Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

(M Williams)

Jack Brabham in his 1966 F1 Championship winning Brabham BT19 Repco during the Sandown Tasman weekend, 27 February 1966…

The pretty little poppet with the camera is far more attractive than the RBE crew from the factory in Richmond/Maidstone. I guess she has been dispatched from Repco HQ in St Kilda Road to catch all the action. Which rather begs the question, what became of the footage missy captured?

The car is powered by a new Repco Brabham Engines ‘620 Series’ 2.5 litre V8- the motor in 3 litre capacity made its race debut in South Africa on 1 January. BT19 was a very busy car in 1966 and well into 1967.

I’ve done this story to death of course, here on the engine; https://primotipo.com/2014/08/07/rb620-v8-building-the-1966-world-championship-winning-engine-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-2/

and here on Jack’s 1966 season; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/13/winning-the-1966-world-f1-championships-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-3/

but these two photos were too good not to share.

Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill created a BRM sandwich for Jim Clark that ‘Sandown Park Cup’ weekend- second in his Lotus 39 Coventry Climax FPF, the BRM lads were aboard 1.9 litre P60 V8 engined P261’s. Jack was out on lap 6 with a failed oil pump causing substantial engine destruction.

That is RBE620 ‘E2’ 2.5 in its engine bay. Over the next 12 months or so it would have no shortage of Repco RB620, 640 and 740 V8’s popped into and out of it (M Williams)

As is well known, the one and only Brabham BT19 ‘F1-1-65’ was built by Ron Tauranac in 1965 to suit the dimensions of the stillborn Coventry Climax FWMW 16 cylinder engine and lay unused until pressed into service as the first car into which the Repco RB620 V8, designed by Phil Irving, was installed.

Utterly conventional in design, Jack put the light, chuckable car to rather good use throughout 1966- see Werner Buhrer’s outline and drawing of the car below.

Etcetera…

I’d actually finished this piece and then cruised through my archive and noticed how many other photographs I had of this particular weekend.

Some are only of ‘proof quality’ recently posted by Repco-Brabham engineer/racer/historian Nigel Tait, but they are still valuable to share to document RBE history.

So here they are, in sort of chronological order…

(N Tait)

Mike Gasking giving an RBE620 2.5 a whirl in the Richmond test cells in late 1965- is it the engine in Jack’s car at Sandown?- more than likely it is ‘E2’ with those long inlet trumpets, yes.

Gasking was in on the ground floor- he was apprenticed at Repco and was involved in building and testing Jack’s Coventry Climax FPF engines and then throughout the Repco Brabham Engines period to its end.

Dyno is a Heenan & Froude GB4 which remained in Richmond for a while before being transported to RBE’s new digs at 87 Mitchell Street, Maidstone- this move took place in the early weeks of January 1966.

(N Tait)

Off she rolls from the truck, ‘Peters Corner’ and the start of the run up the back straight in the background.

BT19 has been a busy already. Fitted with a 3 litre RBE620 V8 the car was shipped to South Africa from the UK fitted with engine # ‘E3’ for the non-championship GP at Kyalami on 1 January.

Phil Irving describes the 3 litre engine as ‘…built up from scratch, with the cylinder heads as drawn for the original 2 1/2 litre, except that the inlet ports were enlarged and re-shaped to improve gas-flow and throttle-slides as developed for the 2 1/2 litre engine, were used. After assembly and short running-in, full power tests returned an output of 310 bhp (in his book Malcolm Preston quotes 280 bhp @ 7500 rpm with 310 bhp achieved several months later)…there was just time for an afternoon shake-down run (Goodwood) before the car was loaded onto the boat (to South Africa)…’

That SA GP was won by the works Lotus 33 Climax 2 litre FWMV of Mike Spence, Brabham retired when the fuel-injection pump seized having set pole and led for all but the last nine of the sixty laps.

BT19 was then air freighted to Melbourne’s Essendon Airport and trucked to Richmond where the 3 litre ‘E3’ was removed and the 2.5 litre ‘E2’  installed for the Sandown.

Many of you will recall Roy Billington, front and centre below, as a Brabham Racing Organisation mechanic for many years. All of Nigel Tait’s Christmases have come at once- he had just commenced at Repco as a graduate Cadet Engineer, his first assignment looking after Brabham’s new car- it does not get better than that at 22! Phil, leaning on the Lukey exhausts with ever-present fag in his mouth!

(N Tait)

Nigel Tait, Roy Billington and Phil Irving are fussing over ‘RBE620’ 2.5 ‘E2’ In the Sandown paddock on the Thursday or Friday prior to the meeting.

Plenty of pressure, it was the home teams first home race resulting in a massive crowd turnout of 55,000 people on raceday to see Brabham and his ‘all-Australian’ racing car make its local debut.

Irving quotes over 250 bhp was given by the 620 2.5 litre- not much greater than the FPF but the V8 had good mid-range torque and could be revved past it’s power-peak without self-destruction, unlike the short-stroke FPF’s which tended to be rather brittle if over-revved by even a smidge.

(N Tait)

Frank Hallam now joins in the fun between the exhausts- left to right Hallam, Billington, Tait, the very obscured Irving and Black Jack. On the pit counter beyond is lanky Norman Wilson, Peter Holinger, a nun identified fellow and Bob Brown, a Repco Ltd Director.

The sergent.com race report has it that the car was troublesome during practice, with 30 bhp being found overnight to put Jack right in amongst the front-running BRM’s of Stewart and Hill. Nigel recalls Phil getting cross with him on the race weekend , ‘We were working on the throttle slides on the BT19 the night before the Sandown meeting and it turned out to be a very long and late night. I went out to the all-night hamburger place and bought one for Phil but he spat it out. How was i to know he didnt like onions?- a great bloke and very clever’.

(I Nicholls)

Look at that crowd! Kidlets, Billington- who is the guy in the cap who always looked after Jack whilst he was in Oz and is in ‘all’ the shots?, Nigel Tait at right having cast aside his grotty lab-coat.

At Sandown Jack set a new lap record in his heat, the Exide Cup- the results of two heats determined grid positions.

The Tasman race engine seizure occurred in ‘…that the start of the race was delayed and everyone started with cold engines. The Repco V8’s oil-pump relief valve failed on the first lap (actually the sixth lap according to the various race reports) of the race the oil pressure went up to 160psi, the pump gears stripped and the engine locked up at about 7000 rpm’ according to Phil Irving.

Tait recalls ‘That night…I had the task of removing the pump and dismantling it. Frank Hallam and his wife Norma were there as was Phil’.

The oil pump gears were from a Fordson Major tractor out of an FM diesel model- they were amongst some components from proprietary vehicles used in RB620- which from that day were not sintered but machined from steel.

Rodway Wolfe noted that ‘I remember on the Monday after that Sandown race…when I arrived at the Maidstone factory at 8 am the drawing of the oil pump gear with new specifications was on Kevin Davies, the Admin Manager’s desk. Phil had made the modifications overnight. He (famously) didn’t keep the same hours as other management but he didn’t knock off at 5.30 pm like other management either!…’

‘Frank Hallam arranged for new steel gears to be made while Roy Billington helped me to remove and dismantle the engine. We found two crankpins were badly overheated and the crank was bent, so the crank and the main bearings were replaced, but fortunately the pistons, rings and cylinder liners were undamaged.

Although changing the crankshaft entailed almost completely dismantling the engine, the timing case and oil pump could be handled as units and we had the engine re-assembled with new pump gears and brake-tested by Tuesday afternoon. We stuck it in the car that night and it went off to Tasmania on the Wednesday (to Longford)…’ Phil wrote.

(T Brandt)

Jim Clark and Jack saunter through the Sandown paddock. Not the greatest of weekends for either!

In Jim’s case the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine in his Lotus 39- which had been the motor of choice in the Tasman series since its inception in 1964 was now being found wanting by the V8’s of BRM and Repco.

Clark returned the following year with Lotus having taken a leaf out of BRM’s book- their 1967 weapon was a 1.5 litre F1 Lotus 33 fitted with a 2 litre Coventry Climax FWMV V8, with which Jim took the 1967 title convincingly from BRM and Repco Brabham.

(T Brandt)

And again above…meanwhile below the boys are about to pop the car into the truck for the drive back to Richmond and overnight checks before the start of official practice.

‘The start’ of a rather fruitful partnership wouldn’t you say…

Credits…

Max Williams & Nigel Tait Collections, Tony Brandt, Ian Nicholls, sergent.com, ‘Phil Irving: An Autobiography’

(N Tait)

Finito…

‘Joisus Harry and the boys look after me pretty well’ is perhaps the thought going through Peter Brock’s mind…

Harry and the Boys are the Holden Dealer Team- Harry Firth, Ian Tate, Bruce Nowacki and others who built and prepared the various Holdens that Australian Touring Car Greats, Peter Brock and Colin Bond raced.

The Birrana 272 Ford ANF2 car Peter is looking after at Hume Weir in 1973 was a Father and Son operation between Geoff and Peter Brock.

This wasn’t new to the touring car ace mind you- the Austin A30 Holden Sports Sedan which thrust the lad from Diamond Creek to fame was run in just that manner but by 1973 he had been a works driver for four years with all of the cossetting- and expectations which goes with it.

Brock has that ‘where the hell is Tatey’ look about him!? Mind you, he may have just spotted a pretty young filly at the burger stand and doing that instantaneous, nano-second process of visual assesssment we all do.

This is another of my whacky-dacky articles in that it started as a mid-week quickie but grew like topsy into a feature as I chased a few tangents- so its not as cohesive as some of my efforts. Its a bit of this and a bit of that, without being a whole lot of any one thing! Bare with me all the same.

Chunky lines of the new Birrana 272 in the Victorian Trophy Sandown paddock. Single top link and radius rod and bottom lower wishbone, coil spring/damper front suspension. Note the ‘stay’ between the front and rear front suspension mounts on the tub (Kym)

I’ve written about this important car- ‘272-002’ and Brocky’s time with it before.

The car is significant in the pantheon of Birranas in that that it was the first monocoque chassis Tony Alcock and Malcolm Ramsay built, as well as the first of a very successful run of Formula 2 and Formula 3 cars constructed by Birrana between 1972 and 1974- noting that production spluttered along into 1978 with a couple of additional cars built in the interim.

In 1972-3 ‘272-002’ was raced by Ramsay, 1971 AF2 Champ Henk Woelders once, Leo Geoghegan and Brock before passing into Bernie Zampatti’s hands in Perth- he still has it, so rather a nice jigger to own in every respect.

Some of the additional photographs of the car were taken in the Sandown paddock during the weekend Malcolm Ramsay contested the ‘Victorian Trophy’ Gold Star round in April, i’m wondering if this was the car’s race debut? Frank Matich won the race in his Matich A50 Repco, with Ramsay seventh- FM took the Gold Star that year, his only Australian Drivers Championship in a couple of decades at the pointy end of Australian motor racing in both sports cars and single-seaters.

