Archive for March, 2016

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Jim Clark’s Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato ‘2 VEV’ exits the chicane during the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood on 19 August 1961…

I wrote an article about this car a while back, click here to read it, wonderful evocative shot isn’t it!;

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/22/aston-martin-db4gt-zagato-2vev-lex-davison-and-bib-stillwell/

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Jim Clark circa 1962 (Getty)

Credit…

GP Library, Getty Images, Nicholas Watts

Tailpiece: Clark from the Moss and Mike Parkes Ferrari 250SWB’s…

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(Nicholas Watts)

 

 

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British GP, Brands 1970

A winning racing cars performance is greater than the sum of its individual components, said items often of great engineering beauty…

The left front corner of the 1970 F1 Ferrari 312B is a good example of an exquisite bit of a very cohesive design which was quicker than the ‘sum total of its bits’.

I wrote an article about this car, a personal favourite a while back, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2016/02/26/life-is-all-about-timing-chris-amon-and-the-ferrari-312b/

So, what have we got?

The upright is fabricated rather than cast, the neat bracket to pick-up the steering arm has a few pick-ups indicative of a bit of experimentation.

The brake caliper is Girling’s, the F1 grid that year split between Girling and Lockheed as suppliers. The disc itself is 10.5 inches in diameter and is cast iron, the use of composites still a decade or so away.

I’ve a feeling Bruce McLaren may have introduced braided steel ‘Aeroquip’ lines for fluids into F1 via his exposure to them in his US Can Am campaigns, his ’66 M2B F1 car certainly had them. Ford fitted them to their Indy Ford V8 engines provided to Lotus from 1963 but Chapman didn’t quickly adopt them for brake and clutch lines in his cars. By ’70 they were F1 passe as here on Forghieri’s Fazz.

The aluminium disc bell, drive pegs for the wheels and centre-lock hubs finish a luvverly, competitive bit of Maranello kit…

Credit…

GP Library, Racecar Engineering

Click on this link for an interesting article on contemporary F1 Cars Braking Systems;

http://www.racecar-engineering.com/technology-explained/f1-2014-explained-brake-systems/

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Nico Rosberg, Mercedes F1 W06, Mexico GP practice 2015 (Clive Mason)

 

 

 

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What a shot! A fashion shot I guess. The lady and her Adler Trumpf Junior was originally published in ‘Die Koralle’ magazine in 1937, no details of exact location or loco sadly…

Credit…

Heinz von Perckhammer

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(The Enthusiast Network)

Frank Kurtis, Wally Parks and Ray Brock inspect the ‘D-A Lubricants’ Teams new Kurtis 500H Offy ‘255’ to be driven by Johnny Thompson at Kurtis’ Glendale, California factory on 24 March 1958 …

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(The Enthusiast Network)

Notable is the independent front suspension which Kurtis believed ‘although heavier than a tube axle, will provide better traction on the corners and give better control and less tyre wear’. In fact 500H chassis #715 was the only one of Kurtis’ Indycars fitted with ‘Dubonnet’ trailing arm independent suspension.

This later model Kurtis Roadster also has a ‘full-laydown’ and ‘offset’ ‘255’ cid 360bhp Offy to lower the cars profile and put more weight to the inside of the car, trends Kurtis started in 1952. The 500H was radical for its day and was widely reported upon in various magazines as here in ‘Motoring Life’.

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Frank initially layed down the Cummins diesel in 1952, ’tilting’ the Offy’s fitted to the other two roadsters that year by 36 degrees from being straight in the frames.

Although he wanted the Offy ‘flatter’ Meyer Drake did not make the internal changes to the engine to allow that logical change. This feat was achieved by George Salih, a former Meyer Drake employee who built and modified an engine with Meyer Drake’s assistance which was fitted to a Quinn Epperly built chassis to suit in 1957, setting a new trend.

The 1958 ‘500’ was won by Jimmy Bryan’s Salih Offy, Johnson’s Kurtis Offy (in color below) started from grid 21 completing only 52 laps.

