(R Schlegelmilch)

The Simon de Lautour/Gerard Bleynie/Roland Ennequin Porsche 934 during practice at Le Mans in June 1978…

It’s such a wonderful image evocative of a fun weekend in rural France. The sad part is that the pilots had trouble in practice, so they did insufficient laps to register a time, they didn’t qualify.

The Group 4 class was won by the Porsche 911 RSR driven by Verney/Lapeyre/Servanin, while the outright winner was the Alpine Renault A442B of Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud. The 2-litre turbo-charged V6 prototype prevailed over the 2.1-litre flat-six turbo-charged Porsche 936/78 of Bob Wollek, Jurgen Barth and Jacky Ickx by five laps in an historic win for the French team.

(unattributed)

Photo Credit…

Rainer Schlegelmilch

Finito…

(Blackwood Times)

Osborne Scott ‘Ossie’ Cranston (1899 or 1903 – July 1, 1982) -was one of Western Australia’s aces at a time Perth was a long way from the eastern seaboard (sic).

To race his Ford V8 Special in the December 26, 1936 South Australian Centenary Grand Prix (aka the 1936 Australian Grand Prix) at Victor Harbor required shipping his car on the interstate passenger liner, the Manoora, on the Tuesday before the race, from Fremantle to Port Adelaide. A trip to Melbourne is a lot further and Sydney even more. So race-fans in the more populous states of the nascent country of Australia didn’t see many of the faster West Australian cars, despite their thriving motoring scene.

Cranston and passenger en-route to victory, Ford V8 in the 10 Mile race at Lake Perkolilli in 1936. Standard wheelbase, chassis and hubcaps! clear. Wearing his dealer hat, Cranston’s modifications trod a sensible path between performance and familial connection to Ford’s standard offerings on his dealership forecourt. It’s attractive, the fin and stylised V8 logo are neat touches which take the eye off that long wheelbase. Fast car indeed (Kalgoorlie Miner)
Osborne Scott Cranston in his mid-thirties, as the Sunday Times artist saw him in 1937

In that sense, Cranston’s Victor Harbor (correct spelling) achievement was a great one the more fancied Bugatti T37A’s, MG K3s, Frank Kleinig’s Kirby Deering Special and Hudson Special (he raced the latter) and Jack Phillips’ Ford V8 Special. Not that Cranston won the race.

Australian Grands Prix, until the dawn of the 1950s, were handicap events given the shortage of racing cars spread across a huge space – Australia is a big joint, have a look at a map one day – and the vast disparity in performance between those cars. Cranston did the fastest elapsed time but finished sixth on handicap. Les Murphy won the 250 mile race in an MG P-Type. See here for a long epic on this race around a rectangular 7 4/5 mile, sandy-gravel course, between Victor Harbor and Port Elliot. ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ 26 December 1936 aka 1937 Australian Grand Prix…… | primotipo…

Cranston, Ford V8 Spl, Lake Perkolilli date unknown (unattributed via Graeme Cocks)
Arthur Colliver, Chrysler 70 ‘Silverwings’, Bugatti T37 driven by the Perth importer, Cyril Poole (or AN Other) , Cranston in Ford T Heza-Henry and Jack Smith, Buick Spl, Lake Perkolilli 1927 (SLWA))

Cranston’s car started life as a 1935 model (1933 in some references) Ford V8 utility. It was then modified with a light racing body – the long tapered body with fin atop was fitted in 1935 – magneto ignition, competition exhaust manifold, flattened road springs and two Winfield carburettors in place of the single standard item. “Otherwise”, the ‘papers of the day reported, “the car is identical with the Ford V8s sold by Lynas Motors Ltd”, the Hay Street, Perth, Ford dealership of which Cranston was a partner/shareholder with V Lynas and J Victor Pascoe. Later fitted the with a ’36-model radiator, it was then erroneously, and continuously called a ‘1936 car’.

I won’t repeat the successes of the car at Lake Perkolilli and other Western Australia venues already outlined in the opening image.

Cranston grew up in the comfortable surroundings of Swanbourne Beach. He began his working career as an apprentice mechanic with Grave and Dyer, mainly initially working on Standard, and Imperial cars. The business was Perth’s first Ford Dealer. Over 15 years he rose through the ranks to become Works Manager, from there, Cranston was recruited by Ford as Works Superintendent of their assembly plant at North Fremantle. Later, he and his partners, former colleagues from Grave and Dyer, formed Lynas Motors Ltd.

Cranston with 3.5hp Triumph circa 1920 (Sunday Times)

In 1917 (or 1919) Ossie took up motorcycle racing, he won his first competitive race, the three-mile Charity Handicap at the WACA, riding a Triumph, “in a brilliant performance for a novice.” He raced mainly at on the grass tracks at Claremont Showground, Loton Park and on the road. He rode Indians and Triumphs for the Armstrong Cycle and Motor Agency, six track/road championships followed. One “was recognised by Triumph in England with a gold medal and a particularly eulogistic letter of appreciation”, the Sunday Times wrote.

A large crash at Claremont in 1922 encouraged the shift to four-wheels. Still at Grave and Dwyer, he initially drove a Ford Model T in hillclimbs, setting many fastest times in a car affectionately nicknamed ‘Heza Henry’. Hez had a hand-formed, torpedo-shaped rear which incorporated ‘guards for the road which were removed for competition work. It did 68mpg on the Perkolilli claypan in 1927.

With the introduction of the Model A, Ossie built up ‘Cactus’. It had a less refined vinyl boat-tail body than Heza, from the dashboard back, two bucket seats and a fairing in front of the driver. Various engines were fitted along the way but the body was a constant.

Cranston in the Ford T-Spl Heza-Henry and JC Smith, Buick Spl, Lake Perkolilli 1927 (SLWA)
Ford A-Spl cactus at Perkolilli, year unknown. Intrigued to know which of the Perth artisans built the various Cranston bodies (G Cocks Collection)

Well suited to hillclimbing but not so much Perkolilli’s long curves, he still finished third behind the Armstrong driven Auburn and Colliver Chrysler in the RACWA State 20 Mile Championship in 1929. He won the 10 Mile handicap that day too, claiming the car was capable of 100mph. He went one better in 1930 taking 10 Mile Lake Perkolilli State Championship.

The 3.3-litre, four cylinder, side-valve – for a while supercharged – engine had a range of modifications to the cylinder head, carburetors, intake and exhaust systems and a taller top (third) gear fitted to Ford’s coupe.

Further success ensued throughout 1931-32 at Whittakers Hill, North Dandalup, Lake Pinjar, Bunbury beach, and Whittakers and Greenmount Hills. By late 1931 Cactus maxxed out at 89 mph to win the flying quarter-mile event at Wattle Grove.

In 1932 the Brooklands Speedway opened (on the West Subiaco aerodrome site), where Perry Lakes and the Uni WA sportsgrounds are today. Brooklyn had only a short commercial life, but Cranston, belted pretty hard by the handicappers, set a four-lap record for the one-mile, limestone track in 4 mins 38 secs in 1932, not too long before Cactus was retired.

Perth’s finest with their Bentley Speed Six’ (chassis LR2783 and LR2785) during their long period, 1930-1947, of service. Coachwork by Bryan’s Motor Body Works, 522A Hay Street, Perth, close to Lynas Motors. Cars extant, ‘Bentley Patrol’ is a whole story in itself! (WA Govt)
(The Daily News, September 21, 1933)

One of the more bizarre days of Cranston’s long life was a police invitation for he and Cactus to join a posse of cars to help catch some baddies in September 1933. Said crooks were committing smash and grab robberies in the country, then escaping in a stolen, fast, ‘high powered car’.

The police generals figured they needed more pursuit cars capable of over 80mph, than their two 6.5-litre Bentley Speed Sixes. Yes folks, the WA police were the only wallopers on the planet to have these expensive blue-bloods as patrol cars. The plan was to create a cordon around Perth to chase down and catch the dirty-rats. So, some racers were recruited as Deputy Sherriffs including OS Cranston.

While Cactus wasn’t involved in a high speed chase, the four-perps (police talk I believe) ran off the road alongside where Cactus was parked, near the gate of the national park at Greenmount (23km east of Perth). They were arrested, a cache of stolen goods was found close by.

