Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

(C Watt)

Captain Arthur Waite raced his supercharged Austin 7 to victory in the 1928 Australian Grand Prix on Victoria’s Phillip Island…

Here ‘The Skipper’ as his boys in the UK called him, on the far side of the car, and his Australian mechanic, Guy Barringer are preparing the racer behind the Isle of Wight Hotel in Cowes during the race weekend, 31 March 1928.

Billed at the time by the promoter, Victoria’s ‘Light Car Club’ as the ‘100 Miles Road Race’, ‘The First In Australia’ the event was run on a dirt-circuit laid out on the Islands roads, it later became recognised as the first Australian Grand Prix- the Victorian Light Car Club named subsequent events held at ‘Island from 1929-1935 as ‘The Australian Grand Prix’.

In more recent times the first AGP has been acknowledged by many as that held on 15 January 1927. It was a knockout speedway event held at the Goulburn, New South Wales horse racing track. The cars didn’t race ‘en masse’ but rather six competitors ran, two at a time in three heats, knockout fashion over 4 laps of a 1 mile and a bit oval track with the final  decided by the fastest two competitors from the heats facing off over 6 laps- Geoff Meredith was the winner in his Bugatti T30. The circumstances around the discovery and recognition of the First Australian Grand Prix are briefly ventilated in this article; https://primotipo.com/2017/04/14/1936-australian-grand-prix-victor-harbour/

The 1928 ‘Island event was a road race held on a 6.5 mile dirt, rectangular course for cars of less than 2 litres spread across four engine capacity based classes- in two races, each race having two of the classes in it of 100 miles distance.

Twenty six ‘light car’ competitors entered with thirteen classified as finishers. The winner was the fastest overall- as in the competitor with the quickest race time from the two events of 100 miles, Captain Arthur Waite in his ‘works’ Austin 7 s/c won from JO McCutcheon aboard a Morris Cowley and CR Dickason in an Austin 12.

Phillip Island 1928: Les Jennings, Morris Cowley at rear with the Morrie Shmith Fiat 509 in front. The Fiat was a special works racing version of the 509 fitted with a very attractive body, the mechanics seat was set back from the driver us was the case with Fiat’s GP cars of the period. The car was not an exceptional performer ‘limited by poorly chosen gear ratios’ Blanden wrote (C Watt)

 

Phillip Island 1928. Competitors prepare their cars in the garage area of the Isle of Wight Hotel- winner Arthur Waite’s Austin 7 is the machine ‘top right’ (C Watt)

Historic European Context…

It is timely to look at motorsport in Australia in the context of what was happening globally at the time.

Motor racing commenced in France, the first ‘motoring contest’ took place on July 22, 1894, organised by a Paris newspaper, the Paris-Rouen Rally was 126 km from Paris to Rouen.

Count Jules Albert de Dion was first into Rouen after 6 hours 48 minutes, an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph). The official winners were Peugeot and Panhard as cars were judged on their speed, handling and safety characteristics- De Dion’s steam car needed a stoker which the judges deemed to be outside their objectives…

And so commenced a period of racing unregulated cars on open roads between cities, this evolved after many deaths, from racing on open to closed road circuits.  During the Paris-Madrid road race of 1903 a number of people, both drivers and pedestrians – including Marcel Renault were killed, as a result the race was stopped by French authorities at Bordeaux- further road based events were banned.

In the US the Gordon Bennett Races for the ‘Gordon Bennett Cup’ funded by American newspaper magnate James Gordon Bennett in commenced in 1900. Its formula was based around similar vehicles competing on closed roads but representation was limited to three teams per country, this disadvantaged France as the largest European motor manufacturer at the time.

When the French proposal to change representation in the 1905 Gordon Bennett failed they used the chance to host the 1906 event, a privilege to the previous years winner, to hold the alternative ‘Grand Prix de l’ACF’. The French Grand Prix was held on 26 June 1906 over a 103 Km roughly triangular road circuit near Sarthe, the winner of the 1238 Km, event, held over 6 laps of the 103 Km course on two days was Hungarian Ferenc Szisz in a Renault.

In the US, William Vanderbilt launched the Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island, New York in 1904.

Races at the time were heavily nationalistic, with a few countries setting up races of their own, but there was no formal championship tying them together. Rules varied from country to country and race to race, and typically centred on maximum (not minimum) weights in an effort to limit power by limiting engine size indirectly. 10–15 litre engines were common, usually with no more than four cylinders and producing less than 50 hp. The cars all had mechanics onboard as well as the driver and no one was allowed to work on the cars during the race except this pair.

In 1904 many national motor clubs combined to form the AIACR ‘Association Interntionale des Automobiles Clubs Reconnus’ to regulate racing, amongst other things.

The American Grand Prix , ‘American Grand Prize’ was first held on a public road course at Savannah, Georgia in 1908. Italy’s first Grand Prix was held on a road course at Brescia in 1921. The first Spanish Grand Prix on 1913 on a road circuit near Madrid, majestic Spa-Francorchamps hosted the first Belgian GP in 1925. Road racing was banned in the UK but the ‘Royal Automobile Club Grand Prix’ was held on the combined Brooklands road/banked circuit in 1926. Some of these events aren’t all continuous mind you, nor were they originally called ‘Grand Prix’ in some cases but you get the drift.

Clearly it is not a big deal to call the 1928 Phillip Island ‘100 Miles Road Race’ the AGP given the first American and British Grand’s Prix weren’t strictly called ‘American or British Grand Prix’ either.

By 1927 and 1928 the period of the AGP i am writing about the essence of International GP rules was as follows;

1927; 1.5 litres supercharged capacity, cars had a minimum weight of 700 Kg, two seater bodies were mandated or monopostos allowed as long as the cockpit was a minimum of 80 cm wide. The events themselves were a minimum of 600 Km in length.

1928; No engine capacity restrictions but a minimum weight of 550 and a maximum of 750 Kg, minimum race distance still 600 Km. This 750 Kg Formula gave birth to the phenomenal ‘Silver’ Arrows’ of the pre-war period of course.

The relevance of these rules in far away Australia with its nascent motor industry, small national ‘car park’ and tiny number of competitors was moot, irrelevant in fact, arguably it was not until the 1955 South Pacific Trophy meeting at Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales that we had our first ‘truly International race’, run as it was to Formula Libre.

Phillip Island 1929. Happy chappy, the John Goodall owned Aston Martin- driven by Ed Huon with Bob Horne as mechanic carried #18 in 1928. One of Lionel Martin’s 1923 products with 1.5 litre side-valve Coventry Simplex engine, 4 speed gearbox and big 4 wheel brakes- very expensive but never particularly fast’ wrote John Blanden (C Watt)

Historic Australian Context…

None of our events at the time resembled those in Europe, we had no specialist motorsport governing body- the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (very recently re-named Motorsport Australia) was formed in the mid-fifties. Racing decisions prior to the CAMS existence were made by the Competitions Committee of the Australian Automobile Association, an organisation of each states automobile peak body or club, each of which were naturally primarily concerned with everyday motoring/motorists needs.

The level of car ownership in Australia was low, the number of ‘racing cars’ small and so it naturally followed that our events suited our needs, inclusive of our premier race.

Graham Howard observes in ‘The Fifty Year History of the Australian Grand Prix ‘that intercity records-amazing feats, and of dubious legality as well-were the most consistent form of competitive motoring in Australia until the late 1920s, and produced our first household name drivers and some of our first marque rivalries’.

At 100 miles the 1928 Phillip Island event is ‘pissant’ compared to contemporary European GPs of 600 Km. A 6 mile, 6 lap AGP held on a short oval track between two competitors is outrageous but comparisons cannot really be fairly made with events in Europe and the US at the time.

Jack Day, Bugatti T37 on the start-finish straight. His late race charge was one of the events highlights (B King Collection)

The 1928 100 Miles Road Race aka 1928 Australian Grand Prix, Phillip Island, Victoria…

The difficulties of holding a road race in Australia at the time were great, in most states road races were illegal including Victoria- under the provisions of the ‘Highways and Vehicles Act’ racing on other than enclosed circuits, which at the time consisted only of speedways, was illegal.

The local council, the ‘Phillip Island and Woolamai Shire’ voted to sever the Island’s government from Victoria’s in 1927 thus making racing on the Island a possibility. After a hard fought campaign the ‘Shire of Phillip Island ‘ was created in 1928, the creation of ‘The Peoples Republic of Phillip Island’ really does give me a chuckle, why don’t we secede?- sounds like the sand-gropers (West Australians) today.

A delegation was despatched by the Victorian Motor Cycle Union in Melbourne to Cowes, the Islands ‘capital’ with a view to running ‘bike events.

It was quite a trip in those days involving a drive from Melbourne and sea ferry from Stony Point to Cowes, the bridge allowing road traffic from San Remo on the mainland to Newhaven on the Island wasn’t opened until 1940. The Motor Cycle Union were later joined by a group from the Light Car Club of Victoria, proposing racing events on the island in March 1928.

Ex Sydney Harbour ferry SS Killara between Stony Point and Cowes circa 1931- it moved 7,000 people in a day during a 1937 race meeting (unattributed)

 

Spectators cars left at Sony Point for the trip on the ferry from the mainland to Phillip Island during the 1928 race meeting weekend (C Watt)

 

Crowds at Cowes Pier, date unknown (Valentine)

The Phillip Island Shire saw the economic benefits racing would bring to their small rural community so they voted in support of defying the existing Victorian state law and announced a 100 Mile Race for cars to be held on March 26 1928.

Amongst the delegation included Jack Day (and his T37 Bugatti) Bill Scott, and LCCA president and later 1929 AGP winner, Arthur Terdich. After several ‘reccies’, the group retired to the Isle of Wight Hotel which is still keeping competitors refreshed nearly a century later to discuss the event, which seemed impossible given the time available for its preparation given the state of the roads and other logistics.

Jim Scaysbrook in a MotorSport article wrote that ‘Scott suggested the names for the corners; he said that the luncheon gathering reminded him of ‘Young and Jackson’s’, the famous pub opposite Flinders Street Railway Station in Melbourne. ‘Gentle Ann’ was named after a country maid of British folklore, the following narrow cutting christened ‘Needle’s Eye’- ‘Devil’s Slide’ was likened to falling into ‘Hell’, which then became the name for the third corner. Scott admitted to heaving a huge sigh of relief at negotiating the narrow bridge halfway along the next straight, so this became the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ and the final bend, reminding him of peace after torment, became ‘Heaven Corner’.

Terdich’s Bugatti T40 enroute to Phillip Island 1928. The car was a standard T40 fitted with a pointed tail 4-seater body built by the Terdich Bros bodyworks (The Bugatti Trust)

 

Dick and Roy Anderson in Rolvoy at San Remo circa 1930, Couta boats (Edgar Family)

 

(C Watt)

Scott measured the circuit, borrowing a horse and cart. He nailed a strip of rubber to the inside of the wheel and counted the number of times it flicked his boot, multiplying this by the wheel circumference produced the figure of 6.569 miles per lap.

The circuit itself presented a real challenge in that the road was very narrow with a high crown and was extremely dusty- whilst the surface was partially consolidated by blue metal rolled into the gravel it was entirely unsealed.

An inspection of the circuit by 130 Light Car Club members on 4 March revealed a surface in very poor repair. The LCC Committee therefore advised the local council that Commonwealth Oil Refinery and Castrol would provide 5,000 gallons of sump oil to be spread over the track to reduce dust levels. This work was overseen by the COR’s Charlie Watt who found the time to take some of the wonderful photographs spread throughout this article.

Whilst the feature event in 1928 was ‘The 100 Miles Road Race’, when it was discovered that the rights to stage the ‘Australian Grand Prix’, held at Goulburn in 1927, had not been taken up for 1929 the LCC began to apply the AGP term to Phillip Island.

The event was very much an adventure for competitors almost none of whom had road racing experience- their ‘racing’ was variously trials, hillclimbs and in some cases speedway.

Entries closed on 24 February- thirty were received with twenty-six accepted which in the end converted to seventeen starters due to accidents and mechanical mayhem- thirteen cars were manufactured in the UK, eight in France, two in Germany with one apiece from Belgium and Italy.

‘With the exception of one or two entries, the field comprised either standard touring or sports chassis stripped of road equipment and in some instances fitted with narrower and more efficient bodywork…not many modifications were indulged in, other than careful assembly and the polishing of heads and ports and in some instances a slight increase in compression, the use of stronger or double valve springs and the employment of a larger or outside exhaust system’ wrote John Blanden.

Let’s not forget at the time ‘top whack’ of a garden variety Ford, Morris or Citroen was 50-55mph together with a few ‘Hail Marys’ whilst clutching yer St Christopher medallion from father at the wheel.

Plenty of newspaper interest was generated in the ‘big smoke’ (Melbourne) in the lead up to the event with police from later in March turning a blind eye to stripped cars devoid of silencers blasting along the narrow, relatively deserted roads of Melbourne-Frankston-Hastings.

Racing was totally different to today when even production cars are trailered to events. There were no trucks or trailers to take the racers to the meeting, the racing cars were driven by their owners or drivers with spares, consumables and tools loaded into the car- or what wifey, friend or sponsor could carry in a separate vehicle which was then driven to Stony Point and loaded onto the Westernport Shipping Company ferry for the short trip across Westernport.

postponement

‘The Melbourne Argus’ Monday 26 March 1928

 

Shell lap board near the start-finish line, just feel the relaxed vibe- wonderful shot (C Watt)

 

Four scallywags up to no good- Farmer Brown’s post not too far from the circuit (B King Collection)

 

(C Watt)

Phillip Island was then a sleepy rural and fishing hamlet with a nascent tourism industry, accommodation was provided by two hotels- The Isle of Wight and Phillip Island Hotel and a swag a boarding houses which filled up very quickly with the influx of thousands of people the likes of which the Island had never experienced before.

Charlie Watt took many photographs at a hotel which appear to be The Isle of Wight, it burned own the 1925 and was rebuilt in the ‘Tudor’ style one can see in many of the shots- my guess is that the garage shots are at the same establishment- the Phillip Island Hotel appears far more modest in comparison.

The challenges of communication back then were so different to today- the local populace knew when the event was taking place via newspapers but the timing of practice was a different thing without a local radio station even if the punters possessed a ‘wireless’ in any event.

It was hoped that word of mouth and notices on public buildings and shops would do the trick but the possibility of wandering sheep or cattle or Farmer Brown aboard his horse-drawn rig ‘on track’ was not beyond the realms of possibility- a job for the solitary local police constable whose number was bolstered by another couple of souls when police HQ in Russell Street realised the scale of the public event being staged in the Peoples Republic of Phillip Island a couple of hours away from Melbourne.

All was set for first practice on Wednesday 21 March, the first casualty was the SC Cox Bugatti T39 which crashed on the home turn onto the straight- Waite lapped at 57 mph ‘his Austin seemingly on rails’. Official practice took place on the Saturday with Cox’ repaired Bug providing more excitement when it shed a tyre at 90 mph and ‘made a sensational skid at the Bridge of Sighs’. Jack Day did 61 mph in his Bugatti T37. Ed Hussey and Phyllis Passmore’s Frazer Nash took off over a hill, as an escape road after brake failure on the approach to Young and Jacksons- the rear axle had moved forward its springs making the cable operated brakes inoperative…

Bill Williamson, Riley 9, twelfth in the Class B/D race after transmission dramas and pit repairs before rejoining the contest (B King Collection)

Bill Williamson’s Riley found a road roller working on the two-mile stretch, skidded and overturned chucking the driver and his passenger out fortunately without injury- the car landed upside down in the bush with radiator, scuttle, tail and steering wheel smashed- by Monday she was ready again to ‘rock and roll’ and looking good as the photograph above shows.

Edward Huon aboard John Goodall’s Aston Martin added to the excitement after shedding a wheel- he too rolled but again the pilot and mechanic, Bob Horne were ok. WH ‘Bill’ Lowe, later importer of Ferrari and Lancia into Australia broke a wheel of his Metallurgique at Heaven Corner whilst Wagner skidded at the same spot after a tyre burst on his Wanderer.

‘Finally Maurice Shmith’s narrow, scarlet Fiat tried to take Young and Jacksons corner too fast, jumped a gutter and plunged through a hedge and a wire fence surrounding a house on the corner. The car was almost immediately shot back onto the roadway by the catapulting effect of the wire fence, fortunately without too much damage to the car and with the passengers only stunned by the suddenness of it all’ John Blanden wrote.

No times from practice are available but doubtless by the end of practice the crews were well aware of the challenges of this simple in some ways, but dangerous and demanding road course.

Unseasonally, the weather gods turned on the Sunday night- raceday was Monday 26 March- the heavens opened completely swamping the course- given the lack of the TV, internet, iPhones, Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram the Light Car Club decided to hold some flying half mile sprints on the highest, driest straight between Heaven and Young and Jacksons to entertain the crowd who poured in from the mainland on the SS Alvina and Killara. Jack Day’s Bugatti was timed at 84 mph which was the quickest, later in the day the sandy soil dried sufficiently to run and some 3 lap races were organised with Cox scoring a win.

The first weekend really was wet on raceday- Arthur Terdich and Bugatti T40 is amongst all of that water (B King Collection)

 

Les Jennings, Morris Cowley. ‘A specially tuned and bodied version…his car’s beautifully turned out…and intelligently driven’ wrote Blanden. He worked for Lanes Motors, Morris Distributors till the very end of the marque and therefore had access to the workshop facilities and technical knowledge of the company (unattributed)

 

agp

‘The Australasian’ 7 April 1928 photomontage of the 1928 AGP. Stan King’s Austin 7- not Waite as described at top left three wheeling, Terdich’s Bugatti T40 centre, #25 Dickason’s Austin 12 and bottom right Williamson’s Riley

 

Barney Dentry, Senechal, winner of Class B and race 1. The Senechal was thought to be the quickest car in its class being exceptionally light and very well prepared by its racer/tuner driver (C Watt)

 

Barney and Bess Dentry pit stop- same Senechal but 1929 when the husband and wife combo were sixth (B King Collection)

 

Jack Day, Bugatti T37, Bill Terdich DFP and at right Bill Williamson, Riley Nine (B King Collection)

When the field finally assembled on March 31, 1928, the event didn’t attract the number of spectators who attended on The Eight Hours Day long weekend.

‘Nevertheless, the attendance was regarded as highly satisfactory and the racing, although never close enough to be exciting or fast enough to be really thrilling, attracted so much interest that it is likely that the club will make the race an annual event. It is claimed to be the first 100 mile motor race in Australia, ‘The Argus’ newspaper reported .

Of the 26 cars entered 17 started- the Class A capacity limit was 750cc, Class B to 1100cc, Class C to 1500cc and Class D to 2 litres- competitors had to race on Australian made tyres.

Fancied combinations included Ed H Cooper’s Frazer Nash which burst into flames whilst parked in the main street of Cowes and was utterly destroyed despite attempts to extinguish the blaze. The three Bugattis of Jack Day (Type 37A), Sid Cox (Type 39) and Arthur Terdich (T40)- although Arthur Waite’s supercharged Austin 7 was also seen to be an outside chance.

The morning’s race, for Classes B and D, got under way at 11am, with a maximum of two hours 30 minutes allowed to complete the 16 laps.

Barney Dentry’s Senechal was delayed early with a broken gear lever, Williamson’s Riley 9 led for 5 laps then he had mechanical problems giving Bill Terdich’s DFP the lead.

He stayed in front until valve troubles caused his retirement so Barney Dentry, with his gear lever repaired, won Class B from Williamson’s Riley and Pounds DFP.

In Class D John McCutcheon led from start to finish in his Morris Cowley from Cyril Dickason’s Austin 12 in a time of 1hr 50min 10sec – the mark that the afternoon cars would need to beat to win the contest.

The second heat, for Classes A and C, left the line at 3pm and ‘provided the most thrilling driving of the day’, with Waite making the early running, he had a lead of 100 metres at the first turn only a mile from the start.

‘The turning of the small cars on the corners provided many thrills for the spectators. There were spectacular skids, but the cars were always handled with so much skill that the drivers recovered control without apparent difficulty’ The Argus reported, whilst noting that Waite was not in doubt to win Class A.

For the first 7 laps Waite’s Austin led the field,  gradually the Bugattis of Day and Terdich got into their stride, with the latter taking the lead on lap 8 and was led by nine minutes as it entered the fifteenth lap, only for the French exotic to stop on course seemingly out of fuel.

Terdich hitched a ride to the pits, returning to the track soon after with tins of fuel only to find that his mechanics had retrieved the Bug and coaxed it back into the pits!

Finally Terdich and his car were reunited and refuelled and sped off in pursuit of Waite who had stopped to refuel, having lost 3 minutes. Day was fast after an excursion early in the race had put him through a hedge, but time ran out for the Bugatti despite a series of laps late in the race of over 70mph.

Waite took the flag in 1hr 46min 40sec and was chaired from his ‘Baby Austin’ as ‘The Argus’ described it, to the victory dais by jubilant supporters.

Waite post victory- mechanic Guy Barringer (Waite’s spelling) at right? (B King Collection)

 

Arthur Terdich, Bugatti T40 (B King Collection)

 

Les Jennings, Morris Cowley DNF (C Watt)

 

Jack Day togs up before the off, Bugatti T37 (C Watt)

 

Arthur Waite and Guy Barringer winning the 1928 100 Miles Road Race in the tiny ‘works’ Austin 7 s/c (B King Collection)

Class A was won by Waite from C May, T Davey and S King all in Austin 7’s, only Waite’s machine was supercharged. In Class B Barney Dentry in his Senechal won from Williamson’s Riley 9 and Les Pound’s DFP. Class C was taken by Terdich’s Bugatti T40 from Day’s Bugatti T37A and the J Hutton Alvis 12/50.