Thomson, one of the best drivers of the era, was innocently involved in a massive 15 car lap one crash which killed Pat O’Connor. He continued with bent front suspension but tyre wear, handling and steering problems forced his retirement in a tragic race.

Chassis #715 raced at Indy in 1959 driven by Duane Carter and in 1960 by Don Freeland results 7th and withdrawn respectively. Smokey Yunick bought and entered the car for Carter, converting it to a conventional beam front axle setup. ‘Twas a pity as the IFS was never really ‘sorted’, appropriate testing and development never really gave the car the chance it deserved in its original form. The car still exists albeit in beam axle spec, it was restored in 2007.

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(unattributed)

Thomson had a very successful 1958 season, he won four of the thirteen championship races at Springfield, DuQuoin, Syracuse and Sacramento, all were in the teams Kuzma Offy on dirt. He was 3rd in the USAC Championship behind Tony Bettenhausen and George Amick.

Johnny was killed in a sprintcar race at Allentown , Pennysylvania in September 1960, his car crashed and flipped into Allentown Fairgrounds infield.

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Factory 1948 Kurtis 1000 chassis # ‘316’ Offy which was 9th in the 1948 Indy 500 driven by Tommy Hinnerschitz. the Eastern Sprintcar champion. Fantastic shot of the well back, aluminium crankcase, iron block, 500 pound Offy 270cid/325bhp@5500rpm engine, spaceframe chassis , its 1948 remember, made of ‘4130’ chrome-moly steel tube, beam front axle not so pretty from a road-racing perspective but these were dual purpose dirt and pavement cars, drum brakes and fuel all carried up the back. Quite a thing of beauty (Offenhauser)

Frank Kurtis is best remembered for his all-conquering midget and Indy racers but he also built sprint cars, sportscars, quarter midgets and karts…

The United States boomed in the late 1940s after recovery from the Great Depression and World War II. The racing world reflected better economic times; in 1942 the Indy 500 was canceled after the government banned motor racing. Restored after lack of use, the first postwar Indy 500 in 1946 was a ‘box-office smash’. Many new and innovative cars took to the track, amongst them Kurtis racers, the first of which appeared in the mid 1930’s.

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Undated shot of a staged Kurtis Midget production line, for a time he was building a car a day! Kurtis built more of the things than any other manufacturer (Frank Curtis Collection)

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Huge field of Midgets on lap 1 of a race at Mineola Fairgrounds, Nassau County, New York on 23 August 1948. This venue used from 1925 to 1949 (Racing One)

Frank Kurtis, a native of Crested Butte, Colorado was born 25 January 1908. He moved with his Croatian born family, his real name ‘Kuretich’, he was one of 8 children, to Los Angeles in 1922. He began building cars as a youngster at his father’s blacksmith shop in Pueblo, Colorado which repaired cars and horse-drawn buggies. It was Franks talented father who instilled precision craftsmanship into the youths psychy.

His first car was a T Model Ford to which he added a special body. In the early 1920’s Kurtis began his car making apprenticeship with Don Lee Coach and Body Works, the local Cadillac dealer, broadcaster and racer nut who built custom cars for Hollywood stars. Father and son both worked at Lee’s, Frank improved his welding and metal shaping skills building some quite exotic car bodies.

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The beautiful rail-frame midget on the right, known as the ‘Jewel Box’ was built by Kurtis for Charlie Allen and driven and later by owned Roy Sherman. The guy between the 2 frame-rail midgets being built is Kurtis’ Ted Halibrand later famous for his alloy wheels (unattributed)

Kurtis’ first work on a racing car seems to be the construction of a one-off radiator shell for a roadster run at Jeffries Ranch, a half-mile dirt track at Burbank, California. Work on the ‘Atlas Chrome Special’ and ‘Stagger Valve Fronty Ford’ followed.

Frank’s first complete Midget was built for Tommy Lee, Don’s son in 1936; a succession of cars followed including the ‘Jewel Box’ Offy and other Midgets for Charley Allen, Lou Fageol, Rex Mays, Bob Swanson, Roy Sherman, Ted Halibrand and others.

