Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

(S Hood)

Prime Minister Robert Menzies and Laurie Hartnett in the back of a Vauxhall Wyvern Caleche Tourer having opened General Motors Holdens new factory at Pagewood, in Sydney’s southern suburbs 1940…

I know its not a motor racing shot so it would normally be outside primotipo’s focus but the photos were too good to waste, and I will get there, a racing element is here to be found in a little bit.

(S Hood)

 

GMH Pagewood on the day of the plant’s opening (S Hood)

The merger of Holden Motor Bodies Ltd with General Motors (Australia) Pty Ltd as a result of the stress caused to the former during the great depression forged the basis of one of Australia’s great manufacturers and an iconic marque, the merged entity was named General Motors-Holden’s Ltd.

A great Touring Car Racing brand as well- there is the racing link I guess.

The new company opened its first factory at Fishermans Bend, in Melbourne’s inner west in 1936 and at Pagewood in 1940.

After World War 2 the business made coachwork for Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Vauxhall.

By the mid-forties the automotive industry had the government onside to encourage the development of Australia’s own car.

Holden, led by Hartnett got the upper hand on Ford in a pitch by keeping their demands for taxpayer support to a lower level than FoMoCo.

 

The first Holden was built to a reject 1949 model design based on 1946 Chevrolet mechanicals. The car was to sit between the bigger American’s and smaller British machines which dominated in Oz at the time. The engine was also Chev based. This photo is the 1945 clay model of the Holden 48-215, named the ‘Anzac Holden’ by its clay modeller, Frank Herschey

(SLSA)

 

Ben Chifley at the Holden launch, Fishermans Bend, 29 November 1948 (NMA)

In 1944 the feds invited GMH to build a family car suited to our unique, extreme climatic conditions.

American and Australian engineers hand built three Holden test cars at GM’s experimental workshop in Detroit- the first, chassis ‘19525’ was completed on 30 August 1946. After months of durability tests the cars were secretly shipped back to Fishermans Bend.

 

The very first Holden prototype ‘car number 19525 from Project 2000, which then became Project 320 and the initial prototype of the future 48-215 in the United States showing the cars temporary name ‘GMH’ above the ‘Holdens’ badge on the bonnet’. Rego Michigan BK-46-48 (SLSA)

 

Further testing took place locally and then GMH engineers and technicians built two further prototypes in Australia, the first of these was completed on 22 August 1947- these became the definitive model and shape we all know and love.

For the record, the first production Holden was completed on 1 October 1948, largely built off-line, it was a ‘Gawler Cream’ 48-215, body #6, VIN ‘8-1001-M’ and fitted with engine # ‘1001’.

 

 

In 1948 in a ceremonial scene akin to the opening image, then Prime Minister Ben Chifley pulled the covers off Holden #1, the ’48-215′ or Holden FX at Fishermans Bend on 29 November 1948, with mass production starting at the heady rate of ten cars a day!

Soon production boomed of course, and the rest, as they say is history- including the closure of the final Holden production line at Elizabeth, South Australia on Friday 20 October 2017.

The Australian motor industry as manufacturers of mass-market cars no longer exists. We now have a tiny number of niche companies- god bless Michael Borland and Spectrum Racing Cars down Mordialloc way in outer Melbourne for example.

 

Fishermans Bend 1948 (SLV)

 

48-215 first brochure

 

States Motors team, South Australia with one of their first two Holdens in December 1948 (D Loffler)

The ’48-215′ was economical, sturdy, stylish, light and with its modern’ish cast iron, OHV, 2171 cc/132.5 cid, in-line six cylinder engine gave better performance than similarly priced, or in some cases, more expensive cars.

In standard form the undersquare engine (bore 3 inches, stroke 3 1/8 inches) gave 60 bhp @ 3800 rpm and 100 foot/pounds of torque at a very relaxed 2000 rpm on a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The motor was fed by a single downdraft Stromberg BXOV-1 carburettor with spark provided by a Delco-Remy distributor. Gearbox was 3 speed- the shift was column mounted, the four-wheel drum brakes had a kerb weight of 2230 pounds to stop.

Amenable to tuning, enthusiasts were soon fitting twin-SU’s or Strombergs or Amals, extractors and giving the heads the usual port ‘n polish treatment to extract additional neddies which were easily found.

The post war explosion of the Australian economy with full employment, industry protected by high tariff walls and the ready availability of consumer credit made it possible for a family man or salesman to have not just day to day transport but also a car for club motorsport.

In many ways the work-horses of Australian motor-racing were MG’s of all sorts, both pre and post-war but especially T Types and the 48-215 or more colloquially the FX, and FJ ‘Humpy’ Holdens in the fifties and into the sixties- so many folks cut their racing teeth in these machines.

 

Redex Round Australia Trial Holden FJ competitor- in South Australia but otherwise intrigued to know the details (Adelaide Advertiser)

 

Len Lukey’s Ford Customline from Syd Anderson’s 48 Series (with non-standard grille) and Bob Holden, Peugeot during the 1957 Caversham AGP weekend (K Devine)

 

Touring car racing started in Australia at the sports inception, daily drivers in the earliest days were the cars which competed in trials and the timed speed events- hillclimbs and sprints within trials. The first Australian Touring Car Championship (Australian Stock Car Championship) was held during the Australian Grand Prix weekend at Lobethal, South Australia in January 1939.

The inexorable and later rapid rise of tourers over pure racing cars in Australia was largely due in the 1950’s to grids chockers with Holden’s- spectators turned out in large numbers to a growing number of race-tracks to watch blokes compete in cars outwardly similar to those in which many of the punters arrived at the race meeting.

In fact by the end of the fifties the quickest of the Holdens were quite sophisticated racers incorporating Phil Irving designed Repco ‘Hi-Power’ cylinder heads, two or three carburettors with one or two cars fitted with Merv Waggott’s twin-cam heads to create an ‘ultimate spec’ Holden.

MG TC and sometimes Jaguar four speed boxes replaced the Holden ‘three on the tree’ column shift gearbox, four wheel discs replaced the standard drums, the cars were extensively lightened and all of the rest…

 

Ron Harrop’s ‘Howler’ at Calder in the early seventies- Holden FJ with highly developed Holden ‘Red motor’ successor to the ‘Grey’. Harrop became a touring car circuit ace and a Holden engineer par-excellence (unattributed)

 

Warren Weldon from Bo Seton, Holden FX by two: Catalina Park early sixties (B Wells)

 

Great names who raced ‘Humpy Holdens’ included Jack Myers, the ‘Holden King of the mid-fifties’, John French, Leo and Pete Geoghegan, Max Stahl, Spencer Martin, Des West, Norm Beechey, Brian Muir, Warren Weldon, Bo Seton, John Goss and many, many others.

Into the dawn of the sixties CAMS adoption of Appendix J put paid to the wild modifications which had started to proliferate- it became the category to which the Australian Touring Car Championship was run. ‘Series Production’ or standard road car racing provided the basis for further growth in tourers by spawning endurance classics such as the Phillip Island and later Bathurst 500, relative to racing cars which became progressively starved of sponsorship funds and less and less relevant to the ‘football, meat-pies and touring cars lovin’ Australian public.

Be in no doubt my friends, Holden Motor Bodies Ltd in 1919 begat General Motors Holdens Ltd which gave birth to the ’48-215′, the intrinsic qualities of the design created a worthy competition car in modified form, the ready availability of which gave rise to the accelerated (pun intended) growth of touring car racing in Australia.

 

Melbourne Museum, Swanston Street. Royal Australian Navy Hawker Sea Fury (VW626) with Holden 48-215 in the foregrund during the ‘Jubilee of Flight’ exhibition in July 1953 (Museums Victoria)

After-thought: Sir Laurence Hartnett…

Laurie Hartnett strode the Australian manufacturing landscape like a colossus throughout his career but his pugnacious attitude to his American masters as to the design elements of an All Australian Holden led to his removal as Chief Executive of GMH Ltd in December 1946.

He was offered a role with the GM Corporation in the US but did not want to leave Australia- he never got to give birth to Australia’s own car- his own Hartnett was a notable achievement all the same. I’m not going to get lost in this tangent but click here to read in brief about a quite remarkable man.

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hartnett-sir-laurence-john-12602

Etcetera…

Repco Hi-Power Head..

https://primotipo.com/2015/06/26/repco-record-car-and-repco-hi-power-head/

Holden ‘Grey’ as Racingcar and Sportscar Engine…

Whilst the focus of this article is the 48-215 and FJ as competition cars themselves the Holden Grey was adopted by many racers as replacement engines for their single-seater or sportscar originals or as the very basis of a special.

The Bristol to Holden conversions of Cooper T20 and T 23’s are examples of the former and the Lou Molina and Sil Massola ‘Molina Monza’ an example of the latter.

Click here; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

and here; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/13/shifting-gear-design-innovation-and-the-australian-car-exhibition-national-gallery-of-victoria-by-stephen-dalton-mark-bisset/

Des West’s 48-215 Racing Specifications..

http://www.thegreymotor.com/2014/11/des-west-fx-27-grey-survivor.html

Des West’s second 48-215 racer pictured at home, Wingham, NSW having set the fastest Holden record time at Lowood in 1964 (G Woodward)

Rally and Race..

June 1953 Monte Carlo Rally, Davison, Gaze and Jones DNF. Gatsonides/Worledge won in a Ford Zephyr (unattributed)

 

1953 Monte Carlo Rally- Messrs Gaze, Davison and Jones- Aces All

 

John French at Gnoo Blas, Orange circa 1960 (R Kaleda)

 

 

 

 

 

Chifley, Fishermans Bend, 29 November 1948 (SLSA)

 

Hottie and the new 48-215. Whereizzit tho? Being lazy buggers I’m thinkin the Holden PR mob would not have travelled far to do the photo shoot so my vote is Ringwood Lake on Melbourne’s eastern outskirts?

Credits…

Sam Hood, Museums Victoria, State Library of South Australia, Ray Kaleda, Garry Woodward, General Motors Holden. australiaforeveryone.com.au, Museums Victoria, Bruce Wells

Tailpiece: ‘Told you it would be pretty painless’ Bob Menzies and Laurence Hartnett, GMH Pagewood 1940…

(S Hood)

Finito…

No less than the South Australian Premier, Sir Thomas Playford opens the Mallala circuit on 19 August 1961…

The marvellous venue is still with us thankfully, most Australian competitors over the years have raced there and experienced the wonderful Mallala hospitality. The track is an easy 55 km from Adelaide in flat, mainly wheat farming countryside between the Adelaide Hills and the sea.

(B Smith)

Bob Jane Jag Mk2 4.1 on pole from the Ern Abbott and Clem Smith Valiant R Types.

This race is the start of the 50 mile 1963 Australian Touring Car Championship held on 15 April and won by Jane from Abbott, Smith and Harry Firth in a factory Ford Cortina.

The South Australian motorsport community had to rustle up a circuit post-haste when CAMS ‘black-balled’ the windswept, scrubby Port Wakefield as unsuitable to hold the 1961 AGP- the South Aussies had been allocated the race that year in the one state at a time rotational system for our premier event which prevailed for decades.

(B Smith)

The photo is the start of the 9 October 1961 Grand Prix- the races ‘bolter’ David McKay is already away and out of shot.

He was pinged for the alleged jumped start which cost him the race won by Lex Davison #4 aboard one of Bib Stillwell’s Cooper T51’s. #9 is Bill Patterson, #19 Doug Whiteford and #6 Bib Stillwell all driving Cooper Climax T51 FPF’s ubiquitous as they were at the time!

Keith Rilstone is in the stunning #8 Zephyr Spl s/c and Murray Trenberth, Alta Holden alongside Keith and behind Patto. The #5 Cooper T51’between the two starters on the stand’ is John Youl, the front engined car a bit further back is, I think, Mel McEwin in the ex-Ted Gray Tornado 2 Chev. Across the road on the track’s outside is John Ampt in the Cooper T39 Jaguar and down the back is Alan Jack’s Cooper T39 Bobtail- still further in the distance are the unmistakable lines of an Elfin Streamliner sporty, entered by Peter Wilkinson.

Lets go back a step and have a look at the background of Mallala.

As with other Australian circuits Lowood and Caversham, the core infrastructure of the facility was created by the Australian Government in the form of a Royal Australian Air Force base, in this case established on land to the north of the town in 1939, and opened in 1941.

The facility operated as the ‘No 6 Service Flying Training School’ providing the next level of training- ‘medium proficiency’, to those who had gained the basics of flying at places like Parafield, to increased their experience before moving on doing more advanced training at a specialist school such as those at Port Pirie or Mount Gambier. (limiting to ourselves to South Australian bases)

Mallala was the biggest base in South Australia, at its peak it had 19 Bellman Hangars with 1900 personnel by 1942 including 285 trainees who learned to fly Ansons, Oxfords, Moth Minors and Tiger Moths. A total of 2257 trainees passed out of the school before the unit ceased to work as No 6 SFTS on 31 December 1945.

From around 1947 RAF Transport Command provided a weekly service from England to Mallala to supply the Woomera Rocket Range using Hastings aircraft- with Bristol Freighters operating a shuttle service between Mallala and Woomera.

In 1951 a Citizens Air Force squadron was formed which trained pilots on Tiger Moths, Wirraways and Mustangs. After 9 years of duty the CMF Air Squadrons were given non-flying roles and simultaneously Mallala was wound down. At about the same time the new RAAF Edinburgh opened at Salisbury in South Australia.

September 1955 Mallala Airshow, Vickers Valiant B1 flyover (Mallala Museum)

Post war migration to Australia was enormous as we took vast numbers of people from the UK and Europe, the culture shock of Australia was enhanced by ‘New Australians’ being located in camps where they were given the basics of English to equip them for work.

A portion of the existing Mallala base was converted for this purpose but ‘There were concerns about the lack of fencing around active runways and landing fields given small children were housed at the camp- the threat of bushfire was also alarming to residents…’. Accordingly the poor souls were relocated.

Mallala was used as an RAAF facility until 1960, it was put up for public auction in 1961 and acquired by a group of racing enthusiasts who recognised the potential of the facility as the new permanent home of motor racing in SA.

The original tracks lap distance of 3.38 km was reduced to 2.601 km in late 1964 when the Bosch Curve was moved closer to the Dunlop Curve Grandstand thus removing the north-eastern leg of the circuit.

The track hosted rounds of the Gold Star from 1961-1971, the Australian Tourist Trophy for sportscars in 1962 and 1968 with the single race Australian Touring Car Championship held there in 1963 and annual rounds from 1969 when the ATCC became a multi-round title.

