Posts Tagged ‘Brian Heard’

Repco Holden F5000 engine fitted to an Elfin MR5, date and place unknown, I suspect the wing has been airbrushed blue to obliterate the white/red Ansett logo which would have been there (Repco)

The progressive conclusion of the very successful business relationship between Repco and Jack Brabham throughout 1969 lead to another race winning Repco program with General Motors Holden, an F5000 V8 which first raced in 1970…

Common elements of both programs were the Tasman 2.5 litre Formula and engineer Phil Irving.

Jack Brabham’s brainchild for a cost effective competitive engine to replace the ageing Coventry Climax FPF in 2.5 Tasman Formula racing- the General Motors F85 Oldsmobile based Repco Brabham RB620 V8 was designed and drawn by Phil Irving and then adapted for rather successful 3 litre F1 use.

The end of the Tasman 2.5 Formula, the need for Repco to replace the Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. engine program with another promotional tool, the selection of Formula 5000 as the new Australian National Formula 1 and Phil Irving’s talents led to the design of a very successful race engine using Holden’s then new, designed and made in Australia ‘308’ 5 litre V8.

But it’s not as simple as all that of course! Australia’s change of our premier class over time- Australian National Formula One has usually been vexed in the extreme as those committed to and with an investment in the prevailing category hang on for grim death whilst those with an objective perspective can readily see the need for change.

Tasman ANF2.5 to F5000, F5000 to Formula Atlantic/Pacific, Formula Pacific to Formula Holden, Formula Holden to Formula 3 and the current push to modern F5000 ‘Thunder 5000’ cases in point. In fact the only agreeable change of ANF1 down the decades was the shift from Formula Libre, which had served us remarkably well since the dawn of time, to Tasman 2.5…

Pre-Tasman F Libre Longford 1961. Stan Jones looks our way from his Cooper T51 Climax whilst Bib Stillwell settles into his Aston Martin DBR4/250 (R Lambert)

Frank Matich’s Brabham BT7A Climax chases Graham Hill’s BT11A through Longford during the 1965 AGP, 2.5 FPF powered both. A local competing with the best in the world- a world class local BTW!  (HAGP)

Frank Hallam and Michael Gasking testing Weber carb jets on a Coventry Climax FPF engine at Repco, Richmond in the early sixties. Repco developed pistons, rings and bearings for these motors- which they eventually had a licence to build in full. RBE were still carrying and selling CC parts right thru the sixties (M Gasking)

The Tasman 2.5 Formula was immensely successful for Australasia…

The Formula neatly embraced the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine, F1’s champion engine in 1959/60 and in so doing allowed the locals access to a cost-effective competitive engine. New chassis were available, particularly from Motor Racing Developments (Brabham) so drivers could buy a car and go head to head on more or less equal terms with the best drivers in the world.

Both aspirants and world champions came here every summer for some competitive racing and to escape the European winter. That started to change when the F1 season became longer, winter testing more common and driver deals became more lucrative as a consequence of advertising on cars from 1968- sponsorship increased. Driver contracts themselves became more restrictive of competition outside F1 as sponsors had investments in drivers to protect. In short if you didn’t need to do the series to make the money and your contract precluded it anyway you didn’t make the long trip south, better to spend the winter in Zurs with a pretty lady of choice.

The first five helmets and their cars- Attwood, BRM 126 V12, Gardner Brabham T23D Alfa V8, Piers Courage McLaren M4A Ford FVA 4 cylinder, then Brabham’s Brabham BT23E Repco V8 and then a BRM P261 V8 belonging to Pedro Rodriguez. Warwick Farm Tasman 1968 (B McInerney)

Arguably the high-water mark of Tasman 2.5 racing was the 1968 Series which provided a truly mouth watering mix of cars- Lotus 49 Ford DFW V8, Lotus 39 Repco V8, BRM P261 V8, BRM P126 V12, Ferrari Dino 246T V6, Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo V8, Brabham BT23E Repco V8 various Ford FVA 1.6 four-cylinder F2’s and a good number of Repco V8 and Coventry Climax FPF engined Brabhams. Who needed an F1 GP when you had Clark, Hill, Rodriguez, McLaren, Amon, Brabham, Gardner and Attwood plus all the local hotshots ‘in town’ for eight consecutive weeks!?

The 2.5 Tasman Series provided the best motor racing Australasia has ever had. Full stop. But the domestic 2.5 championships, here the Australian Gold Star series was a different thing entirely.

To cut to the chase, the Australian motor racing economy, which banned other than trade support advertising on cars until 1968 simply could not or would not support enough 2.5 litre cars to create a grid of critical mass.

Why is this? It’s still the case now mind you, that is the inability to support an elite level single-seater category in this country. As much as we ‘purists’ dislike it, Australians like, make that love, touring car racing.

The tourers ascent started in the late fifties, accelerated in the sixties with an economy bubbling along well enough for drivers to be able to acquire and race interesting cars built in Europe and especially the US from the mid-sixties- and then we started building some sexy stuff ourselves. Throw in some charismatic characters and yerv gotta a pretty good show for both enthusiasts and ‘fringe people’ who could rock up to one of the short circuits popping up all over the place, take the babe, chomp on a burger and chips (they were chips pre-Maccas, not fries) and see how the blokes in ‘your’ Holden were going against the enemy in a Ford or Valiant.

Allan Moffat’s winning works Ford Falcon ‘XW’ GTHO Phase 2 leads a Holden Torana GTR XU1 and Ford Escort Twin-Cam through Murray’s Corner Bathurst during the 1970 500 (unattributed)

In comparison racing cars exited stage left.

Sweet spots were the teams of ex-drivers David McKay and Alec Mildren, Lex Davison’s death in early 1965 ended the Ecurie Australie team he was assembling after his intended retirement as a driver. And remember at this stage sponsorship was not allowed so the much higher costs of the cars relative to tourers could not be ameliorated or recovered.

So where did the available dollars and promoters go? With the touring car spectacle of course. It’s not quite that simple but it’s not much more complex either.

Hill, Amon, Clark, Lotus 49 Ford DFW, Ferrari Dino 246T and Lotus 49 Ford DFW. Front row of the grid for Saturday’s dry preliminary race Longford 1968, sadly the last. It rained cats and dogs on Monday, Piers Courage taking an historic win in his F2 McLaren M4A FVA (HRCCT)

Early in 1968 the Tasman 2.5 Formula was extended by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) to the end of 1970 whilst a new formula was worked out- the battle for the new ANF1 was on in earnest.

The mathematical average grid size of a Gold Star event in 1968 was 16.8 cars, the average number of 2.5 litre cars on those grids was 3.83 cars, the balance was made up of ANF1.5 or ANF2 cars- the speed of which sometimes put the 2.5’s in less than desirable light. It was tragic really, until the 3 litre F1 of 1966 we were racing the fastest single-seater road racers on the planet- that period from 1961 to the end of 1965 when F1 was a 1.5 litre formula.

So, something had to change, our illustrious and much maligned (usually rightly) organising body, the CAMS led by long serving chief John Keefe and founder Donald Thomson started to consider the alternatives.

Formulae openly canvassed were Euro F2, a 2 litre racing engine category, F5000 or Formula A as it then was in the US and the extension of the ANF 2.5 formula, not that many thought the latter would be the case.

In June 1968 ‘Racing Car News’ (RCN), then Australia’s national monthly magazine bible of racing ran a feature article about the creation of Formula A in the US. The magazine played a great role of dissemination of information throughout the period in question.

