Archive for August, 2018

(Bennett)

It’s an exciting time for Formula Fordsters in Australia, the fiftieth anniversary of the first FF race in Australia, at Sandown on 25 November 1969, takes place in 2019…

The shot above is of Paul Harrington keeping an eye on a journalist about to have a spin aboard a Bowin P4A at Calder, date and drivers name folks? John Joyce built twelve P4’s, one of which was acquired by Ford for promotional purposes, perhaps that car, chassis ‘P4A-108-70’ is this one? Whereizzit now I wonder.

LCCA Sandown program entry for the first FF race in Australia in November 1969 (A Mann)

Harrington came to Australia from the UK in the late sixties and was initially employed as General Manager of the Queens Road, Melbourne based Light Car Club of Australia, well known to Australian enthusiasts as the promoters of Sandown and Lakeland Hillclimb in its latter days and venues such as Albert Park earlier on. Being an entrepreneurial type Harrington established Auto Action in 1971, a magazine which exists to this day, although Paul died some years back.

He is at Calder given the role the LCCA had in providing administrative support for the FF category which continued until the clubs demise as a result of the fiscal disasters which occurred due to running two poorly attended World Sportscar Championship races in the mid-eighties. Jon Davison saved the sports bacon by picking up the circuit lease but that central LCCA gathering place and watering hole on the corner of Roy Street and Queens Road for Victorian racing folks has never been replaced.

That first Australian FF race at Sandown on 25 November 1969 was contested by a mix of bespoke FF’s and converted Formula 3 cars. The race was won by Richard Knight’s Bib Stillwell owned Elfin 600 from Murray Coombs’ Lynx and Allan Ould’s Aztec AR8 driven by Bob Minogue- many years later a fast F5000 competitor in the ex-Brown/Hamilton/Costanzo Lola T430 Chev. The Elfin 600 is still about with Allan Ould looking for a Hewland Mk4 or 5 gearbox to complete the car in time for the Sandown fifty year celebration meeting. The Lynx, I’m not so sure about.

Bowin Clan Meeting in early 1975 at Oran Park: Track day attended by John Joyce on the lectern’s left with John Leffler in dark Grace Bros clobber standing on the start line addressing the troops. Sitting down on the tyre opposite Leffo is Paul Bernasconi, shortly off to Ralt and European F3. Cars are a mix of front radiator P4A’s and chisel nosed P6F’s- front and centre is Leffler’s P8 Chev F5000. The day was reported at length by Barry Lake in Sports Car World magazine- drivers and their fettlers were coached on car preparation, set-up, with on-circuit suspension adjustments made throughout the day inclusive of reasons for the changes recommended (SCW)

When John Joyce- I’ve another article on Bowin half-cooked which provides the background to the marque, returned from his long stint with Lotus in the mid-sixties he initially built three monocoque F2 cars.

These machines designated ‘P3’ (Project 3) were raced initially by Glynn Scott, Ian Fergusson and Barrie Garner. Glynn’s was the first built and was fitted with an ex-Piers Courage Ford FVA engine, Ian’s with a Lotus/Ford twin-cam whilst Barrie’s was a hillclimb machine powered by a Holden ‘Red’ six cylinder motor.

Joyce’s 1959 ‘P1’ and 1962 ‘P2’ were both Formula Juniors- one was Cooper based and the second was named ‘Koala’, both cars raced by John.

Barrie Garner in his Bowin P3 Holden at King Edward Park Hillclimb, Newcastle, NSW in 1971 (D Harvey)

Glynn Scott’s Bowin P3 Ford FVA and Lotus 23B Ford in the Lakeside paddock in October 1968. The 911 T/R is Alan Hamilton’s, just arrived and so impactful in the 1969 ATCC (G Ruckert)

With the advent of FF in Oz, Joycey adapted the P3 design’s conventional upper and lower wishbone and coil spring/shock front- and single top link, inverted lower wishbone and twin radius rod, coil spring/shock rear suspension design to a (mandated) spaceframe chassis to suit FF.

Power was of course the class issue cast iron, four cylinder, Ford 711M Cortina/Escort/Capri pushrod, OHV, twin-choke Weber fed 105bhp’ish motor. Hewland Mk8 or Mk9 4-speed transaxles completed the key mechanical elements of the package.

Mike Stillwell in Graham North’s Wren- the first FF Wren built by Bill Reynolds, Graham Gilbert’s self built Corsair FF and Brian Beasy’s self built Beasy FF at Calder in 1970. These days, since 1972! Ian Mayberry owns the Wren with the Corsair and Beasy still extant (A Clifford)

Richard Carter in the Tony Simmons built Hustler FF, Warwick Farm circa 1972. Tyres are Goodyear RR12’s (N McDonald)

One of the neat things about the class in its early Australian days were the number of one or two off cars encouraged by rules which initially excluded foreign designs. So, in those early years Corsair, Aztec, Hustler, Fielding, Beasy, Nota and others chased race wins together with ‘factory’ built Wrens, Bowins, Elfins and a little later Birranas.

The WA built Fielding FF driven by future quick Bob Creasy during the 1971 Warwick Farm Tasman meeting (L Hemer)

 

Garrie Cooper’s highly adaptable Elfin 600 design (variants of which won in FF, ANF3, ANF2 and ANF1!) ‘dominated’ early on with Richard Knight, who made his name in an Improved Production Cooper S the winner of that first Sandown race in 1969 and victor in the Bib Stillwell owned 600 of the first national FF Championship in 1970.

Knight moved to the UK, racing a ‘Palliser WDF3 FF at the head of the UK/Euro fields against Scheckter et al until funds ran out. After several attempts in other categories including F5000 he set up Richard Knight Cars and became a highly successful Mazda and Lancia dealer in the UK’ wrote FF and Hillclimb ace Peter Finlay.

Larry Perkins in another of Bib’s 600’s won the title in 1971 and took his Trans Australia Airlines sponsored ‘Driver to Europe’ prize in late 1972 contesting the inaugural Formula Ford Festival at Snetterton in the first Elfin 620 FF.

John Leffler in his P4A at Hume Weir in early 1973. TAA (later absorbed into Qantas) were the then government owned domestic airline carrier and provided great support sponsoring the ‘TAA Driver to Europe Series’ for well over a decade, inclusive of providing some ‘hosties’ at some of the rounds. These days from amongst the old gay blokes and boilers you couldn’t put any eye candy on a grid from inside a Qantas cabin…(Bennett)

1972 Bowin P4A DTE champion with his new P6F- the very first one built, chassis ‘P6F-119-72’ alongside Larry Perkins equally new Elfin 620 far, far from home in the Snetterton paddock during the Formula Ford Festival weekend. Rising or progressive rate suspension linkages of the P6 clear. This chassis returned to Oz, and fitted with Hart/Ford twincam, Hewland FT200 box, appropriate wings, wheels, tyres and brakes contested the 1973 ANF2 Championship. Larry stayed in England and did rather well, the 620 came home (Bennett)

Fellow Aussies John Leffler and Bob Skelton also made the trip and raced Bowin P4A and brand new P6F respectively. I wonder how Skello would have gone had he raced the known quantity P4A in England in which he won the 1972 DTE rather than the radical, chisel shaped, side radiator, rising-rate suspended and ultimately very successful P6F?

Leffler and Skelton finished fourth in their respective heats but did not make the final in which Perkins was third behind Ian Taylor and Derek Lawrence. Aussies Buzz Buzaglo ran in third early and then faded when his distributor shifted and Peter Finlay was tenth in his Palliser in a field which included later F1 drivers Danny Sullivan, Patrick Neve and Tiff Needell in addition to Larry.

Skelton, Leffler (who won the 1973 DTE title in a P6F) Bob Beasley and speedway star Garry Rush- who Joyce rated very highly in a conversation I had with him in the early nineties, were early very fast P4 exponents.

