Brabham BT38B car-by-car histories
The Brabham BT38B was a variant of MRD's new monocoque Formula 2 BT38 model intended for SCCA Formula B, and fitted as standard with Hart 416B twin cam engines.
The square section aluminium bathtub monocoque was common to the three models, but the F2 BT38 and F3 BT38C had 16 gauge outer skins, while the FB BT38B used 18 gauge. The BT38B was equipped with a Hewland FT200 gearbox, the same as the F2 BT38 whereas the BT38C used a Hewland Mk 8. The BT38B and BT38 had two radiators, instead of just one on the BT38C, and the BT38B had two 8-gallon tanks, midway between the two 10½-gallon tanks on the F2 BT38 and two 5½-gallon tanks on the F3 BT38C.
Eight BT38Bs were built, and all were sold to Fred Opert's agency in the Northeast US. US-based Kiwi Bert Hawthorne raced one of these in the two Bogotá Formula B races in February and March of 1972, winning on the model's debut, but then crashing in the second race. He was presumably in the first car, which was chassis number BT38B/11 as MRD decided to start all chassis numbering from 11 instead of 1 in 1972. The next two BT38Bs went to Canadian customers, Barry Fox and Eligio Siconolfi, another (BT38B/16) went to Californian Bill Middleton, and the last car (BT38B/18) went to Tom Shelton in Florida. The three cars in between - BT38B/14, BT38B/15 and BT38B/17 - cannot yet be linked to an owner, but will be the cars raced in 1972 by Northeast Division drivers Nick Craw, Peter Knoll and Jonathan Farkas. Opert also appears to have had a car for hire purposes, which may have been the rebuilt BT38B/11. Through the later 1970s, it is possible to trace three distinct cars in the northeast US.
Based on the order of appearance, this could have been the Bert Hawthorne car at Bogotá in February/March 1972. It could then have been repaired and become the Fred Opert hire car, raced by Ric Forest at the opening race of the Canadian FB series at Sanair on 28 May 1972, or the Nick Craw car, first seen at Lime Rock 4 July 1972.
New to Barry Fox (Edmonton, Alberta) and raced in the Canadian Formula B series. To Lorne Progosh (Ottawa, Ontario) for 1973, but crashed during practice at Edmonton when the throttle stuck open. The car was badly damaged and Progosh was unable to continue. He towed it back to Ottawa and sold it to Ron Rogers (Trenton, Ontario), who repaired it with his racing partner Vince Murray and fitted an ex-Craig Hill Ford twin cam. Rogers raced it in mainly club events in 1973 and 1974, and appeared in at least one Players event in 1975, only for the engine to break during practice. In 1975 or 1976, he sold it to Steve Van Vlaenderen (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and maintained it for him for a season or two. Van Vlaenderen advertised the car in February 1977. What must surely be the same car was advertised by Stew McNair (Winnipeg) in April 1980, then with a "tired Hart 416B" engine, and it is likely that this was the car raced by Martin Handforth (Kanata, Ontario) in Quebec events in 1981. The car then somehow found its way to Ron Hunter (Denver, CO) who fitted a Cosworth BDJ (a 1300cc engine used in C Sports Racing) and used the car for a record attempt at Bonneville before breaking the engine. After Hunter died in 1987, the car was bought from his stepson Rick Graham (Denver, CO) by Cameron MacArthur (Loveland, CO). He prepared it for historic racing, at first with a pushrod engine and then with a Cosworth BDD, racing it until around 1997 or 1998 when he recalls selling it "to a dentist from Summit County". Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Barry Fox, Lorne Progosh and Ron Rogers. First race: Sanair (R1), 28 May 1972. Total of 9 recorded races.