John McCutcheon’s Morris Cowley won Class D despite having more than 21,000 road miles on its odometer! ‘Such performances as these, and that of Mr Hinkler in his British-built light aeroplane, should remove any doubt as to the return of Britain to world leadership in the automotive field’ ‘The Argus’ reported, breathlessly and patriotically- we were a British Dominion then after all!, the Federation of Australia duly noted in 1901. Second in Class D was Cyril Dickason’s Austin 12 and Bill Lowe’s Metallurgique.

‘Probably Waite’s win was due chiefly to his remarkably cool driving throughout and his deliberate stop half way through the race for a methodical refilling  of his tiny supercharged Austin with water, oil and petrol. A similar stop would probably have won the race for Arthur Terdich (Bugatti), who seemingly had the race in hand two laps before the finish. Petrol troubles then stopped his car, and Waite won before Terdich got going again…recorded the Geelong Advertiser. ‘Waite won using Shell spirit and oil and Australian made Perdriau tyres’- it was usually the case that the ‘paper reports of the day recorded this information- early advertorial perhaps.

John McCutcheon, Morris Cowley second overall and winner of the morning race, first in Class D (B King Collection)

 

Stan King, Austin 7- eleventh (B King Collection)

In a word from the sponsor, the Managing Director and owner of Austin Distributors Pty. Ltd. SA Cheney said that ‘…it is pleasing that our confidence in (the Morris and Austin cars the company distributed) their quality and stamina is being so constantly rewarded in successive reliability trials and road contests.’

‘A notable feature of the race was that every Austin which started finished the race. SV King’s car being one of the only three cars to run non-stop, an honour also gained by McCutcheon’s Morris and Dickason’s Austin 12’ the ‘Tiser concluded.

Five thousand spectators went home covered in dust but happy – the largest influx of people in the island’s history, the Shire’s brave decision to back the race was vindicated, the race became a fixture at the ‘Island until 1935 when the intrinsic nature of the gravel track- without change to a sealed surface had run its course.

The winners of the AGP in the Phillip Island era were Bill Thompson in 1930 and 1932 in a Bugatti Type 37 and 1933 aboard a Riley Brooklands. Arthur Terdich won in 1929 in a Bugatti T37A, Carl Junker in 1931 in another Bugatti, a T39, Bob Lea-Wright in a Singer 9 Le Mans in 1934 and finally Les Murphy in an MG P type in 1935. Thompson was second in 1934 and 1935 off scratch and was well and truly the driver of the era, and regarded as one of Australia’s greatest ever. Click here for a piece on Thompson; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/26/gerringong-beach-races-1930-bill-thompson/

Jack Day, Bugatti Type 37 sixth (C Watts)

 

dickason

Dickason’s Austin 12 ‘was in effect the good old family tourer, which, apart from being stripped and mildly tuned, had the entire section of the four seater body removed…It must have called for a good deal of determination and skill to not only finish second in D Class but also to record third fastest time’ John Blanden wrote (The Australasian)

 

Les Pound’s DFP being attended to- note the Light Car Club badge on the radiator. The car was a later version of the model with which WO Bentley was successful at Brooklands and the Isle of Man before setting up his own enterprise. JC Hutton’s Alvis 12/50- eighth place is in the background (C Watt)

 

The Pound DFP during the race- thirteenth and final classified finisher (B King Collection)

 

The following piece from the fifty year anniversary meeting program of the then first Australian Grand Prix in 1978, was written by John Williams, a journalist who attended and covered the 1928 race.

Do read it, he paints the most marvellous picture of the times and the meeting.

The end of the Phillip Island AGP Era…

Phillip Island’s eighth and final Australian Grand Prix took place in March 1935, it had been decided to rotate the race amongst the states, the 1936 event moved to Victor Harbour, South Australia- the South Australian Centenary Grand Prix held on 26 December 1936, was later erroneously and incorrectly appropriated as the 1937 Australian Grand Prix.

The loss of ‘their’ event was seen as a crushing blow by the Light Car Club, but it was not entirely unexpected, racing on potholed unsealed roads may have been acceptable in the 1920s, but by 1936 it was out of the question, so was the prospect of sealing the Phillip Island track, the economics simply did not stack up.

A new promoter, the ‘Australian Racing Drivers Club’, conducted racing on a shorter 3.3-mile Phillip Island circuit which used only the original start/finish straight (on Berry’s Beach Road) but by 1938 the cars were gone, although motorcycles ran their annual Tourist Trophy on that layout until 1940.

It would be December 1956 before the island saw motor racing action again, this time at a new purpose-built circuit south west of Cowes.

dunlop

‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ ‘The Argus’ Dunlop ad Monday 2 April 1928- Australian made tyres mandated for the event

 

Perhaps the Jack Day Bugatti T37 (C Watt)

 

Jack Day and mechanic showing the physicality involved in racing of the day! Bugatti T37- sixth (B King Collection)

 

map

The roads of the Phillip Island road circuit are still intact…

They were clearly marked after the 50 year anniversary of the AGP held in 1978- what an event that was, one for another time.

Its well worth a visit and a few gentle laps amongst the PI tourist traffic, the place is a popular destination for surfers, holiday makers and tourists seeking koalas and the fairy penguin nightly scuttle from the water to their nests in the sand dunes-and of course bike and car enthusiasts visiting the circuit and its museum.

The start/finish area is located on Berry’s Beach Road, the pits used to be located in a large paddock, which today is still a large paddock.

From the start, the road rises slightly to Heaven Corner, the first of the four right-hand, right-angle bends. From here it’s a flat-out blast along the still-narrow undulating high crowned road, past a small monument which has a map of the original track inset into the stone, to Young and Jackson’s Corner, almost two miles away. On your left, a timber plaque displays the corner name, although the original bend is now a large roundabout. Once this is negotiated, another straight (the main road from Cowes back to Melbourne) takes you to within 400 metres of Gentle Annie Corner.

The highway now swings left, so the approach to Gentle Annie is not the original straightforward 90-degree corner, but is clearly signposted and easily found. From here it’s another two-mile roller-coaster ride over the hillocks and humps, encountering The Needle’s Eye at the halfway point, which is no longer a needle, nor an eye.

Hell Corner has recently been obliterated by a roundabout- once you’re through the maze the road stretches out ahead over more gentle rises, with the former Bridge of Sighs at about half distance and the old pits on the left- and that’s it.

In the 1930s the landscape was more barren, caused by the penchant to denude the landscape of trees to allow the maximum number of sheep per acre, and, of course, the road is fully sealed, unlike the days when vast quantities of black sump oil was laid to ‘kill’ the dust

Cyril Dickason at right with the car in the middle- the ex-Waite car by then fitted with headlights- ‘the clues are the standard front axle beam, extension on the top of the radiator cap, the short radiator and the flat exhaust manifold as opposed to the upswept manifold on the Dickason car. Delighted to learn more about this photo’ Tony concludes (T Johns)

Captain Arthur Waite and his Austin 7…

As we have just see, the 1928 victor was a ‘Baby Austin’, a prototype of the supercharged ‘Super Sports’ package released that year.

Waite was born in Adelaide on 9 April 1984, he lived and attended school in Norwood before attending the Adelaide School of Mines and was then apprenticed to JH Southcott until the outbreak of the Great War.

He joined up and soon achieved the rank of Second-Lieutenant in the Australian Field Artillery, he then took a reduction in rank to ensure his qualification for overseas service- after training in Egypt he landed in Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 also serving in North Africa and France where in 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross

His wife was Irene Austin – daughter of Lord Herbert Austin, founder of Britain’s Austin Motor Company. The pair met during Waite’s War service, he was injured in France and met Irene, a volunteer nurse, during his recovery, they married in 1918 and Waite, an engineer, was introduced into the Austin family business on his twenty-fifth birthday- 9 April 1919.

Waite thought that racing would improve vehicle development and enhance sales, with Herbert Austin’s support he began to develop, build and test racing and sportscars amongst his other responsibilities.

In 1923, together with Alf Depper, foreman of the Experimental and Racing Department the pair drove a 7 to Monza, won the first International Italian Grand Prix for Light Cars on 20 April and then drove home again- success at Brooklands quickly followed when Waite broke all existing 750cc class records.

In 1925 ‘The Skipper’ set up racing ‘shops at Longbridge where work started on the first supercharged 7, this was not initially successful so Austin designed a Roots type blower with three impellers. The blower was mounted on a cradle atop the timing cover utilising magneto drive gear revolving at a quicker engine ratio of 1.25:1- 36 bhp @ 5000 rpm was the result.

Fitted into a 7 foot 3 inch wheelbase chassis with a fabric covered body the car made 92 mph and 86 mph for the two-way flying kilometre. Later that year Waite, with the car bored to 775 cc ran it in the 1100cc class of the 200 Mile Race at Brooklands- along with five other 7s. ‘By the end of 1928 Waite held all the class H (750cc) records’ Bryan Purves wrote

Herbert Austin was keen to broaden his son-in-law’s management experience and shipped him off to Australia to do so, SA Cheney, the owner of Austin Distributors was glad to have him aboard ‘to try and double sales’.

When Waite became aware of the 1928 ‘Island race he requested that his old car be sent to the colonies but unknown to him his supercharged racer, less engine had been sold to Johnny Pares, a Longbridge employee (or dealer depending upon your source), suitably re-engined it raced successfully obtaining the nickname ‘Slippery Anne’ along the way.

The ex-Waite ‘Slippery Anne’, notes self explanatory (‘Austin Racing History’ via T Johns)

Waite was therefore sent a car which was basically a prototype of the ‘Supercharged Sports’ which was going into production to qualify for the Ulster Tourist Trophy.

The chassis of the car (number unknown) was standard as were the springs but they were cord bound- a straight front axle was also standard along with production friction dampers- the steering column was lowered to suit the longer bonnet Waite had made by a coach-builder in Melbourne.

The engine was supercharged, fitted with a Laystall steel crankshaft and pressure lubricated. The Cozette Number 4 blower created a boost of 5psi drawing air from a Cozette carburettor. All of the alloy castings of the engine were prefixed with the letters ‘SP’- the crankcase had the casting number ‘SP767.’

The inlet manifold was designed to slide over long studs and the exhaust was taken out of the nearside bonnet panel via a three-port exhaust manifold which continued along the side of the body. Its output was 33-35 bhp at 5000 rpm which converted to a top speed on the long Phillip Island straights of about 75 mph.

The gearbox was trick too- it was four rather than three speeds but reverse was omitted to find the requisite space inside the standard case.

Austin Works engineer, team manager and driver Charles Goodacre described the completed Waite car ‘As the most dreadful thing you ever saw, for it looked like an enormous egg and when the driver sat in it his head stuck out of the top. Anyway, the whole thing was put together and tested locally instead of being sent to Brooklands. There was a straight stretch of road from Rubery to Bromsgrove over which a local motorcycle company used to test their TT machines at over 100 mph early in the morning…They went there early in the morning when it was safe…I drove it to carry out the road testing and the car had quite a good performance. It would do 90 mph easily and the engine would tun at about 5500 rpm. It was quite smooth, and it was reliable.’

‘Sir Herbert saw the car in the works on his return from South Africa and asked what it was. When told it was the car that was going to Waite in Australia he asked how they proposed sending it and was told they were making a crate for it. “We’re not wasting, time, wood and money on a crate. It looks like a bath, it will float so let the boat tow it to Australia” Austin quipped!

The bathtub which won the Australian Grand Prix it seems!

Two other similar cars were produced by Longridge which were raced by Sidney Holbrook and Gunnar Poppe- entered at Shelsey Walsh, the pair were knocked off by George Coldicutt in ‘Slippery Anne’.

‘Col Waite as well as his other titles was a Freeman of the City of London and a Life member of the British Racing Drivers Club’ Tony Johns added, Johns suggested the inclusion of Waite’s Foreword from John Blanden’s ‘A History of Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ which is below.

(C Watt)

(austinharris.co.uk)

(austinharris.co.uk)

The three photographs above are the Waite car at the Island- that is the the prototype of the 1928 ‘Super Sports’ albeit fitted with a locally modified bonnet, then below it a standard ‘SS’ in order that you may compere the differences between the cars for yourselves- and a Super Sports engine.
At this point thanks are in order to racer/restorer/historian/authors Tony Johns and Bob King who have contributed all of the photographs in this article from their vast archives, and in Tony’s case an enormous amount of Austin 7 material and race experience.
Of the latter engine photograph Johns observes, ‘The ‘Y-shaped’ inlet manifold is the same as mine (see a bit later on) designed to fit on long studs- look between the centre exhaust pipes and rear pipe. The photo illustrates the longer than standard valve springs to accommodate the 3/8 inch lift camshaft, as well as the location of the Pilgrim pump on the rear of the supercharger to lubricate the vanes- Vane type superchargers such as Shorrock need more lubrication than Roots type where their is no contact between revolving parts. The carburettor is a Cozette- this is a slightly later engine than Waite’s as it has the later inlet manifold designed for shorter studs to make for easier assembly.’
By the 1929 AGP Waite was back in the UK where he was appointed to the Austin Board of Directors.
Amongst his new responsibilities Arthur took over the Austin racing team in 1930, competing along with ‘Freddie’ March and ‘Sammy’ Davis. In the Ards TT Waite was thrown from his Austin into the path of oncoming cars suffering a broken jaw and concussion- engine failures to all but one 7s in this race resulted in the crankcase being extended to below the level of the chassis- the end result was a ten-stud head which was a part of the ‘Ulster’ model specifications. Waite gave up his racing career after the Ards accident.
Back in Australia the driving chores of the 1928 winner were handed to Clarrie May who had a run in the car in the lead up to the AGP at Aspendale Speedway in bayside Melbourne  that January but the car failed to impress the ‘Sporting Globe’ writer, ‘Truto’ who commented that the Clarrie May driven car was one of the most disappointing of the meeting ‘It showed no ginger and is probably a temperamental piece of mechanism’- rather a harsh description of the AGP winner!
Entered in Waite’s name for the 1929 AGP, decades later correspondence between Waite and John Blanden confirmed the car was owned by Austin Distributors Pty. Ltd. not Arthur individually.
The car ran very well as part of the lead bunch until suffering supercharger failure on lap 20 of the 31 lap race won by Arthur Terdich’s Bugatti T37A- he bagged the win in 1929 he in many ways deserved the year before.

Clarrie May, and we think, Joan Richmond in the A7 Ulster May raced in 1930 (B King Collection)

In the 1930 AGP May again raced an, Austin, on this occasion an Ulster to a DNF after rolling the car- Bill Thompson won that year in a Bugatti T37A.
1931 saw two supercharged Austin 7s entered driven by CR Dickason and CR May, again Clarrie reputedly racing the ex-Waite car, this year completing 18 of the 30 laps and retired, the best placed Austin 7 was Cyril Dickason’s superbly driven car which finished second outright in the handicap race.
Bill Thomson won again in 1932 with T37A, Clarrie May again ran an Austin 7 but it was a different machine to the year before and not as fast’, Blanden wrote that ‘Clarrie May was also in an Austin as usual. However it was being tipped that this car was not going to be as fast as the one he had driven the previous year’- in the event he was eighth, with Dickason again the best placed Austin 7 in third behind Thompson and the G Disher Salmson.
In his 1931 race piece in ‘A History of Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ Blanden ponders as to whether the car May raced in 1931 was the Waite car- Tony Johns confirms it was not and ‘all efforts to trace to whom the car was sold and its subsequent movements have been in vain’. John published his book in 1981, in 2020 the picture is clearer but still to an extent publicly untold.
The Austin 7 community in Australia are a tight-knit bunch, one of their ‘doyen’ is Tony Johns who will be known to many enthusiasts as an A7 racer, restorer, purveyor of fine books for many years and more recently an author- he and Phillip Schudmak together with Clare Hay and Bob Watson wrote and published ‘Vintage Bentleys in Australia’ about twelve months ago, do get a copy, its a great book, which i promised to review now i think of it…
Tony Johns picks up his Austin story and history, ‘Great Aunt in Brisbane owned an Austin 7 from new, and I would sit in the back seat whenever we were in Queensland for family holidays which usually involved a seaside holiday at Southport on the Gold Coast, quiet as it was in those days. As an aside Bill Pitt (the driver of the Geordie Anderson owned D Type Jaguar i have written about ), the service manager at Anderson Motors looked after both my Grandmother and Aunts motor cars.’
‘This Austin was a 1931 tourer and as it was not Vintage, ie built before December 1930 I rejected the offer to inherit it when my Aunt passed away. However I did claim the original tool kit and still have the screw driver, pliers and grease gun that have n ever been used.’
‘In 1960 I purchased a 1928 Chummy six months before I was eligible to get a driving licence and joined the Austin 7 Club. Not long after, I met Nigel Tait and we were both young and were soon elected to the committee. Nigel started racing a few years before me and I would act as his pit crew at Templestowe, Tarrawingee and in 1964 the South Australian Easter Collingrove Hillclimb and Mallala Races. By 1964 I had collected a modified chassis, and the body from Allan Tyrrell’s racing car- by Easter 1965 my first racing car was ready for the trip to Adelaide with the rest of the Victorian Austin 7 racers.’
‘In 1973 and 1974 i lived in London and used some of that time to locate an Austin 7 Ulster- there were no complete running cars for sale so I ended up buying a restored rolling chassis and a new body. I shipped four of these Stuart Rolt built bodies back to Melbourne. Also in 1974 I was loaned Martin Eyre’s spare Austin to race in UK VSCC events in exchange for building engines, it was then that the challenge was made to prove that our Australian Austins were quicker than their cars- plans for the ‘1981 Raid’ of Australian Austin 7s in the UK were soon underway’ that story we will pick up in the next couple of months.

Equipe Johns at Sandown 26 September 1965- Tony Johns’ Chummy A7 and the A7 Spl he raced from 1965-1980 (T Johns)

‘I was as well connected as anyone in the Austin 7 world and knew the story that the Waite car remained stored at the back of the Austin Distributors building in South Melbourne for some years before it was sold- by then the later Ulster sportscars were faster machines.’

By the seventies the consensus was that the race winning car had been broken up so Victorian A7 man Bill Sheehan built a replica using the correct type of chassis and running gear with the body built with the assistance of Barry Papps.

Whilst Johns was happily racing his 7 in 500 Car Club/A7 events and divisional racing then later still historic racing he was always on the lookout for A7 bits- especially competition parts.

‘My longtime Meteor bodied Austin 7 friend from Sydney, Col Masterton, told me about the supercharged Waite crankcase. He approached the owner in the hope that i may be able to buy it for my unblown Ulster i purchased in pieces and shipped from the UK in 1974.’

‘It was not for sale but the owner also had a 1930s Nippy sports Austin that was missing its crankcase and if i could find one he would do a swap- it was all stops out to locate a suitable crankcase from my UK contacts so that i could complete the deal.’

‘When the crankcase arrived from England and on my next racing weekend in Sydney…i arranged with Colin to complete the swap. That Saturday morning, under a house not sure where in Sydney i saw the Ulster crankcase for the first time. Imagine my surprise and the look on face trying to stay calm when i realised it was a complete engine including the cast alloy inlet manifold and timing chest at the front of the crankcase. Even the steel gear that drives the supercharger was a special Works part that had one less tooth than the standard part in order to increase the supercharger revs- not just the crankcase that was to be the swap. Racing the Austin in Sydney that weekend became less important, i already had achieved the win of a lifetime.’

‘The Waite motor was reunited with the replica Bill Sheehan constructed replica when it was owned by my friend, Graeme Steinfort- i had sold the eight stud Waite crankcase to Graeme in exchange for legal advice.’

‘At the time Graeme was driving an un-supercharged Ulster he had purchased in the UK from former Lotus F1 driver John Miles. The four speed Waite gearbox was purchased by Graeme from another Melbourne Austin 7 enthusiast, Neil Johannesen’ so the replica at that stage had two of the critical original parts from the 1928 AGP winner.

(T Johns)

‘Sydney 1970s when i acquired the Waite engine, unfortunately the spare Blown crankcase was not part of the deal. Note the four bolts on the side face of the crankcase are there to mount the Cozette supercharger. Sydney A7 enthusiast Col Masterton is holding the very rare cast inlet manifold, this differed from later Ulster manifolds as it was designed for the long studs that were used at the time. Note the special 9C numbers that were cast into the non-standard competition parts.’

(T Johns)

‘Above is the Waite crankcase after I stripped and cleaned it- the special inlet manifold is clearly visible as well as the original supercharger driveshaft and coupling.’

‘As to the casting numbers you can see, Mike Costigan checked with all the UK experts in relation to casting numbers on the side of the crankcase. The reply was that they were there for the factory to be able to check which foundry had made the castings in case of faults and are of no importance to us regarding Ulster or Super Sports part numbering.’

‘The shot below shows the same inlet manifold, Cozette carburettor and supercharger fitted to my Ulster as above- the crankcase is now, again, as noted above, fitted to the Waite Replica.’

(T Johns)

At this point a happy confluence of events occurred, Bob King (remember his ‘Werrangourt Archive’ articles on primotipo) had a next door neighbour at Blairgowrie on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula named Reg Sweet who just happened to have owned the Waite car in the late thirties.

‘He was a great bloke, he made a mean home-brew and ensured the whole Blairgowrie experience was bearable. Fascinating too, he had flown as a pilot in Lancasters during the War including sorties over places like Cologne.’

