Posts Tagged ‘Austin Miller’

(P D’Abbs)

Beautiful Peter D’Abbs photograph of Lex Davison’s Aston Martin DBR4/250, chassis number ‘1’ 3 litre with Austin Miller, Cooper T51 Climax in the background, Phillip Island, 23 October 1960…

Lex became famous for his retirements from racing and then his Dame Nellie Melba type returns to the grid, his 1958 AGP win at Bathurst was the last time he raced the marvellous ex-Ascari/Gaze Ferrari 500/625 and then he took a break, but heading into 1960 he planned to take a holiday in Europe with his wife Diana and to acquire a new racer.

He watched the increased ‘Cooperisation’ of Australian racing from the sidelines and decided that a modern incarnation of his HWM Jaguar would be competitive with the growing number of mid-engined cars. He initially pitched the idea of a DB4 3.7 litre engine in a DBR4 Grand Prix chassis but Aston Martin Racing Manager John Wyer assured him the motor would not readily fit and that the David Brown five-speed transaxle, already marginal, would be pushed beyond its design limits.

After plenty of argy-bargy about price a compromise was settled upon which involved DBR4 chassis 1 fitted with a 3 litre DBR1 sportscar engine, and the purchase of a DB4GT road car- rather a nice combination of roadie and racer!

The car was completed by late March 1960 and after testing by works test driver Jack Fairman and Roy Salvadori over two days at Goodwood the car was shipped to Australia. Davison drove the car on the second, and wetter of the days to within a fraction of a second of Fairman’s best.

It appears Lex raced the car, the first of the DBR4s built- raced by Roy Salvadori during the factories abortive 1959 Grand Prix season, four times in 1960.

An initial test session with Allan Ashton and the AF Hollins crew at Phillip Island after arrival at Port Melbourne was followed by THAT ‘missed a win by a bees dick’ Australian Grand Prix at Lowood on 12 June where Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati led Davo home by an official margin of one half of a second after a little over an hour of Grand Prix motor racing of the first order- click here for a feature on Mildren inclusive of a full race report on the AGP; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/08/mildrens-unfair-advantage/

Davison in his new car, Aston DBR4/250 ‘1’ during the 1960 AGP at Lowood, Queensland (B Thomas)

 

Davison and Mildren hard at it at Lowood during the AGP- flaggies absorbed in the battle, not sure if it is Glynn Scott or Jon Leighton’s Cooper Climax behind (B Thomas)

Lex and the boys made the long trip back to Queensland in September and ran it again at Lowood in another Gold Star round for third place behind Alec and Bib Stillwell, both T51 mounted, then at the non-championship meeting at Phillip Island in October and finally the soggy Warwick Farm opening meeting on 18 December where he was fourth behind the T51s of Stillwell, John Youl and Austin Miller having started from the front row.

Famously these Aston Martins were at least two years too late to be competitive in Grand Prix racing- the honour of the last successful front-engined GP car goes to the Ferrari Dino 246 and that of the most sophisticated to the Lotus 16 Climax, if not the most reliable.

Two of the magnificent shapely machines came to Australia in 1960, Davo’s ‘DBR4/250 (1)’ and Bib’s ‘DBR4/250 (3)’- Stillwell had an each way bet, he had a Cooper or three as well as the Feltham beastie whereas all of Lex’ eggs were in one basket- until he borrowed one of Stillwell’s Cooper T51s and ‘nicked’ the 1961 Mallala AGP from under the noses of the established ‘water-cooled’ Cooper aces. I say that as Lex had been winning races and hillclimbs in two Phil Irving fettled Vincent engined Coopers for years- he was hardly unfamiliar with the handling characteristics of these little mid-engined missiles.

Ain’t she sweet our friend is thinking. Ballarat 1961 (P Skelton)

 

Davison’s DBR4 ‘1’ in the Ballarat paddock with Warwick Cumming at the wheel and perhaps Allan Ashton doing the pressures. I am not sure whether #4 or 14 is correct but both shots are Ballarat (P Coleby)

Into 1961 Lex raced the Aston in the late January Warwick Farm 100- Q11 and DNF oil leak,  the race was won by the Walker/Moss Lotus 18 Climax, Davison then contested the Victorian Trophy at Ballarat Airfield on 12 February- the colour photo taken above by Phillip Skelton at that meeting could almost be a BP PR shot!

This time the car was out after completing 9 laps with gearbox dramas- the hot and dusty race was won by Dan Gurney from Graham Hill in BRM P48s- it was the only international win for these cars.

Three weeks later Davison and Stillwell took the cars to Longford- whilst Bib practiced the Aston he raced his Cooper whereas Davo raced to the finish of the 24 lap 100 miler albeit in fifth place behind Roy Salvadori, Bill Patterson, John Youl and Austin Miller in 2.2 litre and 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engined Cooper T51s.

Davison howls off Kings Bridge, Longford during the 1961 ‘Longford Trophy’, Aston DBR4/250 ‘1’ (oldracephotos.com.au/JSaward)

 

Dunlop HQ at Longford in 1961 with Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S and Bib Stillwell’s Aston Martin DBR4/250 ‘3’ in attendance. This car was built to a later spec than Davo’s DBR4/250 ‘1’- in fact it was of the same specs of his new in 1961 chassis ‘4’ inclusive of Maser transaxle and ‘80 degree’ engine (R Lambert)

 

Davison, practice at Longford in 1961, DBR4 ‘1’ (G Smedley)

After Longford Lex shipped the car back to the UK, it needed a major rebuild as ‘the chassis was breaking up’ wrote Graham Howard- the AF Hollins crew had repaired chassis tubes and added strengthening gussets to the machine in their Armadale, Melbourne workshop between the Ballarat and Longford meetings.

Lex’ plan was to race an Aston Martin at Le Mans and contest a number of Intercontinental Formula races that ‘61 season. In the event, after ongoing discussions with John Wyer Aston Martin provided Davison a later chassis, ‘the sister car to Stillwell’s later model DBR4’, chassis ‘4’ which was built but unraced in 1959, for Lex to use at Silverstone in July and Brands Hatch in August.

It was equipped, as was chassis ‘1’ with a five speed Maserati transaxle instead of the heavy, recalcitrant David Brown unit, the latest cylinder head design which had the valves arranged at an included angle of 80 degrees rather than the earlier variants 95 degrees- in 3 litre form it was good for circa 296bhp @ 6700rpm, a good deal more mumbo than the 230 or so BHP of an FPF 2.5 but of course the chassis was no svelte nymph.

This article tells a bit of Bib and Lex’ 1961 European Adventures here; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/22/aston-martin-db4gt-zagato-2vev-lex-davison-and-bib-stillwell/

(TC March)

Davo above having his first race in the second Aston DBR4/250 3 litre at Silverstone during the July 8 1961 British Empire Trophy Intercontinental Formula race- DNF gearbox quill-shaft after 17 laps, up front after 245 km were Moss and Surtees in Cooper T53 Climaxes.

Davison had a busy weekend as he contested the GT race in John Ogier’s Aston Martin DB4GT, ‘a bit of an old nail’ and finished third behind the Ferrari 250GTs of Stirling Moss and Graham Whitehead.

The Australian’s DBR4 drive received good press coverage but, Graham Howard wrote that it added to confusion for later historians as to which car Davo raced. The Motor described the machine as an ex-works DBR4 Grand Prix car fitted with a much modified 3 litre sportscar engine, whilst Autosport added to the confusion by noting that ‘a new chassis was fitted.’

Aston Martin themselves didn’t help either, in a letter to Lex about a variety of things including shipment of the car to Australia in late 1961 Wyer advised ‘the Aston had now been shipped, although there had been a mix-up with chassis numbers and it had been stamped DBR4/1 rather than DBR4/4′.

To be clear on this point, Graham Howard makes no comment about the chassis number of Lex’ first Aston, nor does Doug Nye whilst Anthony Pritchard, his book published later, says that the car is generally accepted to be DBR4 ‘1’. John Blanden in the second edition of his book simply lists one car and applies two chassis numbers to the ‘one entity’.

The correct position seems to be that the two cars were quite separate- Lex raced DBR4 ‘1’ in Australia, returned it to Feltham in early 1961 then raced DBR4 ‘4’- the unused 1959 built chassis in the UK and then later in Australia. The chassis, body and engine were different, built to a later spec- whether the Maserati gearbox and other componentry fitted to chassis ‘1’, which was interchangeable, was carried over to ‘4’- who knows.

What is clear is that Lex was not happy with his new car after Silverstone, Autosport quoted Lex as saying its ‘handling was nothing like the original car.’

A month later Davison contested his second and last Intercontinental race, the Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch on 7 August.

