Stirling Moss being briefed by Jack Myers about his Cooper/WM Holden before lapping Cumberland Park Speedway, Parramatta, Sydney November 1956…
The WM Holden is the prototype ex-John Cooper/ Mike Hawthorn/ Bernie Ecclestone/ Stan Coffey Cooper T20 Bristol # CB/1/52 acquired damaged by Myers, rebuilt, fitted with a Holden 6 cylinder ‘Grey Motor’, the standard OHV iron head replaced by an alloy DOHC head developed by incredibly talented Sydney engineer Merv Waggott…and then renamed WM (Waggott Myers) Holden.
Moss was in Australia to race factory Maseratis’ in the Australian Grand Prix carnival at Albert Park in Melbourne, a two week event during which Moss won the AGP in a 250F and Australian Tourist Trophy in a 300S…Quite how he came to drive Myers car at Cumberland Park in Sydney is a bit of a mystery but was perhaps part of a fuel company promotion, I am keen to hear from any reader who knows the story.
Moss didn’t race the Cooper but did a number of demonstration laps around the quarter mile speedway on the outside of Cumberland Park, which was also used for cricket and rugby.
Jack Myers also contested the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, the WM finished 12th lapped several times by the Moss 250F.
WM is Waggott/Myers…the cylinder head was initially fed by 6 Amal carbs but these were later replaced by 6 1 3/4inch SU’s. The engine developed around 197bhp at its peak making the car an outright contender in its day.
‘Grey Motor’ was the colloquial name of these engines which, painted grey, were first fitted to the ’48-215′ or FX Holden, General Motors first Holden sedan built in Australia. Later iterations of the Holden OHV straight 6 were ‘Red Motors’ and ‘Black Motors’ as the blocks were, you guessed it, painted red and black. The standard displacement was 132.5 cubic inches or 2170cc. The 6 cylinder OHV, 7 main bearing, single Stromberg carb engine produced 60bhp in standard form.
The Waggott engines block, crankshaft and conrods were made by GMH (General Motors Holden) but the head, pistons, dry sump lubrication system and other components were made by Merv Waggotts’ business. Capacity was increased to 2440cc, the camshafts driven by chain from the crank.
Six or seven heads were built in total, the engine won the Australian GT Championship for Queenslander and later ‘Bathurst’ winner John French in his ‘Centaur’ in 1962.
The market for the heads essentially dried up when the touring car/ sedan racing regulations of the day, ‘Appendix J’ did not allow changes to cylinder heads other than modifications to standard heads…Waggott built modified Holden heads to these rules as well.
The WM/Cooper used an MG TC gearbox with specially cut gears, the differential was initially a Holden ’48-215′ unit but this was later replaced by a Ford V8 component.
Suspension was standard Cooper, most of the damage to the car was to the body hoops and the body itself which was repaired by the talented Myers.
Jack Myers raced the car very successfully…it reapppeared after repair and installation of the Holden engine at Bathurst in October 1956. In November he attacked the Australian Land Speed record setting a new mark for Class D at 25.46 seconds for the standing kilometre. Moss ran the car at Parramatta shortly thereafter and the week after that Myers finished 12th in the AGP at Albert Park.
Moss and the car were reunited many years later…
The car overheated in the scorching hot 1957 AGP at Caversham WA, the chassis was replaced after an accident at Bathurst in 1957 when Jack bounced the car from bank to bank going into Forrests Elbow.
This time the car was rebuilt from scratch, the team constructing a new tubular frame to replace the original box-section chassis. John Blanden records that Myers had completed the rebuilds of the McMillan Ferrari Super Squalo and Jack Davey D Type Jaguar chassis and incorporated some ideas from those experiences including lowering the engine by 3 inches.
The suspension was re-designed but still used many Cooper parts, a quick change diff was built by Myers and D Type clutch incorporated.
