Archive for the ‘Touring Cars’ Category

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…

‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ race, Lobethal 1939 (SLSA)

The first official ‘Australian Touring Car Championship’ was held at Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales on 1 February 1960, the one race title was famously won by David McKay’s Jaguar Mk1 3.4.

I wonder whether the first Australian Touring Car Championship is not that ‘Official’ as in CAMS sanctioned event at all- but rather the ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ race held during the January 2 1939 Australian Grand Prix meeting at Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills won by Tom Bradey’s Singer Bantam?…

The racing of ‘run-what-you-brung’ production cars goes all the way back to the dawn of racing in Australia- to Intercontinental City to City record breaking, the ‘Car Trials’ run out of major towns and the speed events held within them, on dirt ‘speedways’ and ‘Around the Houses’ racing in Western Australia.

‘Stock Car’ or touring car racing at Applecross, Perth during the 1940 Patriotic GP meeting- the Bill Smith Humber chases a Chevrolet (K Devine)

 

Steamin’: More Applecross action, gas producers Stock Car race!, with one competitor boiling on the line, magic shot (K Devine)

The Monday 2 January Lobethal 1939 AGP event program comprised a 10.45am ‘curtain-raiser’- the 75 mile South Australian Grand Prix, and then ‘an innovation, the Australian Stock Car Road Championship, in which all manner of stock car models, from sedans to tourers, and small engine roadsters have been entered’ over 50 miles held at 1pm. Finally the blue riband Australian Grand Prix contested over 150 miles of the ultra challenging, dangerous, demanding Lobethal road circuit commenced at 2.30pm.

These races, consistent with Australian motor racing practice well into the sixties were run to handicaps- I’m not suggesting that all races into the sixties were handicaps, but some were. The last handicap AGP was the 1948 Point Cook, Melbourne race won by Frank Pratt’s BMW 328.

The entry for the Lobethal stock car title race was diverse and comprised, as suggested above both ‘touring cars’ and ‘sports cars’. This too was the case in Australia until well into the fifties, ‘Sportscars were still seen as a natural part of a production car field, although the arrival of the Jaguar XK120 tended to stretch the friendship’…’The combination of sports and sedan cars to make up production car fields plus the frequent resort to handicapping, meant there were very few predictable winners amongst the touring cars of the early 1950s…’according to HATCC (The Official History of The Australian Touring Car Championship).

John Snow in his Hudson 8, a roadie as well as a car he competed in- inclusive of hillclimbs and at Mt Panorama, Bathurst (N Howard)

The ‘Geoghegans, Brocks and Lowndes’ of that 1939 day were Frank Kleinig in Bill McIntyre’s Hudson 8 and the similarly equipped John Snow, with Jock McKinnon, J McGowan and Ted Parsons in Ford V8’s. In amongst the ‘heavy metal’ were cars such as the Austin 8 raced by local ace of that marque Ron Uffindell, K Brooks’ Wolseley, D Hutton in a Morris 8/40 and Tom Bradey in a Singer 9 Bantam.

The sportscars comprised MG T Types of Owen Dibbs and S Osborne, the MG ‘Tiger’ of Selwyn Haig and the fast Jaguar SS100 of G Brownsworth- he was off scratch as were Kleinig and Snow, the latter two blokes aces in the ‘Grand Prix’ machinery also racing that day. The winner of the AGP was Allan Tomlinson, the prodigiously quick and superbly prepared Perth ace aboard a supercharged MG TA, a wonderful story for another time. Soon actually, it’s completed.

G Brownsworth Jaguar SS100 (B King)

The Adelaide Advertiser’s reporter was not particularly impressed with the touring cars in practice. ‘The entrants in the Australian Stock Car Championship had trouble at almost all of the corners on the course, as the cars, not built for racing, swayed and threatened to overturn with the heavy loading imposed on the bodies imposed by the racing speeds’.