King introduced Sweet to Graeme Steinfort on a Victorian Vintage and Sportscar Club run to Blairgowrie circa 1980, Graeme made typed notes after the meeting- i would scan them and pop them up but they will be too difficult to read hence this transcription in full.

‘Apparently the car had remained in the hands of Austin Distributors in Melbourne for many years after the event (1928 AGP) and was gradually pushed into a corner of their workshop. Reg Sweet at that time was engaged in the motor trade mainly buying and selling Austin 7s, and thus had a lot to do with the people at Austin Distributors. He was onto them for a number of years to sell the car to him, but in those “pre-depreciation” days they said that it was on the books for 200 pounds!’

‘He was called in to Austin Distributors one day in about 1934 and was told that they were clearing out all the old stock and was invited to make an offer on the Waite car if he wished. To this, he requested their suggestion as to what he should offer, and was told “60 pounds”, he offered that amount and acquired the car.’

‘He recalls a lot about the car, the most significant feature which to him, apart from the number 4 Cozette supercharger, was the fact that it would rev quite easily to 7000 rpm in competition. It had the straight front axle and the body on it was quite similar to that constructed by Bill Sheehan (that Graeme owns).

‘Reg proceeded to race the car at Aspendale Speedway (in bayside Melbourne) without success because the days of the Austin 7 in competition were really over, having been overshadowed by the MG P Types and Singer Le Mans which were then the current favourite for light car competition.’

‘However he did have a success in his class at Rob Roy and until recently had a cup to prove it.  That cup he donated to Bob King to give as a trophy for Brescia Bugattis at the Bi-Annual Bugatti Rally. Reg tells me he registered the car during this period and ran it without lights or mudguards, the registration authorities in those days being less stringent than they are today.’

‘Basically, however, he used the car purely for competition disposing of it in about 1938 when the responsibilities of family and the like put an end to his sports motoring at the time. Reg managed to break the crankshaft and replaced it with one purchased from England for 13 pounds. The replacement crank came complete with new pistons, rings, gudgeon pins and rods- all fully prepared to go straight into the motor. He tells me the crankshaft was not an exact fit and he had to do some work on the case, grinding a proportion away to get the crankshaft to fit. Tony Johns reports that these grinding marks are present on the crankcase that he has on his engine.’

Graeme Steinfort concludes an amazing document with the observation that ‘Naturally, Reg remembers the car with some affection and would like to have it back today! I think we join with him in that, and it would be nice to see the complete car in existence.’

Tony did some quick Rob Roy research and indeed Reginald Sweet won class 1, under 750cc, supercharged at Rob Roy Number 5, Cup Day November 1938 with a time of 41.66 seconds- he returned on 30 January 1939 and finished second in class to Derry George, MG J4 who did a 38.74 seconds.

If any of you can fill in the gaps between Reg Sweet’s sale of the Waite car circa 1938 and the acquisition of the car’s engine and gearbox by Messrs Johns and Steinfort in the seventies that would be wonderful, do get in touch.

Austin A7 Waite Replica (G Steinfort)

 

Graeme Steinfort in the Austin 7 Waite Replica at ‘Speed on Tweed’ September 2007 (G Steinfort)

 

(T Johns)

Arthur Waite provides his best wishes to the Austin 7 ‘Raid’ racers prior to their trip to the UK in 1981.

Prominent Australian historian/racing journalist Ray Bell provided this shot below which his brother took in the UK in 1987- Ray wrote the 1928 chapter, and others, of ‘The 50 Year History of The Australian Grand Prix’, Bell’s copy of which Arthur is holding.

Ray dispatched his brother to meet with the old racer to sign the 1928 title page of his HAGP copy, when brother Brian knocked on the door and sought an audience, or arrived at the agreed time, the lady who answered the door enquired as to the reason for calling to which Brian responded ‘He won a car race in Australia a long time ago’ at which point the lady interrupted him by saying ‘Yes! And haven’t we all heard enough about that?’

(R Bell Collection)

 

Etcetera…

 

 

(B King Collection)

Stan King Austin 7- unusual angle shows the tight packaging of mechanic and driver in the smaller cars- the pair completed the second race for Class A/C cars without a stop, one of few to do 100 miles without pitting.

Good deed of the day award went to this crew who gave Arthur Terdich a lift on the rear of the car as the hapless Melburnian tried to find his Bugatti which had been coaxed back to life by the side of the road and driven back to the pits by his mechanic.

 

(B King Collection)

John McCutcheon and friends before the off- the second placed and very quick Morris Cowley was never headed once into the lead of the morning’s Class B and D race.

 

 

(B King Collection)

The Pound DFP in profile- Les was third in Class B despite a number of tyre blowouts in the morning race, Bill Terdich in the other DFP was a DNF with a broken valve or piston.

 

(C Watt)

Light Car Club committee members at the Isle of Wight during the 1928 meeting. The fellow on the car side closest to the umbrella pole is Arthur Terdich, Tony believes- any clues on the other characters folks?

 

(B King Collection)

Arthur Terdich was in many ways the ‘man of the meeting’ having been up to his armpits in the organisation of the event as a LCC Committe member and one of the front runners in the race- he was stiff not to win it.

He returned to the Island many times of course and won in 1929 with a Grand Prix Type 37A Bugatti rather than the modified touring T40 machine he drove so well in 1928.

Terdich was a critical force in Victorian racing for many years, I will circle back to him and have a crack at a profile about him with Bob and Tony’s assistance.

In the sensational photograph below Terdich (left) is plotting the path of the 1926 Alpine Trial, the car is his 3 litre Bentley chassis ‘602’, which was also the official course car during the event, somewhere in the Victorian high country.

(E Adamson)

 

B King Collection)

Bill Williamson, aboard the Riley 9 owned by Mrs Jack Day.

It was a weekend of drama with a rollover in practice and a class B/D race of perseverance after transmission problems caused a pitstop- during which the problem was fixed, twelfth the result.

 

 

(B King Collection)

Barney Dentry does look like a lean, mean fighting machine, despite the fag.

So many of these early racers were middle-aged given the readies required to compete, Barney is a veritable youth in comparison- car is a Senechal.

 

A Valentine postcard of the Isle of Wight over a race weekend- not much to go on but cars and a date folks?

 

Gee-whizz, the Phillip Island Hotel looks decidedly low rent, I doubt any of the Light Car Club types stayed there.

 

(B King Collection)

Les Jennings, Morris Cowley DNF after completing 6 laps- the car blew a cylinder head gasket.

His Lanes Motors supported machines were very well prepared with support from Lanes- and very well driven.

 

‘Dunlop Grand Prix this way’- Terdich in the drivers seat of a road roller (B King Collection)

‘Dunlop Grand Prix this way’- by this stage of the journey to Cowes the spectators would have been at fever pitch with excitement at the prospect of a spectacle few would have seen before- Terdich behind the wheel of the road roller?

 

(B King Collection)

Ron Gardner with a touch of the opposites, Alvis 12/50- DNF after completing 8 laps- big end bearing failure.

 

(B King Collection)

The John Goodall Aston Martin 1.5- Ed Huon the driver and Bob Horne the mechanic- Goodall retired the car with stripped gears having only completed a lap of the afternoon race.

 

(T Johns Collection)

 

(T Johns Collection)

Not too many racing cars and drivers have been honoured with an Australian postage stamp- but the Waite Austin 7 s/c is one of them.

The Australia Post researchers got it right too- the other car featured is the ‘if only’ Bugatti T40 of Arthur Terdich.

(S Dalton Collection)

 

(S Dalton Collection)

 

(S Dalton Collection)

 

As reported in period by ‘The Car’…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(A Waite Collection via D Howe)

The Austin Distributors Pty. Ltd. Melbourne dealership with all staff on deck by the look of it out front of 460 Bourke Street just before the race.

We are not sure if this shot was taken in 1928 or 1929 but it’s not so much the date as the vibe.

Bibliography…

‘The Austin Seven Source Book’ Bryan Purves, Bill Sheehan, Austin 7 Club Australia website, Jim Scaysbrook article in MotorSport magazine February 2008, speedwayandroadracinghistory.com, The Nostalgia Forum, The ‘Goulburn Evening Penny Post’ 17 January 1927, ‘The Sydney Sportsman’ 22 November 1927, ‘A History of Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ John Blanden, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and others, Tony Johns recollections, ‘The Advertiser’ Geelong 3 April 1928, article by Philip Turner about Charles Goodacre in Motor- 17 February 1973 issue, ‘Vintage Bentleys in Australia’ P Schudmak, T Johns and others, ‘The Car’ article via T Johns Collection, Arthur Waite Collection via David Howe

(C Watt)

Photo Credits and notes…

Tony Johns, Tony Johns Collection, Bob King Collection, Graeme Steinfort, MotorSport, Edwin Adamson, ‘Austin Racing History’ Roland Harrison, Edgar Family, The Bugatti Trust, Stephen Dalton Collection, Ray Bell Collection

Charlie Watt provided many of the photographs in this article via Tony Johns who comments as follows, ‘In the early sixties i met Charles ‘Charlie’ Watt of Brighton, Melbourne who had a lathe in his garage and helped with some machining on my Austin.’

’He worked for COR and was very pleased to pass his photos on to a young enthusiast, several of the photos (in this piece) have been published under others names- it would make me feel better if Charlie finally received some acknowledgment for his work.’

‘Charlie was also responsible for the COR scoreboard above. He damaged his hand with its construction and still had issues with it in 1960. His son Bruce built a special, named after his girlfriend and later raced a Valiant or Falcon on gas in a Sandown endurance race- the Bruce Watt of Benalla Auto Club fame?’

Many thanks to the late Charlie Watt for his photos and to Tony for sharing them.

It was amusing sitting down with Bob King at his place in Brighton earlier in the week and learning that Ray Bell, a mate who wrote the 1928 AGP chapter in HAGP, sat beside Bob in the same study circa 1984 whilst Ray made his choice of photographs from Bob’s Collection which was largely accumulated in the long research process of writing various Bugatti books- i can imagine Ray sitting there twisting from buttock to buttock, frustrated trying to work out which of the over forty shots to use with a page count limit to work to- as you have probably worked out i have no such restrictions!

The end I think.

Tailpiece…

(C Watts)

The Castrol depot at the Island in 1928- car folks?

Finito…

 

(W Giles)

Barrie Garner settles himself before unleashing 3 litres of triple-carbed Holden power to the Lakeland tarmac, Bowin P3 Holden 1972…

Lakeland Hillclimb was operated by the Light Car Club of Australia, it was one of several ‘climbs in Melbourne’s outer suburbs or inner countryside depending upon your perspective- the others were Templestowe and Rob Roy, the latter is still operational after some decades of non-use.

Whilst the LCCA ran the meetings the land was owned by Jim Abbott, a motor racing entrepreneur whose interests included AutoSportsman magazine, the Melbourne Racing Car Show held at the Exhibition Buildings, Lakeland and other businesses.

Upon his death the Marque Sports Car Association ran some meetings for a couple of years before the required levels of upkeep became beyond them- ultimately Abbot’s widow sold the land which went to a developer who carved it into smaller rural allotments.

(silhouet.com)

 

Many of us recall the place well as spectators and/or competitors, it was a fun, challenging climb and great for club motorsport given its proximity to Melbourne. Ron Simmonds remembers competing there in his Cooper S in 1963’ish, I ran there in my road Alfa Sprint in either an Alfa Club or MSCA event in 1982/3 albeit by then open-meetings were long finished- i wonder when the last ever meeting was?

There was a time when hill-climbing was huge, attracting big crowds to see the circuit racing stars of the day testing their skills against the hillclimb specialists, perhaps the sport’s zenith was reached around the dawn of the sixties.

Despite that I can recall as a younger kid watching Lakeland on the teev in the early seventies – no doubt the touring car aces such as Peter Brock pulled good ratings.

Most of these photographs were taken by Wayne Giles who posted them on Bob Williamson’s Old Motor Racing Photographs Australia Facebook page well over a year ago. Whilst many of the shots are static, the cars are interesting and Wayne captures the mood, vibe and flavour of the times well.

Jim Abbot’s ex-Alec Mildren Racing Brabham BT23D’ then Oldsmobile powered (W Giles)

It seems apt to start with a photograph of ‘Squire’ Abbott’s Brabham BT23D Oldsmobile.

He positioned it as ‘Australia First F5000 Car’ when he acquired the 1968 Gold Star winning machine from Alec Mildren. It was first raced by Frank Gardner in the 1968 Tasman Series before Kevin Bartlett took it over to win the Gold Star, I’ve written about it before;

https://primotipo.com/2018/11/30/motori-porno-alfa-romeo-tipo-33-tasman-2-5-litre-v8/

Later iteration of the Abbott BT23D again at Lakeland in 1972- Paul King’s Malmark Elfin Vee alongside (P Robinson)

Chris Murphy bought it and modified it further for hillclimb use and died in it, sadly, at One Tree Hill, Ararat.

Restored by Paul Moxham in the nineties the car is now owned by Chas Kelly in Tasmania along with the ex-Clark/Geoghegan Lotus 39 Climax and one or two other nice things.

Frank Gardner in the Alec Mildren Racing Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo 2.5 V8 at Longford in 1968- the last Longford (R MacKenzie)

 

Murray Bingham’s Bingham Cobra aka Porsche Cobra aka Porsche 904-8 ( W Giles)

Another car which passed through Abbott’s hillclimbing hands was the ex-works/Alan Hamilton Porsche 904-8.

In Abbott’s time it was Ford V8 powered and named ‘Porsche Cobra’- below its seen in wilder configuration, still Ford powered in Murray Bingham’s hands. Its ultimate spec was in ex-Bob Muir injected Chev F5000 form, a transplant which took place about a year after this 1972 photograph, Bingham was a talented driver who won the three round Australian Hillclimb Championship in 1972.

Click here for a feature on this car; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/20/alan-hamilton-his-porsche-9048-and-two-906s/;

Murray at Huntley Hillclimb in May 1973- Bingham the reigning AHC champion at the time, the car by then powered by an injected 5 litre Chev (G Logg)

 

(W Giles)

Another talented driver/engineer was Paul England.

The ex-Repco Research apprentice built the fabulous Ausca Holden sportscar with assistance from his buddies in Sydney Road, Brunswick and after a Cooper racing adventure in Europe he settled back into Melbourne establishing Paul England Engineering in Moonee Ponds. Click here for a bit about Paul;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/20/aussie-miller-cooper-t41-climax-trevallyn-hillclimb-launceston-tasmania-1959/

Kerry Power keeping an eye on Paul’s takeoff at King Edward Park, Newcastle (D Wilson)

Amongst engine building, and providing support to many young thrusters- Tony Stewart, Larry Perkins and Peter Larner amongst others, England pursued his racing and engineering passions by building his Ausca VW series of supercharged and twin-engine cars- how many did he build?

He was quick too- taking the AHCC in 1970 at Mount Cotton Queensland and again over a four-round series in 1973 and 1974.

Rallycross was big at Catalina Park, in Sydney’s Blue Mountains and Calder to Melbourne’s north-west for a couple of years with the LCCA very kindly creating a hillclimb category to give the pensioned off beasts somewhere to run.

(P Shea)

The Holden Dealer Team Holden Torana LC GTR XU1 supercharged sports sedan/rallycross car is above with Peter Brock at the wheel.

Bob Watson’s 1970 rallycross Renault 8 Gordini below giving the sponsor a run for their money.

Didn’t they make some magic cars at the time? i couldn’t believe how good a 16TS was until I drove a mates ‘students car’ which was hardly in the full flush of youth at the time.

(W Giles)

In similar rally vein the 1972 Dulux Rally, which commenced in Queensland and finished in Melbourne, passed through Lakeland, inclusive of a timed run.

The car featured is David McKay’s Ford Capri RS2600, I wrote a feature about it a while back; https://primotipo.com/2015/04/09/australias-cologne-capris/

(W Giles)

 

(W Giles)

The former Australian Sportscar Champion, single-seater front runner, journalist and Scuderia Veloce owner had not lost his touch and drove his works Ford very well.

It was a winning car in his hands with more luck, the ‘small car big engine’ approach has been such an effective touring car formula down the decades hasn’t it?

David Wilson took this shot of the RS2600 in the Silverdale Hillclimb paddock during the Dulux. Soft plugs out, used driving between events, hot ones in? (D Wilson)

Also from Germany was Paul Older’s BMW 2002Ti- he was quite prominent especially on the circuits helping build the BMW brand in Australia- what became of him I wonder?

It is amazing how quickly BMW took a big slice of the market as they got the dealer network and product right from about circa 1970 and a bit.

(W Giles)

The sedans were ‘quirky’ things until the first 3 Series- the 6 cylinder variants were great cars- to me BMW ‘exploded’ here from about then- say 1979’ish.

And the very happy BMW customer I have been on three occasions. (325is, a sensational little car and now as rare as hens teeth, 325i Coupe manual and X5 tow-car and kiddy-shifter. The X5 was the most car like of trucks and did serious Melbourne to Wye River times being good fun on the Great Ocean Road, a stretch i got to know well in my Wye days)

(W Giles)

Heavy metal racing at Lakeland included two five litre Elfins- the 400 Ford sportscar of Terry Southall and MR5 Ford F5000 of Adelaide’s Stan Keen.

The Elfin 400 has had serious attention by me in two articles, one on Frank Matich’s first delivered car here; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/28/elfin-400traco-olds-frank-matich-niel-allen-and-garrie-cooper/

the other on the Southall chassis which was first owned and raced by Bob Jane and a lengthy roll call of drivers before being sold to Ken Hastings and then Southall- here; https://primotipo.com/2018/04/06/belle-of-the-ball/

(W Giles)

Stan’s MR5 was first raced, not for terribly long though, by John Walker- chassis ‘5724’ was sold before the 1972 Surfers Paradise Gold Star round to Stan when JW acquired a Matich A50 to which he fitted the Repco Holden engine and DG300 Hewland out of the MR5.

The A50 complied with the US L&M F5000 regs (in relation to bag fuel tanks i think) whereas the MR5 did not, Walker raced A50 ‘004’ in the US in 1973.

John Walker Elfin MR5 Repco fourth from Warwick Brown McLaren M10B Chev DNF and Max Stewart’s MR5 Repco DNF during the 1972 Adelaide International Tasman round won by David Hobb’s McLaren M22 Chev (I Smith)

Keen fitted a 5 litre Ford ‘Boss’ engine fed by four 48IDA Webers and raced the car extensively on both the circuits and hillclimbs all over Australia- he made his Gold Star debut in it during the October 1972 Adelaide International Gold Star round finishing sixth.

Did his later ‘Boral Ford’ sporty use many of the running bits of the Elfin or is that my memory playing tricks again?

Nice Lilydale and Dandenong Ranges vista, the Noel Devine LC XU1 exiting The Carousel (W Giles)

I’ve said before surely one of the greatest all-rounder touring cars in the world at the time was Holden’s six cylinder 3 and 3.3 litre Torana GTR XU1?

They won on the circuits, in sprint and endurance events, inclusive of the Bathurst 500, on the dirt- in both rallies and rallycross- Colin Bond won the Australian Rally Championship three times and Peter Lang once, and in the hills where they were the weapon of choice for many club racers.

The LC XU1 below, sponsored by Booran Motors, then a Caulfield Holden dealer in Melbourne was I think driven by Brique Reed- he of Elfin, Farrell and Asp Clubman racing and Elfin Owners Club fame.

(W Giles)

Sundries…

I’ve no idea who the drivers and in some cases what the cars are shown below, but am intrigued to find out if any of you can assist.

(W Giles)

Of ‘first generation’ Formula Vees in Australia the Elfin 500 and Rennmax Mk1 were probably, note the use of that word probably, the best chassis- both cars here are Elfin 500s, the blue one was raced by Jim Hutton and chassis ‘V669’ still owned by his family, whilst the other is in the colours of Ray Kelly- thanks to Sean O’Hagan for the FV identification work.

(W Giles)

Tried to buy a Honda S800 as a fifth or sixth form student, probably lucky I didn’t I suspect!

Way beyond my non-existent practical mechanical, as against theoretical mechanical skills at the time. Owner/driver folks?

(W Giles)

The Ford Escort Twin-Cam has to one of the ultimate road/club cars of the era too, always loved them but never quite got to buy one- 105 Series Alfa’s got in the way. Article here; https://primotipo.com/2017/06/30/twinc/

(W Giles)

No idea what these Clubman beasties are.

‘Blanchards’ (on the rear of the chubbie at left) were a Holden Dealer not far from Sandown, on the corner of Springvale and Dandenong Roads, Springvale. Graeme Blanchard was a punter of touring cars of some repute in the sixties and seventies- don’t know that he raced a Clubman, more likely he sponsored this fellow.

Etcetera…

(Beasy)

Some photographs of Brian Beasy’s self constructed Formula Ford which evolved into a very fast little car as the Kent engines specifications grew wilder and wheels and tyres wider.

Brian, both a racer and engineer of great talent was Lilydale local so no doubt knew Lakeland very well, see some of the LCCA hierarchy in the start shot below- names please- Doug Hicks at left?

(Beasy)

 

(Beasy)

Credits…

Wayne Giles, Richard Rodgers, Peter Shea, David Wilson, Grahame Logg, Rod MacKenzie, Ian Smith, Paul Robinson, Beasy Family Collection, Sean O’Hagan

(R Rodgers)

Tailpieces: Barrie Garner, Bowin P3 Holden…

Having started with Barrie’s immaculate, quick, unique ‘Holden Red’ six-cylinder powered Bowin, lets finish the same way.