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Bill Schindlers Mike Caruso owned Kurtis ‘Black Deuce’ Offy won 53 races in 1947 and 1948, taking the American Drivers Club title in 1948, Kurtis set a styling trend which continued for decades if not today (Racing One)

Post war, by 1946 he was building an assembly line of Offy engined midgets. Watching pre-war midgets bucking and bouncing through the turns he thought their centre of gravity too high and suspensions too stiff; his racers points of difference addressed these ills.

Frank’s chassis were stiff spaceframes made of ‘4130’ chrome-moly tube rather than the sheet steel ‘rail frames’ of his earlier cars and those of most of the competition. The suspension used torsion bars which reduced unsprung weight and allowed better road holding. He used Dzus fasteners which allowed the whole body to be removed in minutes which meant the Offy could be serviced more quickly between events. The cars were lower and more softly sprung which made his chassis’ easier to handle and gave superior traction so the powerful Offy’s could put all their horses to the dirt. He built hundreds of them.

The Midget craze was dying by 1948, race fans were losing interest in the smaller cars, being attracted by bigger ‘Champ Cars’ and Kurtis was there to service that market…

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Walt Faulkner in his JC Agajanian ‘Grant Piston Rings’ 1948 Kurtis 2000 Offy ‘220’ at the California State Fairgrounds on 15 October 1950. He is contesting an AAA Sprint/Champcar race, note the difference in size compared with the various Midget photos (Racing One)

 

 

 

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Johnny Parson’s Kurtis Offy ‘270’ 1950 Indy winning chassis. Had no type designation but was built in 1948/9 and called ‘Kurtis Kraft Spl’ . Parsons was 2nd the year before in the same car (unattributed)

In 1949 a Kurtis-Kraft dirt car won the AAA title, in 1950 the same chassis driven by Johnny Parsons the ‘Wynns Oil Spl’ won the Indy 500.

In this period he built a one of a kind Buick and a production sports car which was later to become the Muntz Road jet in 1950. More of the Sportscars later in the article.

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The 1951 Indy 500 was won by a ‘stretched midget’ built from Kurtis parts supplied to Meyer Drake, the Offy engine manufacturers.

It was allocated chassis # ‘327-49’. Originally powered by an experimental centrifugal-supercharged Offy Midget engine with a capacity of 106.81cid, weighing 280 pounds. So fast was the car their customers complained about unfair competition, so Meyer Drake sold it to Murrell Belanger. It won the ’51 500 in Lee Wallard’s hands with a ‘slightly undersized’ 241cid Offy. The engine was a combination of ‘270’ block and ‘220’ crank which they managed to squeeze into the chassis designed for the much smaller 107cid blown Midget engine.

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1951 Indy front row;  Jack McGrath KK 3000 Offy, winner #99 Lee Wallard K Offy and#18 Duke Nalon Kurtis Novi  V8 (unattributed)

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Lee Wallard Kurtis Offy ‘241’ 1951 winner. ‘Stretched Midget’ built by Meyer Drake from Kurtis parts (unattributed)

 

 

 

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‘Popular Mechanics’ May 1952 article about the upcoming Indy 500, pic shows the low build of the Kurtis 1952 roadsters

In 1952 he Kurtis built three pioneering roadsters (‘500 Series’) with elongated wheelbases and both lowered bodywork and centre of gravity.

‘Popular Mechanics’ reported the cars weighed 1500 pounds, the frames were of chrome moly elliptical section tube plus a 9 inch deep aluminium sheet box that also served as part of the skin. To save weight the cowl and firewall were designed as structural parts of the frame. The front suspension system comprised two torsion bars mounted in a crisscross fashion instead of parallel to the frame.

Joe Scalzo ‘They showed up at the speedway looking like freaks among all the high bodied dirt track cars and antidiluvian frontwheel drives’.

