Archive for the ‘Sports Racers’ Category

Rupert Steele explores the limits of his Bentley in the ample confines of Fishermans Bend (JP Read/VSCC Vic Collection)

Sir Rupert Steele was a pillar of the Melbourne sporting and business establishment throughout the 1960-1980s.

With a period typical sense of duty he served in World War 2, including a year as a POW in the Stalag Luft III camp, in Sagan, Lower Silesia (now Poland) after the Lancaster in which he was a bomb-aimer was shot down over Germany.

Before he discovered thoroughbred racing, he was a racing driver of some ability despite few competition miles.

He took over his father’s 1937 Bentley and was soon competing in the heavy, 4.25-litre six-cylinder, pushrod, twin-SU 120bhp sedan; he was timed at 90.8mph in a 1940 Cowes Speed Trial.

Post-war – still with the cars Martin & King body fitted – he won the Light Car Club’s Peninsula Trial in 1947 overall, and the Boneo Hillclimb within that event. In 1948 he contested the Light Car Club’s Mountain Trial and a Rob Roy Hillclimb.

Rupert Steele after battle at Fishermans Bend (JP Read/VSCC Vic Collection)
Fishermans Bend is the name these days! (Motor Manual Annual)

His serious intent was made clear when he had the Bentley body removed during a Rob Roy Hillclimb weekend in 1949. He competed body-on during the Saturday runs, and raced without it on the Tuesday Melbourne Cup Day! This work was performed by Allan Ashton at one of the most prominent race-preparation ‘shops of the day; AF Hollins in High Street, Armadale, Melbourne.

He raced the Bentley only once, on the occasion shown at Fishermans Bend, in Melbourne’s inner-west, in 1949. It was then game on; he purchased the Alfa Romeo Monza chassis # 2211134 previously raced by great Aussie Ace, Alf Barrett, who was retiring, this car was also prepared by Ashton and his crew.

“Everything was less serious in those days of course. Rupert Steele recalled that despite the lack of racing opportunities he put in quite a bit of practice driving in the Monza on outer Melbourne public roads, for example, driving from Dandenong to Beaconsfield and back at five in the morning.” he told great Australian race-historian Graham Howard.

Super rare shot of Steele in the Alfa Romeo Monza at Rob Roy, Melbourne Cup Day meeting, November 1949. His first three runs got better and better but the fourth was a bit more exciting for he and spectators after a lose up from the Spillway (Tony Johns Collection)
Steele in the Alfa Romeo Monza at Nuriootpa during the 1950 AGP, a most impressive performance from a novice in a demanding GP machine. A pity he retired so early (John Blanden Collection)

Despite his inexperience, he gave Doug Whiteford and his Ford V8 Special, Black Bess, a serious run for their money in the 1950 Australian Grand Prix run on the Nuriootpa roads in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. This event is covered here; 1950 Australian Grand Prix: Nuriootpa, South Australia… | primotipo…

The Bentley lived to fight another day, after the meeting shown its standard body was refitted, so equipped Rupert went into battle with the similarly equipped matrons on the Toorak, South Yarra and Armadale roads.

Rupert Steele was born circa 1921 and died in August 2000. His life of achievement included directorships of some large corporates including Carlton and United Breweries, he was Chairman of the Victorian Racing Club from 1978-1983 and knighted in 1980.

Etcetera…

(Darren Overend Collection)

Bentley chassis B 28 GA “Brand new in Toorak, immediately after importation by Cyril Steele, Rupert’s dad, before being bodied by Martin and King in High Street, Armadale for the 1937 Melbourne Motor Show,” current owner Darren Overend writes.

“The driver is the Steele chaffeur, Arthur Jackson, who was drowned with Cyril in a boating accident (believed the boat capsized in stormy weather) on Port Phillip Bay near the Heads” (the treacherous, narrow entrance of the Bay and Bass Strait – the ocean).

‘Bentley Specials & Special Bentleys’ Ray Roberts (Johns Collection)
(Darren Overend)

Sir Rupert Steele with his old Bentley, looking a little different than it did in his days with it as a racer, Toorak 1995.

Credits…

JP Read photographer-VSCC Victoria Collection, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and others, John Blanden Collection, 1950-51 Motor Manual Australian Motor Racing Yearbook, Tony Johns Collection, Darren Overend Collection

Tailpiece…

(JP Read/VSCC Vic Collection)

That imposing radiator ranging up behind would have scared the lesser ranks into submission, surely! Bentley sedan looks mighty fine as a sports-racer. While it looks the part, mechanicals were standard. Fishermans Bend 1949.

