Archive for November, 2015

montreal

Spring has well and truly sprung in Australia, it brings lots of good things; The AFL Grand Final at the MCG, Bathurst 1000, Motorclassica, Melbourne Cup, Moto GP at Phillip Island and lots of Car Club Concours events…

I’m not talking Pebble Beach, not my cup of tea at all, its much more owner display stuff, a nice way to spend a couple of hours. On Sunday 29 November 2015 the Alfa Club and Porsche 356 Register had events on adjoining ovals at Wesley College in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, a good ‘dropkick’ from Albert Park for those of you who have attended the AGP.

grey college

grey car

Alfa 2000 Spyder ‘Touring’ acquired by an Aussie in Brescia and apparently restored there. Very nice cruiser! 1975cc DOHC 4 cylinder 113bhp@5700rpm. 5 speed ‘box, drums front and rear.

grey cockpit

grey guard

2300 front

2300 engine

Alfa 8C2300 Corto Replica…’Pursang’ Argentinian car, 4 or 5 years old now and used a lot so now has some patina. I’ve no issue with Replicas…as long as the punters who own the things make it clear they are. Even the seriously wealthy can’t afford real stuff like this, one of these is on my ‘dream on’ list, so its a sensible way to experience, at circa $A300K! what the real McCoy is like.

I wrote an article on the 8C2300/Monzas a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2014/10/09/antonio-brivio-targa-florio-1933-alfa-romeo-8c2300-monza/

2300 cockpit

2300 side

8C2300 in foreground. Car the ‘snapper’ is leaning against is called a 6C2300 Mille Miglia by the owner. Circa 185bhp from a blown engine. Acquired in Argentina some 30 years ago, car used a lot, as they should be

Our Historic Racing Regulations in Australia are the strictest in the world, which is a good thing.

A car like the 8C2300 or even a ‘Cameron Millar’ Maserati 250F cannot get a CAMS historic logbook/’certificate of description’ to race here.

Mind you, the only 250F in Oz is a CM 250F. I would love to see it being raced and would create a class(es) so Replicas can run but are overtly described as such. Some of the crap which races in Oz from overseas in the AGP and Phillip Island meetings is laughable in terms of specification. That is, not resembling the spec of the car ‘in period’ if in fact the car existed ‘in period’!

356 front

This 1951 356 Cab is especially stunning. Chassis # 10110, built on 13 July 1951 is the first RHD car made by Porsche and one of the first cars imported by Norman Hamilton to Australia in September 1951

Hamilton famously secured the first Porsche franchise in the world, when on a European trip and cruising through the Alps was ’rounded up’ by Ferry Porsche at a fast pace in a very early car. Hamilton approached him at a roadside stop where Porsche was enjoying a coffee and a business deal followed which saw the marque flourish in Oz over the decades.

I wrote about son Alan Hamilton’s racing exploits a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2015/08/20/alan-hamilton-his-porsche-9048-and-two-906s/

This car was raced, sprinted and hillclimbed in 1952/3 by Hamilton, Ken Harper and Ken McConville as part of a ‘brand-building’ program before being restored complete mit 1300 motor between 1990 and 1995.

356 cockpit

The information sheet says there are less than 20 1950 and 1951 model 356’s left in the world. Makes me laugh, the values of the things now, when i was a Uni student in the mid-seventies there were 3 0r 4 of em’ in the Monash University car park all beaten up, held together by ‘bog’, just a cheap car. If only!…

365 front

Tidy chassis’ both. Mid-sixties 365 GTC and owner both delightfully sculpted by Pininfarina. 1968, 4.4 litre ‘Colombo’ 320bhp V12, 5 speed ‘box. Beautifully balanced for a big car, Ferrari locating the gearbox and final drive at the rear.

365 back

365 wheel

montreal front

356 parade

911 e

Driving a 356 was a disappointment years ago but early-ish 911’s are a different kettle of fish. I had an ’85 Carrera 3.2, the last of the light, leaded-fuel cars as a daily driver for 7 years from ’97-2004, what a fantastic thing it was. Big enough to cart 3 growing boys around but a blast to enjoy every day. I still have left leg muscles which reflect the butch, beefy mechanical clutch! This is a 2.4E, nice. A  2.4S about as good as they get this side of a 2.7RS but prices are ‘nutso’.

356 red

montreanl butts

356 cockput 2

356 butts

8c and 4 c

miura front

Best of the Sixties to Finish? P400S Miura, Australian delivered RHD car, had more changes of color than most but oh so nice! 4 litre V12, circa 370bhp, mid mounted, 5 speed ‘box. Design team Gian Paolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani and development engineer, Kiwi Bob Wallace. Couture by Marcello Gandini. About as good as it gets.

miura detail

miura back

Photo Credits…

Mark Bisset and trusty iPad!

monza

de Filippis in the cockpit of her Maserati 250F. Monza, Italian Grand Prix 1958…

de Filippis started racing Fiat 500s aged 22 after her brothers bet her she couldn’t drive fast. In 1954 she finished second in the Italian sports car championship and was scooped up by Maserati as a works driver.

In 1958, driving Maserati 250F chassis #2523 a ‘T car’ used by Fangio in 1957, she became the first woman to take part in a World Championship Grands’ Prix at Spa, Belgium finishing 10th. She missed the French Grand Prix when an official with Gallic charm and chauvinism suggested to her that ‘The only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdresser’s.’

Jean Behra offered her a drive in his Porsche team in 1959. Behra’s death led to her reconsidering her future and she quit. ‘Too many friends had died,’ she told the Observer in 2006. ‘There was a succession of deaths – Luigi Musso, Peter Collins, Alfonso de Portago, Mike Hawthorn. Then Behra was killed in Berlin. That, for me, was the most tragic because it was in a race that I should have been taking part in. I didn’t go to the circuits any more. The following year I got married, then my daughter was born and family life became more important.’

Her GP results are; 1958 Syracuse Q8, DNF Belgium Q19 DNF, Italian Q21 DNF all 250F. 1959 Monaco Porsche 718 DNQ and BRDC Intl Trophy Silverstone 250F Q23 DNF.

spa

de Filippis, Maser 250F, Spa 1958 (The Cahier Archive)

Credits…

The Cahier Archive, silhouet.com

bib

Bib Stillwell’s new fangled Cooper T43 Climax leads Stan Jones olde world Maserati 250F off Long Bridge towards Newry Corner, Longford 3 March 1958…

Ted Gray’s Lou Abraham’s owned Australian Special, ‘Tornado 2 Chev’ took the win in ‘The Longford Trophy’. There was life in front engined cars yet, Jones took the 1959 Australian Grand Prix at Longford in his fabulous Maserati, albeit assisted by the absence of 2.5 litre Climax engined Coopers, that would change soon enough.

Stillwell was still learning his craft, his time at the top came in the sixties with four Australian championships ‘on the trot’ from 1962 to 1965…

Introduction…

As usual photo’s have stimulated the article, this time a great series of shots Lindsay Ross of oldracephotos.com posted on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ of the Tasmanian event. The fact that Tornado won it made that great Australian Special; equal only to the Charlie Dean/Stan Jones Maybach perhaps?, the main thrust of the article.

I didn’t so much see the Tornado as hear it for the first time; i was at Sandown in the 1970’s. I heard what i thought was an F5000 on circuit, in fact ’twas Tornado, small block, injected Chev V8 powered. I made a bee-line for the car in the paddock and marvelled at the smarts behind its construction and the ‘balls of steel’ of the fella who raced it in period.

Other tangents are the Tornado’s pilot, Ted Gray about whom little has been written. Also the 1958 Gold Star series and AGP which he deserved to, should the planets have been better aligned, won!

stns car fettled

(Walkem Collection)

Otto Stone, leaning over the Maser’s engine and John Sawyer fettle Stan Jones’ 250F in the Longford paddock. Jones’ performances in the car improved once Stone started preparing it. By 1958 they understood the Italian stallion’s nuances and Stan’s driving was a little more of a ‘percentage game’ than a ‘win or bust’ approach. Dividends were Gold Star victory in 1958 and AGP win in 1959.

glass

Arnold Glass in his ex-works/Reg Parnell Ferrari 555 Super Squalo. He was 3rd ahead of Doug Whiteford and Len Lukey. The bucolic pleasures and ever-present dangers of Longford readily apparent (oldracephotos.com)

The entry for the third round of the Australian Drivers ‘Gold Star’ Championship race was one of great depth for the day and reflected competitor interest in Longford, allocated a round of the championship for the first time that year…

Arnold Glass had raced his Super Squalo since November 1957, having bought the car off John McMillan who raced it for a short time when sold to him by Reg Parnell. The car was an ex-works 1955 555 Super Squalo. I wrote about it a while back, click here to read the article; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/

miller and patterson

Austin Millers Cooper T41Climax FWB 1.5 Climax ahead of Bill Patterson’s Cooper T39 Climax (oldracephotos.com)

Coopers were starting to arrive in Australia in numbers, the transition from front engined Grand Prix cars and Australian Specials to ‘reasonably priced’ mid-engined cars, the first of which were Coopers was underway.

Jack Brabham won the first mid-engined AGP victory with his Cooper T40 Bristol at Port Wakefield in 1955, but that was a lucky win and flattered to deceive, at the time anyway.

By March 1958 Stirling Moss had won Cooper’s first World Championship GP win in Argentina, by the end of the year the ‘paradigm shift’ was pretty clear, despite the lack of a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engine.

doug and arnold

Whiteford, Maserati 300S #4 and Glass, Ferrari 555 Super Squalo in the Longford form-up area (Walkem Collection)

Doug Whiteford’s ex-works Maser 300S was an outright contender in Formula Libre championship events in Australia when he first bought it after the 1956 Olympic GP meeting, won by Stirling Moss in a 250F, at Albert Park. Despite Doug’s artistry behind the wheel, he was still one of the countries best drivers, the Maser was finding the going tough with so many fast single-seaters around by 1958.

