Tony Gaze, HWM Alta, New Zealand 1954…

Posted: December 13, 2019 in F1, Fotos
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

(unattributed)

Tony Gaze during a pitstop for plugs, HWM Alta 2 litre s/c, chassis ’52/107′ during the New Zealand Grand Prix, Ardmore January 1954…

Hersham & Walton Motors (HWM) came to prominence in the immediate postwar years. Based in New Zealand Avenue, Walton, where the business still is today as an Aston Martin dealership- the company was a partnership between two great motor racing enthusiasts – driver George Abecassis and engineer John Heath.

George made his name aboard a single-seater Alta pre-war. When racing resumed post conflict both Abecassis and Heath campaigned a variety of Alta single-seaters and sportscars. John Heath developed Alta-based sports-prototype cars in 1948-49 and since George Abecassis had been racing his postwar GP Alta internationally with success – the pair planned a team of dual-purpose Formula 2/sports-racing cars to campaign at home and abroad in 1950.

The duo were adept talent-spotters recruiting along the way Stirling Moss, Lance Macklin and little later Peter Collins.

In 1950 the new HWM works team of three, or four HWM-Alta ‘F2’ cars were entered in a hectic program of racing, the team was well organised and its cars competitive with all but the best Continental factory machines.

HWM’s mechanics, including such later prominent names as Alf Francis and Rex Woodgate were capable and dedicated to putting the cars on the grid. They worked horrendous hours, transporting the cars from race to race in epic journeys overcoming all odds.

George Abecassis, leaning on the fuel tank and John Heath at left with one of the single-seaters coming together at Walton, which one I wonder? (unattributed)

 

Men of the moment- HWM’s John Heath and George Abecassis Alta ‘GP1’ and Alta’s Geoffrey Taylor at Goodwood on 18 April 1949. George was 6th in the Richmond Trophy won by Reg Parnell’s Maserati 4CLT (S Lewis Collection)

 

Lance Macklin, HWM Alta F2, Crystal Palace Coronation Cup May 1953. Fourth in the race won by Tony Rolt’s Connaught A Type. Doug Nye attributes the sexy bodies of the HWM’s to Leacroft of Egham (Getty)

In a hand to mouth, time honoured existence, start, prize and trade-bonus money from one weekend’s racing financed the next, under Heath’s technical direction and leadership HWM built a fleet of Formula 2 single-seater team cars for 1951, followed by developed variants into 1952-53.

In face of Ferrari, Maserati, Connaught, Cooper-Bristol and others HWM results deteriorated as time passed, 1951 being the teams best season, but in 1952 Lance Macklin and Tony Rolt drove their HWM Alta’s home first and second in the prestigious BRDC International Trophy race at Silverstone. The cars held together for two hours and won from the Emmanuel de Graffenreid Plate-Maserati 4CLT/48 and Rudy Fischer’s Ferrari 500.

The chassis campaigned in New Zealand was originally built as an F2 car in 1952 powered by an unsupercharged 2-litre 4-cylinder Alta engine and was later re-equipped with a supercharged GP Alta motor specifically for Formula Libre racing in New Zealand in 1954.

In 1952 HWM entered cars for George Abecassis, Peter Collins, Macklin, Stirling Moss, Paul Frere, Roger Laurent, Yves Giraud-Cabantous, Duncan Hamilton, Johnny Claes and Dries van der Lof- many of these drivers gained good start money in their home-country GP’s.

Lance, the ‘playboy’ son of Sir Noel Macklin was said to be the most stylish and glamorous British racing driver of that period, team-mate Stirling Moss credits him with having taught the new boy “an enormous amount, not just about racing, but also about how to enjoy life in general…”.

Chassis ‘52/107’ was predominantly the car raced by Macklin in 1952 and 1953.

Bonham’s spiel about ’52/107′ before its June 2016 sale relates that ‘Lance Macklin was relaxed about which car he drove – too relaxed according to George Abecassis. Each of the drivers had specific and often different requirements which extended to tyre pressures, final-drive ratios, seat position, they were not readily adjustable- bolted down, steering wheels etc. Macklin retained the pre-selector gearbox for the early part of 1953 as opposed to the ‘C’ Type Moss box adopted on the other cars.’

