Archive for the ‘Obscurities’ Category

(Kiama)

I wrote an article about beach racing at Gerringong Beach near Kiama on the New South Wales Illawarra Coast a while back…

The article focused on a race meeting in May 1930, I had too many photos for that piece, the purpose of this article is to share them here.

They cover a diversity of Gerringong related topics- the May 1930 meeting, three land speed record attempts and Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith. The history of Gerringong Beach aka Gerringong Speedway is in that earlier article, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/26/gerringong-beach-races-1930-bill-thompson/

I’ve no idea who the driver or car above is but just love the silhouette of machine and driver against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. Its taken during the May 1930 meeting as the ‘track’ fights a losing battle with the tide.

(Kiama)

The photo above is of Seven Mile Beach and the little Gerroa settlement, it gives a sense of just how relatively quiet a place Gerringong was at the time. Gerroa River mouth at Gerringong.

Don Harkness and ‘Wizard’ Smith on Gerringong Beach in December 1929 (Fairfax)

 

Don Harkness: Minerva Hispano Suiza Australian LSR October 1925…

Upon leaving school Don Harkness became an apprentice in general engineering, aged 20 he was employed by JC Hilliers at Drummonye Sydney, by 1922 Harkness and Hillier Pty. Ltd. was formed.

Don developed an interest in motor racing and imported a Willys Overland which was highly modified- ‘Whitey’ as the car was nicknamed won over 50 races at venues as diverse as the Maroubra concrete saucer speedway, the Penrith dirt speedway and on the beach at Gerringong.

Harkness aboard the Overland ‘Whitey’ date and place unknown (DHA)

An offer of a fifty pound trophy to the first person to exceed 100 mph in Australia over the measured mile by the Daily Guardian newspaper led to Harkness’ use of FR Colbert’s  Minerva chassis powered by a Hispano aero V8 engine- the car below won the trophy on 17 October 1925 at a speed of 108 mph.

(unattributed)

Anzac Rolls Royce: Wizard Smith and Don Harkness, Australian Land Speed Record December 1929…

‘The run was made under the worst of conditions seen for years with danger hidden in every sand hole. The car at one stage reached a speed of 142 mph and with such ease as make both Smith and Harkness confident of an ultimate speed of 175 mph’ the Sunday Times reported.

Don Harkness was approached by Norman Leslie ‘Wizard’ Smith and the former Lord Mayor of Sydney, Jack Mostyn to design and build a car to attempt the Australasian one mile and ten mile records.

The proud Harkness & Hiller workforce of artisans with the Anzac Rolls Royce, Parramatta Road, Five Dock, Sydney in November 1929 (DHA)

 

Smith and Harkness in an early test of the Anzac Rolls Royce with one and a bit wheels off the deck. Mention is made of a test run at Richmond, NSW, I wonder if that is the place, late 1929 (unattributed)

The result was the ‘Anzac’, a Cadillac chassis into which was inserted a Rolls Royce aero engine- as one does.

The liaison between Australian Speed Ace Smith- of intercity and circuit racing fame and financier Mostyn came about by chance when Smith came to Mostyn’s aid with a car breakdown. A series of discussions resulted in a determination to initially take Australasian Records and then with a second, more powerful machine, to take on the world.

Harkness was well known for his engineering and driving prowess to Wizard- Harkness had an amazing track record by then in both automotive and aero engineering which is a great story in itself, so it was a natural he turn to the Harkness and Hillier concern to design and build the first car, christened ‘Anzac’ in memory of the Australians and New Zealanders who lost their lives in the Great War.

The basis of Harkness’ design was a modified and strengthened Cadillac chassis- ‘Harkness chose a Cadillac and found the stock material so good, that he retained the frame, the (3 speed) gearbox assembly, the wheels, final drive, radiator and strengthened the steering by fitting a special chrome steel drag link in one piece’.

The Cadillac chassis details are unclear, but in 1928/9 they were made in two wheelbases- 140 and 152 inches, the former the standard and the latter the ‘semi-commercial’ lenghth for hearses and ambulance use, both had the same track of 56/58 inches front/rear. The standard engine was a 341cid side-valve, cast iron V8, the gearbox was a 3 speeder, brakes mechanical and rear axle fully floating with spiral bevel drive.

