Archive for the ‘Who,What,Where & When…?’ Category

(D McPhedran)

Jack Brabham’s Cooper T53 Climax during the Warwick Farm 100 on 29 January 1961…

Jack didn’t figure in the race with fuel dramas, it was won by Stirling Moss’ Rob Walker Lotus 18 Climax from Innes Ireland’s similar works machine and Bib Stillwell’s Cooper T51 Climax.

Moss, Lotus 18 Climax with body panels removed to better ventilate the cockpit (Getty)

Moss, Gurney and Hill are on the front row, the latter two fellas in BRM P48’s. Ireland and Brabham, to the right, are on row two. Row three comprises Ron Flockhart, Austin Miller and Bib Stillwell in T51’s, with row four again T51’s in the hands of Bill Patterson and Alec Mildren.

(WFFB)

Fourth to and fifth places were bagged by Miller and Flockhart with the rest of the starters, nine cars, failing to finish the 45 laps in a race of attrition run in scorching, humid, Sydney heat.

Credits…

Don McPhedran, Getty Images, oldracingcars.com

 

(L Sims)

The Alan Sinclair Alta at far left, Jack Day owned Bugatti Brescia driven by Norman Ellsworth, Reg Nutt’s #2 Jack Day Special and two MG K3 Magnettes of Colin Dunne and Lyster Jackson before the off- 3 January 1938 South Australian Grand Prix, Lobethal…

My interest in this race was piqued by Bob King identifying the photograph above as this 1938 event rather than the 1936 South Australian Centenary Grand Prix- aka 1936 AGP- the photo was posted by Leon Sims on his marvellous Rob Roy Facebook page.

To my pleasant surprise good ‘ole Trove (an Australian digital newspaper research tool) produced a couple of comprehensive event accounts to bring some great photos to life.

The race meeting is significant for the fact that it was the very first Lobethal meeting for cars, one for ‘bikes preceded it the week before- that meeting has an air of intrigue about it which we will come to soon.

What was planned as ‘a quickie’ has become a 7,500 word epic as the threads were drawn together, not to forget Bob King’s return from the US and twenty more amazing photos to add to what I already had.

The newspaper accounts are verbatim, I like to reproduce them in full as I love to read the narrative of the time. I have added in snippets about the cars and drivers written ‘in period’ into the two core articles which are from ‘The Adelaide Advertiser’, a publication which exists to this day.

‘Although there are no official scratchings for either the South Australian Grand Prix (100 miles) or the 50-mile handicap, it is probable that five of the competitors nominated in each race will not start, but even so big fields will be left in both races—28 in the Grand Prix and 30 in the shorter event. The nominations are the biggest received for any motor car race in Australia.

The races, organised following the success of the Centenary meeting on the Victor Harbor circuit last year, (the 26 December ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ subsequently given the erroneous title, ‘The 1937 Australian Grand Prix’) will form the second day’s programme of the motor cycle and motor car speed carnival, and will be held on the new circuit at Lobethal, beginning at 12.30 tomorrow.

Motor cycle races, which were attended by a crowd of more than 20,000 were conducted on the same circuit last Monday 27 December. An even larger crowd is expected for tomorrow’s races. Since yesterday afternoon many camping and caravanning parties have arrived, and have taken places all around the 8 mile course’.

 

Bob Lea-Wright heads through Lobethal (B King)

 

Lobethal is 45 Km from Adelaide, I love this old map- a more useful one is at the end of this article inclusive of a description of what was regarded as the most challenging layout in Australia. The lap record referred to above was set by Alf Barrett’s 2.3 litre straight-eight, supercharged Alfa Monza during the 1939 AGP

 

‘The programme will be:— 12.30 p.m.—South Australian Grand Prix, 100 miles. 3.30 p.m.— 50 mile handicap.A heavy shower of rain delayed practice yesterday afternoon, and left the bitumen track very slippery in places. Immediately after the shower Reg Nutt driving J. Day’s Day’s Special, daringly lapped at more than 80 miles an hour. Considering the treacherous nature of the road and the fact that Nutt had not been on the circuit before, his performance was particularly good.

Alan Sinclair, Alta 1100 s/c (N Howard)

Alan Sinclair, in his supercharged Alta, “a very fast 1100cc Alta racing car…weighs only 10 ½ cwt, is supercharged and is said to be capable of nearly 130 m.p.h.” lapped at almost 80 m.p.h. but it was evident from his driving that he conserved his full power. It has not yet been possible to gauge his best performance, but there does not seem to be much doubt that he will have any difficulty in maintaining an average speed of 84 m.p.h.—an average he must keep up on every lap if he is going to win the race.

Ewald Kluge, Baron von Oertzen and a Mr Green, the Melbourne DKW agent. Northcott Avenue Canberra before their successful attempts to raise the Australian 250cc Land Speed Record in 1938. DKW SS 250 2 stroke supercharged machine. These were annual events in Canberra at the time, Northcott Avenue slightly busier now (The Velobanjogent)

The Advertiser in its pre-event build-up of the race reported on 16 November that ‘Mr Sinclair is a graduate of Cambridge University and is a partner in a motor firm at Hammersmith, London. He has competed with success at Donington Park and Brooklands and also at Belfast, Ireland. He is coming to Australia specially to compete in motor races in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales’.

In these dark pre-war days, Sinclair, it later transpired, also had official duties of state to perform in the Adelaide Hills as a member of British counter-intelligence and security agency, MI5!

The German DKW motor-cycle racing team led by champion rider Ewald Kluge, the entourage managed by Baron Claus von Oertzen, was under covert security by Sinclair with ‘much subsequently made of this cold war tactic’ Jim Scaybrook wrote.

Von Oertzen had migrated from Germany to South Africa, its said because of disaffection for the Nazis buoyed by the potential exposure of his Jewish wife in 1935, and imported DKW’s to South Africa. Ever the energetic businessman, Von Oertzen also began eyeing Australia as a potential market for the cars and was highly instrumental in arranging the Kluge visit.

Local authorities began closely observing the movements of the Baron and Baroness, noting that they made contact with many Germans while in Australia (certainly not that difficult in South Australia with its large German population) and that large amounts of money- eleven thousand pounds- were deposited into his bank account. It was later alleged that he was disbursing funds to individuals and groups and that he was listed in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Nazi Party of Australia. He was also accused of photographing strategic installations and trying to arrange for parts of Australia to be filmed from an aircraft’ wrote Scaysbrook.

Kluge led local rider and team-mate Les Fredricks in a 1-2 home in the 250cc Lobethal race in a race time just short of an hour. ‘The 350cc race was run concurrently and Kluge took that out as well after an entertaining dice with Frank Mussett’s Velocette until the British machine expired on the final lap, much to the delight of the huge German spectator turnout’.

Kluge aboard his DKW SS 250, Lobethal December 1937, Lobethal’s first meeting (T Parkinson/R Trevena)

 

Ewald Kluge and Baron von Oertzen (Baron Claus-Detlof von Oertzen 1894-1991) (J Scaysbrook)

Lets come back to this ‘spooks in the Adelaide Hills’ tale further on. Sinclair, during practice, had “head gasket troubles with the Alta but with a team of mechanics had the trouble rectified that night…Crowds congregated around the car, it was the first time that a racing car of that description or power has appeared on any racing circuit in Australia”.

‘Colin Dunne, (MG K3) who established a lap record on Friday, was a few miles an hour slower yesterday, but his time on Friday still stands as the best. As the road dried drivers went faster and all lapped within their handicap’.

Reg Nutt, Day Special- Bugatti chassis and Ford flathead V8. Nutt was both a great racer and Bugatti expert, during the 1931 AGP he sat in the mechanics seat of this car, chassis ‘4607’, alongside Carl Junker when Junker won that Phillip Island race as the car was originally built- a 1.5 litre, supercharged straight-eight Bugatti T39 Voiturette. After the engine failed, liked a few other Bugatti racers in Australia it was given a ‘birthday’ and received an engine the King of Molsheim would not have approved! Its not a tangent for now but Bob King restored this car decades later into its original form- that will be a nice ‘Words from Werrangourt’ topic soon

‘Twenty-five cars were at yesterday’s practice, newcomers being Nutt (Day Special) “a Ford V8 engine in a Bugatti chassis and this meeting will be the first time it has raced in South Australia”. J. Phillips (Ford V 8), well known inter-capital record breaker, H.Beith (Terraplane), R. A. Lea-Wright (Terraplane), M. A. Moulden (Sunbeam), D. D. Sowter (MG. Type P), N.Campbell (Singer Bantam) and N. Ellsworth (Bugatti). All the likely starters have now practised with the exception of J. McDonough (Mactonburgh Special) and C. Gartner (De Soto).

 

Norman Ellsworth in the Bugatti Brescia just sold to him and entered by Jack Day (B King)

 

Picking the Grand Prix winner Is more difficult than it was last year, (at Victor Harbor- correct spelling) as the course is harder and the race shorter. All cars are at their top and although the backmarkers may appear to have been severely dealt with by the handicappers, each has a good chance. Driving efficiency will play the biggest part on a course which includes 40 bends and which in parts is barely wide enough to allow two big cars to pass.

Alan Sinclair during practice, Mill Corner, Alta 1100 s/c, Lobethal 1938 (The West Australian)

Sinclair’s Performance

Sinclair (scr.) must average 84. m.p.h each lap and pass the limit man four times to win. Cowper (Morris 8/40), the limit man, must average 60 m.p.h. Sinclair, however, has not only got to pass Cowper four times; he must also pass every other car in the race—and having passed them, keep in front—at least once. He will have to pass the middle-markers—J. McDonough and L. Murphy—at least twice. Sinclair, Day, Dunne driving “Lord Waleran’s K3 MG Magnette (actually owned at the time by Sydney’s John Snow) which gained the fastest time in the 50 Mile handicap last year- Dunne has already created an Australian record in the car”.

Alf Barrett, Morris Cowley, he was unclassified but would appear with a more formidable weapon 12 months hence over the 1939 AGP weekend, an Alfa Romeo Monza  (N Howard)

Jackson and Joshua will have a very hard task, as Cowper will probably have lapped the course about four times before they start. Jackson and Joshua, both of whom have a handicap of five minutes will have almost completed one lap before Sinclair starts.  Joshua had a much faster machine than Alf Barrett’s MG he raced in the Centenary Grand Prix to second place “It is a specially built Shelsey model Frazer-Nash, which reached Australia on 3 December 1937…and competed in the Donington 200 Miles Race in England recently”.

Tim Joshua’s Frazer Nash alongside the two K3’s of Dunne and Jackson (L Sims)

 

Noel Campbell in his self-constructed and modified Singer Bantam, ‘giant-killer’ of the meeting (unattributed)

 

Les Murphy listens intently to the exhaust note of his MG P Type as he warms it up before the event. Car #21 is Arthur Beasley’s P Type (L Sims)

 

‘Murphy May Win.