Formula A started in the US in 1967 where the 5 litre machines ran with Formula B, a class for 1.6 litre twin-cams. Even into 1968 these cars were clunkers really- the spaceframe ‘ex-T70 parts bin special’ Lola T140 and monocoque Eagle Mk5’s etc were noisy, spectacular cars in a way but hardly cars to lust about compared with our sophisticated beloved ANF 2.5’s. 5 litre numbers advanced again in 1968, but I wouldn’t have bet on FA/F5000 in early 1968 as our new ANF1.

Both cutaway and program cover are John Cannon and his Eagle Mk5 Chev- a man who was to become an Australasian F5000 regular

The RCN July 1968 issue ran an article entitled ‘Tasman: Death of a Series’ written by Rob Luck. The (I’m truncating heavily) article pronounced the series dead as a consequence of;

.Longford’s cessation as a circuit, the organisers simply could not afford to continue without a significant increase in the level of Tasmanian State Government investment- and the granting of ‘Longford’s first weekend in March’ by the FIA to the South African GP.

.The poor financial state of Lakeside and Sandown which limited Warwick Farm’s ability to fund drivers ‘on its own’.

Pro-actively RCN proposed a package of changes it saw as an attractive one to promoters and the punters- going alone from the Kiwis, with four meetings and a $100k prize pool with a bill comprising an international sportscar race of 100-200 miles, ANF1 and two 50 mile races, an event of the promoters choice and a 50 mile Formula Vee race.

The article says that Can Am may have been limited to 5 litres at the time, which didn’t happen- but that 5 litre Formula A was growing and that ultimately ‘we would have to fall in line with an international formula’ – which of course we eventually did.

The article predicted only 2/3 top drivers for the 1969 Tasman and questioned ‘Do we stop it now or PROCEED WITH THE DISASTER’ (RCN’s bolds)

Hengkie Iriawan testing his Euro F2 Elfin 600C Ford FVA upon delivery to the Indonesian international at Mallala, South Australia in early 1969. She is literally brand new (R Lambert)

European F2, 1.6 litres from 1967 was going gang-busters (and going 2 litres from 1972- not that that had been determined in 1968). We had seen some of these cars in Oz- Hulme’s Brabham BT23, Hill’s Lotus 48 and Piers Courage’s McLaren M4A spring to mind, the speed of the cars and ready availability of engines and chassis was clear to all.

Pure racing engines of 2 litres had appeal with the speed of the 1.6 litre Euro F2’s indicative of likely pace of more powerful 2 litre engines.

So it’s interesting to look back at the way things moved in both Australia and globally in that short two years to see how CAMS landed on 2 litres, then recanted and admitted F5000 and 2 litres but only for a while whence ANF1 became F5000 alone…

I don’t purport to cover all of the ‘realpolitic’, much of that happened behind closed doors but all of the moving parts at this time are germane to the outcome.

Merv Waggott changes plugs in his 2 litre motor- its Alec Mildren’s Kevin Bartlett driven Mildren Waggott at Teretonga in early 1970. KB gave the F5000’s plenty to think about during that series which included a win at home at Warwick Farm (Bill Pottinger)

Merv Waggott built a simply brilliant engine in his small Sydney workshop during 1968.

This operation at Greenacre in Sydney’s south-west was a mecca for racers and had ‘bread and butter’ work which included camshafts and general machining but Merv had a very comprehensive workshop and small foundry onsite and in the late-fifties built a chain driven, DOHC, 2 valve aluminium head to suit the Holden six-cylinder pushrod OHV ‘grey motor’- the engine which motorised the masses in Oz post-war.

The Waggott Holden engines raced successfully in sedans and small sportscars before CAMS changed the sedan racing rules, rendering the motor ineligible at the stroke of a pen. So, Merv was not unaware of the sometimes capricious nature of the Confederation’s decision making processes. Its a digression, but the corporate governance processes of CAMS- witness the obscene ‘process’ (its obscene to describe the process as a process!) which resulted in more recent times in the choice of Formula 4 in this country- and fucking over Formula Ford and the businesses which supported the FF class in F4’s introduction show CAMS decision making processes are no more advanced now than they were in the organisations infancy.

Waggott Holden engine in John French’s Australian GT Championship winning Centaur Waggott in 1962 (unattributed)

Nice Waggott Engineering collage focussed around the Waggott Holden motor- in car is the Centaur Waggott (Waggott Engenieering)

 

Nonetheless, Merv could see the commercial opportunity of building an engine to take on the Ford FVA 1.6 litre motor, and did just that with the intention of supplying it locally and regionally. Waggott first put design pen to paper in June 1968, the engine was announced circa October 1968 with feature articles in both RCN and Australian Autosportman magazines at the time. It first raced in early 1969.

His 1.6 litre Waggott TC-4V, Lucas fuel injected motor was based on the good ole Ford Cortina block, as was the Cosworth FVA- initially found success in one of Alec Mildren’s chassis but was soon being built in 2 litre form with a bespoke block. It still blows my tiny mind to think of what Merv achieved with the resources he had, there has never been a more successful series of motors produced in Australia with so little money. The CAMS were well aware of what was going on in Sydney of course.

At the ‘big end of town’, and there is a bit of the usual Melbourne/Sydney rivalry in all of this, (CAMS were and are Melbourne based) Holden and Ford, both based in Melbourne were pushing their new V8 engines.

Whilst Australian’s talked V8’s they still bought what they could afford- 6 cylinder engines, but yer dad was ‘the big swingin dick’ in the local ‘hood if he drove a V8- the first local pony car and 1967 Bathurst winner was Ford’s Falcon XR GT four-door sedan, powered by FoMoCo’s 289 cid Windsor V8. So, Holden and Ford wanted F5000, it dovetailed in with their racing programs and marketing ends.

Barry Cassidy’s Ford Falcon GT ‘XR’ at Longford in 1968. XR GT the first in a long line of great road and racing cars (HRCCT)

The V8 Fever taking hold in Oz accelerated hard (sic) in 1968 with the build of the Ford Falcon XT GT 302 V8- and the release of the General Motors Holden Monaro, the 2 door coupe variant of Australia’s best selling four-door 6 cylinder car. The range topping Munro was powered by the Chev small-block 327 V8, there was also a 307 V8 version. Bang for buck these cars, and those which followed them over the next decade or so were phenomenal cars globally.

The GTS 327 won the Bathurst 500 in 1968 and Group E Series Production racing exploded with the availability of fast, locally built cars for which a driver had a halfway decent chance of attracting a bit of sponsorship from the local dealer to go racing.

The point here is that the promoters were getting plenty of bums on seats to see Series Production and Improved Production V8’s- the single-seater boys almost needed to compete on equal V8 terms to maintain their relevance. In the eyes of many, especially the promoters, a sophisticated, small, light, four-cylinder high revving engine simply wasn’t going to cut the mustard with the punters.

Repco Brabham RB860 3 litre V8 aboard a Brabham BT26 during the 1968 GP season. Cars were quick but unreliable, Rindt was on the front 2 rows on 3 occasions amongst all the DFV’s- 6 that year (Sutton)

Meanwhile over in Europe Repco were having a shocker of a season in Formula Uno.

There was nothing wrong with Ron Tauranac’s BT26 Brabham chassis but Repco’s new, complex, gear driven, four-valve, DOHC 3 litre ‘860’ V8 was late arriving as Repco persevered with the ‘850’ radial-valve engine for way too long- a call made by Frank Hallam well after his engineers pronounced the thing a dog, and an engine which would have been almost impossible to fit into a car in any event, given its exhaust system. Repco should not be criticised for pursuing an innovative approach, BMW were amongst others trying this cylinder head design at the time- but Repco’s hitherto pattern of building its new season engines early enough to test them in race conditions during the Tasman before the F1 season commenced had served them well in 1966 and 1967, and was to its cost in 1968.