Garry Rush Bowin P4A leads Phil Webber Elfin 600, another Elfin then David Green Wren and Richard Knight, Elfin 600 in the November 1970 DTE round at Warwick Farm (L Hemer)

 

Perhaps the best credentialed of all Bowin P4 pilots was Australian triple world champion Jack Brabham in car #1!, the P4X raced that year with Jack Brabham Ford sponsorship by Bob Beasley. Jack won this 1971 Calder Park ‘Race of Champions’, his last event ‘in period’- he retired at the end of 1970 of course but could not resist appearing at this meeting- I wonder how much practice he did at Oran Park in this car?! Calder was not new to him- he tested his BT31 Repco Tasman machine at Calder on the day it’s assembly was completed in January 1969. The field for the ROC included Bib Stillwell #6, and Bob Jane #7, both in Stillwell Elfin 600’s raced that year by Larry Perkins and Mike Stillwell in the DTE Series, Frank Matich is alongside Jack with Allan Moffat, Kevin Bartlett and Alan Hamilton the other starters (Bennett)

The P4 design had a second wind in the mid-seventies with the sudden 1975 mid-season change in Australian FF regulations back to road tyres.

Australian FF evolved from mandated road tyres from the classes introduction, to the Goodyear RR12 ‘all weather’ race tyre and then to a Goodyear slick- shortages of that tyre forced a mid-season change to the Bridgstone RD102 during 1975- a great road-going radial of the time, I had a set on my uni-student special (read rooted) burnt orange Capri.

After cutting his teeth in Australian Formula Vee Peter Finlay left Australia and lived the life of a racing gypsy with his wife in the UK, doing so very successfully for several years, finishing third in the EFDA/European FF Championship in 1973. Peter recalls ‘coming back from the UK to Australia at the end of 1973, my Palliser WDF2 arrived early in 1974 and I fitted Goodyear slicks straight away. The ‘wets’ were Goodyear ‘RR12’s. In 1975 I joined the Grace Bros team and we ran the Goodyear slicks and a different type of Goodyear wets until Matich (Frank Matich was the Goodyear Race Tyre importer) was unable to continue supply from about mid-year. I was on the Formula Ford Australia Committee and used my car to test the Bridgestone RD102 radials…They were as cheap as chips but the car(s) handled poorly…Having driven the Palliser on Goodyear slicks I can’t say that the Bridgestones were any fun at all’.

It soon became clear that the good-ole P4 and its suspension geometry suited the tyres very well so the sight of the old-school, front-radiator Bowins knocking off the vary latest of FF designs from both Australia and Europe- imports by then were allowed, became the usual sight in mid-later seventies Oz FF.

John Smith in his Grace Bros sponsored P4A at Oran Park in very Smithy- and very Bridgestone RD102 radial tyre slide. Not necessarily what the drivers preferred (in terms of a tyre) but very crowd pleasing (Bennett)

1976 DTE round at Amaroo Park. Richard Carter Birrana F73 on pole- unseen on the front row is his Grace Bros teammate John Davis in the P4X, in blue is John Smith and yellow Mike Quinn, both P4As. The red car is Birrana F71/1 with Terry Shiel at the wheel- the very first Birrana initially raced by John Goss. Carter won the 1976 DTE with the P4’s of Smith, Davis and Quinn second to fourth (Bennett)

Gerry Witenden Birrana F71/1 (same car above albeit modified by Elwyn Bickley) ahead of 1978 DTE Champ John Wright P4A and Richard Davison, Hawke DL17 getting a helping hand from a P6F, Amaroo Park 1978 (C Davison)

Great P4 exponents in this later renaissance era for the older chassis were John Davis, Mike Quinn, Warren Smith, Graham Smith, John Wright and John Smith (none of the Smiths related)- the latter one of the high-priests of Australian FF and a bit later Formula Pacific. Smithy and John Wright won the DTE in 1977 and 1978 respectively. Wright was also an awesome racer who jumped straight from FF to the ex-Leffler F5000 Lola T400 Chev, and made the thing look as easy to drive as the FF he had just stepped from.

Who is that man in a P4? Surfers circa 1978. Meanwhile Ron Barnacle, later DTE winner in a Royale RP31 in 1984 makes up ground having done some lawn-mowing for circuit owner Keith Williams, Elfin 620B (C Davison)

Oran Park 1976 DTE Bowins as far as the eye can see! John Davis, John Smith and Mike Quinn all in P4s, then Richard Carter Birrana F73- Carter still prodigiously fast in historic racing to this day (Bennett)

1976 Oran park P4A butt-shot, Quinn chasing Smith. Mk9 Hewland box, single top link, lower inverted wishbone, coil spring-/shocks and mechanic adjustable roll bar all period typical albeit by this stage a few rockers were starting to appear on cars such as the Royales and Lolas in Oz (Bennett)

These days Bowins are not the familiar sight they should be in very healthy Australian Historic Formula Ford despite classes which should encourage all to compete. A number of us, me included, pushed hard to admit cars built up to 31 December 1989 into historic FF which has had the knock-on effect of drivers buying cars of this later period- owners of the pre-1977 and pre-1983 classes these days stay away in droves. Come back folks!- please bring your Elfin 600, 620B, Birrana F71-3, Lolas, Royales, Hawkes, and especially your P4 Bowins along…

Smithy made it look so easy- rest assured folks it is not! Here the maestro leads Grant Walker, the Kiwi aboard a Tiitan at Amaroo in 1977. A year later I was lookin’ after me mate Alan Bisset’s ex-Brabham/Davis Bowin P4X at Amaroo and witnessed some almighty ANF2 racing between ex-FFers Smith and Larner in the Ford pushrod powered Galloway HG1 and Elfin 700 respectively on this late, lamented outer Sydney circuit (Bennett)

By the late-seventies the going was getting tough for the old P4 with a swag of English cars adapted locally to suit the needs of the Bridgestones and some newer local designs on the scene. The Richard Davison Hawke DL17 developed by Bill Reynolds, the ‘everybody raced’ ex-Arnel Lola T440, several Royale RP21’s and Van Diemen RF77’s, David Earle’s Elfin Aero and Elwyn Bickley’s superb Elwyn 02 all spring to mind.

Warren Smith (no relation) still made Smithy’s old jigger sing well enough to finish second in the 1980 DTE with one win, but time for a car first built in late 1969 had finally arrived…

We have lift off- Sandown DTE 1978. Elwyn Bickley Elwyn 02, obscured Peter Krefel Royale RP21, Richard Davison #5 Hawke DL17, to the right near the fence Lyndon Arnel Lola T440- look down on the fence side of the grid and you can see the distinctive P4 nose of that years champ- John Wright’s car (C Davison)

Etcetera…

Bowin…

 

The Bowin P4A- PR shot of John Wright’s chassis. 12 cars built between 1969 and 1972 (Bennett)

 

The Bowin P6F, John Leffler at Amaroo Park in his 1973 DTE winning mount ‘P6F-120-72’. Geoff Brabham also raced this chassis doing his first full year of FF in 1974- he won the 1975 ANF2 Championship in a Birrana 274 Ford/Hart and then left for European F3. 26 cars built between 1972 and 1976. Leffo perhaps the greatest of all the Bowin racers?- winner in the P4 and P6 in FF, in the P8 ANF2 car and a ‘coulda been’ 1975 AGP winner aboard the much maligned P8 Chev F5000 machine had the planets been aligned and the cars ignition not drowned in the latter stages of the Surfers Paradise race, won in the end by Max Stewart’s Lola T400 Chev (Bennett)

 

Sandown November 1969…

Brian Beasy, Beasy FF exiting Dandenong Road with a gaggle of cars including a winged F3 or F2 car. Decades later Historic Formula Ford in Australia would not have happened without the late Brian’s influence and guidance in the CAMS Historic Commission on all things related to FF inclusive of car eligibility (Beasy Family)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allan Ould’s Aztec AR8 was raced to 3rd as in this photo in the November 1969 first Oz FF race

