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

Arch Tuckett’s Henderson engined Midget out front of the workshop where it was probably built-off William Street, Woolloomooloo, inner Sydney in 1934…

The first race meeting in Australia for what became known as Midgets took place at Olympic Park, Melbourne in the summer of  1934, on 15th December. A motley crew of racers attacked the cinder track that evening, including Arch Tuckett.

Also on the grid were Bill Allen, who brought the sport to Australia, George Beavis, Barney Dentry, Charlie Spurgeon, Bill Thompson, Cec Warren, P Bouker, Lance Burgess, Fred Curtis, Arthur Higgs, Les Gough, Bruce Leckie, G Malone, J Farmley, A Shaw and Bob Finlay who was Australia’s first Midget champion.

Although there had been car racing on oval track venues around Melbourne such as the 1 mile Richmond Racecourse in Melbourne’s inner east and the bayside Aspendale track since about 1913- it was not Midget racing but events between larger dimensioned light cars ‘somewhat akin’ to American Championship Cars.

The ‘Big Cars’ at Wentworth Park in November 1933. L>R Fred Braitling 1924 Alvis s/c, Charlie Spurgeon Fronty Ford Spl and Don Shorten Rajo Ford Spl. This is the race meeting referred to below in the text (S Hood)

In Sydney an organisation known as the ‘Dirt Track Car Racing Club’ (DTCRC) ran speedway meetings at Granville Showgrounds from 1932 and made an impression on the Sydney oval track scene. These cars were bigger machines including Rajo and Fronty Fords, Overland Miller and Morris Specials. They were putting on a good show at Granville but were a dismal failure as a spectacle when tried on the shorter Wentworth Speedway quarter mile in November 1933.

A year later several of the leading drivers of the DTCRC including Bruce Leckie, Charlie Spurgeon and Arch Tuckett gathered in Melbourne with the rest of the pioneering members of ‘The Midget Car Drivers Association of Australia’ to commence the new sport at Olympic Park.

Wentworth Park, Glebe. Midget race during the 1935/6 season L>R Arthur Wylie, speedway racer, constructor, road racer and ‘Australian Motor Sports’ magazine founder/publisher, Archie Tuckett and Sam Aggett. No chassis/engine details sadly. I worked in Glebe for 12 months- is that big building still there? (VS)

The first race meeting for Midgets in New South Wales was at Wentworth Park in Wattle Street, Glebe on 5 October 1935.

Sixteen drivers contested scratch races for A and B grade drivers, triangular match races and 5 lap handicap events. The first race of the afternoon was the A Grade 5 lap scratch won by none other than Arch Tuckett who led home Bruce Leckie and four times Australian Grand Prix winner Bill Thompson in a time of 1 minute 52.5 seconds. So, ‘our’ Archie won the first Midget race in NSW.

All the Midget Drivers Association competitors were well known guys from the ranks of road racing (such as Dentry, Thompson, Warren) former motorcycle and sidecar riders from the old concrete saucer Maroubra days and dirt track speedway sidecar riders who would all be unfamiliar with Midget car racing.

(S Hood)

Tuckett’s car looks so immaculate I suspect its just completed, perhaps the workshop built the car in whole or in part. Little is known about the specification of it other than that it is powered by a Henderson four cylinder, air cooled motorcycle engine and is no-doubt based on established American practice of the day. Let me know if you can add details about the cars specifications.

I know that part of the world reasonably well, the design and branding consultancy I was a part of was located at 160 William Street for a few years, i’ve poked around many of the lanes between William Street and Woolloomooloo Bay. Using the evidence- part of a street name on the fence, and the number 252 in the other photo- I think the address may be 252 Dowling Street just off William Street. This fits with the caption together with Sam Hood’s photos on the State Library of New South Wales Flickr post of these amazingly clear, evocative shots. Wonderful aren’t they?

Arch Tuckett with the Midget he bought from Duane Carter after the 1937/8 Summer NZ Tour he contested. The chassis was built by the Technical Institute in Alameda California in 1935. Originally built with a Continental Star engine, here it is fitted with a modified A Model Ford unit (G McIsaac)

As to Tuckett himself, variously said to be from Queensland and Victoria, he built the car pictured himself and raced it to Queensland and Victorian State Championship wins.

He travelled to New Zealand to contest the first Midget races there, contesting events held at Western Springs Stadium in the summer of 1937/8 in Auckland.

At the end of that tour he bought the ‘Alemite Lubricant Special’, a professionally built, Continental Star engined racer from Duane Carter, one of five Americans on that tour. He raced that chassis very successfully in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales before emigrating to New Zealand in 1940, subsequently enlisting in the RNZAF.

The car featured in this article, his first Midget, was sold to Kiwi ‘Pee-Wee’ Anderson.

The Alemite car exists, restored in NZ, it would be interesting to know what became of the Woolloomooloo built car! Similarly what became of Arch?…

Wonderful cover of the Olympic Park, Midget racing meeting program, 14 March 1936 (D Zeunert Collection)

Etcetera: Motor Racing at Olympic Park, Melbourne…

The current site of ‘AAMI Park’, one of Victoria’s premier football and rugby Stadiums, is situated within the city’s leading sports precinct nestled between the Yarra River and Melbourne Park, the site has served a myriad of purposes including motorsport. This section of the article is of arcane interest to Victorians only I suspect. But it was interesting to me just how many iterations of motorsport there were in an area many of us know so well. The piece is a truncated version of the AAMI Park site history.

Bound by nature

‘Prior to European settlement of Melbourne in 1834, the Yarra River Valley was inhabited by the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. The area has always been idyllic for recreational pursuits. Surveyor-General Robert Hoddle surveyed Melbourne in 1837 and set the boundary for ‘Government Paddock’, an area that comprised the current Yarra and Melbourne & Olympic Parks. The lower reaches of the paddock near the Yarra (i.e. AAMI Park) were quite marshy, a chain of lagoons proving popular with duck shooters.

These riverside pastures of what was also called ‘Richmond Paddock’ became the first location for Melbourne’s Zoo. The Zoo area became the ‘Friendly Society’s Gardens’. The Combined Friendly Society used the land for athletic carnivals and social events. The Yarra constantly flooded until 1896 when the Board of Works realigned the river between the City and Richmond.

The League of Victorian Wheelmen completed a banked cycling track in 1897, which included a grandstand, bar and a range of amenities. Motocyclists also used the 32-35ft wide asphalt track which was enclosed by a picket fence. However, their machines became too fast and the track useless for racing purposes. As well as other cycling and running tracks (often flooded or swamp-like) the area was used for football, tennis, rugby union and women’s cricket either side of the century’s turn.

The ‘Amateur Sports Grounds’ basically consisted of two ovals – one rough and ready, the other encircled by the cycle track. On these fields were turf wickets for cricket, and two adjacent double tennis courts. Athletics was still a regular feature, the St Stephens Harriers using both ovals regularly.

In 1915 the Great War halted preliminary work on a private company’s £5000 motordrome, based on the popular yet extremely dangerous board tracks of the United States. Pioneered by Jack Prince, these banked tracks were capable of handling speeds up to 100mph, but overpowered motorbikes caused mayhem on a weekly basis.

Thrills ‘n spills at the ‘Drome

Melbourne Carnivals Pty Ltd developed and leased the site until the conclusion of World War II. Undeterred by carnage on similar tracks in America, dynamic and colourful local entrepreneur John Wren was a driving force (along with ace promoter Campbell) in reviving the previously shelved ‘Melbourne Motordrome’. Built over 18 months on the old cycle track, it opened on 13 December 1924 at a cost of around £30,000.

A campaign led by defunct newspaper, The Argus, condemned the appropriation of public space for commercial activities, however authorities maintained the land was still open to the community. From the venue’s inception official complaints about the noise levels arose – the ‘peace and tranquility’ of the nearby MCG test match disturbed, along with local residents. Criticism subsided as people attended all manner of entertainments such as wrestling. Few were keen to make an enemy of the powerful Wren in any case- he was one of those chaps who played right on the envelope of legal and bent activity in many areas.

