throttle needs heavier return springs’. He removes the seat and goes again. ‘Its a good torquey little engine from 3100-3200’. He suggests shock and tyre pressure changes. Present day Australian Historic Regs don’t allow a wing which Bartlett concludes it needs.

‘You can see the understeer into the corner but his exits are clean, decisive much steadier as he steers the car with its own noise, vanishing away with successive upward shrieks of acceeleration, gearchange, more acceleration. He is fast and accurate and the impressive thing is how, with a very peaky engine and a car with a willingness to break into wheelspin, Bartlett is stringing together lap after lap without a slip. No extravagant wheelspin, no attitude on the car, this mate, this is car control.’

Says KB, ‘Its understeering, just, which is the way they used to be. A bit, thats all on turn in, but you fix that with the throttle. It is better with the lower tyre pressures and stiffer rear shocks, not perfect but better. The engine starts to work at 5000 and at 6000 the cams come in, so you’ve got to drive it between 6000-7500. Any engine like this you have to work it right thru its range. No point having your gears too close. Its a good engine though, a good car.’

Graham Howard asked KB how his 1968 Gold Star winning Brabham BT23D Alfa (2.5 litre T33 V8 engine) would go up against BT31…’It would be very even, it would depend on the driver. I feel the chassis we had, with the Alfa V8, might have got the power to the ground better. But with the right tyres and a wing this car could be fantastic. The actual driving position is full of memories. I did my championship years in cars like this. It feels like home again.’

bartlett brabham bt 31 1

Bartlett BT31 in profile, Oran Park 1987. KB raced Brabhams BT2 Ford, BT11A Climax, BT23D Alfa, BT43 Chev and others in his successful single-seater years…(Wheels)

Photo Credits…

Rodway Wolfe, Dale Harvey, Rod MacKenzie, Dick Simpson, Mildren Films,The Nostalgia Forum, Bob Frankel

Bibliography…

sergent.com, ‘Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, ‘Historic RacingCars in Australia’ John Blanden, Wheels magazine, Rodway Wolfe Collection, Racing Car News

Tailpiece: Brabham, Mount Panorama Easter 1969…

(B Frankel)

Finito…

bathurst

Max Stewart, Niel Allen & Leo Geoghegan (L>R) , Easter Bathurst, 1969 (Wayne McKay)

Start of the ‘Gold Star’ race Mount Panorama, Easter 1969…

In the Good ‘Ole Days there used to be two meetings a year at Mount Panorama- Easter when the Gold Star race was the feature and of course the ‘Taxi’ classic later in the year.

Then the Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship meant something. A lot in fact, it was won down the decades by some great, world class drivers including Lex Davison, Stan Jones, Bib Stillwell, Spencer Martin, Kevin Bartlett, Frank Matich, John McCormack, Max Stewart, Alfredo Costanzo and many others. These days it does not have the same cachet and tourers dominate in Australia. Sadly.

This photo was posted on Facebook by Wayne McKay and shows the grid of the 1969 Gold Star event.

Leo Geoghegan is on pole in his evergreen, white, ex-Clark Lotus 39 Repco…

Alongside is Niel Allen in his ex-Piers Courage McLaren M4A Ford FVA (European F2 car) Max Stewart, having joined Alec Mildren’s team that year, is at the wheel of the yellow Mildren Waggott TC-4V in which he would have so much success over the following 3 years. The Mildren was a car built by Rennmax’ Bob Britton on his Brabham BT23 jig.

The red car on the second row is John Harvey in Bob Jane’s Brabham BT23E Repco, repaired after his huge Bathurst prang the year before caused by upright failure. The light blue car is Queenslander Glynn Scott in a Bowin P3 Ford FVA, a wonderful monocoque chassis car, one of three P3’s, built by John Joyce in Sydney- Joyce not long before having returned from a longish stint as an engineer at Lotus.

The red car towards the rear of the grid, on the fence side of the track is Jack Brabham in his Brabham BT31 Repco- the last of the ‘Tasman’ Brabhams. Jack was making a rare Gold Star appearance in the F3 based car built for his 1969 Tasman Series campaign, but which could not be unloaded from the ship from the UK due to a ‘Wharfies’ strike- and therefore only raced in the final Sandown Tasman round- the Australian Grand Prix won in fine style by Tasman Champion Chris Amon in a Ferrari 246T.