‘There is evidence of this on chassis ’52/107′ not seen on ’52/112′ the sister car. Macklin also had his logo ‘LM’ painted on the side of his car at some time in 1953. Finally the mechanics recorded plug types, pressures and gearing race by race for future use…Heath and Abecassis only appeared briefly for practice/racing and returned to the UK without corporate records. ‘52/107′ has the mechanics’ notes, scribbled in hand in a school note book, the car is recorded as Macklin’s car in several books and was confirmed personally by Tony Gaze as ’52/107′.

Tony Gaze in ’52/107′ in England date unknown but 1990’s perhaps (unattributed)

 

Macklin ’52/107′ date and circuit in the UK unknown (unattributed)

Macklin contested 1952 championship grands prix at Bremgarten, Spa, Silverstone, Zandvoort and Monza for a best of eighth, and six or seven non-championship races the best of which was the splendid BRDC International Trophy win at Silverstone in May.

He had a shocker of a run in 1953 starting six GP’s- his only finish was at Zandvoort where he was fifteenth, the run of DNF’s due to engine and clutch failures occurred at Spa, Reims, Silverstone, Bremgarten and Monza.

Macklin also contested a similar number of non-championship races as in 1952, his best was third at the Circuit de Lac in Aix-les-Bains and two fourths at Crystal Palace in the Coronation Trophy and Crystal Palace Trophy.

The ‘winningest’ cars in British non-championship 2 litre F2 races in 1953 were Connaught A Types and later in the year Cooper T23 Bristols.

It seems George Abecassis sent the ‘52/107’/Gaze combination to New Zealand out of simple commercial expediency.

He had the ex-Joe Kelly Alta ‘GP3′ sitting in the workshop- this car contested the 1950 and 1951 British GP’s, his view was that the supercharged 1.5 litre, four cylinder engine would form the basis of a good Formula Libre car when mated with one of his F2 chassis’.

Similarly the ‘GP3’ chassis fitted with a Jaguar engine was also saleable, in addition Macklin was moving to sportscars and George was frustrated with him.

On top of all of that, critically, the writing was on the wall for HWM and several other teams needing a competitive engine for the new F1 commencing on 1 January 1954.

The 2½ litre Climax ‘Godiva’ FPE V8 engine was not being proceeded with, Coventry Climax famously ‘took fright’ upon reading of the claimed outputs of their Continental rivals, and Alta’s Geoff Taylor had contracted exclusively with Connaught for the provision of his 2½-litre, DOHC four cylinder engine.

Commercially therefore, without a suitable F1 engine, sportscars made the greatest sense and so it was that HWM  made good money out of converting both HWM and Alta single-seaters into sportscars powered by Jaguar engines.

HWM never to let an opportunity to pass, proceeded with their plan albeit the 1.5 litre supercharged engine was upgraded by Taylor to 2-litres using the same bore and stroke as the 2 litre F2 units to improve reliability and power whilst simultaneously ensuring commonality of parts- bearings, pistons, rings and the rest for operators of the car in the colonies- a new crank was obtained from Laystall to suit.

Aussie fighter-ace Tony Gaze was chosen as the driver given his strong performances in his Alta, HWM and other cars since the war- his brief from George was a simple one, win a couple of races including the NZ GP if possible and then sell the car before returning back to Europe.

Looks major ‘dunnit- Macklin (or Peter Collins?) and the mechanics- perhaps pointing is Tony Rudd left in profile is Tony Gaze and ‘head to head’ alongside Tony is John Heath with ’52/107′ (unattributed)

 

Joe Kelly’s Alta ‘GP3’ during the 1950 British GP weekend at Silverstone- Geoffrey Taylor in the suit. Q19 and DNF, the race won by Nino Farina’s Alfa Romeo 158 (unattributed)

 

Tom Clark, I think, in ’52/107′ Levin, New Zealand circa 1956 (BV Davis)

In New Zealand in January/February 1954, Gaze drove it to third in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore behind Stan Jones, Maybach 1 and Ken Wharton’s BRM P15.

It was a pretty competitive field which included the Wharton BRM,  Peter Whitehead’s Ferrari 125, Jack Brabham and Horace Gould in Cooper T23 Bristols, Lex Davison’s ex-Gaze HWM Jaguar and others.

