Archive for December, 2020

(B Young)

Mick Watt’s Ford Anglia Special ascends Magra Hillclimb north of New Norfolk, 45km and forty minutes north of Hobart.

Mount Dromedary and Black Hills are in the background. Mick Watt achieved over 100 wins with this pretty little car before it fell into disuse in the mid-sixties and ultimate restoration by Ian Tate in Melbourne.

(B Young)

And here at Longford in 1958. It’s returned to Tassie in recent times too, acquired by Launceston/Longford identity, Rob Knott from Ian Tate after 40 years or so on the mainland.

(S5000)

Rubens Barrichelo testing the new Ligier JS F3-S5000 Ford S5000 car at Phillip Island in September 2019.

He contested the first race meeting for the new Australian premier category of cars at Sandown on September 21/22 2019. See here for details of the cars; https://primotipo.com/2019/10/26/progress/ and; https://primotipo.com/2020/06/03/with-matich-a50-twist/

Ruben’s copped a tap up the rear in turn 1 of the first heat and recovered to finish seventh in the race won by Tim Macrow. He was fifth in the second heat won by James Golding and second in the feature event also won by Golding.

The first round of the 2021 Gold Star Series, Australia’s premier driving championship for the countries fastest racing cars is at Symmons Plains in late January, Covid permitting.

(D Simpson)

John Harvey at Oran Park during the Diamond Trophy weekend at Oran Park in September 1967, Brabham BT14 Repco 740 2.5.

He won the 15 lap race in a classy field which included Leo Geoghegan, Kevin Bartlett and Paul Bolton in Tasman 2.5s.

It was a great reward for car owner Ron Phillips, mechanic Peter Molloy and Harvey given the teething problems they had after converting the F2 car from Lotus-Ford twin-cam to Repco 2.5 litre V8 power.

John wore this Peter Revson inspired helmet circa 1971-1973 (Harvey Collection)

John died on December 5 2020 of lung-cancer, aged 82. We shall do a photographic tribute to his many years as an elite level racer in single-seaters, sportscars and touring cars soon.

RIP John Harvey.

(N Butler)

Bob Holden at Fishermans Bend circa 1957, Holden FE Repco Hi-Power.

This is, i think, the second of Repco Research’ test cars, it covered 400 miles a day testing all manner of Repco products first in the hands of Reg Robbins and then later Don Halpin.  The car was re-shelled after Don had an accident in it near Seymour. Seeking confirmation folks, not of the story but rather the FE ID as a Repco Research machine which was raced on weekends…

(Langdon Family)

Murray Carter aboard his self-built Carter Corvette at Longford in 1961.

He is pursuading the beast into The Viaduct. Murray built the spaceframe chassis, Chev V8 powered car in 1959 and raced it for several years by the Victorian before sale to Bob Wright in Tasmania. He is shown racing the car below at Symmons Plains in 1969.

Ultimately restored and is still alive and well. See here; https://primotipo.com/2017/01/19/forever-young/

(oldracephotos.com/Harrison)

 

(M Fistonic)

Wasn’t it sinfully erotic in a wedgy, angular kinda way?

In 1973 Max Stewart had the only Lola T330 contesting the Tasman Cup, chassis ‘HU1’ was the very first of course. By the following year they and the bigger-hipped T332 were everywhere.

Max’ car here is in the Pukekohe paddock during the January 6 NZ GP weekend. The big fella was out after only 3 laps, John McCormack won in his Elfin MR5 Repco-Holden. There is plenty about the Lola T330 in this and succeeding articles; https://primotipo.com/2014/06/24/lellas-lola-restoration-of-the-ex-lella-lombardi-lola-t330-chev-hu18-episode-1/

Max got on very well with this car, winning a swag of races including the 1974 Gold Star and 1974 AGP in it.

(Kelsey Collection)

Jack Myers in the Gnoo Blas paddock during the February 1960 Australian Touring Car Championship weekend.

His car is a Cooper T20/WM Waggott-Holden 3-litre twin-cam, in-line six. Myers is wearing his characteristic ‘fireproofs’ including garish horizontally-hooped shirt. Luvvit. Here is a man whose story deserves to be told comprehensively. See here for a feature on this car; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

Note David Finch’s Jaguar D Type and Paul Samuels’ Berkeley on the trailer.

(T Watts)

Pete Geoghegan’s first Mustang looking absolutely superb in its Castrol livery at Longford in March 1967

Didn’t John Sheppard do a superb job with the preparation and presentation of the Geoghegan’s cars? See here; https://primotipo.com/2017/10/17/he-came-he-saw-he-conquered/

(HRCCT)

And Leo’s ex-Clark Lotus 39 Climax at Symmons Plains in mid-November 1966, albeit in Total livery, but looking similarly handsome. Long epic on this car here; https://primotipo.com/2016/02/12/jim-clark-and-leo-geoghegans-lotus-39/

KB is the masked man in the Alec Mildren’s Brabham BT11A Coventry Climax alongside. Both Sydneysiders had poor weekends. Leo didn’t start with engine dramas and KB’s gearbox gave troubles after he had completed only 3 laps- Greg Cusack won in his ex-Clark Lotus 32B Climax.

Poor John Goss. I guess somebody had to do it. Amaroo Park Aunger Wheels advertising shoot.

This sports-sedan didn’t survive did it after a big-hit somewhere? Was this a Goss and Grant O’Neill build?

All terribly politically incorrect these days, what a shame. See here for a feature on this most talented of drivers; https://primotipo.com/2015/07/03/john-goss-bathurst-1000-and-australian-grand-prix-winner/ ,here; https://primotipo.com/2016/06/06/gossy/ ,and here; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/19/john-goss-tornado-ford-longford-1968/

(R Knott Collection)

 

(B Rigg)

Mount Panorama view across The Cutting from Sulman Park with Bathurst in the distance, circa 1960.

(R McClelland)

Jackie Stewart, Bob Jane, Tim Parnell, a BRM mechanic and P261 ‘2614’ await the start of the South Pacific Championship on March 1967.

Jackie won the race in a scrap with Jim Clark the year before in the same chassis, and the Tasman Cup. This time Jack Brabham took the only ever Tasman round won by a 2.5-litre Repco-Brabham V8 in his BT23A chassis.

See here for a piece on the 1967 Tasman; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/24/1967-hulme-stewart-and-clark-levin-new-zealand-tasman-and-beyond/

(Langdon Brothers)

And again during practice, the BRM’s in 1967 had 2.1-litre P60 motors which stretched the transmissions beyond their comfort zones. Jim Clark’s Lotus 33 Climax FWMV 2-litre is in the distance, the combination which won the 1967 Tasman. See here too; https://primotipo.com/2018/12/14/sandown-park-cup-26-february-1967/

Flaggie 1946 style, during the New South Wales Grand Prix at Mount Panorama

These days the flameproof outfit and fag hangin’ out of the mouth probably wouldn’t make the cut. Alf Najar’s MG TB Special won the race, see here; https://primotipo.com/2019/11/15/1946-new-south-wales-grand-prix/

Alan Hamilton, Porsche 911 and Bob Watson Renault 16TS, Calder Rallycross in 1969.

What became of this 911 folks? Both these guys, champions both are still hale and hearty.

Jim Clark from Chris Amon at Dandenong Road Sandown, epic dice during the 1968 Australian Grand Prix, Jim won by a smidge of a second over Chris.

