dalton

Superb, evocative Gnoo Blas shot taken by John Ellacott. Ross Dalton, ‘C Type’ Jag, February 1960..the more you look the more you see…(John Ellacott)

Gnoo Blas actually! Ross Dalton and his Jaguar ‘C Type’, February 1960…

Gnoo Blas was a circuit around the public roads of Bloomfield Hospital in Orange, in the Central West region of NSW, 250km west of Sydney. Gnoo Blas is the aboriginal name of Mount Canoblas nearby.

As the Australian economy recovered from World War 2 and disposable incomes increased together with the availability of consumer credit, motor racing and racing circuits were opportunities for individuals and communities alike. Circuits popped up all over the place. Oranges’ ‘Cherry Blossom Committee’ saw an opportunity to establish a circuit as the promoters of the Easter Bathurst meeting ‘up the road’, the ‘Australian Sporting Car Club’ were in dispute with local Bathurst authorities and were looking for an alternative venue.

The 6.03 kilometre, triangular shaped circuit, opened in January 1953, the ‘South Pacific Road Racing Championship’ attracted 12500 spectators.

orange

Unattributed, undated shot of Gnoo Blas which shows the atmosphere of the place and time…car on the far side perhaps a Cooper Bristol (Orange & District Historical Society)

All of the stars of the period raced there including Prince Bira, Peter Whitehead, Tony Gaze, Ted Gray, Doug Whiteford and Jack Brabham who made his road racing debut there in 1952 in a Cooper Mk IV and held the lap record until the circuits’ final meeting.

gnoo-blas-reg-hunt-Jan-29-1956-2

Reg Hunt on the way to victory in the feature event on 30 January 1956. Maserati 250F. Check out the ‘steaming train’, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ van, the general oh-so-casual scene. Road racing at its best. (Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club)

South Pacific Road Racing Championships 1956…

One of the best promoted meetings was the ‘South Pacific Road Racing Championship’ contested on 30 January 1956.

20000 spectators crowded into Orange on race day to see a quality field of cars and drives; Reg Hunt in his new Maserati 250F, Jack Brabham and Ken Neal in Cooper Bristols, Curley Brydon Ferrari 125, Stan Jones in Maybach 3, Alf Harvey in the ex-Bira Oscar V12.

Hunt dominated, he lapped the field, took the fastest lap and set the highest top speed, 160mph over the ‘flying quarter’. Jones withdrew with a ‘leg out of bed’, a rod poking outside the block of the precious 6 cylinder engine. Brabham and Neal were 2nd and 3rd in their Cooper Bristols.

gnoo-blas-alf-harvey-january-1956

Gnoo Blas European Exotica. Alf Harveys ex-Bira OSCA V12 ahead of Curley Brydon’s Ferrari 125, South Pacific Championship, January 1956. (Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club)

Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club…

The club has a very good website and uploads articles of historic interest on a regular basis, check it out;

History of the Gnoo Blas racing circuit

Ex-Works, Gardner, Matich Jaguar ‘XKC037’…

gardner boorman c type tomago

pwoooaaah! Boys will be boys. XKC037 during Dr John Boormans’ ownership at a meeting at Tomago Airstrip, near Newcastle NSW, 1955. (Dick Willis)

The ‘happy chappy’ in the Jaguar in the first photo at the top is Ross Dalton who acquired the car from Frank Matich. ‘XKC037’ started life as a works car, raced in Kenya for a bit before being imported into Australia by Sydney Doctor, John Boorman.

Frank Gardner bought the car as an insurance write-off after it was involved in a fatal accident. Gardner recalled in a ‘Motorsport’ interview ‘…Boorman hit a Ford Customline, killed the occupants and ended up down a ravine (near Tamworth NSW)…I wrote to Jaguar asking for information so i could rebuild it… a few weeks later a package arrived with all the drawings so i knew which way to go to get it sorted. I did it right because even then a proper C Type meant something and i thought if i bastardise this thing it will look like cleaning up a bloody Rembrandt with aftershave lotion! But i couldn’t get it to run cool so i altered the radiator grille a bit…’

The C Type replaced FG’s lightweight XK120 Jaguar and was an important stepping stone in the careers of both he and Matich, both progressing to ‘D Types’ after the ‘C’.

Years later ‘XKC037’ was acquired by Sydney Jaguar identity, Ian Cummins who completed its restoration in the mid ’70’s. It left our shores in 1984 for a sum considerably greater than the £2000 Ross Dalton paid in 1960!

‘C Type’ Jags won Le Mans upon debut in 1951 and again in ’53.

The superb photo, taken by John Ellacott, is one of those ‘ the more you look the more you see shots’ …the ‘fag’ between the drivers fingers, plastic raincoat, overloaded control tower, Kombi with ‘tarp drying on top, official with ‘cuppa are all about as far from Bernies ‘manicured paddocks and corporate scene’ as it’s possible to be. And thank the good Lord above for that.

Dwindling crowds, debts owed to the original investors and difficulties in renewing the track licence with the NSW police lead to the circuits closure in October ’61, the lap record then held by Jon Leighton’s Cooper Climax at 105.2 mph.