In another bizarre, only-in-Australia moment, the handcuffed crooks were kept warm beside a fire lit by the coppers while Cranston high-tailed it back to Perth in Cactus. The Bentleys had radios, no other WA police cars did, Ossie’s mission was to give the good news to senior police and organise a patrol car to take the shaken, but warm robbers back to the city lock-up…

Sunday Times, June 30, 1935

By 1934 Cranston was quite the man about town too. In addition to his Lynas responsibilities he was also a director of Rural Motors Ltd, Bunbury Motor Estates Ltd and General Investment Co Ltd, which provided consumer finance for Fords. He was also the director of several other companies outside the motor trade.

Wearing his Lynas Motors hat Ossie travelled to ‘The Orient’ (is that term a no-no these days, one never hears it used?) in mid-1934. “Wherever you go you’ll see a Ford,” he quipped to the Perth Mirror on his return.

Cranston was amazed by the number of baby Fords in Singapore and amused that the first news he received in Ceylon was about the success of a small Ford in a local hillclimb. In Java he observed that cars were ancient, “the post Depression prices of sugar and rubber are low.”

Things were better in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Siam made the railways pay, “with no roads between the principal centres people are forced to use the trains!”

Asked about the new Datson (sic, the machine would have been the Datsun – Nissan – Type 13) car, “a new light job similar to the 7hp units with which we are all familiar, being built in Japan.” Cranston said “I didn’t see one on the trip. Agents have been appointed in various centres of the orient, but it’s unlikely any are expected in Australia.” Not for three decades or so, in any event!

The Daily News, November 19, 1935

That year he returned to racing with the Ford V8, setting a new Australian record at Perkolilli over 10 miles (16 kilometres) at an average speed of 97.61mph (157 km/h). That year he also set a new State record of 111.1mph (178.8km/h) over a flying quarter-mile on Nicholson Road, Cannington, beating the record set in the Model A.

After success in the South Australian Centenary Grand Prix, held at Victor Cranston the Motorist and Wheelman that he was retiring from racing because he was “too old”.

Ford recognised his contribution to the sport, and polishing the marque’s brand via his racing exploits over a long period with the presentation of a ‘gold wristlet’ at a function of dealers in Perth in April 1937.

His final motor racing event – just before the lights-went-out in WW2 – was the Patriotic Grand Prix, held on the Applecross streets, Perth, in November 1940.

Following Cranston’s decision to retire, he sold the Ford V8 racer to Bathurst Ford dealer and 1920-30s intercity record breaker Norman Aubin. John Medley wrote that Aubin prepared the cream and green car for 27-year-old local driver, George Reed to race in the 1938 AGP held at Bathurst.

Reed’s race was brief as the big car spat its fan through the radiator early on. It would be interesting to know what the young driver thought of Cranston’s car. He was to build some very fine Ford V8 Specials of his own, including the George Reed Special Warwick Pratley raced to AGP victory around-the-houses at Narrogin, Western Australia in 1951.

The ’38 AGP was won by British international Peter Whitehead’s ERA B-Type. After that Easter meeting, Aubin sold it to a Sydney buyer, who repainted it red, but it never raced again.

Another report has it that the car was sold to an eastern states competitor who was killed in it at Bathurst. The engine was fitted to a speedboat and the chassis stored for a bit before being destroyed. Does anybody know the facts?

In 1983 Clem Dwyer started the build of a replica which remains a welcome competitor in historic events.

Cranston and passenger (who?) in the Ford V8 ahead of a Lagonda at Albany in 1937. This downhill stretch would have been a serious test of the brakes of the day (K Devine)
Ossie’s Ode to the Backmarkers. Perhaps Max Verstappen could try that approach in next March’ Albert Park programme (Albany GP programme)

Cranston hadn’t lost his passion for motorsport though. He had built ‘Miss Frances’, a Ford V8 powered speedboat which generally “spreadeagled rivals in much the same fashion as he had been doing for years on the terrain.”

“When not tied up with one or other of the multitudinous business matters which occupy his attention, Mt Cranston golfs, his one vice.” There was another though, with the encouragement of his wife he commenced horse riding at about 40. So keen and proficient was the Mosman Park resident, that he became Master of The Hounds for the West Australian Hunt Club.

Ossie remained involved and close to motorsport. An Ossie Cranston Trophy was contested in West Australian Sporting Car Club events for years, Cranston was a stalwart of the club, formed on November 17, 1929. Together with Eric Armstrong, CS Dyer and Claude McKinley he kept the very successful organisation together in some of its more difficult years.

Cranston was ‘the official driver’ at Caversham (first used on March 13, 1948) and into the 1970s at Wanneroo Park. He died on July 1, 1982 – born in either 1899 or 1903 – his remains are at the Karrakatta Cemetery in Perth.

PS; Most of this piece was written via extractions from period newspapers. Of their nature they are light-on with the specifications of the cars. If any of you can assist in that regard, or in fleshing out Ossie’s story, do get in touch.

Oopsie, a bit of PE from the front of the Gas Producers Stock Car grid before the start of the 4-lap 10-miler. Patriotic GP meeting, Applecross, on a hot November 11, 1940. Car ID’s folks? (K Devine)

Etcetera…

It’s a Gas

Pretty much the final motor race of any size in Australia before motorsport was set aside for the duration of World War 2 was the Patriotic GP, attended by a “huge crowd” at Applecross on November 11, 1940.

In his return to racing, Cranston ran a ’38 Ford in the novel, Producer Gas Race for stock, or standard cars. Ossie finished second in this handicap behind WJ Stitt’s De Soto straight-eight.

Interesting, perhaps – in the context of fuels of quite dissimilar quality, and the use of gas to power cars during the conflict – is the difference in performance between Ron Possetts’s petrol fuelled ’39 Ford V8, which won the stock (standard) car race and Ossie’s machine. Possett’s (rated a very good driver) best lap was 3 min 12 sec, and Cranston’s 3.44.

“The hilly course was a good test, the contest admirably fullfilled its purpose, which was to demonstrate that the sacrifice of performance made by the use of producer gas, is small,” wrote the South Western Advertiser.

The ‘Tisers’s journo continued, “A most interesting feature of Cranston’s car was that the ‘gas-works’ were all enclosed; producer, cleaners, pipes etc were all hidden, in the luggage trunk, beneath the bonnet or under the floorboards, and, except for cooling-louvres in the lid of the rear compartment, the big modern sedan had the appearance of a standard petrol model.”

All we need now is a happy-snap of the car, can anyone oblige?

Jack Phillips and Ted Parsons aboard their Ford V8 Spl during the 150-mile 1939 Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal, South Australia. They were third behind Allan Tomlinson’s MG TA Spl s/c and Bob Lea-Wright’s Terraplane Spl (N Howard)

Top Gun?

Looking at the performance of Ossie’s car, it has to be a contender for fastest-best Australian Ford V8 racer in that pre-war period?

Jack K Phillips’ similar machine (above) has to be in the mix too. He too was a Ford dealer, in Wangaratta, Victoria. Yep, I’ve heard of Black Bess. While built pre-war, Whiteford didn’t get her performing well until after the conflict.

The Cranston and Phillips cars were special Ford V8s rather than Ford V8 Specials. That is they were modified Fords, rather than a concoction of parts of various makes powered by modified Ford V8s.

I’m interested to hear from those of you who know about such things, which car was the quickest-best Ford V8, and quickest-best Ford V8 Spl pre-war?

Cranston and passenger on the hop – he did fastest race time remember – during the South Australian Centenary aka AGP at Victor Harbor in December 1936, Ford V8 Spl. #25 is the H Abbott, Austin 7 Spl s/c (SLWA)

1936 Australian Grand Prix

I’ve got my great mate, Tony Johns, to thank for the wonderful loss of a couple of days researching this piece.

During his weekly State Library of Victoria research visitations, Tony came upon a snippet about the Light Car Club’s endeavours to run the 1936 AGP on a road course at Mornington, then a quiet, seaside village, 70km from Melbourne.

The Phillip Island road course which hosted the AGP from 1928-1935 was on-the-nose given its dangerous nature for cars of less than 2-litres, let alone the unlimited cars which should also have been included in the fun.

I’ll get to Mornington in due course.

There was no AGP called, promoted and run as such during 1936. The December 26, 1936 South Australian Centenary Grand Prix was later appropriated as an AGP – I’ve no issue with that – but the nincompoop(s) who did so, determined that a race held in 1936 was the 1937 Australian Grand Prix. WTF etc.