Keith Williams moved the Mallala tectonic plates when the entrepreneur and Surfers Paradise International Raceway owner built Adelaide International Raceway at Virginia- and sought to maximise its market success by acquiring Mallala and eliminating its use as a racetrack by placing a covenant on the title limiting such future activity. A bumma.

Chrysler Australia, not too far away (70 km) in Tonsley Park and Elfin Sportscars continued to test there with Mallala coming out of the darkness when local businessman/racer Clem Smith bought the track in 1977- the covenant was deemed unenforceable with ‘Mallala Motorsport Park’ reopening in 1982.

In more recent times, May 2017, after Clem Smith’s death, the Peregrine Corporation, owners of Tailem Bend’s new ‘The Bend’ motorsport complex own the facility. Many of the photos in this piece are from Clem’s son Brentons collection circulated on social media in recent months.

In the circuits early days the airfield infrastructure remained and created a wonderful backdrop for photographs such as the one below.

It is a Victorian duel between Norm Beechey and Jim McKeown- Holden 48-215 chasing Jim in the Jewitt Holden around the aptly named Hangar Corner (turn 1). Cars in the background are perhaps Brian Sampson or the Nancarrow brothers Austin Lancer or Wolseley 1500.

(DL Brock)

The hangar was demolished in the late sixties (date would be great folks) with Brenton advising ‘the main part of the hangar was removed leaving only the northern end which was used as a workshop from around 1964. Dad used it to swap an engine between races and then demolished it when he bought the track before it’s re-opening’.

A large concrete skid pad exists where the hangar once was.

(Hawthorn)

Mallala in 1963 would have been about as far as the designers of the oh-so-late to F1 Aston Martin DBR4/250 ever expected their cars to be from the GP tracks of Europe!

Two of these cars came to Australia and were raced by Lex Davison (DBR4/250-4) and Bib Stillwell (DBR4/250-3). This chassis was raced by Lex during during 1960 and 1961 and came oh-so-close, a bees-dick in fact, of winning the 1960 AGP at Lowood in an amazing race long battle with Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati.

Pat Hawthorn raced the car from around March 1963, here the car is on the way to fourth place in the ‘Advertiser Trophy’, the 1963 Gold Star round behind John Youl, Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell aboard Cooper T55 Climax, Brabham BT4 Climax and MRD Ford respectively.

(B Smith)

Neptune Racing Team in Mallala attendance.

Peter Manton, Morris Cooper S, Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina and Norm Beechey in his S4 EH Holden circa 1964. The team and drivers individually were huge crowd-pleaders at the time given the professionalism and appearance of the equipe not to forget the speed of the cars.

The SA Touring Car Championship was held over the. Easter break, on 19 April 1965 and won by Norm Beechey’s Mustang here taking an inside line (above) under Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina with Peter Manton Cooper S and Clem Smith, Valiant in hot pursuit.

Norm Beechey from Clem Smith circa 1965 (B Smith)

Clem Smith is of course the very same man who acquired Mallala in 1977 referred to in the text.

(R Lambert)

Formula Libre race during the 1964 Gold Star, October weekend.

The front row comprises a couple of Melburnians- Lex Davison at left in a Brabham BT4 Coventry Climax and Bib Stillwell’s Cooper Monaco at right. Behind Bib is Garrie Cooper’s red Elfin Mono Ford t/c 1.5.

By this stage Bib’s Cooper was powered by the ex-Scarab/Daigh Traco Buick V8- my money is on Bib for the win- who won though folks?

(B Smith)

Mallala was Elfin country of course! The cars were built in Edwardstown and first tested by Garrie Cooper at Mallala so they tended to be quick in their backyard.

Mel McEwin #16 Elfin Ford 1500 passes Andy Brown #41 Elfin FJ Ford in the photo above during the GT Harrison Trophy, a support race over the 1963 ATCC meeting weekend. The abandoned #14 car is the BBM2 Mercedes of D Dansie.

The Trophy race was won by Keith Rilstone’s amazing Eldred Norman built fifties front-engined Zephyr Spl s/c from Wally Mitchell MRD Ford, McEwin and Garrie Cooper’s Elfin Ford 1500.

(B Smith)

Bob Jane’s E Type leads the field from the grid and provides a great panorama of the track into Hangar Corner. Flat country tends to be the norm for airfield circuits for fairly obvious reasons…

(J Lemm)

The original Officers Mess (in the background above) was re-purposed as the Clubhouse and of course the corner closeby assumed that name. As Brenton Smith observed the clubhouse existed until ‘the white ants ate it’!

Malcolm Ramsay goes through Clubhouse in his sweet Elfin 600C Repco 2.5 V8 during the October 1970 Gold Star round on the way to fourth place- Leo Geoghegan won the day and the Gold Star that year in a Lotus 59B Waggott 2 litre TC4V.

Mustangs…

Commonwealth CA-18 Mustang 23 (P51D) manufactured by the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory in Fishermans Bend, Melbourne. Aircraft are of the No 24 ‘City of Adelaide’ Squadron at Mallala in 1956.

(D Simpson)

Pete Geoghegan during the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship meeting. He won the race on 16 June- and the championship held over five rounds.

Credits…

Brenton Smith, DL Brock, John Neddy Needs, John Lemm, Hawthorn Family, Frank Finney, Dick Simpson, oldracingcars.com, Rob Bartholomaeus for caption assistance

Tailpiece: Avro 694 Lincoln, Mallala Air Show 1956…

Government Aircraft Factory built Avro 694 Lincoln Mk30A, one of 73 built, A73-34, this plane was delivered in 1948 (F Finney)

Finito…

 

(L Sims)

The Alan Sinclair Alta at far left, Jack Day owned Bugatti Brescia driven by Norman Ellsworth, Reg Nutt’s #2 Jack Day Special and two MG K3 Magnettes of Colin Dunne and Lyster Jackson before the off- 3 January 1938 South Australian Grand Prix, Lobethal…

My interest in this race was piqued by Bob King identifying the photograph above as this 1938 event rather than the 1936 South Australian Centenary Grand Prix- aka 1936 AGP- the photo was posted by Leon Sims on his marvellous Rob Roy Facebook page.

To my pleasant surprise good ‘ole Trove (an Australian digital newspaper research tool) produced a couple of comprehensive event accounts to bring some great photos to life.

The race meeting is significant for the fact that it was the very first Lobethal meeting for cars, one for ‘bikes preceded it the week before- that meeting has an air of intrigue about it which we will come to soon.

What was planned as ‘a quickie’ has become a 7,500 word epic as the threads were drawn together, not to forget Bob King’s return from the US and twenty more amazing photos to add to what I already had.

The newspaper accounts are verbatim, I like to reproduce them in full as I love to read the narrative of the time. I have added in snippets about the cars and drivers written ‘in period’ into the two core articles which are from ‘The Adelaide Advertiser’, a publication which exists to this day.

‘Although there are no official scratchings for either the South Australian Grand Prix (100 miles) or the 50-mile handicap, it is probable that five of the competitors nominated in each race will not start, but even so big fields will be left in both races—28 in the Grand Prix and 30 in the shorter event. The nominations are the biggest received for any motor car race in Australia.

The races, organised following the success of the Centenary meeting on the Victor Harbor circuit last year, (the 26 December ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ subsequently given the erroneous title, ‘The 1937 Australian Grand Prix’) will form the second day’s programme of the motor cycle and motor car speed carnival, and will be held on the new circuit at Lobethal, beginning at 12.30 tomorrow.

Motor cycle races, which were attended by a crowd of more than 20,000 were conducted on the same circuit last Monday 27 December. An even larger crowd is expected for tomorrow’s races. Since yesterday afternoon many camping and caravanning parties have arrived, and have taken places all around the 8 mile course’.

 

Bob Lea-Wright heads through Lobethal (B King)

 

Lobethal is 45 Km from Adelaide, I love this old map- a more useful one is at the end of this article inclusive of a description of what was regarded as the most challenging layout in Australia. The lap record referred to above was set by Alf Barrett’s 2.3 litre straight-eight, supercharged Alfa Monza during the 1939 AGP

 

‘The programme will be:— 12.30 p.m.—South Australian Grand Prix, 100 miles. 3.30 p.m.— 50 mile handicap.A heavy shower of rain delayed practice yesterday afternoon, and left the bitumen track very slippery in places. Immediately after the shower Reg Nutt driving J. Day’s Day’s Special, daringly lapped at more than 80 miles an hour. Considering the treacherous nature of the road and the fact that Nutt had not been on the circuit before, his performance was particularly good.

Alan Sinclair, Alta 1100 s/c (N Howard)

Alan Sinclair, in his supercharged Alta, “a very fast 1100cc Alta racing car…weighs only 10 ½ cwt, is supercharged and is said to be capable of nearly 130 m.p.h.” lapped at almost 80 m.p.h. but it was evident from his driving that he conserved his full power. It has not yet been possible to gauge his best performance, but there does not seem to be much doubt that he will have any difficulty in maintaining an average speed of 84 m.p.h.—an average he must keep up on every lap if he is going to win the race.

Ewald Kluge, Baron von Oertzen and a Mr Green, the Melbourne DKW agent. Northcott Avenue Canberra before their successful attempts to raise the Australian 250cc Land Speed Record in 1938. DKW SS 250 2 stroke supercharged machine. These were annual events in Canberra at the time, Northcott Avenue slightly busier now (The Velobanjogent)

The Advertiser in its pre-event build-up of the race reported on 16 November that ‘Mr Sinclair is a graduate of Cambridge University and is a partner in a motor firm at Hammersmith, London. He has competed with success at Donington Park and Brooklands and also at Belfast, Ireland. He is coming to Australia specially to compete in motor races in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales’.

In these dark pre-war days, Sinclair, it later transpired, also had official duties of state to perform in the Adelaide Hills as a member of British counter-intelligence and security agency, MI5!

The German DKW motor-cycle racing team led by champion rider Ewald Kluge, the entourage managed by Baron Claus von Oertzen, was under covert security by Sinclair with ‘much subsequently made of this cold war tactic’ Jim Scaybrook wrote.

Von Oertzen had migrated from Germany to South Africa, its said because of disaffection for the Nazis buoyed by the potential exposure of his Jewish wife in 1935, and imported DKW’s to South Africa. Ever the energetic businessman, Von Oertzen also began eyeing Australia as a potential market for the cars and was highly instrumental in arranging the Kluge visit.

Local authorities began closely observing the movements of the Baron and Baroness, noting that they made contact with many Germans while in Australia (certainly not that difficult in South Australia with its large German population) and that large amounts of money- eleven thousand pounds- were deposited into his bank account. It was later alleged that he was disbursing funds to individuals and groups and that he was listed in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Nazi Party of Australia. He was also accused of photographing strategic installations and trying to arrange for parts of Australia to be filmed from an aircraft’ wrote Scaysbrook.

Kluge led local rider and team-mate Les Fredricks in a 1-2 home in the 250cc Lobethal race in a race time just short of an hour. ‘The 350cc race was run concurrently and Kluge took that out as well after an entertaining dice with Frank Mussett’s Velocette until the British machine expired on the final lap, much to the delight of the huge German spectator turnout’.

Kluge aboard his DKW SS 250, Lobethal December 1937, Lobethal’s first meeting (T Parkinson/R Trevena)

 

Ewald Kluge and Baron von Oertzen (Baron Claus-Detlof von Oertzen 1894-1991) (J Scaysbrook)

Lets come back to this ‘spooks in the Adelaide Hills’ tale further on. Sinclair, during practice, had “head gasket troubles with the Alta but with a team of mechanics had the trouble rectified that night…Crowds congregated around the car, it was the first time that a racing car of that description or power has appeared on any racing circuit in Australia”.

‘Colin Dunne, (MG K3) who established a lap record on Friday, was a few miles an hour slower yesterday, but his time on Friday still stands as the best. As the road dried drivers went faster and all lapped within their handicap’.

Reg Nutt, Day Special- Bugatti chassis and Ford flathead V8. Nutt was both a great racer and Bugatti expert, during the 1931 AGP he sat in the mechanics seat of this car, chassis ‘4607’, alongside Carl Junker when Junker won that Phillip Island race as the car was originally built- a 1.5 litre, supercharged straight-eight Bugatti T39 Voiturette. After the engine failed, liked a few other Bugatti racers in Australia it was given a ‘birthday’ and received an engine the King of Molsheim would not have approved! Its not a tangent for now but Bob King restored this car decades later into its original form- that will be a nice ‘Words from Werrangourt’ topic soon

‘Twenty-five cars were at yesterday’s practice, newcomers being Nutt (Day Special) “a Ford V8 engine in a Bugatti chassis and this meeting will be the first time it has raced in South Australia”. J. Phillips (Ford V 8), well known inter-capital record breaker, H.Beith (Terraplane), R. A. Lea-Wright (Terraplane), M. A. Moulden (Sunbeam), D. D. Sowter (MG. Type P), N.Campbell (Singer Bantam) and N. Ellsworth (Bugatti). All the likely starters have now practised with the exception of J. McDonough (Mactonburgh Special) and C. Gartner (De Soto).

 

Norman Ellsworth in the Bugatti Brescia just sold to him and entered by Jack Day (B King)

 

Picking the Grand Prix winner Is more difficult than it was last year, (at Victor Harbor- correct spelling) as the course is harder and the race shorter. All cars are at their top and although the backmarkers may appear to have been severely dealt with by the handicappers, each has a good chance. Driving efficiency will play the biggest part on a course which includes 40 bends and which in parts is barely wide enough to allow two big cars to pass.

Alan Sinclair during practice, Mill Corner, Alta 1100 s/c, Lobethal 1938 (The West Australian)

Sinclair’s Performance

Sinclair (scr.) must average 84. m.p.h each lap and pass the limit man four times to win. Cowper (Morris 8/40), the limit man, must average 60 m.p.h. Sinclair, however, has not only got to pass Cowper four times; he must also pass every other car in the race—and having passed them, keep in front—at least once. He will have to pass the middle-markers—J. McDonough and L. Murphy—at least twice. Sinclair, Day, Dunne driving “Lord Waleran’s K3 MG Magnette (actually owned at the time by Sydney’s John Snow) which gained the fastest time in the 50 Mile handicap last year- Dunne has already created an Australian record in the car”.

