Posts Tagged ‘Australian Motor Racing History’

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit…

State Library of South Australia

WJ Phipps and J Seery drove this 7 hp Citroen Type C from Fremantle, Western Australia to Adelaide, South Australia, Melbourne, Victoria in May 1923, and on to Sydney New South Wales, a  journey of about 3,180 miles…

The West Australian pair left Freo in the 856cc, 4 cylinder, 3 speed small car on 1 May. Phipps originally intended to make the trip on a motor cycle and sidecar but received an offer from the Citroen agents to use the small car instead, he then invited Seery to accompany him. In various reports described as a planned as an attempt on the Fremantle-Sydney transcontinental record, or to prove a small light car could make the challenging journey, the trip became a ‘more leisurely touring drive’ after the loss of four days due to hub damage.

Phipps quipped that ‘When we left Perth we were the laughing stock of all motorists because no-one dreamed we would be able to get through’. Even the cars agents were somewhat dubious about their prospects. The intrepid adventurers travelled all day and night, one sleeping whilst the other drove.

The route chosen took them from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie (WA) Port Augusta to Adelaide (SA) Melbourne and then on to Sydney (Victoria and NSW respectively).

The Perth ‘Daily News’ reported that ‘Despite the fact the whole outfit with luggage weighed 18 cwt, (including 23 gallons of petroleum benzine and 8 gallons of water) the little car had no difficulty in negotiating this heavy route’. For hundreds of miles, the pair followed the transcontinental railway line as much as possible, there was no track at all, with large limestone boulders having to be moved before they could proceed.

The car was delayed by four days near Naretha, 180 miles from Kalgoorlie on the transcontinental railway line, ‘owing to one of the wheels crashing into an obscured stump’ the Citroens hub was broken necessitating a spare to be delivered by rail from Perth. Apart from that mishap they ‘never had a spanner on the car’.

The most challenging part of the trip were the Yardu Sandhills in central WA where the Citroen got through unaided, taking five hours to go 12 miles. Other heavier cars on previous trips having to be hauled through by bullock teams.

Adelaide was reached in 157 driving hours on 11 May, this section of the trip was 1,769 miles. Behrens and Marshall (another report says Maugham-Thiem Motor Works) were the Citroen agents in Adelaide, the photograph of the car is out front of their Flinders Street showrooms.

The car then set off for the 571 miles to Melbourne at 2pm that afternoon 11 May. The other most difficult leg of the trip was the section near Kurow Lake, there, instead of being axle deep in sand, they were axle deep in mud. They arrived in Melbourne at 8 am on 14 May.

After a days rest Phipps and Seery then set of for the 594 mile Sydney leg at 10.45 pm on 16 May via the Hume Highway route. They stopped for a night in Gundagai, wet and cold from exposure and set off again on Saturday arriving that evening, 19 May ‘…in Martin Place with West Australian air’ a quip referring to the fact that the tyres had not been pumped up at any time on the journey. The car was shod with Dunlop ‘Railroad’ tyres, averaged 38-44 miles per gallon, used 1.5 gallons of lubricant with the average speed for the entire trip 16.5 mph.

In a parting shot Phipps said ‘We are on a holiday trip…we will return in the car…we intend on the way back to the West to have some dingo shooting on the Nullarbor Plain’.

I wonder if this significant Citroen survived?

Credits…

WS Smith/State Library of South Australia. ‘The Daily News Perth’ 2 June 1923, ‘Perth Sunday Times’ 20 May 1923, ‘The Express’ Adelaide 11 May 1923

(Adelaide Observer)

A couple of years ago I wrote a long piece about the first car race in Australia, the article asserts that momentous event took place at Sandown Park, Melbourne on 12 March 1904. I’m in a constant search to find an earlier race

Whilst not a car race but a ‘demonstration or parade’, what seems to be the first event of this type in Australia was held at Adelaide Oval on Saturday 11 October 1902. More interesting is that the first claimed motor-cycle race in Australia took place on the same day.

The Adelaide meeting was promoted by the ‘League of Wheelmen’ a cycling organisation at no less a temple of sport than the wonderful, picturesque Adelaide Oval, not at all a venue I would have considered as one at which ‘motor racing’ took place.

Located in North Adelaide, Adelaide Oval is the best sporting venue in Australia. That my friends is a huge statement for a Melburnian member of the Melbourne Cricket Club, our ground is the Melbourne Cricket Ground. We Melburnians reckon the MCG is the best bit of sporting dirt on the planet, but good ole Adelaide Oval is better. It doesn’t win in terms of seating capacity, but the location, surroundings, vibe, the hill and scoreboard, the vista of trees towards St Peters Cathedral cannot be matched. And having seen a few stadiums around the world its ‘up there’ with the best globally in character and comfort if not capacity.