The BT31 was the lowest mileage Brabham ever built, it raced at Sandown and then Bathurst ‘in period’. The 2.5 litre ANF1 was in its dying days, Repco were unable to sell it. Years later, after being a Repco display car Rodway Wolfe acquired it, eventually it commenced its second career as an historic racer in William Marshall, and then in Bib Stillwell’s capable hands.

jack

Jack Brabham Brabham BT31 Repco , Bathurst Easter 1969 between ‘Skyline’ and ‘The Dipper’. He tried the car both bi-winged and with rear wing only during practice, racing the car as shown. BT31 a one off car based on the F3 BT28. Repco 2.5 litre ‘830 Series’ SOHC, 2 valve V8, circa 295 BHP @ 9000 RPM (D Simpson)

The Tasman 2.5 Formula…

The Mount Panorama grid shows just how poor our domestic fields had become as the 2.5 litre formula came towards its end.

The Tasman 2.5 litre Formula commenced in 1964 in Australia and New Zealand. The Tasman Series, eight events initially- four in both Australia and NZ over two months in the southern Summer was well attended by works or semi-works cars from BRM, Lotus and Ferrari running 2.5 litre variants (bored versions of their 1.5 litre F1 engines out to about 2 or 2.1 litres, or ‘de-stroked’ versions of their 3 litre F1 engines) of their F1 engines.

Local competitors could, on more or less equal terms, compete with the internationals using cars in the early Tasman years powered by the Coventry Climax 4 cylinder FPF engine, dominant in the final years of the 2.5 Litre F1, and later on, from 1967, Repco’s Tasman V8’s which were available to anyone with the cash.

As the sixties went on it became harder to attract the European teams to the Tasman as the F1 season became longer and local competitors, other than a small number of teams, struggled with budgets to run a Repco.

Mind you, support in open-wheeler racing in Australia, whatever the era had always been a problem. It was time, in all the circumstances to consider a new ANF1.

CAMS were vacillated between 2 litre F2, to commence in Europe in 1972 and Formula A or Formula 5000, which used ‘stock block’ American V8’s which commenced in the US, but had ‘taken off’ in the UK in 1969.

CAMS announced the change to 2 Litres, which made sense as Merv Waggott’s engine had already proved competitive. Under pressure from Ford, Holden and Repco, all of whom had commercial interests in the V8’s introduced into Australian road cars in preceding years- ultimately and controversially in some quarters, F5000 became the new ANF1 from 1971, with the 2.5 Litre cars legal in the 1970 Tasman, F5000’s first Tasman season.

Jack came to Australia over Easter 1969 to fulfil his final series of commitments to Repco, as a non-resident he was ineligible for Gold Star points, either way he was a welcome addition to the thinning Gold Star grid.

He was a busy boy in April and May too.

He was at Bathurst in April, raced in the Spanish and Monaco Grands’ Prix in Barcelona and Monte Carlo on May 4 and 18, also practising, qualifying and then racing at Indianapolis on May 30. Indianapolis itself occupied a big chunk of May.

indy

Jacks car for the Indianapolis 500 in 1969 was the BT25 built the year before. In 1968 they (3 cars built by MRD) were raced throughout the season by Jack, Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory. Repco ‘760 Series’ 4.2 litre normally aspirated, alcohol fuelled V8, circa 500BHP @ 8500RPM. Hewland GB300 gearbox, chassis using sheet aluminium as a stressed member for the first time in a Brabham.

Jack engaged Peter Revson to drive the other BT25, the cars were powered by big 4.2 litre normally aspirated, alcohol fuelled ‘760 series’ Repco V8’s, close cousins of the F1 ‘860 Series’ engines which had given so much grief in 1968.

AJ Foyt was on pole at 170.568 MPH, with Jack on 163.875MPH, Revvie squeaking into the field as slowest qualifier at 160.851MPH. Revson showed his class in the race won by Andretti’s Hawk Ford, finishing fifth whilst Jack had ignition failure.

The cars were competitive that season Revson winning a race at Indianapolis Raceway Park later in the season.

jack and pete

Jack Brabham and Peter Revson at Indianapolis 1969

High Wings…

Looking at the Bathurst cars the high-wings stand out, pun intended.

They had grown larger and higher over the previous 12 months, developments in F1 emulating the wings used first by Chaparral on their Can-Am and World Sports Car Championship cars.

Things were about to change though after numerous failures to wings and their mounts- Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill both experienced near catastrophic failures of the wing mounts on their Lotus 49’s in Barcelona on May 4. The FIA acted decisively at Monaco, banning high wings in all classes globally after Monaco GP practice. There on Saturday, gone on Sunday.