Alf Barrett, Morris Cowley, he was unclassified but would appear with a more formidable weapon 12 months hence over the 1939 AGP weekend, an Alfa Romeo Monza  (N Howard)

Jackson and Joshua will have a very hard task, as Cowper will probably have lapped the course about four times before they start. Jackson and Joshua, both of whom have a handicap of five minutes will have almost completed one lap before Sinclair starts.  Joshua had a much faster machine than Alf Barrett’s MG he raced in the Centenary Grand Prix to second place “It is a specially built Shelsey model Frazer-Nash, which reached Australia on 3 December 1937…and competed in the Donington 200 Miles Race in England recently”.

Tim Joshua’s Frazer Nash alongside the two K3’s of Dunne and Jackson (L Sims)

 

Noel Campbell in his self-constructed and modified Singer Bantam, ‘giant-killer’ of the meeting (unattributed)

 

Les Murphy listens intently to the exhaust note of his MG P Type as he warms it up before the event. Car #21 is Arthur Beasley’s P Type (L Sims)

 

‘Murphy May Win.

 

With a handicap of 14 minutes and very few big cars to pass, Les Murphy (P type M.G.), winner of last year’s  Centenary Grand Prix has a very good chance of success tomorrow. Murphy, who has three Australian Grand Prix races to his credit, is the most successful driver in Australia. (what about Bill Thompson you schmucks?) He will be driving the same car as last year, “but he has converted the body into a single-seater with advanced streamlining” and it is estimated that he will have to lap at an average speed of 71 to 72 m.p.h. to win. At that speed he will still have plenty of power in reserve. Last night Murphy drove round the course over the exact route that he will take in the race. 

Les Murphy, MG P Type 7th (N Howard)

Most of the other competitors who will leave before Murphy are South Australians and have not had Murphy’s experience. Cowper may have completed almost two laps before Murphy starts, but, indicating how different his task is from Sinclair, Murphy will only have to pass 14 cars provided he can keep in front of the 17 competitors who start after him.

A biergarten arranged by Lobethal Carnivals Ltd, -which with Centenary Road Racers Ltd. is sponsoring the speed carnival, organised (or held under the auspices of) the Sporting Car Club and the Motor Cycle Club of South Australia will be held tomorrow night, when the prize-money and trophies, which include ‘The Advertiser Cup’ silver trophy and 150 pounds in prize money for the Grand Prix, will be presented. The biergarten will be the last event of the carnival which has been held this week to entertain the visiting speed men’.

‘Events To Be Broadcast

National station 5CL will broadcast the races from the Lobethal course today. The Grand Prix and the 50 mile open handicap will be described from four specially selected points from start to finish.’

 

60,000 folks turned up (B King)

 

 

The start-finish podium, or is that tree? (B King)

‘DRIVING a well-judged race in which he consistently averaged about 62 miles an hour on the eight and three-quarter mile circuit, Noel Campbell, a South Australian competitor, won the second South Australian Grand Prix, run over 100 miles, from a field of 24 competitors including interstate and international drivers, at Lobethal yesterday.

The racing, which was witnessed by more than than 40,000 people from vantage points around the course, was full of thrills, but free from serious accidents.
Colin Dunne (Vic), a comparative newcomer to road racing, provided the outstanding feat of the day by gaining second place in the Grand Prix with a handicap of 4 min and later winning the 50-mile handicap from the virtuaI scratch mark after Alan Sinclair, the English driver, had retired. Dunne took many risks, but his driving was masterly. Sinclair was unable to finish the course in either race because of oil trouble, but before he retired he gave an exceptionally good exhibition of driving and cornering.’

Lyster Jackson, MG K3 ahead of Sinclair’s Alta (N Howard)

Reg Nutt delicately drifting the Day Special around daunting Lobethal

‘Reg Nutt, who drove Jack Day’s Day Special, recorded the fastest time in the Grand Prix 77 min 33 sec, although Dunne did the fastest lap in the Grand Prix (83 1/2 m.p.h.). Nutt bettered that average by 1 m.p.h. in the second race, and recorded the fastest lap for the day. Dunne had the fastest time in the 50 mile handicap to win in 33 min 2 sec. This was the better race. With two laps to go it was anybody’s race, but Dunne, lapping brilliantly at more than 83 m.p. had passed car after car—he even went on the footpath in the Lobethal main street to pass one competitor— and won from J. Boughton.’

Nutt and Dunne before the off- Day Special and MG K3 (unattributed)

Jim Boughton, Morgan 4/4 from Reg Nutt, Day Spl (B King)

‘Results
South Australian Grand Prix (100 miles)
N. Campbell SA Bantam Singer, handicap 2 min 30 sec, corrected time 97 min 37 sec 1st: C. Dunne Vic MG K3 Magnette 77.39. 2nd: A. Ohlmeyer S.A. T Type M.G. 17 min 90 min 55 sec 3rd: R. E. Uffindel S.A. Austin 4th: Fastest time Reg Nutt, Day Special 77.33. Others to finish in order:— 3. J Boughton Morgan 18  min 92 sec. 54 sec -R. Nutt. 1 min. 30 sec. 77 min 33 sec, L. Murphy Vic P. Type M.G. 14 min 90 min 31 sec, F. J. Thwaites (S.A.). Ford V8. 9 min 30 sec. 89 min. 20 sec.
Fifty-mile Handicap
C. Dunne. 1 min, 30 min 2 sec. 1st: J. Boughton. 8 min, 45 min 30 sec. 2nd; L. Murphy. 6 min 30 sec,  45 min 10 sec 3rd: J. Phillips (Vic) Ford V8. 3 min, 42 min 1 sec 4th. Fastest time—Dunne. 38 min.
2 sec. Others to finish in order:—R. A. Lea-Wright (Vic) Terraplane: A V. McDonogh (S.A.) Ford V8; P. J. Thwaites (S.A.) Ford V8, G. A. Cowper (Vic)  Morris 8/40, A. Beasley (Vic). P Type M.G, N Ellsworth (Vic) Bugatti.
Presenting ‘The Advertiser Cup’ to Campbell, the Chief Secretary Sir Georgie Ritchie paid a tribute to ‘The Advertiser’ for having assisted to make an annual road race for motor cars possible. After handing Campbell the silver cup, he decorated the Grand Prix winner with a floral wreath and presented him with the Grand Prix pennant. The other trophies won during the day were presented at the biergarten arranged by Lobethal Carnivals, Ltd which assisted Centenary Road Races Ltd in arranging the races. ‘
Small, dark, quiet and unassuming the 25-year-old winner of the Grand Prix is a son of Mr. and Mrs. D. Campbell, of Coorara Avenue, Pirie. His success was gained in his first big race, his previous experience being restricted to Sporting Car Club competitions. He has been preparing for the event for six months. He bought the chassis of his car, built the body himself, and increased the power and speed. The gear is now much higher than the standard, and the compression ratio has been altered.’
Singer expert/enthusiast/restorer Nathan Tasca advises that ‘the probable specifications for Campbell’s Singer are sketchy, even from the family…The Campbell car was an early version of the Bantam, sent to Australia as a rolling chassis they were general bodied by Floods in Melbourne, and others including Holden Motor Bodies in Adelaide. The story goes that Campbell (25) had bought the rolling chassis himself and spent six months fettling the engine performance and built the body himself. He used it to compete in several SCCSA events prior to the GP. Post event, Noel moved to Sydney and turned the racer back into a road car, driving it around the streets of Parramatta at least until the late 1940’s. The engine was an OHC 972cc four with a single Zenith carb- basically a detuned version of the earlier Singer Le Mans engine, from which the cars chassis was also derived. This incorporated an underslung rear end sprung by leaf springs and solid axles front and rear. Brakes were hydraulic drums, the first fitted to a mass-produced Singer, the gearbox 3 speed’.

He is off! The little Singer squats at the rear as Noel Campbell starts the SA GP (N Howard)

‘How Grand Prix Was Run
Nine withdrawals from the original nominations left 24 starters.
Campbell had begun his second lap before Barrett got away, and Uffindell had begun his second lap when Beasley moved off. At this stage Cowper had a substantial lead. Sinclair got away well and passed Beasley who was beginning his third lap. Moulden stalled his engine on the first lap but was able to continue. Cowper was already being pushed by Campbell for the lead.
On his first time around Joshua went through the grandstand hairpin and lost valuable time. Dunne turned right around on his first time around and lost about a minute and a half but completed his first lap from a standing start at an average speed of 80 m.p.h.

Sinclair’s Alta from Moulden/Wyatt Sunbeam GP in the early stages of the race (J Blanden)

Reg Nutt, Day Spl (B King)

Many of the drivers were having trouble at the grandstand hairpin. Thwaites swung wide and Lea-Wright and McDonough who had started half a minute after him and got through on the corner.  Cowper still led with eight laps to go. The back-markers- Sinclair, Dunn, Nutt, Jackson and Joshua, were travelling at terrific speeds.
With seven !aps to go Campbell took the lead from Cowper and Uffindell was creeping up on Cowper. Barrett was lying fourth. Campbell had a lead of four miles beginning his sixth lap and Uffindell was a similar distance behind Cowper.’

MA ‘Ash’ Moulden and J Wyatt in the Sunbeam GP provided some of the unintended excitement of the day when Moulden lost the car in The Esses. He hit a bank whereupon the occupants were ejected, the car then crossed the road and stopped having mounted that embankment. Moulden had a suspected broken shoulder with Wyatt having cuts and abrasions. Rather a significant car which is a story for another time  (N Howard)

Apropos the above! (B King)

Fred Thwaites, Ford V8 Spl (SLSA)

‘Jackson, with six laps to go was less than two laps behind Campbell. Both Dunne and Nutt were averaging more than 81 mph. Phillips had to retire when he had only four laps to go and Sinclair had oil trouble. Joshua had a long spell in the pits but when Jackson, who started off the same mark had only five laps to go he came back into the race.
Jackson, on his sixth lap averaged  83 m.p.h. Campbell had the race won with three laps to go. He was about half a lap In front of with Offindell with Ohlmeyer third, creeping up.

Tony Ohlmeyer, 3rd in his MG T Type, a little bit sideways (N Howard)

Fred Thwaites, Ford V8 Spl, 8th (B King)

After Ohlmeyer  came Leith, Boughton and Cowper. Jackson and Dunne were still the best of the back-markers, but after completing eight laps Jackson went into the Pits with plug trouble. Nutt moved up to take Jackson’s place and was lapping at a consistent 81 mph. Campbell still had half a lap in hand with a lap to go and after Uffindel (second) came Ohlmeyer.
Dunne passed Cowper to take sixth place, and Murphy, one of the favorites for race—he won the Centenary Grand Prix last year—was eighth almost a lap behind Campbell. Ohlmeyer passed Uffindell and took second place as he began his last lap. Campbell finished half a lap ahead of Dunne, who was in his last lap passed Boughton, Uffindel and Ohlmeyer. Ohlmeyer was third, Uffindel fourth, Boughton fifth and Nutt, who made up ground, sixth.’

Ellsworth Bugatti Brescia during practice (B King)

Colin Dunne, MG K3 Magnette winning the 50 mile handicap. Car #5 to the side is Tim Joshua’s Frazer Nash (N Howard)

‘Fifty-Mile Handicap
There were 16 starters in the 50-mile handicap. Cowper had completed a lap before McDonough, Thwaites and R. G. Pank left. Sinclair moved off just after Boughton had gone past the start on his second lap and just before Beasley came into the grandstand hairpin on his third lap.
Dunne, driving at terrific speed, left the course at Charleston, but was soon back in the race and did not lose much time catching up again with Nutt, who started on the same mark. Nutt and Dunne averaged about 84 mph on their flrst lap and kept close together on the second. Cowper was still in front when he had three laps to go, but the rest of the field was bunching up.

Colin Dunne, MG K3 – 2nd in the GP, first in the 50 mile race (N Howard)

Les Murphy, MG P Type (B King)

Dunne gave the crowd in the grandstand a thrill as he raced toward the hairpin bend behind Phillips. Before he reached the corner he swung across in front of Phillips and led him round the corner. Nutt had to retire with engine trouble.
With two laps to go Cowper was still in front, but he was being chased by Boughton who was just keeping Beasley out of second place, then came Murphy with Dunne, travelling faster each lap in fifth place. By the end of his fourth lap Dunne had moved up considerably.

Jim Boughton, Morgan 4/4 (N Howard)

Boughton took the lead with two laps to go and Cowper dropped back to lead Beasiey and Murphy with Dunne coming very fast about 150 yards away in fourth place. Dunne and Murphy were very close together at the Mill Corner and Dunne, swinging  wide on to the footpath in the main street of Lobethal, passed Murphy and went into fourth place.

Bob Lea-Wright, Terraplane Spl ( N Howard)

Beginning his last lap Boughton led Dunne by only 400 yards; after Dunne coming Beasley, Murphy, Cowper, Phillips and Lea-Wright. McDonough was providing plenty of thrills with his car swinging all over the road. Dunne chased Boughton towards Kayannie on their last lap and coming towards the Mill Corner went to the front. Murphy went past Beasley into third place, but Boughton managed to bold off Murphy to finish second. Phillips, who came very fast towards the end of the race was fourth.’
Etcetera: Further photos of the SA GP…

Howard Trotter Bugatti Brescia ‘this might explain why he was a scratching’ Bob wryly observes (B King)

The crew examine Norman’s handiwork ! (B King)

One of the Terraplanes, Herb Beith? (B King)

Bob Lea-Wright, Terraplane  (B King)

Arthur Beasley, MG P Type (B King)

Dunne’s MG K3 (B King)

One of the K3’s (B King)

Lea-Wright, Terraplane (B King)

The mysterious Alan Gascoigne Sinclair…
So what do we know about the MI5 spook, motor trader, sailor and racing driver Alan Gascoigne Sinclair?
The Advertiser’s pre-race bio advises us that Sinclair was a graduate of Cambridge University and a partner in a motor firm at Hammersmith, London. He was born in Croydon, London on either 22 May 1905 or 22 May 1906- with 1906 the more likely date even though 1905 is more commonly cited.He died in Cornwall in 1995.
Whilst the local Adelaide press made a big fuss of Sinclair’s presence, by any elite standards he was a racer of limited experience and calibre- Peter Whitehead, who raced throughout Australia in 1938, inclusive of winning the AGP at Bathurst was far more of a ‘top-liner’ but even he was not of the level of Dick Seaman or Prince Bira to name two young thrusters racing in the UK at the time. Nonetheless, a foreign driver in our fields in a car of the Alta’s quality was notable- not that the Alta was an ERA Voiturette let alone a GP Alfa…

AG Sinclair in 1938 (Adelaide News)

The information which follows I have sourced from ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, notably the contributions of Australian racer/historian John Medley and one or two others with avatars. In addition there is a reasonable amount ‘in period’ contained in Australian newspapers of the era in relation to AGS’ racing and other adventures. In part my intention in writing this bit of the story is to ‘flush out’ those who may know more of the mans achievements and escapades in order that we may get a more wholistic perspective of Sinclair’s interesting and unusual life!
Tony Edwards found in his research, that Sinclair suffered a broken arm in a racing accident in 1935 and whilst recovering from that sailed to North America on a 1915 vintage beam trawler named ‘Seaplane’. The craft had been converted to a yacht by its owner, British writer GFG ‘Frank’ Pollard, the boat landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in July 1935, and then left for Boston shortly thereafter.