New to Eligio Siconolfi (Montréal, Quebec, Canada), who raced in the Canadian FB series in 1972, sponsored by Downtown Datsun Ltd. To Peter Overing (Montreal, Quebec) for 1973, but only seen at Sanair in June. Entered by Overing for Reg Scullion (Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Montréal, Quebec) in the Players Canadian Formula Atlantic series in 1974, but still with a Ford twin cam engine. Overing then acquired a March 74B for Scullion, and the Brabham was sold to Cliff Dawson (Mount Royal, Quebec), who fitted a BDA engine and raced it in Formula Atlantic in 1975, 1976 and 1977. After racing it in Regionals in the late 1970, Dawson converted the car to Can-Am specification with a body built in Montreal by Francis Cordolle and ran it in this form in Can-Am from 1980 to 1983, still with the 1600cc Cosworth BDA engine. According to Doug Waters, it was "sold in July 1984 to Martin Handforth in Ottawa, who soon sold it to Pennsylvania". (Note that Handforth had owned and raced a different BT38 in Quebec events in 1981.) Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Eligio Siconolfi, Peter Overing, Reg Scullion and Cliff Dawson. First race: Sanair (R1), 28 May 1972. Total of 23 recorded races.
It received a new SCCA logbook in 1977, at which time it was owned by W.T. Cottrill, which means it would have been the car raced by Mel Cottrill (Branford, CT) in NEDiv FB in 1976. W.T. Cottrill (Branford, CT) advertised a Brabham BT38 with Hart 416B twin cam engine in April 1977, and again in the Formula C Newsletter in August 1977. It was sold to Lee Stivale (Blue Bell, PA) in 1978, who used a Chuck Willis BDD engine, then to David Klutsenbaker in late 1979 or early 1980, then to Scott Wink in January 1983. It was later acquired from Wink by Mike Winebrenner (Louisville, KY, later Sellersburg, Indiana). Still with Winebrenner in February 2020.
Driven by: Mel Cottrill. First race: Thompson Speedway (R6), 22 Aug 1976. Total of 3 recorded races.
Sold new to Bill Middleton (Newport Beach, CA) and raced in the 1972 SCCA Formula B series, starting at Watkins Glen in August 1972. Also raced in SCCA Nationals and at the SCCA Run-Offs. Retained by Middleton for 1973 and run in SCCA Nationals, winning at Holtville in March. Retained again for the early 1974 Nationals and then said to have been seized by the sheriff at the Phoenix National for unpaid alimony. Next seen in May 1975 when Pete Halsmer (Huntington Beach, CA) raced "the ex-Middleton Brabham BT-38" in Formula B. Raced by Halsmer for three seasons, during which time it was extensively modified by Halsmer. Halsmer won the Laguna Seca June Sprints in the BT38 in 1977. The car is then unknown for ten years, until it was bought by John Hafkenschiel as a disassembled roller from Grant Koaller (Lakewood, Ohio) in July 1987. Hafkenschiel used this car as a pattern for the restoration of his BT38B, then sold it to a Mr Schaffer in California in November 1988. Since Mr Schaffer's death, the car is believed to have remained with his family, and is still unrestored.
Driven by: Bill Middleton and Pete Halsmer. First race: Watkins Glen (R5), 13 Aug 1972. Total of 26 recorded races.
Carmelo Crisafulli (Great Neck, NY) raced a blue #76 Brabham BT38 in NEDiv SCCA Nationals in 1976 and 1977, and in 1978 he registered this car with John Hafkenschiel's Brabham Register as BT38B-17. It seems likely that this had been the Paul Corazzo car car in 1975. Reports in December 2021 suggest this car may have been found.
Driven by: Carmelo Crisafulli. First race: Lime Rock (R1), 1 May 1976. Total of 10 recorded races.
