Posts Tagged ‘Garrie Cooper’

(P Greenfield)

Malcolm Ramsay awaits the start of the ‘Diamond Trophy’ Gold Star race at Oran Park on 28 June 1970…

His car is an Elfin 600C Repco ‘730’ 2.5 litre V8, alongside him you can just see the nose of the cars constructor, Garrie Cooper’s Elfin 600D ‘830’ V8- only three of these Repco V8 engined Elfins were built, John McCormack’s Elfin 600C was the other, and all are ‘Australian Motor Racing Royalty’ to me- about as good as it gets!

The Oran Park round was the third of the 1970 series, a championship which was wide open- reigning champion Kevin Bartlett had finished third in the first Symmons ‘Tasmanian Road Racing Championship’ round behind John Harvey’s old-faithful Brabham BT23E Repco and Leo Geoghegan’s equally venerable Lotus 39 Repco.

Bob Jane, John Harvey, a young Pat Purcell, ? and John Sawyer, side on during the 1970 Symmons round- car wing is BT23E (oldracephotos.com.au)

 

Symmons Plains 1970- changing of the guard- last race for Harvey’s Brabham BT23E Repco, Geoghegan’s white Lotus 39 Repco and almost KB’s last race in the Mildren Yellow Submarine Waggott. Max Stewart in the Mildren Waggott on row 2 (H Ellis)

 

Leo Geoghegan and Garrie Cooper at Symmons in 1970 (oldracephotos)

 

The Mildren Duo- The Sub, Mildren Waggott with Glynn Scott’s blue trailer alongside

At Lakeside for the ‘Governor’s Trophy’ in early June, Max Stewart won from Harvey’s new car, the ‘Jane Repco V8′ built on Bob Britton’s Brabham BT23 jig. It was a modified car with suspension geometry suited to the latest generation of cars and other tweaks. Bartlett DNF’d with ignition problems- and Leo Geoghegan made the championship debut of his Lotus 59B Waggott 2 litre ’59-FB-14’, at long last (or sadly depending upon how you view that wonderful Lotus 39) Leo had a modern car, that 39 had served him so well but had not delivered the Gold Star it was surely capable of- with Repco reliability in 1967 or 1968.

Lakeside, Governor’s Trophy 7 June 1970. Pole-sitter and winner Max Stewart in the Mildren Waggott with Kevin Bartlett in the Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott alongside (G Ruckert)

After Lakeside KB jumped on a plane to the ‘States to chance his arm over there in Indy racing- he raced on and off in the US from 1970 to 1973- we must get him to tell us that story.

Garrie Cooper, perhaps the other driver capable of winning the Gold Star that year also had a poor start to the season with his new Repco 830 Series V8 powered Elfin 600D ‘7012’. At Symmons he retired with a flat battery having failed to set a time in practice and at Lakeside he was ninth from Q5 with a misfire for the races duration.

Malcolm Ramsay was a title contender too- if the Repco planets could be aligned, mounted as he was in Cooper’s first Repco engined 600- the 600C ‘6908’ raced by Garrie in Asia and then sold before returning to Oz in late 1969.

GC Cooper, Elfin 600D Repco ‘830’, Oran Park June 1970- oh to have seen an ace in this chassis (oldracephotos)

1970 was an odd year in terms of Gold Star eligibility…

The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport made the following naff decisions during 1969 in an attempt to keep the peace with all interested parties- an impossible challenge of course and provide a formula, or formulae to suit the needs of Australian single-seater racing into the future. A summary of the rules for the next couple of years goes a bit like this;

1970 Tasman Series- Tasman 2.5, F5000 and 2 litre cars and under

1970 Gold Star- Tasman 2.5 and 2 litre cars and under

1971 Tasman- Tasman 2.5, F5000 and 2 litre cars and under

1971 Gold Star- F5000 and 2 litre cars and under

1972 Tasman- ditto as per ’71 Gold Star

1972 Gold Star- F5000 and ANF2 (to make up the numbers)

The impact of the above in 1970 was that those fellas who invested in F5000 could not race their cars in Australia- in particular Frank Matich and Niel Allen, both round winners during the 1970 Tasman could not race their McLarens in Gold Star events- a bummer for them and their fans but a bonus for the rest of the elite grid- Bartlett, Matich and Allen were out of the equation in 1970.

The machinations of the change from the Tasman 2.5 to F5000 category are ventilated at length in this article;

https://primotipo.com/2018/05/03/repco-holden-f5000-v8/

Wearing my Repco bias on my sleeve- 1970 was it, the last opportunity for the Maidstone concern to win either a Tasman or Gold Star 2.5 litre title for their beautiful little V8’s!

Max, second on the grid before the off, Mildren Waggott TC4V 2 litre. A jewel of a car and uber successful chassis (P Greenfield)

And so the title protagonists headed in the direction of Narellan on Sydney’s then western outskirts for the Oran Park round…

John Harvey put his stamp on practice with a 43 seconds dead lap in the Jane Repco with Max Stewart’s Mildren Waggott two-tenths adrift on a circuit Max knew like the back of his hand.

Its interesting that Max/Alec chose to keep racing the spaceframe car rather than the ‘Sub, a monocoque (after KB went away) but I guess Max wore that car like a glove- an extension of his body and he was never more than a bees-dick away from KB in terms of pace, so why not sell the Sub and keep the little Mildren nee Rennmax Waggott?

