Archive for the ‘Touring Cars’ Category

Touring Car and Sportscar tustle at Longford in 1965…

Don Gorringe, John Goss, Bob Curran and Greg Ellis blast over the River Esk- they have just completed the fast left-hander onto Long Bridge.

These blokes are all Tasmanian’s- I think it’s probably one of the locals only races, Gossy learned his trade pretty well down south- the only fella to win the Australian GP and Bathurst 1000 race double of course.

Goss is in an Appendix J Holden FJ, in front Gorringe is aboard a Jaguar XK150- which is clearly the successful businessman’s ‘daily driver’ given the rego plate affixed to the front bumper. Bob Curran’s Triumph TR4 was a machine he raced through to 1970 at least and the last car is Ellis’ MGA, it too appears as though he raced it for quite a bit.

Do any of these cars still exist? Who won the race?

Love this David Keep photo, it’s very much a ‘feel the noise’ shot…

Credit…

oldracephotos.com.au/D Keep

(R Thorncraft)

Allan Moffat chases Pete Geoghegan out of Creek Corner at Warwick Farm in September 1970…

Goodness knows how many dices these fellas had over the two short years the race histories of the cars converged- Geoghegan’s car was locally built in Sydney by John Sheppard and was continually developed from the time of its debut in 1967, Al Pal’s was a factory KarKraft machine which arrived in Australia in early 1969.

Russell Thorncraft’s photo has drama too- all the dust and shite being thrown up by the cars using all of the road and then some. The meeting is dated by Pete’s ‘rear spoiler’ too- remember him trying a jacked open boot lid either ‘for real’ as downforce or as a ruse!

Etcetera…

(L Hemer)

Lynton Hemer’s shot of Pete at the end of practice at Oran Park above on 9 August 1969 shows some aero experimentation- note the boot strut support.

Lynton recalls ‘These are a couple of overexposed, grainy photos of Pete…Note the strut under the boot lid. If my memory serves me right, I remember him running the car with the boot up in some type of Colin Chapman like experiment with downforce.’

‘Whether he raced the car that way, I can’t recall, but it only happened this once that I know of’- we can now see he did race this way at the ‘farm in 1970.

‘Whether the scrutineers frowned upon it, or it just didn’t work who knows? The car was unbeatable at Oran Park that year (1969) and most of the next, so why he tried it is a mystery’ Hemer concluded.

The photo below shows him deploying his secret weapon as he hunts down Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 911 R/T at Oran Park in 1969- same OP meeting Lynton refers to as above?

(R Thorncraft)

Credits…

Russell Thorncraft, Lynton Hemer

Tailpiece…

(R Thorncraft)

Finito…

It’s funny how stuff happens sometimes, I finally bought a Mini Cooper S last month, mind you, the one I lusted after in my teens was a Morris Cooper S…

Most normal fourteen year old ‘knob-jockeys’ were looking at Playboy and Penthouse and giving the sav a serious slap. Being the sick little unit that I was I spent most of my waking hours looking at Sports Car World, Racing Car News- and Autosport which required a trip to town- Technical Books in Swanston Street, Melbourne will be well known to Victorian enthusiasts over 40.

The cars I lusted after as my first road car- then four years down the track weren’t the local muscle cars but the Cooper S, Escort Twin-Cam, Lotus Europa with my dream car the Ferrari Dino 246GT. The Dino fantasy lasted for a several decades until Gordon Murray’s McLaren F1 finally blew it off its pedestal.

I always thumbed through magazines whilst sitting in a beanbag watching the teev, whilst other cars came and went, my diet of articles always came back to this group of cars with the Cooper S always to be my first car, restricted to a student income as I was.

I had a Castrol promotional brochure (remember the set of seven or eight stapled into Racing Car News, one at a time each month?) about John Leffler’s Cooper S Lwt Sports-Sedan, which I looked at endlessly together with road tests of the S and Clubman GT.

I can still remember the standard Cooper S 1275cc oversizes of the ‘A Series’ block at 1293cc and 1310cc, the factory race AEA 648/649 and rally AEA571 cam part numbers are still in my woolly head long after the intricacies of the accounting and economics I was studying at the time have well and truly disappeared.

