Posts Tagged ‘McLaren M6B Repco’

(D Simpson)

John Harvey in Bob Jane’s McLaren M6B Repco-Brabham V8 nailing Warwick Farm’s Esses on May 2 1971.

The late Australian champion, who died on December 20, 2020, raced so many different cars during a career from fifties speedway to noughties historic racing gave a big editorial challenge, what photograph to choose for the opening shot.

Dick Simpson’s shot took my breath away when i first saw it five years ago, it still does. A marvellous car being driven with precision was the John Harvey style- he won the 1971 and 1972 Australian sportscar championships with it. He applied plenty of brio albeit in a precise, economic kinda-way. Piece on the car here; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/09/sandown-sunrise/

In the weeks that followed the death of a man universally respected and liked a swag of photographs hitherto unseen popped up on social media. Treat this as a visual tribute to John rather than a distillation of a career well known to many of us. The shots play to my bias, racing and sports-cars.

(A Howard)

Aboard the McKay Offenhauser at the Sydney Showgrounds in the early sixties.

(S Dalton Collection)

Ron Phillips gave John the opportunity to transfer from speedways to circuits with a Cooper S prepared by the gifted, and soon to be great Peter Molloy. They won plenty of races in 1965-6.

WF Pit Straight (K Starkey)

 

Peter Molloy, Leo Geoghegan and JH @ WF (K Starkey)

 

JH, Peter Molloy and BT14. Elfin Catalina behind, what is car #6? Cooper (K Starkey)

When Bib Stillwell retired from racing, his fourth Gold Star in his pocket at the end of 1965 he sold the lot, including his beautifully prepared, lightly raced Brabham BT14 Lotus-Ford twin-cam ANF 1.5 to Phillips for Harves to drive.

The fast, forgiving little jigger was initially raced at 1.5-litres, John won that years ANF 1.5 title, but the engine was gradually taken to 1860cc at which capacity Harvey gave the slower 2.5s a serious run for their money.

The three shots above were taken by Ken Starkey at Warwick Farm’s May 1966 meeting.

(B Simpson)

It was obvious to all that John’s rightful place was amongst the big boys so a Repco-Brabham 2.5-litre 640 (or 740?) V8 was acquired to pop into the little BT14.

Peter Molloy went to the Repco Brabham Engines Maidstone factory to help assemble the engine. With Rennmax’ Bob Britton leading the charge, Bob and Peter fitted the Repco V8 and beefier Hewland HD gearbox into the spaceframe chassis designed for an in-line small four.

It all sounds easy enough (sic), but it took a while to get the suspension geometry, springs/shocks/bars right, a process not assisted by the Repco’s haughty, flighty behaviour. This phenomena seemed to affect most Tasman 2.5 customers to a greater or lesser extent.

By the middle of the year Harves was happy with the car. Simpson’s shot above is the finest of the car on a circuit where the snapper had bugger-all decent background to work with. JH is in the process of winning Oran Park’s Diamond Trophy feature in September 1967.

Ron Phillips, arch enthusiast that he was, found the cost of racing at the top level expensive. His desire to exit the sport was contemporaneous with Spencer Martin’s retirement plans at Bob Jane Racing.

And so it was that Harve’s slender frame replaced the similarly svelte Martin in Jano’s BT11A Climax in the December 1967 Hordern Trophy Gold Star event at Warwick Farm. There, John was second aboard the car with which Spencer had just won his second Gold Star on-the-trot behind Frank Gardner’s ‘spankers Mildren Racing Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo 2.5 T33 V8.

JH in Bob Janes BT11A Repco 740 crossing WF’s Causeway during the February 1968 Warwick Farm 100 Tasman round (D Simpson)

 

John Harvey, Brabham BT23E Repco 740 from Kevin Bartlett, Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo T33 at Mount Panorama early in the Easter 1968 Gold Star meeting before John’s bad accident (G Toughill Collection)

Jane also bought the Brabham BT14 Repco from Phillips in a deal within the Shell Racing fold. Even though Harvey was at the end of Repco development dramas with the BT14 Bob decided to fit the Repco V8 sitting in it into the BT11A in place of its Climax 2.5 FPF. Maybe the slightly older BT11A frame was beefier than the BT14 but otherwise the plan sounds bonkers to me. Surplus to requirements, the BT14 was sold.

Harvey raced the BT11A Repco in the 1968 Australian Tasman Cup rounds, predictably, without much success. Bob Jane had a New Years present for John in the form of Jack Brabham’s ’68 Tasman mount, the Brabham BT23E Repco.

