Who, What, Where and When…

Posted: September 18, 2016 in Fotos, Who,What,Where & When...?
Tags: , , ,

bmw 328 11 rob roy 1946

The year is 1946, it isn’t Germany!…

Many thanks to Stephen Dalton for identifying the car and driver who are famous in the pantheon of Australian motor racing indeed. Frank Pratt drove this 328 to victory in the Australian Grand Prix at Point Cook, not too far away from Rob Roy in January 1948. The event featured is the 11th Rob Roy on 24 November 1946, one of Pratt’s first drives in the car.

This much raced 328, chassis #85136, was imported to Oz by Sydney driver/businessman John Snow on one of his trips to Europe. He bought it from a German General in 1937, Snow acquired it on behalf of George Martin, president of the Light Car Club, Melbourne.

Martin raced it in the ’38 AGP at Bathurst won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA R10B, then unfortunately lost his life in the car on the return trip to Melbourne in an accident near Wagga Wagga.


George Martin in the 328 at left 15th, and John Crouch MG TA 5th, 1938 AGP at Bathurst, some of the challenges of the gravel track obvious in this shot (Dave Sullivan)

Repaired, by 1946 the car passed into the hands of Geelong motor cycle racer/dealer Frank Pratt who famously won his first circuit race in it; the 1948 Australian Grand Prix, at Point Cook airforce base west of Melbourne.

As a very successful motor cycle racer he was not new to competition and racecraft. He also had a favourable handicap, the AGP was run to F Libre and handicapped for many years. Pratt scored a lucky win with high speed consistency, the car prepared by racer/engineer Harry Firth.

Dalton adds; ‘..Les Murphy (was) mentioned as a possible driver of the car, because Pratt was injured at a Ballarat Motorcycle meeting. But not car preparation, Harry Firth said he did the brakes, chassis and gearbox on the BMW. Mick Scott did the engine. Harry also mentions preparing the Gaze HRG 1500, but wasn’t allowed to do the Alta’ which Gaze retired after 5 laps.

In a race run in horrid, stifling hot summer conditions which took their toll on both cars and their pilots especially the highly strung single-seaters and racing cars, Frank triumphed.


Pratt on his way to victory on a horrible Melbourne summers day, AGP, Point Cook, January 26 1948, BMW 328 (George Thomas)

Click here for an interesting article about Frank Pratt, little has been written about him. ‘Pratt and Osborne’ still exists as a motor-cycle dealership in Geelong, a port city 75 Km from Melbourne on Port Phillip Bay. http://www.smcc.com.au/docs/Leonard%20Frank%20Pratt.pdf

The BMW was later raced by Peter McKenna all over Australia; at Fishermans Bend, Ballarat Airfield and Albert Park in Victoria and as far afield as Southport’s 1954 Australian Grand Prix. The car passed through various custodians hands in Oz before leaving the country in the 1990’s.


The BMW in the Nuriootpa paddock, Australian GP meeting 1950, Peter McKenna (SLSA)


‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden’, George Thomas, Stephen Dalton, Dave Sullivan, State Library of South Australia

  1. Stephen says:


    Frank Pratt.

    Probably taken at Rob Roy #11 if it’s 1946. Intended to be held November 10 originally, but moved to November 24 due to clash with Western District Car Club Trial.

  2. Yes – and prepared by Harry Firth for the AGP. Going by a conversation with him in 2006.

    • markbisset says:

      Interesting, I wonder where Harry was operating from then?
      As a small child I recall he had the servo on the corner of Burke and Toorak Roads, Camberwell. Where CAMS subsequently was and Epworth Hospital now is.
      My aunt and uncle had the newsagent on the corner opposite, my uncle was always cross that Harry read all the motoring magazines in the shop and never bought any!
      Must check Blandens book tonite to get the history of that 328, we didn’t have many did we?

  3. Greg Holley says:

    oks like Tony Gaze in Lex Davisons BMW

  4. Stephen says:

    Mark, When Harry Firth prepared the Pratt BMW 328 for the January 1948 AGP he was still a paid employee of A F Hollins in High St Armadale.

    • markbisset says:

      Stephen, I see in the AGP book that Les Murphy reportedly prepared the car (and was ‘sposed to drive it @ Point Cook) I wonder which is correct or whether they both worked on the thing? M

  5. Stephen says:

    Mark, I’ve just found a reference to Les Murphy running the Pratt BMW 328 at Rob Roy #11. Not sure than means he is the driver in the car at the start of this feature or there was a double entry for the car at RR #11. Will require someone smarter than me to recognise the driver in that photo or someone with a programme.

    • markbisset says:

      Nice work, just when I thought that shot was nailed!
      There will be a few photos around of both guys, I’ll see what I can dig up. I guess the MGCC Historian who wrote the Rob Roy book may have a program, Leon Sims, do you happen to know him?

  6. Stephen says:

    Mark, I recall Leon has commented on primotipo before, so hopefully he might see this. Or someone in contact with him sees it.

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