I’m on a one-man crusade to right this wrong, that is, the 1936 AGP event was the one at Victor. There was no AGP called, promoted and run as such in 1937 either. If we want to anoint one significant race held in 1937 as a part of the pantheon of AGP’s I’ve an open mind, send me your ideas and justifications…See here; 1936 Australian Grand Prix, Victor Harbour… | primotipo…

Anyway, in Troving (Trove is a digital record of Oz newspapers) with search-words like ‘Mornington 1936 Australian Grand Prix’, up popped the article which starts this piece. I’ve very much enjoyed writing it, knowing little about Mr Cranston and his achievements two days ago…

(R Bartholomaeus)

The poor old South Australians can’t make their minds up about Victor Harbor.

We Australians adopted the Pom’s version of English on the basis that as they invented it they should have half-a-clue about how stuff should be spelt.

Despite that, the township of Victor Harbor, rather than harbour, was proclaimed in 1914, for reasons almost as obscure as those related to the year in which the 1936 AGP was held.

Clearly the author of the South Australian Centenary programme was confused too, despite the race being held in Victor Harbor, the event was contested, seemingly, on the Port Elliott-Victor Harbour Circuit.

Credits…

The Blackwood Times, Friday January 15, 1937, Sunday Times Perth June 30, 1935, Mirror Perth July 7, 1934, Kalgoorlie Miner, various many other newspapers via Trove, ‘Cactus-Work in Progress’ Graeme Cocks, State Library of WA, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, Ken Devine Collection, vintagebentleys.org, Norman Howard, Rob Bartholomaeus Collection, Bob King

(Recorder, Port Pirie, February 21, 1938)

Tailpiece…

When you’ve spent a good chunk of your annual capex-budget on a couple of Bentleys, the Perth Polizia PR department worked the local papers hard to ensure the Bentley Patrol bagged as much of the crime-solution-limelight as possible, however tenuous the connection between the misdemeanor and WO’s finest.

Doubtless the lissom Subiaco lass slept easy knowing the Bentleys were prowling the streets with as much stealth as Merv the Perve…

Finito…

Alfa Romeo’s pre-war design in its various evolutions was the dominant Grand Prix car in the immediate post war period from 1947-1951.

The supercharged 1.5-litre straight-eight powered Voiturette – Alfa’s design team was led by Gioacchino Colombo – initially developed about 200bhp @ 7000rpm in its original 1938-1940 specifications. Postwar, in a relentless ongoing process of chassis and engine development, the engine was tickled up to circa 246bhp in 1946, then 300bhp in the 158/47 spec raced in 1948.

The Motor recognised the achievements of the cars in 1947-48 with this lovely drawing by Harold Bubb published in its April 13, 1949 issue.

Jean-Pierre Wimille during the GP des Nations, Geneva over the July 21, 1946 weekend. He won his heat, so too did Giuseppe Farina his, and the final. Carlo Trossi was second and Wimille third, all aboard 158s (Getty-Klemantaski)
Wimille and the Alfa Corse crew after winning the 1947 Swiss GP at Bremgarten

Jean-Pierre Wimille won the Unofficial World Championship in 1947 with victories at Bremgarten and Spa, and second placings at Nice and Lausanne. Achille Varzi won at Bari, and Carlo Trossi at Monza in a major rout for the Portello grand-marque where they placed first-fourth; Trossi, Varzi, Consalvo Sanesi and Alessandro Gaboardi.

It was more of the same in 1948 when Wimille won the French and Italian Grands Prix, while Trossi won in Switzerland. In all three races Wimille started from pole and bagged fastest lap. Maserati interloper, Giuseppe Farina won at Monaco, the other Grand Epreuve, aboard a 4CLT. Wimille also won the minor Monza GP in October, again Alfa bagged the first four placings, with Trossi, Sanesi and Piero Taruffi this time the minor placegetters.

For more on Wimille, see here; the Bugatti revue: Remembering Jean Pierre Wimille

Etcetera…

(C Draijer)

Wimille on the way to a very soggy win at Valentino Park, Turin in September 1948. He won the Italian Grand Prix from Gigi Villoresi, Maserati 4CLT/48 and Raymond Sommer’s Ferrari 125.

The off at Turin, the front row is L>R J-PW and Carlo Trossi’s Alfa 158, Villoresi’s Maserati and Sommer’s Ferrari.

(C Draijer)

Credits…

Getty Images, Cor Draijer Collection

Tailpiece…

Giuseppe Farina’s Alfa 158 in Geneva during the GP des Nations weekend, July 1946.

Finito…

image
(unattributed)

Nick Heidfeld battles the elements in his Sauber F1.08 BMW, the complexities of the cars aero treatment are the ‘outstanding’ feature of the car, Monaco GP 2008.

He was 14th, last in the race won by Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes. Teammate Robert Kubica was second in a great drive, Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2008 third and Mark Webber, Red Bull RB27 Renault fourth.

Technical Director, Willy Rampf explains the aero rationale “Monaco demands maximum downforce. This means parts where aerodynamic efficiency is not good but which generate downforce. It’s the circuit with the slowest average speed and downforce therefore maximum priority.”

“We used the front wing with maximum downforce. The modified synchroniser retainer plates with top deflectors combine with the flap to exert significant influence on the air flow around the front tyres. There was a small T-wing for more downforce on the so-called Batman in front of the rear wheels. The rear wing was our steepest producing maximum tread pressure, this was mounted over central supports on the gearbox. We used rim covers in a modified version for the first time, which also generated additional downforce.”

Willy Rampf headed the BMW Sauber AG design team, with Australian Willem Toet the Head of Aerodynamics. He has been back home for a while now, I really should chase him down, does anyone have contact details?

The carbon fibre chassis, upper and lower wishbones, push-rod suspended, BMW P86/8 2.4-litre V8 powered car was raced by Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld in 2008.

It was quick too. Nick was second in Melbourne, Robert second in Malaysia while Kubica took pole in Bahrain with the pair finishing 3-4 behind the leading Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. Kubica won in Canada from the front row, but the F1.08 fell away in speed relative to Ferrari and McLaren as Sauber started to prepare for 2009. This pissed Kubica off as he was leading the championship at the time! Worse was that the 2009 F1.09 proved to be a shit-heap.

Lewis Hamilton won the first of his World Championships aboard the McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes with Ferrari victorious in the World Constructors Championship using the Ferrari F2008.

Robert Kubica, Sauber F1.08 BMW, Italian GP 2008 (Reddit)

Compare and contrast Monaco and Monza (above) aero setups, “the only genuine high-speed circuit left on the calendar’,” quipped Rampf.

“We used a low downforce aero package, the main focus of which was drag reduction. We accepted a 30% loss of downforce compared with Monaco and used a different front wing with only two elements. While the Tomcat wings were omitted, there were two additional wings on the monocoque, known internally as Manta Rays, which conducted air flow optimally over the engine cover and hence improved the effect of the rear wing. The side wings on the engine covers were omitted for drag reasons. The rear wing was very different from the others used. It had a small main element and a much bigger flap with a serrated Gurney. The synchroniser plates with a clearly defined cutout were striking, they ensured a stable airflow when cornering.”

The idea to slice and dice a Sauber F1.08 – chassis F1.08-2 – was ex-Sauber man Sergio Bonagura’s idea in 2009. It’s a powerful way of getting a handle on the packaging and technology of modern’ish F1 cars. It took team mechanics two years to prepare the exhibit, by spring 2012 the project was complete.

More on the design of the car.

Traction control was banned in 2008 so a well balanced machine was critical. Fortunately the F1.07 zero-keel carbon fibre chassis design was a good car, aspects of it were carried forward. The zero-keel feature removes obstructions from under the nose and allowed undisturbed air to strike the splitter below the driver, directing airflow around the car.

F1.08 had a narrower nose, and the wing more of a box-design under the nose, giving the car a more pronounced gull-wing look. The tri-deck remained on the front wing, with the addition of wings atop the nose, a trend that year across the grid. Early in the season Sauber incorporated an integrated sidepod ear and bargeboard to rout air from behind the front wing all the way to, and around the sidepods. A byproduct was enhanced radiator efficiency.

