‘Motorclassica’ Melbourne: 23-25 October 2015…

Posted: October 27, 2015 in News/Events
Tags: , , , ,
exhibition
‘Motorclassica’ is now 5 years old, although its the first time i have been, its a bit too road car oriented to pique my interest, but it was great. The assembly of Bugatti’s worth the effort alone, the highlight of that display the first public appearance in over 60 years of the T37A Bill Thomson drove to two AGP wins in 1930 and 1932…
The event comprises a motor show, themed each year, a Concours d’Elegance which is
one of only two Australian events nominated in the prestigious International Historic
Motoring Awards. There is also a tour through the city streets for Concours entrants, an auction and over 400 enthusiast owned cars on display in the Royal Exhibition Building’s surrounds.
The venue is in Melbourne’s CBD fringe, The Royal Exhibition Building erected in the Carlton Gardens for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880 showed the cars to great effect, a terrific backdrop with a sense of grandeur that is apt.
reb
Themes this year were celebrations of 50 Years of the Supercar, (defined as the build date of the Lambo Miura), the Shelby Mustang, the Ferrari Dino, the Bugatti Club Australia and 70 years of MV Agusta.
This post is largely pictorial with the exception of a tangent about the dual AGP winning Bugatti T37A and its driver Bill Thomson, which ‘broke cover’ at Motorclassica. I have not gone overboard with captions to ‘state the obvious’ only providing information where it may be of use…
porkers
ballot 1

Ballot 2LS

ballot 2

Ballot 2LS

ballot info
ballot steering

Ballot 2LS

art

(Artist; Martin de Lang)

miura 1
miura 3
 mv 1
mv 2
mv 3

1971 MV 150RSs: ‘Rapido Super Sport’ 4 stroke single cylinder pushrod OHV.

mv 4

MV 150 RSs

mv 5

1946 MV Agusta 98

mv 7
mv 6

MV 98

merc
 bentley 1
 bentley 2
 panorama
bug 1
bug 2

Bugs x 2: Nose of a T43 and front of T57

bug 4

Supercharged Bug 4 cylinder engine, maybe one of you can help me with the correct model, a Tourer.

Dual Australian Grand Prix Winner: Ex Bill Thomson Bugatti Type 37A Chassis ‘37358’…

37 1

Bugatti T37A ‘37358’ in all its part restored glory. This T37 victorious in 1930 and 1932 is the veteran of more Australian Grands Prix than most.

37 2

T37A ‘37358’37 3

As the owners summary of the car makes clear the cars attendance in Melbourne is the first time this significant Bugatti has ‘seen the light of day’ in public for over 60 years.

In Bob King’s ‘Australian Bugatti Register’ ‘37358’ is said to be ‘…possibly the most famous of all Australian racing Bugattis’. The following short history of the car is from John Blanden’s ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ is in addition to the short description above.

For the 1930 AGP the car was specially prepared with wire wheels and separate brake drums in place of the integral alloy equipment because of the roughness of Phillip Island’s gravel roads. After early plug trouble Bill Thomson was a comfortable winner in 3 hours 6 minutes, an average of 64mph in front of 6000 spectators, the ‘Island in those days a long way from Melbourne.

thommo island

Bill Thomson and car owner/riding mechanic Prof Arthur Burkitt, during their successful 1930 AGP win. Phillip Island. Bugatti T37A ‘37358’. (Bob King Collection)

In 1931 Hope Bartlett bought and raced the T37 but blew up with less than 7 miles to go whilst in the lead. Carl Junker won in a Bugatti T39.

