Archive for August, 2019

(SLSA)

A group of cars await the start of the New Years Day 1926 Light Car event at Sellicks Beach, 55 km from Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It is a photograph but almost painting like in its softness…

Many thanks to reader ‘hoodoog53’ for helping to identify the cars, drivers and date.

Competitors from the left are the #8 NA Goodman Ceirano N150, also in the shot below, then the PM Pederson Amilcar and HH Young, Amilcar Grand Sport’s, F Beasley’s Gwynne and D Dunstan, Austin 7.

‘Pederson, Young and Bowman made regular appearances on the sand at Sellicks and also on the local speedway tracks in the 1920’s. Pederson also broke the Broken Hill to Adelaide Speed Record in May 1925 using an earlier Grand Sport Amilcar.’

(Jennison)

Doug Gordon writes ‘I’m pretty sure this photo was taken on the same day in 1926- H Young racing the Grand Sport Amilcar with a small Amilcar roadster and motorcycle spectating on the sand’

The ever reliable Adelaide newspapers consistently provided the best local coverage of early Australian motorsport events in their state right into the post WW2 period in my opinion. ‘The Register’ reported the Twenty Mile Light Car Handicap- ‘Young won by about a mile. F Beasley’s Gwynne had a front tyre blow out at the north end of the beach, and the car skidded and overturned in the sea. The passenger (Miss Watt) was severely shaken and suffered a few bruises, while the driver was not injured. Miss Watt, when asked about how she felt, showed a sporting spirit by saying that her injuries did not matter if the car were all right.’

H Young Amilcar 1074cc, off 90 seconds, won the race from P Pederson Amilcar 1074cc off 50 seconds, then D Dunstan Austin 7 748cc, off 240 seconds. Other starters were F Beasley Gwynne, 130 seconds and NA Goodman, Ceirano 1460cc off scratch.

Motorcycle racing or hill climbing first took place in the area on the rough road above the Victory Hotel on Sellicks Hill, in the early 1900’s but the activity was banned in 1913 as the sport was interfering with what was then the main arterial road from Adelaide to Cape Jervis.

The Victory Hotel is a mighty fine place for a meal by the way- and affords wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and coast towards Aldinga Beach and beyond. Whilst being tour guide, and its all coming back to me, do suss the ‘Star of Greece’ at Willunga Beach, an Adelaide standard and make a day of it- you can have some fine food and wine at a McLaren Vale winery and within 20 minutes hit the beach at Aldinga or Sellicks for a swim. Not many places in the world you can do that, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Western Australia’s Margaret River regions duly noted.

The intrepid South Australian motorcyclists then turned their attention to the wide, hard expanses of the Sellicks Beach sand, the location was used either on the January Australia Day, Christmas and October Labour Day long weekends for time trials and racing continuously from 1913 to 1953 on a very simple ‘up and back’ circa 3 km course around drums at each end of the course.

During the 1930’s light aircraft also used the beach during raceday to provide joy flights for spectators- now that would have been something, to see the racing from the air!

Unknown and undated bike racer but the twenties feels good as an approximation (Advertiser)

 

Racing paraphernalia and truck at Sellicks, date unknown (K Ragless)

Sellicks attracted international attention for record breaking in 1925 when American rider Paul Anderson topped 125 mph over a half-mile aboard an eight-valve Indian taking ‘Australia’s One Way Speed Record’, the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin reported in November 1925.

Whilst many of the bike meetings included an event or two for ‘Light Cars’ (read small cars), the first meeting exclusively for cars was organised by the Sporting Car Club of South Australia and took place on 10 October 1934.

Billed as the ‘Grand Opening Speed Meeting’ over the Labour Day long weekend the entry list included Ron Uffindell who later successfully contested the 1938 Australian Grand Prix at Mount Panorama, Bathurst- he finished the handicap event eighth in his Austin 7 Special- and drove the little car to Bathurst and back from his home in Adelaide.

Other stars of the day entered that pioneering weekend- it was actually the very first speed meeting organised by the wonderful SCCSA, included Ash Moulden, Tony Ohlmeyer, John Dutton, Judy Rackham, Ron Kennedy with Cec Warren making the long trip from Melbourne in his supercharged MG.

The ‘Bryant Special’ at the SCCSA’s Buckland Park Beach meeting in January 1935- it ran with engine troubles but still did good times and in one race lapped the course at more than 70 mph. If anyone has a clearer picture of this car it would be gratefully received (Advertiser)

The ‘Adelaide Advertiser’ estimated the crowd at 10,000 people, the largest ever to a Sellicks meeting at that point. Niggles included a late start due to a breakdown of the electrical timing gear and as a consequence a rising tide!