The cars fates varied; the ‘Cummins Diesel’ was out early with a broken supercharger but its huge, tall 401cid straight-six, with the engine laid on its side, plonked it on pole despite weighing 2150 pounds dry. In so doing Frank Kurtis built the first ‘laydown chassis’ Indycar.

The ‘Auto Shippers’, an upright roadster (type 500A) didn’t start but oilman Howard Brighton Keck’s Offy 270 powered ‘Fuel Injection Spl’ driven by national midget champion Bill Vukovich dominated the race before a steering pin failure resulted in a kiss of the wall with 20 miles to run.

Vukovich won in the Kurtis 500A ‘Fuel Injection Spl’ in 1953/4.

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Vukovich, Jim Travers and Frank Coon  after their 1953 500 win, Kurtis Kraft 500A Offy ‘270’ . Offy 270 gave circa 345bhp@5500rpm in 1952 on methanol. Fuel rules at Indy were not strictly enforced then, a dose of ‘pop’, nitro-methane in qualifying for 4 or so laps was good for another 40bhp! (unattributed)

Scalzo related the changes needed to make the car competitive; ‘Arriving…late for its debut, it was immediately hailed a disaster by Howard Keck’s longtime mechanics Jim Travers and Frank Coon…the ‘Toonerville Trolley’ had torsion bars behind the rear axle and in front of the front axle and the anchor points were wrong. It had a vertical steering shaft holding the two steering arms together and its steering geometry was off…the track surface made the out of balance ‘Fuel Inj Spl’ a flexing spastic. Travers and Coon rescued it with remedial repairs…Jim and Frank were rich in racing savvy and were veterans of weekly Midget brawls at Gilmore Stadium and Culver City Speedway, they were used to tricking out Keck’s stable of 110cid Offy’s’.

‘To overcome the flaws of the ‘Fuel Inj Spl’ they fell back on old speedway racing habits. Amongst other things they ‘jacked weight’ across its rear end and by deliberately misaligning its 270cid Meyer-Drake by one bolt and 36 degrees to the bell-housing they wedged hundreds of static pounds to the FI Spl’s left…All this worked like a charm…Additionally they and colleague Stu Hilborn had a reputation for…making Offy horsepower’ Scalzo said.

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Vukovich sets off after a pitstop in his victorious Kurtis 500A Offy 1953 run. He won in 1954 and died in the ’55 500 in an accident not of his making (Racing One)

Kurtis cars won the 500 in 1953, 1954 and 1955. For the next 8 seasons through to 1963 when Kurtis made his ‘model 500L for lemon-Scalzo’, (the bulbous ‘American Rubber 73’ missed the cut) upwards of 60 KK’s raced at Indianapolis. Production of the cars appears as follows; 11 in ’53, 10 in ’54, 6 in ’55, 5 in ’56, 16 in ’57 and 7 between 1958 and 1962.

Scalzo; ‘The end of Frank Kurtis was sad. A disgruntled and embittered FK turned into an awful grouch pigeonholing Kuzma, Epperly, Lesovsky and especially AJ Watson as thieves who stole all his roadster ideas and became heroes at his expense’.

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George Bignotti beside his 1960 Indy entry, the Kurtis ‘Seal Fast Spl’ driven by AJ Foyt, DNF clutch. The ultimate expressions of the roadster trend started by Kurtis were ‘full lay downs ‘ built by Salih, Epperly, Kurtis and others. Also Watsons ‘offsets’ built with ‘short-tower’ lower block Offies than the ‘270’s taken back to 255cid used by others, as the regs demanded a 4.2 litre unsupercharged limit from 1957. This car was built as a Kurtis but for 1960 had an Epperly chassis, body and front end. Offy engine a ‘255’ cid 4 cylinder, 5 bearing, monobloc, DOHC 4 valve, Hilborn injected unit giving circa 350/360bhp@6200rpm on methanol, weight 452lbs (The Enthusiast Network)

Frank Kurtis’ Indy Track Record is to be envied in the extreme; his Offy powered cars sat on the Indy pole 8 times, he won 5 times in 1950 (Parsons) 1951 (Wallard) 1953/4 (Vukovich) and 1955 (Sweikert). His cars were also 4th in 1947, 3rd in 1948 and 2nd in 1949 and 1952. 15 of the top 20 cars at Indy in 1953 were Kurtis chassis!

