Archive for the ‘Icons & Iconoclasts’ Category

Brands Hatch 27 Sept 1970 F5000 C’ship round. Gardner, Lola T190 Chev, Mike Walker, McLaren M10B Chev, Trevor Taylor, Lola T190 Chev, Graham McRae, McLaren M10B Chev. McRae won from Howden Ganley M10B and Mike Hailwood T190 (Autosport)

The answer is F1 of course, maybe the more interesting question is by how much. A warning this piece is strictly for the F5000 anoraks.

Some recent chatter amongst enthusiasts on the The Nostalgia Forum’s Ontario Raceway thread got me thinking about the relative speed of F1 and F5000 cars. The builder/promoters of the new Ontario facility ran an F1/F5000 race won by Mario Andretti’s Ferrari 312B in early 1971, see here; https://primotipo.com/2015/10/30/questor-grand-prix-ontario-speedway-1971/

In those far away days the ‘Race of Champions’ at Brands Hatch pitted the two categories together, the only occasion on which an F5000 car beat the Effwun jobbies ‘fair and square’ was in 1973 when Peter Gethin triumphed in a Chevron B24 Chev. The 1971 Italian GP winner was running third when Mike Hailwood’s leading Surtees TS14A Ford and Denny Hulme’s following McLaren M23 Ford F1 cars had mechanical troubles gifting Gethin the win. Peter had only qualified eighth though.

Its ‘raw speed’ i am more interested in.

 

Peter Gethin exits Druids on the way to his Brands Hatch ‘Race of Champions’ win in 1973, Chevron B24 Chev (MotorSport)

 

Peter awaits a new sparkbox, ROC weekend 1973 (MotorSport)

 

Brands first round of the 1974 Euro F5000 C’ship 16 March 1974. Peter Gethin on pole, Chevron B28 Chev alongside Brian Redman, Lola T332 Chev, then Guy Edwards in another T332 with Ian Ashley alongside in the yellow T330. Schuppan’s Trojan T101 and Steve Thompson’s Chevron B24 on the row behind. Gethin won from Mike Wilds’ March 74A Chev and Redman (Autosport)

During the peak years of the European and US F5000 championships both categories raced on some of the same tracks, viz; Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Zandvoort, Zolder, Monza, Mosport and Watkins Glen.

So. If we look at the fastest race laps in each event by the cars on the track in the same year, eg; the Italian GP and Euro F5000 round at Monza, we can calculate the difference in lap times. Originally i thought qualifying times would be the go but F1 had greater use qualifying tyres than F5000 so race times are a fairer representation.

The obvious flaw in the logic above is that absolute comparisons can only be made by looking at performances on the same day with each class racing in identical climatic conditions but such races did not occur. So we will not arrive at absolute answers but indicative ones.

What year do we use? To get the greatest spread of meetings lets use 1974. By that stage the greatest F5000 car of all, the Lola T330-332 was in its second year of development. I suspect (but can’t be bothered doing the comparison) that the difference in times between F1 cars and F5000 in 1970-1971 would have much more as the only ‘great F5000’ then was the McLaren M10B. Mind you it’s father is McLaren’s 1968 F1 machine, Robin Herd and Bruce’s McLaren M7. By 1974 there were plenty of very competitive bespoke F5000s- Lola, McRae, Chevron, Matich et al.

In 1975 there were circuit changes (chicanes added) at Silverstone and Watkins Glen between the F5000 and F1 races which make comparisons impossible. After a shitfight over dollars (what else) the Canadian GP at Mosport wasn’t held, and Monza held an F5000 race, in 1975 they didn’t. Further, in Europe from 1975 the Championship admitted the Ford 3.4 litre quad cam, four valve V6 engine with which Alan Jones and David Purley were very fast.

The comparison i am after is ‘one of purity’ between 3 litre F1 cars and 5 litre F5000s as originally concepted, so for all those good reasons 1974 it is.

Remember, it’s fastest lap of the race I have recorded, not pole.

Mosport 15 June 1975. Heat 1, turn 9, lap 1. Warwick Brown, Talon MR-1A Chev thinks about an inside run on Mario Andretti’s Lola T332, David Hobbs’ T332 #10 at left. Jon Woodner’s Interscope T400 behind Brown. Andretti won from Brown and Woodner (Norm Macleod)

 

Main men in the US- Jim Hall, Brian Redman, Mario Andretti and Lola T332 Chev at Elkhart Lake in 1974 (Getty)

 

Ryan Falconer prepared Chev in Andretti’s T332. Circa 525 bhp in period (J Morris)

Brands Hatch

F5000 16/03/74  1:25.90  Peter Gethin Chevron B28 Chev

F1       20/06/74  1:21.10  Niki Lauda Ferrari 312B3-74

Zandvoort

F5000  03/06/74 1:23.30  Peter Gethin Chevron B28 Chev

F1       23/06/74  1:21.44  Ronnie Peterson Lotus 72E Ford

Monza

F5000 30/06/74  1:37.40  Peter Gethin Chevron B28 Chev

F1       08/09/74  1.34.20  Carlos Reutemann Brabham BT44 Ford

Mosport

F5000 15/06/74  1:16.200  Brian Redman Lola T332 Chev

F1       22/09/74  1:13.659  Niki Lauda Ferrari 312B3-74

Watkins Glen

F5000 14/07/74  1:41.406  Mario Andretti Lola T332 Chev

F1       06/10/74  1:40.608  Carlos Pace Brabham BT44 Ford

 

Teddy Pilette, Lola T400 Chev playing in the snow at Oulton Park during Easter 1975. Gordon Spice and Guy Edwards were up front in their T332 Chevs with David Purley third in his Chevron B30 Ford Cosworth GAA-3.4 V6. Whilst the T400 had plenty of success in Europe and Australia the prominent American teams never set aside their trusty, fast, winning T332s (A Cox)

 

Zolder 28 April 1974, unusual, great from the grid shot. Look at that crowd. Heat 1 grid- the two VDS Chevron B28 Chevs of Pilette and Gethin on the front row. Bob Evans yellow winged T332, Chris Craft’ Chevron B24/28 in the foreground and a wheel of Mike Wilds’ March 74A at left. Gethin won the 25 lapper from Pilette and Evans (Zolder Museum)

 

Lella Lombardi, March 751 Ford and Vern Schuppan, Lola T332 Chev scrap during the 16 March 1975 Brands Race Of Champions- DNF both. Race won by Tom Pryce’ Shadow DN5A Ford. No F5000 was classified in a race run in cold, damp conditions

In making the assessment I’ve not considered the weather.

The biggest gap between the two classes is about 4 seconds at Brands, the smallest 1 second at Watkins Glen.

Brands in March can be awfully chilly and glorious in June, ambient temperature impacts on the heat and grip of the tyres of course. Denis Jenkinson’s race report of the Brands F5000 race weekend (actually the Race of Champions weekend in which the F5000 championship race was on Saturday, the ROC on Sunday) does not help me as to weather conditions, but he makes no mention of rain. Similarly, the British GP was run in the dry. If you can help with ‘mitigating weather or circumstances’ do get in touch.

Interestingly, Mario Andretti is on record in a number of publications as saying Vels Parnelli never approached the F5000 times set by the teams Lola T332 at Riverside and Watkins Glen in their F1 Parnelli VPJ4 Ford in testing, but then again that was not a great GP car.

The fastest F5000 cars on the planet in that period were the Haas-Hall and VPJ T332s raced by Brian Redman, Mario Andretti and Al Unser- what an awesome road-racer he was!

Bang for buck there has never been a greater single-seater class. It seems incredible today that, having killed the Can-Am Series, the SCCA also slaughtered their F5000 Championship in the forlorn hope of recapturing Can-Am spectator interest and numbers.

