simulator
(Victor Blackman)

‘Daily Express’ motoring writer David Benson races a Lotus 31 at the Racing Car Show, Olympia, London January 19-26, 1966…

These days no self-respecting race-team from F1 down would be without their race simulator to sharpen their drivers preparation and performance. Like so many innovations from the mid 1950s to the mid 1980s, Lotus paved the way with a small number of sims they built for commercial/entertainment use in the sixties.

Aviation led the simulation way of course. French commanders Clolus, Laffont and Clavenad built the Tonneau Antoinette, regarded as the first ground training aircraft. Progress was swift, by World War 2 The Allies produced 10,000 Link Trainers to assist 500,000 new pilots into the sky.

Whether Colin Chapman’s motivation was broadening the appeal of racing by putting anyone in the driving seat, building the Lotus brand, or perhaps another profitable line of business is unclear. A small number – about 18 – were built and sold to dealerships and large corporates such as BP. The Avengers tragics may recall the ‘Dead Mans Treasure’ episode in which the woman behind the wheel had to keep driving fast or otherwise receive a deadly electric shock…

The car is a reproduction of an F3 Lotus 31 (it would be intriguing to know the differences between the real deal and the sim cars) fitted with all of the track-bound instruments and controls. “The course reproduction mechanism, located behind a screen, projects a complete image of the track and its surroundings.”

“The disc on which the track is laid out is quickly changed to allow a change of circuits. For the faint of heart, a disc showing normal street driving is available. From the cockpit the driver receives a complete picture of his driving efforts. With scale speeds up to 120mph, the full sensation of handling, maneuvering the course, braking and accelerating are completely controlled by the driver.”

“Naturally, driver error doesn’t go unnoticed. Incorrect control on a corner causes the car to virtually run off the course, at the same time sounding a buzzer. Late braking or excessive speed will cause the car to leave the track,” – while technology has advanced a tad, that much remains unchanged!

Credits…

Victor Blackman, Golden Gate Lotus Club

Etcetera…

Tailpiece…

(Toyota)

The elapse of a half-century – Toyota F1 race simulator circa 2008, and current TS050 Hybrid sim below, pretty much the only thing which cannot be replicated are the g-forces but doubtless that will come!

(Toyota)

Finito…

(L Hemer)

If a 5-litre 500bhp McLaren M10B Chev F5000 is a Big Mac – it is – then a liddl’ 1.6-litre 210bhp F2 McLaren must be a Little Mac.

“Niel Allen in the perfect little McLaren M4A FVA, the sweetest sound I ever heard…in The Esses at Warwick Farm on Saturday afternoon, December 6, 1969,” and so say all of us Lynton Hemer!

Niel qualified fourth in this meeting, the final 1969 WF Gold Star round, and finished third behind the Bartlett/Stewart Alec Mildren Racing speedsters.

Chassis M4A/2 is a famous little jigger, driven with great success in the 1968 Tasman Series by Piers Courage. His giant-killing performances against the 2.5-litre cars – including a win at the Longford final round – pretty much re-launched a career which had stalled a bit; by the end of 1969 he had vaulted into the F1 Top Ten.

Niel Allen bought the M4A after Piers returned to Europe, doing well with it but also having a huge, high speed crash at Lakeside. Re-tubbed by John Joyce at Bowin Cars it also provided the platform for Warwick Brown to strut his stuff before he stepped up into…a Big Mac!

Some further reading, here on Courage at Longford; Longford Tasman: ‘South Pacific Trophy’ 4 March 1968 and Piers Courage… | primotipo… and here on the M4A in Euro F2 in 1967 The Wills ‘BARC 200’, F2 Silverstone, March 1967… | primotipo…

Credit…

Lynton Hemer

(L Hemer)

Finito…

Herbert Johnson were one of the preferred purveyors of bash-hats to racing’s elite in the pre-Buco, pre-Bell early-mid 1960’s era.

The company, founded in 1889, made its name for its silk-velvet top-hats. By the outbreak of World War 1 its output was dominated by the demands of the military. Goldie Gardner was the first racer to commission a ‘protective hat’ from then proprietor, Geoffrey Glazier. Stirling Moss was a later customer as demand for the firm’s race products grew.

(K Devine)

Lex Davison is shown so equipped at Caversham, near Perth in November 1962. It’s the Australian Grand Prix meeting, the four-times AGP winner is shown on the dummy-grid – looking very pucka in Herbie Johnson with British Racing Drivers Club badge on his overalls – about to jump aboard Len Lukey’s Ford Galaxie in a mixed touring/sportscar support race. The nose of the Elite belongs to Anthony Osborne.

Credits…

Ad from Motor Racing 1948-1949 BRDC Yearbook, Ken Devine

Tailpiece…

‘If yerv’ got a $10 head wear a $10 helmet’ was Bell’s compelling mid-sixties tagline. A mix of technology and innovation, quality, marketing and a great distribution network ensured the Bell Corporation did their bit to improve the safety of our sport. Dan Gurney’s Eagle depicted is his 1966-68 F1 Mk1 Weslake V12

Finito…

Bruce McLaren setting up a selfie before the Lady Wigram Trophy, Tasman Series, 23 January 1965…

Sorting his goggles in any event, Cooper T79 Climax. The cars in the background are the #9 Bill Thomasen Brabham BT4 Climax and Red Dawson’s Cooper T53 Climax ‘Lowline’.