That Saturday the League of Wheelmen hosted a day of racing- cycling, motor car demonstrations and the new ‘sport of kings and millionaires’ as the Adelaide Advertiser put it- motor racing. The motor-cycle racing 5 mile event event was ‘the first motor race in Australia’ the paper reported.

The hallowed turf primarily used for cricket and football (Australian Rules) then incorporated a steeply banked track at its outer perimeter which was ideal for cycle racing and ‘admirably adapted for contests between motor cycles and for the establishment of records’ if not so great for motor car racing.

The days program was dominated by cycling events with many interstate competitors taking part. In addition there were 13 contestants of the motor-cycle races in the afternoon with ‘the final’- my god, a championship! to be held the following week, on 18 October.

An interesting part of the program ‘to indicate the growth of the (motor) industry’ was a parade of cars, motor-cycles, quadri-cycles, cycles and velocipedes, the organisers showing a keen sense of history of transport with a focus on the previous thirty or forty years.

The Adelaide Observer reported that the display created a favourable impression. ‘The big cars whirred around the track with surprising velocity, and so easy were they to control and so graceful in their evolutions that their popularity is assured’. It seems fair to say that the success of the demonstration of cars on that October day, and the following weekend provided some type of impetus for the first car race in Australia at Sandown and the first car race in South Australia, at Morphettville two years later.

Parade of motor cars at Adelaide Oval on 11 October 1902 (Observer)

Context is Everything in History?…

We forget sometimes just how far we have come.

The Adelaide Observer of 18 October 1902, in an article entitled ‘How The World Moves’ comments upon how the dreams of Jules Verne were coming true. At the time the voyage to America from the UK had been cut to 124 hours, ‘with only 70 hours at sea’. ‘In rather less than 400 years the record of Magellan in circumnavigation of the globe has been cut from three years to between 50 and sixty days’.

The article addresses ‘The Age of the Engineer’ and notes that the cheaply constructed great Siberian railway being eventually destined to be recognised as one of the great wonders of the railway world, with ‘the Era of the Canals’ taking 1000 miles out of  global journeys. ‘Many ancient landmarks are threatened and many time honoured routes promise to become ways of the past, interesting as the grass grown coach roads of England, but no more frequented by the conveyances one so familiar.’

In addition to the above more macro view of progress, this extract from the Adelaide ‘Chronicle’ of the same day very concisely places the development of the bicycle, motorcycle and motor car in the context of the up till then omnipotent form of personal transport, the horse…

‘The opening day of the League of Wheelman’s October race meeting marked an interesting epoch in the history of cycling. One of the events on the programme was a motor cycle race- the first held in the Southern Hemisphere, and it was to be the introduction of this novelty and an exhibition of motor cars that the large attendance was due’.

The cycling world is one of rapid evolution. Forty years ago velocipedes equal to a speed of six or seven miles an hour were a favourite means of locomotion. They gradually developed into the ordinary high machine, with which it was possible on a good track to ride a mile in three minutes. It is only a little more than a decade since the ‘safety’ chain-driven machine, with pneumatic tyres, made its appearance in the streets of Adelaide, and the ‘ordinary’ disappeared before its more stylish and faster rival.’

‘From the early nineties the safety revolutionised cycle racing, and record succeeded record at a bewildering rate, until it became common for a cyclist behind pace to eclipse the times of the best racehorses the world has ever produced’.

‘The popularity of the sport developed…the League of Wheelmen…at one time promised to become a very wealthy body…but two or three years later the absence of crack riders from the other side of the world and the lack of variety in the sport, coupled with unfavourable weather conditions, resulted in unprofitable meetings’.

‘Now the motor has come to play its part in the sport, and its advent was enthusiastically welcomed on Saturday…the gate receipts…and next Saturdays takings…will all be profit.’

Mix of old and new cycles, Adelaide Oval 11 October 1902 (Observer)

‘The story of the evolution of the motor car was admirably told on Saturday in the exhibition of ancients and modern methods of locomotion…the early form of the bicycle was illustrated by old wooden velocipedes…40 years old…ridden in the old fashioned costume of top hats and black suits with flying coat-tails…Alongside of these were motorcycles ridden by Messrs TP O’Grady, A Allison, W Baulderstone, W Courtney, R Davis, HM Aunger, RW Lewis, FR Burden, EA Gowan, D Bruce and EF Wilksch were shown.’

‘Most interest was shown in the motor cars, of which four were shown. Mr Gordon Ayres brought his car, a very handsome one…but it could not be taken onto the track…with an old set of tyres one of which blew out. Mr H Thomson’s ‘Swift’, which he has just imported attracted considerable notice. The other two cars which raced around the oval were both locally manufactured. One was shown by Mr V Lewis, and driven by Mr H Bernard, and the other was exhibited and driven by Mr J Bullock. In addition to these Messrs J Bullock, H Bernard and the representative of the Massey- Harris Company had motor quadricycles on the track. With all these machines careering round the oval at their best pace the spectacle was in the highest degree interesting. The exhibition was the success of the day, and when the officials of the league saw the impression it made on the spectators they at once resolved to repeat it next Saturday. Mr Ayers car will then be shown in action with all the others.’

