Archive for April, 2016

sing mal

Birrana Engineering chief Malcolm Ramsay in his Birrana 273 ‘010’ Ford Hart during the 1973 Singapore Grand Prix, the last until the F1 era commenced in 2008…

I have been meaning to write about Birrana’s jewels of cars for a while. I tripped over this shot of Ramsay researching the Leo Geoghegan Lotus 39 article a while back, Leo was Birrana’s works driver from mid-’72 to the end of 1974.

This article started as a ‘quickie’ stimulated by the shot above, but segued into a longer piece when I found heaps of photos of the ’73 Singapore GP in the Singapore Government Archives. Too good to waste, low-res shots but still great to circulate. Bonuses were finding an existing article about the pre-F1 Singapore GP history and a contemporary ’73 race report. The basis of something interesting. Bewdy!

I need to a write a bit about Birrana Cars too though.

I don’t for Australian readers but that’s only 15% of you. So I have written what should be treated as ‘An Introduction to Birranas’, Part 2 ‘Birrana In Detail’ to come soon. Hopefully there is enough to explain how important the cars were to those who haven’t heard of the marque whilst being clear to Birrana enthusiasts, and there are plenty of us in Oz, that there is more to come.

sing leo amaroo

The photos above and below are ‘compare and contrasts’; top of Leo G in his 274 at Oran Park, the bottom of Bob Muir in his 273/4 at Symmons Plains, Tasmania. Bob’s car is 273 ‘009’ with 274 nose and rear wing. Compare with ‘standard spec’ 273 shots in the Singapore GP 1973 part of this article (unattributed)

Leo won the Australian F2 Championship in 1973/4 with a 273 and then 274 model cars, powered by 1.6 litre Brian Hart Ford ‘416B’ injected 205/210bhp variants of the venerable Lotus/Ford twin-cam four cylinder engine first used in the Elan in 1963.

bir muir

Bob Muir, Birrana 273 Ford ‘009’, Symmons Plains 22 September 1974. Bob took the win from RayWinter’s Mildren ‘Yellow Sub’ Ford and Sonny Rajah’s March 712M/732 Ford (unattributed)

The F3/F2 Birrana’s were typical, orthodox aluminium monocoque chassis, outboard suspension cars of the period but built to a very high standard of design, construction and finish with particularly careful attention to aerodynamics. ‘Boxes were Hewland Mk9/FT200 for ANF3/2 use respectively.

Twenty-one cars were built, (FF 4, F3 4, F2 11, F Atlantic 1 and Speedway! 1) the first car was the F71 FF built in Sydney by Alcock before he joined forces with Ramsay in Adelaide, their home town. The last ‘A78’ Ramsay built for his own use in 1978 after the factory had closed in terms of ‘volume production’.

sing a78

Graeme Lawrence’ Rothmans March 76B alongside the very last built ‘Golden Churn’ sponsored Birrana A78. Graeme is the guy far right of his car and Ramsay the dude in the beard behind his. Selangor GP, Batu Tiga circuit 24 September 1978. Nose of Steve Millen’s Chevron behind. F Pac race, all cars Ford Cosworth BDD 1.6 powered. Of interest to Birrana historians; car was entirely new based on 273 tub design with forward braced roll bars as required then by FIA regs, and upper body panel, 274 nose with bottom lip added, bigger than 72-4 rear wing, no rear engine cover; the 272 and 273 did not have rear covers the 374/274’s did (Choong H Fu)

The pick of the cars, given driver feedback seems to be the 273, although the evolved 274 was built in larger numbers and won F2 titles for Leo G ‘015’ in ’74 and Geoff Brabham ‘018’ in 1975.

Visually though the F3 374 was a gorgeous bit of kit…if not as successful as the ‘works’ Cheetah Mk5/6 Toyota’s of ‘The Two Brians’ Shead and Sampson. Shead built the cars in his Mordialloc shop and Sambo the engines in his ‘Motor Improvements’ emporium in St Kilda Road, Elsternwick. All three of the 374’s were fitted initially with Sambo’s (ANF3 1300cc) Corolla based engines.

bir hosking

Dean Hosking in the John Blanden owned 374 Toyota ahead of the similar Lew Wade owned, Paul King driven car at Adelaide International in August 1974. Little jewels of things  (Robert Davies)

Our ‘Racers Retreat’, click on the link atop the page for earlier articles, Peter Brennan was the mechanic on Paul Kings ‘Lew Wade Fiat’ owned Birrana 374 in 1974.

‘Lew had sponsored Paul King in an Elfin F Vee for a couple of years in Victoria, he was a really quick driver, so Lew decided to take the step up and buy an F3 car for Paul. He was a Fiat dealer in Cheltenham (in Melbourne’s bayside south), he figured the way to beat Sambo and Shead was a different chassis and a race prepped Fiat 128SL SOHC engine. The car was then new, the engine more advanced than the pushrod Corolla and he could cross-promote the sales of his Fiats.

Soon boatloads of lire were being sent to ‘Luigi The Unbelievable’ in Italy, when the engine finally arrived, late of course, we put it on the Challenge Motors dyno, it barely pulled 110bhp, not enough to pull the top off a rice-custard, the MI Corollas made a genuine 130/135bhp, even the customer engines’.

‘Lew had been serving it up to the Brians, who were both closeby in bayside Melbourne about how the Fiat engine would give them a belting and then had to eat big doses of humble pie and buy one of their donks!’

‘The day came to pick up the Birrana, so Paul and i were despatched to Adelaide in Lew’s big, lumbering Chev Impala and trailer. I don’t remember much about the factory other than it was small. Back in Melbourne, we soon had the thing plumbed and completed, Paul tested it at Calder and was immediately ‘on the pace’, he was a very quick driver but beating the Cheetah twins was another matter.’

bir 374

A little bit of biffo in this 1974 Calder combined F3/FF race. As best as i can work out its Peter (brother of Larry) Perkins Elfin 620 from Paul King’s Birrana 374, with 2 Elfin 620’s outside him, one ‘yumping’. #68 is a Wren FF with another FF beside him and on the very outside you can just make out the light covered rear engine cowl of Dean Hosking’s 374 (unattributed)


Paul King’s 374 ahead of Brians Shead and Sampson in this Winton promotional poster circa 1974/5 (Paul King Collection)

In those days FF’s and F3’s often raced together, there was no national F3 Championship, the quicker F3’s raced against the F2’s in their championship races (which from 73-75 in particular was well supported, comparative car specs; FF 1600 circa 105bhp, no wings or slicks. F3 1300 SOHC or OHV circa 135bhp wings, slicks, 5 speed box. F2 1600 DOHC 2 valve circa 205bhp, wings, slicks, 5 speed box)

‘The car itself was beautifully built and engineered, the only problem we had during that year was leaking fuel tanks, we had to take the car back to the factory to have them re-sealed, its before the days of bag-tanks in these cars. The car was easy to work on, the Toyota engine was bullet proof, and the Hewland Mk9, which was also new gave no problems with only 135bhp tearing away at it.'(these boxes sometimes fitted to 205bhp Ford Cosworth BDD engines, not particularly reliable all the time mind!)

The Mk5 Cheetah was a top car in both the hands of the ‘factory’ drivers and also as a customer car ‘the Birrana was a better engineered and finished car’ but Shead and Sambo had evolved the cars over the years into very quick devices and both of them were experienced, fast competitive drivers. Sampson won the Bathurst 1000 with Peter Brock in 1975 and only stopped racing, in his mid-seventies, in the last few years.

‘Whilst Paul was an F3 front runner Lew started to lose interest when he wasn’t winning all the time, Pauls marriage was also going down the blurter, the car was sold and that was that. Paul drifted from the scene and Lew crashed his Tiger Moth and killed himself some years later’.


Bruce Allison’s 274 ‘017’ in the Lakeside pits, the Queenslander was 3rd in his home race,during the 1974 AF2 Championship, an 8 race series in 5 states. Workmanship and finish of these cars absolutely world class (Allison)

All of the F2 Birrana’s were fitted initially with Lotus/Ford/Hart twin-cams built by a raft of preparation outfits. During the period we are looking at Peter Nightingale was the designated factory engine and gearbox bloke, he also prepared, from memory (always dangerous) Geoff Brabham’s 274 ‘018’ in his ’75 AF2 Championship winning year so that makes Peter the most successful ‘Hart fettler’ of the day. He still looks after a few cars in his Adelaide home town.

Later, various of the F3/2 cars were fitted with a variety of 1.6 litre SOHC engines when the ANF2 rules were stupidly changed.

Some of the F2 cars had the Ford Cosworth 1.6 litre BDD’s later fitted for F Atlantic/Pacific. The Birranas were too long in the tooth as F Pacs in the mid/late ‘70’s in NZ when they adopted the class, but Bob Muir was competitive in the UK in mildly updated 273’s in 1975.

bir muir uk

Bob Muir, Birrana 273 Ford BDD, Mallory Park, British F Atlantic Championship, Bank Holiday meeting August 1975 (Alan Cox)

The 273 derived European 2 litre F2 Ford BDG engined ‘Minos’ was a slug and optimistic in the extreme given the competitiveness of that class at the time with factory BMW and Renault V6 engines in March/Martini/Alpine chassis. More about ‘Minos’ in the later Birrana article.

One chassis was raced late in its life with a Waggott 2 litre DOHC 4 valve engine, which is the car I would personally like to own! However I am getting ahead of myself and starting to write the article I said at the outset I would do at another time. So, back a step.

By the middle of 1974 Ramsay and Tony Alcock his designer/partner in Birrana, decided it wasn’t commercially feasible to build cars profitably as they wanted to in Oz.

bir muir 2

Bob Muir, Birrana 273 BDD ‘009’ at Mallory Park 24 August 1975, DNF with fuel surge, Jim Crawford’s Chevron B29 won. Later GP drivers Gunnar Nilsson and Tony Brise were also in this race (Alan Cox)

Tony travelled to the UK and initially ran the two Bob and Marj Brown owned 273’s for Aussie Bob Muir in the 1975 British F Atlantic Championship before he joined Graham Hills team. Unfortunately he was on ‘that flight’ which ended tragically at Elstree Airport, the whole team perished on that sad trip in difficult conditions.

Ramsay then focussed on his engineering business servicing the mining industry in Adelaide, where all but the first Birrana was built.

He very successfully applied his organisational and management skills by getting back involved in motor racing and winning multiple Gold Stars for other drivers in the Formula Holden era. His stable included Mark Webber, Paul Stokell, Jason Bright, Simon Wills and Rick Kelly. In addition, for a time he ‘turned to the dark side’ and ran V8 Supercars.