What stood out on an initial scan of this bunch of photos are those big tall white-wall Firestone tyres on large fifteen inch wheels. It’s the start of the tyre-war; Firestone and Goodyear had just entered the domain which had been a cosy little monopoly for Dunlop for the previous few years.

Bruce won the first Tasman Cup in 1964 with the ‘first McLarens’- the Cooper T70’s Bruce and Wally Willmott constructed at the Cooper factory in Surbiton the year before were Dunlop shod machines. Click here for a piece on these cars; https://primotipo.com/2016/11/18/tim-mayer-what-might-have-been/

Admirers of the Clark Lotus 32B monocoque chassis, Wigram (A McKee)

It was going to be tough to knock Jim Clark’s Dunlop shod Lotus 32B Climax off in 1965- Bruce and Phil Hill’s campaigns were said to be sluggish at the series outset until Bruce and his boys adapted the suspension geometry and settings to the American tyres. Mind you, a close look at the results suggests Bruce was not far off the pace from the get-go.

The commercial relationship with Firestone was an important one for the entrepreneurial Kiwi as he assembled the technical partners and funding to take his nascent team forward- Bruce McLaren Racing’s first F1 season was in 1966.

Jack Brabham signed with Goodyear from 1965, that year of learning with the Akron giant was a critical foundation piece for Brabham Racing Organisation’s successful tilts at the 1966 and 1967 F1 championships for drivers and constructors.

Jim Clark had one of the greatest of seasons any driver ever had in 1965- he won an F1 drivers title, the Indy 500, the Tasman Cup plus a sprinkling of F2, touring car and other wins- the breadth of his achievements in that twelve month period has never been matched, or is ever likely to be I expect.

The start of that lot was in New Zealand- whilst Graham Hill won the first Tasman round, the NZ GP at Pukekohe in David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT11A Climax, Clark won the next two on the trot at Levin, where he won from the scrapping Frank Gardner and Jim Palmer aboard BT11A and BT7A’s respectively, and here, on the Wigram Airfield on 23 January from McLaren and Palmer- Jim acquired Clark’s series winning Lotus at its end. Bruce was obviously getting the hang of the Firestones mind you- he matched the lap record Clark set in the preliminary race in the championship event.

Off to Teretonga – famously the most southerly race track on the planet – Clark won again from McLaren and Phil Hill in the other Bruce McLaren Racing Cooper- an updated T70 raced by Bruce and the late Tim Mayer the year before.

Jim at the wheel, 32B ‘beetle-back’ all enveloping bodywork, ZF gearbox. #49 in the background is the Peter Gillum Cooper T67 Ford FJ (A McKee)
The off. Bruce with Frank Gardner’s distinctive Alec Mildren Racing yellow Brabham BT11A Climax alongside (A McKee)

That Bruce was getting the chassis/tyres sorted was further indicated by his pace- he pulled alongside Clark on lap 20, but Jim had enough in hand to pull away- taking the duo clear of Hill, Grant (ex-Jack 1962 AGP Brabham BT4 Climax, a car later to put John McCormack on the map) and Palmer.

The summary of the balance of the series is this; Clark won from grid three at Warwick Farm on 14 February whilst Bruce was Q5 and DNF engine. Brabham joined the Series in Sydney aboard a new BT11A- he was second from Q4. Matich was third from pole.

At Melbourne’s Sandown a week later, Jack won from pole with Jim second from Q2, Phil Hill third from Q6 and Bruce fourth from Q4- Goodyear, Dunlop, Firestone, Firestone if you like…

The seven round series ended at Longford with the Australian Grand Prix on 1 March 1965. Bruce won from pole from Brabham, Hill P and Hill G, Bruce Sergent observed that ‘Longford saw the McLaren cars come resoundingly into their own with good short-stroke engines and the small frontal area and shallow tread of the Firestones on this ultra fast circuit.’

Clark’s second half of the series was not as dominant as his first half. This was in large measure due to Jack’s presence and the pace of the McLaren Coopers- he won three races in New Zealand and once in Australia, but took the 1965 Tasman Cup with 35 points from McLaren’s solo victory and 24 points, then Jack with a win and a points haul of 21 from only three races. Brabham certainly would have given Jim a run for his money had he contested the championship in full. Gardner, Phil Hill and Jim Palmer were equal fourth…Or Dunlop, Firestone, Goodyear, Goodyear, Firestone and Dunlop.

Wigram Shell Team compound, from this end; Bruce Abernathy Cooper T66 Climax, John Riley Lotus 18/21 Climax, Andy Buchanan #8 Brabham BT6 Ford 1.5 twin-cam, perhaps the Scuderia Veloce Graham Hill Brabham BT11A Climax and uncertain closest to the truck (A McKee)

Those early years of the F1 tyre war rolled as follows; Dunlop shod Clark’s 1965 winning Lotus 33 Climax and Stewart’s 1969 winning Matra MS80 Ford. Goodyear bagged back to back titles in 1966 and 1967 on Jack’s Brabham BT19 Repco and Denny’s Brabham BT24 Repco, while Firestones were on the Lotus 49 Ford Cosworth DFV used by Graham Hill in 1968, and Jochen Rindt’s Lotus 72 Ford in 1970.

Dunlop bailed from F1 at the end of 1970, leaving the two American giants. Then Michelin came in etcetera…and now of course we have same, same, same coz same, same, same is what is mandated by the commercial, sorry, sporting powers that be.

