Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

smedley twin plug FPF

Levin, NZ January 1964 (Smedley)

Geoff Smedley fettles his ‘Twin Plug’ 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF engine fitted to John Youls’ Cooper T55 …

In the late Formula Libre period in Australasia, just before the Tasman Formula commenced on 1 January 1964 the engine of choice was very much the Coventry Climax FPF. In fact the Tasman Formula was specifically designed around the ready availability and price of the 1959/60 World Championship winning 2.5 litre FPF engine to allow the locals to compete against the internationals on more or less equal terms.

Before then (1 January 1964)  ‘the go’ was the 2.7 litre ‘Indy’ FPF, most of the locals and visiting internationals each summer raced with this engine.

But down in Australia’s south, in beautiful Tasmania, a very clever engineer, Geoff Smedley was working on another solution to make the FPF produce more reliable power and torque. His driver was the very quick John Youl, the car an ex-works/Bruce McLaren 1961 F1 Cooper T55. Here is the story in Geoff’s words.

image

John Youl cruises thru the Warwick Farm paddock in 1963, Cooper T55 Climax (Smedley)

‘Firstly in 1963 the fad was to re-sleeve the 2.5 Climax to 2.7 litre chasing more hosepower but ‘bigger holes’ was the American way and I was sure a better alternative could be found.

Frank Hallam at Repco Research had been playing around with a twin plug head for one of Brabham’s engines, using two distributors driven from the rear of each cam bank and couldn’t make it work through an inaccurate spark which was put down to windup in the camshafts in the high rev range.

I preferred to stick with a man’s toy, the magneto and two of these more robust spark producers set up properly must be the answer. A total new drive was made up for a second maggy from the crankshaft protruding the front of the sump which allowed comfortable room within the confines of the T55 chassis and the head modified to accommodate a second plug.’

‘1963 saw the end of alcohol fuel for our cars and reverting back to 100 octane caused a few problems leading to the idea of a cleaner more efficient fuel burn. Obviously there are easier methods today but 50 years ago we were still looking in any way we could, without the aid of computers, only perhaps a slide rule and something to write on and a lot of time lost to mistakes but on the occasion when you were successful it was nice being 10ft. tall….’

‘The initial effort seemed rewarding with a test day at Symmons Plains circuit, the result was pleasing and being able to alter each magneto individually the differences were very noticeable.

Living in Tasmania and being able to carry out this work undercover of our opposition (who were based on the Australian mainland) was an advantage, I and my young family were living at Symmons Plains in those days and my workshop was a converted coachouse close to the main homestead where all the chassis work was carried out, but the big advantage I had was having full use of the family workshop (Bedford Machine Tools) where I was able to produce any part required.

The final test for the engine was to take it all to Melbourne and place it on Repco’s dyno at Dandenong to test the result. We were met by Frank Hallam who was very dubious about the whole thing, but some 4 hours later he confessed that our 2.5 Climax had shown better figures than any previous Climax including the fashionable 2.7 litre. The horsepower was up but more importantly the torque figures were so much improved. Those days of satisfaction have melted into oblivion and all that is left is a lot of frustrated old farts that look back and remember when….!!!!’

smedley fpf on dyno

The Smedley twin plug, twin magneto engine being being tested on the Repco Research dyno in November 1963. The engine reverts to ‘standard’ by replacement of the standard CC sump. (Smedley)

Racing the Cooper T55 twin-plug FPF…

‘Gosh! It’s hard to believe more than 54 years have passed since those heady days but it doesn’t seem that long,  but as mentioned I have been pressured into writing my autobiography which has meant scratching back over the coals to bring those great times back to life again and starting with taking the land speed record way back in 1961’.

We will trouble Geoff for that story, achieved by Geoff’s Chev engined Cooper T51 owned and driven by Austin Miller, another time.

‘I went to work for John Youl in 1962 and stayed with him until his retirement in ’65, we had a lot of fun as a team being able to work here in Tassie so privately and then  going to the mainland where the car would be pounced on and inspected for the sign of any tinkering’s that may help our opposition! So in that respect it was always a lot of fun and yes the duel ignition trick really did work wonders on the old FPF engine’.

image

John Youl and Geoff Smedley aboard the Cooper T55 ‘twin-plug’ for a debut win- on the victory lap after winning the ‘Advertiser Trophy’ Gold Star round at Mallala, South Australia in October 1963. John won from the 2.7 litre Brabham BT4 Climax of Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell’s Brabham BT1 Ford 1100 (Smedley)

‘Now the very first race for this new configuration was the Gold Star Race at Mallala, South Australia on the 14th October 1963 which we won from Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell. Then came the Hordern Trophy Race at the ‘Farm on 1st December 1963, we won that one as well from David McKay and Bill Patterson’.

‘Then it was off to New Zealand for the 1964 Tasman Series.

In that series of races we came back with (in heats and championship races) one 1st, two seconds including Lakeside, two thirds including Sandown and fourth’s at Levin, Wigram and in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe behind Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Tim Mayer. We were fifth at Longford in the final round’.

image

Levin form up area for the very first Tasman Championship race on 4 January 1964. Youl’s #5 Cooper T55 Climax, the two Cooper T70’s of McLaren #1 and Tim Mayer and then the victor, Denny Hulme’s works Brabham BT4 Climax. Mayer was 2nd, McLaren 3rd and Youl 4th (Smedley)

‘Prior to all this, we, like others using the Jack Knight gearbox on their Coopers, found the crown wheel and pinion was the big weakness and only 2-3 races seemed to be their life span. So i set about making 2 sets myself as I fortunately had access to the family business’s machine shop. The first set of these was fitted to the gearbox just prior to fitting the duel ignition system’.

‘This new CWP was straight cut but considerably stronger using a much higher grade steel than the original. Although a little noisy at first, it soon settled down by fitting a separate oiling system. The same CWP was in the car when John sold it to Arnold Glass in 1965.

image

John Youl, Cooper T55 Climax at Mount Maunganui, NZ, December 1963 (Fistonic)

‘The car, then around 1967, I think- Cooper T55 Chassis No. F1/11/61 was sold to a collector in the USA and years later in the nineties the car was sent to England to be auctioned. I have found it there in photos sitting in the pits in places such as Goodwood and the like’.

‘The car is back today in its original form being Bruce McLaren’s  1961 works car it looks great and I have no idea but it could still have the twin plug motor in it, who knows!’

image

Smedley with his charge, note the comments about the gearbox in the text, twin plug 2.5 FPF fitted, Longford Tasman 1964 (Smedley)

 Etcetera…

image

‘The card was drawn up by John Youl himself as a record of the T55 during his period of ownership’- Geoff Smedley

The shot below is of Youl jumping from second grid slot away from McLaren #10 on pole, Tony Maggs #3 and John Surtees #2, as well as Bib Stillwell in the light blue Brabham BT4 and Chris Amon’s red Cooper T53- its the start of the Lakeside International on 17 February 1963.

McLaren, in a Cooper T62 the two Lola Mk4A pilots Maggs and Surtees and Bib were all driving the latest cars with 2.7 FPF’s, Youl was in a 1961 car, his Cooper T55 with a 2.5 FPF, not Smedley’s twin-plug engine either. Surtees won from Graham Hill’s Ferguson P99 and Stillwell. Youl retired on lap 7 that day.

Its such a shame ‘duty called’ with John Youl, he needed to manage the families large grazing properties in Tasmania, so his racing career was ended way before it should have. For sure he was a driver of world class, as indeed was Smedley as an engineer/mechanic.

image

(Smedley)

Special Thanks…

Geoff Smedley, many thanks for this very special account of an interesting engineering obscurity which should be more widely known

Credits…

Geoff Smedley Collection, Milan Fistonic, oldracingcars.com

Tailpiece: John Youl, Cooper T55 Climax in the Levin form up area, January 1964…

image

Car #4 is Chris Amon in a Reg Parnell Lola Mk4A Climax, perhaps Denny Hulme’s Brabham alongside him (Smedley)

 

(Drage)

Kevin Drage changes a Jaguar XK140 wheel with Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ on the trailer enroute to Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales in late January 1960…

Derek Jolly lead a full life, he was a man of many parts.

A visionary with money who had many interests including motor racing, business, photography, music, science and technology, the arts and fine wine. Something of a renaissance man really.

Born into the wealth of South Australia’s Penfold Wines family, he played an important role in improving the performance of early Austin 7 engined Lotus cars, designed, built and raced his ‘Decca Specials’ and then two Lotus 15’s with much success in Australia. He played a role in Australia’s nascent music industry from the 1960’s and was seminal in the redevelopment of the Melbourne Street North Adelaide precinct in the 1960/70’s. Later in life he lost a good deal of his wealth on Australia’s property market. Undeterred he moved back to the Barossa Valley and commenced a new business there.

The focus of this article is Jolly’s two Coventry Climax engined ‘Decca Specials’ and his Lotus 15’s chassis # 608/626, the car raced with much success by Derek and later a shooting star named Bevan Gibson. In fact Jolly’s 15 was not one but two chassis, albeit both had the same chassis number or chassis plate as you will see.

This article is drawn from several sources. An unattributed article in Unique Cars, the recollections of Kevin Drage, a very prominent Adelaide engineer (who deserves his own detailed story) who was Jolly’s mechanic/pitcrew for much of the time he raced the Lotuses. Kevin’s account and the dialogue about them on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ are content and context rich. John Blanden’s seminal book ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ was used. Various issues of Australian Motor Sports magazines provided race results for the two Deccas, I’m not suggesting it is a complete list however. AMS also provided the technical specifications of Decca Mk2. Where there were divergences of the story as to fact, I have expressed the alternative suppositions or views.

As will be shown Derek progressed from Austin 7 based cars to his own lightweight Coventry Climax FWA powered Deccas and finally to the Lotus 15, then amongst the fastest sportscars of their type.

The powerful 15’s or more correctly ‘Fifteens’ were fitted with the Coventry Climax FPF, twin-cam, 2 valve, four cylinder engine in either 1.5 (140bhp and 112 lb ft of torque) or 2 litres (170 bhp and 160 lb ft) in capacity. The chassis was an evolution of the Chapman/Costin Lotus 11 design. About 30 were built.

Chapman’s cars were famous for their light weight, the Fifteen tipping the scales at 445 kg and was competitive with far more powerful cars which were nominally, on paper at least, faster machines. The cars were light, slippery, turned in beautifully and, with a De Dion rear end put their power down well. During 1958 a well driven Fifteen would see off Jaguar D Types and were only challenged for outright wins by the works Lister Jaguar and Aston Martin DBR1’s in the UK.

Lets start with some background on Derek before turning our attention to the cars he built and raced.

Jolly at Le Mans 1959 (ABC)

Derek Jolly…

 Jolly was from a wealthy background, a member of the Penfold family, the founders of Penfolds Wines, still one of Australia’s greatest winemakers which originated in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

Penfolds was founded on 200 acres at Magill in 1844 with vines brought from France by Christopher Rawson Penfold. Penfold’s daughter married a George Hyland, the descendants adopted the Penfold Hyland name. Derek’s mother Mrs Ernest Jolly (doncha love the patriarchal terminology of 1940 Australia) was the only daughter of HL Penfold Hyland who entered the family firm in 1904. What is not clear to me is what role Derek had at Penfolds, although its said he worked alongside Max Schubert in the 1950’s, for generations the most legendary of Penfolds winemakers especially of ‘Penfolds Grange’, which is not a bad drop in global terms..

Like so many drivers of the period he cut his racing teeth on Austin 7’s, in fact he was one of the most competitive racers running these cars.

Derek was given one as a twenty-first birthday present by his parents and with encouragement from fellow South Australian A7 expert Ron Uffindell, he went racing.

Ron knew all of the secrets of these machines having competed extensively in them including two Australian Grands Prix. He was 7th in the 1936/7 AGP at Victor Harbour and 8th at Bathurst in 1938. In that race won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA, Ron drove his little A7 Special from Adelaide to Bathurst, raced it to 8th place and then drove home again via Victoria’s Great Ocean Road!

Derek’s car was a 1931 Ulster replica chassis ‘11517’ initially raced in chassis form, and for hillclimbing had its radiator mounted behind the engine. For road racing a lightweight body was fitted. Into the late forties and early fifties the car was a regular at events in SA, Victoria and New South Wales, perhaps it’s most notable result was third in the under 1500cc handicap at the 1950 October Bathurst meeting.

The exact specifications of the car ‘had an aura of mystery grow up against it’ according to the 1950-51 Australian Motor Racing Annual given that ‘such an ordinary looking diminutive side-valve runabout can circulate in company with all but the very hottest TC MG’ with ‘light weight and meticulous attention to detail’ it secrets of success.

Derek lifting the inside wheel thru Hell Corner on the way to 3rd behind the Brydon and Pearse MG Spls in the Under 1500cc Handicap at Bathurst in October 1950, Austin A7 Ulster Spl ‘11517’. Car now in the UK ( G McGrath)

The published specifications of the car include a 3 main bearing engine made of new parts, of 747cc, side-valve, cam with standard timing but higher lift. Compression ratio was 7:1 with a single horizontal SU carb, coil and distributor ignition. Gearbox was Big Seven 4 speed, the front brakes slightly modified with a floating anchor pin, brakes standard cable operated. A special lightweight 2-seater aluminium racing body with a rounded tail was built with maximum speed quoted at 92 mph.

It was in the context of racing Austin 7’s that Colin Chapman wanted to meet Derek. Colin was just starting the transition from trials competition to racing and was keen to learn more about the secrets of Derek’s A7 engines.

Derek went to the UK with his girlfriend, Pamela Strange as well as his very competitive, powerful A7 engine and gearbox as baggage on the Otranto. His presence in the UK was noted in the August 1951 issue of Motorsport which recorded his three-bearing Austin 7 racing success in Australia.

Depending upon which story you source the engine either arrived with Derek or in advance of his time in the UK. Whatever the case (see Appendix) Chapman, after examining the engine, adapted Jolly’s inlet manifold ideas, which in essence turned the siamesed 2 inlet port standard side-valve A7 engine into a 4 port motor considerably increasing its power and performance. At this point let’s note that Derek’s A7 secrets were mainly Ron Uffindell’s in terms of apportioning credit where it is due.

Chapman, in typical style claimed in Ian Lawrence’s book the initiative as his own ‘…an idea which had suddenly come to him after a rather hectic Christmas party…’- maybe Derek Jolly was at that party!?

Whilst some publications ignore the important role Jolly played in the performance of a very significant Lotus raced by Chapman himself in 1951, Derek’s role is now more widely acknowledged.

The Lotus Mk III ‘was constructed and probably very successful due to the assistance of the Allen brothers and Colin’s access to Derek Jolly and his Austin 7 engines’- ‘the car conceived and built between June 1950 and its first race in May 1951’ the Colin Chapman Archive and Resource notes in its ‘The Hills, Spills and Thrills’ article.

Jolly contested a Prescott Hillclimb aboard a Lotus Mark 3 powered by his engine/box but ‘broke down’, John Blanden does not identify the cause of the failure.