Whilst Ron Uffindell won the 20 Mile Handicap feature race, the sensation of the meeting was the twin-engined Essex Special which owner-driver Peter Hawker, variously named the ‘Bryant Special’, after its builder, or more fondly, the ‘Bungaree Bastard’- Bungaree being the name of his family’s sheep station (farm) first established in the north of South Australia by Hawker’s forebears in 1840.

Despite conceding 7 minutes 20 seconds to Uffindell, Hawker finished second only a few yards behind Ron’s little Austin 7. The Advertiser reported that ‘…whilst the beach only permitted a 2 mile straight, and in consequence (Hawker) had to negotiate nine hairpin turns in the race, he averaged more than 73 mph for the distance…reaching about 100 mph on the straights.’

‘The big car scared spectators badly when it developed severe front wheel patter…for a moment it appeared the car would get out of control as the front see-sawed rapidly, making the wheels wobble and lift six inches off the ground in quick succession…slowing down cured the problem with A Moulden coming third, within a hundred yards of the winner.’

This extraordinary special was built by Max Bryant at Clare together with Hawker in 1934 and had two Essex ‘L’ or ‘F’ head 2371cc/2930cc four-cylinder engines- both of which were rated at 55 bhp.

The car was raced by both Bryant and Hawker at Buckland Park Beach, Sellicks and the SCCSA’s first hillclimb at Newland Hill’s Waitpinga in 1935 (another great but dangerous beach not too far from Victor Harbor) before being sold to the incredible Eldred Norman who was very competitive in it. This intuitive engineer, racer, specials-builder and raconteur was to be a mainstay of Sellicks throughout the venues long existence.

(Norman)

Norman is shown above in his stripped 1920’s Lancia Dilambda- 4 litres of OHC V8 power at Sellicks in the mid-thirties- what became of it I wonder? Its said Eldred got his passion for V8 grunt from this machine.

In a February 1935 record breaking exercise for cars saw three members of the Adelaide Establishment tackle the Sellicks sand.

John Dutton achieved 92.34 mph in his Vauxhall 30/98 ‘Bloody Mary’, so named for its blood red duco.

It was a car which achieved local fame and notoriety in February 1936 when the young, wealthy racer was forced off the road whilst returning to his home by an oncoming drunk driver. The Vauxhall plunged 60 feet into the icy waters of Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake whilst the intrepid pilot watched his beloved car gurgle downwards from above- he had been thrown clear of it and clung to a tree on a cliff until rescued. Lets return to that amazing story towards the end of this article.

Warren Bonython extracted 76.49 mph from his little 748cc MG J2, ‘the first MG sportscar in South Australia’ whilst the ‘Bungaree Bastard’ topped 110 mph before a broken piston put an early end to Peter Hawker’s day.

Warren, John and Kym Bonython preparing for Warren’s record run at Sellicks in 1935- MG J2 (SCCSA)

I’m not sure how many meetings involving ‘bikes and cars took place down the decades but Rob Bartholomaeus’ research at the Sporting Car Club of South Australia library uncovered many programs and the newspaper reports are extensive for the best part of fifty years.

Rob recalls seeing Jack Brabham listed amongst the entrants for one of the early fifties meetings but a trawl through ‘Trove’ has not yielded any evidence that the great man actually raced at the venue in one of his Speedway Midgets or Coopers.

(B Buckle)

 

(B Buckle)

Two photographs above of MG T Types during a meeting in 1947- it’s summer, check out the people swimming in the shallows beyond the cars, not everyone was there for the racing! Bill Buckle, MG TA is in car #17.

The course was not without its challenges, whilst start times were of course programmed by the organising club, ultimately the elements determined things.

Officials arrived early in the morning and asessed the likely conditions for the day with the vagaries of the tide sometimes bringing an early end to proceedings- the position of the mile or more long course itself changed dependent upon the prevailing sand and other conditions, weather forecasting being not quite as sophisticated as it is today!

(unattributed)

The photograph above appears to be during the 1950’s given the spectators cars, the panoramic view looking towards Myponga Beach gives us a bit of an idea of a spectators view back in the day.

(A Wright)

Harry Neale, above, during the Easter Monday meeting in 1950 driving Eldred Norman’s formidable Double Eight Special.

This extraordinary twin Ford sidevalve 239 cid Mercury V8 powered beastie based on a Dodge weapons carrier chassis must have been mighty quick out of the stop-go type corners with its prodigious 7800 cc of torque and 200 bhp’ish pushing it along the two straight bits. Putting the power to the ground even on the hard sand cannot have been easy, to say the least.

Click here for some information on this car;

https://primotipo.com/2015/07/10/1950-australian-grand-prix-nuriootpa-south-australia/

In an interesting tangent it seems that the Bryant Special’s sale by Hawker to Norman in 1936/7 was precipitated by poor Peter contracting cancer, from which he died way too young shortly thereafter. Clearly Eldred Norman’s thinking in concepting the post-war Double Eight was influenced by the Bryant/Hawker machine he owned and raced earlier.

