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

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…

(B Miles)

Arnold Glass blasts his Maserati 250F out of Quarry Bend, Bathurst, Easter 1960…

The Sydney motor dealer and later Datsun importer loved this machine and its forgiving nature. Arguably it was the car with which he achieved his best results even if it was becoming a little passe by the time he got his hands on it in 1959.

He finished second in the ‘Bathurst 100’ Gold Star round behind Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati and ahead of Bill Patterson in another Coventry Climax engined T51.

I’ve written a story about Arnold, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/

This machine, chassis ‘2516’ was Jean Behra’s works car throughout 1955 before being imported to Australia by Reg Hunt as a replacement for the 250F engined A6GCM Maserati with which he achieved much in 1955. Hunt didn’t race the 250F for long before retirement at a way too an young age to take on his family responsibilities and a growing automotive empire based in Melbourne’s Elsternwick. Here is a piece about the A6GCM; https://primotipo.com/2017/12/12/hunts-gp-maser-a6gcm-2038/

and Reg; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/19/reg-hunt-australian-ace-of-the-1950s/

Bib Stillwell raced ‘2516’ in 1957 on his inexorable rise to the top of Australian racing and then Arnold acquired it competing into ‘into the Cooper era’ when he too acquired a T51. ‘2516’ inevitably, sadly, ended up back in Europe, none of ‘our’ Maser 250F’s survived here into the modern era

Credits…

Bill Miles, Rob Hartnett

Tailpiece: Bathurst pits, warming her up…

(Rob Hartnett)

Finito…

Jack Brabham, Bowin P4X Formula Ford, Calder August 1971…

Here is another Fairfax image of Jack after his victorious ‘Race Of Champions’ weekend. I wrote about this event a short while ago, and led the feature article with the final image below, this recent discovery is too good to ignore though- gotta put it up, there are no such things as too much Jack or too much Formula Ford, click here for the article; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/30/calder-formula-ford-race-of-champions-august-1971/

The Fairfax caption reads ‘Jack Brabham, Australian race car driver, 1971: Brabham in the cockpit of a 100 hp Formula Ford for a brief comeback at Calder- in the Calder Race of Champions. Driving a car built at his British racing car factory’. (actually a Bowin P4 built by John Joyce and his team at Bowin Designs in Brookvale, Sydney- owned by Jack Brabham Ford and raced by Bob Beasley in the ‘Driver to Europe’ Oz FF Championship).

JB, Bowin P4X, Oran Park parade lap 1972 (L Hemer)

Its an irrelevant tangent really but Motor Racing Developments (Brabham) never built a Formula Ford, Ron and Jack kept away from the rough and tumble of that market- mind you there were a few converted Brabham F3 cars which went well in the early years of the class in the UK.

‘Brabham raced home a clear winner after taking the lead in the third lap of the 10 lap event’.

Its a big year for Formula Fordsters in Australia- 50 years of FF in Australia is being celebrated during 2019.

Credits…

Alan Lambert- Fairfax Publications, Lynton Hemer, National Archives of Australia

Tailpiece…

(NAA)

Finito…

(DIMIA)

Queensland single-seater pilot Henk Woelders adjusts his helmet, probably Lakeside, 1967…

I was musing online with some ‘Nostalgia Forum’ buddies the other day about the effectiveness of the Castrol liveried brothers Geoghegan racers of the late sixties and early seventies. The commercial message was delivered well because of the elegant simplicity involved.

Woelders, Elfin 600E Ford Waggott, Calder 1971. Engine is a Merv Waggott prepped Lotus-Ford twin-cam (J Lemm)

Henk Woelders’ Elfin 600 liveries are other fine examples of ‘getting it right’.

He raced two of the spaceframe cars, both ANF2 machines, the second to the 1971 Australian Formula 2 Championship, taking four of the six rounds in his Bill Patterson Motors sponsored car. This chassis was a 600E, Garrie’s you beaut late F2 machine which had magnesium front uprights and revised suspension geometry front and rear.

