Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Whilst Clarence La Tourette’s superb cutaway drawing is dated 1938 I think the car shown- with intercooler and underbody oil cooler but devoid of its sidepod fuel tanks is drawn to 1941 or later specifications (Clarence La Tourette)

Harry Miller’s stunning, brilliant, innovative, Gulf Miller mid-engined, four-wheel drive Indianapolis racer…

By 1938 this prodigiously talented of engineering aesthetes greatest days of motor racing and commercial success were behind him.

He was bankrupted in 1933 and left his native California for New York where there remained plenty of opportunities for Miller to deploy his talents, the scale of which had taken on almost mythical proportions.

For those unfamiliar with the American, one of the greatest race design engineers of the twentieth century, click on this link for a brief, concise summary of Harry’s life- important context for this article. http://milleroffy.com/Racing%20History.htm

Lee Oldfield with his self constructed Marmon engined car at Indy in 1937. Said to be ‘rough or agricultural’ this car is worthy of an article on its own given its historical Indy significance (IMS)

Miller was not the first to build and race a mid-engined machine at Indianapolis, that honour went to Lee Oldfield who built and attempted to qualify a 6 litre Marmon V16 engined, self constructed car in 1937. It featured all independent suspension and inboard mounted drum brakes in its specification.

Oldfield, no relation to Barney, a racer/engineer/businessman was entered by the Duesenberg brothers in one of their cars, a Mason, in 1912, the car failed to qualify after engine problems. He later found fame in aviation as the founder of Labeco, a company formed to work on aviation engines, the firm still exists today as Renk Labeco. The Oldfield Marmon is beyond the scope of this piece, an interesting story for another time perhaps.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, there was a radical front engined rear drive four cylinder Miller Gulf before the even more edgy mid-engined six cylinder Miller Gulf.

In 1937 Ira Vail, years before Miller’s first client for a straight-8 engine, commissioned him to design and build two new four-cylinder cars to compete against the pre-World War 1 technology which still prevailed at Indy.

Shortly after his design process had commenced- Harry had a design ‘in stock’- he had Everett Stevenson draw a lightweight twin-cam aluminium, two valve four cylinder engine of 255 cid circa 1933, which, with a 0.125 inch overbore was teased to 270 CID. The engines used Coffman cartridge style starters typical of the type used on aircraft where an exploding blank shell drove a piston, which in turn engaged a screw thread to turn the engine over.

The Gulf Miller four had plenty of Miller’s advanced thinking, with a split crankcase and wet cylinder liners, but was an update of a design he had worked up prior to his 1933 bankruptcy

Miller, by then 61 years of age and suffering from diabetes launched into the last great couple of designs of his career.

From 1938 the Indy 500 was to be run under the Grand Prix formula laid down by the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR, the forerunner of the FIA) specifying engine limits of 3 litres supercharged and 4.5 litres unsupercharged or 183.06 and 274.59 cubic inches of displacement.

By definition this marked the return of single-seat racers which removed the inherent danger of riding mechanics. Additionally, any type of fuel could be used, the supply of which was unlimited, this encouraged the use of supercharged engines fed by alcohol fuel.

The 95 inch wheelbase chassis of Ira’s cars was of the ladder or girder type of the period, but different in that it used deep, rolled steel side members which were intended to be very stiff.

‘Teardrop’ side fuel tanks were fitted to either side of the car to locate the fuel mass centrally, additionally they were interconnected so that the cars weight distribution would remain in equilibrium regardless of fuel load.

The engine and clutch were at the front of the car, the four speed transaxle, which used Cord 810 gearsets and final drive was at the rear.

The suspension was independent on all four wheels, a refinement of the Miller-Ford type he used in 1935. The hydraulic shocks were driver adjustable. In another Miller first the car was fitted with disc brakes on all four wheels. Not of the type we know mind you but rather a design based on an entirely different principle, that of the disc clutch and its pressure plate.

Further innovation extended to the radiators which resisted a traditional core but rather comprised a ‘trellis type’ of arrangement of chromed plated copper pipe tubing which was deployed around the cars nose and sides.

At this point, as the construction of the two cars was progressing, but it is not clear exactly when in early 1938, the direction of the project changed completely.

Harry Miller’s son Ted told Griff Borgeson, the famous journalist researching one of his books, that Harry visited Colonel Drake of Gulf Oil a couple of years before Vail’s project was acquired by Gulf.

Borgeson ‘The story goes that the construction of these two cars was just getting nicely underway when the son of Gulf’s board chairman…dropped in at Miller’s shop, and the rest is history.’

’Ira Vail was bought out and the entire project was moved to the headquarters of Gulf R&D at Harmarville, a suburb of Pittsburgh. As work continued on the fours, a program was launched immediately for the design and construction of a team of much more ambitious four-wheel-drive, rear engine Gulf sixes. They too, would run exclusively on 81 octane Gulf No Nox gas.’

The first four cylinder front-engined Miller-Gulfs (above) had the radiator tubing on the nose of the car ‘presenting an avant garde streamlined visage’ wrote Borgeson. ‘The Gulf cars used Miller-Ford type suspension as well as disc brakes, which at least were beautifully ornamental’ (Borgeson)

Before dealing with the mid-engined Gulf Millers sixes lets look at how the fours fared at Indy in 1938.

When the cars were launched to the press in April 1937 Miller predicted speeds of 126 mph, 2 mph faster than the current Indy record. In early tests at Langhorne the engines overheated and the brittle radiator tubing broke, by the time the cars appeared at Indy the radiators were small square conventional fittings mounted either side of the cars front body section.

Front engined Gulf four with ‘the intermediate type external radiator core. This radiator development also proved to be inadequate’, car very high. Driver is Bill Winn, note IFS suspension fairings, date and circuit not recorded (Borgeson)

1924 Indy winner LL ‘Slim’ Corum had been away from racing for three years but was engaged by Miller as a mechanic to assist driver Billy Winn with the new design. During early Indy tests on 21 April 1938 Winn escaped injury when the car stopped in the pit area with an engine ablaze.

Winn tried both cars on the last day of time trials but abandoned both ten mile runs due to lack of speed, the cars were two of thirteen non-qualifiers that year- poor Bill Winn died three months later during the ‘Governors Sweepstakes’ at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

The Gulf fours story from 1939 is told at the end of this article.

One of the Millers in 1938. Dumpy little jigger- note the IFS, and aero section side pontoon tanks which made a whole lot of sense in terms of weight distribution, from a safety perspective not so much. Whenever I research articles on Speedway Racing of the day it reminds me just how many fellas died on the boards, dirt and bricks (IMS)

Miller’s response to the opportunities of the new rules, with Gulf financial muscle was to embark on design and construction of a mid-engined, four-wheel drive, all-independent suspension car…

To this chassis he fitted a canted, short-stroke- said to be the very first oversquare engine, with a 3 inch bore and 3.125 inch stroke, supercharged, 3-litre, in-line six cylinder engine, a type he had not designed before.

In typical Miller style the engine was cast as one piece in aluminium- a finned cylinder block casting with integral head with housings for the twin overhead camshafts and dry sump made of magnesium. Fed by two carburettors, the supercharger used pressures of 18 pounds per square inch.

The fuel mass was located centrally in side fuel tanks and the car was fitted with disc brakes on all four wheels, as per the Ira Vail car.

Lets remember the year is 1938 folks, it was a truly avant-garde, complex, ambitious motorcar which makes the 1938 Auto Union Type D look mundane in terms of specification!

Harry’s cars were generally exquisite to look at in terms of their individual componentry and the sum of their parts- the completed machine, contrary to that normal state, was the ‘fugly-sister’ of the Miller litter, not that ugliness is necessarily a barrier to on-track success.

If the pre-war Auto Unions set the mid-engined paradigm- they did in that Coopers followed their lead post-war, John Cooper’s first cars featured the AU cocktail of ladder frame chassis, mid-mounted engine with gearbox behind, all independent suspension and drum brakes all around- Harry Miller, predictably, took an original approach.

Focus on the top drawing as to how things work. Drive goes forward to the gearbox at the front of the car via the lower driveshaft and to the front wheels- and to the rear along the top ‘shaft. The rear diff is aft of the engine with the supercharger behind it. The tube from the ‘charger attaches to the intercooler. You can see the top leaf spring of the rear suspension. Fuel tanks drawn are early pontoons (JF Drake)

The chassis was the ladder or girder type of the period, but different in that it used deep, rolled steel side members which were intended to be very stiff. The suspension was independent, a refinement of the Miller-Ford type.

The Miller 3 litre engines flywheel and clutch faced the driver, rather than the rear of the car with the four speed manual gearbox mounted at the front of the car aft of the radiator and oil tank. The large supercharger was located at the very rear of the machine rather than more directly connected to the six-cylinder DOHC, 2 valve motor. The full length ‘majestic pipe-organ’ full length exhaust was replaced from 1939 with short ‘machine gun’ stub pipes.

As the engine was developed to produce more power- and given the Gulf mandated use of its ‘pump petrol’ for marketing purposes- a large intercooler was fitted to the left engine cover from 1939.

‘Teardrop’ side fuel tanks were fitted to both sides of the car to locate the fuel mass centrally, as was the case with the four cylinder car. To shelter the driver the bodywork was high, the seating position similarly high to clear the driveshafts which ran fore and aft.

The car was heavy for all of the obvious reasons in terms of its 4WD componentry relative to a conventional two wheel driven car.

‘Continuing his experiments with engine cooling, he tried a new type of surface radiator on each side of the little cabin which occupied the place of an engine hood.’

‘There was a distinct aircraft feel to the car as a whole, which may have been a clue to Miller’s longer-range interests. The car was rushed to some semblance of completion in time to command the fascinated attention of the automotive world on the occasion of the Indy 500 in 1938’ Borgeson wrote.

Ralph Hepburn, Indy 1938, love the original ‘orchestral’ exhaust system, I wonder how effective it was. Rear diff is aft of the engine with supercharged behind it- engine fed by 2 carbs (IMS)

The car was not finished with sufficient time to be adequately tested and developed and therefore somewhat predictably, both drivers, George Bailey and Ralph Hepburn, failed to qualify due to cooling and fuel delivery problems for the 1938 Indy race.

The 1938 rule changes adopted, that is their liberalisation, brought forth other exotic cars in addition to Harry’s- Louis Meyer’s Winfield supercharged Maserati 6, Jimmy Snyder’s and Ron Householder’s Sparks Little 6’s being examples.

The race had a silver lining for Miller personally though- Floyd Roberts won the event in an utterly conventional four-cylinder Miller 270 beating Wilbur Shaw, Shaw Offy, 3 laps behind Roberts, and Chet Miller aboard a Summers Offy to the flag!

Floyd Roberts, winner of Indy 1938 in a conventional 4 cylinder DOHC Miller 270 (IMS)

Miller convinced Gulf Oil to stay the course and refined the car, three were entered for the 1939 race, they were driven by George Barringer, Zeke Meyer and George Bailey.

The car was radically redesigned, the Rootes blower replaced by a Miller centrifugal supercharger with an impeller which had working surfaces on both sides instead of only one. It delivered double the charge to a beautiful new alloy intercooler.

New cylinder heads with individual inlet ports were made and the distinctive exhaust extractor system was replaced with long, curved, individual vertical pipes. A conventional radiator core was used as well as bodywork changes.

Gulf still didn’t assist the competitiveness of the package by insisting upon the use of their street petrol- the six-cylinder engines produced circa 245hp whilst Miller’s old DOHC fours – now in the hands of Fred Offenhauser, who had acquired the commercial rights to the design, produced 300hp using the usual Indy alcohol-based cocktail fuel.

The team were better prepared than the year before though, MotorSport reported that ‘Miller…has been ready in good time with his cars, one of which was the first to try out the new asphalt paving on the back stretch. George Bailey was the driver, and he was timed to do 118 mph, at which speed he reported that the throttle was only half depressed. Ralph Hepburn has been out and about in one of the cars.’

Barringer, 1939 surrounded by Gulf Oil officials, nice intercooler detail, note heat shield between ‘cooler and stub exhausts (unattributed)

 

George Bailey at Indy in 1939, great shot of the aero section pontoon fuel tanks, intercooler added from that year and stub exhausts (IMS)

During qualifying on 19 May Barringer’s car dropped a cylinder, he was out of the field. He later qualified the Bill White Spl Offy fifteenth, finishing sixth.

A day later Johnny Seymour hit the turn 4 wall during practice, the car burst into flames and was destroyed, Seymour sustained severe burns but lived. George Bailey qualified his machine, and as a result became the driver of the first mid-engined car to qualify for Indy. The frightening accident to Seymour led to Zeke Meyer’s decision to withdraw from the race. Bailey qualified an encouraging eighth, but lasted only 47 laps, retiring with valve failure.

Things went from bad to worse the following year, 1940, when Harry returned with three rebuilt Gulf-Millers ‘in tip-top shape’.

George Bailey wasn’t so lucky this time, his Miller was involved in a similar accident to Seymour’s the year before. On 7 May Bailey was practicing the car, initially he completed 15 laps before returning to the pits.

After some adjustments he went back out and by the end of the fourth lap was up to 128.5 mph, as he entered turn 2 he either got up into the marbles or his engine seized, locking all four wheels.

Whatever the cause, the car started to slide sideways, as he fought to correct the car the Miller shot into the inside rail, his left-side fuel tank was then punctured and exploded. The unfolding disaster worsened when the car spun and the right side tank was hit and it too exploded.

Drenched in fuel and alight, the plucky, terrified driver jumped out of the car and ran towards speedway photographer Eddie Hoff who did his best to beat out the flames. The poor man fell three times on his journey, he had a fractured hip and leg injuries. The end to this grisly accident was his death 45 minutes later from third-degree burns.

Bailey, born in Cleveland in 1902, parlayed a job as a test driver with the Hudson Motor Company eventually to competing in the Indy 500- he raced five times without finishing, his best result was twelfth in a Barbasol in 1938 after missing the qualifying cut in his Miller.

The two other Millers, upon the ‘suggestion’ of the officials to the team were withdrawn from the race.

One of the cars as substantially modified for the 1941 race. Still retains the Miller drivetrain and general layout ‘but had drastically reduced frames, bodies and suspensions- all for the worse other than safety’. Fuel contained within chassis frame rails- oil cooler under the car removed after 1941 due to its vulnerability (vanderbiltcupraces.com)

For the 1941 Indy 500 the cars were further modified as a result of rule changes which banned the side tanks, major factors in the Barringer and Bailey accidents.

The two surviving cars now carried boxed steel side sections in which the fuel tanks were housed and cushioned- the bodies were again reworked.

MotorSport in an article (published in July 1941 about the annual classic) its reporter writing in May said that ‘New or redesigned cars which will attract the interest of the railbirds this year are led by the four-wheel drive, rear motor ‘guinea pigs’ which the old master Harry Miller designed three years ago, but have just been brought to a point of perfection.’

‘Now handled by the expert mechanic, Eddie Offutt, the cars were given exhaustive tests in Utah this summer, with one of them chalking up an official 500 mile record (AIACR International Class D) average of better than 143 mph.’

