Posts Tagged ‘Australian Motor Racing History’

Matich A53 ‘007’ front suspension detail- upper and lower wishbones, coil springs and luvverly double-adjustable alloy bodied Koni’s- de-rigueur in F1 and F5000 at the time. Cast magnesium uprights, Melmag wheels, Lockheed calipers grabbing Repco disc rotors. Note the tubular steel subframe which mounts to the aluminium Matich designed but Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation fabricated monocoque chassis- they also cast the Matich steering rack. Pretty lady behind the car on Goodyear duty is unknown, sadly. Derek Kneller is working on the left front, guy with ‘builders cleavage’ is Grant O’Neill. Around the left-rear is Peter Hughes in the white T-Shirt with ‘Lugsy’ Graham Adams in the yellow polo shirt (T Glenn)

Bob Muir settles himself into the cockpit of the new Matich A53 Repco on Friday 1 February, prior to its debut race, the Oran Park Tasman round on 3 February 1974…

Frank and his team had finished the car before the Tasman but Matich was badly hurt in a boating accident the week before the meeting in which he was electrocuted and injured badly.

Bob was chosen by Frank to race the car after he tested it- against doctors orders and satisfied himself that the rigours of a full race weekend, inclusive of the 90 lap race in summer heat were beyond him at that early stage stage of his recovery.

As things transpired Muir raced the A53 only the once at Oran Park before Frank returned to the cockpit at Surfers Paradise a week later- FM did the last three Tasman rounds and soon after retired from racing for good.

Frank Matich tests the A53 early on that Friday before OP- I wonder how many laps he did and how long the task list was after his first test laps?! (D Harvey)

The 1974 Tasman was a beauty.

By the time of the fifth round at Oran Park, there had been four different winners in New Zealand.

John Walker took the opener at Levin on 5 January in his one-of-a-kind Lola T330 Repco Holden, Peter Gethin won at Pukekohe the following weekend in his VDS Chevron B24 Chev- then John McCormack was victorious in the somewhat geriatric, but continually developed Elfin MR5 Repco at Wigram- that year the New Zealand Grand Prix. Max Stewart won the Teretonga round in his mighty fast Lola T330 Chev ‘HU-1’ the very first of the breed, Frank Gardner’s development or prototype car in fact.

Muir aboard at OP. Repco Holden F5000 engine- car fitted with the ‘ultimate spec’ flat-plane crank unit giving circa 520bhp and not losing the mountain of torque for which these units were known in the quest for more power. Note the ‘Varley’ battery behind the Lucas injection unit and coil- no doubt now very well insulated from the ‘good vibrations’ of the engine which ‘shook the shitter’ out of the battery and cost the one race only A52 victory of the Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy, Gold Star race at Surfers Paradise on 2 September 1973 (T Glenn)

I wrote at length about Frank and his Formula 5000 designs a while back, click on this link for a comprehensive story and analysis of these wonderful machines, with A53 ‘007’ the last and best; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

This article is about the development of the Repco-Holden F5000 V8; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/03/repco-holden-f5000-v8/

(D Kneller)

The photo above is of Matich Chief Mechanic Derek Kneller and Bob Muir consulting during practice at Oran Park, the one below is a fortnight later at Sandown- its FM exiting Peters/Torana Corner and blasting up the back straight in a new ‘small-window’ Bell Star.

Bell together with Goodyear were two of the racing brands for which Matich held the local commercial rights. The helmet is a “Bell 120 (Degree) Full Face Helmet- they retailed at $79.90 at the time…”, quipped Matich employee Rob McDonald.

So, by Oran Park the Matich lads were up against it with their new car- the opposition were race ready off the back of the first four intensely Tasman fought rounds. Mind you, it is fair to say that the A53 was a slightly tidied up and evolved version of the short-lived A52 which met its maker when Muir had a testing shunt in it at Warwick Farm in late September 1973.

(unattributed)

Generally the designers original intent is its most pure, don’t you think?

If i’m critical of the look of the car, a machine which to me was a real honey of a thing, maybe the only element which is not aesthetically pleasing is the way the A50-52 cockpit surround doesn’t integrate well with the nosecone.

The thing was a jet right outta the box mind you- so who gives a shit what I think!

Repco’s Ken Symes and Derek Kneller push FM’s A53 from the Sandown fork up area or dummy grid into pitlane, Shell Corner or more boringly ‘Turn One’ behind. Note the engine oil sump on near side aft of the radiator. Note brake air-scoops since OP (P Weaver)

The A53’s was first completed and wheel-aligned on the ground on 11 January 1974- ‘by that stage the Tasman was already underway but we could have had the car finished easily in time for Pukekohe. Repco didn’t want us to go given the fuel shortage dramas they expected in New Zealand’ recalled Derek Kneller. The first OPEC Oil Embargo or crisis began in October 1973 with New Zealand particularly impacted given 80% of their crude oil needs were provided by Middle Eastern countries.

With hindsight Repco over-reacted, but the net effect of their decision (despite well before renewing Matich’s annual August to August sponsorship agreement through to the end of August 1974) was that Team Matich didn’t race in New Zealand- so the final build of the car was done in relatively relaxed fashion rather than with the pressure of the 5 January first round in mind.

‘Mind you, Frank sent me to the Pukekohe first round race weekend to scout around and report back on the Tasman field on latest developments and what everybody was up’ Derek recalled. No doubt the new Warwick Brown and Graeme Lawrence Lola T332’s were of particular interest.

When back in Sydney the crew completed the car- the team at that stage comprised FM, DK, Peter Hughes, Grant O’Neill and Leon Jarvis.

A53 was first tested at Oran Park on 24 January, the driving chores shared by Matich and Enno Buesselmann.

Enno had come out of FV and FF and had a strong 1973 driving the Bob and Marj Brown owned ANF2 Birrana 273 Ford-Hart- he was third in the championship that year behind Leo Geoghegan’s dominant, similar, works car. Matich decided to give him some laps in the car.

‘Enno did two stints of 10 laps apiece’ recalls Derek. ‘We didn’t time the first ten given it was his first time in a big car but he got down to a best of 47 seconds dead in the second of his two sessions. With the same setup as Enno FM did a 44.6- and then later in the day a best of 43.6 seconds after some changes were made to the car’.

The team then left the circuit with a decent job list before the Oran Park Tasman round.

‘Frank had a visitor from Repco in Sydney- one of the senior guys, he planned to take him out in his boat, Frank had a home and boat slipway at Clareville. The boat wouldn’t start- the battery was flat. He grabbed a Honda generator and the leads for a battery charger and mistakenly pushed the lead into the 240 volt, rather than 12 volt plug- he then got a big shock from the alligator clip which attached itself to the fleshy part of his hand, burning it badly. Simultaneously he fell forward downwards and over the battery, burning his chest and losing consciousness’.

‘Kris saw some of this from the wharf and jumped into a skiff to help his Dad- who motioned not to come near the live boat- the generator stalled ending the ordeal. Frank had burns to the fleshy piece of his right hand between the thumb and forefinger and chest.’ In addition there was the mental shock related to the whole incident. Most of you are aware the gearshift in a racing car is usually on the right so FM had a considerable challenge in managing 100 miles at Oran Park a few days hence.

Despite the accident Matich had not lost his sense of humour, team machinist/fabricator Peter Hughes recalls Frank saying to him ‘that when he lost consciousness and came around again “I could hear the generator running and thought I’ve died and gone to hell and they have Honda generators here!”, He also told me that he couldn’t grasp the round knob to turn it off and pushed the choke lever up to stall it. Sense of humour and thinking all the time’ concluded Peter.

Despite that setback Matich, heavily bandaged, and no doubt against his medical advice did ten laps of Oran Park on the Friday before the meeting getting down to a best of 42.4 seconds.

The team had dramas in practice at OP, typical teething problems, including  the engine, which meant that Bob started off the back of the grid, his best according to Team Matich records was a 42.8- the result in the race was a DNF after fuel-pump failure.

Max Stewart’s T330 won the ‘Oran Park 100’ race that day, but Peter Gethin again finished- its was his fifth in a row finish, this time in fifth place, ultimately he would win the title with an eight out of eight 1974 Tasman finishing record.

Derek, ‘On the Wednesday (6 February) after the race we went back to Oran Park for some further testing.’

‘We had fitted a new rear suspension crossbeam and also cured the fuel pump problem. During the Oran Park race Frank walked to several corners to observe the A53 on track, and after the race he checked his rear suspension drawing and come up with a new spec for the rear crossbeam, he stood the spring/shock unit more upright by a couple of degrees. After the Wednesday test he was pleased with the change.’

Frank drove 27 laps in total and Bob Muir drove 12. The majority of Frank’s were in the 42’s with a quickest of 41.0. Bob’s furst stint was also in the 42’s and his second stint reeled off 5 laps- 41.3, 41.1, 41.3, 41.0 and 41.0. Pole for the race was 39.9. From my working with FM i know there would have been at least 1 second being held back in testing when FM was fighting fit let alone suffering from the injuries from the accident. After this test we were given another work list to complete before setting off for Surfers on Thursday afternoon’ Kneller concluded.

Team Matich then trucked the mighty quick car up to the Gold Coast where Matich was so fast in the A52 not so many months before during the September 1973 Gold Star round.

His time was good enough for fourth on the grid, despite it being his first real go in the car and coping with a broken throttle cable and too much oversteer- he finished third behind the Teddy Pillette and Gethin VDS Chevron B24’s despite knocking off a front wing on lap 15.

FM’s was a mighty fine display of speed amongst all those highly developed cars- not to say personal grit and determination in all the circumstances.

Sandown is a power circuit, Matich put his flat-plane crank 520bhp Repco engine to good use qualifying second on the grid behind Gethin. A crowd of over 20,000 people saw Matich lead for 15 laps before water pump problems- apparent from lap 5, the resultant cooked motor ended his day.

Gethin took the win from Graham McRae’s McRae GM2 Chev- the disappointment of the series in terms of results if not in absolute pace and Walker’s T330 Repco.

A53 at rest in the Adelaide International paddock (C Bond)

 

Matich during his final race appearance- the ‘Adelaide 100’ at Adelaide International on 24 February 1974. FM fourth behind Warwick Brown, Peter Gethin and Graeme Lawrence- Lola T332, Chevron B24 and Lola T332, all Chev powered (D Mellonie)

And so to the final Tasman round, Adelaide International, and as it turned out FM’s final race.

Frank again popped the car second on the grid, the car was fitted with a fresh engine, a tenth shy of Stewart’s T330.

In the race he was running second before spinning on some oil and again worked his way up to second- and challenging Brown hard in the final stages, before he spun four laps from the end when his engine momentarily cut out. He finished fourth, 27 seconds behind winner Warwick Brown.

WB had the honour of taking the very first win for the Lola T332- the first of hundreds of victories for the T332/T332C/T332CS/T333 F5000/Single-Seat Can-Am family of cars! Warwick’s car, or his patron, Pat Burke’s to be more precise, chassis ‘HU-27′, was the very first of the T332’s.

The A53 was a great bit of kit- it won the the 1976 Australian Grand Prix in John Goss’ hands (in chassis A51/3 ‘005’) a couple of years after it’s birth.

If only FM had gone to the US in 1974. It would have been fascinating to see how a 520 bhp, flat-plane-crank Repco V8 powered A53 would have fared amongst a plethora of Lola T332 Chevs. With the lessons learned during the unsuccessful 1973 L&M Series campaign for sure they would have put up quite a fight…

Derek Kneller and Ken Symes fettle the A53 in the Sandown Park paddock (A Radley)

Lets come back to Frank’s retirement, Derek Kneller again picks up the story.

