Archive for July, 2015


Start of the race won by Jack Brabham’s dominant Brabham BT18 Honda, the little 1 litre car was the winner of the F2 Championship that year…

Jack won the title, ‘Trophee de France’ 1966, awarded for results in six championship rounds, from teammate Denny Hulme, similarly mounted with Alan Rees third in another BT18 powered by the Ford Cosworth SCA engine.

Brabham won the 3 July, 307 km ‘XXXII Grand Prix de Reims’ F2 in a little over an hour and a half from Alan Rees BT18 and Jean-Pierre Beltoise’ works Matra MS5 Cosworth SCA.

In a pretty good weekend for Jack, he also won the 400 km French Grand Prix on the same day in BT19 Repco, and of course in so doing became the first man to win a GP in a car with his own name and manufacture- together, Brabham and Ron Tauranac were partners in Motor Racing Developments, the manufacturers of Brabham cars.


Brabham’s BT18 Honda takes the Reims chequered flag from Toto Roche (unattributed)

Jack’s business acumen is demonstrated by his ability to form engine partnerships with Honda in F2 and Repco for his F1 and Tasman engines simultaneously, victorious in both F2 and Grands Prix racing in 1966…

Brabham and Ron Tauranac collaborated very successfully with the Japanese engineers, Honda learning much about engine installation and the need for torque as well as top end power during the first season of the partnership in 1965.

The little ‘S800’ 4 cylinder, fuel injected 1 litre engine developed around 150bhp @ 10000 rpm at the time the Ford block Cosworth SCA developed circa 138bhp and comprehensively blew off the opposition that year. 150bhp per litre for a normally aspirated engine was about as good as it got at the time, apart from Honda’s motor cycle engines anyway!

Honda acquired a Brabham F2 chassis in 1964, so Jack was well aware of Honda’s F2 plans, he first tested the car at Honda’s request late in 1964 at Suzuka and again in January 1965 at the conclusion of the Tasman Series.

He reported his impressions of the car in his ‘Motor Racing’ magazine column.

‘The Honda F2 is an all-alloy 4 cylinder DOHC, 4 valve engine with fuel injection…alongside an F2 Cosworth SCA , it is quite a big looking unit and there are some difficulties getting it into the frame…Since then modifications have been made to the unit so it can be mated to a Hewland 6 speed gearbox and sit in its proper position in the chassis’.

honda engine

Honda 1 litre DOHC, 4 valve fuel injected 150bhp ‘S800’ engine. Jack’s Brabham BT16, Pau GP 1965, DNF in the race won by Clark’s Lotus 35 Cosworth SCA. Electronic ignition take off of exhaust camshaft clear, large size of engine, neat installation and Goodyear tyres suggests 1966. Hewland ratio change in progress, lots of this with the peaky little engine! (Ian Gordon)

‘It runs smoothly and sounds very impressive, makes twice as much noise as the average F2 engine..there is useful power from 6000-9500 rpm, which is a nice wide band and makes the car comparatively easy to drive…Honda agreed to send two of their mechanics to be responsible for maintaining the engines during the coming season’. (1965)

In fact 1965 was a learning year for the new partners with Jack impressing upon the Japanese engineers the need for a wider band of power and torque, gearing of the car in 1965 was particularly critical.

Jack stepped out of the Honda powered chassis in June, forsaking it for Cosworth SCA power as the engine was developed. He returned to it at Albi in September- Jack took pole, set the fastest lap and finished second to Jim Clark’s Lotus 35 Cosworth SCA by less than a second after 85 laps…the lessons were well learned by Honda for success, make that domination in 1966.


Ron Tauranac and Jack Brabham discussing setup changes to Jacks BT21 Honda, #2 Hulme’s sister car, Monthlery 9 September 1966 (Popperfoto)



Jack Brabham with the victors garland, Monthlery 1966. Brabham BT21 Honda. Thats Clark’s 2nd place #3 Lotus 44 Cosworth SCA behind, Denny Hulme was third in the other Honda engined Brabham BT18. Note the Honda badge on the nose of Jack’s car. (unattributed)

The FIA introduced a new 1.6 Litre F2 class for 1967…

Honda were focussed on F1 in 1967 and 1968 before their withdrawal from top level single seater racing, they did not build an engine for the new European F2 Championship, but returned with Ralt to 2 litre F2 in 1980- the partnership of Honda and their old friend and collaborator Ron Tauranac was rekindled after all those years.

They were successful again too, winning the European F2 Championship in 1981/3/4, the Ralt Honda’s driven by Geoff Lees, Jonathon Palmer and Mike Thackwell to the title respectively before they returned to F1 with Spirit in 1983. That formative partnership was replaced with a longer term commitment to Williams in 1984 and the rest as they say is history.



Modern Ron Tauranac/ Honda Partnership…

The successful Ralt Honda Team in 1981. They were victorious with the Ralt RH6 in the Euro F2 Championship, Geoff Lees won the title, he is to the right of teammate- the black-clad Mike Thackwell is on crutches thanks to a big testing accident before the 20 April Thruxton Euro F2 round, showing true grit he returned to the fray at Mugello on May 24.

Lees won the title with three wins, Thackwell took one, the season opener at Silverstone.

Ralt RH6/81- the aluminium monocoque ground effect car of the period used the Honda RA261E, 2 litre (1996cc) DOHC, 4 valve , fuel injected normally aspirated V6 engine as a stressed member, which developed circa 310bhp @ 10500rpm.

Ron Tauranc leaning on the wing of a Ralt at Silverstone during the obviously hot! British Grand Prix on 18 July 1981.

There was no F2 duties that weekend but rather an important F3 race to attend to- customer Ralt RT3 Toyota’s filled the first four slots in the race- Thierry Tassin won from Raul Boesel and Jonathon Palmer, the latter graduated to the works Ralt-Honda F2 squad. To underline the dominance of the RT3’s, they filled thirteen of the top fifteen places.

Ralt RH6 Honda (T Jufuku)


jb brabham honda 65

Jack not looking quite so happy with the car in its formative 1965 year with the new Honda engine. Here at Oulton Park for the F2 ‘Gold Cup’ in September. He qualified his BT16 with the peaky unit well, 6th, but clutch trouble meant a DNS in the race won by John Surtees Lola T60 Cosworth SCA. (Eddie Whitham)


jack and ron

Another Oulton shot, Geoff Brabham in the green jacket far left looking on, Ron Tauranac, Jack and the small team of Honda mechanics. (Eddie Whitham)


honda big exhaust

In the early stages much experimentation took place to get the power/torque mix right including exhaust lengths… 1965, paddock place and date unknown. (unattributed)


jack oulton

Jack preparing for the off in the Oulton paddock, 1965 Gold Cup. (Eddie Whitham)


jap techs b honda

Another unattributed paddock shot of the Brabham Honda. Roy Billington down the back. Conventional rear suspension and Hewland ‘box. Single top link, inverted lower wishbone, coil spring/damper unit, adjustable roll bar and rubber donut all in shot. (unattributed)


Brabham_Hulme BT18 Honda (F2) Pau GP 1966

Denny ahead of Jack at the Pau GP on April 17 1966. The tables were turned at the events conclusion, Jack and Denny in Brabham BT 18 Honda’s, Graham Hill 3rd in another Brabham, a BT16 BRM. The Brabham Honda 1/2 was achieved at Goodwood, Pau, Zolder, Crystal Palace, Karlskoga and Keimola, Finland that year. (unattributed)



Brabham victorious in the car at Pau with Graham Hill and Denny Hulme joining in the fun (INA)


reims f 2

‘Where’d they go?!’ Tailenders on the Reims ’66 F2 grid. (unattributed)


Eddie Whitham, Popperfoto , Stephen Dalton and Leigh McMullen for research assistance, ‘Motor Racing’ magazine May/June 1965, Ian Gordon, Takashi Jufuku









butt Pininfarina designed, 1969 Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale. And admirer. (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

‘A rather permissive rear end reveals part of the five speed transmission on the Pininfarina Ferrari 512S. There is the almost customary louvered backward look but its Wellsian. The chassis was a tubular structure with riveted light alloy panels contributing to the rigidity.

The naughty nakedness around the car’s nether regions and the upswept slotted effect adjacent to the rear wheels assists with the expulsion of hot air that can be generated by such a projectile-from brakes, tyres, transmission exhaust system etc. Forward visibility from the two seats was remarkably good-useful with such performance’.

So said Automobile Year 17’s summary of the rear of the Pininfarina designed Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale in 1969. Amazing how appropriate a caption it is for this shot taken 45 years later!

berlinetta 512S Berlinetta Speciale. (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

The original appeal in writing this article was the juxtaposition of  ‘les derrieres incroyables!’ of car and model, but upon closer inspection the fusion of a racer, which had a ‘big hit’ at Monza in 1969 and then contributed its chassis as the basis for Pininfarina’s Ferrari ‘512S’ Speciale show car is an interesting one in itself.

This article is a story about the two Ferrari ‘512S’ based Pininfarina designed Show Cars; the ‘Berlinetta Speciale’ of 1969, actually based on the chassis of a 312P, and ‘Modulo’ of 1970, actually based on a 512S chassis which raced as a 612P. Simple really!

I wrote about the Ferrari 312P a while back, here is the link to that article, i won’t go through the background of these cars again, but its all here;

side 512S Berlinetta Speciale. (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

Life as 312P ‘0868’ Was Short and Not So Sweet…

The chassis of the ‘512S Speciale’ was the first of the 1969 312P endurance racers completed. It was the car launched to the press at the Hotel Fini, Modena on December 14 1968. In early 1969 it was damaged testing at Vallelunga and therefore didn’t make the season opening championship round at Daytona, but was rebuilt in tine for the Sebring 12 Hour in March.

Chris Amon and Mario Andretti drove the car, the curvaceous 3 litre V12 winning its class and finishing 2nd overall to the venerable 5 litre Ford GT40 of the ‘Jacks’ Ickx and Oliver.

amon sebring Chris Amon in Ferrari 312P ‘0868’ he shared with Mario Andretti at Sebring in 1970. (Dave Kutz)


pedro brands Pedro on his way to 4th place in 312P ‘0868’ or ‘0870’…Brands 500 Km 1969. (unattributed)

Amon was paired with Pedro Rodriguez at Brands Hatch, the pair finished 4th in the 500Km race won by Jo Siffert and Brian Redman in a Porsche 908/2. Note that some sources say the Chris/Pedro car was ‘0870’ not ‘0868’ which they say did not arrive. Whatever.

rod rig monza Rodriguez in 312P ‘0868’ boxing in winner Jo Siffert’s Porsche 908 behind the Hanrioud/Martin Ford GT40.(15th) Monza 1000Km 1969. (unattributed)

A fortnight later, on 25 April the car was entered at Monza for the 1000Km home event, Pedro back behind the wheel this time paired with Peter Schetty, later a successful Ferrari Team Manager.

During the race a left rear Firestone blew, damaging the rear bodywork, Pedro nursed the car back to the pits on lap 66. The crew quickly got him going but had not properly affixed the rear bodywork which blew off the car at high speed causing a huge accident of the type which took Bruce McLaren’s life 12 months later at Goodwood, fortunately without injury to Pedro but comprehensively ‘rooting’ the car.

It was taken back to the factory and put to one side whilst the other two 312P chassis were used for the racing at hand.

pedro monza Pedro Rodriguez alights the Ferrari 312P ‘0868’ he shared with Peter Schetty at Monza in 1969. This was after the first ‘light hit’ when a tyre blew. When he got back into the car, on its first ‘out lap’ the separation of rear bodywork from the car caused the accident which all but destroyed it, Pedro shaken but ok. (unattributed)

Later in 1969 the chassis and an engine block (as against a complete engine) from 612P CanAm car #0866 was given to Pininfarina as the basis for their ‘Berlinetta Speciale’ styling exercise, the chassis at that point stamped ‘002’ noting the chassis was a 312P not a 512S despite the name…

amon Chris Amon in Ferrari 512S ‘1012’ shared with Arturo Merzario in the very wet Brands Hatch 1000Km in 1970. They were 5th in the race famously won by Rodriguez’ stunning wet weather drive in a Porsche 917K. (unattributed)

So, why call the Berlinetta Speciale a 512S if  twasn’t?

Whilst Enzo’s coffers were full of Fiat lire given the Italian corporates 1969 Ferrari investment, the Scuderia had the not insignificant problem of flogging the 25 512S’ required to be built for homologation into the FIA’s Group 5 to race in 1970.

And no amount of  Ferrari homologation ‘jiggery-pokery’ with promises of cars to be built would satisfy the CSI given the hoops Porsche had to jump to achieve certification of production numbers of their 4.5 litre 917 ‘Panzer-Wagen’ which created the need for all those 512S to be built in the first place… Given the working capital involved in designing, building and carrying the holding costs of unsold cars on his Balance Sheet be in no doubt about just what a priority Le Mans was to Ferrari for all those years.

He would not readily hand victory to the Germans without a fight. So, i suspect the 512S nomenclature was a marketing exercise to do everything possible to promote the car he needed to sell rather than one he was about to drop as works entry at seasons end. (putting the 312PB of 1971 and beyond to one side, that car is still a regulation change away, in 1969 the main game was 5 litres not 3)

fazz ‘In period’ studio shot of the 512S Berlinetta Speciale. (Pininfarina)

Ferrari’s Design Evolution…

Filippo Sapino longest creative stint was 30 years as design director at Ghia but his most stunning project was the ‘Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale’, completed whilst at Pininfarina for a short while in the late 1960s. Launched at the 1969 Turin Motor Show, the car caused enormous interest as it was the first Ferrari with ‘wedge styling’, a design trend of the late sixties.