The WM was immediately successful, going even faster still when fitted with disc brakes, it finally ‘met its maker’ at Bathurst in October 1960 when Jack ended up in a ditch on the way into ‘The Cutting’, escaping injuries but the cars chassis and suspension were badly damaged. The WM was split up and the core components sold.
Myers was sadly killed in a race at Catalina Park, Katoomba, in the Blue Moutains outside Sydney not long afterwards.
In 1962 Syd Fisher bought the remains of the car and fitted a Chev Corvette 283cid engine, Alvis gearbox, Halibrand type quick change rear axle to which a ZF limited slip diff was fitted, achieving 7th in the Victorian Road Racing Championship in 1963.
The car passed through other hands into the caring hands of John Emery and then to Gavin Sandford-Morgan in 1972 and rebuilt by a dedicated team of volunteers at the Birdwood Mill Museum outside Adelaide to its Jack Myers spcification including Waggott engine, the car making its debut at the 2000 Australian Grand Prix where it was driven by Stirling Moss, exactly as it was at Parramatta in 1956…
Merv Waggott developed his own 4 cylinder, DOHC four valve, fuel injected engine in the late ’60’s… in capacities from 1.6 to 2 litres, the smaller engines used Ford Cortina blocks, the 2 Litre an aluminium bespoke block developed by Waggott Engineering.
These engines won many races and championships including the 1969, 1970 and 1971 Australian Drivers Championships, the ‘Gold Star’ for Kevin Bartlett, Leo Geoghegan and Max Stewart in the Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’, Lotus 59 and Mildren Waggott chassis respectively. I will write about this engine soon.
Waggott Engineering still exists however Merv Waggott died in a plane accident in 1992.
Cooper T20 Bristol Chassis # CB/1/52…
Doug Nyes’ research for the book ‘Cooper Cars’ found this car to be the prototype T20 which was shown to the press in January 1952.
John Cooper drove it on its debut at Goodwood on 14 April 1952. It was also driven by Reg Parnell, Mike Hawthorn, whilst he awaited delivery of his own T20 and Bernie Ecclestone before being sold to Fred Tuck, a Brit who raced the car in the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1954.
During that trip the car was sold to Melbourne motor dealer Stan Coffey who raced the car as the ‘Dowidat Special’, in deference to his sponsors, a manufacturer of hand tools. Amongst Coffeys competitors was Jack Brabham in the ‘Redex Special’, also a Cooper Bristol.
Coffeys results were not startling but he finished 8th in the 1954 AGP at Southport, Queensland. He raced the car little in 1955 but competed in the 1955 AGP at Port Wakefield, South Australia, Brabham winning the race in the Cooper T40 Bristol ‘Bobtail’. Coffey rolled the car halfway through the race, the car left the track and ‘tripped’ on the grass verge. Stan broke his nose but was otherwise uninjured selling the car to Myers in ‘as is’ condition, the car was taken to Jack Myers, Maroubra, Sydney workshop where the cars repaid transformation to Waggott Holden power was completed.
The Cooper Bristols were built as 2 litre European F2 cars, the engine the BMW 328 6 cylinder design, which fell into Bristols’ hands as part of WW2 reparations and was further developed post war by BMW designer Fritz Fiedler. The 1971cc engine developed circa 127bhp @ 5800rpm.
Cooper T20 Bristol-Stan Coffey
WM Holden-Jack Myers
Both these shots were taken in 1957, circuit unknown. The Holden engine installation was very neatly and professionally executed by Myers. It was called the WM Holden but Cooper Holden was perhaps a more indicative name until the chassis was substantially changed at least. Carbs on the engine Amals at this point, 6 1 3/4 inch SU’s later fitted.
WM Holden-Stirling Moss
Myer Family Collection, John Ellacott, MrFire, Ivy & Jack Carter, The Roaring Season, Kevin Drage
John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, Doug Nye ‘Cooper Cars’, ‘Memories of Jack Myers’ aussieroadracing.homestead.com