Posts Tagged ‘Australian Motor Racing History’

(B Henderson)

Peter Macrow, McLaren M4A Ford FVA leads Kevin Bartlett, Mildren Alfa Romeo 1.6 four-valve, Glynn Scott, Bowin P3 Ford FVA and Brian Page, Brabham BT2 Ford twin-cam, across The Causeway at Warwick Farm on 8 September 1968.

24,000 people were at the ‘farm that Sunday, Pete Geoghegan delivered to expectations by winning the one race, 34 lap, 76 miles Australian Touring Car Championship from Darrel King’s Cooper S and Alan Hamilton’s just ‘orf the boat Porsche 911S/T. Peter Wherrett’s ‘Racing Car News’ race report reveals one of the best tussles of the day was the 15 lapper for racing cars.

The Four Valve Assemblage was not quite complete, the fourth member of the growing group of 1.6 litre Euro F2 cars in Australia, Niel Allen, didn’t race his ex-Piers Courage McLaren M4A FVA. A bumma, because that would have added to the show.

KB settles himself into the Mildren Alfa, note spoilers, ‘new.uw’ is local 2UW radio station (B Henderson)

 

Lovely portrait of Glynn Scott, Niel Allen is telling Glynn how much more expensive the FVA is to maintain compared with the 5 litre Chev in his Elfin 400…(B Henderson)

Macrow was the ‘newbie’ to the front rank having shown great form in Tony Osborne’s Argo Chev sportscar since taking over its wheel early in the year after Ian Cook accepted Bob Jane’s offer to drive his Elfin 400 Repco and crossed town from Brunswick to East Malvern.

Osborne realised that the limits of the Cooper T53 based Argo had been reached, and acquired Kiwi, Jim Palmer’s McLaren M4A after Allen beat him to the punch to buy Courage’s quick 1968 Tasman mount. Palmer’s car was Bruce McLaren’s own machine, chassis ‘M4A-1’, the first of the breed raced by the chief throughout the 1967 European F2 Championship. Piers was ‘well represented’ on this grid, Glynn Scott’s motor was Courage’ Tasman Cup spare.

Kevin Bartlett was the ace present, but the Mildren Alfa, built on Bob Britton/Rennmax Engineering’s Brabham BT23 jig, was ‘spankers and unsorted. Mildrens dynoed the Alfa Romeo 1.6 litre, four-valve, Spica/Lucas injected engine at 197 bhp @ 8,500 rpm, whereas about 210/215 bhp was claimed for a decent FVA, so it promised to be a good race with Bartlett on pole from Macrow and Scott.

Mildren Alfa, KB. Copy Brabham BT23 spaceframe, Hewland FT200 5-speed transaxle. Alfa Romeo 1598 cc four-valve, alloy block, injected Euro F2 engine. At 280 pounds the Italian engine is lighter than a Lotus-Ford twin-cam? It sits taller in the frame? (B Henderson)

 

Bartlett at the end of Pit Straight turning into Paddock (B Henderson)

 

(B Henderson)

Peter got the jump, which was impressive in Bartlett’s backyard, from KB and Glynn and then a gap to to the 1.5 litre cars led by Brian Page, Brabham BT2 Ford, Clive Millis, Elfin Mono Ford, Maurie Quincey, Elfin 600B Ford, Ray Cary, Elfin Ford and the rest.

On lap 2 KB had a crack at Macrow going into Creek but spun on oil on the inside of the track, KB recovered and chased Peter and Glynn in the spectacular tail-out style which was his hallmark. By lap 8 he was up Glynn’s clacker and passed him but further progress was impeded by the chassis undertray coming loose, Scott took back second place.

Scott chased Macrow hard but the Victorian held on to take the biggest win of his career to that point from Scott and Bartlett, Tony Osbornes’s Argo Racing Equipe delighted with a well earned victory.

Credits…

Bryan Henderson took all the wonderful photographs. ‘Racing Car News’ October 1968

Tailpiece…

(B Henderson)

Nice portrait of 28 years old Kevin Bartlett getting his head sorted on the Warwick Farm dummy grid before the off. It was a great year for the Sydneysider, he won his first Gold Star at the wheel of Mildren’s Brabham BT23D Alfa Tipo 33 2.5 V8.

This chassis did not use the Alfa engine for long, Max Stewart raced it from 1969 fitted with Waggott TC-4V 1600 cc, 1760 cc and 2 litre motors with great success.