Obiter…

(Motor Manual Annual)

Finito…

Carlo Massola and riding mechanic aboard his works Diatto Type 20 during the April 1922 Targa Florio weekend. DNF after one of four 67 mile laps. #18 is the nose of Giulio Foresti’s Ballot 2LS – a Maroubra visitor in 1925 (BNF)

Formed by 30-year old Guglielmo Diatto in Turin in 1835 as a coach-builder, Fratelli Diatto later morphed to railway engineering in 1864 before (Vittorio and Pietro Diatto, grandsons of Guglielmo) focusing on new-fangled motor automobiles in collaboration with Adolphe Clément in 1905. Its first cars were licensed Clément-Bayard designs, known as Diatto-Cléments.

After Clement’s 1909 departure, Diatto (Societa Anonima Autoscostruzioni Diatto), a major concern of over 500 employees, made its own cars, the 12/15hp Tipo Unico was its most popular pre-War.

After the conflict Diatto built the Giuseppe Coda designed Tipo 20. Powered by a 2-litre SOHC four, it produced 40bhp and was exported globally. With assistance from the Maserati brothers – Alfieri Maserati split his time between his Bologna factory and Diatto in Turin – Diatto produced the short-wheelbase 2-litre, DOHC, 75bhp Tipo 20S Grand Prix car for the 2-litre formula which commenced that year.

Carlo Massola was a FIAT mechanic and test driver before joining Diatto to fill a similar role. He contested the 1922 Targa Florio in a Tipo 20 (or 20S, accounts vary) but failed to finish, as did Domenico Gamboni in the other works car which started; Giulio Masetti won in a 1918 Mercedes GP 18/100.

At the end of the year Massola emigrated to Australia to join the Ongarello brothers’ Diatto Australian agency, based in Melbourne.

He successfully raced his Targa Diatto, and other marques, at Aspendale amongst other venues from 1923, later still he took Australian citizenship. His son Silvo was a noted racer/engineer post-war; HRG, Bugatti and the M.M. Holden are amongst his race/construction credits.

The Ongarellos sold Diatto Tipo 20A’s in rolling chassis form, the most infamous of which was owned by Melbourne’s Roaring Twenties gangster, Joseph ‘Squizzy’ Taylor who was gunned down in a 1927 Carlton shootout (in a Barkly Street terrace, not the Diatto!).

After a succession of financial reconstructions, Diatto ceased car production in 1927 to manufacture other products. In 2007 the Carrozzeria Zagato revived the brand for a concept car displayed at the 2007 Geneva Motor, the Diatto Ottovù Zagato.

I am in the process of researching an article about Carlo inspired by Bob King with the assistance of the Massola family. Carlo’s race record in Australia is pretty clear, his career in Europe is not.

I am keen to hear from any readers, particularly Italians who may have access to race-records in the decade before 1923, to fill in the gaps. Gimme a yell at mark@bisset.com.au if you can assist, many thanks!

Alfieri Maserati and mechanic, Diatto GP305/20S 3-litre four, DNF oil-tank, during the November 1922 268 mile Coppa Florio. Boillot won on Peugeot 174S. Wonderful action, whites of the eyes shot (Wiki-unattributed)

Credits…

Bibliotheque Nationale de France, ‘Diatto’ Sergio Massaro via Bob King Collection, Wikipedia

Tailpiece…

(S Massaro)

Beautiful drawing from the Massaro book showing a race Diatto 20S long-tail. The light-alloy, holey wheels date from 1923.

Finito…

I’ve done this car to death of course, but each time it’s offered for sale the vendor unveils a few more shots, Bonhams are the source of this lot. Shared here coz they are too interesting to waste.

Geordie Anderson checks that her Dunlops are attached securely before the off, XKD526 circa 1956.

The on-circuit shots are at Lowood, and appear to be Ms Anderson too, happy to take your advice as to the meeting date. From memory it will be early after the cars arrival, once Bill Pitt got his hands on it, he kept it to himself. I would have done the same.

See here; https://primotipo.com/2016/03/18/lowood-courier-mail-tt-1957-jaguar-d-type-xkd526-and-bill-pitt/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/10/11/bill-pitt-frank-matich-and-xkd526-take-two/

Credits…

Bonhams

Tailpiece…

XKD526 during its Appendix K GT days at Warwick Farm circa 1961/2.

As ugly as it is, the conversion from curvaceous sporty to fugly coupe is still one of the better ones of that era.

Finito…

(GBCCC)

Bob Jane belting down Mental Straight, his 3-litre straight-six Maserati 300S howling with delight at a high-speed gallop through the Gnoo Blas, New South Wales countryside in October 1959.

What strikes at first-glance is the extreme narrowness of the road.

Man these cars are a hard one to toss as winner in a line-up of the sexiest fifties sports-racers? Lord knows, in that decade there were more contenders than in most. I’ll try and not let my sixties bias intervene in this little jolly.

By October ’59 the Brunswick-brawler had been racing his ex-works #3059 for a year. He was starting to get the hang of it – Lex Davison’s gybes about moving his boat further into Albert Park Lake to ensure his families safety from the ravages of Jano’s driving were at an end.