The treacherous 629 yard concrete drome’s primary attraction was two lap ‘professional wheel racing’ events. Recruited by ace promoter Campbell, American star motorcyclists Jim Davis, Ralph Hepburn and Paul Anderson regularly thrilled crowds whilst Ron Hipwell was the local favourite. Crowds nearing 30,000 also thrilled to eclectic programs that featured sidecars, cycling, athletics and wrestling bouts. Some novelty events bordered on the farcical; racing ostriches were imported from South Australia in December 1926, but in what The Argus labelled ‘a complete fiasco’, the confused and terrified beasts (with cardboard cutout ‘jockeys’) wandered aimlessly, scampered in all directions, or simply stood stupefied. ‘Motor Push Ball’ was another bizarre affair, as were children being pulled by billy goats in two wheeler carts.

Tearing around at over 80 miles an hour with no brakes on the steep banks, it was little surprise that five riders lose their lives, the track earning the nicknames ‘Suicide Track’ and the ‘Murderdrome’. Due to instances of flying debris and that the vertical wall at the top was only half the height recommended by Jack Prince, the Motordrome’s innovative ‘saucer’ track featured ‘Danger – don’t lean over’ signs and additional strategically placed fencing. A red danger line half way up the daunting 48 degree bank acted as a guide for riders, however serious trouble often ensued when oil spilt on the track, riders ‘wobbled’, skid on the painted red line or tried to ride more than three abreast.

In one spectacular crash, Hipwell suffered concussion and assorted injuries (including his hip!) and never regained the form that saw him once defeat Davis in front of a full house. More tragic accidents saw Alec Staig, Allan Bunning, Charles Grigg, Reg Moloney and two teenage spectators lose their lives. Riders even contended with foolish attempts at sabotage; such as double sided tacks, or on one occasion, a five foot length of barbed wire that officials thankfully spotted. The final tragedy, local star Jimmy Wassell on 2 January 1932, appeared to be the last straw. Crowds declined and racing was restricted to slower side-cars in the final season.

Jumping aboard dirt track’s motorcycling’s wave of popularity in Britain, a new 494 yard track was added by 1928, enclosed by the ‘drome. Huxley and Van Praag were stars of these meetings. Cycling also became popular as the Great Depression took hold. The nature of this unique ‘velodrome’ lent itself to motor-paced feats such as Legendary cyclist Sir Hubert Opperman covering 100 miles in 90 minutes in 1930 and in a world famous performance, 1000 miles in 28hrs 55 mins. He also broke the world record for the dangerous five mile motor paced event. The Motordrome also hosted the historically significant Austral Wheelrace five times between 1923 and 1929.

The world’s richest professional footrace, ‘The Melbourne Thousand’ was established by Wren in 1928. The inaugural £500 winner’s prize went to South Melbourne star footballer Austin Robertson, the sprint last run in 1932. Other much hyped events such as the ‘World’s Championship’ sprint appeared on ‘sensationally historic’ athletic programs.

On 4 June 1932 the Motordrome became part of VFL/AFL history when Melbourne played the first of three VFL home games owing to the MCG undergoing resurfacing works. Melbourne lost all three games at the Motordrome.

Page of competitors, Midget events march 1936 (D Zeunert Collection)

Olympic Park Speedway

An untenable safety record, and declining financial viability, saw 20 charges of dynamite reduce the ‘Drome to rubble in 1932. The venue was reconstructed as the ‘Olympic Park’ sporting arena in 1933. Interestingly, this reference predated the ’56 Games. Said to better reflect the usage of the site than ‘Amateur Sports Grounds’, the name was prophetic, if not lacking in logic. Promoted successfully by Dick Lean Snr, popular midget speedcars debuted and were pioneered in Australia here in 1934 on a newly constructed dirt track around the sporting field.

Football returned on 30 March 1935 when a floodlit game between 1934 Grand Finalists Richmond and South Melbourne remarkably drew 25,000 spectators (causing Jack Dyer to walk to the ground, unable to get on the packed trams). The practice match was interspersed with midget car races in the breaks. Amid some controversy, around this timeWren almost closed a deal for Richmond to relocate to Olympic Park.

The Australian Imperial Force assumed control of Olympic Park in 1940, although with the permission of the Fuel Board one last speedway meeting was held on 1 April 1946 in aid of St Vincent’s Hospital.

Continued petrol rationing spelled the death knell for the speedway in the aftermath of WW2. The venue met with the wrecking ball in 1946 but few local residents lamented the demise of the noisy motorsports. Further deconstruction occurred inadvertently when a fire destroyed a large wooden grandstand in 1951.

Olympic Park lives up to its name

The welcome 1956 Olympic Games transformation began in 1951. A new sports arena at the southern end of the AAMI Park site hosted the field hockey preliminary rounds, subsequently known as the Eastern Sportsground or the No. 2 Oval. A 4400 seat, 333 metre long velodrome was also constructed, situated on the northern/Swan Street side at a cost of around £120,000. One of the fastest tracks in the world, it was made of reinforced concrete over a New Zealand pine base. Our cyclists won a gold and a bronze at the ’56 Games.

A couple of unidentified cyclists during the 1956 Olympics Velodrome, Olympic Park 3 December ’56

Entertaining the masses

The Victorian Amateur Football Association took up residence at the Eastern Sportsground in 1957, using the venue as its administration base and a weekly marquee game.

The Victorian Rugby Union competition used the Eastern sportsground, as did three Victorian Soccer Federation teams and even the Australian Equestrian Federation held twice yearly championships here. In one of Olympic Park’s more controversial moments, hundreds of protesters against the 1971 Springbok rugby tour clashed with mounted police armed with batons on 3 July. The demonstration was a forerunner to other protests around Australia and preceded Australia pulling out of its upcoming cricket tour of South Africa. Several court cases ensued with accusations of assault levelled towards, and against police. The game itself saw South Africa thrash Victoria 50-0.

A £50,000 investment by the Melbourne Greyhound Racing Association saw their relocation from Arden St. North Melbourne to a redeveloped Eastern Sportsground in 1962. On 20 August 6000 punters braved the cold for the first meeting. The velodrome was demolished in 1972, becoming a 800 space carpark, and the following year saw a new $6m 2200 seat grandstand built for greyhounds, soccer and rugby. The facilities pre-empted the dishlicker’s halcyon days which lasted until the 1980’s. Regular crowds of 5000 were also entertained by athletic races during the Monday night program, as well as promotions tied to Moomba, glamorous models and various celebrities.

A changing landscape

TThe Eastern Sportsground was upgraded with a synthetic pitch, practice running track and throwing area to coincide with the 1985 World Veterans Athletic Championship. As well as facilitating commercially viable sport and entertainment, Olympic Park Management’s other primary objective to increase the variety of sports. Consequently, hockey and American football utilised this field during winter, the latter playing their Victorian Championship on the ground in 1985-1993.

In November 1991, billowing smoke permeated through the greyhound track grandstand causing the evacuation of 2000 enthusiasts, moments after the last race. Forty firemen were dispatched to the blaze that began in a storeroom. The last race was run in February 1996 as 3000 punters sadly bid farewell, the club relocating to Broadmeadows.

The old Eastern Sportsground was reborn as Edwin Flack Field whereupon Collingwood used it as their training ground from 2004-06 – some irony given their legendary patron John Wren had built the Motordrome on the same patch of turf.

City of Melbourne folks- the area we are referring to is the modern white stadium and Olympic Park to its left beside the River Yarra- one can readily see that motor racing 1 km from a modern metropolis even in the 1940’s was a bit of a stretch! MCG right middle of shot as you cricket lovers, god help you, would know

State of the Art Stadium

Plans for the new stadium were originally conceived when Melbourne bid for a new Super 12 franchise. Upon being beaten by Perth, it didn’t take long for the plans to re-emerge. In April 2006, the Victorian Government announced a new 20,000-seat stadium would be built at Olympic Park to host Rugby League and Football. Melbourne Victory.