This time, in dry, sunny conditions he brought the ‘new dinosaur’ home in sixth place, ‘bruising’ the nose of the car- up front, 4 laps up the road in fact, Jack Brabham headed Jim Clark in Cooper T53 Climax and Lotus 18 Climax respectively.

The relative size of the Aston Martin is put into context by Lorenzo Bandini’s Centro Sud Cooper T51 Maserati going underneath Davison into Surtees at Brands- the Italian was seventh and last of the finishers and several months later was a popular contestant in our 1962 summer internationals.(Getty)

 

Davison cruising through the Silverstone paddock during the July 1961 International Trophy meeting- first race in DBR4/250 ‘4’ (unattributed)

A week or so after Brands the family headed home to Australia with the Aston Martin left behind at the factory for further work including repair of the panel damage sustained at the Kent circuit and to fit 12.5:1 pistons to suit the alcohol based fuel Lex used in Australia.

Howard reports that Davison was still unhappy with the handling of the car, he quotes from a letter written by Lex to Brian Josceleyne of the Aston Martin Owners Club thus, ‘My Grand Prix car is still at the works, where they are endeavouring to sort out some of the handling bugs, for the new chassis proved rather twitchy, unlike my earlier one which was a superb handling car and could be thrown about in a rather flippant way.’

Davo returned home, as stated above, via America including Hawaii, in time to win the AGP in South Australia on 9 October in one of Stillwell’s Cooper T51s, a car he rented from Bib after it became clear the DBR4 would not arrive in Australia on time for the race, that story is here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/29/the-naughty-corner-renta-gp-winner/

Pat Hawthorn in the second of the Davison DBR4/250 Astons, chassis ‘4’. The eagle eyed will note that the induction and exhaust ports of this car/engine are the reverse of the earlier machine (P Hawthorn)

There was still life in the old design though- Davison raced the Aston Martin to second place in the Victorian Trophy at Calder behind Stillwell’s Cooper T53 Climax in late February 1962 and then, again not too far from home, the Sandown opening meeting ‘Sandown Park International’ on 12 March where he was eighth behind a swag of Climax engined Coopers and Lotuses as well as the Chuck Daigh driven Scarab RE Buick 3.8 litre V8- it too was a mid-engined machine.

By that stage he had ‘got with the strength’ and was racing a Cooper T53 ‘Lowline’ which famously met its maker in a huge accident at Longford on March 4 caused by a gust of wind catching the car whilst airborne on the hump in the road before the Longford pub- it was a very lucky escape. The Yeoman Credit Cooper was geared for 170mph @ 6700rpm that weekend, Davison described the accident, raconteur that he was, to John Wyer in one of the many letters they exchanged.

‘I was managing to lap at 110 to 112 mph, some three seconds faster than Brabham’s lap record of the year before, when I became airborne over a hump some 200 yards prior to a 90-degree corner in the middle of a little town. A gust of wind caught me and I landed in a drain beside the road. I motored along this at some 140 mph causing some uneasiness to the police, radio announcers, officials, television cameramen and various others cluttering up the entrance to the escape road. I regained the road again but the heavy rear-engined end slid in the gravel and I shot down the road sideways. I hit a tree with the nose, which plucked everything forward of the soles of my feet off the car and spun the car around in the process. It then shot along a hotel wall at window height, demolishing the floral display, pot plants etc, then a 360 degree spin around the entrance porch of the hotel and back up the wall again. The car then fell off the hotel wall and back into the road and shot across the road backwards into a grain mill. I shook what was left from me and went back into the pub and ordered a brandy. They even made me pay for it, which was the cruellest blow of all.’

After the international visitors returned home Lex ran the Aston at Sandown in May 1962 winning a race for front engined racing cars but did not run it again until February 1963 when he gave it a gallop at Calder in part to demonstrate it to potential purchasers- in the process he provided 5 thrilling laps for spectators in a three car match race with Bryan Thomson’s supercharged Cooper T51 Climax and Frank Matich’s new, works Elfin Catalina Ford pushrod 1.5.

The Aston Martin was advertised for sale in Australian Motor Sports during 1962 and was soon acquired by garage proprietor and Calder Raceway part owner Pat Hawthorn who is photographed above proudly showing off his new acquisition at his ‘Clayleigh Service Station’ in Clayton, not too far at all from Sandown where, by March 1963, he was mixing it with the heavies in the ‘Sandown Park International’…

Pat Hawthorn on the way to fourth place in the Advertiser Trophy 1963 Mallala Gold Star round- and kids just want to have fun below! Circuit uncertain. Aston Martin DBR4/250 ‘4’ (P Hawthorn)

 

(P Hawthorn)

Hawthorn raced the car through until 1966 in both Victoria and South Australia, perhaps the last championship points the car scored were in the 14 October 1963 Advertiser Trophy, Mallala Gold Star round where he was fourth amongst the mid-engined hordes, behind the Cooper T55 of John Youl, Bib Stillwell’s Brabham BT4 and Wally Mitchell’s MRD (aka Brabham BT1) Ford Formula Junior.

Pat sold the car to UK historic racer Neil Corner in 1966- there he was a consistent race winner, the ‘Calder Raceway’ signed Rice Trailer cut quite a dash on UK Motorways! DBR4 ‘4’ of course still exists.

Aston Martin DBR4/250 cutaway drawing, 95 degree engine spec (conceptbunny.com)

Chassis Numbers and Development of the GP cars in summary…

My ‘standard reference’ for all things chassis numbers is Allen Brown’s great site oldracingcars.com (ORC)- i say great in the sense that most of the ‘standard texts’ were written in the pre-internet days before it was possible to debate the merits of ‘what is what’ and ‘which is which’ amongst knowledgeable enthusiasts to land on generally agreed positions based on facts which have been often vigorously debated.

Using ‘Howard’ (see bibliography) published in 2004, ‘Nye’ in 1993, ‘Blanden’ in 2004, ‘Pritchard’ in 2006 and ‘ORC’ as my source material the Aston Martin Grand Prix cars built are as follows and their destiny, i think and hope…

Reg Parnell does all the work as Peter Whitehead and Tony Gaze share a joke- Aston Martin DP155/1 at the Dunedin Wharf rail head, New Zealand, January 1956 (T Selfe)

1. DP155

Aston’s first ‘toe in the water’ GP exercise was the DB3S based ‘DP155’ i wrote about at length six months ago, its most significant racing was with Reg Parnell at the wheel during the 1956 New Zealand Internationals, click here; https://primotipo.com/2019/09/05/the-gp-aston-martin-dp155/

‘Its bones’ were converted back into a DB3S albeit there is a car doing the rounds in the UK ‘sorta in the style’ of DP155 which has none of the original car’s core componentry.

Getting more serious, in the summer of 1956, Aston Martin’s engineers designed and built a spaceframe chassis to which they fitted a short-stroke version of their 3 litre sportscar ‘RB6’ engine- this 2493cc DOHC, two valve, 50DCO Weber fed engine produced 250bhp @ 7800rpm on the Avgas which was mandatory from 1958.

The design was period typical in having upper and lower wishbone suspension at the front, with torsion bars and co-axial shock absorbers and de Dion rear suspension with torsion bars the springing medium, the axle located by a Watts linkage, radius rods with Armstrong providing the shocks front and rear.

A transaxale was used at the rear- the unpopular with drivers David Brown ‘CG537’ five speeder, Girling provided the brakes, Borrani the wire wheels and initially rack and pinion steering from the Morris Minor was used- later the DB4 rack and pinion was adopted.

Roy Salvadori in practice aboard DBR4 ‘1’ during practice at Zandvoort, 1959 Dutch GP weekend, DNF overheating after 13 laps- Jo Bonnier won in a BRM P25, BRM’s first championship GP win (Getty)

2. DBR4/250 chassis number ‘1’

‘This prototype’ was built in time for testing by Reg Parnell and Roy Salvadori at MIRA in December 1957 and then further testing there into February 1958 before being put to one side as sportscar racing was prioritised.

Stirling Moss as you all know, won the Argentinian GP in a Rob Walker Cooper T45 Climax in early 1958- time was of the essence with the DBR4/250- oh so sexy a beast, it was in effect  obsolete by the time of its public launch in April 1959.

By then the car was fitted with modified DB4GT coil and wishbone front suspension which was more practical than the torsion bar arrangement but was 15 pounds heavier- in a car which was already a pork-chop.

Salvadori’s second in the BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone flattered to deceive- initial problems were an engine at the wrong end of the car (cheap shot), too heavy and most critically engine bearing lubrication issues meant revs had to be kept down to an uncompetitive level.

Aston Martin won Le Mans in 1959- Salvadori and Carroll Shelby took a splendid win in the DBR1 and were poised to win the World Sportscar Championship so the F1 program, rightfully, took second place in the allocation of scarce corporate resources.