Arnold Glass was not of the same calibre or experience as Whiteford but drove the Ferrari well and shone in 1959 when he acquired the ex-Hunt/Stillwell 250F, which was a more forgiving and faster car.

Lou Abraham’s Melbourne built Tornado Chev was one of the greatest of Australian Specials of the 1950’s. The big V8 engined, ladder frame chassis car, capably driven by Ted Gray was easily capable of taking the Gold Star and the AGP at Bathurst in 1958 with more luck and reliability. It was to be a mixed but successful Tasmanian weekend for the team.

The 1958 Longford Trophy…

tornado

Ted Gray in the victorious, big, blue, booming Tornado 2 Chev, bellowing its way thru the beautiful Tasmanian countryside. Longford 1958 (oldracephotos)

The thrill of seeing some fast cars from the mainland attracted circa 40000 raceday spectators despite the possibility of rain.

Ted Gray was in bed with ‘flu, so Geelong’s Tom Hawkes did a few laps in the Tornado. Things got worse for the team in early practice on raceday when the cars gearbox failed. With the aid of  Hawkes and a Ford truck gearbox from a wreckers yard, Lou Abrahams and his crew replaced the unit in time to record a nominal practice time at the rear of a sports car race. Alec Mildren damaged his Cooper in a preliminary race so only 6 cars faced the starter for the 54 mile Longford Trophy race, if the race lacked quantity of starters it certainly had quality.

Bib Stillwell’s new Cooper Climax got the jump from Stan Jones’ Maser 250F, Gray’s Tornado, Arnold Glass’ Ferrari, Len Lukey’s Cooper Bristol and Doug Whiteford’s Maserati.

jones 2

Stan Jones, Maserati 250F, Longford 1958. Shot taken in practice, car bearing the scars of an attack on the local real estate or another car by Stanley (oldracephotos.com)

With 3 laps completed Stillwell held a small lead from fellow Melbourne motor trader Jones, the rest within 250 metres of each other. Stillwell retired with pinion trouble, Jones simultaneously lost the 250F’s 3rd gear. The Tornado took the lead on lap 4 from Jones, Glass, Whiteford then Lukey.

Gray extended his lead over Jones but was being progressively splattered with oil from the errant ‘box. He pressed on when the taste! of the oil made him aware the problem was the gearbox not the engine. Gray had also lost 1st and 2nd gears but the torque of the big Chev V8 was still an effective combination relative to Jones who was short 3rd, the Maser DOHC 6 cylinder engine less able to ‘plug the torque gaps’ than the Chevy.

Jones tried to chase Gray down but the Tornado took the win several seconds from Stan, the big, wonderful Chev engined Special clocked 147.5 mph over the measured mile. Glass was 3rd, 8 seconds behind Jones then Whiteford and Lukey, less than 30 seconds separated the 5 cars after 54 miles.

Stan Jones won the Gold Star in 1958 with wins at Fishermans Bend and Phillip Island in Victoria and seconds at Orange, NSW, Longford and Lowood, the Queensland airfield circuit.

tornado AMS PW

Ted Gray in Tornado 2 Ford ahead of Stan Jones Maser 250F, Port Wakefield, South Australia  (Stephen Dalton Collection)

Lou Abraham’s Melbourne built Tornado’s were two of the great Australian Specials of the 1950’s...

The Tornado was no ‘flash in the pan’ it was built by a couple of wily racers and their team who knew their way around racing cars and V8’s. There were two cars, three really, the short life of Tornado 1 led to Tornado 2 but before both was a highly modified Alta V8.

Wangaratta, Victorian driver Ted Gray first came to prominence well before the war, when as a young motor apprentice he contested the events won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA R10B at Aspendale Speedway in Melbourne on 1 October 1938. Whilst Whitehead won the day and took the lap record, Gray nearly matched him in his motor cycle engined midget.

He almost did it again 2 months later coming close to Whiteheads ERA times at Rob Roy hillclimb in outer Melbourne, again driving the Alan Male owned midget. Alan Male’s career started as a salesman for the Fisher Norton agency in Melbourne, shortly thereafter starting a used car business which provided both the cashflow to pursue his racing passion and the means to promote his business.

gray

Ted Gray on the left and Colin Best on the last lap of a Speedcar event at Aspendale Speedway, Melbourne in 1939. Details of chassis’ and engines unknown  (vintagespeedway.com)

Gray also contested the January 30 1939 Rob Roy meeting when Frank Kleinig became the first driver to break 30 seconds in the famed Kleinig Hudson, perhaps the most famous of all Australian Specials, if not the most famous then certainly the longest lived.

As War loomed Gray raced one of the last pre-war Australian motor races at Wirlinga, Albury, on 17 June 1940. ‘The Male Special’ was the ex Alan Sinclair Alta 1100 fitted with a Ford V8, Alf Barrett was the scratch man but Gray was not giving the exotic GP Alfa Romeo Monza too much. Barrett won the 6 lap preliminary with Gray in 2nd, both failed in the 25 and 75 Mile Events.

There was the occasional event during the war years. In his book Jim Gullan recalls a three heat match race to raise money for charity between Gray in the Male Spl/Alta V8 and Jim’s Ballot Ford V8 at Aspendale Speedway; Ted won the first heat, Gullan the second and Ted by half a wheel the third ‘…we were lapping the dirt track at 80mph in one long sideways drift, it was exciting!’ Gullan recalled.

Gray set FTD at an early postwar Greensborough Hillclimb.

He contested the 100 Mile NSW Grand Prix at Bathurst in 1946 in the ex-Mrs Jones (Alfa 6C 1750SS) Alfa Ford V8, Gray 2nd to Kleinig in the over 1500cc handicap and 4th in the 100 Miler, Alf Najar’s MG TB Spl the victor.

Gray received a lot of publicity when he recorded a 73mph average in the Alfa V8 from Wangaratta to Melbourne to win a bet in 1946! These days there is a dual lane freeway from Albury to Melbourne but that was not the case post war, Ted would have been flying to do that time! No doubt he was well familiar with the Hume Highway, his home and motor dealership business were in Wang but at least one account records him having an engineering shop in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, now vibrant as the city’s ‘Chinatown’.

gray alta

Ted Gray in the Alta Ford V8, Fishermans Bend March 1954. 4th in the Victorian Trophy . This car still exists, restored by Graham Lowe to its original form in the mid ’80’s (SLV)

Around 1948 Gray re-acquired the Male Spl/Alta V8 he raced pre-war and fitted a Ford Mercury side-valve V8 which was fitted with a locally made OHV conversion by Lou Abrahams.

The car first ran in this form at Fishermans Bend in October 1952 and was competitive enough to place 4th in the 1954 Victoria Trophy at FB. The capacity of the chassis to handle the engines power had been reached so Gray and Abrahams decided to build a new car ‘The Tornado’ the name the same as those Lou applied to his boats.

gray 2

Another shot of the Abrahams/Gray #8 Alta V8 at the ‘Victoria Trophy’ meeting at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne on 22 March 1954. #3 is Lex Davison’s HWM Jag, winner of that years AGP at Southport, Queensland, and Jack Brabham in a Cooper Bristol (SLV)

Gray was obviously a talented, fast driver with mechanical sympathy, he often drove cars owned by others throughout his career.

The engine out of the Alta 1100 referred to above was built into a special by speedway racer Bill Reynolds in Melbourne. He built a neat ladder frame chassis and transverse spring suspension front and rear car. Passed into Bill Dutton’s hands, Gray raced it for him from late 1949, more often than not the Alta engine problematic.

ted gray bathurst

Gray in the Alta 1100 Spl at Bathurst in 1950, LF tyre off the deck (Historic Racing Cars in Aust)

Lou Abrahams, a wealthy but unassuming man started racing dinghy yachts in his teens but transferred his sporting inclinations to cars and speed boats, before later returning to yachts, his first Sydney/Hobart victory came in 1983 but that was all in the future.

In the fifties his ‘Louisco’ plastics and packaging business provided the cashflow for mechanical pursuits. Ian Mayberry whose father and uncle worked on Tornado recalls that Lou’s father owned the George Hotel in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. Lou also had a screenprinting, fabrics and plastics business named Colortex Fabrics in Murrumbeena which he later sold to Nylex Ltd, becoming a board member of that large public company in the process.

lou abrahams

Lou Abrahams towards the end of his life, he died in February 2014 at 88. Cruising Yacht Club, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney. He won Sydney-Hobart twice in 1983 and 1989, sailed it 44 (times, 43 consecutively, a record. He also sailed 7 ‘Fastnets, the biennial classic off Britain and Ireland  (unattributed)

fishos start

Flavour of the era. Love this Fishermans Bend shot; ‘Victoria Trophy’ meeting February 1958 with the front engined cars of Gray, Tornado 2 Chev and Jones Maserati 250F up the front. Policeman and his horse oblivious to the cacophony, note the ‘safety’ fence. Industrial heartland of western Melbourne in the background (Geoff Green)

Gray built the Tornado 1 chassis from formed box sections of sheet steel, the structure had boxed side and cross members and specially made cross-members front and rear to which the suspension was attached.

Ian Mayberry doesn’t recall how Lou, Ted and his uncle, Bill Mayberry met but the three of them were the teams core. Lou basically did the engines and between Ted and Bill they built the chassis and body and maintained the car.

Some of the bodywork was built at the panel business owned by Ians father Jack, who painted the cars and Bill, located at 248 East Boundary Road, East Bentleigh, a southern Melbourne suburb. Ted Grays workshop Ian believes at that stage, was in Coburg or Carlton, both inner Northern Melbourne suburbs. This workshop looked after retail customers but was also where the car was built and maintained.

Independent suspension was used front and rear; the front comprised a transverse leaf spring low down with upper control arms and shockers from a Peugeot. At the rear a transverse leaf spring was again used on top of Holden lower control arms.

tornado front end

Tornado 1 front suspension detail; Peugeot upper control arms and shocks, transverse leaf spring at the bottom. Brakes Chev drums with Mustang aircraft internals ‘They worked very well at Orange’ said AMS, but perhaps not so well at Bathurst later in the year! (AMS)

Lancia stub axles were grafted onto the Peugeot steering knuckles to take advantage of the centre lock wire wheels, steering was Peugeot rack and pinion.

