Archive for June, 2019

(Audi)

Allan McNish in the wonderfully distinctive ‘Crocodile’ livery Audi R8 ahead of David Brabham’s Panoz LMP-1, about to hook into the Adelaide GP circuit’s Chicane early in The Race of 1000 Years on 31 December 2000…

For one wonderful year the sports prototypes raced again in Australia- the race was the final round of the American Le Mans Series.

Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello won the event- shortened to 850 km from its scheduled 1000 km, from the Franz Konrad/Charles Slater/Alan Heath Lola B2K/10 Ford and the Dodge Viper GTS-R raced by Olivier Beretta/Karl Wendlinger/Dominique Dupuy.

The V8 Supercars have used the shortened Adelaide layout (the Hutt St, Rundle Rd section bypassed in favour of a new straight along Bartels Road) from 1999 but this endurance race  used the full GP circuit.

McNish’s quickest lap was a 1:25.2189 seconds, which, while the circuit’s fastest non-F1 race lap is still well shy of Damon Hill’s Williams FW15C Renault 3.5 V10 time of 1:15.381 seconds set during the 1993 AGP.

The history of endurance racing at the time is interesting and somewhat of a ‘might have been’.

The 1999 Le Mans Fuji, and Adelaide Race of a Thousand Years were intended as precursors to a planned Asia Pacific Le Mans Series run by Don Panoz, just as the Silverstone and Nürburgring events run earlier in 2000 were for the European Le Mans Series. The subsequent small number of entries for the European Series in 2001, plus a lack of competitors for a third Asia-Pacific exhibition event to be held at Sepang in Malaysia caused the cancellation of the Asia-Pacific Le Mans Series.

Despite 135,000 fans rocking up in Adelaide, 70,000 on raceday, only the first year of a nine year contract with the South Australian Government was performed.

Stefan Bellof blowing off a Kombi In Dandenong Road in his 956 in December 1984. Porsche Cars Oz workshops were in Noble Park, an adjoining suburb to Sandown Park so why not drive the 3 team cars there, the beasts were tractable enough! The #2 956, crewed by Bellof and Derek Bell won the race from the Mass/Ickx and Palmer/Lammers 956’s (unattributed)

A shame, but the Board of Directors of Melbourne’s Light Car Club of Australia, the promoters of Sandown Park, could have shared a story or two with Adelaide Premier John Olsen about how easy it is to ‘do your balls’ and lose the (club)house if endurance racing was poorly promoted to punters who have always enjoyed a diet of meat ‘n spuds touring cars mixed with meat ‘n spuds touring cars.

The LCCA Board drove the club to oblivion with a shitfully promoted and commercially structured endurance championship event in 1984- loss estimates start at $A300k and stretch to $A500K, a lot in 1984.

Of course, randomly coming across some Adelaide photos got me thinking about these very successful Audis.

McNish in profile 31 December 2000 Audi Sport North America R8 Race of a Thousand Years, Asia-Pacific Le Mans Series (M Turner)

 

OZ magnesium alloy wheels. Throughout this article there are ‘snippets’ of an R8 which won at Jarama in 2001 and was raced by Katoh/Dalmas/Ara at Le Mans in 2002- I am uncertain as to chassis number- these shots were taken by Darin Schnabel and were sourced from a Sotheby’s ad for the car (D Schnabel)

In their seven year competition history from 1999–2006, the R8 achieved a formidable record of both reliability and success, albeit sometimes not necessarily against the strongest of opposition, losing only 16 races in that period.

The R8 won Le Mans five times- 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005, and in addition took the American Le Mans Series seven times, the European Le Mans Series in 2001 and was the Le Mans Series champion in 2004.

The ‘miss’ at Le Mans was in 2003, Audi did not enter ‘factory’ cars that year to allow the R8’s technical and corporate sibling, the Bentley EXP Speed 8 to finish first and second. Click here for a feature on the Speed 8;

https://primotipo.com/2015/08/14/bentley-speed-8-le-mans-winner-2003/

Le Mans winners Capello/Kristenson/Smith Bentley EXP Speed 8, Le Mans 2003 (C Rose)

The R8 had a late Autumn in its career- the turbocharged diesel V12 engined R10 replaced it in 2006 but it took a while to get it right with Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello winning the R8’s last race at Lime Rock, Connecticut that July- the R8 also took the two preceding rounds at Reliant Park and Mid Ohio. The 5.5 litre R10’s first win was the Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park on 15 July 2006- Biela and Pirro shared the driving chores.

As early as 1997, Audi Sport director Wolfgang Ullrich considered competing at Le Mans to join BMW, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Toyota.

Ullrich engaged Dallara to assist the internal team to design and build a car, struggling with the workload of his rapidly growing business, Gian Paolo Dallara gave Tony Southgate a call to help him with the Audi program, Southgates second, enjoyable and successful stint at Tom Walkinshaw Racing had come to an end with the cessation of Nissan’s race program as the Japanese manufacturer sought to cut costs globally.

Not too long after Dallara’s phone call Tony travelled to Audi Sport at Ingolstadt, met Dr Ullrich and his team of engineers and looked at the car, the R8R- and shortly thereafter signed a two year contract as an consultant with effect 8 September 1998.

What he found was a sports prototype with a carbon fibre monocoque chassis, a mid-mounted 3.6 litre turbo-charged V8 engine and a transverse six-speed gearbox made by Ricardo, in Leamington Spa, the latter surprised him as they were not one of the larger specialists at the time. ‘The radiator was mounted at the front and the bodywork was best described as “styled” wrote Southgate in his autobiography ‘From Drawing Board to Chequered Flag’.

The car had power steering which excited the Brit as he had wanted to exploit the benefits of such an approach for years- reduced driver effort and unconventional suspension geometries were the advantages, these were normally restricted by unassisted steering given the needs of driver comfort.

The car was tested by Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela at a private test track near Most, in the Czech Republic, the track guarded by machine-gun toting guards every 200 metres!

Southgate’s conclusions from this session were that lap times could easily be improved by basic setup changes, that the car was very simple for such a large company ‘The story went that the man responsible for the design had left, and no one knew the exact package that he had envisaged.’

There was much scope for improvement including throwing away the monocoque to get down to the weight limit, the aero was poor in that the car had been styled rather than produced in the wind tunnel, the engine was basically good as was the Ricardo ‘box although it needed ‘refinement’.

Ulrich Baretzky was the engine boss, his chief designer was Hartmut Diel, with Wolfgang Appel the overall Project Leader- Southgate rated all of them.

Le Mans pits 1999- #7 Audi R8R Alboreto/Capello/Aiello 4th, #10 Audi R8C of Weaver/Wallace/McCarthy DNF 198 laps gearbox

The R8R’s aerodynamic changes were in the hands of in-house resident aerodynamicist Michael Pfadenhauer- new to motor racing but learning fast. The wind tunnel work was done at SF, part of the Swiss Aircraft & Systems concern, near Emmen.

Southgate notes that the ACO’s regulations were different to those which prevailed during the time he was looking after the Group C Jaguars and Toyotas in two areas.

First, the underside of the car and the forward part of it no longer had to be flat bottomed which meant that they could take on aerodynamic profiles, the drivers feet could be raised F1 fashion. The net effect was to provide greater front downforce.

Second, the dimension to the most extreme point of the rear bodywork was to include any wing section- the wing could no longer be set aft of the tail as on the Jag and Toyota. Instead the trailing edge of the wing could extend no further back than the tail. The rear venturi was now smaller in height, an attempt to reduce overall downforce. The net effect was that the new tail had to be much lower.

‘The new low-tail approach blended in nicely with my minimal frontal area philosophy. I had started working on this at TWR, but it would have to wait until the following year…the R8R design required too many changes, and we didn’t have enough time before Le Mans.’

The R8R did appear at Le Mans with a low tail but the most important change made was to the gearbox- the cars biggest endurance challenge. Despite ‘beefing up’ the dog-engagement box, similar in concept to the Hewland and Xtrac transmissions, it would struggle to last 24 hours.

The endurance issues were solved when Appel met Erwin Gassner, whose firm, ‘Mega Line’ produced a pneumatic gearshift conversion for motorcycles- its primary use was in motorbike endurance racing.

Tony, ‘The gearshift was operated by a paddle rocker switch- Formula 1 fashion. It disconnected the clutch electronically and at the same time moved the sequential shift rod pneumatically to the next gear. The pneumatic shift was quite simple. A small compressor, looking very much like a model aeroplane diesel engine, charged a small accumulator complete with electrical switch, and was housed in a metal box that bolted onto the side of the gearbox case.’

With a minimum of trouble, it was off to the Most test track, with some refinement to shift times- 0.4 seconds was settled upon, the results were amazing, ‘we stripped the gearbox to check the condition of the dog-rings and they looked perfect, as if they hadn’t even been used…The drivers liked the fact that they could keep their hands on the steering wheel all the time, which made cornering smoother…’

What the system did was eliminate human error- as drivers make mistakes with their timing of changes so the components are damaged bit by bit- often ending in failure.

Lets not forget John Barnard had just introduced this feature on the Ferrari 640 but it had not yet found its way to sportscar racing.

The 4th placed Alboreto/Capello/Aiello R8R, Le Mans 1999 (Getty)

Good progress was being made with the R8R until Audi top executives threw a curve ball into the mix.

They were not convinced the open-cockpit car was the best alternative and felt a coupe should also be built to compare the two.

Southgate was not in favour of dilution of the team’s efforts but told them that a car complying with LM-GTP regs (the ACO’s new formula for closed coupe prototypes) might produce up to 10% better aero than a roadster due to the streamlined cockpit section. But the complete picture also required a look at the tyre regulations- the GTP’s were required to run 50mm narrower rear tyres than the LMP roadsters, ‘nothing should ever be given away in the tyre department’ quipped Tony. The roadsters had a lower C of G and were lighter, giving the designer the ability to ballast where required- and they were easier to build in terms of bodywork, windscreens, ventilation and doors.

Notwithstanding the above the Directors still wanted a coupe- and money was not an issue!

The R8C Coupe would use the same engine and gearbox as the R8R and was to be designed and built at the Volkswagen Audi Group owned ‘Racing Technology Norfolk’ plant at Hingham- the former TOMS GB factory had been acquired by VAG in July 1988.

Richard Lloyd and John Wickham would oversee the project and were in charge of racing it whilst Peter Elleray designed the carbon-fibre monocoque chassis with the assistance of two other designers.

RTN had all of the required facilities inclusive of an autoclave, whilst Southgate looked after the aerodynamics still using the SF tunnel in Emmen.

Work began in September 1988, the Le Mans Test Day was the first weekend the following May.

The first RTN R8C was ready in March and was shaken down on 1 April (brave) 1999 at Snetterton by Andy Wallace- he lost a door in the first few laps much to the bemusement of an Audi Director who decided to drop in on the test at the end of his holidays!

Time constraints meant Tony had to commit to the build of the aero package before it was fully developed, it was 10-15% light of the downforce targets he had set. ‘The missing downforce was on the front of the car, which meant the front split was a little marginal. To try to make up for this discrepancy I was obliged to run the front ground clearance very low, which was not ideal.’

A pre Le Mans test at Hockenheim revealed some flexing or binding in the front suspension, which made the steering clumsy and a little unstable- a shaker rig gave the crew comfort that the components would not break- post Le Mans testing showed the front wishbones were deflecting causing castor angle changes. Peter Elleray decided to draw completely new front suspension as a fix.

The colour and movement of Le Mans 1999- Hawaiian Tropic girls never seem to age, perpetually 22 years of age (Getty)

 

The Southgate/RTN designed R8C at Le Mans in 1999

 

The R8C on circuit at Le Mans 1999, driver uncertain, attractive car (M Hewitt)

Both R8R’s which raced at Sebring in March had good reliability but the team were still worried about gearboxes, so they decided to have a contingency plan to allow for a transmission change during the race.

Joest Racing set a target time of 9 minutes! and achieved it by installing dry-break couplings on all the brake, clutch, engine and gearbox oil cooler fluid lines. They also made the removal of the rear underbody easier and obtained special air-tools  for undoing the bellhousing bolts.

Four cars made it to the Le Mans Test Day- two R8C GTP Coupes and two R8R Le Mans Prototype Roadsters.

