Archive for the ‘Obscurities’ Category

Whaddya do starved of media buzz when the lights go off simultaneously around the globe? Think of a great cost effective promotional idea like this.

The Australian S5000 guys, SS Media have come up with the notion of applying retro liveries to the silhouette of their new 5 litre Ligier JS F3-S5000 Ford V8 rockets- and doesn’t this late 1971 early 1972 Matich A50 Repco scheme look sensational- remove the halo and its perfect! My S5000 piece is here; https://primotipo.com/2019/10/26/progress/

The photograph is Frank Matich on the way to winning the November 1971 Australian Grand Prix at Warwick Farm in his just finished, very first race Matich A50 Repco F5000- but for the VHT and Hoosier branding the livery is period kosher. Matich’s F5000 career in terms of cars and competition results is here at length; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Not to forget Ansett Team Elfin circa 1977, Alec Mildren Racing circa 1970 or Equipe Graham McRae circa 1972.

Luvvit.

Credits…

SS Media, autopics.com.au

Tailpiece…

Finito…

 

(SLNSW)

Its amazing the interesting stuff ya trip over sometimes…

I’ve written abut the racing career of Wangaratta’s Ted Gray favourably but tangentially in two pieces- in one about his Alfa Romeo Ford V8 and the other about the Lou Abrahams owned Tornado V8s- they are here; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/15/mrs-jas-jones-alfa-6c-1750-ss-zagato/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

The shot above shows him in his ex-Mrs JAS Jones Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Zagato Ford V8 in front of Frank Kleinig, Kleinig Hudson Special during the handicap 1946 New South Wales Grand Prix at Bathurst. Ted was fourth and Kleinig DNF in the race won by Alf Najar MG TB Monoposto- article here; https://primotipo.com/2019/11/15/1946-new-south-wales-grand-prix/

I was researching another Wangaratta driver, Ron Phillips when I came upon this gem about Ted’s legendary Wangaratta to Melbourne record breaking run in his race Alfa in a blog by KB Hill…

‘What about the celebrated record attempt, undertaken in the late forties by two Wangaratta personalities, Ted Gray and North Eastern Car Club President, Jack Cox. Here’s a condensed version of the story that Jeff Whitten recounts in one of his publications:

A group of men had been chatting in a local hotel when the conversation turned to how fast a car could travel from Wangaratta to Melbourne (145 miles). Ted Gray drained the last drop of ale from his glass, planted it on the bar and told the small group in a confident tone: “I’ll do it in less than two hours.”

A boast became a bet, and hundreds of pounds changed hands during the next few days. Speculation raged around town. On the day (in April 1946 according to Tony Parkinson) of the attempt Wangaratta’s taxi fleet did a roaring trade, shuttling people to the ‘S’ Bend just south of Glenrowan, for 2 shillings a time. Many spectators thought the Alfa Romeo may fail to negotiate the sharp turn over the railway line. Visions of a wrecked car, hurtling over and over, were probably foremost in the minds of those who were waiting there.

That evening, more than 1,000 people lined Murphy Street as Gray, the Australian Land Speed Record Holder, and his passenger Jack Cox, a Faithfull Street engineer, sat waiting in the Alfa Romeo. The moment the Post Office clock struck 5.30 the Alfa’s engine roared and the pair took off, accompanied by the cheering of the crowd. All along the route, thousands stood in the darkness, shuddering with cold, and expectation.

Telephones ran hot, as people sought updates. In many places the Alfa, with Gray at the wheel, exceeded 110 miles per hour, while Cox hung on for dear life. The car clipped the railing on the sharp bridge over the river at Seymour, but sped on and recorded 112mph over Pretty Sally (Hill).

The railway-gate keeper at Tallarook had been bribed, to make sure that he kept the gates open at a certain time.

With misty rain falling, Gray spent much of the trip peering over the top of the windscreen, ensuring he wouldn’t tangle with cars and transports that hadn’t yet turned on their tail-lights. It enabled him to reach Bell Street, Coburg, in record time.

The trip from Bell Street to the Melbourne GPO took six and a quarter minutes. The pair pulled up in front of the Post Office exactly one hour and 59 minutes after leaving Wangaratta.

Jack Cox climbed out of the car, knees still shaking, while Ted Gray acknowledged the cheers of the crowd…’

Ian Virgo in the Alfa Romeo V8 from Tom Stevens MG TC Spl at Port Wakefield in the mid-fifties , date folks?- the Ford V8 engines Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS Zaato was by this stage was owned by Broken Hill’s Bob Jervies (T Stevens)

 

(J Cox Family)

Postcript…

The power of the internet.

Racer/restorer/historian Tony Parkinson got in touch with the fabulous material below, he wrote ‘I found references to the Alfa Romeo sent to me by John Cox, son of Jack Cox, riding mechanic on the infamous Wangaratta to Melboune run, also shots at Fishermans Bend pus Jack Cox (with blindfold) and Pat O’Keefe, the Alfa front on in Murphy Street Wangaratta, a glorious shot of the Cox & Gray garage and a very young John Cox on a trike in Roy Street Wangaratta with the 6C1750 V8 up the drive.’

Just wonderful stuff, in addition there are various newspaper reports, if anyone can help with the date of the run in April 1946 that would be the candle atop the cake!

(J Cox Family)

Jack Cox and Pat O’Keefe aboard the Alfa Romeo and hamming it up for the local press.

 

(J Cox Family)

The old beast still looked pretty good in 1946 despite a very active competition life from the time it arrived in Australia- here in Murphy Street, Wangaratta with road equipment- well lights anyway!

Late 1950’s report or retrospective on the run probably from the Melbourne ‘Herald’ at a guess (J Cox Family)

 

Big sister looks after John Cox whilst his Dad, Jack Cox and Ted Gray’s big V8 engined racer is at rest up the drive.

Imagine the drives possible from there- Wang to Corryong, Wang to Mansfield via the King Valley, Wang to Echuca and so on…apart from the car’s racing of course.

 

(J Cox Family)

There was obviously plenty of consternation after the veracity of the elapsed time given plenty of money wagered on the outcome- a close run thing it seems!

 

(J Cox Family)

 

(J Cox Family)

The two shots of the Alfa at Fishermans Bend- be great to know the date and have the identities of other cars and drivers.

(J Cox Family)

Credits…

Excerpt of an article by KB Hill ‘A Lifetime Passion for Motor Sport’, December 2019 in kbonreflection.wordpress.com, State Library of New South Wales, Australian Motor Sports Tom Stevens Collection via Tony Parkinson, Jack Cox Family Collection via John Cox and Tony Parkinson

Tailpiece…

(J Cox Family)

Jack Cox and Ted Gray’s ‘Hume Garage’ in Wangaratta.

His pre and post war speedway and road racing career across the country was conducted using Wang as a base- was his move to Melbourne from the time he started to race Tornado 1 Ford with Lou Abrahams circa 1954?

You need luck in motor racing of course, Lex Davison made his own with great preparation of his cars by AF Hollins (and others early on), Ted Gray was keeping Lex’ Ferrari 500/625 and Stan Jones Maserati 250F at bay at Bathurst in October 1958, he really, coulda-shoulda-woulda won the Australian Grand Prix that year, cracked suspension mountings caused his retirement.

An under-rated driver i reckon…

Jones, Gray and Davison, Hell Corner, Mount Panorama during the 1958 AGP (AMS)

Finito…

Allan Moffat, Brabham BT16 Ford from John Grames, Woodward DKW at Waterford Hills in July 1967- AM set both the class and outright lap record on that day (B Gordon)

Allan Moffat and John Smailes in ‘Climbing The Mountain’ provided the snippet…

‘Barry Nelson and Peter Thorn helped me conduct a fire sale of the Cortinas as well as a Brabham BT15 open wheeler in which i’d had one run and one win at Waterford Hills using a Cortina engine, and then they returned to Australia’.

Hmm, I thought, that’s interesting (to someone with a small mind like mine anyway), so Moff had a crack at Formula B in the US- bugger me, i’d not heard of that one.

I tried hard to find a photo of the car but had no luck other than the cockpit shot below before uploading my ‘Moffat Epic’, have a look here; https://primotipo.com/2020/03/06/moffats-shelby-brabham-elfin-and-trans-am/ but the Brabham topic was ‘unfinished business’ until this week when American enthusiast/racer Bob Gordon uploaded some of the photos in this article and some results- research gold.

Bob and his father, Hugh Gordon were both racers who competed against Moffat in Cortinas in the day at Waterford.

It gets better though.

Gordon’s photographs show that not only did Moff compete in Formula B in 1967 but also the season before, 1966. Allen Brown’s oldracingcars.com race results support Gordon’s photos, the Canadian raced a Lotus 35 Ford in 1966 and a Brabham BT16 Ford in 1967. No wonder my BT15 internet searches were fruitless, I punched the wrong details into Google.

