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

1953 AGP grid. Front row L>R Davison HWM Jag, Jones Maybach 1, Whiteford Talbot-Lago T26C, car 11 on row 2 is Ted Gray Alta Ford V8 (Dacre Stubbs)

The allocation of the 1953 Australian Grand Prix to Albert Park was the result of over two decades of work by the Light Car Club of Australia…

I live 800 metres from Albert Park Lake, I awoke this morning to F1 music at 7.05 AM- the sound of two-seater Minardi V10 engined cars ferrying their lucky cargo around gods motor racing country at high speed. The dawn of the 2019 race seems an apt time to upload this article on the 1953 event- the first Albert Park AGP.

Barry Green in his wonderful book ‘Glory Days’, writes that there was a strong push to race at Albert Park in 1934. The Light Car Club of Australia, (LCCA) the promoter of race meetings at Phillip Island were aware of the ‘Islands growing unsuitability given its loose gravel surface as speeds increased.’ Extensive negotiations secured Albert Park as the venue for a race meeting to celebrate the Centenary of Victoria in 1935.

The ‘Sun News Pictorial’ one of the Melbourne daily tabloids, and then as now a good thing in which to wrap ones fish n’ chips, announced the event on June 4 1934.

In doing so the ‘paper lit the fuse of naysayers who brought about the events cancellation, but not before racers Arthur Terdich, Bill Lowe, Barney Dentry, and Cyril Dickason in Bugatti, Lombard, and Austins respectively, lapped the track with mufflers fitted to prove noise wasn’t the issue.’

Stan Jones at speed in Maybach 1, Albert Park 1953, DNF. Stan made this series of cars sing, Maybach 1 won the ’54 NZ GP at Ardmore but none of the Maybachs- 1,2,3 or 4 won an AGP, such a shame! If the Chamberlain 8 is Australia’s most brilliant and innovative special surely the Maybachs are the greatest? Hopeless bias declared! (R Fulford /SLV)

Post war things were little different, but a partnership between the LCCA, the Australian Army- who had a facility at Albert Park, and Victorian Labor Senator Pat Kennelly was more successful.

The three groups/people provided the combination of race organisation, promotional ability, logistical capability- the Army being able to ‘man’ Albert Park, a site of some 570 acres, and political power and influence.

For all, the ability to raise funds in the aftermath of World War 2 was important. For the army, it was money for war widows and orphans, for Kennelly to finance much needed improvements to the park for to upgrade the local amenity, and for the LCCA, the betterment of motor racing.

The parties all were aware they needed to be very careful with the use of the facility so the event was a one day affair, with practice in the morning, racing in the afternoon with the roads open to the public in between. Total time absorbed by the racing activities was less than seven hours!

And so, the 1953 Australian Grand Prix, held at Albert Park over 64 laps, 200 miles in total, on Saturday 21 November, was won by Doug Whiteford in a Lago-Talbot, the last AGP win for ‘French Racing Blue’.

Doug Whiteford’s Talbot Lago T26C passes the abandoned MG Spl of Jack O’Dea on the way to victory. Writing on the side of the car is a list of race wins. Whiteford owned two TL26C’s- this one, 1948-ex Louis Chiron chassis ‘110007’ and later, an earlier but higher spec car, chassis ‘110002’. Vern Schuppan is the current owner of ‘110002’. Crowd right to the edge of the track (R Fulford/SLV)

Entry…

The entry list was headed by local Melbourne businessmen Doug Whiteford, Stan Jones and Lex Davison.

Whiteford was perhaps the form driver, he won the AGP at Mount Panorama the year before in the same Talbot-Lago T26C. Doug was a tough grafter who owned an automotive repair and sales business a drop kick from the shores of Albert Park Lake in Carlisle Street, St Kilda.

The preparation and presentation of all of his racers was legendary. His career stretched back well pre-war to motor cycles circa 1932. He raced Norman Hamilton’s blown Ford. V8 Spl at Phillip Island circa 1935, an MG Magnette and a supercharged Ford Roadster before building the Ford Ute based ‘Black Bess’ his 1950 AGP winner.

A racer to the core, he competed all the way through into the early to mid seventies, after his long time at elite level, as a works driver for the Datsun Racing Team in small sedans and sportscars.

What a shot! Not at Albert Park I hasten to add, Fishermans Bend is my guess. Whiteford changing plugs on his TL T26C. A mechanic by trade, he toiled on his own cars, his race record, standard of preparation and presentation legendary. Date unknown (R Fulford/SLV)

On the up was Stanley Jones, another tough nugget from Warrandyte, rapidly building an automotive retailing empire which would fund an impressive array of racers over the decade to come- all of which would come tumbling down in the credit squeeze of 1961. Jones had thrown in his lot with Charlie Dean and Repco a year or so before- Jones bought Maybach from Dean with Charlie and his team at Repco Research in Brunswick continuing to maintain and develop it. Jones was as forceful as Whiteford was stylish- both were impressively fast.

Also on the rise was Lex Davison, native of St Kilda but then a resident of Lilydale and fast building the shoe manufacture, importing and retailing business he inherited from his father.

Lex by this stage had learned his craft on a varied mix of cars, most recently an Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 GP car. He had just bought an ex-Moss/Gaze F2 HWM to which he fitted a Jaguar 3.4 litre six-cylinder DOHC engine to ‘C Type’ specs and gearbox, this clever combination took his first AGP win at Southport, Queensland in 1954- a race Jones had a mortgage on until the chassis failure of Maybach 2 at very high speed.