Construction commenced in late 2007 on the site of Edwin Flack Field- AAMI Park officially opened its doors on 7th May 2010, hosting the Rugby League ANZAC Test Match between Australia and New Zealand. The game attracted a near sell-out crowd of 29,442. As well as the Victory, Storm and Rebels; the Melbourne Demons Football Club (AFL) also have their training and administrative base at the venue, training on the adjacent sporting field.’

Built at a cost of $267.5 million, AAMI Stadium features a distinctive cutting-edge Bioframe design with a geodesic dome roof which substantially covers the seating area and is a great visual reference point when heading into town from the inner-East through South Yarra…

Bibliography…,, article by Ken Wylie, David Zeunert Collection

Photo Credits…

Sam Hood, State Library of New South Wales, Gordon McIsaac




Garrie Cooper aboard his Elfin 600D Repco V8 in the Wanneroo Park, Western Australia pitlane in May 1970…

 ‘Motor Racing Royalty’ in Australia are any Australian cars powered by Repco Brabham V8’s in my book. There are only four single-seater road-racing cars so built- 3 Elfin 600’s and the Rennmax/Bob Britton built Jane Repco. Of all the Australian built Repco Brabham V8 engined cars- single-seaters and sportscars, to me the most desirable is this particular car, Garrie Cooper’s 1970 works machine, Elfin 600D chassis ‘7012′. There is a spot for it in my garage.

Few racing car designs have won success in Formula Ford, F3, F2 and F1- well, ok, Australian National Formula 1- the Elfin 600 variants 600, 600B, C, D and E are such cars. If Cooper and his band of merry artisans in Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown, South Australia had built a Formula Vee 600 (his FV of the day was the Elfin 500) he literally would have had covered all Australian single-seater categories with variants of the one spaceframe chassis design!

I have an article half-finished on the Elfin 600. I was going to pop these wonderful shots of GC and ‘7012’ taken during the WA Road Racing Championship meeting at Wanneroo on 3 May 1970 into it but they are too good to lose in a longer feature. Elfin and Garrie Cooper bias hereby declared, not that I am alone in that regard.

The final Tasman 2.5 ANF1 year was 1970, Cooper built the car for his own use that season but didn’t take a Gold Star round win in it. Leo Geoghegan won the coveted title in a 2 litre Waggott powered European F2/Formula B chassis Lotus 59 taking two wins, there is a certain amount of irony in that as Leo had raced the ex-Jim Clark Lotus 39 powered by various Repco engines since 1967. If anybody deserved a Repco powered Gold Star championship victory it was the popular Sydneysider!

Max Stewart won another two ‘Star races in his similarly Waggott 275 bhp powered Mildren and John Harvey also took a couple in the other new for 1970 Repco Brabham engined car, the Jane Repco.

Cooper’s Elfin 600D Repco beside John Walker’s Elfin 600B Ford ANF2- ANF2 then was a 1.6 litre, production twin-cam, 2 valve formula which effectively meant the use of the Ford/Lotus twincam engine. That’s GC standing up and JW sitting on the Armco next to him (SLWA)

The Jane, like Cooper’s Elfin was powered by Repco Brabham ‘830 Series’ V8’s, RBE’s ultimate spec Tasman 2.5 engine.

These babies made their race debut in the back of Jack Brabham’s BT23E in the 1968 Sandown Tasman round- the specifications included the ‘short’ 800 block (’68 F1 issue) SOHC, crossflow, 2 valve ’30 Series’ heads as well as Lucas fuel injection and all the usual Repco goodies. The engines have a bore/stroke of 3.34/2.16 inches and produced 295 bhp @ 9000 rpm with a big fat, Repco mid-range band of torque. They weighed 330 pounds and hit the road via Hewland FT200 gearboxes.

Cooper was a fine driver, he won an Australian 1.5 Championship together with Max Stewart and an Australian Sportscar Championship as well as a Gold Star round at Mallala in 1969 aboard a 600C Repco, but he wasn’t an ace. ‘7012’ in the hands of Kevin Bartlett, Stewart, Geoghegan or Harvey was a Gold Star winning car, make that 1970 Tasman Championship winning car in Bartlett’s hands if a dose of Repco reliability was thrown into the mix.

The Wanneroo Park meeting was not a Gold Star round but Garrie and another South Australian Elfin 600 ace and future AGP and Gold Star winner John Walker made the trip across the Nullarbor from Adelaide and took first and second places in the WA Racing Car Championship ‘Carbon Brakes 500’ with ex-Brabham employee Bob Ilich third in his Brabham BT21B Cosworth SCB.

The meeting had an eight race card, the ten lap Touring Car and Sportscar Championship events were won by Peter Briggs in the ex-Norm Beechey Holden Monaro GTS327 and Howie Sangster aboard Don O’Sullivan’s Lola T70 Mk2 Chev respectively.

GC accepts the spoils of victory in his ‘Fastman’ nomex suit (SLWA)


John Walker 600B and GC 600D Repco, Wanneroo 1970 (SLWA)

Walker’s 600B @ Wanneroo, same weekend. JW developed into an awesome F5000 steerer, took the ’79 AGP and Gold Star aboard a Lola T332 Chev (SLWA)


State Library of WA, Terry Walkers Place,, Brian Caldersmith

Postscript & Statistics…

Brabhams are excluded from the list of Australian cars fitted with 2.5 Repco V8’s, they are Pommie cars however much some of us Aussies like to claim them as ours. Sure Motor Racing Developments was owned by Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac, an Australian domiciled Brit, but the cars were designed and built in the UK- so lets be fair folks!

7 Brabhams (BT11A, BT14, BT19, BT22, BT23A, BT23E, BT31) were built with or modified to accommodate RB 2.5 litre V8’s as was 1 Lotus- the ex-works 39, the stillborn Flat 16 Coventry Climax FWMW chassis converted to Coventry Climax 2.5 FPF engined form for use as Clark’s 1966 Tasman car.

To the list of 4 Oz built Repco 2.5 powered single-seaters should be added ex-RBE engineer, Peter Holinger’s 2 hillclimb cars, ‘Holinger Repco’, have I forgotten any others?

Before digressing further from the story I started with, all three of the Elfin 600 Repco’s built still exist- 600C ‘6908, ‘7011′ and 600D ‘7012’ with two of them ‘runners’ and one (7012) in the process of being rebuilt/restored. The Jane Repco chassis still exists in a WA Museum but is no longer Repco powered.

GC in ‘7012’ at Oran Park in 1970. Ain’t she sweet (unattributed)

As to the Australian built Repco engined sportscars, I think there were 10.

They are as follows- shown are build years, car type, number built, Repco engine originally fitted and first owner.

1966/8- 1 x Elfin 400 4.4 620/720 (Jane), 3 x Matich SR3 4.4 620/720 (Matich). 1968/9 1 x Matich SR4 5 litre 760 (Matich/Repco), 1 x Bob Britton/Rennmax built MRC Repco 5 litre 740 (Ayers). 1971- 2 x Elfin 360 2.5 730/830 (Moore, Michell). 1970/2- Rennmax- 1 x 2.5 740 (McArthur) and 1 x 5 litre 740 (Ayers)

To get a complete list, the following non-Australian built sportscars should be added- 4.

1966- 1 x Brabham BT17 4.3 620. 1968- 1 x Chevron B8/12 3 litre 720 (John Woolfe) 1969/70- 1 x Healey XR37 3 litre, 1 x McLaren M6B 5 litre 740 (Jane)

The sportscar list is dangerous as it is pulled out of my head, that will trouble some of you! but do help me with the research as there is no such list currently. Let me know cars I have forgotten and we can update the schedule.

So, to summarise.

There were 12 single-seaters to which Tasman 2.5 V8’s were fitted- 3 Elfins, 1 Jane, 7 Brabhams and 1 Lotus.

Lets not forget Peter Holinger’s 2 4.4 litre 620/720 engined hillclimbers. There may have been some ‘climbers in the UK?

There were 14 sportscars to which a range of Repco Brabham V8’s were fitted as above.

For the absence of doubt, as the lawyers are inclined to say, this list does not include cars powered by Redco Pty. Ltd. built Repco Holden F5000 V8’s just the Repco Brabham Engines Pty Ltd built motors, the list above also excludes RBE F1 and Indy V8 chassis lists.

