AMC EXTRA: More on the Matich F5000 cars

Story: Aaron Lewis Images: Chevron Library, Autopics

Frank MatichFrank Matich is a hero to older racing fans, but his feats are largely unknown to younger followers of the sport.

That’s a key reason AMC ran a two-part profile on the man, culminating in the July/August edition (#56). Both parts were penned by Historic Formula 5000 competitor and Matich enthusiast, Aaron Lewis.

Matich won two Australian Grands Prix, a New Zealand Grand Prix, and was crowned Australian Drivers Champion.

He also won a round of the North American-based F5000 series. His long list of achievements was enhanced by the fact that most victories during this final stanza of a fabulous career came in cars bearing his name – the iconic Matich A50 Repco.

Lewis owns one of those cars, which will appear at the Muscle Car Masters on September 4 in the Master Blasts sessions. Its presence highlights the growing interest in this category and Matich’s cars generally. As Lewis explains.

“The first question everyone asks me when they see my Matich is how Frank Matichmany did they make? The short answer is six of which four survive today,” Lewis says.

In compiling his two part story for AMC, Lewis tapped into the expertise of a man who worked closely with Matich 40 years ago.

“Derek Kneller was chief mechanic at Frank Matich Racing from 1971 to 1974 when Frank retired and the cars were sold.”

Kneller outlined the following details on the specific chassis.

MATICH A50 CHASSIS #001 AND #002

There were only three A50 chassis built. A50 #001 and #002 were the Frank Matichsame chassis. This is the chassis Frank used to win the Australian GP in November 1971 and in New Zealand for the four Tasman rounds in 1972. On returning to Australia for the rest of the series, the rear suspension geometry was altered with a lighter rear sub-frame and raced at Surfers Paradise. I returned back to Australia after a trip to England the Tuesday after Surfers, and the rear suspension geometry was altered again (rear roll centre raised). Frank won the next race at Warwick Farm.

The same chassis was used with further modifications for the rest of the Tasman Series and for the successful 1972 Gold Star series and also the 1973 Tasman Series. At the finish of the 1973 Tasman Series the car was put up on chassis stands in a corner of the workshop, where it stayed through to May 1974. This chassis was originally built at the factory at Brookvale.

MATICH A50 CHASSIS #003

Frank MatichThis chassis was also built at Brookvale. It was built in early 1972 for Roy Woods Racing in the USA, the late Carroll Smith built up the car in the factory during the 1972 Tasman Series, and it was fitted with a Ford engine, which required a bespoke bell-housing and engine cradle. The car was sprayed yellow on leaving the factory. I last saw the car in 1973 in the hands of John Gimbel (Mid Ohio /Watkins Glen) it was then painted black. (This car became a centre seat Can-Am car called the McBender created by Chris Bender and subsequently written off in a road accident being trailered between races.)

MATICH A50 CHASSIS #004

This chassis was built again in the Brookvale factory. It was built for Johnny Walker and fitted with a Holden F5000 engine. The car was completed early June, painted a darker shade of orange than the works car of Frank Matich.

The A50 chassis can be distinguished from the A51/52/53 chassis by the larger radius of the roll hoop and also the riveting of the chassis, mushroom head rivets as against countersunk of the later chassis.

In the early months of 1973, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation of Melbourne built three new chassis using drawings supplied by Frank Matich Cars, the chassis were basically identical to the A50 chassis apart from different riveting system. The skins were dimpled with a countersunk hole and countersunk rivets used to give a stronger joint and also a flush finish, these chassis were also lighter and torsionally stiffer than previous chassis. They also came with a grey anodised finish to the inside skins of the chassis.

Two of the new chassis were built into A51s in early 1973.

MATICH A51 CHASSIS #005

Built early 1973 in the Cremorne workshop of Frank Matich Racing, it had a chrome roll hoop. The radius of the bend was smaller than the A50. There were changes to front and rear geometry of the suspension and a redesigned rear lower suspension mounting frame. The radiators were the same light weight aluminium GM radiators as previous. Onboard fire extinguishers were fitted. All suspension components were finished black by a chemical process in house; there was a slightly different shape nose with a larger radiator inlet at the front. The car also had a lower rear wing mounted behind the gearbox, approximately 150mm off the ground, with the exhaust blowing over the its top surface.

MATICH A51 CHASSIS #006

Built alongside #005, it had a black roll hoop and was of identical spec to #005.

Both of these chassis were taken to the USA in 1973. Chassis #005 was used as the No.1 chassis and #006 was used as the spare. We were the only team in that series that had a spare car. Both cars were prepared for Frank to use at all of the five races and Frank set up and practiced both cars at all five race meetings. Vern Schuppan drove chassis #006 in practice at Watkins Glen.

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