Regardless, ‘Sapino had made the most of the floor-hugging physique of the chassis, adding some unorthodox surface treatments to visually transform static into supersonic. Flourishes such as the flip-up canopy completed the Speciale’s theatre’.

Automobile Year 17 said this about the car in its annual review of 1969 ‘Quite the most exciting looking closed car to emanate from the Pininfarina establishment for some time, the Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale pursued the wedge line and with the 5 litre four ohc V12 engine behind the seats it should be one of the worlds fastest cars. The shape was determined after research in collaboration with the Turin Polytechnic, and was the work of 29 year old Filippo Sapino before he left to join the new Ford styling centre in Turin.’

Pininfarina’s Ferrari Modulo, displayed in 1970, based on a 512S chassis was the definitive Ferrari wedge…

modulo The truly stunning Pininfarina Ferrari Modulo. As stunning now as when first launched at Geneva in 1970. This shot was in Automobile Year 18.

Even though the Modulo was originally designed by Paolo Martin in 1968 the Berlinetta Speciale was the first built and therefore could or should be said to be the more influential in showing the path and creating the inspiration for Ferrari angular/wedge road cars such as the 365GTC/4 (also designed by Sapino), 365 Berlinetta Boxer and 308-328 series of Dino’s

dino Ferrari publicity shot of Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni checking out the ‘wedgey’ Pininfarina designed, Dino 308 at Fiorano in 1976. They are during a lull testing the 312T2 F1 car which is clear to see. (unattributed)

In fact the choice of Sapino’s design as Pininfarinas 1969 Show Star rather than Paolo Martin’s is an interesting bit of Pininfarina politics, which worked out rather well for PF, Ferrari and i suspect both designers.

Paolo Martin already had a successful PF Ferrari ‘show car’ under his belt, the Ferrari Dino 206 Competizione which made its show debut at Frankfurt in 1967. I wrote about this influential car a while back.

In 1968 at Pininfarina he was wrestling with the design of a dashboard of the Rolls Royce Camargue when he conceived the design of a car which became known as the Modulo, which he described as ‘The craziest dreamcar in the world, the most unique, violent, inimitable and conceptually different’.

Sketches were drawn, Martin had an ally in PF Director Franco Martinengo but Sergio Farina was not convinced even by Martin’s full scale polystyrene model of the car which he completed by August 1968. ‘Why would you draw a car like this?’ he asked Martin. “Its important that they will speak of it’ he replied. Farina’s rejoinder ‘Yes, but they will speak ill of it’.

And so, as its showcar in 1969 Pininfarina went with Sapino’s more conservative, i hesitate to use the word, the car is stunning but in relative terms the car is conservative beside the Modulo, as was everything else was when the car appeared at Geneva in 1970.

Emboldened by the success of the Berlinetta Speciale in 1969 Pininfarina was ready to endorse Martin’s Modulo which made its show debut in 1970, it truly was and is a remarkable milestone in automotive design, still fascinating audiences when it makes occasional show appearances now.

The Modulo is an interesting story for another time, it was based on a 512S chassis but the account is far from clear. The consensus seems to be that 512S chassis ‘1027’ was built up as Ferrari 612P ‘0864’, the car one of 2 (‘0866’ the other) raced by Chris Amon in the 1969 Can Am series. At the end of the cars unsuccessful campaign, the McLarens M8B Chevs dominant that year, its remains including the original chassis less chassis plate was given to Pininfarina to be used as a base of the Modulo.

612 Ferrari 612P CanAm car, Ferrari factory shot. The car grew wings and other aero appendages but fundamentally lacked grunt whatever its chassis shortcomings relative to the Mclaren M8B Chevs dominant that year. One 612P was built using 512S chassis ‘1027’, and then at the end of the season the car was dismantled and the chassis used as the basis for the Modulo. (Sefac Ferrari)

The photo shoot atop a mountain top at Como, Italy which inspired this article was shot by noted racing photographer Rainer Schlegelmilch, Who knows what its all about, and who cares…both car and babe shown to great effect!

berlinetta 2


612 engine 512S Speciale engine compartment filled with the 6 litre V12 ex 612P ‘0866’. Its a dummy engine, original block but no internals, the car is not and has never been ‘ a runner’. Looks the goods all the same. (Rainer Schlegelmilch)
berlinetta front Berlinetta Speciale, great from any angle. (Pininfarina)

Bibliography and Credits…,, Automobile Year 17, Classic Driver

Rainer Schlegelmilch, Octane



rob roy start

(George Thomas)

Jim Hawker launches the Chamberlain 8 off the start at Rob Roy, 17 June 1946, the car enveloped in a haze of acrid, blue, two-stroke smoke, spectators ears ringing with the sound of the ‘banzai’ engine at 7000rpm…


As you will see from this article, the Chamberlain 8 is a remarkable car built by equally amazing men, Bob Chamberlain and his brother Bill Chamberlain with later support of some of Australia’s most talented engineers.

This long piece is in two parts with several subsections;

The first is a reproduction of an article about the car written by John Medley published in a marvellous magazine, Barry Lake’s ‘Car’s and Drivers’ way back in 1977.

John is one of Australia’s best known Racing Historians having written for numerous publications in Australia and overseas for years. He is also a racer and author of two books; ‘Bathurst Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ and ‘John Snow Classic Motor Racer’. In addition he contributed 3 chapters to Graham Howard’s seminal  ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’.

A subsequent ‘Letter to The Editor’ of ‘Cars and Drivers’ by John Cummins, who worked on the car at Chamberlains’ post war is included as Part 1B to add more detail.

A summary of the cars history post war is written by me (Mark Bisset) based on John Hazelden’s book ‘The Chamberlain: An Australian Story’, John owned the car after the Chamberlain brothers deaths, the book chronicles the ‘Beetles’ full history inclusive of every event in which it participated. This subsection is Part 1C of the article.

The second part draws from a book written about Bob Chamberlain, ‘Chamberlain Australian Innovator’ and his significant engineering and business achievements which were so much a part of the first century of automotive engineering in Australia. The book was was written by Bruce Lindsay.

Part John Medley…

That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there a thing whereof men say ‘See, this is new?’ It hath been already in the ages that were before us’- Ecclesiastes…

ch side

The Chamberlain Special ‘The Beetle’ with the Indian motorcycle engine in 1929. The light, multi-tubular, triangulated, spaceframe chassis is clear in this shot. 1929 remember! (The Chamberlain)

Australian motor sporting history has seen some quite remarkable instances of original thinking-the V6 1.5 litre Clisby engine, the Waggott four-cylinder engine, Eldred Norman’s Eclipse Zephyr Special, Jim Hawker’s Peugeot V8 engine, the Offenhauser copy based on Salmson engine, to name but a few.

Perhaps the most remarkable of them all, however, was a car created almost 50 years ago in Melbourne. It was (and is) living proof that there is little new under the sun. The mind boggles at the time, patience effort, and skill that went into its construction.

ch drawing

Bob Chamberlains original layouts of the ‘Beetle’ done under candlelight whilst Bob worked in the Mallee, rural Victoria. (The Chamberlain)

Imagine, if you can, a one off special built almost 50 years ago (now 90) and having the following features;

1. A 4 cylinder stepped bore, 8 piston, vertically opposed, supercharged, 2-stroke engine with 2 crankshafts one of which runs through the skirt of the top pistons.
2. An engine which runs to 8000rpm.
3. Twin plugs per cylinder producing 64000 sparks per minute (from 8 coils) at 8000rpm.
4. Front wheel drive with inboard brakes.
5. Four wheel independent suspension.
6. A space frame chassis of small diameter tubes, much of it triangulated.
7. An 1100cc 85+ BHP motor.
8. Virtually the whole car built in Australia.

Any one of these features would have been remarkable and distinctive in 1929 when the car itself was built, or in the early 1930’s when the present engine was inserted. In combination the assemblage of features makes for one of the most amazing cars the world has seen. That it was constructed by a small group of enthusiasts rather than a large and experienced factory makes it all the more remarkable.


Bob Chamberlain at the wheel of the Chamberlain ‘Beetle’. Circa 1929, car in its original motor cycle engined form.(Chamberlain Australian Innovator)

The car is the ear-splitting Chamberlain Special and its builders are Alan (Bob) and Howard (Bill) Chamberlain (with a little help from their friends). Bob built the original car while Bill built the 8-cylinder, 2-stroke engine.

The Chamberlain last appeared when entered for the Historic racing events at Sandown in 1973. In the early 1950’s it had been put away in a corner of the Chamberlain workshop and more or less forgotten-except when a bit was needed for some project or other, when it was robbed of parts. When it was decided to run the car again in 1973 the Chamberlains found one of the coils, a collection of sprockets, a 2 inch Vacturi carburettor and a large number of racing spark plugs were missing. Replacements had to be found before the car could be enticed from its lair.

It started at the second try after lying idle for about 20 years! The car ran well in private practice on the Thursday before Sandown (mainly practice for Bob Chamberlain who hadn’t raced for 40 years!) A water leak from a corroded engine cover plate was fixed and the car returned to Calder the following day. After an uneventful session Bob stopped and then promptly everything locked solid. At the time they thought it was the clutch but after some dismantling they realised that the problem was the engine bearings. Castrol ‘R’, the vegetable based racing oil which had been in the engine for 20 years had oxidised and gummed up the crankshaft bearings. Castrol supplied a solvent in an attempt to dissolve the mess although they weren’t very confident of its success and, in fact, it didn’t work.

The job of dismantling the complicated engine was just too great in the time available so the car did not race at Sandown, although it was brought along as a static display-a bitter disappointment to its owners and to those who had come to experience the sight and sound of this remarkable car.


Bob Chamberlain in later years with his recreation of the Napier L48 racer. (‘Chamberlain Australian Innovator’)

Bob Chamberlain built the car in 1929, all except the engine being virtually as it is today. The car’s first engine was a big-valve Daytone Indian motor cycle unit. In this form, the road registered car covered thousands of miles but trouble was experienced with the valve gear. A slightly smaller capacity four cam Altoona Indian motorcycle engine was installed, proving more reliable. To increase the capacity and the performance, Norton barrels were fitted to the Indian crankcase. 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).

paper article

The innovative nature of the car was widely recognised at the time, in this case ‘The West Australian’ 30 October 1930.

Entered 3 times for the AGP at Phillip Island, the car was not successful. At the first attempt a piston seized due to the alloy being unsatisfactory. 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 2 cylinder supercharged engine powered the car at several meetings at Mebourne’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 Peter Holinger’s 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.


This photo ‘was taken at the second or third Sprint Meeting held by the Australian Motor Sports Club (quite illegally) on the Old Geelong Road, which ran into the back of the Point Cook Air Base (site of the 1948 AGP) . The pits were on the deep verge on either side of the road so ‘The Law’ couldn’t see the line up of cars from the New Geelong Road. You can easily see in this photo a deep crease on the radiator shell. This is the result when Jim Hawker and George Wightman (who was riding passenger) discovered the hard way at the first sprint meeting that a strand of barbed wire across the road was the demarkation of Air Force property and public road. The deep scuttle served to save them from decapitation-only the car bore the scars to tell the tale.(!) John Cummins. (Cars and Drivers)

Shortly after this Bob Chamberlain went overseas, handing the car over to brother Bill, who built and fitted the engine which is in the car now. Even on the plugs specially made in the UK for the car, oiling up was a problem and the Chamberlain did not appear often in the late 1930’s. Significant advances in spark plug design in World War 2 and the deeper involvement of Jim Hawker gave the car a new lease of life in the early post-war years. Once again hillclimbs and sprints echoed to the high-pitched scream of the Chamberlain.

ch engine fitted

The 4 cylinder, 8 piston 2 stroke engine being fitted to the Chamberlain in 1934. (The Chamberlain)

The engine resembled a design by W Jamieson (not to confused with the famous Murray Jamieson who designed the twin-cam Austin 7 engine and later the ERA engine) which was publicised in the early 1930’s. To the Chamberlains to build one for fun ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’.

The layout, though similar to the Jamieson design, used stronger parts. A Henderson motorcycle crankcase casting, suitably machined, formed the basis. This, rather like the Morris Mini motor, uses unit construction so that crankshaft, clutch, flywheel and gearbox all live in the same oil. On top of this was the block, a very complex casting (which was to cause problems later on). A multi plate cork insert clutch was built and the bottom crankshaft was machined from a 6.5 inch solid steel billet. Fully counterbalanced, this crankshaft runs in three roller main bearings. The bottom pistons have a bore of 62.5mm and a stroke of 75mm, giving the lower pistons a swept volume of 968cc while the upper, opposing, pistons have a swept volume of 100cc giving a total of capacity of 1068cc.


The main crankshaft with one rod and piston. The power is taken off this crankshaft while the top crankshaft operates the small top pistons to give favourable port openings. (Cars and Drivers)

The top part of the bore is narrower, at 35mm, with intake ports at the top and exhaust ports at the bottom. The small piston which moves up and down to open and close the intake ports is of unusual shape, being bottle shaped. The ‘neck’  slides in the bore, exposing and closing the ports. The ‘body’ of the bottle are two holes, one small hole for the gudgeon pin and one large hole through which the top crankshaft (linked to the gudgeon pin by a little 1.5 inches long conrod) passes. This top crankshaft spins in five main bearings and is linked to the bottom crankshaft by chain.