Whilst in England Derek spent as much time at Hornsey as he did on Penfolds family business, which was supposed to be the primary trip purpose!

Clearly very strong relationships were created between the two men, Jolly later acquired two Lotus 15’s, was entered as a works driver at Le Mans in 1959 together with Graham Hill and Chapman awarded Jolly the franchise for Lotus cars in Australia in the later mid-fifties.

Jolly posing with Decca Mk1 Climax FWA in 1956 (ABC)

Decca Mk1 Climax…

Derek returned to Australia and continued racing his A7 Spl but he soon realised he needed a more sophisticated car as the Australian scene progressed with drivers building cars to modern design themes or imported racers from Europe.

He had watched Lotus’ progression through the Mk9 and later the 11 and decided a car powered by the Coventry Climax 1100cc SOHC FWA engine was the way to go. He acquired an FWA, MG TC gearbox and Borg and Beck clutch on one of his trips to the UK.

His concept was a lightweight Clubman type car of spaceframe construction, with a de Dion rear end. The car, inclusive of its aluminium body and cycle-guards was built by Arthur Williams in Sydenham Road, Norwood, Adelaide, Derek’s home town of course.

The Decca Mk1 Climax made its debut at Port Wakefield on 31 March 1956 but caught fire during the 50 lap ‘Wakfield Trophy’ won by Tom Hawkes Cooper T23 Bristol.

Damage was light with the car racing again at Templestowe Hillclimb in Melbourne’s outer east in May. In a busy day he won the 1100cc sportscar class, then took his cycle guards off and was 2nd in the 1100cc racing car class with only Lex Davison, Bruce Walton and Murray Rainey quicker than the little Decca, regardless of capacity in their Coopers, and Walton Special.

Derek and Decca Mk1 shortly after it’s debut, Port Wakefield, SA

Back at Port Wakefield on June 4 Derek started a period as one of the most prolific racers in Australia for the next several years. In those days race meetings were not plentiful, if a competitor wanted to race frequently, he had to travel interstate.

The car raced locally of course at Port Wakefield, again on 8 October for 2nd in the ‘B scratch’ with a class win in the 20 lap sportscar feature won by Bib Stillwell’s Jag XKD. The day was topped off by a win in the 20 lap racing car handicap, 1100cc of Coventry Climax triumphed over the Chev V8 engined Tornado of Ted Gray.

At Collingrove he took 1st in the 1100cc sportscar class during the SA Hillclimb Championship on 6 October. The car was fourth quickest up the hill that day outright.

At Fishermans Bend in outer Melbourne on October 13/14 Derek won the sports and sedans race, was 2nd in the racing and sportscar race and also contested the 52.8 mile feature ‘Astor Trophy’ getting experience of longer events. He ran as high as 8th, the race won by Doug Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago T26C grand prix monoposto.

The little car was fast, in the ’56 Melbourne Cup, November meeting at Rob Roy, in Melbourne’s Christmas Hills ‘Derek Jolly continued to embarrass the locals with his amazing little Decca Special…’ that day his 27.97 secs was the third quickest time of the day the only faster machines the specialist hillclimb single-seaters of Lex Davison and Bruce Walton.

Jolly on the inside at Port Wakefield, SA circa 1957, Decca Mk2 Climax FWA, design of car Lotus 11 inspired (unattributed)

So successful was the Mk1, always intended as a prototype to test suspension ideas, that Derek decided to build a quicker car around the same major components.

Mk1 exists today in Fiat engined form but the little car donated its engine, gearbox, rear suspension and wheels to the new machine.

Work commenced on Decca Mk2 in August 1956 ‘using an army of thirty amateur and professional mechanics, the car quickly took shape’ John Blanden wrote. The cars inspiration was the Lotus 11’s Jolly saw on a trip to Europe in early 1956 and was again of spaceframe design and construction with the all-enveloping slippery body formed in aluminium.

See ‘Etcetera’ towards the articles end for full technical details of this great little car.

‘Brand spanking new’, road registered Decca Mk2 Climax in the Albert Park paddock in November 1956 accompanied by a lovely lady and a couple of Melbourne’s finest. Lines of car derivative but distinctive (K Drage)

Decca Mk2 car was completed 5 days before the Australian Tourist Trophy at Albert Park in November 1956. Derek’s prolific racing schedule continued with many impressive results, inevitably he won his class but the car was often also an outright contender.

In a splendid debut he was 13th in the 100 mile event behind vastly more powerful cars and won the 1100cc class. On the second day of the AGP carnival won by Stirling Moss’ works Maserati 250F Jolly showed the speed of the car again by finishing 7th in the 25 mile ‘Argus Trophy’ behind two Coopers, a D Type, Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco and two Austin Healey 100S.

Derek towed the car back up the Western Highway towards Melbourne and then around Westernport Bay to the opening meeting of the Phillip Island circuit on the 15 December 1956 weekend.

He contested the ‘Bill Thomson Memorial Trophy’, Thomson was a three times winner of the Australian Grand Prix on the original Phillip Island road circuit in 1930/32/33.

Jack Brabham won in a Cooper Bobtail from Stillwell’s Jag D Type, Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco and Ron Phillips Austin Healey 100S. Derek duelled for 3rd with England and Phillips but retired on circuit with undisclosed dramas with 2 laps to run. The competitiveness and speed of the car seems apparent from its earliest of events.

Sportscar support race, 1957 Caversham WA Australian GP meeting. Derek at left Decca Mk2 Climax, J Wynhoff Healey, R Ashley Healey, #39 A Collett MG T Type, #30 Paul England Ausca Holden Repco, A Melrose Healey, E Kinnear Healey and out front Ron Phillips Healey 100S. Derek was ahead before battery problems intervened giving the win to Phillips AH 100S (E Steet)

In early January 1957 Jolly and his small team towed the Decca across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth to contest the Australian Grand Prix carnival at the Caversham ex-airfield circuit, the meeting was held in notoriously hot conditions.

Derek was 4th in his qualifying 20 lap AGP heat from Brabham’s Cooper T43 Climax on the Saturday.

25,000 people arrived to watch the races on Monday which was even hotter than the preceding days.

Derek lead the 40 lap sportscar preliminary until a battery lead came adrift, Jolly jumped out of the car near the Olympic Hairpin and remedied the problem but by then Ron Phillips AH 100S had passed him, a lead he was not to lose.

Not only that but Derek doubled up and contested the 70 lap AGP, held to F Libre rules. It was an amazing act of endurance, some drivers including the winner, Lex Davison, Ferrari 500/625 had a co-driver (Bill Patterson in Davo’s case) whereas Jolly did the race on his own and finished in 7th place! The achievement was even greater as Jolly’s crew were still refuelling Decca when the flag to start the race fell. Jolly was push-started by his crew after the rest of the field had departed.

In the AMS report of the race, an outright event, the days of handicap Australian Grands Prix were over, they list handicap placings which give Jolly 4th behind Syd Anderson Alta s/c, A Melrose AH Healey 100/4 and Len Lukey Cooper T23 Bristol.

Derek Jolly & Decca Mk2 at Caversham during the ’57 AGP weekend, wonderful colour shot of the cars lissom lines (D Foley)

In March Derek again won his class and finished 5th outright at Albert Park in the 100 mile 1957 Victorian Tourist Trophy, this time the ‘heavy metal’ in front of his small car comprised Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Bill Pitt in a Jag XKD, Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax and Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco.

He returned to Victoria in June to race the car in the VSCC Fishermans Bend Sprint meeting, with the AMS report quipping ‘Derek Jolly once again took the opportunity to visit us with his spectacular Decca. His XK140 is probably able to find its own way back to South Australia..’

Travelling even further afield to Broken Hill in July, Derek took fastest time of the day at Peak Hill ‘..the glamour car of the meeting scored an easy victory..’

Undeterred by the 520 km trip to Broken Hill Derek pointed the trusty Jag in the direction of Sydney where the car was to stay until after Bathurst.

Derek contested the New South Wales Hillclimb Championships at Silverdale, near Camden on 15 September taking the 1100cc class AMS reporting ‘…the Decca went up very quickly and treated all corners with utter contempt’ taking a class record in the process. The car was the sixth quickest present that day, a few future big guns present were Frank Gardner Jag XKC , Leo Geoghegan in a Holden FX. Lets not forget Ron Tauranac Ralt, Lex Davison Cooper Irving s/c and Brian Foley Austin A30 too.

Next on the agenda was a trip from Sydney to Coonabarabran for some record breaking for a whole swag of Commonwealth Oil Refineries supported drivers, of whom Derek was one.

On 28 September 1957 he set a Class G Australian Land Speed record in Decca Mk2 at Coonabarabran recording 116.75 mph, the little car modified to suit by fitment of a head fairing.

Off to Bathurst for the ‘Bathurst 100’ meeting in October Derek competed as an F Libre car rather than a sportscar.

The event was a scratch race as part of the Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship but was run as a handicap. Derek actually lead the race (on handicap) for quite a long way until easing towards the end with a brake duct that was coming adrift. Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 won the race from scratch in 75.54 minutes with Jolly third on handicap in 83.54 minutes behind Tom Hawkes Cooper Holden Repco and Frank Gardner’s Jag XKC.

Home in Adelaide Derek contested the Gold Star meeting at Port Wakefield on the 14 October weekend. He placed 5th in the championship ‘Wakefield Trophy’, behind the single-seaters of Davison, Hawkes, Lukey and Keith Rilstone’s Zephyr Spl.

It really makes you wonder how DJ would have fared in one of the more competitive single-seaters of the day. A Lotus 12 with a 2 litre FPF could have been quite a good thing in Australia in 1957/8.

On the road again to Hepburn Springs Hillclimb, not as far as Melbourne, over the Victorian border, Derek took his customary first in the 1100cc sportscar class on 20 October.

Still in Victoria for the Phillip Island Gold Star round on 27 October Derek placed 2nd in the sportscar support race behind Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax and then 4th in the F Libre Gold Star race behind Lex Davison Ferrari 500/625. The Melburnian won the very first Gold Star awarded that day, Tom Hawkes Cooper T23 Holden Repco and Eddie Perkins (father of Larry) Porsche Spl were second and third.

Derek stayed in Melbourne for the week for the Victorian Hillclimb Championship final on the 5 November, he was again first in the 1100cc sportscar class, Bruce Walton took FTD that day at Rob Roy in his Walton JAP Spl.

Into 1958 the cars competitiveness continued with first in class and 8th outright in the F Libre Victorian Trophy at Fishermans Bend.

On 7 April Derek again won his class at the SA Hillclimb Championships at Collingrove.

In 1958 he contested several rounds of the Victorian Hillclimb Championship; he was first in the 1100 sportscar class at Rob Roy on 4 May, and again at Hepburn Springs on 18 May.

It was time to move on and up to a faster car. As a driver and car constructor Derek had certainly proved his capabilities over the last two years. So he placed an order with Chapman for a Lotus 15. In a wonderful piece of symmetry, Derek raced his new Lotus to 2nd in the 1958 ATT at Bathurst in October whilst Gavin-Sandford Morgan was 1st in class and 5th outright in the borrowed Decca Mk2 Climax!

Decca Mk2 raced on in the hands of Victorian John Ampt in 1959/60, he very much did it justice. The car lives on in Frank Moore’s collection of Australian Specials in Queensland and has done for many years.

Lets now turn ourselves to Chapman’s Lotus 15 design.

Lotus 15 cutaway (Tony Lofthouse)

Design and Construction…

The first Fifteens (lets do 15’s to save space) had the engine laid over at about 60 degrees to starboard, allowing a flat, gorgeous bonnet line between the wheel arches. There was a trade-off though in that there was an absence of space for additional diagonal bracing to the top of the engine bay. In all other ways, the early Series One cars did not noticeably differ from the finalised Series One. Derek Jolly’s car ‘608’ as landed in 1958 was to later S1 form.

The chassis of the 15 was a 30 kg space-frame in 18 and 20 gauge mild steel with the 15 and F2/F1 Lotus 16 having many components in common. The front suspension with wishbones incorporating the roll bar as the front half of the top A-arm components were common with the Series Two 11’s, the 7’s, the Elite and Lotus first single-seater, the F2/F1 Lotus 12. The 15 and 16 also shared the variations in engine inclination and Chapman Strut rear suspension.

The 15 was delivered with either wire or cast-magnesium 15-inch wheels to customer order, which, like the Eleven, had the same rim width front and rear. In 1958 this was four inches, carrying 4.50 front and 5.50 rear tyres and in 1959 perhaps four-and-a-halves. Chapman’s primary design priority until around 1960 was minimisation of unsprung weight by keeping both wheel and tyre as small as possible. The 15 had the standard Lotus track and wheelbase of the day – that is, an 88-inch wheelbase and just under 48-inch track. These dimensions, established with the 11, were used with the 7, 12, and 16.

Also carried over from the single-seater Lotus 12 was the controversial Lotus five-speed gearbox, the ‘Queerbox’.

‘A thing of Swiss-watch subtlety and elegance, but still of doubtful reliability nearly a year after its introduction. Rear-mounted, in unit with the differential, it carried its five ratios in less than nine cm (3 1/2 inches) of length, with the output gears fixed on the long differential pinion shaft, and the input gears spinning free until progressively selected by a migrating spline which was itself splined to the tailshaft. This gearbox was very much the Achilles Heel of the 15, and in fact substitution of the less-subtle, but infinitely more reliable, BMC B-series gearbox bolted to the engine, and of the proven Lotus Elite diff-case, distinguished the Series Two cars introduced later in 1958’ Unique Cars reported so eloquently.

Rear of the Jolly 15 ‘608’ at Bathurst in October 1958, 2nd in the Australian Tourist Trophy to David McKays Aston DB3S that weekend (unattributed)

‘At the start it was the engines that gave the biggest headaches. For Lotus aficionados it is almost heresy to consider what Lotus committed on those early engines, and the engineers at Coventry Climax undoubtedly felt the same way. To accommodate the inclined engine, one of the dry-sump scavenge pumps was discarded and the other modified, and the sump itself was drastically reshaped; the inlet ports were counterbored to take spigots for the manifolding, which had to incorporate a 30-degree droop. No matter how hard Climax tried (and to give them their due, they tried hard) the inclined engine was about nine horsepower short of upright-engine figures, and suffered cooling and oiling problems’.

None of these things was happening to the FPF engine in rival Coopers, so for Le Mans Lotus bit the bullet and produced two cars (a 1.5 and a two-litre) with engines inclined a mere 17 degrees the other way – just one degree different to the Cooper! This gave the upright-engined 15’s a distinctively long and slim bonnet-blister which, not so aerodynamically strong, but reliability was improved. Apart from a continuing series of enlargements to the water and oil cooling radiators, the 1958 15 had been finalised.

Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ in Series 3 form at Longford in March 1960 during the Australian Tourist Trophy weekend, a race the car won. Kevin Drage is changing plugs, note the chassis engine bay cross bracing tube referred to in the text. 1960cc CC FPF (K Drage)

‘For 1959, the Series Three car was announced, offering a simpler chassis mainly resulting from re-positioning the front anti-roll bar to become the rear link – instead of the front – in the top wishbone. Engine position, and the important diagonal across the top of the engine bay, carried on from the upright-engine 1958 car. A small change was visible in the cockpit, where the Series Three now had two small down-tubes from the dash, meeting a transverse tube which ran across the floor, whereas the earlier 15’s had relied solely on the stressed tailshaft cover to strengthen the floor and to provide gearbox mounting for the B-series box’.

‘Press pictures of the 1959 car show it with the BMC gearbox but at least two cars were built with the very compact, front-mounted ZF S4-12 all-synchro four-speed box, and another had a unique development of the Lotus five-speeder which carried the gears astern of the differential. The existence of at least two ZF-gearbox cars can be supported because there were two such cars in Australasia – one the Leaton Motors Frank Matich driven 2.5-litre car, the other a 2 litre which went to New Zealand for Jim Palmer. A unique five-speed box was fitted to Derek Jolly’s car. That raises the question of how a 1959 gearbox found its way into a 1958 car. The answer involves what is probably the most contentious item of 15 history’.

Jay Chamberlain/Pete Lovely works Lotus 15 FPF 1.5 ‘608’ at Le Mans in 1958 DNF accident (Revs)

Jolly’s car, chassis ‘608’, was one of two 15’s Team Lotus ran at Le Mans in 1958.

‘One was a 1.5-litre, the other a 2 litre FPF which caused quite a stir with its fast practice laps, but which retired embarrassingly early (blown head gasket) in the race itself. The 1.5, shared by the American Lotus drivers Jay Chamberlain and Pete Lovely, went well in patches between pit stops, and became one of the victims of violent rainstorms during the night when it crashed avoiding a slower car and was in turn centre-punched by a spinning Ferrari’.

Jolly was initially offered chassis ‘607’ by Chapman but it was allocated before Derek responded so he acquired ‘608’ instead, the car raced by Chamberlain and Lovely. It was repaired after Le Mans and raced by Cliff Allison on 19 July at the British GP meeting at Silverstone in a sportscar support event.

Lotus records show the car was then prepared for sale to Jolly equipped with tonneau cover, long-range tanks and fitted with 1475 cc CC FPF #1054. It was popped on the SS Orsova and arrived in Australia in August 1958.

Derek’s choice of the 1.5 litre FPF rather than a larger one may have been a function of availability or choice. It may be he saw it as a stepping-stone from the 1100 single-cam Climax FWA used in his Decca Special’s, perhaps he also thought it a gentler companion for the Lotus-12-type gearbox fitted to the car.

Jolly in 15 ‘608’ upon its Australian debut at Forrests Elbow, Bathurst, Australian Tourist Trophy in October 1958. 2nd behind the McKay ex-works Aston DB3S (unattributed)

The cars first event in Australia was at Bathurst, the October 1958 Australian Tourist Trophy, which was contested by a field of great depth.

The ATT was the support event to one of the most thrilling Australian Grands Prix of all- the spectacle of Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Ted Gray battling away in Ferrari 500/625, Maserati 250F and Tornado Chev V8 on this toughest of road circuits is one held in reverential terms by those who attended the meeting.

David McKay won the race in his ex-works Aston Martin DB3S from Jolly’s little Lotus off grid 3, and Ron Phillips Cooper Jaguar. A gust of wind took one of the favourites, Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S out of the race and into the barriers on Conrod Straight.

The following day Jolly scored his first win, walking away with the sportscar 10 lap support race to the Australian Grand Prix, from the D Type Jag of Bill Pitt and Frank Matich’s Leaton Motors C Type- the speed of the Lotus, which was timed over at 137.4mph on Conrod Straight was not lost on Frank who would get his hands on his own Lotus 15 in time!

Jolly raced the car closer to home, at Port Wakefield a week later on 13 October finishing third in the F Libre Wakefield Trophy behind a pair of Cooper Bristol single-seaters.

The little car was then towed to Melbourne a week later for the Victorian Sportscar Championship meeting at Fishermans Bend.

In a very successful weekend Jolly won the race- like Bathurst, a power circuit, from Bob Jane, making his race debut in his ex-works Maserati 300S, Derek’s task was made easier by Phillips DNF in the Cooper Jag with a broken oil line.

Jolly at Fishermans Bend prior to winning the Victorian Sportscar Championship in 1958, Lotus 15 ‘608’. Lotus 11 behind, various Austin Healey 100S and Coad built and driven yellow Vauxhall Spl to right (K Drage)

The Lotus then returned to Adelaide to be prepared for a fortnight of racing at Albert Park on the 23 and 30 November weekends.

In the 100 mile Victorian Tourist Trophy Derek was an excellent 3rd behind Whiteford’s 300S and Ron Phillips Cooper Jag. Phillips and Derek had many dices when they were racing the Decca and Austin Healey 100s, Phillips, like Derek had stepped up to a bigger car, in his case a Cooper Jag. On the following day in a support event Derek was split between Doug Whiteford’s winning Maser and Bill Pitt’s Jaguar XKD.

The feature event the following weekend was the Formula Libre Melbourne Grand Prix won by Stirling Moss’ Rob Walker owned Cooper T43 Climax.

Derek’s heat went well enough, he finished 5th or 6th. But things went terribly awry whilst running in 7th place during the main race.

Kevin Drage ‘The front anchorage point of a rear radius arm failed…and the Lotus rear steered into a tree. Derek was taken to hospital for facial surgery where the Perspex screen impacted on his visor and fractured his cheekbone. I think he also fractured an ankle’.

John Blanden’s account of the accident is that ‘halfway around on the last lap Derek crashed badly. He later put the accident down as three-quarters due to exhaust fumes and tiredness and the balance perhaps contributed by the left hand radius rod pulling away from its mounting. No amount of research revealed whether the radius rod pulled out and dug into the roadway or whether, while on that side of the road to take a left-hand bend, the offside front wheel mounted the kerb as he ‘blacked out’- as the car had done this two laps earlier, it is the more likely explanation. All Derek could remember was a sudden jolt (probably the wheels mounting on the kerb) and the tree looming up in front which was hit a split second later’.

In essence, was the broken radius rod anchorage the cause or effect of the accident? The answer is that nobody can be certain.

Kevin Drage ‘The Lotus was extensively damaged. Derek took photos of the failed anchorage point and asked Colin Chapman to rebuild the car free of charge. Chapman agreed on the condition he could run the 15 as a factory entry at Le Mans in 1959. Derek in turn agreed on the condition he co-drive at Le Mans and retain the 2.5 litre FPF engine to be fitted’.

Whilst there is no doubt that bits were transferred from the original chassis to the rebuilt car, what was contentious was whether or not the original chassis was repaired or replaced.

Drage picks up this point ‘I was Derek’s race mechanic/pitcrew during most of the time he had the 15 and was always under the impression that the car that returned to Australia was ‘rebuilt’ not a new one. Of course the car was extensively damaged at Albert Park and it may well have been a new chassis and panels’.

John Blanden provides the answer to this repaired old/new chassis point it seems.

When ‘608’ was returned to Cheshunt, it was stripped by works parts chief Jay Hall who assessed the frame as not being economically repairable. The chassis was scrapped (taken to the tip), the 1475cc CC FPF engine fitted to another chassis and what undamaged bits were left built into a new chassis, frame number ‘626’.

Blanden cites photographic evidence of this chassis (626) plate at Le Mans but before being shipped to Australia- the car went back to the factory, a new ‘608’ chassis plate was affixed complete with the correct 2 litre Coventry Climax engine number- ‘1160’.

The Lotus invoice to Derek characterised the work done as chassis repairs and replacements to remove the obligation for Derek to pay Australian import duty on what was a new chassis rather than a repaired one. This kind of jiggery pokery is what still goes on of course, why wouldn’t the ‘fiscal fiend’ be avoided if at all possible- but it does create havoc for historians decades hence.

Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’…

In terms of the new cars identification, lets call it ‘608/626’ as John Blanden i think correctly does.

Series Three features were used wherever possible in the build of the car. Externally, the most easily recognised is the later style of bonnet, which extended right to the dashboard and carried the centre section of the carefully-curved perspex screen – whereas Series Ones and Twos had a shorter bonnet and a separate scuttle panel, very much in the style of Lotus Elevens.

Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ at Le Mans during scrutineering in 1959. Car driven by Graham Hill and Derek Jolly. The largely new car was fitted with chassis plate ‘626’ at Le Mans but replaced by a new ‘608’ plate before shipment back to Australia (John Hendy)

Team Lotus had earlier in the year announced its intention to contest Le Mans with a pair of customer-owned 2.5-litre 15’s, in the end the factory entry was none other than ‘608/626’, with Jolly’s co-driver, soon to be rising F1 star, Graham Hill.

The car arrived at La Sarthe initially fitted with a 2 litre FPF, ‘this was replaced with a Lotus-owned 2.5 after the first practice session and the untested gearbox showed itself keen to unscrew the nut on the end of the pinion shaft because this shaft now rotated in the opposite direction to previous gearboxes. Nonetheless, despite these indications of preparation haste, the car survived practice and in fact ran for more than 10 hours of the race’.

‘Graham Hill at one stage had the car as high as 7th outright – before its habit of jumping out of gear caught Jolly out at 120 mph, changing up to fifth on the very fast run to Arnage. In traditional Climax fashion, number four rod hacked the block almost in half, and demolished the starter-motor for good measure’.

Having again failed at Le Mans, the car was returned to the factory, now moved from the cramped Hornsey site to a large factory in Cheshunt, to be readied to go to Australia.

Drage recalls that a 2.5 litre crank could not be obtained in time for the post Le Mans rebuild so the car returned to Australia with a 2 litre crank inside a 2.5 litre block and therefore raced at a capacity of 1960cc.

In rebuilt form the car also had a very different style of engine bulge – wider based, more gently curved, and open at both ends. There may have been aerodynamic reasons for this.

‘Additionally, the original five-speed gearbox – in which the gears were carried just ahead of the differential – had been replaced by a new design, with the gears astern of the crown-wheel and pinion, but on the same fore-and-aft centreline. This meant gears could be swapped far more easily, and it was announced this box would be an option for sports cars. In fact, it seems likely that only the one box was ever built, although the same principles were used – in a slightly different casing – for Grand Prix Lotus 18s, and the closely-related Lotus 19 sports car’, Unique Cars reports.

Derek looking pretty happy with the car ‘608/626’ in the Gnoo Blas paddock February 1960. Is that Jack Myers he is speaking to? Jolly’s tow car XK140 behind, car with bonnet up is Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S. You can see the slight canting of the FPF engine, cars spaceframe chassis and cross bracing in the engine bay referred to in the text (Kelsey)

Returned to Australia aboard the SS Athenic in August 1959 and then Adelaide, the Lotus was not raced for a while given mounting business pressures.

Entered at Gnoo Blas, Orange in New South Wales in the Australian Touring Car Championship meeting on the 1 February 1960, Derek took a first up win in the ‘South Pacific Sportscar Championship.’

The photo which starts this article is of Kevin doing a roadside wheel change between Adelaide and Orange- a distance of 1150 Km, the new cars first Australian meeting was a long way from home base!

No doubt Derek had tested the car around the Port Wakefield circuit or the Adelaide Hills to ensure everything was hunky-dory before the long tow north. What a mouth watering thought that is, there are some marvellous roads in the hills close to Adelaide. Some of these very roads were explored by Fangio, Moss and other stars on the ‘Climb To The Eagle on The Hill’ which was an annual part of the Adelaide GP carnival. Fangio blasting a 300SLR past at speed up the hill is a straight-eight image and sound I will never forget!

Kevin Drage attending to the 15’s mirror, ‘608/626’ in the Gnoo Blas paddock, February 1960, note the twin-choke SU carbs on the 1960cc Coventry Climax FPF, silver car #29 is Brookes Austin Spl (Kelsey)

The win at Gnoo Blas was a good one defeating David Finch in a Jag D Type, Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S and others.

The car was giving away plenty of capacity but the its power to weight ratio, aerodynamic properties and ability to put its power to the ground ensured its competitiveness. As a driver Drage said that Jolly ‘On his good days was a pretty good driver on other occasions he could be just average. When Derek got the bit between his teeth and had a bit of a challenge he usually rose to the occasion’.

‘I can remember towing the Lotus 15 all the way from Adelaide to Sydney to the opening very wet meeting at Warwick Farm.(1960) Derek putting it into the fence after 1.5 laps of practice and then having to turn around and drive all the way back to Adelaide. Derek flew. The only good part was that the tow car was an XK140 Jaguar’. Of that car KD recalls ‘the XK140C with C Type specs…as certainly quick. I recall one trip with Derek (without trailer) from the outskirts of Melbourne to the outskirts of Adelaide in a bit under 5.5 hours’. Quick to say the least!

At speed at Longford en-route to Australian Tourist Trophy victory in March 1960 Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ (J Ellacott)

Success at Gnoo Blas was a portent of even better to come at the Longford International meeting in March 1960.

On the same 5 March weekend that Jack Brabham won the Longford Trophy in his Cooper T51 Climax Jolly triumphed in the 24 lap Australian Tourist Trophy from Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S.

Three time Australian Grand Prix winner Whiteford was somewhat impacted by a slipping clutch, but it was a great win with Frank Matich in the Leaton Motors D Type 3rd. In a thrilling weekend for the Adelaide driver Victorian John Ampt was 4th in the race in Decca Mk2.

Kevin Drage recalls that weekend with pleasure ‘When we went to Longford for the Australian TT in 1960 Derek wasn’t keen to pay for the tow car and trailer on the ferry (from Port Melbourne to Launceston- an overnight trip). Fortunately he had somehow managed to have the Lotus 15 road registered so I left the Jaguar and trailer in Melbourne and had the ‘onerous task’ of driving the Lotus from Devonport to Longford and back again. Perhaps this may have been the last time a TT winning car was driven to and from the meeting?’ Kevin mused.

image

Derek being congratulated after his 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy win at Longford (Walkem)

His recollections of the ‘Queerbox’ are also of arcane interest. ‘An interesting fact about the Lotus Queerbox is that the gear change lever on Jolly’s original 1475cc 15 always returned to a central position and as a consequence you were never quite sure what gear was engaged. When the 1960cc version returned after the Le Mans rebuild the gear change lever was a migratory type and the gear positions were marked on the tunnel and you at least knew what gear had been selected’.

The Penfolds family at the time were going through the process of listing the family company on the Australian Stock Exchange which was no doubt for the ‘usual’ reasons. As families grow larger there are many who don’t want to be involved, a public listings makes their interest more liquid and also gives access to greater amounts of capital to expand- Penfolds at the time had increased in size enormously from its original Magill base mind you.

As a consequence Derek was under pressure to devote more time to the business, one last success was achieved by the 15 when Derek won the 1962 Caversham 6 Hour co-driven by John Roxburgh. The pair won by 10 laps despite being hampered by a jamming throttle and a leaking gearbox.

The car was then offered for sale, the process took a while with Frank Coad giving it an occasional run in Victoria to remind people of the cars existence.