The sidepods were pulled in tighter towards the rear with taller chimneys incorporated to enhance cooling. There was a fin down the spine of the engine cover to help control airflow at the rear especially under braking. A mid-span wing attached to the T-wing from the engine cover. This small wing located centrally on the car helped load-transfers, aiding stability under brakes and acceleration.

(G Piola)
(G Piola)

The rear wing was located on endplates (as on the F1.07), it allowed undisturbed airflow under the rear wing and out the back of the car. The wing itself was simple compared to most of the competition, having two fences, and, in common with most other teams, gill-like cutouts to allow turbulent air to spill out the sides, reducing drag induced turbulence. Sauber also adopted Ferrari like ‘shields’ over the wheels which aided braking and aerodynamics.

The front and rear suspension, wishbones and pushrod actuated inboard spring/Sachs shocks were carried over with minor refinements from F1.07. The brakes were Brembo six-pot calipers and Carbone Industrie rotors, wheels OZ, and tyres Bridgestone. Weight including driver was 605kg.

The transaxle was the BMW-Sauber seven speed. It and the BMW P86/8 19000rpm rev-limited 2398cc 90 degree – “over 720bhp V8” was quoted by BMW so far more than that – was also carried over.

(Sauber BMW)

Credits…

BMW Sauber AG, F1network.net, Wikipedia, conceptcarz.com, G Piola

Finito…

Jones at Ardmore during the 1954 NZ GP weekend (unattributed)

The Charlie Dean/Repco Research constructed Maybach series of three ‘1950s’ racing cars – Ern Seeliger’s Chev engined Maybach 4 evolution of Maybach 3 duly noted and venerated – are favourites.

Stan Jones raced them to many successes until 1956, see here for a long article about Stan and his Maybachs; Stan Jones: Australian and New Zealand Grand Prix and Gold Star Winner… | primotipo…

Links at the end of this piece provide more for those with the Maybach fetish.

Repco had no plan-grande in the 1950s to take on and beat the world in Grand Prix racing, as they did in 1966-67. But in hindsight, the Maybach race program was an important plank in a series of identifiable steps by Repco which commenced in the 1930s and ended in global racing triumph.

The catalyst for this piece is some material Tony Johns sent me this week, in addition to some other shots I’ve had for a while from two other mates, Bob King and David Zeunert. It seemed timely to have another crack at Maybach 1, Jones’ 1954 New Zealand Grand Prix winning machine, still extant in Bob Harborow’s hands.

(T Johns Collection)
(T Johns Collection)

We are diving into the minutiae here, but I’ve never heard of the Fesca Gear Co, clearly a key relationship in developing Maybach 1, and the other cars?

Chris De Fraga, the fella to whom the letter is addressed, was the longtime motoring editor of The Age, Melbourne, a daily aimed at those who could read and think. The competitor Sun and Herald were aimed at those without those capabilities, IG Mason, my English master useter tell us endlessly at Camberwell Grammar School. “Just read the front, back, and editorial pages of The Age if you’ve not got the time to read anything else.” I digress.

(KE Niven & Co)

Jones looking pretty happy with himself after the Ardmore victory. It had been a tough few days for all of the team dealing with major mechanical recalcitrance of the big Maybach six, note the company logo on Stan’s helmet.

And below leading Ken Wharton’s basso-profundo-shrieking, absolutely sensational V16 BRM P15, DNF brakes.

Credits…

Tony Johns, David Zeunert and Bob King Collections

Tailpiece…

‘Speed Man After 500 Pounds Racing Car Trophy’ said the heading of this The Age promo shot of Maybach in Stan’s backyard garage at Yongala Road, Balwyn, Melbourne in the days prior to the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.

The technicians hard at it are Ern Seeliger, racer/engineer/Jones’ friend, Stocky Stan, Alan Jones’ head you can just see behind the wheel, Reg Robbins, longtime Jones’ employee, Charlie Dean and Lloyd Holyoak, Jones’ used car manager.

Dean lived in Kew, the adjoining suburb to Stan so it was an easy shot to set up when both men headed for home. Note the three bottles of Fosters Lager – we call these Long Necks or Depth Charges – to ease the pain of car preparation on the bench behind the car.

In essence Maybach 1 was built by Dean in 1946, continually modified and raced by him, including the 1948 AGP, then sold to Jones in 1951. Part of the deal was that Maybach was further developed and prepared by Repco Research, which Dean ran. In so doing a generation of the best mechanics and technicians from the rapidly growing Repco conglomerate were imbued with the racing ethos, another key plank in the long road to Brabham’s first championship win aboard a Repco Brabham Engines V8 powered BT19 chassis at Reims on July 3, 1966…

(B King Collection)

Jones sneaks a look at his pursuers a few days later during the race. Maybach DNF with various maladies, fastest lap was some consolation. Another local lad, Doug Whiteford prevailed in a Talbot Lago T26C, his third AGP win.

The Ecurie Australie (name under the number) was – and still is – the name under which the Davison family sometimes race. Lex Davison and Stan were competitors on-track, but owned a Holden dealership for a while and competed in the Monte Carlo Rally aboard a Holden 48-215, also crewed by Tony Gaze, in 1953.

The name on the side of the car should have been Repco, or Repco Research, but such vulgar commercialisation wasn’t kosher then. It would come of course…

Finito…

Competitor (who and what?) in the 1918 Coot-tha Classic (Brisbane Times)

“Car racing in Queensland is practically unknown. Occasionally speed carnivals are held at which a race for cars is part of the programme, but the car racing track has still to be built in this state,” said the motoring reporter of Brisbane’s The Telegraph on November 5, 1929.

“The popularity of sporting events at which cars and their drivers are the performers has been proved many times.”

“Mount Coot-tha and Mount Gravatt (8 km and 10 km from Brisbane’s CBD) have been visited by huge crowds for the hillclimbs organised by the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, and special tests on Southport Beach (on the Gold Coast) have drawn thousands of spectators.”

Henry Horstman and Maldwyn Davies – Queensland Bugatti importer – on the way to FTD in the RACQ hillclimb at Mount Coot-tha on April 1, 1928, Bugatti T37. His time of 1 min 20 sec was eight seconds clear of the rest of the field (speedwayandroadracehistory.com)
Folks take in the Mount Coot-the sun, circa 1920 (alamy)

“Sydney has dirt and concrete saucer tracks which will take cars. Except for isolated races (for cars) at Deagon (Speedway 20km north of) Brisbane in recent years has not seen cars at speed work on the track.”

“In America, and England, and on the continent, there are famous speed tracks. America has the Indianapolis brick track where the classic ‘500’, henceforth to be known as the Indianapolis Grand Prix is held. All the world knows of Brooklands. In England, and in the past few years high speeds have been made at Montlhery, outside Paris.”

(The Telegraph, Brisbane, November 5, 1929)
Motorcycle racing at Deagon in 1926 (T Webb Collection)

Some context of motor racing progress elsewhere in Australia is that the Aspendale Park Speedway opened in outer Melbourne in 1906, the Olympia Motor Speedway at Maroubra, Sydney in 1925. The first Australian Grand Prix was held at the Goulburn Racecourse (Neddies), 200 km south of Sydney in 1927, and the first AGP on a road-course at Phillip Island in 1928. Viz; 1928 100 Miles Road Race, Phillip Island… | primotipo…

Geoff Meredith aboard the Bugatti T30 in which he won the speedway style 1927 AGP at the Goulburn Racecourse (Goulburn Post)

Given the relative population of Queensland to Victoria and New South Wales, the banana-benders (Queenslanders) weren’t lagging behind too much. What is interesting is the popular press ‘pushing’ for creation of a local venue. It wasn’t until 1949 that an AGP was held in the Sunshine State, at Leyburn, a former Royal Australian Air Force base. See Aspendale here; Werrangourt Archive 11: DFP ‘The Greyhound of France’ by Bob King… | primotipo… and Leyburn here; 1949 Australian Grand Prix, Leyburn… | primotipo…

(ABC via M Hubbard)

Alec Jewell aboard the Willys Overland which won “Australia’s first land speed record” in a competition with a Studebaker Six driven by Fred Eager on the Surfers Paradise sand, Christmas Day, December 25, 1916.

The cars had a number of runs, Jewell’s best was a time of 21.4 seconds between the measured marks, 84.5mph as adjudged by Automobile Club of Queensland officialdom.

