Archive for the ‘Obscurities’ Category

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Mrs Montgomerie-Charrington prepares her Cooper for the Ladies 500 Race at Brands Hatch, 14 October 1950 …

‘Monty’ was unplaced in the race won by Miss E Store in a JBS Norton from the Miss O Kevelos driven Kieft Norton and the Mrs J Gerard, Bob’s missus I guess, Cooper Norton. Funny the social practice of the times in terms of citing the matrimonial status of the chicks.

There were five 500 races on the program- Don Parker won the Open Challenge race, and JN Cooper, using his product to good effect was second in the Brands Hatch Championship and third in the Championship of The Meeting event.

Click here for a short article about ‘Monty’ and her husband Robin, the cars usual driver;

http://www.500race.org/web/Men/MontgomerieCharrington.htm

And on Cooper 500’s;

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

Credits…

Bill Price for the photo and Stephen Dalton for providing the race results from his vast archive

(M Feisst)

Gay Cesario gives the engine of his Abarth Simca GT 1300 a final tweak with an admiring crowd checking out the lines of the car at the Sandown Tasman Round in February 1967…

Australia is a country of immigrants, even the Aboriginals, our indigenous people arrived here some 25,000 to 40,000 years ago.

As a ‘Skip’ (Anglo Australian) the travails of migrants are not something I ever thought much about. But having gone out with three post-war sixties/seventies migrant kids in the last decade- a (crazy) Croatian, Scot and an Italian i am now highly aware of the guts it takes to jump onto a ship staking your entire future on a faraway land they knew bugger-all about in those pre-internet times.

The reason most of them have so much zip- get up and go is that they left with nothing and arrived with lots of drive and ambition with their legs spinning at one hundred miles an hour well before their disembarkation at Station Pier. Look out ‘Skips, we are coming through you lazy buggers!

The Italian Cesario’s were one such family. Gay Cesario packed his family of five into the little Abarth Simca 1300 for the trip from Rome to Naples and embarkation from there before the long voyage to Melbourne, where they arrived in the mid-sixties.

Lucio Cesario recalls- ‘Dad bought the car just out of Rome at a hillclimb ‘on the spot’ and drove it straight home that day. Some time later he decided to ship the family and the car to Australia so we drove from Rome to Naples, a four or five hour drive. There was my mum, dad, brother, sister, me and all our belongings crammed into the racecar, including some spares as we were shipping it out from Naples on the same ship. Boy I wish I knew where the little car is today!?’

Gay Cesario raced the car in Australia, its whereabouts as you can see from Lucio’s comment above unknown. Gay raced on, I can well remember him running a Fiat 124 Abarth in Victorian production sportscar races well into the mid-seventies at least. Lucio was a well known racer during Australia’s Formula Pacific era, he parlayed immense Ralt RT4 speed into a season or so with the works Lancia Team during the Group C era- that is an interesting story for another time.

(automobile sportive)

Abarth Simca 1300 GT…

Simca was founded by Italian entrepreneur Enrico Teodoro Pigozzi in 1935 to build Fiat’s for the French market. After WW2 Simca continued to produce the cars but they were given more unique character by fitment of different grilles and engines. In 1961 the company launched its most successful model – the Simca 1000. It was the concern’s first rear-engined car, a neat four-door saloon powered by a Fiat 600-derived 944cc 4-cylinder engine giving circa 35bhp in standard form.

Carlo Abarth’s old Viennese sparring partner, Rudi Hruska, became a technical consultant to Simca and regularly brought Abarth’s successes with its Fiat-based cars to the company hierachies attention. The idea of competition success appealed to help build the brand so Abarth were invited and engaged to produce a GT car using Simca 1000 components as a base. The ‘Simca-Abarth’ or ‘Abarth-Simca’ names are interchangeable- the 1300 GT was the result.

