Posts Tagged ‘Matich SR3 Repco’


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


State Library of WA, Terry Walkers Place,, Brian Caldersmith

Postscript & Statistics…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, to summarise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tailpiece: ‘7012’ at rest Wanneroo May 1970…


Matich SR4 & SR3…



(Dick Simpson/

Frank Matich’s 5 litre, quad cam, 580bhp Repco V8 powered sports racer ‘SR4’ was one of Australia’s most powerful and the most successful sports-racer car ever built…

Here Frank charges the big bellowing racer across the top of Mount Panorama during the 1969 Easter Bathurst meeting. The circuit is wild now, it would have been staggering to guide this missile around the circuit then, its surface and safety features, note the proximity of eucalypts on the tracks edge, not quite what they are now!

My beautiful picture

Paddock shot of SR4, Calder 1969, some of the competition were more recent than this group! (Ian Pope)


Built for the 1968 CanAm series, both the chassis and engine were late so Matich didn’t ever follow up his exploratory 1967 CanAm part-season in his 4.4 litre Repco powered SR3, instead belting the local opposition into oblivion with the SR4 in 1969.

First raced at Warwick Farm on 1 December 1968, Matich won the 3 round 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship with a perfect score; wins at Warwick Farm, Surfers Paradise and Sandown, in 2nd place was West Australian Don O’Sullivan in Frank’s old SR3 Repco. In between he raced in front of thrilled crowds who were drawn to see the fastest car in Australia regardless of category.

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Matich leads the pack at Warwick Farm, date unknown 1969, SR4 Repco (Tait Collection)

‘The car was last raced about May 1970 at Warwick Farm, Frank was second to Niel Allen’s Elfin ME5 Chev, he drove the car gently as the engine had a vibration which a subsequent tear down at Repco revealed was the front of the crank cracking’ recalls Derek Kneller, an ex Matich engineer/mechanic from 1969-74. ‘The car was kept under a dust sheet in the Artarmon (Sydney) workshop until after the Tasman Series in 1971 when FM asked us to clean it up, it hadn’t been used for 8 months, we delivered it by trailer, still with the engine fitted, to Repco in Maidstone, Melbourne’.

SR4 was then used as a display piece, never to be raced again until the ‘modern era’ when it was restored by its owner, former Repco engineer Nigel Tait who has had a connection with the car since its construction. This bulk of this article is by Nigel, the photos are mainly from his vast archive of shots of this wonderful, very significant Australian racing car.

This piece is a biggie and comprises numerous parts;

.Historical context for the building of SR4; the earlier SR3 (3 chassis) in particular a summary of its 1967 CanAm program

.Biography of Nigel Tait

.Nigel’s story of the cars design, construction, specifications, race record and restoration

.SR4 specifications

.Etcetera; SR4 related snippets

.How competitive would SR4 have been in the ’68 CanAm had it crossed the Pacific as originally intended, this section designed to stimulate discussion amongst Australian enthusiasts of the period!

.Matich Cars; list of all cars built by FM’s business

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Early shot of SR4 when still fitted with a ZF ‘box, LG Hewland fitted later in the year, suspension and engine as per text (Repco)

Frank Matich and Matich Cars…

Matich was one of Australia’s drivers who was as quick as the best in the world during the early sixties Tasman 2.5 Formula when the locals went head to head with the internationals in near enough to identical cars.

Frank then focused on sportscars from 1966 to 1969, as we shall see.

In 1969 Matich returned to single-seaters, F5000 and again proved to be the equal of if not better than the best in the world winning races in Australasia and the US before retiring at the end of the ’74 Tasman Series.

In addition, his team designed and built world class sports and F5000 cars from late 1966 to early 1974. His cars won races after that, John Goss took an exciting 1976 Australian Grand Prix win at Sandown in an A51/3 Repco chassis for example.

A list of the cars Team Matich built is at the end of this article.

I have written some pieces about Frank before, rather than than provide background again click on these links, the best quick career summary is this one, sadly an obituary;

See this pictorial though;

This monster piece is mainly about his F5000 racing but also includes earlier career material;

And this one is about his 1966 Elfin 400 Traco or the ‘Traco Oldsmobile’ as he named it;

The latter article about the Elfin 400 is the most important in the context of the Matich SR4, the 400 evolved into the Matich SR3, the SR3 to the SR4…

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Matich awaits the start of practice, Road America, 3 September 1967. SR3 Repco (Friedman)

Matich SR3…

The first Matich SR3 Traco Olds was built in late 1966 to replace the Elfin 400 Traco Olds upon which it was based. According to some close observers, including at least one of FM’s mechanics the SR3 chassis was ‘tube for tube’ identical to the Elfin 400 albeit strengthened with the learnings of racing the car from the start of ’66 until it was sold to Niel Allen later that year.

The aerodynamics of the SR3 were entirely different to Garrie Cooper’s 400 design and are a function of the 400’s shortcomings and FM’s ongoing absorption of global design and aerodynamic/styling trends. The 400’s ‘aero’ deficiencies are examined in detail in my Elfin 400 article above.

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FM a happy-chappy in the Road America paddock, 1967 (Friedman)

This section is not a detailed article about the 3 SR3’s FM’s team built but rather a summary to provide context about the SR4’s build.

The first CanAm Series was won by John Surtees in a Lola T70 Chev in 1966 but there had been professional sportscar races on America’s West Coast back into the 1950’s.

During the 1.5 litre F1 years (1961-65) big brutal ‘Group 7’ sportscars powered by ever increasing in size ‘stock block’ American V8’s thrilled crowds with their speed on both sides of the Atlantic. The best of the worlds drivers contested the races, rich prize money the reward for success in events of 200 miles, GP length, duration.

Frank Matich had ample opportunity to hear first hand during the Tasman Series about the US scene from Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Bruce Mclaren, Phil Hill and Jack Brabham all of whom contested CanAm races, not least Bruce who had also been building Cooper based cars and McLaren/Elvas to contest the races for years.

Matich determined to contest the 1967 CanAm to test his mettle against the best in the world knowing their was little point being ‘king of the kids’ in Oz. The reality is that whilst the domestic single-seater Gold Star competition had some depth, in sportscars their was little at all.

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Naked SR3 Repco in the Road America paddock, 1967. Spaceframe chassis RBE ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre, SOHC, Lucas injected, 400bhp V8 (Friedman)

Repco were also finally selling their engines to customers (as against providing works engines to Brabham with which Jack had contested the ’66 Tasman and won the ’66 F1 World Title) so Frank figured the 4.4 litre, sohc, ‘620 Series’ 400bhp V8 would be a much more competitive proposition than the highly stressed aluminium, pushrod Olds V8 engines he used in the Elfin 400/Traco Olds and his first SR3.

It was a big ask.

McLaren had persevered with the lightweight aluminium Oldsmobile engines until 1966 when he fitted 6 litre cast-iron Chevs to his spaceframe McLaren M1B. His 1967 M6A, a joint design effort between Bruce and Robin Herd were stunning, simple, monocoque cars superbly driven by Bruce and Denny Hulme to 5 wins from 6 races with Bruce taking the drivers and McLaren the manufacturers titles. The ‘Bruce and Denny Show’ rolled on thru to the end of ’71 when Porsche finally ended the party.

Matich raced two SR3 chassis in a limited campaign in the ‘Non Works McLaren’ class!

As a warm-up Matich won the RAC Trophy at Warwick Farm on May 4 and the ‘Australian Tourist Trophy’ at Surfers Paradise on 21 May 1967 from Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 and Glynn Scott’s Lotus 23B Ford. The SR3 was Olds powered.

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Matich SR3 Repco leads a group of cars, John Cannon in a McLaren M1B Chev the car behind him, Road America 1967. FM retired with a stone thru his radiator on lap 15, Denny Hulme won in a McLaren M6A Chev (Friedman)

The 1967 CanAm started at Road America, Wisconsin on 3 September and finished with the sixth and last round at Las Vegas on 12 November, the well oiled McLaren Team crushed the opposition winning all but the final round which ’66 champion John Surtees took in a Lola T70 Chev.

McLaren deservedly won the title from Hulme despite Denny winning 3 rounds (Road America, Bridghampton, Mosport) and Bruce 2 (Laguna Seca, Riverside).

Matich and his small team contested the Road America, Bridghampton, Laguna Seca and Riverside rounds. Fundamentally the car, sweet handling as it was, was outgunned. Its 400bhp Repco having way too little grunt and lacked the reliability for these Grand Prix length sprints of 200 miles.

At Road America the SR3 qualified on 2:22, 18th  to McLarens pole of 2:12.6, retiring on lap 15 with a radiator holed by a stone. In the glorious Hamptons in New York on 17 September he qualified 15th 1:33.49 to Hulme’s 1:29.85, but again DNF this time with fuel starvation.

Frank’s team missed the Mosport, Canada round on 23 September which Hulme’s M6A won.

In California for a couple of races FM gridded 13th at Laguna Seca on 1:05.07 to McLarens blistering pole of 1:02.69, a race Bruce won. Interestingly the Ferrari P4/350 CanAm (a P4 lightened, modified and increased in capacity) did their first ’67 event, Amon finished 5th but qualified behind Matich in 16th on 1:05.77.

Matich and Amon, the latter in in David McKays Ferrari P4/350 CanAm had some sensational scraps that Australian summer in the sportscar races which supported the Tasman Series rounds with the Repco powered car demonstrably quicker than the exotic, long distance derived V12 powered Ferrari.

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Matich, wife Joan his mechanics, Peter Mabey at left and Firestone technicians on the Riverside pit apron, CanAm 29 October 1967, John Surtees Lola T70 Mk3B Chev behind. Bruce won the race, Matich crashed and Surtees DNF with ‘rear end’ problems (unattributed)

Still in California, at Riverside on 29 October McLaren won, Hulme was on pole with 1:39.30, Matich 20th on 1:45 and Amon 15th on 1:44.40. Frank crashed out on lap 20. With that the team decamped back to Oz to prepare for the Tasman Series encounters with Amon, with Matich winning each of these battles. Click here for an article on the Ferrari P4/CanAm 350 ‘0858’ inclusive of the Matich/Amon battles;


Jack Brabham, Brabham BT19 Repco and a very young Nigel Tait at the Sandown Tasman meeting, the second race outing for the first ‘RB620’ engine, 2.5 litres in Tasman spec, 27 February 1966. The young engineer had just graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and has ‘landed on his feet at Repco Brabham Engines. Tait maintains this car for Repco all these years later. One of a kind BT19 is Jack’s 1966 championship winning mount (Australian Post)

Nigel Tait…

Having qualified in Mechanical and Automotive Engineering at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Nigel commenced work at Repco in 1966 as an Engineering Cadet. His first placement, you can be lucky!, was in the engine laboratory in Richmond where the Repco Brabham engines were built and tested. He helped to plan and implement the move of the Repco Brabham project to another plant, in Maidstone, this involved manufacture of shadow boards for the new machine tools being installed for further manufacture of the racing engines.

He progressed to assist the head engine builder (Michael Gasking) with assembly, dynamometer running of the engines and worked on BT19 (Jack’s ’66 championship winning chassis) when it was being prepared for the ‘620 Series’ 2.5 litre Tasman V8 for Jack Brabham to use at the ’66 Sandown Tasman meeting. He also worked with other project engineers on test and development of the range of engine components being manufactured at the various engine parts manufacturing factories of the Repco empire for fitment to the race engines.

These project engineering tasks continued for some years and included a 4 month transfer to England to work in some of the companies to which Repco was licensed.

By the mid 70’s Nigel was running the engine laboratory in Richmond, which had become the Repco Engine Technical Centre. In conjunction with the University of Melbourne he supervised a major Federal Government contract for the testing and evaluation of diesel and petrol engines running on alcohol fuel mixtures. He also spent some years as chief engineer of the engine parts plant at Richmond before returning to the engine laboratory, which became his base as Chief Engineer of Repco’s Engine Parts Divison.

