Archive for the ‘Obscurities’ Category

One of our online friends, Rob Bartholomaeus, sent me these excerpts from the program of the ‘S.A. Centenary Grand Prix’. I was going to add them to the article I wrote about the race quite a while ago, but they were too good to disappear without trace within an existing article, so here they are…

Then I started thinking about history and the recording, interpretation and restatement in relation thereto.

There was no ‘Australian Grand Prix’ held in 1936 or 1937.

The 32 lap, 240 mile ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ was held on 26 December 1936 and down the decades, no-one seems to know who started it, has been acknowledged as the 1937 AGP despite being held on 26 December 1936 and despite not being called the AGP at the time.

Graham Howard in his introduction to the seminal, defining, authoritative and entirely wonderful ‘The 50 Year History of The Australian Grand Prix’ (HAGP) describes the reporting of motor racing in the early days in Australia as being ‘casual to the point of useless’. He then cites as an example of the lack of precision in reporting the AGP ‘the wonderful way in which a race staged in 1936 as the South Australian Centenary Grand Prix could, within a few years, acquire not only Australian Grand Prix status, but rank as the AGP for 1937’.

Go figure.

There is some ‘competition’ globally as to which countries have ‘the longest continuous’ Grand Epreuve, the French have the oldest which was first held in 1906.The Italian commenced in 1921, Belgian in 1925, German GP in 1926 and the Australian in 1927- these races are the longest continuing GP’s. The US and Britain for example, don’t qualify in ‘the longest continuing’ as both had big gaps when the event was not held despite the races being first run in 1908 and 1926 respectively. I’ve given the Germans a free kick as they were ‘black-balled’ till 1950 post-war, you can take them off the list if you are not as generous in spirit as me in your ‘longest continuous’ definition!

As in Australia with the 1936 ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ and the 1928 ‘100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island, both later appropriated as Australian Grands Prix, some of the events globally were not held as ‘The Whatever Grand Prix’ at the time they were conducted either. Rather they were adopted later as such, as part of the continuum of the countries premier road racing event in that year. The first American GP, at Savannah, Georgia was ‘The 1908 Grand Prize of The Automobile Club of America’ and the first British GP held at Brooklands was entitled ‘1 Royal Automobile Club Grand Prix’.

In recent times an Australian motoring historian, David Manson whilst trawling through some Sydney newspapers in the early 1980’s discovered that an Australian Grand Prix was held in Goulburn, 200Km from Sydney on 15 January 1927.

This 6 lap event was won by local racer Geoff Meredith in a Bugatti T30. 7 cars contested the races on an oval dirt layout, 1 mile and 75 yards long around the Goulburn Showgrounds. The contest comprised 2 heats and a final between the quickest pair.

Whether a six lapper lasting 6 minutes 14.8 seconds between 2 cars on an oval dirt course is a ‘Grand Prix’, even in the Australian context of the time, let alone the European one is debatable. The fact is, an event named, styled, promoted and run as the ‘Australian Grand Prix’ ‘for all powers racing cars’ was contested in Goulburn on 15 January 1927.

John Lackey has edited a stunning little book titled ‘A History of Australia’s First Grand Prix’ with contributions by a number of people including the highly respected John Medley, one of the authors of HAGP, it’s a must for any Australian enthusiasts library. One of the reasons the book is significant is Medley’s coverage of the event and it’s competitors but more so his perspective of the role motorcyclists and their clubs had in paving the way for car racing in Australia- they were the true racing pioneers Medley records. It’s not a perspective I’d read before. More about this race meeting another time.

To the point of David Manson’s hugely significant discovery the first AGP was acknowledged as being the ‘100 Miles Road Race’ held by the Victorian Light Car Club for cars of no more than 2 litres capacity, at Phillip Island on 31 March 1928. The race on a rectangular, 6.5 mile dirt road course near Cowes was later appropriated as the first AGP despite the name. The first AGP held under that name was also promoted by the Victorian Light Car Club at Phillip Island in 1929. The VLCC staged the event annually at the island until 1935.

As a result of the 1927 Goulburn event discovery, the HAGP published originally in 1986, was reprinted to add the 1927 AGP as it’s first chapter in 2015.