Lotus 49 Ford V8 from Ferrari Dino 246 V6. See AGP towards the end of this piece; https://primotipo.com/2016/12/09/f1-driverengineers-jack-larry-the-68-agp-and-rb830-v8/

(Peter Jones)

Bill Patterson’s Cooper T43 Climax being made ready at Fishermans Bend circa 1959.

It’s fellow Cooper driver John Roxburgh at right. Others folks? More from the Peter Jones Collection next week. See here for an article on Patterson’s Coopers; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/02/patto-and-his-coopers/

(B Thomas)

Duelling Scots during the ‘Lakeside 99’ Tasman Cup round in February 1967.

Jackie Stewart’s 2.1-litre BRM P261 V8 from Jim Clark, 2-litre Lotus 33 Coventry Climax FWMV V8, look closely and Jackie’s lightly-loaded right-front is just ‘orf terra-firma.

Jim won from Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT23A Repco and Frank Gardner’s Brabham BT16 Climax while Jackie’s gearbox cried enough after 59 of the races 66 laps.

See here for a pictorial piece on this weekend; https://primotipo.com/2019/01/18/lakeside-tasman-meeting-12-february-1967/

(unattributed)

Arthur Wylie, looking very smart in shirt and tie racing the wonderful Wylie Javelin on the short-lived Altona track in Melbourne’s inner-west in March 1954.

How did he go that day folks? Article about the car here; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/14/the-wylies-javelin-special/ and track here; https://primotipo.com/2016/06/24/jacks-altona-grand-prix-and-cooper-t23-bristol/

(AMS June 1954 via S Dalton)

 

(Auto Action)

John Martin, Spectrum 011 Ford Duratec Formula Ford, bouncing through the chicane, Adelaide during the March 2006 Clipsal 500 meeting.

Giving chase is Ben Clucas’ Van Diemen RF06 and Nathan Carratti, Van Diemen RF04.

Martin won this first ever Duratec powered round, and went on to win the Australian Formula Ford Championship from Tim Slade’s Sonic Motorsport run Van Diemen RF04. Martin then took one of Mike Borland’s 011 machines to the UK later in the year, with with some success.

(Ansett)

Phil Moore aboard John McCormack’s Elfin MR5 Repco-Holden at Oran Park during 1974.

The talented Adelaide Pharmacist won the 1973 Australian Sportscar Championship aboard an Elfin 360 Repco 830 2.5 V8. He won four of the six rounds. Moore was offered the drive of Mac’s 1973 Gold Star and NZ GP winning MR5 in the 1974 Gold Star.

In a grim year for Ansett Team Elfin with McCormack the reigning champion, Moore was the best placed of the teams three drivers, a distant third behind the Lolas of Max Stewart and Kevin Bartlett. Garrie Cooper was fourth and McCormack fifth.

John McCormack, the teams fastest driver was wrestling with the new Repco-Leyland engined MR6. The lightweight, aluminium engine was gutless and suffered severe structural problems. This scenario was exacerbated by Repco’s withdrawal from racing mid-year which meant the companies considerable race-engineering resources were not available to fix the problems. McCormack got there in the end of course, he won his third Gold Star aboard a Repco/Irving/McCormack-Leyland V8 engined McLaren M23 in 1977.

With no pre-season testing Phil Moore was impressive in 1974. His best result in five outings was second to Max Stewart’s Lola T330 Chev at demanding Surfers Paradise.

Phil Moore on the way to an ASCC win at Symmons Plains in November 1973, Elfin 360 Repco (unattributed)

 

(unattributed)

Vern Schuppan waves to the punters having won the 1973 Singapore Grand Prix.

His weapon of choice is a March 722 Ford. He won on the daunting 4.4km Upper Thomson Road circuit from Graeme Lawrence’s Surtees TS15 Ford and John MacDonald’s Brabham BT40 Ford. See here for a feature on this race; https://primotipo.com/2016/04/29/birrana-cars-and-the-1973-singapore-gp/

Credits…

Bob Young Collection via Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Dick Simpson, John Harvey Collection, Langdon Family, Norm Butler Collection, Tim Watts Collection, Rob Knott Collection, Bruce Rigg, Peter Jones, Auto Action, Ansett, Stephen Dalton Collection, Milan Fistonic, oldracephotos.com

Tailpiece…

(B Young)

Let’s finish where we started, at Magra Hillclimb in Tasmania, with a Morris Minor on the hop, driver folks?

Finito…

(B Young)

Fabulous photographs of Christmas at The Hunting Grounds, 15km west of Dysart, Tasmania in 1958.

Santa’s Elf is a Mr Cussin, a confused MG Car Club member driving a Triumph TR2.

The very best of seasonal salutations whatever brand of religion you consume- no doubt a faith has given enormous succour to many in this most challenging of years. Time I found one.

In Melbourne, Victoria we had six months of mild and then wild lockdown in the process of getting the Covid Beast ‘under control’. We are all, of course, impacted.

Best wishes to each and every one of you. Lets put 2020 to one side and approach 2021 with optimism. And hope.

Thankyou for your ongoing primotipo support.

Mark

(B Young)

Credits…

Bob Young Collection via the Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania

Finito…

(B Thomas)

Glyn Scott, Jaguar E-Type during the 1966 Surfers Paradise 12 Hours. The Queenslander shared the car with Shepparton’s finest, Bryan Thomson.

I popped this photo up on my primo FB page a couple of weeks ago and Bryan Thomson responded via our mutual friend, Stephen Dalton. ‘Yes Mark, this was my current road car in 1966. The first E-Type in Shepparton, purchased second-hand with 70,000 miles on the clock.’

‘We dropped the sump, fitted new big end and main bearing shells in preparation for the race and drove it up to Surfers. We won the production sportscar class and drove home again. And the nay-sayers claim that Jags aren’t reliable?!’

Inside the Roxburgh/Whiteford/Colwell Datsun Fairlady (B Thomas)

 

Thommo in the mid-sixties, doesn’t he look like a spring-chookin’? Circa 31 years old (S Dalton)

‘While we won the class there were some dramas. At about two-thirds distance Glyn was approaching the fast right-hander under Dunlop Bridge and on turn-in the steering came up (on the adjustment only), but Glyn thought the wheel had come off!! The E ran wide off the circuit and through a table-drain, damaging the outside rear wheel.’

‘We pitted, fitted the spare and pressed on. This meant we had no spare in case of further drama. I scurried up to the control tower and broadcast a request for a “loan-spare” if there was one among the spectator cars. Ten minutes later there were two on the way!!’ Motor-‘sport’ of the day.’ Thommo.

(Jag Magazine)

Credits…

Brier Thomas, Jaguar Magazine, Bryan Thomson, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpiece…

(Jag Magazine)

The Jag about to be swallowed by the third placed Bartlett/Chivas Mildren Racing Alfa Romeo TZ2.

Jackie Stewart and Andy Buchanan won in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM. See here for a piece on the 1966 Surfers Speedweek; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/13/jackie-stewart-at-surfers-paradise-speed-week-1966-brabham-bt11a-climax-and-ferrari-250lm/

Finito…

The white TR, is heading in the correct direction- the blue Healey has overshot his braking point (B Young)

Motorsport venues in Tasmania were a tad skinny in number prior to the opening of Baskerville near Hobart, and Launceston’s Symmons Plains circa 1960. Longford was great but it was a once a year deal over the March Labour Day long weekend.

