Archive for the ‘Obscurities’ Category

Whilst Clarence La Tourette’s superb cutaway drawing is dated 1938 I think the car shown- with intercooler and underbody oil cooler but devoid of its sidepod fuel tanks is drawn to 1941 or later specifications (Clarence La Tourette)

Harry Miller’s stunning, brilliant, innovative, Gulf Miller mid-engined, four-wheel drive Indianapolis racer…

By 1938 this prodigiously talented of engineering aesthetes greatest days of motor racing and commercial success were behind him.

He was bankrupted in 1933 and left his native California for New York where there remained plenty of opportunities for Miller to deploy his talents, the scale of which had taken on almost mythical proportions.

For those unfamiliar with the American, one of the greatest race design engineers of the twentieth century, click on this link for a brief, concise summary of Harry’s life- important context for this article. http://milleroffy.com/Racing%20History.htm

Lee Oldfield with his self constructed Marmon engined car at Indy in 1937. Said to be ‘rough or agricultural’ this car is worthy of an article on its own given its historical Indy significance (IMS)

Miller was not the first to build and race a mid-engined machine at Indianapolis, that honour went to Lee Oldfield who built and attempted to qualify a 6 litre Marmon V16 engined, self constructed car in 1937. It featured all independent suspension and inboard mounted drum brakes in its specification.

Oldfield, no relation to Barney, a racer/engineer/businessman was entered by the Duesenberg brothers in one of their cars, a Mason, in 1912, the car failed to qualify after engine problems. He later found fame in aviation as the founder of Labeco, a company formed to work on aviation engines, the firm still exists today as Renk Labeco. The Oldfield Marmon is beyond the scope of this piece, an interesting story for another time perhaps.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, there was a radical front engined rear drive four cylinder Miller Gulf before the even more edgy mid-engined six cylinder Miller Gulf.

In 1937 Ira Vail, years before Miller’s first client for a straight-8 engine, commissioned him to design and build two new four-cylinder cars to compete against the pre-World War 1 technology which still prevailed at Indy.

Shortly after his design process had commenced- Harry had a design ‘in stock’- he had Everett Stevenson draw a lightweight twin-cam aluminium, two valve four cylinder engine of 255 cid circa 1933, which, with a 0.125 inch overbore was teased to 270 CID. The engines used Coffman cartridge style starters typical of the type used on aircraft where an exploding blank shell drove a piston, which in turn engaged a screw thread to turn the engine over.

The Gulf Miller four had plenty of Miller’s advanced thinking, with a split crankcase and wet cylinder liners, but was an update of a design he had worked up prior to his 1933 bankruptcy

Miller, by then 61 years of age and suffering from diabetes launched into the last great couple of designs of his career.

From 1938 the Indy 500 was to be run under the Grand Prix formula laid down by the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR, the forerunner of the FIA) specifying engine limits of 3 litres supercharged and 4.5 litres unsupercharged or 183.06 and 274.59 cubic inches of displacement.

By definition this marked the return of single-seat racers which removed the inherent danger of riding mechanics. Additionally, any type of fuel could be used, the supply of which was unlimited, this encouraged the use of supercharged engines fed by alcohol fuel.

The 95 inch wheelbase chassis of Ira’s cars was of the ladder or girder type of the period, but different in that it used deep, rolled steel side members which were intended to be very stiff.

‘Teardrop’ side fuel tanks were fitted to either side of the car to locate the fuel mass centrally, additionally they were interconnected so that the cars weight distribution would remain in equilibrium regardless of fuel load.

The engine and clutch were at the front of the car, the four speed transaxle, which used Cord 810 gearsets and final drive was at the rear.

The suspension was independent on all four wheels, a refinement of the Miller-Ford type he used in 1935. The hydraulic shocks were driver adjustable. In another Miller first the car was fitted with disc brakes on all four wheels. Not of the type we know mind you but rather a design based on an entirely different principle, that of the disc clutch and its pressure plate.

Further innovation extended to the radiators which resisted a traditional core but rather comprised a ‘trellis type’ of arrangement of chromed plated copper pipe tubing which was deployed around the cars nose and sides.

At this point, as the construction of the two cars was progressing, but it is not clear exactly when in early 1938, the direction of the project changed completely.

Harry Miller’s son Ted told Griff Borgeson, the famous journalist researching one of his books, that Harry visited Colonel Drake of Gulf Oil a couple of years before Vail’s project was acquired by Gulf.

Borgeson ‘The story goes that the construction of these two cars was just getting nicely underway when the son of Gulf’s board chairman…dropped in at Miller’s shop, and the rest is history.’

’Ira Vail was bought out and the entire project was moved to the headquarters of Gulf R&D at Harmarville, a suburb of Pittsburgh. As work continued on the fours, a program was launched immediately for the design and construction of a team of much more ambitious four-wheel-drive, rear engine Gulf sixes. They too, would run exclusively on 81 octane Gulf No Nox gas.’

The first four cylinder front-engined Miller-Gulfs (above) had the radiator tubing on the nose of the car ‘presenting an avant garde streamlined visage’ wrote Borgeson. ‘The Gulf cars used Miller-Ford type suspension as well as disc brakes, which at least were beautifully ornamental’ (Borgeson)

Before dealing with the mid-engined Gulf Millers sixes lets look at how the fours fared at Indy in 1938.

