Archive for August, 2019

(T McCavoy)

Hermano da Silva Ramos, Gordini T16 on the way to a splendid fifth place in the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix…

The French born Brazilian driver was advantaged by a race of attrition, he completed only 93 of Moss’ winning Maserati’s 100 laps, but hey, a points placing was just reward for a good, quick, reliable run by a design which was rather long in the tooth by then.

Amedee Gordini, Simca Gordini T11, Circuit of Monthlery, 1946

What a fascinating topic Gordini is.

My interest was piqued by tripping over the photograph of the Gordini T16 engine below, a good supply of largely ‘unseen’ images in the Getty Archive was another source of encouragement. What started as an article on the T16 morphed into one tangentially on Amedee’s final GP machine, the straight-8 T32, at that point the article was pretty much finished.

Then i went to Europe for a holiday and saw a swag of Gordini’s in the Cite De L’Automobile in Mulhouse and got interested…So if the thing lacks a logical flow its coz it grew like Topsy from a 500 word quickie into a not particularly well structured feature.

I guess for me the marque has ‘flown under the radar’ a bit as none ever came to Australia and few if any race globally in historic events- there aren’t many of them in circulation at all when you deduct the 14 Schlumpf Collection Mulhouse cars from the 32 built not all of which survived in any event…

Here goes, with a focus on the single-seaters i might add.

The two T32 straight-eights and Types 15 and 16, Mulhouse (M Bisset)

Amadeo Gordini was born in 1899 at Bazzaro near Bologna, his horse-dealer father died when he was 3, the boy quickly developed an interest in all things mechanical, its said he took an apprenticeship at 10! in a Bologna engineering shop.

Aged 11 he moved to a Fiat dealership where he swept the floor and cleaned spare parts but he was on his way aided and abetted by the foreman of the garage who saw his potential- his name was Eduardo Weber, who went on to rather well for himself!

At 14 he moved to Isotta-Fraschini where he worked under Alfieri Maserati and after serving in the Italian infantry during WW1 he returned to them building his first car using a combination of I-F and Bianchi parts.

He moved to Mantova and began a tuning business for Hispano-Suiza’s before holidaying in Paris and deciding to stay- initially working for Cattaneo, the French specialist in Hispanos but in 1925 he set up his own business in Suresnes, close to Henri-Theodore Pigozzis assembly plant.

Amadeo had become Amedee, married, had a son named Aldo and together with his half-brother Athos started tuning Fiats, his lucky break came about when Angelo Molinari, who had a string of dance venues, became a friend and client of Gordini who was given a brief by Molinari to do ‘whatever he liked to make his brand new Fiat Balilla Sport go as fast as possible’ for the coming 1935 season.

Gordini in the modified Molinari owned Balilla on the way to a class win at the GP D’Orleans in 1935 (Fiat)

Whilst Gordini’s intial efforts made the car go slower!, work at Fiat and in Gordini’s garage soon had the thing flying to such an extent that outside France the new Simca product became known via the performance of Gordini’s distinctively modified cars.

By the important Bol d’Or in May 1935 Gordini had a revised Balilla with an ally body, superior gear ratios and higher compression ratio. When Molinari didn’t turn up Gordini drove and won the touring class- the race car whizz/racer reputation was underway after the same 24 hour race.

In November 1934 HT Pigozzi formed Ste Industrielle de Mecanique et Carosserie Automobile or SIMCA (Simca) to assemble the Balilla- after his Bol d’Or win he was awarded 20,000 francs- firm commercial support was underway which would be maintained until after Le Mans in 1951.

In 1936 he took a class win at Le Mans in a modified 508S Spyder, in 1957 he created special versions of the new Topolino and it is here ‘where the Simca stops and Gordini begins becomes moot’ according to Pete Vack. Into 1938 he campaigned both 508S open sportscars and Cinq streamliners- one of the latter cars won the Index of Performance in 1938.

Gordini on the way to 10th place and Index of Performance win at Le Mans in 1939 (G Gauld)

In the last year before the war Gordini and Jose Scaron drove the ‘now famous streamlined Simca Huit ‘chassis number 810404’ to an 1100cc Le Mans class win and the Index of Performance.

Britain and France declared war on Germany on 2 September 1939, Amedee was initially engaged by Automobiles Talbot and then Simca as ‘Production Director’ as the conflict grew. He rented premises at 34 quai Gallieni to store some of his cars and after the French surrender to the Germans in June 1940 acquired the business and premises of the Desmarais Brothers at 69-71 Boulevard Victor in the 15th arrondissement and commenced business there.

Not long after, in the summer of 1941, his operation began to be supervised by the Nazi controlled Todt Organisation, this continued for the duration of the war, the German concern was responsible for marshalling French companies into completion of a huge range of engineering projects.

Post war Amedee quickly picked up where he had left off prior to it despite the theft of his machine tools and some of his cars by retreating Germans- some were hidden before the war was underway including 1937 and 1938 Sports, the 1939 Le Mans chassis, an old Fiat Balilla as well as Molinari’s open Sport.

In June 1945 it was known that the first post-war race meeting- a three event program was to be run through the Bois de Boulogne huge public park in the middle of Paris on 3 September. Amedee won the first race of the day, the ‘Coupe Robert Benoist’ for unsupercharged cars of less than 1500cc aboard the 1939 Le Mans winning chassis.

Following this meeting various racing organisations started to make plans to race again from 1946- mooted was a 4.5 litre unsupercharged/1.5 litre supercharged ‘international formula’ and a ‘small capacity formula’ for cars of 2 litres and under, unsupercharged. The latter was tailor made for Gordini.

Gordini aboard his new Simca Gordini T11 at St-Cloud in June 1946

Whilst many concerns chose to race old cars, Gordini decided to build a new one. Simca expressed interest in supplying Fiat-Simca engines with the Simca design office in Nanterre instructed to help re-establish the Gordini works.

Amedee’s very narrow chassis comprised two longitudinal 72mm chrome/molybdenum tubes forming parallel side frames to which a lightweight tubular framework was attached and the duralumin bodywork added. Front suspension was Simca 8 derived whilst at the rear an adjustable torsion bar was linked to a cranked device- the idea snitched by Amedee and Aldo Gordini from a Wehrmacht NSU track vehicle they studied whilst repairing the machine during the occupation.

The cast iron, 3 bearing, OHV 1089cc engine, gearbox (4 speed in 1946, 5 speed in 1947) and live rear axle were Simca 8. Without going into the detail, the first engine in ‘GC1’ developed 55bhp @ 5500rpm whilst later 5 bearing aluminium headed engines developed 70bhp @ 6000 rpm by 1949.

When completed Gordini whizzed the finished car, which was given chassis number ‘GC1’ and type number T11, up and down Boulevard Victor on 20 April and then drove it- sans rego and muffler from Paris to Nice! with a Simca 8 van following containing his crew.

The ‘Simca-Gordini T11’ did not win the Coupe de la Mediterranee but the ex-Le Mans chassis did, Amedee was slowed by an accident- but he did win the Coupe de l’Entraide event at the Marseilles Grand Prix meeting on 11-13 May.

Gordini was away, by this stage Simca had announced it was giving official support to Equipe Gordini with all French Simca agents making a financial contribution. In addition, Gordini had access to the Nanterre design office and workshops to create prototype parts- more machine tools were sent to Boulevard Victor plus a couple of engineeers.

Five T11’s were built, the T15 followed and had a shorter chassis but maintained the wheelbase- these had torsion bars fitted within the chassis tubes and were reinforced by a third chassis crossmember to take the future 1500cc T15 engines. The T15’s raced through into 1951, the 1988cc T20 6-cyinder engined T16 F2/F1 made its appearance in the GP Marseilles in the hands of Robert Manzon on 27 April 1952

Gordini’s little cars were effective in F2 and some F1 races. Amedee’s F2 pushrod T15 1490cc and DOHC T16 1490cc engines- when Maserati/Roots supercharged, produced 164bhp (T15C) and 173bhp (T16C) and thereby became F1 motors, but results were poor against formidable purpose designed GP cars.

After a year of shocking reliability in F1 and F2 as well as the failure of all four 1500cc Equipe Gordini T15S at Le Mans in 1951 Simca withdrew their financial support.

‘It seems probable that Simca’s management had been seeking an excuse to cut their funding of Le Sorcier’s hobby-cum business, and this was it. Within days a terse statement from Simca announced severance of all links with the Boulevard Victor team. From that point forward the marque became simply ‘Gordini’- ‘Simca-Gordini’ no more’ wrote Doug Nye.

Gordini T16, French GP paddock, July 1953, 2 litre straight-6

So for 1952 Amedee went it alone.

No doubt he was delighted to be able to make his own decisions but his ongoing funding source for many years had to be replaced- this was quickly achieved with a variety of French trade suppliers eager to support this born racer.

He built a new ‘Type 20’ 1987cc ‘square’ (75 x75 mm bore/stroke) six cylinder, all alloy engine.

Wet cast iron liners were used and seven main bearings- nice and strong. The twin overhead camshafts were driven by a train of gears with the valves controlled by rockers. Solex twin-choke 38 carbs were fitted initially and then Weber 38DCO3 (as above) later. Ignition was by Scintilla Vertex magneto with a power output of between 157-175bhp @ 6500 rpm claimed.

The light, new motor was fitted to a new T16 chassis- similar to that which had gone before with tubular longitudinal beams and cross members with independent suspension by torsion bars at the front and a rear live axle, the Type 16 gearbox was a four speeder.

Robert Manzon raced the car and a youthful Jean Behra joined the team in 1952.

 

Behra, The Karussell, Nürburgring 1952- 5th. Ascari, Farina and Fischer first to third in the dominant Ferrari 500 (B Cahier)

 

Equipe Gordini prior to the 1952 French GP, Reims, car a T16. Car in shot is Behra’s seventh placed car. Car to the right is a T16 but no Gordini with that number took the grid- either a spare or a racer still to have its correct number affixed.

The season started well with Behra’s third in the GP de Pau in April with Bira and Manzon sharing a T15 to second- and Johnny Claes third in the GP de Marseilles, the winner Ascari’s Ferrari 500.

Behra was then third in the championship Swiss GP at Berne behind two Ferrari 500’s of Ascari and Fischer.

Jean followed that up with a win in the Circuit du Lac, Aix-les-Bains- T16, taking both heats.

On the most supreme of power circuits, Spa, for the Belgian GP, Manzon was third behind the two Ferrari 500’s of Ascari and Farina and ahead of Hawthorn’s Cooper T20 Bristol.

In a rousing day for the team in a strong year Behra famously won the GP de la Marne at Reims- another power circuit, on a very hot June day winning in front of the works Ferrari 500’s of Farina and Ascari with Bira fourth and Claes sixth in other Gordinis. Down the years there have been suggestions that Jean’s engine may have been ‘fat’- a proposition Dug Nye thinks on balance is incorrect.

At Rouen for the French GP Manzon and Trintignant were third and fourth behind a trio of Ferrari 500’s led by Ascari. Both French drivers were contracted to Ferrari that year but raced for Gordini when not required by the Scuderia.

In July Trintignant won the GP de Caen at La Prairie, Caen from Behra, their T16’s in front of Louis Rosier’s Ferrari 500.

Then off to the Nurburgring, Behra was fifth behind four Ferrari 500’s again headed by Ascari. In Holland Manzon and Trintignant were fifth and sixth.

