Archive for February, 2023


It looks pretty good to me, not exactly Margaret River, but hey, what’s all this nonsense about the grim North Sea?

Jack Brabham was never the life of the party, seemingly, but he had a pretty good sense of humour, here making his way to the grid for the 1966 Dutch Grand Prix and addressing head-on media comments about his advancing years, complete with ‘walking stick’ and beard. He had turned 40 on April 2, like a fine wine he got better really, not too many of the over-40s won races in their final season, 1970 in Jack’s case. Ignoring the occasional touring car outings back in Australia.


He had the last laugh too, he had won the previous two Grands Prix in France and the UK and was on the-roll that delivered his third World Drivers Championship that year. He beat Graham Hill, BRM P261, and Jim Clark, Lotus 33 Climax to win at Zandvoort, then repeated the victorious dose at the Nurburgring a fortnight later. See here for a piece on his ’66 championship year;

Two 3-litres ahead of two 2-litres in the Dutch dunes. Brabham and Denny Hulme, Brabham BT19/ BT20 respectively from Jim Clark’s Lotus 33 Climax and Graham Hill’s BRM P261 (MotorSport)

BT19 F1-1-65 defines simplicity.

Spaceframe chassis, and a repurposed one at that, Alford and Alder (Triumph) front uprights and povvo Repco RB620 290-310bhp, SOHC two-valve, Lucas injected V8 with a block donated by an Oldsmobile roadie. Can’t be true, surely? It’s an unusual angle of Jack’s weapon of war for 95% of 1966 in Tasman 2.5 and F1 3-litre Repco guises, it raced on towards the end of ‘67 too, no rest for the wicked, World Champ or otherwise.


wfooshee, Bernard Cahier-Getty Images, MotorSport Images



Brabham rounding up Guy Ligier’s Cooper T81 Maserati V12, he was ninth and last, six laps adrift of the winner. At the end of the season Jack sold Guy one of BRO’s Brabham BT20 Repcos (Denny’s F1-2-66), so impressed was the rugby-international watching them go past at close quarters that season.


Panorama of the Self Preservation Society’s ‘Wombat Park Classic’ Concours held at Daylesford, Victoria, Australia on Saturday February 18, 2023.

Being of the Oily Rag School of Restoration I’ve always found the top end of this arcane world – Pebble Beach et al – pointless. Getting a car – ‘restoring it’ is such an inaccurate descriptor – to the point it never looked ex-factory defies me, why not go buy a Monet and pimp-that instead, it’s much smaller and easier?

At the more sane end, with fabulous cars that are used, I’m troubled to find fault with a day in the sunshine as works-driver of the Equipe King AC Ace Bristol talking gobshite to other punters, admiring the cars and pretty-ladies, not to forget sipping some exy-French-bubbles.

Wombat Park, Daylesford was settled in the 1850’s by William Stanbridge, gold-mine owner, entrepreneur and State MP, the place is slap-bang in the middle of Victoria’s beautiful Goldfields region. The current, magnificent 1910 Rodney Alsop designed – the great-grandfather of a car mate of mine as it transpires – English Arts and Crafts style home was recently bought by the Mayor of Daylesford, Tony Demarco, a local hospitality entrepreneur with over 1100 beds in the region.

The Concours d’Elegance was the first gig held at Wombat since the Demarco’s acquisition. Many thanks to the sponsors below for a wonderful day of largesse.

I believe The Self Preservation Society (SPS) – you would need to ask them directly, any connection with The Italian Job is entirely accidental – is one of many seditious automotive organisations that have popped up around the world to celebrate life post-Covid, in particular the failure of the Wuhan Wet n’ Wild Market Alchemy Team to kill us all. Rest assured, the SPS is as potent a force as the Judean People’s Front, or was it The People’s Front of Judea? so no need to worry too much about recommendations to storm The Capitol from them.

Fabulous Alta 2-litre #55S/DPG167 recently purchased by the brothers Murdoch, Geoff and Neill.

Fortunately this machine, and the ex-Sinclair-the-MI6-Spook Alta 1100 s/c have remained in Australia, many thanks to Betty Lowe and the Murdochs for that. The Late Graeme Lowe was a lifetime Alta fan, restorer and racer and would be best-pleased that they’ve remained in the colonies.

Butt-shots of the Alta and distant Delage D8S. Here is a piece about the Sinclair Alta 1100, you’ll have to read the next issue of Benzina Magazine (#7) to learn more about this 2-litre machine;

I don’t think quite so much technology had ever been shoved into one car until the Porsche 959 came along, it was quite the thing in 1986. Lots of bang for your buck, but visually not so exciting, Der Deutschlanders have never quite had the je ne sais quoi of the Italianos have they?

Seeing this car reminded me of an old client. Chris Taylor (Motors Pty.Ltd) was the Geelong and region Porsche dealer for many years, I was invited along to a presentation of a 959 to the-great-and-the-good of that city when it did its tour of Australian Porker dealers circa 1987.

There was never a dull moment with him as an old-school dealer, read wine, women and song. Chris’ production of a pair of boxing gloves from the drawer of his desk in the middle of a pitch to his bankers to increase his finance facility was memorable, I doubt Milton the Banker ever forgot it, worked too! When Chris bought a new sprintcar, the sound of the 6-litre thing idling @ 5500rpm in the dealership back lane could be heard at Mount Duneed.

What wasn’t such a good idea was racing the 650bhp winged, roller-skate (at Warrnambool or perhaps Mount Gambier) with a residual smidge of alcohol in the system after a big-night the day before. His decline was dreadful, but his wife capably stepped into the breech to run the place for a while after that, RIP Chris Taylor. Not a man who died guessing.

(Porsche AG)

The Lola T70 in all of its forms is the most erotic – if not exotic – of all sixties sports-racers, bar none. It’s a big statement in a decade of sports-racer spunk-muffins I know, but T70’s lack nothing other than a Le Mans win.

This one is ‘the remaining bones’ of chassis SL70/5 an iconic, mainly South African domiciled Ford 289 engined machine. Of note is a period of ownership by Stirling Moss and wins in the 1966 Lourenco Marques 3 Hours (Doug Serrurier/Roy Pierpoint) and the 1967 Roy Hesketh 3 Hours (Serrurier/Jackie Pretorious).

Allen Brown explains the history of the car in his fabulous My bit below is a summarised version, the full entry is here, scroll down to Lola T140:T70/140 SL70/5 We historians thank the good lord above for Allen’s site in that we have arms-length information about a machine rather than relying on the often Disney-esque fantasy-tales of some owners.

Lola T70 Chev cutaway (unattributed very nice work)
Lola T70 SL/5 Ford at Clubhouse corner Kyalami, advice taken on the driver and date folks

“Doug Serrurier bought the ex-Mike Taylor/David Good 1965 Lola T70 (chassis SL70/5) with its 4.7-litre Ford Weslake engine for sports car racing in South Africa and raced it until it was crashed by teammate Jackie Pretorius in the 1969 Roy Hesketh 3 Hour. Serrurier then converted it into a Formula A T140 (spaceframe 1968 model Lola Formula 5000 car) using the running gear, Ford Weslake engine and Hewland LG gearbox. He didn’t use “T/70/140″ but sold it to the Domingo Bros. Mike Domingo contested the 1970 Bulawayo 100 and Alan Domingo the 1970 Rhodesian GP. Team Domingo had three Lola T140s during 1971.”

