Posts Tagged ‘Matich A50 Repco’

Carroll Smith, Frank and Joan Matich (NAA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Its a fair observation I suspect.

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

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

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

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

1972 Tasman Series Top Guns…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matich had a shocker of a time in NZ.

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

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

 

All was not well in the Matich camp either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘The rear suspension geometry was altered again after Surfers- the rear roll centre was raised…It was at this time the car was given the A50 ‘002’ moniker but it was ‘001’, the same tub, the bodywork was painted in STP colours and the roll bar chrome plated, it appeared different which was a bit of gamesmanship and kept the sponsors happy but it was, and still is the same tub which Bryan Sala now owns. This caused lots of historic (eligibility) grief in later years.’

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

(NAA)

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

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

Credits…

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

Other Related Links…

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

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

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

Etcetera…

(NAA)

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

(NAA)

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

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

Debrief (NAA)

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

(NAA)

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

(NAA)

 

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

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

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

(NAA)

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

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

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

(NAA)

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

Finito…

‘My signature shot, Jim Clark Lotus 49 Ford DFW and Chris Amon Ferrari Dino 246T. Two of the best drivers of their time. Taken early in my photography journey. Not only is it a record of the 1968 Surfers Tasman race, the pic is pretty well balanced and shows the scenic aspect of the old Surfers Paradise track. I describe in the Tasman book, the trauma experienced in getting to and from the race’ (R MacKenzie)

 

I finally bought the Tasman Cup bible at Sandown a while back, what a ripper book it is!…

 

There are some heavy dudes involved in it. Publisher Tony Loxley has assembled a swag of ‘in period’ talent- journalists, photographers and drivers to contribute, forty in all. I blew my tiny mind when I got it home and penetrated the thick plastic, protective cover to unveil content rich words and images. That Sunday afternoon was completely shot.

At $A95 it’s a snip, nearly 500 pages of beautifully printed and bound hardcover with about ninety percent of the (900’ish) images unfamiliar to me. Mucking around with primotipo I’ve seen plenty of shots in the last four years or so- it was awesome to view a vast array of unseen images, some from the archives of ‘snappers ‘I have met online’ who have kindly allowed me to use their work on my ‘masterpiece’.

Which brings me to Rod MacKenzie’s work.

I’ve used his images before but the material in the Tasman tome is sensational for its compositional artistry. So I gave him a yell and said you choose two photos (Clark and Muir) and I’ll choose two (Gardner and Walker) to showcase the work and support this article. The photo captions are Rod’s, his ‘artists notes’ if you will. We plan some occasional articles going forward, many thanks to Rod.

 

‘Frank Gardner, Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo negotiates Newry Corner at Longford, Tasmania 1968. Perhaps one of the wettest races i have attended. At least i was taking photos, not driving! This pic has its own appeal, i just pressed the button. Frank’s skills were tested and you can see the race was on public roads with spectataors in the most unsafe areas. Fences were barbed wire, no run-off and badly cambered roadway.’ (R MacKenzie)

 

Rod writes about his work…

‘We all have favourites.

In over fifty years of motor racing photography some of my earlier photos remain dear to me.

However, the photos were not quite as important as the spectacle of close racing between highly skilled ‘pilotes’ in competition with their cotemporaries.

They at the time were the source of income to attend the many race circuits and were sold to magazines in Australia and overseas.

Now the photos have become most important.

These photos are now historical records of these men and some women whose exploits have been written about and add reality to reports and clarity to memories.

I also endeavoured to photograph many of the competitors ensuring not only ‘the stars’ were captured.

Without the photos, memories become clouded and distorted. Not by intent, but by the passage of years.

My photos of several Tasman Series spent some time in the proverbial shoebox during a period of having a new family to bring up.

They were revisted to be included in two books (so far) from Tony Loxley of ‘Full Throttle Publishing’ about Formula 5000 and The Tasman Cup and have been included in many other books now. I have released some of the photos on social media and they are still appreciated judging from some of the comments received.

I take pride in my photos as i try to add ‘something’ above and beyond a picture ‘of a car on asphalt somewhere’. A good black and white photo in my view is more difficult to produce than a colour photo and just suits the history of races.

My photos should convey the ‘atmosphere’ of motor sport- the drama, the commitment, the excitement, the humour, the unusual, and the extraordinary when that is possible.

Consequently my shots can be moody and dark, bright and clear, or show incidents capturing moments of drama.

They generally also have content to ensure recognition of the location of the subjects. The content may be from background, the cars, the weather or the occasion.

Together, Mark Bisset and i plan a small series of ‘favourites’ chosen between us from my vast collection.

These random photos will continue to appear as time and subject allow, and i also invite you to sample a few more from my http://www.rodmackenziecollection.com/ website and Facebook Group.

Until the next offering, enjoy the photos here’.

Rod MacKenzie

 

‘One of those shots that work even when most things are not right for composition. The car is too far away, the foreground is irrelevant, the background does not relate to much. BUT John Walker, Matich A50 Repco, in a 1973 wet Tasman race came undone at the Warwick Farm Causeway, and used the short circuit to recover. The pic shows how lost he seemed to be!’ (R MacKenzie)

 

This weighty addition to my shelves got me tangentially thinking about what ‘The Essential Library of Books on Australian Motor Racing History’ comprises. I reckon its these works, in no particular order…

.‘The Official 50 Race History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard (and others)

.‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

.‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard

.‘David McKays Scuderia Veloce’ David McKay

.‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley

.‘As Long As It Has Wheels’ James Gullan

.‘Phil Irving: An Autobiography’

.‘Jack Brabham Story’ Brabham and Doug Nye

.‘Tasman Cup 1964-1975’ Tony Loxley (and others)

.‘History of The Australian Touring Car Championship’ Graham Howard and Stewart Wilson

.’Historic Racing Cars In Australia’ John Blanden

The above books don’t cover the Repco Racing story in anything remotely approaching full. Two that sorta do are Malcolm Preston’s ‘Maybach to Holden‘ and Frank Hallam’s ‘Mr Repco Brabham’ but both have warts. Malcolm’s is good, mind you, my Repco Brabham Engines buddies say it has quite a few errors. Hallam’s book is 70% insight and 30% arrant bullshit, but you need a fair bit of Repco knowledge to separate, page by page, the gold from the crap. I’ve stayed clear of marque specific books- Catford on Elfin and King on Bugatti for example, as I’m trying to get spread of topics from a small number of books not a long list of works…

I’m really interested to hear from you all on additions or deletions to the list.

The debate isn’t ‘my favourite books on Australian motor racing’ but rather the minimum number of books which most thoroughly tells the history of Australian motor racing. What books should a young enthusiast with limited funds buy is perhaps the filter to apply to your thinking?

Whilst the biographies listed may seem specific- they are, but they also cover heaps of related racing stuff over the period of the subjects life, so have great breadth.

Pre-war Oz racing books are thin on the ground, few were written- in that sense Medley’s and Gullan’s books are gold. So too are the relevant chapters of the ‘History of The AGP’ which provide lots of context in addition to the race reports themselves.

Howard, McKay and Medley were/are enthusiasts/racers who have wonderful historic perspective and deep insight that only masters of subject matter have. Bringing all of the threads about a topic together and drawing conclusions is hard, all have that ability.

All of the books listed are out of print except ‘John Snow’ (Medley still has copies) ‘History of the AGP’ and ‘Tasman Cup’, but all can be obtained with patience on eBay. The only one which is a bit on the exy side is Phil Irving’s book, the prices of which are high given huge global Vincent enthusiast demand in addition to us car guys.

In any event, all debate on the topic is invited, and yes, lets hear of your favourite books as well…

Credits…

Rod MacKenzie Collection

Tailpiece: Bob Muir, Lola T300 Chev, Warwick Farm 1972…

 

(R MacKenzie)

‘Action! Getting close to Bob Muir’s Lola T300 in the Esses at Warwick Farm in 1972. This remains my favourite Warwick Farm location although getting it right was really difficult. There were only a few places that were close enough to warrant an uninteresting background.

So we have the best location, best looking Lola, and a great photo that shows Muir’s speed and commitment at the most difficult section of the ‘Farm’.

Finito…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tasman 2.5 Formula was immensely successful for Australasia…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In comparison racing cars exited stage left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

But no!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics and power is never pretty is it?!

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

Holden and Repco F5000 Partnership…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(A Trowbridge)

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

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

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

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

A case of racing improves the breed!

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

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

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

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

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

Malcolm Preston is also sanguine about forged pistons.

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

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

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

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

Don Halpin in this Repco PR shot (Repco)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The development of the engine was relentless and ongoing…

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John McCormack recalls the Repco Holden engines with fondness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credits…

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

Etcetera…

Repco Holden Technical Specifications…

(Repco)

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

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

(B Ramsay)

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

(B Ramsay)

(B Ramsay)

Bibliography…

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

Tailpiece: Repco’s ‘Veggie Cart’ F5000 …

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

Finito…

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(oldracephotos.com)

Few drivers knew Warwick Farm like Frank Matich and Kevin Bartlett…

They raced at the track from its earliest days, it’s first meeting in 1960 I wonder?, and certainly the last international meeting, sadly the 1973 Tasman round run 12 months after the photos here were taken, Steve Thomson won that very wet race in a Chevron B24 Chev.

Here the two Sydneysiders are attacking The Esses during the 1972 F5000 Tasman round, the ‘Warwick Farm 100’ on 13 February. Matich was 1st in his Matich A50 Repco and KB 3rd in his McLaren M10B Chev, not really a front-line tool by that stage but still quick enough in Kevin’s highly skilled hands to win at Teretonga, the final ’72 Kiwi round, a fortnight before.

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Bartlett and original owner Niel Allen had a lot of success in this McLaren M10B ‘400-02’, car now in the tender, loving hands of Alan Hamilton, also a former Australian champion .KB here during the ’72 Tasman race. A Lola T300 would replace the car in time for the domestic Gold Star Series (unattributed)

Matich didn’t have a good Tasman, the A50 was quick enough to win the series but FM didn’t have a lot of luck, the championship was convincingly won by Kiwi arch driver/constructor rival Graham McRae in the Leda/McRae GM1 Chev penned by Len Terry.

