Archive for October, 2018

(R Wolfe)

Bugger!

Led Zeppelin first recorded ‘Communication Breakdown’ in 1969, although it was part of their live set from 1968. My whacko brain thought of that song and riff upon seeing this bit of ye olde school communication…

It would have been perfect if the song originated from 1967 given the date of the Brabham Racing Organisation team-leader’s (thaddl be Brabham JA) letter to the General Manager of Repco Brabham Engines Pty Ltd, Frank Hallam Esq is, according to Rodway Wolfe’s handwritten scrawl, 24 May 1967.

These days we have that internet thingy which makes our lives so instant in terms of communication, back then it was ‘snail mail’ or Telex machine if you were from the big end of town. I guess airmail from Surrey, UK to Maidstone, Victoria, Australia was three days or thereabouts? And the same in return with a neato ‘Par Avion’ sticker and a more expensive stamp affixed.

Jack’s note was sent between the Monaco and Dutch GP’s.

BRO had shown plenty of pace early in the season with Brabham and Hulme on pole and with fastest lap respectively at Kyalami albeit Pedro Rodriguez took the South African GP win in his Cooper T81 Maserati.

Jack flicking BT19 around with the abandon so characteristic during 1966-7. RBE740 powered, here ahead of Jim Clark’s Lotus 33 Climax FWMV 2 litre DNF, with Jack’s motor about to go kaboomba (unattributed)

At the following championship round- Monaco, Jack was on pole deploying the new RBE740 Series V8’s power and big, beefy mid-range punch for the first time in a championship round. But an unhappy early ending to the weekend was the Aussie’s new moteur breaking a rod on the first lap of the race. Denny won his first GP in a 620 engined BT20, so it was far from all bad from the team’s perspective- the race tragic for the sad demise of Lorenzo Bandini after a fiery crash aboard his Ferrari 312.

Merde! or Australian vernacular to that general effect- Brabham checks the hole in his nice new 700 Series Repco block, carved up somewhat from an errant conrod- Monaco 1967

But all the same their would have been a bit of consternation in the camp at the time, no doubt a phone call to Hallam was made about the buggered rod, or maybe Frank read about it in the late edition of Monday’s Melbourne daily ‘The Sun’?

The Lotus 49 Ford Cosworth DFV changed the GP world when it appeared in the hands of Clark J and Hill G at Zandvoort on June 4- the need to lift was clear!

So, lets address Jack’s requests.

Sorry about that sketch of Brabham’s requested 700 Series block modifications! Sadly we don’t have it- which is a bumma.

The modified Daimler rods and caps are RB620 bits, not 740- so Jack is after some bibs and bobs to keep alive some of the RB620’s by then in circulation in Europe. Not to forget Denny was still using RB620’s until he got a 740 for Spa in mid-June. The ‘620 Series’ Repco was the first of the Repco Brabham Engines series of race V8’s and was based on the standard Oldsmobile F85 block- ‘600 Series’ block and ’20 Series’ cross-flow heads in Repco nomenclature. The ‘740 Series’ was the new for 1967 motor- ‘700 Series’ bespoke Repco designed block and ’40 Series’ exhaust within the Vee heads.

The water rail changes appear routine race experience evolution, in fact whilst the whole letter is dealing with normal stuff its still interesting, if you know what i mean? And the engine fitters will have been given the bief to watch the chain tensioner fit.

Jack’s checklist of engine parts is interesting.

I thought all of the RBE engine rebuilds happened at Maidstone but clearly that is not the case, some engine work was being done in The Land of The Pom. Interested to hear from you RBE lads on this point.

Brabham and Hallam at Sandown with their newborn, January 1966 (R Wolfe)

The photograph above is of the two participants in the above correspondence at Sandown Park, Melbourne during the 1966 Tasman round. It is a ‘pose for the press’ shot given the race debut of the Repco V8 in the companies home town.

It was the second race for the RBE620 Series V8- the first was a 3 litre unit used by Jack during the non-championship South African GP weekend on 1 January, DNF with a fuel injection pump problem.

The engine above is a 2.5 litre jobbie- easily picked by its long Lucas injection trumpets, this time an oil pump broke- the chassis is the one and only BT19 which carried Jack to the 1966 title, and as can be seen in the Monaco photographs, well into 1967. The RBE620 became a paragon of reliability after some initial traumas were rectified…

The RBE 620 Series engine story is here;

https://primotipo.com/2014/08/07/rb620-v8-building-the-1966-world-championship-winning-engine-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-2/

The RBE 740 Series engine story is here;

https://primotipo.com/2016/08/05/rb740-repcos-1967-f1-championship-winning-v8/

Tailpiece: Denny en-route to Monaco victory aboard an RBE620 powered Brabham BT20, Jo Siffert’s Rob Walker Cooper T81 Maserati behind DNF…

Credits…

Rodway Wolfe Collection, Getty Images, Bernard Cahier

Finito…

(B King)

Many European and American engines were used to replace the tired original in racing Bugattis in Australia – notably Ford’s V8 and Hudson’s side valve straight eight – ‘there’s no substitute for litres’…

However, it was Australia’s own cast iron, pushrod-OHV ‘grey’ Holden six that was as effective as any.

