The #26 Ron Ward sixth placed MG TB, #32 Alby Johnson DNF MG TC and a distant Gordon Stewart DNF, MG Magna L-Type, during the 16 June 1947, Championship of New South Wales meeting at RAAF Nowra airbase…

This event was to have been the ‘New South Wales Grand Prix’ until the intervention of the Australian Automobile Association, the governing body of motorsport in Australia at the time, a week before. They deemed the ‘Grand Prix’ title as one reserved exclusively for the Australian Grand Prix. Contemporary newspaper reports of the day indicate the confusion about the name of the race, variously describing it as ‘The Grand Prix’, ‘Grand Prix Speedcar Championship of New South Wales’- the official title seems to be the ‘1947 Championship of New South Wales’.

The race was a 110 mile handicap conducted over 25 laps of a 4.35 mile course laid out on runways and connecting taxiways of what, over the years, was variously named RAAF Nowra, HMS Nabbington and in more recent times HMAS Albatross. The airfield also hosted a race in 1952, on that occasion using taxiways, hard-stands and aprons for a shorter lap distance of 1.6 miles.

Luvvit! Alf Barrett’s road registered Alfa Monza at Rob Roy circa 1949. The fastest combo in Australia in the immediate pre and post war years (J Montasell)

The event organisers, the Australian Sporting Car Club secured all of the aces of the day- Alf Barrett in his Alfa Monza, Frank Kleinig’s Hudson Spl, John Crouch in the Delahaye 135CS imported by John Snow pre-war and the latter in his Dixon Riley.

Some past, present and future racers entered a variety of MG’s including Curley Brydon,  Alf Najar, Bib Stillwell, Bill Patterson, Hope Bartlett, John Barraclough and Ron Edgerton. Other notables were Lex Davison, Mercedes 38/250 s/c, Tom Sulman in the immortal Sulman Singer, Ted Gray in the ex-Mrs JAS Jones Alfa 6C1750 SS by then fitted with a flat-head Ford V8, ‘Wild’ Bill Murray, Hudson, Alec Mildren, AGM Ford V8 Spl and others.

(J Hunter)

The Nowra grid ready for the off. From left to right- #5 Jack Murray MacKellar Ford V8 s/c,  #3 John Crouch Delahaye 135CS, #14 Alec Mildren, AGM Ford V8 Special, #4 Frank Kleinig, Hudson Spl and #1 Alf Barrett’s Alfa Romeo Monza.

Frank Kleinig didn’t take the start with piston failure so perhaps this an earlier event. I am intrigued to know.

John Crouch on the way to Australian Grand Prix victory in the John Snow imported Delahaye 135CS at the Leyburn Airfield circuit in 1949 (unattributed)

There were thirty-eight entries in all from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria which reflected the pent up demand for racing in the early post-war years.

Crowd estimates vary from between 15,000 to 25,000 people- they saw Manly, Sydney driver Tom Lancey’s MG TC win the race from a field of 30 who took the starters flag.

Lancey had raced for three years before the conflict in an MG NE Magnette and spent six years with the RAAF during the war so it was a nice bit of symmetry for an RAAF bloke to take the win at an RAAF base- he was off a handicap of 21 minutes and 30 seconds. The Barrett Alfa raced off scratch.

Second and third places were also taken by MG’s- Bill MacLachlan in an MG TA monoposto off 14:30 and Curley Brydon aboard an MG TC, 21:30 with Dick Bland’s Ford V8 Spl off 11:00 in fourth place.

John Medley wrote, ‘Tom Lancey packed his wife and young daughter into his fully equipped, road registered MG TC at his Manly home- drove to Nowra, unpacked, removed the screen and hood, started in the NSW GP as an early marker- and won it…’ Then he did the whole process in reverse. The simplicity of it all is wonderful.

Was thrilled to find this shot which is captioned as the ’47 Nowra NSW GP/Championships but is according to John Medley Hell Corner Bathurst during the October 1939 meeting. #5 is the ‘Salmon Special’ McIntyre Hudson of Kevin Salmon, #6 is the Edison Waters Jaguar SS100, #1 Alf Barrett’s Alfa Monza, #4 John Crouch Delahaye 135CS and #9 John Barraclough, Alvis Terraplane (Fairfax)

The race favourite was Australia’s immediate pre and post war ace, Alf Barrett in his beautifully prepared and presented Alfa Romeo Monza which ‘is considered the fastest car in Australia’.