By 1962 the Lotus 15 was old hat of course with mid-engined Lotus 19, Cooper Monaco and the like much more competitive cars, but eventually in 1964 it passed into the hands of somebody else who made it sing.

Bevan Gibson, Lotus 15 ‘608/626’, Spencer Martin Elfin 400 Repco and Alan Hamilton Porsche 906 Spyder at Hume Weir, Albury/Wodonga, Queens Birthday weekend 1967. Shot is somewhat poignant as Bevan is to die in the Elfin at Bathurst 2 years hence. Drives in the 15 earned him the Bob Jane cars drive (Bryan Liersch)

The Gibson family are well known Benalla, Victoria racing identities, all of ‘Hoot’ Gibson’s sons raced- Bevan, Paul, Grant and Carl, in sportscars.

At the time Bevan was making a name for himself initially in karts, then in a Triumph Spitfire and was ready for the next step, into the 15 so Hoot bought the car. Bevan had just two races in it before end-for-ending it five times at Warwick Farm during the 1965 Tasman meeting in a highly spectacular crash which left him unhurt on the grass as his car somersaulted onwards.

Two months later the car reappeared at The Farm, Bevan won the race from the back of the grid. It was the start of a period in which the Gibson team campaigned the car at virtually every available Victorian and NSW meeting until the end of 1968.

The engines capacity was raised to 2.3 litres which put small-capacity lap records out of consideration, while the over 2 litre class was the territory of the big V8 cars, so that outright and class wins were relatively few, although the car held the Phillip Island sports lap record for many years. What made an impression was Bevan’s natural speed and commitment despite the 15’s inherent shortcomings against much younger cars.

The bodywork was progressively hacked about to repair minor damage and to accommodate wider rims and tyres, and the gearbox needed lots of caring fettling.

The Gibson family owned Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ in the Winton paddock circa 1970, Paul starting out not long after Bevan’s death. Journalist Ray Bell wrote about the family maintenance of the ‘Queerbox’-‘they sometimes wore out their crownwheels, these were too expensive for cinema operator Hoot to replace thru Lotus spares (ZF made them exclusively for Lotus) and so Vauxhall crownwheels were lapped in running with grinding paste on the lathe overnight to suit. The gearchange was always dicky with this car, but when Grant Gibson took it to England he was able to set it up properly with a hacked-up unit alongside and found some spacers in the wrong place’ (G Clarke)

But by early 1969 the old beast had served its purpose, Bevan was recruited by Bob Jane as one of his drivers doing some laps in the Brabham BT11A vacated by Spencer Martin and becoming the primary driver of Bob’s Elfin 400 Repco sportscar.

This car was a very serious weapon powered by a 4.4 litre ‘RB620’ V8, unfortunately Bevan died in it at Bathurst in 1969 whilst pursuing Frank Matich’s much quicker Matich SR4 Repco, that day slowed by a fuel injection problem. The Elfin took to the air on one of Bathurst’s Conrod Straight humps. This story is well told in my article on the Elfin 400. Click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/?s=elfin+400

Ugly as a hatful of arseholes, awful innit?! Bevan Gibson at Hume Weir in the 15 in 1969, with modified nose. The old beast ‘608/626’ had done a few tough race miles by then (oldracephotos.com.au)

The Lotus 15 remained in the Gibson family for decades raced by various of the boys before being restored by Grant Gibson, partially during the period he worked as Nigel Mansell’s engineer whilst at Williams.

The car looked fantastic when completed but sadly left Australia a few years ago, its still alive and well…

What Happened to Derek?…

After the Penfolds float Derek moved away from the racing scene, the Geoghegan family in Sydney took over the Lotus franchise after Jolly relinquished it.

But he was a big mover and shaker in swingin-sixties Adelaide.

He built Gamba Studios in ‘Deccas’ Place’ at what is now 97 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide, its a wonderful part of town i lived in Sussex Street for 3 1/2 years not so long ago.

But back then it was moribund, Derek’s development included a restaurant and state of the art recording studio with the highest quality recording equipment available. He encouraged an open door policy inviting musicians and performers to use the studio to experiment. To enhance that he imported the first Moog synthesiser in Australia, in fact its said to be the first used outside the US.

Derek at right in the Gamba Recording Studio, Deccas Place circa 1971 (ABC)

Many Adelaide folk of a certain age remember the ‘Futuro’ house, a flying saucer like round pre-fabricated building in Melbourne street in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was originally designed as a ski-house by Matti Suuronen, a Finn. It was seen as a home of the future by Derek, eventually less than 50 were built. Derek’s was relocated to a country site some years ago.

Derek planned Decca’s Place as a cultural centre with his initial drive and enthusiasm being credited as responsible for the mix of shops, restaurants, apartments and boutiques in the area today.

image

Deccas Place and Futuro house in the 1960’s, at what is now 97 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide (ABC)

Unfortunately Derek lost much of his fortune in the 1987 stockmarket crash although he continued to be a force in the arts. He and his wife Helen moved back to the Barossa Valley in 1996 opening a multi-media gallery, they were instrumental in establishing the annual Barossa Music Festival which is still held today.

Jolly still popped up to the occasional car event, a close friend who owns a Lotus Elite Super 95 once Derek’s recalls him as guest of honour one year at the Lotus Club Of Australia annual Easter get together.

Derek died in 2002, aged 74 as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident 12 months before- his stationary car was slammed into by an out of control driver at about 90kmh. It was a sad end to a man of many parts, he was also battling cancer at the time.

Jolly was a man of considerable achievement, he used his inherited wealth to achieve much in motor racing, business and the arts.

Its tempting to speculate what he may have achieved had he raced on rather than retired in his early thirties but the scene was becoming more professional- his own racing of the Fifteens is an example of that. In that sense his career bridges post-War amateurism with late fifties-early sixties professionalism.

Lets remember one of the largely forgotten men of Australian motor racing…

image

Jolly in his Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ at Warwick Farm during the summer 1961 International meeting. He was second to Frank Matich’s Leaton Motors Lotus 15 2.5 FPF during this meeting, giving away some power to the quick FM driven car- the fastest sportscar in Australia at the time (J Ellacott)

Bibliography…

Uniquecarsandparts.com.au, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Colin Chapman Archive and Resource, ‘The Story of Lotus 1947-1960’ Ian Smith, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ G Howard and Ors, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ magazine various issues, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, northkentlotusgroup.org, The Nostalgia Forum, Ray Bell

Special Thanks…

Kevin Drage, Ellis French and Rob Bartholomaeus- in Kevin’s case for the recollections and photos on The Nostalgia Forum which inspired this article and in Ellis’ and Rob’s case material from their collections to plug important research gaps

Photo Credits…

Kevin Drage, John Ellacott, John Hendry, ABC, Doug Foley, Tony Lofthouse, Bryan Liersch, oldracephotos.com, Geoff McGrath, Gary Clarke, Ellis French Collection, Walkem Family Collection, Eddie Steet, Ron Lambert, Kelsey Collection

Etcetera…

Austin 7 Engine..

At the time Chapman was starting out to race his Lotus 3 the UK 750 Club rules required the use of the standard two siamesed inlet ports, which could be opened up to improve performance.

Derek Jolly’s secret, probably learned from South Australian Austin 7 exponent Ron Uffindell was to de-siamese the ports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The technique Jolly used was illegal in the UK as noted. Chapman’s interpretation was to have Michael Allen create an illegal four pipe inlet manifold with two hidden sparators attached to the manifold face which slid into the opened out ports when fitted thereby effectively creating four rather than two ports. They bound up the manifolds four pipes using asbestos tape to hide the pipes and make it appear that it had just two. Unless the manifold was removed the development would be invisible.

The Lotus Mk 3 was a very successful car in 1951 with Chapman behind the wheel. Its speed was due to a combination of Chapman’s talent, the chassis and the engine.

Decca Mk2 Climax FWA..

Whilst superficially similar to the Lotus 11 the Decca is different in many respects.

The chassis is a spaceframe with two tubes either side spaced 12 inches apart vertically . The lower tube is one inch square 17 gauge, the upper one one inch round of 20 gauge. It has only one intermediate cross member at the bellhousing, most chassis bracing is left to the 24 gauge sheet aluminium undertray which is fastened to the lower side tubes and to the tail shaft tunnel, this acts as a large box section.

Jolly jumps back aboard the Decca Mk2 during the 1957 Caversham AGP support race, battery sorted but race lost. He then contested the AGP itself finishing 7th in the amazing, pretty little car (unattributed)

In front a massive box section crossmember welded up from 15 and 20 gauge sheet steel gives massive strength and torsional rigidity. To this is attached 1956 Renault front suspension more or less complete together with its rack and pinion steering gear modified to give 1 3/4 turns lock to lock. The brakes are 9 and 8 inch Alfin drums front and rear.

Decca Mk2 Climax, Collingrove Hillclimb circa 1957. Coventry Climax 1097cc FWA SOHC, 2 valve, twin SU carbed engine to ‘Stage 2’ tune giving circa 83 bhp @ 6800 rpm (K Drage)

At the rear a de Dion system is used. The diff housing is cut down Austin A70 with inboard rear brakes built to it. The driveshafts are as long as possible, their outer universal joints contained within the hub housing, these having been machined down from 6 inch solid duralumin. The de Dion tube itself is made of 3 1/2 inch chrome molybdenum tube and is located by twin trailing arms on each side and a Panhard rod for lateral location. Coil springs are used and tubular shock absorbers.

Wheels are Borrani with 4.5 inch and 5 inch X 15 inch tyres, front and rear.

The car is 11 feet 3 inches long, 5′ wide and 28″ high at its scuttle, its weight 9 1/2 hundredweight. The body itself is made of 18 and 20 gauge aluminium welded together and is arranged such that with the removal of three bolts the whole upper shell can be removed. More routine maintenance can be done with front and rear body sections which are hinged.

The 8 gallon tank gave a racing range of 200 miles and was raced in ‘touring trim’ – and road registered which would have made it a mighty fine, fun, fast road car!

Lotus 15 ‘608/626’..

Wow Factor: Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ in the Longford paddock in March 1960, Jolly’s Australian Tourist Trophy winning weekend (R Lambert)

Tailpiece: Lets end the article the way we started- Equipe Decca in Adelaide, before the long trip to Gnoo Blas, late January 1960…

(K Drage)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Fistonic)

Jim Clark takes in a few rays and a touring car race from his grandstand atop a Ford Zodiac, Levin, New Zealand Tasman, January 1965. In the distance are the Tararua Ranges, alongside the Team Lotus mechanics are fettling Jim’s Lotus 32B Climax.

The champions relaxed nature and the scene itself epitomises all that was great about the Tasman Series. We had the best drivers on the planet visit us every summer and whilst the racing was ‘take no prisoners’ the atmosphere off track was relaxed- the parties, water skiing, golf and annual cricket matches at the Amon family beachhouse are stories told many times over.

Jim Clark cruising through the Lakeside paddock during the 7 March 1965 weekend. The ‘Lakeside 99’ wasn’t a Tasman Round in 1965 but Internationals Clark, Gardner and Grant contested the event- Jim won from Gardner and Spencer Martin in the Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT11A just vacated by Graham Hill’s return to Europe (Mellor)

Few racing drivers have had a season like Jim Clark did in 1965, surely?

He started the year in Australasia and took the Tasman series with four wins in a Lotus 32B Climax FPF, won the F1 Drivers Championship in a Lotus 33 Climax with 6 wins and topped it all off with victory at Indy aboard a Lotus 38 Ford. In between times he contested the usual sprinkling of F2 events and some Touring Car races in a Lotus Cortina. Lets not forget a few longer sportscar races in the Lotus 40 Ford Group 7 car in the US. Not to mention other races as well. Amazing really.

 We were lucky enough to have the immensely likable Scot in the Southern Hemisphere at the seasons commencement though.

Colin Chapman had the Lotus Components lads build up a Tasman Special for Clark which was a mix of an F2 Lotus 32 chassis, 2.5 litre Coventry Climax 4 cylinder FPF engine and ZF gearbox. The combination was very successful taking race wins at Wigram, Teretonga, Warwick Farm and here at Levin on 16 January 1965. 

Kiwi international journalist and early member of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, Eoin Young providing direction to the Lotus mechanics looking after Clark’s Lotus 32B. Technical specs as per text but note rocker/inboard front suspension and filler for twin tanks contained in each side of the monocoque chassis pontoons.Lola Mk1 Climax in the distance? (Fistonic)

Twelve Lotus 32 chassis were built plus Clark’s Tasman one-off car which was built around chassis or tub number 32/7. Unlike the 1 litre Cosworth SCA powered F2’s which used a full-monocoque chassis the 32B used a monocoque front section with the rear section removed and replaced by a tubular steel subframe to which the 235bhp, 2495cc, 4 cylinder Coventry Climax FPF engine was mounted. Otherwise the cars suspension, inboard at the front by top rocker and lower wishbone and outboard at the rear was the same as the F2 32. The gearbox was a ZF rather than the Hewland Mk6 of the F2 car. The car chassis plate was tagged ’32-FL-8′ where ‘FL’ was Formula Libre.

This car still exists and is owned and raced by Classic Team Lotus, a shame really as its entire racing history was in Australasia.

Clark won the Tasman in it, the car was then bought by the Palmer family, Jim raced it to NZ Gold Star victory and very competitively in the ’66 Tasman before selling it to Australian Greg Cusack. The car was also raced by South Australian Mel McEwin in period, albeit it was becoming uncompetitive amongst the multi-cylinder Repco’s and the like by then.

Eventually it passed into the very best of Lotus hands- the late John Dawson-Damer acquired it and restored it, eventually doing a part exchange with CTL to allow them to have a Clark Tasman car in their collection. John received a Lotus 79 Ford DFV as part of the deal, he already had Clark’s ’66 Tasman car in his wonderful collection, the Lotus 39 Climax, so it was a good mutual exchange.

Local boy McLaren surrounded by admirers in the Levin paddock. Cooper T79, alongside is the green and yellow of Clark’s Lotus 32B (Fistonic)

Clark won the ’65 Tasman title 9 points clear of 1964 champion Bruce McLaren aboard his self constructed Cooper T79 Climax and Jack Brabham’s BT11A Climax. Given the speed of the BT11A, it was a pity Jack contested only the three Australian Tasman rounds. Frank Gardner also BT11A mounted and Phil Hill were equal fourth with Phil aboard McLarens updated ’64 Tasman car, a Cooper T70 Climax.

Graham Hill was 7th in David McKay’s Brabham BT11A Climax with other strong contenders Frank Matich Brabham BT7A Climax, Kiwi Jim Palmer similarly mounted, Bib Stillwell in a BT11A, Lex Davison in a BT4 Brabham. In addition there were a host of 1.5 litre Lotus Ford twin-cam powered cars snapping at the heels of the 2.5 FPF’s and set to pounce as the bigger cars failed.

In this article I focus on one round, the Levin event held on 14-16 January 1965.

Kiwi enthusiast Milan Fistonic took some marvellous photos at the event which are posted on Steve Holmes ‘The Roaring Season’ website, check it out if you have not, it’s a favourite of mine. They are paddock shots which ooze atmosphere- Milan focuses mainly on local boy Bruce McLaren and Clark, they are magic shots which I hope you enjoy. This account of the weekend draws heavily on the sergent.com race report. It is another ripper site I always use as my Kiwi reference source.

