Archive for the ‘Sports Racers’ Category

(B Harmeyer)

Brian Redman’s Carl Haas Racing Lola T332CS Chev awaits the off at Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada 12 June 1977…

That’s Jim Hall in the Texan hat and you can just see a glimpse of Brian’s driving suit to the far left of the photo. Randy Lewis’ Shadow in front of the Lola I think. Redman was the ‘King of 5 Litre Racing’ in the US having won the American F5000 championship from 1974 to 1976 aboard Lolas- T332, T332/400 and T332C respectively.

When I first spotted Bob Harmeyer’s photo, I thought, ‘what a beauty, I can do something with that pit scene’. Then I looked a bit closer at the date and venue and realised it was the weekend Brian came close to meeting his maker-it was not the only ‘biggie’ in his career either.

Its the very first race meeting of the single-seat 5 litre Can Am formula- Brian and his Lola are about to indulge in some involuntary aviation, the landing sub-optimal in comparison to takeoff.

Carl Haas in the blue shirt and Brian Redman (who is the other Shadow bloke?) in the Mid Ohio pits, August 1975. #1 is Brians T332 ‘HU45’, #48 Vern Schuppan’s Eagle 755 Chev- Brian won from Al Unser and David Hobbs aboard T332’s, Vern was 5th (unattributed)

With F5000 on the wane a bit, in part due to the dominance of the Lola T330/332, it was decided to spruce up the show by creating a single-seat Can Am series for 5 litre cars- in essence F5000 in drag.

Gordon Kirby wrote about that first single-seat Can Am season in the June 2010 issue of MotorSport- ‘The death of the old Can-Am left the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) with Formula 5000 as its primary series. For a few years the American F5000 championship was pretty healthy, attracting big fields and top drivers like Mario Andretti, Al Unser Sr, Jody Scheckter and Brian Redman, who won the title for three consecutive seasons in Carl Haas and Jim Hall’s Lola-Chevrolets. But the SCCA and its promoters longed for the return of full-bodied Can-Am cars.

Burdie Martin ran the SCCA’s professional racing department in those days and says the series wouldn’t have come together had it not been for Haas. “Carl had sponsorship for his team from First National City Bank,” says Martin. “But he also talked them into sponsoring the series and, of course, thanks to Eric Broadley and Lola he provided the cars to make it happen. I talked to Carl and said we could make these 5000s into closed-wheel cars and call it Can-Am. I said it wouldn’t cost a lot of money and the cars were out there. We could add the 2-litre cars because there’s a lot of them around and they’re not that much slower. That would fill out the field. So Carl and I got on the phone and called some people, and all of a sudden we were putting a programme together.’

Team VDS Lola T333CS ‘HU2’ with standard Lola bodywork- albeit with the front wing added by the team- see text below

‘The SCCA’s last-minute decision to replace F5000 with the closed-wheel, single-seat ‘new era’ Can-Am didn’t inspire much confidence, or interest, from the racing industry. All the uncertainty surrounding the new series meant few teams were ready for the start of the 1977 season. In fact, Haas/Hall was the only Can-Am team able to do any serious pre-season testing and it quickly learned that the new nose for the enclosed wheels didn’t produce enough downforce. The team designed and built its own replacement, which incorporated an F5000 nose in place of the flat, cow-catcher nose of Lola’s T333CS ‘conversion kit’. The result was a car that looked more like an F5000 car with fenders rather than a sports/racer’.

Redman aboard his T332CS- note comments above in relation to the cars body/aero compared with the standard Lola body kit on Peter Gethin’s car above (Harmeyer)

‘Most Lola customers had installed the conversion kit on their F5000s and were pretty upset when Haas/Hall rolled out its unique car in first practice for the opening Can-Am race at St Jovite in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains. But it soon turned out that in some circumstances even the Haas/Hall aerodynamic package wasn’t up to the job.

In the middle of St Jovite’s backstraight was a humpbacked rise over which the Can-Am cars of Paul Hawkins and Hugh Dibley had taken flight in 1966. Ditto Jackie Oliver in 1970. In afternoon practice Elliott Forbes-Robinson became the first driver to fly a new-era Can-Am car through the air when his flipped as he tried to go over the hump on full throttle. Miraculously, the car cartwheeled through 360 degrees and landed upright on all four wheels. Forbes-Robinson jumped unscathed from the wreckage.

Later that day Brian Redman had a much more serious accident. Redman’s car did a violent backflip, landing upside-down and leaving him unconscious and in a critical condition with a broken left collarbone, a cracked sternum, two broken ribs and a fractured vertebra in his neck. Redman lay heavily sedated in hospital for a week while the swelling and contracting of his brain’s epidermis ran its course and his doctors assessed the damage to his brain and nervous system.’

Harmeyer’s shot of Redman’s car back in the paddock. The Lola aluminium monocoque has stood up to the impact remarkably well, look closely tho- the roll over hoop is gone, torn off/flattened in the huge physics upon landing. Redman a very lucky boy (B Harmeyer)

‘Deeply shaken by Redman’s accident, the Haas/Hall team withdrew from the race and headed home. With the three-time F5000 champion in hospital, a makeshift chicane was installed before the backstraight hump.’

Redman recalled that ‘…the roll bar broke and my head went down on the road. My helmet was worn away on each side. But as the car rolled off the track onto the surrounding land, it landed on its wheels, which was a good job. Because my heart had stopped and the track doctor was a heart specialist- he got that going again. And then on the way to the hospital the ambulance blew a tyre!’

Tom Klausler in the Schkee DB1 Chev at Road America in August. Truly wild coupe like so many cars in this series Lola T332 based (oldracingcars.com)

The Mont Tremblant race was run in half wet, half dry conditions and was won Formula Atlantic standout Tom Klausler driving the unique Schkee coupé, a quite sensational looking Lola-based car built by veteran Can-Am builder Bob McKee. Unfortunately the little team didn’t have the money to race or develop the car and ceased to exist by the seasons end.

Haas/Hall missed the next race at Laguna Seca whilst they looked after Brian’s needs and sought another driver to replace their pilot of the previous near half-decade.

Brian in the Mont Tremblant pitlane, not sure of the chassis number of his T332CS. Randy Lewis Shadow DN4B Dodge # 00 alongside. The car behind the Shadow looks like a T332CS with ‘standard Lola body’ but am not sure which car (B Harmeyer)

During practice in California there were more problems with ‘Cessna 180’s as Aussie F5000 ace, Warwick Brown’s VDS Lola T333CS took off going over the fast brow beyond the pits.

Brown- already a ‘Lola Limper Club’ member by virtue of a T300 F5000 accident at Surfers Paradise in early 1973 broke both legs in the big accident. Teammate Peter Gethin, a vastly experienced driver with an Italian Grand Prix victory amongst his many credits withdrew from the race until a proper solution could be found. Clearly the aero treatment was ‘unresolved’, as the lawyers would put it.

Tambay in the Haas Lola T333CS Chev ‘HU6’ on the way to a win at Mosport on 21 August 1977 (B Cahier)

Kirby- ‘Haas signed up-and-coming French driver Patrick Tambay to replace Redman. A smooth, fluid driver and a gentleman too, Tambay won six of the seven Can-Am races he started in 1977, all from pole, and easily claimed the championship. “I was also doing my rookie F1 season with Ensign, so I had a lot of miles under my belt that year, not only aeroplane miles but driving miles,” he recalls. “The Can-Am car had a lot of power, gave good grip and was a good tool to do mileage to make me sharp for my F1 ride. My Can-Am successes helped me build a strong confidence.”

Back to Brian. As we all know Redman was a racers-racer with several successful comebacks- that he did in 1981 driving a Lola T600 Chev. The Cooke-Woods run car won the IMSA GTP championship on top of the 24 Hours of Daytona, a classic Brian won at the seasons outset together with Bobby Rahal and Bob Garretson in a Porsche 935 K3.

The Redman/Sam Posey Lola T600 Chev during the Road America 500 miles in 1981, 2nd (M Windecker)

Credits…

Bob Harmeyer, Bernard Cahier, Getty Images, oldracingcars.com, Mark Windecker, MotorSport magazine article by Gordon Kirby 2010

Tailpiece: Calm before the storm, Mont Tremblant…

Finito…

What a couple of pert, perky, taut little tooches!? I do like a finely formed little rump, the Lotus Elan and Jag E Lwt, two of the tightest…

Its Leo Geoghegan chasing Bob Jane through Hell Corner for the blast up Bathurst’s Mountain Straight, I’ve my money on the punch of the Jag’s mid-range torque not to forget its beefy top end over the delicate little Elan. Timeless, twin-cam designs both.

I’ve written about these blokes often enough for international readers to know they were both prominent Australian champions- Bob best known for exploits in touring cars and Leo in open-wheelers. Here they are on ‘neutral ground’, sportscars, during the Easter meeting in April 1965.

Jane got the better of Leo in both the 5 lap preliminary and 13 lap NSW Production Sportscar Championship, winning both races from the Sydneysider, top speeds of the cars were 147.05 and 142.85 mph (Elan) on Conrod Straight.

I notice Bob’s Jag has a Victorian number plate. The successful businessman lived just off Kew Boulevard in Melbourne’s leafy inner east, no doubt it got some exercise on that marvellous stretch of road from time to time. I’ll get around to an article on Jano’s E Type one day, for now enjoy these shots of a couple of great sixties sporties.

Credits…

autopics.com.au, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Tailpiece: Leaning into Hell Corner…

 

 

(oldracephotos/King)

Bob Jane, Elfin 400 Repco, during the Longford Tasman round in 1967. Sweet Repco V8 music @ 7000 rpm flat out in fifth gear…

Idle moments in front of the Teev provide a male multi-tasking opportunity, looking for ‘that shot’ which inspires an article. Breathing, lookin’ at the telly and searching for photographic inspiration simultaneously- three things at once, my girlfriend can scarcely believe it.