In the winter of 1959/1960 chassis ‘1’ and ‘2’ were modified, after surgery they were two inches slimmer and some 55 lb lighter. ‘Merely replacing Brown’s own heavy and baulky ‘CG537′ transaxle with one from Maserati (the Type 5M-60) saved 50 lb. The Aston gearchange, reliable, but heavy and slow- tolerable in a sportscar, was out of place in Formula 1’ Doug Nye wrote.

After negotiations between Davison and Wyer DBR4 ‘1’ was fitted with engine number ‘RB6/300/1’ from sportscar chassis ‘DBR1/1’ and shipped to Australia, John Blanden wrote.

DBR4 ‘1’ was returned to the UK by Davison in early 1961 and was eventually bought by Neil Corner, to use as a spare for his DBR4 ‘4’ he ran in historic racing with chassis ‘1’ built into a complete car by Geoffrey Marsh in the early eighties.

Front and rear suspension of Trintignant’s DBR5 ‘1’, British GP weekend, Silverstone 1960. Upper and lower front wishbones, torsion bar, roll bar, Armstrong shock, Girling solid disc brakes- the major difference to the DBR4 is the use of a torsion bar instead of a coil spring. De Dion rear suspension, Armstrong shock and radius rods- same as DBR4 (Getty)

 

Carroll Shelby during the 1959 Portuguese GP at Monsanto Park, eighth in DBR4 ‘2’, Moss the winner in a Cooper T51 Climax (LAT)

3. DBR4/250 ‘2’

Was Carroll Shelby’s chassis in 1959, and like ‘1’ contested only the Dutch, British and Portuguese GPs that year.

1959/1960 winter modifications as above.

DBR4 ‘2’ was scrapped.

Bib Stillwell susses the equipment, DBR4 ‘3’ in the Ardmore paddock, NZ 1962 (E Stevens)

4. DBR4/250 ‘3’

This car was lighter than the first two cars built by virtue of a stressed skin body centre section, one piece de Dion tube and lighter Maserati gearbox- its race debut was at Monza in September 1959.

Salvadori retired it whilst running sixth- Moss won in a Walker Cooper T51 Climax. Front engined Ferrari 246 and BRM P25s filled six of the top eight places so a good front-engined machine could still do well- on fast circuits at least!

Stillwell bought the car on a bit of a whim, frustrated as he was by not being able to buy a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine for his Cooper T51 at the time- the motors were in short supply, allocation preference was to the ‘works favoured or contracted’ Cooper, Walker and Lotus teams.

In the event, no sooner had Bib committed to the Aston Martin, he was able to buy the Cooper T51 Jack Brabham had raced in Australia that year, fitted with a 2.5 litre FPF.

In fact the Kew, Melbourne Holden Dealer had possibly fallen out of love with the Aston before its arrival to Australia- Bib raced his new 2.5 litre T51 to first at Port Wakefield in October, then second at Caversham and third at Phillip Island on consecutive December weekends and finally topped his late season form by winning the (non Gold Star) Warwick Farm Trophy on 18 December, whilst back in fourth place was Lex’ DBR4 surrounded by a sea of Cooper T45/51s…

Fitted with 3 litre ‘RB6/300/7’ sportscar engine, DBR4/250 ‘3’ arrived in Australia late in 1960 and was almost immediately shipped to New Zealand to contest the NZ GP at Ardmore, Auckland in early January 1961- he placed fifth in a heat and was classified twelfth in the GP- Jack Brabham won in a Cooper T53 Climax.

Bib Stillwell’s Aston DBR4 ‘3’ in the Ardmore paddock during the January 1961 NZ GP weekend. Jo Bonnier’s Cooper T51 Climax right rear, David McKay’s Stan Jones owned Maserati 250F #12 and the #38 Cooper is uncertain- Denny Hulme drove a car with that number in this race but the car shown is not the dark coloured Yeoman Credit T51 Denny raced (TRS)

 

A nice compare and contrast shot- Stan Jones’ Cooper T51 Climax alongside Stillwell’s DBR4 ‘3’ before practice at Longford in March 1961

Back In Australia, he practiced the car for the Warwick Farm 100 in late January but did not race, running the T51 he finished third behind the Moss and Innes Ireland Lotus 18 Climaxes. The crew then took the car across Bass Straight to Longford in early March and practiced it, but the engine burned a piston, he raced his Cooper T51, retiring with plug problems in the Longford Trophy won by Roy Salvadori’s Ecurie Vitesse (Jack Brabham) Cooper T51 Climax.

Bib continued to race his T51 but returned with the Aston Martin to Warwick Farm in May, winning the (non Gold Star) 10 lap Racing Car Scratch from Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati 2.9 and Noel Hall’s Cooper T51 Climax 2.2- was this the only race win of a DBR4 ‘in period’ anywhere?

And that was it, Bib displayed the car at Jim Abbott’s Melbourne Racing Car show in August before racing it again in the 1962 NZ GP, doubtless, given his flotilla of Coopers, with a view to selling the car in New Zealand. He was tenth in the sopping wet race won by Stirling Moss having qualified seventh inclusive of a plug-change mid-race.

Bay of Islands driver Lionel Bulcraig acquired the car after the race, running it in NZ through to 1965, his time in the car is covered here; https://primotipo.com/2019/09/02/waimates-aston-martin-dbr4-250/

Bulcraig advertised the car in ‘Car and Driver, the American international magazine, in late 1965, it was acquired by Peter Brewer who dominated Historic Racing in the UK in the late sixties with it. It was bought by Tom Wheatcroft’s Donington Collection in 1970 as ‘a collection of horrible bits’, as Doug Nye described it, for restoration to original 1959 specifications.

Stillwell, DBR4 ‘3’ during the 1962 NZ GP, site of a Stirling Moss Lotus 21 Climax wet weather master-class. Stillwell was tenth, 6 laps in arrears (Ardmore)

 

DBR4 ‘3’ chassis in recent times in the Hall & Hall workshop. Rare chassis photograph (H&H)

 

Plug change for Salvadori’s IRS ‘diabolical handling’ DBR5 ‘2’ during the 1960 British GP weekend, nice cockpit shot. Trintignant’s de Dion DBR5 ‘1’ in front (Getty)

5. DBR4/250 ‘4’

Chassis built at the same time as ‘3’ but was unraced in F1 in 1959 and 1960.

After DBR4 ‘1’ was returned by Davison to Feltham in early 1961, DBR4 ‘4’ was built to ‘ultimate spec’- de Dion rear, Maserati gearbox, 80 degree head magnesium alloy block RB6/300 engine specification for use in the Intercontinental Formula in the UK, and thence limited use in Australia before sale to Pat Hawthorn in early 1963.

Later to Neil Corner in 1966, who also acquired DBR4 ‘1’ which was eventually built up as an historic car.

Trintignant’s DBR5/250 ‘1’ being unloaded from Aston Martin’s AEC transporter at Silverstone during the July 1960 British GP weekend at Silverstone- a poor eleventh the result (LAT)

Cars 6. and 7. DBR5/250 ‘1’ and ‘2’- also sometimes referred to as ‘DP201’

For 1960 Aston Martin designed a new car, still front engined mind you, the DBR5/250 was 3 inches shorter than the DBR4- the wheelbase was 7 ft 3 inches- it used torsion bar independent front suspension. Two cars were laid down, DBR5/250 ‘1’ which was built with a de Dion rear and chassis ‘2’ which was fitted with independent rear suspension by torsion bars.

Both DBR5s were scrapped- after unsuccessful performances in the International Trophy, at Zandvoort and in the British GP.

Doug Nye wrote that ‘The new rear end merely made the cars handle worse, so following the British GP, David Brown wisely withdrew his team from the dying Formula’- the 2.5 litre F1 ended on 31 December 1960.

In summary, Aston Martin built seven Grand Prix cars- one DP155, four DBR4s and two DBR5’s with three extant- DBR4 ‘1’, ‘3’ and ‘4’.

Zandvoort 1960- two cars for Roy Salvadori- DBR4 ‘3’ at left was brought along as the practice hack and DBR5 ‘1’ at right, the racer. DNS along with the Scarabs when the Dutch GP organisers reneged on the start money deal- the cars were rumbling back towards the Channel by the time the race commenced- nice side by side shot, the only obvious difference is the 95 degree engine in the DBR4 and 80 degree ‘exhaust on the left’ motor in the DBR5 (D Friedman)

 

DBR5 ‘1’ with Lucas fed 80 degree twin-plug 2.5 litre six- 245bhp @ 7500rpm, Zandvoort 1960 (D Friedman)

Anthony Pritchard wrote that ‘By this time (Zandvoort) Aston Martin realised the hopelessness of their position.’