 

With a handicap of 14 minutes and very few big cars to pass, Les Murphy (P type M.G.), winner of last year’s  Centenary Grand Prix has a very good chance of success tomorrow. Murphy, who has three Australian Grand Prix races to his credit, is the most successful driver in Australia. (what about Bill Thompson you schmucks?) He will be driving the same car as last year, “but he has converted the body into a single-seater with advanced streamlining” and it is estimated that he will have to lap at an average speed of 71 to 72 m.p.h. to win. At that speed he will still have plenty of power in reserve. Last night Murphy drove round the course over the exact route that he will take in the race. 

Les Murphy, MG P Type 7th (N Howard)

Most of the other competitors who will leave before Murphy are South Australians and have not had Murphy’s experience. Cowper may have completed almost two laps before Murphy starts, but, indicating how different his task is from Sinclair, Murphy will only have to pass 14 cars provided he can keep in front of the 17 competitors who start after him.

A biergarten arranged by Lobethal Carnivals Ltd, -which with Centenary Road Racers Ltd. is sponsoring the speed carnival, organised (or held under the auspices of) the Sporting Car Club and the Motor Cycle Club of South Australia will be held tomorrow night, when the prize-money and trophies, which include ‘The Advertiser Cup’ silver trophy and 150 pounds in prize money for the Grand Prix, will be presented. The biergarten will be the last event of the carnival which has been held this week to entertain the visiting speed men’.

‘Events To Be Broadcast

National station 5CL will broadcast the races from the Lobethal course today. The Grand Prix and the 50 mile open handicap will be described from four specially selected points from start to finish.’

 

60,000 folks turned up (B King)

 

 

The start-finish podium, or is that tree? (B King)

‘DRIVING a well-judged race in which he consistently averaged about 62 miles an hour on the eight and three-quarter mile circuit, Noel Campbell, a South Australian competitor, won the second South Australian Grand Prix, run over 100 miles, from a field of 24 competitors including interstate and international drivers, at Lobethal yesterday.

The racing, which was witnessed by more than than 40,000 people from vantage points around the course, was full of thrills, but free from serious accidents.
Colin Dunne (Vic), a comparative newcomer to road racing, provided the outstanding feat of the day by gaining second place in the Grand Prix with a handicap of 4 min and later winning the 50-mile handicap from the virtuaI scratch mark after Alan Sinclair, the English driver, had retired. Dunne took many risks, but his driving was masterly. Sinclair was unable to finish the course in either race because of oil trouble, but before he retired he gave an exceptionally good exhibition of driving and cornering.’

Lyster Jackson, MG K3 ahead of Sinclair’s Alta (N Howard)

Reg Nutt delicately drifting the Day Special around daunting Lobethal

‘Reg Nutt, who drove Jack Day’s Day Special, recorded the fastest time in the Grand Prix 77 min 33 sec, although Dunne did the fastest lap in the Grand Prix (83 1/2 m.p.h.). Nutt bettered that average by 1 m.p.h. in the second race, and recorded the fastest lap for the day. Dunne had the fastest time in the 50 mile handicap to win in 33 min 2 sec. This was the better race. With two laps to go it was anybody’s race, but Dunne, lapping brilliantly at more than 83 m.p. had passed car after car—he even went on the footpath in the Lobethal main street to pass one competitor— and won from J. Boughton.’

Nutt and Dunne before the off- Day Special and MG K3 (unattributed)

Jim Boughton, Morgan 4/4 from Reg Nutt, Day Spl (B King)

‘Results
South Australian Grand Prix (100 miles)
N. Campbell SA Bantam Singer, handicap 2 min 30 sec, corrected time 97 min 37 sec 1st: C. Dunne Vic MG K3 Magnette 77.39. 2nd: A. Ohlmeyer S.A. T Type M.G. 17 min 90 min 55 sec 3rd: R. E. Uffindel S.A. Austin 4th: Fastest time Reg Nutt, Day Special 77.33. Others to finish in order:— 3. J Boughton Morgan 18  min 92 sec. 54 sec -R. Nutt. 1 min. 30 sec. 77 min 33 sec, L. Murphy Vic P. Type M.G. 14 min 90 min 31 sec, F. J. Thwaites (S.A.). Ford V8. 9 min 30 sec. 89 min. 20 sec.
Fifty-mile Handicap
C. Dunne. 1 min, 30 min 2 sec. 1st: J. Boughton. 8 min, 45 min 30 sec. 2nd; L. Murphy. 6 min 30 sec,  45 min 10 sec 3rd: J. Phillips (Vic) Ford V8. 3 min, 42 min 1 sec 4th. Fastest time—Dunne. 38 min.
2 sec. Others to finish in order:—R. A. Lea-Wright (Vic) Terraplane: A V. McDonogh (S.A.) Ford V8; P. J. Thwaites (S.A.) Ford V8, G. A. Cowper (Vic)  Morris 8/40, A. Beasley (Vic). P Type M.G, N Ellsworth (Vic) Bugatti.
Presenting ‘The Advertiser Cup’ to Campbell, the Chief Secretary Sir Georgie Ritchie paid a tribute to ‘The Advertiser’ for having assisted to make an annual road race for motor cars possible. After handing Campbell the silver cup, he decorated the Grand Prix winner with a floral wreath and presented him with the Grand Prix pennant. The other trophies won during the day were presented at the biergarten arranged by Lobethal Carnivals, Ltd which assisted Centenary Road Races Ltd in arranging the races. ‘
Small, dark, quiet and unassuming the 25-year-old winner of the Grand Prix is a son of Mr. and Mrs. D. Campbell, of Coorara Avenue, Pirie. His success was gained in his first big race, his previous experience being restricted to Sporting Car Club competitions. He has been preparing for the event for six months. He bought the chassis of his car, built the body himself, and increased the power and speed. The gear is now much higher than the standard, and the compression ratio has been altered.’
Singer expert/enthusiast/restorer Nathan Tasca advises that ‘the probable specifications for Campbell’s Singer are sketchy, even from the family…The Campbell car was an early version of the Bantam, sent to Australia as a rolling chassis they were general bodied by Floods in Melbourne, and others including Holden Motor Bodies in Adelaide. The story goes that Campbell (25) had bought the rolling chassis himself and spent six months fettling the engine performance and built the body himself. He used it to compete in several SCCSA events prior to the GP. Post event, Noel moved to Sydney and turned the racer back into a road car, driving it around the streets of Parramatta at least until the late 1940’s. The engine was an OHC 972cc four with a single Zenith carb- basically a detuned version of the earlier Singer Le Mans engine, from which the cars chassis was also derived. This incorporated an underslung rear end sprung by leaf springs and solid axles front and rear. Brakes were hydraulic drums, the first fitted to a mass-produced Singer, the gearbox 3 speed’.

He is off! The little Singer squats at the rear as Noel Campbell starts the SA GP (N Howard)

‘How Grand Prix Was Run
Nine withdrawals from the original nominations left 24 starters.
Campbell had begun his second lap before Barrett got away, and Uffindell had begun his second lap when Beasley moved off. At this stage Cowper had a substantial lead. Sinclair got away well and passed Beasley who was beginning his third lap. Moulden stalled his engine on the first lap but was able to continue. Cowper was already being pushed by Campbell for the lead.
On his first time around Joshua went through the grandstand hairpin and lost valuable time. Dunne turned right around on his first time around and lost about a minute and a half but completed his first lap from a standing start at an average speed of 80 m.p.h.

Sinclair’s Alta from Moulden/Wyatt Sunbeam GP in the early stages of the race (J Blanden)

Reg Nutt, Day Spl (B King)

Many of the drivers were having trouble at the grandstand hairpin. Thwaites swung wide and Lea-Wright and McDonough who had started half a minute after him and got through on the corner.  Cowper still led with eight laps to go. The back-markers- Sinclair, Dunn, Nutt, Jackson and Joshua, were travelling at terrific speeds.
With seven !aps to go Campbell took the lead from Cowper and Uffindell was creeping up on Cowper. Barrett was lying fourth. Campbell had a lead of four miles beginning his sixth lap and Uffindell was a similar distance behind Cowper.’

MA ‘Ash’ Moulden and J Wyatt in the Sunbeam GP provided some of the unintended excitement of the day when Moulden lost the car in The Esses. He hit a bank whereupon the occupants were ejected, the car then crossed the road and stopped having mounted that embankment. Moulden had a suspected broken shoulder with Wyatt having cuts and abrasions. Rather a significant car which is a story for another time  (N Howard)

Apropos the above! (B King)

Fred Thwaites, Ford V8 Spl (SLSA)

‘Jackson, with six laps to go was less than two laps behind Campbell. Both Dunne and Nutt were averaging more than 81 mph. Phillips had to retire when he had only four laps to go and Sinclair had oil trouble. Joshua had a long spell in the pits but when Jackson, who started off the same mark had only five laps to go he came back into the race.
Jackson, on his sixth lap averaged  83 m.p.h. Campbell had the race won with three laps to go. He was about half a lap In front of with Offindell with Ohlmeyer third, creeping up.

Tony Ohlmeyer, 3rd in his MG T Type, a little bit sideways (N Howard)

Fred Thwaites, Ford V8 Spl, 8th (B King)

After Ohlmeyer  came Leith, Boughton and Cowper. Jackson and Dunne were still the best of the back-markers, but after completing eight laps Jackson went into the Pits with plug trouble. Nutt moved up to take Jackson’s place and was lapping at a consistent 81 mph. Campbell still had half a lap in hand with a lap to go and after Uffindel (second) came Ohlmeyer.
Dunne passed Cowper to take sixth place, and Murphy, one of the favorites for race—he won the Centenary Grand Prix last year—was eighth almost a lap behind Campbell. Ohlmeyer passed Uffindell and took second place as he began his last lap. Campbell finished half a lap ahead of Dunne, who was in his last lap passed Boughton, Uffindel and Ohlmeyer. Ohlmeyer was third, Uffindel fourth, Boughton fifth and Nutt, who made up ground, sixth.’

Ellsworth Bugatti Brescia during practice (B King)

Colin Dunne, MG K3 Magnette winning the 50 mile handicap. Car #5 to the side is Tim Joshua’s Frazer Nash (N Howard)

‘Fifty-Mile Handicap
There were 16 starters in the 50-mile handicap. Cowper had completed a lap before McDonough, Thwaites and R. G. Pank left. Sinclair moved off just after Boughton had gone past the start on his second lap and just before Beasley came into the grandstand hairpin on his third lap.
Dunne, driving at terrific speed, left the course at Charleston, but was soon back in the race and did not lose much time catching up again with Nutt, who started on the same mark. Nutt and Dunne averaged about 84 mph on their flrst lap and kept close together on the second. Cowper was still in front when he had three laps to go, but the rest of the field was bunching up.