Finito…

(Brabham Family)

Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol was billed as the fastest car of its type in the world as a Jack’s ongoing development of it with Frank Ashby’s advice and mentoring off to the side.

These images from the Brabham Family Collection were taken at Mount Panorama during the Easter 1954 meeting, the start of the A-Grade scratch race.

Jack’s T23 being tended by Keith Holland in the white overalls and Arthur Gray of Belshaw Foundry in the blazer (Brabham Family)

I’ve done Cooper Bristols and Jack’s T23 chassis ‘CB/1/53’ to death, here; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/24/the-cooper-t23-its-bristolbmw-engine-and-spaceframe-chassis/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2016/06/24/jacks-altona-grand-prix-and-cooper-t23-bristol/

The other two photos are at Mount Druitt, Stephen Dalton reckons June 27 1954 or 8 August 1954, thanks to Stephen and John Medley for photo IDs.

Credits…

Brabham Family Collection, ‘The Jack Brabham Story’ Jack Brabham with Doug Nye, Stephen Dalton, John Medley

Tailpiece…

(Brabham Family)

Finito…

I’ve been lovin’ these S5000 retro F5000 digital imaging of the Ligier JS-F3 S5000 Ford chassis, its been a great way to keep S5000 in the public eye whilst we package up the Covid 19 Dim Sims and send them back to those Wet Market pricks in Choina so we get back to normality.

Finally, they’ve got to Bruce Allison, and what do they dish up? Not the worlds best rip-off of JPS black, but the poofhouse baby-blue hue applied to his Bill Patterson supported Chevron B37 Chev in the summer of ’78. W.T.F. dudes!?

Allison, Chevron B37 Chev, Surfers Paradise 1978, started from the front row but out after 40 laps with lost oil pressure. Brown won in a Lola T333/332 (S5000)

 

Satanic, sinfully sexy black ‘n gold pin-striped Lola T332 Chev @ ‘Torana’ Sandown circa 1976 (I Smith)

My tongue practically stuck to the grass, sick unit that i am, when i spotted Bruce’s favourite (sic) car, the ANF2 Bowin P6 Ford-Hart in the Surfers Paradise paddock so equipped in September 1973. His subsequent Birrana 274, Lola T332 and Ralt RT4 all got a squirt from the same paint can, gold stripes and all, and didn’t they look grouse! Maybe its comin’…

Anyway, its been a while since i had a Brucie Google and some good stuff popped up, shots of the 1978 Aurora British F1 Championship, he initially ran a RAM Racing March 751 Ford but copped a much better March 781 chassis mid-season and achieved some good results including a win at Mallory Park in July, holding out eventual champion, Tony Trimmer, in the process.

This one is rare as rocking horse shite, Allison in Mario Deliotti’s Ensign N175 Ford in practice, he didn’t start the Evening News Trophy at Brands on 27 March which is a pity as he qualified third behind Trimmer and Lees.

Tony Trimmer’s McLaren M23 won from Geoff Lees, Ensign N175 and Emilio Villota’s McLaren M25 Ford.

 

Oulton Park F1 Trophy, held on June 24, March 751 Ford, he qualified fourth and finished second behind Guy Edwards’ March 781 Ford.

 

These two are at Donington during the May 21 ‘Formula 1 Trophy’.

Practice shots, DNF without completing a lap, March 751 Ford, Giancarlo Martini won in a Ensign N175 Ford from Edwards’ March 781 and Bob Evans’ Surtees TS19 Ford.

 

At Mallory on 30 July Bruce put his new March to good use with Trimmer’s McLaren up his chuff for much of the 75 lap race, he finished ahead of Tony and teammate Guy Edwards in the other RAM 781.

Looks like the photographers all share a beer together at the hairpin, Allison from Trimmer.

 

The Brands Hatch Trophy was on August 28, the tenth round, Stephen South stirred things up by popping his March 782 Ford on pole, five cars failed to finish the first lap- South, Teddy Pilette’s BRM P207 (poor bastard), Adrian Russell’s March 762 Ford, Brett Riley’s similar car and Bruce, what happened folks?

The shot below is Bruce and Edwards’ 781s in practice.

 

The Budweiser Trophy at Snetterton on September 24 was the last round of the season, Emilio de Villota McLaren M23 was on pole from Bruce, David Kennedy won in the Theodore Racing Wolf WR3 Ford we saw him race in Australia, from Trimmer and Allison.