Team Manager Reg Parnell asked Stirling Moss to try the car and the best that he could manage was a 1:40 compared to 1:33.2 in his Lotus 18 Climax- trying his very hardest, Salvadori achieved 1:37 seconds.

Zandvoort, (D Friedman)

 

British GP July 1960. Nice compare and contrast of the Weber DCO and Lucas injected engines. Independent rear suspension shot is Salvadori’s DBR5 ‘2’ which handled atrociously- upper and lower wishbones, roll bar, Armstrong shock and two radius rods, torsion bar (Getty)

Etcetera…

(Michael Oliver Collection)

After publication Lotus historian and author Michael Oliver got in touch and sent these two marvellous shots of Lex during the Brands Hatch Guards Trophy meeting taken by his father, and his dad’s mate, below.

Whilst Lex damaged the nose of the car during practice he also knocked off the right-front corner of the Aston- the shot captures the damage, a rare colour image of the suspension.

(Michael Oliver Collection)

 

(K Harley)

Ecurie Australia at Longford in 1961.


Photo Credits…

Peter D’Abbs via Mark Ellery Collection, Pat Hawthorn Collection via Russell Hawthorn, Phillip Skelton via the Tony Johns Collection, Getty Images, Ron Lambert, oldracephotos.com.au/JSaward, Peter Coleby Collection, Tony Selfe, David Friedman Collection, LAT, E Stevens, Brier Thomas, Hall & Hall, TC March, conceptbunny.com, Michael Oliver Collection, Kim Harley

Bibliography…

‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘History of The Grand Prix Car 1945-65’ Doug Nye, ‘Aston Martin: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, oldracingcars.com

Tailpieces…

(P D’Abbs)

The opening shot of Lex again but cropped a tad tighter to focus that little bit more on the car- DBR4/250 ‘1’, and below the same car eighteen months before in the Dutch sand dunes rather than the Australian ones, Roy Salvadori at Zandvoort during the 29-31 May weekend in 1959.

(LAT)

Finito…

image

(R Lambert)

Austin Miller’s Cooper T51 Chev during his Australian Land Speed Record setting day-163.94mph at Bakers Beach, Tasmania watched by ‘four men and a dog’ on Monday 20 November 1961…

Only in Australia would a significant event like this have been achieved in such a clever, low key kind of way, still, the fellows involved were doers and goers not spruikers and bullshitters.

Watching him blast through the timing gear at over 160mph are car-builder Geoff Smedley, Bruce Burr, a few members of the local press and a small number of onlookers who have made their way to the quiet stretch of beach on Tasmania’s far north coast, 80 km from Launceston, the ‘Northern Capital’ of the island state.

When I first saw Ron Lambert’s image it simply blew my mind on a whole lot of levels other than its purely visual impact, powerful as it is. It says so many good things about this country and the understated, pragmatic, often ingenious way we tend to go about things.

Miller was born in Melbourne in 1923, in common with most of his contemporaries from around the world he enlisted to fight in WW2. He joined the army and became a tank instructor but he was keen to fly so moved from the Australian Army to the Royal Australian Air Force where he learned to fly in Tiger Moths before graduating progressively through the Wirraway trainer and on to Mustang and Spitfire fighters.

Post war, keen to stay in aviation- and there were plenty of great pilots in the world at that point in time, Aussie and his friend Ernie Tadgell formed Super Spread Aviation Pty. Ltd. a commercial crop dusting enterprise they commenced in 1952- Austin was Victoria’s first ‘Ag-pilot’.

Miller commenced racing a TQ Midget on Victorian and New South Wales’ speedways, then switched to circuit racing, first coming to prominence in 1958 when he won his class of the Victorian Road Racing Championship and the Victorian Trophy in the ‘Miller Special’, a Cooper T41 Climax FWB acquired in the UK. His good mate, Stan Jones won the Gold Star that year in a magnificent Maserati 250F with Austin taking second and third places in the Port Wakefield and Phillip Island rounds.

Austin identified the Cooper for sale in England albeit the Australian connection was that fellow Victorian Paul England had been racing the ex-Ken Wharton ‘F2/2/56’ or ‘F2/4/56’ machine throughout Europe in 1957 and was now ready to come home. I wrote about the car a while back, click here to read about it; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/20/aussie-miller-cooper-t41-climax-trevallyn-hillclimb-launceston-tasmania-1959/

One of the apocryphal Miller stories concerns the delivery of two Percival EP.9 aircraft (see the link at the end of the article about these interesting planes built in the UK by Australian born designer Edgar Percival) from Stableford Aerodrome in Essex where they were designed and built, back to Australia in 1957.

The duo were looking for replacements for their ageing fleet of Tiger Moths and first visited the US in 1956 where they test flew Stearman, Fletcher and Cessna aircraft before going to the UK in 1957 where the choices were the Auster Agricola or Percival EP.9 with the latter finally getting the nod.

Austin ‘on arrival at home base Moorabbin after he and partner Ern Tadgell flew G-APFY and G-APBR in company from England on delivery’ Percival EP.9 (Goodall)

Aussie and Ern left England on 19 September 1957, included amongst the bits and pieces in the planes’ holds as ‘aircraft spare parts’ were the Cooper T41 and a Lotus 12 Climax which had been disassembled into their constituent parts and boxed as spares, crop spraying equipment etc.

This type of ruse, that is bringing racing cars into the country in parts was a well travelled path for Australian racers for decades to avoid the net of the ‘fiscal fiend’ whose import duties were punitive in nature and rapacious in quantum. The cars were called the ‘Miller Special’ and ‘Sabakat’ respectively when they arrived in the Great Brown Land with the chassis plates kept well away from the two machines and prying eyes.

The intrepid Percival pilots made thirty-two stops between the Old Dart and Oz before arriving at home base, Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne’s south on 27 October 1957- what an adventure! In fact it was very much so as Austin’s plane barely made it in to Darwin from Kupang as a result of heat from the exhaust causing the thermostatically controlled carburettor to lift the needle, burning excessive amounts of fuel, the tank was so dry, its said, that he couldn’t taxi the Percival to the hangar in Darwin.

Needless to say the ‘aircraft parts and crop spraying equipment’ were soon assembled into a couple of handy looking racing cars by the pair of aviation scallywags. Tadgell’s first Australian appearance in Sabakat was at the South Pacific Trophy meeting at Gnoo Blas, Orange over the Australia Day long weekend in January 1958 whereas Austin’s first run aboard the Miller Special/Cooper T41 was at Longford in 1959. Checkout this epic on the Lotus 12 here, inclusive of Sabakat; https://primotipo.com/2019/08/22/just-add-lightness/

Austin, Cooper T41 Climax, Trevallyn Hillclimb, Launceston 1959 (unattributed)

Miller first raced the Cooper at Phillip Island in January 1958 and over the next few years ran it in everything going- races, sprints and hillclimbs, self preparing the machine amongst the aircraft in his Moorabbin hanger, but he didn’t race much that year due to an extremely nasty Percival accident at home base on 15 April.

Super Spread by that time had three EP.9’s, the final aircraft was assembled in Australia from components acquired in the UK. The EP.9 ‘VH-SSW’ had just been rebuilt following a crash at Flinders Island in February, with the work complete Austin took off at dusk together with engineer Bill Symons- immediately after takeoff he climbed steeply, the aircraft stalled and crashed close to the Moorabbin Control Tower. The Department of Civil Aviation investigation found the cause of the accident to be elevator cables which had been installed wrongly so as to reverse normal operating sense. Both Miller and Symons were badly hurt, the severely damaged airframe was struck off the register and scrapped.

After recovery and with the responsibilities of a young family- Austin met Judy, later to become his wife, a nurse at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne recovering from another nasty accident at Thorpdale, Victoria, Miller moved to Launceston to take over as the licensee of the Hotel Monaco. Aussie had been a Longford regular during the late 1950’s so the move across Bass Straight from Victoria to Tasmania was an easy one to a place he loved.

(E French/R Knott)

 

Cooper T41 Climax, Trevallyn Hillclimb March 1959 Tasmania, Aussie took FTD (Miller)

 

Miller’s Cooper T41 Climax at Port Wakefield during the October 1959 Gold Star meeting- Greg McEwin in the Mac-Healey alongside (K Drage)

Aussie continued to develop the T41 further by replacing the standard Citroen derived gearbox with a more sturdy Porsche 356 unit and installation of trailing arms (radius rods) to better locate the rear suspension. Austin again won his class of the Victorian Road Racing Championship and the Phillip Island Gold Star round in his new Cooper T51.

Single-seater racing expanded strongly in Australia at the time partially because of improved economic times and in large measure due to the ready availability of Grand Prix Coopers and Coventry Climax engines at ‘reasonable cost’. An international season was developing nicely in Australasia which morphed into the ‘Tasman 2.5 Formula’ and Tasman Cup in 1964- in short, if one had a car you could test your abilities against the best in the world in more or less equal machines and have a crack at the domestic Gold Star Series which itself grew and grew in stature, before dying on the vine a couple of decades hence.

