Archive for April, 2019

(D Willis)

Bill Cuncliffe, 22 years of age guides his ex-Snow Sefton Strathpine Ford V8 Spl around the wide open spaces of Lowood in 1956…

Dick Willis shared these wonderful, evocative photographs of Cuncliffe at the ex-RAAF Airfield circuit in Queensland’s Somerset Region 70 Km west of Brisbane.

The mountains (you would call them hills in Europe or North America) are the Great Dividing Range which runs down the east coast of Australia from ‘top to bottom’.

Cuncliffe poses at home after purchase from Sefton, note Dad’s Morrie Minor (D Willis)

The 4.2 litre Ford V8 powered device was quite a formidable machine for a young driver- Bill continued to race into the sixties, he finished eighth in the 1963 Bathurst 500 touring car classic aboard a Ford Cortina GT shared with fellow Queenslander Barry Broomhall.

Built by Snow Sefton at his Lawnton Motors garage in Gympie Road, Strathpine, the Ford V8 Spl contested both the 1949 Leyburn and 1954 Southport Australian Grands Prix.

Sefton on the Leyburn AGP grid 1949. From L>R- #22 George Pearse MG TB Spl, #18 Garry Coghlan MG TC Spl, #17 Dick Cobden MG TC Spl, #7 Alan Larsen Cadillac Spl V8 (Willis/Thallon)

At Leyburn Sefton raced this car, his more conventional ‘Strathpine Spl’ V8 racer ‘having competed elsewhere in Queensland with a Ford V8/Jeep hybrid which allowed a choice of either front drive or four- wheel drive’ Graham Howard wrote in ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’.

At Southport, Sefton raced ‘basically the same car he had run in the 1949 AGP at Leyburn’ retiring after completing 21 of the 27 lap scratch race won by Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar.

Ray Bell reports that the special was fitted with a more powerful and reliable ohv Cadillac V8 by the end of the fifties.

Snow Sefton in the Strathpine Ford V8 Spl in Gympie Road Strathpine in the late 1940’s, out front of his garage perhaps. Awesome if somewhat noisy road car (B Pritchard)

Sefton was the proprietor of the Lawnton Motors for more than thirty years, he competed at all of the Queensland venues post-war. ‘Snow was always the crowd favourite at the Exhibition Speedway every Saturday night in Brisbane with his black and white 1936 Ford (the No 36). Snow’s sponsorship deal for the 1936 Ford is a classic story in itself and involved some of Brisbane’s biggest Holden Dealers! He was also famous for thrilling country crowds with his staunt driving at shows all over Queensland up until the early 1960’s’ said the CHACC.

Etcetera…

The photographs below are of Bill Cuncliffe during the 1957-1958 period.

(Willis/Thallon)

Cuncliffe at the Samsonvale Hillclimb where he was second fastest time of the day. Samsonvale is 35 Km north of Brisbane. Looks like a wild place, the rugged special well suited to dirt surface.

Assistance with the owner/drivers lined up below welcome. Sid Sakzewski Porsche 356?

(Willis/Thallon)

The photographs below are at the Strathpine Airfield circuit.

That location is 25 Km from Brisbane to the north and was a major Queensland motorsport venue from the end of the war until the opening of Lakeside in 1961.

Snow Sefton is credited as one of the driving forces in establishing Strathpine, he and fellow enthusiasts ‘borrowed the Pine Rivers Shire Council road making machinery’ to finish the track for the first meeting on 11 August 1946.

‘They worked like beavers all weekend, returned the equipment before dark on Sunday night, then wired the fence back up. (Most of the councillors were farmers who lived out of town and would not have heard the racket)’ the CHACC reported.

The color shots just ooze the atmosphere and vibe of the times, we are uncertain of the meeting dates- quite probably more than one meeting, note the missing radiator cowl in one image.

(Willis/Thallon)

Cuncliffe getting some encouragement from his mates before the off by the look of it! Below the radiator cowl is missing- hors de combat or removed for additional cooling I wonder?

(Willis/Thallon)

Photos above and below are taken on the same Strathpine day it seems, sans radiator cowling, Quentin Miles thinks his father Bill took the photo below in 1957.

(B and Q Miles)

It really is a most agreeable looking race venue isn’t it, got a real picnic hamper feel to it?

(Willis/Thallon)

 

Credits…

Dick Willis Collection, Don Thallon Collection, Ray Bell, Bill Miles via Quentin Miles, ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and Others, ‘CHACC’- Classic and Historic Automobile Club of Caboolture magazine article in September 2005

Tailpiece: Cuncliffe, Lowood 1956…

(D Willis)

Finito…

 

(R Thorncraft)

Allan Moffat chases Pete Geoghegan out of Creek Corner at Warwick Farm in September 1970…

Goodness knows how many dices these fellas had over the two short years the race histories of the cars converged- Geoghegan’s car was locally built in Sydney by John Sheppard and was continually developed from the time of its debut in 1967, Al Pal’s was a factory KarKraft machine which arrived in Australia in early 1969.

Russell Thorncraft’s photo has drama too- all the dust and shite being thrown up by the cars using all of the road and then some. The meeting is dated by Pete’s ‘rear spoiler’ too- remember him trying a jacked open boot lid either ‘for real’ as downforce or as a ruse!

Etcetera…

(L Hemer)

Lynton Hemer’s shot of Pete at the end of practice at Oran Park above on 9 August 1969 shows some aero experimentation- note the boot strut support.

Lynton recalls ‘These are a couple of overexposed, grainy photos of Pete…Note the strut under the boot lid. If my memory serves me right, I remember him running the car with the boot up in some type of Colin Chapman like experiment with downforce.’

‘Whether he raced the car that way, I can’t recall, but it only happened this once that I know of’- we can now see he did race this way at the ‘farm in 1970.

‘Whether the scrutineers frowned upon it, or it just didn’t work who knows? The car was unbeatable at Oran Park that year (1969) and most of the next, so why he tried it is a mystery’ Hemer concluded.

The photo below shows him deploying his secret weapon as he hunts down Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 911 R/T at Oran Park in 1969- same OP meeting Lynton refers to as above?

(R Thorncraft)

Credits…

Russell Thorncraft, Lynton Hemer

Tailpiece…

(R Thorncraft)

Finito…

(I Liddell)

Earl Davey-Milne lines up his Bugatti Type 37 Chev ‘37104’ at Alexandra, Victorian Quarter Mile Sprint Championship, 24 November 1963…

The car started life as a 1926 model Type 37 four-cylinder Grand Prix Bugatti car which raced on New South Wales speedways and in several Phillip Island Australian Grands Prix before being fitted with a Hudson straight-eight engine- and later a 283 CID Chev V8 after Earl blew the Hudson motor at this very event in 1957.

The Alexandra Branch of the Victorian Sporting Car Club ran meetings here, near Eildon Weir for about a decade. Alex, 130 kilometres north-east of Melbourne is well known to skiers as a gateway town to Victoria’s high country and to the boating set who use Lake Eildon. It is otherwise a quiet farming community and home to around 2600 people.

(C Hyams)

Colin Hyams, Jaguar E Type and Norm Beechey’s Chev Impala 409, which was also shared by Dick Thurston on the day.

Colin ruefully recalled that ‘the meeting was the morning after the assassination of JFK.’ The President’s death at the hands of assailants unknown was on 22 November 1963, which makes the ’63 meeting date Sunday 24 November.

(C Hyams)

 

Bugatti T37 ‘37104’…

Whilst the Brescia and Type 30 were widely used in Australian motorsport ‘…it is the Type 37 that is indelibly linked in the older enthusiasts mind with Bugatti racing success here’ wrote Bob King.

‘The association is entirely justified as these 4 cylinder versions of the Grand Prix Bugatti were to win three of the first five Australian Grands Prix with a further victory falling to the visually identical Type 39 of Carl Junker’.

‘It is fortunate and remarkable that these splendid cars had such a high survival rate’ including the much raced ‘37104’.