John Harvey ahead of one of the Elfin 600’s. Jane nee Rennmax Repco V8 – 830 Series V8. Bob Jane obtained the 830 V8’s used by Jack Brabham in the 1969 Brabham BT31- good works motors (L Hemer)

And as most of you know Mildren commissioned an F5000 car which Bartlett raced in the 1970 AGP and throughout the 1971 Tasman Series before the team was, very sadly, disbanded. But lets not get distracted from Oran Park.

Geoghegan did the same time as Max- he had clearly got to grips with the Lotus chassis and Waggott motors quickly having pedalled Repco V8’s since mid-1967. His Repco 830 would have had a smidge over 300 bhp with the Waggott at that stage of its development circa 265 bhp- albeit the 59B would have been a bit lighter overall than the 39.

Leo raced sans nose wings. Lotus 59B Waggott TC4V- yes please. OP June 1970 (oldracephotos)

Bob Muir demonstrated his growing pace with a 43.6 in his Rennmax BN2/3, at this meeting 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF powered- my guess is this was the best Gold Star FPF performance for a couple of years, by then these motors were no spring-‘chookins at all having taken two World Championships on the trot for Cooper/Jack Brabham in 1959 and 1960.

Bob bought a Waggott TC4V 2 litre engine which he popped into this chassis (in specification it is a BN3 but Bob referred to it as a BN2 ‘in period’) before the following ‘Sam Hordern Trophy’ round at Warwick Farm in early September and then later in the year bought the Mildren Yellow Sub off Alec and put the Waggott into that chassis- and somewhat famously rated his Rennmax BN2/3 the better car of the two. (same chassis as the Mildren Waggott).

Garrie Cooper and Malcolm Ramsay were fifth and sixth with a 44.6 and 45 seconds dead respectively, perhaps more could have been expected of the two V8’s but the dudes in front of them were all ‘locals’- if you can refer to an Orange resident as ‘local’ in Max’s case and Melbourne local for Harves! Harvey did plenty of laps at Oran Park before he emigrated to Mexico (Melbourne) when he started driving for Bob Jane .

John McCormack took the next step in his career when he replaced the ex-Jack Brabham 1962 AGP Caversham Brabham BT4 Climax FPF with an Elfin 600C in time for the 1970 Gold Star.

Fitting it with the FPF from the Brabham was sub-optimal but he was in the process of putting together a lease deal on a 740 Series Repco V8 with Malcolm Preston which would take him a further step along the path towards national championships in the years to come.

One day of The Year- that you can race your F5000 that is. Frank Matich on the way to 1970 AGP victory in his McLaren M10B Repco Holden (N Foote)

Preston and Mac developed a lifelong friendship during the Repco Holden F5000 years- Preston was the General Manager of REDCO, the Repco Engine Development Company which assumed the assets (most of ’em) of Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. and designed, built and maintained the Repco-Holden motors.

That Repco 740 engine was nestled in the spaceframe of Mac’s 600 ‘7011’ by the Hordern Trophy meeting, so he used it at WF, Sandown, Mallala (pole) the AGP at the ‘Farm in November as well as the Warwick Farm Tasman meeting in February 1971.

In 1970 the Australian Grand Prix was a stand alone meeting- not part of the Gold Star or Tasman Series and allowed Tasman 2.5, 2 litres and under- and F5000’s!

Warwick Farm Meister Frank Matich won the race from a strong field in his McLaren M10B Repco Holden- it was the first ‘notch in the belt’ for another world class race engine from the Repco boys, the design of which was led by Phil Irving- he of Vincent and Repco Brabham Engines ‘620 Series’ fame with the assistance of Brian Heard, also ex-RBE.

Queenslander Glynn Scott in his brand spankers Elfin 600B Waggott TC4V, DNF (L Hemer)

Meanwhile, back at Oran Park in June…

Glynn Scott was next up, seventh in a brand new Elfin 600B Waggott 2 litre. Glynn was sure to be quick in this car over the next season or two but his time in it was way too short, only a month later he was killed in an awful accident at Lakeside when he and his friend Ivan Tighe collided, Ivan also Elfin 600 mounted.

Waggott engined Elfin 600’s are rare beasts- this (destroyed) chassis ‘7016’, Gary Campbell’s ‘7122’ (the chassis, then powered by a Lotus-Ford twin-cam  in which Larry Perkins won the 1971 ANF2 Championship) and Ramsay’s ‘6908’ were so equipped.

The Goodwins, unrelated were next, Len in the ex-Piers Courage/Niel Allen McLaren M4A ‘M4A/2’ Ford Cosworth FVA, the Pat Burke owned car soon to become an important stepping stone in the career of Warwick Brown who raced it in 1971 before stepping into another ex-Allen McLaren, M10B F5000, for 1972- fame if not fortune followed.

Ken Goodwin’s Rennmax BN3 Ford in the OP paddock June 1970 (K Hyndman)

Ken Goodwin who had come through Formula Vee raced a beautifully self-prepared Rennmax BN3 Lotus-Ford t/c ANF2- its amazing how many guys did well in these beautifully forgiving motor-cars. Ron Tauranac got the Brabham BT23 design spot on and Bob Britton didn’t bugger things up in his translation of same!

The thirteen car grid was rounded out by the ANF2 1.6 cars of Jack Bono, Brabham BT2 Ford t/c, Ian Fergusson, Bowin P3 Ford t/c and Noel Potts Elfin 600 Alfa Romeo 1.5.