Gaze’ race was a great mighta-been.

He relates in ‘Almost Unknown’, Stewart Wilson’s biography of the great Australian, that Shell, his contracted fuel supplier did not have any of the required brew on raceday so he started the race with what fuel was left in the car after practice to at least obtain his start money payment.

When the flag dropped he tootled around, knowing he had sufficient juice for half the race at best, but the car was running on only three cylinders, a plug change rectified that. A lucky break was teammate Peter Whitehead’s Ferrari 125 (shortly to become Dick Cobden’s car) clutch failing which allowed Tony’s mechanics to siphon the fuel from the V12 2 litre Ferrari  and pop it into the Alta.

Tony sped up, he still didn’t have enough juice to finish, passing Wharton’s BRM which had its own problems- at this point he was gaining three seconds a lap on Stan Jones’ Maybach. Then the car ran out of fuel on lap 92, as Tony coasted into the pits with the engine dead a fuel churn appeared- ‘borrowed’ from BRM. Topped up, with mechanics Peter Manton and Alan Ashton totally spent after pushing the car the length of the pitlane before it fired, third place was Gaze’s. Tony’s regret to the end of his life was that the race was his had Shell fulfilled their contractual obligations. The two-hundred pounds paid in compensation was no substitute for an NZ GP win…

In the month long gap between Ardmore and Wigram Tony and Peter contested the 24 Hour race held at Mount Druitt in Sydney’s west on 31 January- they led by an enormous margin in Peter’s C Type Jaguar only to have a suspension failure when the car hit an enormous hole on track- it was repaired but failed again later in the race. They restarted the car and limped over the line to win the sportscar class- seven of twenty-two starters finished led by the Jaguar XK120 driven by Doris Anderson, Charlie Whatmore and Bill Pitt- well known racers to Australian readers.

Back in New Zealand and off to Christchurch on the South Island for the Lady Wigram Trophy on 6 February, he was second behind the Whitehead Ferrari after Peter ignored Dunlop’s advice and completed the race without a tyre change on the abrasive track- they were ‘well shredded’ but it was a winning if somewhat risky ‘racers’ decision.

At the end of Tony’s tour- successfully completing the second part of his assignment, he sold the Alta to Sybil Lupp for John Horton to drive.

Gaze had a great taste of racing in New Zealand and returned again the following year, he and Peter Whitehead raced a pair of Ferrari 500/625’s, Tony’s chassis ‘005’ famously the ex-Ascari 1952/3 World Championship winning car, it was not the only chassis the Italian used but the ‘winningest’.

Horton raced ’52/107′ from February 1954 until February 1956- in which his best results were two second places, setting fastest lap both times at the February 1954 Hamilton Trophy at Mairehau and the April 1956 NZ Championship Road Race on the Dunedin ‘Wharf’ road circuit.

In the January 1955 NZ GP, back at Ardmore, Horton struck trouble and was classified fifteenth- Bira won that year in a Maserati 250F from the Whitehead and Gaze Ferraris in second and third places.

Other than the NZ GP meeting it seems Horton did not race the car throughout 1955, nor was the machine entered in the 1956 NZ GP, but he ran at Dunedin- tenth and in the South Island Championship Road Race at Mairehau, finishing second on handicap. Onto the Southland Road Race at Ryal Bush he qualified a very good fifth on this challenging road course but only completed 9 of the 41 laps- Whitehead won.

The last meeting that summer was the Ohakea Trophy held at the airfield of the same name on 3 March, Horton didn’t enter but the race was won by (later Sir) Tom Clark who was clearly impressed with the Alta having raced against it for a while in his pre-war Maserati 8CM- he acquired it from Sybil Lupp shortly thereafter.