In 1975-6 US5000 had Redman, Andretti, Unser, Jones, Gethin, Oliver, Brown, Schuppan, Pilette, Ongais, McRae, Lunger and others. The Dodge powered Shadows added much needed variety to Formula Lola, mind you Jones won a couple of races in 1976 with a March 76A Chev, it really was a brilliant blood and thunder spectacle even if the cars were not quite as fast as F1…

Oulton Park’s prestigious Gold Cup gets away on 9 September 1973. Ian Ashley’s Lola T330 sandwiched between the blue Chevron B24 Chev of Tony Dean and yellow striped one of Peter Gethin. #25 is Keith Holland, Trojan T101 Chev with Graham McRae’s McRae GM1 well back inside left in red with Guy Edwards’ light blue T330 behind him. Gethin won from Pilette- who is well back here and Tony Dean (S Jones)

 

US Watkins Glen round, final, 2 11 July 1976. Teddy Pilette’s Lola T430 Chev leads a bunch of cars, DNF engine. Lola’s final F5000 design could not coax the Americans from their T332s either. Best place third at Mosport, Q2 at Road America. Successful in Australia in Warwick Brown (1977 AGP & Rothmans Series) and Alf Costanzo’s (Gold Star) hands (T Pilette Collection)

Credits…

Wikipedia, MotorSport, Autosport, Getty Images, Alan Cox, Jonesy Morris, Zolder Museum, Norm Macleod, Larry Roberts, Mike Hayward Collection, Steve Jones, Teddy Pilette Collection

Tailpiece…

(L Roberts)

The great Brian Redman’s Lola T332 Chev looking as good as a racing car ever gets.

Turn 9 at Laguna Seca in 1975, Brian was third that day behind the VPJ duo of Andretti and Unser- T332 Chevs.

What an amazing career in single-seaters and sportscars, whilst Brian dipped in and out of F1 from the mid sixties to the mid seventies he must be up there in any list of ‘greatest driver of the period outside Grand Prix racing’.

Finito…

 

 

(T Johns Collection)

Tony Johns well rugged up for the chills of Winton in 1965, Austin 7 Spl…

When I completed University my student earnings were all blown on a Venom Mk2 Formula Vee in March 1979, i entered the ‘real workforce’ and bought my first racer in the same week. Formula Vee was the way to go for the impecunious enthusiast with a hankering for single seater cars then, but a generation before in the late fifties/early sixties the path was a little more difficult without so many ‘factory’ cars about.

Tony Johns’ story of Austin 7 competition in the day is an interesting first-hand account of how it was for enthusiasts with a hankering for competition in those times- many Australian enthusiasts will be familiar with him as a racer, purveyor of fine motorbooks or co-author of ‘Vintage Bentleys in Australia’.

‘I was fortunate to grow up with very tolerant parents who accepted my love of old cars. Starting when I was a young boy with an Austin 7-owning great aunt which generated my passion for these wonderful cars. In my final years at school long before any of us were old enough to hold a driving license, two of my class mates already owned A7s, and soon after a third purchased a Chummy six months before me which he still owns to this day.’

John’s first Austin Chummy. ‘In the early 1960s the A7 Club held their annual beach run on the Mornington Peninsula at what was then a quiet peaceful beach at Shoreham, not far from Flinders. Never to waste an opportunity once the tide went out, the sticks were soon in place for a slalom event. If you look closely (very Tony!) under my armpit you can see Neil Johannesen’s Mooris 850 ex-1961 Armstrong 500’. Bugeye Sprite at right (David Lowe-T Johns Collection)

 

TJ and Chummy ascending Rob Roy in the early sixties (A Tracey)

‘As a teenager in the 1950’s I convinced my parents to take me to a race meeting at the Fisherman’s Bend airstrip circuit and the race meetings at Albert Park, mind you I had to wear my school uniform and cap!

Still months away from being old enough to have a driving license, I purchased my first Austin 7, a 1928 magneto-engined Chummy that was my entry card to join the Victorian Austin 7 Club in 1960.

In the beginning I competed in Gymkhanas and Navigation Trials but always wanted to build and compete in my own racing Austin 7. I started going to race meetings with Nigel Tait and got to know all the other drivers, observing what to do and what not to do. In those days everybody was very helpful and at race meeting, drivers would share spare parts if somebody needed help.’

Minimalism defined! ‘The gymkhana chassis, which, together with the body from Allan Tyrrell’s racing car which became my first racing Austin in 1965’ (T Johns)

 

Lakeland Hillclimb in the mid-sixties, still in short-sleeves but with secondhand Dunlop racing tyres and fifteen inch wheels (D Lowe)

 

‘John Fleming’s Merri Bridge Motors was the place to go for Austin 7 specials in the 1960s’ (T Johns Collection)

‘John Whitehouse and Dale Shaw were the front-runners when I had built my racing 7. My first race meeting as a driver was the Easter weekend in South Australia back in 1965, it comprised a hillclimb at Collingrove and races at Mallala. By then John Fleming and John Bowring had retired and sold their cars to new owners.

It took nearly a year to build with a lot of help from fellow Austin 7 club member Geoff Taylor, yet another A7 member who ended up as an engineer with General Motors. Geoff was still around when we built the two new Austins for the ‘1981 Raid’ to the UK- this time, as the Chief Brake Engineer for GMH. He used his contacts at PBR to supply all the new brake fittings, no going back to the wreckers!

Starting with a lowered chassis which had been modified to use in gymkhanas, I converted the original cable brakes to hydraulic operation using new alloy backing plates manufactured and sold by John Fleming (see advertisement) and Lockheed cylinders from a side valve Morris Minor obtained from the local wrecker.

Fortunately for me, Allan Tyrrell, due to both work commitments and a young family had decided to give up circuit racing and instead use his Austin to compete in an occasional hill climb. Having removed the alloy body to save weight he then agreed to sell it to me, however it took several years to get to own the inlet and exhaust manifolds but he loaned them to me for many years.

During these early years I had various manifold and SU carby setups hence the various power bulges and cutouts in the bonnet. Bill Sheehan came to my rescue on more than one occasion shaping the alloy transmission tunnel around my parents Hills Hoist.

The 1965 Easter weekend was the first of many all night sessions in order to get ready for a race meeting. Another Mallala story, one year at scrutineering the scrutineer eyes were focused on my front shock absorbers and nothing else. When I queried if there was a problem his reply was ‘Where did you get them?’- once again they were a gift from Geoff Taylor, my GMH friend, they were a pair of very special, fully adjustable Munro shocks used in the development of the Holden Torana and never available to the general public. Once that was all settled I sailed through scrutineering.’

Mallala 1965 shot which oozes atmosphere. TJ leads Trevor Cole’s ex-Fleming Austin through ‘Woodroffes Corner’ (T Johns Collection)

 

(T Johns Collection)

 

Easter Mallala 1967. Doug Jarvis on pole in the ex-Davison Alfa Romeo P3, #11 Ron Brownrigg Riley and #9 Peter Brady ex-Bira MG K3. On row 2 Bill Potts or son Douglas at left MG TA and an obscured Tony Johns #98 Austin 7. Johns observes ‘This is what it was like at the start of Vintage and Historic Racing in the sixties- no roll bars and short sleeved shirts and we are still here today’ (T Johns Collection)

 

Same event as above but the flag has dropped, ‘Ron Brownrigg making his usual fast getaway in the Riley Imp, in view behind the Austin is John Jarvis driving his father’s Alfa Romeo 8C2300. Digby Thomas at the rear in his SS100 #72. The same race had an embarrassing end for me. In practice I drove around the outside of the Smith Darracq-Talbot on what used to be called Castrol Corner, nowadays BP. During the race, with youthful experience, I attempted the same passing move, only this time he was going much faster and the end result was that I rolled over several times and was thrown out…a roll bar and seat belt were fitted to the Austin soon after!’ (T Johns Collection)

 

(T Johns)

‘Back in the 1960’s there were several books published in the UK on how to build an Austin 7 Special. In fact two of them were the first books published by authors Patrick Stephens and John Haynes who both became very successful publishers, anybody interested in reading about the subject was well catered for.

After a decade of racing in this form my good friend and special builder David Lowe decided my Austin needed a birthday, so it lived in his Toorak garage where he removed the pop rivets which held the body to the frame and then set about welding up a new steel tube frame complete with built-in roll bar using only the scuttle panel and top and bottom of the tail on the newly rebuilt car. A twin brake master cylinder conversion was added at this time.