Thomas M. Shelton (Plantation, FL/Fort Launderdale, FL) raced a red-and-white Brabham BT38B in South-East Division FB in 1972. The car arrived relatively late in the season and was still being described as immaculate and new at the Palm Beach National in September. Tom recalls that the engine broke at the Road America Pro race in August 1973, and he diverted to Chicago on his way home and traded the car to Carl Haas. Haas sold it to Mikeal Bystrom Jr (Minneapolis, MN), who had previously raced a Brabham BT18 in FC, and still recalls the chassis number of the BT38B as being BT38B/18. He broke the Hart twin cam at his first race and fitted a BDA instead, racing it in US Pro races in 1974 and then in the Canadian series in 1975. He sold it to Steve Fossett (Chicago, IL), then a commodities trader in Chicago, but later more famous for his ballooning exploits. Fossett raced it in SCCA Formula Atlantic in 1977. By 2005, this car was owned by Steve Petersen (Sedalia, CO).
Driven by: Tom Shelton, Mikeal Bystrom Jr and Steve Fossett. First race: Daytona, 20 Aug 1972. Total of 19 recorded races.
Unidentified Brabham BT38Bs in 1972
The first Brabham BT38B to appear was Bert Hawthorne's car at Bogotá in February/March 1972. This car was crashed but we must assume it was repaired. Later private entries included Barry Fox (BT38B/12) in Edmonton, Alberta; Eligio Siconolfi (BT38B/13) in Montréal, Quebec; Jonathan Farkas and Peter Knoll both in New York; Nick Craw in Washington; Bill Middleton (BT38B/16) in California; and Tom Shelton (BT38B/18) in Florida. Any of these could be the Hawthorne car repaired. These BT38B went through the hands of Fred Opert, who hired a car to Ric Forest at Sanair in May 1972, and to Bill Brack for the race at Caracas in early 1973. If we assume Hawthorne's car was recycled and that Opert's hire deals did not require an extra car, that still leaves one car missing, thought to have been used by Ken Duclos at some point in 1972.
Bert Hawthorne (New York, NY) raced a Brabham BT38B in the two Bogotá Formula B races in February and March 1972, winning the first race but crashing in the second. Hawthorne then headed to Europe, where he was due to drive to Allan McCall's Tui team in European F2. Unfortunately, he was killed in practice for the second race of the season. The subsequent history of the BT38B is unknown.
Driven by: Bert Hawthorne. First race: Bogotá, 27 Feb 1972. Total of 2 recorded races.
Fred Opert entered Brabham BT38s for a number of different drivers, and it appears that he had a regular hire car through 1972 and 1973. However, the more we learn about BT38Bs, and about the ex-F2 BT38s that arrives in the US, the more the evidence of this hire car evaporates. As Nick Craw, Peter Knoll and Jonathan Farkas remained very close to Fred Opert Racing in those two seasons, it is hard to be certain about how their cars were used. This hire car is assumed for now to be the car raced by Ric Forest at Sanair in May 1972, and may then be the car raced by Bill Brack in Caracas in early 1973. It may then be the car raced by Chris Gleason at Watkins Glen in October 1973. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Ric Forest, Bill Brack and Chris Gleason. First race: Sanair (R1), 28 May 1972. Total of 3 recorded races.
Nick Craw (Washington, DC) raced a yellow-and-blue #71 Brabham BT38 in the 1972 SCCA Pro Formula B series but is only known to have started two races. The car was entered by Fred Opert Racing, and is likely to have been a brand new BT38B. In October 1972 and again in February 1973, the "ex-Craw" car was advertised by Opert as "4 races from new". Photographs from the FB event at Autodromo de San Carlo, Caracas in March 1973 suggest that this was the car raced by Andrea de Adamich to win that event. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Nick Craw and Andrea de Adamich. First race: Lime Rock (R3), 4 Jul 1972. Total of 3 recorded races.
Peter Knoll (New York, NY) raced a Brabham BT38 in two Pro Formula B races in 1972, entered by Fred Opert Racing. He was involved in a first lap pile up at the latter race, at Watkins Glen in August. Knoll did not score any points in NEDiv Formula B in 1972. The car is then unknown until it was bought from Fred Opert by Doug Dinicola in 1974 or 1975. At the time, the car was black, had a Ford twin cam engine, was still wearing Knoll's #14 and still had his name on the side, so it had not been raced by anyone else in the meantime. Dinicola raced it in two races at Bridgehampton, but crashed in practice for his third race, also at Bridgehampton, in 1975, breaking the pickups on the tub. Dinicola sold off the engine and tub separately. The ownership history of the car is then unknown, but parts of this black tub are now with Mike Winebrenner's BT38B/14.