The R8R’s were eighth and eleventh fastest, the R8C’s twenty-second and twenty-eighth fastest- top speed of the coupes 217 mph.

‘Joest did a hot test transmission change during one of the practice sessions- the whole rear end- the replacement transmission and the suspension and brake assemblies- was lowered from a crane directly above the race car and fitted. Underbody on, tail on, wheels down, down on the floor, ready to go- 4 minutes 56 seconds!’ wrote Tony.

The team were stunned, it appeared it may have been possible to effect such a change without even losing track position.

Le Mans 2000, the winning chassis by the way (Audi)

Only three pneumatic gearshift systems were made by the time of the race so it was decided to fit them to the two more developed R8R’s keeping one as spare with the R8C’s having the normal manual Ricardo ‘box.

Both Coupes were plagued by transmission problems throughout practice and then ran into trouble in the first two hours.

The Audi R8Rs weren’t fast enough to win Le Mans in 1999, but they finished a credible third-Pirro/Biela/Theys and fourth-Alboreto/Capello/Aiello behind a BMW V12 LMR 6 litre and Toyota GT-One 3.6 V8 t/c- the latter also Dallara built. One of the cars had the whole rear end replaced without losing track position.

The R8C coupes suffered gearbox problems as noted above, the Johansson/Ortelli/Abt car had diff failure after only 55 laps, the Wallace/McCarthy/Weaver car retired in the tenth hour after completing 198 laps, the design was popped to one side but returned later in evolved form as the Bentley EXP Speed 8.

‘A new development program was initiated under the banner of Volkswagen, and later Bentley, another member of the VAG Group. Peter Elleray would again look after chassis development and I would look concentrate on improving the aerodynamics’ wrote Tony.

In terms of the new for 2000 R8R roadsters, development work focused on engine power response and fuel efficiency, the gearbox and pneumatic mechanism was further refined based on the race experience ‘to the point that outwardly the gearbox looked completely new by the time it reappeared in the all new R8.

#2 Audi R8, Lime Rock June 2006. Carbon-fibre chassis, wishbone and pushrod suspension clear

Southgate focused on the aerodynamics of the new car and in particular his ‘obsession with minimal frontal area and low CG’ with Wolfgang Appel’s team readily absorbing this mantra. The latest aero figures from the Coupe were used as a target for the new R8R roadster ‘Young Michael Pfadenhauer was still with me at the SF tests in Switzerland, and was now up to speed and feeding the information into the Le Mans computer program to establish our new theoretical laptimes.’

Southgate wrote that his second year at Audi was more straightforward and routine than the first as the engineers needed les help and general guidance.

The coupe project was a design and development car with some testing with no race program plan then- ‘Great strides were made in the wind tunnel and it started to look very good. The car would go on to be re-engineered again and again, and finally to reappear as the Bentley EXP Speed 8 in the 2001 Le Mans’ by then Tony had retired.

The first R8R was completed and ready for testing in January 2000- it looked and ran well from the start winning the Sebring 12 Hour in March- the Pirro/Biela/Kristensen car was ahead of that crewed by Alboreto/Capello/McNish, both cars a lap ahead of the two BMW V12 LMR’s.

To the Le Mans test weekend the three Audis were the quickest cars, further work was done to strengthen the gearbox.

(Darin Schnabel)

 

Le Mans 2000- 1-3 finish, crews as per text (Audi)

There were the usual dramas at Le Mans but with a one-two-three finish!

The Sebring winning crew of Frank Biela/Tom Kristensen/Emanuele Pirro took the chequered flag, followed across the line by Laurent Aiello/Allan McNish/Stephane Ortelli and Michele Alboreto/Christian Abt/Rinaldo Capello.

ALMS events won in 2000 were those at Sebring, Sears Point, Mosport, Texas, Portland, Road Atlanta, Laguna Seca, Las Vegas and Adelaide.

R8 Le Mans 2000 winning crew- L>R Pirro, Kristensen, Biela with Allan McNish at right (Audi)

 

Race number a misnomer, there was no Audi R8 #12 which raced @ Le Mans in 2001. Keep in mind Southgate’s minimal frontal area mantra in looking at the aero shots of the cars (D Schnabel)

 

Kristensen/Biela/Pirro R8 on the way to 2nd at Sebring in 2001 (URY914)

In 2001, Audi again finished 1-2 at Le Mans surviving the disastrous lap four downpour that led to the collision of nine cars on the slick and slippery surface. Again, Biela/Kristensen/Pirro won, followed by Aiello/Capello/Christian Pescatori.

A great outcome for the VW Group was the third place of the Bentley EXP Speed 8, developed upon the basis of the 1999 Audi R8C coupe. It was driven by Andy Wallace/Butch Leitzinger/Eric van de Poele and won the GTP class.

ALMS Series wins were Texas, Sebring, Donington, Jarama, Sears Point, Mosport, Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta- the two rounds not won by the R8 were won by the Panoz.

Audi Sport’s program was dealt a tragedy in 2001 when Michele Alboreto died in an R8 during a Lausitzring, northeast Germany, test session after a high speed tyre failure. He was doing straight line tests at the time, the tyre blow-out caused a collision with a trackside wall.

Marco Werner/Philipp Peter/Michael Krumm R8 Le Mans 2002- 3rd place behind two other R8’s (Getty)

 

Note rear aero generally and Southgate’s low tail prescription (D Schnabel)

 

(D Schnabel)

In 2002, the Audi Joest team returned to Le Mans with several new drivers and despite 17 flat tyres during the night between the three R8s, the result was the same- victory albeit taking the first three places.

Biela/Kristensen/Pirro achieved a record in that it was the first time the same driver combination had won three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans. Capello/Johnny Herbert/Pescatori were second and Michael Krumm/Philipp Peter/Marco Werner were third. The Bentley EXP Speed 8 was fourth and won the GTP class, driven by Wallace/Leitzinger/van der Poele.

ALMS rounds won in 2002 were at Sebring, Mid Ohio, Road America, Trois-Rivieres, Mosport, Laguna Seca, Miami and Road Atlanta.

The R8 of Tom Kristensen and Seiji Ara during first practice, Spa 1000 km in August 2003. They won from the Pescarolo Racing Courage C60 Peugeot 3.2 V6 t/c of Lagorce/Sarrazin and the Dome S101 Judd V10 raced by Beppe Gabbiani and Felipe Ortiz (M Krakowski)

 

Brembo caliper and carbon brakes

 

Glowing Brembos- Croc-R8 during the Adelaide December 2000 weekend (LAT)

 

The Kristensen/Capello/Smith Bentley EXP Speed 8 crosses the line ahead of the 3rd placed Pirro/Lehto/Johansson and 4th placed Ara/Magnussen/Verner R8’s. The Blundell/Brabham/Herbert Bentley was 2nd (A Durand)

Audi Team Joest sat out the 2003 Le Mans 24 as mentioned earlier, a pair of redesigned Bentley Speed 8s, #7, driven by Guy Smith/Tom Kristensen/Rinaldo Capello and #8 driven by Johnny Herbert/David Brabham/Mark Blundell led the VAG charge that year.

The Bentleys finished first and second which was much celebrated across the motor-sporting world given the history of the marque at Le Mans between the wars- it had been 71 years since the brands last appearance at the race.

Privateer R8s finished third and fourth, and three-time winner Frank Biela would have undoubtedly been a factor in a privateer R8, had he not run out of fuel in the third hour.

2003 R8 ALMS round wins were Sebring, Road Atlanta, Sonoma, Trois-Rivieres, Mosport, Road America, Laguna Seca, Miami and Road Atlanta- the LMP900 class, outright in eery round.

Audi R8 cockpit, driving position for a sports-racer somewhat unusal in being on the left, gearbox is Ricardo 6-speed sequential (D Schnabel)

 

Johnny Herbert, R8, 12 June 2004, Le Mans (B Lennon)

The Audi R8s almost finished first to fourth at Le Mans in 2004 but were thwarted by an accident when Allan McNish and JJ Lehto hit a tyre wall after an oil spill from a Porsche.

McNish’s car required comprehensive repair and joined the track well back, drivers Frank Biela and Pierre Kaffar battled back to fifth as doctors had sidelined McNish. The Audi Japan/Team Goh R8 won, driven by Seiji Ara/Rinaldo Capello/Tom Kristensen with second going to the Audi/UK Veloqx R8 of Jamie Davis/Johnny Herbert/Guy Smith, third was Champion Racing’s R8 driven by JJ Lehto/Marco Werner/Emanuele Pirro.

2004 ALMS round victories were Sebring, Mid Ohio, Lime Rock, Infineon, Portland, Road America, Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca.

2005 marked the last appearance of the factory Audi R8s Le Mans.

The turbo diesel R10 would replace them in 2006.

Once again the Champion Racing R8 crewed by JJ Lehto/Tom Kristensen/Marco Werner, took the chequered flag, with two R8’s in third and fourth, the Pescarolo Judd second.

The win marked the sixth straight victory for Kristensen and his seventh overall, breaking Jacky Ickx’s record.

ALMS wins that year included Sebring, Road Atlanta, Lime Rock, Infineon, Portland, Road America and Road Atlanta.

(A Jocard)

Another generation of Audi endurance campaigner.

Mike Rockenfeller aboard an Audi R18 TDI V6 3.7 litre t/c diesel, Le Mans 2011.

He shared the car with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, DNF prang after completing 116 laps. Another R18 driven by Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer won .

(D Schnabel)

Technical Specifications…

Car designed by Appel/Pfadenhauer and others and constructed in Italy by Dallara.

Chassis a carbon-fibre composite and aluminium honeycomb monocoque with the 3596 cc 90 degree V8 fully stressed. Suspension comprised double wishbones and pushrods with horizontally mounted coil spring/gas shocks. Steering, a power assisted rack and pinion. Disc brakes were servo-assisted, ventilated and cross-drilled carbon ceramic

Engine Audi 90 degree all aluminium, DOHC, 4-valve 3586cc, Bosch-injected and twin turbo-charged V8 giving circa 610 bhp and above, 516 lbs/ft of torque. Gearbox, Ricardo 6-speed sequential.

Dimensions- 900 kg in weight, 4650 mm long, 1980 mm wide and 1080 mm high. Wheelbase 2730 mm, track not quoted

16 R8 sports-prototypes were built.

Etcetera…

(D Schnabel)

1999

(Getty)

The Dallara built and RKN built R8R left and R8C right at Le Mans in 1999.

The different aerodynamic approach of the 1999 Dallara built racer and the subsequent cars is marked.

2000

(M Thompson)

Emanuele Pirro, R8 during the ALMS Silverstone 500 round on 13 May, he shared the car with Frank Biela to fourth place- winner the Jorg Muller/JJ Lehto BMW 6 litre V12 LMR.

The best placed Audi was the Capello/McNish car in third. Note the use, at this early stage of the season of the 1999 model R8.

(Audi)

Frank Biela, R8 in ‘Banana Bend’ heading towards the Adelaide Markets, December 2000. Car retired after completing 170 of the winners 225 laps.

(Getty)

Biela from McNish, Adelaide 2000, green car in the distance the Konrad Lola B2K Ford I think.

(Audi)

Australian V8 Supercar driver and Audi man Brad Jones practiced the McNish/Capello R8 in Adelaide when Allan suffered severe back pains after stepping out of his Kilt during a photo shoot! and was carted off to Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The Jones boy missed out in the race as AMcN was aok to compete but there was a further set-back on raceday when Capello boofed the R8 into the barrier on the outside of turn 6. It was repaired in time for the race.

Brad Jones Racing then ran the very successful Audi Super-Tourer program in Australia, the two A4’s were raced by Brad and Cameron McConville.

(D Schnabel)

 

The fascinating, intricate aero treatment of modern sports-racers never lacks interest- the nuances only complex wind-tunnel work can derive. Note exhausts, Audi logo (D Schnabel)

Credits…

Getty Images photographers Clive Rose, Matt Turner, Mike Hewitt, Bryn Lennon, Michel Krakowski, Siperd van der Wal, Andre Durand, Mark Thompson, Alain Jocard, Jean-Francois Monier, Gerlach Delissen. LAT, Darin Schnabel

‘From Drawing Board to Chequered Flag’ Tony Southgate, article on the 2016 R18 in ‘Racecar Engineering’, Sotheby, ultimatecarpage.com,

(D Schnabel)

 

(Audi)

Postscript: The Audi Le Mans Era 1999-2016…

The enduring Le Mans marque is Porsche of course, the first Le Mans entry for them was the Veuillet/Mouche twentieth placed 356 Coupe in 1951.