Abarth designed a new engine using the tried and tested broad architecture of the 1961 1000 Bialbero of 1288cc with the new cars floor pan, transmission, steering and suspension from the Simca 1000 whilst the body was of the latest Fiat-Abarth Coupe configuration.

The Simca-Abarth 1300 was launched in February 1962. The 1288cc, DOHC, twin 45 DCOE Weber fed 4 cylinder engines produced over 90 bhp @ 6,000 rpm, the cars proved capable of running rings around the rival Alfa Romeo Giulietta during 1962. The two valve engines specification included dry-sump lubrication, a rev limit of 7,200rpm and a claimed power output of 125bhp at 6,000rpm- more like 90 but certainly more than enough. The little car weighed 630kg/1388lbs and was capable of 142 mph.

The subsequent 1600 variant with 138bhp at 7,800rpm and with Girling disc brakes all round was capable of 240km/h – 149mph. Fast cars indeed.

Abarth’s 1963 racing record is said to have achieved a staggering 535 victories, of which 90 were scored by the Simca Abarth 1300s.

The body design of the GT Coupe was also influenced by the latest small-capacity GTs styled in-house by Mario Colucci at Abarth’s famous Corso Marche factory and was built ‘just around the corner’ there by Odoardo Beccari’s specialist carrozeria.

Credits…

Mike Feisst/The Roaring Season, Lucio Cesario/Thunder 427 on The Roaring Season, Bonhams, Ultimate Cars, Automobile Sportive

 

 

 

 

RH Michell’s Citroen Special dates from 1938, the young constructor built it in Woodville, Adelaide…

And that’s about all I know of this little racer.

Did Michell survive the war, did it ever race, if so was it a quick car?

Woodville was the site of some ‘bike and car racing through its streets after the War- I wonder if the car contested an event or two at the place of its birth. It didn’t race in any of the Australian Grands Prix held in South Australia around this time- Victor Harbour in 1936, Lobethal in 1939 nor Nuriootpa in 1950. Mind you, it may have contested a support event.

Intrigued to know anything about this car i tripped over by happenstance…

Photo Credit…

State Library of South Australia

(Getty)

Juxtaposition!

The wild ‘Mana La’ solar car contrasted by the utilitarian functionality of a cement mixer. Stuart Highway, Northern Territory 1 November 1987…

The John Paul Mitchell sponsored car designed by Jonathon Tennyson is heading for Adelaide, 3005 Km away, sadly the brilliant vehicle DNF’d the race won by GM’s ‘Sunraycer’.

The genesis of this first Darwin to Adelaide ‘World Solar Challenge’ was critics telling adventurer Hans Tholstrup that Australia could not be crossed by a solar powered vehicle.

In 1982, together with Australian F1 driver Larry Perkins and his brother Gary, Tholstrup developed a car in which he became the first person to drive across Australia. The 4,000 Km journey in ‘The Quiet Achiever’ took him 20 days.

The Perkins Engineering- Larry and Gary Perkins built 1982 ‘The Quiet Achiever’ or ‘BP Solar Trek’ car. Rudimentary design which is deceptively clever and a precursor to the much more sophisticated, mega-buck cars which followed (NM)

Criticism of the car sparked what became the first World Solar Challenge five years later. In 1987 23 teams from Europe, the US, Asia and Australia entered the event with over 40 taking part in 2017.

The Danish born Australian’s desire to develop solar energy came after years of being a self-confessed fuel guzzler. ‘I was doing my penance…because I flew around the world, rode in race cars and powerboats, I did everything that used finite fossil fuel’ quipped Tholstrup in a recently ABC interview. He noted that solar panels are half the size they were in 1987 with the cars doing the same speeds.

One of the ‘big buck’ entries won the inaugural challenge, the Paul MacCready designed and built General Motors ‘Sunraycer’ was victorious in 44.90 hours at an average speed of 66.90 km/h.

At the wheel was ever-versatile Australian champion racing driver John Harvey who was also involved in testing the car at the GM Proving Ground in Arizona. Second into Adelaide two days later was the Ford Australia entry and the Ingenieurschule, Biel vehicle third.