The frame was reinforced where necessary with special supports carrying the longer, lighter Rolls engine. New gears were cut from higher grade steel, then finished in the Harkness shop. ‘An overdrive gearbox was used to step up the revolutions of the wheels- the final drive ratio was 1.5:1. A new flywheel housing (bellhousing) was designed, patterned and cast, together with a new gearbox assembly. (this of course contradicts the earlier sentence- I suspect what happened is that new, stronger gears were cut and fitted to both the  Cadillac ‘box and diff)

Wheels were ‘ordinary stock 33 by 5 inch high pressure cords’, ‘on the trial run at Richmond they stood up to 121 mph’ with race tyres to be used in New Zealand with its higher expected speeds.

The Wizard of Anzac (Fairfax)

The beast was about 20 feet long, had a wheelbase of 11 feet and a track of 4 feet 8 inches.

The motor (variously described as both an Eagle series 8 and 9) was the last in a line which first saw use in 1915- the 320-360 bhp, SOHC, twin-plug, 20 litre, 60 degree, twin Claudel-Hobson carbed  V12 engine was acquired as war surplus from the RAAF.

Harkness modified it to be able to run at higher revs of 3000 rpm rather than the usual 1800-2200 rpm. The engine had a bore / stroke of 4 1/2 / 6 1/2 inches – 1239 CID or 20.32 litres.

The car was constructed in the Harkness and Hillier, Parramatta Road, Five Dock, Sydney workshops with local firm Prophets making the ‘streamlined’ body, which no doubt in style was a nod in the direction of other LSR cars in existence at the time.

The LSR in 1929 was held by Henry Segrave’s 930 hp Napier Lion engined ‘Golden Arrow’ at 231.362 mph- well out of reach of Anzac’s maxima of circa 175 mph- but the machine was still good for local record hunting and as a ‘proof of concept’ to build the next car designed to achieve the world record.

The radiator was at the front, the cockpit cowled around the driver ‘who was insulated from engine heat, flames and fumes’ by steel bulkheads and flooring. The mechanic was left well in the breeze, the body then tapered in towards the rear and had a neat stabilising tail at the very back. The fuel tank was aft of the driver and the oil tank behind the rear axle. The car no doubt looked stunning in its gold, lacquer paint.

The Australasian Record attempt was to take place at the Ninety Mile Beach in New Zealand in early 1930, but first the car had an Australian Record to set, and needed to prove it was fit for purpose before being shipped ‘across the ditch’ (Tasman Sea) from Australia to New Zealand.

Anzac was taken by trailer from Five Dock to Gerringong where the team set up camp in late November 1929.

‘Conditions were so bad on the Saturday that Smith postponed his attempt but were even worse on Sunday. Heavy seas had pounded the beach for days and water rose as far back as the trees, 200 yards from the normal waterline. This had the effect of bringing thousands of tons of loosely, badly-knit sand on to the part of the beach used for racing. The line was covered with seaweed and ruts and hollows along the course and made the driving dangerous.

On the Sunday, the Wizard and Harkness looked over the beach at dead low tide and decided to give the car a trial. There was but a tiny stretch of the surface good enough for racing, just about three quarters of a mile long’.

 

All set- Don Harkness has one last check of the engine- hard plugs now fitted to the Rolls V12- time for the off, Gerringong Beach December 1929 (Fairfax)

 

After being carefully made ready the Rolls engine was fitted with soft plugs for a warm-up run of the engine after which 24 race, or hard plugs were fitted. The car was fuelled, checked over for the umpteenth time and then Smith and Harkness jumped aboard.

‘The final quarter mile was marked off, and the car took a run of only 800 yards before entering the timing strip. “From the start we accelerated to 110 mph where we hit the starting line” said Wizard. “Just before we did nearly 3000 revs in second gear, and I changed a few yards in front of the line. We were doing just about 110 mph then, and in the next few yards I could feel her winding up. She surprised me. I’m convinced Don has built me the fastest car in Australia. The old bus will beat all the Wapitis that overflew. I’ll guarantee that she has more speed than anything else in Australia, or a plane”.

Don Harkness is more than pleased. He is delighted for the car has done more than he expected, and that more with so little effort that he doesn’t think of what it will ultimately achieve.’

Harkness said ‘After Sunday’s run…I’ll guarantee 150 mph in New Zealand and we’ll get her moving at 175 mph when we will have the very best of conditions and the car has the power, Norman will do the rest’

The team created an Australian record at Gerringong of 128.571 mph (206.909 kph). Harkness reported that with the gear ratios fitted the car was capable of the following speeds/rpm;

1000 rpm 63 mph, 1500 rpm 94.5 mph, 1800 rpm 113.4 mph, 2100 rpm 151.2 mph, 3000 rpm 188 mph, 3200 rpm 200.6 mph

 

Harkness on this side of the car is leaning well forward- I wonder if that is due to his seat or trying to get a better fix on the perilous nature of the beach?