Frank Matich in his SR3 Repco ‘720’ 4.4 V8 Warwick Farm Tasman meeting 1968 (B Caldersmith)

To nail my colours completely to the mast, the most lustworthy of the Repco engined sportscars to occupy my garage alongside Elfin 600D ‘7012’ is, probably, a Matich SR3. I’ll have the second of two chassis fitted with RBE 4.4 620/720 V8’s with which FM contested some ’67 Can Am rounds and then returned home to dust up Chris Amon’s ex-works Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/350 Can Am V12 in the ’68 Australian Tasman round sportscar support events.

Mind you I’ve always dribbled over the two Elfin 360 Repco 2.5’s from the first time I saw them in 1972, Elfin 600 component based jewels of things that they are, to finish about where I started…

Tailpiece: ‘7012’ at rest Wanneroo May 1970…


Matich SR4 & SR3…


(B Thomas)

Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar won the Sunday 7 November 1954 Australian Grand Prix at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast…

Here, (above) just after the start, Lex is behind Kiwi Fred Zambucka’s Maserati 8CM, with Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 behind the HWM and then Jack Brabham’s partially obscured Cooper T23 Bristol ‘Redex Special’.

Race favourite Stan Jones, in the Repco Research built Maybach 2 is already out of shot and some distance up the road ahead of this next group. Stan led until lap 14 when some welds on the chassis of the new car failed causing a very high speed excursion backwards through the Queensland countryside, writing off the car but fortunately without causing injury to the plucky Melbourne motor-trader.

Sydney’s Curley Brydon’s MG TC Spl s/c was second in the Formula Libre, scratch, 150 mile event from Ken Mitchell’s Brisbane built Ford Spl in third place. Davison’s time was 1 hour, 50 minutes and 18 seconds.

After heavy rain in the days before the meeting the race was run ‘on one of the hottest days of the season and drivers had a trying time with the heat and dust’. It was Davo’s fifth attempt at the AGP- a race he was to win four times- in 1954, 1957, 1958 and 1961.

Australia after the initial ‘Phillip Island AGP era’ (1927 Goulburn AGP duly noted) for decades had a wonderful tradition of each of the states hosting the AGP in turn- in that sense ‘everybody got a fair crack of the whip’. The disadvantage was that there was not until the sixties investment in a permanent facility to stage motor-racing let alone events on longer courses of the sort appropriate for events of Grand Prix length. Warwick Farm and Sandown are examples of fine venues and circuits but even then were built within pre-existing horse racing facilities.

The #15 John McKinney MG TC Spl 1.3 DNF lap 11 and Curley Brydon’s MG TC Spl 1.3 s/c, 2nd in a fast reliable run (B Thomas)

Queensland’s first GP was held in September 1949 when 30,000-40,000 people converged on Leyburn, a quiet little hamlet on the Darling Downs- the race was held on a disused wartime airstrip and won by John Crouch in a Delahaye 135S imported by John Snow pre-War.

The venue for the 1954 event was similarly distant from major population centres, an hours drive from Brisbane on a good day, being a road circuit using roads in the Ashmore/Benowa/Bundall areas a mile or so from Southport. International readers are probably aware of the Surfers Paradise location from television coverage of the annual Indycar race, Southport is close by.

These days the Gold Coast City has a population of 560,000, back then before the tourist boom of the sixties the area was a quiet farming and agricultural hamlet adjoining the Pacific Ocean. The organisers, led by the Queensland Motor Sporting Car Club laid out a 5.7 mile course on public roads- the event was contested over 27 laps of the undulating, narrow bitumen surface in sparsely settled, scrubby coastal bush. The local population of 40 swelled to somewhere near 60,000 on raceday!

(Brisbane Courier Mail)

The organisers said the road, much of which had not been sealed before, had a minimum usable width of 22 feet made up of 14 feet of bitumen and at least 4 feet of smooth gravel shoulder on each side. There were two no-passing sections at the causeway leading into the main straight at Boston’s Bend and another about 40 yards long on a narrow bridge at the start of the tight section beside the Nerang River, past Dunlop Bend at the start of the second long straight.

The intersecting two straights as you can see above formed one corner of the triangular course , the section beside the Nerang up to the Courier Mail hairpin was continuously jinking. There were some very quick curves on the return section with a total rise and fall of 60 feet- including several jumps where faster cars became airborne and blind corners with the road overall very bumpy- and surrounded by barbed-wire fences for most of the distance.  The organisers forecast a 90 mph lap average by the faster cars which proved to be quite accurate

The Maybach main men- Stan Jones and Charlie Dean. With the marvellous but shortlived Maybach 2, perhaps at Fishermans Bend in early 1954- cars technical specs as per article linked at the end of this piece. Dean a remarkable fella- engineer, businessman, racer inclusive of several AGP’s and public company Director. No book about him sadly! (unattributed)

The bulk of the racers in the smallish Australian racing scene were based in Sydney and Melbourne so it was a long tow up north for many, but the competitors nevertheless journeyed north to contest the event, the biggest such social occasion ever held in South Queensland to that point.

From Victoria their were six entries including the fast-boys Jones and Davison. The New South Wales contingent of 11 included Stan Coffey in a Cooper Bristol and similarly mounted ‘Pre-race favourite ex-speedway champion Jack Brabham driving a 1971cc Cooper Bristol’, as one of the Brisbane papers saw it. No way did Jack’s 2 litre machine have the mumbo to win this event though.

Redex Round Australia Trial personality/winner Jack Murray added to the gate, he raced an Allard Cadillac V8. Dick Cobdens Ferrari 125 V12 s/c was acquired from Peter Whitehead after the ’54 NZ GP with the wealthy Cobden very quickly getting to grips with the tricky handling of the rear swing-axle suspension car. His dices with Brabham at NSW meetings in the months before Southport were a spectacle all enthusiasts looked forward to at the time with Brabham the better racer but there was little difference in lap times between the two cars.

This paddock shot does not show the muddy conditions competitors endured. #4 is Charlie Whatmore, Jaguar Spl 3.4 7th and #9, the 3rd placed Ken Richardson Ford V8 Spl (D Willis)

The Queenslanders came out in numbers, sixteen in all. The group included Charlie Whatmore’s Jaguar Spl built around a Standard 14 chassis with Jag Mk7 power and Rex Taylor who had bought Doug Whiteford’s dual AGP winning Talbot-Lago T26C. With the replacement Lago a long way off Doug raced ‘Black Bess’, his famous Ford V8 Spl and winner of the 1950 AGP. Arthur Griffiths had just bought the Wylie Javelin.

Much was expected of Kiwi Fred Zambucka’s Maserati 2.9 litre s/c but the very stiffly sprung pre-war machine was all at sea on the very bumpy country roads.

Stan Jones’s new Maybach 2 was a classic single seater built around the same engine and gearbox as Maybach 1 but was shorter, narrower and lighter and was the real favourite for the race. The Melburnian had his tail up as a consequence of his NZ GP win at Ardmore aboard Maybach 1 in January and the speed of Maybach 2 built by Charlie Dean and the rest of the Repco Research team in Bruswick after they returned from NZ. Its pace had been proved from its first appearance in winning the Victorian Trophy at Fishermans Bend in March and was reinforced at Bathurst over the Easter weekend.

The car was without doubt the quickest in Australia at the time, remember too by this stage the AGP was a scratch event (the 1951 Narrogin AGP was started in handicap order but the AGP winner was the car/driver which completed the distance in the fastest time- Warwick Pratley in the Ford V8 powered George Reed Spl) so a machine capable of winning the event on speed and reliability was required. This change had immense impacts on the content of our grids. Very quickly, older or lower powered machines which were half a chance in the handicap days were rendered uncompetitive at AGP level overnight. The time was right for the change mandated by the Australian Automobile Association but that view was hardly one universally held at the time.

Lex Davison, HWM Jag, Southport. Circuit safety aspects clear- crowd close to the action! (Davison)

Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar had been continuously developed by Ern Seeliger and his artisans over the previous 12 months since it’s unsuccessful debut during the 1953 AGP weekend at Albert Park.