Henk’s cars had Patto’s simple light blue stripe on a white background, Patterson’s own racing colours from his Cooper Gold Star winning days a decade before.

(DIMIA)

 

Sometimes photographs appear from the most unlikely of places, the inspiration for this article was two shots taken by the Australian ‘Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs’- catchy innit?

It seems the DIMIA were running some articles at the time about migrant success stories in Australia, as you may have gathered from the Woelders name he hails from the Netherlands- one of millions who came to The Great Brown Land post-war in a ‘populate or perish’ policy by our national governments. It would be intriguing to know where these photos were first published.

The shots are dated 1967 and refer to Henk with his Lotus Super Seven- which the first opening photo may be but the second most certainly is not. Lotus 20 FJ maybe?- did they have rear drum brakes?, intrigued to know what the car is if one of know what he was racing at the time.

Woelders in his first 600, a 600B chassis ‘6806’ at Calder before the hi-wing ban imposed over the ’69 May Monaco GP weekend. A moveable aerodynamic device too- clever setup has the wing feathered on the straights as here- with incidence created when required- interested to know who engineered this clever setup (B Mills)

What limited information I have indicates Henk was employed by Patterson during the Elfin 600 period, so at some point he moved from Queensland to Melbourne, presumably working at Patterson’s Holden empire based in Ringwood, an outer-eastern Melbourne suburb.

Harry Firth rated him as a driver, Henk and Peter Macrow were the ‘open-wheeler’ duo in the Holden Dealer Team’s first successful, three car 1969 Bathurst 500 assault- Colin Bond and Tony Roberts won, Des West and Peter Brock were with Woelders/Macrow sixth.

Woelders/Macrow HDT Holden HT Monaro GTS350 (R Davies)

Henk’s career seems to have ended after his F2 win but he was reunited with his championship winning 600E ‘7024’ many years later and still retains it, and a very nice car it is too.

Henk and Malcolm Ramsay- in 600E and 600C ‘6908’ get set for the August 1971 Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy Gold Star round at Surfers Paradise. The F2 Championship race was run concurrently with the F5000 cars- Henk won the F2 section finishing 6th and Frank Matich was first outright in his McLaren M10C Repco. Ramsay DNF with a broken throttle cable- both these cars were powered by Merv Waggott built Lotus-Ford twin-cams (S Johnson)

Credits…

Department of Immigration Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, John Lemm, Bruce Mills, Robert Davies, John Stanley, Stewart Johnson

Tailpiece: Woelders, Elfin 600B, Lakeside 1968…

John Stanley’s photo above is of Henk’s first 600 coming out of Lakeside’s Eastern Loop in 1968, he raced this car from 1968 to 1970 before replacing it with the later model.

Elfin 600’s won goodness knows how many F2 races in the hands of drivers like Garrie Cooper, John Walker, Tony Stewart, Ivan Tighe, Maurie Quincey and Australian Championships for Cooper, Woelders and Larry Perkins in Gary Campbell’s 600B/E in 1968 (ANF 1.5 C’ship shared with Max Stewart) 1971 and 1972 respectively.

Elfin’s Australian F2 dominance is amply demonstrated by the 1971 championship table- the first eleven placegetters raced Elfins- Woelders, Tony Stewart, Jack Bono, John Walker, Ivan Tighe, Garrie Cooper, Vern Hamilton, John Ampt, Ken Hastings, Ross Ambrose, Clive Millis and Don Uebergang!

Of those, all raced 600’s with the exception of Ampt who was aboard a Mono- the monocoque Birranas finally rained on the Elfin F2 parade from 1973…

Finito…

Frank Matich in his new Elfin 400 Olds nee ‘Traco Olds’ at Warwick Farm during the 1966 Tasman Meeting (Russell Thorncraft)

The very best of the seasons greetings to you all, wherever you may be. May all of us get the luck we deserve in addition to a healthy, wealthy, wise and generous 2019…

It was May 2014 when I first started fiddling around with what has become somewhat of an obsession, I have promised myself I will re-commence racing my Van Diemen RF86 Formula Ford in 2019- ‘doing it’ rather than just writing about it!