 

Both set back in their seats in this shot, quite a functional handsome weapon

 

Suppliers cited as providing components for the car were AH Prophet, the body, Vacuum Oil Co the fuel and lubricant- ‘Plume Spirit’ and Mobiloil B.

EA Marr provided the Firestone tyres with Harry Taylor of Advanx Ltd having them ‘treated and scientifically trimmed and balanced for speed’. WT Adams of Motor Ignition Ltd supplied an ‘Ajax’ battery to start the giant motor and F Reed supplied Personne-Reed double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers.

‘The beautiful finish in gold’, was supplied by Bergers Ltd, using the famous ‘Opex’ lacquer. John McGrath Ltd, agents for Cadillac provided the chassis.

Taken to the Ninety Mile  (Kaitaia) Beach Smith and Harkness achieved a two-way average of 144.037 mph on 11 January 1930. Days later they attempted the 10 Mile Average achieving a one way speed of 148.637 mph- better than the record then held by Leon Duray’s Voisin of 135.333 mph and were told that because of the distance a return run was not necessary. This was subsequently established to be not the case with the record being unrecognised given the lack of a return run and the antiquated equipment used to time it.

Anzac never ran again- Smith became preoccupied with the Fred H Stewart Enterprise, a new Harkness/Smith 1450 hp LSR machine, which is a sad story of the breakdown in the relationship of the two men for another time…

 

(Fairfax)

May 1930 ‘Fifty Mile Championship’ Race Meeting…

It was a very soggy raceday for both the racers and the specators, only about 300 hardy well rugged up spectators turned up to see Bill Thompson win the ‘Fifty Mile Handicap’ feature race in his Bugatti T37A, a car he had used to win the Australian Grand Prix not so long before.

The grid above comprises two Chryslers to the left- the #72 E Patterson and HJ Beith Chrysler Sports with Charlie East’s Bugatti T37 on the right.

(SMH)

E Patterson’s 4 litre Chrysler on the turn around the flags which mark out each end of the course. Fine touring cars in their day.

(Kiama)

The light weight of this Morgan made rescue from the rising waters a good deal easier than more conventional and heavier machines!

Young filly aboard one of the Bugatti T37’s, Thomson’s T37A I suspect (SMH)

The race meetings were as much social, society occasions as they were motor racing so there were never any shortage of ladies about. The May meeting is well served by photographs given the presence of a staff photographer from the Fairfax/Sydney Morning Herald.

(SMH)

 

Lea-Francis was entered by Mrs JAS Jones and raced by RG Potts in the 50 Mile Handicap.

 

(SMH)

 

(SMH)

Speaking of Mrs Jones, here she is with riding mechanic aboard her rather peachy Alfa Romeo 6C1750 Zagato, one of Vittorio Jano’s finest, I wrote a feature about this wonderful machine a while back.

https://primotipo.com/2018/02/15/mrs-jas-jones-alfa-6c-1750-ss-zagato/

She didn’t have a great meeting after winging’ a mechanic who strayed into her path having crossed the finishing line in one of the events- breaking his leg.

(SMH)

In amongst all the fun there was some serious motor racing for the top-liners of the day.

Three time Australian Grand Prix winner- and just back from Phillip Island having won the 1930 race, Bill Thomson raced the same Bugatti T37A and won the feature event of the weekend, the Fifty Mile Handicap.

In the photo below his mechanic is readying his mount- that is a Light Car Club of Victoria badge on the radiator.

(SMH)

Thomson was every schoolboys idol of the day as this photograph below shows- the look of adoration and joy on the little, capped dudes face is priceless. No doubt Bill has just won the feature event.

(SMH)

Simply amazing shot below of Bill’s T37A passing a Chrysler at speed- this photograph is the cover shot of Kent Patrick’s biography on the great man, a work I must acquire.

(SMH)

The impressive line up of cars before the Fifty Mile Handicap race includes, from the left, the Percy Hunter driven JAS Jones owned Alfa 6C1750 Zagato, the obscured Bill Thomson Bugatti T37A and two Chrysler 4 litre machines of E Patterson and #72/14 Herb Beith.

Any idea what the car below is folks, I thought for a bit it might have been Charlie East’s Bugatti T37 ‘37104’ in the paddock, or more specifically, on the beach- but it isn’t!  Any clues?

You can see from the gaggle of cars below going around one of the markers which defines  one of the extremities of the ‘track’ that the tide is rapidly marching in. No idea of the cars, assistance invited.

(SMH)

The masked avenger below appears to be another lady racer but I’ve no idea as to name or mount. Evocative shot, the mask is protection from the sea gales and sand but reminds me of the first use of Nomex masks circa 1967.