Elite Racers All: L>R Jack Brabham Cooper T23 Bristo, third in this group, #3 Lex Davison HWM Jag and #8 Ted Gray Alta Ford V8. Shot included to show the HWM and Alta- Victoria Trophy Fishermans Bend 22 March 1954. Lex is soon to win the ’54 AGP, Jack is soon to travel to the UK and Gray is soon to get a competitive mount in Tornado 1 Ford! (VHRR)

Lex was an urbane man of considerable wit, bearing and charm- but he could and did go toe to toe with racers of Whiteford and Jones ilk and beat them. His career, which had far from peaked in 1953 stretched all the way to early 1965 when he shared the front row of the NZ GP grid with Clark and Hill, a couple of fellas ‘still in short pants’ in 1953.

Frank Kleinig and his Kleinig-Hudson straight-8 Spl could not be discounted nor could the Ted Gray driven Alta Ford V8 Spl- much more would be seen of this outstanding pre-war driver who cut his teeth on the country speedways of Victoria in the years to 1960 with the Lou Abrahams owned Tornados 1 and 2.

Oh to have seen this bloke drive at his best!- as here at Rob Roy Hillclimb, 2 November 1947. Frank Kleinig, Kleinig Hudson 8 Spl, a remarkable marriage of MG chassis, Hudson mechanicals and various other donor parts continuously developed over a couple of decades. A car which shoulda won at least one AGP. Kleinig another driver/mechanic ace (G Thomas)

Kleinig should have won an AGP or two, or three.

The Sydney driver was one of the very quickest immediately pre and post war but times had changed. The AGP was now a scratch race, not a handicap and Frank’s machine, development of which never stopped simply wasn’t quick enough to win outright whatever the undoubted skills of the bloke behind the wheel.

Ted and Frank both needed the ‘guns’ up front to retire and have a dose of reliability themselves for the long 200 mile race to win.

The Reg Nutt, Talbot Darracq 700, DNF dropped valve on lap 14 (Dacre Stubbs)

The balance of the entry was a swag of MG Specials, pre-war GP cars, sports cars and a sprinkling of Coopers including several new fangled JAP mid-engined cars.

Above and below. Davison, Jones and Whiteford. Further back #11 Gray, his Ford V8 creating the smokescreen, #7 Kleinig, #10 Hayes Ford V8 Spl #6 Vennermark/Warren Maser 4CL (unattributed)

The Race…

Forty contestants lined up for the 64 lap, 322 Km event held on Saturday 21 November 1953.

From atop a double-decker bus race officials and a crowd estimated by local newspapers variously at between 50000 and 70000 people saw Whiteford, Jones and Davison form the front row with Lex’ HWM leading into the first corner under heavy, muggy skies.

The start was fraught and chaotic as several crews were still with driver and car as the flag dropped!

Davo’s lead was shortlived, Stanley passed him on the first lap and then drew away. McKinnon was a lap 1 casualty when he nosed the hay-bales but got going again, Arthur Wylie spun the Jowett Javelin Spl at Jaguar Corner but he too got going.

Early in the race Jones led Whiteford, Davison, Arthur Wylie’s Jowett powered Wylie Javelin and Curley Brydon’s  ex-Bill Patterson MG TC Spl.

Davison’s HWM suffered bearing problems in practice, the session started at 8.30am, the team link shed them as best they could prior to the race start at 2.30 pm, but the same affliction stopped the car during the race.

Davo was out on lap 3, he watched the balance of the event from Stan’s pit. Bob Pritchett in Australian Motor Sports (AMS) wrote that ‘The trouble with the HWM was that the oil pressure relief valve was cockeyed on its seat allowing all the oil to rush right back into the sump through bypass: most surprisingly, the XK120 oil pressure guage is so hooked in that, under such circumstances, full pressure was still indicated. Lex’s boys did their best with emery strip and managed to have the car on the line for the GP, but it was of no avail.’

The Jones Maybach in for the pitstop which changed the race, albeit the car retired in any event. Passing is the Jag XK120 of Frank Lobb or John Calvert (Dacre Stubbs)

 

Another driver on the rise was Sydney ex-speedway star Jack Brabham but his new Cooper T23 Bristol succumbed in the morning session, like Davison, to bearing problems. The ace engineer/mechanic did of course turn this car into rather a formidable weapon- one which inspired him to try his hand in England a year or so hence.

Also having practice dramas was Whiteford, who had a lose, the car was quickly loaded up and trailered back to Dougs ‘shop closeby ‘…where the front suspension was stripped. Jim Hawker used the table of a mill as a surface plate and found a bent stub axle he straightened in a press. The Lago also needed a new flexible hose; without a word Whiteford took a pair of side-cutters, walked across to the pre-War Triumph his nephew Doug McLean was rebuilding and liberated precisely the correct hose. This was fitted, the brakes were bled…’ wrote Graham Howard

 

Same scene as above from a different angle- Charlie Dean at bottom right (unattributed)

By half distance Stan still had a good lead over Whiteford, but on lap 40 he pitted for fuel and with his Maybach straight-six engine overheating- the car also needed a water pump drive belt.

His crew were not expecting him and in the confusion Stan was bathed in methanol fuel which necessitated a speedy dismount and then being doused in water before returning to the fray.

Whiteford could not believe his luck.

He perhaps lacked the pace to win, although Pritchett observed on the other hand that he didn’t think ‘Doug was unduly worried…Every few laps he would come up from his half-minute or so back and have a a look at the Maybach and then fall back into line again, so he must have had something up his sleeve’? Stan always pushed hard and was said to lack mechanical sympathy, something Doug had in spades. Jones retired Maybach on lap 56 with clutch failure.