There are some cars which are more prolific in terms of the number of photos in circulation though, usually for the same reasons. That is, they are sensational to look at, were race winners and in Australia raced nationally over a number of years and therefore every ‘snapper in the country, both professional and amateur has had a crack at them- and, kindly, circulated said photos on that internet thingy for us all to enjoy!

So…

In the decade from 1960 to 1970’ish there are several cars which are prevalent as defined above- Pete Geoghegan’s second Mustang, Allan Moffat’s Mustang Trans Am, Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco, Frank Gardner/Kevin Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’, Frank Matich Matich SR3’s and Bob’s Elfin 400.

Delivery of the new 400 to the Bob Jane team, Elfins Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown factory, Adelaide in late 1966. The factory was not flash but the sense of history and those who had been there before was palpable when I inspected my humble Crusader Elfin Vee mid-build in the early nineties. From a modest place did some amazing cars originate (B Mills)

I’ve already done the Elfin 400 to death really…

But there are just too many wonderful photos of Bob’s car not to do this article which I originally intended to be pictorial.

One long previous article was specifically about Frank Matich’s Elfin 400 Olds aka the Traco Olds, the first completed. That piece also covered at somewhat laborious length the design and development of the car, here ‘tis;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/28/elfin-400traco-olds-frank-matich-niel-allen-and-garrie-cooper/

The other was another lengthy tome, mainly about Hume Weir circuit but it also included a piece within it on Bob’s car, the third 400 built, click here;

https://primotipo.com/2016/05/06/hume-weir/

Bob Jane in one of his first runs, the first race meeting?, Warwick Farm Tasman round in 1967. Top gun that weekend Niel Allen in his Elfin 400 Chev (J Ellacott)

Elfin 400 Repco ‘BB67-3’ was raced by some mighty fine drivers whilst owned by Bob, here is the man himself during the Warwick Farm Tasman round in February 1967…

Jane raced it, so too did 1966/7 Australian Gold Star Champion Spencer Martin. Lets not forget Melbourne up and comer Ian Cook had some drives in 1968, he sadly lost his life at Sandown in 1973 in an ex-Bob Jane Racing machine too. And another young charger, Bevan Gibson took the wheel in 1969, and soon lost his life in it at Bathurst during the 1969 Easter Meeting.

What changed the direction of the article was re-discovery of my copy of ‘Gentleman John Harvey’, the biography on Harves which has some great first-hand material about Bevan by both Bob Jane and John Harvey. I couldn’t find the book when I wrote the Matich Elfin 400 piece, which would have been the right place for its contents, but given the limited print run of Tony McGirr’s book I thought getting these perspectives out there and more readily accessible worthwhile.

In researching Ian Cook i made contact with Grant Twining who owns the Devione Ford, a car raced by Ian. Grant was able to provide some much needed detail to flesh out his story- many thanks to him.

This 400 is significant in Repco Brabham Engines history too as it was fitted with the first customer, as against works engines provided to Jack Brabham. It was a 4.4 litre ‘RB620 Series’ V8.

Ken Hastings aboard the rebuilt ‘BB67-3’ at Sandown on the fast left drop to Dandenong Road circa 1970. Note the change to the bodywork at front and addition of a rear wing. Unguarded horse racing fencing an ever present danger back then. It’s practice by the look, the Pat Crea VW Beetle and ‘Chocolates’ David Robertson Ford Capri V8 sports sedans in the distance (L Hemer)

After the Gibson Bathurst tragedy the car was acquired by Melbourne racer Ken Hastings who rebuilt it. The car passed through several hands over the years before being bought by Elfin enthusiast/racer Bill Hemming, well known to Australians for the Elfin Heritage Centre which houses his collection of cars including ‘BB67-3′.

http://www.elfinheritage.com.au/

The car was rebuilt around a new chassis some years back albeit the very much shagged original frame remains ‘part of the package’- that is the CAMS ‘Certificate Of Description’ recognises the existence of the second chassis precluding the possibility of a ‘B Car’ being built. A neat solution I thought- history and safety are recognised.

Bob Jane leads Spencer Martin and the Elfin 400 Repco at Hume Weir, Queens Birthday meeting in June 1967. John Sawyer in the blue shirt behind, blue car is ex-Jones/Phillips et al Cooper Jaguar  (M Leirsch)

Elfin 400 Technical Specifications…

Lets cover the cars technical specs in brief as it’s covered in detail in the first of the articles referenced above.

The 400 was the third series of sports cars Garrie Cooper and his band of merry men in Edwardstown built. The first were the front engined ‘Streamliners’, the very first Elfins, then came the Clubman and later the mid-engined small-bore Mallala.

The 400 Series sporties were the first ‘big bangers’ he had built, a trip to the UK before he progressed the design too far got him up to speed with what was happening in Europe. The Group 5 Ford GT40 and Group 7 Lola T70, McLaren Elvas and Chaparral’s were the standout cars at the time for different reasons.

Rare colour shot of the Jane 400 in the paddock, date uncertain. Suspension as per text, note the wide based upper wishbone, magnesium uprights and solid Girling brake rotors. See the shot below, car now has a more substantial, but unbraced roll bar (S Lambert)

Whilst Garrie was building his first monocoque chassis car, the single-seater F3/F2/ANF 1.5 Type 100 very successful ‘Mono’ he decided an appropriately stressed multi-tubular spaceframe chassis would do the trick for the sportscar. After all, Ferrari were still winning plenty of races so equipped and the Australian market was conservative, a spaceframe was easier to maintain and to repair ‘in the field’ than a monocoque. Such a design could accommodate different engines he knew customers would want to fit to the cars. The frame was of square, round and oval section tubes, the aluminium undertray was stressed as were subsidiary bulkhead panels

Four chassis were built- first completed was the Matich ‘BB66-2’ which used a Traco Olds V8, then came the Globe Engineering ‘BB66-1’ a pushrod and later DOHC small-block Ford powered car,  Jane’s ‘BB67-3’ received a Repco ‘RBE620’ 4.4 litre V8 and ‘BB67-4’, originally owned by Andy Buchanan a big block Chev.

Bolted to these engines were various Hewland transaxles; HD4 for the Matich car LG500 for the Globe and Buchanan cars and DG300 for Jane’s.

Superb early 1967 shot of the Jane car. Engine is the first customer Repco engine delivered. Repco ‘RB620 Series’ 4.4 litre SOHC, 2 valve, Lucas injected V8, circa 400 bhp @ 7000 rpm. ‘620’ is the Olds F85 modified block and first series crossflow heads- this design was the 1966 F1 championship winning design in 3 litres capacity. Note the tubes to the chassis, oil dry sump to the right. Fuel tank capacity 28 gallons- with the option of more. Array of Smiths and Stewart Warner instruments, see chassis plate on dash left and vestigial roll bar- soon altered to a higher and full width hoop albeit unbraced. Simply superb bit of kit (S Lambert)

Suspension was period typical. At the front by upper and lower wishbones with coil spring/Armstrong shocks. Uprights were cast magnesium, adjustable roll bars were fitted with rack and pinion steering.

At the rear, beautiful cast magnesium uprights were used, inverted lower wishbone, single top link and two radius rods, again with coil springs and Armstrong shocks. Roll bars were again adjustable.

Wheels, cast magnesium Elfin jobbies, were 15 inches diameter, 10 inches wide at the front and 12 inches at the back. Owners progressively increased the amount of rubber on the road appreciably over the coming years in accordance with the incredible advances in tyre technology at the time.

Brakes were Girling alloy ‘BR’ calipers with the rotors 12 inches  in diameter at the front and 11 inches at the rear. The bodywork was designed in house, as you will see in the various articles the ‘aero’ of the car was far from ‘fully resolved’ when completed.

Bob Jane aboard his 400 in 1968 (T Parkinson)

And they say Enzo Ferrari kept his drivers on their toes! So too it seems did RF Jane…

It was only in gathering the photos of the 400 that I realised how many fellas drove the 400 in a short period of time.

Bobs race team plans were changed suddenly when Spencer Martin decided to retire having won the second of his Gold Stars with Bob in 1967- they won two on the trot in 1966-7 using Bob’s Brabham BT11A Coventry Climax.

Spencer Martin had this to say about the 400 ‘What caused the accident (to Gibson) was an aerodynamic design fault with the car. I had driven the car in ’67. It was the quickest thing around at that stage. It had a 4.4 litre Repco V8 in it, and was very, very quick. But the aerodynamics on the car were not right. Unfortunately, Bevan paid for it with his life.’

Martin then commented about seeing the sportscars on circuit at Longford in 1967 when Bob Jane raced the 400. Spencer ran the Brabham BT11A and was therefore on hand to watch the sportscars practice.

Noel Hurd in the Globe Products owned Elfin 400 Ford became airborne at high speed during practice, mowing down a row of fence posts after spinning several times but leaving the driver unhurt. ‘It was an Elfin 400, and I saw them coming down the long straight at Longford, in Tasmania. I wasn’t at all happy with the aerodynamics of the car. Looking back I think I was very fortunate. If I hadn’t retired I would probably have been in that car’ (at Bathurst Easter 1969)

Whilst testing the Elfin at Calder early in 1967 Martin was circulating in 44.2 secs, nearly a second under Niel Allen’s lap record in his 400.

Shell boys at Warwick Farm in 1966: Jane, Kiwi Jim Palmer, Harvey and Jackie Stewart- quite an array of talent, champions all (WF)

John Harvey had shown what he was made of in the RRC Phillips owned Brabham BT14 Repco- so Bob hired Harvey, (born 1938) bought the BT14 and popped the Repco engine from it into the back of the BT11A and off they went to contest the ’68 Tasman Australian rounds.

The logic was that the F2 BT14 chassis wasn’t man enough for the Repco, whereas the older ‘Intercontinental’ BT11A was. Harvey did the Hordern Trophy late ’67 in the car, Climax engined before the Repco for Coventry Climax engine swap was performed. Harvey’s ‘compare and contrast’ of engines in that chassis would be interesting. As Australians know Harves was Bobs ‘main man’, his contracted driver from then right through until Frank Gardner returned to Australia in 1974- joining Jane for 1975.