The thing nearly killed Harvey though. Despite the new car having only raced at the Surfers Paradise, Warwick Farm and Sandown Tasman rounds, a rear upright broke in practice for the opening Gold Star race of the year at Bathurst over the Easter 1968 long weekend.

John survived but was out for the year. Jane, typically, looked after him and popped him back in the car at JH’s request, a tad early really, that December. John again contested the Oz Tasman rounds and then raced the car through 1969 and into early 1970. Piece on the BT23E here; https://primotipo.com/2015/12/22/jack-brabham-brabham-bt23e-oran-park-1968/

JH BT23E Repco 830 at the right-hander before the Western Crossing. WF Tasman round, February 1970. These combination engine cover cum wings were common in F1 in 1969 post the Monaco GP hi-wing ban (D Simpson)

 

WF Tasman as above- from the Dunlop Bridge. Front wings @ stall? (D Simpson)

Jack Brabham’s two ex-works RBE830 V8’s (ex-Brabham BT31 two-race 1969 program) provided a bit more mumbo than the earlier spec 740, and the chassis was evolved with high and low wing-body packages as the rules pertaining thereto evolved. A bit like the Gardner/Bartlett BT23D, a BT23E photographic evolution from the ’68 Tasman to mid-1970 would make interesting viewing and give us all an understanding of the forces at play that the bigger local outfits were dealing with.

KB’s speed in 1968 carried him to his first Gold Star in BT23D Alfa and then on into 1969 when the superb Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ powered by the Alfa 2.5 V8, and then the first Waggott 2-litre TC-4V engine late in the season.

Dick’s BT23E Forrest Elbow Mount Panoarama closeup during the Bathurst Easter 1970 meeting. Right at the end of its frontline career. Loved Harve’s Peter Revson inspired helmet (D Simpson)

Harvey’s best result was a win from pole at Sandown in September and second at Bathurst, a year after ‘his biggie’. He was quick everywhere, but the Repco shat-itself at Symmons, Mallala and Surfers Paradise. At Warwick Farm he boofed the car and did not start the Hordern Trophy. He was equal fourth in the title chase with Niel Allen, behind Bartlett, Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco and Max Stewart’s Mildren Waggott.

By this stage of the game Bob and John realised they needed a new car. Bob Britton knew BT23E well having repaired it after Harveys ‘biggie’ and Allan Moffats ‘littleie’ at Sandown when a wheel parted company going up the back-straight. Given 1970 was the last year in which the 2.5s were Gold Star kosher, Jane engaged Britton to build an ‘updated BT23E’.

His brief was to address the suspension geometry- the width and profile of the Firestones Harvey used in late 1969 were quite different from the Goodyears Ron Tauranac had in mind when he whacked together BT23E in late 1967. The bodywork and wing-package was evolved and a tube or three inserted here and there to stiffen things up a bit.

JH McLaren M6B Repco, Mallala October 1970 (J Lemm)

 

JH, Jane Repco 830 during the October 1970 Mallala Gold Star round. DNF suspension, Geoghegan’s Lotus 59B Waggott won the race and series. Nice Stobie pole behind best avoided (J Lemm)

Time is of the essence of course. Harvey’s 1970 Gold Star assault was cruelled a bit with a ‘Jane Repco’ that had insufficient testing time. Mind you, Garrie Cooper could play the same card as to his Elfin 600D Repco, one of his sexiest cars. So too could Leo Geoghegan, but once the Waggott 2-litre was popped into the back of Leo’s new Lotus 59B he had reliability he needed to lift a trophy he thoroughly deserved.

Bartlett was in the US for much of that year so the standard-setter of the last two years was ‘AWOL’, providing an opportunity for the rest. Leo won the title with two wins from six rounds with Max Stewart second and Harvey third- both also took two rounds. Harvey won at Symmons Plains and Sandown. He used BT23E in Tasmania and the Jane Repco from Lakeside where he was second but was 2 laps adrift. At Oran Park he was sixth, his fuel pump failed at the Farm and he had suspension failure at Mallala. Article on the 1970 Gold Star; https://primotipo.com/2019/07/05/oran-park-diamond-trophy-gold-star-1970/

JH, Brabham BT36 Waggott, AGP 1971 Warwick Farm Esses (L Hemer)

Bob Jane never allowed grass to grow under his feet. The Jane Repco was sold sans-engine and had an after-life as an F2 car. At around the same time he placed orders for a Brabham BT36 F2 car and a Bowin P8 Repco-Holden F5000 from John Joyce.