For most of the year Malcolm raced the car in South Australia and Victoria- in addition to the Gold Star round at Sandown there was a ‘Repco (fiftieth) Birthday Series’ of five rounds at Calder contested by F3, F2 and F5000 cars- won by Kevin Bartlett’s Lola T300 Chev

Tony Alcock built the first Birrana- the Formula Ford F71-1 initially raced by John Goss and then David Mingay in the garage behind his house in the Sydney suburbs. By the time the later F72 FF’s were constructed he was in partnership with Malcolm Ramsay back in his native Adelaide.

Ramsay had previously raced Elfins and Alcock worked for Garrie Cooper both before and after a sojurn to Europe working for McLaren, Cooper, Cosworth and others- both were mates of Garrie, so in a way it must have felt strange competing with the much respected outfit from Conmurra Road Edwardstown.

Ramsey- is that him sitting on the tub? and 272 at cold, windy Calder during 1972- possibly the August meeting (oldracephotos.com.au/Hammond)

Mind you, the story is that Malcolm approached Garrie to build him a car with some design features he wanted, the ever accommodating Cooper was fully committed with the build of the 620 and MR5 series of cars at the time so really didn’t have the capacity to do a ‘one off’. So Mal decided to do it himself and approached Tony who was at a loose end at the time.

Ramsey, Victorian Trophy meeting, Sandown. Note the injected Lotus-Ford twin cam and its metering unit and breathers on the roll bar. Box FT200, shocks I think Armstrong- half moon steering wheel a distinctive Birrana feature- Frank Matich the other proponent of those in Oz (Kym)

The 272 was an utterly conventional racing car of the period but what was different from the Elfin 600- which had pretty much ruled the small-bore racing car roost in Australia since its 1968 Singapore GP win with Cooper at the wheel, was that the Birrana had a monocoque chassis whereas the 600- a winner in FF, F3, F2 and ANF1 guises was a spaceframe.

The 272 was beautifully built and quick out of the box- its performance when driven by Malcolm and ‘Dame Nellie Melba’ Geoghegan when Leo- the 1970 Gold Star Champion returned from short-lived single-seater retirement to drive the car later in 1972- and Birrana Australian Formula 2 Championship wins in 1973 (273) and 1974 (274). For the record, Birrana national F2 titles were also taken by Geoff Brabham (274) in 1975 and Graeme Crawford (273) in 1976.

Leo first raced the 272 in the Hordern Trophy Gold Star round at Warwick Farm in November only completing 3 laps before having gear lever problems. He raced the car again in the final Repco Birthday Series round at Calder in December and was convinced of the Birrana’s potential so signed to drive one of two works ‘273’ cars- the other raced by Ramsay in 1973.

The 273 took Alcock’s concepts further, the 274 further again with sales and wins aplenty- the full history of Birrana is for another time.

Brock squirts his 272 around Calder in early 1973 (G Moulds)

At the end of the 1972 season Birrana sold the car to Brock- who made it available for Malcolm Ramsay to race in the opening round of the 1973 championship at Hume Weir whilst Peter attended to Holden Dealer Team commitments.

Malcolm handed the car to Leo who had broken valve spring problems with his 273 Hart motor throughout the weekend including raceday. Geoghegan took a great and somewhat lucky win from the rear of the grid when Tony Stewart’s leading 273 had overheating dramas and had to reduce his pace- the plucky, quick Victorian was second and Chas Talbot, Elfin 600E Ford third.

Tony Stewart’s 273 from Geoghegan in the 272 with an the Skelton Bowin P6 on the outside- and Clive Millis’ abandoned 600B on the inside of the corner. A shame Stewart ceased racing this car after so few meetings- very fast driver, with support from Paul England should have, and could have gone far (ACY)

 

Geoghegan on Hume Weir’s Pit Straight, Birrana 272 1973- race run in tricky conditions including some rain, tailor made for the experienced Leo (ACY)

Brock raced the 272 for several more meetings before he too acquired a 273. Brock’s too short single-seater/Birrana sojurn is told here; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/07/brocks-birrana/ , with some Birrana history here; https://primotipo.com/2016/04/29/birrana-cars-and-the-1973-singapore-gp/

The 272 had a locally built 1.6 litre Lotus-Ford injected twin-cam engine- the Hart 416B variant de-rigeur in Australia from 1973 when all of the top-guns used these motors excluding Peter Brock.

Hewlands ubiquitous 5 speed FT200 gearbox was specified with lower wishbone bottom, top link and radius rod suspension at the front and single upper link, two lower links and twin radius rods deployed at the rear. Roll bars were used of course with cast Birrana uprights, wheels and steering rack finishing off a very nice package.

Wide, shallow, very rigid monocoque chassis, Varley battery beside the gearbox, locally built twin-cam by Peter Nightingale fitted with Globe injection (Kym)

Tailpiece: ‘Formula Birrana’ Adelaide International 7 October 1973…

(ACY)

Geoghegan and Ramsay in works 273’s sandwich the #18 Bob and Marj Brown owned 273 driven by Enno Buesselmann at Adelaide International in 1973, this race was won by Enno after Leo suffered a puncture.

Evolution of the 272 to 273 clear in this shot inclusive of period-typical ‘Tyrrell type’ enveloping nose.

Marque experts rate the 273 the pick of the Birranas with the 274 said to be not really a quicker car- as proved by the pace of Buesselmann’s car when driven by Bob Muir for the Browns in 1974 fitted with 274 nose and rear wing.

Geoghegan crushed the opposition in 1973- demonstrating amazing reliability, he finished all seven of the championships rounds, winning six of them- one in the 272, the balance in his 273. In a busy season, Geoghegan and Ramsay also raced the cars in Asia- this tour is covered in one of the articles linked above.

Bob Skelton, Bowin P6 Ford-Hart from Peter Brock, Birrana 273 Ford, Oran Park 1973 (ACY)

Afterthoughts…

Bob Skelton and the Bowin P6.

An interesting thing looking back at this F2 season is the performance of 1972 ‘Formula Ford Driver to Europe’ (DTE) winner Bob Skelton and his spaceframe chassis Birrana P6 Ford-Hart.

He was, despite being a far less experienced open-wheeler pilot than Leo who had been racing Tasman 2.5’s since 1966, and was racing wings and slicks for the first time- right up Geoghegan’s clacker on raw pace if not finishing record that season in a brand new, unsorted car. Two second placings from four of the seven rounds he finished was his best.

Let’s look a bit closer in terms of raw speed- at Hume Weir both Leo and Bob didn’t record a time- Tony Stewart started from pole on 45.4 seconds with no race times disclosed.

At Oran Park Geoghegan was on pole 42.3 secs, with BS right behind him on 42.5, Brock 44.2.

At Amaroo LG pole 48.7, BS again in second slot with 48.9, PB on 51.9- the last round of the series Brock contested.

At Surfers the cars raced within the Gold Star Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy F5000 race- Skelton bagged the F2 ‘pole’ with 1:9.5 from Leo on 1:10.4 with BS a tenth quicker in the race- the first occasion that happened that season.

Kneeling John Joyce fettles Skelton’s P6 at the Hume Weir opening round (ACY)

 

Symmons Plains grid with Geoghegan and Skelton on the front row. Chris Farrell, Dolphin 732 Ford (Brabham BT36 copy) and Enno Buesselmann Birrana 273 on row 2 with the distinctive #62 black Bowin P6 Hart of Bruce Allison on the right- to the left is Ian Fergusson’s Bowin P3 Ford. The #3 white 273 is Don Eubergang in the ex-Tony Stewart ‘273-007’- then an assortment of Elfin 600’s and a couple of Cheetah Toyota F3’s towards the rear- a very young John Bowe is in one the 600’s (ACY)

From Queensland the circus moved down South to Symmons Plains in Tasmania where Leo put the championship beyond doubt- both did 55.7 secs in practice. Skelton didn’t contest the final rounds in Adelaide or at Calder.

The conclusions to be drawn from the above are firstly that Skelton was a very quick driver- no shit Sherlock- he had won the DTE in 1972 apart from demonstrable pace in the sports and touring cars from whence he came. On raw pace the Bowin P6 was the equal of the Birrana 273 despite being brand new and untested prior to the seasons outset- and in the hands of a ‘wings and slicks’ novice.

It is a great shame Skelton’s single-seater career ended at this point, he deserved another crack at F2 or elevation to the F5000 Big League.

Bob got the babes, or TAA ‘hosties’ air- hostesses as they were before the days of political correctness! Bob Skelton taking a Ford Falcon XA GT Amaroo Park lap of honour after wrapping up the 1972 DTE. Slumming it on Fairlanes are second placed John Leffler and third place-man Bob Beasley- all raced Bowin P4A’s (unattributed)

In fact Skello’s ‘P6-119-72’ was the very first P6 built by John Joyce, completed, according to Bowin records, on 8 September 1972.

After winning the DTE in his trusty P4 Bowin Skelton raced the P6 once or twice in Oz to Formula Ford specifications- the P6 was an FF/F3/F2/Formula Atlantic spec car, four of the latter were exported to Canada in 1973/5, before shipping it to the UK and contesting the Snetterton Formula Ford Festival or ‘World Championship’.

He raced in the UK together with fellow Australians Larry Perkins (1971 DTE winner), John Leffler (1973 DTE winner) Buzz Buzaglo and Peter Finlay- the latter duo were at the time living in the UK and were ‘jets’ in British/Euro Formula Ford. How the Aussies fared is covered in this feature on Buzz I did yonks ago;

https://primotipo.com/2014/07/08/buzz-buzaglo-australian-international-racing-driver-and-the-eternal-racing-story-of-talent-luck/

Bob Skelton and ‘P6-119-72′ in the Snetterton paddock in late 1973, variable rate rear suspension linkages clear, alongside is Larry Perkins’ equally new Elfin 620. Both cars successful Formula Fords models for their respective makers (unattributed)

After shipment of the P6 back to Sydney the Bowin lads removed all the Formula Ford clobber- ‘Kent’ 1600 motor, Mk9 Hewland, brakes, wheels etc and added Hart 416B, FT200, wheels and calipers and wings and the rest and had the car ready- just, for the first 1973 F2 round at Hume Weir.

Hey presto, now I’m an F2! ‘P6-119-72’ in F2 guise with a nice shot of Skletons trick, schmick alloy, short-stroke Hart 416B twin-cam, circuit unknown (MRA)

These days the beautiful, radical P6/P8 Bowins with their progressive or ‘variable rate’ suspension are somewhat maligned on social media- it really is time I attack Bowin as a subject and address the facts armed with statistics in relation to the P6/P8- favourite racing cars of mine!