So Quorn Hall, an ex-World War 2 airfield located on TC Clarke’s sheep grazing property was pressed into service. The 7,300 hectares, farmed by the same family since 1846 is on Lake Leake Road, Campbell Town 15km south of Launceston.

1952 (V Gee)

 

Jock Walkem’s #6 Norton or Vincent powered special going bush suspects Garry Simkin (B Young)

The ever interesting Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania Facebook page notes that ‘Quorn Hall Airfield was developed during WW2 to house the huge American bombers if the need to fall back to Tasmania occurred during an invasion of the mainland’, or the ‘North Island’ as the Tassies like to call the rest of us!

‘The runway is several kilometres long and about 50 metres wide. After the war (from November 1952) it was used for motorsport, essentially putting 44 gallon drums out and racing around them. The runway and access roads were used. Usage dropped off after the purpose made circuits opened, but it was still used for club events – standing quarter-miles etc until the end of the 1960s.’

It seems, as usual, the entrepreneurial motorcyclists beat us car dudes to the punch. The Tasmanian Motor Cycle Club organised a picnic ride to Quorn Hall in 1946 during which some races were run. ‘While the straw bales down the middle of the runway and use of oiled gravel access roads in a J-pattern may have been basic, unlike beach racing, you didn’t have to wait for the tide to go out and most of the 1 1/2 miles was sealed’ recorded Bike Australia.

2,000 people attended a combined car and bike meeting in 1951 organised by the Southern Motor Cycle Club and the Light Car Club. It was the first occasion on which ‘racing was officially noted.’

The Tasmanian Tourist Trophy was held there for the first time November 1952 with most of the national ‘bike stars of the day’ competing. The car racing was more club than national level, those honours went quite rightly to Longford.

Start of the Senior TT in 1952. Col #49 and Max #74 Stephens getting away smartly (Bike Australia)

 

Tasmanian Aero Club, Western Junction, date unknown (unattributed)

In fact the history of the site is a significant one in Tasmanian aviation.

The Tasmanian Aero Club was formed there site in 1927, the Western Junction Aerodrome (now Launceston Airport) was officially opened in 1929. The first passenger facility on the Apple Isle operated from there until August 1940 when the Royal Australian Air Force took over the place to house the ‘7 Elementary Flying Training School. Extra local ‘strips were built at Nile, Annandale, Valleyfield and Quorn Hall.

As the name suggests, 7 Elementary Flying Training School provided an introductory twelve-week flying course to those who had graduated from one of the RAAF’s initial training schools. It was the only RAAF base in Tasmania then. Flying ceased there in December 1944 with the school disbanded in August 1945.

Etcetera…

Western Junction Aerodrome in 1933.

These colour photographs are wonderful, unique. If any of you can help identifying cars/drivers please give me a yell and i will update the captions accordingly.

(HRCCT)

Bruce Gowans and John McCormack during a Historic Racing Car Club day out to Quorn Hall and Valleyfield (at Epping Forest) in 2016. They are standing on the Quorn Hall runway-circuit.

(HRCCT)

 

 

VW and Fiat 1100 (B Young)

 

Mick Watt competing in the first ‘Half-Hour’ race at QH in 1953 in Ford Anglia. This little car, nicknamed the ‘Magic Goat’ won 64 races.

 

(B Young)

What a magic panorama. Brian Higgins believes the competitors are Jack Petts and Geoff Smedley in Triumph TRs, Boyce Youl in the Jaguar XK and Mick Watt’s Ford Anglia.

 

 

(B Young)

 

MG. Love the dudes in the background  (V Gee)

 

(B Young)

 

(D Elliott)

Don Elliott, Holden Special at QH in the late-fifties.

This attractive little car was a mix of Skoda and Holden components, the engine used a Repco Hi-Power hhead fed by a side-draft twin-choke Weber.

Our friend in the Fiat again (B Young)

 

A couple of RAAF cub ‘flyboys’ with their Tiger Moths at Western Junction circa-1940.

 

(M Watt)

This shot is of Stan Jones in Maybach 1.

It is from Mick Watt’s Collection, no doubt taken on a day he was also competing. Stephen Dalton thinks the shot is probably closeby to QH at Valleyfield, one of the four airstrips mentioned above. He and fellow Victorian, John Nind (Cooper) raced there on November 4 and 5 1951. It’s only a short time after Jones acquired the car from it’s builder, the great Charlie Dean. The pair and sponsor Repco would have much success together in the ensuing years.

 

(T McGrath)

Alan Stephenson, Cooper Mk5 JAP Cooper misjudgement and consequences, not too bad.

(T McGrath)

Photo and other Credits…

Bob Young Collection via the Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Vicki Gee, Don Elliott Collection, Mick Watt Collection, Terry McGrath from the Graham Howard Collection, Garry Simkin

Bibliography…

speedwayroadracehistory, ‘Tracks In Time: Quorn Hall’ Bike Australia July 2018, Terry Walker, Bike Australia

Tailpiece…

(B Young)

‘Holy ‘snappin rissoles’. That’s the swing-axle shit the motor magazines are rabbiting on about.

Finito…

Just when i thought my pre-war Oz racing history may get a pass mark, Smailes comes along and bursts that bubble.

The last bloke to do that was John Medley, his list of early Australian international racers in ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ had me running a long list of fellas to Google.

John Smailes new book is a wonderful, skilfully crafted yarn about ‘Australia and New Zealand’s quest to win the Indy 500’. Some garnish is added to the drivers by inclusion of the likes of Barry Green and Steve Horne who joined teams as mechanics and ended up running the show.

I knew about Jack, Chris and Denny but not really the rest. Indy has not had huge appeal to me. One could argue that Indycars is the toughest of all the elite open-wheeler classes given its unique challenges of road-racing and super-speedways not least Indy.

John has become prolific in recent times with works including the history of CAMS (which is a mighty fine summary of Oz racing since day dot), the ’68 London-Sydney, Allan Moffat, Mount Panorama and now Indy with ‘Speed Kings’.

The book is an eminently readable yarn chockers with heaps of factual material including wonderful contextual stuff about the US auto industries need for, and then embracement of The Brickyard. John interviewed over 50 of his subjects or related parties in 2020. He didn’t lock down his final copy until a couple of days after this years 500 so it is right up to date.

Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Chris Amon, Kevin Bartlett, Graham McRae, Vern Schuppan, Geoff Brabham, Will Power, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon, Matt Brabham and James Davison are all here together with tales of their commercial and race (or non-race) challenges interwoven with Indycar politics and evolution. There are others too but i don’t want to spoil those surprises.

Make sure the chief or the kids pop it in your Xmas stocking. It’s a ripper book.

I’ve popped it straight into my Oz Key Reference Collection which lives in my kitchen. There is little point in cook-books if boiling water is a culinary achievement, you are beyond Margie Fulton’s help right? If you can get the ankle-biters under control on the 27th, Boxing Day is a tad optimistic, you should be able to knock it over in a long but enjoyable day. Have the odd frothy after midday to assist.

Rupert Jeffkins is the dude who caused the fail on my Pre-War Oz Racing History exam paper BTW.

Rupert Jeffkins and Ralph de Palma push their wounded Mercedes towards the finish line at Indy in 1912

 

(G Gauld)

‘Its like a rocket Jack’. ‘It should be, you put it together champ’, the boss responded.