The two pistons per cylinder design allows quite independent timing of the inlet and exhaust ports-thereby overcoming one of the inherent shortcomings of a normal one piston per cylinder two stroke design. The top crankshaft is actually timed 27.5 degrees behind the lower crankshaft. This allows the intake ports to remain open after the exhaust closes, to take advantage of the higher blower pressure-which then can actually pressurise the ingoing gases in the cylinder.

ch piston

An upper and lower piston. The very short throw upper crank passes thru the centre of the top piston to the gudgeon pin seen at the top via a very short connecting rod. The projecting parts where the 2 pistons meet are bosses to facilitate machining-are later taken off. JM. (The Chamberlain)

The distinctive feature of the engine is the short inverted top connecting rod. With this design feature the great angularity of the conrod produces very much greater movement of the piston near outer dead centre (port opening position ie: when the opposing pistons are furthest apart) than near inner dead centre (firing position when the pistons are closest together) for any particular crank angle. This enables a much greater port area to be obtained for a particular timing.

A snag, though, proved to be the complicated casting of the block. Because of this, the ports were not all in line, so it was necessary to alter the height of every piston in order to get the port timing correct for each cylinder. Then, to maintain the right compression ratio for each cylinder, the shape of the head of each piston had to be machined differently and the pistons were therefore not interchangeable. Once all this was done, by trial and error, educated guesswork and continued experimentation, the engine ran well.

After much experimentation, electrics were supplied by eight coils, one for each plug. The pre-war mica-insulated plugs with thick copper electrodes were a continual source of worry; aluminium oxide insulated plugs developed during WW2 solved this.

hawkwr 16th rob roy

Jim Hawker, Chamberlain 8, 16th Rob Roy 1948. (George Thomas)

Carburetion is by a huge device of SU design but built entirely in Australia. A 1/2 inch diameter fuel line feeds pure alcohol via huge float needles and huge jets and needles to this hungry motor. Getting the needle taper correct and mixtures right over the whole range required an immense amount of patience and hard work. A large Rootes-type supercharger sometimes running at 28lbs boost, is driven by chain from the top crankshaft.

Firing order is 1-2-3-4 and the engine runs anti-clockwise when viewed from the front. For reasons of balance the 90 degree angle between the crankpins is made at the centre bearing so that crankpins 1 and 2 are opposite one another, likewise 3 and 4.

No true power figures are available. Apparently the engine has been dynoed’ once, showing 84bhp at 5800rpm, although this was with the engine running on standard petrol, with low compression (6:1) pistons fitted and with only 12lbs boost from the supercharger. The ultimate power output was probably quite a bit higher than this figure.

A chain transmits power from a bevel drive on the front of the bottom crankshaft to a 3 speed ‘crash’ gearbox (also built by the Chamberlains).

ch front

Front shot shows FWD, CV joints made by the Chamberlains. IFS by transverse top leaf spring with locating ‘radius rod’, lower wide based wishbones, Hartford friction dampers not fitted in this shot. Gearbox and chain drive clear as is the tiny nature of the car. Brakes inboard drums. ‘Less is more’ ignoring the complexity of the engine! Car here in its early motor-cycle engined form. (The Chamberlain)

The tubular space frame chassis is very light and strong, having been lengthened by 4.5 inches to accommodate the present engine. Rear suspension is by transverse leaf spring and swing axles. Front suspension is also by transverse leaf spring and lower wishbones. Typically vintage Hartford shock absorbers provide damping. Front drum brakes (cable operated) are inboard to reduce unsprung weight. Chamberlain designed constant velocity joints are used to transmit the drive.

The radiator is in 2 halves, the top half above the axle, the lower half in front of the axle. The large radiator core thus permitted does not spoil the frontal appearance.

The narrow body is typically late twenties in appearance, with the passengers seat staggered back from the drivers. Only a little over 2 feet wide at its widest, the body was built to accommodate the 9 stone Bob Chamberlain in 1929, plus riding mechanic. Now, nearly 50 years later the car  has only enough room for 14 stone of Bob!

At a mere 11 cwt, the Chamberlain is very light for a car of its period, and possesses healthy acceleration even now.

It is, without doubt an astonishing car, a monument to the enthusiasm, dedication and sheer mechanical ingenuity of a small group of enthusiasts ‘because it seemed like a good idea at the time’.

Let us hope that we once again will be able to hear the ear-splitting scream and see the tyre destroying acceleration and characteristic cloud of dense blue, 2-stroke smoke of the inimitable Chamberlain 8.

cutaway 1

Cutaway drawing of the Chamberlain done by RMIT Engineering students. Car in its definitive 2 stroke, 4 cylinder form. (The Chamberlain)

Part John Cummins…

Australian Racer John Cummins worked for the Chamberlains and wrote a letter to the editor of ‘Cars and Drivers’ #3 to recount his experiences having read John Medley’s article above.

These are truncated excerpts from that letter…

‘I was very interested in the article on the Chamberlain 8 as it formed the basis for most of my early motorsport experiences in the workshop and at the few hillclimbs and events held in the immediate post war period. I was apprenticed to the Chamberlain’s organisation from 1946 to 1950 and this was the time when the ‘Beetle’ as it was known inside the factory was rebuilt and developed’.

The team involved in the car comprised most of the brains in Australian automotive engineering. There was Bill Bargarnie, representative at the 1936 Isle of Man Motorcycle races, speedcar builder/driver…Allan Ashton of AF Hollins who used to look after Alf Barrett’s Alfa Monza, BWA builder and also prepared the cars of Lex Davison, Reg Hunt and others…Phil Irving…Len Sidney responsible for the invincible Mussett Velocettes of the period and Co-Founder of the 500cc Car Club in Australia…Jim Hawker who at the time had only trials experience…was involved in many projects including building a V8 Peugeot engine from ‘two fours’.’

Some additional background material to John Medley’s excellent article…It took Grimwade castings 32 tries before they were able to cast a block that was usable and was not completely porous’.

‘After the post-war period it had so much power that the Henderson crown wheel and pinion wouldn’t stand the torque, pushing the crown wheel away from the pinion. Being front wheel drive, it was necessary to strip the engine down to the bare crankcase before a complicated machining job could be done with the Kearns horizontal borer, which allowed enough room to fit a very thin, but large diameter thrust race between the crown wheel and the inside of the gearbox casing.’

‘The conrods in the engine were from an A-Model Ford and the SU carburettor, which was later replaced by a Vacturi, was of 2.5 inch diameter and was brought to Australia by Bill Bargarnie before the war as partly machined castings-Alan Ashton and Bill making the rest of the parts in the Chamberlain factory.’

Jim Hawker tried all over the world to get the correct type of spark plugs for the engine before finally giving up and making them himself. The centres were obtained from Olympic and the body and locknuts came from Pyrox Australia. Templates were made for each heat range, special drills ground for the correct internal shape of the plug body and a large number of grinding wheels of the aluminium oxide type were ordered. With 8 plugs to a set plus spares in each number of the heat ranges, a formidable total number had to be made. Jim set up a turrett lathe with the hexagon bar and started producing the outer bodies. Yours truly had the job of rough grinding the centres by hand on a pedestal grinder. The bodies were then heat treated and the spark plugs assembled. The pattern maker made a beautiful wooden box in which to hold this enormous range of hand-made plugs.’

‘The reason behind all this effort, of course, was that the correct mixture and the correct heat range of plugs were essential as a holed piston in that complex engine meant hundreds of hours of stripping and rebuilding’.

cutaway 2

Rear cutaway. (The Chamberlain)


Jim Hawker and George Wightman, Chamberlain 8, Mt Tarrengower, April 1947. (The Chamberlain)

Part 1C.Chamberlain 8 Post-War: A Summary…

As the War was finally over the minds of enthusiasts turned again to motor racing. Engineer and 1934 Isle of Man competitor Bill Balgarnie worked for Chamberlain Industries during the war, he prepared the car for the first event in Victoria post-war, a Hillclimb at Greensborough, in Melbourne’s outer north-east in November 1945.

As usual, the car misfired. Bill was convinced the engine was starved of fuel and set about machining an SU type carburettor of around 2 inches in diameter from castings he acquired in the UK pre-war. He also made changes to the ignition system.

Bill Chamberlain took over the car when Balgarnie went to WA to work on the Chamberlain tractor manufacturing project. Chamberlain only raced it once at Rob Roy before he too moved to WA, giving the car to his cousin Jim Hawker to develop after he was demobbed from the RAAF.

Hawkers two fundamental changes were to make higher compression pistons to suit the better post-war racing fuel and making his own spark plugs, as related by John Cummins above.

These used local ‘Olympic’ aluminium oxide insulators, Jim forming by hand, a range of ‘hot ends’ to make a range of ‘cold’ plugs. A quick test run down Salmon Street, Port Melbourne was successful, Hawker entered the Mount Tarrengower, Easter 1947 meeting winning its class. Pakenham Airstrip in May followed, then the Geelong Road illegal, as in unauthorised by the authorities, sprints in June resulted in FTD. Rob Roy in November was also entered.


George Wightman checking the cars tyre pressures. Geelong Road sprints, September 1947. (The Chamberlain)

There were still ignition problems so Jim came up with a solution; 8 coils, 1 for each plug, 4 contact breakers, 4 complete double ignition systems , 64000 sparks per minute. The result 96bhp @ 7000 plus rpm. The new ignition system passed with flying colors, no problems at all with a sprint at Killara Park, the home of Lex and Diana Davison near Lilydale.

Having got the car running really well Hawker then sought more power. He made some higher compressions pistons, about 10.5:1 and increased the speed of the blower to run at above engine speed, this produced 15 pounds of blower pressure, previously this was 12 pounds. He increased it further to 18 pounds .

An event at Rob Roy in May 1948 convinced Jim, when he failed to better his previous Rob Roy time that 15 pounds was the optimum. ‘Rootes type superchargers were notoriously inefficient above 15 pounds pressure, and to obtain 18 pounds pressure I was running at about 7500 rpm and losing out by the increased power required to drive the blower’ said Hawker.

Rob Roy 1948 was to be the last race for Jim although he did do a demonstration at Rob Roy 47 years later!

The Beetle was parked at the back of the workshop in Salmon Street and Jim concentrated on marriage, his role as factory foreman and his role in taking new Chamberlain Industries products to market

And so, the Chamberlain was moved around the workshop, contributed the odd part to other cars until 1973, when as John Medley’s article explains the car was entered at Sandown 1973, missing this meeting as a competitor it was present as a static display which aroused enormous interest from those who knew about it and young ones like me who were gobsmacked at its specification and significance.

phil island

Bob Chamberlain and Eric Price rounding Heaven Corner, on the original Phillip Island road circuit during the 50th Anniversary AGP Celebrations in March 1978. Car cornering hard, shot shows how well the cars all independent suspension geometry works! (The Chamberlain)

The car was again prepared to run at the 1978 50 Year anniversary of the first Australian GP at Phillip Island.

The engine and supercharger were overhauled by Bill, with some modifications to the clutch, the addition of an electric Bendix fuel pump to replace the hand operated one, some paint touch-ups and removal of Hawkers dent in the radiator shell caused by the Geelong Road mishap all those years before…

The car set off on the touring assembly but overheated, then the supercharger seized on Sunday, upon inspection post event the nut screwing the rotor to the shaft of the supercharger had unscrewed and jammed against the cover. But the car had at least run again!


Bob Chamberlain blasts away at the Mount Tarrengower start, October 1989. (The Chamberlain)

The old car then raced occasionally at Historic Events; Sandown September 1978, Mount Tarrengower November 1980, Geelong Speed Trials, along Eastern Beach in 1982 and 1984, 1984 and 1986 Mount Tarrengower misbehaving at most of these events.

bill and bob

Bill, left and Bob Chamberlain, Geelong Sprints November 1986. (The Chamberlain)

Geelong 1986 was the wonderful cars final event with the Chamberlains, Bill fell seriously ill and died, with Bob passing way in 1992.

Bill Chamberlain’s children inherited the car after Bob’s death. After consultation with Jeff Dutton, local auctioneer and purveyor of fine cars the Beetle was auctioned… and bought by Dutton who planned to pop it on his wall as a static exhibit in his fine Church Street, Richmond, Melbourne premises.


Historic Winton 1995. Chamberlain 8 and L>R Jim Hawker, George Wightman, John Cummins and then owner John Hazelden. (The Chamberlain)

The car was a static exhibit at a function to launch the reopening of Rob Roy Hillclimb by the MG Car Club. John Hazelden, a Melbourne enthusiast with diverse car interests, and passionate about the Chamberlain 8 did a deal with Dutton, the car was his, to be used as the Chamberlains intended, the deal done in March 1993.

The scope of this article does not extend into the the modern era, Hazelden used the car…and enlisted Jim Hawkers help to prepare it competing at Geelong, Winton, Mount Tarrengower, Rob Roy, the Adelaide Grand Prix and at the Albert Park Grand Prix carnival…in more recent times the car has changed hands, the engine is being rebuilt, the car at the time of writing is the star exhibit at the ‘Shifting Gear: Design, Innovation and The Australian Car’ exhibition at Federation Square, Melbourne.

chamber 1

Chamberlain 8. National Gallery of Victoria, sans engine, July 2015. (Mark Bisset)

book on chamberlain

Part Bruce Lindsay…

‘Chamberlain Australian Innovator’: Author Bruce Lindsay…

Check out the website to this wonderful book about Bob Chamberlain and his immense contribution to the automotive industry in Australia.

What follows is Bruce Lindsay’s synopsis of his book, reproduced in full, as it is a summary of Bob Chamberlain’s life and achievements.

‘CHAMBERLAIN – Australian Innovator

Alan Hawker (Bob) Chamberlain inherited a legacy of engineering innovation. His maternal uncle was one of Australia’s most outstanding pioneer aviators, Harry Hawker. His father had established an engineering business in suburban Melbourne, which later led to the incorporation of the Australian Ball-Bearing Company Pty Ltd which survived to 1969.

