Posts Tagged ‘Frank Matich’

Carroll Smith, Frank and Joan Matich (NAA)

Frank and Joan Matich confer during the Warwick Farm Tasman meeting, February 11 to 13 1972…

The ’72 Tasman wasn’t the series the Matich’s expected after the debut win of the Matich A50 Repco at the Farm in November 1971- the brand new machine built closeby won the Australian Grand Prix only days after it’s completion, and looked the goods for the Summer Internationals.

Whilst Matich and his team worked their magic in Brookvale, Kiwi Graham McRae was casting a spell or two in Poole whilst Frank Gardner and Bob Marston were indulging in some F5000 sorcery of their own over at Huntingdon- the cars alluded to are the Leda LT27 aka McRae GM1 and Lola T300.

Mind you, things came good for Frank and Joan at home- Warwick Farm is not too far from the Matich HQ in Brookvale (they moved to Military Road, Cremorne on Sydney’s leafy North Shore circa August 1972) FM was quickest in unofficial practice, qualified on pole on Saturday afternoon and won the race, leading throughout from start to flagfall.

This article is superfluous really, I’ve done Matich and his career pretty well to death, several long pieces inclusive of an 11,000 word monster on his F5000 cars- at the end of this article are links to that piece and a couple of others of potential interest.

But then I came upon this swag of photographs of the Warwick Farm weekend which were too good to ignore. I’ve no idea of the publication for which they were intended or indeed if they ever were published. The shots are from the National Archives of Australia, the photographer uncredited. The series of photos are headed ‘Australia’s Mr and Mrs Motor Sport Sets a Fast Pace’. I’ve other photos of this weekend but I decided to maintain the original intent of whoever commissioned them, keep them together and focus on ‘Team Matich’.

Frank Matich, Matich A50 Repco, Pit Straight, Warwick Farm February 1972 (NAA)

Is ‘Mr and Mrs Motorsport’ apt or a bit of PR Bullshit?…

Its a fair observation I suspect.

Frank was already racing his first competition car, an MG TC when he met Joan, ‘her parents thought the sound of the MG arriving was a plane as they lived at Mascot’ Frank recalled, in fact Joan could be said to be FM’s first sponsor as she lent him 140 pounds to rebuild the TC’s engine not long after they first started going out!

Joan went to many of the test sessions and race meetings down the decades, helped schmooze the sponsors and assisted to run the business which was not insubstantial by 1972. There was the race team chasing national titles, the production of racing cars (sportscars -several SR3 and SR4’s and six F5000’s) Firestone, and then later Goodyear race tyre and Bell Helmets importation and distribution and properties to manage, both domestic and business. Lets not forget the demands of four kids too. (Kris born circa 1958, Kim 1960, Lea 1962 and Katrina 1963)

Frank and Joan were not Mr and Mrs Motorsport in the way that Fred and Christine Gibson and Garth and Leanne Tander were in the sense that both were drivers but I think the ‘Mr and Mrs Motorsport’ label is a fair one.

Joan and Kris Matich- Kris went on to race Van Diemens in Formula Ford in the eighties

1972 Tasman Series Top Guns…

McRae, the reigning champion, Matich, Gardner, Mike Hailwood (Surtees TS8 Chev) and David Hobbs (McLaren M22) were perhaps the dudes most likely to fight for the Tasman Cup but Kevin Bartlett, hamstrung only by the age of his McLaren M10B Chev and 1970 champ Graeme Lawrence, like FG Lola T300 mounted would also be ‘thereabouts’. Then came Teddy Pilette, McLaren M10B Chev, Garrie Cooper, John McCormack and Max Stewart in Elfin MR5 Repco’s- all relative newcomers to F5000, and the rest.

In New Zealand it was all McRae- he started on pole in the first three rounds, won at Levin and Wigram, whilst Gardner took the NZ GP at Pukekohe a race in which Graeme Lawrence and Bryan Faloon had an awful accident killing Bryan and outing Graeme for months.

Derek Kneller pointing, how was it Frank? Ken Symes of Repco in the blue suit FM’s boys in the natty, very American STP togs. Note open top section of ‘bathtub’ aluminium monocoque chassis A50 ‘001/002’ (NAA)

FG boofed his Lola at Levin when the engine suddenly cut out on a high speed corner and he clobbered the fence. Gardner, a very ‘safe driver’ must have had more prangs in the 7 months to January 1972 than at any other time in his career- he wrote off the prototype T300P (akaT242P) at Snetterton in a collision with Brian Redman’s McLaren M18 Chev, when FG on pole and Brian off grid 2 had a territorial dispute, on 30 August 1971.

The quite significant in the history of F5000 cars, seminal, defining chassis T242P/T300P was rooted, destroyed.

Lola quickly built up a replacement car for Frank, ‘HU1’, the first production T300 which Gardner raced to a debut win at Hockenheim in front of Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus 56B Pratt & Whitney on 12 September. He took the car to another victory at Oulton and with a second place at the season ending Brands late September round nabbed the 1971 European F5000 Championship. He had been a winner in a Lola T192 earlier in the season prior to the T242/300 race debut, it wasn’t all down to the new car by any stretch.

‘HU1’ was then shipped to Australia in time for the AGP at the Farm, FG crashed it in practice, again the car was re-tubbed before shipping to NZ- only to be boofed again in an accident not of his making at Levin.

He would reappear at Surfers with the repaired car but the chances of the wily veteran winning the series were gone. A shame really as he ‘retired’ from single-seaters after the Sandown round selling the T300 to Sydney F2 pilot Gary Campbell. I say retired as he did a ‘Nellie Melba’ and contested the final round of the 1972 Euro F5000 Championship late in the year to ‘race test’ the prototype Lola T330- ‘HU1’ which became famous in Max Stewart’s hands and is of course still in Australia. A long digression!

Kevin Bartlett took a top win in the final NZ round at Teretonga, driving with a blend of speed and sure-footedness on a wet, difficult track which caught out pole-man Hailwood and McRae. David Hobbs tangled suspension with Matich.

Matich had a shocker of a time in NZ.

He qualified 5th/2nd/5th/2nd- a second at Levin and fourth and fastest lap at Teretonga his best with DNF’s at the NZ GP with engine failure- a broken conrod and a distant 12th at Wigram having only completed 34 laps- KB spun and FM hit him on the way through. Frank pitted and returned 3 laps later completing a further 13 laps before retirement. The sergent.com race report notes ‘…showing the sort of form, had fate not intervened, that would certainly have given him some Tasman points.

A50 left front suspension assembly- top link and swept back locating arm, lower wishbone, coil spring and Koni double-adjustable alloy bodied shocks, adjustable roll bar, big ventilated discs and four-pot Lockheed calipers (NAA)

 

All was not well in the Matich camp either.

A race team needs stability at the top, Peter Mabey had been the Matich Chief Mechanic since the SR3 period (at least), it was intended that Derek Kneller who arrived with FM’s first McLaren M10A in August 1969, (he had been building cars at McLaren Cars in 1968/9 including the first M10A raced by Peter Gethin) would replace Mabey but Peter decided to stay on to build the monocoque A50, as he wanted that experience and the two worked together well through the repair of FM’s McLaren M10B. The team rebuilt the cars aluminium monocoque rather than buy a repalcement from Trojan, to get some experience of this form of construction in advance of the build of the A50 in 1971.

After the ’71 AGP victory Kneller headed back to the UK, he was homesick, so went home to a gig with Team Surtees. Mabey stayed on but finally cried enough- and left the team after the Levin round having got tired of shouldering the load with other mechanics not pulling their weight the final straw.

