Posts Tagged ‘Repco’

(N Tait)

Jack Brabham and his ‘Repco Special’, Hay Street, Subiaco, Perth 1962…

With a bit of detective work from West Australians Ken Devine and Billy Hughes this photo from Nigel Tait’s Collection, which was originally thought to be of Jack Brabham in Sydney appears to have been taken during Jack’s 1962 trip to Perth for the Caversham Australian Grand Prix, won by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T62 Climax. Click here for an article about that meeting; https://primotipo.com/2016/05/20/bruce-lex-and-rockys-cooper-t62-climax/

The speedway midget is ‘definitely Bill Kirkham’s WA7 Repco Special driven by Laurie Stevens…looks like Jack sitting in the car and shaking the proprietors hand’ Billy Hughes wrote. ‘Kayes’ was a Repco aligned engine reconditioner in Hay Street Subiaco, an inner Perth suburb. Clearly Kayes owner Kirkham had enough ‘pull’ to entice Jack back into the cockpit of a speedway car from whence he came!

Jack’s very first race, a speedway event was at Cumberland Oval, Parramatta on 5 December 1947, click on this ‘Loose Fillings’ link to an interesting Terry Wright article on these formative, successful Brabham racing steps/successes; https://loosefillings.com/2017/07/15/its-amazing-whats-still-out-there-2/

Credits…

Nigel Tait Collection, vintagespeedway.com.au

Tailpiece: Brabham, 22 years old, receives the Australian Championship tray at Kilburn Speedway, Adelaide, 25 February 1949…

(vintagespeedway.com.au)

Finito…

 

The Vauxhall 30/98 was an iconic high performance, light touring car despite the relatively small number, circa 596, built.

Such was the build quality and the fact that ’old car people’ saw the intrinsic merit of the Laurence Pomeroy design a large proportion of those constructed between 1923 to 1927 still exist. They were popular in Australia, we have a lot of 30/98’s in Oz in relative terms, the cars are a very welcome and admired part of the historic car scene. This short article is about two Velox bodied fast tourers shipped to Australia in 1924, chassis numbers OE86 and OE100.

In some of my history of Australian motor racing articles i’ve mentioned the grip on the publics imagination transcontinental or city to city record breaking had in the formative motoring years of this great sun-bleached land. Vauxhalls featured heavily in these achievements in the hands of Boyd Edkins and others.

30/98 at the Queensland/Northern Territory border fence (unattributed)

John Balmer was the scion of a well to do Victorian family, his mother acquired 30/98 chassis number OE100 as a gift for him. He competed in various motorsport events with it, and together with co-driver Eddie Scott set the transcontinental Darwin to Adelaide, Fremantle (Perth) to Adelaide, and Adelaide to Melbourne records during 1936 in the car.

OE100 was somewhat bruised by this experience so its core components- 4224cc 112 bhp four cylinder engine, gearbox and front end wheel to wheel were fitted into OE86, another 30/98 owned by RS Robinson, a friend of Balmer’s from their Melbourne University and Citizen Air Force training days.

With sponsorship provided by Shell, Dunlop and Repco, Balmer and Richard Kent established a new 9326 mile circumnavigation of Australia record of 24 days, 11 hours and 58 minutes in 1938. The Repco advertisement at this articles outset recognises that remarkable achievement of grit and endurance.

Crossing the Katherine River in the Northern Territory (unattributed)

John Balmer was killed on a bombing mission over Berlin in 1944 but left his share of the car to Robinson’s wife Janet. The car was retained by the Robinson family in Victoria’s Warrnambool area, little used other than in occasional VSCC events until sold in 2016- and restored by Paul Chaleyer in Blackburn, Victoria.

Bibliography…

ausauto.com, MossGreen auctions

Tailpiece: The transcontinental adventurers, John Balmer and Richard Kent, ‘Boys Own’ stuff isn’t it? Blackall is in central Queensland…

 

 

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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)

 

 

jane

(Bryan Liersch)

Bob Jane leading his champion driver, Spencer Martin onto the Hume Weir dummy grid for his first race in ‘Bob’s baby’, his Elfin 400 Repco 4.4 V8, June Queens Birthday weekend 1967…

Martin was by then the reigning national Gold Star Champion. In fact he was half way through a year in which he won his second title on the trot, and then having achieved his motor racing aims retired from the sport at elite level’.

#85 in the background is the ex-Bib Stillwell, Tony Osborne owned Cooper Monaco Olds V8 driven by Ian Cook.

Click here for an interesting article on Spencer; https://primotipo.com/?s=spencer+martin

The inspiration for this article are a number of great shots of the Hume Weir circuit near the mighty Murray River and border of New South Wales and Victoria. The circuit, closed in 1977 won’t be on the radar of international enthusiasts although Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori raced there during the Australian International races in the summer of ’61.

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Jack Brabham wins the ‘Craven A International’ in his Cooper T53 Climax in March 1961, love the ‘Fergy’ in the background, Hume Weir  (unattributed)

I knew the circuit, i just missed racing there, it was closed by 1979 when in bought my first Formula Vee, was built in a disused quarry which provided construction stone and gravel material to build the Hume Dam, particularly its retaining wall. Although a Victorian i am a Thredbo skier, a legacy of 9 years working in Sydney and for years summer and winter have driven from Melbourne along the stretch of road from Ebden to Tallangatta with Lake Hume to my left. From Khancoban where the Alpine Way starts is a phenomenal drive to Thredbo Village. This drive, in fact the whole journey from Albury through Corryong, Khancoban, Geehi and Dead Horse Gap to Thredbo is one of Australia’s great drives.

Watch the ‘coppers’ though they police it furiously, the area near Scammells Lookout, a must stop, is an area to stick to the limits in particular!

For years i have driven for miles with Hume Dam on my left and wondered about the Hume Weir project and researched it, some old shots i found are too good not to share.

So, this masterpiece comprises a piece about the building of the Hume Dam, the birth of its Hume Weir Circuit ‘love-child’, the history and some shots of the circuit and a bit about Bob Jane’s Elfin 400 the photos of which at Hume Weir inspired the article.

For my international friends, the ‘where the hell is he talking about?’ question is addressed by the map below, ‘Hume Weir Circuit’ is in red, the road to Thredbo is also there.