It was a bit different in the Tasman where Dunlop shod Clark’s winning Lotus 32B Climax and Stewart’s 1966 BRM P261, but then it was all Firestone on both Clark’s 1967 Lotus 33 Climax, 1968 Lotus 49 Ford DFW and the Ferrari Dino 246T raced by Chris Amon to victory in 1969, and Graeme Lawrence in 1970.

The Goodyear shod Mildren/Gardner Brabham BT11A Climax (A McKee)

Etcetera…

(A McKee)

Andy Buchanan awaits the off in his immaculate Brabham BT6 Ford 1.5 twin-cam, top left in white is Graeme Lawrence’s similar machine. These cars were immensely successful 1.5-litre racing cars in Australasia, and at right the red ex-Tony Shelly Lotus 18/21 of John Riley.

Credits…

Bruce Sergent on sergent.com, oldracingcars.com, Ian Smith Collection

(I Smith Collection)

Tailpiece…

Brabham went like a rocket at Longford, the 1965 Tasman’s final round, he made a cautionary stop after giving Roly Levis a love-tap when the Kiwi locked a brake going into Mountford.

In a race of new lap records, McLaren, Brabham and Phil Hill all set new marks, Jack eventually fell short of McLaren by a little over three seconds, Bruce was impeded in changing gears without a clutch in the latter stages of the race. Click here for a piece on this race; https://primotipo.com/2019/09/27/longford-1965/ and here on the 1965 Tasman Cup and Clark’s Lotus 32B; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/02/levin-international-new-zealand-1965/

Finito…

Birrana 274 Hart-Ford ANF2 cars at MG Corner, Phillip Island in late 1974: Bruce Allison inside Leo Geoghegan – Oz F2 Champ in Birranas in 1973-4 (Auto Action Archive)

Modern enthusiasts probably know of Birrana Racing as an outfit which won multiple Gold Stars running Reynard Formula Holdens. But for some of us, the most exciting period of Malcolm Ramsay’s lifetime passionate commitment to motor racing was the 1971-1974’ish period when he and his business partner, Tony Alcock, and their small crew at Logan Street, Adelaide built 20 or so jewels of championship winning FF, F3, F2 and Formula Atlantic single seaters. Oh yes, there was a VW powered mid-engined speedway Speedcar too, which rather shows they were not lacking innovation!

At the end of 1974, they ceased volume production, building racing cars simply wasn’t profitable. Mal constructed a few more racers in the ensuing years. Tony Alcock, the designer/fabricator, ran Bob Muir in British Formula Atlantic in 1975. Adelaide entrepreneurs Bob and Marj Brown took their two updated Birrana 273s to England for a season. Bob did well with several thirds and a fourth place in the two year old car among hotshots like Tony Brise, Jim Crawford, Brian Henton and Gunnar Nilsson.

Like Tony Brise, Tony Alcock joined Graham Hill’s Embassy Racing F1 team. Similarly, he was at the fateful Embassy Hill GH2 Ford Paul Ricard test on November 29, and subsequent Piper Aztec flight back to Elstree Airfield, England. Graham Hill crashed the aircraft in thick fog at Arkley Golf Club killing all aboard; Alcock, Hill, Brise, designer Andy Smallman and mechanic Terry Richards.

It was a monumental tragedy, to say the least.

What might have been for all of them, not least Tony Alcock? During 1974 he wrote a regular Auto Action column. This May piece is about Birrana’s design process. I found it interesting, and reproduce it for that reason, and also to put on electronic record the members of Birrana Cars during that golden 1972-1974 era.

“I always liken designers, fabricators and mechanics as the racing equivalent of a TV production team. We know that the actors get most of the recognition, but of course the truth of the matter is that without the script writer, producer, director, film crew and so on, then the actor would be nowhere. Now although the modern race driver is an important part of the final product, it is the men behind him, the fabricators, welders, machinists, fibreglass men, painters, platers etc who make up the initial 80% of the total effort.”

“It is our job, Malcolm Ramsay and myself, at Birrana Cars to assemble all these tradesmen in the correct sequence to present a product such as the 2/374 range of cars. Basically, our respective roles are something like this.”

Tony Alcock circa 1974. Anybody got a better shot? (unattributed)
1974 Oz FF Driver to Europe Series, Tin Shed, Calder: Andrew Miedecke, Birrana F73, Peter Finlay, Palliser WDF2 – not long back from success in this car in the UK/Europe – and the nose of Paul Bernasconi’s Mawer 004 (Geoff Selton)

“Starting with the previous years car, we decide on the areas which we feel need improvement and together with experiments which we have tried in some form or another during the year, we begin to formulate some sort of basic outline for our new model. At this stage I usually work at home so that the work can be achieved without interruption enabling the car to be drawn up as quickly as possible.”

“Whilst I do most of the basic design work, I reckon that two heads are better than one, so there is constant communication between Mal and myself. At the same time as the drawings start coming through, he is organising a supply of raw materials, radiator suppliers, rack and pinon assemblies, pattern makers etc.”

“From the basic chassis drawings, which comprise an overall side and top elevation, there are detailed ones of each bulkhead and suspension pickups, rear frames, suspension systems, body shape etc. From these more detailed drawings, Brian Farquhar, our welder, constructs the chassis and suspension jigs and from these the bulkheads and wishbones. Mike Lobanof machines the chassis and suspension bushes, discs, wheels, castings and so on. John Porter, our ‘March-immigre’ specialises in detail fabrication such as wing brackets, radius arms, parallel link brackets, headers, tanks, etc. I usually fold-up the tubs and Mal and I both attack the body mock-up prior to him doing the moulds. Our other man, Peter Nightingale, can usually be found stripping and rebuilding our existing cars as well as maintaining our Hart engines and Hewland gearboxes.”