The car was the fourth T37 built according to King and came to Australia to the order of Russell Taylor who, together with former Australian multiple Olympic medallist swimmer, Frank Beaurepaire, had an international tyre business ‘Advanx Tyres’ based in Sydney.

Whilst owned by Taylor the car was raced for him by Charlie East who had made a name for himself as a tuning wizard whilst apprenticed to, and employed by Phizackerley’s in 1904 at the same time as AV Turner, who later held the Sydney Bugatti franchise.

East evolved from tuning the cars to running in car trials, funding provided by his car hire business- his career in track racing followed.

Charlie East and ‘37104’ outside Advanx headquarters in Sydney with one of his many trophies. Note the road registration, what a supreme road car the Type 37 was, is! (B King)

 

Charlie East at Gerringong Beach, on the New South Wales South Coast circa 1930 (B King)

 

East with a pair of T37’s place unknown. East is leaning against ‘37104’, registered ‘1903’, a plate he used on several cars- the other T37 is Bill Thompson’s 1929 AGP entry ‘37209’. East tuned Thompson’s 1930 AGP winning Type 37A ‘37358’ (B King)

East’s battles with Hope Bartlett in his Bugatti Brescia become a major spectator drawcard for the venue. Charlie had many successes there although Bob notes that by 1927 ‘the handicappers seemed to have the measure of him’. The car was also raced at Penrith- East won the October 1930 ‘World Championship’ for under 1500cc cars on dirt, at Gerringong Beach and in New Zealand during 1929- by that stage owned by East who acquired it from Taylor for the modest sum of 150 pounds. Mates rates indeed!

Whilst East could earn 75 pounds a night at Maroubra, ‘he tired of hurtling around the track and started entering grass hillclimbs with his wife as passenger. He established records at Robertson, Prospect and Kurrajong…’ wrote King.

He sold the car for 500 pounds to Keith Macmeikin of Malvern, Melbourne in in 1933 with King rebutting claims made for a Sydney-Melbourne record time claimed by racer Cec Warren and Clive Smith during the delivery drive south.

The duo claimed a time of 11 hours and 10 minutes for the 575 mile journey ‘but a time of 10 hours 5 minutes had already been recorded by Don Robertson’s Graham Paige in 1930. Nor was it a Light Car Class record which was then held by Jack Clements and Wal Warneford with a Type 30 in 10 hours 53 minutes’ King wrote.

‘37104’ the Sydney-Melbourne record holder, not! Photo believed taken in the rear yard of Sporting Cars, City Road, Melbourne (B King)

The much used racer contested AGP’s at Phillip Island in the hands of Cec Warren in 1933, DNF big-end bolt, JO McCutcheon in 1934, DNF with oiled plugs after making a dash back to Melbourne on the night before the race due to engine trouble in practice.

McCutcheon raced the car quite a lot at the Island including the 1935 AGP where big-end failure intervened. ‘…the car was still highly fancied, being fourth car off in the twelve minute bracket…it’s disappointing performances in the Australian Grand Prix came to an end’ wrote Bob.

It does make you wonder why Taylor and East did not contest some of the earliest AGP’s given Charlie’s skill and the national nature of the Advanx Tyres business and resultant promotional opportunities of any success they may have had.

The Macmeikin clan with the car- Trevor third from the right, Andy at the wheel, place unknown- (A Macmeikin via B King)

David Macmeikin, who bought the car from his brother in 1934, hill climbed it at Rob Roy in 1938, selling to Jim McDonnell of East Kew in July 1939.

He contested the Interstate Cup or Grand Prix at Albury in 1940, one of the last racing events held in Australia in wartime- the motor blew, Jim died of injuries during the conflict.

(B King)

Ron Edgerton was the next owner, buying the car in 1941- the racer was still in Victoria, Glen Iris, here he is at the wheel, probably during Nar Nar Goon Speed Trials at the local racecourse. Who is alongside him I wonder?

There were a number of meetings organised by the Light Car Club of Australia, and other car clubs on a grass course outside the little village in the thirties and forties.

Nar Nar Goon is an aboriginal expression meaning ‘native bear’ and is on the Gippsland railway line 65 kilometres east of Melbourne.

(B King)

Edgerton at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills with ‘37104’ still, seemingly Bugatti engined, perhaps one of you Rob Roy experts can tell us the probable date of this meeting. By the end of its competitive career the car would have been able to ascend the climb on its own given the number of times it raced there.

There is an article to be written on ‘Racing Ron’ given the truly vast number of racing and high performance cars the man owned in a lifetime of competition. I’ve a list somewhere!

Not the least of his racers is the ex-Alf Barrett Alfa Romeo Monza I wrote about some years ago which Ron sold to Earl Davey-Milne in 1951- another car the family retains albeit in unrestored, but complete, original state.

 

(B King)

A damp, soggy road event for the occupants- Edgerton and passenger probably during a Melbourne-Geelong Road speed trial- note the missing headlight.

‘Geelong Road’ events official- run ‘just off the Geelong Road (where exactly?) were run by the Australian Motor Sports Club and unofficial events went on for decades, most of us of a certain age may have done a top-speed run in a car or two in the very early hours of the morning along the Geelong Road whilst Mr Plod was hopefully tucked up in his Werribee bed!

I would love to know what is going on here! It’s Aspendale Speedway in Melbourne’s bayside- probably a promotional ‘race’ to extol the virtues of the ‘Males Gas Producer’- so we are immediately before or perhaps just after the start of WW2. What are the other two cars with Edgerton’s T37?- Ron McCallum thinks the big car is possibly an American ‘REO’ and Bob King suggests the open tourer is a Terraplane? From 1938 to 1940 these gas producers cost between 45 to 70 pounds per unit at a time the new price of small Austin was 250 pounds and a big Buick 525 pounds- these ‘Producer Gas’ units were a response to wartime petrol rationing. For those with a technical interest in the topic, see the fascinating article link at this pieces duration (B King)

After the engine was blown again during speed trials in Tooronga Park, opposite Scotch College, Hawthorn, Melborne Edgerton fitted a Hudson eight cylinder motor having failed in attempts to weld the delicate Bug block which had distorted from extensive competition use and previous repairs.

William Sinclair of St Kilda owned it in 1941-1942, nothing is known of his use of the old stager.

Speedway racer ‘Stud’ Beasley, who, together with father Arthur or ‘Pop’, and brother Alf were the ‘first family’ of speedway racing into the late fifties- then acquired the car in 1942, fitting the Willys ‘Winfield’ speedcar motor from his Midget after the Hudson continually boiled using the standard Bugatti radiator. It would be intriguing to know where Beasley raced the car.

Bugatti T37 Hudson, note the Ford radiator and ‘Davey Milne Special’ badge (Dacre Stubbs)

 

Note the chrome ‘up and over’ exhausts, fuel tanks are ex-Liberator bomber as are the seats, cable brakes still fitted (Dacre Stubbs)

Davey-Milne bought it in January 1943, sans Willys motor and soon re-fitted the Hudson 8 which was fed by Amal carburettors, mating it to a Lancia Lambda gearbox. It would be interesting to know the artisans who worked on the car.

The car was always notable for its immaculate preparation and presentation, first appearing- as it always did, in chassis only form at a Cape Schanck Hillclimb on the Victorian Mornington Peninsula in September 1946 where it set fastest time of the day. The car then competed regularly at hillclimbs and sprints well into the early seventies.

At the 1957 Alexandra meeting Earl had completed a 16 second pass only to have two connecting rods protrude through the side of the Hudson block in a most un-welcome fashion. Whilst the Hudson 8 was a cost-effective ‘specials’ motor a decade before the equivalent then was the small-block Chev V8 which had not so long before made its appearance in the Corvette.

(Dacre Stubbs)

After fitting the Chev V8 the car recorded a standing quarter time of 12.06 seconds which won him the Victorian Sprint Championship at Alex in 1964.

Other significant performances at the time were a class win during the Australian Hillclimb Championship at Silverdale, New South Wales and the Horsham, Victoria, Speed Trials in 1963 at 12 seconds.

