Archive for August, 2018


John Cobb at Brooklands during the 17 May 1937 Gold Trophy Coronation Race, Napier Railton…

What an awesome 23.944 litre, 580 bhp machine this is- there is little point waxing lyrical about a superb racing car which is a well known national icon in the UK, so I will keep it short and hopefully sweet.

Cobb was a big man and clearly liked his racing cars on some scale, a passion his fur-broking business Anning Chadwick & Kiver allowed him to indulge. Reid Railton designed the car which was built by Thomson & Taylor with the specific brief of taking the Brooklands lap record, a feat it achieved for all time, at 143.33 mph on 7 October 1935. It was an exercise he likened to ‘trying to see how far you can lean out of a window without actually falling!’.

Brooklands, Cobb, Napier Railton, date unknown (B Museum)

John Cobb and the Napier at Brooklands on 31 March 1934 (Pinterest)

Railton specified a slow running Napier W-formation aviation engine in a suitably butch chassis with massive side members, twin cantilevered back springs and a finely muscular front axle. Typical of its time, the cockpit was capacious and it needed to be for record-breaking runs of up to 3000 miles or so.

Successful from the start, the car won its first race at the Brooklands Bank Holiday Meeting in 1933, the big beast recorded a standing lap of 120.59 mph and a flying lap of 123.28 mph. ‘When running for long spells, very large Dunlop special racing tyres were required, imposing a heavy task for the mechanics changing wheels at pitstops’. In addition to three times breaking the lap-record at ‘The Track’ the car broke world records at Montlhery and at Utah. The BRDC 500 Mile Race was won at 121.28 mph and the 500 Km version at 127.05 mph with the Napier Railton timed over the kilometre at 151.97 mph.

‘Pandora and The Flying Dutchman’ starred the Napier Railton in a fantasy romance with Ava Gardner and James Mason. Here ‘Dunlop Boys’ Freddie Hicks and Sidney West push the Napier towards a run on the Pendine Sands. Love the fags in mouths- photo used by Dunlop as a PR shot (unattributed)


Napier Railton on duty for GQ parachute testing circa 1951 (B Museum)

In 1949 Cobb hired the Napier Railton to the Romulus Film Company to make ‘Pandora and The Flying Dutchman’, a film about a racing driver. In 1951 John sold the car to the GQ Parachute Company who used it to test aircraft brake parachutes at Dunsfold Airfield- GQ modified the car and fitted it with test equipment to deploy parachutes at high speed and then retract them at about 30 knots.

Cobb, who served as an RAF pilot during the war, was killed trying to achieve the Water Speed Record in the jet-boat ‘Crusader’ at Loch Ness on 29 September 1952- the boat hit an unexplained wake.

The Napier Railton was in the best of hands when Patrick Lindsay acquired it-after a rebuild by Crosthwaite & Gardner he raced it in vintage events. It was then bought by Bob Roberts for his Midland Motor Museum, it was kept in running order after ‘being completely overhauled, except the engine’ by Hodec Engineering, Surrey in 1975. Aston Martin’s Victor Gauntlett was the next owner in 1989, and then at auction it passed to a German industrialist and finally, thankfully, became the Brooklands Museum’s car when offered to them in 1997 via a Swiss classic car dealer who ‘discovered it’ in the German’s collection. It is regularly demonstrated, many of you will have been fortunate enough to see it on circuit.

An awesome machine in the true sense of the word, goodness only knows how it felt on the limit for 500 miles on Brooklands famous concrete bumps…

 Etcetera: Technical Details of the Napier Railton as MotorSport reported them in 1933…


Getty Images- Popperfoto, MotorSport August 1933 and July 1997,

Tailpiece: Reid Railton designed Crusader being towed out into Loch Ness in 1952…




(N Stratton)


Kevin Loy’s Matich A51 ‘005’ Repco F5000 departing Oran Park in Vice-Regal style, 2 February 1975…

No standing on ceremony here, although its a you-beaut ANF1 car- the Formula 5000 machine is travelling in no more comfort than my Formula Vee and considerably less so than my old Lola T342 Formula Ford. And its off to Surfers Paradise, 850 kilometres away in the hands of Ian Douglass to whom it has just been sold.

I’ll bet Frank Matich, Derek Kneller and the boys looked after the thing much more nicely in the US- this chassis was new for the US L&M Series tour Team Matich undertook during 1973. It was FM’s primary weapon, A51 ‘006’ went along for the ride as the spare. Here is a story about Matich and his F5000 cars;

Matich A51 ‘005’ in the Mid Ohio paddock 1973 (T Capps)


Lella Lombardi in A51 ‘005’ during the 1974 AGP- car was overseen by Matich himself. Lella pushed Max Stewart, the winner very hard before oil pump failure ended a great run (HAGP)

In many ways this little baby would be ‘the’ F5000 Matich to own. It toured the US, was raced by Lella Lombardi at Sandown and Oran Park in 1974, and, sold to John Goss to keep A53 ‘007’ company, won the 1976 Sandown Park Australian Grand Prix modified to A53 spec.