John Harvey on Warwick Farm’s pit straight during the 1968 Warwick Farm 100 meeting. DNF gearbox in Janes BT11A ‘IC-4-64’ Repco. Clark won in a Lotus 49 DFW. The Brabham was and is a famous car- first owned by David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce and raced in the ’64 Tasman successfully by Graham Hill it was then raced by Martin to two Gold Star wins. Still owned by Jane and restored to CC engined form (autopics.com.au)

Early in his time with Bob John had a bad accident at Easter Bathurst 1968 when an upright in the near new Brabham BT23E broke hospitalizing him for some while with a recuperation period even longer. His first meeting post accident was at Warwick Farm later in 1968. It was a meeting John was glad to get behind him as his eyesight, fine early in the day, had a bit of double-vision later as the day wore on.

Naturally on Jane’s part, if not Harvey’s, there may have been a question about him racing again after an accident Jane said could have been fatal. He needed another driver until Harves was fit.

Jane in the Longford pits in 1967, nice rear view of the 400 Repco (E French)

Ignoring the touring cars/sports sedans to focus on the cars which matter, Harvey raced the BT11A, then the ex-Brabham ’68 2.5 Tasman BT23E Repco, the Rennmax built Jane Repco 2.5, Brabham BT36 Waggott 2 litre and finally the Bowin P8 Repco Holden F5000. He raced the McLaren M6B Repco sportscar from 1969, with Bob. He drove the Elfin 400 only once and had this to say about it.

Bob drives and Harves carries the booty. McLaren M6B Repco, they have just won the final round of the 1972 Australian Sportscar Championship at Symmons Plains on 12 November- Harvey won 5 of the 6 rounds that year. Sex on wheels (oldracephotos.com)

‘I drove that Elfin only once and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all. It was the sort of car that probably I could have been persevered with, and make it work properly. Or, at least to suit me. Maybe other drivers, including Bevan, were quite happy with it. But I certainly wasn’t. And that was the result of only driving it one time. I didn’t like it so I never drove it again’.

So, the 400 seems to be the car which Jane, who also raced it a lot, shared around a bit.

Ian Cook, Elfin Mono Ford, Calder 1967 (autopics.com.au)

 Ian Cook was a Melbourne boy (born 1941) who made a name for himself in single-seaters winning the Victorian Lucas Davison Series in 1.5 litre Elfin Monos in 1966 and 1967…

He drove an ex-Granton Harrison Mk1 in ’66 and in Garrie Cooper’s prototype Mk2 in 1967. This chassis was the car which Alf Costanzo drove the wheels off and shot to prominence after sold to him by Cook.

Ian, in addition to his Elfin raced Melbourne car owner Tony Osborne’s Argo Chev sportscar in 1967, no doubt his skill behind the wheel of this Cooper derived sporty, a far less sophisticated machine than the 400, was instrumental in him joining the Jane organisation in late 1967.

Ian Cook, Elfin 400 Repco on the Longford dummy grid in 1968. Car now has seat belts. Notice the different injection trumpets on the engine from the earliest 1967 shots

His first drive of the Elfin 400 was at Calder in January 1968, taking 2 wins. The Jane team then took the car to the Bathurst Easter meeting in 1968, together with the BT23E crashed by Harvey in practice.

Bob and Ian were both down to drive the 400 but must have had problems with it in practice as it failed to start any of the events, certainly Cook drove it in practice. Or perhaps John’s serious accident was enough to ‘up sticks’ for the weekend. Their experiences in the 400 that weekend would have been interesting given the sad events which were to transpire 12 months hence.

(R MacKenzie)

Grant Twining reports that Ian Cook was the quickest of all the Elfin 400 drivers who raced the cars at Longford- Matich (noting the advance in tyres between 1966 and 1968) Jane and Noel Hurd. The photo above is of the front row of the ’68 Longford Tasman sportscar support race- #5 Peter Macrow in the Argo Chev vacated by Cook, Ian in the 400 and Chris Amon on pole in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/CanAm 350. Amon took the win, am keen to know the placings.

Four months later Jane won the Victorian Sportscar title at Winton in the 400 after Niel Allen retired his Elfin 400 Chev with a split gearbox housing.

After the Tasman BT23E was repaired Cook raced the car at the Lakeside, Gold Star round in July for 4th place. He doesn’t appear to have had another steer of the car, which is unfortunate.

Allan Moffat then raced the BT23E at the Sandown Gold Star round, bending it. More of that shortly.

The first race after repair of the BT23E was in John Harvey’s hands, at Warwick Farm in a support race late in 1968. His first championship steer was at the Sandown Tasman round in February 1969. John had engine dramas and failed to finish the race won by Chris Amon’s Ferrari Dino 246T. Amon also took the Tasman title that year.

Cook aboard the 400 at Hume Weir in 1968 (unattributed)

Ian Cook and Footscray Service Station proprietor, racer, ace machinist and later Brabham expert Denis Lupton were old friends.

Lupton ‘spannered’ Cook’s two Elfin Monos with great success. When the Jane drive came to an end they were keen to buy a Brabham BT23 to run in ANF2 but could not afford to do so. So the pair built the ‘Devione’, a car which took the BT23 track and wheelbase dimensions but was otherwise Lupton’s own design and build.

Ian was a skilled sheet-metal fabricator, between the two mates they had all the skills and experience to build a beautiful car. The spaceframe chassis used F2 Matra MS5 front and rear cast magnesium uprights. A Lotus/Ford twin-cam engine and Hewland 5 speed transaxle completed the cars major specifications.

The car was raced by both men, Cook doing the more ‘senior events’ inclusive of some Gold Star rounds whilst Lupton did club events. The car was built and then raced in the 1968-72 period.

Around 1970 Cook, a talented development engineer moved to Adelaide to join Chrysler, to assist Leo Geoghegan with the road and race development of the Valiant ‘VF’ Pacer, a four door sedan which was proposed to contest the showroom stock, ‘Group E Series Production’ racing which was booming at the time.

Cook was involved in establishing the Pacers road going specification, ensuring a nice balance of engine and braking performance and sorting ride heights, shock absorber settings and roll bars to get the right blend of handling, safety and performance. The first test of these cars was at Sandown in June 1969 during a 12 Hour record setting day.

Niel Allen’s Chev engine 400 ahead of Cook in Jane’s Repco engine variant during the 1968 Warwick Farm Tasman round. They are attacking The Esses. Results folks? Note the different noses on the cars (oldracephotos.com)

Into 1969 the Elfin 400 drive was Bevan Gibson’s, with John Harvey racing the Brabham BT23E and McLaren M6B, the latter with Bob.

Janes Brabham BT36 (BT30-27 was a late build BT30 to BT36 specifications) was raced only sporadically by John Harvey. 2 litre Waggott powered, it was a jewel of a machine but arrived in amongst the F5000’s and too late for the 1971 Gold Star series in which he could have given Max Stewart and Kevin Bartlett a ‘good shake’ at the title Max won.

Bob Jane Racing sold the car less engine to Lupton and Cook who owned it in partnership. They converted it to ANF2 form by the simple fitment of a Lotus/Ford 1.6 litre circa 200bhp engine. The car was to be shared by the friends as before with the Devione.

Lupton withdrew from the arrangement with Ian when he needed to raise some cash to care for one of his young children who needed hole-in-the-heart surgery.

On a cold, wet, foggy Sandown practice day Ian was being looked after by some ‘stand ins’ rather than his usual crew including Lupton- who was dealing with family matters.

Grant Twining, the owner of the Devione and a confidant of Lupton says their theory is that the Brabham’s tyre pressures were probably incorrectly set too low. During practice for the June 1973 meeting the car lost a tyre from a rim, slid into one of the Shell, over the circuit sign, concrete supports, killing him instantly.

A Melbourne driver, his is a story which deserves to be told in full. Suffice it to say, a fine engineer, competitor and man died way too young in very unfortunate circumstances.

Ian Cook accepting the plaudits of the unruly but respectful! Warwick Farm crowd, February 1968. Elfin 400 Repco (D Harney)

Most of us think of Allan Moffat (born 1939) and Janey as arch rivals which they undoubtedly were.

The droll, deadpan, Canadian ‘Marvin’ played the ‘Baddie Role’ so well, it was easy as a kid to dislike him as much as you liked his car! The Trans Am Mustang that is.

But not long after he returned from his successful sojurn of several years in the US, in 1968 he had a couple of drives for Bob- ‘Stuffing the nose of the 400 into the fence and hay-bales at The Causeway at Warwick Farm, and at the following Sandown he had a more comprehensive issue with the Brabham’ (BT23E) wrote journalist Ray Bell. The meeting Bell referred to was the September 1968 Gold Star round, the car, crashed in practice, did not start the race.

400 in the Longford paddock Tasman round, February 1968. Jim McKeown’s Lotus Cortina Mk2 alongside (D Cooper)

I’ve never seen any photos of Moffat aboard either car. Please share them if you have any Instamatic happy-snaps or better!

Moffat didn’t cover himself with glory it seems, not that it impacted his career trajectory! Factory Ford Series Production rides and the Trans Am were both happy 1969 events for both Moffat and we fans. What a ride he gave us all!?

Hume Weir front row of the sportscar feature, Queens Birthday weekend June 1967. Alan Hamilton’s white Porsche 906 Spyder, Spencer Martin in the Jane Elfin 400 Repco and nearside Bevan Gibson Lotus 15 Climax (M Leirsch)

Bevan Gibson (born 1946) I wrote about not so long ago in the article about the ex-Derek Jolly Lotus 15 which Bevan drove to within an inch of its life, bringing himself to the attention of Jane and others. Click here for a link to my article about the Lotus 15.

