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The Golden Age of the Gold Star


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#1 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 22:46

We're in a fairly unique position here at TNF with regards to the Australian Gold Star series...

Two of the top drivers and one of the leading mechanics are members of the forum and I think they could add a wealth of information to the general knowledge of the membership should they post on this subject.

So I'm starting this thread in the hope that we can get conversation going on the subject. Geoff Smedley was preparing cars for the series from 1961 to 1965, while John Harvey was a leading light from 1966 to 1972. Smedley twice prepared the runner-up car in the series, Harvey was a runner up and constant competitor whilever he wasn't injured or had a car to drive.

Involved for longer than either was double Champion, Kevin Bartlett. KB drove on through the best years of the 2.5 formula and all of the F5000 time with consistently good results.

And, who knows, we might even get some others to post. Frank Matich, for instance. Maybe John McCormack too.

So let us all hear about the Golden Years of the Aussie Gold Star!

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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 22:38

Just to start things off...

Two events seem to me to have been the climax of the Gold Star season each year. Both of them fell out of the series eventually, one to return, but they were the big races of the year in my eyes.

The Australian Grand Prix was the first of these. For much of the time period it was a part of the International or Tasman Cup series, 1963 to 1969 and then through a few years in the seventies. The other was the Bathurst 100.

Bathurst had, of course, seen the Grand Prix back in 1958, but that's outside what I feel was the 'Golden Age' of the Gold Star.

KB and Harves never won the Grand Prix. I'm hoping that someone who did will come in on this discussion some time, but I guess we could directly ask both of them what they felt about their efforts to win the AGP?

And the Bathurst 100... scene of KB's most magnificent day, his 100mph lap, but always disappointment and no Gold Star win. For John Harvey, Bathurst will no doubt always bring back the memory of that horrendous crash, but he also might remember that as being the only time he drove a Brabham with two wings.

#3 David Shaw

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 08:00

My favourite year was 1967 - The Repco V8s with Cusack in the beautiful Scuderia Veloce BT23A, Leo in the Lotus 39-Repco and Harvey in the tiny BT14 Brabham with the Repco stuffed in the back courtesy of some of Britton's wizadry versus the well proven BT11A Brabham Climaxes of Kevin Bartlett and Spencer Martin.

Unfortunately the Repco proved to be unreliable in 2.5 form but it was great to see the Climax stranglehold broken. At the end of the year Gardner fronted at the Hordern Trophy with Mildren's answer to the Climax, a Brabham BT23D with an Alfa Tipo 33 2.5litre V8 in the back.


#4 Ray Bell

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 08:12

Yes, it was a great year...

That poor BT14 was really up against it with the Repco fitted, no longer being the totally balanced car it had been with the Twink. That year should have seen Niel Allen in the BT16 Climax as well, Gardner's car from the previous year. But he didn't drive it, failing to appear at Rd 1 and leaving the car to Fred Gibson (who scored a pair of tenth places) in the latter rounds.

#5 David Shaw

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 08:56

Yes, the little Brabham with the Twin Cam certainly ruffled a few feathers in 1966, a chance at taking the Gold Star home in what was for the larger part of the year a 1500 against the 2.5litre cars. Once it was realised that it was within reach, an extra 150cc or so was found to try and gain those extra points.

#6 Leo D

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 11:11

And the Bathurst 100... scene of KB's most magnificent day, his 100mph lap, but always disappointment and no Gold Star win. For John Harvey, Bathurst will no doubt always bring back the memory of that horrendous crash, but he also might remember that as being the only time he drove a Brabham with two wings.


Ray, speaking of the Bathurst 100..... Didn't Jack Brabham compete in, and win this in 1969? I never quite understood why he was there though, as from memory, he didn't compete in the Tasman Series that year except for the final round at Sandown.

I'm sure as well as the Bathurst event, he competed at some sort of feature event at Warwick Farm either just before of just after the Bathurst event.

Is my memory off here?....

Is there a story behind why he competed at meetings here in Australia, outside of the the Tasman Series that year?

#7 Ray Bell

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 11:27

Your memory's off... except for the bit about Jack winning the Bathurst 100 that year...

Brabham, to my recollection, only on other time in that era raced at a meeting that wasn't the AGP or a Tasman round.

That was at Surfers Paradise in their first Speed Week. He'd just won the '66 Championship and they flew him and his car out for a race.

As to why he was at Bathurst... I would suggest it was a commitment he had to honour with either Ampol (whose name is very obvious on the car in the pics from those meetings) or Repco. The car was rushed to Sandown, probably to appease Repco who were investing so much in Jack at that time. Possibly the Ampol sponsorship came at the price of having to show up at Bathurst too?

#8 Paul Newby

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 02:31

Your memory's off... except for the bit about Jack winning the Bathurst 100 that year...


That was in the oneoff Brabham BT31, correct?

There was an article in a recent Sydney Morning Herald about the demise of Oran Park which showed Black Jack testing one of his Brabhams. From memory you couldn't see all of the car to positively identify but I think it had Ampol signage. My question is did Jack test the BT31 at Oran Park en route to Bathurst in 1969?



#9 Ray Bell

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 04:13

Was the car a light or dark colour?

The car he ran in '68, from memory, also had Ampol signage. It was a light to mid green colour, the Sandown/Bathurst car was red and would presumably have a high rear wing.

#10 Dale Harvey

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 04:33

At one stage during the Bathurst weekend it ran with a high wing at the front also. I have a photo of it some where.

Dale.

#11 Leo D

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 05:00

Turquoise with a Gold stripe is the colour combination as I remember it....

or was it Red......

The Red seems to strike a chord now that you mention it Ray.......


Edited by Leo D, 21 October 2009 - 05:14.