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1960’s aerial shot of Hume Weir circuit, dam and dam wall. At the bottom of the shot is ‘Scrub Corner’, the tightest hairpin in the country, then heading ‘up’ is the ‘Back Straight’ into the combination of corners called ‘The Loop’, then left (going down the page again) into ‘The Esses’ past the pit entry and onto the ‘Front Straight’, the start/finish line is at the start of which (Dallinger)

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Dean Street, Albury 1920’s (Dallinger)

Australia is the driest continent on the planet, as a consequence there have been some major infrastructure projects since Federation in 1901 to provide water for irrigation of crops and/or power. The Hume Dam is one, on much bigger scales are the Ord River Scheme in WA and most impressively and significantly the post-war Snowy Mountains Scheme in NSW.

Travelling the roads mentioned above gives some insights into the ‘Snowy the scale of this nation building post-war project, its one of the civil engineering wonders of the world, can only be experienced on the ground, its un-Australian not to experience it at some point in your life!

Explorers Hume and Hovell trekked through the area in 1824, Albury was first settled by Europeans in the 1840’s.

As early as 1863, it was clear that water management was needed to ease the boom and bust flows of the rivers. Lochs and weirs were advocated but when representatives of the three colonies impacted, NSW, Victoria and South Australia met in Melbourne, the talks came to nothing. Not much different to today really, when the Premiers meet. Difficulties with border customs, bridge and punt tolls, along with self interest made necessary compromises between the parties impossible.

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Albury/Bethanga Bridge construction 1920’s (Dallinger)

After Federation (when the colonies joined to form a country) in 1901 a more global view of national priorities was capable of being made and after consideration of 25 sites the present one was chosen.

The factual material which follows is a truncated version of a paper by Joe Wooding for the ‘Albury & District Historical Society’ on construction of Hume Dam.

To build a reservoir, lots of land is needed, in this case, prime river frontage. 15,582 acres in NSW  and 87,268 in Victoria. Not everyone was pleased with the compensation offered, the lawyers were happy though as the courts were ‘chockers’ with disputes for over a decade.

Construction commenced in November 1919, soon tent cities sprang up on both sides of the river. More permanent buildings were soon erected. On the Victorian side, the hamlet of Mitta Junction, became known as Ebden Weir and the site for operations.The higher ground in NSW was called Hume Weir, started from nothing. In 1920, the title Hume Weir was officially bestowed on the whole project in honour of the explorer.
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Relatively early works, 1920’s (Dallinger)

Massive amounts of infrastructure were needed. I must admit to always being amazed at what was built with the equipment available in earlier times. (noting the Pyramids scale of achievement!)
A metalled road from the main road at Wirlinga, now Old Sydney Road was built to the site. A Hume Weir rail siding was established from which vast amounts of stores, equipment and cement were conveyed to the NSW work site by a fleet of 10 solid rubber tyred Thornycroft motor lorries. In Victoria, a branch from the Wodonga to Cudgewa rail line was laid to Mitta Junction. A road bridge to link the two villages spanned the Murray just below the work site.
Two quarries were established. The one in Victoria provided earth fill and clay for the embankment and later the site for the Hume Weir circuit. Originally, 2 steam locos were used to haul trucks along the earthen bank, 8 were added later. The rail tracks were constantly re-laid as the bank grew. Two steam grab cranes were used in early excavation work at the quarry. Two ‘navvies’ were deployed, steam cranes which ran on the rail system. Much of this equipment was brought from Nagambie and Eildon. Over 500 horses were  used to haul monkey-tailed scoops and drays.
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Horses still had a role despite modern construction techniques of the day (Dallinger)

In NSW the stone quarry is on Hawksview Hill. Four steam locos and numerous trucks were brought from Burrinjuck. The rail system was extensive, rails ran to and from the quarry and the Bethanga Bridge site. Rail was also used inside the coffer dam to service the spillway foundation excavations.

Steam power was widely used, some of the machinery was extraordinary. In NSW two huge cement mixers capable of producing 900 cubic yards per day were operated. The crusher was a 30 ton Hadfield made in Sheffield, England. It was unloaded at the weir rail siding and with great difficulty, transported to the quarry by 2 large steam traction engines.
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(unattributed)

A flying fox spanned the river from east to west with a large steel cable 400m long. The cables were attached in such a way allowing coverage of almost the entire work site. 300 tons of concrete blocks were used as ballast on the mobile pylon. A trolley was attached to the cable, enabling loads of up to 10 tons to be placed almost anywhere on the work site. The Bucyrus steam shovel was capable of lifting 3½ cubic yards and the only machine on site using caterpillar tracks.
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(Dallinger)

‘The process of using crushed rock rather than smooth river gravel and adding large rock individually, produces ‘cyclopean concrete’. A 750mm wide concave rubberized conveyor belt carried the concrete, which could be retrieved at any point, by concrete shutes, for placement at the work site. Belts were pressure cleaned for their return journey. The huge rocks, some weighing up to 10 tons, called ‘plums,’ were cleaned with a high pressure hose before being individually craned into the wet concrete. Some were completely buried, but many were left half exposed to ‘key in’ the next batch of concrete. Steel reinforcing was only used near the top of the spillway. The structure is about 17% rock. At its base, the wall is 32m thick and double that if you take in the dissipater wall’.

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Dam wall 1927, looking at the Murray upstream (unattributed)

‘As well as road works in the villages, other amenities were provided. Residences, barracks, stores, recreation halls, a post office and police presence were established. Electricity was installed for lighting only and turned off at 11pm. A Church of England was transported in. A casualty ward, a doctor with a phone and car were provided. Dances and pictures, obviously silent, as ‘talkies’ were not seen in Albury until 1928. The school had 66 pupils in 1921. The baker, milkman, greengrocer and butcher called regularly as did the ice man. Sport attracted many of course’.

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Dam wall work progression (unattributed)

Manual labour was harsh with a 48 hour week, later reduced to 44 hours. Picks, shovels and
bare hands were often the only method of filling drays. Returned soldiers from the Great War
were given preference for employment, followed by married men. Estimated numbers of
workmen employed varies greatly with about 1000 cited. At the peak of construction around 1927, numbers given were Victoria 355, NSW 650, Bethanga Bridge 89. With a large workforce and dangerous working conditions, accidents were a reality, with total fatalities estimated at 6-9 people.
The Weir was officially opened by the Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, on November 21 1936
 ‘by closing an electric valve control circuit which released the water through two giant needle valves…the greatest irrigation work in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the most important in the world. It cost £5,550,000 to construct, and is located nine miles from Albury’ The Albury Banner’ said.
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Dam opening ceremony in 1936 (Dallinger)

In 1957, the Power Station was completed with 2 turbines now capable of producing 58 Mw which is not large in the electricity industry. As a comparison, Albury’s peak demand for summe of 2013 was 110 Mw.