Castrol brochure featuring the BMC Racing Team, John Leffler Cooper S, leading Barry Sharp, Ford Falcon at Oran Park circa 1970. Leffo a few years later, 1973, won the Australian FF Championship in a Bowin P6F and in 1976 the Gold Star in an F5000 Lola T400 Chev

I came close to buying Coopers twice and still kick myself for missing out on the first one, a BRG 1969 car in Richmond. Dad insisted I get an RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) mechanical test on it, which was the right parental advice (not that I usually listened to it) and of course the car sold on the Sunday with my deposit dutifully refunded a couple of days later. I cracked the shits with him for well over a month.

Spending all of my Monash Uni student income on Elfin 620B Formula Ford laps at the Calder based Bob Jane-Frank Gardner Race Driving School whilst 18 changed everything- I found god and he raced single-seaters!

So the focus then became a road tow car and a Formula Vee by the time I started full-time work, that was achieved. I bought a Venom Vee in February 1979 and started work the following month. So, the Cooper S never happened, why bother rattling around in road cars on-circuit when you can drive the real thing? Here are the exploits of one of Australia’s most prominent FV drivers. Not. https://primotipo.com/2016/10/06/formula-vee-and-the-summer-of-79/

I have owned a few Cooper S TYPE cars though; three Alfasuds- Sedan, TI twin-carb and Sprint and an Alfa 147GTA amongst other things.

The Lotus Europa, when I finally drove one was a heap of shit- what a disappointment, ‘shake-rattle-and roll’ it wasn’t a flash example i guess, but the Lotus fetish never left me- my Elise was a wonderful 5 year experience if somewhat challenging in the winter.

I looked at a beaut ‘Vermillion Fire’ red Escort Twin-Cam an old codger (he was far younger than I am now) had for sale in Glen Iris but by then a mate had an Alfa Giulia Sprint GT (nee 1600 GTV) in which I drove a lot of miles and it was a far more cohesive bit of kit than the Escort- and I had couple of 105 Series coupes as a consequence.

The Italian Sheila

Roll on a cuppla decades, had kids, raced historic Formula Ford, got divorced and got a girlfriend. An Italian one actually- if I’d known what Northern Italian sheilas were like at 18 I’d have specialised in that breed from then- but you live and learn right?

Five years ago she bought an R53 Cooper S auto (sub-optimal as a manual driver but too easy round town), in fact I wrote about it a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/03/perdriau-master-cord-tyres-mini-cooper-s-nuriootpa-and-lobethal-australian-grands-prix-tour/

In recent times the thing, which always used a lot of oil, has been using a forty-four of expensive lubricant a fortnight. Our mechanic put this down to the car probably not being run in properly in its infancy- Patrizia being ‘WUBs’ second owner. The funny thing is you can’t see the oil being burned like you could in the old days- the plume of pungent but sweet smelling blue smoke has not been there.

She-who-must-be-obeyed looked at new Abarth 595’s last summer and only baulked when I pointed out the lack of cruise-control- so we, she, kept driving The WUBster and I kept shoving expensive oil down its gullet on a weekly basis whilst alternative, automobile deliberations continued.

WUB @ Tarra Warra Estate near Healesville

And then, as they say in the classics, it happened!

Ok, I did insist we use her car for the trip to Kyneton, comfier than mine as it is.

A few kays past Calder, going up the long hill towards Diggers Rest the little beastie lapsed onto 3 cylinders- not a big deal I thought as the same thing happened in almost the same place twelve months before and was just a duff plug. An easy, cheap fix.

Not so this time.

The long gradual build up of carbon on #3 piston from all that not fully burned oil over all those years, ignited, blowing a neato hole in said aluminium component and did some block damage to add insult to injury. Worse, it was ALL MY FAULT as I insisted we use her car not mine- I was driving the thing at the moment of destruction.

Never mind the fact that the ‘liddl fokker could have let go on a similar trip she did to McRae the week before…’twas all my fault, deploying all of the chick logic they have.

No amount of cunning-linguistics on my part, and my powers of persuasion are not too shabby given forty years in business, were going to shift the crossed arms of The Italian Sheila.