Etcetera…

Deagon was established as a horse-racing venue in the early 1880s. It was first used for motorised events with ‘The Great Motor Cycle Carnival’ in November 1921. The card that day included 3 and 20 mile races for solos and a 5-miler for sidecars. 24 meetings were held from 1921-1931 including 14 state, and six Australian/Australasian Championships. Cars were never the mainstay of racing at Deagon, but were occasional guests on the bike’s-card.

Credits…

Brisbane Times, The Telegraph, Brisbane, November 5, 1929, Old Bike July 2015, Alamy, Goulburn Post, speedwayand roadracehistory.com, Tony Webb Collection, ABC via Murray Hubbard, Bob King

Tailpiece…

(T Webb Collection)

Deagon Speedway commentators doing it the hard way in the mid-1920s. I wonder if hats will ever make a comeback?

Finito…

1947 was the first full-year of the post-war Grand Prix racing. 32 Grands Prix – to the pre-war 1.5-litre supercharged/4.5-litres unsupercharged formula – were held throughout Europe and South America, but there was no championship as such.

The more prestigious Swiss, Belgian, Italian and French GPs were recognised as Grandes Epreuves with Jean-Pierre Wimille winning two of these, the Swiss and Italian GP aboard his works Alfa Romeo 158. The winningest-driver was Gigi Villoresi who took 13 of the 32 events aboard Maserati 4CL’s.

The 355km IX Grand Prix de l’Albigeois comprised 40 laps of the 8.9km les Planques road circuit and was won by Louis Rosier from Raymond Sommer and Charles Pozzi. They raced Talbot Lago T150SS, Simca Gordini T11 and Delahaye 135S respectively.

The cars shown at the-off are – from the left – the #44 Roger Loyer, third place Cisitalia D46 Fiat, #40 Eugenio Minetti, Cisitalia D46 Fiat #22 Reg Parnell, Maserati 4CL, #16 Fred Ashmore, ERA A-Type and #6 Ian Connell, Maserati 6CM.

This evocative photograph was published in The Motor, August 25, 1948 issue. It’s a beauty from Bob King’s vast scrap book/archive, and was described in the magazine, under the heading, “The Sport of Motor Racing”, “The skirl (a shrill, wailing sound apparently!) of exhausts rises…the flag wavers, drops…and as one, the cars dart forward off the starting grid, drivers seeking an opening among those ahead, acceleration nose to tail, wheel to wheel, like a crazy traffic jam until they begin to string out on the open circuit beyond…and the spectators sink back into their seats with a sigh, for they have witnessed one of the most thrilling spectacles in all modern sport.”

The final paragraph of The Motor’s page provides context, “With the Junior Car Club’s (very first) Goodwood meeting on September 18 (1948) and the Royal Automobile Club’s full Grand Prix at Silverstone on October 2, motor racing at its best at last returns to this country and once again we shall see the drivers battling together at full throttle down the straight, swirling with screaming wheels round the curves.”

(via Bonhams)
(unattributed via ESPN)

Etcetera…

Having mentioned the Silverstone and Goodwood events we had better add a shot of each.

The British GP was won by Villoresi from Alberto Ascari and Bob Gerard, two Maserati 4CLT/48s and a more elderly but quick ERA B-Type.

At the jump, local boy Reg Parnell is fast away in his 4CLT/48 from grid 7, Peter Walker’s ERA B-Type at right and Bira’s Maserati 4CL on the left.

I’ll take your advice on identification of the cars on the second row other than the two Talbot Lago T26C’s of Louis Rosier and Louis Chiron. There is an ERA but the other two car’s silhouettes are unfamiliar.

(Klemantaski Collection)

And above the start of the very first race, at the very first Goodwood meeting, on September 18, 1948.

The field comprised six Healeys, an HRG and a Mycroft Jaguar. Again, if you gave a program, please do get in touch. The most impressive haystacks were moved elsewhere on the estate when proper paddock facilities were established.

Etcetera…

(R Clark Collection)

After posting the article as above, Roger Clark, a UK historian friend provided these scans from his collection, many thanks Roger, for the material and comments.

(R Clark Collection)

“The programme said that all races were limited to 12 starter, the entry above is for the first race.”

(R Clark Collection)

“The entry for the 500cc race. This was Moss’s second circuit race. He won (below) by over 30 seconds, not bad for a 10 lap, 12.2 miles race! I think that PA Collins is Peter’s father but he didn’t start the race.”

(R Clark Collection)

“The first of many…”

(R Clark Collection)

“The start of the event for racing cars over 1450cc. I can’t think why they chose that capacity. There was also a race for Formula 1 cars. The most easily identifiable cars are George Nixon #56 (ERA R2A), David Lewis (Alfa Monza), Dennis Moore, (Alfa 8C/35 rear left) and David Murray (Maserati 4CL) behind the Monza.”

Credits…

The Motor, Bob King Collection, Klemantaski Collection, Roger Clark Collection

Finito…

(A Wootton Family Collection)

Albert Valentine ‘Archie’ or ‘Bert’ Turner and A ‘Ossie’ O’Connor, Itala, before the start of their record breaking circa-560 miles Sydney-Melbourne run on Sunday February 24, 1924. Corner of Macquarie and Bridge Streets.

Regarded in-the-day as one of Australia’s best drivers, Turner and O’Connor left the Sydney GPO at 5.15am and arrived at the Melbourne equivalent at 5.49pm. The 12 hours 34 minutes journey equated to an average of 47mph, and knocked 25 minutes off the existing record held by Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith’s Essex.

It was the third occasion within 15-months Turner had taken the record, in tit-for-tat fashion with his competitors, on the two previous runs in 1923 he drove a Delage C02.

Turner aboard a Delage CO2 4.5-litre OHV six cylinder, before breaking the Sydney-Melbourne record in February 1923 – 16 hours 47 min. Chassis number folks, does it currently exist? Was he flogging Delages at the time or were the drives paid ones? The sponsor is Plume Motor Spirit! (C Blundell Collection)
James Flood and his wife alongside AV Turner’s “record setting Itala”, here (where??) with Albert Vernon at the wheel in 1921. I note the car – if it is the same Itala – is now fitted with four-wheel brakes, rather than the two in the opening shot. Not so sure about the year quoted (James Flood via C Nicholes)
The Luigi Lopez works Itala Tipo 51S before the start of the 1922 Targa Florio. Five of these 2.8-litre four cylinder racers were entered, the best placed was Antonio Moriondo’s 12th placed machine, albeit he was second in the 2-3 litre class. Lopez was 25th and last, the winner was Giulio Masetti’s 1914 Mercedes 4.5-litre 18/100 GP car. I’m not suggesting Turner’s car was an ex-works machine, but rather including it for the sake of completeness and begging the question as to what, exactly, AVT’s car was… (Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The Turner Itala is variously described in contemporary newspaper reports as a 17.9hp or 15hp Floria (sic), it’s perhaps a 2.8-litre, four cylinder 55bhp @ 3200rpm engined Type 51 Sport with a Targa Florio style body, built by James Flood in Melbourne. Details of the car from a marque expert appreciated, inclusive of present whereabouts.

Turner was then the New South Wales agent for Itala and Bugatti operating from large premises in Castlereagh Street. He promoted both marques via competition, a medium at which he rather shone.

The Sydney Sunday Times reported that “The average speed of 47mph, fast as it sounds (the main road, between Sydney and Melbourne then was little more than an unmade goat-track), included all stops for supplies and refreshments, the running time average was about 50mph.”

“During the journey the exhaust pipe broke, blowing stupefying exhaust gases into the faces of driver and passenger. Mr O’Connor was rendered well-nigh unconscious by the fumes and arrived in Melbourne much the worse for the experience.”

“Mr Turner’s throat was so sore from the same cause, that he could hardly speak audibly. At one stage of the trip he was compelled to drive for several hundred miles on the hand throttle alone.”

“Speeds in excess of his latest accomplishment are unlikely, in view of the present state of the roads, which he states precludes the reasonable possibility of a higher average being maintained. Mr Turner has many successes to his name, but his latest ranks among the highest,” the Sunday Times concluded in the wonderful narrative style of the day.