Sinclair, Alta 1100, Lewes Speed Trials, UK 21 August 1937 (MotorSport)

Sinclair’s Alta, was originally a sportscar and later converted into a single-seater, it’s 1933/4 1100cc supercharged engine had chain driven twin-overhead camshafts- an engine which was eventually used to power the Bill Dutton Alta raced by Ted Gray. This chassis (the AGS car) was sold by Sinclair to Bill Reynolds and re-engined with a Ford V8 and then raced by Bill, Arthur Chick, John Read, others and Ted Gray, ‘acting as a test-bed for the ferocious Tornado V8 in the early 1950’s’ John Medley wrote. Ultimately the car was restored by Graeme Lowe and completed in 1999. There is much more to be said about Sinclair’s Alta, but let’s keep on point- which is not about the car!
‘The single-seater Alta was prepared in a garage behind a pub in Hammersmith Street from where Sinclair traded cars. He had a flat close by from where he placed adverts for cars for sale. He was assisted by an Australian spanner-man…’. The passenger list of his ship to Australia in late 1937 lists his address as FAP Motors Ltd, rear of Clarendon Restaurant, Twickenham- 1-5 The Broadway Twickenham.
From the material publicly available it is not clear exactly when Sinclair started racing. It seems his main season of activity was 1937- what follows is a reliable list of UK events in which he participated, mainly in the supercharged 1100cc Alta he shipped to, and remained in Australia after AGS returned to the UK.
Brooklands
Whilst it seems Sinclair was a BARC member from 1933-1938 ‘he only seems to have competed at Brooklands in 1937’, John Pulford, Head of Collections, Brooklands advised Tony Edwards. All of the events listed below were in 1937.
29/3 BARC Easter Meeting Alta , 1/5 Campbell Trophy Alta with PF Jucker- did not get to drive as the Alta 61S failed with Jucker at the wheel, 10/7 BARC Races Alta, 2/8 JCC international Trophy MG with NG Wilson, 16/10 BARC Races Alta
Crystal Palace
24/4/ Coronation Trophy DNS engine, 17/7/ London GP 6th in heat DNF final Alta, 9/10 Imperial Trophy DNF heat therefore DNQ final
Donington
24/7/ 12 Hours, Sincair/NL Wilson Frazer-Nash DNF

London GP Heat 2 Crystal Palace 17 July 1937. Front row from left RW Appleton Appleton Spl 1100, R Parnell MG 1100, Mrs Eccles Rapier 1100, AG Sinclair Alta 1100, middle row, probably AC Dobson ERA 1500, B Bira ERA 1500, R Hanson Maserati 1500, J Bolster ‘Bloody Mary’ 200 and on the back row RC Fleming Alfa Romeo 2600- all cars except Bloody Mary supercharged. Bira won from Dobson, Parnell and Hanson (Getty)

Sinclair was a friend of John Bolster and shared a number of pre-war Frazer-Nash adventures, one of which Bolster records in his book ‘Motoring Is My Business’; ‘The Frazer-Nash was seriously damaged, but we decided we could tow it home, provided that we drove very slowly. All went well until just before our destination, when one of the wheels came off and bounced merrily away in the darkness. We were crossing a bridge over a river at the time, and Alan instantly flung himself over the parapet and plunged into the water with a mighty splash. This, he afterwards explained, was to find the wheel before the ripples subsided, but the tidal wave occasioned by his arrival rather defeated this project. I eventually found the wheel in a hedge some distance away’.
The Adelaide Advertiser did a great job with its pre and post GP reporting to keep the good citizens of South Australia up to date and maximise ‘bums on seats ‘(a temporary 1000 seat grandstand was erected on the corner of the Lobe-Mount Torrens and Charleston-Mount Torrens corner) and more particularly in the paddocks around the long ‘most challenging course in Australia ever’ layout.
Sinclair’s pending arrival was reported in the 9 December issue of The Advertiser which noted that ‘an informal entry had been received from Alan Sinclair (I wonder what an informal entry is?) who was to have left last Saturday’- the ‘Orford’ sailed from London on 6 November and arrived at Port Adelaide on 11 December 1937.
The Alta was said to be an interesting design- of four cylinders, cast in pairs with an aluminium block and steel liners. With a compression ratio of 8.5:1 and a supercharger blowing at 12 pounds of boost a top speed of 130mph was expected with a weight of 10 hundredweight. An ENV ‘special gearbox’ was mentioned.
Sinclair was said to be bringing an ex-Von Delius BMW 1.5 used in the 1935 Alpine Trial and an ex-Peter Whitehead MG Magnette. Another report expected his arrival on the ‘Orford’ with the Alta 1100 he was to race, with other cars, ‘a German BMW’, the ’tiser keen to help the punters understand that cars place of origin! and Sunbeam 1.5 s/c. On the week of 14 December two special Rileys and an MG will arrive. The tax man stood to gain 600 pounds in Customs Duties from this smorgasbord of imported racers! I am intrigued to know the stock list of what actually did come ashore.

Rundle Street, Adelaide 1938 (The Advertiser)

AGS was given a welcome lunch on Sunday 14 December, I wonder if he wasn’t amazed by all the fuss- Kluge also was honoured with one.
On 19 December the stillness at Parafield (20 Km from the Adelaide GPO) was shattered by the high speed, early morning blast of the Alta on the Main North Road, Alan was sorting carburettor settings of a car said to be the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere. He was confident after a couple of passes at 110mph over a total distance of 8 miles- in which a gallon of fuel was used that he could complete the 100 mile SA GP without stopping for fuel. Sinclair was confident his car could achieve 130mph during the event ‘thereby breaking the Australian record on 120mph’.
In a day of international diplomacy at Adelaide Town Hall on 22 December 1937 ‘The value of international visits in creating good relationships between countries was emphasised by the Lord Mayor (Mr Arthur Barrett, brother of Melburnian racer ace Alf Barrett) and other speakers yesterday when Alan Sinclair, the English racing motorist, and Ewald Kluge, motor cycle champion of Germany and Europe paid an official call on the Lord Mayor’.
‘Sinclair said that a recent holiday he had spent in Germany had been one of the most pleasant in his experience. He found nothing but friendliness toward English people. The Lord Mayor referred to the large German community in South Australia and said that any differences between the British and Germans had been almost forgotten. Also in the party was Baron von Oertzen, general export manager of the Auto Union A.G. of Chemnitz. He and Kluge were accompanied by their wives. Baron von Oertzen said that in South Africa and Australia he had found nothing but friendliness and hospitality. With more international visits there would be less talk of war’ The Advertiser concluded.

Sinclair, Lobethal 1938 (N Howard)

The performance of Sinclair in the SA GP has been well covered above, after the race he was reported to have spent ten days in the summer sun at Victor Harbor and was then was said to be racing at Phillip Island an event at the DKW team were also contesting. It same account has that he was also racing at Albury (Wirlinga road course) and at Bathurst.
Immediately after the Lobethal weekend the DKW team decamped and headed for Ballarat in Victoria to contest events on a specially prepared course at Mount Weatherboard, near Lake Learmonth. Between 6,000-7,000 punters saw Kluge and Fredricks race at a well organised meeting on a very rough course with Kluge taking the 250cc event.
The Germans then headed up the Hume Highway to Canberra where they sought successfully to take the Australian 250cc speed record on 14 January on a stretch of the Federal Highway. Kluge set a time of 94.25mph for the Flying Quarter Mile just eclipsing the previous record. A plan to achieve the Flying Mile was thwarted by good old Canberra rain. Logically AGS would have been in Canberra to keep an eye on Der Deutschlanders but we don’t know that.
Late in the month the DKW crew headed back south for Westernport Bay and the ferry crossing from Stony Point to Cowes for the Phillip Island races at Cowes on 31 January.
There, again, they contested the Victorian Tourist Trophy 250cc Lightweight, and 350cc Junior classes concurrently on the dusty 6.5 mile, original Phillip Island road circuit. Kluge and Fredricks finished one/two in the Lightweight, but Kluge could only manage third on the supercharged 250 behind the Velocettes of Frank Mussett and Don Bain in the Junior.
Whether Sinclair loitered with intent at the ‘Island is unclear.
After the Cowes event two of the three DKW’s brought to Australia were shipped back to Germany leaving one here, it’s subsequent history is an interesting one itself. When ‘Team DKW’ left Australia is unreported but Von Oertzen was certainly still in Australia in March as we shall see in a moment.

Albury GP aka Interstate GP competitor during the 1938 event at the Wirlinga road course close to Albury. ‘The Flying Standard’ Spl driven by K McDonald (J Dallinger)

The 1938 ‘Interstate Grand Prix’, held to celebrate 150 years of the city of Albury was held on the Wirlinga road course in New South Wales on 19 March.
AGS was entered but did not start the 34 lap 148.5 mile journey. Whether this was due to the unreliability of his mount or simply not making the journey to the Victorian/New South Wales border town is unclear. I have sourced plenty of photographs of both the 1938 and 1939 Wirlinga ‘Grand Prix’ events but can see no evidence of the Alta’s presence. Local Wangaratta boy Jack Phillips won the ’38, and 1939 race for that matter, in his Ford V8 Spl from the Terraplane Specials of George Bonser and Les Burrows.
Von Oertzen was in Perth in March and gave a far ranging interview to ‘The West Australian’, a local daily newspaper, the article was published on 11 March 1938. It either presented the facts or extolled the virtues of the Nazi regime others would have you believe Von Oertzen abhorred, depending upon your view of things…
The Baron spoke of the roads in Australia inviting people to buy cars, his surprise at the number of people owning cars; one car to every 9 people in Australia, one in 25 in Germany. ‘The only explanation I can see (in relation to the average income of the people) is that the (Australian) people prefer owning a car to buying their own house’.
‘Discussing the progress of the automobile industry in Germany, Von Oertzen said ‘…that under the Hitler regime there had been a great stimulus. Before the war there had been 1,000,000 unemployed…in the post war period this figure rose to 6,500,000 in 1932, but the Nazi regime had reduced this figure to 400,000. This meant greater general prosperity which was reflected in the motor trade. The smashing of trade barriers by Herr Hitler stimulated industry generally but particularly the motor trade…which also benefited from…no registration fees…nor a charge for a drivers licence…Hitler had caused insurance premiums to be reduced. In 1932, the year before the Hitler regime, the entire German motor car industry produced 42,000 passenger cars and trucks. Five years later, production was 450,000 cars and trucks, and 60,000 cars exported’ Von Oertzen said. The piece concluded that the Baron was to spend a few more weeks in all states and then proceed on his world tour via New Zealand, North and South America and return to his home in South Africa.
Sinclair entered the Victorian Sporting Car Club’s ‘Grand Prix’ meeting at Phillip Island on 28 March in the BMW ‘which has 117,000 miles to its credit but decided to give the old-timer a rest’. Whether he actually practiced the car I am intrigued to know- he was trying to flog the cars to unsuspecting colonials so one would assume a demonstration of his wares made sense? Inter-capital record breaker Arthur Beasley won the 116 mile Grand Prix in a Singer, it was a handicap event as was usually the case in Australia.
In April 1938 Sinclair took the little Alta to Mount Panorama for the circuits first meeting, the Australian Grand Prix, which was won convincingly by Peter Whitehead in ERA R10B aided by an overly generous handicap.
The Alta’s run of unreliability continued when Sinclair was unable to start the race ‘…but that may have had something to do with Sinclair spending the night in the cells on sundry drunk and disorderly charges. His behaviour in Australia seems at odds with the stories of Sinclair the British secret service agent sent to Australia to observe the DKW team…’ John Medley wrote in ‘The 50 Year History of The Australian Grand Prix’.

Sinclair, Alta 1100, Rob Roy November 1938 (L Sims)

Sinclair contested the June 1938 Rob Roy meeting in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills in the Alta (where Whitehead set the course record in ERA R10B) and was reported in ‘The Car’ as heading for the bar after setting the under 1100cc blown class in a time of 39.35 seconds. The account noted his bad luck on his tour so far and ‘those present were pleased to see him have a success, although the car is not as fast as he hoped it would be’.
Continuing his magical mystery tour of Australia, ‘The Autocar’ advised its readers in late September 1938 that AGS ‘has appeared again, in Darwin, it seems, attired in blue shorts, a 20 gallon sombrero and a .45 Colt’- no need for German intelligence to keep an eye on our Bond, they could read of his whereabouts in the British motoring press! It seems he ran at Rob Roy that November, these photographs of Sinclair and the Alta are of that meeting.

Sinclair heading up Skyline at Rob Roy in November 1938, Alta 1100 (L Sims)

By January 1939 Sinclair was back in Lobethal and hoping to make amends for the disappointing reliability of the Alta by entering another of the cars he imported, a Sunbeam Special in the ’39 Australian Grand Prix.

By that stage the Australian grids looked a good deal more impressive with several cars imported by John Snow contesting the race- his own Delahaye 135CS, an Alfa Romeo P3 for Jack Saywell, Alfa 8C2300 Le Mans for John Crouch, noting the Colin Dunne entered MG K3- ex-Bira had been imported earlier by Snow- scion of the Sydney retailing empire of the same name. Lets not forget Alf Barrett’s not so long in Oz Alfa Monza too, Barrett was very much ‘the man’ with this car in that immediate pre and post-war era.

Research by Bob King in the eighties determined that AGS’ ‘Sunbeam’ was in fact a special built by Cambridge undergraduate David Pearce in 1936/7. It comprised a Bugatti T44 chassis which was shortened, to which a 1.5 litre, four cylinder, 100bhp, Sunbeam DOHC, Roots supercharged engine designed and built for speedboat record-breaking (successfully) was fitted. The body was made by Pearce with a pointed tail incorporated from an old Alta. Without getting lost in the tangent, after the Sunbeam engine failed, ‘when a gudgeon pin let go’ a Dodge six was fitted, the  the car contested the 1950 AGP at Nuriootpa, Barossa Valley and many other races so engined- and was ultimately restored with a Bugatti T49 motor in the late eighties.