When the cars were launched to the press in April 1937 Miller predicted speeds of 126 mph, 2 mph faster than the current Indy record. In early tests at Langhorne the engines overheated and the brittle radiator tubing broke, by the time the cars appeared at Indy the radiators were small square conventional fittings mounted either side of the cars front body section.

Front engined Gulf four with ‘the intermediate type external radiator core. This radiator development also proved to be inadequate’, car very high. Driver is Bill Winn, note IFS suspension fairings, date and circuit not recorded (Borgeson)

1924 Indy winner LL ‘Slim’ Corum had been away from racing for three years but was engaged by Miller as a mechanic to assist driver Billy Winn with the new design. During early Indy tests on 21 April 1938 Winn escaped injury when the car stopped in the pit area with an engine ablaze.

Winn tried both cars on the last day of time trials but abandoned both ten mile runs due to lack of speed, the cars were two of thirteen non-qualifiers that year- poor Bill Winn died three months later during the ‘Governors Sweepstakes’ at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

The Gulf fours story from 1939 is told at the end of this article.

One of the Millers in 1938. Dumpy little jigger- note the IFS, and aero section side pontoon tanks which made a whole lot of sense in terms of weight distribution, from a safety perspective not so much. Whenever I research articles on Speedway Racing of the day it reminds me just how many fellas died on the boards, dirt and bricks (IMS)

Miller’s response to the opportunities of the new rules, with Gulf financial muscle was to embark on design and construction of a mid-engined, four-wheel drive, all-independent suspension car…

To this chassis he fitted a canted, short-stroke- said to be the very first oversquare engine, with a 3 inch bore and 3.125 inch stroke, supercharged, 3-litre, in-line six cylinder engine, a type he had not designed before.

In typical Miller style the engine was cast as one piece in aluminium- a finned cylinder block casting with integral head with housings for the twin overhead camshafts and dry sump made of magnesium. Fed by two carburettors, the supercharger used pressures of 18 pounds per square inch.

The fuel mass was located centrally in side fuel tanks and the car was fitted with disc brakes on all four wheels, as per the Ira Vail car.

Lets remember the year is 1938 folks, it was a truly avant-garde, complex, ambitious motorcar which makes the 1938 Auto Union Type D look mundane in terms of specification!

Harry’s cars were generally exquisite to look at in terms of their individual componentry and the sum of their parts- the completed machine, contrary to that normal state, was the ‘fugly-sister’ of the Miller litter, not that ugliness is necessarily a barrier to on-track success.

If the pre-war Auto Unions set the mid-engined paradigm- they did in that Coopers followed their lead post-war, John Cooper’s first cars featured the AU cocktail of ladder frame chassis, mid-mounted engine with gearbox behind, all independent suspension and drum brakes all around- Harry Miller, predictably, took an original approach.

Focus on the top drawing as to how things work. Drive goes forward to the gearbox at the front of the car via the lower driveshaft and to the front wheels- and to the rear along the top ‘shaft. The rear diff is aft of the engine with the supercharger behind it. The tube from the ‘charger attaches to the intercooler. You can see the top leaf spring of the rear suspension. Fuel tanks drawn are early pontoons (JF Drake)

The chassis was the ladder or girder type of the period, but different in that it used deep, rolled steel side members which were intended to be very stiff. The suspension was independent, a refinement of the Miller-Ford type.

The Miller 3 litre engines flywheel and clutch faced the driver, rather than the rear of the car with the four speed manual gearbox mounted at the front of the car aft of the radiator and oil tank. The large supercharger was located at the very rear of the machine rather than more directly connected to the six-cylinder DOHC, 2 valve motor. The full length ‘majestic pipe-organ’ full length exhaust was replaced from 1939 with short ‘machine gun’ stub pipes.

As the engine was developed to produce more power- and given the Gulf mandated use of its ‘pump petrol’ for marketing purposes- a large intercooler was fitted to the left engine cover from 1939.

‘Teardrop’ side fuel tanks were fitted to both sides of the car to locate the fuel mass centrally, as was the case with the four cylinder car. To shelter the driver the bodywork was high, the seating position similarly high to clear the driveshafts which ran fore and aft.

The car was heavy for all of the obvious reasons in terms of its 4WD componentry relative to a conventional two wheel driven car.

‘Continuing his experiments with engine cooling, he tried a new type of surface radiator on each side of the little cabin which occupied the place of an engine hood.’

‘There was a distinct aircraft feel to the car as a whole, which may have been a clue to Miller’s longer-range interests. The car was rushed to some semblance of completion in time to command the fascinated attention of the automotive world on the occasion of the Indy 500 in 1938’ Borgeson wrote.

Ralph Hepburn, Indy 1938, love the original ‘orchestral’ exhaust system, I wonder how effective it was. Rear diff is aft of the engine with supercharged behind it- engine fed by 2 carbs (IMS)

The car was not finished with sufficient time to be adequately tested and developed and therefore somewhat predictably, both drivers, George Bailey and Ralph Hepburn, failed to qualify due to cooling and fuel delivery problems for the 1938 Indy race.