The next major change to the car happened just in time for the 1978 AGP 50th Anniversary celebrations at Phillip Island when yet another Austin 7 Club member, Ross Stewart, offered to fit a supercharger to my car.

He designed, cast and machined all the alloy castings in the style used by the Austin factory back in the 1920s in order to comply with CAMS rules. Using a tooth belt to drive a supercharger was no longer allowed. Once again it was an all night session and Ross arrived with my car at the PI race circuit very late on Saturday afternoon with no time for practice. I continued to race this car for a further two years before building my Raid car to comply with UK VSCC rules- story coming soon on this adventure to the UK.

To quote Charles Dickens- ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’.

During my thirty plus years of racing an Austin 7 the scene has progressed from Austin 7 Formula racing in the 1960s when we raced with the air cooled 500cc cars competing in Division 3 or 4 races at country circuits such as Hume Weir and Winton.’

Sandown pits 1965 ‘My racing car arriving on the Saturday morning after being towed from Brighton behind Bill Morling’s homemade A7 Ute- there are no hills on the route so we thought it would be good to upset the Bugatti owners etc with their Rice Trailers and Ford Mainline Utes!’ (Bill Morling-T Johns Collection)

 

Winton dummy grid in late 1968. An interesting shot in the context of Johns’ comment about the evolution of A7 racers and competition rules. #92 Nigel Tait with Neil Johannsen partially obscured behind him, then Johns in upright A7, #95 John Whitehouse in the Whitmor referred to in the text below, #93 Trevor Cole, #89 Maggie Rowe (D Lowe)

 

A Boxing Day meeting at Hume Weir in the mid seventies, Maggie Lowe chasing TJ (T Johns Collection)

‘Not long after, new very fast wedge-shaped Austins started appearing led by John Whitehouse in his Whitmor and Nigel Tait in his new car. These cars incorporated Triumph Herald front uprights together with coil spring shock absorbers, rack and pinion steering and 13 inch alloy wheel centres with spun rims. There was not much of a chance of an upright Austin 7 fitted with a beam front axle to first to great the chequered flag.

Vintage car racing in Australia began to flourish and the opportunity to be a front runner was there again. Another change to the rules for the A7 Formula was that engines other than the side valve Austin 7 could be used- Renault 750 and Hillman Imp motors were popular choices.

It was this period which included races at Warwick Farm, Historic Amaroo, Oran Park, Sandown Park and Historic Winton that were certainly ‘the best of times’ and when my engine seized a piston on the second lap at Mallory Park in the UK in 1981 during the 750 Motor Club Intercontinental Challenge and I retired, that was ‘the worst of times’.

It is sad to report that Austin 7s are now rarely seen on Historic Meeting race grids, these days the later 1930s cars are so much faster and the Austins now compete in Regularity events, Hill Climbs or Sprints.’

Etcetera…

(T Johns Collection)

Equipe Johns in the Sandown paddock, September 1965.

The Chummy he acquired whilst still a student and the A7 racer he ran from 1965 to 1980.

 

(T Johns Collection)

Easter Mallala sandwich-the Johns’ A7 sandwiched between Gavin Sandford-Morgan’s Jaguar C Type with Gavin Sala’s Darracq closes in.

(T Johns Collection)

Austin 7 Club stand at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton, Melbourne during one of the Racing Car Shows promoted by Jim Abbott and John Whitehouse in 1969 or 1970.

From left, beside the pole is Nigel Tait’s then new Formula Austin, then the Whitmor’s engine, the restored Ulster chassis owned by Doug Head and in the foreground is new spaceframe car designed to compete on Observed Section Trials. In the background is Alan Esmore’s 7 with a locally built Ace two-seater body and Johns’ racing 7 on the right.

(T Johns Collection)

Lakeland Hillclimb near Lilydale, Melbourne in the mid-sixties before installation of the first roll-bar.

 

(D Lowe-T Johns Collection)

Another shot above showing the evolution of racing A7s.

Lachie Sharp at Mallala during the Easter 1966 meeting aboard the John Whitehouse built ‘The Carrot’- the name a function of the car’s colour. It was built in 1961 with help from Dale Shaw and body builder Barry Hudson- the shark-nose was completed prior to its adoption by Carlo Chiti in Maranello for his 1961 World Championship winning 156 V6 machines.

The original setup included a split front axle and leaf spring, later on John Whitehouse made the conversion to fully independent suspension as the car is shown here.

Austin 7 Formula in Australia…

See this interesting article on the evolution of Austin 7 based racing cars which was published in the ‘Australian Motor Sports Review’ 1958-1959.

See ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ Austin 7 Racing in Australia thread…

This great thread has heaps of snippets, photographs and stories by Tony Johns and Stephen Dalton about the racing of Sevens since the 1930s- it is ever evolving and growing so keep an eye on it.

https://forums.autosport.com/topic/215085-austin-seven-racing-in-australia-from-1928/

Credits…

Tony Johns- many thanks for the article and pictures

David Lowe, Ashley Tracey, Bill Morling, Australian Motor Sports Review 1958-1959

Tailpiece…

(T Johns Collection)

Tony Johns in front of Nigel Tait at Winton in 1965- wonderful times, simpler times where it was about sport and fun.

Finito…

 

(J Comber)

Ern Seeliger jumps aboard the magnificent Maybach 4 Chev at Fishermans Bend in March 1958…

One of the Covid 19 phenomena, the only good one I might add, is the incredible number of enthusiasts who have been using time released from normal outdoor activities to doing stuff inside including finding and sorting old racing images, Melbourne enthusiast, John Comber is one such fella.

In addition to the shots he also wrote a piece about his work experience as a fifteen year old in Seeliger’s workshop at 52 Baker Street, Richmond, Melbourne way back in 1958- Seeliger didn’t frighten him off either, he commenced his career as a panel beater shortly thereafter.

Of course i have written about the Maybachs before, here; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/01/1954-australian-grand-prix-southport-qld/

A big blow up of the one remaining Maybach six cylinder engine at Gnoo Blas littered the bitumen with expensive metallic debris in early 1956 and resulted in Stan Jones decision to acquire a Maserati 250F, the Maybach was handed over to Seeliger, long time friend and preparer of some of his cars to further develop and race, although Stan did have the occasional drive too.

Maybach 3 was styled along the lines of the Mercedes Benz W196, its chassis was built up from two 4 inch diameter steel tubes, the cars front suspension was by upper wishbones and a lower transverse leaf spring and radius rods, drum brakes were by PBR and the gearbox a four-speed manual.

Seeliger’s evolution of Maybach 3 to 4 essentially involved the insertion of a Chev Corvette 283 cid V8 into the space once occupied by the German 3.8 litre SOHC injected six, changes to accomodate it and better put its power to the road.

Maybach 3 in the Gnoo Blas, Orange paddock on the fateful early 1956 when its beautiful, fuel injected SOHC six lunched itself bigtime for the last time-who is at the wheel? (B Caldersmith)

John Comber’s time in the Seeliger shop coincided with some of these modifications, lets look at his work experience now.

‘…My second job was also with a neighbour, Mr Seeliger, who had a small automotive engineering business in Richmond…The arrangements were for me and my friend Trevor to be at the Seeliger’s house at 7.30 am Monday morning, do a days work and see how we liked it.’

‘On the Monday, with a  packed lunch and wearing our best “old clothes” we arrived at 7.30 just as Mr Seeliger was starting the engine of his utility. “Jump in boys” he said and we took off straight away, heading for Richmond (from Blackburn).’

‘I still remember quite clearly his opening comments, “Well i have the right job for you two bastards today, you can clean some car parts with kero, “That’ll keep you busy”.

‘The thought of cleaning the car parts with kerosene didn’t faze me but the language had caused me something of a jolt. To me this was school-yard  language and i wasn’t used to adults swearing, certainly not from my parents or relatives, or family friends.’