Note that after fitting the Chev engine, Bob King wrote that the Bugatti steering box was replaced with one from an Alvis 12/50 due to lack of space.

Charlie East had reset the front axle to suit the particular needs of Maroubra’s banking in the twenties with Cec Warren replacing that original fitment with a hollow axle in 1933. Earl’s sprint demands bent that axle under braking at Geelong’s Eastern Beach Sprints in 1965- a Type 35C unit was fitted in 1966.

King notes ‘37104’s gearbox is now fitted to ‘37145’ and the sump of the original engine, number ’15’, is in Dean Smoker’s Type 37A replica.

(Dacre Stubbs)

In Chev engined form the car achieved 25 fastest times of the day from 34 starts- not bad in 1970 for a car which started its life at Molsheim in 1926.

The photographs above are of the car outside its Toorak home, the sight of Earl squirting the car around Melbourne’s most twee suburb startling the local squires and matrons would have been amusing. I am reliably informed that these occasional Toorak test sessions still take place, I must ask Troy Davey-Milne for an invitation to one of these early morning pre-Rob Roy blasts!

The fuel tanks started life as water tanks in a Liberator Bomber, the not particularly comfy looking seats are from the same source.

Eastern Beach, Geelong- best time there 13 seconds, on that occasion bested only by Lex Davison’s Formula Libre Brabham BT4 Climax 2.7 FPF, 1964? (Dacre Stubbs)

 

We have lift off. Earl grabs second gear at Geelong‘s Eastern Beach in 1964 (Davey-Milne)

 

An Earl fried tyre and wire wheel detail (B King)

 

Calder 1970, note the Bugatti badge on the dash (B King)

The car is a most significant Australian racer in its various forms with a continuous competition history from 1926 to the early-seventies. Earl is still alive, the Davey-Milne’s still own the car, I’ve a feeling it’s last outing was during the 2000 AGP meeting at Albert Park when Lindon D-M gave it a gallop- an awesome sight it was too!

Etcetera: 1964 Alexandra Sprint Meeting Program Excerpts…

 

 

Bibliography…

‘Bugattis in Australasia’ Bob King, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Ron Simmonds, Dick Denvil

Wartime ‘Producer Gas’ powered cars…

http://www.consuleng.com.au/Producer%20Gas%20&%20the%20Aussie%20Motorist%201939-45.pdf

Photo and Research Credits…

Ian Liddell, Davey-Milne Collection, Dacre-Stubbs Archive, Colin Hyams Collection via Stephen Dalton, Graham Edney Collection, Bob King Collection

Whereizzit?…

The sprint site stretch of road will only be of interest to we Victorians I guess.

Dick Denvil picks up the locale, ‘The track was a leftover piece of road created when the Eildon Weir pondage dam wall was put in.’

‘It was the continuation of the original road straight north-east towards the cross bridge into Eildon (from the bottom left corner- the side road which ends at a T-intersection and which then ran on to Bourke Street) The main road as seen above, then moved east away from the Goulburn River course to higher ground.’

Dick Simmonds lived in the area for a while, ‘You can still see part of the track which is now on a private property just past Thornton going towards Eildon…I looked at running a revival meeting, the owners of the land were ok, but the O,H & S issues got in the way of it…if only!?’

Dick concludes ‘The honour boards of the Victorian Sporting Car Club Alexandra Branch are in a building used by the Lapidiary Club within the Alexandra Railway Yards’ if you are passing by and want to have a look.

Tailpiece: Rob Roy, 24 July 1960…

(G Edney)

Lets finish as we started, with a rare colour photograph of this marvellous Australian Special- the first competition outing of the Bugatti in its Chev engined form- note the dual rear wheels.

Earl won his class that cool Victorian day with a run of 29.73 seconds from a Lancia-Austin on 30.41 secs.

Finito…

(R Middleton)

Ross Middleton observes of his wonderful Phillip Island shot- ‘these guys would turn up to every Phillip Island meeting and lift the Goggomobil Dart out of the Holden Ute and have a great day competing in the Regularity events’…

I imagine a good many Australians looking at these cars think immediately of the Yellow Pages or Shannons Insurance series of advertisements featuring the booming, unique, gravelly but melodic voice of Scotland born Australian actor Tommy Dysart.

For another group of us into theatre and live shows Tommy was the narrator in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ like no other before or since. A magic night at the old Regent Theatre/HSV-7 Tele-Studio in Johnston Street, Collingwood, Melbourne circa 1976 seems like yesterday!

One of the Shannons Goggos competing somewhere! (SMH)

Ace historian/researcher Stephen Dalton has unearthed a Goggo 293 shared by the two ‘Wallace Stable’ drivers W Wilson and A Smestad at the March 1960 Phillip Island meeting, there the car carried numbers 44 and 45- not 64 as here but Stephen and I would not mind betting that it is the same two fellows, event date unknown.

The Dart was developed by Bill Buckle (Buckle Motors Pty Ltd) and sold from 1959 to 1961.

It used the mechanicals- chassis, engine, gearbox, suspension and brakes of the Glas Auto company, Goggomobil Microcar topped with an Australian designed fibreglass sportscar body- 700’ish were made.

Power was provided by 300 and 400cc, 15 and 20 bhp twin-cylinder two-stroke motors- even with a weight of 345 kg it would have been a long trip along the Islands front chute!

The truckload of Goggomobils below is parked at the Punchbowl, Sydney factory of Bill Buckle Motors in 1959-1961. The load of cars- five Darts and one sedan is about to travel south to the Finlay Brothers dealership in Melbourne.

(Buckle Family)

Credits…

Ross Middleton, Hulton-Deutsch, Finlay Brothers, Buckle Family

Tailpiece…

(Hulton-Deutsch)

Actress and novelist Jackie Collins adds a bit of leopard skin colour to the Goggomobil T300 (now I know where Lola got the model number) at the Earls Court London Motor Show, October 1956.

Finito…

(N Tait)

‘Victory Swig’: Jack Brabham partakes of the winner’s champagne, Aintree, 18 July 1959…

Brabham won the British Grand Prix from the British Racing Partnership BRM P25 driven by Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T51- Jack similarly works mounted to Bruce.

This story of the race was inspired by a couple of marvellous pieces from Nigel Tait’s Repco Collection. I wrote a largely photographic article about this weekend a while back too; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/01/masten-gregory-readies-for-the-off-british-grand-prix-aintree-1959/

(N Tait)

The reality of the win was a bit more complex than the Telex back to Repco HQ of course.

Brabham was aided by the very latest version of the Coventry Climax Mk2 FPF 2.5 ‘straight port, big valve’ engine as Doug Nye described it, and the very latest version of the modified Citroen-ERSA gearbox which used roller rather than plain bearings and oil pumps to aid the reliability of the transmission which was being stretched beyond its modest, production car design limits by the increasingly virile FPF. The short supply of 2.5 litre Climaxes was such that Denis Jenkinson noted ‘…Lotus have to share theirs between F1 and sportscars and a broken valve or connecting rod means a long delay’ in getting an engine returned from rebuild.

This you beaut gearbox was not made available to Stirling Moss or Maurice Trintignant, driving Rob Walker’s T51’s so Moss elected to race a BRM P25- he had lost leading positions in the Monaco and Dutch GP’s due to dramas with the new Colotti gearboxes the team had been using in their Coopers. The BRM was prepared by the British Racing Partnership given Moss was not confident in the Bourne marque’s standard of race preparation after brake failure of his works Type 25 at Silverstone in May.

(Getty)

Moss in the BRP BRM P25- he raced the cars in both Britain and France (Q4 and lap record but disqualified after a push start) with Brooks #20 trying to make the most of a Vanwall VW59 that lacked the advantages of monthly competitive pressures and consequent development in 1959. The champion marque or ‘International Cup’ winner in 1958 of course.