“T70/T140 then went to Peter Haller and was converted into a drag-racer by ‘a man named Delport’. Johan van der Merwe, Janie van Aswegen and Ivan Glasby were all owners of what Serrurier called ‘the sorry remains’ during the 1980s before it was purchased by A. R. Culpin in 1989. The T70 origins of these remains were now more important than its T140 interlude so the parts were combined with new T70 body panels and the whole project sold to David Harvey of GT40 Replications Ltd, New Zealand in July 2003. The car was completed as a new T70 by 2005 and is retained by Harvey in 2007. With its remaining parts in the T70, the T140 no longer exists.”

And on to an Australian owner in more recent times. New Zealand is a good place to ‘restore’ one’s Lola, they’ve built far more than Eric Broadley ever did…

Ferrari 365 GTC/4 looking absolutely marvellous with a Sunbeam and Lancia Fulvia 1.3 HF in the background.

Described to me as a thinking man’s Daytona once, but on reflection, that was this particular knob-jockey’s attempted put-down of a good chap of mutual acquaintance who owned a 365 GTB/4.

Whatever the case, what a marvellous machine, who get’s the individual credit at Pininfarina? I guess it’s only period competitor was the Lamborghini Espada. I’m intrigued to know the relative merits of the two if any of you have had that pleasure at length?


I’ve never seen Lindsay Fox’ Museum at Docklands so it was with great anticipation I looked forward to seeing one of their prize-exhibits, the Porsche 550RS Spyder imported to Australia by Norman Hamilton in October 1955. The Self Preservation Society El Presidente, Jack Quinn must have a particularly good line-of-chat as Foxy doesn’t even lend his cars to his Point King clifftop buddies. Many thanks to both of you.

Chassis #550-0056 has an entirely Australian and Kiwi history, its roll call of drivers includes Hamilton, Frank Kleinig, Jack Brabham, Otto Stone, Bruce Walton, Reg Smith and Lionel Marsh. Oh yes, Stirling Moss raced it too. See here; and here;

Norman Hamilton, Porsche 550 RS Spyder, Longford 1958. The Mountford Corner trees are still there (B Young)

So complete is the restoration that every single cell of character and patina the machine once had is destroyed, long gone; well done, mission accomplished. I’m at odds with the majority here, there were plenty of chaps with a grumble in the groin as they approached the perfect blue missile. How much restoration is too much you may ask? About this much in my mind.

I recall wandering the better suburbs of Perth with my brother a few years ago – Dalkeith, where he lives, Peppermint Grove and Mosman Park – and observing the small remaining number of older stylish homes and their modern, big, bold, gold’n brassy, loud n’proud replacements and proffering the view that “money and taste are non-converging circles in this part of the world.” He laughed initially, but not so much as the numbing effect of several Schofferhofer Hefeweizens drained from his system.

The same applies to cars of course, Lindsay Fox – a great philanthropist in addition to his stunning, enduring business successes I should point out – isn’t a knowledgeable car enthusiast so the nuances of what happens to each machine are lost in a big collection of mobile global investable assets. When Fox spoke to Dictator Dan and his other mates about 540K at a recent summer-soiree they thought he was rabbiting on about the deposit on a Shelley Beach bathing box not the Nazi’s favourite chick-bait vehicle of choice, one of which Fox bought in recent times.

A Pebble Beach judge tells me that the the Prewar and Postwar Preservation classes are growing in number at prominent concours events, which is great. Hopefully it’s not too late though, over restoration is like virginity really, once it’s lost you’re fucked.

The perfect world of course is somebody with Lind’s money and my taste (sic)…

Mercedes 300SL Coupe, nice too, with the ridgy-didge MW Motors Alfa Romeo GTA behind. Short piece on the 300SL here;

Delahaye 135M Coupe singing for its supper, roof-rack and all

These two French trailer-queens were easy on the eye, a 1929 Delage D8S Cabriolet and 1948 Delahaye 135M Coupe with body by Jean Antem.

“The D8S has been extensively toured, with wins at Motorclassica and was invited to Pebble Beach in 2014 where is was displayed on the 18th Green,” the info card says. I suppose “has been extensively toured” in this context means on a truck? Perhaps somebody can explain the 18th Green bit to this particular Concours bogan.

Fabulous Maserati Ghibli was a car I admired in my childhood, Sam Patten kindly chauffeured me on the final leg of the trip to Wombat Hill, a lovely, quick, big-car from the passenger seat.

Bugatti Type 44

There was a Concours winner and placegetters of course, but the voting was by Peoples Choice rather than the usual army of morbidly obese geriatrics in gold-buttoned blue-blazers, bone carefully ironed trousers and practical shoes. Stuff that, I’m down a bit on democracy since Trumpy’s ascension to the US Throne, and the 74,222,958 nuffies who voted for him last time. Screw the will of the people, WTF do they know? I’m therefore going through a benevolent dictator phase presently, on that basis the trailer-queens don’t get a look in, if you didn’t drive to the gig you’re disqualified. My three favourites, differing flavours of course, in no particular order are the Alta, Maserati Ghibli and AC Ace Bristol.


M Bisset, the shots are all mine unless credited otherwise,, Bob Young, Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati


Two MGs, the one on the left (what is it?) is just/nearly finished, the one on the right is a J2 if memory serves.


Benzina Magazine…

Posted: February 21, 2023 in Fotos, Sports Racers
Arthurs Seat. Port Phillip Bay at right, Bass Straight in the distance, next stop King Island then Tasmania (N French)

I’ve taken a step sideways from my motor racing core and have started contributing to Benzina Magazine, a quarterly classic-car mag.

It’s the brainchild of Australian classic motoring and historic motorsport entrepreneur Jack Quinn. We have just put away issue #6, it’s published in Australia and the UK, so you Pommies should be able to find a copy too.

What was it Frank Gardner and Jim Hardman taught me at Calder in 1975? Very comfy in here all day, steering heavy, ‘box devine (N French)
Test of the toupee near Flinders, the exhaust note at speed is six-cylinder sonorous. Victorian B-roads at present are shit, they must have Covid, but the independent suspension front and rear is well up the challenge though. Hang on Dr King, purple will not catch on by the way (N French)

My feature in this issue (#6) is an historic treatise and driving impressions on the AC Ace Bristol, the first and best of the breed. I co-wrote a piece on the late Australian racer/businessman Reg Hunt too. #5 on back-issue was an article on the Lou Abrahams and Ted Gray Tornado V8s.

Check the mag out, we’re still locking down the ‘standard mix of articles’ so do give me your impressions on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Nico French is the photographer, a talented, fun guy to work with, a Lotus driver so say no more. The venues in-shot are Arthurs Seat, Shoreham and Flinders on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. The car is Bob King’s 1960 Ace, a machine delivered to its original Australian military-man owner in Europe but otherwise always resident here.

(N French)

The 2-litre BMW derived, two-OHV, Bristol triple-Solex fed straight-six is good for circa 135bhp in this tune, more than enough for the 1960 light, spaceframe chassis car. These magnificent machines have racing-roots, it shows in every aspect of their performance.

Photo Credits…

Nico French

Shoreham looking at Point Leo (N French)

Nothing beats a pert, perky, two-handful rump. No fat, no frills and no baubles. Perfetto…


“Carl Junker, winner of the fastest time prize at the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island is the most modest man in the motor world. He had so little confidence in himself that it was only the repeated urgings of Terdich (Arthur Terdich, winner of the ’29 AGP) that caused him to enter.

This was his first big race, as he has previously competed in nothing more exciting than hillclimbs, but was formerly a motor cyclist of ability, and is a dirt track fan. Junker’s Bugatti, formerly the property of Sid Cox the NSW motorist, has a guaranteed speed of 115 miles per hour.”

“G McFarlane, winner of the Australian Outboards Championship in Melbourne on Albert Park Lake, is an Adelaide University student, who is in his second season with hydroplanes.”