Fabricated hubs were used at the back using Lancia splined hubs and wheels with Monroe Wylie telescopic shocks. The bridge type structure at the back housed a Halibrand quick change final drive, brought back from the States by Lou with various engine goodies. Dodge universals were used on the rear drive shafts.

tornado rear sus 2

Tornado 1 rear end; suspension by top transverse leaf spring and Holden wishbone below, diff a quick change Halibrand with Ford V8 crownwheel, brake drums Chev with P51 Mustang fighter mechanisms, note rear and 2 side fuel tanks, also crossply road tyres upon which the car is being raced, the car chewed its tyres, races lost as a consequence! (AMS)

Brake drums were Chev 11.5 diameter and 2 inches wide, the operating mechanism from a Mustang fighter aircraft and had ‘one cylinder operating a one piece self energising single shoe to each wheel. Ted figures they stopped 5 tons or so of P51 Mustang, so they should stop the Tornado…’

tornado engine

Tornado Ford Mercury based engine. Block cast iron, heads bespoke aluminium designed by Lou Abrahams. Shot of OHV gear and central ‘plugs, pump for Hilborn-Travers fuel injection at the engines front (AMS)

The engine was Abrahams responsibility and was unique as the first in Australia to use fuel-injection.

The Ford Mercury V8 was bored and stroked to over 5 litres, the most innovative element it’s locally cast aluminium, OHV heads designed by Abrahams to replace the side-valve originals. They featured hemispherical combustion chambers with valves; 1 7/8 inches inlet and 1 5/8 inches exhaust in size, inclined at an included angle of around 90 degrees operated by rockers from standard cam followers. ‘Plugs were centrally placed, the whole lot topped by attractive aluminium rocker covers which could be seen, seductively, through the bonnet sides.

Each exhaust port had its own pipe, the inlet ports had a cast light alloy stub incorporating an air butterfly and spray nozzle from the Hilborn Travers fuel injection system. A Scintilla magneto provided the spark with the water pump and clutch standard. Drive was via a standard Mercury gearbox with a close ratio gearset imported from the US.

tornado engine

Engine of Tornado 1 Ford on its Gnoo Blas debut at Orange, NSW in January 1955. Ford Mercury side-valve block with bespoke aluminium heads designed by Lou Abrahams in Melbourne . ‘Louab’ fuel injection Hilborn-Travers based. Nice lookin’ thing innit?  (oldracephotos.com/Devine)

The frames to take the body were of round steel and ‘are part of the chassis’ ; one in front supported the radiator, there was another at the firewall and ‘another which carries the kitchen type Laminex instrument panel’ (!) and one behind the seat.

Pedals are pendant the brake master cylinders mounted into a beefy ‘top hat section arch’ under the scuttle. Instruments comprised tach, oil and fuel pressure, oil and water temperature and a push-pull switch for the magneto.

Fuel was carried in three tanks; one in the tail and one either side of the driver.

tornado orange debut

Tornado 1 Ford on its debut at Gnoo Blas, Orange, January 1955 ‘…first outing last month showed that it will be a very impressive car in the very near future’ Note engine exposed thru bonnet (AMS)

When completed Tornado 1 Ford made its debut, painted white at Gnoo Blas, Orange in January 1955 where its potential was clear despite various teething problems.

Back in Victoria in February the car retired from the 50 Mile Victoria Trophy held at Fishermans Bend with grabbing brakes, prophetic as things turned out, Lex Davison took the win in his HWM Jaguar.

At Albert Park for the Argus Trophy in March, the big V8 placed 3rd in a heat and 5th in the final, Doug Whiteford the winner in his Lago Talbot T26.

Off to Bathurst in October for the NSW Road racing Championship and disaster.

Gray, running 4th in the ‘Group A’ race ‘was running neck and neck with Robinson’s Jaguar Spl…Down the straight for the last time and the white Tornado either locked a brake or touched Robinson’s rear wheel, sliding horribly out of control for over 150 yards before hitting a bank and a tree on the left, bits spraying down the road…Miraculously, a very lucky Ted Gray survived, receiving multiple fractures and severe shock. The Tornado was a write-off. Rebuilt, its great days were yet to come’ said John Medley in his ‘Bathurst Bible’.

tornado bathurst

John Medley; ‘ Until seeing Garrie Cooper’s 1978 AGP accident (in an Elfin MR8 Chev F5000 at Sandown) i hadn’t seen one worse. In the overcast from up on Griffin’s Mount, all one could see was white bits flung down the road, rolling and bounding. Ted Gray wore white overalls and helmet. That he actually stepped out before collapsing is incredible’ (Bernard Coward photo in ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ by John Medley)

The two partners decided not to rebuild the rooted car but rather use what they could in Tornado 2, Abrahams incorporating all they had learned from the previous cars completed the reconstruction of the car with Bill Mayberry and other artisans whilst Gray was in hospital, recovery took 6 months.

Tornado 2 had a ladder frame steel chassis with 3 inch wide side members and incorpated most of the suspension and steering parts from Tornado 1 including the Peugeot steering, Lancia stub axle and Holden suspension components. The Halibrand diff, Ford engine and ‘box were also transferred from the old to the new. The P51 Mustang braking system was removed and replaced by a conventional drums all round setup built by Patons Brakes in Melbourne, eventually a Repco subsidiary.

Gray’s involuntary racing vacation was around 6 months, Abrahams and his team did an amazing job building the replacement so fast; the blue painted fibre glass bodied car made its debut in the hands of multiple Australian Hillclimb Champion, Bruce Walton at Albert Park in March 1956.

Walton performed well despite teething problems, an appearance at the Geelong Sprints resulted in a standing quarter mile of 15.1 seconds. The car was continuously modified throughout 1956 to get it running fast and reliably, the ‘high maintenance’ constantly cracking fibreglass body replaced by an aluminium one late in the year of the same shape.

Gray contested the 1956 AGP meeting at Albert Park won by Moss’s works Maserati 250F but the beast only lasted 15 laps before retirement. Its future competitiveness was underlined at the opening Phillip Island meeting in December 1956 with 2 wins on the very fast open circuit suited to the cars power and strong handling.

Tornado 2’s 1957 season commenced at Fishermans Bend in February, a tyre failed whilst holding 2nd place.

At Albert Park for The Victoria Trophy’ meeting on 24 March, 3rd behind Davison and Jones in Ferrari 500/625 and Maserati 250F a good result but retirement followed in the championship race, a Gold Star round that year, the first year for the prestigious annual award for Australia’s Champion driver.

gray albert park

On the Albert Park grid alongside Bob Jane’s Maserati 300S. Here Tornado 2 with low cut body sides and Ford engined (autopics.com/Peter D’Abbs)

The car failed to score any Gold Star points and later in the year a Chev Corvette 283 cid V8 engine replaced the faithful Ford/Abrahams V8.

Despite the ongoing development of the Ford Mercury based engine with its trick Abrahams head the lighter, over-square, OHV in standard form, small block Chev was the way to go with plenty of parts to improve the engines performance readily available in the US. The engine was sourced using contacts of Abrahams and Jack Mayberry at Holden.

tornado chev engine

Tornado 2 with Chev engine, bespoke rocker covers as with the Ford engine. Hilborn-Travers injection incorporated in specification, Vertex magneto clear. Circa 380 bhp claimed (Merv Bunyan Collection)

With Commonwealth Oil Refineries (soon to be BP) sponsored Australian Speed Records scheduled at Coonabarabran in central NSW on 28 September the small team had only a week to adapt the Chev to the Ford ‘box, fit the fuel injection system and fettle the thing into running order. The car was unloaded from its trailer on the long 620 mile tow from Melbourne to Coonabararan, over 200 miles was covered to run the engine in and refine its tune on public roads!

BP had chosen cars and drivers to attempt the various records which were held on a 4 mile stretch of road linking Coonabarabran with Coonamble via Baradine. The sealed aggregate surface was good and allowed high speeds but it was only 18 feet wide and had a pronounced crown.

Run off to the sides was limited by white posts, to the east by trees, to the west a railway line and a string of telegraph poles. Additional hazards were small dirt tracks to give farm access and a dirt road near the railway line both of which provided plenty of dust…a bend at each end of the 4 miles limited run-in and braking and slowing down.

Such attempts were best held in the cool of the morning for optimum engine performance but media needs meant they were held later in the day when the wind was gusting so no motorcycle attempts were made.

The Tornado was fitted with a 3:1 final drive ratio and 19 inch wheels with 5.25 inch wide tyres, Ted was aiming for over 160mph but magneto dramas limited revs to 5300rpm. The team lowered the ratio to 2.8:1 to reduce revs, achieving 157.53mph on the Sunday to take the outright record from Davison’s Ferrari 500/625, the very same chassis ‘005’ with which Alberto Ascari won his 1952/3 world championships, which was quicker the day before.

Tornado 2 created a sensation at 157.5 mph, the big, spectacular blue car thundering and bellowing across the plains on the long, flat public roads.

Straight to Bathurst from Coonabarabran for the NSW Road Racing Championships on 6 October, two years after the demise of Tornado 1. The cars aluminium fuel tank split, thefuel leak the cause of its retirement. The metal fatigue was overcome by sheathing the ‘ally tank in 1/2 inch thick fibreglass.

A week later at Fishermans Bend was more successful, Gray taking a strong win

1958 Gold Star Season…

tornado

Tornado Chev in the Bathurst paddock, AGP meeting 1958. Its derivative of the best GP cars of its day but has a beauty all of its own. Bill Mayberry built the Tornado bodies (Kevin Drage)

Whilst of ‘plebian origin’ in comparison to its main competitors for the 1958 Australian Drivers Championship; Davison’s and Arnold Glass Ferrari 500/625 and 555 Super Squalo, Stan Jones and Doug Whiteford’s 250F and 300S Maserati’s and the Mildren, Lukey, Miller, Hawkes Coopers of front and mid-engined inclination. Tornado 2 was much more than the sum of its parts and had consistently shown championship winning speed if not reliability.