The shot below is Allison from Trimmer and one of the Hesketh 308Es.

The title was Trimmers, 50 points ahead of Bob Evans, De Villota, Edwards, Lees and Allison.

Etcetera…

(J Payne)

The first and last of the Allison black beauties.

At Amaroo Park in August 1973 in the ANF2 Bowin P6 Ford-Hart, the rising-rate suspension beauty was not his favourite car, out of the points that weekend, Bruce did far better with a Birrana 274 in 1974.

Having retired too young Allison did a Nellie Melba and contested the first season of Formula Pacific in this Ralt RT4 Ford BDA, winning the 1981 National Panasonic Series, this shot is at Calder in August, he was second and fifth in the two races.

(P Weaver)

Credits…

S5000, autopassion.net, MotorSport, Rich Harman, Ian Smith, Scuderia57, J Payne, Peter Weaver

Tailpiece…

(I Smith)

Love this shot, Bruce tipping the B37 into Shell at Sandown during the 1978 Rothmans round. Grid 5 but DNS with timing chain failure, Warwick Brown’s Lola T333/332 took both the round and the series.

The car did look great in this livery but nowhere near as good as it would have in Allison/JPS black ‘n gold!

Finito…

 

 

 

DB, Brabham BT59 Judd EV V8, AGP 1990 (BA)

It was great to see David Brabham race a Brabham in Adelaide during the 1990 Australian Grand Prix, whilst the BT59 Judd looked the goods it was not a great car, and Brabham was hardly the marque it was during the Brabham/Tauranac and Ecclestone eras.

David qualified 25th and failed to finished after spinning off on lap 19, we saw him again in 1994, when he raced a Simtec S941 Ford HB V8 but that simple car, still fitted with a semi-manual gearbox, remember them, was well and truly under-cooked in amongst the Top-Guns.

And that, sadly, turned out to be the end of David Brabham’s time in Formula 1, mind you, he had a great professional race career inclusive of a 2009 Le Mans win aboard a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP in amongst heaps of sportscar and other victories.

In more recent times, after a legal battle of about a decade, he has gained control of the Brabham name and intellectual property and built the awesome Anglo-Australian Brabham BT62 Ford Hypercar, the first of what will hopefully be a long line of racing and road cars. If ever there was a time for ‘Team Australia’ to climb aboard it is now?

DB, BT62 during the Adelaide Motorsport Festival 2019 (InSydeMedia)

Here is the car during the 2019 Adelaide Motorsport Festival, love the circa 1990 Brabham era livery!

When I think of David Brabham in Adelaide it is the 1987 F1 carnival weekend which sticks in my mind. DB won the 15 lap, ANF2 (1.6 litre, SOHC, two-valve, carbs) one-race Gold Star  Championship event from the back of the grid, finishing ahead of a classy 28 car field including most of the top ten placegetters of the six round Formula 2 Championship which concluded a couple of months before.

In more recent times David has made public his motivation for that great drive. In one of those ‘shit happens’ moments of youth, he had ‘potted’ his girlfriend, and as an expectant father, Jack had given DB the ‘that’s the end of your F1 aspirations’ brush off. #3 son’s drive in Adelaide was an ‘I’ll faaarkin show you mate moment’, and man it was really impressive to watch!

I was rooting for Mark McLaughlin’s Elfin 852 VW as an enthusiast of the marque, and watched with amazement from the East Terrace section of the track as he caught and passed the competition hand over fist. It wasn’t his first race on one of the more technical road courses, Brabham was second in the Formula Ford Championship race the year before, and his Ralt RT30 VW was the right bit of kit, but it was an impressive drive all the same. A portent of what was to come.

DB, Ralt RT30 VW, Adelaide 1987 (driving.co.uk)

 

DB Adelaide 1987 (BA)

 

BT62 launch at the Australian High Commision, London (BA)

Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac would chuckle with delight at the pragmatism of the BT62.  The car bristles with the latest in technology in some ways but beneath the sinfully edgy and sexy aerodynamically efficient carbon fibre and kevlar body delivering 1,600 kg of downforce, lurks a good old fashioned multi-tubular spaceframe chassis and a wonderful 5.4 litre modular Ford V8 modified to Brabham Automotive specifications.

Brabham and Tauranac won a couple of world titles in 1966-1967 with engines of relatively modest technical specifications and were still winning Grands Prix with spaceframes in 1969 when a change to regulations requiring ‘bag’ fuel tanks effectively mandated monocoques in F1.