Ferrari stayed in Italy due to industrial unrest, the metal workers were on strike. On top of that Jean Behra bopped Team Manager Romolo Tavoni in an outburst of emotion after Tavoni glanced at his tachometer tell-tale after the conclusion of the French GP and challenged his driver. His Ferrari career was over, and all too soon, two weeks after the British GP, he died in a sportscar race which preceded the German GP at Avus.

Without a ride in his home GP, Ferrari driver Tony Brooks (works Ferraris were raced by Brooks, Behra, Phil Hill, Cliff Allison, Olivier Gendebien, Dan Gurney and Wolfgang von Trips in 1959- no pressure to keep your seat!) raced an updated Vanwall instead. He was without success, back in Q17 despite two cars at his disposal and DNF after a persistent misfire upon completing thirteen laps.

The Vanwalls were the same as in 1958 ‘except that the engine had been lowered in the frame, as had the propshaft line and the driving seat, while the bodywork had been made narrower and some weight reduction had been effected’ noted Denis Jenkinson in his MotorSport race report. Such was the pace of progress the Vanwalls had been left behind after their withdrawal from GP grids on a regular basis. Nye wrote that the performance of the car was so poor Tony Vandervell gave Brooks all of the teams start and appearance money in a grand gesture to a driver who had done so much for the marque.

(unattributed)

Aintree vista above as the field roars away from the grid, at the very back is Fritz d’Orey’s Maserati 250F- whilst at ground level below Jack gets the jump from the start he was never to relinquish. Salvadori is alongside in the DBR4 Aston and Schell’s BRM P25 on the inside. Behind Harry is Masten Gregory’s T51- and then from left to right on row three, McLaren T51, Moss P25, and Maurice Trintignant’s Walker T51.

(J Ross)

So the race was a battle of British Racing Greens- BRM, Cooper, Lotus, Vanwall and Aston Martin- in terms of the latter Roy Salvadori popped the front-engined DBR4 in Q2, he did a 1 min 58 seconds dead, the same as Brabham but did so after Jack. He faded in the race in large part due to an early pitstop to check that his fuel tank filler cap was properly closed- an affliction Carroll Shelby also suffered. The writing was on the wall, if not the days of the front-engined GP car all but over of course- there were three front-engined GP wins in 1959, two to the Ferrari Dino 246, in the French and German GP’s to Tony Brooks. At Zandvoort Jo Bonnier broke through to score BRM’s first championship GP win aboard a P25.

The stage was nicely set for a Brabham win from pole but it was not entirely a soda on that warm summers day ‘The big drama was tyre wear. I put a thick sportscar tyre on my cars left-front. Even so, around half distance i could see its tread was disappearing…so i began tossing the car tail-out in the corners to reduce the load on the marginal left-front.’

‘Moss had to make a late stop, and that clinched it for me. I was able to ease to the finish with a completely bald left-front’ Brabham said to Doug Nye. The Moss pitstop for tyres was unexpected as the Dunlop technicians had calculated one set of boots would last the race but they had not accounted for Stirling circulating at around two seconds a lap quicker than he had practiced! Moss later did a fuel ‘splash and dash’, taking on five gallons, as the BRM was not picking up all of its fuel despite the driver switching between tanks.

(MotorSport)

Whilst Jack won, the fastest lap was shared by Moss and McLaren during a late race dice and duel for second slot- Moss got there a smidge in front of Bruce ‘…as they accelerated towards the line, which was now crowded with photographers and officials, leaving space for only one car, Moss drove straight at the people on the right side of the road, making them jump out of the way, and to try and leave room for McLaren to try and take him on the left. This was indeed a very sporting manoeuvre…’ wrote Jenkinson. McLaren won his first GP at Sebring late in the season delivering on his all season promise. Harry Schell was fourth in a works BRM P25 and Maurice Trintignant fifth in a Colotti ‘boxed’ T51 Cooper despite the loss of second gear, with Roy Salvadori’s Aston, after a thrilling, long contest with Masten Gregory’s works T51, in sixth.

(BRM)

Nearest is Schell’s fourth placed BRM, then Trintigant’s T51- fifth, and up ahead McLaren’s third placed T51. BRM took the teams first championship win at Zandvoort in late May. No less than nine Cooper T51’s took the start in the hands of Brabham, McLaren, Trintignant, Gregory, Chris Bristow, Henry Taylor, Ivor Bueb, Ian Burgess and Hans Hermann

Photo and Research Credits…

Nigel Tait Collection, MotorSport 1959 British GP race report by Denis Jenkinson published in August 1959 and article by Doug Nye published in December 2009, Getty Images, John Ross Motor Racing Collection, BRM, Pinterest

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

The relative size of the McLaren Cooper T51 and Moss BRM P25 is pronounced on the grid. The pair were to provide lots of late race excitement after Stirling’s second pit stop.

(J Ross)

Wonderful butt shot of the Salvadori Aston Martin, #38 is the Jack Fairman driven Cooper T45 Climax, DNF gearbox, and Graham Hill’s Lotus 16 Climax up the road- he finished ninth.

(J Ross)

Roy Salvadori racing his DBR4 hard, he was at the top of his game at that career stage- if only he had stayed put with Cooper for 1959! He recovered well from an early pit stop but ultimately the car lacked the outright pace of the leaders however well suited to the track the big beast was. Carroll Shelby failed to finish in the other car after magneto failure six laps from home.

Two of these magnificent machines found good homes in Australia in the hands of Lex Davison and Bib Stillwell in the dying days of the Big Cars- Lex only lost the 1960 AGP at Lowood from Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati by metres after a magnificent race long tussle.

Tailpiece: Brabham, Cooper T51 Climax, Aintree…

(MotorSport)

It’s almost as though Jack is giving us a lesson in Cooper designer/draftsman Owen Maddock’s T51 suspension geometry arcs!

Jack was famous for his ‘tail-out’ speedway style of driving, one eminently suited to the Coopers of the era. Lets not forget, according to Jack’s account of the race, he was accentuating this aspect of his driving to save the load on his increasingly threadbare left-front Dunlop.

Jenkinson in his race report observed that ‘The Coopers, both F1 and F2, were going extremely fast, and looking horribly unstable, yet the drivers seemed quite unconcerned, whereas drivers of more stabile machinery following behind were getting quite anxious at the twitchings and jumpings of the Surbiton cars.’

However untidy it may have all been, they were mighty fast, robust weapons of war.

Finito…

(D Lupton)

Denis Lupton’s ‘Team Devione’ Lotus 11 Ford Rep at Calder, ‘whilst the circuit was still being built, marked on the slide is 1960’…

Racer, engineer and mechanic Lupton and ace welder Hedley Thompson met at the Australian Motor Sports Club and soon developed a strong friendship.

Thompson was a foreman in aircraft maintenance at TAA- Trans Australian Airlines was one of two large domestic Australian airlines, Ansett the other. He was regarded by many, including Reg Hunt, as one of the finest, if not the best welder in Australia.

Regular trips to the likes of Boeing kept him up to speed with the latest aviation techniques which of course flowed through to his motor racing sideline. Pat Ryan mused that ‘it would be interesting to know how many cars came out of the nightshift at TAA?!’

Lupton and Thompson saw an opportunity to build some Lotus 11 replicas, the ex-Jon Leighton Lotus 11 Series 1 (chassis 198) provided the car from which to create a jig and working drawings when the pair rebuilt it.

(D Lupton)

Brian Devlin’s genuine Lotus 11, ex-Jon Leighton with Denis Lupton at the wheel, above, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne in 1959.

Little is known of the car’s early history other than that it was bought to Australia when Leighton emigrated here in 1958- first competing at the Hepburn Springs Hillclimb in November 1958, for a class win, Brian Devlin acquired it in 1960.

Between Thompson and Lupton the pair had the requisite skills to build racing cars. The little machine was stripped in the workshop behind Thompson’s home in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburb of Deepdene, (‘down the drop in Whitehorse Road from Burke Road till when it flattens and then in on the left’). When it was a bare chassis Denis took all the measurements and made a set of drawings.