TP O’Grady with his ‘works’ Lewis motor-cycle- winner of the first motorbike race in Australia 11 October 1902 (Observer)

‘The other novelty of the meeting was the motor cycle race of 5 miles’. Originally their were 13 entries with the race divided into two heats, with two machines withdrawing from the first heat.

‘TP O’Grady was off scratch, W Courtney 30 seconds, A Allison 50 and W Baulderstone 1 min 5 sec. Baulderstone was away well and had almost completed a lap when O’ Grady was pushed off. Courtney retired early with a mechanical problem. O’ Grady’s machine took a while to get going, but when it did it was soon seen to be the fastest machine on the track. It lapped the others three times in the 15 laps and covered some of the circuits in 32 and 33 seconds. Its fastest pace was at the rate of 1 min 32 sec for the mile, or 30 miles per hour. O’ Grady an old time racing man, who constructed the motor himself at Mr V Lewis cycle works, was loudly cheered as he finished his five miles journey in 9 min 10 secs. Just after he crossed the line the belt of his motor broke. There was an interesting run for second place between Allison and Baulderstone. The latters machine lost the pace with which it started, and Allison was able to keep ahead’.

A story about Vivian Lewis and his nascent cycle, motor-cycle and car company is a story in itself, O’Grady was Works Manager, Works Rider/Driver! and a shareholder in Vivian Lewis Ltd.

The Adelaide Observer had this to say about O’Grady’s performance. Thomas Patrick ‘Tom’ O’Grady ‘carried off the honours’ covering the 5 miles in a time of 9 minutes 10 seconds ‘at times he travelled at the rate of 39 miles an hour’. Some of the laps of 612 yards were covered in 33.25 seconds with one mile timed at 1min 33 seconds. It was the first occasion on which the machine had been tested, it was not completed until the Saturday morning, the average of 1min 50 seconds per mile ‘must be considered gratifying, particularly as a strong wind had to be contended with’.

There were six starters in the second heat which was run at a lower pace with interest being lost when R Davis’ belt broke with 3 laps to go when he was overhauling the leaders. J Bullock won from FH Burden, RW Lewis, EF Wilksch and Davis. ‘The final between the first three in each heat will be run next Saturday’.

In a full program of bicycle racing many of the motorised racers jumped onto their normal racing cycles.

The Chronicle concluded its report by commenting favourably on the performance of ‘The Locomotive Band’, which gave a fine rendition of the march ‘Colonels Parade’, that there were no accidents during the day which ‘was well managed in every respect’.

In keeping with the mood of the week a novel race on the road was also advised, this comprised, ‘…a contest between B Thompson’s 4.5 hp car and the Broken Hill Express train ‘in a scamper to the Burra, the chauffeur and the engine driver to shake hands at the Adelaide Railway Station before starting’! Logistically this would have been easy as Adelaide Station is only several hundred metres from Adelaide Oval.

So. What do we take from all of the wonderful prose about the days activities on 11 October?…

Firstly, the claim that the first motor-cycle race in the Southern Hemisphere was run at Adelaide Oval on 11 October 1902 and won by TP O’Grady on a local Lewis machine.

It seems clear the first motor-cycle racers were graduates of bicycle racing.It makes sense doesn’t it in terms of the balance, competitiveness and the need for more speed required!

It also seems the case that the ‘League of Wheelmen’ saw motor cycle racing- and especially car competition which appears from the report to be the most popular event or motorised display on that October day, keys to future commercial success. To turn around their flagging gates.

Of course the bike and car racers would soon go their own separate ways probably when a greater number of venues became available to them both on public roads and specialist, speedway, closed circuits. But for the moment the would be motorised racers needed venues and the cyclists had them, and ‘in good nick’ too.

(Observer)

The 18 October meeting was run in splendid Adelaide spring weather with much expected from the motorised events but mechanical mayhem somewhat ruined the motor-cycle racing program…

The organisers changed the spectator amenities during the week by allowing better viewing of the cars, perhaps by allowing the punters to get closer to the action. His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor conferred his patronage to the carnival. ‘Visiting officers of the Australian Squadron have accepted the Leagues invitation to be present’ the Evening Journal notes in an article published on the day of the race. Its interesting in these modern times to see what was regarded as relevant then but now is very much ‘who gives a rats’ stuff. Similarly the language of the day is wonderful in its eloquence, the prose of times gone by I enjoy I must admit. Long-winded sometimes but enjoyable nonetheless!