Perhaps one of the great injustices of ‘motor racing’s world of mighta beens’ is Tornado 2’s failure to win the Gold Star in 1958 just when it neeeded to as the mid engined tide came in.

It was not until 1971 that an Australian built car won the AGP and Gold Star, that honor going to Frank Matich in his Matich A50 Repco at Warwick Farm in late 1971.

The 1958 Gold Star comprised 9 meetings in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland; a big program of travel in the days when the continent was the same size as now without todays road  network!

1958 Season/Gold Star Series…

gnoo blas

Tornado 2 at rest, Gnoo Blas, 1958 (Ian McKay Collection)

South Pacific Trophy, Gnoo Blas, Orange NSW 27 January.

Gray chased Brabham’s Cooper in 2nd, set the first 100mph lap of the circuit and retired with a misfire, Brabham won the race from Jones Maser and then set-off for his European season.

tornado fishos

Handsome beastie that it is! Tornado 2 Chev in the Fisherman’s Bend paddock February 1958. Spectators cars Jag Mk7 ? and Holden FB (Geoff Green)

Victoria Trophy, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne, Victoria 23 February.

‘The Carnival of Motor Racing’ was a combined car and motorcycle meeting.  Jones won a close race from pole. Gray qualified 2nd and ran 2nd until he had throttle linkage problems, he returned to the race but later retired. Jones won from Glass’ Ferrari and Whiteford’s Lago.

fishos first lap

First lap at Fishermans Bend, the flat industrial landscape clear in this shot. The big front engined cars of Glass and Jones with Gray obscured on the outside lead the pack (Geoff Green)

Longford Trophy, Tasmania 3 March.

Covered at this articles’ outset. A win for Gray’s Tornado after practice dramas.

fishos 3

Tornado 2 Chev, Fishermans Bend, February 1958. Good front suspension shot showing the Peugeot top wishbone/shock and transverse lower leaf spring (Geoff Green)

South Australian Trophy Race, Port Wakefield, South Australia 5 April.

Jones led the race until his radiator was blocked by straw from a haybale he attacked, Lukey’s Cooper Bristol won from Austin Miller’s Cooper. Gray didn’t enter.

tornado lowood

Gray kept the lead at Lowwod on 15 June for most of the race but slowed towards the end when the ‘breaker strips’ on his rear tyres started to show, allowing Mildren to take the lead (AMS)

Queensland Road Racing Championship, Lowood, Queensland 15 June.

Jones led until problems with the Masers rear end caused its retirement. Gray led Mildren’s Cooper until Tornado’s tyres started to shred towards the races end, Gray’s easing gave Mildren the win from the Tornado and Lukey’s Cooper Bristol.

The Tornado turned the tables on Mildrens Cooper the following day at Gnoo Blas, Orange when Gray won the ‘Canoblas Trophy’ a 55 mile race with the Cooper 2nd, the event contested by 17 cars. Tornado was timed at 153mph and Mildrens 2 litre Cooper T43 Climax at 145mph.

The dedication of competitors at the time is absolute; it was an 825 mile all night drive from Lowood to Orange. ‘The Canberra Times’ reported ‘The Queensland Grand Prix finished at 4.30pm…each in private cars towing the racing cars, they left Lowwod at 5.30pm and travelling in company most of the way arrived at Orange at about 8am.

‘They then prepared their cars, practiced…started a 4 lap scratch race at noon and the Canoblas Trophy at 2.30pm…’

It wasn’t too far for Alec to then drive back to Canberra, where his business was then but Ted had a 325mile drive from Orange to Wangaratta to be at work on Tuesday, before towing Tornado back to Lowood again in late August, 875 miles, or a bit like driving from London to Rome without the autoroutes.

Lowood Trophy Race, Queensland 31 August.

Jones led from Gray and eventually took him on the oil soaked track but this time the Tornado had diff problems . Mildren’s Cooper passed Jones, taking the win from Victorians Jones and Lukey.

vrrc 1

Finish of the VRRC Race at Fishermans Bend, October 1958. Gray won in the ‘red nosed’ Tornado, yellow car Austin Miller’s Cooper T41 Climax and Ern Seeliger’s blue Maybach 4 Chev (David Van Dal)

Victorian Road Racing Championships, Fishermans Bend 18 October.

The championship was not part of the Gold Star in 1958 and a week before the AGP at Bathurst so was perhaps a risky event to contest but it was an excellent one for the team, Gray won the race from Len Lukey’s Cooper Bristol with Austin Miller’s Cooper T41 Climax third

vrrc 2

41 year old Ted Gray getting the trophy and plaudits of the crowd. VRRC champ, Fishermans Bend 1958. Bill Mayberry in moustache and stocky Lou Abrahams in red  (Kevin Drage)

agp grid

Bathurst, 23 October 1958 grid; A preliminary race i suspect as the grid is not as for the AGP itself #12 Davison Ferrari 500/625, white nosed Ferrari Super Squalo of Kiwi Tom Clark with Tornado on the outside of row 1. Row 2 L>R Mildren’s Cooper T43 Climax, Merv Neil Cooper T45 Climax and Curley Brydon’s Ferrari Chev, the Jones Maser is obscured by Neil’s Cooper against the fence on row 3. Red clad Tornado crew looking on (David Van Dal)

Gray was on pole from Jones, Davison returning to racing in his unsold Ferrari 500/625, Neil’s Cooper T45 and Lukey’s Cooper Bristol.

Jones led Davison from the start, Ted’s strategy was to start with a light fuel load build a lead and stop later in the race for fuel. He soon passed Jones and Davo, the three cars ran spectacularly nose to tail for the next 12 laps.

bathurst nose to tail

Jones 250F leads Tornado across the top of Mount Panorama during their great dice (Alan Stewart Collection)

On lap 19 he made his stop but only had a lead of 10-12 seconds, then his stop was cocked up, taking another 25 seconds before setting off in chase.

On the first lap out he achieved the fastest standing lap of Mount Panorama ever, he was too fast though, boofing the fence at Skyline, damaging Tornado’s steering and suspension, the car retired 2 laps later.

He had led for 20 of 24 laps and set the fastest ever speed of 155.17mph recorded on ConRod Straight.

Jones led Davo for another 2 laps, until breasting the first hump on Conrod the 250F dropped a valve after 7 laps of clutchless gear changes.

Davison eased his pace, over 2 minutes ahead of Ern Seeliger in Maybach 4 Chev and Tom Hawke’s Cooper T23 Repco Holden.

It was one of the greatest AGP’s ever.

tornado melbourne

The new and old; Brabham’s Cooper T45 Climax 2 litre leads Ted’s Tornado and Jones Maser 250F on lap lap 2 of the ’58 Melbourne GP at Albert Park. Moss’ winning Cooper T45 is further up the road  (AMS)

Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park, Victoria 23 November.

Moss and Brabham disappeared into the distance in their 2 litre Cooper Climaxes, Gray retired whilst fastest local, Jones also withdrew with falling oil pressure, Whiteford, Stillwell Maser 250F and Len Lukey took the remaining Gold Star points.

Philip Island Trophy Race, Victoria 26 December.

Jones won the race and Gold Star in his GP Maser from pole, Mildren and Roxburgh were 2nd and 3rd in Cooper Climaxes. Gray didn’t enter and Stan Jones won the Gold Star he deserved.

1959 and Beyond…

Tornado was barely raced in 1959 which was a pity as Jones Maser 250F won the AGP at Longford early in the year and Gray finished 2nd to Stillwell’s Cooper at Bathurst in pouring rain for the NSW Road Racing Championship in October, Mildren’s Cooper was 3rd; there was life in the front engined cars still.

Perhaps with more reliability in 1959 after all the learnings of the hard year in 1958 the wonderful, big blue V8 could have prevailed but as the great Frank Gardner said ‘IF Yer Auntie Had Balls She’d be Yer Uncle’… Ifs, buts and maybe’s mean nothing in sport. But the speculation is fun!

Lou and Ted raced the car in the 1960 New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore on January 9. An interesting idea but they were on a hiding to nothing with the plethora of Cooper’s racing in Australasia by then. Brabham won from McLaren and Bib Stillwell all in Coopers. Tornado retired after 5 laps with magneto dramas.

bz gp

First lap of the 1960 NZGP, Ardmore, College Corner; #47 Bruce McLarens Cooper T45, #7 Moss Cooper T51 #4 Brabham Cooper T51 #18 David Piper Lotus 16 Climax, Gray in Tornado is at the rear of this shot on the outside of a Cooper, light colored band on the nose. 14 of the cars which started were front-engined so Ted was far from alone and with an engine not the largest in this F Libre race (sergent.com)

Upon its return to Australia Tornado was sold to South Aussie, Mel McEwin who contested both the 1960 and 1961 Australian Grands’ Prix in it but the car was by now, like all other front-engined cars being blown off by 2.5 Litre FPF engined Coopers. The 2495cc variant of the FPF engine was now fairly common in ‘The Colonies’; scarcity in this part of the world gave the front engined cars a slightly longer front line racing life than would otherwise have been the case.

In the 1965/6 the car passed to ex-Cooper racer John McDonald as a ‘fun car’ after his frontline career finished but he had a massive accident in it at Calder ‘breaking the car in half’.

In the early 70’s the car was restored by McDonald in Canberra making its Historic Racing debut at Hume Weir, Albury on Boxing Day 1976.

The big, bellowing, blue Tornado has been an occasional starlet at historic events for decades, sold to Frank Moore, it has been a part of his collection of Australian Specials/Cars since 1999.

tornado cover

After this articles publication David Rapley, Australian Racer, Historian, Author and Restorer got in touch with his insights on Tornado, a car he fettles in Melbourne for its Queensland owner Frank Moore…

‘I was delighted to read your work on ‘The Tornado’ as Teddy Tornado is a great friend of mine having spent a lot of time with me in recent years. My comments/contribution is only of a very minor technical nature but I felt your work so good that I wanted to add it.