We will take a look at two important examples where a ‘grey’ successfully replaced the sophisticated mid-nineteen twenties single overhead cam, three valves per cylinder, 1500cc, Bugatti unit.

Bob Baker of coachbuilding fame, powers through Tin Shed corner at Rob Roy. This body would not have been the best example of his art (B King)

Type 37 Bugatti, chassis no. 37209…

This is the Bugatti that multiple Australian Grand Prix winner Bill Thompson made his Phillip Island debut with in 1929.

His race lasted but two laps before he exited with a blown-up motor – youthful over-enthusiasm perhaps? This was far from the end of the cars participation in the AGP, with the next owner Ernie Nichols contesting the 1934 and 1935 GPs at the same venue.

After a succession of well known drivers, it returned to Sydney where it was prominent in the early post war racing scene, first with Roy Murray and then Irwin ‘Bud’ Luke. The latter finished a splendid seventh in the 1949 AGP at Leyburn the ageing car winning the handicap and averaging 73 mph for the 150 miles. At Easter Bathurst, 1951, it was a victim of the well named Conrod Straight after having achieved almost 98 mph.

Fishermans Bend did not provide the most exciting background for photographers to display their wares. This is John Hall at the wheel, possibly on the way to a podium in the B Grade Scratch Race (B King-Spencer Wills)

 

Paddock shot at Phillip Island (B King)

It was back at Bathurst for the AGP in 1952, but now Holden engined. It was said to be the first Holden engined racing car – do our readers know of an earlier Holden powered special? The car today is little changed from when it was last raced seriously in the nineteen sixties and is still in regular use.

In terms of the articles opening photograph.

The Holden Bugatti was still an effective racing car into the sixties in the hands of a number of drivers – the 3 inlet trumpets are a give-away that this is no ordinary Bugatti. Who is the driver entering Repco Corner at Phillip Island, probably in the late nineteen-fifties though folks? We can confidently rule out Valery Gerrard. John Hall was rotund, as was John Marston. Therefore it is likely to be Barry Elkins or John Pyers?

(B King)

The old girl (above), still with unsupercharged Bugatti engine, was  still able to hold a bevy of stripped TC’s up the mountain at Bathurst.

(P Coleby)

‘37209’ again, and still in action at Calder circa 1962 when owned by the Watson brothers.

 

John Cummins in ‘37332’ keeps Bill Sherwill honest on the dirt at Tarrawingee, near Wangaratta, Northern Victoria. This is a good illustration of Cummo’s flamboyant style (B King)

Type 37(A) Bugatti, chassis no. 37332…

John (Cummo) Cummins, grand prix driver, raconteur, racing commentator and all round good fellow will be familiar to many readers as the driver of this Holden engined Bugatti special.

And it was a very special car. New in 1928, it gained fame as the feature car of TP Cholmondeley Tapper’s “Amateur Racing Driver” (Foulis). The car was owned by New Zealander Tapper’s partner, Eileen Ellison, and they campaigned it extensively in England, Europe and South Africa.

David Evans frightens a sapling in the unmodified Type 37 at a Bugatti Owners Club sprint meeting at Chalfont-St Giles. Presumably when the car was owned by Eileen Ellison (via Kees Jansen)

In the early thirties they had it supercharged at Bugatti’s Molsheim factory. In the mid-thirties it was modified by Leslie Bellamy; he fitted his eponymous independent front end which was detrimental to the cars appearance, and probably also to its handling, as it shortened the wheelbase.

(B King)

Cummo found the engineless car in Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1952 and brought it to Australia where Len Sydney fitted a hot Holden engine.

Here above is the down-at-heel Bellamy. No engine, no problem- fit a ‘grey’. This was possibly the third racing car so fitted with Lou Molina and Silvio Massola splitting the two Bugattis in the precedence stakes with their ‘MM Special’.

John’s position as an engineer at Chamberlain’s gave him access to a veritable Who’s Who of tuning experts – this resulted in a standing ¼ mile time of 14.4 seconds and 135mph on Conrod Straight. In recent times the car has been returned to the standard configuration of a supercharged Type 37A Bugatti.

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

‘Bugattis in Australia and New Zealand, 1920 – 2012’. Bob King & Peter McGann. (Self published 2012), ‘Amateur Racing Driver’ TP Cholmondeley Tapper. (Foulis, undated)

Bob King Collection, Kees Jansen, Spencer Wills, Peter Coleby Collection

Tailpiece: John Cummins, ‘The Wall’, Templestowe Hillclimb, in Melbourne’s then outer, now inner east…

(B King)

 

Finito…

‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ race, Lobethal 1939 (SLSA)

The first official ‘Australian Touring Car Championship’ was held at Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales on 1 February 1960, the one race title was famously won by David McKay’s Jaguar Mk1 3.4.

