Archive for May, 2019

(B Williamson)

The drivers of the 20 March 1954, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne, Sports Car Race make for their cars…

Event Four on the program was of 12 laps, the journey started at 1.45 pm and was won by Melbourne transport businessman, Kevin Neal- the dude in the sports-jacket aboard the number 61 Jaguar XK120, his main competition according to Terry McGrath, was Harry Firth is his supercharged MG TC Spl.

From the front is the #66 GC Newton XK120, #61 car of Neal, the 3 litre Meadows engined Lea Francis of J Robinson, then the big 3 litre Bentley owned by Haig Hurst- you can just see car #55, the RH Reynolds Morgan Plus 4.

Other notables entered include Graeme Hoinville, MG TC (which he still owns), John  Sawyer, of later Bob Jane Racing fame in a K3 MG, Earl Davey-Milne in a Fraser Nash (which he still owns), Frank Porter, a later prominent touring car racer well into the late seventies, and P McKenna in the 1948 AGP winning BMW 328- you can see that light coloured car second in line behind the dark Jag, both still not off the start-line.

(T McGrath)

Its Neal away with a blinder of a start in his supercharged Jag from the Reynolds Morgan whereas the bulk of the field seems afflicted with problems caused by the ‘Prince of Darkness’- Lucas Electrics, or is that a tad unfair?

The light coloured car behind the Morgan is the RG Davis MG TC and the dark coloured one at the very back of the cars on-circuit is the Hoinville TC.

Click here for an article on Fishermans Bend; https://primotipo.com/2016/04/15/fishermans-bend-melbourne/

Neal progressed into some pretty serious motor cars including a Cooper T23 Bristol and the ex-Reg Hunt Maserati A6GCM with which he contested the 1956 AGP held not too far away in Albert Park. Click here; https://primotipo.com/2017/12/12/hunts-gp-maser-a6gcm-2038/

Credits…

Bob Williamson and Terry McGrath Collections, Stephen Dalton for the car identifications

Finito…

 

 

Michael Douglas, actor, Gunilla Lindblad, model and Pete Duel, actor with a Lola T70 at Ontario Speedway in 1970…

The Vogue photo-shoot is for the ‘Me+Plus’ by Catalina ensemble and Endura watch worn by Gunilla. I wonder how they sold? Of more interest is which Lola T70 chassis it is?

Douglas, then 26, ‘broke through’ in the 1969 CBS-TV ‘Playhouse’ special called ‘The Experiment’- the ‘Streets of San Francisco’, no doubt familiar to many of us, was still a couple of years hence.

Credits…

JP Zachariesen

Surtees, Matra MS5 Cosworth SCA, Rouen 1966 (LAT)

Lordy knows how many different bikes and cars the great John Surtees drove in his lengthy career at elite level, on two and four wheels?!…

His brief Matra F2 phase was a new one on me until tripping over some of these photographs whilst researching an article on Matras.

‘Big John’ did two races for Ken Tyrrells ‘Tyrrell Racing Organisation’ in France in July 1966.

Of course he was a man who was contract free after a series of confrontations with his Scuderia Ferrari employers, which, on the balance of probability, cost the pair the 1966 F1 titles and then caused his departure from the team with whom he was champion in 1964. I wrote a feature about Surtees  a while back which covers all of that and a whole lot more.

https://primotipo.com/2014/11/30/john-surtees-world-champion-50-years-ago/

Surtees on his way to winning the notorious 1966 Belgian GP at Spa. The first lap deluge decimated the field, the supremely brave, stupid cine-cameramen are capturing footage for ‘Grand Prix’. Surtees Ferrari 312 won from Rindt and Bandini- Cooper T81 Maser and Ferrari Dino 246 (LAT)

 

Toto Roche moves out of the way at the start of the 1966 French GP- Bandini’s Ferrari 312 is on pole with Surtees Cooper T81 Maserati alongside and out of shot to the right is Parkes in the other works Ferrari. Brabham won from Parkes and Hulme, Brabham BT20 Repco. Surtees and Bandini both DNF. Jack is behind Bandini and Rindt in the white peaked helmet in another T81 Cooper with Graham Hill’s distinctive helmet behind Jochen- BRM P261 (LAT)

Surtees’ last race with Ferrari was the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa on 12 June- he won it. His first with Cooper, was the French Grand Prix at Reims on 3 July.

There his Cooper T81 Maserati failed to finish with problems, (a small shaft driving the mechanical fuel pump sheared on the first lap but he ‘shoved it right up’ Ferrari by popping the unfamiliar and undoubtedly less competitive car second on the grid- behind Bandini’s Ferrari 312 on pole.

In fact, as Denis Jenkinson reported in MotorSport, the time ‘was artificial and could not last, for unaided a Cooper Maserati did not seem likely to break 2:10 seconds’- the time was recorded by way of the slipstreaming efforts of Rindt and Surtees, slotting John in behind the Bandini Ferrari and getting a decent tow before the ruse was picked up by Lorenzo.

Jack Brabham won the race of course and became the first dude to win a GP in a car bearing his own name and of his own (Ron Tauranac and Jack’s Motor Racing Developments) construction.

In addition to his Ferrari F1 and Sportscar commitments Surtees successfully attacked the 1966 Can-Am championship taking the title with three wins at St Jovite, Riverside and Las Vegas aboard a Team Surtees, Lola T70 Mk2 Chev.

But apart from that, the first Can-Am round at Mont Tremblant wasn’t until 11 September, he could take on rides as he saw fit- a couple of F2 races a week apart in France suited him very nicely indeed.

Surtees was offered the ride as Jackie Stewart was badly injured in his BRM P261, Belgian GP shunt, this accident well covered here; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/13/jackie-stewart-at-surfers-paradise-speed-week-1966-brabham-bt11a-climax-and-ferrari-250lm/

Ken Tyrrell ran Coopers in F2 in 1965 (Stewart and Frank Gardner/John Surtees/Bob Bondurant/Chris Amon/Ludovico Scarfiotti- how is that for a variety of drivers in the second car! in Cooper T75 BRM P80’s) and switched to the nascent Matra marque in 1966 when he ran Jacky Ickx and Jackie Stewart as the ‘primary drivers’ in Matra MS5 Cosworth SCA 1 litre machines. That year, out of interest, the drivers when either of the above were unavailable included Surtees, Scarfiotti, Mike Spence and Hubert Hahne.

Tyrrell and Stewart surfed the Matra wave to great effect and mutual benefit of course, winning the 1969 driver and manufacturer titles in the MS80 Ford- an F1 car Stewart rated as one of the best he ever raced. That story is told here;

https://primotipo.com/2016/07/01/matra-ms80-ford/

1966 was the year the Brabham Hondas blitzed the Euro F2 title, Jack and Denny won most of blue-riband events with the best of the Cosworth SCA’s nibbling at their Goodyears- usually the Jochen Rindt driven, Roy Winkelmann entered Brabham. The Brabham Honda story is here; https://primotipo.com/2015/07/30/xxxii-grand-prix-de-reims-f2-july-1966-1-litre-brabham-hondas/

Right from the start the Matras were regarded as jewels of cars deploying the latest in aeronautical technology applied to automotive engineering.

Matra MS5 Cosworth SCA cutaway drawing, technical specifications as per text (J Marsden)

 

Surtees settles himself into the Tyrrell Matra MS5 Cosworth SCA at a chilly Silverstone- thats Ken hovering over his new recruit (Getty)

Surtees had at least one test at Silverstone before journeying to France, given the engineer/racers knowledge of chassis dynamics his view of the car at the time would be interesting if any of you have any first hand accounts of his view of the car?

The twenty-second GP de Reims was run over 37 laps, 307 km on the same 3 July weekend as the French F1 GP and was predictably, on this power circuit, won by Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT18 Honda from Alan Rees in a Winkelmann Brabham BT18 Cosworth SCA and then Jean-Pierre Beltoise in a works MS5 SCA.