So, its a fact that the first Australian Grand Prix was held on 15 January 1927. Its a fact the ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’, later appropriated as an Australian Grand Prix, I have no issue with that, was held on 26 December 1936. The event, won by Les Murphy’s MG P Type as matter of fact is the 1936 Australian Grand Prix not, without wanting to belabour the point, the 1937 Australian Grand Prix.

Adding the 1927 GP to the new edition of HAGP updated and corrected history, which, as we can all see from the very late discovery of the Goulburn event is a living, breathing thing. Why not also have altered the date of the Australian Grand Prix of 1937 and call it what it factually was and is- ‘The 1936 Australian Grand Prix’. HAGP is ‘The Bible’ on these things, an opportunity was lost, sadly.

Its all about history, it’s recording, interpretation and restatement, which I think is about where I came in. Sorry to be a pedant, but it’s just plain wrong and always has been. That the 26 December 1936 SA Centenary GP is ‘generally accepted’ as the 1937 AGP does not make it right let alone factually correct.

I know such a change wouldn’t contribute to world peace, it doesn’t really matter, but just sayin’…

Credit…

Rob Bartholomaeus Collection

Bibliography…

‘The 50 Year History of The AGP’ by G Howard and Ors, ‘The 1927 Australian Grand Prix’ Editor John Lackey, ‘A History of Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ by John Blanden

Tailpiece: Geoff Meredith aboard his Bugatti T30 at Goulburn during his victorious AGP meeting in 1927…

Whilst a top NSW driver of the day at places like the daunting Maroubra Speedway in Sydney, Geoff Meredith was a Goulburn local, a sheep grazier from nearby Windellama. His 2 litre straight-8 Bugatti T30 won a purse of £50- a ‘Grand Prize’ at the time, the Bug, is, happily still in Oz. Meredith died of pneumonia he contracted by exposure to the elements at the Isle of Man, he was in a support role to a group of Australian riders less than 12 months after his AGP win (unattributed)

 

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Billy Coy’s pitstop during the 1949 Indy 500 won by Bill Holland’s Deidt Offy…

Mickey Rooney stars in this typically cheesy Hollywood racing film set around 1940’s Midget Racing and the 1949 Indy 500. YouTube away if you want to watch it, I haven’t but probably should give it a whirl, Mickey is an insomnia cure for me.

Billy Coy is a garage mechanic who becomes a champion racer after the death of his father at Indy. It’s a tale of a climb to the top, treading on folks along the way, achieving success and eventually redemption. There are some common motor racing elements here! Click here for an article about both the film and Rooney’s time of life which led the ‘Hollywood Star’ taking such a B Grade role. I always thought he WAS a B Grade actor, so to me he is perfectly cast!

http://tcm.tv/this-month/article/353248%7C353371/The-Big-Wheel.html

Here is a list of ‘top’ motor racing films, I suspect an enthusiasts list may be a tad different;

My Tops are ‘Senna’, ‘Grand Prix’, ‘Rush’ and ‘Le Mans’ with perhaps the latter my favourite due to the complexity and subtle nuances of the flicks 1500 words of dialogue.

http://cinemanerdz.com/top-car-racing-movies/

‘The Jalopy Journal’ has an article with a bit of ephemera about The Big Wheel;

http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/threads/the-big-wheel-starring-mickey-rooney-1949.805193/

The engine is an Offy but what is the car/chassis pictured atop the article by the way?…

Tailpiece…

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Credit…

John Springer Collection

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Melbourne’s finest trying to keep enthusiastic shoppers under control out front of ‘Georges’, Collins Street in 1965…

The car is, I think, Bib Stillwell’s Brabham BT11A Climax. The occasion some type of promotion between Georges luxury department store and Repco or Bib Stillwell Holden. Stillwells switched from Holden to Ford in 1966 before all you Melburnians correct me, clearly the crowds are fascinated by the presence of a ‘Grand Prix’ car in Melbourne’s busiest and most up-market shopping strip.

For over a century Georges was the place the ‘great and the good shopped’, an incredibly conservative joint, its intriguing to speculate just what the promotion may have been, automotive products are not at all what Georges stocked! String-backed gloves maybe and flat-caps but nothing grubby or grimy at all.