Sybil Lupp susses her HWM Alta on the evening before the 1955 NZ GP at Ardmore, its said there was a possibility she would drive the car, but John Horton raced it. Car #77 is also ex-Gaze- Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar, the 1954 Australian GP winner started life as Tony’s 1952 Alta engined F2 machine. Car #3 is Reg Hunt’s just arrived in the Antipodes Maserati 2.5 litre A6GCM (CAN)

 

Tom Clark, Ardmore NZ GP 1957 (T McGrath)

 

Ron Tucker, Ransley Riley DNF, Tom Clark HWM Alta 6th and Bob Gibbons Jaguar D Type DNF during the 1957 Southland Road Race at Ryal Bush. Peter Whitehead won this race from Reg Parnell in identical Ferrari 555’s powered by 750 Monza engines (J Manhire)

Tom Clark, of Crown Lynn Potteries fame, began his stint with it by setting FTD at Whangarei hillclimb before finishing second at Levin in October 1956.

Clark shipped the car to Australia for the ‘Olympic’ Australian GP at Albert Park that December– finishing eleventh following various delays having run strongly early on in a world class field, Stirling Moss won in a works Maserati 250F.

Ninth place followed in the January 1957 NZ GP at Ardmore, Reg Parnell, Ferrari 555 Super Squalo triumphed that day.

Tom raced the car at Wigram DNF, Dunedin DNF, Ryal Bush where he was sixth and in much the same way that he had had a good look up close at the Alta decided the Ferrari 555’s were the go so acquired the Whitehead car, racing it to its first win at the South Island Championship Road Race meeting at Mairehau the weekend after Ryal Bush.

For sale, Johnny Buza was the purchaser.

He practiced at Ardmore for the 1958 GP, as the photograph (in Etcetera below) shows but appears as a DNA in the sergent.com results. He entered Dunedin and Teretonga but failed to take the start on both occasions. With plenty of mid-engined Coopers on the scene the older of the front-engined cars were finding the going tougher- the Alta didn’t race throughout 1959 or 1960.

Jim Boyd – more famous for his aero-engined Lycoming Special, raced the HWM throughout 1961- at Ardmore, Wigram, Dunedin, Teretonga and Waimate,  failing to qualify for the NZ GP but otherwise finishing the events with a best of eighth at Waimate towards the season’s end.

In 1962 it was driven by Lindsay Gough to win a beach race at New Brighton. J.G. Alexander also appeared in the car while Lindsay Gough raced it into 1963, although I can see no records of his events, by that stage though it was a ‘club car’ rather than a machine contesting the national level events reported upon by Bruce Sergent’s site.

By 1980 the car had been acquired by Russell Duell in New Zealand before passing to Colin Giltrap in 1989, the car has been in the United Kingdon since 1997.

Jim Boyd during the 1961 Dunedin Road Race, HWM Alta. Allan Dick wrote ‘This car was never really competitive in NZ but by 1961 it was very much a tail-ender, but Boyd competed for many years in a variety of old, outdated cars, finally striking it good with the Lycoming, followed by the Stanton Corvette and finally a Lola T70’ (CAN)

 

Etcetera…

 

(autopics)

Stirling Moss goes around the outside of Tom Clark during the December 1956 AGP at Albert Park. Maserati 250F and HWM Alta, Moss won from teammate Jean Behra.

 

(CAN)

Cracker of a shot- the kid with a proprietorial hand on the car is perhaps indicating ‘my dads car!’ During John Horton’s ownership probably at Cleland hillclimb perhaps. Input welcome!

Typical Kiwi/Oz kids of the period wearing their school ‘jumpers’ (jerseys) on the weekend.

 

(CAN)

Johnny Buza at Ardmore during the 1958 Ardmore NZ GP weekend. He is listed as a DNA but it seems he practiced at least- by then the old gal is getting a bit long in the tooth given the increasingly international nature of the Australasian Summer International grids.

 

Gaze and Davison driver profiles from the 1954 NZ GP race program (S Dalton)

 

(unattributed)

Cockpit of one of the 2 litre F2 Alta’s.

Doug Nye relates the story of Stirling Moss pitching out of his car a fire extinguisher which had come loose from its mount in the cockpit, when he reported this to John Heath back in the paddock the thrifty team owner promptly despatched his young star back in the direction of the track to find said expensive item…

 

(Motorsport)

These HWM Jaguar’s were and are attractive, fast racing cars.

Here George Abecassis in his DB3S inspired ‘025′ ‘XPE 2’ at Goodwood, circa 1955.