“All of this is an over-simplification of the effort and just plain hard-yakka, which often means an all-nighter or two, but it is the general scene, which goes on at Elfin or Bowin or many other manufacturers.”

“As you can see it really isn’t very exciting or glamorous, all this back-room work, but to us it’s all worth it as the frustrations and heartaches suddenly vanish when our sparkling new creation is wheeled out to the start line ready for its first race.”

Sandown ANF3 race 1974, Shell Corner: Paul King and Dean Hosking in Birrana 374 Toyotas ahead of the Brian Sampson and Brian Shead Cheetah Mk5 Toyotas (Auto Action Archive)

Credits…

Tony Alcock in his Auto Action column, May 17, 1974. Thanks to Bruce Williams, Auto Action publisher/owner, Geoff Selton

Finito…

(oldracephotos.com)

Barry Cassidy’s Ford Falcon XR GT ahead of Bill Brown’s Ferrari 350 Can-Am, Newry Corner, Longford 1968…

Series Production or showroom stock racing was hugely popular in Australia during a golden period to the end of 1972 when the Supercar Scare forced the rule-makers to change tack – a story in itself! Actually there is about it in the middle of this Holden Torana XU-1 V8 epic here; Holden Torana GTR XU1 V8… | primotipo…

Here, local lad and long time racer Cassidy is practicing for his event during the Tasman weekend in his brand new, straight off the showroom floor, 289cid V8 powered Australian pony-car. It was the first in an amazing series of road legal and oh-so-fast Fords built from the late sixties to the late seventies. Most of them won the Bathurst 500/1000 classic including the XR GT which triumphed at Mount Panorama in the hands of Harry Firth and Fred Gibson in 1967.

Cassidy showing delicacy of touch exiting Mountford, Longford 1968 (oldracephotos.com)

Cassidy had a top speed of 120mph or thereabouts, Brown about 170, and is about to swallow him on the uphill run to the right, then to the left onto the Flying Mile. He recalls that Brown was “probably not too impressed about being passed under brakes by the XR GT and signalled his thoughts about it as he blasted past on the Flying Mile!”

Cassidy raced the car for a bit, and was later at the vanguard of ‘Formula’ HQ Racing, a series for lightly modified Holden HQ Kingswood/Belmont of the early seventies, a hugely popular cost effective way to get into, and stay in motor racing. He is still racing too.

Cassidy chasing Graham Parsons’ Cortina GT and Darryl Wilcox’ Humpy Holden through Newry Corner. Barry was off a low grid position after being pinged by scrutineers for having a spare tyre not of identical section width as the four on the car! (HRCCT)

Credits…

oldracephotos.com, Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania

Finito…

(B King Collection)

John Williams, DFP takes the chequered flag for The Sun, from HW Miller’s similar car for The Herald, in a five lap battle of the Melbourne Motor Editors at Aspendale on June 9, 1924

Fragments on a forgotten make

Mssr. Dorian, Flandrin and the Parant brothers made light cars of no great distinction in Courbevoie (Seine) between 1906 and 1926. Chronically underfunded, they relied on proprietary engines. They are best remembered by the reflected glory from their London agent W. O. Bentley’s use of aluminium pistons in DFP’s which led him to success at Brooklands. WO claimed that the idea to use aluminium pistons came to him in 1913 during a visit to their Parisienne factory. He said they allowed him to obtain ‘much more’ power from the engine – the main advantage being greater thermal efficiency, rather than weight saving. In regard to novelty, it should be noted that Aquila Italiana had been using aluminium pistons from 1906 under the guidance of their talented designer Giulio Cesare Cappa.

‘WO’ in a very smart looking DFP (B King Collection)

Rendering of a similar DFP to WO’s (T Johns Collection)

Whether through ‘reflected glory’, improved performance or clever marketing, the DFP was not an uncommon entrant in post-WWI motor sport in Australia. It seems that the sporting motorist had a love affair with French cars, possibly engendered by their panache. This was distinctly lacking from the majority of Italian and English light cars of the period. It should also be remembered that cars from ‘former enemy’ countries were forbidden to take part in motorsport in the early post-war years– at least in Victoria.

My motoring archive has several splendid photos of DFP’s in action and Mark Bisset felt I should share them with you on primotipo.com

The first race at Aspendale on ANA day, 1906 (J Crooke Collection)

Aspendale

Situated in a sandy bayside suburb of Melbourne, Aspendale Motor Racing Club had a history dating back to the dawn of motoring. James Robert Crooke had a horse racing track built on his father’s land in 1889. The name of the venue played tribute to his champion horse ‘Aspen’, which had won the Newmarket Cup in 1880 and 1881.

Entrepreneurial Crooke had won Australia’s first motor race at Sandown Park in 1904 driving his steam powered Locomobile. By January 1906 they were motor-racing at Aspendale Park on what he claimed to be the world’s first purpose built racing track. After only a few events the track went into hibernation until a new banked concrete/bitumen track was built in 1923. The first event was held on this surface on 1 March 1924.

(J Crooke Collection)

The promoter’s club badge

(J Crooke Collection)

The ACV’s invitation to attend – love the formality of the day, and program, or programme, more correctly!

(J Crooke Collection)
(J Crooke Collection)

The track layout.

