Posts Tagged ‘John Harvey’

Holden LJ Torana ad-shoot at Sandown Park circa 1972…

The Tommy Torana is of no interest other than that GMH are promoting a mid-spec Torana-Six rather than the huffin’ and puffin’ 202 GTR-XU1, surely one of Australia’s finest all-round touring-car racers on tarmac and dirt?

Two of Bob Jane’s cars form the backdrop- the Tasman Formula Brabham BT36 Waggott 2 litre and McLaren M6B Repco 5 litre ‘740’ V8 sports-racer. John Harvey raced the Brabham and both Harves and Jano shared the one of a kind, Repco powered McLaren- albeit it was with John at the wheel that the car won the 1971 and 1972 Australian Sportscar Championships.

John Harvey, McLaren M6B Repco, Warwick Farm Esses 1972 (oldracephotos)

Both cars are superb jiggers and still extant, the McLaren still in Australia and owned by Bob (ongoing family litigation duly noted). Jane’s taste in racing cars down the decades has been flawless, his machines included but are far from limited to a Maserati 300S, Jag XKD, Jag E Lwt, Elfin Type 100 ‘Mono’ Ford, Brabham BT11A Climax, Elfin 400 Repco, Brabham BT23E Repco, the Rennmax built Jane Repco, Bowin P8 Repco, Ralt RT4 Ford plus twenty or so touring cars/sports sedans the most mouth watering of which were the Shelby built Ford Mustang, John Sheppard built Holden Torana GTR-XU1 Repco and Holden Monaro GTS350 and Pat Purcell constructed Chevy Monza. Lets not forget the Porsche 956 tho it was a lease deal not a car he owned. I’ve lost touch with exactly which cars he retains but I think the scorecard includes the Brabham BT11A, Ralt RT4, McLaren, Monaro and a 635 CSI BMW rings a bell- be great to hear from those who know.

Many other fellas raced these cars other than Jane- the uber successful businessman put way more into racing than he ever extracted- the tabloid family stoushes of recent decades are a sad final chapter in a great mans life.

Sandown old-timers know this bit of real estate rather well. The racers are facing the wrong way in the pitlane, the models are standing more or less on the spot, depending upon your car, that brakes and a downshift or two into second gear would be considered for the ‘Peters’ or ‘Torana’ (depending upon your era) left-hander and then the blast up the back straight.

Harvey again, Brabham BT36 Waggott, into the WF Esses 1972 Tasman round (unattributed)

Etcetera: Bob Jane Racing brochure circa 1971 from Murray Thomas’ Collection…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credits…

Greg Feltham Collection, Murray Thomas Collection

Tailpiece…

 

 

 

 

 

‘When You’re Hot- You’re Hot’ absolutely captured the performance variants of the Torana at the time- the GTR ‘poverty pack’ and ‘ducks-guts’ GTR-XU1. But, at fourteen years old at the time, overall I thought ‘Going Ford Was The Going Thing’! Fords ‘Total Performance’ approach to motor racing globally was intoxicating for a teenaged racing nut- this one anyway!

Finito…

(oldracephotos/King)

Bob Jane, Elfin 400 Repco, during the Longford Tasman round in 1967. Sweet Repco V8 music @ 7000 rpm flat out in fifth gear…

Idle moments in front of the Teev provide a male multi-tasking opportunity, looking for ‘that shot’ which inspires an article. Breathing, lookin’ at the telly and searching for photographic inspiration simultaneously- three things at once, my girlfriend can scarcely believe it.

There are some cars which are more prolific in terms of the number of photos in circulation though, usually for the same reasons. That is, they are sensational to look at, were race winners and in Australia raced nationally over a number of years and therefore every ‘snapper in the country, both professional and amateur has had a crack at them- and, kindly, circulated said photos on that internet thingy for us all to enjoy!

So…

In the decade from 1960 to 1970’ish there are several cars which are prevalent as defined above- Pete Geoghegan’s second Mustang, Allan Moffat’s Mustang Trans Am, Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco, Frank Gardner/Kevin Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’, Frank Matich Matich SR3’s and Bob’s Elfin 400.

Delivery of the new 400 to the Bob Jane team, Elfins Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown factory, Adelaide in late 1966. The factory was not flash but the sense of history and those who had been there before was palpable when I inspected my humble Crusader Elfin Vee mid-build in the early nineties. From a modest place did some amazing cars originate (B Mills)

I’ve already done the Elfin 400 to death really…

But there are just too many wonderful photos of Bob’s car not to do this article which I originally intended to be pictorial.

One long previous article was specifically about Frank Matich’s Elfin 400 Olds aka the Traco Olds, the first completed. That piece also covered at somewhat laborious length the design and development of the car, here ‘tis;

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

The other was another lengthy tome, mainly about Hume Weir circuit but it also included a piece within it on Bob’s car, the third 400 built, click here;

https://primotipo.com/2016/05/06/hume-weir/

Bob Jane in one of his first runs, the first race meeting?, Warwick Farm Tasman round in 1967. Top gun that weekend Niel Allen in his Elfin 400 Chev (J Ellacott)

Elfin 400 Repco ‘BB67-3’ was raced by some mighty fine drivers whilst owned by Bob, here is the man himself during the Warwick Farm Tasman round in February 1967…

Jane raced it, so too did 1966/7 Australian Gold Star Champion Spencer Martin. Lets not forget Melbourne up and comer Ian Cook had some drives in 1968, he sadly lost his life at Sandown in 1973 in an ex-Bob Jane Racing machine too. And another young charger, Bevan Gibson took the wheel in 1969, and soon lost his life in it at Bathurst during the 1969 Easter Meeting.

What changed the direction of the article was re-discovery of my copy of ‘Gentleman John Harvey’, the biography on Harves which has some great first-hand material about Bevan by both Bob Jane and John Harvey. I couldn’t find the book when I wrote the Matich Elfin 400 piece, which would have been the right place for its contents, but given the limited print run of Tony McGirr’s book I thought getting these perspectives out there and more readily accessible worthwhile.

In researching Ian Cook i made contact with Grant Twining who owns the Devione Ford, a car raced by Ian. Grant was able to provide some much needed detail to flesh out his story- many thanks to him.

This 400 is significant in Repco Brabham Engines history too as it was fitted with the first customer, as against works engines provided to Jack Brabham. It was a 4.4 litre ‘RB620 Series’ V8.

Ken Hastings aboard the rebuilt ‘BB67-3’ at Sandown on the fast left drop to Dandenong Road circa 1970. Note the change to the bodywork at front and addition of a rear wing. Unguarded horse racing fencing an ever present danger back then. It’s practice by the look, the Pat Crea VW Beetle and ‘Chocolates’ David Robertson Ford Capri V8 sports sedans in the distance (L Hemer)

After the Gibson Bathurst tragedy the car was acquired by Melbourne racer Ken Hastings who rebuilt it. The car passed through several hands over the years before being bought by Elfin enthusiast/racer Bill Hemming, well known to Australians for the Elfin Heritage Centre which houses his collection of cars including ‘BB67-3′.

http://www.elfinheritage.com.au/

The car was rebuilt around a new chassis some years back albeit the very much shagged original frame remains ‘part of the package’- that is the CAMS ‘Certificate Of Description’ recognises the existence of the second chassis precluding the possibility of a ‘B Car’ being built. A neat solution I thought- history and safety are recognised.

Bob Jane leads Spencer Martin and the Elfin 400 Repco at Hume Weir, Queens Birthday meeting in June 1967. John Sawyer in the blue shirt behind, blue car is ex-Jones/Phillips et al Cooper Jaguar  (M Leirsch)

Elfin 400 Technical Specifications…

Lets cover the cars technical specs in brief as it’s covered in detail in the first of the articles referenced above.

The 400 was the third series of sports cars Garrie Cooper and his band of merry men in Edwardstown built. The first were the front engined ‘Streamliners’, the very first Elfins, then came the Clubman and later the mid-engined small-bore Mallala.

