Posts Tagged ‘Frank Matich’

(Fistonic)

Frank Matich’s Brabham BT7A Climax leading Jim Palmer’s Cooper T53 Climax around the 2.897 Km Mount Maunganui road circuit, New Zealand, 28 December 1963…

Mount Maunganui is a beach town at the southern end of Tauranga Harbour in The Bay of Plenty in the north of New Zealands North Island. Only two ‘Bay of Plenty Premier Road Race’ meetings using public roads around the towns wharf area were held, in 1962 and 1963. The circuit was oblong in shape, the startline was in Totara Road and ran down Hewletts Road, onto Tasman Quay and then Hull Road. The creation of the permanent Bay Park circuit in the area supplanted the road course which was created by Joseph and Graham Pierce and Feo Stanton. To create the track they had to tar-seal a section over a railway line and then remove it after the weekends racing to allow the trains to operate the following morning!

Race winner Jim Palmer, Cooper T53 Climax, Mt Maunganui 1963 (Fistonic)

The 1963 event was won by Jim Palmer from John Youl’s Cooper T55 Climax and Tony Shelly’s Lotus 18/21 Climax. Both of the Australian’s John Youl and Frank Matich used the meeting as a ‘warm-up’ for the 1964 Tasman series which started at Levin, the following weekend, on 4 January 1964.

Grid positions for the 15 lap final were determined by the results of two heats; Matich comfortably led his until encountering timing problems with his Coventry Climax engine, Palmer took the win with John Youl victorious in the other heat.

In the championship race, Palmer started well and lead Shelly, Matich- off the back of the grid, quickly passing the smaller engined cars and Youl but Shelly soon led, and Matich grabbed 3rd as Youl spun. Matich set a lap record of 1:10.4 as he moved the very latest ‘Intercontinental’ Brabham BT7A into 2nd behind Shelly. He took the lead on the next lap whilst Youl closed on Palmer. Shelly was passed by Palmer with 3 laps to go with Matich left out on the circuit with an inoperative throttle, and John Youl also passing Shelly. Palmer won from Youl, Shelly then Rex Flowers Lotus 20B Ford, Roly Levis’ Lotus 22 Ford and Neil Whittaker’s Cooper T43 Climax.

John Youl, Cooper T55 Climax (Fistonic)

In fact the race was very much a portent of the Tasman Series (won by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T70 Climax) with all four of Matich, Palmer, Shelly and Youl being competitive with Matich having a swag of mechanical problems only finishing one of the 5 rounds he started, at Longford, in 3rd place.

In the NZ Tasman races Palmer, Shelly and Youl all contested they drove extremely well, almost as a group in their outdated cars- Cooper T53, Lotus 18/21 and Cooper T55 behind the leading bunch of Australasian Internationals- Brabham, Hulme, McLaren and American Tim Mayer.

Youl was 4th in the first 3 NZ rounds and then travelled back to Australia before Teretonga to prepare for the first Australian round at Sandown where he finished 3rd. His beautifully prepared 1961 (ex-F1 and then Brabham’s car for the Australasian Internationals in 1962) Cooper T55 with its innovative Geoff Smedley designed and built twin-plug Coventry Climax FPF head had done 5 meetings with routine maintenance but no rebuild. His 3rd at the AGP was followed by a DNF at Warwick Farm with crown wheel and pinion problems. He then had a great 2nd at Lakeside and was 5th at Longford, his home race in a strong finish to the series.

In fact Youl was very much the ‘form driver’ of this group having finished 2nd and then taking 2 wins in the final three rounds of the Australian Gold Star series in the later months of 1963, at Sandown, Mallala and Warwick Farm. Noteworthy is that these performances were against Lex Davison, Bib Stillwell and David McKay all of whom were aboard much more modern equipment than Youl. He was second in the Gold Star to Stillwell’s Brabham BT4 Climax in 1963 as he was in 1962.

Palmer, later multiple NZ Gold Star winner and ex-F1 driver Shelly had virtually identical results in the four NZ Tasman races, and finished all of them which is admirable at a time the 2.5 FPF’s were notoriously brittle being pushed to the limits as they were.

Without doubt Frank Matich had the pace of the Internationals in the ’64 Tasman but he had no chance of success without better preparation/luck/greater mechanical sympathy- Geoff Smedley joined him not so long after Youl’s unfortunate retirement from the sport at the end of 1964. Grazier Youl was one very fine driver who deserved a ‘factory’ drive such was his pace in the ex-Brabham Cooper T55 to fully realise his potential. I don’t know enough about the man to place him in the pantheon of Australian single-seater pilots but for sure he was very handy behind the wheel…

Matich chasing Colin Ngan, Cooper Bobtail in the sportscar race won by FM- love these industrial background shots (Fistonic)

Matich in his Lotus 19B Climax…

Frank Matich above blasting his very highly developed Lotus around the Mounts working wharves, such a distinctive background!

Frank’s Lotus was far and away the quickest sportscar that weekend, he won the race from the Lotus 15 Climax of Barry Porter and the Lola Climax driven by J Riley. The Matich 19B was destroyed at Lakeside in 1965, hospitalising the Sydneysider in the process. Out of those ashes was born the Elfin 400 Olds or Traco Olds as FM called it, and Matich SR3 and SR4 programs, all great cars.

In the same way that the Lotus 18, Chapman’s first mid-engined design (F1/FJ) redefined the sophistication of the path the Coopers had blazed so well, so too did the 19 amongst sportscar grids. The car used much of the 18 hardware albeit adapted to comply with sportscar rules- FIA Group C. Chapman detailed the car with Len Terry also playing a role in its design.

The cars spaceframe chassis was made of 1 inch and ¾ inch steel tube of 16 and 18 guage, there was a scuttle hoop of perforated sheet steel to provide further cross-sectional bracing. The first car, chassis ‘950’, was initially fitted with an aluminium body with subsequent cars using bodies made of fibreglass. The front and rear body sections were hinged for ease of access with two horizontal doors for driver and passenger! access and egress. Wheels were Lotus 15 inch ‘wobbly-webs’, disc brakes were 10.5 inch and 9.5 inches in diameter front / rear.

Dimensions; 141 inch long, 65” wide, a height of 31/32 “, the wheelbase was 7’ 6”, front track 49” and rear track 47.5 “. The cars weight was quoted at 1232-1250 pounds less driver but with 8 gallons of fuel. Said girth was dependent upon the engine fitted, over time this included the FPF’s around which the car was designed and also various American small-block V8’s. Similarly, whilst the Lotus sequential, 5 speed ‘Queerbox’ was specified the cars were also fitted with Colotti and Hewland gearboxes ‘in period’.

Lotus 19 Climax cutaway, technical specifications as per text (Thatcher)

When completed chassis ‘#950’ was tested by both Moss and Chapman, Moss had been racing Cooper Monaco’s amongst the swag of cars he competed in at the time, his opinion of the 19 relative to the Monaco, a design several years older would be interesting. Its said that the 19 was the first car Stirling drove after recovery from his 1960 Spa Lotus 18 accident.

Only 16 or 17 of the cars were built, the limiting factor for build numbers was the supply of Coventry Climax FPF engines which were of course the engine de jour for the British F1 ‘garagistes’ at the time.

The seminal research over the last decade or so on the fate of the various Lotus 19 chassis was carried out by enthusiasts/experts/journalists/engineers/drivers on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ (TNF). What follows is based upon the contents of that highly interactive forum, with the ability of so many knowledgeable people to test evidence, the summary of ownership and changes in specification over time. The contributions of Ray Bell and Bryan Miller are specifically acknowledged.

Frank Matich raced two Lotus 19’s; the ex-UDT Laystall 19 chassis ‘950’ raced by Stirling Moss which was destroyed in a testing accident at Warwick Farm in 1963 and a replacement 19B which was delivered by Lotus Components sans chassis number. It was also destroyed, again in a testing, or more specifically an accident during a practice/qualifying session at Lakeside on 24 July 1965.

I have written tangentially about these cars in an article about FM’s rivalry with Bib Stillwell’s Cooper Monaco and other articles on Frank Matich, and very specifically about the 19B, Matich’s accident in it at Lakeside and its role in relation to the design/conception of Garrie Coopers Elfin 400, the first delivered of which was raced by Matich. I don’t propose to cover that all again, click on the links at this articles conclusion to read what I’ve already been written.

The first Matich Lotus 19 Climax, chassis  ‘950’ shot at Homestead Corner Warwick Farm in 1962, compare the photo with the similar one of the 19B at the same corner below (Ellacott)

Caveat Emptor…

When Frank Matich was looking for a replacement for his oh-so-successful Lotus 15 Climax it was immediately obvious to him that the car to have was a 19 given the success of Moss, Ireland, Gurney and others in the cars on both sides of the Atlantic.

His ex-Leaton Motors mechanic Bruce Richardson, working in the UK for Reg Parnell Racing at the time, contacted UDT Laystall in England on FM’s behalf to determine if they were interested in selling one of their 3 19’s. Frank knew Moss having met him on the great Brits previous trips to Australia. Shortly after Richardson’s contact Matich ‘…discussed with Stirling buying the (UDT Laystall) car (#950) Stirling was racing in the USA…who advised Frank, who wished to have the car shipped directly from the States to Australia that the car was pretty tired and it would be best for the car to return to the UK for a full rebuild and then be sent out from the UK. The car duly arrived in late 1961 and Frank was not happy with the state of preparation and he called Stirling to intervene’ Bryan Miller wrote.

Matich had been shafted by UDT Laystall, far from the first time we poor Colonials had been short-sheeted by less than honest operators who relied upon 12000 miles of Ocean to get away with sins of omission or commission! Moss, not involved in the commercial aspects of the deal at all, righted the wrongs with a financial adjustment in favour of the Sydneysider. The story goes something like this.

Rather than rebuild the car the UDT folks used the opportunity to bolt some of the shit bits they had lying around the workshop they didn’t want from their three cars to good ‘ole ‘950’ and shove it on a ship at Southhampton for Sydney!

Matich ordered the car with the Colotti box fitted to ‘950’, they sent him a ‘Queerbox’, very much not the better alternative although Matich said later to Bell ‘they weren’t a bad box as long as you set them up well’. Frank specified a regular windscreen, they sent a high one, ‘The crankshaft was obviously carrying a very old crack, it was very unlikely that it hadn’t been previously detected’ according to Frank, Ray Bell wrote. ‘There was a lot of that sort of thing about the car, so its clear Moss went into bat for Frank’. Moss drove the car whilst in Australia for the International series of races that summer (he raced Rob Walker owned Cooper T53 Climax and Lotus 21 Climax in NZ and Australia in January/February 1962) and was able to see for himself the state of the car as delivered from the UK. ‘Onya Stirling!

Having overcome those obstacles the 19 very rapidly became the fastest sportscar in the country, indeed, one of the fastest cars in the Australia- his dices with Bib Stillwell’s older but very well prepared, sorted and driven Cooper Monaco wonderful spectator drawcards across the continent.

Lotus 19 Climax ‘950’ in the Lakeside paddock probably during the International meeting in early 1963. Coventry Cliamx FPF engine and Lotus ‘Queerbox’ clear as is copious ducting for brake cooling (Mellor)

#950’s demise occurred during a test session at Warwick Farm…

Matich’s backyard was Warwick Farm from the time the circuit opened  at the wonderful Liverpool horseracing facility. He did all of his serious testing there, it was close to his various bases on Sydney’s North Shore, and he was always developing his cars with tweaks major and minor. This process of continuous development of bits for all of his cars, factory built or otherwise, was sustained right to the end of his career in early 1974. By then he was building world-beating Formula 5000 cars, indeed no-one did more miles around the Western Sydney outskirts circuit than FM.

In 1963 he raced the Lotus and works Elfins- a Clubman, Formula Junior and an ANF 1.5 variant of the FJ with which he contested the AGP, at, you guessed it, Warwick Farm. He was 8th in the race won by Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT4 Climax. On one of these test days Bell records that ‘The very reason for its (950’s) demise…was the fitting of new uprights (from Lotus)…Matich had come in from testing saying it felt funny and asked Bruce (Richardson, by then back from the UK and FM’s chief mechanic) to go out and drive the 19 while he followed him in the Elfin openwheeler. The upright broke and he went into the fence’. The fence was the very solid and unyielding WF Pit Straight fence which comprised 2 inch thick planks of wood bolted to railway sleepers. The chassis was rooted, it was too badly damaged to be repaired so a replacement was ordered from Lotus Components.

‘The original 19 chassis (950) went to Ray Hopwood, a friend of Franks. I think it was he who buried it under his house after deciding he wasn’t able to use it, which had been his intention’ wrote Bell.

Bell then speculates about the commercial arrangements between Lotus and Matich about the new 19 frame given the demise of ‘950’ was as a result of the failure of a new Lotus upright which was too thin. What is clear, whether Chapman gave him a special price or otherwise is that wealthy Sydney businessman Laurie O’Neill paid for the chassis either in whole or in part. Bruce Richardson confirms the chassis was acquired from Lotus, and therefore is not one of the unaccounted for Lotus 19 chassis- there are about four of these chassis on the TNF list. For sure some components from ‘950’, all possible, would have been retained to bolt to the new frame which Miller reports ‘Frank did not think his car (19B) ever carried a chassis plate, he held no memory of ever seeing one on the car but at that time it was of no importance’.

In late 1963 Matich imported a brand new Brabham BT7A to contest the annual Australasian International Series (from 1964 The Tasman Championship) and local Gold Star, Australian Drivers Championship events.

Almost immediately he became the quickest local openwheeler driver- and one who gave nothing away to the visiting Internationals either. Given the weakness of the Lotus sequential ‘box, Bell ‘…Frank regarded the crownwheel and pinion as marginal…referring to easy starts to protect it…and he often lost the start to Stillwell in their 19 to Monaco clashes…’ Matich fitted the 19B with a Hewland HD5 ‘box given the experience others had of it in cars like it in the BT7A and being well aware of the shortcomings of the Queerbox. By then he had both the support of O’Neill and Total so had an adequate budget to do things properly. The cars chassis was adapted to suit the ‘box at the rear. During the short period the 19B raced it was evolved, beside the BT7A, with various Brabham bits. There appears to be no definitive list of the modifications but brakes, wheels, some suspension parts and other Brabham ‘bits and pieces’ are cited as modifications from standard Lotus 19 spec. Equally there is no neat list of bits which were transferred from the first Matich 19 ‘950’ to the 19B, albeit the ex-Moss chassis was definitely buried under a house, this fact attested by several sources including Richardson, Bell and Miller- none of whom have a vested interest in the opinion they proffer.

Not the Australian Tourist Trophy but the 19B late in its life in early 1965 after a change of Total livery, from light blue to white, here, again at Homestead Corner, Warwick Farm (Ellacott)

Australian Tourist Trophy 1965…

Frank Matich was a professional racing driver, the family Weeties were provided by race and related commercial success, to win the 1965 ATT was therefore important to him. He won the race the year before at Longford in the 19B but for 1965 the field had greater depth.

Ken Miles was coming from the US to race a factory Shelby AC Cobra, Frank Gardner was returning home to race Alec Mildren’s Mildren Maserati, a Birdcage Maserati engine fitted to a chassis built by Bob Britton- a Lotus 19 clone!, the Lotus 23 lookalike built on Britton’s Lotus 19 jig. There were also some pesky Lotus/Ford Twin-Cam engined Lotus 23’s which were quick enough to win should the big guys run into trouble. In fact the latter is what occurred, Pete Geoghegan won the race in a Lotus 23 after the retirement of others.

Matich took the 19B to the Gold Star round at Lakeside in July, his primary focus that weekend was racing his Brabham. Spencer Martin won the Gold Star round in the Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT11A. But the Lotus shared the Matich transporter with the Brabham on the journey north to fettle the car in preparation for the ATT in November. It was during practice that FM lost the car in the fast right hander behind the pits at over 120mph when the throttle jammed, destroying the car and hospitalising him with burns to his hands and back. Damage to the car was to its front, especially the left front. Various sources suggest (not Bell or Miller) that the car may have been damaged further after the accident for insurance purposes.

The accident was catalyst for Total to end the relationship with Matich. Boral Ltd acquired Total’s business in Australia and they did not want to be involved in motor-racing. The remains of the 19B, owned by O’Neill remember, were then used as a point of dimensional reference during the build of the Elfin 400 Traco Olsmobile at Elfin’s Conmurra Road, Edwardstown, South Australia factory in late 1965. The 19B donated its gearbox and some other minor components to the Elfin build. Even though the remains of the 19B were seen by various people at Elfins over the years the remains of the chassis have never seen the light of day and were probably, at some clearout, disposed of. The future value of these cars was not foreseen then of course!

Despite all of the foregoing, that is, the total destruction of both cars as racing entities, the ex-Moss/Matich Lotus 19 #’950 races on, reconstructed around a replacement chassis built in the 1980’s. So far, surprisingly, the 19B has not been rebuilt/reconstructed/resurrected despite Peter Brennan noticing, whilst looking at a Lotus 18 very recently and concluding that the pedals in his Elfin 400 are probably from the 19B…go for it PB, cars worth $750K have commenced reconstruction with far less of the original car than that!…

Bibliography…

‘The Nostalgia Forum’ Lotus 19 thread particularly the contributions of Michael Oliver, Ray Bell and Bryan Miller, Graham Vercoe, sergent.com, Bob Homewood, Glenn Ducey

Photo Credits…

Milan Fistonic and Peter Mellor- The Roaring Season, John Ellacott, Bob Thatcher

Lovely frontal shot of Frank Matich, Lotus 19B Climax, this car probably the most highly developed of its type in the world-V8 variants excepted. Car developed by FM and his team in Sydney, building upon his first 19 which was written off  in a Warwick Farm testing accident. Plenty of Brabham bits inclusive of wheels fitted to this car (Fistonic)

Finito…

 

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This fantastic advertorial shot is of Frank Matich’s Brabham BT7A Climax and Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 27 Ford at Sandown in April 1964…

The magazine is the much loved and lamented ‘Australian Motor Sports’, the cover its June 1964 issue. The caption reads ‘…picture taken on the main straight up from the Dunlop Bridge, that’s the Dunlop R6 tread pattern photographer David Parker has caught so clearly on Frank’s car, at the April Sandown meeting’.

The 19 April meeting featured the Victorian Sportscar Championship which Matich won in the Total Team Lotus 19B Climax, the weekend for the team made almost complete by Geoghegan’s Lotus 27 victory in the ‘Victorian Trophy’, that year limited to 1.5 litre cars. Matich retired the Brabham with gearbox problems in the 15 lap racing car feature for ‘Tasman’ cars whilst in the lead, the race was won by Lex Davison’s Brabham BT4 Climax.

At the time the French oil company had aggressively entered the Australian retail market. Formation and promotion of this team, launched in July 1962, was an important part of their marketing and positioning strategy.

Total supported the Matich and Geoghegan team cars of Frank, Leo and brother Ian Geoghegan. Both Frank and Leo I have written about in detail, clink on the links below to read about them.

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Ian or ‘Pete’ Geoghegan’s Lotus 23 Ford, Leo G’s Lotus 27 Ford and Frank Matich’s Lotus 19B Climax at Oran Park, NSW in 1965 (Rod MacKenzie)

Credits…

AMS, David Parker, Rod MacKenzie Collection

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(oldracephotos.com)

Few drivers knew Warwick Farm like Frank Matich and Kevin Bartlett…

They raced at the track from its earliest days, it’s first meeting in 1960 I wonder?, and certainly the last international meeting, sadly the 1973 Tasman round run 12 months after the photos here were taken, Steve Thomson won that very wet race in a Chevron B24 Chev.

Here the two Sydneysiders are attacking The Esses during the 1972 F5000 Tasman round, the ‘Warwick Farm 100’ on 13 February. Matich was 1st in his Matich A50 Repco and KB 3rd in his McLaren M10B Chev, not really a front-line tool by that stage but still quick enough in Kevin’s highly skilled hands to win at Teretonga, the final ’72 Kiwi round, a fortnight before.

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Bartlett and original owner Niel Allen had a lot of success in this McLaren M10B ‘400-02’, car now in the tender, loving hands of Alan Hamilton, also a former Australian champion .KB here during the ’72 Tasman race. A Lola T300 would replace the car in time for the domestic Gold Star Series (unattributed)

Matich didn’t have a good Tasman, the A50 was quick enough to win the series but FM didn’t have a lot of luck, the championship was convincingly won by Kiwi arch driver/constructor rival Graham McRae in the Leda/McRae GM1 Chev penned by Len Terry.

Click here for an article on the Matich F5000 cars including the 1972 Tasman Series:

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

Credits…

oldracephotos.com, Bob Williamson Collection

Tailpiece: The Lola T300 was ‘a chick’ with a great arse and hips, visually arresting…

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Frank Gardner and Lola T300 Chev ahead of Frank Matich in the ’72 WF pitlane for tweaks. FG won the ’72 NZ GP in this T300 at Pukekohe, his last single-seater win, I think (Bob Williamson)

 

Frank Gardner split Matich and Bartlett, he was second at Warwick Farm in the factory T300. Frank was not exactly unfamiliar with WF either, mind you no-one would have done more laps around it than Matich, Frank tested tyres for Firestone, and later Goodyear and his cars a lot!

Between Gardner and Bob Marston they concepted a small F5000 based on Lola’s F2 tub. By placing the big water radiators, you needed plenty of coolant to look after the needs of a big Chev, at the cars hips they gave the car, and the T330/332 which followed it their most distinctive and attractive feature. Effective too in terms of aerodynamics and centralising weight, an article on the T300 is one for another time…

Finito…

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(Dick Simpson/oldracephotos.com)

Frank Matich’s 5 litre, quad cam, 580bhp Repco V8 powered sports racer ‘SR4’ was one of Australia’s most powerful and the most successful sports-racer car ever built…

Here Frank charges the big bellowing racer across the top of Mount Panorama during the 1969 Easter Bathurst meeting. The circuit is wild now, it would have been staggering to guide this missile around the circuit then, its surface and safety features, note the proximity of eucalypts on the tracks edge, not quite what they are now!

My beautiful picture

Paddock shot of SR4, Calder 1969, some of the competition were more recent than this group! (Ian Pope)

Introduction…

Built for the 1968 CanAm series, both the chassis and engine were late so Matich didn’t ever follow up his exploratory 1967 CanAm part-season in his 4.4 litre Repco powered SR3, instead belting the local opposition into oblivion with the SR4 in 1969.

First raced at Warwick Farm on 1 December 1968, Matich won the 3 round 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship with a perfect score; wins at Warwick Farm, Surfers Paradise and Sandown, in 2nd place was West Australian Don O’Sullivan in Frank’s old SR3 Repco. In between he raced in front of thrilled crowds who were drawn to see the fastest car in Australia regardless of category.

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Matich leads the pack at Warwick Farm, date unknown 1969, SR4 Repco (Tait Collection)

‘The car was last raced about May 1970 at Warwick Farm, Frank was second to Niel Allen’s Elfin ME5 Chev, he drove the car gently as the engine had a vibration which a subsequent tear down at Repco revealed was the front of the crank cracking’ recalls Derek Kneller, an ex Matich engineer/mechanic from 1969-74. ‘The car was kept under a dust sheet in the Artarmon (Sydney) workshop until after the Tasman Series in 1971 when FM asked us to clean it up, it hadn’t been used for 8 months, we delivered it by trailer, still with the engine fitted, to Repco in Maidstone, Melbourne’.

SR4 was then used as a display piece, never to be raced again until the ‘modern era’ when it was restored by its owner, former Repco engineer Nigel Tait who has had a connection with the car since its construction. This bulk of this article is by Nigel, the photos are mainly from his vast archive of shots of this wonderful, very significant Australian racing car.

This piece is a biggie and comprises numerous parts;

.Historical context for the building of SR4; the earlier SR3 (3 chassis) in particular a summary of its 1967 CanAm program

.Biography of Nigel Tait

.Nigel’s story of the cars design, construction, specifications, race record and restoration

.SR4 specifications

.Etcetera; SR4 related snippets

.How competitive would SR4 have been in the ’68 CanAm had it crossed the Pacific as originally intended, this section designed to stimulate discussion amongst Australian enthusiasts of the period!

.Matich Cars; list of all cars built by FM’s business

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Early shot of SR4 when still fitted with a ZF ‘box, LG Hewland fitted later in the year, suspension and engine as per text (Repco)

Frank Matich and Matich Cars…

Matich was one of Australia’s drivers who was as quick as the best in the world during the early sixties Tasman 2.5 Formula when the locals went head to head with the internationals in near enough to identical cars.

Frank then focused on sportscars from 1966 to 1969, as we shall see.

In 1969 Matich returned to single-seaters, F5000 and again proved to be the equal of if not better than the best in the world winning races in Australasia and the US before retiring at the end of the ’74 Tasman Series.

In addition, his team designed and built world class sports and F5000 cars from late 1966 to early 1974. His cars won races after that, John Goss took an exciting 1976 Australian Grand Prix win at Sandown in an A51/3 Repco chassis for example.

A list of the cars Team Matich built is at the end of this article.

I have written some pieces about Frank before, rather than than provide background again click on these links, the best quick career summary is this one, sadly an obituary;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/11/frank-matich-rip/

See this pictorial though;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/27/jaguar-c-type-xkc037/

This monster piece is mainly about his F5000 racing but also includes earlier career material;

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

And this one is about his 1966 Elfin 400 Traco or the ‘Traco Oldsmobile’ as he named it;

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

The latter article about the Elfin 400 is the most important in the context of the Matich SR4, the 400 evolved into the Matich SR3, the SR3 to the SR4…

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Matich awaits the start of practice, Road America, 3 September 1967. SR3 Repco (Friedman)

Matich SR3…

The first Matich SR3 Traco Olds was built in late 1966 to replace the Elfin 400 Traco Olds upon which it was based. According to some close observers, including at least one of FM’s mechanics the SR3 chassis was ‘tube for tube’ identical to the Elfin 400 albeit strengthened with the learnings of racing the car from the start of ’66 until it was sold to Niel Allen later that year.

The aerodynamics of the SR3 were entirely different to Garrie Cooper’s 400 design and are a function of the 400’s shortcomings and FM’s ongoing absorption of global design and aerodynamic/styling trends. The 400’s ‘aero’ deficiencies are examined in detail in my Elfin 400 article above.

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FM a happy-chappy in the Road America paddock, 1967 (Friedman)

This section is not a detailed article about the 3 SR3’s FM’s team built but rather a summary to provide context about the SR4’s build.

The first CanAm Series was won by John Surtees in a Lola T70 Chev in 1966 but there had been professional sportscar races on America’s West Coast back into the 1950’s.

During the 1.5 litre F1 years (1961-65) big brutal ‘Group 7’ sportscars powered by ever increasing in size ‘stock block’ American V8’s thrilled crowds with their speed on both sides of the Atlantic. The best of the worlds drivers contested the races, rich prize money the reward for success in events of 200 miles, GP length, duration.