The New South Welshman was not a regular visitor to the Victorian Hills so one can assume he was here for a championship event, perhaps a Victorian Hillclimb Championship round in 1972 or 1973.

Garner, Huntley May 1973 (G Logg)

Look out! Coming through kids!

(G Logg)

Again Huntley in May 1973, magic shot from Grahame Logg to finish the article?! The truth of the matter is that Barrie’s goggles are down so his run is over, but let’s not let that get in the way of a good line.

The sheer beauty and preparation of the Barrie Garner owned and prepared, John Joyce designed and built aluminium monocoque P3 is shown to good effect as well as the casual club feel of hill climbing.

Finito…

(autopics.com/DBlanch)

The field on the first of 85 laps- the ‘Angus and Coote Diamond Trophy’, Gold Star Championship second round, Oran Park 26 June 1971…

Kevin Bartlett, McLaren M10B Chev from Max Stewart, Mildren Waggott TC-4V, Graeme Lawrence, Brabham BT30 Ford FVC 1.9 and then the dark helmeted Henk Woelders in his Elfin 600E Ford twin-cam- the first of the 1.6 litre ANF2 cars.

The 1971 Gold Star was an interesting one in that both 2 litre ‘race engines’ and F5000’s contested the championship- whilst F5000 cars were eligible for the Tasman Cup in 1970 and 1971- that year was the categories first in the domestic championship.

On the face of it perhaps the favourites at the seasons outset were Frank Matich and Kevin Bartlett in ‘match fit’ McLaren M10B’s. FM’s Repco Holden powered car was the ‘same car’ he and his team had continually evolved for eighteen months whereas KB’s chassis was the machine Niel Allen had raced in the 1970 and 1971 Tasman Series- beautifully prepared by Peter Molloy it was ready to boogie. Other F5000’s were Alan Hamilton’s brand new M10B- Allen’s spare chassis built up and sold when Allen retired from racing, and John McCormack’s Elfin MR5 Repco which appeared for the first time mid-season, at Sandown in September.

The quickest of the Waggott 2 litre TC-4V powered cars were Max Stewart’s Mildren and Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 59B but Leo’s car was for sale so the reigning Gold Star champion contested few 1971 meetings.

Kevin Bartlett leads Max Stewart and Graeme Lawrence early in the race- KB appears to be running plenty of wing (L Hemer)

 

Gary Campbell and Tony Stewart in Elfin 600B/E Ford twin-cams inside Doug Heasman, Rennmax BN3 Ford (R Thorncraft)

It had taken until 1971 for the Tasman Cup to fall to an F5000- Graham McRae won it in an M10B whereas in 1970 Graeme Lawrence’s 2.4 litre Ferrari Dino 246 took the title, other Tasman 2.5 and 2 litre cars had been competitive amongst the 5 litre V8’s- the expectation was that an F5000 would win the Gold Star but Max Stewart’s fast, reliable Mildren Waggott won it with a win at this meeting- Oran Park and strong placings elsewhere to score 23 points to Bartlett and Hamilton’s 22 points each.

Bartlett was fast everywhere- he won the Governors Trophy Lakeside opening round- was on pole with Max at Oran Park, won the non-championship (that year) Hordern Trophy at Warwick Farm, and the Victorian Trophy at Sandown a week later but had the wrong tyres, that is, no wets at Symmons Plains where they were rather necessary, and blew an engine whilst leading at Mallala giving the new Elfin MR5 Repco its first title win in the hands of John McCormack. Mac would do very well with this car in the next two years on both sides of the Tasman Sea.

Max niggling away at KB- the big V8 blasted away on OP’s long straight but otherwise the little Mildren- Max’ car for 2 years by then was mighty quick elsewhere on the circuit (L Hemer)

 

(Peter Houston)

 

And again albeit by now MS has lost his right-front wing- did he ping one of KB’s Goodyears to do the damage? (L Hemer)

Matich’s campaign fizzled away too. The team missed the opening round at Lakeside as they were successfully campaigning the McLaren in the US- the team raced at the first two US F5000 Championship rounds in California, winning at Riverside with a pair of seconds in the two heats and were second at Laguna with another pair of seconds in the heats behind David Hobb’s M10B Chev.

Back home at Oran Park FM ran foul of another car earlier in the week doing enough damage for the team to build a new chassis- they did this rather than buy one from Trojan to give them valuable experience in advance of construction of FM’s new monocoque chassis Matich A50 Repco which would win the AGP later in the season upon its debut race from pole.

Matich leading a couple of cars through Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew on the 2 May 1971 weekend, McLaren M10B Repco (D Kneller)

The Matich McLaren was ready for the third round at Surfers in late August winning from pole. He started the Victorian Trophy at Sandown from pole but retired with blocked fuel-injection slides- KB won. With no chance of winning the title the team missed the final two rounds at Symmons and Mallala to focus on completion of the A50.

Alan Hamilton was impressive in his first year racing these demanding cars, whilst he came back to the machines in the late seventies it is a pity he didn’t persevere then whilst in ‘his youth’ and when the class could have done with another well prepared frontish of the field car- Warwick Brown or rather Pat Burke bought this car giving Warwick’s career a big kick-along in 1972 of course, the machine prepared by Peter Molloy.

Another big guy being monstered by a little one- Alan Hamilton, McLaren M10B Chev and John Walker, Elfin 600B Ford (L Hemer)

 

A couple of dicing Elfin 600s trying to stay clear of the Bartlett-Stewart express right up their clackers onto the OP main straight- Clive Millis from Tony Stewart (T Coles)

 

Graeme Lawrence’s nimble Brabham attacks Col Hyam’s Lola T192 Chev- note the sidepods fitted to the car by Gardner (L Hemer)

At Oran Park Max won from Graeme Lawrence’s visiting Brabham BT30 Ford FVC and Hamilton’s McLaren, Bartlett retired with his differential pinion stripped- the good ‘ole Hewland DG300 transmission was always marginal for F5000 use unless its maintenance was entirely up to snuff. The gearbox was originally built for F1 in 1966- for Dan Gurney and Jack Brabham when both the 3 litre Repco V8 and Eagle-Weslake V12 had far less than 500 pounds foot of torque tearing away at its gizzards…

F2 honours went to Henk Woelders who was fourth in an Elfin 600E- the dominance of this car in ANF2 at the time indicated by the fifth to ninth placed cars being Elfin 600B’s raced by Tony Stewart, Jack Bono, John Walker (soon to jump into an Elfin MR5), Vern Hamilton and Don Uebergang.

Henk Woelders’ Elfin 600E chasing Vern Hamilton’s 600B (L Hemer)

Etcetera…

(P Houston)

Melbourne racer Colin Hyams jumped into the big league with the acquisition of the works Lola T192 Chev Frank Gardner campaigned in the Tasman Cup that summer- FG did well in it too, taking a win at Warwick Farm and finishing fourth in the overall pointscore. Colin retired at Oran Park with gearbox dramas.

(L Hemer)

Gary Campbell’s Elfin 600B/E Ford, chassis ‘7122’ worked hard that year raced by both the Sydney ‘Provincial Motors’ motor dealer and Larry Perkins to whom he lent the car for a successful attack on the Australian Formula 2 Championship.

(L Hemer)

Alan Hamilton’s McLaren M10B ‘400-19’ despite ostensibly a 1970 model F5000 was brand new given its very late build into a complete car by Peter Molloy and sale to Hammo. As many Australian historic enthusiasts know, all these years later AH owns both his old car and the Allen/Bartlett chassis ‘400-02’- the wheels of which have been twiddled by Alfredo Costanzo until recent times.

(L Hemer)

John Walker in his 600B chassis ‘7018’, by this time the following year he was racing the fourth and last built Elfin MR5 Repco ‘5724’ in which he made his race debut in the last, Adelaide International round of the 1972 Tasman Cup in February 1972- the start of a mighty fine F5000 career in Australasia and the US inclusive of an Australian Gold Star and Grand Prix win in 1979. He was seventh at Oran Park 6 laps adrift of the front-runners with undisclosed dramas.

(P Houston)

Bartlett always raced with passion, lots of fire and brimstone and bucket-loads of natural brio. Lucky bastard.

KB pedalled the car through the 1972 Tasman inclusive of a Teretonga round win amongst much more modern metal and then did a US L&M round or two in it before racing Lola T300’s in both Australia and the US that year.

Credits…

Special thanks to Lynton Hemer, whose great photos inspired this piece

autopics.com- D Blanch, Russel Thorncraft, Tony Coles, Derek Kneller Collection, Peter Houston, oldracingcars.com

Tailpiece…

(L Hemer)

Max Stewart accepts the plaudits of the crowd on the warm-down lap- by June 1971 Alec Mildren Racing was well and truly disbanded but such are the bonds between driver and entrant that Max still carries Alec Mildren Racing signage and Seiko continued to provide financial support to Max into his first F5000 foray with an Elfin MR5 Repco in 1972.

Finito…

‘XKD520’ was the seventh production D-type, it was ordered through the ‘Brysons’ Bridge Road, Richmond, Melbourne Jaguar dealership- the two storey glass sided showrooms housed lots of lovely curvaceous Jags and was well known to several generations of Melbourne enthusiasts…

The building is still there but houses ‘Dan Murphy’s’, a national booze outfit these days. The order for the racer was placed in June 1955 by Kew driver/dealer Bib Stillwell, who later recalled: ‘I purchased the car new from Jaguar and it arrived in Melbourne, Australia in January 1956. I competed with the car for two seasons and had numerous successes with it. Click here for a short but fascinating bio on Jack Bryson, the man who brought Jaguar to Australia; ‘http://www.johnbryson.net/memoirs/jack-bryson-an-uneducated-man

In the later stages of his racing career Stillwell developed into a driver of world class who was competitive with the generation of internationals who raced in Australasia during the immediate pre-Tasman and Tasman Cup (commenced 1964) years- he was the winner of Australia’s Gold Star, the national drivers championship for four years on the trot from 1962 to 1965 in Coopers and Brabhams. After retiring from racing his local and global business career in car retailing and aviation was even more successful, click here for a bit on the amazing Bib; https://primotipo.com/2015/03/10/bib-stillwell-cooper-t49-monaco-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1961/

Citizens of Melbourne’s leafy eastern suburbs will easily pick the location of the ‘Sports Cars and Specials’ (good magazine by the way, haven’t got many of ‘em but wish I had more) shot of Bib and his new car as on Kew Boulevard not too far from the Chandler Highway intersection- that’s Willsmere ‘nut house’ as my Dad useter delicately call the local mental health facility, in the distance. That stretch of road does not look that much different sixty-five years later.

Sir William Lyons and Jack Bryson, date and place unknown, mid fifties perhaps (J Bryson)

 

Stillwell slices into Longford’s Viaduct on the way to second place in the 1963 South Pacific Championship race- Brabham BT4 Climax 2.7 FPF, the winner was Bruce McLaren, Cooper T62 Climax (K Devine)

 

Bib Stillwell and Australian Jaguar concessionaire, Jack Bryson during XKD520’s debut weekend, Albert Park Moomba meeting March 1956 (unattributed)

The car was signed off for delivery by Jaguar’s famous test driver Norman Dewis as ok for delivery on 15 November 1955, it’s build was completed in September.

Australia’s ‘wharfies’ or waterside workers, were renowned for their militance, when the car arrived from the UK it was during one of their infamous occasional strikes, only a great deal of sweet talking by Bib ensured the precious cargo was unloaded and processed to make its planned local debut at Albert Park during the March Labour Day, Moomba long weekend, Reg Hunt’s Maserati 250F was on the same ship, perhaps they put together a fund to appease the burly toilers to do the right thing…

There, he did very well, finishing second to Tony Gaze’ HWM Jaguar in the Moomba Tourist Trophy and on the second weekend of the carnival, gearbox dramas sorted, took the machine to victory in the Argus Cup in front of Stan Jones’ Cooper T38 Jaguar in a classy field- over 100,000 spectators are quoted as attending on each of the two days of this meeting.

(T Scott)

 

Jones, Cooper Jaguar, Stillwell, Jaguar D Type and Tony Gaze at right in his HWM Jaguar, Albert Park Moomba meeting, March 1956- beautiful atmo shot, note the man with the king-sized Oz flag(unattributed)

 

Jones driving with all the brio for which he was famous, Cooper T38 Jaguar only 12 months old itself, pushing Bib’s ‘spankers’ D Type hard at the Park, March 1956 (Ed Steet)

At the Easter Bathurst meeting the three recently acquired ‘outright cars’ new to the daunting circuit were the Hunt and Stillwell machines plus Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 he had acquired from good mate Tony Gaze after the end of the New Zealand internationals that summer- and so it was that the feature race, the Bathurst 100, was won by Davison from Hunt and Stillwell- Bib stopped the timing clocks on Conrod at 148.6mph.

 

Bib chasing the Brabham Cooper T39 Bobtail Climax during the 1956 ATT at Albert Park- heading through Jaguar Corner. Moss won the race- Bib was second behind Pitt in the ‘resident Australians’ classification and Jack was first in the under 1500cc class (unattributed)

 

Stillwell’s Jag being fuelled at Albert Park during the November/December 1956 AGP meeting (B Hickson)

 

Stillwell’s D Type at Bathurst on its first appearance at Mount Panorama, Easter 1956- lapping the J Martin MG Spl during the Bathurst 100 in which he was third (unattributed)

 

Bib, Bathurst Easter 1956, who is that alongside? (unattributed)

 

Shortly after Bathurst, on April 29, Bib set a new open class record at outer Melbourne’s Rob Roy Hillclimb ‘with his Jaguar D Type which can hardly be classed as an ideal hill-climb machine. His time of 27.48 seconds was exceptionally fast’ AMS reported.

Stillwell and his crew took the car to Port Wakefield, north of Adelaide and had an easier time of it than his closest competitors in the Formula Libre 30 lap South Australian Trophy- the race was held in wet conditions and as such his mudguards made it easier to see!, he won from Stan Jones’ Maserati 250F and Eldred Norman’s stunning Zephyr Special s/c.

AMS in its August issue noted that ‘Bib Stillwell should find the D Jaguar a better behaved car on its next outing, as the factory, impressed with his many wins, have sent him out the latest type rear-end assembly. He will be closer now than ever to the GP machinery!’

Stillwell raced the car at Port Wakefield again in early October and had success- third in an A Grade Scratch race which was won by Ted Gray’s Tornado 2 Chev, a win in the 20 lap Sportscar feature- the main event on the card, and fourth in the Racing Car Handicap.

Then it was back to the team’s longtime Kew headquarters in Cotham Road to prepare for the Fishermans Bend meeting in mid-October. This short trip yielded a win in the Sports and Saloon 8 lap event from Paul England’s Ausca Holden and Doug Whiteford in an Austin Healey 100S.

Travelling much further afield near Toowoomba, north of Brisbane, Stillwell took on Bill Pitt’s D Type on home ground at Lowood in the Queensland Tourist Trophy held over 1 hour on November 4. Pitt won the 76 mile race from Bib who had expected the Geordie Anderson owned car to retire after it experienced gearbox problems earlier in the day, this was only rectified moments before the race commenced.

 

Port Wakefield, October 1956- Bib, another car and white Austin Healey 100S of Ron Phillips (unattributed)

 

Stillwell on the front row at Phillip Island in December 1956 alongside the G Baillieu Triumph, Derek Jolly, Decca Mk2 Climax and Paul England, Ausca Holden

 

Australian Tourist Trophy 1956, Albert Park- a row back from the leading Maserati 300S of Moss and Behra are the Stillwell, at left and Bill Pitt D Type Jaguars, with part of Brabham’s Cooper Bobtail at far left, then the Phillips AH 100S and Tom Sulman’s Aston Martin DB3S (unattributed)

 

Back at Albert Park in November for the 1956 AGP ‘Olympic Meetings’ he was fifth in the Australian Tourist Trophy behind the factory Maserati 300S’ of Stirling Moss and Jean Behra, then came Ken Wharton aboard the Ferrari 750 Monza he would roll to his death in New Zealand a couple of months hence, and Pitt’s D Type.

Bib determined that his next logical racing step was into an outright Formula Libre single-seater and at the end of the meeting it was reported he had agreed to buy Reg Parnell’s Ferrari 555 Super Squalo. Reg raced the car in Australia and then the New Zealand internationals throughout the summer of 1957 before heading back to England and a new job, having retired from the cockpit, as Aston Martin’s Team Manager.

The deal fell over, but Bibs path was set, the near new Jaguar was advertised for sale in AMS, and before too long Bib bought Reg Hunt’s Maserati 250F when that mighty fine driver retired way too early to focus on his Melbourne motor dealerships through which he amassed a fortune- he is still with us too.

Stillwell raced the Maserati for the first time in New Zealand- DNF in the NZ GP after 50 laps, the race was won by the very car Bib was purported to be buying- Parnell’s Super Squalo- his racing of the 250F is a tangent I will leave for another time.

Bib’s last run in the D Type was at the Phillip Island opening meeting on 15 December 1956, he was second in the Bill Thompson Memorial Trophy 12 lap feature, thirty seconds adrift of Jack Brabham- home for some summer Australasian racing in a Cooper T41 Climax, and fourth in the Formula Libre race also won by Jack.

 

AMS January 1957

At the end of the year ‘XKD 520’ was sold via dealer and former AGP winner John Crouch to the Ampol Oil Company for Jack Davey, a colourful and immensely popular radio personality for over thirty years.

John Andrew Davey was a Kiwi, after education at Kings College, Auckland he came to Sydney in 1931 and performed as a crooner with two radio stations- he was soon employed as an announcer on another network, possessed of a quick wit and a mellifluous voice Davey was away; click here for a summary of a marvellous life; http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/davey-john-andrew-jack-9905

He was a lifelong car enthusiast who contested the first Redex Reliability Trial around Australia in 1953 in a Ford Customline with co-driver Lou Moss, finishing 91st.

Jack’s health was in decline, despite family and friends not wanting him to compete he again ran in 1954, but it was too much for him, he collapsed and was admitted to St Lukes Hospital not long after the event. Whilst his doctors, no doubt supported by friends and his commercial associates, ‘banned him’ from the 1955 event he did run in 1956 in another Customline and in 1957 and 1958 in Chryslers- in ’58 he achieved his best result, eighth in the Ampol Trial sharing the Chrysler Royal AP1 V8 with Eric Nelson and Bill Murison.

When Davey took delivery of XKD520 he had it repainted red, using it as a roadie and for promotional purposes, a passenger windscreen was also fitted. The D-type was left in the care of Bill Murray, whilst he was driving the car back to Sydney probably for use as part of the 1957 Ampol Round Australia Trial pre-promotion, the 1947 AGP winner lost control at high speed not too far from the Harwood Ferry which crossed (until 1966) the Clarence River on the Pacific Highway 650km from Sydney, and smashed into the back of a timber laden semi-trailer- both the D-type and Murray were badly hurt, this was in June 1957. The car was written off for insurance purposes, Murray, even after a long recovery process had ongoing health problems.

Jack Davey’s radio career went all the way to his untimely death from cancer at St Vincents Hospital in Darlinghurst, Sydney in October 1959. Such was his following that somewhere between 100,000-150,000 people stood in pouring rain outside St Andrews Cathedral to pay their respects.

 

Jack Davey with his D Type out front of his Gold Coast Ampol Servo- Davey had diverse business interests, this dovetailed nicely with Ampol support of various of his radio shows. Address folks?

 

Jack Davey and team at the Sydney Showgrounds start of the 1954 Redex Round Australia Trial DNF (unattributed)

 

Jack Davey applying suntan lotion to the lovely Sabrina’s chassis, doin the mutual celebrity thing in 1958. That teeny-weeny striped bikini seems to have no ‘rear suspension’, the wonders of photoshop in those days. Those 42 inch titties were insured against shrinkage for 100,000 pounds apparently- a drop to a petite 38 inches, if maintained for two months secured the businesswoman a payout of 5000 pounds, every inch lost after that paid another 2500 pounds.  The process of assessment in relation thereto would have been an interesting and enjoyable task. She was in Australia in 1958-9, Davey organised digs for her in Point Piper. Where else but primotipo could you learn useless shit like this? (nylon.net)

 

Frank Gardner across the top of the mountain, Bathurst, Easter 1956, 6 lap sportscar scratch. ‘On new disc pads, the Jaguar was at times almost brakeless and finished second (behind David McKay’s Aston DB3S). Frank obviously hadn’t read his 1970s book of advice to budding racing drivers!’ wrote John Medley. He won the last race of the weekend- the 6 lap sedan and sports handicap (unattributed)

 

Gardner and XKD520 looking all very nice, Mount Druitt, Sydney 23 May 1958. John Ellacott recalls FG did a 14.57 standing quarter in this sprint event (J Ellacott)

 

In the Bathurst paddock, Easter 1958 with FG looking across to David McKay, helmet on just about to jump aboard his Aston Martin DB3S- who is the slim driver in between? (unattributed)

 

FG is of that professional generation of drivers who started with an MG T Type, a TA his Uncle Hope Bartlett lent him at 17 to run at Marsden Park, NSW in 1949 and finished in ‘serious stuff’ with Lolas in the early seventies- a couple of races in the T330 in 1972 were his last events in single-seaters. What a vast ‘progression of technology’ he was a part of, noting his touring car career went for a number of years after that in Australia. He is aboard an F5000 Lola T300 here (unattributed)

 

Following the theme above, FG testing the Lola T260 Chev Can-Am car raced by Jackie Stewart as a Carl Haas works entry in 1971- no doubt the 7 litre Chev engined beastie felt somewhat different to XKD520 but it was part of what he called his ‘Big Cars’ progression. JYS would have preferred far more testing of this car before it jetted to the US BTW, an M8F McLaren it wasn’t…(D Phipps)

 

Lynton Hemer has captured FG beautifully on The Causeway during the Warwick Farm 100 Tasman round in 1972. This is Frank and Lola’s Bob Marston’s whoosh-bonk F5000- take a T240 F2 tub- give the FVA and FT200 the arse, then bolt in a Chev and DG300 where they were, pop the radiators where they will fit, put some swoopy bodywork over the top, hey-presto T300- and instantaneously create a successful car- and one of the sexiest of the decade. It wasn’t quite that simple but you get the drift (L Hemer)

In mid-1957 ‘XKD 520’ was sold to the up and coming Frank Gardner via his friend Bill Graber who was in the insurance industry- there will be a ring to this to some of you as FG’s C Type Jaguar had also been involved in a bad (fatal) accident, and was then written off before rescue by Gardner and resurrection as a very competitive mount.