There the ex-Moss/Gaze (then Alta powered) car ran its bearings in practice and did so again shortly after the start of the race. The car was modified terms of its lubrication, oil and water cooling and other areas almost on a race by race basis becoming fast and reliable. The ‘C Type’ spec 3.4 litre engine gave 187bhp on the Repco dyno in early 1954 but the clever car was not as quick as Stan, Jack or Dick’s- it had gained reliability though, a quality which was to be rather a valuable one come raceday.

Despite the new Southport circuit being unfamiliar to the drivers, practice was available for only two one hour sessions on the Saturday, the time was allocated after the longer sessions planned were diminished by clearing up the debris of the Mrs Geordie Anderson driven Jaguar XK120 Coupe which left the track on the fast swerves of the return section of the course and hit a telegraph post. She was not badly injured but the car was substantially damaged.

After a rainstorm cleared,  faster times were recorded in the afternoon session with Cobden a little quicker than Jones. There had been fifteen consecutive consecutive weekends of rain before the meeting, and plenty in between, so the course road shoulders were soft and the paddock areas boggy which made for rather grim conditions for crews and spectators alike.

Only Stan and Dick got under 4 minutes with Cobden the quicker at 3:55, an average of 88mph. Whilst the times were indicative of performance they did not count for grid positions which had been allocated by the organisers at their discretion.

Jack had engine problems running in a fresh Bristol motor which would also play out on raceday whilst Maybach needed repairs that evening to repair a split fuel tank and reportedly to raise the ride height. Davison’s HWM also needed repairs to the underbody and to straighten some suspension parts after an off by Lex, his best time was 4:14.

Whatmore’s Jaguar Spl, Standard 14 modified chassis and fitted with a Jag 3.4 Mk7 engine for this race. Car descended from a Studebaker powered ex-speedway machine he raced in the 1949 Leyburn AGP (HAGP)

Spectators near Skyline Bend, 4.5 miles from the start reported the faster cars were leaping two feet into the air as they crested the top of the hill. Over 5,000 people attended practice causing plenty of chaos to surrounding access roads indicating the challenges of race day access!

The quick guys were worried about the driving standard of some of the locals with Brabham not confident his Cooper would last the race without some sort of chassis breakage.

In an interesting sequence of events which played out during the race the Maybach’s aluminium fuel tank was split during practice, as was Davison’s.

Whilst Brian Burnett had built much of the Maybach body, chassis and other parts he attended Southport as part of Davo’s crew not Jones team so prioritised Lex’s repair over Stan’s. In the end he did not have time to complete the Maybach repair due to an incident whilst working on the HWM’s tank ‘…when Burnett prepared to weld up the crack by following his customary method of clearing fuel vapour out of the drained tank- by waving a lit welding torch inside- the tank exploded. He gathered up the scattered pieces, worked out where they belonged, hammered them back into shape and then, finally, was ready to start welding the tank back together again.’

Between 50,000-60,000 attended on raceday, the early birds camped overnight with day-trippers arriving from 4am. The day dawned bright and sunny in contrast to recent weather patterns… 

‘People dressed in gay holiday clothes, some in swimming costumes, went in transport ranging from a family in a horse-drawn buggy to the latest model sedans’ the Brisbane Courier Mail reported.

‘Farmers let down their fences to allow thousands of vehicles to park…at the township of Benowa people watched the roaring motors from the shade of a church. Others watched from houses, some from the rooftop whilst men and boys perched in the trees. Dairy calves not far away ran into the bush as the quiet bitumen road running through tall green turned into a snorting carrier for Australia’s fastest cars…’

Sounds fantastic to me!

The huge crowd blocked the track between races and strolled across the circuit whilst races were running, the chaos was not helped by the lack of an effective public address system throughout much of the course area.

Brightways and Farren Price Trophy sportscar race- A Mills Jag XK120, leads David Griffiths Triumph TR2 and G Greig’s Austin Healey (E Steet)

The program commenced at 11.15 am with the ‘Brightways and Farren Price Trophy’ 5 lapper won by won by Adelaide’s Eldred Norman in a G.M. 2-71 supercharged Triumph TR2.

Norman was an extraordinary character as a businessman, racer, engineer and specials builder- the twin Ford V8 engined ‘Double Eight’  and Zephyr Special s/c are at the more extreme end of his creativity and speed. Somewhat ironic is that his most conventional AGP mount, the TR2 gave him his best AGP result- he was 4th in the car later in the day.

The TR2 was still hot when he contested the ‘Cords Piston Ring Trophy’ First Division event which he also won, the Trophy was won by Les Cosh in an Aston Martin DB2 who did the fastest time in the Second Division event for closed cars.

At the conclusion of the meeting Eldred loaded up the TR2, the first delivered in South Australia, re-attached a lightweight trailer containing two empty 44 gallon drums of methanol racing fuel, some basic spares, tools, odds and sods to the sportscar and then drove back to his base in Halifax Street, Adelaide. The trip is 2050Km one way, so lets say he did around 6,000 Km in all inclusive of the return trip, a bit of tootling around the Gold Coast, race practice, two race wins…and fourth in the AGP. I’d call that a pretty successful trip up North!

The Grand Prix was due to commence at 2.45 pm, but by that time the program was an hour late for the reasons mentioned earlier. This was then exacerbated by speeches of the Southport Mayor to welcome Queensland’s Deputy Premier- who made a speech formally opening the GP and finally another by the local State MP who gave a vote of thanks to the Deputy Premier. Still, to their credit, the Queensland politicians allowed the race to take place on public roads, a situation which existed only in WA and NSW at the time.

Lex hustling the victorious HWM Jag thru Olympic Corner, preceding the start/finish straight (B Thomas)

The drivers waited patiently and nervously with the start, not based on lap times remember, and a road not nearly wide enough for the 2-1-2-1 grid. Their difficulties now also included the sun which was lower in the sky than would have been the case had the program been running to time.

The two front slots were allocated to the fast Stan Jones/Maybach and the slow Rex Taylor in the fast Lago. Then came Fred Zambucka’s very stiffly sprung pre-War Maser which was said to be almost uncontrollable on the bumpy Queensland country back-roads.

The sprint to the first corner with the quicks Cobden, Davison and then Brabham promised to be interesting whilst Stan, up front was not to be impacted if he got away cleanly.

AMS reported that ‘The two minute board went up, engines were started, then their was a minute to go, then ten seconds, then they were off in a mad frenzy of wheelspin, smoke, haze and dust.’

When the flag dropped Jones and Maybach disappeared, he had a lead of 10 seconds at the end of the first lap. All the front runners survived the first corner unscathed but there was a tangle of mid-fielders which was cleared by the time the leaders emerged 4 minutes later.

Stan led Lex by 10 seconds from Jack 6 seconds back who had already passed Dick Cobden’s Ferrari.

‘The order and intervals reflected the various drivers success at passing Taylor and Zambucka; Brabham and Zambucka’s cars had actually touched’ wrote Graham Howard.

Almost immediately Jack’s Cooper cried enough with re-occurrence of the Bristol engines practice dramas where a camshaft bearing shell rotated in the block, cutting off the oil supply and seizing the camshaft, shearing the timing-gear key, bending valves and pushrods. Jack would take a Bristol engined AGP win at Port Wakefield in his self constructed mid-engined Cooper T40 at Port Wakefield, South Australia in 1955.

John McKinney putting out an Xpag engine fire in his MG TC Spl. He needed assistance to restart so retired (HAGP)

Taylor has just spun the Lago and Jack Murray joins the fun in his Allard- the latter restarting, the former DNF after receiving outside  help, Ferodo Corner (HAGP)

Jack Murray provided early excitement and entertainment in the pits as he arrived very quickly in his Allard soaked with fuel from a failed jerry-rigged auxiliary fuel-tank system.

Murray unzipped his fuel soaked britches to reveal that the fuel had dissolved his nylon jocks- all he was wearing was the elastic waistband of said garment! He got the Allard going, having borrowed a set of overalls, only to retire on lap 8 but not before a half lose spinning and just kissing Taylor’s Lago which had arrived shortly before Murray, see the photo above.