The 400 Series sporties were the first ‘big bangers’ he had built, a trip to the UK before he progressed the design too far got him up to speed with what was happening in Europe. The Group 5 Ford GT40 and Group 7 Lola T70, McLaren Elvas and Chaparral’s were the standout cars at the time for different reasons.

Rare colour shot of the Jane 400 in the paddock, date uncertain. Suspension as per text, note the wide based upper wishbone, magnesium uprights and solid Girling brake rotors. See the shot below, car now has a more substantial, but unbraced roll bar (S Lambert)

Whilst Garrie was building his first monocoque chassis car, the single-seater F3/F2/ANF 1.5 Type 100 very successful ‘Mono’ he decided an appropriately stressed multi-tubular spaceframe chassis would do the trick for the sportscar. After all, Ferrari were still winning plenty of races so equipped and the Australian market was conservative, a spaceframe was easier to maintain and to repair ‘in the field’ than a monocoque. Such a design could accommodate different engines he knew customers would want to fit to the cars. The frame was of square, round and oval section tubes, the aluminium undertray was stressed as were subsidiary bulkhead panels

Four chassis were built- first completed was the Matich ‘BB66-2’ which used a Traco Olds V8, then came the Globe Engineering ‘BB66-1’ a pushrod and later DOHC small-block Ford powered car,  Jane’s ‘BB67-3’ received a Repco ‘RBE620’ 4.4 litre V8 and ‘BB67-4’, originally owned by Andy Buchanan a big block Chev.

Bolted to these engines were various Hewland transaxles; HD4 for the Matich car LG500 for the Globe and Buchanan cars and DG300 for Jane’s.

Superb early 1967 shot of the Jane car. Engine is the first customer Repco engine delivered. Repco ‘RB620 Series’ 4.4 litre SOHC, 2 valve, Lucas injected V8, circa 400 bhp @ 7000 rpm. ‘620’ is the Olds F85 modified block and first series crossflow heads- this design was the 1966 F1 championship winning design in 3 litres capacity. Note the tubes to the chassis, oil dry sump to the right. Fuel tank capacity 28 gallons- with the option of more. Array of Smiths and Stewart Warner instruments, see chassis plate on dash left and vestigial roll bar- soon altered to a higher and full width hoop albeit unbraced. Simply superb bit of kit (S Lambert)

Suspension was period typical. At the front by upper and lower wishbones with coil spring/Armstrong shocks. Uprights were cast magnesium, adjustable roll bars were fitted with rack and pinion steering.

At the rear, beautiful cast magnesium uprights were used, inverted lower wishbone, single top link and two radius rods, again with coil springs and Armstrong shocks. Roll bars were again adjustable.

Wheels, cast magnesium Elfin jobbies, were 15 inches diameter, 10 inches wide at the front and 12 inches at the back. Owners progressively increased the amount of rubber on the road appreciably over the coming years in accordance with the incredible advances in tyre technology at the time.

Brakes were Girling alloy ‘BR’ calipers with the rotors 12 inches  in diameter at the front and 11 inches at the rear. The bodywork was designed in house, as you will see in the various articles the ‘aero’ of the car was far from ‘fully resolved’ when completed.

Bob Jane aboard his 400 in 1968 (T Parkinson)

And they say Enzo Ferrari kept his drivers on their toes! So too it seems did RF Jane…

It was only in gathering the photos of the 400 that I realised how many fellas drove the 400 in a short period of time.

Bobs race team plans were changed suddenly when Spencer Martin decided to retire having won the second of his Gold Stars with Bob in 1967- they won two on the trot in 1966-7 using Bob’s Brabham BT11A Coventry Climax.

Spencer Martin had this to say about the 400 ‘What caused the accident (to Gibson) was an aerodynamic design fault with the car. I had driven the car in ’67. It was the quickest thing around at that stage. It had a 4.4 litre Repco V8 in it, and was very, very quick. But the aerodynamics on the car were not right. Unfortunately, Bevan paid for it with his life.’

Martin then commented about seeing the sportscars on circuit at Longford in 1967 when Bob Jane raced the 400. Spencer ran the Brabham BT11A and was therefore on hand to watch the sportscars practice.

Noel Hurd in the Globe Products owned Elfin 400 Ford became airborne at high speed during practice, mowing down a row of fence posts after spinning several times but leaving the driver unhurt. ‘It was an Elfin 400, and I saw them coming down the long straight at Longford, in Tasmania. I wasn’t at all happy with the aerodynamics of the car. Looking back I think I was very fortunate. If I hadn’t retired I would probably have been in that car’ (at Bathurst Easter 1969)

Whilst testing the Elfin at Calder early in 1967 Martin was circulating in 44.2 secs, nearly a second under Niel Allen’s lap record in his 400.

Shell boys at Warwick Farm in 1966: Jane, Kiwi Jim Palmer, Harvey and Jackie Stewart- quite an array of talent, champions all (WF)

John Harvey had shown what he was made of in the RRC Phillips owned Brabham BT14 Repco- so Bob hired Harvey, (born 1938) bought the BT14 and popped the Repco engine from it into the back of the BT11A and off they went to contest the ’68 Tasman Australian rounds.

The logic was that the F2 BT14 chassis wasn’t man enough for the Repco, whereas the older ‘Intercontinental’ BT11A was. Harvey did the Hordern Trophy late ’67 in the car, Climax engined before the Repco for Coventry Climax engine swap was performed. Harvey’s ‘compare and contrast’ of engines in that chassis would be interesting. As Australians know Harves was Bobs ‘main man’, his contracted driver from then right through until Frank Gardner returned to Australia in 1974- joining Jane for 1975.

John Harvey on Warwick Farm’s pit straight during the 1968 Warwick Farm 100 meeting. DNF gearbox in Janes BT11A ‘IC-4-64’ Repco. Clark won in a Lotus 49 DFW. The Brabham was and is a famous car- first owned by David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce and raced in the ’64 Tasman successfully by Graham Hill it was then raced by Martin to two Gold Star wins. Still owned by Jane and restored to CC engined form (autopics.com.au)

Early in his time with Bob John had a bad accident at Easter Bathurst 1968 when an upright in the near new Brabham BT23E broke hospitalizing him for some while with a recuperation period even longer. His first meeting post accident was at Warwick Farm later in 1968. It was a meeting John was glad to get behind him as his eyesight, fine early in the day, had a bit of double-vision later as the day wore on.

Naturally on Jane’s part, if not Harvey’s, there may have been a question about him racing again after an accident Jane said could have been fatal. He needed another driver until Harves was fit.

Jane in the Longford pits in 1967, nice rear view of the 400 Repco (E French)

Ignoring the touring cars/sports sedans to focus on the cars which matter, Harvey raced the BT11A, then the ex-Brabham ’68 2.5 Tasman BT23E Repco, the Rennmax built Jane Repco 2.5, Brabham BT36 Waggott 2 litre and finally the Bowin P8 Repco Holden F5000. He raced the McLaren M6B Repco sportscar from 1969, with Bob. He drove the Elfin 400 only once and had this to say about it.

Bob drives and Harves carries the booty. McLaren M6B Repco, they have just won the final round of the 1972 Australian Sportscar Championship at Symmons Plains on 12 November- Harvey won 5 of the 6 rounds that year. Sex on wheels (oldracephotos.com)

‘I drove that Elfin only once and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all. It was the sort of car that probably I could have been persevered with, and make it work properly. Or, at least to suit me. Maybe other drivers, including Bevan, were quite happy with it. But I certainly wasn’t. And that was the result of only driving it one time. I didn’t like it so I never drove it again’.

So, the 400 seems to be the car which Jane, who also raced it a lot, shared around a bit.

Ian Cook, Elfin Mono Ford, Calder 1967 (autopics.com.au)

 Ian Cook was a Melbourne boy (born 1941) who made a name for himself in single-seaters winning the Victorian Lucas Davison Series in 1.5 litre Elfin Monos in 1966 and 1967…

He drove an ex-Granton Harrison Mk1 in ’66 and in Garrie Cooper’s prototype Mk2 in 1967. This chassis was the car which Alf Costanzo drove the wheels off and shot to prominence after sold to him by Cook.

