Posts Tagged ‘Aston Martin DB3S’

(Douglas Walker)

Quintessential Australian racer/engineer Tom Sulman loads his Maserati 4CM after the 2nd ‘Lady Wigram Trophy’, Wigram Airbase, New Zealand 23 February 1952…

 Tom Sulman was born in Sydney on 25 December 1899 and died in a tragic accident at Mount Panorama, Bathurst on 30 March 1970 aboard one of his Lotus 11 Climax’. He was the grand old, gently spoken man of Australian motor racing- a racer to the core, he competed all of his life inclusive of elite levels internationally.

Like most of my articles this one was stimulated by finding some photographs, and as is usually the case, doing so whilst looking for something else!

The shots of Tom and his Maserati 4CM in New Zealand in 1951 were simply too good- so evocative of the period not to do something with. The trouble is that his racing career was so long it’s a huge job to do it justice especially with information not readily available, so treat this as summary of his wonderful life with a bit of focus on the Maser, itself a car with an interesting provenance.

Sulman was the son of UK born and later immensely prominent and influential Sydney architect Sir John Sulman. Tom grew up in a rambling home at Turramurra, on Sydney’s upper North Shore. Unlike his formidable father, whose competitive spirit he undoubtedly had, he commenced a career in automotive engineering, very much an industry of growth at the time. In 1923 he built his first racer, the ‘Sulman Simplex’, a road-going cyclecar, which he raced at Sydney’s Victoria Park that year.

Tom Sulman and Fay Taylor with the Sulman Singer at West Ham, London in 1936

During the 1930’s depression Tom travelled to England looking for work and soon established a motor engineering business. His early motor sport endeavours began in 1931 and involved conversion of a Morgan 3 wheeler to a 4 wheeler! so that he could race ‘a car’ on dirt, which was very popular at the time. Later he built a car with a motor-cycle twin-cylinder engine and a ‘vaguely Salmson chassis’ which he raced at the early Crystal Palace meetings and at Greenford.

In fact Tom was right there at the start of organised car-only dirt track racing on motorcycle speedway lines. Outside the reach of the RAC, the first UK race of this type was held on Good Friday 30 March 1934, at Crystal Palace.

There were three teams of three riders and a reserve with ‘New South Wales Champion’ Tommy Sulman captaining the Wimbledon Park team driving a ‘Bitza Special’! During this period he raced at tracks such as Greenford, Crystal Palace, Hackney, Lea Bridge and Wimbledon. To provide some sense of the scale and level of interest in speedway racing at the time there were over 25 tracks in the London extended area alone. In addition to his motor engineering Tom was a professional driver earning money from his race competition.

He was approached by a Singer agent off the back of his performances and growing reputation to build a similar sprint and hillclimb special to his own car using Singer components. Core mechanicals were a Singer Le Mans engine and G.N. chain transmission. When the car was completed, it became the ‘Sulman Singer Special’ after the Singer agent went ‘bust’ leaving Sulman with the car! It soon became clear after the commencement of dirt track racing that the cut down sportscars predominantly used were unsuited to the tight, deep cindered UK tracks with short straights. Tom built the Sulman Singer as a dual purpose machine, but its very short wheelbase was a function of the development work by trial and error he and other leading racers had done to create a car ideal for the dirt.

Sulman raced it regularly in the UK and once in Holland in 1936. On 4 August 1936 Tom contested the very first Midget World Championships at Hackney, in inner London.

The winner with 7 points from his heats was Cordy Milne of the US- Tom was 6th with 3 points, he was 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd in his three heats. Another Australian, Dicky Case was 2nd with 6 points. An interesting sidebar is that Case, a star motorcycle solo-rider was invited into the competition as a fill-in driver due to a lack competitors- and came close to winning the thing! The program does not disclose the chassis the various competitors used.

Into 1937 the Sulman became obsolete, along with most of the rest of the fields with the advent of the ‘Skirrow Specials’. These revolutionary cars built by Harry Skirrow in Cumbria had chain drive to both front and rear axles harnessing the 80bhp produced by their bespoke 990cc twin-cylinder JAP engines rather effectively. As a consequence, Tom built a 4WD car of his own in an attempt to more effectively compete- he crashed badly at Coventry in August/September 1937 and elected then to end his midget racing career. The Sulman Singer, which had been put to one side, was then pressed back into service, Tom raced it at various hillclimbs.

Bathurst 1950, Hell Corner lap 1. Ron Ward MG TC from Sulman in the  #47 ‘Singer then Ron Edgerton #37 MG TC and Gordon Stewart #46 MG Magna (AussieHomestead)

At the end of World War 2 Sulman returned to Australia by signing on as a flight engineer on an aircraft, his very cost-effective way to take the long, expensive 12000 mile journey home was as a crew member of a Lancaster Bomber converted to carry people rather than a lethal payload. The Sulman Singer followed by ship, the car travelled sans bodywork to avoid import duty being imposed upon it by the Fiscal Fiend- the Australian Taxation Office!

Tom first raced the car in Australia at Nowra on the NSW south coast in June 1947, the combination took a win in the under 1100cc scratch race. As a road racer it competed in contemporary events up to and including the Australian Grand Prix, then a handicap event. He was 5th at Bathurst in 1947 and also contested the 1948 AGP race at Point Cook in Melbourne’s outer west, the little car succumbing to the extreme March summer heat like so many others on that day.

Sulman eventually sold the car when he acquired the Maserati, it raced regularly in various hands in the 1950’s but by the 1960’s was mainly used in historic events. The car was sold to AP North, then later to Monty South and finally Ron Reid on 6 November 1965 to start a long relationship of sympatico between driver and owner.

Moustachioed Ron Reid, red ‘kerchief flapping in the breeze with a big smile upon his face was an icon of Australian Historic Racing in the car which still races, after Ron’s demise in 1999, in the hands of Mal Reid, Rons son. Whenever I see this wonderful machine in the paddock it always brings a smile to my face. Drivers and cars come and go, but the Sulman Singer remains a constant in Australian motor racing and would be a finalist for the ‘longest continuously raced’ car on the planet.

Sulman competed in other cars as well though, including an 1100cc HRG sports car. By the late 1950’s, Tom, who had a workshop in the now very trendy inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, had added to his stable the Maserati 4CM. This ex-Farina/Salvadori car, he bought from Australian resident Englishman David Chambers.

Sulman in the Maserati 4CM at Mt Druitt’s Hairpin, Sydney, date unknown (AussieHomestead)

Chassis # 1521, one of about twelve 1500cc 4CM’s, was first delivered to none other than Giuseppe Farina in August 1934, he won Voiturette races in it at Biella and Masaryk and then Modena and Turin. Gino Rovere, who probably owned the car when raced by Farina, raced it during 1935 and perhaps also Gigi Villoresi as part of Rovere’s ‘Scuderia Subalpina’. It then passed into the hands of several UK drivers including EK Rayson, Charles Mortimer and then formed an important part of the nascent racing career of Roy Salvadori post-war.

David Chambers acquired the car in England in 1949, raced it at Goodwood and then shipped it home and made his Australian debut at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne in 1950. Raced at Easter Bathurst 1950, the 500Kg, 1496cc, Roots-type supercharged, 4 cylinder 130bhp @ 6100 rpm car achieved 122mph through the traps on Conrod Straight in top- 4th gear in its Fiat derived gearbox.

New Zealand Hillclimb Championship 1951, winner in the Maser 4CM. Venue folks? (Walker)

Tom bought the car shortly after this meeting and campaigned it in both Australia and New Zealand over the next few years.

Among his New Zealand successes were the 1951 NZ Hillclimb Championship, on that tour he also contested circuit races- the Ohakea Trophy and Lady Wigram Trophy in March finishing 4th and taking fastest lap, and DNF at Wigram. NZ ‘heavy metal’ of the day included cars such as Les Moore’s Alfa Tipo B, Ronnie Moore’s Alfa 8C, Frank Shuter’s V8 Spl, Jack Tutton’s C Type, Ron Roycroft’s Jag XK120 and like Australia a swag of MG and Ford V8 powered specials as well as the early Coopers starting to appear.