Jones and Maybach 2, on the hop, as ever, Olympic Corner (E Steet)

Meanwhile up front the gaps between the top three cars widened by the end of lap 5 with the Maybach 20 seconds up the road from the HWM and then 40 seconds further back to the Cobden Ferrari.

‘Nonetheless there was a touch of desperation about Stan’s erratic lap times, and reports that the Maybach was again leaking fuel suggested he might have to make a pitstop.’ To be fair the cause of his erratic laptimes was passing back- markers- he was lapping them from lap 3.

Cobden started to speed up from lap 6 with times of around 4:04 sec- shown a ‘faster’ sign by the crew he dropped his times to 3:55 by lap 9 and closed the gap to Davo to 7 secs and Jones to 30.6 seconds. On that circuit, in that car that drive would have been great to see- he barged past the HWM on that lap taking 4 more seconds from Stan’s lead. And did the fastest lap of the race at 3:51.0 seconds.

The speed that thrills…On the next lap passing the Sefton Ford Spl after the no-passing bridge Dick was gone, Cobden was baulked, both cars spun away from the direction of the river with Cobden motoring the 2 litre, supercharged Ferrari into retirement. Sefton was illegally push-started but was not black-flagged until late in the race.

Stan Coffey’s Cooper Bristol ahead of Downing’s Rilry Imp Spl with Lex Davison bearing down on the pair, Olympic Corner (HAGP)

Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 #49 passes Rex Taylor’s Talbot-Lago T26C just after the pits at the start of lap 2, Taylor completed only 6 laps and Cobden’s wonderful charge was ruined when a back-marker took Dick’s line on lap 10 (HAGP)

Howard writes that Stan’s press-on style had not abated despite the easing of the threat ‘Stan Coffey had a chip taken out of his Cooper Bristol’s front wheel when Jones slashed past; one magazine reported Jones was black flagged for passing in a no-passing area, but did not stop, and the flag was withdrawn…Jones…in the fast curves of the return section…came through lap after lap, airborne and sideways over a crest at about 115mph.’ Oh to have seen the bellowing six-cylinder Maybach do that too!

AMS reported that Maybach was still leaking fuel and that therefore Stanley was building up sufficient a lead to do a ‘splash and dash’ to get him through the 157 miles. His margin over Davison at half distance was more than 40 seconds.

Howard, on ‘The next lap Jones too was gone. Through the fast sweeps and crests of the return section the Maybach had a major chassis failure, the car became unsteerable, and at well over 100 mph it slithered off the road and disappeared into thick scrub. Spectators rushed to rescue Jones- who was miraculously unhurt- and others manhandled the detached front suspension and wheels off the road.’

The very ill Maybach 2 in the Southport countryside, devoid of ‘front suspension section’ which detached, causing the accident. Its said Stan mowed down 4 trees, some of the more substantial ones in this shot would not have readily yielded to the car and its fearless pilot (HAGP)

The car had chopped down four trees, jumped a six foot deep culvert and finished in a gully under the tangle of uprooted casuarina trees with Stan still strapped in the driving seat, unhurt other than a cut on his face.

Lex drove past the mess- skid marks, dust, debris, scurrying officials and spectators and then did his fastest lap of the race, and then slowed right down at the scene to ensure his friend and Monte-Carlo Motors business partner was ok- and then raced on to victory.

He reduced his pace by about 2 seconds a lap, and other than muffing an upshift passing the pits had a comfortable run to the line having taken 1 hour, 50 minutes and 18 seconds to finish the 157 miles, an average of 83.7 mph. At the time of Jones accident his lead over Curley Brydon’s MG TC Monoposto was 1.5 laps.

#16 Snow Sefton Ford V8 Spl 4.2, being passed by Ken Richardson’s Ford V8 Spl with Owen Bailey’s smoke obscured MG Holden on the inside behind and then Gordon Greig’s Austin Healey. Meanwhile Taylor’s Lago is stranded at left. Ferodo Corner lap 2 (HAGP)

Courier Mail Corner action- #29 Frank Tobin in the Rizzo Riley Spl 1.5, 6th, leads the 10th placed Charlie Swinburne Cooper Mk4 Norton 500 and 5th placed David Griffiths Triumph TR2 (HAGP)

Doug Whiteford’s Black Bess was out mid-race with Ford V8 maladies, Bill Pitt’s Jaguar Spl had a tyre go flat with Whatmore’s Jag engined machine out with head gasket failure.

Survival was the whole story of this race.

On his victory lap Davison stopped at the crash scene and picked up Stan who rode back to the pits astride the tail of the HWM. Stan was a force in all of the AGP’s he contested, he finally took one, most deservedly, aboard his Maser 250F at Longford in 1959 whilst Lex took four as recorded earlier. Both were very fast drivers, both drove very well prepared cars, perhaps Lex was the more mechanically sympathetic of the two. For sure Lex had more AGP luck than Stan.

The remains of Maybach 2 on its trailer ready for the long trip back to Sydney Road, Brunswick in Melbourne. ‘…this photo shows how hard the car hit the trees- parts of the cast alloy cam-cover and upper cylinder head have been broken. Other evidence of the impact is the pile of broken SU pieces (bottom left) near the flattened right-side main tube frame. Closer inspection reveals some telling details: front wheels and nose section have just been dumped as a unit and the spare wheels have been almost thrown onboard, as has the hand operated pump which would have been used to fill a re-fuelling churn’- G Howard (HAGP)

For years Jones ‘carried the can’ for the 1954 Maybach crash until Graham Howard carefully researched the matter in preparing the ’54 Southport chapter of ‘The Bible’- ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’.

It seems that in the day it was chosen not to report in accurate fashion Repco’s engineering failure as the accident cause with Stan holding his tongue rather than ‘bite the hand which fed him’ in terms of Repco’s ongoing support.

Howard addresses all of this at length in the 1954 chapter he wrote. Note that this wonderful book was written by a number of writers- Howard, John Medley, Ray Bell….

I’ve included this section of the chapter in full as Stan still seems to get the blame from older enthusiasts for the accident to this day and for international readers who will probably not be aware of the situation, somewhat arcane as it is.

Graham Howard wrote ‘…It is difficult to find the full story of Stan Jones’ Maybach accident, partly because it happened well away from any of the crowded areas, but also- quite obviously – because most writers chose to conceal the truth.

The deservedly respected ‘Australian Motor Sports’- whose report of the race was written by by Bob Pritchett, one of Dick Cobden’s Ferrari pitcrew- offered a number of possible causes, none of them the real one, and a month later recounted what was termed “the correct story told to us by Stan Jones and Charlie Dean” which blamed chassis/axle contact which in turn put the car off line.

Brisbane’s daily ‘Courier Mail’ merely reported that Jones had crashed, and did not offer any possible reasons. General-motoring monthly ‘Wheels’ quoted “the official explanation” and “other probables” while obliquely making the point that “the car was in two pieces”. ‘Modern Motor’ came closest to an outright declaration. “Officials said a broken chassis had caused the accident…” its race report said, observing “the car appeared to split in two.”

Yet if this had happened it was remarkably quickly forgotten, and has never been referred to since in histories of the Maybachs. Without the ‘Modern Motor’ story there would have been no published clue to the real cause of the accident.

Only a remark by Len Allen sparked this book’s enquiry. He remembered how he and a mate had walked around the inside of the course, and had found a great spot to watch Jones, who was so spectacular they chose to wait for several laps purely to watch the Maybach aviate into view. On the critical lap, Allen remembers watching the Maybach touch down and immediately asking himself, “What’s happened to his ground clearance?” Allen and his mate joined the people running after the crashed car, which ended up hidden from the road down a trail of flattened scrub and trees. Allen was adamant something had broken on the car, and – while AMS, the Courier Mail and Wheels gave him no support- Modern Motor’s hearsay evidence suddenly became very credible.