Ian, in addition to his Elfin raced Melbourne car owner Tony Osborne’s Argo Chev sportscar in 1967, no doubt his skill behind the wheel of this Cooper derived sporty, a far less sophisticated machine than the 400, was instrumental in him joining the Jane organisation in late 1967.

Ian Cook, Elfin 400 Repco on the Longford dummy grid in 1968. Car now has seat belts. Notice the different injection trumpets on the engine from the earliest 1967 shots

His first drive of the Elfin 400 was at Calder in January 1968, taking 2 wins. The Jane team then took the car to the Bathurst Easter meeting in 1968, together with the BT23E crashed by Harvey in practice.

Bob and Ian were both down to drive the 400 but must have had problems with it in practice as it failed to start any of the events, certainly Cook drove it in practice. Or perhaps John’s serious accident was enough to ‘up sticks’ for the weekend. Their experiences in the 400 that weekend would have been interesting given the sad events which were to transpire 12 months hence.

(R MacKenzie)

Grant Twining reports that Ian Cook was the quickest of all the Elfin 400 drivers who raced the cars at Longford- Matich (noting the advance in tyres between 1966 and 1968) Jane and Noel Hurd. The photo above is of the front row of the ’68 Longford Tasman sportscar support race- #5 Peter Macrow in the Argo Chev vacated by Cook, Ian in the 400 and Chris Amon on pole in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/CanAm 350. Amon took the win, am keen to know the placings.

Four months later Jane won the Victorian Sportscar title at Winton in the 400 after Niel Allen retired his Elfin 400 Chev with a split gearbox housing.

After the Tasman BT23E was repaired Cook raced the car at the Lakeside, Gold Star round in July for 4th place. He doesn’t appear to have had another steer of the car, which is unfortunate.

Allan Moffat then raced the BT23E at the Sandown Gold Star round, bending it. More of that shortly.

The first race after repair of the BT23E was in John Harvey’s hands, at Warwick Farm in a support race late in 1968. His first championship steer was at the Sandown Tasman round in February 1969. John had engine dramas and failed to finish the race won by Chris Amon’s Ferrari Dino 246T. Amon also took the Tasman title that year.

Cook aboard the 400 at Hume Weir in 1968 (unattributed)

Ian Cook and Footscray Service Station proprietor, racer, ace machinist and later Brabham expert Denis Lupton were old friends.

Lupton ‘spannered’ Cook’s two Elfin Monos with great success. When the Jane drive came to an end they were keen to buy a Brabham BT23 to run in ANF2 but could not afford to do so. So the pair built the ‘Devione’, a car which took the BT23 track and wheelbase dimensions but was otherwise Lupton’s own design and build.

Ian was a skilled sheet-metal fabricator, between the two mates they had all the skills and experience to build a beautiful car. The spaceframe chassis used F2 Matra MS5 front and rear cast magnesium uprights. A Lotus/Ford twin-cam engine and Hewland 5 speed transaxle completed the cars major specifications.

The car was raced by both men, Cook doing the more ‘senior events’ inclusive of some Gold Star rounds whilst Lupton did club events. The car was built and then raced in the 1968-72 period.

Around 1970 Cook, a talented development engineer moved to Adelaide to join Chrysler, to assist Leo Geoghegan with the road and race development of the Valiant ‘VF’ Pacer, a four door sedan which was proposed to contest the showroom stock, ‘Group E Series Production’ racing which was booming at the time.

Cook was involved in establishing the Pacers road going specification, ensuring a nice balance of engine and braking performance and sorting ride heights, shock absorber settings and roll bars to get the right blend of handling, safety and performance. The first test of these cars was at Sandown in June 1969 during a 12 Hour record setting day.

Niel Allen’s Chev engine 400 ahead of Cook in Jane’s Repco engine variant during the 1968 Warwick Farm Tasman round. They are attacking The Esses. Results folks? Note the different noses on the cars (oldracephotos.com)

Into 1969 the Elfin 400 drive was Bevan Gibson’s, with John Harvey racing the Brabham BT23E and McLaren M6B, the latter with Bob.

Janes Brabham BT36 (BT30-27 was a late build BT30 to BT36 specifications) was raced only sporadically by John Harvey. 2 litre Waggott powered, it was a jewel of a machine but arrived in amongst the F5000’s and too late for the 1971 Gold Star series in which he could have given Max Stewart and Kevin Bartlett a ‘good shake’ at the title Max won.

Bob Jane Racing sold the car less engine to Lupton and Cook who owned it in partnership. They converted it to ANF2 form by the simple fitment of a Lotus/Ford 1.6 litre circa 200bhp engine. The car was to be shared by the friends as before with the Devione.

Lupton withdrew from the arrangement with Ian when he needed to raise some cash to care for one of his young children who needed hole-in-the-heart surgery.

On a cold, wet, foggy Sandown practice day Ian was being looked after by some ‘stand ins’ rather than his usual crew including Lupton- who was dealing with family matters.

Grant Twining, the owner of the Devione and a confidant of Lupton says their theory is that the Brabham’s tyre pressures were probably incorrectly set too low. During practice for the June 1973 meeting the car lost a tyre from a rim, slid into one of the Shell, over the circuit sign, concrete supports, killing him instantly.

A Melbourne driver, his is a story which deserves to be told in full. Suffice it to say, a fine engineer, competitor and man died way too young in very unfortunate circumstances.

Ian Cook accepting the plaudits of the unruly but respectful! Warwick Farm crowd, February 1968. Elfin 400 Repco (D Harney)

Most of us think of Allan Moffat (born 1939) and Janey as arch rivals which they undoubtedly were.

The droll, deadpan, Canadian ‘Marvin’ played the ‘Baddie Role’ so well, it was easy as a kid to dislike him as much as you liked his car! The Trans Am Mustang that is.

But not long after he returned from his successful sojurn of several years in the US, in 1968 he had a couple of drives for Bob- ‘Stuffing the nose of the 400 into the fence and hay-bales at The Causeway at Warwick Farm, and at the following Sandown he had a more comprehensive issue with the Brabham’ (BT23E) wrote journalist Ray Bell. The meeting Bell referred to was the September 1968 Gold Star round, the car, crashed in practice, did not start the race.

400 in the Longford paddock Tasman round, February 1968. Jim McKeown’s Lotus Cortina Mk2 alongside (D Cooper)

I’ve never seen any photos of Moffat aboard either car. Please share them if you have any Instamatic happy-snaps or better!

Moffat didn’t cover himself with glory it seems, not that it impacted his career trajectory! Factory Ford Series Production rides and the Trans Am were both happy 1969 events for both Moffat and we fans. What a ride he gave us all!?

Hume Weir front row of the sportscar feature, Queens Birthday weekend June 1967. Alan Hamilton’s white Porsche 906 Spyder, Spencer Martin in the Jane Elfin 400 Repco and nearside Bevan Gibson Lotus 15 Climax (M Leirsch)

Bevan Gibson (born 1946) I wrote about not so long ago in the article about the ex-Derek Jolly Lotus 15 which Bevan drove to within an inch of its life, bringing himself to the attention of Jane and others. Click here for a link to my article about the Lotus 15.

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

Gibson really was an interesting prospect- considerably younger than all of the other drivers. At 22 he was aboard one of the fastest cars in the country- also a tricky one. I’m not suggesting Bevan was in over his head. He had plenty of experience in the 200 plus bhp Lotus 15 and had done some laps in the BT11A Repco during 1968 ‘with a strict rev limit’ to be observed whilst driving the circa 280bhp single-seater.

Pre driving deal. The Shell contracted Bob Jane Elfin Mono Ford alongside the Shell contracted Gibson family owned Lotus 15 Climax, perhaps at Calder, date unknown (unattributed)

Whilst racing the family Lotus 15 Climax Bevan worked in the workshop of Jane’s Chrysler Valiant Dealership in Sydney Road, Brunswick. The racing department was in the same premises.