Come race-day there were only twelve starters, unfortunately Muir’s Coventry Climax engine had ‘oil leaks’ which could not be remedied.

Stewart’s Mildren sorted before the off- Glenn Abbey and Alec Mildren look on as Derek Kneller at front and Ian Gordon set final tyre pressures. Waggott 2 litre TC4V engine and FT200 Hewland ‘box (K Hyndman)

Gold Star fields in terms of numbers were always tough, other than in the Formula Pacific and Formula Holden ‘peaks during the eighties/nineties- in 1970 the number of starters were; Symmons 11, Lakeside 17, Oran Park 12, Warwick Farm 12, Sandown 18 and Mallala 12- the AGP, not a Gold Star round had 19 starters with F5000 making the difference in the main.

The field was interesting too- all of the top-liners were racing cars with spaceframe chassis, four had Repco 730 or 830 ‘crossflow’ V8’s, three modern as tomorrow Waggott 2 litres started, with one Ford Cosworth FVA, an ‘old school’ Coventry Climax FPF in the back of McCormack’s Elfin 600 and a smattering of Lotus-Ford twin-cam ANF2’s plus Pott’s 1.5 litre twin-cam, long stroke Alfa Romeo.

Look mum, one hand! Stewart shows perfect control and a gaggle of car down OP’s Main Straight (L Hemer)

The 82 lap race was won by Max Stewart by 17 seconds from the similarly engined Lotus 59 of Geoghegan, then the ‘Elfin-GT Harrison Racing’ 600 Repco’s of Garrie Cooper and Malcolm Ramsay.

McCormack was two laps back in his 600 FPF from John Harvey a couple of laps back with problems.

Than came Ian Fergusson’s monocoque Bowin P3 Ford, Noel Potts Elfin 600 Alfa and Glynn Scott with only 50 laps in his 600 Waggott.

As Max Stewart left Oran Park for home in Orange on the Sunday night little did he know the high point of his 1970 Gold Star season had been reached, he took no points at either of the following Warwick Farm (injector problem) or Sandown (bearing) rounds won by Leo Geoghegan and John Harvey respectively.

John Harvey in the Jane Repco V8 in Warwick Farm’s Esses during practice for the Septmeber Gold Star round won by Geoghegan from Cooper and Muir. Harves Q4 and DNF fuel pump (L Hemer)

In fact the difference between Leo and his pursuers that season was a blend of speed and consistency- lessons from his Repco years!

He won two of the six rounds but scored in all but one. Stewart and Harvey both won two rounds as well but scored points in four rounds apiece. Harves went mighty close though, he recalled recently ‘…at the last round of the Gold Star at Mallala I was so far in front of Leo Geoghegan and Max Stewart I thought I had the race and the series in the bag. However, not to be, the left front suspension broke and took me off the road.’

In terms of qualifying performances, often an indicator of outright speed, Harvey took pole on three occasions with Stewart, Geoghegan and McCormack, the latter at Mallala using his Repco V8, to good effect once.

Geoghegan won the championship with 33 points from Stewart 27, Harvey 25, Cooper 16 and Ramsay 9.

Leo’s 59B before the off with Bob Holden’s Escort Twin-Cam sharing the Castrol tent. OP June 1970, car still in Oz (K Hyndman)

Leo Geoghegan- Lotus 59B…

https://primotipo.com/2018/09/17/leos-lotus-59b-waggott/

Max Stewart- Mildren Waggott…

https://primotipo.com/2018/05/29/singapore-sling/

Bob Muir- Rennmax BN3 Waggott…

https://primotipo.com/2018/08/14/rennmax-bn2-waggott/

Garrie Cooper- Elfin 600D Repco…

https://primotipo.com/2018/03/06/garrie-cooper-elfin-600d-repco-v8/

1970 Gold Star Season…

https://www.oldracingcars.com/australia/1970/

Credits…

Peter Greenfield, Harold Ellis, Lynton Hemer, oldracingcars.com.au, Nigel Foote, Ken Hyndman, oldracephotos.com.au, John Harvey, Graham Ruckert

Tailpiece: Harves and Hottie, Maxxie and ‘Yoko Ono’…

(L Hemer)

Finito…

(oldracephotos.com.au)

Brian Bowe settles himself into his Elfin Catalina Ford in the Baskerville paddock, 1966…

There is no such thing as an ugly Elfin, this little car looks a picture in the bucolic surrounds of Tasmania. Garrie Cooper’s first single-seater racing cars were built off the back of his front-engined ‘Streamliner’  sportscars success.

The pace of these Catalinas was demonstrated by Frank Matich and others, they sold well with twenty FJ’s/250 Production/275 and 375 Works Replicas built from 1961 to 1963.

This chassis was raced by Melbourne single-seater, sportscar and touring car ace Brian Sampson and was powered by a Ford Cosworth 1.5 litre pushrod motor.

It was bought by Bowe and ‘was Dad’s first factory racing car having competed in specials before that’ John Bowe said.

‘In fact had I had my first drive of a racer in this car at Symmons Plains in private practice. I was twelve, and just about to start high school!’ ‘In discussions with Dad in the weeks before i’d worked out how many revs in top was 100 mph and did just that- when he realised how fast I was going he stood in the middle of the track and flagged me down. Furious he was! Happy carefree days’.

Indeed, John Bowe, by 1976 was a works Ansett Team Elfin F5000 driver, the Bowes were an Elfin family, not exclusively mind you. JB raced an Elfin 500 FV, 600FF and 700 Ford ANF3 en-route to his F5000 ride- and 792 and GE225 ANF2 cars as well.