He was closely involved with original equipment product development and sales to local car companies and travelled throughout Australia and New Zealand extensively giving product knowledge lectures and writing technical articles. He made a significant contribution to the engine component design sections in the Repco Engine Service Manual (later to be reissued as the ACL Engine Manual).

The division was sold to a management buyout group in 1986 and became ACL (Automotive Components Limited). Nigel was one of the 9 in the buyout group and continued in the role of chief engineer until his retirement in 2005.

matcih sr4

The Matich SR4: One of Australia’s most famous and successful racing cars. Here Matich slices the car, with typical pinpoint accuracy into Warwick Farm’s Esses, 4 May 1969. Interesting in an historic context, hi-wings were banned during the Monaco GP weekend of 18 May…


 Frank Matich had already won the Australian Sports Car Championship four times by the time he commenced work on the SR4; he won in a Lotus 19 in 1964, Elfin 400/Traco Olds in 1966 and in the Matich SR3 in 1967/8.

He had competed in the USA in 1967 as recounted earlier. His dominance of sports car racing in Australia was legendary and led to the catchphrase: ‘Doing a Matich’. (Pole position, winning, fastest lap time and lap record). Frank’s record with the SR4 is impressive.  He raced at Bathurst, Calder Park, Catalina Park, Sandown, Surfers Paradise and Warwick Farm.

SR4 took nineteen starts for 15 wins, one second with eight outright lap records and winner of the 1969 Sports car Championship.

SR4 Owners..

Rothmans Team Matich (1968-1970), Repco (1970-1986) Automotive Components Limited (1986-2005) and Nigel Tait (from 2005)


SR4 in Repco’s Maidstone, Melbourne workshop in 1971, great shot of the nose/spoiler assy and carefully ducted, both ‘in and out’ of radiator, suspension as per text. Note front lights mandated by Oz rules (Jay Bondini)

Build, sponsorship and first ownership..

It’s not certain who actually owned the SR4 as built. It was constructed at Frank Matich’s workshop in Sydney and as far as I know largely funded with sponsorship from Rothmans (tobacco) and perhaps others. The engines belonged to Repco.

Some time after the first logbook was issued from CAMS it was mislaid and Frank wrote to apply for another, stating ownership as ‘Rothmans Team Matich’. In his book ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden wrote that ownership transferred to Rothmans while the car was still in competition, that’s the period from December 1968 to January 1970. It’s also known that Rothmans made a practice of owning the cars that Matich raced under their sponsorship.

The car was retired in early 1970 so that Frank could concentrate on F5000. Repco wanted the car to use as an advertising tool and in return, it is my understanding, that an arrangement was made for the car to be transferred to Repco’s ownership in return for ongoing supply of engines and sponsorship for F5000, these being made at the old Repco Brabham plant in Maidstone. (That’s where I started work for Repco in 1966 as a cadet engineer). This division was renamed Repco Engine Development Company (REDCo) under General Manager Malcolm Preston.

Frank Hallam, Repco Brabham’s General Manager, and incidentally my first boss, had by then been transferred to Repco Research, and one day acidly described to me his life out there as ‘a career careering between obstacles’. He wasn’t happy about being put out to pasture.


Shot as above after delivery to Repco in Maidstone, Melbourne. Note wing spec then, it would be interesting to know which meetings it competer in this spec, noting changes were ongoing apart from those mandated by the FIA from the ’69 Monaco GP weekend, hi-wings banned from then (Jay Bondini)

Anyway, the car was sent down from Sydney to Repco in late 1970 (I was working for Repco in England at the time so can’t be sure of dates) and was first placed at the Repco Apprentice Centre in North Melbourne. Then it was sent to Maidstone to rest, for some years, in a room next to the REDC0 drawing office. It was in a forlorn state with an empty engine and at the time of little interest to Repco or anyone really.

Anyway once REDCo had closed down after F5000 had finished (at least for Repco) I had the car and all of the Repco Brabham/REDCo drawings and files and other hardware transferred to our Richmond engine laboratory that I supervised. Another division of Repco was to occupy the Maidstone building but not the two engine dynamometer cells, which I was to run, not very successfully as it turned out, on a commercial basis.

By that time Don Halpin had transferred from the Maidstone plant of Repco Engine Parts to our Richmond laboratory and he undertook a cosmetic restoration of the car so that Repco could use it for trade displays and shows etc. It was not a running vehicle at this stage since there was no engine, only a few parts to make it look OK.

Various divisions of Repco used the car for displays as intended and the car also spent quite some years on public display at the Birdwood Museum in the Adelaide Hills, and then the Auto Museum in Launceston, Tasmania.

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BP advertisement photo is pit straight, Sandown Park, Melbourne (BP)

From Repco to ACL..

During the early 80’s Repco underwent considerable change in its upper management and ownership. (You could read ‘corporate raiders’!). By about 1985 Repco had sold off some of its manufacturing divisions, Repco Research, the Brake and Clutch Division and the machinery manufacturing division and it became clear that manufacturing was of no interest to the Board. Clearly the factories manufacturing engine parts in Melbourne, Brisbane and Launceston were next to be offloaded. Indeed while the Repco Board instructed the Divisional General Manager of this division to advise his staff that it was not for sale, it on the other hand instructed him to find a buyer!

So in August 1986 a management buyout team comprising 8 of its senior staff (including myself), and our Divisional General Manager, purchased the whole division from Repco. At a price of $A28 million and with very little equity and huge borrowing, the team pulled off what was the largest management buyout of its type in the country’s history. There were almost 1,000 employees spread over 5 states. My role was to continue as chief engineer.

The new company adopted a name that was actually one of Repco’s 1960’s takeover targets, ACL, and the new company became ‘Automotive Components Limited’. (Repco had no need to use this name and allowed its use by us).

All of the assets of the then Repco Engine Division were transferred to the new company, these included the Repco Brabham BT19 and all associated drawings, items and trailer and also the Matich SR4 which was still in its cosmetically restored state. So the Matich became the property of ACL from August 1986.  ACL continued to display the car publicly including the museum in Launceston and other venues.

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SR4 in the Birdwood Museum, Adelaide Hills, at this stage the ‘cosmetic’ restoration had been done by Don Halpin as per text, car not ‘a runner’  (The Roaring Season)

allen and matich bathurst 1969

Niel Allen’s ex-Matich Elfin 400 Chev (named Traco Olds by Matich) ahead of FM’s SR4 and Bevan Gibson’s ill-fated Elfin 400 Repco, sadly Bevan died during this race, Easter, Bathurst 1969. This event is reported in full in the Elfin 400 article, a link for which is at this articles outset (Dick Simpson)

An engine was found..

Towards the mid to late 90’s with the growth of interest in historic racing there were numerous approaches made to ACL to buy it. These were made direct to the Board or sometimes to myself, and always we advised that the car was not for sale, but would be restored once an engine could be located.

Luckily that did happen. Aaron Lewis, who is prominent in historic racing circles and the owner of some magnificent cars, advised me that Les Wright of Sydney had a 4.2 litre Repco Brabham engine in his Brabham Buick. CAMS had advised that this was not the way the car was originally raced and that Les would need to remove the engine and obtain the correct Buick engine to obtain a CAMS permit to race the car. On behalf of ACL I bought the engine for $30,000. Les ran it on the floor and it worked pretty well so was transported to Melbourne. This was circa 2000.

At last we had an engine and I was able to have the car brought back to life. Jim Hardman (ex F3 racer, mechanic, engineer and builder of the superb Hardman F2 cars of 1980) undertook this restoration, which was essentially to make it mobile, look good and be safe for display and demonstration running.  This work was undertaken by Jim at his rented area within Heckrath Engineering in Cheltenham and paid for by ACL.

I sent the body to Richmond TAFE who had offered to spray it. It turned out to be a very poor job where even the colour was wrong and I had to engage a panel beater near us at Maidstone (Houdini) to do it again. More about the colour later.

Once in running condition at Heckraths Jim Hardman became the first person to drive the car for over 30 years. Albeit this was in Bricker Road, Cheltenham on a quiet weekend morning, a quick blast lest the local police took interest!  More ‘legal’ trials were held at Calder in outer Melbourne, with Jim doing most of the driving though I squeezed myself into it several times.

Subsequently the car was displayed many times from around 2002 to 2005, at Motorclassica, the Australian Grand Prix, various circuits and trade shows and even at a Repco function.

Jim made up a seat for me and I took it to several meetings at Eastern Creek, Winton, Phillip Island etc and we also used it as a display vehicle for our numerous company functions. When Jim drove it at Phillip Island it dropped valves in both heads (probably stones down the intakes) and we had to undertake a fairly extensive rebuild. (Not having wire screens on the inlet trumpets was a bad mistake, as others have also learned).

Assembling Repco Brabham engine

Repco engine assy area, Maidstone factory, Melbourne in early 1968, the engine towards the front is  a 3 litre ‘860’ F1 engine, behind are ‘760s’, capacities unknown (Repco)


 The whereabouts of the original 5 litre ‘760 Series’ engine used when Frank Matich raced the car is unknown. I doubt that it came back to Repco. There is some suggestion that it resides somewhere as the base of a coffee table and I hold out hope that one day this engine might come to light, if only as an important part of the car’s history for the next generation.

4.2 litre: I’ve already explained how we came by the 4.2 litre engine ex Les Wright. The 4.2 litre ‘760 Series’ quad cam engines were made only for Indianapolis for Jack Brabham and for Peter Revson. I think there may only have been two or perhaps three, the records are not clear. The engine in the ex Revson BT25 of Aaron Lewis is undoubtedly the one from that car. Sir Jack Brabham told me that one of his engines used in his 1968 BT25 Indy car that he lent to Goodyear ‘disappeared’ and I have a feeling that the engine I have might be this one.

It is as original though as a result of the dropped valve at Phillip Island one of the bores had to be honed slightly oversize to remove some marking and hence the piston and rings in this cylinder are a little larger. Otherwise the engine is as run by Les and still has the same cams etc. It runs on Avgas. I use 50 cc of two stroke oil per 20 litres of Avgas for lubrication of the metering unit.

Its output would be around 550 BHP at about 8,000 RPM but I have never pushed it beyond 6,500 RPM. I have rebuilt it a second time just as a check and little work was needed.

Assembling valve train for quad cam Repco Brabham engine

Peter Reilly assembling an ‘860’ 3 litre F1 engine valve train assy, the engines problem area!, refer to the text, beautiful workmanship clear. ‘860’ the only gear driven cam engine, ’20 and 40′ Series driven by chain (Repco)

5 litre: Some years ago I discovered that I had enough parts from which to commence build of a 5 litre ‘760 Series’ engine. I had a block of the right type (to take the Cooper rings rather than head gaskets). Crankshaft Rebuilders made sleeves and a crankshaft, rods were made by Argo, pistons by Special Pistons Services and the heads that I had were completely rebuilt at Head Stud Developments. Luckily I had the gear casings all of the gears (the quad cam engines have gears, not chains) and a spare sump of the right type with integral oil pressure and scavenge pumps.

Build of this engine took me about 2 years including the time for manufacture of the parts by Crankshaft Rebuilders. A much larger than original torsional vibration damper was made for me by Tuffbond in Sydney.  Minimizing crankshaft torsional vibration protects the valve gear and camshafts etc. as well as being better for the crankshaft itself.

Actually the engines used by Frank were of 4.8 litre capacity, the bores being reduced slightly to overcome sleeve cracking due to being too thin. I have made my engine to true 5 litre capacity with the steel sleeves and was able this way to utilize off the shelf ring sizes. Also I had the rods made to 6” length which enabled the use of much shorter and lighter pistons in keeping with modern engine design practice.

The result is a very nice engine with noticeably more torque. Though I have not had it on a dyno it would no doubt see around 600 BHP, though as with the 4.2 I do not use any more than 6,500 at which point the cams are in and there is plenty for me!

The 5 litre encountered what I thought was a mild overheat at Geelong* in 2014 so I have rebuilt this over 2015/6. There was no bore damage but the crankshaft needed grinding and otherwise the engine is in good condition and ready now for further use.