For 1932 Thompson again raced the car which by this stage was owned by the Woolworth Tyre Company. It was off scratch giving 4 minutes to Carl Junker. Thomson won by 4 minutes having come through the field.

thommo

Bill Thomson before the off, AGP 1930, Phillip Island. Thomson won 3 AGP’s 1930 and 1932 in ‘37358’ and 1933 in a Riley Brooklands. Period experts rate Thomson and Alf Barrett as Australia’s greatest pre-War drivers, noting Alf raced post-war as well. Thomson certainly the more successful in terms of results. Thomson perished during the war in a Consolidated Coronado flying boat accident in the Marshall Islands enroute to Hawaii. A shot biography of Thomson is included as an addendum to this article. (Bob King Collection)

In October 1932 at the Mt Victoria Pass Hillclimb, in Sydney’s Blue Mountains, the car crashed heavily ‘as a result there have been suggestions that a replacement chassis was required, obtained and fitted but this has never been absolutely confirmed’.

Offered for sale but unsold, in May 1935 Thomson took the Australian Record for the Mile at 112.5 in the annual speed record attempts held near Canberra.

John Sherwood won the Australian 5 Mile Championship at Penrith Speedway in it, in Sydney’s outer west in 1936.

Tom Peters acquired it and raced it in the 1936 Australian Grand Prix (or 1937 Australian GP as has become the custom to call this event) at Victor Harbour, South Australia in December, retiring on lap 7.

‘37358’ was sold to New South Wales driver Ron Mackellar, shortly thereafter the cars engine blew and was replaced by a side-valve Ford V8, the car called the ‘Mackellar Special’. Raced at the 1938 AGP at Bathurst it finished 4 minutes behind Peter Whitehead’s victorious ERA R10B.

Wally James was driving the car during a qualifying heat of the Australian Speedway Championships at Penrith on Anzac Day, 25 April 1939 when he lost control and plunged into a group of spectators at over 90mph, killing 3 and injuring 39. James was shattered and never raced again, although a later enquiry showed the crowd sitting in front of safety fences.

Driven by Ken Laing for a while post war, the car was sold to ‘Gelignite Jack Murray’, a real character of the sport and so named for his antics with explosives in the Round Australia Trials of the period. Murray was successful in the now very old car, it contested the 1947 AGP at Bathurst, retiring with piston failure. Bill Murray won the race, Formula Libre and handicapped in those days in an MG TC.

mac spl

Bill MacLachlan in ‘37358’, by that stage the ‘Mackellar Spl’ at Bathurst , Easter 1949 just before its wild ride thru the bush due to a broken track rod. (Bob King Collection)

The car then passed through John Crouch’s and Bill MacLachlan’s hands, Bill had a lucky escape in the car upon his debut in it at Bathurst, Easter 1949. A broken track rod approaching Quarry Bend caused a wild ride down ‘the roadside bank missing solid trees by inches before it came to rest in a small clearing’.

mac pits

MacLachlan in T37A ‘37358’ Mackellar Spl Ford V8, Bathurst 1950. (Max Stahl Collection)

Little damage was done, the old war horse continued on racing, Ettore made em’ tough! through 1950 when it was timed over the flying quarter mile at Bathurst at 113.21mph. Into 1951 ‘37358’ continued to race including contesting the 1952 AGP at Bathurst finishing 13th in the race won by Doug Whiteford’s Lago Talbot T26C.

mac sky

Bill MacLachlan at Quarry Bend Bathurst 1952. T37A ‘37358’ Mackellar Spl. (Byron Gunther)

In 1954 the car was sold to Ralph  Snodgrass in Queensland, he used it briefly before acquiring Whiteford’s Lago, rolled the Lago and then kept both cars for decades.

‘While the car remained with Snodgrass in 2000, many of the original Bugatti components have been emerging over the years as various restorations evolve. Tom Roberts was suggested to have the ‘original’ chassis and some other ‘bits and pieces’ with Kent Patrick having other chassis and engine parts in a replica T37A he constructed in the 1980’s’ Blanden said.

Clearly ‘37358’ is in sympathetic hands with Michael Miller’s ownership, Buggatiste’ globally will follow with interest the restoration of this fabulous car and revealing its history in ‘definitive form’.

