Posts Tagged ‘Jim McElreath’

Jack Brabham put the cat amongst the Indy pigeons in 1961 together with John Cooper. Their Cooper T54 Climax FPF 2.7 blew the minds of the establishment. They were stunned by the speed of the itty-bitty, mid-engined roller-skate despite giving away 1.5-litres to the bulky Offy engined roadsters – which hung onto The Milk until 1965 of course.

Brabham returned in 1964 with Ron Tauranac’s BT11 derived, spaceframe BT12 powered this time by an injected 4.2-litre Offenhauser twin-cam, two-valve four. The pacey package also featured a robust Colotti Francis T37 transaxle.

BT12-1 in build at Motor Racing Developments, Weybridge, Surrey circa April 1964. Long-stroke, 4128cc, 420bhp @ 6600rpm Offy sits tall in the frame, Colotti-Francis GSD transaxle and inverted lower wishbone, single top link, two radius rods and coil spring/shocks, rear discs, knock on hubs and beefy driveshafts all clear (MotorSport)
Spaceframe chassis, upper and lower wishbone/coil spring-shock and roll bar suspension. Note the bungee’d in place oil tank and top-of-chassis little fuel tank. Note too the main tanks offset to keep the bulk to the inside. About 59 gallons of fuel when full (MotorSport)
Indy 1964 (MotorSport)

Jack didn’t qualify well with a multitude of problems, not least spring/shocks which were way too soft (as specified by car owner John Zinc), and time, pulled as he was by his GP commitments to straddle both sides of the Atlantic.

Famously wary at the start of that race – having been warned about how dangerous the Mickey Thompson built Thompson Ford was by Masten Gregory, who didn’t qualify his – Brabham picked up a small fracture in one of those ginormous aluminium fuel tanks in the horrific lap two accident caused by Dave MacDonald losing control of his Thompson Ford in the middle of the field. MacDonald, very much a man of the future, and the much-loved Eddie Sachs, Halibrand Ford, perished in the horrific conflagration. Brabham was out after 77 laps, the race was won by AJ Foyt’s Watson Offy from the similar front-engined roadsters of Rodger Ward and Lloyd Ruby.

Jim McElreath on the way to victory in the Trenton 500 during 1965, Brabham BT12 Offy. Note in the other Trenton shot below the symmetrical fuel tank setup compared with Jack’s at Indy the year before (DJ Teece)

When Jack returned to Europe, the John Zinc owned car was raced with plenty of speed by Jim McElreath, and a few decent hits too. The final shunt at Indy was a biggie, it wasn’t worth repairing the mild steel tube frame, in part because it would not have been legal under USAC’s 1965 rules.

Clint Brawner therefore built two chrome-moly steel tube copies of the BT12 late in 1964, one for Zinc/McElreath, and one for his – Al Dean sponsored – outfit to be driven by a talented young rookie named Mario Andretti.

A very young and happy Mario Andretti at Indianapolis in 1965 aboard the Brabham BT12 Ford aka Hawk 1 65 Ford. Apart from the Ford V8 installation note the changes to the bodywork which were thought later to provide some ground effect. This car was a rocket in 1965-66 despite the presence of plenty of Lotus 34 and 38 machines (unattributed)
The Dean Van Lines/Brawner outfit called their Brabham BT12 Ford a Brabham for a while, as proved above. They then named it a Hawk, and later a Brawner Hawk, not unreasonable given the evolution of the body and modifications to fit the Ford Indy V8
Andretti during practice at Indy in 1966. Still aboard his favourite BT12/ Hawk 1 65 Ford. He raced with #1, popped the car on pole, choosing to race it rather than the Lotus 38 he also had at his disposal (Dave Friedman/MotorSport)

Andretti loved the ‘Hawk Ford’ (chassis Hawk 1 65), winning the USAC Championship in it in 1965-66. In ‘65, McElreath was one of his closest competitors in the Zinc Brabham Offy, finishing third. The following year he went one better and placed second to the future 1978 F1 World Champ, this time Ford Indy V8 powered.

Another two BT12 copies were built for Jim Hayhoe’s outfit, with drawings provided, perhaps, via Jack Brabham in 1968.

One of these Offy powered BT12s, with suitably updated body by Jud Phillips, finished fifth in the 1971 Indy 500 as the catchily named Sugaripe Prune Spl with Billy Vukovich at the wheel. In a strong year for the seven year old design, and three year old chassis, Vukovich was third in the USAC points table. His haul included two third placings at Milwaukee and Phoenix, and a staggering second to Mark Donohue’s state-of-the-art Penske McLaren M16A Offy at Michigan.

Bill Vukovich, Brabham BT12 Offy t/c at Indy in 1971, looking slightly different! to Jack’s BT12 Offy seven years before. I dare say the suspension geometry copped a tickle to accommodate the advance of tyre technology over that period (IMS)
(unattributed)
Rick Muther in the ex-Andretti BT12/Hawk 1 65 chassis, now fitted with an Offy turbo at Indy in 1970. Q15 and eighth, race won by Al Unser, Colt 70 Ford
Shit shot of a Fugly Cup contender. Rick Muther in the ex-Andretti Hawk 1 65 Offy t/c before the 1971 Indy 500 (unattributed)
Muther, hanging onto his helmet while travelling sideways along Indy’s front chute at well over 120mph – no he didn’t go over. Chassis a tad second hand after this lot, Indy 1971

Equally amazing was that Andretti’s old nail – the Hawk 1 65 – that he raced so successfully in 1965-66, by then owned by Jack Adams, also started the 1970 and that ’71 500 with Rick Muther the driver.

The Offy powered, Arkansas Aviation entered car was involved in a spectacular accident with David Hobbs’ Penske Lola after completing 85 laps of the race won by Al Unser’s Colt 71 Ford. Hobbs engine blew, then Muther, immediately behind him swerved in avoidance, pegged the inside wall, then veered right into Hobbs’ path and the outside wall, taking both of them out in a lucky escape.

Who said that spaceframes were old hat by the end of 1962!?

Spaceframe BT12 out front of MRD. Note the Halibrand wheels (MotorSport)

Credits…

The MotorSport Images shots at MRD were taken by David Phipps, DJ Teece, Indy Motor Speedway, Bill Daniels Collectibles

As always, thanks to Allen Brown’s mind-blowing OldRacingCars.com – racing car history results and database website. I simply cannot get the level of historic accuracy – facts – into some of these articles without his one-of-a-kind website. Click on this link to Allen’s main Indy page Indy 500 and USAC racing 1971-1978 « OldRacingCars.com then you can scroll for yourself through far more details about the BT12 cars; Brabham, Hawk and Hayhoe

Tailpiece…

Brabham ready to boogie aboard the Zinc Trackburner Special on raceday at Indianapolis in 1964.

Such an influential car the BT12, an unsung, or at least an under-recognised Brabham in some ways.

Finito…