Posts Tagged ‘Garrie Cooper’

(SLWA)

Garrie Cooper aboard his Elfin 600D Repco V8 in the Wanneroo Park, Western Australia pitlane in May 1970…

 ‘Motor Racing Royalty’ in Australia are any Australian cars powered by Repco Brabham V8’s in my book. There are only four single-seater road-racing cars so built- 3 Elfin 600’s and the Rennmax/Bob Britton built Jane Repco. Of all the Australian built Repco Brabham V8 engined cars- single-seaters and sportscars, to me the most desirable is this particular car, Garrie Cooper’s 1970 works machine, Elfin 600D chassis ‘7012′. There is a spot for it in my garage.

Few racing car designs have won success in Formula Ford, F3, F2 and F1- well, ok, Australian National Formula 1- the Elfin 600 variants 600, 600B, C, D and E are such cars. If Cooper and his band of merry artisans in Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown, South Australia had built a Formula Vee 600 (his FV of the day was the Elfin 500) he literally would have had covered all Australian single-seater categories with variants of the one spaceframe chassis design!

I have an article half-finished on the Elfin 600. I was going to pop these wonderful shots of GC and ‘7012’ taken during the WA Road Racing Championship meeting at Wanneroo on 3 May 1970 into it but they are too good to lose in a longer feature. Elfin and Garrie Cooper bias hereby declared, not that I am alone in that regard.

The final Tasman 2.5 ANF1 year was 1970, Cooper built the car for his own use that season but didn’t take a Gold Star round win in it. Leo Geoghegan won the coveted title in a 2 litre Waggott powered European F2/Formula B chassis Lotus 59 taking two wins, there is a certain amount of irony in that as Leo had raced the ex-Jim Clark Lotus 39 powered by various Repco engines since 1967. If anybody deserved a Repco powered Gold Star championship victory it was the popular Sydneysider!

Max Stewart won another two ‘Star races in his similarly Waggott 275 bhp powered Mildren and John Harvey also took a couple in the other new for 1970 Repco Brabham engined car, the Jane Repco.

Cooper’s Elfin 600D Repco beside John Walker’s Elfin 600B Ford ANF2- ANF2 then was a 1.6 litre, production twin-cam, 2 valve formula which effectively meant the use of the Ford/Lotus twincam engine. That’s GC standing up and JW sitting on the Armco next to him (SLWA)

The Jane, like Cooper’s Elfin was powered by Repco Brabham ‘830 Series’ V8’s, RBE’s ultimate spec Tasman 2.5 engine.

These babies made their race debut in the back of Jack Brabham’s BT23E in the 1968 Sandown Tasman round- the specifications included the ‘short’ 800 block (’68 F1 issue) SOHC, crossflow, 2 valve ’30 Series’ heads as well as Lucas fuel injection and all the usual Repco goodies. The engines have a bore/stroke of 3.34/2.16 inches and produced 295 bhp @ 9000 rpm with a big fat, Repco mid-range band of torque. They weighed 330 pounds and hit the road via Hewland FT200 gearboxes.

Cooper was a fine driver, he won an Australian 1.5 Championship together with Max Stewart and an Australian Sportscar Championship as well as a Gold Star round at Mallala in 1969 aboard a 600C Repco, but he wasn’t an ace. ‘7012’ in the hands of Kevin Bartlett, Stewart, Geoghegan or Harvey was a Gold Star winning car, make that 1970 Tasman Championship winning car in Bartlett’s hands if a dose of Repco reliability was thrown into the mix.

The Wanneroo Park meeting was not a Gold Star round but Garrie and another South Australian Elfin 600 ace and future AGP and Gold Star winner John Walker made the trip across the Nullarbor from Adelaide and took first and second places in the WA Racing Car Championship ‘Carbon Brakes 500’ with ex-Brabham employee Bob Ilich third in his Brabham BT21B Cosworth SCB.

The meeting had an eight race card, the ten lap Touring Car and Sportscar Championship events were won by Peter Briggs in the ex-Norm Beechey Holden Monaro GTS327 and Howie Sangster aboard Don O’Sullivan’s Lola T70 Mk2 Chev respectively.

GC accepts the spoils of victory in his ‘Fastman’ nomex suit (SLWA)

Etcetera…

John Walker 600B and GC 600D Repco, Wanneroo 1970 (SLWA)

Walker’s 600B @ Wanneroo, same weekend. JW developed into an awesome F5000 steerer, took the ’79 AGP and Gold Star aboard a Lola T332 Chev (SLWA)

Credits/References…

State Library of WA, Terry Walkers Place, oldracingcars.com, Brian Caldersmith

Postscript & Statistics…

Brabhams are excluded from the list of Australian cars fitted with 2.5 Repco V8’s, they are Pommie cars however much some of us Aussies like to claim them as ours. Sure Motor Racing Developments was owned by Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac, an Australian domiciled Brit, but the cars were designed and built in the UK- so lets be fair folks!

7 Brabhams (BT11A, BT14, BT19, BT22, BT23A, BT23E, BT31) were built with or modified to accommodate RB 2.5 litre V8’s as was 1 Lotus- the ex-works 39, the stillborn Flat 16 Coventry Climax FWMW chassis converted to Coventry Climax 2.5 FPF engined form for use as Clark’s 1966 Tasman car.

To the list of 4 Oz built Repco 2.5 powered single-seaters should be added ex-RBE engineer, Peter Holinger’s 2 hillclimb cars, ‘Holinger Repco’, have I forgotten any others?

Before digressing further from the story I started with, all three of the Elfin 600 Repco’s built still exist- 600C ‘6908, ‘7011′ and 600D ‘7012’ with two of them ‘runners’ and one (7012) in the process of being rebuilt/restored. The Jane Repco chassis still exists in a WA Museum but is no longer Repco powered.

GC in ‘7012’ at Oran Park in 1970. Ain’t she sweet (unattributed)

As to the Australian built Repco engined sportscars, I think there were 10.

They are as follows- shown are build years, car type, number built, Repco engine originally fitted and first owner.

1966/8- 1 x Elfin 400 4.4 620/720 (Jane), 3 x Matich SR3 4.4 620/720 (Matich). 1968/9 1 x Matich SR4 5 litre 760 (Matich/Repco), 1 x Bob Britton/Rennmax built MRC Repco 5 litre 740 (Ayers). 1971- 2 x Elfin 360 2.5 730/830 (Moore, Michell). 1970/2- Rennmax- 1 x 2.5 740 (McArthur) and 1 x 5 litre 740 (Ayers)

To get a complete list, the following non-Australian built sportscars should be added- 4.

1966- 1 x Brabham BT17 4.3 620. 1968- 1 x Chevron B8/12 3 litre 720 (John Woolfe) 1969/70- 1 x Healey XR37 3 litre, 1 x McLaren M6B 5 litre 740 (Jane)

The sportscar list is dangerous as it is pulled out of my head, that will trouble some of you! but do help me with the research as there is no such list currently. Let me know cars I have forgotten and we can update the schedule.

So, to summarise.

There were 12 single-seaters to which Tasman 2.5 V8’s were fitted- 3 Elfins, 1 Jane, 7 Brabhams and 1 Lotus.

Lets not forget Peter Holinger’s 2 4.4 litre 620/720 engined hillclimbers. There may have been some ‘climbers in the UK?

There were 14 sportscars to which a range of Repco Brabham V8’s were fitted as above.

For the absence of doubt, as the lawyers are inclined to say, this list does not include cars powered by Redco Pty. Ltd. built Repco Holden F5000 V8’s just the Repco Brabham Engines Pty Ltd built motors, the list above also excludes RBE F1 and Indy V8 chassis lists.