AV Turner at Aspendale, Melbourne, a banked dirt track, on the way to winning the “blue riband 25-miles Australian Championship” from Carlo Massola’s Diatto on April 21, over the Easter 1924 long weekend (hyperracer.com)
Turner and somewhat energetic crew – perhaps that fella has had enough? – during their victorious 1921 Alpine Trial run. Itala Tipo 51 tourer powered by a 2.8-litre, two side-valve 50bhp @ 3000rpm four cylinder engine. Four speed ‘box (melbournecircle.net)

Turner had plenty of success on Italas in all kinds of events, including a win in the first RACV 1000 Miles Alpine Trial/Victorian Reliability Contest – aka The Alpine Rally – in 1921. This caused much consternation among the Victorian blue-blazer-clad RACV mob as he was the only New South Wales driver in the tough event contested over the difficult Alpine terrain of north-eastern Victoria. He was second in 1922 aboard the same Itala Co Australia owned car (entered by a Mr A Hoette), his arch-rival Wizard Smith triumphed that year on an Essex.

By 1924, Itala (Itala Fabbrica Automobili), founded by Matteo Ceirano and five partners at Via Guastalla, Turin in 1903, was in receivership. Ex-Fiat general manager Giulio Cappa was appointed by the Italian Government’s Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale. This entity took control of insolvent Italian businesses deemed too-large-to-fail from 1933 to 2000, Alfa Romeo is a case in point. After his rein, an interesting story in itself, the company was bought by truck maker Officine Metallurgiche di Tortona (OM) in 1929, and the remains sold to Fiat in 1935.

Poor Turner died from injuries sustained contesting an inconsequential hill-climb in North Curl Curl, quite close to his Darley Road, Manly, home. He interrupted a tennis game to run his (later 1927 Australian Grand Prix winning) Bugatti Type 30 #4087 on May 15, 1926 and died in Manly Cottage Hospital later that day. I’ve a feature article 95% complete on that car and its in period-piloti, Messrs Turner, Geoff Meredith and Jack Clements, I really must finish it.

Turner was quite a driver…

(The Argus, Melbourne, December 1921)
Turner winning the ‘Australian Championship’ at Aspendale, Easter 1924 (The Herald, Melbourne)

Credits…

Angela Wootton Family Collection, Colin Blundell Collection, Bibliotheque nationale de France, melbournecircle.net, Sydney Sunday Times March 2 1924, James Flood Book of Early Motoring via the Chris Nicholes Collection, various newspapers via Trove, John Medley, Ray Bell, manlylocalstudies.blogspot.com, Pedr Davis Collection via the Murdoch Family Collection-Neill Murdoch

AVT ready for the off, Bugatti T30 #4087, North Curl Curl, May 15, 1926 (P Davis Collection via N Murdoch)

Etcetera…

The hillclimb in which Turner died – above, immediately prior to the fatal run – was a circa 700 yard straight run up (now) Harbord Road from about the corner of Abbott Road, North Curl Curl. The finish line was on or about the corner of Harbord Road and Brighton Street, North Manly, with Turner’s crash site on that corner or “the vicinity of ” 151 Harbord Road, Freshwater. It was on this corner, or this property, on, or just after the finish line, where AVT came to grief.

Tailpiece…

Turner’s Itala racing a Farman bi-plane, probably piloted by Major Harry Shaw – a prominent racer himself – at Aspendale circa 1921, it was a dead-heat apparently. Exact date appreciated.

Finito…

Chamberlain 8 painting – as it is currently sans-engine – in the Birdwood Mill Museum, South Australia (artomobile.com.au)

The Chamberlain Eight’s four cylinder, eight piston, supercharged, twin-crank, two stroke engine left an unforgettable, ear-splitting impression on all who saw it at the 1978 50-year anniversary of the 1928 100 Miles Road Race aka Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.

We have covered the car – its creators, engineering and competition history – thoroughly before, click here for a lengthy epic; Chamberlain 8: by John Medley and Mark Bisset… | primotipo…

What I hadn’t fully appreciated in fulsome fascination for a car which was at the cutting edge in its engine, chassis, suspension and front wheel drive – all of which were out-there in 1929 – was the length of time it was first fitted with Indian motorcycle engines. It first saw the light of day with a Daytona unit and then an Altoona. It was only when Bob Chamberlain travelled overseas that he handed the car to his brother Bill, who built and fitted the Chamberlain engine circa 1934-35.

Bob Chamberlain at the wheel of The Beetle as the family called the car, Chamberlain Indian, circa 1929 (Chamberlain Australian Innovator)
The ex-Chamberlain Indian, Altoona Indian-Norton engine during the period it was installed in Bill Thompson’s ‘Lane Special’ speedway midget (Fred Pearse)

The publication of a good photograph of the Altoona racing engine taken by mechanic Fred Pearse, and published on Bob Williamson’s Old Australian Motor Racing Photographs Facebook page by Peter Reynell, piqued my interest.

It’s unsurprising that the Chamberlains chose an Indian engine for their beloved Beetle, from the businesses incarnation Indian was innovative and used motorsport to develop the product and build their name, they finished 1-2-3 at the Isle of Man TT in 1911.

John Medley picks up the story (in the article linked above) “The car’s first engine was a big-valve Daytona Indian motor cycle unit. In this form, the road registered car covered thousands of miles but trouble was experienced with the valve gear.”

In April 1920 a 998cc side-valve, Vee-twin Indian Powerplus ridden by James McBride achieved a top speed of 99.25mph on the Daytona Beach course. The race versions of the Powerplus motor subsequently became known as the Daytona, throughout the 1920s various configurations of factory racers were built around this record setting engine.

Gene Walker on a factory Indian Powerplus 61cid, at Ormond Beach, Daytona in April 1920. Walker and fellow rider Herbert McBride collected 24 US and international records on this sortie to the Daytona speed coast. “Walker performed so well onboard his newly configured side-valve machine – with its distinctive finned exhaust ports seen in this photo – that the setup became known as the ‘Daytona’ motor, a legend in American racing circles” wrote (archivemoto.com)
Indian Powerplus 1-litre side-valve Vee-twin cutaway. Designed by Charles Gustafson and refined and developed by Charles Franklin (unattributed)

The Altoona Speedway was a 1.25 mile board track at Tipton, near Altoona, Pennysylvania which was home to the national championships in the 1920s, winning there was a big deal.

Indian’s designer, Charles Franklin – Irish road-racer and Brooklands tuner who discovered the ‘squish-effect’ in combustion chambers 10 years before Harry Ricardo – inherited a new 61cid side-valve engine from his predecessor, Charles Gustafson, which he turned into a race engine (there were also eight valve and 45cid variants) to take on the best at Altoona. The engine incorporated timing gears and crank carried on self-aligning ball-bearings, two oil pumps, removable heads and twin up-draught Zenith racing carbs.

With the new engine – still mounted in a 1920 spec board-racing frame – Curley Fredericks lapped Altoona at 114mph in a July 1926 race, the highest speed ever recorded on a circular board track. On Hampshire’s 1.25 mile board track that August he did 120.3mph, the fastest speed ever recorded on the boards. These unique race venues vanished soon after when the sanctioning bodies and manufacturers withdrew their support given safety and maintenance issues, so Frederick’s record still stands.

Of course it wasn’t long before Indian applied the Altoona name to its 1926-28 factory side-valve racers. The engines were used in disciplines other than board racing, including hillclimbs and drag racing

Indian Altoona 8-valve racer (unattributed)
Altoona Speedway, grid of the Fall Classic in September 1924. Front left Ernie Ansterburg, Duesenberg, #16 Ray Cariens, Miller and #3 Bennet Mill in another Miller. Four Indy winners contested this race – look at that crowd! – Tommy Milton, Jimmy Murphy (who won the Classic), Joe Boyer and Peter DePaolo (Paul Sheedy Collection via firstsuperspeedway.com)
Indian factory rider, Paul Anderson (who raced in Australia over the 1924-25 summer) aboard a 500cc, four-valve, single-cylinder 1924 road racer at Montlhery in 1925. Frame is “a full-loop design like Indian’s board-track racers, and a front brake 3 years before other Indians got them,” wrote The Vintagent (Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

To promote the opening meeting of John Wren’s Melbourne Motordrome (aka The Murder Drome and Suicide Saucer on the Olympic Pool/Collingwood FC site) in November 1924 the promoters imported four top US stars and their bikes; Paul Anderson and Johnny Seymour on eight-valve Indians and Ralph Hepburn and Jim Davis on Harleys.