Alf and John Snow in the Dixon Riley ‘were fighting a fierce duel from the back mark’ (Snow raced off a 2 minute handicap) but Alf lost time with a tyre change earlier in the race and engine problems later on- he was ninth and set the fastest race lap. Snow retired with magneto or spark plug problems on lap 18.

The newspaper reports of the day focused on Barrett’s top speed of 120 miles per hour which provides perspective on the average performance levels of commuter bolides of the time.

Barrett’s day was not altogether lost with a win in the Open or Over 1500cc Championship scratch race in which the thoroughbred straight-eight Grand Prix Alfa prevailed from Frank Kleinig’s self built and developed Kleinig Hudson Spl and John Snow’s Dixon Riley.

There are plenty of photos of ‘Dirt Track Charlie’ Frank Kleinig aboard his self built Kleinig Hudson Spl because he raced the ever developing steed for so long but this is my favourite. He is re-taking the Rob Roy Hill record he first set in the car in 1939, in November 1948 setting a mark of 28.72 secs- his last trip to the Christmas Hills. You can see and feel the energy and effort going into the big, powerful car- as was always the case with this very fast, if somewhat, its said, inconsistent driver (G Thomas)

Kleinig’s amazing machine, competitive over a couple of decades, was an amalgam of many parts but particularly an MG L-Type chassis and very highly developed Hudson 4186cc straight-eight engine. He finished the race 14 seconds adrift of Barrett. It was subsequently found that a piston broke, fouling the oil system, running a rear big end bearing and ruining the crankshaft in the process.

One of the great pre and post war ‘what ifs’ is Kleinig in a thoroughbred car- not that his commitment, brio, engineering nouse and application was in any way lacking in his endeavours with his Special! Kleinig in Snow’s Delahaye or Barrett’s Alfa for example would have been a sight to see. End of digression!

Amongst the long list of Nowra DNF’s was 1960 AGP and Gold Star winner Alec Mildren’s attractive and fast, self-built AGM Ford V8 Spl. The big beast, off a handicap of 12 minutes, overheated, with Alec retiring on lap 14, a common affliction of these engines in modified form (Mildren)

Pre-war Maroubra Speedway ace, Hope Bartlett won the Under 1500cc championship in his MG TA s/c after a race long battle with Alf Najar’s MG TB s/c. Gordon Stewart in an MG Magna L Type was well in the lead of the Under 1100cc title- and then, having to coast to the finishing line after a last lap fuel blockage was passed by Tom Sulman in his self-built Sulman Singer and Bruce Myers Riley Imp in the final stages.

Some excitement was added to the meeting ‘when a privately owned plane landed on the strip which was being used for the car racing. Service and local police ordered the pilot to remain until after the meeting’!

WW2 shot of RAAF Nowra (RAAF)

Postscript: The state of Australian circuits in 1947…

A sign of the times and the use of a venue such as Nowra was the September 1947 meeting of the Australian Automobile Association in Perth during which the allocations of the AGP was announced for the next few years- NSW 1947, Victoria 1948, Queensland 1949, South Australia 1950 and Western Australia 1951. It was noted that ‘Victoria had not a suitable circuit for the Grand Prix at present but it was hoped that such property could be secured on Phillip Island’.

Of course Phillip Island was reinstated as the racing venue we know and love but not until December 1956- the Albert Park Lake facility ended up being the ‘in period’ AGP Victorian venue in 1953 and 1956.

In fact the race allocations went ahead as planned- in NSW, 1947 at Bathurst, 1948 at Point Cook just outside Melbourne, 1949 at Leyburn, 200 km from Brisbane, 1950 at Nuriootpa in SA’s Barossa Valley and 1951 at Narrogin south of Perth in WA’s wheatbelt.

Nowra, Point Cook, Mount Druitt and Leyburn were all current or past RAAF bases with Narrogin a ‘Round the Houses’ venue used on numerous occasions whilst the Nuriootpa road circuit was not used for motor racing after its time in the sun as a one off AGP venue. The search and challenge of finding permanent road-racing venues was on throughout Australia in earnest.

At the time of the Australian Automobile Association meeting Mr J Austin Patterson said that ‘the greatest desire (of the AAA) was to help the sporting bodies and the sport generally. At present motor sports were up against police opposition. This could not be overcome unless it could be shown that meetings could be held without danger and undue inconvenience to the public.’