Austin saw the opportunity to progress, he sold the T41 and jumped aboard a Cooper T51 in October 1959. Chassis ‘F2-20-59’ was imported new by Bib Stillwell and raced briefly by Bib and Stan Jones before passing to Miller, his first race in the 2.2 litre FPF engined car was at Island as stated above.

In a ‘Chinese deal’ Jones raced the car once or twice after Aussie owned it, during this period Jones collided with Len Lukey’s Cooper at Phillip Island- as a result the car was fitted with a frame made on the jig Lukey had created for this purpose. It would be very interesting to know just how many T51 jigs there were and still are in Australia! Jones then raced the car to fourth in the 1960 NZ GP at Ardmore before Miller next- finally got his hands on it.

Austin in a Ferrari Monza on the set of ‘On The Beach’ (Miller)

In an eventful 1959 Miller had a brush with Hollywood when he was contracted to perform as a stunt and stand-in driver for Fred Astaire in the movie ‘On The Beach’, filmed in Australia and based on Neville Shute’s novel of the same name, topically it is about the end of the world…

Into 1960 Aussie had some success with the T51 in Gold Star and other competition, perhaps it was his his busiest year of competition.

By that stage there was plenty of depth in Australian single-seater Formula Libre fields with some serious money was being spent by the likes of Stan Jones, Bib Stillwell, Alec Mildren, Lex Davison, Len Lukey and others, so Austin’s efforts in the self prepared, reliable Grand Prix Cooper should be seen with that perspective.

He was unplaced in the season opening March Longford Trophy despite qualifying up the pointy end of the field, the race was won by Jack Brabham from Alec Mildren and Bib Stillwell- all in Cooper T51s, but Austin made a big impression in the Monday Scratch Race for racing and sportscars. AMS reported that ‘One of the finest duels of the meeting occurred in this event when Austin Miller in a 2.2 litre Cooper Climax fought a long battle with Jon Leighton in a 1960cc model. Miller held the advantage and led, but ignominiously lost face and position when he misjudged a corner and was forced to take an escape road.’

Off to Westernport for the next round at Phillip Island in Victoria on 13 March the circus rumbled across the old wooden bridge from San Remo to Newhaven and settled in Cowes for a few days where the ‘Isle Of Wight’ was and still is the centre of social activity.

Brabham had still not returned to Europe and would again win the feature race, The Repco Trophy but Aussie started from the third row and raced in third place for some laps before tyre wear meant he yielded to Bib and finished fourth behind Jack, Bill Patterson and Bib Stillwell, all, again, T51 mounted.

The Victorians took in the Phillip Island Easter Saturday meeting before heading up overnight to Bathurst with Austin second and third in his two races won by Stillwell each time. It would have been interesting to see Stan Jones having a run in the ‘old girl’ Maybach 4 Chev in the last race of the day winning from Ray Gibbs’ Cooper Climax and Stumpy Russell’s Holden Spl whilst the serious Coopers had commenced the tow north towards the NSW border.

Alec Mildren was well into his stride with his Maserati engined Cooper T51, the locally developed car concepted by Alec and built up by Glenn Abbey was the class of the field during the Easter weekend at Mount Panorama on 17/18 April but Austin raced well jumping into an immediate lead of the first heat, finishing second aft of Alec but ahead of Bill Patterson and Queenslander Glynn Scott’s Coopers.

Mildren led from the starters flag of the Bathurst 100 from Stillwell and for 8 laps the pair provided a great dice, the lead of the race changed a number of times but near the end of the eighth tour Bib slid on oil near Murray’s and hit the wooden fence near the Timing Tower.

Bib was ok but the car was out for the day leaving Miller in a strong second place until brake trouble forced him to ease back a bit- Arnold Glass caught and passed Aussie when he went up the escape road at Hell Corner (end of Conrod Straight). ‘Miller had returned to the fray to come sixth’, whilst in front of him were Mildren, Glass, Patterson, Noel Hall and John Roxburgh- all in Coopers with the exception of Arnold Glass aboard the ex-works/Hunt/Stillwell Maserati 250F.

Bib Stillwell and Austin at Reid Park Gates, Bathurst in October 1960 during the ‘Craven A International’ won by Brabham’s similar Cooper T51 Climax (J Ellacott)

 

Miller, Cooper T51 Climax 2.2, Mount Panorama October 1960. The sign says ‘Superior Cars’- one of Stan Jones dealerships in Melbourne, very naughty of Austin too- such flagrant commerce was crass and not in accord with CAMS rules on advertising on cars at all- I wonder how many meetings it took before they spanked him? (J Ellacott)

What a tonic that second place would have been! Austin didn’t take his car to Lowood, Queensland for the ‘thriller-diller’ June AGP won by the hair on your chinny-chin-chin slimmest of margins by Mildrens’s Cooper from ‘Dame Nellie Melba’ Lex Davison, the comeback kid missed by the smallest of margins winning another Australian Grand Prix aboard a newly prepared 3 litre but old school, front engined Aston Martin DBR4/250.

Crazy were the Victorians who raced at Lowood competing at Phillip Island the following day, the 13 June Queens Birthday meeting- whilst Austin was fresh Stillwell and Patterson were not having contested the AGP the day before but both were there (in their second T51s I guess?)- Austin took a second and third in minor events but in the 10 lap Reg Hunt Motors Trophy race finished a strong second behind Bill Patterson but in front of the Stillwell and John Roxburgh Coopers, and Stan Jones- giving his Maserati 250F a run.

Speaking of Jones, Austin ran his Cooper at the Fishermans Bend Sprints on 5 June to get the final tuning of his T51 sorted for the Island the week later and who should be running on the same day but Alan Jones, ‘Following in fathers footsteps…he made a spectacular entry into open competition by cleaning up his young opponent in true G.P style, his mount- a Whirlwind go-kart powered by a 125cc motor mower engine…his time of 28.3 seconds after a push-start over the line wasn’t all that bad and it accounted for the under 1100cc racing class.’ I wonder if this is the first time AJ made it into a race report and results sheet? Now when did he start hill-climbing the Motor Improvements built Mini I wonder…

 

Fishos Sprints results listed for posterity- see A Jones and A Miller

 

Jack Myers tells Austin where to go- WM/Cooper Holden and T51, Bathurst Easter 1960

Austin didn’t enter the Queensland Road Race Championship, again at Lowood, in September, but returned to the Gold Star fray (make that serious competition fray because this event wasn’t a Gold Star round) in the Craven A International race at the traditional Bathurst October meeting where Jack Brabham prevailed, over the biggest grid of the year, as the 1960 World Champion won from Patterson and Stillwell all in 2.5 litre FPF powered Coopers with Miller a DNF- engine problems.

He failed to start at Mallala in October or at Caversham- Perth is such a long tow! but raced in the Lukey Trophy at Phillip Island in mid-December and finished a strong second, seven seconds adrift of Patterson’s T51- Stillwell was third.

The Warwick Farm Trophy was held the weekend after the Island, and whilst the new, fantastic circuit constructed around one of Sydney’s horse racing tracks was not a Gold Star round it attracted a good entry with Stillwell winning the 10 lap feature from John Youl, Miller, Davison having another run in the Aston Martin but also having lustful thoughts about Coopers however much he didn’t like the ‘Mechanical Mice’, and Doug Whiteford- all but Lex in T51s.

Mildren won the 1960 Gold Star from Stillwell and Patterson.

Longford Trophy paddock March 1961, Roy Salvadori won in a Cooper T51 Climax. #6 Bib Stillwell’s Aston DBR4/250 3 litre DNS- raced his Cooper T51, Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S and Aussies Cooper T51 Climax 2.2 (R Lambert)

 

Longford Trophy paddock March 1960, Brabham won in a Cooper T51. Austin topless, Cooper T51 2.2, Arnold Glass Maser 250F and Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati (R Lambert)

 

Aussie sets to work on the 2.2 litre Coventry Climax FPF, Longford 1960 (G Richardson)

In early 1961 Austin continued to campaign the Cooper in the summer internationals, opening his account with a strong fourth in the Warwick Farm 100 behind Stirling Moss in Rob Walker’s Lotus 18 Climax, Innes Ireland’s works Lotus 18 Climax and Stillwell’s Cooper T51 Climax. All three cars were fitted with full 2.5 litre FPF’s compared with Aussie’s 2.2, by this stage other locals Jones, Mildren, Glass and Patterson were using 2.5 litre engines whilst Davison’s Aston Martin DBR/4 was fitted with a 3 litre DBR/1 sportscar unit.

