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Stirling Moss cruises his ‘works’ Maserati 300S #3059 through the Albert Park paddock prior to winning the Australian Tourist Trophy on 25 November 1956, he repeated the dose in a 250F in the following weekends Australian Grand Prix…

One of the wonderful things about this internet thingy is the number of unseen photos of our sport which pop up from time to time giving people like me something to write about. And so it is that Sharaz Jek recently posted photos his father took as a ‘paying punter’ at the Australian Grand Prix Carnival at Albert Park held during the Olympic Games.

It would have been more considerate had he posted them six months ago when i first wrote about the two Maser sportscars brought to Australia as part of a 5 car team by Officine Maserati!. But hey, it gives me a chance to write about the ATT specifically, click here to read the earlier article, i won’t repeat the background or destiny of the two 300S’ which stayed in Oz post event;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/

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Melbourne in 1956…

I wasn’t born in 1956 but its fair to say i was more than a twinkle in my parents eyes, so i didn’t attend the mid-fifties Albert Park meetings which older enthusiasts speak so fondly about. Running around the lake last weekend i reflected on how little Albert Park had changed but also how much Melbourne had, the skyline of the city a short 2 Km away.

In 1956 Melbourne’s population was circa 1.5 million people, now its 4.7 million, the war ended only a decade before and with it successive Australian Governments established an aggressive migration program which provided and continues to provide us with the wonderful, peaceful mix of people and their cultures which makes this such a special country and city in which to live. Disgraceful offshore detention centres notwithstanding!

The ’56 Olympic Games, held from 22 November to 8 December was an important part of opening our society to other cultures and equally allowed us to showcase our country, city and capabilities to the world.

The same can be said about the 1956 Albert Park International race meetings and their impact on Australian motor-racing; Barry Green in his wonderful book ‘Albert Park: Glory Days’ said;

‘The weekend was the proverbial moment which changed the face of motor racing in this country. Here for the first time we had a current works sports car and F1 team and other leading international drivers in ex-factory cars; their presence prompting the best of the locals to upgrade their machinery, spend even more and charge harder. A world class field deserved a world class venue and world class crowd. And in the picturesque Albert Park and thousands of international visitors filling Melbourne to overflowing for the first Olympic Games to be held south of the equator, it had just that’.

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So, to put you in the zone of the times before reading this piece i have added some photos of Melbourne in 1956 to give you the ‘feel of the joint’ and flavour of the times six decades ago, the racing stuff is after that if you wish to ‘cut to the chase’…

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The ‘Eyetalians’ brought their weird steaming coffee making machines with ’em post-war, the local coffee obsession was underway, school below is Melbourne High in South Yarra

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TV was introduced to Australia in the lead up to the games, here some locals are sussing the weird new contraption in the window of ‘Myers’ department store in Bourke Street

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‘Sultry beauty Gunhild Larking, 20, Sweden’s entry for the high jump pensively awaiting her turn to compete’ is the caption. A post sporting career in modelling or TV awaits d’yer reckon!?

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The first weekend of the two week AGP carnival comprised four events, the feature the Australian Tourist Trophy for Sports Cars was held on 25 November…

A convoy of Maserati mechanics drove the 250F and 300S, the 5km from Australian International and 250F driver Reg Hunt’s Elsternwick Holden Dealership, where the cars were maintained each day to Albert Park, on the Nepean Highway and St Kilda Road. Not too much of a problem then but guaranteed to boil a Maserati 300S sans radiator fan these days!

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Behra and Moss @ Albert Park in 1956, the first and only time, sadly, Behra raced here but Moss was an annual, usually victorious visitor to Oz till the end of his career in the Masers, then Rob Walker entered Coopers and Loti (Graham Hoinville)

Most of the drivers stayed close by in the ‘Espy’, the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda, it’s still there if you want a ‘bevvy’ during the AGP carnival and is well known to Australians as the home of the ‘RocKwiz’ music quiz show.

Fitzroy Street St Kilda felt exotic and buzzed with thousands of visitors from all over the world eager to explore the local delights of the bayside suburbs restaurants and bars. They were full of people including recent European migrants eager to get a touch of home for a few hours at least. The Espy and Tolarno’s were ‘chockers’ and no doubt the proprietors of the areas ‘red light’ precinct did good trade.