Frank Matich in his SR3 Repco ‘720’ 4.4 V8 Warwick Farm Tasman meeting 1968 (B Caldersmith)

To nail my colours completely to the mast, the most lustworthy of the Repco engined sportscars to occupy my garage alongside Elfin 600D ‘7012’ is, probably, a Matich SR3. I’ll have the second of two chassis fitted with RBE 4.4 620/720 V8’s with which FM contested some ’67 Can Am rounds and then returned home to dust up Chris Amon’s ex-works Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/350 Can Am V12 in the ’68 Australian Tasman round sportscar support events.

Mind you I’ve always dribbled over the two Elfin 360 Repco 2.5’s from the first time I saw them in 1972, Elfin 600 component based jewels of things that they are, to finish about where I started…

Tailpiece: ‘7012’ at rest Wanneroo May 1970…

(SLWA)

Matich SR4 & SR3…

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

 Finito…

imageGarrie Cooper’s Elfin 600D Ford leads Vern Schuppan’s March 722 Ford through the fast swoops of the challenging Thomson Road circuit and into the hot, dense, green, steamy forests of the island city state during the 1972 Singapore Grand Prix…

Vern was 2nd in his March 722, a good result as he boofed the car early in the 30 March-2 April race weekend. ‘I crashed in qualifying when something broke in the rear suspension – the car was absolutely brand new. Luckily I hadn’t hit anything too solid and so we were able to cobble something together and I started from the back’. This chassis was the same one which, with modifications by Brian Falconer, he raced to victory in Singapore in 1973. Garrie didn’t finish the ’72 race he won in the very first Elfin 600 in 1968. I wrote an article a while back about the 1973 race, the last until the modern era, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2016/04/29/birrana-cars-and-the-1973-singapore-gp/

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Winner of the ’72 Singapore GP Max Stewart’s Mildren Waggott Ford with Leo Geoghegan’s Brabham Brabham BT30 Ford right up his chuff and Bob Muir’s yellow Rennmax BN3 Ford in the distance (AOS)

I remember as a kid thinking Asia was a very exotic place…

Australia had, believe it or not, ‘The White Australia Policy’ (progressively dismantled from 1949-73) which kept non-whiteys, Asians included out of the joint, so back then you didn’t see ‘em on the streets. The place was bland, populated as it was by lotsa similar looking Anglos. Thankfully all that is a thing of the long distant past. People from countries to our immediate north have added hugely to the wonderful, disparate melting pot of race, creed and color we have enjoyed here, especially post World War 2.

To me as a kid though, Asia was exotic, different, but not far away like Europe. I read with great interest of the success of Kevin Bartlett in Macau and Leo Geoghegan at Fuji in 1969 when i flicked through the 1970 ‘Australian Motor Racing Annual’, my first road-racing magazine purchase, and marvelled at the circuits.

Two decades later, in 1989-91 I was regularly in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore on business. Even though I had it in my mind then to walk as much of the Thomson Road Circuit as I could, I never did make the easy 12 kilometre excursion from central Singapore to do so, it was always too hot to walk the place. Dammit!, its such a wild looking track…

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Garrie Cooper, Elfin 600D Ford ‘7012’, Singapore GP 1972 (AOS)

Cooper was a popular Singapore visitor having won the race in 1968 in the very first Elfin 600 built. Garrie’s 1972 Singapore car is to me the ‘definitive ultimate’ Elfin 600; chassis 600D ‘7012’ was built as Cooper’s own, works, 2.5 litre Tasman Formula car powered by the ‘definitive’ Repco Tasman engine, the gorgeous little ‘830 Series’, SOHC, 2 valve, Lucas injected ‘short block’ V8. Mind you, in that form it didn’t have the ‘fugly’ Tyrrell type nosecone it wears here.

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Garrie Cooper during the 28 June 1970 Gold Star round at Oran Park, 3rd in Elfin 600D Repco ‘7012’. Max Stewart won in the Mildren Waggott from Leo Geoghegan’s similarly engined car, Leo won the Gold Star that year (oldracephotos.com)

The Tasman 2.5 Formula was over as Australia’s ANF1 at the end of 1970 so the Repco in ‘7012’s frame was removed and fitted into an Elfin 360 sportscar. An injected Lotus/Ford twin-cam was then inserted into the spaceframe chassis for ANF2 racing. And for events in South East Asia which changed to a ‘twin-cam, 2 valve’ formula, effectively mandating the venerable, wonderful Lotus/Ford engine which was a mainstay of motor racing globally for the best part of 20 years.

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Cooper leads the rest of the 1968 GP grid on lap 1 into the Thomson Mile chicane, Elfin 600 Ford. Advice on following car ID’s gratefully accepted (AOS)

I’m in the middle of drafting an article on the Repco engined Elfin 600’s at the moment, all three of them, so will leave that topic for now. ‘7012’ was bought by Col Allison for his lad Bruce at the end of Garrie’s Asian tour, the speedy Queenslander was showing promise in a 600FF back home, steering ‘7012’ around Lakeside and Surfers Paradise was another step in Bruce’s rise to prominence and success overseas.

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Lovely side profile shot of Max Stewart and his winning Mildren in 1972 (AOS)

The winner of the 1972 GP was Max Stewart who took his final big win in the Mildren Waggott which had given him so much success over the years.

The big, ultimately fast, country-boy from Orange in New South Wales literally knew every nut and bolt in this long-lived cars frame. His most recent success in it was the 1971 Australian Gold Star series when he ‘nicked’ the title from his great mate Kevin Bartlett. KB’s F5000 McLaren M10B Chev had the speed in the first year the Gold Star was run to F5000, but Max had enough speed, better handling and much more reliability from his Waggott 2 litre, DOHC, 4 valve, circa 275bhp motor.

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Stewart from Geoghegan in the Circus Hairpin (AOS)

Max was racing an F5000 Elfin MR5 Repco in 1972 Tasman and Gold Star events, but no doubt victorious transition back to the little Mildren was as easy and sweet as a ‘booty call’ with a recent girlfriend!

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Max accepts his trophy. Neat scoreboard; #6 Stewart Mildren Ford, #129 Schuppan March 722 Ford, #7 Muir Rennmax BN3 Ford and #1 Rajah March 712M Ford (AOS)

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MS garlanded in the victorious Mildren Waggott. For this race it was fitted with 1.6 litre Lotus/Ford twin cam on Webers rather than the Waggott DOHC, 4 valve, injected engines of 1600/1860/2000cc capacity with which the car mainly raced over its long life. Brabham magnesium uprights clear in shot, interesting are the rubber bushed type spherical joints used. This very successful car was restored by Greg Smith in Elwood, Melbourne some years back with further work done in more recent times by Max Pearson who owns and keeps it, and Max’ 1972 Elfin MR5 Repco F5000, in amazingly fine fettle. Both are familiar cars to historic racing enthusiasts in Oz (AOS)

Missing from the ’72 Singapore GP grid was three times (1969-71) winner, Kiwi champion Graeme Lawrence who had an horrific shunt during the opening lap of the 1972 New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe in January which destroyed his brand new Lola T300, badly injured himself and killed Bryan Falloon, whose Rennmax/Stanton Porsche, Graeme collided with.

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Geoghegan, Brabham BT30 (AOS)

One of Lawrence’s many Australian friends Leo Geoghegan raced Graeme’s Brabham BT30, the 1970 Australian Gold Star champion finished 5th in the unfamiliar, but oh-so-forgiving Ron Tauranac designed chassis.

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Leo Geoghegan in Graeme Lawrence’s Brabham BT30 Ford, advice gratefully received on what part of the circuit many of these photos are, and a race report if anyone has one (AOS)

Ostensibly retired from open-wheeler competition, Leo was lured back in 1972 by Birrana Engineering boss Malcolm Ramsay, Malcolm a South East Asia regular competitor. The exploits of these two are well covered in the ’73 Singapore GP article referenced above.