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The 1960s saw a large increase in the weir’s pondage necessitating additional works on the
dam. One aspect was to open the old stone quarry and supply thousands of tons of granite to
stabilize the clay bank of the earthen wall.
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Wirlinga…

Hume Weir wasn’t the first circuit in the Albury area, Wirlinga was.

A public roads layout of 6.79K, roughly rectangular shape using Thurgoona, St Johns and Bowna Roads as well as the Riverina Highway was used. 14km  from the centre of Albury, the track was used several times before WW2. Rather than get lost in that tangent now, tempting though it is, we will come back to Wirlinga another time.

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Car #22 is Alf Barrett’s Morris Bullnose Spl. #3 Tim Joshua’s Frazer Nash TT Replica, #4 Hope Bartlett’s MG Q Type,  #6 Jack Phillips winning Ford V8 Spl, Wirlinga 1938 (Dallinger)

The 150 mile ‘Interstate Grand Prix’ (called the ‘Albury Grand Prix’ in the Sydney Morning Herald report of the 1939 race) was run on 19 March 1938. The ‘Albury and Interstate Gold Cup’ was run on 12 June 1939. Both handicap races were won by local Wangaratta boy, Jack Phillips Ford V8 Spl. The track wasn’t used post war.

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The lower pic shows Les Murphy in the O’Dea MG P Type from Colin Dunne’s similar car and George Bonser’s Terraplane Spl, help wanted in relation to the cars in the upper shot  Wirlinga 1938 (Dallinger)

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‘Sydney Morning Herald’ 13 June 1939

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Typically parched Australian summer, 1970’s. Hume Weir wall middle right and Great Dividing Range clear  (unattributed)

Hume Weir Circuit…

Hume Weir was enormously popular in the immediate area, in fact depending upon the year the locals were served by Tarrawingee, Winton outside Benalla and the ‘Weir.

When the circuit was leased from the Hume Dam authority by the Albury and District Car Club the members initially established an unsurfaced layout which was first raced on 2 November 1959. It was lengthened to 1.1 miles during the year, first used sealed for the Christmas meeting on December 12 1959.

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Cars race at one of the earlier meetings on the original dirt layout, Hume Weir 1959 (unattributed)

The financial support of Gold Star champion Len Lukey’s and his ‘Lukey Mufflers’ business allowed the amenities to be improved sufficiently to hold the 1961 international event. The ‘weir only got the gig, historian Stephen Dalton records as negotiations with PIARC to use Phillip Island fell over.

The 1961 program comprised an ambitious 21 events held on the Sunday and Monday 12 and 13 March, they were mainly short races with the feature ‘Craven A International’s 20 lappers on each day.

The meeting was contested by Brabham, Salvadori, Bib Stillwell, Bill Patterson, Austin Miller and Jon Leighton. It wasn’t a big field; Moss had long since left the country, as had the BRM drivers Hill, Gurney and Ron Flockhart and his Cooper.

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This shot shows the two sections of the track separated by a narrow strip of concrete, March 1961 meeting perhaps (unattributed)

Brabham.

The Internationals that summer were raced at Warwick Farm, Ballarat Airfield in Victoria and Longford and won by Moss Lotus 18 Climax, Gurney BRM P48 and Roy Salvadori’s Cooper T51 Climax respectively.

The Longford meeting was on March 5, Brabham and Salvadori travelled back to Melbourne from Tasmania, the Coopers towed up the Hume Highway, the main Melbourne/Sydney artery to contest the ‘Craven A Internatioanals’ at Hume Weir on 12 and 13 March. No doubt it gave Jack an opportunity to catch up with his family in Sydney.

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Brabham’s Cooper T53 Climax out front of its Albury digs, Gabriel Motors.  (Border Mail)

It was all fairly casual, Jack’s car was accompanied by his mechanic and a driver for the towcar, an FC Holden Station Wagon and was maintained at a local Esso servo/workshop.

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Brabham’s Cooper T53 during his victorious March 1961 weekend (unattributed)

Jack won the race on the Sunday by just 0.9 sec from Patterson the reigning Gold Star champion and Bib Stillwells Cooper T51’s in his T53.’The last 3 laps saw the leaders in the esses together and the crowd was wild with excitement as it was still anybody’s race but Jack Brabham showed championship form and held off the challenge to win’ said the Border Mails report.

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(Border Mail)

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Austin Miller’s distinctive yellow Cooper T51 Climax perhaps chasing Jon Leighton’s Cooper T45 and Roy Salvadori’s T51 during the Sunday race in which they were 4/5/6th (unattributed)

On Monday ‘Brabham streeted the field in the international cup race and set a lap record of 51.2 seconds, a time equated to 147kmh’. ‘Twas again a Cooper 1-3 JB winning from Stillwell and Jon Leighton in Cooper T51 and T45 respectively.

With that both internationals jumped on a plane for the UK, their first event the Lombank Trophy at Snetterton which Jack won in his Cooper T53, Roy was 5th in a similar car.

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Brabham T53 just in front of Patterson T51 in Sunday’s race closing stages (unattributed)

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(Border Mail)

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The short nature of the circuit perhaps mitigated against its use for championship events having said that it hosted a round of the Australian F2 Championship from 1973-76 with later multiple Gold Star winner Alfredo Costanzo setting the all-time lap record in a Birrana 274 Hart 1.6 F2 car on 15 June 1975. In 1976 the circuit also held a round of the Australian Sports Car Championship, fundamentally though it is a circuit which is fondly remembered by club racers of both bikes and cars and spectators of course.

The circuit was essentially ‘killed-off’ by CAMS with ever increasing and more difficult safety requirements which the owner/promoters couldn’t afford. There was a section where the cars passed each other separated by a concrete wall which was of particular concern.

The last race meeting was held on 27 March 1977 although the track was used as part of the Alpine Rally which was run out of Bright, not too far away. Every now and again a ‘comp sec’ of a car club convinced CAMS to issue a permit for a ‘sprint event’ but essentially another circuit was lost, a real shame as the usual causes; noise in a built up area or urban encroachment which simply made the entreaties of property developers irresistible to circuit owners didn’t apply in this rural area.

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(Dallinger)

The photo above nicely juxtaposes the Dam with the circuit which is clear to see above the dam wall in the middle of the picture, plenty of water about in this shot! At present it is as dry as!

Molina Monza Holden Spl.