‘Well the rest of the day turned out fine, Trevor and i set-to with a can of kerosene cleaning mechanical parts and some body parts as well. This was quite an easy job and allowed us to look around and take in the surroundings. Mr Seeliger’s workshop  was converted from some old run-down stables with cobblestones between the sheds and an overhead loft used for storage. The yard was quite large with grass growing between some old cars and car trailers adding to the overall run-down appearance of the place.’

‘This must have been too much for Trevor as he didn’t come any more but i was there each day for the next fortnight, working amongst the cars was perfect for me…’

The core of Mr Seeliger’s business was tuning and maintaining racing cars, he was a qualified aircraft engineer and understood high performance engines and was also a racing driver himself. One of the racing cars he worked on had a V8 engine and was a potential race-winner. I learned later that this car was known as the “Maybach” and had a long history of success. He had spent several days working on the rear of the car making some modifications. Finally with it all finished i can still visualise him standing on the back of the car, making it bounce up and down and saying “That’ll keep me ahead of those bloody Ferraris.”

‘There were only three on staff, Mr Seeliger, a mechanic and Roy, the apprentice. Although Roy was only a year or two older than me he was quite friendly and helpful. To quote an old mechanic’s saying “he knew his way around a toolbox”, sometimes i helped with jobs on customer cars- simple jobs…’

‘Working conditions can best be described as matching the already mentioned surroundings: primitive might sum it up. There was no lunch-room, morning tea break was around the car being worked on and discussing the progress of the job while sipping tea or coffee. Lunch break was a little better though with a couple of old car seats to sit on…There was no heating of any sort, the area between the main sheds being open to the elements. The toilet was basic and the only tap available for hand washing was also used for filling radiators and washing cars etc.’

‘Despite these poor working conditions, which by twenty-first century standards would be deemed illegal, i thoroughly enjoyed myself working with cars and receiving five pounds each week. Now i was even more eager to finish school and begin an apprenticeship as a panel beater’, John Comber concluded in a wonderful personal account of what it was like ‘in the day’.

Tom Hawkes’ Cooper T23 Holden-Repco and Ron Phillips’ Cooper T38 Jaguar (J Comber)

 

Seeliger, above, with his mount at Bathurst during the 1958 Australian Grand Prix weekend- and a successful meeting too, second behind Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 3 litre.

 

(J Comber)

In fact the modifications to the car John alluded to included the design and construction of a de Dion rear axle to better put the greater power and torque of the bigger, heavier cast-iron V8 to the road. The previous quarter-elliptic springs were replaced with a transverse leaf, the rear track widened by an inch, the chassis lengthened a bit and at the front an anti-roll bar was fitted which incorporated brake torque rods. A larger 30 gallon tank was made to feed the thirsty Chevy.

American hot-up parts were quickly produced for this engine (in large numbers continuously for about seventy years so far!) the first of the ‘small-blocks’- the modifications to the motor used in Maybach involved fitment of two 4-barrel Carter carbs, porting and polishing the heads, bigger valves, stronger springs, lightened flywheel, oilways modified for greater flow and dry-sumping- 274bhp @ 3500rpm and 300lb/ft at 3500rpm was the result. Seeliger designed and made the clutch and a bell-housing to adapt the American engine to German Maybach ‘box whilst the diff was the same unit used in ‘3’ but with shorter axles and stronger cv’s bolted and mated to the new de Dion.

Ern made the cars debut in this form at Fishermans Bend in March 1958, John Comber’s first shot at this articles outset and some others below were taken on that very weekend.

His bid for victory came to an end with stripped tyres, John recalls ‘We watched the races from a large furniture van…after a few laps of the main race the rear tyres showed white strips around their perimeter and those on the van became quite worried the tyres might blow- fortunately Seeliger saw the problem and retired from the race….Back in the van there were many commiserations and i distinctly remember asking him “Would he be suing Dunlop because the tyres let him down”? He laughingly said “Oh no, they were just some old tyres anyway”- and indeed if you look closely at the first photograph the rears are well worn.

Importantly, the car was quick right out of the box though, Seeliger was a mighty fine design and development engineer.

Stan Jones was stiff not to win the 1958 AGP at Bathurst aboard his 250F- as was Ted Gray unlucky to dip out in Tornado 2 Chev, but Seeliger finished second in Maybach 4 with Lex Davison, always a lucky AGP competitor, the winner.

Be in no doubt my friends Maybach 4 Chev in Jone’s hands was a front row car had he felt so inclined in 1958 but he was busy winning the Gold Star aboard the 250F in any event. John believes he took the second #69 shot about two years later at a Fishermans Bend Sprint Meeting- it would be great to hear from anyone who can date it.

Into 1959 Maybach 4 was still competitive in Ern’s hands, and Stan took a win in the ‘South Australian Trophy’ Gold Star event at Port Wakefield in late March and third place in the Lowood Trophy race in Queensland but his performances that year were not enough to win him the Gold Star again despite his Longford 250F AGP win at the season’s outset.

The reign of the ‘Red Cars’ was quickly coming to an end In Australia but lets never forget the dark blue Tornado 2 shown in the Albert Park paddock below in late 1958, and the silver/blue Maybach 4- both Chev V8 powered locally designed and engineered devices very much as quick as the more sophisticated, twin-cam, exotic, expensive factory cars from Italy’s north.

Click here for a feature on the Tornados; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

Tornado with the Derek Jolly Lotus 15 Climax in profile behind, Albert Park 1958 (J Comber)

 

(J Comber)

In fact that is a beautiful segue to Comber’s second 1958 Albert Park, Melbourne Grand Prix shot above of Stirling Moss’ Rob Walker entered Cooper T45 Climax being pushed through the paddock by Tim Wall.

Just look at the relative size and packaging of Tornado 2 Chev, together with Maybach 4, Stan Jones Maserati 250F and Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 the fastest cars in Australia in 1958 and the tiny, light, nimble 2 litre Cooper.

At the season’s outset, before the Fishermans Bend meeting in March when Seeliger debuted Maybach 4, Stirling Moss won the first World Championship Formula 1 race taken by a mid-engined car by receiving the chequered flag in the Argentinian Grand Prix in a Walker T45- i am not sure if he used the same chassis to defeat Jack Brabham in another T45 that Melbourne summer afternoon- sadly the last use of Albert Park as a race venue until the modern era.

That day in Argentina reset the paradigm for Grand Prix and Sports-Racer design, the last World Championships for front engined cars were won in 1958- Vanwall took the constructors title and Mike Hawthorn the drivers award in a Ferrari Dino 246.

It was the same, in a fashion in Australia, the last front-engined Gold Star win was Jones 1958 award aboard his Maserati 250F, the first mid-engined one went to Len Lukey who raced the same Cooper T45 Brabham ran at Albert Park in late 1958 to Gold Star victory in 1959.

No wonder Comber’s camera was drawn to the little Cooper at Albert Park.

See here for Moss at ‘The Park’; https://primotipo.com/2016/12/27/moss-at-albert-park/

 

(J Comber)

Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax has been well covered, here the car is at rest with Norman Hamilton’s Porsche 550 Spyder alongside- Ern Tadgell raced the car that weekend.

Before the end of a weekend the Lotus’ good health was ruined comprehensively- a rear suspension failure pitched the car into the trees late in the Melbourne GP race and resulted in some acrimonious discussions between Colin Chapman and Jolly about the quality of its build- a Le Mans drive and new chassis was the net result- see here for a feature article on the Derek’s Deccas and Lotuses; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

 

(J Comber)

David McKay’s Jaguar Mk1 is another car which has been well covered in these pages, here at Albert Park it has not been in the country long at all. See here; https://primotipo.com/2014/08/05/gnoo-who-gnoo-blas-circuit-jaguar-xkc-type-xkc037/

The Sydneysider had a great carnival winning the Touring Car Scratch Race on both weekends with the eternal Bob Holden, and Clem Smith Holdens second and third on both occasions- Holden raced an FE and Smith a ‘Humpy’.

(J Comber)

Doug Whiteford was as close to a professional driver Australia had at the time, albeit his St Kilda and Hawthorn garages and dealerships were an inextricable part of his business mix- above is his Dodge Custom Royal and Rice Trailer contained within is his famous, long raced and much lusted over Maserati 300S- Fisherman’s Bend February or March 1958.