Click here for an article on the Matich F5000 cars including the 1972 Tasman Series:

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

Credits…

oldracephotos.com, Bob Williamson Collection

Tailpiece: The Lola T300 was ‘a chick’ with a great arse and hips, visually arresting…

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Frank Gardner and Lola T300 Chev ahead of Frank Matich in the ’72 WF pitlane for tweaks. FG won the ’72 NZ GP in this T300 at Pukekohe, his last single-seater win, I think (Bob Williamson)

 

Frank Gardner split Matich and Bartlett, he was second at Warwick Farm in the factory T300. Frank was not exactly unfamiliar with WF either, mind you no-one would have done more laps around it than Matich, Frank tested tyres for Firestone, and later Goodyear and his cars a lot!

Between Gardner and Bob Marston they concepted a small F5000 based on Lola’s F2 tub. By placing the big water radiators, you needed plenty of coolant to look after the needs of a big Chev, at the cars hips they gave the car, and the T330/332 which followed it their most distinctive and attractive feature. Effective too in terms of aerodynamics and centralising weight, an article on the T300 is one for another time…

Finito…

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Frank Matich, Matich A50 Repco ‘#001/2’ , Shell Corner, Sandown, ‘Victoria Trophy’ April 1972. (Rennie Ellis)

Frank Matich on his way to victory during the first round of the Australian ‘Gold Star’ Series in 1972, Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’…

The car made its stunningly successful debut at the 1971 AGP the previous November. Matich won the race in a brand new untested car, the first monocoque and first single seater his team built.

In the broader historic context it was the first time an Australian built car had won an AGP since Warwick Pratley’s George Reed Special Ford V8 victory at Narrogin, WA in 1951.

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FM reclined in his ‘comfy’ monocoque chair, A50 ‘001/2’. He is talking to Carroll Smith who was to be his crew chief in the upcoming 1973 trip to contest the US L&M F5000 Championship. Here at Wigram, NZ, Tasman Series 1973. (Shane Lee)

Introduction…

This is a bit of a nutty long article.

I tripped over some photos of the 1972 ‘Victoria Trophy’ at Sandown, shots not in the immense F5000 Facebook Groups photo archives, so i thought i would whack a ‘quickie article’ together to show my F5000 FB mates there are still shots to be found.

Then i started thinking about why Matich didn’t win more Gold Stars, he only won in ’72. That led to research on his early ’60’s single seater campaigns which segued into his mid-late sixties sportscar specialism when he wasn’t eligible for the Gold Star, a single seater championship. And finally back to single seaters again in the F5000 period.

Then one needs to look at the Tasman Series as you can’t look at just the domestic Gold Star series in isolation…

Then there are the Matich cars he built and drove which are a key part of the story…and i kept on writing of course.

So! This rather long, eclectic mess comprises;

.The ’72 Victoria Trophy where i started

.A bit about FM’s 1964/5 2.5 litre Brabham single-seater Tasman formula years

.A fleeting summary of his ’66-’69 Sportscar phase, not a lot though as his Matich SR3 and SR4 campaigns deserve more detail, its a story for another time

.Then the substance of FM’s Matich F5000 cars and their racing campaigns with Matich.

In terms of the Matich F5000 detail i have drawn heavily on conversations and a manuscript provided by Derek Kneller, (DK) an Englishman who was a Team Matich engineer/mechanic for the whole of its F5000 period. He literally shipped FM’s first McLaren M10A to Oz and followed it in August 1969 and returned to the UK in 1974 after FM retired and the cars were sold.

The very articulate Derek was in Australia recently for FM’s funeral and recorded a very interesting interview with ‘Pitlane’, there is a link to it towards the end of this article, its well worth watching.

Many thanks Derek! If Australians have seen some of Derek’s material before its because it was included in Aaron Lewis’ excellent article on the Matich F5000 cars published in ‘Australian Musclecar Magazine’ some years ago. Much of the material has not been published before however.

Here we go, its long, so grab a beer, if you get lost come back here to see where you are!…

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Successful partnership. Frank Matich and Chief Mechanic, Derek Kneller on the right prior to the start of the NZ GP, Pukekohe 1973. Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’. (Derek Kneller Collection)

1972 Gold Star and Tasman Series…

Max Stewart took the 1971 Gold Star in his 2 Litre Mildren Waggott, his blend of speed and reliability ‘knocked off’ the F5000’s in the class’ first year as Australia’s National Formula 1 (ANF1).

Even Max saw the writing on the wall, he sold his faithful Mildren and replaced it with a Repco Holden powered Elfin MR5.

The ’72 Series comprised established stars; Matich, Bartlett and Stewart, coming men Muir, Walker, McCormack and Brown and some solid ‘journeymen’.

The ‘form’ drivers were Matich and Bartlett but Muir made a great F5000 debut in the just completed Tasman Series.

FM’s Tasman was disappointing having won the AGP upon the A50’s debut in November 1971. He expected to be more competitive in the Tasman only to watch his Kiwi Driver/Constructor rival Graham McRae win the series in his McLaren based Leda LT27/McRae GM1. McRae won 4 rounds and scored points in 5 of the 8 rounds.

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Nice overhead shot by Terry Marshall taken from Wigram’s control tower during the ’72 ‘Lady Wigram Trophy’. FM A50 ‘001/2’ DNF engine. Frank Gardner won the race in his Lola T300. (Terry Marshall)

The Matich team continued to develop their new car, A50 ‘001/2’ throughout the Tasman series as DK recalls ‘…There were some problems in the team during the Tasman. I was homesick and returned to the UK after the ’71 AGP. Whilst Peter Mabey is a top bloke and a great Chief Mechanic most of the rest of the team were not pulling their weight in NZ, doing the all-nighters or whatever was required. So the load fell on Maybey’.

‘Peter had been with FM for 4 years including the build and racing of the SR3 in the ‘States, in fact i was to replace him as Chief Mechanic, but he stayed on once it was clear we were to build a single-seater, something he had not done before. None of that was a drama, we worked well together’.

‘The upshot of the workload and pressure was that Peter left the team after Levin, he had just had enough, as had his wife of the pressures of racing.

FM did the Christchurch and Invercargill rounds with the mechanics.’

‘I had planned and organised with Frank when he was in the UK in late 1971 on Goodyear business, i was working for Surtees, to come back to Oz in the middle of the year. After Peter left Frank rang me and asked that i come back straight away. I arrived in Sydney the Monday after Surfers, Joan (Matich) picked me up from the airport, i went straight to Brookvale and started work on Frank’s joblist for the car. It was at this time the car was given the A50 ‘002’ moniker but it was ‘001’ the same tub; the bodywork was painted in STP colors and the roll bar chrome plated, it appeared different which was a bit of gamesmanship and kept the sponsors happy but it was, and still is the same tub which Bryan Sala now owns. This caused lots of historic grief in later years.’

‘The rear suspension geometry was altered with a lighter rear subframe and raced at Surfers Paradise, where the car was more competitive. The rear suspension geometry was altered again after Surfers (rear roll centre raised) and Frank won the next race at Warwick Farm. The same chassis was used for the rest of the Tasman series, for the successful 1972 Gold Star series and the 1973 Tasman, at its end the car was put on chassis stands at the Brookvale factory’.

Matich won, as Kneller notes at Warwick Farm, his backyard and the circuit at which he primarily honed his cars setup and picked up points in 4 of the 8 Tasman rounds, despite the in team dramas.

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‘C’mon Bob, i will belt them all with one of these’; John Harvey saying to Bob Jane? (in the race suit). ‘Piss-orf Harves, we’ve already got that friggin’ Bowin thing and touring cars are the go anyway!’ or words to that effect!? Bob Jane Racing team owner Bob Jane and driver Harvey checking out KB’s ‘brand spankers’ Lola T300 in the Sandown ‘Victoria Trophy’ dummy grid. (Stupix)

Bartlett also scored 4 times in the Tasman and won at Teretonga. The win was impressive, scored in the McLaren M10B previously owned by Niel Allen. 1972 was that chassis’ third Tasman Series. The reliable old beast was replaced by a brand new Lola T300 for the Gold Star Series KB having watched his friend and mentor, Frank Gardner’s progress in the car concepted by FG as a replacement for Lola’s ageing T190/2 series.

Gardner was Lola’s development driver/engineer. The prototype T300 ‘T242’ made its debut at Thruxton on 1 August 1972. By the end of the season the T300 was the fastest thing in Europe. FG took wins at Hockenheim and Oulton Park in September. In addition he won the 1971 British F5000 Championship with points accumulated in both his T192 and T300.

Mind you, the very fast, Leda LT27/McRae GM1 didn’t break cover until after the end of the British F5000 Championship and was THE CAR in 1972, McRae won the Tasman and US F5000 Championships, both with GM at the wheel.

In Australia Lola T300’s were bought by Bartlett, Bob Muir and F2 driver Gary Campbell stepped up into Gardner’s ’72 Tasman entry.

Ansett Team Elfin were represented by both driver/constructor Garrie Cooper, and John McCormack, the latter became more and more competitive with each 5 litre drive.

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Elfin owner/designer/constructor/racer, the late, great Garrie Cooper in the Sandown pitlane. ‘Victoria Trophy’ 1972. Elfin MR5 Repco. The ‘Tyrrell nose’ were added to the 2 ‘works cars’ during the ’72 Tasman Series, see the pic below of John Walker’s car to show the original spec nose. (Stupix)

The Elfin MR5 Repco’s made their debut in late 1971 and were developed over the 1972 Tasman Series, new Elfins were also bought by Max Stewart and John Walker. By the seasons end Walker acquired a Matich with which to contest the ’73 US Series, the Matich had the safety fuel tanks of the spec required for the L&M Series. And was a faster car.

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John Walker in his Elfin MR5 Repco, Victoria Trophy 1972. (Jay Bondini)

Warwick Brown’s mentor, businessman Pat Burke bought Alan Hamilton’s low mileage ex-Allen spare M10B and made a big impact. Warwick would be a force in F5000/CanAm through to the end of his driving career in both Australasia and the USA.