Jack experimented with bi-wings in Bathurst practice, but had fuel feed problems problems so he qualified well back He settled for a wing on the rear, and went sans aero-assistance on the front for the race.

The fuel delivery problems were alleviated with the installation of the electric fuel pump from Repco Director, Charlie Dean’s Lancia and an on/off switch to avoid flattening the cars battery.

wings

Rodway Wolfe’s shot of Jack in practice, here with both front and rear high-wings, Mount Panorama, Easter 1969 (Rodway Wolfe)

The skinny grid looked even thinner by the time the cars appeared out of ‘Murrays’ and onto pit straight at the end of lap 1- Max Stewart and Niel Allen had a territorial dispute going into the Dipper tangling and neatly parking nose to nose high above the Bathurst Plains below.

maxxy

Niel Allen #2 and Max Stewart neatly parked high on the mount…’The Dipper’. McLaren M4A and Mildren Waggott respectively, Max extricating all 6’4” from the Mildren. Superb shot shows both the height and elevation of Mount Panorama (John Arkwright)

Jack cantered way and won the Bathurst Gold Star race, his last win in Australia, but one?…

Brabham retired from F1 at the end of 1970, but let’s come back to that in a little bit.

In 1971 Bob Jane promoted a Formula Ford ‘Race of Champions’ at Calder in August pitting some of the stars of the past and present against each other.

Kevin Bartlett, Frank Matich, Bib Stillwell, Alan Hamilton and Alan Moffat were amongst the drivers who took on Jack in his Bowin P4x. Jack Brabham Ford sponsored Bob Beasley who raced ‘Jacks’ car in the ‘Driver to Europe Series’, the Australian Formula Ford Championship that year. Brabham took the car to victory to much public acclaim…no way were one of the locals going to beat him having just retired!

So that little known FF event, I think, was JB’s last ever race win?

stillwell

Formula Ford ‘Race of Champions’. Calder August 15 1971. # 6 Bib Stillwell Elfin 600, in his old helmet!, #1 Jack Brabham Bowin P4x, # 7 Unknown Elfin 600, and the obscured car alongside Jack is Frank Matich in an Aztec. Trivia is that car # 6 is the Elfin 600 raced by Larry Perkins to win the FF Championship in 1971, Mike Stillwell raced the sister BS Stillwell Ford # 7 entry in the same Championship (Unattributed)

Jack ‘came back’ and did some touring car events in the mid- seventies including the Bathurst 1000 several times and even shared a Porsche 956 in the World Sports Car Championship race at Sandown in 1984, but I reckon that FF win was his last.

l34

In a promotional coup, Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss shared a Holden Torana L34 in the 1976 Bathurst 1000. Unfortunately the car had a driveline failure and was hit up the ar$e badly damaging the car. Patched together, the pair put on a show for the crowd but the car did not finish (autopics)

 

porker

# 56 Porsche 956 driven by Jack Brabham and Johnny Dumfries in the Sandown 1000 round of the World Endurance Championship in 1984. The car was a camera vehicle, and again a promotional coup but still competing, although suffered rear suspension failure so was a DNF. Brabham and Alan Jones careers did not overlap in F1 but both Australian World Champs competed in this race, Jones sharing another Rothmans Porsche with Vern Schuppan, also DNF. It was Jack’s first experience of a ground effect car, at 58, quite different to the last ‘serious car’ he drove, the Brabham BT33 Ford in which he finished the Mexican GP in 1970, he acquitted himself well (Pinterest)

 

jack 1

Whats it like out there Jack? It was a hot weekend, the challenge of the powerful ground-effects Porsche must have been considerable but Jack drove for over 2 hours in total, the car eventually failing. Whilst in works Rothmans colours it was a Richard Lloyd Racing 956

F1 in 1970…

These days F1 is all about youth, drivers start in Karts, some are in F1 before the age of 20. Jack was 44 when he commenced his last season and was incredibly competitive at an age F1 drivers these days are long since retired. It was to be a very full season for Jb in a large number of categories.

He won the season opening South African GP, made a last lap mistake at Monaco under pressure from Jochen Rindt whilst leading and came second.

