Seeliger, Itala Ford V8 Spl, Lobethal 1948 (R Edgerton Collection)

The J.A ‘Lex’ Denniston owned Itala V8 Special was built by Ern Seeliger in his modest temple-of-speed in Baker Street, Richmond, early events included Rob Roy’s April and November 1946 meetings.

The cocktail of components comprised a 1930-1932 Itala chassis and steering box (later replaced by a Lancia component) and modified Ford Mercury V8 and gearbox- the talented Bob Baker built the body, his ‘shop, Baker and Tait was closeby in Church Street, Richmond.

Seeliger normally raced it, notable successes were at Rob Roy and at Ballarat, where Ern won the Wendouree Handicap at Ballarat airfield in January 1947.

After this meeting, Seeliger rebuilt it, although he was able to run it sans body at Rob Roy in May. The leaner, meaner machine reappeared at Lobethal twelve months hence on the January 1, 1948 weekend.

Legendary Adelaide engineer Harold Clisby #29, and Ron Edgerton #32, in standard and modified MG TCs respectively (R Edgerton Collection)

Practice passed uneventfully for Seeliger, his first race was the 11.05am Lobethal 100 handicap. The less powerful cars had done two laps by the time our scratch-man, Seeliger set off and gave chase.

After only one completed lap he was baulked by another car at over 100mph- the Itala slid one way, then the other before crashing through trees backwards, demolishing the front of the car en route. Ern, fortunately escaped without injury but the svelte racer was dead. After last rites were performed, its remains were presented to a Lobe farmer.

Jim Gullan, below, won aboard his Ballot Olds Spl from G Harrison’s Phillips Ford Spl and Ron Edgerton’s MG TC Spl, #32. See here for an article on this race; https://primotipo.com/2016/11/11/south-australian-100-1948-jim-gullans-ballot-olds-and-greensborough-hillclimb/

(R Edgerton Collection)

Etcetera…

(G McKaige)

Itala Ford V8 Spl as originally built.

George McKaige took these photographs on November 23, 1946. The car was parked in Orrong Road near the Towers Road, Toorak corner, presumably close to Denniston’s residence.

(G McKaige)

Tony John’s research indicates that Denniston was President of the Light Car Club of Australia in 1951-52. This goes some way to explaining why a car which was destroyed in 1948 was on the cover of the program of the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, promoted by the LCCA.

Perhaps one of the likely race-winning draw-cards would have been more appropriate…

Credits…

Ron Edgerton Collection, ‘Beyond The Lens’ Chester and George McKaige, Stephen Dalton, Tony Johns Collection, SAmotor

Tailpiece…

Amazing, rare colour shot of the Seeliger Itala at Lobethal in 1948.

Finito…

Comments
  1. Robert Norman Honeybrook says:

    Jim Gullen went Drag Racing in 1965 in a 6 Cylinder Valiant powered dragster then a Chev powered Dragster, then a Chev powered EH Holden ute, then an XU1 Torana, until he passed away.

    • markbisset says:

      Yes Robert,
      He wrote a small circulation book towards the end of his life which makes fascinating reading, especially its coverage of the immediate pre, and post-war eras.
      Mark

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