‘We were set up beautifully for 1974.

Repco had renewed the sponsorship arrangement in August 1973, they had allocated us four engines which were powerful, as displayed during the Tasman races we did- and the new car was quick.

Consulting with the Matich Red Books (FM used a series of red hard cover foolscap books as data logs), when he got out of the car at Adelaide he dictated a long job list for the car, all to be done before the next race. Car too low/too much brake on the rear/too much wing?/steering vibration/more roll stiffness at rear/stay with banana wing (Matich at the time had the ‘original Matich wing’ and an ‘American banana’ style)/check bump steer and shocks/rear springs harder/new brake ducts/tyre pressures too high.

When he got out of the car and we left Adelaide he planned to race on.’

Frank and Joan Matich in the Warwick Farm form up area poor to the 1973 Tasman round- Matich A50 Repco ‘001’. Note the neck brace Joan is wearing

‘In Adelaide he spun twice, once on oil and the second time he couldn’t work out why. He had constant ringing in the ears as a result of the boating incident and just felt at 39 he could not concentrate as he had always been able to before so he felt it was perhaps time. At the same time FM’s wife Joan was having severe ongoing problems with her neck including surgery. So it was a combination of factors as a consequence of the accident and the need to focus on Joan and the rest of the family that led to the decision to retire, sell the racing cars but otherwise remain in business including the racing franchises such as Goodyear and Bell’ Kneller said.

No doubt Matich indicating he wanted to retire made the decision for Repco to withdraw from racing easier given the global competitive pressures upon them in the increasingly difficult economic situation of the time- oil shocks, the progressive lowering of Australian Tariffs and global ‘stagflation’.

Derek Kneller returned to the UK (there are some great stories there to be told when his book is finished!, c’mon Derek lots of us are waiting for that little baby!) with Peter Hughes the last of the race team to leave, he ‘worked with Tony Simmons for a while then when John Goss finally bought the A53 I worked with John and Grant O’Neill until 1975- the 1975 Tasman was the last series with John before marrying and travelling around Australia for two years.’

(M Bisset Collection)

Etcetera: The closely related Matich A52 Repco ‘006’…

During 1973, as related in one of the linked articles above, Matich took two A51’s to the US to contest the American F5000 Championship, the ‘L&M Series’, the cars used were chassis ‘005’ and ‘006’- ‘005’ was tested for a day at Warwick Farm before shipping to the states, ‘006’ was not.

The team who travelled to the US were, FM, DK, Chief Mechanic, Chris Miles, Team Manager, Bob Riley, Draftsman and engineering of the car, John Anderson and Leon Jarvis, Mechanics and Ken Symes looking after four Repco V8’s

Derek Kneller recalls ‘The cars did not perform as expected we had a handling problem on the latest spec Goodyear’s and the bumpy nature of the US circuits. The tyres weren’t identical to those we tested before going to the US. FM wasn’t the only driver testing the F5000 tyres, the final production tyres we were presented were different, so we were playing catch-up. The cars were still as fast as any at the Riverside first round mind you’.

‘The biggest problem was engine related. The higher cornering speeds of the US circuits threw up a scavenge problem in the Repco engines, this seemed to get worse as the season went on and at Watkins Glen the crankshaft bearings were damaged in both cars during practice and both were withdrawn from the race after discussion with Repco management in Maidstone the night before the race. This meeting was the first at which we ran the flat-plane crank engines.’

‘If Frank had qualified on the time he did on the Friday we would have been on the front two rows at the Glen. By then Matich had the car sorted on the tyres- this involved changes to shocks/camber and toe to get the loading right. We also moved the battery to the front to load the car up front a bit more.’

‘At the start of the season the A51 was as competitive as the T330 but its development accelerated with so many drivers and teams running and experimenting with the T330’s’.

‘Straight after the race weekend at Watkins Glen chassis ‘006’ was flown back to Sydney with me so that the handling and engine problems could be sorted. Chassis ‘005’ was left in the States with the rest of the team.’

Matich A51 ‘006’ and A51 ‘005’ in the Watkins Glen pitlane, June 1973- A51 ‘006’ rebuilt as an A52 using the same ‘006’ chassis as per text (D Kneller)

‘On returning to Sydney the engine problem was overcome, an additional scavenge pump was added to scavenge oil from above the camshaft. Oil was being retained in the valley above the camshaft in the longer fast corners causing oil starvation in the oil tank, leading to bearing failure.’

After the engine problem was sorted it was decided to redesign the chassis to overcome the handling deficiencies, hence the A52 design…The A52 was built using the A51 ‘006’ chassis and rear end but with a longer engine/gearbox adaptor (bellhousing) giving a 2inch longer (50mm) wheelbase than the A51, this was in line with the Lola T330′.

‘The radiators were moved to the sides of the chassis along with modifications to the engine water pump so that each radiator cooled the opposite side cylinder head and were shrouded with aluminum ductings’.

‘The oil tank was repositioned behind the left-hand radiator (from beside the cars gearbox, outside its wheelbase) and the battery moved from the front of the car to above the bellhousing’.

At the front of the chassis the steering rack was moved from the chassis itself to a heavily redesigned front subframe. The top pick up point for the shock absorber/spring assembly was raised approx 1 1/4 inch (30mm) along with a redesigned lower wishbone and new front uprights. These mods gave an increase in front suspension movement’.

‘To complete the design a chisel shaped nose made from fibre glass was added, the complete car was about 10 Kg lighter than the A51’.

‘The A52 was tested extensively by Frank at Warwick Farm during late July/early August 1973 with a hope of returning to the US series, but a problem with the sponsors in the US prevented this happening’.

FM Matich A52 Repco, ahead of Max Stewart’s Lola T330 Chev, Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy, September 1973 (K Payne)

‘We had hoped to be back by Atlanta but we had problems with Carroll Smith and the Earley’s who owed us money. They were a father/son combination who were chiropodists operating their business and workshop in Dover, Ohio. Smith went AWOL at the Glen- non-one could get hold of him, he was bluing with the Earley’s too and then turned up a couple of races later with Graham McRae’ recalled Derek.

‘Frank sent me back to bring all of the cars, spares- the lot, Ken and Ando were still there whilst the other three had already come back to Australia.

FM side aspect at Surfers, similarity to A53 clear albeit A53 sidepods were bigger and longer to cover the fuel cells meet the new for 1974 deformable structure regulations (K Payne)

 

Matich off to the side of the circuit at Surfers trying to diagnose his problem- a destroyed battery internals (K Payne)

‘The A52’s only race was the Gold Star race, the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’ at Surfers Paradise on 2 Sepember 1973 when fitted with a flat plane crank Repco F5000 engine. This gave over 520hp and sounded like a Cosworth DFV on steroids! (the best of the two-plane Repco engines gave circa 495bhp@7000rpm)

‘FM was quick straight away- he knew what the tyres needed, he led the race setting fastest lap before retiring with battery failure, the high frequency vibration from the engine shook the internals of the Varley battery apart.’

‘The car was comprehensively destroyed in a test session at Warwick Farm in late September whilst driven by Bob Muir. The chassis was beyond repair, both the outer and inner skins were damaged. The photos show damage from the car hitting the water-sprinkler system at Warwick Farm, 50mm diameter steel pipes- at great speed’.

‘Frank was not happy as he had just left the circuit after a successful session to visit his wife Joan, who was in hospital- and had let Bob have a steer to get another drivers opinion of the car, Bob had been driving a Lola T330 Chev in the US’.

As a consequence of the death of A52, A53 was born using the last remaining Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation constructed chassis.

(D Kneller)

Photos of the comprehensively damaged A52 ‘006’ back at the Matich workshop in September 1973.

‘The ‘006’ remains stayed at the Matich Military Road workshop and were then moved to the warehouse in Aartarmon and then later Darley Road and were finally junked a week or two before I rejoined Matich in 1989′ said Derek.

‘Frank knew I would want to repair and restore the car which he didn’t want to do so he got rid of it not long before I arrived back to run his Headway Helmets business- I shipped a Mondiale Formula Ford out for Kris (Matich) when I came back to Australia too’ Derek recalled.

(D Kneller)

Photo and Other Credits…

Tony Glenn, Derek Kneller, Peter Hughes, Peter Weaver, David Mellonie, Dale Harvey, Peter Weaver, Alan Radley, Ken Payne via John Payne, Curt Bond, oldracingcars.com, ‘Australian Competition Yearbook’ 1975 Edition.

Click here for Allen Brown’s great summary of the Matich F5000 cars;

https://www.oldracingcars.com/f5000/matich/

Tailpiece: Muir, ready to rock n’ roll, Oran Park pit lane 1 February 1974…

(T Glenn)

Its all happening above, its the Friday before the meeting.

An obscured Bowin P6F Formula Ford is between the Matich and Brian Foley’s ‘Chesterfield Racing’ XA or XB Ford Falcon Panel Van.

The shapely form in the driving suit holding the helmet in the middle of the shot is Christine Cole/Gibson who ran a Group C ‘105 Series’ Alfa 2000 GTV from 1973 to 1975 in many races including the 1975 Australian Touring Car Championship (which she gave a really good shake!) and Manufacturers Championship- its probably Foley to the left of Cole?

The more you look, the more you see…

Finito…

(P O’May)

Here he goes again, more Longford!…

Well yes, and tough-titties to those who have had already too much of a good thing!

The wonderful thing about the internet is that it provides a means for enthusiasts to share their information, knowledge and photographs.

In this case it is some of the collection of Peter O’May of the 1959, 1960 and 1961 Longford meetings- his son Malcolm uploaded the material onto ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ a month or so ago.

What makes Peter’s work special is the different perspectives forced upon him as a spectator- he lacked the photographers pass to shoot from the ‘usual spots’ the pros frequented so his work tends to be from different angles than many of the photos we see. In addition, the shots are all colour- as rare as hens teeth back then.

Mal picks up the story ‘…my dad was 25 when the AGP was at Longford in 1959, he and his brother Neil (whose car the front window shots were taken from) attended every Longford event from the first one that the cars were raced, through to the 1968 finale. I have been insanely jealous of this right from the first stories he told me about these days when I was a young bloke right through to now!’

Since these photos were posted in mid-March 2019 Peter, who had been quite ill, passed away so this article is a tribute to him, his enthusiasm, ‘eye’ and passion for a sport he clearly loved.

RIP Peter, thanks to you and Mal for making the wonderful, evocative shots available for us to see and enjoy.

Given I have covered either cars or some of the events before, I decided to group the cars by year as Peter shot them and provide links to relevant information I have already published.

The photo identification process was made easy as my friend/historian Stephen Dalton did all of that research using his formidable memory and resource base.

The opening shot choice- gees it was hard to make that one!

But in the end bias prevailed and it had to be a muscle-shirted Stan Jones willing his Otto Stone prepared Maserati 250F to 1959 Australian Grand Prix victory- a mightily well deserved one which was a long time in coming.

Its such an Australian scene!

The clear as a bell sky, grey’ish greeny blues of the hills in the distance, sprawling eucalypt tree and the unmistakable light browns of parched summer toasted grasses in the foreground. Add in some water towers and characteristic farmers barbed-wire fence and it could be a scene in many places across the Great Brown Land- but for the big, red racing car at far right of course!

Keith Malcolm, Skoden Sports lining up for the entry to The Viaduct (P O’May)

1959: 2 March Labour Day long-weekend…

Longford was first used by cars in 1953 when several races were provided for four wheelers in amongst the motorcycle program- we have the bikies to thank for Longford folks.