He also finished second to Rindt in the British GP at Brands Hatch as well having passed him and was pulling away before running short of fuel on the last lap.

monaco

Brabham leading a gaggle of cars early in the Monaco GP 1970. Brabham BT33 Ford, Jean-Pierre Beltoise Matra MS120, Jacky Ickx Ferrari 312B, Denny Hulme McLaren M14A and one of the Lotuses…Jack led the race but Rindt gave the Lotus 49 its last victory in a phenomenal chase of Brabham, pressuring him into a last lap error into second place. Had Rindt re-joined Brabham for 1970, he enjoyed 1968 with them despite the foibles of the Repco ‘860 Series’ DOHC V8, instead of staying at Lotus Jack would have retired at the end of ’69 and Rindt, who knows? (Pinterest)

Brabham could have won the World Title in 1970 with a little more luck.

Mind you luck was in short supply that year, friends and former teammates, Bruce McLaren and Jochen Rindt as well as Piers Courage perished in 1970.

Grand Prix racing is the pinnacle and 1970 was a year of great depth. The grid comprised the established aces- Stewart, Rindt, Hill, Ickx, Hulme and Rodriguez, as well as young chargers in their first F1 year including Regazzoni, Peterson, Fittipaldi and our own Tim Schenken. Ferrari, Lotus, BRM, Brabham and March all won races in 1970 as well.

Ron Tauranac designed Jack a ‘pearler’ of a car for 1970. The team had been successful with space-frame chassis’ since it was formed. Chapman popularised the monocoque with his 1962 Lotus 25 but Brabham won championships in all formulae with their simple, user-friendly, easy to repair and forgiving cars. The latter was both a design feature and a function of Jack doing the final chassis settings before ‘sign-off’.

For 1970 monocoques had effectively been mandated by the FIA, new regulations demanded bag fuel tanks to improve the safety of the cars.

Tauranac’s first stressed-skin chassis was the BT25 ‘Indycar’ pictured earlier above. The BT33 could be said to be standard ‘Cosworth powered kit-car’- an aluminium monocoque, Ford DFV engine and Hewland gearbox were its essential elements, but it was a very good one, and was still very competitive in Tim Schenken’s hands in 1971.

bt33

This shot is at Hockenheim 1970, Stommelen’s car in front (5th), Jacks (DNF) at rear. Essential elements are the ‘bathtub’ aluminium monocoque chassis. Front suspension by top rocker and lower wishbone operating inboard mounted coil spring/damper unit. Gearbox and rear suspension ass’y rolls away for the engine change minimising time spent especially on time consuming wheel alignment in the field..mechanics will still align the car mind you, but not as big a job! The more you look, the more you see (Pinterest)

Matra…1970

Jack had decided to retire due to family pressure at the end of 1969 when he had agreed terms verbally with Jochen Rindt to rejoin the team for 1970.

Jochen enjoyed his Brabham season in 1968 despite the problems with the ‘860 Repco’ engine but ultimately asked Jack to release him from his undertaking as a consequence of an offer from Lotus which was too good to refuse. Had that Brabham Racing Organisation course of events transpired history would of course been quite different- Rindt died at the wheel of a Lotus 72 at Monza and won the 1970 World Championship posthumously.

Jack told his wife Betty he would compete for one more year, putting everything into that last season, and not just F1.

He participated in the World Sports Car Championship for Matra competing at Le Mans in an MS650, a spaceframed car using an endurance version of the companies F1 3 litre, 48 valve V12. He shared the car at Le Mans with Francois Cevert, but did not finish with engine failure.

He also did the lead up events to Le Mans including Daytona, tenth with Francois Cevert, Cevert breaking into F1 that year. He shared a car with Jean-Pierre Beltoise at Brands and Monza finishing twelfth and fifth respectively.

1970 and 1971 were the years of the ‘5 litre monsters’ the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512S, it was tough for 3 litre prototypes, Matra steadily evolved their cars to be the class of the field in 1973/4/5, but Jack enjoyed the season and having to simply to drive the car, not do literally everything else.

brands

In search of downforce…Brabham in the Matra MS650, Brands Hatch 1000Km, April 1970, 12th sharing the car with Beltiose (Pinterest)

And Indy…1970

Ron Tauranac adapted a BT25 monocoque car for the race using  a 2.65 litre turbo-charged 4 cylinder ‘Offy’ engine and Weissman gearbox.

Jack was classified thirteenth in the BT32 but had piston failure which carved the block in half. The race was won that year by Al Unser in a Colt Offy ‘Johnny Lightning Special’.

bt32

Formula 2 in a Brabham BT30…1970

pau

Pau GP 1970 front row L>R : Jochen Rindt on pole Lotus 69, Francois Mazet & Jack Brabham both in Brabham BT30’s. Green helmet in the second row is Henri Pescarolo in another Brabham BT30 and alongside Clay Regazzoni, Tecno 69. All Ford FVA powered. Rindt won from Pescarolo and Tim Schenken, also in a BT30 (DPPI)

John ‘Nuggett’ Coombs was a longtime privateer entrant running Brabhams and in 1970 had a ‘dream team’ of Jackie Stewart and Jack sharing a Brabham BT30.

