If the 1938 Australian Grand Prix at Bathurst was our first international event, by virtue of visiting Brits Peter Whitehead and his ERA B Type, and Alan Sinclair, Alta 1,100 s/c, our second international, and first of the modern era, was the South Pacific Championship at Gnoo Blas held in January 1955.

Peter Whitehead liked the place so much he came, saw, and conquered again, just as he did seventeen years before at Mount Panorama, albeit the 1955 field had a bit more depth that of 1938.

Peter and Tony Gaze raced Ferrari 500/625s, Bira a Maserati 250F with the better equipped locals Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 and Jack Brabham’s Cooper T23 Climax. Kiwi’s John McMillan and Fred Zambucka in Alfa Romeo Tipo B and Maserati 8CM respectively came across the ditch but both cars were too long in the tooth as was Tom Sulman’s Maserati

Non starters were Reg Hunt, short of parts for his new Maserati A6GCM, and Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar

Whitehead won from Brabham and Gaze with Joe Murray, Allard Cadillac, Tom Sulman, Maserati 4CM and Curley Brydon, MG TC Spl in fourth to sixth places, I’ve written a feature in this race here; https://primotipo.com/2020/04/09/1955-south-pacific-championship-gnoo-blas/

(Modern Motor)

This shot isn’t kosher, it was staged for Modern Motor magazine but is still a cracker showing the Whitehead Ferrari, Brabham Cooper off to the left and Jack Robinson’s Jaguar Special aft of Peter. Further back is the unmistakable shape of a Bugatti, perhaps the John Hall Holden engined Type 37.

The grid on Huntley Road. From left, Jack Brabham, Cooper T23 Bristol, John McMillan, Alfa Romeo Tipo B, Peter Whitehead, Ferrari 500/625 and Jack Robinson, Jaguar Special (unattributed)



This group of wonderful colour photographs were taken by George Causbrook, an Orange electrician who worked at the time for Tom Barrett, owner/driver of the #97 MG TF.

Barretts Milk was a successful local business with a factory/depot including an airstrip. Causbrook’s family, the Beasleys, made available the shots to the Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club from whom I have shoplifted them, with thanks!

George had a fine eye, his colour shots of this challenging road course help us understand better its nature sixty years after the final Gnoo Blas meeting.

Ted Gray is shown below fussing over his brand new Lou Abrahams owned Tornado 1 Ford, just finished in Gray’s workshop in Melbourne.

By the October Bathurst meeting the team were starting to get the new beast sorted, but a huge accident in practice destroyed the car and came close to killing its plucky driver who took six months to recover from his injuries. See here for Tornado; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/




T Borrer’s VW Beetle entered in the production car race, October 1954 meeting.

The sportscar race grids (October ’54) seemed to be particularly well supported, with T Jordan’s 2.4-litre Riley-engined Healey Silverstone, Austin Healeys, #90 W Kelly and #104 Robert Page Jaguar XK120s in the shot below.




The ‘pretty boy’ with the Ray Bans in the XK120 is none other than local Cake Shop proprietor Bill Kelly, he would be as in fashion at an historic meeting in 2020 as he was in 1955!

Clearly there was plenty of money in pies and lamingtons in the fifties.


The great Eldred Norman’s least favourite car was this 1937 Maserati 6CM 1.5-litre six cylinder Voiturette.

Chassis ‘1542’ was originally raced by Franco Cortese throughout 1937, but the going was tough against the dominant ERAs. The machine then made occasional appearances as part of Ciro Basadonna’s various teams both pre and post-war. It was imported to the UK for Gilbey Engineering in 1947, Colin Murray raced it in the UK throughout 1949 and 1950 then brought it to Australia to contest the Narrogin 1951 AGP before its sale to Norman.

When the engine blew shortly thereafter Norman fabricated a steel block and cast detachable bronze heads then cobbled together Fiat 1500 conrods and BSA pistons when Maserati originals were unavailable. Eldred raced it for a year or so before he sold it to Edward David ‘Ted’ McKinnon who finished fifteenth in the 1953 Albert Park AGP.

‘1542’ then passed to Eddie Thomas briefly, before Albury’s Seaton Brothers bought it in poor shape, they solved the engine reliability issues by fitting a Holden Grey six-cylinder unit. In this form Jack Seaton ran it and Ken Cox raced it on the country tracks of Victoria between 1957-1959.