The GM Sunraycer on day 3 of the 1987 challenge, 3rd November. Car is on the Stuart Highway 100 Km south of the Devils Marbles. Car took 5.5 days to complete the 3000 Km journey (P Menzel)

In some ways the most radical entry, the John Paul Mitchell Systems car ‘stole the show’, visually at least, albeit the car was out of the race way too soon.

Jonathan Tennyson designed and built the car funded by John Paul Mitchell Systems. With the help of James Amick, the inventor of the ’Windmobile’ Tennyson developed a vertical wing design to exploit the wind to help mobilise the car in addition to its primary source of power- solar energy. By covering the resulting arched wing of the ‘Mana La’ (power of the sun in Hawaiian) in solar panels the idea was to be able to expose the panels to the sun at all times of the day.

The radical machine is 19′ long, 6 1/2′ wide and 6 1/2′ tall. Its built from urethane foam, carbon fibre and vinyl ester resin weighing circa 250 Kg. An onboard computer distributed power to ‘NASA-grade storage batteries’.

(Petersen)

The visually arresting arch is covered by 140 solar panels. Sixty-four silver-zinc batteries retained the power collected and fed a pair of 2-horsepower, brushless direct-current motors. Each engine utilised two windings, one for lower speeds and higher torque, and another for higher speeds at lower torque.

Nicknamed ‘the hair dryer’ given its sponsor, the US$250,000 Mana La qualified second starting behind Sunraycer on ‘pole’. By 4 pm on the first day of the event, the car was out of the race. The crew ran too hard through the hills trying to catch the Sunraycer, exhausting their batteries in the process and were never able to harness the wind the car was designed to exploit. Their battery specialist estimated it would take 40 hours in the sun to recharge…what a great mighta been this quite stunning machine is.

In 2010 the car was donated to the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles.

Bibliography…

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, paulmitchell.com

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, Australian National Museum, Petersen Museum, Peter Menzel

(unattributed)

Craig Lowndes dropping into Mount Panorama’s Skyline/Esses, McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes V8, 22 March 2011…

Australian Formula Ford has been a factory for the creation of V8 Supercar Drivers for a couple of decades now. Every now and again one escapes to international racing success, Mark Webber, Will Power and Daniel Ricciardo spring to mind. I’ve not forgotten Larry Perkins I’m just referring to more recent times. But in the main V8 Supercars and to a lesser extent Porsche Cup racing has given local aces a place to ply their trade as well paid professionals.

The popularity and commercial success of Touring Car Racing in Australia relative to Single Seaters began circa 1960 and has continued unabated since. Even very popular single seater formulae such as the 2.5 Tasman and F5000 classes did not put a dent in the rise and rise of ‘Taxis’. Why? Its a topic for a whole series of articles but perhaps fundamentally the cars are easier for the average punter to understand and relate to, are spectacular to watch and have had a succession of ‘characters’ racing them. The absolute professionalism in the way V8 Supercars has been managed for so long now has widened the gulf further.

Lowndes, Van Dieman RF93 Formula Ford, Oran Park August 1993. Craig won 5 of the 8 ’93 rounds including OP (autopics)

Sponsors re-prioritised their spend over time away from the purer form of the sport to tourers. Drivers chase the dollars of course. So Taxis grew and grew. Its not that simple but its not much more complex either.

Back to the point of the article which is to discuss young talent and progression into the professional ranks.

It wasn’t always the case though, a career path into tourers. Often guys won the AFFC right into the nineties and none were picked up by professional touring car teams- the class was a bit of a closed shop with the young thrusters not especially welcome. Tomas Mezera is perhaps an exception but he ended up at HRT after he came back from his sojurn in Europe, so too did Russell Ingall make the transition after he returned from Europe.