Matich did Wigram and Teretonga with the other mechanics and called Derek in the UK, who agreed to return to Australia to assist. ‘I had planned and organised with Frank…to come back to Oz in the middle of the year (1972)…I arrived in Sydney on the Monday after Surfers, Joan picked me up from the airport, I went straight to Brookvale and started work on Frank’s joblist for the car’.

Normally there was a two week gap between the last NZ round at Teretonga and the first Australian one at Surfers Paradise but there was only one week in 1972 making the five day shipment of cars marginal so a group of teams hired a plane to freight the cars by air into Coolangatta, closeby to Surfers.

Derek and Scott McNaughton fitting the drink system- windscreen washer system complete with an electric pump and switch on the instrument panel. neat! (NAA)

Matich had plenty of success at the abrasive Surfers Paradise track over the years, he plonked the A50 on pole at the challenging power circuit and finished third behind McRae and Gardner- FG’s car was re-tubbed and he was back in the game. Kneller notes that the A50 rear suspension geometry was altered with a lighter rear subframe, and raced that way on the Gold Coast.

At the meetings end Frank and Joan jetted from Coolangatta back to Mascot in Sydney, with the A50 trucked back to Brookvale overnight- the team had no spare car, at the time the first customer A50 for George Follmer (Roy Woods Racing) was coming together in a corner of the Matich ‘shop with Carroll Smith assisting.

Kneller set to work preparing the A50 for the ‘Farm.

‘The rear suspension geometry was altered again after Surfers- the rear roll centre was raised…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 colours 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 (eligibility) grief in later years.’

For the sake of completeness and clarity ‘The same chassis (‘001′) was used for the rest of the 1972 Tasman Series and the 1973 Tasman, at its end it was put on axle stands at the Brookvale factory’ and is very clear photos in the article referred to earlier whilst the two A51’s were built up in advance of their 1973 US L&M Series tour.

A fresh Repco Holden V8 was popped into the rear of the A50 to replace the unit used at Surfers in addition to all of the usual pre-race checks- aided this time by operating from the teams home base rather than the garages used in other cities on tour.

A50 in the Brookvale workshop in the week prior to Warwick Farm. Repco Holden 5 litre Lucas injected V8 giving circa 480 bhp at this point in its development. 1973/4 flat plane crank Repcos the ultimate spec gave circa 520 bhp. Hewland DG300 5 speed transaxle, inboard disc brakes. Rear suspension, Matich designed- Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation cast magnesium uprights, single top link, lower parallel links, radius rods, coil spring/Koni dampers, adjustable roll bar with Aeroquip fittings throughout (NAA)

 

I’ve always thought Matich and McRae were a couple of peas from the same pod…

Both were from engineering backgrounds, Matich was apprenticed as a Diesel Engineer, McRae completed an Engineering Degree- both knew their way around racing cars from a drivers perspective and also as car conceptor, designer, builder, tester and fettlers. This is a very potent combination to build fast cars, or take what isn’t quick and change it and then keep changing it until the butt-cheeks and stopwatch confirm the steeds speed.

By the time both fellas had success at an international level they were not malleable youths- but rather battle hardened older racers who had cut deals to get where they wanted, with firm, battle-inspired opinions , which meant they were not naturally attractive to team managers after fast but perhaps more obedient youths.

Both proved their pace against the worlds best- lets not forget Matich’s speed against the F1 elite in his two Tasman 2.5 seasons in 1964/5 before his Elfin 400/Matich SR3/4 sportscar phase. He raced with Clark for much of a race at Lakeside and popped his Brabham BT7A, by then not the very latest bit of kit in 1965, on pole at Warwick Farm in front of Clark, Graham Hill, Brabham, McLaren, Phil Hill, Frank Gardner and the rest…

A50 Brookvale, FM at right. Note bathtub aluminium tub- 6 tubs were built, all the same design, 3 by Matich and 3 by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne- 3 A50, 2 A51’s one of which became an A52, and 1 A53. Note the way the lower suspension wishbone picks up, in part on the A-frame forward of the tub (NAA)

McRae beat the best in the F5000 world in Europe and the US- taking the 1972 US L&M Series in his self-built Leda LT27/GM1 and three Tasmans on the trot from 1971-1973.

Both had F1 offers, in FM’s case he had family and a business in Australia which was a barrier- unfortunately in McRae’s case his only F1 start was with Frank Williams Iso Ford in the 1973 British GP when he didn’t survive the first lap carnage wrought by McLaren’s new cub, Jody Scheckter’s mega first lap M23 Ford lose. McRae wasn’t involved in the shunt but the car’s throttle slides were filled with sand which prevented him taking the restart.

At their respective ‘right peaks’- say 1965 for Matich, (born 1935) and 1971/2 for McRae, (born 1940) both were surely good or better F1 material had they arrived at about those times aboard a halfway decent bit of kit!?

Matich and Bartlett before the off. Matich A50 Repco and McLaren M10B Chev. Just to the left of KB’s helmet is Frank Gardner’s silver Bell Magnum- his Lola T300 is on row 2 (NAA)

Meanwhile back in Sydney the 1972 ‘Warwick Farm 100’ beckoned…

Matich, Bartlett, Gardner and Max Stewart were probably the Warwick Farm aces in this race with perhaps Max to be discounted, his time in F5000 would arrive bigtime shortly, but he wasn’t going to win this race in his Elfin MR5.

Frank did pretty much all of his testing at the ‘Farm, he knew every blade of grass in ‘Gods Acre of Motor Racing’ and so it proved over that February 1972 weekend. The changes the team made to the car gave him the edge and additional confidence he needed, he was comfortably ahead of the field in unofficial practice.

On Saturday he was again the class of the grid popping the A50 on pole by 5/10 second from Kevin Bartlett’s McLaren M10B Chev, Frank Gardner Lola T300 Chev, the similarly mounted Bob Muir, Max Stewart Elfin MR5 Repco, McRae Leda GM1 Chev, who only did 12 laps of the slippery track.

Only the first few laps in the earlier Saturday session were dry, otherwise the track was wet or damp- a light drizzle greeted the drivers at noon as they set out for what would normally be the session in which the quickest times were set with cars by then having chassis’ nicely tweaked for the track.

Teddy Pilette McLaren M10B Chev, David Hobbs McLaren M22 Chev, John McCormack Elfin MR5 Repco and Warwick Brown McLaren M10 B Chev and the rest comprised the balance of the grid. Mike Hailwood had a shocker of a time, he missed much of practice when a tyre deflated, then in a discretionary session to test the car he muffed his entry onto The Causeway and clipped the fence breaking a wheel and causing some suspension damage. His boys had a long night ahead but did make the grid.

The Northern Crossing, formerly a series of temporary road patches laid across the top of the Warwick Farm horse racing track had neen replaced with permanent hotmix- a bump leading onto the crossing and a layer of silt across it made the going tough for the drivers, both Bob Muir and Max Stewart had spins during the day.

Pre-race build up- watching the TV feed of an earlier race. Derek ‘Frank’s gold race suit was given to him by Goodyear, they gave him a new set of race overalls every year, unalloyed Hinchman but for 1972 it was the ‘Fypro’ gold set’ (NAA)

 

Yerv got a hole in your sock Dad! Make sure you win but be careful all the same- FM and Kris Matich as Frank suits up (NAA)

 

Kneller belts Matich up so to speak- note the nickel or chrome plated roll bar- the cause of some consternation deacdes later in the ‘A50-002’ debate. There was no ‘002’ but rather a bit of gamesmanship by Matich! (NAA)

 

Lift off- FM gets the jump, he was never headed. Best view afforded by Max Stewart’s truck-top! (NAA)

Jack Brabham was present over the weekend and started the race at 1.30 pm- Matich led from pole winning the 45 lap, 100 mile race from European F5000 Champion Frank Gardner by 18 seconds and Kevin Bartlett another 30 seconds up the road.