 

FFA membership list as at the end of 1970

 

Current historic Van Diemen RF86 racer Anthony Mann dreaming of his own Formula Ford as a 9 year old kid aboard the FF ‘display car’ a Wren FF in Shepparton 1969 (Mann)

Arcane and Irrelevant…

Australian Formula Ford tyres- strictly for FF anoraks only! List developed during some Facebook banter mainly between me, Peter Finlay and Nick Bennett

1969-1971 Road tyres of drivers choice. In the UK Finlay notes the Firestone Torino ‘wide ovals’ were a road crossply with a racing compound

1972-1973 Goodyear RR12 all weather

1974-1975 mid-year Goodyear slick with RR12 wets and very expensive but superior G10 winter treads for sopping wet races

1975-1980 Bridgestone RD102 road radial

1981-1983 Dunlop slick ‘592’ compound

1984-1994 Dunlop CR82 all weather

1995-2015 Avon ACB10 all weather

2016 on Yokohama A048 all weather

Peter Finlay, Palliser WDF2 from Peter Larner, Elfin 620B, Calder early 1975 just before the Goodyear slick- check out the tyre distortion folks, were changed due to supply problems to the Bridgestone RD102 radial. Finlay won 3 rounds that year and Larner 1 with both tied for second in the title chase won by Paul Bernasconi in a Mawer 004. Finlay later owned and ran Peter Wherrett Advanced Driving and was a hillclimb ace- Larner still is a great engine builder and raced an AGP or two in the Formula Pacific era (Finlay)

Photo and Other Credits…

Laurie and Nick Bennett Collection, Chris Davison, Nick McDonald, Oz Classic FF Facebood site, Lynton Hemer, Dale Harvey, Anthony Mann, Sports Car World, Peter Finlay, Graham Ruckert, Beasy Family Collection, A Clifford

Tailpiece: In Search of An Apex…

(SCW)

John Leffler, Australian Gold Star Champion in a Lola T400 Chev in 1977 and kneeling John Joyce trying to get their Bowin charges to apex correctly during the Oran Park Bowin test day in early 1975.

Harry Macklin aboard the ex-Leffler P4A John raced in the early 1973 DTE rounds before switching to his new P6F.

Finito…

(P Maslen)

Paul Hawkins appears reasonably fleet of foot, first dude on the left…

And so he should too- the Australian International had far more experience than the locals at Le Mans, run and jump, starts. What great panoramic, colourful, atmospheric photographs these are.

The first few cars lined up in the 3 September 1967 twelve hour enduro are the Hawkins/Jackie Epstein Lola Mk3 Chev, Alan Hamilton/Glynn Scott Porsche 906, Bill Brown/Greg Cusack Ferrari 250LM, Bill Gates/Jim Bertram Lotus Elan and then the Kevin Bartlett/Doug Chivas Alfa Romeo GTA.

Whilst Paul was quick to the car, the task of affixing a Willans six-pointer to his body was tricky when getting his Heavy Chevy started even in the calmness of a paddock, let alone with a schrieking 2 litre Porsche flat-6 blasting past and reinforcing his tardiness. Not that the notion of outrunning the Porsche over twelve hours should have been an issue. The Gates Lotus is also fast away.

(P Maslen)

The last Le Mans 24 Hours with a running start was the 1969 event, when Jacky Ickx famously walked to his John Wyer Ford GT40 before carefully fitting his belt- and winning the race the following day with Jackie Oliver. The tragic irony of Ickx’ protest was that the ‘unbelted’ John Woolfe died in his Porsche 917 in a first lap accident. Safety and seatbelts were the end of that bit of racing spectacle, fair enough too.

Lone ranger, Ickx, Le Mans 1969 (unattributed)

 

David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce 250LM was almost ‘rusted to this race’, it was never the fastest thing entered but it won in 1966- crewed by Jackie Stewart and Andy Buchanan, in 1967 with McKay’s regular team drivers of the day Bill Brown and Greg Cusack at the wheel and in 1968 piloted by the brothers Geoghegan- Leo and Pete. In second behind the Brown/Cusack 250LM in 1967 was the Lola with 468 laps and in third the Porsche 906 with 460- the winners covered 490 laps of reliable, fast Ferrari motoring.

What a blast it would have been to drive a car in one of these Surfers events!

Etcetera…

The Ron Thorp/Ray Strong AC Cobra ahead of the Scuderia Veloce Greg Cusack/Bill Brown Ferrari 250LM (B Williamson)

Credits…

Peter Maslen, oldracephotos.com.au

Tailpieces: Paul Hawkins T70, Surfers…

(oldracephotos)

(unattributed)

Finito…

(R Goldfinch)

Denny Hulme acknowledges the plaudits of the crowd upon his retirement from the February 1967 Australian Grand Prix at Warwick Farm…

The ‘Creek Corner Mob’ were a notoriously loud, knowledgeable group of spectators, ‘the bugler’ in particular always comes up in conversations about the place with Sydney enthusiasts even now.

Denny’s Brabham BT22 Repco ‘640’ V8 retired on lap 41 of the 45 lap race with a burst radiator hose, the race was won by Jackie Stewart’s BRM P261 2.1 V8. In a troubled weekend the Brabham Repco lads started raceday further out west at Sydney’s Oran Park attempting to sort fuel injection and handling dramas before heading back to the ‘farm for the race. Jack was fourth aboard BT23A Repco ‘640’.

Love this Bruce Wells portrait of Denny on the ’67 WF grid. Note the ducting used in the hotter races of that year to get cool air into the centre of the 640 and 740 Repco’s- aimed at the fuel metering unit (B Wells/TRS)

Stewart, Clark, Hill- BRM P261, Lotus 33 Climax, Lotus 48 Ford FVA, then Jack and Leo Geoghegan- Brabham BT23A Repco and Lotus 39 Climax with Denny alongside the pit counter on the row behind, Brabham BT22 Repco (B Wells/TRS)

Its weird the way your brain works, or mine does anyway?!

The first thing which popped into my mind when I saw Denny’s salute was the famous post 200 metre Mexico ’68 Olympics medal award ceremony, brave ‘Black Power’ medal presentation dais salutes of gold and bronze medallists Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

It was ‘big news’ in Australia as Peter Norman, a great Australian athlete, was the silver medallist who bravely stood with, and in support of the Americans and their cause. Norman was punished for his actions by the Australian Olympic Committee’s ‘forces of conservative darkness’ for the rest of his life.

Denny’s pose and actions are in an entirely different context (to say the least) but its funny the stuff which sticks in a childs mind only to pop out fifty years later. The Olympics scene resonated with me at the time, no doubt meeting Norman at a school holidays athletics training camp in the early seventies added to the potency of the moment, times of great social upheaval and progress as they were.

Peter Norman’s obituary; https://www.theguardian.com/news/2006/oct/05/guardianobituaries.australia

Credits…

Roger Goldfinch, Bruce Wells/The Roaring Season

Tailpiece: Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Mexico 1968…

Finito…

On the Port Adelaide wharf, January 1951. Type 35 Bugatti, GP Lago Talbot and 4CL Maserati (Bob King)

This whole online caper is interesting not least for the people you meet in the virtual world and as a consequence subsequently in the real one.

Greg Smith is one such fellow, he is a well known Melbourne racer/engineer/restorer who wrote an article for us a while back. We were discussing some arcane topic online the other week which led to an invitation to one of Smithy’s wonderful Wednesday night feasts in honour of the late Italian/Australian hotelier/racer/raconteur Lou Molina- who looks down on proceedings from the wall with approval at Greg’s execution of some of Lou’s Italian dishes.

There were some fine car/racing identities there on the night including Perth boy Rod Quinn, and locals Ron McCallum, David Ogg and Bob King. Since then Bob and I have joined the Automotive Historians Australia Inc (many of you would be interested in this several years old group, a topic for another time) and the two day AHA conference gave me the chance to twist Bob’s arm into contributing an occasional article or two.