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

Gibson really was an interesting prospect- considerably younger than all of the other drivers. At 22 he was aboard one of the fastest cars in the country- also a tricky one. I’m not suggesting Bevan was in over his head. He had plenty of experience in the 200 plus bhp Lotus 15 and had done some laps in the BT11A Repco during 1968 ‘with a strict rev limit’ to be observed whilst driving the circa 280bhp single-seater.

Pre driving deal. The Shell contracted Bob Jane Elfin Mono Ford alongside the Shell contracted Gibson family owned Lotus 15 Climax, perhaps at Calder, date unknown (unattributed)

Whilst racing the family Lotus 15 Climax Bevan worked in the workshop of Jane’s Chrysler Valiant Dealership in Sydney Road, Brunswick. The racing department was in the same premises.

Spencer Martin had been staying with Bob at his place in Kew, just off the Kew boulevard, a well known and challenging ‘racetrack’ then. Bob suggested he move out into a place of his own- sharing with Bevan, the pair ‘shacked up’ in a unit at Princes Park (Carlton) organised by Bob, the arrangement ran from 1966-7, at which point Spencer retired from racing and returned to his Sydney hometown.

Bevan Gibson having a steer of Bob Jane’s Brabham BT11A Climax in August 1968 (unattributed)

Its interesting looking at the history, the connection to the Gibson family via Hoot Gibson, Bevan’s employment by the Jane Organisation, and ‘batching’ with Martin that Cook got the 400 drive in early 1968 rather than Bevan.

Perhaps it was simply that they (Bob and Spencer) didn’t think Bevan was quite ready for it at that time? There is no doubt that they saw plenty of each others races, photos of various of the Jane cars with the Gibson 15 in shot show them sharing the Shell facilities at race meetings. I’m not suggesting Cook wasn’t worthy of the Jane drive- most certainly he was, I am merely musing over the reasons/timing of the decision to give the drive to Ian rather than Bevan in 1968.

400 in the Calder paddock in May 1967- I wonder if its Bevan’s Lotus 15, which was painted red for a while, alongside. No roll bar in this shot (T Thompson)

At the 1969 Sandown Tasman meeting, the race and championship won by Chris Amon’s Ferrari Dini 246T, Gibson took the fifth of five in a row wins in Jane’s Elfin 400.

Barry Catford, somewhat prophetically, wrote the following note as a reporter covering the meeting for ‘Australian Motoring News’. ‘During the sportscar race I noticed on each lap the nose of the Jane Elfin lifted markedly after hitting a bump on the main straight before the start/finish line. The bump would affect the other cars, but not as noticeably as it did the Elfin. It seemed as though the Jane car needed less ride height at the front and maybe more at the rear which then may have resulted in less air getting under the front of the Elfin as it lifted over the bumps’.

The accident at Bathurst happened that Easter, on 7 April, three months later

Bevan Gibson ahead of Niel Allen at Calder in March 1969, 400 Repco from 400 Chev (oldracephotos.com)

In ‘Gentleman John Harvey’ Peter Molloy recounts how John Harvey was completely shattered by what had happened to Bevan. ‘I really think that John wanted to give it away then and there’. But, ever the complete professional, he saddled up in the Brabham BT23E and contested the Gold Star race- won by Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT31 Repco after the Gibson accident with the remnants of the fire fighting foam still on the track and debris off to its side. On a track which bit him badly due to component failure only 12 months before.

Bob Jane had this to say about Bevan- ‘Hoot Gibson (father of Bevan)…were a family devoted to motor racing. ‘Hoot’ went back to the rallies from years before. Along with a lot of my mates like Lou Molina and all those sort of people. Young Bevan was a very promising driver. He was very aggressive. When I say aggressive I mean very brave. Unfortunately, that element of bravery brought him undone’.

‘The car he was racing, my car, was an Elfin. Obviously with the knowledge we have today about aerodynamics, things would be different. The car had a flat bottom, and Mount Panorama was a very fast track. It had two bumps and the end of the straight which brought a lot of people undone. The car took off, went upside down, and caught on fire. It was just a terrible, terrible tragedy’.

Gibson pictured with the Jane Elfin Mono, at Calder, date unknown (unattributed)

It wasn’t my intention to spend time dealing with the accident which befell Bevan at Bathurst.

As I mentioned at this articles outset, what started as a pictorial has ended up a feature. There are quite a lot of ‘I reckons’ about the accident online, my article includes these too. What is persuasive or a least informative are the views of those from within the Bob Jane Team, and Harvey details with Bevan sensitively and the accident in full, on that basis I include the following lengthy view of a friend and insider.

‘Bevan was a very bright young bloke. He had extremely good car control, and was very fast. He was a bit like a lot of us in our younger days, he was a bit wild at times. But he was able to harness that wildness, that energy, and put it into his driving. He was very good in competition and making excellent progress’.

‘Also some drivers may have a ‘devil may care’ sort of attitude. This can lead to some ‘spirited’ driving. I never felt this would bring Bevan into harm, but I did sometimes think he was a bit on the wild side. I felt that at times he threw caution to the wind. I have no hard core evidence for this…but I just remember feeling that at times’.

‘Quite apart from what I thought, he was certainly a good young driver. He had a lot of talent. Had he survived he would certainly have been good at his craft, and would have won lots of races…’

Lap 1 of the fateful Easter Bathurst Sportscar race 1969. The event was not an ASCC round- but was an important race with all the ‘top guns’ present. Niel Allen ahead in his ex-Matich Elfin 400 Chev, Frank Matich, suffering fuel feed dramas is 2nd, Matich SR4 Repco then Bevan Gibson, Elfin 400 Repco. Note the winglets on the front of the Allen car, big rear wing and front tabs on the SR4, Jane car devoid of these aero appendages (oldracephotos/Dick Simpson)

Bathurst Easter 1969…

John Harvey continues ‘On the Saturday night Bevan discussed with us the fact that the Elfin was lifting off the road coming over the last hump. I said to him”You can’t have it lifting off the road. If it lifts off the road it will go upside down”. We suggested that maybe the car was getting a bit ‘light’ going over the hump. I really didn’t know what technical things he could do to alleviate the situation’.

‘We expended the conversation to include Bob Jane and John Sawyer (Bob Jane Racing Team Manager/Chief Mechanic). Bevan suggested we may put some air ‘flippers’ on the front of the car, or some little winglets. This was late on the Saturday night, and hardly the right time to initiate things like that. The conclusuion was that we didn’t know if it would work. These are the sorts of things you have to test under controlled conditions. Raceday, particularly at Bathurst, is not the place to test.’

‘The only comment I made was “In all the years I have been coming to this place in whatever cars, if the car does not feel stable over the last hump- or even the second last hump- or if its a windy day- always lift off the throttle”. To do this may only drop your speed only a few miles per hour, but what it does is drop the nose of the car. Drop the nose of the car, and reduce the amount of air under the car. The car will therefore feel that little bit safer, and that much more stabile’.

‘So, that was that. there were a number of drivers who were aware of the problem and did just as I said. All we could do was pass this advice on to Bevan- all I can recall is that Bevan was running third. He then passed Niel Allen (ex-Matich Elfin 400) or Niel had some problem and Bevan was in second place’.

Bob Jane team and Elfin 400 at Calder, date uncertain. John Sawyer in blue suit behind the car. No roll bar fitted in this shot (unattributed)

‘Bevan then started to catch the race leader, Frank Matich  (Matich SR4 Repco ‘760 Series’ quad-cam 4 valve Repco 5 litre V8- a normally vastly faster car than the Jane Elfin 400).  Franks car had gone onto  seven cylinder for some reason, but he still had a good lead. Bevan was starting to catch Frank. Maybe Frank’s car now went onto six cylinders. I don’t know. All we knew was that Bevan started to catch Frank fairly rapidly, Bevan went across the top of the mountain behind Frank, and down through the Esses. From there it was on to Conrod Straight’.

‘It appeared to us that if he caught Frank he would bide his time and pass where it was safe to do so. At this stage no one was thinking about aerodynamics. Plus, i’m not at all sure what role that may or may not have played. It appeared that Bevan ‘drafted’ Frank down the straight. He caught right up on Frank and surely knew he had him. I think by this time there were a couple of laps left to go in the race.’

‘Naturally I have no way to know what is going on in Bevan’s mind. But I can easily imagine him thinking “I’ve caught up to Frank Matich. I can pass him and win this big race at Mount Panorama”. Which, of course would be a big win to have’.

‘So Bevan drafted Frank down the straight. He seemed to me to pull out just before the last hump. He pulled out to get the run down the inside of Murray’s Corner, and beat Frank under brakes. I suppose they were travelling at 160-170mph, and Bevan had pulled out just before the last hump. When Bevan hit the fresh air the car seemed to accelerate. The Elfin lifted, went up in the air, and came to earth upside down. The car almost instantly caught flames, and that was that’.

‘There was no doubt in my mind that Bevan died in that first upside down impact. The rest of the destruction and the fire, didn’t really matter’.

John then sensitively deals with the hours and days which follows, and points out that despite over 25,000 miles of testing, and the advance of aerodynamic understanding in the decades which followed the accidents which befell Mercedes Benz at Le Mans not so few years ago. Two flips to Mark Webber.