The ‘Audi Era’ at works outright level- lets hope they return, spanned the years 1999-2016, Audi boss Rupert Staller announced Audi Sports withdrawal from the WEC during a presentation to 300 of the companies employees in October 2016, ‘As our production cars are becoming more electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to be more so.’

The announcement included a commitment to Formula E.

Technological Audi firsts from 1999 to 2016 include the first Le Mans win by a car powered with a diesel engine in 2006 and the first by a hybrid powertrain in 2012.

Allan McNish, Audi R15 Plus ahead of the Mucke/Primat/Fernandez Lola Aston Martin during the 2010 8 Hours of Le Castellet- McNish won in the cars debut race partnered by Dindo Capello (unattributed)

Its interesting to reflect upon the advance in technology over the eighteen year period concerned- BMW won in 1999 with a conventional mid-engined roadster powered by a production derived (S70) 6 litre fuel injected V12 whereas the 2016 third/fourth placed Audi R18 was a coupe powered by a 4 litre turbo-charged V6 engine driving the rear wheels and front axle mounted GKN/Williams motor generator unit which, combined, produced over 1000 bhp.

For the record, the non-Audi Le Mans wins were by the BMW V12 LMR 5990cc V12 in 1999, Bentley EXP Speed 8 3995cc V8 t/c in 2003, Peugeot 908 5500cc V12 diesel in 2009 and Porsche 919 Hybrid in 2015/2016- 2000cc V4 t/c 4WD.

The Audi R8 won in 2001/2 and in 2004/5- 3596cc V8 t/c. The R10 TDI won from 2006-2008, it was a 5499cc t/c diesel V12. The R15 Plus won in 2010- 5499cc V10 diesel t/c. In 2011 it was the turn of the R18 TDI 3700cc V6 t/c. From 2012 to 2014 the R18 e-tron quattro won- 3700cc V6 t/c in 2012/2013 and 4 litres in 2014.

In 2012 and 2013 Audi won the FIA World Endurance Championship- the Manufacturers World Championship.

(J-F Monier/Getty)

Timo Bernhard #1 Porsche 919 from Lucas Di Grassi Audi R18 during practice at Le Mans in June 2016. Below is the Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer R18 Hybrid during the race, spectacular in the low light.

(G Delissen)

The best way to represent modern sports racers is in the half light as one can then only half see them.

Don’t get me wrong, they are fast and I love the applied technology but it would be hard to start with a blank sheet of paper and create uglier objects.

Such is ‘progess’.

(Getty)

The Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer R18 in the harsh light of day.

‘As ugly as a hatful of arseholes’ is the colloquial Australian phrase which springs to mind, fast mind you, sadly the rules do not mandate aesthetics which are entirely subjective in any event…

Tailpiece: Kristen/Lehto/Werner, Audi R8 Sebring winners, March 2005…

(LAT)

Finito…

 

(G Paine)

Lex Davison, excited to win the 1956 ‘Bathurst 100’, Easter 1956…

Any win on the mountain in any era rates highly with drivers, such is the challenge of the place.

Lex took victory aboard his Ferrari 500 3 litre- the famous ex-1952/3 F1 Alberto Ascari/Tony Gaze chassis # 005 from Reg Hunt’s Maserati 250F and Bib Stillwell’s Jaguar XKD.

The ‘100’ was a handicap, Formula Libre race. Reg gave Lex a 1 minute 18 second start, Davo eased towards the end to win by exactly a minute from Hunt who made the fastest race time by 18 seconds from Lex.

These professionally taken images are from Glenn Paine’s collection are simply superb, the subtle, monochrome greys grab the eye and ooze period. The portrait is the best of the great driver I have seen.

(G Paine)

By this stage the Victorian was something of a veteran, winner of the Australian Grand Prix at Southport, Queensland in 1954 but his best years were still to come, his career stretched all the way into the mid-sixties.

It would have been easy to crop Glenn’s comments made all those years ago from the shots but they add to the interest and patina bigtime. Wonderful photos, I’d love to know who the photographer is if anyone can pick it?

Ferrari 500 F2 cutaway (P D’Alessio)

The Ferrari 500 was the dominant car of the 1952/3 period in which the world championship was run for what had been 2 litre Formula 2 cars.

Ferrari were ready for the rule change the FIA made due to a probable lack of decent grids of F1 cars as a consequence of the withdrawal of Alfa Romeo from GP racing at the end of 1951. Apart from BRM, an unreliable proposition, promoters were looking at a Ferrari rout over competition comprising out of date or uncompetitive machinery.

The Ferrari 500 made its race debut in the hands of Alberto Ascari at the Grand Prix of Modena on 23 September 1951- he won from the Ferrari 166F2/50 of Froilan Gonzalez and Lance Macklin’s HWM Alta. By the commencement of 1952, the cars were well and truly race ready.

The Aurelio Lampredi designed, utterly conventional, forgiving and reliable powerful cars gave Ascari two champonships on the trot- he won six of the eight qualifying rounds in 1952 and five of nine in 1953.

2 litre Ferrari 500, DOHC, 2 valve gear driven, Weber fed, twin Marelli magneto sparked, two plug four-cylinder engine. In 2 litre guise the capacity was 1984cc- bore/stroke 90x78mm, power circa 185bhp @ 7500rpm. The gearbox was a 4 speeder located at the rear in unit with the differential (G Cavara)

‘005’ was then re-packaged for Tony Gaze use with a 750 Monza engine carrying chassis number ‘0480’ as a Formula Libre car in South Africa and Australasia before sale to Davison. The cars (a twin was built for Peter Whitehead) are usually described as Ferrari 500/625 but were raced at a capacity usually nominated as 2968cc- 3 litres.

In Lex’ hands it became one of the most iconic cars ever in Australian motor racing inclusive of wins in the 1957 and 1958 Australian Grands Prix at Caversham, WA (noting Bill Patterson’s co-drive) and Bathurst respectively, and the Australian Drivers Championship in 1957- the coveted Gold Star, the very first time the title was awarded.

At some time a comprehensive article on this car is something i would like to do, in the meantime the cutaways show the elegant simplicity of the ladder frame chassis, wishbone front and de Dion rear, drum brakes and all aluminium, DOHC, 2 valve, Weber fed, four-cylinder engine.

Check out this article which has quite a few photos of the car whilst owned by Doug Green in Western Australia; https://primotipo.com/2017/03/23/bunbury-flying-50-allan-tomlinson-ferrari-500-et-al/

Credits…

Glenn Paine, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, Bob Williamson, Giuseppe Cavara, Paolo D’Alessio

Tailpiece: Lex, Ferrari, Hell Corner, Bathurst…

(B Williamson)

Finito…

Darryl Harvey’s 1934 Ford Rodster takes on the Graeme Bolwell Jaguar Healey Sports at Riverside, Melbourne circa 1963 (P Ryan)

Saturday mornings for me generally have a common pattern depending upon whether i am with The Italian Sheila in Toorak, of whom i wrote in a Cooper S context not so long ago, or sub-optimally flying solo at my place in Windsor, a couple of kays south of Melbourne’s CBD.

Windsor is an interesting place, me ‘an a few ancient Greek ladies are its oldest residents. Otherwise its populated by 25 year old perky bottomed hornbags who say ‘Like’ a lot and their 26 year old gym-toned studmeister boyfriends who tend not to say much at all. Therefore, visually, Chapel Street is easy on the eye.

And so it was on Saturday 2 February, flying solo i did my uber-early jogging lap of Albert Park where i have the ducks and a solo fisherman near Powerhouse to keep me company and then retired to Oppen, the Scandinavian inspired cafe joint (recommended) beside Windsor station where i settle down for an hour or two with faithful Surface Pro to knock together some shite for you lot.

Its quiet there until 10.30 when the hotties and boyfriends arrive for replenishment of their slender frames after the rigours of the night before. At this point i leave as i don’t cope well with twenty young female people saying ‘Like’ in ever more shrill voices…and most of these knuckles have had pwivate school education gauging by the expensive vowels which accompany the continuum of ‘Like’s.

So, i wandered back to the Peel Street Love-Shack and pondered the next move of the day.

And then it happened…

Conor Ryan arrived with ‘my’ car 30 minutes after his father called me about the wonderful chance to drive it. Elgaram perfectly happy in busy Melbourne morning summers traffic and makes a superb early morning run/track car. Three of my mates called me within two days of the Phillip Island meeting to find out if the car can be bought- it can’t! (M Bisset)

I got the Works Driver phone call i longed for from Enzo Ferrari back in 1979.

I guess all of us who have been offered such rides have the approaches made in different ways, often through a manager or intermediary, or perhaps their Dad if the opportunity is a Kart and the driver nine years of age. But in my case the Team Owner took the direct approach and called me, i was watering the petunias out back at the time.

Patrick Ryan is a mate and long time historic racer in Australia having been involved since the start of historic racing in the mid-seventies. His fleet includes various vintage Vauxhalls, a Brabham Ford FJ, the supercharged MG TA Spl he usually races, a recently acquired American Sprintcar which is giving the Group LB fields a serious fright, other stuff, and the Elgaram Jaguar.

‘I’ve entered the Elgaram at the Island, i want to encourage you back into racing, you’ve been out of it too long, how bout having a lash in the car as i now can’t make it?’ was the gist of the call. How could one say no to such an act of generous stupidity?

Before i even had the chance to email Pat my fifty page Driving Contract with all the usual carve-outs for my own sponsors names on the car, driving suit, fees, accommodation requirements, media appearance obligations and all the rest of it the Equipe Elgaram’s Chief Test Driver was on the phone to say he was in the area and did i want to drive the car?

This was code for ‘lets see if the fat prick will fit in the thing’ before we proceed too far.

Pat’s son Conor Ryan had been down the road doing a ‘you show me yours and i’ll show you mine’ session with Bob King in Brighton- Conor drove Bob’s Bugatti T35 (lucky prick) and Bob the Elgaram.

Twenty minutes after the call- forty minutes after i had first spoken to Pat, Conor pulled up out front of the shack, startling a couple of hotties in the process. Before too long we set off up Dandenong Road in the direction of Caulfield Racecourse amongst thick mid-morning traffic, not ideal, but that 10 km and back was the extent of my pre-Phillip Island familiarisation.

This was all very impressive, Equipe Elgaram was far more organised than Scuderia Shitfight, my own race organisation.

First impressions were good- comfy driving position, with pedals, gear lever and instruments all in the right spot- lucky as the seat is fixed, so it was going to be a case of ‘tough-titties’ otherwise. The Jaguar engine sounds great with lots of mid-range punch and more than loud enough to scare the shit out of the hornbags trundling along in their white 3 Series. ‘Like, did you see that thing babe? Like?’. Like yeah i did like, fuckin’ loud. No muffler the bastard. Like.’

The Moss gearbox promised to be more of a challenge, not really like the Mk9 Hewland with which i am far more familiar.

And therein lay the challenge of the thing.

Other than a few club events in my road Alfa’s and Lotus Elise down the decades all of my race experience has been in Formula Vee and Formula Fords with two modest test sessions in a Ralt RT4 F Pac. I am used to fancy, schmancy, lithe, nimble, responsive poof-house little single seaters not a big hairy front-engined, rear-drive sportscar- a mans car.

Rex Styles, Winton (P Ryan)

 

Twin SU fed, ‘cooking spec’ Jag XK 3.8 litre engine sits well back in the chassis (M Bisset)

 

Healey/Ford solid rear axle fitted with slippery diff, leaf springs, telescopic shocks, Panhard Rod and short radius rods locate the thing- very well. Brakes are drum and ahem. Stock Healey tank and in-line filters and Terry Cornelius’ structure to support the body (M Bisset)

We will come to a full history of the Elgaram a little later. In essence it was built by Frankston, Melbourne bayside dentist Bill Suhr in 1961 and is a clever amalgam of Austin Healey 100-4 chassis, suspension, brakes and fuel tank, Jaguar twin-carb, twin-cam, XK 3.8 litre six-cylinder engine, Moss 4-speed gearbox and an AH rear axle incorporating a Ford 9 inch diff inclusive of slippery function. The whole lot is clad in a very swoopy, sexy, curvaceous body made by Graeme Bolwell- the first fibreglass body made by the Bolwells, Graeme was the car’s second owner and Suhr his dentist.