Bob King hustling the Anzani Bugatti around the Adelaide GP road circuit (Bob King)

He is a retired medical practitioner who has had a lifetime interest in vintage and racing cars and Bugattis- his particular passion. As well as racing and rallying these cars, he has maintained a deep interest in their history which culminated in the publication of three books on Australian (and New Zealand) Bugattis as well as one on the Brescia Bugatti. Bob has had historical articles published in many journals. He continues to enjoy restoring and driving his small collection of a Bebe Peugeot, Bugatti T35B and an AC Ace.

Bob is a wonderful, knowledgeable chap, its great to have him involved, his first ‘Words from Werrangourt’ piece is titled-

‘The Dale brothers, importers of important cars- Part 1’

Anyone who is fortunate enough to have old copies of Australian Motor Sport (January 1946 to April 1971) will be aware of wordy advertisements for exotic cars imported by the Dale brothers: Peter Durham Dale and Henry K H Dale. Their origins are something of a mystery, but it is thought they had some Egyptian ancestry mixed with more recent English blood – Henry may have been born in England.

Dale brothers on the 1936 AGP grid at Victor Harbor in December 1936, Bugatti T37A. Henry driving, Peter alongside- DNF after 9 laps in the race won by the Les Murphy MG P Type (Bob King)

 

Dale boys during the Victor Harbor race, I wonder if he caught it! (Morris Family)

They are recalled as two rather pompous single men who lived the life of gentlemen in a terrace house in Williams Road, Toorak in Melbourne. Well remembered is a large round ‘coffee’ table in the drawing room on which was displayed the latest copy of every motoring magazine. The garage on the side street was opened to reveal the latest, newly acquired exotica. Peter, known as ‘Durham’ had some mundane job with an insurance company as well as being a journalist on the ‘Truth’ newspaper; he wrote a three part history of the pre-war Australian Grand Prix in AMS, which piqued the interest of the writer in these races. Henry, christened Hylton, was usually engaged in the wool trade in Egypt.

The writer’s earliest memory of Peter was at Fisherman’s Bend car races in the late 1950’s. A friend and I were gazing in awe at Miles Ryan’s 100mph Low Chassis Invicta. I commented to said friend that the radiator badge was not straight. We were addressed in a stentorious tone by one whom were later told was Peter Dale: “That is how you know it is handmade” – a lesson well learnt. We do not have a chronology of cars imported by the Dales, but let us start with three on a wharf.

Peter Dale in ‘37160’ with its unusual ‘Touriste’ body by Jarvis of Wimbledon (Bob King)

The Bugatti 35A is not an ‘A’, but a 1925 Molsheim works racing Type 35, chassis no. 4575.

It was Jules Goux’s 2 litre car for the French and Spanish Grands Prix of that year. The French GP was a 1000km race held in torrential rain over 9 1/2 hours. The Bugatti team finished intact with Goux in fifth place. What endurance.

Henry spotted its radiator in the back of a garage in Neuilly-Sur-Seine in about 1950 and bought it for about $150. Although it had not been run since before the war, he had the oil changed and then undertook a delightful Autumnal drive to Marseille, from where the car was shipped to Adelaide.

Fisherman’s Bend Races – don’t be fooled by the blower blow off hole in the bonnet, Herb Ford had swapped bonnets with his supercharged Type 37A, ‘37332’. (Dino Lanzi)

Peter collected it, had it registered by Bob Burnett-Read who actually substituted a Ford Prefect from his used car lot for the Bugatti – the weigh bridge man seemed satisfied with this. The car was driven by Peter to Melbourne and from there to Bathurst for the Easter races where it performed creditably in the hands of Lyndon Duckett and Peter Dale.

They had driven there in a convoy of 4 Bugattis – the Type 35, the Anzani Bugatti, a Type 51A and a Type 57C – Dales ‘Ecurie Pur Sang’. The next owner of the 35 was Bugatti enthusiast Herb Ford who sold it on when it emitted expensive noises from its roller bearing crankshaft. In the words of Peter, it was ‘a mass of fatigued stresses’.

Some more photos of Bugatti Type 35 ‘4575’…

(P-Y Laugier)

This photograph above is thought to be M Poret in the car pre-war, he was a Parisian owner.

(B Burnett-Read)

This photograph was taken shortly after arrival in Australia. Bob Burnett-Read has just had the car registered prior to Peter Dale’s drive from Adelaide to Melbourne.

(Bob King)

Herb Ford only used the car once or twice, including a sprint on or near the Geelong Road (accounts vary). It is said he made the fastest 1/4 mile time- finishing at astronomical revs in third, maybe this is why the engine was making unpleasant noises.

He sold the tired car to John Martin who did not keep it long enough to dismantle the complicated built-up roller bearing crank before passing it on to John Thomson. Here it is with Martin- note the ill-fitting bonnet from the 37A- when adding a supercharger to an unblown GP Bug, the steering box is moved up and back, to make space. Hence the steering drop arm being in the wrong place.

(unattributed)

The next owner, John Thomson had the good fortune to be friendly with Bugatti expert Peter Menere, at his Brighton ‘Pier Prestige Garage’.

John was dead keen to have a GP Bug, and after prolonged and unsuccessful haggling with Ford, he eventually bought the dismantled car from Martin for an astromonical 870 pounds, the Brighton Buggattisti thought he was mad. After spending a further 700 pounds with Moore Hydraulics getting the crankshaft ground, and untold hours toiling over the rest of the car, he eventually had a going car- an original, unmolested factory racing car, no less. Not long after completing the car in the mid-sixties John moved to London, the car following him in 1972. In 1974 50 years of the Grand Prix Bugatti was celebrated in Lyon with an amazing turn-up of Grand Prix Bugattis. John is seen in the car on that occasion.

(unattributed)

On the starting line at Limonest Hillclimb, Lyon.

A great action shot of John on Prescott Hillclimb- the hillclimb owned and run by the Bugatti Owners Club (unattributed)

A well known photo of the Talbot-Lago ‘110007’ below but worth seeing again. Doug Whiteford AGP, Albert Park, 21 November 1953 – ‘Yes Doug, your tyre is missing’.

Lago Talbot GP chassis no. 110007 was the car with which Louis Chiron had won the 1949 French Grand Prix. Henry was contemplating purchasing Raymond Sommer’s Lago, but was advised by Chiron to speak to Paul Vallee, patron of Ecurie France, as he might sell Chiron’s car which was being prepared for the Barcelona Grand Prix. It was entrained to Marseille and thence to Adelaide.

Its first owner in Australia was Tom (Happy) Hawkes who only drove it once or twice. Its serious debut was at the 1951 Easter Bathurst meeting, 1951; Hawkes drove it to third in the Bathurst 100 and Whiteford was third in another scratch race, setting a new lap record of 3 minutes.

The ‘Maestro’ Whiteford won the 1952 GP at Bathurst and the 1953 race at Albert Park, in spite of the tyre issue.

Here the car is pictured below during the December 1956 Australian Grand Prix weekend at Albert Park, by then the ‘6 plug’ chassis ‘110007’ was owned by Owen Bailey, whose race was shortlived with axle failure on the line.

(S Wills)

AGP Albert Park paddock with the ‘6 plug’ Bailey ‘110007’ in front of the car Doug Whitford replaced it with- an earlier car, chassis ‘110002’ but to more advanced specification inclusive of more powerful ’12 plug’ 4.5 litre motor. Stirling Moss won the feature race aboard a Maserati 250F.

(S Wills)

Beautiful shot of ‘Dicer Doug’ Whiteford with Peter Dale during the 1956 AGP carnival. Car is Talbot-Lago ‘110002’. It would be interesting to know how many AGP’s in total the various cars the Dales imported over the years contested.

(S Wills)

Cockpit below is ’12 plug’, ‘110002’, Spencer Wills photograph again taken in the Albert Park paddock. Quadrant for the pre-selector gearbox clear.