Working on the engine of the Maser 4CM, NZ Hillclimb Championship 1951. Mechanical specifications as per text (Walker)

The Maser was period typical in having a channel section chassis, with rigid axle suspension at both ends and semi-elliptic springs front and rear. Sulman was unhappy with the cars handling so modified it by adding 3.5 inches into the front axle, increasing the front track from 3 foot 11.2 inches to about 4 feet 3.5 inches, widening the spring base and inverting the rear shackles. The rear track remained at 3 feet 11.2 inches. When completed he reported the car as extremely predictable and easier to handle.

During practice at Parramatta Park in January 1952 he nipped a brake coming into Rotunda Corner, spun, hit the kerb and rolled landing back on the Masers wheels. Damage was limited to a bent stub axle and minor body twisting. He repaired the car and returned to the Land of the Long White Cloud that summer of 1952, racing again at Wigram and Ohakea for 2nd off the front row and 4th.

Tom at Mount Panorama in the 4CM, date unknown- superb, rare colour shot (B Miles)

The car was shipped back to Australia in time for the April 1952 AGP at Mount Panorama- finishing 6th in the race won by Doug Whiteford’s Talbot Lago T26C taking the second of his three AGP wins.

Probably his best run in the thoroughbred single-seater was at Gnoo Blas, Orange, NSW in April 1953- his haul five race wins. Less happy was the car ‘chucking a rod’ through the block at Mount Druitt, Sydney in 1954.

Tom Sulman Aston DB3S, Doug Whiteford Maserati 300S and Bill Pitt Jaguar XKD on pole, Victorian Tourist Trophy, Albert Park 17 March 1957. Whiteford won the 100 mile racefrom Pitt, Tom DNF on lap 16 (unattributed)

Tom was invited to become a member of ‘The Kangaroo Stable’ which planned a long distance sportscar racing program in Europe in 1955 with three Aston Martin DB3S customer racers. At that point the Maser was sold, it remained in Australia into the mid-sixties but left the country many years ago, living on in historic racing.

He acquired DB3S ’103’ new from the Aston, Feltham factory, the car was registered in NSW as ‘OXE-473’ and raced it in England-the Goodwood 9 Hours and at Aintree during the British GP meeting sportscar events, Portugal- the Lisbon GP, France, with the best result a 2-3-4 finish for The Kangaroo Stable behind a Ferrari in the Hyeres 12 Hour in the Provence-Cote d’Azur region of France-Tom was third. His co-driver was none other than Jack Brabham, then in his first year of a long and rather successful racing career in Europe. The Kangaroo Stable’s racing plans were to a large extent scuttled by the ’55 Le Mans disaster and the cancellation of many events in Europe as a consequence that year.

Tom returned to Oz, with the Aston his mount for years. Sportscar racing was especially healthy in Australia at the time with a mix of XKC and XKD Jags, Maser 300S, Aston DB3S, Cooper Jaguar, the Ausca Holden Repco, a swag of Austin Healey 100S and various Climax engined Lotus 11 and 15’s thrilling large crowds. The customer Astons were front third of the field cars. When David McKay’s ex-works DB3S car- DB3S/9 arrived it was the class of the field. Other quicks of the time Bill Pitt’s D Type, Frank Gardner’s C and D Types, Doug Whiteford’s ex-works Maserati 300S and the Derek Jolly and Frank Matich Lotus 15 FPF’s when they appeared later in the decade. Tom’s best results aboard ‘103’ were 2nd , 4th and 4th in the South Pacific Sportscar Championship at Longford in 1958, 1959 and 1960. He was 5th in the hotly contested 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy at Longford won by Jolly’s Lotus 15.

Tom Sulman takes his Aston DB3S onto the Longford grid during the 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy weekend. Only Whiteford’s #10 Maser 300S of this group of cars (in addition to Tom) contested the championship event- this is perhaps a preliminary or practice (J Ellacott)

 

Gnoo Blas Orange 1960. Derek Jolly Lotus 15, Frank Matich Jag XKC, David Finch Jag XKD and on row 2 the Aston DB3S’ of Warren Bloomfield and #58 Tom Sulman. Date and results folks? (Aussie Homestead)

Tom took the car to New Zealand for their summer races in 1956 commencing with the NZ GP held at Ardmore, then Wigram, Dunedin, Ryal Bush and Ohakea, his best results in the two month stay were 6th and 7th at Ryal Bush and Ohakea.

At a time the Australian Grand Prix was still a Formula Libre race, with ‘outright’ sportscars regular entrants. Tom the took the Aston on the long trip, 3920 kilometres for you Europeans- you have to be keen!, from Sydney to Western Australia to contest the 1957 race held at Caversham in outer Perth. It was a long way to travel for a DNF, but many cars did not survive another AGP held in scorching hot Australian summer heat. Lex Davison took a famous, and fortunate win in that race co-driven by Bill Patterson. Fortunate in the sense that lap-timing confusion awarded the race to Lex rather than Stan Jones.

In addition to Jack Brabham driving the car, the Aston’s provenance was further enhanced when Stirling Moss took the wheel and gave a journalist the ride of his life during several practice laps at the 1961 Warwick Farm opening meeting.

Sulman, Lotus 11 Climax, Silverdale Hillclimb, NSW (Bruce Wells)

In the early 1960’s he bought a locally built Lynx Ford Formula Junior and in 1961 the first of two Lotus 11 Climax’.

Chassis ‘343’ was an S2 Le Mans spec car powered by several Coventry Climax FWA engines. The Aston was sold to Ron Thorp, it remained in Australia for some years before it too made its way to the UK. In 1963 he bought his other 11, a Climax FPF engined car, chassis ‘305/552’ which had originally been raced by Ron Flockhart and Roy Salvadori in the UK. This period is confusing for historians as it is not clear which car he raced where- and he raced them everywhere! At sprints, hillclimbs and circuit races.

Remember, by 1960, he was 61 and had been racing for the best part of 40 years. Tom’s racing was diverse though, he contested rallies, hillclimbs and sprints as well as circuit racing. His rally/reliability trial experience included the famous, legendary RedeX Round Australia Trials of the 1950’s including the first one in 1953 as a member of the Humber Super Snipe team. He entered touring car races too- as that aspect of the sport grew including the Mount Druitt 24 Hour race and the 1962 Bathurst Six Hour aboard a new-fangled Datsun Bluebird.

Tom in the ex-Abbott/Hamilton Porsche 904 Ford Cobra, Huntley Hillclimb, NSW 1 June 1969 (T Arts)

and again as above (Tony Arts)

Some of the cars he raced such as the ex-Alan Hamilton Ford Cobra powered Porsche 904 were very potent devices, he ran this car circa 1969. He contested the 1966 Surfers Paradise 12 Hour enduro as co-driver to Ron Thorp who by then was racing a booming AC Cobra, very much a crowd favourite, the duo won their class, that event won outright by Jackie Stewart and Andy Buchanan aboard the famous Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM.

Lotus 11 Le Mans Climax FPF 1500, Lakeview Hillclimb, ACT date unknown (AussieHomestead)

In March 1970 Tom loaded the little Lotus 11 ‘343’ onto its trailer in Surry Hills and headed out of Sydney west towards the Bells Line of Road for the 200Km trip to Mount Panorama, goodness knows how many times he would have made that journey? He was off to the Easter Bathurst meeting, at that time there were two race meetings a year at the famous circuit, not just the annual touring car 500 miler.

Journalist Barry Lake recounts the events of Sulman’s final drive in the insignificant 6 lap ‘Sir Joseph Banks Trophy’ sportscar scratch race at Mount Panorama. ‘At the Easter Bathurst meeting on 30 March 1970 the quietly spoken Tom, now 70 years old and as keen to race as ever, moved slightly to the right and simultaneously slowed down between the two humps on Conrod Straight. Vincent Evans who was a short distance behind, could not avoid the impact of his left-front mudguard with the right rear bodywork of the Lotus 11 driven by Sulman. The Lotus 11 swerved to the left of the circuit (its inside) into the gravel on the verge and rolled into a locked (farmers) gateway, hitting the gatepost on the drivers side. Sulman’s head hit the post causing his instant death’.

‘Shortly before the accident there had been a ‘Tom Sulman Trophy’ race at Warwick Farm for historic cars to commemorate his very long racing career. At the age of 70, Sulman was one of the oldest racing drivers in activity at the time’ Lake’s tribute concludes.

It was a terrible case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and hitting the fencepost when it could just as easily have been open space. Australian motor racing was rocked by another fatal accident at Bathurst twelve months after the last, Bevan Gibson’s Elfin 400 Repco became airborne on one of Bathurst’s humps at the same meeting a year before.

