Posts Tagged ‘Phil Irving’

(A Clisby)

Harold William Clisby was one of those guys who did it all, above hurtling along in his 1952 Clisby Douglas Special…

Born in Norwood, Adelaide on 3 August 1912 he was a talented intuitive engineer/inventor from his childhood Meccano set fiddlings. He worked initially for his father in the family clothing business, for GM in an engineering capacity during the war, then post conflict made his fortune building Clisby Air Compressors and the Clisby/Sherline Lathe amongst many other products- Clisby Engineering Pty. Ltd. continues to this day. Click on the link at the end of this article for a comprehensive account of some of Clisby’s life.

(clisby.com)

In addition to the above he built his own stone castle, complete with miniature railway line in the Adelaide Hills, various cars and motorcycles and a 120 degree, DOHC, 2 valve, 1.5 litre V6 GP race engine! This motor was fitted into an Elfin T100 Mono chassis- in so doing creating the first, the only, all-Australian, make that South Australian Grand Prix car.

This article started as a quickie on Harold’s ’52 hillclimber but a ‘teaser’ on the V6 at the articles end turned out longer than planned- that is a marvellous feature story for another time, but a précis of the Elfin Clisby V6 forms the second part of this piece.

Clisby built this home/castle in the Adelaide Hills at Teringie- set on 1.62 ha it has a dungeon, catacombs, a tower with views across Adelaide and its own miniature railway- even a cannon to keep Ferrari’s lawyers away…

 

The Clisby home included its own miniature railway- what a place in which to grow up as a kid?! Clisby commenced construction in 1953, the home completed over a 15 year period

 

Harold was one of the instigators of the Sporting Car Club’s Collingrove Hillclimb built on land owned by the Angas family.

He spent a lot of time driving all around the large property with Robert Angas looking for a suitable hillclimb location in Angas’ Land Rover. Eventually the duo settled on a marvellous, challenging bit of geography- the land was surveyed and the Sporting Car Club of South Australia soon accepted a proposal to run the venue- which they do to this day, its one of the longest continuing motorsport venues in Australia.

Of course, as a co-instigator of the project Clisby needed a car to compete in the first meeting, the ‘South Australian Hillclimb Championship’ in March 1952, having cut his racing teeth in a modified MG TC he raced at Lobethal, Woodside and other local venues.

‘Having only three weeks to go before the maiden run, Harold decided that he would like to build a vehicle to compete…A rough layout was was drawn on a blackboard using the engine and gearbox of a Douglas motorcycle, time was short so all of the details had to be carefully planned’ clisby.com state.

‘The springs came first, as they would take the longest time to manufacture. A single tube of 3 inches in diameter was used for the chassis: the engine located on the front end of the tube, using a brake drum, the rear end to be attached to the gearbox, used the rear cover of a differential.

The wheels were from scrapped motorcycles, a chain drive drove a  large sprocket on the rear axle and incorporated the single rear drum brake.

Universal joints were used to produce independent rear suspension; a six foot long tailshaft of 7/8-inch diameter was supported on one end of the engine and one of the gearboxes.

The steering box was rack and pinion coming from a previously built incomplete automobile. The front wheels included their own drum brakes. A tapered fuel tank came from a pedal assisted motorcycle, the steering wheel from an MG and the seat supplied by Colin Angas from a farm implement.(!)

The engine was stripped, the ports were polished to accommodate slightly larger carburettors and the pistons were shortened and lightened by removing the bottom piston ring. A motorcycle speedometer was re-calibrated to show engine revolutions per minute. A racing magneto was used to replace the magdyno.’

Great shot shows the key elements of this amazingly simple but effective racer. Note independent rear suspension- fixed length uni jointed driveshafts and forward racing radius rods for location. Chassis and gearbox clear (A Clisby)

‘All these elements were collected and assembled within 2 weeks allowing a week to test the box of tricks prior to the hillclimb.

Harold had trouble registering the vehicle for the road, as they did not believe the car weighed just 350 pounds!

With one week to go, he then decided to drive the car to the town of Angaston some 60 miles away (from Adelaide) on a Saturday morning wearing a flying suit, arriving about 1 1/2 hours later.

He then drove the car up the hill (Collingrove Hillclimb) using maximum acceleration. Returning to Robert Angas home (on the property where Collingrove was built), he then discovered the tailshaft had twisted like a long letter ‘S’! He then proceeded to straighten the shaft using an anvil and carefully drove the car home.

With only a matter of a few days remaining, a new 2 inch diameter shaft was provided, still only supported at each end. At high engine revolutions, the shaft also distorted. A third shaft was made of 1 inch diameter, 16 gauge tubing cut into three sections, the centre section was supported by ball races within the 3 inch diameter main tube.

This easily withstood the engine revs of 8000 rpm. The following Saturday morning, the car was now ready to attack the hillclimb and was driven again to Angaston.

After a number of other vehicles had successfully climbed the hill, Harold’s turn finally came in the under 500cc class. He pressed the accelerator pedal until the rev indicator showed 8000rpm, then took his foot straight off the clutch, the rear wheels spun on the tarmac and the car shot off up the hill in a satisfactory manner.

There was little trouble in changing gear into the various bends until reaching the top, where the descent back to the paddock was made on a rough rock track. One rock knocked a hole in the crankcase, allowing all the oil to drain out.

Returning to the pit area, the car was rolled on its side and the hole was welded up with acetylene and oxy torch supplied by an oil company. The vehicle was now ready for a second run. Using the same procedures used from his first experience, the time was improved setting a record that wasn’t broken in its class for seven years’.

(Australian Motor Sports April 1952)

 

‘After the success of his hillclimb vehicle, he was then approached by several of his friends to design and build small competition cars with 125cc engines as the driving force. These were constructed out of steel tubing with rack and pinion steering and front and rear transverse independent suspension all round. The wheels were cast aluminium and fitted with 8 X 4 wheelbarrow tyres. Looking back he felt the cars led the way into the go-kart era in Australia’ clisby.com records.

Clisby Bantam: ‘This car is one of 6 examples developed and constructed in 1954…originally owned and raced by Lindsay Lemussurier of Adelaide. Used in a number of AHCC events including the 1954 Championship at King Edwardd Park, Newcastle, where it competed against Jack Sheppard and Jim Gosse in similar Clisby Bantams- and Ron Tauranac in his Ralt 500, who won. The Clisby Bantams were given the moniker of ‘screaming blowflies’ by track event announcers’ (From the VSCC Mt Tarrengower October 2018 program courtesy of Bob King)

Collingrove opening March 1952 meeting entry- Harold’s opposition included a youthful Bill Patrerson’s Cooper 500. Stephen Dalton advises he also competed in a production sports MG TD. Love the cigarette butt warning!- tidiness or bushfire avoidance?  (S Dalton)

Specifications…

Chassis-

Backbone frame of single 3 inch by 16 gauge steel tube. Engine mounted on clutch housing welded to front, gearbox mounted on steel pressing welded to rear. Independent front suspension by twin transverse leaf springs. The transverse leaf springs mounted above and below clutch housing. Independent rear suspension by splayed quarter elliptic springs and halfshafts located by radius rods trailing at 30 degrees. Rack and pinion steering. Motor cycle wheels- front 19 X 2 1/4 inches, rear 19 X 2 3/4 inches, 3 inch motorcycle ribbed tyres at front, grip tread at rear. Mechanical brakes- non-compensated 6 inch BSA cable operated at front, single central rod operated 8 inch Douglas at rear.

Transmission/Gearbox-

7 inch single dry plate clutch mounted direct on engine. Three piece tubular steel drive shaft running on ball races mounted within tubular backbone chassis. 4 speed positive stop Douglas gearbox with hand operation- overhung at rear of the chassis with final drive by chain to differential-less swinging halfshaft back axle

Engine-

Douglas air-cooled, horizontally opposed, pushrod OHV two cylinder engine. Bore/stroke 60.8 X 60mm, 348cc. Wet sump lubrication, BTH magneto ignition. Bottom piston ring removed and piston skirts shortened by 1/2 inch, ports bored out and polished, two Amal carbs, compression ratio 8:1, 30bhp, maximum rpm 9000

Monoposto body to be fitted, weight when registered 325 pounds.

Construction quoted as commenced on 19 February 1952, inaugural Collingrove meeting 15 March 1952 during which a time of 50.1 seconds was achieved. The class record was set at the second Collingrove meeting at 47.2 seconds for the up to 750cc class- the report says the car used the standard engine in the first meeting, with presumably the modified engine at the second. ‘Since then it has had further runs, but Mr Clisby is now faced with excessive wheelspin and so is tackling the problem of weight distribution’.

(Courtesy Australian Motor Racing Annual No 3)

That ‘F1 Car’- Elfin T100 ‘Mono’ Clisby V6, chassis ‘M6548’…

(K Drage)

Elfin boss Garrie Cooper and legendary ace welder, Fulvio Mattiolo ponder the next step in the build of Andy Brown’s Clisby V6 engined Mono at Edwardstown, Adelaide during 1965.

Those with strong knowledge of the GP formulae will appreciate that 1965 was the final year of the 1.5 litre F1 and that therefore the little Clisby V6 was a tad late to the party!

The Elfin Clisby only raced on four occasions- at Mallala on 19 April 1965 when a rear tyre blew destroying the cars rear suspension, at Calder on 23 May when Brown retired with water porosity problems, back home in South Australia at Mallala on 14 June when the car popped an oil line in practice, non-starting the race. The cars last appearance was a championship one, Brown started the 11 October 1965 Mallala Gold Star round but retired from the race won by Bib Stillwell’s Brabham BT11A Climax after 8 laps when the engine locked up beneath him in the straight gyrating from high speed for 300 metres until coming to rest gently in the infield.

With that the project, one engine, was put to one side forever, there is a Repco epilogue however.

The chassis, engine and gearbox (using a VW case) were all made in South Australia, hopefully one day this extraordinary piece of Australian history- our only ‘all Australian’ GP car will run again.

An engine and the Elfin chassis are extant, sufficient of the engine patterns and moulds exist, with the will of all involved- chassis owner, the very keen James Calder, the Clisby family, and, critically Kevin Drage, the senior engineer on this project all those years ago this stunning machine will run. It must run- the combination is a national engineering treasure. Some very recent chatter online is promising too…

(Clisby)

Ferrari had been racing Vittorio Jano designed 1.5 litre F2 and 2.5 litre F1 DOHC, 65 degree V6 engines in the late fifties, Mike Hawthorn won the 1958 drivers title so equipped. Their 1961 championship winning car, the mid-engined 156, was powered by a 1.5 litre V6, initially with a Vee angle of 65 degrees and later 120 degrees. By the way, the first track test of Ferrari’s 156 120 degree V6 engine was at Modena, the car driven by Phil Hill, in April 1961.

During a long fact-finding trip to Europe in 1960 Clisby chose a 120 degree, DOHC, 2 valve V6 design for his proposed GP and sportscar engine. He set about the design process on a portable drafting machine in the cabin of the ship which brought him back to Australia.

In order to construct the engine he also needed to upgrade his Prospect, Adelaide, Clisby Industries factory facilities to ‘manufacture our own con-rods, pistons, distributors and oil pumps…plus build our own manufacturing equipment such as sand foundry, electric melting furnace, sand mixer, crankshaft grinder, camshaft grinder, nitriding furnace etc’ Clisby Development Engineer at the time Kevin Drage recalled.

The essential elements of the all aluminium engine (the extent of local content extended to the Comalco aluminium used, the bauxite and alumina was mined and processed in Australia) was a four main bearing, billet steel crank, twin overhead gear driven camshafts, two 14mm plugs per cylinder fired by conventional coil and ‘…dual ignition circuits- there were four distributors, one master and one slave for each of the two ignition circuits fired from each camshaft. This allowed the spark requirements to spread across 4 coils’ said Kevin. The distributors were Clisby modified Bosch components. A generator was in the front of the engines Vee, a starter motor at its rear.