Despite that, Kleinig lapped in 7:32 min/secs, Snow 7:35 and Phillips in 7:45- by way of comparison the lap record was held by Lobethal-Meister Alf Barrett in a 2.3 litre supercharged straight-eight Alfa Romeo Monza in 5:41- so in relative terms they were not too shabby.

Perhaps modern comparisons are instructive. The F1 lap record at Albert Park is Schumacher’s 2004 Ferrari time of 1:24.125, the V8 Supercars record is Scott McLaughlin’s Ford FG X Falcon’s 1:54.6016. Kleinig’s time as a percentage of Barrett’s is 73%, McLaughlin’s of Schumacher’s is 80%- and so it should be, the V8 Supercar is a racer whilst the Hudson 8 was very much a production car. The point is that the relative production lap time of the Hudson relative to a Grand Prix car of the period is not too bad at all.

Lobethal crowd taking in the stock car race 1939 (SLSA)

The Advertiser reported the race as follows…

‘Chief interest in the Australian stock car championship centred on the possibility of J McKinnon Ford V8 (3 mins) catching the leader, TM Bradey who was off 11 minutes in the little four cylinder Singer. The speed of the race was very slow in comparison to the SA Grand Prix’ the Advertiser’s reporter ‘Differential’ observed.

Bradey went into the lead from the Uffindell Austin 8 on the third time around with Hutton, Morris 8/40 a long way back in third. Brook’s Wolseley, Mrs Jacques MG T (Owen Gibbs driver) and the Osborne MG T retired at Kayannie after about three laps each, and McKinnon and Parsons in Ford V8’s moved up into fourth and fifth places respectively’.

Jock McKinnon’s second placed Ford V8, his handicap was 3 minutes (unattributed)

 

Ron Uffindell’s Austin 8 placing is unclear but he had a good weekend winning the South Australian GP in his Austin 7 Spl (B King)

‘Brownsworth with his low-slung racing type car (Jaguar SS100) was the best of the scratch men, and he left them to chase the other five. Lapping consistently at more than 70 miles an hour he moved up several places in successive laps and was gradually overhauling the leaders.

Bradey, however maintained his lead to the finish’.

Tom Bradey was a motor mechanic from Barmera in South Australia’s Riverland, he and his mechanic, Charlie Sheppard, who owned the car, towed it the 200 Km to Lobethal.

Tom Bradey and Charlie Sheppard on their way to a Lobethal Oz Stock Car Championship win’ locally bodied Singer Bantam (unattributed)

 

Tom Bradey and Charlie Sheppard after their historic win, Singer 9 Bantam. It is fair to say that the (non-championship) Group A Touring Car race held as a support event at the first Adelaide F1 GP held just down the road in 1985 was a higher profile race than this one! (J Redwood)

In a weekend of surprises for the Bradey family, James Redwood, Tom’s grandson wrote that ‘Uncles Peter and Don Bradey say he may not have told his wife (my grandmother) the whole truth about about his intention to race at Lobethal’.

‘Tom had set off with the family under the assumption that he was part of the support crew. The race was broadcast on the radio and it wasn’t until mention of Bradey on the call that the family realised he was the driver’.

Bradey returned to Lobethal the following year and raced a Bugatti Brescia in the 1940 ‘South Australian 100′, but failed to finish the race won by Jack Phillips’ Ford V8 Spl. Years later, in 1958, he bought the ex-Bira/Colin Dunne MG K3 which won the Junior GP at Lobethal in Colin’s hands in 1938 and failed to start the ’39 AGP that weekend with engine troubles. Many Australian enthusiasts will recall the Bradeys ownership and use of the K3 for decades.

In a nice bit of symmetry, Tom Bradey was approached by a North Adelaide man with the offer of sale of a Singer 9 in similar specification to his winning 1939 title car, that car passed to James Redwood in 1972 and in restored condition is still used regularly- the Bradey family-Singer connection lives on.