Bevan Gibson, Elfin 400 Repco, Bathurst Easter 1969. An outstanding young talent taken too soon. RIP Bevan Gibson (oldracephotos.com)

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Gentleman John Harvey’ Tony McGirr, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘Elfin’ Barry Catford and John Blanden

Special thanks to Grant Twining for insights and information about Ian Cook

Photo Credits…

Ellis French, Dennis Cooper Collection, Dale Harvey, J Ellacott, oldracephotos.com, Dick Simpson, M Leirsch, S Lambert, Bob Mills Collection, GTRX, Tony Parkinson Collection, Wayne Wooton Collection, T Thompson, Tim Watts

Etcetera: Niel Allen from Noel Hurd and Bob Jane, Elfin 400’s all …

 

Mixed sportscar bag in country NSW. Jane at Hume Weir in early 1968 from a Lotus 11, Meyers Manx VW beach buggy! and Geneer Outlaw VW (oldracephotos.com)

 

Bob Jane off the line at a Calder Raceway drag meeting in, I think 1968. He took out ‘Competition Eliminator’ with an 11.78 second/117.80 mph pass for the standing quarter (W Wooton)

 

Ken Hastings at Sandown circa 1971, note the changes to the 400 body and addition of the rear wing (T Parkinson)

 

Bill Hemming in his beautifully restored ex-Jane 400 Repco at Phillip Island in recent years (G Russell)

Tailpiece: Butt shot for the tailpiece seems apt. Niel Allen Elfin 400 Chev, bodywork by Frank Matich, compare and contrast with the standard rear of Bob Janes 400 Repco. They are heading over Sandown’s old Causeway and about to swing left into the approach of the very quick Dunlop Bridge in 1968…

Tailpiece 2: End where we started with Bob Jane- at Longford in 1967, alongside is Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906. We have liftoff…

(T Watts)

Finito…

 

 

Clarence La Tourette’s superb cutaway drawing of the iconic, important Chev Corvette SS…

Regular readers will know I am a cutaway fan.

My favourite practitioners of the art are Vic Berris, Theo Page, Paolo D’Alessio, Tony Matthews, Bill Bennett, Bruno Betti, Giuseppe Cavara, Yoshihiro Inomoto and Clarence La Tourette- who I assumed was based in France. In fact he was working as a Technical Artist at Lockheed in the US when the newly appointed editor of Sports Cars Illustrated/Car and Driver, John Christy, brought him into the mix together with writers Griff Borgeson and Karl Ludvigsen in 1956. La Tourette drew the magazines cutaway centrespreads in his spare time. And absolutely marvellous they are.

One writes about such well known cars as these Corvettes with trepidation, but La Tourette’s beautiful drawing was too good not to publish. The article is a quickie to support the photographs, it offers Chevy hardcore no new insights but ‘newbees’ to this car like me an introduction.

GM famously rushed the first Corvette to market, it sold well in 1953 despite poor quality, its wheezy ‘Blue Flame’ in-line six cylinder engine and very limited availability. Only 700 were sold in 1954 and Chevy die-hards have it that only a 1955 memo from Zora Arkus-Duntov to Chev Chief Engineer Ed Cole, guaranteeing the commercial success of the car, saved it from the production axe.

These aero-test shots are dated 28 December 1956, the ’57 Sebring meeting was on 23 March (GM)

Arkus-Duntov was hired by Cole in Autumn 1953 after he saw and was excited by Harley Earl’s ’53 Corvette Prototype at the 1953 Motorama in New York. At the time the Belgian born American former racer was running a family business selling souped up Flathead Ford V8’s. A-D famously improved the cylinder head of the 265 cid small-block Chev V8- the first in a phenomenally successful run of cast iron, push-rod, relatively light and powerful road and race engines.

A-D presented a paper to the Society of Automotive Engineers extolling the virtues of a sportscar marketing approach in which such cars were ‘endowed with a racing halo provided by a few specialist machines of the same make’.

Putting into practice what he preached, Zora took a pre-production updated ’56 model to Pikes Peak early that year and won his class. Cole, by then GM of Chevrolet, approved a production speed record attempt at Daytona and the car set a speed of 150.583 mph in a car sans windscreen and with the ‘Duntov-cam’.

Chevrolet entered a Corvette fitted with an experimental 307 cid V8 at Sebring in 1956, the John Fitch/Walt Hansgen driven car finished 9th in the race won by the Fangio/Castellotti Ferrari 860 Monza.

Cole spoke to A-D about fitting a Chev engine to a Jaguar XKD Bill Mitchell bought but Zora argued for a racing version of the Corvette to be built instead and to be entered at Sebring in 1957.

Superb, posed shot of one of the two cars being built. Light tubular steel chassis, 283 cid, injected V8 and rear suspension in all of its detailed glory- de Dion tube, coil spring/shocks and huge finned drum brakes. Design very much the paradigm of the day, build quality and detail marvellous (GM)

Two cars, code named Project XP-64, were built by the Chevrolet Engineering Centre in the six months available- a ‘mule’ which used a fibreglass body over a multitubular spaceframe chassis and a race car which was to have hand-formed magnesium panels.

The engine was the latest iteration of the small-block, a 283 cid V8 fitted with fuel injection giving circa 307 bhp- to which was bolted a four-speed gearbox. Front suspension comprised upper and lower wishbones (A-arms) with coil spring/damper units. The rear used a de Dion tube, Halibrand quick-change differential, coil spring/dampers and inboard aluminium finned drum brakes- drum brakes were outboard at the front.

Race car close to completion- looks too good for a racer of the day! (GM)

The mule weighed 1850 pounds, the magnesium body would save 150 pounds but time was not on the teams side so all of the testing was done with the mule. No less than Juan Manuel-Fangio was engaged to drive the car but he was released from the deal when it became apparent it would not be ready- contracted to Maserati in his final full season of racing he won the event in a Maser 450S co-driven by Jean Behra.

John Fitch lapping the mule during Sebring practice (unattributed)

Arkus-Duntov doing some Sebring test laps, schmick Halibrand wheels (unattributed)

Nonetheless Fangio tested the car and lapped quicker than his previous years record lap-time. When the racer arrived all the ‘sorted bits’ were transferred from the mule to it, the car driven by the vastly experienced Piero Taruffi and John Fitch. It retired after only 23 laps with ‘electrical gremlins, bad brakes and terminal rear end problems’, sad really as the car dominated the early laps and achieved a top speed of 183 mph.

John Fitch said ‘That car had so much potential, but we never had time to make it race ready. We didn’t get the car to the track until the very last minute and so we transferred the parts that worked, and everything we refined on the mule to the racing car when it arrived. The brakes were absolutely terrible and they never got that resolved. For some reason Zora Duntov made the decision not to use disc brakes on the car and it was a bad one. We had absolutely no time to sort that car out. If we had we might have made a real impact on that race’.

Piero Taruffi, Corvette SS, JM Fangio alongside in the winning Maser 450S and #20 Stirling Moss Maser 300S 2nd (unattributed)

None of the problems were any less than could have been expected of a car at the commencement of its development curve but aspirations for Le Mans and other blue-riband events were scuttled with the American Automobile Manufacturers Association ban an manufacturer supported motor racing off the back of the 1955 Le Mans disaster.

Both cars survive of course, the Mule was sold to Bill Mitchell, then GM Vice President of Styling for a dollar who turned it into the Stingray Racer…

John Fitch and Zora Arkus-Duntov @ Sebring 1957. Superb car has no bad angle (unattributed)

Etcetera: Sweet coupe, A-D up…

Bibliography/Credits…

Clarence La Tourette, chevyhardcore.com, myautoworld.com, General Motors

Tailpiece: Zora looks rather happy with his team’s creation, as well he should. A wonderful mighta-been…

(GM)

Finito…

(Klemantaski)

Jack Sears, Dunlop Curve, Le Mans in the ill-fated long, low, swoopy AC Cobra Coupe 20-22 June 1964…

Sears was hoping to do better than his marvellous fifth place at Le Mans in 1963 aboard the Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 330LMB he shared with David Piper.

The talented British sedan and sportscar racer was partnered with Peter Bolton in the one of a kind AC Cobra Coupe, AC Cars Ltd owner Derek Hurlock and his team built to take on the ‘works’, Shelby Daytona Coupes in the famous 1964 24 Hour classic.

It was also a chance for AC to improve upon its 7th place finish at Le Mans in 1963 when the factory Cobra driven by Ninian Sanderson and Peter Bolton finished 7th.

The big Coupe was registered ‘BPH4B’ to allow some testing on public roads, despite this the first Carroll Shelby knew of AC Chief Engineer Alan Turner’s in-house design was at the car’s competition debut during the Le Mans test day in April.

Visibly lower than the Pete Brock designed Daytona coupe (41 inches compared with 48 inches- its height a function of uncertainty over Le Mans windscreen height regs) both designers sat the drivers lower in the car. Turner had also raked the windscreen, created a lower nose section and a longer flowing roof as well as designing the ‘eyebrows’ over the tops of the wheel arches he claimed help clean up airflow.

The cars promise of speed on the Mulsanne Straight was met- Bolton achieved the 27th fastest time in a fast run without ‘going for a time’ in a car which still required development.

Back in the UK brake overheating problems were addressed with ducting, a burned piston replaced and a rear spoiler added for stability and to reduce lift. The car was then tested at the MIRA facility for which it proved too fast, there was not a road section which allowed the car to run to its maximum speed…

AC’s Alan Turner created a marvellous, handsome, cohesive, masculine shape with demonstrable aerodynamic properties- such a shame only the one was built (Autocar)

During Le Mans Sears and Bolton were timed at 180.2mph @ 6300rpm, matching the Daytona Cobras despite giving away 30bhp to the Shelby entries- AC cars chassis #A98 had a 289cid/4.7 litre ‘Windsor’ engine which developed circa 355bhp, the Shelby cars had around 385bhp.

The car qualified conservatively second in class behind the Gurney/Bondurant Shelby entry and ran in that race position, at one point leading the class early in the race averaging 20mph for the first 3.5 hours.

The big coupe began to have fuel feed problems which were found after the race to be caused by newspaper in the fuel tank- sabotage- which blocked the fuel filter. Much time was lost as the filter blockage was diagnosed and remedied.

Circulating at the pre-race determined lap times the next stint was trouble free with the slippery machine able to match the Shelby’s top speed despite less power and a higher diff ratio (2.88:1 rather than 3.09:1- the fastest Daytona speed of the weekend was 186.4mph @7000rpm using the 3.09 ratio).

It was an unusually bitterly cold night for mid-summer with occasional patches of mist. Some reports have it that the teams tyre supplier advised not to change the cars tyres. At around 10.15pm on Saturday evening, with Bolton at the wheel a tyre blew at Maison Blanche- the car spun and was collected by Giancarlo Baghetti’s following works Ferrari 275P. The Ferrari speared off into the barriers and crushed three French, late teenaged spectators standing in a prohibited area.