Cameron McConville, the 1992 AFFC champ looked as though he may set a trend when Dick Johnson recruited him to race the second DJR machine at Bathurst in 1993 but then he boofed a fence and that was it for him, so it seemed. A 1996 win in the Australian GTP Championship in a Porsche 993 RS CS saw him brought back in from the cold- he beat Jim Richards in the Warwick Fabrics car that year, I remember being hugely impressed by his speed and professionalism.

None of yer poofhouse single seater stuff in here matey! Peter Brock was a great mentor to Lowndes early on , this shot of an HRT Commodore circa 1996. Brocky had an all too brief sojurn into ANF2 circa 1973 with a Birrana 272 Ford (unattributed)

Lowndes was the one who really paved the way for the guys who followed- most of the V8 Supercar champs have been Karting and Formula Ford graduates since Craig showed the way.

Out of Karts of course, initially he raced an old RF85 Van Diemen Formula Ford in 1991 and then won the AFFC title aboard an RF93 in 1993. Longtime openwheeler racer and enthusiast (and 1975 Bathurst 1000 winner with Peter Brock) Brian Sampson threw him a lifeline by giving him some drives in his Cheetah Mk9 Holden Formula Holden in 1994. It wasn’t the latest bit of kit by any stretch, in fact it was and IS the very first FH built. But Craig made the thing sing, I recall some very good drives in the car against Greg Murphy in a much more recent Reynard.

Lowndes, a motor mechanic by trade, didn’t have much money but he had ability, a likable and engaging personality and ability to communicate and some contacts via his Dad, Frank Lowndes who had been in and around motor racing forever as a car/engine builder and scrutineer.

Holden Racing Team tested him and he was immediately quick, consistent, and easy on the equipment getting a drive in the 1994 Sandown 500. Soon he was team-leader and won the V8 Supercar title in 1996. He hadn’t lost the fire in the belly for open-wheeler success, and even though he had the local scene at his feet he negotiated a year in the European F3000 Championship via Tom Walkinshaw who by then owned HRT.

Lowndes, Lola T96/50 Zytec Judd F3000, Silverstone 1997 (LAT)

Lowndes had a shocker of a year being comprehensively blown off by Juan Pablo Montoya, his teammate at RSM Marko aboard the mandated Lola T96/50 Zytec. To be fair, he was coming back into single-seaters after an absence of some years into a group of the best F1 aspirants in the world straight out of F3 or doing a second or third year in F3000. Lowndes did not get a fair crack of the whip in the team with minimal testing, Marko ran Lowndes to settle a debt owed to Walkinshaw- and focussed, not unnaturally on the fellow who was winning races- Montoya.

What Lowndes needed was another season, but back to V8 Supercars he came and a couple of other titles, six Bathurst 1000’s and all the rest. Of course he is still racing at the top level too. It would have been interesting to see how far he could have progressed with another season in Europe.

(B Moxon)

Jenson Button and Craig Lowndes, car a 2008 spec (champion that year in Lewis Hamilton’s hands) McLaren MP23/4 Mercedes 2.4 V8

Lowndes nipping a brake into Hell Corner (unattributed)

The opportunity to get to drive a contemporary F1 car was too good to be true and came about due to Vodaphones sponsorship of both McLaren and Triple Eight Racing who ran VE Holden Commodores that year. The day, just before the AGP at Albert Park involved closure of the Bathurst public roads- the circuit is just that, roads for most of the year with Lowndes and Jenson Button swapping seats between their respective F1 and V8 Supercar racers.

(unnatributed)

For misty eyed open-wheeler fans it was also an amazing ‘if only’, for Bathurst is indeed, in the words of Australian motor-racing historian John Medley ‘The Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ and is where the Australian Grand Prix should be held. What a spectacle that would be! For that to occur the circuit would be destroyed to meet F1’s safety requirements, so of course it will never happen.