When Frank gave the me the car with a broken con-rod from an outing at the Melbourne GP it was in a very bad state. After inspection we concluded that the whole car had to be dismantled, crack tested and properly reassembled. Frank insisted that nothing should be repainted or anything done to modernise it-a welcome attitude after the over restored cars we mainly see these days at Historic meetings’.

‘The front suspension was a mess with badly cracked stub axles and pivot/king pins and steering arms. (I use these parts still for show and tell to ‘try’ and educate old car people in the danger of not crack testing-sadly largely a waste of time!) These were originals covered in weld, the stubs themselves being I believe Itala not Lancia.

The brakes on the car-front are single leading shoe with two wheel cylinders per side of Aero origin I believe War Hawk but could well be Mustang and clearly date back to Tornado 1. The drums are locally made and may be Patons only contribution as the rear brakes are A90 Austin or Healey. I have not found any period photo’s to date when they were fitted but looking at how they were mounted I would guess from the first building of Tornado 2′.

‘It is obvious that the rear transmission support box and lower wishbones were used straight from the earlier car but with a top wishbone added, the transverse spring only providing now suspension’.

‘We went to great lengths to find a 1958 correct block and Corvette heads but sadly this engine was sabotaged at a subsequent Melbourne GP by someone pouring steel shot down the inlet trumpets of the Hilborn injection in the supposedly secure display tent. The current engine has a correct block but they are getting very difficult to find’.

‘An interesting aside-after the car was wrecked at Calder the front suspension was sold off to a Hot Rodder; Richard Bendell was horrified, bought it back and gave it to McDonald to repair the car.

Pleased to report Teddy still has all his original aluminum body now much battered and cracked and as much as possibly all of its bitz and bobbs’.

tornado agp

Ellis French’s wonderful atmospheric shot of Ted Gray gridding Tornado 2 up for the 1959 AGP at Longford. DNF on lap 4 with a run main bearing, #5 is Len Lukey’s Cooper T45 Climax 2 litre 2nd . Lukey took the Gold Star title that year, at 12 rounds the longest ever (Ellis French)

Where Does Ted Gray and Tornado Fit in The Pantheon of Australian Motor Racing?…

There is not a lot published about Ted Gray. He was born in Wangaratta 140 miles from Melbourne its rich grazing country. Well known to Aussie racers, Wang is close to Winton Raceway.

Born in 1917 he was apprenticed as a motor mechanic and commencing racing career on Speedway’s the most popular and common branch of the sport in the 1930’s. He finished 2nd in the 1938/9 Victorian Speedcar Championship to George Beavis in a match race at Olympic Park, Melbourne.

He continued race on speedway’s into the late 1940’s whilst also road racing and had a massive accident at Maribyrnong Speedway in Melbourne’s west in December 1947. In a classic ‘interlocked wheels speedway prang’ Gray was thrown from his somersaulting car sustaining spinal injuries and extensive lacerations, recovering in the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

So his 1955 Tornado 1 Bathurst crash was not his first ‘Big One’. Clearly he was one tough nut as his speed after the Bathurst prang, he had a six month ‘holiday’ after it remember, was if anything faster after the prang than before it. These country boys are hard men.

In terms of his business, he was a partner in the local Ford Dealership in Wang. He also had workshops in Melbourne’s CBD and later Carlton or Coburg. It was in the latter that Ian recalls another bad accident in the early sixties when Gray’s legs were broken in a workshop accident in which he was pinned to a wall by an errant car.

The Australian Motor Sports Review Annual in 1958/9 rated a quartet of drivers ‘representing the ultimate performances in the 14 years since the war; Doug Whiteford, Lex Davison both triple AGP winners at the time (Davo later won a fourth) Len Lukey 1959 Gold star winner and Ted Gray.

Of Gray the review had this to say;

‘Ted Gray has been driving Lou Abraham’s Tornado since the car first raced. Winner of the Longford Trophy in 1958 and numerous other races his main claim to distinction is as Australia’s fastest recorded driver. In the Tornado at Coonabarabran, NSW in 1957, Gray recorded a new ‘Class C’ Australian record of 157.53mph, the fastest yet achieved in Australia.’

Quite how Stan Jones was overlooked in the quartet is beyond me. I wasn’t there at the time but Stan had won a lot of races including the NZ GP in 1954 by 1958, personally I would have popped him in front of Gray and Lukey.

None of which is to take anything from Ted Gray who was a vastly experienced and very fast driver. Further, he was one of that engineer/driver breed who had the skill to design, build, race, interpret the beasts needs and modify their steed further to make it competitive. Maybe Larry Perkins was the last Australian of Gray’s ilk?

I’m not sure when Ted Gray died and am interested to hear from anyone who can add more to his story.

That the small, clever, experienced and adequately funded team from Melbourne took on the best of European Grand Prix cars at the time was a great achievement. Its just a shame they don’t have the ’58 AGP and Gold Star to reflect Tornado’s speed…

tornado crew

The Tornado 2 Chev crew in 1958, circuit unknown. L>R Ted Gray, Lou Abrahams and Bill Mayberry in red (AMS Annual 1958/9)

Bibliography…

Special thanks to Ian Mayberry for his recollections and David Rapley for his comments on the car in modern times.

John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, Stephen Dalton Collection, Australian Motor Sports July 1956, The Canberra Times 18 June 1958, John Medley ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ and ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’, Australian Motor Sports 1958 and 1959 annuals, Graham Howard Ed ‘The History of The AGP’, Stephen Dalton Collection, James Gullan ‘As Long as It Has Wheels’

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com stunning archive, thanks to Lindsay Ross, Walkem Collection, vintagespeedway.com, Ian McKay Collection, Kevin Drage, Geoff Green, David Van Dal, Alan Stewart Collection, sergent.com

Tailpiece: One of the greatest ever AGP’s, Bathurst October 1958, Jones 250F, Gray Tornado and Davison Fazz 500/625 at it ‘hammer and tongs’ on a circuit to test the skillful and the brave…

stan bathurst

(AMS Annual)

pete

(The Cahier Archive)

Well, Mike Spence in any event. His ‘Parnell Racing’ Lotus 25 BRM is ‘in drag’ for filming of John Frankenheimer’s iconic racing film ‘Grand Prix’…

James Garner played Aron, the helmet design that of Chris Amon, Aron drove for the fictional, nascent Japanese ‘Yamura’ team after being booted out of the Jordan BRM team in a crash which took out his teammate ‘Scott Stoddard’.

In the race itself the great British ‘all-rounder’ Spence finished an excellent 5th behind Brabham, Hill, Clark and Stewart…

spence solvers

Mike Spence in his factory BRM P261 on the ‘BRDC Intl Trophy’ grid, Silverstone 29 April 1967. He was 6th in the race won by Mike Parkes’ Ferrari 312. ‘Gedda move on with the start’ seems to be the pose? (unattributed)

Photo Credit: The Cahier Archive

Cibie…

Posted: November 22, 2015 in Fotos, Sports Racers
Tags: ,

cibie ad

Cibie ad 1970, the graphic is just so period!? Automobile Year #18…

ferrari f2005

Great atmospheric shot of Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari F2005 during the Monaco Grand Prix, he finished 7th after an accident with David Coulthard, DC trying to avoid the spinning Albers Minardi, Kimi Raikkonen won the race in a McLaren…

kimi

Kimi Raikkonen on his way to Monaco victory 2005. McLaren MP4/20 Mercedes. (Coolamundo)

The Ferrari F2005 was the final evolution of a series of V10 3 litre engined cars, F1 engine regs changed to 2.4 litre V8’s in 2006.

The chassis was lighter than the F2004 and the aerodynamics evolved over the previous car. The gearbox was smaller and lighter than F2004’s, made of titanium and carbon fibre. The ‘055’ engine was essentially carried over but with mounting points changed, the challenge that year to get 2 race meetings out of the engine.

albert park

Rubens Barrichello, Albert Park, AGP. Ferrari F2005. (Coolamundo)

The rear suspension was redesigned to improve its aerodynamics and work with the cars Bridgestone tyres, and therein lay the problem of Ferrari’s season after 5 years of dominance.

The sporting regulations for 2005 didn’t allow tyre changes at pitstops. Bridgestone didn’t master the tradeoff between race long durabilty and performance so the year was fought out amongst Michelin shod teams.

Ferrari’s only 2005 ‘win’ was at the farcical US GP at Indianapolis when the Michelin shod teams withdrew from the event, or rather completed one slow lap as the tyres failed with the loads imposed by Indy’s banking during qualifying.

ralf

Ralf Schumacher beside his shagged Toyota TF105 after his huge shunt caused by tyre failure. Deja vu for the poor German who had an even bigger accident at Indy the year before in his Williams, outing him for several races. (unattributed)

A compromise proposed by Michelin to use a chicane was rejected by the FIA. This dopey decision resulted in a meaningless Ferrari ‘win’ but was otherwise to everyones’ detriment; American fans, TV audience, Michelin, the FIA and the sport…

Fernando Alonso won the 2005 Drivers title and Renault the Manufacturers’ with their Renault R25, McLaren were resurgent especially in the second half of the season, Kimi Raikkonen consistently quicker than Juan Pablo Montoya in the McLaren MP4/20 Mercedes.

alonso

Fernando Alonso in his Renault R25, 2005. Circuit unknown. (LAT)

Ferrari F2005 Technical Specs…

Carbon fibre and honeycomb composite monocoque chassis, suspension by pushrods and torsion bars front and rear. Type ‘055’ 90 degree 2997cc , 4 valve normally aspirated V10 giving circa 900bhp@19000rpm. Semi-automatic 7 speed sequential gearbox. Carbon fibre brakes. Weight inclusive of fluids and driver 605Kg.