Frank Matich had ample opportunity to hear first hand during the Tasman Series about the US scene from Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Bruce Mclaren, Phil Hill and Jack Brabham all of whom contested CanAm races, not least Bruce who had also been building Cooper based cars and McLaren/Elvas to contest the races for years.

Matich determined to contest the 1967 CanAm to test his mettle against the best in the world knowing their was little point being ‘king of the kids’ in Oz. The reality is that whilst the domestic single-seater Gold Star competition had some depth, in sportscars their was little at all.

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Naked SR3 Repco in the Road America paddock, 1967. Spaceframe chassis RBE ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre, SOHC, Lucas injected, 400bhp V8 (Friedman)

Repco were also finally selling their engines to customers (as against providing works engines to Brabham with which Jack had contested the ’66 Tasman and won the ’66 F1 World Title) so Frank figured the 4.4 litre, sohc, ‘620 Series’ 400bhp V8 would be a much more competitive proposition than the highly stressed aluminium, pushrod Olds V8 engines he used in the Elfin 400/Traco Olds and his first SR3.

It was a big ask.

McLaren had persevered with the lightweight aluminium Oldsmobile engines until 1966 when he fitted 6 litre cast-iron Chevs to his spaceframe McLaren M1B. His 1967 M6A, a joint design effort between Bruce and Robin Herd were stunning, simple, monocoque cars superbly driven by Bruce and Denny Hulme to 5 wins from 6 races with Bruce taking the drivers and McLaren the manufacturers titles. The ‘Bruce and Denny Show’ rolled on thru to the end of ’71 when Porsche finally ended the party.

Matich raced two SR3 chassis in a limited campaign in the ‘Non Works McLaren’ class!

As a warm-up Matich won the RAC Trophy at Warwick Farm on May 4 and the ‘Australian Tourist Trophy’ at Surfers Paradise on 21 May 1967 from Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 and Glynn Scott’s Lotus 23B Ford. The SR3 was Olds powered.

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Matich SR3 Repco leads a group of cars, John Cannon in a McLaren M1B Chev the car behind him, Road America 1967. FM retired with a stone thru his radiator on lap 15, Denny Hulme won in a McLaren M6A Chev (Friedman)

The 1967 CanAm started at Road America, Wisconsin on 3 September and finished with the sixth and last round at Las Vegas on 12 November, the well oiled McLaren Team crushed the opposition winning all but the final round which ’66 champion John Surtees took in a Lola T70 Chev.

McLaren deservedly won the title from Hulme despite Denny winning 3 rounds (Road America, Bridghampton, Mosport) and Bruce 2 (Laguna Seca, Riverside).

Matich and his small team contested the Road America, Bridghampton, Laguna Seca and Riverside rounds. Fundamentally the car, sweet handling as it was, was outgunned. Its 400bhp Repco having way too little grunt and lacked the reliability for these Grand Prix length sprints of 200 miles.

At Road America the SR3 qualified on 2:22, 18th  to McLarens pole of 2:12.6, retiring on lap 15 with a radiator holed by a stone. In the glorious Hamptons in New York on 17 September he qualified 15th 1:33.49 to Hulme’s 1:29.85, but again DNF this time with fuel starvation.

Frank’s team missed the Mosport, Canada round on 23 September which Hulme’s M6A won.

In California for a couple of races FM gridded 13th at Laguna Seca on 1:05.07 to McLarens blistering pole of 1:02.69, a race Bruce won. Interestingly the Ferrari P4/350 CanAm (a P4 lightened, modified and increased in capacity) did their first ’67 event, Amon finished 5th but qualified behind Matich in 16th on 1:05.77.

Matich and Amon, the latter in in David McKays Ferrari P4/350 CanAm had some sensational scraps that Australian summer in the sportscar races which supported the Tasman Series rounds with the Repco powered car demonstrably quicker than the exotic, long distance derived V12 powered Ferrari.

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Matich, wife Joan his mechanics, Peter Mabey at left and Firestone technicians on the Riverside pit apron, CanAm 29 October 1967, John Surtees Lola T70 Mk3B Chev behind. Bruce won the race, Matich crashed and Surtees DNF with ‘rear end’ problems (unattributed)

Still in California, at Riverside on 29 October McLaren won, Hulme was on pole with 1:39.30, Matich 20th on 1:45 and Amon 15th on 1:44.40. Frank crashed out on lap 20. With that the team decamped back to Oz to prepare for the Tasman Series encounters with Amon, with Matich winning each of these battles. Click here for an article on the Ferrari P4/CanAm 350 ‘0858’ inclusive of the Matich/Amon battles;

https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/

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Jack Brabham, Brabham BT19 Repco and a very young Nigel Tait at the Sandown Tasman meeting, the second race outing for the first ‘RB620’ engine, 2.5 litres in Tasman spec, 27 February 1966. The young engineer had just graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and has ‘landed on his feet at Repco Brabham Engines. Tait maintains this car for Repco all these years later. One of a kind BT19 is Jack’s 1966 championship winning mount (Australian Post)

Nigel Tait…

Having qualified in Mechanical and Automotive Engineering at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Nigel commenced work at Repco in 1966 as an Engineering Cadet. His first placement, you can be lucky!, was in the engine laboratory in Richmond where the Repco Brabham engines were built and tested. He helped to plan and implement the move of the Repco Brabham project to another plant, in Maidstone, this involved manufacture of shadow boards for the new machine tools being installed for further manufacture of the racing engines.

He progressed to assist the head engine builder (Michael Gasking) with assembly, dynamometer running of the engines and worked on BT19 (Jack’s ’66 championship winning chassis) when it was being prepared for the ‘620 Series’ 2.5 litre Tasman V8 for Jack Brabham to use at the ’66 Sandown Tasman meeting. He also worked with other project engineers on test and development of the range of engine components being manufactured at the various engine parts manufacturing factories of the Repco empire for fitment to the race engines.

These project engineering tasks continued for some years and included a 4 month transfer to England to work in some of the companies to which Repco was licensed.

By the mid 70’s Nigel was running the engine laboratory in Richmond, which had become the Repco Engine Technical Centre. In conjunction with the University of Melbourne he supervised a major Federal Government contract for the testing and evaluation of diesel and petrol engines running on alcohol fuel mixtures. He also spent some years as chief engineer of the engine parts plant at Richmond before returning to the engine laboratory, which became his base as Chief Engineer of Repco’s Engine Parts Divison.

He was closely involved with original equipment product development and sales to local car companies and travelled throughout Australia and New Zealand extensively giving product knowledge lectures and writing technical articles. He made a significant contribution to the engine component design sections in the Repco Engine Service Manual (later to be reissued as the ACL Engine Manual).

The division was sold to a management buyout group in 1986 and became ACL (Automotive Components Limited). Nigel was one of the 9 in the buyout group and continued in the role of chief engineer until his retirement in 2005.

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The Matich SR4: One of Australia’s most famous and successful racing cars. Here Matich slices the car, with typical pinpoint accuracy into Warwick Farm’s Esses, 4 May 1969. Interesting in an historic context, hi-wings were banned during the Monaco GP weekend of 18 May…

Overview..

 Frank Matich had already won the Australian Sports Car Championship four times by the time he commenced work on the SR4; he won in a Lotus 19 in 1964, Elfin 400/Traco Olds in 1966 and in the Matich SR3 in 1967/8.

He had competed in the USA in 1967 as recounted earlier. His dominance of sports car racing in Australia was legendary and led to the catchphrase: ‘Doing a Matich’. (Pole position, winning, fastest lap time and lap record). Frank’s record with the SR4 is impressive.  He raced at Bathurst, Calder Park, Catalina Park, Sandown, Surfers Paradise and Warwick Farm.

SR4 took nineteen starts for 15 wins, one second with eight outright lap records and winner of the 1969 Sports car Championship.

SR4 Owners..

Rothmans Team Matich (1968-1970), Repco (1970-1986) Automotive Components Limited (1986-2005) and Nigel Tait (from 2005)

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SR4 in Repco’s Maidstone, Melbourne workshop in 1971, great shot of the nose/spoiler assy and carefully ducted, both ‘in and out’ of radiator, suspension as per text. Note front lights mandated by Oz rules (Jay Bondini)

Build, sponsorship and first ownership..

It’s not certain who actually owned the SR4 as built. It was constructed at Frank Matich’s workshop in Sydney and as far as I know largely funded with sponsorship from Rothmans (tobacco) and perhaps others. The engines belonged to Repco.

Some time after the first logbook was issued from CAMS it was mislaid and Frank wrote to apply for another, stating ownership as ‘Rothmans Team Matich’. In his book ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden wrote that ownership transferred to Rothmans while the car was still in competition, that’s the period from December 1968 to January 1970. It’s also known that Rothmans made a practice of owning the cars that Matich raced under their sponsorship.

The car was retired in early 1970 so that Frank could concentrate on F5000. Repco wanted the car to use as an advertising tool and in return, it is my understanding, that an arrangement was made for the car to be transferred to Repco’s ownership in return for ongoing supply of engines and sponsorship for F5000, these being made at the old Repco Brabham plant in Maidstone. (That’s where I started work for Repco in 1966 as a cadet engineer). This division was renamed Repco Engine Development Company (REDCo) under General Manager Malcolm Preston.

Frank Hallam, Repco Brabham’s General Manager, and incidentally my first boss, had by then been transferred to Repco Research, and one day acidly described to me his life out there as ‘a career careering between obstacles’. He wasn’t happy about being put out to pasture.

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Shot as above after delivery to Repco in Maidstone, Melbourne. Note wing spec then, it would be interesting to know which meetings it competer in this spec, noting changes were ongoing apart from those mandated by the FIA from the ’69 Monaco GP weekend, hi-wings banned from then (Jay Bondini)

Anyway, the car was sent down from Sydney to Repco in late 1970 (I was working for Repco in England at the time so can’t be sure of dates) and was first placed at the Repco Apprentice Centre in North Melbourne. Then it was sent to Maidstone to rest, for some years, in a room next to the REDC0 drawing office. It was in a forlorn state with an empty engine and at the time of little interest to Repco or anyone really.

Anyway once REDCo had closed down after F5000 had finished (at least for Repco) I had the car and all of the Repco Brabham/REDCo drawings and files and other hardware transferred to our Richmond engine laboratory that I supervised. Another division of Repco was to occupy the Maidstone building but not the two engine dynamometer cells, which I was to run, not very successfully as it turned out, on a commercial basis.

By that time Don Halpin had transferred from the Maidstone plant of Repco Engine Parts to our Richmond laboratory and he undertook a cosmetic restoration of the car so that Repco could use it for trade displays and shows etc. It was not a running vehicle at this stage since there was no engine, only a few parts to make it look OK.

Various divisions of Repco used the car for displays as intended and the car also spent quite some years on public display at the Birdwood Museum in the Adelaide Hills, and then the Auto Museum in Launceston, Tasmania.

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BP advertisement photo is pit straight, Sandown Park, Melbourne (BP)

From Repco to ACL..

During the early 80’s Repco underwent considerable change in its upper management and ownership. (You could read ‘corporate raiders’!). By about 1985 Repco had sold off some of its manufacturing divisions, Repco Research, the Brake and Clutch Division and the machinery manufacturing division and it became clear that manufacturing was of no interest to the Board. Clearly the factories manufacturing engine parts in Melbourne, Brisbane and Launceston were next to be offloaded. Indeed while the Repco Board instructed the Divisional General Manager of this division to advise his staff that it was not for sale, it on the other hand instructed him to find a buyer!

So in August 1986 a management buyout team comprising 8 of its senior staff (including myself), and our Divisional General Manager, purchased the whole division from Repco. At a price of $A28 million and with very little equity and huge borrowing, the team pulled off what was the largest management buyout of its type in the country’s history. There were almost 1,000 employees spread over 5 states. My role was to continue as chief engineer.

The new company adopted a name that was actually one of Repco’s 1960’s takeover targets, ACL, and the new company became ‘Automotive Components Limited’. (Repco had no need to use this name and allowed its use by us).

All of the assets of the then Repco Engine Division were transferred to the new company, these included the Repco Brabham BT19 and all associated drawings, items and trailer and also the Matich SR4 which was still in its cosmetically restored state. So the Matich became the property of ACL from August 1986.  ACL continued to display the car publicly including the museum in Launceston and other venues.

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SR4 in the Birdwood Museum, Adelaide Hills, at this stage the ‘cosmetic’ restoration had been done by Don Halpin as per text, car not ‘a runner’  (The Roaring Season)

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Niel Allen’s ex-Matich Elfin 400 Chev (named Traco Olds by Matich) ahead of FM’s SR4 and Bevan Gibson’s ill-fated Elfin 400 Repco, sadly Bevan died during this race, Easter, Bathurst 1969. This event is reported in full in the Elfin 400 article, a link for which is at this articles outset (Dick Simpson)

An engine was found..

Towards the mid to late 90’s with the growth of interest in historic racing there were numerous approaches made to ACL to buy it. These were made direct to the Board or sometimes to myself, and always we advised that the car was not for sale, but would be restored once an engine could be located.

Luckily that did happen. Aaron Lewis, who is prominent in historic racing circles and the owner of some magnificent cars, advised me that Les Wright of Sydney had a 4.2 litre Repco Brabham engine in his Brabham Buick. CAMS had advised that this was not the way the car was originally raced and that Les would need to remove the engine and obtain the correct Buick engine to obtain a CAMS permit to race the car. On behalf of ACL I bought the engine for $30,000. Les ran it on the floor and it worked pretty well so was transported to Melbourne. This was circa 2000.

At last we had an engine and I was able to have the car brought back to life. Jim Hardman (ex F3 racer, mechanic, engineer and builder of the superb Hardman F2 cars of 1980) undertook this restoration, which was essentially to make it mobile, look good and be safe for display and demonstration running.  This work was undertaken by Jim at his rented area within Heckrath Engineering in Cheltenham and paid for by ACL.

I sent the body to Richmond TAFE who had offered to spray it. It turned out to be a very poor job where even the colour was wrong and I had to engage a panel beater near us at Maidstone (Houdini) to do it again. More about the colour later.

Once in running condition at Heckraths Jim Hardman became the first person to drive the car for over 30 years. Albeit this was in Bricker Road, Cheltenham on a quiet weekend morning, a quick blast lest the local police took interest!  More ‘legal’ trials were held at Calder in outer Melbourne, with Jim doing most of the driving though I squeezed myself into it several times.

Subsequently the car was displayed many times from around 2002 to 2005, at Motorclassica, the Australian Grand Prix, various circuits and trade shows and even at a Repco function.

Jim made up a seat for me and I took it to several meetings at Eastern Creek, Winton, Phillip Island etc and we also used it as a display vehicle for our numerous company functions. When Jim drove it at Phillip Island it dropped valves in both heads (probably stones down the intakes) and we had to undertake a fairly extensive rebuild. (Not having wire screens on the inlet trumpets was a bad mistake, as others have also learned).

Assembling Repco Brabham engine

Repco engine assy area, Maidstone factory, Melbourne in early 1968, the engine towards the front is  a 3 litre ‘860’ F1 engine, behind are ‘760s’, capacities unknown (Repco)

Engines..

 The whereabouts of the original 5 litre ‘760 Series’ engine used when Frank Matich raced the car is unknown. I doubt that it came back to Repco. There is some suggestion that it resides somewhere as the base of a coffee table and I hold out hope that one day this engine might come to light, if only as an important part of the car’s history for the next generation.

4.2 litre: I’ve already explained how we came by the 4.2 litre engine ex Les Wright. The 4.2 litre ‘760 Series’ quad cam engines were made only for Indianapolis for Jack Brabham and for Peter Revson. I think there may only have been two or perhaps three, the records are not clear. The engine in the ex Revson BT25 of Aaron Lewis is undoubtedly the one from that car. Sir Jack Brabham told me that one of his engines used in his 1968 BT25 Indy car that he lent to Goodyear ‘disappeared’ and I have a feeling that the engine I have might be this one.

It is as original though as a result of the dropped valve at Phillip Island one of the bores had to be honed slightly oversize to remove some marking and hence the piston and rings in this cylinder are a little larger. Otherwise the engine is as run by Les and still has the same cams etc. It runs on Avgas. I use 50 cc of two stroke oil per 20 litres of Avgas for lubrication of the metering unit.

Its output would be around 550 BHP at about 8,000 RPM but I have never pushed it beyond 6,500 RPM. I have rebuilt it a second time just as a check and little work was needed.

Assembling valve train for quad cam Repco Brabham engine

Peter Reilly assembling an ‘860’ 3 litre F1 engine valve train assy, the engines problem area!, refer to the text, beautiful workmanship clear. ‘860’ the only gear driven cam engine, ’20 and 40′ Series driven by chain (Repco)

5 litre: Some years ago I discovered that I had enough parts from which to commence build of a 5 litre ‘760 Series’ engine. I had a block of the right type (to take the Cooper rings rather than head gaskets). Crankshaft Rebuilders made sleeves and a crankshaft, rods were made by Argo, pistons by Special Pistons Services and the heads that I had were completely rebuilt at Head Stud Developments. Luckily I had the gear casings all of the gears (the quad cam engines have gears, not chains) and a spare sump of the right type with integral oil pressure and scavenge pumps.

Build of this engine took me about 2 years including the time for manufacture of the parts by Crankshaft Rebuilders. A much larger than original torsional vibration damper was made for me by Tuffbond in Sydney.  Minimizing crankshaft torsional vibration protects the valve gear and camshafts etc. as well as being better for the crankshaft itself.

Actually the engines used by Frank were of 4.8 litre capacity, the bores being reduced slightly to overcome sleeve cracking due to being too thin. I have made my engine to true 5 litre capacity with the steel sleeves and was able this way to utilize off the shelf ring sizes. Also I had the rods made to 6” length which enabled the use of much shorter and lighter pistons in keeping with modern engine design practice.

The result is a very nice engine with noticeably more torque. Though I have not had it on a dyno it would no doubt see around 600 BHP, though as with the 4.2 I do not use any more than 6,500 at which point the cams are in and there is plenty for me!

The 5 litre encountered what I thought was a mild overheat at Geelong* in 2014 so I have rebuilt this over 2015/6. There was no bore damage but the crankshaft needed grinding and otherwise the engine is in good condition and ready now for further use.

*Note: I have learn’t that apart from needing a better bleed for the cooling system (now done) I have let the engine rev too slowly upon first start up. The water pump speed is only half engine revs so now I run the engine at 2,000 RPM from any cold start to make sure the coolant is flowing properly.

 Reverting to the 4.2 litre engine in Aaron Lewis’ BT25, it is currently in build and it would be nice to see it running. (at the time of uploading this article Aaron has run the car at Eastern Creek, Sydney) At this stage the two quad cam Repco Brabham engines (and now Aaron’s) that I have for the SR4 are the only Repco quad cams that run, anywhere.

I have nearly enough parts to commence a third engine build but this would have to be with a block that uses head gaskets and these would need to be re-torqued thus would need either a dynamometer run or engine removal from car after first run.  Or with luck I’ll find another Cooper ring type block.

Sale from ACL to Nigel Tait..

I was still hard at work as ACL’s Chief Engineer up until my retirement in July 2005. Consequently outings with the car and indeed also the BT19, were rare and had to fit in with my work rather than being at my will.

With retirement imminent it became obvious that with no one else at ACL interested in the two cars we’d have to consider their future. Repco had a first option to buy BT19 and it was decided to sell this back to them around June 2005, for $1.3M.  I had been looking after it since it was bought from Jack Brabham in 1970. Repco asked if I would continue to be its carer/minder, which I do to this day.

The Matich was to be sold and my bid was the highest, thus securing for me a car that i’d been looking after virtually since its acquisition by Repco. I paid my company $160,000 for it and the various spares and display material and engines, (including the 3 litre quad cam ‘850’ diagonal port engine). I also purchased the trailer that was made for us by MRT Trailers, for $10,000.

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Spaceframe chassis back at Jim Hardman’s shop after sand blasting and stove-enamelling (Tait)

As earlier mentioned the first restoration by Don Halpin was to allow the car to be on static display.The second, once we had the engine from Les Wright, was by Jim Hardman and resulted in the car’s first outing in 30 years.

Once I had purchased the car in 2005 Jim advised that we should undertake a complete bare frame restoration and rebuild. Jim still had the facility at Heckrath’s and i was able to devote some time to the menial tasks such dismantling, cleaning the frame ready for spraying and running around getting parts etc as needed.

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Chassis, big and butch to take the big Repco’s power and torque, quoted weights of ’68 McLaren M8A and Matich SR4 similar. Given the Repco engine was way lighter than the ally’ block Chevy of the M8A, the difference in weights is a bit of a mystery as Tait quotes the Matich bare frame at 38Kg (Tait)

 

 

Hardman replaced all of the aluminum skins, undertray, all firewalls etc and repaired and strengthened the frame as needed. In fact there was no real problem with the frame, one part of the outrigger on one side had partially cracked and the bar that was the top mounting for the seat belt upper harness was too small. Everything else was terrific. A great testament to its builder, Henry Nehrybecki.  I photographed all stages of the restoration and rebuild which took exactly 6 weeks from the May Winton meeting to being ready for Speed on Tweed later that year.

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Wishbone front suspension, coil spring/Armstrong damper and ventilated front discs, steering rack also in situ, Matich designed, CAC cast (Tait)

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Big radiator in place, 3 pot calipers are Girling (Tait)

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Front suspension, radiator and ducting detail, quality of workmanship clear (Tait)

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Heart of the matter in place as is Hewland LG600 ‘box, car first raced with a ZF. Rear suspension period typical; single upper link, lower inverted wishbone, coil spring/dampers (then Koni now Armstrong) and twin radius t rods for fore and aft location. Note big oil reservoir and beefy rear chassis diaphragm above ‘box (Tait)

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And now the body (Tait)

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Proud custodian Nigel Tait with SR4. Jim Hardman an outstanding race mechanic/engineer and car builder ‘in period’ and now a restorer of similar calibre (Tait)

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The view of FM’s SR4 derriere all the other drivers saw (Tait)

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Australian Champion driver John Bowe aboard SR4 at Calder (Tait)

Multiple Australian Champion John Bowe expressed interest in doing a track test for ‘Unique Cars’ magazine. This was shortly after our 2006 rebuild. He planned on a run at Calder for this but that day could not be scheduled as intended. Instead John’s first drive of the car ended up on the road circuit at Murwillumbah’s Speed on Tweed. Organised by Roger Ealand, who so sadly we have just lost, this event ran for several years and in fact culminated in its final event with a stage of the Repco Rally being held also on the same circuit, but at night.

John drove the car for its 4 or 5 runs but even after the first he requested some suspension changes, which had an immediate effect. Subsequently John’s planned track drive at Calder came off and he drove numerous laps following a camera car and some at speed. A successful day and John loved the car. His only request was for the height of front and rear to be changed to change the undertray height to be higher at the back to improve downforce.

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My Licence.

I have a level 2S licence. In my earlier days of racing it was the equivalent of a Level 1, but some 25 years ago I lost one eye resulting from an infection during a skiing holiday in New Zealand. That’s one reason why my driving is limited to display regularity and super sprint etc but the other reason is quite pragmatic; there are few drivers around, and I’m not one of them, who could handle this car to its full potential.  With over 600 BHP and a weight of just 625kg the car commands great respect.

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Start of the fateful race which took Bevan Gibson’s life, Easter, Bathurst 1969. Gibson in Bob Jane’s red #6 Elfin 400 Repco, Niel Allen #2 alongside in his Elfin 400 Chev and Matich to the right in the hi-winged SR4 (Wayne McKay)

Contact with Frank Matich..

 I took the car to Eastern Creek in Sydney on several occasions in the years before and after its bare frame restoration in 2006.

Frank was at some of these meetings and was delighted to see and hear it in action. He was full of praise for the standard of the restoration and for my efforts in bringing it back to life. We spent quite some time discussing technical aspects of the car and he noted that someone had replaced the Koni shock absorbers with Armstrongs, a pity he said because he set the Konis with very little bump and mostly rebound, something that I can’t do with the Armstrongs.  Frank was apologetic that somehow his people had done a cleanup in his factory and had discarded many spares including patterns and wheels etc that he would have given me. These were good conversations and it was fun also to meet his daughter Katrina and his granddaughter Paige and to have photos of all with the car. He said that he was glad the car was in good hands.

Unfortunately relations deteriorated somewhat in Frank’s latter years when he claimed that he had not sold the car to Repco and wanted it returned! This after a period of over 30 years since Repco’s acquisition during which there had been no communication from or to Frank and with the car having been through two changes of ownership.

Subsequently Frank’s attention was drawn to the reference in John Blanden’s book stating that ‘It initially ran with Rothmans signage and subsequently Rothmans acquired ownership of the car’.

 There was no further communication on this issue. It was disappointing but didn’t diminish my admiration for Frank as a brilliant driver and one of the great legends of Australian motor sport. To this day I can recall the car running at Sandown and steaming into Peter’s corner (I was an official there) with all brakes locked up, tyres smoking when the throttle had apparently stuck.  That was a great era.

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Matich ‘locks em up’, a stuck throttle the cause, on Sandown’s pit straight just before Peters/Torana corner in 1969 (Tait Collection)

Henry Nehrybecki..

Henry was the builder of the car, at least the chassis and suspension and no doubt he had a team of helpers. Indeed I’ve heard that some of the time during the build Henry was not well and Bobby Britton (of Rennmax Engineering) may also have been involved.

I had numerous discussions with Henry in the early days after we got the car going and took it to Eastern Creek. He was thrilled the car was back in action after being out of circulation for 30 years. A small coincidence is that Henry’s granddaughter Gabrielle lives in Melbourne and is in the same friendship group as my daughter and her friends.

Derek Kneller; ‘Henry drew and fabricated the chassis, the conceptual design of which was Frank’s and his, Bob Britton was also involved. The chassis was then transferred to Franks facility, the Castle Cove BP Garage in Eastern Valley Way, which comprised a ‘servo’, the race ‘shop and Firestone racing tyre warehouse. It was in late ’69 that FM switched from testing and selling Firestones to Goodyear’.

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John Mepstead and Matich ponder the SR4’s brakes in the Sandown paddock after its big brake lock-up. Mepstead an ex-Repco mechanic/engineer hired by FM to look after the car in ’69 (Tait Collection)

‘Peter Mabey assembled SR4 at Castle Cove, he had been with FM for some years including the SR3 race program in the ‘States. After that Peter looked after the Servo side of the business before returning to the race side of things on the F5000 program with me. SR4 was maintained and race prepared in 1969 by Tony Williams and John Mepstead on the chassis and engine respectively’.

Others to drive the Matich SR4..

Apart from Frank there have been no others to drive it in any competition except John Bowe and Laurie Bennett. We will not count my many demonstration drives, super sprints and regularity events and even in the Top Gear event at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

As earlier mentioned John drove it at Speed on Tweed just after its 3rd restoration. Laurie drove it at Mallala in one Super Sprint. His Elfin 600 had expired and I let him take it out. Effectively he won this having started last on the grid and passed all of the others by the last lap, while being stuck in 2nd gear.