John Williams and the DFP at Aspendale

John was a jovial beret-wearing, Gauloise smoking motoring journalist who had a preference for French cars. He was the second owner of a Brescia Bugatti in 1929 and was still driving a Ballot 2LT in post-war years. As Motoring Editor for the Sun News Pictorial and later the Argus, his knowledge of cars was encyclopaedic. He came into our realm through friendship with Lou Molina and attendance at Lou’s Brighton Central Hotel in the 1970s.

John took part in an unusual event at Aspendale on 9 June 1924 – a match-race between the Motor Editors of the Sun and the Herald. Fortunately, photographs survive of this encounter, showing that the drivers were accompanied by their wives. John annotated the back of one photograph, stating that this was the first time that women had travelled as mecaniciennes in a motor race in Australia. John’s wife Pegg is quoted as saying “What a damned row 24,000 people can make!”

(Bob King Collection)

The start of the motoring journalist match-race.

(Bob King Collection)

John and Pegg Williams ensconced in the DFP. Winners are grinners, the rest can make their own arrangements.

Sporting Cars, DFP and Miss Marie Jenkins

If clever marketing contributed to the DFP’s popularity here in Victoria, the responsible party is likely to have been Sporting Cars, the future agents for Bugatti, who used the attractive Marie Jenkins to promote their brand (Sex sells).

Sporting Cars claimed that the DFP had ‘a remarkable reputation for speed, coupled with reliability and hard wear’ – these characteristics being exemplified by the crest and motto on the radiator badge – a greyhound ‘Courant’ under the words ‘Fidele at Vete’.  Marie was often seen in the company of Sporting Cars directors; their relationship has not been established.

(B King Collection)

Marie Jenkins was used to promote the make in this Sporting Cars pamphlet, the rest of it, providing detailed specifications is at the end of this article.

Dudley Barnett, Chenard Walcker, Marie Jenkins DFP and Arthur Terdich Bentley 3-litre, with Maude. 1924 Davies Bay, Victoria (B King Collection)

Marie in her little DFP is dwarfed by Sporting Cars director Dudley Barnett’s Chenard Walcker (left) and Arthur Terdich’s 3-litre Bentley

(G Jarrett)

Marie goes camping, the only thing missing appears to be the kitchen sink! Poor liddl’ darlin’ would have struggled carrying that lot.

(Fairfax)

Here she is, looking rather marvellous, at Sydney’s Maroubra banked, concrete Saucer of Speed in her victorious Brescia Bugatti in 1925.

(B King Collection)

1928 Australian Grand Prix

Two DFPs took part in the 100-Mile Road Race, aka the 1928 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.

Ab. Terdich was the brother of Arthur whose Bugatti faltered while he was leading the race; he won in 1929. Ab’s DFP retired with engine trouble. The other car shown, driven by Les Pound, had better luck, completing the distance in a little under 2½ hours at an average speed of 41.6 mph, he was thirteenth and last. Les became a well-known name in post-war years as proprietor of Volkswagen dealers, Pound Motors. The Pound DFP is nearing the end of a long restoration.

(B King Collection)

Les Pound made slow progress in the 1928 AGP, but had the satisfaction of completing the distance.

DFP random

Nigel Tait of Repco and ACL fame had an ancestor with a DFP that managed to have an accident in Bourke St, Melbourne in 1915. That must have been hard to achieve – perhaps an errant horse?

(N Tait Collection)
(N Tait Collection)

This Tait family photograph shows the same car (above) which was driven by George McCarey below.

(B King Collection)

I suspect the photo of car with registered number 27277 is being driven by George McCarey in the 1921 RACV 1000-mile Reliability Trial. This was an earlier 2-litre car of the type raced by WO Bentley, rather than the more popular 1.1-litre car which was introduced in 1922.

(T Johns Collection)

Les Pound completes the hill climb at Wheelers Hill with the same DFP he raced in the AGP at Phillip Island in 1928.

(B King Collection)

Doug Benson’s DFP on a bridge over the Kiewa River.

DFP Technical Specifications…

(B King)
(B King)
(B King)
(B King)
(B King)

Credits…

Bob King, John Crooke, Tony Johns and Nigel Tait Collections, Fairfax, Graeme Jarrett

Finito…

(C Moran Collection)

Yes, ok, I probably am a tad obsessed with Bluebird and Donald Campbell, and his very large support team’s world land speed, 403.10mph record run at Lake Eyre, South Australia on July 17, 1964.

The problem is that every now and again one of my countrymen pop up another batch of photos on social media, in this case Colin ‘Sporty’ Moran’s collection. What makes the photographs a bit different are the wheels-off suspension stuff – which are pretty rare.

Donald Campbell in the centre, any takers for the other pair? (C Moran)

I rather like rock-star F1 designer Adrian Newey’s perspective on Bluebird’s place in the ‘racing car’ pantheon published in Racecar Engineering in 2012:

“I think in terms of one of the biggest advances made, although it was not strictly speaking a racing car, was Bluebird. Arguably for its time it was the most advanced vehicle.” The Bluebird Proteus CN7 was the Ken and Lewis Norris designed car that Donald Campbell used to set a record of 403.1mph in July, 1964, the last outright land speed record car that was wheel driven.

It was a revolutionary car that featured an advanced aluminium honeycomb chassis, featured fully independent suspension and four-wheel drive. It also had a head-up display for Campbell. “It was the first car to properly recognise, and use, ground effects. The installation of the jet turbines is a nightmare, and it was constructed using a monocoque working with a lot of lightweight structures. It was built in a way that you build an aircraft, but at the time motor racing teams weren’t doing that.”