We’ve done Bob’s 300S before, no point making you suffer again; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/ Gee-whizz, there is this masterpiece on Gnoo Blas too, a bit of a mess, she’s clearly grown like topsy over time but in a most un-savoury kinda-way; https://primotipo.com/2014/08/05/gnoo-who-gnoo-blas-circuit-jaguar-xkc-type-xkc037/

I’ve been to Orange three or four times along the journey but never done a dedicated Gnoo Blas walk – I really must do it. The place has a mystique about it, and is significant in the pantheon of Australian tracks, not least as the first to host an international meeting – the 1955 South Pacific Championship. See here for that one; https://primotipo.com/2020/04/09/1955-south-pacific-championship-gnoo-blas/

(GBCCC)

Bill Murray’s Alfa Romeo Tipo B Alvis leads a bunch of cars during the October ’54 meeting – I’ll take your advice on the following pair.

Murray was timed over the flying-quarter-mile at 134.4mph during this meeting.

Chassis 5002 was raced by Murray to third in the 1952 AGP at Bathurst. First imported to Australia by John Snow for Jack Saywell to race in the ’39 AGP at Lobethal, its race history is a chequered one for another time.

In simple terms, the ex-Scuderia Ferrari Alfa’s engine rebuild was botched in Sydney immediately pre-war. Enroute to Italy for a rebuild, the ship carrying the valuable 2.9-litre straight-eight gurgled to the bottom of an ocean, perhaps after a submarine torpedo attack.

The car raced on post-war, fitted with an Alvis-six , GMC truck engine and Chev V8 before being rescued by Doug Jarvis. He restored it in Adelaide before sale to the UK in the mid-sixties, and multiple owners since.

There is a bit about the car here; https://primotipo.com/2018/12/11/coorong-speed-records/

(GBCCC)

Another pugnacious little dude was Stan Jones.

The path of Australian racing history was changed at Gnoo Blas in 1956.

I’ve had an engine run-a-bearing in a race, which wasn’t impactful in the Formula Vee. Oh-fuck, whatever it is I can’t afford it was my 22-year old thought!

I imagine a rod breaking was more of a Nagasaki-near-the-crutch moment for Stanley when Maybach 3’s lovely SOHC, injected Maybach straight-six grenaded at warp-speed – well over 6,000rpm.

Instantly the car spat him down the road at high speed on its own Mobiloil.

Stan hung onto the car, which evolved into Maybach 4 Chev in Ern Seeliger’s delicate hands. Stan won in it too.

But it was the end of the Maybach Troika which had been so effective since 1951 – Charlie Dean and Repco Research, Maybachs 1,2 and 3, and Jones had been one of the major forces in Formula Libre.

Jones was keen on attractive Italians, he soon had a red Maserati 250F in his Yongala Road, Balwyn garage.

All of the promise was finally delivered with some help from Otto Stone, who prepared the car and seemed to calm Stan down a bit. He became a bit more of a percentage driver, ‘to finish first, ‘yer first have to finish’ and that kinda stuff.

The ’58 Gold Star and ’59 AGP fell to the Jones Boy and his 250F, see here; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

Make no mistake, that phase started at Gnoo Blas with a mighty-blow-up.

Credits…

Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club

Tailpiece…

(GBCCC)

Bert The Builder’s Bridge at Gnoo Blas.

You really would have to ensure your eight-year old didn’t drop his Choc-Wedge or Coke at an inopportune moment.

Commonsense suggests the bridge would not have been used during competition. Mind you, commonsense is an uncommon commodity.

Finito…

Eric Thompson’s works Aston Martin DB3S rounds a right-hander on the Dundrod 7.4 mile road course in Ireland.  September 5, 1953 Tourist Trophy…

The new DB3S had a good day out. The Pat Griffith/Peter Collins and Reg Parnell/Eric Thompson machines finished first and second from the Stirling Moss/Peter Walker Jaguar C-Type in third- to make the Feltham marque’s dominance complete the customer DB3’s of Graham Whitehead/Tony Gaze and Robert Dickson/Desmond Titterington were fourth and fifth.

The winner’s time for the 111 lap, round six of the World Sportscar Championship was just over 9 hours and 37 minutes.

I’ve had a go at the DB3S here; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/28/david-mckays-aston-martin-db3ss/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/11/24/smiths-motor-convention-melbourne-1958/ oh-yes, the DB3 too; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/19/1952-goodwood-9-hours-and-aston-db3/

Credits…

Martin Wainwright

Finito…

(Goldsmith Collection)

Globe Products boss, Dick Bassett, poses in the Mallala paddock on the debut of his new Elfin 400 Ford #BB661, driven by Noel Hurd, on June 13, 1966.

Regular readers will know I’ve slugged away at the Elfin 400, a favourite car, ad-nauseum. See here on the Matich 400 and related; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/28/elfin-400traco-olds-frank-matich-niel-allen-and-garrie-cooper/ and Bob Jane’s 400; https://primotipo.com/2018/04/06/belle-of-the-ball/

It was finding a few shots of the car before and after it took flight at about 140mph going up the hill towards Longford’s Water Tower in March 1967 which piqued my interest again.