Barry Nelson with Allan Moffat and Brabham BT16 Ford at Road America on (B Nelson)

 

Allan Moffat leads Bob Gordon at Waterford from the July 1965 ‘Waterford Digest’- both in Lotus Cortinas (B Gordon)

 

Moffat, mechanic Vince Woodford, Jim McKeown and Cortina at Daytona in early 1967, Jim’s engine went ka-boomba causing un unplanned change of direction for AM in 1967- all of which turned out ok (CTM)

The engine failure of the Moffat/McKeown Lotus Cortina Trans-Am class challenger at Daytona early in 1967 basically put an end to any prospect of Ford support of another Lotus Cortina under 2 litre campaign. Ford’s Peter Quenet threw Allan a lifeline though, giving him the remnants of the Alan Mann Racing Lotus Cortina team to use that year with a guaranteed $300 for each race start per car.

Allan therefore ran ‘start money Lotus Cortina specials’ for renta-drivers as well as running a car himself. With a few engines to spare, he did a deal with Fred Opert, the US Brabham importer to acquire the BT16 inclusive of part exchange of one of his powerful Lotus-Ford twin-cams.

Barry Nelson recalls collecting the car from Opert’s on Interstate 78, Newark, New Jersey, a journey of 2050 kilometres there and back from Moffat’s base in Detroit- ‘Holiday Cars’ was a small second hand dealer/workshop in Telegraph Road, Southfield, a Detroit suburb where Moffat rented space.

‘I don’t remember Allan racing the Lotus 35 at all. But with the BT16 we dry-sumped one of our engines, fitted it all up and used it only three times- once at Road America and twice at Waterford Hills. I drove the car in a test session at Waterford as well as a Scot, John Addison, who had raced one of the Cortinas at Sebring and another guy.’

Formula B, a bit like the introduction of Australian National 1.5 (which evolved into Australian Formula 2 later) was in part born to find somewhere to put suddenly homeless Formula Juniors and as a ‘next-level’ up single seater category below ‘elite level’. The release of the Lotus Elan provided the engine de jour- the class was a production based, two-valve, twin-cam on carbs category. For the usual English car builders, this was money-for-jam, FBs were adapted F3 designs- the Brabham BT16 was a dual purpose F2/FB version of the F3 BT15 for example.

The class boomed from its creation in 1965, in 1967 for example, there was a five race ‘Continental Championship’, the national title if you will, run from mid-May to 1 October which was won by Gus Hutchinson’s Lotus 41C Ford t/c, in addition there were seven divisions of regionally based competitions across the length and breadth of the ‘States all of which had big, healthy grids.

Moffat competed in the ‘Central Division’. In 1966 he was fourth in the standings with 9 points, ‘Allan Moffat, prior to moving (back) to Australia, had a surprisingly new Lotus 35’ Allen Brown wrote. There were nine rounds in the Central Division Championship that year, what is unclear is how many meetings Moffat contested in the Lotus 35.

In the 1967 pointscore, Allan was seventh despite contesting only one of the seven rounds, at Road America on 17 June, the first round in fact.

Waterford Hills was (and still is) a local Detroit track near Moffat’s base, the two meetings he ran there were not on the ‘Central Division’ championship tour but were local meetings. Brown wrote in his 1967 Central Division summary ‘…An interesting name further down (the points table) is that of Allan Moffat, a future Australian touring car legend but then just a 27 year old Canadian-born budding racing driver…’

Allan made quite an impression on the local scene in his ‘two years as a local’ with online fans of the era describing him as ‘bad-ass’, as in a full on aggressive racer, Carl Zahler, a Waterford marshall observed that ‘when Allan was there, we knew we would see some good racing.’

Bob Gordon- Allan in a Lotus 35 at Waterford in July 1966 (B Gordon)

 

(Instagram)

A couple of young ‘Australian’ roosters going for it at Riverside in September 1966- Horst Kwech in the Alfa Romeo GTA and Moffat in one of his Cortinas.

Moff would say he had the inside line- he does, and Horst would say his nose was in front- hmm, maybe, but not a second before…For sure these two had a high degree of respect for each others abilities by the time they shared the Shelby Trans-Am at Daytona and Sebring in early 1968.

Jerry Titus’ Mustang won at Riverside with Horst sixth and Allan seventh.

The question which then occurs to we anoraks is ‘ok, cool, so which particular Lotus and Brabham did he use?’- the answer is, despite ‘pokin around, ‘I dunno!’

Brown gives us a hint though, ‘Steve Griswold, who would drive this ex-Moffat Brabham (BT16) a year or so later, believes Moffat brought it with him from Australia’, but we know from Barry Nelson now that is not the case- he got it from Opert. Griswold was both a racer and a dealer- a lot of cars passed through his hands, whilst his name pops up a lot in online searches I can’t get a sniff of a chassis number- ditto the Lotus 35- no mention on any of the online forums. Help required please?

So, what became of AM’s single-seater aspirations?

It may well be that after the Brabham race meetings Moffat’s focus changed from his first very impressive Mustang drive in mid-August, which segued, in Moffat’s view with some assistance from Peter Quenet, into the Mercury Trans-Am works drive from the Modesto round on 10 September, the first of four drives in the series final rounds. In essence he had no time for the Brabham when his future pro-career hinged on these critical races- Barry agrees with this theory, ‘We simply put the Brabham to one side in the Southfield shop’.

Nelson, ‘The last race we did was in the Cougar in Washington, after that we closed things down, transported the Cortinas and spares back to Ford and sold the Brabham back to Opert. I returned to Australia in the new year and freelanced with Maurie Quincey for a while but that turned to crap- a very difficult guy to work with.’

‘My dad, Lionel Nelson knew Bob Jane very well, they were mates, so via that connection I did some engine work for Bob. Later in the year Allan joined Jane doing some promotional work and raced a couple of the cars’- the Elfin 400 Repco sportscar and an abortive attempt to race the Brabham at Sandown, a wheel came off the car.

‘My dad was the Technical Service Manager of motor sport of S Smith & Sons in Australia who sold ‘Smiths’ automotive gauges and KLG sparkplugs- that’s how I met Allan, he knocked on my dads door looking for sponsorship for the Cortina he brought back from the States and dad made the introduction when he found out he needed help with the car’s preparation.’

‘After he left Jane’s he let me know he had got something happening, when the Trans-Am arrived we got together again, I was there until the end of 1972. I love the guy to this day and still see him- I come down from Shepparton where I’m retired and catch up with him usually at Romeos or Duttons. Sometimes he is gruff “What do you want?” and others you can’t shut him up- like the last time I saw him two months ago.’

‘His health is not bad, you can still have a great conversation with him, sometimes his memory lapses a bit- a combination of Andrew Moffat, Phil Grant and Larry Perkins look after him.’

Barry, when asked about his driving said ‘If the car was great he was awesome- no-one could get near him but sometimes we would struggle to understand the changes he wanted because he couldn’t tell you what he wanted. He had huge self-belief but could also have a negative mindset so getting him in that zone- “all fixed, off you go” was important. But wow, when things were perfect…’

‘After I left Allan, Ron Harrop and I built Kingsley Hibbard’s GTHO-  we both went to the states and sourced some parts from Bud Moore similar to the Trans-Am and then got the engine bits from Falconer and Dunn in California but that was a disaster as he wasn’t paying his bills- I got paid and left.’

‘I then raced a Torana GTR-XU1 for a while and occasionally tried bits and pieces on my car for Harry Firth, who was close to my father. When my kids grew up they both raced- Warren ran in the Sprintcar World Series for five or six years with the younger bloke, Brooke having some fun in Midgets’

Barry Nelson’s Holden Torana GTR-XU1 leads Bernie McLure, Holden Torana SLR5000 L34 Improved touring cars at Calder’s ‘Tin Shed’ during 1974 (unattributed)

 

Allan contemplates the ex-Brabham 1968 Tasman tool- a Brabham BT23E Repco ‘740’ 2.5 V8 on the day of his run at Sandown, which ended early when a wheel parted company with the just rebuilt car. He is in the back lane aft of the Bob Jane Racing workshops at the rear of the Chrysler/Valiant dealership fronting 740 Sydney Road, Brunswick. Barry Nelson notes the facility housed the dyno, Finance Department ‘Blackwood Investments’ and was the first home of Bob Jane T-Marts (B Nelson)

 

Moffat extricates himself from David Green’s Wren Formula Ford after the Calder 1971 Formula Ford Race of Champions. Allan recalled in ‘Climbing The Mountain’ ‘…after I ran up the back of Jack Brabham’s Formula Ford and retired hurt’. This car still exists in Queensland, owned by racer/enthusiast/official Ian Mayberry (CTM)

 

AMR team members at 711 Malvern Road, Toorak very early 1969- the Trans-Am still lacks its red paint of war. Barry Nelson, AM and Peter Thorn were all blooded together in the US- and Brian Fellows at right (CTM)

Postscript…

So, it seems thus far on the evidence we have, that Allan Moffat’s single-seater career comprises a race in the Lotus 35 at Waterford Hills in July 1966, three races in the Brabham BT16 in 1967, an ill-fated attempt to race Bob Jane’s Brabham BT23E Repco Tasman 2.5 Formula machine in the Sandown Gold Star round in late 1968 and one Formula Ford event/meeting- the ‘Race of Champions’ won by Jack Brabham at Calder in 1971.

Did Allan test an Elfin MR5 Repco-Holden F5000 car ‘in the day’, or is my imagination getting the better of me yet again?- mouth watering thought that, Moffat in a Boss 302 powered F5000 during the peak period of his long career…

As originally completed this was where i left off the story as it relates to Moff’s single-seater career and then David Hassall and Glenn Moulds got in touch as below.

