Werrangourt Archive 9: Lyndon Duckett by Bob King…

Posted: September 17, 2021 in F1, Who,What,Where & When...?
Tags: , , , , , ,
(E Davey-Milne)

To those of us from less exalted climes, they were known as “the three ‘Ds’ from Toorak”, Dale, Duckett and Davey-Milne; all imbued with a fine sense of what a good motor car should be. They lived in close proximity, Duckett just around the corner from Davey-Milne and the Dales less than a kilometre away. They and their cars were often seen together. A fourth ‘D’ was their friend Lex Davison, four times winner of the Australian Grand Prix, but he was farming at Killara Park, near Lilydale.

Lyndon’s family had a thriving hardware business in Melbourne. He was only a teenager when he ventured to Europe in the late 1930s. Whether the primary purpose of this visit was to find a racing car is not known, but he certainly brought one back with him, the car he made famous, the Anzani Bugatti Special. Lyndon wanted a twin cam Grand Prix Bugatti – in other words, a Type 51. As these were still being actively raced in Europe, they may have been a little beyond his purse. In a London mews he did find a single cam Type 35 with a blown-up motor. With his young mind obsessed with the twin cam idea, he contacted the works of Ettore Bugatti in Molsheim, France, and was assured that they had such a car (or was it an engine) for him. This was to be a disappointing trip, for on arrival there, the only Grand Prix Bugatti they had available had but a single camshaft; he did not purchase it. He took a side trip to Nuremburg for the annual Nazi Party rally and heard Adolf Hitler’s address, an event which horrified him. On return to London, he bought the 35 sans moteur.

The opening photograph is the engineless 1925 Type 35 Grand Prix Bugatti, chassis no. 4450, as found by Lyndon in a London Mews. Lyndon noted that there was a lot of sand in the chassis rails – it had an extensive racing history at Southport Sands and other venues in the hands of TGV Selby who was later involved in the development of Bristol cars. Its first owner was Glen Kidston and it was the first Grand Prix Bugatti to be raced in England. Kidston later became one of the ‘Bentley Boys’.

(Bugatti Trust)

Glen Kidston on his way to a class second place in the Grand Prix de Provence in March, 1925. The band over the bonnet was yellow and denoted the 2-litre class.

(B King)

TVG Selby on Southport Sands. The Bugatti, chassis number 4450, can always be distinguished by the unusual bonnet lift handles that Kidston had fitted by the Nice Bugatti agent Friderich while it was there for the GP de Provence.

Lyndon’s search for a twin cam motor bore fruit when he found a brand new Anzani R1, 2 OHC, 4-cylinder, 1496cc motor; the same as fitted to the Squire motorcar. This engine, numbered R1 62, was the last engine to leave the Anzani works in Kingston-on-Thames – there were probably only 12 made. The English Bentley specialists Pacey’s were tasked with adapting the motor to the chassis, but this work was unsatisfactory and had to be redone in Australia. (Sound familiar?) A neat round tailed body was constructed by Cardigan Motor Body Works in Carlton. Initially there were problems with the motor (they had never been properly sorted by the factory, but Lyndon’s engineering skills overcame these problems).

(B King)

Lyndon Duckett in his immaculate Anzani Bugatti special.

For 10 years after the war Lyndon used the car for all sorts of motorsport. 1946 saw early success with ftd at a vintage sprint held at Lex and Diana Davison’s property, Killara Park. Duckett and the ‘Anz’ went on to be the inaugural winners of the Vintage Sports Car Club’s premier trophy, the ‘Vickery’.

(B King)

Lyndon at Marsden Park, NSW.

Not only did Lyndon set fastest under 1500cc time at Rob Roy, but he also beat allcomers at Marsden Park in a quarter mile sprint after an epic drive from Melbourne. Motor racing was just getting back on its feet after WWII and events were few and far between. Lyndon and Lex Davison had decided to make the long journey to north-west Sydney; Lex accompanied by his 17-year-old fiancé Diana Crick on the bodyless chassis of his 1500cc Alfa Romeo.

They had only reached the northern outskirts of Melbourne when the Alfa had a fit of Italian temperament and Lex needed Lyndon, the engineer, to travel with him. Diana, who did not have a licence, was installed in the Anzani and given a quick lesson on gear changing. In particular, she was told to get into top gear and stay there until she reached the outskirts of Albury, over 300 kilometres north! Lyndon had many more successes with the car, including wins at Ballarat Airfield races in 1950. Its last competitive outing with Lyndon ended as it had begun with a handicap win in the Tasmanian Trophy at Longford Road Races in 1955.

(B King)

It was wet in Ballarat for the 1950 Road Races held on Ballarat Airfield. It won the D Grade race. Note the stub exhausts.