True to form, Sinclair’s Bugatti Sunbeam failed to take the AGP start with sheared blower drive minutes before the race start.  He ‘presented a tragic spectacle when, a few minutes before the starting time of the first race he sat helplessly in his Sunbeam Special in the Lobethal main street. He looked in vain from under his big 10-gallon hat for someone to push him off and start his motor. Pushers who volunteered were quickly exhausted, however and Sinclair did not start’ one local report observed of the poor Brit.

Sinclair was cross entered in a Riley Brooklands he had imported, sharing the car with Clifford Downing, this car also retired having completed only 5 of the 17 laps. Perth youngster Allan Tomlinson took a staggering win in an MG TA Spl s/c- a great story for another time.

The Bugatti T44 Sunbeam at an SCCSA meeting at Buckland Park, a property noth of Adelaide in February 1940. Entered by Tony Ohlmeyer, he was fastest from scratch and 8th in the 16 lap handicap. Photo included to show the ‘Sunbeam’ in the form built by David Pearce and then acquired by AGS just prior to his trip to Oz (Brooks/Harris)

In July 1939 the intrigue continued with Sinclair’s involvement in an attempt to ‘set up a Socialist State in an ideal tropical setting’ in the South Seas.
The ‘Connella’ was bound for the Marquesas, French owned islands in the South Pacific 5,000 miles from Sydney where ‘her crew of four will be the foundation members of a new utopia’ The Brisbane Sunday Mail reported on 9 July 1939.  The ships master, Fred Briggs and his wife, Jack Milne and, you guessed it- Alan Sinclair are members of ‘The International Settlement Organisation’, formed in 1938, which hopes to create a Socialist State in an idea tropical setting. The only thing missing from this Cold War era Bond-esque scene is the tall, shapely blonde minx.
‘They are confident that some day their settlement will be founded’. The voyage didn’t start well, on departure from Hobart ‘her sails were ripped apart by a gale that sometimes rose to more than 50 miles an hour’, the 6.5 ton 54 foot ketch reached Sydney after 12 stormy days coming up Australia’s east coast. The report noted that Sinclair ‘the English racing motorist…spent last winter shooting crocodiles in the Northern Territory’.
Perhaps the true nature of the trip is made clearer in that Briggs ‘is formerly an Australian Airforce survey photographer’, ‘who gave up his post to try to found a new Utopia’. It is intriguing to speculate on the real purpose of the trip- perhaps surveying certain parts of the South Pacific with war by then so imminent?
In February 1940 The Motor reported that ‘Alan Sinclair, who used to drive a single-seater Alta 1100cc and went to Australia about a year ago…came back to join the London Scottish (regiment); he was married in his spare time. Before that he did some racing in Australia and then, so I heard, set sail for the South Seas to find a Utopia on some choice islet. Before that he helped to get a sailing boat across the Atlantic to the States and back which was by way of being an epic…’
In terms of Sinclair’s war service John Medley recalls a conversation with a pre-war Australian competitor ‘who had in fact shared an overnight cell with Sinclair for boyish over-exuberance in South Australia- he knew Sinclair pre-war and walked into a wartime office in England to salute his new commanding officer who was none other than AG Sinclair, now very serious, very formal and correct’.
What more can we add to this picture of a man who seems to have had a very interesting life?!

One of the Lobethal Aces if not The Ace, Alf Barrett, Alfa Monza during the January 1939 AGP weekend (N Howard)

The Challenges and Perils of Lobethal…
Thrice winner of the Australian Grand Prix Doug Whiteford, a man whose career stretched from the pre-war era until the mid-seventies and all of our challenging circuits, rated the rolling hills of Lobethal as the most challenging of them all.
The map below is more detailed than the one early in this piece and will help guide you round the place, its a locals account adapted from narrative on the lagler.com website.

Colin Dunne and MG K3 pop over the top of one of the many Lobethal rises (B King)

From the old start-finish line and grandstand area north of Charleston (top right) you could be forgiven for thinking its nothing special. No really challenging corners just sweeping curves- but put it into context, the cars had spindly wire wheels and tyres, cart springs, beam axles and near useless brakes. These curves are all blind- there are crests preceding all of them, particularly the bridges, which funnel into chutes. Think of these machines dropping onto their suspension in mid-air whilst turning at 100mph.
Through the little town of Charleston, with its pub in Onkaparinga Road (still there) the crowds were thick, with stories abounding of drivers stopping mid-session for a ‘nerve settler’ or two! Out of here are frightening high speed kinks, all blind, all crests and dips. Then a blind right hand kink sucks you into Kayannie Corner, the tight right-hander which takes the intrepid racers towards Lobethal. Plenty of folks spectated in this area as they popped off the train from Adelaide.
The climb up the hill from Kayannie is significant, its straight-ish for the first 2 kays, but at the top ‘the track steals straight from the soul of the Nürburgring. Lined by trees, the blind crest plummets away left, bottoms out right, drops away again into a roller-coaster left’. Then it flattens, raises slightly, then has another drop into the braking area for the hard left-hand Mill Corner into Lobethal’s main street- which isn’t straight. Past the Pub on the right, there is now a little ribbon of Indy style paving across the road and a plaque to commemorate the Lobe racing era.
Heading up the hill the road funnels between shops and houses and then there is the blind, off-camber Gumeracha Corner which claimed lives. The stretch from here to the start-finish hairpin has to be experienced- 5 Km of crests, blind curves, feature changes and undulations. Here is where the truly great drivers such as Allan Tomlinson, Colin Dunne and Alf Barrett made up time on sheer balls, bravery and commitment…
One can still drive these roads my friends, make sure that you do, carefully.

Lobethal Lads: probably 1939, Terraplane Spl’s (unattributed)

Bibliography…

The Adelaide Advertiser various editions, Old Bike Australia article ‘A Tale of Intrigue’ Jim Scaysbrook, Nathan Tasca

On Alan Sinclair- ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ especially John Medley, Vitesse 2, eolith, fivestar

‘The 50 Year History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and others, ‘Bugattis in Australasia’ Bob King, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Looking back towards the start-finish line (B King)

Photo Credits…

Bob King Collection, Leon Sims Collection, Gronwy Morris Collection, State Library of South Australia, The West Australian, Getty Images, MotorsSport, Adelaide News, The Velobanjogent, Tony Parkinson/Ray Trevena Collection, John Dallinger

Tailpiece: #7 Jack Phillips Ford V8 Spl, #20 Les Murphy MG P Type, the #2 Jack Day Spl driven by Reg Nutt and finally #23 the Brescia Bugatti raced by Jack Day…

(L Sims)

Finito…

 

Carroll Smith, Frank and Joan Matich (NAA)

Frank and Joan Matich confer during the Warwick Farm Tasman meeting, February 11 to 13 1972…

The ’72 Tasman wasn’t the series the Matich’s expected after the debut win of the Matich A50 Repco at the Farm in November 1971- the brand new machine built closeby won the Australian Grand Prix only days after it’s completion, and looked the goods for the Summer Internationals.

Whilst Matich and his team worked their magic in Brookvale, Kiwi Graham McRae was casting a spell or two in Poole whilst Frank Gardner and Bob Marston were indulging in some F5000 sorcery of their own over at Huntingdon- the cars alluded to are the Leda LT27 aka McRae GM1 and Lola T300.

Mind you, things came good for Frank and Joan at home- Warwick Farm is not too far from the Matich HQ in Brookvale (they moved to Military Road, Cremorne on Sydney’s leafy North Shore circa August 1972) FM was quickest in unofficial practice, qualified on pole on Saturday afternoon and won the race, leading throughout from start to flagfall.

This article is superfluous really, I’ve done Matich and his career pretty well to death, several long pieces inclusive of an 11,000 word monster on his F5000 cars- at the end of this article are links to that piece and a couple of others of potential interest.

But then I came upon this swag of photographs of the Warwick Farm weekend which were too good to ignore. I’ve no idea of the publication for which they were intended or indeed if they ever were published. The shots are from the National Archives of Australia, the photographer uncredited. The series of photos are headed ‘Australia’s Mr and Mrs Motor Sport Sets a Fast Pace’. I’ve other photos of this weekend but I decided to maintain the original intent of whoever commissioned them, keep them together and focus on ‘Team Matich’.

Frank Matich, Matich A50 Repco, Pit Straight, Warwick Farm February 1972 (NAA)

Is ‘Mr and Mrs Motorsport’ apt or a bit of PR Bullshit?…

Its a fair observation I suspect.

Frank was already racing his first competition car, an MG TC when he met Joan, ‘her parents thought the sound of the MG arriving was a plane as they lived at Mascot’ Frank recalled, in fact Joan could be said to be FM’s first sponsor as she lent him 140 pounds to rebuild the TC’s engine not long after they first started going out!

Joan went to many of the test sessions and race meetings down the decades, helped schmooze the sponsors and assisted to run the business which was not insubstantial by 1972. There was the race team chasing national titles, the production of racing cars (sportscars -several SR3 and SR4’s and six F5000’s) Firestone, and then later Goodyear race tyre and Bell Helmets importation and distribution and properties to manage, both domestic and business. Lets not forget the demands of four kids too. (Kris born circa 1958, Kim 1960, Lea 1962 and Katrina 1963)

Frank and Joan were not Mr and Mrs Motorsport in the way that Fred and Christine Gibson and Garth and Leanne Tander were in the sense that both were drivers but I think the ‘Mr and Mrs Motorsport’ label is a fair one.

Joan and Kris Matich- Kris went on to race Van Diemens in Formula Ford in the eighties

1972 Tasman Series Top Guns…

McRae, the reigning champion, Matich, Gardner, Mike Hailwood (Surtees TS8 Chev) and David Hobbs (McLaren M22) were perhaps the dudes most likely to fight for the Tasman Cup but Kevin Bartlett, hamstrung only by the age of his McLaren M10B Chev and 1970 champ Graeme Lawrence, like FG Lola T300 mounted would also be ‘thereabouts’. Then came Teddy Pilette, McLaren M10B Chev, Garrie Cooper, John McCormack and Max Stewart in Elfin MR5 Repco’s- all relative newcomers to F5000, and the rest.

In New Zealand it was all McRae- he started on pole in the first three rounds, won at Levin and Wigram, whilst Gardner took the NZ GP at Pukekohe a race in which Graeme Lawrence and Bryan Faloon had an awful accident killing Bryan and outing Graeme for months.

Derek Kneller pointing, how was it Frank? Ken Symes of Repco in the blue suit FM’s boys in the natty, very American STP togs. Note open top section of ‘bathtub’ aluminium monocoque chassis A50 ‘001/002’ (NAA)

FG boofed his Lola at Levin when the engine suddenly cut out on a high speed corner and he clobbered the fence. Gardner, a very ‘safe driver’ must have had more prangs in the 7 months to January 1972 than at any other time in his career- he wrote off the prototype T300P (akaT242P) at Snetterton in a collision with Brian Redman’s McLaren M18 Chev, when FG on pole and Brian off grid 2 had a territorial dispute, on 30 August 1971.

The quite significant in the history of F5000 cars, seminal, defining chassis T242P/T300P was rooted, destroyed.

Lola quickly built up a replacement car for Frank, ‘HU1’, the first production T300 which Gardner raced to a debut win at Hockenheim in front of Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus 56B Pratt & Whitney on 12 September. He took the car to another victory at Oulton and with a second place at the season ending Brands late September round nabbed the 1971 European F5000 Championship. He had been a winner in a Lola T192 earlier in the season prior to the T242/300 race debut, it wasn’t all down to the new car by any stretch.

‘HU1’ was then shipped to Australia in time for the AGP at the Farm, FG crashed it in practice, again the car was re-tubbed before shipping to NZ- only to be boofed again in an accident not of his making at Levin.

He would reappear at Surfers with the repaired car but the chances of the wily veteran winning the series were gone. A shame really as he ‘retired’ from single-seaters after the Sandown round selling the T300 to Sydney F2 pilot Gary Campbell. I say retired as he did a ‘Nellie Melba’ and contested the final round of the 1972 Euro F5000 Championship late in the year to ‘race test’ the prototype Lola T330- ‘HU1’ which became famous in Max Stewart’s hands and is of course still in Australia. A long digression!

Kevin Bartlett took a top win in the final NZ round at Teretonga, driving with a blend of speed and sure-footedness on a wet, difficult track which caught out pole-man Hailwood and McRae. David Hobbs tangled suspension with Matich.

Matich had a shocker of a time in NZ.

He qualified 5th/2nd/5th/2nd- a second at Levin and fourth and fastest lap at Teretonga his best with DNF’s at the NZ GP with engine failure- a broken conrod and a distant 12th at Wigram having only completed 34 laps- KB spun and FM hit him on the way through. Frank pitted and returned 3 laps later completing a further 13 laps before retirement. The sergent.com race report notes ‘…showing the sort of form, had fate not intervened, that would certainly have given him some Tasman points.

A50 left front suspension assembly- top link and swept back locating arm, lower wishbone, coil spring and Koni double-adjustable alloy bodied shocks, adjustable roll bar, big ventilated discs and four-pot Lockheed calipers (NAA)

 

All was not well in the Matich camp either.

A race team needs stability at the top, Peter Mabey had been the Matich Chief Mechanic since the SR3 period (at least), it was intended that Derek Kneller who arrived with FM’s first McLaren M10A in August 1969, (he had been building cars at McLaren Cars in 1968/9 including the first M10A raced by Peter Gethin) would replace Mabey but Peter decided to stay on to build the monocoque A50, as he wanted that experience and the two worked together well through the repair of FM’s McLaren M10B. The team rebuilt the cars aluminium monocoque rather than buy a repalcement from Trojan, to get some experience of this form of construction in advance of the build of the A50 in 1971.

After the ’71 AGP victory Kneller headed back to the UK, he was homesick, so went home to a gig with Team Surtees. Mabey stayed on but finally cried enough- and left the team after the Levin round having got tired of shouldering the load with other mechanics not pulling their weight the final straw.

Matich did Wigram and Teretonga with the other mechanics and called Derek in the UK, who agreed to return to Australia to assist. ‘I had planned and organised with Frank…to come back to Oz in the middle of the year (1972)…I arrived in Sydney on the Monday after Surfers, Joan picked me up from the airport, I went straight to Brookvale and started work on Frank’s joblist for the car’.