David confirmed that Elfin’s Garrie Cooper ran a test day at Calder on Monday 13 September, the day after the 1971 Gold Star ‘Victorian Trophy’ round at Sandown won by Kevin Bartlett’s McLaren M10 B Chev- John McCormack was second in the first completed Elfin MR5 Repco, chassis ‘5711’ in its first race.

From its inception Elfin were supported by BP, a production run of four high value F5000 cars was a big investment for the small Edwardstown concern so it is no surprise that the drivers who tested the car on that day were mainly supported by BP- Moffat, Elfin 600E F2 driver and 1971 ANF2 Champion Henk Woelders, speedway star and then Elfin/Bowin Formula Ford driver Garry Rush with the interlopers being Castrol sponsored John Harvey and Scuderia Veloce owner/journalist and ex-racer David McKay.

By that stage Bob Jane Racing’s Bowin P8 F5000 would have been very close to delivery so Harves’ drive is interesting. Sadly, whilst Kevin Bartlett was there, he didn’t have a run in the MR5- his opinion would have been fascinating given he was peddling one of the two quickest F5000s in Australia at the time- the class of the field was KB’s ex’Allen McLaren M10B and Frank Matich’ Repco-Holden engined M10B- both fellas were Shell drivers with FM’s Matich A50 Repco only a couple of months away from its 1971 Australian AGP debut and win.

(Auto Action 17 September 1971- D Hassall)

 

(Motoring News 1 Oct 1971- D Hassall)

As you can see from David’s Auto Action and Australian Motoring News magazine collection Moffat did a good number of laps in a car which was as it finished Sandown fitted with too tall gearing, well used tyres and full tanks doing a best of 44 seconds dead.

Cooper’s run of four cars were raced by he and McCormack as works ‘Ansett Team Elfin’ entries and sold to John Walker and Max Stewart, both of whom were BP supported and fitted with Repco Holden engines.

There seems little doubt that BP’s John Pryce was keen to get one of his star drivers into F5000, the snippets show the media ponderings at the time about the potential support of Moffat’s then core sponsors Ford, BP and Coca-Cola- as Australian enthusiasts well know the Coke dollars applied to his Trans-Am Mustang racing not his Ford factory GTHO Falcon Series Production program.

The dollars had to make sense to Allan as a pro-driver.

Interestingly the car Moffat appears to have been considering and ordered was John Surtees’ 1972 F5000- the TS11 which did end up a competitive car albeit the ‘Class of 1972’ was the Lola T300.

Moffat’s car had to be Ford powered which was not a huge deal even if the Chev was de-riguer in the US and Europe. There were a smattering of Ford 302 Boss engines in use with Falconer & Dunn probably the logical choice of engine builder- Allan’s boys obviously knew their way around these motors pretty well in terms of maintenance.

(Motoring News 5 November 1971- D Hassall)

 

(Motoring News 17 November 1971- D Hassall)

As the 1972 Tasman got closer the speculation continued about the Surtees until Auto Action reported in January that the order for the car had been cancelled ‘following pressure from his chief sponsor, Coca Cola, not to get involved in open-wheeler racing.’

For the record the ’72 Tasman was a ripper series won by Kiwi Graham McRae’s Leda GM1 Chev.

So that seemed to be that, no single-seaters for Moffat, at least preferably not on Coke’s watch.

(Motoring News 31 December 1971- D Hassall)

 

(Auto Action Allan Moffat column 24 December 1971- D Hassall)

 

(Auto Action 7 January 1972- D Hassall)

But then, perhaps with his appetite whetted by the ‘Race of Champions’ at Calder in 1971 Allan had a drive of BP sponsored Bob Skelton’s Bowin P4A Formula Ford in a BS Stillwell Trophy Series (FF and ANF3) round at Calder on 15 May 1972- Skello raced his Bowin to victory in the Driver to Europe Series that year but there was no DTE round at that meeting.

Skelton was Sydney based, doubtless it was in his interest to get in some practice at Calder, which he did in a 5 lap preliminary but Moffat did the Stillwell Series race but had an off at Repco and retired after only a few laps.

Moffat didn’t race the Mustang at that meeting but had wins aboard the works HO Phase 3 in the 10 lap heat and 20 lap final- but i bet the races which held the most interest for him were the ‘Repco Birthday Series’ F5000 events both of which were won by Matich’s A50…

It seems he really was keen to keep his open-wheeler hand in and perhaps harboured thoughts of a Gold Star or Tasman run in 1973…

Bob Skelton’s Bowin P4A in front of Enno Buesselmann’s (?) Elfin 600 during a Warwick Farm Formula Ford DTE round in 1972- do get in touch if you have a photo of AM driving this car at Calder (FFA)

Waterford Hills…

Waterford Hills is a 1.5 mile long road-racing circuit located just north of Detroit, the circuit map below gives us the picture of a circuit many of us are unfamiliar with.

Allan is a much respected Waterford racer/graduate with a large number of followers amongst their community who can be followed by a very active Facebook page- just key Waterford Hills into the FB search engine.

Moffat has had a couple of visits back there, most recently in July 2018 when he caught up with old friends and made acquaintance with younger folks who are only aware of his racing exploits from afar.

(Instagram-unattributed)

Moffat pushes his Lotus Cortina hard at Waterford Hills in 1965- lets avoid the tangential dissertation on early Lotus Cortina rear suspension Mark, stay on point man…

(Official Allan Moffat)

Lapping Waterford in July 2018 in an open car if not an open-wheeler- how’s it handle Moff- soften the front bar or what!

(B Gordon)

I really like this photo as it shows Ford’s Peter Quenet’s Ford Anglia racing with Allan Moffat (front) and Hugh Gordon- Bruce’ father in Lotus Cortina’s at Waterford in the summer of 1966.

What comes through strongly in Moffat’s book are the pivotal roles a relatively small number of people made in advancing Allan’s career at key points in time, Quenet is one of those.

(J Melton)

A couple more shots of Peter Quenet, who was a very good racer in addition to his Ford executive responsibilities.

Whilst running with the ‘FB’ grid, the car is a Lotus 51 Formula Ford, no doubt Peter is doing his bit to get the class off the ground in the US in 1968.

We get a bit better look at his face in the photo below- this self built Anglia still exists, in ultimate spec Peter created a ‘spaceframe’ type of chassis, this shot is circa 1968 at a guess, Waterford?

(Instagram)


Etcetera…

 

Bruce Jennings, Plymouth Barracuda, two Mustangs, then Kwech, Alfa Romeo GTA, the red Alan Mann Lotus Cortina of Frank Gardner, Bob Tullius’ blue Dodge Dart- Allan Moffat at the back of this lap 1 pack and the rest- assistance welcome (Instagram)

Moffat’s outright Trans-Am win in the 1.6 litre Lotus Cortina of the 1966 Bryar Motor Sport Park 250 Trans-Am in London-Laconia, New Hampshire, July 1966 really was a big deal.

The scale of the achievement is given some context from the photo above- the ‘yellow speck’ at the back of this group of cars just after the start is Moffat’s winning car.

The win ‘earned him the title of the only outright winner of a Trans-Am in a Cortina. He quite often out qualified and finished ahead of the factory Alan Mann Racing cars in the ’66 series, which compared to other AMR’s other campaigns, was a failure. It isn’t even mentioned in the Alan Mann biography’ Gramho posted on Instagram.

Moffat won from Bruce Jennings, Plymouth Barrcuda, Horst Kwech, Alfa GTA and the Yeager Ford Mustang, only Moffat and Jennings finished the full 156 laps of the tight 1.6 mile course, the third and fourth placed cars were 2 laps further adrift.

Moffat takes the chequered flag at Bryar- that is a pond in the background (auslot.com)

 

(auslot.com)

All smiles from AM and the Miss New Hampshire contestants. Doesn’t he look young!- note Goodyear support at this early stage- an enduring business relationship all through Moffat’s career.

Lotus Ford Twin-Cam…

Always follow the money is a business basic and so it was that the tuners of the Lotus Ford ‘twinc’ saw the natural advantage the engine had in Formula B, a buoyant economy and plenty of young racers keen to compete.

Cosworth, BRM, Vegantune and others in the UK and US produced engines with power outputs progressively rising from the Cosworth’s Mark 12’s 140bhp @6000 rpm up through 170/180bhp to around 205bhp of the early seventies Brian Hart prepped 1.6 litre, injected ‘416B’ common in Australian National F2 from 1972 onwards.

Of interest to Lotus-Ford twin-cam nutters are the ‘data-sheets’ of the Cosworth built Marks 12-15 variants.


 

Research and Photo Credits…

Special thanks to Bob Gordon for the material which stimulated this piece and Barry Nelson for his photographs and time by phone- he is happy to assist with a ‘Racing the Lotus Cortinas’ piece in the future which promises to be good.

Thanks too to Glenn Moulds and David Hassall for their contributions and access to David’s extensive magazine collection. oldracingcars.com, Cosworth Engineering

Bob Gordon Collection, Barry Nelson, Waterford Hills Facebook page, ‘CTM’- ‘Climbing The Mountain’ Allan Moffat and John Smailes, ‘AMC’- Allan Moffat Collection on Official Allan Moffat Facebook page, Gramho on Instagram, auslot.com, racecarsdirect.com, Jerry Melton on etceterini.com

Tailpiece…

Formula B lap record in the Brabham BT16 Ford and ‘Sedan 4’ mark in one of the Lotus Cortinas.