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Vern tested the BRM P153B, the P153 the Bourne concerns 1970 challenger, during Belgian GP practice at Nivelles in 1972, the car was raced by Helmut Marko to 10th. Emerson Fittipaldi won in a Lotus 72D Ford (unattributed)

Vern would see a lot of his countrymen in the years to come in F5000 competition but it was the first time he had raced against Cooper, Stewart, Geoghegan, Muir, Bartlett and Kiwi, Lawrence.

Schuppan left South Australia’s Flinders Ranges town, Booleroo Centre, with some karting experience in Australia and via Formula Ford success in the UK, won the first British F Atlantic title in 1971 in a works Palliser.

He was very much a coming-man at the time of the Singapore GP, having a BRM contract in his pocket for 1972. BRM had more drivers than hot dinners that season, the Aussies only races were the non-championship May, Oulton Park ‘Gold Cup’ and October, Brands Hatch ‘Victory Race’ in which he finished 4th and 5th respectively.

Despite that, he impressed BRM boss Lou Stanley enough and signed a contract to drive alongside temporary Ferrari escapee Clay Regazzoni in 1973. Stanley’s hiring of Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Niki Lauda’s schillings sidelined him. ‘I knew that I had to be in F1 with a good team by the time I was 30 – and so I thought I’d cracked it. But when I arrived back in Australia for Christmas and picked up a Daily Express at the airport, there it was: Lauda Signs for BRM. I attended races with the team and did a lot of testing, something I always enjoyed – but it was a disappointment’ said Vern in a recent MotorSport interview.

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Sonny Rajah (above) was a Malaysian character who won a lot of friends in Australia in 1974 when he contested our Van Heusen Australian F2 Championship. He used the same March chassis, the ex-Ronnie Petersen Euro F2 Championship winning 712M, he drove to 4th place in Singapore, the misfiring March finishing between Schuppan and Geoghegan.

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Muir from Cooper and Schuppan at Circus Hairpin (AOS)

Rennmax BN3 Ford; Kevin Bartlett and Bob Muir…

Amongst the most numerous cars from one marque were Rennmax BN3’s, these cars raced by Stewart (nee Mildren) as well as his F5000 buddies Kevin Bartlett and Bob ‘Skinny’ Muir.

Regular readers may recall that these cars were built by Sydney’s Bob Britton on the Brabham BT23 jig he created to repair Denny Hulme’s works BT23 damaged in New Zealand during the ’68 Tasman Series.

Bob Muir’s car was, I think, Ken Goodwin’s chassis raced by Bob in Australia during 1971, notably at the Hordern Trophy meeting at Warwick Farm. Muir had a very competitive run in Singapore finishing 3rd in the yellow car.

KB leased Sydney driver Doug Heasman’s car and recalls the weekend well‘…unfortunately I had a DNF result after an off, due to slight damage to the suspension. Fire marshalls had inexplicably placed a fire hose across the road on a blind corner to douse a crashed car, I bounced off the road when the wheels hit it. There was no flag signal of the situation at the flag point before, which caused the problem’ recalled KB recently.

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Kevin Bartlett typically sideways, Rennmax BN3 Ford (AOS)

As to the Thomson Road circuit he related that ‘I quite liked the layout as a real road circuit. It had jungle like bush in many parts, with huge drainage ditches to one side in many places and virtually nil runoffs, certainly it was a challenging place. I remember leading for all but the last few laps one year (1970) from Graeme Lawrence’s Ferrari (ex-Amon 1969 Tasman winning Ferrari Dino 246T in which Graeme also won the 1970 Tasman) with a DNF in the Mildren Alfa V8 ‘Yellow Sub’ the car in which KB won the 1969 Macau Grand Prix and Australian Gold Star Series.

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Kevin Bartlett and Graeme Lawrence on the front row of the grid for the 1970 Singapore GP, start/finish straight relatively narrow. KB #5 in Alec Mildren’s Len Bailey designed, Alan Mann Racing built Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Alfa Romeo, here in its ‘definitive’ Alfa Tipo 33 2.5 litre V8 form, as it was originally designed. It was quicker when fitted with the 2 litre Waggott but always ‘sexier’ with the Alfa engine, for me it defines everything that was great about the Tasman 2.5 Formula. GL is in his equally lustworthy, and victorious, ex-Amon Ferrari 246T. #66 is Albert Poon’s Brabham BT30 FVA, the car alongside, I think is John McDonald’s Brabham BT23 FVA (AOS)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bartlett leads the field on lap 1 of the 1970 GP into the Thomson Road chicane, Graeme Lawrence is almost obscured he is so close to KB’s FT200 Hewland. Then its Stewart in the Mildren Waggott #6 and McDonald’s Brabham BT23 FVA #16 and the rest. Bartlett won the preliminary 20 lapper on Friday and led the 40 lap GP, in a very spirited close race with Lawrence until lap 37 when a valve spring in the little V8 broke, dropping an inlet valve, KB recalls. The field was small, only 10 cars due to mechanical mishaps in the preliminary, 12 cars took to the grid in the GP but 2 crashed on the warm up lap! so 10 started (AOS)

 

 

 

 

 

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Muir ahead of Bartlett’s red Rennmax BN3 on the Thomson Mile with John McDonald’s ex-Rondel Racing white Brabham BT36 Ford. Back home these two Sydneysiders raced Lola T300’s in the domestic Gold Star Series with Muir immediately on the pace when he started racing F5000 during the ’72 Australian Tasman rounds. KB was the driver who well and truly served it up to Matich when he took delivery of his T300 during the ’72 Gold Star, which Frank won in his A50 Repco (AOS)

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Cooper in his brand new Elfin at the Circus Hairpin, Singapore GP 1968. Great looking cars, the only marginal change to the body, which made the things even sweeter was a ‘wedgier’ element or shape to the radiator cowl, you can see it in the shot above of Cooper’s 600D Repco at Oran Park up above earlier in the article (AOS)

Singapore GP 1968, Garrie Cooper and Elfin 600 ‘6801’…

Garrie’s win in the Elfin 600 prototype ‘6801’ was pretty handy commercially for the likable, talented South Aussie and his band of gifted artisans at Edwardstown, an inner south-western Adelaide suburb.

Elfin 600’s won in FF, F3, F2 and ANF1; no other car in Australia (the world?) ever had that ‘bandwidth’.

Critically the car was built in relatively large numbers and exported providing valuable cashflow, the lifeblood of any business especially a small one financed, as they are typically in Oz, by a mortgage over the business owners home. 600’s were built from 1968-72 and were cars which helped launched a swag of careers not least Larry Perkins who won Australian titles in FF and F2 aboard a 600FF and 600B/E. The following, less successful model, the 620/2/3, were evolutions of the 600 spaceframe design and also sold well.

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‘6801’ in the Thomson Road paddock 1968, mechanical details as per text. The caption notes driver and shortly Elfin 600 customer Henkie Iriawan seated at far left with the car being fettled by the Elfin boys and Loh Yap Ting in white. So impressed was Iriawan that he bought ‘6801’ at the end of the race meeting, and later a 600B to which he fitted a Ford FVA engine. Local ‘shops who looked after the visiting teams were Federated Motors and Borneo Motors, both the preferred facilities (AOS)

Cooper and his team finished ‘6801’, raced it at Calder in Victoria in March and then shipped it to South East Asia. These shots show the beautifully fabricated steel spaceframe chassis, Lotus/Ford Weber fed, DOHC engine, a good 1600 twinc good for circa 170bhp at the time. Gearbox here is a Hewland HD5, production cars usually used Hewland Mk8/9 or FT200 dependent upon application.

The cars first race on its Asian tour was the Selangor GP at Shah Alam, Malaysia on the 6/7 April weekend, Garrie didn’t complete his heat with a broken crown wheel and pinion.