Spencer Martin had been staying with Bob at his place in Kew, just off the Kew boulevard, a well known and challenging ‘racetrack’ then. Bob suggested he move out into a place of his own- sharing with Bevan, the pair ‘shacked up’ in a unit at Princes Park (Carlton) organised by Bob, the arrangement ran from 1966-7, at which point Spencer retired from racing and returned to his Sydney hometown.

Bevan Gibson having a steer of Bob Jane’s Brabham BT11A Climax in August 1968 (unattributed)

Its interesting looking at the history, the connection to the Gibson family via Hoot Gibson, Bevan’s employment by the Jane Organisation, and ‘batching’ with Martin that Cook got the 400 drive in early 1968 rather than Bevan.

Perhaps it was simply that they (Bob and Spencer) didn’t think Bevan was quite ready for it at that time? There is no doubt that they saw plenty of each others races, photos of various of the Jane cars with the Gibson 15 in shot show them sharing the Shell facilities at race meetings. I’m not suggesting Cook wasn’t worthy of the Jane drive- most certainly he was, I am merely musing over the reasons/timing of the decision to give the drive to Ian rather than Bevan in 1968.

400 in the Calder paddock in May 1967- I wonder if its Bevan’s Lotus 15, which was painted red for a while, alongside. No roll bar in this shot (T Thompson)

At the 1969 Sandown Tasman meeting, the race and championship won by Chris Amon’s Ferrari Dini 246T, Gibson took the fifth of five in a row wins in Jane’s Elfin 400.

Barry Catford, somewhat prophetically, wrote the following note as a reporter covering the meeting for ‘Australian Motoring News’. ‘During the sportscar race I noticed on each lap the nose of the Jane Elfin lifted markedly after hitting a bump on the main straight before the start/finish line. The bump would affect the other cars, but not as noticeably as it did the Elfin. It seemed as though the Jane car needed less ride height at the front and maybe more at the rear which then may have resulted in less air getting under the front of the Elfin as it lifted over the bumps’.

The accident at Bathurst happened that Easter, on 7 April, three months later

Bevan Gibson ahead of Niel Allen at Calder in March 1969, 400 Repco from 400 Chev (oldracephotos.com)

In ‘Gentleman John Harvey’ Peter Molloy recounts how John Harvey was completely shattered by what had happened to Bevan. ‘I really think that John wanted to give it away then and there’. But, ever the complete professional, he saddled up in the Brabham BT23E and contested the Gold Star race- won by Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT31 Repco after the Gibson accident with the remnants of the fire fighting foam still on the track and debris off to its side. On a track which bit him badly due to component failure only 12 months before.

Bob Jane had this to say about Bevan- ‘Hoot Gibson (father of Bevan)…were a family devoted to motor racing. ‘Hoot’ went back to the rallies from years before. Along with a lot of my mates like Lou Molina and all those sort of people. Young Bevan was a very promising driver. He was very aggressive. When I say aggressive I mean very brave. Unfortunately, that element of bravery brought him undone’.

‘The car he was racing, my car, was an Elfin. Obviously with the knowledge we have today about aerodynamics, things would be different. The car had a flat bottom, and Mount Panorama was a very fast track. It had two bumps and the end of the straight which brought a lot of people undone. The car took off, went upside down, and caught on fire. It was just a terrible, terrible tragedy’.

Gibson pictured with the Jane Elfin Mono, at Calder, date unknown (unattributed)

It wasn’t my intention to spend time dealing with the accident which befell Bevan at Bathurst.

As I mentioned at this articles outset, what started as a pictorial has ended up a feature. There are quite a lot of ‘I reckons’ about the accident online, my article includes these too. What is persuasive or a least informative are the views of those from within the Bob Jane Team, and Harvey details with Bevan sensitively and the accident in full, on that basis I include the following lengthy view of a friend and insider.

‘Bevan was a very bright young bloke. He had extremely good car control, and was very fast. He was a bit like a lot of us in our younger days, he was a bit wild at times. But he was able to harness that wildness, that energy, and put it into his driving. He was very good in competition and making excellent progress’.

‘Also some drivers may have a ‘devil may care’ sort of attitude. This can lead to some ‘spirited’ driving. I never felt this would bring Bevan into harm, but I did sometimes think he was a bit on the wild side. I felt that at times he threw caution to the wind. I have no hard core evidence for this…but I just remember feeling that at times’.

‘Quite apart from what I thought, he was certainly a good young driver. He had a lot of talent. Had he survived he would certainly have been good at his craft, and would have won lots of races…’

Lap 1 of the fateful Easter Bathurst Sportscar race 1969. The event was not an ASCC round- but was an important race with all the ‘top guns’ present. Niel Allen ahead in his ex-Matich Elfin 400 Chev, Frank Matich, suffering fuel feed dramas is 2nd, Matich SR4 Repco then Bevan Gibson, Elfin 400 Repco. Note the winglets on the front of the Allen car, big rear wing and front tabs on the SR4, Jane car devoid of these aero appendages (oldracephotos/Dick Simpson)

Bathurst Easter 1969…

John Harvey continues ‘On the Saturday night Bevan discussed with us the fact that the Elfin was lifting off the road coming over the last hump. I said to him”You can’t have it lifting off the road. If it lifts off the road it will go upside down”. We suggested that maybe the car was getting a bit ‘light’ going over the hump. I really didn’t know what technical things he could do to alleviate the situation’.

‘We expended the conversation to include Bob Jane and John Sawyer (Bob Jane Racing Team Manager/Chief Mechanic). Bevan suggested we may put some air ‘flippers’ on the front of the car, or some little winglets. This was late on the Saturday night, and hardly the right time to initiate things like that. The conclusuion was that we didn’t know if it would work. These are the sorts of things you have to test under controlled conditions. Raceday, particularly at Bathurst, is not the place to test.’

‘The only comment I made was “In all the years I have been coming to this place in whatever cars, if the car does not feel stable over the last hump- or even the second last hump- or if its a windy day- always lift off the throttle”. To do this may only drop your speed only a few miles per hour, but what it does is drop the nose of the car. Drop the nose of the car, and reduce the amount of air under the car. The car will therefore feel that little bit safer, and that much more stabile’.

‘So, that was that. there were a number of drivers who were aware of the problem and did just as I said. All we could do was pass this advice on to Bevan- all I can recall is that Bevan was running third. He then passed Niel Allen (ex-Matich Elfin 400) or Niel had some problem and Bevan was in second place’.

Bob Jane team and Elfin 400 at Calder, date uncertain. John Sawyer in blue suit behind the car. No roll bar fitted in this shot (unattributed)

‘Bevan then started to catch the race leader, Frank Matich  (Matich SR4 Repco ‘760 Series’ quad-cam 4 valve Repco 5 litre V8- a normally vastly faster car than the Jane Elfin 400).  Franks car had gone onto  seven cylinder for some reason, but he still had a good lead. Bevan was starting to catch Frank. Maybe Frank’s car now went onto six cylinders. I don’t know. All we knew was that Bevan started to catch Frank fairly rapidly, Bevan went across the top of the mountain behind Frank, and down through the Esses. From there it was on to Conrod Straight’.

‘It appeared to us that if he caught Frank he would bide his time and pass where it was safe to do so. At this stage no one was thinking about aerodynamics. Plus, i’m not at all sure what role that may or may not have played. It appeared that Bevan ‘drafted’ Frank down the straight. He caught right up on Frank and surely knew he had him. I think by this time there were a couple of laps left to go in the race.’

‘Naturally I have no way to know what is going on in Bevan’s mind. But I can easily imagine him thinking “I’ve caught up to Frank Matich. I can pass him and win this big race at Mount Panorama”. Which, of course would be a big win to have’.

‘So Bevan drafted Frank down the straight. He seemed to me to pull out just before the last hump. He pulled out to get the run down the inside of Murray’s Corner, and beat Frank under brakes. I suppose they were travelling at 160-170mph, and Bevan had pulled out just before the last hump. When Bevan hit the fresh air the car seemed to accelerate. The Elfin lifted, went up in the air, and came to earth upside down. The car almost instantly caught flames, and that was that’.

‘There was no doubt in my mind that Bevan died in that first upside down impact. The rest of the destruction and the fire, didn’t really matter’.