1952 was an exceptional year for the not so little team which would be tough to follow. Doug Nye wrote that by the end of that year Amedee employed 50 people, his revenues comprising start, prize and bonus money without blanket sponsorship or Government support.

Despite that the concern didn’t have the funds to develop a new car or fully exploit the potential of its new engine so ‘Now the cars would be almost literally driven into the ground in an all out scramble to start as many races as possible, purse money from one meeting financing the journey to the next’ Nye wrote.

Maurice Trintignant, Gordini T16, 1953 French GP Reims DNF transmission, Hawthorn won in the famous race long dice with Fangio, Ferrari 500 from Maserati A6GCM. Best placed T16 Behra in 10th (unattributed)

The 1953 season started well with Schell’s third in the GP de Pau in April. Fangio was third and Schell fourth at Bordeaux in May behind two Ferrari 500’s continuing the trend of the previous year when of course Alberto Ascari won his second World Title on the trot- both drove Gordini T16’s.

Off to Chimay, Belgum in late May Trintignant won with American Fred Wacker third in T16’s splitting the Laurent Ferrari 500.

The Dutch GP was the first championship round in 1953- Trintignant was sixth- Ascari won. Spa followed later in the month, again Trintignant was sixth and Schell eighth.

At Reims and Silverstone the T16’s were all DNF’s- the Nurburgring equally grim, as was Bremgarten.

At that stage of the season a 1-3 at the GP de Cadours even against skinny opposition must have been a fillip- Trintignant led home Schell and Behra- Trintignant and Schell taking a heat each.

In better championship reliability if not speed Trintignant was sixth and Mieres eighth in T16’s with Fangio taking a welcome win for Maserati in his works A6GCM at Monza.

Fred Wacker, Gordini T16, Monza 1954, a great 6th place in the race won by Fangio, Mercedes W196 (B Cahier)

The 2.5 litre F1 commenced in 1954.

With the simple expedient of enlarging the engines size to 2473cc (80 x 82mm) Amedee had a solution he dubbed Type 23. Depending upon specification and and fuel between 198-228bhp was produced @ 6500rpm. Amedee had the T23 engine completed early enough to race it at Le Mans in 1953, the sports-racer finished fifth.

Whilst the T16 was the lightest of the 2.5 litre cars, the updated engine was low on power compared with most of the opposition, whilst the chassis- which retained a rigid rear axle was from the dark ages compared to the Mercedes W196 or even the de Dion brigade exemplified by the Maserati 250F, ‘the customer GP car of the era’.

Gordini was commercially astute, focusing on non-championship events to get start and finishing francs to keep the show on the road- Behra’s Pau GP win in April, his third in the GP di Bari in May, Pilette’s second at the GP des Frontieres in June, Behra’s win from Pilette in the Circuit de Cadours and Behra and Simon’s Silverstone International Trophy second and third placings were amongst the standout performances in 1954.

Amedee Gordini and Bira, wincing, just before the start of the 1954 French GP at Reims. Bira fourth in a Maserati 250F. Fangio won from Kling upon the Merc W196 race debut

 

Behra, Spa 1954 DNF suspension with Andre Pilette 5th in another T16, top result. Fangio won in a 250F (unattributed)

At championship level Pilette was fifth at Spa, the race won by Fangio’s Maserati 250F- before he headed off to Mercedes with Trintignant second in a Ferrari proving the speed Maurice had shown for years in Gordinis.

Behra was sixth at Reims , Pilette ninth at Silverstone, Behra tenth at the Nurburgring and American Fred Wacker a great sixth at Monza (his story would be an interesting one for all of us unfamiliar with the man).

Gordini straight-8 detail (Bonhams)

Gordini had been developing the ambitious new T32 F1 car in 1954- it appeared in mid-1955, but the season commenced with the team still campaigning the good ‘ole T16- at championship level really ‘start money specials’ by this stage.

In Argentina Jesus Iglesias and Pablo Birger failed to finish. At Monaco Bayol and Manzon were DNF’s but Jacques Pollet was a good seventh albeit 9 laps behind Trintignant’s victorious Ferrari 625. Matters were not made easier by Jean Behra’s well deserved move to Maserati that season- his fire and speed was missed.

The pickings in non-championship Grand Prix races became much tougher from 1955 when customer Maserati 250F’s were in a growing number of hands- these were winning tools ex-factory. In that context Jacky Pollet’s fourth behind three 250F’s- with ex-Gordini pilot Andre Simon the winner, at Albi, was pretty good.

Gordini T16 Monaco vista in 1955- Jacques Pollet T16 seventh (Getty)

 

The boss has a steer of the new T32 at Montlhery in mid-1955

 

(Theo Page)

 

Jean Lucas during practice at Monza in 1955, Gordini T32 (unattributed)

The team gave Spa a miss but contested the Dutch GP at Zandvoort yielding eighth place for Hermano da Silva Ramos with Robert Manzon a DNF. At Silverstone for the British Grand Prix- won by Stirling Moss in a Benz W196, his first championship GP win, Mike Sparken was seventh with poor Manzon again a DNF, as was Ramos.

The debut of the Type 32 Gordini was scheduled for the French GP but the Reims classic was cancelled off the back of the Le Mans disaster- the car finally made its first race appearance at Monza in September.

This striking and innovative car had a new Type 25′ 2473cc straight-eight engine (75 x 70 mm bore/stroke) with twin-overhead camshafts driven off the front of the crank, four twin-choke Weber 38 carbs and single plugs fired by a Scintilla Vertex magneto for which 210bhp in 1954 and 250bhp @ 7000rpm in 1957 was claimed. The later Type 25 ‘2 or B’ engines had a capacity of 2480cc. The motor was mated to a five speed all syncho gearbox.

The chassis was of the simple ladder type with independent suspension front and rear by torsion bars which operated a pair of L-shaped links pivoted to the side and cross-members of the chassis, together with Messier dampers.

Jean Lucas was given the honour of racing the car- he lasted only 8 laps having qualified 22nd amongst a grid of 23 cars. Pollet and Ramos in T16’s were both DNF’s.

Elie Bayol and Andre Pilette, Gordini T32, 6th Monaco 1956. Moss the victor in a 250F

Into 1956 Mercedes Benz had withdrawn from racing with Ferrari progressing development of  Lancia’s D50 design, having inherited the cars the year before.

The Lancia Ferrari D50 won the 1956 Drivers Championship for Fangio and the Manufacturers Title for the Scuderia- and proved the strength of Vittorio Jano and his team’s original design, whilst noting the development work carried out on the car at Ferrari.

Other contenders that year included Vanwall- the chassis of the car designed by Colin Chapman, Maserati with the development of the 250F ongoing, and which had not yet peaked, Connaught-Alta and Bugatti.

The Bayol/Pilette Gordini T32 being passed by winner Moss, Maserati 250F (B Cahier)

Francs were very tight at Boulevard Victor, whilst Amedee funded the construction of the T32 he did not have the money to develop the interesting design which whilst promising was heavy and less nimble than its predecessors.

The team missed the opening championship round in Argentina.

In Monaco Bayol and Pilette shared the T32 and finished in sixth place having started from Q11 of 16 cars. da Silva Ramos’ fifth place was commented upon at the articles outset. Moss won aboard a works 250F from the Collins/Fangio Lancia-Ferrari D50 and Jean Behra’s 250F.

Ramos on the way to 8th at Reims, French GP in 1956, T32. Peter Collins won in a Lancia Ferrari D50 (LAT)

A high point of the season was Manzon’s T16 win at Posillipo, he won the 6 May GP di Napoli in front of the 250F’s of Horace Gould and Guerino Gerini- the works Lancia D50’s of Castellotti and Musso raced but failed to finish with mechanical problems. Nonetheless it was a good win in what were now old warriors of cars.

It was a busy weekend for the team, in the UK Ramos and Pilette in T16 and T32 contested the 5 May BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone.

A typically strong 20 car field entered, devoid of works Maserati’s but Vanwall, BRM, Ferrari, Connaught as well as Gordini were present. Indicative of the T32’s pace is that Moss was on pole in Vanwall ‘VW2′ 12 seconds quicker than Ramos and Pilette who did identical times in T16/T32. Ramos was fifth, 5 laps adrift of Moss up front whilst Pilette in the eight cylinder car failed to finish with rear axle problems after completing 37 laps.

Enthusiasts at Silverstone flock around the unfamiliar Andre Pilette T32, a much bigger and heavier machine than its T11, 15 and 16 predecessors. Silverstone Int’l Trophy 1956 (Flickr)

 

Trintignant, Bugatti T251 and Manton, T32 early in the French GP- Bug DNF after 18 laps with sticking throttle and Manzon ninth (unattributed)

The team did not contest Spa but of course raced at home, Reims- there Ramos was eighth and Manzon ninth aboard the two T32’s from grid slots 14 and 15- 20 cars practiced. Pilette was eleventh in his T16. This was the race in which the amazing in some ways, ridiculous in others (suspension) mid-engned, straight-eight Bugatti T251 had its first and last appearance in the hands of Maurice Trintignant. Peter Collins won that day in a Lancia-Ferrari D50.

Manzon was ninth in a T32 from Q18 at Silverstone in July, Ramos a DNF from grid 26 in the other eight. At the Nürburgring both Andre Milhoux and Manzon were DNF’s in T32’s whilst Pilette crashed his T16 in practice.

In August Andre Simon was second in his T16 behind the Schell 250F but in front of Roy Salvadori’s similar machine in the GP de Caen- there were five 250F’s entered in the 13 car field with Manzon’s T32, DNF fourth on the grid.

But that was it in a year in which grids F2 grids grew with Coopers and Lotus- times were a changin’.

Amedee Gordini, Gordini T32, Monza, September 1956

da Silva Ramos won the Montlhery Autumn Cup in one of the eight cylinder cars.

At Monza in September Ramos suffered an engine failure in the T32 after only 3 laps- oh to have heard the car bellowing along Monza’s long straights! He qualified twentieth of the 26 cars which practiced. Andre Simon was ninth in a T16 and Manzon, yet again, a DNF- gearbox failure this time in the other T32.

Into 1957 the financial pressures were becoming insurmountable, the equipe only entered two races a week apart in April before the francs finally ran out.

Amedee took the team to Pau and ran Ramos in a T32, sixth, and the Andre’s- Guelfi and Simon in T16’s for seventh and DNF. The race was won by Behra’s 250F from Harry Schell’s similar car. I wonder if Jean ever tested the T32?, it would have been fascinating to know what the feisty-Frenchie thought of the car and what sort of times he could have extracted from the attractive but somewhat hefty machine.

Posillipo had been a happy hunting ground for the team before so the team headed south to Naples running Ramos alone in T16 ’35’ used by Guelfi the week before. He failed to finish with brake problems after completing only 14 of the events 60 laps- Peter Collins won from Mike Hawthorn in Lancia Ferrari D50’s.

And that was it for a team which had been a mainstay of European racing from the very start of the post-war years.

‘Not a single French manufacturer stepped in to support Gordini…they just waited for the chance  to snap up Amedee’s services once his racing enterprise had gone bankrupt’ wrote Diepraam/Muelas.

Gordini approached Pierre Dreyfus at Renault with some ideas about a Dauphine Gordini heralding the commencement of a new era for the born racer.

Amedee sold ten of his cars to the Schlumpf Brothers in one ‘job lot’ in 1964 and another 26S in 1968 where they can be seen on display to this day in the Cite de l’Automobile at Mulhouse.