By the time the BT36 arrived and was fitted with a 2-litre Waggott the car was an also-ran as the F5000s by then- the ’72 Tasman, had reliability, sorta, as well as pace.

John raced it in the November 1971 AGP at Warwick Farm (Q3! DNF broken exhaust) and then at ‘home’ Sandown where Q12 and seventh was the yield.

When the Bowin P8 was ready during 1972 the Brabham was sold to Denis Lupton and Ian Cook, sadly Cook died in the car at Sandown in a practice accident in 1973.

John rated the ‘radical’ rising, or variable rate suspension, sinfully sexy Lotus 72 inspired oh-so-compact Formula 5000 car. If you can sense my Bowin bias your emotional intelligence is finely tuned.

JH Bowin P8 Repco from John Walker’s similarly engined Matich A50 in Warwick Farm’s Esses on 30 September 1972 (D Simpson)

Bob Jane Racing’s primary sponsor was Castrol. Most dumb-arse punters liked/like taxis, so Castrol liked taxis. Bob Jane Racing’s best cars (the P8 and M6B) were put to one side and the taxis were given an extra cut and polish.

So we- Jane, Harvey, Bowin’s John Joyce and open-wheeler nutbags never got to see the P8’s full potential. As factory built by Joyce and his team the it was a beautifully integrated bit of kit.

It is ironic that the driver who did the most to establish the Bowin marque, the great John Leffler also, unintentionally, did the P8 the ‘most harm’.

Leffo was mighty quick in two Bowin P4A Formula Fords in 1971-2 then won the 1973 Driver to Europe Series in a rising-rate P6F. He was potentially the F2 Championship winner in 1974 in a rising-rate P8 but the car arrived late. That’s not quite right. He had the car early and then booked it early in the season requiring a rebuild around the ex-Jane P8 tub. When Joyce and Leffler sorted it mid-year it was a jet.

For 1975 John bought a cheap Chev F5000 engine to the by then rebuilt P8 he crashed at Amaroo early in 1974. His team adapted the motor to a car designed for a Repco-Holden. The tight lines of the original were buggered by exhausts up in the airstream and outsized radiators. Worst of all, the critical mating of engine to chassis gave the thing the rigidity of a centenarians-todger so the package handled badly. It nearly won the 1975, wet Surfers AGP mind you, but the reputational damage was done. Leffo went off and bought a Lola T400 and bagged a Gold Star.

Gawd! Wot mighta-been had Bob Jane Racing developed that car with Harvey at the helm!

(D Simpson)

A few touring cars to finish off.

JH was quick in everything, depending on the year he may have jumped between Brabham, McLaren and a Mustang or Holden Monaro or Torana during the same weekend. Such a lucky man, what a diet.

Here it’s Jane’s second Mustang, the thing which was born as a ‘390’ but is here running at 4.7 or 5-litres during the September 1969 Mallala Australian Touring Car Championship round.

(L Hemer)

The most hunky Sports Sedan of all was Jane’s John Shepard built Holden Torana GTR-XU1 Repco-Brabham RBE620 4.4-litre V8. See here; https://primotipo.com/2015/06/30/hey-charger-mccormacks-valiant-charger-repco/

Lynton Hemer has caught John at Oran Park in 1971 in the short period the high-wing was run. It upset CAMS so was removed.

(A Lamont)

Winning the 1976 ATCC round at Symmons Plains in the B&D Autos Holden Torana L34 5-litre V8.

This February race was the eleven race series first round, won by Allan Moffat’s Ford Falcon GT Coupe.

(M Thomas)

Harvey and hard-man Allan Grice extend their Holden Torana A9X 5-litre cars during the Wanneroo Park, Perth ATCC round in May 1979. Car #87 is Ric Rossiter’s Torana L34.

Peter Brock won the race in the other Holden Dealer Team car, Harvey was second and Grice third. Bob Morris won the title in Ron Hodgson’s A9X.

(M Thomas)

 

(oldracephotos.com/Jenkins_

Harves blasts the Group A Holden VK Commodore 5-litre around the 3.3km Wellington Harbour track in 1987.

He and Neil Lowe were second in the first World Touring Car Championship round from their Peter Brock/Allan Moffat Holden Dealer Team teamates. It was a most impressive performance with most of Europe’s Group A topliners contesting the event.

Etcetera…

(B Pearson)

JH in Ron Phillips’ BT14 Repco 740 during 1967, circuit unknown.

(K Bright)

Harvey in BT23E returning to the Sandown paddock during the September 1969 Gold Star meeting, an event he won. A good win too, from Bartlett’s Sub and Niel Allen’s McLaren M4A Ford FVA. That’s Henk Woelders’ Elfin 600B Ford behind.

