Posts Tagged ‘Coventry Climax FPF Engine’

(AAR)

Eagle Mk1 Climax ‘101’ takes shape at All American Racers, Rye, Sussex 1966…

The Eagle marque was formed when Carroll Shelby suggested Dan as an alternative to Goodyear when the corporate tyre giant determined to avoid a repeat of the Indy tyre debacle of 1964 when Goodyear shod users fitted Firestones for the race.

Goodyear were looking to fund an outfit to build cars in a manner which gave them some control to avoid such a corporate embarrassment again. Shelby was committed with his other business ventures but became a partner in All American Racers until Dan and Evie Gurney bought out his interest in 1970.

Gurney was given responsibility for setting up the business inclusive of finding premises, people and machinery to build Indycars. Simultaneously Gurney secured support to build a GP car in parallel with the Indy contender.

Len Terry, chosen by Dan as the Designer off the back of their time together at Lotus noted that the teams priority was the build of the Indycar variant of what was, with relatively minor modifications to engine, (3/4.2 litre GP/USAC) gearbox and thickness of aluminium used for the monocoque chassis a common, winning design for both USAC and GP racing.

Terry worked on the cars conception, strongly based on his 1965 Indy winning Lotus 38, in the summer of 1965 in the UK, and at the end of September went to California to begin drawing the cars.

Goodyear man with plenty of trust in his driver! Gurney upon the Eagle Mk1 Climax’ race debut, Spa 1966 (unattributed)

What made me chuckle was looking at a photo of the 2.7 litre Coventry Climax ‘Indy’ FPF in the back of Mk1 chassis ‘101’ on the same day that I was fossicking through some Repco records given to me by Rodway Wolfe and Michael Gasking and seeing AAR listed in the July 1966 Repco Brabham Engines Pty Ltd monthly management report’s sales listing.

By that stage RBE had commercial rights or agreement from Coventry Climax to rebuild the engines and provide parts- pistons, rings, bearings and other components. Given the Type 56 Gurney-Weslake V12 was not yet completed Dan bought an FPF and plenty of bits from RBE to tide him over until the quintessential Eagle Mk1 V12 made its race debut at Monza in September 1966.

Despite being out-powered by the new engines used by others in that first 3 litre F1 year, the compact, four-cylinder, but not necessarily light car took Dan to a non-classified seventh from grid fifteen. The car completed 23 of the 28 laps in its very wet debut at Spa in June 1966. This is the infamous race which took out a good share of the field due to a sudden ‘heavy wall of water’ at Burnenville on the first lap.

The combination was fast all things considered- Reims Q14 and 5th, Brands Q3 and DNF, Zandvoort Q4 and DNF and at the Nürburgring Q8 and 7th. Pretty good against all the multi-cylinder heavy metal.

Acquired by Castrol at the seasons end the machine raced on in the hands of Al Pease before being later bought by Tom Wheatcroft for his Donington Collection where it lived until recently.

Rear suspension as per text below, gearbox is Hewland DG300, engine 2.7 ‘Indy’ Coventry Climax FPF (AAR)

The shot above shows Dan fettling the FPF on it’s very first day of testing at Brands Hatch on 8 May 1966.

By that stage the design was sorted as Gurney had already raced the Mk2 Indycar variant. The main initial issue with the chassis was excessive ‘wandering’ and instability at speed which was diagnosed as related to the anti-dive suspension geometry- this was expediently fixed by dialling that out of the cars specification.

Gurney first got to know Len Terry when they worked together in adapting the small-block Ford V8 to a Lotus 19 sportscar. By the time Terry’s Lotus 38 Ford won the 1965 Indy 500 in Jim Clark’s hands Len had already committed to work with AAR for 1966.

 

The car (both the drawing and cutaway above, V12 engined obviously) which drew heavily on his Lotus learnings was based on an enormously strong full-monocoque aluminium chassis in 18 gauge sheet for F1, and the heavier 16 gauge sheet mandated by the USAC, for Indycar use making the latter about 50 pounds heavier than the F1 machine. Bulkheads at the drivers feet, dash, seat and at the rear of the car added structural rigidity.

Suspension up front was period typical- a top rocker and lower wishbone with an inboard mounted coil spring/damper and outboard at the rear- single top link, inverted lower wishbone, two leading radius rods and coil spring damper. Roll bars were adjustable, steering rack and pinion and uprights front and rear made of magnesium-zirconium alloy. Disc brake rotors were 12.25 inch diameter Girlings, who also provided the calipers.

