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.’

Bob contacted the owner of the Maserati at this stage of his research to provide some additional information, he has provided this wonderful history of the Maserati 4CL generally, and of this particular chassis specifically, anomnity is preferred by this wonderful fellow. He relates as follows;

‘The four Maserati brothers (Alfieri, Ernesto, Ettore and Bindo) began producing racing machinery in their native Bologna, Italy in 1926 taking Neptune’s Trident (and the symbol of Bologna) as their now famous emblem. The racing Tipo 4CL Maserati, was first tested in January 1939 and produced in small numbers (est.24) by Officine Alfieri Maserati now relocated to Modena through 1939, 1946 and 1947.

‘1579’ during the 1948 Zandvoort GP weekend, Bob Ansell DNF, final won by Bira Maser 4CL (unattributed)

Primarily in response to increased competition from the powerful Alfa Romeo 158 (Alfetta) which would subsequently dominant post-war European racing, together with the successful experimentation of a 4-cylinder engined hybrid 6CM, Maserati produced a new supercharged 4-cylinder, 90 degree twin overhead camshaft, 16-valve supercharged 1500cc racing monoposto to lead its racing program through the immediate post-war period; the Tipo 4CL.

This new model featured dry-sump lubrication, fixed-head cylinder blocks, and a single-stage gear driven Rootes-type blower drawing its mixture through a large twin throat Weber carburettor. Power output was optimistically claimed at 220 HP at 8,000 rpm. A four-speed gearbox was used in conjunction with a dry multi-plate clutch to transmit power to an enclosed driveshaft rigid rear axle suspended with splayed quarter elliptic leaf-springs, radius arms, and friction-type shock absorbers. Independent front suspension was utilised with equal length wishbone arms and a long torsion bar each side.

The entire machine was beautifully (hand) crafted with extensive use of magnesium and electron castings. All major, and most minor componetry, was individually numbered and stamped with the Maserati trident and an identifying part/chassis number. The aluminium bodywork was suitably purposeful and streamlined, hand beaten by legendary Maserati coachbuilder Medardo Fantuzzi.

Raymond Sommer 1948 French GP, Reims. DNF oil pressure on lap 2. Jean-Pierre Wimille won aboard an Alfa Romeo 158 (unattributed)

This particular 4CL example (Chassis: 1579, constructed 28th of August, 1946) was raced as a ‘works’ Scuderia Milan car throughout the 1946 European racing season by Arialdo Ruggeri, Tazio Nuvolari, Franco Cortese and 2-times Le Mans 24-hr winner Raymond Sommer. (Since 1937 effective control and ownership of the Maserati operation had passed from the three remaning Maserati brothers (Ernesto, Bindo and Ettore) to industrialist Commendatore Adolfo Orsi.

The entire manufacturing and racing operation had subsequently moved from Bologna to Modena and the post-war factory racing program was managed by the Scuderia Milan.) Several good results were had in 1946, placing 4th (Ruggeri) at St. Cloud, Paris; winning the Maloja Pass Hillclimb (Ruggeri) in Switzerland; and winning and setting the fastest lap (Sommer) at the Grand Prix du Salon (Bois de Boulogne, Paris).

Tazio Nuvolari 1946 Coupe de la Resistance in practice. DNF gearbox, race won by Jean-Pierre Wimille Alfa Romeo 308 (unattributed)

After being acclaimed European Champion in 1946, Sommer subsequently purchased Chassis 1579 outright (10th of March,1947) for his personal use in selected events throughout the 1947 season. A patriotic Frenchman from the Ardennes region of France, Sommer was the owner of Europe’s largest carpet manufacturing firm and hailed from a family of pioneering aviators.

Now painted in nationalistic French racing blue and fettled by Sommer’s personal team of mechanics in Paris, Chassis 1579 (ID 1555) set fastest laps in Sweden (on a frozen lake), at Pau and then Perpignan in the south of France before the Scuderia Milan requested Sommer to drive a newly developed 2-stage supercharged 4CL at Jersey (Channel Islands) and at the Swiss Grand Prix.

