Evocative shot of Bill Pitts’s Jaguar D Type leading David McKay’s Aston Martin DB3S at Queensland airfield circuit, Lowood in 1957…
The January 1958 edition of ‘Australian Motor Sports’ covered ‘The Courier Mail’ Tourist Trophy Race Meeting in detail, the event held in typically hot Queensland November weather.
There were events for motor cycles as well as cars, open-wheelers both under and over 1500cc, touring cars and of course sports cars.
Star entries for the TT were the 2 Aston Martin DB3S’ of David McKay and Tom Sulman both back from Europe having campaigned Astons there. Bill Pitt was entered in the D Type Jaguar owned by local Jaguar dealers, Cyril and Geordie Anderson the balance of the entry Porsches, Triumph TR2 and TR3 and a large number of MG’s, for so many years the ‘backbone’ of Australian Motor Racing entries.
The TT was of 30 minutes duration with a compulsory pitstop to add interest and confuse spectators in this pre-digital sign age, with a Le Mans start.
McKay took an early lead from Pitt and Sulman but McKay spun twice in the first half of the race, once at ‘Mobilgas’ and once on the fast right hand elbow out of the same turn’…McKay foolishly tried to pass the D type here and once again misjudged and spun badly to the outside of the corner. He ended up only feet off the outside fence.
Pitt held the lead from McKay both taking their compulsory pitstop on Lap 9, David’s stop was the better of the two, McKay regained the lead from Pitt and Sulman he held to the end ‘Pitt drove impeccably but the gap was too great to bridge…McKay was lucky to win and undoubtedly the pitstop was the deciding factor. However it was part of the race conditions and the best car and driver team won’ AMS reported.
I will write about the Aston Martin DB3S’ in Australia soon.
As is so often when i start researching a topic i find bits and pieces which alters my original intent!, in this case a lot of information about Bill Pitt, a driver i was aware of but knew nothing about. This article is therefore in three parts;
.Short history of ‘XKD526’
.Reproduction of an article, slightly truncated, about Bill Pitt written by Les Hughes, which was originally published in the ‘Australian Jaguar Magazine’ in July 1987
.Short piece on the Lowood circuit.
Bill Pitt at Lowood in 1957, car repainted bronze after its 1956 Albert Park accident. (Dick Willis)
Pitts Jaguar ‘XKD526’ was bought new by Cyril and ‘Geordie’ Anderson, longtime Jaguar enthusiast, occasional racing driver. It was a 1955 customer car, arriving in Australia in early 1956, Pitt chosen as the driver.
The D was very successful over the next 4 years including finishing 2nd in the 1957 Victorian Tourist Trophy at Albert Park and in the hands of Frank Matich when sold by the Andersons.
Bill Pitt, left, pondering the Jags performance at Lowood in 1957. (Dick Willis)
A summary of its race history is as follows; December 1955 car arrived in Australia; 30/1/56, Strathpine, Mrs Anderson, clocked at 120mph over flying quarter, still in 3nd gear!; 19/2/56, Leyburn sprints, Mrs Anderson, clocked 135.2mph over flying quarter, setting a state record.
March, Strathpine; Bill Pitt became the cars regular and very successful driver; 1956 race meeting at Lowood; gearbox problems precluded competition for 5 months; August, Lowood; New South Wales Road Racing Championships, Bathurst, 2nd to Stan Jones driving a 250F Maserati; Lowood TT, 1st.
Australian TT, Albert Park Olympic meeting, Melbourne, 4th. At the Argus Cup meeting at Albert Park the following weekend, the meeting a ‘double header’, Pitt rolled car and was thrown out. The D was badly damaged and trailered back to Brisbane being completely rebuilt, painted bronze, with squared-off mouth and air vents in the bonnet. Its first race post repair was back at Albert Park in March 1957 for the Victorian TT, finishing 2nd.
XKD526 was repainted BRG; raced at Lowood and Bathurst, in 1958 it raced at Orange, Lowood, Bathurst and Albert Park and in 1959 raced at Bathurst and Lowood before being sold in late 1959 to Leaton Motors, a sports and performance car dealership in Sydney.