Finito…

image

(R Lambert)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(E French/R Knott)

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Mildren won the 1960 Gold Star from Stillwell and Patterson.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(G Smedley)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geoff picks up the story again.

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

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

(Gray Family)

 

(Gray Family)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miller raced the car on into 1962 albeit only briefly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Miller)

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

Percival EP.9 Aircraft in Australia…

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

Etcetera…

(Miller)

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

(unattributed)

What a road car!

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

(G Miller)

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

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

(J Ellacott)

Longford Trophy grid, March 1960.

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

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

(NMRM)

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

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

Brabham won from Patterson and Stillwell.

(unattributed)

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

 

Arcane but sorta relevant…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography…

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

Photo and other Credits…

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

Special thanks to Guy Miller and Geoff Smedley

Tailpiece: We have lift-off…

image

(G Smedley)

Finito…

 

Oils ain’t Oils…

Posted: February 4, 2020 in Features, Obscurities
Tags:

(M Bisset)

The very first motor racing magazines i perused were these ‘Castrol Achievements ‘ booklets given to me by a mate’s father when I was 10 or eleven years old, I still have them 50 years later…

Ronald John Roberts was a mighty fine man, a senior executive of Castrol Australia, he commenced his career in Melbourne and was progressively posted to Adelaide and finally Sydney in the mid-seventies where he finished his long career with the company. His son and I were buddies for decades, the same duo took me to my first race meeting in 1972, I have my lifelong passion for our sport thanks to them, they cultivated and nurtured my initial interest.

Soon the Castrol copy of ‘Racing Car News’, the Australian monthly racing bible came my way a couple of months late after it had done the rounds of their execs but that didn’t matter to me.

When Jon Saltinstall popped up some images from this long running series of corporate promotional annuals on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ it really did make me rather misty-eyed for times, friends and events long since past.

I love his summary of the history of the publications and their purpose.

Jon wrote, ‘During the 1950s and 1960s, a series of advertising booklets was produced by the likes of Shell, Ferodo and Castrol, which as well as being quite successful commercially also contributed in no small way to many a schoolboy dream. The longest-running and most successful of these was produced by CC Wakefield Ltd and although its title varied from year to year, is known generally as the “Castrol Achievements Book”.’

‘The Achievements book was produced as an annual and was first published in 1912 to publicise the racing and record-breaking activities on land, sea and air – all those depicted having been attained using Castrol lubricants, of course, as these were after all, advertising booklets. Wakefield had of course been one of the sport’s first commercial benefactors and one of the first to understand the value of endorsement of his products by household names.’

‘Although other companies would produce similar “Achievements” books, only those produced by Shell (1950-1964?), BP (1955?-1964?) and also brake company Ferodo are of similar note to the Castrol publications. The BP effort was similarly orientated across a range of disciplines as the Castrol booklets, while those by Shell and Ferodo were primarily orientated towards Grand Prix racing, which was hardly surprising as both companies were heavily involved in this category.’

1968

‘Looking back at these little (22cm x 13 cm, c. 46-48 pages) booklets, what strikes the reader about the Castrol Achievements Books in particular (and probably what endeared them to motoring enthusiasts) is that they are filled with excellent photographs, often unavailable elsewhere. The fact that they were available free on request from local Castrol companies was no doubt a big point in their favour, especially when – in a particularly clever piece of marketing – for a time one would also receive a free lubrication chart for the car or motorcycle of choice.’

‘The Castrol Achievements Book also benefitted from superb cover artwork (including paintings by including Michael Turner and Gordon Horner amongst others). I understand it was still being published in the new millennium so its longevity was way beyond anything achieved by its rivals. A little-mentioned artefact these days, but possibly an introduction to the sport for a number of TNFers?’ Saltinstall concluded.

So let’s share some of the artwork from the annuals- I was going to do it chronologically but visually it’s better to jump around across the decades as the art direction changed every several years rather than annually so a look of sameness in patches pervades using the year by year in order approach.

Do assist if you know what the featured machine is, I certainly don’t have all the answers.

1909-1959

Percy Lambert’s Talbot? and MG EX181 depicted.

John Cooper/Bill Aston Cooper at Montlhery.

 

Dan Gurney’s #48 Eagle Weslake-Ford at Indianapolis and a Ferrari 250LM at Le Mans.

Dan’s Ford-Weslake engines; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/14/gurney-weslake-ford-v8/

 

 

1957. Ford Zephyr Mk2 of Cuth Harrison during the Tulip Rally.

 

Clearly a race in France but Grands Prix races were thin on the ground in there at the time and I can’t make the Voiturette race results work for me…it’s red so a Maserati perhaps.

Fast Freddie’s Maserati; https://primotipo.com/2018/08/16/fast-freddy/

 

Not so flash is it.

 

1954 depicts the debut and return to racing of Mercedes Benz- the W196 is shown at Reims, a win for JM Fangio in July, Karl Kling in another Mercedes Streamliner was second in a dominant performance and a portent of what was to come. https://primotipo.com/2015/10/09/mercedes-benz-w196-french-gp-1954/

 

Isle of Man is the obvious guess but which outfit? Piece on the 1950 IOM meeting; https://primotipo.com/2016/06/21/1950-isle-of-man-tt/

 

Monte Carlo Rally finish in the streets of the principality, car shown is the winning Paddy Hopkirk/Henry Liddon Morris Cooper S.

Cooper S in the Monte; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/29/monte-carlo-rally-1967-morris-cooper-s/

 

 

Roy Savadori’s Aston Martin DB3S depicted in 1955, not sure which event- it ain’t Le Mans. Article on Roy here;

https://primotipo.com/2018/02/22/roy-salvadori/

Some good stuff in this shot including Piers Courage and his Frank Williams Racing Brabham BT30 Ford FVA F2 car and Sid Taylor’s Lola T70 Mk3B Chev.

 

1960- Pat Moss-Carlsson and Ann Wisdom-Ross won the five day Liege-Rome-Liege in a works Austin Healey 3000 in August/September.

 

 

Captain GET Eyston in ‘Thunderbolt’.

On 15 September 1938 Eyston raised the record he had set the year before from 312.00mph to 345.50mph at Bonneville. This was the tit-for-tat 1937-1939 period of the duel for the LSR between Eyston and John Cobb’s Reid-Railton.

 

The Queens lube of choice it seems.

 

1959, love this image of a hill-climbing Cooper with the  wheels adopting all of the angles so typical of the 500s.

 

 

 

I’m not so sure Castrol provided lubricants to Ferrari in 1952 but we seem to be celebrating the sensational Ferrari 500s which were so dominant in the World Championship that year, Alberto Ascari the winner. First lap of the Belgian Grand Prix depicted.

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

 

1962 Monte Carlo Rally Pat Moss/Ann Wisdom 26th placed Morris Cooper.

 

1956 MG record breaking- EX179 with Stirling Moss huddled over its wheel- wonderful image with the cameraman in shot at left giving some additional drama and perspective.

 

Some interesting stuff here too- Mikkola’s Ford Escort Mexico, the Bud Moore Trans-Am Boss Mustangs, Jacky Ickx’ BMW Dornier F2 car and a Chevron Ford Coupe.

 

An Alfa Romeo 158 bearing down on a green car in 1950- Giuseppe Farina took the first drivers world championship for the Portello marque that year. Farina/158 in brief; https://primotipo.com/2019/10/14/things-go-better-with/

 

1963 shows the ‘Around The World In 43 Days’ Ford Corsair crewed by Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers in a Walter Hayes publicity exercise. The amazing adventure is recounred in Eric Jackson’s book ‘Petrol in in My Blood’.

 

 

1963 for both the above two shots- this one shows Rhodesian, Jim Redman’s Honda RC164 winning the IOM Junior TT at 94.91mph- he was six minutes ahead of the second placed Gilera of John Hartle.

 

 

(Gordon Horner)

1961 Monte Carlo Rally, Ann Hall’s Ford Anglia.

 

Record breaking Healeys in 1953. https://primotipo.com/2019/06/08/austin-healey-100s-streamliner/

 

Dan Gurney’s Eagle Mk1 Weslake was a competitive force in 1967 winning the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa in a great test of both his Len Terry designed chassis and Weslake built V12 engine, and the non-championship Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. Piece on the Eagle Mk1; https://primotipo.com/2019/02/19/eagle-mk1-climax-101/

Credits…

Castrol, Jon Saltinstall on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’

Tailpiece…

Finito…

Jack Brabham’s first Le Mans 24 Hours was the 1957 running of the endurance classic during which he shared a Cooper T39 Climax with Englishman Ian Raby…

Whilst the Coventry Climax 1097cc FPF engined car was quick the duo finished fifteenth outright and third in their 1100cc class behind the similarly engined works Lotus 11 of the American duo Herbert Mackay-Fraser and Jay Chamberlain (ninth overall) and the Bob Walshaw/John Dalton Lotus 11 FPF (thirteenth overall).