That summer internationals contestants included Jack Brabham and Ron Flockhart in Cooper T51s and Graham Hill and Dan Gurney in works BRM P48s- the first time BRM, having raced on and off in New Zealand since 1954, added Australia to their Southern Summer tour.

Austin was eighth in the Victorian Trophy at Ballarat Airfield, won by Gurney’s BRM, fourth in the Longford Trophy won by Roy Salvadori in a Cooper T51 and sixth in the Craven A International at the short, tight, new, Hume Weir circuit close to the New South Wales/Victorian border near Albury in March- Brabham prevailed in the two races that weekend in his T53 Lowline.

At that point Austin’s Cooper became Australia’s first Formula 5000 car…

Miller had become obsessed with a desire to break the Australian Land Speed Record which was then held by one of his fellow Gold Star competitors, Mel McEwin, in Tornado 2 Chev, a car I wrote about a while back. Click hear to read about this amazing front engined Australian special; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

Not having the budget to purchase or build a purpose-built car capable of breaking the record, Aussie and his engineer/mechanic Geoff Smedley set about modifying Miller’s Cooper T51 in the loft of the building next to the Hotel Monaco.

Shots above and below are perhaps press shots in Launceston immediately after the modified T51’s build (G Smedley)

 

(G Smedley)

Geoff Smedley’s story of this amazing adventure is set below.

‘This is perhaps the most unlikely but successful challenge to a Land Speed Record ever staged and it comes with a story that is equally remarkable.

I had known my friend, the late Austin Miller, for a number of years previously. We had raced cars together in earlier times. Around 1959 when Austin came to live in Tasmania after recovering from a fairly major air crash in Victoria- he had operated an aerial crop spraying business for many years and decided at that time that perhaps a slower pace of life would be better suited to his well-being. So he bought a hotel in Launceston, renovated it and renamed it The Monaco Hotel which soon became the hub for motor racing fans from far and near.

 It could be argued that the array of beverages served at the Monaco may have instigated the record attempt! Not so! But it was Aussie’s infectious desire and persuasive talents that eventually won out and the idea grew into reality early in 1960, I was entrusted in putting together a vehicle that could better the current record of 157.5 MPH set by Ted Gray in the ‘Tornado Chev Special’ at Coonabarabran in 1957.

 Some of the difficulties soon became clear, firstly there was no money in the kitty. Meaning that all work had to remain ‘in house’. The only equipment available was the 1959 Cooper T51 F2 fitted with a 2.2 Coventry Climax FPF motor that was Austin’s current race car, but certainly not suitable for the job in hand.

 A friend of Aussie’s in Melbourne had just set a water speed record using a Corvette V8 engine. This engine was offered on loan as a starting point to our quest. The thought of stuffing 400 bhp of cast iron Chev into a petite Cooper F2 seemed almost as ridiculous as attempting the record itself.

 An assessment of the work needed to adapt the chassis to take the big, brutal Corvette engine proved it would need to be a bit of a ‘suck it and see’ effort or do it as she goes with all chassis work to be undertaken before the transplant could take place’.

Bruce Burr, Miller and Geoff Smedley- the ‘heavy Chevvy’ looks an easy (cough!) fit (G Smedley)

The engine provided by boat raced Keith Hooper (or Syd Fischer depending upon the source) was highly modified by fitment of some of the best ‘go faster’goodies available for the small-block Chev at the time- Isky cam, ported and polished heads, six twin-choke carbs sitting atop an Offy manifold, lightweight aluminium flywheel and a clutch capable of coping with 400 BHP and equivalent amounts of bulk torque. The fibreglass body of the Cooper was changed marginally in some respects but substantively by the incorporation of a ‘Perspex bubble’ which sat on top of the normal cockpit opening providing better high speed streamlining than the shallow road racing surround.

Geoff picks up the story again.

‘Also the transmission drastically needed modification from the existing Citroen Light 15-based box used by Cooper. To this end I was fortunate in respect of engineering facilities with the family business (Bedford Machine Tools) at my disposal and being a trained engineer I was able to modify this box to a beefy 2 speed specialised unit. With savage cross bolting of the housing, in theory, it would withstand the short lived punishment expected of it. All this together with special beefed up drive-shafts to cope with the extra power were made and, as it seemed, a never ending general tweek in all the right places, eventually we were starting to see some result and the project began to take shape into the car we hoped would bring us success.

 The only thing I was fully confident of was the fact that Aussie Miller was one of very few blokes in the world who could steer this mish- mash of bits to success. His long career in flying and driving at the top echelon of open wheeler racing in this country certainly proved he had not only the courage but also the anatomy to do the job’.

(Gray Family)

 

(Gray Family)

Photographs of the car show just how beautifully engineered and integrated the modifications to the standard Cooper T51 were. They were put to the test at Symmons Plains, the circuit built on the Youl family property of the same name 10 miles south of Launceston during October 1961. Austin achieved 140 mph in top gear of his two-speed gearbox before running out of circuit. The car also ran at Trevallyn Hillclimb on 22 October finishing second in the Tasmanian Hillclimb Championship behind John Youl’s Cooper T51 Climax.

 ‘After the work on the car was finished there was the hassle of setting up the legalities and finding a location suited to such an attempt. We had looked at a few areas as possibilities but each had drawbacks and we needed a course that would give us the very best of chances and a remote beach on the North-West coast of Tasmania at Bakers Beach looked like the ideal place, a little out of sight in case of failure and some 4.5 miles of good surface to set up a good surveyed strip to test our hopes. It took quite a few weeks for our little band of helpers to arrange all the last minute problems including being told that the official timing gear was in Hobart the night before we were about to contest the run which meant someone had to drive the 250 mile journey to retrieve this very important bit of gear.

While this was being attended to my friend Bruce Burr and I decided it would be prudent to take the car to the beach the evening before to eliminate any hold-up on the following day. The best laid plans were in place, we were armed with arrowed placards to be placed on trees showing the way into this well hidden beach, and the evening turned into night before we reached the last mile or so of very dense bush and not having ever tried to visit this remote place in darkness we became hopelessly lost and had diligently placed our signs in areas that have never been found to this day.

Our problems didn’t stop there. Eventually arriving on the Western end of the beach it required about a 4-mile drive in the Land Rover, with car and trailer on tow behind to the Eastern end to a base site we had previously chosen. We were finding this spot hard to locate in the darkness and required driving in the softer sand further up the beach and of course the trailer and race car became bogged and things became hopeless, so we simply unhitched the trailer and moved the Land Rover to a little higher ground and turned in for the night.

We were woken just after daylight by a local TV crew that had somehow found us without the aid of our signs and to our horror we found that the tide was in and was lapping the deck of the trailer and the car looked to be sitting on the water, which presented more of a comedy act than a serious record attempt. Anyhow with the aid of the TV crew we managed to get things into a more respectable state before officialdom and others started arriving, none of whom had seen any of the dozen or so directional signs we had placed the night before.

One of the early runs at Bakers Beach with canopy intact Cooper T51 Chev (SLV)

The timing equipment had been brought from Hobart and set up and it was time for the first test runs up the beach. Bearing in mind that this would be the first test of the car itself, it was a very nerve-racking time for me but if Aussie felt the same way he certainly didn’t show it climbing into the car as if heading off on a fun drive up the beach. The first couple of runs looked well but a problem with the timing equipment held proceedings up for some time giving and making all previous runs null and void, but it did give us a chance to delve into a possible gearbox problem which turned out to be a minor adjustment. Stripping a transmission on a beach in the open is not really recommended, soon all was ready for the first official run from East to West.

The car achieved 172 MPH, well on target. We had the car geared for around 202 mph @ 6,500rpm and this first run was looking good. The reverse run was a little down which was expected against a growing wind and adjustments were made to the car before the next speed run. While working on the engine it was necessary to remove the canopy I had made to try and wind-cheat the car. I had rigged up a quick release arrangement for this canopy should the need arise but somehow the mechanism got damaged in the refitting after the previous run causing a major drama on the next attempt.

At an estimated 170 mph the canopy ejected and went skywards also releasing the whole back half of the body and certainly shocked the observers and dimmed the hope of taking the record somewhat, but the ‘never say die Aussie’ the pilot was determined to have a go without such refinements even though beach conditions had deteriorated and the wind was lifting the sand into a heavy haze and pulling down his goggles, the intrepid Miller lad set off, disappearing into a wall of sand and into the record books by pushing the record up to 164.7 MPH, not what we hoped, but a record that would stand for almost 4 years all on the smell of an oily rag.

To reminisce on a time when this sort of thing was possible and practical learning was still in vogue. For me I later entered into F1. As a race engineer where in those early days your skills were required on every aspect of the car, you featured dirty hands but acquired a lot of private satisfaction. It was an era in time we will never see again in the name of motorsport, it was four years later when Donald Campbell in his jet powered Bluebird officially became the fastest man on wheels putting the record up to 403 mph on Australia’s Lake Eyre, but the successful Miller challenge remained for some 4 years and certainly must always remain as a dinkum piston engined record done on a shoestring by a man of his time……… Austin Miller (My Mate!)’ Geoff Smedley.