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Matich prepares for practice, this is the gravel form up area. Victoria Trophy 1972. Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’.(Stupix)

‘Victoria Trophy’ 16 April 1972…

Matich set pole on 61.5 secs nearly 1 second quicker than McRae’s Tasman pole time only 2 months before. Bob Muir was next on 61.9 and was quick with a new Chev, then came Bartlett, McCormack, Campbell, Max Stewart, Warwick Brown and John Walker. Further back were the ANF2 cars.

A crowd of 20000 in beautiful sunshine were in attendance to see 8 F5000’s and 9 F2’s.

Matich got the jump at the start and was never headed, behind him were Muir, Bartlett, McCormack , Brown, Stewart and Walker.

Stewart slipped past WB but almost immediately dropped a valve in his Repco Holden V8, Walker moved forward then Brown pitted having slowed.

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Kevin Bartlett leads John Mc Cormack into Shell Corner, during their great dice, Sandown. Lola T300 Chev and Elfin MR5 Repco. (Rennie Ellis)

10 laps down Matich lead Muir by 7 seconds who was well clear of KB who was being challenged by the Elfin duo of McCormack and Cooper.

Campbell clobbered the fence at ‘Torana’ corner, Walker was through to 6th, the race came alive with Mac challenging Bartlett on lap 20.

The pair were at it for 6 laps, nose to tail before the Lola yielded to the Elfin MR5, then KB’s engine lost its edge and he retired with ignition failure.

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Bob Muir rolls his immaculate, concourse, positively gorgeous and fast Lola T300 Chev  into ‘Dandy Road’ during his great Victoria Trophy drive. (Jay Bondini)

Muir was driving a great race, now Mac set after him, he had maintained a good pace despite being short of water, eventually the Lola started to smoke badly but Bob was able to keep clear of the Tasmanian to maintain 2nd spot.

Behind Mac were Cooper, Walker, Brown and Malcolm Ramsay in the little Birrana 272 Hart Ford F2 car. This was the prototype of a series of cars which dominated the small bore class in Oz for the next few years.

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Malcolm Ramsay’s Birrana 272 ‘002’ Ford. ‘Victoria Trophy’ Sandown 1972. It was in this chassis Oz touring car star Peter Brock made his single-seater debut in a low key campaign, largely with the assistance of his father, amongst his Holden touring car commitments in 1973. (unattributed)

‘Australian Motor Racing Annual’ noted Matich’s great win and McCormack’s strong drive in 3rd having been ill for most of the week prior.

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Victorian motor trader/racer Clive Millis Elfin 600B Ford F2, ‘Victoria Trophy’ 1972. (Rennie Ellis)

For Matich it was the start of a dominant 1972 Gold Star campaign; he won the series from Kevin Bartlett with wins at Sandown, Oran Park, Surfers’ and Warwick Farm. KB won at Adelaide International and McCormack the Symmons Plains round in his native state of Tasmania.

Frank Matich and the Gold Star…

Arguably FM was Australia’s greatest resident racing driver of the sixties and seventies, certainly he was one of them, despite that he collected only one Gold Star. Why?

FM cut his racing teeth in sportscars in the mid-fifties, quickly progressing through Healeys’ to the Leaton Motors Jaguar C and D Types and Lotus 15 Climax 2.5. Then two Lotus 19’s. He first raced open-wheeler Elfins taking points in the 1963 Gold Star in an Elfin 1.5 Ford, the title won by Bib Stillwell.

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First run in the just arrived Brabham BT7A Climax, Warwick Farm. Its race debut was in the ‘Hordern Trophy’ at Warwick Rarm in December 1963. Bruce Richardson by front wheel. (John Ellacott)

He became serious about his open-wheeler program in 1964, buying the latest ‘Intercontinental’ Brabham, the BT7A. He very quickly got to grips with the 2.7/2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engined car. Stillwell maintained his earlier model BT4 for ’64 but again won the championship, Matich took one win.

There was little doubt that FM was the quickest local, a driver who had not yet peaked, whilst Bib, having served a long apprenticeship, was atop the mountain, drove well, was well funded via his car dealerships and had well prepared cars driven with more mechanical sympathy than Matich.

FM lacked reliability which was perhaps, if you believe what was written at the time, a function of being hard on his equipment, his cars equally well prepared, but perhaps not quite as well financed as Stillwell’s.

Matich was equal 4th in the Gold Star in 1964 his speed absolutely confirmed in the 1965 Tasman Series, where his year old, well developed car gave nothing away to any of the Internationals or the latest BT11A Brabham’s driven by Graham Hill, Stillwell or Jack himself.

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In the best of company, and avoiding the 2.25pm train  from Launceston to Hobart…AGP Longford Tasman 1965. Graham Hill Brabham BT11A Climax from Matich in his year old BT7A Climax. (History of the AGP)

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‘Frank led from pole in the 1965 ‘Warwick Farm 100’ but Hill and Clark went by on lap 1 is photographer, John Ellacott’s caption. Matich, light blue Brabham BT7A Climax, Hill in the red Brabham BT11 A Climax and Clark in Lotus 32B Climax. (John Ellacott)

He contested the 1965 Gold Star in the BT7A, his best results two 2nds, the title won again by Stillwell, who, having won 4 on the trot retired from racing.

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Matich on pole in his Elfin 400/Traco Olds, Spencer Martin in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM at the start of the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy, Longford, March. FM won. (Richard Blanden)

Matich refocused on sports cars, he saw greater commercial opportunities as they grew in stature and importance globally.

The Elfin 400 Olds was the first ‘sporty’ in 1966, then followed his self built ‘400 clone’ Matich SR3 Repco which swept all before it in Australia in 1967/68 and in which FM contested the 1967 Can Am series. Click here for my the article about Frank’s Elfin 400;

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

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Early on in the Australian Tourist Trophy at the Longford 1964 Tasman meeting. Frank Gardner Lotus 23B Ford, Bib Stillwell’s #6 Cooper Monaco Climax, Matich’ victorious blue Lotus 19B Climax and Bob Jane’s Lwt Jag E type. Matich won from Stillwell and Greg Cusack’s Elfin Mallala Ford. (oldracephotos.com/Pat Ellis)

Whereas in 1964/5 he continued to race his Lotus 19B as well as the single-seater Brabham, from 1966 to 1969 FM raced sports cars to the exclusion of openwheelers. Sadly.

So Spencer Martin, Kevin Bartlett, Leo Geoghegan, John Harvey and other Australian top liners in single-seaters didn’t have FM ‘in their sandpit’ from 1966 till later in 1969.

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Matich at Warwick Farm in the Repco 4.4 litre ‘620 Series’ V8 powered Matich SR3 in 1968. He raced SR3’s in the Can Am series in 1967, then back in Oz in 1968 whilst the SR4 was being built. (Dick Simpson)

His Matich SR4 powered by Repco’s quad-cam 5 litre ‘760 Series’ V8 was intended as his 1968 Can Am weapon but was finished late and didn’t contest the title won by the McLaren M8A Chevs of McLaren and Hulme.

No way was the SR4, powerful as it was, going to take that title, but it would have been interesting to see how the beautiful handling, spaceframe chassis SR4 would have gone in the ’68 Can Am all the same.

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Frank in the SR4 Repco, Warwick Farm 1969. The formidable, oh-so-fast and dominant Matich. Pretty much destroyed sportscar racing in Australia for a few years such was the cars speed! Car acquired by Repco at years end and became a museum piece whilst still the fastest car in Australia regardless of class. (oldracephotos.com/Dick Simpson)

Instead he raced it in Australia in 1969 and ‘blew the rest of the field off the planet’ taking the national title in a display of absolute engineering and driving dominance. The Repco engine behaved, the valve gear resonance dramas which destroyed Jack and Jochen Rindt’s 1968 F1 season not apparent in the ‘760 Series’ 5 Litre variant of the engine which revved lower than its ‘860 Series’ 3 litre little brother.

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FM portrait during his 1967 Can Am campaign. Top shot, so often he is lost in his thoughts, racedays are business days after all! Here in happy mode and the going was tough Stateside! (Dave Friedman)

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FM dicing with Jim Clark at Lakeside’s Kink 1965. Matich rated this race the greatest he had against the greatest driver he raced against. Dice spoiled by a misfire in the Brabham’s engine. Brabham BT7A and Lotus 32B both 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF powered. (unattributed)

Where Does Matich Fit in The Pantheon of Australian Motor Racing Greats?…

One racing’s endless pub topics of debate is ‘whom is better than whom’ both globally and in our particular countries of origin. I’ve always enjoyed these debates secure in the knowledge its pretty much impossible to compare drivers across eras even if a ‘pure statistical’ approach of races entered/won is taken.

Of more interest and perhaps accuracy are the opinions of  ‘expert observers’ of the sport at a particular time commenting on drivers and cars with all relevant factors which should be considered at the time in the context of the time.

‘Australian Motor Racing Annual’, 1968 edition, which did annual driver reviews, had this to say about FM;

‘After being out of the country for 4 months campaigning in the Can Am series (in 1967) Matich came back to take…a comfortable win for his 4th Australian Tourist Trophy. He capped that by taking the outright lap record at  Surfers Paradise and Warwick Farm on the heels of the Tasman cars (defeating Chris Amon in sports car races in a Ferrari P4/Can Am 350 in his Matich SR3 Repco) and clocking the fastest time of the day at Sandown. His now quite confirmed maturity has emphasised his professional approach to the sport and there is no doubt now that he is among the worlds top 6 drivers…’

The other two ‘5 star’ drivers that year were Leo Geoghegan and Kevin Bartlett.

Of Geoghegan the review said ‘Now into the young veteran class but still the most polished GP driver in the country..’

Of KB the review said ‘This extraordinarily fast driver young driver with bags of natural ability…did not have a good season. Nevertheless he established himself as a real tiger in GP racing in this country and there is no doubt in equal machinery only Matich could match him for pace…’

The analysis suits me as FM and KB are my two greatest Australian resident drivers of the 1960 to, say, 1975 period.

Who did i consider in the mix? Lex Davison, Stan Jones, Bib Stillwell, Spencer Martin (boy it would have been good to see him peak, he retired before he did in my opinion), Leo Geoghegan, John Harvey, Max Stewart, John McCormack, John Walker and John Goss.

Outside this mix are Jack and Geoff Brabham, Gardner, Schenken, Walker, Jones, Perkins, Warwick Brown and Bruce Allison who ‘took the hard road’ and left the country to seek success, fame and fortune.