But for one day it was a reminder of what could be for enthusiasts and what might have been for Craig Lowndes had the racing cards been dealt or fallen a different way…

Comparo- F1 McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes Benz (2008) and V8 Supercar Holden ‘VE’ Commodore (2011)…

(Motor)

YouTube footage…

Credits…

Vue Images, LAT, Bruce Moxon, Motor

Tailpiece: Imagine 26 of them zipping past…

Finito…

 

(L Richards)

A motorsport event in Kew, Melbourne even in 1954 is a new one on me?!…

Its a rather nice, leafy, green suburb through which the Yarra River flows 5 Km from Melbourne’s CBD- ‘stockbroker belt’ stuff with some of Melbourne’s ‘better’ private schools contained therein. There is plenty of wealth in the area, then and now. So how come the good citizens of Kew allowed a motor sport event to take place on their turf prey tell?!

Stan Jones’ Cooper Mk4 JAP and a motor-cyclist are about to ‘blast off’ along the Kew Boulevard at Studley Park by the look of it. The flag-man is Reg Robbins, long-time member of Stanley’s racing equipe.

It’s a stretch of road we have all done lap records upon before the long arm of the law toned things down somewhat. A ribbon of bitumen that commands respect as a fair proportion of it is open and high speed despite changes to slow things down.

I have it on good authority that the number of 911’s which go in backwards is not that much different now to the 1980’s when there were plenty of wallies with loads of money not reflected in commensurate levels of driving talent. Many an insurance tale of woe was born on this stretch of blacktop.

(L Richards)

In any event, what is going on here, some of you are Kew locals, we are all intrigued to know?

Stan has his ‘Maybach’ helmet on , it was a good year for him, he had just won the New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore in perhaps Australia’s most famous special, the Charlie Dean/Repco built and prepared Maybach on 9 January. No wonder he has a big smile upon his face.

For Jones it was an easy event logistically. He lived in Balwyn, an adjoining suburb and his ‘fettler’ Ern Seeliger’s garage was in Baker Street, Richmond, also a couple of kays from The Boulevard on the other side of the river.

I am intrigued. Do tell folks!?. Maybe its a promotion and i’m getting excited about absolutely nothing…

An idea of the Kew Boulevard in 1958- not much different now, leafy green and lots of curves. This is the finish of a ‘car trial’ treasure hunt social event (L Richards)

Photo Credits…

Laurie Richards, State Library of Victoria, David Zeunert

Tailpiece: Stan and Cooper JAP, Templestowe Hillclimb circa 1952…

(SLV)

Templestowe Hillclimb was not too far from Kew, where the shots above are taken, so here is a snap of the man in action there. I’ve no idea of the date in the event that one of you were there to sort that point. Jones hustled a car along, he was a physical, press on kinda driver who pushed hard, not lacking finesse mind you, but you could always see him trying to get the best from his mount.

Just as he is here, using all of the available road…

Lionel Van Praag, Wembley, London 10 September 1936…

Its amazing what you don’t know, in fact I’m never surprised at my own ignorance. I reckon I know a bit about my interest and hobby, but really I’m only scratching the surface of motor racing history in Australia.

Australian topics are hard too, the research that is- pre-War there was little in the way of local magazines, post war it becomes a bit more straight forward from the time of the publication of ‘Australian Motor Sports’ magazine and the relatively large number of publications which followed it. What is fascinating in the research adventure is the stuff you find looking for something else.

In this case it was randomly coming upon this image of Lionel Maurice Van Praag (1908-1987) after winning the inaugural World Speedway Championship at Wembley on 10 September 1936.

An Australian World Motor Racing champion pre-war, wow! And not without some controversy too. And I had never heard of the Redfern lad despite his admission to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in recent times.

L>R- Charlie Spinks, Arthur Atkinson and Lionel Van Praag, First Test England/Australia at Belle Vue in 1938 (defunctspeedway.co.uk)

Graham Howard wrote that ‘Van Praag was a speedway rider and aviator, born on 17 December 1908 at Redfern, Sydney. The only child of Sydney-born Louis Van Praag, tram conductor, and Mozelle May. A bright student and an all-round athlete, he was educated at Cleveland Street Intermediate High and Redfern Junior Technical schools, both in inner Sydney. He was apprenticed as a typewriter mechanic, he had a natural feel for machinery that was useful all his life’.