Tasmania had not hosted an Australian Grand Prix until 1959- the circuit could not be denied of course.

The big outright cars first raced here in 1958 when Ted Gray prevailed in the Tornado Chev, the following year Stan Jones won the race having also been awarded the Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship the year before.

(P O’May)

Stan’s was a wonderful win- and timely, the era of the front-engined Grand Prix car was coming to a close. There is little doubt that had Len Lukey’s Cooper T45 (above) been fitted with a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF rather than one of 2 litres in capacity that Len would have won on that memorable day- he was 2 seconds adrift after 1 hour and 11 minutes of racing, 25 laps, 110 miles.

(P O’May)

I’ve done Stan to death here; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

and on that ’59 GP here; https://primotipo.com/2016/01/08/stan-jones-agp-longford-gold-star-series-1959/

and more on the Maserati at Longford here; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/11/1958-longford-trophy/

(P O’May)

John Lanyon’s MG Spl ahead of Max Stephens Cooper T40 Bristol on the run into The Viaduct- click here for a piece on the T40; https://primotipo.com/2017/07/04/max-stephens-cooper-t40-bristol/

and again; https://primotipo.com/2015/07/16/60th-anniversary-of-jacks-first-f1-gp-today-british-gp-16-july-1955-cooper-t40-bristol-by-stephen-dalton/

Its not just any T40 mind you, its Brabham’s self built 1955 Australian Grand Prix winning car- Jack had a somewhat lucky win that day at Port Wakefield at the expense of Stan Jones and Reg Hunt.

Max retired the car after completing 18 of the Longford laps- it was a machine that had a woeful reputation for reliability albeit it held together for Jack on that important Port Wakefield day!

And below the Cooper on The Flying Mile- he is close to Mountford Corner is my guess.

(P O’May)

 

Another character I have written extensively about is ‘Dicer Doug’ Whiteford, here below leading Frank Coad, Vauxhall Spl into The Viaduct.

(P O’May)

This car was one of Australia’s most iconic for the five or so years Whiteford raced it throughout the country.

He ran it in both sportscar events and in ‘single-seater’ events such as the AGP which was to run to Formula Libre at the time- until 1964 when the ‘Tasman 2.5’ Formula was introduced.

By then (1959) it wasn’t quick enough to win the AGP, an Australian Tourist Trophy eluded him too- not that he didn’t win plenty of races in it.

I have opined before that he should have bought a 250F from Officine Maserati rather than a 300S at the duration of the 1956 Albert Park AGP, the Maserati guys brought five cars along to that meeting- three 250F’s and two 300S. Whiteford and Bob Jane owned the Maseratis for years, Bob for decades.

See Doug here; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/05/doug-whiteford-black-bess-woodside-south-australia-1949/

and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/16/1953-australian-grand-prix-albert-park/

The photo above is in practice or during a sportscar support race- Coad did not contest the AGP, the lovely Vauxhall Special still exists by the way, the 300S has long since left our shores after decades in the hands of the Leech brothers.

Whiteford was out before completing a lap of the AGP with a major driveline failure as the car jumped the Tannery Straight railway crossing. Alec Mildren was extremely lucky not to chest mark a bit of uni-joint at 100 mph- the offending part ‘only’ hit the crown of his helmet in a desperate attempt by Alec to duck to avoid the heavy, lethal, exotic missile.

 

(P O’May)

A wonderful crowd pleaser in 1959-1960 was Ron Phillips in the big, booming Cooper T39 Jaguar- here dropping into The Viaduct, a spot Peter clearly spent a bit of time at in 1959, what a spectacular place that must have been and accessible to all.

Click here for this ex-Whitehead/Jones machine; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/05/mount-tarrengower-hillclimb/

Phillips started on row 3 of the grid only a half a second behind poleman Jones but retired after completing 18 laps with differential failure.

 

In a sea of Coopers Austin Miller’s cars were always easy to pick in their distinctive yellow hue.

(P O’May)

The crop-duster pilot come hotelier prepared his own cars and did a great job both in and out of the cockpit.

Here he is aboard his ‘Miller Special’ Cooper T41 Climax FWB- he failed to finish having completed 8 laps with a leaking gearbox casing.

Reminds me I have a feature on Aussie 95% complete! I’ve owed Guy Miller a call for at least 12 months just to finish the sucker off! Click here for a quickie on Aussie; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/20/aussie-miller-cooper-t41-climax-trevallyn-hillclimb-launceston-tasmania-1959/

 

Arnold Glass loomed large on the local scene in a variety of exotic front and mid-engined cars funded by the cashflow of his ever more successful Capital Motors automotive empire in Sydney.

(P O’May)

Arguably the car from which he extracted the most was his ex-Bib Stillwell Maserati 250F, his weapon of choice from 1959 to 1961- here he is bellowing a melodic six-cylinder song along The Flying Mile, not far from the Mountford braking area.

He finished a strong third in the AGP having started from grid slot 3 and set the fastest race lap- 97.01 mph, he was two seconds behind Stan and Len at the races end.

Click here for a piece on Mr Glass; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/

 

Alec Mildren’s Cooper T45 Climax singing its way along The Flying Mile, he was fourth in the AGP in his little, new for 1959, 2 litre FPF powered Cooper- the story of his lucky to survive race was related above. Alec was two seconds behind Stan as well- what a race finish to see that would have been.

See the Water Towers in the distance- they are to the drivers left as they travel up the Pit Straight hill towards the right-hand, fast plunge downhill towards The Viaduct. Alec will shortly brake hard for the 90 degree right-hand Mountford Corner into Pit Straight.

The following year at Longford, Mildren’s clever concoction of Maserati 250S engine and new Cooper T51 chassis made its race debut.

By the end of the season the Sydney motor dealer/racer had won both the Gold Star and a sensational AGP win at Lowood from Lex Davison’s Aston Martin DBR4 3 litre in a nail-biting, split second finish. Alec’s story, or Part One of it, is told here; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/08/mildrens-unfair-advantage/

 

(P O’May)

Geoff McHugh, Allard J2, The Viaduct entry.

He wasn’t entered in the AGP but rather contested one of the other events- the big beast was timed at 137mph over The Flying Mile during the 1955 Tasmanian Trophy.

This J2, chassis ’99/J/1731′ is the first to race in Australia and achieved much success in the hands of Stan Jones and then Tom Hawkes before sale to Geoff McHugh- I wrote about it a while back; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/07/allard-j2-tom-hawkes-collingrove-hillclimb-1952/

 

(P O’May)

Let’s end 1959 with Stanley- plunging into The Viaduct.

 

(P O’May)

1960: 5 March weekend…

The steady ascension of Touring Car Racing was underway even back in 1960- here ‘perhaps Ron Marshall, red Holden FE, #71 David McKay in the red Jaguar and #69 Ron Hodgson grey Jaguar, then #14 the Dick Crawford Morris Minor having a moment at Mountford’ Stephen wrote.

(P O’May)

David McKay looking typically natty in blue top replete with British Racing Drivers Club badge and red-spotted cravat- no doubt the Dunlop man is happy with the results.

McKay would have been full of confidence having won the first, one race, Australian Touring Car Championship at Gnoo Blas, Orange New South Wales only a month before on 1 February. There the same Mk 1 3.4 litre Jaguar as above won the 20 lap race in a Jaguar rout from Bill Pitt and Ron Hodgson’s similar cars.

McKay is covered here; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/03/pete-geoghegan-ferrari-250lm-6321-bathurst-easter-68/

and here; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/12/bert-and-davids-lola-mk1-climax/

The Jaguar Australian Touring Car period is here; https://primotipo.com/2014/10/20/australian-touring-car-championship1962-longford-tasmania-battle-of-the-jag-mk2s/

 

(P O’May)

By the time of the 1960 meeting Jack was the reigning, just minted 1959 World Champion.

Here in the paddock he is alongside his Cooper T51 Climax chassis ‘F2-4-59’.

Thats local grazier/racer John Youl in the shades sussing out Jack’s wheels as his next potential purchase! Tim Wall to the right- who is the fellow Jack is speaking to? Twelve months hence John would have a new T51 of his own- in which he was mighty impressive.

Click here for an article on John; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/02/john-youl/

(P O’May)

Look into the distance of the photo above and you can see Ron Hodgson’s ex-McKay ‘Grey Pussy’ Jaguar Mk1 3.8 and the distinctive blue Cooper Jaguar of Ron Phillips.

That’s Jack’s Dad to the far left in the braces, but who is it on the end of the trailer- he always helped Jack manage things when in Oz- he pops up in so many of the shots for a decade it is not funny! Then the Dunlop chappy- who is he? Note the open tailgate of the Holden FC Station Wagon as we call ‘Estate’ cars in Australia.

The Cooper T51 is chassis ‘F2-4-59’, said by Allen Brown’s oldracingcars.com to have been ‘…Brabham’s main car during the early part of 1959 and then became a spare car when ’27-59′ appeared at Zandvoort’.

(P O’May)

The ‘Longford Trophy’ 17 lap feature race on the Monday of the long weekend was won by Jack- seven seconds in front of Alec Mildren’s new T51 Maserati mentioned earlier in this piece. Brabham is shown below lining up his Viaduct entry.

(P O’May)

Bib Stillwell was third in his T51 Climax 2.5 and then came Arnold Glass in the best placed of the front engined cars. Then followed the Jon Leighton Cooper T45 with Glynn Scott Cooper T43 Climax the last of the finishers in a pretty skinny field of only twelve cars.

Click here for an article on the 1960 meeting; https://primotipo.com/2015/01/20/jack-brabham-cooper-t51-climax-pub-corner-longford-tasmania-australia-1960/

 

(P O’Day)

In many ways equal billing to the single-seaters in 1960 were the Sportscars contesting the 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy, in effect the Australian Sportscar Championship.

Arguably, that grid of sporties was the best ever at a Longford meeting?

The race was one by Derek Jolly’s ex-works Lotus 15 Climax shown in the paddock above, next to a Vauxhall.

‘In the background is a red Triumph TR2, #99 the Tom Sulman Aston Martin DB3S and the Sid Sakawski/Tony Basile #15 white 356 Porsche Carrera’ adds Stephen.

Click here for an article about Jolly and the Lotus 15; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

and here for one on the ATT; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/17/1960-australian-tourist-trophy/

Oh, and one on Tom Sulman; https://primotipo.com/2018/04/19/tom-sulman/

 

(P O’May)

On the other side of the same Vauxhall mentioned immediately above is Arnold Glass’ 250F being fettled for the Longford Trophy.

Twelve months on it was twelve months harder for one of the grandest of front-engined Grand Prix cars in a sea of mid-engined machines. Before too long Arnold would have a Cooper T51 Maserati of his own.

 

(P O’May)

1961: 5 March weekend…

Dianne Leighton, Triumph Special with Ray Long’s Elfin Ford Streamliner looking for an inside line into Mountford Corner- the distinctive tree looms on the right inside the barbed-wire fence.

(P O’May)

Brabham was defeated in the 1961 South Pacific Championship by his former 1958 Cooper teammate Roy Salvadori in a Cooper T51 Climax- here Jack enters The Viaduct.

Mind you, it was an ‘Ecurie Vitesse’ Brabham owned car Roy drove, chassis ‘F2-5-57’, an ex-McLaren works machine.