Miller raced the car on into 1962 albeit only briefly.

The Cooper retained its Chev engine and was entered in both the local South Pacific Championship at Longford retiring on lap 2 with valve problems and at Sandown’s opening meeting where the car also failed to finish. Another similar car in concept to Miller’s made a huge impression on Jack Brabham that weekend.

In a one-off Australian entry- it was the only time this car ever raced, Lance Reventlow’s mid-engined Scarab, powered by an aluminium Buick V8- from the same family of engines as that used by Repco in their 1966 F1 World Championship year, the Repco Brabham RBE620 motor was based on a modified production Oldsmobile F85 block. Miller was very much ahead of his time with the thinking behind the V8 engined Cooper.

Austin strolls with his T51 Climax the wrong way up Sandown’s Main Straight from the old paddock onto the grid for the start of the feature race at Sandown’s first meeting on 12 March 1962, the ‘Sandown Park International’. Brabham won is his 2.7 litre Cooper T55 Climax- Aussie DNF in the Chev engined T51 (unattributed)

With that, and the local scene becoming ever more professional and expensive, Miller retired from racing to concentrate back on his agricultural spraying business and commercial aviation career.

The Cooper T51 passed through many hands during the sixties and early seventies before John Caffin acquired its remains which comprised the chassis, seat and a fuel tank. The car was fully restored by John, Aussie took great delight in running it a number of times, his T51, like so many of them left Australia many years ago.

Austin, in a very full life was married twice- to Florence with whom he had Vicky and Guy (a handy steerer of historic FFs), and to Judy with whom he had four children- Todd, Ashley, Tracey and Brett. After sale of the hotel in Tasmania he moved back to Victoria to aerial crop spraying- at that stage he bought a de Havilland Beaver and operated out of Derrinallum in Victorias’s Western District, two hours from Melbourne.

Aussie maintained his interest in cars, guesting in demonstrations of his Cooper in the historic era and he applied his mechanical talents to the restoration of the ex-Brabham/Davison Brabham BT4 (‘IC-2-62’) remains but that car was sold to John Coombs in the UK without ever seeing the light of day here.

Miller died aged 85 in 2009 but his name lives on, he is discussed when competitive drivers of that period are being looked at in the manner in which they went about their business and drove- and owner/driver/preparer Miller is much respected for his achievements but I guess racing the Cooper was a soda compared to the daily in-cockpit rigours of an ag-pilot!

(Miller)

Austin aboard a 235HP Piper Pawnee, Dookie College, between Benalla and Shepparton, Victoria, 1976.

Percival EP.9 Aircraft in Australia…

http://www.goodall.com.au/australian-aviation/percival-ep9/percivalep9.html

Etcetera…

(Miller)

Works touring car driver- Graham Hoinville and Austin drove an Australian Motor Industies Triumph Herald in the 1960 Armstrong 500 at Phillip Island, DNF in the race won by the Roxburgh/Coad Vauxhall Cresta

(unattributed)

What a road car!

Lady at left seems pretty calm about the vivid yellow Cooper T51 Chev’s presence on the Launceston streetscape. Some type of car show or procession I guess- can someone help with the occasion and date?

(G Miller)

‘Lukey Trophy’ Gold Star round at Phillip Island in December 1960.

Austin’s T51 with John Roxburgh’s T45 2 litre FPF in the distance on the drop into ‘MG’ corner- Bill Patterson won from Aussie and Bib Stillwell, T51’s all.

(J Ellacott)

Longford Trophy grid, March 1960.

Brabham #4, Stillwell #6 and Miller in yellow- all in Cooper T51s with Glass’ Maserati 250F beside Austin, before the off. Brabham won from Mildren and Stillwell- the dominance of Cooper T51’s in Australia throughout this period comes through in all of this article.

The tables only turned from Cooper when Jack and Ron’s ‘Intercontinental’ Brabham’s- the BT4/BT7A and later BT11A started to come into the country in numbers circa 1962/3 and beyond, but Coopers were dominant in number from 1958/9.

(NMRM)

1960 ‘Craven A’ International grid just before the off, Bathurst October 1960.

I’ve used this shot a couple of times before- it does illustrate the point made a moment ago about Cooper dominance at the time. Stan Jones’ blue T51 is on the outside of row 1, then Alec Mildren’s ‘Mildren green’ Maserati engined variant and then Brabham. John Leighton’s almost invisible T45 and Bib Stillwell’s red T51 on row two. Arnold Glass’ Maserati 250F on row three beside the crowd, then Noel Hall and Austin’s T51s. A row further back its Bill Patterson’s white T51 alongside John Youl’s. The other yellow car at far right rear is Doug Kelley’s ex-Miller Cooper T41 Climax.

Brabham won from Patterson and Stillwell.

(unattributed)

Bathurst I think- Austin, T51 Climax from Alec Mildren, Cooper T45 Climax- then again it may be Alec’s T51 Maserati but it must be 1961 not 1960 as the induction side on the engine in Mildren’s car in 1960 was on the other side, whereas in 1961 it was on ‘this side’ as above. I don’t think Austin’s T51 ever met Alec’s T45 at Bathurst- the T51 Maserati yes. Then again this might not be Bathurst…help, I think.

 

Arcane but sorta relevant…

Austin was a very highly rated pilot, when Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation boss (later Sir) Lawrence Wackett was after a test pilot for his new Wirraway Trainer based CA-28 ‘Ceres’ heavy payload agricultural aircraft in 1958/9 it was to Miller he turned.

Miller and Tadgell, familiar with the Wirraway from their RAAF days, decided to trial the plane as an alternative to their growing fleet of DH.82 Tiger Moths. After obtaining the licence endorsement they needed the Department of Supply sold them two aircraft for 500 pounds each. Both were fitted with a hopper behind the front seat and various designs of spraying equipment, also installed were RAAF underwing extra fuel tanks.

The experiments were successful, so, given Austin’s technical and analytical skills it was to Miller Wackett turned but he was too busy with Super Spread’s operation which by then included Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, not to forget his racing…and family so he let the opportunity pass.

Ultimately 20 of the aircraft were built, CAC transferred the production capacity then released at Fishermans Bend to the RAAF Mirage jet fighter project.

Super Spread CA28-10. Reg VH-CEK and later VH-SSY- Ceres Type C, which was the definitive final production type CA-28 to which most earlier series aircraft were field modified. First registered 20 September 1960. Here in 1962 it’s dropping a load of live fingerling trout into Lake Eildon, in Victoria’s Alpine region between Eildon and Mansfield 150 km from Melbourne- superb shot. This aircraft has, like a racing car, had a few decent hits down the decades, been de-registered and registered again when rebuilt and is still extant (Ben Dannecker Collection)

The most hours on the type were recorded by Super Spread pilot John McKeachie who commented about the plane as follows; ‘The Ceres carried a good load and had an excellent braking system. The Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial was very reliable and the engine cowls were designed to give easy access for maintenance. It had a 3 second dump with the dump doors not being retractable as the whole bottom dropped out.’

‘The later models were designed to allow the loader driver to be carried behind the pilot. Spare parts were readily available. The aircraft had several negative features, being very heavy on the controls, slow on the turn and very tiring to fly. It was also heavy on fuel, needed a long runway and gave a rough ride when on the ground.’

Bibliography…

Austin Miller profile by Martin Agatyn, article by Geoff Smedley, oldracingcars.com, Aviation Safety Network, Geoff Goodall’s Aviation History Site, various issues of Australian Motor Sports 1958-1960, ‘Glory Days: Albert Park 1953-1958’ Barry Green, oldracingcars.com

Photo and other Credits…

Ron Lambert, John Ellacott, Guy Miller Collection, Greg Richardson, Rob Knott via Ellis French, National Motor Racing Museum, Ben Dannecker Collection, Kevin Drage, State Library of Victoria

Special thanks to Guy Miller and Geoff Smedley

Tailpiece: We have lift-off…

image

(G Smedley)

Finito…

 

(I McCleave)

Jack Brabham playing with the kids in the Phillip Island paddock, Cooper T51 Climax, 14 March 1960…

Jack won the ‘Repco Trophy’ over 16 laps in a T51 rout from Bill Patterson, Bib Stillwell and Austin Miller in similar cars albeit none shared the latest 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF fitted to Jack’s ‘F2-4-59’- said to be ‘Brabham’s main car during the early part of 1959’. Austin’s motor was 2.2 litres with Bib and Bill having 2 litre units.

