Phil Irving, MBE

Car and motorcycle engine designer


Philip Edward Irving lived richly for 89 years, from 1903 to 1992.

He loved motorcycles and he loved engines, starting on the design of a small air-cooled two-stroke while still studying mechanical and electrical engineering in Melbourne.

Phil headed to England in 1930 where he worked in various roles writing books and magazine articles as well as designing at both Velocette and Vincent HRD.

It was at Vincent that he designed the wonderful 1000cc V-twin engine for the classic post-war Vincents.

The engine dominated speedway sidecar racing for decades.

But his best was still to come. In 1963, Jack Brabham asked him to design a Formula 1 grand prix engine for the 1966 3.0 litre formula.

And this is where Phil’s clever thinking merged wonderfully with his technical knowledge

Phil headed a tiny team of Australians working on an engine that was destined to take on the world and win.

Which, famously, it did. Two world Drivers’ and two Constructors’ championships in two years for Repco, Jack Brabham and his team, all of whom had never done anything like it before.