Frank Gardner and Brabham BT2 Ford on the BARC 200 Formula Junior pole at Aintree on April 28, 1962. John Bolster is hovering behind contemplating putting the bite on Jack for a track-test.

The lanky, laconic Aussie didn’t do quite so well with (perhaps) ‘FJ-2-62’ in the race. He ran out of road at Tatts Corner after 7 of the 17 laps ending up amongst the hay-bales close enough to the Pits for Jack to wander over just as he was recovering the car.

(B St Clare-Tregilgas)

 

Jack didn’t have a great day either. He raced Lotus 21 and 24 whilst Ron Tauranac toiled away on the first F1 Brabham, the BT3 Climax FWMV V8. The gears on his Lotus 21 Climax FPF stripped, the race was won by Jim Clark’s Lotus 24 Climax from Bruce McLaren’s Cooer T55 Climax.

The FJ race was won by Peter Arundell’s Lotus 22 Ford in a classy field which included Tony Maggs, John Love, Mike Spence, Richard Attwood, Denny Hulme and Alan Rees.

Etcetera…

(J Hendy)

It’s amazing to think of FG as a budding ‘young driver’ contesting Formula Junior races at Monaco in 1962. He was 31 when he lined up that May, a veritable geriatric by today’s standards when F3 pilots are barely shaving. He was racing a D Type before he left Australia. None of that counted for much when he landed in the UK of course. Sometimes you have to go down to go up, so to speak.

Frank was fourth in the first heat won by Peter Arundell’s works Lotus 22 Ford and failed to finish the final with clutch failure. Up front it was Lotus 22 Fords in first to third – Arundell from Mike Spence and Bob Anderson. All progressed to GP racing, as did Frank of course.

Aintree program in relation to Brabham (and Ausper) FJs (S Dalton)

Another shot of FG below, this time in BT2’s close relation BT6. Not at Aintree, but another horse-racing track, ‘God’s Acre of Motor Racing’, Warwick Farm in Australia.

Gardner had the system beaten. He did his thing in Europe each year and then had summer in the sun back home in Australia where he raced for Alec Mildren.

In 1964 he raced this chassis, ‘FJ-9-63’, Denny’s 1963 works FJ mount, by then fitted with a Lotus-Ford 1.5 twin-cam in the Australian Tasman Cup rounds.

(E Holly Collection)

His best result in the four races was fourth in the Lakeside 99, meritorious amongst the 2.5 FPF Climax powered opposition. Twelve months later he raced Alec’s BT11A FPF in an assault on all of the eight rounds. Frank used BT11As in 1965 and 1966, the shot below is again at Warwick Farm where Gardner was third behind Jim Clark’s Lotus 39 Climax and Graham Hill’s BRM P261.

(unattributed)

Photo Credits…

Graham Gauld, Brian St Clare-Tregilgas, John Hendy, Ed Holly Collection, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpiece…

Tattersalls Corner, where FG came to grief, is at bottom right.

Finito…

Australian Auto Action…

Posted: December 7, 2020 in Obscurities
Tags:

Make sure you buy Auto Action this week as it has a piece by yours truly, a six page feature on the Tornados. It has some ripper shots not published before. Keep buying it too, if I can help drag in a few extra readers the historic content will grow.

AA boss-cocky Bruce Williams is expanding his historic coverage to help broaden the appeal of a magazine which has been with us since 1971. Time flies. When i got hooked on cars in 1972 my magazine diet was Racing Car News, Sports Car World and Auto Action, only the latter endures sadly.

AA has more V8-taxis than you can poke a stick at of course. The F1 coverage is great, ditto Indycars, sports-prototypes, off-road and a halfway decent national event summary – and the rest. You might be surprised at the historic content already, about eight pages and above. My loose brief is to waffle on about older single-seaters, sportscars and people.

Anyway, give us a go, revisit the magazine if you’ve not bought it for a while.

primotipo and the like are free, I suppose as a group the ‘primotipos’ of the world have knocked around the sales of traditional publications. But it’s important we keep the magazines we have. Of course said publications must have punter appeal. My current favourites are MotorSport, The Automobile, Australian Musclecar and Auto Action– a diverse selection. All are privately owned which I rather like as an SME owner for most of my business career.

I’m pluggin’ away on some other commissions as well. The Auto Action piece is the first to be published. Many thanks to Geoff Harris, Bruce Williams, Heath McAlpine and the Auto Action crew.

primotipo.com rolls on unchanged, it’s a fix I can’t do without!

 

 

Perth’s Allan Tomlinson wins the 1939 Australian Grand Prix on the immensely daunting, challenging and dangerous Adelaide Hills, Lobethal course…

To this day Australia’s learned motor-racing historians struggle to understand how Tomlinson did the times he did in his little supercharged MG TA Special. It simply does not seem possible for the slightly built young ace to do what he did with what he had.

This article is about the race. The report is that published by the Adelaide Advertiser the day after the event coz’ I do like to use the language of the day when it is available. But this article piece is more about the dialogue of great Oz racing historian John Medley and others on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ discussing Tomlinson’s achievement and how he did it.

The racing on Monday January 2 comprised the AGP for which the ‘Advertiser Cup’ and a prize of 200 pounds was awarded. Other events were the 10.45 am South Australian, or Junior GP, ‘and an innovation, the 1 pm Australian Stock Car Road Championship, in which all manner of stock car models, from sedans to tourers and small roadsters have been entered’. The AGP commenced at 2.30 pm.

 

 

The ‘Adelaide Advertiser’ report of the race weekend, published on Tuesday January 3, 1939

The high speeds recorded by drivers in the first race of the day, the South Australian Grand Prix (75 miles) made the crowd look for thrills, and although they were disappointed with the slow times in the Australian Stock Car Road Championship, they were treated to exhibitions of wild cornering, clever and fast driving, and terrific speeds in the last race of the day, the Australian Grand Prix (150 miles).

That race, conducted for the first time in this state, provided a fitting climax to a day of high speed and thrills. It was the best race ever conducted in Australia according to interstate officials.

Attracted by the treacherous curves, made even more hazardous by melting bitumen, the main bulk of the huge crowd congregated at Kayannie Corner, the Mill Corner at the entrance to Lobethal Village, and the acute Hairpin Bend near the grandstand. Time and again the faster cars, racing to the grandstand hairpin, braked and slithered around the corner, just grazing the sandbags. One of the more unfortunate however was F Kleinig, who hit the sandbags with a crash in the SA Grand Prix. Kleinig’s car was undamaged and although he lost valuable minutes in extricating it from the broken wall of sand, he was able to continue.’

 

My kind of driver- Frank Kleinig had lots of raw pace, fire and brimstone but perhaps not enough consistency to ever win an AGP- which he surely deserved? Here in trouble aboard his Kleinig Hudson Spl, a very quick concoction of MG chassis, Hudson straight-eight engine and an ever evolving brew of many other bits and pieces- a quintessential, ever-present, and still alive marvellous Australian Special (N Howard)

 

‘In the same race DF O’Leary hit the protective bags at Kayannie Corner. RF Curlewis (NSW) overturned when he attempted to pass O’Leary on the corner. He came in too fast, braked, skidded to avoid the sandbags and, with his wheels locked, turned completely over, pinning the driver underneath. The car had to be lifted to release Curlewis, who escaped with a shaking. F Kleinig had to use the escape road in a subsequent lap, and had to weave his way through the excited crowd, which had been attracted by the screaming tyres. Kleinig had much trouble at Kayannie, and eventually hit the sandbags head on.