The car passed through many hands before being acquired by Patrick in 1974. Eventually the car rose to the top of the family restoration and preparation tree, it first raced at Sandown in 2013.

My competition licence lapsed long ago, the process of getting the requisite piece of paper to run in the Regularity from CAMS was surprisingly easy. That combination of words- ‘CAMS and surrisingly easy’ are not normally found together in the same sentence.

Also straightforward was fitting into my race suit. I figured that would not necessarily be the case after a decade and a bit. Clearly in that regard The Italian Sheilas pre-christmas demand that i ‘lose some weight if you want to sleep with me’ was effective. Desperate people do desperate things of course.

Jean-Pierre Bisset, P Is March 2019, lithe lisson lines clear (Bollyblog)

 

During the week before the meeting i did Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney then back to Melbourne between Monday and Thursday flogging our corporate message to the poor employees so i was tad rooted by the time i pointed my Alfa in the direction of my sisters place at San Remo, a drop-kick from the Island later on Thursday night with my kit.

But hey, i’m a Works Driver, i’ve done no race prep of the car nor had to tow the little critter to the meeting, that task was undertaken by Conor, driving the other Ecurie Elgaram racer that weekend- a Daveric Formula Vee (Elfin NG copy) and John Noble- Chief Engineer, Race Tactitian, Driver Coach and regular driver of the Ecurie Elgaram fleet.

John is a couple of years older than me- we worked out over the weekend that we grew up 500 metres apart, attended the same Boroondara Primary School in North Balwyn- and i very clearly remember as a young kid his TC rocketing around the area in the mid-seventies- a car, delightfully, he still owns.

The three of us had a ball looking after each other, the cars ran like clockwork so there was plenty of time to take in the contents of the paddock and talk/meet near neighbours including John Medley, Dick Willis, Shane Bowden, Les Wright and many others including my cronies Andrew McCarthy, Peter and David Brennan, David Mottram, Simon Gardiner and his offsider Andrew, Jeremy Mantello, Adam Berryman, Tania Langsford, Peter Ellenbogen, Lynton Hemer, David Crabtree and many more. The fun guys are in the ‘right-bottom corner’ of the PI paddock all the same!

For me i had a big responsibility to the car and its owners- to absorb, taste and test it but most importantly bring it home in one piece for John Noble to drive back to Williamstown at the weekends completion. In that regard the Regularity is ideal as you set your own pace- i’ve done so many meetings at PI the circuit was no issue but in an unfamiliar car it rewards respect. Shit happens and when it does down there, at high speed.

Big beefy Healey/Ford rear axle, the fibreglass body is light but the engine/box are not. Sexy beast from every angle (M Bisset)

 

Big wood-rimmed wheel nice to use, cockpit full of patina, it looks the goods. Six-point harness and old seat which holds you nicely and is comfy. Smiths instruments natch! Handbrake is ‘fly-off’, pedals beautifully placed for toe/heel and shift for the Moss 4-speeder in ze right spot (M Bisset)

 

I got on with the Moss box in the end, sort of. Lucas ignition box with St Christopher medallion dangling. Note the fuses, ignition switch and starter button. Switch alongside starter is for the thematic fan which is needed in warmer weather, Up is on (M Bisset)

You can tell the car has been set up by experienced racers as soon as you sit in it. The controls are all well placed and clearly marked. The fixed seat is perfectly placed for those 6 foot tall- Pat, Conor…and me luckily.

To start the thing you switch the electric fuel pumps on- the up position, turn the ignition key, and, with a prod of the twin-SU’s, stab the starter button. Usually, the engine, in ‘cooking’ specification- and giving about 290 bhp on Ian Tate’s dyno the Monday before the meeting, grumbles into life and is easily kept alive with gentle applications of throttle.

Instruments comprise a Smiths chronometric tachometer which makes me go all funny because i love sitting and looking at those things and their ‘wonky movements’- most of my own cars have had them. Smiths also provide the water temperature and oil pressure gauges.

All three are easy to read with the tach mounted such that 5000 rpm is in the vertical position. Conor said ‘use 4800 thru the gears and whatever it will pull in top’- my imposed rev limits were 4800 on the way up and 5000 in top- i needed to feather the thing on both straights as it pulls harder than a busload of school-boys, all up weight is circa 900 Kg- not light but not heavy either, the Bolwell body slips through the salty, warm seaside air very nicely.

The six point harness holds you in place well- not like a single-seater of course, the seat is delightfully unrestored and you can saunter around the paddock no wux at all, the engine is not in ultimate spec in terms of tune, the clutch is light and easy to operate with well felt ‘bite’ points.

Balaclava and helmet on, switch on the electric fan once on the move- the up position, it felt strange to rumble away from the form-up area, down the pitlane and out onto the circuit sitting up in a car rather than ensconced down low within it. It is a totally different orientation to the road.

‘Use your imagination and the thing feels like you are sitting in and looking out of a Maserati 300S’ Pat Ryan said to me on that first phone call and so it is too. The big six makes a magnificent, deep-throated bellow, the shape of the dash and vista out front make you feel you are in a fifties sports-racer- which in conception is exactly what the car is despite an early sixties build.

I decided i didn’t love the Moss box in Dandenong Road but moderated that a bit at PI.

From first to third are changes made on a ‘one-two count’- you cannot beat the slow syncro whereas the third to top shift (direct) is as fast as your left hand will move. Bewdiful. The brake and throttle pedals are perfectly placed for heel ‘n toe operation- the top-third change is a soda. Third to second is much more of a challenge with a soft detent to that plane, which makes it way too easy to end up in limbo-land below reverse if you go too far left- a couple of angel rides into MG suggested using third and letting the big fat torque curve do its thing was the percentage play. Doing that also precludes an unsettling ‘snap’ shift from second to third before rolling onto the throttle for the left-hander outta MG- critical for a quick lap as those revs carry you onto the long PI straight.

Lesson learned. I’m sure when you are familiar with the box, its not an issue.

Up the rise before the dive into MG- Nigel Tait behind in Lolita BMC

 

The handling of the car is just superb, somewhat to my surprise.

At high speed it has stabilising mild understeer but out of third gear Honda and especially third gear Siberia you can get the thing into a yummy easily controllable delicate slide on exit. Whilst the XK engine- and Moss box are not exactly Twiggy in girth those lumps are mounted well back in the chassis as you can see in the photos- the driver also sits well back. It would be intriguing to know just what the front/rear weight ratio is. Whatever it is the thing works well- the ‘slippery’ allows the power to be put to the tarmac and panhard rod and ‘radius rods’ either side of the car locate the rear axle well.

At the front its wishbones/lever arm shockers- the turn in is pretty good albeit the amount of feel via the 14 inch wheel and worm and sector steering is not quite the same as a ten inch Momo and Van Diemen rack and pinion- but if you don’t use that inappropriate frame of reference and consider the road/track tyres with which the car is shod it turns in well driving it at the pace i was and driving it as a single-seater rather than chucking it about more the way the Ryans do. I noticed how much ‘slack’ in the steering there is in my first session on Friday but by the end of our event on Sunday wasn’t even noticing it- familiarity is the point here.

But the brakes. Faaaaark- wot brakes?

Man those drums- ‘keep an eye on your braking distances after the second lap’ Conor had warned me and he was not kidding. The levels of retardation are totally unlike anything i’ve ever run on a circuit- twice at Honda i went straight on an extra 20 metres or so and then turned back hard right onto the racing line having misjudged the distances required. The car pulls up straight- its just that it doesn’t pull up! If thats what a drum braked car of the period(s) is about i dips me hat to all of yez who race them. Conor and Pat do very fast times in that car, quite how they do them with those anchors is something for me to ponder.

The Elgaram Jag is a stunning piece of kit in terms of looks and performance. The acceleration to a six-cylinder basso-profundo symphony is marvellous, and the gearbox is great to use as long as you work to its delightfully ‘mechanical’ in feel, slow timing. The handling is precise, steering light but joisus i really didn’t like the brakes.

The beauty of the thing is its race and road use, as a 200 km early morning run car its hard to think of something more charismatic- my Elise would do it more clinically, the Elgaram with a good deal more brio and presence.

What a marvellous car! A tribute to both its builders and its restorers, which is rather a nice segue to the machines origins.

Jag Healey Special in its original form was as ugly as a hatful of arseholes as we crass Australians sometimes couch these things. Holden FJ Ute behind with an added on canopy- Graeme Bolwell up (Bolwell)

Design, Build, Construction and Evolution In Period…

Bill Suhr commenced the project in 1960, it would be interesting to know what his motorsport background was before he came upon the notion of a special incorporating the Jaguar XK engine as was relatively common at the time.

He acquired a brand new Austin Healey 100-4 chassis, (number unknown despite plenty of effort to find out- we surmise it was a spare part), suspension and wheels and fuel tank from the Frankston, Melbourne bayside dealership.

To that he added a Jaguar Mk7 engine built to ‘D Type specifications’ in terms of valves, camshafts and other items.

Chassis and suspension Healey BN1, tall Jag XK 3.8 litre six, period crossplies on skinny wires (P Ryan)

 

Workshop unknown, perhaps the car in-build (P Ryan)

 

Graeme Bolwell place unknown (Bolwell)

The body was built by Bobby Wragg a local plaster business owner in the Lotus 11 style, as a sideline. But with the radiator exposed it was ‘as ugly as a hatful…’ and not particularly aerodynamically efficient either.

Registered (Victoria) in Suhr’s name HHD-671 from March 1961 to March 1962 the car was entered as the ‘Jaguar Healey Sports’ at the old Mount Martha Hillclimb, Geelong Sprints in August 1961 (15.90 seconds) and at Phillip Island in December 1962 where Suhr won the over 3 litre sportscar scratch- amongst other events, in Victoria.

Graeme Bolwell with his mother, Lorna, looking on, Mount Martha Hillclimb 1961, note the headrest, how long did that last i wonder? (P Ryan)

 

JHS at the second Templestow Hillclimb meeting (R Styles)

 

The nose of the Bill Suhr Jaguar Healey Special alongside Murray Carter’s Carter Corvette at Geelong Sprints in 1961- Event 16- 15.9 seconds for Bill, 13.550 for Murray (Autosportsman)

Graeme Bolwell then bought the car, or rather part-exchanged it from Bill- his dentist.

Suhr took the MGA 1500 Graeme had been using as his daily driver to the Police Training College in St Kilda Road, Melbourne as a part trade.

Bolwell didn’t like the body so removed the original and built his own. He started from scratch making a centre bulkhead from tubular steel, covering it with aluminium. ‘He…formed the panel shape in plaster and chicken wire, smoothing it over before fibreglassing over it. This resulted in the rough side of the glass surface facing outward, which in turn had to be filled, smoothed and painted.’ The windscreen was the rear window of an FE Holden.

The front of the car was E Type’esque but unique- there was no mould so the car was strictly a one off. Graeme’s design flair was apparent right from the start, without doubt the car is visually arresting from any angle.

Graeme Bolwell in the driveway of his parents Frankston home (Bolwell)

 

(P Ryan)

Graeme Bolwell developed a quite beautiful body for the JHS, here pictured in what i assume is the driveway of the family home in Frankston. A small sign proclaiming ‘Bolwell Cars’ was attached to the letterbox of this outer suburban Bayside house in June 1962- Campbell Bolwell’s intentions were clear!

Look carefully on the door of the car above- those competition numbers are the same as those on the opening photograph at Riverside Dragway.

Its a pity we don’t have the date of that meeting, it’s safe to assume it was pretty soon after the body was fitted- there are still some finishing touches to come inclusive of a windscreen.

(Bolwell)

The car was said to be the fastest sporty in Frankston, Graham took it to the drags at Fishermens Bend (Riverside) and took home three trophies- 13.9 seconds for the standing quarter was his time but in the main the car was a roadie, his day to day transport.