The original aero of the four 400s was suss – fatal in Bevan Gibson’s case. Hurd took air at Longford, spinning five times according to onlookers, and miraculously did not damage the car greatly. He was ok but a change of undergarments would have been required. To go off there and not hit a substantial piece of local geography was lucky, to say the least.

Noel Hurd hooks into the Viaduct, Longford 1967. The spot he went off is 700 metes or so back up the road behind him (Y Waite)

 

Longford damage looks superficial but enough to end the weekend early. Changes to body not the work which could be done quickly at the circuit (E French)

After the Longford meeting the car was dropped back to Garrie Cooper. Together with his body specialist John Webb, the front horns were removed and the nose re-profiled and then again tested at Mallala.

When it reappeared at Mallala in June 1967 the machine was powered by the Kevin Drage designed and built Globe-Ford V8.

This DOHC, twin-cam, two-valve, four Weber-fed 366bhp 289cid Ford V8 replaced the 289 pushrod ‘Cobra’ engine first fitted to the 400. More about this project in an article to be published soon.

(G Matthews)

Adelaide’s Keith Rilstone at Mallala after purchase of BB661 in 1969-1970 – note the changes made to the nose.

Sadly, he acquired the car with the pushrod Ford fitted rather than the DOHC unit.

The patterns of that engine were scrapped by a subsequent Sydney owners widow. The completed engine has disappeared from trace, last known probable locale, West Australia. Do get in touch if you can assist in that regard.

Etcetera…

(F Radman Collection)

Magazine cover shows the start of the 1967 South Australian Tourist Trophy won by Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 Spyder from Hurd’s Elfin 400

BB661 as originally built, at Edwardstown, with Ford ‘Cobra’, four Weber 48IDA 289 V8.

(K Drage)

Rear shot at Mallala in June 1966, showing Hewland LG500 four-speed transaxle.

Big muvva of Can-Am gearbox with this little V8, heavier than the more logical DG300 which was just coming onto the market at this time – by then used by Jack Brabham and Dan Gurney in their F1 Brabham BT19 and Eagle Mk1.

(J Lemm)

Noel Hurd getting the hang of his new mount, Mallala, June 1966. Won on debut, although Bob Jane’s second places Jaguar E Type Lwt was hardly a fair-fight of equals.

Credits…

Greg Matthews, Ellis French, Yaya Waite, John Lemm, Ron Lambert, Kevin Drage

Tailpiece…

(K Drage)

South Australian ingenuity, the Kevin Drage designed Globe-Ford 289 V8.

Ford block with twin, chain-driven camshaft, two-valve aluminium cylinder heads fed by four Weber 48IDA carburettors. One of Oz racing’s great mighta-beens.

Finito…

(unattributed)

If the 1938 Australian Grand Prix at Bathurst was our first international event, by virtue of visiting Brits Peter Whitehead and his ERA B Type, and Alan Sinclair, Alta 1,100 s/c, our second international, and first of the modern era, was the South Pacific Championship at Gnoo Blas held in January 1955.

Peter Whitehead liked the place so much he came, saw, and conquered again, just as he did seventeen years before at Mount Panorama, albeit the 1955 field had a bit more depth that of 1938.

Peter and Tony Gaze raced Ferrari 500/625s, Bira a Maserati 250F with the better equipped locals Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 and Jack Brabham’s Cooper T23 Climax. Kiwi’s John McMillan and Fred Zambucka in Alfa Romeo Tipo B and Maserati 8CM respectively came across the ditch but both cars were too long in the tooth as was Tom Sulman’s Maserati

Non starters were Reg Hunt, short of parts for his new Maserati A6GCM, and Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar

Whitehead won from Brabham and Gaze with Joe Murray, Allard Cadillac, Tom Sulman, Maserati 4CM and Curley Brydon, MG TC Spl in fourth to sixth places, I’ve written a feature in this race here; https://primotipo.com/2020/04/09/1955-south-pacific-championship-gnoo-blas/

(Modern Motor)

This shot isn’t kosher, it was staged for Modern Motor magazine but is still a cracker showing the Whitehead Ferrari, Brabham Cooper off to the left and Jack Robinson’s Jaguar Special aft of Peter. Further back is the unmistakable shape of a Bugatti, perhaps the John Hall Holden engined Type 37.

The grid on Huntley Road. From left, Jack Brabham, Cooper T23 Bristol, John McMillan, Alfa Romeo Tipo B, Peter Whitehead, Ferrari 500/625 and Jack Robinson, Jaguar Special (unattributed)

 

(unattributed)

This group of wonderful colour photographs were taken by George Causbrook, an Orange electrician who worked at the time for Tom Barrett, owner/driver of the #97 MG TF.

Barretts Milk was a successful local business with a factory/depot including an airstrip. Causbrook’s family, the Beasleys, made available the shots to the Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club from whom I have shoplifted them, with thanks!