FM started strongly, as did Bartlett who looked for a moment to have gotten off the line best,  and opened up a 2.5 second lead from Bartlett, Gardner, Stewart, Muir and McCormack- the latter made a blinder of a start from row 5 using the grass verge.

Matich widened the gap but the order up front remained the same with much of the race interest surrounding Mike Hailwood and his repaired Surtees TS8 who worked his way up from the back of the field- he was sixth on lap 6 passing Hobbs on lap 2, McCormack on lap 4 and Stewart on lap 5.

Pit board advising all is in hand, ease. STP sponsorship just for the Tasman, gone for the Gold Star Series which FM won convincingly in 1972 (NAA)

By lap 10 Matich was 15 seconds in front and at this early stage the race was looking like a repeat of his AGP effort in November. Bartlett was still in second ahead of Gardner in a nice tussle with a 10 second gap back to Muir, McRae with Michael The Cycle right up their clackers. In a ripper drive Hailwood passed McRae under brakes and then got Bob Muir on lap 12- by then FM up front was lapping the 2 litre Waggotts/BDA’s.

Gardner finally got past KB on lap 12 (or 13 depending upon your source), then came Hailwood, McRae ‘never really at home at the Farm’, Muir, McCormack, Pilette, Hobbs, Brown and Tony Stewart’s Mildren Waggott.

John McCormack Elfin MR5 Repco from Hailwood’s Surtees TS8 Chev, Pit Straight (NAA)

By lap 30 Matich eased the pace a smidge with only Gardner, Bartlett, Hailwood and McRae on the same lap- by lap 35 Hailwood could not catch Bartlett and succumbed to a challenge from McRae after he lost both second (early in the race) and fourth gears in his Hewland DG300 transaxle.

In the final four laps there were no changes so Matich won- setting a new record average speed for the race of 94.85 mph with second placeman Gardner setting a new lap record of 1:24.0 to take six-tenths off the mark set by Matich in November. KB was third 30 seconds behind Gardner, then McRae and Hailwood

John McCormack was 6th in his Elfin MR5 Repco, Mac was still in his formative F5000 phase but would soon be a force, then Teddy Pilette 7th in his VDS Racing M10B with Tony Stewart the best of the 2 litre cars in Max Stewart’s Milden Waggott- the car in which Max had won the 1971 Gold Star, then F5000 newcomer and later 1975 Tasman Champion Warwick Brown in his ex-Hamilton McLaren M10B Chev with American visitor David McConnell 10th in a GRD 272 Ford BDA 2 litre.

The quintessential WF victory shot, chequered flag car not quite perfectly in shot and crowded grandstand (NAA)

 

The win was just the fillip Matich needed, he carried the speed he had shown at Warwick Farm both to Melbourne at Sandown’s AGP the following weekend and at Adelaide International a fortnight later.

From pole at Sandown he led until lap 5 when an oil scavenge pump failed putting the A50 out, McRae took the win, and in Adelaide he started from pole but on this occasion had gearbox failure with David Hobbs taking the win in a McLaren M22 Chev.

(NAA)

No doubt a Rothmans executive handing over the goodies above as race sponsor, with the distinctive form of Brabham JA at right- he won an international race or three at Warwick Farm.

To the victor go the spoils- the much respected Australian Automobile Racing Club Chief, Geoff Sykes at right, and in the photo below Derek Kneller receives a trophy, perhaps, for the Chief Mechanic of the winning car.

Credits…

oldracingcars.com, ‘The Canberra Times’ 14 February 1972, National Archives of Australia, Derek Kneller, Alan Wood 1972 WF100 race report in March 1972 ‘Racing Car News’

Other Related Links…

Matich and his F5000 cars; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Repco Holden F5000 engine; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/03/repco-holden-f5000-v8/

Graham McRae and his F5000 cars; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/06/amons-talon-mcraes-gm2/

Etcetera…

(NAA)

Ampol gets a fair crack of the whip in all these shots. Simpson race-boots common at the time at elite levels- FM’s Adidas jobbies are Nomex.

(NAA)

Looks like Derek Kneller at left taking a snap with his iPhone.

Never found the A50 the prettiest of F5000’s, functional and effective may be better descriptors. And successful. Both A50 ‘001’ and Bartlett’s very equally successful ex-Niel Allen M10B still extant and happily in Oz with Bryan Sala and Alan Hamilton respectively.

Debrief (NAA)

Nice shot of the top, or in part lack thereof, of the bathtub monocoque. Note steel structural element between each ally mono pontoon to which the dash is bolted- it contains the usual array of Smiths instruments. Bell Star helmet de-riguer at the time, FM the importer for Oz. The day I bought my first Bell Star circa 1975 from Ken Nancarrow at ‘Racegear’ in Ralston Street, South Yarra (Melbourne) is etched in my memory- remember him? Wonderful fella- you could never get outta the joint in less than an hour by the time he exhausted you with all of his on-point race gossip.

(NAA)

FM usually wore ‘Hinchman’ suits at this stage, remember the classic cream Hinchman of the era with vertical ‘race stripes’ on the left breast with prominent Goodyear embroidered badge? Always aspired to a set of those.

(NAA)

 

Nah, it’s not gunna rain, the weather comes from the direction of Liverpool.

Cockpit cowling (between Carroll Smith and FM) pretty much the same all the way through the A50-A53 models inclusive of the side-radiator A52 and A53.

I didn’t know who ‘Goodyear Cap Man’ was until reader/mate David Rees/Ray Bell identified him. Derek Kneller clarified the talented American engineer/mechanic/author’s (i’ve got two of his books purchased 20 years ago- ‘Tune To Win’ and ‘Prepare To Win’ from memory) role, which was to build up the A50 ‘003’ for Roy Woods Racing, a car initially raced by ace-racer George Follmer.

(NAA)

By the looks of it the boys are playing around with the steering rack- Matich very mechanically capable to say the least. Both he and McRae were very much in the Colin Chapman, Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Derek Bennett, Garrie Cooper, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, Frank Gardner, Howden Ganley, Larry Perkins mould of oh-so-capable, muck-in and geddit done types of driver/mechanic/engineer. A breed which no longer exists at elite level.

The A50 was an expression of the F5000 state of the art as Team Matich- FM, Kneller, Mabey and one or two others saw it in 1971. There was no ‘designer’ as such but rather draftsman who put onto paper the conceptual design of the car which was led strongly by the chief.

Tailpiece: ‘It sounds ok, great actually Ken’: Repco’s Ken Symes warms his liddl’ 5 litre baby up…

(NAA)

Repco-Holden F5000 V8 a simply glorious engine to listen to, unmuffled as they were for a few years yet.

Finito…

(Repco)

Frank Matich aboard his dominant 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship winning Matich SR4 Repco ‘760’, 4-cam, 4-valve 5 litre V8 at Calder Raceway in 1969…

Clearly the Repco PR snapper was there on the day to capture proceedings, i’m not sure of the meeting date, the championship rounds that year were at Warwick Farm, Surfers Paradise and Sandown- the photo is after the Monaco GP high-wing ban, which as you will see in the article attached is the form in which the car raced early in the year. An awesome machine in every respect.

Nigel Tait, the restorer/owner/driver of the car and i did a long feature about this wonderful machine, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

(Repco)

Credits…

Repco Ltd

Tailpiece: Where is Meppa when I need him?…

Repco’s John Mepstead was seconded to Matich’s Sydney operation to look after the several-of-a-kind, DOHC, 32-valve, ‘760 Series’ Repco, circa 560bhp 4.8-5 litre V8’s which powered this machine.