Normally there was a two week gap between the last NZ round at Teretonga and the first Australian one at Surfers Paradise but there was only one week in 1972 making the five day shipment of cars marginal so a group of teams hired a plane to freight the cars by air into Coolangatta, closeby to Surfers.

Derek and Scott McNaughton fitting the drink system- windscreen washer system complete with an electric pump and switch on the instrument panel. neat! (NAA)

Matich had plenty of success at the abrasive Surfers Paradise track over the years, he plonked the A50 on pole at the challenging power circuit and finished third behind McRae and Gardner- FG’s car was re-tubbed and he was back in the game. Kneller notes that the A50 rear suspension geometry was altered with a lighter rear subframe, and raced that way on the Gold Coast.

At the meetings end Frank and Joan jetted from Coolangatta back to Mascot in Sydney, with the A50 trucked back to Brookvale overnight- the team had no spare car, at the time the first customer A50 for George Follmer (Roy Woods Racing) was coming together in a corner of the Matich ‘shop with Carroll Smith assisting.

Kneller set to work preparing the A50 for the ‘Farm.

‘The rear suspension geometry was altered again after Surfers- the rear roll centre was raised…It was at this time the car was given the A50 ‘002’ moniker but it was ‘001’, the same tub, the bodywork was painted in STP colours and the roll bar chrome plated, it appeared different which was a bit of gamesmanship and kept the sponsors happy but it was, and still is the same tub which Bryan Sala now owns. This caused lots of historic (eligibility) grief in later years.’

For the sake of completeness and clarity ‘The same chassis (‘001′) was used for the rest of the 1972 Tasman Series and the 1973 Tasman, at its end it was put on axle stands at the Brookvale factory’ and is very clear photos in the article referred to earlier whilst the two A51’s were built up in advance of their 1973 US L&M Series tour.

A fresh Repco Holden V8 was popped into the rear of the A50 to replace the unit used at Surfers in addition to all of the usual pre-race checks- aided this time by operating from the teams home base rather than the garages used in other cities on tour.

A50 in the Brookvale workshop in the week prior to Warwick Farm. Repco Holden 5 litre Lucas injected V8 giving circa 480 bhp at this point in its development. 1973/4 flat plane crank Repcos the ultimate spec gave circa 520 bhp. Hewland DG300 5 speed transaxle, inboard disc brakes. Rear suspension, Matich designed- Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation cast magnesium uprights, single top link, lower parallel links, radius rods, coil spring/Koni dampers, adjustable roll bar with Aeroquip fittings throughout (NAA)

 

I’ve always thought Matich and McRae were a couple of peas from the same pod…

Both were from engineering backgrounds, Matich was apprenticed as a Diesel Engineer, McRae completed an Engineering Degree- both knew their way around racing cars from a drivers perspective and also as car conceptor, designer, builder, tester and fettlers. This is a very potent combination to build fast cars, or take what isn’t quick and change it and then keep changing it until the butt-cheeks and stopwatch confirm the steeds speed.

By the time both fellas had success at an international level they were not malleable youths- but rather battle hardened older racers who had cut deals to get where they wanted, with firm, battle-inspired opinions , which meant they were not naturally attractive to team managers after fast but perhaps more obedient youths.

Both proved their pace against the worlds best- lets not forget Matich’s speed against the F1 elite in his two Tasman 2.5 seasons in 1964/5 before his Elfin 400/Matich SR3/4 sportscar phase. He raced with Clark for much of a race at Lakeside and popped his Brabham BT7A, by then not the very latest bit of kit in 1965, on pole at Warwick Farm in front of Clark, Graham Hill, Brabham, McLaren, Phil Hill, Frank Gardner and the rest…

A50 Brookvale, FM at right. Note bathtub aluminium tub- 6 tubs were built, all the same design, 3 by Matich and 3 by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne- 3 A50, 2 A51’s one of which became an A52, and 1 A53. Note the way the lower suspension wishbone picks up, in part on the A-frame forward of the tub (NAA)

McRae beat the best in the F5000 world in Europe and the US- taking the 1972 US L&M Series in his self-built Leda LT27/GM1 and three Tasmans on the trot from 1971-1973.

Both had F1 offers, in FM’s case he had family and a business in Australia which was a barrier- unfortunately in McRae’s case his only F1 start was with Frank Williams Iso Ford in the 1973 British GP when he didn’t survive the first lap carnage wrought by McLaren’s new cub, Jody Scheckter’s mega first lap M23 Ford lose. McRae wasn’t involved in the shunt but the car’s throttle slides were filled with sand which prevented him taking the restart.

At their respective ‘right peaks’- say 1965 for Matich, (born 1935) and 1971/2 for McRae, (born 1940) both were surely good or better F1 material had they arrived at about those times aboard a halfway decent bit of kit!?

Matich and Bartlett before the off. Matich A50 Repco and McLaren M10B Chev. Just to the left of KB’s helmet is Frank Gardner’s silver Bell Magnum- his Lola T300 is on row 2 (NAA)

Meanwhile back in Sydney the 1972 ‘Warwick Farm 100’ beckoned…

Matich, Bartlett, Gardner and Max Stewart were probably the Warwick Farm aces in this race with perhaps Max to be discounted, his time in F5000 would arrive bigtime shortly, but he wasn’t going to win this race in his Elfin MR5.

Frank did pretty much all of his testing at the ‘Farm, he knew every blade of grass in ‘Gods Acre of Motor Racing’ and so it proved over that February 1972 weekend. The changes the team made to the car gave him the edge and additional confidence he needed, he was comfortably ahead of the field in unofficial practice.

On Saturday he was again the class of the grid popping the A50 on pole by 5/10 second from Kevin Bartlett’s McLaren M10B Chev, Frank Gardner Lola T300 Chev, the similarly mounted Bob Muir, Max Stewart Elfin MR5 Repco, McRae Leda GM1 Chev, who only did 12 laps of the slippery track.

Only the first few laps in the earlier Saturday session were dry, otherwise the track was wet or damp- a light drizzle greeted the drivers at noon as they set out for what would normally be the session in which the quickest times were set with cars by then having chassis’ nicely tweaked for the track.

Teddy Pilette McLaren M10B Chev, David Hobbs McLaren M22 Chev, John McCormack Elfin MR5 Repco and Warwick Brown McLaren M10 B Chev and the rest comprised the balance of the grid. Mike Hailwood had a shocker of a time, he missed much of practice when a tyre deflated, then in a discretionary session to test the car he muffed his entry onto The Causeway and clipped the fence breaking a wheel and causing some suspension damage. His boys had a long night ahead but did make the grid.

The Northern Crossing, formerly a series of temporary road patches laid across the top of the Warwick Farm horse racing track had neen replaced with permanent hotmix- a bump leading onto the crossing and a layer of silt across it made the going tough for the drivers, both Bob Muir and Max Stewart had spins during the day.

Pre-race build up- watching the TV feed of an earlier race. Derek ‘Frank’s gold race suit was given to him by Goodyear, they gave him a new set of race overalls every year, unalloyed Hinchman but for 1972 it was the ‘Fypro’ gold set’ (NAA)

 

Yerv got a hole in your sock Dad! Make sure you win but be careful all the same- FM and Kris Matich as Frank suits up (NAA)

 

Kneller belts Matich up so to speak- note the nickel or chrome plated roll bar- the cause of some consternation deacdes later in the ‘A50-002’ debate. There was no ‘002’ but rather a bit of gamesmanship by Matich! (NAA)

 

Lift off- FM gets the jump, he was never headed. Best view afforded by Max Stewart’s truck-top! (NAA)

Jack Brabham was present over the weekend and started the race at 1.30 pm- Matich led from pole winning the 45 lap, 100 mile race from European F5000 Champion Frank Gardner by 18 seconds and Kevin Bartlett another 30 seconds up the road.

FM started strongly, as did Bartlett who looked for a moment to have gotten off the line best,  and opened up a 2.5 second lead from Bartlett, Gardner, Stewart, Muir and McCormack- the latter made a blinder of a start from row 5 using the grass verge.

Matich widened the gap but the order up front remained the same with much of the race interest surrounding Mike Hailwood and his repaired Surtees TS8 who worked his way up from the back of the field- he was sixth on lap 6 passing Hobbs on lap 2, McCormack on lap 4 and Stewart on lap 5.

Pit board advising all is in hand, ease. STP sponsorship just for the Tasman, gone for the Gold Star Series which FM won convincingly in 1972 (NAA)

By lap 10 Matich was 15 seconds in front and at this early stage the race was looking like a repeat of his AGP effort in November. Bartlett was still in second ahead of Gardner in a nice tussle with a 10 second gap back to Muir, McRae with Michael The Cycle right up their clackers. In a ripper drive Hailwood passed McRae under brakes and then got Bob Muir on lap 12- by then FM up front was lapping the 2 litre Waggotts/BDA’s.

Gardner finally got past KB on lap 12 (or 13 depending upon your source), then came Hailwood, McRae ‘never really at home at the Farm’, Muir, McCormack, Pilette, Hobbs, Brown and Tony Stewart’s Mildren Waggott.

John McCormack Elfin MR5 Repco from Hailwood’s Surtees TS8 Chev, Pit Straight (NAA)

By lap 30 Matich eased the pace a smidge with only Gardner, Bartlett, Hailwood and McRae on the same lap- by lap 35 Hailwood could not catch Bartlett and succumbed to a challenge from McRae after he lost both second (early in the race) and fourth gears in his Hewland DG300 transaxle.

In the final four laps there were no changes so Matich won- setting a new record average speed for the race of 94.85 mph with second placeman Gardner setting a new lap record of 1:24.0 to take six-tenths off the mark set by Matich in November. KB was third 30 seconds behind Gardner, then McRae and Hailwood

John McCormack was 6th in his Elfin MR5 Repco, Mac was still in his formative F5000 phase but would soon be a force, then Teddy Pilette 7th in his VDS Racing M10B with Tony Stewart the best of the 2 litre cars in Max Stewart’s Milden Waggott- the car in which Max had won the 1971 Gold Star, then F5000 newcomer and later 1975 Tasman Champion Warwick Brown in his ex-Hamilton McLaren M10B Chev with American visitor David McConnell 10th in a GRD 272 Ford BDA 2 litre.

The quintessential WF victory shot, chequered flag car not quite perfectly in shot and crowded grandstand (NAA)

 

The win was just the fillip Matich needed, he carried the speed he had shown at Warwick Farm both to Melbourne at Sandown’s AGP the following weekend and at Adelaide International a fortnight later.

From pole at Sandown he led until lap 5 when an oil scavenge pump failed putting the A50 out, McRae took the win, and in Adelaide he started from pole but on this occasion had gearbox failure with David Hobbs taking the win in a McLaren M22 Chev.

(NAA)

No doubt a Rothmans executive handing over the goodies above as race sponsor, with the distinctive form of Brabham JA at right- he won an international race or three at Warwick Farm.

To the victor go the spoils- the much respected Australian Automobile Racing Club Chief, Geoff Sykes at right, and in the photo below Derek Kneller receives a trophy, perhaps, for the Chief Mechanic of the winning car.

Credits…

oldracingcars.com, ‘The Canberra Times’ 14 February 1972, National Archives of Australia, Derek Kneller, Alan Wood 1972 WF100 race report in March 1972 ‘Racing Car News’

Other Related Links…

Matich and his F5000 cars; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Repco Holden F5000 engine; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/03/repco-holden-f5000-v8/

Graham McRae and his F5000 cars; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/06/amons-talon-mcraes-gm2/

Etcetera…

(NAA)

Ampol gets a fair crack of the whip in all these shots. Simpson race-boots common at the time at elite levels- FM’s Adidas jobbies are Nomex.

(NAA)

Looks like Derek Kneller at left taking a snap with his iPhone.

Never found the A50 the prettiest of F5000’s, functional and effective may be better descriptors. And successful. Both A50 ‘001’ and Bartlett’s very equally successful ex-Niel Allen M10B still extant and happily in Oz with Bryan Sala and Alan Hamilton respectively.

Debrief (NAA)

Nice shot of the top, or in part lack thereof, of the bathtub monocoque. Note steel structural element between each ally mono pontoon to which the dash is bolted- it contains the usual array of Smiths instruments. Bell Star helmet de-riguer at the time, FM the importer for Oz. The day I bought my first Bell Star circa 1975 from Ken Nancarrow at ‘Racegear’ in Ralston Street, South Yarra (Melbourne) is etched in my memory- remember him? Wonderful fella- you could never get outta the joint in less than an hour by the time he exhausted you with all of his on-point race gossip.

(NAA)

FM usually wore ‘Hinchman’ suits at this stage, remember the classic cream Hinchman of the era with vertical ‘race stripes’ on the left breast with prominent Goodyear embroidered badge? Always aspired to a set of those.

(NAA)

 

Nah, it’s not gunna rain, the weather comes from the direction of Liverpool.

Cockpit cowling (between Carroll Smith and FM) pretty much the same all the way through the A50-A53 models inclusive of the side-radiator A52 and A53.

I didn’t know who ‘Goodyear Cap Man’ was until reader/mate David Rees/Ray Bell identified him. Derek Kneller clarified the talented American engineer/mechanic/author’s (i’ve got two of his books purchased 20 years ago- ‘Tune To Win’ and ‘Prepare To Win’ from memory) role, which was to build up the A50 ‘003’ for Roy Woods Racing, a car initially raced by ace-racer George Follmer.

(NAA)

By the looks of it the boys are playing around with the steering rack- Matich very mechanically capable to say the least. Both he and McRae were very much in the Colin Chapman, Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Derek Bennett, Garrie Cooper, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, Frank Gardner, Howden Ganley, Larry Perkins mould of oh-so-capable, muck-in and geddit done types of driver/mechanic/engineer. A breed which no longer exists at elite level.

The A50 was an expression of the F5000 state of the art as Team Matich- FM, Kneller, Mabey and one or two others saw it in 1971. There was no ‘designer’ as such but rather draftsman who put onto paper the conceptual design of the car which was led strongly by the chief.

Tailpiece: ‘It sounds ok, great actually Ken’: Repco’s Ken Symes warms his liddl’ 5 litre baby up…

(NAA)

Repco-Holden F5000 V8 a simply glorious engine to listen to, unmuffled as they were for a few years yet.