Start of the 1965 NZ GP at Pukekohe, winner Hill on the outside, Clark in the middle and Lex Davison on the inside- Brabham BT11A, Lotus 32B and Brabham BT4 all Coventry Climax FPF powered (unattributed)

The 1965 Tasman series commenced the week before Levin with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe. Graham Hill took a great win in David McKay’s new BT11A, straight out of the box, from the equally new Alec Mildren BT11A driven by Frank Gardner and Jim Palmer’s year old BT7A. How about that, Brabham Intercontinental cars from first to third places, with Jack not driving any of them!

Ron Tauranac’s first in a series of three very successful Coventry Climax engined cars, Tauranac tagged them as ‘IC’ for ‘Intercontinental’, was the 1962 BT4, based on that years BT3 F1 FWMV Coventry Climax 1.5 litre V8 engined car.

Jack raced the first of these in the 1962 Australian Grand Prix at Caversham, Western Australia, having a great dice with Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T62 until a back-marker took him out late in the race. This was followed by the 1964 BT7A and the 1965 BT11A.

Frank Gardner’s Mildren Brabham BT11A Climax being pushed onto the grid. The lanky chap at the back is Glenn Abbey, long time Mildren and Kevin Bartlett mechanic (Fistonic)

The BT11A’s were phenomenally successful in both Australasia and South Africa, winning lots of races and championships not least the 1966/7 Australian Gold Star Championship for Spencer Martin in the very same chassis raced by Graham Hill to victory at Pukekohe.

The cars were utterly conventional, simple and oh-so-fast spaceframe chassis cars with outboard wishbone suspension out the front and outboard multi-link at the rear- single top link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and coil springs with Armstrong shocks. Like all customer Brabhams they went like the clappers straight out of the box as the base suspension setup was done on circuit by Jack’s ‘highly tuned arse’. Many championships were won by Brabham customers not straying too far from factory suspension settings!

After the NZ GP the Tasman circus upped sticks from Pukekohe and drove the 500 km from the North of New Zealand’s North Island to its South, not too far from Wellington. Levin is now a town of about 20,000 people, then it would have been less than half that, and services the local rural and light manufacturing sectors.

Bruce, Ray Stone in blue and Wally Willmott? Cooper T79 (Fistonic)

Jim Clark quickly got dialled in to his new Lotus 32B and down to business, opening his Tasman account by winning the Levin Motor Racing Club’s 30.8-mile ‘Gold Leaf International Trophy’ at fractionally more than 76.6 mph.

The Flying Scotsman cut out the twenty-eight laps in fine style in 24 min. 5.9 sec and put in his seventh lap in 49.9 sec. In 1964 Denny Hulme (2.5 Brabham-Climax) had set records of 24 min 36.8 sec and 50.3 sec in this event. Repeating their NZGP form, Brabham-Climax conductors Frank Gardner and Jim Palmer, filled second and third spots, while next in line were the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Team 2.5 Cooper-Climaxes of Phil Hill, T70 and McLaren, T79.

Graham Hill, Lex Davison and Arnold Glass shipped their cars to Australia after the NZ Grand Prix. Wanganui driver, and later multiple Kiwi Champion, 1970 Tasman Champion and winner of many Asian Grands Prix, Graeme Lawrence had at last got hold of his Brabham BT6 which was making its first appearance at Levin. As noted above Brabham was having a Christmas break and did not join the series until the first Australian round at Sydney’s Warwick Farm in mid-February.

Levin is a tight, twisty and bumpy circuit. Newcomers Clark and Hill quickly had the 1.1-mile track sorted. Clark’s qualifying lap was a 49.4 whilst Phil Hill managed 50 sec, the same time as his team leader McLaren.

Phil Hill aboard the updated Cooper T70 Climax raced by Tim Mayer and Bruce McLaren in 1964. Compare and contrast with the ’65 model T79 below (Fistonic)

Bruce had a bitter-sweet 1964 Tasman Series. He won the championship in one of two Cooper T70’s he and his Kiwi mechanic Wally Willmott built at the Cooper Surbiton works.

These cars, raced by Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, are generally acknowledged as the first McLarens, built as they were in a corner of the Cooper factory to McLaren’s design. The second car was raced by American ‘coming man’ Tim Mayer with great speed and skill until he made a mistake on the daunting, fast, unforgiving Longford road circuit in Tasmania which took the young drivers life.

The undamaged T70 was updated during the winter to be raced by 1961 F1 World Champion Phil Hill with Bruce racing a new chassis, an evolved T70 designated T79, a spaceframe chassis was again used. The main difference between the cars were inboard front suspension on the T79 whereas the older T70 was outboard. The T79 used a nice, reliable but then new Hewland gearbox whereas the T70’s used a Colotti in one chassis and a Cooper/Citroen CS5 in the other. I wrote an article about Tim Mayer a while back, read it by following the link at the bottom of the page for details of the T70 design rather than repeat it all again here.

Hill P had a terrific Tasman which was a tonic for him as his single-seater career had stalled somewhat since his F1 title winning year. 1962 was a shocker for him with Ferrari who had failed to develop the 156,1963 in an ATS was far worse and his drives for Cooper reflected the fact that design wise, their cars were becoming outdated. If there was any doubt about Hills single-seater speed, he proved he ‘cut the mustard’ aboard a competitive year old car in the ’65 Tasman.

Bruce McLaren aboard his Cooper T79 Climax in the Levin paddock (Fistonic)

The Mayer/McLaren/Hill Cooper T70 Climax raced by all three drivers, originally carrying chassis plate ‘FL-1-64’, re-plated by McLaren prior to the ’65 Tasman to ‘FL-2-64’ passed through the hands of Bill Patterson for driver John McDonald, Don O’Sullivan and others before being acquired by Richard Berryman in 1974. The car was eventually beautifully restored by his son Adam in Melbourne, who retains and races it. The T79 was sold after the Tasman to John Love in South Africa who won many races in it before it later returned to the UK, it too still exists.

Back to Levin practice and qualifying…

Levis with the 1.5 Brabham BT6 Ford was in the groove with a brilliant 51.1 sec, his time put all the 2.5 drivers to shame. Palmer could only manage 51.7 sec in his Brabham BT7A, Grant 51.9 sec in his BT4, Abernethy did 52.2 in his Cooper T66 and Gardner was credited with 53.5 sec in Alec Mildren’s BT11A. Grant was a late arrival. His Brabham-Climax had undergone a major engine rebuild since the discovery of a cracked crankshaft on the eve of the Grand Prix. Second quickest 1.5 was Buchanan’s Brabham BT6 Ford with 52.0 sec. Qualifying times were academic in the sense that grid positions for the feature race were decided on heat results.

Jim Clark again chillin at Levin ’65 (Fistonic)

The eight-lap heat on raceday morning contained all overseas drivers and favoured locals.

‘Clark, sharing the front row with McLaren and Hill, jumped into the lead from the start and remained there to the finish. Hill, McLaren, Palmer and Grant settled into the next four spots after Gardner had dropped out with distributor trouble. The contest was enlivened a little by Palmer catching Grant napping on the seventh lap and assuming fourth place. Clark won in 6 min 49.8 sec and set a new lap record of 49.9 sec’ sergent.com reports.

Council of war- Phil Hill in the pristine white race suit with Bruce front and centre, his allegiance to Firestone clear. Who are the other dudes? (Fistonic)

Levis had things all his own way in the second heat, winning in 7 min 13.5 sec, with Andy Buchanan, also in a 1.5 Brabham BT6 Ford, next. Third and fourth were Red Dawson Cooper T53 Climax 2.5 and John Riley in a Lotus 18/21 Climax 2.5. The situation was confused by Gardner who, anxious to make sure all was well with his car, was permitted to use the heat as a test run and took the lead in the last two laps.

Before the title race there was some feverish work in the Palmer pit to replace a cracked universal joint in his Brabham BT7A Climax. In a drama filled day for the team, an hour before the race was due to start, another close inspection revealed a hairline crack in a half-shaft. A replacement was found and fitted minutes before the cars were gridded.

Dummy grid or form up area prior to the Levin International- Clark on pole then McLaren and Hill, the yellow of Gardner on row 2 (Fistonic)

Clark, Lotus 32B had pole position in the main event with Hill, Cooper T70 and McLaren, Cooper T79 outside him.

In rows of three, the rest of the field comprised Palmer, Brabham BT7A, Grant, Brabham BT4, Gardner, Brabham BT11A; Levis, Brabham BT6 Ford 1.5, Buchanan, Brabham BT6 Ford 1.5, Abernethy  Cooper T66; Dawson, Cooper T53, Thomasen, Brabham BT4, Brabham BT4 Riley; Flowers, Lola Mk4A, Smith, Lotus 22 Ford 1.5 Lawrence, Brabham BT6 Ford 1.5; and at the back Hollier, Lotus 20B Ford 1.5. As the cars were forming on the grid, Abernethy could not select a gear and he had to abort the start’.

‘Clark made a good start with Grant, Hill and McLaren right with him. To the elation of the partisan crowd, Grant proceeded to take McLaren and Hill on braking into the hairpin. When they came round the first time the leaders were Clark, Grant, Phil Hill, McLaren, Palmer, Gardner and Levis

A 51.6 sec second lap gave Clark a 3 sec lead over Grant. In his fourth lap Palmer took McLaren and in another two laps had moved to third place ahead of Hill. Clark held on to his lead over Grant. There was then a gap of 3 sec to Palmer, with Hill and Gardner next in line. McLaren, probably to his embarrassment, had the 1.5 drivers Levis and Buchanan looming large in his mirrors.

Clark on the way to Levin International victory 1965, Lotus 32B Climax (sergent.com)

The pattern changed dramatically during the tenth lap. Grant tried to correct a slide at Cabbage-Tree Bend, dropped a rear wheel into the rough and spun off the course to lose all chance in such a short race. Palmer took second spot, but not for long. Gardner in the next three laps bridged the gap to take over second place just 5 sec behind Clark. Next in line were Hill, McLaren and Levis. Flowers was out with transmission failure in the troublesome Lola on lap 14.

Those opening laps had been fast and furious. In their sixth lap Grant and Gardner had returned 50.6 sec in the midst of heavy traffic. A lap later Clark equaled his morning record of 49.9 sec.

As the race reached the last stages, Clark continued to circulate in a steady 51 sec. Gardner in two laps reduced Clark’s advantage from 11 sec to 9 sec while Palmer closed up to be 2 sec behind the Australian, but Clark was given the ‘hurry’ signal and moved out again with effortless ease to come home 11.3 sec ahead of Gardner with Palmer 4.7 sec further back. Thomasen retired with only a handful of laps remaining.’

BP all the way, Bruce and Ray Stone in blue fuelling up the T79. Front on shot shows the top rocker/inboard front suspension of the car (Fistonic)

Bibliography…

sergent.com, oldracingcars.com

Cooper T70/Tim Mayer Article Link…

https://primotipo.com/?s=tim+mayer

Photo Credits…

Milan Fistonic, Peter Mellor, The Roaring Season

Tailpiece: Winners are grinners, the first of many such occasions for Jim Clark in 1965 at Levin…

(Fistonic)

Finito…

 

 

(Adelaide Observer)

A couple of years ago I wrote a long piece about the first car race in Australia, the article asserts that momentous event took place at Sandown Park, Melbourne on 12 March 1904. I’m in a constant search to find an earlier race

Whilst not a car race but a ‘demonstration or parade’, what seems to be the first event of this type in Australia was held at Adelaide Oval on Saturday 11 October 1902. More interesting is that the first claimed motor-cycle race in Australia took place on the same day.

The Adelaide meeting was promoted by the ‘League of Wheelmen’ a cycling organisation at no less a temple of sport than the wonderful, picturesque Adelaide Oval, not at all a venue I would have considered as one at which ‘motor racing’ took place.

Located in North Adelaide, Adelaide Oval is the best sporting venue in Australia. That my friends is a huge statement for a Melburnian member of the Melbourne Cricket Club, our ground is the Melbourne Cricket Ground. We Melburnians reckon the MCG is the best bit of sporting dirt on the planet, but good ole Adelaide Oval is better. It doesn’t win in terms of seating capacity, but the location, surroundings, vibe, the hill and scoreboard, the vista of trees towards St Peters Cathedral cannot be matched. And having seen a few stadiums around the world its ‘up there’ with the best globally in character and comfort if not capacity.

That Saturday the League of Wheelmen hosted a day of racing- cycling, motor car demonstrations and the new ‘sport of kings and millionaires’ as the Adelaide Advertiser put it- motor racing. The motor-cycle racing 5 mile event event was ‘the first motor race in Australia’ the paper reported.

The hallowed turf primarily used for cricket and football (Australian Rules) then incorporated a steeply banked track at its outer perimeter which was ideal for cycle racing and ‘admirably adapted for contests between motor cycles and for the establishment of records’ if not so great for motor car racing.

The days program was dominated by cycling events with many interstate competitors taking part. In addition there were 13 contestants of the motor-cycle races in the afternoon with ‘the final’- my god, a championship! to be held the following week, on 18 October.

An interesting part of the program ‘to indicate the growth of the (motor) industry’ was a parade of cars, motor-cycles, quadri-cycles, cycles and velocipedes, the organisers showing a keen sense of history of transport with a focus on the previous thirty or forty years.

The Adelaide Observer reported that the display created a favourable impression. ‘The big cars whirred around the track with surprising velocity, and so easy were they to control and so graceful in their evolutions that their popularity is assured’. It seems fair to say that the success of the demonstration of cars on that October day, and the following weekend provided some type of impetus for the first car race in Australia at Sandown and the first car race in South Australia, at Morphettville two years later.

Parade of motor cars at Adelaide Oval on 11 October 1902 (Observer)

Context is Everything in History?…

We forget sometimes just how far we have come.

The Adelaide Observer of 18 October 1902, in an article entitled ‘How The World Moves’ comments upon how the dreams of Jules Verne were coming true. At the time the voyage to America from the UK had been cut to 124 hours, ‘with only 70 hours at sea’. ‘In rather less than 400 years the record of Magellan in circumnavigation of the globe has been cut from three years to between 50 and sixty days’.

The article addresses ‘The Age of the Engineer’ and notes that the cheaply constructed great Siberian railway being eventually destined to be recognised as one of the great wonders of the railway world, with ‘the Era of the Canals’ taking 1000 miles out of  global journeys. ‘Many ancient landmarks are threatened and many time honoured routes promise to become ways of the past, interesting as the grass grown coach roads of England, but no more frequented by the conveyances one so familiar.’

In addition to the above more macro view of progress, this extract from the Adelaide ‘Chronicle’ of the same day very concisely places the development of the bicycle, motorcycle and motor car in the context of the up till then omnipotent form of personal transport, the horse…

‘The opening day of the League of Wheelman’s October race meeting marked an interesting epoch in the history of cycling. One of the events on the programme was a motor cycle race- the first held in the Southern Hemisphere, and it was to be the introduction of this novelty and an exhibition of motor cars that the large attendance was due’.