I’ve not written about the 860 engine or ’68 F1 season yet, the point here is that Repco were enduring a season which would cause them, and Jack Brabham, to call time on their very successful partnership which stretched back to the dawn of the sixties development of Jack’s Coventry Climax FPF engines in Repco’s Richmond, Melbourne workshops.

Repco would soon be looking for a cost-effective promotional race program for 1969 and beyond, and a means to keep its highly experienced race engineers gainfully employed building and maintaining race engines.

I love this shot of two great mates- car owner Glynn Scott and his Bowin P3 Ford FVA with Leo Geoghegan loaded up for a race in Glynn’s new car, Oran Park 1968/9 (Bowin)

Throughout 1968 Sydney’s John Joyce, back from a several year stint at Lotus, was building the first Bowin- the P3 was an advanced monocoque chassis to which was fitted a Ford Cosworth FVA 1.6 engine owner/driver Glynn Scott acquired from Piers Courage at the end of of the ’68 Tasman. By the end of the year Scotty had a somewhat lucky Sandown Gold Star victory in the P3’s debut season.

Also on the Australian chassis front Garrie Cooper built the first of his Elfin 600 spaceframe cars in early 1968 and promptly won the Singapore Grand Prix in it- this series of cars raced and won in FF, F3, F2 and ANF2.5 V8 from 1968-71 and beyond. The 600 was another local car which was designed for 1.6-2 litre racing engines- the point that Australia’s Adelaide based ‘volume producer’ of racing cars had such a design in production was probably not lost on the Confederation.

Bob Britton’s Rennmax BN3 design, built on his Brabham BT23 jig, was another car to which 1.6-2.5 litre engines were suited.

Jochen Rindt on the way to a soggy, stunning ‘Warwick Farm 100’ Tasman win in 1969, Lotus 49 Ford DFW (D Simpson)

Despite the predictions of disaster about the 1969 Tasman Series by many, it ended up being a beauty!

Chris Amon brought back his factory Dino’s with Derek Bell this time driving a second car albeit running it  to a tighter rev-limit than Chris. Team Lotus entered Lotus 49 DFW’s for ’68 World Champ and new-signing Jochen Rindt who was a man on an awesome mission to prove he was the fastest fella on the planet. Piers Courage returned but this time with a Frank William’s owned Brabham BT24 Ford DFW, his performances in the Pacific that summer were a portent of speed in Williams ex-works Brabham BT26 Ford DFV that F1 season. Alec Mildren rose to the challenge with a new monocoque Alan Mann Racing built Mildren Alfa- it used the same Tipo 33 2.5 V8’s from the year before- perhaps the cars only shortfall was the lack of a wing package from the start of the series. Together with all of the locals it was a great Tasman- Amon was victorious in his Dino 246T with logistics taken care of by David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce.

At the start of 1969 Formula 5000 had been adopted in the UK and South Africa, it was also of course going ahead in leaps and bounds in the land of its birth. By way of example twelve 5 litre cars were entered at Laguna Seca’s October 1968 meeting with twenty-six cars at Mont-Tremblant, roughly 12 months later, in early September 1969.

Blonde haired George Eaton checks out the progress of his new McLaren M10A ‘300-02’, the first Trojan built customer car together with Paul Cooke in Toronto just before the first American FA championship round at Riverside in early 1969. Note the lovely ‘full’ monocoque chassis and beautiful quality of build and fabrication. First M10A was the McLaren built works car Peter Gethin drove to the first British Championship win that year (unattributed)

Bruce McLaren saw the commercial opportunity and adapted his M7 F1 design into the M10A F5000- the first 5 litre car that was the ‘real deal’- John Surtees’ Len Terry designed Surtees TS5 was another worthy F5000 of that year- the class very much had momentum.

In Melbourne motorsport entrepreneur Jim Abbott- he of Melbourne Motor Show, Lakeland Hillclimb and AutoSportsman magazine fame bought Alec Mildren’s Brabham BT23D- the car in which Kevin Bartlett had won the 1968 Gold Star and fitted a Trac0-Olds V8 and ZF gearbox so creating Australia’s first F5000 to give we locals an eyeful of what such machines looked like. Its another digression but Australia’s first F5000 was arguably Austin Miller’s Geoff Smedley modified Cooper T51 Chev Oz Land Speed Record holder but that too is a story for another time.

Pretty as a picture and just as fast. Max Stewart’s Mildren Waggott during the Sandown Tasman round, Pit Straight, in 1970 (D Simpson)

Over in Greenacre Merv Waggott had put the finishing touches to the first of his Waggott TC-4V 1.6 litre engines and supervised its installation into Alec Mildren’s Bob Britton built Mildren spaceframe machine which had originally been fitted with an Alfa Romeo F2 1.6 litre, four valve, injected motor in mid-1968.

Max raced the Waggott engined car in the opening round of the 1969 Gold Star championship at Symmons Plains in March- he qualified 5th amongst the 2.5’s and raced strongly until fuel metering unit problems intervened.

Throughout 1969 Waggott developed the 1.6 litre prototype engine, an 1850cc variant using the Ford block- it first competed at Surfers Paradise in October as well as a jewel of a 2 litre engine which was built around Waggott’s own bespoke aluminium block/cast iron crankcase- the first of these engines won the Gold Star season ending Hordern Trophy race at Warwick Farm in the hands of Kevin Bartlett. The then circa 260 bhp engine was fitted to the Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ monocoque racer originally built with the Alfa 2.5 V8 raced by Gardner in the ’69 Tasman.

 

In early 1969- March, we had four 1.6 litre 4 valve cars racing in Oz- the Stewart Mildren, Scott Bowin P3 and McLaren M4A’s raced by Niel Allen and Alf Costanzo (Tony Osborne’s car) with plenty of Waggott engines to come.

Whilst 5 litre momentum gathered, the 4 cylinder motors could not be denied- they were not ‘maybes’- they were out there racing and impressing with their speed. The pressure was well and truly on CAMS. Australia now had a local engine and plenty of alternative chassis into which it could be installed.

In April the much respected Peter Wherrett penned an RCN article ‘F5000: The Sound and Fury’ in which he revealed the views of many from within the sport- there was support by most interviewed, reservations generally were about the purported lower cost of F5000, which few saw as being likely.

Much respected Warwick Farm promoter Geoff Sykes saw F5000 as ‘…no real alternative anyway’ with Scuderia Veloce/journalist David McKay and the Holden Dealer Team’s Harry Firth all in the 5 litre push. Mind you, Firth was hardly independent of thought- he was paid to think as Holden thought.

Drivers Kevin Bartlett, Leo Geoghegan ‘expressed their reservations about F5000’…Geoghegan doubting it would be as relatively inexpensive as it’s promoters claimed….Garrie Cooper thought it a good thing but with the rider that it would be just as expensive as the 2.5 litre formula.

So, at this stage I know which way I would have been jumping had I been CAMS. With Ford, Holden, Repco, spectacle and local chassis manufacturers capable of building either class of car, and locals being able to take their cars and compete overseas I would have announced F5000 as the new ANF1.

But no!

In July 1969 the CAMS National Council (Board) met in Melbourne and announced 2 litre as the new ANF1. RCN got in behind the decision and proclaimed ‘…the 2 litre formula is here- and here to stay, and it will be the greatest success Formula ever in Australian motor racing history’.