And I thought wet Winton in May can be a pain in the arse!

(SMH)

Definitely time for a few bevvies by this stage of the day. Car make and model?

(SMH)

 

(Kiama)

Kingsford-Smith: Australia-New Zealand Flight 1933…

Charles Kingsford-Smith used the beach at Gerringong to fly to New Zealand, above the ‘Southern Cross’ has just landed.

Seven Mile Beach was used as the runway for the first commercial flight between Australia and New Zealand.

The historic journey by legendary pilot Air Commodore (and later) Sir Charles Kingsford Smith took place in the early hours of January 11 1933, he landed more than fourteen hours later at New Plymouth on New Zealand’s North Island.

Gerringong Beach was chosen, for this, his second flight across the Tasman, because of its length which allowed plenty of distance to get the heavily laden plane off the deck- on board was 660 gallons of fuel and 30 gallons of oil as well as a crew of four.

 

Look at that crowd! (SMH)

 

Hauling the plane clear of the rising tide (SMH)

 

In position, being fuelled and made ready (SMH)

 

(unattributed)

 

‘The Daily News’ Perth 11 January 1933

The famous aviators flight log describes the trip as a joyriding tour, his crew comprised co-piot and navigator PG ‘Bill’ Taylor, wireless operator John Stannery and SE Nelson, secretary of the New Zealand and New Plymouth Aero Clubs.

The aircraft was flown down from Mascot Airfield, Sydney on January 10 averaging 115 mph for the trip. Once on the ground the plane was pronounced fit and the engines were covered to prevent ingestion of air blown sand, it was refuelled with chamois leather providing the filter!

Flares were lit early on the beach to mark a runway with several thousand people making the trip from Sydney to witness the historic 2.50 am takeoff- turning on their headlights to provide the aviators with extra illumination. The motorists were requested to keep their headlights on for 15 minutes after departure with Smith firing some rockets or flares to signal all was well once the ‘Old Bus’- the Fokker Trimotor VH-USU ‘Southern Cross’ was aloft.

‘Smithy’s last flight was aboard a Lockheed Altair which disappeared in the dark, tropical heat off Burma in November 1935.

Australian Minister of Defence handing over the ‘Southern Cross’ to Kingsford-Smith at Richmond RAAF base, New South Wales in 1935 (MAAS)

 

Peter Whitehead ERA R10B: LSR attempt 10 November 1938…

Peter Whitehead raced his ERA R10B extensively around Australia in 1938 most notably winning the Australian Grand Prix at Bathurst over the Easter long weekend and the Australian Hillclimb Championship at Rob Roy in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills later in the year.

https://primotipo.com/2015/04/16/peter-whitehead-in-australia-era-r10b-1938/

(The Sun)

He found time for a little record-breaking though- his attempt on the Australian Mile started with a 133 mph pass at Gerringong but on the return leg a piston failed bringing an early end to his day. \

Here ‘the boys’ are hauling the car off the beach through thick sand.

(The Sun)

 

Credits…

‘Kiama’ – kiama.nsw.gov, monumentsaustralia.org.au, ‘Sunday Times’ 8 December 1929 and various other newspapers via Trove, ‘MAAS’- Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, ‘DHA’- Don Harkness Archive, The Sun, Fairfax/Sydney Morning Herald

Tailpiece That May 1930 meeting really was soggy…

(Kiama)

These dudes have well and truly lost the battle with the Pacific Ocean tide! It is a competitors car too, #18 in an earlier shot.

Finito…

A patriotic kiddo prepares his very aerodynamic ‘Spitfire’ for a run down Cross Road, Fullarton, Adelaide in the Winter of 1941…

We all start to race somewhere, I ‘progressed’ from billycarts! I wonder if this dude took steps beyond the Unley Soap Box Derby to bigger and better automotive things in the years to come? Love the schoolkids formal cold weather attire- caps, cloaks, coats and ties very much to the fore.

The run down Cross Road, from ‘the old gum tree’ to Fullarton Road attracted a crowd of 15,000! people to watch 100 competitors achieve speeds of up to 70 km/h. The crowd is indicative, I guess, of just how starved people were of any form of entertainment during the long, bleak, difficult war years.

Photo Credit…

State Library of South Australia

Harry Firth, MG TC Spl, Templestowe Hillclimb, outer Melbourne in 1959…

Long before his well known period as head of the Holden Dealer Team in the late sixties/early seventies Firth was a formidable car builder/preparer/driver in sports cars and sedans on tarmac and dirt.