Geoff Brabham at Oran Park in his 274 ‘018’ the last built car originally sold to Neil Rear in WA but bought only slightly ‘shop soiled’ by the Brabham family for Geoff’s second full season in racing, he raced a Bowin P6F successfully in the Australian FF Championship in 1974. Brabham comfortably won the ’75 AF2 title but Alfredo Costanzo in Leo Geoghegan’s ’74 championship winning chassis kept him honest, Brabham’s the better prepared car. Their was no championship AF2 round at OP in 1975, so not sure when this is, clearly a Friday tho, only a few folks in attendance! Brabs was off to British F3 in ’76 (

Without thinking too hard about it, the rollcall of drivers who ‘parked their arses’ in Birranas in the short period the cars were built is impressive…

Later Bathurst and AGP winner John Goss raced F71, Alcock’s first car, an FF whilst he was making his name in the McLeod Ford GTHO Falcon in 1971. Jumping from the nimble, responsive FF into the ‘big powerful barge’ of a Falcon at the same meeting must have been a challenge. And test of versatility. JG was one of a relatively small number of Aussies who were awesomely quick in both ‘taxis’ and single-seaters. Frank Gardner, Kevin Bartlett, John Bowe, Mark Skaife and Craid Lowndes spring readily to mind as some of the others. Click on the link at the bottom of this article to read about ‘Gossy’.

Andrew Miedecke, Richard Carter and Gary Brabham, the latter long after the car was built, (1982) raced F73, a superb FF built for Miedecke’s ’73 national ‘Driver to Europe’ championship FF assault. Carter won the ’76 DTE series in this chassis, Birrana’s only Australian FF Championship victory.

bir winton

Bucolic Winton, Central Victoria, FF action in 1978. Steve Moody’s Birrana F72 from Gerry Witenden’s F71-the first Birrana built. Then, i think, obscured David Earle’s Elfin and Ron Barnacle’s (or Don Bretland’s maybe?) Van Diemen RF77. Lots of sideways action, Aussie FF’s raced on Bridgestone RD102 road-radials in this period which made them wild to drive having driven my share of laps at the time! A funny bi-product of this was that older chassis, which were designed around radials when the class first started, came to the fore. Witenden, a terrific bloke from Goulburn way, came within a point of winning the ’78 title in this 7 year old Birrana. He went to the UK too, did a few FF2000 races, maybe with Delta if any Brit enthusiasts remember him. Steve Moody is still around historic FF, Barnacle also won an Oz FF title (unattributed)

Drivers of the Birrana F2’s included Leo G, Bob Muir, Bruce Allison, Alfredo Costanzo and touring car ace Peter Brock who did his only single-seater season in 272 ‘006’ in 1973.

Allison very much showed ‘he had what it takes’ in 274 ‘017’ in the very competitive 1974 ANF2 Championship. He jumped up to F5000 in an ex-Bartlett, well sorted Lola T332 Chev in ’75, ‘rattling the established F5000 order’ as the category’s ‘enfant terrible’ in much the same way Warwick Brown did in ’72.

Bruce recalls the Birrana and that ’74 season with a lot of fondness; ‘I’d started racing an Escort Twin-Cam against the best of the guys in Series Production and realised how hard it would be to get an ‘equal car’ so we decided to buy an open-wheeler. Dad organised an Elfin 600FF from Garrie Cooper, the car we got was one that was coming back from South Africa or something, it hadn’t been paid for. Picking it up from the Brisbane docks is not something we looked forward to but a few slabs of beer my dad had brought along did the trick, we were soon on our way!’

‘I did well in that at Surfers and Lakeside then we got Garries 600D F2 (this car is pictured later in this article) which was a good car. Dad got Ivan Tighe to drive its first meeting at Oran Park, but he crashed it, not a big one, it was soon repaired and away we went but by that time the category was getting more competitive. A few people said we should get a Bowin P6 which looked sensational, we painted that car in the black ‘Hobby & Toyland’, Dads business’s colors. It had rising rate suspension but it was an absolute pig. We couldn’t get our heads around the thing, i know John Leffler and Bob Skelton did but i got rid of it after only about 6 months. In fact i boofed the car at Surfers after we had sold it and had to take a big chunk off the price.’

Birrana 274 at Lakeside

Bruce Allison hustles his 274 ‘017’ around, fast, demanding Lakeside, Qld, rear engine cover removed in deference to the summer heat.He was 3rd, the race won by Ray Winter’ old but fast Mildren ‘Yellow Sub’ from Geoghegans 274. Bruce’ results got more consistent and better as the season wore on (Allison)

‘By then it was clear we had to have a Birrana to run with the top guys. Dad did a deal with Malcolm Ramsay, both he and Tony (Alcock) were great to deal with and gave us all the help we needed that year. The car handled well, was forgiving and put its power down nicely. We had good engines, Harts which i think Ivan Tighe looked after, the car itself was maintained in a Hobby & Toyland workshop at Castles Road’.

‘I was 20, very brash and thought i was unbeatable. Leo was smooth, quick and had all of our measure, the grids were great, there were always 6 or 7 blokes scrapping at the front. For outright speed though Bob Muir was an absolute demon in that car. It was the previous years 273, but updated. Bob and Marj Brown who owned the car were wealthy Adelaide people who had a business which made oven glass, heated windscreens and the like. For a ‘part timer’ Bob was bloody good, he went to the UK with the Browns of course’

‘I was never the greatest at setting a car up, Peter Molloy (the very experienced engineer who looked after Bruce in his F5000 years) always rated my speed though and i did get quicker and more consistent that year as the season rolled along and proved it with my results. It was time to move up. The Birrana was important as it proved i could cut it in a competitive car, the 274 was the first of those i had’.

Bruce was soon off to European and US success with annual summer visits back to Oz to remind us of his skill. He won the Grovewood Award and raced in the British national F1 Series but didn’t get the ‘real’ F1 seat his talent and results warranted.

(Bruce lost most of the photos of his career in a fire some years back, these are the only two he has of the Birrana for example, if any of you have photos of Bruce in any of his cars, you are prepared to share with him please email them to me at and i will forward them on, Mark)

sing muir

Bob Muir’s Rennmax Ford ahead of Garrie Cooper’s Elfin 600D Ford (the car Bruce Allison raced after Garrie) and a March 722 during the 1972 Singapore GP. Help welcome as to which corner and driver of the March (NAS)

Bob Muir was a seasoned professional by the time he jumped into the Brown family’s 273’s in 1974. Bob and fellow Sydney motor trader Geoghegan had an almighty battle for the AF2 title that year. If 1973 had an element of ‘cruise and collect’ for Leo, ’74 was the exact opposite with fields of depth rarely seen in Australian single-seater racing outside FF. The F2 grids that year had all of the local aces racing ‘down’ from F5000 in F2 as well as all of the ‘comingmen’ contesting a well sponsored series.

Bob had done two years in F5000 in 1972 and 1973, the latter in the US L&M Championship before jumping into the Browns cars after the first couple of ’74 rounds. After his Oz F2 season he then raced the 273’s in F Atlantic spec in the UK in 1975. After the F2 ‘Mino’s nee Birrana ‘bombed’ he was impressively fast in a Ford BDX engined Chevron B35 Derek Kneller built and prepared for the team. In ’76 he was 37 though, if only he was in Europe 10 years before. Like so many competitors of his period, his business funded his racing for much of his career, he wasn’t a ‘spoon-fed’ prat of the type we see so often today.

I digress, as usual. Suffice it to say, plenty of great steerers were attracted to Birrana’s. More of the above in ‘Birrana 2’.

sing official

The official party prior to the 1964 Malaysian GP at the Thomson Road circuit

Keying ‘1973 Singapore GP’ to Google inevitably led to lots of tangents and some good information to go with these shots which are a bit scrappy, but still worth circulating and are from the Singapore Government archives

The balance of this article is a heavily truncated ‘cut and shut’ with a reasonable addition of my own words of two articles; one written by Eli Solomon in the March 2006 edition of MotorSport and the other a race report by (the) Peter Collins published in Australia’s ‘Racing Car News’ and posted on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ by ex-RCN journalist Ray Bell.

Eli has his own magazine, ‘Rewind’ which has great South East Asia current and historical content. You can either subscribe (pay) or access some of his material via Facebook, just click ‘Rewind’ into the FB search engine.


Not long after the start of the 60 lap 1964 Malaysian bike GP. Thomson Road circuit, #79 Shershall from Perry, Sang and Dingle (MCI)

The first Singapore Grand Prix was the 1961 ‘Orient Year Grand Prix’, held on a stretch of Upper Thomson Road.

In 1962 the race was renamed the Malaysian GP, until Singapore gained independence in 1965. Singapore ran its own event from ’66 while Malaysia held two events, one around the Singapore race near Easter, called the ‘Malaysian GP’ and another in September labelled the ‘Selangor GP’.

The racing season in Asia began at Macau in November, moved to Australia and New Zealand with the Tasman Cup, and returned to South East Asia with back-to-back races in Singapore, Johore, Selangor and Penang, followed by Japan.

sing food stand

Food vendors 1971 Thomson Road circuit style (NAS)

sing gta

Alfa GTA, Albert Poon? winning the 1971 Touring Car race, start/finish is on ‘The Thomson Mile’ (NAS)

From 1966 to 1973 the Singapore Grand Prix became the main racing event on the local calendar each Easter. The 3.023-mile street circuit was a challenge, its narrow 24ft width offered little run-off area in a sport that was increasingly seeing faster speeds.

sing circuit

(Gel Motorsport)

Australian Vern Schuppan and British-born Hong Kong man John Macdonald both loved it. Never one to mince his words, Macdonald describes the track:

‘Flowing? In places, but hairpins were not exactly flowing. Dangerous? In those days no more so than expected and certainly safer by far than Macau. Monsoon drains? Yes. Bus stops? One after that lovely curve on the straight and a few lamp posts. None of these things got in the way and I did not go looking for them!’

The start-finish line was on the main straight, on a normal day the two lane black-top served as a major trunk road, on the right were fruit plantations and on the left new housing estates and industrial parks.

The bend halfway down the straight was ‘The Hump’, this had a false apex which sat on the turn-in that lifted cars off the road; it was this section that Frank Matich got wrong during 1970 practice, his McLaren M10A Chev F5000 hit a bus stop and was out for the weekend.

