Werrangourt Archives 7: Jack Day and his Superchargers, by Bob King…

Posted: June 11, 2021 in Features, Obscurities
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(Tony Johns-SLV)

Former Austin 7 racer and Bentley historian Tony Johns is a regular visitor to the Victorian State Library, there, he browses newspapers and magazines for Austin 7 and Bentley history. If he comes upon things of interest in the writer’s realm, which is mostly to do with Bugattis, he kindly forwards them.

We are aware that pioneering Bugatti motorist and racer Jack Day made superchargers, but have not previously seen an image of one, let alone the object itself. This despite having owned two of the cars that were one-time fitted with JADAY blowers. We knew that they were of a Roots pattern, but little more, other than that Jack made them in his Ajax Pump factory in South Melbourne.

The cover of The Car magazine for October, 1932 above shows the JADAY supercharger in all its glory, as well as its side-draft Solex carburettor, bolted directly to the blower.

Just call M 2425 and ask for Jack and you can have one for 22 pounds, 10 shillings (Tony Johns-SLV)

John Albert Day of Melbourne was a well-known racing car driver in the twenties, thirties and forties.

Like so many others of the period, he had success on push bikes before taking to four wheels. His first job had been delivering hats on a bicycle when he was 10 years old – suggesting an early entrepreneurial bent. It is not known whether he was related to Syd Day, a pioneering motorist who competed in the Sydney to Melbourne Dunlop Reliability trial of 1905.

Our first record of him in a motoring event is in 1923 when he drove a 2.3-litre SCAT in a Hill Driving Contest at Greensborough. In 1924 he drove a 1100cc Salmson at Malpas Hill, 17 miles North of Melbourne. This event famously crossed the Hume Highway; traffic being stopped for each run.

At a later Malpas hill climb he drove an Alvis which was also driven in the ladies contest by L. Day. Mrs Day took part in the 1927 Alpine trial in a Riley ‘9’.

Jack Day at the wheel of his Type 37, 37145 (Bob King Collection)

His first appearance in a Bugatti was in May 1927 when he ran at rural, and nor urban Melbourne, Wheelers Hill.

His 11/2 litre unsupercharged Type 37, chassis number 37145, had been delivered new to Melbourne less than a year before, having been sold via the Bugatti agent Sporting Cars to one of its directors T.E. Barnett for his son Dudley. Later that year the car was owned by Lyster Jackson who, plagued by misfiring, was all too ready to on-sell it. According to Jack in a recorded interview, he bought it when Lyster and he were contesting a hill climb at Lorne as part of the Victorian Light Car Club’s Dependability Trial in October, 1926.

Jack: “Lyster revved and revved and revved, on only about 11/2 cylinders, and I said to him: ‘That will never get up the hill’ and he said, ‘I’ll beat you up.’ So, I had a big-port Alvis, and of course I took the hillclimb away from him”. Lyster said he would sell it and Jack “bought it on the spot.” Jack cured the misfiring by making “special KLG’s” in which he removed the negative electrode, substituting it with platinum “only the thickness of a pin.”

37145 when owned by Dudley Barnett as a new car (Bob King Collection)

Jack entered his now reliable Bugatti in the 1928 100 mile AGP at Phillip Island. He was one of the favourites for the race having won a half mile speed trial in lieu of the rain-postponed race at 84mph.

Unfortunately, early in the race he lost his way in the dust, shooting through a fence and taking considerable time to regain the track. Although noted to be travelling at great speed, he would have been disappointed to finish in sixth place, some 10 minutes behind the winning Austin ‘7’ of Arthur Waite.

A clear demonstration of the dust encountered during the 1928 AGP at Phillip Island – was this the moment Jack ‘lost his way’ (Bob King Collection)

Seeking improved performance, in late 1931, Jack supercharged it with a JADAY supercharger driven from the nose of the crankshaft by a shaft that protruded through the lower part of the radiator.

We have not seen a photograph of this installation, but the blower must have been supported between the dumb irons; the radiator having a piece cut out of the bottom of the core through which the drive-shaft passed.

This radiator with a patch over the blower drive-shaft hole, subsequently found its way on to its sister Type 37,37146, subsequently leading to misidentification of these consecutively numbered cars.

Post-war sister car 37146 was campaigned vigorously by Herb Ford. In this shot taken at Rob Roy, the blower drive cut-out in the radiator can be seen – the radiator had been swapped from 37145 (Bob King Collection)

Jack’s second foray into Bugatti supercharging was with the 1931 Australian Grand Prix winning Type 39, 4607 which he bought in 1933.