One era and circuit closed with Warwick Farm shortly to open in Western Sydney…and another era commenced.

fm c type leatons servo

Frank Matich in ‘XKC037’ out the front of the cars owners, Leatons Motors workshop, 351 Stony Creek Road, Kingsgrove, Sydney in October 1958. What a shot! Love the Energol ‘The Oiliest Oil’ sign. (John Ellacott)

Etcetera ‘XKC037’…

boorman tomago

Dr John Boorman, ‘XKC037’ at Tomago Airstrip, NSW 9 April 1955. (Dick Willis)

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Tom Sulmans Aston Martin DB3S chases Frank Gardner’s Jag ‘XKC037’ Mount Druitt, November 1957. (John Ellacott)

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Frank Matich Jag C during private practice at Mt Druitt, Sydney in 1959. (John Ellacott)

fm c bathurst

The engine of ‘XKC037’ as raced by Frank Matich for Leaton Motors at the October 1958 Bathurst meeting. The car contested the Australian Tourist Trophy, he finished 4th, David McKay won the race in his Aston Martin DB3S. (Kevin Drage)

scw

Advertorial 50’s style! The Leaton Motors Team on the cover of Australia’s ‘Sports Car World’ magazine; the Austin Lancer dvr Brian Foley, AH Sprite dvr Doug Chivas and ‘XKC037’ dvr Frank Matich. (Sports Car World)

The current owner of this wonderful car, John Corrie, recently (March 2015) got in touch and sent these shots of the C Type, great to see it still being raced; Gardner, Matich and Dalton would be pleased!

xkc oodwood 2

David Brazell in John Corries’, ‘XKC037’, Goodwood Track day practising for the 2013 Revival meeting. (Chris Perrett)

xkc good wood

Superb shot in the English Summer…’Goodwood Revival 2013 during the Freddie March Trophy which was stopped after an hour the weather turned really bad’. David Brazell in John Corries car. (Chris Perrett)

xkc home

‘XKC037’ looking rather more immaculate than in its days as a workhorse for Frank Gardner and Frank Matich in Australia. (John Corrie)

jag c cutaway

‘C Type’ cutaway drawing (Jaguar Heritage)

Etcetera Gnoo Blas…

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Start of the one race Australian Touring Car Championship , Gnoo Blas 1960. L>R Jag Mk2’s , Ron Hodgson, Bill Pitt and David McKay who won the race. (Unattributed)

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David Finch, Jag XKD Type ,Windsock Corner, Gnoo Blas 1960. (Don Read Collection)

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Sources & Photo Credits…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia ‘ by John Blanden. Photo’s : John Ellacott, Jaguar Heritage, Orange & District Historical Society, Paul Cross, Don Read Collection, Dick Willis, Chris Perrett, John Corrie, Frank Gardner ‘Motorsport’ magazine interview March 2008, Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club

Finito…

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Comments
  1. John Corrie says:

    Mark – this blog contains two fantastic shots of XKC037; some of the very best I’ve seen. I am the current owner of the car, which is now back in the UK and used for various tours and events including the Goodwood Revival. I would love to obtain some high res images of the two pictures so that I could get them printed and framed to hang on the wall in the garage by the car. Are you able to let me have them?

    • markbisset says:

      Lucky Boy! wonderful car. Both photographers, John Ellacott and Dick Willis are still alive but I don’t have contact details. I will make some enquiries to see if I can get addresses. Both shots were sourced on-line and attributed, so I don’t have high res scans. Would you mind sending a couple of shots of the car now and I will update the article? mark@bisset.com.au. Will revert when I have sussed addresses. M

  2. John Corrie says:

    Will do.

  3. Rob says:

    Mark,

    The Tony Gaze site at http://www.tonygaze.com/ has the above image of “Gaze racing a Ferrari at the Gnoo Blas Circuit…” captioned as “Tony in his Ferrari 500/625 at Wigram New Zealand 1956”. I don’t think it was taken at Orange as Gaze ran No 4 on his Ferrari when he ran it at the NSW circuit in 1955.

    Cheers,

    Rob

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Rob, As you can see the caption wherever I found the shot was wrong it seems. I wonder if he raced it at Gnoo Blas more than once, in any event let’s assume the Gaze site is right! Will delete it, regards, Mark

  4. Rob says:

    Mark,

    With regard to the caption under the 1960 Australian Touring Car Championship photo, I don’t believe that the leading cars are “Jag Mk2’s”. Looking at the 1960 ATCC images published in “The official history – Australian Touring Car Champinship – 50 Years” I would say that the McKay, Pitt and Hodgson cars were all Jaguar Mark 1s. The wide, body-coloured B pillars are the most obvious pointer to these being the earlier cars ,with Mark 2s having narrower, chromed B pillars.

    Cheers,

    Rob

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Rob,
      I wouldn’t know the difference between the two models, thanks for that, will change.
      I should stay clear of ‘taxis’ I’ve no interest in them at all really!
      Nice to do the occasional article though, I guess.
      Mark

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