The car was repainted yellow with black stripe and driven initially by Frank Matich and later by Doug Chivas. In 1961 it was fitted with an aluminum fastback hardtop to enable it to compete in GT racing. Matich competed in June at Catalina Park, he contested in July the Australian GT Championships at Warwick Farm finishing 1st. In October he won the NSW Championship. Doug Chivas raced the car at Warwick Farm in November, by that stage Matich was driving Leaton’s just imported Lotus 15 Climax.
The car was sold to Barry Topen who competed in the March 1962 Warwick Farm International Meeting before racing in Sandown Park’s inaugural meeting, crashed it and damaging it. The D Type remained in a damaged state for some time and was sold around 1965 to Keith Russell (Sydney), who rebuilt it and raced occasionally during 1966 at Catalina Park, Warwick Farm, Hume Weir and Oran Park.
In 1967 Russell sold to it to Keith Berryman. The hardtop was removed and stored, Keith raced the car occasionally until 1970. In the mid-seventies he loaned it to lan Cummins to assist with his rebuild of ‘XKD510’. ‘XKD526’ was rebuilt by Cummins/Classic Autocraft at the same time, work included re-skinning the monocoque and making a new front frame. In 1982 the rebuild was complete, Berryman retained the car until it was sold at auction in 2015, at which point, the car, its whole history in Australia, left our shores.
Matich leaniang against the back of the car, Australian TT, Longford Tasman meeting March 1960. #32 John Ampt, Decca and Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Cliimax to his left and back. (Kevin Drage)
One of the most surreal sights I can recall was after buying a Ralt RT4 (the ex-Moreno Calder AGP winning RT4 ‘261’) off Keith Berryman some years back and travelling from Melbourne to a tiny little hamlet called Stockinbingal in the South Western Slopes area of NSW.
The place is a very small farming community, the nearest large town Gundagai 80 kilometres away. Having done the deal on the Ralt I asked to see the D Type.
We walked through some parched, brown paddocks amongst the sheep near the farmhouse to an unprepossessing run down concrete shed of uncertain vintage.
Keith threw open the door and there, sitting on axle stands inside a ‘huge plastic humidicrib’ an electric motor quietly humming as it circulated clean, fresh air around ‘the baby’, was the fabulous, immaculate, curvaceous flanks of a British Racing Green Jaguar D Type.
To say that it looked out of place does not do justice to the bizarre, surreal scene!
The car lived in country NSW for a long time, Keith a passionate owner for decades…hopefully it will come back to visit one day…
Matich in the 1960 ATT Meeting at Longford. (oldracephotos.com)
Bill Pitt: by Les Hughes ‘Australian Jaguar Magazine’ 1987…
Born in Brisbane, Bill served in the Australian Navy during the Second World war, his first contact with motor racing was as a timekeeper during the Australian Grand Prix meeting at the Queensland Leyburn track in 1948.
From the Leyburn meeting on, all forms of motor sport became a passion for Bill, his friends and later his family. He became a competitor with increasing success and played a vital part in the direction of motor sport both in his Queensland base, and later on a national level. His friend Charlie Swinburn and several other MG drivers formed an active group and later Bill, Charlie and Ray Lewis had a motor garage called LPS Motors where their cars and other racing machinery were prepared.
Pitt’s first competition car was a humble 1938 Morris 12 Roadster, which provided his first trials win. Next came a serious racing car in the form of one of the revolutionary rear-engined Coopers. The Cooper had been recently imported by Les Taylor who had just stunned the motoring world by running his brand new XK120 from Darwin to Alice Springs in under 11 hours. Actual travelling time for the 954 miles was completed at over 100 mph, the final corrected speed was 90.62 mph which allowed for stops for fuel, kangaroos and other wildlife. Taylor sold some of his property, one of the items for sale was the Cooper which Bill bought, fitting it with a Manx Norton Engine.
The engine which Bill bought came via the Queensland Manx Norton distributor, Cyril Anderson, a former international dirt bike racer. Cyril’s other business interests included Mack Trucks, Western Transport and several motor car distribution networks, including Jaguar cars which sold under his Westco Motors banner. Cyril’s wife Doris – better known as ‘Geordie’ – made a name for herself by racing their aluminium bodied XK120 (chassis no 11).
The Anderson XK120.