Renault kept his name alive inclusive of atop the cam covers of their 1977 epochal GP turbo-charged V6 1.5 litre engine, a prospect Amedee would have never thought of in developing his own supercharged 1.5 litre four a couple of decades before.

Amedee during a soggy and windy test of the Dauphine Gordini at Montlhery in 1957 (Moteurs Courses)

 

Amedee stands with two of his projects in 1970- Renault 12 and 8 Gordinis (Renault)

 

Renault RS01, 1978 Italian GP. Renault Gordini EF-1 V6 t/c

 

1946 to 1951…

 

This section of the article is a season by season ‘summary’ from 1946 to 1951 looking at the years not covered in the first half of the article.

The photograph above shows mechanics preparing Amedee’s Simca-Gordini T11 chassis ‘1GC’- the ‘very first’ Gordini before the Coupe du Conseil Municipal, Saint-Cloud, Paris in June 1946.

DNF engine after completing 3 laps, the winner was Jose Scaron in a Simca 508C- 20 laps of a 6km course in central Paris.

In 1946 Jose Scaron won the April Coupe de la Mediterranee, Nice in a T8 with Amedee taking the GP du Forez at St Just, Forez, the GP de Bourgogne at Dijon and Coupe de Nantes, Nantes in T11’s.

Bira, Manx Cup 10 August 1947 T11- first in the 75km race. #43 is Peter Clark’s last placed HRG Singer (unattributed)

 

Bira in the Reims paddock before winning the July 1947 Coupe des Petites Cylindrees during the Reims GP weekend

1947 triumphs with recruited drivers Jean-Pierre Wimille, Maurice Trintignant and B Bira included the Coupe Robert Benoist, Nimes- Jean-Pierre Wimille in an S-G T15, Bira leading a Gordini 1-2-3 at Reims in the Coupe des Petites Cylindrees in July- the Prince beat home Jose Scaron and Maurice Trintignant in a great weekend for the team.

Wimille’s second in a T15 amongst all the heavy metal in the July GP de Nice was impressive, equally so victory in the Coupe de Paris in the Bois de Boulogne again amongst more powerful cars in the same month.

Bira and Raymond Sommer were 1-2 in T11’s at the Prix de Leman in Lausanne in October to round out a strong year for Equipe Gordini, top-line drivers extracting all that was available from the light and responsive cars which were at their best on tight circuits.

In the winter of 1947/8 the team contested the Argentine Temporada series with a talented local, one JM Fangio having a drive of T11 ‘4GC’ at Rosario and breaking the lap record.

JP Wimille in T11 ‘4GC’ at Monaco in 1948 (LAT)

Into 1948 Maurice Trintignant started the year well with a win in the GP du Rousillon at Perpignan in April in front of Manzon’s Cisitalia D46 Fiat and Sommer’s Scuderia Ferrari, Ferrari 166SC- and then proved the reliability of the Gordini’s with fourth place in May at the over 3 hour Monaco Grand Prix, a race he would win in 1955 aboard a Ferrari.

The GP de Geneve, in Geneva was a 1-3 Sommer, Bira and Manzon in T11’s ahead of a swarm of Cisitalia D46’s- six of them in a race dominated by the entry of the two marques.

In sports cars the Equipe were class winners in the Spa 24 Hours and victorious at the Bol d’Or.

The 1949 season commenced on a shocking note when Wimille rolled a T15 in practice at Palermo Park prior to the General Peron GP in Buenos Aires- he swerved to avoid spectators on the course.

Best results in that years Grands Prix were Fangio’s win in the GP de Marseilles aboard a T15 1.5 with Trintignant third.

In F2/Voiturette events Aldo Gordini won the Coupe d’Argent at Montlhery in April, Trintignant and Jean Thepenier shared a T11 to win the Circuit des Remparts at Angouleme.

Equipe Gordini had a great weekend at Lausanne in September taking a 1-2-3 with Sommer leading home Manzon and Trintignant in T15/T15/T11.

Rifts developed between Gordini and Simca after a season that did not go so well with Simca rejecting Amedee’s proposed F2 engine. His response was to import a Wade RO15 supercharger and blow his 1430cc engines via a Solex carburettor creating what quickly became a ‘highly stressed’ F1 Simca Gordini.

Robert Manzon in Simca Gordini T15 chasing the Charles Pozzi/Louis Rosier Talbot Lago T26C during the 1950 French GP at Reims- fourth and equal sixth- the race won by Fangio’s Alfa Romeo Alfetta 158.

Trintignant was third in the non-championship GP d’Albi and Manzon fifth- the latter also fifth at Geneva in the GP des Nations.

Doug Nye points out the only win of the blown T15 that year was at the Mont Ventoux Hillclimb when Manzon, Simon and Trintignant all lowered Hans Stuck’s pre-war 6 litre V12 Auto Union time- Manzon was quickest.

In F2/Voiturette races Raoul Martin opened Gordini’s ‘unsupercharged account’ with a T8 win at Marseilles winning the Coupe Rene Larroque. The Ferrari 166F2 was the dominant car in this period with Manzon second to Sommer at Roubaix in May.

Andre Simon won the Circuit de Medoc from Roger Loyer both in Simca-Gordini T15’s in May with Sommer’s Ferrari winning at Aix-les-Bains later that month from a swarm of Simca-Gordinis- Simon, Trintigant, Brabnca, Aldo Gordini and Roberto Mieres.

Trintignant won the GP des Nations at Geneva in July from Simon’s T15 ahead of Serafini’s Scuderia Ferrari 166F2/50. Manzon was victorious at Mettet, Belgium winning the Grandee Trophee Entre Sambre et Meuse- he was in front of Stirling Moss and Lance Macklin aboard HWM-Alta’s.

Manzon and Andre Simon were 1-2 at Perigeux ahead of Moss in September to round out a successful F2 season for the team.

Bira aboard the OSCA V12 (or pethaps more correctly Maserati 4CLT Osca V12) during the Silverstone 1952 British GP weekend, F Libre support race. He was 9th, the race won by Piero Taruffi in Tony Vandervell’s Ferrari 375 Thin Wall Spl (Getty)

Nye states that Amedee was well aware of the need for more competitive equipment and as early as 1949 designed, with the assistance of an ex-Bugatti engineer named Piquetto, who headed up his small design office, an unsupercharged 4.5 litre V12 and de Dion rear suspension/transaxle assembly which was later sold to the Maserati brothers- the Osca V12 of 1951 was the result.

Bira’s car was his old Maserati 4CLT to which the V12 was inserted, this car came to Australia with the Thai Prince’s Maserati 250F in 1955- his performance in the Gnoo Blas 1955 South Pacific Championship is a stretch too far in this article.

Two bespoke OSCA V12 F1 cars were built, they featured twin-tube chassis frames, coil and wishbone front suspension and a de Dion rear sprung by torsion bars- both were converted to sportscars in period.

Whilst the Simca board rejected Amedee’s V12 Project they did back development of a twin-cam 1.5 litre F2 engine. This 78×78 mm bore/stroke ‘square’, six main bearing four breathed through two 35mm Solex carbs and gave 96-105bhp dependent upon alcohol/petrol fuel. Camshaft mountings were the designs shortcoming in that first season.

(unattributed)

JM Fangio, Simca Gordini T15 leads Nino Farina, Maserati 4CLT/48 during the Paris GP, Bois de Boulogne in May 1951.

The great man won his first world drivers championship title that year aboard Alfa Romeo 159 Alfettas but failed to finish that weekend, out with valve troubles after 49 of 125 laps- Farina won.

Best result that year in non-championship GP events was Trintignant’s win in the GP de l’Albigeois- Albi in August aboard a T15.

In F2/Voiturette events Jean Thepenier won the Coupe Rene Larroque at Marseilles in April in a T15 and Johnny Claes the GP des Frontieres at Chimay in a T11- he won both heats. The Ferrari 166F2/50 continued to be the quickest car with the Simca-Gordini’s often best of the rest- Manzon was second to Marzotto at the GP de Rouen.

Reims 1951 French GP vista. The Gordini contingent was #36 Aldo Gordini T11, #32 Trintignant, #34 Simon and #30 Manzon in T15’s- all DNF engine sadly. Fagioli won in an Alfetta 159 (Getty)

Manzon headed a 1-3 for Gordini at Mettet, Belgium in July- Manzon, Simon, Trintignant ahead of Moss in an HWM-Alta. Similarly Gordini took first to fourth places at Les Sables d’Olonne in July- Simon from Manzon, Behra and Trintignant with another 1-3 at the Circuit de Cadours in September- Trintignant, Manzon, Behra in T15/T15/T11.

In a year of shocking reliability in both non-championship and championship Grands Prix Andre Simon’s sixth at Monza- 6 laps in arrears of Ascari’s winning Ferrari 375 is perhaps indicative of the performance gulf between a big team and a small one probably trying to prepare too many cars with the available resources.

The F2/Voiturette results are a complete contrast with perhaps the 1500cc DOHC supercharged four simply being pushed way beyond its limits to compete with far more sophisticated equipment in Grand Prix racing.

The 1952 season was covered in the first section of this article.

(Getty)

Behra, Gordini T16, GP de Modena, Modena September 1953.

Jean awaits the off but he was a DNF after piston failure on the first lap. Fangio won in a Maserati A6GCM- the best of the Gordini’s Trintignant’s fourth place in another T16.

Maurice had a win at the GP des Frontieres, Chimay in May and Behra a heat win at Aix-les-Baines during the Circuit du Lac weekend in July- both Maurice and Jean won heats of the GP de Sables d’Olonne at Sables d’Olonne in August but Louis Rosier’s Ferrari 500 won on aggregate.

Trintignant won the Circuit de Cadours at Cadours from Harry Schell in a Gordini T16 1-2 in late August.

The 1954 to 1957 seasons are covered in the first section of this article…

So, what do we make of Gordini’s enormous contribution to motor racing?

I don’t pretend to be a master of the subject at all but a few things stick out.

First and foremost he was a racer to the core in thought, word and deed. Everything he did in his adult life was about finding the resources to win the next race or build the next car- racing was everything to him.

Those who can race, are intuitive engineers and build the machines we all aspire to are a very special breed.

Post-war he was there at the start- at the Bois de Boulogne in September 1945 and then building new cars to contribute to the grids particularly in France and Europe. He aided and abetted the careers of all the drivers mentioned throughout this piece.

He fought in the first war, survived through the second as an employer of over 100 men and then sustained a business in racing for well over a decade before taking a key role as Renault’s performance arm.

Mighta-beens include what he could have done with a slightly bigger budget from Simca. What if he could have extracted more performance from his twin-cam 2 and 2.5 litre sixes?- what if he could have fitted independent suspension to his T16?- what if his 4.5 litre V12 was built circa 1951?, let alone getting the T32 onto the grids in late 1954 rather than late 1955.

He achieved more than most of us could manage in several lifetimes, of that let us all be thankful.

 

Etcetera: Other Photographs…

 

 

Robert Manzon #20 Gordini T16 surrounded by the #6 Castellotti and #4 Trintignant Ferrari 555’s and #16 Mieres Maserati 250F 1955 Dutch Grand Prix. Fangio won from Moss in Merc W196, Manzon DNF (B Cahier)

 

Le Mans 1953.