In the Singapore GP, Allan Grice had the gearbox problem, the case of the ex-Mildren/Gardner/Bartlett Brabham BT11A’s Hewland ‘box split causing the end of a good dice between Cooper and Grice. Jan Bussell’s Brabham BT14 Ford was 2nd and Steve Holland’s Lotus 47 Ford sportscar, the event was run to Formula Libre, was 3rd.

‘6801’ was still giving a good account of itself in ANF2 in 1973/4 in Paul Hamilton’s hands amongst all the modern Birrana, March and Bowin monocoques and is still raced by him in historic racing. It always brings a smile to my face whenever I see the little red, immaculate machine given its Elfin historic significance.

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Cooper accelerates out of Circus Hairpin on the way to his ’68 GP win. He is ahead of Allan Grice, later Australian Touring Car ace in a Brabham BT11A Climax and Albert Poon’s Brabham BT21 Alfa. Garrie led from lap 5, Poon retired on lap 10 with a damaged wheel (AOS)

Etcetera…

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(AOS)

Cooper (above) in the 600D Ford ‘7012’, Singapore 1972. He really did make a beautiful car as ‘ugly as a hat full of arseholes’ didn’t he?, no doubt it was effective though. Tyrrell started this F1 trend at the ’71 French GP.

These Elfin 600D experiments flowed directly into the modified noses of the MR5 F5000 cars which Cooper fitted to his, and John McCormack’s car during the Australian Tasman rounds in 1972. See photo below. Those noses became ‘definitive spec’ on MR5’s and the subsequent MR6 F5000. It was only at the very end of the MR5’s long life that Garrie tried a ‘chisel nose’ and side rads on his MR5 when he was assessing the body shape and profiles to be fitted to his 1976 MR8 F5000, a very successful series of cars.

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(Hemer)

This 1972 Oran Park shot above shows the MR5 ‘before and after’; John Walker’s car in front with the original 1971 blade front wing and Cooper’s car further back with the ‘Tyrrell’ type nose, both MR5’s are Repco powered. That’s Max Stewart’s Mildren Waggott’s nose shoved up John’s clacker by the way. Interesting that he was racing the little 2 litre car rather than his MR5 at this meeting. What meeting is it folks, its not a Gold Star round, one of you Sydneysiders will know?

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(AOS)

Leo has had an argument with the local geography and lost, ‘sorry Graeme, it was like this…’, no damage to the rest of the little BT30 mind you.

Bibliography…

MotorSport ‘The Forgotten Singapore Grands Prix’ by Paul Fearnley September 2016, The Nostalgia Forum, Kevin Bartlett

Photo Credits…

National Archive of Singapore (AOS), Lynton Hemer

Tailpiece: Cooper accepts the plaudits of the crowd and the victors garland in 1968, neat rear cowl of the  Elfin 600 clear and a feature on all the production cars…

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(AOS)

 

 

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(Spencer Lambert)

Now that’s a ‘Wing Car’! Garrie Cooper awaits clearance for takeoff at Adelaide International, ‘Elfin 792 Cessna’ in 1979…

When I originally saw this shot on the wonderful ‘Elfin Monocoque Aficionados’ Facebook Group page I thought it a promotional pisstake, the additional wings added to get some column inches for Elfin’s sponsor, Ansett Airlines of Australia. Ansett was an Australian icon, our ‘other’ domestic airline until its corporate failure in 2001. Reg Ansett would have turned in his grave that day.

Whilst it was John Bowe’s car the helmet was Cooper’s, JB confirmed it was the Elfin chief at the wheel; ‘Garrie kept and prepared the car in Adelaide, he was always fiddling around with new ideas and this is one of them. I met the car and raced it at meetings but GC did all of the development work on the chassis’.

Elfin boss Cooper and mechanic/engineer John Porter were experimenting to understand the forces their new ‘ground effect’ designs would be subjected to by trying to create the downforce of GE tunnels by the addition of the side mounted wings.

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Gunnar Nilsson, Lotus 78 Ford, Japanese GP 1977 (unattributed)

In 1978 Colin Chapman, Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson ‘swept the boards’ with their dominant ground-effects Lotus 79, Mario took the drivers and Lotus the manufacturers titles that year.

The complexities of aerodynamics, what a ‘black art’ it was then with the technology of the day was such that the dominant team of 1978 didn’t win a race in 1979!

Chapman pushed the envelope ‘too far’ with the ‘wingless’ Lotus 80 despite all of the knowledge Peter Wright, Tony Rudd, Chapman and the rest had acquired during 1976/8. The best ‘Lotus 79 copy’, the Williams FW07 was the fastest car of 1979 albeit Ferrari ‘nicked’ the title with its T4 design as Patrick Head and Frank Williams didn’t get their new car onto the grid early enough which allowed the ultra reliable, just fast enough Fazz Flat-12 to win for Jody Scheckter.

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The technical challenges manufacturers of production racing cars like Elfin faced in 1979 were the aerodynamic forces unleashed on their structures. They both needed to understand how to create the downforce Lotus harnessed and then strengthen their structures to cope with the download and cornering forces applied to the cars chassis and suspension componentry as unheard levels of grip were created.

The difficulty for people like Cooper at the ‘far flung ends of the planet’ was not being able to see how things were evolving directly week by week at race meetings in Europe, get the ‘goss from suppliers and the press etc.

The Elfin 792 VW Golf was Cooper’s 1978 ANF2 car (1.6 litres, SOHC, carburettor formula, engines gave circa 185bhp) but it arrived late so took the 792 appellation. GC had a huge F5000 shunt in 1978 at the Sandown Gold Star round from which he was lucky to escape, a story for another time, an impact was the delay of a swag of Elfin projects including the F2 car until Garrie was back on his feet.

When laid down the little single-seater was designed as a neat, conventional aluminium monocoque with outboard suspension. It was a replacement of his Type 700, originally built as an ANF3 (1300cc) car but evolved into an F2 car by many racers when fitted with a Ford Twin-cam or various pushrod/SOHC 4 cylinder engines as the class evolved from a 1.6 twin-cam to a 1.6 SOHC formula with effect from 1978.

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Garrie Cooper did ‘a million miles’ at Adelaide International and Mallala testing his Adelaide built cars over the decades, here the 792 is running a high airbox, with which it did race (Spencer Lambert)

Later Australian Gold Star and Touring Car Champion, John Bowe raced both the factory MR8 Chev F5000 and 792 and with more luck could have won both the Gold Star and the 1979 F2 Championship.

Bowe may not be known to all overseas readers, he is one of Australia’s pro-driver greats over 4 decades. He had a great career in single-seaters before turning to ‘the dark side’, touring cars where he was and still is, an ace. He won 6 Australian Championships in four categories including the then prestigious ‘Gold Star’ for our champion driver, 2 Bathurst 1000’s and the Australian Touring Car Championship.

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JB in his Elfin 500 F Vee #132 during his 1971, debut racing year in which he won the Tasmanian FV Championship, aged 16 (oldracephotos.com)

‘I grew up surrounded by cars in Tasmania, my dad had a dealership and raced, I went to lots of local meetings at Symmons Plains, Baskerville and Longford. I raced an Elfin Formula Vee when I first started and an Elfin 600 after that, and it was Garrie who gave me the chance to race on the mainland, which is something I really wanted to do’.

‘He was great to me by giving me the opportunity and also the guidance. The Elfin drives were the big boost my career got, everything that happened later was a function of the success I had in the F2 Elfins and especially the F5000 MR8 drives I had, which established my big-car credibility’.

elf dick

Dick Johnson left and John Bowe in their 1993 Ford ‘EB’ Falcon V8 Supercar heyday, JB won the Australian Touring Car Championship, for the last 30 years really the ‘Australian Drivers Championship’ in 1995 in a Falcon (Shell)

‘The 1.6 single-cam F2 formula was really good at the time, it had some young, fast guys involved; Sheady and Sambo in the Celica powered Cheetah’s, John Smith in his Ralt RT1, Davo in the Hardman, Norden in the March copy and others. The fields had depth, the racing was hard, that (younger not Shead and Sambo!) group of us were young guys pushing up so we gave the class a real shake’, said John.