SR4 was Matich’s proposed 1968 Can-Am contender- it ran way too late in its build so he raced it in Oz in 1969- it was like taking a sledge-hammer to crack a nut such was its local dominance!

Finito…

(N Stratton)

 

Kevin Loy’s Matich A51 ‘005’ Repco F5000 departing Oran Park in Vice-Regal style, 2 February 1975…

No standing on ceremony here, although its a you-beaut ANF1 car- the Formula 5000 machine is travelling in no more comfort than my Formula Vee and considerably less so than my old Lola T342 Formula Ford. And its off to Surfers Paradise, 850 kilometres away in the hands of Ian Douglass to whom it has just been sold.

I’ll bet Frank Matich, Derek Kneller and the boys looked after the thing much more nicely in the US- this chassis was new for the US L&M Series tour Team Matich undertook during 1973. It was FM’s primary weapon, A51 ‘006’ went along for the ride as the spare. Here is a story about Matich and his F5000 cars;

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

Matich A51 ‘005’ in the Mid Ohio paddock 1973 (T Capps)

 

Lella Lombardi in A51 ‘005’ during the 1974 AGP- car was overseen by Matich himself. Lella pushed Max Stewart, the winner very hard before oil pump failure ended a great run (HAGP)

In many ways this little baby would be ‘the’ F5000 Matich to own. It toured the US, was raced by Lella Lombardi at Sandown and Oran Park in 1974, and, sold to John Goss to keep A53 ‘007’ company, won the 1976 Sandown Park Australian Grand Prix modified to A53 spec.

Another shot of Lombardi, this time at Sandown Park’s Dandenong Road corner in 1974 (B Keys)

Later still French sportscar ace Henri Pescarolo raced it at Calder in 1977, so too did Jim Richards in its ‘period dotage’ in 1979.

A very nice jigger indeed, here looking a bit forlorn on an open trailer behind an XA Ford Falcon Wagon rent-a-rocket.

Still, the serious money should be spent on the car not the trailer…

Goss wins the 1976 AGP aboard his Matich A51/53 ‘005’ from Vern Schuppan’s Elfin MR8C Chev, Sandown Park (HAGP)

Credits…

Neil Stratton, oldracingcars.com, Terry Capps, Derek Kneller, ‘History of The AGP’ G Howard and ors, Bruce Keys

Tailpiece: A51 ‘005’ fitted with Repco V8 flat-plane ‘Shaker’ crank in the Watkins Glen pitlane 1973…

(D Kneller)

Finito…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Credits…

Bob Williamson Collection

Tailpiece…

Finito…

image

Frank Matich, Brabham BT7A Climax tries to outbrake Bib Stillwell #6, Brabham BT4 Climax, December 1963…

Photographer John Ellacott upon posting this shot online described it as ‘the two great rivals on Hume Straight’…Matich braking down the outside on the run into the slow second gear ‘Creek Corner’. Frank’s car was brand new, just unpacked, it had only turned a wheel for the first time several days before the 1 December ‘Hordern Trophy’, the final round of that years Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship.

Frank’s car was fitted with 2.5 litre ‘Climax FPF, Bib’s older chassis had an ‘Indy’ 2.7- a fair duel, one guy with the edge in chassis perhaps and one with a bit more power?

Stillwell led from the start of the 34 lap race and then FM began to reel him in finally catching the Victorian on lap 20, the pair tangling in ‘The Esses’. The collision was enough to put Matich out of the race but Stillwell finished 4th, the race was won by John Youl in his Cooper T55 Climax 2.5 from David McKay’s ex-Brabham BT4.

frank and bib wf discussion

Frank left and Bib- looking very natty is his BRDC blazer and developing his listening and empathy skills by the look of it after the ‘Hordern Trophy’. Great rivals with a lot of respect for one anothers abilities (Sports Car World)

In the 1964 Tasman Series which followed the month after this race Youl was the most successful of the locals. Stillwell only contested three Australian races gaining a strong second in the AGP at Sandown whilst Matich was prodigiously fast but had woeful reliability, we shall pick up the Tasman shortly.

I described the rivalry between Frank and Bib in a post about the Stillwell Cooper Monaco.

https://primotipo.com/2015/03/10/bib-stillwell-cooper-t49-monaco-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1961/

It’s fair to say Stillwell, born 31 July 1927 took a while to mature as a driver. He started racing MG’s in the late 1940’s and as his motor dealerships became more successful throughout the 1950’s he acquired and raced some expensive, fast cars- D Type Jag and Maser 250F included. By the time he commenced racing Coopers he had well over 10 years of experience and was ready to take on anybody winning his first Gold Star in 1962 and the last in 1965- four on the trot.

Matich, born 25 January 1935 was a more precocious talent who first competed in an MG TC at Foley’s Hillclimb circa 1954 and raced seriously from later in the decade after selling his Austin Healey and purchasing the ex-Frank Gardner Jaguar XKC- he soon drove cars for Leaton Motors who employed him as Sales Manager. Bib was more the ‘silver spoon special’ born on the right side of the tracks and funded into his first dealership with family money. Mind you, whatever Bib started with he multiplied many times over, he was an extremely successful businessman in Australia and then became an executive of global calibre inclusive of being President of the Gates Learjet Corporation in the US.

Frank, the young pro, was cut from totally different cloth. He was educated at De La Salle College, Marrickville in Sydney’s inner west and was apprenticed as a fifteen year old Diesel Engineer at Sydney’s Kurnell Oil Refinery before progressing through Butlers Air Transport and in 1954 to Selected Sportscars where he first came into contact with the Englishman who owned the MG TC Frank prepared and both men raced.

FM’s ability and ‘gift of the gab’ attracted patrons and commercial support from very early on in his career, Matich too was shortly to do well out of the business of motor racing with Australian franchises for Firestone and later Goodyear racing tyres and Bell helmets apart from the sale of some of the Matich sports and F5000 cars he built.

Matich and Stillwell were intensely competitive, driven, successful men- they had far more in common i suspect than not, especially in terms of mindset and will to win.

The battles between the pair were absorbing, Matich very quickly got on the pace of the big 2.5 Climax Formula Libre cars (the 2.5 Tasman Formula started in 1964, Australia’s national F1 ‘ANF1’ was F Libre till then), having come out of powerful sportscars- Jags C and D Types, Lotus 15, 19, 19B and small bore single seaters- ‘works’ Elfin FJ Ford and Elfin Catalina Ford 1.5.

At the time these 2.5/2.7 litre F Libre/Tasman cars were the fastest road racing cars in the world, F1 having changed from a 2.5 to 1.5 litre formula from 1 January 1961. Given his experience it was not a surprise when Frank was on the pace straight away as he jumped out of his Lotus 19B sporty and into the new Brabham acquired with the French Oil Company, Total’s, support.

Well before the Tasman Series commenced in 1964, we had a strong International Series of races in Australasia in January/February, with enough of the best in the world to test the locals in equal cars Matich was more than a match for any of them. So was Bib on his day.

matich wf private practice brabham

Matich mounted up and ready for his first test of the naked BT7A, devoid of all signwriting and in ‘civvies’ at Warwick Farm the week before the ‘Hordern Trophy’ above. Brian Darby, at the rear, picked the car up from the Port Melbourne wharves the week before, Bruce Richardson is the other mechanic in shot. Note reinforced wide based top front wishbone and rubber mounted ball joint, inverted wishbone at the top and single lower link in the rear suspension. The later BT11A had the opposite rear set up- single top link and inverted lower wishbone (John Ellacott)

Matich was very quick in the Brabham throughout that ’64 Tasman Series and the short period in which he raced the BT7A, its interesting to look back at his time in the car.