The reaction to the decision was immense both from fans across the country and within the industry- it was a sport but even by that stage a business which employed thousands both directly and indirectly.

Frank Matich wanted- and bought an F5000! The speedy Sydneysider was back in a single-seater for the first time since early 1966, when he commenced his very successful sportscar period.

His McLaren M10A Chev arrived in early August 1969 just after CAMS made their 2 litre decision and first raced in Australia in September 1969. Frank knew just how the Americans rolled having competed in the ’67 Can Am with his SR3 Repco V8. He could see- and did compete in US F5000 with his own cars powered by the Repco Holden F5000 V8’s, his clarity of vision for what F5000 could mean for local competitors was 100% clear. That is, the ability to race at home and overseas in a global category on equal terms.

Frank Matich’s new McLaren M10A Chev before it’s first race at Warwick Farm in 1969. At this stage the car is powered by a Traco prepped Chevy on carbs (D Kneller)

In September RCN ran a ‘Formula Forum’ in which letters from interested parties put their view, the push for F5000 was strident both in RCN and across the sport talking to those who were around at the time.

Also at the big end of town, in St Kilda Road Melbourne to be precise were Repco. By that stage Repco Ltd Director, former AGP competitor and Maybach builder Charlie Dean was in full control of Repco Brabham Engines Pty Ltd. Dean was keen to both promote Repco’s engineering expertise and products and give the RBE boys something to do as the RBE V8 build and maintenance program progressively wound down.

Malcolm Preston wrote of Repco’s representations to adopt F5000 as follows, note that at what stage of the CAMS decision making deliberations the Repco Boardroom lunch described below took place is not stated.

‘CAMS were fence sitting. Charlie Dean hosted a private lunch with CAMS executive Donald Thomson and myself in the Repco directors dining room of the Repco Ltd head office, a magnificent period building situated at 630 St Kilda Road…Don Thomson was a co-founder of CAMS and a somewhat rebellious individual, who firmly believed that mototsport should be freely accessible to all competitors at all levels. He was opposed in principle to corporate bodies such as Repco and GMH gaining a controlling interest, or exercising undue influence on any sphere of motor sport. As a long time fellow participant with Charlie in ground level motor sport during the early post-war period, Donald eventually yielded to him in not opposing the introduction of F5000.’

Within two months of its initial 2 litre ANF1 announcement, in response to the punters and more powerful forces, CAMS rolled over and announced the new ANF1 would now include F5000 and free design 2 litre cars.

CAMS saw this as a compromise to keep all the factions happy, but it was rather a complete mess, the rollout in particular. It went like this;

.The 1970 Tasman Series was run to Tasman 2.5 (allowing 2 litre engines of course) and F5000

.The 1970 Gold Star was run to Tasman 2.5 regs (again allowing 2 litre engines) which meant those who owned an F5000 left it on the sidelines for a year, they were ineligible to race in Oz championship events. However, the November 1970 Australian Grand Prix- the AGP was normally part of the Gold Star admitted F5000 as well as ANF2.5’s. The AGP that year was not a Gold Star round. Confused?

.The 1971 Tasman and Gold Star were both run to F5000 and 2 litre categories, 2.5 Tasman cars were Tasman legal but not Gold Star eligible

.From 1 January 1972 F5000 was the Tasman and Gold Star formula albeit 2 litre cars did also score points

As is often the case compromises keep no-one really happy. That was the case-in which case the compromise could be said to be equally fair on everyone- all were pissed off!

Merv Waggott and his 2 litre engine, annoyed though he was, was a big winner. His engines were eligible and as it transpired won both the 1970 and 1971 Gold Star’s and made some of the F5000’s look like slugs in the 1970 Tasman Series. He built at least eleven of his TC-4V motors, many of which are still around with several running in historic racing. Had 2 litre not been allowed CAMS would have ‘hung Merv out to dry’, but they did not.

Its important to note that the Waggott 2 litre engines, with their bespoke block were not Euro F2 legal from 1972 to 1976, when, finally, ‘racing engines’ were admitted by the FIA. Renault wanted it, so the FIA, of course agreed. Ford solved its Euro F2 block problem by homologating the 2 litre BDG aluminium block by fitting enough of them into RS Escorts- the Ford cast-iron blocked BDA wouldn’t stretch happily beyond about 1850-1860cc as Merv knew so well. Waggott could not solve his homologation problems quite so easily as Ford. Merv’s 1.6 litre TC-4V was Euro F2 legal, using the homologated production Cortina block until the end of the 1971 season when the formula changed from 1.6 to 2 litres, but sadly no one ever raced one of the engines against the Europeans on their own turf.

The F5000 supporters were happy of course but in some ways the pickup of the category in Australia was slower than it might have been had F5000 been mandated on its own from 1 January 1971.

For example, Leo Geoghegan and Max Stewart went down the 2 litre Waggott route rather successfully- winners of the Gold Star in 1970 and 1971 (Lotus 59 and Mildren) whereas they would have to have gone down the F5000 route otherwise. As Australian enthusiasts know, Max did go F5000 in 1972 and Leo retired from open-wheelers- but only for a bit coming back to win two ANF2 titles with Birrana 272/3/4’s in 1973/4. The point is our competitors had a choice of alternatives rather than being forced down one path at the time of the change.

Into 1972 there was some momentum in F5000 numbers with FM’s Matich A50 Repco, Bartlett, Muir and Campbell in Lola T300’s and Cooper, McCormack, Stewart and Walker in Elfin MR5’s plus ‘occasionals’ like Don O’Sullivan and Stan Keen after he bought Walker’s MR5 when he jumped across to a Matich.

Politics and power is never pretty is it?!

With the category decision finally made, the race amongst competitors was on to find the money, chassis and engine to be competitive in the new class.

Holden and Repco F5000 Partnership…

Both Phil Irving and Malcolm Preston, Designer of the engine and General Manager of Redco Pty. Ltd. the Repco subsidiary which built them have sections of their books devoted to the design and development of the engine, much of the balance of this article comprises quotes from those books with some in-fill from me.

Irving’s material is in normal font and Preston’s in italics. Hopefully this is not too confusing, but it seems to me worthwhile- with such great firsthand information i am keen to use it verbatim rather than the dilution inevitable when one interprets others words.

The extensive race success of the engine will be a separate article, the focus here is on its design, construction and development.

As written earlier, I’ve not yet written about the 1968 F1 season and Repco’s windup of their Grand Prix program with Brabham. But in brief, in 1969 Repco competed at Indy with Brabham- Don Halpin looked after Jack at Indy together with Brabham mechanic Ian Lees. Repco continued to support Repco 2.5’s V8’s in Tasman and Gold Star competition- including an appearance by Brabham at Bathurst that Easter, and sponsored Frank Matich’s Matich SR4 5 litre ‘760’ V8 in the Australian Sportscar Championship- John Mepstead was given the task of looking after the engine and was based in the Matich Sydney north-shore workshops during the season.

There was also a race engine project for Pontiac, more of that another time and the build of a 5 litre ‘740’ V8 for Queensland sportscar racer Lionel Ayers, so there was more than enough to do to keep the RBE Maidstone team busy.

Charlie Dean put a proposal to the Repco Board that some of the RBE facilities and staff be retained to service existing customers. In essence the Repco Engine Development Company (Redco) was formed and inherited some of the existing RBE team, Maidstone space and facilities- which it shared with Repco Dynamics, a company also under Dean’s control which made wheel balancing equipment.