At this Easter Monday 1950 meeting the Double Eight was driven by speedway legend Harry Neale who was well in front of the pack when he lost control. Albert Ludgate wrote in ‘Cars’ magazine, ‘Before the crowd realised what was happening, the Ford was out of control and with a mighty splash charged into the sea. Such was the force of the water that the body was ripped off the chassis, leaving Harry sitting on the chassis, unhurt, but very wet.’

Turning to Eldred Norman, he was a larger than life character in every respect.

He once retrieved the telephone cables laid out for communication between officials at each end of the beach by fitting a bare wheel rim to the Double Eight’s rear axle, jacked up the car, fired it up, cracked open the throttle and post-haste reeled in a mile or so of line. The sheer efficiency of the process is to be admired even if modern O,H & S folks would be aghast at the dangers!

Hang on Harry. Neale in, or more particularly on the Double Eight at the South Australian Woodside road circuit in 1949. Look at that way back driving position- two engines to package of course! Note the big, heavy truck wheels and tyres (unattributed)

 

(D Cant)

Don Cant #7 and Steve Tillet In MG TC Spls with Eldred Norman just ahead, lapping them no doubt, in the Double Eight, 1952. In the later Sellicks years Norman also raced his Maserati 6CM and a Singer 1500 production tourer there, often with success.

During the same October 1952 meeting Eddie (father of Larry) Perkins’ Lancia Special leads Greg McEwin’s HRG around a drum which marks one of the two hairpin bends in the photo below.

(Advertiser)

All good things come to an end of course.

Mixed car and bike meetings were run until the local Willunga Council cried enough in 1953.

Sellicks was a long way from Adelaide in 1915 but a ‘lot closer’ by 1950 with the cities burgeoning population and mobility of its populace as car ownership grew exponentially post war- and most of those motorists wanted to use the beach for traditional aquatic pursuits not have them interrupted by motorsport.

The sport was changing more broadly in South Australia as well.

The state had a great tradition of road racing on closed public roads at Victor Harbor, Lobethal, Nuriootpa and Woodside but the death of a rider and spectator at Woodside in 1949 was a catalyst for the State Government banning road racing until the relevant act was repealed or amended to allow the Adelaide Grand Prix to be conducted on the city streets in the eighties.

In short, South Australia needed a permanent circuit, a role Sellicks could never of course fulfil. Initial work on putting this in place began with the incorporation of a company named Brooklyn Speedway (SA) Pty Ltd in August 1952.

Local racing heavyweights involved in the venture were determined not to let the sport die in South Australia included Steve Tillet, RF Angas, ES Wells, Keith Rilstone, TC Burford and of course Eldred Norman.

They soon secured a lease on 468 acres of flat salt-bush scrubby land at Port Wakefield on the Balaklava Road, 100 km from Adelaide.

Plans for a 1.3 mile circuit were drafted by Burford and circulated to the SCCSA and amongst drivers with the plans then modified and a circuit and support infrastructure built

The tracks first meeting was held on New Years Day 1953, star attractions included Melburnians Stan Jones in Maybach 1 and Lex Davison who brought over his Grand Prix Alfa Romeo P3. Lex rolled the car without injury only days before he and Jones jetted off to join Tony Gaze in Europe to contest the Monte Carlo Rally in a Holden 48-215.

Significantly, the circuit was the first permanent race-track constructed in Australia putting aside Speedways and appropriated airfields. South Australia had a new home for motor racing, hosting the 1955 AGP which was won by Jack Brabham’s self-built Cooper T40 Bristol ‘Bobtail’.

In more recent times their have been several ‘bike Sellicks re-enactments, the first in 1986 attracted over 40,000 spectators! and involved some racers who had run at the beach in period.

Eric Cossiche provided these photos from the February 2017 Levi Motorcycle Club run at Sellicks and commented that it was a bad move ‘salt and sand took forever to get sorted’ from the car, but fun no doubt!

Car is Eric Cossiche’s wonderful 1954 Wolseley Flying W Special (E Cossiche)

Postscript…

A couple of days after uploading this article Adelaide enthusiast/racer/historian Doug Gordon got in touch with some more photos and information which I have reproduced below- many thanks to him.

‘I have a particular interest in these early SA venues – Sellicks, Smithfield Speedway, Gawler Speedway (Racetrack), Lobethal, Woodside, Nuriootpa, Victor Harbor, Glen Ewin Hill Climb, etc.
Some are very hard to find information about – especially Smithfield Speedway (from October 1926- built and run by the Motor Cycle Club of SA) which was also one of the earliest speedway venues in the country and the first purpose built, but usually overlooked.
I have a couple of Grand Sport Amilcars and also own Don Cant’s MGTC from the photos you have. Don placed fourth on handicap in the AGP at Nuriootpa in 1950 and was also at Sellicks in October 1952, along with my Amilcar (driven by Max Foale).