In a similar vein the NSW Light Car Club put a proposal to the Blue Mountains Chamber of Commerce for the establishment of a race track at Katoomba in October 1947, it took a while but Catalina Park opened in February 1961.

Of course the ‘floodgates’ of circuits opened in the mid to late fifties and early sixties with Port Wakefield, Warwick Farm, Lakeside, Sandown, Calder, Mallala and others opening but such numbers of permanent facilities were a long time coming.

Car rally from Canberra to Nowra in recent times- one flat airfield looks pretty much the same as another really! (unattributed)

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

The Sydney Morning Herald 17 June 1947, Fairfax Media, John Hunter, The Telegraph Brisbane 22 July 1947, J Montasell, George Thomas, Alec Mildren Collection, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Finito…

Comments
  1. Stephen Fryer says:

    That picture of Frank Kleinig at Rob Roy is just a cracker ! And what a clear shoot of the left wheel !! Great stuff Mark

  2. Rob says:

    Mark,

    The report in Australian Motor Sports indicates that there were four races at that 1947 Nowra meeting. The races were the Under 1500 cc Championship scratch race, the Over 1500 cc Championship scratch race, the Under 1100cc Championship scratch race and the Championship of New South Wales handicap event. The above start line image would have to be from the Over 1500 cc Championship in which Barrett started from the No. 1 position. Final results for that race were Barrett (Alfa Romeo) from Kleinig (Kleinig Hudson), Snow (Riley), Crouch (Delahaye) and Murray (Mackellar V8).

    Rob

    • markbisset says:

      Cheers Rob,
      I’ve no idea how many races were on the program- the narrative I have is from the ‘paper reports. Who won or contested the fourth race?
      M

    • markbisset says:

      Rob,
      Sorry- i didnt see all of your comments. That race result (the over 1500 cc scratch) is perhaps not a bad indicator of the outright speed of the cars in Australia at the time? The Dixon Riley wasn’t the greatest of finishers nor was Kleinig but clearly both cars held together on this occasion- how long was the race? I’ve always thought Snow’s purchase of the Delahaye a smart one- not the fastest thing but theoretically there at the finish as an endurance car designed as such, when there is always the chance of ‘beating’ the handicappers! As a Barrett fan great to see Alf win- he so deserved an AGP win or three!
      When i can be bothered it would be great to summarise the way the 1949, 1950 and 1951 AGP’s were ‘staged’- how the grid was determined and the mix of handicap and outright awards.
      It seems a weird period when the AAA was not determining precisely the races format and as a consequence the organising club had a combination of handicap starts in 1950 and 1951 and a handicap winner and scratch winner rather than one victor- albeit the declared AGP winners were those who completed the distance in the shortest elapsed time! In 1949 the Queenslanders started the race based upon practice times and raced as such but there was also a handicap award.
      Odd, but no doubt all of this was a consequence of the race having been a handicap event for so long, and old habits died hard.
      Viewed through the prism of the organising clubs as race promoters the logic of handicap awards is clear- they needed the entries to put on a show- without digital boards to monitor progress it must have been a nightmare for the spectators!
      Mark

  3. Rob says:

    Mark,

    The Over 1500cc Championship was a 5 lap, 22 mile race. I agree that it’s not hard to see why the organisers of early major Australian events generally preferred handicap races to scratch races. Its a shame however that a list of pre-1949 AGP winners doesn’t give us a clear picture of who were the quickest guys of their day. A list of “Fastest Time” winners from those races would make interesting reading. One day I’ll give it a go.

    Rob

  4. Troy Davey-Milne says:

    The image of the Monza at Rob Roy shows Harry Firth with the fuel can and Gib Barrett to the right of him.

  5. Interested to know a history of Kevin Salmon

    • markbisset says:

      Hi Mathew,
      You probably know that the ‘Salmon Spl’ was the ‘McIntyre Hudson’ raced by Frank Kleinig in addition to the Kirby Deering Spl/Kleinig Hudson/Hudson Spl, both cars originally owned and built for WA McIntyre, the ‘Cinema Magnate’.
      It seems that Kevin Salmon bought the car after McIntyre withdrew from racing and sold the two cars. I’ve just completed an article on Kleinig which I will upload in the coming weeks but I’ve not researched the Kevin Salmon tangent- its one too many in an article that is already lengthy. If History SA’s library has it I would start with John Medley’s ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ which is sure to have some snippets or Australian Motor Sports magazines of course if you have them. Good luck- I will be interested to see what you uncover- why him if I may ask??
      Mark

      • HI Mark

        The National Motor Museum, in Birdwood has recently acquired the 1935 Hudson Eight, aka The McIntyre / Salmon Special, so I am researching further info on it. I am happy to correspond via here or you can contact me at mlombard@history.sa.gov.au.

