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Biography


This is the official Australian Biography
All photographs are from Sir Jack's personal collection


Sir Jack Brabham, OBE - "The Legend"

  • Formula One World Drivers’ Champion 1959, 1960 and 1966
  • Formula One World Constructors’ Champion 1966 and 1967
  • Only driver in Formula One history to win the championship in a car of his own construction
  • British Saloon Car Championship 1965
  • Australian of the Year 1966
  • Awarded Order of the British Empire in 1976
  • Knighted for services to motor sport in 1979
  • Contested 126 Grand Prix from 1955 to 1970
  • Winner of both the Australian and New Zealand Grand Prix three times
  • Four time winner of the European Formula Two Championship
  • Fourteen Grand Prix wins
  • Thirteen Formula One Pole positions
  • Ten second and seven third place finishes
  • 2006 recipient of Gregor Grant Award, AutoSport, UK
  • Voted "Australia's greatest driver" by panel of 16 judges "Auto Action"
  • Order of Australia 2008

Links to great videos:

If you want to view Jack Brabham in 1953, Australia, please see link under the midget yellow car photo.

1959 F1 Champion
Cooper

1960 F1 Champion
Cooper

1966  F1 Champion
Repco-Brabham


Jack Brabham was born on 2 April in 1926 in Hurstville, a southern suburb of Sydney, Australia. As his father was a green-grocer, the young Brabham drove his father’s trucks around the yard, becoming acquainted with motor vehicles and their workings.  At aged 15 years he quit school and went to work in a garage. His mechanical aptitude led him to a technical college where he studied practical engineering. Jack was also a Scout for a number of years, stating " . . . I was in the Cubs in the Hurstville area for about two years, around 1938-39.  It was important to me as it was the first time I had been involved in something that taught some discipline and sharing with others". 

At 18 he joined the Royal Australian Air Force, where he wanted to learn to fly but was instead trained to fill a wartime shortage of flight mechanics. Jack’s passion for flying lasted for many, many years.

After serving for two years as ground crew in the Air Force, Jack formed a one-man motor repair and engineering business in 1946 performing service and repair work on neighbours' cars.

At left is the Nuttall lathe bought new for the Penshurst workshop.

Jack thought he might be able to earn a living out of the business with
his mechanical experience in the Air Force.

A retired engineer Bill Armstrong spent a lot of time teaching him how to do general machine work.

After the War in 1947 Jack was introduced to midget car racing by an American, John Schonberg who had married the daughter of a neighbour after being discharged from the US Army.

Jack won the New South Wales championship, the South Australian championship and the Australian championship in 1948-1949. 

Page from Sir Jack's scrapbook is here:   1950 SUN.pdf


Presentation time

The same midget car has been beautifuly restored by Andrew Halliday from Sydney and is often seen at events in Australia - the original car had a Jap engine.  Many thanks to Andrew for permission to use the photo which was taken at the Speed on Tweed Festival, Tweed Heads, NSW, Australia.

Jack Brabham in the midget car circa 1948


Fantastic restoration by Andrew Halliday




Many thanks to Brian Darby who has provided an historic video clip of Jack Brabham in 1953 at Mt Druitt, NSW Australia.  The video shows Jack in his silver blue Cooper HRD #8 (video and audio engineering by Glenn Munro).  Brian Darby has a number of interesting sites and the clip is located at - 1953 Video clip - just click on the photo of Jack at left - don't forget the sound!  Brian has provided more photos at "Your Story" page.



Australian Grand Prix 1955, Port Wakefield South Australia
1st Jack Brabham in a Cooper Bristol



After those successes Jack went overseas, financing the trip by selling virtually every piece of motor racing hardware he owned. He later regretted selling his lathe and other workshop machinery. 

First photo in Rome (From Sir Jack's personal collection) and words from him "... in Australia in 1955 I had a send off party before going to Europe and there was a journalist at the party who gave me some introductions.  I had a letter of introduction to Maserati and Ferrai.  I went by train to Moderna; first the Maserati factory and Ferrari.  

Ferrari later turned me down and I had great pleasure in beating them. 

When I went to Turin I took the train and on leaving the hotel they took the key off me.  On the return trip I got lost, could not speak any English and had to walk back along the railway line - some three stations - looking towards the mountains for some direction.  Anway it was a long walk and eventually I found the Hotel.