Zandvoort July 1966, Dan in ‘101’, DNF oil leak on lap 10, up front Jack won in Brabham BT19 Repco (unattributed)

The design’s wins included two F1 events-the non-championship Race of Champions at Brands Hatch in March 1967, Dan won both heats and the final from Bandini’s Ferrari 312 and Siffert’s Cooper T81 Maserati.  Lets not forget that memorable 1967 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. On that June day Dan joined Jack Brabham as the second man to win a Grand Prix in a car of his own construction- an honour also achieved by Bruce McLaren at Spa twelve months after Gurney.

In Indy racing the cars won many races and in Mk3 specification Bobby Unser won the 500 in 1968, his chassis powered by the venerable turbo-charged, four cylinder Offy.

From small acorns do big things grow- Mk1 FPF was such an acorn…

Shot shows the cars stunning purity of line- Mk1 ‘101’ French GP 1966. Dan 5th in the race at Reims won by Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT19 Repco, Jack famously becoming the first driver to win a GP in a car bearing his own name (unattributed)

More Eagle Reading…

https://primotipo.com/2018/06/14/gurney-weslake-ford-v8/

Credits…

‘Dan Gurney’s Eagle Racing Cars’ John Zimmerman

Tailpiece: Mexico 1966, Dan in ‘102’ V12, 5th and Bob Bondurant in ‘101’ FPF, DNF fuel system, John Surtees the winner in a Cooper T81 Maserati…

(unattributed)

Finito…

smedley twin plug FPF

Levin, NZ January 1964 (Smedley)

Geoff Smedley fettles his ‘Twin Plug’ 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF engine fitted to John Youls’ Cooper T55 …

In the late Formula Libre period in Australasia, just before the Tasman Formula commenced on 1 January 1964 the engine of choice was very much the Coventry Climax FPF. In fact the Tasman Formula was specifically designed around the ready availability and price of the 1959/60 World Championship winning 2.5 litre FPF engine to allow the locals to compete against the internationals on more or less equal terms.

Before then (1 January 1964)  ‘the go’ was the 2.7 litre ‘Indy’ FPF, most of the locals and visiting internationals each summer raced with this engine.

But down in Australia’s south, in beautiful Tasmania, a very clever engineer, Geoff Smedley was working on another solution to make the FPF produce more reliable power and torque. His driver was the very quick John Youl, the car an ex-works/Bruce McLaren 1961 F1 Cooper T55. Here is the story in Geoff’s words.

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John Youl cruises thru the Warwick Farm paddock in 1963, Cooper T55 Climax (Smedley)

‘Firstly in 1963 the fad was to re-sleeve the 2.5 Climax to 2.7 litre chasing more hosepower but ‘bigger holes’ was the American way and I was sure a better alternative could be found.

Frank Hallam at Repco Research had been playing around with a twin plug head for one of Brabham’s engines, using two distributors driven from the rear of each cam bank and couldn’t make it work through an inaccurate spark which was put down to windup in the camshafts in the high rev range.

I preferred to stick with a man’s toy, the magneto and two of these more robust spark producers set up properly must be the answer. A total new drive was made up for a second maggy from the crankshaft protruding the front of the sump which allowed comfortable room within the confines of the T55 chassis and the head modified to accommodate a second plug.’

‘1963 saw the end of alcohol fuel for our cars and reverting back to 100 octane caused a few problems leading to the idea of a cleaner more efficient fuel burn. Obviously there are easier methods today but 50 years ago we were still looking in any way we could, without the aid of computers, only perhaps a slide rule and something to write on and a lot of time lost to mistakes but on the occasion when you were successful it was nice being 10ft. tall….’

‘The initial effort seemed rewarding with a test day at Symmons Plains circuit, the result was pleasing and being able to alter each magneto individually the differences were very noticeable.

Living in Tasmania and being able to carry out this work undercover of our opposition (who were based on the Australian mainland) was an advantage, I and my young family were living at Symmons Plains in those days and my workshop was a converted coachouse close to the main homestead where all the chassis work was carried out, but the big advantage I had was having full use of the family workshop (Bedford Machine Tools) where I was able to produce any part required.

The final test for the engine was to take it all to Melbourne and place it on Repco’s dyno at Dandenong to test the result. We were met by Frank Hallam who was very dubious about the whole thing, but some 4 hours later he confessed that our 2.5 Climax had shown better figures than any previous Climax including the fashionable 2.7 litre. The horsepower was up but more importantly the torque figures were so much improved. Those days of satisfaction have melted into oblivion and all that is left is a lot of frustrated old farts that look back and remember when….!!!!’

smedley fpf on dyno

The Smedley twin plug, twin magneto engine being being tested on the Repco Research dyno in November 1963. The engine reverts to ‘standard’ by replacement of the standard CC sump. (Smedley)

Racing the Cooper T55 twin-plug FPF…

‘Gosh! It’s hard to believe more than 54 years have passed since those heady days but it doesn’t seem that long,  but as mentioned I have been pressured into writing my autobiography which has meant scratching back over the coals to bring those great times back to life again and starting with taking the land speed record way back in 1961’.