Colin Dunne, MG K3 – 2nd in the GP, first in the 50 mile race (N Howard)

Les Murphy, MG P Type (B King)

Dunne gave the crowd in the grandstand a thrill as he raced toward the hairpin bend behind Phillips. Before he reached the corner he swung across in front of Phillips and led him round the corner. Nutt had to retire with engine trouble.
With two laps to go Cowper was still in front, but he was being chased by Boughton who was just keeping Beasley out of second place, then came Murphy with Dunne, travelling faster each lap in fifth place. By the end of his fourth lap Dunne had moved up considerably.

Jim Boughton, Morgan 4/4 (N Howard)

Boughton took the lead with two laps to go and Cowper dropped back to lead Beasiey and Murphy with Dunne coming very fast about 150 yards away in fourth place. Dunne and Murphy were very close together at the Mill Corner and Dunne, swinging  wide on to the footpath in the main street of Lobethal, passed Murphy and went into fourth place.

Bob Lea-Wright, Terraplane Spl ( N Howard)

Beginning his last lap Boughton led Dunne by only 400 yards; after Dunne coming Beasley, Murphy, Cowper, Phillips and Lea-Wright. McDonough was providing plenty of thrills with his car swinging all over the road. Dunne chased Boughton towards Kayannie on their last lap and coming towards the Mill Corner went to the front. Murphy went past Beasley into third place, but Boughton managed to bold off Murphy to finish second. Phillips, who came very fast towards the end of the race was fourth.’
Etcetera: Further photos of the SA GP…

Howard Trotter Bugatti Brescia ‘this might explain why he was a scratching’ Bob wryly observes (B King)

The crew examine Norman’s handiwork ! (B King)

One of the Terraplanes, Herb Beith? (B King)

Bob Lea-Wright, Terraplane  (B King)

Arthur Beasley, MG P Type (B King)

Dunne’s MG K3 (B King)

One of the K3’s (B King)

Lea-Wright, Terraplane (B King)

The mysterious Alan Gascoigne Sinclair…
So what do we know about the MI5 spook, motor trader, sailor and racing driver Alan Gascoigne Sinclair?
The Advertiser’s pre-race bio advises us that Sinclair was a graduate of Cambridge University and a partner in a motor firm at Hammersmith, London. He was born in Croydon, London on either 22 May 1905 or 22 May 1906- with 1906 the more likely date even though 1905 is more commonly cited.He died in Cornwall in 1995.
Whilst the local Adelaide press made a big fuss of Sinclair’s presence, by any elite standards he was a racer of limited experience and calibre- Peter Whitehead, who raced throughout Australia in 1938, inclusive of winning the AGP at Bathurst was far more of a ‘top-liner’ but even he was not of the level of Dick Seaman or Prince Bira to name two young thrusters racing in the UK at the time. Nonetheless, a foreign driver in our fields in a car of the Alta’s quality was notable- not that the Alta was an ERA Voiturette let alone a GP Alfa…

AG Sinclair in 1938 (Adelaide News)

The information which follows I have sourced from ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, notably the contributions of Australian racer/historian John Medley and one or two others with avatars. In addition there is a reasonable amount ‘in period’ contained in Australian newspapers of the era in relation to AGS’ racing and other adventures. In part my intention in writing this bit of the story is to ‘flush out’ those who may know more of the mans achievements and escapades in order that we may get a more wholistic perspective of Sinclair’s interesting and unusual life!
Tony Edwards found in his research, that Sinclair suffered a broken arm in a racing accident in 1935 and whilst recovering from that sailed to North America on a 1915 vintage beam trawler named ‘Seaplane’. The craft had been converted to a yacht by its owner, British writer GFG ‘Frank’ Pollard, the boat landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in July 1935, and then left for Boston shortly thereafter.

Sinclair, Alta 1100, Lewes Speed Trials, UK 21 August 1937 (MotorSport)

Sinclair’s Alta, was originally a sportscar and later converted into a single-seater, it’s 1933/4 1100cc supercharged engine had chain driven twin-overhead camshafts- an engine which was eventually used to power the Bill Dutton Alta raced by Ted Gray. This chassis (the AGS car) was sold by Sinclair to Bill Reynolds and re-engined with a Ford V8 and then raced by Bill, Arthur Chick, John Read, others and Ted Gray, ‘acting as a test-bed for the ferocious Tornado V8 in the early 1950’s’ John Medley wrote. Ultimately the car was restored by Graeme Lowe and completed in 1999. There is much more to be said about Sinclair’s Alta, but let’s keep on point- which is not about the car!
‘The single-seater Alta was prepared in a garage behind a pub in Hammersmith Street from where Sinclair traded cars. He had a flat close by from where he placed adverts for cars for sale. He was assisted by an Australian spanner-man…’. The passenger list of his ship to Australia in late 1937 lists his address as FAP Motors Ltd, rear of Clarendon Restaurant, Twickenham- 1-5 The Broadway Twickenham.
From the material publicly available it is not clear exactly when Sinclair started racing. It seems his main season of activity was 1937- what follows is a reliable list of UK events in which he participated, mainly in the supercharged 1100cc Alta he shipped to, and remained in Australia after AGS returned to the UK.
Brooklands
Whilst it seems Sinclair was a BARC member from 1933-1938 ‘he only seems to have competed at Brooklands in 1937’, John Pulford, Head of Collections, Brooklands advised Tony Edwards. All of the events listed below were in 1937.
29/3 BARC Easter Meeting Alta , 1/5 Campbell Trophy Alta with PF Jucker- did not get to drive as the Alta 61S failed with Jucker at the wheel, 10/7 BARC Races Alta, 2/8 JCC international Trophy MG with NG Wilson, 16/10 BARC Races Alta
Crystal Palace
24/4/ Coronation Trophy DNS engine, 17/7/ London GP 6th in heat DNF final Alta, 9/10 Imperial Trophy DNF heat therefore DNQ final
Donington
24/7/ 12 Hours, Sincair/NL Wilson Frazer-Nash DNF

London GP Heat 2 Crystal Palace 17 July 1937. Front row from left RW Appleton Appleton Spl 1100, R Parnell MG 1100, Mrs Eccles Rapier 1100, AG Sinclair Alta 1100, middle row, probably AC Dobson ERA 1500, B Bira ERA 1500, R Hanson Maserati 1500, J Bolster ‘Bloody Mary’ 200 and on the back row RC Fleming Alfa Romeo 2600- all cars except Bloody Mary supercharged. Bira won from Dobson, Parnell and Hanson (Getty)

Sinclair was a friend of John Bolster and shared a number of pre-war Frazer-Nash adventures, one of which Bolster records in his book ‘Motoring Is My Business’; ‘The Frazer-Nash was seriously damaged, but we decided we could tow it home, provided that we drove very slowly. All went well until just before our destination, when one of the wheels came off and bounced merrily away in the darkness. We were crossing a bridge over a river at the time, and Alan instantly flung himself over the parapet and plunged into the water with a mighty splash. This, he afterwards explained, was to find the wheel before the ripples subsided, but the tidal wave occasioned by his arrival rather defeated this project. I eventually found the wheel in a hedge some distance away’.
The Adelaide Advertiser did a great job with its pre and post GP reporting to keep the good citizens of South Australia up to date and maximise ‘bums on seats ‘(a temporary 1000 seat grandstand was erected on the corner of the Lobe-Mount Torrens and Charleston-Mount Torrens corner) and more particularly in the paddocks around the long ‘most challenging course in Australia ever’ layout.
Sinclair’s pending arrival was reported in the 9 December issue of The Advertiser which noted that ‘an informal entry had been received from Alan Sinclair (I wonder what an informal entry is?) who was to have left last Saturday’- the ‘Orford’ sailed from London on 6 November and arrived at Port Adelaide on 11 December 1937.
The Alta was said to be an interesting design- of four cylinders, cast in pairs with an aluminium block and steel liners. With a compression ratio of 8.5:1 and a supercharger blowing at 12 pounds of boost a top speed of 130mph was expected with a weight of 10 hundredweight. An ENV ‘special gearbox’ was mentioned.
Sinclair was said to be bringing an ex-Von Delius BMW 1.5 used in the 1935 Alpine Trial and an ex-Peter Whitehead MG Magnette. Another report expected his arrival on the ‘Orford’ with the Alta 1100 he was to race, with other cars, ‘a German BMW’, the ’tiser keen to help the punters understand that cars place of origin! and Sunbeam 1.5 s/c. On the week of 14 December two special Rileys and an MG will arrive. The tax man stood to gain 600 pounds in Customs Duties from this smorgasbord of imported racers! I am intrigued to know the stock list of what actually did come ashore.

Rundle Street, Adelaide 1938 (The Advertiser)

AGS was given a welcome lunch on Sunday 14 December, I wonder if he wasn’t amazed by all the fuss- Kluge also was honoured with one.
On 19 December the stillness at Parafield (20 Km from the Adelaide GPO) was shattered by the high speed, early morning blast of the Alta on the Main North Road, Alan was sorting carburettor settings of a car said to be the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere. He was confident after a couple of passes at 110mph over a total distance of 8 miles- in which a gallon of fuel was used that he could complete the 100 mile SA GP without stopping for fuel. Sinclair was confident his car could achieve 130mph during the event ‘thereby breaking the Australian record on 120mph’.
In a day of international diplomacy at Adelaide Town Hall on 22 December 1937 ‘The value of international visits in creating good relationships between countries was emphasised by the Lord Mayor (Mr Arthur Barrett, brother of Melburnian racer ace Alf Barrett) and other speakers yesterday when Alan Sinclair, the English racing motorist, and Ewald Kluge, motor cycle champion of Germany and Europe paid an official call on the Lord Mayor’.
‘Sinclair said that a recent holiday he had spent in Germany had been one of the most pleasant in his experience. He found nothing but friendliness toward English people. The Lord Mayor referred to the large German community in South Australia and said that any differences between the British and Germans had been almost forgotten. Also in the party was Baron von Oertzen, general export manager of the Auto Union A.G. of Chemnitz. He and Kluge were accompanied by their wives. Baron von Oertzen said that in South Africa and Australia he had found nothing but friendliness and hospitality. With more international visits there would be less talk of war’ The Advertiser concluded.