        But in a nut shell, I am trying to write a accurate history of the vehicle and have been pulling in bits and pieces from here and there. Kevin Dudley Salmon is a bit of an unknown, he seems to have had a long association with the vehicle. I have found out that he passed away in the early 1970’s in Sydney, it appears he ran a transport company at some point too.

        Happy to chat

      • markbisset says:

        Great stuff Matthew,
        What a great purchase, certainly a significant Australian Special. As I learn more about our pre-War racing history the importance of the Hudson-Terraplane Specials has become clear to me- to those more knowledgeable about this era they are hardly a revelation, their record is well recognised.
        My piece on Kleinig does have a chunk on the McIntyre Hudson so it may plug a bit of a gap, or may be stuff you already know. I’ll pop it up soon.
        I will keep your interest in mind, if I come upon stuff tangentially, as is occasionally the case I will forward it to you.
        Its 4 or 5 years since I last went thru Birdwood, a great facility all Australian enthusiasts should see. Best of luck with the car.
        Mark

      • Mark appreciate your comments. I know your going to release the Kleinig posts shortly however there are a number of interesting things that appear relevant. Did/was Frank a Hudson dealer, the photo I’ve seen of his workshop/garage in Sydney gives no sign of this but…? It appears to me that Frank possibly drove the McIntyre Special first i.e 1935-36, before he built the Kleinig Hudson Special which I believe was previously a Miller/MG special before the Hudson Eight motor was fitted.

        The McIntyre Special was as I understand built originally as a long distance rally car i.e it was built to compete in an African rally which never materialised. I was told that the rear ‘boot’ was built to hold a spare motor, I assume a short block and various spares. Whilst i am not a Hudson expert I assume that the vehicle was converted from left to right hand drive in Australia. I am making some assumptions but it appears to me that the original instruments were left in there original position for the benefit of the navigator/mechanic whilst the drive got a new, aftermarket tachometer as their main instrument.

        Sometime after Frank Kleinig drove it Kevin Salmon was given the main drive by W A McIntyre and seemed to continue this after W A McIntyre died in 1944.Kevin Salmon appears to have continued to drive it into the late 1940’s. Sometime around this time Clive Gibson took over the vehicle.

        All interesting stuff

        Regards

        Matthew

      • markbisset says:

        Matthew,
        I’ll pop the Kleinig article up as my feature next week which answers some of your questions. There will be plenty of knowledge about both cars out there so let’s see what we can stir up- bare with me for a week.
        Mark

  6. Mark
    Have you done an article on W A McIntyre at all, not sure he was ever a driver but appeared to be a financial and engineering backer of a number of important pre-war racing cars.

  7. Stephen says:

    Matthew, the McIntyre Hudson was subject to a 2 page feature in issue 44 (Oct 99) of now defunct, Motor Racing Australia magazine. It’s author was Ray Bell. Ray can be found on Autosport’s The Nostalgia Forum, where you may also find McIntyre snippets.

    Restored Cars magazine also ran a feature in or around 1976/77/ If you contact E L Ford Publications in Newstead, Victoria, they probably have a copy still. Without ferreting through my shed I can’t give you the issue number though.

    Stephen

  8. Stephen says:

    Matthew, Are you aware there’s more in Restored Cars? I dug out the Restored Cars and ended up findng the McIntyre Hudson on issue 59 cover. Turns out it’s a 3 page feature by Bruce Neasmith and issue 60 has the second part. Again with 3 pages and shows a 1939 illustration depicting Salmon in the car and a photo with a Mrs Dickson and Kevin Salmon together.Plus a Bathurst 1939 photo of the #5 Salmon Motors McIntyre Hudson with #2 Kleinig Hudson together.(Different to the photo photo in John Medley’s book p38)

    Both of those features are much more detailed than the original issue 21 piece.

    If you get stuck on the MRA magazine leave a note here and I’ll dig it out.

    Stephen

  9. Stephen

    I shall look further…….!

    Regards
    Matthew

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s