There were a large number of MS5’s in the race, John Coomb’s BRM engined car raced by Graham Hill to eleventh, Ickx and Schlesser were non-classified in their Tyrrell Racing Organisation BRM P80 and works SCA engined cars. Rodriguez was a DNF in his works car, also BRM engined with the Surtees SCA powered car out after completing 10 laps with piston failure.

At the end of the weekend the circus decamped from Reims in the Grand Est region, the ‘unofficial capital’ of the Champagne wine growing region, to Rouen, to the West, in Upper Normandy a distance of about 285 Km.

Reims 3 July 1966. Brabham and Hulme in Brabham BT18 Hondas, Rindt on the inside, Brabham BT18 Cosworth and Surtees Matra MS5 SCA on the outside, then Alan Rees, Brabham BT18 Cosworth (LAT)

The entry was a little smaller than the week before- 21 cars started rather than 24 cars, the Matra marque represented by five cars- works entries for Schlesser and JPB, Tyrrell cars for Ickx and Surtees and the Coombs entry for Hill.

Surtees started on row two with Graham Hill- the two Matras together, with Brabham, Hulme and Rindt up front.

JPB hit Rindt up the clacker going into the Nouveau Monde hairpin on the first lap and spread-eagled the field. Denny worked his way up to second behind Jack whilst Beltoise, sans nose, Rindt and Rees also sought to make up lost ground but JPB retired with a leaking radiator and Rindt with a wrecked Hewland.

‘With six laps to go Brabham (in the lead) failed to appear, his Honda engine having blown up, though he said his gear-lever had broke! (Crankshaft was more like it)…Hulme was just behind so he was able to take over the lead…Rodriguez had been running steadily in the Ron Harris Lotus and gaining places as the faster drivers ran into trouble and he passed Hill and Surtees to take third as the ex-Ferrari driver’s Matra-Cosworth expired and the BRM ex-World Champion struggled along in a sick Matra BRM’ wrote Denis Jenkinson.

Denny Hulme won the 46 lap 301 km race from Alan Rees’ Brabham, Pedro Rodriguez in the Ron Harris-Team Lotus, SCA engined Lotus 44, Hill who was fifth, Trevor Blokdyk in the other Harris entry Lotus 44 SCA sixth- Surtees was classified seventh falling one lap short of the distance with differential failure.

Surtees raced a Lola for the Midland Racing Partnership once in 1966 and ran a full F2 campaign in a Lola T100 Ford FVA with the change to the 1.6 litre formula from 1 January 1967.

Matra’s relentless march to F1 continued- and they achieved Formula 2 success with many race wins and Euro F2 titles for Jacky Ickx in 1967 aboard MS5 and MS7 Ford FVA, Jean-Pierre Beltoise in 1968, MS7 FVA and Johnny Servoz-Gavin in 1969 MS7 FVA.

Jackie Stewart at Silverstone during the ‘BARC 200′ Wills Trophy Euro F2 round on March 27 1967. He raced his Tyrrell MS5 Ford FVA 1.6 to 5th behind the two Winkelmann Brabham BT23 FVA’s of Rindt and Alan Rees, Surtees’ Lola T100 FVA and Bruce McLaren’s McLaren M4A FVA. The Lotus 48’s were non-classified. There was lots of depth in the 1967 F2 fields. JPB gave the new Matra MS7 its race debut at Rouen on 9 July- Ickx used both MS5 and MS7 chassis to win the Euro F2 Championship that year from Frank Gardner’s Brabham BT23 and BT23C FVA and JPB. ‘Graded driver’, Jochen Rindt did most of the winning but was not eligible for championship points

The Early Matras…

Writing about Surtees in 1966 sort of begs the question of what went before that, context is all!

Treat this as nothing more than a summary- I am just skimming the tops of the waves, this is not anything of depth but rather a bit of a teaser for a more comprehensive piece in the future on the early cars built by Matra.

 

Whilst in French, you can probably get the gist of the car specifications from the drawing above.

Matra enthusiast Gerard Gamand on The Nostalgia Forum provides useful information on the production numbers of these early Matras.

He cites 4 cars built in 1965, two each of MS1 and MS2.

The car was designed by Paul Carillo and was based on the Rene Bonnett F2 design- Matra took over the ailing concern, which became Matra Sports.

Most of you would know the Matra monocoque chassis, drawing upon aerospace techniques was fabricated in such a tight and accurate manner, ‘that fuel bag-tanks were not required as the tub was leak proof. This technique meant that lateral bracing to the tub was possible giving it a very high degree of stiffness’ f3.history.co.uk report.

Matra MS5 chassis (G Gamand)

The chassis above is identified as an MS5- the one below an F3/F2 tub bit i am not sure which. Regardless the in-build shot is interesting.

(autodiva)

The MS2 was a ‘long chassis’ development of the MS1.

MS1 was an immediate success with most of the teams focus naturally enough on French events in 1965.

Jean-Pierre Jaussaud was first entered for the Prix de Paris at Montlhery on 23 May 1965 in an MS1, but did not arrive.

The cars baptism of fire was at the biggest international event of the year- the 29 May Monaco F3 GP won by Peter Revson’s Ron Harris entered Lotus 35 Ford Holbay.

MS1’s were entered for JPJ and Eric Offenstadt- Eric DNF’d his heat so missed the final, whilst Jaussaud was tenth in his heat and fifteenth in the final.

Jean-Pierre Beltoise took the first marque win at Reims on July 4- the ‘Coupe Internationale de Vitesse de Formula 3’ support race for the Reims F2 GP.

Reims 1965, the first Matra win- Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Matra MS1 Ford (unattributed)

 

(Matra)

By the end of the season, JPB had taken another win at Cognac on 25 July and JPJ wins in the Coupe de Paris at Monthlery on 17 September and the Coupe de Vitesse at Albi a week later.

Together with points scored for their placings Beltoise and Jaussaud were first and second in the 1965 French F3 Championship- the nascent marque was away…

Whilst the F3 campaign continued, as Rene Bonnett was absorbed by Matra, their Djet (Jet) evolved into a Matra Djet with Matra boss Jean-Luc Lagarde hiring Bernard Boyer- French FJ Champion in 1961, to develop a prototype rallycar for the Tour de Corse, which now can perhaps be seen as the precursor of the sports prototypes which followed.

The resultant MS3/M610 was a Lotus-Ford twin-cam engined closed sportscar which used the Djet as a base but incorporated a new chassis designed by Boyer. Its frst outing was the 1965 26/27 November Criterium des Cevennes Rally driven by Phillipe Farjon and Johnny Servoz-Gavin.

Matra Djet 6 cop-car in December 1965

These forays into Rallying continued before the 1966 racing program got underway wrote Ed McDonough in ‘Matra Sports Cars’.

The MS4/M620 was a 1966 sports prototype powered by a BRM P60 2 litre V8, the gearbox a ZF, 5-speed transaxle- a later variant was powered by a 4.7 litre Ford pushrod V8.

Designed by Jean Hebert it used a spaceframe chassis rather than the now familiar type of Matra monocoque- the BRM engine required a new clutch and 40 amp alternator. The new car was ready by November 1965 but first made its public appearance at the 1966 Le Mans test weekend in April.

Actress Joanna Shimkus takes time out from filming ‘Les Aventuriers’ to show the lines of the MS5 to good effect in September 1966. Note rocker front and traditional outboard mounted spring/dampers at the rear- period typical. Montlhery? Former actress now wife of Sir Sidney Poitier and mother of actress Sydney Tamiliar Poitier

For the 1966 season 12 MS5 chassis were made- 6 each to F3 and F2 specifications.

The build for 1967 totalled 6 cars. Three each MS6 F3 and  MS7 F2. The MS6 was a modified version of the MS5 with wheel and suspension geometry changes to take advantage of the latest in tyre developments

Pau GP April 1969, JPB in the bi-winged Matra MS7 Ford FVA- second, 1 minute behind Rindt’s Lotus 59B FVA (unattributed)

In 1968 a further four MS7’s were built, all were F2 cars built to accept the ‘class standard’ 1.6 litre 210bhp Ford Cosworth FVA engine.

The MS8/M630 was a 1967 BRM V8 engined Group 6 sports-racer coupe.