‘The 792 was a good car, it was quick but it wasn’t too long before it got a bit floppy at the back. The weakness or lack of stiffness was in the mounting of the frame to the tub, in the end Garrie said we should sell it. Cooper built three of the cars and they are now all in the hands of the one guy, although none of them are running’ in historic racing.

The chassis was an honeycomb aluminium monocoque with conventional outboard wishbone suspension at the front and single top link, twin lower links and radius rods for fore and aft location at the rear. New uprights were used as well as Elfins own steering rack. Hewland’s Mk9 5 speed ‘box with slippery diff was fitted and 190’ish bhp claimed for the VW Golf engine which was built in-house at Elfins using the best Super Vee bits from the ‘States. The suspension was finished in cadminium plating, the superbly presented car glistened in the Benalla sunlight as I shared the scrutineering bay with it in at Winton in late August 1979, my Venom F Vee feeling very ‘povvo’ in comparison!

elfin mr8

John Bowe ahead of Kevin Bartlett in the ill-fated Brabham BT43 Chev and John Walkers Lola T332 Chev, Chas Talbot and Rob Butcher both in T332’s then Graham McRae McRae GM3 Chev Sandown Gold Star 1979. KB crashed the BT43 destroying the car and badly injuring himself when a wheel broke in the very quick Causeway/Dunlop Bridge section of the circuit  (Ian Smith)

The class of the 1979 F2 field was John Smith’s Ralt RT1. He raced this as an F Pac with a Cosworth BDD fitted and an AN2 with a pushrod Ford ‘Kent’ 711M, which was pretty neat. The ‘Kent’ is the same block used in Cosworth’s BDD, in pushrod form modified with lots of Cosworth bits. The car was heavy as an F2 but Smithy’s skills more than made up for any weight disadvantage the package had. He was fast but he didn’t have reliability on his side that year.

JB debuted the 792 successfully in Baskerville’s end of February meeting, he won the F2 race and set a new outright lap record. Still in Tasmania on 14 March he won 3 races and again set an F2 lap record, besting the Birrana 274 F2 twin-cam mark set by Leo Geoghegan.

At Sandown on 8 April Bowe again set an F2 lap record besting Leo’s time again but was 2nd in the race between the Cheetah twins; Brian’s Shead and Sampson in Cheetah Mk6 Toyota’s. At Oran Park 6 weeks later he was 3rd.

bowe 792

JB all cocked up at Sandown’s Shell corner, turn 1 in April 1979 chasing Brian Sampson’s Cheetah Mk6 Toyota. Note the ‘Tyrrell’ bluff nose on the 792 early in the season, both sweet little cars, Mk5/6 Cheetah a very successful series of cars (unattributed)

In the Gold Star chase Bowe was 2nd in the AGP at Wanneroo Park in WA, the winner John Walker in a Lola T332 Chev, for a change JW was the lucky beneficiary of others misfortunes. John followed this up with a flag to flag win in the first Gold Star round at Oran Park on 29 July, a great drive for an F5000 relative novice.

JB on the speed of the Elfin MR8; ‘When I stepped up into F5000 I was a young driver and by that stage the Elfin MR8 Chev was well sorted, GC built the first one around 1976. Garrie, Vern, (Schuppan) James Hunt and others had raced the things so they were developed by guys who knew these big cars, I didn’t have a yardstick but I reckon the Elfin was every bit as good as the T332 Lolas and other contemporary cars of the day’.

Bowe took the first F2 Championship round at Calder in early August beating Brian Shead over the line by less than a second, both drivers did the same fastest lap and became joint holders of the F2 lap record.

Later in August Bowe was knocked off the track at Winton whilst lapping a competitor, breaking an upright and spinning into the infield in the second AF2 championship round. John Smith was the quickest car that weekend, but went off in the wet, the winner was Graham Engel in a Cheetah Mk6 Ford.

elf smit

Late 70’s to mid ’80’s Oz single-seater aces John Smith and the forever beardly! Bowe, circa 1979/80 (Ian Smith)

On September 9 Bowe contested the last round of the Gold Star at Sandown and was convincingly in the lead after the brakes on Alf Costanzo’s Lola T430 wouldn’t release but a left rear tyre deflated. In trying to get back to the pits John damaged the rear suspension cradle. John Walker took 2nd, the series and promptly retired from the sport he loved. Costanzo won the race.

John then travelled back to Winton for the ‘Rose City 10000’ F5000 race contested by both 5 litre cars and Formula Pacific cars which were incredibly fast around twisty Winton with its multiple changes of direction. JB qualified on row 2 but was in the lead leaving behind the scrapping Costanzo Lola T430 and Smith Ralt RT1 BDD. With 8 laps to go John spun, broke the Elfin’s nose and was black-flagged, Alf won the race from Smithy by less than a half a second.

At Symmons for the final round of the AF2 championship on 11 November Ian Richards set fastest practice time in a Golf powered car called a Tudor, but Bowe was only a tenth slower with Brian Shead 3rd on the grid. JB won the first heat from Shead and had the title within his grasp but in the final, in the wet, a plug lead came loose whilst in the lead giving the round win and championship to the evergreen, muti-talented Cheetah constructor, Brian Shead.

JB’s F2 season ended at Calder’s sportscar championship round in late November with a win over Ian Richards Cheetah Golf, Ian having won the preliminary race and giving intent of his increasing competitiveness as a driver which would be fully exploited in his own, beautiful ground-effect Richards 201 Golf with which he took the 1981 AF2 Championship.

With the season ended Bowe sold the 792 putting pressure on Cooper to finish the GE225 F2 car for 1980, a story for another time. It was an amazing 1979 for Bowe, he didn’t win either title, both of which seemed a strong possibility at one point but he had absolutely established himself as one of the top drivers in the country.

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Cooper in the AIR pitlane, 792 shorn of its wings in some ‘back to back’ tests on the same day the side winglets were tried in 1979 (Spencer Lambert)

If the Elfin looks familiar to some of you its probably its March 792’esque nose. That BMW engined car won the 1979 Euro F2 Championship for Marc Surer. The Elfin also raced with a ‘Tyrrell’ bluff nose but Bowe’s definitive spec was with this nose and an airbox fitted atop the downdraft Weber carbs.

In 1980 John Bowe contested the ANF2 title again, this time in Cooper’s GE Two-25, his first completed ground effect design, no doubt the research found on this 1979 test day was instructive in that cars design!

In the UK Ron Tauranac was struggling to get his first G-E car, the F3 Ralt RT3 to go quicker than the old RT1 (he succeeded bigtime!) whilst Cooper and Porter were simulating the sort of forces they would encounter in designing their new car by running Bowe’s 792 with this wing amidships. No way could it have legally raced with an additional wings mounted where these were.