Lindsay Ross identifies Arthur Hilliard’s Riley Pathfinder racer and towcar at the rear right of the shot by the paddock fence. The blue sporty is Bob Wright’s Tasma Peugeot.

A quickie article about the Bowe Catalina became a feature thanks to Ed Holly posting online some of the late, great Australian motor racing historian, Graham Howard’s photo archive. Specifically shots of the prototype Elfin Formula Junior taken at the time of its birth at the Edwardstown factory and subsequent public launch at Warwick Farm on 17 September 1961.

As a result we can examine these important Elfins in far more detail than I had originally planned, including a contemporary track test by Bruce Polain and owner/driver impressions from Ed.

Bruce Polain testing the Elfin FJ Ford at Warwick Farm in September 1961 (G Howard)

Bruce Polain wrote an article about his experiences that day in ‘Australian Motor Sports’- here are the salient bits of it, lets get Bruce’s contemporary impressions of the car before exploring the design in detail.

‘Taking it quietly over The Causeway, the little Elfin accelerated hard in third gear on the run to Polo Corner. Braking firmly, the speed fell away rapidly and I was conscious of considerable suspension movement as we ran over the bumpy entrance to the corner- a reminder that this was the flooded section of the track during the ‘first ever’ Warwick Farm.’

‘Nevertheless the poor surface failed to affect the comfortable ride and with a slight amount of understeer I swung the car into Polo. The handling characteristics were such that it gave understeer into a corner and a small amount of oversteer on the way out. This is quite a popular setup as through a corner it allows a fast entry to begin with, then as the steering is brought back to a neutral position, the oversteering tendency may be checked by applying more power to the rear wheels.’

‘…I enjoyed the delights of driving this beautifully constructed, fast and most forgiving racing car. The semi-reclining seat was more than comfortable and gave excellent lateral support, which is so important for ease of control in corners. At speed, steering was delightfully light and precise- you could eat your lunch with one hand. The lusty 1100cc Cosworth Ford engine was a  wonderful propellent, easy to fire on the starter button, docile low down, yet bags of power when the accelerator was pressed.’

John Hartnett at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills, Elfin Streamliner Coventry Climax chassis ’13’ (R Hartnett)

Cooper first commenced design of the FJ in 1960, as stated above, off the back of success of the Streamliner series of sports cars built from 1959 to 1963- twenty-three in all.

During this period the name out front of 1 Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown, an Adelaide suburb, changed from ‘Cooper Motor Bodies’ to ‘Elfin Sports Cars’ which was indicative of the evolution of the then forty year old Cooper family business away from coach-building to the sexier but perhaps more challenging world of production racing cars.

Whilst nominally a Formula Junior design the twenty cars built had a range of engines fitted in capacities from 1 litre to 1.5 litres- Ford 105E, 116E, Peugeot, Coventry Climax FWA, Vincent HRD and Hillman Imp. They very quickly proved themselves capable of going wheel to wheel with the best cars from the UK- then THE hotbed of FJ development of course.

Lotus 18 like upright and rear suspension clear in this shot, as is the split-case VeeWee 36HP gearbox (G Howard)

The chassis of the car was a multi-tubular spaceframe of 16 and 18 gauge mild-steel tubing in varying diameters from five-eighths of an inch to an inch. It was strengthened by fitment of a stressed floorpan made of 19 and 20 gauge aluminium alloy.

Rear suspension was clearly inspired by the Lotus 18. It was fully independent with fixed length driveshafts which formed the suspension upper members. The lower wishbones incorporated adjustments for camber, toe and roll-centre height. ‘Driving and braking torques are controlled by long trailing arms (radius rods in more modern parlance) two per side.’ The uprights or ‘pillars’ are Cooper’s design of cast magnesium.

(G Howard)

Front suspension was period typical using unequal length upper and lower wishbones, note the Armstrong shock absorber, adjustable roll bar, unsighted is the Alford and Alder Triumph front upright. Steering was by way of a lightweight rack and pinion, the wheel wood-rimmed with a diameter of 13.5 inches. The brakes were Lockheed 2LS front and rear, the drums alloy bi-metal with radial finning.

(G Howard)

The engine was the Ford 105E which would become ubiquitous in the class. Cooper built the engine in Adelaide.

GC and his team designed and printed a very detailed brochure about the cars, no doubt with the racing car show in mind- giveaways are important at these events.

Its interesting to see how the two Ford Cosworth 105E engines offered were described.

The ‘Poverty Pack’ 250 Production Model FJ was a budget racing car fitted with pressed-steel wheels, cast iron rather than alloy bi-metal brake drums, non-adjustable shocks and non-close ratio gearbox.

It was offered with a Ford Cosworth 1000cc Formula Junior Mk3 ’85 Engine’ producing over 85bhp @ 7250rpm. ‘Every engine is dynamometer tested to at least this output before leaving the factory.’

The engine was fully balanced including crankshaft, flywheel and clutch, connecting rods and pistons.

Carburation was by two 40 DCOE Weber carbs on Cosworth manifolds- they were enclosed within the bodywork and fed by cold air from a duct on the lefthand side of the cockpit. The distributor was modified, the crankshaft pulley was ‘special’ for the water pump drive- visually the whole package was set off by a Cosworth light alloy rocker cover so the ‘psyching’ started in the paddock.