Another shot of Lombardi, this time at Sandown Park’s Dandenong Road corner in 1974 (B Keys)

Later still French sportscar ace Henri Pescarolo raced it at Calder in 1977, so too did Jim Richards in its ‘period dotage’ in 1979.

A very nice jigger indeed, here looking a bit forlorn on an open trailer behind an XA Ford Falcon Wagon rent-a-rocket.

Still, the serious money should be spent on the car not the trailer…

Goss wins the 1976 AGP aboard his Matich A51/53 ‘005’ from Vern Schuppan’s Elfin MR8C Chev, Sandown Park (HAGP)


Neil Stratton,, Terry Capps, Derek Kneller, ‘History of The AGP’ G Howard and ors, Bruce Keys

Tailpiece: A51 ‘005’ fitted with Repco V8 flat-plane ‘Shaker’ crank in the Watkins Glen pitlane 1973…

(D Kneller)


(S Hood)

Goerge Barton and John Sherwood with their MG NE Magnette, in 1934, place unknown…

John Sherwood was a rather talented Australian- an elite road racer, competitor in the 1938 Australian Grand Prix and winner of the 1939 New South Wales Grand Prix/Motor Road Race, both events at Bathurst. He was also an excellent Midget speedway racer, motor sport administrator and promoter.

Sherwood was the driving force of the NSW Light Car Club and the key individual who created the Mount Panorama track at Bathurst. From a pioneering motoring family, he was a formidable competitor and later, as a Director of Empire Speedways, was a big contributor to the growth of Speedway Racing in Australia

I was researching an article on Sydney’s Parramatta Park road circuit when I tripped over this article written by Sherwood in 1953. I’ve reproduced it for its rarity- a man of the sport, in the sport and involved in the business of racing writing about its history in period having participated in many of the events he describes.

The selection of photographs to help bring the article to life are my own, otherwise Sherwood’s work is reproduced verbatim.

John Sherwood exiting Murray’s Corner, MG NE Magnette, Bathurst, Easter Monday 10 April 1939 on the way to winning the handicap NSW GP/Motor Road Race. He won from Paul Swedberg in John Snow’s Delahaye 135S and John Barraclough’s MG NE Magnette. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that ‘Sherwood drove a splendid race throughout going into the lead after the first few laps and holding it to the end, though making two stops for faulty spark plugs’ (M Stahl)

‘Generally speaking, history tends to be on the dry side, but fortunately the historical side of motor racing is anything but dry. It is rather fascinating to look back along the years to see how the sport in Australia has developed.

Motor racing in our country has grown over the years despite several retarding factors: the continued objection of officialdom to all aspects of organised fast driving, for many years the impossibility of obtaining suitable circuits and tracks on which to race and the lack of factory support for ambitious and worthy drivers. Nevertheless, motor racing enthusiasts throughout Australia have overcome all these drawbacks, and today (1953 remember) we see more of the sport than ever before.

Motor racing in Australia developed in Australia through the early reliability trials of 45 years ago, followed gradually by the inclusion in such trials of speed events such as hillclimbs, acceleration tests and short timed events over quarter and half mile distances. Then commenced the various city to city record attempts, for a long time unhindered by officialdom, in which usually big engined chassis with bucket seats, and a host of spare tyres sped from capital to capital over atrocious roads with the success of the run always influenced by the number of blowouts of the cord beaded edge tyres, and the number of tyres it was possible to carry on the vehicle.

Drivers of these cars were considered super-drivers, and such men as the late AV Turner (later killed in a hillclimb), the late Boyd Edkins and ‘Wizard’ Smith were hero-worshipped everywhere by motor enthusiasts.

The first actual racing in Australia probably occurred on the enclosed tracks at Victoria Park Racecourse (Sydney) and the Aspendale one mile dirt track (Melbourne). Mostly big-engine low revving juggernauts took part, entirely unsuitable for the job as we look back now, but in those days the last thing in racing automobiles.’

‘World Championship’ for Under 1500cc cars- Penrith Speedway, Sydney, 6 October 1930. From the outside is John Sherwood’s Lea Francis O-Type, then the Sam Aggett and Charlie East driven Bugatti T37’s and on the inside Tom Lord’s, Geoff Lowe owned Austin 7 Brooklands. On the very inside verge is Jack Field’s supercharged Lea Francis S-Type Hyper tourer slowing having paced the competitors for a lap before the championships 3 lap journey, East was the winner in his Bugatti (SLNSW)

‘The early drivers were keen, and more tracks were opened at Penrith (one mile) Maroubra (5/6 mile highly banked concrete track) and beaches at Gerringong and in Victoria came into use for racing purposes. At Gerringong, Don Harkness, driving an enormous Minerva engined chassis, was clocked at 107 mph to be the first in Australia to exceed the coveted ‘century’.