The GE Two-25 was an F2 race winner for Bowe in 1980 but Richard Davison won the title in a Hardman JH1 Ford in an interesting and competitive ANF2 Championship, a ‘wing-car’ story for another time and one with a potentially better Elfin outcome had Cooper finished the car in time for Bowe to contest the full championship…

bowe ralt

JB is his Ralt RT4 Ford BDD at Oran Park during his successful Gold Star tilt in 1985, he won the title in 1984 as well, by 1985 the ‘aero’ of these cars well and truly resolved! The Ralt RT3/4/5 F3/Pac/S Vee series of cars one of the greatest series of production racing cars ever built (unattributed)

Bibliography…

Special thanks to John Bowe for his time and insights

Elfin Monocoque Aficionados’ Facebook Group, Barry Catford and John Blanden ‘Elfin Racing Cars’

Photo Credits…

Stephen Lambert, Ian Smith, oldracephotos.com, Peter Brennan

Tailpieces: Cooper quickly got the hang of the design of ground effect cars; John Bowe in his only Elfin MR9 Chev drive at Sandown on 22 February 1981 after Cooper was a ‘bit spooked’ by the car in Gold Star practice…

elfin mr9

(Peter Brennan)

Alfie Costanzo’s Allan Hamilton owned, Tiga converted ground-effects ex-F1 McLaren M26 Chev was the class of the field that weekend but JB drove very well to 2nd after a big fright in practice when the MR9’s left rear rocker bent after underestimation of the down force created. The components on all four corners were strengthened overnight at Porsche Cars Australia’s workshop just up the road from the circuit in Dandenong.

John; ‘I was at Sandown racing my Elfin GE225 F2 car and Bryan Thomson’s Mercedes sports sedan when Garrie asked me to have a drive of the MR9 on the Friday. He said he was a bit ‘spooked’ by the car and wasn’t sure whether it was him, he’d had a big accident at Sandown a couple of years before, or the car. It was the early ground effect days, the Elfin MR9 was a great design but the forces weren’t fully understood by many designers’.

‘One of the many wonderful memories I have of GC was being in restaurants with him all over the country and him scribbling notes or diagrams of ideas on paper napkins! What was happening was the chassis was flexing a bit, the front wheels losing alignment and any semblance of castor so the car was very unpredictable under brakes in particular, you had to stop the thing by braking down the middle of the road. And then the upright broke which was very exciting! He strengthened the car in various areas and got it sorted later on but I only drove it the once at Sandown’.

The MR9 is a story for another time…

elf cooper

Garrie Cooper testing one of his great masterpieces, the world’s only purpose built F5000, the Elfin MR9 Chev (Spencer Lambert)

Finito…

hunt wintoin 2

Ian Smiths’ wonderful shot shows James Hunt balancing his Elfin MR8B Chev on the turn into the Winton Esses, 29 October 1978, his final race win. Winton ‘Rose City 10000’. (Ian Smith/ autopics.com.au)

James Hunt wins the ‘Rose City 1000’ at Winton Raceway, Benalla, Victoria, Australia in October 1978…

hunt and friends

James Hunt was a hit with the spectators, media, and the Elfin Team, a professional in every respect. ‘Kojak’, McLaren mechanic Ray Grant to Hunts’ right. Winton paddock. (oldracephotos.com)

Racing in Australia…

Hunt enjoyed his interlude in Australia, he was frustrated with his McLaren M26 in F1, McLaren having lost their ‘design mojo’, the Colin Chapman/Peter Wright ground effects Lotus 78 and 79 dominating the 1977 and 1978 seasons. Mario Andretti easily won the World Drivers Championship in 1978, Hunt finished thirteenth, and failed to complete races on nine occasions.

spanish gp

In search of grip, downforce…the ground effect Lotus 79 got something for nothing whilst everybody else played catch-up in 1977-8. Hunt in his bi-winged McLaren M26 Ford, Spanish GP 1978. Andrettis’ Lotus 79 won from pole, James a lap down in 6th place (pinterest)

James joined Wolf for 1979, optimistic that his old mate and designer from the Hesketh days, Harvey Postlethwaite could ‘produce the good’s, but frustrated with the nature of ground effect cars generally, and the lack of competitiveness of the Wolf WR9 specifically, retired from racing at Monaco.

So, we were lucky to see the first recent World Champion in Australia at all, his late 1978 Winton victory, in fact his last race win of any kind!

The whole exercise was bizarre really, the Winton event an annual stand alone race outside the ‘Gold Star’ the then prestigious series to decide Australia’s Champion Driver, the Australian National Championship Formula at the time was Formula 5000, for single seaters powered by 500BHP production based V8’s.

‘Kenlaw Promotions’ Ken Campbell, together with the Benalla Auto Club, the Winton promoter, secured Hunt for $30000, half paid up front and half after he raced plus expenses, a lot of money at the time. Elfin were to be paid $10000 for supply of the car ‘end to end’, that is prepared and maintained at the circuit.

A huge amount of publicity was generated by Hunts presence in Australia, attendances at the circuit on the weekend, of around 15000 people on raceday reflective of interest in both his driving talent and flamboyant tabloid lifestyle. He arrived ‘pissed’ but still handled the media upon arrival with aplomb! Hunts’ entourage included his brother Peter, his McLaren mechanic Ray Grant, and a friend.

The car was entirely prepared by the Elfin crew, lead by Peter Fowler, based at racer Bryan Thomsons’ workshop in nearby Shepparton…Hunt arrived in Australia after the season ending Canadian GP, no doubt the experience in country Victoria was a reminder of his English Club Racing roots!

John Lanyon in the ‘Elfin Bible’ (‘Australia’s Elfin Sports And Racing Cars’ by John Blanden & Barry Catford) outlines in detail how professional and easy Hunt was to deal with, treating the car, team and Garrie Cooper with a great deal of respect..

Elfin MR8 Chev…

cooper race debut

Garrie Cooper debuting the brand new Elfin MR8 Chev # ‘8761’ at the Sandown round of the ‘Rothmans Series’, February 1976. Chisel nose and relative size of the car a contrast to the smaller MR5/6. No airbox at this stage, side deformable structure nicely integrated into side, rearward mounted radiators. Car beautifully finished and detailed, suspension all nickel plated and gleaming in the Summer sun…

Elfin were Australia’s foremost manufacturer of racing cars, Garrie Coopers small concern in Edwardstown, South Australia producing well over 250 cars and over 20 different models from the late 1950’s, until the late 1980’s after his death. The company still produces road sports cars.

The MR8 incorporated all of the knowledge Cooper accumulated in building ‘big bangers’ ; the 400, ME5, and MS7 V8 Sports Racers and particularly the MR5 and MR6 F5000 cars.

Elfin built 4 MR5 Repco Holden engined cars; ‘works cars’ for Cooper and John McCormack and customer cars for Max Stewart and John Walker. The MR6 was bespoke for McCormack, and designed around the light, aluminium Repco Leyland ‘P76′ V8.

Consistent and dogged development of McCormacks MR5 and MR6, by both Elfin and McCormacks’ own team based ‘around the corner’ from the Elfin factory, the MR6 once fitted with a Repco Holden engine, produced race and championship winning cars.

But the bar was raised with the Lola T330/332, so Cooper needed to produce something special for 1976.

Garrie considered using Repco Holdens again but Repco had long withdrawn from racing so the cost and ongoing development of the small block Chev made that the sensible choice, his first car powered by an ex-Bob Muir Peter Molloy ‘prepped Chev.

The chassis was a conventional aluminium monocoque made of 16 and 18 gauge aluminium, with tubular steel sub frames used front and rear and a roll bar braced fore and aft.

Familiar Elfin rear suspension practice was followed with twin radius rods, twin parallel lower links, single top link, and coil spring dampers. Front suspension was by wishbones top and bottom, again using coil spring damper units, alloy Konis front and rear, and adjustable roll bars front and rear.

rear end

MR8 # ‘8761’  rear suspension. Complex fabrications supports conventional set up of single top link, twin parallel lower links, twin radius rods , and combined coil spring damper (Koni) units, stood up vertically as was the trend of the day. Battery mounted at rear in ‘single post’ rear wing support (Peter Brennan Collection)

Front and rear track was 1625mm, similar to the T330/2, and the wheelbase 2640mm, 30mm longer than the MR5.