So my friends, having first got interested in Coopers circa 1971, I am now the proud owner of an R53 in 2019, it’s easily the most expensive in Australia too. My heart feels good but my wallet is not so flash.

The Italian Sheila did buy the Abarth in the end- it’s great, in some ways the ultimate inner city tool, I’ll bore you with that another time.

As I said at the outset, it’s funny how stuff happens sometimes, and more often than not a chick is involved…

PS; Hopefully The Italian Sheila does not read this, she never looks at primotipo, all good, I trust, hope and pray.

Tailpiece: The new Abarth 595 in Brunswick Street, North Fitzroy…

Castrol Cooper S Brochure- the rest of it…

 

Finito…

 

(G Ruckert)

‘Brian Foley in the Alfa Romeo GTAm nicely on line as he exits The Karrussell, Lakeside 18 April 1971’ wrote photographer Graham Ruckert…

This is about as natural a setting, devoid of signage and the visual clutter typical of racetracks by the early seventies you could hope for to capture surely one of the most beautifully proportioned and delicately toned Touring Car racers ever?

Foley’s ex-works car in its various incarnations is very well known to Oz enthusiasts, I’ll get around to writing about it again one day- I first did so in an Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Australia magazine circa 1978! About time to do so again, thankfully the car is still in Australia, in Melbourne’s east and in the very best of Alfista hands too.

Photo Credit…

Graham Ruckert

(S Hood)

Prime Minister Robert Menzies and Laurie Hartnett in the back of a Vauxhall Wyvern Caleche Tourer having opened General Motors Holdens new factory at Pagewood, in Sydney’s southern suburbs 1940…

I know its not a motor racing shot so it would normally be outside primotipo’s focus but the photos were too good to waste, and I will get there, a racing element is here to be found in a little bit.

(S Hood)

 

GMH Pagewood on the day of the plant’s opening (S Hood)

The merger of Holden Motor Bodies Ltd with General Motors (Australia) Pty Ltd as a result of the stress caused to the former during the great depression forged the basis of one of Australia’s great manufacturers and an iconic marque, the merged entity was named General Motors-Holden’s Ltd.

A great Touring Car Racing brand as well- there is the racing link I guess.

The new company opened its first factory at Fishermans Bend, in Melbourne’s inner west in 1936 and at Pagewood in 1940.

After World War 2 the business made coachwork for Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Vauxhall.

By the mid-forties the automotive industry had the government onside to encourage the development of Australia’s own car.

Holden, led by Hartnett got the upper hand on Ford in a pitch by keeping their demands for taxpayer support to a lower level than FoMoCo.

 

The first Holden was built to a reject 1949 model design based on 1946 Chevrolet mechanicals. The car was to sit between the bigger American’s and smaller British machines which dominated in Oz at the time. The engine was also Chev based. This photo is the 1945 clay model of the Holden 48-215, named the ‘Anzac Holden’ by its clay modeller, Frank Herschey

(SLSA)

 

Ben Chifley at the Holden launch, Fishermans Bend, 29 November 1948 (NMA)

In 1944 the feds invited GMH to build a family car suited to our unique, extreme climatic conditions.

American and Australian engineers hand built three Holden test cars at GM’s experimental workshop in Detroit- the first, chassis ‘19525’ was completed on 30 August 1946. After months of durability tests the cars were secretly shipped back to Fishermans Bend.

 

The very first Holden prototype ‘car number 19525 from Project 2000, which then became Project 320 and the initial prototype of the future 48-215 in the United States showing the cars temporary name ‘GMH’ above the ‘Holdens’ badge on the bonnet’. Rego Michigan BK-46-48 (SLSA)

 

Further testing took place locally and then GMH engineers and technicians built two further prototypes in Australia, the first of these was completed on 22 August 1947- these became the definitive model and shape we all know and love.

For the record, the first production Holden was completed on 1 October 1948, largely built off-line, it was a ‘Gawler Cream’ 48-215, body #6, VIN ‘8-1001-M’ and fitted with engine # ‘1001’.