RBE and Redco was in the powerful, motor racing very friendly hands of Charlie Dean…

Dean appointed RBE Chief Engineer Norm Wilson to run Redco with Brian Heard as design draftsman, David Nash as workshop foreman and CNC programmer/machinist. Don Halpin was leading hand/fitter, John McVeigh machinist/fitter, John Mepstead machinist/fitter, John Brookfield machinist, David McCulloch apprentice and Rod Wolfe storeman. The balance of the RBE team were redeployed throughout the Repco Group or left the organisation.

At the same time as the ANF1 debate was proceeding Norm Wilson declined the opportunity to run Redco with Dean then offering the role to Malcolm Preston who had been employed by Holden and therefore ‘understood’ their ways- he accepted the position of General Manager in July 1969.

I had the opportunity to speak with Malcolm a number of times during the last 12 months of his life- John McCormack introduced me to him for input into the article I wrote on Mac’s McLaren M23 Repco Leyland. A delightfully understated, modest man he spoke of his inexperience in the design and build of racing engines, and that he saw his role was to get the best out of a team of people who had done it before. A role he did admirably!

‘Soon after my appointment Charlie Dean and I met with Holden’s Chief Engineer George Roberts and Fred James, who, together with Designer Ed Silins (known as ‘cylinder-ed’) had been largely responsible for the design of the new Holden V8 engine.’

‘Fred James proposed that if Repco undertook to use the Australian designed and manufactured Holden V8 engine as a basis for development in accordance with proposed Formula 5000 regulations, then Holden would supply engines and parts at cost price. Holden further agreed that they would give consideration to modification of parts supplied in line with requests by Repco, and in accordance with minor variants which might be feasible without disrupting production tooling. This was in the form of a gentleman’s agreement with no formal contract’.

Charlie Dean engaged Phil Irving as a consultant to lead the design of the new engine.

Repco aficionados will appreciate the irony of this- the return of the prodigal son who was banished, or walked out of Maidstone after the progressive breakdown in the relationship between he and his RBE Pty Ltd boss, General Manager Frank Hallam in early 1966.

With Charlie Dean in control of Redco and Frank Hallam a long way away on the other side of Melbourne at Repco Research in Dandenong the way was clear for Irving- who had first collaborated with Dean on Maybach 3 in the mid-fifties, then designed the Repco Hi-Power cylinder head for the Holden six-cylinder ‘Grey Motor’ and of course later still the 1966 World Championship winning ‘RBE620’ V8 to return to the fold.

Phil Irving at Adelaide International in 1974- he was there that weekend to oversee John McCormack’s Repco Leyland F5000 engine Elfin MR6- a story for another time (J Lemm)

Malcolm Preston wryly and affectionately observed in relation to P.E Irving, OBE’s return;

‘…With a degree of grumbling Phil eventually adjusted a drawing board and frame to his liking, and reviewed the drawings and components which GMH had supplied to Redco…Irving’s contract with Redco was on a relatively informal basis. He was expected to attend on most days, Monday to Friday, for as many hours as was convenient for him between the hours of 8 am and as late as he wished. At this time he had a new partner Edith Neilson, who managed to introduce a degree of orderly timing into his life, such that we generally had a good idea as to when and how long we could rely on his attendance, with a fair degree of probability. When he wasn’t about, work proceeded unabated, whilst when present his valuable advice was often sought by both design and workshop staff.’

I rather suspect Frank Hallam would have appreciated Edith Neilson’s presence in Phil’s life in 1965/6 in order that he also had a greater degree of predictabilty as to the great designers whereabouts!

The Formula 5000 regulations mandated that the block and cylinder head castings of the base engine must be used as well as push-rod valve actuation. Metal could be removed freely but ‘the addition of metal’ was not allowed.

Phil Irving on the process of design and construction of the motor- ‘We had a lot of Holden’s engine drawings and production V8 components to study while we worked out how to turn a mass-produced engine into some sort of a racer’.

Holden’s new family of Australian V8’s comprised 253 and 308 cid engines, both were considered as the base engine for the project.

‘The Holden 308 engine had a capacity of 5047cc, with a bore of 4 inches and stroke of 3.062 inches, whilst the smaller 253 cubic inch version (4146cc) had a bore of 3.625 inches with the same stroke. The 253 block could not be bored out further on account of its larger water passages. The options were thereby to retain the 4 inch bore and machine new crankshafts or retain the crankshaft size and alter the bore size.’

‘In order to achieve the specified engine capacity of less than 5 litres, it was initially planned to machine the nodular iron crankshaft castings, provided by GMH to a reduced stroke of 3 inches. This option proved to be prohibitively costly so it was decided to use a smaller bore size of 3.960 inches. To this end, part machined 308 cid cylinder blocks were obtained from GMH and machined at the Repco city (Melbourne) machine shop to a bore size of 3.960 inches, to achieve a capacity of 4990 cc. Technically this might have been seen as ‘adding material’, however since the castings were fairly generous in dimensions, no concerns were raised.’

Repco motor in Dave Powell’s Matich A50 ‘001/2’ in the mid-seventies, note the raised inlet ports (A Trowbridge)

(A Trowbridge)

‘The cast-iron block appeared to be reasonably rigid, and although it was not possible to cross-bolt the main bearing caps there was enough material in the main bearing panels to allow the intermediate main bearing caps  to be converted from two-bolt location to four-bolt.

For the racing engines we obtained blocks from Holden with the bores unmachined. This enabled us to reduce the bore by 1 mm from the production 101.6 mm, which then brought  the capacity to the 5 litre ceiling and allowed us to get the required finish on the bore surfaces.’

‘Repco workshop manager Tom Jarvis personally supervised the line boring and other operations on F5000 engine components which always met Redco’s exacting specifications.’

Irving wrote that ‘The only major change made to the Holden block was early in its racing life, after some problems with the rear main bearing oil seal. Holden told us the alteration would cost us the staggering sum of 1200 pounds, which Repco would have to pay. I replied that if they cared to actually examine their patterns they would find that the proposed changes would cost virtually nothing. They did look at the patterns and realised it was a simple thing to change and all the production Holden V8’s used the revised block after that’.

A case of racing improves the breed!

‘The crankshaft needed a lot of work. A specially manufactured racing crankshaft was ruled out as being too expensive, and we had to adapt the production Holden crank. I did not feel happy about its oilways and modified the big-end oil supply to be similar to that used on the Repco-Brabham V8’s. The basic Holden item was a nodular iron casting and quite high quality for a production engine. We arranged to have the finish grinding done at Repco, where we could apply racing standards of finish, and this also allowed us to use a larger fillet radius. Combined with careful balancing  and special heat-treating we were eventually able to get a racing life of around 16 hours from the essentially standard crankshaft- which was handling nearly double it’s production power and revs’.

Derek’s shot of Irving’s Repco valve gear on the move, technical details as per the text (D Kneller)

‘The rules for Formula 5000 obliged us to retain pushrod valve operation, but individual components could be redesigned or replaced. I drew new cam followers, with a curved contact surface, to replace the standard flat Holden follower, and designed new rockers which pivoted on needle-rollers and used eccentric bushes for valve clearance adjustment without needing the extra weight of the usual ball and locknut method. The pushrods were made up in the usual way using silver steel tubing, but we had some inexplicable breakages. I decided that if the pushrods were determined to break I might as well decide where the break was to take place. Accordingly, I redesigned them as two-piece pushrods, using an intermediate slider which in turn operated a short pushrod which worked the rocker.’

‘The sliders were made from mild steel, case hardened, and ran in the cylinder head pushrod tunnels, suitably bored out. This two-piece pushrod system never caused any problems and usefully increased the stiffness of the valve train.’