Many of the cars mentioned in this listing were raced by Johnny Servoz-Gavin, so check out my article on him for photographs; https://primotipo.com/2016/09/02/johnnys-talbot/

Stewart, Clark, Rindt, Surtees Kyalami 1968. Matra MS9 Ford, Lotus 49 Ford, Brabham BT24 Repco and Honda RA300. Its somehat poignant in its majesty- if that is the right word to describe the busy scene of South African enthusiasts thronging this magnificent, challenging racetrack. Clark took his last championship GP win that weekend, his very last was the Tasman Formula, Australian Grand Prix at Sandown Park on 25 February aboard a Lotus 49 Ford DFW 2.5- he won a ripper of a race of 105 miles prevailing over Chris Amon’s Ferrari Dino 246T by one tenth of a second. Clark won in South Africa from teammate Hill and Rindt. Stewart retired after completing 43 laps with conrod failure from grid 3 (LAT)

It may be a tangent too far, but the first F1 Matra, the 1968 Ford Cosworth engined MS9 raced by Tyrrell/Jackie Stewart as a ‘whoosh-bonk’, to use the Bruce McLaren words to describe a quick lash-up, stop-gap early 1968 car used a modified F2 MS7 chassis- with suspension from the MS630 sportscar and a Hewland DG300 gearbox. That car, in brief, is covered in the Matra MS80 article linked above.

For the sake of completeness I also wrote a couple of articles about the MS120 F1 cars here; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/06/venetia-day-and-the-1970-matra-ms120/

and here; https://primotipo.com/2015/12/13/venetia-days-matra-ms120/

Keith Duckworth on his Cosworth SCA 1 litre F2 engine…

Lets get back to where we started, the Matra MS5- in particular the engine which powered the Surtees chassis.

‘It might not have been right, but we had to make it work. It won the F2 Championships of 1964 and 1965…and…until the Honda engine of 1966 with four valves and twin overhead camshafts, tungsten carbide rockers and torsion bar valve springs appeared in Jack Brabham’s cars. We’d run out of breathing at 11,000 rpm so we obviously needed more valve area. That’s what started me thinking about 4-valve heads’.

‘Mike Costin  and I exercised great ingenuity- we had ports that curved around, we had the piston of the week with every kind of shape, dint and odd hole- but the combustion was not good, the mixture never burned properly’.

All the same, the dominant F2 engine of 1964 and 1965 did rather well producing between 115 bhp @ 8700 rpm in its original Weber 40 IDF carburettor form and in ultimate 1966 spec, Lucas injected form, 143 bhp.

Good ole Ford 5 bearing 116E block. Single, (train of seven gears) gear driven overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder , Cosworth rods and pistons, Laystall steel crank. 997cc- 81mm x 48.35mm bore-stroke.

SCB variant 1498cc 175 bhp – 3 engines only built including the Brabham BT21B raced by ex-Brabham mechanic Bob Ilich in Western Australia

SCC variant 1098cc 135 bhp for North American sportscar racing

Click here for an article about the Lotus 35- and the Cosworth SCA and a little on the P80 BRM unit- the excerpt above is from this piece; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/06/jim-clark-lotus-35-and-the-cosworth-sca-f2-engine/

Matra MS80 Ford cutaway in part. The 1969 World Championship machine (unattributed)

Credits…

LAT, MotorSport, oldracingcars.com, John Marsden, Gerard Gamand Collection, ‘Matra Sports Cars’ Ed McDonough, oldracingcars.com

Tailpiece: Hang on sonny…

(unattributed)

John Surtees giving his Tyrrell Racing Organisation teammate, Jacky Ickx a ride back to the paddock at the Circuit de Reim-Guex on the July 3 weekend- both drivers failed to finish the race.

Finito…

Australian Champion Speedway Rider Vic Huxley astride his Rudge JAP before the off, Wimbledon, 1933…

The caption notes Huxley as one of ‘the greatest exponents of broad-sliding around the track’.

‘Victor Nelson (Vic) Huxley (1906-1982) was born on 23 September 1906 at Wooloowin, Brisbane and attended Fortitude Valley and Kelvin Grove state schools.

Employed as a battery mechanic, he had been riding motorcycles for three years when a major bike speedway competition was introduced at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground in October 1926- he won the first event on the program, the One-Mile Handicap, and soon became one of the `broadsiding’ stars of the inaugural night races. He also won events at the Toowoomba Showground and Brisbane’s Davies Park.’

22 year old Vic Huxley at Wayville Showgrounds, Adelaide in 1928 (SLSA)

‘It was in these early stages of his career that he was bequeathed the nickname`Broadside’ by his growing number of fans. After success in Australia, including a stint at Adelaide’s Wayville Showground, he left for England in 1928 with a group of other leading speedway riders, including Frank Arthur to introduce the new Australian sport of `dirt-track racing’.

‘Speedway was a huge success in England and at one stage it was the second most popular sport, after horse-racing in the country. For many years London was its heart, and Australians—especially Huxley—were nearly always winners.’

‘To celebrate his victories, the Ogden’s branch of the Imperial Tobacco Co. (of Great Britain & Ireland) Ltd issued a `Vic Huxley’ cigarette card in their 1929 set of `Famous Dirt-Track Riders’. On the card, he was portrayed in his characteristic `broad-siding’ manoeuvre on the track. That year he was the subject of one of a series of articles on `Daredevils of the Speedway’ published in the magazine Modern Boy’.

Billy Lamont and Vic Huxley, Wimbledon, date uncertain (J Chaplin)

‘In June 1930 Huxley led an Australian team to victory in the first official speedway Test match against England. Unbeaten at this meeting, he was to become the most successful rider in Tests in the early 1930s. Captain of the ‘Harringay’ and then the ‘Wimbledon’ speedway teams, he won the Star Championship (forerunner of the world championship) in 1930 and next year became the British open champion.’

’He was almost unbeatable: he broke speedway records all over England; won eight major championships and also set and broke lap records at speedway tracks in Australia and New Zealand. His earnings were over £5000 per year, making him then one of the highest-paid sportsmen in the world. Members of the royal family and T. E. Lawrence were among those who congregated around Huxley’s team at the speedway.’

The two captains- Australia’s Vic Huxley and England’s Harold ‘Tiger’ Stevenson before the First Test at Wembley in June 1933 (Getty)

‘On 23 October 1931 at the register office, St Marylebone, London, Huxley married Sheila Alice Katherine King. He featured in numerous speedway magazine articles and books on speedway riding in England and Australia. When the British Broadcasting Corporation interviewed him in 1934 for its `In Town Tonight’ program, he became the first speedway rider to broadcast on radio. In the same year he won the Australian solo championship after being placed first in every event he entered.’

‘In his eleven years as a speedway rider on a range of different manufacturers’ machines, Huxley had only one serious accident.’

‘He left speedway racing in 1937 and opened the British Motorcycle Co. in Brisbane. Mobilised in the Militia as a lieutenant on 5 August 1941 he trained motorcycle dispatch riders. He was de-mobbed on 5 February 1945 and returned to his motorcycle business, retiring in 1957.’

’He kept few trophies and never sought any publicity. Despite being `bigger than Bradman’ in his day, Huxley remained throughout his life a modest and simple man. Three months after the death of his wife, he died on 24 June 1982 at Kangaroo Point, he was survived by a son.’

Huxley was a major sports celebrity in the UK with plenty of interest from the general press. Here he is cycling with his pooch ‘Raggles’, a Sealeyham Terrier, near his home, Wimbledon, May 1935

Etcetera…

(Getty)

Bill Sharp, Vic Huxley and Gus Kuhn before the start of a practice lap at Wimbledon in March 1935. ‘Huxley was testing his foot was in good enough condition after fracturing it last season’ the photo caption advises.

(Getty)

Vic Martin presents a silver Belisha Beacon to Vic at West Ham Speedway in May 1935. He has just covered a lap at 45 mph beating Tommy Coombs and Tiger Stevenson to the trophy.