D Hutton’s fifth place Morris 8/40 (B King)

Race Results

1st TM Bradey Singer 9 Bantam in an actual race time of 54:08 minutes. 2nd J McKinnon Ford V8 . 3rd Ted Parsons Ford V8. 4th G Brownsworth Jaguar SS. 5th DE Hutton Morris 8/40.

The placings below Hutton are unrecorded in both the Advertiser’s contemporary race report published on 3 January 1939 and in more modern reference sources. The fastest lap fell to Brownsworth- 7 min 27 sec at ‘just over 71 miles an hour’.

Most results listings of the race have Jack Phillips as the driver of the third placed Ford V8. Whilst entered by him the car was raced by Ted Parsons according to The Advertiser. Jack and Ted were partners in a Ford service and sales agency at Wangaratta in northern Victoria.

Phillips drove, and Parsons was riding mechanic in the Ford V8 Special the pair owned and raced so successfully in this period- inclusive of third place in the AGP held later in the day and wins at the Interstate Grand Prix at Wirlinga, Albury that March and in the 1940 South Australian 100 at Lobethal.

It was 101 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade that scorching hot South Australian day- perhaps Phillips made a late call early in the sweltering weekend to preserve his energies for the AGP which immediately followed the stock car race, and allowed his partner to race in the support event.

Phillips was one of the aces of the period, it does make you wonder what Jack could have done with the car had he been the driver- and also whether Parsons raced with Phillips’ handicap, which would have been tougher than that applied to him given his level of racing experience, or whether he was given a different handicap.

I wonder if the Ford V8 raced by Parsons was off the Phillips/Parsons dealership floor in Wangaratta or supplied to them by FoMoCo?!

Surely this isn’t the first factory racing Ford entered in an Australian Touring (Stock) Car Championship race?! Harry Firth where are you?

Jack Phillips and Ted Parsons, Ford V8 Spl during the ’39 AGP. No doubt Parsons was a tad weary when he climbed into the the Big Henry’s passenger seat after his 3rd place in the Stock Car Championship race which preceded this event (N Howard)

The interesting thing is why the Lobethal race isn’t regarded as the first Australian Touring Car Championship given both the race’s name- the ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’, the ‘national’ entry list (Victoria, NSW and SA?) and that the race was run in a manner consistent with common practice right through to the end of the late-fifties- that is, a mix of touring and sports cars in a handicap event…

The ‘HATCC’ devotes several paragraphs to the race in its introduction but the emphasis of that part of the book is more about the rules of the time, ‘the race (the 1939 Lobe race) the programme explained was “open to standard touring or sportscars fitted with standard equipment and operating on standard first-grade fuel. The only alterations allowed will be raised compression ratio and alterations to the suspension in the interests of safety. In some cases, alterations to the suspension will be insisted upon”.

Then the much respected authors of the book moved on to a discussion about racing after the war.

Selwyn Haig’s MG ‘Tiger’, placing uncertain (B King)

 

Tom Bradey’s Singer being rounded up by Frank Kleinig’s Kleinig 8 Spl during the 1939 Lobethal weekend. This is Kleinig’s outright Hudson 8 MG chassis special he raced in the AGP, not the road car in which he contested the stock car race (J Redwood)

 

Bradey and Sheppard again (J Redwood)

 

Surely you missed the point blokes?!

Which was or is a debate about the merits of Lobethal as the first Australian Touring Car Championship race rather than Gnoo Blas- which held the CAMS created ‘Australian Touring Car Championship’ title race under the then new ‘Appendix J’ rules which commenced on 1 January 1960.

It is intriguing that HATCC authors Graham Howard, Stewart Wilson and David Greenhalgh didn’t debate the topic in their book’s introduction, in the early 2000’s Australian Motor Racing History was being re-written after all…

The honour of the first Australian Grand Prix was reallocated from the 31 March 1928 ‘100 Miles Road Race’, a race for cars of under 2 litres held on the original, rectangular, 6.5 mile gravel road course at Phillip Island, to the 15 January 1927 ‘Australian Grand Prix’, a six lap, 6 miles and a bit race between two cars around an oval, dirt, 1 mile 75 yards horse racing course at Goulburn, NSW’s second largest city.