In April 1941 the MotorSport reporter observed that ‘Offutt had…been experimenting with (the cars) during the last two years earned its spurs on the salt beds of Bonneville, Utah, when it ran the full 500 miles, under official sanction and timing, at an average of 143 mph.’

‘The late Floyd Roberts set the existing 500 mile record at Indianapolis in 1938 when he completed the distance at an average of 172 mph, and although Indianapolis is a far more difficult course than the ring-around-the rosy- course over which the Offutt car ran, a 143 mph car is a definite challenger, particularly when it has a sister car just as capable.’

The point to be taken from the above is that the cars were fast- and reliable it seemed.

With Barringer and Al Miller (no relation to Harry) driving, the cars were fourteenth and fifteenth on the grid. Both crews were optimistic about their chances with Barringer having a qualifying speed of over 122 mph, but things were again to take a turn for the worse, the Gulf Millers and flames seemed to be an ongoing curse.

(E Hitze)

‘There seemed to be a strange foreboding at the Brickyard early in the day of the 1941 500. Maybe it was due to the cold drizzle that met incoming fans the night before or maybe it was the national worry about Hitler’s action in Europe.’

‘In any case, just as lines formed at the ticket booths, a huge fire swept through the garages. Apparently fumes from fuel in George Barringer’s car were ignited by a welding torch being used in the next stall. Fire trucks were unable to access the inferno quickly because of the huge crowds, and half of one of the two garage structures was completely destroyed.’

The event, down two cars, started an hour late, and Mauri Rose eventually won the show’ wrote Terry Reed.

Barringers cars remains after the 1941 race day dawn fire. At this point only 1 of the 4 cars built remained- Al Miller’s ’41 car. Shot does show the substantial bulkhead in front of the driver (IMS)

In the Miller garage, at about 3 am Barringer was filling his cars fuel tanks when the fumes of the fuel were ignited by a welder in an adjacent pit-Barringer’s was destroyed.

Al Miller’s No.12 car was salvaged by Barringer and helped onto the grid, but after multiple ignition problems its engine either seized, or its transmission failed after a mere 22 laps.

With that, Gulf tired of the partnership with Miller, a great deal of time, effort and money had been spent for little in the way of commercial return. There was also a war to be fought of course.

In a desperately sad, final stage of his life, Harry separated from his wife, moved to Indianapolis and then on to Detroit where he died of a heart attack whilst living in very modest circumstances on 3 May 1943 aged 65.

Al Miller’s car in the pits Indy 1941, 28th after transmission failure on lap 22 (IMS)

The post-conflict postscript of these trail-blazing amazing racing cars were Indy performances in 1946, ’47 and ’48…

By the start of the War only one of the four cars built still existed. One each were destroyed in Indy accidents in 1939 and 1940. George Barringer’s became a corn-chip in the Indy garage fire on the dawn of the 1941 race which left the car raced that year by Al Miller as the only remaining Miller RE 4WD chassis, it was owned by Gulf Oil.

During the 1939-45 conflict George Barringer and his family lived in a home in Indianapolis, Barringer worked nearby in a war related machinery plant.

Born in 1906 in Wichita Falls, Texas, his father was a blacksmith, as a young kid George picked up lots of mechanical skills.

He started racing in Texas circa 1925, little is known about his early racing albeit he appears in newspapers in 1928 as an owner in a Texas AAA race and was a successful driver in what were probably outlaw races. By 1933 he had enough experience to win an Indy ride, his finishes include sixth in 1939 and eighth in 1936. He first drove for Miller in 1941 as we have covered.

His son, Bill Barringer recalled an amazing phone call during the War’s latter stages- ‘In the winter of 1945 Dad got an evening phone call at home, he seemed very excited and after hanging up said to Mom “We just bought a racecar”. Mom was not too happy!’

’The next evening in the wee hours of the morning, during a snowstorm, a truck arrived from Gulf headquarters in Pittsburgh with the un-numbered last remaining Gulf Miller RE 4WD- the driver only said “Heres your racecar”.

Soon after they towed it to George’s garage in Indianapolis.

Barringer aboard his Miller in the garage area, mid May 1946 Indy (IMS)

 

Barringer qualifying in 1946, too good an evocative photo not to use (IMS)

 

Barringer, Indy 1946 (IMS)

Barringer, who did far more miles in the cars than anyone else must have been a ‘true-believer’ in the concept.

In the Preston Tucker sponsored Miller he finished twenty-fourth in the 1946 Indy having retired on lap 27 with a broken gear from grid slot 24.

George Barringer only raced on one other occasion in 1946, at the ill-fated Lakewood Speedway 100 miler in Atlanta on Labor Day.

There, driving an ancient two-man car that Wilbur Shaw used to win the 1937 Indy, he, together with 1946 Indy winner George Robson collided with the slower car of Billy Devore- they simply did not see Devore through the thick dust which characterised the track. The awful accident cost Barringer and Robson their lives- one which could have been averted had Devore been black-flagged for going too slowly or had the dust been controlled.

With continued sponsorship from Tucker, Barringer’s wife ran the car for Al Miller in 1947, he qualified nineteenth and DNF’d with magneto failure.

Immediately after the race Velma Barringer sold the car to Tucker who ran Miller again in 1948, that year he missed the qualifying cut.

In 1951 the Preston Tucker owned car developed an incurable crack in the last remaining block and was off to the Indy Motor Museum, where, no doubt, many of you have seen it.

Bibliography…

milleroffy.com, ‘Miller’ Griffith Borgeson, ‘The Rear Engined Revolution’ Mattijs Diepraam in forix.autosport.com, MotorSport June 1939, July 1941, vanderbiltcupraces.com, Clamshack on Flickr, Article by Brian Laban in The Telegraph June 2014, ‘Indy: The Race and Ritual of The Indianapolis 500’ Terry Reed, indymotorspeedway.com, article by Don Radbruch on georgebarringer.com. ‘The Forgotten 500 Champion-LL Corum’ Kevin Triplett

Al Miller, 1947

Photo Credits…

Clarence La Tourette, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ed Hitze, American Hot Rod Foundation, Pinterest-unattributed, James F Drake

Etcetera…

1938

Rutherford with Harry Miller (IMS)

 

Harry warming up the car before the 1938 race. Rootes type supercharger and churns of Gulf ‘No Nox’ clear to see (Borgeson)

 

Rutherford (IMS)

1939

The wreck of Johnny Seymour’s Miller after his 1939 qualifying crash (IMS)

1947

Al Miller, Indy practice in 1947, DNF after 33 laps (IMS)

 

Gulf Miller Fours…

After failing to qualify for the 1938 500 both cars were extensively rebuilt.

The pontoon style fuel tanks went and were replaced by a single tank mounted high in the tail and the noses changed to conventional front radiators. After testing at the Altoona Pennsylvania dirt track the cars were not entered at Indy in 1939 and later sold to Preston Tucker.

He didn’t race them but used the engines in a failed high-speed landing craft project.

‘Years later the rolling chassis were reportedly found in a Chicago basement and after multiple sales and trades, one of the cars was rebuilt with a Miller ML-510 engine development of the original 255 cubic inch engine’ Kevin Triplett wrote.

(Gulf)

The photograph above is a period Gulf press shot of the two cars after the rebuild described above.

It is a shame they weren’t practiced at Indy in 1939 if only as a fall-back position to their advanced but moody and accident prone six-cylinder brothers. Attractive cars if still with a tall stance.

Tailpiece…

We started the article with an old cutaway, so why not finish it with a modern one, by Mr Ouchi?

The image troubled me though, not the engineering detail but the number, sponsor and colour scheme, I couldn’t make sense of it so decided not to use it. But then by a stroke of Google luck, ‘Clamshack’ on Flickr provided the answer and the narrative from Bill Barringer above as well.

‘The xray illustration is probably taken from the last remaining Gulf Miller RE 4WD…in the IMS Museum…The museum car has a combination livery (why I don’t know) of Al Millers #12 from his running at the 1941 Indy 500 and the signage ‘Preston Tucker Special’ from Al Miller’s run in 1947. I don’t know where the colour is derived from, the 1941 car shows a lighter blue and the 1946 a reddish colour…’

So there you have it. What to make of the cars though?

By 1935 Gulf Oil had assets of more than $US430 million with annual production of more than 63 million barrels of crude oil. Despite that, no amount of money, laboratory, engineering time and expertise, ‘Gulfpride’ Oil and ‘No-Nox’ ethyl gasoline could get Harry’s wild, edgy combination of a mid-engine, four-wheel drive, independently suspended, ‘disc braked’ racer to survive 500 miles at Indianapolis.

What an extraordinary motorcar, one which pointed the way to the future- it promised so much, delivered so little but deserved so much more?…

Finito…

 

(Getty)

Donald Healey in his supercharged Austin Healey 100S ‘Streamliner’ at Bonneville in November 1954…

Late in 1954 Healey’s introduced the 100S, its power output was up to 132 bhp over the standard 100’s 90 bhp. A four speed gearbox was fitted, suspension modified and Dunlop disc brakes installed to all four corners of the attractive car. Reshaped panels in aluminium both made the car lighter and slipperier.

What better way to promote sales of the marque generally and of the 100S specifically than a further spot of record breaking?- hence the construction of the Shorrock supercharged car with its swoopy body designed by Gerry Coker.

The top speed the car achieved in Donald Healey’s hands was 192.6 mph, whilst on the Bonneville Ten Mile Circuit Carroll Shelby took further records including the 25-200 kilometres plus the one hour mark at 157.92 mph.

The Healey team considered building a special car but time did not permit so a standard BN1 body/chassis unit was used to which was added a new nose and tail and bubble-type perspex cockpit cover. The workmanship of the snout and body were reported as being exemplary.

The mods were determined after wind tunnel tests on a scale model by Sir WG Armstrong of Whitworth Aircraft Ltd. ‘The Motor’ reported that the completed car was later tested in Austin’s full-scale ‘tunnel- the technician’s estimate of the machines top speed was only 0.6 mph shot of Healey’s best effort. Who needs computers?!

In terms of the engine, prepared by Dr JH Weaving of BMC Gas Turbine Research, the 100S had in standard form a nitrided crank running in trimetal bearings and ‘the special cylinder head with enlarged valves and special porting which are the outstanding features of the new unit’.

Changes from the standard S engine included lapping the head to the block to avoid head gasket problems, the water flow also was slightly modified. A stock Shorrock C250B supercharger was coupled direct to the nose of the crank by two ‘Layrub’ couplings- maximum boost was about 8 psi. A special radiator core was used and a Tecalemit combined oil filter/cooler was incorporated. The engine produced 224 bhp @ 4500 rpm whereas the standard 100S was quoted at 132 bhp @ 4700 rpm.

The Motor advised a ‘special’ five speed gearbox was fitted with overdrive which gave a top gear ratio of 2.2:1 with the standard 16 inch Dunlop disc wheels fitted.

So slippery was the Streamliner that it ran for six miles (!) when the engine was cut at 180 mph.

Safety features included an onboard Graviner fire extinguisher system which was directed at both the engine bay and boot where the 25 gallon fuel tank was located- both impact and driver operated switches were installed. A ‘crash arch’ was behind the driver, two levers allowed the Perspex screen to be jettisoned, a switch in the lubrication system shut off the fuel supply if oil pressure fell below a set level. Donald found the standard steering wheel interfered with his vision so a rectangular one was made.

When completed the Streamliner was tested at an airfield circuit by Geoffrey Healey to speeds of about 130 mph before shipment to the US.

Healey did the straight line runs at Bonneville raising the International Class D Records for 5 Km 182.2 mph, 5 miles 183.87 mph, 10 Km 183.8 mph and 10 miles 181 mph. The 192.6 mph measured kilometre time was an American national record but not a world mark- it was held by a Mercedes at 248.3 mph, a time set by Rudy Caracciola in 1939 on the eve of the War. The Healey on one run did better 200 mph.

Carroll Shelby then took over the wheel on the 10 mile circle course and set an International Class D Record for the hour at 156.7 mph.

Donald Healey achieved the 200 mph mark he sought in 1956 using the same BN1 Streamliner chassis (SPL227B) in which he was successful in 1954 but fitted with a supercharged C-Series engine which in normally aspirated form was soon to be fitted to the new 100-6.

Bill Leyland modified the engine at Austin’s to produce 292 bhp @ 5000 rpm. Wind tunnel work and the advice of Dr John Weaving resulted in the removal of the cars tail-fin, Geoff Healey thought this ruined the look of the car but stability was aided- Austin engineers estimated a top speed of 217 mph.

(www.healeysix.net)

 

Preparation of the Streamliner six in August 1956 (www.healeysix.net)

The removal of the tail fin is interesting as it was commented favourably upon in ‘The Motor’ report of the 1954 successes on the 10 Mile course ‘The car proved very stable, which was indeed fortunate, for conditions were by no means ideal, gusts of wind up to 30 mph sweeping across the Salt Flats.’

‘Moreover owing to the complete absence of trees or any other vegetation, the driver receives no advance warning of a gust before it strikes the car. The tail fin proved of real value in such circumstances, the general opinion being that it would even have been more helpful if it had been made larger.’

Whatever the case, the car ran sans tail-fin in 1956.

Healey tested the car at Bonneville on 9 August and after repairing a sheared supercharger drive took it out on 21 August, his two way average speed was 201.10 mph, Donald was the nineteenth person to exceed 200 mph.

Roy Jackson-Moore in the BN2 six-cylinder 100-6 ‘Endurance Car’ (www.healeysix.net)

The Healey Team Bonneville 1956 trip included another very sexy machine.

‘The Endurance Car’ was a long-nosed BN2 fitted with a six-port head to which three Weber 40DCOE carburettors were attached.

The Eddie Maher prepared, standard capacity 2639 cc, OHV six cylinder engine produced 164 bhp @ 5500 rpm burning a mix of one third each methanol, benzole and petrol using a compression ratio of 10.2:1.

The very swoopy, curvaceous body was designed and constructed by Jensen Cars- a mighty fine job they did too.

Testing of this car on 9 August revealed vapour lock problems which were solved and continued on the 14th where a misfire diagnosed as due to lack of compression on #1 cylinder due to a poorly seated inlet valve occurred.

All of the valves were replaced but it was discovered that the water passages did not line up. The gasket was predicted to have a short life so runs on the Ten Mile Circuit started early in the cool of the day, the driving chores shared by Carroll Shelby and Roy Jackson-Moore.

The car kept going for six hours before the gasket failed, long enough to capture International Class D records for 200 miles, 500 Km, 500 miles, 1000 Km, 3 hours and 6 hours at speeds of between 145.96 mph (6 hours) and 153.14 mph (500 miles).

The endurance car was Healey Blue and White and featured the oval grille and horizontal bars that were soon introduced on the 100-Six in September 1956, Healey being a believer on the win on Sunday sell on Monday dictum…

Carroll Shelby, Roy Jackson-Moore and Donald Healey beside the Endurance Car with the Streamliner in supercharged six-cylinder guise behind at Bonneville immediately after the successful record attempts in August 1956.