The second placed Moss/Walker Jaguar C Type, Kling/Riess Alfa Romeo 6C3000CM, Behra/Lucas Gordini T24S and one of the Aston Martin DB3S’. Must be some artistic licence here as the Behra/Lucas Gordini did not start either as a ‘race reserve’ or because of suspension trouble depending upon your reference. Wonderful George Hamel illustration.

Gordini T32

 

If Google translate did its thing properly, in 1950 a young writer named Pierre Fisson followed the Gordini team throughout the year and ‘recounted the existence of semi-nomads in the perennial race for start and finish bonuses in “The Princes of Tumult”, a novel reportage.’ I imagine its a fascinating book?

Robert Manzon, Gordini T32, Goodwood 1956

Robert Manzon, Gordini T32 before the Glover Trophy at Goodwood in April 1956.

He was sixth in the straight-8, Moss the winner from Savadori’s similar Maserati 250F with Les Leston’s Connaught B Type third.

Period Englebert tyres ad featuring the T32

 

Promotion of the 1935 Bol d’Or results

 

Translation welcome…

 

(unattributed)

Jean Behra contested the 1953 Carrera Panamericana in a Gordini T24S.

He was disqualified for finishing out of time as was teammate Jean Lucas who ran a T16S. Fangio/Bronzini won in a works Lancia D24 from the similar cars of Taruffi/Maggio and Castellotti/Luoni.

(unattributed)

 

(leroux.andre.free.fr)

Behra’s April 1954 Pau GP win being celebrated by Amedee, Jean and the rest of the team.

Jean qualified sixth and then proceeded to win the race in celebrated fashion ahead of the works Ferrari 625’s, Roberto Mieres Maserati A6GCM and others in his little T16.

(Michael Turner)

Michael Turner portrays Jean in front of Froilan Ganzalez’ Ferrari 625 (DNF crankshaft) and Harry Schell’s Maser A6GCM (DNF rear axle). Behra won from Trintignant’s Ferrari 625 and Mieres’ Maserati.

 

Did Amedee ever wear overalls!?

He seems immaculately dressed in a suit at the circuits and in most of his dyno sessions, as here in 1957.

Gordini’s as far as the eye can see. 1948 Coupes des Petites Cylindrees, Reims July 1948.

#26 R Sommer, #42 Igor Troubetsky and #28 Ferdinando Righetti all in Ferrari 166SC. #6 JM Fangio, #2 JP Wimille, #4 H Schell and #16 Unidentified in Gordini T15’s. #22 is Roger Loyer in a Meteor BMW.

Sommer won the 202 km race from Righetti both in Ferrari 166SC and Eugene Chaboud, Meteore BMW.

 

Theo Page’ cutaway drawing of a T16.

 

By the Numbers…

Gordini built 3 Fiat and 5 Simca based cars pre-war. Post-war he constructed 32 or 32’ish chassis.

T11 ‘GC1’ ‘1100cc formula car’ was the first Gordini designed chassis built in 1946. 5 of these were constructed in 1946/7, the T15 which followed was in essence a shorter chassis T11. Most of ths T11’s were modified or upgraded to become T15’s which were mostly of 1490cc in capacity. T15’s were often converted into sportscars, making them T18’s…

Each of the 32 cars had a chassis number more or less in order of construction- the letter ‘S’ after the chassis number indicated a sportscar. The engines had type numbers as well with the 1490cc T15 the most common fitment.

There is a book ‘Amedee Gordini: A True Racing Legend’ written by Roy Smith in recent years, I don’t have it but it looks the goods having been critically acclaimed by most reviewers- it is on my purchase list, highly recommended.

Gordini Types are as follows;

Extracted from a combination of Doug Nye’s ‘History of The Grand Prix Car’ and Roy Smith’s ‘Principal List of Studies of the Gordini Company’ from 1946 to 1957- any errors of interpretation are mine.

1946 T11  single-seater. 1100cc, 1221cc and 1433cc

1948 T15  single-seater. 1500cc and others

1950 T16  single-seater. 2 litre F2/F1 fitted with T20 DOHC six

1952 T16S  sportscar. Sports version of T16 chassis

1953 T17S  sportscar. Sports version of T15 chassis

1950 T18S sportscar. T15 chassis with T16 rear suspension

1952 T20 single-seater. T16 chassis, T20 engine

1952 T20S sports coupe. T15S chassis with T20 engine

1952 T23S sportscar. T15S chassis with T22 engine- 2.3 litre six

1953 T24S sportscar. T24S chassis with T24 engine- 3 litre straight-eight

1952 T26S sportscar. T16S chassis with T23 engine- 2.5 litre six

1954 T31S sportscar. T15S chassis and T23 engine- 2.5 litre six

1954 T32 single seater. F1 car with T25 engine- 2.5 litre straight-eight

Gordini Build Years are as follows;

1946 Two T11’s chassis ’01’ and ’02GC’

1947 Four T11’s chassis ’03’, ’04’, ’05’ and ’06GC’. One T15 prototype ’07GC’ and one Mille Milles sports prototype ’01GCS’

1948 One Mille Milles sports ’02GCS’ and two T15’s ’08’ and ’09GC’

1949 Four T15’s- ’11’, ’12’, ’14’ and ’15GC’. Note that the first three of these cars were converted to sportscars in 1952. Four T15S sportscars, chassis ’16’, ’17’, ’18’ and ’19GCS’

1950 One T15 ’22GC’ and two T15S sports, chassis ’20’ and ’21S’

1951 None built, this was the year of Simca’s financial withdrawal

1952 Four T16’s, chassis ’31’, ’32’, ’33’ and ’34’. Four T15S sports- three converted T15’s, as noted above, ’16S’, ’17S’ and ’18S’ converted from ’11GC’, ’12GC’ and ’14GC’. The other, numbered ’18S’ was ex chassis T11 ‘4GC’

1953 Two T15S, chassis ’18’ and ’39’, two T24S chassis ’36S’ and ’37S’, one T16S chassis ’38S’ and one T16 single-seater chassis ’35’

1954 One car- T15S chassis ’43’ converted from 1949 chassis ’18GCS’

1955 Two T32 F1 cars- chassis ’41’ and ’42’

1956 None

1957 One T15S chassis ’44’ a conversion of 1949 chassis ’16GCS’

The boss at Reims during the French GP weekend in 1954

Bibliography…

8W Forix article by Mattijs Diepraam and Felix Muelas, ‘Pre-War Gordinis and Simca Huits’ by Pete Vack in velocetoday.com, ‘The History of The Grand Prix Car’ Doug Nye, ‘Amedee Gordini: A True Racing Legend’ Roy Smith, F2Index, oldracingcars.com

Photo Credits…

Getty Images photographers Roger Viollet, Bernard Cahier, Maurice Jarnoux and Klemantaski, Graham Gauld Collection, Michael Turner, LAT, Renault, Fiat

Tailpiece: Robert Manzon, Gordini T16, Monaco 1956…

Robert failed to finish after failing brakes caused an accident on lap 91.

Finito…

ascari

(Le Tellier)

Tonino Ascari attends a race-drivers school at Monza, 3 May 1966…

Tonino was the son of 1952-3 World Champion Alberto Ascari and grandson of pre-war great Antonio Ascari, here pictured with his dad at Modena in November 1953.

ascari and son

(Keystone)

 

ascari smiling

Tonino Ascari, Monza 1966

Inevitably the lure of racing with such a background is strong…

In 1960, aged 18- 5 years after Alberto’s death at Monza in a Ferrari sports-car testing accident Tonino’s mother sent him to work for Jaguar at Coventry to learn English.

He returned to Milan and was employed in Gigi Villoresi’s Innocenti-Mini Agency, he then became involved in the construction of FJ 1 litre cars incuding Stanguellini and Foglietti.

In August 1963, upon turning 21, he inherited some money and drove a Formula Junior belonging to Angelo Dagrada at Monza. By October he was at the Vallelunga race school driving a 2.5 litre Ferrari, a month later Tonino was at Modena taking lessons in a 2 litre Cooper-Maserati sportscar owned by his father’s old rival, Piero Taruffi, whose idea it was to create a small stable of young pilots- Scuderia Centro-Sud. Also taking lessons at the time was Farina’s nephew.

Ascari in the Foglietti Ford in 1964, circuit unknown (f3history)

 

Ascari, Foglietti Ford, Monza during the 28 June 1964 GP Lotteria di Monza weekend- DNQ (unattributed)

Ascari ‘had just one season of serious racing’, on April 15 1964 Enzo Vigorelli announced that Tonino would race a Foglietti-Holbay F3 car for two years for Scuderia Madunina.

In 1964 he was entered at Monza in a Foglietti, a ‘Brabhamesque’ spaceframe car on 7 May for DNA and on 28 June at the ‘Monza Lotteria’, DNQ. He was twelfth at Monza’s ‘Coppa del Autodromo’ on 27 September 1964, Geki Russo won this race in a de-Sanctis Ford.

ascari pushing car

In 1966 Ascari raced a self entered Lotus Ford (the car shown perhaps) at Monza in the Trofeo Vigorelli on 1 May, DNQ and the same car a week later in the GP del Garda, at Garda again DNQ- that seems to be the end of his racing.

‘The pressure to live up to the family name, his mother keen for him to quit and a dislike of his sponsors desire to exploit the Ascari name, led to him quitting’ wrote historicracing.com.

ascari walking

Born 2 August 1942 in Milan, he died of cardio-respiratory problems in Gazzada Schianno on 24 August 2008.

La Gazzetta dello Sport reported Tonino’s death on 25 August 2008 and wrote that ‘he spent his life in the motor world in FJ and F3, then motocross. A great friend of Mario Andretti, a supporter of his father, he was among the partners of Hiro, which produced cross-country engines and followed the family tradition of car dealership, two weeks ago he participated in an historic rally at the Nurburgring.’

ascari in queue

Credits…

Phillippe Le Tellier, historicracing.com, La Gazzetto della Sport

Tailpiece…

ascari in car

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

Oscar Cesar ‘Cacho’ Fangio, left, with Tonino at Monza in 1966.

Fangio, in an extensive racing career did some F3 racing in Europe in 1966, this is perhaps the Monza Lotteria meeting on 26 June when Fangio was thirteenth in a Charles Lucas Brabham BT15 Ford- one place behind Frank Willams Brabham BT15. Up-front Jonathon Williams won in a de-Sanctis Ford on his way to a Ferrari ride.

Fangio and his girlfriend Andreaina Berruet, with whom he broke up in 1960, had a son, Oscar Cesar Espinosa.

‘Yeah-yeah, I’ll close the dunny-lid next time Babe!’ Andreaina and JMF @ Reims in 1957- he won the French GP in a Maserati 250F (Getty)

Whilst close to Oscar for some time the relationship between father and son soured in the years prior to JMF’s death in 1995. He was acknowledged, after exhumation of JMF’s body, as Fangio’s son by an Argentinian court in December 2015.

For the sake of completeness, Ruben Vazquez born four years after Espinosa to another woman was also recognised by the same court as Fangio’s son.

(unattributed)

‘Cacho’ Fangio and Chas Lucas Brabham BT10 Ford Cosworth F3 during the 1966 Argentinian Temporada Series, he was seventh overall, his best  placing third in the final round, the series won by Charlie Crichton-Stuart’s BT10.

And below with JMF lending his support.

(unattributed)

Finito…

One of the things that attracts Lotus fans to the marque is the elegant simplicity of Chapman’s cars…

My Elise S1 was born long after Col’s death but the brand essence he established pervades Hethel’s hallowed halls to the present.