George had a fine eye, his colour shots of this challenging road course help us understand better its nature sixty years after the final Gnoo Blas meeting.

Ted Gray is shown below fussing over his brand new Lou Abrahams owned Tornado 1 Ford, just finished in Gray’s workshop in Melbourne.

By the October Bathurst meeting the team were starting to get the new beast sorted, but a huge accident in practice destroyed the car and came close to killing its plucky driver who took six months to recover from his injuries. See here for Tornado; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

(unattributed)

 

(unattributed)

T Borrer’s VW Beetle entered in the production car race, October 1954 meeting.

The sportscar race grids (October ’54) seemed to be particularly well supported, with T Jordan’s 2.4-litre Riley-engined Healey Silverstone, Austin Healeys, #90 W Kelly and #104 Robert Page Jaguar XK120s in the shot below.

(unattributed)

 

(unattributed)

The ‘pretty boy’ with the Ray Bans in the XK120 is none other than local Cake Shop proprietor Bill Kelly, he would be as in fashion at an historic meeting in 2020 as he was in 1955!

Clearly there was plenty of money in pies and lamingtons in the fifties.

(unattributed)

The great Eldred Norman’s least favourite car was this 1937 Maserati 6CM 1.5-litre six cylinder Voiturette.

Chassis ‘1542’ was originally raced by Franco Cortese throughout 1937, but the going was tough against the dominant ERAs. The machine then made occasional appearances as part of Ciro Basadonna’s various teams both pre and post-war. It was imported to the UK for Gilbey Engineering in 1947, Colin Murray raced it in the UK throughout 1949 and 1950 then brought it to Australia to contest the Narrogin 1951 AGP before its sale to Norman.

When the engine blew shortly thereafter Norman fabricated a steel block and cast detachable bronze heads then cobbled together Fiat 1500 conrods and BSA pistons when Maserati originals were unavailable. Eldred raced it for a year or so before he sold it to Edward David ‘Ted’ McKinnon who finished fifteenth in the 1953 Albert Park AGP.

‘1542’ then passed to Eddie Thomas briefly, before Albury’s Seaton Brothers bought it in poor shape, they solved the engine reliability issues by fitting a Holden Grey six-cylinder unit. In this form Jack Seaton ran it and Ken Cox raced it on the country tracks of Victoria between 1957-1959.

Stephen Dalton places the above shot as during the October 1954 Gnoo Blas meeting with Tom Sulman the driver. Ted Gray was entered but he has been crossed off Stephen’s program and Sulman substituted- well familiar with Maseratis.

The car went through a variety of hands before passing to Doug Jarvis, then some years later to Alf Blight, a talented engineer who did a great job over a decade with its restoration, it left Australia in the early eighties.

(unattributed)

Tom Barrett, now racing a Triumph TR2 during the January 1956 meeting. I wonder if he caught it?

The fences to catch the wayward or unfortunate at ‘Mrs Muttons Corner’, the intersection of what is now Bloomfield and Huntley Roads, are clear and poignant in the context of Ian Mountain’s fatal accident during January 1955.

Stan Coffey, Cooper T20 Bristol, at Windsock Corner ‘due to the location of the old windsock when the Orange Aerodrome was in Jack Brabham Park during October ’54. The picture is looking towards Applebar/Pybar. The area that is now Leewood is in the background to the right, and in the middle of the background one can see what is now Blowes Road when it was dirt!’

Our friend Tom Barrett in the MG TF ‘at what is now the intersection of Huntley Road and Leewood Drive, where the level crossing now is’ and a special entering, the high speed Connaghans corner.

(unattributed)

Mr Barrett and MG TF.

Credits…

Modern Motor, Stephen Dalton

George Causbrook via Deidre and Brett Beasley and the Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club Facebook page

Tailpiece…

Finito…

(unattributed)

The Richard Attwood/David Hobbs Lola Mk6 GT at Le Mans in 1963.

Q22 after dramas with the French scrutineers, and just outside the top-12 at the end of the first hour. The GT’s first pitstop was to rectify a slipping dynamo belt, later there was a two-hour stop to sort Colotti T37 transaxle dramas. Then Hobbs crashed when having trouble engaging third gear on a down-shift into the Chicane.

Eric Broadley built three Mk6 GTs. Their race record was modest given ‘the Mk6 program’, including two of the cars were sold to Ford as part of the deal with Broadley to design the GT40. One of those two cars was taken by Eric in his settlement with Ford upon exit of the program. See here; https://www.hotrod.com/articles/1963-lola-mk6-gt-ford-gt40/

Lola Mk 6 Ford, Monza October 29, 1963. Roy Lunn, Bruce McLaren and John Wyer (B Sundue)

 

Ditto Monza as above (D Friedman)

 

Lola Mk6 GT Ford. Monocoque aluminium chassis, Ford 4.3 and 4.7 litre pushrod OHV V8. Colotti T37 5-speed transaxle, independent suspension and disc brakes (unattributed)

Bruce McLaren and Phil Hill did a million miles at Goodwood testing the Mk6 and GT40. McLaren’s driving fees from Ford and others were important cashflow as Bruce brought together the key elements of what became Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd in the period between the 1963 and 1965 ‘Tasman’ internationals.