This piece is about the Maserati 300S; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/

(J Comber)

Len Lukey made his name in Ford Customlines before adding single seaters to the mix and winning a Gold Star aboard a Cooper T45 Climax in 1959.

He famously towed his Cooper Bristol to a Caversham Gold Star round with a Customline and then contested the Touring Car races with said tow-car, note the tow-bar in this ‘Fishos shot.

All about Len here; https://primotipo.com/2019/12/26/len-lukey-australian-gold-star-champion/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/20/teds-tornado-and-lens-cooper/

(J Comber)

Another two Fishermans Bend tourer contestants are this #69 Hillman raced by Harry Firth and Esquire Motors entered Wolseley driven by 1936 Australian Grand Prix winner, Les Murphy, towards the end of a very long racing career- 22/23 February 1958 weekend. The shot below is Bob Holden’s FE Holden.

(J Comber)

Otto Stone and crewman push the great engineer, and very handy steerers MG K3 through the paddock- I think it is fair to say that Stan Jones Maserati 250F fortunes changed for the better when Otto took over the preparation of chassis ‘2520’.

(J Comber)

Other Photographs…

(J Comber)

Two of the cars featured above in period in more recent times- the late eighties during an Eastern Beach, Ritchie Boulevard, Geelong Sprint meeting.

These days Maybach 4 I think is owned by Peter Briggs’ York Motor Museum in West Australia and Tornado 2 Chev by Frank Moore in Queensland- both are such significant cars it would be great to see them out and about more often.

(J Comber)

 

(J Comber)

A series of three photographs at Sandown to finish off- the first is again Tornado 2 Chev, this time during the 1978 ‘Fangio Meeting’ with, if memory serves, one of its ‘in period’ drivers John McDonald at the wheel, perhaps someone with a  program to hand can check that.

John has framed his shot brilliantly by avoiding modern advertising hoardings, this is the run along Pit Straight, close to Peters/Torana Corner.

Stan Jones is one of my all-time faves so i’ve saved the best till last!

And what a cracker of a shot it is, a beautiful pan of Jones’ Maserati 250F on the run away from Dandy Road towards The Causeway with the tree and blurred background giving the place a feel of a time five or so years before it actually opened.

(J Comber)

John believes this is probably the ‘St Vincents’ Historic Meeting’ in November 1963. By this stage Stan’s financial fortunes are not what they were, the Maser is for sale so my guess is that this is probably his last drive of a car which was perhaps kinder to him than any other- Maybach 1 made his reputation but the Maserati ‘brought home the bacon’.

It would have been with a heavy heart he backed off the throttle alongside the grandstand to lose speed and pulled into pit lane and the dusty paddock to switch off the peachy, punchy straight-six for one last time.

The crop of the same shot below reveals Stan’s usual race attire inclusive of five year old helmet and T-Shirt- just magic, I can hear the bellowing six and snickety-snick changes executed with expert familiarity…

(J Comber)

Photos/References…

John Comber’s words and pictures, as he quipped ‘Not bad for a 15 year old equipped with a Box-Brownie!’- who can argue with that, a mighty fine, evocative job indeed.

David Zeunert Collection, Australian Motor Heritage Foundation Archives, Brian Caldersmith Collection

Stephen Dalton for vehicle identification and additional research

Tailpiece: Ern Seeliger, Stan Jones and Superior Motors salesman Doug Roberts aboard Jones’ HRG, Baker Street, Richmond, 1950…

(D Zeunert Collection)

David Zeunert observes ‘Stan’s second hand car emporium “Superior Motors” in Victoria Street was only five minutes away from Ern’s garage, very handy for both guys who used one another’s wits on many race projects.’

Stephen Dalton chips in, ‘The photo would have been taken in the first week of October 1950,  just before or after the October 1950 Bathurst meeting that Stan Jones ran as car number 34. Mr Medley has Stan spinning in his Bathurst tome for that chapter- by the following weekend the car was carrying #7 at Woodside, South Australia.’

(D Zeunert Collection)

Finito…

 

I was travelling down Alexandra Avenue in the twee Melbourne suburb of South Yarra last summer and fell in line behind a Lotus Elite and Lotus Elise, it reminded me of a magic day a few years ago…

My mate David Mottram is a doyen of the Victorian MG and Lotus Clubs. He is a racer, restorer and fettler of renown of these and other marques. On occasion he invited me along to the MG Car Club Driver Training Days to help out, it was always fun to attempt to impart some knowledge, the only downside being scared shitless once or twice alongside people whose levels of bravery made Gilles Villeneuve look like a ‘Big Sheila’.

The best part of the day was always the final 45 minutes during which the instructors had the track to themselves. At the time I had a standard’ish Series 1 Elise, the original Rover K-Series powered jobbie. It didn’t have a lot of power but with a free-flowing exhaust, a smidge stiffer springs which the standard Koni’s could just control, some decent track tyres on original wheels and competition brake pads it was both a fun road and track car.

My frame of reference at the time was a Lola T342 Historic Formula Ford I raced for over a decade. My 911 Carrera 3.2, using the same Formula Ford prism was a horrible track car! The Elise’ standard gearset was the only circuit shortcoming really-  second was too short and fifth ‘moonshot tall’ even at Phillip Island without a strong tailwind. The 111S gear cluster was the solution but I never quite got around to making that change.

Lotus Elite cutaway (James Allington)

 

(S Dalton)

Anyway, on this particular Sandown day David brought along his ex-Derek Jolly Lotus Elite Super 95. This buttercup yellow car will be familiar to many Australian enthusiasts of historic racing as David and Pat Mottram have contested a gazillion Regularity events in it across this great brown land of ours for the best part of 25 years. Whilst I had ridden in it on the road I’d never had a steer before.

I jumped out of the Elise after 15 laps or so and straight into the Elite, cars built forty years apart.

The thing which struck me like the proverbial bolt from the blue after only a couple of laps was the sibling similarity of these two wonderful, light, low powered, beautiful handling cars.

Chapman had nothing at all to do with the Elise of course, the design team were fiddling about with its key design elements 15 years or so after the great mans death of a heart attack in late 1982.

But the Lotus brand values transcended the founder, which is of course exactly as it should be. ‘Brand Essence’ is what we ‘arty-farty, limp wristed commo-poofter bastard’ branding practitioners call the intrinsic elements of a brand. One of my buddies used to refer to me in those glowing terms during my years as a Partner of one of Australia’s foremost branding consultancies.

Lotus Elise 111s cutaway (Lotus Cars)

 

Elise conceptual drawing or sketch (Lotus Cars)

The first thing which impressed about the Elise as I drove what became my own car down bumpy, rutty Church Street Richmond on the initial test drive was the ‘pitter-patter’ of the cars tyres as the wheels rode the bumps with the chassis absolutely stiff. It was like a honeymooners todger- rock solid.

You can feel what the wheels and tyres are doing as they are so beautifully controlled with a light aluminium chassis of amazing torsional stiffness by road car standards. Still, our Col did invent the modern aluminium monocoque, the 1962 Lotus 25 GP car was his first expression of the art.

These cars have relatively soft springs, the bushes are firm to give good control- the cars are noisy as a consequence of minimal sound deadening but the springs themselves are softish and have reasonable travel. Just like the Elite, the chassis of which, famously, was the worlds first fibreglass monocoque.

It was a bastard to make, but magnificent in conception and in use as long as you didn’t have an early, ‘problem-child’ car. Things improved when Bristol Aircraft took over construction of the chassis from Maximar, the original ‘trail blazers’ in interpretation and manufacture of Colin’s baby.

The Elite is also ‘drummy’, noisy just like its younger cousin, mind you I’d rather do the Melbourne to Sydney trip in the older of the two cars despite the lack of a tall fifth, cruisin’ down the highway gear.