(S Wills)

Photo below of Owen Bailey at Albert Park, am intrigued to know which meeting. It appears he has spun into a gutter, or been rammed from behind.- the shape of the dent suggests the former.

(S Wills)

Shot below is of Whiteford in the ’12 plug’ ‘110002’ at Fishermans Bend on 12 February 1956.

(S Wills)

 

(unattributed)

‘The Maserati 4CL, chassis No. 1579 is first recognised as Raymond Sommer’s 1946 Marseilles Grand Prix winning car.

In the photo above Sommer is being led by Tazio Nuvolari in another 4CL during the second heat. Sommer won both this 15 lap heat and 35 lap final, the great Mantuan failed to finish the preliminary and therefore did not qualify for the final run on the Marseille Prado Street circuit on 13 May.

It was painted blue for its French owner. Again it was Louis Chiron who suggested Henry should buy it from Sommer’s widow – Sommer had been the owner of one of Europe’s largest carpet manufacturers.

Via an advertisement in Australian Motor Sport, the car was soon in the hands of Victorian Peter Vennermark. He soon had trouble with the highly supercharged 1.5 litre engine, which had developed an appetite for cylinder blocks. Unlike the other two cars featured which have returned to Europe, this car remains in the caring hands of the Victorian owners.’

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Bugattis in Australia and New Zealand, 1920 to 2012’ Bob King and Peter McGann

Photo Credits…

Bob King Collection, Herald-Sun, G Griffiths, S Anderson, Morris Family, Spencer Wills, Bob Burnett-Read, Pierre-Yves Laugier

Finito…

(B Howard)

The Light Car Club of Australia achieved a major promotional coup by securing Juan Manuel Fangio’s attendance at the fiftieth anniversary of the first Australian Grand Prix held at Sandown, Melbourne on 10 September 1978…

Here (above) the great man ponders his car during practice. Fangio raced a Mercedes Benz W196 2.5 litre straight-eight engined Grand Prix car, the design with which he won his 1954 and 1955 World Championships- whilst noting the two wins he took in Maserati 250F’s in 1954 before joining Mercedes from the French Grand Prix.

JMF wanted to drive in a Polo-Shirt as he did in the day but the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport would have none of that, hence the overalls over his normal clothes.

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/09/mercedes-benz-w196-french-gp-1954/

Fangio W196 on display behind the Sandown grandstand- the ‘Interstate Betting’ is a function of the place’s prime function- donkey races (mouserat159)

(S Dalton Collection)

Fangio hooks the big Mercedes into Dandenong Road corner at Sandown (I Smith)

The Sandown event created huge interest far beyond the racing fraternity, including articles in such unlikely places as the ‘Australian Womens Weekly’, normally the province of the Royal Family, cooking recipes and similar – such was the mans immense global stature decades after his last championship win in 1957. He won five F1 titles of course- in 1951 in an Alfa 159, 1954/5 Benz W196, 1956 Lancia-Ferrari 801 and the final in 1957 aboard a Maserati 250F.

It was the Argentinian’s first visit to Australia, he had planned to race in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games GP at Albert Park, a race won by Stirling Moss in a Maser 250F, but in the end conflicting commitments scuttled the idea. He returned to Melbourne in 1981 and came to Adelaide twice I think, the sight of him blasting along Adelaide roads during the wonderful 1986 ‘Eagle On The Hill’ run from the city up through the Adelaide Hills to the top of Mount Lofty is not something any of the large number who saw it will readily forget either. He drove a Mercedes sports-racer, a 300SLR on that occasion. If memory serves he may have boofed an Alfa Romeo Alfetta 159 of the type he raced in 1951 at Adelaide doing a demo- by that stage he would have been well into his late seventies mind you.

Fangio contested a ‘Race of Champions’ at Sandown which included Jack Brabham aboard his 1966 championship winning Brabham BT19 Repco ‘620’, and former Australian Champions Bill Patterson in a Cooper T51 Climax and Bob Jane in a Maserati 300S. Both were cars they had raced in period and retained.

(mouserat159)

All eyes were on the Fangio, Brabham ‘battle’ over the three lap journey of course, the footage well known to most of you says it all in terms of the speed and spirit in which the cars were driven, note that JMF was 67 at the time and had suffered two heart attacks in the years before his visit.

(C Griffiths)

The sight and sound of Fangio driving the big, noisy W196 on the throttle, kicking it sideways in the manner for which he was famous lap after lap in practice around Sandown’s third-gear Shell Corner onto Pit Straight is forever etched in my memory. He could still boogie at that stage- well and truly.

As you all know, normally the paddock is a hive of activity with mechanics and engineers getting on with necessary preparation of their steed for the next session or race. Sandown’s then layout afforded those in the paddock a great view of the cars on circuit from or near the pit counter. On the occasions that Fangio was on circuit the tents in the cuddly-small Sandown paddock were empty as drivers and mechanics watched Fangio strut his stuff. It was simply not to be missed whatever the competitive needs of the moment were.

It’s always funny to re-live discussions of ‘that weekend’ with fellow enthusiasts as so many of us were there from all over this vast land, all having a different experience or highlight but equally excited recollections of it all despite the elapse of forty years. As a student at the time I was there from the meetings start to finish, it was sad when it was all over, I was very conscious of the fact that I had witnessed something special.

Fangio was the President of Mercedes Argentina and owner of two dealerships when he visited Oz and had to ‘sing for his supper’ over the week he was here. He did a range of promotional events, dinners and drives with motoring writers to promote, mainly, the ‘Benz 450 SEL 6.9 which was the range-topper at the time, a snip at $A68,500 in 1978.

(C Griffiths)

Postscript…

The 1978 AGP, held to F5000, was a race of attrition won by Graham McRae in his see-through perspex cockpit McRae GM3 Chev from John David Briggs and Peter Edwards in Matich A51 Repco and Lola T332 Chev respectively.

In fact it was an entirely forgettable AGP- very bad accidents hurt both Garrie Cooper, Elfin MR8 Chev and Alan Hamilton, Lola T430 Chev. These very high speed shunts, together with a tangle that eliminated second placed Jon Davison’s T332 and Vern Schuppan’s Elfin MR8 Chev on lap 28- and a broken head-gasket for pole-sitter John McCormack’s unique ex-F1 McLaren M23 Leyland conspired to rob a race which had lots of potential.

An arcane end to this piece.

It’s a long story, but a decade or so ago, an Australian enthusiast ‘discovered’ in contemporary newspaper reports that a very short race named ‘Australian Grand Prix’, was contested on an oval layout at Goulburn’s racecourse, New South Wales on 15 January 1927.

This race was shortly thereafter recognised by many, but not all historians as ‘the first Australian Grand Prix’ thereby replacing the previous event which held that honour, the ‘100 Miles Road Race’ held at Phillip Island in 1928, later recognised as the first AGP.

So, Juan Manuel Fangio was here in 1978 to celebrate the fifty-first AGP not the fiftieth…

https://primotipo.com/2017/04/14/1936-australian-grand-prix-victor-harbour/

Photo / Other Credits…

Bruce Howard, John Stoneham aka Stonie, Chris Griffiths, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpiece: I wonder which particular W196 chassis Fangio ran here in 1978?…

(mouserat159)

Big butt isn’t it? All fuel and oil tank, its an object lesson in Vittorio Jano’s design intent with the D50 Lancia to get the fuel between the wheelbase via his pannier-tanks. I’ve a vague recollection this particular chassis was fitted with a 3 litre SLR engine for demonstration purposes rather than the GeePee 2.5? Interesting the way the body comes together too.

Finito…

 

image

…with the sweet sound of a 3 litre Ferrari V12, the prototype Testa Rossa negotiates the Sicilian Mountains…

Gino Munaron and Wofgang Seidel contested the 1958 Targa in the prototype 250TR, chassis #0666 failing to finish with engine dramas.