(B King)

The writer also had 52 years of pleasure and some success in Historic Racing with the car. Here it is seen on the long climb up the hill at Laguna Seca in 2003 at a ‘Bugatti Grand Prix’.

(AMS)

This drawing of Lyndon’s Semmering Mercedes, aircraft seats and all, appeared in the July 1947 Australian Motor Sport.

The Anzani Bugatti could hardly have been off the boat from England when the young Lyndon purchased this monster. At the time of Bob Shepherd’s AMS drawing, there was much discussion as to just what type of Mercedes it was. At 17.3 litres, it did not conform with the specifications of the 1907 or the 1908 Mercedes Grand Prix cars – it was larger than both and the largest Mercedes ever. Subsequent research has identified it as a 1908 car developed specifically to win the 10Km Semmering hill climb in Austria; it succeeded in 1908 and 1909. Lebbeus Hordern was just 18 years of age when his merchant father died, leaving him a £4,000,000 fortune. What better way to spend it than on the ultimate bird puller?

(G McKaige)
(G McKaige)

No account exists of Lebbeus using the car, but the next owner Colin Smith, another millionaire, competed in 1911 at Artillery Hill, south of Sydney, before selling the car to Percy Cornwell, owner of potteries in Brunswick, an inner suburb of Melbourne. It was raced in a few events by Cornwell who also had the notorious Rupert Jeffkyns drive it for him before it passed to Ike Watson in Melbourne who dismantled it. It was bought by a brave young Lyndon in January 1942, and he had it running within a year. He confirmed that it had engine dimensions of 175×180 mm, consistent with the hill climb car. The gear ratios were equally heroic, 1st, 5:1; 2nd, 2.25:1; 3rd, 1.5:1 and 4th, direct drive.

(SLV)

Rob Roy with the Semmering Mercedes and Anzani Bugatti; also, the Davison ‘Little Alfa’ 6C1500 and 38/250 Mercedes Benz with Lex at the rear.

In July 1953 at Fisherman’s Bend race track the Melbourne Mercedes dealer attracted some attention which they may have preferred to have avoided. They pitted their new 300 model against the 1908 car, and to the delight of the considerable crowd, it was soundly beaten.

The writer recalls the only time he saw the Mercedes mobile; it was on the Argus Veteran Car rally in January 1955. The car was observed leaving a control in St Kilda Road and each time the engine fired the rear tyres left two black skid marks on the road – impressive.

(G McKaige)

Barn find. Lyndon’s Type FENC Isotta Fraschini.

This remarkably complete little jewel of a 1908 Isotta Fraschini Voiturette was found in rural Victoria; two of them had come here and they both survive. There are three others known, two in Italy and one in USA.

(G McKaige)

Professionally Lyndon had a motor engineering business in west-central Melbourne where he attended to client’s cars while accumulating a collection of vehicles for his own amusement.

At the time of his death, he had low-mileage Alfas, an Aston Martin, a Ducati and several other bits and pieces, including a rare Jowett Jupiter R1 and a Tojeiro chassis to which he hoped to mate a new MG twin-cam motor which was still in its box. I believe this was for a projected Le Mans car that he and Jumbo Goddard had dreamt up. The Isotta Fraschini remains with his sister.

(B King)

Isotta Fraschini FENC in recent times with Noel Cunningham at the wheel in Victoria’s Western District on a Bugatti Rally.

Etcetera…

Enthusiast, historian and restorer, Chester McKaige knew Lyndon as a child and shares his memories.

“He was a great bloke, he Bob Chamberlain, Earl Davey-Milne and a couple of Bentley Club bods in the Bentley Club were great to a kid growing up.”

“I have many fond memories of Lyndon and his mother Edith. The huge kitchen in Towers Road, Toorak, with kitchen table at one end piled high with car magazines. The stag head on the wall in the hall, the mosaic covered fountain. Lyndon’s obnoxious nephew too! Edith teaching me to play the saxophone. And towards his later years, the stick to keep the hoist up at his garage. The huge quantity of oil filters he had in stock that turned out to be empty boxes or filled with used ones.”

“I was his Godson and fortunate to get a guernsey in his will, so I was able to buy his Coventry Climax engined Morris Minor.  I have his garage sign hanging on the wall in my garage. He used to keep spare cash under the carpet in his cars. I found $8 in $2 notes under the carpet in Morris. Dad used to call him Fella”.

Credits…

Australian Motor Sport, 1947, ‘Bugattis in Australia and New Zealand’ 1920 to 2012. King and McGann, Serpollete’s Tricycle, Volumes 2 & 3. https://earlymotor.com/serpolettes-tricycle/ The Brescia Bugatti, Bob King, Earl Davey-Milne, State Library of Victoria, George McKaige

Tailpiece, or piece of tail?…

(B King)

Finito…

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