Stephen Dalton places the above shot as during the October 1954 Gnoo Blas meeting with Tom Sulman the driver. Ted Gray was entered but he has been crossed off Stephen’s program and Sulman substituted- well familiar with Maseratis.

The car went through a variety of hands before passing to Doug Jarvis, then some years later to Alf Blight, a talented engineer who did a great job over a decade with its restoration, it left Australia in the early eighties.


Tom Barrett, now racing a Triumph TR2 during the January 1956 meeting. I wonder if he caught it?

The fences to catch the wayward or unfortunate at ‘Mrs Muttons Corner’, the intersection of what is now Bloomfield and Huntley Roads, are clear and poignant in the context of Ian Mountain’s fatal accident during January 1955.

Stan Coffey, Cooper T20 Bristol, at Windsock Corner ‘due to the location of the old windsock when the Orange Aerodrome was in Jack Brabham Park during October ’54. The picture is looking towards Applebar/Pybar. The area that is now Leewood is in the background to the right, and in the middle of the background one can see what is now Blowes Road when it was dirt!’

Our friend Tom Barrett in the MG TF ‘at what is now the intersection of Huntley Road and Leewood Drive, where the level crossing now is’ and a special entering, the high speed Connaghans corner.


Mr Barrett and MG TF.


Modern Motor, Stephen Dalton

George Causbrook via Deidre and Brett Beasley and the Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club Facebook page



  1. Paul says:

    great pics. I think the photo of the sports cars on the grid maybe 4th October 1954; just going by the Suede Green XK120 of Robert Page (chassis #660706) being number 104.

  2. Rob says:


    I think that the above reference to “Jack Brabham’s Cooper T53 Climax” would be a typo. He drove a Cooper-Bristol according to the Australian Motor Sport magazine report.


    Rob Bartholomaeus

  3. robert king says:


    Jack Murray, not Joe, in the Allard?

    Not sure on the Bugatti – by then one of the two Bugatti Holdens. Race reports will provide the answer.


    Virus-free. http://www.avast.com

  4. Terry Sullivan says:


    Thanks for another good piece on Orange, the colour city.

    It punched above its weight with two race circuits Gnoo Blas and Towac, and Max Stewart who was the Toyota and Triumph dealer.

    Just one small point, below the photo of Tom Barrett in the MG TF, you note the level crossing. How times change. This is now a four lane overpass over the train line.

    Keep up the Orange articles.

  5. Rob says:

    Robert & Mark,

    The Orange meeting report in Australian Motor Sport refers to Joe Murray driving the Allard, however the book “Gelignite Jack Murray ” (by Phil Murray) states that “Joey” was a nickname often used by Jack’s friends. The book also mentions Jack as being a competitor at the wheel of an Allard at Orange in January 1955. I have no doubt that Joe Murray and Jack Murray are (in this case) one and the same.

    With regard to the Bugatti, the AMS meeting report makes reference to a “Bug-Holden” with no mention of the driver’s name. The meeting preview in the January issue of AMS however includes a J. Hall in a Bug-Holden in the list of starters and handicaps for the main race. John Blanden’s Historic Racing Cars in Australia (1979) lists a John Hall as an owner of the ex Alfred Nicolls Bugatti Type 37 No. 37209. A photo of the car at Templestowe in 1954 is included in the book with a caption stating that John Hall was the owner and that the car had a Holden engine at that time.

    Rob Bartholomaeus

  6. Rob says:


    Given that the above article is titled “South Pacific Championship 1955, Gnoo Blas 2” I had assumed that the images of the Barrett MGTF were from that meeting. A photo published with the South Pacific report in Cars magazine of April 1955 however makes me doubt that they are!

    Included in the caption of the photo on page 21 of the magazine are the words “In the foreground is No. 44, the Triumph TR2 driven by T. A. Barrett, which gained fifth outright placing.”

    If Barrett drove a TR2 at Orange in January 1955, I wonder which meeting the TF photos are actually from!

    Rob Bartholomaeus

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Terry and Rob,
      My original assumption was 1955. Stephen Dalton and Paul Cummins have set me straight on dates, re-read it, I’ve updated it several times in the last two days, hopefully we are now close to something accurate!

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