The engine capacity was 1476cc, its bore and stroke 73 X 58.8mm with the engines ultimate potential size circa 2 litres. Clisby saw a gap in the market in Europe for engines of 1.5 to 2 litres for both GP and sportscar use. With a very modest initial compression ratio of 8.5:1 and cam timing derived from the BSA Gold Star motorcycle, around 170-180 bhp was expected from the early engines.

Carburetion caused a big problem, conventional twin-choke Webers would not feed the wide angle engine. Drage wrote to Weber to enquire about purchase of some of its triple choke carbs, only to be advised of their exclusive supply agreement of said units with Ferrari. The Scuderia’s lawyers followed this up with a salvo several months later advising ‘that they (Ferrari) owned the copyright to the 120 degree, V6 layout and that we should cease building our engine forthwith and certainly not attempt to market it!’ KD recalled.

Clisbys therefore decided to build their own carburettor bodies to which were fitted standard Weber chokes, auxiliary venturis, jets etc sourced from twin choke carbs Weber were happy to supply. ‘Harold drew up the triple carburettor body and had a set of patterns made. We joked that we should have left and right hand carburettors to make the fitting symmetrical. A few days later, Alec Bailey, who was working on the engine with me, came in to work with a set of left hand carburettor patterns which he had made up at home in the evenings! So we did finish up with a pair of left and right hand triple choke carburettors after all!’

Ron Lambert ponders the next step in the Elfin Clisby- he is still spritely and fettling Elfins in Tasmania (K Drage)

 

Kevin Drage in the Calder paddock 23 May 1965, Andy Brown a DNF in his Elfin Mono Clisby that weekend. Installation of 1.5 litre V6 into a monocoque chassis designed for the Lotus-Ford twin-cam inline four beautifully done (R Lambert)

The 260 pound, incredibly low, compact engine broke cover from about March 1961 with articles in Sports Car World, Road and Track, Sports Car Graphic and other publications following in 1962.

By then the BRM P56 and Coventry Climax FWMV 1.5 litre V8’s were dominating GP racing- Ferrari was developing its own V8, its ultimate 1.5 litre F1 weapon was the Ferrari 1512- a Flat-12 engine which formed a structural member of the cars semi-monocoque ‘Aero’ chassis in 1965. The point here is that by the time the Clisby engine was announced, let alone run, the game had well and truly moved on, but it does not matter in terms of the engines Australian historical significance.

Denis Jenkinson in his March 1963 MotorSport ‘Continental Notes’ wrote of Jack Brabham’s prospects for that GP season ‘…it looks as though the Australian is getting the design sorted out nicely…He will be dependent upon Coventry Climax and Colotti for the major components of the car…but the cars should be well in the running and he may even be patriotically inspired to try a Clisby V6 engine in a Brabham…’ if only it were true and had come to pass?!

As the engine came nearer to the stage of being installed in a car Kevin Drage initiated discussions with multiple AGP winner and Gold Star Champion, the wealthy Lex Davison. Kevin Drage recalled ‘…Lex was interested in seeing the Clisby engine run in a car…Initially he was prepared to fund an Elfin Mallala but later with the advent of the forthcoming Australian 1.5 litre Series he proposed building and campaigning an Elfin Mono. However by this time Harold had lost interest in the V6 project and was devoting his time to building model steam railway engines.’

‘I didn’t want to see four years of my involvement sidelined so I had discussions with Lex and Garrie Cooper regarding getting the Elfin Clisby Mono project off the ground. However, Andy Brown stepped in and offered to fund the Elfin Mono and Harold agreed for Andy to proceed- and the rest, as they say, is history’.

In fact Lex did order and pay a deposit on a Mono to be fitted with a Ford 1.5 twin-cam- this car was to be raced by young up-and-comers, but with Lex’ death at Sandown in early 1965 the project did not proceed.

Once on the dyno and in the car the V6 design’s problems surrounded engine balance and porosity of some of the castings- nothing which could not have been sorted with time and development.

Saucy titillating shot of the Clisby Mono- shot captures the Elfins ally monocoque- Cooper’s first such design, the challenge of accommodating the exhausts and ultra low layout of the 120 degree Vee Six (A Clisby)

I’ve already gone further with this teaser than I had planned, lets come back to this marvellous project with a feature later and finish on the thought below.

The sad thing is that Clisby should have persisted with the motor’s development in Australia at a capacity of 2 litres. Both BRM and Lotus (Coventry Climax) with 2 litre variants of their F1 V8’s engines proved to be Tasman Series winners despite a category limit of 2.5 litres and therefore those motors giving away capacity to fellow competitors. Mind you it’s easy for me to say ‘push on’, Clisby’s was a family business, I hate to think how much in cold hard cash, diverted resources and opportunity cost this amazingly ambitious project cost.

Harold Clisby with the original cross-sectional drawing of the Clisby V6 above the drawing board in his office (K Drage)

And that Repco epilogue, you ask?

When Repco Brabham Engines in Maidstone were looking for an Australian concern to cast their cylinder heads for the race program from 1966 to 1969 they chose Clisby given the problems they encountered in making the complex aluminium castings of their V6, and the learnings they had made as a consequence!

There is something rather neat about Australia’s first but largely unraced GP engine contributing to the World Championships of its Repco successors!

(K Drage)

I had a chuckle at this Kevin Drage photo of Harold Clisby (left) and Phil Irving in the Sandown paddock during the circuits opening international meeting on 12 March 1962…

‘No Phil, I’ve already got a copy of “Tuning for Speed”, I don’t need another’ is perhaps the conversation between these two great engineers. For sure the weather is not their interest.

At that stage Clisby is well into the build of his V6 whereas Phil is a couple of years away from starting the design of the aluminium GM Oldsmobile F85 block based 1966 World Championship winning ‘RB620’ V8.

The interesting bit in that context is that the Lance Reventlow owned, Chuck Daigh driven, mid-engined Scarab RE Buick V8 was competing at Sandown that weekend. If Jack, winner of the Sandown Park International in a Cooper T55 had not seen that GM motor before- its the brother of the F85, he most certainly did that weekend as i’ve posted a photo before of Jack looking lustfully at the engine and perhaps pondering its possibilities!

With Repco’s resources, Phil’s first 2.5 V8 ‘RBE620’ ‘E1’ burst into life about twelve months after he first put ink on paper, in Repco’s Richmond test-cells in March 1965- at about the same time as Harold’s V6 was being installed into Andy Brown’s Elfin Mono after a journey which started in 1960- whilst noting that Clisby Engineering and Repco Ltd were enterprises of vastly different sizes! Harold and his two offsiders also built an engine from scratch, most of it in-house too, whereas the first Repco jobbie did use plenty of components off the shelf, albeit to rather good effect!

(Clisby)

Credits…

Kevin Drage on The Nostalgia Forum, ‘Harold Clisby: The Life of a Restless Engineer’ on clisby.com, Australian Motor Sports April 1952, Andrena Clisby via Kevin Drage, Kevin Drage, Ron Lambert, Stephen Dalton Collection, Bob King Collection

Harold Clisby’s Biography, in part…

http://clisby.com/hwc.html

Tailpiece: Forty year old Harold Clisby with his Clisby Douglas Special in 1952…

(A Clisby)

Its a photograph of crystal clear clarity in terms of mechanical layout- from the flat-twin Douglas engine and mount, simple tubular chassis, independent front and rear suspension and seat which appears to be from a tractor!

‘Hang on Harold’! is the message as he departs the startline!

Ones legs getting dislodged from the pedals and touching terra-firma at speed does not bare thinking about!

Finito…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tasman 2.5 Formula was immensely successful for Australasia…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In comparison racing cars exited stage left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

But no!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics and power is never pretty is it?!

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

Holden and Repco F5000 Partnership…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(A Trowbridge)

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

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

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

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

A case of racing improves the breed!

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

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

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

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

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

Malcolm Preston is also sanguine about forged pistons.

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

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

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

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

Don Halpin in this Repco PR shot (Repco)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The development of the engine was relentless and ongoing…

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John McCormack recalls the Repco Holden engines with fondness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credits…

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

Etcetera…

Repco Holden Technical Specifications…

(Repco)

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

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

(B Ramsay)

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

(B Ramsay)

(B Ramsay)

Bibliography…

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

Tailpiece: Repco’s ‘Veggie Cart’ F5000 …

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

Finito…

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The Story of the Repco-Brabham V8 Racing Engine as conveyed in Repco Technical News Volume 12 No 2, November 1965…

This gem is from Michael Gasking’s Collection and is reproduced in all of its glory, this is the 1966 Tasman/F1 engine later more commonly referred to as ‘RB620’, its internal Repco Parts Co project code was ‘620’. It will be difficult to read on your ‘phone, a bit easier on a larger device!

We have covered this engine already in primotipo, click on the links at the end of the article for these stories. Just a couple of ‘editorial comments’ or observations.

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RB620 and F1…

No mention is made of the engines F1 application so late in the piece, the new 3 litre F1 began on 1 January 1966. Brabham and Repco were playing their cards, understandably, close to their chest. Remember the RB620 V8 first ran in a car at 3 litres not 2.5, at Goodwood before racing in the non-championship South African GP, at Kyalami on 1 January 1966.

Melbourne motoring journalist Chris de Fraga, well known and respected by generations of Victorian enthusiasts is credited with first reporting Repco’s F1 plans in the Melbourne ‘Age’ in early October 1965, a report denied by Repco at the time. This document dated November 1965 was presumably circulated in that month or the following one.

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Jack’s Lovechild…

Brabham’s parentage of the project is ignored in this largely technical treatise of the engine, Jack’s involvement not ‘front and centre’ in this public document given the need for F1 confidentiality.

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‘The Men’…

The duo credited with the engine in the brochure are Chief Engineer of the Repco Parts Group, Frank Hallam and Project Engineer Phil Irving, the only guy missing, as stated above is Brabham. Its worth musing for a bit about the roles these three men played in the championship winning RB620.

In simple terms Jack was the engines conceptual designer- he pitched the Repco board a simple engine using the F85 Olds block as a base whose completed dimensions were to fit the existing BT19 chassis. Phil designed it, inclusive of its drawings. Jack provided both conceptual design and practical feedback to Phil on regular visits to Irving who was based near Brabhams early in 1964 as he progressed the engines design. All of the ‘RB620’ drawings were done by Phil and signed by him according to ex-Repco engineer and Repco Historian, Nigel Tait who has seen and reviewed them all in the process of archiving them with RMIT University, Melbourne, in recent years. Hallam was Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. General Manager and Chief Engineer. His role was primarily a management one although he had engineering oversight, his direct design and engineering input into RB620 something Hallam has sought to grab a greater share of down the decades.

After Irving’s death, Hallam in his book ‘Mr Repco Brabham’ comprehensively dumps all over Irving and seeks to take more credit than he is due for the ‘RB620’ engine inclusive of positioning Irving as its ‘draftsman’ – ‘draftsman casual’ in the employee list in his books Appendix. In fact all of the ‘Drawing Office Personnel’ listed are described as ‘draftsman’ despite several being degree qualified engineers. Hallam, on the other hand, formally qualified as a motor mechanic, lists himself as General Manager/Chief Engineer. The positioning he inaccurately seeks to convey is clear. In that context its interesting to see Phil’s title as ‘Project Engineer’ in this Repco publication of the day.

The very well known F1 engine designer and manufacturer John Judd joined the Repco Brabham Engines Maidstone design team at Jack Brabham’s behest in 1966. He pretty much unwittingly walked into a storm in terms of the final breakdown in the progressively declining working relationship between Hallam and Irving. Judds arrival at Maidstone was unannounced by Frank to Phil, the design leader at the time, thereby lighting the fuse for a final confrontation which was becoming increasingly inevitable.