The 1938 rule changes adopted, that is their liberalisation, brought forth other exotic cars in addition to Harry’s- Louis Meyer’s Winfield supercharged Maserati 6, Jimmy Snyder’s and Ron Householder’s Sparks Little 6’s being examples.

The race had a silver lining for Miller personally though- Floyd Roberts won the event in an utterly conventional four-cylinder Miller 270 beating Wilbur Shaw, Shaw Offy, 3 laps behind Roberts, and Chet Miller aboard a Summers Offy to the flag!

Floyd Roberts, winner of Indy 1938 in a conventional 4 cylinder DOHC Miller 270 (IMS)

Miller convinced Gulf Oil to stay the course and refined the car, three were entered for the 1939 race, they were driven by George Barringer, Zeke Meyer and George Bailey.

The car was radically redesigned, the Rootes blower replaced by a Miller centrifugal supercharger with an impeller which had working surfaces on both sides instead of only one. It delivered double the charge to a beautiful new alloy intercooler.

New cylinder heads with individual inlet ports were made and the distinctive exhaust extractor system was replaced with long, curved, individual vertical pipes. A conventional radiator core was used as well as bodywork changes.

Gulf still didn’t assist the competitiveness of the package by insisting upon the use of their street petrol- the six-cylinder engines produced circa 245hp whilst Miller’s old DOHC fours – now in the hands of Fred Offenhauser, who had acquired the commercial rights to the design, produced 300hp using the usual Indy alcohol-based cocktail fuel.

The team were better prepared than the year before though, MotorSport reported that ‘Miller…has been ready in good time with his cars, one of which was the first to try out the new asphalt paving on the back stretch. George Bailey was the driver, and he was timed to do 118 mph, at which speed he reported that the throttle was only half depressed. Ralph Hepburn has been out and about in one of the cars.’

Barringer, 1939 surrounded by Gulf Oil officials, nice intercooler detail, note heat shield between ‘cooler and stub exhausts (unattributed)

 

George Bailey at Indy in 1939, great shot of the aero section pontoon fuel tanks, intercooler added from that year and stub exhausts (IMS)

During qualifying on 19 May Barringer’s car dropped a cylinder, he was out of the field. He later qualified the Bill White Spl Offy fifteenth, finishing sixth.

A day later Johnny Seymour hit the turn 4 wall during practice, the car burst into flames and was destroyed, Seymour sustained severe burns but lived. George Bailey qualified his machine, and as a result became the driver of the first mid-engined car to qualify for Indy. The frightening accident to Seymour led to Zeke Meyer’s decision to withdraw from the race. Bailey qualified an encouraging eighth, but lasted only 47 laps, retiring with valve failure.

Things went from bad to worse the following year, 1940, when Harry returned with three rebuilt Gulf-Millers ‘in tip-top shape’.

George Bailey wasn’t so lucky this time, his Miller was involved in a similar accident to Seymour’s the year before. On 7 May Bailey was practicing the car, initially he completed 15 laps before returning to the pits.

After some adjustments he went back out and by the end of the fourth lap was up to 128.5 mph, as he entered turn 2 he either got up into the marbles or his engine seized, locking all four wheels.

Whatever the cause, the car started to slide sideways, as he fought to correct the car the Miller shot into the inside rail, his left-side fuel tank was then punctured and exploded. The unfolding disaster worsened when the car spun and the right side tank was hit and it too exploded.

Drenched in fuel and alight, the plucky, terrified driver jumped out of the car and ran towards speedway photographer Eddie Hoff who did his best to beat out the flames. The poor man fell three times on his journey, he had a fractured hip and leg injuries. The end to this grisly accident was his death 45 minutes later from third-degree burns.

Bailey, born in Cleveland in 1902, parlayed a job as a test driver with the Hudson Motor Company eventually to competing in the Indy 500- he raced five times without finishing, his best result was twelfth in a Barbasol in 1938 after missing the qualifying cut in his Miller.

The two other Millers, upon the ‘suggestion’ of the officials to the team were withdrawn from the race.

One of the cars as substantially modified for the 1941 race. Still retains the Miller drivetrain and general layout ‘but had drastically reduced frames, bodies and suspensions- all for the worse other than safety’. Fuel contained within chassis frame rails- oil cooler under the car removed after 1941 due to its vulnerability (vanderbiltcupraces.com)

For the 1941 Indy 500 the cars were further modified as a result of rule changes which banned the side tanks, major factors in the Barringer and Bailey accidents.

The two surviving cars now carried boxed steel side sections in which the fuel tanks were housed and cushioned- the bodies were again reworked.

MotorSport in an article (published in July 1941 about the annual classic) its reporter writing in May said that ‘New or redesigned cars which will attract the interest of the railbirds this year are led by the four-wheel drive, rear motor ‘guinea pigs’ which the old master Harry Miller designed three years ago, but have just been brought to a point of perfection.’

‘Now handled by the expert mechanic, Eddie Offutt, the cars were given exhaustive tests in Utah this summer, with one of them chalking up an official 500 mile record (AIACR International Class D) average of better than 143 mph.’