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You get a sense of just what a magnificent natural ampitheatre the circuit was, most of but not all of the circuit could be seen from one place. This is the Molina Monza Holden Spl, the shot isn’t dated so not sure who the driver is. The car’s specifications are outlined in this article amongst other Oz cars; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/13/shifting-gear-design-innovation-and-the-australian-car-exhibition-national-gallery-of-victoria-by-stephen-dalton-mark-bisset/

Perkins.

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(Dick Simpson)

Larry Perkins in the ‘boonies’ at ‘Scrub Corner’ on 28 December 1969 early in his career, car is characteristically a Perkins Vee. He is looking for a marshall to help him back to terra firma.

He was in F1 in a private Ensign nee Boro in 1975. This is early days tho, his early break was to get one of Bib Stillwell’s Elfin 600FF seats in 1971 taking the ‘Driver to Europe’ series. He stayed in Oz for ’72 and raced an Elfin 600B/E Ford to win the national F2 title. He then took Garrie Cooper’s first Elfin 620FF to the Formula Ford Festival at Snetterton at the end of the year, contesting the Festival with a few other Aussies and then stayed in the UK. F3 in 1973 and the rest is history…

Brock.

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Peter Brock ahead of Lynn Brown’s Cooper S, these are ‘Sports Sedans’, anything goes sedans with Brock and Brown two of the sports finest pracitioners of the art. Brocky is young and made his Holden ‘Red’ 6 cylinder engined A30 sing, his performances in it resulted in Harry Firth, fine judge of talent picking him up as a Holden Dealer Team driver. Brock took his first Bathurst win in 1972.

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Brock, Birrana 273 Ford, Hume Weir 22 April 1973 (Robert Davies)

‘Peter Perfect’ only did one fullish season in single-seaters in this ex-works Birrana 272 Ford, its the very first of Tony Alcock’s monocoque cars. A good car but it didn’t have a Hart Ford engine, and the competition was hot in 1973-5 in F2, Brocky quickly went back to Holdens. A great pity, a natural driver of great smoothness, finesse and throttle control; oh to have seen Brock in a Repco Holden engined F5000 in the 1970’s!

Hansford.

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(unattributed)

Greg Hansford blasts onto the main straight 1977. Kawasaki KR750 water-cooled 2 stroke.

Beechey.

hun beech

(Bowdens)

Beechey changed from Holden to Ford running this ex-works Series Production Ford Falcon GTHO Ph3 with some cash from Ford in 1972. Here he is in April, DNF with clutch failure. Ford apparently then changed their minds wanting Norm to return the car and money they paid him, Norm telling them unsurprisingly to ‘jam it’.

Bartlett.

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(Bruce Wells)

Kevin Bartlett in polo-shirt at the wheel of the works Lynx BMC, the Curl-Curl  kid was on his way! Lotus 20 behind i think. Year anyone?

Bikes.

hun bikes

(John Small)

Jim Budd and Roger Hayes Team Avon Kawasaki’s lead the 1 hour production race at the ‘weir in November 1977. Third is Jeff Parkin and then Alan Hales both on Suzuki’s. Hot work in the heat.

Jane.

jane mustand

(oldracephotos.com)

Bob giving his factory Shelby built Mustang Trans-Am plenty during the 1970 Christmas ‘Weir meeting. His new Chevy Camaro 427 cannot be too far away, Norm Beechey took the 1970 ATCC in his Holden Monaro GTS350 but Jano won it in 1971/2 in the same car with a 427 in ’71 and ‘tiddly’ 350 small block in 1972.

jane torana

(Dick Simpson)

Bob was back with another new toy in 1971, one of his finest, the John Sheppard built Holden Torana into which was slotted one of the 4.4 litre SOHC ‘620 Series’ Repco V8’s once fitted to the Elfin 400 pictured below. CAMS didn’t allow it to compete with the wing for long, check out the Vees in the Weir ‘form up’ or dummy grid area in the background. This car was mainly raced by John Harvey, in ’71 Bob focused on the Camaro and winning the ATCC. The car is still around albeit Chev engined and in need of restoration.

jane elf

(oldracephotos.com)

Bob Jane didn’t race his Elfin 400 too much, it was mainly driven by his drivers; Spencer Martin, Ian Cook and Bevan Gibson. Here in early 1968 at Hume Weir Jane is ahead of a Lotus 11, Meyers Manx beach buggy! and, is it an Elva Courier. These big Elfins are sensational cars, i wrote a long article about them a while back, click here to read it;

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

400 rear

It’s interesting to see racing cars in the context of their day to gauge the impact they had on people, how ‘other worldly’ and fast they looked. Seeing them at historic race meetings is not the way the populace saw them at the time.

This shot does that in spades and the fair citizens of Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown, an Adelaide suburb had seen plenty of cars leave the Elfin factory in their street. This one clearly captured their attention all the same.

That WOW! factor we all still experience at the sight of something really special, mind you, these days it’s usually the ‘WOW! Ugly as a Hatful of Arseholes’ impact rather than ‘WOW! Beautiful’. Such is the impact of cad-cam and the aerodynamicists ‘art’ on free flowing curvaceous forms.

The Mini 850 and Holden ‘EH’ on the typically Aussie outer suburban street nicely juxtapose the body of Elfins first ‘big-banger’ sports car with contemporary ‘roadies’ of the day.

WOW! indeed.

400 side

Elfin built four Elfin 400’s, all with different engines, the first completed was the Frank Matich Elfin 400/ Traco Olds featured in the article link above.

This car is about to be delivered to Bob Jane Racing in Melbourne in early 1967 in time for the sports car events which were a part of each years Tasman rounds.

It’s the first 4.4litre Repco ‘620 Series’ V8 fitted to a car, the engine developed in parallel with the 1966 Championship winning 3 litre variant of the same engine, victorious in Jack Brabhams hands that year.

In fact it is the first customer Repco engine sold, the first fitted to a sports car and the first fitted to a car built in Australia, Brabhams were built in the UK. So, significant in Repco’s’ history.

400 front

The SOHC 2 valve, Olds block, Lucas injected engine produced around 400bhp@8000rpm, enough in Australia, but not elsewhere in the world at the time, where big Chevs were dominant. In 1965/66 the Lola T70 was the ‘ducks guts’ in Group 7 sports car racing but the McLaren M6A appeared in 1967, from that moment the record books were attacked by the McLaren steamroller until the end of 1971 when Porsche ‘rained on their parade’ with the 917/10 and 917/30 turbo’ cars.

As stated above this car was raced by Jane himself, Ian Cook and Bevan Gibson. Unfortunately it was the car in which Bevan flipped on Conrod Straight, Bathurst at the Easter 1969 meeting, killing the promising young driver instantly.