Judd got the ‘rounds of the kitchen’ from Phil when he joined RBE according to both Phil’s autobiography and Frank’s book but Judd has this to say about Irving’s contribution to ‘RB620’ in a recent ‘Vintage Racecar’ magazine interview;

‘When Jack returned (to the UK) from the (1966) Tasman  series, he asked if I could go to Melbourne almost immediately, and work with Repco designing parts toward the next year’s engine. That lasted for about four months and I was back again for six months in 1967 working on the 1968 4-cam engine.’

‘The original 1966 engine had been designed almost 100% by Phil Irving of Velocette and HRD fame with input from Jack and Ron Tauranac, but Phil didn’t fit in well with the Repco corporate structure and fell out with his boss Frank Hallam. My insertion into an already fragile situation led to Phil leaving after I had been there two months or so, and to his replacement by Norm Wilson. Looking back at Jack’s 1966 World Championship winning engine, I believe it was largely the product of one man, Phil Irving, to an extent that is and will remain unique.’

Don’t get me wrong, Hallam played a vastly important role in marshalling Repco corporate resources to assemble the men and modern machines to build World Championship winning engines in 1966 and 1967. He was also a wonderful foil between the demanding requirements of the Repco Board and the daily dramas in Maidstone of building and servicing racing V8 engines so far from Brabham Racing Organisation’s Guildford base. But his contribution is more management than engineering detail of RB620 when objectively looked at in the context of all the published evidence and the views of those there at the time.

The antipathy between Irving and Hallam was and is well known, few Repco people want to go ‘on record’ about the topic, which is both understandable and frustrating at the same time. They, rightfully, recognise the contributions of both men. Irving’s book is respectful of Hallam, Hallam’s of Irving not so and was published well after Phil’s death- the shit-canning of Irving is grubby and un-Australian really. If you are going to ‘have a crack’ do so when the other dude can defend himself. Hallam’s book was contracted by him from Simon Pinder, the author. It is not objective as such (neither is Irving’s autobiography of course) but does add much to fill in the RBE story, the long interview with ’67 RB740 designer Norman Wilson is gold for example,  but the books quality varies from gold to ‘merde’ depending upon the chapter. One needs quite a lot of Repco knowledge to pick the chapters to treasure and those to treat with rather more circumspection.

Nigel Tait told me that Jack Brabham was very angry with a fair bit of the contents of the book- it would have been a good idea for the great man to have read its contents before writing the publications foreword! I will explore the relationship between Irving and Hallam, and Hallam’s claims, in detail, soon. In short, this Repco corporate piece puffs up Hallam’s racing background and downplays Irving’s, ‘twould be interesting to know who ‘signed off’ the content of this document before it’s publication.

Enjoy ‘The Story of The Repco-Brabham V8 Racing Engine’, its sensational. Wish I had it when Rodway Wolfe and I tackled the articles linked below 2 years ago!, having said that we have included a good bit of granular stuff not included in this official publication, so read together are not a bad crack at the ‘RB620’ subject…

Etcetera: Repco RB620 articles…

On the engines design and build

https://primotipo.com/2014/08/07/rb620-v8-building-the-1966-world-championship-winning-engine-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-2/

On the successful 1966 F1 season

https://primotipo.com/2014/11/13/winning-the-1966-world-f1-championships-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-3/

Bibliography…

Repco, ‘Vintage Racecar’ magazine, ‘Mr Repco Brabham’ Simon Pinder

Credits…

Michael Gasking Collection

Tailpiece: Repco Brabham Boys, Longford, March 1966…

Phil Irving, with collar and tie chats to Brabham whilst Frank Hallam at right susses the Brabham BT19’s suspension. Not sure what Roy Billington is up to. Note the long inlet trumpets of the Tasman 2.5 RBE620 V8. Its the engines 3rd race, South African GP then Sandown Tasman the week before Longford. Jack was 3rd with overheating and low fuel, Jackie Stewart won in a BRM P261 from Graham Hill’s sister BRM. Its 6 or 7 March 1966. BT19 was Jack’s F1 championship winning 1966 car, still in Oz owned by Repco (oldracephotos.com/Harold Ellis)

 

 

Repco Record NZ

The one and only ‘Repco Record’ in surreal surroundings, the Wairakei geothermal field near Taupo in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in 1959…

After the end of Maybach’s useful life, the racing brainchild of Charlie Dean well covered in my article on Stan Jones, the talented Repco Engineer looked for a new project. https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

Dean, Head of Repco Research, the large transnationals ‘Skunkworks’ turned his attention to the creation of a road car which would form a test bed for the companies products, a promotional tool and an expression of Repco’s innovative capabilities.

Dean recruited Tom Molnar (Chief Engineer of Patons Brakes) and Wally Hill (Repco Research) to assist with development of the car; Molnar with its engineering and brakes, Hill built the body with some assistance from Bob Baker to Deans design, a process completed in Dean’s spare time at his Kew, Melbourne kitchen table!

The cars construction took 4 years, the yellow coupe made its debut at the 1959 Melbourne Motor Show, where it was ‘The Starlet’ painted a distinctive shade of yellow.

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The ‘Repco Experimental Car’ as it was then unimaginatively called was a mobile test bed designed to trial the groups products, but that didn’t stop contemporary reports speculating about series production. In the context of its time it was a highly specified, comfortable high speed car of potentially modest cost using largely production based components.

When originally built it was fitted with a Ford Zephyr engine with a Raymond Mays cylinder head Dean bought to fit to his company car, and an MG TC gearbox. A Holden engine was slotted in when the Repco ‘Hi-Power’ head was developed, a David Brown Aston Martin ‘box replaced the MG unit at the same time.

‘Sports Car Worlds’ Peter Costigan tested the Record with Dean on board and raved about its comfort, performance, roadholding and handling. Less impressive was the David Brown ‘box and brakes which faded after repeated high speed applications. The car cruised comfortably at 100mph with a top speed of 120 mph, the Repco modded Holden engine in ‘touring tune’. Heavier shocks, improved brakes and an oil cooler were suggested improvements.

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Repco shot with the car posed in front of Repco Research’ new home in Dandenong, Victoria. Late 50’s. (Repco/From Maybach to Holden)

The pretty Coupe was used during the filming of ‘On The Beach’, a Hollywood movie shot in Australia featuring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire during 1959.The film was based on a novel by British/Australian author Nevil Shute.

The car was one of several used in the productions racing scenes filmed at Phillip Island. It was during breaks in filming that SCW magazine drove the car, it was about this time someone dubbed the car ‘Repco Record’ a name never officially endorsed by Repco but an appellation which stuck!

Repco SCW 03

Repco ‘Hi-Power’ headed Holden ‘Grey Motor’ 2.3 litre OHV 6 cylinder, cross-flow engine fed by 2 Weber carbs. Circa 133 bhp with a ‘cooking cam’ and extractors. (SCW Magazine)

After testing of various Repco subsidiary components and the changing of the cars livery and especially rear window treatment the Record was sold after a few years into private hands, it is still in Australia, last sold several years ago and pops up occasionally at historic events.

Repco Record 2014 PI

Contemporary shot of the Repco Record at Phillip Island in 2014, changed frontal treatment not for the better. (Stephen Dalton)

Specifications…

The Record used the then contemporary (1948-1962) Holden 6 cylinder ‘Grey Motor’ bored to 2360cc. It featured a cast iron block, 4 bearing crank fitted with Repco Hi-Power crossflow, OHV semi-hemispherical cylinder head, 2 Weber 36 DCLD7 downdraught carburettors. On a compression ratio of 8.7:1. the engine developed circa 133bhp@5500 rpm and 141lbs/ft of torque@4000 RPM. For more on the Repco Hi-Power head see the separate section below.

The chassis was of integral construction with a tubular backbone, the steel body was welded to the frame to provide stiffness.

Suspension comprised modified Holden components; wishbones, coil springs and telescopic dampers at the front. At the rear a Holden live axle, quarter elliptic leaf springs and telescopic dampers was used. Rear axle was ENV spiral bevel, its ratio 3.66:1, Gearbox was a David Brown 4 speed manual with synchromesh.

Brakes were hydraulic drums front and rear with a Repco PBR booster, Steering by recirculating ball. Tyres: 6.40-13 on steel wheels

Fuel Capacity: 42 litres (9.5 gal) Height: 1320 mm (52 in) Length: 3810 mm (150 in) Weight: 1018 kg (2240 lbs) Wheel Base: 2286 mm (90 in)

Max. Speed: 120 m.p.h. (1st gear: 48 m.p.h., 2nd gear: 66 m.p.h., 3rd gear: 98 m.p.h., 4th gear: 120 m.p.h.) Acceleration: 0-60 m.p.h. in 10.5 secs. 0-100 m.p.h. in 21.2 secs. Standing quarter mile: 17.2 secs.

Repco AMS annual advert

Repco Record contemporary press ad. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

repco high power

Repco Hi-Power headed Holden engine complete with optional aluminium rocker cover. Engine variously named ‘HighPower’ ‘Hypower’ and ‘Hi-Power’ the latter the name it was finally marketed as…notwithstanding the name on the rocker cover! (Maybach to Holden)

Repco Hi-Power Head…

All countries have production car engines which, with tuning provide a staple for road going sedans, racing or sportscars, sometimes all three!

The BMC ‘A and B Series’, Ford 105E through Kent engines, the small block Chev and Ford V8’s and more recently Ford Zetec and Toyota 4AGE engines spring to mind. In Australia the Holden ‘Grey’ and ‘Red’ 6 cylinder engines were the tuners weapon of choice for 2 decades starting in the early ’50’s.

Repco were active in racing throughout this period, largely starting with the efforts of Charlie Dean and his Repco Research colleagues based in their Sydney Road, Brunswick, inner Melbourne base.

Phil Irving of Vincent and Repco Brabham RB620 Engine fame, his exploits well covered in the articles I have written about the 1966 World Championship wins by Brabham and Repco, designed the ‘Hi-Power’ cylinder head to meet market needs and exploit the knowledge Repco had gained about improving the performance of Holden’s 2200cc, 6 cylinder, iron, 4 bearing, OHV engine which in standard tune gave, according to Irving, a claimed and real 62 BHP at 4000 rpm. Click here for an article about Irving’s 1966 F1 Championship Winning Repco engine;

https://primotipo.com/2014/08/07/rb620-v8-building-the-1966-world-championship-winning-engine-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-2/

RepcoHi-Powerhead_preview

Contemporary ‘horsepower press’ ad from ‘Wheels’ magazine July 1962 edition. (Wheels)

Irving, a noted author himself wrote about the Repco head in Barry Lake’s late, lamented and sadly shortlived ‘Cars and Drivers’ magazine in 1977, this piece is based on Irving’s article, the quotes are just that…

Irving’s simple proposal to Dean was to design a head which would increase the engines power, Dean agreed on the basis that the design be interchangeable with the original head, inexpensive and simple enough to be machined with little or no special equipment. In effect this precluded the head being made of aluminium so cast iron it was.

‘The valves were arranged in two rows with the 1.375 inch exhaust valves vertical and on the near side, while the inlets were inclined at 25 degrees on the opposite side, their heads being 1.56 inches in diameter’.

‘The 6 circular exhaust ports were short and direct, while the rectangular shaped inlets were arranged in two groups of 3, springing from the 2 galleries, these formed partly in the head and partly in the manifolds. The manifolds were simple open sided castings, made in several types to suit vertical or horizontal carburettors’.

The pressed steel side plates were replaced by an aluminium plate. ‘This feature enabled the head to be widened to give room for desirably long inlet ports and inclined rockers which oscillated on a hollow bar… Another bar carried the exhaust rockers, both bars mounted to pedestals integral to the head and thus free from flexure under load.’

Cost pressures meant the rockers were made of nodular iron, hardened locally and proved failure free.

Most of the development work was done by Repco subsidiaries; Warren and Brown the patterns, Russell foundry the head castings, Brenco the heavy milling and Repco Research the final machining.