After ‘The Hump’ was ‘Sembawang Circus’ or ‘The Hairpin’, dangerous as cars approached it ‘flat’ until it was ‘chicaned’ in 1969 to preserve spectators generally and Singapores Cabinet sitting in VIP stands!

sing cooper

Garrie Cooper Elfin 600D Ford ahead of Vern Schuppan’s March 722 on ‘the Thomson Mile’, 1972 GP (NAS)

‘The Esses’ comprised several sections; ‘The Snakes’, four bends, then ‘Devils’ a rounded off v-bend which caught many out, then ‘Long Loop’, a right hander.

Then came ‘Peak Bend’, where TV and radio stations located themselves. The circuit then went down right to ‘Range Hairpin’ and then ‘Signal Pits with pit entry after ‘Range Hairpin’.

Then it was left onto ‘The Thomson Mile’ a fast undulating one mile stretch on what was then the start of Nee Soon Road and back to the start/finish line, a lap was circa 24 gear changes dependent upon type of car and ‘box of course.

It was not until 1968 that Australian constructors started to venture to South-East Asia. Garrie Cooper of Elfin Cars won the Grand Prix that year in his very first Elfin 600, powered by a Ford Twin Cam. ‘Nobody had ever heard of Elfins,’ said Aussie racer/constructor Frank Matich.

Cooper had also suggested that the Singapore GP be confined to racing cars, for qualifying times to limit the number of entrants and for a reduction in the number of laps from 60 to 50. Subsequent years saw the main race run as two heats of 20 and 40 laps over different days.

Local racers were increasingly sidelined by foreigners, 1967 the last year a local won the GP. In 1969 Kiwi Graeme Lawrence won in his McLaren-FVA M4A amid some very powerful machinery including Cooper’s Elfin 600C Repco 2.5 V8, which the locals thought was an F1 car.

sing 600

Mal Ramsay in the Thomson Rd paddock 1970. Elfin 600C Repco 2.5 V8 4th place in the race won by Graeme Lawrence’s Ferrari 246T (Rewind)

For the 1970 race Matich arrived in ‘Rothmans’ team livery with his McLaren M10A Chev F5000 that had recently won the NZ GP, while the Australian Alec Mildren ‘juggernaut’ consisted of Kevin Bartlett in his Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ (the Alfa V8-powered  Len Bailey designed, Alan Mann Racing built monocoque racer which Frank Gardner debuted in the ’69 Tasman Series and was then handed over to KB upon Gardner’s return to Europe and in which KB won the ’69 Macau GP and Australian Gold Star Series).

Max Stewart raced the 2-litre Rennmax Mildren-Waggott, and Malcolm Ramsay the ex-Cooper Elfin 600C Repco. Mildren was there to supervise, as was Merv Waggott, designer/builder of the Waggott engines. Not to be outdone, Poon had the ex-Piers Courage Brabham-FVA BT30. While Matich wrecked his M10 in practice doing 160mph on the Thomson Straight, Lawrence went on to take his first win in Singapore in the ex-Amon Ferrari Dino 246T in which he also won the 1970 Tasman Series.

Lawrence made it two out of two in 1971 with his Brabham-FVC BT29 against formidable competition.

The big change was that the single-seaters now had to follow Australian F2/Formula B rules to ensure decent sized fields. So FVAs and BDAs were out. The new rules meant that single-seater racing would become the domain of the professional and semi-professional.

sing max

Stewart’s Mildren Waggott from Geoghegan’s, Graeme Lawrence owned, Brabham Ford in the 1972 GP  here on ‘The Thomson Mile’ (NAS)

Max Stewart arrived in the Mildren-Waggott in 1972 — not only would it be the first time he finished a race in Asia, he would win it as well. By that stage the Mildren Tean had disbanded but Max bought his car off Mildren and promptly ‘nicked’ the ’71 Gold Star by a point with consistent performances from close mate Bartlett who won twice, Max took one race, but was more consistent in the 2 litre DOHC, 4 valve Waggott engine car than  KB’s McLaren M10B Chev.

By 1972 the carnival had grown to 15 events, there were 430 competitor entries from around the globe, 146 ‘bikes and 284 cars.

The 1972 Singapore GP field included Bartlett, Schuppan and Macdonald, who had the ex-Rondel Racing Graham Hill Brabham BT36. Sonny Rajah raced the ex-Ronnie Peterson March 712M. Rajah was the local hero and looked the part with his long hair and Zapata moustache.

sing sonny

Sonny Rajah in the ex Petersen March 712M Euro F2 champ car, 4th in the ’72 Singapore GP (NAS)

But to gain admittance into a country where long hair was associated with drugs, he had resorted to using a short-hair wig! A fellow competitor once remarked: ‘He had brilliant car control but someone other than bullshit artists had to take him in hand! Natural talent and character to boot. Rajah was a very popular addition to the 1974 Australian F2 series when he raced the updated March that year.

sing vern

Singapore’s last pre-F1 GP was held in 1973 and was won by Schuppan in a March-Ford 722 (above)…

Schuppan vividly remembers the monsoon drains on the circuit: ‘It was a fast, flowing circuit, a lovely race track. No one talked about lack of run-off area because we were so young then.’ Of Schuppan, Macdonald said: ‘Vern, of course, got to the top but probably never reached the absolute top because he’s too darned straightforward, nice, honest and all those other good things that come up all too rarely.’


John MacDonald’s new Brabham BT40 Ford ahead Steve Millen’s Elden Formula Fords(NAS)

Macdonald was another favourite and had a brand new Brabham BT40 delivered to him in Singapore ahead of the race. Macdonald said the BT40 was a ‘magic car with a big ‘but…’ The team had a terrible time of it with fuel pick-up problems. A letter to Bernie Ecclestone, Brabham’s owner, resulted in a PR reply to say he was behind them all the way! Once sorted, the car was a prolific winner in Asia.

sing gra

Lawrence’ Surtees ahead of Kiwi Steve Millen’s Elden Mk8 FF. Millen later a champion F Pac driver (NAS)

Schuppan, Kiwi Kenny Smith and Sonny Rajah were in March 722’s. Vern’s car was interesting in that the March had been modified by Canadian aerodynamicist Denis Falconer who developed a package of changes from Robin Herd’s original design. There were 5 (!) body configurations depending upon circuit type. The car also had a narrow track suspension set-up for faster circuits.

Graeme Lawrence raced the Surtees TS15 which first broke cover in that summers Tasman Series powered by a 2 litre Ford Cosworth BDG. Ramsay ‘010’ and Geoghegan ‘007’ were Birrana 273 mounted. Poon had a Brabham similar to MacDonald’s.

Tony Stewart’s Paul England owned ‘Dolphin’, a Brabham BT30 or 36 copy was powered by one of Englands very powerful twin-cams. Jack Godbehear built mighty-fine FF and F2 engines re-building many of the Hart 416B’s which were plentiful in Oz as the 1.6 litre AF2 flourished from 1972-5. (the ANF2 1.6 litre twin cam, 2 valve formula applied from 1971 to 1977 which cost effectively, and sensibly mandated variants of the Lotus/Ford t/c engine)

sing stew

Tony Stewart in the Paul England owned Dolphin Ford a Brabham BT30/36 replica. Both John Leffler and Andrew Miedecke had one-off drives of this car in Australia (NAS)

Max Stewart’s Rennmax, twin-cam powered was faster than it had been with the more powerful Alfa GTAm engine the year before. Chain was in a Lotus 69, Bussell a Palliser WDB4, Wiano a GRD 272.

The cars had, by the way, come from Selangor where they had run in the Malaysian Grand Prix. Macdonald had won this from Canadian Brian Robertson and Poon, all drove BT40s. The Selangor GP was held later in the year.


Jan Bussell’s Palliser WDB4 Ford (NAS)

Starting Grid…

V Schuppan (1:57.3)______G Lawrence (1:57.1)
K Smith (1:59.1________L Geoghegan (1:57.8)
M Ramsay (1:59.5)______J Macdonald (1:59.1)
A Stewart (2:01.5)________M Stewart (2:01.3)
A Poon (2:04.0)____________S Rajah (2:02.6)
P Chain (2:07.5)_____________M Hall (2:04.0)
H Wiano (2:08.9)__________J Bussell (2:07.6)

Further back were: Kiyoshi Misaka (BT36 Toyota), Steve Millen (Elden FF), Harvey Simon (Elfin 600B ), John Green (Chevron B20), Dave Hayward (Hawke FF) and Chong Boon Seng (Brabham BT30) a very slow 2:49.1.

sing leu 2

Geoghegan’s Birrana 273, Leo set the all-time lap record in his catch-up drive; 1.54.9 (NAS)

The Race…

Leo Geoghegan passed early leader Lawrence on the sixth lap. Schuppan’s March was third at this stage, but was under pressure from Ramsay, then Macdonald clear of Tony Stewart, Smith, Max Stewart and Rajah.

For fifteen laps Geoghegan’s Birrana 273 stormed away, but then had to pit when the engine began to stutter. The master switch on the roll-over bar had failed, it was shorted out to enable him to continue.


Geoghegan ahead of Lawrence in their great dice early in the race (NAS)

At the same time, Schuppan showered Ramsay’s 273 with rocks when he ran wide on a fast corner. One rock punctured the fuel tank, Ramsay’s car trailed flames for a couple of laps and then stopped. Another report of this incident had it; ‘Malcolm soldiered on until the pain of the petrol burning his balls forced him to retire.’ So, Ramsay’s retirement was due to either a burning car or burning balls!

And while Geoghegan was heading for the pits, Lawrence’s Surtees lost the use of its mechanical fuel pump, and whether this slowed him as he switched on the electric one or it meant the engine lost power, the net result was that Schuppan’s March swept into the lead.

Geoghegan’s return saw the lap record (Bartlett’s from 1970’s preliminary race) under threat as he carved his way through the backmarkers trying to regain as much of the two laps he lost as possible. He had to pit again later, but the record was his and he completed 41 laps for ninth place. Leo was razor sharp, his Birrana beautifully set-up given the intensity of the competition at home.


Kiwi star Ken Smith, in his youth. In his 70’s he is still a formidable F5000 pedaller! March 722 Ford, note the differences in his standard spec body and Schuppan’s modified 722 (NAS)

Rajah’s March was out at 25 laps with the battery dragging behind the car and Smith, March, struck problems to lose contact with the Stewarts, big Max passing young Tony as this happened for fourth. Tony Stewart, now there is a lost talent! If memory serves he raced a Birrana 273 for a while before leaving the sport and later making his fortune in ‘Car City’ on Ringwood’s Maroondah Highway in Melbourne’s outer east.

Both leaders had problems. Schuppan’s airbox was falling off, but that wasn’t as bad as the battery losing charge in Lawrence’s car and causing his engine to run roughly. The race ran out like this.