A special Elfin casting replaced the standard Hewland DG300 gearbox item and incorporated mounts for both the rear wing and attachment points for the rear suspension subframe.

Brakes were Lockheed and steering Elfins own rack & pinion.

The aerodynamics of the great looking car were a departure from the full-width ‘Tyrrell Nose’ of the MR5/6 to the chisel nose setup Cooper had experimented with on his MR5B.

Three MR8’s were built, one each  in 1976, 77′ and ’78 the cars raced by  champion drivers including Vern Schuppan, John Bowe, Larry Perkins, Bruce Allison, Didier Pironi, and of course Hunt…

Garrie Cooper also raced the cars, his unique contribution as designer/builder/driver critical in keeping the cars competitive throughout this long period.

Hunts car was the Reg Orr owned MR8B Chev, chassis # 8783, the last of the MR8’s built.

The very last Elfin F5000, the only bespoke ground effect Fornula 5000 car built in the world, perhaps the very last F5000 car built in the world, the MR9 Chev is a story for another time…

front suspensin 2

Front suspension conventional unequal length upper and lower wishbones, coil spring/ damper unit and adjustable roll bar. Cast magnesium Elfin uprights front and rear. Car built by the same team but to my mind the MR8 was built to a higher standard of finish than MR5/6 (Peter Brennan Collection)

The 1978 ‘Rose City 10000’…

On the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the meeting the car was adjusted to suit Hunt; seat, pedals, steering, gear shift and a small lever added to the belts to aid exit.

He covered six laps on Thursday but the circuit was dirty and wet Friday, so Hunts first serious drive of the car was on Saturday.

Garrie Coopers diary records as follows ‘ James was very impressive right from the start being very smooth and precise and getting the power on noticeably earlier than the others. Right throughout practice fine adjustments were made to the car to balance it as required. He was always adamant when he pulled into the pits that he see the times he recorded and those of his nearest rivals . After making an adjustment he would go out and improve on his time. This continued through the practice sessions until he finished up putting a string of low 55 second laps…however he seemed to pace himself to the opposition and could have gone quicker again. At no time did he appear ragged or put a wheel off the bitumen…’

Hunt told the local media the Elfin was ‘ A lot better than the Eagle I drove. (He raced an eagle for Dan Gurney in 1974) It seems a good car, it is very forgiving and drives a lot easier. It’s good to have a competitive car for a change. It’s a nice feeling!’ referring to his hapless 1978 season.

Hunt was on pole with a 55 second lap, John McCormack next on 55.7, the race was easily won by Hunt with Alfie Costanzo second around 40 seconds behind in his Lola T332. Mac was credited with the fastest lap, Hunt pacing himself and taking it easy on the car. John Lanyon recalls ‘There was no wear and tear on the car at all. Nothing at all. You would think he hadn’t taken it off the truck. That’s both after practice and the race. he brought the car back in beautiful condition.’

Whilst Hunt was paid, the race was a financial disaster for the Benalla Auto Club and Elfin who were only paid $1000 of the $10000 contracted…still, Barry Catford observed in his book that the win was the fillip the team needed for 1979 after a tough season including Garrie Coopers horrible, but lucky escape from the accident caused by his wing mount failure at Sandown shortly before Hunts’ visit.

hunt close up

How Good Was the Elfin MR8 ?…

Its interesting to speculate about how good the MR8 was in relation to its ‘competitor set’ ; the Lola T332 (first model 1974), Lola T400 (1975), Chevron B37 (1976) , Lola T430(1976), Matich A53 (1974) etc.

Two drivers raced the Elfin and other F5000’s, Vern Schuppan and Bruce Allison.

There are various quotes in the ‘Elfin Bible’ of Schuppan comparing the MR8 favourably with the Lola T332 but later in life he seems to have changed his view.

Despite buying an MR8 to use as a Single-Seater Can Am car, having raced both the Lola T332 and MR8, Schuppan rated the Lola T332 the better car, which begs the question, why buy the Elfin if you thought the Lola the better car?

In any event Vern observes’…The Lola T332 was certainly significantly better than the Elfin MR8, Gurneys Eagle, the Trojan T101 0r the Chevron B28’s. The Chevron I raced was quite tired and also a bit flexible but not in a good way’ Schuppan wrote in Wolfgang Klopfers book, ‘Formula 5000 in NZ & Australia Race by Race’.

He continued, ‘The Lola T332 was a wonderful car, it was quick everywhere, I believe it handled well because it was rather flexible…It was a bit like a big go-kart, and although the flex wasn’t designed into it, it, coupled with quite long rear suspension travel , helped to soak up the weight of the Chevrolet engine. This seemed to give the car an advantage in both slow and fast corners. It didn’t always look quick in slow corners…it just put the power down so well without a lot of sliding around or oversteer. It was excellent too, in the wet.’

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Vern Schuppan in his MR8, chassis # ‘8772’ in Single-Seat Can Am configuration, Road America, Wisconsin 1979. Vern was 5th in the race won by Jacky Ickx Lola T333CS (Glenn Snyder)

Bruce Allison’s F5000 CV started with his ex-Bartlett T332 straight out of  an ANF2 Birrana 274, he took to the 5 litre cars like a ‘duck to water’ and instantly became the ‘enfant terrible’ of the F5000 grid in Australia in 1975, guided, prepared and advised by the great Peter Molloy, as Warwick Brown and Niel Allen had been before him.

Bruce raced the ex-VDS Chevron B37 in both the UK, winning the prestigious Grovewood Award in 1977, and in Australia. He raced an F5000 March for Theodore Racing as teammate to Alan Jones, and also the MR8, once, after he had retired for the first time!

‘I hadn’t raced since my last race in the UK, I got a call from John Lanyon, of Elfins’ to bolster the numbers at Calder in early 1982. I duly practiced on the Friday and raced the car on the weekend finishing in the top 5, I don’t remember exactly where. (Looking at the Elfin book, Bruce finished second to John Wrights’ LolaT400, just in front of Garrie Cooper in the Elfin MR9 and took the fastest race lap) It was such a long time, five years, since I had raced a 5 litre car, I raced a March 781 F1 car in the Shellsport Championship in the UK, that I can’t really make comparisons of the MR8 to the other cars.’

‘I had a lot of success with the Lola, but in the UK the B37 was the quickest of the F5000 and F1 cars running the Shellsport Series that year, and I didn’t finish the season. The Chevron was quicker I believe, through the faster corners, the T332 quicker both through the slower stuff and in a straight line. Overall the Lola had the edge.’

‘In the Theodore Team in the US in 1976 i was number two to AJ (Alan Jones), so AJ got the T332, the March 76A allocated to me, it was a shocker of a car, although it was good in the wet, AJ won a race in it late in the season in wet conditions, when he raced it having boofed the Lola. With the benefit of hindsight I would have been better taking my T332 to the US, it was such a well-sorted car, Molloy Chev and all, I would have been far more competitive…’

Bruce was generous with his time and anecdotes but I’ll save those for an article on the one off, gorgeous Chevron B37 itself.

Peter Brennan has raced and restored an Elfin MR5, MR8, Matich A50, and recently the Lola T330 we have covered in ‘Racers Retreat’. I asked him about the construction of the MR8 relative to the other cars…’The tub on the MR8 is much stronger than the T330/332. It has a good forward roll-hoop, the Lola got that only when it was mandated. The Lola is weak from the drivers knees forward’.

‘The T330 was light, mine is 620Kg, my MR8 was 684 Kg, the T332 will be closer to the MR8 in weight with its deformable side structures, oil lines forward, bigger radiators and heavier bodywork, which in some cars is all-enveloping’.

‘The Lola was much better built than the Elfin in the driveline, spindles, uprights, radius rods etc’.

Race-winner though the MR8 was, their is little doubt, no revelation here!, that the Lola T330/332 was the F5000 of the era, the greatest F5000 car ever, as well as one of the most successful single-seaters of any class in any era of racing history.