The Twelve has to be the ultimate in that respect, its simple elegance, size and weight are amazing alongside a Dino 246 or even a Cooper T41/43 of 1957/8.

Many have thought the miniscule cigar of a machine was a GP winner in 1958 fitted with a 2.5 FPF sans dodgy ‘Queerbox’- Cliff Allison was a Belgian Grand Prix winner that year so equipped? Its size is partially a function of its F2 original intent- the Sixteen, its successor is big by comparison.

Of course Moss would have belted everybody in a 2.5 FPF engined T43 in 1958 too- albeit Cooper had its own gearbox problem to solve to allow success.

 

Allison hooks his 12 into La Source early in the Spa weekend, no #40 decal on the car yet

The opening shot is the Team Lotus lads fixing a gearbox problem at Zandvoort in 1958.

Note the bungee cord affixed ‘knee’ fuel tank and chassis repair to the vertical tube which drops from the ‘dash which has been carried out away from Hornsey.

Cliff Allison was sixth that late May weekend from Q11 and Graham Hill a DNF with engine dramas from Q13. Moss’ Vanwall won from Harry Schell and Jean Behra in BRM P25’s- perhaps the circuit suited the BRM’s, Jo Bonnier took the marques first championship victory in the Dutch dunes twelve months hence.

Team Lotus made their F1 debut in Monaco the week before so Allison’s sixth- just outside the points in those days was impressive.

Even more so was Cliff’s fourth in chassis ‘357’ at Spa- the most supreme of power circuits of course.

The 2.2 litre Lotus qualified twelfth and finished behind the Brooks Vanwall, Hawthorn Dino and Lewis-Evans Vanwall but ahead of four other 2.5 litre cars- he was timed at 167 mph on the Masta Straight.

OK, there were nine race retirements but it was a mega performance all the same and its said that none of the three cars in front of him would have completed another lap- had the race been a tad longer perhaps Lotus would have taken their first GP victory in the third such event they contested, but ’twas not to be.

Cliff parlayed his performances in 1958 into a works Ferrari drive in 1959 of course. An underrated driver I reckon.

Allison hiking an inside front right at very high Spa speed 1958- famously fourth ‘behind three cars which could not have completed another lap’. Cliff used Teams 2207 cc FPF in this race which was good for 194 bhp @ 6250 rpm

Mechanical Gubbins…

The late John Ross was popular with Team Lotus, he was given great access to the factory throughout the fifties as Chapman’s eponymous marque became more ambitious with each successive project.

The photo below and the one of the rear of the chassis were taken on a visit by John to Hornsey in November 1956. This is the first 12 chassis built- ‘301’ which was constructed by Frank Coleman at the Progress Chassis Company opposite Stan Chapman’s pub, the Railway Hotel in Tottenham Lane, Hornsey, North London. Progress were the chassis supplier of choice for some years.

(J Ross)

 

Press launch at Lotus/Railway Hotel, Hornsey, October 1956. Note the famous ‘Wobbly Web’ cast magnesium alloy wheels first designed for the 12 but used well into the sixties (J Ross)

The prototype, clothed in its Frank Costin designed body was then assembled into a complete machine for the London Motor Show held at Earls Court between October 17-27 1956 by Colin, Mike Costin and John Lambert working to a very tight deadline.

It was shown to the press at a Lotus works function albeit the engine was an incomplete mock-up of the new 1475cc Coventry Climax F2 engine and ‘its all new Lotus transaxle was just a wooden maquette’ wrote Doug Nye. The engine in production form gave 141 bhp @ 7300 rpm on F2 regulation 100 octane fuel and weighed 280 pounds.

1475 cc Coventry Climax FPF aboard ‘353’ at Motorclassica in 2018. Those Webers are sand cast 40DCO3’s (M Bisset)

This show car ‘was never man enough to be raced’ as its joint welds had been ground away so much for display purposes there was barely enough weld left to hold the thing together. After some years at the Montagu Museum at Beaulieu it is part of the Chapman Family Collection.

Bernard Cahier’s shot below is of Graham Hill’s car, chassis ‘353’ during the 1958 Monaco GP weekend, I covered this important Lotus weekend in an article i wrote a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2016/11/29/cliff-allison-lotus-12-and-the-mid-engined-revolution-1958/

At Monaco GP 1958- both cars raced that weekend were fitted with 1960 cc FPF’s which gave 176 bhp @ 6500 rpm, note the twin-throat SU’s. Car is Hill’s ‘353’

The photograph below shows the beautifully designed and fabricated spaceframe chassis, de-Dion tube, and its locating links fore and aft. Inboard discs and calipers, Lotus ‘Queerbox’ mock-up, only the coil springs are missing.

Two de-Dion cars were built, ‘301’ and ‘351’, definitive spec 12’s were fitted with Chapman’s stunning, simple and effective ‘Chapman Strut’ suspension. Note that ‘351’ was converted to strut specifications.

(J Ross)

 

‘353’ with a focus on its perky little rump and particularly its Chapman Strut rear suspension (M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

The 12 was Chapman’s second single-seater design, the first was a project for Tony Vandervell to design the 1956 Vanwall chassis- it and its successors were rather competitive cars, winner of the 1958 International Cup for F1 Manufacturers.

The Lotus chassis was made of 1 inch 20 gauge tube, the bottom rails used aircraft spec Reynolds 531 material. Curved inch square cross-members linked the main longerons, whilst the upper rails were of inch round 20 gauge linked by similar sized verticals to the lower members. All triangulation was by 3/4 inch tube. The undertray was attached rigidly to the bottom bay to aid stiffness, the spaceframe itself weighed 47 pounds complete with all brackets.

(M Bisset)

Front suspension is by upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/damper units.

Or perhaps more accurately a wide based lower wishbone, single top link and sway bar which also performed locational duties. A classic case of Chapman minimalism or getting something to do two purposes.

Australian Lotus 12 Connection…

I’d finished a nice neato-quickie article to the point above and then thought, hang on a minute, there is a nice Australian connection to a couple of these cars in that ‘351’ was brought to Australia by crop-duster pilot/business owner Ern Tadgell in 1958 and Frank Gardner imported the ex-Gee Hill ‘353’ in 1961.

Both are still in Australia too, so lets head off in that direction, a 500 word exercise has turned into a 7000 word feature mind you.

‘351’ was named ‘Sabakat’ as a ruse to keep the Australian Federal Fiscal Fiends (Australian Taxation Office) from imposing duty on the car imported by Tadgell in the hold of a Percival EP.9 crop-duster he and his friend, business partner and fellow racer Austin Miller brought back to Australia. In similar fashion, Aussies ‘Miller Special’ which occupied the hold in another EP.9 piloted by Austin, was in reality a Cooper T41 Climax.

Sabakat was raced by Ern for two years powered by the Climax FPF 1.5 engine before the motor blew in a reasonably big way. He sought to improve the 12’s pace by fitment of a 7.6 litre Lycoming aircraft engine in an act of mechanical butchery- in the sense that the conversion was a back of the paddock, crude, blacksmith’s exercise.

It was comprehensively burned to a corn-chip in an accident during the AGP weekend at Lowood, Queensland in 1960.

Ern Tadgell In ‘351’ or Sabakat at, still 1.5 CC FPF powered (autopics.com.au)

Unsuccessful in his endeavours to acquire the ex-Hill ‘353’ circa 1970 racer/historian Graham Howard created a replica of Sabakat with the assistance of many of his friends and contacts, most notably Tony Caldersmith who fabricated the chassis and brought the project together.

Whilst Graham is sadly no longer with us ‘Sabakat’ still is- every time I see that car I am reminded of that kind, decent man and uber-enthusiast. This car has been well chronicled over the years not least by Graham himself in Australian ‘Sports Car World’ magazine eons ago.

‘353’s history is covered in even greater detail as the current owner for many years, Adelaide’s Mike Bennett, obtained so much information in the process of researching the car he wrote a limited edition book about it- ‘Lotus 12 Chassis No 353: The History’ no doubt some of you have a copy (I don’t).

Lets focus on ‘353’ initially, Sabakat is in many ways the more interesting story, we will come back to it later on.

Mike Bennett picks things up- ‘353 is one of the two cars which took part in Lotus’ first GP at Monaco in 1958 where it was driven by Graham Hill, the other Lotus 12, chassis ‘357’,  was driven by Cliff Allison. Graham went on to drive ‘353’ at the Dutch and Belgian GP before he moved over to the Lotus 16. These Monaco cars survive today after they both spent many years unused and in storage.’

‘353’ was a 1957 build car, the very first race for of a 12 was Cliff Allison’s Lavant Cup entry on 22 April 1957, he was classified seventh in the race won by Tony Brooks Cooper T41 Climax FWB.

The Twelves missed the following British Silverstone, Brands and Snetterton meetings in April/May but Herbert MacKay-Fraser raced ‘351’ to second place behind Jack Brabham’s Cooper T43 FPF at Brands on 9 June.

Hill in ‘353’ Goodwood, Easter Monday 1958

‘353’ first raced (using the F2 Index as my reference source- it is probably more up to date than some of the books I have I suspect) in the BRDC International Trophy meeting at Silverstone on 14 September. Both Allison and Henry Taylor drove it in the heats with Allison retiring in the final.

Hill raced it in the Woodcote Cup at Silverstone in late September for fifth place- Roy Salvadori won from Brabham, both aboard works Cooper T43’s with Allison third in ‘357’.

The 5 October Oulton Park International Gold Cup was an F2 event in 1957, Brabham and Allison were first and second with Hill eleventh in ‘353’.

Over the Winter ‘353’ and ‘357’ were prepared for an assault on the 1958 Grand Prix season primarily by changing the 1.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF with engines of 2 litres in capacity. It would be some while yet until Climax invested in a 2.5 litre version of a motor which became iconic. With a lot of work the Lotus sequential ‘Queerbox’ was gaining some semblance of reliability led by Keith Duckworth, we will come back to that in a little bit.

Before the commencement of the 1958 European Championship season in Monaco- Moss took an historic mid-engined victory in Rob Walkers Cooper T43 Climax at Buenos Aires in mid-January, Hill and Allison raced their Twelves in several non-championship F1 events in the UK.

The first was the F2 Lavant Cup at Goodwood where Hill and Allison were second and third behind Brabham’s Cooper T43. During the same 7 April meeting they also raced in the F1/F2 Glover Trophy- a DNF for Hill in ‘353’ and fourth place for Cliff in ‘357’ behind Hawthorn’s Ferrari Dino 246 and the works Cooper T45 Climaxes of Brabham and Salvadori.

At the BARC 200 at Aintree on 19 April Hill was seventh and Allison eighth and at the BRDC International Trophy Meeting at Silverstone on 3 May Hill was eighth and Cliff sixth in ‘353’ and ‘357’ respectively.

Some days prior to 18 May, the Lotus entourage headed off in the direction of the famous Principality.

Graham settles himself into ‘353’ whilst Roy Salvadori, Cooper T45 Climax comes past. Silverstone, BRDC Intl Trophy 3 May 1958 (J Ross)

At Monaco Allison was sixth in ‘357’ and Hill, DNF engine as he was in both the two following rounds at Zandvoort and Spa- Allison was sixth and fourth. Graham had shocking reliability issues in 1958- worse was to come in 1959 mind you!