I have no strategy with primotipo other than writing about what interests me, the article ideas are generated by a photograph and it is in that context that the direction of the thing has shifted much more to an Australian bias this past year.

DIY Davo: Jon Davison looking after a wheel or pressures in the Oran Park pitlane prior to the 1977 AGP. Car is his ex-Walker Matich A50 Repco. Davo become a mighty fine F5000 driver with the purchase of an ex-Teddy Yip/Alan Jones Lola T332 Chev 12 months hence. Behind Jon are the Team VDS entries of race winner, Warwick Brown, Lola T430 Chev and Peter Gethin Chevron B37 Chev (Adam Thurgar)

A limiting factor until recently has been access to lots of interesting Australian photographs. This has changed in that Bob Williamson’s ‘Old Motor Racing Photographs-Australia’ and the ‘Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania’s’ Facebook pages and meeting Bob King and Ken Devine in recent times has allowed me to explore topics I never would have contemplated without the visual stimulation of ideas provided by their archive/collections.

So special thanks to those organisations/fellows in addition to the photographers who have been very supportive right from the get-go. John Ellacott, Rod MacKenzie, Lindsay Ross, Dick Simpson, Lynton Hemer, Kevin Drage and Dale Harvey. Terry Marshall’s New Zealand work gets a regular run too.

Len Lukey’s Lukey Bristol chases Bib Stillwell, Maserati 250F, Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park 1958. Stirling Moss won in a Cooper T45 Climax- Len was 5th and Bib 4th (Simon Wills via Bob King Collection)

Bob King’s ‘Words from Werrangourt’ articles have been very popular, Rod MacKenzie’s and Bruce Polain’s pieces were beauties, and I have unpublished manuscripts from Peter Finlay and Ray Bell to pop up in the coming months- thanks to you all.

Ray, Stephen Dalton and Rob Bartholomaeus have been great ‘sub-editors’ in advising errors post-upload of articles which has helped the accuracy of primotipo big-time. Stephen and Rob have also provided research material which has given me ‘reach’ beyond my own collection. The collective global wisdom of The Nostalgia Forum is also an ongoing source of nuanced information which goes way beyond the books we all have.

Stan Jones and Cooper T51 Climax at Caversham, West Australia in October 1959. WA Road Racing Championships Gold Star round. Len Lukey won the race in the green Cooper T45 alongside, Stan was 2nd. He won the AGP at Longford in March aboard his Maserati 250F (Ken Devine)

The readership has increased nicely again by over 30% with the Australian readership now 30% of the total compared with 17-20% of the last two years. So, it seems you International folks aren’t turned off by the greater Australian content. The top ten countries in terms of readership in order are Australia, US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Japan, the Netherlands and Brazil. Exactly the same as last year actually, albeit the order was a smidge different.

Last, but far from least, thanks for reading it!

The balance of this piece are some randomly chosen photographs from the sources above I’ve not published before…

(Chris Robinson)

Bob Skelton contesting the Symmons Plains round of the Australian Formula 2 Championship in September 1973.

He was second to Leo Geoghegan’s works Birrana 273 Ford Hart that weekend and was third in the seven round series behind Geoghegan and Enno Buesselmann in another 273.

Skello first raced this chassis- the very first Bowin P6 built, in the 1972 Formula Ford Festival at Snetterton in the UK before returning home and ditching the Ford 711M Kent motor and Hewland Mk9 gearbox in favour of a Brian Hart built 1.6 litre Lotus-Ford, Lucas ‘416B’ injected engine and five-speed Hewland FT200 ‘box as well as wings and slicks etc.

He did well in 1973, it was a shame he did not race on in the Finnie Ford supported car- without doubt the 1972 FF Driver to Europe Winner (Bowin P4A) had talent aplenty.