‘Abecassis himself sketched out the bodies of each HWM and, for the second generation HWM-Jaguars in 1955 he designed a neat functional new body. Two works cars were built: George’s was registered XPE2 and the second, for John Heath, took over the HWM1 number plate. It was in this car that John Heath decided to enter the 1956 Mille Miglia…In driving rain he lost control near Ravenna and the car hit a fence and turned over. A few days later Heath died from his injuries.’

David Abecassis on hwmastonmartin.co.uk continues, ‘That sadly, was more or less the end of HWM which still promised so much. Abecassis did build up one more chassis as a dramatically styled road-going coupe, but he gave up racing to concentrate on his burgeoning garage business. Today, HWM, still in its original premises on Walton-on-Thames thrives as a prestigious dealer in Aston Martins and other desirable and exotic road machinery.’

In an apt tribute to the role HWM played in the march of British motor racing post war Abecassis concluded, ‘Like all good racing cars, however, the handful of HWMs that came out of this courageous little team lived on, and most of them have never stopped being campaigned. Today they are cherished by their handful of lucky owners as important, and very effective, historic racing cars. Britain’s all-conquering motor racing industry owes a great debt to those pioneering European forays of John Heath and George Abecassis.’

Indeed!

 

John Heath and a mechanic work on one of the 2 litre Alta engines- Weber fed, during the 1953 British GP weekend at Silverstone (unattributed)

Alta Engine’s…

This summary of the Alta engine’s design is a trancuated version of Doug Nye’s piece in ‘History of The Grand Prix Car’.

Geoffrey Taylor’s twin cam, four cylinder design had a bath shape bottom end casting whose sides rose to provide cooling water jacketing.

The cylinders were formed in a separate Meehanite iron casting which fitted tightly into the crankcase bath. Crankcase rigidity was enhanced by box sections within its side walls and by horizontal cross-bolts positioning the main bearing caps.

Circumferential grooves were machined into the top of the cylinder-bore casting which matched grooves machined into the face of the alloy head- in assembly these matching grooves would clamp Wills pressure ring seals to create a joint which was water and gas tight.

The head was secured by thru bolts positioned by the tall outer crankcase casting, it carried two overhead cams operating two valves per cylinder via rocking fingers, valves were inclined at an included angle of 68 degrees- combustion chambers were hemispherical. Cam drive was by chain off a sprocket on the three main bearing crank. The Roots type supercharger, of Alta manufacture was driven off the crank nose drawing fuel from an SU carb delivering a maximum of 22psi.

In 1.5 litre supercharged form the engine was square- a bore and stroke of 78mm- 1480cc and was good for 7000 rpm using Specialloid pistons and a Nitralloy crank.

The basic  architecture was retained for the 2 litre normally aspirated F2 engines- the HWM engines of 1950 were fed by twin SU carbs burning a methanol/benzol/petrol mix. The 2 litre motors had a bore and stroke of 83.5 x 90mm- 1970cc and were claimed to give 130bhp @ 5500rpm.

Tony Gaze had twin Webers adapted to his engine when he ran at Monza in 1951- his lead was followed on other Alta motors.

For 1953 new type cranks were adopted, HWM’s engines that year were Alta based but the heads were HWM’s own design with gear driven cam drives rather than chain- the head, camshafts, rear-gear drive and other moving parts were made by HWM or its subcontractors.

Bonham’s piece noted the following, ‘There are major differences between the Alta GP and Formula 2 engines. The GP engine was dry-sumped with the crankcase going right down to the bottom of the motor with what is virtually a flat plate bolted to the base, whereas the F2 engine has a wet sump with the crankcase split in half along the centreline of the main bearings. There is a deep pan beneath the engine. The GP engine has a different crank which is extended at the front to drive the blowers- the ancillary drives for magneto(s) and oil pump(s) are also completely different.

The engine in ’52/107’ is marked ‘GP3’ in two places which is compatible with Joe Kelly’s ‘GP3’ as are the two blowers which were unique to ‘GP3’, it is thought the whole unit came from chassis ‘GP3’.