Bill Hemming and David Hardman (Jim’s son) also enjoyed some practice laps at Mallala and Winton respectively. Also Brian Sampson who would have loved to own the car took it for a few laps at Winton after the third restoration. He really enjoyed it however we had a problem with a badly set up throttle mechanism which made it difficult to drive.

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On the Calder dummy grid in 1969, #34 an Elfin Streamliner (Ian Pope)

The body was made in Sydney by JWF Fibreglass. It was not intended to be this way. The plan was for it to be made from aluminum and they went a long way towards completing this but the task became too hard and too slow. What had been made was used as a mould for the fiberglass body. This was one of the reasons the car didn’t go to the 1968/9 CanAm, the other was that Repco was late with the engine.

When we restored it at ACL it was strengthened with some extra layers internally as it was very flimsy and cracked in many areas. It’s a little heavier but still OK.

I’ve mentioned earlier the colour. After the debacle of the Richmond TAFE attempt we’d lost the original colour since every panel was by now the odd purple colour, so there was no colour match possible. Houdini Panels suggested an off the shelf colour common to a road car of the time and as it looked more vibrant and could be retouched more easily I chose this.

It appears there were two bodies, or at least two rear sections. When the car raced at the Easter Bathurst meeting Frank had the very high wing and it was attached to the rear hubs by uprights that went through holes in the body.  After Bathurst the car reverted to low wing, no wing and various iterations in-between, but always body mounted. The wing on the car now is about 300mm above the rear deck and I am not sure if the car competed in this way or if the wing was experimental in the latter stages of the car’s life with Frank.

Just last December (2015) I found another rear body section for the car. It came to light in an outer suburban junk yard along with the body from Colin Hyams’ T190 Lola F5000. How these came to be at this property is something we’ll never know. Anyway I bought the Matich rear body (for much more than it is worth), as it is definitely the one Frank used at Bathurst, with the holes for the wing supports and is the original dark blue. It still has the Repco and other stickers on it. I don’t intend to use this but it would fit straight on still having the original brackets.

Chassis number..

The chassis was number 07. When I decided to have a brass plate made I asked Henry if he knew what the chassis number was and he advised it was number 1 so I had the plate made this way. He was probably referring to the fact that it appears another chassis was made, very similar to mine, but never actually made into a car. So Henry was thinking about SR4 chassis of which mine was the first. I suppose I could re-engrave the plate on my car.

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SR4 in the Surfers Paradise paddock, note the car is now fitted with a Hewland LG500 ‘box rather than the ZF in the earlier rear shot (Tait Collection)

Gearbox..

 The car was made with a ZF. It seems the side plates of this gearbox were not strong enough and also the 4 speed Hewland LG500 that replaced it was more common at the time and ratio changes were easier. There is a reverse but to set up the adjustment to get this compromises engagement of the forward gears so it does not go into reverse at all. I don’t have any spare ratios. The only places 4th gear is used is at Eastern Creek, Calder, briefly, the back straight at Pukekohe, NZ and the Grand Prix circuit at Albert Park. Also Sandown and Phillip Island. Given a good straight the car would reach 200 mph.

Derek Kneller; ‘I helped fit the Hewland LG gearbox to SR4. We were converting Frank’s F5000 M10A McLaren to M10B spec, i built the first of these at McLaren’s before leaving the UK for Oz. A DG300 Hewland was fitted to the M10A, the LG was popped from the M10A into SR4. Henry Nehrbecki fabricated a new rear cross-frame with a bellhousing designed by us and cast by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Melbourne, we made a pattern which we could adapt for a Chev or the Repco. The change in ‘box was around November 1969’.

Tyres..

Very early in the piece Kris Matich (of Goodyear in Sydney) tried to find tyres of the original size as raced by Frank but these were no longer available. I have used Avons, supplied by Russell Stuckey and they are F5000 fronts (with treads cut by Russell) and a sports car category treaded tyre imported from Japan. The sizes are: Front: 10.5/23/15 Rear: 15/26/15

These are a little smaller in outer diameter than raced by Frank and we have set the suspension up to suit. Any difference in ratio is of no consequence.

sr4 surfers

FM after winning the ASSC round at Surfers Paradise on 18 May 1969, time for a new set of raceboots Frank! Note air reliefs atop SR4 RHS guard (Tait Collection)

Roll bar..

The roll bar height is too low for me since my seat was made for me to sit further away from the pedals. It was marginal in height for Frank. For my purposes it is OK but will need to be rebuilt in accordance with CAMS standards in due course. I think this will require a bare frame exercise.

Brakes..

These are as raced but I have slightly softer pads for quicker warm up. John Bowe felt that these might be too soft for serious racing.

Fuel tank..

The car was raced with a large bladder tank in the left pod. This was not serviceable, Jim Hardman made an aluminium tank of about 30 litres capacity and foam filled it. The car uses about 1 litre per kilometre so a larger tank would be needed for any serious racing.

Ignition..

A Lucas Opus system was on the 4.2 engine ex Les Wright though most likely Frank raced with a Bosch twin point distributor.  The Opus modules are no longer serviceable. John Heckrath made up a special distributor so the Bosch module could be hidden inside the Opus unit and this worked well. There was some initial hilarity when it was discovered that the donor distributor from a V6 Holden had the wrong number of teeth for a V8! (The timing was only ever right for the first few degrees of engine rotation and had to be retimed numerous times until the oversight was discovered). More recently Performance Ignition made up a Scorcher system and this now works perfectly albeit is not as the car was raced.

Cam covers..

The car raced with cam covers designated ‘REPCO’.  I built my 5 litre engine accordingly but the 4.2 litre engine, being ex Jack Brabham Indy, had ‘REPCO BRABHAM’ cast onto the top. I’ve chosen to leave it this way, i have spares of both types. (An early photo shows the car with Repco Brabham cam covers and also shows the ZF gearbox).

CAMS Certificate of Description (Australias more rigorous equivalent of FIA historic racing certification)..

For what I do with the car a C.O.D. is not needed but I was persuaded that it would be a good idea to have this so the car could be documented as raced, for future reference. A C.O.D. was obtained in 2015. It is # 0.040.03.02.

New Zealand

 I have taken the car to New Zealand twice, both times to Hampton Downs, and on the first occasion to Pukekohe as well. I was included in the demonstration events on each occasion and had plenty of track time with F5000’s and other sports cars. This was especially so at the most recent of the visits to Hampton Downs where there were so few of the big sports cars entered they needed me to make up numbers, at least in the practice, qualifying and even on the warm up lap of every race! The two events were to celebrate Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme respectively.

Importantly the Matich ran very well and was popular with the locals.

 Future..

My plan is to continue with displays and demonstrations, regularity and Super Sprints as much as possible given my other passion, snow skiing. This sidelines me for most of the winter months in our small apartment at Mount Buller. I hold out hope that I can get the roll bar rebuilt soon, the 5 litre should go back in later this year and it would be nice to make another trip to New Zealand.

My longer term mission is to see the car in the hands of someone with the necessary technical ability, driving skill and passion to continue to present the car, whether racing or not, in the manner that reflects the great legacy for its terrific driver, Frank Matich and Repco for its amazing engines.

Nigel Tait June 2016

MatichSR4promocardtext

This card, and the shot just below was produced by Repco and handed out at race-meetings trade shows and the like in period (Tait)

Matich SR4 specifications…

Engine: Repco Brabham quad cam. Repco designed and manufactured ‘700 Series’ aluminium crankcase/block cast at Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne.

Four valve per cylinder, DOHC, gear driven,  ’60 Series’ aluminum heads designed by Repco and cast at Castalloy in Adelaide.

Lucas mechanical fuel injection system with metering unit driven from the same jackshaft which describes the distributor Port mounted Lucas injectors running at 100psi. Throttle slides for engine control.

Ignition: car was originally raced with a Bosch twin-point distributor, later Lucas Opus and now Scorcher with reluctor in the distributor

Lubrication: pressure and scavenge pumps in the sump interconnected with short shaft, driven from the crank. Oil tank external

Crankshaft made by Crankshaft Rebuilders, Forged pistons by Special Pistons Services, Connecting rods made by Argo, NSW.

Capacity: 4.2 litre ‘Indy’ version Bore: 96mm Stroke 71.9mm

Capacity: 4.8 litre as raced by Matich in 1969: Bore 96.5mm, Stroke 82mm

Capacity: 5 litre Ian Tait built: Bore 96.5mm Stroke 86mm

Chassis: Tubular steel spaceframe: Weight 38 kilograms (bare frame)

Suspension: Front; Lower wishbone, upper camber arms with radius rod. Rear; Reversed lower wishbone with upper camber arm and upper and lower radius rods. Shock absorbers: now Armstrong but raced originally with double-adjustable Koni’s

Steering: Matich manufactured rack and pinion, cast by CAC. Uprights: Matich design and manufactured, steel fabrications

Brakes: Girling, 3 pots per wheel

Wheels: Matich design cast magnesium, front 10.5 by 15”, rear 17” by 15”

Tyres: Avon, front 10.5” by 23” by 15”. Rear 15” by 26” by 15”

Track: front 57”, rear 60”, wheelbase 90”

Body: Fibreglass, manufactured by JWF in Sydney.

Matich SR4 photo from Ian Pope

How competitive would the SR4 Repco have been in the 1968 Can Am Series?…

In ’67 the dominant McLaren M6A weighed 590Kg/1300lbs and was powered by a 6 litre 530bhp Chevy, the ’68 M8A by a 7 litre 620bhp alloy block Chev, the car weighed circa 1350lbs.

On the face of it FM’s ‘760 Series’ 5 litre, 4 valve, DOHC  Repco V8 toting about 580 bhp, the car quoted at 1361lbs would have been ‘in the hunt’. Certainly in relative terms SR4 would have been more competitive than the ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre, 2 valve, SOHC 400bhp powered SR3 was in 1967.

Whilst the Repco V8 was giving away some power to the Chev, the car similar in weight to M8A, the Matich was potentially a better handling car than M8A given the distribution of the weight. The Repco alloy V8 weighed about 380lbs, the Chev lump circa 550lbs. There was no question about the handling of the Matich cars; ask Chris Amon who’s beautiful handling P4/CanAm 350 Fazz V12 was beaten by Matich in SR3 soundly on every occasion they met during the Australian Tasman rounds in the summer of ’68.

The engines had to last the 200 miles of a CanAm event of course, the Repco ‘860 Series’ F1 engines having major problems in 1968, mainly valve gear related. RBE Project Engineer Norman Wilson’s account of the engine problems in F1 in 1968 is as follows; ‘On a visit to Cosworth after the 860 engine problems Cosworth partner, Mike Costin, said that he realised what our problem was with the valve gear, that it was torsional vibration’.

‘This is where the project started to get unravelled. Frank (Hallam, GM of Repco Brabham Emgines) had sort of admitted the problem but at the time i think Frank had just about left, and Charlie Dean who replaced him wouldn’t understand that the problem was a torsional vibration problem. It was wrecking the cam followers. And the solution to the problem was fairly simple. All we had to do was modify the cam drive like the Cosworth Ford DFV engine and we could have fixed it’.

‘What happens is at certain speeds the front of the camshaft will tend to go a little bit like a tuning fork and as it rotates this front of the crankshaft oscillates back and forth and this oscillation is transferred up through the timing gears. It was making two of the camshafts do the same thing. So when the cam lobes were going around they were ruining the cam followers. The Cosworth has a little spring gizmo in the first timing gear to absorb this so it is not transmitted through the whole system. And Frank realised we needed something like this and we were working on doing that when Charlie Dean arrived on the scene and said it was a lubrication problem.’ This was after the end of the 1968 F1 season mind you, Hallam resigned after Deans arrival, after that disastrous season.

The ‘760 Series’ 4.2 litre, 4 valve, DOHC Repco V8 Indy variant with the same block and heads as the 5 litre finished the Indy 500 in 1969, Peter Revson’s Brabham BT25 finished 5th in the race won by Andretti’s Hawk Ford. Critically, Peter Revson took the only international win for a ’60 Series’ engine when we won the Indianapolis Raceway Park road event in his Brabham BT25 Repco on 27 July 1969.

None of these engines were fitted with the torsional vibration damper or spring gizmo to which Wilson refers. Its said the the bigger ‘760’ engines were simply not revved as hard as their F1 liddl’ ‘860’ brother thereby avoiding the oscillation rev range which was problematic.

denny m8a

Denny Hulme, McLaren M8A Chev, Laguna Seca 1969 (unattributed)

For Australian enthusiasts a great ‘mighta been’ is how FM would have gone against the mighty papaya ‘Big Macs’ in 1968?…

Would the SR4 have been quick? You betcha, much faster than SR3. Would the ‘760 Series’ engine have finished 200 mile races? Yes again if the similar Indy variant results in ’69 are a guide. Could SR4 have achieved CanAm podiums in ’68?, probably yes.

Could he have won a race? Maybe, if the planets were aligned noting that year the ‘dynamic duo’ didn’t win two rounds; John Cannon took a great victory in the wet in an old M1B McLaren at Laguna and Mark Donohue at Bridghampton in the Penske M6B when both Bruce and Denny had major engine failures. Could FM have prevailed at these events? Sure, SR4 was quick enough to knock both car/driver combinations off.

‘If yer Aunty had balls she’d be yer Uncle’ of course, ifs, buts and maybes mean nothing in motor racing, as in life. The chassis was late. The engine was late. FM didn’t contest the ’68 CanAm and as a result we were all deprived of seeing Matich take on Bruce, Denny and the rest of the CanAm circus all of whom he knew and respected well.

So Frank raced the car in Oz in ’69, crushed the local opposition and then moved into F5000 supported by Repco…

rb brochure

Rothmans brochure featuring both the old, SR4 Repco and the new, McLaren M10A Chev F5000 in 1969 (Tony Johns via Nigel Tait)

The obvious question is, having missed the ’68 series  why didn’t the car contest the 1969 CanAm instead of being ‘King of The Kids’ in Oz?..

The answer is simple, the Repco Brabham engine program was over, Jack raced a Cosworth DFV in F1 in 1969, the final races in that partnership the Indy races in 1969.

The Repco board decided to close down Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd, there is no certainty Repco would have committed to F1 in 1969 even had Jack wanted them to. Cost was a big issue for Repco throughout 1968, the failure of the engines that year made it easier to withdraw, particularly given the sort of investment which would have been needed to match the reliability and power of the Ford Cosworth DFV. Its impotant to remember that Rindt put ‘860 Series’ F1 powered Brabhams on pole twice in ’68. The 3 litre ‘860’ Repco was potent! With further development there is no reason the ‘860’ F1 engine could not have won races, it proved its speed in Rindts hands in ’68 if not its reliabilty. And every Tom, Dick and Harry raced DFV’s in ’68; McLaren, Lotus and Ken Tyrrell’s Matra International team, pole amongst that lot was an achievement, the Ferrari’s also quick that year.

So, whilst Repco were happy to provide Matich with an engine, they would not back an assault in the US with the resources required. Matich employed ex-Repco engineer John Mepstead to look after SR4 during ’69, he wasn’t provided by Repco. Matich didn’t have the funds to race in the US and had already acquired an M10A Chev McLaren F5000 car in advance, well in advance of CAMS decision to agree the next ANF1 as F5000. 2 litre F2 was the alternative.

There was some ‘dogs bollocks’ from the Matich camp at the time about ‘multi-valve’ engines not being legal in the ’69 CanAm which is rubbish, obfuscation. Count the number of Ferrari’s alone which ran that year, the last time i looked they weren’t powered by pushrod OHV V8’s.

Repco’s commercial interests were best served, they quite rightly believed, by building an F5000 variant of the 5 litre Holden V8 to participate in this rapidly growing category. The engine was an immediate success, Matich won the 1970 Australian Grand Prix in a McLaren M10C Repco that November.

There was not the funds to race an SR4 ‘Stateside, customer F5000 engines were a better commercial proposition for Repco and so an interesting and immensely successful, Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. chapter of Repco history ended, with a big, quad cam 5 litre bang mind you!

As an aside the last championship won by an RBE engine was Henry Michell’s victory in the 1974 Australian Sportscar Championship aboard an Elfin 360 powered by an ex-Tasman RBE ‘730 Series’ 2.5 litre V8…

The SR4’s 1969 Australian Competitor Set…

The sinfully sexy, wedgy, state of the art, but oh-so-twitchy Elfin ME5 Chev of Niel Allen at Warwick Farm in 1969, below.

Garrie Cooper’s latest big car had a nice, stiff aluminium monocoque chassis but the short wheelbase device, even with Allen at the wheel, very much Matich’s equal in F5000 was never a winning car and with only 480bhp was ‘gutless’ compared to Matich’s 580! Never thought i would say that about a 5 litre injected Chev!

sr me5

(oldracephotos.com)

Bob Jane below in the sensational McLaren M6 Repco at Hume Weir in 1969, le patron at the wheel of the car raced mainly by John Harvey including the Australian Sportscar Championship in 1971/2. Also Repco powered but ‘only’ an SOHC 5 litre ‘740 Series’ V8, Harvey was very much an ace but the car not on the same page as Matich’s beastie. Its time would come…but only after SR4 was popped away as a museum piece within months of its championship win.

sr jane

(oldracephotos.com)

Don O’Sullivan in the hi-winged Matich SR3 ‘3’ Repco slicing into Warwick Farm’s Esses in early 1969. Behind him is Niel Allen in the ex-Matich Elfin 400/Traco Olds, now 5 litre Chev engined car. The chassis of the SR3 was either identical to or very, very similar to Cooper’s Elfin 400 design.

sr sr3

(oldracephotos.com/Dick Simpson)

Matich Cars: The Chassis List…

Matich listed ‘his cars’ by chassis number as below. After discussion with Frank Matich, Darryl Duff who owned one of the SR3’s at the time in the early eighties prepared a document listing ‘Franks’ sportscars. A truncated summary of it is set out below. To that I have added Matich’s single-seaters, all F5000’s the source, Derek Kneller, his engineer/mechanic throughout the entire F5000 period;

sr3 wf

Matich in SR3 ‘3’ Repco ‘620 Series 4.4 litre V8, the last one built, at Warwick Farm in 1968, this is the chassis with which he belted Chris Amon in the ’68 Tasman support rounds, Amon in David McKays/Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/Can Am 350 (Dick Simpson)

1.Sports Cars: All of multi-tubular spaceframe construction

#1 Lotus 19B Climax: (the second of FM’s 19’s, highly modified with many Brabham bits and ultimately destroyed in FM’s big ’65 Lakeside shunt)

#2 Elfin 400 Olds: (aka ‘Traco Olds’ first raced Sandown early ’66, still exists)

#3 SR3 (1) Olds/Repco (still exists) Built with 5 litre Traco/Olds, ZF 5 DS-25 ‘box

First race Warwick Farm early ’67, won ’67 Victorian (Sandown) and NSW (Catalina Park) sportscar championships and Australian Tourist Trophy at Surfers Paradise. To Marvin Webster, California, sans engine in June 1967. Tony Settember raced the car for Webster.

#4 SR3 (2) Repco (still exists) RBE ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre V8 # ‘RB620E22’, from late 1969 Traco/Olds 5 litre from ex-SR3 (1), ZF DS25 ‘box

Built, sold and exported to Kent Price, California US, first raced 3 September 1967, Road America, Elkhart Lake by Matich. Its only US race. Returned to Oz, it was sold on Price’s behalf, by Matich to Malcolm Bailey in 1969. Bailey fitted the ex-Elfin 400/Traco Olds/ SR3 (1) V8 from Niel Allen to the car.

#5 SR3 (3) Repco (still exists) RBE ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre V8 engine # ‘E25’, ZF 5 DS-25 ‘box

First race by Matich, 17 September 1967 Bridghampton, raced in Oz later in ’67. Won RAC Trophy and Australian Tourist Trophy at Warwick Farm and Mallala respectively in 1968. This is the chassis which beat Amon’s Ferrari P4/CanAm 350 throughout the ’68 Tasman support races. Sold to Don O’Sullivan late in ’68

#6 SR4 Repco: (still exists, ’68 intended CanAm contender, late, only raced ’69 in Oz, won ASSC that year)

#7 SR4B Ford/Lotus twin-cam (still exists, customer car built for John Wood)

image

Matich A51 Repco on the Watkins Glen pit row in 1973 (D Kneller)

2.F5000’s: All aluminium monocoques

Note The Matich Team reskinned their McLaren M10B Repco tub after its Oran Park 1971 practice shunt, their first monocoque experience. Six virtually identical tubs were built by Matich/Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and built up as follows;

#8 A50 Repco Chassis # ‘001/002’ (1971 AGP and 1972 Gold Star winner, still exists)

#9 A50 Ford # ‘003’ (exported to the US, bits incorporated in sportscar) 1972

#10 A50 Repco # ‘004’ (customer car, John Walker ’73 US L&M later to Jon Davison, still exists)

#11 A51 Repco # ‘005’ (US ’73 L&M Series sold to J Goss, converted to A53 spec, ’76 AGP winner, still exists)

#12 A51/52 Repco # ‘006’ (US L&M Series as A51 converted to A52 spec back at Brookvale in time for the Surfers Gold Star round that September, destroyed in a Warwick Farm testing accident shortly thereafter driven by Bob Muir, scrapped)

#13 A53 Repco # ‘007’ (’74 Tasman car sold to J Goss after FM retirement, still exists)

On the basis of the above the Matich Team built 11 cars; the list above less the Lotus 19B and Elfin 400 which were built in Cheshunt, London and Edwardstown, Adelaide respectively.

FM’s logic of including the Lotus and Elfin as ‘his cars’ is not spelt out in Duff’s document but I suspect FM’s thinking was that he modified the cars to such an extent that they were more ‘Matich’ than Lotus/Elfin which may be true of the Lotus but ‘praps not the Elfin… Both these cars are covered in my ‘Elfin 400’ article the link of which is early in this article.

In Period Race Footage…

SR3.

SR4.

Shot below by Dale Harvey and is at Catalina Park in the Blue Mountains, not Warwick Farm.

Etcetera…

sr 4 drawing

Racing Car News June 1968 (Dalton)

Matich SR4 RCN cover (2)

Racing Car News cover July 1968 (Dalton)

wf poster

1970 Frank Matich Vicki Fry

1970 shot of FM in natty check strides, Vicki Fry and journalist and later motor racing publisher, Chevron Group founder Ray Berghouse. Hewland box missing, nice shot of suspension detail (Ray Berghouse)

Special Thanks…

To Nigel Tait for entrusting me with his manuscript

Derek Kneller for his recollections of the 1969/70 period at Team Matich

Credits…

Nigel Tait Collection, Dick Simpson, oldracephotos.com, Repco Ltd, Dave Friedman Collection, Ian Pope, Jay Bondini, The Roaring Season, Derek Kneller, Dale Harvey, Peter Ellenbogen, Stephen Dalton Collection, Ray Berghouse

Tailpiece: Matich is his local ‘backyard’, aboard the SR4 Repco, Warwick Farm’s Esses, now ‘Bell Star’ equipped, 1970…

mat wf

(oldracephotos.com/Dick Simpson)

 

matich 1

Frank Matich, Matich A50 Repco ‘#001/2’ , Shell Corner, Sandown, ‘Victoria Trophy’ April 1972. (Rennie Ellis)

Frank Matich on his way to victory during the first round of the Australian ‘Gold Star’ Series in 1972, Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’…

The car made its stunningly successful debut at the 1971 AGP the previous November. Matich won the race in a brand new untested car, the first monocoque and first single seater his team built.

In the broader historic context it was the first time an Australian built car had won an AGP since Warwick Pratley’s George Reed Special Ford V8 victory at Narrogin, WA in 1951.

wigram

FM reclined in his ‘comfy’ monocoque chair, A50 ‘001/2’. He is talking to Carroll Smith who was to be his crew chief in the upcoming 1973 trip to contest the US L&M F5000 Championship. Here at Wigram, NZ, Tasman Series 1973. (Shane Lee)

Introduction…

This is a bit of a nutty long article.

I tripped over some photos of the 1972 ‘Victoria Trophy’ at Sandown, shots not in the immense F5000 Facebook Groups photo archives, so i thought i would whack a ‘quickie article’ together to show my F5000 FB mates there are still shots to be found.

Then i started thinking about why Matich didn’t win more Gold Stars, he only won in ’72. That led to research on his early ’60’s single seater campaigns which segued into his mid-late sixties sportscar specialism when he wasn’t eligible for the Gold Star, a single seater championship. And finally back to single seaters again in the F5000 period.

Then one needs to look at the Tasman Series as you can’t look at just the domestic Gold Star series in isolation…

Then there are the Matich cars he built and drove which are a key part of the story…and i kept on writing of course.

So! This rather long, eclectic mess comprises;

.The ’72 Victoria Trophy where i started

.A bit about FM’s 1964/5 2.5 litre Brabham single-seater Tasman formula years

.A fleeting summary of his ’66-’69 Sportscar phase, not a lot though as his Matich SR3 and SR4 campaigns deserve more detail, its a story for another time

.Then the substance of FM’s Matich F5000 cars and their racing campaigns with Matich.

In terms of the Matich F5000 detail i have drawn heavily on conversations and a manuscript provided by Derek Kneller, (DK) an Englishman who was a Team Matich engineer/mechanic for the whole of its F5000 period. He literally shipped FM’s first McLaren M10A to Oz and followed it in August 1969 and returned to the UK in 1974 after FM retired and the cars were sold.

The very articulate Derek was in Australia recently for FM’s funeral and recorded a very interesting interview with ‘Pitlane’, there is a link to it towards the end of this article, its well worth watching.

Many thanks Derek! If Australians have seen some of Derek’s material before its because it was included in Aaron Lewis’ excellent article on the Matich F5000 cars published in ‘Australian Musclecar Magazine’ some years ago. Much of the material has not been published before however.

Here we go, its long, so grab a beer, if you get lost come back here to see where you are!…

puke grid

Successful partnership. Frank Matich and Chief Mechanic, Derek Kneller on the right prior to the start of the NZ GP, Pukekohe 1973. Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’. (Derek Kneller Collection)

1972 Gold Star and Tasman Series…

Max Stewart took the 1971 Gold Star in his 2 Litre Mildren Waggott, his blend of speed and reliability ‘knocked off’ the F5000’s in the class’ first year as Australia’s National Formula 1 (ANF1).

Even Max saw the writing on the wall, he sold his faithful Mildren and replaced it with a Repco Holden powered Elfin MR5.

The ’72 Series comprised established stars; Matich, Bartlett and Stewart, coming men Muir, Walker, McCormack and Brown and some solid ‘journeymen’.

The ‘form’ drivers were Matich and Bartlett but Muir made a great F5000 debut in the just completed Tasman Series.