Ex-Lotus engineer, Bowin Designs John Joyce’s spaceframe P6 and monocoque P8 designs bristled with innovation having the Lotus 56/72 wedge shape and hip-mounted radiators and JJ’s own very clever variable or rising rate suspension front and rear. Whilst the P6F won an FF title in John Leffler’s hands in 1973, F2 and F5000 Championship success eluded these wonderful cars.

 

(Matt Liersch)

Stirling Moss and minder wander down the new Sandown pitlane with ‘Peters Corner’, the left-hander onto the Back Straight behind them. Notice the kerb, trees and lack of Armco on the outside of Pit Straight and between the circuit and pitlane.

The March 1962 ‘Sandown Park International’ was the track’s first meeting with Moss fifth his Rob Walker Lotus 21. Jack Brabham won from John Surtees and Bruce McLaren- in Coopers T55, T53, and T53- all powered by Coventry Climax 2.7 litre ‘Indy’ FPFs.

(Matt Liersch)

Jack Brabham either pulling into or out of pitlane in the Cooper T55 Climax which was then acquired by John Youl and raced by he and engineer Geoff Smedley with great success over the next couple of years.

(Matt Liersch)

Melburnian’s of a certain age will remember Channel 9 sports broadcaster Tony Charlton here getting the story from Moss and Brabham. He was more a cricket and footy kinda-guy but did a workmanlike job whatever the sport.

https://primotipo.com/2016/04/08/ole-935/

 

(Brian Caldersmith)

Maybach 3 was Charlie Dean’s Repco Research built cars definitive specification in six-cylinder Maybach engine form- Maybach 4 was this chassis modified by Ern Seeliger in various ways inclusive of fitment of a Chev 283 cid small-block V8.

Here the car is showing off its Phil Irving developed fuel injection at Gnoo Blas, Orange during the January 1956 South Pacific Championship weekend.

(Brian Caldersmith)

 

(Brian Caldersmith)

Stan Jones was running well in second position behind Reg Hunt’s new Maserati 250F, and ahead of Brabham’s Cooper T40 Bristol in third when the Maybach motor let go in the biggest possible way on lap 23, an errant rod broke causing the car to spin down the road.

With little in the way of spares now remaining- and the speed of Hunt’s Maseratis (A6GCM and 250F) apparent Jones ordered a 250F and Maybach 3 was put to one side until Seeliger’s mechanical magic was worked upon it.

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

(Chris O’Connor)

Cheetah as a marque all too often slips under the radar, a bit like the car’s designer, builder and driver Brian Shead- he won the 1979 Australian F2 Championship in a Cheetah Mk6 Toyota.

Shead built ANF3 and 2 cars, two Clubmans and a Formula Holden, well over forty cars in all in his small Mordialloc, outer Melbourne bayside workshop. ‘The Two Brians’ Shead and Sampson (above) dominated ANF3 in the mid-seventies, the 1975 Bathurst 1000 winner (together with Peter Brock in a Holden Torana L34) is on the downhill plunge into Dandenong Road corner at Sandown in 1973 or 1974.

The car is a Cheetah Mk4- a spaceframe chassis powered by a pushrod, OHV, ‘Motor Improvements’ modded Toyota Corolla 1.3 litre, twin-42 DCOE carbed 135 bhp engine. Motor Improvements was Sambo’s business in the Nepean Higway St Kilda, at the time ANF3 was a 1300cc OHV/SOHC category.

https://primotipo.com/2018/06/26/anf3/

(Dennis Cooper)

Clark, Amon, Hill: Lotus 49 Ford DFW by two and a lone Ferrari Dino 246T, Longford 1968.

Not the South Pacific Championship Tasman race mind you- that was held in the pissin’ rain and won by Piers Courage’ McLaren M4A Ford FVA. This is the dry Saturday preliminary which was won by Clark.