Skilful driving by JF Snow (NSW) prevented a possible accident at Kayannie in the AGP when he had to brake hard to miss running into the back of Dr CRK Downing, who had broadsided on the gravel across the corner. Alf Barrett (Alfa Romeo Monza) mounted the sandbags in the 12th lap of the same race, and he lost four minutes in backing his car onto the road again.’

 

Is it his watch John Snow is checking, perhaps not? Delahaye 135CS, Lobethal – later the car was an AGP winner in John Crouch’ hands at Leyburn in 1949 (N Howard)

 

Wheels Leave Road

‘The entrants in the Australian Stock Car Championship had trouble at almost all of the corners on the course, as the cars, not built for racing, swayed and threatened to overturn with the heavy loading imposed on the bodies imposed by the racing speeds.

Saywell’s front wheels were leaving the road at the crest of the rise at the end of the Charleston Straight approaching Kayannie, and at the Ess Bend near the golf links on the Kayannie-Lobethal leg of the course as the spectators were treated to similar sights as the cars raced over the hilltop and down the steep downgrade towards Lobethal.’

Click here for a piece of Australia’s first Australian Touring Car Championship event; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/04/first-australian-touring-car-championship-lobethal-1939/

 

The fastest car in the race if not quite the fastest combination- Jack Saywell and the Alfa P3/Tipo B John Snow imported for him not so long before the race (N Howard)

 

The Mill Corner caused many of the drivers much trouble, and as the wheels of the cars repeatedly swept gravel onto the course, the job of cornering at that right-angled turn was made even harder.

Saywell swung right around on one lap and ended up against the protecting bales of straw. People encroaching on the road had to jump to escape injury a few times when R Lea-Wright (Vic) misjudged and swung too wide.

Barrett’s cornering was always a feature of the AGP at that corner, and he took the turn at almost full speed in second gear nearly every time. His courage on a corner which had checked practically every other driver allowed him to gain yards on every lap.

 

Barrett, Monza Alfa (N Howard)

 

Saywell came to grief at the Mill Corner in the fourth lap of the last race (AGP). Hitting the kerb beneath the straw, he rebounded high in the air, but, retaining control of his huge car, was able to speed away without delay. Kleinig took a bale of straw with him for some distance up the Lobethal main street in the same race.

When in third place in the SA GP A Ohlmeyer (SA) skidded while negotiating the S Bend near the recreation ground. Without being able to regain control of his car, he crashed into the sandbags and went over the top, but neither he nor his car was injured.

 

Colin Dunne in his MG K3 during practice. Prodigiously quick and a race winner at the 1938 SA GP Lobethal meeting the year before. Dunne was a DNS with a popped engine in practice- the race was the weaker for his non-appearance. He and his wife hung out the pit boards for Tomlinson under Clem Dwyer’s guidance (N Howard)

 

 

Grand Prix Described

 

(B King)

 

Representatives of the best cars in Australia, the Australian Grand Prix (150 miles) had a field of 17 competitors of which Bowes MG N Type (12 min) the South Australian driver was the early leader.

He got away to a good lead and at the end of the third lap had a three- quarters of a mile leeway over Leach (12 min), Boughton Morgan (11 min), Curlewis MG T Type (21 min), Lea-Wright Terraplane Spl (17 min). Phillips Ford V8 Spl (12:45 min) and Burrows Terraplane Spl (12:45) were juggling for the other places. F Kleinig retired on lap 3.

 

Russell Bowes, MG N Type with a touch of the opposites (H Cullen)

John Medley provided a fascinating vignette about one of Australia’s pre-war racers who lost his life in the war.

‘Tall, thin, Roderick Russell Herbert Bowes led the 1939 AGP early, then retired after 11 laps. As a driver he was a goer, he was a flyer with the Redhill Flying Club, he enlisted for RAAF service during the war, was a fighter pilot in the UK (now in the RAF) was moved to Burma where he was shot down and died in 1943, an Ace with at least 9 “kills”.

‘His is one of many individual files I read whilst researching my John Snow book (when it is easy to become lost in the moment), reliving that individual’s life for a moment, and even now I feel emotional about sharing that bit of Russell Bowe’s life- a young man/an enthusiast/a worker/a goer/painfully open and honest; he admitted in his enlistment papers of “one traffic offence”: he had put his MG N over a bank near Eagle On The Hill going home from Lobethal that night. He bought the ex-Snow MG K3 in 1940, his parents passing it to Ron Uffindell later’ John concluded.

 

Frank Kleinig’s Kleinig Hudson Spl whistles through Lobethal village at some pace (N Howard)

 

Alf Barrett, Alfa Monza. Steed at the start after an error with a fuel tap- he lost 6 minutes and any chance he had in the race- perhaps the only man on the day who had the blend of speed and consistency to match Tomlinson, tyres permitting (N Howard)

 

After his unfortunate start, Barrett, Alfa Romeo Monza (2:50 sec) who lost 6 minutes on the starting line when his engine would not start was making up time very fast. Tomlinson MG TA Spl s/c (11:30 min) began making an impression, after five laps and filled eighth almost one lap behind the leader.

Lyster Jackson relieved RW Manser MG N Type (Victoria) who retired with engine trouble and AG Sinclair took Dr Downings place at the wheel of the Brooklands Riley (which Alan Sinclair had imported from England for his intended trip to Australia and sold to Downing).

Saywell Alfa P3/Tipo B (scratch) was electrifying the crowd with his terrific speed on the straights, and was only two laps behind the field with 10 laps to go. Barrett was returning increasingly faster times, lapping at more than 90 miles per hour.

 

When Alan Boughton bought this Morgan from Victoria for the inaugural Lobethal car meeting 12 months before it was a sportscar, by 1939 a single-seater, Lobethal 1939 (N Howard)

 

High speed precision, Allan Tomlinson MG TA Spl s/c, some of his secrets revealed at the end of this article (N Howard)

 

Tomlinson, (given the faster signal from his pit by Colin Dunne on Clem Dwyer’s direction) travelling at more than 80 miles an hour as his average speed, pushed up behind Leach, passed him and set out after Lea-Wright. Going out of Lobethal about 30 miles from the finish, Tomlinson passed Lea-Wright and clapped on more speed to set a good margin coming past the grandstand with 3 laps to go.

Saywell was returning a consistent 92 miles an hour average, and Barrett clung on grimly with a slightly better speed.

Burrows followed Phillips who was then third to Tomlinson and Lea-Wright. Saywell’s mishap (Saywell and Barrett both spun in their attempts to increase their pace to match Tomlinson with the heat and tyre problems causing the spins) at the Mill Corner lost him two places and Snow (4:15 min) moved into fifth place behind Burrows.

 

Jack Phillips and mechanic, Ford V8 Spl. Wangaratta based Phillips won a lot of races in this car- perhaps not as ‘pretty’ as Doug Whiteford’s Black Bess but a really effective, fast, reliable machine (N Howard)

The first three positions remained unchanged for the last two laps (with Clem Dwyer slowing Tomlinson over the last 2 laps), with Tomlinson the winner from Lea-Wright and Phillips- MG TA Spl, Terraplane Spl and Ford V8 Spl.