The ‘ducks guts’ 275 Works Replica Model offered the Cosworth Mk4 1100cc engine giving a minimum of 95bhp with ‘the average output of these engines 97-100bhp’.

The trick Mk4 differed from its smaller brother in that it had a bigger bore, special stronger connecting rods, special steel main bearing caps, bigger valves and different combustion chambers. ‘Replaceable valve guides are fitted as standard. Like the Mk3 these engines have a competition clutch, tachometer take-off, oil cooler union and special anti-surge sump.’

When the Ford Cosworth 1500cc engine was later fitted in the Works Replica model it was designated ‘375WR’.

(G Howard)

Gearbox was a split- case VW 36 horsepower which was modified in Adelaide and fitted with close ratios with ‘top gear running on a special roller bearing.’ A lightweight bell-housing mated the gearbox and engine, the final drive ratio was 4.42:1. The gear lever was mounted to the left of the driver. Note the different lower wishbone inner end alternative pickup points.

(G Howard)

When completed the little car (prototype car #4 ) was a handsome little beastie complete with full bodywork from nose to aft of the gearbox.

Success came quickly, its interesting looking at these photographs of the car being prepared for and shown at one of the track days to get the message out there. The motorsport shows the boys from Adelaide attended on the east coast would have been a significant exercise and cost at the time.

I don’t think Cooper’s commercial success in the toughest of markets in the toughest of industries- manufacturing has ever been truly recognised. I  have mostly run and owned small businesses all of my adult life and know full well how hard it is to churn a dollar- Elfins survived and thrived for several decades under Garrie’s stewardship and then that of Don Elliott with Tony Edmondson at the coalface. I’ll stop the Elfin history there which is not to discount what followed, but from a production racing car perspective, that was it.

(G Howard)

The bodywork for the first three cars was made of aluminium by craftsman John Webb who was a constant throughout the whole of Elfin’s ‘glory days’- right up to the construction of the body of Vern Schuppan’s MR8C Chev Can-Am bodied F5000 machine.

On the fourth and subsequent cars the fibreglass bodywork was by Ron Tonkin- this comprised the nose, tail sections and cockpit surround. The side panels were of aluminium and ‘semi-stressed’.

Very pretty wheels were of magnesium alloy, 13 inches in diameter ‘with wide rims, (4.5 inches at the front and 5.5 inches wide at the rear) were finished in black anodite before machining. The wheels and uprights were Elfin’s design and cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne.

‘Unsprung weight is further reduced by incorporating the wheel bearings directly in the front wheels.’

(G Howard)

 

(Ed Holly)

The photograph below is a very well known one to some of us of a certain age who bought or were given for Christmas 1973 (!) a copy of Bryan Hanrahan’s ‘Motor Racing The Australian Way’- this photo introduced the Elfin chapter. A decade or so later it was published in the ‘Elfin Bible’ Barry Catford and John Blanden’s ‘Australia’s Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’.

(G Howard)

Clustered around the Elfin are Tom Stevens and Norman Gilbert from BP- almost from the start Elfin supporters and sponsors, Cliff Cooper, Garrie Cooper and Murray Lewis ‘with the prototype Elfin FJ ready to leave for an interstate race meeting and motor show’.

The car was first shown at the Melbourne Racing Car Show in August 1961 and then raced for the first time at Warwick Farm that September in the hands of Arnold Glass, then an elite level competitor racing a BRM P48.

Barry Catford wrote that Arnold was in Adelaide to contest events at Mallala’s opening meeting on 18 August 1961 and had plenty of time on his hands to visit the team at Conmurra Road having fatally (for the car) boofed the BRM in practice. The story of that car is told here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/16/bourne-to-ballarat-brm-p48-part-2/

Glass offered to drive the car on its race debut, something Cooper and BP’s Tom Stevens were keen to support.

The team of Garrie and Cliff Cooper, Tom and John Lewis took the car to Melbourne and then on to Sydney for its debut. Garrie drove the car initially and whilst it handled well the softly sprung machine bottomed over The Causeway and Northern and Western crossings (of the horse racing track underneath).

Modifications were made that night but several laps early in the day indicated the cars balance was lost- further changes were made, the cars poise had been regained in official practice when GC again drove.

Glass had no chance to officially practice but sweet talked the officials to allow him to run during one of the other racing car sessions- he was within three-tenths of Leo Geoghegan’s well developed Lotus 18 Ford FJ. The weary crew retired at 3 am on race morning having replaced the gearbox and clutch- which was slipping towards the end of the Glass lappery. All the hard work was rewarded with a second to Leo- not bad for the cars first race.

Keith Rilstone’s Catalina Ford ‘6317’ on its first day out at Mallala in very late 1963, factory records have it’s completion that November (G Patullo)

The prototype car, chassis ’61P1′ was sold to Adelaide businessmen and racers Andy Brown and Granton Harrison who had much success with it. Queenslander Roy Morris did well with his Coventry Climax FWA engined car- as did John McDonald’s 1350cc engined car- neither FJ legal of course.

One of the most commercially astute moves Cooper ever made was the appointment of up and coming- well ok!, he had well and truly arrived by then, Frank Matich as the works driver of three cars which were located at his Punchbowl, Sydney Total Service Station. An 1100cc chassis ‘625’, a 1500cc chassis ‘627’ and a Clubman fitted with another Cosworth engine of 1340cc. In addition Matich was appointed as Elfin’s NSW agent.