He raced a boat called Tilmerie, and won the open class title in two heats and a final. At the end of the carnival, in a special speed test, he broke the Australian record averaging slightly over 45mph, beating the existing record of 42mph. McFarlane took the O’Donohue Shield for the championship, and held it for the ensuing 12 months.

“He is following in the footsteps of his father, GH McFarlane, who began outboarding in 1900, and was one of the pioneers of hydro-planing in South Australia. GH competed in several Australian championships with Millawa, and won the Albert Cup in New South Wales with Maltric, and successfully defended the cup in South Australia in 1929. Young McFarlane and his father built the boat in which he won the title on their station (farm) at Brinkley on the River Murray.”

The Referee April 1, 1931
Carl Junker in the Phillip Island winning Bugatti T39 #4607 in Melbourne after the 1931 win (B King Collection)

The 31′ AGP is somewhat controversial even after all these years. The Labour Day weekend, Monday March 23 race, 30 1/2 laps of the 6 1/2 mile rectangular sandy-gravel course, 200 miles in all, was held as a handicap.

“The system of handicapping to be adopted will be an allowance in time, based on the capacity of the engine, plus the knowledge of the speed of each car, and skill of the driver.” The West Australian record on February 12, 1931. “The data obtained by the promoters from the previous car races held on this course will, it is claimed, enable the handicappers to allot starts in accordance with the speed capabilities of each contestant, thus ensuring a better, fairer and more interesting race.”

Handicap racing was common in Australia until the early 1950s as we had relatively few racing cars of vastly differing performance spread over a huge area. Handicapping encouraged a come-what-you-brung ethos as the handicapping system meant everybody got a fair go, whether you raced a Bugatti or an Austin 7. In a perfect world, with the handicappers prognostications spot on – impossible of course – the field would all be bunched up together, mechanical mayhem permitting in the last lap or so of the race.

Cyril Dickason, Austin 7 Ulster, with onboard mechanic James Long won the race on handicap, received the plaudits of the crowd and were given the winners trophy. The early Tuesday morning newspapers reported the win in unequivocal fashion, then the event organisers, the Victorian Light Car Club changed the results and awarded the race to the Carl Junker/Reg Nutt Bugatti T39, which had done the fastest time.


(D Zeunert Collection)

About 5,000 spectators made the trip to Phillip Island to watch the race. Not many you may think, but back then the trip involved a train from Flinders Street Station in Melbourne to Frankston, then another on a branch line to Stony Point, on the shore of Westernport Bay. A shortish ferry ride took you, and perhaps your car if you were one of the fortunate few to own one, to Cowes on the Island. Then one had a walk of a mile or so, or more depending on where you watched the race on the course.

In an absorbing contest – 19 cars entered but only 13 started in a sign of ‘Depression times – Carl Junker’s1496cc straight-eight Bugatti T39, “Off a handicap of 10 minutes, gave a wonderfully consistent performance, and finished the long journey – 31 times around the course – in 2hr 54min 50.25sec. That was the fastest time, and by recording it Junker won the principal prize of 100 pounds. In a supercharged Austin Seven of 748cc CR Dickason (off 30 min) achieved second fastest time (3hr 2min 24.5sec). His handling of such a small machine, particularly on the bad corners, was keenly admired. He lost a minute or so through having to stop twice for minor adjustments. Third on time was the veteran, Harold Drake-Richmond (Bugatti T37 1496cc) off 10min, his figures being 3hr 3min 19.25sec.”

Dickason and May in Austin 7s start their first lap while the heavy metal awaits their turn. From the right; #15 Hope Bartlett and #14 Arthur Terdich, both in AGP winning Bugatti T37A’s off scratch. #20 is Jack Clement’s ex-AV Turner/G Meredith 1927 AGP winning car. #12 is Harold Drake-Richmond’s Bugatti T37, and then #9 is Bill Lowe’s Lombard AL3 (J Sherwood Collection via T Davis)
Front runner, Hope Bartlett, Bugatti T37A s/c #37358 from Cyril Dickason’s Austin 7 Ulster s/c, he has just passed him, Heaven Corner (J Sherwood Collection via T Davis)

“On the handicaps Dickason won comfortably, passing the finishing line for the last time a lap and a half ahead of Junker. Junker and Hope Bartlett were having a thrilling tussle, in the 30th lap, for second when Bartlett, driving a supercharged four-cylinder Bugatti, had mechanical trouble and was obliged to stop…”

The Iron Cross for stupidity went to Bartlett – arguably the most experienced and best credentialed of the drivers who started – who had the race shot to bits in the same Bugatti T37A in which Bill Thompson won the year before, but kept going faster still while well in the lead. Somewhat inevitably, the the supercharged-four blew and with it went Hope’s chance to join the AGP Roll of Honour where he surely belongs.

(T Johns Collection)

All good so far. At the end of the race Dickason was acclaimed the winner of the AGP, received the plaudits of the crowd, probably copped a peck on the cheek from Miss Phillip Island and was handed the AGP trophy for winning the race on handicap. He was formally feted as the 1931 Australian Grand Prix winner, with the Tuesday morning Melbourne Sun – the day after the race – proclaiming as such above.

The 1931 AGP Trophy is the big one in the middle of the third row from the top in Cyril Dickason’s collection. There’s no doubt they gonged him as the winner, the question is why the same mob then took it away. Clearly though, Dickason gave them the 1931 equivalent of ‘Go and Get Rooted’ when the blue-blazer commanders of the VLCC asked for that nice trophy back, he hung onto it (Ann Dickason Collection)

Then, 24 hours later, the fix was on, the Victorian Light Car Club committee had met, and announced Junker as the victor, the AGP winner. Dickason’s wife recorded in a November 6, 1982 letter to assist Birdwood Mill historians with photo details of the image below, “C.R Dickason, in Supercharged Austin 7, passing G Dentry. He won the Grand Prix but the following day the Victorian Light Car Club altered the rules and awarded the race to C Junker in a Bugatti.”

Certainly the Melbourne Sun, published on the Tuesday morning after the race, before the VLCC gave the rules a tickle, published an article which records, “Driving magnificently and making a non-stop run, C.R. Dickason, in a supercharged Austin Seven, off 30 minutes handicap, won the fourth 200 mile Australian Grand Prix, run here today.”

So, in the very early hours of Tuesday morning, when The Sun‘s presses rolled in Flinders Street, Melbourne, the winner of the AGP was Cyril Dickason. That he was presented with the award post-race is supported by the fact that the AGP Trophy remained in his collection. He never gave it back, even if the VLCC was stupid enough to ask for it’s return…

Dickason’s mechanic, James Long thanks Barney Dentry – with wife Bess alongside – for making room, Riley Brooklands (fourth) (H Paynting via A Dickason)

The VLCC committee in 1931 comprised AJ Terdich, H Drake-Richmond, AW Bernadou, OF Tough, AC Tye, A Carlton, F Walch, G Weiss, JW Condon, WJ Middleton and G Wright. At least three, and probably more of these fellas were/had been Bugatti owners/racers. I wonder how many of the establishment car club, VLCC committeemen were Austin 7 owners? Clubs are often terrible things when it comes to governance, who knows what went on and why in the hallowed, dark timber, panelled halls of the VLCC’s Fitzroy premises.