Strangely enough The Advertiser reported the death of Vernon Leach ‘about 27, single from North Melbourne on the second last lap of the race in a separate article to the main race report.

Second placed Bob Lea-Wright , Terraplane 8 Spl, with hard-working mechanic (N Howard)

 

 

 

Leach, in fourth place at the time, raced towards Gumeracha at the top of Lobethal’s main street and swung wide at more tha 60 miles per hour- the car slid, he over-corrected rocketed back to the other side of the road, bounced over a ditch into a bank with the hapless driver pinned underneath the car. He died almost instantaneously.

In the same lap that he was killed he had crashed into the haybales at Mill Corner in addition to an earlier off at Kayannie- he too had increased his times by over 10 seconds per lap to endeavour to match the faster pace being set by Tomlinson and perhaps just pushed too hard on the unforgiving track.

He was far from inexperienced mind you having, for example, won a 116 mile handicap at Phillip Island the previous November. Leach was racing the MG P Type Les Murphy used earlier in the day to place third in the SA GP.

 

I’ll fated Vern Leach MG P Type behind Tim Joshua’s Frazer Nash, DNF lap 7 (N Howard)

 

John Snow, Delahaye 135CS (SCCSA)

 

In another report in the paper on the same day the ‘Tiser said ‘although the fastest time went to J Saywell, AL Barrett in an Alfa Romeo was the outstanding driver in the race.’

‘Losing six minutes…Barrett determinedly set after the field and recorded the best average lap time for the day – 93.7 miles an hour. That time was about 10 miles an hour faster than the best lap recorded last year (in the 1938 January South Australian GP). He gave a brilliant exhibition of driving and control, and cornered magnificently at every bend, rarely getting into trouble with the sandbags. Barrett consistently average more than 90 miles per hour and on two occasions equalled his lap record. His speed on the straights approached 140 miles an hour’.

 

By the time of the 1939 Alf Barrett was master of his steed, a 2.3 litre Alfa Romeo Monza s/c- and I’m not suggesting he had trouble adapting to it. One of Australia’s greatest with a career which extended well into the post-war period (N Howard)

 

Jack Saywell, Alfa Romeo P3 (SCCSA)

 

The report noted ‘Tomlinson, who is only 22, is a motor mechanic with his own business in Perth. Yesterday was his first appearance in interstate company (all states were represented in the race with the exception of Queensland). He won the Albany GP last Easter and the Bunbury Flying 50 in October’.

‘Although it was a delightful day for the spectators the weather was much too hot for the racing cars. Tyres were torn to shreds on the hot roads, the heat made the engines boil, and the melting bitumen made some of the corners very sticky’.

The Advertiser’s reporter did a very good job- the assessment about the conditions and tyres- particularly the impact on the bigger, heavier cars was marked and worked to the advantage of the smaller, lighter cars driven by the likes of Tomlinson.

Results:

1st- AG Tomlinson MG TA Spl 120 min 27 sec on handicap, actual time 110 min 57 sec. 2nd RA Lea-Wright Terraplane Spl  122 min 31 sec / 118 min 31 sec. 3rd JK Phillips Ford V8 Spl 122 min 46 sec 114 min 31 sec. 4th JF Snow Delahaye 135CS 124 min 11 sec, 107 min 26 sec. 5th L Burrows Hudson 124 min 38 sec , 116 min 23 sec. 6th J Saywell Alfa Romeo P3/Tipo B 126 min 48 sec, 105 min 48 sec. 7th JF Crouch Alfa Romeo (handicap 5 min) 128 min 33 sec, 112 min 33 sec. 8th AI Barrett Alfa Romeo Monza 129 min 11 sec. 9th RF Curlewis MG T Type 129 min 57 sec,

 

To the victor the spoils- Tomlinson’s win was a result of a mix of masterful planning, preparation and superb implementation of agreed race-day tactics and with superb driving- brilliant professionalism by Allan, Clem Dwyer and Bill Smallwood, youngsters all (The Advertiser)

 

Jim Gullan’s Ballot 5/8LC ‘Indy’, DNS the race but would have better luck at Lobethal post-war- he won the 1948 South Australian 100 at Lobe in another Ballot- the Ballot Oldsmobile Spl (N Howard)

 

Jack Saywell, Alfa P3 (SCCSA)

 

(H Cullen)

Junior Event SA GP

From the limit mark RS Uffindell (above) veteran Sporting Car Club member, led all the way to win the SA GP (75 miles), the first event of yesterday’s programme.

He drove a consistent race, content to keep the average lap speeds below 70 odd miles an hour. Bryson’s accident in the first lap allowed Uffindell to clear out from the 12 minute markers, and although Les Murphy (Victoria) drove very well to hold second place for several laps he was unable to make up the huge leeway set him by the South Australian. The handicaps were too great for the scratch-man and other backmarkers and they had to be content to sit behind the better handicapped drivers.

Results

1st R Uffindell Austin Spl 70 min 54 sec. 2nd RA Lea-Wright Terraplane Spl. 3rd Les Murphy driving J O’Dea’s MG. 4th JK Phillips Ford V8 Spl. 5th L Burrows Terraplane Spl. 6th RWE Manser MG N Type. Fastest Lap F Kleinig Kleinig Hudson Spl 5 min 54 sec ‘more than 90 miles an hour’

 

Uffindell’s Austin 7 at a South Australian hill-climb and in more recent times below (T Johns)

 

(T Johns)

 

TM Brady, Singer Bantam, winner of the 1939 Australian Stock Car Championship and as a consequence the very first winner of the Australian Touring Car Championship (The Advertiser)

 

Australian Stock Car Championship

Chief interest in the Australian stock car championship centred on the possibility of J McKinnon catching the leader, TM Brady. The speed of the race was very slow in comparison to the SA Grand Prix.

Brady went into the lead from Uffindell on the third time around with Hutton a long way back third. Brooks, Mrs Jacques (Owen Gibbs driver) and Osborne retired at Kayannie after about three laps each, and McKinnon and Phillips moved up into fourth and fifth places respectively.

 

 

Brownsworth with his low-slung racing type car was the best of the scratch men, and he left them to chase the other five. Lapping consistently at more than 70 miles an hour he moved up several places in successive laps and was gradually overhauling the leaders. Brady, however maintained his lead to the finish’ and in so doing is the winner of the very first Australian Touring Car Championship an honour hitherto accorded David McKay’s win in the 1960 ATCC at Gnoo Blas, Orange aboard his Jaguar Mk1.

 

TM Brady (left) and co-driver/mechanic, Lobethal, first winners of the Australian Touring Car Championship 1939, Singer Bantam (unattributed)

 

Results

1st TM Brady Singer Bantam. 2nd J McKinnon Ford V8 . 3rd JK Phillips Ford V8. 4th G Brownsworth Jaguar SS. 5th DE Hutton Morris 8/40. Fastest Lap Brownsworth 7 min 27 sec ‘just over 71 miles an hour’.