The late 1963 pre-international events in New Zealand are covered in this article here;

https://primotipo.com/2017/09/08/bay-of-plenty-road-race-and-the-frank-matich-lotus-19s/

The first 1964 international was at Levin, which Frank missed, at Pukekohe, the NZ GP on 11 January, he ran strongly behind Brabham, McLaren, Tim Mayer and Hulme- he passed Mayer for third only to pop his engine on lap 26, McLaren won the race in a Cooper T70. After Puke he shipped the car home to Australia and re-joined the circus at Sandown on February 9. There he ran ahead of the locals before suffering crown wheel and pinion failure on lap 4.

At the Farm, Matich’s home turf, he started from pole, followed Jack away, then passed him but muffed his braking at Creek and ran off the road. Off to Queensland, at Lakeside, he was driving away from everybody before the engine let go- a Weber ingested a stone and the expensive motor went ka-boom on lap 8. After the long tow to Tasmania he finished third in the race won by Graham Hill’s BT4 and was first of the locals despite a misfire and a revolution amongst his mechanics who pushed the car onto the grid but left his employ after the race.

Ray Bell wrote that ‘He had a mixed bag of results in shorter races during the middle part of the year, taking a number of outright lap records, then came the Gold Star closing events. Lakeside…pole and the lead before an oil line came adrift; Mallala he didn’t turn up (Stillwell basically could not be beaten for the Gold Star by this stage) and he led the Hordern Trophy till half distance before yet another engine failure’.

The 1965 Tasman Series was won by Jim Clark’s Lotus 32B Climax, despite not contesting the four Kiwi rounds Matich was right on the pace at Warwick Farm, the first Australian round, starting from pole and leading to Creek corner, he then raced with Brabham behind Hill and Clark up front. ‘Both Hill and Matich had troubles in this race with cement dust getting into the steering, Hill spinning on the last lap because of it and failing to finish. Matich was third behind Clark and Brabham’s BT11A, Stillwell (BT11A) was thirty seconds behind him’ wrote Bell.

matich bt7a lakeside 1964

Matich in his ‘semi-nude’ BT7A in the hot 1964 Lakeside summer sun, puddle notwithstanding! He is trying to stay cool in the searing Queensland summer heat, lower side panels removed…shot shows the proximity of the aluminium side fuel tanks containing lots of Avgas…no rubber bag tanks prior to circa 1970 (Peter Mellor)

Down south at Sandown he ran just behind the internationals ahead of Stillwell only to retire with ignition failure- a rotor button on lap 10. During the AGP at Longford he pitted with suspension problems on lap 5 whilst best of the locals having run in sixth place. At Lakeside he contested the non-championship ‘Lakeside 99’ and made it a real race dicing with Clark on this high speed, demanding circuit for most of the race. ‘They traded places many times, but Matich did have a pitstop and lost some laps before rejoining the battle’. It was a race FM rated as one of his best.

Into the domestic season Stillwell won the Victorian Road Racing Championship Gold Star round in April after a couple of Matich spins, albeit FM was second despite a failing engine- and started from pole a half-second clear of Bib.

That was all the racing he ever did in that car. At Lakeside’s Gold Star round in late July, he crashed his Lotus 19B Climax- he took the sportscar to the meeting to test it in advance of the Australian Tourist Trophy which was held at the circuit later in the year, was burned and hospitalised and in the aftermath Total took the decision to cease their racing program and sold the cars and parts.

The story of the next phase of Frank Matich’s career in sportscars, initially with the Elfin 400 aka ‘Traco Olds’ is told in links within this article.

Frank Matich was one of Australia’s many F1 mighta-beens, to me the most likely to succeed of all, but with a young family and business ties in Oz it never happened despite offers being made to him on more than one occasion to go to Europe.

As noted, Matich didn’t race single seaters for long at this stage of his career- from 1963 to 1965, racing sports cars very successfully until 1969 when he came back to open wheelers with the advent of F5000- where he was a star as both a driver and constructor. Click here for an article on this phase of his career;

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

It’s a shame he didn’t drive Tasman 2.5 cars throughout this golden-era of single-seater racing in Australasia, his battles against the internationals as well as the local hotshots in both Tasman races and domestic Gold Star competition would have been sensational, Matich mixing it with Bartlett, Martin, Geoghegan, Harvey and the rest would have added depth to Gold Star fields which were increasingly  ‘skinny’ as the decade wore on.

Stillwell retired at the end of 1965, he was certainly as quick as anybody on his day and arguably had not quite peaked when he did retire. No less an observer of the local scene than journalist/racer/Scuderia Veloce owner David Mckay believed that by 1965 Stillwell had reached F1 standard, not least for his ability to drive fast without mistakes or destroy the equipment.

brabhams longford 1965

Intercontinental Brabhams at Longford, AGP 1965. Stillwell’s dark blue #6 BT11A (6th), Matich BT7A (DNF) and Frank Gardner in Alec Mildrens yellow BT11A (8th), the race won by Bruce McLarens’ Cooper T79 from Brabhams’ BT11A (Kevin Drage)

The Intercontinental Brabhams…

brabham caversham bt4

The first of the Intercontinental Brabhams. Jack in BT4 ‘IC-1-62’ on its debut at the Australian Grand Prix, Caversham, WA on 18 November 1962. He retired after colliding with another car whilst lapping him, Bruce McLaren won in a Cooper T62 Climax (Milton McCutcheon)

When Jack started his climb to the top in Europe he returned and raced in Australia each summer, bringing a Cooper with him and racing it successfully, then selling the car to one of the locals before returning to Europe. It was a nice little earner and helped fund his way in Europe as he fought to gain a toehold in international competition.

Cooper sold a lot of cars in Australia, Jacks business brain was as sharp as his cockpit skills so it was natural that some of the earliest Brabham production racing cars were for Australasian Formula Libre and from 1964, the 2.5 Tasman Formula- which in effect meant cars built for Coventry Climax FPF ex-F1 engines- 2.5 litres but increasingly 2.7’s after Jacks successful Indy 500 run in 1961 in the Cooper T54 with its 2751cc FPF engine. The Tasman Formula mandated 2.5’s of course.

Soon Repco were making Climax parts and eventually building the engines in totality under licence in Australia. The bits were plentiful which was just as well as the level of competition was such that the long stroke donks were being pushed well beyond their limits with spectacular blow-ups fairly common.

stillwell lakeside 1963

Bib Stillwell in his BT4 Climax ‘Lakeside International’ 1963, 2.7 FPF powered. 3rd in the race won by John Surtees Lola Mk4A Climax 2.7 (Bruce Wells/The Roaring Season)

The first Intercontinental Brabham, i use that descriptor as that was the chassis prefix for each car (‘IC’), the design intended for the shortlived Intercontinental Formula created in response to the new 1.5 litre F1- was the BT4 based on the first Brabham GP machine, the 1.5 litre Coventry Climax FWMV V8 powered BT3.

The first Brabham, retrospectively referred to as ‘Brabham BT1’, was the MRD, an FJ machine first raced by Gavin Youl with the BT2 an evolution of the MRD/BT1. The Intercontinental cars which followed the BT4 were the BT7A in 1963 and BT11A in 1964, both F1 cars adapted for Climax FPF engines.