McLaren’s race and test miles in the Zerex Spl Climax, then the evolved Bruce McLaren, Wally Willmott and Tyler Alexander chassis’d Cooper Traco-Olds, the Lola Mk6 and then the Ford GT40 must have been deeply informative as the trio considered, and settled on the specifications of their Group 7 McLaren M1 Oldsmobile.

They got it right too. The McLaren-Elva M1A’s sold well and were good, competitive cars even if Eric Broadley’s ‘this is what the blardy GT40 shoulda been’ Lola T70 rained on the McLaren’s parade. Bruce McLaren’s impressions of a T70, if he ever drove one, would be interesting.

Bruce with his M1 outside the Feltham workshop (G Begg)

McLarens opulent facilities today are a far cry from the company beginnings.

The team moved into the 950 square metres of space at Feltham, South London above on July 27, 1964. HQ prior to that was a dirt floor former earth moving shed at New Malden closeby.

Bruce McLaren on the LA Times GP grid qualifying race at Riverside on October 11, 1964. McLaren Automotive claim this race as their first win. I guess that is right. But the accepted dogma is that the McLaren/Willmott designed and built Cooper T70 Climax 1964 Tasman Cup cars were the first McLarens.

If that is the case, I believe it is, then Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd’s first was Bruce’s Cooper T70 victory in the early morning, first preliminary 33 mile heat prior to the January 11, 1964 NZ GP at Pukekohe. He doubled up and won the GP in the afternoon too- from Denny Hulme’s works-Brabham BT4 Climax and Tim Mayer in the other Cooper T70.

(GP Library)

Tim Mayer at the wheel of the first Cooper T70 Climax 2.5 FPF during its first shakedown test at Goodwood in September 1963.

He was extremely quick that southern summer, running up front throughout with the GP drivers present. Mayer was to be a works-Cooper F1 racer that coming season. Sadly, he perished at Longford during practice of the final round. Tim’s story is here; https://primotipo.com/2016/11/18/tim-mayer-what-might-have-been/

(GP Library)

McLaren testing his M1 in late 1964 in what became his signature manner. He conducted his first, very fast systems checks and initial suspension fettling sessions sans bodywork at Goodwood.

And again at Goodwood below after delivery of the M1’s body, built in aluminium by the two-man-band Robert Peel Coachworks guys at Kingston and styled by ex-Specialised Mouldings man Tony Hilder.

See Doug Nye’s piece on the McLaren M1 here; https://www.goodwood.com/grr/columnists/doug-nye/2018/10/doug-nye-the-first-true-mclaren/

(GP Library)

 

McLaren Elva M1A Oldsmobile. Spaceframe chassis. Traco Engineering modded 3.9/4.5-litre pushrod, 310bhp + aluminium V8. Hewland HD 4-speed transaxle. Independent suspension and disc brakes

Credits…

Brian Sundue, ‘Bruce McLaren: Racing Car Constructor’ George Begg, McLaren Cars, Grand Prix Library

Tailpiece…

(W Willmott/G Begg)

Ford test session of the Lola Mk6 at Goodwood in late 1963, shot taken by Wally Willmott. If you can ID the FoMoCo heavies give me a yell.

I wonder whether this session is part of Ford’s due-diligence process pre-Lola purchase or a post-deal session? McLaren’s test and development abilities were rated bigtime by Ford. The Kiwi’s diagnostic capabilities were matched by his capacity to suggest changes to remedy a problem or exploit an opportunity.

McLaren’s key commercial relationship with Firestone, in place just in time for the ’65 Tasman Cup, arose on the recommendation and introduction by Ford. The sign-on fee, free tyres and ongoing testing program were manor-from-heaven for the nascent company and a major contributor to early successes.

Finito…

(MBRL)

Bill Pitt aboard the Geordie Anderson owned Jaguar D Type, perhaps during the March 1956 Strathpine, Queensland meeting.

‘XKD526’ is new. It arrived in Australia in December 1955 initially doing quarter-mile sprints at Strathpine in January 1956 and sprints at Leyburn in February on both occasions driven by Anderson. She did better than 120mph and 132.5mph respectively, the latter a state record.

Pitt took the car over from this Strathpine meeting, it was very kind to him over the next few years. Quite why he is contesting a race together with a little ‘Gunterwagen’ is a mystery one of you with the requisite Australian Motor Sports can perhaps solve!?