The D Type was restored to sparkling good health at the Sydneysider’s Whale Beach Service Station at Avalon on Sydney’s Northern Beaches- several of Frank’s mates were involved in the process including Jack Myers who worked on the chassis, Clive Adams the body, and Alan Standfield who built a new bonnet to the latest D Type long-nose style. Click here for a link to an article about FG’s C Type; https://primotipo.com/2014/08/05/gnoo-who-gnoo-blas-circuit-jaguar-xkc-type-xkc037/

Gardner raced the car continuously from his first meeting at at Schofields, NSW in March 1958 where he won- the car was painted white, just like the C Type and had its engine sleeved to 3.8 litres.

Frank added further laurels to ‘XKD 520’s history including a second at Easter Bathurst, first at Mt. Druitt, and third in both heats at Gnoo Blas, Orange, NSW- in a MotorSport interview with Simon Taylor FG claimed 25 wins out of 26 starts for his two Jags.

He sold the car to David Finch after deciding to leave Australia to race in Europe, selling a five year lease on the Avalon garage- that was his time frame to make it or not in search of fame and fortune- which he very much achieved until returning home to race for several more years in late 1974.

Finch is a Sydney fellow who had cut his racing teeth in an MG TF throughout 1955 and then progressed to an Austin Healey 100-4 he ran at Mt Druitt and Bathurst in 1956-1958, before taking the big step up from a production sportscar to one of the fastest racing cars of the day- handling the more demanding machine with considerable skill.

 

This group of three photographs are of David Finch in ‘XKD520’ during the Gnoo Blas, February 1960 meeting. Lovely family scene, it could almost be a BP advertising shot! (Kelsey)

 

Huge grid for the sportscar feature. Derek Jolly, Lotus 15 Climax, Frank Matich in the ex-Gardner Leaton Motors Jaguar C Type, Finch in ‘XKD520’, on row two the ex-Kangaroo Stable Aston martin DB3S of Warren Blomfield #122 and Tom Sulman and the rest (D Finch)

 

Gnoo Blas as above (Kelsey)

 

Beautiful shot of David Finch on the way to a win in the 1961 Queensland Tourist Trophy at Lowood (unattributed)

Finch raced the D Type for the next three years, eventually fitting a factory-supplied 3.8-litre block after the original 3.4-litre ‘added its expiration to the fitting name of Bathurst’s engine-testing Con Rod Straight’ wrote the Fisken copywriter- in fact a piston collapsed and a rod punched two nice holes in the block.

He won the 1961 Queensland Tourist Trophy at Lowood with the new engine, ‘an encounter with a fence at Warwick Farm (September 1961) exceeded the ductility’ of the original bonnet and local aluminium ace Alan Standfield, again stepped in, and created a distinctively-shaped version of Jaguar’s long nose bonnet.

Australian drag racing pioneer and purveyor of ‘luxury’ American sedans, Ash Marshall was the next owner of ‘XKD 520’ from May 1962.

‘Flash Ash’ had come through speedway sedans, a sprintcar, rallying and raced on the circuits for a bit before a business trip to the US exposed him to Drag Racing for the first time- his key contact, Bob Fuerhelm took him along to a meeting and organised a ride in a super stocker which went 11.7 seconds over the quarter mile, he went for it hook, line and sinker.

Marshall imported two Plymouth super-stockers (’63 Plymouth Savoy Max and ’64 Plymouth Belvedere), first racing these at Castlereagh in November 1964, he then ‘doubled up’ by bringing in an outdated Rail called ‘The Vandal’- a short 137 inch wheelbase, full-length body, dropped l-beam front axle with transverse spring  American dragster.

Marshall was immediately a ‘headliner’ and very quickly applied his commercial skills to the business of motor racing, doing very well on and off the track for the balance of the decade, other cars- ‘The Scorcher’ and rear-engined ‘Soapy Sales’ followed Vandal.

Marshall was the first to break 200mph in Australia in February 1969 at Castlereagh and the first to go into the 6 second bracket- he did 6.98 seconds in 1972 at Castlereagh but the run was disputed and eventually disallowed.

Ash was involved in Pyramid Selling Schemes in Australia and the UK before moving to the US- in each country being one step in front of the authorities as such practices were made illegal, he settled in the US and ‘returned to his roots’ as a motor trader buying and selling exotics for high-flyers. He became involved again in the sport as the nostalgia scene developed in the nineties and died in January 2019.

Back to the D Type, when Ash and his team turned their attention to the Jaguar, they embarked upon a plush restoration complete with chromed accessories, XKSS style side exhaust and heat shield, plenty of polished aluminum, a carpeted interior and ‘a glass-like finish’ as described in Sports Car World‘, the car carried NSW registration ‘ASH 222’- Stan Brown worked on the body and Clive Adams painted it.

(T Scott)

 

Marshall loads up in front of a fascinated crowd at Riverside, during the first Nationals in October 1965. Vandal was the only USA ‘Top Fuel’ dragster in Australia at the time- troubles with the Chrysler Hemi intervened that weekend (D Cook)

 

Eddie Thomas’ Chrysler powered rail alongside Vandal in the fire-up road at Riverside during the ‘first’ nationals- there are claims by two events at Riverside in 1964, in October 1965. This pair never raced when Ash’ problems occurred (Street Machine)

 

Ash Marshall in the Vandal, this side and Jack ‘Fizzball’ Collins ‘Road Runner’ at Riverside, Fishermans Bend, October 1965 (moondog.net.au)

 

Later owners of XKD520 in Australia include Peter Bradley and Richard Parkinson who advertised it for sale in the September 1966 issue of Racing Car News magazine. Frank Gardner and Paul Hawkins contemplated purchase during their visit to Australia to race in the Surfers Paradise 12 Hour but decided against it when they became aware that Richard Attwood wanted to buy it.

In 1967 ‘XKD 520’ moved to the UK, bought by the former Jaguar apprentice, Grand Prix driver and future 1970 Le Mans 24 Hours winner. He had it worked on by Jaguar’s Brown’s Lane facility and then displayed it in his Wolverhampton Mercedes-Benz showroom for many years before selling it in 1977- since then it has had numerous owners.

There was considerable passionate discussion between the Author and Art Director as to the layout of this piece- whether to mix and match the new photographs of XKD520 with the old or separate them. So heated was the exchange that The Editor intervened to avoid a most unpleasant fracas- such are the pressures of a small office in Covid 19 times like these- photo credits for the modern ‘XKD520’ material are to Fisken and Sotheby’s unless otherwise attributed.

 

David Finch closest, and Jack Murray. D Types by two at Mount Panorama in October 1960 (unattributed)

 

Etcetera…

 

 

Jaguar D Type cutaway published in AMS (HG Molloy)

 

(D Finch)

David Finch testing on Mount Druitt airstrip in 1958- a good reason to smile!

 

 

 

(unattributed)

Stillwell jumps aboard ‘XKD520’ at Lowood, alongside is Bill Pitt’s D Type, ‘XKD526’ which won this 1956 Queensland Tourist Trophy event, complete with Le Mans start.

 

 

(D Finch)

Jack Murray in the silver Jack Parker owned D Type ahead of David Finch heading through Murrays Corner at Mount Panorama in October 1960- the NSW Sports Car Championship race won by Frank Matich in the Leaton Motors Lotus 15 Climax. Murray was fifth, Finch unplaced.

By Easter 1961 David had the rhythm of the car, he was on the front row of the Bathurst sportscar grids alongside Frank Matich’ Lotus 15 and John Ampt in the ex-everybody Cooper T38 Jaguar finishing fourth in the 3 lapper and third in the 10 lap main sportscar race- progress indeed.

 

(unattributed)

Stillwell heading up Mount Panorama during the 1956 Easter meeting.

 

 

(HG Molloy)

 

David Finch at Lowood, on the weekend in which he won the Queensland Tourist Trophy in 1961.

 

 

Bib at the Phillip Island opening meeting on 15 December 1956- only Jack Brabham’s presence ruined his party. Touch of the opposites, not sure exactly where he is on a circuit I know rather well.

 

 

(unattributed)

Bib at Bathurst in October 1956.

He contested the 13 lap NSW Road Racing Championship for sportscars, a handicap event in the manner of the day, finishing sixth but did the fastest race time. He was unplaced in the sedan and sportscar handicap at the end of the weekend’s proceedings but again did the fastest race time.

Bathurst had a great tradition of a parade lap of competitors sans helmet at slow speeds- below are Stillwell and Bill Pitt leading this group in their beautiful D Types- other cars and drivers folks?

(unattributed)

 

 

Arcane with no semblance of relevance…

Hot rodding started in Australia just as it did in the US, in the depression years, when young men without any money created ‘specials’ from the amalgamation of parts of different makes- more often than not cast off bits and pieces. Sometimes V8s provided the power, into the 1940s American Hot Rod magazines started to jump the Pacific, this had an impact on hotting-up Holdens- doubtless the Repco Hi-Power cylinder head for the Holden Grey was a commercial response to that demand.

Street racing was a reality of course in Australia as elsewhere with ‘The Brickies’ on the present site of the Olympic sports precinct at Homebush Bay, the Mad Mile at Deadman’s Creek outside Liverpool and in Melbourne, Newlands Road, Coburg and Doherty’s Road, Altona North well known spots for ‘da boys’ in the day- each state had their favourite spots too- it was far from just an East Coast thing.

Getting these activities off the public roads was important of course, the Penrith Emergency Airstrip (west of Sydney, Penrith Speedway was a hallowed racing site between the wars) had been used for sprint racing pre-war and it was there during the 1959 NSW Sprint Championships that Ray Walmsley, of, amongst other things Alfa Romeo P3 GMC fame, first ran a Dragster in Australia- his Corvette powered ‘rail’ did a 14.04 second quarter mile pass.

Ash Marshall in his ’64 Plymouth Belvedere against a hot-rod at Castlereagh in July 1965, ‘known locally as Ramchargers, this and his ’63 Plymouth were way ahead of anything else with doors when they landed at the end of 1964’ (Street Machine)

 

Vandal at Surfers Paradise in 1966, note the commercialism disallowed on the circuits at the time (D Hill)

 

Marshall, crew, Miss Valvoline and Vandal at Riverside in 1965- see chassis and front suspension detail (Street Machine)

In Victoria the use of Pakenham Airstrip made things a tad more kosher from 1958 but the big step forward, with Victoria Police support, was the use of another former racing venue- Fishermans Bend, for drag racing from 1962, very quickly ‘Riverside Dragway’ became the first home for the sport in Australia with Eddie Thomas setting a local record of 10.07 seconds.

Riverside hosted the first nationals on October 2 and 3 1965, Ash Marshall’s Vandal made its first public appearance that day but ended up a fizzer when engine maladies intervened, ‘Top Eliminator’ was Jack ‘Fireball’ Collins ‘Road Runner’ over Eddie Thomas’ machine- the speed shop impresario a story himself.

Penrith, taken over by the NSW Hot Rod Association in 1965 and re-named Castlereagh International Dragway soon replaced Riverside as the home of drag racing in Australia, with Calder its ‘Victorian base’.

‘Eddie Thomas deploys the laundry in his first Greg Goddard built car at Riverside in 1965- Australia’s first parachute’ wrote Street Machine. Its interesting to look at Riverside, Lorimer Street Fishermans Bend and reflect upon its close proximity to the Melbourne’s CBD, and the houses closeby in Garden City for that matter- not something yerd see these days! (Street Machine)

Bibliography…

Sports Cars and Specials August 1956, various issues of Australian Motor Sports magazine from 1956-1960, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, Street Machine article on Ash Marshall

Photo Credits…

Kelsey Collection, Barry Hickson, The David Finch Collection, John Ellacott, Fisken, Sotheby’s, Tony Scott, Street Machine, moondog.com.au, D Cook, nylon.net, Lynton Hemer

Technical drawings/cutaway by HG Molloy in AMS June 1956

(unattributed)

Finish where we started, a photograph of Bib Stillwell upon XKD520’s first race at Albert Park’s Moomba meeting in March 1956- the raucous straight-six singing along Pit Straight with plenty of spectators in attendance.

Tailpiece…

Whilst it is a photograph it looks like a drawing- unattributed crop from a KLG sparkplug ad- it, too, is during Bib’s victorious Argus Trophy run during the 1956 Moomba meeting at Albert Park. Nice I think.

Finito…

Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 being pushed through the Gnoo Blas paddock- that’s lanky, slim Jack Brabham with helmet on behind (F Pearse)

The natural or established order of Australian motor racing was shaken up and greatly changed by events over the summer of 1955…

The Ardmore, New Zealand Grand Prix in January was won by Prince Bira’s Maserati 250F from Peter Whitehead and Tony Gaze in their matching Ferrari 500/625 3 litre, four cylinder hybrids, Jack Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol and Reg Hunt’s new Maserati 250F engined A6GCM, fifth.

Other Australians who made the trip but failed to finish were Stan Coffey, Cooper T20 Bristol, Lex Davison, HWM Jaguar and Dick Cobden in the Ferrari 125 V12 s/c he acquired from Peter Whitehead after the NZ GP the year before.

Lex Davison being chased by Bira and Tony Gaze at Ardmore, 1955 NZ GP. HWM Jaguar, Maserati 250F and Ferrari 500/625 (thechicaneblog.com)

 

(CAN)

A group of the front running cars at Ardmore in ‘Phil Neill’s showroom a day or two before the race.’

Bira’s 250F and Gaze Ferrari 500 in front with Whitehead’s #2 similar 500, #3 is Reg Hunt’s Maserati A6GCM, #77 Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar, #9 George Palmer’s Mercury powered Palmer Spl, #6 Cobden’s Ferrari 125 and hidden, unfortunately, in the corner Bira’s ‘second-string’ Maserati 4CLT Osca V12 with a Ford Consul providing marvellous context!

 

Tony Gaze warms up his 3 litre Ferrari four with plenty of admiring Kiwis by the Dunedin wharves, Ferrari 500/625, January 1955. Reg Parnell’s Aston Martin DP155 is behind and then an Aston Martin DB3S (unattributed)

 

By the end of the Ardmore weekend, Brabham, buoyed by his speed and his mind filled with ambition, ideas of opportunity and success paid bonuses from trade suppliers in the UK by the visiting RAC’s Dean Delamont- had determined to sell his Cooper and chance his luck in the UK.

Dick Cobden, another of the fast-men in Australia- his dices with Brabham during 1954 had drawn fans to meetings from far and wide, also planned a racing holiday in England in between continuing his stockbroking career in a London brokers office.

‘He was accompanied by mechanic Fred Pearse and the fascinating, frustrating Ferrari (125), and enjoyed some mobile spectating…Cobden hoped to collect the D Type he had ordered, but long delays led to him cancelling the order, and the overseas trip was effectively his farewell to motor racing’ Graham Howard wrote.

Fred Pearse attending to Cobden’s Ferrari 125 (F Pearse)

 

Pat Ratliff and Tony Gaze with Gaze’s Ferrari 500/625- the oh-so-famous ex-Alberto Ascari 1952 and 1953 World Championship winning chassis- one of the ‘winningest’ if not the most, GP cars ever (F Pearse)

But first the travelling circus headed by sea to Sydney and then by road west to the Gnoo Blas road circuit at Orange for the ‘South Pacific Championship’ international held on 31 January. Bira, Whitehead and Gaze then planned to race their cars in South Africa.

Whilst Brabham and Cobden contested Gnoo Blas, Hunt and Davison, Lex the winner of the 1954 Southport AGP did not- Hunt was short of some critical parts for his A6GCM whilst Lex did not make the trip.

Hunt’s pace had always been apparent in Australia and in the year he raced a Cooper 500 in the UK and Europe- with the purchase of  the A6GCM he vaulted over the top of everyone in Australia- the speed of car and driver was THE combination of 1955.

Whilst Lex’ HWM Jag was fast, it wasn’t fast enough nor, despite ongoing development was it sufficiently reliable, it did of course hold together at Southport some months before, the 1954 AGP win was the first of Lex’ four victories in Australia’s premier event.

Davison no doubt showed more than passing interest in his good mate Gaze’s Ferrari 500 in the early months of 1955- a purchase he would consummate later in the summer of 1955-1956 and as a consequence set the standard- along with the local 250F’s of Hunt and Jones and Ted Gray’s bellowing V8 Tornado 2 Ford/Chev in the coming years.

Gaze #4 and Whitehead Ferrari’s getting a tickle- car behind is Bira’s Maserati 250F and at the rear the Broadbent/Haig Hurst Bentley (F Pearse)

In Orange the ‘star cars’ were garaged in a workshop where several of these photographs were taken. The images by Fred Pearse, kindly circulated on social media by Peter Reynell who cared for Fred in his final years, take ones breath away.

Bob Pritchett makes mention in his AMS report of the race, of the OSCA being looked after at Lapham’s Garage in Orange, Mr Lapham was the Chairman of the Orange ‘Cherry Blossom Car Racing Committee’ which staged the event along with the Australian Sporting Car Club. Laphams is most likely the venue of the garage shots.

Tony Gaze Ferrari 500 (F Pearse)

 

Ratliff and Gaze (F Pearse)

Thirty-nine cars entered the 100 mile South Pacific Championship, there were also events for sport and touring cars, a purse of two-thousand five hundred pounds was offered for the feature race, very good money at the time.

The entry included Kiwis Fred Zambucka in the Maserati 8CM he raced in the ’54 AGP and John McMillan’s Alfa Romeo Tipo B- both pre-war machines which were at that stage a little too long in the tooth to be a threat, the race was a scratch event, even if, in a nod to the past, handicap placings would also be awarded.

Jack Murray, Allard Cadillac, Ted Gray aboard Tornado 1 Ford was fitted with the Lou Abrahams developed fuel injection setup for the first time. Tom Sulman had rebuilt his Maserati 4CM after a blow up at Gnoo Blas’ last meeting with parts flown specially from Italy to Sydney. Curly Brydon’s supercharged MG T single-seater special was one of the fastest in the country. Albury’s Jack Seaton entered a Maserati, Jack Robinson his Jaguar Special and Stan Jones had Maybach, a Cooper JAP and his Lancia GT entered- in the end Stan raced only the Lancia .

A special practice session was laid on before breakfast on the Sunday for the benefit of Bira, Gaze and Whitehead but it wasn’t of much benefit to the member of the Thai Royal Family when his Maserati 250F threw a rod after only 3 laps of practice, the car had done some miles in New Zealand, was rather tatty and overdue for a rebuild- this was the precursor to the tragedy which followed involving Iain Mountain and his very clever Mountain Peugeot Special the following day.

Practice itself started after breakfast and continued with breaks through until 5.30pm. No appearances were made by Hunt, Zambucka, Davison, the Jones Cooper 1100, James Barclay Special, the Moy MG Magnette Holden or the Peek MG Q Type.

Both Gordon Greig and Sydney’s Bill Reynolds appeared at the wheel of the Alfa Tipo B Alvis which Greig had only just acquired from Ash Marshall. Cobden’s Ferrari was spewing oil out of its breathers, Gaze’s had clutch and magneto problems and Bira’s crew had work to do on the exotic V12 OSCA’s oil scavenge pumps, so there would be no shortage of midnight oil poured in Lapham’s workshops.

Alf Harvey, ex-Bira Maserati 4CLT Osca V12 aka Osca V12 from Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 at Gnoo Blas during the 1956 South Pacific Trophy – Can’t find a shot of Bira in the car the year before (Gnoo Blas)

 

The ill fated Ian Mountain aboard his neat Peugeot Special, Sulman’s Maserati behind (K Devine)

 

Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol

 

Raceday started at 10.20 am with the ‘KLG Handicap’ for closed cars under 1100cc won by R Long’s Fiat 1100. The 5 lapper for Sports and Closed cars was taken by Jack Myers Holden, was he the ‘King of The Holdens’ at that stage?

Bira’s spare car was his OSCA V12- a marriage of a 4.5 litre, circa 300 bhp OSCA V12 with his old Maserati 4CLT/48 chassis, as noted earlier his crew had been trying to adequately prepare the car the evening before the race.

In the preliminary 5 lap ‘Gnoo-Blas Handicap for Racing Cars’ event it too suffered a major mechanical failure- a scavenge pump, the motor dumped its oil all over the road with Iain Mountain, who was following closely, lost control on the oil, left the road and crashed through a barbed wire fence at Connaghans Corner killing himself and 26 year old Ballan, Victoria, spectator James Young. Several spectators were injured, two of them were admitted to hospital- all were standing in restricted areas.