*Note: I have learn’t that apart from needing a better bleed for the cooling system (now done) I have let the engine rev too slowly upon first start up. The water pump speed is only half engine revs so now I run the engine at 2,000 RPM from any cold start to make sure the coolant is flowing properly.

 Reverting to the 4.2 litre engine in Aaron Lewis’ BT25, it is currently in build and it would be nice to see it running. (at the time of uploading this article Aaron has run the car at Eastern Creek, Sydney) At this stage the two quad cam Repco Brabham engines (and now Aaron’s) that I have for the SR4 are the only Repco quad cams that run, anywhere.

I have nearly enough parts to commence a third engine build but this would have to be with a block that uses head gaskets and these would need to be re-torqued thus would need either a dynamometer run or engine removal from car after first run.  Or with luck I’ll find another Cooper ring type block.

Sale from ACL to Nigel Tait..

I was still hard at work as ACL’s Chief Engineer up until my retirement in July 2005. Consequently outings with the car and indeed also the BT19, were rare and had to fit in with my work rather than being at my will.

With retirement imminent it became obvious that with no one else at ACL interested in the two cars we’d have to consider their future. Repco had a first option to buy BT19 and it was decided to sell this back to them around June 2005, for $1.3M.  I had been looking after it since it was bought from Jack Brabham in 1970. Repco asked if I would continue to be its carer/minder, which I do to this day.

The Matich was to be sold and my bid was the highest, thus securing for me a car that i’d been looking after virtually since its acquisition by Repco. I paid my company $160,000 for it and the various spares and display material and engines, (including the 3 litre quad cam ‘850’ diagonal port engine). I also purchased the trailer that was made for us by MRT Trailers, for $10,000.


Spaceframe chassis back at Jim Hardman’s shop after sand blasting and stove-enamelling (Tait)

As earlier mentioned the first restoration by Don Halpin was to allow the car to be on static display.The second, once we had the engine from Les Wright, was by Jim Hardman and resulted in the car’s first outing in 30 years.

Once I had purchased the car in 2005 Jim advised that we should undertake a complete bare frame restoration and rebuild. Jim still had the facility at Heckrath’s and i was able to devote some time to the menial tasks such dismantling, cleaning the frame ready for spraying and running around getting parts etc as needed.


Chassis, big and butch to take the big Repco’s power and torque, quoted weights of ’68 McLaren M8A and Matich SR4 similar. Given the Repco engine was way lighter than the ally’ block Chevy of the M8A, the difference in weights is a bit of a mystery as Tait quotes the Matich bare frame at 38Kg (Tait)



Hardman replaced all of the aluminum skins, undertray, all firewalls etc and repaired and strengthened the frame as needed. In fact there was no real problem with the frame, one part of the outrigger on one side had partially cracked and the bar that was the top mounting for the seat belt upper harness was too small. Everything else was terrific. A great testament to its builder, Henry Nehrybecki.  I photographed all stages of the restoration and rebuild which took exactly 6 weeks from the May Winton meeting to being ready for Speed on Tweed later that year.


Wishbone front suspension, coil spring/Armstrong damper and ventilated front discs, steering rack also in situ, Matich designed, CAC cast (Tait)


Big radiator in place, 3 pot calipers are Girling (Tait)


Front suspension, radiator and ducting detail, quality of workmanship clear (Tait)


Heart of the matter in place as is Hewland LG600 ‘box, car first raced with a ZF. Rear suspension period typical; single upper link, lower inverted wishbone, coil spring/dampers (then Koni now Armstrong) and twin radius t rods for fore and aft location. Note big oil reservoir and beefy rear chassis diaphragm above ‘box (Tait)


And now the body (Tait)


Proud custodian Nigel Tait with SR4. Jim Hardman an outstanding race mechanic/engineer and car builder ‘in period’ and now a restorer of similar calibre (Tait)


The view of FM’s SR4 derriere all the other drivers saw (Tait)

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Australian Champion driver John Bowe aboard SR4 at Calder (Tait)

Multiple Australian Champion John Bowe expressed interest in doing a track test for ‘Unique Cars’ magazine. This was shortly after our 2006 rebuild. He planned on a run at Calder for this but that day could not be scheduled as intended. Instead John’s first drive of the car ended up on the road circuit at Murwillumbah’s Speed on Tweed. Organised by Roger Ealand, who so sadly we have just lost, this event ran for several years and in fact culminated in its final event with a stage of the Repco Rally being held also on the same circuit, but at night.

John drove the car for its 4 or 5 runs but even after the first he requested some suspension changes, which had an immediate effect. Subsequently John’s planned track drive at Calder came off and he drove numerous laps following a camera car and some at speed. A successful day and John loved the car. His only request was for the height of front and rear to be changed to change the undertray height to be higher at the back to improve downforce.


My Licence.

I have a level 2S licence. In my earlier days of racing it was the equivalent of a Level 1, but some 25 years ago I lost one eye resulting from an infection during a skiing holiday in New Zealand. That’s one reason why my driving is limited to display regularity and super sprint etc but the other reason is quite pragmatic; there are few drivers around, and I’m not one of them, who could handle this car to its full potential.  With over 600 BHP and a weight of just 625kg the car commands great respect.

elfin 400 bathurst

Start of the fateful race which took Bevan Gibson’s life, Easter, Bathurst 1969. Gibson in Bob Jane’s red #6 Elfin 400 Repco, Niel Allen #2 alongside in his Elfin 400 Chev and Matich to the right in the hi-winged SR4 (Wayne McKay)

Contact with Frank Matich..

 I took the car to Eastern Creek in Sydney on several occasions in the years before and after its bare frame restoration in 2006.

Frank was at some of these meetings and was delighted to see and hear it in action. He was full of praise for the standard of the restoration and for my efforts in bringing it back to life. We spent quite some time discussing technical aspects of the car and he noted that someone had replaced the Koni shock absorbers with Armstrongs, a pity he said because he set the Konis with very little bump and mostly rebound, something that I can’t do with the Armstrongs.  Frank was apologetic that somehow his people had done a cleanup in his factory and had discarded many spares including patterns and wheels etc that he would have given me. These were good conversations and it was fun also to meet his daughter Katrina and his granddaughter Paige and to have photos of all with the car. He said that he was glad the car was in good hands.

Unfortunately relations deteriorated somewhat in Frank’s latter years when he claimed that he had not sold the car to Repco and wanted it returned! This after a period of over 30 years since Repco’s acquisition during which there had been no communication from or to Frank and with the car having been through two changes of ownership.

Subsequently Frank’s attention was drawn to the reference in John Blanden’s book stating that ‘It initially ran with Rothmans signage and subsequently Rothmans acquired ownership of the car’.

 There was no further communication on this issue. It was disappointing but didn’t diminish my admiration for Frank as a brilliant driver and one of the great legends of Australian motor sport. To this day I can recall the car running at Sandown and steaming into Peter’s corner (I was an official there) with all brakes locked up, tyres smoking when the throttle had apparently stuck.  That was a great era.

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Matich ‘locks em up’, a stuck throttle the cause, on Sandown’s pit straight just before Peters/Torana corner in 1969 (Tait Collection)

Henry Nehrybecki..

Henry was the builder of the car, at least the chassis and suspension and no doubt he had a team of helpers. Indeed I’ve heard that some of the time during the build Henry was not well and Bobby Britton (of Rennmax Engineering) may also have been involved.

I had numerous discussions with Henry in the early days after we got the car going and took it to Eastern Creek. He was thrilled the car was back in action after being out of circulation for 30 years. A small coincidence is that Henry’s granddaughter Gabrielle lives in Melbourne and is in the same friendship group as my daughter and her friends.

Derek Kneller; ‘Henry drew and fabricated the chassis, the conceptual design of which was Frank’s and his, Bob Britton was also involved. The chassis was then transferred to Franks facility, the Castle Cove BP Garage in Eastern Valley Way, which comprised a ‘servo’, the race ‘shop and Firestone racing tyre warehouse. It was in late ’69 that FM switched from testing and selling Firestones to Goodyear’.

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John Mepstead and Matich ponder the SR4’s brakes in the Sandown paddock after its big brake lock-up. Mepstead an ex-Repco mechanic/engineer hired by FM to look after the car in ’69 (Tait Collection)

‘Peter Mabey assembled SR4 at Castle Cove, he had been with FM for some years including the SR3 race program in the ‘States. After that Peter looked after the Servo side of the business before returning to the race side of things on the F5000 program with me. SR4 was maintained and race prepared in 1969 by Tony Williams and John Mepstead on the chassis and engine respectively’.

Others to drive the Matich SR4..

Apart from Frank there have been no others to drive it in any competition except John Bowe and Laurie Bennett. We will not count my many demonstration drives, super sprints and regularity events and even in the Top Gear event at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

As earlier mentioned John drove it at Speed on Tweed just after its 3rd restoration. Laurie drove it at Mallala in one Super Sprint. His Elfin 600 had expired and I let him take it out. Effectively he won this having started last on the grid and passed all of the others by the last lap, while being stuck in 2nd gear.

Bill Hemming and David Hardman (Jim’s son) also enjoyed some practice laps at Mallala and Winton respectively. Also Brian Sampson who would have loved to own the car took it for a few laps at Winton after the third restoration. He really enjoyed it however we had a problem with a badly set up throttle mechanism which made it difficult to drive.

My beautiful picture

On the Calder dummy grid in 1969, #34 an Elfin Streamliner (Ian Pope)

The body was made in Sydney by JWF Fibreglass. It was not intended to be this way. The plan was for it to be made from aluminum and they went a long way towards completing this but the task became too hard and too slow. What had been made was used as a mould for the fiberglass body. This was one of the reasons the car didn’t go to the 1968/9 CanAm, the other was that Repco was late with the engine.

When we restored it at ACL it was strengthened with some extra layers internally as it was very flimsy and cracked in many areas. It’s a little heavier but still OK.

I’ve mentioned earlier the colour. After the debacle of the Richmond TAFE attempt we’d lost the original colour since every panel was by now the odd purple colour, so there was no colour match possible. Houdini Panels suggested an off the shelf colour common to a road car of the time and as it looked more vibrant and could be retouched more easily I chose this.

It appears there were two bodies, or at least two rear sections. When the car raced at the Easter Bathurst meeting Frank had the very high wing and it was attached to the rear hubs by uprights that went through holes in the body.  After Bathurst the car reverted to low wing, no wing and various iterations in-between, but always body mounted. The wing on the car now is about 300mm above the rear deck and I am not sure if the car competed in this way or if the wing was experimental in the latter stages of the car’s life with Frank.

Just last December (2015) I found another rear body section for the car. It came to light in an outer suburban junk yard along with the body from Colin Hyams’ T190 Lola F5000. How these came to be at this property is something we’ll never know. Anyway I bought the Matich rear body (for much more than it is worth), as it is definitely the one Frank used at Bathurst, with the holes for the wing supports and is the original dark blue. It still has the Repco and other stickers on it. I don’t intend to use this but it would fit straight on still having the original brackets.

Chassis number..

The chassis was number 07. When I decided to have a brass plate made I asked Henry if he knew what the chassis number was and he advised it was number 1 so I had the plate made this way. He was probably referring to the fact that it appears another chassis was made, very similar to mine, but never actually made into a car. So Henry was thinking about SR4 chassis of which mine was the first. I suppose I could re-engrave the plate on my car.

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SR4 in the Surfers Paradise paddock, note the car is now fitted with a Hewland LG500 ‘box rather than the ZF in the earlier rear shot (Tait Collection)


 The car was made with a ZF. It seems the side plates of this gearbox were not strong enough and also the 4 speed Hewland LG500 that replaced it was more common at the time and ratio changes were easier. There is a reverse but to set up the adjustment to get this compromises engagement of the forward gears so it does not go into reverse at all. I don’t have any spare ratios. The only places 4th gear is used is at Eastern Creek, Calder, briefly, the back straight at Pukekohe, NZ and the Grand Prix circuit at Albert Park. Also Sandown and Phillip Island. Given a good straight the car would reach 200 mph.

