Medium-rare with pepper sauce…

Posted: August 7, 2021 in Sports Racers
Tags: , , , , ,
(E Adamson – Miller Family Collection – T Johns Collection)

The K Guest Alvis 12/50 Ducksback during the 1927 Herald Dependability Test, in the Bruthen main street “with some very nervous looking bullocks outside the butcher shop” Bob King observed.

LOL etc, it was too good a shot of another time and place to resist – some great research from the Johns/King/Sands combination has cracked this mystery, not completely though.

It’s the 1927 Herald (Melbourne newspaper) Dependability Test run by the Victorian Light Car Club. Many thanks to reader, Paul Cummins for solving the question of location! See this link for a Tony Johns/Stephen Dalton piece on the ’27 Dependability;

In 1922, using the 10/30 as a starting point, freshly-minted Chief Engineer Captain GT Smith-Clarke and Chief Designer WM Dunn commenced work on the 12/50.

Powered by a new 1496cc four-cylinder OHV engine, the 12/50 had a successful baptism of fire winning the prestigious 1923 JCC 200-mile race at Brooklands in a car crewed by CM Harvey/Tattershall.

The first production cars, priced at 550 pounds went on sale later that year. Popular with sporting motorists, the cars gave peppy performance and a top whack of 75-80mph as long as the body fitted was not overly portly.

The SA model had a wheelbase of 108.5 in and the SB 112.5. A 1598cc version of the same OHV engine was marketed from 1924 when a stronger platform chassis was used rather than the earlier, slender ladder frame. Front brakes were available from 1924 too, the cars had a four speed non-synchro gearbox with right hand change and a fabric-faced aluminium-cone clutch.

The Guest 12/50 during the 1927 Dependability Test – note absence of windscreen (The Car)
1927 Herald Reliability Test route (D Zeunert Collection)
Phil Garlick, Alvis 12/50 s/c and crew after winning the 1926 Lucky Devil Cup. Unfortunate name given his subsequent demise at Maroubra (unattributed)

Built in right hand drive, the light, robust sporting cars were popular in Australia with Williams Bros, the Sydney agents claiming that one-fifth of British cars sold here in 1923 were Alvis’.

Inevitably many were used as competition cars in trials, hill-climbs and racing.

Several 12/50s contested early Phillip Island Australian Grands Prix, the best placed was J Hutton’s eighth in 1928.

The most famous Australian Alvis combination was the 12/50 raced by the the great Phil Garlick at Maroubra’s Olympia Motor Speedway in the mid-twenties. Unfortunately he died a gruesome death in his ex-works-Harvey, supercharged, JCC 200-Mile Race winning 12/50 in January 1927.

The K Guest car shown in this article is an SC model Ducksback 2/3 seater (perhaps a TF subject to a better view), the prettiest of all 12/50s, fitted with optional front brakes.

An immensely robust and versatile car, Alvis’ 12/50 was well designed and built, easy to service and simple to repair. Performance and handling for a 1.5-litre car was exceptional for the time. With a healthy dose of that ephemeral quality called character they are sought after, quintessential vintage cars. A good number are extant, in part due to factory support until Alvis ceased car production in 1967.

Tony Johns circulated the fantastic opening shot earlier in the week, the full credit, to show the tortuous century long route from photographer to you, the online audience, is as follows.

The ‘snapper was the great Edwin Adamson, from whom the shot was bought by Arthur Terdich, 1929 AGP winner. When he died he left his very large, life-time car/racing photo collection to his son Arnold, his widow in turn left them to the Vintage Sports Car Club (Victoria). At some point, club-member Graeme Miller was given a copy, later still Graham gave a copy to my mate Tony Johns, and now my friends, here it is.

Melbourne born Edwin Ted George Adamson (1895-1974) opened for business in 1920, by the 1940s he ran a prominent studio at 169 Collins Street and later 229 Collins Street, Melbourne.

His major clients then were the State Electricity Commission, Gas and Fuel Corporation and sections of the motor industry. Despite a practice doing plenty of commercial work, and regarded as a major chronicler of Melbourne life in the mid-20th century, he positioned the practice as one specialising in portraiture.

We are lucky that the development of smaller cameras and faster films in the 1920s encouraged Adamson (and no doubt other members of his studio) outside to capture the sports he loved.

Straying upon this chance Alvis photograph was timely, ‘Guided by Art’ published ‘Remembering Edwin Adamson’, an article by Michael Schwarz on August 1, 2021, only last week! Click here to read it; Remembering Edwin Adamson – Guided By Art (

Langlauf race at Mount Buller in the Victorian Alps, 1930-40s (E Adamson)

Holeproof Hosiery ad 1930s


Tony Johns, Bob King, Robert Sands, Dale Parsell, Peter Miller, The Car, David Zeunert Collection, Guided by Art

(E Adamson – Miller Family Collection – T Johns Collection)


  1. McCarthy, Andrew says:

    Nice one Mark !!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. John B Medley says:

    And the bespectacled gentleman on the right is not part of Reginald Gordon Garlick’s crew, but the manager of Olympia Speedway, an uncle of my old friend Jim Madden, former racer of cars like a Cooper Formula Junior and the Paul England Ausca. Jim was also an important founder of the GEAR Club in NSW and before that played important roles in Wakefield Park’s founding.

    • markbisset says:

      Many thanks John,
      This truly is turning out to be a most interesting post! I dare say your mate’s Uncle would have been a very busy man, given the challenges of the place.

  3. Paul says:

    I reckon it is Main St Bruthen. The building on the right is or would become a bank. If you do a search on “cbcbank bruthen victoria” an old photo from the 1930s pops up

    • markbisset says:

      How did you work that out Paul?!
      Legend in your own lunch-box champ.
      many thanks,

      • Paul says:

        Short story long. It was a bit of persistence and luck. Found references to A.D. Dodds Butcher in the newspaper section of Trove but most pointed to Dimboola, though one article mentioned Bruthen. Then searched for a photo to compare the buildings in both places.

        From The Riverine Grazier (Hay) 8th June 1920 “A fast time for the dressing of six merino sheep was recorded recently at the slaughtering premises of the Dimboola Co-operative Butchery, Victoria. A. D. Dodds, who is the employ of that society, dressed the six sheep, ready for the shop, in 16 minutes 45 seconds, or an average of 2 minutes 47 seconds for each sheep, in the presence of a group of interested spectators, who recorded the time.” I wonder if he dressed then in casual or formal attire? P:-)

      • markbisset says:

        LOL, what a pisser!
        Not for the faint-hearted or the vegos.
        You’ve done well, I buggerised around with Google and Trove for well over an hour with that Dodds name and found SFA.
        Great stuff, hope you are ok up there?
        Stalag 13 here again, Klink in Canberra is a clusterfuck of incompetence.

  4. robert king says:

    Bruthen has got to be correct.B

  5. Edwin says:

    Lovely to see some Edwin G Adamson (my Dad’s) photos on your blog.

    • markbisset says:

      Great to hear from you Edwin,
      Your Dad’s artistry is revered in our world.
      The catalyst for the article was that amazing shot, it was a bonus that ‘Guided by Art’ had done their piece only a week or so before. Lots of us have enjoyed finding out more about your father, his background and work.

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