(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…
1950 AGP Program cover. (Stephen Dalton Collection)
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 held, but just down the road, the circuit 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.
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?
Lex Davison takes to the circuit, Nuriootpa paddock in the background. Alfa Romeo P3/Tipo B. (unattributed)
The main contenders for the race are primarily cars I have written about in primotipo before so I won’t go through the detail, but provide links if you want to refresh your memory; The Maybach, driven by its creator Charlie Dean; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/
‘Black Bess’, the Ford Ute V8 Spl driven by its builder, Doug Whiteford; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/05/doug-whiteford-black-bess-woodside-south-australia-1949/
The ex-Alf Barrett Alfa Romeo Monza now owned and driven by relative novice Rupert Steele. https://primotipo.com/2015/02/20/alf-barrett-the-maestro-alfa-romeo-8c2300-monza/
Lex Davison, who would later win 4 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 was Harry Neale in Eldred Norman’s, extraordinary ‘Double 8’ which married the chassis of a weapon 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 on this amazing car.
Australian Motor Sport Magazine described the race day scene as follows; ‘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’.
The build up to the start of the 34 lap, 100 mile race AMS described thus; ‘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 2 of the Alfas 8 cylinders and Deans 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.
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, spun the big Alfa and stalled. He lost about 1:49 seconds, hand cranking the supercharged straight 8 back into life but his race was effectively run.
Whiteford won the race from Steele’s Monza and Jim Gullan’s Ballot Olds, the latter 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 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. 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.
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; 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 the car on one of his regular trips to Europe in 1937. The car was bought from a German General on behalf George Martin, president of the Light Car Club of Australia in Melbourne.
The car finished the 1938 AGP at Bathurst in 10th, 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, and sadly both were involved in fatal road accidents, the other killing very talented racing driver Colin Dunne and his wife Billie at Phillip Island. Not a race accident mind you, an accident 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 first car race, the 1948 Australian Grand Prix held at Point Cook! He was aided by a favourable handicap and excellent driving. Whilst new to car racing he was well familiar with intense competition. The cars 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’ Model…
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 specs in 1949, Stan Jones 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 pounds boost, he didn’t race it for long before offering it for sale. He raced it at Corio 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 MGTC Spl mounted, both cars retired with overheating maladies. Jones car didn’t take the AGP start and Patto retired with head gasket failure. Not a successful trip to the Barossa for either of them.
The car was sold later in 1950 to Alan Watson, was badly damaged by him but 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, ‘Copper’ keeping an eye on proceedings, Fiat Topolino behind the Maybach.
Charlie Dean, Maybach, Nuriootpa AGP meeting January 1950.(State Library of SA)
Curran Ford V8.
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 as an apprentice made many of the cars 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 car was then further modified by Frank Murphy on behalf of owner, Melbourne car dealer Harry McLaughlin by fitment of Lancia Lambda rear end, Jag XK120 gearbox and a new body. A 5 litre Ford V8 was 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.
L Robinson, Bugatti Dodge, Nuriootpa 1950. Interested to know more about this car if anyone has any information on it. (State Library of SA)
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 6 cylinder engine and ‘box. The chassis was shortened by 2 feet and narrowed by 6 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 credited as the first. The sports 2 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, 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.
Jim Gullan in his Ballot Olds at Rob Roy,Victoria in 1946. This provides a clearer view of the car. (George Thomas)
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’. The Double V8 was built from bodywork from aircraft and a tubular steel chassis.
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 on long races. The engines were coupled flywheel-to-crank snout with a four-row chain drive. The engines 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 4 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 brake drums were built inboard, operating on the back axle and additionally cooled by a fan worked by the tail shaft.
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 vehicle 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 the it 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 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.
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 Grand Prix. The January 1950 Nuiootpa Australian Grand Prix, Eldred’s Double V8 retired after only two laps.
‘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. While 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 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 of 1952, winning the scratch race for over 1500cc.The Northam Flying 50 meeting at Northam in April, winning the three-lap scratch race for over 1500cc. The Goomalling Speed Classic at Goomalling road circuit in June. He was 4th in the 15 lap handicap for Racing Cars, 1st in the 3 lap scratch race for Racing Cars over 1500cc and 1st in the 5 lap handicap race for Racing Cars.
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)
Anderson entered the Double V8 in the 1953 Johore Grand Prix in Malaya. He retired from the race due to overheating.
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 of 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.
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 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 did not place in the top three positions. Sadly, Windsor found the V12 vehicle was not manageable and subsequently scrapped it.
After the Double V8, Eldred then bought a 1936 Maserati Type 6CM.’
Such a shame that this amazing car did not survive.
Another State Library of SA shot, its not clear from the caption if the car is competing or otherwise. 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, engine was a Riley 2.5 litre pushrod 4, the car for a time the fastest 4 seater in the world. Built from 1946 to 1950. Suspension trailing arms at the front and live axle at the rear, coil springs front and rear.
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 GP Alfa Monza must have been immense. (George Thomas)
‘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
Publications as above, State Library of South Australia, John Blanden Collection, George Thomas, The Nostalgia Forum