Frank Matich was dominant in his range of sports cars in Australia into 1967, pickings at championship level were slim when FM was present. Matich’s Elfin 400 Traco Olds delivered its promise and his own SR3’s were almost identical in terms of chassis to the Elfin 400 if not the body.

The ex-Jane 400 is now restored and owned by Elfins’ Bill Hemming.

bevan

Hamilton Porsche 906 Spyder, Spencer Martin Elfin 400 Repco and Bevan Gibson Lotus 15 Climax, Hume Weir, Queens Birthday weekend 1967. Somewhat poignant shot given Bevan is to die in the car beside him 2 years later. Gibson made the families Lotus 15 Climax absolutely sing, it was his drives in this old car which earned him the Bob Jane drive (Bryan Liersch)

Bibliography…

Joe Wooding ‘Albury & District Historical Society’ paper on construction of Hume Weir

‘Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ John Blanden and Barry Catford, Elfin Sports Cars Facebook page

Photo Credits…

Bryan Liersch, Bob Mills Collection, Dick Simpson, John Small, oldracephotos.com, Bowdens, Bruce Wells Collection, Robert Davies, Bowdens

John J Dallinger’s stunning collection of Albury photographs

Tailpieces: Family, fun day out at the Weir…

hum humpy

(unattributed)

hun humpy 2

Hume Weir humpy Holden mayhem (Dick Simpson)

 

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)

image

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)

 

 


 

 

 

spain

Peter Revson on his way to fourth place in McLaren M23/2 in the 1973 Spanish GP, Montjuich Park, Barcelona (The Cahier Archive)

Background…

No other car has raced in F1, F5000 and CanAm championships before conversion back through F5000 to original F1 specifications. McLaren M 23/2 is that car.

The McLaren M23 was one of the marques most successful designs, winning Grands’ Prix from 1973 to 1977 and Drivers and Manufacturers World Titles for Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt and McLaren in 1974 and 1976  .

Coppuck’s Design…

m23 cutaway

Gordon Coppuck was responsible for the teams  innovative and successful CanAm and Indycar designs, Ralph Bellamy’s return to Brabham gave him his F1 design chance.

The car followed the conceptual path blazed by the Lotus 56/72 in having a chisel nose, side radiators and rising rate suspension, rather than the Tyrrell ‘bluff nose’ alternative aero approach of the day. McLarens very successful M16 Indycar followed the 72 so it was a logical step for Coppuck, using the well established McLaren interactive design approach, with many on the shop floor having input into the conceptual stages of new car development.

The M23 was a typical British ‘kit car’ of the period with its Cosworth DFV 3 litre V8 and Hewland FG 400 5 speed gearbox. New deformable structure rules mandated for ’73 allowed a fresh approach to address M19’s shortcomings which were a lack of straight line speed and weight. The chassis was formed in 16 gauge aluminium sheet, all joints bonded and riveted, the radiator sidepods an integral extension of the structure. Fuel tankage was centralised to promote ‘Tyrrell like’ low polar moment of inertia, the driving position pushed forward relative to the M19.

Front suspension comprised rising or progressive rate linkages, a large lower wishbone and top rocker actuating inboard mounted spring/shock units. At the rear a reversed lower wishbone, adjustable top link and twin radius rods were used, spring rate progression was achieved with the winding of the coil springs.

mac Front

Front bulkhead, nose-cone support, master cylinders, wide-based lower wishbone, top rocker & inboard spring / shock, workmanship clear…(John Lemm)

Brakes were Lockheed ‘CanAm’ calipers, rotors 10.5 inches in diameter, outboard at the front & inboard, beside the gearbox, at the rear.

The bodywork was ‘all enveloping’, the airbox neatly covering the engine aiding airflow to the rear wing.

The wheelbase was 101 inches, front track 65 inches, rear 62.5 inches, length 170 inches, the whole lot weighing a claimed 1270 pounds distributed 34%/66% front to rear.

’73 Grand Prix Season…

4 of these ‘original spec’ cars were built for 1973, the prototype M23/1 was tested at Goodwood by Denny Hulme before setting off for the season opening South African GP at Kyalami. He was immediately quicker than in the M19, rapidly adjusting to the ‘far forward’ driving position. Hulme put the car on pole at Kyalami and lead the race before puncturing on debris.

Other McLaren team drivers were Mike Hailwood and Peter Revson in his first fulltime Grand Prix season. Revson started his grand prix career in the early 60’s before returning to his native USA and making his name in the CanAm series which he won in ’71 in a McLaren M8F. He was also McLarens Indy driver.

revson

A relaxed Peter Revson prior to the start of his successful British GP at Silverstone ’73…his first GP win (unattributed)

M23/2 debuted in Revsons’ hands on 8 April 1973 at the Silverstone International Trophy, finishing 4th, it was to be his car for most of the year, his promise as an F1 driver fulfilled with a tremendous victory at Silverstone in the British Grand Prix. McLarens ‘cub driver’ Jody Scheckter, in another M23 famously causing a multi-car pileup after losing control at Woodcote at the end of lap 1 and proving the strength of Coppucks design.

Revson British

Peter Revson en-route to victory in M23/2 , Silverstone ’73 (unattributed)

M23/2 was used by Scheckter later in the season in Canada and the US before being sold to South African ace Dave Charlton.

Dave Charltons’ Championship car in 1974 & ’75… 

charlton 2

Dave Charlton delicately drifts M23/2, South African GP Kyalami 1975. He finished 14th in the race won by countryman Jody Scheckters’ Tyrrell 007 (reddit.com)

The McLaren replaced Charltons’ Lotus 72D for the South African National Championship, it was incredibly successful winning 8 races and Championships in ’74/5. Charlton set a Kyalami lap record in the 1975 Rand Winter Trophy which stood for years until broken in the ground effects era.