An interesting aspect is that in the process of deciding who to give the factory cars to, Matich tested the cars, as did Peter Willamson and David McKay with FM the quicker of the three. Perhaps Cooper’s gut feel as to the driver he wanted was validated by this process. The choices are interesting in that Williason was at the start of his career whereas David McKay was in the twlight’ish of his.

Mel McEwin #16 Elfin Catalina 1500 passes Andy Brown in the Elfin FJ Ford prototype during the ‘GT Harrison Trophy’, support race at the 1963 ATCC meeting. Keith Rilstone won the race in the truly wild Eldred Norman built Zephyr Spl s/c- McEwin was 3rd and Garrie Cooper 4th in another Elfin Cat 1500- I wonder if it was seeing the cars up close at this meeting that made up Keith’s mind to get with the strength and buy one! (B Smith)

Whilst Matich was new to single-seaters, his outright pace in various sportscars- Austin Healey, C and D Type Jags, Lotus 15 and 19 Climax was clear. For Frank the deal was a beauty as he had the opportunity to show his prowess in a new field. Catford wrote that FM’s only open-wheeler experience to that point was a few warm-up laps in Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20B Ford when it first arrived in Australia early in 1962.

Critically, Matich put Elfins front and centre to racers in Australia’s biggest market- New South Wales, with subsequent sales reflecting the success of Matich and others.

Cooper got a longer term benefit as Matich turned to him for his first ‘Big V8’ sportscar, the Elfin 400 Olds aka ‘Traco Olds’ in part based on GC’s design talents which he had experienced first hand in the small-bore machines listed above. Matich in turn proved the pace of the 400, outta the box, in winning the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy in his third meeting with the car at Longford in March 1966.

The red Elfin was the Junior, the 1500 was green up until Frank decided to let the 1500 go, which went to Charlie Smith and the red car went from 1100 to 1500′ Ed Holly

Frank’s first meeting in the FJ cars was at Warwick Farm on 14 October 1962- Matich was fourth in the Hordern Trophy Gold Star event- in amongst and ahead of some of the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engine cars, and despite a one minute penalty for a spin! (tough in those days!).

This was indicative of what was to come a fortnight later in the first Australian Formula Junior Championship held at the new Catalina Park circuit at Katoomba in the NSW Blue Mountains, 100 Km to Sydney’s west.

Frank Matich is shown below in the red Elfin FJ Ford alongside Gavin Youl’s Brabham BT2 Ford and Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 22 Ford. The front row comprised the latest Brabham, Lotus and Elfin FJ’s- Leo’s Lotus was literally just off the plane. On row 2 is Clive Nolan’s 5th placed Lotus 20 Ford.

(B Miller)

Matich won the 30 lap race from Youl and Geoghegan in a weekend of absolute dominance , the win was the first of many Australian titles for Elfin and spawned the ‘Catalina’ name for this series of spaceframe chassis open-wheelers.

Catford notes the presence that weekend of Tony Alcock in the team- well known to Australian enthusiasts as an Elfin long-termer and close confidant of Garrie Cooper before going to the UK and returning to form Birrana Cars with fellow South Australian Malcolm Ramsay. International readers may recall him as one of the poor unfortunates to perish in the plane piloted and crashed by Graham Hill upon return to the UK after a French circuit test of the new Hill GH1 Ford F1 car.

Matich contested eight events hat weekend! in the two Elfins- FJ/Clubman and Lotus 19 winning six of them and placing in the other two.

Development work and evolution of the cars continued throughout their production life including incorporation of Triumph Spitfire disc brakes on the front- with Jack Hunnam fitting alloy racing calipers and discs to all four wheels of his car.

Lyn Archer’s Catalina at the Domain Hillclimb, Hobart in November 1964. Lyn raced the car successfully for a few years, sold it, and bought it back. Upon his death a few years back his family still owns it (R Dalwood)

Other notable drivers of Catalinas were Kevin Bartlett in the McGuire Family Imp engine car, Jack Hunnam, the Victorian Elfin agent won 12 races from 18 starts in his supposedly 165bhp 1500cc pushrod Ford engine disc braked car ‘6312’, before selling it to Tasmanian Lyn Archer. He won the 1966 Tasmanian Racing Car Championship in it and was timed at 150mph on Longford’s Flying Mile in 1965. Greg Cusack was quick in the car owned by Scuderia Veloce, winning the 1964 Australian Formula 2 Championship from David Walker’s Brabham and Hunnam’s Catalina. Other Catalina racers included Barry Lake, Keith Rilstone and Noel Hurd.

Perhaps the most unusual application of a Catalina was chassis ‘6313’ which was acquired by Dunlop UK for tyre testing to assist the Donald Campbell, Bluebird CN7 Proteus attempt on the World Land Speed Record at South Australia’s Lake Eyre in 1963 and 1964.

That effort is in part covered here but a feature on the Elfin Catalina aspects of it is coming soon- all but finished, https://primotipo.com/2014/07/16/50-years-ago-today-17-july-1964-donald-campbell-broke-the-world-land-speed-record-in-bluebird-at-lake-eyre-south-australia-a-speed-of-403-10-mph/

‘6313’ Ford on the Lake Eyre salt- steel wheels fitted with Bluebird Dunlops in miniature (F Radman)

 

This corker of a shot is by Gavin Fry- were it not for the presence of the Elfin Catalina on the trailer (who?) it could be an Australian summer beach scene, but it is an early Calder meeting (when?) (G Fry)

The Elfin Mallala was a very important car in the pantheon of Elfin’s history.