The poverty pack BT62 is priced at US $975K plus taxes, whereas the ducks guts BT62 ‘Ultimate Track Car’ hits the road at a giddy US $1.3M, only proprietors of Chinese Wet Markets should apply. Seventy cars only will be built at Brabham’s new 15,000 square metre facility, at Edinburgh Parks, within parent company Fusion Capital’s complex.

(BA)

 

(BA)

The Ford ‘Voodoo’ based, Brabham DOHC, four-valve, fuel injected, flat-plane crank 5.4 litre V8 has a bore/stroke of 94 x 97 mm for a capacity of 5,387 cc giving 700 bhp @ 7,400 rpm and 492 lb/ft of torque. This lot hits the road via a six-speed sequential Holinger transaxle. Suspension front and rear is by way of push-rod actuated upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/dampers with adjustable roll bars at both ends. Brakes are carbon/carbon and carbon/ceramic for race/road.

BT62 has enormous, menacing presence, it is 4,460 mm long, 1,950 mm wide, 1,200 mm high and weighs 972 kg with a weight distribution of 41/59% front/rear.

Brabham delivered its first competition BT62 to Horsepower Racing in the UK in May 2019 to contest the Britcar Endurance Championship, in a wonderful start for the machine it won its first race from pole driven by David Brabham and Will Powell at Brands Hatch last November 9. Great stuff!

(BA)

 

(BA)

There is something wonderful about Brabhams being built in Adelaide’s Edinburgh Parks, only a kilometre or so from Holden’s closed Elizabeth factory. The city has a long history of automotive engineering and manufacturing excellence with such famous/prominent companies as Elfin Sports Cars, Clisby Engineering, Birrana Cars, Globe Products, ASP and many others building racing cars and components since the earliest days of motoring in Australia.

Without drawing too long a bow in making an historic connection between Brabham and Adelaide, Clisby Engineering in Prospect manufactured the 1967-1970 30, 40, 50, and 60 series cylinder heads for the range of Repco-Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. racing V8s, including those used on the ‘740’ engines which won the 1967 world F1 championships.

Ooops, forgot! Jack’s first national championship speedway win was at Kilburn Speedway on 25 February 1949, 9 km from Adelaide’s GPO, so lets take the Adelaide/Brabham connection as a given.

Fusion Capital, the Brabham Automotive parent company, is based in Waymouth Street, Adelaide, they position themselves as ‘a partner of investors and small business’ and operate in three business sectors; advanced manufacturing and renewables, property and private equity.

Brabham Automotive’s brothers in the advanced manufacturing and renewables division are Precision Buses, Precision Components, a manufacturer of pressed metal and fabricated components, and Heliostat, a business which makes heliostats, mirrors which turn to reflect light in solar energy applications.

(BA)

 

(BA)

Hopefully Fusion Capital has a balance sheet of sufficient strength to allow Brabham to complete the construction of the seventy BT62s in their business plan as the first step of a process which will establish the company as a manufacturer of road and racing cars with a return to F1 at some point.

It is amusing to hear of ScoMo’s mob’s recent interest in the manufacturing sector given the final act of automotive sodomy which destroyed the motor industry was performed by Tony Abbott, a knuckle-dragging, towering monument to intellectual and leadership bankruptcy. In truth the seeds of the industries ultimate failure were established at birth, that is, a total lack of Australian ownership and therefore control. Generational management failure, union and head office greed, governments of both stripes applying economic rationalism since 1972 (and I’ll fess up to supporting such policies) without any ‘societal good’ over-ride and our high dollar did the rest.

The ongoing success of Bolwell in Mordialloc, who have navigated the travails of manufacturing in Australia with nimble skill since the sixties, 35 year old (yes!) Borland Racing Developments closeby, Geelong’s ‘Carbon Revolution’ wheel maker, and now Adelaide’s Brabham Automotive give great cause for optimism in the weird world in which we live, long may these enterprises prosper.

(BA)

Etcetera…

(BA)

 

(BA)

 

(BA)

 

(BA)

Credits…

Fairfax, Adelaide GP FB page, driving.co.uk, InSydeMedia, Getty Images, BA-Brabham Automotive, Fusion Capital

Tailpiece…

(BA)

Match race between David Brabham’s BT62 and Matt Hall in a Zivco Edge 540 V3 aircraft, during the Adelaide Motorsports Festival in 2019.