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/20/longford-tasman-south-pacific-trophy-4-march-1968-and-piers-courage/

Credits…

Russell Thorncraft, Quentin Miles, Adam Thurgar, Simon Wills- Bob King Collection, Brian Caldersmith, Matt Liersch, Chris Robinson, Ken Devine Collection, Dennis Cooper, Chris O’Connor

oldracingcars.com

Tailpiece: Bob Janes and Jaguar E Type Lightweight, Lakeside circa 1965…

(Quentin Miles)

Ron Thorp’s AC Cobra is on the second row, it looks hot so perhaps its the summer Tasman meeting.

The Jag was an interesting choice, it was never going to be an outright machine in the sportscar sprint events which predominated in Australia at the time. The Bib Stillwell Cooper Monaco, Frank Gardner/Ralph Sach/Kevin Bartlett Mildren Maserati, Lotus 23’s and increasingly V8 mid-engined cars ruled the roost.

Nonetheless the E was a welcome addition to the local scene and a car Bob retained in his collection for decades- it shared garage space with a Maserati 300S, Jag D Type, Brabham BT11A Climax, McLaren M6B Repco, Ralt RT4 Ford, Chev Camaro ZL1 and various other bits of mouth-watering kit.

Finito…

Mal Simpson, Bill Pitt and a mystery fellow (M Simpson)

The LPS Motors/Bill Pitt Cooper MkV Norton being prepared for the November 1954 Australian Grand Prix, at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast…

The above sentence was easy to write, the skill is having the knowledge/research ability/database to be able to identify these mystery photos taken by the late Mal Simpson, a prominent Australian race mechanic of the fifties and sixties whose photo collection was being progressively uploaded onto ‘The Nostalgia Forum’.

Facebook is good fun for ‘light and fluffy’ photo sharing but the serious dudes of motor racing research who hangout on TNF have solved and debunked many racing knotty problems and theories in the last 15 years or so- check it out if you have not.

No less than ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ co-author John Medley got the research ball rolling with the first shot posted above- identifying both Cooper models and possible owners as Bill Patterson, Bill Pitt and ‘less likely, John Crouch’.

When John saw the second photo below, uploaded a day or so after the first, with Simpson identified in each shot, it provided more evidence. He felt the ‘pusher’ on the right was Bill Pitt and therefore the probable owner of car #5 as being the Lewis/Swinburne/Pitt- LPS Motors Cooper MkV Norton raced by Bill Pitt. Click here for Pitt’s history; https://primotipo.com/2016/03/18/lowood-courier-mail-tt-1957-jaguar-d-type-xkd526-and-bill-pitt/

Then my friend and Cooper expert Stephen Dalton stepped up to the plate confirming ‘pusher’ Pitt via some earlier photos he had of him and proffered the view that these Queensland cars were both entered in the ’54 AGP meeting- Pitt ran the MkV but blew the engine in practice, racing a Jaguar instead and Charlie Swinburne raced the #2 Cooper Mk IV. Stephen dated the photographs as late 1954 at least- ‘as The Triumph TR in the background (can you see a peek of it in the shot below) helps date the photo to probably late 1954 at the earliest- I think that’s when TR’s first arrived in Oz.’

So, Stephen concludes, ‘…is this the lads preparing the cars at their LPS Motors for Southport?…’

Nice work guys!

Unidentified chappy- help required, Mal Simpson and Bill Pitt with Cooper MkV (M Simpson)

Photo and Research Credits…

Mal Simpson Collection, John Medley and Stephen Dalton on The Nostalgia Forum

More Cooper MkV Reading…

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/08/cooper-mk-v-jap-penguin-hillclimb-tasmania-australia-1958/

Finito…

 

(F Pearse)

The Jack Saywell Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 and John Snow Delahaye 135CS and friends at The Coorong, South Australia on January 5 and 6 1939…

The two intrepid Sydney racers contested the 1939 Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal on 2 January, the handicap race famously won by Allan Tomlinson in his MG TA Spl s/c. Saywell aboard ‘the fastest car in Australia’ was off scratch and finished sixth, slowed by tyre problems on the scorching hot South Australian summer day. Snow was off 4 minutes 15 seconds in the French sportscar and was fourth. Everybody that day was outfoxed, out-prepared and outraced by the three youngsters from Perth- Tomlinson and two fellow racer/fettlers Clem Dwyer and Bill Smallwood.