John then sensitively deals with the hours and days which follows, and points out that despite over 25,000 miles of testing, and the advance of aerodynamic understanding in the decades which followed the accidents which befell Mercedes Benz at Le Mans not so few years ago. Two flips to Mark Webber.

Bevan Gibson, Elfin 400 Repco, Bathurst Easter 1969. An outstanding young talent taken too soon. RIP Bevan Gibson (oldracephotos.com)

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Gentleman John Harvey’ Tony McGirr, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘Elfin’ Barry Catford and John Blanden

Special thanks to Grant Twining for insights and information about Ian Cook

Photo Credits…

Ellis French, Dennis Cooper Collection, Dale Harvey, J Ellacott, oldracephotos.com, Dick Simpson, M Leirsch, S Lambert, Bob Mills Collection, GTRX, Tony Parkinson Collection, Wayne Wooton Collection, T Thompson, Tim Watts

Etcetera: Niel Allen from Noel Hurd and Bob Jane, Elfin 400’s all …

 

Mixed sportscar bag in country NSW. Jane at Hume Weir in early 1968 from a Lotus 11, Meyers Manx VW beach buggy! and Geneer Outlaw VW (oldracephotos.com)

 

Bob Jane off the line at a Calder Raceway drag meeting in, I think 1968. He took out ‘Competition Eliminator’ with an 11.78 second/117.80 mph pass for the standing quarter (W Wooton)

 

Ken Hastings at Sandown circa 1971, note the changes to the 400 body and addition of the rear wing (T Parkinson)

 

Bill Hemming in his beautifully restored ex-Jane 400 Repco at Phillip Island in recent years (G Russell)

Tailpiece: Butt shot for the tailpiece seems apt. Niel Allen Elfin 400 Chev, bodywork by Frank Matich, compare and contrast with the standard rear of Bob Janes 400 Repco. They are heading over Sandown’s old Causeway and about to swing left into the approach of the very quick Dunlop Bridge in 1968…

Tailpiece 2: End where we started with Bob Jane- at Longford in 1967, alongside is Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906. We have liftoff…

(T Watts)

Finito…

 

 

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(John Arkwright)

Check out the view Maxxy!

Niel Allen and Max Stewart having a contretemps at Skyline, Mount Panorama, Bathurst, Easter 1969…

The bucolic terrain of New South Wales Central Tablelands stretches into the distance, the view probably not what the two drivers were focussed upon at the time. The race was the ’69 Bathurst Gold Star round, the field of which was substantially reduced by this first lap prang. The incident happened when Max misjudged his braking behind John Harvey, locked a brake and boofed the fence in his Mildren Waggott 1.6. Niel was right up Max’ chuff in his ex-Piers Courage McLaren M4A Ford FVA 1.6 and couldn’t avoid him. Out of shot is Queenslander Glynn Scott’s Bowin P3 FVA who also joined in the fun!

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Nice butt shot of Harvey’s BT23E; note wing mounted to cars uprights at rear, ‘RB740’ ‘between the Vee engine’ and oil cooler up in the breeze (oldracephotos.com)

Here (above) is a shot of Harve’s Bob Jane owned Brabham BT23E Repco, it was Jack’s works ’68 Tasman car, sold to Bob at the end of the series then raced by John in the following years. In fact it wasn’t a lucky car for Harvey, he had a big accident at the same Easter meeting in ’68 when an upright broke, rooting the car and John. He was in hospital for quite a while after the prang, his speed undiminished when he returned to racing Jane’s stable of racers, sports-racers and tourers.

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Harvey’s BT23E at Bathurst after his big practice accident on 14 April 1968 (Dale Harvey)

Click here for an article on this car;

https://primotipo.com/?s=brabham+bt23e

These fellas are favourites; property developer Allen was later as quick as Australia’s F5000 ‘Gold Standard’ Frank Matich without nearly as many seat miles, Stewart a multiple ‘Gold Star’ (1971/4) and AGP winner (19734/5) and Harvey a winner in everything he raced; speedcars, single-seaters, big sportscars and touring cars, the Bathurst enduro included.

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Start of the Bathurst ’69 Gold Star race: front row comprises Max’ yellow Mildren Waggott, Niel Allen McLaren M4A FVA and on the inside Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco. The blue car behind is Glynn Scott’s Bowin P3 FVA and Harvey’s red Brabham BT23E, the torque of which clearly gobbled up Stewart and Allen on the steep climb up the mountain for Max to nearly run into him heading down the mountain. The white car is Henk Woelders’ 3rd placed Elfin 600 Ford t/c. You can just see Jacks red Brabham on the outside beginning his charge. He had fuel feed problems in practice so was off grid 7 with times well below the cars potential (Neville McKay)

The race was won by Jack Brabham’s F3 based Brabham BT31 Repco on a rare Gold Star Australian appearance fitted into his European program. This little jigger was powered by a 2.5 litre ‘830 Series’ SOHC, 2 valve Repco V8. Easter Bathurst is an historically significant meeting in Repco terms; it was Jack’s last Repco race and win in Australia. Brabham’s last International Repco races were those contested by he and Peter Revson in the USAC Championship that year in Brabham BT25’s powered by Repco ‘760 Series’ 4.2 litre DOHC, 4 valve, methanol fuelled V8’s.

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Brabham between Skyline and The Dipper, BT31 Repco during the race (Dick Simpson)

Check out, rather than repeating myself these articles on the BT31;

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/26/rodways-repco-recollections-brabham-bt31-repco-jacks-69-tasman-car-episode-4/

and on Brabham’s 1969 and 1970 seasons;

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

This article was inspired by Lindsay Ross uploading quite a few images of this meeting on his oldracephotos.com Instagram page, check it out, they pop up a post every day or so. It seemed an idea to put the images floating around of this meeting in one place. I’ve an Instagram page too, as well as Facebook, just key ‘primotipo’ into the respective search engines and follow the prompts. The FB page has quite a lot of shots I don’t use on primotipo so may be worth a look every few days.

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Brian Page in BT23A with ‘740 Series’ Repco, DNF with broken exhaust on lap 15 in the ex-Brabham/Scuderia Veloce machine (oldracephotos.com)

The first lap accident ruined what could have been an interesting race, Jack cruised to an easy race win by 1.5 minutes from Harvey’s car and Henk Woelders F2 Elfin 600B Ford t/cam.

Historically interesting is that this meeting was on the weekend of 7 April 1969, high-wings were banned globally at Monaco on the GP weekend of 18 May 1969, so it’s interesting to see the ‘Australian State of the Art’ in terms of fitment of said aero devices immediately before they were banned. Brabham tried the ‘bi-wing’ below setup on his BT31 in practice but raced with only a rear wing fitted.

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Of arcane interest, perhaps (from the master of the arcane and tangential) is that all of Jacks ‘works’ Repco engined Tasman cars competed in this race bar one…

Brian Page’s BT23A(1) is JB’s ’67 Tasman car, Harve’s BT23E(1) is the ’68 weapon and Jack raced BT31 the car, late arriving in Australia, which did the ’69 Sandown round only.

Missing is BT19(F1-1-65) the chassis in which Jack won the ’66 World F1 Drivers and Constructors titles, and in 2.5 litre ‘620 Series’ engined form, raced in the ’66 Tasman Series, putting valuable pre-GP season race miles on Repco’s ‘brand-spankers’ V8 at Sandown and Longford.

The only car not in Oz now is BT23E(1) which was, and still may be in the US.

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Jack Brabham guiding BT19 (F1-1-65) into The Viaduct, Longford on his way to 3rd place during the South Pacific Trophy on 7 March 1966, the third race for the new RB ‘620 Series’ V8. The race was won by Jackie Stewart’s BRM P261

Whilst on the arcane it occurs to me is what a versatile, influential and successful design Ron Tauaranac’s BT23 space-frame was in the Brabham Pantheon…

’twas Ron’s clean sheet design for the new for ’67 1.6 litre European F2; it’s variants won a million F2 races over the following years in the hands of aces like Rindt but also in the care of privateer ‘coming-men’. Mind you it didn’t ever win the title despite winning 6 of the ten championship rounds in 1967, ‘graded drivers’ like Rindt were ineligible for championship points. Matra and Lotus took the ‘works entry’ approach more seriously than Jack and Ron during these years, in any event, as a customer racing car the BT23’s won lotsa races, the 1968 Rindt driven BT23C the most successful car of the year.