O’Grady’s ‘brilliant run’ of the week before stamped him as a certainty for the final, with many returning spectators expecting him to lap the field twice aboard his Lewis over the five mile duration of the final.

The contemporary newspapers reported upon the riders but not the machines, sadly. So, in the main, we don’t have details of the bikes ridden on that important occasion. The final was a race between five competitors with TP O’Grady off scratch, A Allison 50 seconds, VR Burden and W Baulderstone off 1 minute 5 seconds and the limit-man J Bullock on 1 minute 20 seconds.

A warm up for the bikes was provided during the cycle and motor parade which was also a feature of that days events. The competitors for the race had a trouble free run during this morning event.

During the later stages of the afternoon, just before the feature cycling event ‘The Australasian Ten Miles’, won by Victorian DJ ‘Don’ Walker, the ‘Motor Race’ commenced.

Bullock, Baulderstone, Burden and Allison completed a lap before O’Grady was pushed off from the start. There was general disappointment as the locally built Lewis bike was pulled onto the grass by its driver, the engine not firing properly. With 7 laps to go Burden passed the stationary O’ Grady, his ‘machine going splendidly’.

2 laps later Burden lapped Allison and with 4 to go caught Baulderstone again, with whom he had started. With 2 laps to run Burden passed Allison and finished an easy winner in 9 minutes 15 seconds. His time was 5 seconds slower than O’Grady’s over the same distance the week before. Bullock was 2nd in 9 mins 34 seconds and Baulderstone 3rd in 10 min 23 secs. Prize money for the race was ten, three and two pounds from first to third places.

The distance between Adelaide Oval and the fringe of Victoria Park, site of the first Formula One Australian Grand Prix in 1985 is small, 1.5 Km, but the performance difference between the cars displayed and Keke Rosberg’s victorious 900bhp Williams FW10 Honda is immense. In their wildest dreams, a spectator present on that glorious October 1902 day who also attended the AGP on a similarly wonderful, hot day in November 1985 could not have conceived of cars of such vastly different performance and sophistication within their own lifetime?

The Adelaide built Lewis car number 1, the first car built in South Australia on display/parade at Adelaide Oval on 11 October 1902, driver H Bernard. In 1902 form the car was powered by a water cooled 5HP, petrol, single-cylinder engine with ‘electric ignition’. The transmission had belt drive to a countershaft behind the rear axle from where spur gears drove the wheels. The Adelaide Oval event was one of the last public appearances of the first Lewis- motor car design was progressing rapidly and the 2 year old car was becoming dated. Lewis did build a few more cars but the future for the company was importing rather than manufacture, within a few years the business was distributing Napier, de Dion, Talbot and Star brands (unattributed)

Photo Credits…

 State Library of South Australia, Adelaide Advertiser, Adelaide Observer

 Bibliography…

Adelaide Advertiser 11, 17, 20 October 1902, The Daily Telegraph Sydney 13 October 1902, Adelaide Observer 18, 25 October 1902, The Adelaide Register 20 October 1902, earlymotor.com

Tailpiece: Be There on 18 October 1902…

 

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

(SLSA)

AG Bungey’s or GB Woodman’s Humberette 5HP on the startline of the Magill to Norton Summit Hillclimb, Adelaide, Saturday 16 December 1905…

The first of these events run by the Automobile Club of South Australia (ACSA) was held a year before, on 17 December 1904. I was terribly excited at finding a shot of a competitor in the first hillclimb in SA, but upon further research it appears the superb photograph is from the 1905 event, the second of three, the final in-period event being held in 1906.

The photo took my breath away, there is so much going on. I find fascinating the clothing and attire of the drivers, officials, kids and teenagers. Love the deer-stalker hat and pipe of the dude on the left. The officials with writing pads are HR Harley and HR Hammer- do let me know if any of you are related to them. The Steward at the start line is the Club Secretary RJ Hancock, perhaps he is the fella to the right of the car?

The competition was held in ideal Adelaide summer weather with what slight wind there was, blowing down the hills, perhaps impacting times slightly.

Bungey’s time for the 4 mile journey from the East Torrens Hotel at Magill (corner of what is now East Street and Magill Road) up into the Adelaide Hills finishing line at the White Gate, Norton Summit, was 42 ½ minutes which suggests he was either incredibly slow or had some type of mechanical drama. Woodman completed the distance in 30 min 7 seconds. Fastest time of the day, to use modern phraseology, was recorded by ES Rymill’s Darracq 15HP who did a time of 9 minutes 10 seconds. So keen was Rymill to win the event that his car was rebuilt, ‘like many cars it had been dismantled for the occasion’. Great to see the competitive spirit from motor racing’s most formative stages in South Australia!

Pictured below are the Rymill brothers, notable pioneering South Australian motorists, aboard their fast Darracq at the top of Belair Hill on the way to Victor Harbor during the ACSA Reliability Trial held during Easter 1905, 21 and 22 April. These type of reliability events were very popular in Australia in the early years of motoring with this one the first organised by the ACSA.