Jack competed at Pau, Rouen and Tulln-Langenlebarn (Vienna), his best result second in the latter meeting to the Ickx BMW 270.

jack

Brabham ahead of Jochen Rindt at Pau, France 1970. Jack DNF, Rindt winning the race in his Lotus 69 Ford FVA. The European F2 Championship was won in 1970 by Clay Regazzoni in a Tecno Ford FVA. Brabham is driving a Brabham BT30 FVA owned by John Coombs (Pinterest)

Tasman Series 1970 and Retirement…

The only series Brabham didn’t contest that he usually did was the Tasman Series in our Summer, his Matra campaign commenced on January 31 at Daytona. It was the first year of the F5000 Tasman series, albeit the 2.5 Litre cars were still eligible- maybe he figured it wasn’t worth the effort as MRD didn’t build an F5000 car at the time? Either way he spent February in Australia and kept the peace on the home front with Betty, sort of.

Graham Lawrence won the Tasman series that year with his ex-Amon Ferrari 246T, consistently running with and beating the more powerful but less nimble F5000’s.

If only Jack had dusted off the BT31 which won at Bathurst the previous April, fitted current tyres and wings maybe he would have won the Tasman Series, a cup missing from his mantelpiece?

Jack said in later years that he felt he had another three or four competitive years in him. He recounts to Doug Nye in his biography that his father, who had always been his strongest supporter within the family, and reinforced his decisions to continue racing, advised him not to reconsider his retirement during 1970 given the deaths which occurred that season.

At the end of 1970 Jack returned to Australia to a farm near Wagga, his Jack Brabham Ford dealership in Sydney and his aviation interests at Bankstown in addition to investments in the UK.

What can you say about this remarkable Australian which hasn’t already been said?

To my way of thinking he is Australia’s greatest sportsman ever. No other individual performed at the same level for so long, was as innovative as he was, and took on the best in the world and won, both in terms of his driving and in the deployment of Australian technology.

RIP Jack Brabham, thank goodness you did retire at the end of 1970- at the top, alive and in one piece.

bt 31

Jack Brabham, sans wings, Sandown Tasman practice 1969…BT31 ‘830’ surely a competitive mount in Tasman 1970 had he entered? (Flickr)

 

jacks

Deep in set-up thought. Jack in his BT33 F1 car during Manaco 1970. ‘Jet Jackson’ fighter pilot helmet that he, Jackie Stewart and Piers Courage tried that year. Skiers goggles. No nomex gloves, leather, nice Rolex watch. Lovely shot which captures the essence of the guy i think!? (Getty Images)

Etcetera: Bathurst 1969…

bathurst

Jack Brabham , Bathurst practice Easter 1969. Brabham BT31 Repco ‘bi-winged’ in practice (Facebook)

 

bathurst 3

Brabham in the race which he won, sans front wing. Bathurst Easter 1969. (Facebook)

Etcetera: Calder FF Race 1971…

calder

 

calder

Brabham takes the spoils of victory…’Race of Champions’ Calder, Australia August 1971. Car is a Formula Ford Bowin P4X (Facebook)

Etcetera: F1 1970 and Brabham BT33…

bt 33 cutaway

Drawing of Ron Tauranacs’ 1970 Brabham BT33 Ford, Motor Racing Developments first ‘real’ monocoque chassis car

 

spain

Jarama, Spanish GP 1970. Avoiding the fire as a result of the Ickx/Oliver collision, both the Ferrari and BRM were destroyed but the drivers escaped an accident caused by a stub axle failure of the BRM (Pinterest)

 

monaco

Jack Brabham, Monaco 1970 . BT33 from above, wet Saturday practice (Pinterest)

 

rolf

Jack trying teammate Rolf Stommelens BT33 in Spain practice, both DNF in the race won by the March 701 Ford of Jackie Stewart (Pinterest)

Etcetera Matra…

daytona

daytona

Jack Brabham, Matra MS 650, Daytona 1970 (Nigel Smuckatelli)

Photo and Other Credits…

oldracingcars.com, Pinterest, Getty Images, ‘Jack Brabham with Doug Nye’, Nigel Smuckatelli, Dick Simpson, Wayne McKay, John Arkwright, Rodway Wolfe

Finito…