Streamliner, Bonneville, August 1956 (unattributed)

Etcetera…

(www.healeysix.net)

Carroll Shelby beside the BN1 100-6 modified engine Endurance Car in August 1956. Isn’t it just a lovely looking thing sans bumpers with head-fairing and the Dunlop disc wheels?

 

 

(www.healeysix.net)

Stirling Moss at the wheel of the BN1 100-6 modified engine Endurance Car during practice over the 1956 Nassau Speed week. He tested the car, but did not race it, winning the Nassau Trophy in a Maserati 300S.

 

Arcane and Irrelevant…

I’d never heard of a Layrub Joint so I figure some of you other non-engineering types may be equivalently ignorant as my good self.

This little jobbie, originally developed by the Laycock Company, is a number of moulded rubber blocks with specially shaped cavities at their ends sandwiched between two steel pressings. Each shaft is connected by means of a fork to alternate rubber blocks.

The construction of the device allows the rubber blocks to deform and drive to be transmitted through a small angle, small axial and angular movements for shaft length alteration can be accommodated as well as torsional damping.

So, there you have it!

Credits…

Getty Images, http://www.healeysix.net, ‘The Motor’ November 1954, ‘Hillier’s Fundamentals of Motor Vehicle Technology’ Victor Hillier and Peter Coombes

Tailpiece: Donald Healey, AH 100S Streamliner November 1954…

You can just see the perspex screen over Healey’s head as he drives beside the line.

Finito…

(H Federbusch)

Greg Cusack Brabham BT6 Cosworth-Ford, Tim Schenken #16 green Lotus 18 Ford and Phil West, red Lotus 20 Cosworth on the outside. Then Kevin Bartlett, Elfin Catalina Hillman Imp on the inside in the distance and lanky Max Stewart, Rennmax BN1 Ford in the dark coloured car on the outside- Warwick Farm’s Creek Corner on 19 September 1965…

Some pretty handy drivers amongst that lot!, thanks to Rob Bartholomaeus and John Medley as well as Ray Bell for identifying the car/driver combinations.

Bell recalls the meeting ‘I thought it must be Cusack out front, but the white nose had me tossed. It turns out he borrowed his car back from new owner, Alan Felton, who had put the stripe there. He made a mess of the start and had to work his way through, this scene appears to be when he hit the front…there’s another Lotus 18 ranging up though, probably McCaughey.’

Fifteen competitors contested the title over 34 laps- 76.5 miles of Warwick Farm, Cusack, the reigning champion (he won at Lowood in an Elfin Catalina FJ in 1964) won from pole in his borrowed Brabham Cosworth from Max Stewart’s Rennmax BN1 Ford, Kevin Bartlett in the McGuire Family owned Elfin Imp and Ralph Sach in Alec Mildren’s Brabham.

Other ‘notables’ contesting the event included Ken Shirvington, Lotus 20B Cosworth and Les Howard aboard a Lotus 27 Ford.

Cusack, Brabham BT6 (Bob Williamson)

ANF2 at that time, from 1964 to 1968 was an 1100cc production-engine based class, it embraced what had been in 1962/3 Formula Junior, and engines of 1000cc free design.

Which sort of begs the question of what the single-seater Australian Formulae of the day were in 1965’ish.

I’ve used the ‘Australian National Formula’ or ‘ANF’ descriptor in my narrative which is not to say the CAMS used it at the time, here it is applied to make clear the classes were Australian ones, which in most cases were different to the categories similarly named in Europe. Here goes;

ANF1…

The ‘Tasman’ 2.5 category reigned supreme from 1964 to 1970 inclusive- the Australian Drivers Championship- the Gold Star, was run to this class. It was our best ever premier domestic elite category albeit however blessed were the Tasman grids, once the ‘furriners returned to Europe our domestic fields were not generally flash in quantity.

An anomaly was 1971 when 2.5’s were out, 2 litres were ok, F5000 was the Gold Star class of the next decade- and Max Stewart nicked the title in his reliable, fast 2 litre Waggott TC-4V engined Mildren nee Rennmax BN3 from under the noses of the new 5000’s. Just thought i’d get this in before you sticklers do- this articles ‘limit’ in terms of discussion is circa 1969/70.

Here is a rare ANF2.5 car!

It’s a Wren Coventry Climax 2.5 FPF commissioned from St Kilda’s Bill Reynolds by Tasmanian Brendan Tapp to compete with the other front-running Apple Isle locals- John McCormack in his ex-Jack Brabham 1962 Caversham AGP Brabham BT4 and David Sternberg’s ex-Clark Tasman 1965 Lotus 32B, both 2.5 FPF powered.

(oldracephotos.com.au/Harrisson)

In essence the spaceframe chassis car raced once or twice at Sandown and Symmons Plains in 1969 before being damaged in a towing accident. Bob Wright then acquired it from Tapp, fixed it and raced it as above before using it as the basis of his ‘Tasma Climax’, later Repco 2.5 V8 engined, sportscar. The chassis was widened for this purpose.

ANF1.5…

1964 to 1968. A production based twin-cam, two valve category which de-facto became a class for the Lotus-Ford twin-cam engine, the quickest of which gave 2.5’s driven in ‘average fashion’ a serious run for their money. ANF1.5 was critical to pad out increasingly skinny Gold Star grids throughout this period.

The national championship was a single race affair in 1964, won by Greg Cusack in a Brabham BT6 Ford at Warwick Farm and in 1965 when Bib Stillwell, Brabham BT14 Ford, prevailed at Bathurst. It was then a series of races in 1966, 1967 and 1968 when the winners were John Harvey, ex-Stillwell Brabham BT14 Ford, Max Stewart, Rennmax BN1 Ford and Max Stewart/Garrie Cooper in Rennmax BN1 Ford/Elfin Mono and Elfin 600 Ford respectively.

Its only in recent times that i have appreciated just how important this class was, and what great racing it provided as both a ‘stepping stone’ for young thrusters and as a destination for some single-seater stalwarts.

(oldracephotos.com.au/DKeep)

Another unusual car above is the ex-David Sternberg ANF1.5 Alexis Mk6 Ford t/c raced by Brian Bowe, here being watched over by a couple of fellows including a youthful, bespectacled John Bowe at Symmons Plains in 1968.

I wonder what has become of this little car generally referred to as the ‘Lotus Alexis’ in Tassie at the time?- he did pretty well in it including a third place in the 1967 Symmons Gold Star round behind Greg Cusack’s Brabham BT23A Repco and John McCormack’s Brabham BT4 Climax- both ANF 2.5 cars.

ANF2…

1964 to 1968. Australia recognised Formula Junior for only two brief years as a championship class, as noted above.

In 1962 Frank Matich won the title in an Elfin FJ Ford at Catalina Park, in 1963 Leo Geoghegan won at Warwick Farm aboard a Lotus 22 Ford- in both years the title was decided over one race.

F2 was a class for cars powered by 1100cc production based engines which embraced what had been FJ.

There were plenty of FJ’s around even though Australia was slowish in picking up the class which exploded globally from its European start in 1958. In Oz the cars raced in Formula Libre in 1960, by 1961 FJ only races were being run in Victoria and New South Wales.

In addition F2 allowed 1 litre race engines, not that I think anyone raced such a machine?

Front row L>R Geoghegan Lotus 22, Jim Palmer Elfin Catalina and Greg Cusack Brabham BT6. Thats Kent Price in the other Geoghegan Lotus on row 2 (B Wells)

The photos above and below are of Leo Geoghegan during and after winning the 8 September 1963, 75 mile, Australian Formula Junior Championship at Warwick Farm. Leo’s Lotus 22 Ford won from Greg Cusack, Brabham Ford and Jim Palmer in the ex-Cusack Elfin Catalina Ford.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the photo above that’s Kingsley Hibbard losing his Rennmax Ford comprehensively as he goes over the Western Crossing (of the horse-racing track international folks).

Up front Leo leads Jim Palmer, Elfin Catalina Ford, Kent Price in the other Geoghegan Lotus 20 and then perhaps Greg Cusack alongside Hibbard- in a Repco-Brabham Ford, to give the racer the name on the badge of the car at the time!

Look at those packed grandstands!

(oldracephotos.com.au/Phillips)

Leo’s Lotus 22 Ford won from Greg Cusack, Brabham Ford, Jack Hunnam in a Catalina, David Walker and then Hibbard, who did well to finish fifth after his first lap misdemeanour. Palmer’s car expired after 13 laps.

(oldracephotos.com.au/Phillips)

Many of the FJ drivers fitted Cosworth Ford 1500 pushrod engines to their Elfin FJ/Catalinas, Brabham, Lotus and Lynx chassis and entered Gold Star rounds so equipped, which then made them ANF1.5 cars.

In 1969 and 1970 the ANF2 championship was for cars fitted with 1.6 litre race-engines, so there were two years of the Ford FVA and Waggott TC-4V before the very successful 1970-1977, 1.6 litre DOHC 2 valve production based class. This ‘Lotus-Ford twin-cam’ class was a beaut but it too was in the seventies, not the decade earlier which is our focus.

ANF3…

Apparently from 1964 to 1968 we had European F3- 1000cc production based with overhead camshafts not permitted. How many of these cars did we have ‘in period’, I certainly don’t recall these things rocketing around here in any numbers?

The ‘heyday’ of ANF3 was the 1100cc era from 1969 and especially the 1300cc period from 1972 to 1977- production based and SOHC by then ok. Lets not go there as its outside the sixties period too.

Then there is the 2 litre European F3 period even later when the Gold Star was awarded to ‘Australia’s Champion Driver’, demeaning the award in the process. European F3 as our elite level single-seater category- ya gotta be friggin’ jokin CAMS? Lets not go there either as my blood-pressure tablets are way too light a dose to deal with the angst so caused by such fuck-wittery.

(Stride Family)

Formula Vee…

Formula Vee commenced in Oz in 1965 when ex-VW rallyist and dealer Greg Cusack demonstrated an imported American Formcar whilst Frank Kleinig Jnr is credited as winning the first FV race in Australia at Warwick Farm that December.

However FV historian, John Fabiszewski notes that the first to race Vees were Pat Stride in his Scarab and George Gessophilis in a Nota, in Formula Libre races in Tasmania (what circuit folks?) and Oran Park respectively on the same weekend in September 1965 (what date folks?).

The photograph above is of the only Vee race ever held at Longford, in its final year, 1968. Winner Pat Stride is coming off Kings Bridge in his Gremlin ahead of Mike Bessant- he was third in his Scarab with Lyn Archer second in an Elfin 500.

(R Thorncraft)

Formula Ford…

FF came a bit later of course, created in England in 1967, it commenced in Australia in 1969 with a race at Sandown that November, its first ‘National Championship’, the ‘Formula Ford National Series’ was run and won in 1970 by Richard Knight in an Elfin 600.

The photograph above is of Richard in his Bib Stillwell Ford Elfin 600 at Creek Corner, Warwick Farm during 1970- in a convincing display he won five of the six championship rounds.

Noel Potts, Elfin Catalina Ford 1.5, Warwick Farm circa 1964 (B Wells)

Etcetera…

Quintessential Australian cars of this period in Formula Junior, 1.5 litre pushrod Ford powered ‘Juniors’ and ANF1.5 per-se are Elfins (bias hereby declared) FJ/Catalina/’Works Replica 275 and 375′, Garrie Cooper’s first spaceframe single-seater design, and the monocoque T100 ‘Mono’ which followed it.

Arguably the best two drivers to come through the Catalina were Frank Matich and Kevin Bartlett- which is cheating really as FM had already ‘arrived’ (in sportscars) when he started to race the FJ/Catalina. So maybe my other choice is Greg Cusack.

Applying the same approach to the two best Mono pilots is a harder as there were plenty built and a lotta good guys raced them. On balance i’ll go with John Walker and Alfie Costanzo, you can’t go too far wrong with a couple of Gold Star champions, and AGP winner in Walker’s case.

I did say arguably, happy to enter into correspondence in relation thereto!

(J Ellacott- G Burford Collection)

To me the Elfin Mono is pretty much single-seater sex on wheels.

They were a very competitive piece of kit from 1964 to the arrival of the 600 replacement and also looked the goods. Garrie Cooper’s ‘eye’ for an attractive car should not be overlooked in any and all of his designs.

They were not without controversy in terms of the effectiveness of the ‘swept back upper wishbone’ rear suspension setup of the early cars- Bob Jane’s Mono Mk1 Ford t/c one such example. Here he is shown at Warwick Farm, probably during the 1966 Tasman meeting. Bob’s cars were always superbly prepared and presented, the Mono is no exception.

Credits…

Heinz Federbusch, Ray Bell, Bruce Wells, Dick Simpson, Lindsay Ross’ oldracephotos.com.au, Bob Williamson Collection, John Ellacott via Grant Burford, Stride Family, Russell Thorncraft

Tailpieces…

(B Wells)

Kevin Bartlett clad in a Nomex t-shirt aboard his Lynx BMC from Wally Mitchell’s Lotus 20 Ford during a Formula Junior race at Hume Weir on 23 September 1962. KB was first and third in the two races that day, the other victor was Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 20.

(D Simpson)

Jack and Ron sold plenty of Brabhams in Australia at the time, surely they were THE manufacturer of ‘small bore’ production racing cars of the sixties.

The photo above is of later ANF2.5 pilot Phil West in a Brabham BT6 (or is it BT2) Ford at Oran Park in 1967, chosen, despite a blemish of age on the negative, as it shows the lines of the car to great effect.

The very first Brabham or MRD and BT2, BT6 and BT14 smaller capacity chassis scored lots of race wins/success/played a part in the success of many careers in Australia including West, Gavin Youl, Greg Cusack, Bib Stillwell, John Harvey, Kevin Bartlett, David Walker, Warwick Brown and others.

Finito…

Briggs Cunningham and his huge entourage of racers, technicians, pantechnicons and Caddies arrive in France for the 1954 Le Mans classic- ‘The Eagle Has Landed’!…

The racers are two Cunningham C4R’s whilst on the trailer is a Ferrari 375MM, the shot above was taken at the village of Bolbec, 35 km from the port of Le Havre where the team and all of the equipment above arrived from the United States on the ship ‘Mauretania’.

This article is about Briggs, his Cunninghams and the team’s 1954 assault on the event. In researching the C4R I discovered this fantastic website about all things Cunningham, so rather than using copious amounts of it here, take the time to explore, it is exceptional;

http://www.briggscunningham.com/home/cunningham-c4r-continuation/

This piece comprises a bit of context about Cunningham, some background on his cars and the main game which is the 1954 event. There are other images of the race but I have stuck as much as possible to the Getty Archive to keep the flavour of the shots similar, this Maurice Jarnoux chappie, whose work I am becoming increasingly familiar with, is a bit of an artiste.

Cunningham beside one of the C4R’s and the ‘Mauretania’ dockside at the port of Le Havre about 215 km from Le Mans (Getty-Jarnoux)

Briggs Cunningham…

Lived a life surrounded by extraordinary wealth and also one of considerable sporting achievement as both a yachtsman and racer, this slightly truncated obituary is as good a place as any to start.