The MotorSport account is the one above, the Australian Motor Sports report of the race attributes the accident to driver error ‘Ian had been cautious about the corner on which he came to grief and it could be that he was off line to avoid stones thrown up by Curly Brydon’s car, which he was chasing; Curly actually saw him behind, and slowed down, having discussed the corner with Ian and knowing how he felt about it…’

Whatever the case it was a tragic motor racing incident, the ‘lotsa-money superb preparation of car’ Bira days were long gone. Poor Mountain, 26, had only married four months prior to the 1954 AGP weekend at Southport and had only been racing the beautifully built car from its first appearance at Fishermans Bend in early 1954.

Jack Robinson’s Jaguar Special won the race in which Mountain died, the South Pacific Championship for Closed Cars and another similarly titled 14 lap 50 mile race were won by Les Cosh’ Aston Martin DB2 and Bill Kelly’s Jaguar XK120 respectively.

South Pacific Championship…

The main event was delayed by 50 minutes for obvious reasons, with some indecision about the grid- it was to be 4-3-4, then decided to be 3-2-3 given the narrow road and ended up being 3-2-4. What follows is a summary of the AMS race report.

As the flag quivered before dropping, Jack Murray shot his Allard Cadillac between Gaze and Whitehead and led the field out of sight of the hill crest; Gaze somehow managed to get his clutch operational enough for the getaway and almost as soon as the last sound of the last cars had died, Jack Brabham flashed past the pits, his Cooper Bristol a good fifty yards ahead of Whitehead’s Ferrari, then Murray, Gaze, Cobden, and MacMillan in close quarters.

Gaze was past Murray in the next lap, but Cobden’s Ferrari was smoking and retired after 2 laps at Muttons Corner with a cylinder full of water and a bent rod which was shades of the last Orange meeting.

Brabham (K Devine)

 

Murray, Allard Cadillac (K Devine)

 

Tom Sulman, Maserati 4CM

Brabham’s lead was shortlived, it was not many laps before Whitehead was past the Cooper Bristol- but he drew away slowly indeed and, on the fast sweep and slow right angle corner, Brabham was very visibly fastest of any car in the race, drifting the sweep beautifully with all four wheels leaning outwards, braking late and going through Muttons Corner as clean as a knife…

Gaze, hampered by not having a fully operational clutch and only one effective magneto, was not as happy as he could have been.

For some laps there was a good duel between MacMillan in the Alfa Tipo B and Greig in the Alfa Tipo B Alvis, the two red cars looking very impressive as they came around in close company. Jack Robinson and Joe Murray went at it for most of the race, the Jaguar just ahead until towards the finish when he stopped briefly at the pits and lost two laps.

Curly Brydon, always quick and neat, kept hard on Tom Sulman’s hammer, and Bill Wilcox went very well in his green Ford Special until it went bad over a space of 3 laps or so and he retired. Noel Barnes had the ex-Ron Ward MG Special sounding very sweet and healthy even though he was lapped several times by the faster cars.

Finally, the sun well down on the Western horizon, Peter came around grinning and without his crash hat and we knew the race was finished. As Brabham was less than a minute behind at the end he naturally won the handicap, Peter had fastest lap in 2:21.

Peter Whitehead Ferrari 500/625, won from Brabham, Cooper T23 Bristol, Gaze, Ferrari 500/625, Jack Murray Allard Cadillac, Tom Sulman Maserati, Curly Brydon MG Spl, G Greig Alfa Tipo B Alvis

Whitehead’s top speed was 149 mph, Gaze 147, Brabham 136, Sulman 110 and Brydon’s 115mph.

Cobden about to go out, Sulman readies his Maserati (K Devine)

 

One of the Ferrari 500s at Laphams (F Pearse)

Snippets by AMS’ Bob Pritchett…

‘The 3 litre motors of Gaze and Whitehead have a bore and stroke of 104 x 90 mm and the inlet valve is open for, wait for it, 330 degrees of the revolution…I saw Gaze’s motor stripped later; the valves are simply tremendous, and the pistons are like outsized salmon tins with bumps on them, rods like a short length of RSJ and the five bearing crankshaft a beautiful piece of work’.

Big Muvvas: Weber sand cast 58 DCO’s (F Pearse)

Hunt didn’t race but was present in person ‘…With no Maserati, marooned in Melbourne with a broken back plate. He tried to borrow one of Bira’s spares but received the rather discouraging reply, that he could have them all and the car for 4000 sterling. Slightly different to the Australian approach- Tony Gaze did the race with a magneto coil out of Cobden’s Ferrari for instance.’

Bira’s Maserati 250F (F Pearse)

‘I reaped some sort of macabre delight out of watching the Clerk of Course Daimler steaming around festooned with advertising matter during the wrangle about slogans on cars which resulted in Coffey’s dramatic retirement on the (start)line, masking tape all over Murray’s Allard Cadillac, funny little blobs of green paint on Brabham’s Cooper Bristol and such.’

Stan Coffey’s Cooper Bristol, after a stoush with CAMS about advertising he did not take the start, I see Clive Adams prepared the car. Cobden Ferrari 125 at rear (K Devine)

Etcetera…

(K Devine)

Jack Robinson being push-started in his Jag Special whilst alongside Tom Sulman fettles his Maserati, photo below of Robinson’s Jag XK engine.

(K Devine)

 

#2 Whitehead, Ferrari 500 #4 Gaze’s similar car and #1 Bira’s 250F (F Pearse)

 

Tom Sulman, Maserati 4CM

Bibliography…

MotorSport May 2006 article by Jim Scaysbrook, Australian Motor Sports February 1955 race report by Bob Pritchett

Photo Credits…

Fred Pearse Collection, Ken Devine Collection, Stephen Dalton Collection, Allan Dick’s ‘Classic Auto News’, Australian Motor Heritage Foundation, Russell Hawthorn, Doug Chivas Collection

(D Chivas)

Postscript…

Brabham left for the UK in mid-March 1955 after a function held at Jack’s parents home in Hurstville attended by over 100 guests including the Mayor and Mayoress- at that stage he was expected to be away for six months.

It turned out to be rather longer than that of course, the great Australian finally retired from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1970 having been a front runner that season inclusive of one GP win which but for poor luck should have been three- competive to the very end of his long career.

He couldn’t stay away from racing for too long though, by August 1971 he was back in the seat of the Jack Brabham Ford sponsored Bowin P4X Formula Ford and won the ‘Race of Champions’ at Calder from Frank Matich, Kevin Bartlett, Bib Stillwell, Alan Hamilton, Allan Moffat and others.

I think it was his last ever real ‘race win’, 1978 Sandown demo with JM Fangio duly noted?…

(R Hawthorn)

Tailpiece: Smorgasbord of ‘Big Red Cars’…

Whitehead, Cobden, Gaze and Bira, not that his 250F was red (F Pearse)

Finito…

image

(R Lambert)

Austin Miller’s Cooper T51 Chev during his Australian Land Speed Record setting day-163.94mph at Bakers Beach, Tasmania watched by ‘four men and a dog’ on Monday 20 November 1961…

Only in Australia would a significant event like this have been achieved in such a clever, low key kind of way, still, the fellows involved were doers and goers not spruikers and bullshitters.

Watching him blast through the timing gear at over 160mph are car-builder Geoff Smedley, Bruce Burr, a few members of the local press and a small number of onlookers who have made their way to the quiet stretch of beach on Tasmania’s far north coast, 80 km from Launceston, the ‘Northern Capital’ of the island state.

When I first saw Ron Lambert’s image it simply blew my mind on a whole lot of levels other than its purely visual impact, powerful as it is. It says so many good things about this country and the understated, pragmatic, often ingenious way we tend to go about things.

Miller was born in Melbourne in 1923, in common with most of his contemporaries from around the world he enlisted to fight in WW2. He joined the army and became a tank instructor but he was keen to fly so moved from the Australian Army to the Royal Australian Air Force where he learned to fly in Tiger Moths before graduating progressively through the Wirraway trainer and on to Mustang and Spitfire fighters.

Post war, keen to stay in aviation- and there were plenty of great pilots in the world at that point in time, Aussie and his friend Ernie Tadgell formed Super Spread Aviation Pty. Ltd. a commercial crop dusting enterprise they commenced in 1952- Austin was Victoria’s first ‘Ag-pilot’.

Miller commenced racing a TQ Midget on Victorian and New South Wales’ speedways, then switched to circuit racing, first coming to prominence in 1958 when he won his class of the Victorian Road Racing Championship and the Victorian Trophy in the ‘Miller Special’, a Cooper T41 Climax FWB acquired in the UK. His good mate, Stan Jones won the Gold Star that year in a magnificent Maserati 250F with Austin taking second and third places in the Port Wakefield and Phillip Island rounds.

Austin identified the Cooper for sale in England albeit the Australian connection was that fellow Victorian Paul England had been racing the ex-Ken Wharton ‘F2/2/56’ or ‘F2/4/56’ machine throughout Europe in 1957 and was now ready to come home. I wrote about the car a while back, click here to read about it; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/20/aussie-miller-cooper-t41-climax-trevallyn-hillclimb-launceston-tasmania-1959/

One of the apocryphal Miller stories concerns the delivery of two Percival EP.9 aircraft (see the link at the end of the article about these interesting planes built in the UK by Australian born designer Edgar Percival) from Stableford Aerodrome in Essex where they were designed and built, back to Australia in 1957.

The duo were looking for replacements for their ageing fleet of Tiger Moths and first visited the US in 1956 where they test flew Stearman, Fletcher and Cessna aircraft before going to the UK in 1957 where the choices were the Auster Agricola or Percival EP.9 with the latter finally getting the nod.

Austin ‘on arrival at home base Moorabbin after he and partner Ern Tadgell flew G-APFY and G-APBR in company from England on delivery’ Percival EP.9 (Goodall)

Aussie and Ern left England on 19 September 1957, included amongst the bits and pieces in the planes’ holds as ‘aircraft spare parts’ were the Cooper T41 and a Lotus 12 Climax which had been disassembled into their constituent parts and boxed as spares, crop spraying equipment etc.

This type of ruse, that is bringing racing cars into the country in parts was a well travelled path for Australian racers for decades to avoid the net of the ‘fiscal fiend’ whose import duties were punitive in nature and rapacious in quantum. The cars were called the ‘Miller Special’ and ‘Sabakat’ respectively when they arrived in the Great Brown Land with the chassis plates kept well away from the two machines and prying eyes.

The intrepid Percival pilots made thirty-two stops between the Old Dart and Oz before arriving at home base, Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne’s south on 27 October 1957- what an adventure! In fact it was very much so as Austin’s plane barely made it in to Darwin from Kupang as a result of heat from the exhaust causing the thermostatically controlled carburettor to lift the needle, burning excessive amounts of fuel, the tank was so dry, its said, that he couldn’t taxi the Percival to the hangar in Darwin.

Needless to say the ‘aircraft parts and crop spraying equipment’ were soon assembled into a couple of handy looking racing cars by the pair of aviation scallywags. Tadgell’s first Australian appearance in Sabakat was at the South Pacific Trophy meeting at Gnoo Blas, Orange over the Australia Day long weekend in January 1958 whereas Austin’s first run aboard the Miller Special/Cooper T41 was at Longford in 1959. Checkout this epic on the Lotus 12 here, inclusive of Sabakat; https://primotipo.com/2019/08/22/just-add-lightness/

Austin, Cooper T41 Climax, Trevallyn Hillclimb, Launceston 1959 (unattributed)

Miller first raced the Cooper at Phillip Island in January 1958 and over the next few years ran it in everything going- races, sprints and hillclimbs, self preparing the machine amongst the aircraft in his Moorabbin hanger, but he didn’t race much that year due to an extremely nasty Percival accident at home base on 15 April.

Super Spread by that time had three EP.9’s, the final aircraft was assembled in Australia from components acquired in the UK. The EP.9 ‘VH-SSW’ had just been rebuilt following a crash at Flinders Island in February, with the work complete Austin took off at dusk together with engineer Bill Symons- immediately after takeoff he climbed steeply, the aircraft stalled and crashed close to the Moorabbin Control Tower. The Department of Civil Aviation investigation found the cause of the accident to be elevator cables which had been installed wrongly so as to reverse normal operating sense. Both Miller and Symons were badly hurt, the severely damaged airframe was struck off the register and scrapped.

After recovery and with the responsibilities of a young family- Austin met Judy, later to become his wife, a nurse at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne recovering from another nasty accident at Thorpdale, Victoria, Miller moved to Launceston to take over as the licensee of the Hotel Monaco. Aussie had been a Longford regular during the late 1950’s so the move across Bass Straight from Victoria to Tasmania was an easy one to a place he loved.

(E French/R Knott)

 

Cooper T41 Climax, Trevallyn Hillclimb March 1959 Tasmania, Aussie took FTD (Miller)

 

Miller’s Cooper T41 Climax at Port Wakefield during the October 1959 Gold Star meeting- Greg McEwin in the Mac-Healey alongside (K Drage)

Aussie continued to develop the T41 further by replacing the standard Citroen derived gearbox with a more sturdy Porsche 356 unit and installation of trailing arms (radius rods) to better locate the rear suspension. Austin again won his class of the Victorian Road Racing Championship and the Phillip Island Gold Star round in his new Cooper T51.

Single-seater racing expanded strongly in Australia at the time partially because of improved economic times and in large measure due to the ready availability of Grand Prix Coopers and Coventry Climax engines at ‘reasonable cost’. An international season was developing nicely in Australasia which morphed into the ‘Tasman 2.5 Formula’ and Tasman Cup in 1964- in short, if one had a car you could test your abilities against the best in the world in more or less equal machines and have a crack at the domestic Gold Star Series which itself grew and grew in stature, before dying on the vine a couple of decades hence.

Austin saw the opportunity to progress, he sold the T41 and jumped aboard a Cooper T51 in October 1959. Chassis ‘F2-20-59’ was imported new by Bib Stillwell and raced briefly by Bib and Stan Jones before passing to Miller, his first race in the 2.2 litre FPF engined car was at Island as stated above.

In a ‘Chinese deal’ Jones raced the car once or twice after Aussie owned it, during this period Jones collided with Len Lukey’s Cooper at Phillip Island- as a result the car was fitted with a frame made on the jig Lukey had created for this purpose. It would be very interesting to know just how many T51 jigs there were and still are in Australia! Jones then raced the car to fourth in the 1960 NZ GP at Ardmore before Miller next- finally got his hands on it.

Austin in a Ferrari Monza on the set of ‘On The Beach’ (Miller)

In an eventful 1959 Miller had a brush with Hollywood when he was contracted to perform as a stunt and stand-in driver for Fred Astaire in the movie ‘On The Beach’, filmed in Australia and based on Neville Shute’s novel of the same name, topically it is about the end of the world…

Into 1960 Aussie had some success with the T51 in Gold Star and other competition, perhaps it was his his busiest year of competition.

By that stage there was plenty of depth in Australian single-seater Formula Libre fields with some serious money was being spent by the likes of Stan Jones, Bib Stillwell, Alec Mildren, Lex Davison, Len Lukey and others, so Austin’s efforts in the self prepared, reliable Grand Prix Cooper should be seen with that perspective.

He was unplaced in the season opening March Longford Trophy despite qualifying up the pointy end of the field, the race was won by Jack Brabham from Alec Mildren and Bib Stillwell- all in Cooper T51s, but Austin made a big impression in the Monday Scratch Race for racing and sportscars. AMS reported that ‘One of the finest duels of the meeting occurred in this event when Austin Miller in a 2.2 litre Cooper Climax fought a long battle with Jon Leighton in a 1960cc model. Miller held the advantage and led, but ignominiously lost face and position when he misjudged a corner and was forced to take an escape road.’

Off to Westernport for the next round at Phillip Island in Victoria on 13 March the circus rumbled across the old wooden bridge from San Remo to Newhaven and settled in Cowes for a few days where the ‘Isle Of Wight’ was and still is the centre of social activity.

Brabham had still not returned to Europe and would again win the feature race, The Repco Trophy but Aussie started from the third row and raced in third place for some laps before tyre wear meant he yielded to Bib and finished fourth behind Jack, Bill Patterson and Bib Stillwell, all, again, T51 mounted.

The Victorians took in the Phillip Island Easter Saturday meeting before heading up overnight to Bathurst with Austin second and third in his two races won by Stillwell each time. It would have been interesting to see Stan Jones having a run in the ‘old girl’ Maybach 4 Chev in the last race of the day winning from Ray Gibbs’ Cooper Climax and Stumpy Russell’s Holden Spl whilst the serious Coopers had commenced the tow north towards the NSW border.

Alec Mildren was well into his stride with his Maserati engined Cooper T51, the locally developed car concepted by Alec and built up by Glenn Abbey was the class of the field during the Easter weekend at Mount Panorama on 17/18 April but Austin raced well jumping into an immediate lead of the first heat, finishing second aft of Alec but ahead of Bill Patterson and Queenslander Glynn Scott’s Coopers.

Mildren led from the starters flag of the Bathurst 100 from Stillwell and for 8 laps the pair provided a great dice, the lead of the race changed a number of times but near the end of the eighth tour Bib slid on oil near Murray’s and hit the wooden fence near the Timing Tower.

Bib was ok but the car was out for the day leaving Miller in a strong second place until brake trouble forced him to ease back a bit- Arnold Glass caught and passed Aussie when he went up the escape road at Hell Corner (end of Conrod Straight). ‘Miller had returned to the fray to come sixth’, whilst in front of him were Mildren, Glass, Patterson, Noel Hall and John Roxburgh- all in Coopers with the exception of Arnold Glass aboard the ex-works/Hunt/Stillwell Maserati 250F.

Bib Stillwell and Austin at Reid Park Gates, Bathurst in October 1960 during the ‘Craven A International’ won by Brabham’s similar Cooper T51 Climax (J Ellacott)

 

Miller, Cooper T51 Climax 2.2, Mount Panorama October 1960. The sign says ‘Superior Cars’- one of Stan Jones dealerships in Melbourne, very naughty of Austin too- such flagrant commerce was crass and not in accord with CAMS rules on advertising on cars at all- I wonder how many meetings it took before they spanked him? (J Ellacott)

What a tonic that second place would have been! Austin didn’t take his car to Lowood, Queensland for the ‘thriller-diller’ June AGP won by the hair on your chinny-chin-chin slimmest of margins by Mildrens’s Cooper from ‘Dame Nellie Melba’ Lex Davison, the comeback kid missed by the smallest of margins winning another Australian Grand Prix aboard a newly prepared 3 litre but old school, front engined Aston Martin DBR4/250.

Crazy were the Victorians who raced at Lowood competing at Phillip Island the following day, the 13 June Queens Birthday meeting- whilst Austin was fresh Stillwell and Patterson were not having contested the AGP the day before but both were there (in their second T51s I guess?)- Austin took a second and third in minor events but in the 10 lap Reg Hunt Motors Trophy race finished a strong second behind Bill Patterson but in front of the Stillwell and John Roxburgh Coopers, and Stan Jones- giving his Maserati 250F a run.

Speaking of Jones, Austin ran his Cooper at the Fishermans Bend Sprints on 5 June to get the final tuning of his T51 sorted for the Island the week later and who should be running on the same day but Alan Jones, ‘Following in fathers footsteps…he made a spectacular entry into open competition by cleaning up his young opponent in true G.P style, his mount- a Whirlwind go-kart powered by a 125cc motor mower engine…his time of 28.3 seconds after a push-start over the line wasn’t all that bad and it accounted for the under 1100cc racing class.’ I wonder if this is the first time AJ made it into a race report and results sheet? Now when did he start hill-climbing the Motor Improvements built Mini I wonder…

 

Fishos Sprints results listed for posterity- see A Jones and A Miller

 

Jack Myers tells Austin where to go- WM/Cooper Holden and T51, Bathurst Easter 1960

Austin didn’t enter the Queensland Road Race Championship, again at Lowood, in September, but returned to the Gold Star fray (make that serious competition fray because this event wasn’t a Gold Star round) in the Craven A International race at the traditional Bathurst October meeting where Jack Brabham prevailed, over the biggest grid of the year, as the 1960 World Champion won from Patterson and Stillwell all in 2.5 litre FPF powered Coopers with Miller a DNF- engine problems.

He failed to start at Mallala in October or at Caversham- Perth is such a long tow! but raced in the Lukey Trophy at Phillip Island in mid-December and finished a strong second, seven seconds adrift of Patterson’s T51- Stillwell was third.

The Warwick Farm Trophy was held the weekend after the Island, and whilst the new, fantastic circuit constructed around one of Sydney’s horse racing tracks was not a Gold Star round it attracted a good entry with Stillwell winning the 10 lap feature from John Youl, Miller, Davison having another run in the Aston Martin but also having lustful thoughts about Coopers however much he didn’t like the ‘Mechanical Mice’, and Doug Whiteford- all but Lex in T51s.

Mildren won the 1960 Gold Star from Stillwell and Patterson.

Longford Trophy paddock March 1961, Roy Salvadori won in a Cooper T51 Climax. #6 Bib Stillwell’s Aston DBR4/250 3 litre DNS- raced his Cooper T51, Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S and Aussies Cooper T51 Climax 2.2 (R Lambert)

 

Longford Trophy paddock March 1960, Brabham won in a Cooper T51. Austin topless, Cooper T51 2.2, Arnold Glass Maser 250F and Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati (R Lambert)

 

Aussie sets to work on the 2.2 litre Coventry Climax FPF, Longford 1960 (G Richardson)

In early 1961 Austin continued to campaign the Cooper in the summer internationals, opening his account with a strong fourth in the Warwick Farm 100 behind Stirling Moss in Rob Walker’s Lotus 18 Climax, Innes Ireland’s works Lotus 18 Climax and Stillwell’s Cooper T51 Climax. All three cars were fitted with full 2.5 litre FPF’s compared with Aussie’s 2.2, by this stage other locals Jones, Mildren, Glass and Patterson were using 2.5 litre engines whilst Davison’s Aston Martin DBR/4 was fitted with a 3 litre DBR/1 sportscar unit.