Results (50 laps – 150 miles)

1. Singapore Airlines: Vern Schuppan (March Hart 722) 1h 38:58.3 (1:56.8)
2. Singapore Airlines: Graeme Lawrence (Surtees TS15) 1h 39:36.8
3. Cathay Pacific Air: John Macdonald (Brabham BT40 Hart) 49 laps
4. Singapore Airlines: Max Stewart (Rennmax England t/c) 49 laps
5. Paul England Engineering: Tony Stewart (Dolphin England t/c) 49 laps
6. Air New Zealand: Ken Smith (March 722 Hart) 47 laps
7. Team Rothmans: Jan Bussell (Palliser BRM t/c) 47 laps
8. Air New Zealand: Steve Millen (Elden Mk 8) 43 laps
9. Grace Bros Race Team: Leo Geoghegan (Birrana 273 Hart t/c) 41 laps
10. Camel Melinda: Harvey Simon (Elfin 600B) 40 laps

Fastest lap and new outright record: Geoghegan, 1:54.9.

sing rear

A gaggle of cars in the ’72 GP passes a group of flaggies doing their best to say out of the tropical heat, car at the rear perhaps Leo Geoghegan’s Brabham (NAS)

The demise of racing in Singapore was somewhat sudden given the level of publicity and government backing the race received. The social and economic issues (the oil shock and terrifyingly rapid infrastructure growth) that the country was facing may have contributed to this.

The government claimed that the GP promoted dangerous driving in its citizens, these were the very successful times of the ‘paternalistic democratically elected despot’ Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The government acknowledged it would be impossible to implement adequate safety measures for the Thomson Road circuit. Although a permanent track was proposed which  included an all-sports complex, this never materialised.

Over time the view of the government eased with the Malaysian GP at Sepang growing in stature, the ban on motor racing was reconsidered and dropped in 2005.

The Macau Grand Prix, of course, thrived through this period, but after 13 years 1973 was the end for Singapore’s big race’, until the F1 era of course, a story for another time.


sing bike

Field before the start of the 1971 bike GP, help welcome on competitors/bikes. What a wild, fast, narrow place! (NAS)

sing perry

Kiwi, Geoff Perry winning the bike GP on a Suzuki 500 (NAS)

sing bmw

’73 Touring car race, help with cars/drivers welcome! (NAS)


Eli Solomon Singapore GP article in MotorSport March 2006, Peter Collins race report published in ‘Racing Car News’,

Photo and Other Credits…

A very big thanks to Peter Brennan and Bruce Allison for their recollections

National Archive of Singapore, Bruce Allison Collection,, Alan Cox, Rewind Magazine, MCI, Choong H Fong, Robert Davies, Paul King Collection

Tailpiece: Kiwi Geoff Perry hustles his Suzuki 500 thru ‘The Snakes’ on the way to ’72 GP victory, the exciting perils of 50 Thomson Circuit laps evident…





lewis indy

Lewis Hamilton takes the Indy chequered flag, his McLaren MP4/22 Mercedes wins the 15 June 2007 event…

Hamilton won from Fernando Alonso in the other McLaren and Felipe Massa’s Ferrari F2007. Robert Kubica’s huge Canadian GP shunt the week before allowed Sebastian Vettel to make his GP debut for BMW Sauber. He was the teams test and reserve driver, his eighth place making him the youngest driver to win a championship point.


Seb Vettel on his way to 8th place USGP 2007 BMW Sauber F1.07 (unattributed)

Sadly it was the last USGP at Indy, Tony George and Bernie Ecclestone unable to agree acceptable commercial terms. The Austin, Texas ‘Circuit of The Americas’ first hosted the event in November 2012.

Credit: Gabriel Bouys

jochen skis


Jochen Rindt showing good form in his ‘Kneissl’s’ in early 1968…

Love this PR shot, its useless from a skiers perspective tho as the caption includes no information as to the resort, Austria is as precise as it comes!

Jochen joined Brabham for 1968 from Cooper, it wasn’t a great season for the team as the Repco ‘860 Series’ DOHC, 32 valve 3 litre V8 was as unreliable as its forebears in 1966 and 1967 were paragons of dependability, in the main at least, drivers and manufacturers titles won for Brabham and Hulme in 1966/67 respectively.

jochen color

Rindt BT24 Repco, Monaco 1968 (Getty)

Until the ’68 Brabham BT26 was ‘ready’ Jochen raced the 1967 BT24 in South Africa, Spain and Monaco, the cars speed demonstrated by Q4 and 5 at Kyalami and Monaco. These shots are all of the ’68 Monaco GP race won by Graham Hill’s Lotus 49 Ford, Jochen qualified 5th and boofed the car in the race.

Detailed stories about the 1967 and 1968 Brabham Repco seasons i will write soon.

jochen butt

The ’67 BT24 ‘760 Series’ 2 cam/2 valve Repco beside its ’68 BT26 ‘860 Series’ DOHC/4 cam sibling and Jochen happy despite a character-building season. Despite the difficulties Jochen enjoyed his year with Brabham and likewise Brabham and Tauranac working with him. ‘Twas a close run thing that he didn’t rejoin the team for 1970. He had committed to Jack who waived the verbal agreement when Chapman offered Rindt a ‘deal he could not refuse’, so off to Lotus he went… (Getty)


Monaco; 68 lap 1 down the hill past Rosies Bar and into Mirabeau; Rindt BT24 from Hulme’s McLaren M8 Ford, the BRM’s of Attwood (not in shot) then Rodriguez P133 and the rest (Schlegelmilch)

jochen profile

Rindt, again at Monaco 1968, the elegant simplicity of the ’67 Championship winning Brabham BT24 Repco clear (Getty)


Imago, Getty Images, Rainer Schlegelmilch

jochen tailpiece

Eyes on the apex! Rindt, Monaco 1968 (Getty)



The 1968 Repco ‘RB 860 Series’ engine may have lacked reliability but not poke! Rindt put it on pole twice in ’68, here at Rouen and at Mosport, Canada. In France Jochen picked up a puncture from the debris of Jo Schlesser’s horrific Honda RA302 accident and had a fuel tank leak later in the race, DNF . Here he is in the cockpit of his BT26 during practice. French GP 1968 (Schlegelmilch)




Posted: April 24, 2016 in Fotos
Tags: ,

uniroyal ad

Uniroyal 1970 ad featuring a rather nice Renault Alpine A110 (Automobile Year 18)…


There are no details as to identification of these blokes in this magnificent period shot. You can feel the atmosphere of the day. Reg Nutt, perhaps at left, contributions from Australian enthusiasts welcome as to identities! (Dacre Stubbs)

A couple of Jack Day’s helpers fettle his Talbot Darracq 700 chassis #3 in the wide open parklands of Albert Park during practice for the 19-21 November, 1953 Australian Grand Prix…

The highly sophisticated 1.5 litre straight-8 1926/7 GP car was raced for him by Reg Nutt, like Day an ‘old stager’ whose racing pedigree extended back to the early days at Phillip Island where the first AGP’s were held in the 1920’s.

Nutt was the riding mechanic for Carl Junker’s successful 1931 Bugatti T39 win.

Day imported the car after its European career was well over in 1949. The racer was also outclassed in Australia by then although ‘a relation’, the Talbot Lago T26C of Doug Whiteford won this 1953 race, Whiteford took the third and last of his AGP wins.

ap gp

AGP ’53 front row #3 Lex Davison’s HWM Jag DNF, #2 Stan Jones Maybach DNF and Doug Whiteford’s winning Talbot Lago T26C at right, #11 is Ted Gray’s Alta Ford V8 (Dacre Stubbs)

Nutt retired the car on lap 14 of the 200 mile, 64 lap event, the first race meeting at Albert Park. Depending upon the race report the car either dropped a valve or threw a rod or both perhaps! Second to Whiteford was Curley Brydon’s MG TC Spl and third Andy Brown’s MG K3, both cars illustrate the potential of the TD to finish further up the field that day had it run reliably.

td race

AGP ’53. Stan Jones # 2 Maybach DNF about to gobble up Bill Wilcox’ Ford Spl DNF and #24 Nutt in the TD (Arnold Terdich)

There were plenty of handicap events in Australia at the time so the car was still a racer which could provide a great spectacle for spectators but the car was not raced extensively and then the complex engine was mortally damaged, the car effectively not seeing the light of day until 1988. Its superb restoration then took a further 20 years! This is the story of that car.

td engine

TD #3 in the ’53 Albert Park paddock, specifications as per text (Arnold Terdich)

Current custodian Noel Cunningham, below, at Rob Roy Hillclimb, in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills in 2015, thankfully the car is still in Australia.

Talbot Darracq 2015 VSCC Rob Roy 02 MB

VSCC Rob Roy Hillclimb 2015, Noel Cunningham in TD 700 #3 (Stephen Dalton)


I must admit to being confused by the relationships between these companies before embarking on this article. The corporate story is this; in 1919 British marques Sunbeam and Talbot merged, in 1920 they in turn merged with French company, Darracq, based in the Paris suburb of Suresnes.

The engineering genius from whose guidance some fantastic cars emanated was Louis Coatalen, a Frenchman who emigrated to Britain in 1901, joining Sunbeam in 1907. He worked on both automotive and aviation engines contributing enormously to Sunbeam’s success, the merger with Darracq allowed his return to France.

The very successful series of racing cars which followed comprise various cars, my confusion arising from their ‘badging’. The 1921 3 litre Sunbeams raced as both Sunbeams and Darracq’s. In 1922 2 litre DOHC 6 cylinder cars were built to the prevailing GP formula, these Fiat 404 clones were referred to as ‘Fiats in green paint’ in period! The Fiat 804 cars won the 1922 French GP and, supercharged, won again in 1923 badged as Sunbeams. The 1923 4 cylinder 1.5 litre TD voiturettes preceded the TD 700 design for the new 1.5 litre GP formula for 1926-8.

The latter category provided for cars of 1500cc supercharged with a minimum weight limit of 600Kg, and then 700Kg dry from 1927. Riding mechanics were barred but a mechanics seat was mandatory, the minimum cockpit width was 80cm.

td drawing

AMS’ Bob Shepherd did some wonderful drawings of cars he wrote about over the years, hard to get the ‘repro’ spot on tho! TD 700 (Bob Shepherd)

The Talbot-Darracq 700 is one of the most advanced Grand Prix designs of the early ‘tween-wars period.

Designed by two ex-Fiat engineers who left Italy for political reasons, fascism on the rise, to say the least at the time, Vincenzo Bertarione and Walter Becchia left the country and joined the TD Suresnes factory in 1922.