‘There was no fancy work done on the ports, the first head was slapped on an FE Holden engine that was fired up in the middle of the night…after playing about with jet sizes and ignition settings we obtained 85bhp with a single Holden carburettor on a mocked up manifold’

‘The compression ratio was only 7.5:1 to suit the 90 octane fuel of the day which most people today (1977 at the time of writing) wouldn’t even put in their lawn mowers!’

‘It was an encouraging start with 100bhp, it was enough to push a road car along at over the ton…but more was needed for serious racing…which wasn’t difficult to get by changing camshafts, raising the compression ratio and boring .125 oversize…with each carburettor supplying 3 cylinders it was discovered the induction system came into resonance at around 4000rpm’.

irving and england

Ropey shot of Phil Irving and Paul England, ‘Racers’ in thought word and deed both! They are fettling the first Hi-Power head on the Russell Manufacturing Co dyno, Richmond, Melbourne. This was the same cell in which the first RB620 F1/Tasman engine burst into life in 1965. This first head was fitted to England’s Ausca sportscar, the car very successful, a car i must write about. (P Irving/Cars and Drivers magazine)

The bolt on kit was priced at £150, a fully rebuilt engine with camshafts and carburettors of the clients choice was £450. ‘The most popular choice was the 140bhp version with 2 double choke progressive Weber down-draft carburettors which gave a road speed (in a Holden sedan with three ‘on the tree’ speed gearbox) of 114mph’.

‘The harmonic balancer was the weak link with bad, critical oscillations at 6200rpm…crankshafts were prone to break if run consistently near 6200rpm…’

103 heads were made most going into road cars or speed boats ‘In a couple of seasons Hi-Power heads just about dominated sedan racing with drivers like John French, the Geoghegans, Stan Jones, Bob Holden and Ray Long on top of the pile’. Lou Molina fitted one to his MM Sportscar, (later supercharging the engine), Tom Hawkes to his Cooper in place of the Bristol original for a while holding the Phillip Island lap record together with Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625.

‘General Motors failed to evince any interest in our design which would have kept them ahead of the game for years…The end of the engine was hastened by the advent of big V8’s…and by a change in (racing) regulations which prohibited replacing the heads on production cars’.

hi power engine design

Phil Irving’s drawing of a cross section of his Repco Hi-Power head, his notes self explanatory. (P Irving/Cars and Drivers magazine)

Etcetera…

record 2

The Record worked hard as test bench, promotional tool and ‘function starlet’, here at such a function. The controversial and ever evolving rear fin is well shown in this shot. In the context of its time, an attractive car, front on view arguably its best angle? (Repco/From Maybach to Holden)

hi power ad

repco record

‘Repco Record’ at the Phillip Island Classic in 2008. Front treatment has changed along the way, not for the better! (Dick Willis)

repco price list

Repco Hi-Power head and related parts price list 1956. (From Maybach to Holden)

Credits…

Stephen Dalton and his collection for the provision of ‘Sports Car World’ March 1960, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ May 1959 and ‘Modern Motor’ January 1960 as reference sources, Dick Willis, ‘Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, ‘Cars and Drivers’ Magazine Number 2 1977 Phil Irving Repco Hi-Power head article.

Finito…

Jack Brabham Oulton Park Gold Cup 1966, Brabham BT19 Repco

Jack Brabham wins the Oulton Park ‘Spring Cup’ 1966. Brabham BT19 Repco (Brian Watson)

The second episode covered the design and building of the 1966 ‘RB620’ V8, the engine which would contest and win the World Constructors and Drivers Championships in 1966, this is a summary of that season…

Brabham BT19 cutaway

Cutaway drawing of Brabham BT19 # ‘F1-1-65’, JB’s 1966 Championship Winning mount. Produced in 1965 for the stillborn Coventry Climax Flat 16 cylinder 1.5 litre F1 engine and modified by Ron Tauranac to fit the ‘RB620’ engine, which was designed by Phil Irving with Brabham/Tauranacs direct input in terms of ancilliaries etc to fit this chassis. A conventional light, agile, driver friendly and ‘chuckable’ spaceframe chassis Brabham of the period. Front suspension independent by upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/ damper units. Rear by upper top link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and coil spring/ damper units. Adjustable sway bars front and rear. Hewland HD500, and later DG300 ‘box. Much raced and winning chassis…still in Australia in Repcos’ ownership (Motoring News)

The 1966 South African Grand Prix…whilst not that year a Championship round was the first race of the new 3 litre F1 on 1 January. In December 1965 the first 3 Litre RB620 ‘E3’ was assembled and with slightly larger inlet valves, ports and throttle bodies than the ‘2.5’ produced 280bhp @ 7500rpm. After six hours testing it was rebuilt, shipped to the UK and fitted to Jacks ‘BT19’, a chassis built during 1965 for the stillborn Coventry Climax 16 cylinder engine, the rear frame modified to suit ‘RB620’. Brabham started from pole and lead until the Lucas injection metering unit drive coupling failed. He achieved fastest lap but was the only 3 litre present.

Straight after the race the car was flown to Melbourne and fitted  with  Repco 2.5 engine ‘E2’ for the Sandown Tasman round on February 27, Repco’s backyard or home event…

BT19 on the factory floor in Melbourne

Roy Billington prepares BT19 for fitment of the’RB620′ 2.5 Tasman engine in place of the 3 litre used in South Africa on 1 January 1966 (Wolfe/Repco)

Brabham and Frank Hallam, Sandown 1966

Jack Brabham with RB Engines GM Frank Hallam at Sandown 1966. Publicity shot with BT19, long inlet trumpets give the engine away as a ‘Tasman 2.5’. Car sans RH side ‘Lukey Mufflers’ exhaust tailpipe in this shot ‘, sitting across the drivers seat. Rear suspension as described in cutaway drawing above, twin coils, fuel metering unit, HD500 Hewland, battery and ‘expensive’ Tudor oil breather mounted either side of ‘box (Brabhams World Championship Year’ magazine)

During a preliminary race the car set a lap record but an oil flow relief valve failed, causing engine damage which precluded Jack starting the championship race. Upon dissasembly, it was found a sintered gear in the pressure pump had broken. The engine was then rebuilt for the final Tasman round at Longford Tasmania. In a close race, the engine overheating, the car ran short of fuel and was beaten by the two 2 litre BRM P261’s (bored out 1.5 litre F1 cars) of Stewart and Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart easily winning the 1966 Tasman Championship for the Bourne team.

Brabham BT 19 refuelling, Longford 1966

BTT19 being filled with the sponsors product, Longford paddock 1966 (Ellis French)

In early January the engine operation was transferred from Repco’s experimental labs in Richmond to the Maidstone address and factory covered in episode 2 where the operations were ‘productionised’ to build engines for both BRO (Brabham Racing Organisation) and  customers in Australasia.

So far the engine had not covered itself in glory but invaluable testing was being carried out and problems solved.

Meanwhile back in Europe other teams were developing their cars for 1966…all teams faced the same challenge of a new formula, remember that Coventry Climax, the ‘Cosworth Engineering’ of the day were not building engines forcing the ‘English Garagistes’ as Enzo Ferrari disparagingly described the teams to find alternatives, as Jack had with Repco.

Ferrari were expected to do well, as they had done with the introduction of the 1.5 litre Formula in 1961, they had a new chassis and an engine ‘in stock’, essentially a 3 litre variant of their 3.3 litre P2 Sports Car engine, the ‘box derived from that car as well, the gorgeous bolide looked the goods but was heavy and not as powerful as was claimed or perhaps Repcos’ horses were stallions and the Italian’s geldings!

Ferrari 312 1966 cutaway

Hubris or too little focus on F1 in 1966…on paper the Ferrari 312 shoulda’ won in ’66…when Surtees left so did their title hopes, Ferraris’ decline in the season was matched by Brabhams’ lift…

Cooper also used a V12, a 3 litre, updated variant of the 2.5 litre engine Maserati developed at the end of the 250F program in 1957 when it was tested but unraced.

Cooper T81 Maserati engine 1966

Coopers’ 1966 T81 was an aluminium monocoque chassis carrying a development of Masers’ 10 year old ‘Tipo 10’ 60 degree V12. DOHC, 2 valves per cylinder, Lucas injected, and a claimed 360bhp @ 9500rpm. The cars were heavy, reasonably reliable. Surtees and Rindt extracted all from them (Bernard Cahier)

Dan Gurney had left Brabham and built a superb car designed by ex-Lotus designer Len Terry. The T1G Eagle was to use Coventry Climax 2.7 litre FPF power until Dans’ own Gurney-Weslake V12 was ready. Again, the car was heavy as it was designed for both Grand Prix and Indianapolis Racing where regulation compliance added weight.

Denny Hulme stepped up to fulltime F1 to support Jack in the other Brabham.

The dominant marque of the 1.5 litre formula , Lotus were caught without an engine and contracted with BRM for their complex ‘H16’ and were relying also on a 2 litre variant of the Coventry Climax FWMV 1.5 V8…simultaneously Keith Duckworth was designing and building the Ford funded Cosworth DFV, but its debut was not until the Dutch Grand Prix in 1967.

BRM, having failed to learn the lessons of complexity with their supercharged V16 1.5 litre engine of the early 50’s, and then reaping the benefits of simplicity with the P25/P48/P57, designed the P83 ‘H16’, essentially two of their 1.5 litre V8’s at 180 degrees, one atop the other with the crankshafts geared together. They, like Lotus were also using 2 litre variants of their very fast, compact, light and simple 1965 F1 cars, the P261 whilst developing their ‘H16′ contender.

Honda won the last race of the 1.5 litre formula in Mexico 1965 and were busy on a 3 litre V12 engined car, the RA273 appeared later in the season in Richie Ginthers’ hands.

Ginther Honda RA273 , Monza 1966

Richie Ginthers’ powerful but corpulent, make that mobidly obese Honda RA 273 at Monza, the heaviest but most powerful car of 1966…it appeared too late in the season to have an impact but was competitive in Richies’ hands, a winner in ’67 at Monza…(unattributed)

Bruce Mclaren produced his first GP cars, the Mclaren M2A and M2B, technically advanced monocoque chassis of Mallite construction, a composite of balsa wood bonded between sheets of  aluminium on each side. His engine solution was the Ford ‘Indy’ quad cam 4.2 litre V8, reduced to 3 litres, despite a lot of work by Traco, the engine whose dimensions were vast and heavy, developed way too little power, the engine and gearbox weighing not much less than BT19 in total…He also tried an Italian Serenissima engine without success.

Bruce McLaren, McLaren M2A Ford Indy, Riverside 1966

Bruce testing M2A Ford at Riverside, California during a Firestone tyre test in early 1966. M2A entirely Mallite, M2B used Mallite inner, and aluminium outer skins. Note the wing mount…wing first tested at Zandvoort 1965. L>R: Bruce McLaren, Gary Knutson, Howden Ganley and Wally Willmott (Tyler Alexander)

So, at the seasons outset Brabham were in a pretty good position with a thoroughly tested engine, but light on power and on weight in relation to Ferrari who looked handily placed…

Brabham contested two further non-championship races…with the original engine in Syracuse where fuel injection problems caused a DNF and at Silverstone on May 14 where the car and engine achieved their first wins, Brabham also setting the fastest lap of the ‘International Trophy’.

Brabham , Silverstone Trophy 1966, BT19 Repco

First win for BT19 and the Repco ‘RB620’ engine, Silverstone International trophy 1966 (unattributed)

Monaco was the first round of the 1966 F1 Championship on May 22…Clark qualified his small, light Lotus 33 on pole with John Surtees in the new Ferrari alongside. Jack was feeling unwell, and the cars were late arriving after a British seamens strike, Jack recorded a DNF, his Hewland HD 500 gearbox jammed in gear. Mike Hewland was working on a stronger gearbox for the new formula, Jack used the new ‘DG300′ transaxle for the first time at Spa. Clarks’ ‘bullet-proof’ Lotus 33 broke an upright, then Surtees’ Ferrari should have won but the ‘slippery diff’ failed leaving victory to Jackie Stewarts’ 2 litre BRM P261.