To be clear, the Phillip Island event was two races, the cars split into classes based on engine capacity, consisting of a total of seventeen starters from several states, with the quickest time winning- Captain Arthur Waite in an Austin 7 s/c was famously the victor. The Goulburn contest was amongst seven competitors from New South Wales- two heats and then a final amongst the quickest pair over 6 laps- the victor was local racer, Geoff Meredith in a Bugatti T30.

My point is that if the attribution of ‘the first’ AGP can be reallocated on such debatable grounds- that the two-contestant Goulburn 6 minute 14.8 second race is an AGP in name only- then surely it is far from tenuous to assert that the first ATCC was the 2 January 1939 Lobethal race amongst competitors from two or three states won by Tom Bradey’s Singer 9 Bantam over 50 miles of the toughest ever race track in Australia, to rules or practices of the time which prevailed until the end of 1959?

Don’t get me wrong, I agree- just, depending upon the number of Coopers ‘Reds’ consumed on the night, that the first AGP is the 1927 Goulburn race, but it is very easy to argue the other way given the entire nature of the event other than its name.

1939 Lobethal program (S Dalton)

John Blanden in his 1981 ‘A History of The Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ writes in his introductory comments about the Lobethal meeting that ‘Immediately preceding the Australian Grand Prix were two other events, the 75 mile South Australian Grand Prix and the Australian Stock Car Championship which in later years would have had the title of Australian Touring Car Championship’.

Whilst on this jolly I rather suspect that had a Ford V8 won the Lobe race there would have been agitation from Ford/Ford fans/enthusiasts/historians to appropriate the 1939 championship as their first ATCC win but given the victor was a Singer- a long gone marque, there has been no such pressure applied.

Then of course there is my conspiracy theory, there always has to be one of those surely!?

The CAMS view of the world started with their existence in 1953, with all due respect to the serious historians spread across the CAMS Historic Commission, what happened in the past pre-1953 does not matter to the CAMS mainstream hierachy much.

‘The Official 50 Year History of The Australian Touring Car Championship’ published in 2011 to celebrate 50 years of the ATCC from the 1960 Gnoo Blas race has CAMS fingerprints all over it.

A CAMS promo banner appears on the cover, a Foreword by V8 Supercars CEO Martin Whitaker tells how wonderful that mob are and there is a second Foreword from CAMS President Andrew Papadopoulos (don’t mention Formula 4 folks, I did once and I think I got away with it…) ole’ Papa points out in his homily that ‘The ATCC is the second longest running national touring car championship in the world…’, include the ’39 Lobethal event and you have the oldest in the world matey…

I can’t help but wonder that even if the HATCC authors thought their was merit in recognising the 1939 Lobethal race as the first such title, and I’m not saying that is what they think/thought- I rather suspect the CAMS view is that the ATCC started with ‘their’ title in 1960- the ‘Official’ one, whereas the Lobethal race wasn’t an ‘Official’ championship but rather a concoction of the Sporting Car Club of South Australia, the organisers of the Lobethal meeting and is therefore ‘Unofficial’ rather than ‘Official’.

So, there you go, it’s all a CAMS conspiracy not to recognise Lobethal 1939 as it suits their dialogue and view of the world not to- even if the recognition of ’39 would make ’em the big swingin’ dicks of the touring car world by instantly giving them the oldest such title on the planet.

But let’s move on from CAMS, it’s always best to move on from CAMS. Quickly and with plenty of distance.

(S Dalton)

It’s just as easy to come up with reasons why the Lobethal meeting isn’t and wasn’t the first ATCC of course.

Just like a good lawyer, I can argue the case either way depending upon who is paying me the most. And no, I am not a lawyer, I’m not cursed by the misplaced sense of superiority which afflicts those poor souls.