‘Briggs Swift Cunningham II, a sportsman whose affinity for yachts and cars drew him to sailboat racing as an America’s Cup skipper and to auto racing as the creator and driver of his custom sports car, died Wednesday 2 July 2003 at his home in Las Vegas. He was 96. Cunningham sailed in the 1958 Cup races off Newport, R.I., as skipper of the 12-meter sloop Columbia, successfully defending the America’s Cup against the British challenger, the 12-meter yacht Sceptre.

”Briggs was like a fine violinist with boats,” said Victor Romagna, who sailed with Cunningham in the competition. ”He would need someone to do the tuning, as one might with a Stradivarius, but afterwards, we would hand the boat back to Briggs. Then he would play the instrument absolutely perfectly.”

‘Columbia’ – US16, the first 12 Meter America’s Cup winner in 1958. Cunningham skippered the boat which beat the Royal Yacht Squadron’s ‘Sceptre’- Columbia won 4 straight races by margins of between 7-12 minutes

Cunningham was born Jan. 19, 1907, in Cincinnati. His family helped finance railways, telecommunications, meat-packing and commercial real estate and his father was the chief financier of two young men who had developed a bath soap that floated. Their names were William Cooper Procter and James Norris Gamble.

Briggs spent his summers in the Northeast and learned to sail by the time he was 6. His family moved to Southport, Conn., when he was a teenager. At age 17, Cunningham joined the Star Class racing fleet at the Pequot Yacht Club in Southport. The venture was the beginning of his 30 years of sailboat racing on Long Island Sound.

He attended Yale for two years, then left in 1929 to marry Lucy Bedford, daughter of a Standard Oil heir, Fred Bedford. It was during this period that he entered into sport as a way of life.

As a member of the New York Yacht Club, he continued to sail the Columbia in club races through the 1960′s. He also developed ‘The Cunningham’, a common device on sailboats that adjusts sail tension.

Cunningham’s interest in racecars began in 1939 when he participated in the New York World’s Fair.

After World War II, he began competing in the 24-hour auto races at Le Mans, France, and in 1951 he showed up with the Cunningham C-4R, a racecar he had designed and built. Made with a sleek, hand-hammered aluminum body and Chrysler’s newly introduced V-8 engine, the Cunningham has been called America’s first sports car. A year later, Cunningham and his partner, Bill Spear, placed fourth with the car at Le Mans, averaging 88 miles an hour.

Time magazine cover in 1954

”Cunningham himself was never particularly interested in short races,” Road and Track magazine said in 1979. ”What he liked to do was get out and drive and drive and drive, which was why Le Mans was so fascinating to him.”

Having raced his sports car for the last time in 1955, Cunningham began competing on a Jaguar team and became a Jaguar distributor in New England. After moving to California in 1962, he bought several vintage powerboats and, in 1964, opened the Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum in Costa Mesa, Calif., which has since changed ownership and was moved to a private museum in Florida.

In 1993, he was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, R.I. Earlier this year, he was inducted into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame.

Cunningham was married 40 years to his second wife, the former Laura Cramer. He is survived by his wife; a son, Briggs Cunningham III of Danville, Ky.; two daughters, Lucie McKinney of Green Farms, Conn., and Cythlen Maddock of Palm Beach, Fla.; two stepsons; 19 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren’.

The George Rand/Fred Wacker Cunnungham C2R Chrysler 5.5 V8 at Le Mans in 1952 (unattributed)

 

Cunningham Cars…

Briggs first came to international attention with his Cadillac entry for Le Mans in 1950.

There were two cars, one looked standard, the other had somewhat bizarre streamlined open bodywork and was immediately nick-named Le Monstre by the Frenchies. Cunningham was encouraged by the results when the coupé finished tenth and the streamliner eleventh.

Cunningham’s original plan was a Cadillac-engined Ford, a high-power, low-weight recipe concepted by Phil Walters in the States, but the ACO turned it down.

The 11th placed Cadillac Spider ‘Le Monstre’ driven by Cunningham/Walters ahead of the 10th placed Cadillac 50-61 Coupe de Ville raced by Miles and Sam Collier at Le Mans 1950 (unattributed)

In a path that became well travelled, Briggs was convinced that a strong, simple American V8 with an equally sound, simple chassis would produce a competitive car to go head to head with European marques of more exotic specification.

Three specially-built sport-racers with Chrysler engines started the 1951 Le Mans classic. Two crashed, the third had engine bearing problems but finished eighteenth. Before its contretemps with the scenery one of the C2s was running in second place, a significant achievement for a new marque.

‘For 1952, less weight and more power were the goals. By now, having noted the C2’s promise (it had won at Watkins Glen and Elkhart Lake) Chrysler itself was tacitly backing the team’s attempt to defeat the Europeans on their home ground. The Detroit giant now had a standard engine with real performance potential, and the sales impact of victory was tempting. The ‘hemi’ V8 engine used lateral push-rods to operate splayed valves from the single camshaft in the Vee. This gave it the advantage of hemispherical combustion chambers with less complexity than using twin cams, and the stock output was somewhere around 180bhp’, said MotorSport.

Extensive engine development included ‘all the usual bag of hot-rodders tricks’- valve-gear lightening, needle-bearing roller rockers and cam followers, solid lifters instead of wheezy hydraulic components, special crankshafts and hi-lift cams. Four Zenith carbs fed the beast which used a compression ratio variously quoted from 7.5:1 to 8.6:1. The engine’s capacity was 331cid or 5425cc, power quoted was between 300 and 340 bhp and torque some 312Ib ft at only 2000rpm.

The big cast-iron, 625 pound plus lump with its two-inch overhead valves was understressed- down the decades this formula of worked Detroit V8’s was very successful as long as the limitations of the inherent layout and design specification were not exceeded. The big step forward for American V8s’ from a racing perspective was the small-block Chevy with its (relatively) lightweight thin-wall casting techniques, but the Chrysler, pound for pound was a competitive unit ‘in period’, the 283 Chev was still a few years away in 1954.

1952 C4R engine detail (unattributed)

 

Pit shot of the #2 Spear/Johnston car at Le Mans in 1954. Note the Halibrand alloy wheels, deatil of the body and unique scuttle mounted oil coolers (Getty)

The chassis was a period typical ladder frame comprising two pairs of steel tubes joined vertically by tubing and gussets which carried the big bent eight.

Suspension up front comprised coil springs and double wishbones, a coil-sprung rigid axle replaced the De Dion set-up of the C2 at the rear, it was well located by trailing arms and a Panhard rod. Hydraulic tubular shock absorbers were used front and rear.

Chrysler engineers were involved in sorting the suspension geometry, spring rates and shock absorber settings together with Cunningham’s team of Phil Walters, Jack Donaldson and Briggs Weaver.

A stock or even modified Chrysler transmission did not offer the number of ratios required let alone the strength with all that torque tearing away at it. It took a truck unit to cope- an Italian Siata gearbox was used containing four ratios in a light aluminium case, it proved to be sweet shifting and great to use over long distances.

Sexy alloy Halibrand (as used at Indy and on America’s sprintcars and midgets) 7 X 16 inch wheels were used with big, 13 inch, finned drum brakes but they were not really up to the task. The brakes had to be used sympathetically in the manner of the day, albeit by 1953 Jaguar was pioneering the disc brake paradigm shift, an advantage they would press home to the end of the decade, especially at Le Mans.

The cars track was 4ft 6in front and rear, its wheelbase 100 inches and weight circa 2410 pounds, not a lightweight but much less bulky than the ‘pork-chop’ C2.

Briggs, sans helmet, parade lap perhaps, during the September 1952 Watkins Glen GP, 6.6 mile road course weekend- C4R. Cunningham led from the start of the 15 lap journey but a first lap racing incident between John Fitch C4R in second and third placed Fred Wacker’s Allard J2 Cadillac caused the latter’s tail to run wide over a kerb, killing a young boy and injuring 12 people. The race was abandoned- and caused the end of road course racing in the US (B Tronolone Collection)

 

The 10th placed C4R Coupe at Le Mans in 1953- raced by Charles Moran and John Gordon-Bennett

Three C4Rs were built. One was a Kamm-tailed coupé the other two slab sided spyders designed by Bob Blake.

Big grille and cutaway wings channelled huge swags of air to the radiator and finned, iron brake drums. Rear wing scoops cooled the tyres, neat slots in the trailing edges of the rear wings kept the flow going. For the spyders, instead of siting the oil-cooler low, where it would be vulnerable to stones, the team adopted a distinctive cylindrical aircraft-style unit mounted high up on the cars scuttle.

The C4R’s race debut was at Bridgehampton early in 1952. For thirteen laps Phil Walters led, then a tail-pipe came loose and he was black-flagged. It was a minor disappointment but the team’s spirits were lifted for Le Mans.

Cunningham entered a spyder for himself and Bill Spears, another for John Fitch and George Rice, while Phil Walters and Duane Carter handled the coupé. By Saturday night, Carter had stuck his car in the sand, and Fitch and Rice had retired with valve problems. But they had been quick, and Briggs Cunningham drove solo in the remaining car for nearly 20 hours before letting Spear cruise home fourth. It was an amazing, gritty performance by the American sportsman.

The following year, 1953, a new streamlined Cunningham, the C5 raced, the winning Jag D’s top speed reaching 154mph on Mulsanne. The Coventry team’s Dunlop disc brakes were the difference between the cars. The C5 was third, the C4R spyder seventh, and the coupé tenth.

‘Smiley grille’ C5R Le Mans 1953- 3rd place driven by Phil Waters and John Fitch (unattributed)

 

#1 Briggs Cunningham/John Gordon-Bennett C4R Chrysler, Le Mans 1954

Strong progress was being made on chassis, aerodynamics and engine by both Cunningham and Chrysler, but Briggs’ personal desire to win Le Mans was tempting him from Detroit to Maranello.

A string of national and international successes in the States ought to have been supremely satisfying, since the blue and white cars were beating the twin-cam Europeans handsomely there. Best of all was a hard-fought win against the works Aston Martin team at Sebring in 1953.

Two of the new DB3Ss, crewed by Reg Parnell/George Abecassis and Peter Collins/Geoff Duke, traded positions with Fitch and Walters from the start. After Duke collided with another car, the other Aston couldn’t close the small gap- at the end of 12 hours racing the Cunningham scored by 3 1/2-minutes’, the car won from the Parnell/Abecassis Aston Martin DB3 with the Johnston/Wilder Jaguar C Type in third.

And so, lets look at the 1954 Le Mans classic.

Jaguar raced three new works Jaguar D-Types driven by Peter Walker and Stirling Moss, Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton and Duncan Hamilton paired with Tony Rolt- the winning combination aboard a C Type the year before.

(unattributed)

Jaguar HQ before the off- its all happening.

The #12 Moss/Walker car DNF brakes 12th hour, #15 Whitehead/Wharton D Type DNF ‘box 13th hour and the #16 Laurent/Swaters Ecurie Francorchamps C Type 4th place- see the spare bonnet for the C upstairs. The un-numbered car is a spare or the #14 Hamilton/Rolt car.

Some immaculately attired Porsche technicians and 550 RS 1500 Spyders. #40 von Frankenberg/Glockler DNF engine in the first hour, #39 the 12th placed Claes/Stasse car and #47 14th Arkus-Duntov/Olivier machine (unattributed)

Ferrari, Maserati and Osca entered cars, Ferrari’s challenger was the V12 375 Plus to be driven by Umberto Maglioli and Paolo Marzotto/Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant/Robert Manzon.

At the endurance racing seasons opening round, Sebring on 7 March the Lloyd/Moss Osca MT4 1450 triumphed over the might of the Aston Martin and Ferrari teams. Now Briggs wanted a Ferrari engine for Le Mans!

To achieve this he needed to buy a car, so John Fitch and Phil Walters accordingly arrived at Le Mans with the 375MM pictured on the quayside above.

The new Cunningham C6 was not ready, the fast but unstable C5 had been destroyed at Reims the year before, so the two C4R spiders were again entered as well as the Ferrari. The C4R Spyders were driven by Bill Spear and Sherwood Johnston with Briggs and John Gordon-Bennett in the other car.

The Cunningham page from the 1954 Le Mans program (S Dalton Collection)

 

(unattributed)

The pre-start Le Mans panorama with the #54 BG Le Mans Renault of Brevil/Py 18th, #51 DB HBR Renault Louis DNF and #55 Monopole X84 of Hemard/Flahault thirteenth in focus. Amazing just how well these sub-one litre buzz-boxes place.

(unattributed)

The cars were lined up in order of engine capacity from largest to smallest- the 5482cc Cunninghams at the head of the queue- above the two C4R’s of Cunningham/Gordon-Bennett and Spear/Johnston and the three works Ferrari 375 Plus of Maglioli/Marzotto, Gonzalez/Trintignant and Manzon/Rosier.

The sprint has begun above.

The # 2 Spear/Johnston C4R and #6 Walters/Fitch Cunningham Ferrari 375MM from the #14 Rolt/Hamilton D Type (unattributed)

The 375’s of González/Trintignant, Manzon/Rosier and Maglioli/Marzotto led almost from the start, but Moss kept the D-Type in touch with them and Rolt was not too far behind. In its early stages the race looked like a 10 lap sprint rather than a 24 hour grind. At the end of the first hour, González led with Moss, the best placed Jag in third.

(unattributed)

Merde! or words to that effect.

The beached Chinetti Ferrari 375 Berlinetta of Rubirosa/Baggio, DNF after 5 laps, not a great return on a significant investment.

Three finishers on a damp track, so its early Sunday. Porsche 550 Spyder of Arkus-Duntov/Olivier 14th from the 2nd placed Jag of Hamilton/Rolt and 3rd placed C4R Chrysler of Spear/Johnston (unattributed)

Problems with blocked fuel filters delayed the Jags during the third hour. As darkness descended González and Trintignant led, the 375 Plus Ferrari of Maglioli and Marzotto had dropped out with transmission failure.

A large number of cars had fallen out of the race during the initial hours. By the seventh hour the number of retirements increased including the Shelby/Frere Aston DB3S and the Behra/Simon Gordini T24S.

Eric Thompson ponders his next move to get the Lagonda DP115 moving. The third placed Spear/Johnston C4R Chrysler rumbles past en-route to its finish (Getty)

The Lagonda was out during the seventh hour as well, having completed 25 or 26 laps after which Eric Thompson spun into the bank at the Esses. I wrote an article about this car and incident a while back, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2016/08/12/dyer-want-the-good-news-first/

So too, seven hours in, Ian Stewart rolled his Aston Martin DB3S on the fast stretch between Arnage and White House corners, destroying it with Stewart severely injuring his arm.

The slinky, aerodynamic, XK engined D-types steadily moved up the field. By midnight Whitehead and Wharton were second, two laps behind the leading Ferrari. Manzon/Rosier were third, ahead of Rolt and Hamilton, with the Aston Martins of Parnell/Salvadori and Collins/Bira completing the top six.

(unattributed)

The #9 Talbot-Lago T26GS above of Rosier/Megrat DNF,  ahead of the eighth placed Bristol 450 of Wisdom/Fairman.