The Type 39 was a 1 1/2 litre, normally aspirated straight-eight. He again drove the supercharger from the nose of the crankshaft by means of a long, tapered extension. This shaft remains in the care of the writer – it is his favourite large punch. Jack was not known for his finesse, and this is corroborated by the finish of said shaft, the forward end of which is crudely hack-sawed most of the way through, the last part being snapped-off, leaving a ragged end.

We are unaware of what modifications may have been made to the radiator as this item disappeared after many years fitted to a Brescia Bugatti in lieu of its normal pear-shaped radiator. As the JADAY blown Type 37 and 39 seemed to see very little service, it might be concluded that the modifications were not entirely satisfactory. Could Jack have miscalculated the volume of the necessarily long inlet tract, leading to an unsatisfactory performance?

Day at Phillip Island for the Jubilee Handicap, May 6, 1935 in the Type 39 (Bob King Collection)

As to other JADAY supercharger installations, we have little knowledge. It is possible that one of Jack’s superchargers was fitted to his AL3 Lombard, and it is rumoured that he was involved with the Cozette supercharging of another Lombard AL3 then owned by W.H. Lowe who was the importer of these delightful, petite, 1100cc twin-cam cars.

The patterns for the beautiful finned inlet manifold of this car were certainly of local manufacture – they survived until relatively recent times. Lowe later made his name as the first licenced Ferrari agent outside Italy.

Bill Lowe in his Lombard at Rob Roy just one week after the Black Friday Bushfires, January 30, 1939 (Spencer Wills)

One last twist in the tail of JADAY superchargers brings us to the early post-war WWII years. Jack Day and Norman Hamilton, also a racing driver and a subsequent Porsche importer, investigated the possibility of adapting their turbine technology for one of the worlds great engineering projects, the nascent Snowy Mountain scheme.

With this in mind, Norman and Jack visited Switzerland to study hydro-electric schemes in 1951. During the course of this visit, Norman’s rented Oldsmobile was rounded up by a low slung, silver missile on the Grossglockner Pass. They came upon car and driver; racing driver and motoring journalist Richard von Frankenberg and his car, a prototype Porsche further up the road at an Inn.

After discussion and inspection of the car, the entrepreneurial Hamilton followed Von Frankenberg back through the Alps to the factory. After a tour of the facilities and a meeting with Ferry Porsche, Hamilton walked away with a hand-shake deal for the Porsche commercial rights in Australia and New Zealand. This led to Hamilton’s being only the second foreign Porsche agents outside Germany (Max Hoffman in the US was the first), somewhat in synchrony with the history of Lowe’s Ferrari dealership.

Ken Harper and Norman Hamilton, Porsche 356 Coupe, prior to the 1953 Redex Trial (PCA)

This was not, however, the end of the Jack Day story. His next modification to the Type 39 Bugatti was much more radical – he removed the fragile Bugatti engine, substituting it with a Ford V8, the first of many Australian specials thus powered.

The success of this car pioneered the ‘quick-fix’ for tired European racing cars – take out the sophisticated aluminium and steel machinery and substitute American black iron.

Jack and his collaborator Reg Nutt had many successes with the car in this form, including ftd at Mitcham and Rob Roy hill climbs (Day). Post-war the car went on many more successes in the hands of the legendary Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray.

Meanwhile Day reverted to his passion for complicated European machines, importing one of the 1927 Grand Prix Talbot Darracq (a 1500cc straight eight supercharged jewel) in which he shared driving duties with Reg Nutt.

(Bob King Collection)

The Day Special mocked up during the construction phase.

(Bob King Collection)

The ‘Day’ was often driven by Reg Nutt. Here he is seen in action at Lobethal during 1938 South Australian Grand Prix.

(unattributed )

Jack Murray is seen here, on the inside, battling it out with Jack Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol in the Day Special at Mount Druitt.

(Bob King Collection)

Reg Nutt aboard the Talbot Darracq TD700 at Fishermans Bend.

(unattributed)

Jack , in his later years in his Jaguar XK120. He was a founding member of the Victorian Light Car Club (later LCCA), and a life member of the RACV. He died in 1975, aged 86.

Credits…

Bob King and his archive, Tony Johns and his archive, Spencer Wills, Porsche Cars Australia

Finito…

Comments
  1. Jack Day 66 owned MKV and XK120 lived Elsternwick place at Warragul by 18-11-50 picture was in Wheels Nov 1954
    In our XK120 book we guessed this XK120 to be 660090 http://www.jtpublications.com.au
    This was a scan of the photo I sent to Bob King

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