The Repco Holden engine, like all previous Repco racing engines, used cast pistons manufactured by Repco itself. Forged pistons were considered essential by many people who specialised in American-style V8’s, but my view was that Repco had the capacity to make a very good cast piston and, on average, I would say our cast pistons were more reliable than any of the forged ones’.

Malcolm Preston is also sanguine about forged pistons.

‘In practice many of the readily available forged pistons are a compromised design with deep, heavy crowns and extended gudgeon bosses, to suit a range of applications, without being optimum for any.’

‘The piston ring package was designated by Nigel Tait to provide good combustion sealing per the Dykes type top ring, together with minimum friction of the oil control rings through reduced spring loading on the scraper segments. The rings were chrome faced which necessitated particular care with cylinder honing to ensure bedding of the rings.’

‘Nigel also assisted in specification of the gudgeon pins along with engine bearings and sintered bushes, all of which were manufactured by (Repco subsidiaries) Russell Manufacturing and Repco Bearing Company’.

‘Phil designed fully machined connecting rods which were extremely expensive to manufacture. Rods were also machined from forgings supplied by Repco Forge Company which, whilst of adequate strength, were heavy and difficult to balance into sets especially when a replacement was required. The availability of suitable connecting rods remained a critical item throughout the F5000 engine project’ Preston notes.

Don Halpin in this Repco PR shot (Repco)

 

Irving- ‘The Holden V8 was broadly similar to the Chevrolet V8 which was the most popular alternative Formula 5000 engine, but the Holden engine was slightly more compact and slightly lighter. During the development of the engine for racing we took the opportunity to redesign some components, such as the valley cover, the slide-throttle housings and the elbows for the intake trumpets from magnesium. The special drive housing for the distributor and the fuel injection was made in aluminium, as were the drive pulleys at the front of the engine for the water pump  and the belt-driven dry-sump pumps.’ Malcolm Preston notes that Brian Heard designed the slide throttle (later replaced by butterflies) inlet manifolds and the auxiliary drive assembly on which to mount the Lucas fuel metering unit, high pressure fuel pump and distributor.

‘Ready for installation in a car, the Repco-Holden weighed 490 lbs’ Irving said.

Early slide injection Repco Holden V8, with these exhausts, its  probably destined for a boat (Repco)

The RCN February 1970 issue reported that ‘The Repco modified 253 (sic) Holden engine to be used by Frank Matich in the M10A McLaren went on the engine dyno on Saturday January 24. If everything checks out alright the engine will go straight into the car for the Australian rounds of the Tasman…Matich may have to resort to the so far very reliable Chev’ the report says which was always the plan, that is, to run the Chev that Tasman.

Irving- ‘The cast iron Holden heads were not ideal for maximum power, because the inlet ports were difficult to reshape and were laid out to suit the production inlet manifold. However, using about 11:1 compression ratio and a camshaft with 100 degrees of overlap, we obtained around 440 bhp at 6800 rpm by mid-1970’.

In fact the first engine was not tested in January but in February 1970 when ‘RGM1’ for ‘Repco General Motors’ burst into life on the GB490EH dyno cell in Maidstone.

‘The ignition timing and fuel had been set fairly conservatively, that is slightly retarded and rich…The engine was cranked over for a minute of two with the plugs removed…With plugs installed the engine eventually staggered, rather than sprang to life.’

‘The engine was run for an hour or so at around 4000 rpm, with a high loading to bed in the piston rings and also the cam followers to the camshaft…Variations of ignition timing and fuel metering settings were evaluated, along with alternative plug types and heat range. Valve lash clearances were established by hot checks and stroboscopic light observation. The injection timing had very little effect on power. It was later found in subsequent tests that mounting the injectors high in the trumpets was beneficial to both power and drivability, despite the fuel mist visible above the trumpets.’

‘Once optimum settings of ignition and fuel had been established, maximum power checks were conducted at 500 rpm intervals between 4000 and 7000 rpm. A maximum figure of around 425 bhp was achieved at 6500 rpm. To be competitive a minimum of 450 would be necessary, whilst our short term goal was 475 bhp and ultimately 500 plus, so there was much development ahead’.

‘A Morse Test was conducted by operating the engine at full load whilst progressively disconnecting the high tension leads from one cylinder at a time. The power loss for each cylinder was indicative of its efficiency.

It was later confirmed that the end cylinders produced slightly less power than those located near the centre of the heads, which did not relate to gas flow through the ports. The shape of the inlet passages and their entry to the combustion chambers of the cylinder heads is a slightly different configuration for the inner and outer cylinders with the Holden heads.’

Early dyno tests included evaluation of alternative inlet passage lengths, by means of alternative trumpets attached to the slide throttle body passages. Variations of exhaust pipe primary length were tried. Later on different megaphone taper and dimensions were tried. As a result of the uneven firing pulses of the conventional V8 crankshaft, the Holden engine was not as responsive to exhaust tuning as the purpose built RBE V8’s which used single plane crankshafts, with which the firing phases of each cylinder head are evenly spaced.

‘After about four hours testing, whilst running at moderate speed and load the engine suddenly haemorrhaged…with a connecting rod projecting through the cylinder block, amidst a profusion of oil and water…A gudgeon pin had become displaced on account of a dislodged circlip…The engine was rebuilt as RGM 1A, the pistons of which were fitted with tangless circlips, together with minimum end clearance of the fully floating gudgeon pins’.

During further testing the engine was responsive to inlet passage length changes, slightly more power was shown with shorter trumpets at high rpm. Major changes to the exhaust had little effect, as noted above, at a later stage a cross-over exhaust was tried to little effect. Any of you who remember Garrie Cooper’s Elfin Chev running in that configuration will recall how wild it sounded. The adoption of a flat plane crankshaft was the solution to unlock a big chunk of power and was adopted later in 1973.

As the time approached to track test the first engine Frank Matich was given a mock-up of the engine, by that stage he had bought a new McLaren M10B to replace his M10A, albeit this car had been modified to all intents and purposes to M10B specifications.

The engine had a 10 mm aluminium plate interposed between the water pump and timing cover for attachment to the McLaren aluminium monocoque. Frank’s team provided Redco with framework representing the McLaren’s rear bodywork which the Maidstone lads attached to another engine mock up which was then sent to Lukey Exhausts for construction of a system to all the prescribed lengths of primary and secondary pipes to fit within the confines of the McLaren’s chassis.

‘…RGM 1C…was tested with the (M10B) car exhaust system and with further tuning produced an output of 470 bhp @ 7500 rpm following which it was forwarded to Matich…he conducted extensive testing on Warwick Farm’s short circuit, some of which I attended with a Redco technician’.

The Repco Holden F5000’s first race was at Warwick Farm on 12 July 1970.

Frank got a poor start in the feature race but led by lap 9 ahead of Niel Allen’s McLaren M10B Chev. On lap 12 the torsional vibration damper of Niels Chev engine broke- and cut the cars brake lines whereupon Niel ploughed into Frank at Creek Corner outing both cars. It was a promising debut all the same. At Calder on 16 October Frank won an open racing car event against little opposition and established a new lap record of 42.6 seconds.

Development of both car and engine continued, it’s first major appearance the November 1970, Australian Grand Prix.

Frank’s car was fitted with engine RGM2 and Don O’Sullivan in Frank’s M10A with RGM4.

Six other F5000 cars- five with Chevrolet power and Aussie International David Walker’s Lotus 70 powered by a Ford- ran in this race along with cars using 2.5 litre engines- Garrie Cooper and John McCormack Elfin 600 Repco’s, Graeme Lawrence’ Ferrari Dino 246T, and 2 litre overhead camshaft engines- Leo Geoghegan and Max Stewart Lotus 59 and Mildren Waggott engined cars.