The AC flew over the guardrails, lopping branches from trees at a height of 20 feet before coming to rest in a crumpled heap. Baghetti was uninjured with Bolton taken to hospital with minor injuries.

The best placed of the Shelby Daytona Coupes was the Dan Gurney/Bob Bondurant driven car which qualified 10th and finished 4th. Sears qualified his machine 13th, the Jean Guichet/Nino Vaccarella works sports-prototype Ferrari 275P 3.3 V12 won the race that year.

The wreck of Coupe A98 was brought back to the AC headquarters in Thames Ditton and never rebuilt and or raced further ‘in period’. The very significant car was restored by Barrie Baird who negotiated its purchase in 1972. The work took over 12 years, many of you will have seen it at Goodwood and the like.

What a superb looking machine the car is, Le Mans paddock 1964. #43 is the Hunt/Wagstaff Lotus Elite 22nd, #42 is the Lawrence/Spice Deep Sanderson 301 BMC DNF. What a magic atmospheric photo (ITMSP)

The high speed excitement about the AC Coupe started in much more amusing fashion, although it wasn’t seen that way at the time, not long before Le Mans.

Given the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) roads had not allowed a flat-out run AC decided to test the high speed stability of the car on Britain’s M1 motorway in an incident which has gone down in motoring lore.

‘Gentleman Jack’ Sears recalled the early morning run in articles published in ‘The Car Connoisseur’ and ‘Autocar’ magazines.

‘About a fortnight before Le Mans AC thought they really ought to try and test the car to see what top speed it was likely to attain. We decided to get up at dawn on this early June morning and do a run up and down the M1 motorway. There was nothing special about that in those days when the M1 was used by other manufacturers with nearby factories such as Jaguar, Aston Martin and Rootes Group (Humber, Hillman and Sunbeam-Talbot).’

‘So we all met at Southern Service Station, warmed the car up, and I went up the north carriageway for several miles, and clocked what I thought was terminal speed before returning south without passing any traffic – it being 4.30 am. Back at the service station I told them how many revs I’d done, they knew what the back axle ratio was, they knew what the tyres size was, the wheel size etc etc, and from their slide rules (no calculators in 1964) they discovered that we had done 185mph. Then Peter Bolton, who was to be my co-driver, went off and did the same thing. We were both happy with the car and by 8.30am I was back home in Norfolk eating eggs and bacon.’

‘Around lunchtime I took a call from a journalist on the Sunday Times who had somehow picked up the story in a Fleet Street wine bar from a chap called Tony Martin, Derek Hurlock’s nephew, who was on the administrative side of the paper and had been present earlier in the day. It must have been a ‘quiet news day’ because they blew up the story out of all proportion. It hit the headlines and the press followed the story right up to Le Mans, where sadly the car was destroyed after a rear tyre burst, putting Peter Bolton into hospital.’

‘I am actually the only man in the world who has raced a Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupé, the AC Car Company Cobra Coupé and the Willment Cobra Coupé.’

Sears AC during the early Saturday Le Mans laps, #18 the Aston DP214 driven by Salmon/Sutcliffe NRF , 250LM or 275P back a bit (unattributed)

Not too long after Le Mans Sears stopped racing to return to farming in Norfolk but he was still very much in demand as a test and development driver, but a monumental accident in a sports-racing Lotus 40 Ford at Silverstone came way too close to costing him his life, aged 35. It took him 12 months to recover but he never strayed far from racing, not least because his son David became a racer and team owner.

(B Bird)

In sequels to the M1 incident the publicity was very good for AC Cars, but the compulsory 70 mph speed limit introduced on British roads in 1967 was sheeted home to the exploits of AC and Jack!

He chuckled at the memory, ‘I took a lot of flak for being responsible. Indeed at the time there were those who felt that sort of speed on a public highway was irresponsible behaviour and I had to live with this for some time. I am glad to say that I was eventually exonerated when, towards the end of her life, Lady Castle was interviewed by Tony Martin and asked whether the story concerning his uncle’s car had any effect on her decision to impose the speed limit three years later. She remembered all the publicity but claimed that the speed limit was already under review long before – so I was vindicated!’

Wowee. Thames Ditton, AC Cars Ltd (Just a Car Guy)

Specifications in brief…

Three shots from ‘The Cobra-Ferrari Wars’.

Top-the Coupe body framework being constructed at Thames Ditton. Middle is the engine bay with the Weber 48IDA fed, cast iron, 355bhp pushrod 4.7 litre ‘Big Henry’ V8- what a marvellous race engine this ‘Windsor’ family of small block Fords is! At the bottom is Jack Sears alighting the car after THAT M1 morning run.

Etcetera: owner Barrie Bird adds…

A day after uploading this article ‘A98’s owner and restorer Barrie Bird kindly got in touch and added hugely to this story with some comments which are at the end of the piece in the readers comments area.

He also sent in some wonderful material, which he is sharing with us all- the first photos are ‘…ones of Jack on his farm and you can see the little farm roads which were traversed for half an hour or so at three figure speeds’.

‘Jack was very funny on the farm- he gathered a couple of his farm hands who knew what they were about and briefed everyone in very military and commanding style; “You will be positioned here, you will lookout for traffic there, the photographer will stand there. I shall only make two passes at low speed to be sure you get your shots”. So off he went at high speed, getting faster and faster, declining to stop, wearing a big grin all the while. Magic!’

(B Bird)

(B Bird)

(B Bird)

See the padlocked fuel caps below- ‘All I can tell you about the padlocked fuel caps is that the photo was taken before the race. Was it a case of bolting the stable door, or did the saboteur slip in during the refuelling? Who knows?’

(B Bird)

What a mess! A98 post Le Mans shunt- Peter Bolton was a lucky boy to escape with his life. The top front suspension leaf spring, steering rack, tank and a rocker cover are about all of the components I can pick.

(B Bird)

Barrie’s adds this piece about Jack Sears comments on the comparative merits of each of the different AC Coupes…

(B Bird)

Technical Specifications in Detail…

Barrie Bird advises as follows;

‘The specifications are in theory the same as the FIA homologation for the standard Cobra, except that, in those days, it was permitted to build a different body on the homologated chassis and still run as a production GT. I think this went all the way back to the inter-war years when the manufacturers would supply rolling chassis to be bodied by coachbuilders. In any event by 1964 this provision was being well abused and chassis modifications, ostensibly to support the special bodywork, were used to stiffen things up.’

‘A.C. to their great credit kept to the spirit as well as the letter of the law and A98 is quite usable on the road as a GT with a comfortable cockpit and a normal boot which will swallow a couple of big holdalls. The ground clearance has to be kept in mind and of course the car was designed before the era of speed bumps and potholes. The lowest point under the car is the diff. oil cooler and this does not take kindly to being in contention with tarmac!’

Dimensions et al

Wheel base 90 inches, Length 176 inches

Track Ostensibly standard at 51″ but in fact wider by reason of the largest homologated wheels 7.5″ front and 9.5″ Rear. The largest track is obviously on the rear and with the original Goodyears fitted increases to 66″

Weight at scrutineering 1964 le Mans 2482 Lbs. Weight in 1986, after reassembly, with tools, spare wheel & tyre, jack, oils and water, but without any fuel 2365 Lbs

Capacities- Fuel 30 Imp.Gals, Engine oil,wet Aviaid sump, 6 Imp Qts

Wheels and Tyres

Tyres Goodyear Bluestreak 26.5 x 8 – 15 and 26.5 x 10.5 – 15

Wheels Halibrand Indy 500 pattern WH6S 2528 and 2532 F & R 7.50″ and 9.50″. Often incorrectly described as ‘FIA Pattern’

Transmission

Gearbox Borg Warner T-10 four speed. Nitride alloy gears ‘Pontiac Gearset’ – 1:1 – 1.31:1 – 1.637:1 – 2.196:1. Axle Ratio 2.88:1 Gearing in 4th gear 27.6 mph per 1000 RPM No allowance for tyre growth

Engine

289 V8, cid 4727 c.c. supplied by Ford Dearborn 355 bhp. Four 48 IDA Webers, ported big valve heads, high lift camshaft, standard High Performance crank and rods, HP 5 bolt block, damper and flywheel. Standard HP clutch

Lucas 28 amp competition dynamo, Lucas 100/100 watt le Mans headlamps, Lucas SFT foglamps

‘Apart from the body not much different to the production roadster, but Alan Turner certainly got the aerodynamics right.’ And so say all of us, it is a glorious motorcar.

Credits/References…

Barrie Bird, many thanks for making contact and contributing both comments and material from your archive for this article

‘Cars for The Connoisseur’, Klemantaski Collection, Inside The Motorsport Paddock (ITMSP), Autocar, ‘The Cobra-Ferrari Wars’ Michael Schoen, ‘Cobra: The First 40 Years’ Trevor Legate, Just a Car Guy, MotorSport

Tailpiece: Thames Ditton, AC men admire their handiwork pre Le Mans, simply superb looking machine…

(Just a Car Guy)

 Finito…

 

 

Mrs JAS Jones lines up, left, in her Alfa Romeo 6C1750 SS Zagato prior to the start of a race at Gerringong Beach, New South Wales, 12 May 1930…

Alongside her is the obscured Bugatti T37A of three-time Australian Grand Prix winner Bill Thompson and the Chryslers of E Patterson and #72/14 HJ Beith.

In the politesse of the times Mrs JAS Jones ‘married well’. Her husband Mr John A.S. Jones, ‘Lithgow’s leading businessman’ owned the ‘Zig-Zag Brewery’ and ten hotels. Lithgow is a city in the New South Wales Central Tablelands region 150 Km west of Sydney.