He was born on 16th July, 1908. Raised in an environment where inventiveness and lateral thinking supplanted textbook designs, he graduated in Mechanical Engineering and joined the family firm. The Australian Ball-Bearing Company spread its activities very much more widely than may be assumed from its name. Commencing with the reconditioning of roller bearings, at a time when imported bearings were almost impossible to obtain, the company was incorporated on 4th October, 1922. It augmented its strong market position by expanding into the design and manufacture of kerbside petrol dispensing equipment, general engineering applications, and construction of major industrial plant such as factories and fuel depots. In all such ventures the young Bob Chamberlain was deeply involved.

From his late teens he was captivated by motor racing, and was fired to enter competitive events. In 1929, barely 20 years old, he designed and built a purpose-built hillclimb racing car, notable for its all-welded triangulated steel tube space frame, front wheel drive, and independent suspension on all four wheels. He raced this car with some success, but the modified motorcycle engines used in the car were so highly stressed by racing conditions that they frequently expired due to piston failure. His brother, HF Bill Chamberlain, built a revolutionary 4-cylinder, opposed piston, supercharged two-stroke engine for the car in 1934, in which form it survives in racing condition in private ownership in Melbourne.

Motivated by the necessity of producing replacements for their racing car, the family company embarked on the manufacture of pistons for internal combustion engines, Bob negotiated the rights for the aluminium-and-copper alloy patented by Rolls-Royce Motors in England, and the family established in April, 1937 the Rolloy Piston Company. From humble beginnings, this company grew to be the principal supplier of pistons to manufacturers including General Motors-Holden and the Ford Motor Company, in the 1950s producing 90% of original equipment pistons for the Australian motor industry, and 100% of pistons required by all Holden vehicles up to and including the FC model.

As early as 1931, Bob designed and patented a revolutionary hydraulic transmission, some years before General Motors first marketed their “Hydramatic” hydraulic gearbox. It was known in the works as “Bob’s oil gear”. Bob continued to be active in the design and patenting of a range of mechanical applications, including wheel suspension, novel transmissions and pistons. As late as 1955, the income from royalties paid on his patented designs was yielding more than £49,000 per annum.


Bob at the wheel of his 1937-8 prototype car chassis, under its own power for the first time in Port Melbourne. The car was much later fitted with a body by Jim Hawker, completed by Alan Hawker, and survives in the York Motor Museum in Western Australia.(Chamberlain Australian Innovator)

Late in the 1930s, the Federal Government sought actively to encourage the development of Australian secondary industries, as the nation emerged from its agricultural heritage into a world demanding self-sufficiency in manufactured goods. The Government of the day elected to encourage such development through a series of legislative inducements, offering “bounties” for the local production of manufactured items ranging from barbed wire to traction engines. Bob Chamberlain responded to the Engine Bounty Act and the Tractor Bounty Act of 1938 by designing and constructing novel prototypes.

His motor vehicle displayed once again his original and lateral thinking, utilising a tubular space frame, independent four wheel suspension, and a mid-mounted engine driving the rear wheels. This was at a time when conventional designs employed a heavy cruciform or ladder chassis frame, seldom were even the front wheels independently sprung, and heavy motors were almost invariably located above the steered wheels. Two prototypes were laid down, one survives at the York Motor Museum in Western Australia. Events such as the Second World War and the decision by General Motors-Holden to start local production killed off the venture.

tractor and chamberlain

The Chamberlain 8 with the first of the Chamberlain tractors, also designed and built by the Chamberlains, in 1946. JM. (Cars and Drivers)

In response to the tractor bounties being offered, Bob designed revolutionary prototypes, in Melbourne, of a new type of tractor specially suited to the conditions of Australian broadacre farming. A growing national population needed more food, and State Governments hastened the opening of marginal lands. In Western Australia, for example, the minimum size for an economically viable wheat farm in such lands was in 1950 deemed to be 2000 acres. Parts for the prototypes of the tractor were constructed at Port Melbourne as early as 1943, but War interrupted the development of a promising design.

Bob Chamberlain was then commissioned to work with local and American designers on War machines, at the express direction of the Rt Hon R G Menzies, then Prime Minister of Australia. He utilised the experience gained in the USA to contribute to the Australian Tank Project, intended to supply the Australian Army with a medium-weight tank in such quantities as would serve to repel the expected invasion of northern Australia by the Japanese armed forces. The Australian Cruiser AC1 tank incorporated much of his conceptual, design and engineering work, even though for political reasons it never saw quantity production. He worked on a range of significant wartime projects as part of the Directorate of Ordnance Production until 1943.

Drawing upon his experience in the remanufacture of ball bearings, he was required to plan and equip a roller bearing manufacturing facility intended to serve the War effort, and which was to be located in Echuca in northern Victoria as part of the Commonwealth Government’s decentralisation program. Although hostilities ended before this facility saw full production, it remained operational to serve the needs of an emerging industrial and manufacturing infrastructure.

Immediately following the end of the War, the need for expanded agricultural production was made more pressing by the return to Australia of servicemen and servicewomen requiring to be absorbed into the workforce, many of whom were to be resettled on the land. Imported tractors were scarce by virtue of their high cost, and their subjection to rigorous quotas because of tight restrictions on foreign exchange. So there was renewed Government interest in Bob’s prototype tractor.

Remarkable for its audacity and its dimension, a plan was in 1946 agreed between the Federal Government (who made available a new but unused munitions factory in outer suburban Perth, sold now-unwanted munitions and associated machinery to the new venture at 50% of new price, and assured Loan Council approval for the provision of funds to the West Australian Government to establish a new tractor manufacturing industry); the West Australian Government (which agreed to establish a high-powered Government Committee to oversight the project, and deputed senior bureaucrats to assist at every stage of its development); the State-Government-controlled Rural & Industries Bank of Western Australia (which supplied an overdraft facility upon which Chamberlain Industries may draw in order to develop their manufacturing facility, and which by 1954 had reached the staggering amount of £3.5 million – representing more than 60% of the Bank’s total capitalisation); and the new company.

tractor 40k

The first Chamberlain tractor – the 40K – built in Welshpool WA and displayed in 1946. (Chamberlain Australian Innovator)

Although the first tractor was not completed until three years after announcement of the “WA Tractor Project” – in 1949 – it was immediately evident that its large size and weight giving outstanding traction in rough country; its ability to haul large implements to more quickly prepare large acreages and to similarly harvest their product; its ability to travel at relatively high road speeds between distant land holdings; its competence to run on cheap and available kerosene during times of petrol restrictions; and its ruggedly simple design requiring minimal attention beyond routine maintenance, made the new design instantly successful. The “40K” model as that first tractor was known remains operational in sizeable numbers, fifty years after they were built, supported by a cult following amongst the enthusiasts of agricultural machinery.

With an eye to lifting the profile of his new designs, Bob produced in 1955 a one-off version of his new medium tractor capable of high road speeds. This tractor followed the highly publicised “Redex” (and later “Mobilgas”) Around Australia Trials. Images of the 110 kph-tractor were flashed around the world, as “Tail End Charlie” mopped up a field of bedraggled, bogged, broken and expired vehicles between Perth and Darwin (initially), and later along the entire route. Its performance was a promotional coup for the company, and the original vehicle remains on exhibit in Perth.

Bob continued to design new and evolutionary tractors and farm implements suited to attachment to the new style of large tractor, working from Melbourne, while his brother FH managed the Perth operation and designed a highly successful version of the “stump jump” plough. Bob saw the need for a smaller tractor, adaptable to industrial applications and specialist roles in the growing of crops such as grapevines, cotton and sugar cane. His “intermediate” tractor – dubbed the “Champion” – was introduced in 1956 and, like its predecessor, was an immediate success despite its extended gestation period. Bob had assumed the role of Managing Director of the company in 1954, when Chamberlain Industries faced growing financial difficulties, leading to the exclusion of the Chamberlain family in 1956.


Bob Chamberlain designed his prototype touring car in 1938, later passing it to Jim Hawker for completion. Jim in turn passed the car to his cousin, Alan Hawker, seen here with the car known as the ‘Hawker 8’ outside the Hawker-DeHavilland headquarters in Sydney. (Chamberlain Australian Innovator)

Returning to Melbourne, Bob continued work on the design of yet another tractor, this time a small machine capable of competing with products of the smaller imported brands like Ferguson, Massey-Harris and Fiat. He built two prototypes, of which one survives in Melbourne’s Scienceworks Museum. It was intended to be powered by either a sophisticated (and imported) German M.A.N. air-cooled diesel engine, or the ubiquitous Holden motor car engine, in which latter form the survivor exists.

It was always his intention to franchise rights to manufacture the small tractor, for which purpose he formally registered its design in 1959. Approaches to a number of farm machinery implement manufacturers unfortunately came to nothing, probably because the landscape of tractor design and sales had changed markedly between 1946 and 1959, and competing makes were already well established.

He continued to work for his family companies, developing the motor car oil filter system containing magnetic elements to extract metal particles from lubricating oils. This design was in 1942 taken up by the firm which to this day manufactures oil filters under the Ryco brand name.

In 1969 the Chamberlain family elected to sell their interests in both the Australian Ball Bearing Company and the Rolloy Piston Company to Repco Holdings Pty Ltd, itself an iconic Australian motor engineering company, against which Rolloy had for some time been operating in direct competition.

Undeterred, Bob in 1970 registered a new company under the name of Alan Chamberlain Engineering Pty Ltd, operating from premises within easy walking distance of the former Chamberlain headquarters, in Dow Street, Port Melbourne. This company’s stated purpose was to involve itself in “marine engineering”. Bob had for many years shown a passionate interest in powered boats, and now applied his engineering skills to the development of new products in that field. He took with him two long-serving and very highly skilled staffers – Alan Morgan as a machinist, and Vic Gray as a pattern-maker.

He designed, built and then manufactured a “vertical starter motor” for use with inboard-engined power boats. For this invention he was awarded a Prize of the National Safety Council for 1974. On the premise that inboard-engined boats utilised motor car engines, he observed that their electric starter-motors were located at the bottom of the engines. This placed them dangerously close to the boat’s bilge, which all-too-frequently contained surplus petrol drained from the fuel system above. The sparks generated by the starting procedure regularly ignited the petrol-doused bilge water, resulting in explosions and fires.

chamberlain ace

The prototype Chamberlain Ace 4 cylinder twin overhead cam 4 stroke outboard motor. (Chamberlain Australian Innovator)

He also designed and built a form of cushioned vee-drive for inboard powered boats, which was markedly commercially successful. His intended triumph – a brand new four-stroke outboard boat motor, the “Chamberlain Ace” – was like his small tractor probably too late into a market developing rapidly, and whose tide he was sadly too slow to catch. His design parameters called for an economical, 4-stroke motor which would produce 40 hp from a sophisticated design utilising four cylinders and 2 gear-driven overhead camshafts. He laid down parts for eight such motors, but it would appear that only one was built, which failed to reach its designed output, and caught fire on test. The sad reality was that, while under development by such a tiny company, the engine was outstripped in output by motors which were readily commercially available, before it could reach the market.

Bob then turned his attention to the reconstruction of highly significant sporting and racing cars which had come into his possession since 1945. Two of these were 1910-built “Prince Henry” Benz sporting cars; and another was the highly significant 1904-built Napier L34 “Samson”.

In the case of the Benz sporting cars, Bob used all of his considerable ingenuity to rebuild these cars from wrecks to driving condition, under the envying eye of the original manufacturers. The Napier L34 had been built in 1904, and had held the World Land Speed Record amongst its pantheon of racing achievements. Although the car was broken up in 1911, its remarkable engine found its way to Australia, and into the racing power boat “Nautilus”. After being campaigned in this form for many years, the motor had lain idle in a factory workshop in Brunswick, Melbourne, from where Bob rescued it.


Bob Chamberlain with his re-creation of the L48 Racing Napier. (Chamberlain Australian Innovator)

Finding that the original detailed plans for the car’s construction survived in London, he travelled to England and copied sufficient material to enable him and his tiny team to construct a faithful replica of the original car, which he first drove on the road in 1982, and which he shipped to England for the Jubilee of the Brooklands racetrack in 1983. This most significant motor car survives in the Fremantle Motor Museum in Perth, Western Australia.

He continued to work on his historic motor vehicles, and lecture on his life’s work, right up to within weeks of his death in 1992. During his unusually productive life, he had been an important part of the transition of Australia from an agricultural to an industrial economy, charting a path through the hazardous shoals of new experience in the innovative application of engineering principles to industrial design.

This book seeks to catalogue his achievements in the evolution of the new industrial order in Australia, in a way not previously attempted. It uses source documents which include Bob Chamberlain’s comprehensive personal diaries, Government records, patent documents, Federal and State Government Hansard, personal accounts from staffers and customers, and the recollections of his family, friends and employees. It also offers to enthusiasts of his products detailed technical descriptions of his output, a collection of data not previously attempted. While the inclusion of such data in a biography may be seen as being unusual, in this case the engineering output is inseparable from the man, and his biography would be sadly incomplete without it.

The book chronicles the man’s legacy in terms of the respect in which his designs are still held, and the efforts which are being maintained to keep alive his memory.’

Bruce Lindsay.


Bill Chamberlain Engine.

engine cutaway

Cutaway of Bill Chamberlain’s 2 stroke, 4 cylinder, 8 piston, 2 crankshaft, supercharged engine (The Chamberlain)

A summary of the engines salient features is as follows; ‘The Chamberlain engine is a water cooled, vertical, inline, 4 cylinder 2 stroke with 2 pistons per cylinder. Supercharged.