Brabham had halfshaft failure in his own T53 ‘Lowline’ after completing 18 of the 24 lap ‘Longford Trophy’. The chassis number of that car is ‘F2-8-60’, a car Brabham raced in F1 in 1960.

That year there were fourteen starters in the feature race of which eleven were Coopers of varying vintage. Salvadori won from Patterson, Youl, Miller, Davison (in Aston DBR4) and Mildren- all in T51’s of varying Climax capacity, and in Mildrens case, a Maserati 250S 2.5 litre engine.

Click here for an article about Roy’s win and career; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/22/roy-salvadori/

 

(P O’May)

Murray Carter plucks second gear on the downshift before Mountford- the Carter Corvette became a familiar sight at Longford and the other Tasmanian circuits raced as it was by Bert Howard, a local for some years into the late sixties.

What a sound that booming 283 CID Chevy V8 would have made along The Flying Mile- click here for Murray and his car; https://primotipo.com/2017/01/19/forever-young/

1963: 4 March weekend…

(P O’May)

Bill Patterson’s Cooper T51 Climax with Lex Davison’s Len Lukey owned Ford Galaxie in the background.

Click here for an article on Patto- 1961 Gold Star winner and co-driver for some very hot laps with Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 AGP win at Caversham in 1957; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/02/patto-and-his-coopers/

The South Pacific Trophy Longford feature event was won that year by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T70 from Bill Stillwell in a Brabham BT4 and John Youl in a Cooper T55, all three Coventry Climax FPF powered.

 

(P O’May)

Drivers Eye View: Long Bridge…

Every section of a circuit is critical for lap times of course, inevitably the really quick stuff are the bits that sort the men from the boys- no doubt the dauntingly quick left hand entry onto, and left hand exit off Long Bridge is one of those stretches of road.

Amon set the fastest ever Longford race lap in David McKay’s Ferrari 350 Can-Am sporty in 1968- to have seen that lap in this particular part of the Tasmanian world would have been really something.

Peter O’May has done us a big favour with three photos to give those of us not fortunate enough to drive Longford, let alone race on it, a bit of an idea what it looked like from a car. Dalton’s educated guess is that the shots were taken in 1961.

(P O’May)

The car is almost in the middle of this short bit of road, below The Viaduct here- you would not have exited too far to the right tho- you need to be to the left to be able to get on the noise early for the run towards Kings Bridge- the other crossing of the River Esk.

Checkout the hay-bales, it’s still that era of course. Better a hay bale than a bluestone bridge all the same.

I did a long (very) piece ‘Longford Lap’ a while back which may assist in piecing the challenging track together; https://primotipo.com/2018/07/05/longford-lap/

This piece is just on this Viaduct section of the track; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/28/longford-viaduct/

(P O’May)

The shot above, as is clear, is on the start-finish Pit Straight.

The paddock is to the right, within a year or so a footbridge is in place and a little later a marvellous pit and spectator viewing facility. That helps date the shot.

Looking up the hill you have exited the right-hand Mountford, which is behind you and would be plucking the gears, protecting yourself on the right, but otherwise working your way to the left of the road after you pass the Water Towers and over the brow of the hill (see below) to line up for the fast right towards The Viaduct.

Credits…

All photographs in this article were taken by the late Peter O’May- via Malcolm O’May

Stephen Dalton for the car identifications, oldracingcars.com.au, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden

(P O’May)

Tailpiece: The Viaduct vista 1960…

What a stunning image to finish with.

The final shot is taken from the top of the hill, to the left of the railway line looking back up the hill to the quick right-handler towards The Viaduct itself.

Stephen’s call on the cars is the rear of the Alan Jack Cooper Bobtail, Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Ern Tadgell’s Sabakat (Lotus 12 Climax), Alec Mildren’s Cooper T45, another Cooper, the Geoff McHugh Allard J2X and perhaps David Finch’s Jaguar D Type.

Checkout the attire of the crowd.

A few ‘flat caps’ which is sorta unusual in Oz? What are they looking at though?, it’s not the first lap group of cars but must be an aircraft overhead or perhaps a really stunning looking chick up on top of the bridge?!

It could be a warm up lap of course although Whiteford has moved a bit our way to protect his line from the better braked Lotus, sorry, Sabakat of Tadgell behind him.

Finito…

(D Willis)

Bill Cuncliffe, 22 years of age guides his ex-Snow Sefton Strathpine Ford V8 Spl around the wide open spaces of Lowood in 1956…

Dick Willis shared these wonderful, evocative photographs of Cuncliffe at the ex-RAAF Airfield circuit in Queensland’s Somerset Region 70 Km west of Brisbane.

The mountains (you would call them hills in Europe or North America) are the Great Dividing Range which runs down the east coast of Australia from ‘top to bottom’.

Cuncliffe poses at home after purchase from Sefton, note Dad’s Morrie Minor (D Willis)

The 4.2 litre Ford V8 powered device was quite a formidable machine for a young driver- Bill continued to race into the sixties, he finished eighth in the 1963 Bathurst 500 touring car classic aboard a Ford Cortina GT shared with fellow Queenslander Barry Broomhall.

Built by Snow Sefton at his Lawnton Motors garage in Gympie Road, Strathpine, the Ford V8 Spl contested both the 1949 Leyburn and 1954 Southport Australian Grands Prix.

Sefton on the Leyburn AGP grid 1949. From L>R- #22 George Pearse MG TB Spl, #18 Garry Coghlan MG TC Spl, #17 Dick Cobden MG TC Spl, #7 Alan Larsen Cadillac Spl V8 (Willis/Thallon)

At Leyburn Sefton raced this car, his more conventional ‘Strathpine Spl’ V8 racer ‘having competed elsewhere in Queensland with a Ford V8/Jeep hybrid which allowed a choice of either front drive or four- wheel drive’ Graham Howard wrote in ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’.

At Southport, Sefton raced ‘basically the same car he had run in the 1949 AGP at Leyburn’ retiring after completing 21 of the 27 lap scratch race won by Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar.

Ray Bell reports that the special was fitted with a more powerful and reliable ohv Cadillac V8 by the end of the fifties.

Snow Sefton in the Strathpine Ford V8 Spl in Gympie Road Strathpine in the late 1940’s, out front of his garage perhaps. Awesome if somewhat noisy road car (B Pritchard)

Sefton was the proprietor of the Lawnton Motors for more than thirty years, he competed at all of the Queensland venues post-war. ‘Snow was always the crowd favourite at the Exhibition Speedway every Saturday night in Brisbane with his black and white 1936 Ford (the No 36). Snow’s sponsorship deal for the 1936 Ford is a classic story in itself and involved some of Brisbane’s biggest Holden Dealers! He was also famous for thrilling country crowds with his staunt driving at shows all over Queensland up until the early 1960’s’ said the CHACC.

Etcetera…

The photographs below are of Bill Cuncliffe during the 1957-1958 period.

(Willis/Thallon)

Cuncliffe at the Samsonvale Hillclimb where he was second fastest time of the day. Samsonvale is 35 Km north of Brisbane. Looks like a wild place, the rugged special well suited to dirt surface.

Assistance with the owner/drivers lined up below welcome. Sid Sakzewski Porsche 356?

(Willis/Thallon)

The photographs below are at the Strathpine Airfield circuit.

That location is 25 Km from Brisbane to the north and was a major Queensland motorsport venue from the end of the war until the opening of Lakeside in 1961.

Snow Sefton is credited as one of the driving forces in establishing Strathpine, he and fellow enthusiasts ‘borrowed the Pine Rivers Shire Council road making machinery’ to finish the track for the first meeting on 11 August 1946.

‘They worked like beavers all weekend, returned the equipment before dark on Sunday night, then wired the fence back up. (Most of the councillors were farmers who lived out of town and would not have heard the racket)’ the CHACC reported.

The color shots just ooze the atmosphere and vibe of the times, we are uncertain of the meeting dates- quite probably more than one meeting, note the missing radiator cowl in one image.

(Willis/Thallon)

Cuncliffe getting some encouragement from his mates before the off by the look of it! Below the radiator cowl is missing- hors de combat or removed for additional cooling I wonder?

(Willis/Thallon)

Photos above and below are taken on the same Strathpine day it seems, sans radiator cowling, Quentin Miles thinks his father Bill took the photo below in 1957.

(B and Q Miles)

It really is a most agreeable looking race venue isn’t it, got a real picnic hamper feel to it?

(Willis/Thallon)

 

Credits…

Dick Willis Collection, Don Thallon Collection, Ray Bell, Bill Miles via Quentin Miles, ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and Others, ‘CHACC’- Classic and Historic Automobile Club of Caboolture magazine article in September 2005

Tailpiece: Cuncliffe, Lowood 1956…

(D Willis)

Finito…

 

(I Liddell)

Earl Davey-Milne lines up his Bugatti Type 37 Chev ‘37104’ at Alexandra, Victorian Quarter Mile Sprint Championship, 24 November 1963…

The car started life as a 1926 model Type 37 four-cylinder Grand Prix Bugatti car which raced on New South Wales speedways and in several Phillip Island Australian Grands Prix before being fitted with a Hudson straight-eight engine- and later a 283 CID Chev V8 after Earl blew the Hudson motor at this very event in 1957.

The Alexandra Branch of the Victorian Sporting Car Club ran meetings here, near Eildon Weir for about a decade. Alex, 130 kilometres north-east of Melbourne is well known to skiers as a gateway town to Victoria’s high country and to the boating set who use Lake Eildon. It is otherwise a quiet farming community and home to around 2600 people.

(C Hyams)

Colin Hyams, Jaguar E Type and Norm Beechey’s Chev Impala 409, which was also shared by Dick Thurston on the day.

Colin ruefully recalled that ‘the meeting was the morning after the assassination of JFK.’ The President’s death at the hands of assailants unknown was on 22 November 1963, which makes the ’63 meeting date Sunday 24 November.

(C Hyams)

 

Bugatti T37 ‘37104’…

Whilst the Brescia and Type 30 were widely used in Australian motorsport ‘…it is the Type 37 that is indelibly linked in the older enthusiasts mind with Bugatti racing success here’ wrote Bob King.

‘The association is entirely justified as these 4 cylinder versions of the Grand Prix Bugatti were to win three of the first five Australian Grands Prix with a further victory falling to the visually identical Type 39 of Carl Junker’.

‘It is fortunate and remarkable that these splendid cars had such a high survival rate’ including the much raced ‘37104’.

The car was the fourth T37 built according to King and came to Australia to the order of Russell Taylor who, together with former Australian multiple Olympic medallist swimmer, Frank Beaurepaire, had an international tyre business ‘Advanx Tyres’ based in Sydney.

Whilst owned by Taylor the car was raced for him by Charlie East who had made a name for himself as a tuning wizard whilst apprenticed to, and employed by Phizackerley’s in 1904 at the same time as AV Turner, who later held the Sydney Bugatti franchise.

East evolved from tuning the cars to running in car trials, funding provided by his car hire business- his career in track racing followed.

Charlie East and ‘37104’ outside Advanx headquarters in Sydney with one of his many trophies. Note the road registration, what a supreme road car the Type 37 was, is! (B King)

 

Charlie East at Gerringong Beach, on the New South Wales South Coast circa 1930 (B King)

 

East with a pair of T37’s place unknown. East is leaning against ‘37104’, registered ‘1903’, a plate he used on several cars- the other T37 is Bill Thompson’s 1929 AGP entry ‘37209’. East tuned Thompson’s 1930 AGP winning Type 37A ‘37358’ (B King)

East’s battles with Hope Bartlett in his Bugatti Brescia become a major spectator drawcard for the venue. Charlie had many successes there although Bob notes that by 1927 ‘the handicappers seemed to have the measure of him’. The car was also raced at Penrith- East won the October 1930 ‘World Championship’ for under 1500cc cars on dirt, at Gerringong Beach and in New Zealand during 1929- by that stage owned by East who acquired it from Taylor for the modest sum of 150 pounds. Mates rates indeed!