The cashflow of these enterprises provided the means for Mrs Jones ‘…a very congenial hostess who entertains lavishly at her homes in Lithgow and Darling Point, Sydney’ to acquire some wonderful racing cars including the ex-works 1929 Mille Miglia Alfa Romeo 6C1750 SS Zagato chassis number ‘0312894’.

This car played a significant part in Australian motor racing into the late 1950’s being much raced, ‘climbed, trialled, crashed, bashed and modified before being ‘rescued’ and restored in the seventies and eighties.

Jones was one of the great pioneers of Australian motor racing- born Nina Vida Harris in 1882, her motoring career started in the family Chandler and then progressed to a Crossley ‘which she raced at Maroubra with a measure of success’.

After a trip to Europe ‘witnessing real motor racing in France and Italy between Bentley, Sunbeam, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes and Bugatti concerns’, she acquired the Alfa, which was soon shipped to Australia in 1929. It is said she tested the Alfa Romeo model range together with Giulio Ramponi, works driver before choosing the 6C1750 SS, and an astute choice it was for the range of events run in Australia at the time.

Ramponi co-drove the winning 6c 1750 SS in the April 1929 Mille together with Giuseppe Campari. ‘Racing Sports Cars’ in its race results listing offers the tenth placed 6C 1750 SS driven by A Bornigia/Carlo Pintacuda as possibly chassis ‘0312894’ whilst John Blanden in his book suggests the car as ‘reputed to be’ the sixth place Minoia/Marinoni machine.

Jones posing with her new 6C1750 the day after it arrived in Australia (T Forrest)

Jones was immediately competitive in the thoroughbred, over the next few years she was a regular competitor in the large number of ‘Reliability Trials’ which were the staple of New South Wales Royal Automobile Club and Light Car Club events. These contests always included speed tests, typically acceleration test(s) and more often than not a hillclimb.

The 6C1750 was immediately one of the fastest cars in the country, the Bugatti T37A of four-time Australian Grand Prix winner Bill Thompson always gave the Alfa a run for its money whenever it competed in these events. More often than not Jones won her class and occasionally set FTD.

It appears her earliest event was the RACA reliability trial run out of Canberra in August 1929. She contested another of these events in September establishing second fastest time of the day at the grass surface Prospect Hillclimb and another from Sydney to Cattai Creek in December.

The cars 1930 logbook commenced with the Prospect Hillclimb in February and the RACA Sydney to Robertson Reliability Trial.

Disaster was only narrowly averted in her next appearance at Gerringong Beach, in the NSW Illawarra 130 Km to Sydney’s south in May 1930. Car racing was held on the beach during the twenties and into the post-war period.

Travelling last of four in a heat of the Four Mile Handicap at well over 100mph numerous spectators surged forward, the first three cars having passed the finishing post, onto the sand track to see the Alfa take the chequered flag. She hit one man, a Chrysler mechanic, Norman Curley having avoided several other people who had come too far, hurling him into the air and breaking his leg.

Bill Thompson was the star of the day at Gerringong winning several races including the feature event, the Sydney Bicycle and Motor Club Fifty Mile Handicap off the back of his AGP win in the same chassis at Phillip Island on March 24.

In a sequel to the breaking of the mechanic’s leg, Mr Curley took action in the Darlinghurst Court against Jones for alleged negligence for 1000 pounds in damages in June 1931, having spent seven weeks in hospital after the incident. Unsurprisingly, the jury found in favour of Jones, a competitor not an organiser of the meeting and therefore not someone responsible for crowd safety. The matter was not left to chance, Jones was represented by Kings Counsel at some considerable expense to the years racing budget.

Jones and riding mechanic, Gerringong Beach May 1930 Alfa 6C1750 SS (Fairfax)

Gerringong May 1930, competitors unknown (Fairfax)

Nina was said by the Sydney press to be entered in the 1930 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island but did not compete in the race won by Thompson’s Bug T37A.

In June a standing quarter mile competition was held on the Bondi Beach promenade, she did a time of 18.2-5 seconds and beat 64 other competitors in what would have been quite a spectacle. A dog dashed onto the course during one of Jones’ runs whilst the Alfa was flat chat at full speed, disaster was averted by the experienced pilot veering around the frightened hound and applying the brakes ‘causing the car to twirl almost around’.

The earliest reported event in 1931 is the June LCC Trial from Sydney to Avon Dam, she won her class acceleration test. In May she set a speed record for women at 93.264 mph over a measured half mile at Richmond and was disappointed with the result, her run in was too short she felt.

Jones did another of these trials in July and in August- this time from Sydney to Wisemans Ferry where she did the fastest times for supercharged cars. In October the Alfa was pointed to the Razorback where the combination were quickest in both the subsidiary acceleration tests and the hillclimb.

Mr A Hunter competed in the car at Maroubra after it was reopened in July 1932 in a weird event comprising a series of acceleration, braking and parking tests.

The following month Jones ‘threw the keys’ of the Alfa to the great Bill Thompson who had a steer of it in an LCC acceleration test event. It would be interesting to know his ‘compare and contrast’ thoughts of the six-cylinder supercharged Alfa Romeo Sportscar with his four-cylinder supercharged Bugatti Grand Prix machine.

In a famous 1933 incident recounted down the decades Jones had her first big accident.

A convoy of ‘ten of the fastest sportscars in Australia’ set out from Sydney to Melbourne and thence down to the Westernport Bay to witness the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island- the drivers turning the journey into a race and ‘thundering down the Hume Highway at near Grand Prix speeds’.

Jones with her daughter Vida as passenger, having easily outdistanced the rest of the group, when cornering at over 100 mph near Albury had a nail puncture a rear tyre causing the car to roll whereupon Vittorio Jano’s greatest caught fire and was substantially damaged.

‘Travelling around the corner the next man along, John Sherwood (a racer of considerable aplomb)…found the two women practically unhurt but dismally watching their car crackling furiously. The Alfa was burnt right out after unsuccessful efforts were made to put out the flames’.

To add further to the family woes, the patriarch, John AS Jones died in May 1933.

The Alfa was rebuilt by local artisans in Sydney with parts imported from Italy, making its post rebuild competition debut at Bar Beach Hillclimb, Newcastle in August 1934. In another disaster, Jones son Jack, also a racer, after his own run in the Alfa, took his mother up as passenger, lost control, crashed, overturned and hit a telegraph pole gifting his mother a broken thigh and six weeks in hospital.

This second incident, with no doubt her husbands death on her mind, determined the lady racer to retire, she still occasionally drove the 1750 but the more ‘intense’ of events were contested by personal friends driving the car.

Jones did not lose her pace however, as late as April 1937 she won her class FTD at Waterfall Hillclimb in the exotic supercharged machine. Son James won the local River Lett Hillclimb near Lithgow in July 1937.

The Jones family finally parted with the much loved and well used car in 1938. John Blanden records the March 1938 advertisement in ‘The Car’ claiming ‘0312894’ to be completely overhauled and in perfect mechanical condition. The reported cost of the Alfa when landed in Australia was 1750 pounds. Claims were made for hillclimb records at Waterfall, Robertson and Kurrajong in NSW and Mount Tarrengower, Maldon, Victoria.

John Barraclough Sporting Cars of Sydney handled the sale with Barraclough, an ace of the time, racing the car at Penrith Speedway in April ’38 to keep the car in the eye of potential purchasers. Graham Howard’s biography of Lex Davison records that Lex’ father AA Davison at one stage considered buying the ‘crashed 1750 Zagato Alfa’ but perhaps this was after one of the earlier accidents not in 1938. Barraclough entered the car in the April 1938 Australian Grand Prix won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA R10B at Bathurst but the car did not start- whether John practiced or did not appear because of the cars sale, or some other reason, is unclear. After the car was advertised for a short time ‘Racing Ron’ Edgerton purchased it.

Ted Gray, Alfa Ford V8, during the October 1946 New South Wales Grand Prix at Bathurst. He was fourth in the handicap race aboard ‘0312894’ won by Alf Najar’s MG TB monoposto. The car still looks a picture at this stage (postcard from The Tom Woolnough Collection)

In a disastrous, expensive start to his ownership the engine ingested a loose part of the carburettor and comprehensively destroyed itself on the way down the Hume Highway from Sydney to Edgerton’s home in Melbourne. He rebuilt the engine, I have unearthed no record of the cars competition in his ownership, the car was sold post-war to Wangaratta, Victoria businessman/racer Ted Gray in 1944. Edgerton later raced an even more exotic Jano Alfa Romeo, the ex-Alf Barrett Monza, chassis #2211134 which he acquired in 1950.

Gray cut his teeth on Victorian speedways and became one of Australia’s fastest drivers in the fifties. He first came to prominence at Aspendale in October 1938 when he gave Peter Whitehead and his ERA a run for his money in the Alan Male owned Midget- and then did it again at Rob Roy Hillclimb when Ted was only 0.8 seconds slower than Whitehead’s record for the hill. I wrote about Gray’s career in an article about the Tornado Chev, a car he raced with great skill, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

Ted Gray and passenger at what is believed to be Rob Roy Hillclimb to Melbourne’s outer east, date uncertain (T Forrest)

Gray, very attached to modified V8 engines having competed with the Alan Male owned Alta Ford V8 special pre-war, soon replaced the Alfa engine and gearbox with Ford components, in this form he raced the car extensively for the next few years. A Ford rear axle was also fitted. The work was performed in the workshop Ted and Bert Cox had in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. The orginal engine and gearbox were not cast aside but put to use in a Singer chassis’d hillclimb special! John Blanden records that none of the major Alfa components were lost as the car was continually modified, which became important once the cars racing career was over twenty years hence and restoration commenced.

Gray raced the car at the NSW Grand Prix meeting, the first post-war Bathurst in October 1946, he was fourth in the handicap race won by Alf Najar’s MG TB. Despite the lack of circuits in Victoria, perhaps his focus was on speedway Midgets at the time, he didn’t race further in the Alfa at Bathurst but did contest the NSW Racing Car Championships held at RAAF Nowra in April 1947. Tom Lancey won that handicap in an MG TC, with Ted a DNF due to overheating problems with the big V8 after seven laps.