Lotus Elite and 16 Climax FPF F2/F1 car at the London Motor Show in 1958

 

David Mottram aboard the family Elite 95 at Phillip Island (Mottram)

Your freckle is very close to the ground too, the Elise’ seat is a ‘form-fit’, no barge-arses should apply thing. To sit in it is the closest thing to the feel of a sports-racer on the road as is possible to experience. Use enough imagination and the view is pretty much what drivers of a Lola T70 Coupe had with the ultra low seating position, curved minimalist dash, exposed aluminium each side of you and guards not much higher than your nose. The seat isn’t sprung, its solidly mounted to the cars tub so all of the messages from the road are transmitted to your bum, fingers, wrists and toes- the sensory side of things, if that kinda stuff gives you your jollies, is amazing. Lotsa rubber bushings, who needs ‘em?

The Elite is more generous in the comfort department but only marginally so.

You sit up a little more and the seats whilst thinly padded are more comfy than the Elise. Even with a lap-sash road type belt you are retained nicely between the high transmission tunnel and the door with an array of Smiths instruments in front of you which is oh-so-period. My Elise was fitted with a six-point Willans harness which held me in the standard seat rather nicely for competition work, the Elite was not so endowed but the driving position is the same, a very comfortable one with long arms to the wheel and pedals nicely set for heel-‘n-toe operation

Steering of the Elise is delicious- in my experience there is nothing close to it on the road. Jumping from the Lola to the Elise was ‘same, same’- that’s not an indictment of one of 1975’s most competitive Formula Fords but an acclamation of Lotus design.

The weight of the steering, its feel, the wheel’s design, size, material and rim thickness, feedback and directness are superb in the way you can place the car on the road and the warning you get as the limits of adhesion are approached. The Elite rack is a Triumph item, the Elise’s was made by Titan Motorsport. Both have the same characteristics though in terms of the way the cars have steering of exceptional feel, delicacy and precision. The Elites wood-rimmed wheel is larger and thinner, the suspension, wire-wheels, tyre width and aspect ratio are period differences which mitigate against the same Elise level of precision but the Elite was a steering benchmark in the late fifties-early sixties period and a pleasure to guide around Sandowns fast corners. The Elite rolls about a bit, as you would expect, the Elise sits much flatter and ‘points’ or turns in much more nicely despite the lack of a rear roll bar- its mid-engined and 40 years younger after all.

That other marques/supplier donated the steering rack highlights another Lotus attribute down the decades. In part they are an assemblage of parts made by others. It doesn’t impact in a negative way in use. Mind you if you are in the market for an alternative to a 911, the bragging rights of an Evora powered by a Toyota V6 are not quite on a par with a Porsche despite the utility of the Japanese motor.

The Elite’s Coventry Climax FWE engine was revolutionary in its day, the 1216cc SOHC, 2 valve all aluminium road version of the very successful FWA race engine was quite something in the context of the wheezy, mainly push-rod engines of the competition. Sensitive, regular maintenance was important. In Super 95 spec, the twin-Weber fed engine produces over 100bhp and punches the car along nicely but the lap times are achieved by the cars brakes, entry speed, neutrality with limited power thru the corners and fine aerodynamics rather than outright mumbo.

It’s a ‘momentum car ‘ just like the Elise and lower powered single-seaters. Whilst the performance variants of the Elise/Exige are a different kettle of fish, the original all alloy DOHC, 4 valve, fuel injected 1796cc 118bhp Elise was all about economy of power, weight (circa 725Kg) and delivery. They are subtle delicate things which respond well to inputs of a similar type, they are not tools for the ham-fisted. So too was the Elite, its competition record belied its specifications.

The Elite’s ZF gearbox is a much nicer snickety-snick thing to use than the Elise’s. The linkages of the modern car are sub-optimal but familiarity and ‘light hands and wrists’ as Frank Gardner put it, soon has you slicing thru the gears ok. Both cars have superb brakes too- unassisted discs all round, inboard on the rear of the Elite, all outboard on the Elise with the latter rotors in aluminium to help keep unsprung weight down.

‘Uncle Dave’ was soon waving at me from the pitlane, I pretended it was encouragement for a couple of more laps but his intent soon became clear when he waved an empty fuel drum at me.

I buzzed for hours afterwards, it was a magic, fun day- the Elite was a vastly better car to drive than I had imagined. On the suburban grind back to Camberwell I reflected on just ‘how right’ Chapman would have thought Julian Thomson and his design and engineering team got the Elise. Chapman bottled the essence of Lotus- his designers have since periodically dispensed it in a manner in which he would be proud…

Pat Mottram and Elite at Wakefield Park, Goulburn (Mottram)

Etcetera: Clark/Whitmore Elite at Le Mans in 1959…

How youthful does white-shirted Jim Clark look?

The pair were tenth outright and second in class behind the Peter Lumsden/Peter Riley Elite, the Roy Salvadori/Carroll Shelby Aston Martin DBR1 were victorious.

Photo Credits…

M Bisset, Mottram Family and Stephen Dalton Collections, Getty Images-Klemantaski

Finito…

 

 

hawt goodwood

One of the better known photographs in motor racing is Louis Klemantaski’s shot of Mike Hawthorn’s Cooper T20 Bristol attacking the apex of Fordwater at Goodwood in 1952…

The Klemantaski Collection archive describe the photograph thus; Hawthorn is obviously really on the absolute limit with this Cooper-Bristol. And of course he is aiming right for Klemantaski who had positioned himself at the edge of the track exactly at the apex of the very fast Fordwater corner on the back of the Goodwood circuit. What a dynamic image!

This race was the ‘Sussex International Trophy’ for Formula Libre racing cars on June 2, 1952.

Hawthorn won, perhaps somewhat aided by his father Leslie’s long experience with nitromethane. It was Hawthorn’s third outing with a friend’s Cooper-Bristol.

On April 14th at Goodwood he came up against Juan Manuel Fangio, driving another Cooper, and won against the already famous Argentinian driver. Hawthorn won two races with the Cooper that weekend and finished second in the final race of the day to Froilán González in Tony Vandervell’s Thinwall Special Ferrari GP car.

Then Hawthorn entered the Daily Express International Trophy on May 10th with the same Cooper-Bristol to win the first heat, but finished several laps down in the final due to gearshift problems.

His excellent showing with the Cooper at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps where he was fourth and at the subsequent British Grand Prix finishing third led to an offer from Ferrari for 1953- and an eventual World Championship aboard the Ferrari Dino 246 in 1958.

image

1953 French GP Reims July 1953. Mike Hawthorn’s Ferrari 500 and Juan Fangio’s #18 Maserati A6GCM flat out, grinning at one another, Mike won by 1 second after 300 miles of racing (Getty)

‘Hawthorn died in a road crash in January 1959 after retiring from racing at the end of his Championship year, is remembered by his own book Challenge Me the Race and Champion Year and in several biographies, including Mon Ami Mate and Golden Boy. Mike Hawthorn’s grave is in Farnham, Surrey where he is still well remembered and where he and his father had run the Tourist Trophy Garage for many years’, the Klemantaski Collection wrote.

Cooper T20 Bristol cutaway by Vic Berris

Articles on the Cooper Bristol T20/23…

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

https://primotipo.com/2017/02/24/the-cooper-t23-its-bristolbmw-engine-and-spaceframe-chassis/

https://primotipo.com/2016/06/24/jacks-altona-grand-prix-and-cooper-t23-bristol/

Credits…

Louis Klemantaski, Raymond Groves, Vic Berris

Check out The Klemantaski Collection;  https://klemcoll.wordpress.com/about/

Tailpiece: The tie dear boy, the tie…

hawt funny

(Raymond Groves)

Finito…

(J Frith)

‘All set, everything ship shape!’…

I’ve already written a couple of articles about Donald Campbell’s achievements against the odds of the weather gods at Lake Eyre, South Australia during the winters of 1963 and 1964.

He had a torrid time from the media, his sponsors- many of whom he lost during that first year, the public and some in the Australian Parliament.

Click below for a brilliant article, the best written, about Campbell’s ultimately successful record attempt by the late Evan Green, a superb Australian motoring and motor-racing journalist, very talented rally and race driver and the man appointed by Campbell’s major sponsor in 1964, Ampol, to manage the program from Muloorina Station and Lake Eyre- so it is very much a first-hand participants account.