Driven by: Peter Knoll. First race: Lime Rock (R3), 4 Jul 1972. Total of 2 recorded races.
Jonathan Farkas (New York, NY) raced a blue-and-yellow Brabham BT38B in SCCA Regionals in 1972. Jonathan recalls that he was the first owner "out of the crate" and that nobody else raced it while he owned it. The car was advertised by Fred Opert in February 1973 noting that it had only raced in four Regionals, and had won the New York Regional championship, so it cannot have been the car Opert hired out. Farkas continued to race a Brabham in 1973, and although this was listed as a BT40 at the opening race of the NARRC series, Jonathan recalls that he only had the one car. When he retired from the sport, the car was sold for him by Fred Opert. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Jonathan Farkas. First race: Thompson Speedway, 10 Sep 1972. Total of 5 recorded races.
Brabham BT38Bs in 1973
The putative Opert hire car could have been retained and may then have been raced by Chris Gleason at Watkins Glen in October 1973, but it seems increasingly likely that Gleason drove Opert's BT38/‘33’, which had been raced by Héctor Rebaque and Brian Robertson earlier in 1973, and would be sold to John Bernadine for 1974.
Barry Fox's BT38B/12 went to Lorne Progosh, was crashed early in the season and then sold to Ron Rogers; Eligio Siconolfi's BT38B/13 went to Peter Overing; Jonathan Farkas's little-used BT38B was advertised by Opert during 1973, but Farkas raced it at least three times that year; Peter Knoll's car was not seen after August 1972, but there is evidence that it remained unraced for the next two years; Nick Craw's car was not seen after March 1973; Bill Middleton retained BT38/16, and Tom Shelton retained BT38B/18 for the early part of the season but then traded it to Carl Haas who sold it on to Mikeal Bystrom (Minneapolis, MN) for 1974.
The picture is complicated by the appearance of several ex-Rondel Racing Formula 2 BT38s in North America in 1973. John Powell, Bill O'Connor and Tom Klausler raced these Rondel-Brabham BT38s in 1973, and Fred Opert also imported BT38/‘33’, from the ASCA F2 team. At least two more ex-F2 BT38s would arrive in the US in 1974, and another would arrive by 1975.
Brabham BT38Bs in 1974
In Canada, the ex-Barry Fox/ex-Lorne Progosh BT38B/12 was with Ron Rogers in 1974 and 1975, and Peter Overing retained his ex-Eligio Siconolfi BT38B/13 for Reg Scullion to drive in 1974. In Northeast Division, the putative Opert hire car disappeared; Jonathan Farkas's little-used car is unknown after June 1973; Peter Knoll's car was not seen after August 1972, but may be the car advertised by Bob Kime in July 1974; and Nick Craw's car was not seen after March 1973. In California, Bill Middleton used his car for the races at the start of 1974, then it was missing for over a year until Pete Halsmer started racing it, and in the Midwest, Mikeal Bystrom raced the ex-Tom Shelton BT38B/18 during 1974.
A very interesting advert was placed by Bob Kime in August 1974, who had his Formula C Brabham BT40 for sale. Also mentioned in his advert was an "immaculate black BT38 with 1972 big valve Hart" which was "unused for two years". The colour suggests this was Peter Knoll's car, last seen when Knoll crashed it at Watkins Glen precisely two years earlier. Of the other NEDiv BT38Bs, Farkas had used his car in 1973, the Nick Craw car was last seen at Caracas in early 1973, and the putative Fred Opert hire car was also at Caracas in early 1973, and may have been raced by Chris Gleason at Watkins Glen in October 1973.