So here are the arguments against Lobe ’39 first ATCC recognition, and rebuttals in relation thereto.

1.The race wasn’t called ‘The Australian Touring Car Championship’, if it wasn’t literally called just that, it doesn’t count as that.

Rebuttal.

Well yep, ya got me sunshine.

However, in Australia we happily call the 1928 ‘100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island the 1928 AGP and the 26 December 1936 ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ the 1937 AGP (WTF, LOL, go figure etc) so calling the ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ the ‘Australian Touring Car Championship’ is consistent with our flexibility in flicking around titles as and when it suits us.

2.A 50 mile race isn’t championship distance.

Rebuttal.

Bugger off! The ’61 and ’63 ATCC’s at Lowood and Mallala were both 50 miles and they were tracks for ‘girl guides’ compared with the rigours and perils of Lobethal.

3.Thirteen starters isn’t championship numbers.

Rebuttal.

Nah not really. Longford in ’62 only had only 14 cars and Sandown in ’65 only had 18- far fewer per head of population than Lobethal managed in ’39.

4. It wasn’t a touring car race with all those lid-less cars?!

Rebuttal.

Well, sorta, maybe but not really. Since 1960 the ATCC has been held to numerous sets of rules- Appendix J, Group C, Group A, V8 Supercars etc. In 1939 touring cars included those with lids, what we now call a convertible and sportscars. ATCC rules have evolved over time, what happened in 1939 is consistent with changes along the journey made by CAMS.

CAMS get confused every now and then too, about individual cars- for example, the Porsche 911, which most of us call a GT Coupe was ATCC eligible for a couple of years, then became a Sports Sedan and another two or so years later a Production Sportscar. Dimensionally during that period the car didn’t change but CAMS view of it did. Go figure. Don’t actually, because you will never figure it.

5.But Lobe was a handicap race, come on, surely not?!

Rebuttal.

Yeah, well maybe. But what is the difference between the class structure used for 20 years or so to give everybody a fair go and handicaps? Don’t even talk about CAMS rule changes here and there in every other year as their tummies were tickled by the politically powerful to create ‘equalisation’ or ‘parity’ between cars. Good try but that argument doesn’t knock us out of the ring either.

6. You are just trying to knock off the ‘first’ ATCC from New South Wales and give it to those undeserving South Australians.

Rebuttal.

I’m no more thieving a race from you mob than theft of the first AGP from the poor, smug, self righteous Victorians! My motives are as pure as any Canberra politicians.

Here endeth the diatribe.

And so my friends, I put it to you that the one race, 50 mile 1939 Lobethal ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ contested by thirteen or so cars and won by Tom Bradey’s Singer Bantam are indeed the first ATCC champion driver and car- official or otherwise.

As many of you know I am not in the slightest bit interested in touring car racing of any sort so my impartiality in relation to all of this is absolute.

Let’s hear your views!

In the meantime i look forward to a reprint of the ‘History of The Australian Touring Car Championship’ and a letter from CAMS in confirmation forthwith…

Tom Bradey and Charlie Sheppard, Singer 9 Bantam, Lobethal 1939 (B King)

 

Bob Lea-Wright and Jack Kennedy on lap 30, on the way to a 1934 AGP win, they had their difficulties as the car was jammed in top gear for much of the race (S Aspinall)

Etcetera: Singer in Australia…

The marque is largely unknown in Australia today but had plenty of competition success in period, Bob Lea-Wright and Jack Kennedy won the 1934 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island in a Singer 9 Le Mans, as below. This car is currently being restored by Nathan Tasca and his father in Victoria and may break cover at Motorclassica shortly.

(S Aspinall)

Sue Asinall, Bob Lea-Wright’s daughter recalls; ‘Dad and Jack Kennedy are outside the Singer dealership he managed in Melbourne after winning the ’34 AGP.