In an amazing team performance the three Bristol 450’s finished seventh, eighth and ninth. Seventh were Wilson/Mayes and ninth Keen/Line. I’m not sure who that is beside the road, Eric Thompson perhaps.

Moss from the Monopole X84 Panhard of Hemard/Flahault with the parked Thompson Lagonda still sitting in The Esses (unattributed)

Early on Sunday morning, Walker/Whitehead and Rosier/Manzon retired, both the Jaguar and Ferrari had shagged gearboxes. The Moss/Walker D succumbed to braking problems on Saturday evening. By the time dawn arrived the battle at the front was between a car from Coventry and Maranello apiece.

What’s more, as the clouds built up and rain became a threat, the Ferrari power advantage would be negated by the conditions- by breakfast it was raining heavily. González and Trintignant could afford to ease back a bit but any problems would place them into peril, as the rain intensified, the remaining Hamilton/Rolt D-type applied the pressure with nothing to lose.

(LAT)

The works Reg Parnell/Roy Salvadori supercharged Aston Martin DB3S ahead of the winning works Ferrari 375 Plus of Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant. The Aston retired during the twenty-first hour with head gasket failure.

Later race wet pits top for the Rolt/Hamilton D Type (unattributed)

The two Brits, Rolt and Hamilton threw caution to the wind and raced their D-type hard. On one lap Rolt glanced the bank out of Arnage and stopped for a bout of impromptu aluminium panel beating. He had been forced off line by a slower car.

The rain eased, allowing the Ferrari to put its horses to the road and use its power to better effect but the Jag kept on coming, the rain intensified again and the Jaguar drivers began to close the gap further.

With two hours to run, González and Trintignant were still nearly two laps ahead of the Jag, with ninety minutes to run Trintignant brought the Ferrari in for a routine stop. González took over, but the big V12 refused to fire. Gonzalez jumped out whilst the mechanics fumbled with the plugs.

Rolt was now in sight, the Englishman intent on stopping for new goggles, but his crew waved him on now that the XKD was on the same lap as the leader

Gonzalez in the victorious Ferrari 375 Plus (unattributed)

The Scuderia Ferrari mechanics fiddled beneath the bonnet, they knew the engine was strong given its perfect state prior to the stop. The car sat for seven minutes, then suddenly burst back to life, González jumped aboard and accelerated away barely ninety seconds ahead of the chasing Rolt, but now his V12 sounded less healthy than it had before.

With thunder and lightning assaulting the circuit and an hour to run, Rolt handed over to Hamilton for the final stint.

In a fierce sprint to the finish, Hamilton cut the lead down to 1 minute 26 seconds, but as the track began to dry for the last few laps, González sped away to win by just under three minutes.

4pm- Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant the winners after completing 302 laps or 4061 Km (MotorSport)

González and Trintignant had driven their Ferrari 375 Plus to victory, covering a distance of 2,523.486 miles over 302 laps, averaging 105.145 mph. Rolt and Hamilton were second in their very hard worked D-Type, one lap behind at the finish. Third were the American Cunningham duo of Bill Spear and Sherwood Johnston on 283 laps 19 laps (over 157 miles) behind the winners.

Three years before, in the 1951 British Grand Prix González scored Scuderia Ferrari’s first Championship F1 victory in a Ferrari 375 at Silverstone, in his last appearance at La Sarthe he won Scuderia Ferrari’s first Le Mans, a unique Ferrari double. The Lord Selsdon entered 166M took the first Ferrari victory at Le Mans in 1949 when he and Luigi Chinetti won the race having covered 235 laps in the 2 litre V12 engine car.

In terms of the overall performance of the two outright contenders the Jaguars were faster due to a much more slippery shape (Moss was timed at 154.44 mph/278kph), but the Ferrari was said to have superior acceleration and brakes, which is counter-intuitive given the new-fangled discs fitted to the Jags.

Whilst finishing third and fifth, the Cunninghams were unable to match the pace of the leaders, giving Briggs and his team plenty to focus on for 1955. None of the Astons lasted the distance and of course Jaguar would be back, and Mercedes Benz…

Cover of the 1954 Le Mans booklet put together by the staff of ‘Motor’

 

Etcetera Le Mans 1954…

 

(unattributed)

Jaguar works cars all lined up all ready to rock and roll.

The Moss/Walker, Hamilton/Rolt and Whitehead/Wharton D Types with the Laurent/Swaters C Type at the rear.

(unattributed)

Moss, lightning fast always from these run and jump starts, en-route to the #12 XKD, #14 crewed by Hamilton/Rolt and #8 is the supercharged Aston Martin DB3S raced by Reg Parnell and Roy Salvadori- DNF after 222 laps in the twenty-first hour with head gasket failure.

(L Klemantaski)

The Eric Thompson/Dennis Poore Lagonda DP115 4.5 litre V12 heading towards White House early in the race- a famous Louis Klemantaski photograph, before its fateful spin in The Esses.

Thompson, after his lose, manoeuvres the car to a safer position below, before working out how to get it back to the pits.

 

(unattributed)

OKV 1. Duncan Hamilton aboard the works second placed D Type, by the look of the car its early in the race before nightfall. The machine was well and truly tested to its limits by its intrepid pilots especially in the final stages of the race.

(unattributed)

The twelfth placed Claes/Stasse Porsche 550 Spyder leads the 3 litre Aston Martin DB2/4 Vignale of Colas/da Silva Ramos which retired with gearbox failure in the fourteenth hour. None of the six Aston Martins or Lagonda which started the event finished it.

(unattributed)

Moss chasing the works Maglioli/Marzotto Ferrari 375 Plus early in the race- the beached Chinetti entered 375 MM in the background. The works 5 litre car retired with gearbox trouble in the eighth hour

Spin.

Even if you don’t win there is a clever marketing angle to be communicated- Jaguar press ad 1954.

And yes, the results do rather tend to speak for themselves!

Happy Scuderia Ferrari crew gather around the winning 4954cc V12 375 Plus of Gonzalez/Trintignant. Car looks rather good, I suspect this is before the off.

Dockside at Le Havre, ship is the ‘Mauretania’

Briggs Cunningham and his team staged a campaign of military scale, organisation and precision- the only thing missing was the kitchen sink and a car with just a smidge more speed.

What a marvellous Le Mans it would have been to witness in 1954?

Bibliography…

Briggs Cunningham website- briggscunningham.com, MotorSport magazine, Wikipedia, Team Dan, F2Index, thanks to ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ boys work on the ‘Then and Now’ thread for great work in identifying the dockside and travelling photograph locations

Credits…

Getty Images, Louis Klemantaski, Tom Sangen, briggscunningham.com, Bob Tronolone Collection, Bernard Cahier, LAT, MotorSport, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpieces…

Apart from anything else Briggs Cunninham was a sportsman who just loved to compete.

Here he looks forward to his week in France, dockside with his family and team.

(B Cahier)

Finito…

(P O’May)

Here he goes again, more Longford!…

Well yes, and tough-titties to those who have had already too much of a good thing!

The wonderful thing about the internet is that it provides a means for enthusiasts to share their information, knowledge and photographs.

In this case it is some of the collection of Peter O’May of the 1959, 1960 and 1961 Longford meetings- his son Malcolm uploaded the material onto ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ a month or so ago.

What makes Peter’s work special is the different perspectives forced upon him as a spectator- he lacked the photographers pass to shoot from the ‘usual spots’ the pros frequented so his work tends to be from different angles than many of the photos we see. In addition, the shots are all colour- as rare as hens teeth back then.

Mal picks up the story ‘…my dad was 25 when the AGP was at Longford in 1959, he and his brother Neil (whose car the front window shots were taken from) attended every Longford event from the first one that the cars were raced, through to the 1968 finale. I have been insanely jealous of this right from the first stories he told me about these days when I was a young bloke right through to now!’

Since these photos were posted in mid-March 2019 Peter, who had been quite ill, passed away so this article is a tribute to him, his enthusiasm, ‘eye’ and passion for a sport he clearly loved.

RIP Peter, thanks to you and Mal for making the wonderful, evocative shots available for us to see and enjoy.

Given I have covered either cars or some of the events before, I decided to group the cars by year as Peter shot them and provide links to relevant information I have already published.

The photo identification process was made easy as my friend/historian Stephen Dalton did all of that research using his formidable memory and resource base.

The opening shot choice- gees it was hard to make that one!

But in the end bias prevailed and it had to be a muscle-shirted Stan Jones willing his Otto Stone prepared Maserati 250F to 1959 Australian Grand Prix victory- a mightily well deserved one which was a long time in coming.

Its such an Australian scene!

The clear as a bell sky, grey’ish greeny blues of the hills in the distance, sprawling eucalypt tree and the unmistakable light browns of parched summer toasted grasses in the foreground. Add in some water towers and characteristic farmers barbed-wire fence and it could be a scene in many places across the Great Brown Land- but for the big, red racing car at far right of course!

Keith Malcolm, Skoden Sports lining up for the entry to The Viaduct (P O’May)

1959: 2 March Labour Day long-weekend…

Longford was first used by cars in 1953 when several races were provided for four wheelers in amongst the motorcycle program- we have the bikies to thank for Longford folks.

Tasmania had not hosted an Australian Grand Prix until 1959- the circuit could not be denied of course.

The big outright cars first raced here in 1958 when Ted Gray prevailed in the Tornado Chev, the following year Stan Jones won the race having also been awarded the Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship the year before.

(P O’May)

Stan’s was a wonderful win- and timely, the era of the front-engined Grand Prix car was coming to a close. There is little doubt that had Len Lukey’s Cooper T45 (above) been fitted with a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF rather than one of 2 litres in capacity that Len would have won on that memorable day- he was 2 seconds adrift after 1 hour and 11 minutes of racing, 25 laps, 110 miles.

(P O’May)

I’ve done Stan to death here; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

and on that ’59 GP here; https://primotipo.com/2016/01/08/stan-jones-agp-longford-gold-star-series-1959/

and more on the Maserati at Longford here; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/11/1958-longford-trophy/

(P O’May)

John Lanyon’s MG Spl ahead of Max Stephens Cooper T40 Bristol on the run into The Viaduct- click here for a piece on the T40; https://primotipo.com/2017/07/04/max-stephens-cooper-t40-bristol/

and again; https://primotipo.com/2015/07/16/60th-anniversary-of-jacks-first-f1-gp-today-british-gp-16-july-1955-cooper-t40-bristol-by-stephen-dalton/

Its not just any T40 mind you, its Brabham’s self built 1955 Australian Grand Prix winning car- Jack had a somewhat lucky win that day at Port Wakefield at the expense of Stan Jones and Reg Hunt.

Max retired the car after completing 18 of the Longford laps- it was a machine that had a woeful reputation for reliability albeit it held together for Jack on that important Port Wakefield day!

And below the Cooper on The Flying Mile- he is close to Mountford Corner is my guess.

(P O’May)

 

Another character I have written extensively about is ‘Dicer Doug’ Whiteford, here below leading Frank Coad, Vauxhall Spl into The Viaduct.

(P O’May)

This car was one of Australia’s most iconic for the five or so years Whiteford raced it throughout the country.

He ran it in both sportscar events and in ‘single-seater’ events such as the AGP which was to run to Formula Libre at the time- until 1964 when the ‘Tasman 2.5’ Formula was introduced.

By then (1959) it wasn’t quick enough to win the AGP, an Australian Tourist Trophy eluded him too- not that he didn’t win plenty of races in it.

I have opined before that he should have bought a 250F from Officine Maserati rather than a 300S at the duration of the 1956 Albert Park AGP, the Maserati guys brought five cars along to that meeting- three 250F’s and two 300S. Whiteford and Bob Jane owned the Maseratis for years, Bob for decades.

See Doug here; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/05/doug-whiteford-black-bess-woodside-south-australia-1949/

and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/16/1953-australian-grand-prix-albert-park/

The photo above is in practice or during a sportscar support race- Coad did not contest the AGP, the lovely Vauxhall Special still exists by the way, the 300S has long since left our shores after decades in the hands of the Leech brothers.

Whiteford was out before completing a lap of the AGP with a major driveline failure as the car jumped the Tannery Straight railway crossing. Alec Mildren was extremely lucky not to chest mark a bit of uni-joint at 100 mph- the offending part ‘only’ hit the crown of his helmet in a desperate attempt by Alec to duck to avoid the heavy, lethal, exotic missile.

 

(P O’May)

A wonderful crowd pleaser in 1959-1960 was Ron Phillips in the big, booming Cooper T39 Jaguar- here dropping into The Viaduct, a spot Peter clearly spent a bit of time at in 1959, what a spectacular place that must have been and accessible to all.

Click here for this ex-Whitehead/Jones machine; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/05/mount-tarrengower-hillclimb/

Phillips started on row 3 of the grid only a half a second behind poleman Jones but retired after completing 18 laps with differential failure.

 

In a sea of Coopers Austin Miller’s cars were always easy to pick in their distinctive yellow hue.

(P O’May)

The crop-duster pilot come hotelier prepared his own cars and did a great job both in and out of the cockpit.

Here he is aboard his ‘Miller Special’ Cooper T41 Climax FWB- he failed to finish having completed 8 laps with a leaking gearbox casing.

Reminds me I have a feature on Aussie 95% complete! I’ve owed Guy Miller a call for at least 12 months just to finish the sucker off! Click here for a quickie on Aussie; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/20/aussie-miller-cooper-t41-climax-trevallyn-hillclimb-launceston-tasmania-1959/

 

Arnold Glass loomed large on the local scene in a variety of exotic front and mid-engined cars funded by the cashflow of his ever more successful Capital Motors automotive empire in Sydney.

(P O’May)

Arguably the car from which he extracted the most was his ex-Bib Stillwell Maserati 250F, his weapon of choice from 1959 to 1961- here he is bellowing a melodic six-cylinder song along The Flying Mile, not far from the Mountford braking area.

He finished a strong third in the AGP having started from grid slot 3 and set the fastest race lap- 97.01 mph, he was two seconds behind Stan and Len at the races end.

Click here for a piece on Mr Glass; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/

 

Alec Mildren’s Cooper T45 Climax singing its way along The Flying Mile, he was fourth in the AGP in his little, new for 1959, 2 litre FPF powered Cooper- the story of his lucky to survive race was related above. Alec was two seconds behind Stan as well- what a race finish to see that would have been.

See the Water Towers in the distance- they are to the drivers left as they travel up the Pit Straight hill towards the right-hand, fast plunge downhill towards The Viaduct. Alec will shortly brake hard for the 90 degree right-hand Mountford Corner into Pit Straight.

The following year at Longford, Mildren’s clever concoction of Maserati 250S engine and new Cooper T51 chassis made its race debut.

By the end of the season the Sydney motor dealer/racer had won both the Gold Star and a sensational AGP win at Lowood from Lex Davison’s Aston Martin DBR4 3 litre in a nail-biting, split second finish. Alec’s story, or Part One of it, is told here; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/08/mildrens-unfair-advantage/

 

(P O’May)

Geoff McHugh, Allard J2, The Viaduct entry.

He wasn’t entered in the AGP but rather contested one of the other events- the big beast was timed at 137mph over The Flying Mile during the 1955 Tasmanian Trophy.