He won the Armstong 500 three times- twice at Phillip Island and once at Bathurst partnered with Bob Jane- in 1961 they won in a Mercedes Benz 220SE, in 1962 aboard a works Ford Falcon XL, Firth prepared the works Fords at his famous garage in Queens Avenue Auburn, out of these modest premises did some great cars emerge.

He was also victorious in 1963 in a self-prepped works Ford Cortina GT and again as the event morphed into the Bathurst (Gallaher) 500, once, partnering Fred Gibson in a works XR Falcon GT in 1967.

(B Wells)

The Bob Jane/Harry Firth Ford Falcon XK (above) DNF leading the John/Caldecoat MGA, Hell Corner, Bathurst 6 Hour, 30 September 1962. Race ‘won’ by the Geoghegan Brothers Daimler SP250, who were first across the line in a race technically of classes with no ‘outright winner’.

Firth’s Cortina GT ahead of a couple of Humpy Holdens at Lakeside in 1964 (B Williamson)

On Allan Moffat’s recommendation he was engaged to co-drive a Lotus Cortina with Moffat in endurance races at Green Valley and Riverside in 1966.

Ford were keen for him to stay but he had to return home to honour a Ford Australia rally commitment, duly winning the first Southern Cross Rally.

(unattributed)

(unattributed)

In 1968 he won the inaugural Australian Rally Championship driving a Lotus Cortina, another doyen of the sport, Graham Hoinville was his navigator.

Firth and Ken Harper also prepared the Ford Australia Falcon GT ‘XT’ London-Sydney Marathon entries.

These 302 CID V8 engined sedans won the teams prize with Harry behind the wheel of the eighth placed car with his usual friend and navigator, Hoinville. The Vaughan/Forsyth car was third and Hodgson/Rutherford GT sixth.

The two photos above are at the Crystal Palace, London start on 24 November.

The Firth/Gibson winning works ‘XR’ Ford Falcon GT ahead of the 4th placed Mildren Racing Alfa GTV1600 of Kevin Bartlett and Laurie Stewart. Bathurst 500 1967 (unattributed)

Des West, Ian Tate and Harry Firth, Bathurst 1969 i guess (D Wilson)

This unique blend of skills and experience is what bagged him, even as a ‘Ford guy’, passed over as team manager by Al Turner as ‘too old’ – the HDT job. He held this management role until 59 years of age, in 1977 when John Sheppard succeeded him.

Let’s get back to the MG, this short article does not do Harry’s career justice, I am not attempting to do so- I am getting off point!

The MG Special, chassis ‘TC4723’ commenced construction in 1951, the chassis was much modified and lightened. The engine was also heavily adapted for the demands of racing, exactly how is not disclosed in my reference sources, but included fitment of a Wade supercharger running at 22 pounds of boost which mounted in front of the radiator. If any of you have details of the full specification, ever evolving as it was, drop me a note, I will pop the details into the article.

The bodywork was ‘functional’ rather than attractive as many of the ‘single-seater’ MG specials in Australia at the time were. Its bluff nature mitigated against top speed but perhaps the cars primary purposes were hillclimbs and trials rather than top speed on Conrod Straight, Bathurst and the like.

The MG was successful on the circuits, sprints and hillclimbs only slipping down the order as more modern Coventry Climax engined cars started to appear in the second half of the fifties.

Heart of The Matter: Firth in the stripped or perhaps not yet bodied TC @ Rob Roy during the 1952 Labour Day meeting on 10 March. Fantastic photo of a hard trying Harry- by then the LCCA were paying prize money, Leon Sims wry comment is that ‘Harry on occasion drove more than one car to increase his earnings’. FTD to Reg Hunt, Hunt Spl from Charlie Dean in Maybach 1 (L Sims)

Harry eventually replaced the MG with a Triumph TR2, which was equally effective and functional until endowed with an Ausca (Maserati A6GCS) clone body but he retained the car which was stored out the back of his ‘Marne Garage’ on the corner of Burke and Toorak Roads, Camberwell.

My grandparents and uncle had the newsagent on the opposite north-east corner of that intersection in the late fifties/early sixties, Harry was famous for sipping a cup of tea and working his way through the motor magazines, never buying any of course!

Firth eventually sold the site to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport to construct their headquarters. At that point, when he had to remove the car, it was sold to Jack Schumacher in Murray Bridge, South Australia, he didn’t use it much and resisted Harry’s regular entreaties to buy the car back until 1977.

Harry restored it and occasionally used it in Historic events, I’ve lost track of it in recent years. Firth died in 2014 aged 96.