Ultimately the Harley duo rode borrowed Douglas twins when their machines failed to arrive on time. In the solo-final Seymour and Hepburn dead-heated. The Indian riders had a successful tour albeit Seymour (later an Indy racer) broke a leg at one meeting. Among his successes, Anderson won the 10-Mile Solo under-500cc NSW Championship in January 1925, and did a record-breaking 125mph over a half mile on Adelaide’s Sellicks Beach. Anderson won so many scratch races on the Melbourne Motordrome that the promoters abandoned scratch events and ran handicaps!

When the Chamberlains were looking for greater performance they turned to “A motor (500cc, eight-valve, V-twin) of novel design, using an Altoona Indian crankcase, originally used by the famous American, Paul Anderson,” The Sun, Sydney reported.

“The cylinders were scrapped and 588cc overhead valve Norton cylinders and cam gears and two carburettors were fitted, and the compression ratio raised to 10:1.”

Chamberlain Indian front shot shows front-wheel drive, with CV joints made in-house. IFS by top leaf spring with locating radius-rods, wide based lower wishbones. Hartford friction dampers not fitted in this shot. Gearbox (in house) and chain-drive clear as is the tiny size of the car. Brakes are inboard drums (The Chamberlain)
Chamberlain Indian circa 1929, light multi-tubular spaceframe chassis as per later 1950s and onwards practice…(The Chamberlain)

John Medley continues, “The car now became quite competitive, particularly in sprint events, easily holding the Wheelers Hill (in outer Eastern Melbourne) record for example. It ran in the numerous sprint events run by the Light Car Club of Australia, Junior Car Club and the Royal Automobile Club in Victoria during the period, as well as circuit races at Aspendale (inner Melbourne bayside suburb) and Safety Beach (holiday destination on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay).”

“Entered three times for the AGP at Phillip Island, the car was not successful. At the first attempt (1931) a piston seized due to the alloy being unsatisfactory, so the car did not start. By the following year the Chamberlains had made their own pistons from ‘Y’ alloy and the car completed practice without any troubles. In the race it only lasted 3 laps, when a crankpin broke.”

“Bob had trouble recalling a third attempt at the Island but checked his records and found that the car was indeed entered and listed as supercharged, although he is sure the car did not actually race in this form. Bob says that the blower was fitted to the Indian motorcycle engine and the compression lowered in the hope of improving big-end bearing life. It didn’t work out that well but this two-cylinder supercharged engine powered the car at several meetings at Melbourne’s Aspendale Speedway as well as a number of hillclimbs, with some success.”

“Then, in 1934, in Bob Chamberlain’s first attempt at Mount Tarrengower, the car crashed not too far from the site of (Australian Hillclimb Champion) Peter Holinger’s Holinger Repco V8 1977 accident. It has been said of Mount Tarrengower that if you make a mistake you have to fight for airspace with the pigeons. Bob Chamberlain was saved from that battle by a stout tree, which he scored at top speed just beyond the finishing line.”

It is at that point that Bob Chamberlain departed overseas and Bill Chamberlain set to work on construction of the Chamberlain 8 that Bill Thompson enters the picture.

Bill Thompson and Bill Balgarnie in the Lanes Motors MG K3 during the 1935 AGP weekend at Phillip Island. The pair finished a close second off scratch in the handicap race (B Thompson Collection via B King)

Thompson had won the Australian Grand Prix thrice, aboard the same Bugatti T37A in 1930 and 1932 and racing a Brooklands Riley in 1933. He was regarded as the best of his generation. By 1935 he had retired from road racing, but was perennially short of cash so decided to compete in the nascent sport of midget speedway racing, an activity which dovetailed nicely with his recent appointment as managing director of National Speedways Ltd.

In need of a car, Thompson convinced Lanes Motors – Melbourne dealers of Morris and MG amongst others – where he was head of the MG department, that midget racing would provide great exposure for their products on tracks at Sydney’s Showgrounds and Wentworth Park, Penrith, Newcastle and the Olympic Park Melbourne.

He concepted his ‘No 1’ machine, the Altoona Indian powered Lane Special to be powered by the light, potent, proven Altoona Indian-Norton engine. Built in Lanes’ racing department in South Melbourne the car “has a clutch and speed (sic) gear box and the chassis, steering axles, brakes etc built up from Morris Minor and MG parts,” The Sun recorded.

Australian international motorcyclist/master mechanic, Wilfred ‘Bill’ Balgarnie – who had represented Australia at the Isle of Man aged 22 in 1934, finishing 13th on a Velocette 350 in both Junior and Senior TTs – was also involved in the construction of the car. Balgarnie accompanied Thompson as riding mechanic in two of his AGP wins and in many of his major races.

Balgarnie worked on Bill’s car and on a P-Type MG which was to be adapted for midget competition and raced by him. The 845cc engine was retained and modified, while the body was streamlined and lightened, the engine/transmission lowered, and mandatory 12-inch by 4-inch wheels fitted.

The Bill Balgarnie modified MG P-Type Midget – there cannot have been too many MGs raced globally as dedicated dirt speedway machines?! – with Bill Thompson up, chassis number folks? Note the Lane Special at rear. Given the backdrop, Wentworth Park, Sydney I think (B Thompson Collection via B King)
Bill Thompson, Lane Spl Indian Altoona, and Ted Poole at Wentworth Park, Sydney in 1935 (vintagespeedway.com)

By August ’35 Thompson’s equipe also included Bob Findlay’s Midget. Balgarnie had performed so well in the P-Type Spl that Thompson acquired a better car for him, with which he was formidable throughout 1936-37.

The Sun reported in November 1935 that Thompson had a successful season (February to May) in Victoria but “has been disappointed with the Lane Special’s performance since its arrival in Sydney.” Thompson consulted with “famous speed merchant Ron MacKellar (Sydney Ford dealer and racer/engineer)” to dismantle the Altoona Indian engine to recondition it to find the 70bhp of which the motor is capable.”

When fitted to the Chamberlain “it has been credited with lapping Phillip Island at 78mph, “only 6mph below the official lap record. It was timed over the mile there at 103mph.”

While Thompson’s speedway record is said to be ‘undistinguished’, I’d like to record his results if any of you have ready access to Kent Patrick’s biography of Thompson. Time I bought it.

Finally, what became of that rather special engine I wonder…

Bill Balgarnie aboard his works-Velocette “waits to hand in his gear on the eve of the Isle of Man event” in 1934 (Western Mail)

Etcetera: Bill Balgarnie…

I was aware of Bill Balgarnie as a talented mechanic/riding mechanic but not his own record as a racer on two wheels and four.

Some Troving (Trove is an Australian newspaper digital archive) reveals that Bill was as much of an ace in a car as he was on ‘bikes, including countless midget wins, victory in the 1937 NSW State Midget Championship in front of 25000 spectators at Penrith and much more.

A Western Mail, Perth article about him published in March 1951 helps fill in the gaps, I’ve paraphrased it and added some other tidbits.

Born of parents who lived in Bowral, he first became interested in motorcycle racing when he left school in Sydney, competing in road races around Sydney and at Bathurst.

By 1934 he was one of the leading riders in NSW and was chosen to represent Australia at the Isle of Man. When he arrived in the UK, Velocette made a 350cc bike available for the races contested by 80 riders including the champions of England, Germany, Spain and France.

While the going was tough, the bike performed faultlessly and he averaged 74mph to finish 13th, and first visiting rider home. In so doing he won The Motorcycle Visitors Cup and received a replica of the Senior TT Trophy for recording one of the races’ fastest times.

The Junior TT was held the following day, “A terrible day, very foggy and wet and on parts of the course, visibility was very limited. I must confess I was pretty anxious about that ride, but again the machine went without a hitch and averaged about the 70 mark.” He was again 13th on the 350.

Afterwards he toured England for several months and for a period received specialist training at MG. He visited Brooklands and did a trial lap on a borrowed bike at 97mph, just missing out on the Gold Star awarded for laps of 100mph and over.

Then it was off to the Belfast TT, then France for an “international car race”, and finally Milan for a tour of Alfa Romeo before returning home to Australia late in 1934.