The cycling world is one of rapid evolution. Forty years ago velocipedes equal to a speed of six or seven miles an hour were a favourite means of locomotion. They gradually developed into the ordinary high machine, with which it was possible on a good track to ride a mile in three minutes. It is only a little more than a decade since the ‘safety’ chain-driven machine, with pneumatic tyres, made its appearance in the streets of Adelaide, and the ‘ordinary’ disappeared before its more stylish and faster rival.’

‘From the early nineties the safety revolutionised cycle racing, and record succeeded record at a bewildering rate, until it became common for a cyclist behind pace to eclipse the times of the best racehorses the world has ever produced’.

‘The popularity of the sport developed…the League of Wheelmen…at one time promised to become a very wealthy body…but two or three years later the absence of crack riders from the other side of the world and the lack of variety in the sport, coupled with unfavourable weather conditions, resulted in unprofitable meetings’.

‘Now the motor has come to play its part in the sport, and its advent was enthusiastically welcomed on Saturday…the gate receipts…and next Saturdays takings…will all be profit.’

Mix of old and new cycles, Adelaide Oval 11 October 1902 (Observer)

‘The story of the evolution of the motor car was admirably told on Saturday in the exhibition of ancients and modern methods of locomotion…the early form of the bicycle was illustrated by old wooden velocipedes…40 years old…ridden in the old fashioned costume of top hats and black suits with flying coat-tails…Alongside of these were motorcycles ridden by Messrs TP O’Grady, A Allison, W Baulderstone, W Courtney, R Davis, HM Aunger, RW Lewis, FR Burden, EA Gowan, D Bruce and EF Wilksch were shown.’

‘Most interest was shown in the motor cars, of which four were shown. Mr Gordon Ayres brought his car, a very handsome one…but it could not be taken onto the track…with an old set of tyres one of which blew out. Mr H Thomson’s ‘Swift’, which he has just imported attracted considerable notice. The other two cars which raced around the oval were both locally manufactured. One was shown by Mr V Lewis, and driven by Mr H Bernard, and the other was exhibited and driven by Mr J Bullock. In addition to these Messrs J Bullock, H Bernard and the representative of the Massey- Harris Company had motor quadricycles on the track. With all these machines careering round the oval at their best pace the spectacle was in the highest degree interesting. The exhibition was the success of the day, and when the officials of the league saw the impression it made on the spectators they at once resolved to repeat it next Saturday. Mr Ayers car will then be shown in action with all the others.’

TP O’Grady with his ‘works’ Lewis motor-cycle- winner of the first motorbike race in Australia 11 October 1902 (Observer)

‘The other novelty of the meeting was the motor cycle race of 5 miles’. Originally their were 13 entries with the race divided into two heats, with two machines withdrawing from the first heat.

‘TP O’Grady was off scratch, W Courtney 30 seconds, A Allison 50 and W Baulderstone 1 min 5 sec. Baulderstone was away well and had almost completed a lap when O’ Grady was pushed off. Courtney retired early with a mechanical problem. O’ Grady’s machine took a while to get going, but when it did it was soon seen to be the fastest machine on the track. It lapped the others three times in the 15 laps and covered some of the circuits in 32 and 33 seconds. Its fastest pace was at the rate of 1 min 32 sec for the mile, or 30 miles per hour. O’ Grady an old time racing man, who constructed the motor himself at Mr V Lewis cycle works, was loudly cheered as he finished his five miles journey in 9 min 10 secs. Just after he crossed the line the belt of his motor broke. There was an interesting run for second place between Allison and Baulderstone. The latters machine lost the pace with which it started, and Allison was able to keep ahead’.

A story about Vivian Lewis and his nascent cycle, motor-cycle and car company is a story in itself, O’Grady was Works Manager, Works Rider/Driver! and a shareholder in Vivian Lewis Ltd.

The Adelaide Observer had this to say about O’Grady’s performance. Thomas Patrick ‘Tom’ O’Grady ‘carried off the honours’ covering the 5 miles in a time of 9 minutes 10 seconds ‘at times he travelled at the rate of 39 miles an hour’. Some of the laps of 612 yards were covered in 33.25 seconds with one mile timed at 1min 33 seconds. It was the first occasion on which the machine had been tested, it was not completed until the Saturday morning, the average of 1min 50 seconds per mile ‘must be considered gratifying, particularly as a strong wind had to be contended with’.

There were six starters in the second heat which was run at a lower pace with interest being lost when R Davis’ belt broke with 3 laps to go when he was overhauling the leaders. J Bullock won from FH Burden, RW Lewis, EF Wilksch and Davis. ‘The final between the first three in each heat will be run next Saturday’.

In a full program of bicycle racing many of the motorised racers jumped onto their normal racing cycles.

The Chronicle concluded its report by commenting favourably on the performance of ‘The Locomotive Band’, which gave a fine rendition of the march ‘Colonels Parade’, that there were no accidents during the day which ‘was well managed in every respect’.

In keeping with the mood of the week a novel race on the road was also advised, this comprised, ‘…a contest between B Thompson’s 4.5 hp car and the Broken Hill Express train ‘in a scamper to the Burra, the chauffeur and the engine driver to shake hands at the Adelaide Railway Station before starting’! Logistically this would have been easy as Adelaide Station is only several hundred metres from Adelaide Oval.

So. What do we take from all of the wonderful prose about the days activities on 11 October?…

Firstly, the claim that the first motor-cycle race in the Southern Hemisphere was run at Adelaide Oval on 11 October 1902 and won by TP O’Grady on a local Lewis machine.

It seems clear the first motor-cycle racers were graduates of bicycle racing.It makes sense doesn’t it in terms of the balance, competitiveness and the need for more speed required!

It also seems the case that the ‘League of Wheelmen’ saw motor cycle racing- and especially car competition which appears from the report to be the most popular event or motorised display on that October day, keys to future commercial success. To turn around their flagging gates.

Of course the bike and car racers would soon go their own separate ways probably when a greater number of venues became available to them both on public roads and specialist, speedway, closed circuits. But for the moment the would be motorised racers needed venues and the cyclists had them, and ‘in good nick’ too.

(Observer)

The 18 October meeting was run in splendid Adelaide spring weather with much expected from the motorised events but mechanical mayhem somewhat ruined the motor-cycle racing program…

The organisers changed the spectator amenities during the week by allowing better viewing of the cars, perhaps by allowing the punters to get closer to the action. His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor conferred his patronage to the carnival. ‘Visiting officers of the Australian Squadron have accepted the Leagues invitation to be present’ the Evening Journal notes in an article published on the day of the race. Its interesting in these modern times to see what was regarded as relevant then but now is very much ‘who gives a rats’ stuff. Similarly the language of the day is wonderful in its eloquence, the prose of times gone by I enjoy I must admit. Long-winded sometimes but enjoyable nonetheless!

O’Grady’s ‘brilliant run’ of the week before stamped him as a certainty for the final, with many returning spectators expecting him to lap the field twice aboard his Lewis over the five mile duration of the final.

The contemporary newspapers reported upon the riders but not the machines, sadly. So, in the main, we don’t have details of the bikes ridden on that important occasion. The final was a race between five competitors with TP O’Grady off scratch, A Allison 50 seconds, VR Burden and W Baulderstone off 1 minute 5 seconds and the limit-man J Bullock on 1 minute 20 seconds.

A warm up for the bikes was provided during the cycle and motor parade which was also a feature of that days events. The competitors for the race had a trouble free run during this morning event.

During the later stages of the afternoon, just before the feature cycling event ‘The Australasian Ten Miles’, won by Victorian DJ ‘Don’ Walker, the ‘Motor Race’ commenced.

Bullock, Baulderstone, Burden and Allison completed a lap before O’Grady was pushed off from the start. There was general disappointment as the locally built Lewis bike was pulled onto the grass by its driver, the engine not firing properly. With 7 laps to go Burden passed the stationary O’ Grady, his ‘machine going splendidly’.

2 laps later Burden lapped Allison and with 4 to go caught Baulderstone again, with whom he had started. With 2 laps to run Burden passed Allison and finished an easy winner in 9 minutes 15 seconds. His time was 5 seconds slower than O’Grady’s over the same distance the week before. Bullock was 2nd in 9 mins 34 seconds and Baulderstone 3rd in 10 min 23 secs. Prize money for the race was ten, three and two pounds from first to third places.

The distance between Adelaide Oval and the fringe of Victoria Park, site of the first Formula One Australian Grand Prix in 1985 is small, 1.5 Km, but the performance difference between the cars displayed and Keke Rosberg’s victorious 900bhp Williams FW10 Honda is immense. In their wildest dreams, a spectator present on that glorious October 1902 day who also attended the AGP on a similarly wonderful, hot day in November 1985 could not have conceived of cars of such vastly different performance and sophistication within their own lifetime?

The Adelaide built Lewis car number 1, the first car built in South Australia on display/parade at Adelaide Oval on 11 October 1902, driver H Bernard. In 1902 form the car was powered by a water cooled 5HP, petrol, single-cylinder engine with ‘electric ignition’. The transmission had belt drive to a countershaft behind the rear axle from where spur gears drove the wheels. The Adelaide Oval event was one of the last public appearances of the first Lewis- motor car design was progressing rapidly and the 2 year old car was becoming dated. Lewis did build a few more cars but the future for the company was importing rather than manufacture, within a few years the business was distributing Napier, de Dion, Talbot and Star brands (unattributed)

Photo Credits…

 State Library of South Australia, Adelaide Advertiser, Adelaide Observer

 Bibliography…

Adelaide Advertiser 11, 17, 20 October 1902, The Daily Telegraph Sydney 13 October 1902, Adelaide Observer 18, 25 October 1902, The Adelaide Register 20 October 1902, earlymotor.com

Tailpiece: Be There on 18 October 1902…

 

 

 

 

 

John Surtees struggles to restart his stalled Lola T70 Mk3 Aston Martin at the commencement of the Nurburgring 1000 Km, 28 May 1967…

Alongside him , slightly obscured, poleman Phil Hill in the sensational Chaparral 2F Chev is also slow away, meanwhile a gaggle of Porsche 910’s sprint away, likely culprits the works cars of Rolf Stommelen, Gerhard Mitter and Jo Siffert.

A happy confluence of events was the construction of Aston Martin’s new V8 engine and racer/entrant Jackie Epstein’s approach to Eric Broadley to build a coupe variant of the 1966 Can Am Championship winning Lola T70 Spyder Group 7 machine. John Surtees of course won the very first Can Am series in a T70 Mk2 Chev. Eric Broadley and Surtees formed Lola Racing Ltd as a works development and racing arm, Surtees honed the T70, he outlined his philosophy in developing the car in a MotorSport interview in August 2003.

‘With a long distance car you can’t have something that rides on a knife edge like a top F1 car…You are trying to get consistency, you don’t want an unpredictable and volatile character. By the time the T70’s got some running in them they were very driveable, very predictable cars which you could drive up to the limit and perhaps a little bit over. This gave the driver confidence’.

Surtees in ‘SL73/101’ at the Nurburgring upon the Lola Astons race debut. The sensational body of the Mark 3 was designed by New Zealander Jim Clark for Specialised Mouldings to make. It was the first racing car to use carbon-fibre reinforced bodywork. Tony Southgate, then at Lola, spent many hours in the Imperial College wind tunnel to give both low drag and some downforce front and rear. The cars side windows were made of Perspex and had small diagonal flaps which could be set open to aid cockpit ventilation, as here (Schlegelmilch)

Surely one of the swoopiest, voluptuous and sexiest racers ever- the Lola T70 Mk3 Coupe ‘SL73/101’ was the first Lola Aston built and was shown to rapturous crowd approval at the annual Racing Car Show at London’s Olympia in January 1967. Tadek Marek’s new Aston Martin ‘DP218’ V8 engine also made its first public appearance at the show on the Surtees Racing stand, the announcement of the relationship between the concerns- Lola, Astons and Surtees was made at the show.

On the face of it the association had every chance of success.

The combination of one of sportscar racings best chassis, a lightweight, powerful engine which promised to provide the Lola with better balance than the Chev engined T70’s and John Surtees track testing ability and sheer speed promised much. Aston Martin chief David Brown was of the view that ‘racing improves the breed’ whilst his chief engineer Tadek Marek was not especially enamoured of the a high risk strategy. After all, his new engine was designed as a road car motor not a race engine.

Undaunted David Brown proceeded and Aston Martin Lagonda supplied special versions of Marek’s design with a capacity of 5008.5cc- bore/stroke of 98x83mm. The all aluminium, duplex chain driven quad cam, 2 valve, dry-sumped, Lucas fuel injected V8 was quoted by Astons as producing 450bhp @ 6750rpm and 413 lb/ft of torque at Le Mans 1967.

‘SL73/101’ in the Nurburgring paddock. Note the shape of the aluminium monocoque chassis, high pressure fuel pumps, note that the engine is now Lucas injected compared with the Webers used at the Le Mans test weekend. DOHC, but 2 valve and chain driven cams. The two suspension radius rods are clear as is the top of the coil spring and roll bar. Ditto the ‘luggage box’ (Schlegelmilch)

‘DP218 was first tested in a T70 Spyder in Autumn 1966. At that first development stage, using a compression ratio of 11:1 and fitted with four Weber 48IDA carburettors the engine was quoted as giving 421bhp @ 6500rpm and 386 lb/ft of torque. Testing showed there were many problems with the engine most notably the motor popped a rod through the side of its aluminium block due to oil starvation. Eventually a much developed engine, one of a batch of ten that had been delivered, with attention to the dry sump system, was installed in March 1967 into the new Coupe for Team Surtees to run. The most obvious problems in testing were a bad vibration and an inability to rev beyond 6100 rpm.

Surtees aboard ‘SL73/101’ at the Le Mans test weekend in 1967 running ahead of the Claude Dubois Shelby Mustang GT350

The big, booming car was the third fastest machine present in the dry and fastest in the wet at the Le Mans test days on April 8 and 9…

The car was fast through the corners but was unable to top 186mph as a consequence of not being able to pull more than 6000rpm on the Mulsanne. Aston’s were convinced that Lucas fuel injection, which was shortly to be installed would cure the problem. The quickest cars were the works Ferrari P4’s of Bandini, Amon, Scarfiotti and Parkes with Bandini at the end of the day the quickest. The two Fords driven by McLaren and Donohue ‘rumbled ominously but did not press the button’. Mind you the Mark 4 was timed at 205mph and Ferrari 198 on the Mulsanne.

T70 ‘SL73/101’ exposed at the Le Mans test weekend. Note the Weber 48IDA carbs and wild exhaust system- two variants were tried that weekend. Gearbox is Hewland LG600 5 speed. Surtees with helmet to right (LAT)

The MotorSport report of the test weekend wryly observes ‘…the two giants (Ford and Ferrari) kept an eye on Lola, Ford knowing that their whole racing effort was born of the brain of Eric Broadley and Ferrari knowing that Surtees can never be underrated’… ‘Although on paper Ferrari left Le Mans as top dog, no one was being fooled by the freak circumstances, for had it been dry on Sunday it might have been a different story and both teams were very impressed with the Lola Aston Martin efforts, remembering their own experiences when running a brand new design for the first time. It seems that Ford did not want to run in the rain for fear of a repetition of the accident to Hansgen last year…’

So, in short, Lola Astons peers were impressed by the car and the threat it potentially represented.