Some incredibly talented guys raced the ‘IC’ Brabhams- Internationals such as Brabham, Hulme, Gardner, Hill and Stewart as well as Australian champions including David McKay, Lex Davison, Stillwell, Matich, Spencer Martin, Kevin Bartlett, John Harvey, John McCormack and other drivers in New Zealand and South Africa.

hill and stillwell longford brabhams

Graham Hill ahead of Bib Stillwell, BT4 Climaxes, 1st and 4th. ‘South Pacific Trophy’, Longford March 1964. (Rod MacKenzie)

Jack Brabham won Australian Grands’ Prix in a BT4 and BT7A in 1963 and 1964 respectively. The cars won the Australian Drivers Championship, the ‘Gold Star’ for Stillwell in 1963 and 1964 aboard his BT4, in 1965 with a BT11A and for Spencer Martin, again BT11A mounted in 1966 and 1967.

bib stillwell wf 1965 bt11

Bib Stillwell in his final and successful Gold Star year 1965. BT11A at Warwick Farm. His final year of racing, he had a top year in the car at WF, finishing 4th in the Tasman race albeit behind Matichs’ BT7A in 3rd and 1st in the Hordern Trophy at the end of the year (John Partridge Collection)

The ‘Brabham IC Australian party’ ended in 1968 when Kevin Bartlett won the Gold Star in BT23D/1, a one off car built for Alec Mildren’s Team around Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 2.5 V8’s he secured to add a bit of Italian flavour to the local scene, Mildren was an Alfa Romeo dealer.

The Intercontinental cars were typically fast Tauranac designs of the period. They had rugged spaceframe chassis, suspension by upper and lower wishbones at the front with Armstrong shocks and coil springs. At the rear there was a single upper link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and coil spring damper units with adjustable sway bars fitted front and rear. With Jack doing all of the initial chassis setup work the cars were quick and chuckable ‘straight out of the box’.

Hewland HD5 gearboxes were used in the main (Colotti in the BT4) and rack and pinion steering completed the package with the cars clad in a slippery fibreglass body.

brabham bt 4 from rear

Bib Stillwells’ Brabham BT4 Lakeside February 1963. 2.7 litre ‘Indy’ 2751cc Coventry Climax FPF engine, 58mm Webers, Colotti T32 5 speed ‘box. Rear of the spaceframe chassis apparent. Suspension- inverted upper wishbone, single lower link and twin radius rods for location, coil spring damper units, no rear roll bar here. Stillwell’s cars famously immaculate in preparation and presentation (Peter Mellor/The Roaring Season)

After Repco’s 2.5 litre Tasman V8 engine made its debut in BT19, Jacks victorious 1966 F1 winning chassis, in 1966 the Tasman Brabhams were variants of the BT23 frame (BT23A and BT23E) with the exception of the very last BT31 for the 1969 series. See Rodway Wolfe’s article about BT31 which he owned for many years; https://primotipo.com/?s=brabham+bt31

Once the 1.5 litre F1 ended in 1965 BRM quickly realised a stretched variant of their P56 V8 in a P261 chassis would be a Tasman winner and ‘their endeth the locals’ in Climax engined cars taking on the Internationals similarly mounted on more or less equal terms.

The Repco Tasman V8’s provided a supply of competitive customer engines for locals so the Tasman Formula continued into 1970 with engines capable of matching the internationals when the ever expanding F1 season and more restrictive driver contracts made eight weeks in January/February in Australasia no longer a proposition for the best in the world. With it went a wonderful decade or so of intense but sporting summer global competition in our backyard.

Those Intercontinental Brabhams were gems though and gave both the international aces and local hot-shots very effective tools with which to strut their stuff, not least Messrs Stillwell and Matich…

matich longford grid 1964

The Matich BT7A being pushed onto the Tasman grid, Longford 1964. Steering is Graham Matich, looking down at the rear is Geoff Smedley. Matich finished 3rd, just in front of Stillwell, Graham Hill won the race in a BT4 (oldracephotos.com)

Tailpiece: Wanna buy a car matey, or a plane?…

bib and jack and bedford

Stillwell and Brabham, rivals and friends in the Longford paddock 1965. They are sitting on Bibs’ Bedford truck, BT11A up above…i doubt Jack sold anyone more cars over the years than he did Bib?! Bib put them to very good use mind you (Kevin Drage)

Frank Matich on dealing with ‘Wily’ Jack Brabham…

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/halloffame/jack-brabham/frank-matich-on-jack-brabham/

Etcetera…

matich hordern trophy 1964

Matich in his BT7A contesting the ‘Hordern Trophy’ at Warwick Farm in 1964. DNF in the race won by Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 32 Ford 1.5, a great win for Leo, he and his brother Sydney Lotus dealers, Leo graduated to the ex-Clark Lotus 39 Climax at the end of the 1966 Tasman series (John Ellacott)

matich bt7 longford 1965

The Matich BT7A sitting in the Longford paddock in 1965. DNF with suspension failure in the race won by McLarens’ Cooper T79 Climax. Rear suspension by this stage to BT11A spec (Kevin Drage)

matich magazine

Front page spread in ‘Australian Motor Sports’, no advertising allowed on racing cars in Australia in those days but the colors on the nose of Franks’ Brabham (Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus alongside) are those of ‘Total’ the French oil company who were prominent in Australia at the time, the spread no doubt a ‘cross promotion’ as the modern marketers would call it!

stillwell rcn

‘Racing Car News’ and Stillwell’s Gold Star win in 1964. Brabham BT4 Climax.

Photo and Other Credits…

John Ellacott, Milton McCutcheon, The Roaring Season/Peter Mellor/Bruce Wells, Kevin Drage, Rod MacKenzie, The Nostalgia Forum, Australian Motor Sports, Racing Car News

theroaringseason.com, oldracephotos.com, Ray Bell on The Nostalgia Forum

Tailpiece: Matich, Brabham BT7A, and Graham Hill, red BT11A and Clark, Lotus 32B, ‘Warwick Farm 100’ 1965…

(J Ellacott)

Finito…

 

 

 

 

(B Dunstan)

Derek Jolly racing past the Country Club Hotel, Longford on his way to winning the 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy, 7 March 1960, Lotus 15 Climax FPF…

I wrote an article a while back about Derek and his career inclusive of a snippet about this win, but I had a swag of wonderful photos of the Longford meeting, too many for the earlier piece. So here they are courtesy of Kevin Drage, John Ellacott and Ellis French. Some of Ellis’ shots are his own, some from the Walkem Family Collection and Brian Dunstan, hopefully I have the attributions correct.

Sportscar racing has waxed and waned in this country, I guess everything other than touring car racing has really. Mind you, GT racing is a strong class at present, interesting too such is its variety.

The Australian Tourist Trophy has some great names inscribed upon it including Stirling Moss, who won the classic aboard a works Maserati 300S in 1956, Bib Stillwell in 1961/2, Cooper Monaco, Pete Geoghegan drove a Lotus 23 Ford in 1963/5 and in 1977 won with Laurie O’Neill’s much more brutal Porsche 935. Frank Matich had a mortgage on the race for a while, he won in 1964, Lotus 19B Climax, 1966 with an Elfin 400 Olds and in 1967 in his self constructed Matich SR3 Olds and then again the following year in an SR3 this time Repco ‘620’ V8 powered. I saw Paul Gibson’s Rennmax Repco ‘740’ 5 litre V8 win at Winton in 1979, that too a memorable machine. After a period in which the title was not contested the ATT was reinstated in 2007 and usually awarded to the winner of designated events rather than a one-off race as in its earliest days.

Doug Whiteford’s attention to preparation and presentation detail was legendary with all of his cars. Here his Maser 300S during the ATT weekend. Rice transporter of Austin Miller’s Cooper in the background, and a Morris Major- don’t road cars of a period provide wonderful context for a racer of the same era? (J Ellacott)

In the distant past sportscar racing was up there with single-seaters, indeed in the days when the Australian Grand Prix was held to Formula Libre prior to 1964, but especially in the AGP’s handicap days and then before 1960 it was common for sportscars to contest the AGP.