In April 1941 the MotorSport reporter observed that ‘Offutt had…been experimenting with (the cars) during the last two years earned its spurs on the salt beds of Bonneville, Utah, when it ran the full 500 miles, under official sanction and timing, at an average of 143 mph.’

‘The late Floyd Roberts set the existing 500 mile record at Indianapolis in 1938 when he completed the distance at an average of 172 mph, and although Indianapolis is a far more difficult course than the ring-around-the rosy- course over which the Offutt car ran, a 143 mph car is a definite challenger, particularly when it has a sister car just as capable.’

The point to be taken from the above is that the cars were fast- and reliable it seemed.

With Barringer and Al Miller (no relation to Harry) driving, the cars were fourteenth and fifteenth on the grid. Both crews were optimistic about their chances with Barringer having a qualifying speed of over 122 mph, but things were again to take a turn for the worse, the Gulf Millers and flames seemed to be an ongoing curse.

(E Hitze)

‘There seemed to be a strange foreboding at the Brickyard early in the day of the 1941 500. Maybe it was due to the cold drizzle that met incoming fans the night before or maybe it was the national worry about Hitler’s action in Europe.’

‘In any case, just as lines formed at the ticket booths, a huge fire swept through the garages. Apparently fumes from fuel in George Barringer’s car were ignited by a welding torch being used in the next stall. Fire trucks were unable to access the inferno quickly because of the huge crowds, and half of one of the two garage structures was completely destroyed.’

The event, down two cars, started an hour late, and Mauri Rose eventually won the show’ wrote Terry Reed.

Barringers cars remains after the 1941 race day dawn fire. At this point only 1 of the 4 cars built remained- Al Miller’s ’41 car. Shot does show the substantial bulkhead in front of the driver (IMS)

In the Miller garage, at about 3 am Barringer was filling his cars fuel tanks when the fumes of the fuel were ignited by a welder in an adjacent pit-Barringer’s was destroyed.

Al Miller’s No.12 car was salvaged by Barringer and helped onto the grid, but after multiple ignition problems its engine either seized, or its transmission failed after a mere 22 laps.

With that, Gulf tired of the partnership with Miller, a great deal of time, effort and money had been spent for little in the way of commercial return. There was also a war to be fought of course.

In a desperately sad, final stage of his life, Harry separated from his wife, moved to Indianapolis and then on to Detroit where he died of a heart attack whilst living in very modest circumstances on 3 May 1943 aged 65.

Al Miller’s car in the pits Indy 1941, 28th after transmission failure on lap 22 (IMS)

The post-conflict postscript of these trail-blazing amazing racing cars were Indy performances in 1946, ’47 and ’48…

By the start of the War only one of the four cars built still existed. One each were destroyed in Indy accidents in 1939 and 1940. George Barringer’s became a corn-chip in the Indy garage fire on the dawn of the 1941 race which left the car raced that year by Al Miller as the only remaining Miller RE 4WD chassis, it was owned by Gulf Oil.

During the 1939-45 conflict George Barringer and his family lived in a home in Indianapolis, Barringer worked nearby in a war related machinery plant.

Born in 1906 in Wichita Falls, Texas, his father was a blacksmith, as a young kid George picked up lots of mechanical skills.

He started racing in Texas circa 1925, little is known about his early racing albeit he appears in newspapers in 1928 as an owner in a Texas AAA race and was a successful driver in what were probably outlaw races. By 1933 he had enough experience to win an Indy ride, his finishes include sixth in 1939 and eighth in 1936. He first drove for Miller in 1941 as we have covered.

His son, Bill Barringer recalled an amazing phone call during the War’s latter stages- ‘In the winter of 1945 Dad got an evening phone call at home, he seemed very excited and after hanging up said to Mom “We just bought a racecar”. Mom was not too happy!’

’The next evening in the wee hours of the morning, during a snowstorm, a truck arrived from Gulf headquarters in Pittsburgh with the un-numbered last remaining Gulf Miller RE 4WD- the driver only said “Heres your racecar”.

Soon after they towed it to George’s garage in Indianapolis.

Barringer aboard his Miller in the garage area, mid May 1946 Indy (IMS)

 

Barringer qualifying in 1946, too good an evocative photo not to use (IMS)

 

Barringer, Indy 1946 (IMS)

Barringer, who did far more miles in the cars than anyone else must have been a ‘true-believer’ in the concept.

In the Preston Tucker sponsored Miller he finished twenty-fourth in the 1946 Indy having retired on lap 27 with a broken gear from grid slot 24.

George Barringer only raced on one other occasion in 1946, at the ill-fated Lakewood Speedway 100 miler in Atlanta on Labor Day.

There, driving an ancient two-man car that Wilbur Shaw used to win the 1937 Indy, he, together with 1946 Indy winner George Robson collided with the slower car of Billy Devore- they simply did not see Devore through the thick dust which characterised the track. The awful accident cost Barringer and Robson their lives- one which could have been averted had Devore been black-flagged for going too slowly or had the dust been controlled.

With continued sponsorship from Tucker, Barringer’s wife ran the car for Al Miller in 1947, he qualified nineteenth and DNF’d with magneto failure.