I wonder whether the first Australian Touring Car Championship is not that ‘Official’ as in CAMS sanctioned event at all- but rather the ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ race held during the January 2 1939 Australian Grand Prix meeting at Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills won by Tom Bradey’s Singer Bantam?…

The racing of ‘run-what-you-brung’ production cars goes all the way back to the dawn of racing in Australia- to Intercontinental City to City record breaking, the ‘Car Trials’ run out of major towns and the speed events held within them, on dirt ‘speedways’ and ‘Around the Houses’ racing in Western Australia.

‘Stock Car’ or touring car racing at Applecross, Perth during the 1940 Patriotic GP meeting- the Bill Smith Humber chases a Chevrolet (K Devine)

 

Steamin’: More Applecross action, gas producers Stock Car race!, with one competitor boiling on the line, magic shot (K Devine)

The Monday 2 January Lobethal 1939 AGP event program comprised a 10.45am ‘curtain-raiser’- the 75 mile South Australian Grand Prix, and then ‘an innovation, the Australian Stock Car Road Championship, in which all manner of stock car models, from sedans to tourers, and small engine roadsters have been entered’ over 50 miles held at 1pm. Finally the blue riband Australian Grand Prix contested over 150 miles of the ultra challenging, dangerous, demanding Lobethal road circuit commenced at 2.30pm.

These races, consistent with Australian motor racing practice well into the sixties were run to handicaps- I’m not suggesting that all races into the sixties were handicaps, but some were. The last handicap AGP was the 1948 Point Cook, Melbourne race won by Frank Pratt’s BMW 328.

The entry for the Lobethal stock car title race was diverse and comprised, as suggested above both ‘touring cars’ and ‘sports cars’. This too was the case in Australia until well into the fifties, ‘Sportscars were still seen as a natural part of a production car field, although the arrival of the Jaguar XK120 tended to stretch the friendship’…’The combination of sports and sedan cars to make up production car fields plus the frequent resort to handicapping, meant there were very few predictable winners amongst the touring cars of the early 1950s…’according to HATCC (The Official History of The Australian Touring Car Championship).

John Snow in his Hudson 8, a roadie as well as a car he competed in- inclusive of hillclimbs and at Mt Panorama, Bathurst (N Howard)

The ‘Geoghegans, Brocks and Lowndes’ of that 1939 day were Frank Kleinig in Bill McIntyre’s Hudson 8 and the similarly equipped John Snow, with Jock McKinnon, J McGowan and Ted Parsons in Ford V8’s. In amongst the ‘heavy metal’ were cars such as the Austin 8 raced by local ace of that marque Ron Uffindell, K Brooks’ Wolseley, D Hutton in a Morris 8/40 and Tom Bradey in a Singer 9 Bantam.

The sportscars comprised MG T Types of Owen Dibbs and S Osborne, the MG ‘Tiger’ of Selwyn Haig and the fast Jaguar SS100 of G Brownsworth- he was off scratch as were Kleinig and Snow, the latter two blokes aces in the ‘Grand Prix’ machinery also racing that day. The winner of the AGP was Allan Tomlinson, the prodigiously quick and superbly prepared Perth ace aboard a supercharged MG TA, a wonderful story for another time. Soon actually, it’s completed.

G Brownsworth Jaguar SS100 (B King)

The Adelaide Advertiser’s reporter was not particularly impressed with the touring cars in practice. ‘The entrants in the Australian Stock Car Championship had trouble at almost all of the corners on the course, as the cars, not built for racing, swayed and threatened to overturn with the heavy loading imposed on the bodies imposed by the racing speeds’.

Despite that, Kleinig lapped in 7:32 min/secs, Snow 7:35 and Phillips in 7:45- by way of comparison the lap record was held by Lobethal-Meister Alf Barrett in a 2.3 litre supercharged straight-eight Alfa Romeo Monza in 5:41- so in relative terms they were not too shabby.

Perhaps modern comparisons are instructive. The F1 lap record at Albert Park is Schumacher’s 2004 Ferrari time of 1:24.125, the V8 Supercars record is Scott McLaughlin’s Ford FG X Falcon’s 1:54.6016. Kleinig’s time as a percentage of Barrett’s is 73%, McLaughlin’s of Schumacher’s is 80%- and so it should be, the V8 Supercar is a racer whilst the Hudson 8 was very much a production car. The point is that the relative production lap time of the Hudson relative to a Grand Prix car of the period is not too bad at all.

Lobethal crowd taking in the stock car race 1939 (SLSA)

The Advertiser reported the race as follows…

‘Chief interest in the Australian stock car championship centred on the possibility of J McKinnon Ford V8 (3 mins) catching the leader, TM Bradey who was off 11 minutes in the little four cylinder Singer. The speed of the race was very slow in comparison to the SA Grand Prix’ the Advertiser’s reporter ‘Differential’ observed.

Bradey went into the lead from the Uffindell Austin 8 on the third time around with Hutton, Morris 8/40 a long way back in third. Brook’s Wolseley, Mrs Jacques MG T (Owen Gibbs driver) and the Osborne MG T retired at Kayannie after about three laps each, and McKinnon and Parsons in Ford V8’s moved up into fourth and fifth places respectively’.