Whiteford’s right rear separates from the Talbot Lago on the exit of Dunlop Corner (AMS)

 

 

 

 

Whiteford slows the TL 26C at the pits to change wheels having lost his right rear tyre. Fortunately the separation happened close to the pits and his efficient crew (Fairfax)

It was not an easy win though.

Melbourne weather is capricious, the skies darkened and rain tumbled down and cars spun- Wal Gillespie’s HRG (shared with Thompson) amongst others. Spectators added to the challenge with ‘suicidal disregard for their own safety…John Calvert rammed a strawbale…when he had to take avoiding action. I suppose they just can’t understand that towards the end of the straight, the quick drivers are covering the best part of fifty yards each second…’ Pritchett mused.

Two laps from home the right-rear tyre of the T26C came off its rim, fortunately only 300 metres from the pits.

After a stop of 30 seconds to change the wheel, with a huge gap to his pursuers, the local lad was on his way to win the race ‘in a Largo Talbot by 5 laps at an average speed of 82 mph for the 200 miles’ The Melbourne Sun, with its characteristic great attention to motor racing reporting detail, in its 22 November report of the race.

Third placed Andy Brown’s very pre-war MG K3 in for a pitstop. K3 ‘030’ still in Oz- ex-Bira/Snow/Dunne/Davison/Brown and many others! (Dacre Stubbs)

Curley Brydon, a member of the RAAF’s crack 78 fighter squadron during the war, was second in his MG TC Spl 5 laps adrift and South Australian Andy Brown third in an MG K3 Magnette. Then came former AGP winner Les Murphy MG Q Type and Lou Molina in the MM Holden Spl sportscar.

Graham Howard in his ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ account of the race reports on some post race controversy which reader and owner of the Curley Brydon TC, Richard Townley develops further in his note below this article.

Howard wrote ‘…Curley Brydon, who had provisionally been placed third, protested that too many people had assisted with Whiteford’s tyre change, and indeed it was suggested one of the helpers was no more than a gate-crashing spectator; but it was agreed that Whiteford could have changed the wheel single-handed and still had time to win, and Brydon’s protest was withdrawn.

Curley Brydon, in the 2nd placed MG TC Spl s/c leads the 16th placed John Nind MG TB Spl (K Wheeler)

Whiteford is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Our pit was very congested and there were more spectators around than mechanics. Evidently someone we didn’t know tried to help.’ Note that the SMH report states the protests were heard on Sunday 22 November, the day after the race.

As Richard Townley relates in his comments post publication of this article, Phil Irving wrote in his autobiography that Whiteford ‘…was not immediately declared the winner, through an unofficial report that he had been helped by a bystander to get the Talbot back on course after over-shooting a corner. Not having the use of a telephone, the marshal on the corner concerned wrote out a report to be delivered to the Clerk of The Course, who did not receive it until long after after the race had ended.’

‘Doug, who knew the rule book by heart was aware that the official report of the incident had not been lodged within the stipulated half-hour of the race finish, and shrewdly claimed that it was ultra vires and could not form the basis of a protest. This view being upheld by the stewards, Doug was awarded his third AGP, but it was not a very popular victory’ Irving wrote.

Let’s come back to this after dealing with the balance of the protests.

Howard continues ‘However, he (Brydon) also protested Andy Brown’s second placing, and after investigation it was agreed Brydon was second: Murphy protested Brown as well, claiming to have passed him on the last lap, but this was not upheld.’

‘Fifth was Lou Molina first time out in the neat little Holden-engined MM Special, and the first AGP finish for a Holden engine, Sixth was Jim Leech, a nice reward for his part in securing Albert Park for the race.’

‘Seventh, with a plug lead off, with only first and fourth gears useable and with his seat belt broken, was Frank Kleinig; from six AGP starts, going back 15 years to 1938, it was the cars first finish, and very popular. Nonetheless, the days of 15-year old AGP cars could not last much longer’ Howard concluded.

No doubt Kleinig was well pleased with the result as Pritchett wrote that he left Sydney very late for the meeting with trade-plates affixed to the racer to run it in on the Hume Highway!- when that process was complete the car took its place on the trailer for the balance of the trip south.

So what do we make of Phil Irving’s claims of Whiteford receiving outside assistance?

I can find no mention of this in any of the published information I have access to.

It is not mentioned in any of the contemporary newspaper reports of the meeting, Howard’s AGP account in HAGP, Howard’s ‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’, Barry Green’s superb long piece on the meeting in ‘Albert Park Glory Days’ or in the December 1953 issue of Australian Motor Sports which devotes two pages to the race.

Pritchett does not have a race report in AMS as such, but rather two pages of snippets including four about Whiteford and/or Brydon- none make mention of an overshoot by DW or any of the protests.

Lets not forget that the protests were heard and decided, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, on the day after the race, Sunday 22 November.

The Stewards of the meeting, given all of the circumstances, and I have in mind the logistics of communication at the meeting, could chosen to admit as evidence what they saw as appropriate- and call witnesses.

By that i mean the Marshal concerned could have been called, and no doubt others who were stationed on the corner at the time to give their account of what Irving wrote occurred to the Stewards, and then make a determination accordingly.

So, on balance, and in the absence of at other accounts which agree with Irving’s I don’t believe his version of events to be the correct one. I am happy to alter that position if other proof, a photograph or first-hand spectators recollection, for example are made available.

I wonder if Phil, writing his book years later- it was published after his death in 1992, is somehow linking DW’s Saturday morning practice spin with the Saturday post-event protests? He makes no mention in his book about the other protests addressed by Howard, Green and the SMH in their reports.

Intriguing isn’t it?

(Fairfax)

Winners are Grinners: ‘Dicer Doug’ has won his third and last AGP.