The body for the Jaguar Healey Sports was the first such built by Bolwell, it is referred to in Bolwell circles as the ‘Bolwell Mk3 or 3B’- the third car built by the Bolwell brothers. Lets come back to that a little later on.

Graeme advertised it in the December 1963 issue of Australian Motor Sports, the ad is below. You will note Graeme identifies the car as ‘Jaguar-Healy (sic) Sports’.

Australian Motor Sports December 1963

 

Bob Minogue in the Elgaram Jag faces off against John Skipper Allard J3, Geelong Sprints August 1964- 15.770 for Bob and 16.280 for John. Lex Davison took FTD that day in his Brabham Climax with a time of 12.98 seconds with Earl Davey Milne doing a 14.06 in the Bugatti Chev Spl I wrote about a short time ago (Autosportsman)

Unable to sell it, he traded the car in at Dick Thurston’s Pitstop Motors, Elsternwick where Rex Syles, a salesman there at the time, bought it on 18 February 1964- Rex traded in his Fiat 1500.

Styles used the car as both daily transport and weekend racer at venues as diverse as Winton, Lakeland (first meeting) and Templestowe Hillclimb. Bob Minogue, later a racer of some note, his work at the wheel of an ex-Brown/Hamilton/Costanzo Lola T430 Chev F5000 springs to mind, was a friend of Styles- also drove car, during this period the car was entered as the Elgaram Jaguar- Elgaram being the Maragle Avenue, Brighton street-name spelt backwards- Bob Minogue’s locale at the time.

In fact Styles raced the car at the inaugural Lakeland meeting on 15 March as ‘Elgaram’ so the name change seems to have been effected pretty much from the start of his ownership. FTD on that hot Lakeland day went to a youthful Tim Schenken in the White 500, ‘the White entered, go-kart based 500 cc device’ in a time of 33.25 seconds.

‘Rex Styles comes over the top in the Elgaram’ is the April 1964 Australian Autosportsman Lakeland caption

Minogue did a 15.77 second pass at the Geelong Eastern Beach Sprints in August 1964. Styles decided to part with the much loved car when the engine developed an ominous engine knock after a Templestowe meeting.

The happy purchaser was WC Lucas of West Newport, like Pat Ryan and his family, a proprietor of a busline.

He was a very active competitor on both road and track including Templestowe, Rob Roy, Calder, Geelong (he did 17.320 secs in 1965) and the Riverside Dragway.

Bill eventually over-revved the car bigtime, the tell tale said 9800rpm, a number for the which the Lyons/Heynes/Hassan XK engine was not designed. As a consequence he rebuilt the car around a worked over Ford Customline Star model V8 to which he mated a Crossley pre-selector gearbox! I imagine the little beastie was rather front-heavy at this point- during this period the car was entered in race meetings as ‘Beast’.

The Crossley box did not work well so Lucas refitted the Jag transmission, whatever the shortcomings of the configuration the car was a rocket in a straight line, recording more than 135 mph, a number which must have given the Werribee coppers something to think about. Over the standing quarter, 115 mph was the number through the traps.

The standard Healey diff was not up to the pace, so was ‘locked’ which resulted in broken axles so a change to a coil-sprung Jag XK120 rear end was made with which the car handled ‘reasonably well’ with race Dunlops fitted to the front and road going radials on the rear!

Bill Lucas owned the car for around three years and sold it, unregistered, in April 1966.

The car in essence has spent most of its life in Melbourne’s Western suburbs from the time Lucas owned it until the present.

Bill Lucas in the Elgaram Jag ‘Jag Spl’ at Templestowe Hillclimb in September 1966 (S Dalton)

Altona’s Fred Woolski bought it and dragged it, perhaps at Calder, he fitted vertical exhaust stacks by cutting sections from the bonnet, fitted a Customline dash and then sold to the car to ‘anon unknown’ in Altona who removed the engine and ‘box to fit to his road Customline.

The cars dark ‘limbo-land’ between life and death has well and truly begun- its now a cheap ‘ole’ (not so old in reality at all) banger.

Alan Forsythe of Braybrook then entered the cars life, his brother fitted an FC Holden ‘Grey-Six’ and gearbox to use in the paddocks. The next owner’s contribution was to pull the brakes apart and lose said componentry.

Footscay’s Jim Evans planned to use it in club events but it never cleared the Western Suburbs back-blocks before he sold it to fund his twenty-first Birthday celebrations! I doubt the cash realised would have bought too many Melbourne Bitter long-necks!

Elgaram during Iain McPherson’s ownership, note the Holden six engine. It’s before Iain found the original bonnet hiding in someone’s shed and the original Lucas aero screen. Note the wire wheels on the front and disc wheels on the back, when they needed to replace the rear end with an XK120 Jag unit the disc wheels became necessary (I McPherson)

The Limbo-Land was over when Bulleen’s Iain McPherson bought it.

During the period after the car crossed back over the Yarra McPherson started the long process of restoration by locating the bonnet, by then missing.

McPherson is a Healey enthusiast, his plan was to fit an AH engine to the car and use it in club events. Finding a photo of the machine in a racing magazine changed that, with great detective work and perseverance he obtained Rex Syles address from CAMS and over a number of years identified and made contact with most of the cars owners- this (truncated by me) chronology of the car’s ownership is Iain’s wonderful work.

Eventually Iain decided to focus on other projects at which point the car trekked back over the Yarra to Pat Ryan in Williamstown. Patrick paid the princely sum of $150 for the bundle of bits on 24 May 1974.

The three photos below were taken at the Ryan Bros Buslines depot which was then in Brunel Street, Essendon/Aberfeldie. Pat has carefully laid out the components gathered by Iain McPherson over several years but the scale of the task is clear!

(P Ryan)

 

(P Ryan)

 

(P Ryan)

Restoration…

Patrick was bitten by the car bug bigtime early in his life and has amassed an eclectic collection of cars he bought because he liked them- not for their investment value. He is a doer, user and racer not a poseur or polisher- which is not to say the cars are shabby.

By the time the Elgaram arrived he was both looking after the family busline with all the responsibilities of an employer and starting a family. And their were other projects and a racer or two to prepare for the next historic meeting.

‘The problem was every time I did prioritise the thing and put it up on blocks I managed to do something to myself. Once I got Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the next time I came off my bike bigtime and broke my neck. Eventually I was talking to David Rapley about stuff, it turned out he didn’t have a customer project at the time so quick as a flash we bundled up all of the bits and pieces are trailered it up to his place at Bunyip.’ This was the early 2000’s.

‘I had long decided to restore it to its Elgaram Jaguar specs but when acquired most of the critical bits were missing including the Jaguar engine and Moss gearbox. These I got off Jag racer and repairer Bob How.’

‘Iain McPherson had retained the wire wheels and hubs. Steve Pyke and Jim McConville helped with all of the myriad Healey bits and pieces we needed. Mechanically David brought the project together by, as David modestly said, ‘doing a rolling chassis mock-up’ whilst the body was built by racer/panel man Terry Cornelius at his shop in Korowa up on the Murray.’

Terry picks up the story ‘David had worked the chassis over and managed to set the bits and pieces of existing bodywork in place on the rolling chassis with a few rudimentary supports which allowed me to get the picture…similar to the Sabrina Austin, repaired after an horrific trailer accident after Historic Winton in 1979, it was clear a new body was required.’

‘Like Sabrina, the Elgaram body had been built “inside out” and never employed a mould. First I had to create a buck. The buck is a replica of the finished article and requires a different approach inasmuch as when completed, its temporary supporting frame will by convenience, be different to the final supporting frame. The buck is then completed to its ultimate dimensions and principles in terms of styling, openings, hinge-ing and so on. The existing sections of bodywork were also used.’

‘When happy with the progress- effectively a shiny replica of the original body the buck was delivered, complete with frame, and an extended, more robust chassis whilst the mould was being created- to Maverick Boats of Corowa, the local boat manufacturing company. They expertly made a mould in fibreglass which neatly enveloped the buck. At the same time, a basic external frame I had created, was incorporated for extra strength.’

‘Next step was a body laid-up within the new mould, after which it was released and finally both body and mould were returned to my ‘shop. Then, finally, a mould existed for the Elgaram and subsequently the new body was attached to the chassis via a newly designed and executed minimal framework. The main job was then done with attention then turned to the hinged and ‘catched’ openings, and, finally, when all of that was satisfactory, the body was painted with an intentionally faded maroon top coat’

Patrick ‘We were blown away by the result- both the look of the car and also the patina of David’s work in the cockpit and fine detail- not that it was a surprise!’

‘It was finally finished four or five years ago, its first run an MSCA Sandown Club Day in which I drove it. It was a great day for a first time out, other than some wheel/body clearance issues the car ran well and has given Conor, John Noble and a few others an immense amount of pleasure since both on the road, in hillclimbs and on the circuits. Suhr knew what he was about, he concocted a clever assemblage of parts that was very quick in its day. And still is now!’ quipped Patrick.

Tony Lupton at Rob Roy Hillclimb shortly after the Elgaram’s return to life (unattributed)

What Is In a Name?…

This car has been called a variety of things over the years, which is of course the owners perogative.

Original constructor Bill Suhr designated his concoction of components the ‘Jaguar Healey Special’, a name used by Graeme Bolwell in period. During the Rex Styles era he entered the car as the Elgaram Jaguar. Bill Lucas entered it as Jaguar Special, Beast or The Beast. Who knows what the boys from the west called it in their short periods of ownership.

The Bolwell folk refer to it either as the Bolwell Mk3 or Mk3B, it is appropriate that the car be referred to as one of the continuum of cars the Bolwell brothers evolved through on the way to becoming manufacturers in their own right.

But the car was never referred to as Bolwell Mk3 or Mk3B ‘in period’ by Graeme including at the time of its sale.

Clearly though, by the time of the Bolwell Mk4, launched on or about April 1964, the Bolwells had counted back through their previous projects to arrive at Mk4- their first ‘bespoke’ machine.

Correctly, Campbell Bolwell figured in similar fashion to ACB Chapman that the punters would be happier to buy a car off somebody who had been in the game for a while and Mk4 had better connotions of that than Mk1!

Bolwell Mk4 Sports in the Mordialloc suburb close to the factory at a guess, circa 1964 (Bolwell)

 

John Noble swung the Elgaram past the Bolwell display of 60 cars at the end of the 2019 Phillip Island Historic meeting, Campbell Bolwell made a beeline for the car, here he is, clearly enjoying a drive in his dentist- and brothers old car on the roads adjoining the circuit (J Noble)

 

Bolwell Mk4 GT Coupe circa- circa 1964 (Bolwell)

In fact, in 1974 when a youthful Pat Ryan excitedly visited the Mordialloc factory in his Beetle to tell the Bolwells about his find they were dismissive of it and couldn’t get Pat out the door quickly enough.

Times and attitudes change of course.

These days the Elgaram Jaguar- the specific era and specification of the car to which Pat restored the machine, is welcomed by Bolwell folk, indeed there was a steady stream of very knowledgeable marque enthusiasts taking pictures of the car and talking about it over the Phillip Island weekend.

For the absence of doubt, as the lawyers are want to say, in period the car was never called a Bolwell by Messrs Suhr, Styles, Lucas, Woolski, Forsythe, Evans, McPherson or Bolwell. It was not, is not and never was referred to as the Bolwell Mk3 or Mk3B until marketing convenience deemed it so.

(P Ryan)

Etcetera…

The Elgaram’s engine was donated by a Mark 7 Jag- engine number 3576, chassis number 710876, the car was first registered (Victoria) WY-981 on 2 April 1952.

Bill Suhr first registered the Jaguar Healey Special (Victoria) HHD-671 on 8 March 1961.

(P Ryan)

 

(M Bisset)

 

M Bisset)

 

JHS cockpit, note wood-rimmed wheel and Holden rear window used as windscreen (P Ryan)

 

(M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

 

(P Ryan)

 

(M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

 

(Bolwell)

Credits…

Patrick Ryan Collection, the history of the ownership chronology of the car was carefully researched and documented bu Iain McPherson, AHR- Australian Hot Rodder Number One, Bolwell Company, Bolwell Car Club, Peter Ellenbogen, Anna McConnell

Tailpiece: Graeme Bolwell, Jaguar Healey Sports, Riverside Dragway, Fishermans Bend circa 1963…

(AHR)

I just love this photograph of Graeme Bolwell not long after the construction of the JHS’ new set of clothes- no doubt he was in touch with his feminine side but the car was never pink, the hue is in the developing of the slide not the colour in actuality.