Richie Ginther Monaco 1966

Richie Ginther going the wrong way at Monaco whilst Jack and Bandini find a way past. Cooper T81 Maser, BT19 and Ferrari 246 respectively. Nice ‘atmo’ shot (unattributed)

Off to Spa, and whilst Brabham was only fourth on the grid…he was quietly confident but a deluge on the first lap caused eight cars to spin, the biggest accident of Jackie Stewarts’ career causing a change in his personal attitude to driver, car and circuit safety which was to positively reverberate around the sport for a decade.

image

The rooted monocoque of Jackie Stewarts’ BRM P261, Spa 1966. He was trapped within the tub until released by Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant who borrowed tools from spectators to remove the steering wheel…all the while a full tank of fuel being released…(unattributed)

Surtees won the race from Jochen Rindt in a display of enormous bravery in a car not the calibre of the Ferrari or Brabham, Jack finished fourth behind the other Ferrari of Lorenzo Bandini. Denny Hulme still driving a Climax engined Brabham.

At this stage of the season, the ‘bookies pick’, Ferrari were looking pretty handy.

BRM P83, Stewart, Oulton Park 1966

Another major new car of 1966 was the BRM P83 ‘H16’…love this shot of Jackie Stewart trying to grab hold of the big, unruly beast at the Oulton Park ‘Spring Cup’ 1966. The car got better as 1966 became 1967 but then so too did the opposition, the message of Brabham simplicity well and truly rammed home when the Lotus 49 Ford appeared at Zandvoort in May 1967…free-loading spectators having a wonderful view! (Brian Watson)

Goodyear…

Dunlops’ dominance of Grand Prix racing started with Engleberts’ final victory when Peter Collins won the British Grand Prix for Ferrari in 1958.

Essentially Dunlops’ racing tyres were developed for relatively heavy sports prototypes, as a consequence the light 1.5 litre cars could compete on the same set of tyres for up to four GP’s Jimmy Clark doing so in his Lotus 25 in 1963!

Goodyear provided tyres for Lance Reventlows’ Scarab team in 1959, returned to Indianapolis in 1963, to Europe in Frank Gardners’ Willment entered Lotus 27 F2 at Pau in 1964 and finally Grand Prix racing with Honda in 1964.

In a typically shrewd deal, Brabham signed with Goodyear in 1965, it’s first tyres for the Tasman series in 1965 were completely unsuitable but within days a new compound had been developed for Australian conditions, this was indicative of the American giants commitment to win.

By 1966 Goodyear was ready for its attack on the world championship, we should not forget the contribution Goodyears’ tyre technology made to Brabhams’ wins in both the F1 World Championship and Brabham Honda victory in the F2 Championship that same year.

Equally Goodyear acknowledged Brabhams’ supreme testing ability in developing its product which was readily sought by other competitors at a time when Dunlop and Firestone were also competing…a ‘tyre war’ unlike the one supplier nonsense which prevails in most categories these days.

Dan Gurney Eagle T1G Climax, Spa 1966

Dan Gurney, Eagla T1G Climax, Spa 1966. In my top 3 ‘GP car beauties list’…Len Terry’s masterful bit of work hit its straps 12 months later when the car, by then V12 Eagle-Weslake powered won Spa, but in ’66 the car was too heavy and the 2.7/8 Climax lacked the necessary ‘puff’…Goodyear clad cameraman exceptionally brave!, shot on exit of Eau Rouge (unattributed)

The French Grand Prix was the turning point of the season…Brabham arrived with three cars, Hulmes’ Climax engined car as a spare and finally an ‘RB620’ engined car for the Kiwi. Perhaps even more critically for Brabham, John Surtees had left Ferrari in one of the ‘Palace Upheavals’ which occurred at Maranello from time to time, fundamentally around Surtees view on the lack of F1 emphasis, the team still very much focussed on LeMans and the World Sports Car Championship, where the marques decade long dominance was being challenged by Ford.

Surtees was also, he felt, being ‘back-doored’ as team-leader by team-manager Eugenio Dragoni in choices involving his protege, Lorenzo Bandini. The net effect, whatever the exact circumstances was that Surtees, the only Ferrari driver capable of winning the ’66 title moved to Cooper, Bandini and Mike Parkes whilst good drivers were not an ace of 1964 World Champ, Surtees calibre…

Rheims was the ultimate power circuit so it was not a surprise when four V12’s were in front of Brabham on the grid, the Surtees and Rindt Coopers and the two Ferraris. Surtees Cooper failed, and Jack hung on, but was losing ground to Bandini, until his throttle cable broke with Brabham leading and then winning the race.

It was Jacks’ first Championship GP win since 1960, and the first win for a driver in a car of his own manufacture, a feat only, so far matched by Dan Gurney at Spa in 1967.

It was, and is a stunning achievement, but their was still a championship to be won.

Jack Brabham French GP 1966 Brabham BT19 Repco

Brabham wins the French GP 1966, the first man to ever win a GP in a car of his own construction. Brabham BT19 Repco (umattributed)

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Brabham’s BT19 leads out of Druids at Brands Hatch, ’66 British GP. Gurney Eagle T1G Climax, Hulme’s Brabham BT20 Repco, Clark’s Lotus 33 Climax and the two Cooper T81 Masers of Surtees inside and Rindt, then Stewart’s BRM P261 and McLaren’s white McLaren M2B Serenissima and the rest (unattributed)

At Brands Hatch Ferrari did not appear…victims of an industrial dispute in Italy. Cooper were still sorting their Maser V12, the H16 BRM’s did not race nor did the Lotus 43, designed for the BRM engine. BRM and Lotus still relying on 2 litre cars. Brabham and Hulme were on pole and second on the grid, finishing in that order, a lap ahead of Hill and Clark.

At Zandvoort, in the Dutch sand-dunes

Brabham with beard Dutch GP 1966

Jack was tough but had a sense of humor…he had just turned 40 a month or so before, there was a lot in the press about his age so JB donned a beard, and with a jack-handle as walking stick approached BT19…much to the amusement of the Dutch crowd and press (Eric Koch)

Brabham and Hulme again qualified one-two but Jim Clark drove a stunning race in his 2 litre Lotus leading Jack for many laps, the crafty Brabham, just turned forty playing a waiting game and picking up the win after Clarks’ Climax broke its dynamic balancer, the Scot pitting for water and still being in second place when he returned, such was his pace. Clark fell back to third, Hill finishing second, the Ferraris’ and Coopers’ off the pace.

Brabham in BT19 Repco, Dutch GP 1966

Bernard Cahiers’ famous shot of Brabham ‘playing with his Goodyears’ in the Dutch sand-dunes is still reproduced by Repco today and used as a ‘promo’ handout whenever this famous car, Jacks’ mount for the whole of his ’66 Championship campaign, still owned by Repco, is displayed in Australia

German GP grid 1966

German GP grid, Nurburgring 1966. I like this shot as it says a lot about the size of 1966 F1 cars and the relative performance of the ‘bored-out 1.5 litre cars vs. the new 3 litres at this stage of the formula. The only 3 litre on the front row, is Ferrari recent departee John Surtees Cooper Maserati #7, Clark is on pole #1 Lotus 33 Climax, #6 Stewart BRM P261, # 11 Scarfiotti Ferrari Dino, all ‘bored 1.5’s. Row 2 is Jack in BT19, and #9 and #10 Bandini and Parkes in Ferrari 312’s, all ‘3 litres’. The physical difference in size between the big, heavy Ferraris, and the little, light BT19 ‘born and built’ as a 1965 1.5 litre car for the stillborn Coventry Climax Flat 16 engine, is marked (unattributed)

The Nurburgring is the ultimate test of man and machine…Brabham qualified poorly in fifth after setup and gearbox dramas. Clark, Surtees, Stewart and Bandini were all ahead of Jack with only Surtees, of those drivers in a 3 litre car!

The race started in wet conditions, Jack slipped into second place after a great start by the end of lap one and past Surtees by the time the pack passed the pits, Surtees suffered clutch failure widening the gap between he and Brabham, Rindt in the other Cooper finishing third. Hulme was as high as fifth but lack of ignition ended his race.

Hill and Surtees were still slim championship chances as the circus moved on to Monza.

Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme, German GP 1966

Denny and Jack ponder the setup of Hulmes BT20, practice conditions far better than raceday when Jack would triumph (unattributed)

Ferrari traditionally perform well at home…and so it was, Ludovico Scarfiotti winning the race on September4.

Another power circuit, Brabham was outqualifed by five v12’s, the Ferraris of Parkes (pole) Scarfiotti and Bandini, the Cooper of Surtees and the Lotus 43 BRM of Clark in third.

The Ferraris lead from the start from Surtees, but Brabham sensing a slow pace took the lead only losing it when an inspection plate loosened at the front of the engine, burning oil, the lubricant not allowed to be topped up under FIA rules. Hulme moved into second as Jack retired. The lead changed many times but Surtees retirement handed the titles to Brabham, Scarfiotti winning the race from Parkes and Hulme.

The cars were scrutineered and weighed at Monza, the weights of the cars published by ‘Road and Track’ magazine. BT19 was ‘Twiggy’ at 1219Lb, the Cooper T81 1353Lb, BRM 1529Lb, similarly powered Lotus 43 1540Lb and Honda RA273 1635Lb. Lets say the Repcos’ horses were real at 310bhp, Ferrari and Coopers (Maserati) optimistic at 360 and BRMs’ and Hondas’ 400’ish also a tad optimistic…as to power to weight you do the calculations!

Jim Clark Lotus 43 BRM Monza 1966

Jim Clark jumps aboard his big, beefy 1540Lb Lotus 43 BRM whilst Jacks light 1219Lb BT19 is pushed past, ’66 Monza grid. Love the whole BRM ‘H16’ engine as a technical challenge…(unattributed)

Scarfiotti and Clark Italian GP 1966

2 of the ‘heavyweights’ of 1966, Ludovico Scarfiottis’ Ferrari 312 leading Jim Clarks’ Lotus 43 BRM at Monza, Scarfiottis’ only championship GP win (unattributed)

Jim Clarks’ Lotus 43 BRM achieved the ‘H16’s only victory at Watkins Glen…the Scot using BRM’s spare engine after his own ‘popped’ at the end of US Grand Prix practice. Jacks engine broke a cam follower in the race, Denny also retiring with low oil pressure.

jack us

Front row of the Watkins Glen grid. #5 Brabham’s BT20 on pole DNF, Bandini’s Ferrari 312 DNF and Surtees Cooper T81 Maser 3rd (Alvis Upitis)

The final round of the 1966 was in Mexico City on October 23…the race won by John Surtees from pole, in a year when he had been very competitive, and perhaps unlucky. Having said that, had he stayed at Ferrari perhaps he would have won the title, the Ferrari competitive in the right hands. Brabham was fourth on the grid, best of the non-V12’s with Richie Ginther again practicing well in the new, big, incredibly heavy V12 Honda RA273. Surtees’ development skills would be applied to this car in 1967.

Surtees finished ahead of Brabham and Hulme, despite strong pressure from both, whilst Clark was on the front row with the Lotus 43, the similarly engined BRM’s mid-grid, it was to be a long winter for the teams the postion of many not that much changed from the seasons commencement…

Mexican GP 1966, Surtees, Brabham and Rindt

John Surtees, Jack and Jochen Rindt, Coopers T81 Maserati X2 and BT19. Mexican GP 1966. Ferrari missed Surtees intense competitiveness when he left them, the Cooper perhaps batting above its (very considerable!) weight as a consequence, Rindt no slouch mind you. The Coopers’ competitive despite the tough altitude and heat of Mexico City. (unattributed)

Malcolm Prestons’ book ‘Maybach to Holden’ records that 3 litre engines ‘E5, E6, E7 and E8’…were used by BRO in 1966, in addition to E3, all having at least one replacement block.