This J2, chassis ’99/J/1731′ is the first to race in Australia and achieved much success in the hands of Stan Jones and then Tom Hawkes before sale to Geoff McHugh- I wrote about it a while back; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/07/allard-j2-tom-hawkes-collingrove-hillclimb-1952/

 

(P O’May)

Let’s end 1959 with Stanley- plunging into The Viaduct.

 

(P O’May)

1960: 5 March weekend…

The steady ascension of Touring Car Racing was underway even back in 1960- here ‘perhaps Ron Marshall, red Holden FE, #71 David McKay in the red Jaguar and #69 Ron Hodgson grey Jaguar, then #14 the Dick Crawford Morris Minor having a moment at Mountford’ Stephen wrote.

(P O’May)

David McKay looking typically natty in blue top replete with British Racing Drivers Club badge and red-spotted cravat- no doubt the Dunlop man is happy with the results.

McKay would have been full of confidence having won the first, one race, Australian Touring Car Championship at Gnoo Blas, Orange New South Wales only a month before on 1 February. There the same Mk 1 3.4 litre Jaguar as above won the 20 lap race in a Jaguar rout from Bill Pitt and Ron Hodgson’s similar cars.

McKay is covered here; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/03/pete-geoghegan-ferrari-250lm-6321-bathurst-easter-68/

and here; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/12/bert-and-davids-lola-mk1-climax/

The Jaguar Australian Touring Car period is here; https://primotipo.com/2014/10/20/australian-touring-car-championship1962-longford-tasmania-battle-of-the-jag-mk2s/

 

(P O’May)

By the time of the 1960 meeting Jack was the reigning, just minted 1959 World Champion.

Here in the paddock he is alongside his Cooper T51 Climax chassis ‘F2-4-59’.

Thats local grazier/racer John Youl in the shades sussing out Jack’s wheels as his next potential purchase! Tim Wall to the right- who is the fellow Jack is speaking to? Twelve months hence John would have a new T51 of his own- in which he was mighty impressive.

Click here for an article on John; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/02/john-youl/

(P O’May)

Look into the distance of the photo above and you can see Ron Hodgson’s ex-McKay ‘Grey Pussy’ Jaguar Mk1 3.8 and the distinctive blue Cooper Jaguar of Ron Phillips.

That’s Jack’s Dad to the far left in the braces, but who is it on the end of the trailer- he always helped Jack manage things when in Oz- he pops up in so many of the shots for a decade it is not funny! Then the Dunlop chappy- who is he? Note the open tailgate of the Holden FC Station Wagon as we call ‘Estate’ cars in Australia.

The Cooper T51 is chassis ‘F2-4-59’, said by Allen Brown’s oldracingcars.com to have been ‘…Brabham’s main car during the early part of 1959 and then became a spare car when ’27-59′ appeared at Zandvoort’.

(P O’May)

The ‘Longford Trophy’ 17 lap feature race on the Monday of the long weekend was won by Jack- seven seconds in front of Alec Mildren’s new T51 Maserati mentioned earlier in this piece. Brabham is shown below lining up his Viaduct entry.

(P O’May)

Bib Stillwell was third in his T51 Climax 2.5 and then came Arnold Glass in the best placed of the front engined cars. Then followed the Jon Leighton Cooper T45 with Glynn Scott Cooper T43 Climax the last of the finishers in a pretty skinny field of only twelve cars.

Click here for an article on the 1960 meeting; https://primotipo.com/2015/01/20/jack-brabham-cooper-t51-climax-pub-corner-longford-tasmania-australia-1960/

 

(P O’Day)

In many ways equal billing to the single-seaters in 1960 were the Sportscars contesting the 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy, in effect the Australian Sportscar Championship.

Arguably, that grid of sporties was the best ever at a Longford meeting?

The race was one by Derek Jolly’s ex-works Lotus 15 Climax shown in the paddock above, next to a Vauxhall.

‘In the background is a red Triumph TR2, #99 the Tom Sulman Aston Martin DB3S and the Sid Sakawski/Tony Basile #15 white 356 Porsche Carrera’ adds Stephen.

Click here for an article about Jolly and the Lotus 15; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

and here for one on the ATT; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/17/1960-australian-tourist-trophy/

Oh, and one on Tom Sulman; https://primotipo.com/2018/04/19/tom-sulman/

 

(P O’May)

On the other side of the same Vauxhall mentioned immediately above is Arnold Glass’ 250F being fettled for the Longford Trophy.

Twelve months on it was twelve months harder for one of the grandest of front-engined Grand Prix cars in a sea of mid-engined machines. Before too long Arnold would have a Cooper T51 Maserati of his own.

 

(P O’May)

1961: 5 March weekend…

Dianne Leighton, Triumph Special with Ray Long’s Elfin Ford Streamliner looking for an inside line into Mountford Corner- the distinctive tree looms on the right inside the barbed-wire fence.

(P O’May)

Brabham was defeated in the 1961 South Pacific Championship by his former 1958 Cooper teammate Roy Salvadori in a Cooper T51 Climax- here Jack enters The Viaduct.

Mind you, it was an ‘Ecurie Vitesse’ Brabham owned car Roy drove, chassis ‘F2-5-57’, an ex-McLaren works machine.

Brabham had halfshaft failure in his own T53 ‘Lowline’ after completing 18 of the 24 lap ‘Longford Trophy’. The chassis number of that car is ‘F2-8-60’, a car Brabham raced in F1 in 1960.

That year there were fourteen starters in the feature race of which eleven were Coopers of varying vintage. Salvadori won from Patterson, Youl, Miller, Davison (in Aston DBR4) and Mildren- all in T51’s of varying Climax capacity, and in Mildrens case, a Maserati 250S 2.5 litre engine.

Click here for an article about Roy’s win and career; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/22/roy-salvadori/

 

(P O’May)

Murray Carter plucks second gear on the downshift before Mountford- the Carter Corvette became a familiar sight at Longford and the other Tasmanian circuits raced as it was by Bert Howard, a local for some years into the late sixties.

What a sound that booming 283 CID Chevy V8 would have made along The Flying Mile- click here for Murray and his car; https://primotipo.com/2017/01/19/forever-young/

1963: 4 March weekend…

(P O’May)

Bill Patterson’s Cooper T51 Climax with Lex Davison’s Len Lukey owned Ford Galaxie in the background.

Click here for an article on Patto- 1961 Gold Star winner and co-driver for some very hot laps with Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 AGP win at Caversham in 1957; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/02/patto-and-his-coopers/

The South Pacific Trophy Longford feature event was won that year by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T70 from Bill Stillwell in a Brabham BT4 and John Youl in a Cooper T55, all three Coventry Climax FPF powered.

 

(P O’May)

Drivers Eye View: Long Bridge…

Every section of a circuit is critical for lap times of course, inevitably the really quick stuff are the bits that sort the men from the boys- no doubt the dauntingly quick left hand entry onto, and left hand exit off Long Bridge is one of those stretches of road.

Amon set the fastest ever Longford race lap in David McKay’s Ferrari 350 Can-Am sporty in 1968- to have seen that lap in this particular part of the Tasmanian world would have been really something.

Peter O’May has done us a big favour with three photos to give those of us not fortunate enough to drive Longford, let alone race on it, a bit of an idea what it looked like from a car. Dalton’s educated guess is that the shots were taken in 1961.

(P O’May)

The car is almost in the middle of this short bit of road, below The Viaduct here- you would not have exited too far to the right tho- you need to be to the left to be able to get on the noise early for the run towards Kings Bridge- the other crossing of the River Esk.

Checkout the hay-bales, it’s still that era of course. Better a hay bale than a bluestone bridge all the same.

I did a long (very) piece ‘Longford Lap’ a while back which may assist in piecing the challenging track together; https://primotipo.com/2018/07/05/longford-lap/

This piece is just on this Viaduct section of the track; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/28/longford-viaduct/

(P O’May)

The shot above, as is clear, is on the start-finish Pit Straight.

The paddock is to the right, within a year or so a footbridge is in place and a little later a marvellous pit and spectator viewing facility. That helps date the shot.

Looking up the hill you have exited the right-hand Mountford, which is behind you and would be plucking the gears, protecting yourself on the right, but otherwise working your way to the left of the road after you pass the Water Towers and over the brow of the hill (see below) to line up for the fast right towards The Viaduct.

Credits…

All photographs in this article were taken by the late Peter O’May- via Malcolm O’May

Stephen Dalton for the car identifications, oldracingcars.com.au, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden

(P O’May)

Tailpiece: The Viaduct vista 1960…

What a stunning image to finish with.

The final shot is taken from the top of the hill, to the left of the railway line looking back up the hill to the quick right-handler towards The Viaduct itself.

Stephen’s call on the cars is the rear of the Alan Jack Cooper Bobtail, Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Ern Tadgell’s Sabakat (Lotus 12 Climax), Alec Mildren’s Cooper T45, another Cooper, the Geoff McHugh Allard J2X and perhaps David Finch’s Jaguar D Type.

Checkout the attire of the crowd.

A few ‘flat caps’ which is sorta unusual in Oz? What are they looking at though?, it’s not the first lap group of cars but must be an aircraft overhead or perhaps a really stunning looking chick up on top of the bridge?!

It could be a warm up lap of course although Whiteford has moved a bit our way to protect his line from the better braked Lotus, sorry, Sabakat of Tadgell behind him.

Finito…

(oldracephotos.com.au)

Brian Bowe settles himself into his Elfin Catalina Ford in the Baskerville paddock, 1966…

There is no such thing as an ugly Elfin, this little car looks a picture in the bucolic surrounds of Tasmania. Garrie Cooper’s first single-seater racing cars were built off the back of his front-engined ‘Streamliner’  sportscars success.

The pace of these Catalinas was demonstrated by Frank Matich and others, they sold well with twenty FJ’s/250 Production/275 and 375 Works Replicas built from 1961 to 1963.

This chassis was raced by Melbourne single-seater, sportscar and touring car ace Brian Sampson and was powered by a Ford Cosworth 1.5 litre pushrod motor.

It was bought by Bowe and ‘was Dad’s first factory racing car having competed in specials before that’ John Bowe said.

‘In fact had I had my first drive of a racer in this car at Symmons Plains in private practice. I was twelve, and just about to start high school!’ ‘In discussions with Dad in the weeks before i’d worked out how many revs in top was 100 mph and did just that- when he realised how fast I was going he stood in the middle of the track and flagged me down. Furious he was! Happy carefree days’.

Indeed, John Bowe, by 1976 was a works Ansett Team Elfin F5000 driver, the Bowes were an Elfin family, not exclusively mind you. JB raced an Elfin 500 FV, 600FF and 700 Ford ANF3 en-route to his F5000 ride- and 792 and GE225 ANF2 cars as well.

Lindsay Ross identifies Arthur Hilliard’s Riley Pathfinder racer and towcar at the rear right of the shot by the paddock fence. The blue sporty is Bob Wright’s Tasma Peugeot.

A quickie article about the Bowe Catalina became a feature thanks to Ed Holly posting online some of the late, great Australian motor racing historian, Graham Howard’s photo archive. Specifically shots of the prototype Elfin Formula Junior taken at the time of its birth at the Edwardstown factory and subsequent public launch at Warwick Farm on 17 September 1961.

As a result we can examine these important Elfins in far more detail than I had originally planned, including a contemporary track test by Bruce Polain and owner/driver impressions from Ed.

Bruce Polain testing the Elfin FJ Ford at Warwick Farm in September 1961 (G Howard)

Bruce Polain wrote an article about his experiences that day in ‘Australian Motor Sports’- here are the salient bits of it, lets get Bruce’s contemporary impressions of the car before exploring the design in detail.

‘Taking it quietly over The Causeway, the little Elfin accelerated hard in third gear on the run to Polo Corner. Braking firmly, the speed fell away rapidly and I was conscious of considerable suspension movement as we ran over the bumpy entrance to the corner- a reminder that this was the flooded section of the track during the ‘first ever’ Warwick Farm.’

‘Nevertheless the poor surface failed to affect the comfortable ride and with a slight amount of understeer I swung the car into Polo. The handling characteristics were such that it gave understeer into a corner and a small amount of oversteer on the way out. This is quite a popular setup as through a corner it allows a fast entry to begin with, then as the steering is brought back to a neutral position, the oversteering tendency may be checked by applying more power to the rear wheels.’

‘…I enjoyed the delights of driving this beautifully constructed, fast and most forgiving racing car. The semi-reclining seat was more than comfortable and gave excellent lateral support, which is so important for ease of control in corners. At speed, steering was delightfully light and precise- you could eat your lunch with one hand. The lusty 1100cc Cosworth Ford engine was a  wonderful propellent, easy to fire on the starter button, docile low down, yet bags of power when the accelerator was pressed.’

John Hartnett at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills, Elfin Streamliner Coventry Climax chassis ’13’ (R Hartnett)

Cooper first commenced design of the FJ in 1960, as stated above, off the back of success of the Streamliner series of sports cars built from 1959 to 1963- twenty-three in all.

During this period the name out front of 1 Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown, an Adelaide suburb, changed from ‘Cooper Motor Bodies’ to ‘Elfin Sports Cars’ which was indicative of the evolution of the then forty year old Cooper family business away from coach-building to the sexier but perhaps more challenging world of production racing cars.

Whilst nominally a Formula Junior design the twenty cars built had a range of engines fitted in capacities from 1 litre to 1.5 litres- Ford 105E, 116E, Peugeot, Coventry Climax FWA, Vincent HRD and Hillman Imp. They very quickly proved themselves capable of going wheel to wheel with the best cars from the UK- then THE hotbed of FJ development of course.

Lotus 18 like upright and rear suspension clear in this shot, as is the split-case VeeWee 36HP gearbox (G Howard)

The chassis of the car was a multi-tubular spaceframe of 16 and 18 gauge mild-steel tubing in varying diameters from five-eighths of an inch to an inch. It was strengthened by fitment of a stressed floorpan made of 19 and 20 gauge aluminium alloy.

Rear suspension was clearly inspired by the Lotus 18. It was fully independent with fixed length driveshafts which formed the suspension upper members. The lower wishbones incorporated adjustments for camber, toe and roll-centre height. ‘Driving and braking torques are controlled by long trailing arms (radius rods in more modern parlance) two per side.’ The uprights or ‘pillars’ are Cooper’s design of cast magnesium.

(G Howard)

Front suspension was period typical using unequal length upper and lower wishbones, note the Armstrong shock absorber, adjustable roll bar, unsighted is the Alford and Alder Triumph front upright. Steering was by way of a lightweight rack and pinion, the wheel wood-rimmed with a diameter of 13.5 inches. The brakes were Lockheed 2LS front and rear, the drums alloy bi-metal with radial finning.

(G Howard)

The engine was the Ford 105E which would become ubiquitous in the class. Cooper built the engine in Adelaide.

GC and his team designed and printed a very detailed brochure about the cars, no doubt with the racing car show in mind- giveaways are important at these events.

Its interesting to see how the two Ford Cosworth 105E engines offered were described.