The Repco Holden McLaren took pole position, set fastest lap and won the race- it was very much mission accomplished and a triumph of design and development by the Repco team.

Matich slices his McLaren M10B Repco through the Warwick Farm Esses during his historic win of the 1970 ANF2.5, ANF F5000 and 2 litre AGP (unattributed)

Repco engine with its neat engine cover made the M10B a distinctively flowing F5000 to look at. And fast. 1970 WF AGP (unattributed)

‘Against considerably stronger opposition Matich ran well in the 1971 Tasman Series and might have won won the series if he had not run out of fuel when leading the Sandown race. As he coasted to the finish he was passed by two cars, and with only one race remaining in the series he had insufficient points to win.

Later in 1971 he took his McLaren to the United States and won one round of their Formula 5000 series and finished second in another. Later that year he used a Repco Holden engine in a new car he built himself (Matich A50 Repco), he again won the Australian Grand Prix.’ Phil Irving recalled.

Matich on Warwick Farm’s Hume Straight during the 1971 AGP weekend- first on debut for the Matich A50 Repco (unattributed)

 

Matich and bi-winged Matich A50 ‘001/2’ Warwick Farm 1972 (T Glenn)

The development of the engine was relentless and ongoing…

Looking after the demands of works driver Matich was one thing but by late 1971 the engines were fitted to four Elfin MR5’s as well- the cars of Garrie Cooper, John McCormack, Max Stewart and John Walker. Customer needs had to be accommodated, and were. Before too long the cars of McCormack and Walker- his Repco engines fitted later to a Matich A50 and his Lola T330/2 were running at the front of the field in addition to Matich.

Matich A50 Repco ‘001/002’, Adelaide International 1972 (V Hughes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank Matich as works driver had a float of engines which alternated between his Cremorne, Sydney base and Repco in Maidstone. Repco were very much a beneficiary of the relentless testing regime FM conducted for Goodyear- whilst he was the distributor of the company’s race products in Australia he was also a contracted driver, his testing abilities valued greatly by the Akron giant.

Interestingly the photo of FM’s A50 ‘001’ above at Adelaide International in 1972 shows Repco at the time were playing with injection inlet trumpet length. The very sharp shot also shows the three top mounting points for the top radius rod as well as the aluminium monocoque chassis. The ‘A-frame’ from the rear chassis bulkhead aft, which helps locates the engine/gearbox is also clear.

BP PR shot perhaps- Matich with the wonderful SR4 Repco RBE760 5 litre powered machine in 1969 (T Caldersmith)

 

Matich had been supported by Repco since 1967 when he first acquired a customer RB620 4.4 litre V8 for his Matich SR3, a car he raced in the US Can Am. Repco sponsored the SR4 he raced, Repco 760 5 litre powered to the 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship, his Repco sponsorship then extended right throughout the F5000 period till FM’s retirement at the end of the 1974 Tasman Series. The relationship as a continuum was very much in part due to a union of professionals of like mind.

The engines slide throttles were difficult to repair in the field, often clogged with circuit detritus as they were, so Brian Heard was tasked to  design paired butterfly throttle manifolds in early 1972. These were initially 2 1/8 inch throat diameter, with testing a throat diameter of 2 3/8 inch was settled on as optimal. The injectors were generally timed to fire at about 30 degrees before the inlet valve opened.

If Only…Bob Jane’s John Harvey driven Bowin P8 Repco during a ‘Repco Birthday Series’ round at Calder in 1972. John Joyce’s design, it first raced in 1971, bristled with currency and innovation most notably the machines variable or rising rate suspension. The small, beautifully built and concepted car needed development which didn’t happen as Janey focused on his ‘taxis’, as sponsor Castrol wanted (unattributed)

Bowin P8 rear suspension and Repco Holden F5000 installation, gearbox is Hewland DG300. Oh for Matich’s car development skills to have been applied to that design! (Bowin)

‘Redco were handicapped…by lack of alternative cam profiles compatible with the radius end cam followers, especially since Wade Camshafts experienced difficulties in grinding camshafts to the required profiles…Phil revised the design to flat face followers which were free to rotate, and thereby simplified their installation. It was then possible to evaluate a variety of profiles, which, together with an increase in lift and valve diameter, provided a significant gain in power, together with with a higher operating speed and wider torque band…These were in part due to the development for Redco of computer designed cam profiles by Dr Harry Watson and Erik Millikens at Melbourne University , who also conducted load deflection and inertia measurements of the Holden F5000 valve operating components…To Phil’s pleasure no significant discrepancies were found. He designed lighter and stiffer two-piece pushrods to further enhance the operation. Mike Webb, a very clever GMH engineer, also generated some effective profiles for the F5000, along with other engine variants developed by Redco. George Wade later utilised Mike’s skills to design cams for him’.

The changes above were fitted to engines provided to Matich during mid-1972 and then progressively to customer engines as they were rebuilt.

Three Repco engines and Matich cars in FM’s Military Road, Cremorne Sydney ‘shop during the build of the two A51’s bound for the US L&M Series in early 1973. The very successful first A50 ‘001/002’ is in the far corner (D Kneller)

During 1973 Frank Matich raced two cars in the US L&M F5000 series with John Walker also contesting some races with his A50- Matich took 4 engines and Walker 2. Click here for an account of that adventure;

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

In the ‘year of the Lola T330’ both drivers were competitive but neither achieved a podium with Matich experiencing lost power and oil pressure on long corners, on account of oil accumulating in the engine. Ken Symes, Redco’s technician looking after the engines in the US replaced the bearings in one of Matich’s engines due to excessive wear, fortunately the crankshaft itself was not damaged.

John Walker documented his L&M ‘on tour’ experience in a note to Malcolm- ‘The engine (RGM32) went ok for the races and the total miles were 1008. In that mileage we checked the bearings once and replaced the head gaskets once. The head gaskets were ok sealing perfectly, the bearings were not even marked, the engine power equal to most other chaps. The main thing with the cars was the front washing out all the time. I think the reason is the tracks over here are a lot faster and in Australia are more stop and go. The oil trouble with Frank’s car is the oil tank (smaller in the A51’s than Walker’s A50) but the trouble with oil staying in the engine should be fixed. Thanks for building me an A1 engine for the series’ the 1979 Gold Star and AGP winner concluded.

When Matich was back in Sydney Tony Wallis was despatched from Maidstone to Cremorne to investigate the oil-starvation Matich encountered on the long, high-G force corners of a type uncommon in Australasia.

To do so he jacked the car up on one side and ran the engine for a minute or so at 4000 rpm, after which the engine oil dry sump tank was empty.

‘When Tony came back to Melbourne an engine was mounted on the dynamometer, laid over at 45 degrees and run up to 7500 rpm, following which it was found that oil did not drain from the low side cylinder head back to the sump from where it was scavenged. Instead, it accumulated in the rocker cover, with a slight but measurable loss of power.’

‘The solution was to add an additional scavenge segment to the oil pump, which drew oil continuously from both cylinder heads for return to the oil reservoir. The oil pumps on all engines were from then on fitted with an additional scavenge segment’.

