The Tale of Two Brabham Racers: 1964 Brabham-Climax BT8 Sports Racer SC-07-64

 

 

From 1964 to 1966, Jack Brabham and Motor Racing Development built a total of 12 of these open-cockpit sports cars, mostly powered by a 2-liter short-stroke version of the Coventry-Climax "FPF" 4-cylinder twin-cam racing engine derived from the 1954 2.5-liter V8 prototype. Three of the cars produced received different engines: one received a 2.7-liter FPF, one a 2-liter BRM V8, and one a Japanese Prince R380 inline-6.
The picture at left shows one of these cars being built (or rebuilt?) with a brace of BT21 Formula 2 in the foreground.
 

In 1988, Philippe was offered a really distressed racing car with a tube frame, that was fitted with a Porsche 906 engine and a Hewland FT200 gearbox. Needing the gearbox for another car, a Chevron B24 that he had traded to a friend, Philippe bought the mess for $2000.00.

The car was called a "Brabham-Porsche", and indeed had at one time been one of the 12 BT8s. After a bit of research, it was discovered that this particular BT8 was in fact the very one that Jack Brabham raced in the UK and in the US fall races in 1964, before selling the car to a local racer after the Monterey Grand Prix event.

 

 

  Left: Jack is holding Parnelli Jones (1964 Cooper King Cobra) coming on the Laguna Seca's main straight.
The red car had Esso (Exxon) sponsorship as well as Dunlop's and Champion's.

Right: Jack powering out of the  Corkscrew with SC-07-64 in October 1964.  This picture was signed to Philippe by Sir Jack in 1991.

 

 

After being sold, the car was driven at Nassau by Robs Lamplough. During one of the races, a piece of coral punctured a tire and the car crashed violently into the only tree in sight, badly damaging the frame. Local young spectators perched on the branches fell like grapes on the car, fortunately causing no more injuries than a few bruises. The car was returned to the UK for repairs, where it received a new frame and was completely rebuilt.

 

The car remains were sold again, the Coventry-Climax engine sold to Webster for his 2-litre sports car.
The car was purchased by a San Diego dentist, Tom Tobin, and entered in the 1966 Los Angeles Times Grand Prix at Riverside, now fitted with a 3.5-liter Oldsmobile V8 engine. This was not successful and the car changed hands again.
The chassis was rebuilt again, this time with a 2-liter Porsche engine and a Hewland FT200 gearbox.

Now owned and driven by Jim Herlinger, the car was very successful in local Californian SCCA races in the B-Modified class. Eventually it was sold to Robin DuPree who fitted it with a LeGrand body, keeping the Porsche engine.
Left: 1925 Indy 500 winner Pete DePaolo posing in 1965 with the repaired car. A day later, the car will be nearly destroyed again by driver Alan Johnson  in a fiery crash. Disgusted, the new owner sold the car.

 

 
  What a contrast! At left, Robin DuPree "Brabham-Porsche" in 1979. Near left is the car after a complete restoration by Joe Cavaglieri and Jack Smith  that included a new body made from an original, with Philippe giving it its first laps at Laguna Seca in 1991. The car ran flawlessly that day, but some issues will soon be evident.

 

  Left: Jack aboard the restored car in 1991 on the cover of Vintage Motorsport where an in-depth analysis of the 12 cars was published.

Right: 1964 LA Times Grand Prix: Jack at work, using a calibrated torque wrench on the head of the Coventry-Climax engine in the Riverside garage. Note the sawed off roll bar, a modification made necessary on this chassis to get the engine in the car. Once in, a quick weld and... voila!
Jack did well in both West Coast races, but both times had mechanical issues in the races. In the second leg of the Pacific Grand Prix, a rod let go in the 2.7-liter Climax engine and sawed the block in two halves. The car was sold less engine but a 2-liter short-stroke FPF was quickly sourced and fitted.

 

 

1964 Brabham-Climax BT8 Sports Racer SC-01-64
 

Since there were so many extra parts, Philippe built a second car, a replica of SC-01-64 in which poor Bart Martin had been killed in 1965. The car, originally owned by Robs Lamplough and sold to Judy Ganley, had been modified with new suspension and a Ford 289ci engine. During a race at Candlestick Park, the Heim joint holding the right-rear lower wishbone broke, making the wheel violently steer the car in a concrete barrier. Bart did not stand a chance as the car burned to the ground. The car was cut in pieces and destroyed.
Philippe had received a box of suspension parts and other bits from the purchase of the first car, and they were traced to the original chassis. Both the original Coventry-Climax engine as well as the rare Hewland HD5 transmission were found in various business transactions, and with Judy's authorization, a new chassis was constructed and the car put together in its 1964 Climax powered version. The car was built as a true racer for Philippe to play, and received a number of improvements: it used a McLaren steering rack, new rear uprights with lower pick-up points to compensate for the modern shorter tires and FT200 internals inside the HD5 original gearbox.
The car was tested by John Morton and some shortcomings in the aerodynamic department were addressed with a larger rear spoiler and small front side lips.

 

 

  Philippe at Monterey in 1998. The car was fast but unstable and short of braking power. These issues were later resolved.

 

Al Nowocinski and Philippe at Laguna Seca. The LeGrand sports racer was raced at the same time as the Brabham.  

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