The bottom pistons have a bore of 62.5mm and a stroke of 80mm. These bottom pistons control the exhaust ports while the top pistons are much smaller, having a bore of 35mm and a stroke of 25mm. These small pistons control the inlet ports and are of a peculiar shape.

The large hole in the base of the piston allows the small crankshaft to pass through with the gudgeon pin secured at the opposite end to the head. The small crank has 5 main bearings, the conrods are only 1.5 inches long. the bottom crank is much heavier, was machined from solid and has 3 main bearings. The throws are such that the 4 cylinders fire each revolution of the engine. The 2 cranks are coupled together by chain.

With this 2 piston per cylinder design, considerable overlap can be achieved, which is impossible with the single piston 2 stroke design. In this engine the inlet ports are open for 25 degrees of crankshaft rotation after the exhaust ports have closed and, with the inlet ports mounted in the top of the head and the exhaust ports at the bottom of the cylinder wall, better scavenging is possible. The lower connecting rods are from an A Model Ford.

Each cylinder has a sparkplug mounted on either side of the block. (you can see from the overhead photo below the exhaust layout). Two Bosch aero magnetos were obtained in the hope they would cope with the high engine revolutions’, (The Chamberlain)

from above

Rare overhead shot shows the basic layout and symmetry of the design. (The Chamberlain)

Pre War.

bob 1

Bob Chamberlain attacks the first corner of Arthurs Seat Hillclimb, Dromana, Mornington Peninsula in 1933. Car motor cycle engined at this stage. Chamberlain. (The Chamberlain)

bob 2

1935, trialling the car, now in 2 stroke form, note water tank on the front. (The Chamberlain)

bob 3

February 1936 testing the car on the backroads near Keilor, close to where Calder Raceway now is. (The Chamberlain)


Bill Chamberlain’s wooden model of the engine, made in 1:1 scale, it was used to demonstrate the engines operation and complexities, and to help assess the impact of proposed tuning changes. (The Chamberlain)

Post War.

ch calder

Chamberlain at Calder Raceway 1973, the first time the car had run in over 20 years. (The Chamberlain)

phil island

Bob Chamberlain and Eric Price, Phillip Island 1978. 50th AGP Anniversary. But for the ‘Hawaiian’ shirt it could be 1935…(The Chamberlain)

Two shots of the Chamberlain 8 at Queensland’s ‘The Speed on Tweed’ in recent years.

cham tweed front

cham tweed back


John Hazelden’s excellent, and out of print, book. ‘The Chamberlain: An Australian Story’

Bibliography and Credits…

John Medley, special thanks for allowing his 1977 ‘Cars and Drivers’ article to be reproduced. ‘Cars and Drivers’ magazine, wonderful brainchild of the late, talented Barry Lake, Number 2 1977.

Martin Stubbs for the research assistance and encouragement

‘The Chamberlain An Australian Story’ John Hazelden

‘Chamberlain Australian Innovator’ Bruce Lindsay

George Thomas photographs





Allan Moffat’s Mustang on Warwick Farms ‘Northern Crossing’, 30 April 1972…

In a country obsessed with touring cars this is one of, if not the most revered of all, even though it never won the Australian Touring Car Championship.

A rare beast, it is one of only seven ‘factory’ Kar-Kraft built cars for the 1969 Trans-Am Championship Moffat commenced racing in Australia at Sandown on 5 May 1969.

I am not a ‘taxi racing’ guy but this car is on my ‘ten racing cars I would love to own’ list, its still in Australia thank goodness, in the tender loving hands of David Bowden. This excellent article was written for ‘Australian Muscle Car’ magazine by Mark Oastler and is ‘definitive’, the best i have read on this great car.

Allan Moffat’s 1969 Trans-Am Mustang

moffat wf


Moffat in search of an apex, one he has well and truly nailed! Warwick Farm, Sydney, 9 July 1972.


Moffat Sandown

One of the more significant days in Australian touring car racing was the first race appearance of the machine which was at the Sandown Park ‘Southern 60’ meeting, Melbourne on 4 May 1969.

The first photograph is on the main straight as I suspect is the second.


(SS Memorabilia)

Here is the car ‘mid-career’, again at Sandown and ahead of arch-rival Bob Jane’s 7 litre Chev Camaro ZL1, very much as trick a device complete with aluminium big-block V8 as Moffat’s 1969 Kar-Kraft/Bud Moore 5 litre Trans-Am. Dandenong Road corner during the 1971 February Tasman Series meeting.


Moffat Calder

The cars twilight years were raced in 1973-1975 as a Sports Sedan, to Allan’s eternal credit he didn’t butcher the thing but rather replaced it in 1976 with the Ford ‘Cologne Capri’ RS3100 Cosworth when the years finally caught up with her.

The shot below is of Moff tickling the car into a beautiful third-gear slide through Sandown’s Shell Corner on the entry to the old Pit Straight, 1974, marvellous, even in Brut-33 livery!

(I Smith)


wirra, lyntonh both via The Nostalgia Forum, Stephen Dalton Collection, SS Memorabilia, Neville Starr Collection, Allan Moffat Collection, Ian Smith


(N Starr)

That gorgeous red paint must have been ‘Dulon’- the Trans-Am even made the cover of a panel beating industry journal, the photo was taken at that initial meeting in May 1969.








Nelson Piquet’s Momo equipped Brabham BT53 BMW in 1984 (unattributed)

Momo was founded in 1964 by Gianpiero Moretti. He commissioned a local craftsman to produce a custom steering wheel for his racer, this first Momo steering wheel had a superior, thicker grip compared to other racing steering wheels of the day.

Other drivers quickly noticed Moretti’s new ’tiller’ and wanted one, so it started to gain fame within the racing community. The new Momo steering wheel caught the attention of Ferrari driver, John Surtees, who wanted one for his Ferrari 158 GP car, the car in which he won the world title in 1964.


Mauro Forghieri and John Surtees with the Momo equipped 1964 F1 Championship winning Ferrari 158. (unattributed)

Moretti created the company ‘Momo’ short for ‘Moretti Monza’ to make steering wheels commercially. Initially his focus was on racing but in the 1970s, the company developed new product lines.

Momo started  production of light alloy wheels and steering wheels for road cars, both for the aftermarket sector and supplying car manufacturers, initially Ferrari but others followed including Aston Martin, Fiat, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, Porsche, Peugeot, Renault, Subaru and others.

I reckon the first Momo i saw was in a cockpit shot of an F1 Ferrari 312B. Wow, it looked good! I was a secondary student at the time, it took me a few years to buy a road car, there were not too many other Cortina GT’s in the Monash University carpark with a Momo steering wheel. As one of my mates said the Momo was worth more then the ‘maroon rocket’ itself, which was an accurate call! Three Momo’s over time graced a succession of Alfa’s, a BMW 325is and a Carrera 3.2. My Van Diemen RF86 Formula Ford is fitted with one ex-factory. Things of beauty aren’t they? And function.

Whilst a Momo fan i never knew anything about the company’s history, despite being aware of Moretti’s racing exploits to an extent, its been interesting to do some simple research.


Momo equipped Ferrari 312B in 1971. Clay Regazzoni. (unattributed)

Momo continued its involvement in motor racing with success; in 1983 Brabham won the F1 World Championship, their car Momo equipped with light alloy wheels as well as a suede steering wheel as depicted in the first photo above. In 1998, Moretti won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the 6 Hours Watkins Glen driving a Ferrari 333 SP.

Mario Andretti, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Michele Alboreto, Michael Schumacher and earlier, Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart and Clay Regazzoni won races with Momo steering wheels.

In 1993 ‘Momo Corse’ offering specialized fireproof clothing.


The complexity of the Ferrari F2002 steering wheel is a nice contrast with the simplicity of the decades before…(alamy)

In 1995 Gianpiero Moretti sold Momo to Breed Technologies, an American industrial group which produced airbag systems and steering wheels. Breed Technologies, in turn was acquired by the Carlyle Management Group, a private equity fund. Recently, ‘Momo was bought by a group of investors with a passion for the brand, its heritage and its products and a desire to grow the company back to its roots’, the company website says.

Momo is still focused on light alloy road wheels, but has also continued to develop racing products, an example the supply of steering wheels for the GP2 Championships in Europe and Asia.

momo new

Momo’s current FWM/02 pro customer steering wheel. (Momo)

 Gianpiero Moretti died in 2012 at the age of 71, too young, but the company he founded still makes beautifully designed contemporary products which show the companies ‘racing DNA’…

Gianpiero Moretti and Piero Lardi Ferrari. (unattributed)

Bibliography and Credits…

Momo corporate website, alamy

jack from kling

Baptism at Aintree – Karl Kling’s Mercedes W196 & Roberto Mieres’ Maserati 250F push Jack at his 1st World Championship F1 event. Cooper T40 Bristol. 1955 British GP. (Jack Brabham Story)

Sixty years ago today, Jack Brabham made his Formula 1 GP debut at Aintree, but first he had to build the car…

The first half of 1955 was full of many goings on for Jack Brabham. With encouragement from the UK RAC motor sporting administrator, Dean Delamont, Jack was convinced to head over to the UK for some motor racing. Little did anyone know the success this would bring – although it was hardly immediate.

It the pages of the February 1955 ‘Australian Motor Sports’ there’s a brief piece on Jack and his trip to the Continent and it rumours that he had ordered a Cooper-Alta and might have a trial drive with Mercedes Benz. To finance such a trip he had to sell his highly developed & successful ‘RedeX Special’ – aka Cooper-Bristol. Stan Jones, having wrecked his Maybach II at the 1954 Australian GP purchased it. Just prior to selling though, Jack had his last race in the ‘RedeX’ at the January 31, 1955 Gnoo Blas meeting. This was a big meeting for the country NSW circuit with international drivers’ Peter Whitehead and Prince Bira running Ferrari & Maserati respectively. For Jack another part of financing the UK journey also meant selling his lathe and some other equipment – all to his later lament.

jack ibsley

The unloved ex-Whitehead Cooper-Alta at Ibsley. (Jack Brabham Story)

Flying to the UK, meant initially leaving his wife, Betty and young son, Geoffrey in Australia. Soon after arriving Jack took delivery of the ex Peter Whitehead Cooper-Alta. In fact he originally set up camp at Whitehead’s Chalfont St Peter’s race garage before a slightly later move to Bob Chase’s RJC Motors operation at Saltdean. His racing activities in the UK, began with the Cooper-Alta at the April 11, 1955 Goodwood Easter Monday meeting. The same meeting Cooper Cars debuted their petite 1100cc Coventry-Climax T39 ‘bobtail’ sports car. Their first foray into what would become a successful ‘Climax’ engine relationship.

brabham GP-1955-debut

Brabham’s brand new, self built Cooper T40 Bristol, Aintree, British GP 1955. Car and driver victorious in the 1955 Australian GP, Port Wakefield later in the year. (unattributed)

History tells us that Jack Brabham never said much, he let his ability do the talking, whether by his driving or engineering skills. But he knew how to get what he wanted. Neither Charles, nor John Cooper ever officially interviewed Jack for a job at Cooper’s Surbiton works. He just hung around often enough until he was one of them.

Despite its Cooper heritage, Jack’s lack of enthusiasm remained for the Cooper-Alta. Even after an engine blow-up at the April 30 Ibsley meeting on the old RAF base, saw him convert it to Bristol power. Meaning he was never going to be satisfied continuing to race that car.

So having gained his new friendship with the likeable John Cooper, Jack was allowed use of Cooper’s Surbiton facilities to knock together what would be his own interpretation of Cooper’s new T39 ‘bobtail’ – shoehorning a big engine into a small sports car. One could even say this was an early incarnation of what would evolve into the Can Am style cars of the mid 60s and onwards.

t40 construction

The bare bones of the Cooper T40 Bristol under construction. Tubular ‘curvy in the usual Cooper way’ chassis frame. Front and rear suspension upper transverse leaf spring and lower wishbones with Arnstrong shocks, drum brakes, 2 litre Bristol 6 cylinder engine.(Jack Brabham Story)

Part of Jack building his ‘streamliner’ F1 car, involved adding 50mm to the chassis’ wheelbase to accommodate the familiar to him, 2 litre Bristol 6 cylinder lump – in place of the 1100 Climax 4. Both built with the engine behind the driver. Worth noting is that in some official entry lists the car is claimed to have a 2.2 litre Bristol. Apparently that was the intent, but not reality. It was also built devoid of lights and anything that would add unwarranted weight.

t40 engine

The Bristol 2 litre 6 cylinder in the rear of the T40. (Jack Brabham Story)

This project later tagged as T40 in the Cooper genealogy stakes – with 2 constructed. One Jack would use himself, this car was allocated chassis number CB/1/55 and another that Bob Chase’s RJC Motors would briefly run for Mike Keen. I say briefly, because unfortunately a crash at the August 20, 1955 Goodwood 9 hour took Mike’s life and the ever present problem of fire destroyed the car.

Jack Brabham’s UK presence hadn’t gone unnoticed by the UK specialist motoring press, gaining a few comments in race reports. Autosport magazine even showed off the incomplete T40 in their pages the day before its first race. Admittedly the photo would have been taken sometime before that, but it was a brand new car when it hit the circuit – with no test time.

jack and autosport

Autosport 15 July 1955 Cooper/Brabham announcement.

Liverpool’s Aintree circuit was the venue for the running of the July 16, 1955 British GP meeting. This meeting became Jack’s F1 debut race. The programme even mentions ‘The Cooper Grand Prix entry is a prototype of a full team to be built to race in 1956.’ A slightly premature comment as it turned out and the only F1 Grand Prix the T40 would take part. The car’s haste to complete meant new car sorting was lacking and a rear of grid start. Having liberated the Harley Davidson clutch setup from his Australian ‘RedeX’ C-B before sale, with some irony it was this part that let Jack down at Aintree making for an early retirement at 30 of the intended 90 laps the outcome. The dominant Mercedes Benz W196 team that included Juan Manuel Fangio, Karl Kling and Stirling Moss, saw Stirling taking race honours.