How sweet it is, whilst clearly influenced by the Jag E Type it is derivative of the period but does have a beautiful distinctive cohesiveness all of its own.

Quite how Pat happened upon ‘Australian Hot Rodder’ Number One to find this photo- both the pink car and driver are not identified in the text of the magazine, I do not know. The publication has a brief history about the commencement of Drag Racing from the nascent Australian Hot Rodding scene, which is interesting.

Organised, but not legal drag racing started in Australia on a strip of then very quiet, out of the way, Doherty’s Road at the back of Altona North not far from Geelong Road in Melbourne’s west in early 1957.

The Southern Hot Rod Club, founded in the late, lamented St Moritz ice skating rink in St Kilda- it’s where the boys hung out, were a highly organised lot inclusive of timers with CAMS ‘spoon type’ starter switches.

In the civilised manner of the day, the car and bike guys cooperated, the bike racers who used an intersecting road to test their machines alternated with the drag racers 30 minutes about- and the police, who were aware of the activities turned a blind eye. ‘For Christ’s sake be careful won’t you. You’re on a public road’ one member of the force is reputed to have said having stumbled upon the activities about twelve months after they commenced.

Things became a tad more kosher with the move to Pakenham Airstrip during 1958 but by 1961 the pressures of increased rent, CAMS sticking their noses in and more regular use by parachutists of the strip meant a new home had to be found.

An unused airstrip at Fishermans Bend provided the solution.

A policeman who was a SHRC member floated the use of the venue with the Chief Commissioner of Police and the path was smoothed by him with the Port Melbourne Council, who had jurisdictional responsibilities- to use the old runway for ‘speed trials’ on a non-profit basis under police guidance.

And so the sport of drag racing commenced in Australia at ‘Riverside’.

All of which is wonderful but I wonder what the date of the Riverside meeting pictured is?!

(D Crabtree)

Postscript…

Pat’s generous offer of the drive of his pride and joy (one of them anyway!) came about as he became very ill with cancer just after Christmas in December 2018, he lost that battle on 6 August 2019.

St Mary’s Williamstown was overflowing with over 1000 people, I’ve never been to a bigger funeral which said everything about a bloke who was a wonderful husband, father, friend, businessman and employer. A fine, decent, fair and principled man- the likes of Patrick are rare.

RIP Patrick Ryan, 24 March 1953-6 August 2019.

The two photos are of Pat in his Vauxhall GP Replica on the road with David Crabtree in 2017 and at Mount Tarrengower, Maldon, Victoria.

Finito…

 

Fantastic cover of Australian Motor Manual’s Yearbook Number 2, 1952…

An article inside features the Autocrat Special, a Ford flathead V8 engined racer which ace engineer/body builder Terry Cornelius advises was bought by his father, Arthur, from Ken Cox in Benalla, Victoria, and raced at Wahgunyah and other ‘outlaw’ (non CAMS certified) tracks until it was sold to a couple of fellas near Albury and never seen again.

Before Arthur took possession of the machine it had passed through the hands of the Stilo brothers and was fitted with a Holden ‘Grey’ six bolted to a Lancia four speed ‘box.

As the page above indicates the car was originally built for Jim Skinner, the chassis made by Melbourne’s Eddie Thomas of ‘Speed Shop’ fame with motive power originally a by way of a Willys Jeep engine which was later replaced by a Ford 60 V8.

See the ‘Border Morning Mail’ article and images of the 1 November 1959 dirt circuit meeting at Hume Weir below.

(C McQuillen)

I had completed the article as above but not uploaded it when Adelaide enthusiast Dean Donovan posted both the magazine cover online and some photos of cars featured in the magazine, including the ‘TS Special’, a superb Australian Special i shared garage space with at Phillip Island in March.

Charlie Mitchell in the TS Special GMC at Phillip Island, he is heading up the rise before the drop into MG (M Williams)

Whilst originally built by the Styles Brothers in Western Australia- Rod Styles was an instructor at the old Carlisle Technical College in Perth, for Syd Taylor and now owned by Sandgroper Charlie Mitchell- it resides in Victoria for the first time in its long life spent in the west. Pat Ryan’s bus depot houses the car with Charlie making regular trips east to race it.

TS Special with original body and Dodge powered, probably Syd Taylor at the wheel (Motor Manual)

Noted West Australian racing historian Ken Devine advises that the car was rebuilt in 1952 taking on the appearance it has now, Ken’s photo below is of Taylor on the Bunbury ‘Round The Houses’ road course in 1960. I wrote an article about Bunbury a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2017/03/23/bunbury-flying-50-allan-tomlinson-ferrari-500-et-al/

The TS Special is now fitted with a highly modified 6 cylinder GMC truck engine- I was speaking to the car’s young engine builder at the Island, I wish I had taken notes!, it has a steel crank, roller cam and highly modified cylinder head. Mitchell and his offsider prepare the car beautifully, and Charlie, who has owned it for some years, drives it very well.

Credits…

Leon Sims, Terry Cornelius Collection, Chris McQuillen, Dean Donovan, Ken Devine, Max Williams

Finito…

Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila blast through a French vineyard in their VW Polo R WRC during the October 2013 Rallye de France…

They are in the Heiligenstein, Alsace area of Eastern France.

Photographer Patrick Hertzog has brilliantly framed his shot to capture the drone in the foreround to give it that ‘Out Of This World’ factor!

Rally Australia, Coffs Harbour, November 2016, the Ogier/Julien Ingrassia Polo R WRC on day 1. The pair won the event and again in 2013, 2014 and 2015 with the Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger winners in another Polo R WRC in 2016 (M Bettiol)

VW first contested the WRC to the ‘second generation’ of World Rally Car rules in 2013 although the Polo WRC was launched in May 2011 and tested extensively for eighteen months by Carlos Sainz, Sebastien Ogier and VW’s test and development driver Dieter Depping evolving a very quick, reliable package before it was blooded in battle.

The four wheel drive 1.6 litre, DOHC, turbocharged four cylinder engined car developed circa 318 bhp @ 6250 rpm through its regulation 33mm air restrictor finally made its competition debut at the 2013 Monte Carlo Rally where Ogier was second.

He won in Sweden, Mexico, Portugal, Sardinia, Finland, Australia, and in France- he took the title from Thierry Neuville in the event pictured in this articles opening shot. He was also victorious late in the year in Spain and Great Britain, taking the first of four titles on the trot in the car in 2013.

(P Hertzog)

 

Hi-res version of the opening shot- same pair above on the hop (P Hertzog)

Ogier won again in 2014 and entered 2015 with a second generation Polo R WRC, changes comprised a new VW 6 speed sequential manual ‘box with front and rear multi-plate slippery diffs, revised hydraulics system, larger rear wing and a big decrease in weight.

The cars were again dominant in 2015 and 2016, Ogier winning in both years thereby becoming one of four drivers to win four championships, the others are Juha Kankkunen, Tommi Makinen and Sebastian Loeb.

VW developed a new car to meet the changed technical regulations which commenced for 2017 but withdrew from the sport in November 2016.

The Polo R WRC CV includes winning 43 of the 53 rallies it entered and four consecutive WRC’s for drivers and manufacturers- not bad.

J-P Clatot/AFP/Getty)

VW Polo R WRC competition debut in the 2013 Monte Carlo Rally- photos above and below.

Ogier and are Ingrassia are shown on stage 3, Col de la Fayolle, between Le Moulinon and Antraigues.

Seb Loeb/Daniel Elena won the event in a Citroen DS3 WRC by two seconds from Ogier/Ingrassia with another Citroen DS3 third crewed by the Daniel Sordo/Carlos del Barrio combination.

Ogier/Ingrassia took the first Polo WRC win a month later in Rally Sweden.

(Getty)

Credits…

Patrick Hertzog, Massimo Bettiol, Jean-Pierre Clatot

Tailpiece…

Rally Championship of Spain, Rally Catalunya, Salou, October 2016. Anders Mikkelsen and Anders Jaeger, VW Polo R WRC- the Ogier/Ingrassia combination won with Mikkelsen unplaced (M Bettiol)

Finito…

Whilst Clarence La Tourette’s superb cutaway drawing is dated 1938 I think the car shown- with intercooler and underbody oil cooler but devoid of its sidepod fuel tanks is drawn to 1941 or later specifications (Clarence La Tourette)

Harry Miller’s stunning, brilliant, innovative, Gulf Miller mid-engined, four-wheel drive Indianapolis racer…

By 1938 this prodigiously talented of engineering aesthetes greatest days of motor racing and commercial success were behind him.

He was bankrupted in 1933 and left his native California for New York where there remained plenty of opportunities for Miller to deploy his talents, the scale of which had taken on almost mythical proportions.

For those unfamiliar with the American, one of the greatest race design engineers of the twentieth century, click on this link for a brief, concise summary of Harry’s life- important context for this article. http://milleroffy.com/Racing%20History.htm

Lee Oldfield with his self constructed Marmon engined car at Indy in 1937. Said to be ‘rough or agricultural’ this car is worthy of an article on its own given its historical Indy significance (IMS)

Miller was not the first to build and race a mid-engined machine at Indianapolis, that honour went to Lee Oldfield who built and attempted to qualify a 6 litre Marmon V16 engined, self constructed car in 1937. It featured all independent suspension and inboard mounted drum brakes in its specification.

Oldfield, no relation to Barney, a racer/engineer/businessman was entered by the Duesenberg brothers in one of their cars, a Mason, in 1912, the car failed to qualify after engine problems. He later found fame in aviation as the founder of Labeco, a company formed to work on aviation engines, the firm still exists today as Renk Labeco. The Oldfield Marmon is beyond the scope of this piece, an interesting story for another time perhaps.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, there was a radical front engined rear drive four cylinder Miller Gulf before the even more edgy mid-engined six cylinder Miller Gulf.

In 1937 Ira Vail, years before Miller’s first client for a straight-8 engine, commissioned him to design and build two new four-cylinder cars to compete against the pre-World War 1 technology which still prevailed at Indy.

Shortly after his design process had commenced- Harry had a design ‘in stock’- he had Everett Stevenson draw a lightweight twin-cam aluminium, two valve four cylinder engine of 255 cid circa 1933, which, with a 0.125 inch overbore was teased to 270 CID. The engines used Coffman cartridge style starters typical of the type used on aircraft where an exploding blank shell drove a piston, which in turn engaged a screw thread to turn the engine over.

The Gulf Miller four had plenty of Miller’s advanced thinking, with a split crankcase and wet cylinder liners, but was an update of a design he had worked up prior to his 1933 bankruptcy

Miller, by then 61 years of age and suffering from diabetes launched into the last great couple of designs of his career.

From 1938 the Indy 500 was to be run under the Grand Prix formula laid down by the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR, the forerunner of the FIA) specifying engine limits of 3 litres supercharged and 4.5 litres unsupercharged or 183.06 and 274.59 cubic inches of displacement.

By definition this marked the return of single-seat racers which removed the inherent danger of riding mechanics. Additionally, any type of fuel could be used, the supply of which was unlimited, this encouraged the use of supercharged engines fed by alcohol fuel.

The 95 inch wheelbase chassis of Ira’s cars was of the ladder or girder type of the period, but different in that it used deep, rolled steel side members which were intended to be very stiff.

‘Teardrop’ side fuel tanks were fitted to either side of the car to locate the fuel mass centrally, additionally they were interconnected so that the cars weight distribution would remain in equilibrium regardless of fuel load.

The engine and clutch were at the front of the car, the four speed transaxle, which used Cord 810 gearsets and final drive was at the rear.

The suspension was independent on all four wheels, a refinement of the Miller-Ford type he used in 1935. The hydraulic shocks were driver adjustable. In another Miller first the car was fitted with disc brakes on all four wheels. Not of the type we know mind you but rather a design based on an entirely different principle, that of the disc clutch and its pressure plate.

Further innovation extended to the radiators which resisted a traditional core but rather comprised a ‘trellis type’ of arrangement of chromed plated copper pipe tubing which was deployed around the cars nose and sides.