The twenty cars built provided solid cashflow for the Cooper family business, off the back of the solid start the Streamliner provided, the company now had a reputation for making fine single-seaters in addition to sporties.

Importantly Cooper had attracted some of the biggest names in Australia to his marque- Matich and McKay to name two. The Catalina ‘hardware’ also spawned a small run of mid-engined sportscars- the Mallala, of which five were built from late 1962 to early 1964.

Ray Strong, Elfin Mallala Ford, Huntley Hillclimb in December 1968. This design, derived from the Catalina, is one of the prettiest of all Elfins in my book- effective too (B Simpson)

Perhaps the only thing which suffered by virtue of this commercial success, albeit still limited capital base, was Cooper’s own driving career as he had neither the time or the spare cash to build a car for himself!

That would be remedied by the ‘Mono’ Type 100, his ‘radical’ single-seater which followed the conservative Catalina- and in which GC was very quick.

The Mono is a story for another time but is told in part here; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/18/clisby-douglas-spl-and-clisby-f1-1-5-litre-v6/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/22/elfin-mono-clisby-mallala-april-1965/

Garrie Cooper in Elfin Mono Mk2D Ford Twin-Cam ‘MD6755’ at Symmons Plains in 1967 (J Lambert)

The Owner/Driver’s Experience…

Ed Holly gives us the Catalina owner/drivers perspective…

‘The works 1500 or WR375 was the first of 2 Elfin “Catalina’s”  that Frank Matich drove.

I bought chassis ‘625’ from Adam Berryman who had quite some success with it before me. As this was the first ever single-seater for me I had no benchmark to compare with, having raced MGA’s for about 7 years previously. It went on to give me success too including the Jack Brabham Trophy put up once a year by the HSRCA for Group M 1st place at their main meeting at Eastern Creek.

For me the transition to single seater was made very easy by this car and looking back there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly in 2000 you could get very good Japanese Dunlops – a beautiful tyre and the car was shod with 450 front and 550 rear. This gave a very neutral feel to the car with the set-up fettled by Dave Mawer for me at that time.

The power was a great match to the chassis. As the engine only had a standard crank I revved it to 6,800 but the torque was tremendous, no doubt the 12.7 comp ratio had a lot to do with that. The gear-change and box were perfect, it had a VW C/R box and standard H pattern.

Race start would invariably see the car launch through the row in front, usually twin-cam Brabhams as they struggled with the dogleg gear-change from 1st to 2nd, the Elfin was a straight through change and very quick, and the engine torque allowed wheel-spin to be kept to a minimum and the power band came in at least 1500 rpm less meaning you were well on your way whilst they were still waiting for the torque to kick in.

Handling wise the car was viceless, the perfect first single seater – in fact I set a Group M class lap record at Eastern Creek with it at 1:45 and it took me about 5 years in my Group M Brabham BT6 (twin-cam 40 more bhp, 5 not 4 speeds and discs all round) to better that. Mind you the tyres as mentioned above were far inferior by the time the  Brabham arrived and in fact I re-set the lap record on 10 year old Japanese Dunlops – the brand new flown in English ones being about 3 seconds slower that same weekend.’

Matich in ‘625’ gets the jump at the start from Leo Geoghegan and the nose of Frank Gardner at the 1963 Blue Mountains Trophy race at Catalina Park- Catalina/WR375, Lotus 22 Ford and Brabham BT2 Ford- all 1500 pushrods. Matich won from Gardner and Geoghegan (J Ellacott)

‘Years later having driven Elfin, Lotus 20, Brabham BT15, BT6, BT21C and BT21 replica – I guess I was in a position to make a judgement about the Elfin.

In my opinion Garrie got it perfect for the time. Loosely based on the Lotus 18 concept, it is a hugely superior car to the Lotus 20 that succeeded the 18.

I spoke at length with Frank Matich about the design and we both agreed that on paper it didn’t look all that wonderful, BUT, it was – the results Frank achieved with it were sensational, often beating the Climax 2.5 powered Coopers.

I’ve never driven a Elfin with 1100cc- but Frank did and with a Junior 1100 he knocked off Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 20 1500 at Sandown. To me that shows that the Elfin was just a little ahead of the competition in that wonderful early 1960’s period. And that is my observation too.

Finally the big race- 20 laps at Catalina for the Formula Junior Championship 1962 where the Elfin was up against the brand new Lotus 22 of Leo Geoghegan’s and the just arrived from UK Brabham BT2 works car driven by Gavin Youl – and other FJ’s – the Elfin and Matich beat them all even after running out of fuel on the last corner!’

(S Dalton)

Events like Melbourne’s ‘Motorclassica’ are fantastic shows of classic and racing cars but they are celebrations of the past.

Its amazing to think that in the sixties, whilst the old stuff had its place, a significant part of a competition car show comprised exhibitions of contemporary, and in many cases Australian made racing cars.

Stephen Dalton provided the cover of the magazine for the 1964 ‘Melbourne Racing Car Show’ put together by Melbourne businessman/racers Lex Davison, the Leech Brothers and several others.

The event was held at the Royal Exhibition Building over three days, 13-15 August 1964, and is somewhat poignant in that it’s purpose was to assist Rocky Tresise’ girlfriend Robyn Atherton raise funds in the Miss Mercy Hospital Quest. Many of you are aware that ‘Ecurie Australie’ founder, Lex and his protege, Rocky, died six months later- Lex of a heart attack at the wheel of his Brabham at Sandown, and Rocky a week later at Longford in Lex’ older Cooper.