FM’s Tasman was disappointing having won the AGP upon the A50’s debut in November 1971. He expected to be more competitive in the Tasman only to watch his Kiwi Driver/Constructor rival Graham McRae win the series in his McLaren based Leda LT27/McRae GM1. McRae won 4 rounds and scored points in 5 of the 8 rounds.

matich overhead

Nice overhead shot by Terry Marshall taken from Wigram’s control tower during the ’72 ‘Lady Wigram Trophy’. FM A50 ‘001/2’ DNF engine. Frank Gardner won the race in his Lola T300. (Terry Marshall)

The Matich team continued to develop their new car, A50 ‘001/2’ throughout the Tasman series as DK recalls ‘…There were some problems in the team during the Tasman. I was homesick and returned to the UK after the ’71 AGP. Whilst Peter Mabey is a top bloke and a great Chief Mechanic most of the rest of the team were not pulling their weight in NZ, doing the all-nighters or whatever was required. So the load fell on Maybey’.

‘Peter had been with FM for 4 years including the build and racing of the SR3 in the ‘States, in fact i was to replace him as Chief Mechanic, but he stayed on once it was clear we were to build a single-seater, something he had not done before. None of that was a drama, we worked well together’.

‘The upshot of the workload and pressure was that Peter left the team after Levin, he had just had enough, as had his wife of the pressures of racing.

FM did the Christchurch and Invercargill rounds with the mechanics.’

‘I had planned and organised with Frank when he was in the UK in late 1971 on Goodyear business, i was working for Surtees, to come back to Oz in the middle of the year. After Peter left Frank rang me and asked that i come back straight away. I arrived in Sydney the Monday after Surfers, Joan (Matich) picked me up from the airport, i went straight to Brookvale and started work on Frank’s joblist for the car. It was at this time the car was given the A50 ‘002’ moniker but it was ‘001’ the same tub; the bodywork was painted in STP colors and the roll bar chrome plated, it appeared different which was a bit of gamesmanship and kept the sponsors happy but it was, and still is the same tub which Bryan Sala now owns. This caused lots of historic grief in later years.’

‘The rear suspension geometry was altered with a lighter rear subframe and raced at Surfers Paradise, where the car was more competitive. The rear suspension geometry was altered again after Surfers (rear roll centre raised) and Frank won the next race at Warwick Farm. The same chassis was used for the rest of the Tasman series, for the successful 1972 Gold Star series and the 1973 Tasman, at its end the car was put on chassis stands at the Brookvale factory’.

Matich won, as Kneller notes at Warwick Farm, his backyard and the circuit at which he primarily honed his cars setup and picked up points in 4 of the 8 Tasman rounds, despite the in team dramas.

bartlett

‘C’mon Bob, i will belt them all with one of these’; John Harvey saying to Bob Jane? (in the race suit). ‘Piss-orf Harves, we’ve already got that friggin’ Bowin thing and touring cars are the go anyway!’ or words to that effect!? Bob Jane Racing team owner Bob Jane and driver Harvey checking out KB’s ‘brand spankers’ Lola T300 in the Sandown ‘Victoria Trophy’ dummy grid. (Stupix)

Bartlett also scored 4 times in the Tasman and won at Teretonga. The win was impressive, scored in the McLaren M10B previously owned by Niel Allen. 1972 was that chassis’ third Tasman Series. The reliable old beast was replaced by a brand new Lola T300 for the Gold Star Series KB having watched his friend and mentor, Frank Gardner’s progress in the car concepted by FG as a replacement for Lola’s ageing T190/2 series.

Gardner was Lola’s development driver/engineer. The prototype T300 ‘T242’ made its debut at Thruxton on 1 August 1972. By the end of the season the T300 was the fastest thing in Europe. FG took wins at Hockenheim and Oulton Park in September. In addition he won the 1971 British F5000 Championship with points accumulated in both his T192 and T300.

Mind you, the very fast, Leda LT27/McRae GM1 didn’t break cover until after the end of the British F5000 Championship and was THE CAR in 1972, McRae won the Tasman and US F5000 Championships, both with GM at the wheel.

In Australia Lola T300’s were bought by Bartlett, Bob Muir and F2 driver Gary Campbell stepped up into Gardner’s ’72 Tasman entry.

Ansett Team Elfin were represented by both driver/constructor Garrie Cooper, and John McCormack, the latter became more and more competitive with each 5 litre drive.

cooper

Elfin owner/designer/constructor/racer, the late, great Garrie Cooper in the Sandown pitlane. ‘Victoria Trophy’ 1972. Elfin MR5 Repco. The ‘Tyrrell nose’ were added to the 2 ‘works cars’ during the ’72 Tasman Series, see the pic below of John Walker’s car to show the original spec nose. (Stupix)

The Elfin MR5 Repco’s made their debut in late 1971 and were developed over the 1972 Tasman Series, new Elfins were also bought by Max Stewart and John Walker. By the seasons end Walker acquired a Matich with which to contest the ’73 US Series, the Matich had the safety fuel tanks of the spec required for the L&M Series. And was a faster car.

walker

John Walker in his Elfin MR5 Repco, Victoria Trophy 1972. (Jay Bondini)

Warwick Brown’s mentor, businessman Pat Burke bought Alan Hamilton’s low mileage ex-Allen spare M10B and made a big impact. Warwick would be a force in F5000/CanAm through to the end of his driving career in both Australasia and the USA.

matich pit

Matich prepares for practice, this is the gravel form up area. Victoria Trophy 1972. Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’.(Stupix)

‘Victoria Trophy’ 16 April 1972…

Matich set pole on 61.5 secs nearly 1 second quicker than McRae’s Tasman pole time only 2 months before. Bob Muir was next on 61.9 and was quick with a new Chev, then came Bartlett, McCormack, Campbell, Max Stewart, Warwick Brown and John Walker. Further back were the ANF2 cars.

A crowd of 20000 in beautiful sunshine were in attendance to see 8 F5000’s and 9 F2’s.

Matich got the jump at the start and was never headed, behind him were Muir, Bartlett, McCormack , Brown, Stewart and Walker.

Stewart slipped past WB but almost immediately dropped a valve in his Repco Holden V8, Walker moved forward then Brown pitted having slowed.

bartlett and mc cormack

Kevin Bartlett leads John Mc Cormack into Shell Corner, during their great dice, Sandown. Lola T300 Chev and Elfin MR5 Repco. (Rennie Ellis)

10 laps down Matich lead Muir by 7 seconds who was well clear of KB who was being challenged by the Elfin duo of McCormack and Cooper.

Campbell clobbered the fence at ‘Torana’ corner, Walker was through to 6th, the race came alive with Mac challenging Bartlett on lap 20.

The pair were at it for 6 laps, nose to tail before the Lola yielded to the Elfin MR5, then KB’s engine lost its edge and he retired with ignition failure.

muir

Bob Muir rolls his immaculate, concourse, positively gorgeous and fast Lola T300 Chev  into ‘Dandy Road’ during his great Victoria Trophy drive. (Jay Bondini)

Muir was driving a great race, now Mac set after him, he had maintained a good pace despite being short of water, eventually the Lola started to smoke badly but Bob was able to keep clear of the Tasmanian to maintain 2nd spot.

Behind Mac were Cooper, Walker, Brown and Malcolm Ramsay in the little Birrana 272 Hart Ford F2 car. This was the prototype of a series of cars which dominated the small bore class in Oz for the next few years.

birrana

Malcolm Ramsay’s Birrana 272 ‘002’ Ford. ‘Victoria Trophy’ Sandown 1972. It was in this chassis Oz touring car star Peter Brock made his single-seater debut in a low key campaign, largely with the assistance of his father, amongst his Holden touring car commitments in 1973. (unattributed)

‘Australian Motor Racing Annual’ noted Matich’s great win and McCormack’s strong drive in 3rd having been ill for most of the week prior.

millis elfin 600 r ellis

Victorian motor trader/racer Clive Millis Elfin 600B Ford F2, ‘Victoria Trophy’ 1972. (Rennie Ellis)

For Matich it was the start of a dominant 1972 Gold Star campaign; he won the series from Kevin Bartlett with wins at Sandown, Oran Park, Surfers’ and Warwick Farm. KB won at Adelaide International and McCormack the Symmons Plains round in his native state of Tasmania.

Frank Matich and the Gold Star…

Arguably FM was Australia’s greatest resident racing driver of the sixties and seventies, certainly he was one of them, despite that he collected only one Gold Star. Why?

FM cut his racing teeth in sportscars in the mid-fifties, quickly progressing through Healeys’ to the Leaton Motors Jaguar C and D Types and Lotus 15 Climax 2.5. Then two Lotus 19’s. He first raced open-wheeler Elfins taking points in the 1963 Gold Star in an Elfin 1.5 Ford, the title won by Bib Stillwell.

fm brab first run

First run in the just arrived Brabham BT7A Climax, Warwick Farm. Its race debut was in the ‘Hordern Trophy’ at Warwick Rarm in December 1963. Bruce Richardson by front wheel. (John Ellacott)

He became serious about his open-wheeler program in 1964, buying the latest ‘Intercontinental’ Brabham, the BT7A. He very quickly got to grips with the 2.7/2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engined car. Stillwell maintained his earlier model BT4 for ’64 but again won the championship, Matich took one win.

There was little doubt that FM was the quickest local, a driver who had not yet peaked, whilst Bib, having served a long apprenticeship, was atop the mountain, drove well, was well funded via his car dealerships and had well prepared cars driven with more mechanical sympathy than Matich.

FM lacked reliability which was perhaps, if you believe what was written at the time, a function of being hard on his equipment, his cars equally well prepared, but perhaps not quite as well financed as Stillwell’s.

Matich was equal 4th in the Gold Star in 1964 his speed absolutely confirmed in the 1965 Tasman Series, where his year old, well developed car gave nothing away to any of the Internationals or the latest BT11A Brabham’s driven by Graham Hill, Stillwell or Jack himself.

longford

In the best of company, and avoiding the 2.25pm train  from Launceston to Hobart…AGP Longford Tasman 1965. Graham Hill Brabham BT11A Climax from Matich in his year old BT7A Climax. (History of the AGP)

tasman 65

‘Frank led from pole in the 1965 ‘Warwick Farm 100’ but Hill and Clark went by on lap 1 is photographer, John Ellacott’s caption. Matich, light blue Brabham BT7A Climax, Hill in the red Brabham BT11 A Climax and Clark in Lotus 32B Climax. (John Ellacott)

He contested the 1965 Gold Star in the BT7A, his best results two 2nds, the title won again by Stillwell, who, having won 4 on the trot retired from racing.

matich longford

Matich on pole in his Elfin 400/Traco Olds, Spencer Martin in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM at the start of the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy, Longford, March. FM won. (Richard Blanden)

Matich refocused on sports cars, he saw greater commercial opportunities as they grew in stature and importance globally.

The Elfin 400 Olds was the first ‘sporty’ in 1966, then followed his self built ‘400 clone’ Matich SR3 Repco which swept all before it in Australia in 1967/68 and in which FM contested the 1967 Can Am series. Click here for my the article about Frank’s Elfin 400;

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

longford sports cars

Early on in the Australian Tourist Trophy at the Longford 1964 Tasman meeting. Frank Gardner Lotus 23B Ford, Bib Stillwell’s #6 Cooper Monaco Climax, Matich’ victorious blue Lotus 19B Climax and Bob Jane’s Lwt Jag E type. Matich won from Stillwell and Greg Cusack’s Elfin Mallala Ford. (oldracephotos.com/Pat Ellis)

Whereas in 1964/5 he continued to race his Lotus 19B as well as the single-seater Brabham, from 1966 to 1969 FM raced sports cars to the exclusion of openwheelers. Sadly.

So Spencer Martin, Kevin Bartlett, Leo Geoghegan, John Harvey and other Australian top liners in single-seaters didn’t have FM ‘in their sandpit’ from 1966 till later in 1969.

sr3 wf

Matich at Warwick Farm in the Repco 4.4 litre ‘620 Series’ V8 powered Matich SR3 in 1968. He raced SR3’s in the Can Am series in 1967, then back in Oz in 1968 whilst the SR4 was being built. (Dick Simpson)

His Matich SR4 powered by Repco’s quad-cam 5 litre ‘760 Series’ V8 was intended as his 1968 Can Am weapon but was finished late and didn’t contest the title won by the McLaren M8A Chevs of McLaren and Hulme.

No way was the SR4, powerful as it was, going to take that title, but it would have been interesting to see how the beautiful handling, spaceframe chassis SR4 would have gone in the ’68 Can Am all the same.

matcih sr4

Frank in the SR4 Repco, Warwick Farm 1969. The formidable, oh-so-fast and dominant Matich. Pretty much destroyed sportscar racing in Australia for a few years such was the cars speed! Car acquired by Repco at years end and became a museum piece whilst still the fastest car in Australia regardless of class. (oldracephotos.com/Dick Simpson)

Instead he raced it in Australia in 1969 and ‘blew the rest of the field off the planet’ taking the national title in a display of absolute engineering and driving dominance. The Repco engine behaved, the valve gear resonance dramas which destroyed Jack and Jochen Rindt’s 1968 F1 season not apparent in the ‘760 Series’ 5 Litre variant of the engine which revved lower than its ‘860 Series’ 3 litre little brother.

can am 1967

FM portrait during his 1967 Can Am campaign. Top shot, so often he is lost in his thoughts, racedays are business days after all! Here in happy mode and the going was tough Stateside! (Dave Friedman)

matich lakeside

FM dicing with Jim Clark at Lakeside’s Kink 1965. Matich rated this race the greatest he had against the greatest driver he raced against. Dice spoiled by a misfire in the Brabham’s engine. Brabham BT7A and Lotus 32B both 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF powered. (unattributed)

Where Does Matich Fit in The Pantheon of Australian Motor Racing Greats?…

One racing’s endless pub topics of debate is ‘whom is better than whom’ both globally and in our particular countries of origin. I’ve always enjoyed these debates secure in the knowledge its pretty much impossible to compare drivers across eras even if a ‘pure statistical’ approach of races entered/won is taken.

Of more interest and perhaps accuracy are the opinions of  ‘expert observers’ of the sport at a particular time commenting on drivers and cars with all relevant factors which should be considered at the time in the context of the time.

‘Australian Motor Racing Annual’, 1968 edition, which did annual driver reviews, had this to say about FM;

‘After being out of the country for 4 months campaigning in the Can Am series (in 1967) Matich came back to take…a comfortable win for his 4th Australian Tourist Trophy. He capped that by taking the outright lap record at  Surfers Paradise and Warwick Farm on the heels of the Tasman cars (defeating Chris Amon in sports car races in a Ferrari P4/Can Am 350 in his Matich SR3 Repco) and clocking the fastest time of the day at Sandown. His now quite confirmed maturity has emphasised his professional approach to the sport and there is no doubt now that he is among the worlds top 6 drivers…’

The other two ‘5 star’ drivers that year were Leo Geoghegan and Kevin Bartlett.

Of Geoghegan the review said ‘Now into the young veteran class but still the most polished GP driver in the country..’

Of KB the review said ‘This extraordinarily fast driver young driver with bags of natural ability…did not have a good season. Nevertheless he established himself as a real tiger in GP racing in this country and there is no doubt in equal machinery only Matich could match him for pace…’

The analysis suits me as FM and KB are my two greatest Australian resident drivers of the 1960 to, say, 1975 period.

Who did i consider in the mix? Lex Davison, Stan Jones, Bib Stillwell, Spencer Martin (boy it would have been good to see him peak, he retired before he did in my opinion), Leo Geoghegan, John Harvey, Max Stewart, John McCormack, John Walker and John Goss.

Outside this mix are Jack and Geoff Brabham, Gardner, Schenken, Walker, Jones, Perkins, Warwick Brown and Bruce Allison who ‘took the hard road’ and left the country to seek success, fame and fortune.

‘Top 6 drivers in the world’ is a big call in relation to FM. Or not?

I am speculating, we all have our own list in early 1968 when the magazine was published before Jim Clark’s death. But a Top 6 drivers in ‘The World Best’ then maybe includes; Clark, Hill, Brabham, Stewart, Gurney and Hulme. Top 6 ‘The Worlds Fastest’ maybe includes; Clark, Stewart, Gurney, Rindt, Amon and Rodriguez.

Whichever way you cut it FM was ‘up there’, famously the only member of the Grand Prix Drivers Association who never raced in an F1 World Championship GP.

And someone who had opportunities to race GP cars in Europe but for family and business reasons chose to race Internationally from his Australian base.

drivers

The company you keep; pre 1964 AGP drivers briefing shot Sandown. L>R; Tony Shelley, Mel McEwin, Denny Hulme, FM, Jack Brabham, Bib Stillwell, Bruce McLaren, Tim Mayer, Doug Whiteford behind the radio commentator, Frank Gardner and Tony Osborne behind FG holding the helmet. (History of The AGP)

But Times They Were A Changin’…

F5000 was being mooted as Australia’s next ANF1, the 2.5 Litre Tasman Formula waning. If ever a single seater class were tailor made for Matich it was this, and so it was that Matich imported the first F5000 to Australia, his McLaren M10A Chev arrived in Sydney in August 1969. FM’s move was a big one as he imported the car before the decision by CAMS had been made, politically it was smart as it added to the pressure to go the F5000 route.

It’s an arcane point but perhaps the first competition outing of an ‘F5000 car’ in Australia was Jim Abbott’s Hillclimb of his ex-Gardner/Bartlett Brabham BT23D Traco Olds at Lakeland Hillclimb on Melbourne’s eastern outskirts on 31 May 1969?

abbott

Melbourne ‘Age’ June 4 1969.

Matich and his McLaren M10A in 1969, certainly Australia’s first ‘real F5000’…

DK recalls; ‘Frank’s first F5000 was a McLaren M10A (# 300-10), coloured pale yellow it arrived in Australia at the beginning of August 1969. I crated the chassis at Frank Williams workshop before leaving for Australia, I arrived on 11 August’.

‘The engine was a Traco Chev on carbs Frank shipped from the ‘States. The chassis arrived at Frank’s Castle Cove workshop on 13 August. Peter Mabey and I assembled it, i made and mounted the rear wing. The car had an LG600 Hewland gearbox. It was first tested at Warwick Farm the Friday before it’s first race, Frank finished 3rd to the Mildren twins, Bartlett and Max Stewart’.

matich 2

Kris Matich watching dad carefully prepare himself in his new McLaren M10A Chev ‘300-10’, first race for an F5000 in Australia, Warwick Farm September 7 1969. Decals on wings are ‘Rothmans Team Matich’. (Derek Kneller)

matich m10a wf

Matich practising the M10A Chev before its first WF meeting, Saturday 6 September 1969. Decals on cars side are Repco, Bell and Firestone. (lyntonh)

Click here for YouTube footage of that race at Warwick Farm;

‘The week after the race we stripped the car down and painted the chassis two-tone blue, royal blue at the top, light blue at the bottom. The nose was reshaped to accommodate a lightweight aluminium radiator. The car’s next race was at Calder in outer Melbourne, we tested it a couple of times at Amaroo Park before changing the engine spec to fuel injection and the gearbox to the smaller, lighter Hewland DG300 before the 1970 Tasman Series in which Frank competed together with the 2.5 litre Tasman cars’.

‘The car we took to the Tasman was essentially an M10B in all but name. I built M10A’s at McLaren and built the first M10B, Peter Gethin’s car at McLaren, not Trojan before coming to Australia, so knew exactly what changes to make. Not sure why FM didn’t buy an M10B, but maybe he wasn’t aware of the updated car at the time he placed his order.’

matich pukekohe

Matich on his way to victory, NZ GP Pukekohe 1970. Flag to flag win fron pole. McLaren M10A Chev. (Garry Simkin Collection/ The Roaring Season)

1970 was a transition year in Australia, whilst that summers Tasman Series was for both Tasman 2.5 and F5000 cars the Gold Star series was for Tasman 2.5 cars only albeit the Australian GP that November was for both categories. Go figure? The choice of our next ANF1 between 2 Litres (Euro F2 became 2 litres in 1972) and F5000 was fraught and so was the transition to F5000 once CAMS made that choice.

With more luck Matich could have taken the 1970 Tasman, he started in NZ with a bang; 3rd in the first round at Levin, he won the NZ GP at Pukekohe and on Wigram’s airfield circuit the following weekend. The team missed the Teretonga round to give them time to rebuild their only Chev engine which had done nearly 1000 miles, before the three Australian races. These were as bad as the Kiwi ones were good! FM was 4th at Surfers, broke an upright at his home track, Warwick Farm and then had a throttle cable break at Sandown’s final round.

Graeme Lawrence won the title, the Kiwi drove the Ferrari Dino 246 Tasman car which won in Amon’s hands in 1969.

matich surfers

‘Feel The Earth Move’; 5 litres of fuel injected Traco Chev blasting along Surfers main straight, FM about to tip the beast flat out in 5th into Surfers daunting right hander under Dunlop Bridge. McLaren M10A  8 Feb 1970. To all intents and purposes car is to M10B spec as per the text. 4th, race won by McRae’s similar car. (Dick Simpson)

Matich sat out the 1970 Gold Star Series, his F5000 McLaren ineligible but he was working hard with Repco to develop an F5000 variant of Holden’s then new ‘308’ V8…

This engine, designed by Phil Irving, also the designer of Repco’s ‘620 Series’ V8 which won Brabham’s 1966 World Titles, promptly won the 1970 AGP, having made its debut in Matich’s new McLaren M10B (#400-10) on 12 July at Warwick Farm.

matich 1

Historic debut for FM’s very successful and tubbed at least 3 times! McLaren M10B Repco ‘400-10’ and the new Repco Holden F5000 engine. Warwick Farm 12 July 1970. (oldracingcars.com)

Matich won the AGP from pole also taking fastest lap, close to a perfect weekend. Niel Allen’s M10B Chev was 2nd and Graeme Lawrence’ Ferrari Dino 246T 3rd.

DK; ‘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 rockers 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.’

matich m10b 1970 agp

Matich in Warwick Farms Esses during his victorious 1970 AGP drive. 22 November 1970. McLaren M10B Repco ‘400-10’. (Rory McDonald)

surfers 71

Happy in victory of the ‘Surfers Paradise 100’; FM, team and Mc Laren M10B Repco. Surfers Tasman round Feb 1971. (unattributed)

The new Matich McLaren M10B Repco looked a good bet for the 1971 Tasman Series but Graham McRae had a very potent M10B of his own which was continually modified by McRae in a successful UK F5000 campaign in 1970.

The Series was dominated by these 2 drivers and Niel Allen who showed his mettle with 2 wins in his M10B. He took the NZ GP at Pukekohe and the Teretonga round with his well developed chassis and powerful Chev, both courtesy of Peter Molloy his race engineer.

McRae took wins at Levin, Wigram and Sandown and the title by 4 points from Matich. Frank had great reliability from his new Repco, if not quite as much ultimate grunt. He won at Surfers, was second at Pukekohe, Wigram and Teretonga and took third at Sandown, he was only out of the points in two rounds.

matich laguna seca 1971

Frank Matich on his way to 2nd at Laguna Seca, second round of the US L&M Series in May 1971, David Hobbs in another M10B won the race. Here Matich is lapping # 57 Monte Sheldon Eagle Mk5 Chev and # 86 Gregg Paterson McLaren M10A Chev. (Derek Kneller)

Matich took his McLaren, razor sharp after it’s 1971 Tasman campaign to the US L&M F5000 championship, taking in the first two rounds at Riverside on 25 April and Laguna Seca on 2 May.

DK;’ We had gradually modified the car quite a lot including fitting 13 inch front wheels to make use of tyres of the type developed in F1, before we went to the US we increased the cars wheelbase by making changes to the front suspension, the car was very quick there’

He won and finished second in this ‘hit and run campaign’ before heading home to Australia, much to the relief of the series regulars!

DK;’ We took the whole equipe to California, we shipped the car by air and the truck and trailer by sea. We based ourselves at Carroll Shelby’s workshop in LA, it was there we met Carroll Smith who team managed our campaign in the US in 1973. We only had 1 Repco engine though, it was relatively early in the Repco program remember. The engine had done the 2 US meetings and plenty of testing. That and the fact that FM had commitments to sponsors back in Australia meant we had to come home’.

hordern trophy

Dale Harvey’s lovely portrait of FM in the newly rebuilt McLaren Repco, now designated M10C in deference to its various Matich mods. ‘Hordern Trophy’ Warwick Farm 5 Sept 1971. DNF in the race won by KB’s M10B Chev. Car has a new tub, built up by the Matich team around the cars bulkheads as part of the ‘education process’ in gaining monocoque experience, the new A50 being built at the same time this car was being rebuilt after its June accident at Oran Park with an errant Lotus 7. (Dale Harvey)

In a busy year Matich contested some rounds of the 1971 Gold Star series. He missed the first round at Lakeside, not yet back from the US, Bartlett took the win in his M10B. He crashed the car before the Oran Park meeting on the Thursday, a Lotus 7 inadvertently getting in his way and doing enough damage for the car to be retubbed.

He bounced back to win at Surfers in August in the newly rebuilt car now dubbed M10C in deference to its various Matich mods and chassis repair in Australia.

He retired at Warwick Farm and at Sandown with jammed throttle slides, Bartlett again winning. He didn’t contest the Symmons Plains and Mallala rounds.

Max Stewart took the title with one win but a mix of speed and reliability gave him a 1 point victory for the title over Bartlett, who won twice.

agp win

FM on the last victorious lap of the 1971 AGP at Warwick Farm, upon the Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’ debut. WF Esses, car looking beautifully balanced. (lyntonh)

Design and Construction of the Matich A50 Repco…

Matich’s McLaren M10B/C was raced in both Australasia and the US, the car an amalgam of his teams ideas and feedback via a development program with Trojan Industries in the UK, the makers of customer McLaren cars.

Matich had learned all he needed to know about ‘what makes an F5000 tick in 1969 and 1970’ ‘We’d developed the McLaren as far as it would go. It was time to move on to something else’, Matich told John Smailes in an interview for ‘The Australian Motor Racing Annual’ in 1971.

In terms of the cars design principles FM’…wanted as durable and maintainable a car as possible with inbuilt strength far greater than many F5000’s being built today’.

Economy of maintenance was important, the Matich ‘triangulated monocoque’ ‘built on the same principles as a space frame-with the same comparative ease of repair and maintenance’.

DK;’ FM, Peter Mabey and designer/draftsman Henry Nehrbecki (HN) and i had endless discussions about what we wanted in the car, its design attributes. We didn’t really consider a side radiator car then. FM liked weight over the front wheels, the radiators up front helped that. He also knew what the tyres needed from his Goodyear testing contract. We went along with what we knew in terms of loadings, feel etc. The tub was neater and easier to make than the M10B, all the fuel was in the side pods, not as we sometimes had to do with the McLaren use the scuttle tanks.’

Frank’s team had the capacity to build their own cars. The very successful SR3 and SR4 spaceframe sportscars were built by Matich and a group of subcontractors in Sydney and in Melbourne for the castings.