Immediately after the race Velma Barringer sold the car to Tucker who ran Miller again in 1948, that year he missed the qualifying cut.

In 1951 the Preston Tucker owned car developed an incurable crack in the last remaining block and was off to the Indy Motor Museum, where, no doubt, many of you have seen it.

Bibliography…

milleroffy.com, ‘Miller’ Griffith Borgeson, ‘The Rear Engined Revolution’ Mattijs Diepraam in forix.autosport.com, MotorSport June 1939, July 1941, vanderbiltcupraces.com, Clamshack on Flickr, Article by Brian Laban in The Telegraph June 2014, ‘Indy: The Race and Ritual of The Indianapolis 500’ Terry Reed, indymotorspeedway.com, article by Don Radbruch on georgebarringer.com. ‘The Forgotten 500 Champion-LL Corum’ Kevin Triplett

Al Miller, 1947

Photo Credits…

Clarence La Tourette, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ed Hitze, American Hot Rod Foundation, Pinterest-unattributed, James F Drake

Etcetera…

1938

Rutherford with Harry Miller (IMS)

 

Harry warming up the car before the 1938 race. Rootes type supercharger and churns of Gulf ‘No Nox’ clear to see (Borgeson)

 

Rutherford (IMS)

1939

The wreck of Johnny Seymour’s Miller after his 1939 qualifying crash (IMS)

1947

Al Miller, Indy practice in 1947, DNF after 33 laps (IMS)

 

Gulf Miller Fours…

After failing to qualify for the 1938 500 both cars were extensively rebuilt.

The pontoon style fuel tanks went and were replaced by a single tank mounted high in the tail and the noses changed to conventional front radiators. After testing at the Altoona Pennsylvania dirt track the cars were not entered at Indy in 1939 and later sold to Preston Tucker.

He didn’t race them but used the engines in a failed high-speed landing craft project.

‘Years later the rolling chassis were reportedly found in a Chicago basement and after multiple sales and trades, one of the cars was rebuilt with a Miller ML-510 engine development of the original 255 cubic inch engine’ Kevin Triplett wrote.

(Gulf)

The photograph above is a period Gulf press shot of the two cars after the rebuild described above.

It is a shame they weren’t practiced at Indy in 1939 if only as a fall-back position to their advanced but moody and accident prone six-cylinder brothers. Attractive cars if still with a tall stance.

Tailpiece…

We started the article with an old cutaway, so why not finish it with a modern one, by Mr Ouchi?

The image troubled me though, not the engineering detail but the number, sponsor and colour scheme, I couldn’t make sense of it so decided not to use it. But then by a stroke of Google luck, ‘Clamshack’ on Flickr provided the answer and the narrative from Bill Barringer above as well.

‘The xray illustration is probably taken from the last remaining Gulf Miller RE 4WD…in the IMS Museum…The museum car has a combination livery (why I don’t know) of Al Millers #12 from his running at the 1941 Indy 500 and the signage ‘Preston Tucker Special’ from Al Miller’s run in 1947. I don’t know where the colour is derived from, the 1941 car shows a lighter blue and the 1946 a reddish colour…’

So there you have it. What to make of the cars though?

By 1935 Gulf Oil had assets of more than $US430 million with annual production of more than 63 million barrels of crude oil. Despite that, no amount of money, laboratory, engineering time and expertise, ‘Gulfpride’ Oil and ‘No-Nox’ ethyl gasoline could get Harry’s wild, edgy combination of a mid-engine, four-wheel drive, independently suspended, ‘disc braked’ racer to survive 500 miles at Indianapolis.

What an extraordinary motorcar, one which pointed the way to the future- it promised so much, delivered so little but deserved so much more?…

Finito…

 

(D Gordon)

Ron Uffindell on his way to FTD at Adelaide’s Glen Ewin Hillclimb in 1948, MG K3, chassis ‘K3030’. He is applying a bit of opposite lock as he negotiates an early kink in the steep section between the sheds at Glen Ewin shortly after the start line at the bottom of the hill…

MG enthusiast Doug Gordon recalls of Ron that ‘he was an exceptional fellow and built up the Austin 7 Special himself (photo below), it wasn’t the quickest racing car, but was incredibly reliable…he was often the limit man on handicap sometimes starting 20 to 30 minutes behind the scratch-men and would simply grind out the laps till the job was done.’

‘Uffindel was also the custodian of the ex-Bira MG K3 for a while’, he looked after and raced the car when it was owned by the family of Russell Bowes, an Australian RAF and RAAF pilot killed in action in Burma during the war.

‘He was the one who lowered the radiator and bodywork a few inches- a configuration that has endured to this day.’ He also lightened the car and removed the twin fuel filler caps and mounted only one in the top of the tank.’

‘Here is “Uffy” in the K3 taking out FTD at the Glen Ewin Hillclimb just out of Houghton, in the Adelaide Hills in November 1948.’

‘The track was the steep driveway down to the workshops and warehouses at the old Glen Ewin jam factory, owned and operated by the McEwin family since 1844.’