We will trouble Geoff for that story, achieved by Geoff’s Chev engined Cooper T51 owned and driven by Austin Miller, another time.

‘I went to work for John Youl in 1962 and stayed with him until his retirement in ’65, we had a lot of fun as a team being able to work here in Tassie so privately and then  going to the mainland where the car would be pounced on and inspected for the sign of any tinkering’s that may help our opposition! So in that respect it was always a lot of fun and yes the duel ignition trick really did work wonders on the old FPF engine’.

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John Youl and Geoff Smedley aboard the Cooper T55 ‘twin-plug’ for a debut win- on the victory lap after winning the ‘Advertiser Trophy’ Gold Star round at Mallala, South Australia in October 1963. John won from the 2.7 litre Brabham BT4 Climax of Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell’s Brabham BT1 Ford 1100 (Smedley)

‘Now the very first race for this new configuration was the Gold Star Race at Mallala, South Australia on the 14th October 1963 which we won from Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell. Then came the Hordern Trophy Race at the ‘Farm on 1st December 1963, we won that one as well from David McKay and Bill Patterson’.

‘Then it was off to New Zealand for the 1964 Tasman Series.

In that series of races we came back with (in heats and championship races) one 1st, two seconds including Lakeside, two thirds including Sandown and fourth’s at Levin, Wigram and in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe behind Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Tim Mayer. We were fifth at Longford in the final round’.

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Levin form up area for the very first Tasman Championship race on 4 January 1964. Youl’s #5 Cooper T55 Climax, the two Cooper T70’s of McLaren #1 and Tim Mayer and then the victor, Denny Hulme’s works Brabham BT4 Climax. Mayer was 2nd, McLaren 3rd and Youl 4th (Smedley)

‘Prior to all this, we, like others using the Jack Knight gearbox on their Coopers, found the crown wheel and pinion was the big weakness and only 2-3 races seemed to be their life span. So i set about making 2 sets myself as I fortunately had access to the family business’s machine shop. The first set of these was fitted to the gearbox just prior to fitting the duel ignition system’.

‘This new CWP was straight cut but considerably stronger using a much higher grade steel than the original. Although a little noisy at first, it soon settled down by fitting a separate oiling system. The same CWP was in the car when John sold it to Arnold Glass in 1965.

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John Youl, Cooper T55 Climax at Mount Maunganui, NZ, December 1963 (Fistonic)

‘The car, then around 1967, I think- Cooper T55 Chassis No. F1/11/61 was sold to a collector in the USA and years later in the nineties the car was sent to England to be auctioned. I have found it there in photos sitting in the pits in places such as Goodwood and the like’.

‘The car is back today in its original form being Bruce McLaren’s  1961 works car it looks great and I have no idea but it could still have the twin plug motor in it, who knows!’

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Smedley with his charge, note the comments about the gearbox in the text, twin plug 2.5 FPF fitted, Longford Tasman 1964 (Smedley)

 Etcetera…

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‘The card was drawn up by John Youl himself as a record of the T55 during his period of ownership’- Geoff Smedley

The shot below is of Youl jumping from second grid slot away from McLaren #10 on pole, Tony Maggs #3 and John Surtees #2, as well as Bib Stillwell in the light blue Brabham BT4 and Chris Amon’s red Cooper T53- its the start of the Lakeside International on 17 February 1963.

McLaren, in a Cooper T62 the two Lola Mk4A pilots Maggs and Surtees and Bib were all driving the latest cars with 2.7 FPF’s, Youl was in a 1961 car, his Cooper T55 with a 2.5 FPF, not Smedley’s twin-plug engine either. Surtees won from Graham Hill’s Ferguson P99 and Stillwell. Youl retired on lap 7 that day.

Its such a shame ‘duty called’ with John Youl, he needed to manage the families large grazing properties in Tasmania, so his racing career was ended way before it should have. For sure he was a driver of world class, as indeed was Smedley as an engineer/mechanic.

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(Smedley)

Special Thanks…

Geoff Smedley, many thanks for this very special account of an interesting engineering obscurity which should be more widely known

Credits…

Geoff Smedley Collection, Milan Fistonic, oldracingcars.com

Tailpiece: John Youl, Cooper T55 Climax in the Levin form up area, January 1964…

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Car #4 is Chris Amon in a Reg Parnell Lola Mk4A Climax, perhaps Denny Hulme’s Brabham alongside him (Smedley)