At Reims both Lotus’ had engine dramas and did not finish albeit Graham raced a Lotus 16, as he did for the balance of the season. He raced ‘353’ in the F2 support race but failed to finish in the Coupe International de Vitesse won by Jean Behra’s converted Porsche RSK.

Hill’s best result amongst a shocker of a season reliability wise was sixth at Monza whereas Cliff’s Q5 at Aintree for the British GP was fantastic toting 2 litres and seventh at Monza were his best, in addition to the Spa result. It was a corker of an F1 debut year, without doubt Cliff proved both how fast he and the 12 were.

Cliff Allison looks on at left, and Colin Chapman at right as Graham sets off for some practice laps in ‘353’

 

Hill In ‘353’ ahead of Tom Bridger, Cooper Climax during the French GP F2 support race, GH car may be ‘352’ (LAT)

 

Hill In ‘353’ during the Monaco weekend. Note front upper and lower wishbone suspension and Girling disc brakes- outboard front and inboard at the rear

After Hill started to race the Lotus 16, chassis ‘353’ was put to one side of the Hornsey workshop but was soon sold to John Fisher in Portsmouth, he engaged a number of drivers to race the car in 1958.

I don’t know much about Mr Fisher but he was a motor-cycle and car dealer based in Portsmouth and became one of a rare breed- F1 private entrant in that he fielded a Lotus 16 for Bruce Halford to race in many championship and non-championship events throughout 1959. The 12 seems to have been a ‘toe in the water’ exercise for the ‘John Fisher Equipe’ as he named his team. At least one source suggests he was Lord Mayor of Bristol later but I can find no hard evidence to support this- I am intrigued to know more about Fisher if any of you can oblige.

Maurice Michy raced ‘353’ in the F2 Trophee d’Auvergne at Clermont Ferrand in late July 1958 and Bruce Halford ran it at the Brands Hatch Boxing Day meeting.

No less than Maria Teresa di Filippis was entered at Syracuse in late April 1959- Stirling Moss won the F2 IX Gran Premio di Siracusa in a Rob Walker Cooper T43 Borgward from Jean Behra’s works Ferrari 156 and Jack Brabham’s Cooper T45 Climax, di Filippis was out with an oil leak after completing 10 of the races 55 laps.

Crystal Palace’s London Trophy was raced to F2 rules in 1959, Bruce Halford raced ‘353’ again without success, he had an undisclosed mechanical problem which outted the car after 20 laps- Salvadori’s Cooper T43 Climax won.

Bruce Halford aboard ‘353’ at Brands on Boxing Day 1958. Mike Hawthorn looks on. Mike has less than a month to live, he died on 22 January 1959 (J Ross)

In 1959 Frank Gardner arrived in the UK from Australia, buying the car from John after a demonstration by Bruce Halford.

After a few brief outings it was shipped back to Australia in 1960 where it has been ever since. Whilst John Blanden claims Gardner raced the car in the UK I have found no evidence in terms of published race results to support that, but it is entirely plausible that he tested it. ‘It lay unused for some 27 years in New South Wales due to a failed crown wheel and pinion which is unique to the car. My friend Don Asser and I acquired the car in (the annual Adelaide Grand Prix auction) in 1991 and we returned it to its former glory over four years’ wrote Mike Bennett.

Frank Gardner had been running the Mobil Service Station at Whale Beach, a superb place on the northern end of Sydney’s Barrenjoey Peninsula (the stretch from Manly to Palm Beach in simple terms) with ‘Len Deaton calling around to put fuel in his motorbike and a friendship grew. It seems that Len funded the process of getting them all to the UK’, that is Frank, Len and his wife Veda and children Rik and Ti.

Frank, with a strong track-record in Australia in his C and D Type Jaguars did rather well in the UK but in the early days he was just another youthful (but not what you would call young) racer from The Antipodes trying to make his way in a much bigger pond than the one he left in Australia.

FG and Rik Deaton running amok, possibly Mallory Park (L Deaton)

 

FG at work in the ex-Allison/Team Lotus transporter, place unknown (L Deaton)

 

FG services the transporter supervised by Chief Mechanics Ric and Ti Deaton (L Deaton)

Along the way they acquired the ex-Team Lotus transporter not from Lotus but from John Campbell-Jones at the ‘Cornwall Garage and Engineering Co’ who had bought it from Lotus earlier.

‘The unit had originally been built by Cliff Allison, probably using a bus from the family business in Cumbria and taken with him when he joined Lotus. The swing-out crane on the side was Cliff’s way of being able to lift out engines etc at circuits.’

In time honoured fashion, part of the business model of Australian racers from John Snow pre-war to Alan Jones and beyond was to acquire competitive, or thereabouts, racing cars in the UK and ship them home to Australia to a scene which was not quite as hot as that in Europe. In that process valuable cash was raised to keep the racer afloat for season in Europe.

And so it was that the Leaton’s and FG bought three cars- the 12, a Lotus Eleven and a Cooper FJ- the latter ‘in fact was an ex-Rob Walker 2 litre Climax car raced raced by Moss and converted back to FJ before sale’ Bennett’s research found.

All three cars made their way to Australia- the 11 and 12 are still here whereas the Cooper ended up in the US.

The photo of the Lotus 18’s on the way to the docks below is taken with the SheppErton Film Studios behind the wall. On a trip in 2010 Bennett managed to find the exact spot from the the passing road and glimpsed the block of flats, the only difference with the elapse of fifty years being the satellite dishes attached to the abodes!

(L Deaton)

During 1960 Gardner was racing Lotus 18 Formula Juniors supported by Jim Russell’s school, I am sure the proprietor didn’t notice the missing company truck for a few hours to deal with FG’s commerce to keep his racing career afloat. Isn’t it a wonderful shot to show what it took in those days?

In 1960 Frank Gardner raced a Cooper T52 Ford Formula Junior and in 1960 a Lotus 20 Ford entered by the Jim Russell School, Deaton and his family returned to Australia setting about selling the three cars.

The Twelve was advertised for 2200 pounds, eventually selling to Joe Hills in July 1962 who removed the Climax engine. Later that year it was sold to a partnership of Ian Stewart and David Conlon who fitted a 1500 Ford engine- in 1963 it reverted to the sole ownership of David Conlon who retained it, running it on only several occasions when driven by Garry Berman until 1967.

That year David Holyoake acquired it and retained it all the way through until 1991. ‘For many years the car was stored in his Camden, NSW tyre store surviving with its original chassis, alloy bodywork, suspension, radiator, 5-speed sequential gearbox, fibreglass fuel tank in the tail, wheels, seat etc.’

Back to Mike Bennett.

‘During the painting process we discovered the ‘No 2′ centre punched in all the body panels which identified the car (with the assistance of ex-works mechanic Willie Griffiths) as the one driven by Denis Jenkinson on public roads in Hampshire on Christmas Day in 1957.’

‘This secret jaunt started from The Phoenix Hotel in Hartley Wintney and was witnessed by Colin Chapman, Bill Boddy and Merv Therriault. Merv, a Canadian mechanic at Team Lotus had nothing better on offer for Christmas Day than to go to The Phoenix and start up and warm up the car ready for Denis to drive.’

‘Inevitably, of course the car broke down with a lucky family having a surprise visitor over Xmas lunch when Jenkinson sought the use of a phone to alert the Lotus lads to an inert Lotus. In a wonderful touch Merv, now 83, is coming over from Vancouver to mechanic on the car’ in Mikes Goodwood Festival of Speed run in 2012.

‘The car driven by Cliff Allison at Mallory for MotorSport was in fact chassis ‘359’ the ex Ivor Bueb car not his ‘old-banger’ chassis ‘357’ which is now being raced in the UK by Nick Rossi. Chassis ‘357’ lay dismantled for many years’ in a mixture of Aldershot, just adjacent to the north-east of Farnham, and the village of Bentley, nearby to the west wrote a combination of Bennett and Doug Nye.

Mike Bennett continues in relation to ‘353’‘…Gary Berman was involved with the car, he drove it for David Conlon, the owner at the time. David had the car when he operated the BP service station in Silverwater, Sydney…Regarding the use of an MGA gearbox, to clarify this, two Lotus 12 cars came to Australia, #351 and #353.’

‘#351 had it survived (in original form) would have been a real piece of Lotus history, it was the first Lotus single-seater to turn a wheel’ as the second 12 built. It was fitted with a 1.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF (F2) engine as all Twelves originally were but the Queerbox had not been finished because the ZF gears were delayed.’

As a consequence ‘351’ was fitted with an MG Magnette gearbox attached to the engine with a stepped-down special rear diff in the tail- a BMC B Series differential inside a Lotus casing with a specially made three gear 1:1 transfer case to lower the driveline under the driver’s seat. All of the later cars had the five speed Lotus Queerbox.’

Chapman in amongst it July 1957- two 12’s in front of him, 6 built in 1956 and a similar number in 1957 (J Ross)

 

Chapman tests ‘351’ at Silverstone in March 1957 (G Goddard)

 

Team Lotus Lotus 12 ‘351’ March 1957 Silverstone test session- standing are Chapman, Ron Flockhart and Graham Hill, kneeling left is Willie Griffiths whilst Mike Costin is in the cap on the right. 351’ still fitted with de Dion rear suspension at this early stage (G Goddard)

#351 was Lotus’ first test bed’. The car was the chassis run during the very first test at Silverstone on 11 March 1957 attended by Mike Costin, Graham Hill, Willie Griffiths and Colin Chapman, the car was driven that day by the chief and Hill.

Chapman and Herbert MacKay Fraser were entered in ‘351’ at the Lavant Cup, Goodwood in April but failed to start. MacKay-Fraser was second to Jack Brabham in the BRSCC F2 race at Brands in June but missed the final of the London Trophy at Crystal Palace as the transmission failed in his heat- that 10 June meeting appears to be the ‘351’s last in the UK.

Its intriguing why, at that stage of the game Ern Tadgell chose a Lotus rather than a Cooper but perhaps his choice was around personal preference rather than the way the wind appeared to be blowing in terms of the competitiveness of mid-engine cars.

Coopers had made a huge impact in Australia- both air and water cooled, Jack Brabham won the 1955 Australian Grand Prix at Port Wakefield, South Australia in the Cooper T40 Bristol he knocked together quickly enough to make his Championship GP debut at Aintree during the 1955 British GP.

‘It (351) was sold ‘new’ to Ern Tadgell…and imported into Australia in the belly of a cropdusting aircraft which somehow bypassed a few customs officers- thereafter it was known as Sabakat. After blowing its (Climax) engine it was fitted with a Lycoming aircraft engine, crashing and burning at Lowood, Queensland in 1960’ during the Australian Grand Prix carnival in a preliminary race.

‘It was totally destroyed, however, Graham Howard, with the skills of Tony Caldersmith, made a replica of Sabakat…#353 always had its 5-speed sequential gearbox but when the crown-wheel and pinion failed and could not be replaced, an attempt was made in David Holyoake’s ownership to fit a VW gearbox transaxle in the tail, but its installation was never completed’ wrote Mike Bennett.

(M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

‘The gearbox for the Lotus 12 was a unique design and a major challenge for Lotus.’

‘It was a five-speed sequential gearbox with a reverse. The hard steel components for the gearbox were made for Lotus by ZF in Germany. In fact Keith Duckworth’s first overseas visit was to ZF to oversee the ZF component’s manufacture. The gearbox was also used in early Lotus 15s.’