For we colonials, a Belisha Beacon is an amber-coloured lamp globe atop a tall black and white pole which marks pedestrian crossing in the UK. Goddit!

(Getty)

Looking quite the man about town- Huxley arrives at Croydon Airport in time for the opening of the 1933 speedway season that April. The caption records travel travails before the age of the Dreamliner- by the liner Otranto from Australia before flying from Toulon to London.

Reference…

All of this article, with the exception of the photographs/captions is sourced from an ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’ entry about Huxley written by Jonathon Richards and comprises either direct quotes or truncated elements of his prose.

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, John Chaplin Collection, State Library of South Australia

Tailpiece: Vic Huxley and Sprouts Elder, Speedway Royal, Wayville, Adelaide 1929…

(SLSA)

Finito…

(oldracephotos.com.au/JEllis)

Frank Gardner leads a twenty-three car field away at the start of the 23 lap, 103 mile 1964 Australian Tourist Trophy, Longford on 29 February…

Gardner is aboard Alec Mildren’s Lotus 23B Ford 1.6 from Bib Stillwell, Cooper Monaco Climax FPF 2.7, Frank Matich, Lotus 19B Climax FPF 2.6 and Bob Jane, Jaguar E Type Lightweight and then in the distance is Frank Coad in the Lotus 15 Climax FPF 1960cc which Derek Jolly raced to win this event at Longford in 1960.

The Lotus was for sale, with Coad in Melbourne, close to potential East Coast potential purchesers, rather than in Adelaide where Jolly lived. ‘Hoot’ Gibson bought it for Bevan to race not so long after this, he drove the wheels off it of course, on the way to a drive with Bob Jane Racing several years down the track.

Matich (Brabham BT7A Climax obscured) and Jane seem to have found a nice bit of concrete on which to base themselves for the weekend. Or is a purpose built bit of ‘wheel alignment’ concrete? (oldracephotos.com.au/Smith)

Bob’s E Type had not long been in Australia, it first raced at Calder in December 1963.

Mildren’s Lotus is a new car whilst the great rivals in ‘outright’ sportscars- and from about then single-seaters too with the Matich acquisition of a Brabham BT7A, Stillwell and Matich are racing well developed cars- the 19B was FM’s second Lotus 19, whereas Bib had been racing the Monaco since September 1961.

(S Dalton)

Who is that pushing the Lotus into position with Matich- Bruce Richardson or Geoff Smedley? Gerry Brown is behind the Stillwell Monaco perhaps- click here for plenty on that wonderful machine; https://primotipo.com/2015/03/10/bib-stillwell-cooper-t49-monaco-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1961/

(S Dalton)

Whilst the opening photo immediately after the start shows Gardner getting the initial jump, 2.7 litres of Coventry Climax torque cannot be denied with Stillwell running strongly as the field contemplates the run up the hill past the Water Towers to the drivers left.

Gardner is second and Matich third, probably taking it easy off the line in deference to the somewhat fragile gearbox, then Jane and perhaps Greg Cusack’s Ford Cosworth 1.5 pushrod engined Elfin Mallala.

Matich looking for something in the Lotus cockpit- ‘his orange maybe’ as Stephen Dalton wryly observed (S Dalton)

The race was disappointing in that Stillwell and Coad were disqualified for push-starts, neither car was fitted with an operable self-starter- whilst Gardner was a DNF with gearbox problems after completing 23 laps.

Stillwell led from start to finish and had the time to make two stops to argue the toss with officialdom- and still was in front of Matich who stayed with Stillwell early- until Bib was disqualified, then Frank eased back confident he would be adjudged the winner.

FM won in 61.18 minutes at a race average speed of 101.25 miles per hour (fastest lap 2:33.0) with Stillwell protesting that his starter motor was operable but wouldn’t start the engine! Jane was second (2:43.3) and Greg Cusack, Elfin Mallala Ford 1475cc, third, a lap behind (2:48.4).

Les Howard was fourth in his Lotus 23 Ford 1098cc, 2 laps adrift (2:57.9), he had a great scrap throughout with the Coad 2 litre Lotus 15 (disqualified) with Bryan Thompson’s Elfin Mallala Climax fifth and John Edwards- the first Tasmanian home, sixth in his Morgan Plus 6 1998cc (3:15.8) 4 laps behind Matich.

Cusack was timed at 140 mph on ‘The Flying Mile’, Matich 150, Stillwell did 156 mph- as did Jane’s E Type.

Checkout ‘Long Weekend at Longford’, a superb Tasmanian Government film of the 1964 Longford weekend, it has excellent coverage of this race, apart from the rest of it which oozes with the relaxed atmosphere of the times.

Cusack’s Elfin Mallala exiting Newry Corner for the run down The Flying Mile (R Bell)

Greg Cusack was on the climb towards Australian National F1, racing a couple of Elfins- an FJ/WR375 and the Mallala sportscar which was derived from Elfin FJ componentry.

Two Mallalas raced that Longford weekend- Cusack’s Ford powered, third placed car and one driven by Shepparton racer, and later Touring Car/Sports Sedan drawcard, Bryan Thomson. The Thommo car was Coventry Climax powered, that 1.9 litre machine was eighth.

(oldracephotos.com.au)

The Cusack Elfin Mallala at rest in the paddock, I’ve long thought the Mallala was the prettiest of all of Garrie Cooper’s sporties. Five of the cars were built in 1962-3 based on the hardware also used by Cooper in the Elfin FJ single-seaters I wrote about a short time ago- all still exist.

As to the drivers of the ‘Humpy’ Holdens, please let me know.

(S Dalton)

Jane above passing the pit complex. Is that the Kerry Cox driven Paramount Jaguar in pitlane?

Matich on his merry way below- a very successful car with quite a few Brabham suspension components by the time FM and his boys had finished with it.

(S Dalton)

Credits…

oldracephotos.com.au, Stephen Dalton Collection, Mr Ramsay, Ray Bell

Etcetera…

(Ramsay)

Bevan and Hoot Gibson going for a blast around the streets of Mansfield in the newly acquired, immaculate Lotus 15 Climax, circa 1964- I love this shot, its just so ‘period’.

The story of the ex-works/Jolly/Gibson Lotus 15 is told here; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

(oldracephotos.com.au)

Tailpiece…

Matich, Lotus 19B on Kings Bridge- he turns to the right as he leaves the bridge in the direction of Longford village. Note the little boat/yacht trailer in the foreground. If memory serves there is/was a boat club in that part of the track?

The 19B met its maker at Lakeside in July 1965. Matich took the car to a Gold Star round we was contesting in his Brabham as preparation for the ’65 ATT, which was held that November and won by Pete Geoghegan in a Lotus 23B Ford. Matich had an enormous accident in the 19B pretty much destroying it and hospitalising himself.

Related thereto was the loss of his Total, the French oil company sponsorship- the local franchise of Total was acquired by Boral Ltd who were not interested in motor racing. As a consequence Matich went in a new direction- sportscars to the exclusion of single-seaters until 1969, the net effect was the purchase of an Elfin 400 Oldsmobile (aka the ‘Traco Oldsmobile’) with which he won the March 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy back here at Longford.

The Matich Lotus 19 story is here; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/08/bay-of-plenty-road-race-and-the-frank-matich-lotus-19s/

Finito…

 

 

David Sandelson sits happily in Ron Tauranac’s 1965 F3 contender, the Brabham BT15…

The venue is London Olympia, its the Sixth Annual Racing Car show which took place between 22-30 January 1965.

Whether David can stump up the 1400 pounds for the car I am not so sure. In addition he is up for a Cosworth MAE at circa 600 pounds or a Holbay R65 motor at 625 pounds. The specification sheet lists the car as having a wheelbase of 90 inches, a front track of 50 and a rear track of 51 inches. The tyres were 500 x 13 up front and 600 x 13 at the back, the weight of the machine 400 Kg.

The car was very similar to the 1965-1966 Formula Libre BT14 and 1966 F2 BT16. The exact number built- construction of the chassis were outsourced to the famous ‘Arch Motors’ concern, is estimated variously from 26 to 58 cars with oldracingcars Allen Brown writing that ’26 were built in 1965 but Brabham records say that another 32 were built in 1966. This may well be an error, with the 32 1966 BT18A F3 cars being double counted.’