“I mean olde-bean, an ‘Orstin 7 won in 1928, ruddy-hell we can’t have another of those plebian roller-skates beating our French racing aristocrats! Besides, the Austins are grubby-factory cars, ours are amateur entries which are much more worthy and in the spirit of the race. And look, I know Carl Junker is only a Heidelberg butcher and didn’t go to Scotch (College) or Grammar (Melbourne) let alone live in Toorak or South Yarra but he is a protestant stout-chap, has plenty of money, and goodness – happy-hockey sticks – the main thing is he’s driving a Bugatti and that’s what we want winning OUR RACE not a ruddy-Austin…blah-blah, wank-toss-jerk see you at the Club this evening old-China…”

Well OK, maybe I’ve overdone it a bit. We Skips like to think of ourselves as an egalitarian lot and in relative terms compared to some other parts of the world that’s correct. But back then, your family, address, school, clubs, religion and of course bank balance all mattered. A lot. Why did the LCCV seemingly steal that AGP from Dickason and Austin and give it to Junker and Bugatti?

Two of my close mates are on opposite sides of this argument. Austin 7/Bentley historian/author/racer Tony Johns swings one way and Bugatti historian/author/racer Bob King the other. Getting hold of a copy of the supplementary regulations for this race meeting would resolve the good-natured banter about this long ago AGP. That is, hopefully that document makes clear the basis on which the winner of the AGP was to be awarded, on a scratch or handicap basis. In short, we want to know if CR Dickason and Austin were shafted, or otherwise.

Based on the evidence Tony has presented so far – see here; – my view is that Dickason and Austin copped the rough end of the pineapple. If you have a copy of said document found in the bowels of your late uncle’s shed do please send it to me on

Austin Distributors ad which appeared in the Melbourne Truth on 28 March 1931. By that stage Austin Distributors Pty. Ltd, and their lawyers would have been aware the VLCC had reallocated the spoils of victory, so there is a commendable ‘up yours’ element to this piece of corporate communication. By the 1970s the Truth‘s raison d’être had evolved into a compelling mix of titties and lies (T Johns Collection)


The Referee, Sydney, April 1, 1931, Bob King Collection, Tony Johns Collection via The Nostalgia Forum, John Sherwood Collection via Tony Davis, Harold Paynting via Ann Dickason Collection, David Zeunert Collection


(B King Collection)

Carl Junker (right) and mechanic, Mr E Lauder, having a cuppa before the start of the Phillip Island 100 on New Years Day 1934. Persil white overalls would not have looked quite so perfect a couple of hours later. It’s a Bugatti T39 again, but this time chassis #4604. Blow the shot up and suss the characters, wonderful.



Everything you need to know about 37 year-old Bob Muir’s skill behind the wheel is demonstrated in this shot of the grid at the start of the III Gran Premio di Mugello Euro F2 round in July 1976.

The red spec on the front row is Muiro’s Derek Kneller prepared Chevron B35 Ford BDA. Such are the dimensions of his wedding-tackle and blinding, god-given speed he has plonked a privateer Chevron with Ford BDA engine ahead of almost all the factory cars, the four Renault-Gordini V6 powered Elf 2Js (Jean-Pierre Jabouille alongside him on pole, and Michel Leclere) and Martini Mk19s (Rene Arnoux and Patrick Tambay). Then the works-March BMWs (Maurizio Flammini and Alex Ribeiro) and the rest including future/current GP drivers, Keke Rosberg, Vittorio Brambilla, Giancarlo Martini, Hans Binder, Ingo Hoffman and Harald Ertl. Bob’s Ford BDA was the pick of the engines in 1972 but the pecking order on this grid was Renault-Gordini V6, BMW M12/7, Hart 420R then the BDA. Jabouille won from Arnoux and Tambay. Muir was 16th.

In a different time, after tumbling out of the right womb, the likes of Bob Muir would have been funded through Karts by Daddy, funded through Formula Ford and F3 by Daddy, then picked up by one of the F1 Feeder Capital Vulture outfits (still part funded by Daddy, investment to this point circa $A6-8million) and into Grand Prix racing. And yes, I know he is not alone.

But Bob was old school, his formative years, indeed most of his years, were self funded by his motor dealership, so his appearances were usually sporadic and subject to availability of the-readies. I suspect his first real paid drive was with Bob and Marj Brown, in Australian F2 in 1974 and British Formula Atlantic in 1975 with a pair of Birrana 273s. The Browns funded this short Chevron campaign too, then it was back to Australia, where taxis beckoned.

Griffin helmeted Muir in front of Giorgio Francia’s Chevron B35 BMW. Bob had never raced at Mugello before, let alone visited Italy. It seems he rather liked the place (MotorSport)
Meet the fam. Bob and Judy Muir, with Jason and Danielle at Mascot Airport, Sydney in April 1972 with third place booty from the Singapore Grand Prix. Australians 1-3 in this race; Max Stewart, Mildren Ford, Vern Schuppan, March 722 Ford and then Bob’s borrowed or leased Rennmax BN3 Ford
Bob early in the year, 1973 US L&M Championship campaign at Riverside. Legendary engineer/mechanic/driver mentor Peter Molloy at left, John Wright in the middle? Lola T330 Chev (Muir Family Collection)

I was a believer from my very first motor race spectatorship, the 1972 Sandown Tasman round, the AGP no less. His Lola T300 Chev was the most spectacular belle-of-the-ball. See here; and here; , oh-yes, this too:

R.I.P Bob Muir, November 29, 1939-February 12, 2023, thanks so much for some wonderful memories, what a steerer…

The Muirs Sports Cars entry ahead of Teddy Pilette during the 1971 Tasman Cup Warwick Farm 100, Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott 2-litre TC-4V from McLaren M10B Chev. This is the battle for fifth place, resolved in Teddy’s favour. Frank Gardner won in a works-Lola T192 Chev from Chris Amon, Lotus 70 Ford and Kevin Bartlett, Mildren Chev ( Simpson)


MotorSport Images, Getty Images, Simpson, Muir Family Collection, Tony Glenn,, Alan Cox, Derek Kneller,

Bob about to take to Oran Park for the first time in the brand new Matich A53 Repco-Holden, Saturday February 2, 1974 (D Kneller)


As is so often the case the article grows like topsy after the initial posting, in this case thanks to a long discussion with legendary engineer/mechanic Derek Kneller in the UK this morning, February 15.

“Bob was a bloody good driver, really good, he could sort a car too. He went very well in the Lola T330 Chev that he ran in the 1973 L &M (US F5000 Championship). I was over there that season running Frank’s two Matich A51 Repcos. Peter Molloy was over there for a while when Bob first arrived, and he soon hooked up with Jerry Eisert and Chuck Jones. The car was always well prepared but as the season went on they were cobbling together engines. They had a really smart rig but the engines weren’t too good, I remember Bob finishing a heat at Watkins Glen second with the thing running on only seven-cylinders.”

In an amazing run of raw pace despite the tight budget, Bob qualified fourth at Michigan International on May 20 for third in his heat and DNF final. Off to Mid Ohio for Q3 and DNS heat and final, and then to the demanding Watkins Glen, a circuit on which he hadn’t competed before. Q2 behind Jody Scheckter and ahead of Brett Lunger, Brian Redman, Peter Gethin, Mark Donohue, Tony Adamowicz, David Hobbs, Kevin Bartlett, John Walker, Vern Schuppan and Frank Matich was really something. He was fifth in his heat at Road America after qualifying poorly, DNF in the final then missed the last few rounds, out of money. While 23 year old Jody Scheckter was the L&M young star of the series, the older find was 34 years young Bob Muir.

“Bob was unlucky to destroy the A52 (Matich A52 Repco-Holden F5000 car) in later 1973 at Warwick Farm in testing, but there was no question of who we were going to turn to when Frank decided he couldn’t do the race distance at Oran Park.”