I think its Bibs car. The color scheme is right, his dealership/workshop was in Kew, not far away. He usually raced wearing #6, this car carries #3 but that’s neither here nor there. For Repco, Brabhams were badged ‘Repco Brabham’ at the time and the Coventry Climax FPF engines by that stage were largely built in Richmond under licence from CC so there were good associations to Repco’s brand.

When is it?, not sure exactly. Bib raced his BT11A from the Tasman Series 1965, he took the last of his four Gold Stars in it that year and then retired, so I guess it’s 1965…

Georges, for the curious…

http://www.georgesoncollins.com.au/

Credit…

Nigel Tait, many thanks for another tid-bit from your Repco archives

 

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S.E.V Marchal Ad circa mid-sixties…

The famous French manufacturer of automotive electrical componentry started plying its trade in 1923. The rights to the name, depending upon country, passed to the Valeo Group in 2009. I gather looking at a few online forums the product ‘ain’t what it useter be’.

I just always liked the graphics!…

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(Jean Tesseyre)

Competitors in the Formula Junior ‘IV Prix de Paris’ at Montlhery on May 3 1959…

I tripped over these shots researching another topic in the Getty Archive, which is generally superb visually but equally poor in terms of caption accuracy or usefulness. The cars were described as F2 rather than the Formula Junior cars they are, mainly DB Junior Panhard or DB Monomill Panhard, not monopostos familiar to me.

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My usual FJ results resource, ‘The F2 Index’ lists first to fourth as Alain Dagan, Dominique Franck, Pierre Mulsant and Philippe Martel, the first three in DB Junior Panhards, the latter in a DB Monomill Panhard. This fantastic resource doesn’t provide race numbers on this occasion though, making the detective work difficult, so all help as to identifying the drivers and cars amongst you French FJ enthusiasts in this race welcome!

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The meeting also featured an F2 race, Jack Lewis won it from only three other competitors in a Cooper T45 Climax.

The sports and GT race was better supported with Ferrari 250GT’s dominant; Olivier Gendebien won from Claude Bourillot and Wolfgang Seidel’s similar cars.

The FJ race was 20 laps of the 3.36 Km course, the DB’s achieving some success in 1959 in French races but the front engined chassis, French engined cars were well and truly swamped by Ford engined Coopers and Lotus 18’s in 1960, not to say other quicker front-engined Lolas and Stanguellini’s.

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Credits…

Jean Tesseyre

Tailpiece: FJ placegetters  Dagan, Franck and Mulsant collect their trophies…

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Steve McQueen drives an Alfa Duetto as part of a series of track-tests at Riverside on 13 June 1966-published in ‘Sports Illustrated’ magazine’s 8 August 1966 issue…

Its an interesting read in terms of McQueen’s background in cars and motor racing before insurance issues- the studios for whom he worked wanted to protect their asset ended his racing, and his opinions on the eight cars tested.

The ‘roll of honour’ included the Duetto, E Type, Corvette, Ferrari 275GTS, Aston DB6, Benz 230SL, 911 and Cobra 427, a nice day at the Riverside office for Steve!

He rated the Alfa’s brakes, handling, 5 speed gearbox and engine albeit the little car lacked the power McQueen was used to in his daily rides, a Ferrari and Jag XKSS. ‘It is a very forgiving car, very pretty too, the Pininfarina body is swell’ Steve quipped.

Click on this link to read the article, well worth the effort, in full;

http://www.mcqueenonline.com/sportsillustrated66.htm

Credits…

James Drake, Bettmann

Tailpiece: More serious 1966 work Steve?…

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McQueen leaving the set of ‘Sand Pebbles’, Hong Kong. Is it a racer he is riding back to the hotel or a Cafe Racer, exhaust system looks pretty racey? (Bettmann)

 

 

 

L’Illustre…

Posted: March 5, 2017 in Fotos, Obscurities
Tags:

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My French speaking friend Jen Bergin tells me the photo depicts a race between a train and a car ‘two American reporters trying to nab a sensational story attempt to catch and overtake an express train in a powerful racing car. They want to arrive before detectives sent on the chase for an escaped gangster’.

There you go, i just like the image!…

L’Illustre was an ‘illustrated little paper, a big weekly for everyone’, the issue is dated 27 November 1922.