Derek Kneller; ‘I helped fit the Hewland LG gearbox to SR4. We were converting Frank’s F5000 M10A McLaren to M10B spec, i built the first of these at McLaren’s before leaving the UK for Oz. A DG300 Hewland was fitted to the M10A, the LG was popped from the M10A into SR4. Henry Nehrbecki fabricated a new rear cross-frame with a bellhousing designed by us and cast by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Melbourne, we made a pattern which we could adapt for a Chev or the Repco. The change in ‘box was around November 1969’.


Very early in the piece Kris Matich (of Goodyear in Sydney) tried to find tyres of the original size as raced by Frank but these were no longer available. I have used Avons, supplied by Russell Stuckey and they are F5000 fronts (with treads cut by Russell) and a sports car category treaded tyre imported from Japan. The sizes are: Front: 10.5/23/15 Rear: 15/26/15

These are a little smaller in outer diameter than raced by Frank and we have set the suspension up to suit. Any difference in ratio is of no consequence.

sr4 surfers

FM after winning the ASSC round at Surfers Paradise on 18 May 1969, time for a new set of raceboots Frank! Note air reliefs atop SR4 RHS guard (Tait Collection)

Roll bar..

The roll bar height is too low for me since my seat was made for me to sit further away from the pedals. It was marginal in height for Frank. For my purposes it is OK but will need to be rebuilt in accordance with CAMS standards in due course. I think this will require a bare frame exercise.


These are as raced but I have slightly softer pads for quicker warm up. John Bowe felt that these might be too soft for serious racing.

Fuel tank..

The car was raced with a large bladder tank in the left pod. This was not serviceable, Jim Hardman made an aluminium tank of about 30 litres capacity and foam filled it. The car uses about 1 litre per kilometre so a larger tank would be needed for any serious racing.


A Lucas Opus system was on the 4.2 engine ex Les Wright though most likely Frank raced with a Bosch twin point distributor.  The Opus modules are no longer serviceable. John Heckrath made up a special distributor so the Bosch module could be hidden inside the Opus unit and this worked well. There was some initial hilarity when it was discovered that the donor distributor from a V6 Holden had the wrong number of teeth for a V8! (The timing was only ever right for the first few degrees of engine rotation and had to be retimed numerous times until the oversight was discovered). More recently Performance Ignition made up a Scorcher system and this now works perfectly albeit is not as the car was raced.

Cam covers..

The car raced with cam covers designated ‘REPCO’.  I built my 5 litre engine accordingly but the 4.2 litre engine, being ex Jack Brabham Indy, had ‘REPCO BRABHAM’ cast onto the top. I’ve chosen to leave it this way, i have spares of both types. (An early photo shows the car with Repco Brabham cam covers and also shows the ZF gearbox).

CAMS Certificate of Description (Australias more rigorous equivalent of FIA historic racing certification)..

For what I do with the car a C.O.D. is not needed but I was persuaded that it would be a good idea to have this so the car could be documented as raced, for future reference. A C.O.D. was obtained in 2015. It is #

New Zealand

 I have taken the car to New Zealand twice, both times to Hampton Downs, and on the first occasion to Pukekohe as well. I was included in the demonstration events on each occasion and had plenty of track time with F5000’s and other sports cars. This was especially so at the most recent of the visits to Hampton Downs where there were so few of the big sports cars entered they needed me to make up numbers, at least in the practice, qualifying and even on the warm up lap of every race! The two events were to celebrate Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme respectively.

Importantly the Matich ran very well and was popular with the locals.


My plan is to continue with displays and demonstrations, regularity and Super Sprints as much as possible given my other passion, snow skiing. This sidelines me for most of the winter months in our small apartment at Mount Buller. I hold out hope that I can get the roll bar rebuilt soon, the 5 litre should go back in later this year and it would be nice to make another trip to New Zealand.

My longer term mission is to see the car in the hands of someone with the necessary technical ability, driving skill and passion to continue to present the car, whether racing or not, in the manner that reflects the great legacy for its terrific driver, Frank Matich and Repco for its amazing engines.

Nigel Tait June 2016


This card, and the shot just below was produced by Repco and handed out at race-meetings trade shows and the like in period (Tait)

Matich SR4 specifications…

Engine: Repco Brabham quad cam. Repco designed and manufactured ‘700 Series’ aluminium crankcase/block cast at Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne.

Four valve per cylinder, DOHC, gear driven,  ’60 Series’ aluminum heads designed by Repco and cast at Castalloy in Adelaide.

Lucas mechanical fuel injection system with metering unit driven from the same jackshaft which describes the distributor Port mounted Lucas injectors running at 100psi. Throttle slides for engine control.

Ignition: car was originally raced with a Bosch twin-point distributor, later Lucas Opus and now Scorcher with reluctor in the distributor

Lubrication: pressure and scavenge pumps in the sump interconnected with short shaft, driven from the crank. Oil tank external

Crankshaft made by Crankshaft Rebuilders, Forged pistons by Special Pistons Services, Connecting rods made by Argo, NSW.

Capacity: 4.2 litre ‘Indy’ version Bore: 96mm Stroke 71.9mm

Capacity: 4.8 litre as raced by Matich in 1969: Bore 96.5mm, Stroke 82mm

Capacity: 5 litre Nigel Tait built: Bore 96.5mm Stroke 86mm

Chassis: Tubular steel spaceframe: Weight 38 kilograms (bare frame)

Suspension: Front; Lower wishbone, upper camber arms with radius rod. Rear; Reversed lower wishbone with upper camber arm and upper and lower radius rods. Shock absorbers: now Armstrong but raced originally with double-adjustable Koni’s

Steering: Matich manufactured rack and pinion, cast by CAC. Uprights: Matich design and manufactured, steel fabrications

Brakes: Girling, 3 pots per wheel

Wheels: Matich design cast magnesium, front 10.5 by 15”, rear 17” by 15”

Tyres: Avon, front 10.5” by 23” by 15”. Rear 15” by 26” by 15”

Track: front 57”, rear 60”, wheelbase 90”

Body: Fibreglass, manufactured by JWF in Sydney.

Matich SR4 photo from Ian Pope

How competitive would the SR4 Repco have been in the 1968 Can Am Series?…

In ’67 the dominant McLaren M6A weighed 590Kg/1300lbs and was powered by a 6 litre 530bhp Chevy, the ’68 M8A by a 7 litre 620bhp alloy block Chev, the car weighed circa 1350lbs.

On the face of it FM’s ‘760 Series’ 5 litre, 4 valve, DOHC  Repco V8 toting about 580 bhp, the car quoted at 1361lbs would have been ‘in the hunt’. Certainly in relative terms SR4 would have been more competitive than the ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre, 2 valve, SOHC 400bhp powered SR3 was in 1967.

Whilst the Repco V8 was giving away some power to the Chev, the car similar in weight to M8A, the Matich was potentially a better handling car than M8A given the distribution of the weight. The Repco alloy V8 weighed about 380lbs, the Chev lump circa 550lbs. There was no question about the handling of the Matich cars; ask Chris Amon who’s beautiful handling P4/CanAm 350 Fazz V12 was beaten by Matich in SR3 soundly on every occasion they met during the Australian Tasman rounds in the summer of ’68.

The engines had to last the 200 miles of a CanAm event of course, the Repco ‘860 Series’ F1 engines having major problems in 1968, mainly valve gear related. RBE Project Engineer Norman Wilson’s account of the engine problems in F1 in 1968 is as follows; ‘On a visit to Cosworth after the 860 engine problems Cosworth partner, Mike Costin, said that he realised what our problem was with the valve gear, that it was torsional vibration’.

‘This is where the project started to get unravelled. Frank (Hallam, GM of Repco Brabham Emgines) had sort of admitted the problem but at the time i think Frank had just about left, and Charlie Dean who replaced him wouldn’t understand that the problem was a torsional vibration problem. It was wrecking the cam followers. And the solution to the problem was fairly simple. All we had to do was modify the cam drive like the Cosworth Ford DFV engine and we could have fixed it’.

‘What happens is at certain speeds the front of the camshaft will tend to go a little bit like a tuning fork and as it rotates this front of the crankshaft oscillates back and forth and this oscillation is transferred up through the timing gears. It was making two of the camshafts do the same thing. So when the cam lobes were going around they were ruining the cam followers. The Cosworth has a little spring gizmo in the first timing gear to absorb this so it is not transmitted through the whole system. And Frank realised we needed something like this and we were working on doing that when Charlie Dean arrived on the scene and said it was a lubrication problem.’ This was after the end of the 1968 F1 season mind you, Hallam resigned after Deans arrival, after that disastrous season.

The ‘760 Series’ 4.2 litre, 4 valve, DOHC Repco V8 Indy variant with the same block and heads as the 5 litre finished the Indy 500 in 1969, Peter Revson’s Brabham BT25 finished 5th in the race won by Andretti’s Hawk Ford. Critically, Peter Revson took the only international win for a ’60 Series’ engine when we won the Indianapolis Raceway Park road event in his Brabham BT25 Repco on 27 July 1969.

None of these engines were fitted with the torsional vibration damper or spring gizmo to which Wilson refers. Its said the the bigger ‘760’ engines were simply not revved as hard as their F1 liddl’ ‘860’ brother thereby avoiding the oscillation rev range which was problematic.

denny m8a

Denny Hulme, McLaren M8A Chev, Laguna Seca 1969 (unattributed)

For Australian enthusiasts a great ‘mighta been’ is how FM would have gone against the mighty papaya ‘Big Macs’ in 1968?…

Would the SR4 have been quick? You betcha, much faster than SR3. Would the ‘760 Series’ engine have finished 200 mile races? Yes again if the similar Indy variant results in ’69 are a guide. Could SR4 have achieved CanAm podiums in ’68?, probably yes.

Could he have won a race? Maybe, if the planets were aligned noting that year the ‘dynamic duo’ didn’t win two rounds; John Cannon took a great victory in the wet in an old M1B McLaren at Laguna and Mark Donohue at Bridghampton in the Penske M6B when both Bruce and Denny had major engine failures. Could FM have prevailed at these events? Sure, SR4 was quick enough to knock both car/driver combinations off.

‘If yer Aunty had balls she’d be yer Uncle’ of course, ifs, buts and maybes mean nothing in motor racing, as in life. The chassis was late. The engine was late. FM didn’t contest the ’68 CanAm and as a result we were all deprived of seeing Matich take on Bruce, Denny and the rest of the CanAm circus all of whom he knew and respected well.

So Frank raced the car in Oz in ’69, crushed the local opposition and then moved into F5000 supported by Repco…

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Rothmans brochure featuring both the old, SR4 Repco and the new, McLaren M10A Chev F5000 in 1969 (Tony Johns via Nigel Tait)

The obvious question is, having missed the ’68 series  why didn’t the car contest the 1969 CanAm instead of being ‘King of The Kids’ in Oz?..

The answer is simple, the Repco Brabham engine program was over, Jack raced a Cosworth DFV in F1 in 1969, the final races in that partnership the Indy races in 1969.

The Repco board decided to close down Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd, there is no certainty Repco would have committed to F1 in 1969 even had Jack wanted them to. Cost was a big issue for Repco throughout 1968, the failure of the engines that year made it easier to withdraw, particularly given the sort of investment which would have been needed to match the reliability and power of the Ford Cosworth DFV. Its impotant to remember that Rindt put ‘860 Series’ F1 powered Brabhams on pole twice in ’68. The 3 litre ‘860’ Repco was potent! With further development there is no reason the ‘860’ F1 engine could not have won races, it proved its speed in Rindts hands in ’68 if not its reliabilty. And every Tom, Dick and Harry raced DFV’s in ’68; McLaren, Lotus and Ken Tyrrell’s Matra International team, pole amongst that lot was an achievement, the Ferrari’s also quick that year.