DK; ‘Whilst the team had built spaceframes none of them had built a monocoque before. Perhaps Henry had some of that experience in the UK, i’m not sure. When FM bent the M10B at Oran Park we decided to repair the tub at Brookvale to give us some monocoque experience. We unpicked the bent tub down to its bulkheads and used it as an exercise to see how they were made. We leased an industrial riveting unit to be able to use the same type of aircraft rivets as i was familiar with at Mclarens’

The first drawings of the ‘A50’ were commenced by HN and FM in November 1970 a year before its victorious debut in the 1971 Australian Grand Prix. ‘A’ was for Formula A or 5000, ’50’ the number of years at the time the projects prime sponsor, Repco had manufactured automotive components in Australia.

matich front

Brand new A50 about to roll onto the trailer for the trip to Warwick Farm, this is the Brookvale workshop where the car was built, November 1971. Of note is the cars shape and front radiator design, the ‘trend setting’ Lotus 72 chisel nose/side rad F1 car appeared in early 1970. Still plenty of front rad competitive cars in F1 at this time mind you. Note also the wide based wishbone front suspension, magnesium CAC built uprights, shocks are alloy bodied Koni’s. (Derek Kneller)

The car comprised ‘…three sections-a detachable front, central monocoque tub and detachable rear holding the engine. Eight bolts hold the rear (A frame) section in place, six bolts secure the front. In the event of an accident or undue flexing it’s a simple matter to bolt on a replacement section’, Matich said.

DK;’ We didn’t have the necessary folders to work with sheet aluminium so John Joyce at Bowins (Bowin Racing Cars in Brookvale) did some of that work and built the unique to A50 ‘001’ front and rear bulkheads which were Tig welded. Peter and i built up the tub and HN made most of the suspension components in nickel bronze. I wanted them Tig’d and grumbled about that, the first suspension and spares were nickel bronze welded’.

The clever part of the cars design was this ‘modular concept’.

During the F5000 program the team built 6 monocoques; 3 at the Brookvale workshop behind the Brookvale Mall shopping centre 17 Km from Sydney, the other 3 were built in a batch by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) at Fishermans Bend, 6 Km from Melbourne in early 1973.

The cars remained competitive throughout the formula by the team ‘playing with’ weight distribution, track/wheelbases and aerodynamics (later cars were side-rad/chisel noses) by the use of different front and rear fabricated sheet steel detachable sections, bellhousings and of course bodywork and wings. All the while using the same tub design from 1971 to 1974. Noting the A53 won the Australian Grand Prix in John Goss’ hands in 1976 and was still competitive beyond that…that their was nothing wrong with the tubs or the underlying design philosophy is clear.

25 gallons of fuel in total, is carried in the tubs side pontoons, the fuel contained in locally made puncture proof foam cells. DK;’ Frank wanted as much of the car as possible made in Australia, he was a real patriot in that way. We could have had the fuel cells made by Goodyear free via our tyre contract but instead had them made by a Dunlop subsidiary about an hour from Melbourne. It also gave us better control of the product’.

Instruments comprised Smiths mechanical tach, oil pressure and water temperature gauges. The gear change for the ubiquitous Hewland DG300 ‘box was on the right and the steering wheel was a ‘half moon’, round at the top and flattened at the bottom, sensibly, to ease access and egress into the car.

paddock rear

Matich A50 ‘001/2’ and McLaren M10C Repco ‘400-10’ in the 1971 WF AGP pit. The Rothmans/Repco machines were raced by Matich with touring car star; although he had quite a bit of single seater background in his past, Colin Bond. See cockpit details referred to in text. Of note the front location points of the radius rods to the rear of the tub, front top wishbone and aluminium sheet monocoque itself, each side pontoon contained 12.5 gallons of Avgas. Valve clearances being checked, RHS rocker cover sitting between the injection trumpets. (Derek Kneller)

The challenges of building cars at the time are interesting, FM ‘…The A50 was an extremely difficult car to build or to build accurately, we went through three draftsmen before we got the car completed’. You can never build a good car from the drawing board. You can build a pretty one-but not one which is functional. You can’t draw in three dimensions, at least not successfully. It’s very much a matter of trial. You build a tub, see if you like it and if you don’t you throw it away. It’s far more expensive but you get a better car in the long run’.

The days of CADCAM were still a long way off in 1971!

wheel alignment

The new A50 coming together in the teams Brookvale workshop and about to be wheel aligned for the first time. Sans wings obviously. Car alongside is the teams McLaren M10C Repco, recently repaired and to be driven by Colin Bond in the 1971 AGP. (Shane Lee)

The cars wheels were cast by the CAC in Melbourne; the rears in both 13 and 15 inch diameters and widths of between 15 and 17 inches. The fronts were 13 inches in diameter with widths of between 10 to 11.5 inches.

Front suspension was identical in layout to the SR4; FM ‘unequal length wishbones with the bottom arms reaching forward to the bottom of the radiator and the top arms swinging backwards to the chassis bulkhead’.

The rear suspension used, typically for the day, a single top link, twin parallel links at the bottom, twin radius rods for fore and aft location and coil spring damper units. Shocks were Koni double adjustable alloys and adjustable sway bars were fitted front and rear.

Steering was by Matich rack and pinion, again cast by CAC in Melbourne.

The cars engine was the Repco Holden F5000 unit, designed by Phil Irving, based on Holden’s then new production ‘308’ V8, the engine a story in itself. Matich was Repco’s factory driver, the engines also available for sale or lease to customers, and gave ‘460-470 horsepower at 7200 revs’ at the time.

rear paddiock

Rear suspension detail shot in the 1971 Warwick Farm AGP paddock. Of note is the wing design, ‘banana wings’ still a year or so away. Oil reservoir is beside the Hewland DG300 gearbox. Suspension; single upper link, two lower parallel links clear as are coil spring inside which are Koni shocks. 2 Radius rods provide fore and aft location. ‘Butch’ splined driveshafts and big exhausts, Repco engine giving circa 460-470 bhp @ this stage of its development. (Derek Kneller)

matich trailer

Hi-ho, hi-ho its orf to the ‘farm we go. Peter Mabey rolls A50 ‘001/2’ onto the elaborate! Matich Team trailer enroute to a 1971 AGP victory. (Derek Kneller)

1971 Australian Grand Prix, Warwick Farm…

DK;’ The A50 was finished on the Thursday before WF. We did 25 laps bedding in brakes, tyres and the engine and FM simply ran away with the race’.

Graham Howard’s ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’; ‘If the pundits thought that Frank Matich’s efforts in getting a brand new car to run faultlessly (and fastest) in practice was a remarkable effort, they-along with everyone else at Warwick Farm-were stunned with what he and his A50 did in the race. And that was to lead flag to flag, have no-one seriously challenge him, set the fastest lap, slow by up to two seconds a lap in the later stages and still beat his nearest rival home by a fraction of a second less than 1 minute, or 2/3’s of a lap’.

Bartlett and Alan Hamilton were 2nd and 3rd in their M10B Chev’s. Gardner’s Lola T300 didn’t contest the race after a jammed throttle and ensuing prang in practice damaged the car. John Surtees competed in his own TS8 Chev in a field of depth comprising both F5000 and 2 litre cars which were always quick on the tight, technical, testing WF layout.

agp

FM on the way to an historic 1971 AGP victory upon the debut of A50 ‘001/2’. Warwick Farm. (History of The AGP)

Youtube footage of 1971 AGP…

The 1972 Tasman Series I covered in brief earlier in this article. Ditto the 1972 Gold Star. Therefore the A50’s performance in those Championships we have already covered way back at the start of this epic….

tasman 73

The top cars of the 1973 Tasman series here shot at Sandown ‘on the fast gallop’ towards ‘The Causeway’. Matich in A50 Repco, McCormack’s continually developed Elfin MR5 Repco, McRae’s new GM1 Chev and Max Stewart’s new Lola T330 Chev. The only missing car  from ‘The Class of ’73’  is a Chevron B24 Chev. (Robert Davies)

Equally good bets for the 1973 Tasman Series were Matich and McRae, the former fresh from his ’72 Gold Star win and continually developed A50 chassis.

McRae took victory in the ultra competitive 1972 US F5000 ‘L&M Championship’ and was armed with a new GM1, an update of the prior years Leda LT27.

And so it proved that McRae took his third Tasman title on the trot, Graham finished with 40 points, John McCormack 2nd on 29 points in the ageing but fast Elfin MR5 Repco with Matich, the ‘factory Repco’ driver 3rd on 27 points in his A50.

matich puke

FM’s A50 leads Graham McRae’s GM1 on his outside, John McCormack Elfin MR5 and Max Stewart’s Lola T330 into the chicane ‘rumble strip’ on lap one of the 1973 NZGP at Pukekohe. He is in tight as GM has made a lunge on the outside. FM is about to hit the the strip and damage the steering arm, out of the race. (Derek Kneller Collection)

The ’73 Tasman was the most open for years and demonstrated the depth of F5000 fields and plethora of competitive chassis; Allan Rollinson won in a customer McRae at Teretonga, Steve Thompson in a Firestone shod Chevron B24 at a very wet Warwick Farm. Wins for Matich at Surfers Paradise, McRae at Levin, Wigram and Sandown and McCormacks two Elfin MR5 wins at Pukekohe and Adelaide, the first and last races of the series showed no one chassis was dominant.

Max Stewart made a strong debut for the very first Lola T330. ‘HU1’ was Frank Gradner’s prototype, was works entered and supervised by FM during the series. Max was quick, it was a Lola T330 and Jody Scheckter onslaught Matich would encounter in the US in 1973.

wigram 2

Derek Kneller and John Anderson fuel the A50 at Wigram 1973. Ken Symes of Repco. Good shot of the ‘blown diffuser’! and related bracketry to locate it. (Derek Kneller)

DK; ‘At Pukekohe FM was on pole and lead but then had an accident. He put a wheel onto the makeshift chicane, and bent the steering arm, it was a race we should have won. At Levin we were 2nd. At Wigram 4th with an engine misfire. At Teretonga we started on wets, the weather improved, we changed to dry tyres then it rained and FM spun. At Surfers we won from flag to flag. At Warwick Farm Steve Thomson’s Firestone wets won the day, FM was 2nd. At Sandown the car was 4th with a puncture and in Adelaide he retired with fuel pump failure’.

a 51 mid ohio

Matich A51 ‘005’ in the Mid Ohio paddock 1973. FM 13th, in chassis ‘006’ in the race won by Jody Scheckter, John Walker 11th in his A50 ‘004’. Notice the dual rear wing setup, inspection holes in side of monocoque, long swept back top front suspension link (compared with the later A52/3). Above the airbox on the other side of the paddock is Walker’s A50 complete with dual rear wing setup. (Terry Capps)

Frank Matich ignored the domestic Gold Star Series in 1973 to mount an onslaught on the US L&M F5000 Championship in two new cars, Matich A51 Repco’s…

The new cars incorporated all of the teams knowledge racing the A50, FM’s role as a tester for Goodyear racing tyres, for whom he was the Australian distributor and the market intelligence gained in the ’73 Tasman Series.

He knew the relative strengths of the Chevron B24/8, Lola T330 and McRae GM1, his primary competitors stateside that year. The challenge was to build a car to beat them and ship it to California before the first round on 23 April at Riverside.

Kneller recalls the build of the A51’s;

‘In later 1972/early 1973 the Commonweath Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in Melbourne built 3 new chassis’ using drawings supplied by Matich. The CAC had spare capacity as the Vietnam War was over, they did a lot of aircraft maintenance work during the conflict. We knew them well from the castings they had made for us back to the SR3 days. After the ’72 Tasman the A50 was in Melbourne for the motor show. We then took the car to CAC at Fishermans Bend for them to look at, they quoted a price about a third of what it would cost us inhouse so we had them make the tubs for us’.

‘The first arrived in November ’72. We started to build up a new car for the ’73 Tasman, FM even got a logbook for ‘005’ from CAMS but the project ran late mainly due to fuel cell delays so we used A50 ‘001/2′ again in the ’73 Tasman, which still had done maybe 15 meetings. No car was faster in Australia at the time’.

‘The tubs were basically identical to the A50 chassis (all 3 of which were built at the Matich, Brookvale, Sydney workshop) apart from a different riveting system; the skins were dimpled with a countersunk hole and countersunk rivets used to give a stronger joint and also a flush finish’.

‘These chassis were also lighter and torsionally stiffer than the previous ‘Brookvale’ monocoques, and came with a grey anodised finish to the inside skins’. Two of the three new tubs were built into A51’s, leaving one spare.

a51's in build

A51’s in build early 1973 in Matich ‘shop Military Road, Cremorne, Sydney. You can feel the intensity just looking at this shot, there is so much going on! Cars from front to back; A51 ‘006’, A51 ‘005’ and the much raced A50 ‘001/2’, still in its post Tasman ’73 ‘warpaint’. Note CAC built A51 tubs, inspection hatches open awaiting fuel cells. Note also rear ‘A frames’ to support 5 litre ‘flat plane crank’ Repco Holden 520bhp V8. Hewland DG300 ‘box. (Derek Kneller)

Derek continues’ A51 Repco ‘005’ was built in early 1973 in the Matich Racing Cremorne workshop in Military Road. It had a chrome roll hoop, the radius of the bend was smaller than the A50, (making the car easy to pick in relation to an A50 to the trained eye).

There were changes to the front and rear suspension geometry and a redesigned rear lower suspension mounting frame compared to the A50.

The radiators were the same light weight aluminium GM rads previously used on the A50. Onboard fire extinguishers were fitted.

All suspension components were finished black by a chemical process in house, there was a slightly different shape nose with a larger radiator inlet at the front. The car also had a lower rear wing mounted behind the gearbox approx 150mm off the ground with the exhaust blowing over its top surface.’

‘A new brand of wheel was used in the USA, these ‘Mel Mag’s’ were English and were delivered to the Riverside first round of the series, they were lighter than the Matich cast magnesium wheels as used on the A50.’ The Matich wheels and uprights were cast by CAC in Melbourne. ‘A51 ‘006’  was built alongside ‘005’, it had a black roll hoop and was of identical spec to ‘005.’

‘Both chassis’ were taken to the USA. ‘005’ was shaken down for a few laps at Warwick Farm before going to the US, ‘006 was not. ‘005’ was used in the first 2 races but after Laguna we raced ‘006’ as well.’

‘We were the only team in the series that had a spare car. Both cars were prepared for FM’s use at all 5 races. Frank set up and practiced both cars at all meetings, Vern Schuppan drove chassis ‘006’ in practice at Watkins Glen’.

riverside pits

Riverside ’73 pits. ‘Both cars stripped of their crown wheel and pinion assy’s so a ‘high tech treatment’ could be applied by an aerospace company in LA, the cars back together by the next day’. (Derek Kneller)

riverside 3

Riverside ’73 garage again. John Anderson behind the rear wheel of ‘006’ Derek on the front of ‘005’. (Derek Kneller)

riverside

The 2 brand spanking new A51’s ready to roll in the Riverside pitlane. ‘006’ closest has never run, ‘005’ did a few laps of Warwick Farm before leaving Oz. (Derek Kneller)

Gordon Kirby made the following observations about the Australian onslaught in his ‘Autosport’ Riverside race report; ‘Frank Matich’s capacious Early Racing Enterprises transporter contained two completed, brand new Matich Repco A51’s and like Brian Redman went equally well with each car…The A51’s have a couple of extra inches in the wheelbase as well as an engine which is half an inch lower than in the A50. With Carroll Smith directing the Penfolds Wine sponsored team, there was a lot of experimentation going on throughout the week. The cars went from brand new to fully race worthy in an incredibly short space of time; so much that Matich didn’t select which of the equally competitive cars to race until Sunday morning’.

riverside 2

A51 ‘005’ behind the Riverside pit wall 1973. (Derek Kneller)

In fact Matich’s ability to choose between 2 cars of which to race, FM wanting to compete in each of the 2 heats with different cars, and then make his chassis choice for the final, lead to ‘The Matich Rule’ to disallow just what FM proposed!

The A51’s were fast, but the ‘game changing’ Lola T330 (and it’s 1974 T332 successor) was the greatest F5000 car ever. Full stop.

Coupled with the speed of the Lola’s and the individual genius of Jody Scheckter in Ron Tauranac’s Trojan T101, Team Matich ran into engine problems, the Repco Holden engined cars oil systems not scavenging properly on the fast, long radius turns not encountered in Australasia.

watkins glen

Matich A51’s ‘006’ and ‘005’ in the Watkins Glen pitlane. A Chevron B24 behind. ‘On ‘006’ the lower rear wing was removed and an extra oil coller added to try to sort the engine problems’. DK in yellow t-shirt. (Derek Kneller)

watkins garage

Pre race prep in the Watkins Glen garages, lower rear wing being removed from ‘006’ in front. Flat plane crank engine fitted.(Derek Kneller)

watkins from above

‘006’ at Watkins Glen from above sans lower rear wing. June 1973. (Derek Kneller)

watkins glen pitlane

A51 ‘006’ and ‘005’ in the Watkins Glen pitlane. (Derek Kneller)

Derek Kneller well recalls long nights coping with the dramas in the US;

‘The cars did not perform as expected we had a handling problem on the latest spec Goodyear’s and the bumpy nature of the US circuits. The tyres weren’t identical to those we tested before going to the US. FM wasn’t the only driver testing the F5000 tyres, the final production tyres we were presented were different, so we were playing catch-up. The cars were still as fast as any at Riverside’.

‘The biggest problem was engine related; the higher cornering speeds of the US circuits threw up a scavenge problem in the Repco engines, this seemed to get worse as the season went on and at Watkins Glen the crankshaft bearings were damaged in both cars during practice and both were withdrawn from the race.’

‘We never actually blew an engine, the bearing wear was detected in routine checks by dropping the oil pans off the engines at the end of each day. It was important we didn’t blow engines given Repco’s push into the US at the time. Frank could feel the loss of power through the corners and then a surge of power ‘like a handbrake being released’ FM said as the car came off some corners. He compensated to save the engines by using less rpm’s, 7000 rather than 8000 which of course reflected in the lap times. To save the engines we also did less testing.’

‘At the start of the season the A51 was as competitive as the T330 but its development accelerated with so many drivers and teams running and experimenting with the T330’s’.

‘Straight after the race weekend at Watkins Glen chassis ‘006’ was flown back to Sydney with me so that the handling and engine problems could be sorted. Chassis ‘005’ was left in the States with the rest of the team.’

‘On returning to Sydney the engine problem was overcome, an additional scavenge pump was added to scavenge oil from above the camshaft. Oil was being retained in the valley above the camshaft in the longer fast corners causing oil starvation in the oil tank, leading to bearing failure.’

After the engine problem was sorted it was decided to redesign the chassis to overcome the handling deficiencies, hence the A52 design’.

‘The best A51 result was 5th at Michigan although Frank ran in the first 3 at the Riverside first round until he had gear shift problems’.

Brian Redman opened the T330’s account at the season opening Riverside round, Matich was 17th. The team entered the Michigan, Mid Ohio and Watkins Glen rounds, in the latter the cars did not start as Kneller related. Jody Scheckter took the series driving the Trojan T101, he also drove a T330 in two rounds. The Trojan was good but Jody was better, he made his GP debut in a Mclaren M23 later in 1973.

That year Aussies John Walker, Matich A50, Bob Muir, Kevin Bartlett and Max Stewart all Lola T330 mounted contested some L&M rounds. Their results and experiences would be an interesting story in itself, perhaps one Kevin Bartlett would be prepared to relate in a later article. Its a tangent too far for this already long piece.

matich a52 wf

Matich A52 Repco ‘006’ on test at Warwick Farm in September 1973. First Matich F5000 with side rads and chisel nose. Repco ‘flat plane’ crank 520bhp engine. Melmag wheels. The thing that struck me about this car when i saw it race at Surfers in 1973 was just how small a car it was. It had the same wheelbase as a T330 but it was beautifully packaged. (Derek Kneller)

The Short Life of Matich A52 Repco ‘006’, late 1973…

As DK relates above apart from the engine dramas, there were improvements to the chassis needed to remain competitive, the game had quickly moved on from the early Tasman months of 1973 as the US teams developed their cars from the production spec delivered by their English makers.

DK; ‘The A52 was built using the A51 ‘006’ chassis and rear end but with a longer engine/gearbox adaptor (bellhousing) giving a 2inch longer (50mm) wheelbase than the A51, this was in line with the Lola T330′.

‘The radiators were moved to the sides of the chassis along with modifications to the engine water pump so that each radiator cooled the opposite side cylinder head and were shrouded with aluminum ductings’.

‘The oil tank was repositioned behind the lefthand radiator (from beside the cars gearbox, outside its wheelbase) and the battery moved from the front of the car to above the bellhousing’.

At the front of the chassis the steering rack was moved from the chassis itself to a heavily redesigned front subframe. The top pick up point for the shock absorber/spring assembly was raised approx 1 1/4 inch (30mm) along with a redesigned lower wishbone and new front uprights. These mods gave an increase in front suspension movement’.

‘To complete the design a chisel shaped nose made from fibre glass was added, the complete car was about 10 Kg lighter than the A51’.

‘The A52 was tested extensively by Frank at Warwick Farm during late July/early August 1973 with a hope of returning to the US series, but a problem with the sponsors in the US prevented this happening’.

‘The A52’s only race was the Gold Star race, the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’ at Surfers Paradise on 2 Sepember 1973 when fitted with a flat plane crank Repco F5000 engine. This gave over 520hp and sounded like a Cosworth DFV on steroids! (The two-plane Repco engine gave circa 495bhp@7000rpm)

FM led the race setting fastest lap before retiring with battery failure, the high frequency vibration from the engine shook the internals of the Varley battery apart.’

‘The car was comprehensively destroyed in a test session at Warwick Farm in late September whilst driven by Bob Muir. The chassis was beyond repair, both outer and inner skins were damaged. The photos show damage from the car hitting the water-sprinkler system at Warwick Farm, 50mm diameter steel pipes at great speed’.

‘Frank was not happy as he had just left the circuit after a successful session and had let Bob have a drive to get another drivers opinion of the car, Bob had been driving a Lola T330 Chev in the US’.

a52 tub rear

The rooted A52 ‘006’ back at the Matich workshop. (Derek Kneller)

a 52 tub side

Another angle, tub clearly beyond economic repair. This tub at some stage was sent back to CAC in Melbourne, having sat at the back of the Matich workshop in Cremorne until 1977/8, but was never seen again. (Derek Kneller)

The death of the A52 was a bummer to say the least. Muir was happy to have had the prang in the strong Matich tub not a T330! Clearly the team were heading in the right direction with a car that was as fast or faster than the the best in Australia at the time; both Bartlett and Stewart were racing their T330 Chevs at Surfers on the day FM was running away with the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’ and both were razor sharp having, like Matich, been racing in the US L&M.

The A52 was undeniably fast, but the team now needed to build another car and again had the chance to make further changes from the A52 to a 1974 Tasman Championship contender, the series commencement only a few short months away at Levin, NZ on January 5 1974.

matich oran park

Frank Matich testing his brand new car in considerable pain, at Oran Park on 1 February 1974. Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. Compact dimensions, beautiful contemporary lines, side rads and oil tank behind LH side radiator duct clear to see. (unattributed)

The 1974 Tasman Series Competition and Frank’s contender, the Matich A53 Repco ‘007’…

John Mc Cormack won the first of his Gold Star’s in 1973 with fast, consistent performances in his evergreen, cleverly developed Elfin MR5 Repco. Garrie Cooper had built a new car, the Repco Leyland powered MR6, a superb, small car styled in the mould of the Tyrrell 006. The aluminium block V8 was around 100 pounds lighter than the Holden but, as was later to be revealed the weight reduction was offset by the inherent deficiencies of the engine itself. The MR6 would find success in 1975, but Repco Holden engined. In the meantime Mac’s old Elfin was a race winner in NZ in 1974.

Bartlett, Walker and Stewart returned with their Lola T330’s. Unfortunately KB’s campaign was cut short by a Pukekohe shunt which broke his ankle, leg and hip. KB’s return to racing and his win at Bathurst with John Goss the following October was as heroic as Warwick Brown’s return to racing in the first production Lola T332 ‘HU27’ that summer of ’74.

Warwick was hobbling around the Surfers paddock at the Gold Star meeting in September ’73, no way did i think he would be back in harness in January given his physical state then. But he was and won the final Tasman round in Adelaide. Former Kiwi Tasman champ Graeme Lawrence was back in another new T332 having run a 2 Litre Surtees in 1973, and himself survived an horrific accident in his then new Lola T300 in 1972.

Lawrence, Bartlett and Brown were all foundation members of the ‘Lola Limpers Club’ and fortunately all are well and truly still with us!

Graham McRae was back in the GM2, a superb ‘McLarenesque’ chisel nosed, side radiator car, which convincingly won the 1973 AGP at Sandown on 4 November. FM didn’t contest the ’73 AGP as Bob Muir had destroyed his mount, the A52.

Count Rudi van der Straten was back again with Teddy Pilette and Peter Gethin in Chevron B24’s, both cars were converted to the latest B28 spec during the Tasman.

Perhaps the Series was slightly ‘skinnier’ in terms of international representation than 1973 but there was still a formidable field of top class drivers in the best F5000’s of the day.

Again Derek Kneller provides his firsthand account of building the Matich A53…

‘The car was built using the final CAC tub and was a refinement of the A52.

Both the front and rear suspension geometry was changed having longer wishbones to smooth out roll and bump conditions. The front subframe was redesigned to accomodate an improved steering rack mount and another inch was added to the bellhousing to give a longer wheelbase.

front suspension detail

Matich A53 ‘007’ front suspension and subframe detail, Oran Park Feb 1974. Suspension upper and lower wishbones, coil spring/Koni dampers, adjustable roll bar. Cast magnesium uprights, Melmag wheels. Lockheed calipers grabbing Repco discs. Front subframe referred to in the text clear, note the front lower forward wishbone mount to the frame. Quality of fabrication and build of all these cars superb. (Dale Harvey)

New radiators to improve engine cooling along with new, longer radiator ducts were fitted.

The car was fitted with Repcos’ latest flat plane crank engine. (giving circa 520bhp and the big, solid midrange torque which always differentiated the Repco Holden engines characteristics from the Chevs)

o park rear

Oran Park, practice before the Tasman round. Lots of people in attendance for the cars first public run. Derek Kneller by the RF Goodyear. Fuel vaporisation on this test covered in text. Rear suspension; single upper link, twin parallel lower links, twin radius rods and coil spring/Koni dampers, adjustable sway bar. You can just see the top of the inboard mounted disc. Hewland DG300 ‘box. Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. (Dale Harvey)

The fuel system was redesigned, the mechanical fuel pump was moved from its original position behind the distributor drive to a position similar to a Cosworth DFV, low down on the front of the engine driven by a narrow toothed belt from the front of the crankshaft.