The BT15, Brabham’s second F3 machine (after the 1964 BT9) made the companies name in F3- almost identical to the F2 BT16 it had a spaceframe chassis with conventional outboard suspension- when powered with Cosworth engines the car took a hatful of victories’ according to f3history.co.uk.

The little machine was a simple, chuckable, fast, easy to prepare and set-up car which won lots of friends and set the Brabham marque trend for the balance of the sixties.

In terms of the BT15 roll call of 1965 national European F3 championships, Tony Dean won the BRSCC British title in a BT15 and Roy Pike the BARC title in a BT16. Andrea de Adamich was victorious in Italy with a BT15, also using a Lola T53 whilst Picko Troberg won the Swedish, and Jorgen Elleker the Danish title gathering some points with a Lotus 22 early in the season.

Brabham BT15 ‘F3-3-65’ in build February 1965. Ford Holbay R65 engine, sans undertray but days away from completion perhaps- the car was pretty kind to Jim- it would have been interesting to see what he could have done in 1965 with a Cosworth engine- albeit that queue was a long one (J Sullivan)

‘Australian F3 Gypsy’, Jim Sullivan gets the feel of his brand-spankers Brabham BT15 Ford Holbay R65 ‘F3-3-65’ at Motor Racing Developments in February 1965…

He was the winner of the Australian Automobile Racing Club/Smiths Instruments Scholarship to Europe awarded for his performance in both an Austin Healey Sprite and a later Mk2A in 1963.

‘The scheme is in effect an opportunity to help rather than to provide all that is required for a complete and grandiose ‘Driver to Europe’ but it was essential for the selected driver to be a good ambassador for Australia with a pleasing personality, quite apart from being a skilful, enterprising and successful competitor in this country.’

The press release about the prize award notes that the ‘AARC has full reciprocal rights with the British Automobile Racing Club…He will be assured of full trade support from the Smiths Organisation in respect of Lodge and KLG, and had it not been for the untimely death of Reg Parnell, he too, would have been on hand to advise and guide him in his endeavours.’

It’s interesting that the judges chose a driver of a production sportscar rather than an open-wheeler pilot for this award but perhaps that is just my perception that the prize would be devoted to a practitioner of the purest form of the sport…

Fantastic photo provided by motoring journalist Paul Newby from the Muir Family Archive, Paul wrote ‘Brian Muir was the second recipient of the KLG/Smiths Industries Driver to Europe Scholarship awarded by the AARC in 1965, I don’t think there were any scholarships awarded after that date’ – Lets assume this photo is of Brian and Jim in 1966, no idea where, that year he drove a Brabham BT18 (Muir Family via Paul Newby)

Jim jumped into the deepest of pools and went very well in one of the most intensely competitive championships on the planet.

The British F3 fields in 1965 included the likes of Piers Courage, Roy Pike, Tony Lanfranchi, Harry Stiller, Derek Bell, Jonathon Williams, Peter Gethin, John Miles, Brian Hart, Alan Rollinson, Mo Nunn, Chris Irwin, Tony Dean and others.

These days the marvellous ‘F2 Index’ seems to have lost some of the results for the minor British race meetings but Jim contested at least twelve meetings in 1965. His bests were a win at a BRSCC Rufforth on 17 July and second places at BARC Silverstone on 19 June and at the AMOC Martini Meeting on 24 July behind Piers Courage and in front of Pike, Irwin, Gethin and Stiller.

Also noteworthy was a sixth at the Silverstone British GP meeting in July behind, amongst others, Pike, Gethin and Dean. In a year of consistency, seven of his twelve meetings were top six finishes with only one DNF at Silverstone in the second meeting he seems to have contested at Silverstone on 20 March- for the record his first event appears to be on 13 March at Goodwood for sixth.

Jim raced on into 1966 in a Team Promecom Brabham BT18, but again without the all important Cosworth MAE engine. He did eight meetings in April and May his best result a win in a Castle Combe clubby on 23 April. Three thirds at Brands, Goodwood and Snetterton from 24 April to 1 May was impressive- and with that it seems he returned home to Australia to a few Bathurst 500 appearances into the early seventies.

Of interest (maybe!?) is that Dave Walker had his first (?) steer in a car in the UK at the 19 June 1966 Les Leston round in a Team Promecom BT16- a DNF.

Another couple of Australians lobbed late in 1966 too- Wal Donnelly was immediately on the pace with a Team Promecom BT18 whilst Barry Collerson made do with a Cooper T76 Ford Holbay, not exactly the best bit of kit perhaps…but he was there. I must buy his book too.

Clearly Jim Sullivan did enough to attract some factory support but as we know F3 is and always was an intensely competitive class where the cream rises to the top but not necessarily the cream which most deserves to.

Jim Sullivan, Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Colin Chapman contest a Scalextric GP at a BRDC dinner at Grosvenor House London in 1965 (J Sullivan)

When Sullivan returned to Australia he worked in public relations, newspapers and magazines as a writer.

It appears that his final appearances in motor racing were as a co-driver during the annual Bathurst production car enduros in 1968, 1971 and 1974.

Whilst in 1968 Bathurst was the year of the Holden Monaro- GTS327’s were the first three cars home, Sullivan shared a much less exotic Holden Kingswood 186S with Sib Petralia, the duo finished in 28th place. The other car in the photo below is the Japanese crewed Datsun 1600 of Talahashi/Sunago which finished in 21st place.

(unattributed)

Whilst the Ford Cortina Mk1’s were at the front of the field at Bathurst from 1963 to 1965, Sullivan had the honour of co-driving the last Cortina (below) to compete in the Bathurst 500 sharing a TC Cortina L 2 litre with Geoff Westbury to 35th place in 1971.

(unattributed)

Sullivan’s final Bathurst outing was sharing a Klosters Ford, Newcastle, sponsored Ford Escort Mk1 Twin-Cam to 16th place with Ian White in 1974- they were fifth in the 1300-2000cc class.

Jim was also involved in rallying a Klosters sponsored Escort Twin-Cam in the 1970’s together with Murray Finley- an NBN newsreader colleague of Sullivan.

Sullivan was hired by NBN TV (Nine Network) Newcastle, New South Wales as a reporter in 1977 covering a range of stories and producing a number of documentaries including the Logie winning (Australian National annual TV awards) ‘A Day In Jail’ aimed at young offenders.

He was appointed News Director in 1985 and is credited with expanding NBN’s Hunter Valley news service into the Northern NSW market from the Hawkesbury to the Gold Coast and as far west as Lightning Ridge.

Whilst responsible for all aspects of the NBN News service his main personal focus was, unsurprisingly, on motoring journalism which was reflected in ‘Drive Alive’, a driver safety initiative and ‘Project Restart’ promoting cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

He retired from NBN in 2007 and these days is an independent writing and editing professional living near Lake Macquarie

He has been in the news in recent years taking on a local issues- the pollution left by the former Pasminco lead and zinc smelting operation at Boolaroo which has caused soil contamination in northern Lake Macquarie.

Brabham BT15 F3-3-65…

Brabham racer/historian Denis Lupton’s notes have it that Jim Sullivan raced the car in 1965 and Dave Walker in 1966, it then passed to Geoff Oliver and Fred Opert and thence to Joe Bosworth in the US circa 1970.

Joe Bosworth wrote via Denis Lupton that ‘Sullivan ran under the umbrella of the Jim Balfour owned ‘Team Promecon’, the car’s build sheets show it was constructed from February 7 to 25 1965′, so it most definitely is not the car at the Racing Car Show!

‘Back in 1970 I bought ‘F3-3-65’…from Fred Opert, who….seemed to handle most of the Brabhams to enter the US in those days. I have a memory of asking Fred where the car came from and he said France.’

Bosworth converted the car to FF spec and ran it as such in FF’s early days in the US…’thereafter (with a Quicksilver professionally built rather than home built engine) the BT15 was as good as any FF in the US until the side-radiator cars started to come in…’

The car was sold by Bosworth to Graham Dell in Australia in 2011- who owns it now?