His birthdate is a bit of a mystery but a consensus seems to be during 1914, so it makes him 39, still a young man albeit a racing veteran of not far short of 20 years then.

A great shame to me was his purchase of a 300S Maserati when the factory lobbed with five cars- three 250F’s and two 300S for the 1956 AGP right here at Albert Park- those machines were driven by Messrs Moss and Behra.

I mean it’s a shame in that, if he had bought and raced a 250F he would have been right in amongst Jones, Davison, Reg Hunt and Ted Gray with an equal car. He made the 300S sing but a 250F would have been a more appropriate car methinks

Things go better with Melbourne Bitter- Coke in this case for ‘Dicer Doug’ (Fairfax)

’53 AGP Australian Motor Racing Context…

This excerpt from the 1953-54 LCCA Annual Report is self explanatory and whilst it is self-serving does provided valuable information about the positive impact of the event in terms of the public’s perception of motor racing.

‘When your committee finally obtained permission to conduct the Australian Grand Prix on Albert Park circuit the victory was only half won.

To overcome public prejudice has been the major bugbear of organised racing on public roads and any incompetent handling of this delicate situation could easily have touched off an explosion of indignation.

That we did not receive even one complaint can be attributed to good fortune and untiring organisation of directors and officials. As it can be said that enthusiasts will make the best of the most adverse conditions, our achievements at Albert Park was the greater in having gratified both the general public and the competitors.

In justifying the faith which the Albert Park Trust, inexperienced in motor racing, was prepared to place in our ability, we have broken down one of the few remaining barriers to a more general acceptance of motor racing as one of the national sports.’

Etcetera…

Whereizzit?! Whiteford sneaks a peek at what he already knows- his pit is close and he has 5 laps in hand, but still a heart in the mouth moment.

Bob King recalls the moment ‘My memory says I saw Doug on the bare rim at Melford Corner, but this must be wrong. This photo is probably taken on the way from Jaguar Corner (which is still there if you look for it) and the pits. After all, I was only 15 and it was my first motor race: A life changing event.’

(S Wills)

Ted McKinnon’s 15th placed Maserati 6CM1500. An ex-works car, this machine first raced in Australia at the 1951 AGP at Narrogin, WA, raced by visiting Englishman Colin Murray.

Car #57 alongside is not entered in the AGP (Dacre Stubbs)

(Dacre Stubbs)

 

(R Townley)

Bibliography…

‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and ors, ‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘Phil Irving: An Autobiography’, ‘Glory Days’ Barry Green, Australian Motor Sports December 1953,

Melbourne Sun 22 November 1953, Sydney Morning Herald 23 November 1953

Photo Credits…

Dacre Stubbs Collection-Martin Stubbs, R Fulford Collection, State Library of Victoria, VHRR Collection, Fairfax Media, Ken Wheeler via Richard Townley Collection, Spencer Wills via Bob King Collection

Tailpiece: Whiteford on the way to victory, Talbot-Lago T26C…

(R Fulford/SLV)

Finito…

 

The #26 Ron Ward sixth placed MG TB, #32 Alby Johnson DNF MG TC and a distant Gordon Stewart DNF, MG Magna L-Type, during the 16 June 1947, Championship of New South Wales meeting at RAAF Nowra airbase…

This event was to have been the ‘New South Wales Grand Prix’ until the intervention of the Australian Automobile Association, the governing body of motorsport in Australia at the time, a week before. They deemed the ‘Grand Prix’ title as one reserved exclusively for the Australian Grand Prix. Contemporary newspaper reports of the day indicate the confusion about the name of the race, variously describing it as ‘The Grand Prix’, ‘Grand Prix Speedcar Championship of New South Wales’- the official title seems to be the ‘1947 Championship of New South Wales’.

The race was a 110 mile handicap conducted over 25 laps of a 4.35 mile course laid out on runways and connecting taxiways of what, over the years, was variously named RAAF Nowra, HMS Nabbington and in more recent times HMAS Albatross. The airfield also hosted a race in 1952, on that occasion using taxiways, hard-stands and aprons for a shorter lap distance of 1.6 miles.

Luvvit! Alf Barrett’s road registered Alfa Monza at Rob Roy circa 1949. The fastest combo in Australia in the immediate pre and post war years (J Montasell)

The event organisers, the Australian Sporting Car Club secured all of the aces of the day- Alf Barrett in his Alfa Monza, Frank Kleinig’s Hudson Spl, John Crouch in the Delahaye 135CS imported by John Snow pre-war and the latter in his Dixon Riley.

Some past, present and future racers entered a variety of MG’s including Curley Brydon,  Alf Najar, Bib Stillwell, Bill Patterson, Hope Bartlett, John Barraclough and Ron Edgerton. Other notables were Lex Davison, Mercedes 38/250 s/c, Tom Sulman in the immortal Sulman Singer, Ted Gray in the ex-Mrs JAS Jones Alfa 6C1750 SS by then fitted with a flat-head Ford V8, ‘Wild’ Bill Murray, Hudson, Alec Mildren, AGM Ford V8 Spl and others.

(J Hunter)

The Nowra grid ready for the off. From left to right- #5 Jack Murray MacKellar Ford V8 s/c,  #3 John Crouch Delahaye 135CS, #14 Alec Mildren, AGM Ford V8 Special, #4 Frank Kleinig, Hudson Spl and #1 Alf Barrett’s Alfa Romeo Monza.

Frank Kleinig didn’t take the start with piston failure so perhaps this an earlier event. I am intrigued to know.