Jock McKinnon’s second placed Ford V8, his handicap was 3 minutes (unattributed)

 

Ron Uffindell’s Austin 8 placing is unclear but he had a good weekend winning the South Australian GP in his Austin 7 Spl (B King)

‘Brownsworth with his low-slung racing type car (Jaguar SS100) was the best of the scratch men, and he left them to chase the other five. Lapping consistently at more than 70 miles an hour he moved up several places in successive laps and was gradually overhauling the leaders.

Bradey, however maintained his lead to the finish’.

Tom Bradey was a motor mechanic from Barmera in South Australia’s Riverland, he and his mechanic, Charlie Sheppard, who owned the car, towed it the 200 Km to Lobethal.

Tom Bradey and Charlie Sheppard on their way to a Lobethal Oz Stock Car Championship win’ locally bodied Singer Bantam (unattributed)

 

Tom Bradey and Charlie Sheppard after their historic win, Singer 9 Bantam. It is fair to say that the (non-championship) Group A Touring Car race held as a support event at the first Adelaide F1 GP held just down the road in 1985 was a higher profile race than this one! (J Redwood)

In a weekend of surprises for the Bradey family, James Redwood, Tom’s grandson wrote that ‘Uncles Peter and Don Bradey say he may not have told his wife (my grandmother) the whole truth about about his intention to race at Lobethal’.

‘Tom had set off with the family under the assumption that he was part of the support crew. The race was broadcast on the radio and it wasn’t until mention of Bradey on the call that the family realised he was the driver’.

Bradey returned to Lobethal the following year and raced a Bugatti Brescia in the 1940 ‘South Australian 100′, but failed to finish the race won by Jack Phillips’ Ford V8 Spl. Years later, in 1958, he bought the ex-Bira/Colin Dunne MG K3 which won the Junior GP at Lobethal in Colin’s hands in 1938 and failed to start the ’39 AGP that weekend with engine troubles. Many Australian enthusiasts will recall the Bradeys ownership and use of the K3 for decades.

In a nice bit of symmetry, Tom Bradey was approached by a North Adelaide man with the offer of sale of a Singer 9 in similar specification to his winning 1939 title car, that car passed to James Redwood in 1972 and in restored condition is still used regularly- the Bradey family-Singer connection lives on.

D Hutton’s fifth place Morris 8/40 (B King)

Race Results

1st TM Bradey Singer 9 Bantam in an actual race time of 54:08 minutes. 2nd J McKinnon Ford V8 . 3rd Ted Parsons Ford V8. 4th G Brownsworth Jaguar SS. 5th DE Hutton Morris 8/40.

The placings below Hutton are unrecorded in both the Advertiser’s contemporary race report published on 3 January 1939 and in more modern reference sources. The fastest lap fell to Brownsworth- 7 min 27 sec at ‘just over 71 miles an hour’.

Most results listings of the race have Jack Phillips as the driver of the third placed Ford V8. Whilst entered by him the car was raced by Ted Parsons according to The Advertiser. Jack and Ted were partners in a Ford service and sales agency at Wangaratta in northern Victoria.

Phillips drove, and Parsons was riding mechanic in the Ford V8 Special the pair owned and raced so successfully in this period- inclusive of third place in the AGP held later in the day and wins at the Interstate Grand Prix at Wirlinga, Albury that March and in the 1940 South Australian 100 at Lobethal.

It was 101 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade that scorching hot South Australian day- perhaps Phillips made a late call early in the sweltering weekend to preserve his energies for the AGP which immediately followed the stock car race, and allowed his partner to race in the support event.

Phillips was one of the aces of the period, it does make you wonder what Jack could have done with the car had he been the driver- and also whether Parsons raced with Phillips’ handicap, which would have been tougher than that applied to him given his level of racing experience, or whether he was given a different handicap.

I wonder if the Ford V8 raced by Parsons was off the Phillips/Parsons dealership floor in Wangaratta or supplied to them by FoMoCo?!

Surely this isn’t the first factory racing Ford entered in an Australian Touring (Stock) Car Championship race?! Harry Firth where are you?

Jack Phillips and Ted Parsons, Ford V8 Spl during the ’39 AGP. No doubt Parsons was a tad weary when he climbed into the the Big Henry’s passenger seat after his 3rd place in the Stock Car Championship race which preceded this event (N Howard)

The interesting thing is why the Lobethal race isn’t regarded as the first Australian Touring Car Championship given both the race’s name- the ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’, the ‘national’ entry list (Victoria, NSW and SA?) and that the race was run in a manner consistent with common practice right through to the end of the late-fifties- that is, a mix of touring and sports cars in a handicap event…

The ‘HATCC’ devotes several paragraphs to the race in its introduction but the emphasis of that part of the book is more about the rules of the time, ‘the race (the 1939 Lobe race) the programme explained was “open to standard touring or sportscars fitted with standard equipment and operating on standard first-grade fuel. The only alterations allowed will be raised compression ratio and alterations to the suspension in the interests of safety. In some cases, alterations to the suspension will be insisted upon”.