Harry Firth and later twice Australian Touring Car Champion Norm Beechey, both driving Holden 48-215’s at Templestowe Hillclimb in Melbourne’s, then outer east, not sure when- mid fifties. Not too far from Rob Roy actually. I wonder if they are laughing about a cup or their winnings? (unattributed)

 

(autopics.com.au)

The photo above is a decade or so later than the one at Templestowe and shows Harry driving a Holden Dealer Team Holden Monaro GTS350- perhaps one of the circuit racing cars pensioned off for much tougher duties in 1969- Calder Rallycross.

I wonder if this was Firth’s last competition appearance as a driver prior to his Historic Racing period a bit later on?

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Leon Sims, autopics.com.au, Stephen Dalton

Photo Credits…

State Library of South Australia, Australian Motor Sports, Leon Sims Collection, Bob Williamson, David Wilson

Tailpiece: Harry Firth and Graham Hoinville on the way to winning the June 1964 Ampol Trial, works Ford Cortina GT…

101 cars including 5 works teams entered the event which was held over 7000 miles in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria- start and finish at Bondi Beach (unattributed)

Finito…

(Fairfax)

Marie Jenkins, Bugatti Brescia, circa 1925, circuit unknown, but probably Maroubra, Sydney…

Jenkins first sprang to prominence with a win over Maroubra Speedway fast-men Phil Garlick, Alvis and Hope Bartlett, Bugatti Brescia in a January 1926 Five Mile Handicap at the demanding dangerous Sydney venue.

Jenkins delighted the crowd by winning both her heat and the final ‘though she owed her victory to the generous way she had been treated by the handicappers. She is the first woman to win an event at the Speedway, and she received a great ovation from the spectators, particularly the fair sex’ The Newcastle Morning Herald reported.

Marie Jenkins at Maroubra on 5 December 1925, Brescia T13 (23) chassis ‘2135’ (C Anicet)

She raced at Maroubra’s opening meeting, the track a daunting, dangerous venue. Jenkins second race there was only days after the deaths of two competitors killed practising at the track on the Wednesday prior.

The Melbourne racer, ‘who lives near the Yarra’ was coming off the back of a rollover in the first Aspendale Motordrome meeting of the year at the Melbourne, bayside venue in November 1925.

I can find little written about this driver- am keen to know more if any of you have particular insights. Click here for an article on the Bugatti Brescia; https://primotipo.com/2018/07/27/country-spin/

Credits…

Fairfax, Christian Anicet for the photo of the car and details

Tailpiece…

 

 

 

 

 

Finito…

(Dallinger)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Dallinger)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(B King)

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

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

Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, 25 March 1938

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The teams prize went to Burrows, Bonser and Kleinig.

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

Etcetera…

(Tim Hocking via R Bell)

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

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

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

(Dallinger)

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

(Dallinger)

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

(Dallinger)

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

(Dallinger)

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

(Dallinger)

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

Photo and other Credits…

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

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

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

Ray Bell and John Medley on The Nostalgia Forum

Tailpiece: When men were men…

(Dallinger)

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

Finito…

Mal Simpson, Bill Pitt and a mystery fellow (M Simpson)

The LPS Motors/Bill Pitt Cooper MkV Norton being prepared for the November 1954 Australian Grand Prix, at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast…

The above sentence was easy to write, the skill is having the knowledge/research ability/database to be able to identify these mystery photos taken by the late Mal Simpson, a prominent Australian race mechanic of the fifties and sixties whose photo collection was being progressively uploaded onto ‘The Nostalgia Forum’.

Facebook is good fun for ‘light and fluffy’ photo sharing but the serious dudes of motor racing research who hangout on TNF have solved and debunked many racing knotty problems and theories in the last 15 years or so- check it out if you have not.

No less than ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ co-author John Medley got the research ball rolling with the first shot posted above- identifying both Cooper models and possible owners as Bill Patterson, Bill Pitt and ‘less likely, John Crouch’.

When John saw the second photo below, uploaded a day or so after the first, with Simpson identified in each shot, it provided more evidence. He felt the ‘pusher’ on the right was Bill Pitt and therefore the probable owner of car #5 as being the Lewis/Swinburne/Pitt- LPS Motors Cooper MkV Norton raced by Bill Pitt. Click here for Pitt’s history; https://primotipo.com/2016/03/18/lowood-courier-mail-tt-1957-jaguar-d-type-xkd526-and-bill-pitt/

Then my friend and Cooper expert Stephen Dalton stepped up to the plate confirming ‘pusher’ Pitt via some earlier photos he had of him and proffered the view that these Queensland cars were both entered in the ’54 AGP meeting- Pitt ran the MkV but blew the engine in practice, racing a Jaguar instead and Charlie Swinburne raced the #2 Cooper Mk IV. Stephen dated the photographs as late 1954 at least- ‘as The Triumph TR in the background (can you see a peek of it in the shot below) helps date the photo to probably late 1954 at the earliest- I think that’s when TR’s first arrived in Oz.’