The ‘Poverty Pack’ 250 Production Model FJ was a budget racing car fitted with pressed-steel wheels, cast iron rather than alloy bi-metal brake drums, non-adjustable shocks and non-close ratio gearbox.

It was offered with a Ford Cosworth 1000cc Formula Junior Mk3 ’85 Engine’ producing over 85bhp @ 7250rpm. ‘Every engine is dynamometer tested to at least this output before leaving the factory.’

The engine was fully balanced including crankshaft, flywheel and clutch, connecting rods and pistons.

Carburation was by two 40 DCOE Weber carbs on Cosworth manifolds- they were enclosed within the bodywork and fed by cold air from a duct on the lefthand side of the cockpit. The distributor was modified, the crankshaft pulley was ‘special’ for the water pump drive- visually the whole package was set off by a Cosworth light alloy rocker cover so the ‘psyching’ started in the paddock.

The ‘ducks guts’ 275 Works Replica Model offered the Cosworth Mk4 1100cc engine giving a minimum of 95bhp with ‘the average output of these engines 97-100bhp’.

The trick Mk4 differed from its smaller brother in that it had a bigger bore, special stronger connecting rods, special steel main bearing caps, bigger valves and different combustion chambers. ‘Replaceable valve guides are fitted as standard. Like the Mk3 these engines have a competition clutch, tachometer take-off, oil cooler union and special anti-surge sump.’

When the Ford Cosworth 1500cc engine was later fitted in the Works Replica model it was designated ‘375WR’.

(G Howard)

Gearbox was a split- case VW 36 horsepower which was modified in Adelaide and fitted with close ratios with ‘top gear running on a special roller bearing.’ A lightweight bell-housing mated the gearbox and engine, the final drive ratio was 4.42:1. The gear lever was mounted to the left of the driver. Note the different lower wishbone inner end alternative pickup points.

(G Howard)

When completed the little car (prototype car #4 ) was a handsome little beastie complete with full bodywork from nose to aft of the gearbox.

Success came quickly, its interesting looking at these photographs of the car being prepared for and shown at one of the track days to get the message out there. The motorsport shows the boys from Adelaide attended on the east coast would have been a significant exercise and cost at the time.

I don’t think Cooper’s commercial success in the toughest of markets in the toughest of industries- manufacturing has ever been truly recognised. I  have mostly run and owned small businesses all of my adult life and know full well how hard it is to churn a dollar- Elfins survived and thrived for several decades under Garrie’s stewardship and then that of Don Elliott with Tony Edmondson at the coalface. I’ll stop the Elfin history there which is not to discount what followed, but from a production racing car perspective, that was it.

(G Howard)

The bodywork for the first three cars was made of aluminium by craftsman John Webb who was a constant throughout the whole of Elfin’s ‘glory days’- right up to the construction of the body of Vern Schuppan’s MR8C Chev Can-Am bodied F5000 machine.

On the fourth and subsequent cars the fibreglass bodywork was by Ron Tonkin- this comprised the nose, tail sections and cockpit surround. The side panels were of aluminium and ‘semi-stressed’.

Very pretty wheels were of magnesium alloy, 13 inches in diameter ‘with wide rims, (4.5 inches at the front and 5.5 inches wide at the rear) were finished in black anodite before machining. The wheels and uprights were Elfin’s design and cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne.

‘Unsprung weight is further reduced by incorporating the wheel bearings directly in the front wheels.’

(G Howard)

 

(Ed Holly)

The photograph below is a very well known one to some of us of a certain age who bought or were given for Christmas 1973 (!) a copy of Bryan Hanrahan’s ‘Motor Racing The Australian Way’- this photo introduced the Elfin chapter. A decade or so later it was published in the ‘Elfin Bible’ Barry Catford and John Blanden’s ‘Australia’s Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’.

(G Howard)

Clustered around the Elfin are Tom Stevens and Norman Gilbert from BP- almost from the start Elfin supporters and sponsors, Cliff Cooper, Garrie Cooper and Murray Lewis ‘with the prototype Elfin FJ ready to leave for an interstate race meeting and motor show’.

The car was first shown at the Melbourne Racing Car Show in August 1961 and then raced for the first time at Warwick Farm that September in the hands of Arnold Glass, then an elite level competitor racing a BRM P48.

Barry Catford wrote that Arnold was in Adelaide to contest events at Mallala’s opening meeting on 18 August 1961 and had plenty of time on his hands to visit the team at Conmurra Road having fatally (for the car) boofed the BRM in practice. The story of that car is told here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/16/bourne-to-ballarat-brm-p48-part-2/

Glass offered to drive the car on its race debut, something Cooper and BP’s Tom Stevens were keen to support.

The team of Garrie and Cliff Cooper, Tom and John Lewis took the car to Melbourne and then on to Sydney for its debut. Garrie drove the car initially and whilst it handled well the softly sprung machine bottomed over The Causeway and Northern and Western crossings (of the horse racing track underneath).

Modifications were made that night but several laps early in the day indicated the cars balance was lost- further changes were made, the cars poise had been regained in official practice when GC again drove.

Glass had no chance to officially practice but sweet talked the officials to allow him to run during one of the other racing car sessions- he was within three-tenths of Leo Geoghegan’s well developed Lotus 18 Ford FJ. The weary crew retired at 3 am on race morning having replaced the gearbox and clutch- which was slipping towards the end of the Glass lappery. All the hard work was rewarded with a second to Leo- not bad for the cars first race.

Keith Rilstone’s Catalina Ford ‘6317’ on its first day out at Mallala in very late 1963, factory records have it’s completion that November (G Patullo)

The prototype car, chassis ’61P1′ was sold to Adelaide businessmen and racers Andy Brown and Granton Harrison who had much success with it. Queenslander Roy Morris did well with his Coventry Climax FWA engined car- as did John McDonald’s 1350cc engined car- neither FJ legal of course.

One of the most commercially astute moves Cooper ever made was the appointment of up and coming- well ok!, he had well and truly arrived by then, Frank Matich as the works driver of three cars which were located at his Punchbowl, Sydney Total Service Station. An 1100cc chassis ‘625’, a 1500cc chassis ‘627’ and a Clubman fitted with another Cosworth engine of 1340cc. In addition Matich was appointed as Elfin’s NSW agent.

An interesting aspect is that in the process of deciding who to give the factory cars to, Matich tested the cars, as did Peter Willamson and David McKay with FM the quicker of the three. Perhaps Cooper’s gut feel as to the driver he wanted was validated by this process. The choices are interesting in that Williason was at the start of his career whereas David McKay was in the twlight’ish of his.

Mel McEwin #16 Elfin Catalina 1500 passes Andy Brown in the Elfin FJ Ford prototype during the ‘GT Harrison Trophy’, support race at the 1963 ATCC meeting. Keith Rilstone won the race in the truly wild Eldred Norman built Zephyr Spl s/c- McEwin was 3rd and Garrie Cooper 4th in another Elfin Cat 1500- I wonder if it was seeing the cars up close at this meeting that made up Keith’s mind to get with the strength and buy one! (B Smith)

Whilst Matich was new to single-seaters, his outright pace in various sportscars- Austin Healey, C and D Type Jags, Lotus 15 and 19 Climax was clear. For Frank the deal was a beauty as he had the opportunity to show his prowess in a new field. Catford wrote that FM’s only open-wheeler experience to that point was a few warm-up laps in Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20B Ford when it first arrived in Australia early in 1962.

Critically, Matich put Elfins front and centre to racers in Australia’s biggest market- New South Wales, with subsequent sales reflecting the success of Matich and others.

Cooper got a longer term benefit as Matich turned to him for his first ‘Big V8’ sportscar, the Elfin 400 Olds aka ‘Traco Olds’ in part based on GC’s design talents which he had experienced first hand in the small-bore machines listed above. Matich in turn proved the pace of the 400, outta the box, in winning the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy in his third meeting with the car at Longford in March 1966.

The red Elfin was the Junior, the 1500 was green up until Frank decided to let the 1500 go, which went to Charlie Smith and the red car went from 1100 to 1500′ Ed Holly

Frank’s first meeting in the FJ cars was at Warwick Farm on 14 October 1962- Matich was fourth in the Hordern Trophy Gold Star event- in amongst and ahead of some of the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engine cars, and despite a one minute penalty for a spin! (tough in those days!).

This was indicative of what was to come a fortnight later in the first Australian Formula Junior Championship held at the new Catalina Park circuit at Katoomba in the NSW Blue Mountains, 100 Km to Sydney’s west.

Frank Matich is shown below in the red Elfin FJ Ford alongside Gavin Youl’s Brabham BT2 Ford and Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 22 Ford. The front row comprised the latest Brabham, Lotus and Elfin FJ’s- Leo’s Lotus was literally just off the plane. On row 2 is Clive Nolan’s 5th placed Lotus 20 Ford.

(B Miller)

Matich won the 30 lap race from Youl and Geoghegan in a weekend of absolute dominance , the win was the first of many Australian titles for Elfin and spawned the ‘Catalina’ name for this series of spaceframe chassis open-wheelers.

Catford notes the presence that weekend of Tony Alcock in the team- well known to Australian enthusiasts as an Elfin long-termer and close confidant of Garrie Cooper before going to the UK and returning to form Birrana Cars with fellow South Australian Malcolm Ramsay. International readers may recall him as one of the poor unfortunates to perish in the plane piloted and crashed by Graham Hill upon return to the UK after a French circuit test of the new Hill GH1 Ford F1 car.

Matich contested eight events hat weekend! in the two Elfins- FJ/Clubman and Lotus 19 winning six of them and placing in the other two.

Development work and evolution of the cars continued throughout their production life including incorporation of Triumph Spitfire disc brakes on the front- with Jack Hunnam fitting alloy racing calipers and discs to all four wheels of his car.

Lyn Archer’s Catalina at the Domain Hillclimb, Hobart in November 1964. Lyn raced the car successfully for a few years, sold it, and bought it back. Upon his death a few years back his family still owns it (R Dalwood)

Other notable drivers of Catalinas were Kevin Bartlett in the McGuire Family Imp engine car, Jack Hunnam, the Victorian Elfin agent won 12 races from 18 starts in his supposedly 165bhp 1500cc pushrod Ford engine disc braked car ‘6312’, before selling it to Tasmanian Lyn Archer. He won the 1966 Tasmanian Racing Car Championship in it and was timed at 150mph on Longford’s Flying Mile in 1965. Greg Cusack was quick in the car owned by Scuderia Veloce, winning the 1964 Australian Formula 2 Championship from David Walker’s Brabham and Hunnam’s Catalina. Other Catalina racers included Barry Lake, Keith Rilstone and Noel Hurd.

Perhaps the most unusual application of a Catalina was chassis ‘6313’ which was acquired by Dunlop UK for tyre testing to assist the Donald Campbell, Bluebird CN7 Proteus attempt on the World Land Speed Record at South Australia’s Lake Eyre in 1963 and 1964.

That effort is in part covered here but a feature on the Elfin Catalina aspects of it is coming soon- all but finished, https://primotipo.com/2014/07/16/50-years-ago-today-17-july-1964-donald-campbell-broke-the-world-land-speed-record-in-bluebird-at-lake-eyre-south-australia-a-speed-of-403-10-mph/

‘6313’ Ford on the Lake Eyre salt- steel wheels fitted with Bluebird Dunlops in miniature (F Radman)

 

This corker of a shot is by Gavin Fry- were it not for the presence of the Elfin Catalina on the trailer (who?) it could be an Australian summer beach scene, but it is an early Calder meeting (when?) (G Fry)

The Elfin Mallala was a very important car in the pantheon of Elfin’s history.

The twenty cars built provided solid cashflow for the Cooper family business, off the back of the solid start the Streamliner provided, the company now had a reputation for making fine single-seaters in addition to sporties.

Importantly Cooper had attracted some of the biggest names in Australia to his marque- Matich and McKay to name two. The Catalina ‘hardware’ also spawned a small run of mid-engined sportscars- the Mallala, of which five were built from late 1962 to early 1964.

Ray Strong, Elfin Mallala Ford, Huntley Hillclimb in December 1968. This design, derived from the Catalina, is one of the prettiest of all Elfins in my book- effective too (B Simpson)

Perhaps the only thing which suffered by virtue of this commercial success, albeit still limited capital base, was Cooper’s own driving career as he had neither the time or the spare cash to build a car for himself!

That would be remedied by the ‘Mono’ Type 100, his ‘radical’ single-seater which followed the conservative Catalina- and in which GC was very quick.

The Mono is a story for another time but is told in part here; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/18/clisby-douglas-spl-and-clisby-f1-1-5-litre-v6/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/22/elfin-mono-clisby-mallala-april-1965/

Garrie Cooper in Elfin Mono Mk2D Ford Twin-Cam ‘MD6755’ at Symmons Plains in 1967 (J Lambert)

The Owner/Driver’s Experience…

Ed Holly gives us the Catalina owner/drivers perspective…

‘The works 1500 or WR375 was the first of 2 Elfin “Catalina’s”  that Frank Matich drove.

I bought chassis ‘625’ from Adam Berryman who had quite some success with it before me. As this was the first ever single-seater for me I had no benchmark to compare with, having raced MGA’s for about 7 years previously. It went on to give me success too including the Jack Brabham Trophy put up once a year by the HSRCA for Group M 1st place at their main meeting at Eastern Creek.

For me the transition to single seater was made very easy by this car and looking back there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly in 2000 you could get very good Japanese Dunlops – a beautiful tyre and the car was shod with 450 front and 550 rear. This gave a very neutral feel to the car with the set-up fettled by Dave Mawer for me at that time.

The power was a great match to the chassis. As the engine only had a standard crank I revved it to 6,800 but the torque was tremendous, no doubt the 12.7 comp ratio had a lot to do with that. The gear-change and box were perfect, it had a VW C/R box and standard H pattern.

Race start would invariably see the car launch through the row in front, usually twin-cam Brabhams as they struggled with the dogleg gear-change from 1st to 2nd, the Elfin was a straight through change and very quick, and the engine torque allowed wheel-spin to be kept to a minimum and the power band came in at least 1500 rpm less meaning you were well on your way whilst they were still waiting for the torque to kick in.

Handling wise the car was viceless, the perfect first single seater – in fact I set a Group M class lap record at Eastern Creek with it at 1:45 and it took me about 5 years in my Group M Brabham BT6 (twin-cam 40 more bhp, 5 not 4 speeds and discs all round) to better that. Mind you the tyres as mentioned above were far inferior by the time the  Brabham arrived and in fact I re-set the lap record on 10 year old Japanese Dunlops – the brand new flown in English ones being about 3 seconds slower that same weekend.’

Matich in ‘625’ gets the jump at the start from Leo Geoghegan and the nose of Frank Gardner at the 1963 Blue Mountains Trophy race at Catalina Park- Catalina/WR375, Lotus 22 Ford and Brabham BT2 Ford- all 1500 pushrods. Matich won from Gardner and Geoghegan (J Ellacott)

‘Years later having driven Elfin, Lotus 20, Brabham BT15, BT6, BT21C and BT21 replica – I guess I was in a position to make a judgement about the Elfin.