The colour photo above is Skelton’s P6 in front of Brock’s 273 at Oran Park during the ANF2 Championship round on 5 August- Geoghegan won from Brock and Skelton. Peter’s second place was the best of his two 1973 championship appearances, the final one was at Amaroo Park, also in outer Sydney, a fortnight later where he was sixth.

After that Brock ceased racing the 273- as quickly as he started it- the lure of touring cars was too great, Holden weren’t happy for Brock to race a Ford engined car and no doubt the self-running nature of the program was no fun- and by then not what was required to win in F2.

Mark Fogarty quoted Brock as saying ‘Brock was disillusioned by the formula…in 1972 F2 meant a simple chassis and twin-cam engine, but in 1973 monocoque chassis and supertrick Hart motors were the rule if you wanted to be competitive’. ‘Brock, in between HDT commitments, struggled on…until it became apparent that he was banging his head against the wall without a Hart…’

PB was second in the ’73 Oran Park round, here in his new Birrana 273- unsponsored. Odd the lack of support for the 1972 Bathurst winner (ACY)

Peter Brock and single-seaters.

The opening photograph in this article aroused plenty of Facebook chatter about Brock’s prowess as an open-wheeler driver- the fact is of course we can never be definitive about Peter’s capabilities because he simply didn’t stick at it for long enough to make a determination.

He had good equipment in both the 272 and 273 chassis but the cars were not, as noted above, fitted with the Ford-Hart 416B engine. Good for about 205 bhp, these motors were 15-20 bhp, depending upon accounts, more powerful than the best of the local twin-cams.

Most of the quicks in 1973 had them including Geoghegan, Ramsay, Buesselmann, Stewart, Skelton and Bruce Allison (Bowin P6- a sixth and a fourth Bruce’s best in a car he loathed- the 274 he raced in 1974 was much more to his taste and his results reflected it!) Winter (Mildren Yellow Submarine).

What we do know is that Brock was quick in anything and everything- in machines as diverse as the Austin A30 Holden, Touring Cars of god knows how many number from Holden Monaro GTS350 to V8 Supercars, rally and rallycross cars, Bob Jane’s 600 bhp plus Chevy Monza Sports Sedan to the Group C Porsche 956 Prototype he shared with Larry Perkins at Silverstone and Le Mans in 1984. In all of these cars and disciplines Brock was a winner or at least very competitive.

By all accounts- and so many of us watched him for four decades, so we all have a view- Brock was a versatile, adaptable, mechanically sympathetic, consistently fast and aggressive but thoughtful, analytical racer of elite international level and standing.

That does not mean he would have been an ace in single-seaters, but on balance, my ‘I reckon’ is that he would have been at least the equal of the best Oz resident open-wheeler guys had he focused in part or exclusively in the rarefied end of the sport…

Let the debate begin!

Brock, in Birrana overalls bending Ian Tate’s ear (i think) at Calder in 1973 (unattributed)

Photo and other Credits…

Dean Oliver, Kym, Glenn Moulds, ACY- Australian Competition Yearbook, Mark Fogarty in Australian Motor Racing Annual, Racing Car News, oldracingcars.com

Etcetera…

Brian Hart and Hart engines article; https://primotipo.com/2016/10/21/hart-attack/

Brock, Birrana 272 Ford, Calder 1973 (AMRA)

Tailpiece 2…Leo G and Birrana the dominant 1973/4 F2 combo…

(AMY)

I’ve taken a few twists and turns in this article but let’s not lose track of Leo’s superb driving in 1973- Birrana gave him a brilliantly designed, built and prepared car in 1973 (and 1974) which he put to very good effect.

A shame was that he didn’t switch into an F5000 after his 1970 Gold Star win aboard a Lotus 59B Waggott- Lord knows we needed a few more cars on the grid, but it was great, having read so much about Leo before I first went to a race meeting, to be able too see so many of his F2 races in 1973 and 1974! He was ‘the goods’.

RIP Leo Geoghegan.

Finito…

 

 

Most Australian enthusiasts are aware of the Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Tony Gaze assault on the 1953 Monte Carlo Rally in the first Holden 48-215…

In doing some research on Tony Gaze recently I came upon this snippet from the great fighter ace in an Eoin Young interview published in the June 1997 issue of MotorSport- it made me smile given my abiding interest and respect for these three highly competitive racers, rivals and friends.

‘We had a good run.

Before the final test I think we were in sixth place and then we had an argument.

Stan wanted me to drive the final test because he felt I was better on ice than Lex (highly likely given the length of time TG lived in Europe compared to the other two), but Lex said he had put all the money into it and was determined to drive that final stage (which would have been exactly my view if in that position!)

That did it. Stan sulked.’

Gaze, Davison and Stan all smiles after the finish at Monaco (SMH)

‘He was navigating and I was braced in the back with the stopwatches. I suppose Stan might have been feeling car sick but he wouldn’t read out the markers and we finally came in 64th out of 100 finishers. It was probably a good thing because if we had done well they (the scrutineers) would have torn the car apart. On the way back we stopped off at Monza and our best lap average with three up and all of our luggage was 5 mph faster than a standard Holden’s top speed!’

GMH Australia were so delighted that they gave Stan and Lex a Holden each as a bonus but Gaze never received so much as a thank-you note.

The enterprise was an amazing one given the logistics of the time, the cost (4000 pounds- four times the cost of a new Holden then), lack of support from General Motors Holden and the lack of European rallying experience of the intrepid pilots whilst noting their stature as racing drivers.

Jones had never driven on the continent before. The February 1953 MotorSport reported the trio delighted the European press by saying that they had never seen snow before- whilst that may have been true  of Davison and Jones it would not have been the case for Gaze given his lengthy residence in the UK, a photo of him at Davos in Stewart Wilson’s biography of the man rather proves he was familiar with the white stuff!

Upon reflection, Jones grew up in Warrandyte and Lex lived at Lilydale, both places not too far from Mount Donna Buang where snow falls each year, so on balance we can conclude the above was PR bullshit!

Much was made at the time of the lack of rallying experience of all three but Davison and Jones had extensive trials experience- these events in an Australian context were typically of 100-200 miles duration, sometimes at night combining road navigation with sub-events which emphasised performance and car control.

In the all-rounder style of competition of the period keen racing types like Davison, Jones, Whiteford and Patterson contested trials, hillclimbs and circuit races. Indeed both Davison once, and Jones four times won the Light Car Club of Australia’s annual Cohen Trophy for best overall performance in the clubs trials.

‘Lex and Stan saw a lot of each other, since they were competing not only in the same trials but also the same hillclimbs and race meetings. The two were already great friends, and during 1952 this grew into an informal business relationship’ with Lex selling some cars through Stan’s car yards and splitting the profits with him Graham Howard wrote.

Peter Ward, friend and fettler of Lex’ cars engineered the two into sharing a Holden in the November 1952 Experts Trial, the pair finishing third with Ward navigating. Ward had proved the pair could co-exist in competition conditions- by mid 1952 Australian racer and AGP winner John Barraclough had secured two entries for the 1953 Monte- for himself and John Crouch and for Lex and Stan.

Tony, in the UK racing an Aston Martin DB3 that year, met Barraclough at London’s Steering Wheel Club and became the third member of the Lex/Stan crew. Gaze lodged all of the paperwork and later attended to getting the car through Customs.

Tony Gaze in his 2 litre F2/F1 ex-Moss HWM Alta during the 1952 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring- Q14 and DNF gearbox on lap 6 in the race won by Alberto Ascari’s Ferrari 500. Ascari’s car was acquired by Tony in 1954 and raced successfully by both Gaze and then later Davison to two AGP wins. The car above is the HWM referred to later in the text- acquired by Lex and re-engined by his team in Templestowe to Jag XK120 ‘C Type’ spec it won the 1954 AGP and is still extant in Australia in sportscar form in the hands of the Hough family (LAT)

Graham Howard in Davison’s biography wrote that by the time the final decision was made to compete there were just two weeks before the car had to loaded aboard a freighter sailing from Port Melbourne on 25 November!

The intrepid Melbourne duo acquired a 1952 Holden 48-215 with 6000 miles on the clock which had been nicely run in by their friend and Repco Research boss Charlie Dean. Dean was a racer and engineer- the constructor of the Maybachs which Stan owned and raced but prepared by Repco. Dean was paid 550 pounds by each of   Lex and Stan for the car.

With no interest or support from GMH (who had a waiting list for the cars at the time) the car was stripped, rebuilt and repainted in Dean’s home garage in Kew- not too far from Stan’s Superior Motors and Lex’s Paragon Shoes businesses in Abbotsford and Collingwood respectively.

Charlie was the ‘industry link man’ ‘…calling in many favours from many corners of the Melbourne motorsport world and the broader motor industry. Via his contacts through Repco, not only with Holden but also with component suppliers…A lot of people put in a lot of work into the sprint to get the Holden ready ready for Monte-Carlo- after all it was a marvellous adventure. But much more than that, it was a consciously Australian expedition into international territory, in the 1950’s spirit of optimism and confidence which led thousands of Australians overseas in search of fame and fortune’ wrote Graham Howard providing broader context outside motor racing itself.

The Monte Holden getting plenty of attention from Port Melbourne’s ‘wharfies’ at Station Pier. That’s Charlie Dean removing the Victorian ‘plates from the boot lid (Davison)

Some modifications to the cars were allowed by the organisers.

A Buick speedo which read in kilometres was dropped into the Holden binnacle, a ten gallon fuel tank was added, two driving lights were mounted on the bonnet and recessed fog lamps into the front guards below the headlights.

A heater-demister and windscreen washer was installed with the washer reservoir located next to the exhaust to keep it warm. An emergency electric fuel pump was mounted on the bulkhead with a change-over switch on the dash.

A ‘rug rail’ which ran between the B-Pillars behind the front seat back provided useful chassis stiffening.

Dean’s knowledge of the 2.2 litre, OHV, cast iron Holden six was pretty good by that stage- he fitted stronger con-rods, bigger ex-Buick valves ‘and an inlet manifold which had been carefully sliced in half, internally enlarged, then welded back together and returned to standard external appearance’ which gave a useful boost in power if not, perhaps (sic) in accordance with the letter of the rules.

By the time all of the luggage, spares, men and clobber was loaded up the six-cylinder sedan weighed 8 hundred-weight more than the 20 hundred-weight of the standard car.

Lex’ pride in Australia was clear in his post-event Australian Motor Sports magazine article; ‘It was considered that this car had to be an example of Australian workmanship, that nothing should be skimped, and no short cuts taken, as one of the main reasons for our making this journey was to endeavour to show that industrially, Australia has come of age, that we have an engineering industry, quite a capable one, and that we are no longer a country of aborigines and back country sheep herders’.

‘A kangaroo with Australia printed underneath was painted on either side of the bonnet and the word ‘Australia’ was printed on the bootlid in gold, given the new Registered Australian Racing Colours of green and gold’.