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Guerino Bertocchi, Maserati chief mechanic and factory test driver and his helper start the 5 Km journey from Albert Park to Reg Hunt’s Elsternwick Holden dealership where the team were based (Arnold Terdich)

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Maserati’s as far as the eye can see! Masers brought 5 cars to Oz, 3 250F’s (one unraced spare which at one stage looked as tho it may have been raced by Brabham but ’twas not to be) and 2 300S, Reg Hunt Motors, Nepean Highway, Elsternwick (Eileen Richards)

In ’57 the factory 300S’ were campaigned by Moss, Behra and Piero Taruffi taking wins at Silverstone, Nassau, the Nurburgring, Rouen and Buenos Aires; the works allocated # 3055 to Behra and # 3059, the ‘featured car’ here to Moss. Stirling was in sparkling form having won the Venezuelan Grand Prix in Caracas a fortnight before arriving in Melbourne, Behra also contested the race.

There was a strong entry for the ATT of around 36 cars; Peter Whitehead returned to Australia hoping to repeat the success of his 1938 tour which culminated in an ERA Bathurst Australian Grand Prix win for him.

His entry in the ATT was a Ferrari Monza, similar cars were entered by Brit Peter Wharton and local motor dealer Stan Coffey. The Whitehead and Wharton Ferrari’s were garaged at AP Hollins in Malvern where Lex Davison’s mechanic/engineer Alan Ashton, well familiar with 4 cylinder Ferrari’s (Davison raced the ex-Ascari Tipo 500/625) could keep a close eye on them.

Lex, already the winner of one of his four AGP’s in 1954, entered his HWM Jaguar, his Ferrari was raced in the AGP won by Moss’ 250F the following weekend.

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Stan Coffey’s Ferrari 750 Monza, of earlier vintage than those of Wharton and Whitehead but still quick if tricky to drive (John Blanden)

Jaguar D Types were entered for Kew motor dealer and later multiple Australian Gold Star champion Bib Stillwell and Queensland’s Bill Pitt driving the Mrs Anderson owned car.

Jack Brabham returned from Europe where he was establishing a strong reputation to drive a Cooper T39 ‘Bobtail’ Climax with future Gold Star Champion Bill Patterson, another Melbourne, Ringwood, Ford dealer in a similar car.

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Jack refuels the Cooper T39 in the Albert Park paddock. ‘COR’ is Commonwealth Oil Refineries soon to be BP (John Blanden)

Veteran Tom Sulman raced his ‘Kangaroo Stable’ Aston Martin DB3S, the quicker entries rounded out by Austin Healey 100S’ for multiple AGP winner Doug Whiteford and Ron Phillips.

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Moss positions his Maser on the front row of the ATT grid, Behra started on pole. Such a sexy shape . Properties on Queens Road in the distance (Sharaz Jek)

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Behra’s 300S gets the jump at the start, thats Whitehead’s Monza at left, Moss 300S slightly behind, the Jag is Stillwell’s D at left and the little car on the far right Brabham’s Cooper T39 (John Blanden)

A fantastic crowd of 150,000 people gathered to watch the days racing which was marred by the critical injury and subsequent death of Peter Catlin in the first race of the day after he lost control of his Bugatti at Melford corner.

This dominated the tabloids coverage of the race but ‘The Argus’ noted Moss’ lap record of 1:55.8 ‘set in a sportscar, the record previously held by a racing car’ and ‘one of the finest exhibitions of race driving seen in Melbourne’.

To the surprise of many Behra put his car on pole and lead from the start of the 100 mile race with Patterson flipping his Cooper at Melford Corner without too much damage to him or the car on the first lap.

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Behra hard on the brakes in pursuit of Moss. Maser 300S (Philip Skelton)

Behra lead the other 35 competitors at the end of lap 1 from Moss, Stillwell’s D Type, theĀ  two Monza’s of Wharton and Whitehead, Brabham’s Cooper T39, Bill Pitt’s D type and Paul England’s beautifully designed Ausca. The car was built by England in his spare time at Repco, was powered by the first Holden/Repco Hi-Power cylinder head engine.