That summer internationals contestants included Jack Brabham and Ron Flockhart in Cooper T51s and Graham Hill and Dan Gurney in works BRM P48s- the first time BRM, having raced on and off in New Zealand since 1954, added Australia to their Southern Summer tour.

Austin was eighth in the Victorian Trophy at Ballarat Airfield, won by Gurney’s BRM, fourth in the Longford Trophy won by Roy Salvadori in a Cooper T51 and sixth in the Craven A International at the short, tight, new, Hume Weir circuit close to the New South Wales/Victorian border near Albury in March- Brabham prevailed in the two races that weekend in his T53 Lowline.

At that point Austin’s Cooper became Australia’s first Formula 5000 car…

Miller had become obsessed with a desire to break the Australian Land Speed Record which was then held by one of his fellow Gold Star competitors, Mel McEwin, in Tornado 2 Chev, a car I wrote about a while back. Click hear to read about this amazing front engined Australian special; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

Not having the budget to purchase or build a purpose-built car capable of breaking the record, Aussie and his engineer/mechanic Geoff Smedley set about modifying Miller’s Cooper T51 in the loft of the building next to the Hotel Monaco.

Shots above and below are perhaps press shots in Launceston immediately after the modified T51’s build (G Smedley)

 

(G Smedley)

Geoff Smedley’s story of this amazing adventure is set below.

‘This is perhaps the most unlikely but successful challenge to a Land Speed Record ever staged and it comes with a story that is equally remarkable.

I had known my friend, the late Austin Miller, for a number of years previously. We had raced cars together in earlier times. Around 1959 when Austin came to live in Tasmania after recovering from a fairly major air crash in Victoria- he had operated an aerial crop spraying business for many years and decided at that time that perhaps a slower pace of life would be better suited to his well-being. So he bought a hotel in Launceston, renovated it and renamed it The Monaco Hotel which soon became the hub for motor racing fans from far and near.

 It could be argued that the array of beverages served at the Monaco may have instigated the record attempt! Not so! But it was Aussie’s infectious desire and persuasive talents that eventually won out and the idea grew into reality early in 1960, I was entrusted in putting together a vehicle that could better the current record of 157.5 MPH set by Ted Gray in the ‘Tornado Chev Special’ at Coonabarabran in 1957.

 Some of the difficulties soon became clear, firstly there was no money in the kitty. Meaning that all work had to remain ‘in house’. The only equipment available was the 1959 Cooper T51 F2 fitted with a 2.2 Coventry Climax FPF motor that was Austin’s current race car, but certainly not suitable for the job in hand.

 A friend of Aussie’s in Melbourne had just set a water speed record using a Corvette V8 engine. This engine was offered on loan as a starting point to our quest. The thought of stuffing 400 bhp of cast iron Chev into a petite Cooper F2 seemed almost as ridiculous as attempting the record itself.

 An assessment of the work needed to adapt the chassis to take the big, brutal Corvette engine proved it would need to be a bit of a ‘suck it and see’ effort or do it as she goes with all chassis work to be undertaken before the transplant could take place’.

Bruce Burr, Miller and Geoff Smedley- the ‘heavy Chevvy’ looks an easy (cough!) fit (G Smedley)

The engine provided by boat raced Keith Hooper (or Syd Fischer depending upon the source) was highly modified by fitment of some of the best ‘go faster’goodies available for the small-block Chev at the time- Isky cam, ported and polished heads, six twin-choke carbs sitting atop an Offy manifold, lightweight aluminium flywheel and a clutch capable of coping with 400 BHP and equivalent amounts of bulk torque. The fibreglass body of the Cooper was changed marginally in some respects but substantively by the incorporation of a ‘Perspex bubble’ which sat on top of the normal cockpit opening providing better high speed streamlining than the shallow road racing surround.

Geoff picks up the story again.

‘Also the transmission drastically needed modification from the existing Citroen Light 15-based box used by Cooper. To this end I was fortunate in respect of engineering facilities with the family business (Bedford Machine Tools) at my disposal and being a trained engineer I was able to modify this box to a beefy 2 speed specialised unit. With savage cross bolting of the housing, in theory, it would withstand the short lived punishment expected of it. All this together with special beefed up drive-shafts to cope with the extra power were made and, as it seemed, a never ending general tweek in all the right places, eventually we were starting to see some result and the project began to take shape into the car we hoped would bring us success.

 The only thing I was fully confident of was the fact that Aussie Miller was one of very few blokes in the world who could steer this mish- mash of bits to success. His long career in flying and driving at the top echelon of open wheeler racing in this country certainly proved he had not only the courage but also the anatomy to do the job’.

(Gray Family)

 

(Gray Family)

Photographs of the car show just how beautifully engineered and integrated the modifications to the standard Cooper T51 were. They were put to the test at Symmons Plains, the circuit built on the Youl family property of the same name 10 miles south of Launceston during October 1961. Austin achieved 140 mph in top gear of his two-speed gearbox before running out of circuit. The car also ran at Trevallyn Hillclimb on 22 October finishing second in the Tasmanian Hillclimb Championship behind John Youl’s Cooper T51 Climax.

 ‘After the work on the car was finished there was the hassle of setting up the legalities and finding a location suited to such an attempt. We had looked at a few areas as possibilities but each had drawbacks and we needed a course that would give us the very best of chances and a remote beach on the North-West coast of Tasmania at Bakers Beach looked like the ideal place, a little out of sight in case of failure and some 4.5 miles of good surface to set up a good surveyed strip to test our hopes. It took quite a few weeks for our little band of helpers to arrange all the last minute problems including being told that the official timing gear was in Hobart the night before we were about to contest the run which meant someone had to drive the 250 mile journey to retrieve this very important bit of gear.

While this was being attended to my friend Bruce Burr and I decided it would be prudent to take the car to the beach the evening before to eliminate any hold-up on the following day. The best laid plans were in place, we were armed with arrowed placards to be placed on trees showing the way into this well hidden beach, and the evening turned into night before we reached the last mile or so of very dense bush and not having ever tried to visit this remote place in darkness we became hopelessly lost and had diligently placed our signs in areas that have never been found to this day.

Our problems didn’t stop there. Eventually arriving on the Western end of the beach it required about a 4-mile drive in the Land Rover, with car and trailer on tow behind to the Eastern end to a base site we had previously chosen. We were finding this spot hard to locate in the darkness and required driving in the softer sand further up the beach and of course the trailer and race car became bogged and things became hopeless, so we simply unhitched the trailer and moved the Land Rover to a little higher ground and turned in for the night.

We were woken just after daylight by a local TV crew that had somehow found us without the aid of our signs and to our horror we found that the tide was in and was lapping the deck of the trailer and the car looked to be sitting on the water, which presented more of a comedy act than a serious record attempt. Anyhow with the aid of the TV crew we managed to get things into a more respectable state before officialdom and others started arriving, none of whom had seen any of the dozen or so directional signs we had placed the night before.

One of the early runs at Bakers Beach with canopy intact Cooper T51 Chev (SLV)

The timing equipment had been brought from Hobart and set up and it was time for the first test runs up the beach. Bearing in mind that this would be the first test of the car itself, it was a very nerve-racking time for me but if Aussie felt the same way he certainly didn’t show it climbing into the car as if heading off on a fun drive up the beach. The first couple of runs looked well but a problem with the timing equipment held proceedings up for some time giving and making all previous runs null and void, but it did give us a chance to delve into a possible gearbox problem which turned out to be a minor adjustment. Stripping a transmission on a beach in the open is not really recommended, soon all was ready for the first official run from East to West.

The car achieved 172 MPH, well on target. We had the car geared for around 202 mph @ 6,500rpm and this first run was looking good. The reverse run was a little down which was expected against a growing wind and adjustments were made to the car before the next speed run. While working on the engine it was necessary to remove the canopy I had made to try and wind-cheat the car. I had rigged up a quick release arrangement for this canopy should the need arise but somehow the mechanism got damaged in the refitting after the previous run causing a major drama on the next attempt.

At an estimated 170 mph the canopy ejected and went skywards also releasing the whole back half of the body and certainly shocked the observers and dimmed the hope of taking the record somewhat, but the ‘never say die Aussie’ the pilot was determined to have a go without such refinements even though beach conditions had deteriorated and the wind was lifting the sand into a heavy haze and pulling down his goggles, the intrepid Miller lad set off, disappearing into a wall of sand and into the record books by pushing the record up to 164.7 MPH, not what we hoped, but a record that would stand for almost 4 years all on the smell of an oily rag.

To reminisce on a time when this sort of thing was possible and practical learning was still in vogue. For me I later entered into F1. As a race engineer where in those early days your skills were required on every aspect of the car, you featured dirty hands but acquired a lot of private satisfaction. It was an era in time we will never see again in the name of motorsport, it was four years later when Donald Campbell in his jet powered Bluebird officially became the fastest man on wheels putting the record up to 403 mph on Australia’s Lake Eyre, but the successful Miller challenge remained for some 4 years and certainly must always remain as a dinkum piston engined record done on a shoestring by a man of his time……… Austin Miller (My Mate!)’ Geoff Smedley.

Miller raced the car on into 1962 albeit only briefly.

The Cooper retained its Chev engine and was entered in both the local South Pacific Championship at Longford retiring on lap 2 with valve problems and at Sandown’s opening meeting where the car also failed to finish. Another similar car in concept to Miller’s made a huge impression on Jack Brabham that weekend.

In a one-off Australian entry- it was the only time this car ever raced, Lance Reventlow’s mid-engined Scarab, powered by an aluminium Buick V8- from the same family of engines as that used by Repco in their 1966 F1 World Championship year, the Repco Brabham RBE620 motor was based on a modified production Oldsmobile F85 block. Miller was very much ahead of his time with the thinking behind the V8 engined Cooper.

Austin strolls with his T51 Climax the wrong way up Sandown’s Main Straight from the old paddock onto the grid for the start of the feature race at Sandown’s first meeting on 12 March 1962, the ‘Sandown Park International’. Brabham won is his 2.7 litre Cooper T55 Climax- Aussie DNF in the Chev engined T51 (unattributed)

With that, and the local scene becoming ever more professional and expensive, Miller retired from racing to concentrate back on his agricultural spraying business and commercial aviation career.

The Cooper T51 passed through many hands during the sixties and early seventies before John Caffin acquired its remains which comprised the chassis, seat and a fuel tank. The car was fully restored by John, Aussie took great delight in running it a number of times, his T51, like so many of them left Australia many years ago.

Austin, in a very full life was married twice- to Florence with whom he had Vicky and Guy (a handy steerer of historic FFs), and to Judy with whom he had four children- Todd, Ashley, Tracey and Brett. After sale of the hotel in Tasmania he moved back to Victoria to aerial crop spraying- at that stage he bought a de Havilland Beaver and operated out of Derrinallum in Victorias’s Western District, two hours from Melbourne.

Aussie maintained his interest in cars, guesting in demonstrations of his Cooper in the historic era and he applied his mechanical talents to the restoration of the ex-Brabham/Davison Brabham BT4 (‘IC-2-62’) remains but that car was sold to John Coombs in the UK without ever seeing the light of day here.

Miller died aged 85 in 2009 but his name lives on, he is discussed when competitive drivers of that period are being looked at in the manner in which they went about their business and drove- and owner/driver/preparer Miller is much respected for his achievements but I guess racing the Cooper was a soda compared to the daily in-cockpit rigours of an ag-pilot!

(Miller)

Austin aboard a 235HP Piper Pawnee, Dookie College, between Benalla and Shepparton, Victoria, 1976.

Percival EP.9 Aircraft in Australia…

http://www.goodall.com.au/australian-aviation/percival-ep9/percivalep9.html

Etcetera…

(Miller)

Works touring car driver- Graham Hoinville and Austin drove an Australian Motor Industies Triumph Herald in the 1960 Armstrong 500 at Phillip Island, DNF in the race won by the Roxburgh/Coad Vauxhall Cresta

(unattributed)

What a road car!

Lady at left seems pretty calm about the vivid yellow Cooper T51 Chev’s presence on the Launceston streetscape. Some type of car show or procession I guess- can someone help with the occasion and date?

(G Miller)

‘Lukey Trophy’ Gold Star round at Phillip Island in December 1960.

Austin’s T51 with John Roxburgh’s T45 2 litre FPF in the distance on the drop into ‘MG’ corner- Bill Patterson won from Aussie and Bib Stillwell, T51’s all.

(J Ellacott)

Longford Trophy grid, March 1960.

Brabham #4, Stillwell #6 and Miller in yellow- all in Cooper T51s with Glass’ Maserati 250F beside Austin, before the off. Brabham won from Mildren and Stillwell- the dominance of Cooper T51’s in Australia throughout this period comes through in all of this article.

The tables only turned from Cooper when Jack and Ron’s ‘Intercontinental’ Brabham’s- the BT4/BT7A and later BT11A started to come into the country in numbers circa 1962/3 and beyond, but Coopers were dominant in number from 1958/9.

(NMRM)

1960 ‘Craven A’ International grid just before the off, Bathurst October 1960.

I’ve used this shot a couple of times before- it does illustrate the point made a moment ago about Cooper dominance at the time. Stan Jones’ blue T51 is on the outside of row 1, then Alec Mildren’s ‘Mildren green’ Maserati engined variant and then Brabham. John Leighton’s almost invisible T45 and Bib Stillwell’s red T51 on row two. Arnold Glass’ Maserati 250F on row three beside the crowd, then Noel Hall and Austin’s T51s. A row further back its Bill Patterson’s white T51 alongside John Youl’s. The other yellow car at far right rear is Doug Kelley’s ex-Miller Cooper T41 Climax.

Brabham won from Patterson and Stillwell.

(unattributed)

Bathurst I think- Austin, T51 Climax from Alec Mildren, Cooper T45 Climax- then again it may be Alec’s T51 Maserati but it must be 1961 not 1960 as the induction side on the engine in Mildren’s car in 1960 was on the other side, whereas in 1961 it was on ‘this side’ as above. I don’t think Austin’s T51 ever met Alec’s T45 at Bathurst- the T51 Maserati yes. Then again this might not be Bathurst…help, I think.

 

Arcane but sorta relevant…

Austin was a very highly rated pilot, when Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation boss (later Sir) Lawrence Wackett was after a test pilot for his new Wirraway Trainer based CA-28 ‘Ceres’ heavy payload agricultural aircraft in 1958/9 it was to Miller he turned.

Miller and Tadgell, familiar with the Wirraway from their RAAF days, decided to trial the plane as an alternative to their growing fleet of DH.82 Tiger Moths. After obtaining the licence endorsement they needed the Department of Supply sold them two aircraft for 500 pounds each. Both were fitted with a hopper behind the front seat and various designs of spraying equipment, also installed were RAAF underwing extra fuel tanks.

The experiments were successful, so, given Austin’s technical and analytical skills it was to Miller Wackett turned but he was too busy with Super Spread’s operation which by then included Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, not to forget his racing…and family so he let the opportunity pass.

Ultimately 20 of the aircraft were built, CAC transferred the production capacity then released at Fishermans Bend to the RAAF Mirage jet fighter project.

Super Spread CA28-10. Reg VH-CEK and later VH-SSY- Ceres Type C, which was the definitive final production type CA-28 to which most earlier series aircraft were field modified. First registered 20 September 1960. Here in 1962 it’s dropping a load of live fingerling trout into Lake Eildon, in Victoria’s Alpine region between Eildon and Mansfield 150 km from Melbourne- superb shot. This aircraft has, like a racing car, had a few decent hits down the decades, been de-registered and registered again when rebuilt and is still extant (Ben Dannecker Collection)

The most hours on the type were recorded by Super Spread pilot John McKeachie who commented about the plane as follows; ‘The Ceres carried a good load and had an excellent braking system. The Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial was very reliable and the engine cowls were designed to give easy access for maintenance. It had a 3 second dump with the dump doors not being retractable as the whole bottom dropped out.’

‘The later models were designed to allow the loader driver to be carried behind the pilot. Spare parts were readily available. The aircraft had several negative features, being very heavy on the controls, slow on the turn and very tiring to fly. It was also heavy on fuel, needed a long runway and gave a rough ride when on the ground.’

Bibliography…

Austin Miller profile by Martin Agatyn, article by Geoff Smedley, oldracingcars.com, Aviation Safety Network, Geoff Goodall’s Aviation History Site, various issues of Australian Motor Sports 1958-1960, ‘Glory Days: Albert Park 1953-1958’ Barry Green, oldracingcars.com

Photo and other Credits…

Ron Lambert, John Ellacott, Guy Miller Collection, Greg Richardson, Rob Knott via Ellis French, National Motor Racing Museum, Ben Dannecker Collection, Kevin Drage, State Library of Victoria

Special thanks to Guy Miller and Geoff Smedley

Tailpiece: We have lift-off…

image

(G Smedley)

Finito…

 

(J Manhire)

Tony Gaze in his HWM Jaguar ‘VPA9’ at Ryal Bush in New Zealand’s South Island on 11 February 1956…

Isn’t John Manhire’s photograph a fantastic one? He has captured the car, the physicality of hustling these machines around a road circuit, and of course the crowd so well to add some drama and perspective- its a beauty which inspired an article.

Later in the day Tony was second in the first ‘Southland Road Race’ run over forty-one 5.87km laps of a course laid out around the hamlet of Ryal Bush 20km north of Invercargill, at the very south of New Zealand’s South Island. He drove his ex-Ascari Ferrari 500 powered by a 3 litre 750S sportscar engine, in front of him was Peter Whitehead in a similar car.

By 1956 Australia’s first Formula 1 driver was a committed HWM pilot having first raced an ex-Moss 2 litre HWM Alta F2 car in Grands Prix during 1952 with good results given the nature of his privateer campaign. This chassis was later acquired by Lex Davison, fitted with a Jaguar XK engine it won the 1954 Australian Grand Prix at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast, its still in Australia in sportscar form but very original in terms of its componentry, in the loving hands of the Hough family- article pending.

Tony aboard his HWM Alta at Charterhall in October 1952- the ‘Newcastle Journal Trophy’. DNF in the race won by Dennis Poore, Connaught A Type. Gaze’ last race in the car as it transpired.

 

Tony was despatched to New Zealand by John Heath and George Abecassis together with the supercharged GP HWM Alta 2 litre in the Antipodian summer of 1954 with a brief to win a race or three and then sell the Formula Libre car before returning home- whilst he didn’t win any races he did well and also fulfilled the second part of his brief, the lucky Kiwi’s had the machine for the rest of its ‘in period’ racing life- click here to read a story about that tour and background information about HWM; https://primotipo.com/2019/12/13/tony-gaze-hwm-alta-new-zealand-1954/

Sportscar racing, make that every type of racing exploded in England as the shackles of war were progressively cast aside with grids of Jaguar, Aston Martin, Lotus, Cooper, Lister, HWM and other marques making sportscar grids every bit as large and competitive as the single-seater categories.

Faced with the difficulty of finding a competitive car for the 1953 GP season- the reliability of the Alta engine was a major concern for Gaze- Enzo Ferrari would sell Tony a Ferrari 500 but without works support that would have been a very expensive proposition, so he looked to sportscars for the next phase of his career.

Gaze was invited to be part of a pre-Le Mans 24 hour test of the Aston Martin DB3 at Monza- in the snow, at the end of which he and Graham Whitehead were offered cars, Tony recalled ‘Wyer stitched us up. We were promised that Aston Martin wasn’t going to come out with something new to make us obsolete the moment we got these things. So the first race meeting I go to Reg Parnell turns up in a works DB3S which was a lot lighter and more powerful!’

Tony Gaze, Aston Martin DB3 at Dundrod during the 1953 TT- excellent fourth place sharing Graham Whitehead’s car. The Collins/Griffith and Parnell/Thompson Aston Martin DB3S were first and second (Gaze)

 

Tony and Kay Gaze with Tony’s new Aston Martin DB3, looking immaculate, before the off at Oporto, Portugal (Gaze)

 

Gaze’ Aston Martin DB3 chassis #9, or the charred remains of it, in an Oporto Street after his high speed contretemps with a Ferrari and a stout tree- a lucky escape during the 1953 Portuguese GP (D Coelho)

He first raced his car, chassis ‘DB3-9’, one of ten DB3s built, at the Silverstone International Trophy meeting in May finishing fourth in his class. He then took the car to the Cote d’Azur for the Hyeres 12 Hours in June, that race was held on the Iles d’Or 7km road course- sharing his car with Graham Whitehead the pair ran fifth in the pouring rain but retired after two hours with a broken timing chain.

His small equipe then headed south to take in the Portuguese Grand Prix which was held on 21 June on the 7.4km Boavista street circuit in Oporto.

The race started badly for the contingent from the UK on the very first lap when Duncan Hamilton’s Jaguar C Type ‘was punted off by an amateur driver who was apparently banned for life’ but got considerably worse when Gaze came close to losing his life in ‘DB3/9’.