Click here to oldracingcars.com Allen Brown’s Brabham cars type number- click into the BT15 link for the mysteries of individual chassis histories; https://www.oldracingcars.com/brabham/

Credits…

Getty Images, Jim Sullivan Collection, F2 Index, Denis Lupton, Ten-Tenths Brabham BT15 thread, NBN TV

Tailpiece: Sullivan’s Brabham being assaulted at Castle Combe, date unknown…

(J Sullivan)

Am intrigued to know the name of the aviator, his craft and the date of the meeting.

Finito…

Briggs Cunningham and his huge entourage of racers, technicians, pantechnicons and Caddies arrive in France for the 1954 Le Mans classic- ‘The Eagle Has Landed’!…

The racers are two Cunningham C4R’s whilst on the trailer is a Ferrari 375MM, the shot above was taken at the village of Bolbec, 35 km from the port of Le Havre where the team and all of the equipment above arrived from the United States on the ship ‘Mauretania’.

This article is about Briggs, his Cunninghams and the team’s 1954 assault on the event. In researching the C4R I discovered this fantastic website about all things Cunningham, so rather than using copious amounts of it here, take the time to explore, it is exceptional;

http://www.briggscunningham.com/home/cunningham-c4r-continuation/

This piece comprises a bit of context about Cunningham, some background on his cars and the main game which is the 1954 event. There are other images of the race but I have stuck as much as possible to the Getty Archive to keep the flavour of the shots similar, this Maurice Jarnoux chappie, whose work I am becoming increasingly familiar with, is a bit of an artiste.

Cunningham beside one of the C4R’s and the ‘Mauretania’ dockside at the port of Le Havre about 215 km from Le Mans (Getty-Jarnoux)

Briggs Cunningham…

Lived a life surrounded by extraordinary wealth and also one of considerable sporting achievement as both a yachtsman and racer, this slightly truncated obituary is as good a place as any to start.

‘Briggs Swift Cunningham II, a sportsman whose affinity for yachts and cars drew him to sailboat racing as an America’s Cup skipper and to auto racing as the creator and driver of his custom sports car, died Wednesday 2 July 2003 at his home in Las Vegas. He was 96. Cunningham sailed in the 1958 Cup races off Newport, R.I., as skipper of the 12-meter sloop Columbia, successfully defending the America’s Cup against the British challenger, the 12-meter yacht Sceptre.

”Briggs was like a fine violinist with boats,” said Victor Romagna, who sailed with Cunningham in the competition. ”He would need someone to do the tuning, as one might with a Stradivarius, but afterwards, we would hand the boat back to Briggs. Then he would play the instrument absolutely perfectly.”

‘Columbia’ – US16, the first 12 Meter America’s Cup winner in 1958. Cunningham skippered the boat which beat the Royal Yacht Squadron’s ‘Sceptre’- Columbia won 4 straight races by margins of between 7-12 minutes

Cunningham was born Jan. 19, 1907, in Cincinnati. His family helped finance railways, telecommunications, meat-packing and commercial real estate and his father was the chief financier of two young men who had developed a bath soap that floated. Their names were William Cooper Procter and James Norris Gamble.

Briggs spent his summers in the Northeast and learned to sail by the time he was 6. His family moved to Southport, Conn., when he was a teenager. At age 17, Cunningham joined the Star Class racing fleet at the Pequot Yacht Club in Southport. The venture was the beginning of his 30 years of sailboat racing on Long Island Sound.

He attended Yale for two years, then left in 1929 to marry Lucy Bedford, daughter of a Standard Oil heir, Fred Bedford. It was during this period that he entered into sport as a way of life.

As a member of the New York Yacht Club, he continued to sail the Columbia in club races through the 1960′s. He also developed ‘The Cunningham’, a common device on sailboats that adjusts sail tension.

Cunningham’s interest in racecars began in 1939 when he participated in the New York World’s Fair.

After World War II, he began competing in the 24-hour auto races at Le Mans, France, and in 1951 he showed up with the Cunningham C-4R, a racecar he had designed and built. Made with a sleek, hand-hammered aluminum body and Chrysler’s newly introduced V-8 engine, the Cunningham has been called America’s first sports car. A year later, Cunningham and his partner, Bill Spear, placed fourth with the car at Le Mans, averaging 88 miles an hour.

Time magazine cover in 1954

”Cunningham himself was never particularly interested in short races,” Road and Track magazine said in 1979. ”What he liked to do was get out and drive and drive and drive, which was why Le Mans was so fascinating to him.”

Having raced his sports car for the last time in 1955, Cunningham began competing on a Jaguar team and became a Jaguar distributor in New England. After moving to California in 1962, he bought several vintage powerboats and, in 1964, opened the Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum in Costa Mesa, Calif., which has since changed ownership and was moved to a private museum in Florida.

In 1993, he was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, R.I. Earlier this year, he was inducted into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame.

Cunningham was married 40 years to his second wife, the former Laura Cramer. He is survived by his wife; a son, Briggs Cunningham III of Danville, Ky.; two daughters, Lucie McKinney of Green Farms, Conn., and Cythlen Maddock of Palm Beach, Fla.; two stepsons; 19 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren’.

The George Rand/Fred Wacker Cunnungham C2R Chrysler 5.5 V8 at Le Mans in 1952 (unattributed)

 

Cunningham Cars…

Briggs first came to international attention with his Cadillac entry for Le Mans in 1950.

There were two cars, one looked standard, the other had somewhat bizarre streamlined open bodywork and was immediately nick-named Le Monstre by the Frenchies. Cunningham was encouraged by the results when the coupé finished tenth and the streamliner eleventh.

Cunningham’s original plan was a Cadillac-engined Ford, a high-power, low-weight recipe concepted by Phil Walters in the States, but the ACO turned it down.

The 11th placed Cadillac Spider ‘Le Monstre’ driven by Cunningham/Walters ahead of the 10th placed Cadillac 50-61 Coupe de Ville raced by Miles and Sam Collier at Le Mans 1950 (unattributed)

In a path that became well travelled, Briggs was convinced that a strong, simple American V8 with an equally sound, simple chassis would produce a competitive car to go head to head with European marques of more exotic specification.

Three specially-built sport-racers with Chrysler engines started the 1951 Le Mans classic. Two crashed, the third had engine bearing problems but finished eighteenth. Before its contretemps with the scenery one of the C2s was running in second place, a significant achievement for a new marque.

‘For 1952, less weight and more power were the goals. By now, having noted the C2’s promise (it had won at Watkins Glen and Elkhart Lake) Chrysler itself was tacitly backing the team’s attempt to defeat the Europeans on their home ground. The Detroit giant now had a standard engine with real performance potential, and the sales impact of victory was tempting. The ‘hemi’ V8 engine used lateral push-rods to operate splayed valves from the single camshaft in the Vee. This gave it the advantage of hemispherical combustion chambers with less complexity than using twin cams, and the stock output was somewhere around 180bhp’, said MotorSport.

Extensive engine development included ‘all the usual bag of hot-rodders tricks’- valve-gear lightening, needle-bearing roller rockers and cam followers, solid lifters instead of wheezy hydraulic components, special crankshafts and hi-lift cams. Four Zenith carbs fed the beast which used a compression ratio variously quoted from 7.5:1 to 8.6:1. The engine’s capacity was 331cid or 5425cc, power quoted was between 300 and 340 bhp and torque some 312Ib ft at only 2000rpm.

The big cast-iron, 625 pound plus lump with its two-inch overhead valves was understressed- down the decades this formula of worked Detroit V8’s was very successful as long as the limitations of the inherent layout and design specification were not exceeded. The big step forward for American V8s’ from a racing perspective was the small-block Chevy with its (relatively) lightweight thin-wall casting techniques, but the Chrysler, pound for pound was a competitive unit ‘in period’, the 283 Chev was still a few years away in 1954.