It provides useful context for this small random selection of cartoons and photographs.

https://www.whichcar.com.au/features/classic-wheels/classic-wheels-donald-campbell-and-his-bluebird-car-world-speed-record

The first cartoon is by John E Frith, one of Australia’s great cartoonists who worked early in his career for the Sydney Morning Herald and later for the Melbourne Herald (as here I suspect) and is dated 26 April 1963.

It shows DC about to close the cockpit of Bluebird, with a dutiful salute being provided. ‘SS Bluebird’ is an amalgam of plane, ship and car carrying the colours of both Britain and Australia, the watching kangaroo and aboriginal are amusing, the latter totally politically incorrect these days!

Bluebird Proteus CN7 Lake Eyre 1964 (J Carter)

 

Jeff Carter’s photo was taken during the 1964 attempt.

His caption reads ‘Donald Campbell’s attempt on the world speed record in a vehicle driven through the wheels (not jet propelled) dragged on for almost two years during the winters of 1963 and 1964.

Fluctuating dampness of the dry saltpan that is Lake Eyre was a major problem, making it difficult to maintain a perfectly smooth, dry, hard surface for the many necessary practice runs and the final attempt.

Sponsors grew impatient with the endless delays and withdrew support. New sponsors had to be found.

Campbell’s unpredictable temperament was a factor in splitting the large group of sponsors, technicians, caterers, time-keepers etc- some 60 or more people in two camps.

Eventually in the late winter of 1964, the 4,500 horsepower jet-engined Bluebird attained a new Land Speed Record of 403.1miles per hour (an average) of its top speeds on two consecutive runs, north and south.

Craig Breedlove, driving a jet-propelled vehicle on a salt lake in the USA achieved a considerably higher speed in 1964. His vehicle was not driven through the wheels. In this photo, technicians, time keepers, photographers and photographers play football beteen practice runs’. (look carefully, you can see the ball)

(J Carter)

Jeff Carter was the official photographer for the attempt, representing the international photo agency ‘Black Star’.

‘When nothing much was happening in the Campbell/Bluebird camp, I and other members of the press would adjourn to Marree, (above) where nothing much was happening either!’

(LAT)

Of course everything did eventually get to a stage where Campbell drove the car in conditions which were still sub-optimal as related in Even Green’s article- but good enough to have a crack and placate those who had been more than patient with him for an inordinate amount of time. 17 July 1964.

The good citizens of Adelaide, a good proportion of the cities total population turned out to see the Bluebird parade on King William Street, and so they should.

It was a remarkable achievement.

(NAA)

Bluebird…

https://primotipo.com/2014/07/16/50-years-ago-today-17-july-1964-donald-campbell-broke-the-world-land-speed-record-in-bluebird-at-lake-eyre-south-australia-a-speed-of-403-10-mph/

Credits…

John Frith, Jeff Carter, Article by Evan Green in ‘Wheels’ magazine, National Archive of Australia, LAT

Tailpiece: Ground Control to Major Donald…

(J Frith)

John Frith has captured the adventure of the times with this cartoon dated 16 May 1963, the Apollo space program is in full swing- the space-race is underway. The astronaut returns to earth in sunny conditions but below him are dark clouds which have caused flooding on Lake Eyre, stranding Campbell and Bluebird with DC atop the troubled vehicle…

Finito…

JMF trying to stay warm at chilly Silverstone, 5 October 1970…

In this day and age of every Tom, Dick and Irving recording their every exploit from the bedroom to the mountain top it’s instructive to look at just how far we have come in camera packaging over four decades or so.

Patrice Pouget is just about to shoot some action footage from a precariously mounted camera atop the svelte tail of a Maserati 250F for a documentary on the great mans life. ‘Fangio’, directed by Hugh Hudson and narrated by the champ himself was released in 1971. The car is ‘2516’, originally a 1955 ex-works car raced mainly by Jean Behra and then sold to Australian Reg Hunt and raced in turn by Bib Stillwell and Arnold Glass before returning to Europe in the sixties and Historic Racing.

I must watch it.

Credit…

Terry Disney

Tailpiece…

 

(B Howard)

The Light Car Club of Australia achieved a major promotional coup by securing Juan Manuel Fangio’s attendance at the fiftieth anniversary of the first Australian Grand Prix held at Sandown, Melbourne on 10 September 1978…

Here (above) the great man ponders his car during practice. Fangio raced a Mercedes Benz W196 2.5 litre straight-eight engined Grand Prix car, the design with which he won his 1954 and 1955 World Championships- whilst noting the two wins he took in Maserati 250F’s in 1954 before joining Mercedes from the French Grand Prix.

JMF wanted to drive in a Polo-Shirt as he did in the day but the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport would have none of that, hence the overalls over his normal clothes.

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/09/mercedes-benz-w196-french-gp-1954/

Fangio W196 on display behind the Sandown grandstand- the ‘Interstate Betting’ is a function of the place’s prime function- donkey races (mouserat159)

(S Dalton Collection)

Fangio hooks the big Mercedes into Dandenong Road corner at Sandown (I Smith)

The Sandown event created huge interest far beyond the racing fraternity, including articles in such unlikely places as the ‘Australian Womens Weekly’, normally the province of the Royal Family, cooking recipes and similar – such was the mans immense global stature decades after his last championship win in 1957. He won five F1 titles of course- in 1951 in an Alfa 159, 1954/5 Benz W196, 1956 Lancia-Ferrari 801 and the final in 1957 aboard a Maserati 250F.

It was the Argentinian’s first visit to Australia, he had planned to race in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games GP at Albert Park, a race won by Stirling Moss in a Maser 250F, but in the end conflicting commitments scuttled the idea. He returned to Melbourne in 1981 and came to Adelaide twice I think, the sight of him blasting along Adelaide roads during the wonderful 1986 ‘Eagle On The Hill’ run from the city up through the Adelaide Hills to the top of Mount Lofty is not something any of the large number who saw it will readily forget either. He drove a Mercedes sports-racer, a 300SLR on that occasion. If memory serves he may have boofed an Alfa Romeo Alfetta 159 of the type he raced in 1951 at Adelaide doing a demo- by that stage he would have been well into his late seventies mind you.

Fangio contested a ‘Race of Champions’ at Sandown which included Jack Brabham aboard his 1966 championship winning Brabham BT19 Repco ‘620’, and former Australian Champions Bill Patterson in a Cooper T51 Climax and Bob Jane in a Maserati 300S. Both were cars they had raced in period and retained.

(mouserat159)

All eyes were on the Fangio, Brabham ‘battle’ over the three lap journey of course, the footage well known to most of you says it all in terms of the speed and spirit in which the cars were driven, note that JMF was 67 at the time and had suffered two heart attacks in the years before his visit.

(C Griffiths)

The sight and sound of Fangio driving the big, noisy W196 on the throttle, kicking it sideways in the manner for which he was famous lap after lap in practice around Sandown’s third-gear Shell Corner onto Pit Straight is forever etched in my memory. He could still boogie at that stage- well and truly.

As you all know, normally the paddock is a hive of activity with mechanics and engineers getting on with necessary preparation of their steed for the next session or race. Sandown’s then layout afforded those in the paddock a great view of the cars on circuit from or near the pit counter. On the occasions that Fangio was on circuit the tents in the cuddly-small Sandown paddock were empty as drivers and mechanics watched Fangio strut his stuff. It was simply not to be missed whatever the competitive needs of the moment were.

It’s always funny to re-live discussions of ‘that weekend’ with fellow enthusiasts as so many of us were there from all over this vast land, all having a different experience or highlight but equally excited recollections of it all despite the elapse of forty years. As a student at the time I was there from the meetings start to finish, it was sad when it was all over, I was very conscious of the fact that I had witnessed something special.

Fangio was the President of Mercedes Argentina and owner of two dealerships when he visited Oz and had to ‘sing for his supper’ over the week he was here. He did a range of promotional events, dinners and drives with motoring writers to promote, mainly, the ‘Benz 450 SEL 6.9 which was the range-topper at the time, a snip at $A68,500 in 1978.