Stephen notes that cars displayed included MG, Aston Martin, Lotus, Ferrari, Cooper and many others. Elfin were represented by local agent, Jack Hunnam whose new Mono was on display only several days prior to its race debut at Calder.

Etcetera…

The following is a nice little human interest story ran in ‘Pix’ magazine about Garrie Cooper and Elfin in 1963- courtesy of the Elfin Sixties Sportscars Facebook page.

I’ve included it as it’s very much ‘on point’- Cooper, Catalina, Clubman and Matich.

 

 

 

(Ed Holly)

Charlie Smith in the ex-Matich Catalina at Mount Panorama in 1963, he drove the car well with success. Don’t know much about this guy, had a drive or two in the Mildren Lotus 23 Ford, intrigued to know more.

(S Dalton)

Andy brown loops his Catalina as fellow South Australian John Marston approaches aboard his- Shell Corner at Calder on 20 January 1963. Andy went on to own one of the most famous Elfins of all a few years later, the ‘F1’ Elfin T100 ‘Mono’ Clisby 1.5 V6.

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

 

The photographs above are the balance of the pages of the Elfin Catalina sales brochure produced for use at motor shows not shown earlier in the article.

Credits and References …

oldracephotos.com.au, Ed Holly Collection, ‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ Barry Catford and John Blanden, Fred Radman, Grant Patullo, John Ellacott, Dick Simpson, James Lambert Collection, Brenton Smith Collection, Brian Miller Collection, Reg Dalwood, Article by Bruce Polain in ‘Australian Motor Sports’

(Ed Holly)

One Man’s Hobby. Or is that Obsession?!…

When Ed Holly and I first communicated about this article he sent thru a few pics of some engines he had built. I thought ‘gees! that’s interesting and amazing!’, so here they are.

Ed advises on how his engine building career commenced.

‘Having had a lathe for many years, when I added a mill to the workshop I wanted to learn how best to use it.

As I didn’t have a restoration project at the time, the lightbulb in the head said build a model engine – I flew models as a kid and loved the diesels back then as you didn’t need to buy a battery to start them!

So I searched the web and selected a BollAero18 and set about making one, a 1.8cc simple diesel. Well it took a while to interpret the plans having no technical background requiring that. I steadily worked through the components and the big day came and blow me down it ran !

That sort of started a bit of an obsession till the next project arrived.

(Ed Holly)

 

Now 16 model diesels later I have certainly learnt how to use a mill- more than half the engines are to my design and the English ‘AeroModeller’ January issue published plans and a review of one designed for first up builds. I called it the Holly Buddy.

Plans and build for this engine can be found at https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/jFvcCZYMxgU5nKmqFz21YC

For those into specifics – the aim is one or two tenths of a thou taper in the bore and a squeaky tight piston fit at tdc – that’s the ultimate fit for a diesel. The photo’s show an inline twin before and after assembly.’

So…set to it folks, you too can be a race engine builder!

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

Tailpiece: Elfin 275WR Ford 1100 FJ…

Simply superb cutaway drawing of the Catalina by Peter Wlkinson. Very few Australian racing cars have been so ‘dissected’ in this manner over the years which is a shame.

Mr Wilkinson’s work, I know little about the man, compares very favourably with his peers in England and Europe at the time. Ed kindly sent me this cutaway at high resolution- ‘blow it up’, you can literally see the Elfin’s pixie like face on the wheel caps!

Car specification is as per the text.

Finito…

(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…

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Garrie 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… 

He contested our Van Heusen Australian F2 Championship. Sonny raced all of the eight round championship with the exception of the first race at Hume Weir for a best place of third at Symmons Plains.

He used the same March chassis albeit fitted with a later nose- the ex-Ronnie Petersen 1971 European F2 Championship winning 712M, he drove to 4th place in Singapore, the misfiring March finished 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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(AOS)

Kevin Bartlett and Graeme Lawrence (above) 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.

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(AOS)

Bartlett (above) 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.

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(AOS)

Muir (above) 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 1972 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

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(AOS)

Garrie Cooper (above) in his brand new Elfin at the Circus Hairpin, Singapore GP 1968.

Great looking cars the Elfin 600’s, the only marginal change to the body over its production life of 1968 to 1972, which made the things even sweeter was a ‘wedgier’ element or shape to the radiator cowl, you can see it in the shot earlier of Cooper’s 600D Repco at Oran Park up earlier in the article

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 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 (FF/F2/F3) were evolutions of the 600 spaceframe design and also sold well. By then the level of local competition had increased with the likes of Bowin and Birrana building cars in number and as well the propensity of locals to buy imports increased especially in F2.

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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, 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…

cooper-nose

(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 the ‘definitive spec’ MR5’s- in detail they evolved over the following seasons, the treatment was also applied to 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 radiators on his MR5 when he was assessing the body shape and profiles to be fitted to his 1976 MR8 F5000- those too a very successful series of, this time, Chevrolet engined cars.

cooper-mr5

(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?

leo-nose

(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)

Finito…

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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

Finito…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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)

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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)

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‘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.

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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!

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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

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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

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Retirement in the US…

Photo Credits…

Autopix, Alfa Bulletin Board, Pinterest, Conceptcarz.com

Finito…