“What’s it doing Bob?” Muir and crew in the Oran Park paddock, Matich A53 Repco-Holden (D Kneller)

“The car (Matich A53 Repco-Holden) was brand new, Frank had done a few sessions and we’d attended to a few things, then Bob did three or so laps to get the feel of the thing but the oil pump drive-belt came off and that damaged the engine. We had that changed by late evening and were allowed to do some laps at about 8pm, Bob was quickly down to times in the low 40s but had to start the race from the back of the grid as he hadn’t done a flyer before the oil pump problem.”

“In the race he was soon up to eighth or ninth, doing fast, consistent times before getting stuck behind Gethin or Oxton, then the fuel pump overheated so he was out. Repco had relocated the fuel pump and we hadn’t done enough testing laps to know it needed a heat-shield. Bob did some practice laps at Surfers but FM felt he was ok to do that race, and the final two at Sandown and Adelaide International.”

“I went back to the UK in late 1974 after we had wound down Frank’s (Matich) racing business in Sydney when he retired, then worked outside racing, I didn’t realise Bob contested the British Formula Atlantic Championship in 1975.”

After some fast drives in a borrowed Rennmax early in the 1974 Australian F2 Championship, Muir was engaged by Adelaide couple, Bob and Marj Brown to drive their pair of Birrana 273 Hart-Ford 416-B 1.6-litre cars. Bob finished second in a very tight, thrilling title-chase with works-Birrana driver Leo Geoghegan who raced their latest 274 model.

Muir, Birrana 273-009 Ford BDA, Mallory Park August 24, 1975, DNF fuel surge. Jim Crawford’s Chevron B29 won

The Browns decided to expand their specialist glass-making business to the UK in 1975. Taking the Birranas with them to contest the British Formula Atlantic Championship would be an ideal way to create interest in the new venture. Bob was the driver with his family of four relocating to Bishop Auckland (in Durham, the very north of England not too far from the border with Scotland) where the equipe was based. Dean Hosking, a young Adelaide driver who had raced a Formula 3 Birrana 374 Toyota for John Blander in 1974 and did very well also went along to drive one of the cars. Importantly, Tony Alcock, the design-partner in Birrana Cars, came along to engineer the cars, he was at a loose-end when Tony and Malcolm Ramsay, his business partner, decided to cease volume production of Birranas in Adelaide at the end of 1974.

Dean picks up the threads, “Bob’s business had developed the technology to make the type of glass that enabled one to see inside hot domestic ovens. He sold the company to Pilkington Glass and was subject to the usual ten year non-compete clause. So he approached the UK Government with the idea of setting up over there, that’s why the factory was in Bishop Auckland, the incentives were provided there in an area employment opportunities were needed.”

British Formula Atlantic was at its peak then, grids of 20 cars fought for two championships in 1975, the John Player British Formula Atlantic Championship and the Southern Organs British Formula Atlantic Championship. Tony Brise and Gunnar Nilsson went head to head, Brise won the former and Ted Wenz the latter with Nilsson second. Other big hitters that year included Brian Henton, Danny Sullivan, Jim Crawford, John Nicholson, Ray Mallock and Brett Riley.

Bob Muir and Tony Alcock entered 14 of the 21 rounds with the two year old Birrana for bests a pair of third placings at Silverstone and Oulton Park. In an impressive first UK season, Muir’s raw speed was again demonstrated with six top-five qualifying performances, two on the front row, one alongside Jim Crawford’s Chevron B29 at Mallory in August, and another beside the similarly mounted Gunnar Nilsson at Oulton in October. “He led a race at Mallory until the subframe broke (June 15), that was pretty impressive,” recalls Dean. While he was fifth in his first outing at Mallory Park in March, generally the little equipe got better results from late May after they had dialled the car in to the circuits and tyres.

“The deals were that Tony and I were paid, not a lot in my case, but enough to live on, to prepare the cars and me to have an occasional drive. Bob traded in cars of course! He had some friends in the London motor trade, that’s how he supported his family while he was over there.”

Muir, Minos Ford BDA at Thruxton during the 1976 BARC 200. DNF in the race won by Maurizio Flammini’s works-March 762 BMW (MotorSport)

“The first time I drove one of the cars was at Silverstone (April 13). I could certainly feel the extra 70bhp of the BDA compared with the 135bhp Corolla motor in the 374 but soon got used to that after a few laps. In fact I got to the far side of the circuit and was pondering what was the right gear for that corner and somebody went past me – Zot – clearly it wasn’t third!” Dean quipped. Bob qualified 15th that weekend in 273-009, and Dean 18th in 273-006, both cars retired, so not a good weekend.

“Tony Brise was head and shoulders above everybody else, I was convinced he would be the next British world champion. I thought Richard Morgan was impressive up close too. Ted Wenz not so much. But we held our own in cars that were two years old. I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world, but I wasn’t getting the drives I expected, money was perhaps a little tighter than Bob Brown may have hoped.”

It appears that Dean’s final race was at Snetterton on June 29. “Bob was great to be with, easy-going, a typical Sydney good-time guy! There was no prima-donna stuff, one one occasion we swopped cars as mine had the setup he was after. I came back and drove both contemporary cars for John Blanden, an ASP 340C Clubman, and some of his historic cars. I’ve always remained close to the scene with my involvement in the Sporting Car Club of South Australia and so on.”

At the end of 1975 Alcock took the fateful decision to join Hill Grand Prix, “I knew Tony well, he was with Matich for a while and came with us to the US when we did a couple of L&M races in the McLaren M10C Repco-Holden in early 1971. We lived close together in Sydney and saw one another quite a lot socially, both wives were Brits.” Kneller recalled affectionately.

“When Bob got in touch with me to help finish off the Minos Ford F2 car after Tony left – in essence it was a 273 rebodied and fitted with 295bhp Cosworth Ford BDX engine – it required assembly and finishing off, the hard stuff had already been done by Tony and Bob. I moved up to Bishop Auckland in this period and lived with Bob and Judy.”

“We took the car behind our little van to Thruxton (April 19) for the second round of the European F2 Championship. Bob was doing quite well in practice despite the fact that the car hadn’t turned a wheel before, 15th quickest time or thereabouts, but he only completed a lap in the race before the distributor drive failed.”

“We next set off for France to run in the Pau Grand Prix (June 7). What became clear in practice was that the Minos was flexing a lot when forced to change direction quickly, a problem not apparent at Thruxton. The Birranas had a chassis comprising an aluminium monocoque front and centre section and a tubular steel A-frame to which the engine was attached. It was built for 200bhp twin-cams not a 295bhp 2-litre BDX, the thing was twisting in the middle with the greater forces applied to it. I got some bits and pieces to brace the frame to the tub, including some radius rods Ron Dennis offered, but time ran out and we didn’t qualify.”

Derek Kneller’s shot of the Brown’s new Chevron B35 Ford (#35-76-10) after he had completed its assembly at Bolton in June 1976. B35 alongside’s owner? Chassis number of the half finished car please…? (D Kneller)

“The next thing I knew was Bob Muir asking me to go down to Bolton to assemble a new Chevron B35! Bob and Marj thought, stuff-it we need a new car.”

Derek Bennett himself helped me get the thing together, then off we set for Rouen (June 27). What should have been a good weekend quickly turned to tears, every time Bob applied the brakes at the bottom of the hill the car’s front wheels wanted to come off. The car assembly process at Chevrons involved going to the spares department to get the bits and pieces as you needed to attach to the chassis. The front suspension corners were complete sub-assemblies, all I had to do was bolt the wishbones, already attached to the upright assembly to the chassis. But left-hand hubs had gone onto right hand uprights, and vice-versa, so the wheels were trying to come undone under braking loads. What should have been an easy fix couldn’t be done in the paddock as none of the Chevron runners had the necessary parts.”