John Crouch on the way to Australian Grand Prix victory in the John Snow imported Delahaye 135CS at the Leyburn Airfield circuit in 1949 (unattributed)

There were thirty-eight entries in all from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria which reflected the pent up demand for racing in the early post-war years.

Crowd estimates vary from between 15,000 to 25,000 people- they saw Manly, Sydney driver Tom Lancey’s MG TC win the race from a field of 30 who took the starters flag.

Lancey had raced for three years before the conflict in an MG NE Magnette and spent six years with the RAAF during the war so it was a nice bit of symmetry for an RAAF bloke to take the win at an RAAF base- he was off a handicap of 21 minutes and 30 seconds. The Barrett Alfa raced off scratch.

Second and third places were also taken by MG’s- Bill MacLachlan in an MG TA monoposto off 14:30 and Curley Brydon aboard an MG TC, 21:30 with Dick Bland’s Ford V8 Spl off 11:00 in fourth place.

John Medley wrote, ‘Tom Lancey packed his wife and young daughter into his fully equipped, road registered MG TC at his Manly home- drove to Nowra, unpacked, removed the screen and hood, started in the NSW GP as an early marker- and won it…’ Then he did the whole process in reverse. The simplicity of it all is wonderful.

Was thrilled to find this shot which is captioned as the ’47 Nowra NSW GP/Championships but is according to John Medley Hell Corner Bathurst during the October 1939 meeting. #5 is the ‘Salmon Special’ McIntyre Hudson of Kevin Salmon, #6 is the Edison Waters Jaguar SS100, #1 Alf Barrett’s Alfa Monza, #4 John Crouch Delahaye 135CS and #9 John Barraclough, Alvis Terraplane (Fairfax)

The race favourite was Australia’s immediate pre and post war ace, Alf Barrett in his beautifully prepared and presented Alfa Romeo Monza which ‘is considered the fastest car in Australia’.

Alf and John Snow in the Dixon Riley ‘were fighting a fierce duel from the back mark’ (Snow raced off a 2 minute handicap) but Alf lost time with a tyre change earlier in the race and engine problems later on- he was ninth and set the fastest race lap. Snow retired with magneto or spark plug problems on lap 18.

The newspaper reports of the day focused on Barrett’s top speed of 120 miles per hour which provides perspective on the average performance levels of commuter bolides of the time.

Barrett’s day was not altogether lost with a win in the Open or Over 1500cc Championship scratch race in which the thoroughbred straight-eight Grand Prix Alfa prevailed from Frank Kleinig’s self built and developed Kleinig Hudson Spl and John Snow’s Dixon Riley.

There are plenty of photos of ‘Dirt Track Charlie’ Frank Kleinig aboard his self built Kleinig Hudson Spl because he raced the ever developing steed for so long but this is my favourite. He is re-taking the Rob Roy Hill record he first set in the car in 1939, in November 1948 setting a mark of 28.72 secs- his last trip to the Christmas Hills. You can see and feel the energy and effort going into the big, powerful car- as was always the case with this very fast, if somewhat, its said, inconsistent driver (G Thomas)

Kleinig’s amazing machine, competitive over a couple of decades, was an amalgam of many parts but particularly an MG L-Type chassis and very highly developed Hudson 4186cc straight-eight engine. He finished the race 14 seconds adrift of Barrett. It was subsequently found that a piston broke, fouling the oil system, running a rear big end bearing and ruining the crankshaft in the process.

One of the great pre and post war ‘what ifs’ is Kleinig in a thoroughbred car- not that his commitment, brio, engineering nouse and application was in any way lacking in his endeavours with his Special! Kleinig in Snow’s Delahaye or Barrett’s Alfa for example would have been a sight to see. End of digression!

Amongst the long list of Nowra DNF’s was 1960 AGP and Gold Star winner Alec Mildren’s attractive and fast, self-built AGM Ford V8 Spl. The big beast, off a handicap of 12 minutes, overheated, with Alec retiring on lap 14, a common affliction of these engines in modified form (Mildren)

Pre-war Maroubra Speedway ace, Hope Bartlett won the Under 1500cc championship in his MG TA s/c after a race long battle with Alf Najar’s MG TB s/c. Gordon Stewart in an MG Magna L Type was well in the lead of the Under 1100cc title- and then, having to coast to the finishing line after a last lap fuel blockage was passed by Tom Sulman in his self-built Sulman Singer and Bruce Myers Riley Imp in the final stages.

Some excitement was added to the meeting ‘when a privately owned plane landed on the strip which was being used for the car racing. Service and local police ordered the pilot to remain until after the meeting’!

WW2 shot of RAAF Nowra (RAAF)

Postscript: The state of Australian circuits in 1947…

A sign of the times and the use of a venue such as Nowra was the September 1947 meeting of the Australian Automobile Association in Perth during which the allocations of the AGP was announced for the next few years- NSW 1947, Victoria 1948, Queensland 1949, South Australia 1950 and Western Australia 1951. It was noted that ‘Victoria had not a suitable circuit for the Grand Prix at present but it was hoped that such property could be secured on Phillip Island’.

Of course Phillip Island was reinstated as the racing venue we know and love but not until December 1956- the Albert Park Lake facility ended up being the ‘in period’ AGP Victorian venue in 1953 and 1956.

In fact the race allocations went ahead as planned- in NSW, 1947 at Bathurst, 1948 at Point Cook just outside Melbourne, 1949 at Leyburn, 200 km from Brisbane, 1950 at Nuriootpa in SA’s Barossa Valley and 1951 at Narrogin south of Perth in WA’s wheatbelt.