The car featured a Bristol-Siddeley Proteus 705 gas turbine engine which developed over 4,000bhp. It was a two-spool, reverse flow gas turbine engine specially modified to have a drive shaft at each end of the engine, to separate fixed ratio (David Brown made) gearboxes on each axle. It was designed to do 500mph, but surface conditions, brought about by adverse weather in 1963 and 1964, meant that its fastest recorded time was nearly 100mph short of its hypothetical capability.

(C Moran)

Look at the size of those uprights! Suspension by way of upper and lower wishbones front and rear and oleo-pneumatic struts, huge (420mm) Girling disc brakes are inboard and out of sight. Those mega Dunlop split-rim disc wheels are 52 inches (130cm) in diameter to give you a sense of size perspective.

Love the high-tech axle stands, lovely sense of backyard mechanic about them little jiggers!

(C Moran)

Another rare reveal.

The man re-loading the braking parachute (wonder what speed Campbell could pop that?) is Ken Reakes. That gorgeous, high stabilising fin was added after Campbell’s massive 360mph Daytona shunt in September 1960. He fractured his lower skull, suffered a contusion of the brain, broke an ear drum, had cuts and abrasions and most critically, his confidence was shattered big-time. The car was rebuilt by 1962, as was his mental health, a process aided by gaining his pilot’s licence.

We get a nice glimpse of the Motor Panels, Coventry, chassis honeycomb inside that inspection/access panel, note also the exhaust ducts for the Proteus gas-turbine engine. Motor Panels was a subsidiary of Sir Alfred Owen’s Rubery Owen Holdings Group, which also included the BRM F1 manufacturing facility and team.

It could only be…(C Moran)

That is a timing beam, and a blue line, so we are lined up for a practice run.

Etcetera…

(C Moran)

The utter desolation of ‘Camp Campbell’ on the vast Lake Eyre salt, 700km north of Adelaide – a most inhospitable and inaccessible place, to say the least.

(C Moran)

Likely lads at Muloorina Station, a 4000 square km sheep and cattle farm on the edge of Lake Eyre; two chaps, Colin Moran and Ken Wain, these lads are/were from the Maffra/Sale area in Gippsland, Victoria.

Campbell’s entourage of about 500 technical, support and media people were accommodated there in 1963 and 1964.

Credits…

Colin Moran

Tailpiece…

(C Moran)

Only 4064kg to push around, too easy. The nose erection is the cockpit canopy, which of course pivots to the rear.

Finito…

(B King Collection)

George Martin’s BMW 328 enters The Dipper during the 1938 Australian Grand Prix on Mount Panorama.

The Melbourne based Australian representative of the Cunard White Star Line (passenger liner) was fifteenth in the handicap race won by fellow Brit, Peter Whitehead’s ERA R10B.

Martin and his wife had settled comfortably into Australian life, he was the President of the Light Car Club of Australia and had competed in the car for only a short while. It was bought for him by racer/scion of Snow Department Stores, John Snow on one of his annual purchasing trips to Europe of stock for the family stores, and top-end racing cars for his mates/clients in 1937.

On his way back to Melbourne from Bathurst, Martin crashed the 328 fatally outside Wagga Wagga, the car was repaired and sold.

George and Mrs Martin, car unknown (B King Collection)
George Martin, AGP, Bathurst 1938 (B King Collection)

After passing through several sets of hands, 328 chassis # 85136 was bought by Geelong, Victoria motorcycle dealer/racer Frank Pratt in 1947.

Pratt had the car prepared for him by AGP winner, Les Murphy. Despite it being his first motor race, Pratt – with vast experience on bikes – won the 1948 AGP at Point Cook, an airfield track used just once.

Held on a fearfully hot Melbourne summer day, Pratt triumphed over many more fancied entries due to the retirement or non-classification of sixteen cars. The mortality race was high with many car’s cooling systems unable to cope. Pratt was also assisted by the favourable handicap afforded a novice…Alf Najar’s MG TB Spl was second and Dick Bland’s George Reed Ford V8 Spl third.

Frank Pratt’s recently acquired BMW on the way to 1948 AGP victory on the RAAF Point Cook airbase in Melbourne’s outer west (VSCC Vic Collection)
Frank Pratt having a celebratory fag after his ‘48 AGP win, with Les Murphy – who missed out on the drive, or co-drive – at right (VSCC Vic Collection)

Next owner, Peter McKenna raced the car throughout Victoria in 1949, at Ballarat in 1951, practiced but did not start the ’52 AGP at Bathurst, Port Wakefield’s opening meeting in 1953 and at Albert Park’s first AGP later that year where the machine retired after 11 laps. Entered for the ’54 AGP at Southport on the Gold Coast hinterland, McKenna rolled the car while leading a preliminary so didn’t start the feature.

The well-used immensely significant BMW was sold by McKenna to the sympathetic hands of Melbourne enthusiast Graeme Quinn who restored it in the mid-seventies. Since then # 85136 has been a global investment commodity, pinging its way around the globe, returning to Australia once or twice. Pat Burke owned it at the time of the collapse of his empire, it’s now thought to be in Japan.

Peter McKenna and passenger in # 85136, now re-registered, at Fishermans Bend circa 1951, beautiful lines of the machine shown to good effect (VSCC Vic Collection)
(drawingdatabase.com)

The BMW328 was a celebrated design built from 1936-1941.