Sulman had lived a good life, a long full one despite its untimely end. He was one of those fellows who put more into the sport than he took out, and loved it to its core. A racer through and through right to the very end.

Tom Sulman at Lowood, circa 1959 (R Wittig)

Bibliography…

Obituary written by Barry Lake published on ‘Motorsport Memorial’, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Maserati: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, Derek Bridgett on ‘Midget Car Panorama’. MotorSport magazine December 1936, ‘Bugattis Did It Too’ article in ‘Loose Fillings’ December 2015

Photo Credits…

Douglas Walker Collection, Aussie Homestead, Simon Lewis, Bruce Wells, Ron Wittig, Bruce Miles, John Ellacott, Tony Arts

Tailpiece: Sulman aboard his remarkably adaptable Sulman Singer at Kennel Corner, Shelsey Walsh in 1938. A rare UK shot of the car…

(Simon Lewis)

Frank Feeley, Designer (right) and Aston Martin’s owner David Brown with a clay model of Feeley’s Aston Martin DB3S in the Feltham design studio, 1954…

It would be interesting to know the occasion of this factory PR shot, the DB3S first appeared at Charterhall in May 1953 so it seems unlikely it was about that model Aston. The clay model is also notable, in comparison with the final design, for the distance behind the rear wheel arch which is shorter on the production car than the clay. The DB3 was much more slab-sider than its younger sibling too wasn’t it? The cutaway front arch, such an outstanding feature of the DB3S design is clearly shown. The rendering on the wall behind the two fellows is also intriguing, I wonder what it is?

I wrote an article about one of Aston’s sexiest models, the DB3S, not so long ago, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2017/09/28/david-mckays-aston-martin-db3ss/

Two of Frank Feeley’s designs at Le Mans in 1949. #29 DB1 driven by Lawrie/Parker to 10th and #28 DB2 driven by Marechal/Mathieson DNF. Race won by the Chinetti/Thomson/Selsdon Ferrari 166MM (unattributed)

Feeley is said by some to be a forgotten man of Aston Martin…

 It seems odd really as he shaped all post-war Astons up to but excluding the DB4, most notably the DB3 and DB3S racers.

Feeley, whose father also worked there, joined Lagonda as a teenager at 14, initially he was the office boy under Arthur Thatcher, the assistant works manager.

By 25 he was their ‘Body Designer’, succeeding Walter Buckingham. The commercial viability of Lagonda as an independent firm was weakened when Briggs Motor Bodies exited an agreement to build Lagonda’s bodies to take on more profitable and larger deals with Jowett and Ford. Lagonda had closed their own body shop, with times being tight, Feeley and WO Bentley were shown the door.

David Brown bought Aston Martin, famously spotting a ‘For Sale’ advertisement in ‘The Times’, he paid the princely sum of twenty thousand- five hundred pounds for the business. Shortly thereafter he also bought Lagonda, creating, you guessed it, Aston Martin Lagonda. Needing a body man Brown approached Feeley who took on the role despite some misgivings.

Aston DB2 in 1949. It is the #28 car in the 1949 Le Mans photo above when first built. The car was without brakes for a long period of the race, Pierre Marechal crashed at White House on Sunday, then rolled with the unfortunate driver dying of his injuries the following day. ‘LMA/49/1’ was scrapped, the engine transferred into a DB1 (unattributed)

Feeley’s first work for the nascent AML was a roofless, rebodied Atom which ‘…was a sweeping open tourer derived from his pre-war ideas to modernise the Lagonda V12 and featured a new design of radiator grille. This had a vertically slatted centre section based on the original Aston radiator and a pair of low side grilles flanking it. Fifteen were built with the car retrospectively called the DB1’.

No doubt Cisitalia and Ferrari influenced the shape of the DB2 which was built on a shortened version of the Claude Hill designed ladder frame chassis- the car was created quickly to run at Le Mans in 1949. ‘We drew the chassis in and I immediately drew up the whole thing around it, the whole shape. Their was no time to change my mind once I had done it’ Feeley recalled.

The DB2 continued the DB1’s three-piece grille form, in a simplified one piece design, which set the template for the Aston grille shape which continues today.

David McKay’s first Aston DB3S ‘102’ in the leafy Sydney North Shore suburbs in the mid-fifties (pallas1970)

The DB3S is favourite car for so many of us such is its purity of curvaceous line. Cutaway front arches were its innovation, the practical element of this approach was to draw heat out of the engine bay. ‘Feeley had got fed up with the chassis engineers never knowing where they were going to put the exhaust pipes, so he decided it for them by running the pipes through the cutaways’. By this stage Frank’s duties extended to managing the body-builders, initially Mulliners of Birmingham and later Tickford in Newport Pagnell, a David Brown acquisition.

But times were changing, John Wyer was instrumental in the rejection of Feeley’s proposal for the coming DB4 in favour of Touring of Milan. This, and the concentration of activity at Newport Pagnell, where the DB4 was to be built, rather than at Feltham near Feeley’s home signalled it was time to leave. He worked in the aircraft industry and continued to live in his native Staines until his death in 1985.

In terms of contribution post-war Feeley is up there with Astons best- Claude Hill, Harold Beach, Ted Cutting, Tadek Marek, John Wyer and David Brown himself. Not a forgotten man at all me-thinks?

The works Aston’s before the off- Le Mans 1949: #27 is the Jones/Haines 7th placed DB2, the #28 DB2 in front of it, then the #19 Johnson/Brackenbury DB2, DNF water pump (unattributed)

Bibliography…

 Article by John Simister in ‘Vantage’ Magazine November 2014, ‘Aston Martin: The Racing Cars’ Anthony Pritchard

 Photo Credits…

 Getty Images, pallas1970

 Tailpiece: It’s a winner I think…

 

 

image001

Looks of wonderment and amazement at the voluptuous lines of the Aston’s Frank Feeley penned body.  The ‘Wow Factor’ of contemporary racing cars never changes whatever the era does it?!…

Here it’s a Melbourne crowd on February 28 1958. Its the end of the long hot Australian summer but the crowd are well rugged up, Melbourne is notoriously ‘four seasons in one day’ sometimes and Fishermans Bend is an exposed windswept place at the best of times. At the wheel of the road-registered, ex-works Aston Martin DB3S chassis DB3S/9 is a youthful David McKay.

McKay aboard DB3S/9 at Fishermans Bend in February 1958. Nose of the car showing minor scars of battle, perspex headlight covers fitted to this car from its birth. First race the ’56 Rouen GP in May, then 2nd @ Le Mans ’56 driven by Moss/Collins, Salvadori was 2nd at Goodwood in September- car retained by Astons into 1957, the DBR1 the front line weapon that year with Brooks racing DBS3/9 at Easter Goodwood for 3rd. It was then used by the works for the last occasions as a practice car at Silverstone for the British Empire Trophy and for the Nurburgring 1000Km before sold by John Wyer to McKay with funds provided by Ampol (Westaway)

At the time he was ascending the driving ranks having cut his racing teeth in MG’s. He made it into the elite group too- let’s not forget were it not for a ropey jumped start call he would have won the 1961 Australian Grand Prix at Mallala aboard a Cooper T51 Climax. David would soon be known as much as a journalist, successful businessman and entrant-entrepreneur via his business ‘Scuderia Veloce’ as a driver though.

McKay raced this car to wins in the sportscar races that Fishermans Bend weekend, and was very successful in it throughout the country, taking 8 wins from 9 starts. His only defeat, 2nd place was at the hands of Doug Whiteford’s ex-works Maser 300S in the Tasmanian Tourist Trophy at Longford in early 1958.

db 3 s engine

Engine of the ex-works/McKay DB3S/9, raced at Albert Park, November 1958 by Stan Jones. 6 cylinder 2922cc DOHC 2 valve, twin plug all alloy engine fed by 45DCO Weber carburettors. Circa 225bhp @ 6000 rpm (Kevin Drage)

His last race in the car was successful, he took an Australian Tourist Trophy victory at Mount Panorama, Bathurst in October 1958 in what McKay described as ‘the faithful old ex-works Aston’s…greatest Antipodean win’.