So, whilst Repco were happy to provide Matich with an engine, they would not back an assault in the US with the resources required. Matich employed ex-Repco engineer John Mepstead to look after SR4 during ’69, he wasn’t provided by Repco. Matich didn’t have the funds to race in the US and had already acquired an M10A Chev McLaren F5000 car in advance, well in advance of CAMS decision to agree the next ANF1 as F5000. 2 litre F2 was the alternative.

There was some ‘dogs bollocks’ from the Matich camp at the time about ‘multi-valve’ engines not being legal in the ’69 CanAm which is rubbish, obfuscation. Count the number of Ferrari’s alone which ran that year, the last time i looked they weren’t powered by pushrod OHV V8’s.

Repco’s commercial interests were best served, they quite rightly believed, by building an F5000 variant of the 5 litre Holden V8 to participate in this rapidly growing category. The engine was an immediate success, Matich won the 1970 Australian Grand Prix in a McLaren M10C Repco that November.

There was not the funds to race an SR4 ‘Stateside, customer F5000 engines were a better commercial proposition for Repco and so an interesting and immensely successful, Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. chapter of Repco history ended, with a big, quad cam 5 litre bang mind you!

As an aside the last championship won by an RBE engine was Henry Michell’s victory in the 1974 Australian Sportscar Championship aboard an Elfin 360 powered by an ex-Tasman RBE ‘730 Series’ 2.5 litre V8…

The SR4’s 1969 Australian Competitor Set…

The sinfully sexy, wedgy, state of the art, but oh-so-twitchy Elfin ME5 Chev of Niel Allen at Warwick Farm in 1969, below.

Garrie Cooper’s latest big car had a nice, stiff aluminium monocoque chassis but the short wheelbase device, even with Allen at the wheel, very much Matich’s equal in F5000 was never a winning car and with only 480bhp was ‘gutless’ compared to Matich’s 580! Never thought i would say that about a 5 litre injected Chev!

sr me5


Bob Jane below in the sensational McLaren M6 Repco at Hume Weir in 1969, le patron at the wheel of the car raced mainly by John Harvey including the Australian Sportscar Championship in 1971/2. Also Repco powered but ‘only’ an SOHC 5 litre ‘740 Series’ V8, Harvey was very much an ace but the car not on the same page as Matich’s beastie. Its time would come…but only after SR4 was popped away as a museum piece within months of its championship win.

sr jane


Don O’Sullivan in the hi-winged Matich SR3 ‘3’ Repco slicing into Warwick Farm’s Esses in early 1969. Behind him is Niel Allen in the ex-Matich Elfin 400/Traco Olds, now 5 litre Chev engined car. The chassis of the SR3 was either identical to or very, very similar to Cooper’s Elfin 400 design.

sr sr3

( Simpson)

Matich Cars: The Chassis List…

Matich listed ‘his cars’ by chassis number as below. After discussion with Frank Matich, Darryl Duff who owned one of the SR3’s at the time in the early eighties prepared a document listing ‘Franks’ sportscars. A truncated summary of it is set out below. To that I have added Matich’s single-seaters, all F5000’s the source, Derek Kneller, his engineer/mechanic throughout the entire F5000 period;

sr3 wf

Matich in SR3 ‘3’ Repco ‘620 Series 4.4 litre V8, the last one built, at Warwick Farm in 1968, this is the chassis with which he belted Chris Amon in the ’68 Tasman support rounds, Amon in David McKays/Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/Can Am 350 (Dick Simpson)

1.Sports Cars: All of multi-tubular spaceframe construction

#1 Lotus 19B Climax: (the second of FM’s 19’s, highly modified with many Brabham bits and ultimately destroyed in FM’s big ’65 Lakeside shunt)

#2 Elfin 400 Olds: (aka ‘Traco Olds’ first raced Sandown early ’66, still exists)

#3 SR3 (1) Olds/Repco (still exists) Built with 5 litre Traco/Olds, ZF 5 DS-25 ‘box

First race Warwick Farm early ’67, won ’67 Victorian (Sandown) and NSW (Catalina Park) sportscar championships and Australian Tourist Trophy at Surfers Paradise. To Marvin Webster, California, sans engine in June 1967. Tony Settember raced the car for Webster.

#4 SR3 (2) Repco (still exists) RBE ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre V8 # ‘RB620E22’, from late 1969 Traco/Olds 5 litre from ex-SR3 (1), ZF DS25 ‘box

Built, sold and exported to Kent Price, California US, first raced 3 September 1967, Road America, Elkhart Lake by Matich. Its only US race. Returned to Oz, it was sold on Price’s behalf, by Matich to Malcolm Bailey in 1969. Bailey fitted the ex-Elfin 400/Traco Olds/ SR3 (1) V8 from Niel Allen to the car.

#5 SR3 (3) Repco (still exists) RBE ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre V8 engine # ‘E25’, ZF 5 DS-25 ‘box

First race by Matich, 17 September 1967 Bridghampton, raced in Oz later in ’67. Won RAC Trophy and Australian Tourist Trophy at Warwick Farm and Mallala respectively in 1968. This is the chassis which beat Amon’s Ferrari P4/CanAm 350 throughout the ’68 Tasman support races. Sold to Don O’Sullivan late in ’68

#6 SR4 Repco: (still exists, ’68 intended CanAm contender, late, only raced ’69 in Oz, won ASSC that year)

#7 SR4B Ford/Lotus twin-cam (still exists, customer car built for John Wood)


Matich A51 Repco on the Watkins Glen pit row in 1973 (D Kneller)

2.F5000’s: All aluminium monocoques

Note The Matich Team reskinned their McLaren M10B Repco tub after its Oran Park 1971 practice shunt, their first monocoque experience. Six virtually identical tubs were built by Matich/Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and built up as follows;

#8 A50 Repco Chassis # ‘001/002’ (1971 AGP and 1972 Gold Star winner, still exists)

#9 A50 Ford # ‘003’ (exported to the US, bits incorporated in sportscar) 1972

#10 A50 Repco # ‘004’ (customer car, John Walker ’73 US L&M later to Jon Davison, still exists)

#11 A51 Repco # ‘005’ (US ’73 L&M Series sold to J Goss, converted to A53 spec, ’76 AGP winner, still exists)

#12 A51/52 Repco # ‘006’ (US L&M Series as A51 converted to A52 spec back at Brookvale in time for the Surfers Gold Star round that September, destroyed in a Warwick Farm testing accident shortly thereafter driven by Bob Muir, scrapped)

#13 A53 Repco # ‘007’ (’74 Tasman car sold to J Goss after FM retirement, still exists)

On the basis of the above the Matich Team built 11 cars; the list above less the Lotus 19B and Elfin 400 which were built in Cheshunt, London and Edwardstown, Adelaide respectively.

FM’s logic of including the Lotus and Elfin as ‘his cars’ is not spelt out in Duff’s document but I suspect FM’s thinking was that he modified the cars to such an extent that they were more ‘Matich’ than Lotus/Elfin which may be true of the Lotus but ‘praps not the Elfin… Both these cars are covered in my ‘Elfin 400’ article the link of which is early in this article.

In Period Race Footage…



Shot below by Dale Harvey and is at Catalina Park in the Blue Mountains, not Warwick Farm.


sr 4 drawing

Racing Car News June 1968 (Dalton)

Matich SR4 RCN cover (2)

Racing Car News cover July 1968 (Dalton)

wf poster

1970 Frank Matich Vicki Fry

1970 shot of FM in natty check strides, Vicki Fry and journalist and later motor racing publisher, Chevron Group founder Ray Berghouse. Hewland box missing, nice shot of suspension detail (Ray Berghouse)

Special Thanks…

To Nigel Tait for entrusting me with his manuscript

Derek Kneller for his recollections of the 1969/70 period at Team Matich


Nigel Tait Collection, Dick Simpson,, Repco Ltd, Dave Friedman Collection, Ian Pope, Jay Bondini, The Roaring Season, Derek Kneller, Dale Harvey, Peter Ellenbogen, Stephen Dalton Collection, Ray Berghouse

Tailpiece: Matich is his local ‘backyard’, aboard the SR4 Repco, Warwick Farm’s Esses, now ‘Bell Star’ equipped, 1970…

mat wf

( Simpson)



‘This is the prettiest car i have ever snapped’ said Dick Simpson. Hard to argue…

This is one of four Ferrari P4’s built; chassis numbers ‘0856’, ‘0858’, ‘0860’ and ‘0846’ the latter a converted P3.

At the end of the 1967 endurance season two of the cars were lightened and modified to run in the ’67 CanAm Series in the US. Chassis ‘0860’ and ‘0858’, the latter was then acquired by ‘Scuderia Veloces’ David McKay for one fabulous season in Australia. I wrote an article a while back about Scuderia Veloce, David McKay and his 250LM ‘6321’, have a read of it rather than repeat the background here.

Simpsons’ shot is of Aussie Bill Brown at the wheel on 5 May 1968, the shot taken at the left hander after Warwick Farms’ (Sydney) ‘Shell Bridge’, it captures the curvaceous beauty of the thing!

The photographers and their artistry inspired this article…acknowledgement of them all but especially Dick Simpson, John Ellacott, Roderick MacKenzie, Ellis French and Lindsay Ross.

le mans 67 start

As Mike Spence buckles up his seatbelt in the Chaparral 2F Chev, he is surrounded by FoMoCo vehicles; #1 the victorious Gurney/Foyt, #3 Bianchi/Andretti and Hulme/Ruby Mk4’s, and the #5 Gardner/McCluskey and Schlesser/Ligier Mk2’s…not a Ferrari in sight! (Unattributed)

1967 was a halcyon year of sports car racing, the high point of the ‘Unlimited Formula’…a 5 litre limit for sports cars and 3 litres for prototypes was imposed by the FIA for 1968 so Ford had 1 more year to race their 7 litre Mk 2 and 4’s.

Chaparral returned to Europe with the fabulous 2F Coupe after an exploratory endurance year with the 2D in 1966, Lola competitors struggled with engine reliability to match the excellence of the chassis and Ferrari returned with 4 litre engines but with 3 valve heads after a year of austerity in 1966. Ferrari mainly entered 1 P3 at each race also coping with widespread industrial unrest in Italy that year.

The season wasn’t all about just the big 3; Alfa raced their T33, Porsche the 907, Matra their M630 V8 BRM engined cars, but in reality the seaon was about the big outright cars, an unforgettable year of sports car racing arguably caused by Enzos’ rebuff of Fords’ desire to purchase the Italian autocrats’ company 5 years before and the Lola GT/Ford GT40 program which followed.

The Ford Mk4 incorporated all the learnings of the company, the early failures of the GT40 and Mark 2 in 1964/5 and the triumph at Le Mans in 1966, Kiwis’ Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon ‘winning’ over the Ken Miles/Denny Hulme Mark 2 in the farcical ‘Form Finish’.

The Mark 4 was of aluminium honeycomb construction and had much more advanced aerodynamics than the Mk 2 developed from extensive testing of many variations of shapes to get the appropriate mix of top speed/downforce. The mechanical package was largely carried over and incorporated a 7 litre OHV Ford V8 fed by 2 four-barrel Holley carburettors giving circa 530bhp@6200rpm. The 4 speed Kar Kraft gearbox was again used after experiments with a 2 speed auto. Weight was circa 1100Kg.

All of the major contenders suspension layouts were similar; upper and lower wishbones at front with coil spring/damper units and adjustable roll bars. And at the rear, single top link, twin radius rods, lower wishbone, coil spring/damper units and adjustable sway bars.