The last Kurtis chassis win in a National Championship event was Van Johnson’s victory at Langhorne on 14 June 1959 in Kurtis Kraft 4000 chassis #’368-53′.

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Champion Ad promoting Bob Sweikert’s 1955 Kurtis 500D Offy Indy win

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most famous and bizarre Kurtis appearances was Rodger Wards entry on a Kurtis Offy Midget in the inaugural F1 US Grand Prix at Sebring in 1959…

Promoter Alec Ullman was chasing ‘bums on seats’, the entry of Ward the 1959 Indy Winner made commercial sense. Ward had had some road racing success racing his Midget against sports cars, notably at a Lime Rock meeting during an F Libre race.

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Rodger Ward’s Kurtis Offy Midget chasing and soon passing George Constantine’s Aston Martin DBR2 at Lime Rock, a twisty ‘right hand’ road course on 25 July 1959. Ward beat some of the best sports racers in the country in this F Libre race…(Offenhauser)

For the Grand Prix though, his 2 speed gearbox, 2 speed rear axle, hand braked, supercharged 1.7 litre Offy was at a severe disadvantage to the other front engined F1 cars let alone the revolutionary Coopers. The Kurtis was chassis ‘O-10-46’, yes folks it was built in 1946! The car raced on 12 inch wheels and Firestone slicks pre-dating their reappearance in F1 in 1971!

Ward qualified last and DNF with clutch failure after 20 laps in the race won by McLaren’s Cooper T51 Climax after Jack Brabham ran out of fuel on the last lap; his 4th place pushing the Cooper over the line gave him the title.

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Rodger Ward contesting the 1959 USGP at Sebring in his supercharged Kurtis Offy Midget. He won the Indy 500 that year in a Watson Offy ‘255’ Roadster (Louis Galanos)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst the focus of this article is the Indy cars Kurtis also built some fantastic sports cars…

In 1949 Kurtis built the ‘Kurtis Sports Car’ which featured on the cover of the very first ‘Motor Trend’ magazine in October 1949. Kit prices started at $1495, inflation drove costs up so much only 17 kits were sold, Kurtis sold the rights to Earl Muntz in the early 1950’s. Almost 400 of these steel bodied, Caddy/Lincoln engined ‘Muntz Jet’s were built.

In 1953 Kurtis built the 500S whose chassis and suspension took its cues from the 500A Indy ‘Roadster’. The chassis was a ladder-frame drilled for lightness, the solid front axle was tubular suspended by trailing arms and torsion bars. A live axle was also used at the rear again suspended by torsion bars.

The 500S could be supplied as a kit or complete ex-factory, the body was aluminium and with cycle-guards was aggressively handsome. The complete car sold for $4986 less engine and ‘box. Its estimated that 30 500S cars/kits were sold from 1953-5.

Bill Stroppe’s short-wheelbase, 282cid ‘flathead’ Mercury V8 powered car was the most successful racer, achieving many wins in 1953/4.

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Kurtis 500S 1955 Sebring 12 Hour. The Jack Emsley/Jim Rathman car was out on lap 3 with Cadillac engine failure. Race won by the Hawthorn/Phil Walters Jag D Type (unattributed)

The 500X followed and was an evolution of the earlier car but with a much nicer spacefame chassis. Although live axle suspension remained the rear axle incorporated a Halibrand quick-change unit. Between 6 and 12 were built (quite a range!) the cars clothed in a very attractive aluminium body.

The 500M was designed for smaller engines, used a fibreglass body and the Kurtis 500KK kit chassis pictured below. 18-20 cars were built.