Some engines were returned to Melbourne for re-building and at least three were sold in cars by Brabham to South Africa and Switzerland, whether Repco actually consented to the sale of these engines, ‘on loan’ to BRO is a moot point!, but parts sales were certainly generated as a consequence.

Detail development of the ‘RB620’ during the season resulted in the engines producing 310 bhp @ 7500rpm with loads of torque and over 260bhp from 6000-8000rpm.

Brabham team with BT19 1966

Back In Australia…

The Tasman ‘620’ 2.5 litre engine was not made available to Australasian customers in 1966, they were in 1967, a Repco prepared Coventry Climax FPF won the ‘Gold Star’, the Australian Drivers Championship in 1966, Spencer Martin winning the title in Bob Janes’ Brabham BT11A.

4.4 litre ‘RB620′ engines were built for Sports Cars, notably Bob Janes’ Elfin 400, we will cover those in a separate chapter.

Development of the F1 engine continued further in early 1966 in Maidstone, whilst production and re-building of the ‘RB620’ for BRO continued, we will cover the design and testing of what became the 1967 ‘RB740′ Series engine in the next episode…

Meanwhile Brabhams’, Tauranacs’, Irvings’ and Repcos’ achievements were being rightly celebrated in Australia where ingenuity, practicality and brilliant execution and development of a simple chassis and engine had triumphed over the best of the established automotive, racing and engineering giants of Europe…

Repco 'RB620' 3 Litre F1 V8

‘RB620’ 3 litre V8 in Brabham BT19, 1966 F1 World Champions (Bernard Cahier)

Etcetera…

Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme , Mexican GP 1966

Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme, 1st and 4th in the World Drivers Championship 1966. Mexican GP 1966, lovely Bernard Cahier portrait of 2 good friends. Graham Hills’ BRM P83 ‘H16’ at rear.

Brabham 'Championship Year' magazine

BT19 cutaway

BT19 Repco cutaway (unattributed)

london Racing Car Show 1967

Brabham BT19 Repco on ‘centre stage’ at the 1967 London Racing Car Show (unattributed)

RB Nose

Brabham after Rheims victory 1966

A fitting photo to end the article…the joy of victory and achievement after his Rheims, French GP victory. The first man ever to win a GP in a car of his own manufacture, Brabham BT19 Repco (unattributed)

Bibliography…

Rodway Wolfe Collection, ‘Jack Brabhams World Championship Year’ magazine, Motoring News magazine, The Nostalgia Forum, oldracingcars.com, Nigel Tait Collection

‘Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, ‘History of The Grand Prix Car’ Doug Nye

Photo Credits…

The Cahier Archive, Brian Watson, Tyler Alexander, Ellis French, Eric Koch, Alvis Upitis, Rodway Wolfe Collection

Tailpiece: The Repco hierachy at Sandown upon the RB620’s Australian debut, 27 February 1966. Phil Irving leaning over BT19 and trying to grab another fag from Frank Hallam’s packet. Norman Wilson with head forward leaning on the rear Goodyear, Kevin Davies and Nigel Tait in the white dust coat…and Jack wishing they would bugger ‘orf so he could test the thing. Nigel Tait recalls that the car probably had 2.5 engine #E2, had no starter motor and he the job of push-starting the beastie…

sandown

(Tait/Repco)

 

post

Jack Brabham, Repco engineer Nigel Tait, and Brabham BT19 Repco. Sandown Park Melbourne for its Tasman Series debut, January 1966. RB620 ‘E2’ engine in 2.5 litre capacity. (Australian Post magazine)

rb 620

Repco Brabham ‘RB 620 Series’ 3 litre SOHC V8 engine. The ’66 World Championship winning engine. Circa 310BHP @ 8000RPM. Weight 160Kg. ‘600 series’ block was F85 Oldsmobile based, ’20 series’ heads early cross-flow type (Repco)

In the second Repco article we start with a summary of the events leading to Repcos’ involvement in Grand Prix Racing, identify key team members, the equipment used to build the engines and finally a detailed account of the 1966 championship winning engines construction…

records

RBE factory records ’60’s style (Wolfe)

Why did Repco Commit to Grand Prix Racing?…

Younger readers may not know the background to Australian automotive company, Repco’s involvement in Grand Prix racing in the mid-60’s.

Coventry Climax, the Cosworth of their day caused chaos for British GP teams when they announced they would not build an engine for the new 3 litre F1 commencing in 1966.

Repco had serviced the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax 4 cylinder engines, the engine ‘de jour’ in local Tasman races, but were looking for an alternative to protect their competitive position, Jack Brabham suggested a production based V8 to them.

Brabham identified an alloy, linerless V8 GM Oldsmobile engine, a project abandoned by  them due to production costs. Jack pitched the notion of racing engines of 2.5 litre and 3 litre displacements using simple chain driven SOHC heads to Repco’s CEO Charles McGrath.

GM developed a family of engines, the F85 Oldsmobile and Buick 215, almost identical except that the F85 variant had 6 head studs per cylinder rather than the 5 of the 215 and was therefore Brabham’s preferred competition option.

Jack had seen the engines potential racing against Chuck Daigh’s Scarab Buick in a one off appearance by J Lance Reventlow’s outfit at Sandown, Australia, in early 1962. The engines competition credentials were further established at Indianapolis that year when Indy debutant Dan Gurney qualified Mickey Thomson’s 215 engined car 8th, the car failing with transmission problems after 92 laps. It was the first appearance of a stock block engined car at Indy since 1945.

scarab

Jack Brabham looking carefully at the Buick 3.9 litre engine in the mid-engined Scarab RE at Sandown Park, Melbourne in 1962, filing the information away for future reference! (Doug Nye with Jack Brabham)

Whilst the engine choice was not a ‘sure thing’ its competition potential was clear to Brabham, as astute as he was practical. At the time the engine was the lightest mass production V8 in the world with a dry weight of 144kg and compact external dimensions to boot. Its production future at GM ended in 1963 due to high production costs and wastage rates on imperfectly cast blocks, about 400,000 engines had been built by that time.

New Kid on the Block…

‘Having talked my way into the Repco Brabham Engine Co with a promise of hard work and a 3 weeks trial I was very happy’ recalls Rodway Wolfe.

‘I was given a nice grey dustcoat with a lovely Repco Brabham insignia on the pocket and shown around the factory and introduced to everyone. I was the seventh employee. Repco had picked the cream of their machinists from throughout the Repco empire, they were great guys to work with and willing to share all their skills.

The three-week trial period was a gimmick, after a few days I had settled in as one of the team. After the trial my wage was increased to slightly higher than my previous job in the Repco merchandising company.’

People: Key Team Members…

dyno

L>R: Phil Irving, Bob Brown, Frank Hallam and Peter Holinger dyno testing the first 2.5 litre Tasman RB620 engine at Russell Manufacturing’s engine test lab in Richmond in March 1965. Weber carbs borrowed from Bib Stillwell, the engine did not race in this form. The engine initially produced 235BHP @ 8200RPM, equivalent to a 2.5 Coventry Climax engine. ‘Ciggies a wonderful period touch (Repco)

‘The first prototype RB engine was built at the Repco Engine Laboratory in Richmond, Victoria (an inner Melbourne suburb, then a hub of manufacturing now a desirable inner city place to live, 1.5 km from the CBD) and was designated the type ‘RB620’, which was the file number of the various laboratory, research and development projects in process.

Frank Hallam was GM and Phil Irving Project Engineer together with Nigel Tait. Michael Gasking and Peter Holinger made the components and tested the engines. There were others involved before my time, those above were involved at Richmond’.

As an industrial site using steel garages in Richmond the RB project received comment in various overseas publications in 1966 of the ‘World Championship Fl engine built in a tin shed in Australia’.

‘When I joined in late 1965 the project had just arrived at the Maidstone, Melbourne factory. (87 Mitchell Street, Maidstone, then as now an industrial Melbourne western suburb, 10 km from the CBD) The Manager was Frank Hallam. In the drawing office, the Chief Engineer was Phil Irving, Production Manager Peter Holinger, Production Superintendent Kevin Davies, the machine shop leading hand was David Nash. We also had a Commercial Manager, Stan Johnson who came and went’.

hallam

Frank Hallam and Jack Brabham discuss the turning of camshaft blanks on the Tovaglieri lathe (Repco)

‘Around this time Michael Gasking also transferred from the Richmond laboratory was Chief of Engine Assembly and Testing.  Also on the machine tools was John Mepstead who was a great all rounder and later appointed to help Michael with engine assembly. He eventually joined Frank Matich to ‘spanner’ the 1969 Australian Sports Car Championship winning Matich SR4 Repco.

Frank Hallam arranged for me to attend RMIT night school, Repco picked up the bill. Those Tuesday and Thursday nights for 4 years helped me immensely, over the period I obtained a certificate in ‘Capstan and Turret and Automatic Screw Machines’ operation and a certificate in ‘Product Drafting’. My status was as a First Class Machinist in the Repco Brabham factory.

If I had any queries I would also ask Phil Irving who loved a yarn and he used to be a huge bank of knowledge. I felt so honored to to work for him, and learned so much from him’.

RBE formation

‘Repco Record’, the internal Repco staff magazine announces the formation of Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. (Repco)

Machine Tools…

‘Frank Hallam was a machine tool enthusiast. It was a big help, he made sure we worshipped our machines, blowing away the swarf with an air hose. I learned respect and cleanliness of all machine tools. Few machine shops are as clean or free of swarf and mess everywhere with the exception of Holinger Engineering, Peter was also fastidious.

We were lucky to have top machines in the workshop. Our biggest was an Ikegai horizontal boring machine. RBE had 2 lathes; a Dean Smith & Grace English machine and also a Tovaglieri Italian unit. We had a small Deckel horizontal borer and a couple of mills, a Bridgeport and a French Vernier. The older machine was a Herbert capstan lathe, I used this making every stud for all the future Repco Brabham engines. Main bearing and cylinder head studs, a very big variety in different steel types, repetitive stuff that would normally be boring but I didn’t care, we were winning the World Championship’…

‘When he drew a new design of stud, Phil Irving would come out and check out my thoughts on being able to make it with what we had and other various things. We would do a yield point test in a vice where we measured the length of the new stud after I made a sample and then tension it to a nominated foot pound tension and we would keep increasing the tension until the stud refused to return to the original length. That tension was known as the yield point so Phil would pick a tension somewhere in a safe range under that yield point’.

RB620 Series Engine: Machining & Modification of the Olds F85 block…

olds

Not the sharpest of shots but a rare one showing the ‘production’ Olds and RB620 engines. RB620 on the right. The engine was the lightest production V8 in the world at the time (unattributed)

‘When I arrived there were a lot of aluminum cylinder blocks along one factory wall. Repco acquired 26 Oldsmobile cylinder blocks from General Motors in the US. (2 of the 26 were prototype engines E1 and E2 which were built up in Richmond)

One of my first jobs was to remove all the piston assemblies from those 24 blocks. They were not short blocks as known in Australia (here they are complete without sump or cylinder heads) but these were not complete to that stage. They had crank bearings in place, all main bearing caps and the 3.5 inch liners were cast in the block. We didn’t use the cast iron main bearing caps or bolts, replacing them with steel caps and high strength studs.

The RB 620 used the original 3.5 inch cast in sleeves but practically everything else was changed. All surfaces were re-machined for accuracy, all bolt thread holes re-tapped and recessed to accept studs of superior material. The camshaft bearings were in the valley of the block of course but we pressed them out and rotated them 45 degrees and pressed them back in place to cut off the original oil galleries as our engine ran twin overhead camshafts, one per cylinder bank’.