It was an incredible achievement given during practice the engine blew up. Dad and Jack took the car back to Melbourne and worked all night to instal a new one. They wearily drove back to the ‘Island where they had to “run the engine in” over 8 hours around the track on the Sunday and then race on the Monday!

My father also brought back other engine parts needed by fellow competitors! A true gentleman and genuine sportsman/competitor’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lets not forget Noel Campbell’s win at Lobethal the year before, below.

The Adelaide youngster won the 1938 South Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal in the circuit’s first car racing meeting that January driving his self built and modified Singer Bantam Special.

Not too long after the win he moved to Sydney where the car provided daily transport after conversion back to more standard form, it too, most of it, is in Nathan Tasca’s hands.

There is much, much more to the marque’s history in Australia but these two wins are just a couple of snippets to remember.

(N Howard)

Photo Credits…

Norman Howard, State Library of South Australia, Nathan Tasca Collection, Bob King Collection, James Redwood Collection, Sue Aspinall, Stephen Dalton Collection

Special Thanks…

To Singer enthusiasts and owners Nathan Tasca and James Redwood for research material, photographs and anecdotes

Bibliography…

Various Adelaide Advertiser newspaper articles, ‘The Official History of The Australlian Touring Car Championship’ Graham Howard, Stewart Wilson, David Greenhalgh, ‘A History of The Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ John Blanden

Tailpiece: No Lightweight in Performance: Singer Bantam, winner of the first Australian Touring Car Chanpionship…

(N Tasca)

 

Finito…

 

 

(M Bishop)

Allan Moffat, Ford Capri RS3100 leads Jim McKeown, Porsche 911 2.1 Turbo at Hume Weir, 15 June 1975…

I remember being blown away by the sight and sound of Moffat’s glorious ex-works machine upon its Australian debut during the Sandown Tasman meeting five months before. No doubt the echo of the 415 bhp quad-cam, Ford Cosworth V6 as it bounced off the Hume Weir quarry and its surrounds at 8500 rpm was awesome.

Whilst his former, iconic Kar-Kraft built Trans-Am Mustang was very competitive from its first races here in 1969, the Capri (which raced in the Sports Sedan class rather than Improved Touring as the Mustang first did- whilst noting the Mustang’s Sports Sedan period later on) faced a much more competitive grid with cars which had far more power and torque. The Capri had 280 pounds/foot of torque @ 7000 rpm, a lot of Australia’s circuits have lowish average speeds so bottom end mumbo from slower speeds is important- think of Calder and Oran Park not Hockenheim and Monza.

By 1975 the group of next-gen ‘Clever Sports Sedans’ had arrived- the mid-engined John McCormack Valiant Charger Repco-Holden, Bryan Thomson VW Chev V8 ‘Volksrolet’, McKeown’s Porsche Cars Australia owned 911 as well as Pete Geoghegan’s Holden Monaro GTS350 with Frank Gardner’s Tom Nailard concepted Chev Corvair V8 ‘category-rooter’ not too far round the corner. Not to forget Moffat’s Chevy Monza which temporarily replaced the Capri in early 1976 until Ford ‘cracked the shits’ with Allan, and the Capri again took centre stage when a deal was inked to take Ford and Moffat forward for the next couple of years.

(M Bishop)

Moffat swore never to return to Hume Weir after an aggrieved non-Ford fan threw a long-neck Fosters bottle at the star breaking the Capri’s windscreen and soiling the Canadian’s under-garments as a consequence, during his post-win parade lap.

Understandably pissed off, Moffat stopped his Capri and climbed up onto the fence to identify the mongrel concerned, who was by that stage beating a hasty retreat.

The dude was duly identified, charged and went before the courts- but Al Pal never did return to the Weir…

(B Keys)

A favourite Touring Car for me, this photograph above is of Moffat upon the cars Oz debut during the Sandown Tasman meeting in February 1975, hooking into Shell Corner.