All 3 cars also had rack and pinion stering, and of course cast iron disc brakes at front and rear.


ford mk 4

The Chaparral 2F Chev was the most exotic of the three cars despite its pushrod OHV 7 litre Chev V8. Fed by 4 58mm Weber down-draught carburettors, the engine developed 575 bhp@7500rpm. The chassis was made of fibre-glass, weighed 793Kg dry, the advanced specification extending to its 3 speed General Motors automatic transmission and advanced aerodynamics including distinctive high rear wing. The Texans had incorporated all they learned on their European campaign in 1966 with the 2D


chapp 2f
The P4’s ‘Aero’ chassis had slightly wider tracks than its P3 forebear and was the result of evolution over previous seasons, Ferraris’ first mid-engined sports car was the V6 engined 246SP of 1961. Doug Nye records that chassis ‘0796’ was cut up and lengthened slightly to accomodate a 2 cam 3 litre Testa Rossa engine, the 1963 Le Mans winning 250P evolved from this successful prototype. So too did the 1965 Le Mans winning 250LM, essentially a 250P with a roof and 3.3 litre engine, making it, in the eyes of many the 275LM…

The 3.3 litre 2 cam 275P followed in 1964, 275P2 and 4 litre 4 cam 330P2 in 1965. The P2’s departed from earlier Ferrari space-frame practice by utilisation of the ‘aero’ tube-frame semi-monocoque structure whereby the frame is stiffened by rivetted sheet steel panelling. The model range is more complex than this as it also includes different engine/chassis combinations for customers, i will stick to the works cars for the purpose of this article.

The 4 litre P3 followed in 1966 with much improved suspension geometry to address inadequate camber control and to suit the latest generation of ever widening tyres. The 4 litre engine, adapted for Lucas fuel injection developed circa 420bhp@8000rpm. As outlined above, Ferrari’s 1966 season was impacted by industrial problems in Italy as well as John Surtees midseason departure which impacted both the sports car program and probably the World F1 Titles which were theirs to take with an ace at the wheel. And some luck with reliability.

The stiffness of the chassis was improved as Nye describes ‘…previous P series Ferraris had carried their engines on four simple mounts plus plus two for the gearbox, the new P4 engine featured a stiffer crankcase and could be mounted as a semi-stressed structural member, picking up on four carefully triangulated mounts at the front, two each side and four at the rear.’

The engine, the block stressed as above, featured the 3 valves per cylinder (2 inlet and 1 exhaust with the inlets between the 2 camshafts of each bank) layout developed by Franco Rocchi in late 1966, as developed for the F1 cars. There were 2 plugs per cylinder still fired by good old fashioned coils, 4 of them. Lucas fuel injection fed the fuel. The engines capacity was 3967cc and developed 450bhp @ 8000 rpm.

Also new was a 5 speed gearbox made by Ferrari to replace the earlier ZF unit, the ZF5DS25 units as used in the Ford GT’s had been unreliable in 1966. Weight was 965Kg.

Firestone replaced Dunlop as the teams tyre supplier.

And so the scene was set…the prototype completed 580 laps at Firestone tyre tests at Daytona in December 1966, Amon the quickest ahead of Parkes, Bandini and Scarfiotti, the P4 timed at 338kmh along the back straight.

Quick, but as it was to transpire, not quick enough.

fazz p 4 cutaway

1967 Endurance Season…

p4 monza

The Parkes/Scarfiotti P4 ‘0858’ passes the # 18 Casoni/Martini Ferrari Dino 206S, pursued by the Mike Spence/Phil Hill Chaparral 2F Chev, DNF with driveshaft failure. ‘0858’ 2nd, the win taken by Bandini/Amon in another P4 ‘0856’. (Unattributed)

In the first race of the season, at Daytona the new car was immediately successful leading the race from the 4th hour and taking the first 2 places, Amon/Bandini ahead of Scarfiotti/Parkes and a modified P3/4 entered by Luigi Chinettis’ NART . All the 7 litre Fords retired or were delayed by maladies.

The Scuderia did not enter Sebring, but Amon and Bandini won again at Monza with Scarfiotti and Parkes second, the factory Fords did not enter the race.With practice laps only three-tenths of a second apart, Bandinis’ Ferrari and Spences’ Chaparral raced wheel to wheel from the off.

Spence retired early leaving Ferrari the rest of the race. Bandini took the lead with Scarfiotti in second in ‘0858’, Rodriguez third for NART and Vaccarella in the Filipinetti car in fourth. Ferrari’s four-litre prototypes now dominated the first four positions. A failed attempt by Rodriguez at overtaking the second-place works Ferrari resulted in his retirement. ( Note that RM Auctions in their sale dossier of the car several years ago claim Bandini and Amon won driving ‘0858’,  other independent sources say ‘0858’ finished 2nd)

spa p4

Parkes and Scarfiotti 5th and best of the P4s at Spa in ‘0858’. Ickx won in a Mirage M1 Ford. (L’Automobile)

At Spa, ‘Rainmaster’ Ickx prevailed in John Wyers 5.7 litre Mirage Ford, Scarfiotti and Parkes could do no better than 5th in ‘0858’.

Vaccarella crashed out of the Targa lead in his P4 at Collesano, his home town…

And then came Le Mans.

As noted above this was the last Le Mans run under the unlimited formula…Ford won the previous year but at Daytona they were well and truly beaten by the P4’s.Ferrari missed the Nurburgring 1000Km to be better prepared for La Sarthe 3 P4’s were entered by the factory the 4th an Ecurie Francorchamps entry.

The big V8’s had the legs in practice as proved to be the case in the race.

The Scarfiotti/Parkes P4 ‘0858’ was never far behind. A crash eliminated 3 Fords, the Mairesse/Beurlys P4 moved into 3rd with the works cars chasing the leading Ford Mk4 of Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt. That vastly experienced pair drove a superb race taking Fords 2nd Le Mans. Nye noted ‘…the race was decided on the Mulsanne. All the 7 litre Fords topped 320kmh. The 330P4 could not better 310kmh, and the poorer breathing of the 24 valve 412P’s left them gasping, slower still’.

The works  Ferrari finished 4 laps behind, the 1st Ford and 2nd and 3rd placed (Mairesse/Beurlys) Ferraris covered a distance unprecedented at Le Mans.

Mike Parkes said to journalist/Le Mans Winner Paul Frere after the race ‘Never in my life have I driven a car so hard for so long’.

le mans 67

‘0858’ on the way to 2nd place at Le Mans in the hands of Ludovico Scarfiotti and Mike Parkes albeit 4 laps behind the winning 7 litre Ford Mk4 of Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt. (Unattributed)

The Brands Hatch ‘BOAC International 500′ was the final race of the endurance season and was to determine the championship for the year. Jackie Stewart joined Chris Amon in the works team to bolster the Ferraris’ chances, Mike Parkes having badly injured his legs in an F1 crash at Spa.

Both chassis ‘0858’ and ‘0860’ had been converted to  Spiders by the factory, removal of the roof and lightening the body saving around 40Kg in weight. (Two independent sources claim ‘0858’ was driven by Jonathon Williams and Paul Hawkins to 6th in this race, and that Amon/Stewart raced ‘0860’ to 2nd)

The race started at noon on Sunday under grey skies. John Surtees took an initial lead before Paul Hawkins replaced him in the third of the P4s. After the first hour, Stewart had Spences’ Chaparral in his sights. Scarfiotti was behind him in another P4, followed by the Swiss Jo Siffert in a Porsche 908. With regular driver changes and pit stops, the running order was continually evolving over the ensuing four hours. In the final hour, Amon was second.

With ten minutes to go, Stewart took the wheel, held the position and finished the race, securing the Manufacturers’ Championship for Ferrari, its 12th, defeating Porsche. Mike Spence won the race, the Chaparral finally taking a long promised win.

350 can am front

Factory CanAm 350 3/4 front . (Ferrari)

From P4 to Can Am 350…

With the Endurance Season over and regulation changes precluding the cars competition in the 1968 Endurance Championship the factory modified two of the P4’s; ‘0858’ and ‘0860’ to better compete in the Can Am Championship by lightening and modifying the cars, naming them ‘350 Can Am’ to contest the prestigious series in their most important market.

The cars were lightened considerably by becoming curvaceous Spiders instead of more curvaceous Coupes! Weight was reduced from 792Kg wet to 700Kg wet.

The engines capacity was increased to 4176cc raising the engines power to 480bhp@8500rpm, the cars mechanical specification is as described above otherwise.

Fundamentally it was not enough.


Its 1 September 1967, Brit Jonathon Williams is about to test an F1 Ferrari 312 for the first time at Modena. In the background is one of the P4/CanAm 350’s, still with headlights fitted, also on William’s menu for the day. Lucky boy. The first CanAm round was at Road America on 3 Sept, the CanAm 350’s first raced at Laguna Seca in William’s/Amon’s hands on 15 October, there was much work to be done yet! (Pete Coltrin)

Bruce McLaren had been contesting sports car races in the US since his Cooper days in the early 1960’s, his first M1 McLarens were quick cars hampered by light but not powerful enough aluminium Oldsmobile engines. For 1967, he and Robin Herd designed and built the monocoque M6 powered by 5.9 litre, circa 525bhp iron Chev V8’s and rewrote the record book in terms of dominance of this series.

‘The Bruce and Denny Show’ of the following years was underway, the Ferraris’ contested the series entered by ‘Harrahs Casino’ also Ferrari distributors, were comprehensively blown off…along with the rest of the grid.

350 can am rear

Factory 350 CanAm ‘butt shot’. Absence of lights clear in the weight saving process. Ferrari ‘box in P4 replaced problemmatic ZF unit of P3…gorgeous if not as much so as P4 parent! (Ferrari)

can am vegas 1967

McLarens’ papaya M6A Chev looms in Jim Halls’ Chaparral 2G Chev mirrors. #21 is Parnelli Jones Lola T70 Ford and Dan Gurneys’ partially obscured Lola T70Mk3b Chev, ALL DNF! Race won by Surtees Lola T70Mk3b Chev. (Unattributed)

‘0858’ From the US to Australia via Italy…

David McKay had raced his 250LM ‘6321’ in Australia since 1965 but the car was getting older and ‘she was often racing out of class and racing against pure prototypes…During a visit to Maranello I broached the subject with Mike Parkes and the factory’s General Manager Ermano Della Casa. I had seen the P4’s at Le Mans in 1967 where Mike and Scarfiotti had finished a gallant second to Fords’ 7 litre steam roller and had fallen in love with the car’.

‘To me it typified all the art, beauty and grace of the old world pitted amongst the brashness and might of the new…In due course I received word that I could buy ‘0858’ for the considerable sum of US$30000.

riverside 67

Riverside CanAm 1967. #12 Roger McCluskey Lola T70 Chev, #27 Williams Ferrari Can Am 350, #19 Bill Amick McLaren M1C Chev, Jerry Entin McLaren M1C Chev. (Unattributed)

The car which raced unsuccessfully in the States at Laguna Seca, Riverside and Las Vegas would be fully rebuilt and shipped to Sydney by Christmas 1967. This would be in good time for the Australian Tasman Races where Amon would conduct it and surely set a cat amongst the pigeons…’

Chris Amon raced a Ferrari 246T looked after by McKays Scuderia Veloce during the Tasman Rounds that summer and in 1969, the year in which he was Tasman Champion.

McKay ‘The less charitable said the factory wanted the car as far away as possible so that they could forget the ignominy of the CanAm venture. The car had managed a 5th at Laguna Seca, 8th at Riverside and a DNF at Las Vegas with Amon who had surely wrung everything out of it’.

Note that some sources say Jonathon Williams raced ‘0858’ and Amon ‘0860’ in the Series, another source suggests Amon raced the car twice, at Laguna Seca and Riverside and by Williams at the final round at Las Vegas. Australian ‘Sports Car World’ magazine in a feature about the car published 1985 says that who drove which car cannot be accurately determined.

Take your pick…i am inclined to either uncertainty, or, I imagine Amon would have related directly to McKay at the time which car he drove, and by the time McKay wrote his autobiography he had no vested interest in the car his financial investment in it having ended in 1968, vendors or their agents and their claims should be treated with the Caveat Emptor dictum in mind…).

riverside 67 2

The 2 350 CanAms’ at rest, Riverside paddock 1967. #23 Amon #27 Williams 8th and DNF…’0858′ and ‘0860’ or…’0860′ and ‘0858’ take your guess. (Unattributed)

amon riverside

Chris Amon using the big twelves horsepower to good effect at Riverside 1967, 8th. All the drivers who raced the P4 commented on how sweet the chassis was. (Unattributed)

McKay ‘This should have turned me off but I comforted myself with the thought that there were no 8 litre McLarens in Australia and certainly no Bruce or Denny to worry us.