(D Gordon)

The other interesting SA beach racing venue (for motorcycles) was Hardwicke Bay, about which I have found very little, except for speaking to the old locals (we have a place there) and a couple of photos from the community centre. I have a 1924 Douglas and have made contact with the Yorke Peninsula V & V Motorcycle Club and hope to find out more about Hardwicke in future – one of my buddies over there is trying to track down some more photos before the old fellows die out!
Hardwicke Bay racing – both official and “UN-official” (both on and OFF the beach, apparently – not too many cars on the roads back then- boys will be boys, went on for years, whilst the better-known venue at Sellicks was still going in Adelaide.
This was on a beautiful stretch of hard white sand stretching from Longbottoms Beach to Flahertys Beach (named after local landowners) for about 4 kilometers. I’m not exactly sure where the track layout was, but in many ways it was better than Sellicks and the boys from all over Yorkes would come down for it, along with the Adelaide mob. Possibly more a clubby arrangement with very little publicity!

Ready for the off at Hardwicke Bay (D Gordon)

Jake Cook at Hardwicke Bay in the 1930’s (D Gordon)

Boys looking pretty casual and ready for the off at Hardwicke Bay (D Gordon)

It is also widely known that not ALL the racing on Sellicks Beach was “officially sanctioned” events, but motorcycles pre-dated cars there by more than a decade. The early motor-cycle clubs invited “Light-Cars” in the mid-1920s, but the Sporting Car Club of SA did not invite motor-cycles after they started their car meetings in 1934.
The precedent for this was set at Gawler racetrack in April 1925, when the motor-cycle speedway invited an Austin-7 and an Amilcar to a match race on the turf track there. After this, Light Cars often appeared at motor-cycle racing events and speedway – principally at Sellicks and Smithfield, along with a few night trials and reliability trails. So these early venues were a critical link in the formation of motor sport in this SA as well as Australia as a whole.

(D Gordon)

Its also interesting that the Harley-Davidson MCC had their club-rooms high on the Sellicks cliffs overlooking the beach in the 1920s – known colloquially as “The ‘Arley ‘Ut”.
Note that both the Sellicks and Hardwicke venues were only used in the early months of summer from late October to February, owing to the tides going out further at these times to keep the sand exposed for most of the days. If tides came in too far, the racing had to be abandoned.
Eldred Norman was said to ease the big Double-V8 into very shallow water at times to cool off the brakes in the spray after serious fading following some panic stops at the hairpin bends at the end of each long straight! Later he fitted windscreen washer spray jets with push-button control to squirt the brakes when needed to provide the same effect in long road-races.
Sellicks IS a very special venue and it has been packed for the modern re-enactments run by the Levis Motorcycle club in recent times – bikes and riders come from every state. It’s huge and you have to get tickets pre-booked and paid through Venutix etc- there are only a limited number available and are sold-out in days! These events are now fully backed by local councils and environmentalists are (sort-of) OK with it, because no damage has been proven to result – Sellicks has a unique layer of pebbles just under the sand to keep the surface very stable, which is why it lasted so long and even into the present day.’

Etcetera: Sellicks…

(unattributed)

 

Bill Buckle’s MG TA during the 1947 meeting, the racer/businessman made the long trip from Sydney for the event, casual nature of the beach clear from this shot as is the importance of MG’s to Australian motor racing- and not just at Sellicks Beach.

 

(Levis)

 

Harry Cossiche getting ready to boogie in the 1930’s (E Cossiche)

 

(D Gordon)

The Don Cant and Steve Tillet MG TC’s hard at it during 1952. By the look of the soft sand in the foreground one needed to not stray too far up the beach- or down it.

Cars on beaches is a strongly entrenched Adelaide tradition- parking ones car on the beach before popping up the beach umbrella and knocking back a couple of tinnies continues to this day on some of their coastline, a practice very strange to we east-coasters.

 

(Norman)

Eldred Norman’s much modified Maserati 6CM chasing Tom Hawkes’ Allard J2 above at the first all-car Sellicks meeting post-war in October 1952.

Norman had a dim view of this car which was never very fast and had an insatiable appetite for pistons, inclusive of this race meeting!

 

(Jennison)

Etcetera: Mystery ‘Sellicks’ car…

John Alfred Jennison built this racer at his garage in Salisbury, South Australia, which sold and serviced Chevs in the twenties. The clever Engineer was later a pioneer of caravan construction in Australia.

The car raced at Sellicks in the late twenties but I can find nothing about its mechanical specification, in period race record or its ultimate fate.

It would be great to hear from any of you who may know something about it. Neat isn’t it?