Tailpiece…

ferrari painting

Michael Schumacher Ferrari F2005. (ChronoArt)

Photo Credit…LAT, Coolamundo, ChronoArt

tarrant 2

(Algernon Darge/SLV)

Harley Tarrant ‘tears’ down Sandown Racecourse’ back straight in his Argyll to win the 3 mile race ‘for heavy automobiles’ on 12 March 1904…

Runner-up of the event organised by The Automobile Club of Victoria was Tom Rand’s Decauville, Tarrant’s average speed, 26mph for the 3 miles in a time of 6 minutes 55 seconds.

tarrant

Harley Tarrant left, Argyll 10HP and Tom Rand Decauville 16HP 2nd. Sandown Racecourse, 12 March 1904 (Algernon Darge/SLV)

the ozzie

Three motor contests were run at the ‘Commercial Travellers Association’ annual picnic at Sandown Racecourse on 12 March 1904…

Melbourne weekly ‘The Australasian’ reported the event in its 19 March 1904 issue in the formal and amusing language of the day;

‘The Automobile Club of Victoria’ had another good turnout last Saturday in response to an invitation from the Commercial Travellers Association to be present at their annual picnic on the Sandown Park Racecourse’. Around 1400 people attended in total.

sandown blokes

Sandown racecourse 1904. ‘Curved dash’ Oldsmobiles (Algernon Darge/SLV)

‘Upwards of 25 cars left Alexandra Avenue (South Yarra, a distance of about 25Km) and proceeded at a leisurely pace via St Kilda, Caulfield, Oakleigh and Springvale. During the afternoon the number of cars swelled to 85, while there were more motor cycles as well. The road was in a terribly dusty state.

At the course the conditions were more enjoyable. The three motor contests were watched with interest by the picnickers, the ladies especially evincing much enthusiasm.

 

sandown scene

Sandown Racecourse 1904. 1400 attended, most arrived by train, here alighting at Dandenong Station. Car make and model unknown (The Australasian)

The presence of a neat electric car in which were seated 2 ladies, one of whom handled the motor with the skill of an expert, aroused the admiration of the gentlemen and the envy of the ladies. It was indeed a novel sight and will go a long way to removing the impression existing that an automobile is difficult to manage.

It may now be confidently stated that automobilism has caught on, and it will be found that with such persistent and persevering advocates as women-folk can be when they desire anything, their gentlemen friends will capitulate and procure cars. (very delicately put, cars and anything else!)

After the races were over the cars were rushed by all the ladies; all wanted a ride around the course and the drivers had a busy time for an hour or more’

results

‘The Australasian’ does not report the order in which the contests were held, but ‘The Age’ does, it was as above so James Robert Crooke won the first four wheel motor contest/race in Victoria and Australia…

‘Nine out of 16 entries faced the starter in the Voiturette race. There was some delay owing to a false start but an interesting race resulted. Receiving a 500 yards start, Crooke was first in 3 min 55.5 seconds from Kellow from the 50 yard mark in 4 mins 2.5 seconds’.

jr crooke

James Crooke pictured in 1915. Winner of the first motor car race in Australia, 12 March 1904, Sandown Racecourse (hyperracer.com)

Crooke is a notable motoring and motor racing pioneer himself, he established the Aspendale Racecourse, the horse racing facility later modified to accomodate a Speedway.

The main threads of this article are the 1904 Sandown event, the early history of the car in Australia until The Great Depression and Harley Tarrant and his cars.

An article about Crooke the ‘bushranger, master marksman, champion jockey, race promoter, track owner and racing driver’ as his descendants website describe the man is a fascinating topic for another time!

crooke

J R Crooke leading the first car motor race in Australia, the Voiturette event, first of 3 races on the day, 12 March 1904 , Sandown racecourse (unattributed)

Unfortunately all of the published pictures of Crooke on the day are ‘ropey’ and hence i have not led with a shot of Crooke’s winning Locomobile, a 41/2 HP 2 cylinder steam engined conveyance built in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Second was the 5HP, single cylinder, petrol engined Humberette ‘raced’ by CB Kellow. Humber built these cars at a factory in Beeston, Nottingham, UK.

algy

Another shot of the Voiturette Race; looks like JR Crooke in the 2nd placed car here, but on his way forward in the short 1.5 mile race (The Australasian)

Some modern reports have it that Harley drove one of his own Tarrant’s but ‘The Australasian’ and ‘The Age’ results say the victorious car was an Argyll, a 10HP, 2 cylinder petrol engined car made in Bridgton, Glasgow, Scotland. It is one of the makes for which Tarrant’s business ‘Tarrant Motor and Engineering Co’ held the franchise, others included F.I.A.T, Sunbeam, FN and De Dion. Their premises were in Russell Street, Melbourne and later Queensbridge Street, South Melbourne.

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Colonel Tarrant in Argyll 10HP, winner of the first ‘Dunlop Reliability Trial’ between Melbourne and Sydney, February 1905. (Algernon Darge)

‘The Age’ reported that the times were ‘nothing sensational owing to the heavy nature of the going’, the ‘roadster motorcycle race excited the most sensational interest. The machines were sent around at terrific speed-over 30 miles an hour’, the winner C Mayman from HB James and AE Sutton, make of machines not disclosed!

mayman

Charlie Mayman aboard his 7th ‘Beauchamp’ machine, the ‘Track Racer’ built in December 1902. ‘Motor built by Beauchamp’s a single of about 4HP, machine weighs 120Lb. 26 inch wheels and Dunlop tyres’ (Serpolettes Tricycle)

A little bit of research suggests that the first 2 bikes in the race of Charlie Mayman and Harry James were ‘Beauchamps’ built by Mayman at Edward Beauchamp’s cycle works in The Arcade, Chapel Street Prahran, an inner Melbourne suburb.

James was Dunlop’s Advertising Manager, Mayman built 2 bikes to James’ order for Dunlop. It may also be that Arthur Sutton’s machine, he was a friend of Mayman’s, was also a Beauchamp.

Mayman built 9 machines before his short life ended after a tyre blew on a machine he was riding at Eaglehawk’s Canterbury Park, near Bendigo in Victoria’s ‘Goldfields’ area on Boxing Day 1904. Just 24, he was an amazing engineer, he built himself a car in 1903/4 and a gifted rider with the world at his feet.

mayman

Charlie Mayman in the car he built himself, inclusive of engine. ‘Shows the prominent racing motorcyclist in his home manufactured car in St Kilda Road, Melbourne in 1903’ is the photographers note (Algernon Darge/SLV)

Motor racing started in France, the first ‘motoring contest’ took place on July 22, 1894. Organised by a Paris newspaper, the Paris-Rouen Rally was a 126 km journey. Count Jules Albert de Dion was first into Rouen in 6 hours 48 minutes, an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph). The official winners were Peugeot and Panhard as cars were judged on their speed, handling and safety characteristics. De Dion’s steam car needed a stoker which the judges deemed to be outside their objectives…

rouen

Jules Albert, Count de Dion was first into Rouen in this team powered De Dion towing ‘une Caleche’. Among the passengers are Count de Dion, Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nyevelt-Rothschild and write Emile Driant (unattributed)

And so commenced a period of racing unregulated cars on open roads between cities in Europe. This evolved after many deaths, from racing on open to closed road circuits. During the Paris-Madrid road race in 1903 a number of people, both drivers and pedestrians – including Marcel Renault were killed, the race was stopped by French authorities at Bordeaux.

Further road based events of this type were banned.

reanault

Marcel Renault, Renault, before his fatal accident on the 24 May 1903 ‘Paris-Madrid Trail’ . He crashed near the town of Couhe Verac and died 48 hours later without regaining consciousness . The event was won by Fernand Gabriel’s Mors from Louis Renault and Jacques Salleron in Renault and Mors respectively (unattributed)

By Sandown’s 1904 event motor racing was already 10 years old but the impact of the competition on the 1400 present to see the deeds of Melbourne’s pioneering motorists was significant and must be seen in the context of the time in Australia.

There were less than 300 cars in Victoria in 1904, the population of the state was 1.3 million people. The rarity, novelty value and impact of the noisy, fast by the standards of the time, technological wonders cannot be overstated.

There are now around 4.55 million cars and 5.9 million people in Victoria, 1 car for every 3300 people in 1904 compared with 1 car for every 1.23 people now.

Whilst motoring was in its pioneering years the car was getting plenty of press about its impact, expected benefits, as well as perceived negatives about changes to existing paradigms. The local papers were full of commentary about the draft British ‘Motor Car Bill’ to regulate the use of cars for the first time in the UK and Melbourne was ‘abuzz’ with the new technology.

sandown kids

Sandown Racecourse 1904 (SLV)

lunar

Astronaut James Irwin, Apollo 15 mission, 1 August 1971 with the ‘Lunar Roving Vehicle’ at Hadley-Apennine, The Moon (NASA)

It is sobering and amazing to look at the 10 years olds in the Sandown picture above and imagine their reflections as 80 year olds looking at the Moon Vehicle during the 1971 Apollo 15 mission. Or as a 90 year old being blown away by the outrageous looks and speed of Mario Andretti’s ‘ground effect’ Lotus 79 in 1978. The Wright brothers first ‘heavier than air’ human flight took place only a few months before the Sandown meeting at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina on 17 December 1903.

All in those childrens lifetimes.

The other worldly nature of the Moon Vehicle and Lotus 79 would have been as impactful at the end of the car enthusiasts lives as the Edwardian conveyances competing at Sandown all those years before were at the start of their time in an amazing century of technological progress if not peace on our planet…

1979

Andretti, Lotus 79 Ford, 1979 German GP, Hockenheim, car not as good in ’79 as ’78. It raced on when the ‘wingless Lotus 80 bombed that year (unattributed)

The Car in Australia; Early Years…

An Australian Government publication ‘Linking a Nation’ forms the basis of this summary of our early years of motoring.

The motor age began in Australia, as elsewhere in the world, at the beginning of the twentieth century. The first Australian experiments in car construction were in the late 1890s involving both steam and internal combustion engines, both of which were successful.