What about Jim McKeown’s Porsche though, I’d forgotten about that clever machine?

(Chequered Flag)

Alan Hamilton’s mid-engined Porsche 911…

Was Alan Hamilton and his team in Melbourne the first to build a mid-engined 911? Dunno- but I am intrigued to find out.

With the growth of interest in Sports Sedans (in essence an almost anything goes sedan class) in the early seventies the Porsche racer/importer wanted his marque at the front of the grids. He therefore concepted a clever mix of light weight, mid-engined location of the engine- a 2.1 litre Group 4, 470bhp turbo-charged, SOHC flat-six and ‘racing car’ type suspension, said car to be driven by Jim McKeown.

Hamilton drew simple spaceframe or subframe structures front and rear to pick up the engine and suspension componentry from the 908 (1969-1971 and beyond sports-racer) parts bin. By mounting the engine in front of the rear axle the car would have better weight distribution than the standard 911 layout and therefore better handling. All up weight was about 1500 pounds.

(Chequered Flag)

The top photo shows the spidery frame to support the engine, transaxle and suspension. Brakes are ventilated ATE, 11 inches in diameter both front and rear operated by dual master cylinders with a balance bar mechanism incorporated. The gearbox is of course a Porsche unit with ZF slippery diff.

The keen eyed will note the upper and lower wishbone front suspension rather than the standard McPherson struts, lightweight 908 upright and hubs clear. Unequal length wishbones were also used at the rear, with coil springs and Bilstein shocks at both ends.

Porsche 911 Turbo in the Winton paddock in 1975. Note the beefy roll cage structure and ally housing in the back seat over the engine. Note also location of the puffer compared with the workshop shot below (J McKeown)

 

McKeown, Hume Weir 1975 (B Keys)

The February 1975 Chequered Flag article about the car notes that ‘CAMS have already announced that the Porsches will be eligible only for Production Sportscar racing in 1976 while March this year will see the production of the first road going turbo-charged Porsches in Europe’- remember what a mind-snapper the first ‘930 Turbos’ were to look at on our roads, even if the driving experience left a little to be desired? CF note the FIA Group 4 version (what became the 934) will be built in 1976.

Oran Park 1975, McKeown, with the suspension working nicely (N Stratton)

Hamilton explained the foibles of driving turbos at the time ‘…driving a turbo-charged car requires more skill than for a normal engined car because when lifting your foot on deceleration there is a time delay of approximately one second before the engine starts to reduce speed. Similarly, on acceleration one second elapses from when you press the accelerator pedal to the time of the increased engine speed. Naturally this type of driving will take a bit of getting used to, and it is planned to test the car extensively before it appears in its proposed first race at Sandown on Febraury 23rd’- the Sandown Tasman meeting at which Moffat’s Capri took its first bow.

Winton 1975- it really was rather fetching on-circuit in this fag packet colour scheme (J McKeown)

Engine shot in the PCA workshop, with specifications as per the ‘Turbo’in the chart below- in essence SOHC, two valve, twin plug turbo-charged flat-six 2142cc engine producing circa 470bhp @ 8000 rpm and 364 ft/lbs of torque at 5500rpm.

(Chequered Flag)

Note the turbo-charger (KKK?), wastegate and pop-off valve and frame to mount the engine into the cars chassis.

Whatever became of this particular Porker?

Etcetera…

(Chequered Flag)

 

Oran Park 1975: McKeown from Moffat, Leo Geoghegan Porsche 911S and Bob Stevens Ford Mustang (N Stratton)

Article on Australia’s ‘Cologne Capris’…

https://primotipo.com/2015/04/09/australias-cologne-capris/

Photo and Other Credits…

Mark Bishop, Neil Stratton, Bruce Keys, Chequered Flag magazine February 1975 article by Ronda Matthews, Jim McKeown Racing

Tailpiece: I can hear the howl and it’s echoes, McKeown and Moffat pre-Fosters missile…

(M Bishop)

Finito…