Sinclair, Lobethal 1938 (N Howard)

The performance of Sinclair in the SA GP has been well covered above, after the race he was reported to have spent ten days in the summer sun at Victor Harbor and was then was said to be racing at Phillip Island an event at the DKW team were also contesting. It same account has that he was also racing at Albury (Wirlinga road course) and at Bathurst.
Immediately after the Lobethal weekend the DKW team decamped and headed for Ballarat in Victoria to contest events on a specially prepared course at Mount Weatherboard, near Lake Learmonth. Between 6,000-7,000 punters saw Kluge and Fredricks race at a well organised meeting on a very rough course with Kluge taking the 250cc event.
The Germans then headed up the Hume Highway to Canberra where they sought successfully to take the Australian 250cc speed record on 14 January on a stretch of the Federal Highway. Kluge set a time of 94.25mph for the Flying Quarter Mile just eclipsing the previous record. A plan to achieve the Flying Mile was thwarted by good old Canberra rain. Logically AGS would have been in Canberra to keep an eye on Der Deutschlanders but we don’t know that.
Late in the month the DKW crew headed back south for Westernport Bay and the ferry crossing from Stony Point to Cowes for the Phillip Island races at Cowes on 31 January.
There, again, they contested the Victorian Tourist Trophy 250cc Lightweight, and 350cc Junior classes concurrently on the dusty 6.5 mile, original Phillip Island road circuit. Kluge and Fredricks finished one/two in the Lightweight, but Kluge could only manage third on the supercharged 250 behind the Velocettes of Frank Mussett and Don Bain in the Junior.
Whether Sinclair loitered with intent at the ‘Island is unclear.
After the Cowes event two of the three DKW’s brought to Australia were shipped back to Germany leaving one here, it’s subsequent history is an interesting one itself. When ‘Team DKW’ left Australia is unreported but Von Oertzen was certainly still in Australia in March as we shall see in a moment.

Albury GP aka Interstate GP competitor during the 1938 event at the Wirlinga road course close to Albury. ‘The Flying Standard’ Spl driven by K McDonald (J Dallinger)

The 1938 ‘Interstate Grand Prix’, held to celebrate 150 years of the city of Albury was held on the Wirlinga road course in New South Wales on 19 March.
AGS was entered but did not start the 34 lap 148.5 mile journey. Whether this was due to the unreliability of his mount or simply not making the journey to the Victorian/New South Wales border town is unclear. I have sourced plenty of photographs of both the 1938 and 1939 Wirlinga ‘Grand Prix’ events but can see no evidence of the Alta’s presence. Local Wangaratta boy Jack Phillips won the ’38, and 1939 race for that matter, in his Ford V8 Spl from the Terraplane Specials of George Bonser and Les Burrows.
Von Oertzen was in Perth in March and gave a far ranging interview to ‘The West Australian’, a local daily newspaper, the article was published on 11 March 1938. It either presented the facts or extolled the virtues of the Nazi regime others would have you believe Von Oertzen abhorred, depending upon your view of things…
The Baron spoke of the roads in Australia inviting people to buy cars, his surprise at the number of people owning cars; one car to every 9 people in Australia, one in 25 in Germany. ‘The only explanation I can see (in relation to the average income of the people) is that the (Australian) people prefer owning a car to buying their own house’.
‘Discussing the progress of the automobile industry in Germany, Von Oertzen said ‘…that under the Hitler regime there had been a great stimulus. Before the war there had been 1,000,000 unemployed…in the post war period this figure rose to 6,500,000 in 1932, but the Nazi regime had reduced this figure to 400,000. This meant greater general prosperity which was reflected in the motor trade. The smashing of trade barriers by Herr Hitler stimulated industry generally but particularly the motor trade…which also benefited from…no registration fees…nor a charge for a drivers licence…Hitler had caused insurance premiums to be reduced. In 1932, the year before the Hitler regime, the entire German motor car industry produced 42,000 passenger cars and trucks. Five years later, production was 450,000 cars and trucks, and 60,000 cars exported’ Von Oertzen said. The piece concluded that the Baron was to spend a few more weeks in all states and then proceed on his world tour via New Zealand, North and South America and return to his home in South Africa.
Sinclair entered the Victorian Sporting Car Club’s ‘Grand Prix’ meeting at Phillip Island on 28 March in the BMW ‘which has 117,000 miles to its credit but decided to give the old-timer a rest’. Whether he actually practiced the car I am intrigued to know- he was trying to flog the cars to unsuspecting colonials so one would assume a demonstration of his wares made sense? Inter-capital record breaker Arthur Beasley won the 116 mile Grand Prix in a Singer, it was a handicap event as was usually the case in Australia.
In April 1938 Sinclair took the little Alta to Mount Panorama for the circuits first meeting, the Australian Grand Prix, which was won convincingly by Peter Whitehead in ERA R10B aided by an overly generous handicap.
The Alta’s run of unreliability continued when Sinclair was unable to start the race ‘…but that may have had something to do with Sinclair spending the night in the cells on sundry drunk and disorderly charges. His behaviour in Australia seems at odds with the stories of Sinclair the British secret service agent sent to Australia to observe the DKW team…’ John Medley wrote in ‘The 50 Year History of The Australian Grand Prix’.

Sinclair, Alta 1100, Rob Roy November 1938 (L Sims)

Sinclair contested the June 1938 Rob Roy meeting in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills in the Alta (where Whitehead set the course record in ERA R10B) and was reported in ‘The Car’ as heading for the bar after setting the under 1100cc blown class in a time of 39.35 seconds. The account noted his bad luck on his tour so far and ‘those present were pleased to see him have a success, although the car is not as fast as he hoped it would be’.
Continuing his magical mystery tour of Australia, ‘The Autocar’ advised its readers in late September 1938 that AGS ‘has appeared again, in Darwin, it seems, attired in blue shorts, a 20 gallon sombrero and a .45 Colt’- no need for German intelligence to keep an eye on our Bond, they could read of his whereabouts in the British motoring press! It seems he ran at Rob Roy that November, these photographs of Sinclair and the Alta are of that meeting.

Sinclair heading up Skyline at Rob Roy in November 1938, Alta 1100 (L Sims)

By January 1939 Sinclair was back in Lobethal and hoping to make amends for the disappointing reliability of the Alta by entering another of the cars he imported, a Sunbeam Special in the ’39 Australian Grand Prix.

By that stage the Australian grids looked a good deal more impressive with several cars imported by John Snow contesting the race- his own Delahaye 135CS, an Alfa Romeo P3 for Jack Saywell, Alfa 8C2300 Le Mans for John Crouch, noting the Colin Dunne entered MG K3- ex-Bira had been imported earlier by Snow- scion of the Sydney retailing empire of the same name. Lets not forget Alf Barrett’s not so long in Oz Alfa Monza too, Barrett was very much ‘the man’ with this car in that immediate pre and post-war era.

Research by Bob King in the eighties determined that AGS’ ‘Sunbeam’ was in fact a special built by Cambridge undergraduate David Pearce in 1936/7. It comprised a Bugatti T44 chassis which was shortened, to which a 1.5 litre, four cylinder, 100bhp, Sunbeam DOHC, Roots supercharged engine designed and built for speedboat record-breaking (successfully) was fitted. The body was made by Pearce with a pointed tail incorporated from an old Alta. Without getting lost in the tangent, after the Sunbeam engine failed, ‘when a gudgeon pin let go’ a Dodge six was fitted, the  the car contested the 1950 AGP at Nuriootpa, Barossa Valley and many other races so engined- and was ultimately restored with a Bugatti T49 motor in the late eighties.

True to form, Sinclair’s Bugatti Sunbeam failed to take the AGP start with sheared blower drive minutes before the race start.  He ‘presented a tragic spectacle when, a few minutes before the starting time of the first race he sat helplessly in his Sunbeam Special in the Lobethal main street. He looked in vain from under his big 10-gallon hat for someone to push him off and start his motor. Pushers who volunteered were quickly exhausted, however and Sinclair did not start’ one local report observed of the poor Brit.

Sinclair was cross entered in a Riley Brooklands he had imported, sharing the car with Clifford Downing, this car also retired having completed only 5 of the 17 laps. Perth youngster Allan Tomlinson took a staggering win in an MG TA Spl s/c- a great story for another time.

The Bugatti T44 Sunbeam at an SCCSA meeting at Buckland Park, a property noth of Adelaide in February 1940. Entered by Tony Ohlmeyer, he was fastest from scratch and 8th in the 16 lap handicap. Photo included to show the ‘Sunbeam’ in the form built by David Pearce and then acquired by AGS just prior to his trip to Oz (Brooks/Harris)

In July 1939 the intrigue continued with Sinclair’s involvement in an attempt to ‘set up a Socialist State in an ideal tropical setting’ in the South Seas.
The ‘Connella’ was bound for the Marquesas, French owned islands in the South Pacific 5,000 miles from Sydney where ‘her crew of four will be the foundation members of a new utopia’ The Brisbane Sunday Mail reported on 9 July 1939.  The ships master, Fred Briggs and his wife, Jack Milne and, you guessed it- Alan Sinclair are members of ‘The International Settlement Organisation’, formed in 1938, which hopes to create a Socialist State in an idea tropical setting. The only thing missing from this Cold War era Bond-esque scene is the tall, shapely blonde minx.
‘They are confident that some day their settlement will be founded’. The voyage didn’t start well, on departure from Hobart ‘her sails were ripped apart by a gale that sometimes rose to more than 50 miles an hour’, the 6.5 ton 54 foot ketch reached Sydney after 12 stormy days coming up Australia’s east coast. The report noted that Sinclair ‘the English racing motorist…spent last winter shooting crocodiles in the Northern Territory’.
Perhaps the true nature of the trip is made clearer in that Briggs ‘is formerly an Australian Airforce survey photographer’, ‘who gave up his post to try to found a new Utopia’. It is intriguing to speculate on the real purpose of the trip- perhaps surveying certain parts of the South Pacific with war by then so imminent?
In February 1940 The Motor reported that ‘Alan Sinclair, who used to drive a single-seater Alta 1100cc and went to Australia about a year ago…came back to join the London Scottish (regiment); he was married in his spare time. Before that he did some racing in Australia and then, so I heard, set sail for the South Seas to find a Utopia on some choice islet. Before that he helped to get a sailing boat across the Atlantic to the States and back which was by way of being an epic…’
In terms of Sinclair’s war service John Medley recalls a conversation with a pre-war Australian competitor ‘who had in fact shared an overnight cell with Sinclair for boyish over-exuberance in South Australia- he knew Sinclair pre-war and walked into a wartime office in England to salute his new commanding officer who was none other than AG Sinclair, now very serious, very formal and correct’.
What more can we add to this picture of a man who seems to have had a very interesting life?!

One of the Lobethal Aces if not The Ace, Alf Barrett, Alfa Monza during the January 1939 AGP weekend (N Howard)

The Challenges and Perils of Lobethal…
Thrice winner of the Australian Grand Prix Doug Whiteford, a man whose career stretched from the pre-war era until the mid-seventies and all of our challenging circuits, rated the rolling hills of Lobethal as the most challenging of them all.
The map below is more detailed than the one early in this piece and will help guide you round the place, its a locals account adapted from narrative on the lagler.com website.