One of the 1960 ATT strongest contenders, Doug Whiteford fitted into that category. The former thrice winner of the AGP entered his ex-works Maserati 300S in the AGP at Longford in 1959- he knew the tricky, demanding place like the back of his hand. Doug was a formidable competitor of vast experience. Even though the Maser was not the latest bit of kit, with his driving skill and car preparation the combination could be expected to be there at the finish- at the front.

Matich D Type and Ampt, beside his Decca Mk2 Climax, #92 Finch D Type, light car to his right the Jack Cooper, dark coloured car nose of Jolly’s Lotus 15. Tall fella in blue driving suit with his back to us in silver helmet is Jolly. Darker red car the Wright Aston DB3S (K Drage)

From John Ellacott- Longford paddock- Frank Matich at left, long-sleeved Joe Robinson an owner of Leaton Motors and in the green overalls Joe Hills and the Leatons XKD (J Ellacott)

Frank Matich and Derek Jolly were both coming-men.

Matich was aboard the Leaton Motors Jaguar XKD ‘526’ first owned by the Anderson Family in Brisbane and raced with much success by Bill Pitt. Matich progressed thru Healey’s then the Leaton Motors C and D Type Jaguars, proving his pace in all of them. The Sydneysider’s career as a professional of elite world class would extend all the way to early 1974. Let’s not forget the race winning cars he and his team built from 1966 to 1974 either.

Jolly, Lotus 15 in Longford’s pit straight (E French)

Derek’s Lotus speed was proven in his earlier Lotus 15 despite it toting only an FPF Coventry Climax engine of 1475cc- this car met its maker at Albert Park in late 1958, probably due to component attachment failure. Derek raced his replacement Series 3 15 as a works entry at Le Mans in 1959 with Graham Hill, the engine blew with Derek at the wheel when the infamous Lotus ‘Queerbox’ jumped out of gear. The revs went sky high, an errant rod then comprehensively carved the alloy block in half.

image

Jolly at left and Kevin Drage discuss the Lotus in the Longford paddock. Note the 1960cc Coventry Climax FPF fed by twin-throat SU carburettors (E French)

Jolly’s Lotus had only just arrived in Australia, equipped with a 1960cc Coventry Climax four-cylinder FPF engine was the latest bit of 15 kit. In fact it was the most modern car in the field. Derek took a debut win in its first Australian race meeting at Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales in early February winning the ‘South Pacific Sportscar Championship’ from David Finch in a Jaguar D Type.

Finch also entered the Jag at Longford. ‘XKD520’ was first owned by Melbourne car dealer/racer Bib Stillwell and was a car through which Frank Gardner progressed before his departure to Europe. When Frank decamped to the Old Dart Finch raced it with skill, mainly in New South Wales and Queensland. The car left Australia in 1967, the purchaser none other than Grand Prix driver and later Le Mans winner Richard Attwood.

These panoramic shots give a sense of perspective about this part of Tasmania and the exacting nature of the circuit. Here Alan Jack Cooper T39 Climax, David Finch D Type and Geoff McHugh Allard J2 are coming off Long Bridge. McHugh was not entered in the ATT so this is either practice or the Monday LCC Tas Trophy race (E French)

Tom Sulman, by then one of racings senior citizens, entered his Aston Martin DB3S, a car he had raced since its inclusion as a member of the three Aston ‘The Kangaroo Stable’ team in Europe in 1955. Sulman was a driver of vast experience in all kinds of cars and surfaces going back to his mid-twenties speedway days in both Australia and the United Kingdom. But his car was a winner only in the event of mechanical misfortune at the front of the field. Jim Wright entered another ex-Kangaroo Stable DB3S. He was stepping up from the Buchanan TR2 he had raced at Lowood in the ATT in mid 1959.

Tom Sulman rolls his Aston DB3S onto the Longford grid beside Whiteford’s Maser 300S. Perhaps before practice or a preliminary, I don’t be live the other two cars contested the championship race (J Ellacott)

 

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Ellis French Collection

The other outright contender was Wangaratta’s Ron Phillips in a Cooper T33 Jaguar. Reg Parnell raced the attractive beast in the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1955, the car was then acquired by Stan Jones who sold it on quite quickly having raced it at Fishermans Bend and Albert Park. John Aldis raced it without much success. Its return to competitiveness was as a result of the combination of Phillip’s driving skill and the racers preparation by Melbourne driver/engineer Ern Seeliger.

Seeliger had looked after Phillips Healey 100S and was the fellow who created Maybach 4- the final iteration of that great series of Charlie Dean designed and built, (Repco Research team duly acknowledged) Stan Jones driven cars. Maybach 3 was modified by Ern by the fitment of a Chev Corvette V8 where six-cylinder Maybach motors previously existed. And some other mods by that clever chap too.

Ron Phillips Cooper Jag on Pit Straight (J Ellacott)

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Ron Phillips enters The Viaduct, Cooper T33 Jaguar (HRCCT)

The Cooper Jag was a real chance with a mix of handling and grunt well suited to Longford’s nature, Ron had raced it at Longford the year before so knew his way around the place. Phillips was also ‘in form’ having won the ATT at Lowood, Queensland in June 1959 from Bill Pitt’s Jag D and Bob Jane’s Maser 300S- the sister works car to Whiteford’s which came to Oz during the 1956 Australian Grand Prix carnival. Phillips and Jolly had jousted regularly when Derek raced his Decca Mk2 Climax FWA in 1956-58 with Ron then racing a very quick Austin Healey 100S. Both drivers had stepped up to more powerful ‘outright’ cars.

Ron Ward MGA from Tony Basile Porsche Carrera (oldracephotos.com.au)

The 22 car field was rounded out by smaller cars of which the John Ampt Decca Mk2 Climax, ex-Jolly, the Eddie Perkins (father of Larry) Porsche Super, Owen Basile Porsche Carrera and Alan Jack’s ex-Bill Patterson Cooper T39 Climax ‘Bobtail’ were the strongest.

Whiteford and Jolly were generally considered favourites for the race, but the ‘Australian Motor Racing Review’ report of the event states that there was confusion over practice lap times and as a consequence that pair and others were placed well back on the grid.

The start: Phillips, away quickly from pole #87 Matich, to his left, partially  obscured is Ampt, arrowed is Jolly,  behind Derek in the Porsche is Eddie Perkins, #92 is Finch, #8 Jack, well back is #10 Whiteford, #16 is T Cleary Austin Healey 100S (K Thompson)

The Phillips Cooper Jag and the Matich D Type were on the front row. Behind them were Alan Jack’s Cooper Climax 1.5 and David Finch’s D Type, then John Ampt in Decca Mk2. Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S was on the next row with Jolly, then Whiteford’s Maser and one of the Porsche’s- and the rest of the field.

Phillips, Cooper Jag, #32 Ampt Decca Climax, #92 Finch Jag D, #8 Jack Cooper Climax- with the two Aston DB3S of #99 Sulman and #126 Wright in line astern behind Jack. Tail of Jolly Lotus 15 is behind Finch, the red of Whiteford’s Maser back a bit centre, Porsche Carrera Coupe is Eddie Perkins and the rest (B Dunstan)

Race…

 The ‘Australian Motor Racing Review’ report of the event follows.

‘With terrific acceleration at the start Derek Jolly moved through the field to the front and soon showed that the other 22 cars in the field would have a hard job trying to catch him.