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LVP, middle of shot at Speedway Royal, Wayville, Adelaide in 1928. Bike is an Ariel ‘3 and a half’ (M Gray)

Lionel began riding motorcycles at 15. After a number of novice races at the Olympia Speedway at Maroubra he concentrated on the Speedway Royal in Sydney from July 1926, almost instantly he became a senior competitor. He then had an outstanding 1926-27 season in Brisbane. He was successful in the eastern mainland Australian States and in New Zealand. In 1931 after years of rejecting offers, he followed other Australian riders who competed in England and joined the Wembley Team, riding in both the UK and Europe during the Australian off season.

Lionel Van Praag aboard a Harley Davidson ‘Pea Shooter’ in 1927, 19 years old. Factory 1926  racer designed for US AMA races- devoid of brakes, clutch and transmission. Frame shortened, weight 215 pounds, 350cc OHV, circa 100mph (unattributed)

The first World Speedway Championship, at Wembley, London 1936…

The event was a strange one as riders carried into the meeting a score of bonus points amassed in the qualifying rounds. It was possible that the rider who scored best on the night would still not be world champion because of his qualifying record- and such was the case.

‘Bluey’ Wilkinson scored a maximum but Langton had more bonus points than Van Praag. In a night of excitement and controversy, Eric Langton and Van Praag lined up for a match race but Eric broke the tapes. Van Praag declared he would not be champion by default and sportingly demanded a re-run! Langton gated ahead and led until the final bend when leaving the smallest of gaps and he was unable to hold the dashing Australian, the Hall of Fame entry says.

LVP on a mini-bike at Wembley in 1932 (Getty)

Further ‘Langton’s near miss …assumed a degree of controversy in later years. The deciding match race with ‘Praagy’ was ‘fixed’ between the pair according to sources close to the action. It was alleged that Eric and Lionel agreed that whoever got to the first corner in front would go on to win and they would split the prizemoney between them. It almost worked out, Langton was ahead until the final corner when he left a small gap which Van Praag couldn’t resist going for. The first ever world final was won by about a wheel width and the Australian took the title’.

Van Praag also qualified for the finals in 1937-7th, 1938-4th and 1939. In 1931-39, and again in 1947, he represented Australia in Tests against England.

He learned to fly in the UK at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire in 1931, it was a capability he put to good use throughout the rest of his life.

Graham Howard wrote that ‘Van Praag was a non-drinker and a heavy smoker, and he had a short temper if provoked. At around 5 ft 9 ins (175 cm) he was taller than most of his rivals; he was dashingly handsome, with dark curly hair and notable physical strength. He had a minor role in the British film Money for Speed (1933), but an envisaged cinema career did not materialise’.

LVP on a 1930’s JAP, date and place unknown (defunctspeedway.co.uk)

On 11 August 1941 Van Praag enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and was appointed to No.2 Wireless Air Gunners School, Parkes, New South Wales with the rank of acting sergeant.

Engaged on flying duties, he was promoted to probationary pilot officer in October 1942 and flight lieutenant in October 1944.

In January 1942 the transport plane of which he was a co-pilot, an RAAF Douglas DC-2 A30-8, was shot down by a Japanese aircraft over the Sumba Strait, off Indonesia whilst on a flight from Surabaya, Java to Koepang/Kupang Timor. For thirty hours, whilst subject to shark attacks, he and his Captain, Flying Officer Noel Webster, supported the two crew-members, both non-swimmers and secured their survival, acts of bravery for which they were awarded the George Medal.

A full account of the incident appears in the book ‘And Far From Home’, written by John Balfe who flew with Lionel.