Italian sportscar specialist, Pietro Palmieri’s Ferrari 250MM collided with the Aston on lap 3 catapulting it into a tree, at which point it broke in half and burst into flames leaving our former fighter-pilot ace semi-conscious in the middle of the road ten metres from the remains of his machine which was completely destroyed- absolutely rooted, it was written off (and somewhat surprisingly has not been re-birthed all these decades later). Palmieri’s Ferrari lasted until he had completed 7 laps when engine failure intervened, the three hour, 60 lap race was won by Jose Nogueira Pinto in a Ferrari 250MM Vignale Spyder. Click here for a piece on the DB3; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/19/1952-goodwood-9-hours-and-aston-db3/

After his recovery, Tony sought to buy a works Aston from Wyer who refused to sell, after attempts by the insurance company to purchase a second hand Aston DB3 to replace the destroyed car failed- and he received his money, Tony then tried to buy a Jaguar from Lofty England but could not agree terms- and so it was that he approached his buddies at HWM who had just built a Jaguar engined car for company co-owner George Abecassis to race. The racer was immediately quick with Heath’s triple-Weber fed Jaguar engines and ‘Indianapolis style quick change Halibrand spur-gears’ to allow easy change of gear ratios to suit the demands of different circuits, were both competitive aspects of the cars overall design.

Tony in HWM1 during the very wet May 1954 Aintree Daily Telegraph International meeting heading for fourth behind Duncan Hamilton, Jaguar C Type, Carroll Shelby’s Aston DB3S and Jimmy Stewart’s C Type (Gaze)

 

Tony Gaze during the 1953 Hyeres 12 Hours in HWM1- shared with George Abecassis (S Lewis)

 

Tony in VPA9 during the British GP sportscar support race, Silverstone, July 1954. DNF with the Collins, Salvadori and Shelby Aston DB3S up front of the 118km race  (Gaze)

Whilst VPA9 (the first registration number of HWM sporties is generally the number by which they are recognised) took a while to be built so Tony raced Abecassis’ ‘HWM1’ at the Aintree opening meeting in May where he was fourth in the sportscar ten lapper- Duncan Hamilton’s C Type won.

In the Hyeres 12 Hours in early June he co-drove with George- they ran second until pinged and disqualified for a minor pit infringement by Abecassis- Trintignant/Piotti won in a Ferrari 250 Monza.

‘VPA9’ (‘CH 105′ is the chassis number attributed to the car by John Blanden and some other sources online) is the third HWM Jaguar built, the first was built by Oscar Moore who converted his Alta engined HWM- fitted with a 3.4 litre, and then later a 3.8 litre engine, the package was mighty quick, managing to stay in front of Abecassis’ works Aston Martin  in the Jersey International Road Race until the engine broke. Gaze car was finally delivered to him in June 1954 just prior to the Reims 12 Hour, which he contested with Graham Whitehead as co-driver.

Powered by a works Jaguar 3.4 litre XK experimental engine the pair finished seventh in the 270bhp machine ‘despite extremely poor handling’ which was finally diagnosed twelve months hence as front shock absorbers which were fading- the problem was cured by adding some friction dampers. Up front the Peter Whitehead/Ken Wharton Jaguar D Type won- it was an historic day as it was the first of many wins for Jaguar’s most famous racer.

In July, Tony’s car, which was always entered by HW Motors, was twenty-second in the British GP sportscar support race at Silverstone, with various problems- up front of this 25 lapper which concluded the day’s proceedings was a trio of Aston Martin DB3S’- Peter Collins won from Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby.

In a very busy August Tony won at Crystal Palace from pole, but he missed a gear leaving the tell-tale at 6900rpm.

VPA9 crossed the channel to Zandvoort on 15 August where Tony failed to finish after a huge spin at Hugenholtzbocht behind the pits- he then took a shortcut to the other side but the grass was so wet the car became bogged- when he stopped he could see Duncan Hamilton in the pits overcome with laughter at his plight. Ninian Sanderson’s C Type won that day with three other C Types in line astern.

On 22 August Gaze took VPA9 to the French Southern Brittany seaside resort town of La Baule to contest the sportscar handicap race finishing sixth- two D.B. Panhards were up front, then Jacques Peron’s 1350cc Osca MT4 with Duncan Hamilton fourth in his Jaguar C Type, then Jean Lucas in a small D.B. Renault with Tony next best of the ‘big cars’.

After about an hour, with 9 laps completed of the demanding 11 September RAC TT at Dundrod, sharing the car with John Riseley-Pritchard, VPA9’s engine dropped a valve- with nowhere to exit the circuit- surrounded as it was by slab walls the engine was fairly rooted by the time Tony came upon a cross-road to exit the track. Mike Hawthorn and Maurice Trintignant won in a works Ferrari 750 Monza and Piero Taruffi/JM Fangio Lancia D24 were second in this 1000km World Sportscar Championship round.

Tony oversees the preparation of his Ferrari 500/625- ‘500-05’, or as re-numbered by the factory when modified as Formula Libre machines ‘GP.0480′ in Australasia during 1955/6. Gaze’ car, when fitted with a 750S engine later in 1955 had a flat spot which was not cured until Alan Ashton (at right) made some new jets for the Weber carburettors during the early period of Lex Davison’s ownership circa later 1956. Reg Hunt at left ‘top’ (MotorSport)

 

Tony in the Oulton Park paddock prior to the British Empire Trophy sportscar practice in May 1955. #44 is the Bertie Bradnack Cooper T33 Jaguar and the car behind that is George Abecassis in HWM1. Archie Scott-Brown won in a Lister Bristol (Alamy)

 

Tony Gaze in the Aston Martin DB3S he shared with David McKay to second place in the May 1955 Hyeres 12 Hours. With DB3S/102 he also contested the 1955 Circuito do Porto, Monsanto, Charterhall International, Snetterton International, Goodwood 9 Hour and Tourist Trophy meetings that year (Gaze)

It was time for an engine rebuild back at Browns Lane and whilst a replacement was provided Tony never did get back the trick engine, the motor he used at Goodwood during the BARC Autumn 25 September meeting ‘was not the original but Jaguar’s worst old engine’.

The team asked Tony to race the HWM 54 Jaguar GP car instead, this was the Alta engined car Lance Macklin raced in the July 1954 French Grand Prix- DNF after 10 laps on the day Mercedes Benz arrived back in Grand Prix racing in rather emphatic fashion. Gaze was to race in the Formula Libre Woodcote Cup, and after some confusion with the pedals in practice (which were clutch/throttle/brake rather than the clutch/brake/throttle of his sportscar) or a mechanical failure got to the bottom of Lavant Straight into Woodcote the car wouldn’t stop, ‘Whatever the reason it wasn’t going to stop so i spun it down the escape road and hit the eight feet high dirt wall and got tossed over the top of it and ended up in the crowd’ Tony recalled. Peter Collins won the race in one of Tony Vandervell’s Thinwall Ferraris whilst MotorSport observed that ‘Practice was notable for Tony Gaze ground-looping the HWM Jaguar when going too fast into Woodcote Corner, thereby bruising himself, and incidentally providing Fairman with another drive’.

‘The car was a write-off. There was a bit of a joke about the car because they salvaged what they could of it- the engine and things- and put the rest of it up against the factory wall ready to try and straighten it and sell it to some unfortunate bloke. But the scrap metal man arrived and took it without asking!’

Jack Fairman raced VPA9 whilst Tony was recovering from his Goodwood shunt, a week later John Riseley-Pritchard used it at Aintree- committed to other race commitments in 1955, primarily his ex-Ascari Ferrari 500-625 F Libre/GP car in the early months of the year, and ‘Kangaroo Stable’ Aston Martin DB3S races (a story for another time), VPA9 didn’t race in Europe again, Tony’s final entry in it, at Oulton Park, for the British Empire Trophy meeting in April 1955 met with mechanical failure in practice which precluded racing.

‘John Heath had found a cheaper way of doing up Jaguar gearboxes…George Abecassis had a problem in practice with HWM1 and had changed the box, using the team’s only spare’ so when Tony changed down to third for Old Hall corner…everything locked up. He thought the engine had seized and let the clutch out which didn’t make the slightest difference and then found himself spinning around and around about five times. The corner marshall didn’t know which flag to wave so much was happening…the gearbox had slipped into two gears at once and solidly locked up…’ Gaze recalled.

Tony and Peter Whitehead raced their ‘twin’ Ferrari 500/625’s in New Zealand with great success in early 1956, by then fitted with 750S sportscar engines- both took two-seaters along for the ride to use in the support events and to raise some cash at the end of the tour by selling them, Tony took VPA9 and Peter the very first Cooper T38 Jaguar (CJ-1-55) he and his half-brother Graham raced at Le Mans in 1955- using VPA9, at Ardmore Gaze was third and took a win at Christchurch during the Lady Wigram Trophy meeting at the RNZAF airfield the following weekend. (happy to hear from any of you Kiwis who may be able to fill in the gaps of the HWM’s placings in other events that summer)

The tale of this tour is told here; https://primotipo.com/2019/09/05/the-gp-aston-martin-dp155/

NZ GP, Ardmore Airfield, Auckland 8 January 1955- that’s Bira in the #1 Maserati 250F ‘2504/2509’ on the way to a victory with Lex up front in his ex-Moss/Gaze HWM now Jaguar powered, with Tony in his ex-Ascari Ferrari 500 and soon to be Lex’s in March 1956. Bira won from Peter Whitehead and Tony in their identical Ferraris. Lex must have been eternally grateful to his great mate Tony as three of his four AGP wins were courtesy of cars Tony sold him!- 1954 at Southport in the HWM Jag and 1957 Caversham and 1958 Bathurst in the Ferrari. Mind you that HWM Jag was in many ways quite a different machine to the rolling chassis Tony sold to him in early 1953(unattributed)

 

Tony Gaze applying a touch of opposite lock at Albert Park in March 1956, this meeting his final one in VPA9. He was a big tall bugger! I only ever saw him as an older man- and a mighty imposing bloke he appeared- he had a real presence about him, he always looked friendly enough but I was never game to say gedday- I’ve always reserved my awe for real heroes, and that he most certainly was. That shitty background is hessian trying to stop free-loading Melburnian’s checking out the action without paying but nicely stuffs up the background (G McKaige)

At the end of the NZ Internationals Gaze shipped his two cars across the Tasman Sea to Port Melbourne contest the Moomba Meeting at Albert Park over the March Labour Day long weekend, winning the 48 lap 150 mile Tourist Trophy event from Bib Stillwell’s Jaguar D Type and Ron Phillips’ Austin Healey 100S.

He was third in the Argus Cup, also at the park, a week later behind Stillwell’s D and Stan Jones ex-Whitehead Cooper T38 Jaguar, before this meeting Lex had acquired both the Ferrari and HWM from his great mate- Lex’ first meeting in the Ferrari was this weekend.

Graham Howard wrote that Tony’s only condition upon sale of the cars was that ‘he urged Lex to have Alan Ashton, from AF Hollins, (A.F. Hollins Pty. Ltd. were motor engineers with a workshop at 694 High Street, Armadale, the building still exists not too far from the Orrong Road corner) who had been preparing Tony’s Australian racing cars since the 1940’s and who had been looking after the Ferrari in New Zealand. The combination of Lex, Alan Ashton and the Ferrari was to become one of the great partnerships of Australian racing.’ Lex placed second twice in the Ferrari to Reg Hunt’s Maserati 250F that weekend.

Davison was a busy boy in 1956 racing the Ferrari, contesting the Mobilgas Round Australia Trial with Peter Ward in a Peugeot 403, racing his Phil Irving fettled Cooper-Vincent at Collingrove Hillclimb and at Part Wakefield, Templestowe and at Mount Panorama where he defeated Bruce Walton to win his second Australian Hillclimb Championship. Then there was the small matter of the AGP being organised by the Light Car Club of Australia, of which he had just been elected President, his ‘Paragon Shoes’ business to run and a large family!

Lex raced VPA9 in the 32 lap Australian Tourist Trophy at Albert Park in the November/December 1956 ‘Olympic Meetings’, a wonderful fortnight of racing in which Stirling Moss won both the Australian Grand Prix in a Maserati 250F and the Australian Tourist Trophy in a 300S- Lex was seventh in the HWM.

During it’s lay-off the HWM had been modified by fitment of a fibreglass ‘Ausca’ body bought from Paul England in place of the aluminium alloy original in an endeavour to make it a tad lighter and more slippery.

Davo got caught up in the avoidance of Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax’s attack upon the Park’s straw bales finishing the first lap in fourteenth place- Lex did well from that position finishing third of the local residents and lapping a couple of seconds quicker than Tony had in March, but the two D Types of Bill Pitt and Bib Stillwell were 2 laps ahead of the HWM at the races end. Moss won from Jean Behra, both in 300S Maseratis from the ill-fated Ken Wharton’s Ferrari Monza then Pitt, Stillwell and Davison.

‘The HWM was the only racing sports car Lex ever owned, and it was becoming daily more outdated: he ran it just a few times more, its best performance being a class record 27.08 seconds at Templestowe in mid-1957’ Howard wrote.

Lex aboard VPA9 in the Caversham paddock during the 1957 AGP weekend- note the fibreglass ‘Ausca’ body, the styling of which was heavily influenced by, if not a direct copy of the Maserati A6GCS body (K Miles)

 

Caversham AGP sportscar support race. #10 Ron Phillips Austin Healey gets the jump from Davison #30 HWM VPA9 and Derek Jolly, Decca Mk1 Climax, #24 Austin Healey raced by Anderson (austinhealey100s.com)

Davison took both the Ferrari and HWM across the Nullarbor to contest the March 1957, Caversham, WA AGP.

Lex won his second AGP, sharing his Ferrari 500/625 with Bill Patterson on a scorching hot summers day and after a lap-scoring dispute with Stan Jones- who had taken the chequered flag having driven solo in his 250F fitted that weekend with his spare 3 litre (300S) engine.

The HWM finished well back in the Saturday support sportscar race but looked the goods for the 40 lapper on the Monday where the temperature was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade by the time the event started in the early afternoon.

‘Lex had only a ten second lead when he bought the HWM into the pits after 15 laps, the car overheating so badly onlookers said the engine was almost visible through the bodywork. Unscrewing the radiator cap released a geyser of steam’, and Patterson (his relief driver in this race too) rejoined the contest and very soon to retire.

Not long after returning to Melbourne the car was damaged in an accident on the way back to town when driven by one of the mechanics from Templestowe Hillclimb- taken to Lyndon Duckett’s workshop in Toorak the car’s body was removed, where the remains, ‘including the bent front end, suspension and buckled wheels’ stayed until acquired by Gavin Sala in 1974.

Sala started the process of acquiring the missing bits, the project progressed through the hands of Simon Ramsay, Noel Robson and Julian Phillips in Perth who engaged Cliff Byfield to finish the project which created great interest when it made its ‘public debut’ in the inaugural F1 AGP at Albert Park in 1996.

In 1998 ‘VPA9’ left our shores for the UK where it makes regular appearances in historic events inclusive of a demonstration by Tony Gaze in the Goodwood reopening meeting in September 1998.

Technical…

(S Dalton)

 

(S Dalton)

John Bolster puts the first HWM Jaguar ‘HWM1’ to the test for Autosport magazine in April 1955.

Of conventional construction, the chassis was a twin-tube affair with independent front suspension by upper and lower wishbone, coil spring/dampers with a de Dion rear axle again suspended by coils and coaxial shock absorbers.

Engines were all Jaguar XK of varying capacity as was the gearbox which used ‘C Type’ ratios, Bolster gives a comprehensive explanation of the ‘quick change’ diff.

Girling provided the brake drum componentry, Borrani the wire wheels and the somewhat slab-sided body- all of the HWMs were drawn and styled by the talented Abecassis, was constructed in aluminium.

(J Ross)

 

(Autosport via S Dalton)

HWM Jaguar awaits its body in the factory at Walton-on-Thames————————.

A second series car, perhaps Heath’s ‘HWM1’ 1956 ill-fated Mille Miglia car, which was the second time the plate was used.

Simon Taylor said that a total of nineteen HWM’s were built of which six were sportscars- four ‘First Series’ machines, the Gaze car is one, and two ‘Second Series’ cars styled by Abecassis along Aston Martin DB3S lines.

(J Ross)

de Dion axle housing being fettled in the machine shop with what appears to be the remains of a transmission in the container under the ‘Webster & Bennett’ turning and boring machine. Any ideas as to the technician?

(J Ross)

I wonder if it’s some type of press occasion or John Ross there taking his shots and ‘interrupting the troops’.

Perhaps John Heath at left and George Abecassis well rugged up behind what I think is the new chassis of ‘HWM1’, the completed car is Abecassis’ ‘XPE2’, given the front air intake as shown in the photograph below- it evolved from the cars first meeting in May 1955 this group of shots were taken in early 1956, most certainly it is winter!

I really must buy Mr Taylor’s two volume book set, if any of you have a copy, assistance with chassis numbers would be considered very favourably by The Editor- a complete list would be wonderful.

‘XPE2’ displaying its lissom lines outside the Hersham and Walton Motors Ltd Aston Martin Dealership and workshops, the company is still a very successful Astons dealership having first taken on the concession in 1951.

(J Ross)

Do watch this ‘interview’ of Simon Taylor by Steve Cropley about HWM generally as part of the promotion of his two volume tome ‘John, George and the HWM’s’ on the marque, a couple of years back.

Held at Brooklands, the thing runs for one and a half hours but stick with it- very entertaining and chockers with facts and anecdotes Taylor is a natural story-teller.

Australian’s of a certain age will remember Steve Cropley as one of the ‘Sports Car World’ magazine guys which helped get us interested in cars- his career has been very much in the UK since the late seventies mind you.

 

Etcetera…

(S Wills)

Another ropey background shot at Albert Park during the 1956 Moomba meeting- Southern Command Army HQ in the background. It’s still a nice angle of a car- is it that the HWM is very low or Tony very tall, or both!?

Arcane and sorta relevant…

An afterthought really but too good a colorised Gaze photograph to waste!

Tony Gaze #6 (chassis ‘F2/1′ according to his book) and Gordon Watson’s Alta F2 cars in the sunny Silverstone paddock during the 5 May 1951 BRDC Daily Express International Trophy weekend.

Not a good time for the Alta boys as Tony DNS and Gordon DNF in the race won by Reg Parnell in one of Tony Vandervell’s Thinwall Ferraris- in fact it was Gaze’ first race in the car, the start of his season.

The shot is included to show the car Tony Gaze raced throughout 1951, his results in brief were as follows- 5/5/1951 Silverstone Intl Trophy F Libre 13th in heat 2- DNS final, 13/5 GP di Monza 12th, 20/5 GP Centenario Colombiano- Genoa 8th, 3/6 Eifelrennen Nurburgring 8th, 10/6 GP di Roma- Circuito Caracella Roma DNF, 24/6 GP di Napoli- Posillipo Naples 16th and DNF, 1/7 AVUS-Rennen AVUS 17th and DNF where the engine threw a rod, punching a nice big hole in the block.

The DNF’s appear as Tony’s short, two month season moves on and the equipment was perhaps getting a tad tired. Gaze’ book records that the Avus blow up was the end of his season as the two HWM Altas of Stirling Moss and Lance Macklin also had broken cranks and they were further up the Geoffrey Taylor repair queue than Gaze.

The class of the F2 fields, whenever they appeared, were generally the Ferrari 166F2/50, then Alberto Ascari raced the Ferrari 500 for the first time at Modena in late September and the die was cast for the next two years!

Beautiful cars- the very keen eyed will spot the ‘Light Car Club of Australia’ badge on the lower edge of the grille of Tony’s Alta- a little bit of Oz onboard far from home- see below for a better shot. Luvvit, but despite trawling through Tony’s results I can’t work out where the photograph below is, assistance welcome.

Look how far he sits outta that cockpit, gotta be a 500rpm penalty on every straight!…

(unattributed)

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Glory Days Albert Park 1953-1958’ Barry Green, ‘Almost Unknown: Tony Gaze’ Stewart Wilson, ‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, Supercar Nostalgia, F2 Index, oldracingcars.com, MotorSport, racingsportscars.com, John Ross Motor Racing Archive

Photo Credits…

John Manhire, Tony Gaze Collection, George McKaige from his book ‘Beyond The Lens’, Spencer Wills, Ken Miles Collection, Duarte Coelho, austinhealey100S.com, MotorSport, Classic Auto News- ‘CAN’, Adam Gawliczek

Tailpiece…

(CAN)

Kids just wanna have fun. Just offloaded from a ship, the racing cars get plenty of attention in a Wellington, New Zealand back street in January 1956.

Gaze’ VPA9 is at left alongside Peter Whitehead’s Cooper T38 Jaguar, David McKay’s first Aston Martin DB3S and Stirling Moss’ 1956 NZ GP winning Maserati 250F.

The Cooper Jag is the first T38 built, chassis ‘CJ-1-55’ it was raced by Peter (and his half-brother Graham at Le Mans as a Cooper works entry) during 1955, and was sold to Stan Jones who quickly moved it on after not too many drives- Ron Phillips and John Ampt did well with it ‘in period’, beautifully restored by Ian McDonald in the eighties it is still in Australia but rarely seen.

The Aston is the car raced by Gaze and Gaze/McKay in 1955, chassis ‘DB3S-102’ before being acquired in full by McKay for use in Australia and New Zealand; see this story for details of the racer/Scuderia Veloce supremo/journalists two DB3S; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/28/david-mckays-aston-martin-db3ss/

The Moss Maserati is the family 250F ‘2508’, the performances in which throughout 1954 won him his spot beside Fangio at Mercedes Benz in 1955, the car returned to England after its Ardmore win.

Finito…