The race was not an easy one. Initially Bill Pitt’s Jaguar XKD led and then Doug Whiteford, the formidable, forceful three-time AGP winner took the lead from McKay with Pitt 3rd. On lap 10 Doug had an enormous accident when the Maser was caught by a sudden gust of wind after coming over the second Conrod Straight hump threw the car out of control with the Maser spinning and hitting the right hand fence three times. Whiteford was almost flung from the car as it skidded backwards down the escape road and into another fence. Fortunately the St Kilda racer was only bruised by the wild ride.

McKay then led with an intermittent engine miss from Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax, a light rain shower adding to the degree of difficulty towards the end of the race. McKay won from Jolly, Ron Phillips and Frank Matich- Aston DB3S, Lotus 15 Climax, Cooper Jaguar and Jaguar XKC.

The weekend was a brilliant one for the Sydneysider as his new Jaguar Mk1 3.4, just imported for him by Ampol trounced the hitherto dominant Repco headed Holden sedans of John French and Leo Geoghegan in the sedan car handicap, to start the ‘Jaguar Era’ of Australian Touring Car racing.

After the Tourist Trophy win Stan Jones bought the racer but wasn’t really happy with it. The wonderful Le Mans second placed 1956 car then passed into Ray Barfield’s hands in Western Australia where its contemporary racing history ended in the early sixties. A summary of the cars history is in this article, rather than repeat myself;

https://primotipo.com/2017/03/23/bunbury-flying-50-allan-tomlinson-ferrari-500-et-al/

McKay’s first Aston, a production DB3S chassis #102 in the Carrathool paddock during its Australian LSR record breaking weekend in February 1957. Interesting to know who crafted the aero pod beneath which McKay sat and cooked! (Jek)

McKay was a very dab hand at the wheel of Aston’s by the time he bought his ex-Moss car…

He was part of the trio of privately run DB3S,  ‘Kangaroo Stable’ of cars raced by Australians Tony Gaze, Jack Brabham, Les Cosh, Dick Cobden, Tom Sulman and McKay in Europe in 1955.

McKays car, initially delivered to Tony Gaze, chassis DB3S/102 took the best result of the tour cut short by the cancellation of many sportscar races in Europe after the Le Mans disaster- McKay and Gaze were second in the 29 May Hyeres 12 Hour behind the winning Ferrari 750 Monza driven by Canonica/Munaron

At the end of the European Safari which included Oporto (Gaze 8th) and Goodwood (McKay/Gaze DNF distributor drive) David shipped the car straight to New Zealand for a number of races there including the Formula Libre NZ GP in January 1956. He retired from the Ardmore event won convincingly by Stirling Moss in a Maserati 250F. The engine of the car was shipped back to the UK for a rebuild after a major failure during a race at Invercargill. From May 1956 production DB3S’ were fitted with twin-plug 210 bhp engines, it was in this form the engine was rebuilt and delivered from Feltham back to Sydney. The beautiful car was again race ready by early 1957.

The stunning colour photographs were taken of ‘102’ in February 1957 at Carrathool a tiny village 680 Km west of Sydney between Narrandera and Hay in New South Wale western Riverina.

The main automotive attribute of the town was a long, straight stretch of road between Carrathool and Gunbar which was ideal for record setting, and so it was that various Ampol sponsored cars sought to break some Australian speed records. The then current Australian LSR was the 136.4 mph set by Jack Saywell’s 2.9 litre Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 at South Australia’s Coorong in 1939.

After plenty of careful preparation inclusive of incorporating the beautifully made perspex fairing onto his Aston, McKay broke the record setting a time over the Flying Kilometre of 143.19 mph on the morning of 19 February 1957. The ‘Canberra Times’ reported that McKay made two full speed runs on the course, ‘during one run he skidded on a patch of loose dirt at 140 mph’.

This speed was soon eclipsed by other cars but the DB3S held the class record for some years.

David McKay at speed during the Ampol sponsored record-breaking weekend in early 1957. Carrathool a tiny hamlet with now around 300 inhabitants. A straight, flat road with a decent surface a long way from major population centres was ideal record breaking territory! (Jek)

The car was first raced in Australia at Easter Bathurst in April 1957, he was 2nd in the sportscar handicap and won the sedan and sportcar handicap from Paul England’s Repco headed Ausca, passing the very fast special built at Repco Research by England ‘running up to 139.3 mph to do so and clocking fastest quater mile time for the day’.

But the car saw little further use as the quicker ex-works machine arrived in Sydney in September 1957. DBS/9’s first race was the October 1957 13 lap NSW Sportscar Championship at Bathurst, an event the combination won comfortably with McKay taking the lap record despite using only 5200 of the Aston’s available 6000 rpm. Bill Pitt’s Jaguar D Type was timed at 144 mph on Conrod Straight with McKay at 136 mph using his self imposed rev limit.

Both of these extremely valuable cars still exist but sadly left Australia many years ago. Those of you with collections of Australian ‘Sports Car World’ magazine should have a fossick through them as McKay wrote two sensational articles about the ownership of his two Aston’s in the seventies, or maybe the eighties!..

Technical specifications as per text (Tony Matthews)

Aston DB3S Technical Specifications…

The Aston Martin DB3S was built from 1953 to 1957, 32 were constructed excluding the single-seater variant ‘DP155/1′ raced by Reg Parnell in New Zealand in 1956.

Fundamentally Willie Watson’s design was a shorter, lighter and stiffer car than Eberan Eborhorst’s Aston DB3. The car evolved over just four months making its debut in Reg Parnell’s hands at Charterhall on 23 May 1953.

The cars were designed around a period typical ladder frame chassis which was 7 feet 3 inches long- 6 inches shorter than DB3. The frame comprised twin tubular members of 4 inch 16 gauge chrome molybdenum steel and three 14 gauge four, and five inch cross-members. The shorter chassis made the car nimbler than its predecessor if somewhat skittish on bumpy surfaces. The track was reduced from 4′ 3″ to 4’ 1″.

Frank Feeley designed the very stylish body, as sexy as the DB3 was dowdy. More than a nod had been given in the direction of the contemporary Maserati A6GCS it seemed. Overall the car was shorter, narrower and lighter than the DB3 and importantly it ‘looked right’ straight out of the box.

Front suspension was independent by trailing links, torsion bars, piston type dampers and a roll bar. A De-Dion rear axle was used sprung by a torsion bar and located by trailing links and a Panhard rod, again with piston type shocks.

Naturally a David Brown gearbox was fitted, the S430 ‘box a 4 speeder with reverse, final drive was by spiral bevel in a light alloy casing with a ZF slippery diff usually fitted. Brakes initially were two-leading shoe Alfin drums- 13 inches in diameter at the front and 12 inches at the rear. From 1955 Girling disc bakes were specified, the rotors were 11.5 inches in diameter front and rear. Precise rack and pinion steering was fitted, two turns were required lock to lock.

A 2922cc all alloy DOHC, 2 valve, 6 cylinder engine provided the cars heart. It had 4 main bearings and wet cylinder liners with the valves disposed at an included angle of 60 degrees. Initially fitted with 35DCO Weber carburettors the engine gave 182 bhp @ 5500 rpm and 182 lb/ft of torque at 3800 rpm on a compression ration of 8.5:1.

The cars were of course developed extensively throughout their racing life with the works cars fitted with twin-plug heads and 45DCO Webers from May 1954 giving 225bhp @ 6000 rpm.

The ‘Kangaroo Stable Cars’ (DB3S/102 Gaze-McKay, DB3S/103 Sulman, DB3S/104 Cosh) delivered in early 1955 all had the 200 bhp Weber 40 DCO engine- when announced at Earls Court in October 1954 the production cars had a feeble and uncompetitive 180 bhp on triple SU’s.

For the sake of completeness special works engines included a supercharged 240 bhp car raced at Le Mans in 1954 and a 2992cc normally aspirated variant raced at Dundrod in 1955.