The cost of F1 cars was getting out of hand, so Charlton offered the car for sale with the introduction of Formula Atlantic as South Africa’s Championship class from 1976.

charlton

Dave Charlton in M23/2 Brandkop circuit, Orange Free State, South Africa ’74…2 SA Championships on the trot in ’74-5 in M23/2 (David Pearson)

charlton portrait

Rob Ryders’ shot of Dave Charlton at the 1972 British Grand Prix, his Lotus 72D retired with gearbox failure. (Rob Ryder)

John McCormack…

o park

Oran Park Gold Star round 1978. McCormack, Graham McRae, McRae GM3 Chev, Elfin MR8 at rear (John Shingleton)

Aussie F5000 racer John Mc Cormack was the eager purchaser, ’Charlton was a terrific bloke to deal with, I bought the car, 20 wheels, multiple sets of front and rear wings, bodywork, 2 types of airbox, less engines, which I should have bought and sold later, then the exchange rate moved in my favour so it was a really good deal..McLaren were still racing the car when I bought it, I had contacts there and they were used to dealing with customers so it all made good sense, as long as we could get the engine to play its part….’

mac

John McCormack promoting the ‘Racesafe Wool TT’ racesuit circa ’76

McCormack started racing in his native Tasmania breaking into the national scene with the purchase of Jack Brabham’s ’62 AGP car, a Brabham BT4 Climax. He proved he could mix with the ‘big boys’ in an Elfin 600C, very competitive when fitted with a Repco ‘740 Series’ V8 in place of the old Climax. He bought the first Elfin MR5 Repco in 1971 and via his connection with PIARC’s John Lanyon did the Ansett sponsorship deal to create the 2 car Ansett Team Elfin with Elfin owner/designer/driver Garrie Cooper. McCormack and his team developed his car to be very competitive, winning the Australian Drivers Championship, the ‘Gold Star’ in 1973 and the NZ GP, part of the annual Tasman series of 8 races run in Australia and New Zealand every summer, in 1973 and 1974.

mac brabham

Tasmanian Gold Star race success. Mac second in the 1967 Symmons Plains event to Greg Cusacks’ Repco engined Brabham BT23. Car is McCormacks’ ex Brabham BT4 Climax (oldracephotos)

In search of ‘the unfair advantage’ over the heavy Holden and Chevrolet engined cars, Repco’s Phil Irving spotted the new Leyland P76 family car engine, a 4.4 litre aluminium block V8, at the Melbourne Motor Show. Elfins John Lanyon quickly did a deal with Leyland and Repco to jointly fund development of an F5000 variant of the new engine for a car specifically designed for it to distribute the weight in a fashion more akin to an F1 car, rather than the ‘ tail happy’ F5000’s. McCormack characterised the beasts as ‘like having a pendulum in the car’. Coopers ‘Little Car’ was the Elfin MR6, a new design which debuted for the ’74 season.

MR6 Oran park

John McCormack debuts the Elfin MR6 Repco Leyland # ‘MR6L 6741′ at Oran Park on 30 January 1974. A big panic as the car was running late and was launched in NSW, at Oran Park near Leylands’ Zetland HQ, a long way from Elfins base in Edwardstown, Adelaide… Mac was not happy with the Tasman Series starting in NZ several days later but the car did manage a few laps despite not having ever turned a wheel before…MR6 small by F5000 standards and very 1973 Tyrrell 006 like in appearance.

Repco developed an engine with a capacity of 4931cc, a 94mm bore and 89mm stroke. As originally developed  the engine used the P76 cylinder block fitted with special liners and main bearing stiffening plates, the cast iron crank was replaced with steel units after initial failures. Cylinder heads were P76 with flowed inlet and exhaust ports and larger valves. Pistons, con-rods and bearings were Repco, as was the dry sump setup which utilised 3 stage pressure and scavenge pumps. Fuel injection was by Lucas and a Repco Lorimer dual point distributor fed by coils provided the spark.

Critically the engine weighed only 160kg, compared with the Holdens 220kg, however the claimed power of 425 bhp @ 6800rpm and 375 lb ft of torque at 5500 rpm was far less than the circa 500bhp of a Holden or Chev. Elfins Dale Koenneke quipped that the engine when first raced in early ’74 had ‘no more than 365 bhp’ when installed in the MR6. History tends to support the contention that the horses were ponies rather than stallions!

The engine had many teething problems, the fragility of the engines blocks and cast iron cranks together with consistent overheating were exacerbated by Repco’s withdrawal from racing.

Mc Cormack used both the MR5 and MR6 in ’74, before converting the MR6 to accept the Repco Holden engine. ‘Dale Koenneke said enough!, we put in all this effort and the thing just shits itself, lets put the Holden into it’ in this form winning the ’75 Gold Star.

McCormack, an independent thinker was still convinced the Repco Leyland could be a winner in the right car, the question was finding one!

And so, M23/2 came to Australia, sans DFV but with plenty of spares…

McCormacks team of Dale Koenneke and Simon Aram did a beautiful job installing the Repco Leyland into the car without ‘butchery’, the engine, after modification of the harmonic balancer and relocation of water pump and oil tank fitting neatly into the tub albeit as an unstressed member, the engine supported by traditional tubular ‘A frame’s.

car

Engine sans exhausts, neat installation of the Leyland engine where a DFV was designed to go apparent. ‘A Frame’ engine mounts, side rads, inboard discs, conventional parallel lower links, single top link and coil spring/ shock units in contrast to inboard front set-up…(JohnLemm)

McCormack engaged famous Aussie engineer Phil Irving (ex Repco, Vincent) to further develop the engine from its Repco base. Irving designed new heads cast by Comalco, which eliminated separate valve guides and seats.The design also featured a ‘bent’ pushrod to allow more room for straight inlet ports. John said ‘Power increased to around 435bhp and 410 ft/lbs of torque, more mid range punch than the Repco Holden. An alternate cam delivered 470/380, but this stressed the overall package causing many block failures. All the talk on Friday night at the Horsepower Hotel never won races, it was about torque as well as power and whilst we were light on power we had plenty of mid range punch and a well balanced overall car package’.

The Hewland FG 400 gearbox was marginal in F1 , the torque of the beefy Repco requiring new gears cut by Peter Holinger’s now famous Holinger Engineering concern in outer Melbourne.

rear

Another of John Lemms Coongie Avenue , Edwardstown shots …outboard rear suspension, Hewland FG400 box…fragile in this application given the engines torque, radiators in a constant battle with heat…and off to the left side you can just see the nose-brackets of the Elfin MR6 tricked up as a display car at the time

The Repco and Chev engined Lola, Matich, Chevron and Elfin chassis’ had more power but the McLaren was lighter, the superb balance, handling, and braking of the design maintained as the DFV and Repco Leyland were similar weights. John was convinced he had his ‘unfair advantage’….’the drivability of the car with its long-stroke engine was great, it was an excellent high speed car, it wasn’t quite so good on slower tracks where it lacked feel at the back due to fixed length driveshafts. The car had quite a high roll-centre and was very sensitive to aero tweaks on fast circuits, it was flat into turn 1 at Phillip Island, really quick!’