Credits…

Dick Simpson, Alan Howard, Ken Starkey, John Lemm, Ken Bright, Geoff Toughill Collection, Lynton Hemer, Slim Lamont, Lindsay Ross’ oldracephotos.com, Murray Thomas, Bill Pearson

Tailpiece…

On the dummy grid at Phillip Island historics not so many years ago at all. I wonder what he made of a return-bout with a car he loved in-period despite a race program which was pretty short. Brabham BT36 Waggott 2-litre TC-4V.

Finito…

(R Burnett

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder of course, and we often attached to a particular era, this unique McLaren M6B Repco ‘740’ 5 litre V8 ticks all the boxes for me…

Here it is in repose in the Symmons Plains paddock on 12 November 1972 before John Harvey goes out and bags his second Australian Sportscar Championship on the trot.

Only Harves and car owner Bob Jane ever raced this thing and Bob never sold it- he died a cuppla years ago and it is still owned by his (very messy) deceased estate.

It’s a special jigger too- Bob knew Bruce McLaren well, McLaren built the car for Bob to suit the Repco engine- its a factory built McLaren not a Trojan Cars Ltd customer jobbie- I’m not bagging Trojan just making clear the ‘pedigree’ of a car which is one of Australia’s most iconic racers.

Duncan Fox wrote that ‘Bob’s M6B was an out of sequence car produced late in 1968 at Colnbrook by Bruce as a favour to his long time friend. It is basically an M12 with M6 bodywork that Bob had stylishly reworked. Personally I think it is the prettiest McLaren sportscar in existence. John Harvey told me they did this because he had difficulty seeing the apex over the original front guards.’

‘It was delivered to the Tilbury Docks in London on a car trailer behind the ‘whale’ (the US Ford Station Wagon McLarens had) by Kiwis Chris Charles and Clive Bush who managed on the way to do extensive side damage with the trailer to a gentleman’s Rolls Royce.’

‘It arrived in Australia in CKD (completely knocked down) less engine and transmission on the freighter SS Port St Lawrence sometime early in April 1969. It was invoiced at US$6000 and carried chassis serial number #50-01.’

‘The engine was a Repco Brabham engines #E26 (740 Series) ‘and the dyno chart I have (17/7/71) shows it developed a maximum of 452bhp @ 6500rpm and 405ft/lbs torque @ 5000rpm.’

The fella leaning into the cockpit of the first photo is John Sheppard, Jane’s Chief Mechanic- he said to me a few years back, ‘whenever you are ready lets do another article on the McLaren’. Sheppo was very generous with his time in putting together a detailed feature on the Clark/Geoghegan Lotus 39 Climax/Repco which John prepared for Leo before ’emigrating to Mexico’ (Victoria) to take charge at Janes, Brunswick, Melbourne race workshop circa 1970.

I must give him a buzz.

(R Burnett)

 

Bob and Harves after that 1972 win (H Ellis)

The great shame is that the McLaren was not ready to race at the start of 1969, the year Matich crushed all before him in the Matich SR4 ‘760’ 4.8 litre V8, his way too late intended Can-Am contender.

So Bob and John were late to that particular party, but Harves did contest the final 1969 round at Sandown finishing second to Matich. Repco then acquired the SR4 from FM to use as an exhibit and devoted their mutual development and race energies to the Repco-Holden F5000 program. The first of these engines was fitted to FM’s McLaren M10B in mid-1970, the combination won the November 1970 AGP at Warwick Farm.

The perfectly competitive SR4 with a trick, fresh John Mepstead built 5 litre ‘760’ Repco was set aside leaving the way clear for Bob and Harves to ‘mop up’ the ASCC with the M6B. I’m not sure why they didn’t race the thing much in 1970- Harve’s focus on the Gold Star and the new Torana Repco perhaps, but in 1971 John won three of the four rounds and five of the six 1972 rounds before they too put to one side the curvaceous racer. Team sponsor Castrol wanted them to focus on the teams ‘Taxis’ rather than the ‘Racing Cars’ which at that point comprised the Bowin P8 Repco-Holden F5000 and the McLaren.

Sad but true…

The full story of the M6B is one for another time.

(E French)

Credits…

Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Rob Burnett, Ellis French, Duncan Fox on The Nostalgia Forum, Harold Ellis

Tailpieces…

(R Burnett)

 

(E French)

Finito…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credits…

Greg Feltham Collection, Murray Thomas Collection

Tailpiece…

 

 

 

 

 

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

Finito…