Then the much respected authors of the book moved on to a discussion about racing after the war.

Selwyn Haig’s MG ‘Tiger’, placing uncertain (B King)

 

Tom Bradey’s Singer being rounded up by Frank Kleinig’s Kleinig 8 Spl during the 1939 Lobethal weekend. This is Kleinig’s outright Hudson 8 MG chassis special he raced in the AGP, not the road car in which he contested the stock car race (J Redwood)

 

Bradey and Sheppard again (J Redwood)

 

Surely you missed the point blokes?!

Which was or is a debate about the merits of Lobethal as the first Australian Touring Car Championship race rather than Gnoo Blas- which held the CAMS created ‘Australian Touring Car Championship’ title race under the then new ‘Appendix J’ rules which commenced on 1 January 1960.

It is intriguing that HATCC authors Graham Howard, Stewart Wilson and David Greenhalgh didn’t debate the topic in their book’s introduction, in the early 2000’s Australian Motor Racing History was being re-written after all…

The honour of the first Australian Grand Prix was reallocated from the 31 March 1928 ‘100 Miles Road Race’, a race for cars of under 2 litres held on the original, rectangular, 6.5 mile gravel road course at Phillip Island, to the 15 January 1927 ‘Australian Grand Prix’, a six lap, 6 miles and a bit race between two cars around an oval, dirt, 1 mile 75 yards horse racing course at Goulburn, NSW’s second largest city.

To be clear, the Phillip Island event was two races, the cars split into classes based on engine capacity, consisting of a total of seventeen starters from several states, with the quickest time winning- Captain Arthur Waite in an Austin 7 s/c was famously the victor. The Goulburn contest was amongst seven competitors from New South Wales- two heats and then a final amongst the quickest pair over 6 laps- the victor was local racer, Geoff Meredith in a Bugatti T30.

My point is that if the attribution of ‘the first’ AGP can be reallocated on such debatable grounds- that the two-contestant Goulburn 6 minute 14.8 second race is an AGP in name only- then surely it is far from tenuous to assert that the first ATCC was the 2 January 1939 Lobethal race amongst competitors from two or three states won by Tom Bradey’s Singer 9 Bantam over 50 miles of the toughest ever race track in Australia, to rules or practices of the time which prevailed until the end of 1959?

Don’t get me wrong, I agree- just, depending upon the number of Coopers ‘Reds’ consumed on the night, that the first AGP is the 1927 Goulburn race, but it is very easy to argue the other way given the entire nature of the event other than its name.

1939 Lobethal program (S Dalton)

John Blanden in his 1981 ‘A History of The Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ writes in his introductory comments about the Lobethal meeting that ‘Immediately preceding the Australian Grand Prix were two other events, the 75 mile South Australian Grand Prix and the Australian Stock Car Championship which in later years would have had the title of Australian Touring Car Championship’.

Whilst on this jolly I rather suspect that had a Ford V8 won the Lobe race there would have been agitation from Ford/Ford fans/enthusiasts/historians to appropriate the 1939 championship as their first ATCC win but given the victor was a Singer- a long gone marque, there has been no such pressure applied.

Then of course there is my conspiracy theory, there always has to be one of those surely!?

The CAMS view of the world started with their existence in 1953, with all due respect to the serious historians spread across the CAMS Historic Commission, what happened in the past pre-1953 does not matter to the CAMS mainstream hierachy much.

‘The Official 50 Year History of The Australian Touring Car Championship’ published in 2011 to celebrate 50 years of the ATCC from the 1960 Gnoo Blas race has CAMS fingerprints all over it.

A CAMS promo banner appears on the cover, a Foreword by V8 Supercars CEO Martin Whitaker tells how wonderful that mob are and there is a second Foreword from CAMS President Andrew Papadopoulos (don’t mention Formula 4 folks, I did once and I think I got away with it…) ole’ Papa points out in his homily that ‘The ATCC is the second longest running national touring car championship in the world…’, include the ’39 Lobethal event and you have the oldest in the world matey…

I can’t help but wonder that even if the HATCC authors thought their was merit in recognising the 1939 Lobethal race as the first such title, and I’m not saying that is what they think/thought- I rather suspect the CAMS view is that the ATCC started with ‘their’ title in 1960- the ‘Official’ one, whereas the Lobethal race wasn’t an ‘Official’ championship but rather a concoction of the Sporting Car Club of South Australia, the organisers of the Lobethal meeting and is therefore ‘Unofficial’ rather than ‘Official’.

So, there you go, it’s all a CAMS conspiracy not to recognise Lobethal 1939 as it suits their dialogue and view of the world not to- even if the recognition of ’39 would make ’em the big swingin’ dicks of the touring car world by instantly giving them the oldest such title on the planet.

But let’s move on from CAMS, it’s always best to move on from CAMS. Quickly and with plenty of distance.