‘The front original camshaft bearing was left intact and the second camshaft bearing was removed and fitted was a sleeve with an INA roller bearing. We made up little jackshafts which were driven from the crankshaft by a duplex chain, which also drove the single row chain driving the overhead camshafts. These jackshafts used the first original Oldsmobile slipper bearing and a small roller type bearing in the second original cam bearing location. The chains etc.were all enclosed inside the RB chain case.

rb 620 chain case

RB600 F85 Olds block from above. Note the valley cover of aluminium sealed ‘with a sea of araldite then painted over with Silverfros, those blocks which are still in service today still retain the araldited plate and still do not leak’ comments ex RBE engineer Nigel Tait. Phil Irving’s design had lots of clever bits including the timing chain arrangement which allowed the heads, also clever as the same head could be used on either side of the engine, to be removed ‘in the field’ without disturbing the engines timing (Tait/Repco)

block & timing case

600 block and timing case, ‘Purolator oil filter housing, timing chain single row (Repco)

‘A lot of people in 1966, including the international motoring writers did not realize the extent of the machining of the F85 Oldsmobile cylinder block to use as our engine base. It was more work and more involved in adapting the F85 than machining our new Repco cast blocks (700 and 800 Series) used later in the project.

It used to annoy all of us when our Repco Brabham engine was referred to as ‘Based on a Buick’ in various world motoring magazines. It also added insult to injury by adding ‘Built in a Tin Shed in Australia’!

‘We then had to close up the large cavity in the valley where there used to be a cover plate, pushrods and cam followers in the original engine. We spent many hours fettling aluminum plates by hand and fitting them into the valleys to cover the original cam followers and holes etc. When we had a very good fit of these plates we mixed 2 pot resin (Araldite) with additional aluminum powder and filled up the valley seams around the plate. Then with some elaborate heating systems we invented, we dried the araldite in place. This also gained us the reputation of the ‘The Grand Prix engine held together with Araldite’ in various motoring magazine articles!’

rb 20 block

RB600 block on the left, Olds’ F85 unmodified block on the right. The 600 block has the pushrod holes covered with the araldited aluminium plate. ‘The 1/4 inch thick block stiffener plate protrudes from the top of the modified block. This gives the effect of cross bolting…note also the Repco designed magnesium sump’ notes Tait (Tait/Repco)

‘I finished the job of dismantling the blocks, we only worked on 2 or 3 at a time during the early months of 1966. Unless the parts were an easy item or required substantial machine set up we only made a few of each component as design changes were ongoing. Not critical large changes but small subtle ones’.

‘We didn’t have any problems with the Oldsmobile block. There was one race in 1966 when a cylinder liner failed. As explained, we used the cast in liners and retained the 3.5 inch bore. BRO, (Brabham Racing Organisation) sent back the failed engine block and we bored out the remains of the cylinder liner. There was a casting cavity behind the liner which caused the weakness and failure. This was a problem that could not be dealt with without boring out all the liners and fitting sleeves. Otherwise there could be more failures due to bad castings. From that date we used dry liners and eradicated the risk of it occurring again.’

block

Jack and Phil specified this aluminium plate to add stiffness to the production F85 Olds block, big holes to provide rod clearance obviously. ‘This block would have had dry sleeves which lead to considerable blowby problems due to distortion and eventually wet sleeves were specified by Phil Irving’ notes Nigel Tait (Tait/Repco)

UK Components: Crankshaft Etc…

Phil Irving completed most of the design of the engine in England, he rented a flat in Clapham in January 1964 close to BRO and together with Brabham they settled on a relatively simple SOHC configuration, compatible with the block and fitment into the unused BT19 spaceframe chassis when the engine for which it was designed, the Flat-16 Coventry Climax was not used.

To expedite things in the UK, whilst simultaneously mailing drawings to Australia, Phil  commissioned Sterling Metals to cast the heads. Prior to his return to Australia in September 1964, HRG machined an initial batch of 6 heads, fitting valves and seats to Irving’s specifications.

‘Laystall in the UK also made the crankshaft. Constructed from a single steel billet the ‘flat’ nitrided crankshaft was a wonderful Irving design. I don’t recall any updates or changes to the design to the crankshaft over the years the RB engines were built. It was supplied in 2.5, 3 and 4.2 litres for the Indy engines. Also 4.4 litres and 5 litre sportscar versions. All crankshafts were of the same bearing dimensions etc’.

‘The term of ‘flat-crank’ refers to the connecting rod journals being opposite each other and not in multi-plane configuration as is usual in production V8’s. It meant  not such a well balanced engine at low revolutions but it actually converted the engine to virtually two four cylinder units and either cylinder bank would run quite smoothly on its own. The layout also enabled superior use of exhaust configuration eliminating the need for crossover exhaust pipes to obtain full extraction effect’.

crank

Crankshaft was made by Laystall to Phil Irvings design, pistons and rings by Repco subsidiaries. (Repco)

Pistons…

‘Repco is a piston ring manufacturer and very experienced in ‘ring design which meant that we were ahead in terms of the ring design. The famous SS55 oil rings were well known already around the world. The pistons were Repcos’. No other F1 engine constructor of the sixties made their own pistons. The experience gained with the supply of Coventry Climax pistons and rings contributed to this success.’

Bearings: Vandervell Interlopers! And ‘Racing Improves the Breed’…

‘Repco was already supplying engine bearings to various manufacturers globally from the Tasmanian based Repco Bearing Company, we obtained these components as required.

During 1966 an advert appeared in a British motoring magazine, ‘French Grand Prix won on Vandervell bearings’. Vandervell are of course a British bearing company, Repco were furious and telex messages to and from BRO (Brabham Racing Organization) revealed that Jack Brabham was not happy with the depth of the lead overlay on our copper/lead crankshaft bearings.

Our bearings had a lead overlay of .001inch and the Vandervell bearings an overlay of .0005. So I was instructed to pack away all our existing bearings and mark them not for use, our bearing company came up with the improved design bearings with the lesser overlay in time for the next GP. Racing certainly improves the product!

Before I transferred to the RB project and worked in Repco merchandising I received brochures and information about a new Repco alumina/tin bearing known as the ‘Alutin’ and advertised by Repco as a new high performance product. Repco were promoting them as a breakthrough design. I learned these new bearings had been unsatisfactory under test in the F1 engine and within a short period no more was said about the new product ‘Alutin’ . They were inclined to ‘pick up’ on the journals at high rpm. Another example of how racing  improves the product. This had not been evident in automotive engine testing by Repco to that date.’

ad

‘Racing Improves the Breed’…Repco Ad 1966

Outsourced Items…

‘There were some components we did source outside the Repco. There were cam followers, Alfa Romeo cam buckets, valve springs from W&S, valves manufactured by local company Dreadnaught. The ignition system was sourced from Bosch by Brabham.

The collets were from the UK and were a production car or motorcycle collet, the name escapes me. We made the valve spring retainers and collet retaining caps. Over the project we made  changes to the collet retainer material from aluminum  to heat treated aluminium bar and later titanium. Not a lot was gained as titanium fatigues as well, as we found out.’

Lucas Fuel Injection…

‘The fuel injectors and fuel distributor were Lucas items, although the system was in early stages of development. The system consists of an injector for each cylinder, in our case installed in the inlet trumpet a short distance from the inlet port in the cylinder head.

The system is timed with a fuel distributor in the engine valley driven from the chaincase by the distributor drive gear. The fuel is supplied at 100psi from an electric pump. The fuel pressure supplies and operates small shuttles which are constantly metering supply according to the length of shuttle travel. The amount of fuel supplied to the injectors is controlled by a variable small steel cam which is profiled to suit the particular engine size etc. The steel cam therefore controls the actual fuel mixture and is linked to the throttle inlet slides’.

‘It is interesting to note that although the fuel distributor can be timed to any position in the engine cycle, injecting at the point of the inlet valve opening or with it closed or wherever, it does not make any important difference in engine performance but as Phil Irving explained to me there is a point of injection that lowers engine performance so therefore the fuel distributor is timed in each installation to avoid the undesirable point of injection. The air inlet trumpets were cut to length spun and profiled’.

‘The chaincase was a magnesium casting and the ‘620’ 1966 World Championship engine used a single row handmade chain imported from Morse in the US. We cut all the sprockets and manufactured all the camshaft couplings etc. We used an SCD hydraulic chain adjuster, a standard BMC component.

The cam chain was driven by a small jackshaft which was fitted in the front two original camshaft bearing spaces of the original Olds block. The jackshaft was driven by a Morse duplex chain from the crankshaft sprocket, also Repco made. The crankshaft had a small gear driving the oil pump mounted underneath the chain case.’

chain case

Assembly of chain in the magnesium timing case of an RB620 engine (Repco)

Oil Pump…

‘The oil pump was a wonderful Irving design, simple to service but a small work of art. It featured flexible supply hoses with snap fittings and was a combination of oil supply pump which supplied the engine with oil up through a gallery in the chaincase and also a slightly larger scavenge pump connected to each end of the engine sump, also a magnesium casting. The pump assemblies, sump and all components were made by Repco.

The system consisted of a sump with an inertia valve located in its lowest point. If the car was braking the inertia moved the valve forward which opened a cavity in the front of the sump causing oil to be drawn from the front. Under acceleration the inertia valve moved backwards and the forward cavity closed and the rear cavity opened. This meant a minimum of blowby and air to be pumped by the scavenge system. I don’t recall any failure of this system apart from the  Sandown debut race of our ‘620’, 2.5 litre engine in January 1966′.

‘The ‘Tasman’ cars were held on the grid for rather a long time, the oil had cooled in the Repco Brabham. Jack left the line with plenty of revs, the cold oil and resulting oil pressure split the pressure pump gears. The first engines used cast Fordson Major tractor pressure pump gears and one gear had split due to the extreme pressure. Jack Brabham did  3 or 4 laps from memory.

I arrived at work on Monday morning and in typical Irving style found a drawing  for the supervisor for the construction of new steel gears and a ‘Do Not Use’ request for all stock Fordson gears. Phil had arrived at the drawing office on Sunday evening after the Sandown meeting and made the modifications straight away’.

‘The chaincase featured a couple of inspection caps which were removed to allow for chain tension adjustment etc. We made these caps and when it came to cutting the retaining threads in the chaincase we could not obtain the required thread tap anywhere. Phil had specified similar threads to the Vincent Motorcycle chain adjuster cap threads so that’s exactly what we used. Phi Irving brought in the original Vincent Motorcycle thread tap and we used that to thread all the chaincases under manufacture at the time, actually going back to valve spring collet retainer caps.

I recall that the first engines used BSA Motorcycle collet retainers. One of the things I enjoyed so much working with Phil was that he did not waste time on risk taking design, he used tried and tested systems from his past. He once said ‘There is really nothing new, it is just changed around in some way’… well he sure proved that with the first RB620 engine!’

chaincase componentry

Cylinder Heads…

‘The cylinder heads were cast aluminum of cross flow design, the cam covers cast magnesium. All our cast magnesium and aluminum components were supplied by CAC in Fishermans Bend, with the exception of the first batch of 6 heads cast in the UK. (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation).

Phil was remarkable with his engine design skill in that he could see the item in reverse or 3 dimension and could design all the sand boxes etc and patterns required to arrive at the finished item.

The engine used no bolts as the original Olds did. Cylinder heads, cam covers, main bearing caps, sump, oil pump and chaincase were fitted with or retained by high tensile studs.That was my department and apart from the first couple of prototypes I made all the studs for the 1966/67 RB engines. Some were quite a challenge and the thread specification and tolerances were exacting.

The crankshaft rear bearing seal was a slipper ring design with a bolted on ring retaining flange. The slipper rings were supplied by our Russell Manufacturing Co, we made the outer flange in the factory. The steel flywheel was turned and made by Repco’.

Conncting Rods and Ease of Servicing…

rod

RBE conrod drawing (Repco)

‘We used modified Daimler connecting rods, competition Chevrolet and Repco rods. In later engines we occasionally used Warren rods from the US.