Balgarnie was immediately back in the fray, using his tuition at Abingdon to prepare and act as riding mechanic aboard Bill Thompson’s Lanes Motors entered MG K3 Magnette in the Centenary 300 at Phillip Island, the longest race for “purely racing cars” in Australia in January 1935.

In a winning position from scratch, and on-the-hop, Thompson sought to pass another competitor on the outside at Heaven Corner on lap 12, slid, then ran out of road as he corrected, crashed into a scoreboard and rolled. Thompson escaped with facial injuries but Balgarnie’s chest was crushed, “which kept him from work for several weeks.” The perils and stupidity of allowing riding mechanics…

Balgarnie takes the chequered flag to win the 1937 Australian Midget Championship at Penrith New South Wales. Make of chassis and engine would be a bonus? (Western Mail)

By 1936 Balgarnie was back in Sydney to race and running a servo in Rushcutters Bay, in addition to “dabbling in wrestling to develop his strength”!

The Australian Midget Car Championship and Five Miles Amateur Car Championships followed at Penrith in April 1937, and shortly thereafter a major accident when a fellow competitor stalled right in front of him at the Sydney Showgrounds. “It was too late to avoid him, I crashed into his back axle, looped the loop and turned over three times. After that I can’t remember a thing, I was out to it for three days.” He recovered quickly despite a cracked skull, broken arm and injured thumb.

Showing that he wasn’t at all phased by the accident Balgarnie won his class driving Ron MacKellar’s MacKellar Spl s/c at Waterfall Hillclimb in late August.

In February 1940 he married Pauline Laidley at Double Bay, the bride was given away by Ron Mackellar in a large wedding. In the early 1940s he joined the armed services but returned to competition with a couple of hill-climb drives aboard the Chamberlain 8 in 1946.

By then employed by the Chamberlains, Balgarnie was promoted to the position of works manager for Chamberlain Tractors whose manufacturing facility was in Perth. At the time of the Western Mail interview he lived in Dalkeith Road, Nedlands.

The Chamberlain 8 with the first of the Chamberlain tractors in 1946 (Cars and Drivers)

Balgarnie Snippets…

In the 1930s, the Midget racing season ran from November to May

Balgarnie rebuilt the Jack Jones/Mrs JAS Jones Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Zagato SS after it was “completely burned out” in 1933. “Used as a hack for many years,” Jack Jones set second fastest time of the day in the May 1937 Canberra Speed Trials at 102.2mph over the standing quarter mile, “Which speaks well for the skill of the mechanic who rebuilt the car and was mainly responsible for its performance in Canberra,” the Sydney Referee reported. Frank Kleinig’s supercharged Miller powered Kirby Deering Special was quickest at 116.9mph.

In December 1935 Balgarnies speedway midget was reported to be equipped with “BSA overgear and an Altoona crankcase.”

In a 15 August 1935 Sydney Referee news item about the upcoming 1935-36 “season in Melbourne there will be at least 24 drivers available when the Olympic Park track reopens again” with the “big shots” among them “Bill Thompson, Bob Findlay, Bill Wilcox, Barney Dentry, George Beavis, Les Gough, Ern Day, Fred Curtis, Joe Parmeley, Bill Allan, Bill Balgarnie, Arch Tuckett, Arthur Higgs and Sid Gowar.”

Percy Hunter with JAS Jones aboard the Jones family Alfa Romeo 6C1750 SS Zagato at Gerringong Beach New South Wales in 1930 (A Patterson)

Credits…

artomobile.com.au, ‘The Chamberlain’ John Hazelden, ‘Chamberlain Australian Innovator’ Bruce Lindsay, thevintagent.com, The Sun Sydney November 1, 1935, various 1934- newspapers via Trove, The Vintagent, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, archivemoto.com, Paul Sheedy Collection via firstsuperspeedway.com, Bill Thompson Collection via Bob King, Cars and Drivers, vintagespeedway.com, Adrian Patterson Collection, Daniel Statnekov Collection, Getty Images, silhouet.com

Tailpieces…

(D Statnekov Collection)

Now, where did I put my hammer? The engineering and construction challenge, and ongoing maintenance, were considerable! Dated by Getty as 1950, but lets call it 1922.

Altoona Speedway was built at Tipton, 20km north of Altoona, Pennysylvania as a 1.25-mile timber-oval with corners banked at 32-degrees, by entrepreneurs Jack Prince and Art Pillsbury.

It operated between September 4, 1923 and September 7, 1931, then was destroyed by fire in May 1936. In 1935 an oiled-dirt oval was built on the site, then post-war, a quarter-mile track opened on the infield, it held meetings until 1952. Industrial buildings now occupy the site.

Finito…

(MotorSport)

Not too many blokes built the car in which they made their World F1 Championship debut, but John Arthur Brabham wasn’t ‘yer average fella.

Having ingratiated himself with John and Charlie Cooper in the early months of 1955, Brabham decided a mid-engined 2-litre Bristol powered, central seat Cooper T39 Bobtail would be just-the-ticket for his GP debut at Aintree in mid-July (above). See here; 60th Anniversary of Jack’s First F1 GP Today, British GP 16 July 1955: Cooper T40 Bristol…by Stephen Dalton | primotipo…

So, with John’s support, he helped himself to the stock of components on the Surbiton shelves and built himself a 50mm longer-wheelbase GP Cooper. It was only 2-litres, despite the oft-quoted 2.2-litres, so Jack was giving away a half-litre in capacity to the more sophisticated twin-cam, 2.5-litre opposition.

The key elements of the car are shown by three photographs taken by Australian mechanic, Fred Pearse, who spent that summer in Europe tending Aussie, Dick Cobden’s ex-Peter Whitehead Ferrari 125. I wonder if Fred helped Jack with the build of the Cooper, christened Type 40?

(F Pearse)

No way was Cooper designer Owen Maddock’s hula-hoop chassis drawn from his Kingston Technical College engineering course, but was more likely inspired by the organic forms of brilliant Catalan architect/designer Antoni Gaudi. Remember, you read it here first: La Sagrada Cooper has a nice ring to it, n’est-ce pas?

(F Pearse)

Technical specifications of the Cooper T40 as per the feature article linked above. I know the engine isn’t plumbed and still awaits its Citroen-ERSA transaxle, but the sheer economy of a moteur mounted mid-ship is readily apparent.

(F Pearse)

Unsurprisingly the car ran late, so Jack had no time to test it before Aintree. He qualified at the back of the grid and failed to finish after clutch problems in the race memorably won by Stirling Moss. It was his first championship GP victory, aboard a Mercedes Benz W196.

The ’55 British was the only F1 GP the Cooper contested, but Brabham took in a number of non-championship F1 races in the UK before the car was shipped to Australia where it won the that year’s Formula Libre Australian Grand Prix at Port Wakefield, South Australia.

The works-machine first contested the London Trophy at Crystal Palace on July 30 where Brabham was third in his heat behind Harry Schell’s Vanwall and Paul Emery’s Emeryson Alta, but didn’t start the final.

Then it was off to Charterhall in Scotland for the August 6 Daily Record Trophy. Jack was fourth on the grid, fourth in his heat, and, you guessed it, fourth in the final, behind the Maserati 250Fs of Bob Gerard, Horace Gould and Louis Rosier.

(F Pearse)

With time for one more event before shipment to Sydney, the Cooper was entered for the 25-lap RedeX Trophy at Snetterton (above) on August 13. Jack was way back on the grid, but again finished fourth behind the Vanwalls of Harry Schell and Ken Wharton and poleman, Stirling Moss, aboard the family Maserati 250F. Despite giving away plenty of power, T40 #CB-1-55 was plenty quick, Jack was out fumbled by Moss but finished ahead of three Maseratis – two 250Fs and an A6GCM – as well as a swag of Connaughts.

There seemed to be as promising a future for water-cooled, mid-engined Coopers as their air-cooled mid-engined siblings…

Credits…

Fred Pearse photographs via Peter Reynell, MotorSport Images, gnooblas.com

Tailpiece…

(gnooblas.com)

On the grid of the 27-lap, 100-mile, January 1956, South Pacific Championship at Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales.

The little Cooper was again blown-off by a Maserati 250F, this time Anglo-Australian Reg Hunt’s machine, Brabham was second, with Kevin Neal’s Cooper T23 Bristol in third place.

Finito…