Denis and Hedley made the chassis whilst the aluminium work was done by close friend of Lupton’s and noted racer Ian Cook and Frank Esposito. Whilst the standard Lotus bodies were aluminium, a buck/moulds were taken from the Devlin car with painter Jim Jewitt producing fibreglass bodywork.

Word travelled quickly of course that some beautifully built cars were coming together and the orders quickly flowed in.

This article is very much a ‘work in progress’ from Denis records of the cars, if you can help with the history of an individual chassis please get in touch.

Histories of the cars…

Don Ashton, Hepburn Springs Hillclimb in Victoria’s Goldfields or Spa Country (D Lupton)

No.1 Don Ashton, Gnat  BMC 750cc. ‘A’ type sleeved down

John Partridge, 1100cc BMC A type

Warwick De Rose, 1100cc BMC A type

Ken Hastings,  Atom, 1100cc BMC S/C

???

John Lambert, Current owner

Don Ashton in front of his Ballan, Victoria, garage (D Lupton)

No.2 Alan Coleman, Ford 105E Anglia engine

Shifted from Melbourne to Perth

Stuart Campbell, Car finished off and competed in Perth.

Bruce Campbell, Perth.

 

No.3 Jim Jewitt,

Julian Coker

Dick O’Keefe,  BMC ‘A’ type S/C, currently  active in Historic Racing

Dennis at Calder (D Lupton)

No. 4 Denis Lupton, Ford 100E with Elva cylinder head

Then fitted with 1500cc Cortina GT engine, close ratio gearbox,  disc brakes and wide wheels.

Dr. Les Mendel

Steve Gifford

Colin Dane, Current owner

 

No.5 Bellair Brothers- Mike & Terry

Lindsay Urquhart

Alistair Scholl                                          Graham Hail

Chris Ralph                                              Gavin Sala

Bruce McGeehan                                   Rowan Carter

Joe Farmer                                              John Blackburn (Qld)

 

No.6 Ian McDonald,  Tarquin TC

Wes Nalder, Horsham  fitted with 1500cc Hillman engine

????

Terry Cornelius, Seaspray, (son Rowan) current  owner, Longford, Tas

 

No.7 Geoff Aarons, Hillman Minx engine

R.Slaney, Sebring Motors, 123 Bridge Rd, Richmond.

???

 

No.8 Nev McKay, BMC ‘A’ type  S/C

???

Russell McKenzie,   Ballarat,  current owner.  C/o Redan Motors, Ballarat

 

No.9 Neville Ham, Ford Consul  engine

????

 

No.10 Ian Munro, Ford 100E engine

???

Ed Flannery as it was with Alan Bail with Climax FWB motor (D Lupton)

 

No.11 Ed Flannery, MG TC engine and Gearbox

Syd Fisher, fitted Alfa Romeo engine and gearbox, then Peugeot engine.

Alan Bail, fitted 1500cc FWB Climax, very successful.

Graham Vaughan, Queensland, current owner.

 

No.12 Hedley Thompson, Lola Mk 1 copy.

Ford 1500cc engine.

Geoff Robbins

Ian Wells

???

Bruce Polain

Ray Kenny, NSW,   to Barry Bates   QLD  current owner 2019.

David McKay raced his Lola Mk1 Climax at the Ballarat International meeting in February 1961. During the meeting a radius rod mount pulled out, Hedley was engaged to repair the car, again a jig was made and drawings of the chassis taken.

Long time racer David Crabtree was the first to drive the Lola ‘around Deepdene after we finished the car.’

‘In one of those “I thought you did moments” between us we hadn’t filled the diff with oil, so I took it back to my parents house in Malvern, and cobbled together a repair with all the Austin A30 bits I had.’

These days Crabby has a large successful aircraft maintenance business at Melbourne’s Essendon Airport, back then he was a young TAA apprentice, ‘I used to catch the tram up Glenferrie Road from Malvern and Hedley would scoop me up on the Cotham Road corner, not too far from his place and he would drive me out to the airport. He was a terrific bloke, immensely talented, he taught me how to weld. I did help in the build of the little Lola’.

Postscript…

Within a couple of hours of uploading this article my friend and historian Stephen Dalton raided his collection of magazines and emailed ‘…the history of Lotus 11 Replicas may have been somewhat different had Jon Leighton sold his Scuderia Birchwood Lotus in England. The 13 June 1958 Autosport ran his advert ”Scuderia Birchwood’s Lotus XI Sports, full 1172 trim, extras, enthusiast maintained, very fast, engine now dismantled, 850 pounds ono- Twyford 5 (evenings)”.

‘Devione’: the name?…

Denis advises the background to the names of his cars- ‘My lady wife is a Francophile, she says “Devione” is French for a “variation from a main theme” and I know better than to argue with her!’

‘So my cars were called ‘Devione’, and I built a few more for people, so we hoped to all race as a team so “Team Devione” was suggested. But people got married, or went sailing or found aircraft, or whatever, so it never got off the ground, pity!’

Credits…

Denis Lupton, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, David Crabtree, Doug Eagar, Stephen Dalton Collection

Etcetera: Denis Lupton, Devione LC2 Ford, Calder circa 1970…

(D Eagar)

Denis is rather a modest fellow, the next Devione piece will be about the Brabham BT23 inspired Devione LC2 Ford Twin-Cam 1.6 ANF2 car built by Denis- the ‘L’ and Ian Cook- the ‘C’, and raced successfully by the pair from 1969 to 1972. A car owned and being restored by Grant Twining in Hobart.

Finito…

(oldracephotos.com.au)

Brian Bowe settles himself into his Elfin Catalina Ford in the Baskerville paddock, 1966…

There is no such thing as an ugly Elfin, this little car looks a picture in the bucolic surrounds of Tasmania. Garrie Cooper’s first single-seater racing cars were built off the back of his front-engined ‘Streamliner’  sportscars success.

The pace of these Catalinas was demonstrated by Frank Matich and others, they sold well with twenty FJ’s/250 Production/275 and 375 Works Replicas built from 1961 to 1963.

This chassis was raced by Melbourne single-seater, sportscar and touring car ace Brian Sampson and was powered by a Ford Cosworth 1.5 litre pushrod motor.

It was bought by Bowe and ‘was Dad’s first factory racing car having competed in specials before that’ John Bowe said.

‘In fact had I had my first drive of a racer in this car at Symmons Plains in private practice. I was twelve, and just about to start high school!’ ‘In discussions with Dad in the weeks before i’d worked out how many revs in top was 100 mph and did just that- when he realised how fast I was going he stood in the middle of the track and flagged me down. Furious he was! Happy carefree days’.

Indeed, John Bowe, by 1976 was a works Ansett Team Elfin F5000 driver, the Bowes were an Elfin family, not exclusively mind you. JB raced an Elfin 500 FV, 600FF and 700 Ford ANF3 en-route to his F5000 ride- and 792 and GE225 ANF2 cars as well.

Lindsay Ross identifies Arthur Hilliard’s Riley Pathfinder racer and towcar at the rear right of the shot by the paddock fence. The blue sporty is Bob Wright’s Tasma Peugeot.

A quickie article about the Bowe Catalina became a feature thanks to Ed Holly posting online some of the late, great Australian motor racing historian, Graham Howard’s photo archive. Specifically shots of the prototype Elfin Formula Junior taken at the time of its birth at the Edwardstown factory and subsequent public launch at Warwick Farm on 17 September 1961.

As a result we can examine these important Elfins in far more detail than I had originally planned, including a contemporary track test by Bruce Polain and owner/driver impressions from Ed.

Bruce Polain testing the Elfin FJ Ford at Warwick Farm in September 1961 (G Howard)

Bruce Polain wrote an article about his experiences that day in ‘Australian Motor Sports’- here are the salient bits of it, lets get Bruce’s contemporary impressions of the car before exploring the design in detail.