Of the relationship between the Fiat and TD designs Leonard Setright observed; ‘Both (the Delage and Talbot)…could be said to cling to the fashion originally dictated by Fiat some years earlier, the most significant change being the exploitation of the mechanics absence…In the case of the Talbot…it had been designed by Bertarione, who had now been joined by Becchia, another member of the original Fiat design team. The cars were produced at the Talbot works in Suresnes in Paris, but for Bertarione this was no more than an internal posting within the STD combine.’

The TD 700’s conceptual design approach was that of an offset single-seater, ultra low-slung, using a form of fabricated deep-section ladder-frame chassis, powered by an advanced straight-eight, supercharged engine.

td eng 1

Exhaust side of the beautiful straight 8. 2 valves per cylinder set at  90 degrees to the centre line operated by fingers via DOHC. Each cam ran in 5 roller bearings and was driven by gears from the rear of the crank. Valve clearances adjustment was via thimbles, each valve had 3 springs, ports are rectangular in shape. 2 magnetos were driven by the centre gear of the cam train, each one fired 4 cylinders. The contact breakers protruded into the cockpit Bugatti style (Bisset)

The engine reflected previous STD experience incorporating gear-driven DOHC operating two valves per cylinder, a Roots-type supercharger and roller-bearing crankshaft. The 1485cc engine produced circa 145-160 bhp at a then very high 7,000 rpm. To minimise internal friction loss the engine had many intricate roller-bearings.

td eng 2

Engine induction side. Steering box and drop link in shot. Note relief valve, modern air cleaner to carb which is bolted directly to the Roots type supercharger, driven thru a laminated spring coupling, carb standard choke 49mm. Comp ratio 6.5:1, later 7:1, power 140 and later 145bhp @ 6500 rpm. The water pump and plunger pump for for fuel air pressure was also driven by the front gear train. Lubrication by dry sump with pressure and scavenge pumps, 4 gallon oil tank under the cockpit (Bisset)

The chassis took advantage of the new no riding mechanics rule; the entire engine/transmission line was offset across to the left of the chassis’ longitudinal centreline, the first car to do so. This placed the engine and prop shaft slightly left of centre. Drive passed through a double-reduction final drive permitting a low driving position. The pilots seat cushion rested on the chassis underpan.

td cockpit

Shot clearly shows the offset driveline as per text and 4 speed ‘box (Bisset)

The front axle was formed from two tapering tubular halves, abutting centrally in flanges which were bolted together, the semi-elliptic suspension leaf-springs passed through forged eyes. The rear semi-elliptic springs were underslung.

td fs l

Semi elliptic springs, friction shocks, front axle tubular made in 2 sections joined in the centre by flanges and a ring of bolts, axle of hollow vee shape (Bisset)

The nose-mounted radiator was raked steeply back, and the finished car’s clean, flat-sided bodywork tapered inwards to a neat tail. It was one of the lowest and most striking-looking front-engined Grand Prix cars ever built.

t d front

TD #3 at Phillip Island, as are all these detail shots, March 2016 (Bisset)

Setright, in his eloquent prose said; ‘As for the car, it was an immediate descendant of the immensely successful 1 1/2 litre voiturette with which Talbot had campaigned in the subordinate class during the immediate preceding years, a car in which Bertarione had continued to redefine the work that he had begun so much earlier in Turin and continued in Wolverhampton. The bore/stroke ratio had dropped somewhat to 1.35 in the quest for higher crankshaft rates, contributing to an output of about 145bhp at 6500rpm with a further 500rpm safely available beyond’.

‘The chassis of the Talbot was altogether more refreshing, its pressed side members being agreeably slender but impressively deep at mid-wheelbase, tapering to the front and rear in recognition of those beam-building properties that Bugatti had already endorsed in his type 35 chassis. Indeed the same principles had been applied to the beam front axle, which displayed a progressive reduction in diameter away from its centre. The whole car was quite meritorious, but it was doomed to enjoy but little success due to the chill penury of STD suppressing what might have been a noble rage’ (!) More of the ‘chill penury’ later!

A more detailed analysis of the cars engine and chassis published in, developed together with Stuart Anderson, then owner and restorer of TD 700 #3, the subject of this piece, is at the end the article.

td segrave

Segrave prior to the start of the 1926 Brooklands JCC 200 Mile race which he won. Note the branding of the TD 700 in England, cars painted green for their UK events some reports say. Nice close-up shot of the cars body in its original form (unattributed)

The TD 700’s made their delayed racing debut in the 1926 English Grand Prix at Brooklands on August 7.

The cars did not start the first 3 Grands Prix of the year but Albert Divo and Henry Segrave led the British race from Robert Benoist’s straight-eight Delage 155B. Divo pitted the leading Talbot after 7 laps with an engine misfire, the ‘plugs were changed. Segrave led Benoist’s Delage until a pit stop for fresh rear tyres. Divo and Segrave demonstrated the new Talbots’ impressive speed, Segrave took the fastest lap, but brake and ignition problems sidelined the new, underdeveloped cars.

On 7 September at the Arpajon Records Day Divo set new records in the International 1500cc class for the Flying Kilometre and Flying Mile.

At the Brooklands JCC 200 Miles on 25 September Segrave and Divo drove to a convincing a 1-2 victory, but the dominant supercharged straight-eight Delages were not present, so it was somewhat of a hollow victory.

On October 17 the Talbot Darracqs were 1st-3rd, Divo, Segrave and Moriceau in the Grand Prix du Salon at Montlhéry, France.

The AICR manufacturers championship was won by Bugatti, the championship Grands’ Prix won by the Bugatti T39A (French, GP d’Europe, Italian) the Delage 155B (RAC British GP) and a Miller at Indianapolis.


Divo TD 700 from the #6 Dubonnet Bugatti T35C, ( it doesn’t look remotely like a Bugatti, some help here would be good!), #12 Williams Sunbeam Course de Formula Libre 2 July 1927, Montlhery (unattributed)


mont 1

Albert Divo, TD 700 Montlhery 2 July 1927 (unattributed)

For 1927 Bertarione and Becchia improved their design; they transferred the oil cooler to the front of the car mounting it beneath the radiator. Large wire mesh openings were substituted for bonnet louvres and the front spring shackles were moved to the front ends of the springs. 1927 cars also had wider frames. In essence though the cars still lacked ‘race development’.

The first race entered was the GP de Provence at Miramas on 27 March where Moriceau and Williams were 1/2 in their heat but the cars were withdrawn from the final after a dispute, the subject of which is not disclosed.

The race program for the Suresnes concern was savaged as the group was in great financial trouble. One car shared by Williams/Moriceau was 4th in the French Grand Prix at Montlhéry on 3 July, the race won by Benoist’s Delage 155B while Divo won the Formule Libre supporting event on 2 July.

Delage won the 1927 AICR Manufacturers championship with Benioist’s 155B dominant, winning the French, Spanish, Italian and British GP’s. Duesenberg won at Indy, the other championship round.

Divo set a new record for the flying mile on 4 September during the Arpajon Records Day but after that the STD board closed its racing program, the 3 700’s were sold to Italian privateer Emilio Materassi.

Emilio offered his services to Bugatti as driver/team manager, after Ettore declined he created his own team, ‘Scuderia Materassi’. The straight-8 Talbots were delivered to Materassi’s workshop and modified.

The team made its ‘Talbot debut’ in the 1928 Tripoli Grand Prix at Mellaha, Libya, at that time an Italian colonial province. Materassi’s cars were disqualified after a protest over car weights by Nuvolari who then won the race.

td mater

Materassi, TD700 and team, date and place unknown (unattributed)

Back in Italy Materassi contested the Circuito di Alessandria on 23 April. Emilio was 4th, Nuvolari won again. Driving one of the modified Talbots, Luigi Arcangeli won the Circuito di Cremona, with Materassi 3rd.

Emilio Materassi won his local Circuito del Mugello event for the third time on 3 June.

Emilio was 3rd behind Chirons and Brilli-Peri’s Bugatti T35C’s on the 10 June Premio Reale di Roma at the Circuito Tre Fontana, Arcangeli won the Circuito di Cremona on 24 June from Nuvolari’s Bug T35C, Materassi was 3rd.

In the Coppa Acerbo on 4 August at Pescara, Materassi retired. Team mate Arcangeli received facial injuries from a flying stone, Materassi replaced him, eventually finishing 2nd behind winner Campari’s Alfa Romeo P2.

Materassi took a Circuito del Montenero win at Livorno. He beat Nuvolari (Bugatti T35C) and Giuseppe Campari (Alfa Romeo 6C1500).

Then on to the terrible Italian Grand Prix at Monza on 9 September 1928.

Materassi started from grid  3 but was forced to make two early pit stops. Whilst trying to regain lost time that he crashed, killing himself and 23 spectators on lap 17.

The car slid to the left in a straight line, just after ‘the Parabolica’ when he tried to overtake Giulio Foresti’s Bugatti T35C, after this sharp change of direction the Talbot crossed the track, went through the fence and into the crowd. The cause, perhaps mechanical failure, has never been determined. The other team cars of Arcangeli, Brilli-Peri and Comotti were withdrawn.

mat monza

Aftermath of the Materassi Monza accident (Ullstein bild)

Materassi’s surviving team members continued to race the cars in 1929.

Brilli-Peri won the Tripoli GP in March, and Circuit di Mugello in June. In April Arcangeli and Brilli-Peri  entered the Circuito di Alessandria, Gastone was 13th.

On 26 May Arcangeli won the 1500cc class and was 4th outright in the Premio Reale di Roma. Brilli-Peri won the Circuito di Mugello on 9 June from Morandi’s OM 665. Arcangeli was 4th in the Coppa Ciano at the Montenero on 21 July.

At the Monza GP on 15th September, Tazio Nuvolari’s TD 700 was 2nd in his heat behind Arcangeli  in a sister car and 2nd again in the final, this time behind Varzi’s Alfa P2. A fortnight later on 29 September Arcangeli was 4th at the Circuit de Cremona, Brilli-Peri won in an Alfa P2.

td monaco

Clemente Biondetti in his Scuderia Materassi TD 700 ahead of Louis Chiron’s 2nd placed Bugatti T35C in the 6 April Monaco 1930 GP. Dreyfus won in another T35C, Biondetti DNF with undisclosed mechanical dramas on lap 13 (unattributed)

The cars raced on into 1930, when Count Gastone Brilli-Peri, who led the team, crashed fatally during practice of the Tripoli Grand Prix on 23 March. Teammate Clemente Biondetti won the 1500cc Voiturette class heat and was 3rd in the final.