At this point, as the construction of the two cars was progressing, but it is not clear exactly when in early 1938, the direction of the project changed completely.

Harry Miller’s son Ted told Griff Borgeson, the famous journalist researching one of his books, that Harry visited Colonel Drake of Gulf Oil a couple of years before Vail’s project was acquired by Gulf.

Borgeson ‘The story goes that the construction of these two cars was just getting nicely underway when the son of Gulf’s board chairman…dropped in at Miller’s shop, and the rest is history.’

’Ira Vail was bought out and the entire project was moved to the headquarters of Gulf R&D at Harmarville, a suburb of Pittsburgh. As work continued on the fours, a program was launched immediately for the design and construction of a team of much more ambitious four-wheel-drive, rear engine Gulf sixes. They too, would run exclusively on 81 octane Gulf No Nox gas.’

The first four cylinder front-engined Miller-Gulfs (above) had the radiator tubing on the nose of the car ‘presenting an avant garde streamlined visage’ wrote Borgeson. ‘The Gulf cars used Miller-Ford type suspension as well as disc brakes, which at least were beautifully ornamental’ (Borgeson)

Before dealing with the mid-engined Gulf Millers sixes lets look at how the fours fared at Indy in 1938.

When the cars were launched to the press in April 1937 Miller predicted speeds of 126 mph, 2 mph faster than the current Indy record. In early tests at Langhorne the engines overheated and the brittle radiator tubing broke, by the time the cars appeared at Indy the radiators were small square conventional fittings mounted either side of the cars front body section.

Front engined Gulf four with ‘the intermediate type external radiator core. This radiator development also proved to be inadequate’, car very high. Driver is Bill Winn, note IFS suspension fairings, date and circuit not recorded (Borgeson)

1924 Indy winner LL ‘Slim’ Corum had been away from racing for three years but was engaged by Miller as a mechanic to assist driver Billy Winn with the new design. During early Indy tests on 21 April 1938 Winn escaped injury when the car stopped in the pit area with an engine ablaze.

Winn tried both cars on the last day of time trials but abandoned both ten mile runs due to lack of speed, the cars were two of thirteen non-qualifiers that year- poor Bill Winn died three months later during the ‘Governors Sweepstakes’ at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

The Gulf fours story from 1939 is told at the end of this article.

One of the Millers in 1938. Dumpy little jigger- note the IFS, and aero section side pontoon tanks which made a whole lot of sense in terms of weight distribution, from a safety perspective not so much. Whenever I research articles on Speedway Racing of the day it reminds me just how many fellas died on the boards, dirt and bricks (IMS)

Miller’s response to the opportunities of the new rules, with Gulf financial muscle was to embark on design and construction of a mid-engined, four-wheel drive, all-independent suspension car…

To this chassis he fitted a canted, short-stroke- said to be the very first oversquare engine, with a 3 inch bore and 3.125 inch stroke, supercharged, 3-litre, in-line six cylinder engine, a type he had not designed before.

In typical Miller style the engine was cast as one piece in aluminium- a finned cylinder block casting with integral head with housings for the twin overhead camshafts and dry sump made of magnesium. Fed by two carburettors, the supercharger used pressures of 18 pounds per square inch.

The fuel mass was located centrally in side fuel tanks and the car was fitted with disc brakes on all four wheels, as per the Ira Vail car.

Lets remember the year is 1938 folks, it was a truly avant-garde, complex, ambitious motorcar which makes the 1938 Auto Union Type D look mundane in terms of specification!

Harry’s cars were generally exquisite to look at in terms of their individual componentry and the sum of their parts- the completed machine, contrary to that normal state, was the ‘fugly-sister’ of the Miller litter, not that ugliness is necessarily a barrier to on-track success.

If the pre-war Auto Unions set the mid-engined paradigm- they did in that Coopers followed their lead post-war, John Cooper’s first cars featured the AU cocktail of ladder frame chassis, mid-mounted engine with gearbox behind, all independent suspension and drum brakes all around- Harry Miller, predictably, took an original approach.

Focus on the top drawing as to how things work. Drive goes forward to the gearbox at the front of the car via the lower driveshaft and to the front wheels- and to the rear along the top ‘shaft. The rear diff is aft of the engine with the supercharger behind it. The tube from the ‘charger attaches to the intercooler. You can see the top leaf spring of the rear suspension. Fuel tanks drawn are early pontoons (JF Drake)

The chassis was the ladder or girder type of the period, but different in that it used deep, rolled steel side members which were intended to be very stiff. The suspension was independent, a refinement of the Miller-Ford type.

The Miller 3 litre engines flywheel and clutch faced the driver, rather than the rear of the car with the four speed manual gearbox mounted at the front of the car aft of the radiator and oil tank. The large supercharger was located at the very rear of the machine rather than more directly connected to the six-cylinder DOHC, 2 valve motor. The full length ‘majestic pipe-organ’ full length exhaust was replaced from 1939 with short ‘machine gun’ stub pipes.

As the engine was developed to produce more power- and given the Gulf mandated use of its ‘pump petrol’ for marketing purposes- a large intercooler was fitted to the left engine cover from 1939.

‘Teardrop’ side fuel tanks were fitted to both sides of the car to locate the fuel mass centrally, as was the case with the four cylinder car. To shelter the driver the bodywork was high, the seating position similarly high to clear the driveshafts which ran fore and aft.

The car was heavy for all of the obvious reasons in terms of its 4WD componentry relative to a conventional two wheel driven car.

‘Continuing his experiments with engine cooling, he tried a new type of surface radiator on each side of the little cabin which occupied the place of an engine hood.’

‘There was a distinct aircraft feel to the car as a whole, which may have been a clue to Miller’s longer-range interests. The car was rushed to some semblance of completion in time to command the fascinated attention of the automotive world on the occasion of the Indy 500 in 1938’ Borgeson wrote.

Ralph Hepburn, Indy 1938, love the original ‘orchestral’ exhaust system, I wonder how effective it was. Rear diff is aft of the engine with supercharged behind it- engine fed by 2 carbs (IMS)

The car was not finished with sufficient time to be adequately tested and developed and therefore somewhat predictably, both drivers, George Bailey and Ralph Hepburn, failed to qualify due to cooling and fuel delivery problems for the 1938 Indy race.

The 1938 rule changes adopted, that is their liberalisation, brought forth other exotic cars in addition to Harry’s- Louis Meyer’s Winfield supercharged Maserati 6, Jimmy Snyder’s and Ron Householder’s Sparks Little 6’s being examples.

The race had a silver lining for Miller personally though- Floyd Roberts won the event in an utterly conventional four-cylinder Miller 270 beating Wilbur Shaw, Shaw Offy, 3 laps behind Roberts, and Chet Miller aboard a Summers Offy to the flag!

Floyd Roberts, winner of Indy 1938 in a conventional 4 cylinder DOHC Miller 270 (IMS)

Miller convinced Gulf Oil to stay the course and refined the car, three were entered for the 1939 race, they were driven by George Barringer, Zeke Meyer and George Bailey.

The car was radically redesigned, the Rootes blower replaced by a Miller centrifugal supercharger with an impeller which had working surfaces on both sides instead of only one. It delivered double the charge to a beautiful new alloy intercooler.

New cylinder heads with individual inlet ports were made and the distinctive exhaust extractor system was replaced with long, curved, individual vertical pipes. A conventional radiator core was used as well as bodywork changes.

Gulf still didn’t assist the competitiveness of the package by insisting upon the use of their street petrol- the six-cylinder engines produced circa 245hp whilst Miller’s old DOHC fours – now in the hands of Fred Offenhauser, who had acquired the commercial rights to the design, produced 300hp using the usual Indy alcohol-based cocktail fuel.

The team were better prepared than the year before though, MotorSport reported that ‘Miller…has been ready in good time with his cars, one of which was the first to try out the new asphalt paving on the back stretch. George Bailey was the driver, and he was timed to do 118 mph, at which speed he reported that the throttle was only half depressed. Ralph Hepburn has been out and about in one of the cars.’

Barringer, 1939 surrounded by Gulf Oil officials, nice intercooler detail, note heat shield between ‘cooler and stub exhausts (unattributed)

 

George Bailey at Indy in 1939, great shot of the aero section pontoon fuel tanks, intercooler added from that year and stub exhausts (IMS)

During qualifying on 19 May Barringer’s car dropped a cylinder, he was out of the field. He later qualified the Bill White Spl Offy fifteenth, finishing sixth.

A day later Johnny Seymour hit the turn 4 wall during practice, the car burst into flames and was destroyed, Seymour sustained severe burns but lived. George Bailey qualified his machine, and as a result became the driver of the first mid-engined car to qualify for Indy. The frightening accident to Seymour led to Zeke Meyer’s decision to withdraw from the race. Bailey qualified an encouraging eighth, but lasted only 47 laps, retiring with valve failure.

Things went from bad to worse the following year, 1940, when Harry returned with three rebuilt Gulf-Millers ‘in tip-top shape’.

George Bailey wasn’t so lucky this time, his Miller was involved in a similar accident to Seymour’s the year before. On 7 May Bailey was practicing the car, initially he completed 15 laps before returning to the pits.

After some adjustments he went back out and by the end of the fourth lap was up to 128.5 mph, as he entered turn 2 he either got up into the marbles or his engine seized, locking all four wheels.

Whatever the cause, the car started to slide sideways, as he fought to correct the car the Miller shot into the inside rail, his left-side fuel tank was then punctured and exploded. The unfolding disaster worsened when the car spun and the right side tank was hit and it too exploded.

Drenched in fuel and alight, the plucky, terrified driver jumped out of the car and ran towards speedway photographer Eddie Hoff who did his best to beat out the flames. The poor man fell three times on his journey, he had a fractured hip and leg injuries. The end to this grisly accident was his death 45 minutes later from third-degree burns.

Bailey, born in Cleveland in 1902, parlayed a job as a test driver with the Hudson Motor Company eventually to competing in the Indy 500- he raced five times without finishing, his best result was twelfth in a Barbasol in 1938 after missing the qualifying cut in his Miller.

The two other Millers, upon the ‘suggestion’ of the officials to the team were withdrawn from the race.

One of the cars as substantially modified for the 1941 race. Still retains the Miller drivetrain and general layout ‘but had drastically reduced frames, bodies and suspensions- all for the worse other than safety’. Fuel contained within chassis frame rails- oil cooler under the car removed after 1941 due to its vulnerability (vanderbiltcupraces.com)

For the 1941 Indy 500 the cars were further modified as a result of rule changes which banned the side tanks, major factors in the Barringer and Bailey accidents.

The two surviving cars now carried boxed steel side sections in which the fuel tanks were housed and cushioned- the bodies were again reworked.

MotorSport in an article (published in July 1941 about the annual classic) its reporter writing in May said that ‘New or redesigned cars which will attract the interest of the railbirds this year are led by the four-wheel drive, rear motor ‘guinea pigs’ which the old master Harry Miller designed three years ago, but have just been brought to a point of perfection.’

‘Now handled by the expert mechanic, Eddie Offutt, the cars were given exhaustive tests in Utah this summer, with one of them chalking up an official 500 mile record (AIACR International Class D) average of better than 143 mph.’

In April 1941 the MotorSport reporter observed that ‘Offutt had…been experimenting with (the cars) during the last two years earned its spurs on the salt beds of Bonneville, Utah, when it ran the full 500 miles, under official sanction and timing, at an average of 143 mph.’

‘The late Floyd Roberts set the existing 500 mile record at Indianapolis in 1938 when he completed the distance at an average of 172 mph, and although Indianapolis is a far more difficult course than the ring-around-the rosy- course over which the Offutt car ran, a 143 mph car is a definite challenger, particularly when it has a sister car just as capable.’

The point to be taken from the above is that the cars were fast- and reliable it seemed.

With Barringer and Al Miller (no relation to Harry) driving, the cars were fourteenth and fifteenth on the grid. Both crews were optimistic about their chances with Barringer having a qualifying speed of over 122 mph, but things were again to take a turn for the worse, the Gulf Millers and flames seemed to be an ongoing curse.

(E Hitze)

‘There seemed to be a strange foreboding at the Brickyard early in the day of the 1941 500. Maybe it was due to the cold drizzle that met incoming fans the night before or maybe it was the national worry about Hitler’s action in Europe.’