Upfront it was a Jaguar D Type rout, the marvellous British six-cylinder beasts occupied the first four places with the Ron Flockhart/Ivor Bueb Ecurie Ecosse car at the head of the chasing pack- the new 3 litre short-stroke XK engine did the trick. Click here for an article in part about this race; https://primotipo.com/2015/01/17/le-mans-1957-d-type-jaguar-rout-ron-flockhart-racer-and-aviator/

Jack and Ian Raby with their Le Mans steed, what airport folks? (unattributed)

 

(Motorsport)

Jack has his hand up to his face, perhaps he is about to indicate to a low flying Jaguar or Ferrari that he wants the pass before the next corner.

The Cooper T39 ‘Bobtail’ was based on the Owen Maddocks’ contemporary 500cc design specifically to accept the new Coventry Climax FWA four cylinder, two valve, single overhead camshaft, twin SU fed 1100cc engine. Later the 1460cc Climax FWB was offered and still later sleeved down 1100cc versions of the 1.5 litre FPF twin-cam, two valve engine as used by Brabham and Raby here.

(Motorsport)

Here the eighth placed, first in 1500cc class, Ed Hugus/Carel de Beaufort Porsche 550A RS chases Brabham through the ever present sand banks awaiting the unwary or careless.

I’m cheating with this shot, it’s Le Mans but a year later- in 1958 Jack shared an Aston Martin DBR1/300 with Stirling Moss, never a good guy to share with at this event given his usual role as ‘the hare’.

The car, leading strongly at the time from the start was out after only 30 laps with a buggered conrod- Jack didn’t get a steer on raceday- Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill won that year in a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa 3 litre V12.

Shots of Jack actually in an Aston Martin DBR1/300 are thin on the ground- let’s make this one almost in…

Its Goodwood, the RAC Tourist Trophy in September 1958 in which he shared a car with Cooper teammmate Roy Salvadori to second place in the race won by Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks in a sister car with another DBR1 crewed by Carroll Shelby and Stuart Lewis-Evans in third place.

Winners are grinners, so too are finishers in this gruelling race- Ian Raby and Jack looking pretty happy and looking forward to a bath and a beer or a Beaujolais perhaps.

Etcetera…

(Motorsport)

Jack contemplates his Climax engine with plenty of support during practice whilst an artist sets to- the car passing is the #8 Lewis-Evans/Severi Ferrari 250 TR which swallowed a piston in practice and did not start. The pair raced a 315 Sport to fourth placed and as such were the best placed Ferrari and the only one of five Scuderia Ferrari entries to go the distance albeit 27 laps adrift of the winning Jag.

(Motorsport)

Brabham goes around the outside of one of the Lotus 11s early in the race. These ‘Bobtails’ started as central seat sportscars but as race organisers got a little antsy about that were also built with a seat either side of the centre of the car- as here.

(Motorsport)

Ian Raby…

Ian Raby on the hop, the Brighton garage owner/motor trader died after an accident in an F2 Brabham BT14 Ford Twin-cam at Zandvoort in 1967.

Raby is the type of bloke I admire- a racer to his core, he started in a Cooper Mk2 or Mk4 JAP as ‘chief cook and bottle washer’- driver, entrant, sponsor and mechanic of his little 500 and progressed to F1 as a privateer in exactly that manner. He used the moniker ‘Puddle Jumper’ on the side of some of his cars which reveals a good sense of humour and self- it is the way I described myself as a runner in my school cross-country days meaning I was an amateur compared to some of the more serious blokes.

After racing in sportscars, Formula Libre and Formula Junior he bought Keith Greene’s Grand Prix Gilby-BRM retiring from his World Championship debut race at Silverstone that year. He progressed to Brabham’s very first F1 car- BT3, by then BRM P56 V8 engined for 1964 finishing eleventh in the 1965 British GP at Brands- doubtless he was a proud man that day.

Raby, Cooper Mk8 Norton, Brands Hatch, Francis Beart Trophy, 4 September 1955- he won his heat but was unplaced in the final (500race.org)

 

The ‘Puddle Jumper’ Cooper T39 Climax in Denmark circa 1957, details appreciated (unattributed)

Formula 2 was a bit more cost-effective so Ian raced a Merlyn Mk9 Cosworth SCA sporadically in 1965 and a more competitive 1965 Brabham BT14 in 1966. Whilst not running right at the pointy end- it was a Brabham Honda year, and he was a regular Cosworth customer not up the front of the SCA queue- but he finished usually just behind the F1 pros and true ‘coming-men’- eighths at Oulton, eleventh at Goodwood and then a splendid fourth at the Nürburgring in April in front of Rindt, Peter Arundell and Kurt Ahrens- good company!

Rabu had an accident in the Brabham at Brands in October but repaired the car and fitted a Lotus-Ford Twin-cam for the first year of the 1.6 litre F2 in 1967 and slipped down the lists- sometimes he was the best of the twin-cams but they were giving away 20bhp or so at best to the dominant 210bhp FVAs.

Ian was eighth at Snetterton, thirteenth at Silverstone, sixteenth at the Nürburgring that year- far below his performance with a more competitive package the previous year. What shows in just skimming through the results is that he was a finished- he wasn’t the fastest bloke on track but he was consistent and brought the thing home- he could obviously prepare his cars well too.

Raby during the 1963 Silverstone British GP weekend, Gilby BRM, DNF gearbox from Q19- Clark won in a Lotus 25 Climax (unattributed)

 

Ian Raby, British GP, Brands Hatch 1964. Q17 and DNF undisclosed, Brabham BT3 BRM (unattributed)

In the Guards International Trophy meeting at Mallory he was sixth behind Surtees, Gardner, McLaren, Ickx and Allan Rollinson. Ninth in the Limborg GP in Belgium followed and then two appearances at Hockenheim for eighth in June and fifth in the F2 Championship round in July. At Tulln-Langenlebarn, Vienna he finished thirteenth and was a DNF at Jarama in late July.

After that weekend he towed his little Brabham to Holland for the 30 July Grand Prix of Zandvoort on 30 July. Whilst Jacky Ickx set about winning the race in Ken Tyrrell’s Matra MS5 FVA Ian left the road on lap 6 and went through the fence at the very fast Rob Slotemaker Esses, he was extracted from the badly damaged car with critical fractures to his head, back and legs and then seemed to be on the road to recovery before succumbing three months after the accident.

Ian Raby, born 22 September 1921, died on 7 November 1967 aged 46, a dedicated racer taken before his time.

Ian Raby, Brabham BT14 Ford twin-cam, Eiffelrennen, Nurburgring 1967

Credits…

Motorsport, F2 Index, Jornal Dos Classicos, 500 Owners Association, Harry Michelbach

Tailpiece…

(Motorsport)

Jack ranging up to pass the Monopole X88 Panhard Coupe- twentieth overall but not running at the finish- the little 750cc machine was crewed by two Pierres- Chancel and Flauhault.

Finito…

(B Young)

Huge excitement was created by Geoff Duke’s visit to Australia in 1954, here his Gilera 500/4 is shown at rest in the Longford paddock…

The Brit was a ‘rock star’, he has just won back to back 500cc world titles aboard Gileras in 1953 and 1954 having won his first on Nortons in 1951. In total Duke won six 350cc and 500cc world championships between 1951 and 1955 and six TT races between 1949 and 1955.

But his fame extended beyond bikes given his film star looks and ability to communicate, as such he was a wonderful ambassador for the sport globally and in late 1954 he was poised to spread a bit of his angel dust throughout Australia.

I wrote an article about Geoff four years ago with a focus on his racing in cars; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/08/geoff-duke-norton-dutch-gp-assen-1952/

Longford (B Young)

 

In a whirlwind tour commencing on 7 January 1955 he raced in four states commencing in Western Australia at Mooliabeenie, a wartime airstrip near Perth on 16 January before a crowd of 15,000 people and then another airstrip at Gawler in South Australia, no doubt wheelspin in top gear was impressive to the 16,000 punters who experienced trying conditions in sweltering heat.

His main opposition in the west was from local all-rounder Peter Nichol on a G45 Matchless and from George Scott’s GP Triumph, at Gawler Keith Campbell and Roger Barker impressed.

Then it was off to the Bandiana Army Base near Albury, the Victoria/New South Wales border town on 30 January- the first half decent venue for the plucky gentleman in his tour to that point, the track comprised 4.5km of perimeter roads.

There, having carefully won the Senior Clubmans event in the slowest possible time, Eric Hinton’s handicap just gave him the edge over Duke to allow him to win the Unlimited Handicap in fading light, this was the only occasion on which the champ was beaten on the tour.

Duke, Bandiana

 

Maurie Quincey, Norton ahead of Duke at Bandiana

Gilera saw the commercial opportunity of a tour to promote their brand sending two current 500/4 bikes and works mechanic Giovanni Fumagalli to look after the machines.

The two bikes brought to Australia derived from a 250cc four designed by Engineer Piero Remor under Piero Taruffi in the early 1940’s. After Taruffi left Gilera to concentrate on car racing Remor and company founder Giuseppe Gilera began work on a 500cc bike whose origins lay in the earlier 250, in 1947.

The new racer was unveiled in 1948 with 1949 its shakedown season. After Remor’s departure to MV Agusta Taruffi was re-hired, together with engineers Colombo and Passoni changes were made to the cylinder head and rear suspension which allowed Umberto Masetti to win the 500cc world championship in 1950.

