"Always a man of few words — his nickname 'Black Jack' referred to both his dark hair and his propensity for maintaining a shadowy silence — he avoided small talk and was undemonstrative in the extreme," the Confederation of Australian Motorsport said in a statement. "But behind the wheel he was anything but shy and retiring. He put his head down and drove exceedingly forcefully."
Brabham returned to Australia after he retired and his new interests included developing a farm, car dealership and aviation company. He was also a spokesman for a major Japanese automaker and maintained his interest in the sport, visiting numerous major international races.
"On track he was always the toughest of tough competitors, tough sometimes to the point at which I'd wonder 'how could such a nice bloke out of a car grow such horns and a tail inside one!'" British great Stirling Moss wrote about Brabham in the introduction to a book about one of his biggest race rivals.
"If you ever raced against Jack you'd really know you'd been in a race ... (he) played the game as if your life depends on it, no quarter asked, and absolutely none given. To his natural driving ability he added a deeper technical understanding."
"That was a reasonable comment," Brabham told the AP, smiling, when he read the excerpt.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles described Brabham, a four-time Indianapolis 500 starter, as "the patriarch of a racing dynasty."
"Every time an Indy car runs at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you can find roots that trace back to Jack Brabham's rear-engined Cooper Climax T54 that he drove to 9th place in the 1961 Indianapolis 500," Boles said. "In addition to starting the rear-engine revolution at IMS, Brabham competed ... and designed race cars that competed in the 500."
Later in life, Brabham suffered from poor hearing and macular degeneration that prevented him from reading road signs, making driving difficult.
He said a kidney illness "really clipped my wings," but he lived a busy life in a home overlooking the eighth hole of a resort golf course and sprinkled with mementos of his feats. Those included a glass-encased model replica of the Cooper Climax that he pushed over that Sebring finish line, and photos of the great driver with prime ministers, sporting personalities and fellow competitors.
"The big aim now is to go out without an enemy in the world — I'm going to outlive," them he said in the 2009 interview.
He is survived by his second wife, Margaret, and his three sons.
AP Sports Writer John Pye contributed to this report.