Colin Dunne and MG K3 pop over the top of one of the many Lobethal rises (B King)

From the old start-finish line and grandstand area north of Charleston (top right) you could be forgiven for thinking its nothing special. No really challenging corners just sweeping curves- but put it into context, the cars had spindly wire wheels and tyres, cart springs, beam axles and near useless brakes. These curves are all blind- there are crests preceding all of them, particularly the bridges, which funnel into chutes. Think of these machines dropping onto their suspension in mid-air whilst turning at 100mph.
Through the little town of Charleston, with its pub in Onkaparinga Road (still there) the crowds were thick, with stories abounding of drivers stopping mid-session for a ‘nerve settler’ or two! Out of here are frightening high speed kinks, all blind, all crests and dips. Then a blind right hand kink sucks you into Kayannie Corner, the tight right-hander which takes the intrepid racers towards Lobethal. Plenty of folks spectated in this area as they popped off the train from Adelaide.
The climb up the hill from Kayannie is significant, its straight-ish for the first 2 kays, but at the top ‘the track steals straight from the soul of the Nürburgring. Lined by trees, the blind crest plummets away left, bottoms out right, drops away again into a roller-coaster left’. Then it flattens, raises slightly, then has another drop into the braking area for the hard left-hand Mill Corner into Lobethal’s main street- which isn’t straight. Past the Pub on the right, there is now a little ribbon of Indy style paving across the road and a plaque to commemorate the Lobe racing era.
Heading up the hill the road funnels between shops and houses and then there is the blind, off-camber Gumeracha Corner which claimed lives. The stretch from here to the start-finish hairpin has to be experienced- 5 Km of crests, blind curves, feature changes and undulations. Here is where the truly great drivers such as Allan Tomlinson, Colin Dunne and Alf Barrett made up time on sheer balls, bravery and commitment…
One can still drive these roads my friends, make sure that you do, carefully.

Lobethal Lads: probably 1939, Terraplane Spl’s (unattributed)

Bibliography…

The Adelaide Advertiser various editions, Old Bike Australia article ‘A Tale of Intrigue’ Jim Scaysbrook, Nathan Tasca

On Alan Sinclair- ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ especially John Medley, Vitesse 2, eolith, fivestar

‘The 50 Year History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and others, ‘Bugattis in Australasia’ Bob King, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Looking back towards the start-finish line (B King)

Photo Credits…

Bob King Collection, Leon Sims Collection, Gronwy Morris Collection, State Library of South Australia, The West Australian, Getty Images, MotorsSport, Adelaide News, The Velobanjogent, Tony Parkinson/Ray Trevena Collection, John Dallinger

Tailpiece: #7 Jack Phillips Ford V8 Spl, #20 Les Murphy MG P Type, the #2 Jack Day Spl driven by Reg Nutt and finally #23 the Brescia Bugatti raced by Jack Day…

(L Sims)

Finito…

 

I love these two drawings of two of the fifties Charlie Dean/Repco Research designed and built Maybachs- 1 and 2 by Brian Caldersmith…

I’ve written about both cars before in two articles, one mainly about Stan Jones who raced both machines, the other focussed on the 1954 Australian Grand Prix at Southport Queensland where Maybach 2 (below) met a violent death under Stanley when its chassis broke, or more specifically several rather critical welds failed.

I’m not going to pop up any photos which will draw the eye away from Brian’s artistry.

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

https://primotipo.com/2018/03/01/1954-australian-grand-prix-southport-qld/

Credit…

Brian Caldersmith

Start of the 50 Mile Handicap heats: Hunter in the Mrs Jones owned Alfa 6C1750 at left, Thompson’s obscured Bugatti T37A and two six-cylinder 4077cc Chryslers of E Patterson and #72/14 HJ Beith (Fairfax)

Bill Thompson’s Bugatti T37A swept all before him at Gerringong Beach on 10 May 1930…

Sydney’s finest was very much the form driver of the meeting, in fact many would say he was Australia’s best driver pre-War. He had not long before won the 1930 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island during the 24 March weekend- it was one of his three wins in Australia’s premier event. Bill was also coming off the back of record times at Penrith Speedway and at Kurrajong Hillclimb that season.

Gerringong is 130 Km south of Sydney on the Illawarra Coast, then as now it is a popular holiday destination. Throughout the 1920’s the relatively deserted Seven Mile Beach, between Black Head and Beecroft Head was a place where members of the Royal Automobile Club raced their cars, far enough from Sydney and the long cold stare of the law. These occasions were as much society events as they were motor racing ones.

The Smith/Harkness Anzac Rolls Royce arrives at Gerringong in December 1929 (Kiama Tourist)

Gerringong was very much in the public mind at the time as Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith had set an Australian Land Speed Record testing his Rolls Royce engined ‘Anzac’, at 128.571 miles per hour only months before on 1 December 1929. Wizard and his exploits, and the skill of Don Harkness, a racer himself, and his company which built ‘Anzac’ is a story for another time.

The beach had been the site of horse racing since the 1860’s but the noble beasts ‘could not compete with the speed and excitement of the motor’, mind you the take up of motor vehicles in Australia is indicated by the October holidays in 1919 when there was record volumes of motor traffic through the town, in just two hours, 12 vehicles were counted driving through Fern Street.

The weather on the 10th of May was awful for racing, with rain the night before and drizzle prevailing for most of the day from the 11.40am start of the meeting- only 300 hardy souls watched the race action.

The sand was wet, to the extent that all competitors of the first event had to be pushed out of the sand, into which they had sunk before the race started! The conditions became more difficult for the organisers, the Sydney Bicycle and Motor Club, as the programs timeline grew in inverse proportion to the usable width of beach- which was down to two cars  by the end of the days proceedings. ‘Another five minutes’, a club official said and ‘the tide would have beaten us’.

The ‘Sydney Referee’ report made note of the other difficulties as soft and slippery sand at the turn posts, drizzling rain and some ‘competitors whose race tactics, were, to say the least of it, unsafe’.

Thompson and a young admirer after his Gerringong win (Fairfax)

Thompson’s win of the feature event, the ’50 Mile Handicap’ for cars under 2000cc was described as a ‘great win’, a ‘fine individual effort’ ‘even though there have been better races held in Australia’.

Thomson won the race in the Bugatti T37A in which he was victorious at the AGP in the month before, chassis ‘37358’, which is still in Australia in the process of restoration. See my article at the end of this one on the 2015 Melbourne ‘Motorclassica’ for some information about that car.

Thomson won in 39 mins 4 secs from the CN Jackson MG Midget 847cc s/c, HG Potts Lea Francis 1496cc s/c. Other starters in the final were Charlie East’s Bugatti T37A, RR Hawkes Austin 7 Sports 748cc, N Hodge Morris Minor 847cc and the JAS Jones owned Alfa 6C1750 SS s/c driven by A Hunter, DNF due to splashing through a wave whilst on course. It is not clear if the other cars completed the distance.

The engine of Thonpson’s T37A is fettled before the off (Fairfax)

 

In other races, Charlie East won the final of the Four Miles Over 1000cc from the JO Sherwood Chrysler and J Aubrey Jones also in a Chrysler. There were three heats in all- won by Bill Thomson’s Bug, John Sherwood’s Chrysler and E Patterson’s Chrysler.

The Eight Miles Club Championship final was won by Thomson, the heats won by HJ Beith Chrysler Sports and Thomson’s Bugatti. Maroubra legend, Hope Bartlett in a Bugatti, did a very quick first lap in heat 1 but forgot the second lap! No pitboards were in use at Gerringong it seems.

The Handicap for Closed Cars was won by J Aubrey Jones Chrysler and the Handicap for cars under 1000cc was taken by the N Hodge Morris Minor.

Thomson said that such was the narrow course- it hardly gave him enough width to clear oncoming cars, that he was about to pull out. ‘It was the hardest event I’ve been in, much worse than the the Phillip Island race’, the ‘Island was famous for the challenging nature of its gravel roads, dust and undulations.

After the conclusion of the meeting Bill Thomson hoped to beat the Gerringong Flying 1 Mile record of 33 3/5 of a second set by Don Harkness in a Hispano Suiza in 1923 but failed to get there given the conditions, his 36 4/5 seconds not as good as he had hoped having changed into top gear a little too early with a head wind doing the rest of the damage to his time.

Another grid this time with two Chryslers to the left, #72 the E Patterson and HJ Beith Chrysler Sports, Charlie East Bugatti T37A to right (Kiama Tourist)

The only major incident of the day occurred when Mrs JAS Jones ‘winged’ one of the Chrysler mechanics (below) when competitors in the second heat of the over 1000cc Four Mile Handicap passed the finishing post and turned too quickly, and spectators pressed forward. Jones, in last place arrived at race speed and had to swerve several times to avoid cars and bystanders. She almost got through but struck Curley, breaking his leg.

(Fairfax)

The ‘Referee’ concluded its report of the meeting by saying ‘All things considered it was a successful meeting. But the supervision left a lot to be desired. It was this fault, plus stupidity on the part of certain competitors, that led to a serious accident. After crossing the finishing line several of the competing cars turned back towards the oncoming cars and one even swung out suddenly across their path. Thereafter the officials made their presence felt. But one subsequent offender should have been severely cautioned’.

Mrs JAS Jones aboard her Alfa 6C1750- a much respected racer and car. Raced by many latterly into the fifties Flathead Ford V8 powered inclusive of an AGP and still in Oz (Fairfax)

Motor Car Racing in Australia in 1930…

I wrote an article a while ago about Penrith Speedway and a championship meeting held there in 1930, click on this link to read it, not least for some context on the state of car racing, especially road racing at the time in Australia.

https://primotipo.com/2017/06/08/penriths-world-championship-race-1930/

Here are some snippets from that article, but do read the whole thing if you have not.

The Australian Grand Prix was held for the first time on an oval dirt layout around the showgrounds at Goulburn, New South Wales in 1927. The 1928 AGP, ‘The 100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island, the first proper race in Australia on a road, run on a large, rectangular, gravel course was more indicative than Goulburn of the direction Australian racing would take and was indeed the race which started the tradition of road racing in Australia.

Gerringong Corners- two of them, one at end end of the beach, tide issues clear! (Fairfax)

At the time Australian motor racing was largely amateur, a ‘run what you brung’ approach prevailed with most competing cars driven to and from the track. The sport evolved from hillclimbs, sprints and races on horse-tracks, the province of the gentry pre-War, to hillclimbs at Waterfall Gully, Kurrajong, Mount Coot-tha and Belgrave, beach racing at Gerringong and Sellicks Beaches to venues such as the clay pans of Lake Perkolilli in Western Australia, and the Aspendale, Maroubra and Penrith Speedways.

John Medley wrote that ‘it was some time before other groups followed (the Light Car Club of Victoria’s Phillip Island) road racing direction, preferring the simpler expedient of running trials with speed sections included (rather like modern rallies) or contests on simple dirt speedways- both of these being more easily controlled by the organisers and also less accessible to the long arm of the law. One consequence was that their was very much a casual air to the whole occasion, with ‘chop picnics, family gatherings and exuberant overnight parties.’