The bike was redesigned over the winter of 1950/51 adopting a new tubular frame with telescopic forks, pivoting rear suspension and hydraulic shocks. In 1951 Gilera won three GP’s but Duke took the title on a Norton, in 1952 Masetti again won the championship.

Fumagalli and Duke warming up the bike at Gawler (D Voss)

 

Gilera 500-4 1954 (unattributed)

When Duke joined the Milanese firm for 1953 he brought with him strong knowledge of the great Rex Candless designed ‘Featherbed’ frame Norton’s handling, upon his suggestions the Gilera frame was lowered and strengthened to bring better handling with the engine left untouched.

In 1953/54 Passoni redesigned the motor by increasing its stroke, changing the valve angle and elongating the sump to allow the unit to be lowered in the frame by three inches, by this stage the engine produced circa 65bhp @ 10,000rpm.

The frame was of double cradle design made of tubular steel with telescopic suspension at the front and pivoting rear suspension with hydraulic shock absorbers at the rear. The four cylinder, four stroke, air-cooled engine displaced 402.7cc and was undersquare having a bore and stroke of 52mm x 58.8mm. With two valves per cylinder operated by two overhead camshafts and fed by four carburettors the engine gave circa 65bhp as stated above.

1954 Gilera 500 with the dustbin fairing they commenced to experiment with in 1954 (G Cavara)

 

Back to Dukes Tour of Oz. From Albury it was then off to Sydney and a round of public appearances and a visit to Mount Panorama before the next race meeting at the permanent Mount Druitt circuit west of Sydney.

The surface was poor though due to damage from recent car meetings but Duke dominated as he did everywhere else, Keith Stewart impressive in second on a new Matchless G45 twin in the Senior GP.

Mount Druitt

 

Mount Druitt after one of his wins with Keith Stewart on a Matchless G45 behind

Duke’s final two meetings of the tour were down south, at Fishermans Bend in inner Melbourne and majestic Longford in northern Tasmania, which must surely have impressed.

At Fishermans Bend Maurie Quincey led the 500cc race on his Norton for a while before clutch slip set in and Duke pounced in the second Gilera having put the first to one side, it had lost its edge.

Longford was held over two days- with racing on the Saturday and Monday, in the opening race the engine began to lose power with what was diagnosed as magneto problems. The other bike, in Melbourne awaiting shipment back to Italy was stripped of the part which was despatched overnight to the Apple Isle. With the machine back in fine fettle Duke won and set a new lap record in the Unlimited race of 152km/h. Oh to have heard that Gilera screaming its way along The Flying Mile @ 10,000rpm!

Ready for the off at Longford, Duke at right (S Scholes)

Jim Scaysbrook summarised the impact of Dukes tour in ‘Old Bike Australasia’; ‘His whirlwind tour had taken him to every state except Queensland and his charming and eloquent manner did incalculable good for motorcycling. The unprecedented publicity generated helped to dispel the popularly held, media fuelled belief that motorcycle racers were a bunch of halfwits with a death wish. It also had a profound effect on the local riders, serving as a stark reminder of the gap between our rather primitive scene and the European big-time.’

‘A number of up and coming stars impressed him, including Keith Campbell, Roger Barker and particularly Bob Brown, who had just gained selection as Australian representative to the 1955 IOM TT races. “This young man is a joy to watch, uses his head, and should figure very well in the IoM and on the continent” he said in his report to the British Press. When Duke was injured at the start of the 1957 season, he recommended Brown to take his place in the Gilera team for the TT, resulting in two excellent third places. For 1958, Duke personally sponsored Bob on a pair of Nortons’ Jim wrote.

Etcetera…

(D Tongs)

The second of the two Gileras at rest in Longford.

The contribution and significance of this series of Gileras is recognised in a wonderful, highly technical and thoroughly researched scholarly paper titled ‘Grand Prix Motorcycle Engine Development 1949-2008’ written by David Piggott and Derek Taulbut.

Click to access Grand_Prix_Motorcycle_Engine_Development.pdf

The authors recognise ‘Piero Remor’s contribution to Grand Prix engine design’ as follows;

‘The defeat of the original MV 4 in early 1966 had brought to a close after two successful decades the career of the 1947 basic 500cc design of Phil Remor. Initially for Gilera, this introduced the Naturally Aspirated aircooled transverse 4-cylinder with double overhead camshafts and 2 wide angle valves per cylinder, bore-stroke ratio around 1. Remor’s concept, although changed in detail development by others in Gilera and MV, is worth remembering. There had also been successful 350cc versions. Remor had actually been associated with transverse 4’s since 1925 when it was the layout of the Italian GRB (Gianini-Remor-Bonmartini) which ultimately had been transformed into the water supercharged Gilera which powered Dorino Serafini to the European Championship in 1939.’

This piece is based on a wonderful article by Jim Scaysbrook titled ‘Geoff Duke- The Duke’s Crusade’, do have a read, it’s terrific.

Geoff Duke – The Duke’s Crusade

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

Bob Young Collection, Des Tongs, Stephen Scholes, Doug Voss, ‘Geoff Duke- The Duke’s Crusade’ article by Jim Scaysbrook in Old Bike Australia issue 13 May/June 2009, ‘Gilera Motorcycles and Racing History’ by Lucien C Ducret, ‘Grand Prix Motorcycle Engine Development 1949-2008’ by David Piggott and Derek Taulbut.

Tailpiece…

Finito…

The Arthur Barnes driven TH. Schneider broke the Adelaide-Melbourne record with a time of 12 hours 10 minutes for the wild ride over a very rough roads on 11 April 1925…

Sydney motorist AH Barnes was accompanied by J W (William) McCulloch, in the 25.5 hp French six-cylinder 4.5 litre machine. It was national news, this advertisement was placed in the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 May 1925.

The same car, engine number #29, set a Broken Hill-Adelaide record of 8 hours 3 minutes for that 336 mile journey, an average of 42 mph, on 19 August 1925, ‘speeds of more than 100 mph were attained along the route’- that record was previously held by an Amilcar.

Three veteran and six vintage TH. Schneider chassis are known to have been imported to Australia through agents in South Australia and Victoria- George H Booth and Thomas Mitchell and Co-pre-War, and Domain Motors/Kellow-Falkiner Pty Ltd-both post-war, respectively in each state.

The two photographs below show the 25.5 hp TH. Schneider (variously TH. Schneider, Th. Schneider and both of these without the full-stop- I have used the variant on the badge below) out front of Geo Booth’s premises in Adelaide after the Broken Hill to Adelaide run on 19 August 1925. The crew was again Barnes as driver and McCulloch the mechanic.

George Booth of 411 King William Street Adelaide and Domain Motors of 348 St Kilda Road in Melbourne were the agents for the cars at the time and of course sponsors of the successful record attempts.

(SLSA)

 

(SLSA)

Theophile Schneider first entered the motor industry in partnership with Edouard Rochet to build the Rochet-Schneider at Lyon in 1894, he then moved to a factory in Besancon, east France near the Swiss border to build cars on his own- his first was an 1850cc four cylinder machine with a radiator behind the bonnet, a style later popularised by Renault.

These first ‘Schneiders, fitted with engines from 10 to 35hp were raced circa 1912-1914, the best result second place in the June 1912 Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France held on a course based at Dieppe, the car was driven by Rene Croquet with riding mechanic Rene Champoiseau.

After converting to manufacture of components for the war effort the company resumed car production post-war and changed its structure to that of a limited stock company, the record-run car is a type 21.20.1, 25.5hp six cylinder, 4480cc six cylinder, for speed manual with a solid front axle, live rear axle fitted with semi-elliptic springs and two rear wheel brakes, the wheelbase was 3505mm

Three of this model were imported into Australia by Domain Motor Body Builders/Domain Motors. At 1950 pounds they were nearly twice as expensive as the 4.5 litre Bentley of the day, Domain Motors ceased business around July 1926 at a time Th. Schneider themselves were in deep financial trouble at home, having been declared bankrupt in November 1921.

The reputation of the marque allowed the company to trade profitably through the mid-twenties, re-entering racing inclusive of participation at Le Mans in 1926- Pierre Tabourin and Auguste Lefranc were sixth in a 1954cc 25SP and in 1927 when Robert Poitier and Pierre Tabourin DNF accident in a 25SP.

‘White House Crash’ aftermath- the #2 d’Erlanger/Duller Bentley Sport 3 litre at left and #1 Clement/Callingham Bentley 4.5 litre at right- ditto photograph below (unattributed)

 

(unattributed)

The Tabourin driven TH. Schneider is infamous amongst Bentley enthusiasts as the cause of the ‘White House Crash’ which involved three Bentleys. At dusk Tabourin approached the corner too fast, lost control and hit a building close to the road coming to rest and partially blocking the track, Leslie Callingham, following closely, swerved to avoid him and ended up in a ditch on the opposite side of the road, George Duller then hit Callingham, and then Benjafield too hit Callingham in avoidance of Tabourin- Benjafield was able to continue but the race was well over for the other three machines.