In my opinion Garrie got it perfect for the time. Loosely based on the Lotus 18 concept, it is a hugely superior car to the Lotus 20 that succeeded the 18.

I spoke at length with Frank Matich about the design and we both agreed that on paper it didn’t look all that wonderful, BUT, it was – the results Frank achieved with it were sensational, often beating the Climax 2.5 powered Coopers.

I’ve never driven a Elfin with 1100cc- but Frank did and with a Junior 1100 he knocked off Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 20 1500 at Sandown. To me that shows that the Elfin was just a little ahead of the competition in that wonderful early 1960’s period. And that is my observation too.

Finally the big race- 20 laps at Catalina for the Formula Junior Championship 1962 where the Elfin was up against the brand new Lotus 22 of Leo Geoghegan’s and the just arrived from UK Brabham BT2 works car driven by Gavin Youl – and other FJ’s – the Elfin and Matich beat them all even after running out of fuel on the last corner!’

(S Dalton)

Events like Melbourne’s ‘Motorclassica’ are fantastic shows of classic and racing cars but they are celebrations of the past.

Its amazing to think that in the sixties, whilst the old stuff had its place, a significant part of a competition car show comprised exhibitions of contemporary, and in many cases Australian made racing cars.

Stephen Dalton provided the cover of the magazine for the 1964 ‘Melbourne Racing Car Show’ put together by Melbourne businessman/racers Lex Davison, the Leech Brothers and several others.

The event was held at the Royal Exhibition Building over three days, 13-15 August 1964, and is somewhat poignant in that it’s purpose was to assist Rocky Tresise’ girlfriend Robyn Atherton raise funds in the Miss Mercy Hospital Quest. Many of you are aware that ‘Ecurie Australie’ founder, Lex and his protege, Rocky, died six months later- Lex of a heart attack at the wheel of his Brabham at Sandown, and Rocky a week later at Longford in Lex’ older Cooper.

Stephen notes that cars displayed included MG, Aston Martin, Lotus, Ferrari, Cooper and many others. Elfin were represented by local agent, Jack Hunnam whose new Mono was on display only several days prior to its race debut at Calder.

Etcetera…

The following is a nice little human interest story ran in ‘Pix’ magazine about Garrie Cooper and Elfin in 1963- courtesy of the Elfin Sixties Sportscars Facebook page.

I’ve included it as it’s very much ‘on point’- Cooper, Catalina, Clubman and Matich.

 

 

 

(Ed Holly)

Charlie Smith in the ex-Matich Catalina at Mount Panorama in 1963, he drove the car well with success. Don’t know much about this guy, had a drive or two in the Mildren Lotus 23 Ford, intrigued to know more.

(S Dalton)

Andy brown loops his Catalina as fellow South Australian John Marston approaches aboard his- Shell Corner at Calder on 20 January 1963. Andy went on to own one of the most famous Elfins of all a few years later, the ‘F1’ Elfin T100 ‘Mono’ Clisby 1.5 V6.

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

 

The photographs above are the balance of the pages of the Elfin Catalina sales brochure produced for use at motor shows not shown earlier in the article.

Credits and References …

oldracephotos.com.au, Ed Holly Collection, ‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ Barry Catford and John Blanden, Fred Radman, Grant Patullo, John Ellacott, Dick Simpson, James Lambert Collection, Brenton Smith Collection, Brian Miller Collection, Reg Dalwood, Article by Bruce Polain in ‘Australian Motor Sports’

(Ed Holly)

One Man’s Hobby. Or is that Obsession?!…

When Ed Holly and I first communicated about this article he sent thru a few pics of some engines he had built. I thought ‘gees! that’s interesting and amazing!’, so here they are.

Ed advises on how his engine building career commenced.

‘Having had a lathe for many years, when I added a mill to the workshop I wanted to learn how best to use it.

As I didn’t have a restoration project at the time, the lightbulb in the head said build a model engine – I flew models as a kid and loved the diesels back then as you didn’t need to buy a battery to start them!

So I searched the web and selected a BollAero18 and set about making one, a 1.8cc simple diesel. Well it took a while to interpret the plans having no technical background requiring that. I steadily worked through the components and the big day came and blow me down it ran !

That sort of started a bit of an obsession till the next project arrived.

(Ed Holly)

 

Now 16 model diesels later I have certainly learnt how to use a mill- more than half the engines are to my design and the English ‘AeroModeller’ January issue published plans and a review of one designed for first up builds. I called it the Holly Buddy.

Plans and build for this engine can be found at https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/jFvcCZYMxgU5nKmqFz21YC

For those into specifics – the aim is one or two tenths of a thou taper in the bore and a squeaky tight piston fit at tdc – that’s the ultimate fit for a diesel. The photo’s show an inline twin before and after assembly.’

So…set to it folks, you too can be a race engine builder!

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

Tailpiece: Elfin 275WR Ford 1100 FJ…

Simply superb cutaway drawing of the Catalina by Peter Wlkinson. Very few Australian racing cars have been so ‘dissected’ in this manner over the years which is a shame.

Mr Wilkinson’s work, I know little about the man, compares very favourably with his peers in England and Europe at the time. Ed kindly sent me this cutaway at high resolution- ‘blow it up’, you can literally see the Elfin’s pixie like face on the wheel caps!

Car specification is as per the text.

Finito…

(unattributed)

Frank Matich ahead of the Australian sportscar pack at Warwick Farm in 1968- the car is his Matich SR3 Repco ‘720’ 4.4 V8, 5 May …

The chasing pack comprises the ex-works Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 350 Can-Am driven by Bill Brown- filling Chris Amon’s shoes after he departed back to Europe, Niel Allen’s white Elfin 400 Chev, Bob Jane’s #2 Elfin 400 Repco 4.4 driven by Ian Cook and then the #5 Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM of Pete Geoghegan.

Pete and Leo G shared the car to win the Surfers 6 Hour enduro later that year, both had a drive or three of the ‘Old Red Lady’ as David McKay referred to his favourite car, in preparation for the race.

The #16 car is Tony Osbourne’s Argo Chev driven by Peter Macrow- then the twin-dark striped Lotus 23B Ford of Bob Muir another obscured Lotus 23- that of Glynn Scott, then the distinctive shape of a mid-dark coloured Elfin Mallala Ford driven by Ray Strong in front of Doug MacArthur, Lotus 26R and then, finally, John Leffler’s Cooper S Lightweight at the rear. His ‘Sports-Racing Closed’ Mini is somewhat of a fish outta-water amongst this lot.

Of the ‘big bangers’ racing in Australia at the time, the Lionel Ayers MRC Oldsmobile is absent as is the Noel Hurd driven, Globe Products owned Elfin 400 Ford. Oh, there is no sign of Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 or was he in between 906’s at the time perhaps?

There was no Australian Sportscar Championship in 1968- but the order of this race, in its first lap and just after the start is pretty much indicative of the state of competitive play at the time.

For the sake of completeness, the one race Australian Tourist Trophy, a prestigious event, was run at Mallala in January 1968 and won by Matich at a canter from Geoff Vercoe’s Cicada Ford, three laps adrift of FM’s SR3. Of the cars in the opening photograph, only the Jane Elfin 400 made the trip to South Australia.

Perhaps the timing of the ATT was sub-optimal as most of the top guns ran in the Tasman Series sportscar support races- at Surfers, Warwick Farm, Sandown and Longford over four weeks from 11 February to 4 March. The Adelaide race was tempting fate so close to the start of the Tasman and logistically Adelaide and the Gold Coast are a long way apart regardless of a team home base in Melbourne or Sydney.

Happy chappy. FM sits in his brand new Matich SR4 Repco 4.8 ‘760’ during the cars press launch at the ‘Rothmans Theatre’, Sydney Showgrounds on 26 November 1968. Car made its race debut the following weekend at Warwick Farm on 1 December

The ball-game changed into 1969 off course, Matich’s SR4 4.8 litre Repco 760- four cam ‘Sledge Hammer’ first raced at Warwick Farm on 1 December 1968. Then Bob Jane’s McLaren M6B Repco ‘740’ 5 litre and Niel Allen’s Chev F5000 engined Elfin ME5 joined the grids during 1969.

But Matich blew the grid apart with the SR4 all the same, and then, thankfully for all of us, jumped back into single-seaters (F5000) where he belonged.

But Lordy, didn’t he provide some fizz, fire and sparkle to sportscar racing for a decade or so? Just ask Chris Amon how quick FM was in a sporty during that Tasman Summer of Sixty-Eight…

Photo and Other Credits…

Snapper of the opening photograph unknown- i’d like to attribute it as it is a beaut shot if any of you can assist, Getty Images, Dick Simpson, Mike Feisst, Dave Friedman and Brian Caldersmith Collections.

‘Australia’s Top Sports Cars’ article by Graham Howard in Racing Car News May 1967. Thanks to Dale Harvey and Neil Stratton for assisting with car identification and the event date of the opening photograph.

Frank Matich and the SR3 Oldsmobile during the Warwick Farm Tasman meeting in 1967- the car’s race debut. That’s Ted Proctor’s Proctor Climax behind. Traco tuned ally Olsmobile V8, ZF 5 speed box and chassis all but identical to the Elfin 400 which preceded this car with some tubes added (D Simpson)

SR3 Etcetera…

I’ve not quite gotten to the Matich SR3’s yet, in terms of an article but click on the SR4 piece referenced below- there is a bit at the end of it about the SR3 and a complete Matich chassis list which will tell you what is what.

The 1967-1968 period is an interesting one from a technological racing history perspective.

Huge advances were made in tyres thanks to the application of vast wads of polymer chemistry research dollars to create products which were grippier than those which went before with consequent reduction in lap times.

Then of course their was the exponential progress in aerodynamics pioneered by Jim Hall and his boys at Chaparral in Midland, Texas well before their adoption by Ferrari and Brabham in F1 first, in 1968.

Sandown Tasman meeting the week after Warwick Farm, Peters Corner. This series of SR3’s were beautiful racing cars in all and whatever form. Note that the rear spoiler is bigger than that used the week before (B Caldersmith)

Of interest perhaps, is that it seems Matich and his crew have changed the roll-bar section of the chassis between its debut at Warwick Farm, see the colour photo above, and Sandown. Look how high it is in Sydney, and how low in Melbourne the week later whilst FM appears to be sitting in the same spot.

The car ran in as finished and completely unsorted state at the Farm with FM treating the whole weekend inclusive of races as a test and development exercise- Niel Allen won the feature race at that meeting in the ex-Matich Elfin 400 Traco Olds.

(M Feisst)

Peter Mabey prepares to alight the new SR3 he helped build, in the Sandown paddock. The gorgeous dark green machine with its neat gold ‘Frank Matich Pty Ltd’ and ‘SR3’ sign-writing and striping is about to be scrutineered.

The body, to Matich design, was built by Wal Hadley Pty. Ltd. at Smithfield in Sydney’s outer west, no doubt Wal and his crew enjoyed working on a racer rather than the hearses which were and still are their mainstream business!

The chassis was constructed by Bob Britton’s Rennmax Engineering in Croydon Park, also to Sydney’s west but closer in. Various independent sources have it, including Britton, that the spaceframe is pretty much tube-for-tube Elfin 400 with a few additional sections added to assist torsional rigidity.

Graham Howard credits the wheel design as Britton’s, said items of beauty were cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne- also suppliers to Garrie Cooper.

Peter Mabey did the Can-Am tour with FM in 1967, I wonder where he is these days, his story of the Matich years would be interesting?

FM beside the SR3 Repco 4.4 V8 at Road America on 3 September 1967. Note the front spoiler, car still fitted with ZF tranny. The plan was to return to the US with the SR4 in 1968. If the team had done that, fitted with a reliable 5 litre 560 bhp V8 it is conceivable FM could have taken a Can-Am round whilst noting the 7 litre 1968 McLaren M8A Chev’s were almighty cars. If, if, if… (D Friedman)

So, the delicate looking Matich SR3 Oldsmobile which made its race debut at the Warwick Farm Tasman round in 1967 is ‘effete’ in comparison to the fire-breathing 4.4 litre Repco RB720 V8 engined car- blooded in battle during several Can-Am rounds in 1967, which took on, and slayed Chris Amon’s Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 350 Can-Am in the three 1968 Tasman sportscar races Matich contested that summer.

For whatever reason, I am intrigued to know why, FM did not contest the final round at Longford- the last ever race meeting at the late, lamented road circuit. To have seen Frank and Chris duking it out on that circuit, in those damp conditions, on that day- Amon took the all-time lap record in the Ferrari remember, would really have been something!

(B Caldersmith)

The two shots from Brian Caldersmith’s Collection above and below were taken during the 1968 Warwick Farm Tasman- Chis and Frank had some great dices with the hometown boy coming out on top.

In similar fashion to Matich, Amon didn’t do the whole Can-Am in 1967, he joined the series after two of the P4’s which he and his teammates had raced in the manufacturers championship were ‘sliced and diced’ into Can-Am 350 lightweight Group 7 form. But Chris had seen enough of the SR3 stateside to know his Australian summer would not be a cakewalk.

This SR3 is considerably lower with much wider tyres of a diminished aspect ratio compared with twelve months before- at this stage FM was the Australian Firestone Racing Tyre importer/distributor and doing plenty of test miles.

No high wing was fitted to the car yet- despite FM looking closely at what Chaparral were up to in the US, but that would come of course.

(B Caldersmith)

Further Reading…

Ferrari P4/Can-Am 350; https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/

Elfin 400/Traco Olds; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/28/elfin-400traco-olds-frank-matich-niel-allen-and-garrie-cooper/

Matich SR4 with some SR3 bits; https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

Longford with plenty of 350 Can-Am; https://primotipo.com/2018/07/05/longford-lap/

Matich, SR3 (RCN-Dickson)

Tailpiece: O’Sullivan, Matich SR3 Repco from Niel Allen, Elfin 400 Chev, Warwick Farm early 1969…

(D Simpson)

Roll on another twelve months to Warwick Farm 1969 and Matich is up front in the distance aboard the all-conquering SR4 Repco 760 4.8 V8 with Perth businessman-racer Don O’Sullivan racing the now winged SR3 Repco 720 4.4 V8.

The car following O’Sullivan through the ‘Farm’s Esses is the Elfin 400 Chev aka ‘Traco Olds’ raced by Matich in 1966- sweeping all before him that year before building the first SR3 and selling the Elfin to Niel Allen. Niel and Peter Molloy modified the car in several ways, most notably replacing the Olds/ZF combination with a 5 litre Chev and Hewland DG300 gearbox- but not really troubling Matich with the modified, faster car.

Lets not forget the role Garrie Cooper played in contributing to the design of the SR3- it is all but a direct copy of the Elfin 400 chassis- that story told in the Elfin 400 article link above.

Superb ‘Racing Car News’ cover by David Atkinson of Matich in the SR3 ahead of Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 Spyder.

The 1967 Australian Tourist Trophy was won by Matich from Hamilton and Glynn Scott’s Lotus 23B Ford on 21 May 1967 at Surfers Paradise.

The scene depicted has a bit of creative licence in terms of the earth banks on the right, if indeed it is meant to be Surfers?

Finito…