“We got the bits we needed out from England, then headed straight for Mugello which was held a fortnight later (July 11). We had heaps of time so Bob finally did lots of laps, getting himself and the car really dialled in. Don’t forget that when he got to the UK he didn’t know the circuits and the same applied in Europe of course. We had problems with the metering units of two engines, they weren’t getting the lubrication they needed from the Avgas we used.”

“We had great support from Swindons as we were the only ones running Ford engines. We needed another engine for the race so Bob Brown hired a plane, and he flew down with a Swindon works engine and one of their mechanics to look after it. When Bob put the car on the front row alongside Jabouille it was unbelievable. Our little team against the might of France complete with factory 320bhp Renault-Gordini V6s. Incredible really.”

Dicing with Alex Ribeiro’s fourth placed works-March 762 BMW early in the Mugello GP, Chevron B35 Ford BDX (MotorSport)

“Muiro led from the start of the 30 car grid, for about two laps our immaculate – Muir was fanatical about presentation – little red car led the field then he fell back a bit with clutch problems. The Aeroquip hydraulics line from stores was a fraction too short and vibrated loose, but he still ran sixth for a long while without a clutch, then slipped to ninth and eventually finished sixteenth. It was such a shame, without that who knows where he would have come.”

“And that was it. The Browns decided they had had enough and sold the Chevron. I’m not sure what became of the Minos, we sold it to a bloke from Scotland who ran it in the British Group 8 series for a while. Bob and Judy returned to Australia, I kept in touch with both of them, Judy too after they divorced, I last saw her at Frank’s (Matich) funeral in 2015. We kept in touch with Tony Alcock’s wife as well. After the plane crash (that killed most of Graham Hill’s team) she lived with her mother in Sussex for a while, she is still alive. The funny thing is, that light plane ride that Bob Brown took with the BDX from Bristol to Florence whetted his interest in flying, he and Marj took that up as another expensive hobby after they were finished with car racing!”

Three fabulous Muir Family Mugello happy-snaps, probably taken by Bob Brown as Derek Kneller is pushing the car in one shot and shirtless in another. Chevron B35 Ford BDX, the car on pole is Jean-Pierre Jabouille’s Elf 2J Renault


(T Glenn)

Super-sub. Bob Muir settles himself into Frank Matich’s brand new Matich A53 Repco-Holden at Oran Park just prior to the Tasman Cup round that in February 1974.

Matich had electrocuted himself in a near-fatal boating accident days before, FM ‘threw the keys’ to Bob after practicing the car and realising he wasn’t sufficiently well for the OP round, Q15/DNF. Frank was well enough to contest the remaining three Australian races – in which he was, as usual, very fast – his final races as events transpired.

The roll call is Peter Hughes in the white T-shirt, Lugsy Adams in yellow, then Grant O’Neill with the builders-cleavage, his woolly head obscuring Derek Kneller who is working on the left-front, all members of Frank Matich Racing. These are the machinists/fabricators/welders/mechanics who built A53-007, the very best of the Matich F5000 breed.

When I first posted an article incorporating this shot four years ago I captioned it on the basis that the fully-optioned, rather attractive young lady tending to Bob’s black helmet was his wife, a reasonable guess I thought. Not too long after, Bob’s ex-wife commented on social media that the blonde in question wasn’t her at all. There ya-go, my case rests, Muir met another of the tests of an elite level driver, the occasional away-game on the home front…’jokin of course.


(D Orosco Collection)

Lance Reventlow and his cars is one of those topics that’s always grabbed me, yep, I know we’ve been here before, here; and here;

The Scarab Offy debut at Monaco in 1960, when Reventlow and Chuck Daigh were so far off the pace, Stirling Moss did some laps in the car. Note the roll bar – high by the standards of the day albeit not high enough – seatbelts are fitted too, but those were for wally-woofdas in the views of Europeans at the time, so Moss is sitting on them.

Those lovely Halibrand wheels are Goodyear shod, Moss pointed them in the direction of the Dunlop tent, they raced so equipped. Goodyear nailed F1 pretty quickly mind you, they partnered with Brabham from the 1965 Tasman Series, with lots of input from Jack Brabham, Dan Gurney, Frank Gardner and Denny Hulme they improved exponentially to win the 1966 F1 World Championship and French F2 Championship, also the unofficial ‘European’ one.

That’s Lance in the orange driving suit off to the left, by the pit counter #48 is his car, Moss is lapping in Daigh’s machine.


This undated workshop shot highlights just how low (shots both above and below) in the spaceframe the engine was mounted – the 2.5-litre, twin cam, twin plug, desmodromic, two-valve, Hilborn injected, Offenhauser designed and built, circa 220bhp four cylinder engine was laid right over on its side. Note too the drum brakes at this stage of development, the car raced with Girling calipers and rotors.

Monaco 1960, RAI-Reventlow Automobiles Inc (MotorSport)
(D Orosco Collection)

These photographs highlight the two-years-too-late aspect of the Aston Martin DBR4 and Scarab designs in relation to the mid-engined brigade. The practice shot above shows the big, front-engined non-qualifiers #48 Reventlow and Daigh being passed by Roy Salvadori’s Cooper T51 Climax, and below, the fastest design of 1960, Innes Ireland’s works Lotus 18 Climax closing in on Reventlow.

(D Orosco Collection)
(P Darley)

Quite why the Scarab transporter is parked out front of Lotus’ Cheshunt factory enroute to the French Grand Prix that July is a bit of a mystery perhaps you can help solve!?

The 1959 Fiat truck based Bertoletti transporter was commissioned by Reventlow for Scarab’s use in 1960-61 before being briefly used by Lotus before its sale to Alan Mann Racing.

The shot below shows Lance alongside Lucien Bianchi, Cooper T51 Climax, at the start of the Belgian GP at Spa. Reventlow retired after one lap with engine problems, while Bianchi was sixth, and last, eight laps adrift of race winner, Jack Brabham’s Cooper T53 Climax. Difference is size between the 1960 model Scarab and ’59 Cooper, marked.


Wonderful pit shot taken during the French GP weekend at Reims. Chuck Daigh Q23 and Richie Ginther Q20 practiced but neither car started the race

Upper and lower wishbone and coil spring/damper front suspension, cast magnesium upright. Note the Aeroquip or braided steel oil lines to the front mounted oil-cooler in front of the coolant radiator, the first appearance of such fittings in GP racing years before they became ubiquitous.


Don Orosco Collection, MotorSport, Peter Darley, RP collectie Roozendaal,,


Chuck Daigh and Lance Reventlow full of optimism early in the Monaco GP weekend. Nifty fly-boy driving suits, Nomex I wonder?

There was much to admire in the Scarab’s design and execution but Reventlow Automobile Inc needed to be taking the start at the principality in 1958, not 1960.

The mid-engined 3.9-litre Scarab RE Buick V8 Intercontinental Formula machine on its way to fourth place in Chuck Daigh’s hands in the 1962 Sandown Park International. It was a step in the right direction, but sadly the machine never raced again.




Australia’s incipient love of touring cars started about here at Phillip Island on October 21, 1962, or in the first event two years before anyway.

These State Library of Victoria shots are showing signs of age but are all the more potent for it, so evocative as they are of a time long ago.