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In the early 1960’s Kurtis laid down 3 cars which were essentially widened Indy Roadster chassis. One of these, Jack Lufkin’s 1964 Bonneville Streamliner was the fastest Kurtis ever topping 245mph in 1968. Several other racers were built including a ’62 Bonneville A Model pickup, a pair of dragsters and a Saab powered ‘H Modifed’ car also in 1962.

Kurtis designed and built the ‘start-carts’ for the Lockheed Corporations SR71 Blackbird, a project which continued into the 1980’s.

Frank Kurtis retired in 1968 but his son Arlen continued the business which diversified into  high performance drag racing and water skiing. In more recent times he has built ‘limited production of a few models of cars and parts his dad once built.’

Etcetera…

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The factory Kurtis Kraft ‘1000’ Offy’, 1948 Series Champcar. Powered by ‘270’ Offy. Cutaway from a photo original  (John Wickhart)

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The 1951 Meyer Drake built stretched-midget built from Kurtis parts is sometimes allocated chassis # ‘327-49’ . Won ’51 Indy fitted with Offy ‘241’ cid engine (unattributed)

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Love this shot as it gives great ‘human scale’ to these Midgets and 91 or 110cid Offy’s. Kurtis of Don Lowe left fettling the car with owner Miles Spickler on 2 June 1949. The upcoming meeting is at Lakeside Speedway, Denver. Offy Midget engines were 100/102 and 110cid in the 1960’s. Iron block, aluminium crankcase, 3 bearing monobloc, the block and head one unit, DOHC 2 valve, circa 237lbs in weight engines. Post war they were fitted with 2 1.5 inch Riley carbs and later Hilborn continuous fuel injection. By 1947 the engine produced 120bhp@6000rpm on alcohol and in 1950 injected form 143bhp@8000rpm on alcohol (The Denver Post)

 

 

 

 

 

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Kurtis Kraft Offy Speedcar, not sure of date or model. Hilborn injected 110cid engine  (David Kimble)

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Vukovich Kurtis Kraft 500A Offy ‘270’, 1954 Indy winner. Vukovich used the same chassis # ‘353-52’ in his 1952-4 races (unattributed)

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Vukovich leads the 1953 Indy 500, Kurtis 500A Offy (Max Staub)

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Leo Goossens factory drawing of the ‘Offy 270’ which was the supreme engine in championship racing from 1947-56. This is a later injected version. When the capacity limit was reduced to 4.2 litres the engine capacity was reduced from 274 to 255cid, Meyer Drake simply reduced the internal dimensions of the engine a smidge (Leo Goossens)

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Bibliography…

Joe Scalzo ‘Indianapolis Roadsters 1952-64’, ‘Popular Mechanics’ May 1952, Don Capps on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, Gordon Eliot White ‘Offenhauser’

Photo Credits…

The Enthusiast Network, Racing One, David Kimble, John Wickhart, Frank Kurtis Collection, Louis Galanos, Max Staub

Tailpiece…

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Bentley’s Le Mans winning Speed 8 at Tarra Warra Winery in Victoria’s Yarra Valley in 2006…

I did the biggest double-take of all time when I saw this shot. Its of the 2003 Le Mans winning Bentley Speed 8 I wrote about not so long ago, click here to read the article;

https://primotipo.com/2015/08/14/bentley-speed-8-le-mans-winner-2003/

I know Tarra Warra winery and its contemporary art gallery well. Me an’ the ‘little Sabre-Toothed Tigress’ swing past the joint reasonably often; she gets to look at some art, both of us quite like a ‘shandy on a hot summers afternoon’ and I enjoy the drive. She doesn’t of course, at a slower speed she would but that kinda defeats the primary object of the exercise?!

Its well worth a visit for Melburnians or visitors alike. The Yarra Valley is both a beautiful place and a fine wine region, it takes about an hour from Melbourne’s CBD. Tarra Warra is nestled in the green rolling hills between Yarra Glen and Healesville.