The A53 weighed 1361lbs (618 kilos) with oil, water and 1 gallon of fuel.

It was a superb looking racing car, as good as any F1/F5000 in the world at that time, a testament to Frank Matich’s engineering prowess and all built in Australia.’

herald

The 1974 Tasman Series and Frank Matich’ Retirement…

DK; ‘Frank had been thinking about retirement during the last couple of months of 1973 whilst his wife, Joan was ill, he had placed ads in Racing Car News to sell all of the cars. The A53 was extensively tested by Frank in the run up to the 1974 Tasman series, but was not raced in New Zealand due to Joan’s illness. FM sent me to Pukekohe to check out the opposition’.

The Kiwi Tasman rounds were won by John Walker, he took the season opener at Levin in his Lola T330 Repco, Gethin then won at Pukekohe in the VDS Chevron. McCormack’s Elfin MR5 Repco won the NZ GP at on the Wigram airfield circuit and Max Stewart won at Teretonga in his Lola T330 Chev. The series was wide open when the cars arrived in Sydney for the fifth round at Western Sydney’s Oran Park circuit. Warwick Farm, very sadly ran its last Tasman meeting the year before and had ceased to be used for motor racing.

The A53’s race debut was the first Australian Tasman round at Oran Park on 3 February.

Kneller…’Early in the week before the race Frank had an accident with a small Honda generator on his boat, burning his left hand and his chest. He was electrocuted and was lucky not to have been killed, only the generator stalling prevented that. He practiced the car at Oran Park on the Friday but decided not to race as he was having trouble effectively driving the car and concentrating, although his times would have put him towards the front of the grid’.

oran park on circuit

Matich tests his brand new car in considerable pain at Oran Park. Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. He was quick despite the pain he was in from a boating accident. (Dale Harvey)

‘Bob Muir was offered the drive, his times in free practice were very competitive. During official practice the engine suffered from fuel vaporisation. During pit stops the mechanical fuel pump was absorbing heat from the circuit tarmac causing a vapour lock in the fuel system. There was also an oil pump problem, Bob qualified at the back of the grid 5.5 seconds slower than his best time on Friday’.

oran park front

Another Oran Park test shot this time the front of the luvverly new Matich. Matich in towelling hat with Kneller behind RR wheel. (Dale Harvey)

‘The engine was changed overnight and a heat shield added around the fuel pump. Bob’s times in the Sunday morning warm up were on the pace of the front runners (low 40seconds). He started the race well and was up to eighth by lap 6 but retired around lap 70 with fuel pressure problems again’.

The following week Frank had recovered enough to race at Surfers Paradise although he was still suffering from the burns to his hands. In a strong, gritty performance, he qualified and finished third behind the two Chevron B24/28’s of Pilette and Gethin.

matich sandown

Matich cruising thru the Sandown paddock in his tractable Repco engined device, February 1974. He is wearing the latest ‘small window’ Bell ‘Star’ helmet, he was Australian distributor for Bell as well as Goodyear race tyres. Matich A53 ‘007’. (oldracephotos.com/Hammond)

‘For the third round at Sandown a new flat plane crank Repco engine was installed. Frank qualified second to Gethin and led the race for 15 laps. He was leading by over 6 seconds when the water pump pulley worked loose and the engine overheated. Frank pitted and retired to save the engine’.

‘The last ’74 Tasman race was at Adelaide International Raceway. A fresh flat plane engine was installed and in practice Frank was behind Max Stewart (FM 49.8 to MS 49.7). Frank ran second for the first 10 laps before spinning on some oil and falling back to seventh, he drove back up to second by lap 51 but a misfire set in when he was only 2.5 seconds off the lead, he then spun again while lapping a slower car, eventually finishing fourth’.

matich adelaide

Start of the Adelaide International Tasman round. Matich on the outside of John Walkers T330, Stewart’s T33o behind FM, a VDS Chevron on the far outside and Brown’s T332 behind that car. (lyntonh)

‘That was Frank Matich’s last race in his own make of car. About 2 weeks after the end of the Tasman he called me to his house and told me that he was going to retire from racing and was going to close down Matich Racing. He said since the boat accident he had been suffering from bad headaches and lack of concentration and thats why he spun both in practice and the race in Adelaide. Along with other matters he thought it was time to retire from racing’.

‘The A53 with the latest Repco engines were as competitive as any other F5000 car at the time and we had not scratched the surface with its development. We had the car and enough spares to race the A53 in any series in the world, these spares were made in December ’73/January ’74 so i don’t think FM had made up his mind to retire until after the ’74 Tasman ended. Repco was not the main cause, their announcement to withdraw was not made until April, long after the discussion FM and i had’.

repco withdrawai

Melbourne newspaper announcement of Repco’s April 1974 withdrawal from racing. (Derek Kneller Collection)

‘All the cars were put up for sale in the May 1974 edition of the ‘Racing Car News’, the A50 ‘001/2’ Gold Star/Australian GP winning car was advertised as a rolling chassis for $A3950. The A51 ‘005’ rolling chassis $5950 and the A53 ‘007’ rolling chassis $9750.

cranky

Matich the racer; he has the ‘faraway eyes’ on, pondering setup changes to get more speed from A50 ‘001/2’, McRae is setting the pace and their is a need to find more speed. Wigram, NZ 1973. (Shane Lee)

Conclusion…

When Frank Matich retired he was 39 years old and still at the peak of his powers as both a racer and constructor of racing cars. He was without doubt and objectively showed he was as quick as the world best in the sixties when he raced against them in equivalent cars.

His sportscars were the fastest in Australia and his F5000’s as fast if not in some years faster than the worlds best.

In that context he retired too early, Derek Kneller says the A54 was being concepted when FM retired.

Personally i like my heroes to retire at their peak rather than the back ‘of the curve’. If FM had not peaked he was perhaps close to it.

The family business was motor racing, FM’s wife Joan was very much involved from start to finish. Always very much a family man as well as ‘obsessively focussed’ as ‘successful racers’ are in any field of life, it was time to give his family of six the time now they needed and deserved, whilst continuing the businesses involved in motor racing if not the actual building and racing of the cars themselves.

FM was never far from the scene and Matich cars remained successful particularly in John Goss’ hands, he won the 1976 AGP at Sandown in A51/3 ‘005’ against much younger cars.

No longer with us, Frank Matich died on 11 May 2015. FM was a man of immense achievement, not without his faults mind you, and a great Australian.

I hope i have conveyed some of that.

frank and joan

Somehow this seems an appropriate photo to end this article. Very much a devoted couple, Joan and Frank Matich, car the McLaren M10B, here promoting their sponsors and the family business in Australian ‘Womans Day’ magazine in 1970. (Derek Kneller Collection: Australian ‘Womans Day’ 1970)

Etcetera…

‘Pitlane’ Interviews with Derek Kneller.

More Photos.

winners are grinners

‘Winners are Grinners’, FM in 1972. (unattributed)

matich team shot

Matich A50 ‘003’, March 1972 before export to the US and the team which built it L>R; Jim Hunter mech, Scott McNaughton mech, Charlie Munro machinist, Henry Nehrbechi designer, Arcadia mech/fabricator, Bob Riley manager/mech, Derek Kneller chief mech, John Bug machinist. Missing is Bob Kube machinist. (Derek Kneller)

matich et al

‘Council of War’ during the 1971 Tasman. L>R; Don O’Sullivan, John Cannon, FM and an unidentified fella. Car is Mclaren M10B Repco. (unattributed)

photo (4)

FM in his Brookvale workshop with A50 ‘001/2’. Nice detail of cars cockpit, dash full of Smith’s instruments and distinctive ‘half’ steering wheel. (Derek Kneller Collection)

repco poster

Bibliography…

Australian Motor Racing Annual 1973, Manuscript from Derek Kneller, The Nostalgia Forum, John Smailes article in ‘Australian Motor Racing Annual 1972’, Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, oldracingcars.com

Photo Credits…

Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, Rennie Ellis, Stupix, Robert Davies, Jay Bondini, lyntonh, Derek Kneller Collection, Dale Harvey, Dick Simpson, oldracephotos.com, Facebook F5000 Group photo archives, Derek Kneller Collection, Shane Lee, Terry Marshall, John Ellacott, Wirra

Tailpiece…

goodyeras

FM atop both his tool of trade and ‘trading stock’. Both distributor and tester of Firestone and later Goodyear race tyres in Australia. Circa 1968. (wirra)

Other F5000 Articles…

Shadow DN6B Dodge.

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/07/shadow-dn6b-dodge-road-america-f5000-1976/

Elfin MR8 Chev and James Hunt.

https://primotipo.com/2014/10/15/james-hunt-rose-city-10000-winton-raceway-australia1978-elfin-mr8-chev/

Finito…

allen and matich bathurst 1969

(oldracephotos.com/Dick Simpson)

Niel Allen’s Elfin 400 Chev ‘BB662’ leads Frank Matich’s hi-winged Matich SR4 Repco and Bevan Gibson’s ill-fated Elfin 400 Repco, Easter Bathurst 1969…

There are so many historic elements to Dick Simpson’s wonderful shot of the three cars in ‘The Dipper’ on lap 1 of the Sunday feature race.

Allen is in Frank’s old car, the first Elfin 400/Traco Olds ‘BB662’, Matich’s 5 litre quad-cam Repco ‘RB760’ engined car slaughtered the opposition in 1969. It was intended for the 1968 Can Am but was completed too late, its high wings will be shortly outlawed as all such appendages were over the 1969 Monaco GP weekend…and tragically Bevan died during this race, a victim of circumstances and the aero of the 400 which was not, with the knowledge of the time, ‘fully resolved’.

I have not written an article about one of our ‘Racers Retreat’ Peter Brennan’s restorations for a while, this article features his ex-Frank Matich Elfin 400/ Traco Olds ‘BB662’ Sports Car.

I had almost finished it a few weeks ago and then the tragic news of Frank Matich’s death on May 11 came through.

With the assistance of his former colleagues at the time, Bruce Richardson and Geoff Smedley i have been able to fill in some gaps and i think portray an objective account of the Elfin 400’s design and construction, which has been somewhat contentious down the decades.

This article is dedicated to this incredibly talented racer, constructor and businessman. Truly a great Australian. Frank Matich.

autosportsman mag matich

‘Auto Sportsman’ cover July 1966 depicts Frank Matich ‘Australian Tourist Trophy’ win at Longford in February. Elfin 400/Traco Olds ‘BB662’.

Historic Context…

It’s interesting to look at the explosion of motor racing post war as the vestiges of conflict faded away and people started to live their lives again and indulge in their passions.

Consumer credit became more available, manufacturers introduced new models of cars and of course wanted to extol their virtues and promote their brands via motor racing.

In the US, sports car racing was the focus of road racing at the time, single seater racing being mainly the province of speedways. The Europeans slugged it out with local specials powered by increasingly larger capacity V8’s. Ferrari and Maserati built cars such as the 340 America and 450S as cars like the Allard Cadillacs, their 6 litre engines providing stiff competition to the D Types, 300S Masers’ and Monza Ferraris’ the latter three began to dominate based on numbers alone.

A ‘game changer’ was the introduction of the small block Chev V8 introduced into 1955 model cars. The engine was 100 pounds lighter than any other production V8 at the time and compact. Lance Reventlow exploited its virtues in his Scarabs in 1958.

The Cooper Monaco and Lotus 19, mid-engined cars powered by the Coventry Climax FPF brought a level of subtlety to the fields but it wasn’t long before the small block Chev, Ford ‘Windsor’ V8 introduced in 1962 and the F85 aluminium Oldsmobile engines found their way into the backs of the Coopers and Loti. These ‘small and big block’ modern V8’s established a new paradigm globally for sportscar racing, they won everything up to and including Le Mans.

The focus of the European and English racing car manufacturers was the US market where there was much money to be made supplying this strong sportscar scene which launched the careers of Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney and Richie Ginther into Europe in the ’50’s.

In Australia the bigger racing budgets were devoted to single seaters although we had a smattering of Jag C and D Types’, 300S, Lotus 11’s and 15’s all of which could double up in events like the Australian Grand Prix which was run to Formula Libre until 1961.

In the early 60’s Frank Matich and Bib Stillwell slugged it out in both single seaters and sportscars; Stillwell in a Cooper Monaco I wrote about a while back and Frank Matich in a Lotus 19 and later, after the earlier car was destroyed in a Warwick Farm testing accident, a Lotus 19B. Both cars were Coventry Climax powered. (Stillwells Cooper was fitted with an ex-Scarab Traco Buick engine later)

‘Cranky Franky’ was an awesome competitor and engineer, his later self built cars were of world class and won Australian Sportscar and Gold Star (Single Seater) Championships.

In 1962 Matich raced Elfin Clubman, Formula Junior and 1.5 litre cars as a factory driver, in fact he ‘cut his single seater teeth’ with Elfin and was appointed the firms NSW Agent. Elfin is the South Australian company created by Garrie Cooper in 1958, it evolved from his fathers body-building business and became Australia’s largest and most successful producer of racing cars, building over 350 cars and winning dozens of Championships until well after Coopers death in April 1982

The modest, understated Cooper, a titan of Australian Motor Racing was to play a key role in Matich’s next championship winning sportscar.

19b wf

FM cutting the grass in the Lotus 19B Climax, Homestead Corner, Warwick Farm. This car was extensively and continually developed by Matich and his team and had some Brabham components; wheels and brakes at the end of its life which occurred at Lakeside in 1965. Chassis number unknown, car taken to Elfin and used as a reference for the 400 design, car last seen atop a workshop at Elfins many years ago…destiny unknown. (John Ellacott)

Destruction of Lotus 19B Climax…

Matich had success in his Lotus 19’s, winning the Australian Tourist Trophy in the 19B at Longford in 1964. He was the favourite to win the title at Lakeside in 1965, but the competition was to be stiffer than the year before with no less a driver than Ken Miles competing in a factory Cobra a long way from home.

Frank decided to contest a sports car event during the Lakeside Gold Star Meeting in July as his final preparation for the ATT  in November.

Matich was out in practice when he lost it behind the pits, the throttle of the car stuck open, he crashed the car  through the fence at around 120 miles per hour badly damaging it and giving Matich second degree burns to his hands and back.

cranky

Frank Matich pictured later in his career at Wigram, NZ. Tasman Series 1973. The car is his self built F5000 Matich A50 Repco, and here he is typically deep in thought pondering the setup changes he needs. He was 4th, the race won by his Kiwi rival in the constructor/driver stakes, Graham McRae in his McRae GM1 Chev. (Shane Lee)

The result was that Total, the French Oil Company and Matich’s sponsor, withdrew their support, the local distribution company had recently been taken over by Boral in Australia.

Ray Bell ‘They (Total) had been looking to Frank to win the Gold Star in the Brabham and continue blitzing the field in the 19B, but he was now out of racing for some time and they bailed right out of their deal with him’.

Laurie O’Neil was a wealthy Sydney businessman who had the franchise for Peterbilt Trucks, he had and would for many years own cars others raced, he was a sponsor of the Lotus 19B and would support Matich in a new car.

chassis and engine

The Matich 400 ‘BB662’ coming together at Elfins, Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown. Side pontoons, Traco Olds 4.5 litre F85 engine and Hewland HD5 gearbox. Key elements of the engine; Engle roller cam, stock rockers but fabricated steel rocker stand or pedestal, JE pistons, Warren machined ‘H Beam’ rods, Moldex steel crank, 4 48 IDA Webers, conventional Delco Remy distributor and coil ignition, Traco inlet manifold, McLaren supplied exhausts; circa 350-365bhp at 6500 rpm. By 1966 the Olds even at 5 litres wasn’t enough to do the job in the ‘States, but in Oz it was more than sufficient, the engine 200 pounds lighter than a 5.4 litre Chev with consequent benefits in terms of running gear, weight transfer etc. (Bob Mills Collection)

Birth of The Elfin 400…

According to Barry Catford in ‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ Garrie Cooper was developing his own ideas for his first ‘big banger’ sports car as he had been approached by an existing customer, Noel Hurd to build a car powered by a Ford 289cid V8.

Cooper visited the UK looking at the latest racers and had commenced the design process of the car according to Noel Hurd who confirmed as such to journalist Ray Bell in August 2002. Still, the somewhat contentious part of this story is the input Matich had into the design of the Elfin 400, which was to be the new cars type designation, as against Cooper himself.

Geoff Smedley was Matich’s engineer at the time and recalled ‘I started to work with Frank after John Youl retired from racing (a world class driver of Cooper Climaxes from Tasmania) and have memories on the birth of the Elfin 400, it was in 1965 after the demise of the 19B at Lakeside. Garrie Cooper came over from Adelaide to Sydney, Frank and i picked him up and we had a long lunch, about half the day. We discussed the layout of the car, the ideas were drawn up on a restaurant serviette incorporating salvageable bits from the Lotus.’

‘At that stage we assumed we would use the Coventry Climax FPF from the Lotus, the decision to go with the Traco was made later. Garrie designed the car using the general layout we discussed and agreed. The final design couldn’t be finalised until we decided what could be used from the 19B. The Hewland HD5 box’ was used and i think the car was set up on the 19 uprights but i am not sure the car ever raced on them.’

‘I spent much time at Elfins’ in Adelaide machining many of the components as Garrie had a lathe but not a machinist which was my core skill. Garrie Cooper was a brilliant man and all the credit must go his way for the 400, it was an Elfin’ Smedley said.

‘Total had kept me on to sort out the sale of all of the bits left over from the Lotus and Brabham race program, but it all got too hard and complex so i left to work on other projects

g cooper ian smith

Lovely portrait of Garrie Cooper taken in the late 1970’s by Ian Smith. The ‘Ansett Team Elfin’ F5000 MR5/6/8/9’s were mainstays of Australian top level single seater racing for the best part of a decade from 1972. Cooper a remarkably successful designer/constructor and fine driver. (Ian Smith)

After Geoff Smedley’s departure, Bruce Richardson was employed to work on the program ‘I worked with FM on the Leaton Motors owned D Type Jag and Lotus 15 from around 1958 and then left to go overseas. I was working for Reg Parnell Racing in Europe at the time Total/Matich were looking for a competitive sportscar and made the introductions on their behalf to UDT Laystall which resulted in the purchase of FM’s first, ex-Moss 19.’

‘When I returned to Australia Laurie O’ Neil had decided to get actively back into motor racing by supporting Frank Matich into another car, which became the Elfin 400. He bought the wreck of the Lotus 19B from the insurers, employed me to look after the car and employed FM on his books as a salesman. early on Frank and i had discussed the various cars we liked at the time including Bruce McLaren’s ‘Zerex Special’ Cooper, all of which was later discussed with Garrie Cooper’

Laurie soon despatched me to Adelaide to pick the 400 up, I had only just got married so off my wife and I went on the long trip from Sydney by road South West. When we arrived in Edwardstown Garrie was surprised to see us, the car was far from finished!’

The Noel Hurd, Globe Engineering owned car was the prototype and given the chassis number ‘BB661′ but was soon relegated to the second built, with the Hurds’ generous consent, to allow the Matich car to be completed first. Frank wanted to contest the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy at Longford in February 1966.

Richardson, ‘I stayed in Adelaide and helped build up the car together with Fulvio Mattiolo, a great bloke and fabricator, John Webb who built the body, Bob Mills and others. To my recollection none of the parts from the 19B were used in the 400.’ (other than the Hewland gearbox as noted above by Geoff Smedley)

‘The engine was a brand new Traco Olds based on the F85 block, Laurie was always bringing in cars from the US so he plonked it in the boot of one of his imports! I had several trips for Laurie to see the Traco guys in Culver City, both Jim Travers and Frank Coon were remarkable people and very professional to deal with’.

‘The engine itself was very good, the problems were inherent with the lightweight block once they developed over about 300BHP. The block distorted quite a lot causing loss of oil pressure. We used Merv Waggott’s dyno in Sydney and had him make some steel sleeves to fit into the block where the cam followers ran which helped the problem. Repco had similar issues with the same block they used in F1, solving them by building their own blocks from the 1967 season.’

‘With time running short, we planned to do the sports car events which were part of the 1966 Tasman Series Australian rounds, especially the Tourist Trophy, at Longford we took the car back to Peterbilts headquarters in Sydney. There the finishing touches were completed including the rear body, John Webb came to Sydney to do that, the exhaust system, painting etc. The car made its race debut at Sandown having been tested at Warwick Farm.’

body

The body of the 400 was hand formed by John Webb in aluminium with a fibreglass female mould taken from the nose section.. (Bob Mills Collection)

Matich related his version of the 400’s design and build in a ‘Vintage Racecar Journal’ article published in August 2002, unfortunately 20 years after Garrie Coopers’ death and therefore ability to respond…

‘Garrie Cooper of Elfin came to see me (after Matich destroyed his Lotus 19B) as he had orders to build a big sports car and had a proposition. They would do the work and build the car to my design if they, with some modification, could apply the design to their own version.  VRJ: So your own car was known as the SR3?

FM: The first car for me was called the Traco Olds. I was a bit embarrassed and didn’t want to call it a Matich…My good pal, Laurie O’Neil, was involved with me and had bought an engine from friends at Traco Engineering in America and we agreed to call the car a Traco. They were flattered but there was a bit of criticism as everyone thought there was some disagreement between Elfin and us. There was no disagreement, but there
was a little problem as BP had an arrangement with Elfin where they used to pay a bonus for every race that an Elfin car won. As a result of that, Elfin wanted me to call the car an Elfin; then they offered me a part of what BP was paying but I wouldn’t agree, so it all became too bloody complex. So from then on I decided to call them Matiches’.

In fact the ‘spin’ by Frank started very early, in an Australian ‘Auto Sportsman’ October 1966 article written by Ray Simpson. The article says ‘ The early stages of construction were carried out with the help of Garrie Cooper at the Elfin works in Adelaide. Completion of the project however took place at the Peterbilt Works in Sydney where Bruce Richardson and Rennmax exponent Bob Britton finalised the design and finished the car’.

The photos in this article clearly show the car being built at Elfins in Adelaide, the account of Geoff Smedley and Bruce Richardson confirm both the design and construction of the car by Cooper/Elfin in Adelaide with only the finishing touches made in Sydney, the bodywork itself completed by Elfin’s John Webb there.

Britton had no role in the design or construction of the 400. He did build the Matich SR3, Franks’ 1967 Repco powered Can Am contender, the chassis of which is ‘as good as a copy’ Elfin 400 according to Bruce Richardson, ‘something Bob Britton and i had a chuckle about in recalling all the fun times, challenges and success we had with Matich at his recent funeral’.

What seems likely is this; That Cooper had started the design of what became the 400 before Matich ‘boofed’ his 19B. That Cooper and Matich met in Sydney, at whose instigation is unclear. That the general conceptual layout of the car was agreed and ‘documented’ on a serviette. That the remains of the Matich 19B  were used as reference points only, no parts of the Lotus other than the Hewland HD5 ‘box were used in the ‘BB662’ build. That Cooper designed the car, which he had commenced, perhaps changing the detail of the design to be consistent with the ‘conceptual serviette layout’ and whatever learnings were to be taken from the very dead but still useful 19B…

The basic dimensions of the car were referenced from, or compared with depending on how far Coopers design had progressed when the Lotus arrived in Adelaide, the 19B. It was critical to both Matich and Cooper that the car was successful from the start.

Peter Brennan, having owned and restored ‘BB662’ 25 years ago comments; ‘…the rear frame is similar to the Lotus, the centre bulkhead is of the Lotus diaphragm type, the 400 uprights are very similar, Elfins perhaps took a pattern from them, the Lotus in standard form didn’t have a Hewland box, the Elfin had cast front uprights, the Lotus Alford and Alder uprights’.

The Lotus was a source of reference as was the ‘conceptual serviette’ but the car is entirely of Elfin detail design and manufacture as Geoff Smedley and Bruce Richardson confirm.

Matichs’ conversations with Cooper about the dynamic attributes and qualities of the car he sought would have been readily understood by Cooper, a champion driver himself. Matich had been racing ‘big sports cars’ for over a decade; C and D Type Jags, Lotus 15 and Lotus 19/19B. He knew what he wanted and what was needed to win. Garrie hadn’t raced a ‘big car’ to that point nor built one.

To say that they collaborated closely on the conceptual design of the car, that the detail design was Coopers’ and the cars construction was by Elfin is an accurate way to describe the design and build elements of the project.

400 chassis

400 space frame was fusion welded square, round and oval mild steel tubing. Lotus type centre diaphragm clear. (Bob Mills Collection)

Garrie Cooper designed a conventional space frame chassis which was fully triangulated and constructed of square, round and oval section tubes. The aluminium undertray and subsidiary bulkheads were stressed to add rigidity to the light structure. His first monocoque Elfin, the very successful Type 100 or ‘Mono’ single seater was winning races at the time and whilst the monocoque Lola GT, Ford GT40 and Lola T70 raced during 1963-5, a good space-frame could still do the job, time was of the essence and the successful Lotus 19B was a spaceframe…

Front suspension comprised upper and lower wishbones, coil springs and Armstong dampers, the uprights are cast magnesium, the roll bars adjustable. At the rear a single top link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and again coil spring damper units using Armstrong shocks was deployed. The sway bar was adjustable.

400 rear peterbilt

Rear shot of the Matich ‘BB662’ Olds in Sydney. Rear chassis diaphragm, Hewland HD5 ‘box, muffled! aluminium Traco Olds engine, inverted lower wishbones, Elfin cast magnesium uprights, driveshafts and adjustable sway bar all clear. Rear tyres 15 inch diameter X 12 inch wide shod with Firestone tyres to whom FM was contracted at the time. L>R Bruce Richardson, Matich, Laurie O’Neil. (John Ellacott)

The rack and pinion steering was Triumph Herald, the offset seating position encouraging Cooper to use this component.

Brakes were discs, 12 inch front and 11 inch rear using Girling BR calipers. Wheels were also of Elfin design and like the uprights were cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Fishermans Bend, Melbourne. They were 4 stud magnesium alloy, 15 inch X 10 inches in diameter at the front and 15 x 12 at the rear…to comply with Australian sports car regs a spare was also carried, mounted under the wrap around perspex windscreen.

The wheel base was 91 inches, track 55 inches, width 68 inches, length 148 inches, height 32inches and weight 1300 pounds.

Four Elfin 400’s were built; ‘BB661’ for Dick Bassett and Noel Hurd , ‘BB662’ for Laurie O’Neill and Frank Matich, ‘BB67-3’ for Bob Jane Racing and ‘BB67-4’ for Andy Buchanan in New Zealand.

All of the cars still exist and have interesting histories. For example, the Bassett car was fitted with a Ford Windsor V8 engine with DOHC heads developed by Globe Engineering for a period. The Bob Jane car was fitted with the first Repco Brabham RB620 racing engine sold to a customer, Brabhams engines all factory supplied as part of Jacks deal with Repco.