Balfe had this to say about Van Praag as a man ‘…in flying with Van I had perceived in his slight wiry form, a man of particular capacity and directness. He cared nothing for false values in anything or anyone and did not hide from the fact. I found him only a week out of hospital after the ditching (of the DC-2) but already back in a comprehensive engineering workshop he had behind his unpretentious home on Botany Bay’s (Sydney) north shore. He had plant and equipment there to wet the appetite of any metal engineer. One of the real Australians, Van had led a hard life racing motorcycles from early manhood and lived to standards he had not relaxed. He was moderate in thought and habit and held in quiet contempt those who were not. He valued his friendships above human faults, but chose his friends carefully and for the most part made them for life. His mind and memory remained sharp and retained an accuracy in detail that I had noted flying with him in 1943’.

After recuperating from the ditching, Lionel returned to flying C-47’s with No 36 Squadron out of Townsville, Far North Queensland. His RAAF appointment ended on 27 July 1945.

LVP aboard a Penny Farthing in 1951, interesting to know the occasion, and place! (Fairfax)

Post war Lionel resumed motorcycle racing and soon developed a career in aviation…

Van Praag headed a riders’ consortium that promoted speedway at the Sydney Sports Ground in 1945-48. He rode for the English team New Cross in 1947. After 1948 he effectively retired from racing, although in the early 1950s he briefly raced self-built small speedboats off Manly on Sydney Harbour.

In his new career as a commercial pilot in 1952 he combined his aviation and speedway interests by contracting with Empire Speedways to carry the Great Britain and Australian competitors, along with their bikes and equipment between the various Australian speedway venues in a Lockheed Lodestar.

He flew charter, and freight planes, did aerial top-dressing or crop-dusting in a Bristol Freighter, this plane was lost in December 1961 when it crashed at Wollongong after an engine failure on a freight flight. Lionel and the rest of the crew escaped injury. He later flew for an airline in Pakistan for a year before returning to Australia.

LVP in his later aviation years (adastron.com)

He joined Adastra Aerial Surveys, a company originally formed as a flying school in 1930 at Mascot, Sydney circa 1962 as a pilot and later became chief pilot. Although he had two well-publicised crashes, including the one described above, people who flew with him valued his informality and his resourceful flying ability.

In adult life, Van, as he was known, turned away from his Jewish upbringing. In 1929 at the district registrar’s office, Redfern, he married Elizabeth Margaret Pearl Cosgrove, a machinist, they divorced in April 1937. On 1 October that year at the register office, Hendon, England, he married Gwendoline Iris Hipkin, a dressmaker.

In 1968 he retired to his own Island, Temple Island, south of Mackay. In 1973, aged 65, he ferried a Hudson VH-AGJ from Sydney to Strathallan Museum in Scotland. Hudson’s were the primary survey aircraft used by Adastra.

He died on 19 May 1987 from emphysema, at Royal Brisbane Hospital. His wife, their daughter and two sons and the daughter of his first marriage survived him.

Post death recognition includes being inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1990. In addition, in 2000, the Government of the Australian Capital Territory decided to honour several Australian sportsmen with the naming of streets, including ‘Van Praag Place’ in the Canberra suburb of Gordon.

Three of my fathers uncles served in World War 2. As I became a teenager and understood, to an extent, what they endured in the Middle East and New Guinea I held these wonderful, private, kind, gentle but strong men in considerable awe. I always called them my ‘Boys Own Heros’ when I saw them at family events. Certainly Lionel Van Praag was a Boys Own Hero- in spades. Truly an amazing, full life of achievement.

Bibliography…

‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’ entry by Graham Howard, Australian Sports Hall of Fame, adastron.com

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, Fox Photos, PA Images, , Malcolm F Gray, State Library of South Australia, Fairfax, defunctspeedwaysuk.com

Tailpiece: LVP and friends at the Sydney Sportsground on 4 September 1945, first post-war meeting I wonder?…