In an era of unlimited sportscars the production based 3 litre DB3S was rarely an outright contender, the big guns, depending upon the year were the Benz 300SLR, XKD Jags and Ferrari V12’s of varying capacity. But with a change to 3 litres for the manufacturers championship and a more uncompromising approach the DB3S’ younger brother triumphed at Le Mans in 1959 and won the manufacturers title to boot. The path to that success was in part via the DB3S journey…

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce’ David McKay, ‘Aston Martin: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘The Canberra Times’ 20 February 1957

Photo Credits…

Don Westaway, Kevin Drage, Ampol, Sharaz Jek, Tony Matthews

Tailpiece: McKay at high speed in DB3S/102 during a practice run at Carrathool, in New South Wales western Riverina in April 1957…

(Ampol)

 

 

image

Gino Valenzano’s Lancia D24 passes Reg Parnell’s Aston Martin DB3S in the early morning Brescia fog, the action captured by Louis Klemantaski aboard the Aston as both navigator and ‘snapper. Mille Miglia 2 May 1954…

It wasn’t to be a happy event for either car, they both failed to finish as a result of accidents. The competitiveness of Vittorio Jano’s newish D24 design was underlined by Alberto Ascari’s win in another of the cars in a time of 11 hours 26 minutes and 10 seconds. Vittorio Marzotto’s 2nd placed Ferrari 500 Mondial was 34 minutes in arrears.

Piero Taruffi’s Lancia led the race early from Brescia, that year fog replaced the more usual rain, he was first into Ravenna with a lead of 1.5 minutes. Castellotti retired his Lancia by Rome, soon Piero’s car developed an oil leak so he too retired. Ascari then assumed the lead but on the home leg north his throttle return spring failed, a rubber band provided a temporary repair. By Florence he was ready to retire but was prevailed upon to continue, then by Bologna all of the quick Ferrari’s had retired so the final 200Km into Brescia was a ‘cruise’ if the final hours of a race lasting 11 plus hours can be so described!

Gianni Lancia and Vittorio Jano created some stunning sports and racing cars in the early 1950’s, at least the Lancia heir could look back on them as a legacy when he was forced to cede management of the company such was its parlous financial state into 1955.

The new D24 ended 1953 with a stunning 1-3 in the November Carrera Panamericana in Mexico; Fangio won from cars driven by Piero Taruffi and Eugenio Castellotti. Felice Bonetto’s death in a D24 during the event somewhat muted the joy the team felt in victory, to say the least.

image

Brescia 1 May 1954: Lancia D24’s are islands in a sea of people. #541 Valenzano DNF distributor, #602 Ascari’s winning car and  #540 Castellotti DNF accident (unattributed)

The D24 evolved from the D23 Spyder, itself begat by the D20 Coupe design. Jano’s development times were short, the D23 made its race debut at the Monza GP on 28 June (2nd Bonetto) and the D24 at the Nurbugring 1000Km on 30 August (Taruffi/Manzon and Fangio/Bonetto both DNF). The wheelbase of the D24’s tubular steel spaceframe chassis was marginally reduced. The quad-cam, chain driven, 2 valve, triple Weber 46DCF3 fed, 60 degree V6 engines capacity was increased from the D23’s 3102cc to 3284cc with power in the range 240 to 270bhp @ 6500rpm for each of the two engines.

The cars late 1953 speed carried through into 1954 with the Taruffi/Manzon D24 leading the Sebring 12 Hour until an engine failure about an hour before the end. Despite that the car completed 161 laps compared with the 168 of Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd in the winning OSCA MT4.

Wins at the Targa by Taruffi, not a championship round in 1954, and 4th & 6th in the Tourist Trophy gave Lancia 2nd place in the Manufacturers Championship with 20 points to Ferrari’s 38 despite not entering Le Mans.

Lancia did get plenty of promotional rub-off for their considerable investment in Italy with the cars winning a swag of races and hillclimbs in ’54. Castellotti won the Treponti-Castelnuovo, Coppa Firenze-Siena, Bolzano-Passo Mendola and the Aosta-Gran San Bernardo. Taruffi took the Giro di Sicilia, Catania-Etna and Coppa d’Oro di Sicilia and Villoresi the Oporto GP.

Lancia’s F1 program absorbed plenty of resources, the D50’s first race  was the final ’54 championship round on 24 October, the Spanish Grand Prix at Pedralbes, Barcelona. Alberto Ascari’s jewel of a Lancia D50 started from pole and led until clutch problems caused him to retire on lap 9.

Lancia D24 cutaway: essential elements of Vittorio Jano’s car. Multi-tubular steel spaceframe chassis, Pininfarina designed and built aluminium body, 60 degree DOHC, 3284cc 270bhp V6, independent front suspension, de Dion rear suspension, leaf springs and tubular shocks. Gearbox 4 speed mounted at rear. Inboard drum brakes front and rear. Weight 740-760Kg (Betti)

Despite the competing GP car program Jano evolved the D24 design later in the year by increasing the capacity of the V6 to 3550cc for which 300-305bhp @ 6500 rpm was claimed. Two of these cars dubbed D25 were entered for Ascari/Villoresi and Fangio/Castellotti  at the Tourist Trophy, Dundrod in September but both retired with diff and engine failure respectively. Taruffi/Fangio and Manzon/Castellotti were 4th and 6th in D24’s.

The timing of the GP debut was unfortunate as the D24 was a mighty fine, fast car which deserved to have been the primary competition focus of Lancia that year.

The D50 changed the course of GP history in terms of its brilliant design, it’s contribution to Lancia’s fiscal disaster and of course giving Ferrari a car which won the world drivers championship for JM Fangio in 1956. But the D24 could conceivably have won Lancia a sportscar manufacturers championship in 1954 had the necessary, exclusive effort been applied to that campaign.

Wonderful hindsight of course, one of my strengths!…

Credits…

Louis Klemantaski, STF, Bruno Betti

Tailpiece: Alberto Ascari’s Lancia D24 chassis ‘006’ of nine cars built, in Rome and ‘heading for home’ 2 May 1954…

image

(STF)

 

lowood jag

Evocative shot of Bill Pitts’s Jaguar D Type leading David McKay’s Aston Martin DB3S at Queensland airfield circuit, Lowood in 1957…

The January 1958 edition of ‘Australian Motor Sports’ covered ‘The Courier Mail’ Tourist Trophy Race Meeting in detail, the event held in typically hot Queensland November weather.

There were events for motor cycles as well as cars, open-wheelers both under and over 1500cc, touring cars and of course sports cars.

Star entries for the TT were the 2 Aston Martin DB3S’ of David McKay and Tom Sulman both back from Europe having campaigned Astons there. Bill Pitt was entered in the D Type Jaguar owned by local Jaguar dealers, Cyril and Geordie Anderson the balance of the entry Porsches, Triumph TR2 and TR3 and a large number of MG’s, for so many years the ‘backbone’ of Australian Motor Racing entries.

The TT was of 30 minutes duration with a compulsory pitstop to add interest and confuse spectators in this pre-digital sign age, with a Le Mans start.

McKay took an early lead from Pitt and Sulman but McKay spun twice in the first half of the race, once at ‘Mobilgas’ and once on the fast right hand elbow out of the same turn’…McKay foolishly tried to pass the D type here and once again misjudged and spun badly to the outside of the corner. He ended up only feet off the outside fence.

Pitt held the lead from McKay both taking their compulsory pitstop on Lap 9, David’s stop was the better of the two, McKay regained the lead from Pitt and Sulman he held to the end ‘Pitt drove impeccably but the gap was too great to bridge…McKay was lucky to win and undoubtedly the pitstop was the deciding factor. However it was part of the race conditions and the best car and driver team won’ AMS reported.

I will write about the Aston Martin DB3S’ in Australia soon.

As is so often when i start researching a topic i find bits and pieces which alters my original intent!, in this case a lot of information about Bill Pitt, a driver i was aware of but knew nothing about. This article is therefore in three parts;

.Short history of ‘XKD526’

.Reproduction of an article, slightly truncated, about Bill Pitt written by Les Hughes, which was originally published in the ‘Australian Jaguar Magazine’ in July 1987

.Short piece on the Lowood circuit.

d type

Bill Pitt at Lowood in 1957, car repainted bronze after its 1956 Albert Park accident. (Dick Willis)

Pitts Jaguar ‘XKD526’ was bought new by Cyril and ‘Geordie’ Anderson, longtime Jaguar enthusiast, occasional racing driver. It was a 1955 customer car, arriving in Australia in early 1956, Pitt chosen as the driver.

The D was very successful over the next 4 years including finishing 2nd in the 1957 Victorian Tourist Trophy at Albert Park and in the hands of Frank Matich when sold by the Andersons.

pitt

Bill Pitt, left, pondering the Jags performance at Lowood in 1957. (Dick Willis)

A summary of its race history is as follows; December 1955 car arrived in Australia; 30/1/56, Strathpine, Mrs Anderson, clocked at 120mph over flying quarter, still in 3nd gear!; 19/2/56, Leyburn sprints, Mrs Anderson, clocked 135.2mph over flying quarter, setting a state record.