Adelaide’s ‘The Advertiser’ newspaper characterised communal views on the car at the time: ‘The average citizen considers that the principal characteristic of a motor car is its fickleness. In his opinion it will go sometimes, but often it will not go. To disabuse people of this erroneous idea the club inaugurated the trial, which has had the effect of proving that as a general rule the motor car is reliable, and, considering the distance covered at a high speed was 228 miles, there were comparatively few mishaps, and all of those were of a trivial nature. Of the 14 cars which competed seven (including the Rymill Darracq) succeeded in accomplishing the entire 228 miles, constituting a very severe test, within schedule time, and gained the full number of marks’.

(SLSA)

This trial comprised two legs, the first of 120 miles on Good Friday from Mitcham, an Adelaide suburb to Victor Harbour, site of the 1936 South Australian Centenary Grand Prix aka ‘1937’ Australian Grand Prix held in December 1936 on the Fleurieu Peninsula. On the Saturday, 108 miles were covered from Adelaide to Mannum.

Twenty one cars and five motor cycles contested the Norton Summit Hillclimb with the competitors arranged in classes according to their quoted power ‘and sent away at different times to obviate passing each other’ with ‘officials stationed at all the sharp curves on the road’. The quickest bike was N Jackson’s 2.5HP water-cooled Lewis, his time was 10 minutes 6 seconds.

The Advertiser’s report notes ‘There was not one breakdown or mishap, which speaks volumes for the excellence of the cars owned by South Australia’.

Just a brief note to put these early, formative motor sporting contests into the broader framework of motoring competition in Australia at the time. When I wrote about Australia’s first ‘Motor Car Race’ at Melbourne’s Sandown Racecourse on 12 March 1904, (link below) respected Australian motor racing historian/author/racer John Medley said ‘that was brave!’ meaning the topic is somewhat contentious. It would be great to hear from others who may feel an event other than the Sandown contest was the first.When was the first ‘race’ in New South Wales for example?

https://primotipo.com/2015/11/17/australias-first-car-motor-race-sandown-racecourse-victoria-australia-1904/

In South Australia, for the record, it appears the first hillclimb, legal one anyway!, was the 17 December Norton Summit event on Saturday 17 December 1904 and the first ‘car race’, ‘where motor cars take the place of horses, and race in competition at their top speed’, was held at Morphettville Racecourse, 10 Km from Adelaide on Saturday 12 November 1904. This meeting was also promoted by the Automobile Club of South Australia.

FS Rymill had earned the nickname from Adelaide tram and cab-drivers of ‘The Flying Dutchman’ for his fast driving exploits in traffic. He and his Darracq 15HP were the stars of the show that Morphettville November day winning the 3 mile ‘Tourist Car Race’ from scratch, in this race a full complement of passengers were carried averaging at least 10 stone or over in weight. Rymill then won heat 1 of the ‘Starting Competition’ (starting the car by handle and then racing) and finally the 3 mile ‘Heavy Car Race’. Perhaps the latter was the premier event of the day, where Rymill again won off scratch from the De Dion 12HP of A Allison and De Dion 8HP of Dr Gault.

Bibliography…

‘The Advertiser’ Adelaide 20, 22 and 24 April, and 22 December 1905, ‘Chronicle 12 November 1904, ‘Adelaide Observer’ 19 November 1904

Photo Credits…

State Library of South Australia

 

The finalists are off to a flying start in the 6 October 1930 ‘World Championship’ for under 1500cc cars on dirt, Penrith Speedway, Sydney…

The glass plate negative, wonderful monochrome photograph creates such an evocative feel apart from the scene itself. From the outside is John Sherwood’s cumbersome looking Lea Francis O-Type, then the Sam Aggett and Charlie East driven Bugatti T37’s and on the inside Tom Lord’s, Geoff Lowe owned Austin 7 Brooklands. On the very inside verge is Jack Field’s supercharged Lea Francis S-Type Hyper tourer slowing having paced the competitors for a lap before the championships 3 lap journey, East was the winner in his Bugatti.

Event and Competitors…

A record entry of 79 cars was received for the meeting. The winner of the feature event, Charlie East, described as an ‘old hand track and competition driver’, was proclaimed World Champion for cars under 1500cc on dirt tracks.

The 6 entries for this 3 lap race were all rather local notwithstanding the grandiose title of the Light Car Club of New South Wales promoted event, not that there is anything new in promoters ‘puff’ to put bums on seats!

The Nepean Times reported that the race was ‘No mere crow attracting stunt, but a legitimate worlds championship event’. The ‘International Racing Organisation…specified certain electrical timing apparatus, this to be controlled by officials sanctioned by the leading motor body of the state’. The event was supervised by the Royal Automobile Club of Australia, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport was not formed until the 1950’s.