‘Cars raced up to the Lower Hermitage Road and finished on the main (North East) road to Adelaide, which was not closed to general traffic in the early days- an observer at the top would signal down to the starter with a flag that the road was clear for a run!’

‘In later years the road was closed for the hillclimb events run by the Vintage Sports Car Club of South Australia, but the venue closed in December 1951 when car racing on public roads in South Australia was banned by an Act of Parliament- hillclimbing moved to the new venue at Collingrove from 1952.’

‘This very Act had to be revoked to establish the Formula 1 track through the streets of Adelaide!’ in time for the first F1 AGP in 1985.

One the good citizens of Adelaide’s East Terrace, 8.30am Sunday early morning watering being interrupted by an Elfin MR8 Chev driven by Vern Schuppan gathering film footage of the proposed street circuit for discussions with BC Ecclestone & Co. 1983, the move to overturn the ban on racing on South Australia’s roads was underway (CAMS)

Doug’s final quip ‘Note Ron’s bald head- no helmet- bare hands- no gloves. From all reports Glen Ewin was very friendly, more casual, “clubby” type of social event, even though the competition could be quite fierce!’

‘Greg McEwin, son of the old, very conservative owner and patriarch, set up the venue. He owned an HRG and was an early member of the VSCCSA- he was more interested in sportscars and racing than he was in making wine and jam!’

‘His father DID, at one stage. decide to make wine, but later decided that it was a “demon drink” and took to all the barrels with a sledge-hammer and pick-axe and the wine flowed down the gully never to return again! After that it was butter, jam and sauces!’

Bob Williamson’s Australian Motor Racing photos FB page continues to give and give, a whole swag of photos posted by Doug Gordon and Dean Donovan together with the badinage with Australian racer/historian/author John Medley is providing some significant snippets of Australian Motor Racing History- I have simply lifted them from FB to primo to make sure we capture it before it disappears into the FB ether.

Ron Uffindell was a legendary racer and tuner, his exploits during the 1938 Australian Grand Prix weekend involved driving his little special to Mount Panorama and back- and finishing in eighth place behind Peter Whitehead’s victorious ERA R10B Voiturette.

(H Cullen)

The photo above shows Ron racing to victory at Lobethal in 1939.

He won the handicap South Australian GP, one of the support events over the 1939 AGP weekend, that race won in amazing fashion by Alan Tomlinson’s MG TA Spl s/c- a story for another time very soon.

Uffindell assisted many with their racing, not least Derek Jolly with his 7 Special- this association led to Jolly’s visits to the UK, ultimately, acquisition of a Lotus 15 and Colin Chapman exploiting Ron’s Austin 7 tuning and preparation secrets in his early days. This story is told in this article about Derek here;

https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

Credits…

Doug Gordon, John Medley, Hedley Cullen

Finito…

 

Michael Douglas, actor, Gunilla Lindblad, model and Pete Duel, actor with a Lola T70 at Ontario Speedway in 1970…

The Vogue photo-shoot is all about the ‘Me+Plus’ by Catalina ensemble and Endura watch worn by Gunilla. I wonder how they sold? Of more interest, maybe, is which particular Lola T70 chassis it is?

Douglas, then 26, ‘broke through’ in the 1969 CBS-TV ‘Playhouse’ special called ‘The Experiment’- the ‘Streets of San Francisco’, no doubt familiar to many of us, was still a couple of years hence.

Credits…

JP Zachariesen

Finito…

Australian Champion Speedway Rider Vic Huxley astride his Rudge JAP before the off, Wimbledon, 1933…

The caption notes Huxley as one of ‘the greatest exponents of broad-sliding around the track’.

‘Victor Nelson (Vic) Huxley (1906-1982) was born on 23 September 1906 at Wooloowin, Brisbane and attended Fortitude Valley and Kelvin Grove state schools.

Employed as a battery mechanic, he had been riding motorcycles for three years when a major bike speedway competition was introduced at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground in October 1926- he won the first event on the program, the One-Mile Handicap, and soon became one of the `broadsiding’ stars of the inaugural night races. He also won events at the Toowoomba Showground and Brisbane’s Davies Park.’

22 year old Vic Huxley at Wayville Showgrounds, Adelaide in 1928 (SLSA)

‘It was in these early stages of his career that he was bequeathed the nickname`Broadside’ by his growing number of fans. After success in Australia, including a stint at Adelaide’s Wayville Showground, he left for England in 1928 with a group of other leading speedway riders, including Frank Arthur to introduce the new Australian sport of `dirt-track racing’.

‘Speedway was a huge success in England and at one stage it was the second most popular sport, after horse-racing in the country. For many years London was its heart, and Australians—especially Huxley—were nearly always winners.’

‘To celebrate his victories, the Ogden’s branch of the Imperial Tobacco Co. (of Great Britain & Ireland) Ltd issued a `Vic Huxley’ cigarette card in their 1929 set of `Famous Dirt-Track Riders’. On the card, he was portrayed in his characteristic `broad-siding’ manoeuvre on the track. That year he was the subject of one of a series of articles on `Daredevils of the Speedway’ published in the magazine Modern Boy’.