Credits…

L’Illustre, Jennifer Bergin

 

 

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Some of Ferrucio Lamborghini’s artisans completing the chassis of the prototype Lambo P400 Miura in Sant ‘Agata October 1965…

The car was famously shown as a chassis only, this very one, at the Turin Show in 1965 and was a ‘starlet’ even unclothed. It made its bow ‘dressed’ by Marcello Gandini at Geneva in 1966, only four months later.

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Credit…

Keystone, Klemantaski Collection

Tailpiece: The new Lamborghini factory near Bologna in 1963…

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I wonder how much it was? ‘Gotham Ford’ does have a touch of the ‘Batmans’ about it doesn’t it…

Not too many of these GT40 ‘road cars’ were built, maybe one of you knows which chassis this is?

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Credit…

Unattributed

frank gardner

(John Ellacott)

Frank Gardner beside his Jaguar D Type ‘XKD 520’ at Mount Druitt on 23 May 1958, looking fairly relaxed, photographer John Ellacott recalls FG achieved a 14.57 standing quarter mile in the big, powerful car…

Its right at the end of Mount Druitt’s decade long life as a race circuit in Sydney’s western suburbs. FG took FTD in one of the sprint events after the circuit was ‘mortally wounded’ by circuit owner Belf Jones after a spat with its operator the ‘Australian Racing Drivers Club’ in 1958.

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(TR0003)

These wonderful Mount Druitt, 1955 Sydney, New South Wales colour shots (the one above and below) were posted on ‘the Nostalgia Forum’ which, for those of you who haven’t discovered it is something you should do, but be warned you will be lost in interesting motor racing ‘threads’ for years…

http://forums.autosport.com/forum/10-the-nostalgia-forum/

Ace researcher/historian and primotipo contributor Stephen Dalton dates the shots as probably the 4 September 1955 meeting with the Healeys’ driven by #93 C Kennedy and #98 K Bennett. In the background Stephen thinks the #53 tail is an important Australian MG Spl, the ex/Dick Cobden/David McKay/Curly Brydon car.

The red car surrounded by mechanics is perhaps the ex Jack Saywell Alfa Romeo P3 then Alvis powered and driven by Gordon Greig. The covered #4 single seater is Stan Coffey’s Cooper Bristol ‘Dowidat Spl’ and #14 Jack Robinson’s Jaguar Special.

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(TR0003)

All ‘The Fun of The Fair’ or ‘Mount Druitt Motor Racing’ as the case may be…

This article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 August 1954, it captures the atmosphere of the place and the day and ignorance of the public of motor racing;

THIRTY thousand picnicking spectators in 8,000 cars make a phenomenon in Australian sport and entertainment at Sydney’s monthly motor races at Mt. Druitt.

Cars park two to four deep the whole length of the two and a quarter miles racing track. Spectators drive between races from one vantage point to another over ‘horror stretches’ in the seemingly endless acres of paddocks around the track.

Vendors sell hot water, hot dogs, all the usual provendor of picnics. Children play rounders or football between races.

By the standards of Britain’s famous Brooklands, the informality is extreme for the spectators, but it is typically Australian; sunshine, open air, gum trees.

The Australian Racing Drivers’ Club, however, applies the strictest international rules of competition to its 12 or 14 race program.

Officials on motor cycles patrol the boundary fences. White uniformed officials with international motor racing flags signal the drivers safely through the races-a blue flag waved – ‘a competitor is trying to overtake you’; a yellow flag waved ‘great danger, be prepared to stop’; yellow, with vertical red stripes-‘take care, oil has been spilt on the track.’

A public address system links the whole of the two and a quarter miles of track with the finishing line.

A truck tows breakdowns off the course, often two at a time, ignominiously, like a defeated bull dragged from the ring.

At the end of the day 8,000 cars crowd the Great Western Highway in a colossal traffic jam, in which the ‘hot rodders,’ after a few imitative accelerations, lose their ardour for speed on frustrating miles of bumper-to bumper driving.

What attracts this crowd to a venue nearly 40 miles from the city is the excitement of speeds up to 140 miles an hour and skid turns on hairpin and right-angle bends. The straight of the bitumen track is a wartime airstrip.