‘Top 6 drivers in the world’ is a big call in relation to FM. Or not?

I am speculating, we all have our own list in early 1968 when the magazine was published before Jim Clark’s death. But a Top 6 drivers in ‘The World Best’ then maybe includes; Clark, Hill, Brabham, Stewart, Gurney and Hulme. Top 6 ‘The Worlds Fastest’ maybe includes; Clark, Stewart, Gurney, Rindt, Amon and Rodriguez.

Whichever way you cut it FM was ‘up there’, famously the only member of the Grand Prix Drivers Association who never raced in an F1 World Championship GP.

And someone who had opportunities to race GP cars in Europe but for family and business reasons chose to race Internationally from his Australian base.

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The company you keep; pre 1964 AGP drivers briefing shot Sandown. L>R; Tony Shelley, Mel McEwin, Denny Hulme, FM, Jack Brabham, Bib Stillwell, Bruce McLaren, Tim Mayer, Doug Whiteford behind the radio commentator, Frank Gardner and Tony Osborne behind FG holding the helmet. (History of The AGP)

But Times They Were A Changin’…

F5000 was being mooted as Australia’s next ANF1, the 2.5 Litre Tasman Formula waning. If ever a single seater class were tailor made for Matich it was this, and so it was that Matich imported the first F5000 to Australia, his McLaren M10A Chev arrived in Sydney in August 1969. FM’s move was a big one as he imported the car before the decision by CAMS had been made, politically it was smart as it added to the pressure to go the F5000 route.

It’s an arcane point but perhaps the first competition outing of an ‘F5000 car’ in Australia was Jim Abbott’s Hillclimb of his ex-Gardner/Bartlett Brabham BT23D Traco Olds at Lakeland Hillclimb on Melbourne’s eastern outskirts on 31 May 1969?

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Melbourne ‘Age’ June 4 1969.

Matich and his McLaren M10A in 1969, certainly Australia’s first ‘real F5000’…

DK recalls; ‘Frank’s first F5000 was a McLaren M10A (# 300-10), coloured pale yellow it arrived in Australia at the beginning of August 1969. I crated the chassis at Frank Williams workshop before leaving for Australia, I arrived on 11 August’.

‘The engine was a Traco Chev on carbs Frank shipped from the ‘States. The chassis arrived at Frank’s Castle Cove workshop on 13 August. Peter Mabey and I assembled it, i made and mounted the rear wing. The car had an LG600 Hewland gearbox. It was first tested at Warwick Farm the Friday before it’s first race, Frank finished 3rd to the Mildren twins, Bartlett and Max Stewart’.

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Kris Matich watching dad carefully prepare himself in his new McLaren M10A Chev ‘300-10’, first race for an F5000 in Australia, Warwick Farm September 7 1969. Decals on wings are ‘Rothmans Team Matich’. (Derek Kneller)

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Matich practising the M10A Chev before its first WF meeting, Saturday 6 September 1969. Decals on cars side are Repco, Bell and Firestone. (lyntonh)

Click here for YouTube footage of that race at Warwick Farm;

‘The week after the race we stripped the car down and painted the chassis two-tone blue, royal blue at the top, light blue at the bottom. The nose was reshaped to accommodate a lightweight aluminium radiator. The car’s next race was at Calder in outer Melbourne, we tested it a couple of times at Amaroo Park before changing the engine spec to fuel injection and the gearbox to the smaller, lighter Hewland DG300 before the 1970 Tasman Series in which Frank competed together with the 2.5 litre Tasman cars’.

‘The car we took to the Tasman was essentially an M10B in all but name. I built M10A’s at McLaren and built the first M10B, Peter Gethin’s car at McLaren, not Trojan before coming to Australia, so knew exactly what changes to make. Not sure why FM didn’t buy an M10B, but maybe he wasn’t aware of the updated car at the time he placed his order.’

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Matich on his way to victory, NZ GP Pukekohe 1970. Flag to flag win fron pole. McLaren M10A Chev. (Garry Simkin Collection/ The Roaring Season)

1970 was a transition year in Australia, whilst that summers Tasman Series was for both Tasman 2.5 and F5000 cars the Gold Star series was for Tasman 2.5 cars only albeit the Australian GP that November was for both categories. Go figure? The choice of our next ANF1 between 2 Litres (Euro F2 became 2 litres in 1972) and F5000 was fraught and so was the transition to F5000 once CAMS made that choice.

With more luck Matich could have taken the 1970 Tasman, he started in NZ with a bang; 3rd in the first round at Levin, he won the NZ GP at Pukekohe and on Wigram’s airfield circuit the following weekend. The team missed the Teretonga round to give them time to rebuild their only Chev engine which had done nearly 1000 miles, before the three Australian races. These were as bad as the Kiwi ones were good! FM was 4th at Surfers, broke an upright at his home track, Warwick Farm and then had a throttle cable break at Sandown’s final round.

Graeme Lawrence won the title, the Kiwi drove the Ferrari Dino 246 Tasman car which won in Amon’s hands in 1969.

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‘Feel The Earth Move’; 5 litres of fuel injected Traco Chev blasting along Surfers main straight, FM about to tip the beast flat out in 5th into Surfers daunting right hander under Dunlop Bridge. McLaren M10A  8 Feb 1970. To all intents and purposes car is to M10B spec as per the text. 4th, race won by McRae’s similar car. (Dick Simpson)

Matich sat out the 1970 Gold Star Series, his F5000 McLaren ineligible but he was working hard with Repco to develop an F5000 variant of Holden’s then new ‘308’ V8…

This engine, designed by Phil Irving, also the designer of Repco’s ‘620 Series’ V8 which won Brabham’s 1966 World Titles, promptly won the 1970 AGP, having made its debut in Matich’s new McLaren M10B (#400-10) on 12 July at Warwick Farm.

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Historic debut for FM’s very successful and tubbed at least 3 times! McLaren M10B Repco ‘400-10’ and the new Repco Holden F5000 engine. Warwick Farm 12 July 1970. (oldracingcars.com)

Matich won the AGP from pole also taking fastest lap, close to a perfect weekend. Niel Allen’s M10B Chev was 2nd and Graeme Lawrence’ Ferrari Dino 246T 3rd.

DK; ‘The Repco engines were bloody good, extremely good, the engineering precision was excellent. Everything was made by Repco, the rockers were forged steel, it had articulated rockers to resist the bending motion which breaks them, it had cast magnesium rather than aluminium manifolds. It was just a beautifully engineered and built engine. We had about 460bhp at the start, that rose to about 480-490 by Tasman ’73 and the flat plane crank engines gave about 520bhp when they came on stream in the ‘States in early ’73. Other drivers didn’t believe the power we had such was the strength of the engines, they had strong torque characteristics. The problems with Repco were around fiddly things. For example, we were forever changing head gaskets in the field, gaskets lifed to 4 hours had 3 hours use on the dyno when an engine was delivered, meaning a change in the workshop or at a meeting. Checking of valve clearances with limited time before a session or race and then having them leak, that kind of thing.’

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

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Matich in Warwick Farms Esses during his victorious 1970 AGP drive. 22 November 1970. McLaren M10B Repco ‘400-10’. (Rory McDonald)

surfers 71

Happy in victory of the ‘Surfers Paradise 100’; FM, team and Mc Laren M10B Repco. Surfers Tasman round Feb 1971. (unattributed)

The new Matich McLaren M10B Repco looked a good bet for the 1971 Tasman Series but Graham McRae had a very potent M10B of his own which was continually modified by McRae in a successful UK F5000 campaign in 1970.

The Series was dominated by these 2 drivers and Niel Allen who showed his mettle with 2 wins in his M10B. He took the NZ GP at Pukekohe and the Teretonga round with his well developed chassis and powerful Chev, both courtesy of Peter Molloy his race engineer.

McRae took wins at Levin, Wigram and Sandown and the title by 4 points from Matich. Frank had great reliability from his new Repco, if not quite as much ultimate grunt. He won at Surfers, was second at Pukekohe, Wigram and Teretonga and took third at Sandown, he was only out of the points in two rounds.

matich laguna seca 1971

Frank Matich on his way to 2nd at Laguna Seca, second round of the US L&M Series in May 1971, David Hobbs in another M10B won the race. Here Matich is lapping # 57 Monte Sheldon Eagle Mk5 Chev and # 86 Gregg Paterson McLaren M10A Chev. (Derek Kneller)

Matich took his McLaren, razor sharp after it’s 1971 Tasman campaign to the US L&M F5000 championship, taking in the first two rounds at Riverside on 25 April and Laguna Seca on 2 May.

DK;’ We had gradually modified the car quite a lot including fitting 13 inch front wheels to make use of tyres of the type developed in F1, before we went to the US we increased the cars wheelbase by making changes to the front suspension, the car was very quick there’

He won and finished second in this ‘hit and run campaign’ before heading home to Australia, much to the relief of the series regulars!

DK;’ We took the whole equipe to California, we shipped the car by air and the truck and trailer by sea. We based ourselves at Carroll Shelby’s workshop in LA, it was there we met Carroll Smith who team managed our campaign in the US in 1973. We only had 1 Repco engine though, it was relatively early in the Repco program remember. The engine had done the 2 US meetings and plenty of testing. That and the fact that FM had commitments to sponsors back in Australia meant we had to come home’.

hordern trophy

Dale Harvey’s lovely portrait of FM in the newly rebuilt McLaren Repco, now designated M10C in deference to its various Matich mods. ‘Hordern Trophy’ Warwick Farm 5 Sept 1971. DNF in the race won by KB’s M10B Chev. Car has a new tub, built up by the Matich team around the cars bulkheads as part of the ‘education process’ in gaining monocoque experience, the new A50 being built at the same time this car was being rebuilt after its June accident at Oran Park with an errant Lotus 7. (Dale Harvey)

In a busy year Matich contested some rounds of the 1971 Gold Star series. He missed the first round at Lakeside, not yet back from the US, Bartlett took the win in his M10B. He crashed the car before the Oran Park meeting on the Thursday, a Lotus 7 inadvertently getting in his way and doing enough damage for the car to be retubbed.

He bounced back to win at Surfers in August in the newly rebuilt car now dubbed M10C in deference to its various Matich mods and chassis repair in Australia.