The great Garrie Cooper’s Elfin MR5 Repco at Surfers Paradise in 1972. All of the MR5’s were Repco powered as was his MS7 sportscar design (G Ruckert)

If Only 2: John McCormack’s Elfin MR6 was designed around the very light Leyland P76 V8, developed by Repco in partnership with Leyland Australia. Unfortunately the engine was unsuited to the rigours of racing – here Mac is at Teretonga in 1975 with Repco Holden engine fitted. He did eventually get the Leyland V8 to work, just, taking a Gold Star in his unique McLaren M23 Leyland (The Roaring Season)

In the constant quest for power, development on the engine continued with a new motor fitted with a flat plane crankshaft ground by Paul England’s Moonee Pond’s workshop- like George Wade, racer/constructor/engineer England had done his apprenticeship at Repco including time at Charlie Dean’s Repco Research ‘skunkworks’ in Sydney Road Brunswick. A lot of these fellas and their relationships went way back. With a specially tuned exhaust the engine produced 503 bhp at 7800 rpm. John McCormack had a similar crank made for him in England for his engine.

Matich fitted the flat-plane crank engine to his new, side radiator, chisel nosed A52 and disappeared into the distance with it in the Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy Gold Star round at Surfers Paradise in early September 1973.

In Surfers with the folks on holiday I well remember the Ford Cosworth DFV on steroids sound of the engine- wild, fantastic! and saw the cars withdrawal from the race- the intense high frequency vibrations caused by the crank literally shook the lightweight Varley racing battery internals to bits- McCormack won the race in his normal configuration Repco engined Elfin MR5. 

As we come towards this long articles conclusion it’s interesting to get the ‘users’ experience.

John McCormack recalls the Repco Holden engines with fondness

‘I used a customer engine in my first F5000 year in the MR5 but for the 1973 Tasman I leased a current spec Repco from Malcolm Preston and bought my Goodyears direct from the ‘States rather than via Matich in Sydney. We tested with the new tyres, and the engine, ‘RGM30′ at Adelaide International and thought we could do well in NZ.’

‘In the NZ GP at Pukekohe it was Matich, McRae, then me, Matich muffed the start, I lost 3rd gear on lap 7, Allan Rollinson in a McRae GM1 came up close but could not get ahead, I won from Rollinson, Thonpson and McRae.’

‘There is a lot of talk about power at the ‘horsepower hotel’ away from the track, in design terms the Chev had better ports but Repco persevered, it was never smooth and really angry to 5000 rpm with bags of torque the Chevs didn’t have. I was competitive at Wigram in the MR5 in 1974, going at it hammer and tongs with Warwick Brown’s new Lola T332- my car was the fastest on the straight, 185 mph at 8300 rpm. I used 7800 through the gears with maximum power @ 7600 rpm. The engine valve-gear would run to 9000 rpm although Repco did not tell us that!’

Derek Kneller’s time as FM’s right-hand and senior/chief mechanic coincides with FM’s F5000 period completely- from the McLaren M10A’s arrival in Sydney in 1969 to the sale of the Matich cars and equipment in mid-1974, he has this to say about his close association with the Repco Holden V8’s.

‘The Repco engines were bloody good, extremely good, the engineering precision was excellent. Everything was made by Repco, the rockers were forged steel, it had articulated pushrods to resist the bending motion which breaks them, it had cast magnesium rather than aluminium manifolds. It was just a beautifully engineered and built engine. We had about 460bhp at the start, that rose to about 480-490 by Tasman ’73 and the flat plane crank engines gave about 520bhp when they came on stream in the ‘States in early ’73. Other drivers didn’t believe the power we had such was the strength of the engines, they had strong torque characteristics.’

‘The problems with Repco were around fiddly things. For example, we were forever changing head gaskets in the field, gaskets lifed to 4 hours had 3 hours use on the dyno when an engine was delivered, meaning a change in the workshop or at a meeting. Checking of valve clearances with limited time before a session or race and then having them leak, that kind of thing.’

‘We always had a Repco engineer, often Ken Symes to look after the engines at race meetings. The engines were great, Repco’s ability to solve problems was excellent but some of their procedures were a bit nutty! Despite wanting dyno-sheets, and they produced them of course, we were never given them but the engines had plenty of power and torque.’

John Walker’s unique Lola T330 was unique powered as it was by Repco Holden V8’s- this shot peering into the car from Torana Corner at Sandown gives us a glimpse of the engine installation. The shot below is of the car as a T332 after the cars original chassis was boofed and replaced by the later tub (R Davies)

If Only 3: If John Walker won the Sandown Tasman the following day! Walker and Repco would have won the Tasman Cup, instead JW’s beautiful car was destroyed but he cheated the grim reaper in a shocker of an accident, Lola T332 Repco (R Davies)

As Kneller notes above the flat-plane crank Repco V8’s gave circa 520 bhp, it was with one of these engines that John Walker came close to winning the 1975 Tasman Series fitted to his Lola T332- a title Warwick Brown won in his Chev engined T332. Click here for an article about the 1975 Tasman;

https://primotipo.com/2015/03/12/the-mother-and-father-of-lucky-escapes-john-walker-sandown-tasman-1975/

Repco Holden V8’s were successful right throughout the long (too long) F5000 ANF1 period in Australia long after the closure of Redco and the withdrawal from motor racing by Repco Ltd in early 1974.

The ‘perfect storm of events’ which resulted in this decision was;

.Charlie Dean’s retirement from Repco and his replacement by Bob Brown- who was no fan of motor racing

.The extreme softness of the Australian economy at the time, decline of the automotive sector in particular and as a consequence the financial fortunes of Repco Ltd led to the usual cost reviews with Redco drawing a good portion of the Groups’s marketing budget in the firing line

.Frank Matich’s decision to retire after the 1974 Tasman Series to look after his biggest supporter and fan- his wife Joan who was ill.

John Goss won the 1976 Australian Grand Prix in a Matich A51/3 Repco- there was more success to come but the race record of these wonderful engines is a story for another time.

The King is Dead, Long Live The King: John Goss bought FM’s best car, the A53 ‘007’ and immediately did justice to it, here, still in FM’s Repco livery, he is testing it at Oran Park in mid 1974. Gossy had raced a fast self built mid-engine Ford 6 cylinder powered sports racer, his Tornado Ford in Tasmania and the mainland after he moved to Sydney, his transition from the Falcon GT Group C cars he was then racing to F5000 was very smooth (T Glenn)

Photo Credits…

Repco, Andrew Trowbridge, Sutton, Brian McInerney, Tony Glenn, Brett Ramsay, Vic Hughes, Derek Kneller, Dick Simpson, Robert Davies, Bowin Cars, Ron Lambert, Tony Caldersmith, Graham Ruckert, The Roaring Season, John Lemm

Etcetera…

Repco Holden Technical Specifications…

(Repco)

Repco F5000 engines were also sold for boat racing, here the Ramsay family Cheeta at Albert Park Lake, Melbourne in the mid-seventies…

During 1971 ski-boat manufacturer Les Ramsay bought a Repco F5000 engine- RGM3 which he fitted to his race boat ‘Cheeta.

(B Ramsay)

He had success immediately, winning the 300 cid open class race at Albert Park and other successes competing against boats fitted with much larger engines. As a result of the association Redco developed performance kits for the standard 308 for Ramsay Marine- the basic kit provided about 190 bhp and a higher performance one 320 bhp.

(B Ramsay)

(B Ramsay)

Bibliography…

‘Phil Irving- An Autobiography’, ‘From Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard & Ors, various issues of Racing Car News magazine, Derek Kneller, John McCormack

Tailpiece: Repco’s ‘Veggie Cart’ F5000 …

The Repco lads mocked up their Maidstone chariot, an ex-Victoria Market veggie-cart as a ‘racer’- here an engine is on the way to the dyno house, out back of the main factory. Left > Right- uncertain, Ken Symes, John McVeigh, Don Halpin, Brian Slader.

Finito…