Jack Brabham’s Cooper T40 Bristol from Ken Wharton Vanwall VW55 equal 9th, with victor Stirling Moss about to round them up in his Mercedes W196. (Bill Henderson)

Despite the niggling start Jack had more faith in the T40 than the Cooper-Alta. What followed over the ensuing month were national events at July 30 Crystal Palace & August 1 Brands Hatch with further retirements at both. Then crossing over the Scottish border his luck with the T40 began to change at the August 6 Charterhall meeting. Finally two 4th placed finishes in his Heat and Final. Continuing into the following week’s damp August 13 Snetterton. At that meeting Jack was able to mix it amongst some of the motor racing luminaries. Such as Harry Schell & Ken Wharton in Vanwall’s, Stirling Moss in his privately entered Maserati 250F and Roy Salvadori 250F. That being the finishing order for Snetterton’s RedeX Trophy race with Jack slotting in between Stirling and Roy for another 4th place. Had he not spun during his tussle with Moss it may well have been a 3rd place greeting him. This race alone was enough to convince Jack he would return to the UK in 1956 as he was about to send the Cooper T40 home to Australia. Jack and Betty then set to return to Sydney in late September to catch up with their son and more motor racing.

brabham and hawthorn

Jacks thoroughly modern mid engined, ‘central seat sports derived F1 car’ ahead of the over the hill Ferrari 625 of Mike Hawthorn, monstering the little Cooper. MH finished equal 6th in the race with Fazz teammate Eugenio Castellotti. Things got better for Ferrari, the Lancia D50 ‘gifts’ were not too far away! (unattributed)


The year of 1955 was also a period whereby other Aussies had made the trip to England for a racing holiday. Orders had been placed with Aston Martin for 3 of their DB3S racing sports cars. The ‘Kangaroo Stable’ as it was so named with members being Tony Gaze, David McKay, Les Cosh, Dick Cobden, Tom Sulman & Jack Brabham. Circumstances played against them though. Late delivery of the cars didn’t help, but it was the June 11-12, 1955 running of Le Mans that put the skids on racing soon afterwards with a number of events cancelled as a result to the Pierre Levegh Mercedes going into the crowd at Le Mans.

1955 Hyeres Kangaroo

‘Kangaroo Stable’ Aston Martin DB3S at the Hyeres 12 Hour, France 29 May 1955. L>R Gaze, McKay, Brabham, Cosh and Cobden standing near the post. Only Tom Sulman is missing from the shot. Race won by Canonica/Munaron Ferrari 750 Monza, then came the Kangaroo Stable trio; Gaze/McKay 2nd, Cosh/Cobden 3rd and Sulman/Brabham 4th. (David McKay ‘Behind The Wheel’)

Jack Brabham was present at the famous French road course that year, but as a reserve driver for the Bristol team. He got to qualify, but never received the call up to put his helmet on for the race. That may well have been one of several omens Jack was granted in 1955 and over his outstanding career.

Cooper Cars Ltd also had a presence at Le Mans with the John Brown/Edgar Wadsworth Cooper T39 1100 and the Whitehead Brothers Cooper-Jaguar that year, but it was the infancy of Jack and John’s friendship, hence no involvement with the Surbiton marque’s effort

Another instance of Brabham luck was just before he headed for home. September 17 was the Dundrod RAC Tourist Trophy meeting in Ireland, with Jack there to share the Michael O’Shea owned Cooper T39 with London driver, Jim Mayers. An inexperienced French driver, Vicomte Henri de Barry created annoyance for several drivers as he baulked their progress, with those drivers’ having to take risks to get past to further their race on the testing Irish road course. Unfortunately the situation ended as badly as it could with a fiery crash at Deer’s Leap involving several cars. Jim was one of 2 drivers to die at that crash scene – the Cooper scattered to oblivion. This event would also claim another driver, elsewhere around the course. Although not knowing otherwise, Dean Delamont had sought out Betty Brabham, thinking it was Jack involved in the main crash – only to find him in the pit. Jim and Jack had flipped a coin to decide who did the first stint. We know who won…

jack and betty

Together in the UK, Betty Brabham followed Jack mid-year. While their son, Geoffrey stayed with his grandparents in Sydney. Cooper T40 Bristol. (Jack Brabham Story)

So as can be seen there were a few familiar names that helped establish Jack Brabham in those early days in the UK – Whitehead, Chase, Cooper & Delamont. The Bristol marque also played its part with their engine and the Le Mans reserve driver gig. Through them, Jack Brabham, Jim Mayers & Mike Keen are also entwined with their 1955 Le Mans Bristol team involvement. Taking out 7th (Mayers), 8th (Keen) & 9th places behind Jaguar’s Mike Hawthorn, Ivor Bueb winning entry. It was all a taste of the next 15 years Jack would encounter in the highest levels of motor racing, including building more racing cars.



Jack shipped the Cooper Bristol home to Australia at the end of 1955, and in the saltbush country of the new Port Wakefield circuit, 100Km from Adelaide, won the 1955 Australian Grand Prix on 10 October. A lucky win from Reg Hunt’s ailing Maserati A6GCM and Doug Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago T26C. The first mid-engined AGP win. (unattributed)

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

‘The Jack Brabham Story’ Jack Brabham and Doug Nye, ‘Behind The Wheel’ David McKay, Bill Henderson



brm m sport v16 cover

About 15 years ago, I got a phone call from my father, telling me that his brother, my Uncle Henry had passed away at his home in Derbyshire, UK…

I remember Henry from the early 1960s, my dad’s dashing brother, who never married, but whenever he visited, arrived on or in interesting machinery. My first ride on a bike was on his Vincent Comet and then on a legendary Black Shadow. A Mini Cooper was thrilling, even more so, a Cooper S.

We moved to Australia, but news came occasionally of the succession of Lotus, Porsche and latterly turbocharged Nissans of the Silvia and Skyline variety.

brm 1

BRM V16, Ken Richardson, Folkingham 15 December 1949. (Marcus Clayton Collection)

I was pleased to receive, as part of a modest inheritance from Henry, a packet of photos, reproduced here. They are obviously very early BRM shots, which I had never seen before. I thought they may have been taken by him as a young man, but 2 of them appear elsewhere on the interweb, so I can only assume they are part of a postcard pack, or press pack. I would date them around 1950/51.

(Contributor/Historian Stepen Dalton advises the photos are BRM Press Kit shots, the cars launch was at Folkingham on December 15 1949, Stephen suspects Henry may have been a ‘BRMA’ or ‘ORMA’ member, the BRM supporters groups. The members of those groups were perhaps provided with copies of the shots. See membership badges below. Stephen has also indicated the likely dates of the track sessions and drivers, i have changed the captions accordingly.)

brm 2

1488cc, centrifugal-supercharged, DOHC 2 valve V16. (Marcus Clayton Collection/Louis Klemantaski)

I have always had a fascination with the BRM. It has been written about extensively, so I can only add my personal take on this machine.

Mark Hales described it as like ‘The Victorians trying to build a moon rocket, and they very nearly succeeded’.

16 cylinders, each of less than 100cc, highly supercharged, spinning at 12,000 rpm, air suspension, disc brakes, with all this componentry, supplied by dozens of different companies, motivated to show ‘Johnny Foreigner’ that British engineering was still the best in the world. Inevitably, when there are so many suppliers involved, with so many radical parts, the project was delayed, time and time again, until the great day when the car had its first race start. It travelled about 3 feet, after breaking an axle at the start.

brm v 16 cutaway

Chassis was tubular comprising double-tube side members, 4 cross members, aluminium body. Suspension at front by Porsche type trailing arms and Lockheed air struts, de Dion rear axle located by a single radius rod each side and Lockheed air struts. Brakes Girling 3 shoe drums,(Mk 2 had discs) Wheels Dunlop centre lock wires with 5.25 inch wide x18 inch diameter wheels at front and 7 inch x17 inch diameter at the rear. BRM 5 speed gearbox with ZF ‘slippery diff, gearchange on RHS, transmission angled to pass to the left of the driver. Engine specifications with engine cutaway drawing below. Weight at the start line circa 862Kg. (Tony Matthews)

The cars were extensively sorted over 3 years before they became reliable. Exhausts changed from full length, to in front of rear wheels, to stubs behind the front wheels. Radiator intakes increased and decreased, oil cooling and filtration revised, nearly every part was altered and changed.

When some cars were being properly restored during the 90s, the original dyno shed was discovered, and on the walls were all the different firing orders tried. I don’t know that the final order used was ever identified.

Of course there is the sound.

I don’t know if it is the greatest sound in the automotive world, but it has to be in the running. I played a recording of the BRM to an engineering colleague, who makes drag racing engines. He thought the BRM sounded like an extremely angry Funny Car, and took some persuading to be convinced that all that fury came from only 1500 cc.

brm 3

BRM V16, Folkingham, Ken Richardson 15 December 1949. (Marcus Clayton Collection)

None of the drivers really liked the car, as it was unreliable and difficult.

‘The V16 was a thoroughly nasty car,’ said Moss. ‘The brakes were OK, the acceleration was incredible – until you broke traction – but everything else I hated, particularly the steering and the driving position. Handling? I don’t remember it having any…’

Raymond Mays, (Who I think is driving in the photos) ‘Before we went to Albi in ’53, I drove Fangio’s car at Folkingham Aerodrome and I had it up to 190mph on the 2000-yard runway. It was quite frightening, because you could re-spin the wheels at 9800 in fourth gear. I reached 11,800, with a high gear in…’


Ray Mays, BRM V16, Daily Express Int Trophy Meeting, Silverstone 26 August 1950 (J Wilds)

Mays again ‘By the end of that lap, though, Fangio detected a misfire, and, as Mays admitted, ‘When you got a misfire on the V16, it could have been 1001 things… We worked through the night, and at 3.30am it was decided that I would test the car. At that time of the day – early dawn – there were horses and carts about, farmers coming out of gates, but on this long straight road I had the thing up to 180, and I scared myself stiff.’ How wide was the road? I asked. ‘Narrow’. said Mays. ‘Narrow.’

So the cars were ultimately irrelevant, only winning races in Formula Libre after time ran out for them when F1 changed to the unsupercharged 2 litre formula.

brm 4

Handsome side profile undeniable.(Marcus Clayton Collection/Louis Klemantaski)

The world is a better and more interesting place for the BRMs having been made. It would be unlikely to happen today, as the risks were far too high, but they were, like so many of the automotive and other objects that we so treasure, a delightful folly.

The recording is of Nick Mason’s BRM in 1998, driven by Mark Hales, from ‘Into the Red’.

brm 5

BRM V16 Folkingham. Perhaps Ray Mays on the cars first trial run, 3 December 1949. (Marcus Clayton Collection)

Restoration and Maintenance of This Car, Type 15 Chassis #1 Owned by the British National Motor Museum…


brm 6

Another shot at what appears to the be the launch of the BRM Type 15. (Marcus Clayton Collection/Louis Klemantaski)

brm board

Raymond Mays at right doing a bit of ‘stakeholder management’.R>L: Mays leaning, behind him Peter Berthon. Beside Peter, publicist Walter Hill, to his left Bob Henderson Tate from the Ministry of Supply. Standing, still going R>L are members of the ‘British Motor Racing Research Trust’ Bernard Scott and Denis Flather of Lucas, Alfred Owen far left. Seated in front of the table is administrator and later company secretary of BRM James Sandercombe. The meeting is in the study at Eastgate House, Mays family home in 1948. (photo unattributed but caption details ‘BRM Vol1’ Doug Nye)

brm engine cutaway

135 degree all alloy, 1488cc V16 with cast-iron wet liners. 10 bearing crank. DOHC 2 valves per cylinder, Rolls Royce 2 stage centrifugal supercharger fed by 2 SU carbs. Ignition by Lucas coil and 4 Lucas magnetos.Mk 1 Type 15 power 330bhp@10250rpm 1950-460bhp@11000rpm 1951.(unattributed)

BRM V16 crank

BRM crankshaft, centre power take-off clear. (Stephen Dalton Collection from the ‘BRM Ambassador for Britain Booklet’)

BRM V16 Vandervell ad

(Stephen Dalton Collection from the ‘BRM Ambassador for Britain Booklet’.)


‘Owen Racing Motor Association’badge.


Scratchy ‘BRM Association’ lapel badge.

brm postcard

Photo and Other Credits…

Tony Matthews cutaway, Motorsport magazine, Stephen Dalton Collection, J Wilds, ‘BRM Vol 1’ Doug Nye




hill hi wing

Graham Hill in his hi-winged Lotus 49 during practice for the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix, he went on to win the last of his five Monaco victories on Sunday May 18 1969…

‘Twas his last Grand Prix win as well but his competitiveness was still there, wins were to come in F2 and in endurance racing. His ’72 Le Mans Matra victory with Henri Pescarolo made him unique in our sport as the only winner of ‘Motor Racing’s Triple Crown’; victories in the Drivers World Championship, (BRM 1962 Lotus 1968) Indy (Lola 1966) and Le Mans.

The story of the weekend was all about wings. There had been some big failures as engineers battled with forces they did not fully understand, notably the collisions, fortunately without serious injury to both Hill and Jochen Rindt at Barcelona on May 4, the race before Monaco.