Finito…

(ANU)

Jack Burton aboard his Vauxhall 30-98 in the Gambier Ranges during his 2,889 mile drive across Australia, from Fremantle to Sydney between December 8-14 1923…

He and Bill Bradley were hoping to do the transcontinental journey in five days but a crash in a deep hole in Meningie necessitated repairs which cost the pair twelve hours of valuable time. They still bagged a new record of six days, 15 hours and 57 minutes, 39 hours less than the previous record and in so doing they also set new marks for Fremantle to Adelaide and Fremantle to Melbourne.

The reputation of these mighty Vauxhalls as robust, beautifully built machines was polished yet again, this car had already done over 40,000 miles in previous attempts.

‘Daily Telegraph’ 15 December 1923

Burton was the husband of famous Australian equestrian, Emma Roach, whilst based in Sydney they travelled the continent to agricultural shows where Roach plied her trade whilst Burton worked in car sales and as a motoring writer. Along the way he was involved in a number of record breaking drives in the pioneering days of motoring in this earliest branch of motorsport in Oz. See here for a feature on this important aspect of Australian motoring history; https://primotipo.com/2018/12/21/city-to-city-record-breaking-and-car-trials/

 

Hi-ho Silver, giddy-up (ANU)

Credits…

Sydney Daily Telegraph 15 December 1923, The Mercury, Hobart 15 December 1923, Dunlop, Australian National University

Tailpiece…

(ANU)

Finito…

Garrie Cooper exported a couple of Elfin sportscars to South Africa in the mid-sixties, both of which were competitive cars. It would be interesting to know how many of the great Edwardstown outfits products left our shores?

The shot above shows the brand spankers Elfin Mallala Ford Cosworth having perhaps its first run at Roy Hesketh, in June 1964 M Lester having a good look at the Smiths tell-tale to ensure Henri le Roux hasn’t buzzed the fresh motor. G Goetzer looks on at left.

The Mallala was essentially a sports version of the Catalina single-seater, five cars were built and delivered between December 1962 and March 1964, Henri’s car, chassis ‘S6418’ was the last of these.

The car sang for its supper immediately, Le Roux entered it in the 1964 South African Sports Car Championship, his first event was the Republic Day Races at Kyalami on 6 June where he won his class and finished second outright. The race report observed ‘Henri le Roux’s Australian Elfin Mallala with Cosworth Ford engine was most impressive and will certainly be a car to watch, though the final drive ratio was wrong and he reached peak revs early in the straight instead of near the end’ a malady rather easy to fix with a Hewland gearbox of course.

Henri raced the car at Kyalami, Roy Hesketh, East London, Killarney and Lourenco Marques with his best results first in class at Kyalami in June, second outright at Laurenco in July and third in class at the Rand GP meeting at Kyalami in December. By 1967 the car was owned and raced by Joss Viljoen, Stephen Knox brought the car back to Australia in the eighties.

Henri le Roux, Elfin Mallala Ford, circuit unknown, assistance welcome. Beautiful shot (R Winslade)

 

McGillewie Elfin 300 Climax at Roy Hesketh 1968- first place in the 15 April SA SCC race

Perhaps the pace of the Mallala inspired Garth McGillewie to acquire the second of seven Elfin 300s built. Chassis ‘SS67-5’ was completed by Elfins in September 1967 and shipped to South Africa shortly thereafter.

Durban motor trader McGillewie, with a careful eye on the local and international class structure, fitted his machine with a 2-litre Coventry Climax FPF four-cylinder engine and five speed Hewland transaxle.

Barry Catford wrote ‘…this car was shipped to South Africa where it performed exceptionally well in the hands of Garth McGillewie, holding many records in its category for some years. In the Capetown 3 Hour race the Elfin finished fourth outright behind a Ferrari P4 and two 6-litre Lola GTs. During the Rand 9 Hour race, driver Tony Jeffries shadowed the Ford GT40s until he was forced to retire after colliding with Frank Gardner and Mike Spence. The Elfin went on to take out the 1968 South African Sports Car Championship.’ McGillewie bought at Chevron B8 to replace the Elfin.

‘The car was later restored for a subsequent owner, Ron Watt of Zimbabwe, by Ivan Glasby who was responsible for returning the car to Australia some years later’ Catford concludes.