Nowra, Point Cook, Mount Druitt and Leyburn were all current or past RAAF bases with Narrogin a ‘Round the Houses’ venue used on numerous occasions whilst the Nuriootpa road circuit was not used for motor racing after its time in the sun as a one off AGP venue. The search and challenge of finding permanent road-racing venues was on throughout Australia in earnest.

At the time of the Australian Automobile Association meeting Mr J Austin Patterson said that ‘the greatest desire (of the AAA) was to help the sporting bodies and the sport generally. At present motor sports were up against police opposition. This could not be overcome unless it could be shown that meetings could be held without danger and undue inconvenience to the public.’

In a similar vein the NSW Light Car Club put a proposal to the Blue Mountains Chamber of Commerce for the establishment of a race track at Katoomba in October 1947, it took a while but Catalina Park opened in February 1961.

Of course the ‘floodagtes’ of circuits opened in the mid to late fifties and early sixties with Port Wakefield, Warwick Farm, Lakeside, Sandown, Calder, Mallala and others opening but such numbers of permanent facilities were a long time coming.

Car rally from Canberra to Nowra in recent times- one flat airfield looks pretty much the same as another really! (unattributed)

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

The Sydney Morning Herald 17 June 1947, Fairfax Media, John Hunter, The Telegraph Brisbane 22 July 1947, J Montasell, George Thomas, Alec Mildren Collection, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Finito…

(M Wiliams)

Lex Davison boots his Tasman Formula ex-Bruce McLaren Cooper T62 Climax off the line at Mount Tarrengower Hillclimb, Maldon, in Victoria’s Goldfields, 25 October 1964…

Davo just loved to compete- anywhere and everywhere. Apart from his four AGP wins he was adept on the dirt in Redex Round Australia Trials competition and in the hills. He won the Australian Hillclimb Championship thrice on the trot from 1955-1957 at Toowoomba, Bathurst and Albany respectively, in all cases aboard the Cooper Mk4 Vincent/Irving.

(M Williams)

This non-championship event was an easy one for the great man. Toorak to Maldon is a nice 150 km drive up the Calder Highway so would have represented a nice weekend away with the car and no doubt a few of his kids.

Having said that Tarrengower is still a very fast, dangerous place especially with a car of the performance envelope of Davo’s GP machine. This T62 chassis was Bruce McLaren’s 1962 Caversham AGP winner before its sale to Lex, and is a car I’ve written a feature about, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2016/05/20/bruce-lex-and-rockys-cooper-t62-climax/

The internet gives and gives in terms of photos seeing the light of day after decades hidden in boxes. This wonderful batch were taken by a friend of Max Williams, he posted them on Bob Williamson’s amazing Facebook ‘Old Motor Racing Photographs-Australia’ page. In amongst hundreds of recycled touring car photos are some jewels, including this lot!

(M Williams)

Bob King attended that day, it was ‘..the second hillclimb of the new era, the venue revived by the Vintage Sports Car Club of Victoria, with the event held on 25 October 1964’.

‘Graeme Thomson raced the ex-Whiteford Talbot Lago T26C but ‘Doug was there and advanced the magneto by about half a turn and then did an electric run. In those days the finish was right at the top, and having finished my run i was privileged to see Whiteford sideways across the finish line at about 100 mph. Davo was pretty exciting also taking the FTD with a 50.34 seconds run’.

(M Williams)

Ron Simmonds picked the ex-Whitehead/Jones/Phillips Cooper T38 Jaguar (above) as probably driven by John Ampt at Monks Corner, Templestowe Hillclimb, again in Victoria.

Enthusiast Les Hughes said of the car ‘One of three, the first and shown without body at the Paris Show. It was bought by Peter Whitehead and raced by he and his brother Graham at Le Mans and Dundrod in 1955. He sold it to Jones in New Zealand who made his Australian race debut in it at Albert Park’.

Pictured is the car below at Le Mans ‘…coming through The Esses and about to be passed by the ill-fated Pierre Levegh (Mercedes Benz 300SLR) who would die on this lap. The Cooper Jag retired’.

 

Another Templestowe shot below , the corner at the end of Banana Straight, the wide loop hairpin onto The Shelf which then led up to The Wall.

Who is it and what is it though?

( M Williams)

Credits…

Max Williams, Bob King, Les Hughes, Ron Simmonds

Tailpiece: MGA coming out of The Hole at Templestowe heading down to Barons Corner…

(M Williams)

Finito…

Quintessential small town Australian automotive workshop circa 1915…

Cowell is a village 240 Km north-west of Adelaide on the shore of the Spencer Gulf. The front of the ‘shop proclaims allegiance to a swag of brands no doubt necessary in a small seaside community. The ‘Head Garage’ in Pirie Street, Adelaide was a long way away. I wonder what make and model the car out front is?

There is no story- the photograph, evocative as it is of a time so long ago and foreign to me is the story.

Photo Credit…

State Library of South Australia

Tailpiece…

(SLSA)

The 75 Pirie Street, Adelaide Eyes & Crowle HQ is a good deal more posh than the offshoot in Cowell, this photograph was taken in December 1922- the building was demolished in 1923. These days an office building occupies the site.

Finito…

John Cooper (or is it Bill Aston?) prepares for his record breaking run aboard the streamlined Cooper MkV JAP at Montlhery in October 1951…

Cyril Kieft had a successful record breaking run at Montlhery in November 1950 with two of his F3 Kiefts. John and Charles Cooper felt that matters needed to be put right with their fierce F3 competitor, so in October 1951 John Cooper and Bill Aston took a specially streamlined Cooper T17 Mk V to France to chase international class I and J records.

John Cooper went out first, using a 350cc JAP engine he broke the Class J fifty, one hundred and two hundred kilometre and fifty and one hundred mile records- plus the hour record, at speeds of 90.62, 92.13, 91.98, 92.02, 91.80, and 90.27 mph respectively.