Great front end shot of ‘SL73/101’ at the Nurburgring- the aluminium monocoque chassis, upper and lower wishbone front suspension, magnesium upright and 12 inch ventilated disc brakes. The brakes were a mix of Kelsey Hayes rotors, Girling calipers with some Lola bits too. Steering rack was from the BMC Austin 1800 and wheel widths 8 inches at the front with 10 inchers at the rear. Beautiful Lola knock on mag-alloy wheels  (Schlegelmilch)

Lola Astons first race appearance was at the Nurburgring 1000 Km on May 28…

It was planned to race the car at Spa but it was not ready in time so the beautiful beast made its race debut at the daunting Nurburgring. Lucas fuel injection was amongst the latest refinements to DP218.

On the face of it the car was far from the most nimble present, nor was the Phil Hill/Mike Spence Chaparral 2F Chev on pole, but Surtees popped ‘101’ second on the grid, he shared the drive with David Hobbs. Porsche 910’s were the next quickest group of cars.

Surtees stalled the unfamiliar car at the start but was soon up to 7th place by lap seven when a rear wishbone broke going down through the Fuchsrohre. Surtees managed to stop the car without damage to either the machinery or the driver, but that was the end of the meeting- and of useful testing miles. Udo Schutz and Joe Buzzetta won the race in a 910.

Great contrasting shot of the ‘standard’ T70 rear bodywork at left and ‘more streamlined’ aluminium body at right. #12 Irwin/de Klerk ‘SL73/101 and #11 Surtees/Hobbs ‘SL73/121’. Note mandatory ‘spare’ mounted atop the ‘box. The T70 standard rear bodywork was aerodynamically groundbreaking at the time by rejecting the usual fastback and ‘Ferrari ridge spoiler for a flat rear deck with a slot down the middle to provide visibility for the pilot and largely undisturbed air for the engines injection trumpets. Porsche/John Wyer famously adopted a similar configuration in evolving the 917 from its original far from satisfactory ’69 rear body to its race-winning 1970/71 configuration (Friedman)

At Le Mans the team had both ‘101’ and a new chassis ‘SL73/121’ which was fitted with a longer tail made of aluminium, the standard cars body was in fibreglass made by Specialised Mouldings. The new car was to be driven by Surtees/Hobbs, the other by Chris Irwin and Peter de Klerk.

Both cars had problems in practice caused by overheating, with the Lola mechanics looking after chassis setup claiming the engines ignition timing to be 180 degrees out. Some sources have it that the overheating was caused by the different aerodynamics of the longer tail which enclosed the engine. In addition, against Aston’s advice, Surtees negotiated a sponsorship agreement to use Marchal spark-plugs. The stage was set for the disastrous events which followed.

Before the off, Le Mans ’67. Surtees/Hobbs car in shot with the sister car behind- well down the grid after dramas in practice. Another angle on the unique for Le Mans rear body of chassis ‘SL73/121’ (Friedman)

Poor Surtees started the classic from grid 13 and then only covered 3 laps when ‘121’ was outed by a burned piston. ‘101’, the car started by Chris Irwin was back on grid 25. The drivers struggled with the car for 2.5 hours during which time the mechanics replaced a broken camshaft driveshaft, the engine lost oil pressure, overheated and finally broke a crankshaft damper.

The race was won by the Shelby American entered Ford GT Mk4 driven by the all-American crew of Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt.

Post race the Lola Astons were were returned to Slough, the ‘DP218’ engines removed and both cars re-engined with Chevrolet pushrod V8’s, the Aston experiment was over. It was clear the short term prospects of getting the engine race worthy were slim.

When the race engines were returned to AML and stripped it was found that the blocks had twisted and cracks were found in the main bearing housing. The engine went through a major redesign to strengthen the motors bottom end which prevented the launch of the Aston Martin DBS V8 road car until 1969, initially 6 cylinder variants were sold.

Early laps with Surtees T70 ahead of one of the John Wyer Mirage M1 Fords. Lola a handsome beast (Friedman)

Surtees had this to say about the Lola Aston Martin program…

‘The Aston V8 could have achieved so much but was a total disaster. We didn’t expect to compete on out and out speed- we were hoping to a degree that weather would play a hand. If it rained a bit as it did at the Nuburgring and the Le Mans practice we were very competitive. Before Le Mans we did a long test at Goodwood, ten or twelve hours, but in the race we only lasted a few laps because Aston Martin had changed the design of the head gaskets! As soon as we got the cars back from Le Mans we took the Aston engines out and that was the end of that’.

In addition Surtees felt the T70 Mk3 chassis was inferior to his Can Am T70 Mk2 ‘I didn’t like the Mk3. The front suspension was altered and i hadn’t done any development or testing on the changes. I didn’t like the effect on the character of the car, it lacked the positiveness of the original and didn’t suit my style of driving. I didn’t mind a car being a little loose at times, but i couldn’t stand something which you couldn’t point where you wanted. Some people tried to compensate by playing with the aerodynamics, but i just stopped using the Mk3. Luckily the previous years car was still in America so we dragged that out of retirement’.

In the same MotorSport article Surtees notes the contribution of Firestone tyres to the package. He did most of the Firestone testing in the UK, with a lot of work done on springs and dampers, and working closely with Koni to keep pace with tyre development, a spin-off of the Firestone/Goodyear war of the time. ‘That brought its problems too, because as you improve the tyres you put greater stress through everything, but the car retained its user-friendly character’.

There are some contradictions in the quotes above, Surtees was a tough character, after all, despite the Lola’s shortcomings he was off the front of the grid at the Nurburgring so the chassis cannot have been too bad!

In the end the Lola Aston Martin program was one of unfulfilled promise, but David Brown was right- racing did indeed improve the breed. The rigours of competition identified design shortfalls in the original DP218 engine which were not apparent during road testing. As a consequence the modified production V8 proved to be a strong, reliable unit- and the basis of a good race engine in the decades to follow!

From Surtees perspective he had bigger fish to fry. He was juggling multiple race programs on both sides of the Atlantic with the Lola/Honda F1 exercise, Lola T100 Ford FVA F2 car and in the Can Am where Lola’s dominance was being overtaken by the ‘papaya menace’- Bruce McLaren’s M6 McLaren Chevs. John’s endurance T70 program was best advanced by bolting Chevy’s into the back of the cars in place of the Aston engines. Only a week after Le Mans Surtees ran at the front of the pack so engined at the Reims 12 Hour…before popping his Chevy engine. Unfortunately the Chevs rarely provided the reliability the T70 needed for endurance success in the blue riband events. But what a car all the same!…

Another engine shot similar to one above. Nutty, mandated spare wheel/Firestone clear. Aston all-ally engine very compact and light compared with the cast iron pushrod Chevys which usually inhabited this space. Nurburgring 1000 km’s 1967

1967 Endurance Season…

I wrote an article a while back about the Ferrari P4 which also profiled the main protagonists of sportscar racing in ’67- Ford Mk4, Ferrari P4 and Chaparral 2F Chev which may be of interest. The article also has photos of the Lola Astons at Le Mans.

https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/

See also this article on Le Mans 1967.

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/24/le-mans-1967/

Bibliography…

‘Aston Martin: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, ‘Lola, The Illustrated History 1957 to 1977’ John Starkey, MotorSport May 1967 and August 2003, Team Dan

Photo Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, Dave Friedman Archive, Autosport, MotorSport, LAT

Etcetera…

Tailpiece: The Lola Aston Martin relationship was rekindled a while later, here the Lola B08/60 Aston Martin 6 litre V12 in 2009…

 

 

 

Geoghegans were the Australian importers and distributors of Lotus cars from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies when Jim Smith’s Peter Manton Motors in Melbourne stepped up to the plate

The brothers Geoghegan are no doubt well known to most primotipo readers by now, even you international mob. Between them they had ‘Taxis’ or Touring Cars and Open-Wheeler racing covered in Australia. Ian or ‘Pete’ Geoghegan was a multiple national champion aboard cars with a roof and Leo was similarly a champion on many occasions in the more rarefied and refined single-seater world, not always in Lotuses mind you.

Whilst the Lotus Racing halo internationally was huge in the mid-sixties for all of the obvious reasons the Geoghegan connection must have polished the Lotus brand considerably in this part of the world too. Who wouldn’t want to buy a car from them and then have it serviced there? Why, if you were lucky during February, you might even time your trip to have the Webers of your Elan tickled with the visit of Team Lotus who based themselves in the Paramatta Road, Haberfield dealership for the Warwick Farm Tasman weekend.

(Dalton)

The Lotus franchise in Australia is a bit of a ‘hot spud’ really- no one has distributed the things for a long time.

Not even those who were multi-franchise dealers and therefore had the earnings of other marques with greater volumes to support the lower financial contributions of what has always been a very niche brand in Australia, the brothers Geoghegan probably the longest of the dealers.

Some well known motor racing names have been involved in flogging the wonderful but idiosynchratic cars down the decades.

Alec Strachan was the original importer, he was based at Waitara, Sydney and negotiated the rights with Chapman off the back of purchase of a Lotus 6-the first of Chapman’s machines in Australia. Then Derek Jolly with his impeccable racing and engineering connections to Chapman himself took over, but that was never going to really work, Adelaide is a long way from the main East Coast markets especially back then. Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Hobart had tiny population for such a niche product.

Performance Automobiles sold a few in Hobart, John Roxburgh in Melbourne and Dick Thurston at Pitstop Motors on the Nepean Highway, Brighton way, moved a few when I was a teenager. At the same time Lance Dixon sold plenty of used ones, many times I rode by bike from North Balwyn to Doncaster to dream about a red Europa or Elan. The Zagame Group in Melbourne have the rights these days.

Whad’ll she do mister? Leo Geoghegan’s ex-Clark Lotus 39 Repco sitting forlornly on the 253 Parramatta Road lot in 1970. Leo raced the car finally, having acquired it from Team Lotus after the 1966 Tasman Series, in the 1970 Tasman, then it was put to one side to sell whilst Leo raced to Gold Star victory in a new Lotus 59 powered by a Waggott 2 litre DOHC, 4 valve injected engine (Fistonic)

These photos by Milan Fistonic capture the late-sixties flavour of the Geoghegan’s dealership in Sydney’s Parramatta Road, ‘Auto Alley’.

The shots are very much dated as being late 1970 the year in which Leo stopped racing his evergreen ex-Clark Lotus 39 Repco V8. There it is, the 1969 JAF Japanese Grand Prix winner sitting on the used car lot just waiting for a punter with the necessary readies. Click here to read my article about this wonderful car; https://primotipo.com/2016/02/12/jim-clark-and-leo-geoghegans-lotus-39/

It was not an easy car to move at the time with F5000 in the process of becoming the new ANF1, to replace the 2.5 litre Tasman Formula. The nutbags at CAMS made F5000 cars eligible to contest the 1970 Tasman Series but not the domestic 1970 Gold Star- that title was won by Leo G in the Lotus 39’s replacement, a brand new Lotus 59B to which he bolted a superb circa 275bhp 2 litre Waggott engine built not too far from the dealership. The 39 fell into the very best of hands, John Dawson-Damer, who did a brilliant job restoring it to its original, ex-works 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine form. It’s still in Australia, happily!

It seems fitting to provide some period written flavour to accompany the photos. To do so I have reproduced the wonderful recollections of ‘DanTra2858’ he contributed to ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, Daniel worked for the brothers Geoghegan right at that time, the late sixties. I’ve positioned his thoughts around several different headings to preserve some semblance of flow.

(Dalton)

On assembling Lotuses in Australia.

The cars arrived by ship from Hethel ‘CKD’ or in Completely Knocked Down form… ‘…1969, also working there at the time was Barry Lake (racer and very well known racing journalist) and Wally Willmott (for many years Bruce McLaren’s right hand in the nascent years of BM Motor Racing in the UK) Service Manager was Bob Everitt.

With a little help to remove a Europa from its crate and the motor/gearbox and diff assemby, it took me about 10 hours to assemble a car ready for registration.

There were some long days assembling the cars mainly due to the clutch plates attaching themself to the flywheel. Of course this did not show up until the installation of the motor/gearbox into the car on initial start up, sometimes it could be rectified by starting the car in gear but not always. Then out with the motor/gearbox as that was easier then split, fix the problem then put it all back together again, good days!

When Lotus cars were imported…they came in a open frame wooden crate with the car wrapped in plastic sheeting, that was the full extent of protection (during the long voyage from England) The motor/gearbox assembly was in a wooden box complete with the suspension, tailshaft , diff and wheels. Each crate/box had identification numbers on them to match the motor to body, so the first thing to do was match up the components to assemble a car.

When this was done the body crate was opened, plastic wrapping removed and using 2 trolley jacks the body was moved into the workshop and placed on modified jack stands. Then the motor box was opened and all suspension parts/wheels were removed and taken into the workshop ready for assembly, by this this time it was time to stop work for morning tea!

Now refreshed it was time to fit the suspension and wheels so the car was now a roller which made it easier to work on. When assembling the rear suspension the diff, drive shafts, Hillman Imp rubber doughnuts etc were all fitted. Now for lunch.

So with a full belly it was time to bring in the motor/gearbox, tailshaft and fit them into the car, along with the exhaust system. When this assembly was bolted in, cooling hoses, electrics and other parts were fitted. Then it was time to present to this ‘new arrival’ its first full meal of lubricants including brake fluid, so we then bleed the brakes. By this time it was about 4 in the afternoon so a cuppa was in order, then back to work.

Now that the car was fully assembled the work really started. Re-check that all previously assembled parts were correctly assembled and all bolts/nuts were tight, oil levels were correct and that there were no leaks in the brake hydraulic system and fluid was at correct levels. Next I checked that the clutch operated correctly and if not then one of two steps were taken to rectify the adhesion of the clutch plate to the flywheel/pressure plate. If there was no trouble with the clutch it was time to connect the battery and start the motor, let it warm up, check for fluid leaks and bleed the heater system in the cabin of the car by slackening the bleed screw on top of the heater core remembering to tighten it after all the air was bled off. If there was clutch trouble the first thing we did was to start the car while in gear, this usually caused the clutch plate to release then operate correctly. If not then it was out with the motor/gearbox assy to fix the problem then pop it back into the car- this would add 3 hours to the assembly time.

If all went well it was now about 6 pm but still the to-do list list included wheel alignment, checking that all lights operated correctly and that all of the electrics worked. Then tyre pressures were set with a final check for leaking fluids. By this time it was about 8pm and another 12 hour day was complete leaving the road test for first thing the next day- that also included cleaning up wood crates and plastic wrapping. Then onto normal service work with another assembly starting the next day. Well folks that is how it was done at Geoghegans I may have missed a few steps somewhere along the way, it is a long time from 1969…you have the picture’.