After much media interest McCormack raced the car at the Oran Park Gold Star round in September ’76 putting it fourth on the grid, a valve failing on lap 22. A win followed at Calder in October then pole at the ‘Island, leading until a tyre deflated, despite this the car finished 3rd in its inaugural Gold Star Series.

o park

Oran Park Australian Grand Prix ’77 (unattributed)

Car sponsor Budget Rent a Cars’ Bob Ansett convinced John to hire Frank Gardner to assist with Team Management in the Rothmans International series but a poor championship caused by unreliability was succeeded by a Gold Star win at Surfers. At Sandown the car gave cooling problems but the final round at Phillip Island showed its true pace, 2 seconds a lap clear of the best Lola on this circuit which is a test of power and handling. McCormack was well in the lead when problems again intervened, John pitting for 2 laps then limping home picking up enough points to win his third Gold Star Series. The year was capped with a win in the ‘Rose City 10000’ at Winton.

grid

McCormack and John Walker, Lola T332 Chev, Oran Park Gold Star round 1978…’lift off’… (John Shingleton)

1978 started poorly with Rothmans Series unreliability followed by an Oran Park Gold Star round win. The Sandown AGP was a terrible race with multiple accidents, the McLaren out virtually from the start with head gasket failures. John dominated at Calder only to run out of fuel with a lap to go. The Phillip Island round was cancelled, John finishing second in the Gold Star.

The season ended again with the ‘Rose City 10000’ at Winton. Amongst the competitors was James Hunt, the 1976 World Champion making a one-off appearance in Australia driving an Elfin MR8 Chev. John was second on the grid to him, Mac having an unfortunate event in which a stone jammed a brake caliper causing a pit stop, he finished fourth in the race won by Hunt.

mechanis

‘Perick of a thing, will it last ?’, F5000’s were brittle and the Leyland Repco was never left alone for long…McCormack and team Adelaide International Raceway ’78 (John Shingleton)

1979 also started poorly with 5th the best result from 4 Rothmans International Series meetings ,Larry Perkins won the title in an Elfin MR8 Chev.The cars last F5000 race was the 1979  AGP at Wanneroo Park, Western Australia where a gear broke.

McCormack entered 20 F5000 events for 3 wins and victory in the 1977 ‘Gold Star’ ahead of cars much younger and more powerful than his 1973 McLaren! Unreliability was an issue with 10 DNS/DNF results, mind you the Chevs and Repco Holdens were also brittle.

Can Am 1979…

can am

M23/2 Can Am, Mid Ohio ’79 (Mark Windecker)

By 1979 F5000 had been ‘destroyed’ by Eric Broadleys fantastic, dominant Lola T330/332/332C series of cars. The Tasman series was over, the Kiwis adopted Formula Atlantic/Pacific and Australia persevered with F5000, somewhat against the global tide. The US F5000 series had died and morphed into 5 litre single seat CanAm sports cars…and McCormack, a professional racer, converted the McLaren from an F5000 to a very attractive CanAm car, M23/2 travelled back over the Pacific again!

‘It was time to have a look at what was happening in the US, things were quiet here so Simon Aram and John Webb designed and built an attractive body and off we went’.

paddock

US paddock shot, circuit unknown. Body designed and built by Simon Aram and John Webb (‘From Maybach to Repco’ Malcolm Preston)

He was taking on a big challenge, the CanAm series in 1979 included Keke Rosberg, Jacky Ickx, Alan Jones, Geoff Lees, Vern Schuppan (Elfin MR8), Bobby Rahal and Al Holbert amongst its competitors. ‘Its true there were some top teams but the quality of the fields rapidly fell away. No one knew the series was on wherever we went, it was poorly promoted, the Americans were much more into Nascar and Indycars, you had to leave the circuit to go and buy fuel at some of the tracks!’

The McLaren competed in 3 rounds for a best result of 12th at Watkins Glen in a series dominated by Lola’s with Ickx winning in a T333CS. ‘There was a weight advantage if you ran 4 litre engines, we did 2 of the races with the 5 litre Leyland and one, the final round, with the 4 litre which gave around 400BHP, the weight thing was academic as the cars were never weighed’. It was no disgrace in this company in a 6 year old car run by a small team far from home. In the end money was tight and it was time to return to Australia to compete in a Jaguar Sports Sedan his team had built, and at the instigation of sponsor, Unipart, the 1980 AGP being run to F5000 and F1 rules!

hill

McCormack in M23/2, Mid Ohio Can Am ’79 (Mark Windecker)

Back to ‘Oz F5000 & finally Home to Woking…

John Mac

John McCormack at the Winton, Victoria, Historic meeting in May 2013, interested, interesting and intelligent. McCormack was outside the mould, successfully going in his own direction throughout his career. I suspect the Leyland engine would have got the better of all but someone like him who applied his experience and pragmatic engineering approach and knowledge to making the thing work despite its fundamental structural weaknesses as a race engine. (Mark Bisset)

Alan Jones was on his way to winning the 1980 World Championship, so the 1980 AGP rules were amended to attract the new champion and his Williams FW07 to Australia, the race allowing both F5000 and F1 cars.

Also making the trip were Bruno Giacomelli and his Alfa 179 and Didier Pironi, of Team Tyrrell who drove an Elfin MR8 for Ansett Team Elfin. McCormacks’ team converted the McLaren back into F5000 form, he was looking forward to the race.’ The McLaren was not a light car it then weighed about 1430 lbs, because the AGP was being run to F1 rules we lightened the car enormously by about 200 lbs. I normally flew to meetings but we a were running late with the preparation of the car so I travelled as a passenger with my mechanic to get some sleep. There was some fog about, he dozed off at the wheel near Keith (in rural South Australia) hitting a tree having glanced off an earth mover which made an horrific accident slightly better than it may have been! I got a brain injury in addition to the physical ones, I have about 70% of my mental capacity, not enough to race again’.

mc laren m23

McCormacks car awaits the driver, Calder paddock AGP 1980…rare shot showing the car in its ‘Resin Glaze’ livery for the event it never started, John badly injured in a road accident in rural SA enroute to Calder (Chris Jewell)

Sadly, that was the last race for both McCormack and the much used M23.  John went on to build a number of successful sports sedans for others and today has property, retail and mining interests near his home town of St Helens on the Tasmanian East Coast.

McLaren built 13 M23’s. M23/2 competed in 54 events, more than any other and winning more races than any other M23 chassis as well, 54 starts for 12 wins. 1 F1 Championship GP, 8 South African Championship rounds and 2 Championships, 3 Australian Gold Star rounds and 1 Championship. Only a CanAm win eluded it in its multi-faceted life.

