Archive for March, 2019

(M Wiliams)

Lex Davison boots his Tasman Formula ex-Bruce McLaren Cooper T62 Climax off the line at Mount Tarrengower Hillclimb, Maldon, in Victoria’s Goldfields, 25 October 1964…

Davo just loved to compete- anywhere and everywhere. Apart from his four AGP wins he was adept on the dirt in Redex Round Australia Trials competition and in the hills. He won the Australian Hillclimb Championship thrice on the trot from 1955-1957 at Toowoomba, Bathurst and Albany respectively, in all cases aboard the Cooper Mk4 Vincent/Irving.

(M Williams)

This non-championship event was an easy one for the great man. Toorak to Maldon is a nice 150 km drive up the Calder Highway so would have represented a nice weekend away with the car and no doubt a few of his kids.

Having said that Tarrengower is still a very fast, dangerous place especially with a car of the performance envelope of Davo’s GP machine. This T62 chassis was Bruce McLaren’s 1962 Caversham AGP winner before its sale to Lex, and is a car I’ve written a feature about, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2016/05/20/bruce-lex-and-rockys-cooper-t62-climax/

The internet gives and gives in terms of photos seeing the light of day after decades hidden in boxes. This wonderful batch were taken by a friend of Max Williams, he posted them on Bob Williamson’s amazing Facebook ‘Old Motor Racing Photographs-Australia’ page. In amongst hundreds of recycled touring car photos are some jewels, including this lot!

(M Williams)

Bob King attended that day, it was ‘..the second hillclimb of the new era, the venue revived by the Vintage Sports Car Club of Victoria, with the event held on 25 October 1964’.

‘Graeme Thomson raced the ex-Whiteford Talbot Lago T26C but ‘Doug was there and advanced the magneto by about half a turn and then did an electric run. In those days the finish was right at the top, and having finished my run i was privileged to see Whiteford sideways across the finish line at about 100 mph. Davo was pretty exciting also taking the FTD with a 50.34 seconds run’.

(M Williams)

Ron Simmonds picked the ex-Whitehead/Jones/Phillips Cooper T38 Jaguar (above) as probably driven by John Ampt at Monks Corner, Templestowe Hillclimb, again in Victoria.

Enthusiast Les Hughes said of the car ‘One of three, the first and shown without body at the Paris Show. It was bought by Peter Whitehead and raced by he and his brother Graham at Le Mans and Dundrod in 1955. He sold it to Jones in New Zealand who made his Australian race debut in it at Albert Park’.

Pictured is the car below at Le Mans ‘…coming through The Esses and about to be passed by the ill-fated Pierre Levegh (Mercedes Benz 300SLR) who would die on this lap. The Cooper Jag retired’.

 

Another Templestowe shot below , the corner at the end of Banana Straight, the wide loop hairpin onto The Shelf which then led up to The Wall.

Who is it and what is it though?

( M Williams)

Credits…

Max Williams, Bob King, Les Hughes, Ron Simmonds

Tailpiece: MGA coming out of The Hole at Templestowe heading down to Barons Corner…

(M Williams)

Finito…

Quintessential small town Australian automotive workshop circa 1915…

Cowell is a village 240 Km north-west of Adelaide on the shore of the Spencer Gulf. The front of the ‘shop proclaims allegiance to a swag of brands no doubt necessary in a small seaside community. The ‘Head Garage’ in Pirie Street, Adelaide was a long way away. I wonder what make and model the car out front is?

There is no story- the photograph, evocative as it is of a time so long ago and foreign to me is the story.

Photo Credit…

State Library of South Australia

Tailpiece…

(SLSA)

The 75 Pirie Street, Adelaide Eyes & Crowle HQ is a good deal more posh than the offshoot in Cowell, this photograph was taken in December 1922- the building was demolished in 1923. These days an office building occupies the site.

Finito…

It’s funny how stuff happens sometimes, I finally bought a Mini Cooper S last month, mind you, the one I lusted after in my teens was a Morris Cooper S…

Most normal fourteen year old ‘knob-jockeys’ were looking at Playboy and Penthouse and giving the sav a serious slap. Being the sick little unit that I was I spent most of my waking hours looking at Sports Car World, Racing Car News- and Autosport which required a trip to town- Technical Books in Swanston Street, Melbourne will be well known to Victorian enthusiasts over 40.

The cars I lusted after as my first road car- then four years down the track weren’t the local muscle cars but the Cooper S, Escort Twin-Cam, Lotus Europa with my dream car the Ferrari Dino 246GT. The Dino fantasy lasted for a several decades until Gordon Murray’s McLaren F1 finally blew it off its pedestal.

I always thumbed through magazines whilst sitting in a beanbag watching the teev, whilst other cars came and went, my diet of articles always came back to this group of cars with the Cooper S always to be my first car, restricted to a student income as I was.

I had a Castrol promotional brochure (remember the set of seven or eight stapled into Racing Car News, one at a time each month?) about John Leffler’s Cooper S Lwt Sports-Sedan, which I looked at endlessly together with road tests of the S and Clubman GT.