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Jochen Rindt typically all ‘cocked up’ on the way to a win in the 9 July 1967 ‘GP de Rouen-les-Essarts’, Brabham BT23 Ford FVA. 1.6 litre F2 formula one of great chassis, it not engine diversity, Ford’s Cosworth FVA won every title from 1967 to 1971. F2 was 2 litre from ‘72 (unattributed)

From an F1 perspective the ’67 World Championship winning BT24 Repco was a ‘beefed up’ BT23, to the extent that Ron initially raced his BT24’s with an FT200 Hewland, the Maidenhead gearbox gurus ‘F2 box’ but found that tranny overstressed with ‘740 Series’ Repco V8 torque tearing away at its gizzards, its CWP in particular. I won’t bang on about the BT24 now as I’m in the process of writing an article about the ’67 Brabham/Repco winning season and go into much BT24 detail. Suffice it to say that the F2 BT23 begat the F1 BT24, my favourite Brabham.

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Denny Hulme jumping his BT24 Repco at the Nurburgring during his ’67 Championship winning season. He won the German GP by 40 seconds from Jack (unattributed)

From an Australian viewpoint the BT23 Repco Tasman cars were very important as they provided much needed cars on skinny local grids…

The Tasman Series 2.5 Formula grids were ‘chockers’ with cars and stars, the domestic championship contained quality but not quantity. Budgets for these relatively expensive cars were hard to find in the sixties and Australia’s march to Touring Car domination was already well underway so ‘taxis’ were starting to absorb sponsorship budgets previously devoted to real racing cars.

Funnily enough, even though there was a swag of Repco engined BT23’s running around it was Alec Mildren’s, one off, 2.5 litre Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 V8 engined BT23D(1) which took a Gold Star. Frank Gardner raced this car in the ’68 Tasman, it was then taken over by Kevin Bartlett, the Aussie ace took the ’68 Gold Star in it. Repco never won a Gold Star title, a topic to explore at some stage during the Repco series of articles I am gradually writing with Rodway Wolfe and more recently Nigel Tait’s help.

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Simply sensational Dick Simpson shot of Kevin Bartlett in BT23D Alfa, Hell Corner Bathurst Easter 1968, KB was walking away with the race until a broken rear upright ended his run. Dominant in this car in ‘68/9 (Dick Simpson)

Delving deeper into this BT23 tangent, whilst a BT23 Repco never won a Gold Star, a BT23 Waggott nee Mildren did…

Denny Hulme raced a works F2 Brabham BT23(5) FVA in the ’68 Tasman Series comprehensively boofing the car in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe on 6 January, the series opening round.

Denny’s chassis was Jochen Rindt’s Winkelmann Racing entry in ’67, he won 9 Euro F2 races in it including the Rouen event pictured above. Another car (BT23-2) was sent from England for Denny to race in the rest of the series. Feo Stanton and Ian Rorison of Rorstan Racing bought the wreck and sent it to Rennmax Engineering in Sydney for Bob Britton to repair.

Instead of doing so Bob made a jig from the bent frame and sent a new chassis, the Rorstan Mk1 back to the Kiwis. Seven cars were built on the BT23 jig; the Rorstan, Mildren, two Rennmax BN2 and three BN3’s. Of these the Mildren, so named by Alec Mildren, the Sydney Alfa Romeo dealer, team owner and former Gold Star champion was the most successful. The Britton jig was also put to good use over the coming years repairing cars like Harvey’s bent BT23E!

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Max Stewart ‘harry flatters in top gear’ heading down Surfers Paradise main straight and about to guide his 2 litre Waggott powered Mildren missile under the fast right hander and Dunlop Bridge. 9th in the ‘Surfers 100’ Tasman round in 1970 against the F5000’s. Graham McRae’s McLaren M10A Chev won the race but Bartlett’s 2 litre Mildren Mono Waggott was 2nd on this power circuit (Dick Simpson)

So…the Mildren pictured resting against the Skyline Armco fencing at this articles outset is a BT23 design. Max Stewart was prodigiously fast in the Mildren Waggott, he was one of those guys who seemed to get quicker as he got older, in ’69 he was quick, by the mid-seventies he absolutely flew in his Lola F5000’s. He was one of the very small number of blokes in Oz who squeezed absolutely everything out of these, big, demanding, fast, spectacular, fabulous 500bhp V8’s.

Bartlett, Matich, Allen, John McCormack, Bruce Allison, Warwick Brown, John Walker and Stewart in my book were the F5000 aces with Matich, if I have to pick one, the first among equals. Mind you, on sheer speed Alf Costanzo who came relatively late to the F5000 party could have been ‘the one’. Its an interesting topic to debate, end of F5000 tangent!

One of the pit sights which always amused me, and admittedly small things amuse small minds was big Max, he wasn’t a ‘fat bastard’, but he was 6’2”, crammimg himself into one of his cars before setting off for the dummy grid. If there was a taller bloke than Max in F5000 globally I’d be intrigued to know his name. He must have given away at least 10Kg to the rest of the grid before he even plopped his arse into the tight aluminium monocoque confines of the F5000 Lolas in which he excelled.

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Max was big of stature and heart; here he is after winning the Rothmans International Series ‘Sandown Cup’ on 20 February 1977, his last big win, Lola T400 Chev, sadly not too long before his untimely death at Calder, 19 March 1977 (Ian Smith)

By the time Merv Waggott was building 2 litre variants of his superb DOHC, 4 valve, Lucas injected, bespoke aluminium blocked engines they were outright winners in 2.5 litre Tasman Formula events in the hands on the Mildren Duo, Messrs Bartlett and Stewart. The first Gold Star for F5000 was in 1971; Max’ Mildren Waggott won the Gold Star with about 275bhp from his close mate Bartlett in a much less nimble and reliable 500bhp McLaren M10B Chev in a year of speed and consistency. I don’t care what anyone says, F5000’s driven to their limit were always a little brittle.

So, to join the dots, a BT23 design did win the Gold Star albeit called a Mildren. Stewart’s Mildren Waggott and Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott are tangents too far for this article and a wonderful future topic, there is a sensational article to be written there with Kevin Bartlett’s first-hand assistance on both chassis’ and engine if I ask him nicely…

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Merv Waggott changing plugs in his baby, Wigram 1970. Bartlett’s Mildren Mono ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott (Bill Pottinger/the Roaring Season)

Merv Waggott changing plugs in one of his superb jewels. An all alloy, DOHC, gear driven 4 valve Lucas injected circa 275bhp 2 litre engine. Its in the back Of Kevin Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Sub’ Waggott, shot is in the Wigram paddock, 1970 Tasman round on 17 January on 7 December. KB had a lousy meeting, not setting a practice time and DNF on lap 6 with engine dramas, Stewart was 3rd though in his car, Matich the winner in his McLaren M10A Chev.

The Waggott 2 litre engine was first built in late 1969 and initially developed circa 250bhp, its output later circa 268-275bhp with about 160 lbs/ft of torque. It raced to a win in KB’s hands in the ‘Sub upon debut in the ’69 ‘Hordern Trophy’ at WF, KB won again at the 1970 Warwick Farm Tasman round ahead of all the F5000’s and 2.5 Tasman Formula cars.  2 litre Waggotts won Australias’ Gold Star in 1970 for Leo Geoghegan (Lotus 59) and Stewart in ’71 as noted above.

An article about Merv and his creations is a wonderful feature for another time. Briefly for international readers Waggott’s Sydney shop built race winning engines from the 1950’s, checkout the article below on the WM Special/Cooper T20 Waggott Holden twin-cam 6 cylinder raced by Jack Myers and tested by Stirling Moss in the late ‘50’s as some background.