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, Bruce V Davis, John Manhire, Simon Lewis Collection, Allan Dick’s Classic Auto News, Motorsport, autopics.com

Bibliography…

Bonhams ’52/107′ sale material 2016, ‘History of The Grand Prix Car’ Doug Nye, ‘Almost Unknown’ Stewart Wilson, sergent.com, hwmastonmartin.co.uk, Terry McGrath Collection

Tailpiece: Lance Macklin, HWM Alta ‘52/107’ on the way to a win in the BRDC International Trophy, Silverstone 1952…

(Getty)

George Abecassis, on HW Motors letterhead wrote a letter to the cars then owner, which said in part: “I have often wondered what happened to the supercharged HWM which we sent to New Zealand, because it was undoubtedly the most exciting and fastest HWM that we ever made.’

‘It was one of the 1952 two-litre team cars and we fitted it with a two-stage supercharged unit especially for the Tasman series of races, and we lent it to Tony Gaze on the condition that he sold it for us in New Zealand, which he succeeded in doing’.

He concluded: ‘If ever you should get tired of the car, I would always be pleased to buy it back from you! I think it was the best car we ever made…’

Finito…

Comments
  1. grahamedney says:

    Great great article!

    A minor comment though; HWM built cars for the 1950 season as well. Alf Francis’s book details this and its repeat building a new team of single seaters for 1951 as you mention. Francis claims that he left at the end of 1951 to join Peter Whitehead because he couldn’t face a third Winter of building new cars rather than developing the 1951 fleet.

    Thank you for continuing to produce great articles and rarely if ever before publicly seen photos. I’m a fan. 😀

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Graham,
      When you look at the number of cars, drivers and events the workload of the mechanics would have been staggering, not least because the engines were a tad brittle- no wonder Francis jumped.
      I do make brief mention of the 1950 cars early on in the piece, I really should buy Simon Taylor’s new book for Christmas, writing this article has piqued my interest in HWM muchly!
      Mark

  2. John Medley says:

    You might double-check some captions, Mark eg my view is that pic 1 shows George Abecassis leaning on the fuel tank, John Heath on left of pic

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks John,
      An educated, but clearly not particularly so, guess on my part! You imply more errors my friend- where else!?
      Do you have Simon Taylor’s book? It seems to have wide acclaim? It’s on my list…
      M

  3. terry mcgrath says:

    HWM Alta 2 litre 2 stage S/C Tom Clark Ardmore ©terry mcgrath motoring archives
    add photo ?

  4. terry mcgrath says:

    not sure how to reply to one of your great articles or add photo but will see if this gets to you

  5. John Medley says:

    Hi Mark. Enjoyable, as ever! Thanks. My 2 cents worth: ” Lance Macklin” COULD be PCollins;
    “Looks major…” has JHeath 2nd left, perhaps Tony Rudd pointing, helmeted driver right….;
    “Joe Kelly’s….” Geoffrey Taylor centre?.
    Great Sybil Lupp pic!!

    Regards

    JM

    • markbisset says:

      Many thanks John,
      Have made the changes to the captions- there are some good photos amongst the Bonhams ad material but none have captions so some detective or guesswork is required…I didn’t realise Tony Rudd’s CV included an HWM stint- I must pull it out and re-read his book.
      Mark

  6. greg moss says:

    Any idea where Reg Hunts Maser ended up? Be worth a dollar or two now eh?

  7. Rob says:

    Mark,

    Mention is made above of “The ‘winningest’ cars in British non-championship 2 litre F1 races in 1953….”. I believe that should read F2 rather than F1.

    Rob

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Rob,
      Clumsily worded. In 1952/3 non-championship ‘GP’s were a real mixed bag of F2, F1, both, and Formula Libre. I must cycle back to the Connaught A Type too, I hadn’t realised just what a good car it was.
      Mark

  8. […] Tony was despatched to New Zealand by John Heath and George Abecassis together with the supercharged GP HWM Alta 2 litre in the Antipodian summer of 1954 with a brief to win a race or three and then sell the Formula Libre car before returning home- whilst he didn’t win any races he did well and also fulfilled the second part of his brief, the lucky Kiwi’s had the machine for the rest of its ‘in period’ racing life- click here to read a story about that tour and background information about HWM; https://primotipo.com/2019/12/13/tony-gaze-hwm-alta-new-zealand-1954/ […]

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