On January 1 1953 the car landed in the UK, whilst on the other side of the world Lex rolled his Alfa P3 at Port Wakefield, South Australia after a tyre failed- Lex was ok, discharged from hospital whilst Stan winning three races on the day aboard Maybach 1. On January 7 they were enroute to the UK.

In the meantime Tony Gaze had borrowed a Holden used as a development car by Lucas in the UK to get the feel of it. He then tested the rally car when it arrived and was suitable impressed with its performance despite the added weight relative to the standard machine. He diagnosed a better heating system was needed for the rear passenger and windscreen, this work was done.

Start of the event outside the Royal Automobile Club of Scotland, Blythswood Square, Glasgow (AGR)

(AGR)

Competitors came from over 20 different countries- they could choose to start from different cities in Europe including Glasgow, Stockholm, Oslo, Monte Carlo itself, Munich, Palermo and Lisbon.

The Holden began the rally in Glasgow on 20 January 1953- Glasgow cars travelled the 2100 mile route to Monte Carlo via Wales, London, Lilles, Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris and Clermont Ferrand in The Alps.

The first 3 days were driven non-stop through thick fog. In the Alps on thee fourth night the crew ‘encountered a nightmare of falling snow and icy roads’, the Australians reported. MotorSport on the other hand described the conditions as generally kind.

Lex and Stan were completely unprepared for the driving conditions and soon the crew decided to abandon the sleeping roster to make use of Tony’s skill in fast driving in fog.

In any event only Lex could manage sleep on the back seat set up to allow someone to lie sideways.

As they encountered ice later in the journey ‘Lex was pleased with the handling of the Holden, and was confidently using the frozen snow on the outside of the corners to help the car around.’

During Stan’s stint in the ice, a truck they were overtaking veered out and hit the side of the car inches from Lex’ sleeping head but he continued in deep-sleep bliss.

The fog disappeared before dawn but still with plenty of ice about, the risk was a mistake close to the finish.

440 cars entered the event- of the 404 which started, 253 reached Monte Carlo without loss of points, including the Holden.

The event shot ‘everybody has seen’ but nobody knows where it is- intrigued to know the answer (Pinterest)

They drove unpenalised under the finish banner in Monaco and were’…escorted to a large marquee on the Boulevard where we were offered drinks, and we stood beside the sea-wall sipping brandy, blinking in the sun. We were terribly tired, and I noticed that Tony was fast asleep standing up leaning against the sea-wall’ Howard quoted Davison.

Then came an acceleration and braking test- with Stan at the wheel the car was equal 9th- with Stirling Moss in a Sunbeam Talbot. The quickest time was 21.9 seconds, the Holden Sedan showed good performance amongst the top group which comprised in order; an Allard, Porsche, Jaguar, Ford V8, Sunbeam Talbot, Riley and two more Jags.

Jones attacks the Monaco acceleration and braking test (Davison)

As a result of this test 98 cars qualified for a final, eliminating, regularity test- clearly this 46 mile run over the Col de Braus above Monaco was the event the subject of debate amongst the three racers.

Distances between the controls had been announced in advance- a set speed through the six controls was to be drawn early on the Sunday morning.

The experienced crews knew the regularity route the Australians did not, nor did they have a spare car as many others did to practise it. Late in the day they were able to do do one lap in a VW as passengers.

The troubles which Gaze reflected upon at the beginning of this piece were similar to those documented by Howard in Davison’s biography- ‘that Stan “went on strike”, and for at least part of the test could not be bothered calling out distances. It would have been a typically Stan Jones flare-up, gone as quickly as it arrived, because there were also sections of the test where Stan was sitting sideways and using his feet to hold Lex in place as the Holden hurried around the endless hairpin corners’.

By the end of the test the team were sure they had got several sections close to perfect and others very wrong.

The results were announced at 9 o’clock that night- 64th place, and much better than they had feared. The result was still admirable and polished both the reputations of the drivers and a car not exactly built with European conditions in mind.

(AGR)

The rally was won by the Maurice Gatsonides/Peter Worledge Ford Zephyr from the Ian and Pat Appleyard Jaguar Mk7 and Roger Marian/Jean Charmasson Panhard Dyna X86. Gatsonides had spent four weeks ‘holidays’ lapping the Col de Braus loop, in contrast to the Australians!

Picking up the speed of the Holden ‘People’ wrote ‘They had certainly not run out of steam, for immediately after the rally they took the Holden to Monza where its lap speed was 73 mph and its maximum 90 mph which was impressive as road tests of the day put the cars maximum at 81 mph…the checking from stem to stern that was carried out must have included some skilful tuning’.

Davison and his friends also visited Alfa Romeo whilst in Northern Italy ‘…where Guidotti, having many years before driven Lex’s Alfas, now drove the Holden. Bacciagaluppi, manager of the Monza motor racing circuit and one of Tony’s many European racing contacts, helped them to get the rally car onto the track, where, three up, they averaged a higher lap speed than the road-tested maximum for a standard Holden’.

(AGR)

They drove back through Switzerland to England, where Gaze shipped the car back to Australia with some of the spare parts for the ex-Moss/Gaze HWM Lex acquired prior to leaving Europe.

Davo put the HWM Jaguar to good use, winning the 1954 Australian Grand Prix in it at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast. It was the first of Davo’s AGP wins- his good mate Jones had the race ‘in the bag’ before catastrophic chassis failure (welds) pitched Stanley through the local topography at a million miles an hour- it was a very lucky escape for him which totally destroyed Maybach 2.

‘Autosport published two photographs of the Holden, one showing it looking immaculate in Monte Carlo after the event, and commented “The Holden, although not a prize winner, impressed everyone with its performance. It has distinct possibilities as a rally car”.

As Gaze commented early on, GMH invited Lex and Stan (later to become Holden dealers as ‘Monte Carlo Motors on the corner of Punt and Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne) to a luncheon at Fsihermans Bend (Holden HQ) where they were each given a new Holden FJ and a cheque to cover some of their outgoings- with Tony apparently forgotten.

There was enormous local press both during and after the event with Lex also doing extensive speeches and presesntations about the adventure to car clubs but mainly community groups upon their return. It was a very big deal indeed.

The Monte Holden’s competitive life extended into 1953 when Lex and Diana Davison- DD a very capable and experienced racer herself contested ‘The Sun’ Four Day Rally out of Melbourne, Lex won outright defeating 122 other cars in a new Holden shared with Peter Ward and Diana was second in the womens section of the event in the Monte car she shared with Pat Wilson.

The Monte Holden was used in several trials by Lex and Peter Ward including one in mid 1953 when Lex slid off the a hillside and knocked over a telephone pole- damage was mitigated by the aged rotten nature of the obstacle!

(Davison)

Peter Ward later bought it and used it on the road. ‘It had some vertical cracks in the firewall which puzzled the Holden engineers, but it gave no trouble, Peter drove it for eighteen months before selling the well travelled car for 750 pounds- it cost him 500.

I wonder what became of this car which really should have found its way into a GMH Collection!?

The first of the Redex Round Australia Trials commenced in 1953- a story for another time, no doubt Holden’s confidence in going into these events ‘boots and all’ was as a consequence of the trail-blazers- Davison, Jones and Gaze.

Etcetera…

Article on the Holden 48-215; https://primotipo.com/2018/12/06/general-motors-holden-formative/

(AGR)

Davo on the Monaco quayside. Without his drive and entrepreneurial skill, not to say resources, the assault would not have taken place- not that the other two fellas involved were exactly skint.

(AGR)

Tony Gaze would have been razor sharp in 1953- he raced his HWM Alta in both championship and non-championship events throughout Europe in 1952, his primary program in 1953 aboard an Aston DB3 sportscar. He started racing the Ferrari 500/625 so important in his and Lex’ career in 1954.

(AGR)

Credits…

‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘Almost Unknown: Tony Gaze’ Stewart Wilson, ‘Me and My Holden: A Nostalgia Trip With The Early Holdens’ Don Loffler, ‘GMH People’, ‘AGR’- anygivenreason.com for many of the images, Pinterest, ‘SMH’ Sydney Morning Herald

Tailpiece: Port Melbourne to Monaco- after the finish…

(AGR)

Finito…

 

(Dallinger)

C Williamson, Chrysler leads G Winton’s AC and L Evans’ Vauxhall during the early laps of the Interstate Grand Prix, Wirlinga Road Circuit, Albury, New South Wales, 19 March 1938…

Australia Day, 26 February 1938 marked 150 years since the arrival of Governor Phillip and the First Fleet- the sesquicentenary of European settlement of Australia- ignoring the 60,000 years or thereabouts the continent has been occupied by the indigenous people of the Great Brown Land.

Official celebrations throughout the country took place between 26 February and 25 April- in Albury they occurred from 12 – 19 March and comprised an athletic and cycling day on the Saturday including the Albury Gift professional sprint race, the Albury Gun Club Championship, a swimming carnival and extended to the finale on Saturday 19 March, the ‘Interstate Grand Prix’, a 150 mile (148.5 mile) handicap event for cars ‘regardless of engine capacity’.

The lack of an engine capacity limit may seem not particularly notable, but the Phillip Island 1928 to 1935 ‘AGP’s had all been for cars of less than 2 litres in capacity whereas the December 1936 South Australian Centenary GP, later appropriated as an AGP, run at Victor Harbor was raced to what was effectively Formula Libre. Their was no AGP run in 1937 despite attempts to appropriate the the December 1936 event as ‘the 1937 AGP’ in the decades following.

What the South Australians did, or more specifically the event organisers, the Sporting Car Club of South Australia, was to create Formula Libre as the class to which the AGP was run up to and including the 1963 event- when the Tasman 2.5 Formula succeeded it.

The officials in Albury, Albury/Wodonga being the twin Murray River border towns of New South Wales and Victoria involved the Melbourne based Victorian Sporting Car Club to organise the motor-racing aspects of the celebrations.

After considering various alternatives a track of 4.25 miles long was chosen by the local council and VSCC around the roads of Wirlinga, now an Albury suburb, but then 4.5 miles from Albury’s business centre.

Christened the ‘Wirlinga Circuit’ it ’embraced a 1.25 mile section of the Old Sydney Road to the north-east of Albury, a ’55 chain’ section of the Livingston-Thurgoona Road and more than a mile of Orphanage Road’.

This course is variously described in the newspaper accounts of the day ‘as having a good surface, the majority bitumen, and the remainder buck-shot gravel which is practically dust proof’ or ‘…half the course is macadam (broken stone of even size bound by tar or bitumen) and the other half gravel, it is being specially treated with calcium chloride to make it as free as possible of dust’.