1952 C4R engine detail (unattributed)

 

Pit shot of the #2 Spear/Johnston car at Le Mans in 1954. Note the Halibrand alloy wheels, deatil of the body and unique scuttle mounted oil coolers (Getty)

The chassis was a period typical ladder frame comprising two pairs of steel tubes joined vertically by tubing and gussets which carried the big bent eight.

Suspension up front comprised coil springs and double wishbones, a coil-sprung rigid axle replaced the De Dion set-up of the C2 at the rear, it was well located by trailing arms and a Panhard rod. Hydraulic tubular shock absorbers were used front and rear.

Chrysler engineers were involved in sorting the suspension geometry, spring rates and shock absorber settings together with Cunningham’s team of Phil Walters, Jack Donaldson and Briggs Weaver.

A stock or even modified Chrysler transmission did not offer the number of ratios required let alone the strength with all that torque tearing away at it. It took a truck unit to cope- an Italian Siata gearbox was used containing four ratios in a light aluminium case, it proved to be sweet shifting and great to use over long distances.

Sexy alloy Halibrand (as used at Indy and on America’s sprintcars and midgets) 7 X 16 inch wheels were used with big, 13 inch, finned drum brakes but they were not really up to the task. The brakes had to be used sympathetically in the manner of the day, albeit by 1953 Jaguar was pioneering the disc brake paradigm shift, an advantage they would press home to the end of the decade, especially at Le Mans.

The cars track was 4ft 6in front and rear, its wheelbase 100 inches and weight circa 2410 pounds, not a lightweight but much less bulky than the ‘pork-chop’ C2.

Briggs, sans helmet, parade lap perhaps, during the September 1952 Watkins Glen GP, 6.6 mile road course weekend- C4R. Cunningham led from the start of the 15 lap journey but a first lap racing incident between John Fitch C4R in second and third placed Fred Wacker’s Allard J2 Cadillac caused the latter’s tail to run wide over a kerb, killing a young boy and injuring 12 people. The race was abandoned- and caused the end of road course racing in the US (B Tronolone Collection)

 

The 10th placed C4R Coupe at Le Mans in 1953- raced by Charles Moran and John Gordon-Bennett

Three C4Rs were built. One was a Kamm-tailed coupé the other two slab sided spyders designed by Bob Blake.

Big grille and cutaway wings channelled huge swags of air to the radiator and finned, iron brake drums. Rear wing scoops cooled the tyres, neat slots in the trailing edges of the rear wings kept the flow going. For the spyders, instead of siting the oil-cooler low, where it would be vulnerable to stones, the team adopted a distinctive cylindrical aircraft-style unit mounted high up on the cars scuttle.

The C4R’s race debut was at Bridgehampton early in 1952. For thirteen laps Phil Walters led, then a tail-pipe came loose and he was black-flagged. It was a minor disappointment but the team’s spirits were lifted for Le Mans.

Cunningham entered a spyder for himself and Bill Spears, another for John Fitch and George Rice, while Phil Walters and Duane Carter handled the coupé. By Saturday night, Carter had stuck his car in the sand, and Fitch and Rice had retired with valve problems. But they had been quick, and Briggs Cunningham drove solo in the remaining car for nearly 20 hours before letting Spear cruise home fourth. It was an amazing, gritty performance by the American sportsman.

The following year, 1953, a new streamlined Cunningham, the C5 raced, the winning Jag D’s top speed reaching 154mph on Mulsanne. The Coventry team’s Dunlop disc brakes were the difference between the cars. The C5 was third, the C4R spyder seventh, and the coupé tenth.

‘Smiley grille’ C5R Le Mans 1953- 3rd place driven by Phil Waters and John Fitch (unattributed)

 

#1 Briggs Cunningham/John Gordon-Bennett C4R Chrysler, Le Mans 1954

Strong progress was being made on chassis, aerodynamics and engine by both Cunningham and Chrysler, but Briggs’ personal desire to win Le Mans was tempting him from Detroit to Maranello.

A string of national and international successes in the States ought to have been supremely satisfying, since the blue and white cars were beating the twin-cam Europeans handsomely there. Best of all was a hard-fought win against the works Aston Martin team at Sebring in 1953.

Two of the new DB3Ss, crewed by Reg Parnell/George Abecassis and Peter Collins/Geoff Duke, traded positions with Fitch and Walters from the start. After Duke collided with another car, the other Aston couldn’t close the small gap- at the end of 12 hours racing the Cunningham scored by 3 1/2-minutes’, the car won from the Parnell/Abecassis Aston Martin DB3 with the Johnston/Wilder Jaguar C Type in third.

And so, lets look at the 1954 Le Mans classic.

Jaguar raced three new works Jaguar D-Types driven by Peter Walker and Stirling Moss, Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton and Duncan Hamilton paired with Tony Rolt- the winning combination aboard a C Type the year before.

(unattributed)

Jaguar HQ before the off- its all happening.

The #12 Moss/Walker car DNF brakes 12th hour, #15 Whitehead/Wharton D Type DNF ‘box 13th hour and the #16 Laurent/Swaters Ecurie Francorchamps C Type 4th place- see the spare bonnet for the C upstairs. The un-numbered car is a spare or the #14 Hamilton/Rolt car.

Some immaculately attired Porsche technicians and 550 RS 1500 Spyders. #40 von Frankenberg/Glockler DNF engine in the first hour, #39 the 12th placed Claes/Stasse car and #47 14th Arkus-Duntov/Olivier machine (unattributed)

Ferrari, Maserati and Osca entered cars, Ferrari’s challenger was the V12 375 Plus to be driven by Umberto Maglioli and Paolo Marzotto/Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant/Robert Manzon.

At the endurance racing seasons opening round, Sebring on 7 March the Lloyd/Moss Osca MT4 1450 triumphed over the might of the Aston Martin and Ferrari teams. Now Briggs wanted a Ferrari engine for Le Mans!

To achieve this he needed to buy a car, so John Fitch and Phil Walters accordingly arrived at Le Mans with the 375MM pictured on the quayside above.

The new Cunningham C6 was not ready, the fast but unstable C5 had been destroyed at Reims the year before, so the two C4R spiders were again entered as well as the Ferrari. The C4R Spyders were driven by Bill Spear and Sherwood Johnston with Briggs and John Gordon-Bennett in the other car.

The Cunningham page from the 1954 Le Mans program (S Dalton Collection)

 

(unattributed)

The pre-start Le Mans panorama with the #54 BG Le Mans Renault of Brevil/Py 18th, #51 DB HBR Renault Louis DNF and #55 Monopole X84 of Hemard/Flahault thirteenth in focus. Amazing just how well these sub-one litre buzz-boxes place.

(unattributed)

The cars were lined up in order of engine capacity from largest to smallest- the 5482cc Cunninghams at the head of the queue- above the two C4R’s of Cunningham/Gordon-Bennett and Spear/Johnston and the three works Ferrari 375 Plus of Maglioli/Marzotto, Gonzalez/Trintignant and Manzon/Rosier.

The sprint has begun above.

The # 2 Spear/Johnston C4R and #6 Walters/Fitch Cunningham Ferrari 375MM from the #14 Rolt/Hamilton D Type (unattributed)

The 375’s of González/Trintignant, Manzon/Rosier and Maglioli/Marzotto led almost from the start, but Moss kept the D-Type in touch with them and Rolt was not too far behind. In its early stages the race looked like a 10 lap sprint rather than a 24 hour grind. At the end of the first hour, González led with Moss, the best placed Jag in third.

(unattributed)

Merde! or words to that effect.

The beached Chinetti Ferrari 375 Berlinetta of Rubirosa/Baggio, DNF after 5 laps, not a great return on a significant investment.

Three finishers on a damp track, so its early Sunday. Porsche 550 Spyder of Arkus-Duntov/Olivier 14th from the 2nd placed Jag of Hamilton/Rolt and 3rd placed C4R Chrysler of Spear/Johnston (unattributed)

Problems with blocked fuel filters delayed the Jags during the third hour. As darkness descended González and Trintignant led, the 375 Plus Ferrari of Maglioli and Marzotto had dropped out with transmission failure.