Scuderia Ferrari teammates Luigi Musso and Olivier Gendebien won the classic in another 3 litre TR in 10 hours 38 minutes from the factory Porsche 718 RSK Spyder of Jean Behra and Giorgio Scarlatti 6 minutes back with Taffy von Trips and Mike Hawthorn in another Ferrari 250TR third a minute more in arrears.

Credits…

Klemantaski Collection

Freddy McEvoy, aka ‘Suicide Freddy’ and ‘Tiger’ to the babes he charmed, was a ladies man, adventurer and friend of fellow Australian and screen star Errol Flynn. He was an accomplished car racer, an Olympic medallist and World Champion on the ice, a sailor, gambler, suspected Nazi agent and a whole lot more…

Here the intrepid Australian is aboard his Maserati 6CM prior to the start of the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup, Roosevelt Raceway, Westbury, Long Island, New York on 12 October.

Frederick Joseph McEvoy was born in Melbourne’s inner southern suburb of St Kilda on February 12, 1907 and moved to England with his mother when he was 10. Educated at the famous Jesuit boarding school Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, his later professions seemingly included jewellery design, public relations consultant, yacht dealer and perhaps arms and contraband trader- he admitted later in life to being a rogue, swindler and a conman who used his intelligence and charm to mix with the upper echelons of society.

Said to have generously proportioned wedding-tackle by a number of his mounts, he reputedly also knew how to use said equipment. As a consequence of his looks, physical attributes and line of chat Freddy cut a swathe through the ladies with various sources crediting him as also running a team of gigolos who kept the bored ladies of the south of France entertained in a manner which put smiles permanently upon their faces.

Exactly how he ratcheted himself up the totem pole of life is not entirely clear but Freddy’s journey took him from partying with a young Errol Flynn in Melbourne/Sydney to wild times with the great and the good in England and onto the French Riviera in its golden years pre-war.

The Australian ‘Truth’ newspaper, the tabloid perhaps more aptly titled ‘Lies’, has it in 1948 that McEvoy was the scion of a prominent Sydney family who went abroad with his mother and brother as youngsters when she took them to Switzerland for the winter sports season. He soon became popular with the international sporting set and was well known for his bob-sledding prowess.

Another 1951 Truth report records that Freddy (Frederick signed his own name in short-form as Freddy not ‘Freddie’ as is practically the case in any reference source one views) was virtually unknown when he first hit Europe in the 1930’s. He was then in his early twenties and arrived with his widowed mother and ailing brother Theodore. ‘…Gradually the young man with the film star smile, bronzed figure and quick Irish-Australian turn of wit began to be noticed’.

Of the relationship with Flynn, Truth reports that Freddy and Errol were close friends back in the 1920’s in Melbourne when both worked with the Dalgety wool enterprises business- a huge national company at the time.

Whatever the case, Freddy figured out that easy money was to be made through the legs of the idle-rich becoming an adept lover, diver, boxer, racer, skier and bobsled competitor where he was a familiar sight at some of the more fashionable European resorts of the day ‘plying his trade’.

Max-Everist Phillips writes that ‘Bobsleigh competitors of the 1930’s prided themselves on three inter-related pursuits: dangerous sports, daring women and dubious money. McEvoy’s skills at the first facilitated his success with the second, who usually provided the third’…

Before the 1936 Winter Olympics, (above) where he was a member of the British team, McEvoy had proved his daring and speed as a tobogganist on the famous, dangerous Cresta Run at St Moritz, Switzerland- he was awarded the ‘Cresta Colours’ that year for his accomplishments.

Keen to compete at the highest level he would not have been eligible to represent Australia through the Australian Olympic Federation, as there was no State or National governing body for tobogganing or bobsleigh in Australia at the time- in fact there was no sport of skiing at the time to speak of!

Without wanting to give a dissertation on the development of skiing in Australia, the first moves on skis are thought to have been carried out by Norwegian gold-miners at Kiandra in the New South Wales Alps during the long winter of 1861. The first ski-lift was built near Mount Beauty in Victoria in 1936 but in simple terms the Alpine areas of Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales were not developed as ski-fields until post-war when European migrants, some of whom worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme (a massive post-war twenty year hydro-power generation and irrigation scheme- one of the ‘engineering wonders of the world) saw the potential of the Australian Alps and made formative investments at places like Thredbo and Perisher Valley. The sport itself did not boom until the seventies with baby boomers looking for activities a bit more sophisticated than those which were available to, or could be afforded by many of their parents.

‘It is quite likely that he (McEvoy) associated with British bobsledders in Switzerland and was, as a British subject, eligible to compete for the mother country. It would have been difficult for the British authorities to overlook his nomination or prowess’ the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Freddy was accorded the highest team honour by the British Olympic Committee to carry the British flag at the opening ceremony of the 1936 Games- that does amuse me, an Aussie carrying the flag for the Brits on such an august occasion!

Freddy, captain and steering, British 4 man bob, Garmisch Olympics 1936 (Getty)

Freddy and his team took the bronze medal with four runs down the treacherous bobsled course, finishing behind two Swiss combinations in front of a crowd of about 32,000 people. ‘Suicide Freddy’ was pipped for a medal in the two-man bob, finishing fourth with Garmisch-Partenkirchen well known for its bobsled run on which several men had died. Freddy wasn’t the only motor racer contesting events on the Olympic ice, GP racer Count ‘Tonino’ Brivio was eleventh in the the two-man bob and tenth in the four-man.

Bad weather limited training on the course before the Olympic race and crews had only two or three days’ practice on the fast and difficult run with ‘Britain fortunate to have an experienced and daring driver to steer both the four- and two-man bobs’, the British Teams post event report said.

One of the great bobsledders of the time, Bill Fiske of the US, wrote: ‘Freddie McEvoy has invented one of the most lethal toboggans ever seen on the run. He had a toboggan constructed of hollow ground runners…tremendously fast on a straight course but impossible to manoeuvre around corners…’

McEvoy proved after the 1936 Olympics that he was no flash in the pan. He was second in the Curzon Cup on Cresta in 1937, won the world two-man bob championship at Cortina, Italy in 1937 and the world four-man bob at St Moritz in the same year. He retained the four-man title in 1938 and was runner-up in 1939.

Clearly 1936 was a busy year for the enterprising Australian who was said to have won $25,000 playing backgammon in Monte Carlo and then spent the money the next day on a new Maserati.

In fact the 6CM Maser Voiturette he bought, chassis # 1535 was the first such machine to have been sold to a privateer, Maserati’s new Voiturette model first appeared in March 1936.

GP Picardie. #6 Carlo Trossi Maser 6CM, #2/#44/#14 B Bira, Earl Howe and Patrick Fairfield on ERA Type B, Type B and Type A (unattributed)

Freddy first entered his new six-cylinder, DOHC, supercharged 155bhp machine in the Grand Prix de Picardie held at Peronne in mid June 1936.

In a splendid display he was fourth in both his heat and in the final won by Dick Seaman’s Delage- in a year of dominance in Voiturette racing which carried the talented Englishman into the Mercedes Benz Grand Prix team.

John Medley wrote of the race ‘…On a scorching hot day the two heats saw the demise of Raymond Mays’ extremely quick ERA and also that of Arthur Dobson, with wins to Trossi and a surprisingly much slower Dick Seaman. Lehoux’ works ERA failed on the line in the final, which was led by Fairfield, an off-song Maserati of Trossi, and Bira’s ERA, before Bira moved past Trossi, with Seaman next until his steering (thought to have been damaged in an earlier Nurburgring incident) failed and the Delage hit a wall in the little village of Brie. The same corner in Brie momentarily claimed Fairfield’s ERA from a stern battle with Bira, so the little Siamese Prince won again from Fairfield and Lord Howe in ERA’s and McEvoy’s distant Maserati. There were no other finishers’.