Alas, it only required a local in his own device powered with a local 4.4 litre V8 to unravel our dream. (Frank Matich in his Matich SR3 Repco 4.4V8).’

In fact the performance of Frank Matich in his self built car should not have been a surprise to either McKay or Amon.

Matich had contested most of the 1967 Can Am season, including the 3 events in which Amon participated and was also flogged by the McLarens, Matich didn’t finish a race in fact…but the Sydney built, space-frame chassis, 400 bhp Repco 4.4 litre V8 engined Matich was slightly quicker than the 350 Can Am and ‘match fit’ after a tough season in the US.

The Ferrari was not to have it easy in Australia.

matich riverside

Frank Matich, wife Joan his team and Firestone technicians on the pit apron at Riverside, 1967 CanAm. Grid 20 DNF accident. Matich SR3 Repco; space-frame chassis car powered by Repco ‘620 Series’ 4.4 litre SOHC V8 400bhp@7000rpm. Surtees Lola T70Mk3B Chev behind. (Unattributed)

Again David McKay picks up the story ‘As starting money was imperative for such an expensive undertaking I sounded out all the major circuits. All were enthusiastic and all promised to pay a modest enough $350 a start. It goes without saying that when Geoff Sykes (Warwick Farm boss) set the standard, a ‘yes’ on the phone was sufficient to seal the agreement’.

‘There was great excitement at the wharf when the open crate carrying the plastic wrapped P4 was lowered over the liners side. There were a couple more huge wooden crates I hadn’t expected. These turned out to be another engine, gearbox, transaxle, suspensions, disc brakes, all manner of rose joints and sixteen wheels-in reality a second P4 apart from the simple tube-chassis and the brief, skimpy fibre-glass bodywork. That US$30000 was immediately halved in our minds and much of my initial disappointment at seeing the rather unattractive Can Am bodywork evaporated’.


‘0858’ shortly after its arrival in Sydney at SV’s workshop, Wahroonga. (WOT)

‘Engineer Bob Atkin and I were keen to get the crate and boxes home to Wahroonga to prod the beast into life. This we did and again I felt disappointment. Where was the distinctive wail I heard in the cold air at Le Mans? It was now deeper, throatier but somehow more common, less exciting.

Unfortunately I never felt any warmth for the P4, certainly not its fault for the car was out of its milieu, away from the understanding hands which cared for it and probably thinking it was back in that coarse country, America, of which it had nothing but bad dreams.

I hoped a reunion with Amon would be beneficial but Chris was more involved with his Tasman Dino and his forthcoming battle with Clark and Hill in their Lotus 49 Ford DFW’s.’

clark and amon

Jim Clark, Chris Amon and their respective mechanics share a joke around Chris’ Ferrari 246T at Longford, March 1968. Clark won the series in his Lotus 49 DFW, Piers Courage the race in a gutsy wet weather drive in his McLaren M4A FVA F2 car. Clark 5th and Amon 7th. Clark killed that April and Amon returned to take the 1969 Tasman Championship…the P4 by then sold. (oldracephotos)

mc kay and amon

‘Don’t pick your nails Chris!’ Amon and McKay in the cockpit of ‘0858’ at Sandown, Melbourne, February 1968. Mckay first assisted Amon in the 1963 International Series, Amon driving the SV Cooper T53 Climax. (Roderick MacKenzie)

sv at WF

Scuderia Veloce Team at Warwick Farm 1968; 250LM ‘6321’, Brabham BT23A ‘1’ Repco and the P4/CanAm 350 ‘0858’. This shot was taken at the 18 February Tasman Meeting, 250LM i am guessing was not raced, Greg Cusack in the Brabham DNF in the Tasman race won by Clarks’ Lotus 49 DFW, Amon raced the P4. (David McKays’ Scuderia Veloce)

Australian Race Record of ‘0858’…

Ray Bell was a journalist for ‘Racing Car News’ magazine in the 1960 and 1970’s, he wrote evocatively about the cars race record on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ in 2002…

surfers p4

Amon gets the drop from Matich in the SR3, Surfers Paradise, February 1968. Ordinary crowd numbers, surf up at Main Beach maybe? (wolseley680)

‘The first race for the car in Australia was February 10 at Surfers Paradise. It was the Saturday and it was clear that there were some shocks headed for the lap record after Matich recorded 1:10.2 in practice.

Matich dudded the start, however, but scorched around to be the first to take the lap record over the 100mph mark with a 1:10.6 (101.98mph) to Amon’s 1:10.7, reeling the Ferrari in after four laps and diving under it when a slower car baulked Amon.

Two more 5-lappers were scheduled for Sunday, with Matich and his 4.4-litre tube-framed SR3 leading away and getting a full second advantage on the first lap. The record was equalled as he took another win. In the second, Amon was a non-starter.

surfers start

Rod MacKenzies’ shot of the Surfers race 1 start from a different angle. ‘Spare tyre’ on Ferrari mandated by dopey Australian sports car rules of the day. The Matich carries its spare under the drivers ‘screen’. Beefy spoiler on the SR3, its ’68 the ‘Year of Wings’

ellacott p4 wf

Superb John Ellacott shot of Chris Amon looking as relaxed as he can be with Frank Matich ‘up his clacker’! Homestead Corner Warwick Farm, February 1968. (John Ellacott)

A week later at Warwick Farm came the race I speak of so often. The report says Matich ‘left the Ferrari breathless…’ as he led Amon a merry chase. That they came past us side by side, with a Tojiero between them being lapped and grass clippings flying on one lap in the race shows that it wasn’t all that breathless!

Again, Matich was pressed to a new circuit record (these are outright records, faster than the Lotus 49s and the Amon Dino managed on the day) of 1:28.5 in staving off the Ferrari. Amon retired with reported ignition trouble on lap 7 or 8.(McKay advised the ignition leads were plucked off one bank of cylinders having been taped carefully out of reach of a half-shaft)

Check out the YouTube footage of this race…

wf start

WF start. Both Matich #1 Matich SR3 Repco and Niel Allen in the white Elfin 400 Chev get the jump on Amons Fazz at the start. WF a horse racing facility still, ceased as an International car race venue after the ’73 Tasman Series. (Wirra)

sandown p4

Amon leads Matich into Shell Corner, lap 1 , Sandown Tasman Round Sports Car race, 25 February 1968. car with white stripe down the nose at left the Bob Jane Racing Elfin 400 Repco. (Rod MacKenzie)

The opening gambit of the Sandown Park report, the next week (February 25), was ‘This was the first time the Sandown crowd has had a chance to see Frank Matich really trying. The reason was, of course, that he had Chris Amon and the P4 Ferrari to worry him.’

Matich bogged down at the start (‘nearly burned a hole in the startline with wheelspin…’) and Chris led away, but after a lap or two ‘braking late for Peters, Frank closed on Chris and went under him as they accelerated out onto Peters (the back straight).’ Matich won by four seconds, took the Sports Car record down to 1:07.2 (Clark nobbled the outright record in the Australian GP on the same day with a 1:07.1) and Matich bowed out of any further contests. He wasn’t happy to go to Longford.

sr3 sandown

Matich SR3 Repco in the Sandown Park paddock. (Mike Feisst Collection/The Roaring Season)


‘Longford March 1968. The wet Monday morning after Amon set off a lap down on the field after battery failure on the grid. The road was wet from the first shower of the day that turned into a deluge later for the Tasman race (won by Piers Courage in his F2 McLaren M4A FVA). The overcast conditions, wet road and river in the background combine to give perfect lighting to highlight the car. Location is coming off Kings Bridge, shot taken from the old Longford pumphouse station. The 1880’s railway bridge is in the background’ So said ‘austmcreg’ on The Nostalgia Forum, photo credit Jim and Pat Smith. Amazing shot and commentary!

There, Longford, of course, Amon had the fastest time ever through the trap on the flying mile and lapped at 2:14.4 in practice to easily take pole. In the Saturday race Amon set a new outright lap record of 2:12.6, four tenths quicker than Clark had done in the earlier preliminary event for the Tasman cars in the 49. This was 12.2 seconds better than the previous record, held by Bob Jane.(Elfin 400 Repco 4.4)

At that stage, it was only reasonable to conclude that Amon wouldn’t hold the record over the whole weekend, but the heavens opened and deluged the circuit for Monday, his P4 suffered a battery failure (McKay wrote that mechanic Bob Atkin simply overlooked to charge the dry cell Varley battery)  and didn’t even start the soggy sports car race and the openwheelers paddled round with Piers Courages’ McLaren M4A FVA 1.6 taking the win.

longford butt shot

Longford pit counter scene with the curvaceous CanAm 350 centre stage. Both Amon and Bill Brown drove the car at this meeting. Matich did not enter, having safety concerns about the circuit in the SR3. Atmospheric shot taken by Ellis French. Little yellow stickers on Fazz rump say ‘Gatto Verde’, gifts from Alf Francis to David McKay. (Harold Ellis)

In his book, McKay (David McKays autobiography ‘Scuderia Veloce’) describes the torment of choosing a driver for the car for the ensuing year. His choice might have been big ‘Pete’ (Ian) Geoghegan, but there was pressure to give Bill Brown a go. There was also the possibility that Pete’s huge frame might not fit… he was put into the team’s 250LM for the year.

David Mckay again picks up the story ‘After the Tasman Series and Amons departure I decided to put Bill Brown behind the wheel despite certain misgivings. I liked Bill, he was a pleasant, and helpful fellow who could be faster than some but rather more accident prone than others. He damaged the LM rather too frequently through overdriving…Yet I hoped Bill would mature, the red mists would disappear and he would conduct the P4 in accordance with my instructions. I had no illusions he would run with Matich, Amon hadn’t managed to…I had chosen the easy option rather than taking a chance and putting in perhaps the only local who would have given Matich a run for it-Pete Geoghegan.


Here is Pete Geoghegan hustling McKays 250LM ‘6321’ around Bathurst at Easter 1968, in the manner the SV boss liked so much. (Dick Simpson)

Pete was already four times AustralianTouring Car Champion and was sweeping all before him in his Mustang. More important, was his driving of the ‘old red lady’ (McKays 250LM) in which, despite his big weight disadvantage (Pete was a very big lad, morbidly obese, the medicos would describe it) he was re-writing her lap times. Perhaps had I not been so occupied with other events that year, had not been out of the country so much I would have bitten the bullet, asked Bill to step aside and given Pete the hot seat-but could he have fitten into that little space? We’ll never know now but in the light of subsequent events I was wrong and I am sorry Pete…’

Pete Geoghegan in that car would have been worth travelling a very long way to see, a driver of awesome world class ability as McKay alludes to, if you go back into the early days of Petes’ career he drove the Geoghegan family Lotus single seaters and 23B but in essence most of his career was spent in Touring Cars and other cars with roofs

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Another of Dick Simpsons’ stunning shots. Bill Brown, Mount Panorama, Hell Corner ,Bathurst , Easter 1968. (Dick Simpson)

Ray Bell…’Bathurst was the first outing on April 14 & 15, which I would have thought daunting enough. With wire fences, rough surface, two serious crashes injuring top drivers in the Gold Star event’s practice sessions and all, one might be a little careful in such a fast car.

But Bill was out to show his stuff. The first race was a 3-lapper mixed in with the open-wheelers. Bartlett won that in the Brabham BT23D Alfa with Bill second about 11 seconds adrift and just 1.6 seconds clear of Niel Allen in the Elfin 400 Chev after Allen had spun on the first lap. Bartlett had fastest lap in 2:19.1, Allen did 2:19.4 and Brown 2:21.6. Maybe he was being careful after all…

As the report points out, ‘The last time anyone went really fast on Mt Panorama was back in 1962, when both David McKay and Bib Stillwell equalled Bill Patterson’s flying eighth time of 169.81mph. It has been said often since that it would probably take a sporty car to better it.’