Anyway, when I spotted the shot I thought it a ‘Photoshop concoction’ no way was the car there! Not so, there was a launch of a new Bentley at the winery in 2006 and this photo was taken then. I am rather taken by the Speed 8 and the whole Bentley/Le Mans heritage, I woulda cadged an invite somehow had I known the racer was in the country…

Photo Credit…

Uncertain

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(Rolls Press/Popperfoto)

(more…)

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(Schlegelmilch)

Jacky Ickx astride his MV Agusta 750 after the 1972 Belgian Grand Prix, 4 June 1972…

The 911 is Prince Rainier’s. It wasn’t a great weekend for the Belgian ace; he qualified his Ferrari 312B2 fourth and was running in the lead group early in the race but retired with fuel injection dramas on lap 47. Emerson Fittipaldi won the race in his Lotus 72D Ford, he took the first of his two world titles that year.

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Ickx, Ferrari 312B2, Nivelles, June 1972 (unattributed)

Credit…

Rainer Schlegelmilch

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

Retirement.

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.

 

Lowood curcuit map

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!

lowood brochure

D Type: the Drivers Perspective…

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/june-2004/50/d-type-cast

Bibliography…

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

Photo Credits…

Heinz Federbusch Archive via Dick Simpson and The Nostalgia Forum, Kevin Drage, oldracephotos.com, Dick Willis, Ian Richardson

Finito…

mille miglia 1957

(Allan Fearnley)

Piero Taruffi’s Ferrari 315S leads the Richard Steed/John Hall Cooper Jaguar and ill-fated Ferrari 335S of Fon de Portago and Ed Lester. Taruffi victorious in the 335S Ferrari powered 315…

Click here for my article about this race;

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/17/peter-collins-mille-miglia-1957-ferrari-335s/

Credit…

Allan Fearnley

pi 3

This view in race direction looking down the main straight and into the daunting ‘Doohan’ Turn 1 ‘Southern Loop’ section of the track (Kevin Drage)

Kevin Drage’s wonderful aircraft shot shows packed  Phillip Island during the 1961 Armstrong 500, Australia’s growing obsession with Touring Cars underway

The race was held at the Phillip Island on 19 November 1961 over 167 laps of the 3.0 mile circuit, a total of 501 miles (807 km).

It was the second event held in the combined history of the Armstong 500/Bathurst 500/Bathurst 1000 which began in 1960 with the first Armstrong 500.

chequered

Jane/Firth take the chequered flag. Jaguar dominated the local prestige market in Oz then…but not for too much longer, the German onslaught began about here!? (autopics)

Bob Jane and Harry Firth were the only combination to complete the full race distance, earning the pair the first of their four outright race wins in Jane’s ‘Autoland’ Mercedes Benz 220SE. Mind you, the concept of an outright race win was not be officially recognised until 1965. Mercedes, Studebaker and Renault each took class wins.

pi 1

Fabulous Phillip Island day! Len Lukey’s airstrip in the foreground. This shot is of the cars coming out of ‘Siberia’, (top of shot towards Bass Strait) through the flat out right-hander towards ‘Lukey Heights’ (Kevin Drage)

victors

Ms Phillip Island coping well with the Bass Strait Breeze (gales) whilst Touring Car Maestro’s Firth and Jane look suitably pleased with their work…many race wins to come for these two as both drivers and team owners/managers (autopics)

pits

Pits; the red car is, i think, the Class D winning Renault Gordini of Jim Gullan, Brian Sampson and John Connolly, the grey car, the Class A winning Studebaker Lark of David McKay and Brian Foley. (Kevin Drage)

janey

Harry Firth, i think, by the look of the crouch, just entering the left hand rise ‘Lukey Heights’ before the drop into ‘MG’, M Benz 220SE. (autopics)

mc kay

David McKay, left and Brian Foley, drivers of the Studebaker pictured below (Kevin Drage)

studebaker

The 2nd place Studebaker Lark entered by York Motors, driven by champion drivers David McKay and Brian Foley. (Kevin Drage)

Credits…

Kevin Drage, autopics.com.au, Wikipedia