 

The TM Brady Singer Bantam, Lobethal 1939 (unattributed)

 

Tomlinson, Lobethal 1939 (The Advertiser)

 

Allan Tomlinson’s MG TA Spl’s speed. How Did He Do It?…

John Medley ‘I remain still mystified about how Allan Tomlinson and the ‘other kids from the west’ did what they did to win the 1939 Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal…’

Tomlinson’s win was not a total surprise as race-day dawned. The Advertisers race morning summary said ‘…Despite his huge handicap- he is the only scratch man…J Saywell…has made himself one of the favourites for the race. Provided he has a clear passage and his motor keeps going, Saywell should be well up with the field 20 miles from the finish. His record average laps during the week favour F Kleinig who is off 4 min 15 seconds, but one of the most consistent of the drivers who is expected to do well is AG Tomlinson of Western Australia.’

John Medley explores how Allan Tomlinson did the ‘unbelievable’ in both his book ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ and online on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’. What follows with the exception of a contribution from Terry Walker is from those two sources. Recording in an easily accessible place this analysis has been a somewhat laborious process, any mistakes made are mine.

‘I had previously calculated, using known tyre sizes, wheel sizes, diff ratios and revs and the sort of speeds that the supercharged Tomlinson MG T special did. Over 130mph was the answer. People who know MG TA engines say “impossible”.

‘Problem: His lap times at Lobethal suggest that the car was in fact that fast. I and others have calculated sector times that he had to have achieved to do those lap times- and then found them impossible to match. Problem 2: He did the times and the lap chart shows it.

On the most difficult section of Lobethal, from the Gumeracha turnoff to Mount Torrens Corner through the dives, twists and turns amongst the trees at very close to top speed, he had run away from much faster cars: John Snow long ago told me that Allan had rocketed away from the Snow Delahaye through here.’

 

John Snow’s Delahaye 135CS (N Howard)

 

‘When Allan talked of all of this six weeks ago, (Medley was writing on TNF in 2005) I found him very self effacing, modest, factual and with an astonishing memory. He explained the sort of things he and Clem Dwyer and Bill Smallwood did to make the car and the driver fast. And he added fuel to the fire by suggesting speeds of closer to 140mph!!’

John continues, ‘He explained, for example, that while they carefully rehearsed the whole Lobethal circuit, it was the Gumeracha Turnoff-Mt Torrens section that they had focussed on in the three weeks before the event- walking each bit, looking at it from different angles, discussing lines, gearing, braking points etc and then applying their findings bit by bit in unofficial practice. They made the decision that this tricky bit was the critical bit of the whole circuit.’

‘And of that section, the corner next to Schubert’s paddock was the “jewel in the crown”: it took them the longest time in practice, and it wasn’t until 1940 that Allan Tomlinson was able to take it flat out.’

‘They had nicknames for one another: strong and athletic Bill Smallwood was The Minder, good driver and long-time competitor (state championships on two-wheels and four and still a racer into his 80’s). Clem Dwyer was The Manager, and Allan was labelled The Driver- by Clem, who reckoned that Allan was 2 seconds per lap quicker than Clem at any WA circuit.’

 

The Kids from Perth: Tomlinson, Smallwood and Dwyer (K Devine)

 

Albany 1938 (K Devine)

 

‘They came to Lobethal (three weeks before the race and very quickly borrowed a Morris tow-car from an Adelaide dealer and set themselves up close-by to Lobethal in Woodside) as very young unknowns all the way from Western Australia.

No-one took any notice of them (“we were just the kids from the west”) and no-one was prepared for what the youngsters would hit them with- despite Allan’s seven wins in a row in Western Australia. And it should be noted that when Allan was injured and unable to race for part of 1939, it was Bill Smallwood who took over the top placings in WA, also in a TA Special.

Ultimately, after the three days of official practice, they removed their practice cylinder-head (from Bill Smallwood’s racing MG T Special) and on race-day bolted on their special head for the race.

Tomlinson deliberately only practiced sections at speed: not only were the roads not closed, but they didn’t want any observer to gain an idea of what the kids from the west could do. An Adelaide builder staying in the same (Woodside) hotel noticed them, though, initially he suggested to them that they were foxing (“you are cunning young bastards”). Then he drew out his comprehensive record of every lap-time of every car at Lobethal and he suggested they could win- particularly after a good final practice. They continued to politely disagree, because they were very apprehensive about the serious eastern states experienced hotshots in their real racing cars’.

 

Saywell’s magnificent Alfa Romeo Tipo B or P3 depending upon your inclination- the apocryphal story about this car is it’s rather pricey twin-cam, supercharged straight eight being despatched by boat back to Italy just prior to the the war and never being seen again- probably still in the bilges of a ship on the bottom of the ocean. Ultimately restored to original specs of course and long gone from our shores (H Cullen)

 

Medley continued, ‘The stars of the day were always going to be the recently imported Alfa Romeo’s and the Delahaye. Alf Barrett threw away his chances at the start with a failure to turn a fuel tap on again and lost something like six irretrievable minutes with his 2.3 Monza.’

John Snow plugged on steadily in his 135CS Delahaye, speeding up as the race proceeded and he gained confidence in the survival of his tyres on an appallingly hot day. John Crouch’s 2.3 long-chassis sports Alfa was never quick enough and was (according to Allan T) on one occasion passed by the MG T Special up the main street of Lobethal, and Jack Saywell’s 2.9 Alfa was also troubled by its rubber and its brakes. Snow was so impressed by the MG T Special going away from him towards Mt Torrens Corner that he said he just had to own it- and in 1946 he did’.

 

John Crouch in his Alfa 8C , Lobethal 1939 AGP (N Howard)

 

‘Allan told the story of how Saywell passed the MG up the main streets of Lobethal to lead by over 150 yards as they headed towards that tough section: and he pointed out that Saywell was in his way by the time they were past Schubert’s Corner and slowing him up towards Mt Torrens Corner.’

‘…On this section maintaining his race strategy Allan Tomlinson flung the cart-sprung supercharged TA neatly but rapidly through as usual, aviating at times over some of the blind crests, and going away easily from one of the best modern sportscars in the world (the Snow Delahaye 135CS).

The supercharged T-Series Special was reaching 130mph on this spooky section. It took the astounded Snow all the way to Charleston to catch and pass him. Even then it was a struggle because perfectionist engineer Tomlinson had made sure that the TA engine would endure revs way beyond factory limits so perfectionist driver Tomlinson could drive it with reliability to 130mph.’

 

John Snow’s Delahaye 135CS beside one of the Australian Touring Car, sorry Australian Stock Car Championship contenders in the leafy Lobethal paddock (N Howard)

 

Medley wrote ‘The Tomlinson strategy  was to run the tallest tyre/diff combination they could, not brake or accelerate too hard, run the car a gear high, let the car build up to its maximum and keep it there in particular by maintaining the highest possible corner speed’.

‘There is another haunting truth about the kids from the west that day.’

’In the entire field despite Allan Tominson’s apprehension about the eastern states hotshots there was one, and only one driver with significant racing experience on tar: all the others had experience only on dirt: the only exceptions were John Snow with his overseas experience and the few who had raced at Lobethal one year earlier- that is, they had each had one day’s tar experience: Tim Joshua, Bob Lea-Wright, Jack Phillips, Alf Barrett and Jack Boughton.’

’The one and only one with significant tar experience was Allan Tomlinson, by then a very successful veteran of WA Round The Houses racing…A tar-surfaced Lobethal with so many fast corners was tailor made for Allan Tomlinson- particularly given his race plan to use the tallest possible diff and to corner close to the cars maximum all day’.