Finito…

Start of the 50 Mile Handicap heats: Hunter in the Mrs Jones owned Alfa 6C1750 at left, Thompson’s obscured Bugatti T37A and two six-cylinder 4077cc Chryslers of E Patterson and #72/14 HJ Beith (Fairfax)

Bill Thompson’s Bugatti T37A swept all before him at Gerringong Beach on 10 May 1930…

Sydney’s finest was very much the form driver of the meeting, in fact many would say he was Australia’s best driver pre-War. He had not long before won the 1930 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island during the 24 March weekend- it was one of his three wins in Australia’s premier event. Bill was also coming off the back of record times at Penrith Speedway and at Kurrajong Hillclimb that season.

Gerringong is 130 Km south of Sydney on the Illawarra Coast, then as now it is a popular holiday destination. Throughout the 1920’s the relatively deserted Seven Mile Beach, between Black Head and Beecroft Head was a place where members of the Royal Automobile Club raced their cars, far enough from Sydney and the long cold stare of the law. These occasions were as much society events as they were motor racing ones.

The Smith/Harkness Anzac Rolls Royce arrives at Gerringong in December 1929 (Kiama Tourist)

Gerringong was very much in the public mind at the time as Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith had set an Australian Land Speed Record testing his Rolls Royce engined ‘Anzac’, at 128.571 miles per hour only months before on 1 December 1929. Wizard and his exploits, and the skill of Don Harkness, a racer himself, and his company which built ‘Anzac’ is a story for another time.

The beach had been the site of horse racing since the 1860’s but the noble beasts ‘could not compete with the speed and excitement of the motor’, mind you the take up of motor vehicles in Australia is indicated by the October holidays in 1919 when there was record volumes of motor traffic through the town, in just two hours, 12 vehicles were counted driving through Fern Street.

The weather on the 10th of May was awful for racing, with rain the night before and drizzle prevailing for most of the day from the 11.40am start of the meeting- only 300 hardy souls watched the race action.

The sand was wet, to the extent that all competitors of the first event had to be pushed out of the sand, into which they had sunk before the race started! The conditions became more difficult for the organisers, the Sydney Bicycle and Motor Club, as the programs timeline grew in inverse proportion to the usable width of beach- which was down to two cars  by the end of the days proceedings. ‘Another five minutes’, a club official said and ‘the tide would have beaten us’.

The ‘Sydney Referee’ report made note of the other difficulties as soft and slippery sand at the turn posts, drizzling rain and some ‘competitors whose race tactics, were, to say the least of it, unsafe’.

Thompson and a young admirer after his Gerringong win (Fairfax)

Thompson’s win of the feature event, the ’50 Mile Handicap’ for cars under 2000cc was described as a ‘great win’, a ‘fine individual effort’ ‘even though there have been better races held in Australia’.

Thomson won the race in the Bugatti T37A in which he was victorious at the AGP in the month before, chassis ‘37358’, which is still in Australia in the process of restoration. See my article at the end of this one on the 2015 Melbourne ‘Motorclassica’ for some information about that car.

Thomson won in 39 mins 4 secs from the CN Jackson MG Midget 847cc s/c, HG Potts Lea Francis 1496cc s/c. Other starters in the final were Charlie East’s Bugatti T37A, RR Hawkes Austin 7 Sports 748cc, N Hodge Morris Minor 847cc and the JAS Jones owned Alfa 6C1750 SS s/c driven by A Hunter, DNF due to splashing through a wave whilst on course. It is not clear if the other cars completed the distance.

The engine of Thonpson’s T37A is fettled before the off (Fairfax)

 

In other races, Charlie East won the final of the Four Miles Over 1000cc from the JO Sherwood Chrysler and J Aubrey Jones also in a Chrysler. There were three heats in all- won by Bill Thomson’s Bug, John Sherwood’s Chrysler and E Patterson’s Chrysler.

The Eight Miles Club Championship final was won by Thomson, the heats won by HJ Beith Chrysler Sports and Thomson’s Bugatti. Maroubra legend, Hope Bartlett in a Bugatti, did a very quick first lap in heat 1 but forgot the second lap! No pitboards were in use at Gerringong it seems.

The Handicap for Closed Cars was won by J Aubrey Jones Chrysler and the Handicap for cars under 1000cc was taken by the N Hodge Morris Minor.

Thomson said that such was the narrow course- it hardly gave him enough width to clear oncoming cars, that he was about to pull out. ‘It was the hardest event I’ve been in, much worse than the the Phillip Island race’, the ‘Island was famous for the challenging nature of its gravel roads, dust and undulations.

After the conclusion of the meeting Bill Thomson hoped to beat the Gerringong Flying 1 Mile record of 33 3/5 of a second set by Don Harkness in a Hispano Suiza in 1923 but failed to get there given the conditions, his 36 4/5 seconds not as good as he had hoped having changed into top gear a little too early with a head wind doing the rest of the damage to his time.

Another grid this time with two Chryslers to the left, #72 the E Patterson and HJ Beith Chrysler Sports, Charlie East Bugatti T37A to right (Kiama Tourist)

The only major incident of the day occurred when Mrs JAS Jones ‘winged’ one of the Chrysler mechanics (below) when competitors in the second heat of the over 1000cc Four Mile Handicap passed the finishing post and turned too quickly, and spectators pressed forward. Jones, in last place arrived at race speed and had to swerve several times to avoid cars and bystanders. She almost got through but struck Curley, breaking his leg.

(Fairfax)

The ‘Referee’ concluded its report of the meeting by saying ‘All things considered it was a successful meeting. But the supervision left a lot to be desired. It was this fault, plus stupidity on the part of certain competitors, that led to a serious accident. After crossing the finishing line several of the competing cars turned back towards the oncoming cars and one even swung out suddenly across their path. Thereafter the officials made their presence felt. But one subsequent offender should have been severely cautioned’.

Mrs JAS Jones aboard her Alfa 6C1750- a much respected racer and car. Raced by many latterly into the fifties Flathead Ford V8 powered inclusive of an AGP and still in Oz (Fairfax)

Motor Car Racing in Australia in 1930…

I wrote an article a while ago about Penrith Speedway and a championship meeting held there in 1930, click on this link to read it, not least for some context on the state of car racing, especially road racing at the time in Australia.

https://primotipo.com/2017/06/08/penriths-world-championship-race-1930/

Here are some snippets from that article, but do read the whole thing if you have not.

The Australian Grand Prix was held for the first time on an oval dirt layout around the showgrounds at Goulburn, New South Wales in 1927. The 1928 AGP, ‘The 100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island, the first proper race in Australia on a road, run on a large, rectangular, gravel course was more indicative than Goulburn of the direction Australian racing would take and was indeed the race which started the tradition of road racing in Australia.

Gerringong Corners- two of them, one at end end of the beach, tide issues clear! (Fairfax)

At the time Australian motor racing was largely amateur, a ‘run what you brung’ approach prevailed with most competing cars driven to and from the track. The sport evolved from hillclimbs, sprints and races on horse-tracks, the province of the gentry pre-War, to hillclimbs at Waterfall Gully, Kurrajong, Mount Coot-tha and Belgrave, beach racing at Gerringong and Sellicks Beaches to venues such as the clay pans of Lake Perkolilli in Western Australia, and the Aspendale, Maroubra and Penrith Speedways.

John Medley wrote that ‘it was some time before other groups followed (the Light Car Club of Victoria’s Phillip Island) road racing direction, preferring the simpler expedient of running trials with speed sections included (rather like modern rallies) or contests on simple dirt speedways- both of these being more easily controlled by the organisers and also less accessible to the long arm of the law. One consequence was that their was very much a casual air to the whole occasion, with ‘chop picnics, family gatherings and exuberant overnight parties.’

E Patterson’s 4 litre Chrysler, desolate nature of the area at the time clear, Gerringong 1930 (Fairfax

I have not used the term speedway racing as the ‘forked road’ the sport took in later years had not yet occurred, competitors entered a variety of events as above. In addition solo intercity record-breaking attempts were important with Graham Howard recording that ‘…intercity records…were the most consistent form of competitive motoring in Australia until the late 1920’s, and produced our first household-name drivers…’ In fact the police made illegal the ‘Intercity Record Breaking’ in 1930 with Wizard Smith a household name as a result of these exploits.

A lot would change in terms of road-racing between 1930 and the war- ‘Round the Houses Racing’ in towns became common in Western Australia at places like Albany, Bunbury and Goomalling. Australian Grands Prix were held at Victor Harbor and Lobethal in South Australia and most importantly the Mount Panorama Scenic Drive, at Bathurst- which doubled as a racetrack, opened in March 1938- the 1938 Australian Grand Prix was held there on that weekend. By the war the foundations for car road racing in Australia were well and truly established, something which could not be said in May 1930.

Professor Neville Burkitt’s Mercedes Benz SS- came close to colliding with Bill Thompson’s Bug, or more particularly his Bugatti Thompson was driving!, in his heat (Fairfax)

Bill Thomson and his Bugatti T37A…

https://primotipo.com/2017/06/08/penriths-world-championship-race-1930/

Bibliography…

Sydney Morning Herald 6 May 1930, Sydney Sun 10 & 11 May 1930, Sydney Evening News 10 May 1930, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, kiama.nsw.gov.au

Photo Credits…

Fairfax

Tailpiece: Thompson’s Bug blowing off a Chrysler, Gerringong Beach 1930…

Finito…

(M Bisset)

 

Motorclassica must be the top-gun car display and concours in Australia these days…

Held at Carlton’s Exhibition Buildings, it’s just outside the city grid so has great access, the punters have been out in droves given some magic Melbourne Spring weather.

Its not really my thing, the racing content is not what the event is all about but a freebie ticket from Bob King, one of the concours judges changed my mind and got me in the door early, well before parents and kidlets dominated as the day unfolded.

 

Stan Jones, Maybach 1 ahead of the Gib and Alf Barrett driven, BWA Frazer Nash Spl during the 1953 AGP at Albert Park (Dacre Stubbs Archive is my guess)

 

One of the beauties of the thing is that there is something for everyone- current road exotica, car club displays in the capacious grounds outside, ‘classics’ ranging from ‘art deco’ which was a theme this year, through to American muscle-cars of the sixties and seventies as well as racers.

From a racing perspective ‘we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Australian Grand Prix’- which was great as a swag of cars from the 1928 Phillip Island ‘100 Miles Road Race’, subsequently claimed as the first Australian Grand Prix, and adjacent Phillip Island GP events made a great display.

The faux pas, to say the least, is that most of us with an interest in Australian motor racing history now recognise the first AGP, in name and actuality, if not substance, as the January 1927 event of that very name held at Goulburn in New South Wales.

 

Aston DBR1- if it wasn’t on a tow truck you could see the whole car rather than this peek-a-boo (M Bisset)

 

Flouro in your face US homologation muscle cars a nice contrast to Euro subtlety! (M Bisset)

 

‘Morrie’ vans near the Nicholson Street Exhibitions Buildings entrance. I well remember the ‘Baker Boy’ bread man home delivering his wares with one of these vans in the, ahem, sixties (M Bisset)

 

It seems that some of the Victorian motoring establishment, and it is such conservative folks who own and are the organisers and officials of this event, are intent on ignoring ‘the majority’ including the Confederation of Australian Motorsport who recognise Goulburn and have moved on. Scratch the surface and state based rivalry is never too far away in our Commonwealth of Australia!

I took a million photos with my trusty iPhone, I think the best approach is to pop a few up today to give you the flavour of the gig as well as some favourites rather than carpet-bomb you with 300 happy snaps! Some of the AGP cars present lend themselves to juxtaposition of Bob King’s period race shots and the same cars now, so treat this as Motorclassica 1.

 

Tom Roberts’ Maserati 6CM (M Bisset)

 

If I had to pick one car of the show it’s the Tom Roberts owned ex-Johnny Wakefield Maserati 6CM-1500 Voiturette, chassis ‘1546’, just restored marvellously by David Rapley.

It gets the blend of originality and patination spot on, I love the fact we don’t do ‘chrome and shiny’ restos of cars which never appeared that way in period, in Oz. Tom Roberts has done great justice to a car which has not seen the light of day for decades.

 

(M Bisset)

 

This short history of the car is courtesy of an article I have truncated a bit by G Jackson published in the Victorian Vintage Sports Car Club magazine, received via Bob King.

‘Johnny Wakefield, a wealthy young Englishman and top racing driver of the pre-War period…took delivery of the Maserati in June 1937, he was 22 years old.

One of 27 built, the car featured a six-cylinder supercharged engine, with twin OHC of 1993cc capacity, developing 155bhp.

In his race debut in the car at the 1937 Florence Grand Prix, Wakefield was unplaced, but in his dozens of appearances in European Grands Prix, Donington, Phoenix Park and Crystal Palace he achieved a number of placings.

In April 1938, Wakefield crashed at Cork in Ireland but he and the car escaped serious damage. The Maserati was not driven again as Wakefield bought a new racing mount, ERA R14B.

During the war he flew as a test pilot for Vickers Armstrong while serving for the Fleet Air Arm, but was killed in a plane crash in 1942, a couple of weeks after his 27th birthday…’

 

(M Bisset)

 

‘After the 1938 accident the engine was removed from the car and sent back to Maserati for overhaul, but the war intervened. The car languished at Brooklands until 1940, when, under Wakefield’s instructions, Rex Tilbrook, an Australian and Wakefield’s mechanic, shipped it to Port Adelaide. As importation duties would not be paid by representatives of the Wakefield Estate, the Maserati remained in a crate on the dock for a number of years.

When acquired in 1943 by Bill Brookes of Adelaide the car was complete apart from the engine, gearbox and steering box with some accident damage to the rear of the body and chassis, and still wearing its Cork racing number 34. Brookes rebuilt the chassis and body and in 1947 sold the car to Frank Kleinig still missing the engine, gearbox and steering box’.

 

Beautiful 6CM body hides a 1.5 litre, DOHC, 2 valve six-cylinder supercharged engine and 4 speed Fiat derived gearbox (M Bisset)

 

‘Kleinig had the intention to instal the supercharged 8 cylinder Miller engine that he had removed from the Kleinig Special to fit the first Hudson motor, but the car lay untouched until the Maserati body was transferred to the Kleinig Hudson in 1954.

Alf Blight of Adelaide bought the Maserati from Kleinig as he already owned another Maserati 6CM, chassis #’1542′, but #’1546’ was later purchased by Tom Roberts who had bought the Kleinig Hudson from Kleinig’s Estate in 1992.

‘Roberts has been able to source the original engine from Edinburgh, and a gearbox from Japan. Now with the original body fitted and the car meticulously restored by David Rapley, the magnificent Maserati is about to speak for the first time in 80 years since the Cork mishap…on display at Motorclassica’.