Getting a little ahead of ourselves, Freddy’s Voiturette season commenced during the Monaco GP weekend, the Aussie contested the ‘Coupe Prince Rainier’ on Saturday 11 April in an earlier Maserati 4CM on the same weekend in which the new 6CM made its race debut.

McEvoy started from grid 14, with Earl Howe on pole in an ERA Type B and ran well until lap 43 when he spun on oil left by Zehender’s Maser 6CM and hit a wall damaging the cars fuel tank. This meeting was the first at which 6CM’s raced- Scuderia Torino entered a car for Rovere, with Zehender relieving him in the 6CM late in the race. McEvoy  ran as high as eighth, the race was won by B Bira in an ERA Type B who ‘…took the chequered flag to take the first victory of his career, winning possibly the most prestigious voiturette race of the year only 392 days after making his race debut in a Riley Imp at Brooklands’ according to kolumbus.f1.

Albi GP. #4 Marcel Lehoux ERA Type B, #8 Patrick Fairfield ERA Type B, #10 Bira again B Type ERA with #26 the nose of McEvoy’s Maser 6 CM (unattributed)

At the Albi GP in mid-July Freddy was ejected from his car in spectacular fashion during the first heat. The car caught fire after rolling across the straw bales opposite the pits, the car then burned furiously. Aggregate results of the two heats gave the win to Bira from Pierre Veyron and Hans Reusch in ERA Type B, Bugatti T51A and Maserati 4CS respectively.

The Coppa Ciano was held at Livorno in early August on a new course through the town rather than the usual mountain layout used hitherto, Trossi won in a works 6CM with Freddy eighth 2 minutes behind the leader.

Coppa Acerbo. #8 Dick Seaman Delage 15S8, #2 Carlo Trossi Maser 6CM and #22 Bira ERA Type B (unattributed)

On the daunting Pescara road circuit on the Adriatic Coast in mid-August he was a strong fourth in the Coppa Acerbo having started fifth on the grid with Seaman again taking a Delage win.

In a busy month, in late August, the Berne GP was conducted on the Bremgarten road course in Switzerland. Freddy was seventh from grid ten in a chassis MotorSport said  ‘…was the most dangerous Maserati, an independently sprung Maserati which should have done well’.

Freddy, far from the most experienced driver on these grids was clearly no dilettante behind the wheel however many attractions and distractions there were sitting seductively on his pit counter. It does make you wonder what McEvoy could have achieved had he focused on his racing, but such was his zest for living life to the full that this was never the case. Wine, women and song sounds pretty good to me all the same.

Marne GP 1936, the growth of French sportscar racing as a response to the success of the Nazi funded German teams is an interesting story in itself. #6 Rene Dreyfus and #8 Andre Marcel Talbot T150C split #12 Jean-Pierre Wimille Bugatti T57G- the similar Bugs of Robert Benoist and Pierre Veyron on the row behind. #34 and #26 the Michel Paris and Laury Schell Delahaye 135CS. The Paris car is the 135CS shortly thereafter imported to Australia and raced by John Snow- and to an AGP win at Leyburn, Queensland in John Crouch’s hands in 1949. McEvoy’s Jag 100SS way back in the pack (Keystone)

In the middle of the year on July 5 Freddy also contested the sportscar Marne GP at Reims in a 2.5 litre Jaguar SS100.

 He brought the ponderous beast home fifteenth overall and first in the 2-3 litre class, the patriotic MotorSport proclaiming an ‘S.S Wins A Continental Race’- they credit the race to Frank McEvoy, an error rather than another nickname. John Medley ‘…Fast Freddy McEvoy, almost lived up to his other nickname ‘Suicide Freddy’ as he grappled with its nose-heavy understeer which flicked to alarming oversteer on exit to every corner on the very fast Reims-Gueux Circuit. Playing what MotorSport called ‘a waiting game’ (when actually he was travelling as fast as he dared) a long way behind the winning Bugattis which were chased by Talbots and Delahayes, brave Freddy brought the car home for a class win…’

It would be intriguing to know exactly when McEvoy first raced, his cv included the blue-riband sportscar Mille Miglia in 1935, it was certainly the first major race he contested. In that classic test of driver and car he shared a Vittorio Jano designed Alfa Romeo 6C1750 with Ghersi, the pair failing to finish the race won by another memorable Alfa, the 8C 2900B raced by the Pintacuda/Della Stufa crew.

In October 1936 Freddy was well enough funded by his various enterprises and acquaintances to contest the Vanderbilt Cup Races on New York’s Long Island, representing Australia in the 6CM.

This was an amazing event held on a very expensive facility by the standards of the day built by the Vanderbilt family and several associates including Indy winner Eddie Rickenbacker. It seems the designers of the track, who lived on opposite sides of the country, failed to communicate so the track ‘comprised a single 3775 foot straightaway and sixteen completely unbanked corners, ten of which are best described as hairpins.’

A huge purse attracted some of Europe’s best teams, the race was a real endurance affair, 75 laps of a tight 4 mile road course circuit- 300 miles in total. Tazio Nuvolari won aboard an Alfa Romeo 12C-36 in 4 hours 32.44 from Jean-Pierre Wimille’s Bugatti T59 and Antonio Brizio’s Alfa 12C-36- in sixth place was Freddy proving his endurance on the hot day driving the 6CM, his time 4:57.24. Mind you, Carlo Felice-Trossi co-drove the 6CM, how many laps each of the intrepid pilots raced is undisclosed.

Freddy McEvoy with the Australian flag on the side of his Maser 6CM, Vanderbilt Cup 1936 (VDC)

 

Vanderbilt Cup start 1936, ID of cars welcome (VDC)

 

McEvoy Maser on one of the more open corners on a course dominated by tight corners (VDC)

McEvoy’s activities after 1936 are really beyond the scope of this article but he continued to compete at the highest levels of bobsleigh racing, this is covered at the end of the article.

In 1937 he won $10,000 for setting a record time between Paris and Nice of 9 hours 45 minutes in a Talbot-Lago T150C-SS coupe- he was the first person to do the trip from the capital to the Riviera in less than ten hours aboad the 4 litre, six-cylinder OHV, 170 bhp machine.

McEvoy’s personal note of thanks for the use of the Talbot makes clear the spelling of the short form of his name (unattributed)

As war broke out the Australian was reluctant to apply his undoubted bravery to the war effort and left Britain to continue his playboy lifestyle on the French Riviera and later New York and Hollywood. His fisticuffs it seems were limited to the odd scrap with husbands of ladies who were miffed by his attention to women who succumbed to his considerable charm.

Freddy shared a house with the by then notorious Errol Flynn in Hollywood and they enjoyed many adventures, including diving expeditions to Mexico. McEvoy was a key witness for Flynn in his infamous statutory rape case in 1942-43- this involved allegations of under-age sex by seventeen year Betty Hansen. Said events purportedly took place in McEvoy’s Bel Air home- his ‘no-nookie here matey’ protestations helped the actor get off the charges. Flynn credited McEvoy in assisting him recover from a growing dependency on opium by burning the actors stash of the drug, their friendship survived the fight which ensued when Flynn realised his drug syringes were ablaze in an adjoining room.

The actor, quoted in Mike Seth-Smith’s book on the Cresta Run, says: ‘I found that he complemented me. He was an athlete, a roisterer like myself, and he could be canny too, very. He had his eye for the main chance and bluntly told me he intended to marry wealth. With his physique and appearance and his charm and culture I didn’t doubt he could do this.’

Flynn and McEvoy at Monte Carlo in 1950 just prior to Flynn’s marriage to Patrice Wymore. Freddy was best man and Claude Stephanie Filatre, McEvoys third wife, the other witness (unattributed)

Suspected as spies in the 1930’s, the US authorities monitored the activities of both Flynn and McEvoy with the FBI eventually concluding Freddy was ‘an international pimp who is interested in his own well being and probably not engaged in activities detrimental to the interests of the country’. In the same period, 1944, it is said the hustler smuggled guns, jewellery and alcohol from Mexico City to California on his boat, as his second marriage did not yield much cash.