Plenty of lonely S2 Europa’s in 1970 (Fistonic)

On The Hot Sellers of the Lotus range…

‘The sales section always required stock on the floor that covered the Lotus range excluding Super 7’s. (Not sure why they were not imported to Australia, Chapman didn’t do the deal with Graham Nearn at Caterham cars to take over the rights to build 7’s until 1971 from memory, so Lotus Components were certainly still building them in the late sixties)

The slowest moving car was the Elan Plus 2 so every time one was sold we would assemble another but that did not happen often, the most popular was the Elan Coupe followed by the Europa, we would assemble 2 or 3 a week depending on sales of the model.

I found the Europa quicker to assemble than the Elan. My first experience driving a Europa along Paramatta Road (a main artery into and out of Sydney, in the days before freeways it was the ’normal’ way to go between Melbourne and Sydney so there was plenty of local and interstate traffic inclusive of large semi-trailers) was just straight out frightening especially when a double decker bus pulled up alongside me while waiting for the traffic lights to change to green. Sitting in the Europa I found myself looking up at the centre of its wheels with the bus towering over me, a feeling of vulnerability quickly came over me.’

Tried and true technique of naked ladies to get us blokes to scan the pages of a brochure in a thorough manner. Lotus Elite brochure , must be US issue, way too racy for 1960 Australia (Dalton)

On Painful Customers…

‘Pete Geoghegan did not come down to the service section much at all…on one of those times he was showing off on a motor bike, doing wheel stands in the lube bay then the 6 foot dash from the lube bay through our parts area into the Lotus workshop then back again with the biggest smile I have ever seen on a guy that has just achieved what no-one else has done.

One Elan FHC I do remember very well. Its owner arrived at our service area unannounced while we were having morning tea wanting something fixed right away, I told him that I would look at it as soon as I finished my coffee but that was the wrong answer for this guy.

He then spoke to Bob Everett, the Service Manager and was told by him that I would look after his car as soon as I had finished my coffee, this slowed him down a bit but he kept on looking to his watch. So I finished my coffee quickly…went into the service bay held out my hand and introduced myself, without a blink he shook my hand introduced himself told me what the problem was, I fixed it in 10 minutes and he was on his way, oh his name…Warwick Brown, I serviced his Elan from then on…’(In 1969 20 year old WB would have just been starting his racing career in a little Brabham owned by Pat Burke- who was still his patron when he won the Tasman Championship in 1975 aboard a Lola T332 Chev F5000)

Photographer Milan Fistonic with an eye for Plus 2 Elans (Fistonic)

Lotus equals ‘Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious’…

‘Whilst at Geoghegans I only worked on one Elite, was very impressed by the construction of the car as a full mono-fibreglass enclosure setup…it was on sale in the yard so it would have been a quick mechanical check up prior to the car going on sale. The main thing that had to be done, as with all fibreglass Lotus’ was to make sure that the electrical earth set up was not corrupted by corrosion on the body to chassis alloy mounting bobbins in the body. That was number one check on all Lotuses even new ones. The alloy bobbins on the Elite are for suspension mounting, but there again steel bolts into alloy bobbins, which means corrosion of the bobbin which have been known to become loose in their fibreglass enclosure- meaning fibreglass repairs.

Lotus Elans were bad for water leaks at the top of the A-pillar and in the boot. We tried re-gluing the door sealing at the top of the A-pillar but all to no avail as the inside plastic section of the seal kept on pulling it down leaving a small opening at the top where the seal assembly transferred to the horizontal. The final Geoghegan factory fix was to push the seal assembly up as hard as you could into the top of the A-pillar while your offsider drilled a one eighth inch hole through the vinyl inside section of the seal and into the fiberglass body, then insert a pop rivet and pull it home and there was a permanent fix with nothing but happy customers. By the way we didn’t leave the pop rivet just plain silver so it would show, we concealed it by painting it with a black texta.

For me the hardest thing while working at Geoghegans was learning how to spell their name, Smith or Brown would have been much easier!’…

Photo Credits…

Milan Fistonic

Bibliography…

DanTran2858, The Nostalgia Forum, Stephen Dalton Collection

 

 

 

image001

Looks of wonderment and amazement at the voluptuous lines of the Aston’s Frank Feeley penned body.  The ‘Wow Factor’ of contemporary racing cars never changes whatever the era does it?!…

Here it’s a Melbourne crowd on February 28 1958. Its the end of the long hot Australian summer but the crowd are well rugged up, Melbourne is notoriously ‘four seasons in one day’ sometimes and Fishermans Bend is an exposed windswept place at the best of times. At the wheel of the road-registered, ex-works Aston Martin DB3S chassis DB3S/9 is a youthful David McKay.

McKay aboard DB3S/9 at Fishermans Bend in February 1958. Nose of the car showing minor scars of battle, perspex headlight covers fitted to this car from its birth. First race the ’56 Rouen GP in May, then 2nd @ Le Mans ’56 driven by Moss/Collins, Salvadori was 2nd at Goodwood in September- car retained by Astons into 1957, the DBR1 the front line weapon that year with Brooks racing DBS3/9 at Easter Goodwood for 3rd. It was then used by the works for the last occasions as a practice car at Silverstone for the British Empire Trophy and for the Nurburgring 1000Km before sold by John Wyer to McKay with funds provided by Ampol (Westaway)

At the time he was ascending the driving ranks having cut his racing teeth in MG’s. He made it into the elite group too- let’s not forget were it not for a ropey jumped start call he would have won the 1961 Australian Grand Prix at Mallala aboard a Cooper T51 Climax. David would soon be known as much as a journalist, successful businessman and entrant-entrepreneur via his business ‘Scuderia Veloce’ as a driver though.

McKay raced this car to wins in the sportscar races that Fishermans Bend weekend, and was very successful in it throughout the country, taking 8 wins from 9 starts. His only defeat, 2nd place was at the hands of Doug Whiteford’s ex-works Maser 300S in the Tasmanian Tourist Trophy at Longford in early 1958.

db 3 s engine

Engine of the ex-works/McKay DB3S/9, raced at Albert Park, November 1958 by Stan Jones. 6 cylinder 2922cc DOHC 2 valve, twin plug all alloy engine fed by 45DCO Weber carburettors. Circa 225bhp @ 6000 rpm (Kevin Drage)

His last race in the car was successful, he took an Australian Tourist Trophy victory at Mount Panorama, Bathurst in October 1958 in what McKay described as ‘the faithful old ex-works Aston’s…greatest Antipodean win’.

The race was not an easy one. Initially Bill Pitt’s Jaguar XKD led and then Doug Whiteford, the formidable, forceful three-time AGP winner took the lead from McKay with Pitt 3rd. On lap 10 Doug had an enormous accident when the Maser was caught by a sudden gust of wind after coming over the second Conrod Straight hump threw the car out of control with the Maser spinning and hitting the right hand fence three times. Whiteford was almost flung from the car as it skidded backwards down the escape road and into another fence. Fortunately the St Kilda racer was only bruised by the wild ride.

McKay then led with an intermittent engine miss from Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax, a light rain shower adding to the degree of difficulty towards the end of the race. McKay won from Jolly, Ron Phillips and Frank Matich- Aston DB3S, Lotus 15 Climax, Cooper Jaguar and Jaguar XKC.

The weekend was a brilliant one for the Sydneysider as his new Jaguar Mk1 3.4, just imported for him by Ampol trounced the hitherto dominant Repco headed Holden sedans of John French and Leo Geoghegan in the sedan car handicap, to start the ‘Jaguar Era’ of Australian Touring Car racing.

After the Tourist Trophy win Stan Jones bought the racer but wasn’t really happy with it. The wonderful Le Mans second placed 1956 car then passed into Ray Barfield’s hands in Western Australia where its contemporary racing history ended in the early sixties. A summary of the cars history is in this article, rather than repeat myself;

https://primotipo.com/2017/03/23/bunbury-flying-50-allan-tomlinson-ferrari-500-et-al/

McKay’s first Aston, a production DB3S chassis #102 in the Carrathool paddock during its Australian LSR record breaking weekend in February 1957. Interesting to know who crafted the aero pod beneath which McKay sat and cooked! (Jek)

McKay was a very dab hand at the wheel of Aston’s by the time he bought his ex-Moss car…

He was part of the trio of privately run DB3S,  ‘Kangaroo Stable’ of cars raced by Australians Tony Gaze, Jack Brabham, Les Cosh, Dick Cobden, Tom Sulman and McKay in Europe in 1955.

McKays car, initially delivered to Tony Gaze, chassis DB3S/102 took the best result of the tour cut short by the cancellation of many sportscar races in Europe after the Le Mans disaster- McKay and Gaze were second in the 29 May Hyeres 12 Hour behind the winning Ferrari 750 Monza driven by Canonica/Munaron

At the end of the European Safari which included Oporto (Gaze 8th) and Goodwood (McKay/Gaze DNF distributor drive) David shipped the car straight to New Zealand for a number of races there including the Formula Libre NZ GP in January 1956. He retired from the Ardmore event won convincingly by Stirling Moss in a Maserati 250F. The engine of the car was shipped back to the UK for a rebuild after a major failure during a race at Invercargill. From May 1956 production DB3S’ were fitted with twin-plug 210 bhp engines, it was in this form the engine was rebuilt and delivered from Feltham back to Sydney. The beautiful car was again race ready by early 1957.

The stunning colour photographs were taken of ‘102’ in February 1957 at Carrathool a tiny village 680 Km west of Sydney between Narrandera and Hay in New South Wale western Riverina.

The main automotive attribute of the town was a long, straight stretch of road between Carrathool and Gunbar which was ideal for record setting, and so it was that various Ampol sponsored cars sought to break some Australian speed records. The then current Australian LSR was the 136.4 mph set by Jack Saywell’s 2.9 litre Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 at South Australia’s Coorong in 1939.

After plenty of careful preparation inclusive of incorporating the beautifully made perspex fairing onto his Aston, McKay broke the record setting a time over the Flying Kilometre of 143.19 mph on the morning of 19 February 1957. The ‘Canberra Times’ reported that McKay made two full speed runs on the course, ‘during one run he skidded on a patch of loose dirt at 140 mph’.

This speed was soon eclipsed by other cars but the DB3S held the class record for some years.

David McKay at speed during the Ampol sponsored record-breaking weekend in early 1957. Carrathool a tiny hamlet with now around 300 inhabitants. A straight, flat road with a decent surface a long way from major population centres was ideal record breaking territory! (Jek)

The car was first raced in Australia at Easter Bathurst in April 1957, he was 2nd in the sportscar handicap and won the sedan and sportcar handicap from Paul England’s Repco headed Ausca, passing the very fast special built at Repco Research by England ‘running up to 139.3 mph to do so and clocking fastest quater mile time for the day’.

But the car saw little further use as the quicker ex-works machine arrived in Sydney in September 1957. DBS/9’s first race was the October 1957 13 lap NSW Sportscar Championship at Bathurst, an event the combination won comfortably with McKay taking the lap record despite using only 5200 of the Aston’s available 6000 rpm. Bill Pitt’s Jaguar D Type was timed at 144 mph on Conrod Straight with McKay at 136 mph using his self imposed rev limit.

Both of these extremely valuable cars still exist but sadly left Australia many years ago. Those of you with collections of Australian ‘Sports Car World’ magazine should have a fossick through them as McKay wrote two sensational articles about the ownership of his two Aston’s in the seventies, or maybe the eighties!..

Technical specifications as per text (Tony Matthews)

Aston DB3S Technical Specifications…

The Aston Martin DB3S was built from 1953 to 1957, 32 were constructed excluding the single-seater variant ‘DP155/1′ raced by Reg Parnell in New Zealand in 1956.

Fundamentally Willie Watson’s design was a shorter, lighter and stiffer car than Eberan Eborhorst’s Aston DB3. The car evolved over just four months making its debut in Reg Parnell’s hands at Charterhall on 23 May 1953.

The cars were designed around a period typical ladder frame chassis which was 7 feet 3 inches long- 6 inches shorter than DB3. The frame comprised twin tubular members of 4 inch 16 gauge chrome molybdenum steel and three 14 gauge four, and five inch cross-members. The shorter chassis made the car nimbler than its predecessor if somewhat skittish on bumpy surfaces. The track was reduced from 4′ 3″ to 4’ 1″.

Frank Feeley designed the very stylish body, as sexy as the DB3 was dowdy. More than a nod had been given in the direction of the contemporary Maserati A6GCS it seemed. Overall the car was shorter, narrower and lighter than the DB3 and importantly it ‘looked right’ straight out of the box.

Front suspension was independent by trailing links, torsion bars, piston type dampers and a roll bar. A De-Dion rear axle was used sprung by a torsion bar and located by trailing links and a Panhard rod, again with piston type shocks.

Naturally a David Brown gearbox was fitted, the S430 ‘box a 4 speeder with reverse, final drive was by spiral bevel in a light alloy casing with a ZF slippery diff usually fitted. Brakes initially were two-leading shoe Alfin drums- 13 inches in diameter at the front and 12 inches at the rear. From 1955 Girling disc bakes were specified, the rotors were 11.5 inches in diameter front and rear. Precise rack and pinion steering was fitted, two turns were required lock to lock.

A 2922cc all alloy DOHC, 2 valve, 6 cylinder engine provided the cars heart. It had 4 main bearings and wet cylinder liners with the valves disposed at an included angle of 60 degrees. Initially fitted with 35DCO Weber carburettors the engine gave 182 bhp @ 5500 rpm and 182 lb/ft of torque at 3800 rpm on a compression ration of 8.5:1.

The cars were of course developed extensively throughout their racing life with the works cars fitted with twin-plug heads and 45DCO Webers from May 1954 giving 225bhp @ 6000 rpm.

The ‘Kangaroo Stable Cars’ (DB3S/102 Gaze-McKay, DB3S/103 Sulman, DB3S/104 Cosh) delivered in early 1955 all had the 200 bhp Weber 40 DCO engine- when announced at Earls Court in October 1954 the production cars had a feeble and uncompetitive 180 bhp on triple SU’s.

For the sake of completeness special works engines included a supercharged 240 bhp car raced at Le Mans in 1954 and a 2992cc normally aspirated variant raced at Dundrod in 1955.

In an era of unlimited sportscars the production based 3 litre DB3S was rarely an outright contender, the big guns, depending upon the year were the Benz 300SLR, XKD Jags and Ferrari V12’s of varying capacity. But with a change to 3 litres for the manufacturers championship and a more uncompromising approach the DB3S’ younger brother triumphed at Le Mans in 1959 and won the manufacturers title to boot. The path to that success was in part via the DB3S journey…

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce’ David McKay, ‘Aston Martin: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘The Canberra Times’ 20 February 1957

Photo Credits…

Don Westaway, Kevin Drage, Ampol, Sharaz Jek, Tony Matthews

Tailpiece: McKay at high speed in DB3S/102 during a practice run at Carrathool, in New South Wales western Riverina in April 1957…

(Ampol)