One new mystery BT38B appeared in 1974, the car bought from Fred Opert by Eric Kerman. If Knoll's car had gone to Kime, then Kerman's car is likely to have been either the John Farkas car or the Nick Craw car.
Of the ex-F2 BT38s that had reached North America by 1974, John Powell's BT38/14 went to Bob Schutt in Missouri for 1974; Bill O'Connor's BT38/15 went to Chuck Dietrich; Tom Klausler's BT38/26 went through the hands of Roy Witz in 1974 before turning up again in 1975 with John Kowalski in Berea, Ohio; and Fred Opert's BT38/‘33’ was sold to John Bernadine in Oklahoma for 1974. A fifth ex-F2 car arrived in the US when Tom Foster acquired BT38/19 for 1974, and a sixth arrived when Mike Rocke bought BT38/16 in August 1974.
Eric Kerman (Hempstead, NY/Glen Cove, NY), the reigning national SCCA C Sports Racing champion, moved into Formula B in 1974, finishing third in Northeast Division in a Brabham BT38 that he had bought from Fred Opert. He leased a nearly-new March 74B for the Runoffs. Kerman recalls selling the Brabham to Giovanni Distasio (Edgewater, NJ) who raced it in NEDiv FB in 1975. Distasio then bought a March 75B from Doug Shierson, and the Brabham went in trade into Shierson stock. It was bought from Shierson by James Hollowell (Sterling Hts, Mich) and raced by him in SCCA Formula B over the next few seasons. Advertised by Hollowell in September 1978 as a "FB/C rolling chassis", and he recalls selling it to somebody in the Chicago area. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Eric Kerman, Giovanni Distasio and James Hollowell. First race: Lime Rock, 6 Jul 1974. Total of 7 recorded races.
Brabham BT38Bs in 1975
By the start of 1975, three BT38Bs had settled in NEDiv (Jonathan Farkas's, Peter Knoll's, and Nick Craw's), two were in Canada (Ron Rogers' BT38B/12 and Reg Scullion's BT38B/13); one was in California (Pete Halsmer's ex-Bill Middleton BT38B/16) and one in the Midwest (Mikeal Bystrom's ex-Tom Shelton BT38B/18). Peter Knoll's car was with Doug Dinicola in 1975, so Eric Kerman's 1974 car would probably have been one of the other two NEDiv cars. However, if all eight had survived the many accidents, there should be one more at this time.
One new mystery cars appeared in 1975: Paul Corazzo's blue/yellow car which could be the third of the three NEDiv cars.
Of the six ex-F2 BT38s that were in North America in 1975, Bob Schutt still had BT38/14 in Missouri, Chuck Dietrich still had BT38/15 in Ohio, Mike Rocke still had BT38/16 in northern California, Tom Foster still had BT38/19 in northern California, John Kowalski had the ex-Tom Klausler BT38/26 in Illinois, and Warren Pauge in southern California acquired John Bernadine's BT38/‘33’. To these can be added BT38/22, which was in the hands of Dick Zibert in California by mid-1975.
Zibert's is thought to have gone to Chuck McCain in Phoenix for 1974, but had not appeared in SCCA before Zibert first drove it in July 1975. Also worth mentioning are two adverts from earlier in 1975, before Zibert's car first appeared. Erik Leonhard advertised a BT38 rolling chassis from Phoenix, AZ in May 1975, and Dick Renard advertised a BT38 that had run "only 17 races from new" from Campbell, in the San Francisco Bay area, just one week later. Leonhard had raced with ASRA (Arizona Sports Racing Association) in 1973, hinting that this might be the Chuck McCain car, as McCain was a former ASRA champion. A total of 17 races looks low for Renard to be advertising Middleton's BT38B/16, so maybe this was John Bernadine's ex-F2 BT38/‘33’ on its way to Warren Pauge, or it could be BT38/22 which had done 12 known races by the time it left the UK, but could have done a few more libre races when David Cole had it in 1973 and 1974.