‘The LSD carried a unique crownwheel and pinion with a large hypoid offset. This was necessary to get the prop shaft below the drivers seat. The rear universal joint is right under the drivers seat in a safety cage. One wag noted that if the UJ broke the driver gets to join the Vienna Boys Choir!’

‘David Holyoake told us that he and his brother drove the car with its failing crown wheel and pinion until it would move no more. The remains of the crown wheel attest to this. Attempts were made by David in the 1970’s to get a replacement from ZF without success.’

‘In around 1984 Bill Friend in the UK had a small batch of these CW&P made and we acquired the last one as a spare. Currently there is another run of CW&P being planned for the handful of Lotus 12 owners in the world. It is one spare part worth keeping on the shelf as they seem to get made once every 30 years!’

‘Keith Duckworth made a significant contribution to making the gearbox reliable, his positive stop gearchange worked first time as well as his fabricated “sump” around the crown wheel which holds the oil in close proximity. Initially the gearbox was planned to be dry-sump but in Team Lotus hands the front gear case was closed off and remained “wet”, the dry sump pump being only used to squirt oil onto the CW&P. The scavenge and pressure pump is the engine oil pump off a Velocette MSS’ continued Mike.

‘353’ again at Motorclassica in 2018 (M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

 

(LAT)

Let’s exit Europe more or less where we started, with a great photograph- this time Cliff Allison at Monaco in 1958, doesn’t ‘357’ look rather purposeful and pretty.

 

Lotus 12 ‘351’ aka Sabakat…

 

(unattributed)

Ern Tadgell in the Gnoo Blas pits during ‘351’s first race meeting in Australia, the South Pacific Championship Gold Star round, over the Australia Day long weekend in January 1958.

In his research Graham Howard unearthed the factory ‘351 build card’ which records ‘Chassis 351 fitted with FPF engine No 1003 & MGA gearbox sold to Tadgell’.

Hungry bell-mouths of two twin-throat SU’s, car still, in ex-factory specification inclusive of lovely red leather bound steering wheel.

Bill Turnbull, who helped Tadgell with the car in Toowoomba recalls ‘that Ern used methanol fuel which did not suit the cork carb floats, and that there were overheating problems which warped the head.’ The little FPF blew during the Longford Trophy weekend in 1960. Turnbull believes Tadgell picked up the ‘Sabakat’ name in the Middle East, somewhere on the flight between England and Australia!

Tadgell and Miller were a couple of ‘Boys Own’ type characters, the likes of which are not around any more. Sadly.

The duo met in the dying days of World War 2 in the Royal Australian Air Force and like so many pilots post-war attempted to parlay their newly developed skills into a career, and so it was that Super Spread Aviation Pty. Ltd. was incorporated in 1952, aerial crop-dusting was new at the time.

That they found motor racing was a common path for many of those who fought and survived the war and needed some excitement to fill a gap in their lives.

The Edgar Percival EP.9 was demonstrated in Australia by way of a sales tour conducted by popular British racing pilot, Beverley Snook between May and July 1957. In June 1957 Super Spread placed an order for two aircraft, the dynamic duo made their way to the UK in the months prior to their marvellous adventure return flights to Australia.

The two Super Spread Percival EP.9’s at Moorabbin in 1961- how easy would a stripped Lotus 12 or Cooper T41 chassis fit in there!? This plane still exists and nicely in Austin Miller’s son’s hands. He and the late Austin bought it in 1996, it was restored and then added back to the Civil Register of aircraft in July 1998. In another racing sidebar, one of the many owners of this plane down the decades was Lionel Van Praag, the pre-war champion speedway bike racer about whom I wrote not so long ago (G Goodall)

They left Stapleford Aerodrome in Essex, where the aircraft were built, on 19 September 1957- each of the planes contained their new racing cars, the chassis of which would have been accommodated easily, contrary to some reports that have it that the cars were ‘cut-up’ and re-welded back together again in the Land of Oz.

Austin’s ex-Paul England Cooper T41 was the more astute purchase but Ernie’s Lotus was not to be sneezed at, although neither were outright contenders amongst the Gold Star grids of the day- 1958 topliners were the Lex Davison Ferrari 500/750, Stan Jones Maserati 250F and Ted Gray’s Tornado Chev, but on a good day they were certainly point-scoring machines. Click here for an article on Aussie’s Cooper;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/20/aussie-miller-cooper-t41-climax-trevallyn-hillclimb-launceston-tasmania-1959/

After 32 stops between England and Australia! our two intrepid adventurers flew their EP9’s into outer Melbourne’s Moorabbin Airport, where they were based, on 27 October 1957.

Germane to the story and Sabakat’s new engine is a third EP.9, chassis or frame number 32, which Super Spread acquired a little later. It was air freighted to Australia in parts and assembled locally by the company. This aircraft provided the engine which was soon to be fitted to Sabakat.

On 15 April 1958, after completing a rebuild of that plane following a crash on Flinders Island in February, Austin and engineer Bill Symons took to the skies at Moorabbin and ‘immediately after take-off the aircraft climbed steeply, stalled and crashed to the aerodrome. The elevator cables had been installed so as to reverse normal operating sense’ the official report into the accident recorded. Both guys were seriously hurt, the badly damaged airframe was struck off the aircraft register on 28 April 1958.

Whilst the planes wings and other parts went into EP.9 #46, the Lycoming engine was aok and sat unused in Super Spread’s workshops for a little while…

Doug Whiteford, Maserati 300S from Tadgell- note that the car by this stage is red…Longford 1959 (P O’May)

 

Tadgell, Middle Ridge, Toowoomba 1958 (D Willis)

Ern raced the Lotus extensively throughout Australia from the time it arrived contesting some Gold Star events, including Lowood- where he took the lap record, Bathurst, Longford and other circuits. In addition, he also had occasional drives in Norman Hamilton’s Porsche 550 Spyder, the car these days in Lindsay Fox’ collection in Melbourne.

At some point he based himself in Queensland, the preparation and modification of ‘351’ was done up north. I know from discussions with Austin Miller’s son Guy, that Aussie, apart from being a very talented pilot could also wield machine tools with the best of them- his cars were self prepared inclusive of maintenance and rebuilding his FWB and FPF Climaxes. I doubt Aussie was involved in the work on ‘351’ at this stage but am intrigued to know exactly who modified ‘351’.

All was fine with Ern’s Climax engine until the March 1960 Longford Trophy when the motor let go during the race won by Brabham’s Cooper T51 Climax, by then Austin had a T51 too, his 2.2 litre FPF engined car failed after 3 laps, so not a good weekend for the two aviators.

What to do next with three months until the AGP at Lowood on 12 June was Tadgell’s challenge?

The percentage play would have been to rebuild the Climax engine to 1960 cc which Ern’s block would have accommodated- but the potential to run up the front with a 270 bhp powered Lotus, oops, Sabakat was too great a temptation!

The dogs breakfast- Sabakat Lycoming presented for scrutineering at Lowood in 1960. ‘Take it home matey’ appears a reasonable response by todays standards, but they were different times of course. Note the immense width of the Lycoming flat-6 compared with the slender Climax inline-4 (SCW)

 

(B Miles)

 

Inlet tracts and stub exhausts of 7.6 litre, beefy Lycoming clear (B Thomas)

The Lycoming engine fitted to the EP.9 was a member of the O-480 family of six-cylinder, horizontally opposed, air-cooled, two overhead valve motors. All were of 7.86 litres in capacity but there were at least five variants all with an additional prefix preceding the ‘480’ to indicate the specific configuration of the engine.

Until recent times Sabakat’s Lycoming engine type and capacity has been the subject of conjecture, Ern didn’t help by listing the capacity of the engine in the AGP program as 8150 cc which just does not fit. Some photographs, most notably those of Bill Miles and Brier Thomas posted online in recent years make it clear the engine was a Lycoming horizontally opposed six- not a four. Publicly available information about the engines fitted to the EP.9’s also makes the detective work easier than pre-internet times as well.

The exact specification of the engine is unknown but it was normally aspirated by carburettor- and unsupercharged which suggests a power output between 270-295 horsepower at circa 3000 rpm. Geoff Goodall’s aviation site quotes the EP.9 engine type as Lycoming GIO-480.

270-295 bhp sounds great of course but the engine, despite lots of alloy was big, bulky and heavy at 498 pounds. The 1475 cc Climax FPF was small, compact and light at 280 pounds, so the little, svelte, beautifully triangulated Progress chassis all of a sudden had another 220 pounds in weight, and lots of girth to cope with. Magazine reports of the day indicate the chassis was lengthened to accommodate the Lycoming.

It goes without saying that in a straight line, everything would perhaps be hunky-dory but the propensity of the machine to change direction with anything other than disinterested alacrity would be something else, unless some supreme engineering was involved.

But the photographic evidence suggests that that was not the case and that rather, ‘automotive sodomy’ was performed with a ‘rough as guts’ insertion of Lycoming, to put it politely.

Note the jury-rigged external fuel tank above and long, three inlet tracts from carburettor atop the engine and (below) stub exhausts.

It is not clear whether Tadgell and his team had time to test the car prior to race weekend but reports of the day suggest not.

This account is by Romsey Quints aka Bill Tuckey in Sports Car World ‘Last of all (entrants) to arrive was a pink painted monster barely recognisable as what had been once Ern Tadgell’s 1.5 litre Lotus-based Sabakat. Peeping like bare skin at a concubine’s waist from among the odd tubes and chopped up-panels of the poor baby’s lengthened frame was 8150 cc (we now know it was 7860 cc) of grinning air-cooled flat-six Lycoming aircraft engine.’

‘Towards dusk an ashen Mr Ernest Tadgell, sweat streaming from every pore despite the coolth of the evening, wheeled his Lycoming-Lotus through the pit gate after covering three eye-popping laps. Muttering something about frantic understeer and three-thou at 120, he disappeared into the night.’

Australian Grands Prix back in the days of yore had a sprint race or two before the main event. Ern lined up his aero-engine special and only completed one full lap before disaster struck, accounts differ, either something broke or he ran wide on a corner but whatever the case the result was the end of ‘351’.

Sports Car World saw it this way ‘…Tadgell made one hair-raising tour of the circuit, embarked on another and then understeered off at the left-hand Castrol Corner’. Bill Turnbull says that the torque of the Lycoming engine was too much for the rear suspension hub which broke, overturning the car. Back to SCW, ‘The ungainly Lycoming-engined brute rolled on contact with the (hay) bales, tipped bold Ernie on the ground and then flopped in a blazing heap beside him. A courageous official hauled the erstwhile pilot out of the area and doused his burning clothes…from the course ambulance Ernest Tadgell Esq, announced his retirement from racing.’

 

The steering wheel appears re-usable but not much else (B Thomas)

 

(Ayers Family)

‘All that was left of Sabakat, which had been largely magnesium alloy, were the steel wheels and hubs’- perhaps the hubs but not the wheels for they were magnesium ‘wobbly- webs’.

Tadgell impacted the result of the AGP indirectly in that Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati broke a half-shaft on the line in the preliminary which claimed Sabakat. The fire which Tadgell started and was fuelled by the hay bales and dry grass took some while for officialdom to get under control- all of which was valuable time Alec put to good use by personally repairing his car which he then used to win the race by the slenderest of margins from Lex Davison’s Aston Martin DBR4/300. Click here for more about Mildren and a detailed account of the AGP;

https://primotipo.com/2018/06/08/mildrens-unfair-advantage/

Whilst Sabakat was dead Tadgell raced on in an immaculate Lynx Ford FJ in 1962/1963 but his lifestyle got the better of him in the end, he died of burns from a crop-dusting accident in 1965, his, like Austin Miller’s are life stories which would make stunning reading. As Romsey Quints observed, ‘Ernie Tadgell was a marvellous man who ate up life like a cat at a dish of ice-cream.’