In the valley of the engine a small drive housing held the vertical ignition distributor and also the fuel distributor. Sometimes in the larger engines we also fitted a mechanical fuel pump to this housing. The type 620 engine engine had throttle slides running on small grooves with 1/8 inch steel rollers to prevent lock ups which would be a disaster. The slide covers were  fastened directly to the cylinder head and in later engines were changed to fully assembled units and fastened directly to the cylinder heads for ease of changing if required. They were then complete units with studs bolting them to the inlet flanges’.

A big feature of servicing the RB620 engine was that either cylinder head could be removed without disturbing camshaft timing or the camshaft from the cylinder head, a great time saver. (See the photos in the block section above which clearly shows this)

The oil pump can be removed in one small unit and replaced with no other dismantling. Or the two cylinder heads can be removed without disturbing the timing of the camshafts or the chain case. All very important design features, ‘in the field’.

engine assembly

RB620 engine assembly early 1966, Maidstone (Repco)

First Test…

The first engine, a 2.5 litre Tasman Engine ‘E1’ was fired up on March 26 1965, almost 12 months to the day Phil Irving commenced its design.

It was initially run with Weber 32mm IDM carbs and after a checkover fitted with 40mm Webers. The engine produced 235BHP @ 8200RPM, equivalent to a good Coventry Climax 2.5 FPF at the time.

Repco committed to build 6 engines for the 1966 Tasman Series, later changed to three 2.5 litre Tasman engines and two 3 litre F1 engines, the first race for the new engine was the non-championship South African Grand Prix on January 1 1966, the next part in the Repco story is the 1966 race program for the new engine.

rb 20 dyno long shot

‘2.5 litre 620 V8 E1 on the Heenan and Froude GB4 dynamometer in Cell 4 at Richmond, probably circa 1964/5. The exhausts lead straight out through a hole in the wall. Also there was minimal noise insulation in the tin shed that served as a test cell. Vickers Ruwolt across the road blamed us for the large crack that developed in their brick wall on the other side of Doonside Street!’ recalls Nigel Tait (Tait/Repco)

Photo & Other Credits…

Autocar, ‘Jack Brabhams World Championship Year’, Repco Record, ‘Doug Nye with Jack Brabham’, Australian Post, ‘From Maybach to Repco’ Malcolm Preston, Rodway Wolfe Collection, Nigel Tait recollections and his Collection, Repco Ltd photo archive

Etcetera…

letterhead

Original RBE Pty.Ltd. Letterhead. Jack Brabham had no financial (equity) or directorship involvement in this company, it was entirely a Repco subsidiary.

wade

‘E1’ was the RB620 prototype Tasman 2.5 litre engine. Most of the entries in this exercise book are dated, this one is not, but its mid 1965, the book records the use of cams with the ‘Wade 185’ grind and the valve timing, no dyno sheets sadly! (Wolfe/Repco)

repco 1

Have a look at this Repco film produced in mid-1965…

It covers some interesting background on the relationship between Brabham and Repco, footage of Jack at home in the UK, the Brabham factory in New Haw, some on circuit footage at Goodwood and then some sensational coverage of the 1965 Tasman Series in both NZ and Oz. The latter segues nicely into footage of the first ‘RB620’ 2.5 Tasman V8 engine ‘E1’ on the dyno at the Repco Engine Laboratory, at Russell Manufacturing, Richmond in ’65…

Next Episode…

Racing ‘RB620’ in 1966…

Tailpiece: #1-RBE620 2.5 litre ‘E1’, the prototype Tasman 2.5 V8, fitted with Webers on the GB4 dyno, Repco Engine Lab at Russells, Richmond 1965. The box over the Webers is for airflow measurement notes Nigel Tait…

rb 620 on dyno

(Tait/Repco)

 

 


 

 

RB Cover

This is the first Repco brochure about the RB project which fired my imagination to become a part of the project and off to Melbourne i went (Repco)

Mechanical Childhood…

I was born in Melbournes’ Kew and moved to Traralgon, in Victorias La Trobe Valley a long time ago! I suppose I can blame my lifelong interest in all things mechanical on my grandfathers as they were both blacksmiths. I have never been keen on horses and so I am possibly lucky that I was born after the motor car.

From a young age I was fascinated by anything with wheels or gears that whizzed around . My dad bought a new Ford Consul when I was 9, I studied it closely and learnt all I could. It was one of the first production cars with independent front suspension , dad would pull up in the main street and people would come up and push the mudguards up and down to show their mates how it worked, he used to get so annoyed!

He was a civil engineer and had 400 guys working for him at the local paper mill. In the early 1950’s he bought a derelict farm 10 km out of town. He loved farming but wasn’t very practical and he stayed at the paper mill and gradually improved the property on weekends.

In 1954 when I was 11 he bought a new Fordson diesel tractor. There were not many diesel’s on local farms, it was our pride and joy. I still have and use it! I learnt a huge amount from it. I remember when dad was at work I removed the Simms injector pump and pulled the governor apart and various pieces, Dad was due home so I stuck it all back together and went to start it, it wouldn’t! I hurriedly checked everything and figured out that because the injector pump had a small block coupling it could be put back 180’ degrees out of timing so I quickly removed all the pipes and refitted the pump and just managed to start the engine as dad drove up the driveway.

The Consul developed a bad flat spot when you accelerated . I reckoned it was a challenge , I pulled the downdraught Zenith carbie  to pieces. It had this funny looking thing held on with three screws on the side of the carbie and the book called it an economiser. I pulled that apart and the small rubber diaphragm had a hole in it. I put it all back together and during the week got another diaphragm from the Ford dealer. I fitted it on the following weekend and the Consul ran perfectly.

Dad told the whole world what a great mechanic I was, repairing something that the paper mills top mechanic could not etc,  that was my first mechanical victory!

ford consul

Dads Ford Consul taught me a lot and the independent front suspension was a Traralgon novelty (Wolfe)

Over the next few years I  had a Bedford truck given to me which I loved and knew every nut and bolt on as well. Dad bought me another ‘problem’ , in the mill workshop they had a small machine called a Calfdozer. Its a baby bulldozer built in England by Aveling Barford. The mechanics couldn’t start the engine, a Dorman single cylinder petrol unit. Dad bought it for me for 40 pounds, $80 now, and we lugged it home we could only unload it at a gravel pit we had so every bit of spare time I had was at the gravel pit trying to start this weird machine. It has a Zenith carbie as well, I first tested for spark of course and it had a wonderful big orange spark, after much fiddling with the magneto, timing and points it finally had a nice small blue spark and the thing duly burst into life. I still also have the Calfdozer and give it a run on occasion.

Bedford

This Bedford truck , bought by my Dad was one of a range of vehicles which taught me basic mechanics (Wolfe)

Motor Apprentice & Repco Rep…

All of this ‘fettling’ of machinery made my career path clear , dad agreed to me leaving school which I disliked very much! , but on the strict condition that I completed a motor mechanics course with RMIT by correspondence, which I did over 4 years, completing the practical elements some years later. I was encouraged to read books, no TV in those days but it was starting in the cities. I read all the motor magazines I could including ‘Wheels’ and ‘Modern Motor’, writing letters asking advice about my various farm engines. Phil Irving and Charlie Dean were my heroes, I read all I could about their projects including the Repco Cross-Flow head for the Holden ‘Grey’ motor.

I became interested in motor sport and bought the first Mini Cooper to be sold in East Gippsland, entering many hill climbs and usually winning the up to 1000 cc class. The first Coopers were 997cc ,only later did the 1275cc ‘S’ arrive . A few of us formed a new club, the Latrobe Valley Motor Sports Club’, its now known as the Gippsland Car Club .

In 1963 I read a local paper advert for employees required by Repco , they were opening an automotive workshop and parts store in Traralgon, I had since married and needed a better income than that derived on the farm . They didn’t offer me the manager’s job much to my disappointment but instead a drivers job distributing parts, engines and parcels . A new EJ Holden ute was mine, I did a huge amount of miles ,in those days, travelling up and down the Latrobe Valley in Gippsland Victoria sometimes twice in the one day. It taught me how to drive as things were totally different to today . The highways were pretty much free for all and there was no speed limit but if you exceeded 60MPH you had to prove in the case of an accident or incident that you were driving within your ability and safely. To give you an idea, the local police station in Traralgon had one car, a Ford Anglia with a top speed of about 70 MPH.

I enjoyed the job immensely and learnt lots of stuff in the workshop. Crankshaft grinding and cylinder head surfacing, clutch rebuilding etc. and of course engine assembly. I was lucky to work with the grandson of the Chairman of Repco’s Board, Sir Charles McGrath.

Mr David McGrath (brother of Sir Charles) was the managing director of our parts company and his son David junior was spending time in our particular branch learning the internal operations, he became a good mate and through him I learned a great deal about the parent company.

Repco owned ‘Brenco’ in Moonee Ponds Victoria , a machine tooling company,’ Warren and Brown’ in Footscray, a hand tool company and ‘PBR Brakes’ in Moorabbin and so the list went on. Each entity had a director on the Repco Board ,i was to learn a lot more of the politics of Repco as time went on.

On the road to Repco Brabham Engines…

RB fullspread

One of my tasks was to organise brochures etc, to be packed in each parcel we consigned. One day I received a bundle of these telling of the proposed development of a Repco Brabham Formula One engine. I read every word and decided that was what I wanted to do!

The following week the Melbourne Motor Show was on, I took the long train ride Melbourne for the show. Pride of place on the Repco stand was the prototype RB engine. There was a young fellow in a suit looking after the display , I asked him a few questions. He couldn’t really answer me and told me he was a student draughtsman helping Phil Irving in the drawing Office. That was enough for me, if this guy worked there so could !

I got him to divulge where the engine was being built, out in Maidstone near Footscray to Melbourne’s inner West. The following day, Monday, I took a ‘sickie’, hired a taxi and ventured out to Maidstone. After a lot of driving and walking around I found a small group of factories. They were ACL factories (Automotive Components Limited). ACL was operating under licence to an American Company , they manufactured in Australia, ‘Perfect Circle Piston Rings’, ‘Glacier Bearings’ and ‘Polson Pistons’. In the prior year the American company made moves to take over ACL, as this would have been a disaster for Repco, it was decided by Repco to buy ACL. So I arrived at these 3 factories, one of the empty ones had been assigned for the RB project.

I banged on the door , a guy answered but no way was he going to let me in. He explained that it was a special project and not open to the public. I gave him my whole story, he seemed to be happy that I was already a Repco employee. Finally Kevin ,let me in , I could see about 8 machines and 6 guys working making various components. I explained to Kevin that I would love a job there.

He was a bit taken back ,he told me these are Repco’s top guys and very special operators. I was young and confident and told him I would sweep the floor or anything if he would consider me. We stood and watched a guy turning something in a lathe, as I stood there an older guy wandered across to talk to the lathe operator. It suddenly struck me that this was the legendary Phil Irving standing beside me. In person, I could not believe it!

I took up the subject of a job again and he asked if I would like to look over a piston ring factory ? Anything to please Kevin as by this time I learned he was the works superintendent. He took me into the adjacent factory and introduced me to the manager, saying he would see me later and off I went , the Manager was good ,he stopped the machines, mainly operated by women , to show me what they were doing and held up various production lines to show the finished products . I now know that Kevin had arranged the factory inspection to have a second opinion on me.

I went back to Kevin and he said’ look we have decided to give you 3 weeks trial, but you will have to accept a lesser wage than you are presently getting in the country’. That didn’t worry me to work for Phil Irving, I would have worked there for nothing ! So I had to go home and tell my poor young wife that we were moving to Melbourne. I did not have a clue where to, all I knew was I had my job at Repco Brabham Engine Co and I was happy!

And so, an incredibly challenging but successful part of my life commenced…

RB detail 2

performance 2

 

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tailpiece