400 side rear

Car at Peterbilts’ Alexandria, Sydney base. Elfin 400 Traco Olds, February 1966. Car delivered completed without rear bodywork and all of the exhaust system. Rear body finished and fitted in Sydney by Elfins’ John Webb. Matich in the car, Laurie O’Neil and Bruce Richardson in overalls. (John Ellacott)

‘BB662’ without rear bodyword was taken to Sydney on February 8 1966 for completion and testing prior to the Australian Tourist Trophy which was contested during the Longford Tasman meeting on March 7.

Matich initially raced the car with the bodywork and its distinctive ‘front horns’ containing the headlights in place but these were later removed to attempt to overcome the aerodynamic lift that was characteristic of the car.

400 front peterbilt

Front of ‘BB662’ post painting in Sydney fitted with its controversial and aerodynamically unstable, original ‘front horns’ nose. The aero issues are explored in the text. It looks great, ‘edgy’ for its day but the aero was not ‘fully resolved’. (John Ellacott)

Elfins body-builder John Webb and Bruce Richardson accompanied the car to Sydney, the 400 being race ready to compete in the sportscar events at the 27 February Sandown Park, Victoria, Tasman meeting where it was immediately competitive. The body was completed the car pounding around ‘Franks Backyard’, Warwick Farm in Sydneys’ west before heading south to Melbourne and then across Bass Strait for the fabulous Longford meeting.

The ‘Racing Car News’ report of the ‘Elfin Traco Olds’ Sandown debut explains that the 365bhp car was barely slower than the 2.5 litre Tasman single-seaters. Matich won the race comfortably at a canter from Alan Hamiltons Porsche 906 and Spencer Martins’ Ferrari 250LM taking half a second off Bib Stillwells’ Cooper Monaco lap record ‘doing it so easily he’s saving a few seconds for the future…there just isn’t anything in the country that can come close to it in Sports Cars’.

Other than routine pre-race preparation the car was nicely ‘run in’ for its Australian Championship encounter the following weekend.

longford program 1966

(Ellis French Collection)

matich longford

ATT grid Longford 1966; #2 Matich Elfin 400/ Traco Olds, #1 Spencer Martin Ferrari 250LM, the red helmet on the far left is Alan Hamilton, his Porsche 904/6 Spyder invisible, #11 on row 2 is Lionel Ayers, a long way from Queensland in his Lotus 23B Ford . (Richard Blanden)

Frank Matich shares the front row of the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy grid at Longford with Spencer Martin’s Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM, his brand spanking new Elfin 400/ Traco Olds gleaming in the Tasmanian autumn sun…

The feature event of the annual carnival of racing at Longford was the Tasman race for 2.5 litre single-seaters, in ’66 the race was won by Jackie Stewarts BRM P261 but all eyes were on Jack Brabham and his BT19 Repco, the new partnership of Brabham and the RB620 engine making only its third start, the engine made its debut in South Africa, raced at Sandown the week before finishing 3rd behind the 2 BRM’s in Tasmania. The testing was all critical to give the package the reliability it needed to win the World Title, which of course Brabham did in 1966, doubling up with Denny Hulme in ’67.

The Australian Tourist Trophy was also an event of great stature, Matich took an easy win in an 8 lapper which opened the meeting, setting a lap record of 2:28 winning from Martin’s Ferrari and Frank Demuth’s Lotus 23B.

matich and ambrose

The latest Elfin Sports Car passes the first…Ross Ambrose (father of V8 SuperCar driver Marcus) is passed by Matich. Elfin Streamliner and 400 respectively. In fact FM muffed a gear under brakes and was nearly hit up the chuff by Ambrose. ATT Longford 1966. (oldracephotos.com.au/David Keep)

matich and richarson longford paddock

Mechanic Bruce Richardson and FM ponder changes to the Elfin 400/Traco Olds in the Longford Paddock. Note the sartorial elegance of the 2 Aussies in the background…Longford was always hot! (oldracephotos.com.au/David Keep)

matich tassie

Matich crosses the South Esk River, Longford 1966. The couple in the boat looking relaxed and dropping in a line…(Alan Stewart Collection)

The ATT was contested over 23 laps on day 2 of the carnival. ‘Racing Car News’ reported the event as follows ‘Martin made a slow start and allowed Hamilton’s Porsche 906 to follow Matich into the first corner, but took over 2nd towards the end of the first lap. Second time past the order was Matich, Martin, Hamilton, Demuth, Mitchell (RM1), then Ayers and Bolton…’

‘The pace was fast and furious but positions did not change greatly in the early laps…already Matich had lapped Bob Holden (Lolita) and Greg Ellis…Martin was forced into the pits on the 6th lap with a loose undertray and rejoined the race exactly as Matich went past.’

The order was Matich a half a lap ahead of Hamilton, Demuth, Ayers, Bolton and Holland, the latter 2 drivers in Lotus 23B’s.

‘The next 2 laps the big Ferrari regained 2 places..on lap 17 Matich was coming into Newry about to lap Carosi’s Bolwell when Carosi spun into the bank on the inside of the circuit barely giving Matich the room to pass…In the closing stages of the race Martin gave the Ferrari everything, making up 5 seconds a lap but he was unable to catch the fantastic white Porsche’

‘Matich was untroubled in the final few laps, his times dropping to 2:45’s and his top speed from around 160mph to 130. The fleet footed although bulky looking  Elfin took the flag some 13.4 secs ahead of the Porsche with Martin another 29 seconds away in 3rd’.

The meeting was indicative of the dominance of the car Matich winning many races in it in the short time he raced it, but he needed to do his own thing, he resigned from Peterbilt, who employed him, in September 1966 to pursue his own programs with his Rennmax built but ‘as good as a copy’ Elfin 400 chassis Matich SR3 cars…The success of these fabulous devices is a story in itself for another time.

wf feb

Peter Windsor’s shot of the RAC Sports Car Trophy race at Warwick Farm in May 1966. Matich is on pole in his new car with Alan Hamilton alongside, Porsche 904/6 with Kevin Bartlett on the outside in the Alec Mildren Racing Alfa Romeo TZ2. Windsor captions the 2 Lotus 23B’s behind as driven by Frank Demuth and Niel Allen, you can also just see Spencer Martin’s Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM…the heavy long distance racer well back amongst all these ‘Sprinters’. (Peter Windsor)

rcn cover 400

RCN cover with David Atkinson’s watercolor of  duelling Elfin 400’s; Allen in ‘BB662’, from Noel Hurd in the Globe Engineering Ford Windsor powered car and Bob Jane in his Repco 4.4 litre engined device…

allen bathurst

Wonderful Dick Simpson shot of Bill Brown in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/350 CanAm with Niel Allen slipping up the inside at Hell Corner in the Elfin 400…on this occasion the exotic V12 bested 5 litres of Chev V8. Brown set the Bathurst top speed record of 181 mph and Allen took the lap record, then DNF in this Sports Car Trophy race. Love the crowd, vestigial safety fencing, ‘Murrumbidgee Road Racing Club’ overalls and ‘King Size Daggi Dog’ health food stand…(oldracephotos.com.au/Dick Simpson)

Laurie O’Neil sold the 400 to Sydney property developer and up and coming racer, Niel Allen…

Bruce Richrdson again picks up the story, ‘When FM left to do his own thing with the SR3 program Laurie said to me one day that Niel Allen was interested in buying the car, they did the deal, I went to work with Niel, looking after the Elfin and the other cars in his stable until I was injured in a fuel explosion. I left, Peter Molloy took my place. I took 12 months off and then worked for a succession of touring car teams as well as doing my own stuff; McLeod Ford with John Goss, Ron Hodgson with Bob Morris including a Bathurst win. I helped Charlie O’Brien run a BMW 635CSI at Bathurst, which was my introduction to electronics, at that stage I decided if that was the way things were going I would quit racing! Frank Gardner lived next door to me on the Gold Coast, I did work with them on a casual basis including helping them with their Bathurst win’

Allen initially raced the car with the Traco Olds but after blowing the engine ‘BB662′ was fitted with a 5 litre Chev V8 and ZF gearbox by Peter Molloy, Allen’s engineer till the end of his later, successful F5000 program. He continued to develop the car including changing the suspension pick-up points to suit the ever wider tyres available and fitment of Matich wheels to suit.

At the 1967 AGP Meeting at Warwick Farm Allen broke Matich’s lap record by 0.8 seconds and won the race. A month later he broke Franks’ Sandown lap record in a handicap race, FM having set it earlier in the day on the debut of his new Matich SR3.

Niel Allen was the only driver ever to set an outright lap record crossing the finish line backwards. This occurred at Symmons Plains, Tasmania, there being a tight corner that leads into a curve over the finish line there. At the end of the second lap he spun… and crossed the line backwards with a new lap record!

elfin 400 chev allen 1

Now with 5 litre Chev V8 in Niel Allen’s ownership, the installation done by Peter Molloy. ZF 5DS ‘box fitted at the same time. Wider Matich wheels fitted. (oldracephotos.com.au/David Keep)

Check out this YouTube Footage of the 1968 Warwick Farm Tasman Sports Car support race; wonderful race between Chris Amon in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/CanAm 350, Allen in the Elfin 400 and victorious Frank Matich in his Matich SR3 Repco…

wf stanley

Niel Allen ahead of Ian Cook in Bob Janes car. The 2 400’s are pictured at Warwick Farm’s Creek Corner during the Tasman meeting in February 1968, Matich having first tested the car 2 years before at the ‘Farm. Later nose clear to see, aerodynamically better? but fugly! (John Stanley)

400 bathurst grid

#12 Niel Allen Elfin 400 sharing the front row of the 1967 Easter Bathurst Sports Car grid with #7 Bob Jane Elfin 400 Repco ‘BB67-3’, Fred Gibson’s Niel Allen owned Lotus Elan 26R on the far left and Ron Thorp’s AC Cobra and another Elan on row 2. ‘BB662’ certainly did a few racing miles at Mt Panorama! (oldracephotos.com.au/Stuart Phillips)

Allen won both races he started at Hume Weir, near Albury in December 1967 s breaking Spencer Martins’ lap record set in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM.

At the traditional Bathurst Easter meeting in 1968 Bill Brown set a top speed record in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/Can Am 350 at 181mph but Allen seriously challenged the Fazz setting a lap record of 2:18:4, 8 seconds ahead of Matich’s previous mark. Sydneysider Matich was on a business trip to the US to plan his 1968 CanAm assault, which ultimately did not eventuate due to the late completion of his SR4. Niel was a DNF forlornly parking the Elfin at the top of the mountain. Brown won the race from Pete Geoghegan in the SV Ferrari 250LM and Fred Gibson in Allens’ Lotus Elan 26R.

He also broke the record at Winton in Central Victoria in 1967 before selling the car to Sydney racer and tuning specialist Fred Gibson.

Allen bought Piers Courage’ McLaren M4A FVA at the end of the 1968 Tasman series in his inexorable rise to the top of Australian Motor Racing. He never won an Australian Title but took victory in the 1971 New Zealand Grand Prix in his McLaren M10B Chev, by rights perhaps he should have won the Tasman that year…FM said he didn’t understand how Allen was so fast given his need to divorce himself from his business pressures as a ‘weekend racer’, FM was a fulltime professional who tested religiously and relentlessly doing endless miles around Warwick Farm and being paid by the lap  as part of his Goodyear contract. FM was very fast but he worked hard at his craft.

Niel Allen wasn’t finished with Elfins’ sports cars either. He bought Cooper’s first monocoque sporty, the short wheelbase, tricky to drive, Elfin ME5 Chev 5 litre in 1969, success in that car was tough as by that time Matich was absolutely at the top of his game with his Matich SR4 Repco, the space frame car powered by a DOHC 4 valve, 5 litre RB760 engine, the car designed for the ’68 Can Am series for which it was late is a story in itself.

RCN oct

Niel Allen advertises the ‘fleet’ for sale to concentrate on his ex-Courage F2 McLaren M4A FVA. RCN Oct 1968. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

elfin 400 bathurst

Start of the fateful Easter Bathurst race which took Bevan Gibson’s life, 1969. Gibson is in Bob Jane’s red Elfin 400 Repco, Allen is alongside in the Elfin 400 Chev ‘BB662’ and Frank Matich on the right in his hi-winged Matich SR4 Repco. SR4 the  fastest car in Australia of any type in 1969, winner of the ASS Championship and the only year in which it raced. Allen gets the jump at the start. (Wayne McKay)

Nose Lift and Aerodynamic Instability at High Speed…

The aerodynamics of racing cars in the 1960’s was still very much a black art, perhaps the most early experiments in gathering data on the flow of air over and around racing cars was in the latter stages of Fords Le Mans program and the ongoing, seminal and defining work of Jim Hall and his band of ‘GM quasi-works’ boffins at Rattlesnake Raceway in Texas, the Chaparrals simply iconoclasts.

Without taking a tangent too far Jim Hall spoke about his early aerodynamic testing and calibration in the article i wrote about the Chaparral 2F, those with an interest in his work may find it of interest, the relevant bit is about half way through the article;

https://primotipo.com/2014/06/26/67-spa-1000km-chaparral-2f/

Cooper designed the body with ‘John Webb wanting the underside of the horns extensions to be horizontal, as a continuation of the whole underside of the 400, to avoid the possibility of aerodynamic lift , but Garrie insisted they curve upwards to avoid the nose fouling the track’ quoted Barry Catford in his Elfin book.

Interestingly, in the ‘Auto Sportsman’ article mentioned earlier Matich claims credit for the body design ‘ The body styling was inspired by the very successful Chaparral Sports Car …Jack (sic) Webb fabricated the design from drawings supplied by Matich and it features front ‘Fish Gill’ spoilers which added to its gruesome appearance. Matich has recently run the car with a ‘blunt nose’ unit but plans only to use this on short circuits’. Taken at face value this statement suggests Matich did not think the car had high speed instability, if he planned to use the blunt nose on short circuits only, it implied he was happy with the original bodywork on fast ones.

Whatever the case Matich removed the distinctive horns on ‘BB662’, probably to cure aerodynamic lift, possibly to differentiate the look of the car from other 400’s.

During the 1967 Longford meeting in practice Noel Hurd in the Globe 400 ‘BB661′ became airborne at high speed, he mowed down a row of fence posts after spinning several times but was unhurt. The car was repaired at Elfins’ with the ‘horns’ removed.

When Peter Brennan acquired ‘BB662’ he spoke to Niel Allen about his experience of the car which was complimentary overall but ‘Niel said on the fast straights he used to have to touch the brakes to get the nose down before applying the brakes hard. The horns were already off the car at this point but Niel was still having problems with front adhesion. It was pretty clear these early cars had little or no frontal downforce’.

Once he cut the air slots in the guards he said it cured the problem ‘The horns were not the problem causing the lift, it was air damming under the guards which could not escape, all that was required was to cut slots in the rear of the front guards. I discussed this at length with Niel, he found out the cause later and would not have cut the original nose off had he understood the real nature of the problem’.

Peter raced the car at Adelaide in 1990 ‘at 175 mph down Brabham Straight without a problem, in fact it was making so much downforce we had to reinforce the nose brackets at the meeting with the belt of one of my pitcrews pants!’

Unfortunately all these learnings were in the future, lets not forget that even with technology no-one in their wildest of dreams could imagine in 1966 that Mark Webber aviated in his Mercedes on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans on consecutive days only a decade ago…

And so it was that Bevan Gibson, the young up and coming Benalla driver lost his life in Bob Jane’s Elfin 400 at the Bathurst Easter meeting in 1969.

Barry Catford described the race ‘Matich was favourite for the race with a practice time of 2:14.9. After practice the faster drivers reportedly discussed the aerodynamic lift they had experienced over the second hump (this is pre ‘The Chase’ which now slows the cars on Conrod) on Conrod and resolved to treat that section of the track with caution.’

‘Niel Allen roared away (in BB662) followed by Gibson and Matich. Frank took over at Forrests Elbow and then on lap 2 Niel had a lose on the Mountain and dropped back and the Matich SR4 Repco began having fuel pressure problems. Bevan closed…on Mountain Straight making up more ground and the next lap drew alongside as they headed into Shell again’.

Bevan sensed a victory (which would never have been on had the SR4 been running properly, it was an opportunity which would seldom come) and tried harder on the 4th lap…the Elfin became airborne on the 2nd Conrod Hump, turning on its back and killing Bevan instantly. Matich, Allen and others retired almost immediately’

Gibson SCW cover

(Stephen Dalton Collection)

Elfin 400/ Traco Olds/ Elfin 400…now the ‘R&T Chev’

Fred Gibson was then an up and coming driver and proprietor of a Randwick, Sydney tuning business called ‘Road and Track Automotive Services’ hence the new name when Fred purchased the car he had occasionally driven for Allen.

The 400 was extensively rebuilt but mechanically unchanged, the notable difference the new bodywork designed and built by Denis Julian which used the original body as a mould but gave the car a lower line. Gibson also added a wing.

The engine was a 5 litre Chev with Crower cam, Warren rods, again on 48IDA Webers and gave circa 450bhp.

rand t chev gibson

Fred Gibson in ‘BB662’ as the ‘R&T Chev’, Surfers Paradise 1970. (Unattributed)

Gibson didn’t race the car for long, his career was on the rise, he became a Ford factory driver in their Series Production racing program with the iconic Falcon GTHO’s, the car being sold to Allan Newton in Victoria.

Newton raced the car regularly for years both in Victoria and interstate only selling it after a ‘big hit’ going up Bitupave Hill at Sydneys Amaroo Park in 1977.

rand t

Geoff Russell’s shot of the Elfin 400 after its big Amaroo shunt on 29 May 1977, front of the car clearly shortened considerably by its impact against one of the circuits earth banks. See ‘Etcetera’ below for a sequence of photos which captured the accident. (Geoff Russell)

He sold the car to a friend, Dennis Burdon who cut away the badly damaged rear of the chassis to fit a 4.4 Litre Leyland P76 V8 and Hewland F1 FGA gearbox.

This process took years, Brennan was aware of the cars location, knew Newton and eventually when Burdon tired of the car he bought ‘the steering wheel, 4 corners which were complete, the centre section of the chassis from roll bar to the pedals and the engine and gearbox which were sold, respectively to Andrew McDowell and Chas Talbot for his self built Formula Holden’

And so, our intrepid racer set off on a mammoth reconstruction project…

r t chev winton

R&T Chev ‘BB662’ in the bucolic Winton, Benalla, Victoria paddock in 1974, still very much as Fred Gibson modified it. The car was a regular in Victorian events at the time, i saw it race many times, Allan Newton drove it well. The cars either side are Lotus 23B’s, the bright yellow car the Gibson Family (as in Bevan Gibson who died at Bathurst) which if memory serves was fitted with a Repco V8, at the time the car was driven by Paul Gibson. Australian readers will know the popular Gibson’s as Benalla Auto Club stalwarts. (oldracephotos.com.au/Neil Hammond)

salas shop

Elfin 400 ‘BB662′ getting towards the end of its restoration by Peter and Gavin Sala’s team. Car has been tested at Calder sans body, and is in the final stages of completion in late October 1990. Look closely and you can see the other 2 400 chassis’ in the workshop at the time. (Peter Brennan Collection)

Restoration of Elfin 400 ‘BB662’…

Having acquired the car, or rather it’s remains the restoration challenge was a big one, essentially Peter had the bones of a car, the project was largely one of reconstruction or resurrection rather than a rebuild.

Brennan liked the combination of the original bodywork and 5 Litre Chev engine, a Traco Olds was pretty much impossible to source, the Hewland HD5 and ZF boxes were also rare so it made practical, economic sense to choose a combination of core components with which the car had raced in its long racing life which could be sourced at sensible money.

That decided, Peter wrote to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport and was given written approval from the CEO, John Keefe to rebuild/reconstruct the car to that spec.

Some years later, after the car had been racing, the CAMS Historic Commission changed their view on the matter, what followed was a decade of protracted arguments and negotiations about all manner of the detail specifications of the car which was finally resolved with compromise being reached; the car could race as rebuilt but when sold by Peter the nose of the car is to be similar to that used by Niel Allen during the period he raced it; in essence the car could race in the spec chosen by Peter and confirmed as such by the CAMS CEO at the projects commencement…

salas handiwork

Gavin Sala’s  handiwork on display. Brennan says’ Be fair to say Gavin played an equal part in the resto work, he is a craftsman for a butcher, hard to believe the work he produces with virtually no qualifications’. ‘Old Midnight’ is in situ, its a spaceframe chassis, the aluminium side pontoons are clear. Gear linkage sitting atop the pontoon this side, exhausts have been ‘dummy fitted’. (Peter Brennan Collection)

Having agreed on the specs of the car with CAMS a handy confluence of events accelerated the cars resurrection from mid 1990…

Our intrepid racer sold his Melbourne ‘Carbitune’ business and decided to give himself a well earned break before starting his new venture, the Australian Grand Prix was in Adelaide in November, with a little bit of luck ‘BB662’ could be a debut starlet in the Historic Racing support events, these races always popular with the punters and owners alike.

The repair choice was made easy as Gavin Sala, a Victorian Racer/Restorer/Dealer and Owner happened to have the ex Bob Jane ‘BB67-3’ and ex Buchanan ‘BB67-4’ cars in his outer urban Melbourne workshop for restoration at the time.

The most difficult part of the job was the chassis. Elfin still existed, it was only money to buy uprights, wheels and so on but the 400 chassis jig no longer existed. Having the other cars alongside made the task of using the remains of the original chassis as a base; from rear bulkhead to the pedals, then carefully measuring and fabricating the required frame, brackets, diaphragm and related aluminium panels relatively straight-forward for skilled fabricators such as Ken Leigh, Gavin and Peter himself.

400 butt shot

‘BB662’ resto assembly butt shot. DG300 ‘F5000’ Hewland ‘box. ‘Old Midnight’ 5 litre Chev circa 500bhp on 48IDA Webers. Cast Elfin uprights, upper and lower wishbone/coil spring damper suspension and beefy front bulkhead and rear chassis diaphragms all clear, ditto LHS aluminium pontoon. Car sans exhausts here, but the ‘overhead’ headers came with the bits acquired from Newton. (Peter Brennan Collection)

The suspension was complete but gently sand blasted, crack tested and either reused or replaced using the originals as templates. The wishbones and radius rods were then nickel plated with new spherical joints used throughout.

The cast magnesium uprights were again crack tested, found to be ok, and then reassembled with new bearings.The Triumph Herald steering box was checked and re-used. The lightweight aluminium radiator was a pair of Nissan Pulsar rads’ alloy cores welded together.

salas front scoop

400 front end showing Gavin Sala’s  beautiful aluminium radiator surround/support/duct fabrication work. Not bad for a fella apprenticed as a butcher as PB says! (Peter Brennan Collection)

Peter acquired a Hewland DG300 transaxle. The engine was bought from F5000 Racers Peter and Mary Middleton. ‘Old Midnight’ was originally the great Max Stewarts’ spare engine, we covered its history in the story about the restoration of Peters’ ex Lella Lombardi Lola T330 ‘HU18’, a while back.

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/10/lella-lombardis-lola-peter-brennans-restoration-of-lola-t330-chev-hu18-episode-3/

Peter, ‘Its nickname was ‘Old Midnight’ as the motor was usually slipped into his Lola after midnight when the race engine was cactus for the weekend.I bought it as a ‘long motor’ less injection. The block was shaved of all unnecessary production lugs and lightened as much as possible.It has Bow-Tie heads, TRW pistons, Carillo rods, a Crane ‘574’ roller cam, Z28 crank, Vertex magneto, and like most of Max’ engines is on Weber 48IDA carbs, it produces 505bhp@7500rpm’.

The bodywork was provided by Elfin, or rather the front mould, which had been run over by a truck! Peter repaired it in order to ‘take a flop’ from it. The original Matich rear body was long since gone, so a production 400 rear ‘glass panel was used, again sourced from Elfin.

calder

Calder test less bodywork 3 weeks before the 1990 AGP in October. (Peter Brennan Collection)

With time getting tight Peter tested the car sans bodywork at Calder to carry out systems checks, ‘BB662’ behaved itself well although Peter was stunned by the very heavy steering which Kevin Bartlett diagnosed as the offset of the rim from the centre line of the kingpin, ‘scrub radius’.

The car then returned to Gavin’s shop for the final fitment of the body, making its debut, as planned in November 1990, where it was undoubtedly one of the stars of the show for many misty eyed enthusiasts who remembered the cars heyday in the hands of the supremely talented Frank Matich and Niel Allen.

body on

Peter has dated this shot on the front guard…its 10 October with 3 weeks to the 1990 AGP…with still a great deal of work to do. Sala’s workshop. (Peter Brennan Collection)

400 at agp 1990

Last minute pre-event fettling out front of Noiges’ pit, AGP Carnival Adelaide 1990. (Peter Brennan Collection)

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Peter Brennan at the AGP Meeting 1990. Photo signed by Niel Allen, Lola Mk1 at rear. Elfin 400 Chev. (Peter Brennan Collection)

The pointless squabble with CAMS meant the car disappeared from sight for a bit but otherwise the 400 is a regular entrant at Historic Meetings around the country and is always punted with verve and skill, much as Matich did during his ATT win at Longford all those years ago…

tour to tarrengower

Peter had the important job of ferrying Lorraine Cooper, on the Elfin Owners and Drivers Club’ Tour To Tarrengower’ in 1994. The 400 is pictured at Bendigo, the start of a road trip for around 35 racing Elfins on the public roads of Victorias’ Goldfields district to Mount Tarrengower Hillclimb at Maldon, 45 kilometres away. I did it in an Elfin Crusader F Vee…it was fun in that, the 400 and various F5000’s entered had a wonderful time! (Peter Brennan Collection)

DSC01368

More recent shot of ‘BB662’ at an Albert Park GP. Brennan’s standard of preparation and presentation outstanding. Car has its original Elfin nose, if you look at the top right of the nearside front guard you can see the ‘gills’ or air reliefs let into the bodywork which eventually addressed the front end lightness of the car by releasing air pressure at high speed. McLaren M1 alongside. (Peter Brennan Collection)

brennan in 400

‘Racers Retreat’ Peter Brennan, in Elfin 400 ‘BB662’, a much cherished car for over 25 years. Albert Park AGP several years ago. (Peter Brennan Collection)

scrab at traco

Amazing shot of the first Scarab Chev out the back of the Traco shop, ‘Thunder Alley, Culver City in 1958. Looking at the fuel tank on the right are Phil Remington and Harold Daigh, Dick Troutman is in the doorway. The Scarab body builder Emil Deidt is at the back of the car, beside him in the check shirt Marshall Whitfield. Jim Travers and Frank Coon are ‘midships with the suited Leo Goosen leaning against the car, beside him at the front of the car is Sonny Balcaen. (Photo Warren Olson Collection/Jerry Entin for ID of those pictured)

Etcetera Traco Engineering…

Traco Engineering was formed by Jim TRAvers and Frank COon in 1957, the pair made their names as mechanics for Bill Vukovich in his successful Indy wins in 1953 and 1954. Well before that they were pre-war hot-rodders racing on the dry lakes of California.