Hill’s rear wing failed on lap 9 as he crested the rise after the Montjuic Park pits, he crashed heavily but was uninjured. Eleven laps later Rindt’s leading Lotus 49 suffered the same failure, collided with Hill’s abandoned car and overturned. He emerged with cuts, bruises and a broken nose. The wing on Ickx’ Brabham BT26 fell apart during the race as well.

There had been other failures in the recent past, the authorities needed to act before someone was killed.

rindt rooted lotus

Rindt’s rooted Lotus 49, Montjuic Park Barcelona 1969. Jochen was a very lucky boy to escape withour serious injury after a wing support failure, Hill’s car into which Rindt collided is just down the road. (unattributed)

The CSI met in Monaco and acted after first practice by banning high wings forthwith, times were scrapped and the process of qualifying recommenced.

The sport was made safer as a consequence, some remain of the view that wings should have been banned then. Full stop.

hill monaco interim

Wonderful overhead shot of Hill in qualifying post the wing ban; Chapman chose to keep the front wings, meanwhile the tin-snips were being put to work…3 litre Ford Cosworh DFV, big rear oil tank, external extinguisher the first thing to leave the car in the event of a major rear impact (handy for the driver in need of foam!), and Aeroquip brakelines running along the radius rods all clear to see. You can just about read the Smiths tach and chassis plate! (Automobile Year 16)

Stewart took an early lead from Amon’s Ferrari 312 in the race, Hill moved into third shortly after the start and after differential failures to both Amon and Stewart’s Matra MS80 Ford gained the lead he never lost. He took victory from Piers Courage’ Brabham BT26 Ford and  Jo Siffert’s Lotus 49B.

hill low level spoiler

By the time of the race’ start Chapman and his team had fashioned this neat spoiler…not as nice as the 49 used at Monaco in ’68 but that was built at the factory, this was not bad overnight and ‘ in the field’. (unattributed)

Winners are grinners, Hill ‘The Mayor of Monaco’ was always a popular victor in the Principality…

hill victory

Hill victorious in Lotus 49 ‘R10′, first debut’ by Jochen Rindt at Wigram NZ in January 1969. Victories in the Tasman Warwick Farm 100 in Rind’ts hands and Hill at Monaco. 49’s much raced by many drivers this chassis also raced by John Miles. Alex Soler-Roig and Emerson Fittipladi, Emmo raced it in its final GP, Austria in August 1970. Car still exists in the UK. (unattributed)



All those hi-wings in the Montjuic dummy grid, soon to be a thing of the past. #7 Jackie Stewart with teammate Jean Pierre-Beltoise behind, both Matra MS80 Ford, Graham Hill Lotus 49 Ford beside Stewart, #6 Bruce McLaren McLaren M7A Ford, #15 Chris Amons Ferrari 312 and #4 Jacky Ickx Brabham BT26A Ford (unattributed)

rindt barcelona

Rindt’s Lotus 49B and its broken wing supports clear in this shot of the ‘unguided missile’. Spectators and Rindt fortunate. Montjuic Park 1969. (unattributed)

rindt spain

49 ‘R9’ decidedly second-hand, Jochen was so lucky to ‘walk away’ from this accident (Getty Images)

rindts letter to chapman

Rindt’s 9 May 1969 letter post Spanish prang to Chapman is widely circulated and a classic! Prophetic sadly. (Jochen Rindt Archive)

Credits… chassis research, Automobile Year 16, Getty Images


(State Library of South Australia)

 The carefree nature of the 1950 Nuriootpa race paddock is contrasted by the formal attire of the day, young boy in the ‘Pith Helmet’ impressed by Charlie Dean’s Maybach 1…

The first post war AGP in South Australia was held in the Barossa Valley. Not on the daunting Lobethal road circuit where the 1939 event had been run, but just down the road.

The circuit was basically a square layout of 3 miles on flattish land. A permit for ‘Loby couldn’t be obtained but one for ‘Nuri was with the intervention of some prominent local businessmen including John Hill-Smith of the Yalumba wine family.

Nuri cover

1950 AGP Program cover. (Stephen Dalton Collection)


Nuriootpa Road Circuit Map (‘History of The AGP’)

Graham Howard’s ‘History of The AGP’ described the circuit…

‘There was a slight uphill section along the (Nuri) Main Street, followed by a right hand corner onto a downhill section back into the countryside…This lead to an Ess at a narrow bridge, after which the road ran straight to an intersection around which were collected the finish line, the pits and-on the next straight after the intersection-the start line. There was a vineyard to the left…but enough grazing paddocks for parking etc…’

The starting straight lead to two fast right hand sweeps after which the road then lead west by way of a pair of gentle Esses…to a T Intersection…then via a left-right sweep across another narrow bridge, into the Main Street again. There were some very bumpy parts…the roads just wide enough for two cars to pass readily…’

The Sporting Car Club of SA ran the event to the Australian Automobile Associations decree, the winner was the competitor finishing in the fastest time but otherwise in the best traditions of the AGP at the time, the event was a handicap and awards were made on that basis. Geddit?

davison nuri

Lex Davison takes to the circuit, Nuriootpa paddock in the background. Alfa Romeo P3/Tipo B. (unattributed)

The main contenders for the race were primarily cars I have written about before so I won’t go through the detail, but here are some links if you want to refresh your memory; The Maybach, driven by its creator Charlie Dean;

‘Black Bess’, the Ford Ute V8 Spl driven by its builder, Doug Whiteford;

The ex-Alf Barrett Alfa Romeo Monza by the time of the Nuriootpa event owned and driven by relative novice Rupert Steele.

Lex Davison, who would later win four AGP’s started his Alfa Romeo P3- the scratch man was Tony Gaze’ 1935 2 litre supercharged Alta, although he was not to start after dramas in a preliminary race, all these racers were Melburnians.

Fastest resident South Australian was Harry Neale in Eldred Norman’s, extraordinary ‘Double Eight’ or ‘Double V8’ which married the chassis of a weapons carrier and a pair of single carb Ford V8’s from army trucks. It had independent suspension on all four corners, 7834cc in total and was rated a good chance on a ‘point and squirt’ course like Nuri with slow corners and long straights. See the section below for details on this amazing car.

nuriootpa poster

Australian Motor Sports described the race day scene…

‘Brilliant sunshine made the competitors paddock a colourful spectacle with racing cars in different hues, tender vehicles ranging from furniture vans and in which the Steele cars had been brought from Melbourne to the luggage trailer which Peter Damman had towed behind his racing Hudson the same distance. In a handy position near the course Motors Ltd’s mobile service van was in constant demand with its stock of racing oils, spares and field workshop’.

‘Between the finish of the under 1500cc scratch race and the start of the Grand Prix, there was a brief interval for luncheon; then, as 1.30 drew near, cars were lined up in the continuation of the crossroads behind the starting straight, in preparation for the big race. Two spectators climbed up stepladders which they had brought to the course for private grandstands, and the three limit men were away…’

The race itself was diminished by the inability of Gaze to start, Davison’s retirement on lap 1, having lost compression on two of the Alfas 8 cylinders and Dean’s withdrawal on lap 21 with magneto, overheating and braking problems.

What was absorbing was the battle between the ‘Aussie Battler’ garage proprietor Whiteford in his carefully evolved and very well driven Ford V8 Spl, and the ‘Silvertail’ from Toorak, Rupert Steele in the aristocratic Alfa.

The latter had the edge on top speed but the Ford, with more supple suspension, was better suited to the South Australian country roads. Whiteford was a hard man as a driver, but the novice Steele was no slouch, he must have been ‘a natural’ to adapt to the GP car with experience limited to a few hillclimbs and speed events in a Bentley road car.

1950 agp

rupert steele monza nuriootpa

Rupert Steele in his ex-Alf Barrett Alfa Monza, drove an exceptional race as a relative novice against the tough Doug Whiteford. (John Blanden Collection)

On lap 13 Steele ran out of road having passed a gaggle of MG’s- he spun the big Alfa and stalled. He lost about 1 minute 49 seconds, hand cranking the supercharged straight-eight back into life but his race was effectively run.

Whiteford won from Steele’s Monza and Jim Gullan’s Ballot Olds, the latter was first on a handicap basis from David Harvey and Ron Kennedy, both in MG TC Specials. Steele’s sporting focus was on horses for the rest of his life, sad really as his potential as a driver was clear, the Alfa was sold to ‘Racing Ron’ Edgerton by the end of 1951.

Whiteford of course went on to enjoy two more AGP wins and a career which went well into the seventies as a works driver of Datsun sedans and sportscars.


Doug Whiteford, victorious in the 1950 AGP at Nuriootpa, in Black Bess’ his self constructed Ford V8 Spl. (John Blanden Collection)

The stimuli for this article were several shots I found in the State Library of South Australia archive- of the Dean Maybach, McKenna BMW 328, Jones HRG and other cars which competed that weekend.

I’ve done the Maybach to death in the Jones article referenced above, here are some notes about the other cars, John Blanden’s ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ has provided some of the detail.

bmw 328

Peter McKenna’s BMW 328 in the Nuri paddock Car was the winner of the 1948 AGP, at Point Cook, Victoria driven by Frank Pratt. (State Library of SA)

McKenna’s BMW 328 was raced by him all over Australia at Rob Roy, Fishermans Bend, Ballarat, Port Wakefield, Albert Park’s initial meeting in 1953 and as far afield as Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast for the 1954 AGP, when he overshot a corner and rolled. The car passed through many hands before leaving Australia in the early 2000’s.

Chassis # 85136 was brought into the country by John Snow, who acquired it on one of his regular trips to Europe in 1937. A German General sold the car, Snow bought it on behalf of George Martin, president of the Light Car Club of Australia in Melbourne.

It finished the 1938 AGP at Bathurst in tenth, see my article on Peter Whitehead’s ERA which covers this race, Martin sadly had a fatal accident in it near Wagga Wagga on the return trip to Melbourne.

Their were two ‘racing 328’s in period, both were involved in fatal road accidents, the other killed very talented racing driver Colin Dunne and his wife Billie at Phillip Island. It wasn’t a race accident mind you, but one which took place on the circuit between motor-cycle events.

By 1947 the 328 had passed into the hands of champion Geelong motorcyclist and dealer Frank Pratt.

Pratt famously won his very first car race, the 1948 Australian Grand Prix held at Point Cook! He was aided by a favourable handicap excellent driving and the extraordinary heat of the day which knocked out many of the fancied runners.

Whilst new to car racing he was well familiar with intense competition. The car’s preparation by multiple AGP winner Les Murphy was also a factor- some reports say Murphy was extremely pissed off, he was originally entered to drive the car, and then was supposedly sharing it with Pratt whose intention to drive the race solo soon became clear to Les once the arduous event was underway!

McKenna had a handicap of 9 minutes at Nuriootpa, but was not classified.


Stan Jones, HRG ‘Bathurst’, Nuriootpa AGP meeting 1950. Jones cooked his engine in a preliminary race so was a non-starter for the GP. (State Library of SA)

HRG ‘Bathurst’…

Tony Gaze brought the first HRG to Australia in 1947, the car was uncompetitive. Gaze specified future cars to be light, sports/open wheelers with easily removable lights and guards so the cars could run as sports or racing cars in local events.

Brown and Dureau, a Melbourne trading firm who ‘Gaze was with’ imported the first car to these specifications in 1949, Stan Jones was the purchaser of the 1.5 litre, 4 cylinder car. (car had no chassis number).

He first raced it at Rob Roy in June, it was soon supercharged running 12-psi of boost, he didn’t race it for long before offering it for sale but he did race it at Corio, Geelong in late 1949 before entering the AGP at Nuriootpa.

In one of the preliminary races for under 1500cc cars Jones had a furious dice with fellow Melbourne motor trader/racer and later champion Bill Patterson- Bill was MG TC Spl mounted. Both cars retired with overheating maladies. Jones’ car didn’t take the AGP start and Patto retired with head gasket failure. It was not a successful trip to the Barossa for either of them.

The car was sold later in 1950 to Alan Watson but was badly damaged by him and driven by Sil Massola in the 1952 AGP at Bathurst and according to the ‘Blanden Bible’ was/is still in Australia.


Silvio Massola in the ex-Jones HRG. Victoria Trophy, Fishermans Bend 21 March 1954. (VHRR/State Library of Vic)

Blurry Maybach in the Nuri Paddock…

The shot is a bit fuzzy but still included for the atmosphere it shows, Charlie Dean in the paddock, the ‘Copper’ is keeping an eye on proceedings, Fiat Topolino behind the Maybach.

mayback blurred

Charlie Dean, Maybach, Nuriootpa AGP meeting January 1950.(State Library of SA)

Other Entrants…

Curran Ford V8.

curran ford

Dennis Curran, Curran Ford V8 3920cc (State Library of SA)

Regarded as one of the most specialised Ford side valve V8 specials built in Australia, Dennis Curran, then an apprentice made many of the car’s advanced features including its independent front suspension and modified Minerva braking system- the attractive body appears to be in the style of the Alfa ‘Alfetta’ 158/159 GP cars of the period.

The car was raced by Curran at the 1951 Narrogin AGP in WA, then in Bill Wilcox hands in the 1953/4/5 AGP’s as the ‘FLS’. The machine was then further modified by Frank Murphy on behalf of the owner, Melbourne car dealer Harry McLaughlin by fitment of a Lancia Lambda rear end, Jaguar XK120 gearbox and a new body.

A 5 litre Ford V8 was also fitted inclusive of Offenhauser heads and induction manifolds, it competed in this form at the 1956 ‘Olympic’ AGP won by Stirling Moss at Albert Park. It was then known as the ‘Marchel’, the car disappeared , was found by Noel Tuckey in 1980, restored and is now known as the ‘CWM Ford V8 Spl’ an amalgamation of the surname initials of the contributors to the cars evolution; Curran, Wilcox, Murray.