‘Taking it quietly over The Causeway, the little Elfin accelerated hard in third gear on the run to Polo Corner. Braking firmly, the speed fell away rapidly and I was conscious of considerable suspension movement as we ran over the bumpy entrance to the corner- a reminder that this was the flooded section of the track during the ‘first ever’ Warwick Farm.’

‘Nevertheless the poor surface failed to affect the comfortable ride and with a slight amount of understeer I swung the car into Polo. The handling characteristics were such that it gave understeer into a corner and a small amount of oversteer on the way out. This is quite a popular setup as through a corner it allows a fast entry to begin with, then as the steering is brought back to a neutral position, the oversteering tendency may be checked by applying more power to the rear wheels.’

‘…I enjoyed the delights of driving this beautifully constructed, fast and most forgiving racing car. The semi-reclining seat was more than comfortable and gave excellent lateral support, which is so important for ease of control in corners. At speed, steering was delightfully light and precise- you could eat your lunch with one hand. The lusty 1100cc Cosworth Ford engine was a  wonderful propellent, easy to fire on the starter button, docile low down, yet bags of power when the accelerator was pressed.’

John Hartnett at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills, Elfin Streamliner Coventry Climax chassis ’13’ (R Hartnett)

Cooper first commenced design of the FJ in 1960, as stated above, off the back of success of the Streamliner series of sports cars built from 1959 to 1963- twenty-three in all.

During this period the name out front of 1 Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown, an Adelaide suburb, changed from ‘Cooper Motor Bodies’ to ‘Elfin Sports Cars’ which was indicative of the evolution of the then forty year old Cooper family business away from coach-building to the sexier but perhaps more challenging world of production racing cars.

Whilst nominally a Formula Junior design the twenty cars built had a range of engines fitted in capacities from 1 litre to 1.5 litres- Ford 105E, 116E, Peugeot, Coventry Climax FWA, Vincent HRD and Hillman Imp. They very quickly proved themselves capable of going wheel to wheel with the best cars from the UK- then THE hotbed of FJ development of course.

Lotus 18 like upright and rear suspension clear in this shot, as is the split-case VeeWee 36HP gearbox (G Howard)

The chassis of the car was a multi-tubular spaceframe of 16 and 18 gauge mild-steel tubing in varying diameters from five-eighths of an inch to an inch. It was strengthened by fitment of a stressed floorpan made of 19 and 20 gauge aluminium alloy.

Rear suspension was clearly inspired by the Lotus 18. It was fully independent with fixed length driveshafts which formed the suspension upper members. The lower wishbones incorporated adjustments for camber, toe and roll-centre height. ‘Driving and braking torques are controlled by long trailing arms (radius rods in more modern parlance) two per side.’ The uprights or ‘pillars’ are Cooper’s design of cast magnesium.

(G Howard)

Front suspension was period typical using unequal length upper and lower wishbones, note the Armstrong shock absorber, adjustable roll bar, unsighted is the Alford and Alder Triumph front upright. Steering was by way of a lightweight rack and pinion, the wheel wood-rimmed with a diameter of 13.5 inches. The brakes were Lockheed 2LS front and rear, the drums alloy bi-metal with radial finning.

(G Howard)

The engine was the Ford 105E which would become ubiquitous in the class. Cooper built the engine in Adelaide.

GC and his team designed and printed a very detailed brochure about the cars, no doubt with the racing car show in mind- giveaways are important at these events.

Its interesting to see how the two Ford Cosworth 105E engines offered were described.

The ‘Poverty Pack’ 250 Production Model FJ was a budget racing car fitted with pressed-steel wheels, cast iron rather than alloy bi-metal brake drums, non-adjustable shocks and non-close ratio gearbox.

It was offered with a Ford Cosworth 1000cc Formula Junior Mk3 ’85 Engine’ producing over 85bhp @ 7250rpm. ‘Every engine is dynamometer tested to at least this output before leaving the factory.’

The engine was fully balanced including crankshaft, flywheel and clutch, connecting rods and pistons.

Carburation was by two 40 DCOE Weber carbs on Cosworth manifolds- they were enclosed within the bodywork and fed by cold air from a duct on the lefthand side of the cockpit. The distributor was modified, the crankshaft pulley was ‘special’ for the water pump drive- visually the whole package was set off by a Cosworth light alloy rocker cover so the ‘psyching’ started in the paddock.

The ‘ducks guts’ 275 Works Replica Model offered the Cosworth Mk4 1100cc engine giving a minimum of 95bhp with ‘the average output of these engines 97-100bhp’.

The trick Mk4 differed from its smaller brother in that it had a bigger bore, special stronger connecting rods, special steel main bearing caps, bigger valves and different combustion chambers. ‘Replaceable valve guides are fitted as standard. Like the Mk3 these engines have a competition clutch, tachometer take-off, oil cooler union and special anti-surge sump.’

When the Ford Cosworth 1500cc engine was later fitted in the Works Replica model it was designated ‘375WR’.

(G Howard)

Gearbox was a split- case VW 36 horsepower which was modified in Adelaide and fitted with close ratios with ‘top gear running on a special roller bearing.’ A lightweight bell-housing mated the gearbox and engine, the final drive ratio was 4.42:1. The gear lever was mounted to the left of the driver. Note the different lower wishbone inner end alternative pickup points.

(G Howard)

When completed the little car (prototype car #4 ) was a handsome little beastie complete with full bodywork from nose to aft of the gearbox.

Success came quickly, its interesting looking at these photographs of the car being prepared for and shown at one of the track days to get the message out there. The motorsport shows the boys from Adelaide attended on the east coast would have been a significant exercise and cost at the time.

I don’t think Cooper’s commercial success in the toughest of markets in the toughest of industries- manufacturing has ever been truly recognised. I  have mostly run and owned small businesses all of my adult life and know full well how hard it is to churn a dollar- Elfins survived and thrived for several decades under Garrie’s stewardship and then that of Don Elliott with Tony Edmondson at the coalface. I’ll stop the Elfin history there which is not to discount what followed, but from a production racing car perspective, that was it.

(G Howard)

The bodywork for the first three cars was made of aluminium by craftsman John Webb who was a constant throughout the whole of Elfin’s ‘glory days’- right up to the construction of the body of Vern Schuppan’s MR8C Chev Can-Am bodied F5000 machine.

On the fourth and subsequent cars the fibreglass bodywork was by Ron Tonkin- this comprised the nose, tail sections and cockpit surround. The side panels were of aluminium and ‘semi-stressed’.

Very pretty wheels were of magnesium alloy, 13 inches in diameter ‘with wide rims, (4.5 inches at the front and 5.5 inches wide at the rear) were finished in black anodite before machining. The wheels and uprights were Elfin’s design and cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne.

‘Unsprung weight is further reduced by incorporating the wheel bearings directly in the front wheels.’

(G Howard)

 

(Ed Holly)

The photograph below is a very well known one to some of us of a certain age who bought or were given for Christmas 1973 (!) a copy of Bryan Hanrahan’s ‘Motor Racing The Australian Way’- this photo introduced the Elfin chapter. A decade or so later it was published in the ‘Elfin Bible’ Barry Catford and John Blanden’s ‘Australia’s Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’.

(G Howard)

Clustered around the Elfin are Tom Stevens and Norman Gilbert from BP- almost from the start Elfin supporters and sponsors, Cliff Cooper, Garrie Cooper and Murray Lewis ‘with the prototype Elfin FJ ready to leave for an interstate race meeting and motor show’.

The car was first shown at the Melbourne Racing Car Show in August 1961 and then raced for the first time at Warwick Farm that September in the hands of Arnold Glass, then an elite level competitor racing a BRM P48.

Barry Catford wrote that Arnold was in Adelaide to contest events at Mallala’s opening meeting on 18 August 1961 and had plenty of time on his hands to visit the team at Conmurra Road having fatally (for the car) boofed the BRM in practice. The story of that car is told here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/16/bourne-to-ballarat-brm-p48-part-2/

Glass offered to drive the car on its race debut, something Cooper and BP’s Tom Stevens were keen to support.