(S Dalton)

It’s just as easy to come up with reasons why the Lobethal meeting isn’t and wasn’t the first ATCC of course.

Just like a good lawyer, I can argue the case either way depending upon who is paying me the most. And no, I am not a lawyer, I’m not cursed by the misplaced sense of superiority which afflicts those poor souls.

So here are the arguments against Lobe ’39 first ATCC recognition, and rebuttals in relation thereto.

1.The race wasn’t called ‘The Australian Touring Car Championship’, if it wasn’t literally called just that, it doesn’t count as that.

Rebuttal.

Well yep, ya got me sunshine.

However, in Australia we happily call the 1928 ‘100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island the 1928 AGP and the 26 December 1936 ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ the 1937 AGP (WTF, LOL, go figure etc) so calling the ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ the ‘Australian Touring Car Championship’ is consistent with our flexibility in flicking around titles as and when it suits us.

2.A 50 mile race isn’t championship distance.

Rebuttal.

Bugger off! The ’61 and ’63 ATCC’s at Lowood and Mallala were both 50 miles and they were tracks for ‘girl guides’ compared with the rigours and perils of Lobethal.

3.Thirteen starters isn’t championship numbers.

Rebuttal.

Nah not really. Longford in ’62 only had only 14 cars and Sandown in ’65 only had 18- far fewer per head of population than Lobethal managed in ’39.

4. It wasn’t a touring car race with all those lid-less cars?!

Rebuttal.

Well, sorta, maybe but not really. Since 1960 the ATCC has been held to numerous sets of rules- Appendix J, Group C, Group A, V8 Supercars etc. In 1939 touring cars included those with lids, what we now call a convertible and sportscars. ATCC rules have evolved over time, what happened in 1939 is consistent with changes along the journey made by CAMS.

CAMS get confused every now and then too, about individual cars- for example, the Porsche 911, which most of us call a GT Coupe was ATCC eligible for a couple of years, then became a Sports Sedan and another two or so years later a Production Sportscar. Dimensionally during that period the car didn’t change but CAMS view of it did. Go figure. Don’t actually, because you will never figure it.

5.But Lobe was a handicap race, come on, surely not?!

Rebuttal.

Yeah, well maybe. But what is the difference between the class structure used for 20 years or so to give everybody a fair go and handicaps? Don’t even talk about CAMS rule changes here and there in every other year as their tummies were tickled by the politically powerful to create ‘equalisation’ or ‘parity’ between cars. Good try but that argument doesn’t knock us out of the ring either.

6. You are just trying to knock off the ‘first’ ATCC from New South Wales and give it to those undeserving South Australians.

Rebuttal.

I’m no more thieving a race from you mob than theft of the first AGP from the poor, smug, self righteous Victorians! My motives are as pure as any Canberra politicians.

Here endeth the diatribe.

And so my friends, I put it to you that the one race, 50 mile 1939 Lobethal ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ contested by thirteen or so cars and won by Tom Bradey’s Singer Bantam are indeed the first ATCC champion driver and car- official or otherwise.

As many of you know I am not in the slightest bit interested in touring car racing of any sort so my impartiality in relation to all of this is absolute.

Let’s hear your views!

In the meantime i look forward to a reprint of the ‘History of The Australian Touring Car Championship’ and a letter from CAMS in confirmation forthwith…

Tom Bradey and Charlie Sheppard, Singer 9 Bantam, Lobethal 1939 (B King)

 

Bob Lea-Wright and Jack Kennedy on lap 30, on the way to a 1934 AGP win, they had their difficulties as the car was jammed in top gear for much of the race (S Aspinall)

Etcetera: Singer in Australia…

The marque is largely unknown in Australia today but had plenty of competition success in period, Bob Lea-Wright and Jack Kennedy won the 1934 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island in a Singer 9 Le Mans, as below. This car is currently being restored by Nathan Tasca and his father in Victoria and may break cover at Motorclassica shortly.

(S Aspinall)

Sue Asinall, Bob Lea-Wright’s daughter recalls; ‘Dad and Jack Kennedy are outside the Singer dealership he managed in Melbourne after winning the ’34 AGP.

It was an incredible achievement given during practice the engine blew up. Dad and Jack took the car back to Melbourne and worked all night to instal a new one. They wearily drove back to the ‘Island where they had to “run the engine in” over 8 hours around the track on the Sunday and then race on the Monday!

My father also brought back other engine parts needed by fellow competitors! A true gentleman and genuine sportsman/competitor’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lets not forget Noel Campbell’s win at Lobethal the year before, below.

The Adelaide youngster won the 1938 South Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal in the circuit’s first car racing meeting that January driving his self built and modified Singer Bantam Special.

Not too long after the win he moved to Sydney where the car provided daily transport after conversion back to more standard form, it too, most of it, is in Nathan Tasca’s hands.

There is much, much more to the marque’s history in Australia but these two wins are just a couple of snippets to remember.