I can still remember the standard Cooper S 1275cc oversizes of the ‘A Series’ block at 1293cc and 1310cc, the factory race AEA 648/649 and rally AEA571 cam part numbers are still in my woolly head long after the intricacies of the accounting and economics I was studying at the time have well and truly disappeared.

Castrol brochure featuring the BMC Racing Team, John Leffler Cooper S, leading Barry Sharp, Ford Falcon at Oran Park circa 1970. Leffo a few years later, 1973, won the Australian FF Championship in a Bowin P6F and in 1976 the Gold Star in an F5000 Lola T400 Chev

I came close to buying Coopers twice and still kick myself for missing out on the first one, a BRG 1969 car in Richmond. Dad insisted I get an RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) mechanical test on it, which was the right parental advice (not that I usually listened to it) and of course the car sold on the Sunday with my deposit dutifully refunded a couple of days later. I cracked the shits with him for well over a month.

Spending all of my Monash Uni student income on Elfin 620B Formula Ford laps at the Calder based Bob Jane-Frank Gardner Race Driving School whilst 18 changed everything- I found god and he raced single-seaters!

So the focus then became a road tow car and a Formula Vee by the time I started full-time work, that was achieved. I bought a Venom Vee in February 1979 and started work the following month. So, the Cooper S never happened, why bother rattling around in road cars on-circuit when you can drive the real thing? Here are the exploits of one of Australia’s most prominent FV drivers. Not. https://primotipo.com/2016/10/06/formula-vee-and-the-summer-of-79/

I have owned a few Cooper S TYPE cars though; three Alfasuds- Sedan, TI twin-carb and Sprint and an Alfa 147GTA amongst other things.

The Lotus Europa, when I finally drove one was a heap of shit- what a disappointment, ‘shake-rattle-and roll’ it wasn’t a flash example i guess, but the Lotus fetish never left me- my Elise was a wonderful 5 year experience if somewhat challenging in the winter.

I looked at a beaut ‘Vermillion Fire’ red Escort Twin-Cam an old codger (he was far younger than I am now) had for sale in Glen Iris but by then a mate had an Alfa Giulia Sprint GT (nee 1600 GTV) in which I drove a lot of miles and it was a far more cohesive bit of kit than the Escort- and I had couple of 105 Series coupes as a consequence.

The Italian Sheila

Roll on a cuppla decades, had kids, raced historic Formula Ford, got divorced and got a girlfriend. An Italian one actually- if I’d known what Northern Italian sheilas were like at 18 I’d have specialised in that breed from then- but you live and learn right?

Five years ago she bought an R53 Cooper S auto (sub-optimal as a manual driver but too easy round town), in fact I wrote about it a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/03/perdriau-master-cord-tyres-mini-cooper-s-nuriootpa-and-lobethal-australian-grands-prix-tour/

In recent times the thing, which always used a lot of oil, has been using a forty-four of expensive lubricant a fortnight. Our mechanic put this down to the car probably not being run in properly in its infancy- Patrizia being ‘WUBs’ second owner. The funny thing is you can’t see the oil being burned like you could in the old days- the plume of pungent but sweet smelling blue smoke has not been there.

She-who-must-be-obeyed looked at new Abarth 595’s last summer and only baulked when I pointed out the lack of cruise-control- so we, she, kept driving The WUBster and I kept shoving expensive oil down its gullet on a weekly basis whilst alternative, automobile deliberations continued.

WUB @ Tarra Warra Estate near Healesville

And then, as they say in the classics, it happened!

Ok, I did insist we use her car for the trip to Kyneton, comfier than mine as it is.

A few kays past Calder, going up the long hill towards Diggers Rest the little beastie lapsed onto 3 cylinders- not a big deal I thought as the same thing happened in almost the same place twelve months before and was just a duff plug. An easy, cheap fix.

Not so this time.

The long gradual build up of carbon on #3 piston from all that not fully burned oil over all those years, ignited, blowing a neato hole in said aluminium component and did some block damage to add insult to injury. Worse, it was ALL MY FAULT as I insisted we use her car not mine- I was driving the thing at the moment of destruction.

Never mind the fact that the ‘liddl fokker could have let go on a similar trip she did to McRae the week before…’twas all my fault, deploying all of the chick logic they have.

No amount of cunning-linguistics on my part, and my powers of persuasion are not too shabby given forty years in business, were going to shift the crossed arms of The Italian Sheila.

So my friends, having first got interested in Coopers circa 1971, I am now the proud owner of an R53 in 2019, it’s easily the most expensive in Australia too. My heart feels good but my wallet is not so flash.

The Italian Sheila did buy the Abarth in the end- it’s great, in some ways the ultimate inner city tool, I’ll bore you with that another time.

As I said at the outset, it’s funny how stuff happens sometimes, and more often than not a chick is involved…

PS; Hopefully The Italian Sheila does not read this, she never looks at primotipo, all good, I trust, hope and pray.

Tailpiece: The new Abarth 595 in Brunswick Street, North Fitzroy…

Castrol Cooper S Brochure- the rest of it…

 

Finito…