Bill Aston then used the same car with the 350cc JAP single replaced with a 500 cc JAP vee-twin and achieved the same records in Class I at speeds of 99.30, 99.59, 99.13, 99.16, 99.41 and 99.41 mph.

John Cooper, timekeeper M Adam, and Bill Aston at Montlhery on 9 October 1951 (Getty)

Cooper Streamliner Specifications…

Salient details of the car are detailed in this contemporary ‘The Autocar’ article published in September 1951.

Story of The Cooper Streamliners…

Are told in these two interesting articles, check them out;

http://www.ugofadini.com/cooperstory.html

http://www.ugofadini.com/cooperstory2.html

Bibliography…

‘Montlhery: The Story of The Paris Autodrome’ Bill Boddy

Tailpiece: Didn’t I ask you to move this bloody thing Owen?…

(Getty)

John Cooper, Charles Cooper and engineer/designer Owen Maddock, in the Cooper, Surbiton factory, photo 1953. John seems surprised to have ‘found’ the Mk V Streamliner!

Finito…

Rod MacKenzie captures Kevin Bartlett shaving The Esses Armco during the 1971 Warwick Farm 100, Tasman round on 14 January 1971…

The car is the Franklen/Palliser/Mildren/Wortmeyer F5000- a car designed by Len Bailey and built by Frank Gardner’s business as detailed in Allen Brown’s oldracingcars.com article here; https://www.oldracingcars.com/f5000/franklen/

Alec bought the car off the back of the prodigious speed of the Mildren Alfa/Waggott ‘Yellow Submarine’ also designed by Bailey and raced initially by Frank Gardner in the 1969 Tasman Series and then with great success by Bartlett in 1969/70 Gold Star/Tasman Championships.

The thrust of Bartlett’s 1970 was racing in the US (which we should talk to him about)- he contested the Symmons and Lakeside Gold Star rounds for third and a DNF and then missed Oran Park, Warwick Farm, Sandown and Mallala.

When he returned to Oz his beautiful Mildren Yellow Submarine had been sold to Bob Muir, the F5000 Mildren Chev was his new mount for the November 1970 AGP at Warwick Farm and beyond.

KB decamps from the Mildren Chev during the 1970 AGP. Glenn Abbey hands on hips at left, not sure of the other crewman- Alec Mildren back to us at far right

In a performance which flattered to deceive KB popped the car fifth on the grid but failed to finish with electrics problems after completing 21 laps. Frank Matich triumphed that day in his McLaren M10B Repco from Niel Allen’s similar Chev engined car (the chassis KB bought after Allen’s retirement) with Graeme Lawrence third in the little Ferrari Dino 246T which had been so fast in his and Chris Amon’s hands since 1968.

KB didn’t have a great run in the Mildren, his best finishes in the seven 1971 Tasman rounds was third at Warwick Farm and fourth at Teretonga- niggles elsewhere included a broken wishbone at Levin, coil at Wigram, engine failure at Sandown and a crash which precluded the speedy Sydneysider starting the final round at Surfers.

That was pretty much the end of Mildren Racing, sadly. Bartlett bought one of Niel Allen’s McLaren M10B’s shortly thereafter and was immediately a front-runner in one of the great production F5000’s.

(R MacKenzie)

KB’ boots the Mildren out of Peters Corner at Sandown and unleashes 500 or so neddies up Sandowns longish back straight and the left-right high speed kink and plunge into Dandenong Road.

Upon the sale of the Mildren Racing assets the car was bought by Jack Wortmeyer and re-named Wortmeyer SC/SC5 Chev and driven by hillclimb ace Erol Richardson, he made two Tasman appearances at Warwick Farm in 1973 and Oran Park in 1974. The car never left Wortmeyer’s hands- it was acquired after his death by the ACT’s Matt Veal who has completed, almost, the machines restoration.

Erol Richardson, Wortmeyer SC5 Chev, aka Mildren Chev at Hume Weir in December 1972. Uber rare for an F5000 to compete at the tight, twisty border circuit (B Keys)

This article is written in memory of great Australian photographer Rod MacKenzie who died in the last few days, on 1 February…

In fact it was looking at Rod’s archive for other photos of this car in addition to the lead one which he sent to me some months back that I became aware of his passing.

He was a man of great talent, check out his website if you have not done so and this article we did together in September which explains his ethos or creative approach.

Some of you will be familiar with his work via ‘The Tasman Cup 1964-1975’ book published two years ago whereas many of us first saw his art in ‘Racing Car News’ in its heyday.

https://primotipo.com/2018/09/27/oz-racing-books/

and; http://www.rodmackenziecollection.com/

(R MacKenzie)

The photo above is of Rod on a fantastic trip to Scotland last 7 April 2018 to attend the Jim Clark Exhibition in Chirnside to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Scot’s death at Hockenheim.

Some of Rod’s wonderful work- photos taken at Longford in 1968 formed part of the display.

RIP Rod MacKenzie

Credits…

Rod MacKenzie, Bruce Keys, oldracingcars.com, Fairfax Archive

Tailpiece: Bartlett, Peters/Torana Corner, Sandown Tasman 1971…

Great spot for photographers to get up cockpit close and intimate. Engine an Al Bartz injected Chevy.

Finito…

 

Harry Firth, MG TC Spl, Templestowe Hillclimb, outer Melbourne in 1959…

Long before his well known period as head of the Holden Dealer Team in the late sixties/early seventies Firth was a formidable car builder/preparer/driver in sports cars and sedans on tarmac and dirt.