He retired at Warwick Farm and at Sandown with jammed throttle slides, Bartlett again winning. He didn’t contest the Symmons Plains and Mallala rounds.

Max Stewart took the title with one win but a mix of speed and reliability gave him a 1 point victory for the title over Bartlett, who won twice.

agp win

FM on the last victorious lap of the 1971 AGP at Warwick Farm, upon the Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’ debut. WF Esses, car looking beautifully balanced. (lyntonh)

Design and Construction of the Matich A50 Repco…

Matich’s McLaren M10B/C was raced in both Australasia and the US, the car an amalgam of his teams ideas and feedback via a development program with Trojan Industries in the UK, the makers of customer McLaren cars.

Matich had learned all he needed to know about ‘what makes an F5000 tick in 1969 and 1970’ ‘We’d developed the McLaren as far as it would go. It was time to move on to something else’, Matich told John Smailes in an interview for ‘The Australian Motor Racing Annual’ in 1971.

In terms of the cars design principles FM’…wanted as durable and maintainable a car as possible with inbuilt strength far greater than many F5000’s being built today’.

Economy of maintenance was important, the Matich ‘triangulated monocoque’ ‘built on the same principles as a space frame-with the same comparative ease of repair and maintenance’.

DK;’ FM, Peter Mabey and designer/draftsman Henry Nehrbecki (HN) and i had endless discussions about what we wanted in the car, its design attributes. We didn’t really consider a side radiator car then. FM liked weight over the front wheels, the radiators up front helped that. He also knew what the tyres needed from his Goodyear testing contract. We went along with what we knew in terms of loadings, feel etc. The tub was neater and easier to make than the M10B, all the fuel was in the side pods, not as we sometimes had to do with the McLaren use the scuttle tanks.’

Frank’s team had the capacity to build their own cars. The very successful SR3 and SR4 spaceframe sportscars were built by Matich and a group of subcontractors in Sydney and in Melbourne for the castings.

DK; ‘Whilst the team had built spaceframes none of them had built a monocoque before. Perhaps Henry had some of that experience in the UK, i’m not sure. When FM bent the M10B at Oran Park we decided to repair the tub at Brookvale to give us some monocoque experience. We unpicked the bent tub down to its bulkheads and used it as an exercise to see how they were made. We leased an industrial riveting unit to be able to use the same type of aircraft rivets as i was familiar with at Mclarens’

The first drawings of the ‘A50’ were commenced by HN and FM in November 1970 a year before its victorious debut in the 1971 Australian Grand Prix. ‘A’ was for Formula A or 5000, ’50’ the number of years at the time the projects prime sponsor, Repco had manufactured automotive components in Australia.

matich front

Brand new A50 about to roll onto the trailer for the trip to Warwick Farm, this is the Brookvale workshop where the car was built, November 1971. Of note is the cars shape and front radiator design, the ‘trend setting’ Lotus 72 chisel nose/side rad F1 car appeared in early 1970. Still plenty of front rad competitive cars in F1 at this time mind you. Note also the wide based wishbone front suspension, magnesium CAC built uprights, shocks are alloy bodied Koni’s. (Derek Kneller)

The car comprised ‘…three sections-a detachable front, central monocoque tub and detachable rear holding the engine. Eight bolts hold the rear (A frame) section in place, six bolts secure the front. In the event of an accident or undue flexing it’s a simple matter to bolt on a replacement section’, Matich said.

DK;’ We didn’t have the necessary folders to work with sheet aluminium so John Joyce at Bowins (Bowin Racing Cars in Brookvale) did some of that work and built the unique to A50 ‘001’ front and rear bulkheads which were Tig welded. Peter and i built up the tub and HN made most of the suspension components in nickel bronze. I wanted them Tig’d and grumbled about that, the first suspension and spares were nickel bronze welded’.

The clever part of the cars design was this ‘modular concept’.

During the F5000 program the team built 6 monocoques; 3 at the Brookvale workshop behind the Brookvale Mall shopping centre 17 Km from Sydney, the other 3 were built in a batch by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) at Fishermans Bend, 6 Km from Melbourne in early 1973.

The cars remained competitive throughout the formula by the team ‘playing with’ weight distribution, track/wheelbases and aerodynamics (later cars were side-rad/chisel noses) by the use of different front and rear fabricated sheet steel detachable sections, bellhousings and of course bodywork and wings. All the while using the same tub design from 1971 to 1974. Noting the A53 won the Australian Grand Prix in John Goss’ hands in 1976 and was still competitive beyond that…that their was nothing wrong with the tubs or the underlying design philosophy is clear.

25 gallons of fuel in total, is carried in the tubs side pontoons, the fuel contained in locally made puncture proof foam cells. DK;’ Frank wanted as much of the car as possible made in Australia, he was a real patriot in that way. We could have had the fuel cells made by Goodyear free via our tyre contract but instead had them made by a Dunlop subsidiary about an hour from Melbourne. It also gave us better control of the product’.

Instruments comprised Smiths mechanical tach, oil pressure and water temperature gauges. The gear change for the ubiquitous Hewland DG300 ‘box was on the right and the steering wheel was a ‘half moon’, round at the top and flattened at the bottom, sensibly, to ease access and egress into the car.

paddock rear

Matich A50 ‘001/2’ and McLaren M10C Repco ‘400-10’ in the 1971 WF AGP pit. The Rothmans/Repco machines were raced by Matich with touring car star; although he had quite a bit of single seater background in his past, Colin Bond. See cockpit details referred to in text. Of note the front location points of the radius rods to the rear of the tub, front top wishbone and aluminium sheet monocoque itself, each side pontoon contained 12.5 gallons of Avgas. Valve clearances being checked, RHS rocker cover sitting between the injection trumpets. (Derek Kneller)

The challenges of building cars at the time are interesting, FM ‘…The A50 was an extremely difficult car to build or to build accurately, we went through three draftsmen before we got the car completed’. You can never build a good car from the drawing board. You can build a pretty one-but not one which is functional. You can’t draw in three dimensions, at least not successfully. It’s very much a matter of trial. You build a tub, see if you like it and if you don’t you throw it away. It’s far more expensive but you get a better car in the long run’.

The days of CADCAM were still a long way off in 1971!

wheel alignment

The new A50 coming together in the teams Brookvale workshop and about to be wheel aligned for the first time. Sans wings obviously. Car alongside is the teams McLaren M10C Repco, recently repaired and to be driven by Colin Bond in the 1971 AGP. (Shane Lee)

The cars wheels were cast by the CAC in Melbourne; the rears in both 13 and 15 inch diameters and widths of between 15 and 17 inches. The fronts were 13 inches in diameter with widths of between 10 to 11.5 inches.

Front suspension was identical in layout to the SR4; FM ‘unequal length wishbones with the bottom arms reaching forward to the bottom of the radiator and the top arms swinging backwards to the chassis bulkhead’.

The rear suspension used, typically for the day, a single top link, twin parallel links at the bottom, twin radius rods for fore and aft location and coil spring damper units. Shocks were Koni double adjustable alloys and adjustable sway bars were fitted front and rear.

Steering was by Matich rack and pinion, again cast by CAC in Melbourne.

The cars engine was the Repco Holden F5000 unit, designed by Phil Irving, based on Holden’s then new production ‘308’ V8, the engine a story in itself. Matich was Repco’s factory driver, the engines also available for sale or lease to customers, and gave ‘460-470 horsepower at 7200 revs’ at the time.

rear paddiock

Rear suspension detail shot in the 1971 Warwick Farm AGP paddock. Of note is the wing design, ‘banana wings’ still a year or so away. Oil reservoir is beside the Hewland DG300 gearbox. Suspension; single upper link, two lower parallel links clear as are coil spring inside which are Koni shocks. 2 Radius rods provide fore and aft location. ‘Butch’ splined driveshafts and big exhausts, Repco engine giving circa 460-470 bhp @ this stage of its development. (Derek Kneller)

matich trailer

Hi-ho, hi-ho its orf to the ‘farm we go. Peter Mabey rolls A50 ‘001/2’ onto the elaborate! Matich Team trailer enroute to a 1971 AGP victory. (Derek Kneller)

1971 Australian Grand Prix, Warwick Farm…

DK;’ The A50 was finished on the Thursday before WF. We did 25 laps bedding in brakes, tyres and the engine and FM simply ran away with the race’.

Graham Howard’s ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’; ‘If the pundits thought that Frank Matich’s efforts in getting a brand new car to run faultlessly (and fastest) in practice was a remarkable effort, they-along with everyone else at Warwick Farm-were stunned with what he and his A50 did in the race. And that was to lead flag to flag, have no-one seriously challenge him, set the fastest lap, slow by up to two seconds a lap in the later stages and still beat his nearest rival home by a fraction of a second less than 1 minute, or 2/3’s of a lap’.

Bartlett and Alan Hamilton were 2nd and 3rd in their M10B Chev’s. Gardner’s Lola T300 didn’t contest the race after a jammed throttle and ensuing prang in practice damaged the car. John Surtees competed in his own TS8 Chev in a field of depth comprising both F5000 and 2 litre cars which were always quick on the tight, technical, testing WF layout.

agp

FM on the way to an historic 1971 AGP victory upon the debut of A50 ‘001/2’. Warwick Farm. (History of The AGP)

Youtube footage of 1971 AGP…

The 1972 Tasman Series I covered in brief earlier in this article. Ditto the 1972 Gold Star. Therefore the A50’s performance in those Championships we have already covered way back at the start of this epic….

tasman 73

The top cars of the 1973 Tasman series here shot at Sandown ‘on the fast gallop’ towards ‘The Causeway’. Matich in A50 Repco, McCormack’s continually developed Elfin MR5 Repco, McRae’s new GM1 Chev and Max Stewart’s new Lola T330 Chev. The only missing car  from ‘The Class of ’73’  is a Chevron B24 Chev. (Robert Davies)

Equally good bets for the 1973 Tasman Series were Matich and McRae, the former fresh from his ’72 Gold Star win and continually developed A50 chassis.

McRae took victory in the ultra competitive 1972 US F5000 ‘L&M Championship’ and was armed with a new GM1, an update of the prior years Leda LT27.