(Jennison)

 

(ABC)

Etcetera: ‘Bloody Marys’ 300 foot Blue Lake plunge…

The story of John Dutton’s lucky escape from the seeming death of his Vauxhall in February 1936 is too good to leave alone and is well told by Kate Hill in this ABC South East’s ‘Friday Rewind’ published on 7 November 2014.

‘Wealthy young racing driver John Dutton owned a property on the outskirts of Mount Gambier when he purchased one of the last Vauxhalls produced in 1927, nicknamed ‘Bloody Mary’ for it’s blood red duco and known for its speed and racing pedigree.

In fact, Dutton and the Vauxhall landed the Australian National RC Speed Record over one mile on Sellicks Beach in February 1935 and he was booked to compete in the 1936 Australian Grand Prix with another car, a supercharged MG (he finished tenth)

The Mount Gambier resident used his cars for both competition and daily transport, frequently spotted at hill climbs and tearing the cars around country roads.

On the Blue Lake Aquifer Tours website, Linton Morris, who purchased the Vauxhall in 1993 obtained what he calls the most ‘accurate version of the incident’ in a letter from John Dutton’s younger brother Geoffrey.

Sometime after 2am one wet February morning, Dutton was driving the Vauxhall around the lake home, when a drunk man came around the tight bend on the wrong side of the road.

The Vauxhall was forced through a fence and tipped over the edge but luckily the seriously injured Dutton had been thrown out, landing some way down the cliff before his fall was stopped short by a tree.

Watching his beloved car plunge past him into the depths of the Blue Lake, John later told his brother Geoffrey how the car spun around in the water with the headlights still on, ‘leaving an eerie lemon light’ cutting through the murky water.

Dutton, clinging to life with severe internal injuries, was stretchered back up the cliff in a dangerous night operation by police and rescue services and taken to Mount Gambier Hospital.

(ABC)

 

The restored ex-Dutton Vauxhall 30/98 at its point of entry into the Blue Lake crater in 1958. Armco barrier more substantial than the 1936 variant and doubtless it is even more substantial now (SLSA-Arthur Studio)

There are varying reports of whether Mr AC MacMillan, the veterinary surgeon who caused the crash, drove straight to the Mount Gambier police station to report the crash, or as a later report suggests, simply drove into town and had another few beers at the Jens Hotel.

The Border Watch newspaper reported the sensational crash with the front page of next edition screaming: Racing car drives 300ft into Blue Lake – Driver’s miraculous escape from death.

With Dutton recovering in an Adelaide hospital, the city’s council was left with a problem – how to salvage the car from the city’s famous ‘bottomless’ water supply.

In fact it would be over 13 months before a plan of action was put into place, including construction of a pontoon to support the vehicle at the lake’s surface and a 10-tonne road roller to haul the car to the top.

A steel cable was attached to the rear springs of the car, which had been stripped of its wheels and bolted to wooden cross bars to stabilise the vehicle.

A huge crowd gathered around to watch the spectacle, which was not without incident.

A workman’s fingers were crushed after he was distracted by the crowds and his hand drawn under the steel rollers.

When the car reached the top, onlookers noted the clock inside had stopped at 2.40am, probably the exact time of the accident.

The Vauxhall was put on display at local garage May & Davis and became a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Believe it or not, after nearly a year underwater, the car went on to have a further racing career in Victoria and South Australia under a succession of owners.

Bought by Morris in 1993, the famous car that went into the Blue Lake has now been fully restored and lives a quiet life.’

(ABC)

Bibliography…

Adelaide Advertiser 11 October 1934/9 October 1954, Adelaide ‘The Register’ 2 January 1926, article by Tony Parkinson in the Spring 2014 issue of ‘Fleurieu Living’, Rockhampton ‘Morning Bulletin’, ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ Eldred Norman threads, communique from Doug Gordon

Photo and other Credits…

State Library of South Australia, Rob Bartholomaeus, Arnold Wright, Ken Ragless, Sporting Car Club of South Australia, Don Cant Collection, Bill Buckle Collection, Doug Gordon, K Ragless, Jennison Family Collection, Norman Family Collection, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Eric Cossiche, Doug Gordon

Tailpiece: Sellicks Beach fuel depot…

(unattributed)

Finito…

Graham Hill testing a BRM P57 Coventry Climax at Snetterton in 1961…

The Getty Images caption lists the date of the photograph as 1 January 1961 which seems a bit unlikely as Hill was with the rest of the BRM team aboard a de Havilland Comet enroute to New Zealand to contest the NZ GP at Ardmore before the P48’s raced by Hill and Dan Gurney were then shipped to Australia for races at Warwick Farm and Ballarat Airfield.

But the jist of the photograph seems to be an early test of the new ‘61 car attended by the BBC who have Graham ‘all wired up’.