37 4

T37A ‘37358’

bug 8

T35TC/51 chassis  ‘4847’ GP: DOHC supercharged straight 8

outside
posters
mustangs
bristol

Bristol Zagato

pano 2
bmw
bentley
shell
pano 3
Tailpiece: A dogs life…
dogs
Bill Thomson: Triple Australian GP Winner Biography…
The following biography of Bill Thomson is by the late, great Australian Motor Racing Historian Graham Howard and is from ‘The Australian Dictionary of Biography’.
‘William Bethel Thompson (1906-1945), racing motorist, was born on 28 December 1906 at Summer Hill, Sydney, second child of William Ernest Thompson, customs clerk, and his wife Gladys Macdonald, née Bethel, both native-born. On completing his education at Sydney Grammar School in 1923, William worked in the motor trade. He married Jean Mavis Anderson at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Sydney, on 26 September 1929.

Of moderate means, he was helped by Arthur Burkitt, professor of anatomy at the University of Sydney, who owned several of the cars that Thompson raced. He retired from his first Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, Victoria, in 1929, but won the 1930 race in a new, supercharged Type 37A Bugatti owned by Burkitt who travelled as riding mechanic. Starting from scratch, Thompson won again in the same car in 1932 and won for a third time in a Brooklands Riley in 1933. He finished second (by 14 seconds) driving a supercharged MG Magnette in 1934 and was again second (by 27 seconds) in 1935.

Despite his youth, Thompson approached his driving with a thoroughness that was uncommon in Australian motor racing, then in its infancy. Observers commented on the clean and efficient presentation of his cars, and on the lack of last-minute work they needed. Behind the wheel he was very fast and exceptionally consistent; his lap times on the 6.569-mile (10.571 km) rectangle of rough and dusty Phillip Island roads often varied by no more than a second. An outstanding finishing record was an essential part of his success. While he made occasional driving errors, he took exceptional care of his cars. He did some of his own mechanical work, but had expert helpers, among them the skilled engineer Bill Balgarnie who was often his riding mechanic.

Strongly built and about 5 ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall, Thompson parted his dark hair in the centre. Contemporaries recall him as well-tailored, confident—almost calculating—but also impulsive and given to practical joking at post-race parties. His Riley and MG drives were for Melbourne motor traders and he moved to that city in 1934 to head the MG department of Lane’s Motors Pty Ltd; he later transferred to the Shell Co. of Australia Ltd. He was briefly involved with midget speedcars in Melbourne and Sydney in 1934-35, but from 1936 his racing career faded. Divorced in 1938, Thompson married Millicent Francklyn Ironside, née King, a widow with two children, on 10 June 1942 at the government statist’s office, Melbourne.

Joining the Royal Australian Air Force as flying officer in 1940, Thompson was based in Melbourne from 1941 where he organized the manufacture and supply of engine spares for rescue boats. He held the rank of squadron leader when he was drowned in an aircraft accident on 12 February 1945 in the Marshall Islands, Pacific Ocean. His wife survived him, as did the two sons of his first marriage’.

Bibliography and Photo Credits…
John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, Graham Howard ‘History of The AGP’, Graham Howard ‘The Australian Dictionary of Biography, Bob King Collection, Max Stahl Collection, Byron Gunther
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Comments
  1. Nice Article ….thank you 🙂

  2. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Kent Patrick’s magnificent “Bill Thompson – Australian motor racing champion” includes a detailed account of the events leading up to Thompson’s death in the Marshall Islands in 1945. Patrick clearly states that the aircraft in which he died was a Consolidated PB2Y-5R Coronado (rather than a Catalina).

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Rob,
      I’ve changed the caption accordingly. I was not aware of that book but do recall Kent as a racer of a Lola FJ, or was it the Mk1 sports?, in the early days of historic racing in Australia. I must see if I can get hold of a copy via Tony Johns or ebay, these short-run books are likes hens teeth to find!
      Mark

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