So, Stephen concludes, ‘…is this the lads preparing the cars at their LPS Motors for Southport?…’

Nice work guys!

Unidentified chappy- help required, Mal Simpson and Bill Pitt with Cooper MkV (M Simpson)

Photo and Research Credits…

Mal Simpson Collection, John Medley and Stephen Dalton on The Nostalgia Forum

More Cooper MkV Reading…

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/08/cooper-mk-v-jap-penguin-hillclimb-tasmania-australia-1958/

Finito…

 

(F Pearse)

The Jack Saywell Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 and John Snow Delahaye 135CS and friends at The Coorong, South Australia on January 5 and 6 1939…

The two intrepid Sydney racers contested the 1939 Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal on 2 January, the handicap race famously won by Allan Tomlinson in his MG TA Spl s/c. Saywell aboard ‘the fastest car in Australia’ was off scratch and finished sixth, slowed by tyre problems on the scorching hot South Australian summer day. Snow was off 4 minutes 15 seconds in the French sportscar and was fourth. Everybody that day was outfoxed, out-prepared and outraced by the three youngsters from Perth- Tomlinson and two fellow racer/fettlers Clem Dwyer and Bill Smallwood.

Whilst in South Australia they decided to attack some Australian speed records on the pipe-clay surface of The Coorong, at a little spot near Salt Creek, 210 km from Adelaide.

Huge amounts of preparation went into the attempts with the Sporting Car Club of South Australia playing an organisational role and in ensuring compliance with international rules.

Not the Coorong but the Lobethal paddock earlier in the week- John Snow’s gorgeous Delahaye 135CS- he used the Hudson behind in the Australian Stock Car Championship that weekend too (N Howard)

Whilst attempts were being made by Snow and Victorian racer Lyster Jackson over longer distances/times, both Snow and Saywell also wanted a crack at The Flying Mile (Class C for Snow and Outright for Saywell) which had to be timed to the nearest hundredth of a second rather than a tenth of a second- the best which could be achieved with a chronometer. The Adelaide University Physics Department were involved in creating some automatic photo-electric timing equipment which met the accuracy requirements of the international regulations.

Two existing speed records had been set in South Australia during February 1935 at Sellicks Beach by John H Dutton (Class C 92 mph Flying Mile) and CW Bonython MG (Class A 76.09 mph) but the Fleurieu Peninsula beach would not suffice in length for this endeavour which sought records between an hour and twenty-four hours.

A huge open area was needed with space for long, high speed corners to keep average speeds up. Whilst the opening photo may be at the Coorong, it could be at Sellicks- perhaps its a promotional shot taken prior to the record attempts or maybe a test run. Let me know if you have certainty about the locale.

Weather delayed the attempts by a few days but the SCCSA officials were out and about at 5 am on the morning of Thursday 5 January 1939 and prepared a surface as ‘smooth as glass’- the wind was up on the day and was said to be anything up to a 40 mph headwind.

The temperature was 96 degrees Fahrenheit, by the end of the week the temperature in Adelaide was 117 degrees! ‘Despite that a crowd of over 200 people ventured out into that desolate landscape and into those incredible temperatures, setting up a tent city’ wrote John Medley.

The chosen course had been professionally surveyed by an SCCSA club-member and measured 10 miles 318 yards- it was a huge oval comprising two straights of 5 miles and ‘wide circles at either end for turning’.

John Snow started the blue Delahaye 135CS at noon and was soon lapping consistently, the intent being to stick to a plan to coax the car through 24 hours- it wasn’t a sprint after all.

John covered the first 185 miles in just over two hours averaging 92 mph. The car was then refuelled in 4 minutes and Lyster Jackson jumped aboard- he maintained the average of 92 mph in his 10 lap stint and then made another refuelling stop and some ‘engine adjustments’ were made. The first tyre stop, which took 49 seconds, was made a little later and then Jackson was relieved by Snow after the speedy machine had completed 35 laps, or about 366 miles.

Snow had been going again for less than 3 miles when valve trouble ended further motoring at about 6.30 pm.

A perfect world would have been popping a spare engine into the car between the 150 mile Grand Prix and the record attempt but Snow didn’t have a spare despite his wealth. The car ‘was overhauled by the Englishman brought to Australia specially to prepare the car’- lets come back to that point.