And so it proved that McRae took his third Tasman title on the trot, Graham finished with 40 points, John McCormack 2nd on 29 points in the ageing but fast Elfin MR5 Repco with Matich, the ‘factory Repco’ driver 3rd on 27 points in his A50.

matich puke

FM’s A50 leads Graham McRae’s GM1 on his outside, John McCormack Elfin MR5 and Max Stewart’s Lola T330 into the chicane ‘rumble strip’ on lap one of the 1973 NZGP at Pukekohe. He is in tight as GM has made a lunge on the outside. FM is about to hit the the strip and damage the steering arm, out of the race. (Derek Kneller Collection)

The ’73 Tasman was the most open for years and demonstrated the depth of F5000 fields and plethora of competitive chassis; Allan Rollinson won in a customer McRae at Teretonga, Steve Thompson in a Firestone shod Chevron B24 at a very wet Warwick Farm. Wins for Matich at Surfers Paradise, McRae at Levin, Wigram and Sandown and McCormacks two Elfin MR5 wins at Pukekohe and Adelaide, the first and last races of the series showed no one chassis was dominant.

Max Stewart made a strong debut for the very first Lola T330. ‘HU1’ was Frank Gradner’s prototype, was works entered and supervised by FM during the series. Max was quick, it was a Lola T330 and Jody Scheckter onslaught Matich would encounter in the US in 1973.

wigram 2

Derek Kneller and John Anderson fuel the A50 at Wigram 1973. Ken Symes of Repco. Good shot of the ‘blown diffuser’! and related bracketry to locate it. (Derek Kneller)

DK; ‘At Pukekohe FM was on pole and lead but then had an accident. He put a wheel onto the makeshift chicane, and bent the steering arm, it was a race we should have won. At Levin we were 2nd. At Wigram 4th with an engine misfire. At Teretonga we started on wets, the weather improved, we changed to dry tyres then it rained and FM spun. At Surfers we won from flag to flag. At Warwick Farm Steve Thomson’s Firestone wets won the day, FM was 2nd. At Sandown the car was 4th with a puncture and in Adelaide he retired with fuel pump failure’.

a 51 mid ohio

Matich A51 ‘005’ in the Mid Ohio paddock 1973. FM 13th, in chassis ‘006’ in the race won by Jody Scheckter, John Walker 11th in his A50 ‘004’. Notice the dual rear wing setup, inspection holes in side of monocoque, long swept back top front suspension link (compared with the later A52/3). Above the airbox on the other side of the paddock is Walker’s A50 complete with dual rear wing setup. (Terry Capps)

Frank Matich ignored the domestic Gold Star Series in 1973 to mount an onslaught on the US L&M F5000 Championship in two new cars, Matich A51 Repco’s…

The new cars incorporated all of the teams knowledge racing the A50, FM’s role as a tester for Goodyear racing tyres, for whom he was the Australian distributor and the market intelligence gained in the ’73 Tasman Series.

He knew the relative strengths of the Chevron B24/8, Lola T330 and McRae GM1, his primary competitors stateside that year. The challenge was to build a car to beat them and ship it to California before the first round on 23 April at Riverside.

Kneller recalls the build of the A51’s;

‘In later 1972/early 1973 the Commonweath Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in Melbourne built 3 new chassis’ using drawings supplied by Matich. The CAC had spare capacity as the Vietnam War was over, they did a lot of aircraft maintenance work during the conflict. We knew them well from the castings they had made for us back to the SR3 days. After the ’72 Tasman the A50 was in Melbourne for the motor show. We then took the car to CAC at Fishermans Bend for them to look at, they quoted a price about a third of what it would cost us inhouse so we had them make the tubs for us’.

‘The first arrived in November ’72. We started to build up a new car for the ’73 Tasman, FM even got a logbook for ‘005’ from CAMS but the project ran late mainly due to fuel cell delays so we used A50 ‘001/2′ again in the ’73 Tasman, which still had done maybe 15 meetings. No car was faster in Australia at the time’.

‘The tubs were basically identical to the A50 chassis (all 3 of which were built at the Matich, Brookvale, Sydney workshop) apart from a different riveting system; the skins were dimpled with a countersunk hole and countersunk rivets used to give a stronger joint and also a flush finish’.

‘These chassis were also lighter and torsionally stiffer than the previous ‘Brookvale’ monocoques, and came with a grey anodised finish to the inside skins’. Two of the three new tubs were built into A51’s, leaving one spare.

a51's in build

A51’s in build early 1973 in Matich ‘shop Military Road, Cremorne, Sydney. You can feel the intensity just looking at this shot, there is so much going on! Cars from front to back; A51 ‘006’, A51 ‘005’ and the much raced A50 ‘001/2’, still in its post Tasman ’73 ‘warpaint’. Note CAC built A51 tubs, inspection hatches open awaiting fuel cells. Note also rear ‘A frames’ to support 5 litre ‘flat plane crank’ Repco Holden 520bhp V8. Hewland DG300 ‘box. (Derek Kneller)

Derek continues’ A51 Repco ‘005’ was built in early 1973 in the Matich Racing Cremorne workshop in Military Road. It had a chrome roll hoop, the radius of the bend was smaller than the A50, (making the car easy to pick in relation to an A50 to the trained eye).

There were changes to the front and rear suspension geometry and a redesigned rear lower suspension mounting frame compared to the A50.

The radiators were the same light weight aluminium GM rads previously used on the A50. Onboard fire extinguishers were fitted.

All suspension components were finished black by a chemical process in house, there was a slightly different shape nose with a larger radiator inlet at the front. The car also had a lower rear wing mounted behind the gearbox approx 150mm off the ground with the exhaust blowing over its top surface.’

‘A new brand of wheel was used in the USA, these ‘Mel Mag’s’ were English and were delivered to the Riverside first round of the series, they were lighter than the Matich cast magnesium wheels as used on the A50.’ The Matich wheels and uprights were cast by CAC in Melbourne. ‘A51 ‘006’  was built alongside ‘005’, it had a black roll hoop and was of identical spec to ‘005.’

‘Both chassis’ were taken to the USA. ‘005’ was shaken down for a few laps at Warwick Farm before going to the US, ‘006 was not. ‘005’ was used in the first 2 races but after Laguna we raced ‘006’ as well.’

‘We were the only team in the series that had a spare car. Both cars were prepared for FM’s use at all 5 races. Frank set up and practiced both cars at all meetings, Vern Schuppan drove chassis ‘006’ in practice at Watkins Glen’.

riverside pits

Riverside ’73 pits. ‘Both cars stripped of their crown wheel and pinion assy’s so a ‘high tech treatment’ could be applied by an aerospace company in LA, the cars back together by the next day’. (Derek Kneller)

riverside 3

Riverside ’73 garage again. John Anderson behind the rear wheel of ‘006’ Derek on the front of ‘005’. (Derek Kneller)

riverside

The 2 brand spanking new A51’s ready to roll in the Riverside pitlane. ‘006’ closest has never run, ‘005’ did a few laps of Warwick Farm before leaving Oz. (Derek Kneller)

Gordon Kirby made the following observations about the Australian onslaught in his ‘Autosport’ Riverside race report; ‘Frank Matich’s capacious Early Racing Enterprises transporter contained two completed, brand new Matich Repco A51’s and like Brian Redman went equally well with each car…The A51’s have a couple of extra inches in the wheelbase as well as an engine which is half an inch lower than in the A50. With Carroll Smith directing the Penfolds Wine sponsored team, there was a lot of experimentation going on throughout the week. The cars went from brand new to fully race worthy in an incredibly short space of time; so much that Matich didn’t select which of the equally competitive cars to race until Sunday morning’.

riverside 2

A51 ‘005’ behind the Riverside pit wall 1973. (Derek Kneller)

In fact Matich’s ability to choose between 2 cars of which to race, FM wanting to compete in each of the 2 heats with different cars, and then make his chassis choice for the final, lead to ‘The Matich Rule’ to disallow just what FM proposed!

The A51’s were fast, but the ‘game changing’ Lola T330 (and it’s 1974 T332 successor) was the greatest F5000 car ever. Full stop.

Coupled with the speed of the Lola’s and the individual genius of Jody Scheckter in Ron Tauranac’s Trojan T101, Team Matich ran into engine problems, the Repco Holden engined cars oil systems not scavenging properly on the fast, long radius turns not encountered in Australasia.

watkins glen

Matich A51’s ‘006’ and ‘005’ in the Watkins Glen pitlane. A Chevron B24 behind. ‘On ‘006’ the lower rear wing was removed and an extra oil coller added to try to sort the engine problems’. DK in yellow t-shirt. (Derek Kneller)

watkins garage

Pre race prep in the Watkins Glen garages, lower rear wing being removed from ‘006’ in front. Flat plane crank engine fitted.(Derek Kneller)

watkins from above

‘006’ at Watkins Glen from above sans lower rear wing. June 1973. (Derek Kneller)

watkins glen pitlane

A51 ‘006’ and ‘005’ in the Watkins Glen pitlane. (Derek Kneller)

Derek Kneller well recalls long nights coping with the dramas in the US;

‘The cars did not perform as expected we had a handling problem on the latest spec Goodyear’s and the bumpy nature of the US circuits. The tyres weren’t identical to those we tested before going to the US. FM wasn’t the only driver testing the F5000 tyres, the final production tyres we were presented were different, so we were playing catch-up. The cars were still as fast as any at Riverside’.

‘The biggest problem was engine related; the higher cornering speeds of the US circuits threw up a scavenge problem in the Repco engines, this seemed to get worse as the season went on and at Watkins Glen the crankshaft bearings were damaged in both cars during practice and both were withdrawn from the race.’

‘We never actually blew an engine, the bearing wear was detected in routine checks by dropping the oil pans off the engines at the end of each day. It was important we didn’t blow engines given Repco’s push into the US at the time. Frank could feel the loss of power through the corners and then a surge of power ‘like a handbrake being released’ FM said as the car came off some corners. He compensated to save the engines by using less rpm’s, 7000 rather than 8000 which of course reflected in the lap times. To save the engines we also did less testing.’

‘At the start of the season the A51 was as competitive as the T330 but its development accelerated with so many drivers and teams running and experimenting with the T330’s’.