March, Strathpine; Bill Pitt became the cars regular and very successful driver; 1956 race meeting at Lowood; gearbox problems precluded competition for 5 months; August, Lowood; New South Wales Road Racing Championships, Bathurst, 2nd to Stan Jones driving a 250F Maserati; Lowood TT, 1st.

Australian TT, Albert Park Olympic meeting, Melbourne, 4th. At the Argus Cup meeting at Albert Park the following weekend, the meeting a ‘double header’, Pitt rolled car and was thrown out. The D was badly damaged and trailered back to Brisbane being completely rebuilt, painted bronze, with squared-off mouth and air vents in the bonnet. Its first race post repair was back at Albert Park in March 1957 for the  Victorian TT, finishing 2nd.

XKD526 was repainted BRG; raced at Lowood and Bathurst, in 1958 it raced at Orange, Lowood, Bathurst and Albert Park and in 1959 raced at Bathurst and Lowood before being sold in late 1959 to Leaton Motors, a sports and performance car dealership in Sydney.

The car was repainted yellow with black stripe and driven initially by Frank Matich and later by Doug Chivas. In 1961 it was fitted with an aluminum fastback hardtop to enable it to compete in GT racing. Matich competed in June at Catalina Park, he contested in July the Australian GT Championships at Warwick Farm finishing 1st. In October he won the NSW Championship.  Doug Chivas raced the car at Warwick Farm in November, by that stage Matich was driving Leaton’s just imported Lotus 15 Climax.

The car was sold to Barry Topen who competed in the March 1962 Warwick Farm International Meeting before racing in Sandown Park’s  inaugural meeting, crashed it and damaging it. The D Type remained in a damaged state for some time and was sold around 1965 to Keith Russell (Sydney), who rebuilt it and raced occasionally during 1966 at Catalina Park, Warwick Farm, Hume Weir and Oran Park.

In 1967 Russell sold to it to Keith Berryman. The hardtop was removed and stored, Keith raced the car occasionally until 1970. In the mid-seventies he loaned it to lan Cummins to assist with his rebuild of ‘XKD510’. ‘XKD526’ was rebuilt by Cummins/Classic Autocraft at the same time, work included re-skinning the monocoque and making a new front frame. In 1982 the rebuild was complete, Berryman retained the car until it was sold at auction in 2015, at which point, the car, its whole history in Australia, left our shores.

matich on grid

Matich leaniang against the back of the car, Australian TT, Longford Tasman meeting March 1960. #32 John Ampt, Decca and Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Cliimax to his left and back. (Kevin Drage)

One of the most surreal sights I can recall was after buying a Ralt RT4 (the ex-Moreno Calder AGP winning RT4 ‘261’) off Keith Berryman some years back and travelling from Melbourne to a tiny little hamlet called Stockinbingal in the South Western Slopes area of NSW.

The place is a very small farming community, the nearest large town Gundagai 80 kilometres away. Having done the deal on the Ralt I asked to see the D Type.

We walked through some parched, brown paddocks amongst the sheep near the farmhouse to an unprepossessing run down concrete shed of uncertain vintage.

Keith threw open the door and there, sitting on axle stands inside a ‘huge plastic humidicrib’ an electric motor quietly humming as it circulated clean, fresh air around ‘the baby’, was the fabulous, immaculate, curvaceous flanks of a British Racing Green Jaguar D Type.

To say that it looked out of place does not do justice to the bizarre, surreal scene!

The car lived in country NSW for a long time, Keith a passionate owner for decades…hopefully it will come back to visit one day…

matich d type

Matich in the 1960 ATT Meeting at Longford. (oldracephotos.com)

Bill Pitt: by Les Hughes ‘Australian Jaguar Magazine’ 1987…

Born in Brisbane, Bill served in the Australian Navy during the Second World war, his first contact with motor racing was as a timekeeper during the Australian Grand Prix meeting at the Queensland Leyburn track in 1948.

From the Leyburn meeting on, all forms of motor sport became a passion for Bill, his friends and later his family. He became a competitor with increasing success and played a vital part in the direction of motor sport both in his Queensland base, and later on a national level. His friend Charlie Swinburn and several other MG drivers formed an active group and later Bill, Charlie and Ray Lewis had a motor garage called LPS Motors where their cars and other racing machinery were prepared.

Pitt’s first competition car was a humble 1938 Morris 12 Roadster, which provided his first trials win. Next came a serious racing car in the form of one of the revolutionary rear-engined Coopers. The Cooper had been recently imported by Les Taylor who had just stunned the motoring world by running his brand new XK120 from Darwin to Alice Springs in under 11 hours. Actual travelling time for the 954 miles was completed at over 100 mph, the final corrected speed was 90.62 mph which allowed for stops for fuel, kangaroos and other wildlife. Taylor sold some of his property, one of the items for sale was the Cooper which Bill bought, fitting it with a Manx Norton Engine.

The engine which Bill bought came via the Queensland Manx Norton distributor, Cyril Anderson, a former international dirt bike racer. Cyril’s other business interests included Mack Trucks, Western Transport and several motor car distribution networks, including Jaguar cars which sold under his Westco Motors banner. Cyril’s wife Doris – better known as ‘Geordie’ – made a name for herself by racing their aluminium bodied XK120 (chassis no 11).

The Anderson XK120.

That first contact through the purchase of the Manx Norton engine led to Cyril’s inviting Bill and Charlie Swinburn to partner Geordie in their XK120 Fixed Head Coupe (their earlier aluminium XK120 had been destroyed in a workshop fire) which he had entered in the first, and only, 24 hour race in Australia, to be held at Sydney’s Mt Druitt circuit (31-Jan-1954).

Despite having to replace a cracked carburettor with one from a spectator’s car, their XK120 won the race against  entries including a Jaguar C-Type, Aston Martin DB2, aluminium XK120, Bristol 400, Alfa Romeo 6C. This win gained an enormous amount of publicity for Jaguar, Westco Motors and the three drivers.

Bill was then working for the Queensland Nuffield distributors, Howard Motors, and had married Sherry.

Bill and Charlie then set up the running of the 1954 Australian Grand Prix through the streets of Southport on the Gold Coast. Bill entered his second Cooper, bought from Jack Brabham. The race contenders were Stan Jones, Maybach, Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar, Rex Taylor’s Lago Talbot and several Ferraris.

For this race Cyril Anderson had stripped the body of a black XK120, shortened the chassis, over which he then placed an aluminium body. Known as the Anderson Special, he entered the car for himself, whilst Geordie was to drive the XK120 FHC in a support race.

Saturday practice proved to be very bad indeed. Bill blew the engine of the Cooper, Cyril was very slow and uncertain of the Jaguar Special, and Geordie had an accident, hit a tree and the FHC burst into flames! As a result Cyril asked Bill to take over the Jaguar Special for the Sunday race.

Bill readily accepted, but as he sat on the grid he was trying to become familiar with a car he had never sat in before – not the most comforting way to begin a Grand Prix. After spearing off  at over 100 mph at the end of the straight, rejoining only to have to stop and replace a deflating tyre, he was classified 12th. Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar won.

Bill’s employer, Howard Motors, used his sporting talents also, and for the 1955 Redex Trial they entered a Morris Oxford for Bill, Dick Howard and Bill Anderson.

D Type ‘XKD526’

The major decision for Bill and Charlie Swinburn in 1955 though, was whether or not to take up the offer from Cyril Anderson to become partners in ownership of a brand new D-Type.

In Melbourne, Bib Stillwell, racer and Jaguar dealer, had placed an order for one through Jack Bryson. After long and careful deliberation, Bill remembers he and Charlie parted with 2,000 pounds each for the car. As it turned out, Charlie never drove the D-Type, and Geordie did only briefly. Virtually all of the competition was done by Bill. He recalls the friendly rivalry between he and Stillwell, they stayed at each other’s homes when interstate.

Bill rolled the D-Type in Melbourne at the 1956 Olympic Games meeting at the very fast Albert Park Circuit. The ‘greats’, included Stirling Moss, Jean Behra and Ken Wharton, were out from Europe with their latest machinery.

