Archive for the ‘Obscurities’ Category

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‘Still life of a Lotus 20 Formula Junior and Houghton Harness Racing Sulky, 21 February 1962’…

The image was featured in a ‘Design for Sport Exhibition’ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The photographers creative rationale would have been interesting but the progress he symbolises is clear…

Credit…

Mark Kauffman

 

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Seeing this book by Bill Tuckey amongst the display collection Michael Gasking brought to the Repco Brabham Engines ex-employees get together brought a smile to my face…

I didn’t ever own it but it was one of a very small number of racing books in Camberwell Grammar School’s library when I started there, aged 12.  Having only recently become interested in racing I was like a sponge for information. What was significant about this tome is that it was written by a talented journalist, Bill Tuckey, who edited both ‘Wheels’ and ‘Sports Car World’ magazines, the latter became one of my monthly bibles along with ‘Racing Car News’. The book covered a very broad canvas comprising all the Australian Grands Prix, portraits of the champion drivers at the time (the early sixties) as well as our circuits and the round Australia epic trials of the fifties.

It was a great read and provided important historical context for my contemporary obsessions at the time which were F5000 in Oz and F1 ‘over there’. I must suss it on Ebay.

Anyway, I thought I would share the cover art, the circuit depicted is Sandown, the Cooper T70 like car is just hooking into Shell Corner or Turn One, its vanilla name these days.

Bill Tuckey died not so long ago, this obituary in ‘Wheels’ is a great tribute to a talented man;

https://www.wheelsmag.com.au/news/1605/obituary-bill-tuckey/

Credits…

Michael Gasking Collection/Bill Tuckey, cover art by Phil Belbin

bugatti atlantque

The wonderful, outrageous, avant-garde, art deco Atlantic is both a monument to Jean Bugatti’s design talent and also to pre-war Europe. It is one of the last visual wonders of its age before the focus of engineers was forced upon munitions, the resultant devastation the antithesis of the Bugatti’s beauty.

When Molsheim’s Aérolithe concept debuted at the 1935 Paris Salon, the public just didn’t get it. It was radical to behold, the body was made out of light, flammable ‘Elektron’ magnesium which was riveted externally giving the car its distinctive central seam. Under the haute couture clothes was a new ultra low, modified T57 chassis, also fitted to the ‘normal’ T57S and SC. The rear axle passed through the rear chassis frame rather than riding under it. Those elements and the T59 GP car derived DOHC 3257cc straight-8 engine, dry-sumped in this application to fit under the low bonnet, made the Aérolithe the most advanced car of its time.

T57 Atlantic cutaway (unattributed)

But Ettore Bugatti was disappointed in the work of art, the solo Aérolithe soon disappeared. To this day its fate is a mystery, explanations include it being a casualty of war or perhaps broken down for its parts. Not so long ago Aérolithe was recreated using original parts and materials with only 15 photographs as a resource and reference base. Quite a job!

After the Aérolithe show car, Bugatti produced four supercharged Atlantic coupes in 1936/7 using aluminum instead of magnesium for the bodies whilst keeping the rivets. Powered by supercharged straight-8’s, these circa 200bhp coupes exceeded 120mph- in 1936! In fact two unsupercharged Type 57S and two supercharged Type 57SC Coupes were built but both T57S’ were later supercharged by the factory, therefore becoming SC-‘surbaisse’- lowered and C-‘compresseur’-compressor in specification. All four cars still exist.

I thought this painting by Dietz the quintessential Parisian Atlantique scene…

Credit…

Dietz

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

 

sev marchal

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!…

mont

(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