Whilst in South Australia they decided to attack some Australian speed records on the pipe-clay surface of The Coorong, at a little spot near Salt Creek, 210 km from Adelaide.

Huge amounts of preparation went into the attempts with the Sporting Car Club of South Australia playing an organisational role and in ensuring compliance with international rules.

Not the Coorong but the Lobethal paddock earlier in the week- John Snow’s gorgeous Delahaye 135CS- he used the Hudson behind in the Australian Stock Car Championship that weekend too (N Howard)

Whilst attempts were being made by Snow and Victorian racer Lyster Jackson over longer distances/times, both Snow and Saywell also wanted a crack at The Flying Mile (Class C for Snow and Outright for Saywell) which had to be timed to the nearest hundredth of a second rather than a tenth of a second- the best which could be achieved with a chronometer. The Adelaide University Physics Department were involved in creating some automatic photo-electric timing equipment which met the accuracy requirements of the international regulations.

Two existing speed records had been set in South Australia during February 1935 at Sellicks Beach by John H Dutton (Class C 92 mph Flying Mile) and CW Bonython MG (Class A 76.09 mph) but the Fleurieu Peninsula beach would not suffice in length for this endeavour which sought records between an hour and twenty-four hours.

A huge open area was needed with space for long, high speed corners to keep average speeds up. Whilst the opening photo may be at the Coorong, it could be at Sellicks- perhaps its a promotional shot taken prior to the record attempts or maybe a test run. Let me know if you have certainty about the locale.

Weather delayed the attempts by a few days but the SCCSA officials were out and about at 5 am on the morning of Thursday 5 January 1939 and prepared a surface as ‘smooth as glass’- the wind was up on the day and was said to be anything up to a 40 mph headwind.

The temperature was 96 degrees Fahrenheit, by the end of the week the temperature in Adelaide was 117 degrees! ‘Despite that a crowd of over 200 people ventured out into that desolate landscape and into those incredible temperatures, setting up a tent city’ wrote John Medley.

The chosen course had been professionally surveyed by an SCCSA club-member and measured 10 miles 318 yards- it was a huge oval comprising two straights of 5 miles and ‘wide circles at either end for turning’.

John Snow started the blue Delahaye 135CS at noon and was soon lapping consistently, the intent being to stick to a plan to coax the car through 24 hours- it wasn’t a sprint after all.

John covered the first 185 miles in just over two hours averaging 92 mph. The car was then refuelled in 4 minutes and Lyster Jackson jumped aboard- he maintained the average of 92 mph in his 10 lap stint and then made another refuelling stop and some ‘engine adjustments’ were made. The first tyre stop, which took 49 seconds, was made a little later and then Jackson was relieved by Snow after the speedy machine had completed 35 laps, or about 366 miles.

Snow had been going again for less than 3 miles when valve trouble ended further motoring at about 6.30 pm.

A perfect world would have been popping a spare engine into the car between the 150 mile Grand Prix and the record attempt but Snow didn’t have a spare despite his wealth. The car ‘was overhauled by the Englishman brought to Australia specially to prepare the car’- lets come back to that point.

The distance travelled in the first hour was 92 miles, for three hours about 275 miles. Jackson did the quickest lap at 6:26 with Snow’s 6:32. ‘No attempt was made to push the car’ but a mean speed of 130 mph was reached on the long straights.

 

 

The team claimed records to the Australian Automobile Association for 50, 100 and 200 miles- 50, 100, 200 and 500 kilometres- and 1 and 3 hours. Those recognised in the Australian record books are;

Standing 100 km 40 mins 45.5- 91.47 mph, Standing 200 km 1 hour 21.29.0- 91.51 mph, Standing 50 Miles 32.55.4- 91 mph, Standing 100 Miles 6:5.33.0- 91.51 mph.