Whilst East could earn 75 pounds a night at Maroubra, ‘he tired of hurtling around the track and started entering grass hillclimbs with his wife as passenger. He established records at Robertson, Prospect and Kurrajong…’ wrote King.

He sold the car for 500 pounds to Keith Macmeikin of Malvern, Melbourne in in 1933 with King rebutting claims made for a Sydney-Melbourne record time claimed by racer Cec Warren and Clive Smith during the delivery drive south.

The duo claimed a time of 11 hours and 10 minutes for the 575 mile journey ‘but a time of 10 hours 5 minutes had already been recorded by Don Robertson’s Graham Paige in 1930. Nor was it a Light Car Class record which was then held by Jack Clements and Wal Warneford with a Type 30 in 10 hours 53 minutes’ King wrote.

‘37104’ the Sydney-Melbourne record holder, not! Photo believed taken in the rear yard of Sporting Cars, City Road, Melbourne (B King)

The much used racer contested AGP’s at Phillip Island in the hands of Cec Warren in 1933, DNF big-end bolt, JO McCutcheon in 1934, DNF with oiled plugs after making a dash back to Melbourne on the night before the race due to engine trouble in practice.

McCutcheon raced the car quite a lot at the Island including the 1935 AGP where big-end failure intervened. ‘…the car was still highly fancied, being fourth car off in the twelve minute bracket…it’s disappointing performances in the Australian Grand Prix came to an end’ wrote Bob.

It does make you wonder why Taylor and East did not contest some of the earliest AGP’s given Charlie’s skill and the national nature of the Advanx Tyres business and resultant promotional opportunities of any success they may have had.

The Macmeikin clan with the car- Trevor third from the right, Andy at the wheel, place unknown- (A Macmeikin via B King)

David Macmeikin, who bought the car from his brother in 1934, hill climbed it at Rob Roy in 1938, selling to Jim McDonnell of East Kew in July 1939.

He contested the Interstate Cup or Grand Prix at Albury in 1940, one of the last racing events held in Australia in wartime- the motor blew, Jim died of injuries during the conflict.

(B King)

Ron Edgerton was the next owner, buying the car in 1941- the racer was still in Victoria, Glen Iris, here he is at the wheel, probably during Nar Nar Goon Speed Trials at the local racecourse. Who is alongside him I wonder?

There were a number of meetings organised by the Light Car Club of Australia, and other car clubs on a grass course outside the little village in the thirties and forties.

Nar Nar Goon is an aboriginal expression meaning ‘native bear’ and is on the Gippsland railway line 65 kilometres east of Melbourne.

(B King)

Edgerton at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills with ‘37104’ still, seemingly Bugatti engined, perhaps one of you Rob Roy experts can tell us the probable date of this meeting. By the end of its competitive career the car would have been able to ascend the climb on its own given the number of times it raced there.

There is an article to be written on ‘Racing Ron’ given the truly vast number of racing and high performance cars the man owned in a lifetime of competition. I’ve a list somewhere!

Not the least of his racers is the ex-Alf Barrett Alfa Romeo Monza I wrote about some years ago which Ron sold to Earl Davey-Milne in 1951- another car the family retains albeit in unrestored, but complete, original state.

 

(B King)

A damp, soggy road event for the occupants- Edgerton and passenger probably during a Melbourne-Geelong Road speed trial- note the missing headlight.

‘Geelong Road’ events official- run ‘just off the Geelong Road (where exactly?) were run by the Australian Motor Sports Club and unofficial events went on for decades, most of us of a certain age may have done a top-speed run in a car or two in the very early hours of the morning along the Geelong Road whilst Mr Plod was hopefully tucked up in his Werribee bed!

I would love to know what is going on here! It’s Aspendale Speedway in Melbourne’s bayside- probably a promotional ‘race’ to extol the virtues of the ‘Males Gas Producer’- so we are immediately before or perhaps just after the start of WW2. What are the other two cars with Edgerton’s T37?- Ron McCallum thinks the big car is possibly an American ‘REO’ and Bob King suggests the open tourer is a Terraplane? From 1938 to 1940 these gas producers cost between 45 to 70 pounds per unit at a time the new price of small Austin was 250 pounds and a big Buick 525 pounds- these ‘Producer Gas’ units were a response to wartime petrol rationing. For those with a technical interest in the topic, see the fascinating article link at this pieces duration (B King)

After the engine was blown again during speed trials in Tooronga Park, opposite Scotch College, Hawthorn, Melborne Edgerton fitted a Hudson eight cylinder motor having failed in attempts to weld the delicate Bug block which had distorted from extensive competition use and previous repairs.

William Sinclair of St Kilda owned it in 1941-1942, nothing is known of his use of the old stager.

Speedway racer ‘Stud’ Beasley, who, together with father Arthur or ‘Pop’, and brother Alf were the ‘first family’ of speedway racing into the late fifties- then acquired the car in 1942, fitting the Willys ‘Winfield’ speedcar motor from his Midget after the Hudson continually boiled using the standard Bugatti radiator. It would be intriguing to know where Beasley raced the car.

Bugatti T37 Hudson, note the Ford radiator and ‘Davey Milne Special’ badge (Dacre Stubbs)

 

Note the chrome ‘up and over’ exhausts, fuel tanks are ex-Liberator bomber as are the seats, cable brakes still fitted (Dacre Stubbs)

Davey-Milne bought it in January 1943, sans Willys motor and soon re-fitted the Hudson 8 which was fed by Amal carburettors, mating it to a Lancia Lambda gearbox. It would be interesting to know the artisans who worked on the car.

The car was always notable for its immaculate preparation and presentation, first appearing- as it always did, in chassis only form at a Cape Schanck Hillclimb on the Victorian Mornington Peninsula in September 1946 where it set fastest time of the day. The car then competed regularly at hillclimbs and sprints well into the early seventies.

At the 1957 Alexandra meeting Earl had completed a 16 second pass only to have two connecting rods protrude through the side of the Hudson block in a most un-welcome fashion. Whilst the Hudson 8 was a cost-effective ‘specials’ motor a decade before the equivalent then was the small-block Chev V8 which had not so long before made its appearance in the Corvette.

(Dacre Stubbs)

After fitting the Chev V8 the car recorded a standing quarter time of 12.06 seconds which won him the Victorian Sprint Championship at Alex in 1964.

Other significant performances at the time were a class win during the Australian Hillclimb Championship at Silverdale, New South Wales and the Horsham, Victoria, Speed Trials in 1963 at 12 seconds.

Note that after fitting the Chev engine, Bob King wrote that the Bugatti steering box was replaced with one from an Alvis 12/50 due to lack of space.

Charlie East had reset the front axle to suit the particular needs of Maroubra’s banking in the twenties with Cec Warren replacing that original fitment with a hollow axle in 1933. Earl’s sprint demands bent that axle under braking at Geelong’s Eastern Beach Sprints in 1965- a Type 35C unit was fitted in 1966.

King notes ‘37104’s gearbox is now fitted to ‘37145’ and the sump of the original engine, number ’15’, is in Dean Smoker’s Type 37A replica.

(Dacre Stubbs)

In Chev engined form the car achieved 25 fastest times of the day from 34 starts- not bad in 1970 for a car which started its life at Molsheim in 1926.

The photographs above are of the car outside its Toorak home, the sight of Earl squirting the car around Melbourne’s most twee suburb startling the local squires and matrons would have been amusing. I am reliably informed that these occasional Toorak test sessions still take place, I must ask Troy Davey-Milne for an invitation to one of these early morning pre-Rob Roy blasts!

The fuel tanks started life as water tanks in a Liberator Bomber, the not particularly comfy looking seats are from the same source.

Eastern Beach, Geelong- best time there 13 seconds, on that occasion bested only by Lex Davison’s Formula Libre Brabham BT4 Climax 2.7 FPF, 1964? (Dacre Stubbs)

 

We have lift off. Earl grabs second gear at Geelong‘s Eastern Beach in 1964 (Davey-Milne)

 

An Earl fried tyre and wire wheel detail (B King)

 

Calder 1970, note the Bugatti badge on the dash (B King)

The car is a most significant Australian racer in its various forms with a continuous competition history from 1926 to the early-seventies. Earl is still alive, the Davey-Milne’s still own the car, I’ve a feeling it’s last outing was during the 2000 AGP meeting at Albert Park when Lindon D-M gave it a gallop- an awesome sight it was too!

Etcetera: 1964 Alexandra Sprint Meeting Program Excerpts…

 

 

Bibliography…

‘Bugattis in Australasia’ Bob King, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Ron Simmonds, Dick Denvil

Wartime ‘Producer Gas’ powered cars…

http://www.consuleng.com.au/Producer%20Gas%20&%20the%20Aussie%20Motorist%201939-45.pdf

Photo and Research Credits…

Ian Liddell, Davey-Milne Collection, Dacre-Stubbs Archive, Colin Hyams Collection via Stephen Dalton, Graham Edney Collection, Bob King Collection

Whereizzit?…

The sprint site stretch of road will only be of interest to we Victorians I guess.

Dick Denvil picks up the locale, ‘The track was a leftover piece of road created when the Eildon Weir pondage dam wall was put in.’

‘It was the continuation of the original road straight north-east towards the cross bridge into Eildon (from the bottom left corner- the side road which ends at a T-intersection and which then ran on to Bourke Street) The main road as seen above, then moved east away from the Goulburn River course to higher ground.’

Dick Simmonds lived in the area for a while, ‘You can still see part of the track which is now on a private property just past Thornton going towards Eildon…I looked at running a revival meeting, the owners of the land were ok, but the O,H & S issues got in the way of it…if only!?’

Dick concludes ‘The honour boards of the Victorian Sporting Car Club Alexandra Branch are in a building used by the Lapidiary Club within the Alexandra Railway Yards’ if you are passing by and want to have a look.

Tailpiece: Rob Roy, 24 July 1960…

(G Edney)

Lets finish as we started, with a rare colour photograph of this marvellous Australian Special- the first competition outing of the Bugatti in its Chev engined form- note the dual rear wheels.

Earl won his class that cool Victorian day with a run of 29.73 seconds from a Lancia-Austin on 30.41 secs.

Finito…

(R Middleton)

Ross Middleton observes of his wonderful Phillip Island shot- ‘these guys would turn up to every Phillip Island meeting and lift the Goggomobil Dart out of the Holden Ute and have a great day competing in the Regularity events’…

I imagine a good many Australians looking at these cars think immediately of the Yellow Pages or Shannons Insurance series of advertisements featuring the booming, unique, gravelly but melodic voice of Scotland born Australian actor Tommy Dysart.

For another group of us into theatre and live shows Tommy was the narrator in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ like no other before or since. A magic night at the old Regent Theatre/HSV-7 Tele-Studio in Johnston Street, Collingwood, Melbourne circa 1976 seems like yesterday!

One of the Shannons Goggos competing somewhere! (SMH)

Ace historian/researcher Stephen Dalton has unearthed a Goggo 293 shared by the two ‘Wallace Stable’ drivers W Wilson and A Smestad at the March 1960 Phillip Island meeting, there the car carried numbers 44 and 45- not 64 as here but Stephen and I would not mind betting that it is the same two fellows, event date unknown.