‘Straight after the race weekend at Watkins Glen chassis ‘006’ was flown back to Sydney with me so that the handling and engine problems could be sorted. Chassis ‘005’ was left in the States with the rest of the team.’

‘On returning to Sydney the engine problem was overcome, an additional scavenge pump was added to scavenge oil from above the camshaft. Oil was being retained in the valley above the camshaft in the longer fast corners causing oil starvation in the oil tank, leading to bearing failure.’

After the engine problem was sorted it was decided to redesign the chassis to overcome the handling deficiencies, hence the A52 design’.

‘The best A51 result was 5th at Michigan although Frank ran in the first 3 at the Riverside first round until he had gear shift problems’.

Brian Redman opened the T330’s account at the season opening Riverside round, Matich was 17th. The team entered the Michigan, Mid Ohio and Watkins Glen rounds, in the latter the cars did not start as Kneller related. Jody Scheckter took the series driving the Trojan T101, he also drove a T330 in two rounds. The Trojan was good but Jody was better, he made his GP debut in a Mclaren M23 later in 1973.

That year Aussies John Walker, Matich A50, Bob Muir, Kevin Bartlett and Max Stewart all Lola T330 mounted contested some L&M rounds. Their results and experiences would be an interesting story in itself, perhaps one Kevin Bartlett would be prepared to relate in a later article. Its a tangent too far for this already long piece.

matich a52 wf

Matich A52 Repco ‘006’ on test at Warwick Farm in September 1973. First Matich F5000 with side rads and chisel nose. Repco ‘flat plane’ crank 520bhp engine. Melmag wheels. The thing that struck me about this car when i saw it race at Surfers in 1973 was just how small a car it was. It had the same wheelbase as a T330 but it was beautifully packaged. (Derek Kneller)

The Short Life of Matich A52 Repco ‘006’, late 1973…

As DK relates above apart from the engine dramas, there were improvements to the chassis needed to remain competitive, the game had quickly moved on from the early Tasman months of 1973 as the US teams developed their cars from the production spec delivered by their English makers.

DK; ‘The A52 was built using the A51 ‘006’ chassis and rear end but with a longer engine/gearbox adaptor (bellhousing) giving a 2inch longer (50mm) wheelbase than the A51, this was in line with the Lola T330′.

‘The radiators were moved to the sides of the chassis along with modifications to the engine water pump so that each radiator cooled the opposite side cylinder head and were shrouded with aluminum ductings’.

‘The oil tank was repositioned behind the lefthand radiator (from beside the cars gearbox, outside its wheelbase) and the battery moved from the front of the car to above the bellhousing’.

At the front of the chassis the steering rack was moved from the chassis itself to a heavily redesigned front subframe. The top pick up point for the shock absorber/spring assembly was raised approx 1 1/4 inch (30mm) along with a redesigned lower wishbone and new front uprights. These mods gave an increase in front suspension movement’.

‘To complete the design a chisel shaped nose made from fibre glass was added, the complete car was about 10 Kg lighter than the A51’.

‘The A52 was tested extensively by Frank at Warwick Farm during late July/early August 1973 with a hope of returning to the US series, but a problem with the sponsors in the US prevented this happening’.

Matich in A52 ‘006’ from Bruce Allison’s Bowin P6 Ford Hart ANF2 car during the Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy Gold Star round at Surfers Paradise in September 1973. DNF and 4th with Bruce soon an F5000 star (D Kneller)

‘The A52’s only race was the Gold Star race, the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’ at Surfers Paradise on 2 Sepember 1973 when fitted with a flat plane crank Repco F5000 engine. This gave over 520hp and sounded like a Cosworth DFV on steroids! (The two-plane Repco engine gave circa 495bhp@7000rpm)

FM led the race setting fastest lap before retiring with battery failure, the high frequency vibration from the engine shook the internals of the Varley battery apart.’

‘The car was comprehensively destroyed in a test session at Warwick Farm in late September whilst driven by Bob Muir. The chassis was beyond repair, both outer and inner skins were damaged. The photos show damage from the car hitting the water-sprinkler system at Warwick Farm, 50mm diameter steel pipes at great speed’.

‘Frank was not happy as he had just left the circuit after a successful session and had let Bob have a drive to get another drivers opinion of the car, Bob had been driving a Lola T330 Chev in the US’.

a52 tub rear

The rooted A52 ‘006’ back at the Matich workshop. (Derek Kneller)

a 52 tub side

Another angle, tub clearly beyond economic repair. This tub at some stage was sent back to CAC in Melbourne, having sat at the back of the Matich workshop in Cremorne until 1977/8, but was never seen again. (Derek Kneller)

The death of the A52 was a bummer to say the least. Muir was happy to have had the prang in the strong Matich tub not a T330! Clearly the team were heading in the right direction with a car that was as fast or faster than the the best in Australia at the time; both Bartlett and Stewart were racing their T330 Chevs at Surfers on the day FM was running away with the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’ and both were razor sharp having, like Matich, been racing in the US L&M.

The A52 was undeniably fast, but the team now needed to build another car and again had the chance to make further changes from the A52 to a 1974 Tasman Championship contender, the series commencement only a few short months away at Levin, NZ on January 5 1974.

matich oran park

Frank Matich testing his brand new car in considerable pain, at Oran Park on 1 February 1974. Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. Compact dimensions, beautiful contemporary lines, side rads and oil tank behind LH side radiator duct clear to see. (unattributed)

The 1974 Tasman Series Competition and Frank’s contender, the Matich A53 Repco ‘007’…

John Mc Cormack won the first of his Gold Star’s in 1973 with fast, consistent performances in his evergreen, cleverly developed Elfin MR5 Repco. Garrie Cooper had built a new car, the Repco Leyland powered MR6, a superb, small car styled in the mould of the Tyrrell 006. The aluminium block V8 was around 100 pounds lighter than the Holden but, as was later to be revealed the weight reduction was offset by the inherent deficiencies of the engine itself. The MR6 would find success in 1975, but Repco Holden engined. In the meantime Mac’s old Elfin was a race winner in NZ in 1974.

Bartlett, Walker and Stewart returned with their Lola T330’s. Unfortunately KB’s campaign was cut short by a Pukekohe shunt which broke his ankle, leg and hip. KB’s return to racing and his win at Bathurst with John Goss the following October was as heroic as Warwick Brown’s return to racing in the first production Lola T332 ‘HU27’ that summer of ’74.

Warwick was hobbling around the Surfers paddock at the Gold Star meeting in September ’73, no way did i think he would be back in harness in January given his physical state then. But he was and won the final Tasman round in Adelaide. Former Kiwi Tasman champ Graeme Lawrence was back in another new T332 having run a 2 Litre Surtees in 1973, and himself survived an horrific accident in his then new Lola T300 in 1972.

Lawrence, Bartlett and Brown were all foundation members of the ‘Lola Limpers Club’ and fortunately all are well and truly still with us!

Graham McRae was back in the GM2, a superb ‘McLarenesque’ chisel nosed, side radiator car, which convincingly won the 1973 AGP at Sandown on 4 November. FM didn’t contest the ’73 AGP as Bob Muir had destroyed his mount, the A52.

Count Rudi van der Straten was back again with Teddy Pilette and Peter Gethin in Chevron B24’s, both cars were converted to the latest B28 spec during the Tasman.

Perhaps the Series was slightly ‘skinnier’ in terms of international representation than 1973 but there was still a formidable field of top class drivers in the best F5000’s of the day.

Again Derek Kneller provides his firsthand account of building the Matich A53…

‘The car was built using the final CAC tub and was a refinement of the A52.

Both the front and rear suspension geometry was changed having longer wishbones to smooth out roll and bump conditions. The front subframe was redesigned to accomodate an improved steering rack mount and another inch was added to the bellhousing to give a longer wheelbase.

front suspension detail

Matich A53 ‘007’ front suspension and subframe detail, Oran Park Feb 1974. Suspension upper and lower wishbones, coil spring/Koni dampers, adjustable roll bar. Cast magnesium uprights, Melmag wheels. Lockheed calipers grabbing Repco discs. Front subframe referred to in the text clear, note the front lower forward wishbone mount to the frame. Quality of fabrication and build of all these cars superb. (Dale Harvey)

New radiators to improve engine cooling along with new, longer radiator ducts were fitted.

The car was fitted with Repcos’ latest flat plane crank engine. (giving circa 520bhp and the big, solid midrange torque which always differentiated the Repco Holden engines characteristics from the Chevs)

o park rear

Oran Park, practice before the Tasman round. Lots of people in attendance for the cars first public run. Derek Kneller by the RF Goodyear. Fuel vaporisation on this test covered in text. Rear suspension; single upper link, twin parallel lower links, twin radius rods and coil spring/Koni dampers, adjustable sway bar. You can just see the top of the inboard mounted disc. Hewland DG300 ‘box. Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. (Dale Harvey)

The fuel system was redesigned, the mechanical fuel pump was moved from its original position behind the distributor drive to a position similar to a Cosworth DFV, low down on the front of the engine driven by a narrow toothed belt from the front of the crankshaft.

The A53 weighed 1361lbs (618 kilos) with oil, water and 1 gallon of fuel.

It was a superb looking racing car, as good as any F1/F5000 in the world at that time, a testament to Frank Matich’s engineering prowess and all built in Australia.’

herald

The 1974 Tasman Series and Frank Matich’ Retirement…

DK; ‘Frank had been thinking about retirement during the last couple of months of 1973 whilst his wife, Joan was ill, he had placed ads in Racing Car News to sell all of the cars. The A53 was extensively tested by Frank in the run up to the 1974 Tasman series, but was not raced in New Zealand due to Joan’s illness. FM sent me to Pukekohe to check out the opposition’.

The Kiwi Tasman rounds were won by John Walker, he took the season opener at Levin in his Lola T330 Repco, Gethin then won at Pukekohe in the VDS Chevron. McCormack’s Elfin MR5 Repco won the NZ GP at on the Wigram airfield circuit and Max Stewart won at Teretonga in his Lola T330 Chev. The series was wide open when the cars arrived in Sydney for the fifth round at Western Sydney’s Oran Park circuit. Warwick Farm, very sadly ran its last Tasman meeting the year before and had ceased to be used for motor racing.

The A53’s race debut was the first Australian Tasman round at Oran Park on 3 February.