Billy Lamont and Vic Huxley, Wimbledon, date uncertain (J Chaplin)

‘In June 1930 Huxley led an Australian team to victory in the first official speedway Test match against England. Unbeaten at this meeting, he was to become the most successful rider in Tests in the early 1930s. Captain of the ‘Harringay’ and then the ‘Wimbledon’ speedway teams, he won the Star Championship (forerunner of the world championship) in 1930 and next year became the British open champion.’

’He was almost unbeatable: he broke speedway records all over England; won eight major championships and also set and broke lap records at speedway tracks in Australia and New Zealand. His earnings were over £5000 per year, making him then one of the highest-paid sportsmen in the world. Members of the royal family and T. E. Lawrence were among those who congregated around Huxley’s team at the speedway.’

The two captains- Australia’s Vic Huxley and England’s Harold ‘Tiger’ Stevenson before the First Test at Wembley in June 1933 (Getty)

‘On 23 October 1931 at the register office, St Marylebone, London, Huxley married Sheila Alice Katherine King. He featured in numerous speedway magazine articles and books on speedway riding in England and Australia. When the British Broadcasting Corporation interviewed him in 1934 for its `In Town Tonight’ program, he became the first speedway rider to broadcast on radio. In the same year he won the Australian solo championship after being placed first in every event he entered.’

‘In his eleven years as a speedway rider on a range of different manufacturers’ machines, Huxley had only one serious accident.’

‘He left speedway racing in 1937 and opened the British Motorcycle Co. in Brisbane. Mobilised in the Militia as a lieutenant on 5 August 1941 he trained motorcycle dispatch riders. He was de-mobbed on 5 February 1945 and returned to his motorcycle business, retiring in 1957.’

’He kept few trophies and never sought any publicity. Despite being `bigger than Bradman’ in his day, Huxley remained throughout his life a modest and simple man. Three months after the death of his wife, he died on 24 June 1982 at Kangaroo Point, he was survived by a son.’

Huxley was a major sports celebrity in the UK with plenty of interest from the general press. Here he is cycling with his pooch ‘Raggles’, a Sealeyham Terrier, near his home, Wimbledon, May 1935

Etcetera…

(Getty)

Bill Sharp, Vic Huxley and Gus Kuhn before the start of a practice lap at Wimbledon in March 1935. ‘Huxley was testing his foot was in good enough condition after fracturing it last season’ the photo caption advises.

(Getty)

Vic Martin presents a silver Belisha Beacon to Vic at West Ham Speedway in May 1935. He has just covered a lap at 45 mph beating Tommy Coombs and Tiger Stevenson to the trophy.

For we colonials, a Belisha Beacon is an amber-coloured lamp globe atop a tall black and white pole which marks pedestrian crossing in the UK. Goddit!

(Getty)

Looking quite the man about town- Huxley arrives at Croydon Airport in time for the opening of the 1933 speedway season that April. The caption records travel travails before the age of the Dreamliner- by the liner Otranto from Australia before flying from Toulon to London.

Reference…

All of this article, with the exception of the photographs/captions is sourced from an ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’ entry about Huxley written by Jonathon Richards and comprises either direct quotes or truncated elements of his prose.

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, John Chaplin Collection, State Library of South Australia

Tailpiece: Vic Huxley and Sprouts Elder, Speedway Royal, Wayville, Adelaide 1929…

(SLSA)

Finito…

(D Willis)

Bill Cuncliffe, 22 years of age guides his ex-Snow Sefton Strathpine Ford V8 Spl around the wide open spaces of Lowood in 1956…

Dick Willis shared these wonderful, evocative photographs of Cuncliffe at the ex-RAAF Airfield circuit in Queensland’s Somerset Region 70 Km west of Brisbane.

The mountains (you would call them hills in Europe or North America) are the Great Dividing Range which runs down the east coast of Australia from ‘top to bottom’.

Cuncliffe poses at home after purchase from Sefton, note Dad’s Morrie Minor (D Willis)

The 4.2 litre Ford V8 powered device was quite a formidable machine for a young driver- Bill continued to race into the sixties, he finished eighth in the 1963 Bathurst 500 touring car classic aboard a Ford Cortina GT shared with fellow Queenslander Barry Broomhall.

Built by Snow Sefton at his Lawnton Motors garage in Gympie Road, Strathpine, the Ford V8 Spl contested both the 1949 Leyburn and 1954 Southport Australian Grands Prix.

Sefton on the Leyburn AGP grid 1949. From L>R- #22 George Pearse MG TB Spl, #18 Garry Coghlan MG TC Spl, #17 Dick Cobden MG TC Spl, #7 Alan Larsen Cadillac Spl V8 (Willis/Thallon)

At Leyburn Sefton raced this car, his more conventional ‘Strathpine Spl’ V8 racer ‘having competed elsewhere in Queensland with a Ford V8/Jeep hybrid which allowed a choice of either front drive or four- wheel drive’ Graham Howard wrote in ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’.

At Southport, Sefton raced ‘basically the same car he had run in the 1949 AGP at Leyburn’ retiring after completing 21 of the 27 lap scratch race won by Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar.

Ray Bell reports that the special was fitted with a more powerful and reliable ohv Cadillac V8 by the end of the fifties.