He won the Armstong 500 three times- twice at Phillip Island and once at Bathurst partnered with Bob Jane- in 1961 they won in a Mercedes Benz 220SE, in 1962 aboard a works Ford Falcon XL, Firth prepared the works Fords at his famous garage in Queens Avenue Auburn, out of these modest premises did some great cars emerge.

He was also victorious in 1963 in a self-prepped works Ford Cortina GT and again as the event morphed into the Bathurst (Gallaher) 500, once, partnering Fred Gibson in a works XR Falcon GT in 1967.

(B Wells)

The Bob Jane/Harry Firth Ford Falcon XK (above) DNF leading the John/Caldecoat MGA, Hell Corner, Bathurst 6 Hour, 30 September 1962. Race ‘won’ by the Geoghegan Brothers Daimler SP250, who were first across the line in a race technically of classes with no ‘outright winner’.

Firth’s Cortina GT ahead of a couple of Humpy Holdens at Lakeside in 1964 (B Williamson)

On Allan Moffat’s recommendation he was engaged to co-drive a Lotus Cortina with Moffat in endurance races at Green Valley and Riverside in 1966.

Ford were keen for him to stay but he had to return home to honour a Ford Australia rally commitment, duly winning the first Southern Cross Rally.

(unattributed)

(unattributed)

In 1968 he won the inaugural Australian Rally Championship driving a Lotus Cortina, another doyen of the sport, Graham Hoinville was his navigator.

Firth and Ken Harper also prepared the Ford Australia Falcon GT ‘XT’ London-Sydney Marathon entries.

These 302 CID V8 engined sedans won the teams prize with Harry behind the wheel of the eighth placed car with his usual friend and navigator, Hoinville. The Vaughan/Forsyth car was third and Hodgson/Rutherford GT sixth.

The two photos above are at the Crystal Palace, London start on 24 November.

The Firth/Gibson winning works ‘XR’ Ford Falcon GT ahead of the 4th placed Mildren Racing Alfa GTV1600 of Kevin Bartlett and Laurie Stewart. Bathurst 500 1967 (unattributed)

Des West, Ian Tate and Harry Firth, Bathurst 1969 i guess (D Wilson)

This unique blend of skills and experience is what bagged him, even as a ‘Ford guy’, passed over as team manager by Al Turner as ‘too old’ – the HDT job. He held this management role until 59 years of age, in 1977 when John Sheppard succeeded him.

Let’s get back to the MG, this short article does not do Harry’s career justice, I am not attempting to do so- I am getting off point!

The MG Special, chassis ‘TC4723’ commenced construction in 1951, the chassis was much modified and lightened. The engine was also heavily adapted for the demands of racing, exactly how is not disclosed in my reference sources, but included fitment of a Wade supercharger running at 22 pounds of boost which mounted in front of the radiator. If any of you have details of the full specification, ever evolving as it was, drop me a note, I will pop the details into the article.

The bodywork was ‘functional’ rather than attractive as many of the ‘single-seater’ MG specials in Australia at the time were. Its bluff nature mitigated against top speed but perhaps the cars primary purposes were hillclimbs and trials rather than top speed on Conrod Straight, Bathurst and the like.

The MG was successful on the circuits, sprints and hillclimbs only slipping down the order as more modern Coventry Climax engined cars started to appear in the second half of the fifties.

Heart of The Matter: Firth in the stripped or perhaps not yet bodied TC @ Rob Roy during the 1952 Labour Day meeting on 10 March. Fantastic photo of a hard trying Harry- by then the LCCA were paying prize money, Leon Sims wry comment is that ‘Harry on occasion drove more than one car to increase his earnings’. FTD to Reg Hunt, Hunt Spl from Charlie Dean in Maybach 1 (L Sims)

Harry eventually replaced the MG with a Triumph TR2, which was equally effective and functional until endowed with an Ausca (Maserati A6GCS) clone body but he retained the car which was stored out the back of his ‘Marne Garage’ on the corner of Burke and Toorak Roads, Camberwell.

My grandparents and uncle had the newsagent on the opposite north-east corner of that intersection in the late fifties/early sixties, Harry was famous for sipping a cup of tea and working his way through the motor magazines, never buying any of course!

Firth eventually sold the site to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport to construct their headquarters. At that point, when he had to remove the car, it was sold to Jack Schumacher in Murray Bridge, South Australia, he didn’t use it much and resisted Harry’s regular entreaties to buy the car back until 1977.

Harry restored it and occasionally used it in Historic events, I’ve lost track of it in recent years. Firth died in 2014 aged 96.

Harry Firth and later twice Australian Touring Car Champion Norm Beechey, both driving Holden 48-215’s at Templestowe Hillclimb in Melbourne’s, then outer east, not sure when- mid fifties. Not too far from Rob Roy actually. I wonder if they are laughing about a cup or their winnings? (unattributed)

 

(autopics.com.au)

The photo above is a decade or so later than the one at Templestowe and shows Harry driving a Holden Dealer Team Holden Monaro GTS350- perhaps one of the circuit racing cars pensioned off for much tougher duties in 1969- Calder Rallycross.

I wonder if this was Firth’s last competition appearance as a driver prior to his Historic Racing period a bit later on?

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Leon Sims, autopics.com.au, Stephen Dalton

Photo Credits…

State Library of South Australia, Australian Motor Sports, Leon Sims Collection, Bob Williamson, David Wilson

Tailpiece: Harry Firth and Graham Hoinville on the way to winning the June 1964 Ampol Trial, works Ford Cortina GT…

101 cars including 5 works teams entered the event which was held over 7000 miles in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria- start and finish at Bondi Beach (unattributed)

Finito…