Another report described ‘The roughly rectangular course, which starts on the Hume Weir road has one straight of about 1.9 miles, another of a half a mile and a long sweeping curve of 2.1 miles in length’. By the time of the Albury Gold Cup meeting at Wirlinga in July 1939 the entire course was bitumen surfaced.

‘This course is claimed to be one of the finest and fastest tracks in Australia’ the Melbourne Age recorded, clearly that fellow had not been to Lobethal or Mount Panorama at that point of his motor racing research/reportage!

Look closely at the circuit layout and you can see the different start/finish lines in 1938 and 1939/40. The road on the right is Bowna Road, now called Table Top Road ‘..which was part of the Hume Highway prior to the construction of Hume Weir- it saw dozens of cars attempting the Sydney-Melbourne record during ther twenties’ wrote Ray Bell. The road at the bottom of the photo is a stretch of the Riverina Highway. The other long stretch on the left of the map which leads north is called Orphanage Lane, which is no longer driveable (ozpata)

In 1938 the only Australian race tracks which were bitumen or tar were some of the ‘Round the Houses’ tracks in many country towns of Western Australia and Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills. Phillip Island, the site of the early AGP’s, Victor Harbor, which held the December 26 1936 South Australian Centenary Grand Prix, and Mount Panorama, Bathurst, which held its first race meeting at Easter in 1938- all had loose gravel surfaces.

So Wirlinga, with a mix of sealed and unsealed surfaces would present challenges to the drivers- many of whom were unfamiliar with a solid surface like bitumen with the exception of those who had raced on the Maroubra concrete bowl or the opening January 1938 Lobethal meeting several months before. Such drivers included Hope Bartlett, Bob Lea-Wright, Colin Dunne, Jim Boughton, Alf Barrett, Tim Joshua, Harry Beith, Arthur Beasley and A Aitken and perhaps one or two others.

Fred Foss and passenger negotiate the loose gravel Forrest’ Elbow, Bathurst during the Easter 1938 AGP, DNF in his Ford V8 Spl 3.6. No doubt winner Peter Whitehead had a very exciting ride in his supercharged ERA B Type (NMRM)

As the big weekend approached the Victorian Sporting Car Club ran a rally to Albury on the weekend of the 5th and 6th of March in which the clubs office-bearers, together with competitors and their friends journeyed the 325 Km up the Hume Highway to inspect the course- ‘which the club found had undergone considerable improvement. The bends of the track will need more attention and this will be given as suggested by officials’.

A meeting of competitors, mechanics and club officials was held in the VSCC’s clubrooms at 395 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne on Thursday 17 March at 5pm before the ‘circus’ left town for Albury/Wodonga, no doubt plenty of eager competitors were already in the border towns by the time this meeting took place.

Practice was to be held on the day before the race from 7 am with entry prices set at 2 shillings and a similar amount charged for a seat in the ‘huge grandstand’ (of which I cannot find a picture). Prize money totalled 300 pounds- 100 pounds was for the winner, the balance was paid down to eighth place.

Whilst the important track logistics were taking place in the lead up months to the meeting, the Victorian Sporting Car Club set about getting as healthy a national entry of cars as was possible for the blue-riband event. Whilst a good field of cars was entered, perhaps the proximity of the 18 April Easter Bathurst AGP to Wirlinga was a barrier to some competitors racing for fear of damaging their mount before the Mount Panorama meeting.

Many of the fast guys of the period entered, perhaps the ‘headline act’ was British mystery man, racer throughout Australia in 1938/9 and MI5 spy Allan Sinclair in a supercharged 1100cc Alta. This car was a fizzer at Lobethal in January with a better showing expected- but not delivered in Albury, or pretty much anywhere else he raced with the exception of Rob Roy Hillclimb in Victoria.

Maroubra Speedway Ace Hope Bartlett entered an MG Q Type, 1934 Australian Grand Prix winner Bob Lea-Wright- and then current VSCC President raced a Terraplane 8 Special with Frank Kleinig certain to be a front-runner in Bill MacIntyre’s Hudson 8 Special. Both these cars were powered by modified variants of side-valve straight-eights manufactured by the US Hudson/Terraplane companies.

Its interesting to look at Kleinig’s car as it was at Wirlinga and the huge amount of work it took to to turn it into an ‘outright racer’ by the time of the 1939 AGP at Lobethal less than twelve months hence.

Alf Barrett, Morris Cowley Spl, crowd close to the unguarded circuit edge (Dallinger)

Alf Barrett was entered in his Morris Cowley Spl but very shortly thereafter acquired an Alfa Romeo Monza, and it was his performances with that car which shot him to fame- by the time of the January 1939 AGP he was pretty much ‘the man’ despite one or two others racing faster cars such as Jack Saywell, Alfa Tipo B/P3.

(Dallinger)

Tim Joshua’s unique single-seater, supercharged four-cylinder Gough powered Frazer Nash cannot have been in the country too long with the Bryant & Mays Matches family member a guy who always drove well.

This huge factory complex (hard to believe how big a factory it was/is just to make matches) off Church Street Richmond, Melbourne is well known to locals in restored form and was unfortunately the property redevelopment which all but financially destroyed Porsche Cars Australia’s Alan Hamilton in the late eighties.

It wasn’t the ‘Nash first meeting though, he raced it in the SA GP at Lobethal in January. The car, number #3 above is in the Wirlinga paddock alongside Hope Bartlett’s MG Q Type and the Jack Phillips/Ted Parsons #6 victorious 1934 Ford V8 Spl.

Other cars of note are perhaps the D Souter MG P Type driven by Colin Dunne who was fresh from a great win in his own MG K3 in the Junior Grand Prix at Lobethal. No doubt Dunne took this drive to preserve his own K3 for the forthcoming AGP. Others were Jack O’Dea, MG P Type, Jim Boughton in a Morgan 4/4 Coventry Climax and Barney Dentry’s Riley Spl.

Jim or ‘Jack’ Boughton, Morgan 4/4 Coventry Climax 1100 with the long arm of the law behind- by the time of the ’39 AGP at Lobethal this car was a single-seater- and still is. Orphanage Road corner- this stretch of road no longer exists (Dallinger)

Of an entry list of 25 racers, thirteen or thereabouts are ‘factory cars’ with the balance Australian Specials- these cars would increasingly form the most significant numbers on our grids until the dawn of the fifties when the end of Australian Grands Prix run to handicap rules forced those after victory to acquire a car which could do just that on an outright basis!

(B King)

Sesquicentenary festivities in Albury were well underway by the time the Governor of Victoria, Lord Wakehurst alighted the train from Melbourne and performed the formal opening ceremony for the week on Tuesday 15 March in the Albury Botanical Gardens.

On raceday, Saturday 19 March, some 6,000 to 10,000 spectators attended the meeting from towns far and wide across South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria- good train access allowed the punters to make the long distance trip from the major population centres of Sydney and Melbourne relatively easily.

Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, 25 March 1938

Jack Phillips won the race (below) driving his 3.6 litre Ford V8 Special from George Bonser’s Terraplane 8 Spl and Les Burrows aboard a similar Terraplane 8 Spl.

Phillips, accompanied by his business partner and co-owner of the car, Ted Parsons, covered the 150 miles in 2 hours 13 minutes and 15 seconds, an average of about 67 mph.

The two friends were partners in a Ford sales and service agency in Wangaratta, a major centre of agriculture to the south-west of Albury in Victoria, it was very much a hometown win all the same.

Hats in the air and general body language of the crowd suggests this is the last lap for the victorious Ford mounted locals (Dallinger)

So successful was the meeting that the ‘Albury Banner and Wodonga Express’ correctly predicted that the race would become an annual event- for a while at least until the outbreak of war.

Unfortunately the only scratching from the event was Allan Sinclair in his Alta with gearbox failure, the unreliability of this car was to be one of its hallmarks in his hands.

Phillips was the only driver to have a trouble free run, and when other competitors either dropped out or made multiple pit stops he was able to take the lead on lap 23 of the 33 laps.

At that stage McDonald, Standard Spl was in front but he had mechanical problems and withdrew. Early DNF’s were Evans having completed only 2 laps- and Kleinig’s Hudson Spl, Bartlett MG Q Type, Beith Terraplane, Lea-Wright Terraplane, Wrigley MG Magnette, Boughton Morgan, Aitken Riley, Dunne MG P Type, Barrett Morris Cowley Spl.

Frank Kleinig’s Hudson effectively became the scratch-man with Sinclair’s withdrawal and was rightly regarded as one of the favourites for victory. The press-on Sydneysider recorded the fastest lap of the 4.25 mile track with a 3 minute 26 seconds time but the Hudson had trouble early on and after multiple pit-stops he called it quits on lap 10.

Frank Kleinig Hudson 8 Spl 4.2 rounds up the KR McDonald Standard Spl (Dallinger_

 

Jack O’Dea’s MG P Type leads the Riley of A Aitken, that car sold to him by Allan Sinclair from amongst the six or so cars he brought with him to Australia in late 1937 (Dallinger)

Barney Dentry, Riley Spl winner of the 50 Miles Race at Cowes in November, was well up until he too pitted for repairs to his Riley. Dentry provided one of the thills of the race when he challenged Arthur Beasley’s Singer on the Main Straight and passed him for fifth place only 150 yards from the end of the race.

Plenty of excitement was provided by the crowd ‘the largest that has yet assembled at a sporting event in Albury’.

‘Close on 6,000 people thronged the huge grandstand and on either side of the road near the finish line. The crowd got out of control when the last stages of the race were being completed. Despite the repeated entreaties to refrain from crossing over the road, people surged from one side to the other in droves, right in front of fast moving cars. However there were no accidents’ the Albury Banner reported.

George Bonser’s Terraplane Spl 3.5 at speed with spectators rather close to the tracks edge (Dallinger)

 

Harry-flatters in top gear, which Wirlinga Straight I wonder? (Dallinger)

The winning Phillips/Parsons Ford, a 1934 model, was modified in the manner typical of the day.

The 4 litre Ford flathead V8 was fitted with dual carburettors sitting atop an aluminium inlet manifold, a Winfield camshaft, an enlarged sump, oil cooler and double radiators were incorporated. A contemporary report says that ‘Phillips had a remarkable run of good luck in this race compared with other events he competed in’.

Clearly the two boys from Wangaratta were entering a purple patch with the car because they soon thereafter had a great run of results.

After Wirlinga the intrepid duo towed the Ford to Bathurst at Easter where they were sixth in the 1938 AGP won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA- and then third in the January 1939 AGP at Lobethal, that race won in brilliant style by Perth’s Allan Tomlinson in an MG TA Spl s/c.

Returning home they ‘doubled up’ and won the 1939 Albury Gold Cup at Wirlinga in July, they didn’t take the win in the 1940 event, the last motor race held at Wirlinga. Back across the border to Lobethal they won the 1940 South Australian 100, and that was pretty much it until the end of hostilities, Patriotic GP at Applecross in Perth held on 11 November 1940 duly noted.