It soon became clear that for purposes such a cars, internal combustion had advantages over steam. Steam remained favoured for early buses, trucks and mobile machinery.

tmomson

Thomson Motor Phaeton in 1900. Designed and built by Herbert Thomson and his cousin Edward Holmes in Armadale Victoria. They took the car to Sydney by boat for the 1900 Sydney Royal Easter Show and drove to Bathurst to the local show and then back to Melbourne on what passed for the roads of the day, getting frequently bogged. Trip took 10 days at 8.72 mph for the circa 500 mile journey. First car in Oz to be fitted with Dunlop pneumatic tyres, which were purpose built for it. Steam powered, 12 built, 1 exists today in the Museum of Victoria (unattributed)

Australia’s first petrol car (the first steam car was made by Herbert Thomson and made its debut at the Malvern Cricket Ground, Melbourne in June 1898) was made in Melbourne by Colonel Harry Tarrant in 1897. It was experimental but Tarrant learnt enough to begin production on a commercial basis in 1901. He was joined in the business by a Melbourne bicycle maker, Howard Lewis.

By 1909 Tarrant was a manufacturer, importer and distributor, building his own cars as well as acquiring the Ford franchise. This was the year Henry Ford began production of his famous T Model, the world’s first mass-produced car, so it was an astute business move on Tarrant’s part. Tarrant also had the Melbourne dealership for more exotic marques such as Rover, Sunbeam and Mercedes. A short biography of Tarrant and some photos of his cars is included at the end of this article.

perier

The Perier family; Albert at the tiller, Jessie, Pauline and Norman, prepare for an outing in 1903. Car the first de Dion Voiturette imported to NSW by WJC Elliott in 1900 (AJ Perier/SLNSW)

Public reaction to the car was far from universally favourable. Conservative people tended to dislike them. ‘Young men with money loved the speed and freedom it gave and of course were resented by other elements in society for their selfish pleasures’.

Doctors soon found cars superior to horses and their early extensive use of cars to make house calls did much to make cars respectable. ‘Doctors on duty could not be considered maniacs selfishly out on a spree frightening horses and old ladies’….

bike

Motor bikes, both solos and sidecars grew in number exponentially given the attractions of freedom and cost. Here an Indian sidecar at the Blue Lake, Mount Gambier, SA in 1914. Retention of the gents bowler hat at speed no doubt a challenge (SLSA)

Speed enabled people to lead more productive lives. The railway and the tram already had proved that, but since they were for public use, they seemed less self-indulgent than the car which was very much the preserve of the rich in its early years. The list of motoring attendees at the Sandown 1904 event is like an entry from the ‘society pages’ of the day.

Even though car numbers were low in the first decade of the twentieth century their impact was great.

The Australian Constitution (Australia as a country commenced on 1 January 1901, until then the colonies were separate) framed just before the motor age was silent on the topic of regulation so regulatory responsibility lay with the states.

The state with the most emphasis on moral improvement, South Australia first regulated the car in 1904. The South Australian parliament legislated for the registration of cars and speed limits in towns and cities varying between four and twelve miles per hour (6 and 19km/h). These reflected the rules under which trains travelled along Adelaide, ‘The City of Churchs’ streets.

adelaide

King William Street, Adelaide’s ‘main drag’ on 31 May1914, the last day the Adelaide-Glenelg train came into the city centre. Now a tram makes the same journey. Not a car to be seen (SLSA)

In other states initial regulation was by local councils which imposed a wide range of speed limits; Sydney 8mph, in Parramatta 6mph and in Hunter’s Hill 10mph.

Very early in motoring history, Australian police regularly fined motorists for excessive speed. The police tended to ignore the local limits and instead rely on an old common-law charge which applied to horse drawn vehicles of ‘furious driving’. This infuriated motorists as it was arbitrary.

In New South Wales, the Motor Traffic Act of 1909 removed these anomalies and laid the foundation for statewide regulation, licensing of drivers and registration of vehicles (for a fee), and standardised speed limits at 15mph within five miles of Sydney’s GPO.

The principles it enshrined remain the basis of traffic regulation in Australia today.

houdini

Symbolic of the relentless pace of technological progress at the time was Harry Houdini’s  flights in Australia. He made 3 flights at Diggers Rest, 35 Km north of Melbourne on 18 March 1910. Voisin bi-plane. He made the second or third powered flights in Oz, Colin Defries the first at Victoria Park Racecourse, Sydney on 9 December 1909 in a Wright Model A  (Marcel Poupe/SLNSW)

‘Seeing their pleasures threatened by moral improvers, motorists began to organise. Led by Sydney theatrical entrepreneur Harry Skinner, they established the Australian Motoring Association in 1903, later the Automobile Club of Australia and from 1920 the Royal Automobile Club of Australia. This was a national body from the beginning with New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian branches. The flashy Skinner was all too typical of early motorists and was just the kind of person moral improvers wanted kept in his place!’

vauxhall

Vauxhall ‘Prince Henry’ ‘possibly being prepared for an Adelaide-Melbourne record run in 1913’. Such ‘events’ not unusual or legal at the time (SLSA)

The new Commonwealth Parliament was soon aware of the importance new automotive technology and in 1902 imposed customs duties on imported motor bodies to encourage local manufacture.

At the time and until the introduction of the Ford Model T all cars were handmade and most motor bodies were built by firms which also built horse-drawn vehicles. This meant that carriage builders could easily adapt to the new technology which to them was not new. Only the means of traction and the details of design had changed. Most chassis continued to be imported.

This prompted a short-lived revival of the carriage-making trade which had gone into decline in the 1890s with the popularity of the ‘sulky’ which needed no body. In 1917 the government banned motor-body imports, a year later eased to a restriction of one import allowed per two local bodies built.

The following decade was the heyday of the medium-sized motor-body builder, mostly former horse carriage builders, or firms like Smith and Waddington in Sydney who also built timber trams and railway carriages.

Motor body production reached about 90,000 by 1926. Of these, some 36,171 were produced by one firm, Holden Motor Body Builders, founded in 1920 by the Adelaide carriage builders, Holden and Frost. They produced their first motor body in 1917 and by the mid 1920s dominated the Australian motor-body industry.

sydney

Its all happening in Pitt Street, Sydney 1915, as it still does. This is near the Market Street corner, in what is now the (pedestrian only) Pitt Street Mall. Cars, cabs, buggies, trams and still very much present, horse drawn transport (SLNSW)

Car numbers, though, remained small. There were only 3,978 motor vehicles in all of New South Wales as late as 1911, just as the flood of Model Ts began to surge. They quickly replaced the horse-drawn carriage as the preferred means of city transport of the urban elite. The saddle horse quickly disappeared from city streets. It had always been an affectation of the wealthy urban male, a car was an excellent substitute.

Horsepower remained preferred for deliveries and short-distance cabs. Hansom cabs remained part of the scene in Australian cities right up till the 1930s. In 1911 there were just three motor vans in Sydney, compared with 1,303 horse vans. A decade later horses still predominated, with 1,603 horse vans and just 376 motor vans. By 1927, though, these proportions were just about reversed, with 2,016 motor vans but only 379 horse vans. A survey of Sydney traffic in July 1923 revealed that 39.2 percent of vehicle movements were by horse-drawn vehicles, 33.8 percent by car and 27 percent by motor van or lorry.  On that day most people out and about in Sydney were travelling on trams.

model t

Ford Model T. Overland adventurer Francis Birtles and Rex ‘the Wonder Dog’ in the back seat did 5600 Km from the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory to Port Phillip Bay in Victoria in 1913. They camped along the way, catching ‘bush tucker’ and using fuel left by Ford, who sponsored the adventure at special dumps along the route . Here outside Tarrant Motors in Melbourne circa 1910 (Powerhouse Museum/SLV)

The introduction of the Model T Ford and the rapid improvement of engine technology during World War I led to the explosion of  car use. From 1911 to 1916 motor vehicle numbers in Australia almost quadrupled. They then more than doubled in the next five years (when markets were interrupted by the War) and quadrupled again to 1926.

American imports dominated the market. In 1917, the very worse year of the War, there were 15,000 cars imported; 10,000 Model T Fords, 2,300 Dodges, 1,500 Buicks and 1,200 other makes.

The Model T was designed with US conditions in mind, these were not so different from Australia’s with muddy or dusty roads and long distances. The Model T had simple, robust components, an austere, sturdy body and high clearances ideal for rural conditions in both countries.

With the growth of the Australian car market, and given high duties on imports, big manufacturers decided to establish plants in Australia during the mid 1920s.

holdens

Holden motor body works, Woodville, SA 1928 (State Library of SA)

Ford set up a factory at Geelong in 1925. In 1926 General Motors also established itself in Victoria, at Fishermen’s Bend near Melbourne. General Motors made this a joint venture with Holden’s of Adelaide, thus establishing the distinctively Australian, long-lived marque of General Motors Holden (GMH).

Both Ford and GMH assembled imported chassis at the works and built local bodies to fit on them. Almost immediately, the old timber carriage-building tradition began to die out, as these factories had metal presses. Body designs changed rapidly as metal bodies requiring steel pressings became the norm. Timber was still used for some features but in 1937 the first all-steel car was produced, anticipating the shape of the post-war industry.

glenelg

Glenelg, a suburban Adelaide Beach, 1922. People came by tram, horse, buggy, bus or car. Suit de riguer, ‘Proclamation Day’ holiday. Driving your car onto the beach is still a weird SA thing to do on some Fleurieu Peninsula beaches (State Library of SA)

During the 1920s, the motor became a feature of everyday life for a large proportion of the population for the first time. In 1920 there was one car for every 55 people in Australia; by 1929 this had increased to one for every eleven people, compared with one car for about every four people in the 1970s and one for every two in 2015.

The figures indicate that in 1920 a car was a rare luxury, but that a decade later it had penetrated most middle class households and was quite widespread. By 1970, most people in Australia who wanted a car enough could have one, although a quarter of all households continued to choose not to have one.