Snow Sefton in the Strathpine Ford V8 Spl in Gympie Road Strathpine in the late 1940’s, out front of his garage perhaps. Awesome if somewhat noisy road car (B Pritchard)

Sefton was the proprietor of the Lawnton Motors for more than thirty years, he competed at all of the Queensland venues post-war. ‘Snow was always the crowd favourite at the Exhibition Speedway every Saturday night in Brisbane with his black and white 1936 Ford (the No 36). Snow’s sponsorship deal for the 1936 Ford is a classic story in itself and involved some of Brisbane’s biggest Holden Dealers! He was also famous for thrilling country crowds with his staunt driving at shows all over Queensland up until the early 1960’s’ said the CHACC.

Etcetera…

The photographs below are of Bill Cuncliffe during the 1957-1958 period.

(Willis/Thallon)

Cuncliffe at the Samsonvale Hillclimb where he was second fastest time of the day. Samsonvale is 35 Km north of Brisbane. Looks like a wild place, the rugged special well suited to dirt surface.

Assistance with the owner/drivers lined up below welcome. Sid Sakzewski Porsche 356?

(Willis/Thallon)

The photographs below are at the Strathpine Airfield circuit.

That location is 25 Km from Brisbane to the north and was a major Queensland motorsport venue from the end of the war until the opening of Lakeside in 1961.

Snow Sefton is credited as one of the driving forces in establishing Strathpine, he and fellow enthusiasts ‘borrowed the Pine Rivers Shire Council road making machinery’ to finish the track for the first meeting on 11 August 1946.

‘They worked like beavers all weekend, returned the equipment before dark on Sunday night, then wired the fence back up. (Most of the councillors were farmers who lived out of town and would not have heard the racket)’ the CHACC reported.

The color shots just ooze the atmosphere and vibe of the times, we are uncertain of the meeting dates- quite probably more than one meeting, note the missing radiator cowl in one image.

(Willis/Thallon)

Cuncliffe getting some encouragement from his mates before the off by the look of it! Below the radiator cowl is missing- hors de combat or removed for additional cooling I wonder?

(Willis/Thallon)

Photos above and below are taken on the same Strathpine day it seems, sans radiator cowling, Quentin Miles thinks his father Bill took the photo below in 1957.

(B and Q Miles)

It really is a most agreeable looking race venue isn’t it, got a real picnic hamper feel to it?

(Willis/Thallon)

 

Credits…

Dick Willis Collection, Don Thallon Collection, Ray Bell, Bill Miles via Quentin Miles, ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and Others, ‘CHACC’- Classic and Historic Automobile Club of Caboolture magazine article in September 2005

Tailpiece: Cuncliffe, Lowood 1956…

(D Willis)

Finito…

 

(R Middleton)

Ross Middleton observes of his wonderful Phillip Island shot- ‘these guys would turn up to every Phillip Island meeting and lift the Goggomobil Dart out of the Holden Ute and have a great day competing in the Regularity events’…

I imagine a good many Australians looking at these cars think immediately of the Yellow Pages or Shannons Insurance series of advertisements featuring the booming, unique, gravelly but melodic voice of Scotland born Australian actor Tommy Dysart.

For another group of us into theatre and live shows Tommy was the narrator in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ like no other before or since. A magic night at the old Regent Theatre/HSV-7 Tele-Studio in Johnston Street, Collingwood, Melbourne circa 1976 seems like yesterday!

One of the Shannons Goggos competing somewhere! (SMH)

Ace historian/researcher Stephen Dalton has unearthed a Goggo 293 shared by the two ‘Wallace Stable’ drivers W Wilson and A Smestad at the March 1960 Phillip Island meeting, there the car carried numbers 44 and 45- not 64 as here but Stephen and I would not mind betting that it is the same two fellows, event date unknown.

The Dart was developed by Bill Buckle (Buckle Motors Pty Ltd) and sold from 1959 to 1961.

It used the mechanicals- chassis, engine, gearbox, suspension and brakes of the Glas Auto company, Goggomobil Microcar topped with an Australian designed fibreglass sportscar body- 700’ish were made.

Power was provided by 300 and 400cc, 15 and 20 bhp twin-cylinder two-stroke motors- even with a weight of 345 kg it would have been a long trip along the Islands front chute!

The truckload of Goggomobils below is parked at the Punchbowl, Sydney factory of Bill Buckle Motors in 1959-1961. The load of cars- five Darts and one sedan is about to travel south to the Finlay Brothers dealership in Melbourne.

(Buckle Family)

Credits…

Ross Middleton, Hulton-Deutsch, Finlay Brothers, Buckle Family

Tailpiece…

(Hulton-Deutsch)

Actress and novelist Jackie Collins adds a bit of leopard skin colour to the Goggomobil T300 (now I know where Lola got the model number) at the Earls Court London Motor Show, October 1956.

Finito…

image

Promotional shoot for the ‘General von Hindenburg’ Junkers G.38 transport aircraft or perhaps the Mercedes Benz i wonder, circa 1934…

Any idea what model it is folks? The car I mean.

Credit…

Zoltan Glass

image

Finito…