I had a letter of introduction to Mercedes Benz also and they were testing the Gold Wing at 140 miles per hour.  Later at night they gave me a lift to Holland and I was in a hotel next to the airport.  When I awoke in Dusseldorf, it was flat because of the bombing and blown apart.  Then I went to London ..
. "



When racing in the UK, Gregor Grant, the editor of AutoSport wrote then ". . . This Aussie is certainly a presser-onner and possesses remarkable control over his car.  More will be heard of this young gentleman".  After less successful years in the beginning he managed to win his first Formula One World Champion title in 1959 and then again in 1960 driving for Cooper.

Proud father and son



John Cooper stated at the time "He didn't so much start working for us as just start working with us.  He just began coming in more often and we got used to having him around.  He acted as a kind of fitter-cum-welder-cum-driver and he was bloody good at all of it".

Cooper - 1955 Bobtail-Bristol for British GP






Pictured at right is the 1959 winning Cooper at Monte Carlo - the 1959 Monaco Grand Prix.

The dent in the bonnet came from an over-enthusiastic photographer.



Jack has stated that " . . . the driver is alone in the cockpit but it's a team effort which puts him there".




1960 Rheims ... and the 300 bottles of champagne:

100 bottles for the fastest time in practice
100 bottles for the fastest time in practice which was faster than the first
100 bottles for winning the race!

Sir Jack said recently ... "I always worried about Raymond 'Toto' Roche (with the flag) getting run over"





In 1961 he founded the Brabham Racing Organisation with Ron Tauranac. A detailed history of the cars produced can be found at our links page, reference Old Racing Cars. 




Prior to the 1966 Dutch Grand Prix, his first race after his 40th birthday, "Geriatric Jack" Brabham hobbled onto the starting grid at Zandvoort wearing a long false beard and learning on a jack handle as a walking stick - the media and younger rivals apparently "having a go" about his age!

Closer shot of that famous beard!

Jack also competed in the US at Indianapolis, qualifying the first modern mid-engined car at the 500 and finished ninth. A newly introduced engine limit in Formula One of 1500 cc did not suit Jack and he did not win a single race with a 1500 cc car, although his first team win came in 1964 with American, Dan Gurney. 




In 1966 a new 3000 cc formula was created, Brabham in a Brabham-Repco BT-19 won the championship again and became the first driver to win the Formula One World Championship in a car that carried his own name. Jack stated that the BT19 was "beautifully balanced" and he loved its readiness to "drift" through fast curves.

The BT19 had an Australian-made two-cam 3 litre V8 engine based on an American Oldsmobile F85 light-alloy block.







Sir Jack on the Repco V8 Engine:

"When Leonard Lee announced that his Coventry Climax company would not build racing engines for the new 3-litre F1 of 1966, we had to look elsewhere for motive power.  Ron (Tauranac) and I contacted Repco in Australia.  I believed the new Formula's opening races would see the big teams in development trouble with over-sophisticated new engines.

"Repco of Melbourne had taken over the old Climax 4-cylinder FPF engine stock and its servicing for Tasman racing.  By 1964-1965 they were keen to defend their market with a replacement engine.  I pointed them towards a V8, perhaps based on a production cylinder block.  A cast-iron "stock block" would have been too heavy so I hunted down a suitable aluminium one.

"In Japan in 1964, I inspected an alloy V8 Prince block - but with wet cylinder liners it looked too fragile.  I then examined an alloy GM Buick block in a GM distributorship near Los Angeles Airport.  Someone there suggested a near-sister unit, developed for a stillborn Oldsmobile project.  It had one extra stud retaining each cylinder head.  That offered greater potential.  One cost pennies and I took it back to Melbourne and outlined a programme to Repco's boss, Charles McGrath.  The Oldsmobile block could provide a 2-1/2-litre V8 for Tasman racing and a 3-litre F1 V8 for us.  It'd be a modest unit with chain-driven single overhead camshafts and two valves per cylinder but it should provide decent torque and driveability - we might just get lucky! 




"Repco's consulting engineer was Phil Irving - an Australian of enormous experience, particularly with Phil Vincent on his world-famous motorcycles.  Phil began drawing in  Australia, then came to Britain for 1965 taking a flat near Croydon where we spent hours in the evenings looking over his shoulder as he drew the first engine.  Ron advised on location of ancillaries etc so this new V8 would fit our cars ideally.