Sommer was back in Chassis 1579 at the 14km long Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit for the 1947 European Grand Prix in June. Ominously, Alfa Corse had entered four Alfa 158’s and whilst Sommer maintained 3rd place ahead of Sanesi and Trossi in the Alfettas at 1/3rd distance he was forced to retired with a broken front chassis cross member.

Sommer further competed in this car in various mainly French events throughout 1947 and 1948, before passing 1579 ‘on loan’ to Birmingham brewing magnate R.E. (Bob) Ansell to compete in the 1st 1948 British Grand Prix at Silverstone (12th). Ansell continued to use the car through 1948 and 1949 (Goodwood, Jersey, Cork) before passing the car back to Sommer at ‘the end of a very expensive exercise’.

George Bainbridge, 1948 British GP, Silverstone. 12th in the race won by Gigi Villoresi Maser 4CLT/48 (G Griffiths)

 

Bob Ansell during the 1949 Jersey Road Race, 9th in the race won by Bob Gerards’ ERA B Type (G Griffiths)

Enter some enterprising Melbourne brothers, Henry and Peter Dale, and a colonial appetite for used, somewhat obsolete, European thoroughbred racing machinery.

Sommer had tragically been killed at Cadours in September, 1950 racing a 500cc Cooper, and through the great Monagasque driver Louis Chiron Henry Dale negotiated the purchase and importation of this Maserati, arriving in Adelaide- and then on to Melbourne on the 26th of January 1951, together with a Bugatti Type 35A and a Talbot Lago 26C monoposto racer.

Prior to importation the Maserati had been comprehensively rebuilt and subsequently landed in Australia with many later 4CLT/48 modifications including larger twin leading shoe brakes and an engine capable of 2-stage supercharging. After suitable spruiking by the Dales’ of the Maseratis availability in Australia, ex-MG Q-type racer Peter Vennermark purchased the car.

The cars first Australian outing was at the January 1951 Rob Roy hillclimb, followed by the Easter Mt Tarrengower meeting where it finished 2nd in class. Over the next 2 years Vennermark raced regularly in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia but only with mixed success.

‘1579’ in the Padstow Autoport, Jesse Griffiths, Sydney (D Giffiths)

The car was advertised in Australian Motor Sports (AMS) in mid-1953 and was purchased by speedway champion and 30’s Phillip Island racer Cec Warren from Melbourne. Again only mixed success followed, retiring whilst in 3rd place at Fisherman’s Bend in October and crashing to avoid Wal Gillespie (HRG) in the 1st Albert Park Australian Grand Prix meeting in November, 1953. Soon after in March, 1954, in practice for the Fisherman’s Bend meeting, Cec brought the Maserati into the pits for adjustments and on stepping out of the car immediately collapsed with a heart attack – he died within minutes.

The car subsequently moved to New South Wales being purchased by Sydney car dealer Arnold Glass in 1954. Both Glass and fellow NSW owners Peter Lovett and Jesse Griffiths campaigned the car spasmodically. Little is known of its race history during this 1954-1965 period, however, it is known to have competed at Mt.Druitt, Bathurst, Warwick Farm and the Orange (Gnoo Blas) circuits at some point.

With the then recent introduction of ‘Historic’ racing in Australia the car was re-imported into Victoria in the mid-60’s by Stuart Anderson of Bendigo, then passed to Ron Brownrigg (exhibiting the car at the 1970 Melbourne Racing Car Show) and Terry Valmorbida in Melbourne. It has been owned for the past 30 years by a Victorian based family’.

Stuart Anderson in the 4CL, Mallala, South Australia late sixties (S Anderson)

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

Tailpiece: Jesse Griffiths, ‘1579’ Gnoo Blas or perhaps Mount Druitt, NSW, fifties…

Finito…

Comments
  1. Brian Simpson says:

    Another excellent article Mark . . . thankyou for a wonderful site . Best regards , Brian .

  2. shaneb234 says:

    I agree, thank you Mark

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