The Dart was developed by Bill Buckle (Buckle Motors Pty Ltd) and sold from 1959 to 1961.

It used the mechanicals- chassis, engine, gearbox, suspension and brakes of the Glas Auto company, Goggomobil Microcar topped with an Australian designed fibreglass sportscar body- 700’ish were made.

Power was provided by 300 and 400cc, 15 and 20 bhp twin-cylinder two-stroke motors- even with a weight of 345 kg it would have been a long trip along the Islands front chute!

The truckload of Goggomobils below is parked at the Punchbowl, Sydney factory of Bill Buckle Motors in 1959-1961. The load of cars- five Darts and one sedan is about to travel south to the Finlay Brothers dealership in Melbourne.

(Buckle Family)

Credits…

Ross Middleton, Hulton-Deutsch, Finlay Brothers, Buckle Family

Tailpiece…

(Hulton-Deutsch)

Actress and novelist Jackie Collins adds a bit of leopard skin colour to the Goggomobil T300 (now I know where Lola got the model number) at the Earls Court London Motor Show, October 1956.

Finito…

(D Lupton)

Denis Lupton’s ‘Team Devione’ Lotus 11 Ford Rep at Calder, ‘whilst the circuit was still being built, marked on the slide is 1960’…

Racer, engineer and mechanic Lupton and ace welder Hedley Thompson met at the Australian Motor Sports Club and soon developed a strong friendship.

Thompson was a foreman in aircraft maintenance at TAA- Trans Australian Airlines was one of two large domestic Australian airlines, Ansett the other. He was regarded by many, including Reg Hunt, as one of the finest, if not the best welder in Australia.

Regular trips to the likes of Boeing kept him up to speed with the latest aviation techniques which of course flowed through to his motor racing sideline. Pat Ryan mused that ‘it would be interesting to know how many cars came out of the nightshift at TAA?!’

Lupton and Thompson saw an opportunity to build some Lotus 11 replicas, the ex-Jon Leighton Lotus 11 Series 1 (chassis 198) provided the car from which to create a jig and working drawings when the pair rebuilt it.

(D Lupton)

Brian Devlin’s genuine Lotus 11, ex-Jon Leighton with Denis Lupton at the wheel, above, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne in 1959.

Little is known of the car’s early history other than that it was bought to Australia when Leighton emigrated here in 1958- first competing at the Hepburn Springs Hillclimb in November 1958, for a class win, Brian Devlin acquired it in 1960.

Between Thompson and Lupton the pair had the requisite skills to build racing cars. The little machine was stripped in the workshop behind Thompson’s home in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburb of Deepdene, (‘down the drop in Whitehorse Road from Burke Road till when it flattens and then in on the left’). When it was a bare chassis Denis took all the measurements and made a set of drawings.

Denis and Hedley made the chassis whilst the aluminium work was done by close friend of Lupton’s and noted racer Ian Cook and Frank Esposito. Whilst the standard Lotus bodies were aluminium, a buck/moulds were taken from the Devlin car with painter Jim Jewitt producing fibreglass bodywork.

Word travelled quickly of course that some beautifully built cars were coming together and the orders quickly flowed in.

This article is very much a ‘work in progress’ from Denis records of the cars, if you can help with the history of an individual chassis please get in touch.

Histories of the cars…

Don Ashton, Hepburn Springs Hillclimb in Victoria’s Goldfields or Spa Country (D Lupton)

No.1 Don Ashton, Gnat  BMC 750cc. ‘A’ type sleeved down

John Partridge, 1100cc BMC A type

Warwick De Rose, 1100cc BMC A type

Ken Hastings,  Atom, 1100cc BMC S/C

???

John Lambert, Current owner

Don Ashton in front of his Ballan, Victoria, garage (D Lupton)

No.2 Alan Coleman, Ford 105E Anglia engine

Shifted from Melbourne to Perth

Stuart Campbell, Car finished off and competed in Perth.

Bruce Campbell, Perth.

 

No.3 Jim Jewitt,

Julian Coker

Dick O’Keefe,  BMC ‘A’ type S/C, currently  active in Historic Racing

Dennis at Calder (D Lupton)

No. 4 Denis Lupton, Ford 100E with Elva cylinder head

Then fitted with 1500cc Cortina GT engine, close ratio gearbox,  disc brakes and wide wheels.

Dr. Les Mendel

Steve Gifford

Colin Dane, Current owner

 

No.5 Bellair Brothers- Mike & Terry

Lindsay Urquhart

Alistair Scholl                                          Graham Hail

Chris Ralph                                              Gavin Sala

Bruce McGeehan                                   Rowan Carter

Joe Farmer                                              John Blackburn (Qld)

 

No.6 Ian McDonald,  Tarquin TC

Wes Nalder, Horsham  fitted with 1500cc Hillman engine

????

Terry Cornelius, Seaspray, (son Rowan) current  owner, Longford, Tas

 

No.7 Geoff Aarons, Hillman Minx engine

R.Slaney, Sebring Motors, 123 Bridge Rd, Richmond.

???

 

No.8 Nev McKay, BMC ‘A’ type  S/C

???

Russell McKenzie,   Ballarat,  current owner.  C/o Redan Motors, Ballarat

 

No.9 Neville Ham, Ford Consul  engine

????

 

No.10 Ian Munro, Ford 100E engine

???

Ed Flannery as it was with Alan Bail with Climax FWB motor (D Lupton)

 

No.11 Ed Flannery, MG TC engine and Gearbox

Syd Fisher, fitted Alfa Romeo engine and gearbox, then Peugeot engine.

Alan Bail, fitted 1500cc FWB Climax, very successful.

Graham Vaughan, Queensland, current owner.

 

No.12 Hedley Thompson, Lola Mk 1 copy.

Ford 1500cc engine.

Geoff Robbins

Ian Wells

???

Bruce Polain

Ray Kenny, NSW,   to Barry Bates   QLD  current owner 2019.

David McKay raced his Lola Mk1 Climax at the Ballarat International meeting in February 1961. During the meeting a radius rod mount pulled out, Hedley was engaged to repair the car, again a jig was made and drawings of the chassis taken.

Long time racer David Crabtree was the first to drive the Lola ‘around Deepdene after we finished the car.’

‘In one of those “I thought you did moments” between us we hadn’t filled the diff with oil, so I took it back to my parents house in Malvern, and cobbled together a repair with all the Austin A30 bits I had.’

These days Crabby has a large successful aircraft maintenance business at Melbourne’s Essendon Airport, back then he was a young TAA apprentice, ‘I used to catch the tram up Glenferrie Road from Malvern and Hedley would scoop me up on the Cotham Road corner, not too far from his place and he would drive me out to the airport. He was a terrific bloke, immensely talented, he taught me how to weld. I did help in the build of the little Lola’.

Postscript…

Within a couple of hours of uploading this article my friend and historian Stephen Dalton raided his collection of magazines and emailed ‘…the history of Lotus 11 Replicas may have been somewhat different had Jon Leighton sold his Scuderia Birchwood Lotus in England. The 13 June 1958 Autosport ran his advert ”Scuderia Birchwood’s Lotus XI Sports, full 1172 trim, extras, enthusiast maintained, very fast, engine now dismantled, 850 pounds ono- Twyford 5 (evenings)”.

‘Devione’: the name?…

Denis advises the background to the names of his cars- ‘My lady wife is a Francophile, she says “Devione” is French for a “variation from a main theme” and I know better than to argue with her!’

‘So my cars were called ‘Devione’, and I built a few more for people, so we hoped to all race as a team so “Team Devione” was suggested. But people got married, or went sailing or found aircraft, or whatever, so it never got off the ground, pity!’

Credits…

Denis Lupton, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, David Crabtree, Doug Eagar, Stephen Dalton Collection

Etcetera: Denis Lupton, Devione LC2 Ford, Calder circa 1970…

(D Eagar)

Denis is rather a modest fellow, the next Devione piece will be about the Brabham BT23 inspired Devione LC2 Ford Twin-Cam 1.6 ANF2 car built by Denis- the ‘L’ and Ian Cook- the ‘C’, and raced successfully by the pair from 1969 to 1972. A car owned and being restored by Grant Twining in Hobart.

Finito…

(oldracephotos.com.au)

Brian Bowe settles himself into his Elfin Catalina Ford in the Baskerville paddock, 1966…

There is no such thing as an ugly Elfin, this little car looks a picture in the bucolic surrounds of Tasmania. Garrie Cooper’s first single-seater racing cars were built off the back of his front-engined ‘Streamliner’  sportscars success.

The pace of these Catalinas was demonstrated by Frank Matich and others, they sold well with twenty FJ’s/250 Production/275 and 375 Works Replicas built from 1961 to 1963.

This chassis was raced by Melbourne single-seater, sportscar and touring car ace Brian Sampson and was powered by a Ford Cosworth 1.5 litre pushrod motor.

It was bought by Bowe and ‘was Dad’s first factory racing car having competed in specials before that’ John Bowe said.

‘In fact had I had my first drive of a racer in this car at Symmons Plains in private practice. I was twelve, and just about to start high school!’ ‘In discussions with Dad in the weeks before i’d worked out how many revs in top was 100 mph and did just that- when he realised how fast I was going he stood in the middle of the track and flagged me down. Furious he was! Happy carefree days’.

Indeed, John Bowe, by 1976 was a works Ansett Team Elfin F5000 driver, the Bowes were an Elfin family, not exclusively mind you. JB raced an Elfin 500 FV, 600FF and 700 Ford ANF3 en-route to his F5000 ride- and 792 and GE225 ANF2 cars as well.

Lindsay Ross identifies Arthur Hilliard’s Riley Pathfinder racer and towcar at the rear right of the shot by the paddock fence. The blue sporty is Bob Wright’s Tasma Peugeot.

A quickie article about the Bowe Catalina became a feature thanks to Ed Holly posting online some of the late, great Australian motor racing historian, Graham Howard’s photo archive. Specifically shots of the prototype Elfin Formula Junior taken at the time of its birth at the Edwardstown factory and subsequent public launch at Warwick Farm on 17 September 1961.

As a result we can examine these important Elfins in far more detail than I had originally planned, including a contemporary track test by Bruce Polain and owner/driver impressions from Ed.

Bruce Polain testing the Elfin FJ Ford at Warwick Farm in September 1961 (G Howard)

Bruce Polain wrote an article about his experiences that day in ‘Australian Motor Sports’- here are the salient bits of it, lets get Bruce’s contemporary impressions of the car before exploring the design in detail.

‘Taking it quietly over The Causeway, the little Elfin accelerated hard in third gear on the run to Polo Corner. Braking firmly, the speed fell away rapidly and I was conscious of considerable suspension movement as we ran over the bumpy entrance to the corner- a reminder that this was the flooded section of the track during the ‘first ever’ Warwick Farm.’

‘Nevertheless the poor surface failed to affect the comfortable ride and with a slight amount of understeer I swung the car into Polo. The handling characteristics were such that it gave understeer into a corner and a small amount of oversteer on the way out. This is quite a popular setup as through a corner it allows a fast entry to begin with, then as the steering is brought back to a neutral position, the oversteering tendency may be checked by applying more power to the rear wheels.’

‘…I enjoyed the delights of driving this beautifully constructed, fast and most forgiving racing car. The semi-reclining seat was more than comfortable and gave excellent lateral support, which is so important for ease of control in corners. At speed, steering was delightfully light and precise- you could eat your lunch with one hand. The lusty 1100cc Cosworth Ford engine was a  wonderful propellent, easy to fire on the starter button, docile low down, yet bags of power when the accelerator was pressed.’