On April 6 Biondetti failed to finish the Monaco GP on 6 April. Biondetti was 4th in the Premio Reale di Roma at Tre Fontana on 25 May, the race won by Arcangeli’s Maserati 8C2500.

At the Coppa Acerbo, Pescara on 17 August Brivio was 4th with Biondetti DNF. At Monza for the GP di Monza on 7 September Biondetti was 5th in his heat, both he and Brivio failed to qualify for the final.

In October 1930 the cars were sold to Milanese engineer/owner-driver Enrico Platé.

Plate raced them in further modified form and from 1931 re-assembled two of them, probably the two crashed Monza/Tripoli cars, around entirely redesigned, stiffer frames made by Meroni SA of Turin.

The Meroni chassis were slightly narrower, but picked up the unchanged Talbot engines, transmission and drivelines. Platé also converted the braking system, the mechanical Perrot system replaced by an early version of Lockheed-Wagner hydraulic brakes. An early Weber carburettor was also incorporated.

Enrico ran the cars mainly in Italian domestic events, drivers included Ermini, Pratesi and Vismara racing in Voiturette events.

In 1936 Platé sold the two Meroni chassis cars. One went to Dr ‘Mario’ Massacurati’s Eagle racing team, the other, chassis # 3 to British amateur gentleman-driver, Antony Powys-Lybbe.

td brook

Powys-Lybbe at Brooklands, date unknown (unattributed)

Dick Seaman’s 9 year old straight-eight Delage, the TD’s foe in 1926/7 dominated Voiturette racing during 1936. Powys-Lybbe was advised by Brooklands preparation specialists Thomson & Taylor that the Talbot Darracq 700 being sold by Platé could be as competitive as Seaman’s amazing, modified Delage.

The car wasn’t delivered to Harwich until February 1937 after bureaucratic banking and customs issues. Powys-Lybbe, who spent half the cost of the car again on customs duties decided he wanted to spend little more on it, instructing Thomson & Taylor just to ‘get it going’. The complex car needed much greater attention than this and with wrong plugs, wrong fuel and wrong timing he had little success with it.


TD 700 being fettled, probably in Thomson and Taylors workshop, Brooklands 1 March 1938 (Fox Photos)

He drove it in a few Brooklands events, raced it at Cork, Ireland, then sold it on the basis that as an army reserve officer he was likely to be called up, World War 2 was imminent.

Graham Radford bought it and retained it throughout the war. Postwar he drove it several times, at Shelsley Walsh and Gransden Lodge in 1947 and Luton Hoo in 1948 before selling it to Jack Day, on a trip to the UK to buy a car for Australian events.

By that time the successful veteran had sold his ‘Day Special’, a Bugatti T39 with a Ford V8 engine and gearbox, he wanted a car in which he could have some fun, and in more serious events enter it for other drivers.

td house

Jack Day settles the TD 700 into its new home in suburban Melbourne, May 1949 (Blanden Collection)

Day’s Talbot arrived in Melbourne, Victoria, in May 1949 following considerable pre-publicity. Over the next five years it ran in all kinds of events, initially with some success. towed on a trailer behind his Phantom I Rolls-Royce!

Talbot Darracq AMS cover

td ams race

The TD’s first Australian event was at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne as above, the weekend a scorcher somewhat akin to the 1948 AGP meeting at nearby Point Cook according to the AMS meeting report. The car was driven by Cec Warren to 2nd in the under 1500cc scratch race. 1st and 3rd were the Bill Patterson and Lex Davison supercharged MG TC Spls. Stan Jones was 4th in his HRG 1500. All three were later Australian Gold Star champions.

Of the TD AMS said ; Jack Day’s TD looked and sounded grand, finishing 2nd in the Under 1500 scratch. Warren started to have axle tramp as he braked for corners, it caused a handbrake cable to foul a spring shackle and lock one brake partly on’

AMS mischievously mused ‘it is interesting, but unprofitable to note how the Ken Wylie Austin A40 Spl s/c and Patterson’s TC would have fared in 1926 1 1/2 litre GP racing’.

Cec Warren drove it to a Balcombe, on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, heat win on 12 June 1950, the meeting held on the Kings Birthday weekend. In November Warren again drove it in the 2 day meeting at Ballarat finishing 6th in the ‘A Grade’ 6 lapper on the Saturday.

At Bathurst in October 1951 it was timed at 113.20mph over the ‘Flying Quarter’ and a month later was 9th in the Victorian Trophy at Ballarat’s airfield circuit.

In 1952 Reg Nutt raced the car at Fishermans Bend at the LCCA/Harley Club meeting.

In a lead up to the 1953 Australian Grand Prix Nutt raced it at Fishermans Bend again on October 3.  Clearly the engine would have required a major rebuild if it threw a rod at the Albert Park, AGP meeting, damage less severe depending upon the havoc caused if it dropped a valve.

Blanden records ‘Day tried to replace the roller big end bearings with white metal however at a Phillip Island event in the early 1960’s when driven by Des O’Brien it threw a rod in a vintage event’.

Day then rebuilt the engine to roller bearing spec and discarded the original 4 speed manual ‘box, replacing it with an ENV pre-selector transmission which because of its small size was completely inadequate. The gearbox change was made shortly before he died.

TD 700 #3 then passed to Evelyn Porter, Days partner, the car was stored at one of Jack’s properties at Mount Martha, beachside, on the Mornington Peninsula. The car slumbered for some 20 years forgotten by most, Porter rejected all offers to sell until it Stuart Anderson bought it in 1988.

td discovery

TD 700 #3 as repatriated from the Mt Martha garage of Day’s partner in 1988, it looks pretty good in all the circumstances. Tricolour, badge at top of rad is ‘Light Car Club of Australia’ (Anderson)

He first saw the car as a teenager on its arrival in Australia in 1949. In an oh-so-familiar pattern the car he was so impressed in his youth; its design, engineering, supercharged engine, its sight and sound, he ultimately acquired. It was ‘forlorn and derelict, but substantially complete’.

‘The car was in scruffy condition and was rescued from a shed locked up like Fort Knox. It was buried under junk and festooned with creepers, but amazingly nothing was broken’ said Anderson.

Restoration occupied some twenty years plus much fine engineering capability and skill, contributed by a number of specialists.

TD #3 retains the Enrico Platé/Meroni SA replacement chassis. It was completely dismantled, extraneous holes welded, the whole lot sand-blasted and repainted.

The engine was painstakingly restored. A new crankcase re-cast in LM25 hardened alloy and machined to original specifications was carried out by Billmans Foundry at Castlemaine, in Victoria’s Central Goldfields. Castlemaine is a centre of the Australian Hot Rod world and is full of specialist artisans capable of doing all sorts of design, fabrication, welding, casting and so on.

The crankcase contains a new set of four two-cylinder blocks, each one CNC cut from a solid billet of EN36A steel with all new sheet-steel water jackets and valve support plates. A new crankshaft was made using the original as the pattern, cut from two solid billets by Leaney Engineering in Bayswater, an outer eastern Melbourne suburb

New valves and guides were made with much of the machining, crank and engine work done by Crankshaft Rebuilders, at Blackburn again in Melbourne’s east.

A new gearbox to the original drawings was made by the highly talented Barry Linger in the UK.

In terms of the cars body Anderson’s choices were to restore the Plate built body on the car noting it retains its Meroni chassis fitted at the same time, or construct a body in the same style as the original to fit to the Meroni chassis.

Stuart chose the latter option, to restore the car to its original 1920s style by specialist coachbuilder/racer Richard Stanley Coach Craft, again based in Melbourne’s east, the finished car looks an absolute treat! It made its track debut in 2008.

Anderson used the car for a while before sending it to the UK for auction by Bonhams, fortunately it didn’t sell and returned to Australia. Noel Cunningham of Victoria acquired it, its in the ‘right hands’ and always attracts the attention a car of its pedigree deserves whenever he runs it, my photos were taken at the Phillip Island historic meeting a short time ago, March 2016.

In fact the car is about to travel to the UK with Noel for Goodwood, so a good few of you will get the chance to see and hear it.

Talbot Darracq Bonhams ad

Technical Specifications…

This section of the article borrows and truncates several articles on these wonderful cars by written together with Stuart Anderson. Checkout this website if you have not discovered it;

td rear

Springs semi elliptic and small friction shocks, back axle, like the front passed thru the chassis side members. Prop shaft from ‘box was tubular. Brakes originally mechanical, later updated as per text to hydraulic operation (Bisset)


After purchase of the three cars from Materassi in 1931, Gigi Plate ‘re-chassied’ two of them with new channel section frames, made by Meroni S.A. of Torino.

They were much more conventional than the STD pressed steel lattice girder chassis, their dimensions such that axles, engines and transmissions could be swapped over without modification. Says Anderson, ‘It is much stiffer up front than the original and obviated the front axle tramp under heavy braking and high speed steering wander which was a problem with the torsionally flexible lattice girder chassis. This problem also affected the Delage opposition it seems, for in both cases the overall length of the gearbox-engine-blower was enormous, with too much unbraced chassis over that length.’


‘…the (cars) piece de resistance was the straight-eight roller bearing DOHC supercharged engine…and its close relationship with the powerful Fiat 404/405′.

‘Vincenzo Bertarione and Walter Becchia, fresh from Fiat, came to work for STD… The two designers created the firm’s immensely successful Sunbeam DOHC six and a 1500cc four, based on existing Fiat engines’…’Louis Coatalen then asked the two Italians to draw up a new engine for the 1926 Grand Prix formula; that it would again be similar to the Fiats they had helped design was taken for granted’.

td blocks


Cylinder Head..

‘Taking it from the top, both engines reverted to a two valve combustion chamber after using four valves per cylinder, but with a significantly larger intake valve (by some 20 percent). The valve angle for the Fiat was 102 degrees, the Talbot 90 degrees. Both used roller bearings and finger type cam followers.

‘So far, very similar. But as Griff Borgeson wrote in his classic book, The Classic Twin Cam Engine, ‘A really major difference existed in the methods of driving the camshafts’. ‘A highly original Y shaped arrangement of three beveled shafts was used for the Fiat and a classical spur gear train in the Sunbeam.’ We know that the TD 1500 carried on the same spur gear arrangement’.

‘The technique used to weld the heads to the forged steel cylinder dated from the 1900s, but the DOHC concept made it a challenge. Borgeson published a rare photo of a cutaway section of the Fiat 404/405 cylinder and head, and we are able to compare it to the Talbot cylinder/head construction. Here the similarities are more than striking’.

‘Both engines made use of full length camshaft boxes that were bolted to the four sets of welded heads which were in turn fitted with the combustion chambers/piston cylinders. Obviously, the Fiat influence was very clear.’