 

 

In 1948 in a ceremonial scene akin to the opening image, then Prime Minister Ben Chifley pulled the covers off Holden #1, the ’48-215′ or Holden FX at Fishermans Bend on 29 November 1948, with mass production starting at the heady rate of ten cars a day!

Soon production boomed of course, and the rest, as they say is history- including the closure of the final Holden production line at Elizabeth, South Australia on Friday 20 October 2017.

The Australian motor industry as manufacturers of mass-market cars no longer exists. We now have a tiny number of niche companies- god bless Michael Borland and Spectrum Racing Cars down Mordialloc way in outer Melbourne for example.

 

Fishermans Bend 1948 (SLV)

 

48-215 first brochure

 

States Motors team, South Australia with one of their first two Holdens in December 1948 (D Loffler)

The ’48-215′ was economical, sturdy, stylish, light and with its modern’ish cast iron, OHV, 2171 cc/132.5 cid, in-line six cylinder engine gave better performance than similarly priced, or in some cases, more expensive cars.

In standard form the undersquare engine (bore 3 inches, stroke 3 1/8 inches) gave 60 bhp @ 3800 rpm and 100 foot/pounds of torque at a very relaxed 2000 rpm on a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The motor was fed by a single downdraft Stromberg BXOV-1 carburettor with spark provided by a Delco-Remy distributor. Gearbox was 3 speed- the shift was column mounted, the four-wheel drum brakes had a kerb weight of 2230 pounds to stop.

Amenable to tuning, enthusiasts were soon fitting twin-SU’s or Strombergs or Amals, extractors and giving the heads the usual port ‘n polish treatment to extract additional neddies which were easily found.

The post war explosion of the Australian economy with full employment, industry protected by high tariff walls and the ready availability of consumer credit made it possible for a family man or salesman to have not just day to day transport but also a car for club motorsport.

In many ways the work-horses of Australian motor-racing were MG’s of all sorts, both pre and post-war but especially T Types and the 48-215 or more colloquially the FX, and FJ ‘Humpy’ Holdens in the fifties and into the sixties- so many folks cut their racing teeth in these machines.

 

Redex Round Australia Trial Holden FJ competitor- in South Australia but otherwise intrigued to know the details (Adelaide Advertiser)

 

Len Lukey’s Ford Customline from Syd Anderson’s 48 Series (with non-standard grille) and Bob Holden, Peugeot during the 1957 Caversham AGP weekend (K Devine)

 

Touring car racing started in Australia at the sports inception, daily drivers in the earliest days were the cars which competed in trials and the timed speed events- hillclimbs and sprints within trials. The first Australian Touring Car Championship (Australian Stock Car Championship) was held during the Australian Grand Prix weekend at Lobethal, South Australia in January 1939.

The inexorable and later rapid rise of tourers over pure racing cars in Australia was largely due in the 1950’s to grids chockers with Holden’s- spectators turned out in large numbers to a growing number of race-tracks to watch blokes compete in cars outwardly similar to those in which many of the punters arrived at the race meeting.

In fact by the end of the fifties the quickest of the Holdens were quite sophisticated racers incorporating Phil Irving designed Repco ‘Hi-Power’ cylinder heads, two or three carburettors with one or two cars fitted with Merv Waggott’s twin-cam heads to create an ‘ultimate spec’ Holden.

MG TC and sometimes Jaguar four speed boxes replaced the Holden ‘three on the tree’ column shift gearbox, four wheel discs replaced the standard drums, the cars were extensively lightened and all of the rest…

 

Ron Harrop’s ‘Howler’ at Calder in the early seventies- Holden FJ with highly developed Holden ‘Red motor’ successor to the ‘Grey’. Harrop became a touring car circuit ace and a Holden engineer par-excellence (unattributed)

 

Warren Weldon from Bo Seton, Holden FX by two: Catalina Park early sixties (B Wells)

 

Great names who raced ‘Humpy Holdens’ included Jack Myers, the ‘Holden King of the mid-fifties’, John French, Leo and Pete Geoghegan, Max Stahl, Spencer Martin, Des West, Norm Beechey, Brian Muir, Warren Weldon, Bo Seton, John Goss and many, many others.