Click here for features on XKD526 here; https://primotipo.com/2016/03/18/lowood-courier-mail-tt-1957-jaguar-d-type-xkd526-and-bill-pitt/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/10/11/bill-pitt-frank-matich-and-xkd526-take-two/

Charlie Whatmore, Lotus 11 Climax ahead of Glyn Scott, Holden Special circa 1958 (MBRL)

Queensland’s Strathpine venue was 25km from Brisbane’s CBD, in the 1930s the area comprised farms and a new wartime airstrip as fears of Japanese invasion grew.

The Queensland Motor Sporting Club used its runways for a sprint meeting in 1938 but the place ‘blossomed’ post-war into a race circuit after local ‘Lawnton Garage’ proprietor and racer Snow Sefton saw its potential.

Local legend has it that after his garage closed for the day Snow ‘borrowed’ the Pine Rivers Shire Council’s road-making equipment to convert the airstrip into a dragstrip. ‘Councillors back then all lived out of town and were completely oblivious to Snow and his mates nicking their machinery and the racket they made turning the dusty airstrip into a bona-fide racetrack.’

Click here for a piece about Snow and his cars; https://primotipo.com/2019/04/30/bill-cuncliffe-ford-v8-spl-lowood-1956/

Snow Sefton, Strathpine Ford V8 Spl out front of his local garage (unattributed)

Initial up-and-back events around 44-gallon drums evolved into a small 1.4 mile circuit when the ‘Southern Loop’ was added in 1953 and a chicane in 1955. It was still pretty basic, haybales marked the turns in addition to the forty-fours in a nod to safety…

Only ever a club circuit because of its size and difficulty of racing on Sundays, 1960 was its last season. Lakeside’s construction close-by at Kurwongbah carried the torch forward.

We will come back to something about the place in future which is a bit more fulsome.

(L Manton)

John Aldis’ ex-Peter Whitehead/Stan Jones Cooper T38 Jaguar amongst the Strathpine grass and trees during May 1956. I’m not sure how he went.

This 1955 Le Mans veteran’s most successful Australian phase was when it was raced by Ron Phillips and prepared by Ern Seeliger. Highlight of that period was victory in the June 1959 Australian Tourist Trophy at Lowood, another Queensland airfield circuit.

The car is still in Australia and ‘still in Queensland’! There is a bit about it here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/05/mount-tarrengower-hillclimb/

(L Manton)

Etcetera…

Credits…

MBRL- Moreton Bay Region Libraries, Stephen Dalton, Luke Manton Collection, drive.com.au, Terry McGrath

Finito…

DB, Brabham BT59 Judd EV V8, AGP 1990 (BA)

It was great to see David Brabham race a Brabham in Adelaide during the 1990 Australian Grand Prix, whilst the BT59 Judd looked the goods it was not a great car, and Brabham was hardly the marque it was during the Brabham/Tauranac and Ecclestone eras.

David qualified 25th and failed to finished after spinning off on lap 19, we saw him again in 1994, when he raced a Simtec S941 Ford HB V8 but that simple car, still fitted with a semi-manual gearbox, remember them, was well and truly under-cooked in amongst the Top-Guns.

And that, sadly, turned out to be the end of David Brabham’s time in Formula 1, mind you, he had a great professional race career inclusive of a 2009 Le Mans win aboard a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP in amongst heaps of sportscar and other victories.

In more recent times, after a legal battle of about a decade, he has gained control of the Brabham name and intellectual property and built the awesome Anglo-Australian Brabham BT62 Ford Hypercar, the first of what will hopefully be a long line of racing and road cars. If ever there was a time for ‘Team Australia’ to climb aboard it is now?

DB, BT62 during the Adelaide Motorsport Festival 2019 (InSydeMedia)

Here is the car during the 2019 Adelaide Motorsport Festival, love the circa 1990 Brabham era livery!

When I think of David Brabham in Adelaide it is the 1987 F1 carnival weekend which sticks in my mind. DB won the 15 lap, ANF2 (1.6 litre, SOHC, two-valve, carbs) one-race Gold Star  Championship event from the back of the grid, finishing ahead of a classy 28 car field including most of the top ten placegetters of the six round Formula 2 Championship which concluded a couple of months before.

In more recent times David has made public his motivation for that great drive. In one of those ‘shit happens’ moments of youth, he had ‘potted’ his girlfriend, and as an expectant father, Jack had given DB the ‘that’s the end of your F1 aspirations’ brush off. #3 son’s drive in Adelaide was an ‘I’ll faaarkin show you mate moment’, and man it was really impressive to watch!

I was rooting for Mark McLaughlin’s Elfin 852 VW as an enthusiast of the marque, and watched with amazement from the East Terrace section of the track as he caught and passed the competition hand over fist. It wasn’t his first race on one of the more technical road courses, Brabham was second in the Formula Ford Championship race the year before, and his Ralt RT30 VW was the right bit of kit, but it was an impressive drive all the same. A portent of what was to come.