John Hartnett at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne’s Christmas Hills, Elfin Streamliner Coventry Climax chassis ’13’ (R Hartnett)

Cooper first commenced design of the FJ in 1960, as stated above, off the back of success of the Streamliner series of sports cars built from 1959 to 1963- twenty-three in all.

During this period the name out front of 1 Conmurra Avenue, Edwardstown, an Adelaide suburb, changed from ‘Cooper Motor Bodies’ to ‘Elfin Sports Cars’ which was indicative of the evolution of the then forty year old Cooper family business away from coach-building to the sexier but perhaps more challenging world of production racing cars.

Whilst nominally a Formula Junior design the twenty cars built had a range of engines fitted in capacities from 1 litre to 1.5 litres- Ford 105E, 116E, Peugeot, Coventry Climax FWA, Vincent HRD and Hillman Imp. They very quickly proved themselves capable of going wheel to wheel with the best cars from the UK- then THE hotbed of FJ development of course.

Lotus 18 like upright and rear suspension clear in this shot, as is the split-case VeeWee 36HP gearbox (G Howard)

The chassis of the car was a multi-tubular spaceframe of 16 and 18 gauge mild-steel tubing in varying diameters from five-eighths of an inch to an inch. It was strengthened by fitment of a stressed floorpan made of 19 and 20 gauge aluminium alloy.

Rear suspension was clearly inspired by the Lotus 18. It was fully independent with fixed length driveshafts which formed the suspension upper members. The lower wishbones incorporated adjustments for camber, toe and roll-centre height. ‘Driving and braking torques are controlled by long trailing arms (radius rods in more modern parlance) two per side.’ The uprights or ‘pillars’ are Cooper’s design of cast magnesium.

(G Howard)

Front suspension was period typical using unequal length upper and lower wishbones, note the Armstrong shock absorber, adjustable roll bar, unsighted is the Alford and Alder Triumph front upright. Steering was by way of a lightweight rack and pinion, the wheel wood-rimmed with a diameter of 13.5 inches. The brakes were Lockheed 2LS front and rear, the drums alloy bi-metal with radial finning.

(G Howard)

The engine was the Ford 105E which would become ubiquitous in the class. Cooper built the engine in Adelaide.

GC and his team designed and printed a very detailed brochure about the cars, no doubt with the racing car show in mind- giveaways are important at these events.

Its interesting to see how the two Ford Cosworth 105E engines offered were described.

The ‘Poverty Pack’ 250 Production Model FJ was a budget racing car fitted with pressed-steel wheels, cast iron rather than alloy bi-metal brake drums, non-adjustable shocks and non-close ratio gearbox.

It was offered with a Ford Cosworth 1000cc Formula Junior Mk3 ’85 Engine’ producing over 85bhp @ 7250rpm. ‘Every engine is dynamometer tested to at least this output before leaving the factory.’

The engine was fully balanced including crankshaft, flywheel and clutch, connecting rods and pistons.

Carburation was by two 40 DCOE Weber carbs on Cosworth manifolds- they were enclosed within the bodywork and fed by cold air from a duct on the lefthand side of the cockpit. The distributor was modified, the crankshaft pulley was ‘special’ for the water pump drive- visually the whole package was set off by a Cosworth light alloy rocker cover so the ‘psyching’ started in the paddock.

The ‘ducks guts’ 275 Works Replica Model offered the Cosworth Mk4 1100cc engine giving a minimum of 95bhp with ‘the average output of these engines 97-100bhp’.

The trick Mk4 differed from its smaller brother in that it had a bigger bore, special stronger connecting rods, special steel main bearing caps, bigger valves and different combustion chambers. ‘Replaceable valve guides are fitted as standard. Like the Mk3 these engines have a competition clutch, tachometer take-off, oil cooler union and special anti-surge sump.’

When the Ford Cosworth 1500cc engine was later fitted in the Works Replica model it was designated ‘375WR’.

(G Howard)

Gearbox was a split- case VW 36 horsepower which was modified in Adelaide and fitted with close ratios with ‘top gear running on a special roller bearing.’ A lightweight bell-housing mated the gearbox and engine, the final drive ratio was 4.42:1. The gear lever was mounted to the left of the driver. Note the different lower wishbone inner end alternative pickup points.

(G Howard)

When completed the little car (prototype car #4 ) was a handsome little beastie complete with full bodywork from nose to aft of the gearbox.

Success came quickly, its interesting looking at these photographs of the car being prepared for and shown at one of the track days to get the message out there. The motorsport shows the boys from Adelaide attended on the east coast would have been a significant exercise and cost at the time.

I don’t think Cooper’s commercial success in the toughest of markets in the toughest of industries- manufacturing has ever been truly recognised. I  have mostly run and owned small businesses all of my adult life and know full well how hard it is to churn a dollar- Elfins survived and thrived for several decades under Garrie’s stewardship and then that of Don Elliott with Tony Edmondson at the coalface. I’ll stop the Elfin history there which is not to discount what followed, but from a production racing car perspective, that was it.

(G Howard)

The bodywork for the first three cars was made of aluminium by craftsman John Webb who was a constant throughout the whole of Elfin’s ‘glory days’- right up to the construction of the body of Vern Schuppan’s MR8C Chev Can-Am bodied F5000 machine.

On the fourth and subsequent cars the fibreglass bodywork was by Ron Tonkin- this comprised the nose, tail sections and cockpit surround. The side panels were of aluminium and ‘semi-stressed’.

Very pretty wheels were of magnesium alloy, 13 inches in diameter ‘with wide rims, (4.5 inches at the front and 5.5 inches wide at the rear) were finished in black anodite before machining. The wheels and uprights were Elfin’s design and cast by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne.

‘Unsprung weight is further reduced by incorporating the wheel bearings directly in the front wheels.’

(G Howard)

 

(Ed Holly)

The photograph below is a very well known one to some of us of a certain age who bought or were given for Christmas 1973 (!) a copy of Bryan Hanrahan’s ‘Motor Racing The Australian Way’- this photo introduced the Elfin chapter. A decade or so later it was published in the ‘Elfin Bible’ Barry Catford and John Blanden’s ‘Australia’s Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’.

(G Howard)

Clustered around the Elfin are Tom Stevens and Norman Gilbert from BP- almost from the start Elfin supporters and sponsors, Cliff Cooper, Garrie Cooper and Murray Lewis ‘with the prototype Elfin FJ ready to leave for an interstate race meeting and motor show’.

The car was first shown at the Melbourne Racing Car Show in August 1961 and then raced for the first time at Warwick Farm that September in the hands of Arnold Glass, then an elite level competitor racing a BRM P48.

Barry Catford wrote that Arnold was in Adelaide to contest events at Mallala’s opening meeting on 18 August 1961 and had plenty of time on his hands to visit the team at Conmurra Road having fatally (for the car) boofed the BRM in practice. The story of that car is told here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/16/bourne-to-ballarat-brm-p48-part-2/

Glass offered to drive the car on its race debut, something Cooper and BP’s Tom Stevens were keen to support.

The team of Garrie and Cliff Cooper, Tom and John Lewis took the car to Melbourne and then on to Sydney for its debut. Garrie drove the car initially and whilst it handled well the softly sprung machine bottomed over The Causeway and Northern and Western crossings (of the horse racing track underneath).

Modifications were made that night but several laps early in the day indicated the cars balance was lost- further changes were made, the cars poise had been regained in official practice when GC again drove.

Glass had no chance to officially practice but sweet talked the officials to allow him to run during one of the other racing car sessions- he was within three-tenths of Leo Geoghegan’s well developed Lotus 18 Ford FJ. The weary crew retired at 3 am on race morning having replaced the gearbox and clutch- which was slipping towards the end of the Glass lappery. All the hard work was rewarded with a second to Leo- not bad for the cars first race.

Keith Rilstone’s Catalina Ford ‘6317’ on its first day out at Mallala in very late 1963, factory records have it’s completion that November (G Patullo)

The prototype car, chassis ’61P1′ was sold to Adelaide businessmen and racers Andy Brown and Granton Harrison who had much success with it. Queenslander Roy Morris did well with his Coventry Climax FWA engined car- as did John McDonald’s 1350cc engined car- neither FJ legal of course.

One of the most commercially astute moves Cooper ever made was the appointment of up and coming- well ok!, he had well and truly arrived by then, Frank Matich as the works driver of three cars which were located at his Punchbowl, Sydney Total Service Station. An 1100cc chassis ‘625’, a 1500cc chassis ‘627’ and a Clubman fitted with another Cosworth engine of 1340cc. In addition Matich was appointed as Elfin’s NSW agent.

An interesting aspect is that in the process of deciding who to give the factory cars to, Matich tested the cars, as did Peter Willamson and David McKay with FM the quicker of the three. Perhaps Cooper’s gut feel as to the driver he wanted was validated by this process. The choices are interesting in that Williason was at the start of his career whereas David McKay was in the twlight’ish of his.

Mel McEwin #16 Elfin Catalina 1500 passes Andy Brown in the Elfin FJ Ford prototype during the ‘GT Harrison Trophy’, support race at the 1963 ATCC meeting. Keith Rilstone won the race in the truly wild Eldred Norman built Zephyr Spl s/c- McEwin was 3rd and Garrie Cooper 4th in another Elfin Cat 1500- I wonder if it was seeing the cars up close at this meeting that made up Keith’s mind to get with the strength and buy one! (B Smith)

Whilst Matich was new to single-seaters, his outright pace in various sportscars- Austin Healey, C and D Type Jags, Lotus 15 and 19 Climax was clear. For Frank the deal was a beauty as he had the opportunity to show his prowess in a new field. Catford wrote that FM’s only open-wheeler experience to that point was a few warm-up laps in Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20B Ford when it first arrived in Australia early in 1962.

Critically, Matich put Elfins front and centre to racers in Australia’s biggest market- New South Wales, with subsequent sales reflecting the success of Matich and others.

Cooper got a longer term benefit as Matich turned to him for his first ‘Big V8’ sportscar, the Elfin 400 Olds aka ‘Traco Olds’ in part based on GC’s design talents which he had experienced first hand in the small-bore machines listed above. Matich in turn proved the pace of the 400, outta the box, in winning the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy in his third meeting with the car at Longford in March 1966.

The red Elfin was the Junior, the 1500 was green up until Frank decided to let the 1500 go, which went to Charlie Smith and the red car went from 1100 to 1500′ Ed Holly

Frank’s first meeting in the FJ cars was at Warwick Farm on 14 October 1962- Matich was fourth in the Hordern Trophy Gold Star event- in amongst and ahead of some of the 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engine cars, and despite a one minute penalty for a spin! (tough in those days!).

This was indicative of what was to come a fortnight later in the first Australian Formula Junior Championship held at the new Catalina Park circuit at Katoomba in the NSW Blue Mountains, 100 Km to Sydney’s west.

Frank Matich is shown below in the red Elfin FJ Ford alongside Gavin Youl’s Brabham BT2 Ford and Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 22 Ford. The front row comprised the latest Brabham, Lotus and Elfin FJ’s- Leo’s Lotus was literally just off the plane. On row 2 is Clive Nolan’s 5th placed Lotus 20 Ford.

(B Miller)

Matich won the 30 lap race from Youl and Geoghegan in a weekend of absolute dominance , the win was the first of many Australian titles for Elfin and spawned the ‘Catalina’ name for this series of spaceframe chassis open-wheelers.