(The) First actual road racing circuit was opened at Phillip Island in Westernport Bay, 40 miles from Melbourne in 1928 and this became the mecca for motor racing enthusiasts for the next nine or ten years. At this point the dry bed of Lake Perkollili in Western Australia was the centre of motor racing in the west.

Australia’s best road circuit (more or less built specially for the purpose) at Mount Panorama, Bathurst came into being in 1938, and except for most of the war years, has been in use ever since. Other road circuits in other states have also sprung up, and since the war various ex-airforce strips have been adapted for racing with much success.

The newest circuit to come into use is in Parramatta Park, 15 miles from Sydney, a rather narrow 2 mile circuit, suitable mainly for the smaller cars, but by reason of its close proximity to a big population, is certain of success.

Down through the years cars have altered very considerably, the small high revving high compression engines now putting out power which one could not have conceived in the early days. Suspensions, brakes, steering, weight, tyres, fuel, streamlining and a hundred and one other things have combined to make the modern racing car a real thoroughbred, capable of sustaining terrific speeds over long distances.

As the years have rolled on, the scene changes, but motor racing itself does not change. Its spirit, rich in tradition and sportsmanship, linking past and present, reaches out to the future.’

Photo Credits…

Sam Hood, State Library of New South Wales, Max Stahl Collection


South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus 21 September 1953, reprint of an article first published in the ‘Bentwood Review’, Sydney Morning Herald 11 April 1939, John Medley

Tailpiece: Sherwood and flock…


John Sherwood standing beside John Snow’s #4 Delahaye 135S, with the #6 Edison Waters Jaguar 100SS, Alf Barrett’s Alfa Monza and John Barraclough driven Alvis Terraplane straight-8 on the Bathurst grid in October 1939. Sherwood instrumental in the construction of this Australian racing institution- in the words of John Medley ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’.




Graham Hill, works Gold Leaf Team Lotus 49 Ford 2.5 DFW in the Warwick Farm pitlane during the ‘Farm’s February 1968 Tasman Round weekend…

I’ve done the 1968 Tasman Series to death with a series of articles uploaded before including one on this particular weekend but this batch of ‘up close and personal’ photos by enthusiast Bryan Henderson are too good to ignore.

One of the reasons enthusiasts get misty eyed about that series is that both Clark and Hill had been regular, enormously popular visitors to Australasia from the dawn of the sixties pre-Tasman era, 1968 was the last we had the pair of them down south together.

Clark won the Tasman with the still very new Lotus 49 in dominant fashion and then returned to Europe after winning the series and the F1 season opening South African GP to his untimely death aboard a Lotus 48 Ford FVA during a Euro F2 round at Hockenheim. In the words of The Seekers popular song of the day ‘The Carnival Is Over’.

Hill, WF- this shot 1969


Clark and Hill, Lotus 49’s, Amon Ferrari Dino 246T, then Courage behind Clark, McLaren M4A FVA and Hulme, Brabham BT23 FVA with Gardner, Brabham BT23D Alfa  behind Denny

We all have our favourite seasons of course but arguably that summer of ’68 was the Tasman peak.

The variety of cars was truly stunning- BRM P261 V8 and P126 V12, Ferrari Dino V6, Brabham Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 V8, the Lotus 49 Ford V8’s, various Brabham Repco V8’s including Jack’s latest works BT23E Repco ‘740’ V8 and a swag of Coventry Climax FPF engined machines in the hands of locals. The driving pool included just annointed World Champ Denny Hulme, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Chris Amon, Bruce McLaren, Richard Attwood, Chris Irwin, Frank Gardner, Piers Courage and local hotshoes Kevin Bartlett, Leo Geoghegan, John Harvey, Graeme Lawrence and others. An amazing variety of cars and depth of talent on the grid…


(B Jackson)

Things go better with…

Graham and the boys bleed the Lotus’ brakes, note the use of a solid rotor rather than the vented discs used initially in 1967. Nice shot of the front bulkhead and inboard front suspension packaging.


All photographs- Bryan Henderson, exceptions attributed on the shot

Tailpiece: To the victor the spoils…

Stilrling Moss, long retired but looking disgustingly fit addresses the crowd in advance of presenting Jim Clark his trophy- he won from Graham and Piers Courage in an F2 McLaren M4A Ford FVA. The gent in the shirt and dark tie is the much respected Geoff Sykes, the AARC/Warwick Farm General Manager/Promoter.

Wonderful times…