The distance travelled in the first hour was 92 miles, for three hours about 275 miles. Jackson did the quickest lap at 6:26 with Snow’s 6:32. ‘No attempt was made to push the car’ but a mean speed of 130 mph was reached on the long straights.

 

 

The team claimed records to the Australian Automobile Association for 50, 100 and 200 miles- 50, 100, 200 and 500 kilometres- and 1 and 3 hours. Those recognised in the Australian record books are;

Standing 100 km 40 mins 45.5- 91.47 mph, Standing 200 km 1 hour 21.29.0- 91.51 mph, Standing 50 Miles 32.55.4- 91 mph, Standing 100 Miles 6:5.33.0- 91.51 mph.

Obviously the Delahaye was in no fit state to attack the Flying Mile, whilst one newspaper report has it that Saywell’s Vittorio Jano designed masterpiece did 132 mph for the Flying Mile and 88 mph for the Standing Mile.

‘On the following day , it was Jack Saywell’s turn…the task was perhaps simpler, the red car attacking only two records, the standing start and flying start mile- but the blistering temperature, sandy surface and blustery 45 mph sidewind across his path were going to be a hindrance…in accordance with AAA rules, a run in each direction was required, and the Alfa used its Lobethal rear axle ratio, the second highest of four available’ John Medley wrote.

‘Using a four mile run in against the breeze, Saywell averaged 128 mph for the first officially timed run. In the opposite direction he used a shorter run in and averaged 140 mph for the flying mile. The average of the two runs was 134.7 mph, the fastest officially recorded speed in Australian history breaking the previous record by over 35 mph’.

‘The Alfa was then prepared for its attempt on the standing start one mile record. Spewing dirt off its spinning back wheels for the first 400 yards, the booming Alfa then got into its stride and crossed the line at 142 mph, wind assisted. Into the wind Saywell crossed the finishing line at 125 mph. When the times were totalled and the speed averaged, the mean speed was 89.2 mph, another new Australian record’ John Medley wrote.

Some Australian enthusiasts will be aware that John Snow, scion of the wealthy Sydney ‘Snows Department Stores’ family made annual trips to the UK both to purchase merchandise for the family business and to race and purchase some top-end cars either to order or for re-sale back in Oz.

The 1939 AGP grid, for example, comprised at least four cars (John Crouch Alfa 8C2300 Le Mans, Colin Dunne MG K3 Magnette, Saywell’s Tipo B and Snows Delahaye 135CS) imported to Australia by the front-rank Sydney racer.

John Snow during the 1939 AGP weekend at Lobethal, Delahaye 135CS (N Howard)

The Delahaye was a remarkably astute purchase by Snow for Australian handicap racing- it was not an outright winner other than on the ‘right day’ but with enough speed and reliability built into it by virtue of its sports-racer intent would always be ‘thereabouts’ in the handicaps which predominated in Australia. And so it was, mainly. The car probably coulda-shoulda won several AGP’s, but in the end it only took the one, in John Crouch’s hands at Leyburn, Queensland in 1949.

The 6 cylinder, 3557cc, OHV 160 bhp car, chassis ‘47190’ was turned into a ‘corn-chip’ as a consequence of a disastrous trailer fire due to an errant cigarette butt flicked out of the car window upon the trip back to Sydney after the 1951 AGP at Narrogin, Western Australia. Enough of the car existed to reconstruct in the seventies/eighties.

The English mechanic referred to earlier was ‘Jock’ Finlayson, he was brought to Australia by Snow and Saywell who by that time were operating ‘Monza Service’, at 217 Bourke Street, East Sydney looking after various racing and top-end road cars.

The very well credentialled (ex-Bentley, Birkin, Straight, Seaman) poor chap totally stuffed up the timing of Saywell’s 2.9 litre, DOHC, supercharged Tipo B engine when he rebuilt it and rooted the engine as a consequence.

With no confidence in anyone else locally to address the engine and having plenty of moolah Jack popped the engine onto a boat back to Milan, but the ship is thought to have been sunk in the immediate months of the War- Saywell never saw that engine again!

Chassis ‘5002’ was not reunited with a motor of kosher original specification until it was restored in Australia in the early sixties. It had an active, long, eventful racing career mind you, albeit fitted with GMC and Alvis motors…

Credits…

Fred Pearse Collection, ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley, Norman Howard from the Bob King Collection

Tailpiece: Jack Saywell, Alfa Romeo Tipo B, AGP Lobethal 1939…

(N Howard)

Finito…