Kneller…’Early in the week before the race Frank had an accident with a small Honda generator on his boat, burning his left hand and his chest. He was electrocuted and was lucky not to have been killed, only the generator stalling prevented that. He practiced the car at Oran Park on the Friday but decided not to race as he was having trouble effectively driving the car and concentrating, although his times would have put him towards the front of the grid’.

oran park on circuit

Matich tests his brand new car in considerable pain at Oran Park. Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. He was quick despite the pain he was in from a boating accident. (Dale Harvey)

‘Bob Muir was offered the drive, his times in free practice were very competitive. During official practice the engine suffered from fuel vaporisation. During pit stops the mechanical fuel pump was absorbing heat from the circuit tarmac causing a vapour lock in the fuel system. There was also an oil pump problem, Bob qualified at the back of the grid 5.5 seconds slower than his best time on Friday’.

oran park front

Another Oran Park test shot this time the front of the luvverly new Matich. Matich in towelling hat with Kneller behind RR wheel. (Dale Harvey)

‘The engine was changed overnight and a heat shield added around the fuel pump. Bob’s times in the Sunday morning warm up were on the pace of the front runners (low 40seconds). He started the race well and was up to eighth by lap 6 but retired around lap 70 with fuel pressure problems again’.

The following week Frank had recovered enough to race at Surfers Paradise although he was still suffering from the burns to his hands. In a strong, gritty performance, he qualified and finished third behind the two Chevron B24/28’s of Pilette and Gethin.

matich sandown

Matich cruising thru the Sandown paddock in his tractable Repco engined device, February 1974. He is wearing the latest ‘small window’ Bell ‘Star’ helmet, he was Australian distributor for Bell as well as Goodyear race tyres. Matich A53 ‘007’. (oldracephotos.com/Hammond)

‘For the third round at Sandown a new flat plane crank Repco engine was installed. Frank qualified second to Gethin and led the race for 15 laps. He was leading by over 6 seconds when the water pump pulley worked loose and the engine overheated. Frank pitted and retired to save the engine’.

‘The last ’74 Tasman race was at Adelaide International Raceway. A fresh flat plane engine was installed and in practice Frank was behind Max Stewart (FM 49.8 to MS 49.7). Frank ran second for the first 10 laps before spinning on some oil and falling back to seventh, he drove back up to second by lap 51 but a misfire set in when he was only 2.5 seconds off the lead, he then spun again while lapping a slower car, eventually finishing fourth’.

matich adelaide

Start of the Adelaide International Tasman round. Matich on the outside of John Walkers T330, Stewart’s T33o behind FM, a VDS Chevron on the far outside and Brown’s T332 behind that car. (lyntonh)

‘That was Frank Matich’s last race in his own make of car. About 2 weeks after the end of the Tasman he called me to his house and told me that he was going to retire from racing and was going to close down Matich Racing. He said since the boat accident he had been suffering from bad headaches and lack of concentration and thats why he spun both in practice and the race in Adelaide. Along with other matters he thought it was time to retire from racing’.

‘The A53 with the latest Repco engines were as competitive as any other F5000 car at the time and we had not scratched the surface with its development. We had the car and enough spares to race the A53 in any series in the world, these spares were made in December ’73/January ’74 so i don’t think FM had made up his mind to retire until after the ’74 Tasman ended. Repco was not the main cause, their announcement to withdraw was not made until April, long after the discussion FM and i had’.

repco withdrawai

Melbourne newspaper announcement of Repco’s April 1974 withdrawal from racing. (Derek Kneller Collection)

‘All the cars were put up for sale in the May 1974 edition of the ‘Racing Car News’, the A50 ‘001/2’ Gold Star/Australian GP winning car was advertised as a rolling chassis for $A3950. The A51 ‘005’ rolling chassis $5950 and the A53 ‘007’ rolling chassis $9750.

cranky

Matich the racer; he has the ‘faraway eyes’ on, pondering setup changes to get more speed from A50 ‘001/2’, McRae is setting the pace and their is a need to find more speed. Wigram, NZ 1973. (Shane Lee)

Conclusion…

When Frank Matich retired he was 39 years old and still at the peak of his powers as both a racer and constructor of racing cars. He was without doubt and objectively showed he was as quick as the world best in the sixties when he raced against them in equivalent cars.

His sportscars were the fastest in Australia and his F5000’s as fast if not in some years faster than the worlds best.

In that context he retired too early, Derek Kneller says the A54 was being concepted when FM retired.

Personally i like my heroes to retire at their peak rather than the back ‘of the curve’. If FM had not peaked he was perhaps close to it.

The family business was motor racing, FM’s wife Joan was very much involved from start to finish. Always very much a family man as well as ‘obsessively focussed’ as ‘successful racers’ are in any field of life, it was time to give his family of six the time now they needed and deserved, whilst continuing the businesses involved in motor racing if not the actual building and racing of the cars themselves.

FM was never far from the scene and Matich cars remained successful particularly in John Goss’ hands, he won the 1976 AGP at Sandown in A51/3 ‘005’ against much younger cars.

No longer with us, Frank Matich died on 11 May 2015. FM was a man of immense achievement, not without his faults mind you, and a great Australian.

I hope i have conveyed some of that.

frank and joan

Somehow this seems an appropriate photo to end this article. Very much a devoted couple, Joan and Frank Matich, car the McLaren M10B, here promoting their sponsors and the family business in Australian ‘Womans Day’ magazine in 1970. (Derek Kneller Collection: Australian ‘Womans Day’ 1970)

Etcetera…

‘Pitlane’ Interviews with Derek Kneller.

More Photos.

winners are grinners

‘Winners are Grinners’, FM in 1972. (unattributed)

matich team shot

Matich A50 ‘003’, March 1972 before export to the US and the team which built it L>R; Jim Hunter mech, Scott McNaughton mech, Charlie Munro machinist, Henry Nehrbechi designer, Arcadia mech/fabricator, Bob Riley manager/mech, Derek Kneller chief mech, John Bug machinist. Missing is Bob Kube machinist. (Derek Kneller)

matich et al

‘Council of War’ during the 1971 Tasman. L>R; Don O’Sullivan, John Cannon, FM and an unidentified fella. Car is Mclaren M10B Repco. (unattributed)

photo (4)

FM in his Brookvale workshop with A50 ‘001/2’. Nice detail of cars cockpit, dash full of Smith’s instruments and distinctive ‘half’ steering wheel. (Derek Kneller Collection)

repco poster

Bibliography…

Australian Motor Racing Annual 1973, Manuscript from Derek Kneller, The Nostalgia Forum, John Smailes article in ‘Australian Motor Racing Annual 1972’, Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, oldracingcars.com

Photo Credits…

Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, Rennie Ellis, Stupix, Robert Davies, Jay Bondini, lyntonh, Derek Kneller Collection, Dale Harvey, Dick Simpson, oldracephotos.com, Facebook F5000 Group photo archives, Derek Kneller Collection, Shane Lee, Terry Marshall, John Ellacott, Wirra

Tailpiece…

goodyeras

FM atop both his tool of trade and ‘trading stock’. Both distributor and tester of Firestone and later Goodyear race tyres in Australia. Circa 1968. (wirra)

Other F5000 Articles…

Shadow DN6B Dodge.

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

Elfin MR8 Chev and James Hunt.

https://primotipo.com/2014/10/15/james-hunt-rose-city-10000-winton-raceway-australia1978-elfin-mr8-chev/

Finito…

cranky

Sad news is filtering through that one of Australias’ greatest drivers and constructors, Frank Matich died this evening…

Matich won in small bore single seaters, 2.5 litre Tasman cars and of course F5000, a class in which he was ‘first among equals’ in Australia until his untimely retirement in 1974. He was similarly dominant in sports cars; front engined C and D Type Jags and a Lotus 15 in the 50’s before success in mid-engined cars including Lotus 19, 19B, the Elfin 400/Traco Olds and his own very successful SR3 and SR4 series of cars.

I chose the Shane Lee shot above last week for an article i am drafting about the Traco Olds, it captures the essence of this great competitor pondering setup changes to find more speed ftrom his Matich A50 Repco F5000 car in Wigram, New Zealand in 1973.

Matich on many occasions showed he was more than a match for the best in the world in equal cars, one of Australias ‘motor racing maybes’ is what impact Frank would have had in GP racing had he accepted one of the offers made to him in the early 60’s. Family and business priorities meant he never made the move to Europe, achieving success in Australasia and the US instead.

Rest in peace.

fm c type leatons servo

FM in his Leaton Motors owned Jag C Type, in flat hat on the forecourt of their Stony Creek Road, Kingsgrove, Sydney ‘servo’ in 1958. (John Ellacott)

Fantastic article about Matich by Michael Stahl in ‘MotorSport’ published in 2012…

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-2012/73/frank-exchange-views

matich 1

Its fair to say FM’s cars were very soundly designed and built but conventional for the period. But he was always tinkering…Derek Kneller, FM’s mechanic said of this twin rear wing setup, in advance of its trial in F1 ‘it was balanced at the front, it allowed the top wing to run with less rake and drag, it worked very well, an early blown diffuser’. FM in driving suit, NZ Tasman Series 1973, Matich A50 Repco. (Derek Kneller/Bryan Sala)

matich 2

Frank Matich in the US ‘L&M Series’ 1973. Matich A51 Repco. (Tom Rosenthal)

matich 19b

FM in his Lotus 19B Climax, Lakeside circa 1965. (Peter Mellor/The Roaring Season)

bp ad

matich

Frank Matich, Matich SR4 Repco, Bathurst Easter 1969. (oldracephotos.com.au/Dick Simpson)

Etcetera…

matich lotus 15 bathurst

FM delicately places the Leaton Motors Lotus 15 2.5 Climax into Forrests Elbow, Bathurst, Easter 1961. Matich further proved himself as one of the countries top drivers in this car. It was later fitted with an F85 Olds aluminium V8 before being restored by Mike Ryves and raced successfully by him and Paul Samuels before its inevitable departure to Europe a few years back. (John Ellacott)

Credits…Shane Lee, oldracephotos.com.au/Dick Simpson, Peter Mellor/The Roaring Season, Derek Kneller, Bryan Sala, John Ellacott