Bill Turnbull wrote that the remains of Sabakat were stored in an aircraft hangar near Oakey, but by the time Graham Howard went searching in the early seventies whatever there was had been ‘spread by the winds’. Tadgell’s family are still involved in aviation, servicing helicopters.

Lex Davison’s Cooper Vincent s/c leads Ern Tadgell’s Porsche Spl in the very first race of the very first meeting at Phillip Island, the ‘Grand Opening Meeting’ on 15 December 1956- clearly Ern liked air-cooled cars- he had a few ‘works’ drives of Norman Hamilton’s Porsche 550 Spyder too (P Island)

 

Very rare shot of Ernest Tadgell in his Porsche Spl, no idea of the circuit but perhaps Lowood given the domicile of the photographer. Note sure about the chassis but the engine of this car was a 356 1498 cc flat-4 fitted, of course, with twin Solexes- circa 100 bhp @ 6200 rpm, box a modified VW. An ‘FV’ a decade before its time- what became of it? (J Psaros)

Lets have a look at some photos of the Sabakat Replica to round out the story.

From idea to first test was the best part of a decade- Graham Howard sought to acquire ‘353’ in 1970, the first test session for Sabakat was at Amaroo Park, Sydney in April 1979.

Tony Caldersmith working on the new Sabakat chassis in 1973 (SCW)

 

Tony Caldersmith did the Grand Tour of Europe as we Aussies all eventually do. He managed to get a job at Hornsey building pre-production Elites in 1958 and later was Service Foreman at Cheshunt, inclusive of writing the Elite Service Manual. He later switched to Team Lotus ‘in charge of their base operations, which basically meant creating an organisation that rebuilt the expired components of the last race and had new set ready for the next event’. He left to go to Handley-Page working on Victor bombers and ‘rejected a lot of sheet metal work as not up to Qantas standards! The photo at Hornsey is of the prototype Lotus 7 Mk2 Ford 1172cc on top of purchaser, and friend of Tony’s Warren King’s Riley 9 (T Caldersmith)

Howard relates how audacious a project it was in his Sports Car World article- he knew little about Sabakat at the outset, let alone that it was ‘351’, he had none of the components of the car nor drawings either.

But by 1972 he was piecing together the history of the dozen Lotus Twelves, had a set of drawings from John Player Team Lotus Team Manager Peter Warr, was sourcing the many bits he needed and critically had the support of Sydney domiciled ex-Lotus employee Tony Caldersmith who agreed to get involved and fabricate the chassis and other key bits and pieces.

‘…Tony’s contribution held everything else together. And just as he had been able to dig down into his files to produce a (12) drawing, throughout the whole project he was forever digging into his resources and producing solutions, calculations, not to mention actual components, to take the project a stage further’ wrote Graham.

Enthusiast, racer, restorer, fettler, recognised global Lotus expert, author and all round good guy Graham Campbell Howard in the early 2000’s (AMN)

 

Howard at Amaroo Park, Sabakat 2 (B Caldersmith)

I don’t propose to paraphrase Graham’s long, beautifully written and detailed SCW article other than to observe that it was an amazing triumph to build such a car by an impecunious enthusiast, supported as he was by an army of friends and colleagues who allowed the realisation of a dream. It is wonderful to see Sabakat 2 on a regular basis.

Brian Caldersmith kept a photographic record of the restoration, to complete this piece.

(B Caldersmith)

Graham in Tony Caldersmith’s driveway proving just how light that spaceframe is!- roughly 50 pounds. 1973 i’m guessing.

(B Caldersmith)

 

(B Caldersmith)

We are quite some way down the track by this stage, just use your eyes to see the multitude of bits and pieces sourced, and or fabricated by Tony.

Engine is a ‘period’ Climax 1.5 FPF from the ex-Charlie Whatmore Lotus 11- so too are the gearbox and wheels. Adrien Schagen donated a pair of smashed Lotus 11 de Dion hubs which were identical to the 12 design.

(B Caldersmith)

On wheels now, nice pair of flairs Graham- ‘Staggers’ perhaps?

Say 1977’ish, still in the pre-build stage well before everything comes apart and the chassis enamelled and re-assembled.

After getting a quote from the very prominent Stan Brown in Sydney for the body, Doug Nye introduced Graham to the Donington Collections panel man, John Cole with whom he contracted. He ended up paying pretty much the same amount without the advantage of being able to ‘chew the ear’ of a local artisan! The result was mighty fine mind you.

(B Caldersmith)

 

(B Caldersmith)

Completed.

In the Amaroo paddock, date folks- Graham’s ex-Alex Strachan Lotus 6 Climax alongside Sabakat 2. Who is the burly fellow fettling the 6?

And racing at an Historic Amaroo.

(J Lambert)

Sabakat In more recent times at an Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park display. Sabakat lives on…

Erratum…

Mike Gosbell, the current custodian of Sabakat got in touch after publication with some engine details of ‘351’.

‘The build sheet on chassis ‘351’ that Mike Bennett gave me shows that the FPF motor was ‘1031’ not ‘1003’. ‘1031’ is period to around September 1957 so Ern Tadgell got a new motor when he purchased ‘351’. I don’t know what happened to its original motor, but it may be ‘1002’ which is unaccounted for.’

‘FPF ‘1003’ is the motor that Graham Howard used in the cars re-creation ex-Jack Brabham works Cooper T43 F2, the motor that was removed at Monaco (1958) and replaced with a 2 litre FPF F1 motor so Jack could run after an accident in qualifying.’

‘I have a copy of Graham Howard’s original application to CAMS (to build the recreation) showing that the FPF motor would be ‘1005’, that was the Charlie Whatmore motor but was not used- that motor was used when Tony Caldersmith rebuilt the Mildren Cooper T51′ Mike wrote.

Tailpiece 1…

(D Beard)

Mike Bennett’s ‘353’ during the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed, David Beard’s creative approach pops a Lotus 29 Ford Indycar into the foreground. Nice.

Bibliography…

‘Theme Lotus’ Doug Nye, Aviation Safety Network, Geoff Goodall’s Aviation History Site, F2 Index, The Nostalgia Forum Lotus 12 and Sabakat threads in particular the contributions of Stephen Dalton, Kenzclass, Ray Bell, Dick Willis, Mike Bennett, Bill Turnbull and James Lambert, Mike Gosbell

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, John Marsden, John Ross Motor Racing Archive, Len Deaton, Australian Motorsports News, David Beard, Brian Caldersmith, James Lambert, Dick Willis, Ayers Family Collection

Tailpiece 2: Allison, Moss, Scott-Brown, Goodwood, April, 1958…

(Tumblr)

Allison’s 12 Climax ‘357’ leads Moss’ Rob Walker Cooper T43 Climax with Archie Scott-Brown’s Connaught B Type through the Goodwood Chicane during the April 1958 Glover Trophy.

Cliff was fourth in ‘357’, Archie sixth whilst Moss’s Climax motor had a nasty conrod failure. Mike Hawthorn won from Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori- ‘old school’ Ferrari Dino 246 from John Cooper’s latest Cooper T45 Climaxes.

Moss took the first championship F1 win for a mid-engined car in one of Walker’s T43’s at Buenos Aries only a couple of months before on 19 January.

Finito…

(C La Tourette)

The 1958/9 Ferrari 196S looks like a scaled down 250 Testa Rossa, the three rather than six downdraft Webers makes the little brother easy to pick…

2 litre- 1983cc, 77 x 71 mm bore/stroke, DOHC, two-valve 65 degree V6 fed by three 42 DCN Weber carburettors. Two plugs per cylinder, twin magnetos, circa 195bhp @ 7200rpm. Four speed gearbox.

Tubular steel ladder frame chassis, front suspension by upper and lower wishbones with coil spring/shocks and roll bar. Rear has a live axle with coil springs, hydraulic shocks and roll bar, drum brakes all round, worm and sector steering.

Two chassis built- ‘0740’ and ‘0776’.

Credits…

Clarence La Tourette, auto.Ferrari.com

Tailpiece…

(Ferrari)

Finito…

 

(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.

Adelaide’s ‘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.

‘Percy Pederson was the Service Manager and did the car demonstrations to customers at Drummonds, who held the Amilcar franchise in Adelaide’ wrote Amilcar GS owner and enthusiast Doug Gordon. ‘He was called upon to prepare Amilcars for competition and drive them for sales promotions. He used the same car in May 1925 to set a Broken Hill to Adelaide speed record. Anecdotally Pederson had these cars running at ridiculous compression ratios and burning methanol like the mororcycles- his job was to win, high demand for such cars was created by events such as these.’

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 Sellick’s bike meetings included an event or two for ‘Light Cars’ (read small cars), ‘…that trend started at the Gawler racetrack in April 1925, this comprised a demonstration or match race between the Pederson Amilcar and an Austin 7. The first Grand Sport Amilcars arrived by ship in Adelaide in October 1924, the bodywork on this car appears to have been hastily prepared for the Gawler match race, with the rear tail not yet painted. By the start of the beach racing season in 1926 Pederson had a new GS Amilcar ready to go with a beautiful, locally made polished aluminium body. The Austin 7 was driven by Jack Moyle who was better known for his exploits on an AJS 350 at the Isle of Man, so he had a lot of track experience. The Austin won but the lead changed a number of times and the spectators loved it’ said Gordon.

Percy Pederson Amilcar and Jack Moyle Austin 7, Gawler April 1925 (D Gordon)

‘As with Jack Moyle’s move from the AJS to the Austin from time to time, so it was to become a trend for ageing speedway motorcyclists to gradually transition to light-car racing with Fergusson, McGillvray and McLeod being others who moved from two to four wheels- in the case of these three riders to Amilcars.’

‘Amilcars were popular on dirt tracks and on beaches because they had no differential- just a locked rear axle that didn’t lose traction on loose surfaces. It is for this reason that Jack Brabham built his first speedcar using Amilcar axles, he wasn’t the only one to do it in the early development of Australian speedway midgets’ said Doug Gordon.

‘The trend to include light-cars at motorcycle events continued from that Gawler day with fields gradually increasing over the years- this led directly to cars racing at Sellicks.’

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!

(D Gordon)

 

(D Gordon)

Proceedings were not as serious as today either, ‘…it appears to be have been very much a picnic atmosphere with wives and girlfriends in attendance showing off the ‘fashions of the field’ almost like a Melbourne Cup day. The article above focuses almost entirely on the girls fashions and nothing to do with the racing!’ Doug Gordon observes.

‘The casual drivers attire gives an idea that it was nothing like the professional racing we see today, certainly not in the sportscar ranks anyway. The group shot on the back of Don Cant’s MG TC is typical of a group of friends out for a fun picnic on the beach with racing to add a bit of excitement to the day.’

Don Cant in helmet and racing shorts, no socks and tennis shoes, Don Shinners in old school cap, Molly Foale on the tank, Jill Cant and Max Foale in togs ready for a dip (D Gordon)

 

(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

Tailpieces: Sellicks Beach fuel depot ‘in period’ and the drivers view in 2019…

(unattributed)

 

(D Gordon)

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