 

The smiling assassin- Tomlinson bares down upon whom folks. Albany (K Devine)

 

Details of car preparation were no less remarkable.

‘Remember when they were doing all this stuff, they were just kids, barely 20 years of age in that pre-Kart era when they started on Allan’s new MG T.

‘Examples include rebuilding the engine after every race, constantly improving it, never satisfied unless the short motor could be spun over with the thumb and fore-finger on the crankshaft’s flywheel flange. (“if it kept spinning it was ok, if not we pulled it apart to see what was fitting too neatly”) and the gas pressure within all cylinders was within a 3% range.’

‘Rings were lapped in a dummy bore carefully measured for round and cylindrical, the actual bore was lapped with rings already lapped, and then the lapped rings were lapped in the lapped bores: there was no running in needed.’

‘Copper inlet pipes ran smoothly from supercharger on the left to inlet ports on the right. Why copper? “Because of its heat transfer properties”‘

 

The Lobethal scrutineers trying to understand the speed of the blue-bullet from Perth (HAGP)

 

More on the engine from Terry Walker.

‘I’ve worked out why the Tomlinson MG TA, when pulled down in its new owners hands, seemed to be unremarkable inside the engine- it wasn’t heavily modified at all.’

’What Alan Tomlinson and Clem Dwyer did was the most finicky preparation- it revved higher than standard of course, but not a lot higher- the cam was fairly mild- but by careful preparation, it could hold those higher revs at full throttle for a very long time without the engine bursting. It was blueprinting, but beyond blueprinting. They worked hard on improving reliability as well as power. Well ahead of their time in many respects.’

‘In a Dowerin (WA) race meeting report in the 1930’s, the writer- a WA Sporting Car Club man- commented on the revs the engine was pulling. Not i suspect because they were outrageously high, but because Allan could keep the car on max revs lap after lap. An astounding feat for a production engine in the 1930’s’.

During the 70 year re-enactment/celebration of the 1939 AGP at Lobethal Alan Tomlinson was still alive and was guest of honour of the weekend.

When John Medley spoke to him about the engine ‘Allan told of using no head gasket but rather lapping the head with three grades of valve-grinding paste on a surface plate, then lapping the block likewise, then lapping the two together- “took me two weeks for each process” said Allan. “Surely you must use a machine to do that” i foolishly said. “No, all by hand” replied Allan.

‘Great 1940/50’s MG TC racer George ‘Research’ Pearse said to me 15 years ago “You couldn’t buy performance over the counter then like you can these days. Performance had to come from what was inside your head and from your ability to shape metal”.

The little team from the West were i suspect prototypes of that view, and also forerunners of a level of professionalism which didn’t exist in Australian until the 1960s’.

 

 

The Modern Era…

The seventieth anniversary of the 1939 AGP at Lobethal in 2009 provided an opportunity for many enthusiasts to meet with Alan Tomlinson, who, at that stage lived in New York and was 92 years old.

Some snippets from those who were there;

After the race no lesser figure than Lord Nuffield himself was interested in the TA’s secrets.

Doug Gordon, ‘ Alan was a lovely bloke. I met him in the main street of Lobethal and he gave me an almost blow by blow of the 1939 event, including all of his preparations of the car, along with a remarkable account of how he was introduced to Lord Nuffield at a fancy post-race dinner.

AGT at Lobethal in 2009

 

‘William Morris was waiting in a side room and Allan was only young  with some rowdy mates, who had been his pit crew. He was approached by an officious looking gent in a “penguin-suit” who he thought was a bouncer about to kick them out of the show. In fact he was ushered quietly and alone into a separate room where Lord Nuffield was waiting to meet him.’

‘Morris wanted to know every detail about how he got his TA to go so fast! The poms were not able to duplicate anything close to what Allan had achieved with the car. He was told from that day on Allan had the entire UK MG racing division at his disposal and that he was to personally liaise with Morris to requisition anything he desired at no cost. He thought it too good to be true, but did send off a range of requests and in due course everything he asked for was delivered to him in Perth!’

‘This was one of the most satisfying motoring conversations I have ever had- time seemed no object to Alan and at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted exchange occurred in what seemed to be the blink of an eye! I have nothing but the greatest of respect for this man and everything he achieved- especially being an MG man myself’ Doug concluded.

 

(J Medley)

John Lackey at left, built a replica of the Tomlinson TA Spl. Here it is with Alan at the wheel and Rob Rowe ‘who engineered the replica rebuild, doing some of it “blind”, so when AGT slipped into the seat and slid his foot onto the clutch (thus assuring Rob he guessed correctly), Rob turned to a nearby pillar and had a tear or two.’

‘Rob then asked Alan, at this, his first sight of the replica, how he managed the bonnet clearance of something low on the left. AGT reply “Did you hammer flat the fifth louvre from the front?” wrote John Medley.

(J Medley)

John Medley ‘John Lackey, Rob Rowe and I discussed the long copper inlet tract he used on the supercharged TA, from the supercharger drawing its air from the cockpit left to the right hand side of the engine ie; it was an INTERCOOLER. First principles AGT said “It seemed the right thing to do” and later he thoughtfully said “I think I was born an engineer”…

Alan Tomlinson returned to Lobethal in 1940 and had a terrible crash which hospitalised him for some time and ended his career.

John Medley again picks up the story. ‘The car ran on alcohol in 1940, he touched the Alan Boughton slowing Morgan over the top of the hill before the Lobethal Esses, where he was launched nose-standing into a paddock where he hit a tree.

‘Alan had not seen this picture (below) until 2009 until Ed Farrar showed him. AGT was shocked, perhaps understanding better his long recovery in Adelaide, sometimes in hospital, sometimes at South Australian Sporting Car Club President John Vercoe’s place. AGT never raced again’.

 

(J Medley)

‘John Snow, greatly impressed by the Kids from The West, just had to have the car so bought it, and rebuilt it via John Barraclough who served in Perth early in the War. He onsold it to Hope Bartlett when he bought the Dixon Riley in 1946- selling it to Hope when Bartlett sold the TA to Lean Barnard then Alec Mildren as shown in the Parramatta Park photo below.’ The shot shows Alec ‘with implement at left’- by then the car was fitted with 16 inch wheels.

John Lackey built a replica of Tomlinson’s MG TA, the original did not survive. ‘The TA’s body ended up without headrest on John Ralston’s “J Archibald” MG TC Special until he was naughty re-importing banned birds. Alec Mildren built a single-seat body on the TA chassis, cut down TC radiatored, sold to Curley Brydon to continue a remarkable career’ wrote Medley.

 

Etcetera…

 

(T McGrath)

Terry McGrath met with Allan Tomlinson at the Whiteman Park Motor Museum at Caversham, Western Australia in July 1996.

Doesn’t he look a lean, mean fighting machine despite his advanced years?

(T McGrath)

 

Photo Credits…

Norman Howard, The Advertiser, Ken Devine Collection, Bob King Collection, Dean Donovan Collection, Hedley Cullen, Ray Bell Collection, ‘SCCSA’ Sporting Car Club of South Australia Collection via Tony Parkinson

 

Bibliography…

The Advertiser newspaper January 2 and 3 1939, ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley and Terry Walker on To he Nostalgia Forum’

 

Tailpiece: Tomlinson enroute to the Lobethal AGP win in 1939…

(K Devine)

Finito…