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…
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’.
‘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’.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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…
Random Fishos’ Shots…
progcovers.com, australiaforeveryone.com, Greg Smith, Francis Hodgson, Kevin Drage, David Van Dal, Dacre Stubbs Archive, Geoff Green, State Library of Victoria, Reg Fulford Collection, Ray Sprague Collection, moondog.net.au
Thanks to Pat Ryan, Stephen Dalton and Shane Bowden for helping ID some of the cars in the SLV shots
Tailpiece: ‘Circuit Map’…