With a light alloy frame, aluminium body, and peppy 1971cc, six-cylinder, two valve, triple carb 79bhp engine, the 1825 pound sportscar was a high performer of its day.

Via war reparations settlements, the BMW designed Bristol built engines provided post-war power for a host of great sports-racing cars and single seaters, not least the Cooper Bristols which launched the GP careers of Mike Hawthorn and Jack Brabham.

Etcetera…

(I McCartney via D Zeunert)

David Zeunert had this wonderful chance find of Frank Pratt on his way to 1948 Point Cook victory, at Camberwell Market a couple of years ago. The 10X12 shot is beautifully mounted, Irvine McCartney is not one of the usual race ‘snappers of the day, operating from Chapel Street, South Yarra.

Credits…

Bob King and VSCC Victoria Collections, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Irvine McCartney/David Zeunert Collection

Tailpiece…

(B King Collection)

During the Peter McKenna era at Rob Roy hillclimb in Melbourne’s outer east Christmas Hills.

Finito…

Murray Aunger in King William Street, Adelaide and his team aboard three Dort cars prior to departing for Darwin in July 1922…

Members of that Adelaide to Darwin and return trip were, left to right, Aunger with Donald McCallum, the organiser and local member of parliament, the Hon Thomas McCallum and WH Crowder of the SA Lands Department, and Cyril Aunger with Captain Samuel A White a prominent ornithologist

This article is about the exploits of Horace Hooper ‘Murray’ Aunger (April 1878-1953), sportsman, overlander, adventurer, businessman and motor engineer – born at Narridy, near Clare, South Australia.

Educated in Adelaide he was later apprenticed in the Kilkenny workshops of G. E. Fulton & Co., consulting engineers. He later joined the cycle works established by Vivian Lewis, collaborating with Tom O’Grady in the construction of the first petrol-driven car in South Australia. I wrote tangentially about Lewis and his machines a while back, click here to read the story; https://primotipo.com/2017/10/19/first-car-demonstration-or-parade-in-australia-adelaide-oval-18-october-1902/

A sportsman of note, riding Lewis bikes, Aunger was the colony’s one-mile (1.6 km) champion in 1899 and in 1901 held the Australian 50 Mile record.

As co-driver and mechanic, Aunger made two attempts with Henry Hampden ‘Harry’ Dutton to be the first to cross Australia from south to north by car.

Then there were only 500 cars registered in South Australia. Motorists facing ‘a hostile society of luddites, horse loving reactionaries, regressive law makers and over-zealous police’ wrote Dr Kieren Tranter. Dutton was then the wealthy 28 year old heir to a significant pastoral fortune, the family owned Anlaby Station outside Kapunda. Aunger was the brain and muscle behind crossing attempts which Harry later attributed to in their entirety to Aunger’s ability.

The pair left Adelaide in Dutton’s Talbot on November 25, 1907. ‘Angelina’ was powered by a 3770cc water cooled, monobloc four-cylinder engine rated at 20hp and was fitted with a four-speed gearbox.

‘Darwin lay almost 2100 miles (3380 km) away. ‘Obstacles confronted them on long sections of the route: rivers, treacherous sandhills and boulder-strewn country had to be traversed which no modern motorist would tackle without the advantage of four-wheel drive. Beyond Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, the partners met the pioneering cyclist FE Birtles. The pinion in the Talbot’s differential collapsed south of Tennant Creek, where the car was abandoned given the wet season’s onset. Dutton and Aunger returned on horseback to the railhead at Oodnadatta, South Australia, and then back to Adelaide’.

Aunger, Dutton and Dick the dog aboard Talbot ‘474’ at Burra on the second, 1908 trip (NM)

Determined to try again when the rains ended, Dutton bought another Talbot. This car, nicknamed ‘474’ after its registration number, was more powerful and had a lower axle ratio than ‘Angelina’ as a result of lessons learned the year before. Again with Aunger leading the charge, the pair left Adelaide on June 30, 1908. At Alice Springs, local special magistrate and postmaster Ern Allchurch joined the team. Ern’s ability to transmit messages along the telegraph line enabled them to keep in touch with, and confirm their position to the outside world.

Tennant Creek was reached in thirty days; the stranded ‘Angelina’ was repaired and driven in convoy to Pine Creek before being freighted by train to Darwin. Continuing their journey by car, the trailblazers reached their destination on August 20. International motoring circles recognised both expedition’s demonstrations of skill and endurance – it was one of the greatest pioneering motoring feats in Australia, the pair averaged over 50 miles a day over 42 days at the wheel. Talbot ‘474’ is preserved in the Birdwood Museum, in the Adelaide hills.

As I have written in previous articles about Australia’s pioneering motor sport days, speed-record attempts between Australia’s capital cities received wide publicity and the record breakers were our earliest motor-sporting stars.

Murray Aunger and Robert Barr Smith, Adelaide en route to Melbourne in February 1909, Napier (SLSA)

In 1909 Murray accompanied Robert Barr Smith in his Napier to set a new time for the Adelaide-Melbourne journey, the pair held the record for only a few weeks.

Aunger regained it in February 1914, driving a Prince Henry Vauxhall imported expressly for the purpose. He left Lewis Cycle Works in 1909 to establish Murray Aunger Ltd which held Willys-Overland, Vauxhall, Morris and Dort franchises.

