< Page 1

Frank MatichA new design of wheel was used in the USA. These wheels came from the Mel Mag company in England and were delivered to Riverside at the first race of the US series. They were lighter than the Matich cast magnesium wheels as used previously.

The cars did not perform as was expected. We had a handling problem on the latest spec of Goodyear tyre and the bumpy nature of the US circuits. But the biggest problem was engine related. The higher corner speeds of the US circuits threw up a scavenge problem in the Repco engines which seemed to get worse as the season went on. At Watkins Glen the crankshaft bearings were damaged in both cars during practice and both cars were withdrawn from the race.

Straight after the race weekend at Watkins Glen, chassis #006 was flown back to Sydney, along with myself, so that the handling and engine problems could be sorted out. Chassis #005 was left in the states along with rest of the team.

On returning to our workshop, the engine problem was overcome, an additional scavenge pump was added to scavenge oil from above the camshaft, (oil was being retained in the valley above the camshaft in the longer fast corners of the US circuits causing oil starvation in the oil tank, leading to bearing failure.).

After the engine problem was sorted it was decided to redesign the chassis to overcome the handling deficiencies, hence the A52.

The best result with the A51 was 5th at Michigan, though Frank ran in the first three at the first round at Riverside until he had gear shift problems.

MATICH A52 CHASSIS #006

Frank MatichThe A52 was built using the chassis and rear end but with a longer engine/gearbox adaptor (bell-housing) giving a longer  two inch (50mm) wheelbase than the A51. This was in line with the Lola F5000 of the time. The radiators were moved back to the sides of the chassis, along with modifications to the engine water pump so that each radiator cooled the opposite side cylinder head and were shrouded with aluminium ducting. The oil tank was repositioned behind the left hand radiator and the battery moved from the front of the car to a position above the bell-housing.

At the front of the chassis the steering rck was moved from the chassis itself to a heavily redesigned front sub-frame, also the top pick up point for the shock absorber/spring assembly was raised approx 1 and 1/4 inch (30mm).

Along with a redesigned lower wishbone and new front uprights, these modifications gave an increase in front suspension movement.

To complete the design, a chisel-shaped nose made from fibreglass was added. The complete car was approximately 10kg lighter than previous cars.

The A52 was tested extensively at Warwick Farm during late July, early August 1973 with a hope of returning to the US series. But a problem with the sponsors in the US prevented this happening.

The A52’s only race was the Australian Gold Star race at Surfers Paradise in September 1973, when fitted with a flat plane crank Repco F5000 engine (this engine gave over 520hp and sounded like a Cosworth DFV on steroids). It led the race, setting fastest lap before retiring with battery failure. The high frequency vibration from the engine shook the internals of the battery apart!

The car was comprehensively destroyed in a test session at Warwick Farm in late September 1973 whilst being driven by Bob Muir. The chassis was beyond repair. Both outer and inner skins were damaged (photos show damage from the car hitting the water sprinkle system at Warwick Farm at great speed). Frank was not happy, as he had just left the circuit after a successful testing session and had let Bob Muir have a drive so as to get another driver’s opinion of the car, Bob had been driving a Lola T330 in the US.

MATICH A53 CHASSIS #007

Frank MatichThis car was built using the final chassis from Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and was a refined design of the A52. Both front and rear geometry was changed, having longer wishbones to smooth out roll and bump conditions.

The front sub-frame was redesigned to accommodate an improved steering rack mount and another inch was added to the bell housing to give a longer wheelbase. New radiators were fitted to improve the cooling. Along with new longer radiator ducts, the car was fitted with Repco’s latest flat plane crank engine. The fuel system was redesigned, the mechanical fuel pump was moved from its original position behind the distributor drive to a position similar to a Cosworth DFV – low down on the front of the engine, driven by a narrow-toothed belt from the front of the crankshaft.

The car weighed in at 1361lbs (618kg) with oil, water and one gallon of fuel. It was a superb-looking racing car, as good as any F1/F5000 in the world at that time. It was a testament to Frank Matich’s engineering prowess and was built in Australia.

The A53 was extensively tested by Frank in the run up to the 1974 Tasman Series, but was not raced in New Zealand due an illness in Frank’s family. The first race that the cars was entered for was at Oran Park. Early in the week before the race Frank had an accident on his boat (ED: see edition #56 for further explanation). He practiced the car at Oran Park on the Friday, but decided not to race as he was having trouble effectively driving the car, though his times would have put him towards the front of the grid.

Bob Muir was offered the drive for the race. His times in free practice were very competitive, but during official practice the engine suffered from fuel vaporisation. During pit stops the mechanical fuel pump was absorbing heat from the circuit tarmac, causing a vapour lock in the fuel system. There was also an oil pump problem and Bob qualified at the back of the grid, 5.5 seconds slower than his best time on Friday’s free practice.

The engine was changed overnight and a heat shield added around the fuel pump. Bob’s times in the Sunday morning warm up was back on pace with the frontrunners (low 40-second laps). He started the race well and was up to eighth by lap six, but retired from the race around lap 70 with fuel pressure problems again.

The following week Frank Matich had recovered enough to race at Surfers Paradise. Though still suffering from the burns to his hands, he qualified third and finished third behind the two Chevrons of Teddy Pilette and Peter Gethin.

At Sandown, a new flat plane crank engine was installed into the A53. Frank qualified second to Gethin and led the race for 15 laps, he was leading by over six seconds when the water pump pulley worked loose and the engine overheated. Frank pitted and retired from the race to save the engine.

The last race of the Tasman Series was at Adelaide International Raceway. A fresh flat plane engine was installed and in practice Frank was behind Max Stewart. Frank ran second for the first 10 laps before spinning on some oil and falling back to seventh. He drove back up to second by lap 51, but a misfire set in when he was only 2.5 seconds off the lead. He then spun again, while lapping a slower car and eventually finished fourth.

That was Frank’s last race in his own make of car. He retired from racing in May of 1974 at the same time as Repco also withdrew from the sport.

All the cars were put up for sale in the May 1974 edition of the Racing Car News. The A50 #001/#002 Gold Star/AGP-winning car was advertised as a rolling chassis for $3950. The A51 #005 rolling chassis, $5950, and the A53 #007 rolling chassis for $9750.

Australian Muscle Car-Magazine-Current issue