That first contact through the purchase of the Manx Norton engine led to Cyril’s inviting Bill and Charlie Swinburn to partner Geordie in their XK120 Fixed Head Coupe (their earlier aluminium XK120 had been destroyed in a workshop fire) which he had entered in the first, and only, 24 hour race in Australia, to be held at Sydney’s Mt Druitt circuit (31-Jan-1954).
Despite having to replace a cracked carburettor with one from a spectator’s car, their XK120 won the race against entries including a Jaguar C-Type, Aston Martin DB2, aluminium XK120, Bristol 400, Alfa Romeo 6C. This win gained an enormous amount of publicity for Jaguar, Westco Motors and the three drivers.
Bill was then working for the Queensland Nuffield distributors, Howard Motors, and had married Sherry.
Bill and Charlie then set up the running of the 1954 Australian Grand Prix through the streets of Southport on the Gold Coast. Bill entered his second Cooper, bought from Jack Brabham. The race contenders were Stan Jones, Maybach, Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar, Rex Taylor’s Lago Talbot and several Ferraris.
For this race Cyril Anderson had stripped the body of a black XK120, shortened the chassis, over which he then placed an aluminium body. Known as the Anderson Special, he entered the car for himself, whilst Geordie was to drive the XK120 FHC in a support race.
Saturday practice proved to be very bad indeed. Bill blew the engine of the Cooper, Cyril was very slow and uncertain of the Jaguar Special, and Geordie had an accident, hit a tree and the FHC burst into flames! As a result Cyril asked Bill to take over the Jaguar Special for the Sunday race.
Bill readily accepted, but as he sat on the grid he was trying to become familiar with a car he had never sat in before – not the most comforting way to begin a Grand Prix. After spearing off at over 100 mph at the end of the straight, rejoining only to have to stop and replace a deflating tyre, he was classified 12th. Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar won.
Bill’s employer, Howard Motors, used his sporting talents also, and for the 1955 Redex Trial they entered a Morris Oxford for Bill, Dick Howard and Bill Anderson.
D Type ‘XKD526’
The major decision for Bill and Charlie Swinburn in 1955 though, was whether or not to take up the offer from Cyril Anderson to become partners in ownership of a brand new D-Type.
In Melbourne, Bib Stillwell, racer and Jaguar dealer, had placed an order for one through Jack Bryson. After long and careful deliberation, Bill remembers he and Charlie parted with 2,000 pounds each for the car. As it turned out, Charlie never drove the D-Type, and Geordie did only briefly. Virtually all of the competition was done by Bill. He recalls the friendly rivalry between he and Stillwell, they stayed at each other’s homes when interstate.
Bill rolled the D-Type in Melbourne at the 1956 Olympic Games meeting at the very fast Albert Park Circuit. The ‘greats’, included Stirling Moss, Jean Behra and Ken Wharton, were out from Europe with their latest machinery.
Bill Pitt in XKD526 – Albert Park, Melbourne 1956
For Bill Pitt the competition was fierce against Bib Stillwell, and in that near fatal race, Stillwell got the jump at the start and lead Bill into the fast, first left-hand corner. He recalls how he closed quickly under braking into Melford Corner before realising he had gone into it far too fast. The car was still under control, and as he continued the power slide and concentrated on the short burst into the next corner, suddenly it was all over before he knew what had happened. As the D-Type slid wide, and the power was applied, the back wheel touched the stone curbing and at those speeds the car simply twisted into the air and slammed down on its back.
As the beautiful green D-Type lay upside down the scattered hay bales caught fire and quickly spread to the car. The marshals were convinced that Bill was squashed under the car, but couldn’t right it till the fire was out. When that was done, and the car was back on its wheels, they were shocked to find the cockpit empty. Bill was thrown out while the car was in mid air, and in a state of shock, and worry about Jack Brabham’s Cooper which was following, he jumped a six foot wall of hay bales unseen by officials.
The damaged D-Type was returned to Brisbane for a rebuild which was completed in time to return to Melbourne for a meeting in February the following year, this time painted bronze (only for a short while).
In the pits. Albert Park 1957. Painted bronze after the rebuild following crash the previous year. (Ian Richardson).
Leading a 300S Maserati around Golf Course Corner, Albert Park, 1957.(Ian Richardson)
The D-Type was sold in 1959 to Leaton Motors, the history of the car from that point outlined above.