The club conducts events for racing, sports, and stock cars and has 60 to 70 competitors at a meeting.

Most of the competitors are owner-drivers-fanatical seekers of perfection in the assembling and tuning of motors. They acquire a car, according to their means and choice. If it is a stock model they remachine and reassemble parts of the motor, and fit new parts, two carburettors, and a ‘blower’ (a supercharger), which gives the ultimate ‘kick.’

In all types of cars running and maintenance costs are high. A set of tyres is good for only 500 racing miles. A car may run half a mile and burn the top out of a piston. An owner may spend £250 on a new cylinder head and find it does not fit satisfactorily.

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Jack Brabham in the Cooper ‘Redex Spl’ Bristol referred to in the text. On the outside is Bill Hudson, Hudson Spl at Mount Druitt in 1955. Jack was later to say he should have taken this highly self developed car to the UK rather than purchase the Cooper Alta he bought in the UK…still it didn’t hold him back in the end! (unattributed)

THE glamour driver of the moment is a 26-year-old motor engineer, Jack Brabham, with his British £4,000 six cylinder Cooper (frame)-Bristol (motor).

He is a former Australian midget car champion, whom some club officials put in ‘world class.’

In the lingo of the fans, he ‘lashes the loud pedal-(accelerator) down to the boards’ and scorns the ‘anchors’ (brakes).

His driving is, indeed, a spectacle as he relentlessly mows down a field, flashes past car after car, and changes gears at 85 to 90 miles an hour.

But the fans are watching a £7,000 Italian Ferrari, with a 12-cylinder two litre engine having a power output of 250 b.h.p. and a top speed around 150 m.p.h. Owner Dick Cobden, a fine driver, has had the car only a few months and is still familiarising himself with its tuning and driving.

The Ferrari is a Grand Prix car, which famous English driver, Peter Whitehead, drove in the Lady Wigram trophy at Christchurch, New Zealand, early this year’.

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Dick Cobden’s ex-Whitehead Ferrari 125 at Mount Druitt, date uncertain. (G & L Liebrand Collection)

Circuit Map…

druitt circuit

(unattributed)

Mount Druitt Aerodrome, 45 Km west of Sydney was built for the Royal Australian Air Force during World War 2. The facility comprised 2 hangars, workshops and a runway 1,524 metres long and 48 metres wide, perfect as the basis of a racetrack postwar.

The first race meeting was held on October 4 1948 on a short track based on the runway established by the Australian Sporting Car Club.

In 1952 Belf Jones built a full circuit, 2.25 miles long using some adjoining land owned by a Mr McMahon, a Sydney businessman. The circuits’ first meeting was on 30 November 1952 organised by the Australian Racing Drivers Club, the main event, a 50 Mile Handicap won by future Australian champion, David McKay’s MG Spl. (one of the cars obscured in the first photo above).

Over the following 5 years over 25 meetings were run with crowd attendances often over 15,000, given the circuits proximity to Sydney. Mt Druitt’s last meeting was on 10 November 1957.

Commercial agreement for the circuits future use could not be reached between the ARDC and Jones, who did irreparable damage to the circuit; Jones cut a trench around the circuit with a digger!

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Another shot of Frank Gardner’s D Type at Mount Druitt on 23 May 1958. (John Ellacott)

The last hurrah for the venue was a number of sprint meetings run in 1958. Victories resulted for Gardner’s D Type Jag, Arnold Glass’ HWM Jaguar and Len Lukey’s Cooper Bristol.

The ‘NSW Speedway Act’ in 1959 and consequent required investment in the facility to meet new safety standards was the final death-knell for this fondly remembered circuit.

The parts of the track added in 1952 remain but the airstrip section is long gone, the area is now known as the Whalan Reserve, it comprises the Mount Druitt industrial estate and Madong Avenue Primary School.

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Current google earth aerial shot of the circuit area. (speedwayandroadracehistory.com)

Bibliography…

The Nostalgia Forum Mount Druitt thread, particularly the contributions of Stephen Dalton and ‘wirra’. Sydney Morning Herald 14 August 1954, speedwayandroadracehistory.com

Photos…

John Ellacott, TR0003, G & L Liebrand Collection

Finito…