1961 was an ‘interim’ season for all of the British F1 teams as none of them had their (BRM and Coventry Climax) V8’s ready for the new 1.5 GP formula which commenced that January.

As a consequence, the Coventry Climax four cylinder 1.5 litre FPF F2 engine- introduced in 1957, was pressed into service by Cooper, Lotus and BRM as an interim solution pending arrival of the Climax and BRM new bent-eights.

It was one of few occasions when the Bourne marque used engines manufactured by folks other than themselves- other exceptions which spring to mind are the Rover gas turbine engine which went into the early sixties Le Mans prototype contender and the Chev V8’s fitted to the dawn of the seventies Can-Am cars.

The shot above is Graham in the Monza pitlane in September with the exhaust side of his FPF peeking at us from beneath its engine cover.

Car #26 behind is the nose of Tony Brooks’ machine, he was fifth in the other BRM in the tragic race which cost Ferrari’s ‘Taffy’ Von Trips and fourteen spectators their lives after a collision involving Von Trips and Jim Clark, Lotus 21 Climax, in the early laps. Hill G retired with engine failure whilst Hill P won the race and the drivers championship in a Ferrari 156.

Graham is above with BBC technicians at left and consulting with Chief Engineer Tony Rudd at right, the clothing rather suggests it’s early in the year- a very long one given the pace of the squadron of Ferrari 156’s. Best results for the P57 were Tony Brooks’ fifth and third places at Monza and Watkins Glen and Graham Hill’s sixth in France and fifth in the US.

First lap, Monaco 1961. Ginther, Ferrari 156 leads from Moss and Clark in Lotus 18 and 21 Climax. Then its Tony Brooks #16 BRM P48/57 with Phil Hill’s #38 Ferrari 156 inside Brooks and almost unsighted is Graham Hill’s BRM P57. The silver nose is Gurney’s Porsche 718 and the other splotch of red Von Trips 156. Moss won from Ginther, Hill and Trips. What a picture!

In non-championship events, even with the Ferraris absent, it was still tough, Hill’s second in the Glover Trophy at Goodwood and third in the Aintree 200 were promising whilst Brook’s best was third in the Brands Hatch Silver City Trophy event later in the season.

(B Cahier)

Mind you BRM were about to enter their purple patch.

Rudd’s ‘Stackpipe’ 1962 BRM P578’s powered by the P56 V8 made the team a force, together with the P261 monocoques which followed for the balance of the 1.5 litre formula- dual World Titles for BRM and Hill followed in 1962 of course.

The shot above is of Graham in the Zandvoort dunes in May 1962, he was first on that day from Trevor Taylor’s Lotus 24 Climax and Phil Hill’s Ferrari 156.

Hill’s P261 at Monza in 1964 has this utterly luvverly, later P60 version of the P56/60 family of engines, the capacity of which stretched from 1.5 to 2.1 litres, at that latter size the P261’s were still race winners in the Tasman Series as late as 1967 against cars with engines of 2.5 litres.

Hill below at Monza in 1964- look at the number of punters in that pitlane! Chaos.

His P261 was fitted with the P60 V8 shown above. Whilst Graham qualified well in third slot his race was over before it started with clutch failure on the line- John Surtees won in a Ferrari 158 enroute to his driver’s title.

Car 20 is Richie Ginther’s P261 which was fourth, and car 36 in front is ‘Geki’ Russo’s Brabham BT11 BRM which failed to qualify.

Credits…

Getty Images, Bernard Cahier, ‘BRM 2’ Doug Nye

Tailpiece: Hill, BRM P57, Snetterton 1961…

Pretty little car, the spaceframe chassis was made of 1 1/2 and 1 1/4 inch outside diameter Accles and Pollock 4CM steel tube- three P57 Climax chassis were built.

Doug Nye notes that whilst the three P57 Climaxes built in 1961 looked proportionately neat and handsome they were built around the P48’s bag fuel tanks which left them still too big- the 1.5 litre engines would consume far less fuel than their 2.5 litre predecessors- 24 gallons compared with 35 gallons, so the mandated use (by Peter Berthon) of the two main moulded FPT tanks ‘restricted potential for serious slimming down’ Nye wrote. The similarly engined Lotus 21 by way of comparison was far lighter being built to the minimum weight limit of 450 kg whereas the BRM was 70 kg above that.

The best of the seven Climax 1.5 FPF’s BRM used in 1961, a Mark 2 specification engine, ‘1224’ gave about 153 bhp @ 7000 rpm. The P57’s gearbox was the P27 transaxle left over from the 2.5 litre P48 program but with an additional fifth gear fitted into the case. Whilst strong, no doubt the ‘boxes were heavy.

Finito…

 

Who said Webbo and Sebbo can’t play nicely in the sandpit together?…

Cheesey Australian Grand Prix promotional shoot prior to the 2010 Albert Park weekend taken at St Kilda Beach close by.