Bugatti Dodge.

bugatti dodge

L Robinson, Bugatti Dodge, Nuriootpa 1950. Interested to know more about this car if anyone has any information on it.  (State Library of SA)

Ballot Oldsmobile.


Jim Gullan, Ballot Olds, AGP Nuriootpa 1950. (State Library of SA)

Jim Gullan replaced the Ballot Ford he had been racing in 1944 with a 2 litre Ballot bought nearby to his families garage in South Melbourne.

The Ballot engine was sold and replaced by an Olds six and ‘box, the chassis was shortened by two feet and narrowed by six inches, the chassis also lightened, you can see the holes made in its longerons to do so.

A body was made by Bob Baker in Melbourne- he built many racing bodies at the time, this Ballot is credited as the first. The sports two seater was registered and commenced racing in 1946. It won the 1950 AGP handicap class as above.

Noted journalist and historian Ray Bell wrote about this car on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, here is his detailed account of the construction and development of the car.

‘Jim Gullan’s Ballot will always rank as one of those cars that looks the part of an Australian Special. The raked nose, the heavily drilled chassis, steering wheel close to the chest and mandatory straps over the bonnet, its wire wheels carried a car that mixed European and American as well as any other. Fortunately the early life of the car is well detailed in Gullan’s book, ‘As Long As It Has Wheels,’ and there was plenty to write about as the Ballot Olds was to bring Gullan a number of successes.’

‘The car was bought in 1944, almost on a whim, it seems, after Gullan had sold the Indianapolis Ballot (by now fitted with Ford V8) early in the war.  A 2-litre model with sohc engine and knock-on wire wheels (more important, according to Gullan), it had a poor body. He mentions 4-wheel brakes with Dewandre servo, making it a 1926/28 model 2LT.

Soon after buying it a workmate offered money for the engine, gearbox and radiator to fit into a Bugatti chassis.  Said Gullan: “I suppose any engine was better than none..’ Having just the chassis left, he thought he’d build a copy of his favourite car, the ERA. He was reluctant to go for another Ford, having had bad experiences with the V8, so an ad for an Oldsmobile engine and box (unused spares purchased for a Taxi) overcame his problems. It was to have triple Ford carbies and extractors.

The chassis was made into a copy of a Bugatti chassis, was shorter and narrower, designed to be ‘strong in the middle,’ boxed and drilled liberally ‘as on the SSK’ for lightness. The original hubs were retained, but laced to smaller rims, the spring shackles were located at the front instead of the rear as Gullan drew on all the modern technology he could identify.’

‘Bob Baker built the body round an angle iron frame, which was screwed to the chassis with small reject aircraft bolts. A deliberate effort was made to reduce frontal area, hence the car’s low appearance. Quick-fill petrol and radiator caps were fabricated and instruments (like the carbies) came from army disposals’.

‘The Ballot name was retained, even though virtually only the axles and wheel hubs remained, because it made it simple to register the car. Just roll up and pay the money!’

‘Springs were fitted outside the chassis and there were torque stays to the front axle, with finned alloy drums off a spare 2-litre Ballot Jim had bought and sold. The first race was at Ballarat at the beginning of 1947, after which hydraulic shocks were fitted front and rear (‘to the horror of the Hartford purists!’) and hydraulic actuation of the brakes was arranged. For Lobethal 1950, (the event which is the subject of this article) which the car was to win on handicap, a specially made 3.5:1 diff replaced the original 4.1:1 unit. Jim had to do the design work for the gear cutter.’

‘Gullan was in business with one of his major opponents on the track, Doug Whiteford, and when Doug imported an Edelbrock cam and heads (he’d melted a pair of alloy heads at Lobethal in 1940!) Bruce Rehn copied the cam profile and lift for the Olds. By the time of the Point Cook AGP (1948) there was yet another higher lift cam and special ratios in the gearbox. As a result of the heat at Point Cook, with the Olds running so cool and well, the engine was bored 3/16”, while both cars were fitted with enlarged sumps with cooling tubes fitted. Then for Nuriootpa’s opening meeting in 1949 PBR made up special alloy brake shoes and backing plates. These were found to be bending the chassis, so some more work was required’.

‘The car was Gullan’s expression of all he’d learned from observing racing and running his own Salmson, Wolseley, Austin and Ballot V8. It was considered by Whiteford to be ‘too sensitive in the steering and brakes, difficult to drive.’ Gullan adjudged Black Bess to be ‘tail light, tending to wander at speed, with light and spongy steering and poor brakes.’

‘Considering just how it came together – the bits that just happened to be there, the chance acquisitions – it worked very well. Gullan was a handicap specialist, with his wife Christine timekeeping and acting as strategist, and they beat the handicaps with monotonous regularity. He comments that he just had to keep on making the car quicker to keep on beating them, so it was well developed when sold to Alan Watson.’

‘He mentions getting airborne over the top of the hill approaching Lobethal at 110mph, touching 116mph on the straight and holding it flat all the way from Lobethal to within sight of the pits at that early stage of its development. By the time it won the handicap section of the 1950 AGP it must have been a fairly quick car’ (Ray Bell)

The car passed through many hands over the next 20 years, it was raced as late as 1963 at Calder, Victoria. It has been used since 1970 in historic events, is still alive today i believe in Frank Moore’s Collection of Australian Specials in Queensland.

ballot olds 1946

Jim Gullan in his Ballot Olds at Rob Roy,Victoria in 1946. This provides a clearer view of the car. (George Thomas)

Double 8.

double 8

Eldred Norman in the ‘Double 8’ during the 1950 Nuriootpa, AGP. DNF on lap 2. (TNF)

The following truncated account of this car is by ‘theotherharv’ from ‘The Nostalgia Forum’.

‘In 1946 Eldred was purchasing ex-army vehicles left behind by the Americans and selling them in Adelaide. While visiting Papua-New Guinea , he acquired a war-surplus Dodge weapons carrier chassis along with a host of Jeeps and Blitz trucks at an auction in Port Moresby.

Eldred used the Dodge to construct a race car – the ‘Double Bunger’, or more commonly ‘Double V8’, it was built from the bodywork of an aircraft and a tubular steel chassis.

d 8 engine

Scratchy shot of the 2 Ford V8 engines. Double 8. (TNF)

Power came from two Ford Mercury 239ci flathead V8 engines for a total capacity of 7,800cc. These engines were good for 100-110bhp each when run independently, giving Eldred some 200bhp in the Double V8. Engine cooling suffered despite radiators both in front and behind the driver with a tendency to overheat in long races. The engines were coupled flywheel-to-crank snout with a four-row chain drive and were timed to fire as a V16, with a Scintilla magneto providing the spark.

This large 2500 lbs machine had independent suspension and water-cooled drum brakes supplied by four US made Toronto fuel pumps. The drum brakes produced spectacular clouds of steam as he applied them, despite being undersized for the task. The rear drums were built inboard, operating on the back axle and were additionally cooled by a fan worked by the tail shaft.

d 8 road

Eldred Norman aboard his road registered ‘Double 8’ attractive body, truck wheels betraying cars weapon carrier underpinnings! Two seater form here, this evolved over the cars life. (TNF)

Road-registered, Eldred was frequently seen driving the Double V8 around the Adelaide hills, with trade number plates tied with string or a strap around his neck! Between 1948 and 1951 he drove the car successfully in hill-climbs and various race tracks in three States, the car was also driven long distances to compete at tracks such as Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria, a 900-mile round trip journey sans mufflers.

In addition to circuit racing, Eldred also raced at Sellick’s Beach, South Australia where racing was undertaken between mile posts. An annual speed trial and motorcycle races were held on three kilometres or more of sand along Aldinga and Sellick’s Beaches up to 1953. The Double V8 won both the unlimited scratch race and the over 1500cc handicap race held at the beach by the Racing Drivers Association of South Australia in April 1950. This event drew more than 5,000 spectators. One incident with Harry Neale at the wheel of the Double V8 ended with the Double V8 deposited into the sea, ripping off the bodywork and leaving Harry sitting on the chassis, wet but unhurt.

norman dbl 8 woodside

Eldred Norman ‘Double 8’, Woodside 1949. (State Library of SA)

Eldred’s can do, larrikin spirit was also evident in the way he once retrieved the telephone cables laid out for communication between officials at each end of the Sellick’s Beach strip- by fitting a bare rim to the Double V8 rear axle and firing up the twin V8s to power what must have been Australia’s most powerful fishing reel.

The Double V8 marked the start of Eldred’s entries into the Australian Grands Prix- in the January 1950 Nuiootpa Australian Grand Prix, Eldred’s Double V8 retired after only two laps.

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‘Double 8’ in the Woodside, SA paddock 1949. (State Library of SA)

The 1951 Australian Grand Prix was again run as a Formula Libre event in March at a 4.4 mile ‘around the houses’ road circuit at Narrogin, Western Australia.

Eldred entered the Double V8, whilst leading on lap 7 of 24 it again broke down, this time due to suspension failure, leading to Eldred’s retirement from the race.

The car was sold in 1951 to Syd Anderson, proprietor of the Sydney Anderson Automotives used-car dealership in William Street Western Australia.  During both Anderson’s and subsequent ownerships in WA the car was modified repeatedly.

Anderson raced the Double V8 extensively, including the following West Australian meetings; The Great Southern Flying 50 meeting at Narrogin in March 1952, winning the scratch race for over 1500cc. The Northam Flying 50 meeting at Northam in April, there he won the three-lap scratch race for over 1500cc cars, at the Goomalling Speed Classic on the Goomalling road circuit in June he was fourth in the 15 lap handicap for Racing Cars, first in the 3 lap scratch race for racing cars over 1500cc and first in the 5 lap handicap race for racing cars.

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Wonderful color shot of Syd Anderson racing the Double 8 at the ‘Goomalling Speed Classic’ at Goomalling WA in 1952. 2 1st places at the meeting. Note truck wheels drilled for relative lightness. (TNF)

Toby Carboni with three helpers trying to get 16 cylinders to cooperate. Note the two carburettor vertical inlets, ‘V16’ script on the hubcaps and heavily drilled steel wheels especially on the rear. Caversham perhaps (K Devine)

Anderson entered the Double V8 in the 1953 Johore Grand Prix in Malaya but retired from the race due with overheating dramas. The Double V8 was then sold by Anderson to James Harwood, a navy veteran, musician and motor enthusiast in Perth.

Harwood tossed a penny with Anderson to decide the purchase price – either £50 or £100. Harwood won. The vehicle was then towed to Harwood’s business premises where Bill Strickland removed the two Ford V8 engines, which were sold. The Double V8 body was then placed outside James’ business as advertising, though was removed a few days later at the request of Perth City Council.

In the period 1955-1957 Toby Carboni raced the car extensively in Western Australia. Keith Windsor bought the Double V8 body in 1957 and installed a V12 Lincoln Zephyr engine.

Lincoln produced these engines from 1936-1948, ceasing production nearly a decade before Windsor’s repowering of the Double V8. I’m not certain if Windsor used the 267ci, 292ci or 306ci engine (110-130bhp), though in any case it was a marked reduction from Eldred’s 478ci (~200bhp) double V8 powerplant.

Windsor debuted the V12 Double V8 in the Christmas Cup at Caversham in late November 1958, competing in the five-lap racing car scratch race for over 1500cc, though he did not place in the top three positions. Sadly, Windsor found the V12 vehicle was not manageable and subsequently scrapped it. If there is one car which would be welcome at Australian historic race meetings it is most certainly this stunning creation!

After the Double V8 Eldred then bought a 1936 Maserati Type 6CM.

MG K3…

(S Jonklaas)

Otto Stone’s car, out after completing only one lap.

Healey Elliott…

healey elliott

Another State Library of SA shot, it’s not clear from the caption if the car is competing at Nuri or otherwise.

The car behind is a Nash Ambassador. Donald Healey built 101 of these cars, Elliott refers to the body builders, Healey provided the ladder frame chassis to that firm to clothe, the engine was a Riley 2.5 litre pushrod four, the car for a time was the fastest four seater in the world. They were built from 1946 to 1950, suspension used trailing arms at the front and a live axle at the rear suspended by coil springs front and rear.


Rupert Steele.

steele bentley

(George Thomas)

Rupert Steele contesting a Rob Roy Hillclimb in his Bentley devoid of bodywork in 1948.

The step up from this lumbering tourer, he only did one circuit race in the car, to the Grand Prix Alfa Monza must have been immense.

whiteford paper article

‘The Adelaide Advertiser’ 3 January 1950.


Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, Australian Motor Sports January 1950, Stephen Dalton Collection, Motormarques, Ray Bell, The Nostalgia Forum (TNF), The Adelaide Advertiser 3/1/1950

Photo Credits…

Publications as above, State Library of South Australia, John Blanden Collection, George Thomas, The Nostalgia Forum, Stuart Jonklaas Collection


Ron Kennedy from Don Cant, both in MG TC Spls, finished in fourth and third places respectively.



Stuart Lewis-Evans with the assistance of Tony Harris lowers his Cooper Mk V from the roof of his ‘Landy’ at Crystal Palace in 1956…

It looks as though the most tricky part of a race meeting with this set up was actually getting the racer to the meeting and safely onto the Paddock terra-firma!

Lewis-Evans was one of the many stars spat out of 500cc/F3 and within a couple of years was into Grand Prix racing in a career which promised much but was cut short by the tragic accident which took his life at Ain Diab, Morocco in 1958.

I wrote an article a while back about these fabulous air-cooled Coopers which is worth a read if you have not seen it.

Photo unattributed.