The group above is the tiddler – cars costing less than 900 pounds – class, the other three classes have already been flagged away. The #51 Triumph Herald is crewed by Hoot Gibson/Paul England/Jack Madden, #49 is the Doug Whiteford/Lou Molina VW, the Morris 850 was raced by George House/Clarrie Head. ‘Row three’ comprises the #48 George Reynolds/Jim McKeown VW – who won the class – #47 the Stan Martin/Les Park Triumph Herald, #50 the VW of Tony Theiler/Bob Foreman/Reg Lunn and the Graham Hoinville/Kevin Burns Ford Anglia. The #40 and #43 Minis are crewed by Jack Hunnam/John Hartnett and D Hooker/Terry Allan, finally, the #45 Triumph Herald in between those two Minis is the George Poulton/R Poulton/M Watson car.

There are plenty of fellas among this lot who were or became prominent in the sport; drivers – Paul England, Doug Whiteford, Lou Molina, George Reynolds, Jim McKeown, Jack Hunnam. Administrator/co-driver/team owner/engineer – Graeme Hoinville, Hoot Gibson, John Hartnett and Paul England.

We’ve been here before, towards the end of this piece, click here; and here;

Nice! Stephen Dalton’s programme complete with autographs of the victors, Messrs Firth and Jane

It’s not a big deal flagging the cars away separately by class, back in the day there was no overall winner, the awards were entirely class-based. But the taxi-lobby needed a winner as the race is part of the Bathurst continuum, and not having a winner wasn’t an option for them. So decades later, the car that did the quickest time was adjudged the winner, the Ford Falcon XL driven by Harry Firth and Bob Jane. Car 20B above is another of the works-Falcon entries, this one driven by Ken Harper, John Raeburn and Syd Fisher. The chasing #49 Volksy is that crewed by Whiteford/Molina.


Hmm, where is the wayward Bill Buckle/Brian Foley Scuderia Veloce Citroen ID19? It could be the area to the right as you exit Siberia perhaps, but if that is the case WTF is the driver doing there? Whatever the case, that car’s suspension would have absorbed the worst of the Island’s infield without difficulty, they finished fifth in Class A too, so no damage was done. Doesn’t it still look futuristic 60 years later, the French made distinctive cars then?


Yet another car in need of a compass is the fifth in Class A, Wal Gillespie/Vic Croft Chrysler Valiant. That’s Kildunda in the distance, I think he is off to the right on the entry to Southern Loop (turn one in the dull shit-boring parlance of today). Mind you, if you lost it on the way in there, that spot is not the likely one where physics would take you, but perhaps he copped a Rock Hudson on the way-in? Thoughts?


Harry Firth or Bob Jane – winners aboard the Firth prepared works-Ford Falcon XL – in search of an apex at MG, or is it Honda? I’ve done hundreds of laps at Phillip Island but the undergrowth is a good deal different in recent times than not long after the circuits opening in 1956.


State Library of Victoria, Wikipedia, Stephen Dalton Collection



Simpler times, not a hospitality pantech or marketing-stroker to be seen. The Copse is in the distance and main straight to the left of the finish line. Wasn’t the latter a staggering statement of the obvious that is positively feminine…


John Snow, Delahaye 135S Competition during the 1939 AGP at Lobethal (B King Collection)

Sydney rich-boy-racer, John Snow was on a mission from god to spend plenty of the family company – Sydney Snow Ltd was a retail softgoods company – money to race some of the best pre-war cars and to change the face of Australian motor racing by importing – for his mates and others – decent European racing exotica.

Three of the cars which arrived in one of his final pre-war shipments were an Alfa Romeo Tipo-B/P3 for Jack Saywell, an Alfa Romeo 8C2300 Le Mans which shortly after arrival was sold to John Crouch, and a Delahaye 135SC for his own use. To look after these machines and other customer cars, Saywell and Snow bought the Monza Service business located at 393 Riley Street, Surry Hills (later 217 Bourke Street, East Sydney). Together with the cars, they also enticed the impeccably-credentialled British mechanic, Jock Finlayson, who arrived with Snow on the Monterey and the cars at Number 1 Wharf, Darling Harbour, Sydney on Monday September 5, 1938.

The catalyst for this piece was yet another photo-share from Bob King to me (god bless his cotton-socks), including shots of the three cars mentioned, taken during the 1939 Australian Grand Prix weekend at Lobethal, and discovery of the article below. It all reminded me of an apocryphal story about poor Finlayson during his short time in The Colonies…

This photograph appeared in The Sun, Sydney on Sunday March 5,1939. The caption, with spelling corrected reads “Racing cars, two of them capable of speeds up to 150mph, being prepared for the Grand Prix meeting at Bathurst on Easter Monday. Left foreground, Paul Swedberg’s Offenhauser; right front towards rear, Jack Saywell’s Alfa Romeo, John Snow’s Delahaye, R Curlewis’ MG. O Debbs’ MG, J Crouch’s Alfa Romeo. The Monza Service garage in which the cars are being prepared, is owned by Snow and Saywell, and is in the charge of the English racing mechanic JD Finlayson.”
Newspaper ad in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Monday April 3, 1939. Like all motor traders, everything is always for sale, including the Delahaye 135SC (or is it CS?) which Snow had barely used in Australia. The Bugatti, see photo below, and Mercedes are both Snow imports. The Alvis Hudson is the engine-less ex-Phil Garlick machine traded by John Crouch in the deal that bagged him the Alfa Romeo 8C2300 Le Mans. The Hudson engine was fitted to the Alvis by Frank Kleinig in a quid-pro-quo deal with Snow, who lent Kleinig the cash to travel back to Sydney after the Lobethal January 1939 meeting, fitment of the engine represented payment. There are hundreds of little gems like this in Medley’s John Snow book!
The Bugatti referred to in the ad above Bob King identifies as Type 46 #46577 ex-Giles Brothers in the UK. The 1950s shot shows Mrs Pengilley in the (long) time she and husband Eric Pengilley owned the 5.3-litre unsupercharged straight-eight. Pengilley’s Cammeray, Sydney home was a well known Bugatti ‘nursing home’ from which many fine cars arose from the dead after Pengilley sold said remains (B King Collection)

At Lobethal, Finlayson’s new charges all finished the race, Snow in fourth place, Saywell in sixth and Crouch seventh, all of them were well behind the extraordinarily fast Alan Tomlinson’s MG TA Spl s/c. The bigger cars suffered from tyre problems during the very hot 150 mile race on January 2. In truth, none of the Monza Service equipe racers was intimately familiar with his new car, other than Snow, who had raced the 3.5-litre Delahaye to fourth place in the 1938 Antwerp Grand Prix and in the 24 Hours of Spa (not that I can see any proof of the latter). See here for the 1939 AGP report;

“JD ‘Jock’ Finlayson had been a mechanic for the Bentley boys, particularly Tim Birkin and Australian Bernard Rubin,” John Medley wrote in his superb ‘John Snow:Classic Motor Racer’. “When Birkin died in 1933, Finlayson found himself swept up in the remarkable motor racing campaign of 21-year-old Cambridge undergraduate the wealthy American Whitney Straight.”

“Finlayson spent two years with Straight, spending much of his time with the Italy end of the organisation, strongly influenced by the same Lofty England who became legendary post-war as the Racing Manager of the even more successful Jaguar Racing Team. He was no less strongly influenced by Giulio Ramponi, who took him with him when Whitney Straight had achieved his goals and moved on from motor racing.”