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel had a few territorial disputes along the way didn’t they?, it did get a bit nutty I spose but I’ve always liked a lack of team orders- or drivers obeying them anyway!

At Albert Park in 2010 the pair qualified their Red Bull RB6 Renault’s 1-2 with Seb in front, he failed to finish with brake problems whilst Mark gave Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren a tap up the bum late in the race ruining a podium for both.

Jenson Button’s McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes won from Robert Kubica, Renault R30 and Felipe Massa in a Ferrari F10.

Credits

Getty Images- Peter Fox

Tailpiece

Finito

 

 

I was travelling down Alexandra Avenue in the twee Melbourne suburb of South Yarra last summer and fell in line behind a Lotus Elite and Lotus Elise, it reminded me of a magic day a few years ago…

My mate David Mottram is a doyen of the Victorian MG and Lotus Clubs. He is a racer, restorer and fettler of renown of these and other marques. On occasion he invited me along to the MG Car Club Driver Training Days to help out, it was always fun to attempt to impart some knowledge, the only downside being scared shitless once or twice alongside people whose levels of bravery made Gilles Villeneuve look like a ‘Big Sheila’.

The best part of the day was always the final 45 minutes during which the instructors had the track to themselves. At the time I had a standard’ish Series 1 Elise, the original Rover K-Series powered jobbie. It didn’t have a lot of power but with a free-flowing exhaust, a smidge stiffer springs which the standard Koni’s could just control, some decent track tyres on original wheels and competition brake pads it was both a fun road and track car.

My frame of reference at the time was a Lola T342 Historic Formula Ford I raced for over a decade. My 911 Carrera 3.2, using the same Formula Ford prism was a horrible track car! The Elise’ standard gearset was the only circuit shortcoming really-  second was too short and fifth ‘moonshot tall’ even at Phillip Island without a strong tailwind. The 111S gear cluster was the solution but I never quite got around to making that change.

Lotus Elite cutaway (James Allington)

 

(S Dalton)

Anyway, on this particular Sandown day David brought along his ex-Derek Jolly Lotus Elite Super 95. This buttercup yellow car will be familiar to many Australian enthusiasts of historic racing as David and Pat Mottram have contested a gazillion Regularity events in it across this great brown land of ours for the best part of 25 years. Whilst I had ridden in it on the road I’d never had a steer before.

I jumped out of the Elise after 15 laps or so and straight into the Elite, cars built forty years apart.

The thing which struck me like the proverbial bolt from the blue after only a couple of laps was the sibling similarity of these two wonderful, light, low powered, beautiful handling cars.

Chapman had nothing at all to do with the Elise of course, the design team were fiddling about with its key design elements 15 years or so after the great mans death of a heart attack in late 1982.

But the Lotus brand values transcended the founder, which is of course exactly as it should be. ‘Brand Essence’ is what we ‘arty-farty, limp wristed commo-poofter bastard’ branding practitioners call the intrinsic elements of a brand. One of my buddies used to refer to me in those glowing terms during my years as a Partner of one of Australia’s foremost branding consultancies.

Lotus Elise 111s cutaway (Lotus Cars)

 

Elise conceptual drawing or sketch (Lotus Cars)

The first thing which impressed about the Elise as I drove what became my own car down bumpy, rutty Church Street Richmond on the initial test drive was the ‘pitter-patter’ of the cars tyres as the wheels rode the bumps with the chassis absolutely stiff. It was like a honeymooners todger- rock solid.

You can feel what the wheels and tyres are doing as they are so beautifully controlled with a light aluminium chassis of amazing torsional stiffness by road car standards. Still, our Col did invent the modern aluminium monocoque, the 1962 Lotus 25 GP car was his first expression of the art.

These cars have relatively soft springs, the bushes are firm to give good control- the cars are noisy as a consequence of minimal sound deadening but the springs themselves are softish and have reasonable travel. Just like the Elite, the chassis of which, famously, was the worlds first fibreglass monocoque.

It was a bastard to make, but magnificent in conception and in use as long as you didn’t have an early, ‘problem-child’ car. Things improved when Bristol Aircraft took over construction of the chassis from Maximar, the original ‘trail blazers’ in interpretation and manufacture of Colin’s baby.

The Elite is also ‘drummy’, noisy just like its younger cousin, mind you I’d rather do the Melbourne to Sydney trip in the older of the two cars despite the lack of a tall fifth, cruisin’ down the highway gear.