Brabham had a successful fortnight during his short summer of 1960 Australian racing tour, three races from three winning the Longford Trophy and Light Car Club of Tasmania Trophy on 5 and 7 March at Longford the week before.

Ian McCleave took the opening photo of ‘A youthful Jack Brabham showering my younger brother in dust…I seem to recall Dad charged with adrenalin winding the Austin A95 up to 90 mph on the way back to Melbourne!’

Lukey Heights is well familiar to ‘Island regulars in the background, its a top shot and another enthusiast that day, Robert Jones caught the start of the race, below.

Credits…

Ian McLeave, Robert Jones, Gordon Dobie Collection

Tailpiece: The Off- Brabham, Stillwell, Miller with Patterson on row 2…

(R Jones)

 

(G Dobie)

Finito…

 

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

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

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

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

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

https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

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

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

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

Simply marvellous really…

Tailpiece: Tornado 2 Chevy V8…

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

Credits…

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

 

(K Drage)

Falls mainly on Warwick Farm, at least at its first open meeting it did, 18 December 1960…

Sydneysiders heap plenty of shite on Melburnians given our ‘four seasons in one day’ weather which does present its challenges to the ladies every now and again. Whilst I am a Mexican (Victorian) I am a Sydneysider by inclination having lived ‘in the guts’ of the place for nine wonderful years, in Observatory Hill/Millers Point. As a local when it does rain up there it can be sub-tropical in its intensity, it absolutely chucks it down in Cairns like fashion, as it did during the ‘Farms opening meeting- all of it.

Making like a duck in Kevin Drage’s opening shot is Derek Jolly, the wealthy Penfolds Wines heir’s equipe of Jaguar XK 140 Coupe and ex-works Lotus 15 Climax is behind him. Not sure how he fared in the Sportscar events, click hear for a feature I wrote about him and the Lotus a little while back;

https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

(K Drage)

The photo above in the form-up area is #9 Bill Patterson’s Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2, #21 Doug Whiteford’s Bib Stillwell owned Cooper T51 FPF 2 litre, then Stillwell’s red Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.5 and Austin Miller’s yellow Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2. Bill didn’t start the ‘Warwick Farm Trophy’ feature race so this is the lineup for the preliminary or before the Victorian Holden dealer pulled the pin.

The ‘Warwick Farm Trophy’ was watched by 12,020 soggy spectators and was won by Bib Stillwell’s T51 2.5 from John Youl’s 2.2 litre variant, then Austin Miller and Lex Davison’s big-bellowing six-cylinder Aston Martin DBR4/250 3 litre. In the following four years, when held in glorious weather, Warwick Farm attracted between 23,000 and 36,021 (1962) to its annual International Meetings- strong numbers to see the F1 stars of the day. It was most unfortunate to have such poor weather for the circuits first big meeting but it was not at all a portent of what was to come for ‘Gods Little Acre of Motor Racing’ for the next thirteen years.

Stillwell’s Rice Trailer behind Lex, the ‘Ringwood’ Rice is Patto’s (K Drage)

Lex’ Aston, chassis DBR4/250 number ‘4’ was powered by a 3 litre Aston DBR1 sportscar engine- Astons won the 1959 Le Mans and Manufacturers Championship with these wonderful cars.

Lex popped the front-engined car on pole- he came sooo close to winning the 1960 Australian Grand Prix at Lowood in it from Alec Mildren’s terribly clever Cooper T51 Maserati in June. Then Davo ‘crossed the fence to the dark side’ and raced a Cooper T51 to a somewhat lucky win in the ’61 AGP at Mallala.

Must get around to doing an article about these Aston’s in Australia, were there two or three?…

(J Ellacott)

John Ellacott’s grid shot above comprises Patterson, Davison and Whiteford (red), then Miller and Stillwell (red) . On row three is John Youl Cooper T51 FPF 2.2, Stan Jones blue Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.3 and Jon Leighton Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre (this side) A row further back Arnold Glass sits on his lonesome in a Cooper T51 Maserati 250S 2.5 then there is John Roxburgh Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre, Noel Hall Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2 and Jack Robinson’s Jaguar Spl XK120 3.4 litre and at the rear Alwyn Rose in the Dalro Jaguar 2 XK120 3.4 litre. As I said earlier the results I have say Patterson did not start so perhaps we lost him on the warm-up lap

David McKay’s Morgan Plus 4 #71 in the Sportscar race which he wins…

(J Ellacott)

Love this anecdote sent to me by journalist Ray Bell- ‘The first race ever at Warwick Farm was for sportscars and you have that pic of the Austin Healey leading McKay in the Morgan off the grid.

McKay dogged the Healey driven by Bob Cutler, until Cutler spun. McKay won, Cutler came in second. Later in the pits McKay went up to him and said, “You were never going to win that race, boy!”. And Cutler asked why.

“See his here” McKay said, pointing to the tiny service sticker on the window of the Healey (you know the ones, oil change due at x miles, with the oil brand or the servo name on it), “That’s advertising, I would have protested!”

Some people’.

For international readers, advertising as it also was in Europe, was banned on racing cars at the time.

Photo Credits…

Kevin Drage, John Ellacott

Special Thanks…

Ray Bell

Tailpiece…I don’t wanna get my feet wet! Derek Jolly, Lotus 15 Climax and ‘plug box contemplating a day for the ducks, and a damp practice session…

(K Drage)

Finito…

 

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(oldracephotos.com/Ellis)

The ‘Longford Trophy’ race start in Tasmania, 5 March 1960 with Jack Brabham and Bib Stillwell in Cooper T51 Climaxes on the front row…

Jack is on the far left, in yellow is Austin Miller’s Cooper T51 Climax then Bib’s red Cooper and far right in red, Arnold Glass’ 4th placed Maser 250F, the beach umbrella atop the starters stand is a nice Oz summer touch, meanwhile the man in the white cap surveys it all and snaps away. Glorious!

I wrote an article about this event a while back, Lindsay Ross recently published the evocative photo above of  a wonderful summers day of a time and place so long ago, too good not to feature.

https://primotipo.com/2015/01/20/jack-brabham-cooper-t51-climax-pub-corner-longford-tasmania-australia-1960/

Brabham won the 17 lap race from Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati, Alec and his car were to be Australia’s Gold Star champions that year, and Stillwell 3rd.

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Brabham with Stillwell alongside, then Aussie Miller in yellow beside the Glass Maser. Almost ready for the off (John Ellacott)

Here is publican, crop-duster pilot and racer Austin Miller’s immaculate Cooper T51, 2.2 litre Climax powered, in the Longford paddock amongst the sportscars, he retired on lap 3. How sweet it is. This car, chassis ‘F2-20-59’, driven by the intrepid Austin, later set an Australian Land Speed Record, which then Chevy 283cid V8 powered makes it Australia’s first ‘F5000’, and is a fascinating story for another time…

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(John Ellacott)

Credit…

oldracephotos.com/Ellis, John Ellacott, oldracingcars.com

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Austin Miller’s Cooper T51 Climax chases Bib Stillwell’s similar car at Reid Park gates, Mount Panorama, Bathurst on 2 October 1960, magic John Ellacott shot…

The two drivers are contesting the ‘Craven A International’ won by Jack Brabham from Bill Patterson, and Stillwell in 2.5/2.4 and 2.2 litre Cooper T51’s respectively. Miller retired his 2.2 litre engined car during the 26 lap race. Note the beautiful bucolic Bathurst surrounds of apple orchards and grazing paddocks, is a dangerous place, especially then, these cars mighty quick.

Jack was in the process of winning the 1960 GP championships for himself and Cooper, returning to Oz between the Italian GP at Monza on 4 September and season-ending USGP at Riverside on 20 November. He won the title with 5 wins from teammate Bruce McLaren and Stirling Moss (Lotus 18 Climax). Jack and Bruce drove ‘Lowline’ Cooper T53’s that season.

The tyre marks are from Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S which had a component faiure earlier in the meeting.

The Gold Star title for Australia’s champion driver that year was won by Alec Mildren in another T51 but interestingly powered by a 2.5 litre Maser 250S ‘Birdcage’ engine.

I’ve already written an article or two about Stillwell.

https://primotipo.com/2015/03/10/bib-stillwell-cooper-t49-monaco-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1961/

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/22/aston-martin-db4gt-zagato-2vev-lex-davison-and-bib-stillwell/

Businessman, crop-duster pilot, publican, racer and Australian Land Speed Record Holder ‘Aussie’ Miller is an intensely interesting character, article coming soon! I know his son Guy having raced against him in FF and his engineer Geoff Smedley has helped with another article, must call ’em!

The shot below is also at Bathurst, its Austin heading across the top of the ‘mount. ‘Superior Cars’ signage is one of Stan Jones Melbourne dealerships.

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(John Ellacott)

Credits…

John Ellacott