The Sydney Morning Herald noted Mr TF Lord’s supercharged Austin 7 Brooklands was a new car with Messrs Charlie East and Sam Aggett entering 1496cc (T37) Bugatti’s. Tom Sulman had a career which went all the way from the early 1920’s in the UK to his unfortunate death in a Lotus 11 Climax at Bathurst in 1970, was entered in a 1096cc Salmson.

John Sherwood was a luminary as a driver, businessman, motoring and motorsport administrator down the decades, he entered a 1496cc Meadows 4ED twin-carb powered Lea Francis O-Type. Sherwood was the driving force of the NSW Light Car Club as well as the key individual who created the Mount Panorama track at Bathurst. From a pioneering motoring family, he was a formidable competitor and later, as a Director of Empire Speedways, was a big contributor to the growth of Speedway Racing in Australia.

WH Northam was the final entry in another 748cc Austin, a combination which had many wins at Penrith and who later raced to 6th place in the 1932 Australian Grand Prix aboard this car. Bill Northam had an extraordinary life of achievement in commerce, sport and as a charity fund raiser. Long after he stopped motor racing he took up yachting in his mid-forties making the Australian Olympic Team and winning the Gold Medal in the 5.5 metre class at the Tokyo 1964 games. He was knighted in 1976 and died, aged 83, in 1988.

Other races on the ‘Eight Hour Day’ Monday public holiday card were an all powers handicap over 5 miles, a handicap for under 850cc cars over 3 miles, a four mile scratch race and finally the NSW LCC handicap over 3 miles.

The Championship Race…

Four starters took the flag with Sulman and Northam knocked out in eliminations conducted over 1 lap, a mile, with each car having a flying start. Aggett was the fastest qualifier at 66.91 mph from East, Lord, Sherwood, Sulman and Northam the slowest on 60mph.

The racers were given a rolling start behind JA Fields Lea Francis, then East immediately took the lead in his Bugatti from Lord’s Austin, then Aggett’s Type 37 and Sherwood’s Lea Francis ‘handicapped by a cumbersome body’, ‘Sherwood’s Lea Francis could not be opened up except in the back stretch’ in 4th. East drew away to a lead he never relinquished, and led Aggett by 100 yards from Lord. East’s lead stabilised at about 400 yards from Aggett, who was handicapped by an oiled plug, Lord was 100 yards further back and then Sherwood last.

In the final quarter of a mile Lord and his little supercharged Austin seized an opening through the dust, coming alongside Aggett’s Bugatti in 2nd. ‘Aggett swung a trifle wide on the last turn onto the home stretch, and, straightening up, cut down to the inner edge of the racing course. The two cars touched with the Austin spinning wildly. ‘Lord’s car spun on its side, dragging the driver, who was half out, and half in the Austin. Lord sustained abrasions to his legs and face. Charlie East one of the Maroubra stars, won in a time of 2 minutes 33 seconds at 70.58 mph by 100 yards with a wheel, literally, between Aggett and Lord in 2nd and 3rd. Sherwood’s Lea Francis was last car home.

The excitement was far from over though. ‘With Lord in the hands of the ambulance people, the stewards took prompt action. They disqualified Aggett and ‘sent him out’ (banned him from competition) for six months’. ‘The Referee’s’ report of the race then pointed out the unfairness of this process which was so speedy, their was no call for full evidence and Aggett appealed. I’m uncertain of the response of officialdom to this request.

Aggett and Lord make contact, the accident attributed to the Bugatti T37 driver rather than Lord aboard the tipping Austin 7 Brooklands (Fairfax)

John Sherwood’s Lea Francis  won the final of the open class ‘Widgery Cup’ Handicap, the ‘Clyde Battery Cup’ handicap for cars under 850cc final was won by CB Tye’s Austin 748cc and the All Powers Scratch Race final by CO Spurgeon’s Rajo Ford with the Club Handicap for under 2000cc cars won also by Tye’s Austin. In a day of interesting racing a special match race between Captain Hammond’s Gypsy Moth aircraft was won by the plane over J McCutcheon’s Morris Midget by a few lengths, the distance a flying mile, pun intended!

Penrith held the international spotlight for a week during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the town is 50Km west of Sydney on the Nepean River, it was the site of the whitewater rafting and rowing competitions. But the hype about the Penrith 1930 World Championship race inclusive of its title were not indicative of the events true local nature.