No-one was seriously injured but Pierre Tabourin was taken to hospital with broken ribs, the #12 ‘Schneider driven by Chanterelle/Schlitz withdrew from the race out of respect for the injured Tabourin. In a happy ending for Bentley Benjafield and Sammy Davis won the race in the Sport 3 litre ‘old number 7’.

Problems in 1928 led to a second bankruptcy in March 1929 and closure of the Besancon factory doors in early 1930- right in The Great Depression of course.

TH. Schneider’s assets were acquired by French company Societe SADIM, the name continued but was applied to caterpillar tractors- World War 2 saw the end of a once proud marque.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, the insolvency sale of Domain’s assets resulted in four Ansaldos, three Ansaldo chassis and ‘four brand new latest model Schneiders’, of which one was the record breaking car- number ’29’ the other a new DS six cylinder 25hp model changing hands.

The record breaker, which John Bisley has (as of 2015) was never bodied, it was acquired by Watts McNamara and went from Myrtleford to Griffith in 1927- where it remained for most of its life. If any of you can fill in the ownership details of the car since it arrived in Australia please get in touch.

The record breaker at the Cockburn Hotel, in South Australia, not far from Broken Hill near the South Australia-New South Wales border (Richard C)

 

(unattributed)

Even though the cars were small in number in Australia, motorsport was used in attempts to build the brand inclusive of an entry in Australian Grand Prix where a 2 litre TH. Schneider driven by Ernest King contested the 1929 event held on the daunting, dusty, undulating and fast Phillip Island road circuit- King failed to finish having lost a wheel on lap 17 of the race won by Arthur Terdich’s Bugatti T37A.

The photograph above shows King contesting a hillclimb at Wheelers Hill in Melbourne’s outer east in June 1928, six months prior to the 1929 AGP- Th. Schneider 2 litre 25SP.

‘Schneider’s motorsport participation in Australia extended to the reliability trials which were popular at the time and of which I have written in the past. In March 1927, a 7hp car was first in class and fifth outright in a field of about forty cars- the driver was AGP winner Arthur Terdich as below.

(unattributed)

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

Rene Croquet and Rene Champoiseau aboard their TH. Schneider during the second day of the 1912 French Grand Prix on 26 June- the road race comprised 20 laps of a 77km course based in Dieppe, a total of 1540km.

Contestants raced over 10 laps on each day with the results aggregated to produce a winner.

Georges Boillot won in a Peugeot from Louis Wagner’s Fiat S74 and Victor Regal in a Sunbeam with Rene seventh, Rene Champoiseau raced another TH. Schneider but retired.

 

Credits…

SLSA- State Library of South Australia, thschneider.wordpress.com, prewarcar.com, Richard C, F2Index

Tailpiece…

The site of Domain Motors business premises at 348 St Kilda Road- a nice spot right opposite The Shrine of Remembrance, next door to the French Consulate which is apt! and not too far from Albert Park Lake, for international readers, is now, in the best Australian tradition, a block of luxury apartments…

Finito…

(P Coleby)

Ray Porteous’ JMW leads the John Fleming Austin 7 Spl at Darley, Queens Birthday weekend June 11 to 13 1960…

Darley Army Base, 8km from Bacchus Marsh is a reasonably obscure motor racing venue so Hugh Coleby’s upload of some photographs from his late  father, Peter Coleby’s collection on social media is hugely welcome. Gordon Dobies’s contribution in identifying the cars and drivers is gold too ‘one of the advantages of being old enough to have raced at those meetings and never throwing anything away’ he quipped.

The Preston Motorcycle Club conducted the meeting, whilst I have vaguely heard of the place I thought it was a ‘bikes only venue- clearly that is not so, members of the 250cc and 500cc car clubs were also invited along.

Bacchus Marsh was a tiny rural hamlet when I played in some tennis tournaments there as a kid, I still remember the wonderful lawn courts and Avenue of Honour as you drive into the town which is 60km from Melbourne on the Western Highway- the main road from Melbourne to Adelaide for you internationals.

These days its a big commuter town to Melbourne but when the 4000 members of 4th Infantry Training Brigade, the U.S Marines and others occupied the place they must have wondered what they had struck, Bacchus Marsh let alone Darley would have been microscopic!

Australian, American and Dutch (from the Dutch East Indies/Indonesia) soldiers trained at the camp located on a plateau with rolling hills in the background, before being shipped overseas many of them marryied local gals, the area was used for Citizen Military Force (remember the CMF?) training until the 1970’s.

(AIF)

 

Rifle training at Darley, trusty Lee Enfield 303’s by the look (AIF)

 

(AIF)

Robert Thompson wrote that his late grandfather, Lou Thompson built the camp in 1939- Thompson and Chalmers Pty Ltd took on Simmie & Co as an associate on the large project, Darley Military Camp had over 360 buildings including recreation huts, a Post Office and a 68 bed hospital on 160 hectares of land located at Camerons Road.

When the military moved out post-war most of the infrastructure went as well inclusive of buildings, but, critically, the roads remained, the site soon came to the attention of the Preston Motorcycle Club who were eagerly looking for a venue on which to race.

Ray Porteous, Austin 7 Spl (P Coleby)

 

Extreme narrowness of Darley evident in many of these shots, this one the start of the 1959 Junior A Grade- L>R Eric Hinton AJS 7R, #64 Owen Archibald Norton, #82 Ron Miles Norton, #1 Tom Phillis Norton, #2 Jack Ahearn Velocette. On row 2 are #25 Ray Blackett and Geoff Curley #14 (E Miller)

Working bees of club members soon filled trenches left by the removal of cabling, re-coated the road surface, cleared scrub and removed junk left behind by retreating military forces. By late 1947 the place was ship-shape with the first meeting held on 29 February 1948- the Hartwell and Kew clubs were invited along to join in the fun.

Open meetings soon followed, ‘the main straight, which had a left-hand kink in the middle, was only as wide as a two lane road, while the rest of the rack was even narrower. It made for shoulder to shoulder racing on solos and even closer encounters on outfits’ recorded Old Bike Australia.

Peeling off the Main Straight (Camerons Road) is #8 Alan Osborne, Honda and Tom Phillis Ducati in 1959 (MCN)

 

John Hartnett, Cooper Jap 497cc 1960 (P Coleby)

The Preston club guys were happy to hold a couple of well run meetings a year, fitting many races onto the card without chasing the major titles such as the Australian Tourist Trophy with all of the stars of the day racing there- Frank Mussett, Maurie Quincey, Bert Flood, Jack Ahearn, Keith Brien, Max Stephens, Rex Tilbrook, Alan Wallis, Ken Rumble, Kel Carruthers and others with Quincey the ‘local ace’ in the mid-fifties- he switched to cars later in life remember folks, an ANF2 Elfin 600B Ford twin-cam springs to mind. Max Stephens was another who tried four wheels, he owned and raced the ex-Brabham Cooper T40 Bristol, with some success out of Tasmania.

Easter Monday meetings were common early, the club then settled into a mid-year date on the Kings/Queens Birthday weekend which was usually a frosty, wet experience for both the riders and the punters. The Preston guys were also innovative in running the first one hour race for production machines during the June 1959 program.

Over the years various high profile car racers had a crack at the lap record,  Reg Hunt’s Maserati 250F did a 1:14.1 in 1955 which was bested by multiple Australian Hillclimb Champion Bruce Walton aboard a Cooper Mk9 JAP 1 litre twin in 1960 with a 1:10.8. At that stage the quickest of the bikes was the 1:13.5 achieved by both Eric Hinton and Tom Phillis.

Maurie Quincey and Matchless G80 (C or CS?) on the Darley grid, rider of #1 more interested in the babe behind than the race start!

And below is Quincey aboard an Elfin 600B Ford twin-cam during the 1971 Sandown Tasman meeting, it was after some involuntary aerobatics in this car at Sandown at about this time that he called it quits on his competition career.

By then Maurie was in his late thirties, well after his international bike racing career, inclusive  Isle of Man appearances and running a successful Honda dealership in Moonee Ponds, Melbourne. He died on July 19, 2019 six months ago- see a very interesting article about Maurie here; https://www.oldbikemag.com.au/maurie-quincey-victorian-dominator/

(L Hemer)

 

Maurie Quincey on Bray Hill during the 1955 IOM Junior TT- a splendid fifth aboard a spare works Norton Manx 350. He was offered the bike after going so well on his ‘customer’ 350 and 500 during practice (unattributed)

Back to Darley.

Kel Carruthers appearance on the Honda 250/4 in 1961 would have been really something to see and hear- i bet he frightened the kookaburras flying above the citrus trees in the valley below the track bigtime!  Kel won the Harvey Wiltshire Trophy Lightweight race slicing four seconds off the lap record in the process.

The final meeting took place in 1962, in a thriller of a race Trevor Pound and Ken Rumble passed and re-passed for the whole 15 laps with Pound winning by a bike length, both being credited with a new outright lap record of 1:12.8. Trevor Pound raced in the Manx classic too and never lost his passion for competition, he raced Formula Vees in his dotage.

Whilst plans were being made to race in 1963, on 10 June the farm owner withdrew his permission saying the continued rain in the region had flooded the pit and spectator areas and damaged sections of the track- at late notice the meeting was held at Calder, 30km away.

