It was sad to awaken to the news of the passing of one of Australia’s great sporting heroes, Sir Jack Brabham at his Queensland home this morning. The Powerhouse Museum had a fruitful relationship with Sir Jack and his wife Lady Margaret in the late 1990s during the development of the exhibition Cars and Culture : our driving passion .
We were lucky enough to exhibit Sir Jack Brabham’s Formula One Repco Brabahm car, a Repco engine, and some of Sir Jacks memorabilia in the Museum’s exhibition Cars and Culture: our driving passion (1998-2000). The exhibition explored Australians passionate relationships with their cars and Sir Jack wrote a forward in the accompanying publication of the same name.
Sir Jack Brabham was one of the most accomplished drivers and team owners in the history of Formula One racing. The first driver to be knighted for services to motorsport, and the first Australian to win the Formula One World Championships, he won in 1959, 1960 and 1966. The the final time in a car designed and engineered by him with friend and fellow Australian Ron Tauranac .
Sir Jack was acclaimed as a brilliant engineer and the technological innovations brought about by the Brabham team helped to shape the sport today. Through his partnership with Ron Tauranac, over 500 Brabham racecars were built from the team’s British Surrey base in the 1960s alone.
I was one of three curators developing the Cars and culture exhibition content and was lucky enough to meet Sir Jack and his wife Lady Margaret several times. We borrowed some of their memorabilia to compliment the Formula One car for the display. You can see the driving suits that that Sir Jack Brabham wore (displayed behind the Formula One car) offered far less protection than current clothing worn by Formula One drivers.
I remember being somewhat intimidated when I had to drive Sir Jack and Lady Margaret to look at the Museum’s car collection, located at our off site storage facility. When I expressed my reservation about driving a famous Formula One driver around. Lady Margaret said “not to worry about my driving, as Sir Jack was a dreadful driver on the roads, he drives too fast”.
Written by Anni Turnbull, Curator, Design and Society