Dick Seaman and Jock Finlayson, Coppa Acerbo August 15, 1935. Seaman won the Coppa Acerbo Junior voiturette race in his ERA B-Type (R1B) by a minute. Here they are, before the off, with the car sitting on pole (LAT-Robert Fellowes)
Giulio Ramponi being pushed by Jock Finlayson in Dick Seaman’s Delage 1.5LS into the Donington Park paddock during the Junior Car Club 200 meeting on August 29, 1936. The pair had enhanced the performance of the ‘old beast’ by lightening it, fitment of hydraulic brakes, improving the gearbox and coaxed over 185bhp @ 8000rpm from its 1.5-litre supercharged straight-eight. Dick Seaman won the race, which was a mixed GP and Voiturette grid. It was his third win in as many weeks; the Coppa Acerbo Junior, Prix De Berne and JCC 200 (L Klemantaski)

“Richard Seaman had raced the former Whitney Straight MG K3, so when he decided to adopt a more professional approach to his racing, used an ERA, and ended up with the cleverly rebuilt 1927 Delage in 1936, he like Straight before him with Birkin’s men, chose to chase the very professional mechanics from the Straight operation. Giulio Ramponi was his first choice and it was Ramponi that both suggested the purchase of the Delage and modified it to be the best voiturette racer of 1936. Before that it had been Seaman’s employing of Ramponi that had changed Seaman’s success rate in 1935. And Ramponi had taken Finlayson with him, directly from the Straight team to the Seaman team. Seaman had the highest opinion of his new mechanics, Jock Finlayson apparently no less than Giulio Ramponi. It was Richard Seaman who recommended Jock Finlayson to John Snow.” John Medley wrote.

After the heat of Lobethal and Adelaide, poor Finlayson looked after the Saywell and Snow cars during speed record breaking attempts they had organised on a 10-mile-loop course on the dry, dusty Coorong pipeclay surface under merciless sun and temperatures of 96-106 degrees Fahrenheit on January 5 and 6, 1939.

On the first day, Snow set nine national records before the Delahaye was slowed by valve trouble. Saywell took the wheel of the 2.9-litre Tipo-B/P3 the next day, attacking both the standing start, and flying mile records. Using a four mile run-in, Saywell averaged 134.7mph in the big, booming Grand Prix Alfa, over the flying-mile, and 89.2mph in the standing start, both were new Australian records. See here;

Jack Saywell’s Alfa Romeo Tipo-B #5002, during early practice at Lobethal. The #1 allocated to him for the race has not yet been applied to the machine (B King Collection)
Jock Finlayson beside Jack Saywell’s Alfa Tipo-B (is the stout guy behind the wheel him?) and Delahaye 135SC at the Coorong, South Australia in January 1939. Fred Pearse Collection shot, perhaps taken for Castrol, undoubtedly a sponsor. Mind you, if you were a sponsor you wouldn’t want all the nuffies in shot! although perhaps they are the SCC South Australia timing officials. Check out the bloke – fifth from the left – with a pistol down-his-strides, if the gun goes off his wedding-tackle will end up in Glenelg. Perhaps he was on snake-patrol (F Pearse Collection)

The two cars next ran in the New South Wales Grand Prix at Bathurst on Easter Monday, April 10, 1939. There, cars imported by John Snow dominated the results. John Sherwood’s MG NE Magnette won from visiting American midget-ace, Paul Swedberg in Snow’s Delahaye (he was overseas), John Barraclough MG NE Magnette, John Crouch, Alfa Romeo 8C2300 LM, Bob Lea-Wright’s Hudson Six Spl, and Jack Saywell – well in the lead of the handicap race off scratch until terminal brake problems – Alfa Romeo Tipo-B. Only the Lea-Wright Hudson hadn’t been imported to Australia by John Snow. NSW GP report here;

Saywell’s Alfa had broken the lap record during its fantastic run at Bathurst, but the fateful decision was made to rebuild the engine and the brakes. The challenges posed by Vittorio Jano’s superb 2.9-litre twin-cam, two-valve, supercharged engine were considerable but should not have been difficult for a mechanic of Finlayson’s experience.

“Legend has it that all was well until the rebuilt engine was restored to its rightful place in the car,” Medley wrote. “It wouldn’t start. Despite protests from onlookers Jock Finlayson then chose to tow it behind another vehicle to try to clutch-start the Alfa Romeo, not realising that he had the timing wrong. Bent valves were apparently the least significant damage. The main damage was to Finlayson’s reputation: Saywell and Snow fired him, and he caught a ship back to England.”

John Crouch, Alfa Romeo 8C2300 Le Mans #2311202 8C, Lobethal 1939 (B King Collection)

No longer trusting anyone other than the Alfa Romeo factory, Saywell had the engine packed onto the ‘S.S.Minnow’ for a rebuild in Milan by July 1939. It wasn’t a good time to be on the high-seas though, Germany invaded Poland on September 1 1939, as a consequence Great Britain and Australia declared war on Germany on September 3.

With the Kriegsmarine’s U-Boot wolfpacks marauding the seas, the ‘Minnow’ was easy pickings. Saywell’s engine, the Skipper and the Professor, Gilligan, Thurston Howell (the third) and his wife, Ginger, not to forget poor Mary-Ann of course – I always fancied her more than Ginger or Mrs Howell – gurgled to the bottom of the sea, never to be seen again.

The Alfa Tipo-B raced again post-war, but that is another story…

Eyes on the prize Gilligan. These days American cultural imperialism gives me the shits but I couldn’t get enough of it as a kid!


As is so often the case, after finishing this piece I then had a proper Google – yep, I know, it would be better to do it first, but I get excited sometimes about a topic and this is one of ’em – finding the Coorong shot in a long forgotten article of my own, the Donington shot and this marvellous piece by Doug Nye in MotorSport, which I’ve paraphrased a bit.

“Its amazing just how much detailed history has come down to us not necessarily recorded in any history book, but instead scribbled on scraps of paper, on the back of photographs, or as a fleeting caption in a scrap book.”

“One of the best respected of all racing mechanics in the 1930s was Jock Finlayson. I recently unearthed a couple of the late Jock’s photographs, the first showing the Bentley pit at Phoenix Park, Dublin, after the 1929 Irish Grand Prix there for sportscars. In the 300 mile Eireann Cup handicap, an Alfa Romeo 1750 led home the work’s two Speed Six Bentleys driven by Glenn Kidston (second) and Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin (third).”

(Jock Finlayson-GP Library)

“In the Finlayson photo, taken just after the finish, urbane ex-naval officer Kidston is relaxing on the pit counter, inevitable cigarette in his right hand, while immediately behind him, marked with an-inked ‘X’ is Jock, minus spectacles, but with goggles slung around his neck – and with Tiger Tim to the right. Jock’s caption is simple enough, reading just, ‘My second ride with Birkin.'”

“Another hugely significant photo he preserved – given the shortage of such nutsy-boltsy shots of the engine of the nine-year-old Delage 1.5LS Grand Prix car in 1936 when he won almost everything in sight – as written by Jock, ‘1936 Berne Delage motor 1st Seaman 1 1/2-litre class.’ Here it is taken on the day on which Mercedes Benz team manager Alfred Neubauer sat up and took notice of a young British racing driver, named Dick Seaman and began to consider him seriously for a Mercedes test-drive…”

(Jock Finlayson-GP Library)


Bob King Collection, ‘John Snow : Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley, ‘Bathurst:Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, LAT-Robert Fellowes, Louis Klemantaski, Fred Pearse Collection, Doug Nye in MotorSport, GP Library, The Golden Era


(B King Collection)

Yet another of the John Snow top-end racing cars (probably) imported to Australia was Melbourne man, Tim Joshua’s Fraser Nash monoposto. Here he is at Bathurst during the 1938 AGP won by another blueblood, the ERA B-Type raced by Peter Whitehead.

This machine had a very long competitive life in Australian racing – including fitment of the inevitable Ford Flatty V8 during its mid-life crisis – is getting close to being restored to correct specifications in a small Murray River village.