Into the dawn of the sixties CAMS adoption of Appendix J put paid to the wild modifications which had started to proliferate- it became the category to which the Australian Touring Car Championship was run. ‘Series Production’ or standard road car racing provided the basis for further growth in tourers by spawning endurance classics such as the Phillip Island and later Bathurst 500, relative to racing cars which became progressively starved of sponsorship funds and less and less relevant to the ‘football, meat-pies and touring cars lovin’ Australian public.

Be in no doubt my friends, Holden Motor Bodies Ltd in 1919 begat General Motors Holdens Ltd which gave birth to the ’48-215′, the intrinsic qualities of the design created a worthy competition car in modified form, the ready availability of which gave rise to the accelerated (pun intended) growth of touring car racing in Australia.

 

Melbourne Museum, Swanston Street. Royal Australian Navy Hawker Sea Fury (VW626) with Holden 48-215 in the foregrund during the ‘Jubilee of Flight’ exhibition in July 1953 (Museums Victoria)

After-thought: Sir Laurence Hartnett…

Laurie Hartnett strode the Australian manufacturing landscape like a colossus throughout his career but his pugnacious attitude to his American masters as to the design elements of an All Australian Holden led to his removal as Chief Executive of GMH Ltd in December 1946.

He was offered a role with the GM Corporation in the US but did not want to leave Australia- he never got to give birth to Australia’s own car- his own Hartnett was a notable achievement all the same. I’m not going to get lost in this tangent but click here to read in brief about a quite remarkable man.

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hartnett-sir-laurence-john-12602

Etcetera…

Repco Hi-Power Head..

https://primotipo.com/2015/06/26/repco-record-car-and-repco-hi-power-head/

Holden ‘Grey’ as Racingcar and Sportscar Engine…

Whilst the focus of this article is the 48-215 and FJ as competition cars themselves the Holden Grey was adopted by many racers as replacement engines for their single-seater or sportscar originals or as the very basis of a special.

The Bristol to Holden conversions of Cooper T20 and T 23’s are examples of the former and the Lou Molina and Sil Massola ‘Molina Monza’ an example of the latter.

Click here; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

and here; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/13/shifting-gear-design-innovation-and-the-australian-car-exhibition-national-gallery-of-victoria-by-stephen-dalton-mark-bisset/

Des West’s 48-215 Racing Specifications..

http://www.thegreymotor.com/2014/11/des-west-fx-27-grey-survivor.html

Des West’s second 48-215 racer pictured at home, Wingham, NSW having set the fastest Holden record time at Lowood in 1964 (G Woodward)

Rally and Race..

June 1953 Monte Carlo Rally, Davison, Gaze and Jones DNF. Gatsonides/Worledge won in a Ford Zephyr (unattributed)

 

1953 Monte Carlo Rally- Messrs Gaze, Davison and Jones- Aces All

 

John French at Gnoo Blas, Orange circa 1960 (R Kaleda)

 

 

 

 

 

Chifley, Fishermans Bend, 29 November 1948 (SLSA)

 

Hottie and the new 48-215. Whereizzit tho? Being lazy buggers I’m thinkin the Holden PR mob would not have travelled far to do the photo shoot so my vote is Ringwood Lake on Melbourne’s eastern outskirts?

Credits…

Sam Hood, Museums Victoria, State Library of South Australia, Ray Kaleda, Garry Woodward, General Motors Holden. australiaforeveryone.com.au, Museums Victoria, Bruce Wells

Tailpiece: ‘Told you it would be pretty painless’ Bob Menzies and Laurence Hartnett, GMH Pagewood 1940…

(S Hood)

Finito…

(M Bishop)

Bryan Thomson’s VW Chev V8 ‘Volksrolet’ at Hume Weir in 1975…

I love photographer Mark Bishop’s wit in relation to this mega-shot-‘Look closely- proof even Doctor Who went to Hume Weir Raceway to watch Bryan Thomson’. It’s the marshalls communications phone box, PMG issue at the time behind Bryan- Post Master General’s department, the precursor of Australia Post and Telstra.