#12 Dale Harvey

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 05:43

There was a turquoise car with a gold stripe. I remember seeing it at Warwick Farm. It was a different car though as it had the center exhaust engine. The Bathurst car was one of their formula three chassis with a side exhaust engine. But ,having said all that I also think that the Bathurst car was turquoise and gold at some time.

Dale.


#13 Dale Harvey

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 05:58

A little more checking shows the colour listed in the programme for the 1969 Gold Star Race at Bathurst as orange.

Dale.

#14 Ray Bell

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 07:11

Yes, it was more red than orange...

And the Warwick Farm car was turquoise and had a gold stripe.

Dale, I'd like to see that pic with two wings if you can find it.

#15 Leo D

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 07:17

Top of the page..... 2nd from the left..... Bathurst 1969

http://www.jackbrabh...m...&startat=21

#16 Dale Harvey

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 07:25

Ray if you really want to see it I shall chase it up. It was one of my shots in b&w. Or is the one shown on the link provided by Leo D good enough?

Dale.

#17 David Shaw

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 09:24

The BT23A that Brabham drove in the 1967 Tasman Series was dark green with a regular gold stripe (without the gold noseband) at Lakeside and the Farm, and with a gold 'Brabham stripe' at Sandown and Longford.

1968 Tasman car (BT23E) was turquoise with a gold 'Brabham stripe' as described.

The 1969 Bathurst car was red as described.


#18 Wirra

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 10:06

...1968 Tasman car (BT23E) was turquoise with a gold 'Brabham stripe' as described....

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Note the careful positioning of the AMPOL can for the film crew - subliminal advertising is nothing new!


#19 Ray Bell

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 10:49

Up to you, Dale...

To have a pic on the thread would be good, though. Any of KB at that meeting?

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#20 David Shaw

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 19:35

That year should have seen Niel Allen in the BT16 Climax as well, Gardner's car from the previous year. But he didn't drive it, failing to appear at Rd 1 and leaving the car to Fred Gibson (who scored a pair of tenth places) in the latter rounds.


This car was for sale 2 months ago.
http://www.carandcla...r/C95987/?pt=pf

Interesting that it has been restored to the Niel Allen livery, and not the more successful Mildren yellow.

It is interesting that Alec Mildren bought it from John Coombes, went to the effort of fitting a 2.5litre FPF and then sold it after one summer. Sure Frank Gardner was heading back to Europe for the F1 season, but his Tasman cars were regularly given to KB for the Gold Star series, yet he retained the older BT11A.

Once having bought it, Niel then gave it to Gibson to drive rather than drive it himself, as Ray has pointed out.

Was it a difficult car to drive?







#21 Wirra

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 20:24

... Once having bought it, Niel then gave it to Gibson to drive rather than drive it himself...

Previously posted
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#22 Ray Bell

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 20:47

I think 'pressure of business' was cited as the reason, David...

As to whether or not the car was difficult to drive, I think KB will have to come in on that discussion. He's busy with the Gold Coast race meeting at the moment, but he'll be back and he's aware of this thread.

I would suggest, however, it was a commercial decision made by Mildren. In the past he had kept the BT11 under wraps from one year to the next for Gardner to drive, but it's quite likely that he saw things evolving too quickly to make that a realistic choice in '67.

He might, for instance, have already been talking to Alfa Romeo about their V8s, which he would be using a year later. And he would probably realise a better price for this car than the BT11 with very little difference in performance. Or maybe KB didn't fit into it so well?

Let's not forget the car's later life, either. Onsold to Col Green, it was a regular competitor running at the back of a much faster field, driven by a true enthusiast and prepared by a friend. The Climax engine was all that was thought to be worth having later, when Mike Ryves bought it to enable him to restore the Lotus 15, with gearbox parts going one way and the chassis another.

#23 Wirra

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 21:30

... driven by a true enthusiast ...

!!!
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Posted Image

#24 Ray Bell

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 22:24

Clearly a private practice day at Warwick Farm...

There was that other race (wasn't it Rindt's wet demonstration?) where he lost it out of Homestead, bounded across the grass and hopped over the drainage ditch. The ditch had several yellow flags along it to warn anyone, one of these got caught on something in the rear of the car and as he continued many thought he might have mowed down a flaggie!

Don Murray was his mechanic, I think. Or was he with Gary Campbell?

#25 Ray Bell

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 06:13

A couple (or three) of Dale Harvey's pics of the cars being mentioned:

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I'll come back to this one, something I don't understand!

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On the subject of the Brabham car at Warwick Farm, didn't Jack DNF in that race? Well... I'd better look it up... no, he was seventh...

This was the meeting where he went buckjumping over the mounds of sand at the Northern Crossing, as seen on ABC2 a year or two back. Not a Gold Star race, however.

#26 David Shaw

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 06:33

Interesting photo of Jack dropping into The Dipper (or is it Forrest's Elbow?). It seems as though the connection for adjusting the rear wing angle on the left side has come adrift from the wing itself.

Edited by David Shaw, 22 October 2009 - 06:34.


#27 Dale Harvey

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 21:24

David the shot of Jack was taken exiting the slight right hander after the dipper.
Dale.

#28 ellrosso

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 11:42

Had the opportunity to sit in the ex N Allen BT16 at Classic Throttle Shop a couple of months back - very snug! Especially compared to the ex J Brabham Cooper Climax (from 1959?) I sat in at Bob Hunt's workshop in Moonah, Tas when I was 13 or 14 (1969 or 70?), which was like sitting in a bathtub. They all earned their money. Good to have John Harvey and KB on the forum - great to hear it from the horse's mouth so to speak. Cracking drive at Symmons in 1970 too JH - you had some great drives at Symmons back then (as did KB).
Regards, ellrosso