Bill Pitt in XKD526 – Albert Park, Melbourne 1956

For Bill Pitt the competition was fierce against Bib Stillwell, and in that near fatal race, Stillwell got the jump at the start and lead Bill into the fast, first left-hand corner. He recalls how he closed quickly under braking into Melford Corner before realising he had gone into it far too fast. The car was still under control, and as he continued the power slide and concentrated on the short burst into the next corner, suddenly it was all over before he knew what had happened. As the D-Type slid wide, and the power was applied, the back wheel touched the stone curbing and at those speeds the car simply twisted into the air and slammed down on its back.

As the beautiful green D-Type lay upside down the scattered hay bales caught fire and quickly spread to the car. The marshals were convinced that Bill was squashed under the car, but couldn’t right it till the fire was out. When that was done, and the car was back on its wheels, they were shocked to find the cockpit empty. Bill was thrown out while the car was in mid air, and in a state of shock, and worry about Jack Brabham’s Cooper which was following, he jumped a six foot wall of hay bales unseen by officials.

The damaged D-Type was returned to Brisbane for a rebuild which was completed in time to return to Melbourne for a meeting in February the following year, this time painted bronze (only for a short while).

In the pits. Albert Park 1957. Painted bronze after the rebuild following crash the previous year. (Ian Richardson).

 Leading a 300S Maserati around Golf Course Corner, Albert Park, 1957.(Ian Richardson)

The D-Type was sold in 1959 to Leaton Motors, the history of the car from that point outlined above.

Keith Berryman (and family) with XKD526 at the 1988 Gold Coast Jaguar Rally, together with the excellent replica built by Classic Autocraft for Don Biggar (now owned by Frank Moore)

Jaguar Mk VIII Rally Car.

Bill was approached by Anderson to drive a Jaguar Mk VIII automatic in the 1957 Mobilgas Round Australia Trial. Geordie would partner him, and so too Jimmy Abercrombie, workshop foreman at Westco.

The big cream and grey Jaguar was shipped to Melbourne for the start on August 21, 1957. A field of 94 entrants competed in this, the last of the major round-Australia trials of the era. The toughest opposition came from the all conquering Volkswagens of previous winners, Eddie Perkins, (Larry Perkins father) Laurie Whithead and Greg Cusack, whilst Porsche entered three cars. An automatic had never finished the event, let alone a Jaguar, or even a car as big as the Mk VIII.

The Volkswagen of Laurie Whitehead was the victor ahead of five more Volkswagens, but sensationally, next came the huge Jaguar automatic in seventh place outright, making what Bill Pitt still believes is one of Jaguars greatest competition triumphs, but which outside Australia, was virtually unrecognised. Of the 94 starters, 52 cars finished. Geordie was awarded the Woman’s Prize, and the Jaguar was first in Class D (over 2500 cc), giving the team the total prize money of 760 pounds.

Touring Car Racing.

Lofty England dissuaded the Brisbane team from buying a Lister Jaguar, suggesting to them that he would build a ‘works’ specification Mk 1 3.4 saloon. When Bill and Cyril ordered the 3.4 they didn’t know that David McKay was having an identical car built to replace the less modified ‘Grey Pussy’.

By the time both had their new cars, Ron Hodgson had bought the first McKay machine. Crowds flocked to see the Aussie Holdens take on the best of British, firstly the Jaguars, then the Mini Coopers and the Lotus Cortinas, and that set the scene which was later taken over by the Ford versus Holden halcyon days of touring car racing in Australia.

Bill Pitt and the British Racing Green ‘Mk 1’ were star attractions everywhere they went, and soon the Geoghans bought the Hodgson ‘Mk 1’. Hodgson built a brand new Mk 2 and then Bob Jane arrived with his famous white Mk 2. Bill won many titles and important races, his second place to David McKay in the very first Australian Touting Car Championship, and then his own victory in the second title (1961) were the highlights.

The life of the saloons was much shorter than the old D-Type, however, and with the arrival of the big US V8’s, Bill could see the writing on the wall and in 1962 the car was sold.

Bill’s racing career was over, although he continued to work within CAMS, and for Westco Motors until 1965.

Confederation of Australian Motor Sport.

Bill Pitt was involved in many facets of  motor sport from the outset, and as Queensland delegate to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) he put a lot of time into the betterment of the sport.

Retirement.

It was not until Lofty England’s first visit to Australia in 1981 that the two met for the first time, despite the many phone calls and letters exchanged during their racing and business contacts. Bill and his wife Sherry now live on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. Australian motor sport, and the Jaguar marque in particular, owe a great deal to this quiet, unassuming and very pleasant man.

Bill and Geordie meet again – March 1993

 Bill Pitt at Queensland Raceway GTP Nations Cup Race meeting. 22nd July 2001.

Celebrating 40 years of the Jaguar E-Type and 40 years since his Touring Car Title.

 

Lowood curcuit map

Lowoood Airfield was built on 620 acres 43 miles from Brisbane, construction commenced in September 1941

Australian and American Squadrons operating Tiger Moths, Kittyhawks, Avro Ansons, P39 Aerocobras and Beauforts operated from there from 1942 to late 1945.

Lowood’s use from motor racing commenced after the war but continued pressure from local religious groups lead to its disuse on Sundays…despite this many meetings were held from 1948-52, in late 1956 the Queensland Racing Drivers Club acquired the land.

The QRDC sold the track in 1966 moving its operations to Lakeside, the area was then subdivided into small farms, what was the main runway is now a local road!

lowood brochure

D Type: the Drivers Perspective…

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/june-2004/50/d-type-cast

Bibliography…

Peter Dunns ‘Australia at War’  ‘Australian Motor Sports’ January 1958, Article by Les Hughes in the July 1987 issue of ‘Australian Jaguar Magazine’, Stephen Dalton for the research and archival material

Photo Credits…

Heinz Federbusch Archive via Dick Simpson and The Nostalgia Forum, Kevin Drage, oldracephotos.com, Dick Willis, Ian Richardson

Finito…

jack from kling

Baptism at Aintree – Karl Kling’s Mercedes W196 & Roberto Mieres’ Maserati 250F push Jack at his 1st World Championship F1 event. Cooper T40 Bristol. 1955 British GP. (Jack Brabham Story)

Sixty years ago today, Jack Brabham made his Formula 1 GP debut at Aintree, but first he had to build the car…

The first half of 1955 was full of many goings on for Jack Brabham. With encouragement from the UK RAC motor sporting administrator, Dean Delamont, Jack was convinced to head over to the UK for some motor racing. Little did anyone know the success this would bring – although it was hardly immediate.

It the pages of the February 1955 ‘Australian Motor Sports’ there’s a brief piece on Jack and his trip to the Continent and it rumours that he had ordered a Cooper-Alta and might have a trial drive with Mercedes Benz. To finance such a trip he had to sell his highly developed & successful ‘RedeX Special’ – aka Cooper-Bristol. Stan Jones, having wrecked his Maybach II at the 1954 Australian GP purchased it. Just prior to selling though, Jack had his last race in the ‘RedeX’ at the January 31, 1955 Gnoo Blas meeting. This was a big meeting for the country NSW circuit with international drivers’ Peter Whitehead and Prince Bira running Ferrari & Maserati respectively. For Jack another part of financing the UK journey also meant selling his lathe and some other equipment – all to his later lament.

jack ibsley

The unloved ex-Whitehead Cooper-Alta at Ibsley. (Jack Brabham Story)

Flying to the UK, meant initially leaving his wife, Betty and young son, Geoffrey in Australia. Soon after arriving Jack took delivery of the ex Peter Whitehead Cooper-Alta. In fact he originally set up camp at Whitehead’s Chalfont St Peter’s race garage before a slightly later move to Bob Chase’s RJC Motors operation at Saltdean. His racing activities in the UK, began with the Cooper-Alta at the April 11, 1955 Goodwood Easter Monday meeting. The same meeting Cooper Cars debuted their petite 1100cc Coventry-Climax T39 ‘bobtail’ sports car. Their first foray into what would become a successful ‘Climax’ engine relationship.

brabham GP-1955-debut

Brabham’s brand new, self built Cooper T40 Bristol, Aintree, British GP 1955. Car and driver victorious in the 1955 Australian GP, Port Wakefield later in the year. (unattributed)

History tells us that Jack Brabham never said much, he let his ability do the talking, whether by his driving or engineering skills. But he knew how to get what he wanted. Neither Charles, nor John Cooper ever officially interviewed Jack for a job at Cooper’s Surbiton works. He just hung around often enough until he was one of them.