The team of Garrie and Cliff Cooper, Tom and John Lewis took the car to Melbourne and then on to Sydney for its debut. Garrie drove the car initially and whilst it handled well the softly sprung machine bottomed over The Causeway and Northern and Western crossings (of the horse racing track underneath).

Modifications were made that night but several laps early in the day indicated the cars balance was lost- further changes were made, the cars poise had been regained in official practice when GC again drove.

Glass had no chance to officially practice but sweet talked the officials to allow him to run during one of the other racing car sessions- he was within three-tenths of Leo Geoghegan’s well developed Lotus 18 Ford FJ. The weary crew retired at 3 am on race morning having replaced the gearbox and clutch- which was slipping towards the end of the Glass lappery. All the hard work was rewarded with a second to Leo- not bad for the cars first race.

Keith Rilstone’s Catalina Ford ‘6317’ on its first day out at Mallala in very late 1963, factory records have it’s completion that November (G Patullo)

The prototype car, chassis ’61P1′ was sold to Adelaide businessmen and racers Andy Brown and Granton Harrison who had much success with it. Queenslander Roy Morris did well with his Coventry Climax FWA engined car- as did John McDonald’s 1350cc engined car- neither FJ legal of course.

One of the most commercially astute moves Cooper ever made was the appointment of up and coming- well ok!, he had well and truly arrived by then, Frank Matich as the works driver of three cars which were located at his Punchbowl, Sydney Total Service Station. An 1100cc chassis ‘625’, a 1500cc chassis ‘627’ and a Clubman fitted with another Cosworth engine of 1340cc. In addition Matich was appointed as Elfin’s NSW agent.

An interesting aspect is that in the process of deciding who to give the factory cars to, Matich tested the cars, as did Peter Willamson and David McKay with FM the quicker of the three. Perhaps Cooper’s gut feel as to the driver he wanted was validated by this process. The choices are interesting in that Williason was at the start of his career whereas David McKay was in the twlight’ish of his.

Mel McEwin #16 Elfin Catalina 1500 passes Andy Brown in the Elfin FJ Ford prototype during the ‘GT Harrison Trophy’, support race at the 1963 ATCC meeting. Keith Rilstone won the race in the truly wild Eldred Norman built Zephyr Spl s/c- McEwin was 3rd and Garrie Cooper 4th in another Elfin Cat 1500- I wonder if it was seeing the cars up close at this meeting that made up Keith’s mind to get with the strength and buy one! (B Smith)

Whilst Matich was new to single-seaters, his outright pace in various sportscars- Austin Healey, C and D Type Jags, Lotus 15 and 19 Climax was clear. For Frank the deal was a beauty as he had the opportunity to show his prowess in a new field. Catford wrote that FM’s only open-wheeler experience to that point was a few warm-up laps in Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20B Ford when it first arrived in Australia early in 1962.

Critically, Matich put Elfins front and centre to racers in Australia’s biggest market- New South Wales, with subsequent sales reflecting the success of Matich and others.

Cooper got a longer term benefit as Matich turned to him for his first ‘Big V8’ sportscar, the Elfin 400 Olds aka ‘Traco Olds’ in part based on GC’s design talents which he had experienced first hand in the small-bore machines listed above. Matich in turn proved the pace of the 400, outta the box, in winning the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy in his third meeting with the car at Longford in March 1966.

The red Elfin was the Junior, the 1500 was green up until Frank decided to let the 1500 go, which went to Charlie Smith and the red car went from 1100 to 1500′ Ed Holly

Frank’s first meeting in the FJ cars was at Warwick Farm on 14 October 1962- Matich was fourth in the Hordern Trophy Gold Star event- in amongst and ahead of some of the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engine cars, and despite a one minute penalty for a spin! (tough in those days!).

This was indicative of what was to come a fortnight later in the first Australian Formula Junior Championship held at the new Catalina Park circuit at Katoomba in the NSW Blue Mountains, 100 Km to Sydney’s west.

Frank Matich is shown below in the red Elfin FJ Ford alongside Gavin Youl’s Brabham BT2 Ford and Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 22 Ford. The front row comprised the latest Brabham, Lotus and Elfin FJ’s- Leo’s Lotus was literally just off the plane. On row 2 is Clive Nolan’s 5th placed Lotus 20 Ford.

(B Miller)

Matich won the 30 lap race from Youl and Geoghegan in a weekend of absolute dominance , the win was the first of many Australian titles for Elfin and spawned the ‘Catalina’ name for this series of spaceframe chassis open-wheelers.

Catford notes the presence that weekend of Tony Alcock in the team- well known to Australian enthusiasts as an Elfin long-termer and close confidant of Garrie Cooper before going to the UK and returning to form Birrana Cars with fellow South Australian Malcolm Ramsay. International readers may recall him as one of the poor unfortunates to perish in the plane piloted and crashed by Graham Hill upon return to the UK after a French circuit test of the new Hill GH1 Ford F1 car.

Matich contested eight events hat weekend! in the two Elfins- FJ/Clubman and Lotus 19 winning six of them and placing in the other two.

Development work and evolution of the cars continued throughout their production life including incorporation of Triumph Spitfire disc brakes on the front- with Jack Hunnam fitting alloy racing calipers and discs to all four wheels of his car.

Lyn Archer’s Catalina at the Domain Hillclimb, Hobart in November 1964. Lyn raced the car successfully for a few years, sold it, and bought it back. Upon his death a few years back his family still owns it (R Dalwood)

Other notable drivers of Catalinas were Kevin Bartlett in the McGuire Family Imp engine car, Jack Hunnam, the Victorian Elfin agent won 12 races from 18 starts in his supposedly 165bhp 1500cc pushrod Ford engine disc braked car ‘6312’, before selling it to Tasmanian Lyn Archer. He won the 1966 Tasmanian Racing Car Championship in it and was timed at 150mph on Longford’s Flying Mile in 1965. Greg Cusack was quick in the car owned by Scuderia Veloce, winning the 1964 Australian Formula 2 Championship from David Walker’s Brabham and Hunnam’s Catalina. Other Catalina racers included Barry Lake, Keith Rilstone and Noel Hurd.

Perhaps the most unusual application of a Catalina was chassis ‘6313’ which was acquired by Dunlop UK for tyre testing to assist the Donald Campbell, Bluebird CN7 Proteus attempt on the World Land Speed Record at South Australia’s Lake Eyre in 1963 and 1964.

That effort is in part covered here but a feature on the Elfin Catalina aspects of it is coming soon- all but finished, https://primotipo.com/2014/07/16/50-years-ago-today-17-july-1964-donald-campbell-broke-the-world-land-speed-record-in-bluebird-at-lake-eyre-south-australia-a-speed-of-403-10-mph/

‘6313’ Ford on the Lake Eyre salt- steel wheels fitted with Bluebird Dunlops in miniature (F Radman)

 

This corker of a shot is by Gavin Fry- were it not for the presence of the Elfin Catalina on the trailer (who?) it could be an Australian summer beach scene, but it is an early Calder meeting (when?) (G Fry)

The Elfin Mallala was a very important car in the pantheon of Elfin’s history.

The twenty cars built provided solid cashflow for the Cooper family business, off the back of the solid start the Streamliner provided, the company now had a reputation for making fine single-seaters in addition to sporties.

Importantly Cooper had attracted some of the biggest names in Australia to his marque- Matich and McKay to name two. The Catalina ‘hardware’ also spawned a small run of mid-engined sportscars- the Mallala, of which five were built from late 1962 to early 1964.

Ray Strong, Elfin Mallala Ford, Huntley Hillclimb in December 1968. This design, derived from the Catalina, is one of the prettiest of all Elfins in my book- effective too (B Simpson)

Perhaps the only thing which suffered by virtue of this commercial success, albeit still limited capital base, was Cooper’s own driving career as he had neither the time or the spare cash to build a car for himself!

That would be remedied by the ‘Mono’ Type 100, his ‘radical’ single-seater which followed the conservative Catalina- and in which GC was very quick.