Jack Phillips and Ted Parsons aboard their Ford V8 Spl at Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills during their successful run, 1939 AGP (N Howard)

Whilst much is rightfully made of Doug Whiteford’s Ford V8 Spl, ‘Black Bess’, its best results were still to come, perhaps this is the most successful Ford V8 Spl pre-War? After the conflict the beast was sold twice, then crashed and written off in the late forties- a lovely replica built by Ted Parson’s grandson in recent times will have been seen by some of you.

Phillips, in covering the 150 miles in 2:13.15 also did the fastest time of the race, his average time for each lap was 3:50 compared to Kleinig’s fastest lap of 3:43. At an average speed of 67-69 mph Phillips was about a lap ahead of Bonser’s Terraplane who was a similar distance ahead of Les Burrows Terraplane. Then followed George Winton AC, Dentry’s Riley, the Beasley Singer, Williamson’s Chrysler and O’Dea’s MG P Type.

The teams prize went to Burrows, Bonser and Kleinig.

Phillips, Parsons aboard the winning Wirlinga car, I wonder who built the body, quality of workmanship and finish high (Dallinger)

Etcetera…

(Tim Hocking via R Bell)

Pit and paddock scene from the final Wirlinga meeting over the Kings Birthday weekend, 10 June 1940.

The Interstate Gold Cup was won by Harry James’ Terraplane with the lap record for all time as it turned out, set by Alf Barrett’s Alfa Romeo Monza at 89 mph.

I wonder if that is Barrett’s Monza to the left of Jack Phillip’s Ford Special #5 in the photo above?

(Dallinger)

Alf Barrett applies a touch of the opposites to the wheel of his Morris Cowley Spl- the power of the supercharged GP Alfa which replaced this machine, capable of a 90 mph top speed, must have been considerable, not to say every other aspect of the cars performance!

(Dallinger)

Raced in a couple of AGP’s in Colin Anderson’s hands- he raced the car at Bathurst in April to 12th place whilst Barrett’s Lombard AL3 retired after completing only 3 laps, I’m not sure what became of this highly developed 1.7 litre attractive Morris or who built it in Melbourne.

(Dallinger)

Jack O’Dea’s beautiful MG P Type in profile. Some modern online accounts have Les Murphy driving the car at this meeting but neither the entry list or race accounts i have seen make mention of the AGP winner at the wheel.

(Dallinger)

The K McDonald ‘Flying Standard Spl’ is not a car I know anything about, I am intrigued to understand who built it and it’s specifications if any of you can oblige.

(Dallinger)

Jack O’Dea’s MG P type leading the scrapping duo of Colin Dunne in Souter’s MG P and George Bonser’s Terraplane Spl.

Photo and other Credits…

‘Foto Supplies’ Albury Flickr Archive- photographer John J Dallinger, we salute you

Bob King Collection, N Howard, National Motor Racing Museum, Tim Hocking, ozpata

Melbourne Age 10/2/1938, Albury Banner and Wodonga Express 11/3 and 25/3/38, Melbourne Herald 15/3/38, Sporting Globe 15/1/38

Ray Bell and John Medley on The Nostalgia Forum

Tailpiece: When men were men…

(Dallinger)

Jack Phillips with kidney belt to keep his gizzards under control with helmet wearing Ted Parsons alongside- who is the dude on the left I wonder?

Finito…

(K Devine)

Three men and a car- the 1962 Australian Grand Prix winning Cooper mind you…

Eoin Young, journalist and author of considerable renown, Wally Willmott, mechanic of similar standing, the incomparable Bruce McLaren and Cooper T62 Climax at Styles Garage on the corner of Sussex Street and the Albany Highway, Victoria Park, Perth during the 18 November weekend. The Austin has a 15 kilometre tow from this inner south-eastern Perth suburb to Caversham now also a Perth suburb in the Swan Valley.

All so simple isn’t it, three blokes and a car?! And they won the race- with a little bit of luck thanks to Jack Brabham’s late race collision with Arnold Glass, but that in no way diminishes the achievement.

I wrote about this race and somewhat tragic car a while back; https://primotipo.com/2016/05/20/bruce-lex-and-rockys-cooper-t62-climax/

Here are a few more brilliant photographs from Ken Devine’s Collection of that weekend- I was going to retro-fit them into the old article but it seems better to let the photos ‘shine on their own’ so here they are with a few supporting notes.

(K Devine)

David McKay and Jack Brabham chewing the fat- don’t they look like youngsters?!

McKay didn’t race that weekend but was scooping up information for his newspaper and magazine reports of the race. Morover he was spinning Jack a line about how long-in-the-tooth his Cooper was and how much he would like to buy Jack’s brand-spankers BT4 Climax- a feat he would accomplish! The BT4 was in essence an FPF engined BT3- Tauranac’s first, 1962 F1 car.

Jack raced the car in New Zealand (a win at Levin) with David racing it in the Australian events- Graham Hill took the wheel in the 1964 Tasman Series achieving one win at Longford.

(K Devine)

Lex Davison looking stern as he motors past at some clip in his T53 Cooper- like McKay he was after a new car too- at the end of the summer Bruce’s T62 was his, a car around which a good deal of tragedy occurred. Lex was classified 8th from grid 4 but only completed 46 of the races 60 lap, 101 mile distance.

(K Devine)

Bib Stillwell must have been flogging quite a few Holdens from his Cotham Road, Kew, Melbourne dealership by then- he really went about his motor racing in a thoroughly professional manner.

To me he was slow to peak having started racing just after the war, but man, when he did he was an awesome racer taking four Gold Stars on the trot from 1962 to 1965- he had his tail up on this weekend as he had just taken his first Gold Star in this Cooper T53 Climax with wins in two of the six GS championship rounds.

Its interesting to look at Stillwell’s results that year- he had an absolute cracker of a season inclusive of the internationals when the big-hitters were about. His record is as follows; Warwick Farm 100 3rd, Celebrities Scratch Race Lakeside 1st, Lakeside International 2nd, Victorian Trophy Calder 1st, South Pacific Championship Longford 3rd, Bathurst 100 1st, Racing Feature Race Calder 1st, Victorian Road Race Championship Sandown 2nd, Advertiser Trophy Mallala 1st, Hordern Trophy Warwick Farm 1st, AGP Caversham 3rd- it was a year of amazing speed and reliability, the teams only DNF was at the Sandown International (engine) the only other ‘non-event’ was a DNA at Lowood- by early June Bib no doubt figured the long tow to Queensland from Melbourne was a waste of money.

Click here for Bib’s time in Intercontinental Brabhams; https://primotipo.com/2018/07/20/matich-stillwell-brabhams-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1963/

At Caversham Stillwell was third on the grid behind McLaren 1:19.6 and Brabham 1:20.1, Bib’s 1:20.3 was pacey- he finished third, 47 seconds adrift of McLaren and 5 seconds behind John Youl in a Cooper T55.

(K Devine)

Lets not forget the Cooper Monaco either- a car I wrote about a while back and which received the ex-Scarab Buick-Traco V8 a little later in its life- the motor which was in the engine nacelle of Arnold Glass’ BRM P48 (#7 below) this very weekend.

The story of Bib’s Cooper Monaco is here; https://primotipo.com/2015/03/10/bib-stillwell-cooper-t49-monaco-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1961/

(D Van Dal-K Devine)

The cut and thrust between Brabham and McLaren went on for over forty laps- Jack saw an opportunity when Bruce ran wide lapping Arnold- Jack focussed on Bruce, Arnold on taking his line for the next corner, a collision the result. Jack was out on lap 50 whereas Arnold survived to finish in fifth place from grid 7.

The story of the BRM P48 is here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/16/bourne-to-ballarat-brm-p48-part-2/

(K Devine)

Jack and Roy fettle the 2.5 litre Climax engine lent to them by Bruce McLaren, Jack having popped his 2.7 ‘Indy’ FF in practice.

The Brabham BT4 was the first in a long line of ‘Intercontinental’ chassis built by the Tauranac/Brabham combination all of which (BT4/7A/11A) won a lot of motor races in this part of the world.

Paragons of practical, chuckable virtue the cars won races in the hands of World Champions Hill, Stewart and Brabham as well as championship winners in domestic competition for the likes of Stillwell, Spencer Martin and Kevin Bartlett (whilst noting the latter’s Gold Star success was aboard a BT23D Alfa Romeo.

(K Devine)

 

(K Devine)

Plenty of hopefuls entered the meeting not least Jim Harwood in the ex-Whitehead/Cobden Ferrari 125 which by then was fitted with a small-block 283 cid Chev V8.

His times were too far behind the modern mid-enginer racers of the top-liners so he elected not to start- with 1962 still just into the period of Austraian motor racing where everybody could have a go with a high-born special such as this ex-GP 1950 Ferrari.

The car is notable for the fact that it was one of Tom Wheatcroft’s first Donington Collection acquisitions.

(K Devine)

 

(K Devine)

Brabham, Stillwell and McLaren from left to right at the drop of the starters flag. Brabham BT4, Cooper T53 and Cooper T62 respectively. On the second row its John Youl at left, Cooper T55 and Lex Davison’s red T53 alongside him. In the dark helmet on the row behind is the red with white striped BRM P48 Buick of Arnold Glass and at very far left is Jeff Dunkerton’s Lotus Super 7 Ford 1.5- to the right of the Lotus is the red front-engined #14 Cooper T20 Holden Repco of Syd Negus.

(K Devine)

Whilst ten starters is not a big grid, Dunkerton’s achievement in finishing ninth in the little Lotus 7 was an amazing one- the last placing ever gained by a sportscar in an AGP.

(K Devine)

Bill Patterson was the reigning 1961 Gold Star Champions but his old Cooper T51 was never going to be a competitive tool going into that year with plenty of more modern well-driven machines on Australian grids.

In reality Patto was easing himself slowly out of racing as a driver albeit he would remain involved as a sponsor/entrant in the next couple of decades. He started from grid 6 and finished fourth albeit three laps behind McLaren.

Bill Patterson’s story; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/02/patto-and-his-coopers/

(K Devine)

John Youl is another driver I’ve waxed lyrical about in the past- its a shame commitments running the family pastoral properties in northern Tasmania took him away from motor racing. Youl’s ex-works Cooper T55 was beautifully prepared by Geoff Smedley and pedalled very quickly by John in the 1963 Internationals. It would have been very interesting to see just how far he would have progressed up the elite level totem-pole had he stuck with his racing career.

Click here; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/08/bay-of-plenty-road-race-and-the-frank-matich-lotus-19s/

(K Devine)

Bruce on the way to a Caversham win, Cooper T62 from Youl, Stillwell, Patterson and Glass. Bruce McLaren Motor Racing had rather a bright future.