Despite its Cooper heritage, Jack’s lack of enthusiasm remained for the Cooper-Alta. Even after an engine blow-up at the April 30 Ibsley meeting on the old RAF base, saw him convert it to Bristol power. Meaning he was never going to be satisfied continuing to race that car.

So having gained his new friendship with the likeable John Cooper, Jack was allowed use of Cooper’s Surbiton facilities to knock together what would be his own interpretation of Cooper’s new T39 ‘bobtail’ – shoehorning a big engine into a small sports car. One could even say this was an early incarnation of what would evolve into the Can Am style cars of the mid 60s and onwards.

t40 construction

The bare bones of the Cooper T40 Bristol under construction. Tubular ‘curvy in the usual Cooper way’ chassis frame. Front and rear suspension upper transverse leaf spring and lower wishbones with Arnstrong shocks, drum brakes, 2 litre Bristol 6 cylinder engine.(Jack Brabham Story)

Part of Jack building his ‘streamliner’ F1 car, involved adding 50mm to the chassis’ wheelbase to accommodate the familiar to him, 2 litre Bristol 6 cylinder lump – in place of the 1100 Climax 4. Both built with the engine behind the driver. Worth noting is that in some official entry lists the car is claimed to have a 2.2 litre Bristol. Apparently that was the intent, but not reality. It was also built devoid of lights and anything that would add unwarranted weight.

t40 engine

The Bristol 2 litre 6 cylinder in the rear of the T40. (Jack Brabham Story)

This project later tagged as T40 in the Cooper genealogy stakes – with 2 constructed. One Jack would use himself, this car was allocated chassis number CB/1/55 and another that Bob Chase’s RJC Motors would briefly run for Mike Keen. I say briefly, because unfortunately a crash at the August 20, 1955 Goodwood 9 hour took Mike’s life and the ever present problem of fire destroyed the car.

Jack Brabham’s UK presence hadn’t gone unnoticed by the UK specialist motoring press, gaining a few comments in race reports. Autosport magazine even showed off the incomplete T40 in their pages the day before its first race. Admittedly the photo would have been taken sometime before that, but it was a brand new car when it hit the circuit – with no test time.

jack and autosport

Autosport 15 July 1955 Cooper/Brabham announcement.

Liverpool’s Aintree circuit was the venue for the running of the July 16, 1955 British GP meeting. This meeting became Jack’s F1 debut race. The programme even mentions ‘The Cooper Grand Prix entry is a prototype of a full team to be built to race in 1956.’ A slightly premature comment as it turned out and the only F1 Grand Prix the T40 would take part. The car’s haste to complete meant new car sorting was lacking and a rear of grid start. Having liberated the Harley Davidson clutch setup from his Australian ‘RedeX’ C-B before sale, with some irony it was this part that let Jack down at Aintree making for an early retirement at 30 of the intended 90 laps the outcome. The dominant Mercedes Benz W196 team that included Juan Manuel Fangio, Karl Kling and Stirling Moss, saw Stirling taking race honours.

Brabham-Aintree-55-small

Jack Brabham’s Cooper T40 Bristol from Ken Wharton Vanwall VW55 equal 9th, with victor Stirling Moss about to round them up in his Mercedes W196. (Bill Henderson)

Despite the niggling start Jack had more faith in the T40 than the Cooper-Alta. What followed over the ensuing month were national events at July 30 Crystal Palace & August 1 Brands Hatch with further retirements at both. Then crossing over the Scottish border his luck with the T40 began to change at the August 6 Charterhall meeting. Finally two 4th placed finishes in his Heat and Final. Continuing into the following week’s damp August 13 Snetterton. At that meeting Jack was able to mix it amongst some of the motor racing luminaries. Such as Harry Schell & Ken Wharton in Vanwall’s, Stirling Moss in his privately entered Maserati 250F and Roy Salvadori 250F. That being the finishing order for Snetterton’s RedeX Trophy race with Jack slotting in between Stirling and Roy for another 4th place. Had he not spun during his tussle with Moss it may well have been a 3rd place greeting him. This race alone was enough to convince Jack he would return to the UK in 1956 as he was about to send the Cooper T40 home to Australia. Jack and Betty then set to return to Sydney in late September to catch up with their son and more motor racing.

brabham and hawthorn

Jacks thoroughly modern mid engined, ‘central seat sports derived F1 car’ ahead of the over the hill Ferrari 625 of Mike Hawthorn, monstering the little Cooper. MH finished equal 6th in the race with Fazz teammate Eugenio Castellotti. Things got better for Ferrari, the Lancia D50 ‘gifts’ were not too far away! (unattributed)

autocar

The year of 1955 was also a period whereby other Aussies had made the trip to England for a racing holiday. Orders had been placed with Aston Martin for 3 of their DB3S racing sports cars. The ‘Kangaroo Stable’ as it was so named with members being Tony Gaze, David McKay, Les Cosh, Dick Cobden, Tom Sulman & Jack Brabham. Circumstances played against them though. Late delivery of the cars didn’t help, but it was the June 11-12, 1955 running of Le Mans that put the skids on racing soon afterwards with a number of events cancelled as a result to the Pierre Levegh Mercedes going into the crowd at Le Mans.

1955 Hyeres Kangaroo

‘Kangaroo Stable’ Aston Martin DB3S at the Hyeres 12 Hour, France 29 May 1955. L>R Gaze, McKay, Brabham, Cosh and Cobden standing near the post. Only Tom Sulman is missing from the shot. Race won by Canonica/Munaron Ferrari 750 Monza, then came the Kangaroo Stable trio; Gaze/McKay 2nd, Cosh/Cobden 3rd and Sulman/Brabham 4th. (David McKay ‘Behind The Wheel’)

Jack Brabham was present at the famous French road course that year, but as a reserve driver for the Bristol team. He got to qualify, but never received the call up to put his helmet on for the race. That may well have been one of several omens Jack was granted in 1955 and over his outstanding career.

Cooper Cars Ltd also had a presence at Le Mans with the John Brown/Edgar Wadsworth Cooper T39 1100 and the Whitehead Brothers Cooper-Jaguar that year, but it was the infancy of Jack and John’s friendship, hence no involvement with the Surbiton marque’s effort

Another instance of Brabham luck was just before he headed for home. September 17 was the Dundrod RAC Tourist Trophy meeting in Ireland, with Jack there to share the Michael O’Shea owned Cooper T39 with London driver, Jim Mayers. An inexperienced French driver, Vicomte Henri de Barry created annoyance for several drivers as he baulked their progress, with those drivers’ having to take risks to get past to further their race on the testing Irish road course. Unfortunately the situation ended as badly as it could with a fiery crash at Deer’s Leap involving several cars. Jim was one of 2 drivers to die at that crash scene – the Cooper scattered to oblivion. This event would also claim another driver, elsewhere around the course. Although not knowing otherwise, Dean Delamont had sought out Betty Brabham, thinking it was Jack involved in the main crash – only to find him in the pit. Jim and Jack had flipped a coin to decide who did the first stint. We know who won…

jack and betty

Together in the UK, Betty Brabham followed Jack mid-year. While their son, Geoffrey stayed with his grandparents in Sydney. Cooper T40 Bristol. (Jack Brabham Story)

So as can be seen there were a few familiar names that helped establish Jack Brabham in those early days in the UK – Whitehead, Chase, Cooper & Delamont. The Bristol marque also played its part with their engine and the Le Mans reserve driver gig. Through them, Jack Brabham, Jim Mayers & Mike Keen are also entwined with their 1955 Le Mans Bristol team involvement. Taking out 7th (Mayers), 8th (Keen) & 9th places behind Jaguar’s Mike Hawthorn, Ivor Bueb winning entry. It was all a taste of the next 15 years Jack would encounter in the highest levels of motor racing, including building more racing cars.

Etcetera…

jack

Jack shipped the Cooper Bristol home to Australia at the end of 1955, and in the saltbush country of the new Port Wakefield circuit, 100Km from Adelaide, won the 1955 Australian Grand Prix on 10 October. A lucky win from Reg Hunt’s ailing Maserati A6GCM and Doug Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago T26C. The first mid-engined AGP win. (unattributed)

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

‘The Jack Brabham Story’ Jack Brabham and Doug Nye, ‘Behind The Wheel’ David McKay, Bill Henderson

Finito…