In following up this issue, chapter and verse was willingly provided by Brian Burnett, the man who actually built the chassis at Repco. He explained that the two main chassis rails, of 4 inch 16g chrome molybdenum alloy steel, passed through holes in the diaphragm-type front cross-member and were completely electrically-welded in position. These welds crystallised and cracked, and in the course of the Grand Prix one chassis tube eventually broke away and touched the ground. It was as simple- and as enormous- as unfamiliarity with new materials and techniques.

The Maybach was not rebuilt in its Southport form, but emerged- after another incredibly fast revision- as the inclined-engine, offset driveline Maybach 3 which made its debut at Bathurst at Easter 1955. This car used locally-developed continuous- flow fuel injection, partly because at least two of its three 2 3/16-inch SU carburettors had been broken in the Southport crash. The amazing part was how little else had been damaged- not least the car’s remarkable driver.

Yet it was Stan Jones who became burdened with the responsibility for the accident. It was a situation which, 30 years later, (the AGP book was first published in the mid-eighties) says a lot about the rarity of mechanical failure at the time, and about the veneration which both then and today surrounds those wonderful Maybachs.’ Graham Howard wrote.

From top to bottom- Davison HWM Jag, Cobden Ferrari 125 and Brabham Cooper T23 Bristol (G Edney)

The question which flows from the collective non-reporting or misrepresenting the truth as to the cause of Maybach’s demise is why those choices were made by those who knew the facts?…

 Lets explore that, my ‘educated surmises’ are as follows.

 As Graham Howard wrote, the accident itself happened ‘out in the boonies’ away from the sight of large sections of the crowd or where the pro-photographers situated themselves. In the rush to rescue Jones the focus was rightly on him not so much the car. Not everybody had a camera then as they were expensive and iPhones were in short supply, so there is little in the manner of photographic evidence taken amongst the casuarina trees where Maybach came to rest.

 The racing scene in Australian then was very small with ‘everyone knowing everyone’ and Jones, Dean and all of the Repco crew were part of that scene, liked and respected. It is not the case that, unlike today, that ‘blame’ be sheeted home in a public way. Best we ‘keep it in the family’.

 Repco were the only corporate to provide significant support to motor racing in Australia at the time. Whilst Maybach 1 was built by Dean, the balance of the cars were built by Dean and his team with the tacit corporate support of Repco in the Repco Research premises in Sydney Road Brunswick. In fact this factory was where Maybach 1 was built before ‘Replex’, Dean’s electric transformer business was acquired and absorbed within the Repco conglomerate.

Jones certainly bought Maybach 1 from Dean but the commercial arrangements between Stan and Repco after that have always been opaque, but there is no doubt it was to their mutual advantage. When I say opaque I mean unknown not dodgy. Repco’s press advertisements of the day, on occasion used Maybach in its ads. Dean, a racer, engineer and arch enthusiast- and a Repco senior employee (and a decade or so later a Director of Repco Ltd) would have been intent on that Repco support continuing and therefore keeping quiet the accident. Jones equally wanted the support to race so the form of words given by he and Dean to AMS was a narrative which did not accurately portray what happened but were words unlikely to cause corporate offence or embarrassment to Repco- and at the same time making clear ‘chassis/axle contact put the car off line’ and in so doing sought to get Jones ‘off the hook’, unsuccessfully it seems, as the accidents cause.

 Repco were a major advertiser in the press of the day, that is the daily newspapers, general motoring magazines such as Wheels and Modern Motor and Australian Motor Sports, the racing specialist monthly. It would not have been in those publications commercial interests to put at risk valuable ad revenues by publishing the truth of the accidents cause in the event said ads were pulled as ‘retaliation’ for negative Repco press.

 Motor racing was still very much a fringe sport in Australia in 1954. The authorities (including the police) were downright antagonistic about motor racing generally and specifically about using public roads for that purpose, particularly in New South Wales. Negative racing publicity of any kind at the time was not needed by the sport as it sought to become more prominent, recognised and respected.

 Whilst negative press about motor racing was probably of no issue or concern to daily papers the general motor magazines and especially AMS would have been keen to avoid coverage detrimental to the growth of the sport, and therefore a circumspect approach by them makes sense. For the general press the day after the race they had moved on to the latest bit of death and destruction locally or globally.

 Its easy to take pot shots of course in retrospect. Hindsight is one of my strengths my sons tell me. But what would I have done, what would I have written in publishing the November 1954 issue if I were Arthur Wylie, racer, editor and owner of Australian Motor Sports- knowing the facts of the accident?

 Exactly what he did and wrote my friends in all the circumstances outlined above…

 For Davison the post race celebrations started when he saw the chequered flag, his wife, a noted racer herself was given the flag to greet Lex as he completed his final lap.

After the formalities trackside the HWM was driven on public roads from celebratory gig to gig by the very popular Davo who became increasingly pickled as the evening progressed. Different times, wonderful times.

Things were more serious in the Maybach camp of necessity, their debrief took place at the Chevron Hotel in Surfers. During these discussions Brian Burnett was stupid enough to tell Jones he had driven ‘too fast and recklessly’ only to have Stanley floor him with one punch. In the circumstances he is lucky the pugnacious, tough little nugget from Warrandyte didn’t launch him into the next decade.

Maybach would be back of course, Maybach 3 had more than a nod to the contemporary 1954 Mercedes Benz W196 but alas Maybach never bagged the AGP win one of the cars surely deserved?…

The Maybachs…

The feature I wrote about Stan Jones is as much an article about Charlie Dean’s Maybachs, click on the link below to read about this amazing series of three cars- albeit the cars were under constant evolution! as befits any ‘works’ racers, the cars effectively Repco factory entries.

In my analysis and assessment of Repco’s racing history there were a series of distinct steps which led to Repco-Brabham Engines P/L World Championship success in the mid-sixties. The first is the  ‘Maybach Phase’, the second the shorter ‘Coventry Climax FPF/Repco Phase’ and the next RBE itself. The final bit is the Redco Engine Developments P/L ‘F5000 Phase’ of 1969-1974. So, the Maybach piece is a long, critical foundation component to put its importance into the correct historical context.





Various newspapers via Trove, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ November 1954, ‘The History of The AGP’ Graham Howard and others, ‘Larger Than Life: Lex Davison’ Graham Howard, ‘From Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, Graham Edney Collection, ‘Wheels’

Photo Credits…

Eddie Steet, Brier Thomas, ‘Larger Than Life: Lex Davison’, ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’ (HAGP), ‘From Maybach to Holden’, Dick Willis, The Nostalgia Forum

Tailpiece: If only- Stan Jones, Maybach 2, Southport ’54, pressing on as usual, maybe he was a bit more of a ‘percentage driver’ towards the end of his career, maybe…



Train commuters watch an unidentified MG TC, then Les Wheeler, MG TC chasing A Griffiths, MG TC Spl s/c at the June 1952 Parramatta Park meeting  (CRPP)

‘A two mile motor racing circuit with ground accommodation for 100,000 people is being built at Parramatta Park’ Parramatta, Sydney The Sunday Heralds headlines proclaimed on 21 October 1951…

 Parramatta is a large city within greater Sydney, 25 Km from the CBD, the huge park occupies an area of 245 acres and straddles the Parramatta River on the western edge of the town.

The 8,000 pound investment in the park facility was funded by ten local businessmen and used to clear and widen existing roads to a minimum of 28 to 30 feet. The projected average circuit speed of the circuit, designed and to be run by the Australian Sporting Car Club Ltd (ASSC), was 55 mph.

Barrie Garner, Frazer Nash in June 1955. Later an ace hillclimber in a Bowin P3 Holden. Track surface needs a sweep! Carnival atmosphere, big picnic crowd so close to the centre of Sydney (CRPP)

Motor racing in Parramatta Park had been mused about for decades. An article about the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ mentioned the possibility of events in either Centennial Park, Sydney or Parramatta Park with the writer just as rapidly despatching the idea as one which would be scuttled by the authorities. Indeed, officialdom caused plenty of grief in relation to racing at Parramatta when it was finally becoming a reality.

The proposed event on 28 January 1952 was not the first planned at the venue, a meeting was scheduled to be held on 5 November 1938- the star Peter Whitehead.