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

Winding the clock forward, as the ANF1 2.5 litre formula spluttered on in the late sixties a ‘battle to the death’ was fought for the new ANF1 category in Oz between opposing forces who supported either F5000 or 2 litre F2. The latter to commence in Europe from 1 January 1972, F5000 commenced in Europe in 1969 and was born in the US as Formula A earlier still.

Waggott engines were initially of 1600cc, then later 1860cc and used the ubiquitous Ford Cortina block, same as Cosworth’s 1’6 litre FVA wherein Keith Duckworth tested his design ideas in advance of finalising his DFV design. In 1600 form the Waggott would have been Euro F2 legal, it used a production block as the regs required. The 1.6 litre F2 started in ’67 and ended in 1971 when it grew to 2 litres. There were a few FVA’s racing in Australia, the 1.6 Waggott more than a match for them, no Waggott’s, sadly, ever raced in Euro F2.

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Lance Ruting studio shot of one of the engines, Ford block by the look of it so 1600 or 1860 (autopics.com)

Waggott 2 litre engines used a bespoke aluminium block as the stock cast iron Ford block maxxed out at about 1860cc. Beyond that the pistons kissed! Mike Hailwood’s Surtees TS10 won the ’72 Euro F2 Championship running Brian Hart built Ford BDA’s of 1850cc, those competitors running greater capacity than that had unreliability. The final Euro 2 litre F2 regs required production blocks from 1972-75 until ’76 when ‘racing engines’ were allowed. So, in the earliest years of the class the Waggott was ineligible.

Merv’s engines could have raced in F2 from ’76 but he had long before told CAMS to ‘shove it’ after F5000 was chosen (probably rightly given the backing of Ford, Holden and Repco who were building V8’s/wanting to develop an F5000 variant of the Holden engine in Repco’s case) as Australias’ new ANF1 from the 1971 Gold Star competition.

Had the ingenious, beautifully built little engine been Euro F2 Championship legal in 1972 Sydney’s Waggott Engineering had the winning engine! The engines were tried, tested championship winning donks ready to pop into any car. 275bhp and a big fat torque curve, Kevin Bartlett quoted the usable rev range of 6800-8750rpm, would have done the trick in 1972, the BMW M12 changed the F2 game from ’73 of course.

A wonderful ‘mighta-been’ all the same. Merv could have ‘stolen the F2 march’ in 1972 in much the same way Repco did in F1 with its Olds F85 production block based ‘620 Series’ V8 in 1966…

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Max Stewart on the way to winning the ‘Angus & Coote Trophy’, the 1971 Oran Park Gold Star round on 27 June. Mildren Waggott 2 litre, Graeme Lawerence was 2nd in a Brabham BT30 FVC, the little cars succeeding as the F5000’s fell away (Dick Simpson)

Credits…

John Arkwright, oldracephotos.com, Dick Simpson, Dale Harvey, Bill Pottinger/The Roaring Season, Ian Smith, Neville McKay, autopics.com.au

Bibliography…

oldracingcars.com, F2 Register

Tailpiece: A Lotus to end an article on Brabhams…

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Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco with ‘830 series’ Repco V8, started from the Bathurst ’69 pole but out on lap 12 with a gearbox problem, his time would shortly come with this car, winning the JAF Japanese GP later in 1969 amongst a classy field (oldracephotos.com)

Click here for an article on this ex-Clark chassis;

https://primotipo.com/?s=lotus+39

Finito…

 

charger 1

(Robert Davies)

John McCormack wrestles his big, powerful but relatively nimble Valiant Charger Repco around the tight Calder, Melbourne confines in 1974…

Robert Davies shots have inspired two other articles, this is the third about a car which set a new paradigm in local Oz Sports Sedan racing in the mid-seventies.

In 1970 Touring Car Racing in Australia comprised ‘Series Production’ for essentially standard cars, contesting the Bathurst 500 and the like. ‘Improved Touring’ were more highly modified cars, the Australian Touring Car Championship was run to these regs, and ‘Sports Racing Closed’ or ‘Sports Sedans’ was an ‘anything goes’ type of category.

Sports Sedans were often the province of the more impecunious, owner driver, engineering types who created some incredibly quick Minis, Holdens of all descriptions and the occasional bit of ‘heavy metal’ V8’s from Oz or the US.

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The Spirit of Sports Sedans in 1971; full spectator mounds, here at Sydney’s Oran Park. Barry Sharp’s Jag Mk2 Ford V8 ahead of an ‘LC’ Holden Torana GTR XU1, old and new. (Vic Hughes)

Australian race fans liked Sedans, they were easier to understand and more spectacular to watch than most open-wheelers and the punters could relate to cars they either drove or saw on the road.

Other than during the Tasman Series, in most years our domestic single seater championship, the prestigious ‘Gold Star’ fields were thinnish. Scarce sponsorship dollars progressively found its way to Touring Cars fanning the open wheeler problem. Promoters were keen to give spectators what they wanted to fill their venues, and so, over time the dominance of Touring Cars in Australia occurred. And continues today. Sadly for open-wheeler nutters like me.

Castrol, for example, sponsors of Bob Jane Racing, one of our bigger teams encouraged Jane to get out of racers and more into touring cars in 1971. The Brabham and Bowin single seaters and McLaren sporty were progressively put to one side, replaced by a Holden Monaro Improved Tourer and Holden Torana Repco V8 Sports Sedan.

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Bob Jane’s Holden Torana ‘LC’ GTR XU1 Repco. Hume Weir, Boxing Day 1971. John Sheppard built and prepared superb cars, this is one of his best, its first iteration here was not that highly modified, engine and Borg Warner ‘box excepted. Phase 2 in its life was when Frank Gardner returned to Oz and raced the car for Jane in 1975; an F5000 Chev replaced the Repco, the suspension also modified substantially in addition to the car being lightened considerably. Jane reputedly said to Gardner when he saw it ‘What have you done to my beautiful car…?’. Car still exists. (Dick Simpson)

There had been other ‘clever’ Sports Sedans, Harry Lefoe’s Hillman Imp Ford V8, an example but Bob Jane’s John Sheppard built Torana, which married a lightweight but still fully trimmed LC Torana with the Repco 4.4 Litre ‘620 Series’ V8 Bob had sitting in his Brunswick Race HQ took things to another level.

The alloy Repco developed 400 bhp but at 360 pounds weighed less than the cast iron 3 litre ‘186cid’ straight 6 fitted to the car in production form. Bob and John Harvey won many races in this car.

The ‘professionalisation’ of Sports Sedans was underway.

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Harry Lefoe in his Hillman Imp Ford at Hume Weir, Albury, NSW on Boxing Day 1971, Dick Simpson took this shot and the one above of Bob Jane in the same race. Car had a 450bhp plus Ford ‘Windsor’ shoved in the back seat, Lefoe had balls of steel to drive the thing, twas usually sideways, considerably so! Its life ended with a big accident at Sandown in the late 70’s. Extremely short wheelbase clear, big wing, engine put out slightly more power and was slightly heavier than the 1 litre alloy standard engine…(Dick Simpson)

Another trend setting Sports Sedan was the Valiant Charger Repco built by Elfin and John McCormack’s team in 1973. Macs background is covered in the article about his McLaren M23 I wrote 12 months ago, you can read it here, I won’t repeat it.

https://primotipo.com/2014/07/24/macs-mclaren-peter-revson-dave-charlton-and-john-mccormacks-mclaren-m232/

John was an open-wheeler man, he won the Gold Star in 1973 in his Elfin MR5 Repco F5000, but he was also a professional driver who needed to chase dollars. Oran Park promoter Allan Horsley agreed appearance money with McCormack if he ran a Sports Sedan in his ‘Toby Lee (shirts) Series’ in 1974, that was the impetus McCormack needed.

McCormack and Elfin boss Garrie Cooper (who ran 2 Elfin MR5 F5000 cars as Ansett Team Elfin in the Gold Star and Tasman Series at the time) toyed with the idea of a mid-engined Chev Corvair but commercially a deal with Chrysler made more sense.