(C Griffiths)

Postscript…

The 1978 AGP, held to F5000, was a race of attrition won by Graham McRae in his see-through perspex cockpit McRae GM3 Chev from John David Briggs and Peter Edwards in Matich A51 Repco and Lola T332 Chev respectively.

In fact it was an entirely forgettable AGP- very bad accidents hurt both Garrie Cooper, Elfin MR8 Chev and Alan Hamilton, Lola T430 Chev. These very high speed shunts, together with a tangle that eliminated second placed Jon Davison’s T332 and Vern Schuppan’s Elfin MR8 Chev on lap 28- and a broken head-gasket for pole-sitter John McCormack’s unique ex-F1 McLaren M23 Leyland conspired to rob a race which had lots of potential.

An arcane end to this piece.

It’s a long story, but a decade or so ago, an Australian enthusiast ‘discovered’ in contemporary newspaper reports that a very short race named ‘Australian Grand Prix’, was contested on an oval layout at Goulburn’s racecourse, New South Wales on 15 January 1927.

This race was shortly thereafter recognised by many, but not all historians as ‘the first Australian Grand Prix’ thereby replacing the previous event which held that honour, the ‘100 Miles Road Race’ held at Phillip Island in 1928, later recognised as the first AGP.

So, Juan Manuel Fangio was here in 1978 to celebrate the fifty-first AGP not the fiftieth…

https://primotipo.com/2017/04/14/1936-australian-grand-prix-victor-harbour/

Photo / Other Credits…

Bruce Howard, John Stoneham aka Stonie, Chris Griffiths, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpiece: I wonder which particular W196 chassis Fangio ran here in 1978?…

(mouserat159)

Big butt isn’t it? All fuel and oil tank, its an object lesson in Vittorio Jano’s design intent with the D50 Lancia to get the fuel between the wheelbase via his pannier-tanks. I’ve a vague recollection this particular chassis was fitted with a 3 litre SLR engine for demonstration purposes rather than the GeePee 2.5? Interesting the way the body comes together too.

Finito…

 

(Popperfoto)

John Cobb at Brooklands during the 17 May 1937 Gold Trophy Coronation Race, Napier Railton…

What an awesome 23.944 litre, 580 bhp machine this is- there is little point waxing lyrical about a superb racing car which is a well known national icon in the UK, so I will keep it short and hopefully sweet.

Cobb was a big man and clearly liked his racing cars on some scale, a passion his fur-broking business Anning Chadwick & Kiver allowed him to indulge. Reid Railton designed the car which was built by Thomson & Taylor with the specific brief of taking the Brooklands lap record, a feat it achieved for all time, at 143.33 mph on 7 October 1935. It was an exercise he likened to ‘trying to see how far you can lean out of a window without actually falling!’.

Brooklands, Cobb, Napier Railton, date unknown (B Museum)

John Cobb and the Napier at Brooklands on 31 March 1934 (Pinterest)

Railton specified a slow running Napier W-formation aviation engine in a suitably butch chassis with massive side members, twin cantilevered back springs and a finely muscular front axle. Typical of its time, the cockpit was capacious and it needed to be for record-breaking runs of up to 3000 miles or so.

Successful from the start, the car won its first race at the Brooklands Bank Holiday Meeting in 1933, the big beast recorded a standing lap of 120.59 mph and a flying lap of 123.28 mph. ‘When running for long spells, very large Dunlop special racing tyres were required, imposing a heavy task for the mechanics changing wheels at pitstops’. In addition to three times breaking the lap-record at ‘The Track’ the car broke world records at Montlhery and at Utah. The BRDC 500 Mile Race was won at 121.28 mph and the 500 Km version at 127.05 mph with the Napier Railton timed over the kilometre at 151.97 mph.

‘Pandora and The Flying Dutchman’ starred the Napier Railton in a fantasy romance with Ava Gardner and James Mason. Here ‘Dunlop Boys’ Freddie Hicks and Sidney West push the Napier towards a run on the Pendine Sands. Love the fags in mouths- photo used by Dunlop as a PR shot (unattributed)

 

Napier Railton on duty for GQ parachute testing circa 1951 (B Museum)

In 1949 Cobb hired the Napier Railton to the Romulus Film Company to make ‘Pandora and The Flying Dutchman’, a film about a racing driver. In 1951 John sold the car to the GQ Parachute Company who used it to test aircraft brake parachutes at Dunsfold Airfield- GQ modified the car and fitted it with test equipment to deploy parachutes at high speed and then retract them at about 30 knots.

Cobb, who served as an RAF pilot during the war, was killed trying to achieve the Water Speed Record in the jet-boat ‘Crusader’ at Loch Ness on 29 September 1952- the boat hit an unexplained wake.

The Napier Railton was in the best of hands when Patrick Lindsay acquired it-after a rebuild by Crosthwaite & Gardner he raced it in vintage events. It was then bought by Bob Roberts for his Midland Motor Museum, it was kept in running order after ‘being completely overhauled, except the engine’ by Hodec Engineering, Surrey in 1975. Aston Martin’s Victor Gauntlett was the next owner in 1989, and then at auction it passed to a German industrialist and finally, thankfully, became the Brooklands Museum’s car when offered to them in 1997 via a Swiss classic car dealer who ‘discovered it’ in the German’s collection. It is regularly demonstrated, many of you will have been fortunate enough to see it on circuit.

An awesome machine in the true sense of the word, goodness only knows how it felt on the limit for 500 miles on Brooklands famous concrete bumps…

 Etcetera: Technical Details of the Napier Railton as MotorSport reported them in 1933…

Credits…

Getty Images- Popperfoto, MotorSport August 1933 and July 1997, brooklandsmuseum.com

Tailpiece: Reid Railton designed Crusader being towed out into Loch Ness in 1952…

(unattributed)

Finito…

 

(Davey-Milne)

Albert Park, March 1955- ‘Albert Park Trophy’ with #10 Patterson, #9 Davison and #81 Jones on pole…

Rather a sign of the times, Cooper were on the march to world domination, their mid-engine, air-cooled  designs perfected over the early forties into the fifties.

Between these three fellows were six AGP victories, or perhaps five given Davo and Patto shared one of them- and three Gold Stars, one apiece. They were front-running Victorians for well over a decade and shared a passion for cars and business- all three Holden dealers at one point in time.

Bill Patterson’s green machine is a Mk5 JAP, Lex Davison’s a Mk4 Vincent and Stan Jones a Mk4 JAP. Patto took the Albert Park win in a race of attrition from Gib Barrett’s BWA and Otto Stone’s MG K3- Jones pitted with a misfire and Lex also retired.

Stan behind, and Reg Robbins leaning on the Cooper Mk4 at Rob Roy (L Sims)

Jones aboard the Cooper Mk4 at Rob Roy, date folks? (L Sims)

Jones chassis ’10/53/50′ was imported by Melbourne Cooper distributor Keith Martin in early 1951 and was claimed to be an intermediate version having a Mk5 chassis and Mk4 bodywork. Fitted with a 1098cc JAP race motor, the 95bhp machine sat in Martin’s showroom for a year before acquisition by Stanley who first raced it at Rob Roy in March 1952.

‘The car became one of the top under 1500cc cars for both circuits and hillclimbs- the battle for hillclimb records between Jones, Davison and Patterson was a highlight of motorsport in the early fifties’ John Blanden wrote.

Holder of many outright records the car was offered for sale in AMS in December 1953 and finally acquired by Earl Davey-Milne in December 1955, he raced it first at Albert Park in 1956 and still retains the car which is said to be the lowest mileage air-cooled Cooper of them all.

Davey-Milne resplendent in collar and tie racing the Cooper at Albert Park during the Australian Tourist Trophy meeting in November 1956- DNF in his ‘rapid little Cooper-JAP’ in the Argus Cup (Davey-Milne)

Credits…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Davey-Milne Family Collection, Leon Sims, Graham Noonan, ‘Glory Days’ Barry Green

Tailpiece: Jones aboard the Cooper Mk4, circa 1954…

(L Sims)

Finito…