The competitors were all from New South Wales, a notable absentee was Bill Thompson, three time winner of the Australian Grand Prix and in sparkling form in 1930. Earlier in the year he won his first AGP at Phillip Island and had swept the board in the same AGP winning Bugatti T37A during the Gerringong Beach racing carnival on NSW’s Illawarra Coast in May. Thompson was reported to be entered at Penrith but did not race, his entry was received ‘out of time’ and so was refused. Talk about a promoter putting due process in front of ‘the show’! ‘The Referee’ report noted the ‘the field was unworthy of a world championship. Without entries from Thompson, Drake-Richmond and Terdich, to mention but three of the missing cracks, the field was not even truly representative of Australia’. Both Harold Drake-Richmond and Terdich were Victorian stars, Arthur winner of the 1929 AGP at Phillip Island aboard a Bugatti Type 37A.

Charlie East, all smiles aboard the winning Bugatti T37, Penrith, October 1930 (Sydney Morning Herald)

Not that the quality of the final lacked talent in the context of Australian Motor racing, very much nascent at the time…

The Australian Grand Prix was held for the first time on an oval dirt layout around the showgrounds at Goulburn, New South Wales in 1927. The 1928 AGP, ‘The 100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island, the first proper race in Australia on a road, run on a large, rectangular, gravel course was more indicative than Goulburn of the direction Australian racing would take and was indeed the race which started the tradition of road racing in Australia.

At the time Australian motor racing was largely amateur, a ‘run what you brung’ approach prevailed with most competing cars driven to and from the track. The sport evolved from hillclimbs, sprints and races on horse-tracks, the province of the gentry pre-War, to hillclimbs at Waterfall Gully, Kurrajong, Mount Coot-tha and Belgrave, beach racing at Gerringong and Sellicks to venues such as Aspendale, Maroubra and Penrith Speedways. Racing on Sydney’s banked, concrete  Maroubra Speedway track was very professional. Maroubra was owned by a commercial enterprise, not a car club, there was prize money to be won, the approach of the top competitors was consistent with that- the importation of cars and preparation thereof with a view to commercial success prevailed.

Some brave kids watching a competing car at Kurrajong Hillclimb, 75Km northwest of Sydney in the lower slopes of the Blue Mountains, October 1920, the competitor has the two outside wheels in the dirt on turn in! Hillclimbs were incredibly popular forms of motorsport in Australia at the time either as stand alone events or as part of trials which were events mixing navigation and speed events, usually sprints and hillclimbs. Between 1915 and 1926 there were at least 50! different hillclimb venues used across the country (Michael Terry)

John Medley wrote that ‘it was some time before other groups followed (the Light Car Club of Victoria’s Phillip Island) road racing direction, preferring the simpler expedient of running trials with speed sections included (rather like modern rallies) or contests on simple dirt speedways- both of these being more easily controlled by the organisers and also less accessible to the long arm of the law. One consequence was that their was very much a casual air to the whole occasion, with ‘chop picnics, family gatherings and exuberant overnight parties.’

I have not used the term speedway racing as the ‘forked road’ the sport took in later years had not yet occurred, competitors contested a variety of events as above. In addition solo intercity record-breaking attempts were also important with Graham Howard recording that ‘…intercity records…were the most consistent form of competitive motoring in Australia until the late 1920’s, and produced our first household-name drivers…’

A little snippet in the ‘Nepean Times’ article is a reminder of the important co-existence, with the motorcycle dudes the leaders, of ‘bikes and cars racing at the same meetings. The article notes that the Penrith meeting was ‘the only all car one in New South Wales for about five years’. It is also reported in terms of contemporary competitor numbers (79) that the meeting had ‘a record entry for a car race meeting for any part of Australia’. Also amusing, the ‘Times notes ‘Women are barred, (from entering the championship race) which means that Mrs J.A.S Jones will not be driving her supercharged Alfa Romeo. (6C1750) But it is hoped this fine car will race even with a mere male at the wheel’!!

Penrith Speedway’s first meeting was at Easter in 1924 and morphed through lap distances of 1 mile 80 yards to the 1 mile course used in 1930. The track was touted by international competitors who raced there as ‘The Worlds Greatest Dirt Track’ but its life was relatively short-lived. The Commonwealth Defence Department compulsorily acquired the land in 1941 and the circuit was consumed in that process.

RG Potts racing the Mrs JAS Jones owned Lea Francis on Gerringong’s Seven Mile Beach, 50 Mile Handicap on 10 May 1930. You can just see the pole at left which Potts is turning around to head back the other way on this beach near Kiama, 130 kilometres to Sydney’s south. There was no road racing in NSW at the time so racers did ‘the lot’- sprints, the hillclimbs which were often part of the trials conducted by local car clubs, the speedway at Penrith, and here upon Gerringong Beach. Sellicks Beach on Adelaide’s Fleurieu Peninsula was also used by ‘bikes and cars to race (Fairfax)

The six ‘World Championship’ entrants were all experienced New South Wales competitors with Sherwood and Sulman later entrants in Australian Grands’ Prix. Sherwood’s car appears to be a Lea Francis ‘Hyper’, a competition variant of the marque successful in the UK at the time and powered by a supercharged 1496cc 4 cylinder engine.