E Patterson’s 4 litre Chrysler, desolate nature of the area at the time clear, Gerringong 1930 (Fairfax

I have not used the term speedway racing as the ‘forked road’ the sport took in later years had not yet occurred, competitors entered a variety of events as above. In addition solo intercity record-breaking attempts were important with Graham Howard recording that ‘…intercity records…were the most consistent form of competitive motoring in Australia until the late 1920’s, and produced our first household-name drivers…’ In fact the police made illegal the ‘Intercity Record Breaking’ in 1930 with Wizard Smith a household name as a result of these exploits.

A lot would change in terms of road-racing between 1930 and the war- ‘Round the Houses Racing’ in towns became common in Western Australia at places like Albany, Bunbury and Goomalling. Australian Grands Prix were held at Victor Harbor and Lobethal in South Australia and most importantly the Mount Panorama Scenic Drive, at Bathurst- which doubled as a racetrack, opened in March 1938- the 1938 Australian Grand Prix was held there on that weekend. By the war the foundations for car road racing in Australia were well and truly established, something which could not be said in May 1930.

Professor Neville Burkitt’s Mercedes Benz SS- came close to colliding with Bill Thompson’s Bug, or more particularly his Bugatti Thompson was driving!, in his heat (Fairfax)

Bill Thomson and his Bugatti T37A…

https://primotipo.com/2017/06/08/penriths-world-championship-race-1930/

Bibliography…

Sydney Morning Herald 6 May 1930, Sydney Sun 10 & 11 May 1930, Sydney Evening News 10 May 1930, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, kiama.nsw.gov.au

Photo Credits…

Fairfax

Tailpiece: Thompson’s Bug blowing off a Chrysler, Gerringong Beach 1930…

Finito…

(A Clisby)

Harold William Clisby was one of those guys who did it all, above hurtling along in his 1952 Clisby Douglas Special…

Born in Norwood, Adelaide on 3 August 1912 he was a talented intuitive engineer/inventor from his childhood Meccano set fiddlings. He worked initially for his father in the family clothing business, for GM in an engineering capacity during the war, then post conflict made his fortune building Clisby Air Compressors and the Clisby/Sherline Lathe amongst many other products- Clisby Engineering Pty. Ltd. continues to this day. Click on the link at the end of this article for a comprehensive account of some of Clisby’s life.

(clisby.com)

In addition to the above he built his own stone castle, complete with miniature railway line in the Adelaide Hills, various cars and motorcycles and a 120 degree, DOHC, 2 valve, 1.5 litre V6 GP race engine! This motor was fitted into an Elfin T100 Mono chassis- in so doing creating the first, the only, all-Australian, make that South Australian Grand Prix car.

This article started as a quickie on Harold’s ’52 hillclimber but a ‘teaser’ on the V6 at the articles end turned out longer than planned- that is a marvellous feature story for another time, but a précis of the Elfin Clisby V6 forms the second part of this piece.

Clisby built this home/castle in the Adelaide Hills at Teringie- set on 1.62 ha it has a dungeon, catacombs, a tower with views across Adelaide and its own miniature railway- even a cannon to keep Ferrari’s lawyers away…

 

The Clisby home included its own miniature railway- what a place in which to grow up as a kid?! Clisby commenced construction in 1953, the home completed over a 15 year period

 

Harold was one of the instigators of the Sporting Car Club’s Collingrove Hillclimb built on land owned by the Angas family.

He spent a lot of time driving all around the large property with Robert Angas looking for a suitable hillclimb location in Angas’ Land Rover. Eventually the duo settled on a marvellous, challenging bit of geography- the land was surveyed and the Sporting Car Club of South Australia soon accepted a proposal to run the venue- which they do to this day, its one of the longest continuing motorsport venues in Australia.

Of course, as a co-instigator of the project Clisby needed a car to compete in the first meeting, the ‘South Australian Hillclimb Championship’ in March 1952, having cut his racing teeth in a modified MG TC he raced at Lobethal, Woodside and other local venues.

‘Having only three weeks to go before the maiden run, Harold decided that he would like to build a vehicle to compete…A rough layout was was drawn on a blackboard using the engine and gearbox of a Douglas motorcycle, time was short so all of the details had to be carefully planned’ clisby.com state.

‘The springs came first, as they would take the longest time to manufacture. A single tube of 3 inches in diameter was used for the chassis: the engine located on the front end of the tube, using a brake drum, the rear end to be attached to the gearbox, used the rear cover of a differential.

The wheels were from scrapped motorcycles, a chain drive drove a  large sprocket on the rear axle and incorporated the single rear drum brake.

Universal joints were used to produce independent rear suspension; a six foot long tailshaft of 7/8-inch diameter was supported on one end of the engine and one of the gearboxes.

The steering box was rack and pinion coming from a previously built incomplete automobile. The front wheels included their own drum brakes. A tapered fuel tank came from a pedal assisted motorcycle, the steering wheel from an MG and the seat supplied by Colin Angas from a farm implement.(!)

The engine was stripped, the ports were polished to accommodate slightly larger carburettors and the pistons were shortened and lightened by removing the bottom piston ring. A motorcycle speedometer was re-calibrated to show engine revolutions per minute. A racing magneto was used to replace the magdyno.’

Great shot shows the key elements of this amazingly simple but effective racer. Note independent rear suspension- fixed length uni jointed driveshafts and forward racing radius rods for location. Chassis and gearbox clear (A Clisby)

‘All these elements were collected and assembled within 2 weeks allowing a week to test the box of tricks prior to the hillclimb.

Harold had trouble registering the vehicle for the road, as they did not believe the car weighed just 350 pounds!

With one week to go, he then decided to drive the car to the town of Angaston some 60 miles away (from Adelaide) on a Saturday morning wearing a flying suit, arriving about 1 1/2 hours later.

He then drove the car up the hill (Collingrove Hillclimb) using maximum acceleration. Returning to Robert Angas home (on the property where Collingrove was built), he then discovered the tailshaft had twisted like a long letter ‘S’! He then proceeded to straighten the shaft using an anvil and carefully drove the car home.

With only a matter of a few days remaining, a new 2 inch diameter shaft was provided, still only supported at each end. At high engine revolutions, the shaft also distorted. A third shaft was made of 1 inch diameter, 16 gauge tubing cut into three sections, the centre section was supported by ball races within the 3 inch diameter main tube.

This easily withstood the engine revs of 8000 rpm. The following Saturday morning, the car was now ready to attack the hillclimb and was driven again to Angaston.

After a number of other vehicles had successfully climbed the hill, Harold’s turn finally came in the under 500cc class. He pressed the accelerator pedal until the rev indicator showed 8000rpm, then took his foot straight off the clutch, the rear wheels spun on the tarmac and the car shot off up the hill in a satisfactory manner.

There was little trouble in changing gear into the various bends until reaching the top, where the descent back to the paddock was made on a rough rock track. One rock knocked a hole in the crankcase, allowing all the oil to drain out.

Returning to the pit area, the car was rolled on its side and the hole was welded up with acetylene and oxy torch supplied by an oil company. The vehicle was now ready for a second run. Using the same procedures used from his first experience, the time was improved setting a record that wasn’t broken in its class for seven years’.

(Australian Motor Sports April 1952)

 

‘After the success of his hillclimb vehicle, he was then approached by several of his friends to design and build small competition cars with 125cc engines as the driving force. These were constructed out of steel tubing with rack and pinion steering and front and rear transverse independent suspension all round. The wheels were cast aluminium and fitted with 8 X 4 wheelbarrow tyres. Looking back he felt the cars led the way into the go-kart era in Australia’ clisby.com records.

Clisby Bantam: ‘This car is one of 6 examples developed and constructed in 1954…originally owned and raced by Lindsay Lemussurier of Adelaide. Used in a number of AHCC events including the 1954 Championship at King Edwardd Park, Newcastle, where it competed against Jack Sheppard and Jim Gosse in similar Clisby Bantams- and Ron Tauranac in his Ralt 500, who won. The Clisby Bantams were given the moniker of ‘screaming blowflies’ by track event announcers’ (From the VSCC Mt Tarrengower October 2018 program courtesy of Bob King)

Collingrove opening March 1952 meeting entry- Harold’s opposition included a youthful Bill Patrerson’s Cooper 500. Stephen Dalton advises he also competed in a production sports MG TD. Love the cigarette butt warning!- tidiness or bushfire avoidance?  (S Dalton)

Specifications…

Chassis-

Backbone frame of single 3 inch by 16 gauge steel tube. Engine mounted on clutch housing welded to front, gearbox mounted on steel pressing welded to rear. Independent front suspension by twin transverse leaf springs. The transverse leaf springs mounted above and below clutch housing. Independent rear suspension by splayed quarter elliptic springs and halfshafts located by radius rods trailing at 30 degrees. Rack and pinion steering. Motor cycle wheels- front 19 X 2 1/4 inches, rear 19 X 2 3/4 inches, 3 inch motorcycle ribbed tyres at front, grip tread at rear. Mechanical brakes- non-compensated 6 inch BSA cable operated at front, single central rod operated 8 inch Douglas at rear.

Transmission/Gearbox-

7 inch single dry plate clutch mounted direct on engine. Three piece tubular steel drive shaft running on ball races mounted within tubular backbone chassis. 4 speed positive stop Douglas gearbox with hand operation- overhung at rear of the chassis with final drive by chain to differential-less swinging halfshaft back axle

Engine-

Douglas air-cooled, horizontally opposed, pushrod OHV two cylinder engine. Bore/stroke 60.8 X 60mm, 348cc. Wet sump lubrication, BTH magneto ignition. Bottom piston ring removed and piston skirts shortened by 1/2 inch, ports bored out and polished, two Amal carbs, compression ratio 8:1, 30bhp, maximum rpm 9000

Monoposto body to be fitted, weight when registered 325 pounds.

Construction quoted as commenced on 19 February 1952, inaugural Collingrove meeting 15 March 1952 during which a time of 50.1 seconds was achieved. The class record was set at the second Collingrove meeting at 47.2 seconds for the up to 750cc class- the report says the car used the standard engine in the first meeting, with presumably the modified engine at the second. ‘Since then it has had further runs, but Mr Clisby is now faced with excessive wheelspin and so is tackling the problem of weight distribution’.

(Courtesy Australian Motor Racing Annual No 3)

That ‘F1 Car’- Elfin T100 ‘Mono’ Clisby V6, chassis ‘M6548’…

(K Drage)

Elfin boss Garrie Cooper and legendary ace welder, Fulvio Mattiolo ponder the next step in the build of Andy Brown’s Clisby V6 engined Mono at Edwardstown, Adelaide during 1965.

Those with strong knowledge of the GP formulae will appreciate that 1965 was the final year of the 1.5 litre F1 and that therefore the little Clisby V6 was a tad late to the party!