Paul Corazzo (Wethersfield, CT) raced a Brabham BT38 in Formula B in 1975, primarily in SCCA New England Region events. When he entered the car for the Canon Camera Nationals at Lime Rock in September, it was blue/yellow and numbered #22. This is likely to be the car raced by Carmelo Crisafulli (Great Neck, NY) in NEDiv FB in 1976, as RJ Nelkin recalls buying a FB Brabham from Corazzo and selling it straight away to Crisafulli.
Driven by: Paul Corazzo. First race: Lime Rock, 3 May 1975. Total of 8 recorded races.
Brabham BT38Bs in 1976
In 1976, we finally get a clear picture of the BT38Bs. In Canada, Ron Rogers' BT38B/12 went to Steve Van Vlaenderen in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Cliff Dawson still had BT38B/13. Pete Halsmer still had BT38B/16 in California, and Steve Fossett had BT38B/18 in Illinois. Two of the three NEDiv cars can be identified from 1976 onwards: chassis BT38B/14 appears in Connecticut in 1976, raced by Mel Cottrill, and can be traced from then to the present day; and BT38B/17 was being raced by Carmelo Crisafulli in New York. A third NEDiv BT38B was the red-and-yellow car that was with Eric Kerman in 1974, Giovanni Distasio in 1975, Doug Shierson in 1976, and then James Hollowell in Michigan in 1977 and 1978. A fourth NEDiv BT38B is the black car that was with Peter Knoll in 1972, possibly Bob Kime in 1974, and Doug Dinicola in 1975. Logically, these two cars must have been BT38B/11 and BT38B/15, but we cannot yet determine which was which; nor can we connect them to the Bert Hawthorne car, the Nick Craw car, and the Jonathan Farkas car.
Of the seven ex-F2 BT38s that were in North America in 1976, Bob Schutt still had BT38/14 in Missouri, Chuck Dietrich still had BT38/15 in Ohio, Mike Rocke still had BT38/16 in northern California, Tom Foster still had BT38/19 in northern California, Dick Zibert still had BT38/22 in California, John Kowalski's ex-Tom Klausler BT38/26 is believed to have gone to Mike Orgel by 1977, and Warren Pauge still had BT38/‘33’ in southern California. Also, in early 1976, Randy Lewis was advertising his BT38C as a Formula Atlantic BT38 (Autoweek 20 March 1976 p33). That car would go to Mike Loscher in California by 1978.
Mystery Brabham BT38B from 1977 onwards
The two cars in Canada are likely to have stayed there over the next few years, so the ex-Ron Rogers' BT38B/12 last seen with Steve Van Vlaenderen in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1977 is likely to be the car that was owned by Martin Handforth in Ottawa in 1981. Handforth also acquired the other Canadian BT38B, Cliff Dawson's BT38B/13, and sold it to Pennsylvania in the mid-1980s.
According to the excellent autocourse.ca website, Martin Handforth (Kanata, Ontario) and Nigel Mortimer (Stittsville, Ontario) shared a Brabham BT38 in the Championnat Modifié du Quebec series in 1981. Nothing more known.
Driven by: Martin Handforth and Nigel Mortimer. First race: Sanair (R2), 21 Jun 1981. Total of 6 recorded races.
In addition to the above, an unknown Brabham BT38B was driven by Marty Knoll.
My thanks to Chris Townsend and Mike Winebrenner for their hard work on this subject, to former owners Tom Shelton, Mikeal Bystrom Jr, Eric Kerman, James Holloway, Ron Rogers, Doug Dinicola, Jonathan Farkas and Cameron MacArthur for their assistance, and to John Hafkenschiel of the US Brabham Register for information on BT38B/16, BT38B/17 and Dick Zibert's BT38/22. Thanks also to Tom Schultz, Vincent Puleo and Kip Holloway for the use of their photographs.
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