I can find no details of Sulman’s Salmson and am keen to hear from any of who may know about his car. Tom Sulman is revered in Australia as a doyen of racers who simply never stopped until the sport eventually took his life. I was at Winton a fortnight ago and looked again at the Sulman Singer, the amazing self-constructed dirt car Tom built and raced in England in the 1920’s before his return to Australia. It was a constant in Australian motor racing in both contemporary circuit events, and later from the mid-seventies, in historic racing when driven by Ron Reid. Upon his death not so long ago, his sons continue to race a car which must have done more racing miles than any other on the planet!.

Somewhat bizarre is that the ex-Charlie East Bugatti T37, chassis  ‘37104’ sits in Earl Davey-Milne’s garage in Toorak, Melbourne one kilometre from where I am writing this article right now! Chassis ‘37104’ was the fourth T37 built and shipped to Sydney’s  Russell Taylor, the prosperous owner of the Advanx Tyre company. It was raced for him by Charlie East, a driver whose stature was growing at the time. East was a Maroubra regular, one of its stars having first raced there in 1926 and subsequently lapping at over 96mph and on one occasion his lap was timed at over 116mph. Davey-Milne bought the car in 1943, it remains in the Chev Corvette V8 engined, open chassis form Earl rebuilt it to in the late 1950’s. East didn’t race the car in an AGP but ‘37104’ was raced in the 1933/4/5 events at the ‘Island driven by Cec Warren in 1933 and John McCutcheon in ‘34/5.

It isn’t clear if either or both the East and Aggett Bugatti T37’s were normally aspirated or to T37A, supercharged specifications. I can find no references as to which particular Bugatti Aggett raced and am keen to hear from any Bugatistes who can help with the identity and specification of the car and the drivers background. Similarly, whilst Lord’s Austin 7 is reported to be of blown Brooklands specification I have no details of the Northam Austin 7. All details again gratefully received. These snippets of history are all interesting i think!

In this case the photo which inspired the research and the resultant article popped up on that internet thingy when I was messing around looking for shots of Bill Thompson after reader Rob Bartholomaeus corrected the caption of an article I’d written about Thompson and his Bug T37A. Its funny how one thing can lead to another!…

Intercity record breaking was a popular form of solo road competition in Australia until outlawed in 1935 due to accidents. Here is the 25.5hp Th.Schneider with Arthur Barnes at the wheel and mechanic Bill McCulloch alongside- they have just taken the Broken Hill, NSW to Adelaide, SA record covering the 533 kilometres of unmade roads in 8 hours 3 minutes. The car is parked out front of Booth’s Garage, 411 King William Street in Adelaide’s CBD. 12 August 1925 (WS Smith)

YouTube Footage of Penrith…

Makes clear the speed and danger of the place! I looked at the film enthralled but the danger was readily apparent before discovering other footage of a multiple fatality when a car crashed into spectators in 1938. When ‘shit happens’ at speed, without protective barriers, its all over in the blink of an eye. Racing entry tickets still have the ‘Motor Racing is Dangerous’ message to this day, and so it was for all, spectators included until not so long ago!

Bibliography…

‘Nepean Times’ 27 September 1930, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ 30 September and 7 October 1930, ‘The Referee’ Sydney 8 October 1930

‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’, John Medley, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and Ors, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden

Photo Credits…

Fairfax, Sydney Morning Herald, State Library of South Australia, WS Smith, Michael Terry

Finito…

 

 

 

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Seeing this book by Bill Tuckey amongst the display collection Michael Gasking brought to the Repco Brabham Engines ex-employees get together brought a smile to my face…

I didn’t ever own it but it was one of a very small number of racing books in Camberwell Grammar School’s library when I started there, aged 12.  Having only recently become interested in racing I was like a sponge for information. What was significant about this tome is that it was written by a talented journalist, Bill Tuckey, who edited both ‘Wheels’ and ‘Sports Car World’ magazines, the latter became one of my monthly bibles along with ‘Racing Car News’. The book covered a very broad canvas comprising all the Australian Grands Prix, portraits of the champion drivers at the time (the early sixties) as well as our circuits and the round Australia epic trials of the fifties.

It was a great read and provided important historical context for my contemporary obsessions at the time which were F5000 in Oz and F1 ‘over there’. I must suss it on Ebay.

Anyway, I thought I would share the cover art, the circuit depicted is Sandown, the Cooper T70 like car is just hooking into Shell Corner or Turn One, its vanilla name these days.

Bill Tuckey died not so long ago, this obituary in ‘Wheels’ is a great tribute to a talented man;

https://www.wheelsmag.com.au/news/1605/obituary-bill-tuckey/

Credits…

Michael Gasking Collection/Bill Tuckey, cover art by Phil Belbin