Doug Whiteford: ‘Black Bess’: Woodside, South Australia 1949…

Posted: May 5, 2015 in Obscurities, Who,What,Where & When...?
Tags: , , , , ,
black bess  woodside

(State Library of South Australia)

Doug Whiteford’s Ford V8 Spl ‘Black Bess’ leads the MG T Specials of I. Jackson and J. Martin  in the ‘Woodside Handicap’ on the Woodside, Adelaide Hills road circuit on 10 October 1949…

Whiteford commenced his racing career on motor bikes and prepared cars for others. He decided to convert an ex-Victorian Forestry Commission Ford ute which he bought for £67. Based entirely on parts salvaged from the utility, it was carefully rebuilt in an Albert Park, Melbourne back yard utilising sophisticated building materials including bed iron frames and panelling from the Footscray tip!, with the chassis lowered and a 2 seat body made.

A coat of black paint provided its name.

John Blanden reported that Bess ran for the first time at Albert Park on 15 December 1939, it’s first meeting was at Lobethal, SA on New Years Day 1940. The car popped an engine at Wirlinga, Albury, having boiled at Lobethal as well and was placed into storage during the War, Doug enlisted.

When Whiteford returned from service a Mercury engine was fitted, initially standard, it was progressively modified, benefitting from US Hot Rod experience. From 1946-52 the car was one of the fastest in the country as it was continually developed, winning 29 races from 40 starts, the statistics vary with the source, inclusive of the 1950 AGP win at Nuriootpa.

Graham Howard wrote in his summary of Bess in his ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’…‘Whitefords’ successes with Black Bess came as a direct result of his fanatical devotion to preparing, modifying and maintaining the car, which was complemented by his outstanding driving ability. Progressively, Whiteford changed the braking system of the race car from mechanical to hydraulic operation, added telescopic shock absorbers, bored out the engine, fitted twin carburettors, a Scintilla Vertex magneto and high compression cylinder heads. A modified camshaft was imported from America, the cooling system was improved to stop overheating, brake fade was reduced by fabricating special air scoops and the steering gear was reworked to provide a faster response for racing.

Clocked at Bathurst exceeding 210kmh Black Bess was now a formidable and reliable race car, nobody was really surprised when Whiteford won the 1950 AGP at Nuriootpa…’

bess engine

Ford Mercury V8; 84.1 bore X 95.2 mm stroke, 4236cc. Sidevalves, 2 vp cylinder, 95 Kw@4500rpm. Ford 3 speed gearbox. (G Howard ‘History of The AGP’)

As imported racing cars appeared in greater numbers Bess became steadily obsolete, Doug started to drive a Lago Talbot T26C owned by Geelongs’ Tom Hawkes in 1951 eventually buying the car and winning the 1952 Bathurst and 1953 Albert Park AGP’s in it.

Whiteford retained the car, it appeared occasionally in his hands and sometimes others, having sold the Lago he drove it in the 1954 AGP at Southport on Queenslands’ Gold Coast. ‘Bess’ raced in 3rd for many laps, amazing given its age and the improved quality of the field, engine maladies eventually caused its retirement in the race won by Lex Davisons’ HWM Jaguar.

‘Bess was sold to Granton Harrison who raced it in both Victoria and South Australia and then passed through many hands deteriorating progressively. After many years in the wilderness, ‘Bess’ was tracked down by Greg Veitch and sold to the very same Granton Harrison who raced it years before…and was restored before her debut in the 1977 ‘City Of Sydney Trophy.’

The car is still very much a part of the local historic racing scene.

bess

‘Bess’ in the Woodside paddock, the formal fashion of the day in evidence. Bolt on wire wheels, 1934 Ford mechanical brakes converted to hydraulic operation. Weight 991kg. (State Library of SA)

‘Woodside Handicap’…

Woodside is a village 40 kilometres from Adelaide. The race, as so many in Australia were at the time, was a handicap, 12 laps, 36 miles in total. In this day and age of a lot of ‘one make racing’, diversity of cars and their differential performance and the need for handicaps to ‘make a race of it’ seems odd. But in the immediate post-war years when money was tight and racing cars scarce across a big continent, it was necessarily the approach.

‘Australian Motor Sports’ report of the event has Whiteford lapping very fast as one of the limit men, finishing 2nd, and Jackson, the car behind Whiteford above ‘…lost his brakes at the Pines and had to extricate his car from the strawbales costing him a lap’. The race was won by the MGTC of W Smith, Whiteford 2nd and D Harvey in another MGTC 3rd…MG’s and MG Spl’s the lifeblood of Australian racing for so long and a good future story in itself.

Of some interest for those who read my article on Stan Jones a while back. https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/ . Stanley made his road racing course (as against circuit) debut in his new HRG ‘Bathurst’ 1500 at this meeting, this car perhaps convincing Jones he had the makings of a future champion…Stan, relatively inexperienced diced with Tony Gaze’ similar HRG for much of the race. Gaze was 4th, Stan DNF with steering dramas.

bess woodsise

Whiteford Ford V8 Spl, ‘Black Bess’. Derived from a Ford Ute, simple beam front axle located by trailing radius rods, transverse leaf spring, telescopic shock absorbers. Rear suspension live rear axle located by leading radius rods and torque tube, transverse leaf spring and telescopic shock absorbers. Doug was a talented driver and fettler, the car continually evolved over a decade or so, this car was indecently fast and gave many more exotic imports a hard time…Whiteford raced this car to a 1950 AGP win and then the more aristocratic Talbot Lago for his ’52 and ’53 AGP wins. (State Library of SA)

bess cockpit

‘Bess’ restored cockpit. (G Howard ‘History of The AGP’)

bess

Black Bess at a recent Australian GP at Albert Park. Car a regular historic event attendee. (Falcadore)

Photo and Other Credits…

State Library of South Australia, John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian GP’, Falcadore

Stephen Dalton for the research and AMS article

Advertisements
Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s