A large number of cars had fallen out of the race during the initial hours. By the seventh hour the number of retirements increased including the Shelby/Frere Aston DB3S and the Behra/Simon Gordini T24S.

Eric Thompson ponders his next move to get the Lagonda DP115 moving. The third placed Spear/Johnston C4R Chrysler rumbles past en-route to its finish (Getty)

The Lagonda was out during the seventh hour as well, having completed 25 or 26 laps after which Eric Thompson spun into the bank at the Esses. I wrote an article about this car and incident a while back, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2016/08/12/dyer-want-the-good-news-first/

So too, seven hours in, Ian Stewart rolled his Aston Martin DB3S on the fast stretch between Arnage and White House corners, destroying it with Stewart severely injuring his arm.

The slinky, aerodynamic, XK engined D-types steadily moved up the field. By midnight Whitehead and Wharton were second, two laps behind the leading Ferrari. Manzon/Rosier were third, ahead of Rolt and Hamilton, with the Aston Martins of Parnell/Salvadori and Collins/Bira completing the top six.

(unattributed)

The #9 Talbot-Lago T26GS above of Rosier/Megrat DNF,  ahead of the eighth placed Bristol 450 of Wisdom/Fairman.

In an amazing team performance the three Bristol 450’s finished seventh, eighth and ninth. Seventh were Wilson/Mayes and ninth Keen/Line. I’m not sure who that is beside the road, Eric Thompson perhaps.

Moss from the Monopole X84 Panhard of Hemard/Flahault with the parked Thompson Lagonda still sitting in The Esses (unattributed)

Early on Sunday morning, Walker/Whitehead and Rosier/Manzon retired, both the Jaguar and Ferrari had shagged gearboxes. The Moss/Walker D succumbed to braking problems on Saturday evening. By the time dawn arrived the battle at the front was between a car from Coventry and Maranello apiece.

What’s more, as the clouds built up and rain became a threat, the Ferrari power advantage would be negated by the conditions- by breakfast it was raining heavily. González and Trintignant could afford to ease back a bit but any problems would place them into peril, as the rain intensified, the remaining Hamilton/Rolt D-type applied the pressure with nothing to lose.

(LAT)

The works Reg Parnell/Roy Salvadori supercharged Aston Martin DB3S ahead of the winning works Ferrari 375 Plus of Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant. The Aston retired during the twenty-first hour with head gasket failure.

Later race wet pits top for the Rolt/Hamilton D Type (unattributed)

The two Brits, Rolt and Hamilton threw caution to the wind and raced their D-type hard. On one lap Rolt glanced the bank out of Arnage and stopped for a bout of impromptu aluminium panel beating. He had been forced off line by a slower car.

The rain eased, allowing the Ferrari to put its horses to the road and use its power to better effect but the Jag kept on coming, the rain intensified again and the Jaguar drivers began to close the gap further.

With two hours to run, González and Trintignant were still nearly two laps ahead of the Jag, with ninety minutes to run Trintignant brought the Ferrari in for a routine stop. González took over, but the big V12 refused to fire. Gonzalez jumped out whilst the mechanics fumbled with the plugs.

Rolt was now in sight, the Englishman intent on stopping for new goggles, but his crew waved him on now that the XKD was on the same lap as the leader

Gonzalez in the victorious Ferrari 375 Plus (unattributed)

The Scuderia Ferrari mechanics fiddled beneath the bonnet, they knew the engine was strong given its perfect state prior to the stop. The car sat for seven minutes, then suddenly burst back to life, González jumped aboard and accelerated away barely ninety seconds ahead of the chasing Rolt, but now his V12 sounded less healthy than it had before.

With thunder and lightning assaulting the circuit and an hour to run, Rolt handed over to Hamilton for the final stint.

In a fierce sprint to the finish, Hamilton cut the lead down to 1 minute 26 seconds, but as the track began to dry for the last few laps, González sped away to win by just under three minutes.

4pm- Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant the winners after completing 302 laps or 4061 Km (MotorSport)

González and Trintignant had driven their Ferrari 375 Plus to victory, covering a distance of 2,523.486 miles over 302 laps, averaging 105.145 mph. Rolt and Hamilton were second in their very hard worked D-Type, one lap behind at the finish. Third were the American Cunningham duo of Bill Spear and Sherwood Johnston on 283 laps 19 laps (over 157 miles) behind the winners.

Three years before, in the 1951 British Grand Prix González scored Scuderia Ferrari’s first Championship F1 victory in a Ferrari 375 at Silverstone, in his last appearance at La Sarthe he won Scuderia Ferrari’s first Le Mans, a unique Ferrari double. The Lord Selsdon entered 166M took the first Ferrari victory at Le Mans in 1949 when he and Luigi Chinetti won the race having covered 235 laps in the 2 litre V12 engine car.

In terms of the overall performance of the two outright contenders the Jaguars were faster due to a much more slippery shape (Moss was timed at 154.44 mph/278kph), but the Ferrari was said to have superior acceleration and brakes, which is counter-intuitive given the new-fangled discs fitted to the Jags.

Whilst finishing third and fifth, the Cunninghams were unable to match the pace of the leaders, giving Briggs and his team plenty to focus on for 1955. None of the Astons lasted the distance and of course Jaguar would be back, and Mercedes Benz…

Cover of the 1954 Le Mans booklet put together by the staff of ‘Motor’

 

Etcetera Le Mans 1954…

 

(unattributed)

Jaguar works cars all lined up all ready to rock and roll.

The Moss/Walker, Hamilton/Rolt and Whitehead/Wharton D Types with the Laurent/Swaters C Type at the rear.

(unattributed)

Moss, lightning fast always from these run and jump starts, en-route to the #12 XKD, #14 crewed by Hamilton/Rolt and #8 is the supercharged Aston Martin DB3S raced by Reg Parnell and Roy Salvadori- DNF after 222 laps in the twenty-first hour with head gasket failure.

(L Klemantaski)

The Eric Thompson/Dennis Poore Lagonda DP115 4.5 litre V12 heading towards White House early in the race- a famous Louis Klemantaski photograph, before its fateful spin in The Esses.

Thompson, after his lose, manoeuvres the car to a safer position below, before working out how to get it back to the pits.

 

(unattributed)

OKV 1. Duncan Hamilton aboard the works second placed D Type, by the look of the car its early in the race before nightfall. The machine was well and truly tested to its limits by its intrepid pilots especially in the final stages of the race.

(unattributed)

The twelfth placed Claes/Stasse Porsche 550 Spyder leads the 3 litre Aston Martin DB2/4 Vignale of Colas/da Silva Ramos which retired with gearbox failure in the fourteenth hour. None of the six Aston Martins or Lagonda which started the event finished it.

(unattributed)

Moss chasing the works Maglioli/Marzotto Ferrari 375 Plus early in the race- the beached Chinetti entered 375 MM in the background. The works 5 litre car retired with gearbox trouble in the eighth hour

Spin.

Even if you don’t win there is a clever marketing angle to be communicated- Jaguar press ad 1954.

And yes, the results do rather tend to speak for themselves!

Happy Scuderia Ferrari crew gather around the winning 4954cc V12 375 Plus of Gonzalez/Trintignant. Car looks rather good, I suspect this is before the off.

Dockside at Le Havre, ship is the ‘Mauretania’

Briggs Cunningham and his team staged a campaign of military scale, organisation and precision- the only thing missing was the kitchen sink and a car with just a smidge more speed.

What a marvellous Le Mans it would have been to witness in 1954?

Bibliography…

Briggs Cunningham website- briggscunningham.com, MotorSport magazine, Wikipedia, Team Dan, F2Index, thanks to ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ boys work on the ‘Then and Now’ thread for great work in identifying the dockside and travelling photograph locations

Credits…

Getty Images, Louis Klemantaski, Tom Sangen, briggscunningham.com, Bob Tronolone Collection, Bernard Cahier, LAT, MotorSport, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpieces…

Apart from anything else Briggs Cunninham was a sportsman who just loved to compete.

Here he looks forward to his week in France, dockside with his family and team.

(B Cahier)

Finito…