Check out Thommo’s form as he tips the McLaren M10B F5000 ‘parts-bin’ Volksrolet sideways into Pit Straight with the right-front pawing the air. What an iconic, awesome and tricky beast it was, tamed so well by Shepparton’s finest.

Thommo this time hiking the front left at Calder’s ‘Tin Shed’, in front of the landlord, Bob Jane’s Holden Monaro GTS350 in December 1974 (B Keys)

Photo Credits…

Mark Bishop, Bruce Keys

Tailpiece: Thomson and Jim McKeown, Porsche 911 Turbo, Hume Weir 1975…

John Mann’s Cortina Repco Holden and Mike Stillwell’s Escort BDG in the distance (M Bishop)

Finito…

Bernie Haehnle aboard his Rennmax Mk1 Formula Vee on the front row of the grid at Warwick Farm in 1971…

Nice find of a batch of interesting photos- this one of Bernie on the front of the grid, where he typically resided, and the other two which triggered this article are Australian Department of Immigration ‘success stories of migrants in sport’ of whom Bernie was one- he hails from Stuttgart, Germany.

(DIA)

 

(DIA)

 

At the time of the article ( I wonder where it was published?) he had his own automotive business in Lane Cove, Sydney. Haehnle progressed from FV- these Bob Britton built Rennmax Mk1’s were the ‘ducks-guts’ to have, especially in New South Wales, to Formula Ford, racing a Bowin P6F with much elan. As was the case for top open-wheeler racers he usually saddled up in a Series Production car for the annual enduros at Bathurst, Sandown and Surfers. I wonder what he is up to these days?

Bernie, Rennmax Mk1 in the Warwick Farm Esses, November 1971 (L Hemer)

Credits…

Industrial Photography, Department of Immigration Australia, Lynton Hemer, Pictorial History of Racing Cars

What a great way for a young driver to have his profile lifted. As a sponsored driver, these Shell ads were placed in the mainstream motoring magazines of the day, not just niche ones like ‘Australian Hot Rod’.

(Pic History of Racing Cars)

Tailpiece: Just a smidge more, five more minutes…

Bernie was clearly determined and clever!

His disagreement with local real estate occurred at XL (Griffins) Bend during the running of the 1969 Bathurst 500 classic when he ran out of road heading up the mountain.

With his trusty fence post, leverage, push-and-shove and the fall of the land Bernie was able to get the little GH Whitehead entered Mazda R100 back onto its wheels and into the fray after an hour of toil. He drove down the mountain and through a farm before rejoining the blacktop.

It is one of those feats of never-say-die which has gone down in Bathurst folklore- and garnered far more TV coverage than a mid-field class car could have ever dreamed of!

Co-driver Peter Wherrett shared the car with him, the pair retired on lap 31 with PW not getting a drive but watching the drama unfold on the telly in the pits. The car was driveable, a tad second hand, but without a windscreen officialdom stepped in.

(autopics.com.au)

In an historic sidebar it was the first time a rotary engined car raced at the Mountain- in fact it was one of the R100’s first race appearances anywhere in the world.

Whilst the 982cc, twin-rotor, 100bhp cars were very quick in a straight line thanks to a combination of power and light weight.

Haehnle, R100 early in the race (autopics.com.au)

With only 805 kg to cart along, the little coupe did the standing quarter in sub 18 seconds with a top whack of 175 km/h. It wasn’t as flash through the corners though- the R100 was very narrow and tall relative to its length, resulting in lots of body roll and fearful roll oversteer at high speed caused by toe-out on the outside rear wheels due to deflection in the leaf springs. Ask Bernie.

Three R100’s started at Mount Panorama, the quickest of the two remaining finished fifth (Garry Cooke/Geoff Spence) in Class C behind the winning Cooper S, two Fiat 125s and a lone Valiant Pacer. The second R100 was seventh- the Mazdas finished two laps behind the winning Coopers with their superior handling, fuel economy and long track record of motor racing success.

What was impressive was that two standard, off the production line examples of Mazda’s new mass-produced rotary survived 500 miles flat-knacker on one of the world’s most challenging circuits without a drama. Mazda became an important force in Australian touring car racing over the ensuing decade, all of which started with the R100 and test-pilots like Bernie!

Finito…