‘Racing never returned to Darley. A combination of primitive facilities, the narrow and uneven road surface and the remorseless march of civilisation spelled the end of the happy little track. Despite its shortcomings, the circuit had an enviable record for safety and a reputation for slick organisation. With nary a backward glance, the infield area was soon subdivided into building lots and small farms.’

To see the place, drive up Camerons Road, at the top of the hill you are on the plateau, about 100 metres on the right are the remnants of the final corner named ‘St Kilda Junction’ poking at you from a vineyard. At this point you are on the Main Straight with the former pit area- still dotted with concrete slabs from the place’s military past on your left. The straight is about 600 metres long- halfway along is a kink, and opposite that is a monument to Darley Military Camp.

Old Bike Australia concluded a great article with this ‘It takes a little imagination if you weren’t there…but if you stand on the kink and close your eyes, you can still hear the sound of a hundred motorcycles and a dozen or so cars from the 250cc and 500cc Racing Clubs, most with open exhausts warming up.’

‘Wafting through the air is the fragrant  mix of Castrol R and methanol, mingled with the aroma of Hines “Kerosene” pies. The pointed tents of the Hines Catering Company…appear in many of the period photos of Darley, and those who sampled the wares will tell you the kerosene stove that heated the pies produced a pastry of unique taste. A section of canvas behind the servery contained a special nook where the course announcer Frank “Farmac” McDonald and selected others could lubricate their tonsils with a cold ale between races.’

‘Fortunately, on the run back to Melbourne, you won’t have to cope with “Cunningham The Camera Cop”- the notorious plod who used to hide his Thunderbird beside the old stone bridge out of Bacchus Marsh and photograph any who transgressed by crossing the double centre-lines.’

Hasn’t the Old Bike Australia writer painted a wonderful, evocative picture of times long gone?

‘Moe’s Nose’ approach June 1960. South Aussies Ian Hogg and Peter Morgan

 

(C Rice)

Roger Barker leading Ron Miles, note the hay bales and beautiful Darley bush setting.

Barker is on a bike with a ‘Rimond’ fibreglass fairing, a product he helped develop in tests at Ballarat and Darley- these were made in Melbourne by former top clubman racer, Charlie Rice and Bob Edmonds, ‘Rimond’ a combination of their names, about 30 fairings were built. Barker was quoted in the English press as saying they were good for about 12mph or 200rpm using tall gearing. The bike could be a Norton.

The Mudgee born rider, having scored points at the Isle of Man and Assen on Nortons in June, died at Schleiz, Thuringia, East Germany in July 1957 having blacked out in the intense heat of the 500cc race whilst leading aboard a Matchless G45, the conditions were made worse by the engine heat the Rimond fairing trapped. He slid off the bike, hit a tree and died instantly from the impact.

Etcetera…

What to look for on your visit, Camerons Road, Darley 3340.

Credits…

Hugh Coleby, the late Peter Coleby, Gordon Dobie, ‘Old Bike Australasia’ 5 February 2018, Eric Miller, Lynton Hemer, Motor Cycle News, Jim Scaysbrook article on Roger Barker in ‘Old Bike Australasia’, John Wynne Collection

Tailpiece…

(P Coleby)

John Fleming, Austin 7 Spl leading followed by Mel Mason with a couple of unidentified JMW’s in the mix, June 1960. There was a big field of at least eleven cars on this narrow track- intrigued to know the full grid if any of you have a record of the race.

JMW’s were built by John Wynne and his father to fuel John’s passion for racing, click here for an interesting site about the cars; http://members.optusnet.com.au/~pwstone/jmw/jwstory/jmwstory.htm

John Wynne below at Tarrawingee in 1960, the other final shot is of the car at Phillip Island circa 1962.

 

Finito…

(unattributed)

Of all the places to have a motorsport event, Tooronga Park in Malvern, 12km from Melbourne’s CBD is up there with the least likely…

An Austin 7 Special at left and the Campbell McLaren/Halliday Ford A Model Special the two intrepid occupants built.

Right in the heart of Melbourne’s stockbroker belt even in September 1940, the roar of racing engines is somewhat bizarre, but the ‘Malvern Comforts Fund’ staged a five day carnival of activities to raise money to provide luxury items to supplement Australian troops normal, basic rations.

State based organisations of this type were formed during World War 1 and federated- the ‘Australian Comforts Fund’ quickly grew into a fundraising, collecting, sorting and distribution machine to rival the Red Cross- it was dissolved in 1920 but revived in 1939 to again look after the lads and lassies.

Wonder what mutt won the Ugliest Doggie Competition? (R Bell Collection)

Ray Bell sent this amazing flyer to promote the event and most of the photographs in this piece, the one below is of Ron Edgerton’s Alta V8 a Speedway Midget alongside. Is that Tooronga Station in the background of the shot?

Given the crowded nature of the large parklands it seems likely that ‘novelty’ rather than speed events were the go but if any of you have an entry list and details of the contests it would be great to hear from you.

(R Bell)

The car (at left below) is the ex-Lord Selsdon Fraser Nash TT Replica being driven by Earl Davey-Milne, who still owns it. ‘The A Ford Special Midget is not Arthur Wylie’s normal car (Ray Bell’s thought as to the machine at right), so I am not at all sure’ as to the car on the right Bob King comments.

‘Cam McLaren was a hilarious commentator at Rob Roy and Templestowe Hillclimbs keeping up a lively banter with, I believe, John Price- this was before car racing got serious and many of the cars were absurd…’

(R Bell)

‘The Malvern Groups five day carnival in September 1940 was an extravaganza in Great War style, with marches, bands, button sales, dances, recitals and a monster Town Hall finale that included the Coburg Ladies Pipe Band, the Hawaiian Club (WTF?) and pupils of Miss Greenough, danseuse (a female ballet dancer) and J King, magician…’ there is no mention of the light car racing in Lynne Strahan’s account of the carnival.

The scale of this national organisation was enormous, the Malvern Comforts Group (only a small suburb of Melbourne then) alone provided ‘food, hostels, picture units, canteens and parcels of books and games…while over 120,000 skeins (a length of yarn loosely coiled and knotted) of wool and twelve miles of flannel and drill had been consumed for garments fashioned with “motherly care”…’

(R Bell and B King Collections)

Ron Edgerton’s Bugatti T37, with Bob King thinks, Maurie Monk’s GN Special alongside.

It is ironic that the Toorak domicile of this Bugatti, ‘37104’ for the last sixty years or so is three kilometres from one of its last events powered by a Bugatti engine!- see article on the car here; https://primotipo.com/2019/04/25/alexandra-sprints-and-bugatti-t37-37104/

The last serious motorsport event in Australia before competition cars were put away for the war’s duration was the ‘Patriotic Grand Prix’ held in Perth’s Applecross on 11 November 1940. The program comprised four events, the GP was a 12 lap, 30 mile race won by Harley Hammond’s Marquette Special, below.

(K Devine)

Etcetera…

(R Bell)

 

(R Bell)

Campbell McLaren and Mr Halliday at Mitcham Hillclimb, circa 1941, and in the photo above that, building their racer, a project they commenced whilst still at school.

Mitcham is a suburb 17km directly east of Malvern, very much in the sticks then but could almost be categorised as an inner-suburb these days if Melbourne’s eastern outskirts end at Healesville, which it sorta does…

I’d love to know where the ‘climb was, I had an aunt who lived at Mitcham in the sixties and seventies, a bit of cursory research shows the venue was in use from at least 1936- sixty entries raced there that October, but did it survive post-war?

(SLV)

A trip down memory lane for Melbourne’s eastern-suburbanites.

The Glen Waverley line rail-crossing- not even a boom-gate, as long as the operator in the little hut doesn’t go to sleep all is good, at the ‘bottom’ of the Toorak Road plunge down from Glenferrie Road looking east in 1955, this spot is a long drop-kick to Tooronga Park.

By the time i was an ankle-biter visiting my uncle/grandfather’s newsagency on the corner of Burke and Toorak Roads in the early sixties that stand of trees at the top of the hill had become a drive-in theatre. In addition to the gasometers there was a brickworks in this area of flat land, so it was quite industrial for a residential area- the gasometers were removed circa 1980 as natural gas replaced the coal-fired variety.

Its funny the stuff which pops back into yer head. The two ‘clutch-fucker’ hill starts which terrorised me as an 18 year old ‘P-Plater’ in me Mum’s Morrie 1100 was that one at the top of the hill where the trees are- the corner of Tooronga and Toorak Roads, when traffic lights emerged and the Warrigal Road/Riversdale Road muvva in Burwood…i got there eventually!

Into the sixties the first small shopping centre emerged, then re-zoning removed the extractive industries and Coles headquarters moved in, then circa 2010 a bigger shopping centre and shedloads of apartments. Oh yes, there is now a freeway (the Monash) near the railway lines and at present, finally, the powers that be are creating an overpass for the railway line.

Gardiners Creek is there somewhere but maybe its behind where the snapper took his shot, no doubt some folks who attended the Malvern Comforts Fund event fished in that creek all those years ago…

Credits…

Ray Bell and Bob King

Ray Bell Collection (from Campbell McLaren’s photo album), Museums Victoria, ‘A History of The City of Malvern’ Lynne Strahan, Bob King Collection, State Library of Victoria, Ken Devine Collection

Tailpiece…

Finito…