‘Camshafts are hollow, and each cam lobe drilled so that there is a good supply of oil to the valve gear. Surplus oil spills down through drains front and rear, lubricating the cam drive gears at the rear, and the train of gears for water pump and other ancillaries at front. Valves are operated by finger-type cam followers, each individually mounted, so that they can be withdrawn individually for adjustments without disturbing all the rest of the gear and valve clearance adjustments are made using hardened steel lash-caps of varying thickness’.

td crankcase

Complex crankcase casting, upper half on left, lower on the right (Anderson/

Crankcase, sump and crankshaft

‘The great complexity of the crankcase casting was very similar to that of the rival Delage.

Split roller bearings were relatively new, and used by STD instead of the normal one-piece roller bearings which necessitating a multi-piece crankshaft to accommodate the roller cages. Long through-bolts held the whole lot together, with threaded ends projecting through the upper surface of the upper half to act as locating and holding-down bolts for the 4 cylinder blocks. When assembled, there is virtually a solid cast wall and a bearing each side of each crank throw – almost like eight single cylinder engines in a row’.

td crank

Original crank (Anderson/

‘The crankshaft is actually two four cylinder crankshafts, joined at 90 degrees to each other, giving a firing order of: 1,5,3,7,4,8,2,6. There are 10 main bearings, the one at the front being a large ball bearing acting as a thrust, the other 9 are all split cage roller bearings, the rear two straddling the crankshaft gear which drives the oil pumps below, and the cam drive above’.

‘STD did a lot of work on the engine in the winter of 1926-27, changing manifold pressures, diameters and temperatures, but Anderson thinks that problems may have been with the Solex carburetors. The Australian crew also eliminated cold start reluctance when fuel droplets can tend to fall out of suspension over the long manifold length, by fitting a Kigass pump and pipework. ‘It is very long and tortuous but in main, works well,’ said Anderson’.

td carbs

You can’t see much of the air cleaner in the earlier shot, but see the carb bolted to the supercharger. Water pump and plunger pump for fuel air pressure also driven off the front gear train. Note throttle linkage and two return springs, standard of workmanship in Anderson’s restoration outstanding (Bisset)

TD 700 Engine Specifications

Straight eight, 56mm bore X 75.5mm stroke, 1485cc.

Construction comprises four welded steel blocks consisting of two cylinders each integral with cylinder block

Crankcase: two piece cast light alloy split on crankshaft centerline, with shallow oil sump below acting as collector for scavenge pump of dry sump oiling system
Two piece crankshaft, split in middle joined by a large circular flange on each piece, fitting neatly into a step on the other, and secured by a ring of 12 very tight-fitting bolts.
Rod big ends split roller

DOHC heads, valve angle 90 degrees, of steel welded construction integral with cylinders
Domed pistons, 7:1 compression ratio, valve gear triple coil valve springs
Camshaft case 10 roller bearings, Cam drive, gears driven from rear of engine

Roots Supercharger, front driven with Solex Carb
Magneto ignition, Bosch

Power 160 bhp at 7200 rpm (contemporary reports say 140/145 @ 6500)


G Howard & Ors ‘History of The Australian GP’, J Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, article by Pete Vack and Stuart Anderson, The Nostalgia Forum, Bonhams auction catalogue, LJK Setright ‘The Grand Prix’, Stephen Dalton Collection, TD article by Bob Shepherd in ‘Australian Motor Sports’ October 1951

Photo Credits…

Martin Stubbs, Dacre Stubbs Collection, Stephen Dalton, Arnold Terdich Collection, Stuart Anderson

Tailpiece: Gastone Brilli-Peri TD700 place and date unknown…




Hot Wheels…

Posted: April 21, 2016 in Fotos, Obscurities















The Museum of Urban Art, Sau Paulo, Brazil…

My partner tripped over this on Instagram, luvvit, but she has no idea who the artist is. I’d like to know as it reminds me of my ‘Dinky’ childhood, ‘Hot Wheels’ the toy cars of the generations after mine!

Hot Wheels are still made, here are the top 50 of their cars, just in case you wanted to know!;


Museum of Urban Art, Brazil


A Shelby American mechanic fettles the Bruce McLaren/Ken Miles Ford GT40 Mk2 ‘106’ prior to the Le Mans 24 Hours commencement on 20 June 1965…

I always thought the 4.7/5 litre GT40 variants were masterpieces of Eric Broadley packaging, if a bit beefy given the steel rather than aluminium monocoque mandated by Ford- but the 7 litre Mk2 and Mk4 are altogether less subtle expressions of the genre! Successful ones at that.

You can’t see ‘Henrys’ cast iron blocked, ally headed 427cid pushrod OHV V8 under all the plumbing, the dry sumped 90 degree, 107.2mm X 96.1mm lump was fed by a single, big Holley 4-barrel 780CFM carb developing circa 485bhp@6200rpm and 475lb.ft of torque@3200-3600rpm, plenty for a car weighing 1200Kg.
The ‘cross-over’ exhaust sytem is a masterpice of the pipe-benders art, mufflers interesting and unusual on a racer, maybe to save the drivers ears a tad? You can just see the gulping, big mouth of the monster Holley in front of the exhausts.

To the right near the roof is the water radiator neck, filler and temperature sender, to the right are the gold colored fuel pumps, the fuel tank had a capacity of 159 litres.

You can see the Kar-Kraft / Ford T44 four-speed ‘box, in fact ’twas the failure of this very special transaxle, the design of which was led by Ed Hull, which caused chassis #’106′ retirement on lap 45 of the classic.

There are plenty of lovely ‘Aeroquip’ aircraft braided fittings too, well in advance of their adoption in F1, for brake lines and various oil feeds around the transaxle, note the transmission oil-radiator under the mech’s elbow.

See the big, rear, grey stove enamelled chassis diaphragm below the exhaust and above the ‘box to support the engine/gearbox and location of the rear suspension, the top of the spring/shock’s clear- there, too, is the brake cooling duct which takes air collected from the body. Big cast magnesium uprights, beefy driveshafts and top suspension link and forward facing radius rod and brake calipers for the outboard mounted, ventilated discs are also in shot.


The quick-lift jack and ‘captive frame’ on the car is typical of Shelby’s thoughfulness and endurance racing knowledge…

Mind you they had a shocker of a race!

Five cars were entered, two Mark 2’s and three Daytona Cobra Coupes and all failed to finish; the Miles/McLaren Mk2 after 45 laps due to gearbox failure, the Amon/P Hill Mk2 on lap 89-clutch. The Johnson/Payne Daytona ‘2287’ was out on lap 158-head gasket, Gurney/Jerry Grant Daytona ‘2286’ on lap 204-engine and Daytona ‘2601’ Schlesser/Allen Grant on lap 111-clutch.

So, a disaster for Ford, their best placed car was the AC Cars Ltd entered Daytona Cobra Coupe driven by Sears/Thomson which finished eighth, the race was won, famously by the 3.3 litre V12 Ferrari 250LM of Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt, the latter flogging the thing to within an inch of its life!

It was Ferrari’s last Le Mans win with the first of four on the trot to come for Ford from 1966-69- wins for the Mk2 and Mk4 in 1966 and 1967 and 1968/9 for the Mk1 5 litre GT40.

Finally, Shelby American made amends in 1966, taking the first two places in the infamous ‘Ford Form Finish’ ahead of arch rivals, the Holman Moody prepared Ford Mk2’s…




Le Mans 1965 start.

The Amon/Hill GT40 Mk2 on pole, then Surtees/Scarfiotti Ferrari 330P2 , Bondurant/Bucknum GT40 in 3 and McLaren/Miles GT40 Mk2 in grid 4



McLaren/Miles Ford GT40 Mk2 early in the race, Le Mans 1965.

Both Mk2’s failed due to transaxle preparation mistakes with a gear that was intended for scrap being put into one gearbox and dirt on a bearing surface in the other.



Carroll Shelby beside the Chris Amon/Phil Hill GT40 Mk2 chassis ‘106’ at Le Mans 1965- note the ‘at meeting’ fabricated rear spoiler addition.



Shelby American Le Mans garage- Daytona Cobra Coupes #12 Schlesser/J Grant, #10 Johnson/Payne #9 Gurney/A Grant- all DNF.


Rainer Schlegelmilch,

Tailpiece: Filipinetti’s GT40 Mk2, prepped by Shelby American on the way to Europe at LAX, it too failed to finish driven by Ronnie Bucknum and Herbie Muller…



Tom Phillis…

Posted: April 18, 2016 in Fotos, Obscurities
Tags: ,


Phillis takes his Honda 350/4 for a practice lap at The Isle Of Man on June 4 1962…

Sadly, the young Australian World Champion and GP winner was killed on lap 2 of the 350cc event on 6 June aged 28.

Born in Marrickville in Sydney’s inner west on April 9, 1934, Phillis was a trend-setting international motorcycle racer as the first rider to win a World Championship Grand Prix on a Japanese machine. Aboard a Honda 125 he won the 1961 Spanish 125GP at Montjuic Park, Barcelona on 23 April.

He was the first Aussie to achieve a ‘Grand Prix Double’, (Clermont Ferrand France 21 May 1961 aboard Honda’s 125 and 500cc) the first man to lap the Isle of Man at 100mph on a push-rod bike and was Australia’s second World Motorcycle Champion. (Keith Campbell, the first, won the 1957 350 World Championship aboard a Moto Guzzi) His record of six GP wins in the ’61 season wasn’t improved upon by another Australian rider until Gregg Hansford did so in 1978).

Phillis clinched a drama-filled World 1961 125 Championship in the last round on October 15 in Argentina, whilst Mike Hailwood won the World 250 Championship on a machine supplied by the British Honda agent.


Phillis aboard a Norton on the Fishermans Bend, Melbourne grid in February 1959 (Charles Rice)

Tom Phillis’ daughter Debra has created an interesting website about her fathers racing exploits, click here for an interesting read and array of photographs of this great rider;


Central Press,

Tailpiece: Tom Phillis takes Honda’s first ever championship GP win at Montjuic Park, Barcelona, Spanish 125cc GP on 23 April 1961…





(Susan Wood)

The expressions on the faces of this lot are priceless! G Hill and fans sussing out a Hawker Harrier Jump-Jet maybe…

The showstopper at the Australian Grand Prix every year is the McDonnell Douglas FA18 Hornet, it always rather puts the performance of F1 cars and their ‘spectacle’ into context!