Together with F. Bearsley – achieving speeds of over 80 miles per hour (129 km/h) on the pipeclay of the Coorong – their time was 14 hours 54 minutes. They improved the previous record time of GG White and Fred Custance set in a 35hp Talbot, 20 hours six minutes, which had stood for over five years by five hours 12 minutes.

At a time the only route to Melbourne included 90 miles of the dreaded Coorong in south-east SA, and then on to the border and into Victoria via Casterton, Hamilton and Geelong – about 100 miles further than the trip now. The 80 miles of the Coorong desert sand were negotiated in under two hours, the cars fastest speed of 80 mph was achieved on a 10 mile stretch of dried up Coorong lagoon.

They also broke the Adelaide-Broken Hill record in the same car.

Murray Aunger and, perhaps F Bearsley, testing their Vauxhall Prince Henry in 1913/14 (SLSA)

Better management of the South Australian Railways (SAR) and the need for a railway line from Adelaide to Darwin was a thread which ran through the next phase of Aunger’s life.

By 1920 the railway system was crippled by mismanagement and failure to invest. To that end, newly elected Premier, Sir Henry Barwell, appointed American William Webb to run the SAR. By 1926 the state had the most powerful locos in the country, the grand Adelaide Railway Station was Webb’s monument.

In 1922 Aunger joined another expedition – the one featured at the outset of this article – of three cars which travelled from Adelaide to Darwin and back. The group included his brother Cyril, Samuel White, H Crowder and a local parliamentarian, the Hon Thomas McCallum and his brother Donald McCallum. They explored settlement possibilities, inclusive of a railway along their route.

Samuel White in a ‘The Register’ article wrote that there was much public wrangling about the route of the north-south rail line. The plan was to drive the proposed course from Adelaide to Darwin, and then return to Adelaide via Queensland to see for themselves the nature of the terrain, its obstacles and opportunities.

Aunger, ‘the greatest overland motorist in Australia’ was engaged by the group to organise the trip. This included shipping fuel, provisions and spares sent months ahead to Oodnadatta and then 700-800 miles further north by camel train. Teams were also sent from the Darwin end as well, to be prepared for what was a large group of intrepid, influential travellers.

Aunger selected and prepared three American Dorts, machines built by the Dort Motor Car Company of Flint, Michigan. These hardy, Lycoming four-cylinder, 30 horsepower vehicles were stripped of top protective equipment and doors to make them a lighter and more suited to the demands of the Australian bush.

The three Dorts en-route to Darwin in 1922 (SLSA)

Murray was again called upon to assist in providing cars and logistics to the government in assessing possible rail routes, organising a trip in June 1923 from Adelaide to the wilds of Oodnadatta, Alice Springs and Central Australia, again using three Dorts.

The expedition was three weeks, the all-star cast included the State Governor, Sir Tom Bridges, Premier Sir Henry Barwell, William Webb, Chief Commissioner of the South Australian Railways, Thomas McCallum, who organised this trip, the earlier one in 1922 and two others. This time the Dorts were further modified with removable grips for the tyres. The party travelled by train from Adelaide to Oodnadatta, picking up the Dorts at Terowie, between Burra and Peterborough.

After returning, both the Governor and Premier called on the Commonwealth Government to extend the railway, the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs was completed in 1929.

Later in 1923 the SAR sought cars suitable for running on rails. By November, Aunger had modified one Dort, eventually ten were in service, but they (or perhaps their drivers) were accident prone with some fatalities from collisions and roll-overs.

The first of these accidents occurred on the Clare line in December 1923 when a Dort collided with a gangers trike – fortunately the employees aboard the trike were able to jump clear. The driver of the Dort was Webb – his passenger the State Premier, Barwell. The nature of their business was Sir Henry’s attendance at a bowls tournament with Webb the taxi-driver!

Murray Aunger and the SA State Governor, Sir Tom Bridges aboard a Dort at Oodnadatta out front of the Pub (SLSA)

In 1925 Webb persuaded Aunger to become the motor engineer of the SAR, on a salary of £1000. There had been a large increase in the use of motors in the railways and Webb had commenced bus services to various parts of the State. A number of politicians believed Aunger had received favoured treatment from Webb. Webb was the subject of ongoing bitter political attacks for the American’s revolutionary changes to improve systems, processes and viability of the SAR. Aunger twice visited Britain and the USA in the course of his SAR duties.

In 1930 Webb returned to America. For several years attempts (after the Hill Labor Government lost power in 1927 and Butler Liberal Administration in 1930, in part over ongoing railway deficits and their impact on the State budget) were made in South Australian political circles to wreak petty revenge upon Aunger, despite his important part in rehabilitating the State’s railway system. He was dismissed in June 1937 for contravening Section 37 of the South Australian Railways Commissioner’s Act.

On June 6, 1942 he re-married, his first wife having died some years before, they moved to Melbourne. Aunger died on September 14, 1953 at Mordialloc, aged 75.

Whilst there is plenty of material on Aunger’s life in South Australia there is little I can find about his time in Victoria. If any of can fill in the gaps it would be great to hear from you – the fellow certainly had an amazing life of sporting, commercial and pioneering success!

Bibliography…

‘The Register’ 22 August 1922, ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’- article on Aunger by John Playford, ‘Lassetters Gold’ Warren Brown, Trove- various

Photo Credits…

State Library of South Australia, National Motor Museum

Tailpiece…

Dunlop ad celebrating the Aunger/Bearsley Vauxhall Prince Henry Melbourne-Adelaide record breaking run in 1914.

Finito…