The Mono is a story for another time but is told in part here; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/18/clisby-douglas-spl-and-clisby-f1-1-5-litre-v6/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/22/elfin-mono-clisby-mallala-april-1965/

Garrie Cooper in Elfin Mono Mk2D Ford Twin-Cam ‘MD6755’ at Symmons Plains in 1967 (J Lambert)

The Owner/Driver’s Experience…

Ed Holly gives us the Catalina owner/drivers perspective…

‘The works 1500 or WR375 was the first of 2 Elfin “Catalina’s”  that Frank Matich drove.

I bought chassis ‘625’ from Adam Berryman who had quite some success with it before me. As this was the first ever single-seater for me I had no benchmark to compare with, having raced MGA’s for about 7 years previously. It went on to give me success too including the Jack Brabham Trophy put up once a year by the HSRCA for Group M 1st place at their main meeting at Eastern Creek.

For me the transition to single seater was made very easy by this car and looking back there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly in 2000 you could get very good Japanese Dunlops – a beautiful tyre and the car was shod with 450 front and 550 rear. This gave a very neutral feel to the car with the set-up fettled by Dave Mawer for me at that time.

The power was a great match to the chassis. As the engine only had a standard crank I revved it to 6,800 but the torque was tremendous, no doubt the 12.7 comp ratio had a lot to do with that. The gear-change and box were perfect, it had a VW C/R box and standard H pattern.

Race start would invariably see the car launch through the row in front, usually twin-cam Brabhams as they struggled with the dogleg gear-change from 1st to 2nd, the Elfin was a straight through change and very quick, and the engine torque allowed wheel-spin to be kept to a minimum and the power band came in at least 1500 rpm less meaning you were well on your way whilst they were still waiting for the torque to kick in.

Handling wise the car was viceless, the perfect first single seater – in fact I set a Group M class lap record at Eastern Creek with it at 1:45 and it took me about 5 years in my Group M Brabham BT6 (twin-cam 40 more bhp, 5 not 4 speeds and discs all round) to better that. Mind you the tyres as mentioned above were far inferior by the time the  Brabham arrived and in fact I re-set the lap record on 10 year old Japanese Dunlops – the brand new flown in English ones being about 3 seconds slower that same weekend.’

Matich in ‘625’ gets the jump at the start from Leo Geoghegan and the nose of Frank Gardner at the 1963 Blue Mountains Trophy race at Catalina Park- Catalina/WR375, Lotus 22 Ford and Brabham BT2 Ford- all 1500 pushrods. Matich won from Gardner and Geoghegan (J Ellacott)

‘Years later having driven Elfin, Lotus 20, Brabham BT15, BT6, BT21C and BT21 replica – I guess I was in a position to make a judgement about the Elfin.

In my opinion Garrie got it perfect for the time. Loosely based on the Lotus 18 concept, it is a hugely superior car to the Lotus 20 that succeeded the 18.

I spoke at length with Frank Matich about the design and we both agreed that on paper it didn’t look all that wonderful, BUT, it was – the results Frank achieved with it were sensational, often beating the Climax 2.5 powered Coopers.

I’ve never driven a Elfin with 1100cc- but Frank did and with a Junior 1100 he knocked off Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 20 1500 at Sandown. To me that shows that the Elfin was just a little ahead of the competition in that wonderful early 1960’s period. And that is my observation too.

Finally the big race- 20 laps at Catalina for the Formula Junior Championship 1962 where the Elfin was up against the brand new Lotus 22 of Leo Geoghegan’s and the just arrived from UK Brabham BT2 works car driven by Gavin Youl – and other FJ’s – the Elfin and Matich beat them all even after running out of fuel on the last corner!’

(S Dalton)

Events like Melbourne’s ‘Motorclassica’ are fantastic shows of classic and racing cars but they are celebrations of the past.

Its amazing to think that in the sixties, whilst the old stuff had its place, a significant part of a competition car show comprised exhibitions of contemporary, and in many cases Australian made racing cars.

Stephen Dalton provided the cover of the magazine for the 1964 ‘Melbourne Racing Car Show’ put together by Melbourne businessman/racers Lex Davison, the Leech Brothers and several others.

The event was held at the Royal Exhibition Building over three days, 13-15 August 1964, and is somewhat poignant in that it’s purpose was to assist Rocky Tresise’ girlfriend Robyn Atherton raise funds in the Miss Mercy Hospital Quest. Many of you are aware that ‘Ecurie Australie’ founder, Lex and his protege, Rocky, died six months later- Lex of a heart attack at the wheel of his Brabham at Sandown, and Rocky a week later at Longford in Lex’ older Cooper.

Stephen notes that cars displayed included MG, Aston Martin, Lotus, Ferrari, Cooper and many others. Elfin were represented by local agent, Jack Hunnam whose new Mono was on display only several days prior to its race debut at Calder.

Etcetera…

The following is a nice little human interest story ran in ‘Pix’ magazine about Garrie Cooper and Elfin in 1963- courtesy of the Elfin Sixties Sportscars Facebook page.

I’ve included it as it’s very much ‘on point’- Cooper, Catalina, Clubman and Matich.

 

 

 

(Ed Holly)

Charlie Smith in the ex-Matich Catalina at Mount Panorama in 1963, he drove the car well with success. Don’t know much about this guy, had a drive or two in the Mildren Lotus 23 Ford, intrigued to know more.

(S Dalton)

Andy brown loops his Catalina as fellow South Australian John Marston approaches aboard his- Shell Corner at Calder on 20 January 1963. Andy went on to own one of the most famous Elfins of all a few years later, the ‘F1’ Elfin T100 ‘Mono’ Clisby 1.5 V6.

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

 

The photographs above are the balance of the pages of the Elfin Catalina sales brochure produced for use at motor shows not shown earlier in the article.

Credits and References …

oldracephotos.com.au, Ed Holly Collection, ‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ Barry Catford and John Blanden, Fred Radman, Grant Patullo, John Ellacott, Dick Simpson, James Lambert Collection, Brenton Smith Collection, Brian Miller Collection, Reg Dalwood, Article by Bruce Polain in ‘Australian Motor Sports’

(Ed Holly)

One Man’s Hobby. Or is that Obsession?!…

When Ed Holly and I first communicated about this article he sent thru a few pics of some engines he had built. I thought ‘gees! that’s interesting and amazing!’, so here they are.

Ed advises on how his engine building career commenced.

‘Having had a lathe for many years, when I added a mill to the workshop I wanted to learn how best to use it.

As I didn’t have a restoration project at the time, the lightbulb in the head said build a model engine – I flew models as a kid and loved the diesels back then as you didn’t need to buy a battery to start them!

So I searched the web and selected a BollAero18 and set about making one, a 1.8cc simple diesel. Well it took a while to interpret the plans having no technical background requiring that. I steadily worked through the components and the big day came and blow me down it ran !

That sort of started a bit of an obsession till the next project arrived.

(Ed Holly)

 

Now 16 model diesels later I have certainly learnt how to use a mill- more than half the engines are to my design and the English ‘AeroModeller’ January issue published plans and a review of one designed for first up builds. I called it the Holly Buddy.

Plans and build for this engine can be found at https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/jFvcCZYMxgU5nKmqFz21YC

For those into specifics – the aim is one or two tenths of a thou taper in the bore and a squeaky tight piston fit at tdc – that’s the ultimate fit for a diesel. The photo’s show an inline twin before and after assembly.’

So…set to it folks, you too can be a race engine builder!

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

Tailpiece: Elfin 275WR Ford 1100 FJ…

Simply superb cutaway drawing of the Catalina by Peter Wlkinson. Very few Australian racing cars have been so ‘dissected’ in this manner over the years which is a shame.

Mr Wilkinson’s work, I know little about the man, compares very favourably with his peers in England and Europe at the time. Ed kindly sent me this cutaway at high resolution- ‘blow it up’, you can literally see the Elfin’s pixie like face on the wheel caps!

Car specification is as per the text.

Finito…