McCormack was focussed on his health and rebuilding his life, the car was offered locally for sale around 1982, without any takers as F5000 had been replaced by Formula Pacific.

It was just an old uncompetitive car at the time! And then along came McLarens’ Ron Dennis ‘hoovering up’ cars for the factory collection where M23/2, converted back to its Yardley McLaren F1 spec, takes its Museum place in the pantheon of the company’s rich, ongoing 50 year history!

M23/2 travelled the globe as an F1 Car, crossed the Atlantic to South Africa, the Pacific to Australia, back across the Pacific to the States, back to Australia and finally to Woking in the UK, just down the road from Colnbrook where it was built all those years before…a remarkable journey from class to class and back again, competitive all the way throughout!

museum

Monterey Historics : the car in front is an M26 but the rest are M23’s, M23/2 the second car…

 


Etcetera…The story of the McLaren is not complete without delving a bit more into the Engine and its Parentage…

donk

Irving/McCormack/Repco Leyland F5000 engine: drives for oil pumps, dry sump, metering unit, Lucas fuel injection,…all ready for installation into the M23 at McCormacks’ Coongie Avenue, Edwardstown, Adelaide workshop (John Lemm)

Coventry Climax , the ‘Cosworth of their day’ caused chaos for British Grand Prix teams when they announced that they would not build engines for the new 3 litre F1 commencing in 1966. They had been engine suppliers to most of the British teams since 1958.

Repco had serviced the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF 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 .

He identified an alloy, linerless V8 GM Oldsmobile engine, a project abandoned due to production costs and wastage rates on imperfectly cast blocks. He  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 Oldsmobile F85 and Buick 215 almost identical except that the F85 variant had 6 head studs per cylinder head rather than the 5 of the 215 and was therefore Brabhams preferred competition option.

Brabham had seen the engines potential much earlier, racing against Chuck Daighs’ Scarab Buick RE in the cars one off and only race appearance at Sandown in early 1962. The car raced in 3.9 litre form and had plenty of ‘squirt’, albeit the underdeveloped chassis was not as competitive as the Coopers under brakes or through corners.

The engines competition credentials were further established at Indianapolis that year when Indy debutant Dan Gurney qualified Mickey Thomsons’ 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

An idea is born…Jack Brabham checking out the 3.9 litre Buick engine in Chuck Daighs’ Scarab RE in its one-off Australian appearance at Sandown in early ’62, its only race experience…(‘Jack Brabham with Doug Nye’ Doug Nye)

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 with compact external dimensions to boot.

Repco acquired 26 of the F85 blocks and won the 1966/7 World Drivers and Manufacturers Championships as well as countless other races globally with engines using these and later, from 1967, Repco’s own blocks.

repco workshop

Repco’s Maidstone workshops producing the RB620 3 litre F1 engine, 1966

GM sold the production rights of the engine to Rover in 1967. When Phil Irving saw the Leyland engines at the Melbourne Motor Show he thought he knew them well. The original GM design had suffered in its transition to Rover and then to Leyland. In essence their were fewer head bolts on both the inlet and exhaust sides of the heads, the block and heads were sand rather than die cast which made them weaker and less uniform. Finally, the heads had smaller ports than the originals.

The fundamentals of the engine to take increased operating loads and power were lacking. Irving made changes by adding material to the block and head castings which also facilitated the installation of main bearing strengthening bars, such changes homologated by Leyland in accordance with F5000 rules.

Repco claimed 440 BHP with an absolute rev limit of 7500 rpm and a crank life of 1 hour. It was soon found that the fragility of the block and cranks required a maximum of 7000 rpm.

leyland repco

Repco publicity shot of the Leyland Repco engine in its original form as fitted to the Elfin MR6 in 1974 (Repco)

With further development post Repco, McCormacks’ team with the new Comalco heads, different valve sizes, inlet port shapes inspired by Honda and shorter exhaust primaries, John had a vaguely reliable engine consistently giving 435BHP and 410lb ft of torque. Not a lot but enough to do the job, much like the Repco Brabham ‘620 Series engine’ in F1 in 1966, that engine not the most powerful in the field but it did the job, albeit much more reliably than its F5000 relation!

Truly a triumph of development over design on a tiny budget!…

leyland 1

Letter from Leyland Australia to Repco confirming the commercial arrangements to develop the engine, happy days, no lawyers and complex legal agreements! (‘ Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston)

leyland 2

Acknowledgements…

John McCormack for the considerable time he contributed

Malcolm Preston, thanks for your written submission

‘The History of the Grand Prix Car 1966-1985’ Doug Nye

‘Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston

Photographs…

The Rolling Road/John Shingleton, Mark Windecker (CanAm), Autosport TNF, John Lemm, Greg Flood, The Cahier Archive, Greg Falconer, oldracephotos.com, David Pearson, reddit.com, Rob Ryder, Chris Jewell, Werner Buhrer cutaway drawing

 


A few more M23/2 Shots…Addendum…

revson krussel

Peter Revson, German GP 1973, Nurburgring. 9th in the race won by Jackie Stewart (Unattributed)

scheckter & cahrlton

Ian Scheckters Tyrrell 007 in front of Charlton in M23/2 Kyalami 1975 (unattributed)

Sandown

M23/2 Repco, Sandown Park 1977 (unattributed)

winton

winton 78

Rose City 10000, Winton 1978. This race was won by James Hunt in an Elfin MR8 Chev (unattributed)

mac on grid

McCormack on the grid, on the far side is John Walkers’ Lola T332. Oran park Gold Star meeting 1978. (John Shingleton)

mac beside car

‘Don’t let me down baby…’ Adelaide 1978 (John Shingleton)

adelaide

Adelaide 1978, entourage a contrast to the Birrana 274 F2 and Stephen Frasers’ Cicada further back…(John Shingleton)

winton 3

Winton Dummy Grid much the same today, there is a shed where the nifty Dunlop Bus is though. McCormack ‘Rose City 10000’ 1978 (John Shingleton)

mid ohio 3

Mid Ohio CanAm round (Mark Windecker)

mod ohio 4

Wonderful Mark Windecker Mid Ohio shot shows the attractive one-off body fashioned by John Webb and Simon Aram in Adelaide. Still some Repco support, car ran the last Can Am round for the team at Watkins Glen with a 4 litre version of the Repco Leyland, exploiting a weight advantage afforded smaller engines by the rules (Mark Windecker)

t  shirts

And finally, Unipart Merchandising 1978 style…the T-Shirts @ $3.20 are a snip….

Finito…