Red Bull and Hornet, AGP pre-promotion 2014 (RAAF)

I’ll never forget the first year in Adelaide, 1985 on the Thursday when a General Dynamics F111 fighter flew unannounced at ‘treetops height’, fast whilst we were strolling through the parklands. We hit the deck quicker than a Viet-Cong guerrilla, shouting ‘whatt the faaaaaaark wozzitt??!!’ as it roared past in the direction of North Adelaide.

The Graham Hill photo Getty Images caption is typically useless, it’s dated 1 January 1970, the circuit unidentified, praps one of you Poms can help?!

It’s either the ’69 or ’70 British GP I guess, ’69 at Silverstone maybe, the non-championship F1 races wouldn’t rate a Harrier?


Hawker Siddeley P1127 prototype at Farnborough Air Show on 10 September 1964. Amazing V/STOL, vertical short take off and landing technology. The plane entered production as the Hawker Jump Jet (Victor Blackman)


Susan Wood, RAAF

Tailpiece: Rubens, Ferrari and FA18…



fishermans bend

Luvverly poster/program to promote the October 1955 race meeting at Fishermans Bend, 6 Km west of Melbourne’s CBD…

My guess is that the ‘artists car’ is Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 and the bike an MV Agusta 4…

fishos buildings

Fishermans Bend Aerodrome was located near the emergence of the Yarra River with Port Phillip Bay. The area was a vast swamp owned by the Commonwealth Government. In the early 1930s, a primitive airstrip was built there which was used by gliding and light aircraft enthusiasts.

In 1935 the Government built the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) factory, together with a long sealed airstrip. CAC is the best known of the Australian aircraft manufacturers of the Word War 2 and post war era’s. It began as a private company founded by Lawrence Wackett, a captain with the Australian Flying Corps known for his engineering ingenuity. After World War I, Wackett began design and manufacture of civil aircraft.

‘The CAC was conceived in 1935 by Essington Lewis then managing director of BHP. It was a private company formed by a consortium including BHP and GMH (Holden) to manufacture military aircraft with the intention of providing Australia with the tools to fight the modern war that was looming’.

‘Land was selected adjoining the recently completed GMH (General Motors Holden, 191 Salmon Street) factory at Fishermans Bend.

The factory manufactured a modified US designed advanced trainer under licence which became known as the Wirraway. Other wartime aircraft built included the Wackett elementary trainer, the P51 Mustang and the Boomerang, a fighter aircraft conceived, designed and manufactured in little over three months’.

fishos planes

Bristol Beaufort Mk VIII being built at Fishermans Bend in 1943 (unattributed)

‘Fishermans Bend became a centre of the wartime aircraft industry with the adjacent Department of Aircraft Production factories and the Aeronautical Research Laboratories. During the war CAC produced two interesting prototypes which sadly never made it into production. The Woomera, the first was a three seater medium bomber that had remotely operated turrets in the rear engine nacelles. The other was an interceptor, the CA-15 or Kangaroo, it was a 721 km/h fast fighter with a range of 4000 Km’.

‘After the war the CAC Sabre, one of the ultimate Sabres of the type was built. With a more powerful Avon turbojet and twin 30mm cannons the (American) frame was 60% redesigned. Post WW2 the facilities continued manufacturing and assembling aircraft’.

aerial with airfield

Aerial view of Yarra River, Newport and Fishermans Bend circa 1940-50. The smoke is coming from the Newport Power Station. To its right is the exit of the Yarra River into Port Phillip Bay. The straight road which ends at the Yarra near the berthed ship is Williamstown Road, there was a car ferry to cross the Yarra, the Westgate Bridge was opened in the mid-70’s. In the middle of the shot are the runways of the airfield used for racing. Shot also shows the Dept of Aircraft Production, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the GMH Holden factory on the right or ‘above’ the runways. Melbourne CBD is lost in the haze at the top of shot but not far away as the crow fly’s (Francis Hodgson)

For the aviation history buffs click on this link to a very detailed publication about Fishermans Bend’s 60 year role in Australian Aviation…

Its a government document of value. Therefore a global rarity.

Click to access a274981.pdf

The Aerodrome was also used for car and motorcycle racing from 1949 to 1966, using the main airstrip and the 3 km perimeter road.

The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was taken over in 1986 and the majority of its buildings demolished in 2003-04.

fishos start

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

‘Westgate Park’ now occupies part of former CAC land. The aerodrome’s runway became Todd Road, the taxi runway became Wharf Road. A legacy of the past is found the names of some of the nearby streets; Sabre Drive, Wirraway Drive and Canberra Drive. The railway line which serviced industry in the area remains but is no longer used and isn’t connected to the contemporary rail system.

The former CAC factory, at 344-370 Lorimer Street and 231-249 Todd Road Port Melbourne, was constructed from 1937 to manufacture military aircraft.

The only remaining buildings of the extensive factories are a section of ‘saw-tooth’ factory to the west (now part of Hawker de Havilland/Boeing) and four hangars at the eastern end of the former factory at the corner of Lorimer Street and Todd Road. These hangars, dating from WW2 comprise one US made ‘Butler’ and three British designed ‘Bellman’ hangars.

jolly fishos

Fishermans Bend sports car race October 1958. #16 Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax, various Austin Healey 100’s and a Lotus 11 behind Jolly. To the far right is the Coad Bros Vauxhall Holden Repco Spl which the family still owns (Kevin Drage)

Motor Racing at Fishermans Bend…

Airfield circuits popped up post World War 2 globally; in Australia at Point Cook, Fishermans Bend, Leyburn, Caversham, Mallala and Lowood.

The infrastructure was available, people were looking for things to do postwar and governments sought ways of creating economic activity locally.

fishos scene

Fishos’ paddock, 10 February 1957. It would have been hot but at least it was sealed, unlike all but airfield circuits at the time! #49 the Graham Hoinville MG TC, which the prominent competitor, engineer and CAMS official still owns! (unattributed)

These photos are not to show a particular race meeting but rather are selected to ‘taste’ the flavour of the place; typically airfield flat and featureless, desolate, industrial backdrops and devoid of much in the way of amenities or safety considerations.

blue car at f bend

Greg McEwin’s HRG 1500 from South Australia. The body of this car, styled on the Healey Silverstone was built by Ray Manser in Adelaide, it first raced at Port Wakefield in September 1951.Note the aircraft factory backdrop, October 1953 meeting (SLV)

The Light Car Club of Australia and the Harley Motor Cycle Club were the circuits promoters on behalf of the Air Force Association, meetings were run to raise money for a variety of disparate charities over the years.

The pent up demand for entertainment post war is shown by a Melbourne ‘The Age’ newspaper  article dated 31 October 1949 which estimated crowd numbers at 70000 people for a program of car and ‘bike events! Staggering really. Crowds of over 30000 were common, by 1952 ‘The Age’ pointing out the demand for motor sport should the quality of venues be improved.


A Cooper Bristol and Maybach 3 (or 4 Chev) , Fishermans Bend. I found this shot in the SLV archive, i’m certain about the cars, thats the easy bit! Perhaps its Tom Hawkes CB leading Stan Jones in Maybach, but it could be another CB and could be Ern Seeliger in Maybach. Stan retained Maybach after he acquired his 250F. Ern modified the car with Chev engine and mainly raced it but Stan used the car right up to 1959 on occasion. Interested to get a view from Aussie enthusiasts as to who and when (SLV/Reg Fulford Collection)

‘Fishos’ was used up until 1960 for road racing, as the surface deteriorated the government was unwilling to resurface it just for the sake of motor-racing.

The last road-race meeting was organised by the LCCA on 14 February and the last sprint meeting by the Victorian Amateur Drivers Club on May 5, 1960.

The airstrip was then used as a drag racing venue until 1966, ‘Riverside Raceway’ played an important part in the formative stages of Drag Racing in Australia…


(Ray Sprague Collection)


Early sixties wonderful Fishos scene (T Beyer)



Unmistakable Fishermans Bend backdrop. The ‘Rails’ of Ash Marshall (near) and ‘Fizzball’ Collins at Riverside in 1965 (


Drag racers view- cars lined up date unknown (T Beyer)

Random Fishos’ Shots…

austin healey 100's

Ron Phillips and Doug Whiteford in Austin Healey 100S’ 14 October 1956. Dougs #’3907′ a little more understeering than Phillips #’3906′ (unattributed)


lukey bristol

Len Lukey in his Lukey/Cooper Bristol after finishing 2nd in the October 1958 Victorian Road racing Championship, Derek Jolly in brown congratulating him. Ted Gray won this race in the Tornado i wrote about a while ago (Kevin Drage)


vrrc 1

After the finish of the Victorian Road Racing Championship October 1958. Winner is Ted Gray in the dark blue Tornado 2 Chev V8, light blue car Ern Seeliger in Maybach 4 Chev V8 and the yellow Cooper T41 Climax of Austin Miller . Note how flat and featureless the place is, circuit in classic period style bordered by hay bales (David Van Dal)


lap scoring

Lap charting Fishos 1949 style. Wonderful evocative shot from Martin Stubbs archive. Male at left in bright, white shirt Bib Stillwell 4 time Gold Star champion in the 60’s, beefy guy is Peter Ward and elegant lady with the ‘big’ lapchart is Diana Davison, Lex’ wife (Dacre Stubbs Archive)


2 red cars @ f bend

Part of the nose of the blue McEwin HRG, O’Donohue’s Jim Gullan built Ballot Olds and Otto Stone’s MG K3, October 1953 meeting (SLV)



Paul England in the Ausca Holden from Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Otto Stone in the Norman Hamilton owned Porsche 550 Spyder and Ron Phillips Austin Healey 100S 10 February 1957 (unattributed)


bob jane 300s

Bob Jane on the Fishermans Bend grid October 1958. Ex-works Maserati 300S, his debut in the car in which he was ‘wild and wooly’! He got the hang of the racing caper, dual Australian Touring Car Champion in 1971 and 1972 (Kevin Drage)


wylie and jb fb vic trophy 54

Ken Wylie and Jack Brabham Wylie Javelin and Cooper T23 Bristol. 22 March 1954 Victoria Trophy (SLV)


lex, vic trophy march 54

Lex Davison, HWM Jaguar, Victoria Trophy 1954. Davison won the 1954 AGP at Southport on Queenslands Gold Coast in this car (SLV)

Credits…,, Greg Smith, Francis Hodgson, Kevin Drage, David Van Dal, Dacre Stubbs Archive, Geoff Green, State Library of Victoria, Reg Fulford Collection, Ray Sprague Collection,

Thanks to Pat Ryan, Stephen Dalton and Shane Bowden for helping ID some of the cars in the SLV shots

Tailpiece: ‘Circuit Maps’…

(O Plada)


aerial 2


(O Plada)