Moments after the start: Jack, Cooper and Finch D Type. Look closely to the right of Finch’s helmet and you can spot the silver Jolly helmet- he has jumped away at the start. You can see the red of Whiteford’s Maser further back. Porsche is #46 Porsche Eddie Perkins, #16 John Cleary Austin Healey 100S (oldracephotos.com.au)

Ron Phillips in second place, was fighting hard to keep ahead of Matich’s D Type and Whiteford was well behind in fourth place. On the sixth lap of the 24 lap race Whiteford began to increase his speed and on the seventh lap passed Matich to move into third place’.

Matich at speed in the Leaton D Type. He hit his straps and proved equal to the ‘Big Car Challenge’ as Frank Gardner called it during the Leaton phase of his career- Jag C, Jag D and the Lotus 15 to follow the D Type proved his sheer pace (oldracephotos.com.au)

‘On the ninth lap, Phillips, who was experiencing brake trouble, slowed and allowed Whiteford into second position 11 seconds behind Jolly. In the next lap Whiteford put in an amazing burst to reduce this lead by a further 2.5 seconds’.

Whiteford turns his Maser into Mountford Corner during practice. Sex on wheels- few fifties sporties prettier than this. 3 litres wasn’t enough to be an outright contender when they were first built in Europe, but plenty quick in Australia. Such a shame he didn’t buy a 250F when Maserati returned back to Europe at the end of the ’56 AGP carnival, rather than the 300S raced in that carnival by Jean Behra- to see him mixing it with Davison, Hunt, Jones and Gray in that 1956-58 period in a single-seater would have been mega (K Drage)

‘Jolly, having been notified of this by his pit crew, increased his speed. On the fifteenth lap Phillips retired from the race with smoke steaming from his car. By the seventeenth lap Whiteford had closed to within 5 seconds of Jolly but the speed of the Lotus was again increased until, on lap 26, Whiteford had dropped back to 13 seconds behind.’

Cruisin’ @ high speed through the Tasmanian countryside, perils of the formidable Longford circuit readily apparent. Jolly, Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ (oldracephotos)

 

Matich on Pit Straight during the race (J Ellacott)

‘In the closing stages Whiteford seemed to have lost one or more of his lower gears and Jolly went on to win from him with Matich a long way behind in third place’. Another report has it that Whiteford’s problem was a slipping clutch. John Ampt was fourth in the 1100cc Climax FWA engined Decca Mk2- this little car had a wonderful track record in Australian Tourist Trophy races despite its modest capacity, it was 5th in 1958, 4th in 1959 as well as its 4th in March 1960. Tom Sulman was fifth in his Aston DB3S and then David Finch sixth in his Jaguar D Type.

An elated winner. Jolly, Series 3 Lotus 15 Climax FPF 1960cc. Works entered @ Le Mans 1959, it was a trick, schmick car. Jack Cooper T39 and the Matich D Type further back (Walkem)

Winners Are Grinners…

To the victor the spoils of success. Well warranted and well deserved.

Derek had completed his apprenticeship, having first started racing Austin 7’s in his native South Australia in 1948 and progressed through his Decca Climax FWA powered specials in the mid-fifties into the outright Lotus 15. The best if not the most powerful car in the field, and one he drove with great skill.

Lets not forget his winning Lotus 15 was a Team Lotus works entry at Le Mans in 1959, the drive shared with Graham Hill. He was no slouch. In many ways it is a shame business pressures forced Derek out of racing, he had not peaked, there was still more to come I think.

(Walkem)

A great mighta-been is how he would have fared aboard a single-seater Lotus 18 or 21 FPF engined ‘Tasman’ car in the early sixties- he was the Australian Lotus distributor after all. His battles with Frank Matich, seen below congratulating Jolly from the cockpit of the Leaton Motors Jag, would been great to behold. So too those with other top-liners of the period such as Lex Davison, Stan Jones, Bib Stillwell and David McKay.

(B Dunstan)

Etcetera: Other Longford ATT Photographs…

image

Doug Whiteford and Maserati yet again, on the grid for the Monday Light Car Club of Tas race- #120 is the very neat Zephyr Special of Jim Barrie (E French)

Kevin Drage doing a plug change on the Jolly Lotus 15 in the Longford paddock (K Drage)

image

Doug Whiteford again, the photographers are drawn to these wonderful red cars! Maser 300S near the start line

Pre start vista with the Ampt Decca Climax, Jolly Lotus and Finch D Type in view(oldracephotos.com.au)

Refuelling Whiteford’s Maser 300S and the Ern Tadgell owned Lotus 12 Climax FWB ‘351’ aka ‘Sabakat’. Ern, unclassified, contested the F Libre Longford Trophy won by Brabham’s Cooper T51 Climax. Recreation of Sabakat still extant (K Drage)

Related Articles…

 Lotus 15

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

 Aston Martin DB3S

https://primotipo.com/2017/09/28/david-mckays-aston-martin-db3ss/

 Jaguar XKD

https://primotipo.com/2015/01/17/le-mans-1957-d-type-jaguar-rout-ron-flockhart-racer-and-aviator/

 Maserati 300S

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/

Longford 1960

https://primotipo.com/2015/01/20/jack-brabham-cooper-t51-climax-pub-corner-longford-tasmania-australia-1960/

Jolly, Lotus 15 Climax on Pit Straight during the race (J Ellacott)

 

 

Bibliography…

‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ G Howard and Ors, Australian Motor Racing Review 1959/1960, Ellis French Collection

Photo Credits…

 John Ellacott, Kevin Drage, Ellis French, Walkem Family, Brian Dunstan, Keverall Thompson, oldracephotos.com.au, Ken Devine Collection

(K Devine)

Arcane and Irrelevant: The Last Sportscar To Enter an Australian Grand Prix?…

I think it was Jeff Dunkerton’s Lotus Super 7 Ford 1.5 pushrod, above, which contested the ’62 AGP at Caversham- he was classified 9th having completed 46 of the 60 laps covered by the winner, Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T62 Climax 2.7 FPF.

In the days when full 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF’s were as rare as hens teeth in Australia- they were in the hands of F1 teams, Frank Matich’s Lotus 15 Climax 2.5 FPF was the last ‘competitive’ sportscar AGP contender, i reckon. His ex-Team Lotus car was delivered with a 2.5 FPF, much to the annoyance of the locals running single-seater Cooper T51’s who couldn’t get their hands on one.

FM failed to finish the 1960 Lowood AGP only completing 9 laps. The race was won by Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati 2.5 by a ‘bees dick’ from Lex Davison’s glorious front engined 3 litre Aston Martin DBR4 GP car. I’m not saying Matich would have knocked off Alec and Lex but the 15 had the pace to finish 4th– in behind Bib Stillwell’s Cooper T51 Climax 2.2 FPF. He would have given Bib a run for his money too!

Anyway, its interesting how long sportscars were a part of our great race…

Tailpiece: Kevin Drage’s Longford paddock panorama in March 1960…

Kevin was Derek Jolly’s mechanic/crew, the Lotus 15 is centre stage with the Geoff Smedley built Kenley Vincent Special alongside (K Drage)

Finito…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tasman 2.5 Formula was immensely successful for Australasia…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In comparison racing cars exited stage left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

But no!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics and power is never pretty is it?!

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

Holden and Repco F5000 Partnership…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(A Trowbridge)

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

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

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

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

A case of racing improves the breed!

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

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

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

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

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

Malcolm Preston is also sanguine about forged pistons.

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

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

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

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

Don Halpin in this Repco PR shot (Repco)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The development of the engine was relentless and ongoing…

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John McCormack recalls the Repco Holden engines with fondness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credits…

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

Etcetera…

Repco Holden Technical Specifications…

(Repco)

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

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

(B Ramsay)

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

(B Ramsay)

(B Ramsay)

Bibliography…

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

Tailpiece: Repco’s ‘Veggie Cart’ F5000 …

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

Finito…