(N Howard)

Photo Credits…

Norman Howard, State Library of South Australia, Nathan Tasca Collection, Bob King Collection, James Redwood Collection, Sue Aspinall, Stephen Dalton Collection

Special Thanks…

To Singer enthusiasts and owners Nathan Tasca and James Redwood for research material, photographs and anecdotes

Bibliography…

Various Adelaide Advertiser newspaper articles, ‘The Official History of The Australlian Touring Car Championship’ Graham Howard, Stewart Wilson, David Greenhalgh, ‘A History of The Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ John Blanden

Tailpiece: No Lightweight in Performance: Singer Bantam, winner of the first Australian Touring Car Chanpionship…

(N Tasca)

 

Finito…

 

 

The only ugly Elfin body ever built wasn’t constructed in Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown in Adelaide but by Vern Schuppan’s crew in the US, or was it?…

Here Vern is on the way to ninth place in his Elfin MR8A-C Chev during the Road Atlanta Can-Am round on 14 May 1978, the race won by Alan Jones far effective Lola T333CS Chev.

There were some fairly vestigial conversions of F5000’s to single-seat Can-Am cars in that post 1976 period but Schuppan’s must be one of the most thinly disguised of them all?!

By way of comparison, below, is Elfin MR8B-C Chev ‘8783’ F5000 at Sandown Park in Februay 1978, a far prettier, ‘more resolved’ design in terms of its body. In a mixed weekend Vern put his Ansett Team Elfin car on pole but then blew an engine after 5 laps of the Sandown Park Cup, the race won by Warwick Brown’s Team VDS Lola T333CS Can-Am car converted to T332C F5000 specs. Amusing that, a Can-Am Lola reverting to F5000 spec rather than the other way around.

(Ian Smith)

Schuppan first tested an Elfin MR8 at Adelaide International raceway several days after winning the 1976 Australian Rothmans International Series in Teddy Yip’s Theodore Racing Lola T332 Chev. Together with Garrie Cooper they sorted the car which Vern raced in Australia throughout 1976 as his international commitments allowed.

Despite not being a fan of the SCCA’s decision to cease F5000 at the end of 1976 in favour of a single-seat 5 litre Can-Am class- in search of the unlimited Can-Am’s spectator appeal as the sanctioning body and the circuit promoters were, Vern decided to compete in 1977.

Schuppan at Riverside with ‘8772’ dressed in its original aluminium John Webb bodywork, the shape of which will be somewhat familiar to Elfin MS7 Repco enthusiasts (L Roberts)

 

Garrie Cooper races the John Webb bodied Elfin MS7 Repco Holden F5000 engined sportscar for the first time at Adelaide International in August 1974. Likeness to the Can-Am MR8 clear (R Davies)

Rather than buy a Lola T333 or the T332CS conversion kit to turn a T332 F5000 into a T332 Can-Am machine he decided to take an Elfin MR8 to the ‘states.

Elfin’s renowned sheet metal worker and body builder John Webb, together with Garrie Cooper built an all enveloping aluminium body based on that Garrie had used in his one-off MS7 Repco Holden sportscar which first raced in 1974.

The body was fitted to Elfin MR8A-C chassis ‘8772’ which Vern first raced as part of Ansett Team Elfin in the 1977 Australian Rothmans Series. He was 5th with an overheating engine, 7th after a tyre deflation and change, DNF pushrod, DNF oil leak at Oran Park, Surfers Paradise, Sandown and Adelaide International respectively.

That car Elfin MR8 ‘8772’ was despatched by sea to the US with the Can-Am body built in Edwardstown, using Garrie’s MR8 as the ‘slave’ upon which it was formed. When completed it was shipped across the Pacific and fitted and fettled to suit Vern’s car, slightly different in shape to GC’s.

Due to Vern’s Surtees F1 commitments and loss of his Can-Am sponsor he delayed the debut of the Elfin until the October 1977 end of season Riverside round.

The Adelaide driver qualified the new machine a good ninth- the team having only the three practice days to do all their sorting. He finished 22nd, 5 laps short of race and series winner Patrick Tambay’s Lola T333CS Chev after sustaining body damage.

Love the Brian Byrt Ford sponsorship- he shared Dick Johnson’s Falcon GT at Bathurst so supported didn’t he. MR8A-C Riverside 1977

 

Heading into 1978 the team planned a full assault on the title won by Alan Jones in the Carl Haas Lola T333CS Chev.

Perhaps the nearly two second gap between Vern and pole-man Jones at the opening round at Road Atlanta was indicative of the year to come. Schuppan was 5th and finished 9th with Jones first- the first five cars were Lolas.

At Charlotte in May he was 5th but Vern thought the car ‘wasn’t strong or light enough. We broke the rear suspension at Charlotte and had K&A Engineering in Adelaide design a new suspension and I had a lighter fibreglass body built. Still we were not as fast as the Lola’.

The ‘Elfin bible’ says that ‘Vern commissioned John Webb to fabricate lightweight bodywork…He despatched the panels to the USA where they were added to the basic MR8-C open wheeler body…’ I wonder if the (other) Webb bodywork is the ‘cycle-guard configuration’ or the more substantial final Can-Am body the car used in 1979? Or both.