"The first Repco V8 racing engines used original Oldsmobile blocks modified in Melbourne.  We stiffened the bottom end with a steel plate with apertures allowing the con-rods to pass through and to which the big-end bearing caps were bolted.  It produced a rigid, reliable, yet lightweight unit which was powerful enough!




"Initially we used Daimler con-rods.  Repco then produced tailor-made block castings for 1967 and we should have continued with that year's 2-cam 16 valve V8s through 1968 as well.  Unfortunately everybody else was using four camshafts and four valves per cylinder and we thought we had to follow to keep competitive.  In retrospect I'm confident that if we had just relied on the ultimate 2-cam 16 valve unit, we could have run hard for a hat-trick of World Championship titles in 1968 as well.  As it turned out, the 4-cam Repco V7 would be a disaster in 3-litre Formula trip - but a very strong unit as a 4.2 litre V8 for Indianapolis track racing or a 5.1 litre for sports cars, in which form it revved more slowly, sparing its fragile cam-drive gears the high-speed vibrations which in F1 destroyed them.  But for two seasons, 1966 - 1967, Repco and Brabham had been on top of the world."






We have available a DVD Golden Age of Motor Sport - Volume Three Repco Brabham Story 1966 under the Memorabilia/General Merchandise section of this site which provides further information on the cars as well as Tasman Series Races in Australia at that time.







Following injuries in the 1969 season Brabham intended to retire in 1970 but finding no top drivers available he raced for one more year, retiring after the Mexican Grand Prix.  After retiring he made a complete break from racing, selling his interest in the team to Tauranac and returning to Australia.


Perhaps his most famous race was at the extremely testing Nürburgring, one of his most satisfying of victories in 1966. Conditions at Nurburgring were variable all round the 14-mile (20-km) circuit.  Some sections were almost dry, others merely wet and several "absolutely swimming", he commented.

1966: difficult Nurburgring, Germany
"the most satisfying" victory










 
Silverstone start in 1967


 



Great friends




Jack's last race car driven - 1970




In 1998, Sir Jack aged in his 70's returned to the old Nurburgring to race in a VW New Beetle 1.8T in the 6 hours VLN with Brisbane businessman, Ross Palmer and Australian racing driver, Melinda Price, scoring the fastest lap among the 3 pilots with over 134 km/hr on average. Jack said he returned to the Ring for the first time since 1970 and was surprised about the changes in safety and the sunshine.

Jack Brabham was famously known in racing circles as “Black Jack Brabham”, possibly because he was a man of few words and also the "Nut-Brown Australian" as described by Sir Stirling Moss.   Sir Jack was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.

1995 again with Ross Palmer and Greg Crick at the James Hardie 12 hour race, Australia - note the windshield banner "Hungry Jack".


Sir Jack regularly attends motor racing events both in Australia and overseas but particularly the Classic Adelaide Festival, South Australia, F1 Melbourne and the Goodwood Revival Race in the United Kingdom as well as the Monterey Historic Automobile Race meeting held in the United States.

" . . . but one day, I'm told I might at last grow up"


Sir Jack waiting for his drive ...


Final words come from Sir Jack " . . . and after all these years of clean, restful living, never having put myself at any risk - simple food, no more than one glass of wine with a meal and never having smoked a cigarette - plus the occasional slice of good luck, I really don't feel my age.  But one day, I'm told, I might at last grow up".

Sir Jack regularly attends motor racing events both in Australia and overseas but particularly the Classic Adelaide Festival, South Australia, F1 Melbourne and Goodwood Revival Race in the United Kingdom as well as the Monterey Historic Automobile Race held in the United States.

Sir Jack's hard cover autobiography is a thoroughly good read and available from this site under: Products: Memorabilia and Merchandising.






Currently in Australia,  Sir Jack is Patron of the Victorian Historic Racing Register.  The VHRR was established to provide a meeting place for people interested in the collection, restoration and exercising of historic racing cars and is based in Melbourne, Australia.




All three of Jack's sons - Geoff, Gary and David – have also been engaged in successful racing careers: their links are available on this site. 



Jack Brabham leading the 1966 British Grand Prix



The great Fangio!


The documents and photos on this page have come from Sir Jack's private collection.



More in-depth information regarding Sir Jack can be accessed at:

Official Formula One site:
One of the Drivers listed by Formula One under their “Hall of Fame":
F1 Hall of Fame:  

Australia’s ABC: An interview with George Negus:
Interview with Sir Jack on his career  and Interview on the car


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