Credit…

Ken Devine Collection

Tailpiece: McLaren takes the flag…

(K Devine)

Is it Jack in the blue driving suit obscuring the man with the flag?

Bruce won two AGP’s, the other aboard his self designed and built- with Wally Willmott, Cooper T79 at Longford in 1965.

Both were great wins after a long tussles with Jack Brabham- at Caversham Arnold Glass ruined the fun when he mistakenly put Jack off the road and at Longford he won by a smidge under four seconds from the Aussie’s Brabham BT11A Climax and Phil Hill’s Cooper T70 Climax. It was a great day for the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing as Phil drove a terrific race- in the American’s opinion one of his best in the T70, another car built by Bruce. (McLaren’s winning T79 was an updated T70)

Longford joy was tempered considerably by the death of Rocky Tresise early in the race aboard the very same Cooper T62 in which Bruce won at Caversham in 1962…

Finito…

Pete Makeham and the King Alfa Spyder at Reims (B King)

‘What you can do with a dodgy camera…

The story really begins in May 1965 in Aden in the Federation of South Arabia (now Yemen) where the ship on which I was travelling as the ships doctor made its first landfall after leaving Australian several weeks earlier.

Aden, then as now, was a hell-hole, but I was advised by the experienced ship’s crew that there were bargains to be had. Hence the cheap, and supposedly new, Practica IVb SLR camera- ‘state of the art’. But something was seriously wrong; was it a reject that found its way to Aden? Anyway, its deficiencies are my excuse for the poor quality of the photographs accompanying this article.

After two European Tours in a VW and then a Minivan, it was time for better things- or at least my future wife thought so- and bought a three year old Alfa Romeo Giulia Spyder 1600. My late lamented friend Pater Makeham and I set off with our first destination being Reims for the Grand Prix de l’ACF. The Alfa gremlins set in early, and with no generator charge, our arrival in the Oort of Dover was lit by the equivalent of two candles.

We camped that night outside Reims on the top of a hill and were able to roll-start the car. It was a Saturday morning and as we approached Reims we had no idea how we would resolve our problem- then suddenly we were confronted by a large Alfa Romeo badge  hanging in the centre of the street- a quick left turn and we were in a large Alfa workshop. In our best French we said ‘dynamo-kaput’ which was sufficient to gain the necessary attention.’

Lorenzo Bandini’s Ferrari 312 being attended to in the Alfa Romeo dealership, Reims (B King)

 

#22 is Mike Parkes’ 312- World Champions in 1966 almost certainly had the kept Surtees within the Scuderia Ferrari, ‘Ifs, Buts and Maybes’ don’t count however (B King)

‘We then noticed that half the workshop was devoted to the Ferrari Formula 1 Team. Hence the grainy images with the Practica. While the GP cars sat idle, it seemed that the whole Ferrari team were devoting their attention to designer Mauro Forghieri’s road car- I think it was a just released 330GTC. With much revving, Mauro would take of around the block, only to arrive back with the car misfiring. About six red-suited mechanics would put their heads under the bonnet and the procedure would be repeated.’

King’s Alfa outside the Champagne cellars in 1966 (B King)

‘I think our problem was resolved before Mauro’s and we were able to depart for a tour of the Champagne cellars. Perhaps if the team had devoted more time to the racing cars, Lorenzo Bandini might not have surrendered his lead to Jack Brabham because of a failed throttle cable!’

Lorenzo Bandini seeks to sort his throttle linkage problem after completing 32 laps- he led the race from Brabham and Parkes to this point (unattributed)

‘What a day it was to go to the races with Jack and Denny first and second in in the F2 support race in Brabham Hondas, and Jack winning the race in the ‘All Australian Repco Brabham’ designed by Ron Tauranac.

We were on the outside of the track at ‘Calvaire’, the fast bend at the end of Pit Straight and Jack was the only driver taking that corner at full noise. This was the last GP to be held at that wonderful circuit.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toto Roche drops the flag and makes his famous leap out of the way, Mike Parkes and Lorenzo Bandini in Ferrari 312’s sandwich the just departed John Surtees in a Cooper T81 Maserati. That’s Jochen Rindt’s Cooper on row two.

(unattributed)

Brabham speeds to victory in his Brabham BT19 Repco, his championship steed throughout 1966- famously the first driver to win a GP in a car of his own design and manufacture- noting the contribution of Ron Tauranac, Motor Racing Developments and Repco Brabham Engines in relation thereto!

Roche, below, flag in hand, pushes the winning car whilst Brabham acknowledges the plaudits of the knowledgeable French crowd. Mike Parkes’ Ferrari 312 was second, Denny third in a Brabham BT20 Repco and Jochen Rindt, Cooper T81 Maserati, fourth.

(unattributed)

‘I was able to buy the Alfa from the proceeds of working 110 hour shifts at Manchester Royal Infirmary. Another benefit of MRI was having access to the Nurses Home, housing many hundred nurses and from where I found my wife to be.

I also enjoyed our proximity to Oulton Park- where I was a regular attendee from 1965-1968. My photos with the Practica were improving; I found the light meter gave more accurate readings if I pointed it to the ground.’

Cor! says the young motor cyclist with the camera. Brabham’s BT20 Repco with new ‘740 Series’ Repco 3 litre V8 making its first race appearance. Brabham’s definitive 1967 chassis, Tauranac’s brand new BT24 is still several races away. Oulton Park 1967- ripper shot just oozes atmosphere of the (chilly) day (B King)

Daily Express Spring Cup, Oulton Park 15 April 1967…

The first European F1 race of 1967 was the ‘Race of Champions’ at Brands Hatch in early March, the race was won by Dan Gurney’s Eagle Mk1 Weslake from Lorenzo Bandini and Jo Siffert in Ferrari 312 and Cooper T81 Maserati respectively. Dan took wins in both of the two heats and the final, wonderful stuff and unfortunately a race which somewhat flattered to deceive.

The last chance for the teams to race test their cars before the European season championship opener at Monaco in May was the Spring Cup at Oulton, where Bob’s photos were taken.

Tony Rudd fusses over his complex and superb, BRM P83 H16. The engine’s only championship win was Clark’s Lotus 43 victory at Watkins Glen in late 1966 (B King)

 

Bruce McLaren sits on his Rover 3500 whilst the boys fettle his F2 based GP McLaren M4B BRM 2 litre V8, by the years end he was using the BRM P101 V12 but his saviour was the Ford DFV which was available to teams other than Lotus from 1968 (B King)

Jackie Stewart popped the BRM P83 H16 on pole from Denny Hulme and John Surtees- in Brabham BT20 Repco and Honda RA273. Brabham and Mike Spence were back on row two in the other BT20 and H16.

Denny won both heats in a portent of his season to come and Jack Brabham the final from Denny, Surtees, Jack Oliver’s F2 Lotus 41B Cosworth FVA, Bruce McLaren’s McLaren M4B BRM V8, Mike Spence’s BRM P83, Bob Anderson’s Brabham BT11 Climax FPF and Graham Hill’s Lotus 33 BRM. Stewart failed to finish in the other BRM after a collision.

The BRO pit with Jack’s 740 V8 engined BT20 front and centre. Circa 340 bhp by the seasons end- just enough to prevail in 1967 aided by Lotus 49 teething pain unreliability. Gearbox is Hewland DG300. Denny’s car devoid of bodywork behind (B King)

The winds of change blew at Zandvoort with the first race of the Lotus 49 Ford DFV at the Dutch Grand Prix but Bob’s photos reasonably convey, with the exception of the Ferrari’s who did not enter the Spring Cup, most of the the state of GP play in early 1967.

(B King)

Surtees’ magnificent, powerful, but oh-so-heavy Honda RA273 V12.

By the seasons end the lighter RA300 ‘Hondola’- the monocoque chassis a variation on Lola’s T90 Indianapolis car, was raced to victory in the Italian Grand Prix, the popular Brit taking a famous victory for the car in a last lap, last corner fumble with Jack Brabham in his BT24 Repco.

(B King)

Etcetera…

Other reading…

1966 GP Season; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/13/winning-the-1966-world-f1-championships-rodways-repco-recollections-episode-3/

1966 Ferrari 312; https://primotipo.com/2017/10/26/surtees-ferrari-312-modena-1966/

Brabham Honda F2 Cars; https://primotipo.com/2015/07/30/xxxii-grand-prix-de-reims-f2-july-1966-1-litre-brabham-hondas/

H16 Engine; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/17/jim-clark-taking-a-deep-breath-lotus-43-brm/

Bruce McLaren’s 1966/7 GP Cars; https://primotipo.com/2016/10/07/mclarens-19667-f1-cars/

(B King Collection)

Bugatti Afterthought: Reims 1929…

Classic Bob King ‘…and I just found this photo from 1929- if you should wish to make a comment about Bugatti being my real thing- it is such a good photo’- and indeed it is a marvellous shot!

The fifth GP de la Marne was staged at Reims over 400 km on 7 July and won by Philippe Etancelin in a Bugatti T35C in 2 hours 54 minutes 14 seconds. The cars above are those of (L-R) Juan Zanelli T35B second, Robert Gauthier T35C fourth, Rene Cadet T35 sixth and another T35 of Derrancourt, seventh.

Credits…

Bob King, Getty Images, Team Dan, silhouet.com

Tailpiece: Bandini, Surtees, Brabham- Reims start 1966…

(Getty)

Finito…

(SLSA Searcy Collection)

A couple of intrepid adventurers, Harold Bowman and Murray Aunger about to set off from Adelaide to Mount Gambier, Prince Henry Vauxhall, Saturday 6 April 1912…

Some shots just blow my tiny mind and this is one of them.

The gelatin or glass plate photograph was taken in King William Street, Adelaide, the cities main drag. The GPO, still there, is in the background.

Just look at the sharpness of the shot and the subtlety of greys and darks, the formaility of all of the blokes- they are ALL fellas as far as i can see. What awaits the drivers is a journey of around 1149 miles on unmade dirt roads including clearing the dreaded 95 miles of the Coorong Desert, as it was called then, not too far from Adelaide.

The South Australian duo are part of an amazing event organised to test the time in which a military despatch could be carried by road from the Adelaide Military Commandant to his Sydney based equivalent.

‘From that aspect it became an event of some public importance, but its utility went further, for it provided an instructive comparative test of the three modes of conveyance which were employed’ the Adelaide Advertiser reported.

Contestants were split into three division, there were 30 cyclists, 52 motor cyclists and 12 ‘carists’. The Dunlop promoted and supported event was a relay contest, and in the best traditions of Australian motor-sport for the next four decades or so was also a handicap event.

The Dunlop Company handicappers had the cars concede 6 hours to the motor cycles and 30 hours to the cyclists. When the handicaps were announced there was considerable comment in sporting (betting no doubt) circles that the cyclists had no chance of reaching Sydney first and that they would soon be overhauled by the motorised opposition.