The Elfin Clisby only raced on four occasions- at Mallala on 19 April 1965 when a rear tyre blew destroying the cars rear suspension, at Calder on 23 May when Brown retired with water porosity problems, back home in South Australia at Mallala on 14 June when the car popped an oil line in practice, non-starting the race. The cars last appearance was a championship one, Brown started the 11 October 1965 Mallala Gold Star round but retired from the race won by Bib Stillwell’s Brabham BT11A Climax after 8 laps when the engine locked up beneath him in the straight gyrating from high speed for 300 metres until coming to rest gently in the infield.

With that the project, one engine, was put to one side forever, there is a Repco epilogue however.

The chassis, engine and gearbox (using a VW case) were all made in South Australia, hopefully one day this extraordinary piece of Australian history- our only ‘all Australian’ GP car will run again.

An engine and the Elfin chassis are extant, sufficient of the engine patterns and moulds exist, with the will of all involved- chassis owner, the very keen James Calder, the Clisby family, and, critically Kevin Drage, the senior engineer on this project all those years ago this stunning machine will run. It must run- the combination is a national engineering treasure. Some very recent chatter online is promising too…

(Clisby)

Ferrari had been racing Vittorio Jano designed 1.5 litre F2 and 2.5 litre F1 DOHC, 65 degree V6 engines in the late fifties, Mike Hawthorn won the 1958 drivers title so equipped. Their 1961 championship winning car, the mid-engined 156, was powered by a 1.5 litre V6, initially with a Vee angle of 65 degrees and later 120 degrees. By the way, the first track test of Ferrari’s 156 120 degree V6 engine was at Modena, the car driven by Phil Hill, in April 1961.

During a long fact-finding trip to Europe in 1960 Clisby chose a 120 degree, DOHC, 2 valve V6 design for his proposed GP and sportscar engine. He set about the design process on a portable drafting machine in the cabin of the ship which brought him back to Australia.

In order to construct the engine he also needed to upgrade his Prospect, Adelaide, Clisby Industries factory facilities to ‘manufacture our own con-rods, pistons, distributors and oil pumps…plus build our own manufacturing equipment such as sand foundry, electric melting furnace, sand mixer, crankshaft grinder, camshaft grinder, nitriding furnace etc’ Clisby Development Engineer at the time Kevin Drage recalled.

The essential elements of the all aluminium engine (the extent of local content extended to the Comalco aluminium used, the bauxite and alumina was mined and processed in Australia) was a four main bearing, billet steel crank, twin overhead gear driven camshafts, two 14mm plugs per cylinder fired by conventional coil and ‘…dual ignition circuits- there were four distributors, one master and one slave for each of the two ignition circuits fired from each camshaft. This allowed the spark requirements to spread across 4 coils’ said Kevin. The distributors were Clisby modified Bosch components. A generator was in the front of the engines Vee, a starter motor at its rear.

The engine capacity was 1476cc, its bore and stroke 73 X 58.8mm with the engines ultimate potential size circa 2 litres. Clisby saw a gap in the market in Europe for engines of 1.5 to 2 litres for both GP and sportscar use. With a very modest initial compression ratio of 8.5:1 and cam timing derived from the BSA Gold Star motorcycle, around 170-180 bhp was expected from the early engines.

Carburetion caused a big problem, conventional twin-choke Webers would not feed the wide angle engine. Drage wrote to Weber to enquire about purchase of some of its triple choke carbs, only to be advised of their exclusive supply agreement of said units with Ferrari. The Scuderia’s lawyers followed this up with a salvo several months later advising ‘that they (Ferrari) owned the copyright to the 120 degree, V6 layout and that we should cease building our engine forthwith and certainly not attempt to market it!’ KD recalled.

Clisbys therefore decided to build their own carburettor bodies to which were fitted standard Weber chokes, auxiliary venturis, jets etc sourced from twin choke carbs Weber were happy to supply. ‘Harold drew up the triple carburettor body and had a set of patterns made. We joked that we should have left and right hand carburettors to make the fitting symmetrical. A few days later, Alec Bailey, who was working on the engine with me, came in to work with a set of left hand carburettor patterns which he had made up at home in the evenings! So we did finish up with a pair of left and right hand triple choke carburettors after all!’

Ron Lambert ponders the next step in the Elfin Clisby- he is still spritely and fettling Elfins in Tasmania (K Drage)

 

Kevin Drage in the Calder paddock 23 May 1965, Andy Brown a DNF in his Elfin Mono Clisby that weekend. Installation of 1.5 litre V6 into a monocoque chassis designed for the Lotus-Ford twin-cam inline four beautifully done (R Lambert)

The 260 pound, incredibly low, compact engine broke cover from about March 1961 with articles in Sports Car World, Road and Track, Sports Car Graphic and other publications following in 1962.

By then the BRM P56 and Coventry Climax FWMV 1.5 litre V8’s were dominating GP racing- Ferrari was developing its own V8, its ultimate 1.5 litre F1 weapon was the Ferrari 1512- a Flat-12 engine which formed a structural member of the cars semi-monocoque ‘Aero’ chassis in 1965. The point here is that by the time the Clisby engine was announced, let alone run, the game had well and truly moved on, but it does not matter in terms of the engines Australian historical significance.

Denis Jenkinson in his March 1963 MotorSport ‘Continental Notes’ wrote of Jack Brabham’s prospects for that GP season ‘…it looks as though the Australian is getting the design sorted out nicely…He will be dependent upon Coventry Climax and Colotti for the major components of the car…but the cars should be well in the running and he may even be patriotically inspired to try a Clisby V6 engine in a Brabham…’ if only it were true and had come to pass?!

As the engine came nearer to the stage of being installed in a car Kevin Drage initiated discussions with multiple AGP winner and Gold Star Champion, the wealthy Lex Davison. Kevin Drage recalled ‘…Lex was interested in seeing the Clisby engine run in a car…Initially he was prepared to fund an Elfin Mallala but later with the advent of the forthcoming Australian 1.5 litre Series he proposed building and campaigning an Elfin Mono. However by this time Harold had lost interest in the V6 project and was devoting his time to building model steam railway engines.’

‘I didn’t want to see four years of my involvement sidelined so I had discussions with Lex and Garrie Cooper regarding getting the Elfin Clisby Mono project off the ground. However, Andy Brown stepped in and offered to fund the Elfin Mono and Harold agreed for Andy to proceed- and the rest, as they say, is history’.

In fact Lex did order and pay a deposit on a Mono to be fitted with a Ford 1.5 twin-cam- this car was to be raced by young up-and-comers, but with Lex’ death at Sandown in early 1965 the project did not proceed.

Once on the dyno and in the car the V6 design’s problems surrounded engine balance and porosity of some of the castings- nothing which could not have been sorted with time and development.

Saucy titillating shot of the Clisby Mono- shot captures the Elfins ally monocoque- Cooper’s first such design, the challenge of accommodating the exhausts and ultra low layout of the 120 degree Vee Six (A Clisby)

I’ve already gone further with this teaser than I had planned, lets come back to this marvellous project with a feature later and finish on the thought below.

The sad thing is that Clisby should have persisted with the motor’s development in Australia at a capacity of 2 litres. Both BRM and Lotus (Coventry Climax) with 2 litre variants of their F1 V8’s engines proved to be Tasman Series winners despite a category limit of 2.5 litres and therefore those motors giving away capacity to fellow competitors. Mind you it’s easy for me to say ‘push on’, Clisby’s was a family business, I hate to think how much in cold hard cash, diverted resources and opportunity cost this amazingly ambitious project cost.

Harold Clisby with the original cross-sectional drawing of the Clisby V6 above the drawing board in his office (K Drage)

And that Repco epilogue, you ask?

When Repco Brabham Engines in Maidstone were looking for an Australian concern to cast their cylinder heads for the race program from 1966 to 1969 they chose Clisby given the problems they encountered in making the complex aluminium castings of their V6, and the learnings they had made as a consequence!

There is something rather neat about Australia’s first but largely unraced GP engine contributing to the World Championships of its Repco successors!

(K Drage)

I had a chuckle at this Kevin Drage photo of Harold Clisby (left) and Phil Irving in the Sandown paddock during the circuits opening international meeting on 12 March 1962…

‘No Phil, I’ve already got a copy of “Tuning for Speed”, I don’t need another’ is perhaps the conversation between these two great engineers. For sure the weather is not their interest.

At that stage Clisby is well into the build of his V6 whereas Phil is a couple of years away from starting the design of the aluminium GM Oldsmobile F85 block based 1966 World Championship winning ‘RB620’ V8.

The interesting bit in that context is that the Lance Reventlow owned, Chuck Daigh driven, mid-engined Scarab RE Buick V8 was competing at Sandown that weekend. If Jack, winner of the Sandown Park International in a Cooper T55 had not seen that GM motor before- its the brother of the F85, he most certainly did that weekend as i’ve posted a photo before of Jack looking lustfully at the engine and perhaps pondering its possibilities!

With Repco’s resources, Phil’s first 2.5 V8 ‘RBE620’ ‘E1’ burst into life about twelve months after he first put ink on paper, in Repco’s Richmond test-cells in March 1965- at about the same time as Harold’s V6 was being installed into Andy Brown’s Elfin Mono after a journey which started in 1960- whilst noting that Clisby Engineering and Repco Ltd were enterprises of vastly different sizes! Harold and his two offsiders also built an engine from scratch, most of it in-house too, whereas the first Repco jobbie did use plenty of components off the shelf, albeit to rather good effect!

(Clisby)

Credits…

Kevin Drage on The Nostalgia Forum, ‘Harold Clisby: The Life of a Restless Engineer’ on clisby.com, Australian Motor Sports April 1952, Andrena Clisby via Kevin Drage, Kevin Drage, Ron Lambert, Stephen Dalton Collection, Bob King Collection

Harold Clisby’s Biography, in part…

http://clisby.com/hwc.html

Tailpiece: Forty year old Harold Clisby with his Clisby Douglas Special in 1952…

(A Clisby)

Its a photograph of crystal clear clarity in terms of mechanical layout- from the flat-twin Douglas engine and mount, simple tubular chassis, independent front and rear suspension and seat which appears to be from a tractor!

‘Hang on Harold’! is the message as he departs the startline!

Ones legs getting dislodged from the pedals and touching terra-firma at speed does not bare thinking about!

Finito…

(M Bishop)

Geoff Brabham gets the jump from Grace Bros Racing team-mate Andrew Miedecke and Alfie Costanzo at the Hume Weir, Australian National F2 round on 15 June 1975…

Birrana 274 Ford Hart, Rennmax BN7 Ford Hart and Birrana 274 again- Costanzo won that day but Geoff won the series.

In the black helmet at far right on the second row is Ray Winter in the Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ still a winner seven years after it first raced in Frank Gardner’s hands in the summer of ’69 Tasman Series.