The wealthy wool merchant/racer was to compete in his 1938 Australian Grand Prix winning ERA R10B. Officialdom intervened in the form of the New South Wales Chief Commissioner of Police who decided to ban the race on Friday, the day before the meeting, due to concerns about competitor and spectator safety. Click here for my article on the 1938 AGP including details and pictures of the ’38 abortive, aborted Parramatta Grand Prix.

In a reprise of the 1938 dramas the Chief Commissioner of Police again stepped in and refused permission for the January 1952 race. The ASCC appealed his decision before the Parramatta Court of Petty Sessions with the Magistrate upholding the appeal. The event was allowed to take place on the basis that spectators were permitted no closer than 40 feet from the circuits edge.

Over 40,000 paying punters turned up on raceday causing massive traffic jams throughout the area and its surrounds.

John Crouch Cooper MkV JAP from Curley Brydon’s MG TC Spl in a handicap event during the January 1952 meeting. One of the ultimate TC specials in Australia shaded by the new generation of cars. Check out the crowd (CRPP)

Star of the show that weekend was Sydney driver John Crouch driving a new-fangled, mid-engined Cooper JAP MkV to three wins of the seven events.

One of victories was perhaps the ‘main event’ of the day, a six lap invitation scratch race for the quickest guys of the weekend- he won it in his 1097cc Cooper. Stan Jones was second in the 4.3 litre Maybach 1 then came Reg Hunt’s mid-engined Hunt ‘500’ fitted that weekend with a Vincent 998cc engine Then was Jack Saywell’s Cooper 1000, Doug Whiteford’s 4.375 litre Ford V8 Spl ‘Black Bess’  and Alec  Mildren’s 1750cc Dixon Riley. The results are indicative of the rise of the small, efficient, mid-engine Coopers in Australia as was the case everywhere else in the world! Crouch set the lap record with a time of 1 minute 59 seconds.

In a reminder that ‘Motor Racing is Dangerous’, a wheel came off Doug Whiteford’s 1950 Australian Grand Prix winner, ‘Black Bess’ whilst travelling at circa 80 mph and landed in the backyard of a Victorian cottage adjoining the course. Fortunately the lady of the house was not hanging out the washing at the time the errant wheel landed atop her prize petunias.

Peter Lowe, Bugatti Holden from Laurie Oxenford, Alvis Mercury, January 1952 (CRPP)

Many meetings were held at the venue until 1957, regularly attracting over 10,000 spectators when the demands and difficulties of holding the races became too much. The circuits closure left the New South Wales circuits at the time as Mount Panorama at Bathurst, Gnoo Blas, Orange and Mount Druitt in Western Sydney.

I have long wanted to write an article about Parramatta Park but a paucity of photographs was the barrier. Not so now- the convenor and members of the Facebook group ‘Car Racing at Parramatta Park’ have uploaded some pearlers of shots- I’ve chosen some at random to give you a flavour of the place. For you FB folks just find and like the page in the usual way.

Stan Jones with a touch of the opposites in Maybach 1 chasing ‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray’s Allard Cadillac in the opening January 1952 meeting. Jones was so impressed by the speed of the Coopers in relation to his GP car he promptly placed an order for one, a MkIV was soon in his Balwyn, Melbourne driveway (CRPP)

Both the aces of the day and coming-men raced at the ‘Park including drivers such as Doug Whiteford, Frank Kleinig, Stan Jones, David McKay, Bib Stillwell, Dick Cobden, Bill Patterson, Lex Davison, Tom Hawkes, Alec Mildren, Tom Sulman, Ted Gray, Ron Tauranac, Jack Brabham and many others. RT ran the very first of his Australian Ralts in the opening meeting, as against the Pommie built ones, and his later partner Brabham raced his Dirt Midget!

Jones big Maybach ‘monstering’ Ron Tauranac’s Ralt Norton ES2 500, January 1952 (CRPP)

The program described Jack thus- ‘A familiar winner at the speedway, and this years Australian Hillclimb Champion, Jack should find the circuit well suited to his style. His car is very light, has four wheel hydraulic brakes and is powered by a home made engine using J.A.P bits’.

By the June meeting Jack had jumped into a Cooper Mk5 500, the wry description in the program observed; ‘Australian Hillclimb Champion of 1951, Jack, one of our best midget drivers, is a new recruit to road racing, his Cooper…was an 1100, now has an engine designed and built by the new owner, a foremost expert at getting quarts out of pint pots’ ! A sage description of Jack’s ability to conjure something out of not very much throughout his career as both constructor and driver.

Dick Cobden from Bill Patterson in Stan Jones car and Bill Shipway- Coopers galore, all MkV’s I think June 1955 meeting (CRPP)


Sydney Sunday Herald 21 October 1951, ‘Fast and Furious: The 1938 Parramatta Grand Prix’ article by Peter Arfanis

Photo Credits…

‘Car Racing at Parramatta Park’ Facebook Group (CRPP)

Tailpiece: Parramatta Park opening meeting, January 1952…




Ted Gray’s #1 Tornado 2 Chev and Len Lukey’s Cooper T23 Bristol being pushed to the ‘Longford Trophy’ grid in 1958…

What an amazing shot! Colour racing photographs in Australia at the time were relatively rare given the cost of film and that professional ‘snappers mainly worked in monochrome given the demands of publications of the day.

So these pictures took my breath away. The Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania is posting some amazing photographs on its Facebook page. Its incredible the way FB and other online forums provide mediums for the distribution of enthusiast photos which would otherwise be chucked out upon someones death or locked away forever.

The shots are of ‘the more you look the more you see type’. Note the black Repco van and bucolic feel of the parched, brown Longford paddock and surrounding countryside. About 40,000 people attended that March long weekend raceday, it was a big meeting for its time in the Apple Isle. The little yellow Cooper T41 Climax is local boy Austin Miller’s.

I wrote a feature article about both this event and the Lou Abrahams owned Tornado a while back, click here to read it rather than repeat myself.

Bill Mayberry, looking very natty in his red team overalls, takes a well earned rest beside Tornado. Its got a touch of 250F about it in terms of styling albeit not as voluptuous. Slimmer tho, with a higher cockpit surround- perhaps it slipped thru the air a bit better than Masers finest. You can see just how small the cars frontal area is relative to the Cooper Bristol in the opening head-on shot. Austin Miller’s raised yellow Cooper tail you can see and to the right M Hart’s Fiat Abarth 750 (HRCT)

It was a challenging weekend for the Tornado crew as Ted Gray was ill for most of it and there were major dramas with the car, specifically its gearbox. So, the calm looks of the crew are not reflective of some late nights.

Len Lukey’s Cooper was outgunned at Longford, very much a power circuit but Len was soon to become an outright contender- and 1959 Gold Star winner with the purchase of a 2 litre Coventry Climax FPF powered Cooper T43 Climax from Jack Brabham after the Melbourne Grand Prix at Albert Park later in 1958.

Simply marvellous really…

Tailpiece: Tornado 2 Chevy V8…


The attention to detail of this wonderful car extends to the engines rocker covers. Chev Corvette 283 cid cast iron, small block V8. Surely there are few production V8’s which spawned more race success than this family of engines? Small block Le Mans winning ‘Windsor’ Fords duly noted! Vertex magneto, hand made fuel injection system using Hilborn Travers componentry, fabricated extractors, note the steering shaft and universal joint. Body in aluminium by the Mayberry brothers in Melbourne (B Young)


Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Bob Young, Stephen Dalton


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerringong May 1930, competitors unknown (Fairfax)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS Zagato…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Photo Credits…

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


RH Michell’s Citroen Special dates from 1938, the young constructor built it in Woodville, Adelaide…

And that’s about all I know of this little racer.

Did Michell survive the war, did it ever race, if so was it a quick car?

Woodville was the site of some ‘bike and car racing through its streets after the War- I wonder if the car contested an event or two at the place of its birth. It didn’t race in any of the Australian Grands Prix held in South Australia around this time- Victor Harbour in 1936, Lobethal in 1939 nor Nuriootpa in 1950. Mind you, it may have contested a support event.

Intrigued to know anything about this car i tripped over by happenstance…

Photo Credit…

State Library of South Australia