 

(D Rapley)

 

Since first writing this article the cars restorer David Rapley sent these two engine photographs of the 6CM, his comment ‘In the absence of the correct carburettor a two inch SU set down, twin bowl set up for alcohol was used. We received no help from anyone world-wide and had to work from pictures in books’- the result truly stunning.

 

(D Rapley)

 

One of the great things about the day was meeting up with so many online buddies- Facebook, The Nostalgia Forum and primotipo has been great that way, that internet thingy is such a connector of kindred spirits. Bob King, Pat and Conor Ryan, Nigel Tait and his wife, Nathan Tasca, Tony Lupton, Phil Zmood and James Lambert were all folks i caught up with, only Stephen Dalton and Mike Gasking were there but we missed the connects.

 

Alan Jones looking pretty fit, and ‘muttering rotter’ Mark Fogarty (M Bisset)

 

Whilst wandering with James and his impressive armoury of cameras and lenses we watched Alan Jones being interviewed by Mark Fogarty, a local racing journo, the interview had substance rather than being at the ‘whaddit that Eff-Wun car do Jonesy? dull-shit boring end of the spectrum.

The boy from Balwyn’s toughest opponents were Nelson Piquet and Gilles Villeneuve ‘who was mad and never going to die in bed’ with Jones talking at length about that horrible last day for the acrobatic Canadian at Zolder.

His two Ferrari misfires were amusingly told- the first offer to join the famous Scuderia the occasion when Gilles got the drive Alan thought was his when Andretti re-signed for Lotus- that one turned out rather well for Alan as he fell into the nascent Williams team of Frank and Patrick Head. The second was when AJ messed them around when they wanted the retired Aussie to replace the injured Pironi, a drive which went Mario’s way- he popped the Ferrari on pole at Monza in the first of those rides, much to Jones’ chagrin!

 

Paul Faulkner’s ex-Jones Williams FW07- directly in front the ex-Clark/Geoghegan Lotus 39 Climax and alongside the Lotus a Brabham Climax Tasman car forgotten which (M Bisset)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the top- ex-Piquet 1981 AGP Ralt RT4 Ford F Pacific, ex-Jones 1980 Williams FW07B Ford, ex-Bowe/Hunt Elfin MR8C Chev F5000 and ex-Allen/Bartlett McLaren M10B Chev F5000 (M Bisset)

He candidly admitted he retired from F1, the first time, too early at the end of 1981 ‘the first Victorian winter at Glenburn 80 Km from Melbourne (where AJ bought the pub and a farm) convinced me to move to the Gold Coast’.

A question about current F1 elicited a long response about the aero rules in particular, and their impact on the lack of overtaking, he didn’t talk about the mechanical package but said the need to bring back passing, spectacle and glamour was paramount. The grid girls got a 3 minute burst- to bring them back, his final riposte, politically incorrect as ever, ‘but why bother, they will all be wearing burkhas in a couple of years anyway’!

 

The Trumpster would approve, no fake news or Ruskies here (M Bisset)

 

Wowee. Alfa Romeo 6C2300 Mille Miglia (M Bisset)

 

An absolute jaw-dropper is the Alfa 6C2300 Mille Miglia Spyder, it first broke cover for me at an Alfa Club Concours a few years ago, the local restoration completed about 5 years ago.

Amazing to see young kids totally unfamiliar with Alfa Romeo, Vittorio Jano and Zagato’s work drawn to it like bees to a honey-pot- it’s sensuous lines are just oh-so-visually arresting whatever your age or automotive knowledge base.

 

(M Bisset)

 

Singers have been on my mind for the last month or so, it was great to meet young Bendigo enthusiast Nathan Tasca who has helped with some recent articles.

He is in the process- with his father from whom he inherited his Singer passion, in restoration of a car which is now objectively assessed as being the Singer 9 Sports which Bob Lea-Wright won the 1934 AGP at Phillip Island. Lea-Wright’s family, and Bob King and his archive have assisted in both the identification process and details of the cars specification event to event.

 

Nathan Tasca’s 1934 AGP winning Singer 9 Sports is coming along nicely with a flurry of activity to get it to the show- engine and ‘box fitted (M Bisset)

 

John Lawson’s Delahaye D6/70S is a local ‘Figoni and Falaschi’ build on an imported chassis, but hey, what a car. Interested to learn more about it.

 

(M Bisset)

 

Of the racing stuff you can never see enough of the ex-Clark 1966 Tasman car- Lotus 39 Climax.

This machine’s entire racing history has been in Australasia, it’s reassuring it’s still here, James tells me Chas Kelly has given the car another ‘birthday’ in recent times inclusive of a new crank.

 

Chas Kelly Lotus 39 Climax- who can criticise John Dawson-Damer restoring it so well to its original plus one spec- that is not in Climax Flat 16 stillborn form but as raced by Clark in the 1966 Tasman 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF engined- Me?, i lusted after it in 1967/8 Repco ‘740’ engined spec as raced by Leo Geoghegan (M Bisset)

 

Earlier but more importantly in the Lotus pantheon, as Col’s first Grand Prix Lotus (whilst duly noting its primary purpose as an F2 machine), is Mike Bennett’s Lotus 12 Climax.

With seat removed is was great to get a squizz at the cars ‘Queerbox’ and driveline. Too perfect to race, it is used in demonstration type events occasionally, an impressive run in Adelaide’s Victoria Park event springs to mind a few years ago.

 

Lotus 12 Climax FPF 2 litre (M Bisset)

 

Secrets revealed- Lotus 12 ‘Queerbox’, delicate spaceframe and Chapman Strut rear suspension. Chassis ‘353’ ex-Hill (M Bisset)

 

By Harley Earl or one of his acolytes- the subtlety of the thing is what blows one away…and the size (M Bisset)

 

From a Repco Brabham perspective, two Art Valdez cars have come to Australia- Aaron Lewis has acquired Brabham BT23E Repco, Jack’s 1968 Tasman mount and Nigel Tait Brabham BT17, a sportscar ‘it’s fitted with a ‘740’ and I think has a 5 litre crank but we shall see when I pull it down’ said Nigel with a very big smile upon his face!

 

Nigel Tait’s just outta the container last week ex-Brabham BT17 Repco ‘740’ (M Bisset)

 

Aaron Lewis’ ex-Brabham/Harvey 1968 Tasman Brabham BT23E Repco (M Bisset)

 

There is and was, much, much more, but let’s save that for bite-size slices for other times…

 

Bob King and his latest in a long line of Bugatti restorations- the Ettore designed Peugeot ‘Bebe’. We must get him to write about this car (M Bisset)

 

Lotsa Lambos, Ferraris, Porkers and McLarens (M Bisset)

 

Tailpiece: Perky little minx- Lotus 12 Climax…

 

(M Bisset)

Three sixties single-seater cars seductively in the distance are Adam Berryman’s ex-McLaren/Mayer/Hill Cooper T70, a Brabham BT7A and the Clark Lotus 39.

Finito…

(B Young)

Stan Jones, Maser 250F and Bib Stillwell Cooper T43 Climax joust into Mountford Corner during the 1958 ‘Longford Trophy’ Gold Star round, 3 March…

It was the first time the great Tasmanian circuit hosted a round of the national drivers championship, the locals turned out in droves, including enthusiast/photographer Bob Young who took these remarkable, crisp oh-so-clear, evocative photographs.

Colour photos of this quality are so rare of Australian racing then. Each one in some ways deserves to be posted on its own but in the end I decided it was better to do a short article around them as a group. They are not the only shots he took on the day mind you- others have already been posted on the Historic Racing Car Club of Tassie Facebook page and filched by me! See the links at the articles end to view some of them.

I wonder whether Stan is having a shot down the outside of Bib or is Bib plunging down the tiny- but just big enough gap Jones left for his fellow Melbourne motor dealer buddy/competitor. Whatever the case, i suspect Stan The Man- and he was very much one of them at the time, gathered Bib up on the long run out of the tight right-hander, gently rising and then steeper towards the Water Tower- 2.5 litres of Maser six having a bit more grunt than a 1.7 litre Climax FWA four.

 

Otto Stone steering, Stan and John Sawyer, 250F, Longford 1958. Racer/engineer Stone’s counsel and car preparation were key factors, with perhaps Jones growing maturity as a driver, in Stan’s well deserved success. Pirelli Stelvio tyres BTW- photo is that sharp! It’s early in the weekend, the team have not applied the real race number decals to the car yet (B Young)

 

Bib sold his ex-Hunt 250F to Arnold Glass and jumped into the first of many water-cooled Coopers with the T43 (F2/9/57 according to John Blanden) whereas Stan, who changed racing cars more often than he did his Jocks- and had a long history of Cooper air-cooled and T23 experience, hung onto the 250F (chassis ‘2520’) and profited from the decision rather than jump into a Cooper just then. He did of course buy T51’s in time, with which he was very fast.

Stan won the 1958 Gold Star with two victories at Fishermans Bend and Phillip Island- book-ending his season with wins and returned to Longford twelve months hence and finally won the AGP he so richly deserved aboard the 250F from Len Lukey.

By that stage Lukey had switched from the Cooper T23 Bristol shown below to an ex-Brabham Cooper T45 Climax Jack raced in Australasia in late 1958 and over the summer races of 1959 before heading back to the UK and a World Championship aboard factory Cooper T51’s.

 

Len jumped from Ford Customline Touring Cars into this Cooper Bristol and an evolved Lukey Bristol in a relatively too brief racing career, his ‘Lukey Mufflers’ business funded his racing efforts- he was a friend to motor racing via Phillip Island and other means for the rest of his life. Another mighty shot, Len has just started his turn-in to Mountford, car looks just superb, as indeed it was-well prepared and driven (B Young)

 

Lukey’s Cooper Bristol was the ex-Tom Cole-Reg Hunt-Kevin Neal machine, chassis ‘CBR/2/9/53’ with which he did so well in 1957-8, but the reality was the car wasn’t an outright winner, hence the upgrade to the then, very much latest available, Cooper T45. With this he pursued Gold Star 1959 success in a year of speed, consistency, good preparation and perseverance- at twelve rounds it was the longest ever Gold Star championship.

Late in its ‘in period’ Australian life the front engined T23 was fitted, as all of the Australian Cooper Bristols were, with a Holden ‘grey’-six or Chev small-block V8, in the case of this car a Holden engine. The racer eventually passed to the Donington Collection in the early seventies and later still back into private hands.

 

The Man in Red- Lukey nattily dressed with his wife holding a serious camera. Long chromed exhaust said to be unique to this ex-Cole-Gibson-Hunt-Neal-Lukey et al car (B Young)

 

There is little doubt a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF powered Cooper would have very comfortably won the 1959 AGP and Gold Star but them things were like hens teeth- 2.5 FPF’s were issued only to works and favoured teams in Grand Prix racing until the Climax lads could keep pace with global demand which in practical terms meant during 1960.

Ted Gray won the Longford Trophy on this clear but chilly Tasmanian weekend, to have heard the big, booming fuel-injected Chev V8 engined Tornado blasting its way around Longford would have been really something!  This car does sound just like an F5000, imagine that in 1958!

It’s showtime. Raceday. Just love this shot, atmosphere plus.

Len Lukey’s and Lou Abrahams’ boys push their steeds to the form-up area. That beautiful, clever beastie to the left is Tornado 2 Chev 283, the yellow Cooper in the background is Aussie Millers T41. Note the Repco service van- its chilly too, 3 March is still summer’ish but most of the chaps are well rugged up against Tasmanian cool.

 

(HRCCT)

 

Business end of the Tornado 2 Chev in the Longford paddock. GM Corvette ‘small block’ 283 CID V8 with lots of goodies from the US including Vertex magneto and home grown fuel injection using some Hilborn Travers components, circa 380bhp (B Young)

 

As you would have surmised from the foregoing descriptions of the cars, Australian National F1 at the time (until the end of 1963) was run to Formula Libre, hence the presence of Doug Whiteford’s ex-works Maserati 300S below.

I have bemoaned the fact that Doug bought a sportscar from the Officine Maserati team at the end of the 1956 AGP weekend at Albert Park, rather than one of the three 250F’s they had with them.

Whilst Douggie was no spring-chookin’ by then- he started racing pre-War and won his first AGP aboard his Ford V8 Spl ‘Black Bess’ back in 1950, he still would have given his contemporaries a serious run for their money in his always beautifully prepared and driven cars.

Doug sold this car in the early-sixties to Bill Leech, the racer and pillar of the Victorian Light Car Club who used the car both on the road- it was a familiar sight on Beach Road jaunts from Brighton, and at historic meetings in the early years of such racing in Australia. It was a sad day when this ‘mobile Monet’ left our shores.

 

Ooh-la-la. Sex on wheels and what a backdrop- the vivid red Maser 300S ‘3055’ contrasted against the dark shadows and green Mountford Pine- it’s still there by the way (B Young)

 

It was another batch of Bob Young’s photos which inspired an article I wrote a little while back on Norman Hamilton’s Porsche 550 Spyder, which on this weekend was driven by Melbourne Hillclimb ace Bruce Walton in the sportscar events.

 

(B Young)

The photo below is of the A Edison entered 1250cc MG TF Spl- I know nothing about the car or driver, who can fill us in?

 

(B Young)

 

Article Links…

Longford Trophy and Tornados; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

Porsche 550 Speedster; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/28/hamiltons-porsche-550-spyder/

Longford in detail; https://primotipo.com/2018/07/05/longford-lap/

Stan Jones; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

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

Credits…

Bob Young on Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania Facebook page, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden

 

(B Young)

 

Tailpiece: The ‘Tasmanian Tyre Service’ Handicap…

It’s a bit of a puzzling photo really- the handicap grid sort of makes sense but Doug Whiteford belongs up the back with Stan as ‘scratch- men’ rather than at front left. John Youl’s red Porsche 356 stands out, other drivers and cars folks?

By the way, they are in the original starting line area, on The Flying Mile, just a way back from Mountford Corner, clearly Bob Young stuck to this part of the track and the paddock- to the right of the racing cars.

 

Cropped version of the above photo, the focus Stanley, ‘2520’ and the lads (B Young)

John Sawyer is leaning on the tail, Otto Stone is on the right approaching, Stan readies himself in the cockpit, I wonder who the fella in the neato Maserati overalls is, and in the MG TF up the road to the right is Charles Button, still active in the Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania today Grant Twining tells me.

Finito…