Ted Gray perhaps in the white overalls refuels ‘0321894’, flathead Ford V8 sits well back in the chassis. Dude in the Brylcreem is Doug Whiteford, later three-time AGP winner. Venue is Ballarat Airfield, Victoria on 27 January 1947. Car, sadly entered as ‘Mercury Spl’ (G Thomas)

AMS cover of the same meeting as the photo above, Ballarat Airfield January 1947 with Ted’s 6C V8 being rounded up by Alf Barrett’s straight-8 Alfa Monza- Vittorio Jano designs both of course (S Dalton Collection)

Bob Brown of Adelaide bought the car in 1949, he raced both locally and in Western Australia and Victoria including a big trip across the Nullarbor Pain to contesting the 1951 WA Hillclimb Championship in which he was tenth. A week later  he also competed in the ’51 Australian Grand Prix at the round-the-houses street circuit at Narrogin, a small farming town 200 Km to the south of Perth. He failed to finish, lasting only 3 laps in the race won by Warwick Pratley in the Sydney built Ford V8 engined ‘George Reed Special’. It was the last AGP win for a ‘traditional Australian Special’.

Its interesting that the only AGP the car contested was in 1951, noting the cars entry but non-start in the ’38 race at Bathurst. It’s intriguing as to why Jones did not race the car herself, or enter it for someone else during her period of ownership. Nor did Ted Gray, a most accomplished driver enter the car in the countries premier event during his time with it. They were Formula Libre handicap races after all, the beast in whatever form would have been welcome and a handicap determined appropriate to the the car spec/driver combination at the time.

The car competed in an early Port Wakefield, South Australia meeting in May 1951 doing a 17.4 second standing quarter and recording 100 mph for the flying quarter mile.

Adelaide’s Gavin Sandford-Morgan, owner, racer and restorer of many fine cars over the years was the next owner in 1952. He ‘refurbished and repainted’ the car in time to run it at the opening Collingrove Hillclimb meeting at Angaston in the Barossa Valley in March 1952. He was 2nd in the over 1500cc class. Gavin soon sold the car to Bob Jervies of Broken Hill, he raced it in local events and at Collingrove and Port Wakefield.

Going back a step, in 1950, when the car was owned by Bob Brown, Ross Lindsay left the road at the Woodside road circuit in the Adelaide Hills, hitting a stump, damaging the rear axle housing and a rear spring. More ‘butchery’ or keeping the car competitive to apply the perspective of a racer in period, occurred during Jervies ownership with replacement of the crashed, bashed, bruised and abused! Alfa chassis by a Fiat unit. An SS Jaguar front axle with Douglas aircraft brakes replaced the Alfa originals. At this point there was obviously little left of the car which left Milan in 1929, but again, the chassis was put to one side, not destroyed or trashed.

In the late fifties or early sixties South Australian Tony Cullen bought the car running it in local events before it was acquired in partnership by Melbourne Alfista John Lawson and Terry Valmorbida in 1971. And so, the next period of this significant cars life began- it’s restoration phase.

Car with Ford V8, just doesn’t look the part at all does it!? Mount Tarrengower circa 1975 (J Lloyd)

‘0312894’ at Mt Tarrengower in 1977, headlights not quite right, car more butch, racy and attractive to my mind in this form- the way it arrived in Oz ex-factory as against the way it was built originally- car could quite reasonably have been restored in either form (Blanden)

Lawson and Valmorbida acquired the cars original engine and ‘box. The much used and abused factory original Alfa chassis was saved by Ian Polson and sold by Noel Robson, who had kept it stored for many years, to Lawson, by then the sole owner of the car for $A20. Lawson also located the original front axle, steering box and brakes. The cars appearance was now original but unrestored.

Whilst the original engine’s rebuild was completed a 6C2300 unsupercharged Alfa engine was fitted, in this form the car made regular appearances in historic events including the Mount Tarrengower Hillclimb and at Phillip Island in 1977 and 1978. Many of us remember with glee the cars re-emergence then, as a young Uni student I officiated at Tarrengower and well remember the car at that, hot, dusty meeting.

‘Re-restoration’ process at Historic Vintage Restorations in 2010. ‘…a re-restoration, as over ten years the previous owner Diana Gaze restored it sensitively, retaining and rebuilding pretty well every major original component. The chassis rails and body were then deemed beyond economic repair and retained with the car for provenance although the original crossmembers were riveted to the new rails. These decisions were made in 1990 but times have changed so we have refreshed the mechanical bits and added originality. Photos here are before the re-restoration with the replica body (T Forrest photos and quote)

Diana Gaze, nee Davison, another great Alfista given the cars she and Lex owned and raced, acquired the car in 1983 and commenced a long restoration which involved Bob Williams and Mark Rye in Castlemaine- they were responsible for the chassis and reproduction body respectively. David Rapley took on the engine and later was given the whole project at ‘mock up’ stage. Kew Ward painted it and Grant White made the upholstery.

Terry Forest and Alfa at Phillip Island in 2007, after ‘first’ restoration (T Forrest)

Pretty as a picture, some of Vittorio Jano’s finest work technical details of car as per text below. 2007 shot after ‘first’ restoration (T Forrest)

Diana Gaze sold the car after its restoration, the new owner then had the car ‘re-restored’ some seven or eight years ago with the mechanical components ‘freshened’. The original body and chassis rails were incorporated this time- a decade before these were deemed beyond economic repair but were retained with the completed car and incorporated into the last rebuild as befitting a car now worth in excess of $A4 million.

The results of both restorations were quite stunning- Mrs JAS Jones would have been best pleased. Mind you, I expect she would have very quickly climbed aboard and set off at great speed rather than waste her time with the way the car looked…

1930 Alfa 6C1750 GS cutaway- not an SS but essential elements the same (unattributed)

The Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS Zagato…

‘The 1750, and for that matter the 1500… must be among the finest ever made both from the point of view of engineering and driver satisfaction.’ – Michael Frostick, ‘Alfa-Romeo-Milano’.

Enzo Ferrari persuaded Vittorio Jano to leave FIAT’s racing department and join him at Alfa Romeo. Jano was one of the greatest car engineers of the twentieth century with a career that spanned the decades right through to his revolutionary Lancia D50 Grand Prix car of 1954- the 1956 Lancia-Ferrari or Ferrari 801 won the drivers and manufacturers championships that year.

Jano designed both Alfa Romeo’s grands-prix and road cars. As a consequence these ‘roadies’ emerged, influenced as they were by their more exotic brethren, as some of the most exciting and sophisticated of their day, establishing the Milanese marque’s reputation for producing sporting driver’s cars arguably unmatched at the time.

Jano arrived at Alfa in 1923. By the following year he had designed, and Alfa built the legendary P2. The P2 GP car achieved much race success and also provided the basis for Jano’s first production model- the 6C 1500 of 1927.

The car was designed as a fast touring machine combining light weight with sparkling performance by use of a 1,487cc inline six-cylinder engine based on the P2’s straight eight, it produced 44bhp in single-overhead-camshaft ‘Normale’ form.

The beautifully balanced machine had an engine mainly made of aluminium alloys of monobloc construction with gear driven camshaft(s) and five main bearings. The electrics were by Bosch with coil ignition. The multiplate clutch and gearbox drove the rear axle via a torque tube. Suspension was by half-elliptics all around, brakes were mechanical, rod operated and fully compensated. The front axle was of C-section, the front springs passed through holes in the beam. Small rods forming part of the front actuation passed upwards and through the centre of the king-pins.

Twin-overhead-camshaft ‘Sport’ and supercharged ‘Super Sport’ models followed, the latter being the first of its type to feature the classic open two-seater coachwork by Zagato forever associated with sporting vintage Alfas.

Production of the 6C 1500 ceased in 1929 upon the introduction of the 6C 1750.

(unattributed)

The 6C 1750 (1929-33) boasted a derivative of the 1500’s six-cylinder engine enlarged to 1,752cc. Built in single-cam Turismo and twin-cam Sport (later renamed Gran Turismo) variants it was an exciting, fast, touring car combining light weight with sparkling performance by the standards of the day, more than 120km/h (75mph) was achieved depending upon the coachwork fitted.

Aimed at gentleman racing drivers, or gentlewoman racing drivers in the case of ‘#0312894’!, there was also a limited edition Super Sport, or ‘SS’, version, which later evolved into the Gran Sport.

Produced only during 1929, the SS was available with or without a Roots-type supercharger fed by a Memini carburettor, the production split being 52/60 (blown/un-blown). Most of the cars carried coachwork by Carrozzeria Zagato or Touring with James Young bodying the majority of cars imported into the UK.

The 6C 1750 SS was one of the most popular and successful sports-racing cars of its day. Twenty Alfas competed in the 1929 Mille Miglia, with seven in the top ten. The race was won, for the second consecutive year, by Giuseppe Campari and Giulio Ramponi. Other high profile victories for model included the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, Grand Prix of Ireland and the 12 Hours of San Sebastian – all in 1929 – plus the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps and the RAC Tourist Trophy in 1930. The 1750’s sporting career, aided by its mechanical longevity, extended far beyond its production, which ceased in 1933.

Mrs Jones’ cars competitive life extended well beyond 1933 of course, I doubt any of the 6C1750’s built were used in anger longer than this car!

Bibliography…

Lithgow Mercury 22 March 1954, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, various newspaper articles via Trove 1929-37, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley, Bonhams, article by Sir Anthony Stamer in MotorSport December 1961, contributions on the Alfa BB Forum especially Terry Forrest, Racing Sports Cars, Stephen Dalton

Photo Credits…

Fairfax Media, Tom Woolnough Collection, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Terry Forrest Collection, John Lloyd, Stephen Dalton Collection

Finito…

(M Feisst)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(automobile sportive)

Abarth Simca 1300 GT…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credits…

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