The team missed Mid Ohio, Mont Tremblant and Watkins Glen before reappearing at Road America in late July- Vern was sixth having qualified ninth. Jones again won from Warwick Brown and Al Unser, both in Lola T333CS.

Schuppan, Road America 1978 (D Hutson)

The interim bodywork (interim in the sense it was the second of three bodies used on the Can-Am configuration of the car) of the car was developed by Boxx and his team in the US- whilst it was undeniably light it gave away much in both drag and downforce as other teams evolved their Lolas.

Off to Canada later in August Vern qualified and finished sixth at Mosport, this time with roughly 2.5 seconds between Vern and Jones on pole. Alan won from fellow Aussie Warwick Brown’s Team VDS Lola T333CS and similarly mounted Al Holbert.

Schuppan, Mosport 1978 (zoompics.com)

At the celebrated Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in Quebec Vern qualified fourth and finished seventh. Elliot Forbes-Robinson won for a change in the Spyder NF-10 Chev.

Mosport 1978 (unattributed)

In the two end of season October California races Vern was Q7 and DNF at Laguna Seca- a week later he qualified fifth but failed to finish after popping an engine at Riverside.

Riverside 1978

Jones won the championship taking five wins from the nine races he contested- all from pole. Warwick Brown was second and Al Holbert third, all of the guys aboard Lola T333CS.

The 1979 season started at Road Atlanta in May, with Vern missing that event, Charlotte, Mosport and Mid Ohio before making the race debut of the car with its new, all-enveloping, fibreglass bodywork at Watkins Glen in early July.

Schuppan, Elfin MR8A-C Chev, Watkins Glen 1979

He was six seconds shy of Keke Rosberg’s Spyder NF-11 Chev on pole but in a race of attrition finished a gritty third behind Keke and Geoff Lees VDS Lola T333CS Chev.

Road America 1979 (G Snyder)

Road America, Wisconsin, 22 July 1979, Vern was 5th in the race won by Jacky Ickx in the Haas-Hall Lola T333CS Chev from Geoff Lees T333 and Al Holbert’s Hogan HR-001 Chev.

At Brainerd Vern qualified tenth but popped an engine after completing 19 laps, Ickx won.

Vern chases Bobby Rahal’s Prophet Chev in the MR8A-C Riverside 1979 (C Nally)

Schuppan missed Trois-Rivieres but raced both the California season-enders.

He was Q9 and seventh at Laguna Seca with Bobby Rahal taking the win in his Prophet Chev. For the season ending Riverside meeting on 23 October- his last Can-Am race in the Elfin, Vern finished where he started in terms of the outright speed of the car, he was about two seconds off pole- Keke Rosberg’s Spyder NF-11 Chev on this occasion. He finished five laps down with mechanical problems, Jacky Ickx’ Lola T333 was the victor of both the race, and with five wins, the series.

‘8772’ in the Riverside paddock. Aluminium monocoque chassis and 525bhp AAR 5 litre, injected Chevy clear. Schuppan rated the MR8 F5000 a better car than a T332 Lola- not that the Can-Am variant was quicker! (G LaRue)

In an effort to become more competitive in the 1980 Can-Am Vern acquired two F1 McLaren M26’s with a view to having Howden Ganley’s Tiga Cars convert them into Can-Am machines, but then changed tack buying a bespoke Tiga CA80 instead.

The car, based on Tigas’s F2, ‘F280’ appeared in the last two rounds of the season at Laguna Seca and at Riverside (below) with the plucky Aussie unable to qualify the cars in the top-ten. He was classified sixteenth at Laguna after a water leak, completing only 37 laps and fourteenth after an engine failure on lap 41 at Riverside- after that the car was not raced again.

Vern, Tiga CA-80 Chev, Budweiser GP, Riverside 1980 (unattributed)

The McLaren’s were on-sold to Porsche Cars Australia chief Alan Hamilton.

In Alf Costanzo’s hands one of the Tiga converted ‘ground effect’ M26 Chevs became the ‘jet of the field’ in the dying days of F5000 in Australia.

Vern leaving Turn 6 during the very smoggy 1979 Riverside meeting (G LaRue)

But the Elfin Can-Am adventure was over, perhaps the results of the under-funded and resourced little team were unsurprising against the bigger teams at the head of the field.

‘8772’ survived the ravages of its ‘in period’ racing fairly well, and was ultimately converted back to F5000 specifications. It’s owned by Bill Hemming and can usually be seen on display at his Elfin Heritage Centre in Melbourne.

Schuppan, Riverside 1979 (K Oblinger)

Credits…

Larry Roberts, Glenn Snyder, David Hutson, Gerry LaRue, Ian Smith, Robert Davies, Wayne Ellwood, John McCollister, Chris Nally, Lynn Haddock, oldracingcars.com, ‘Australia’s Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ John Blanden and Barry Catford, Kurt Oblinger

Tailpiece: Schuppan, Riverside 1979…

Finito…