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Pitt’s Jag D chasing Jim Leech’s MM Holden Spl with the Ron Phillips Austin Healey 100S behind (unattributed)

On lap 2 Moss gave his French teammate a blast on his Masers ‘Fiamms’ at Jaguar Corner to let him through, and an even bigger one when he did so, team orders not new in motor racing!

At the front Wharton and Brabham slipped past Stillwell with Bill Pitt getting progressively quicker in his XKD and closer to the shapely tail of Whitehead’s Monza.

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Brabham wringing the little Cooper T39’s Climax engine hard! (John Blanden)

Moss had a lead of 20 seconds from Behra, Stillwell spun giving Pitt ‘a sniff’ at him as Moss set fastest lap on the 27th tour and passing lots of slower traffic in the process.

By the race’s end only Jean Behra was on the same lap as Moss, the Brit took the flag from Behra, Wharton, Pitt a great 4th and first local home, Stillwell, Whitehead, Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar and Kiwi Ross Jenson in an Austin Healey 100S and the rest.

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Moss exits Jaguar corner in his 300S complete with accumulated hay from bales disturbed by other errant competitors during the race’ 100 miles, in the cars inlet (Graham Hoinville)

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‘Motori Porno’ innit!? Plug change, 12 of them for Moss’ twin plug #3059. Twin distributors, big Weber 45DCO3 carbs of the 2992cc circa 280 bhp 6 cylinder, DOHC 2 valve engine all clear (Sharaz Jek)

Other ATT Meeting Photos…

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Albert Park vista #20 the Phillips Austin Healey 100S (unattributed)

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Another start shot, row 3 this time with the 2 D Types of Stillwell and Bill Pitt (right) in shot, thats Sulman’s Aston DB3S on the far right (unattributed)

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Phillip’s 8th placed pretty Austin Healey 100S, great run for the Melburnian in a model very popular in Oz, sadly most have now left our shores (unattributed)

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Stan Coffey’s Ferrari 750 Monza behind its Holden FB towcar. I always thought Stan was a Ford dealer? (Sharaz Jek)

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Moss passing and thanking with a wave MG T driver Newman for his track etiquette (Arnold Terdich)

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Ken Wharton’s races his Ferrari 750 Monza to 3rd place. Southern Command Army buildings in the background. He raced this car in NZ that summer and sadly died in it at Ardmore on 12 January 1957 (John Blanden)

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Bib Stillwell’s ‘XKD520’, the seventh D Type Jag built appropriately going thru Jag Corner. An important step in the later Australian Champs rise thru the ranks, he raced it in ’56 to early ’57 , then progressed to Hunt’s 250F (autopics.com)

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Another paddock vista which again has ‘COR’ Commonwealth Oil Refineries in shot, clearly the firms PR function was working well! the Phillips Healey 100S and a Porsche Speedster in shot (unattributed)

Etcetera…

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Fifties circuit conceptually similar to but not identical to the contemporary one, direction of racing opposite to the present (Barry Green)

Bibliography…

Barry Green ‘Albert Park: Glory Years’

Photo Credits…

Sharaz Jek especially for the shots which inspired the article

Getty Images for all of the Melbourne ‘atmo’ 1956 shots

Arnold Terdich, Eileen Richards, John Blanden, Philip Skelton, Graham Hoinville, autopics.com

Tailpiece: She is MY daughter Stirl don’t even think about it!…

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(Sharaz Jek)

Finito…

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Comments
  1. Rob says:

    Mark,

    The Australian Motor Sport magazine report on the meeting indicates that the Jim Leech Holden Special was not a competitor in the Tourist Trophy so the above image of the car cannot have been taken during that race. Leech did however contest a support race at the meeting on the following weekend, so it could be from this race or from a practice session.

    Rob

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Rob, not sure where that image and caption came from, maybe the Barry Green book. Will change the caption accordingly. I am slowly accumulating a few AMS which will greatly assist my ’50’s and earlier research endeavours. I had forgotten just how good the Sharaz Jek photos his father took are, and had forgotten about that article! Mark

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