During the crucial decade of the 1920s, car prices fell sharply while wages were rising. A new Chevrolet cost 545 pounds in 1920 but only 210 pounds in 1926. The cars were constantly getting better too; more comfortable and safer – with pneumatic tyres, all-wheel brakes and enclosed bodies making them far more convenient than early models which were only marginally more comfortable than a buggy.

wentworth

Wentworth Autodrome, Sydney November 1933. L>R #3 Don Shorten, Rajo Ford Spl, #4 Charlie Spurgeon, Fronty Ford Spl and Fred Braitling, Alvis (Ted Hood/State Library of NSW)

‘The twenties saw the growth of motor sport, with speedways mushrooming all over the country and motorists’ organisations running all sorts of bizarre races and trials including ‘top-gear’ trials, where the aim was to go as far as possible without changing out of top gear.

With these activities the car really was starting to replace the horse, not just for transport but in the imagination and human psyche as well. As with the horse (especially the saddle horse), car ownership was an opportunity to demonstrate taste and its absence, affluence and masculinity, while having the practical mobility advantage’.

agp

Photo-montage of the ‘100 Miles Road Race’, the second Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island in March 1928. Winner Capt Arthur Waite in an Austin 7 s/c top left shot three wheeling, #25 Cyril Dickason’s Austin 12 3rd and the Bugatti in the middle the T40 of Arthur Terdich 4th. Bottom right is Bill Williamson’s Riley 9 12th (The Australasian)

This increased use of cars of course required improved roads. Early motorists were rich, influential and had political clout. It soon became clear that motor transport was more than a hobby but an effective means of transport and the roads of the day needed to cater for cars and motorbikes.

bool

Country road, country town road anyway! Liebig Street, Warrnambool, Victoria 1910. (Warrnambool Historical Society)

Most of Australia’s rural roads were in poor shape in the early twentieth century. The best were in New South Wales but even there earthworks were limited and surfaces rough. Victoria, the richest state with the best railways had the worst roads relative to its population and wealth because so much had been invested in its railways. Rural roads’ main transport functions were confined to local needs such as taking produce to the nearest railway station or port.

The beginnings of the motor age changed all that dramatically.

The motor age itself was anticipated by a decade by a new form of transportation which had similar, but more modest requirements than the car. This was the bicycle, which came to Australia in the 1870s and was extremely popular from the 1890. Early bicycles were not cheap, although prices quickly reduced, but they were almost free to run and sufficiently simple for their owners to maintain.

These were big advantages compared to horses. In cities, a bike could be put in a shed needing none of the space, feed and attention required by a horse…

bikes

‘Waratah Rovers Bicycle Club’ in tour, Picton NSW October 1900 (SLNSW)

Bikes had two disadvantages over the horse; they demanded human effort and needed good, smooth roads. The human effort factor was and is an advantage. The popularity of cycling increased the pressure on councils to improve the quality of streets, especially in the suburbs where cycling was most popular. At that time, most suburban roads were as bad as rural roads. Most were dusty in dry weather and muddy in wet, many degenerating into quagmires in prolonged wet periods.

Early bikes were cumbersome ‘penny-farthings’, which were harder to mount and every bit as nasty as a horse from which to fall. The development of the safety cycle, essentially the modern design with equal-sized wheels and a chain drive, made cycling safer than riding a saddle horse and far more accessible to women.

‘Cyclists were numerous enough to have political clout and their demands for improved street paving were vociferous and hence the standard of roads especially in the suburbs began to improve’, the ‘Linking the Nation’ report said.

chamberlain

As the Great Depression approached some outrageous innovation was taking place in Australia. The Chamberlain ‘Beetle’ here in Indian engined original form circa 1932 was a spaceframe chassis, FWD, independent front and rear suspension, 2 stroke, 4 cylinder 8 piston supercharged racing car! I wrote about it a while back (Chamberlain Family)

The Great Depression, which seems a good time to end this truncated history of early motoring in Australia, and then World war II affected motoring as much as other activities in the economy. 

The fall in car registrations shows that the Australian middle class felt the impact of the Depression and had to cut back on luxuries, cars an example.

Car registrations in New South Wales fell from a pre-Depression 1929 peak of 170,039 to 144,749 in 1931. Thereafter they recovered, passing the 1929 level in 1935 and peaking again at 207,446 in 1940. Registrations fell again to 172,028 in 1942, and were still at only 188,412 in 1945.

Petrol rationing through the 1940s kept car demand low and as late as 1950 there were still only 269,250 cars on New South Wales roads, less than 100,000 more than the 1929 figure. So, for the twenty years after 1929, the impact of the motor car was actually quite limited’.

That would all change post 1950 as the shackles of the War Years were removed, our economy surged on booming global demand for our products and crops and the availability of consumer credit increased but that is a story for another time…

tarrant

First successful petrol driven Tarrant, built 1898, sold to DW Chandler in 1899. Top speed circa 30/35 mph. Picture in front of ‘first factory of the company, Bridge Road, South Melbourne’, no such address exists today. Only one of the 16 Tarrants built exists, owned by the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (W Stuart Ross)

Harley Tarrant was one of the pioneers of the early Australian Motor Industry…

This summary of his life, slightly truncated, is from the ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’.

Harley Tarrant (1860-1949), businessman, was born on 6 April 1860 at Clunes, Victoria, son of Joseph Tarrant, miner, and his wife Caroline, née Brownlow, both from Oxford, England. His father owned the Clunes Gazette and later the St Kilda Chronicle and Prahran Chronicle.

After attending Clunes Grammar School, Harley was articled to a firm of civil engineers; he worked as a surveyor on the Nullarbor Plain and from 1884 for the New South Wales Department of Lands. In 1888 he set up his own surveying business in Melbourne and undertook commissions for the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works.

His interest in motoring began in this period. In 1897-98, basing his account primarily on overseas journals, he helped to publicize the new motor car in the cycling monthly Austral Wheel. His rural background and surveying experience had made him aware of its potential value in a country of immense distances and relatively few railway lines.

In August 1897 he patented an engine powered by kerosene, a fuel which he declared to be safe, cheap and readily available, whereas electric motors needed recharging stations and steam-driven machines were dangerous and ‘too heavy for rough country roads’. Although his first car was a failure, its kerosene motor proved suitable for such stationary work as pumping water to farm houses. By 1899 he sold his engines as far afield as Western Australia. With larger premises, he also imported cars, beginning in February 1900 with a Benz.

tarrant

Harley Tarrant at the wheel beside his daughter and wife at the rear. Tarrant 2cyl 8HP won the November 1905, second Melbourne-Sydney ‘Dunlop Reliability Trial’. Car priced at 375 pounds (W Stuart Ross)

Business boomed and the profits enabled Tarrant and his partner in Tarrant Motor & Engineering Co. WH Lewis, to build one of the earliest Australian-made, petrol-driven cars: completed in 1901, it had an imported Benz engine.

Two years later their next machine was 90 per cent locally made, including the engine, and became the prototype for at least eight others, all built—to suit Australian conditions—for endurance rather than speed.

Tarrant’s victory in the two Dunlop reliability trials of 1905 and the success of a Tarrant car in 1906 helped to develop confidence in local manufacturing, but he could not compete with imports produced in larger numbers for a bigger market, especially after Tarrant Motors Pty Ltd acquired the Victorian franchise for Ford in 1907.

tarrant 2

Sir Russell Grimwade’s Tarrant 4 cyl 16HP car pictured in the 1906 ‘Dunlop Reliability Trial’ held over 1000 miles in Victoria. Class winner (W Stuart Ross)

Nevertheless, the firm made three aero engines for the military in 1915 and continued to manufacture motor bodies which, being bulky, were expensive to import. During World War I the company began assembling chassis from imported components; by this time it also had a thriving spare parts, accessories and repair business.

Tarrant played an important role in local motoring affairs. He lobbied on behalf of the Motor Importers’ Association for better traffic regulations and served in 1906-10 on the governing committee of the Automobile Club of Victoria, helping to demonstrate the capabilities of the motor car by organizing and participating in the club’s competitions and tours. In 1904 he had won his event in the club’s first motor race meeting, averaging 26 miles (42 km) per hour.

In 1908 Tarrant had become first commanding officer of the Victorian branch of the part-time Australian Volunteer Automobile Corps and from September 1914, with the rank of colonel, was in charge of Commonwealth military motor transport. The magnitude and urgency of wartime needs made mistakes inevitable. A 1918 royal commission report charged his administration with inefficiency and waste, alleging that the public had been misled by the extent to which Tarrant Motors was favoured with repair contracts. Harley accepted responsibility by resigning, but in 1920 was appointed an M.B.E. (‘Member British Empire’, an order of the British Empire)

After the war Tarrant retired from the business, sufficiently wealthy not to need to work, he freely indulged his passion for camping and overseas travel. In 1932 he came out of retirement to take over production supervision at Ruskin Motor Bodies Pty Ltd, an affiliate of the Tarrant company.

A tall, dignified man with a bushy moustache, he had done much to pioneer and consolidate the first phase of the Australian motor industry. Tarrant died on 25 February 1949 at his Toorak home.

The company was sold in 1950 to the Austin Motor Co (British Motor Corporation).

Photo Credits…

Algernon Darge,  W Stuart Ross, State Library Archives of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, NASA, Marcel Poupe, Ted Hood, hyperracer.com, Chamberlain Family, Serpolette’s Tricycle

Bibliography…

Australian Dictionary of Biography, ‘Linking a Nation: Australia’s Transport and Communications 1788-1970’ Australian Government Dept of the Environment, ‘The Age’ 14 March 1904, ‘The Argus’ 14 March 1904, ‘The Australasian’ 19 March 1904, 7 April 1928, Serpolette’s Tricycle

Tailpiece: Symbolic of the Technology and Progress of the time, Sydney Harbour Bridge nearing completion in 1930…

bridge plane

The 2 planes Charles Ulm’s ‘Southern Sun’ and a Gypsy Moth were added later (Edward Searl/SLNSW)

Finito…