As mentioned above, Brown took the speed up to 181 mph, a big hike, but he was in pursuit of Allen at the time. The Elfin lapped in 2:18.4 but was parked at the top of the mountain when Brown scored his lucky win, with Geoghegan second in the LM, which improved its personal best time from 2:34.2 to 2:30.8 this first time the big fella got into it. Brown lapped in 2:19.6, just shy of the 100mph mark.


‘0858’ in the Warwick Farm paddock February 1968…the start of ‘wings’ on the front, added since original factory build. (WOT)

brown rac trophy rod mackenzie

Bill Brown in the RAC Trophy, Warwick Farm, May 1968. sand in the throttle slides of the car so DNF. (Roderick MacKenzie)

Warwick Farm’s annual RAC Trophy race was on May 5. This was a prize event on the best circuit. Matich lapped in 1:29 for pole, Allen did 1:32.9, Brown 1:33.0 for the outside of the first row. But the Ferrari managed to get ahead of the Elfin off the line and was second into the first corner and stayed there as Matich built up a lead of about ten seconds over the early laps. Sand got into the throttle slides of the V12 engine, however, and the Ferrari retired to give Allen second spot.

This was the race where Matich ‘unwound a blinder on the last lap just to prove the car was still ‘with it’, chopping 1.2 seconds off his Tasman meeting record and leaving the new time at a staggering 1:27.3′


‘0858’ sans rear bodywork, shot at SV workshop in Sydney. (WOT)

Lakeside on May 12 brought a pair of Scuderia Veloce 1 – 2s, but the opposition had died in the pre-race buildup. Matich cracked the lap record in practice with a 53.7 in his first appearance at the circuit since his crash there in 1965. Allen did a 55.3, Brown a 57.2.

The minor race came first, with Allen scoring a win and Matich fastest lap (55.2, new record anyway) with the Elfin taking the lead from the start as Matich eased away with a sick engine. Matich pitted, but continued, the Repco suffering a loose valve seat, which prevented him getting top horsepower as he nailed it to get that record in the book. Brown finished 1.5 seconds behind Allen and actually lapped two tenths faster at 56.3, both of them under Allen’s old record.

The main event was a twenty-lapper, and in the minutes before the race Matich declared himself a non-starter and Allen trickled back into the pits with a bolt out of the steering. Brown was able to walk it in (best lap 58.4) as Geoghegan showed all his abilities at the helm of the 250LM to fill second ahead of a Lotus 23B. His best lap was 59.3 and he was less than nine seconds behind at the finish.


‘0858’ cockpit shot taken at Surfers Paradise by Rod MacKenzie. ‘Momo’ steering wheel, Veglia Borletti instruments all very Ferrari ‘period’. Note venting of wheel arch to release air pressure. (Rod MacKenzie)

There was yet another race, an eight-lapper, at the end of the day, with the 2.5 open-wheelers combining with the fastest sports cars. The report doesn’t clearly explain how Allen got to be behind Phil West’s Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT23 Repco, but he was and seemingly couldn’t do anything about it. Btrown won as he liked, scoring another SV 1 – 2 with West second this time.

I would say that West got away best, then the brute force of the bigger engined cars overpowered him, only Allen was stuck behind him as Brown got through to the lead. Anyway, Allen spent the rest of the race back there in a frustrated third, ‘perhaps over-flushed with determination, hounded West in the best showing of brute tactics seen for a long while, the big Elfin almost running over the Brabham into BMC lap after lap as West stopped to look at the view and Brown scampered up over BP. Allen tried to go under into KLG, avoiding disaster by a hair’s breadth, and pushed the Brabham wheel to wheel round the Eastern Loop. This excitement was too much, added to by Geoghegan who forced the 250LM to the front of Scott’s Lotus 27 to fill fourth spot.’

Des White wrote well, didn’t he? He pressed on.. ‘The big battle looked worse as the backmarkers were lapped, disaster being forever imminent as very slow cars found themselves caught up in the 140mph battle between Allen and West, the Elfin being stopped and pointed with a dexterity seldom seen these days. Allen failed to get through, perhaps through trying too hard, and it was disappointing to see him slipstream to the flag. Should the big power of the Elfin have carried it from Shell to the flag first? Maybe, and there been breathing space for the initial build up.” Best lap to Brown, 56.6, Allen did 56.7, West 55.9, winning margin less than two seconds (1.6, actually).

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SV lined up on the Surfers dummy grid prior to the Surfers Paradise 6 Hour 1968. L.R; Leo and Pete Geoghegan 250LM which won, Des West/ Bill Reynolds 275 GTB 9th, and Brown/Palmer 350 Can Am DNF accident. (Rod MacKenzie)

Ray Bell, ‘Probably the event dearest to McKay’s heart was the Surfers Paradise 12-hour…

And he had Jim Palmer over from New Zealand to co-drive with Brown. But Palmer wasn’t up to it, lapping over five seconds slower than Brown in practice and wearing himself out in the process. Matich, who was racing quite a lot during this year, even entered the SR3 in this race with Glynn Scott as co-driver (only 2.3 seconds behind Frank’s times), so this car was the pace as the race got going, Brown following it through the field after both started slowly (Le Mans start). Lapping slower cars soon after the start, Brown was pushed off line and ran over some tyre markers on the edge and holed the radiator. The P4 was out…

David McKay saw the race slightly differently ‘…I had asked NZ Champion Jim Palmer to co-drive with Brown. Jim was a fast, safe driver very much in the Spencer Martin mould. I erred by not having Palmer start the race…The field as in the past, was composed of fast and slow open and closed cars and as always the onus is on the overtaking car. A second or 2 lost by backing off the throttle to make sure the tortoise knew he was about to be swamped was sensible driving…Less than 15 minutes into the race, Brown came up behind a Fiat 125 saloon, on the approach to Firestone, a fairly quick left hander. The Fiat driver, unaware Brown was diving down the inside held his line. The P4 had nowhere to go but over the grass and a white tyre marker demolishing the nose and oil cooler…Brown bought the  mortally wounded P4 to a halt in front of our pit’.

Bell, ‘Matich’s Repco engine dropped its bundle very late in the race and Geoghegan and his brother Leo won the race in the Scuderia Veloce 250LM.

That was the end of the P4’s racing in Australia, as far as I can see. Matich was to debut his SR4 with its 5-litre quad-cam engine in November, cementing his position as top dog in the field and enabling him to go on and take more outright records.’

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‘0858’ in cigarette company ‘Team Gunston’ colours in Bulawayo, South Africa 1969. Note the car now has lights re-fitted, installed in Australia for the Surfers 6 Hour. (Unattributed)

Sale of ‘0858’ to Paul Hawkins…

Due to an error in paperwork the car was invoiced to McKay rather than in Amons name, bringing forward the impost of import duty, the Customs Department provided extensions of time with the assistance of the Italian Chamber of Commerce who wanted the car to race in the Surfers 6 Hour and form the centre-piece of a trade show in Sydney.

Under pressure to pay the duty, close to 100% of the cars purchase price! or export it McKay put the word out ‘…dear old Paul Hawkins had heard about the car being for sale from Chris Amon at an Oulton Park meeting. I was in the workshop when ‘Hawkeyes’ call came through ‘Is the car for sale?’ ‘Yes’, ‘How much?’ ‘US$30000’. ‘If I buy it will you go me halves in a return ticket to Sydney?’. ‘Yes, ok’. ‘I’ll be there the day after tomorrow’. ‘Ill meet you Paul’

‘Simple and straightforward. Paul was making a name for himself as a successful sports car and GT racer and had been a favourite of Firestone…The car was to be shipped right after the 6 Hour for Paul would drive it in South Africa’s sports car series with tobacco sponsorship and he would win’.

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350 CanAm in the East London pits, front lights now faired. car won this 500Km race. (royckdboats)

Paul raced the car in South Africa from November 1968 to January 1969 winning the Cape Town 3 Hour, GP of Bulwayo, Pietermaritzburg 3 Hour and the East London 500 Km.

As McKay mentioned above Hawkins was an Australian International plying his trade via his own team and as a ‘hired gun’ by works teams. He was racing a Lola T70 Mk3B Chev during the Tourist Trophy at Oulton Park, his car ending up in the trees, after probable suspension failure, poor Paul dying in the particularly gruesome accident and ensuing fire.

Both Hawkins and Alberto Ascari, the only 2 drivers to ‘Scuba Dive’ at Monaco both died on May 26, in an arcane bit of trivia.

Mike Hailwood raced ‘0858’ at Magny Cours, 1st and Dijon DNF in May.

p4 east london

Gearbox fettling?, prior to the East London event. 4.2 litre DOHC 3 valve per cylinder Lucas fuel injected V12. Ferrari 5 speed ‘box with ZF limited slip diff. Battery of coils clear to see. (royckdboats)

The car was sold in the realisation of the Hawkins Estate, through David Piper, who raced so many mid sixties Sports Ferraris’ of his own, and occasionally as a ‘works driver’ to Alastair Walker who raced the car back in South Africa in November-December 1969 with sometime GP driver Rob Widdows as his co-driver.

The car was uncharacteristacally unreliable, perhaps ‘tired’, ‘0858’ failing to finish the Kyalami 9 Hour, Cape Town and Bulawayo 3 Hour events. ‘0858’ was 2nd at the Lourenco Marques, Mozambique.

In 1971 David Piper bought the car from Walker, still with its extensive inventory of spare parts, enough as McKay states to make a second car less chassis…which is what Piper did. Ferrari provided Piper all the necessary P4 blueprints in 1974, Piper, Nye says ‘had the chassis made by the original people in Modena. Ferrari gave it the number ‘0900’, a serial number also applied to a Chinetti parts built 312P in the US’. Several ‘run-on’ cars have been built by Piper since.

David Piper sold ‘0858’ to US collector Walter Medlin in Florida in 1971, he retained the car until offered for sale via RM Auctions in 2009, the car eventually being restored by Talacrest in the UK, somewhat controversially in the eyes of some to its Spyder/Barchetta specification.

Check out this website in relation to that process which has been supervised by David Piper.

At the outset i stated that 4 P4’s were built, 3 P4’s and one converted P3 ‘0846’...In the best traditions of historic racing there are now more P4’s than in period…there are 3 or 4 ‘run-on’ cars built by Pipers concern and ‘0846’, written off by the factory after a crash and fire at Le Mans in 1967 has been reborn, recreated or replicated depending upon your view of it.

If you like a bit of light entertainment look at this exchange between subject matter expert DC Nye and said vehicles’ owner, the fun and games start at about post # 62.

I’m not suggesting the ‘experts’ know it all either.

Lets go out as we came in, with a fabulous shot, this time by Ellis French of Bill Brown, the sun gleaming off ‘0858’ before blasting down the Longford public roads, big V12 howling at 180 miles per hour in February 1968…

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Bill Brown, who drove the car after Amons’ departure back to Europe also drove the P4/CanAm at Longford ’68 in both practice and a preliminary race. (David Keep)


That ‘Australian’ spare tyre. Fitted as a consequence of our local sports car regs at the time. SV solution a neat one even if the weight is well outside the cars wheelbase…where else to put it!? Yellow stickers ‘Gatto Verde’ a gift from Alf Francis to McKay, McKay makes mention of it in his autobiography but not actually what the stickers mean/represent. Ideas anyone? (Rod MacKenzie)

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p4 cutaway


David McKay ‘David McKays Scuderia Veloce’,  Paul Frere ‘Cars in Profile 246SP-330P4 Ferraris’, Doug Nye ‘The Potent P4…A Ferrari Fierce and Fine’ Sports Car World July/Sept 1982

Thanks to Stephen Dalton for the assistance in research material sourcing

Photo Credits…

Dick Simpson, Roderick MacKenzie, John Ellacott, wolseley680, WOT, Jim and Pat Smith, Ellis French, The Roaring Season, David Keep, oldracephotos, royckdboats, Mike Feisst Collection, Pete Coltrin, Harold Ellis