Keith Berryman (and family) with XKD526 at the 1988 Gold Coast Jaguar Rally, together with the excellent replica built by Classic Autocraft for Don Biggar (now owned by Frank Moore)
Jaguar Mk VIII Rally Car.
Bill was approached by Anderson to drive a Jaguar Mk VIII automatic in the 1957 Mobilgas Round Australia Trial. Geordie would partner him, and so too Jimmy Abercrombie, workshop foreman at Westco.
The big cream and grey Jaguar was shipped to Melbourne for the start on August 21, 1957. A field of 94 entrants competed in this, the last of the major round-Australia trials of the era. The toughest opposition came from the all conquering Volkswagens of previous winners, Eddie Perkins, (Larry Perkins father) Laurie Whithead and Greg Cusack, whilst Porsche entered three cars. An automatic had never finished the event, let alone a Jaguar, or even a car as big as the Mk VIII.
The Volkswagen of Laurie Whitehead was the victor ahead of five more Volkswagens, but sensationally, next came the huge Jaguar automatic in seventh place outright, making what Bill Pitt still believes is one of Jaguars greatest competition triumphs, but which outside Australia, was virtually unrecognised. Of the 94 starters, 52 cars finished. Geordie was awarded the Woman’s Prize, and the Jaguar was first in Class D (over 2500 cc), giving the team the total prize money of 760 pounds.
Touring Car Racing.
Lofty England dissuaded the Brisbane team from buying a Lister Jaguar, suggesting to them that he would build a ‘works’ specification Mk 1 3.4 saloon. When Bill and Cyril ordered the 3.4 they didn’t know that David McKay was having an identical car built to replace the less modified ‘Grey Pussy’.
By the time both had their new cars, Ron Hodgson had bought the first McKay machine. Crowds flocked to see the Aussie Holdens take on the best of British, firstly the Jaguars, then the Mini Coopers and the Lotus Cortinas, and that set the scene which was later taken over by the Ford versus Holden halcyon days of touring car racing in Australia.
Bill Pitt and the British Racing Green ‘Mk 1’ were star attractions everywhere they went, and soon the Geoghans bought the Hodgson ‘Mk 1’. Hodgson built a brand new Mk 2 and then Bob Jane arrived with his famous white Mk 2. Bill won many titles and important races, his second place to David McKay in the very first Australian Touting Car Championship, and then his own victory in the second title (1961) were the highlights.
The life of the saloons was much shorter than the old D-Type, however, and with the arrival of the big US V8’s, Bill could see the writing on the wall and in 1962 the car was sold.
Bill’s racing career was over, although he continued to work within CAMS, and for Westco Motors until 1965.
Confederation of Australian Motor Sport.
Bill Pitt was involved in many facets of motor sport from the outset, and as Queensland delegate to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) he put a lot of time into the betterment of the sport.
It was not until Lofty England’s first visit to Australia in 1981 that the two met for the first time, despite the many phone calls and letters exchanged during their racing and business contacts. Bill and his wife Sherry now live on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. Australian motor sport, and the Jaguar marque in particular, owe a great deal to this quiet, unassuming and very pleasant man.
Bill and Geordie meet again – March 1993
Bill Pitt at Queensland Raceway GTP Nations Cup Race meeting. 22nd July 2001.
Celebrating 40 years of the Jaguar E-Type and 40 years since his Touring Car Title.
Lowoood Airfield was built on 620 acres 43 miles from Brisbane, construction commenced in September 1941…
Australian and American Squadrons operating Tiger Moths, Kittyhawks, Avro Ansons, P39 Aerocobras and Beauforts operated from there from 1942 to late 1945.
Lowood’s use from motor racing commenced after the war but continued pressure from local religious groups lead to its disuse on Sundays…despite this many meetings were held from 1948-52, in late 1956 the Queensland Racing Drivers Club acquired the land.
The QRDC sold the track in 1966 moving its operations to Lakeside, the area was then subdivided into small farms, what was the main runway is now a local road!
D Type: the Drivers Perspective…
Peter Dunns ‘Australia at War’ ‘Australian Motor Sports’ January 1958, Article by Les Hughes in the July 1987 issue of ‘Australian Jaguar Magazine’, Stephen Dalton for the research and archival material
Heinz Federbusch Archive via Dick Simpson and The Nostalgia Forum, Kevin Drage, oldracephotos.com, Dick Willis, Ian Richardson