Lotus Elite and 16 Climax FPF F2/F1 car at the London Motor Show in 1958

 

David Mottram aboard the family Elite 95 at Phillip Island (Mottram)

Your freckle is very close to the ground too, the Elise’ seat is a ‘form-fit’, no barge-arses should apply thing. To sit in it is the closest thing to the feel of a sports-racer on the road as is possible to experience. Use enough imagination and the view is pretty much what drivers of a Lola T70 Coupe had with the ultra low seating position, curved minimalist dash, exposed aluminium each side of you and guards not much higher than your nose. The seat isn’t sprung, its solidly mounted to the cars tub so all of the messages from the road are transmitted to your bum, fingers, wrists and toes- the sensory side of things, if that kinda stuff gives you your jollies, is amazing. Lotsa rubber bushings, who needs ‘em?

The Elite is more generous in the comfort department but only marginally so.

You sit up a little more and the seats whilst thinly padded are more comfy than the Elise. Even with a lap-sash road type belt you are retained nicely between the high transmission tunnel and the door with an array of Smiths instruments in front of you which is oh-so-period. My Elise was fitted with a six-point Willans harness which held me in the standard seat rather nicely for competition work, the Elite was not so endowed but the driving position is the same, a very comfortable one with long arms to the wheel and pedals nicely set for heel-‘n-toe operation

Steering of the Elise is delicious- in my experience there is nothing close to it on the road. Jumping from the Lola to the Elise was ‘same, same’- that’s not an indictment of one of 1975’s most competitive Formula Fords but an acclamation of Lotus design.

The weight of the steering, its feel, the wheel’s design, size, material and rim thickness, feedback and directness are superb in the way you can place the car on the road and the warning you get as the limits of adhesion are approached. The Elite rack is a Triumph item, the Elise’s was made by Titan Motorsport. Both have the same characteristics though in terms of the way the cars have steering of exceptional feel, delicacy and precision. The Elites wood-rimmed wheel is larger and thinner, the suspension, wire-wheels, tyre width and aspect ratio are period differences which mitigate against the same Elise level of precision but the Elite was a steering benchmark in the late fifties-early sixties period and a pleasure to guide around Sandowns fast corners. The Elite rolls about a bit, as you would expect, the Elise sits much flatter and ‘points’ or turns in much more nicely despite the lack of a rear roll bar- its mid-engined and 40 years younger after all.

That other marques/supplier donated the steering rack highlights another Lotus attribute down the decades. In part they are an assemblage of parts made by others. It doesn’t impact in a negative way in use. Mind you if you are in the market for an alternative to a 911, the bragging rights of an Evora powered by a Toyota V6 are not quite on a par with a Porsche despite the utility of the Japanese motor.

The Elite’s Coventry Climax FWE engine was revolutionary in its day, the 1216cc SOHC, 2 valve all aluminium road version of the very successful FWA race engine was quite something in the context of the wheezy, mainly push-rod engines of the competition. Sensitive, regular maintenance was important. In Super 95 spec, the twin-Weber fed engine produces over 100bhp and punches the car along nicely but the lap times are achieved by the cars brakes, entry speed, neutrality with limited power thru the corners and fine aerodynamics rather than outright mumbo.

It’s a ‘momentum car ‘ just like the Elise and lower powered single-seaters. Whilst the performance variants of the Elise/Exige are a different kettle of fish, the original all alloy DOHC, 4 valve, fuel injected 1796cc 118bhp Elise was all about economy of power, weight (circa 725Kg) and delivery. They are subtle delicate things which respond well to inputs of a similar type, they are not tools for the ham-fisted. So too was the Elite, its competition record belied its specifications.

The Elite’s ZF gearbox is a much nicer snickety-snick thing to use than the Elise’s. The linkages of the modern car are sub-optimal but familiarity and ‘light hands and wrists’ as Frank Gardner put it, soon has you slicing thru the gears ok. Both cars have superb brakes too- unassisted discs all round, inboard on the rear of the Elite, all outboard on the Elise with the latter rotors in aluminium to help keep unsprung weight down.

‘Uncle Dave’ was soon waving at me from the pitlane, I pretended it was encouragement for a couple of more laps but his intent soon became clear when he waved an empty fuel drum at me.

I buzzed for hours afterwards, it was a magic, fun day- the Elite was a vastly better car to drive than I had imagined. On the suburban grind back to Camberwell I reflected on just ‘how right’ Chapman would have thought Julian Thomson and his design and engineering team got the Elise. Chapman bottled the essence of Lotus- his designers have since periodically dispensed it in a manner in which he would be proud…

Pat Mottram and Elite at Wakefield Park, Goulburn (Mottram)

Etcetera: Clark/Whitmore Elite at Le Mans in 1959…

How youthful does white-shirted Jim Clark look?

The pair were tenth outright and second in class behind the Peter Lumsden/Peter Riley Elite, the Roy Salvadori/Carroll Shelby Aston Martin DBR1 were victorious.

Photo Credits…

M Bisset, Mottram Family and Stephen Dalton Collections, Getty Images-Klemantaski

Finito…