Their ‘shop’ was based in ‘Thunder Alley’, 11928 West Jefferson Boulevard, Culver City in the LA ‘Megalopolis’. The area was so named due to the number of ‘big hitters’ based in the area including James Garner and Lance Reventlow who tested their cars on the block.

The fledgling company was off to a strong start when Lance Reventlow contracted Traco to work on the front-engined Chevy powered sportscar Scarabs’ in 1958. AJ Foyt’s victory in the Mecom owned Scarab at Nassau gave the firm it’s biggest push with engines soon being supplied to Gurney, McLaren, Mecom, Brabham and Lola amongst others.

The bulk of the work in 1965/6 was on the Chev and Olds F85 engine although Bruce McLaren’s team used the companies talents to decrease the capacity of the Ford DOHC Indy engine for F1 use in 1966.

The payroll included some engineers who went on to become great engine builders in their own right; Al Bartz, George Bolthoff to name two.

In 1965 Traco built 48 complete engines and rebuilt 68 more, a ‘Sports Car Graphic’ 1966 article reported that ‘The average Traco built engine takes from 4-6 weeks to complete and requires approximately 100 man hours’, the engines were priced at the time from US$5000-6000.

In 1986 Travers and Coon retired after selling the business to then chief engine builder Jim Jones.

traco in shop

Frank Coon (L) and Jim Travers in their Traco shop building an engine in 1966. (Sports Car Graphic)

traco

Etcetera…

lt kay cutaway

(Laurie Kay)

match hospital

Brisbane ‘Courier Mail’ article of Matich’s Lakeside Lotus 19B crash. (Facebook Elfin 60’s Sportscars Group)

sandown elfin olds

image

Sports Car World cover shot at Longford 1966 during the Matich ATT win. Overhead shot shows a different angle of the body.

 

 

 

longford matich

Matich Elfin 400/Traco Olds with its AT Trophy laurel wreath. Longford paddock March 1966. (Ellis French)

matich lakeside

Matich in the Elfin 400/ Traco Olds, Lakeside, Qld 1966. (John Stanley)

400 rear

Rear shot of ‘BB662’ during Niel Allen’s ownership circa 1968, circuit undisclosed. (Mike Feisst Collection/The Roaring Season)

r and t 2

Chequered Flag magazine captured Allan Newton’s May 1977 accident which all but destroyed ‘BB662’, the old but sturdy spaceframe protecting Newton from worse injury…in much the same way the monocoque chassis of the Elfin MS7 saved him when his throttle again stuck open, this time at Calder, Victoria in 1984. He was a very lucky boy that day…(Chequered Flag)

elfin 400 bp ad

BP ad shot, taken, i think at Sandown, Victoria, ‘Peters Corner’ upon the cars debut, February 1966. (Facebook Elfin 60’s Sportscars Group)

Bibliography…

‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ John Blanden and Barry Catford, Ray Bell/The Nostalgia Forum, Sports Car World, Australian Auto Sportsman, Sports Car Graphic, Chequered Flag

Facebook ‘Elfin 60’s Sportscars’ Group. This is a very dedicated group of Elfin enthusiasts, key the group name into the FB search engine and apply to be to be admitted

Special Thanks…

To Bruce Richardson and Geoff Smedley for their affectionate, respectful accounts of their time working with Frank Matich

Stephen Dalton for the research assistance and access to his extensive collection

Photo Credits…

John Ellacott, Bob Mills Collection, Wayne McKay, Ellis French, John Stanley, Peter Windsor, Laurie Kay, Alan Stewart Collection, Ian Smith, Shane Lee, Peter Brennan Collection, Richard Blanden, Warren Olson Collection/Jerry Entin, Chris Snowdon, Mike Feisst Collection, Geoff Russell

Lindsay Ross of  Oldracephotos http://www.oldracephotos.com/content/home/ for the use of the Dick Simpson, David Keep, Stuart Phillips and Neil Hammond shots

Finito…

fm c type leatons servo

(John Ellacott)

Frank Matich, Jaguar C Type, Leaton Motors forecourt, Kinsgrove, Sydney 1958…

One of the wonderful things about this blog are the folks I have met along the way; racer heroes like Kevin Bartlett, John McCormack and Bruce Allison. Those with archives such as Martin Stubbs and Stephen Dalton who has been an invaluable researcher and more recently written an article or three. Also generous photographers Rod MacKenzie, David Blanch, Lindsay Ross, Ian Smith, Dick Simpson and here John Ellacott.

The C Types current custodian, John Corrie saw his car on the blog and with some help from Stephen put me in touch with John Ellacott, whose work always blows my mind. Here is another of John’s shots given to Corrie to complete his archive of the car. It’s of the late, great, recently departed ‘Frantic Francis’ Matich looking youthful and debonair in flat hat aboard ‘XKC037′ out front of Leaton Motors workshop in 1958, such an evocative period shot isn’t it?!

Leatons’ are a story in themselves; the Sydney business formed by George Leaton and Joe Robinson in 1959 were supporters of many racers including Matich who raced their C Type Jag, a D Type and Lotus 15 Climax in his early years; the years in which he became a Pro.

I wrote this article about ‘XKC037’ in August last year but have ‘freshened it’ with a lot of new shots, click on the link to have a read.

https://primotipo.com/2014/08/05/gnoo-who-gnoo-blas-circuit-jaguar-xkc-type-xkc037/

leatons ad

Suitably politically incorrect Leaton Motors Ad circa 1960. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

Credits…

John Ellacott, Stephen Dalton

cranky

Sad news is filtering through that one of Australias’ greatest drivers and constructors, Frank Matich died this evening…

Matich won in small bore single seaters, 2.5 litre Tasman cars and of course F5000, a class in which he was ‘first among equals’ in Australia until his untimely retirement in 1974. He was similarly dominant in sports cars; front engined C and D Type Jags and a Lotus 15 in the 50’s before success in mid-engined cars including Lotus 19, 19B, the Elfin 400/Traco Olds and his own very successful SR3 and SR4 series of cars.

I chose the Shane Lee shot above last week for an article i am drafting about the Traco Olds, it captures the essence of this great competitor pondering setup changes to find more speed ftrom his Matich A50 Repco F5000 car in Wigram, New Zealand in 1973.

Matich on many occasions showed he was more than a match for the best in the world in equal cars, one of Australias ‘motor racing maybes’ is what impact Frank would have had in GP racing had he accepted one of the offers made to him in the early 60’s. Family and business priorities meant he never made the move to Europe, achieving success in Australasia and the US instead.

Rest in peace.

fm c type leatons servo

FM in his Leaton Motors owned Jag C Type, in flat hat on the forecourt of their Stony Creek Road, Kingsgrove, Sydney ‘servo’ in 1958. (John Ellacott)

Fantastic article about Matich by Michael Stahl in ‘MotorSport’ published in 2012…

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-2012/73/frank-exchange-views

matich 1

Its fair to say FM’s cars were very soundly designed and built but conventional for the period. But he was always tinkering…Derek Kneller, FM’s mechanic said of this twin rear wing setup, in advance of its trial in F1 ‘it was balanced at the front, it allowed the top wing to run with less rake and drag, it worked very well, an early blown diffuser’. FM in driving suit, NZ Tasman Series 1973, Matich A50 Repco. (Derek Kneller/Bryan Sala)

matich 2

Frank Matich in the US ‘L&M Series’ 1973. Matich A51 Repco. (Tom Rosenthal)

matich 19b

FM in his Lotus 19B Climax, Lakeside circa 1965. (Peter Mellor/The Roaring Season)

bp ad

matich

Frank Matich, Matich SR4 Repco, Bathurst Easter 1969. (oldracephotos.com.au/Dick Simpson)

Etcetera…

matich lotus 15 bathurst

FM delicately places the Leaton Motors Lotus 15 2.5 Climax into Forrests Elbow, Bathurst, Easter 1961. Matich further proved himself as one of the countries top drivers in this car. It was later fitted with an F85 Olds aluminium V8 before being restored by Mike Ryves and raced successfully by him and Paul Samuels before its inevitable departure to Europe a few years back. (John Ellacott)

Credits…Shane Lee, oldracephotos.com.au/Dick Simpson, Peter Mellor/The Roaring Season, Derek Kneller, Bryan Sala, John Ellacott

 

stillwell cooper monaco wf

Bib Stillwell leans his Cooper into Homestead Corner, you can see and feel the energy being expended in extracting all the performance the car has to offer in this John Ellacott shot…

Stillwell was four times Australian National ‘Gold Star’ Champion from 1962 to 1965, his battles with rival Frank Matich in both single-seaters and in sports cars, Matich in his Lotus 19 or 19b, in the early sixties were legendary.

Both were Australian Champions in both types of car and fierce rivals; Stillwell the Melbourne motor dealer/semi-professional racer and Matich, the Sydney based, and perhaps first truly professional Australian Driver.

stillwell monaco lakeside

Stillwell in the Monaco just ahead of Frank Matich, Lotus 19b Climax, Lakeside, Queensland, perhaps the 1963 Tasman Meeting. (Peter Mellor)

In Sports cars Stillwell won the ‘Australian Tourist Trophy’ in the Cooper Monaco in 1961 and 1962. Matich won it in 1964 in a Lotus 19b Climax, 1966 aboard an Elfin 400/Traco Olds, in 1967 in his first self built Matich SR3 Olds and in 1968 in a Matich SR3 Repco.

The race was not contested in 1969 but Franks’ Matich SR4, powered by a 5 litre quad cam Repco ‘760 Series’ V8 was the fastest car in Australia of any sort that year. It was built to contest the CanAm Series in 1968 but was too late in completion to contest it.

Bib acquired this ex-Moss, Keele Engineering car in the UK. The chassis number of it is uncertain, but Doug Nye believes it to be the car ordered by Moss in April 1959 as a kit of parts ex-factory and built up by Keele Engineering. The Monaco was lightly raced by Moss commencing with the British GP meeting at Aintree in 1959. He raced the car in Scandinavia in August, it was then put to one side as he focussed on a Lotus 19 to which the engine and ‘box from the Monaco were fitted.

Bib bought the car off Moss on a trip to the UK in 1961, it was fitted with a 2.5 Litre Coventry Climax FPF four cylinder engine and gearbox out of one of his Cooper single-seaters upon arrival in Australia and was ready in time for the Australian Grand Prix meeting at Mallala in October 1961. Stillwell raced both his Cooper T53 in the AGP, he finished second to Lex Davison, Lex driving Stillwells’ older Cooper T51, and the Cooper Monaco.

The car arrived in Australia with the standard leaf spring rear suspension configuration but Alf Francis modified the rear chassis bracketry to also allow the use of a coil spring/damper set-up, both were used in Oz.

cooper monaco sandown rear end

Stillwell Cooper at Sandown 1963. Coil spring rear suspension in this shot. (Kevin Drage)

cooper monaco ray bell

Cooper Monaco Warwick Farm International Meeting 1961. Transverse leaf spring rear suspension configuration in this shot. Look at all those curvy bits of tube, offensive to engineering purists but effective all the same! Coventry Climax 2.5 or 2.7 FPF engine. Citroen Ersa gearbox. (Ray Bell)

In Australia the car also raced with a 2.7 ‘Indy’ Climax FPF and in October 1964 was fitted with an ex-Scarab/ex-Arnold Glass BRM P48 Buick V8. Lance Reventlow sold one of his engines to Arnold Glass after the one off appearance of his Scarab RE Buick Intercontinental car at Sandown in March 1962, Glass replaced the BRM 4 cylinder engine with the lightweight 3.9 litre aluminium, pushrod V8.

In Stillwells’ hands the car won the 1961 and 1962 Australian TT, the Victorian Sports Car Championship in 1962 and 1963 and the South Pacific Sports Car Championship in 1962.

Later still it was fitted with an Olds V8 contesting the first Surfers Paradise 12 Hour race in the hands of Murray Carter and Tony Osborne.

The car passed through many owners after Stillwell retired, but was eventually restored to original specification in Australia and now races in the UK.

scuderia stillwell

Mallala is a wonderful, challenging shorter circuit built on a former RAAF airfield 60 Km North of Adelaide. (Kevin Drage)

‘Scuderia Stillwell’ arriving and unloading the Monaco and Cooper T53 at Mallala, South Australia Gold Star meeting in October 1962 after the long haul from their Kew, Melbourne base.

mallala map

Mallala is a fabulous little 1.6mile/2.6Km circuit 55Km north of Adelaide. It was built on the site of former ‘RAAF Base Mallala’, which was acquired by a group of enthusiasts in 1961..the opening meeting in August 1961 was won by Bib Stillwell in a Cooper…

Stillwell had a good start in life…he attended Trinity Grammar and Scotch College in Hawthorn and at 22 had parental support for his original small MG dealership in 1949 but over the decades grew his business. He was awarded a Holden franchise in 1953 operating from Cotham Road Kew, and later as a Ford, BMW and other prestige marques dealer building a large group with his own talent and entrepreneurial flair which prospers in his families hands today long after his death.

His management skills were world class, his interests included aviation, after success in that field from the mid-sixties in Australia, distributing Beechcraft and later Lerjets he was appointed President of the Lear Corporation in the US in 1982, a position he held for 3 years before returning to Australia, a ‘second motor dealing career’ in luxury franchises and historic racing.

He died on June 12 1999. I like this observation Michael Lynch made in his obituary of Bib published in the Melbourne ‘Age’ newspaper…’The links between business and sport, and the characteristics required to succeed in both, have often been drawn. Drive, determination, persistence, talent, luck, the ability to think outside the obvious and seize opportunities that others don’t see – and then make them work – are all characteristics shared variously by top sportsmen and the leading lights of the business world. Stillwell, who died suddenly last weekend from a heart attack, had all of them in good measure, showcasing them in both his sporting career, which ran until the mid-1960s, and then his business career, which was still being developed at the time of his death’.

bss in cooper monaco

Stillwell happy in victory, Cooper Monaco, Mallala 1962. (Kevin Drage)

Winners are grinners! Stillwell in the Monaco at Mallala, October 1962, he took victories in both cars at this meeting, winning the Gold Star race in his Cooper T53, #16 car in the shot above, his first Gold Star Championship won in that year.

Cooper T49 ‘Monaco’ Specifications…

Cooper monaco cutaway

The Cooper Type number is 49, the car being given the ‘Monaco’ name in recognition of Jack Brabhams’ victory in the 1959 Monaco Grand Prix, his first GP win on the way to his, and Coopers first World Championships as driver and constructor that year.

Of typical curved Cooper space frame construction, the car owes most of its hardware to its single-seater siblings. Front suspension is by upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/ damper units with an adjustable roll bar. At the rear top location is provided by a transverse leaf spring, with a lower rear wishbone. Brakes are disc all around, steering rack and pinion and typical Cooper alloy wheels of the period were used.

Most of the cars were fitted with Coventry Climax FPF engines of varying capacities, Stillwells’ mainly with a 2.5 but was raced with other engines as recorded above. Gearbox was the Citroen ERSA or Colotti units.

stillwell cooper monaco lakeside

Stillwell again at Lakeside. Cooper Monaco 1963. (Peter Mellor)

Credits…

John Ellacott, Kevin Drage, Ray Bell, James Allington cutaway

The Nostalgia Forum, John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’

Finito…

 

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Jackie Stewart sets up his Brabham BT11A for ‘Castrol Corner’ the right hander leading onto Surfers main straight…Holdens in the background and his Climax engine puffing oil before his retirement due to oil loss…(John Stanley)

Jackie Stewart in the ‘Scuderia Veloce’ Brabham BT11A Climax ‘Tasman Formula’ car during the Surfers Paradise ‘Gold Star’ Australian Drivers Championship Round on 14 August 1966…

Jackie squeezed in a visit to Australia to drive in both this event and the ‘Surfers 12 Hour’ a week later in between the German and Italian Grands Prix on 7th August and 4 September respectively.

The visit was a welcome respite from the World Championship that year, Jack Brabham dominating in his Repco engined Brabham BT19, with BRM for whom Stewart drove, struggling with their new uncompetitive, complex and heavy P83 ‘H16’.

Jackie won the Monaco Grand Prix in a ‘Tasman Spec’ BRM P261, his 1.5 litre F1 car squeezed to about 2.1 litres, well short of the 3 Litre capacity limit which applied in Grand Prix racing from that year, the nimble car producing the goods on this tight circuit.

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Stewart wins the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix in the BRM P261 1.5 litre F1 car bored to circa 2.1 litres. This was the first Championship race of the new 3 litre F1, the first 4 cars all ‘big bore’ 1.5’s…no 3 litres finishing the race (Unattributed)

In the Belgian Grand Prix three weeks later he experienced an horrific accident on the first lap of the race at Spa, conditions having changed from wet to torrential conditions on this long track, leaving the circuit at high speed on the Masta Kink. He was trapped upside down in the car, the monocoque twisted around him covered with fuel with a broken shoulder, cracker rib and internal bruising, whilst Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant who had also crashed freed him with tools borrowed from spectators …And from that moment starting Stewart on the crusade for driver, car and circuit safety which are amongst his many racing legacies.

No doubt Jackie was looking forward to some racing and the recuperative powers of the Gold Coast sun and surf.

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The rooted monocoque of Stewarts’ BRM P261 after the Masta Kink shunt. The shot clearly shows how the chassis twisted around his body trapping him…he was extremely lucky not to have been killed outright or ‘barbecued’ in a fire, he was liberally doused with petrol, the cars fuel tanks within the monocoque ruptured…no ‘bag tanks’ in those days. 8 drivers crashed without completing a lap…4 at Burnenville, and 4 on the Masta Kink (Unattributed)

Keith Williams…

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Keith Williams at ‘Surfers Paradise Gardens’ Carrara in the mid-1960’s

Jackie enjoyed his successful championship winning 1966 Tasman Season in our summer, campaigning a BRM P261, his 1.5 litre F1 car V8 engine bored to around 2.1 litres, as outlined above, so he was happy to return to Australia to race Jack Brabham and the locals in the ‘Gold Star’ round and Sports Car enduro which comprised Keith Williams ‘Speed Week’.

Williams was a remarkable entrepreneur, he left school at 13 to help supplement the family income pumping fuel at a local ‘Servo’, formed his first business making leather products three years later and soon employed fifty people manufacturing Disney licensed products.

He was an Australian Water Skiing Champion in the late 1950’s, via that sport both making industry products and forming ‘Surfers Paradise Water Ski Shows’ together with Jack Joel.

He built Surfers Paradise and Adelaide Raceways in 1966 and 1970 respectively. Williams was a leader in the tourism industry building ‘Sea World’ on the Gold Coast in 1971 and started the development of Hamilton Island as a global tourist destination in 1978. His remarkable life ended in 2011 after a series of strokes aged 82.

The Surfers circuit was finished in early 1966, the first meeting held on 22 May. The Grand Opening though was ‘Speed Week’ in August, the great promoter holding a number of events over ten days including two weekends of circuit racing described in this article, drag racing, Concours D’ Elegance, motor cycle racing and a speedboat racing event on the nearby Gold Coast Broadwater.

Surfers immediately became a drivers and crowd favourite, its fast flowing nature a challenge for drivers and their machines, the circuit facilities and viewing mounds providing a world class amenity at the time to we ‘punters’.

My only visit was as a spectator on a family holiday, i convinced my dad to deposit me at the circuit for the day of the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’ meeting in September 1973, the feature event a round of the ‘Gold Star’, the Australian Drivers Championship, contested by F5000 cars.

The sight and sound of these fabulous cars bellowing through the fast right hander under the Dunlop Bridge, a true test of ‘gonad dimensions’, ‘flat knacker’ at 7500RPM in fifth, unmuffled Chev and Repco V8’s roaring away into the distance, was truly a sight and sound to behold and feel!

Frank Matich was running away with the race in his brand new Matich A52, until the ‘flat plane crank’ experimental Repco V8 ‘shook the shitter’ out of the Varley battery, no spark, no go. John McCormack won the race in his Elfin MR5 and the Gold Star that year, the inherently dangerous nature of the track clear to anyone seeing Warwick Brown hobbling around on crutches that day. Brown joining the ‘Lola Limpers Club’ having comprehensively destroyed his T3oo and his legs in the Surfers Tasman meeting earlier in the year.

But wow! What a circuit it was!

Williams sold it in 1984, the circuit closed in 1987 and is now part of the ‘Emerald Lakes’ canal estate, like so many of our circuits given over to advancing urban encroachment, but that was a long way away in 1966.

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Gold Star Meeting…

Jackie had some idea about the local talent from his very successful Tasman Tour early in the year, he won the series in his P261 BRM, taking four wins, but probably got more than he bargained for.

Kevin Bartlett had stepped up since the Tasman Series from the Mildren Teams 1.5, to 2.5 litre Brabham, Spencer Martin also racing a Brabham BT11A for Bob Jane.

Brabham was there, in BT19 the chassis which carried him to victory in that years World Championship, fresh from his German GP win a week before, the car still fitted with its 3 litre ‘620 Series’ Repco V8.

Leo Geoghegan and Greg Cusack were entered in ex-Clark Lotus 39 and Lotus 32B respectively. Both these cars also Coventry Climax FPF 2.5 litre four cylinder engines.

Jack Brabham Brabham BT19 Repco, Surfers Paradise 1966

In the middle of his successful 1966 F1 campaign, Jack brought BT19 to Oz for the opening of Surfers Paradise…Repco wanted the car there but all the same i expect Wlliams paid handsomely for Brabhams’ presence! Here surrounded by admirers in the Surfers paddock (Unattributed)

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Jack here fettling his Brabham’s Repco ‘620’, rotor button the cause of his DNF. (Unattributed)

Ray Bell, ‘Racing Car News’ magazine reporter at the time recalled the meeting on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’…

‘Jack had pole, from KB, JYS and Spencer Martin. KB lead the way, this to be the drive that made everybody sit up and take notice, he’d not been long in 2.5’s and was leading a Grand Prix Winner and pretender to the World Championsip throne. Brabham managed a lap and a half before the rotor button went and he dropped out…Stewart hounded KB for five laps before outbraking him at Lukey…Bartlett finishing two-tenths behind the Scot ‘ (in an identical car)

‘With KB on pole for the main event , Stewart had something fail in the clutch mechanism and dragged away badly…Martin got the jump, leading KB for seven laps before Bartlett went past into Lukey, Stewart looming in a comeback drive all the while.

On lap fourteen they set a new lap record of 1:13:0, a few laps later JYS passing KB under the bridge…KB coming back at the clutchless Brabham…there was more passing and re-passing until the magneto in Bartletts car failed. Stewart blew his engine giving Martin the win having shaken off Leo Geoghegan to do so’.

If there was any doubt, Kevin Bartlett ‘arrived’ as a Top-Liner that day…serving it up to a Grand Prix winner in absolutely equal cars.

Kevin Bartlett recalled recently…’The dices that weekend live in my mind forever. I knew him well before that meeting, his SV Brabham was the equal of mine. We both knew the cars capabilities, the dice was not out of the ordinary as far as we were concerned, the cars were very close but we gave one another room but if you got the line you would slipstream past. We respected each others abilities, we both DNFd the feature race but laughed about it later. He had no ego.’

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Kevin Bartlett shown in the Mildren Brabham BT11A in the ‘Lakeside 99’ Tasman round, February 1967. He placed fifth in a race won by Clarks Lotus 33 Climax. (autopics)

Surfers Paradise 12 Hour…

Stewart returned from the beach for the second weekend of Williams ‘double header’ to drive the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM with Kiwi Andy Buchanan, I wrote about this car a while back….https://primotipo.com/2014/07/03/pete-geoghegan-ferrari-250lm-6321-bathurst-easter-68/

The entry also included a Ford GT40 for Frank Matich and Peter Sutcliffe, another LM for Jackie Epstein and Aussie International Paul Hawkins, David Piper and  future LeMans winner Richard Attwood raced Pipers’ ex-works Ferrari P2.

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Peter Sutcliffes’ Ford GT40 ahead of the Jackie Epstein/ Paul Hawkins Ferrari 250LM (autopics.com)

Given our paucity of top-line sports cars in Australia of this type, the grid was bolstered by sprint sports cars such as Lotus 23’s, production sports cars and touring cars…including a Mini Moke entered by later Touring Car Ace ‘Bo’ Seton and Charlie Smith, the closing speed of Stewarts LM and the like would have been well over 80MPH!, the Moke having little power and the aerodynamic efficiency of a ‘dunny-door’.

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Jackie Stewarts Ferrari 250 LM blasts past the Charlie Smith/ Bo Seton Mini Moke, the Fazz did 493 laps to win, the Moke 311…lapped just a few times. Speed differentials an issue not just at Le Mans! (autopics.com)

The chequered flag was shown to the Matich GT40, but Scuderia Veloce boss David McKay successfully protested the result giving the win to the Stewart/Buchanan LM. It was not the first time a major event in Australia was clouded by lap-scoring disputes these things not uncommon in those far off, pre-digital days!

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The winning Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM ‘6321’driven by Jackie Stewart and Andy Buchanan, the car winning the race in 1966/67/68 (autopics.com)

Kevin Bartlett and Doug Chivas finished third in the Alec Mildren racing Alfa Roneo Tz2, Kevin Bartlett again recalls…

‘The 12 Hour was tough going for a little 1600, but Doug was on top of his game, a helluva driver who was kind to the car and did the times. It was a tactical race for us, Alec had worked out a plan and the times we needed to do, which we did consistently. I drove a TZ1 years later at an AGP support event but the TZ2 was areodynamically better, it was quicker in a straight line and had a better track and wheelbase which got it out of corners better. The TZ1 handling was not as good, the tyre and wheel package wasn’t as good.’

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Andy Buchanan, Jackie Stewart, dignitary, Frank Matich, Peter Sutcliffe, Kevin Bartlett, Doug Chivas. Matich and Sutcliffe happy at this stage but tears were not far away! KB and Chivas piloted the third place Mildren Team Alfa TZ2 (Kevin Bartlett)

Etcetera…

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Bartlett/Chivas Alfa TZ2, ahead of the John Harvey/ Frank Demuth Lotus 23 and the Cooper T49 Monaco Olds of Tony Osborne/Murray Carter/Ray Gibbs (autopics)

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David Piper/Richard Attwood Ferrari P2 (autopics.com.au)

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Peter Sutcliffes’ Ford GT40 was a customer car owned by Sutcliffe, co-driven by Frank Matich, at the time the outstanding sports car driver in Australia, make that one of the the most outstanding drivers in Australia, his competitiveness in open-wheelers proven in the Tasman Series until he (sadly!) went down the sports car path, finally again seeing the light in the days of F5000…(autopics)

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Early pitstop for the Piper/Attwood Ferrari P2, only 45 laps completed (autopics)

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Photo and Other Credits…

autopics.com.au, John Stanley Collection

Many thanks to Kevin Bartlett for sharing his recollections of both events

Finito…