The high water mark of Australian National Formula 2 racing (1.6 litre, DOHC, 2 valve- which effectively mandated the Lotus Ford twin-cam engine- the ducks guts version was the Hart 416B circa 205bhp injected variants) was in 1974 when an infusion of sponsorship dollars from shirt manufacturer Van Heusen resulted in an influx of drivers stepping up into the class and/or acquiring new cars.

Geoff Brabham during wet Oran Park practice in 1975. Birrana 274 Ford/Hart. No F2 championship round that year held at OP (oldracephotos.com.au)

Guys like Leo Geoghegan, Enno Buesselmann, Bruce Allison, Ken Shirvington, John Leffler, Chas Talbot, Wolfgang Prejawa with Sonny Rajah jetting in from Malaysia and Graeme Lawrence did a round or two from NZ. In some cases drivers ‘stepped down’ from F5000- Bob Muir, John Walker, Kevin Bartlett and Max Stewart to name a swag. For the sake of clarity Leo was an established ace- having finally won the Gold Star, the national drivers championship he deserved in 1970, he retired and then did a ‘Nellie Melba’ and returned to drive Malcolm Ramsay and Tony Alcock’s new Birrana 272 in mid-1972.

An absolute corker of a 1974 series was won by Leo in the ‘works’ Grace Bros sponsored Birrana 274 Ford-Hart in a closely fought battle with the Bob and Marj Brown owned Birrana 273 raced by Bob Muir and Leffler’s ‘tricky-dicky’, superb, variable rate suspension Bowin P8.

Sex on Wheels. John Leffler’s John Joyce designed Bowin P8 Ford-Hart at Sandown’s Dandy Road during the 1975 Tasman meeting, DNF suspension (B Keys)

Predictably in some ways the Van Heusen money ended up supporting ‘taxis’ in 1975 despite the great show put on by the F2’s in 1974. All the same, the 1975 championship was a good one given all the newish cars about.

Into late 1974 or early 1975 Costanzo bought Leo’s championship winning car- and in that ’75 season gave his career the shot in the arm it needed after running around in an old Elfin 100 Mono F2 for way too long. I think Alfie did travel to Italy seeking a drive in the late sixties, without success- imagine if he had popped his bum into the right car back then rather than a decade later at the end of the seventies when Alan Hamilton’s Porsche Cars Australia finally gave him the drive he deserved- the ex-VDS/Brown Lola T430 Chev F5000 and subsequently the McLaren M26 Chev and Tiga Formula Pacifics into the early eighties.

Miedecke, Rennmax BN7 Ford/Hart in the Calder paddock 1975. It was a small, neat bit of kit- conventional but for the chassis as per text. Uncertain if this is the first or second of the two Calder rounds won by Miedecke and Costanzo respectively (oldracephotos.com.au)

Brabham and Miedecke stepped up from Formula Ford- a Bowin P6F and Birrana F73 respectively, retaining their Grace Bros support which helped fund far more sophisticated and expensive cars than their FF’s. Geoff took the obvious choice in acquiring a Birrana 274- a low mileage, late build car from Neil Rear in WA whilst Andrew sought the ‘unfair advantage’ with a new Rennmax- the BN7 from Bob Brittan’s Sydney workshop.

In fact it wasn’t that edgy a choice really as his car was a refinement of Doug Heasman’s BN6 which hit the track about 12 months before- the speed of which was proven by Bob Muir in one or two races in the car before he got the Brown’s Birrana ride at Enno Buesselmann’s expense.

This photograph shows clearly the middle monocoque and front spaceframe sections of the ex-Miedecke BN7 recently (via R Bell)

 

Apropos the above- chassis front section (via R Bell)

The BN7 design was different to the paradigm of the era in having a monocoque centre-cockpit section and spaceframes both front and rear- the more usual approach was an ally mono from the front ending in a bulkhead aft of the drivers shoulders with an ‘A-frame’ at the rear to carry the engine and suspension.

Both the P8 Bowin and Rennmax were wedge nosed designs with side radiators whereas the Birranas and Elfins (works 622 as raced by Walker and 630) followed the ‘Tyrrell’ bluff nosed approach with a front radiator.

Amaroo Park 1975. Brabham Birrana 274, Winter Mildren Sub, Miedecke Rennmax BN7 and Hong Kong’s John McDonald Brabham BT40. Brabham won from McDonald and Winter (unattributed)

 

Paul King in the foreground beside his Birrana 374 Toyota F3, whilst Ray Winter strides across the track. His car is the famous Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Ford-Hart ex-Gardner/Bartlett/Muir. The guys had a territorial dispute after Paul got a blinder of a start and Ray attempted to assert F2 superiority into the first corner. Hume Weir 1975 (M Bishop)

In a year of strong competition between Brabham, Costanzo and Miedecke Geoff took the title with three wins at Amaroo, Symmons and Phillip Island from Alfie with two wins- Hume Weir and Calder and Andrew, who won the first Calder round in May. Arguably the quickest of the trio was Costanzo but reliability was a little lacking on both his and Miedecke’s part.

With my new drivers licence I no longer had to rely on my reluctant dad to cart me around to race meetings- I saw the Calder, Sandown and Phillip Island rounds that season and well recall a chat with Geoff and Peter Nightingale, his mechanic/engine builder, after the final ‘Island round in late November which Brabs won in fine style.

He had his ‘tail up’ in his modest way and was looking forward to taking on the world in Europe.

Doug Heasman, Rennmax BN6 Ford from Peter Macrow, Cheetah Mk6 Toyota, Hume Weir, date uncertain (M Bishop)

Interest was added to the series with lady racer Sue Ransom doing some events in Leffo’s Bowin P8 Ford/Hart- I pissed myself with laughter watching him pop her Willans six-pointer on at Calder, he was far more judicious with the crutch straps than he would have been with a fella. In those days the two lady-quicks were Ransom and Christine Cole/Gibson, I always thought it a shame Sue didn’t race the Bowin for longer than she did. Leffler himself did a round or two in Paul England’s Brabham BT36/Dolphin in amongst his Bowin P8 Chev F5000 commitments- the Brabham/Dolphin was also raced a couple of times by Tony Stewart- a talent lost.

Other drivers who added colour were Ken Shirvington, Chris Farrell, Enno Buesselmann, Doug MacArthur in the Lola T360 Bartlett and Lawrence had ‘guested in’ the year before when it was imported and owned by Glenn Abbey- and Ray Winter still pluggin’ away in The Yellow Sub, albeit substantially modified by Mawer Engineering.

Brian Shead, Cheetah Mk5 Toyota ANF3- Mk5 the prettiest and one of the most successful Cheetahs of all- amazing what Shead produced from that little ‘shop in Mordialloc (M Bishop)

The quicker of the 135bhp ANF3 cars (1.3 litre, SOHC or pushrod engines on carbs) could always give an average driven 205bhp F2 a run for its money, dudes like the two Brians- Shead and Sampson, Paul King, Peter Macrow and Dean Hosking to name several who extracted all these little cars had to give.

(M Bishop)

I’ve no idea who the ace felling a ‘pine plantation’ at Hume Weir is, I’m intrigued to know? Ditto the car.

(M Bishop)

What about the career trajectory of the 1975 F2 protagonists you ask?

Miedecke did another F2 year in the BN7 in 1976, Costanzo acquired a Lola T332 F5000 and was immediately quick in it against the established 5 litre aces whilst Brabham headed off to Europe for a couple of Ralt RT1 Toyota F3 seasons before launching his pro-career in the US.

Etcetera…

Geoff Brabham Birrana 274 leads a group of cars up the Calder return to the paddock road- remember that setup? Peter Macrow’s Mk5 Cheetah and Paul King’s Birrana 374 behind. Geoff’s chassis, ex-Neil Rear was ‘274-018’, it was then bought by Ray Winter to replace the Sub but if memory serves he had a huge accident in it, Lakeside maybe? Now in the Holmes family collection (oldracephotos.com.au)

 

Ray Winter in the Mildren Ford Hart ‘Yellow Submarine’ at Oran Park circa 1975 (B Williamson)

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits…

Mark Bishop, oldracephotos.com.au, Bruce Keys, Ray Bell on The Nostalgia Forum, Bob Williamson

Tailpiece: Graeme Crawford, Birrana 273 Ford F2- he won the national title in this car in 1976- from Brian Shead’s self built Cheetah Mk5 Toyota F3, Hume Weir 1975…

(M Bishop)

Finito…

 

 

(WFFB)

Despite being in the middle of built up Sydney, Warwick Farm had its bucolic elements…

And there is nothing more quintessentially country Australian than a windmill- here as a backdrop for Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 59B Waggott prior to the 1971 Tasman round on 14 February.

Frank Gardner’s Lola T192 Chev was victorious that weekend, Leo succumbing to ignition problems. The Lotus was kind to him though, he won the 1970 Gold Star in it with wins here and at Mallala- with the F5000’s about in the Tasman rounds the competition was a bit tougher though.

Geoghegan’s 59B in the Oran Park paddock during the September 1970 Gold Star weekend which he won from Garrie Cooper’s Elfin 600D Repco and Bob Muir’s Rennmax BN3 Waggott. Love the knock on wheels, radiator nostrils and distinctive air exit ducts. Bob Holden’s Ford Escort Twin-Cam behind (K Hyndman)

Dave Baldwin designed the spaceframe 59 as Lotus Components’ 1969 F3 and F2/B customer racing cars, there were a few Formula Fords too. Guys such as Emerson Fittipaldi, Mo Nunn, Roy Pike, Dave Walker, John Miles, Max Mosley, Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt raced the cars with success.

Shades of the 1961/2 F1 Ferrari 156 of course (P Townsend)

As pretty (and effective) as it is possible to get in its Castrol livery, WF 1970. Note the tail of Leo’s works Valiant Pacer Series Prod car behind (P Townsend)

In Australia the Tasman 2.5 litre Formula 1 (ANF1) was being phased out and F5000 phased in over 1970-71 so Leo Geoghegan saw an opportunity to replace his long lived, much loved, ex-Jim Clark Repco V8 engined Lotus 39 with a 59B.

Geoghegan’s Sporty Cars were Australia’s Lotus importer- it would also have made sense for Leo to race a Lotus 70 F5000 machine, not that it was one of their greatest designs mind you. Leo astutely chose the 59B and installed one of Merv Waggott’s new ‘TC-4V’ 275 bhp, fuel injected, DOHC, 4-valve 2 litre engines into the space usually occupied by a 1.6 litre Ford FVA F2 engine.

In a year of consistency he finally won the national title he had been chasing for years in the 39 Repco.

Leo’s car, chassis ’59-FB-14′ is still in Australia, in the Holmes family collection.

Hewland FT200 5 speed transaxle, big oil tank and hub mounted inboard discs (P Townsend)

Photo Credits…

(WFFB) Warwick Farm Facebook page, oldracephotos.com.au, Ken Hyndman, Peter Townsend

Tailpiece: Geoghegan and Lotus 59B Waggott on Warwick Farm’s Pit Straight in 1971…

(oldracephotos)

Finito…