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Bruce Allison in the Reg Orr owned Elfin MR8, chassis # ‘8783’ at Calder , February 1982, nose of the Cooper ground effect Elfin MR9 Chev alongside…This is the same car James Hunt drove to victory at Winton in 1976 and in which John Bowe had  much success. (Velocity Retro)

Wolf WR9 and Hunts short 1979 Season…

Hunt started 1979 with plenty of optimism and hope but ground effects was a ‘black-art’, designers and engineers learning what aerodynamic shapes of sidepod worked and coping with the sorts of loads the aluminium monocoques of the day struggled with.

Narrow chassis’ to accomodate ground effect tunnels created torsional rigidity problems not encountered by designers to that point. Even Colin Chapman lost his way…the wingless Lotus 80 was a flop, the class of the 1979 field the Williams FW07, the best ‘refined Lotus 79 copy’ of the year, albeit Ferrari won the title as a consequence of the FW07’s late arrival…

Postlethwaites Wolf WR9 was unsuccessful. James ‘pulled the pin’ on a short but stellar GP career in Monaco, opening the door to Keke Rosbergs’ first ‘good drive’, one door closes and another opens…In Hunts case his wonderful partnership with Murray Walker as broadcasters of the BBC GP coverage commenced.

Few of us will forget the Hunt magic and charisma on display at Wonderful Winton all those years ago, and yes, by all accounts the Hunt Touring Group partied hard at the end of the meeting!

wolf

James Hunts’ Wolf WR9 Ford in his last Grand Prix, Monaco 1979. DNF with transmission failure on lap 4, the car was not Harvey Postlethwaites’ most successful design. (pinterest)

Etcetera…

front

MR8 ‘8761’ : cars used chisel nose unlike the earlier MR5/6. Roll hoop provides driver protection and chassis bracing, mandated from 1975 season. Car alongside is the ex Brown/ Costanzo Lola T430 then owned by Bob Minogue (Peter Brennan Collection)

side profile

MR8 pictured is the Ex-Cooper chassis # ‘8761’ then owned by Peter Brennan. Nice profile shot shows beautifully integrated body, deformable structure, the MR8 equal if not faster than any of its imported contemporaries from 1976 to the classes end in Australia in 1982…(Peter Brennan Collection)

motor

‘Motor’ Magazine Australia track test of the MR8 in early 1979. Racer Sue Ransom tested the car with Vern Schuppan doing the timed runs; 0-100kmh 2.9 sec, 0-160 4.9 sec, 0-240 10 sec. Standing 400 metres 9.75 sec. Top speed geared for Adelaide International Raceway 275kmh.     (Peter Brennan Collection)

rose city 10000 poster

Credits…

Ian Smith, autopics.com.au, oldracephotos.com, Glenn Snyder RJS Collection, Pinterest, Peter Brennan Collection

‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ John Blanden & Barry Catford

‘Formula 5000 in NZ and Australia Race by Race’ Wolfgang Klopfer

Many thanks to both Peter Brennan and Bruce Allison for their contributions to this article

Other F5000 Articles…

Frank Matich and his cars.

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

Shadow DN6B Dodge.

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

Finito…

 

 

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Col Goldie , Winton, Benalla, Victoria , Australia late ’70s

‘Endeavour Cup’ 1975…

One of the stranger PR exercises in 1975 was Alfa Romeo Australia’s entry of a ‘motor-show car’ in the Australian Sports Car Championship.

The one race event was run at Phillip Island in November ’75. The ‘Endeavour Cup’ ,run over 30 laps or 143 km and attracted a strong field of 40 ‘Group A’ or Can Am type open sports cars, Production Sports , and Clubman cars .Elfins Garrie Cooper built a new car , the MS7 Repco, powered by one of his F5000 Repco Holden engines, using all the experience gained in running these 5 litre cars since ’71, the Elfin would be Alfa’s major competitor.

Tipo 33/3 ‘75080-005’ Coupe…

The superb looking Alfa Tipo 33/3 had been on the show circuit for some years including appearances at the Melbourne Motor Show early in the year. Alfa’s Tipo 33 in various forms was Alfa Romeos entry in the World Sports Car Championship or Championship of Makes for over 10 years Alfa winning the Championship in 1975 & 1977.

Vaccarella Enna

Originally built in 1969, and believed to be chassis # ‘75080-005’ ,the car was raced at Enna & Hockenheim that year…the rest is a bit uncertain, but at some point a 4 litre DOHC 4 valve V8 engine replaced the 3 litre originally fitted to the car .The 4 litre engine was developed for the Can Am series, a car ‘75080-023’ raced without success in 1970/1.   Similarly the curvaceous original nose was replaced by one to later ’71 spec , the car a contrast visually with Coopers Elfin styled aerodynamically along the lines of the Can Am Posche 917/30.

33 front

The Race…

The Alfa created a lot of interest but it wasn’t race prepared , was fitted with a very tall set of unsuitable gear ratios and smoked its way around the ‘Island for 3 days , Fred Gibson doing a great job of bringing the gorgeous , misfiring car home in 3rd place.

Fred was in Alfas touring car squad at the time running 2000 GTV ‘s , but his pedigree included both potent Brabham BT16 Tasman single seater and a 5 litre Elfin 400/R&T Chev sports car. His considerable engineering prowess and mechanical sympathy brought the car home and gave we spectators the chance to see the fabulous car race in Australia for its one & only appearance .A lesser driver would not have been able to stroke the thing home.

Garrie Cooper ran away with the event, his sprint car far quicker, than the heavy endurance racer, ‘un-prepared’ as it was.

Fred finished 3rd with Henry Michell 2nd in the Elfin 360 Repco in which he had won the ASSC the year before.

The shrill note of the 2.5 Litre Repco ‘Tasman’ V8’s , and muscular note of the Alfa, also running a single plane crankshaft , in marker contrast to the ‘basso-profundo’ bellow of the Chev & Repco Holden V8’s…that long straight and open nature of Phillip Island was an aural as well as a visual feast in those unmuffled days!

autopics

Lap 1 , Coopers Elfin MS7 Repco, from Keith Pooles Gardos McLaren M8 Chev, Jim Phillips Rennmax Repco, Henry Michell Elfin 360 Repco…5th car back on the inside Fred Gibson in the Alfa T33/3

I was there for the weekend which also featured the final round of the Australian Formula 2 Championship, Geoff Brabham won that race and title in a Birrana 274 and went off to Europe that summer for a season of F3 and fame and fortune…

The ordinary black & white shots were the best I could manage with my little ‘Olympus Trip 35’ but show the cars lines well. Call it Alfas 917 or 512S in looks without quite the success rate!

Retirement…

The 33/3 was sold to Melbourne Alfista Ern Stock for a nominal sum and the cost of outstanding Customs duties …it was just an old racing car after all!

Stock was more of an ‘old car guy’ than a racer, the car appearing at an AROCA club day at Winton driven by Col Goldie once , and doing a few laps of a Canberra Motel Carpark at an Alfesta in the early ’80’s , poor old ‘pollies’ had not had such excitement since the Petrov Affair ! Eventually the car was Hoovered up by an American dealer as cars of its ilk became ‘Automotive Monets’.

Only Alfa would have done the nutty thing they did, but god bless ’em for doing so , the car was worth travelling a long way to see, and hear!

And it only ran in Australia,  just once!

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Fred Gibson , Phillip Island ’75

G1

Fred Gibson Phillip Island ’75’

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Butt shot Phillip Island ’75

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T33/3 cutaway…Spider not Coupe but indicative otherwise

retirement

Retirement in the US…

Photo Credits…

Autopix, Alfa Bulletin Board, Pinterest, Conceptcarz.com

Finito…