Obviously the Delahaye was in no fit state to attack the Flying Mile, whilst one newspaper report has it that Saywell’s Vittorio Jano designed masterpiece did 132 mph for the Flying Mile and 88 mph for the Standing Mile.

‘On the following day , it was Jack Saywell’s turn…the task was perhaps simpler, the red car attacking only two records, the standing start and flying start mile- but the blistering temperature, sandy surface and blustery 45 mph sidewind across his path were going to be a hindrance…in accordance with AAA rules, a run in each direction was required, and the Alfa used its Lobethal rear axle ratio, the second highest of four available’ John Medley wrote.

‘Using a four mile run in against the breeze, Saywell averaged 128 mph for the first officially timed run. In the opposite direction he used a shorter run in and averaged 140 mph for the flying mile. The average of the two runs was 134.7 mph, the fastest officially recorded speed in Australian history breaking the previous record by over 35 mph’.

‘The Alfa was then prepared for its attempt on the standing start one mile record. Spewing dirt off its spinning back wheels for the first 400 yards, the booming Alfa then got into its stride and crossed the line at 142 mph, wind assisted. Into the wind Saywell crossed the finishing line at 125 mph. When the times were totalled and the speed averaged, the mean speed was 89.2 mph, another new Australian record’ John Medley wrote.

Some Australian enthusiasts will be aware that John Snow, scion of the wealthy Sydney ‘Snows Department Stores’ family made annual trips to the UK both to purchase merchandise for the family business and to race and purchase some top-end cars either to order or for re-sale back in Oz.

The 1939 AGP grid, for example, comprised at least four cars (John Crouch Alfa 8C2300 Le Mans, Colin Dunne MG K3 Magnette, Saywell’s Tipo B and Snows Delahaye 135CS) imported to Australia by the front-rank Sydney racer.

John Snow during the 1939 AGP weekend at Lobethal, Delahaye 135CS (N Howard)

The Delahaye was a remarkably astute purchase by Snow for Australian handicap racing- it was not an outright winner other than on the ‘right day’ but with enough speed and reliability built into it by virtue of its sports-racer intent would always be ‘thereabouts’ in the handicaps which predominated in Australia. And so it was, mainly. The car probably coulda-shoulda won several AGP’s, but in the end it only took the one, in John Crouch’s hands at Leyburn, Queensland in 1949.

The 6 cylinder, 3557cc, OHV 160 bhp car, chassis ‘47190’ was turned into a ‘corn-chip’ as a consequence of a disastrous trailer fire due to an errant cigarette butt flicked out of the car window upon the trip back to Sydney after the 1951 AGP at Narrogin, Western Australia. Enough of the car existed to reconstruct in the seventies/eighties.

The English mechanic referred to earlier was ‘Jock’ Finlayson, he was brought to Australia by Snow and Saywell who by that time were operating ‘Monza Service’, at 217 Bourke Street, East Sydney looking after various racing and top-end road cars.

The very well credentialled (ex-Bentley, Birkin, Straight, Seaman) poor chap totally stuffed up the timing of Saywell’s 2.9 litre, DOHC, supercharged Tipo B engine when he rebuilt it and rooted the engine as a consequence.

With no confidence in anyone else locally to address the engine and having plenty of moolah Jack popped the engine onto a boat back to Milan, but the ship is thought to have been sunk in the immediate months of the War- Saywell never saw that engine again!

Chassis ‘5002’ was not reunited with a motor of kosher original specification until it was restored in Australia in the early sixties. It had an active, long, eventful racing career mind you, albeit fitted with GMC and Alvis motors…

Credits…

Fred Pearse Collection, ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley, Norman Howard from the Bob King Collection

Tailpiece: Jack Saywell, Alfa Romeo Tipo B, AGP Lobethal 1939…

(N Howard)

Finito…