Adelaide Advertiser 11 April 1912

The first two cyclists left Adelaide at 5 am on Friday 5 April with their sealed despatch from Colonel H Mesurier to be delivered to Brigadier General Gordon 1149 miles away in Sydney.

‘Notwithstanding the early hour and already rain, there was an enthusiastic crowd to see the commencement of the most interesting despatch test ever attempted in any country, and amid ringing cheers, the wheelmen set off with all the importance of being on “The King’s business”.

The cycle class was divided into 65 sections varying in length from 10 miles to 28 miles, with two motor cyclists starting at 3 am on Saturday morning, they had 25 sections varying in length from 27 to 72 miles.

‘The motor car, the “King of The Road” by virtue of its superior speed, will have four relays only, each running into hundreds of miles, and if the car drivers hope to be in it at the finish they must average a speed of nearly 30 miles an hour…’, the wheelmen will probably average 16-18 mph and the motor cyclists 23 mph The Melbourne Argus reported.

The motor cyclists were thought to be able to do the course in 46 hours with the cars needing to do the event in 40 hours ‘to come up level with the cycling divisions’. The car records at the time from Adelaide to Melbourne and Melbourne to Sydney were 20 hours 6 minutes and 19 hours 47 minutes respectively, a total of 39 hours 53 minutes so the automobilists had no easy task.

The route traversed good and bad roads, hilly to mountainous tracks, plains and sandy desert sections and ‘therefore it will be an interesting trial and from which military authorities may gather useful data respecting the three classes of transit and the most effective means for rapid mobilisation’.

Bowman and Aunger made a cracker of a start for the ‘car team’, setting off from King William Street at 9 am on the Saturday morning, they ‘startled the motoring world, and the event organisers by driving from Adelaide across the Coorong Desert to Kingston (185 miles) in 5 hours 15 minutes.

Such a feat appears incredible to those who know who now the route from Meningie to Kingston, but the fact remains that Messrs Bowman and Aunger averaged 35 miles an hour in the rain along this section of the relay. Leaving Kingston the limestone road got so slippery that fast pace was unsafe, and, in fact impossible, so, by the time Mount Gambier (303 miles from Adelaide) was reached the Vauxhall was 32 minutes behind the time schedule.

A Wiseman and T Bell then took up the running in a Maxwell and had a shocker of a time driving in pouring rain- they managed to lose their way near Glenburnie, devouring an additional hour in the process. Further hazards of the day were three punctures between Ballarat and Melbourne, a distance of about 70 miles. They finally arrived in Melbourne, still raining, at just before 11 am on the Sunday morning and ‘sorry spectacles they were’!

S Day and P Allen in a Vinot and M Smith and R Lane, FN then stepped up to the plate ‘having an unpleasant 200 mile drive against a head wind and heavy rain’, Albury being reached at 7.18 pm Sunday.

Sandford and Scott then took care of the dispatch from Albury north to Sydney but missed the road at Germanton (re-named Holbrook during the War) and went many miles out of their way. The car dispatch finally reached Sydney at 10.14 am on the Monday morning.

The event was not without incident of course, G Fitzgerald who rode the Kingston to Furner leg on a motor cycle fell heavily on the greasy road and fractured his leg.

 

Syd Barber, Bert Backler, Bob Smith and Charles Smith in Kingston, South Australia during the 1912 relay event (SLSA)

Despite bad weather conditions with slush and howling head winds the cyclists covered the 1149 miles in 69 hours 32 minutes averaging 16.5 mph and delivered their despatch to Sydney 6 hours 18 minutes ahead of the motor cyclists and 7 hours 12 minutes before the car despatch was handed over.

The cyclists performance was remarkable in that they’clung tenaciously to schedule hour after hour and were rarely more than 30 minutes either inside or outside of the timetable, while at Sydney they were just 4 minutes within the figures set for them’.

The motor cyclists took 51 hours 50 minutes averaging 22.5 mph whilst the cars recorded 47 hours 46 minutes an average speed of 24 mph.

A Cairns Post review of the event in 1930 mused about how quickly the times would have improved with the improved inetrstate highways of that time- the 2018 times would be interesting too!

‘No doubt the military authorities will be impressed with the reliability and effiiency of the cycles and motor cycles…One lesson to be drawn from the contest is the proved value of the three types of vehicles for military purposes…Given fair roads in this sprasely populated country, the value of the cycle and the motor vehicle in rapidly mobilising units is inestimable.

The motorists and wheelmen demonstrated that high speed can be maintained on very indifferent roads, and even if the pace did not exceed one third of the average in the respective classes, it would be fast enough to serve all purposes for home defence. The Imperial military authorities are making free use of both cycles and motors in the latest defence scheme, and paying the greatest attention to the roads- a most important factor in military operations.’ The Adelaide Advertiser said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The nascent motor industry realised one means of proving the worthiness of cars was to demonstrate their reliability of by long distance events.

City to city transcontinental success soon evolved into city to city record breaking- the achievements of the cars and drivers was picked up by the print media of the day and the successes of the cars and their suppliers of fuel, lubricants etc were also promoted.

Before too long drivers such as Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith, Boyd Edkins and AV Turner were household names and drew crowds when they were departing and completing one of their adventures.

In parallel, car organisations/clubs were formed to provide the means for like minded motorists to share information and to tour together- there was safety in numbers if for no other reason than to have a mechanic at hand to keep your conveyance moving in the event if it faltered.

Inevitably the more competitive of motorists wanted to test their steeds in competition so Car Reliability Trials evolved from runs to more competitive events. These comprised trips from the city to the country of a navigational nature with speed events within them which typically comprised timed flying quarter/half mile/mile, acceleration tests, hillclimb(s), and what later became gymkhana type events. Normal roads were used which were closed off to other traffic- which was very limited in volume as the Trials were typically well out of town and the PC Plod’s glare. The more public of these events would have complied with the laws of the day in terms of requisite permits but perhaps not so much the smaller ones…

So, it seemed smart to do an article showing some of the cars used in these very early forms of competition in Australia- there was no permanent ‘circuit’ or ‘speedway’ in Australia in 1911. The City to City Record Breaking Era ended in 1930 when such open road ‘events’ were made illegal.

 

(JOL)

Napier Tourer: Brisbane to Toowoomba, Queensland 1912…

Walter Trevethan drove this 1911 or 1912 6-cylinder Napier from Brisbane to Toowoomba, 127 Km in 3 hours 7 minutes, one puncture and missing the railway gates at Redbank cost him a total of 16 minutes. Walter carried three passengers ‘The record has never been lowered although attempts have been made’, the photo caption says.

 

(S Hood)

Armstrong Whitworth: Sydney 1913…

AP Wright of Angus & Son and passenger, probably John Leys ‘in a stripped down Armstrong Whitworth record-breaking chassis in front of the Art Gallery’.

 

(SLSA Searcy Collection)

Vauxhall ‘Prince Henry’: Adelaide to Melbourne 1913…

Two unknown men in a Vauxhall ‘possibly prepared for an Adelaide to Melbourne record run in 1913. The journey is 735 Km.

 

(JOL)

Motor Sports Carnival: Brisbane, Queensland, 10 October 1914…

We do have State based differences in Australia, perhaps this is one of them, a variation on the trials theme perhaps? I wonder what marque of car she has jumped from?

‘A female athlete competing in the motor sports carnival in Brisbane, Queensland 1914’, most intriguing, i can’t find anything more about this event but am keen to know if any of you are descendants of this pioneering, rather attractive young lady. The caption tells us all we don’t need; ‘A woman athlete wearing a knee length dress and bonnet competing in the motor sports carnival at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds. She appears to be a runner’. No shit Sherlock.

 

 

Essex: Hobart to Launceston and Return, ‘Wizard Smith’ 1923…

Norman ‘Wizard Smith’ acquired his nickname as a result of his speed in all manner of cars but received his label after multiple wins in the Victorian Alpine Trial.

The return trip of 400 Km took 4 hours 19 minutes. Smith left Hobart at 4am, he was at the Launceston GPO at 6.08, and after a minute was heading south again, ‘he arrived at Hobart Post Office at 6.19am, just 4 hours and 19 minutes after he left but in the meantime travelling 244 miles’…’The really remarkable thing about the whole business is that ‘Wizard’ Smith lowered the previous record by 1 hour 18 minutes…Mr Smith stated that his average speed was 56 mph, his maximum speed 101 mph…Our speed visitor holds the record from Brisbane to Sydney…Adelaide to Melbourne…These achievements have all been made on an Essex car’ The Adelaide Register reported.

Its interesting to look at the Essex and its stripped down nature, deviod of running board and mudguards, but fitted with additional wheels and tyres to prepare for punctures which were far more prevalent then than now.

 

(JOL)

Austin Tourer: Reliability Trial, Maleny Queensland 1924…

Austin Tourer, a 4-cylinder car built between 1921 and 1924 during an RACQ reliability trial. Maleny is in the beautiful countryside inland of the Sunshine Coast about 100 Km north of Brisbane. No doubt quite a testing dive in the twenties.

 

(JOL)

 

Overland ‘Whitey’: Fred Eager in Don Harkness’ famous Overland in 1924…

‘Whitey’ was a stripped down 1914 Overland devoid of mudguards and headlights which broke the interstate, 915 Km speed record from Sydney to Brisbane on public roads. Fred Eagers’ company was the Queensland distributor for Willys-Overland’.

The photo caption goes on to state ‘Interstate speed record breaking was very popular after World War 1 into the 1920’s. Record breaking runs wre usually made with a single, specially prepared car with a driver and mechanic. Official timing was established by motoring clubs in the starting and finishing cities, and a great deal of publicity could flow to drivers, sponsors and manufacturers from the speed record attempts. Increasing speeds on the poor roads of the day led to crashes and serious injuries, so by the mid twenties the police were clamping down on these runs, which were eventually banned in 1930’.

 

(S Hood)

Chrysler: Melbourne to Sydney, ‘Wizard Smith’ 1927/8…

Scrutineers check all is good before Smith heads out of Martin Place and then south for the 875 Km journey.

Wizard is alongside what is now the wonderful GPO-Westin Hotel complex, my favourite Sydney CBD place to stay. The old building behind the car is still there in all of its magnificent, restored glory.

 

(Fairfax)

Citroen: Sydney to Bourke, 5 May 1932…

Arthur Barnes about to embark on his 760 Km trip to Bourke in the Darling River country of New South Wales, well supported by Texaco and Rapson Tyres. The photo caption records the attempt as an unsuccessful one.

Credits…

State Library of South Australia Searcy Collection, State Library of New South Wales- Sam Hood, ‘JOL’- John Oxley Library within the State Library of Queensland, Fairfax, The Adelaide Advertiser, Melbourne Argus and Cairns Post April 1912 and other newspapers via Trove

Finito…