In those far away days Ford, GM (Holden), Chrysler (Valiant) and British Motor Corporation all made cars in Australia, with others VW included assembling them here. Now only Ford, Holden and Toyota (who changed from assembly to construction of their cars progressively after 1970) remain but have announced plans to withdraw as manufacturers.

The economic and social policy as well as wider societal implications of this are beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say the death of the Automotive Industry in Australia is sad, wrong and was avoidable with a mix of better management, cooperation from the global headquarters of Ford, GM and Toyota and politicians who are not fuckwits. An oxymoron i grant you.

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McCormack during his NZ Tour with the Charger in 1975, circuit unknown. Beautifully proportioned racing car, the external appearance matched the unseen clever and well executed engineering. Elfin 10 inch wide wheels, that width mandated then, not much to put 495 energetic ponies to the road. But spectacular! (The Roaring Season)

Elfin were based in Edwardstown, a southern Adelaide suburb, the Valiant factory was at Tonsley Park, not so far down the road. Valiant lost the promotional value of motor racing when they ceased building and racing their performance ‘Chargers’ and were receptive to the idea of a Sports Sedan Charger to go some way to matching Ford and GM who were still actively involved in racing and exploiting its promotional benefits in the competitive local market.

In one day McCormack and Ansett Elfin’s John Lanyon negotiated a deal which gave them cash, a truck to transport the racer, support and a Charger which made its debut after much surgery and modification in early 1974.

Cooper’s Conmurra Avenue shop was ‘chockers’ building Elfins so McCormack set up a workshop just around the corner in Coongie Road where the Charger was built. He took two Elfin employees in the process, Dale Koenneke and Harry Aust which did not go down well with Cooper, way too decent a man to be mixed up in professional motor racing…

The Charger was the result of the design ideas of McCormack and Cooper but was always Macs project, Garries priorities were production racing cars and his own racing program which was always fitted in around his customers needs. Elfin built 11 cars in 1973, 14 in 1974, a lot from the small facility.

McCormack and his team ran and prepared the car with the income derived going to Mac, but Ansett and Ansett Team Elfin received the promotional value of winning races in a growing part of the sport.

charger 2

Rare cockpit shot of the McCormack Charger. Clearly cylinder head or valve gear problems during this Calder meeting in 1974. Mid-mounted Repco F5000 engine sans Lucas injection in this shot. Standard Valiant style steering wheel and column a nod to the donor car. Smiths chronometric tach, instruments and Hewland DG300 ‘box, the alloy case of which you can see aft of the engine all ‘standard F5000’ kit. RH gearchange outta sight, the pedal box was off the Elfin shelf as well, Mac felt right at home. (Robert Davies)

The trend setting bit referred to above was the decision to use as many F5000 bits as possible and to locate the 495 BHP Repco Holden F5000 engine amidships beside the driver, the car was in essence mid-engined albeit the engine was in front of the centre-line of the car rather than to its rear.

The car was completely gutted of all interior trim and surplus metal, an integral roll cage designed by Cooper adding considerable torsional rigidity to the standard sheet metal shell.

Elfin uprights and wheels were used front and rear, upper and lower wishbone’s and coil spring damper units were used at the front and single top link, twin parallel lower links, coil spring dampers, radius rods providing fore and aft location at the rear. Roll bars were of course adjustable. An Elfin steering rack was used as were Lockheed brake calipers.

The transmission was standard F5000 issue, a 5 speed Hewland DG300 transaxle, located aft of the engine. There were two though, the front one contained the gears and the rear DG300 case the differential. Mac placed the gearchange lever to the right of the very low mounted drivers seat so he would feel pretty much at home, the driving position akin to the single-seaters from whence he came.

repco F5000

Phil Irving’s adaptation of General Motors’ Holdens then new ‘308’ V8 as an F5000 engine in 1970 created a very effective racing engine. Lucas fuel injection was one of the few non-Repco manufactured parts. 495bhp@7500 rpm is the quoted figure but the few flat-plane crank engines of 1973/4 produced closer to 525. It didn’t matter, the engine had greater mid-range punch than most Chevs, the blend of power/torque won it championships. (Repco)

The Charger had its first race at Adelaide International in early 1974, the Elfin MR6 Leyland F5000 made its debut on the same day, by the end of it the Chrysler executives present were far happier than the Leyland guys, the race variant of that engine always somewhat of a ‘hand grenade’ as covered in the McLaren article referred to above…the Charger cantered away and won its races.

The intelligent beast was immediately successful, Mac getting $2500 appearance money each time he ran in the ‘Toby Lee Series’ at Oran Park and carted away a good share of the prize money in 1974, he won the series from Jim McKeown’s Porsche and Frank Ure’s Holden Torana V8.

The car was also raced around the country with similar success.

He raced the car into 1975 selling it eventually to Tony Edmonson who was also successful in it.

McCormack re-focussed on single seaters with his ultimately successful McLaren M23 Leyland program and was just coming back into sports sedans, having built a Jaguar XJS at the time of the untimely road accident in which he was a passenger, ended his racing career.

Their were many very clever Sports Sedans which followed the McCormack/Cooper Charger but arguably it was the first…

thommo

Bryan Thomson VW Fastback being chased by John McCormack’ Charger at Sandown’s, you guessed it, Torana Corner in November 1974. They are about to unleash 500’ish Chev and Repco Holden horses up Sandowns’ long back straight. Great circuit for these cars. Two clever cars from 1974; both F5000 based, both ‘mid-engined’ the VW at the mid-rear and Charger in the mid-front. (Paul Van Den Akker)

PostScript…

Frank Gardner got around to building a Chev Corvair, the car well engineered (see etcetera below) as you would expect and largely built around Lola F5000 componentry. He essentially ‘killed the category’ such was the dominance of the car until the regs were changed to effectively ban it (the Corvairs engine and gearbox in standard form, were located Porsche 911 style, with the engine behind the gearbox, the legislators would allow a Corvair to race in that format but not the layout Gardner had with the classic ‘box behind the engine layout).

gardner

Frank Gardner in the Chev Corvair ahead of Red Dawson’s Chev Monza, Bay Park, NZ 1976. (The Roaring Season)

Etcetera…

vw

Other ‘Class of ’74 Cars’; Bryan Thomson’s ‘Volksrolet’ was a marriage of VW Fastback and an ex-Hamilton/Brown McLaren M10B F5000, but it never worked as well as Frank Gardner’s Corvair variation on the same theme despite the prowess of Thommo and his engineer Peter Fowler. But a massive crowd-pleaser. Behind is Peter Brock in the Holden Dealer Teams ‘Beast’. From memory an ex-rallycross LC Torana chassis into which was shoehorned a Repco Holden F5000 engine mated to a Borg Warner T10 ‘box. Ok in ’73 but the game had moved on by 1974, let alone the cars to come. Sandown Park November 1974. (Robert Davies)

mac

Baskerville, Tasmania 1975. McCormack ahead of Jim Richard’s Kiwi built, old tech but superbly driven Ford Mustang 351 and Allan Moffat’s Ford RS3100 ‘Cologne Capri’. Moffat won the Australian Sports Sedan Championship in 1976 using this car and a Chev Monza. (oldracephotos.com/Leigh Stephens)

corvair

Frank Gardner’s Corvair as raced by Allan Grice after Gardner stepped outta the driving seat. Circa 1977. Nose of Grice’ Group A Commodore to the right. FG raised the Sports Sedan bar  again with the Corvair, the bottom shot clearly shows the car for what it was conceptually; a Lola T332 F5000 albeit with a spaceframe chassis and a roof! Brilliant device, even the 6 litre cars couldn’t keep up with it, put its power down so well. (The Nostalgia Forum)

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

‘Australia’s Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ John Blanden and Barry Catford, ‘Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston

Robert Davies, Dick Simpson, Vic Hughes, Dick Simpson, Paul Van Den Akker, The Roaring Season, The Nostalgia Forum, oldracephotos.com/Leigh Stephens, Bruce Keys

Tailpiece: McCormack, Charger Repco Holden, Calder, December 1974…

(B Keys)

Finito…