Catford notes the presence that weekend of Tony Alcock in the team- well known to Australian enthusiasts as an Elfin long-termer and close confidant of Garrie Cooper before going to the UK and returning to form Birrana Cars with fellow South Australian Malcolm Ramsay. International readers may recall him as one of the poor unfortunates to perish in the plane piloted and crashed by Graham Hill upon return to the UK after a French circuit test of the new Hill GH1 Ford F1 car.

Matich contested eight events hat weekend! in the two Elfins- FJ/Clubman and Lotus 19 winning six of them and placing in the other two.

Development work and evolution of the cars continued throughout their production life including incorporation of Triumph Spitfire disc brakes on the front- with Jack Hunnam fitting alloy racing calipers and discs to all four wheels of his car.

Lyn Archer’s Catalina at the Domain Hillclimb, Hobart in November 1964. Lyn raced the car successfully for a few years, sold it, and bought it back. Upon his death a few years back his family still owns it (R Dalwood)

Other notable drivers of Catalinas were Kevin Bartlett in the McGuire Family Imp engine car, Jack Hunnam, the Victorian Elfin agent won 12 races from 18 starts in his supposedly 165bhp 1500cc pushrod Ford engine disc braked car ‘6312’, before selling it to Tasmanian Lyn Archer. He won the 1966 Tasmanian Racing Car Championship in it and was timed at 150mph on Longford’s Flying Mile in 1965. Greg Cusack was quick in the car owned by Scuderia Veloce, winning the 1964 Australian Formula 2 Championship from David Walker’s Brabham and Hunnam’s Catalina. Other Catalina racers included Barry Lake, Keith Rilstone and Noel Hurd.

Perhaps the most unusual application of a Catalina was chassis ‘6313’ which was acquired by Dunlop UK for tyre testing to assist the Donald Campbell, Bluebird CN7 Proteus attempt on the World Land Speed Record at South Australia’s Lake Eyre in 1963 and 1964.

That effort is in part covered here but a feature on the Elfin Catalina aspects of it is coming soon- all but finished, https://primotipo.com/2014/07/16/50-years-ago-today-17-july-1964-donald-campbell-broke-the-world-land-speed-record-in-bluebird-at-lake-eyre-south-australia-a-speed-of-403-10-mph/

‘6313’ Ford on the Lake Eyre salt- steel wheels fitted with Bluebird Dunlops in miniature (F Radman)

 

This corker of a shot is by Gavin Fry- were it not for the presence of the Elfin Catalina on the trailer (who?) it could be an Australian summer beach scene, but it is an early Calder meeting (when?) (G Fry)

The Elfin Mallala was a very important car in the pantheon of Elfin’s history.

The twenty cars built provided solid cashflow for the Cooper family business, off the back of the solid start the Streamliner provided, the company now had a reputation for making fine single-seaters in addition to sporties.

Importantly Cooper had attracted some of the biggest names in Australia to his marque- Matich and McKay to name two. The Catalina ‘hardware’ also spawned a small run of mid-engined sportscars- the Mallala, of which five were built from late 1962 to early 1964.

Ray Strong, Elfin Mallala Ford, Huntley Hillclimb in December 1968. This design, derived from the Catalina, is one of the prettiest of all Elfins in my book- effective too (B Simpson)

Perhaps the only thing which suffered by virtue of this commercial success, albeit still limited capital base, was Cooper’s own driving career as he had neither the time or the spare cash to build a car for himself!

That would be remedied by the ‘Mono’ Type 100, his ‘radical’ single-seater which followed the conservative Catalina- and in which GC was very quick.

The Mono is a story for another time but is told in part here; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/18/clisby-douglas-spl-and-clisby-f1-1-5-litre-v6/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/22/elfin-mono-clisby-mallala-april-1965/

Garrie Cooper in Elfin Mono Mk2D Ford Twin-Cam ‘MD6755’ at Symmons Plains in 1967 (J Lambert)

The Owner/Driver’s Experience…

Ed Holly gives us the Catalina owner/drivers perspective…

‘The works 1500 or WR375 was the first of 2 Elfin “Catalina’s”  that Frank Matich drove.

I bought chassis ‘625’ from Adam Berryman who had quite some success with it before me. As this was the first ever single-seater for me I had no benchmark to compare with, having raced MGA’s for about 7 years previously. It went on to give me success too including the Jack Brabham Trophy put up once a year by the HSRCA for Group M 1st place at their main meeting at Eastern Creek.

For me the transition to single seater was made very easy by this car and looking back there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly in 2000 you could get very good Japanese Dunlops – a beautiful tyre and the car was shod with 450 front and 550 rear. This gave a very neutral feel to the car with the set-up fettled by Dave Mawer for me at that time.

The power was a great match to the chassis. As the engine only had a standard crank I revved it to 6,800 but the torque was tremendous, no doubt the 12.7 comp ratio had a lot to do with that. The gear-change and box were perfect, it had a VW C/R box and standard H pattern.

Race start would invariably see the car launch through the row in front, usually twin-cam Brabhams as they struggled with the dogleg gear-change from 1st to 2nd, the Elfin was a straight through change and very quick, and the engine torque allowed wheel-spin to be kept to a minimum and the power band came in at least 1500 rpm less meaning you were well on your way whilst they were still waiting for the torque to kick in.

Handling wise the car was viceless, the perfect first single seater – in fact I set a Group M class lap record at Eastern Creek with it at 1:45 and it took me about 5 years in my Group M Brabham BT6 (twin-cam 40 more bhp, 5 not 4 speeds and discs all round) to better that. Mind you the tyres as mentioned above were far inferior by the time the  Brabham arrived and in fact I re-set the lap record on 10 year old Japanese Dunlops – the brand new flown in English ones being about 3 seconds slower that same weekend.’

Matich in ‘625’ gets the jump at the start from Leo Geoghegan and the nose of Frank Gardner at the 1963 Blue Mountains Trophy race at Catalina Park- Catalina/WR375, Lotus 22 Ford and Brabham BT2 Ford- all 1500 pushrods. Matich won from Gardner and Geoghegan (J Ellacott)

‘Years later having driven Elfin, Lotus 20, Brabham BT15, BT6, BT21C and BT21 replica – I guess I was in a position to make a judgement about the Elfin.

In my opinion Garrie got it perfect for the time. Loosely based on the Lotus 18 concept, it is a hugely superior car to the Lotus 20 that succeeded the 18.

I spoke at length with Frank Matich about the design and we both agreed that on paper it didn’t look all that wonderful, BUT, it was – the results Frank achieved with it were sensational, often beating the Climax 2.5 powered Coopers.

I’ve never driven a Elfin with 1100cc- but Frank did and with a Junior 1100 he knocked off Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 20 1500 at Sandown. To me that shows that the Elfin was just a little ahead of the competition in that wonderful early 1960’s period. And that is my observation too.

Finally the big race- 20 laps at Catalina for the Formula Junior Championship 1962 where the Elfin was up against the brand new Lotus 22 of Leo Geoghegan’s and the just arrived from UK Brabham BT2 works car driven by Gavin Youl – and other FJ’s – the Elfin and Matich beat them all even after running out of fuel on the last corner!’

(S Dalton)

Events like Melbourne’s ‘Motorclassica’ are fantastic shows of classic and racing cars but they are celebrations of the past.

Its amazing to think that in the sixties, whilst the old stuff had its place, a significant part of a competition car show comprised exhibitions of contemporary, and in many cases Australian made racing cars.

Stephen Dalton provided the cover of the magazine for the 1964 ‘Melbourne Racing Car Show’ put together by Melbourne businessman/racers Lex Davison, the Leech Brothers and several others.

The event was held at the Royal Exhibition Building over three days, 13-15 August 1964, and is somewhat poignant in that it’s purpose was to assist Rocky Tresise’ girlfriend Robyn Atherton raise funds in the Miss Mercy Hospital Quest. Many of you are aware that ‘Ecurie Australie’ founder, Lex and his protege, Rocky, died six months later- Lex of a heart attack at the wheel of his Brabham at Sandown, and Rocky a week later at Longford in Lex’ older Cooper.

Stephen notes that cars displayed included MG, Aston Martin, Lotus, Ferrari, Cooper and many others. Elfin were represented by local agent, Jack Hunnam whose new Mono was on display only several days prior to its race debut at Calder.

Etcetera…

The following is a nice little human interest story ran in ‘Pix’ magazine about Garrie Cooper and Elfin in 1963- courtesy of the Elfin Sixties Sportscars Facebook page.

I’ve included it as it’s very much ‘on point’- Cooper, Catalina, Clubman and Matich.

 

 

 

(Ed Holly)

Charlie Smith in the ex-Matich Catalina at Mount Panorama in 1963, he drove the car well with success. Don’t know much about this guy, had a drive or two in the Mildren Lotus 23 Ford, intrigued to know more.

(S Dalton)

Andy brown loops his Catalina as fellow South Australian John Marston approaches aboard his- Shell Corner at Calder on 20 January 1963. Andy went on to own one of the most famous Elfins of all a few years later, the ‘F1’ Elfin T100 ‘Mono’ Clisby 1.5 V6.

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

 

The photographs above are the balance of the pages of the Elfin Catalina sales brochure produced for use at motor shows not shown earlier in the article.

Credits and References …

oldracephotos.com.au, Ed Holly Collection, ‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ Barry Catford and John Blanden, Fred Radman, Grant Patullo, John Ellacott, Dick Simpson, James Lambert Collection, Brenton Smith Collection, Brian Miller Collection, Reg Dalwood, Article by Bruce Polain in ‘Australian Motor Sports’

(Ed Holly)

One Man’s Hobby. Or is that Obsession?!…

When Ed Holly and I first communicated about this article he sent thru a few pics of some engines he had built. I thought ‘gees! that’s interesting and amazing!’, so here they are.

Ed advises on how his engine building career commenced.

‘Having had a lathe for many years, when I added a mill to the workshop I wanted to learn how best to use it.

As I didn’t have a restoration project at the time, the lightbulb in the head said build a model engine – I flew models as a kid and loved the diesels back then as you didn’t need to buy a battery to start them!

So I searched the web and selected a BollAero18 and set about making one, a 1.8cc simple diesel. Well it took a while to interpret the plans having no technical background requiring that. I steadily worked through the components and the big day came and blow me down it ran !

That sort of started a bit of an obsession till the next project arrived.

(Ed Holly)

 

Now 16 model diesels later I have certainly learnt how to use a mill- more than half the engines are to my design and the English ‘AeroModeller’ January issue published plans and a review of one designed for first up builds. I called it the Holly Buddy.

Plans and build for this engine can be found at https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/jFvcCZYMxgU5nKmqFz21YC

For those into specifics – the aim is one or two tenths of a thou taper in the bore and a squeaky tight piston fit at tdc – that’s the ultimate fit for a diesel. The photo’s show an inline twin before and after assembly.’

So…set to it folks, you too can be a race engine builder!

(Ed Holly)

 

(Ed Holly)

Tailpiece: Elfin 275WR Ford 1100 FJ…

Simply superb cutaway drawing of the Catalina by Peter Wlkinson. Very few Australian racing cars have been so ‘dissected’ in this manner over the years which is a shame.

Mr Wilkinson’s work, I know little about the man, compares very favourably with his peers in England and Europe at the time. Ed kindly sent me this cutaway at high resolution- ‘blow it up’, you can literally see the Elfin’s pixie like face on the wheel caps!

Car specification is as per the text.

Finito…