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Matich SR4: Winner of 1969 Australian Sports Car Championship driven by Frank Matich

Few Australian made racing cars have the credentials of the SR4.

Its racing history speaks for itself; 19 starts, 19 pole positions, 15 wins, 8 lap records and only one defeat (second due to throttle spring problem requiring a stop). A car that was faster than the Formula One cars of the era, driven by one of Australia’s best ever drivers.

Built in Sydney by Henry Nehrybecki for Frank Matich to take to the 1968 CanAm series, it raced only in Australia, unlike its equally famous sister car, SR3. It totally dominated the class and lead to coining of the phrase “doing a Matich” (i.e. to take pole, to win, take the fastest lap and also the lap record).

The frame is made from tubular steel and weighs only 81 pounds (35 kg), extremely light considering the power of the engine, which was 550 BHP as raced. The gearbox is a Hewland LG500 with 4 forward gears and reverse. The gearbox is the only major item not made in Australia since the uprights, wheels, brakes and even the steering rack were locally produced. The body is made from fiberglass though the original intention was for this to be aluminium.

The engine was a 760 series 5 litre Repco Brabham quad cam racing engine developing around 550 BHP. (Shorter block 3 litre 860 series engines were used for Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme’s Repco Brabhams in 1968).

The SR4 was retired from racing at the end 1969 since there was little else to be achieved for it in Australia. Also a year had slipped by making a later foray into CanAm series futile. In any case Frank Matich had his eyes on the emerging F5000 series.

The car was cosmetically restored by Don Halpin while still owned by Repco during the eighties and was for many years displayed at the Birdwood and then the Launceston auto museums. It was never possible to undertake a full and running restoration since the engine in it was very much incomplete. Acquisition of a complete and running engine from Les Wright some years ago made the full restoration feasible and this was carried out by Jim Hardman. The engine in the car is actually an ex Jack Brabham Indy engine of 4.2 litres, though of the same external appearance as the 5 litre version originally fitted. Naturally this has been set up to operate on petrol as opposed to methanol as per Indy. A 5 litre engine is now in preparation.

Nigel Tait, managed the restoration and movements of the SR4 over the last years of Repco’s ownership and subsequently during ACL’s ownership, and purchased it from ACL in July 2005.

In 2006 a full chassis restoration was undertaken since it was 38 years since it was constructed. It is a testament to Henry Nehrybecki’s workmanship that it was found to be in excellent condition with only minor repairs needed and only one tube required replacement to upgrade the seat belt mountings to modern standards. Jim Hardman undertook most of this work including making new aluminium skins and undertray and reassembly.

The car has been taken to a number of circuits for display and demonstration and has been driven by John Bowe and Brian Sampson and as well as by Nigel Tait and Jim Hardman at various events. Due to its historical importance and the scarcity of critical engine components for the quad cam engine (which may well be the only one still running) there are no plans for the car to revert to all out racing.

6 Responses to “Matich SR4: Winner of 1969 Australian Sports Car Championship driven by Frank Matich”

  1. Chris says:

    Retired end of 1969? I am sure I saw the SR4 finish second to Neil Allen’s Elfin ME5 in May 1970 RAC TRophy ay Warwick Farm

  2. PeterH says:

    Chris; I would agree with you, I definately remember the SR4 finishing behind the ME5, if I remember correctly due to a deflating tyre that caused Frank Matich to drop off a couple of seconds per lap! Talking about Repco powered racers, I remember John Harvey at “The Farm” in 1972 driving an LC Torana with a 4.4-litre Repco under the bonnet and a high wing on the boot; he was racing against Moffat in his beautiful Karkraft ‘Stang when it was fitted with a 351 cleveland and Bob Jane in his 7-litre Camaro (I am sure that regulations at that time limited engine capacity to 6-litres ala, Beechey’s GTS350 and Big Pete’s super Falcon!

  3. PeterH says:

    Chris; another race car I just thought of doing the rounds at “The Farm” was Brian Foley’s Alfa Romeo GTAM (2-door GTV body with 2.5-Litre Alfa F1 V8) that was a pretty quich car for its day too!

  4. Frank Matich says:

    I think a few points need to be clarifed about the Matich SR4. Henry Nehrybecki did not build the SR4 , he did a lot of work on it together with the whole Matich crew at the Eastern Valley workshop.Bobby Brittan made some componets in his shop. The SR4 was loaned to Charlie Dean, the director at Repco to put on display together with the Repco Brabham BT19 which Charlie had purchased from Jack. I have never sold the SR4 to anyone its ownership has not changed since it was built.The SR4 did not race in the CanAm because the Americans changed the rules to exclude the Repco 769 four cam engine as they thought it would beat the big American engines and injure the series. The SR4 in the 5litre form produced well over 600 bhp. I can recall 625 and 640 as max bhp dyno runs but the power curve was straight up.

  5. Awesome, thanks for taking the time to comment Frank!

  6. David Fewster says:

    Thanks to Nigel Tait, enthusiests attending the S.A. Sporting Car Club’s 2012 and 2013 Easter Sunday Meetings at the Mallala Raceway had the thrill of viewing and hearing the Matich as it participated in several Regularity Events on the Sunday Programmes.

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