‘In any case, just as lines formed at the ticket booths, a huge fire swept through the garages. Apparently fumes from fuel in George Barringer’s car were ignited by a welding torch being used in the next stall. Fire trucks were unable to access the inferno quickly because of the huge crowds, and half of one of the two garage structures was completely destroyed.’

The event, down two cars, started an hour late, and Mauri Rose eventually won the show’ wrote Terry Reed.

Barringers cars remains after the 1941 race day dawn fire. At this point only 1 of the 4 cars built remained- Al Miller’s ’41 car. Shot does show the substantial bulkhead in front of the driver (IMS)

In the Miller garage, at about 3 am Barringer was filling his cars fuel tanks when the fumes of the fuel were ignited by a welder in an adjacent pit-Barringer’s was destroyed.

Al Miller’s No.12 car was salvaged by Barringer and helped onto the grid, but after multiple ignition problems its engine either seized, or its transmission failed after a mere 22 laps.

With that, Gulf tired of the partnership with Miller, a great deal of time, effort and money had been spent for little in the way of commercial return. There was also a war to be fought of course.

In a desperately sad, final stage of his life, Harry separated from his wife, moved to Indianapolis and then on to Detroit where he died of a heart attack whilst living in very modest circumstances on 3 May 1943 aged 65.

Al Miller’s car in the pits Indy 1941, 28th after transmission failure on lap 22 (IMS)

The post-conflict postscript of these trail-blazing amazing racing cars were Indy performances in 1946, ’47 and ’48…

By the start of the War only one of the four cars built still existed. One each were destroyed in Indy accidents in 1939 and 1940. George Barringer’s became a corn-chip in the Indy garage fire on the dawn of the 1941 race which left the car raced that year by Al Miller as the only remaining Miller RE 4WD chassis, it was owned by Gulf Oil.

During the 1939-45 conflict George Barringer and his family lived in a home in Indianapolis, Barringer worked nearby in a war related machinery plant.

Born in 1906 in Wichita Falls, Texas, his father was a blacksmith, as a young kid George picked up lots of mechanical skills.

He started racing in Texas circa 1925, little is known about his early racing albeit he appears in newspapers in 1928 as an owner in a Texas AAA race and was a successful driver in what were probably outlaw races. By 1933 he had enough experience to win an Indy ride, his finishes include sixth in 1939 and eighth in 1936. He first drove for Miller in 1941 as we have covered.

His son, Bill Barringer recalled an amazing phone call during the War’s latter stages- ‘In the winter of 1945 Dad got an evening phone call at home, he seemed very excited and after hanging up said to Mom “We just bought a racecar”. Mom was not too happy!’

’The next evening in the wee hours of the morning, during a snowstorm, a truck arrived from Gulf headquarters in Pittsburgh with the un-numbered last remaining Gulf Miller RE 4WD- the driver only said “Heres your racecar”.

Soon after they towed it to George’s garage in Indianapolis.

Barringer aboard his Miller in the garage area, mid May 1946 Indy (IMS)

 

Barringer qualifying in 1946, too good an evocative photo not to use (IMS)

 

Barringer, Indy 1946 (IMS)

Barringer, who did far more miles in the cars than anyone else must have been a ‘true-believer’ in the concept.

In the Preston Tucker sponsored Miller he finished twenty-fourth in the 1946 Indy having retired on lap 27 with a broken gear from grid slot 24.

George Barringer only raced on one other occasion in 1946, at the ill-fated Lakewood Speedway 100 miler in Atlanta on Labor Day.

There, driving an ancient two-man car that Wilbur Shaw used to win the 1937 Indy, he, together with 1946 Indy winner George Robson collided with the slower car of Billy Devore- they simply did not see Devore through the thick dust which characterised the track. The awful accident cost Barringer and Robson their lives- one which could have been averted had Devore been black-flagged for going too slowly or had the dust been controlled.

With continued sponsorship from Tucker, Barringer’s wife ran the car for Al Miller in 1947, he qualified nineteenth and DNF’d with magneto failure.

Immediately after the race Velma Barringer sold the car to Tucker who ran Miller again in 1948, that year he missed the qualifying cut.

In 1951 the Preston Tucker owned car developed an incurable crack in the last remaining block and was off to the Indy Motor Museum, where, no doubt, many of you have seen it.

Bibliography…

milleroffy.com, ‘Miller’ Griffith Borgeson, ‘The Rear Engined Revolution’ Mattijs Diepraam in forix.autosport.com, MotorSport June 1939, July 1941, vanderbiltcupraces.com, Clamshack on Flickr, Article by Brian Laban in The Telegraph June 2014, ‘Indy: The Race and Ritual of The Indianapolis 500’ Terry Reed, indymotorspeedway.com, article by Don Radbruch on georgebarringer.com. ‘The Forgotten 500 Champion-LL Corum’ Kevin Triplett

Al Miller, 1947

Photo Credits…

Clarence La Tourette, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ed Hitze, American Hot Rod Foundation, Pinterest-unattributed, James F Drake

Etcetera…

1938

Rutherford with Harry Miller (IMS)

 

Harry warming up the car before the 1938 race. Rootes type supercharger and churns of Gulf ‘No Nox’ clear to see (Borgeson)

 

Rutherford (IMS)

1939

The wreck of Johnny Seymour’s Miller after his 1939 qualifying crash (IMS)

1947

Al Miller, Indy practice in 1947, DNF after 33 laps (IMS)

 

Gulf Miller Fours…

After failing to qualify for the 1938 500 both cars were extensively rebuilt.

The pontoon style fuel tanks went and were replaced by a single tank mounted high in the tail and the noses changed to conventional front radiators. After testing at the Altoona Pennsylvania dirt track the cars were not entered at Indy in 1939 and later sold to Preston Tucker.

He didn’t race them but used the engines in a failed high-speed landing craft project.

‘Years later the rolling chassis were reportedly found in a Chicago basement and after multiple sales and trades, one of the cars was rebuilt with a Miller ML-510 engine development of the original 255 cubic inch engine’ Kevin Triplett wrote.

(Gulf)

The photograph above is a period Gulf press shot of the two cars after the rebuild described above.

It is a shame they weren’t practiced at Indy in 1939 if only as a fall-back position to their advanced but moody and accident prone six-cylinder brothers. Attractive cars if still with a tall stance.

Tailpiece…

We started the article with an old cutaway, so why not finish it with a modern one, by Mr Ouchi?

The image troubled me though, not the engineering detail but the number, sponsor and colour scheme, I couldn’t make sense of it so decided not to use it. But then by a stroke of Google luck, ‘Clamshack’ on Flickr provided the answer and the narrative from Bill Barringer above as well.

‘The xray illustration is probably taken from the last remaining Gulf Miller RE 4WD…in the IMS Museum…The museum car has a combination livery (why I don’t know) of Al Millers #12 from his running at the 1941 Indy 500 and the signage ‘Preston Tucker Special’ from Al Miller’s run in 1947. I don’t know where the colour is derived from, the 1941 car shows a lighter blue and the 1946 a reddish colour…’

So there you have it. What to make of the cars though?

By 1935 Gulf Oil had assets of more than $US430 million with annual production of more than 63 million barrels of crude oil. Despite that, no amount of money, laboratory, engineering time and expertise, ‘Gulfpride’ Oil and ‘No-Nox’ ethyl gasoline could get Harry’s wild, edgy combination of a mid-engine, four-wheel drive, independently suspended, ‘disc braked’ racer to survive 500 miles at Indianapolis.

What an extraordinary motorcar, one which pointed the way to the future- it promised so much, delivered so little but deserved so much more?…

Finito…

 

(P Rondeau)

Gabriele Tarquini psyches himself up for pre-qualifying at Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil 23 March1990, AGS JH24 3.5 Ford DFR V8…

1990 was the battle of the giants.

Just McLaren departed Alain Prost went head to head with Ayrton Senna in Ferrari 641 V12 and McLaren MP4/5B V10 respectively. Senna won the Drivers Championship 78 to 71 points, the Brazilian was victorious on six occasions and the Frenchman five times. Their teammates, Nigel Mansell and Gerhard Berger were left in their wake.

Most of us can remember Senna’s biffo dodgem-car removal of Prost at Suzuka on the first corner of the Japanese GP, a tit-for-tat response to the Prost on Senna collision the year before on the same bit of real estate.

Tarquini, AGS JH25 Ford, Estoril, Portugal September 1990, DNQ (P Rondeau)

 

Tarquini, JH25, Monaco 1990, DNPQ (unattributed)

Down the back of the grid things were tough, nineteen teams contested the Championship that year- the ‘small fry’ included Larrouse, AGS, EuroBrun, Osella, Coloni and Life, all of whom had to pre-qualify and then qualify to get a start.

Henri Julien’s ‘Automobiles Gonfaronnaises Sportive’ commenced with his own racing activities in the fifties and sixties, building his first ‘Formula France’ monoposto, the AGS JH1 in 1969. AGS progressed through F3 and then F2 in 1978 becoming competitive in the final years of the class- and winning the very final round of the European F2 Championship at Brands Hatch in September 1984. Philippe Streiff drove an AGS JH19C BMW to victory.

It was no small achievement for the Heini Mader BMW M12 four-cylinder equipped cars- the class of the field were the Honda V6 engined works Ralts raced by Mike Thackwell and Roberto Moreno- first and second in the ten round Championship from Michel Ferte and then Streiff.

Roberto Moreno, Ralt RH6 Honda on pole alongside Philippe Streiff’s AGS JH19C BMW- Streiff won the Daily Mail Trophy from Michel Ferte, Martini 001 BMW and Moreno’s Ralt (unattributed)

 

Streiff points his AGS into Druids on his victorious Brands, Daily Mail Euro F2 Trophy run- 23 September 1984 (unattributed)

The team progressed through F3000 to F1 in 1986 and eked out an existence finally winning some points with Roberto Moreno at the wheel in late 1987. That year AGS were better placed in the manufacturers Championship than well funded Ligier and returning to F1 March.

Phillippe Streiff’s career ending, and paralysing accident prior to the start of the 1989 season was a huge setback- AGS struggled on with Tarquini performing very well and coming close to scoring points in Monaco and in the US before a rousing sixth place in Mexico at the years end.

Ken Tyrrell, Philippe Streiff and designer Brian Lisles with the 1987 Tyrrell DG016 Ford DFZ 3.5 V8 in March that year- sixth and fourth his best results that season. I have fond memories of his Australian GP performances- a wonderful Ligier third place in the first Adelaide race in 1985 I recall vividly-a career cut short by that awful accident

 

Ford Cosworth DFR 3.5 V8, Brazil 1990. 3493 cc 90 degree fuel injected V8, circa 620 bhp @ 11250 rpm

The 1990 JH24 and JH25 were powered by customer Ford Cosworth DFR 3.5 litre V8’s, and therein lay the problem- whatever the merits of the Michel Costa designed chassis, a ‘works engine’ deal was required to move up the grid. Easier said than done of course.

Tarquini made the cut in only four 1990 races, Yannick Dalmas in five- Gabriele’s best was thirteenth in Hungary, Yannick’s a ninth in Spain.

Into 1991 with the JH25B DFR Tarquini took eighth in Phoenix, but the money had run out, then owner Cyril de Rouve sold to an Italian duo who called it quits after the Spanish GP.

Tarquini also drove for Osella, Coloni, Fondmetal, First and Tyrrell in F1 and has since had a sensational career in Touring Cars winning the 1994 British Touring Car Championship- Alfa 155 TS, he was first in the European Touring Car Championship in 2003- Alfa 156 GTA and third in another 156 GTA the following year.

He won the World Touring Car Championship in 2009- SEAT Leon Tdi and was second again in a similar car in 2010, he was second again this time Honda Civic WTCC mounted in 2013 and won again in 2018, taking the World Touring Car Cup in a Hyundai i30N TCR.

Tarquini in JAS Motorsport Alfa 155V6 Ti at Mugello during the 1996 Int Touring Car Championship round on 29 September- Gabriele was 13th and 6th in the two races won by Nicola Larini, Alfa 155 V6 Ti and Bernd Schneider, Mercedes C Class

Credits…

Getty Images, Pascal Rondeau, John Marsh

Tailpiece: Tarquini…

(Getty)

Finito…