McEvoy scandalised high society and fascinated the readership of gossip columns in equal measure. ‘A debonair socialite, he courted infamy as one of Hollywood’s self-styled ‘Hellfire Club’ or ‘Three Musketeers’ along with Errol Flynn and Bruce Cabot of  ‘King Kong fame’ and was usually characterised by newspapers as a ‘handsome gigolo’ or ‘popular playboy’- the big ‘dame hunter’ married three times.

At one society party in Cannes, the already married McEvoy made a play for Woolworth’s heiress, Barbara Hutton, just divorced from Cary Grant. They never wed but lived together for a time at a ski resort Hutton bought in Franconia, New Hampshire. In a sidebar to this liasion, our intrepid racer was beaten up by some thugs who set up the initial meeting between McEvoy and Hutton after Freddie failed to pay the ‘facilitation fee’! I guess ‘Tinder’ always existed in one form or another whatever the technologies of the day.

Although he failed there, Freddy succeeded in wooing the heiress to an oil fortune, Beatrice Cartwright of the Pratt Family/Standard Oil in 1940. At 63, she was 30 years older than McEvoy and promised him a yacht and a million dollars. McEvoy got the yacht, the 65-tonne Black Swan, but the money never found its way into his bank account. He later married a second heiress, Irene Wrightsman, at 18 years old less than half his age but they drifted apart after Irene’s father removed her access to the families loot.

McEvoy’s third and final wife was Claude Stephanie Filatre, a French fashion model. They married in 1949 and made their home aboard a 104-foot ketch/schooner called Kangaroo or Black Joke depending upon the account you choose to reference- and there are plenty of conflicting accounts about many aspects of this mans life as I hope I have made clear.

The boat struck a reef off the Moroccan coast 60 miles from Casablanca during a storm off North Africa in 1951. There is some speculation that McEvoy was running arms or grog between his home port of Cannes and Tangiers. He made it to the shore and sought help unsuccessfully from a small settlement at Safi. Freddy returned to the floundering boat to rescue Filatre, but this time his luck ran out. McEvoy’s body, naked and scalped was in a lagoon/washed up on the beach on November 9, 1951 and his wife’s body the next day.

It transpires that one of the ships crew was wanted for murder of a prostitute in Berlin in 1945, that man, Manfred Lentner was later convicted of the murder in a Salzburg court in May 1954. Further, at the time of the ‘shipwreck’ British Intelligence had been tracking McEvoy as a suspected arms-dealer and smuggler of contraband between Tangiers and France- so to the very end of the racers story there was plenty of mystery and intrigue including fifteen thousand pounds worth of diamonds and whisky onboard the ship. A French court convened in Morocco found  a verdict of murder by persons unknown of McEvoy, Filatre, her maid and three sailors- no-one was ever charged.

Fast Freddy, at best an elite level sportsman and likeable scallywag but perhaps more accurately described as an outstanding sportsman and amoral crook and scumbag certainly did not die guessing about the possibilities of life- without doubt he lived it to the full.

Put more delicately ‘Sport was but one aspect, albeit perhaps the only honourable one, of his fourty-four years on earth. His reputation was variously as an unprincipled playboy, suspected spy, alleged smuggler, dubious adventurer and unhealthy close associate of one of Hollywood’s most iconic but least reputable stars. He was one of the few Australians about whom the standard phrase in obituaries, ‘he led life to the full’ is an understatement’ wrote Max Everest-Phillips.

 Maserati 6CM…

‘Voiturettes’, cars of smaller capacity than machines of the contemporary Grand Prix formula went back to the dawn of motor racing, but the class grew in importance with the introduction of the 750 kg formula. There had been no official capacity limit since 1926, although the Voiturette class was usually for cars of 1100cc. During the 1930’s the category was increasingly held for machines of 1500cc- it was attractive to smaller teams and privateers given the growing expense of GP racing. To that end Maserati introduced the 4CM-1500cc 4 cylinder in 1932, with the 6CM a response to the Riley based ERA’s pace, these first raced from 1934.

The 6CM chassis was the usual channel section of the day but heavily boxed as Maserati were beginning to realise the importance of chassis rigidity. Front suspension was similar to the very unsuccessful V8RI GP car with independent suspension by unequal length wishbones and friction dampers up the front. At the rear, a rigid axle was deployed suspended on semi-elliptic springs. The body of the car was similar to the V8RI with a cowled radiator and neat streamlining.

The Fiat parts bin provided quite a few bits including the steering box and gearbox. The ‘tranny was a 4 speeder designed for use in the Fiat Tipo 522 taxi and was considerably overstressed given the cab had a paltry 34bhp. There were plenty of gearbox dramas until Masers started to make their own ‘boxes. The rear axle was made by Isotta Fraschini.

The heart of the matter was a six-cylinder engine of 1493cc which had the cylinders cast in pairs, and twin overhead camshafts driven from the nose of the crank in established Maser practice. A single Weber carb, Roots type blower, Scintilla magneto and dry sump lubrication completed the key mechanical specifications. The neat little motor was claimed to produce 155bhp @ 6200 rpm early on which rose to circa 175bhp over time.

Cigarette card honouring the 1938 4-man bob world championship winning British team with Freddy up front

Freddy’s Alpine Career in Perspective…

Freddy was one of the great sportsmen of his era and in bobsleigh racing one of that discipline’s all-time greats.

He was a pioneer of a sport which was then very dangerous, the medal he won at Garmisch in the ’36 Olympics made him the first Australian to win a Winter Olympics medal albeit representing the mother-country, England.

Over the next three years captaining the British team and piloting the bobsleigh he won two world championships on the trot- in 1937 and 1938, that later year beating ‘the master race’ in front of their home crowd in Nazi Germany. He took silver the year after that.

In total he won three Gold and two silver World Championship medals in two different forms of the sport- the four and two man ‘bobs, and was the first ever competitor, (along with his partner in the two-man bob) to win gold in both events in the same year. He set one last course record in 1939, covering the 1554 metres of the Italian World Championships run at Cortina d’Ampezzo in a time of 1 minute 20.75 seconds. It was also in Cortina where he won his first World Championship gold in the two-man bob in 1937.

 It was only the outbreak of war which put an end to his short career- he was the only sportsman from Australia to receive a medal in any of the five founding sports of the Winter Olympics.

Max Everist-Phillip’s, Director of the United Nations Development Programme’s Global Centre in Singapore in a 2015 ‘Numismatic Association of Australia’ article entitled ‘Bobsleigh in a Warm Climate: Pre-war Australian Identity on The Slide’ goes as far as to say that ‘…McEvoy’s 1938 bobsleigh triumph (World Championship Gold) in Nazi Germany represents not just an Australian achievement in an unusual sport from a different era. In the run up to World War 2, the success of the Australian-British team carried political significance. It marked a triumph for the democratic ideal over the Third Reich’s totalitarian ideology and the ‘master race’. Its win offered a psychological boost to the British Empire in the lead up to World War 2. Nazi propaganda sought to claim the German people trained in the body in the service of the state and so international sporting success supposedly demonstrated the might of the ‘new Germany’, thereby apparently justifying its claim for ‘Lebensraum’ and racial supremacy. The victory gripped the popular imagination increasingly interested in the sport’.

Spectators on a bend and the finishing section of the bobsleigh run, Garmisch, 1936 Olympics

Bibliography…

’Maserati: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley, kolumbus.f1, MotorSport magazine, Journal of The Numismatic Society of Australia article ‘Bobsleigh in a Warm Climate: Pre-War Australian Identity on The Slide’ by Max Everest-Phillips, barchetta.cc

 Photo Credits…

 Getty Images, vanderbiltcupraces.com

Tailpiece: Thank Your Lucky Stars…

Errol Flynn in the scene from ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ in which McEvoy, although unattributed in the credits, appears at right (unattributed)

Finito