DB, Ralt RT30 VW, Adelaide 1987 (driving.co.uk)

 

DB Adelaide 1987 (BA)

 

BT62 launch at the Australian High Commision, London (BA)

Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac would chuckle with delight at the pragmatism of the BT62.  The car bristles with the latest in technology in some ways but beneath the sinfully edgy and sexy aerodynamically efficient carbon fibre and kevlar body delivering 1,600 kg of downforce, lurks a good old fashioned multi-tubular spaceframe chassis and a wonderful 5.4 litre modular Ford V8 modified to Brabham Automotive specifications.

Brabham and Tauranac won a couple of world titles in 1966-1967 with engines of relatively modest technical specifications and were still winning Grands Prix with spaceframes in 1969 when a change to regulations requiring ‘bag’ fuel tanks effectively mandated monocoques in F1.

The poverty pack BT62 is priced at US $975K plus taxes, whereas the ducks guts BT62 ‘Ultimate Track Car’ hits the road at a giddy US $1.3M, only proprietors of Chinese Wet Markets should apply. Seventy cars only will be built at Brabham’s new 15,000 square metre facility, at Edinburgh Parks, within parent company Fusion Capital’s complex.

(BA)

 

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The Ford ‘Voodoo’ based, Brabham DOHC, four-valve, fuel injected, flat-plane crank 5.4 litre V8 has a bore/stroke of 94 x 97 mm for a capacity of 5,387 cc giving 700 bhp @ 7,400 rpm and 492 lb/ft of torque. This lot hits the road via a six-speed sequential Holinger transaxle. Suspension front and rear is by way of push-rod actuated upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/dampers with adjustable roll bars at both ends. Brakes are carbon/carbon and carbon/ceramic for race/road.

BT62 has enormous, menacing presence, it is 4,460 mm long, 1,950 mm wide, 1,200 mm high and weighs 972 kg with a weight distribution of 41/59% front/rear.

Brabham delivered its first competition BT62 to Horsepower Racing in the UK in May 2019 to contest the Britcar Endurance Championship, in a wonderful start for the machine it won its first race from pole driven by David Brabham and Will Powell at Brands Hatch last November 9. Great stuff!

(BA)

 

(BA)

There is something wonderful about Brabhams being built in Adelaide’s Edinburgh Parks, only a kilometre or so from Holden’s closed Elizabeth factory. The city has a long history of automotive engineering and manufacturing excellence with such famous/prominent companies as Elfin Sports Cars, Clisby Engineering, Birrana Cars, Globe Products, ASP and many others building racing cars and components since the earliest days of motoring in Australia.

Without drawing too long a bow in making an historic connection between Brabham and Adelaide, Clisby Engineering in Prospect manufactured the 1967-1970 30, 40, 50, and 60 series cylinder heads for the range of Repco-Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. racing V8s, including those used on the ‘740’ engines which won the 1967 world F1 championships.

Ooops, forgot! Jack’s first national championship speedway win was at Kilburn Speedway on 25 February 1949, 9 km from Adelaide’s GPO, so lets take the Adelaide/Brabham connection as a given.

Fusion Capital, the Brabham Automotive parent company, is based in Waymouth Street, Adelaide, they position themselves as ‘a partner of investors and small business’ and operate in three business sectors; advanced manufacturing and renewables, property and private equity.

Brabham Automotive’s brothers in the advanced manufacturing and renewables division are Precision Buses, Precision Components, a manufacturer of pressed metal and fabricated components, and Heliostat, a business which makes heliostats, mirrors which turn to reflect light in solar energy applications.

(BA)

 

(BA)

Hopefully Fusion Capital has a balance sheet of sufficient strength to allow Brabham to complete the construction of the seventy BT62s in their business plan as the first step of a process which will establish the company as a manufacturer of road and racing cars with a return to F1 at some point.

It is amusing to hear of ScoMo’s mob’s recent interest in the manufacturing sector given the final act of automotive sodomy which destroyed the motor industry was performed by Tony Abbott, a knuckle-dragging, towering monument to intellectual and leadership bankruptcy. In truth the seeds of the industries ultimate failure were established at birth, that is, a total lack of Australian ownership and therefore control. Generational management failure, union and head office greed, governments of both stripes applying economic rationalism since 1972 (and I’ll fess up to supporting such policies) without any ‘societal good’ over-ride and our high dollar did the rest.

The ongoing success of Bolwell in Mordialloc, who have navigated the travails of manufacturing in Australia with nimble skill since the sixties, 35 year old (yes!) Borland Racing Developments closeby, Geelong’s ‘Carbon Revolution’ wheel maker, and now Adelaide’s Brabham Automotive give great cause for optimism in the weird world in which we live, long may these enterprises prosper.

(BA)

Etcetera…

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Credits…

Fairfax, Adelaide GP FB page, driving.co.uk, InSydeMedia, Getty Images, BA-Brabham Automotive, Fusion Capital

Tailpiece…

(BA)

Match race between David Brabham’s BT62 and Matt Hall in a Zivco Edge 540 V3 aircraft, during the Adelaide Motorsports Festival in 2019.

Finito…