(M Hall Collection)

Etcetera: Elfin Exports…

My inquisitive nature usually gets the better of me. Having posed the question as to Elfins exported, i think the number of Garrie Cooper Elfins sold overseas when built is 15 cars of 264 built, the first of which was the Le Roux Mallala.

My methodology was to add the production numbers in the Catford/Blanden book then list those which were exported viz;

1964: Mallala ‘S6418’ Henri le Roux, South Africa

1967: 400 ‘BB67-4’ Andy Buchanan, New Zealand, 300 ‘SS67-4’ Chuck Krueger USA, 300 ‘SS67-5’ Garth McGillewie South Africa

1969: 600C ‘6910’ Hengkie Iriawan Indonesia, Ford FVA engined

1970: 600B ‘7015’ Teddy Yip Macau, 600FF ‘70005’ David Oxton New Zealand, 600FF ‘70009’ Frohlich Golding & Co South Africa

1973: 620FF ‘73421’ Dante Silverio, Toyota engine fitted Philippines, 622 ‘73422’ Dante Silverio Toyota engine Philippines

1974: 620/BFF ‘73430’ Mike Hall USA, ‘73432’, ‘73433’ and ‘73434’ all USA, seemingly Chuck Jones Racing

1977: MR8A-C ‘8783’ Vern Schuppan USA (i appreciate he isn’t American but he was an Oz International then so i am treating the car as such- it bombed in the Can-Am and was also raced in F5000 guise in Oz

So, fifteen cars, as always, happy for input.

(M Hall Collection)

Mike Hall was Elfin’s man on the ground in the US for a bit and i really must give him a call. Elfin 620FF American style, the Americans were running on the same Goodyear slicks we were at the time so the suspension should have worked nicely.

Interesting for FF buffs is that Larry Perkins debuted the 620 in the UK Formula Ford Festival in late 1972 doing well enough at Snetterton to launch his international career- that chassis returned to Oz.

(M Hall Collection)

Bibliography…

‘Australia’s Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ Barry Catford and John Blanden, ‘Hieronymus’ on The Nostalgia Forum

Credits…

Roy Hesketh Circuit Heritage, Richard Winslade, Michael Hall Collection

Tailpiece…

(Roy Hesketh Circuit Heritage)

Jos Viljoen’s Elfin Mallala Ford alongside Ray Emond’s Lola Mk1 Ford on the Roy Hesketh grid during the Easter 1967 long weekend.

Finito…

Doug Whiteford, Ford V8 Spl leads Lex Davison, Alfa Romeo P3 early in the Vintage Festival Championship, Nuriootpa April 1949 (SLSA)

South Australia’s Barossa Valley, 75 km north of Adelaide is one of the states great wine producing areas.

32 km long and 8 km wide it includes the towns of Lyndoch, Tanunda, Greenock, Seppeltsfield, Angaston and just to its north-west, Nuriootpa.

Somewhat unique in Australia, large numbers of Germans settled in the Adelaide Hills and surrounding areas from the 1840s planting some of the earliest grapevines in the country.

By 1949 the Barossa had 22,000 acres of vines producing 60% of the total South Australian Vintage. Keen to maintain some of the cultural traditions of the old world, in 1947 community leaders organised a festival similar to those held in the Rhine Valley at vintage time, to foster a greater sense of community, raise funds for charitable causes and have fun!

The climax of the two day 22-23 April 1949 celebration was a carnival at Tanunda with dancing sideshows, a draught-horse derby and barbeques of three 600 pound bullocks! Not to forget motor racing…

1949 Festival program

 

Greenock float heading past the Nuriootpa Community Hotel during the 1948 Festival (Advertiser)

 

Nuriootpa circuit map. In terms of the narrative below, the start/finish is in the top right corner

South Australia hosted Australian Grands Prix at coastal Victor Harbor (correct spelling) in December 1936 and on the daunting Adelaide Hills, Lobethal roller-coaster road course in January 1939, Nuriootpa was chosen as the 1950 venue.

In that sense the Vintage Festival race meeting was a ‘warm up’ for the organisers and racers alike- the Nuri road course was only used on those two occasions seven months apart.

Some maps make the track appear a simple square layout around the town but the more detailed drawing above shows the flat 3.1 mile/4.98 km course to be not quite so easy, whilst not on the same planet of difficulty as Lobethal.

The start line was on the Penrice Road/Research Road corner with cars heading clockwise- the top right corner of the map above, the paddock was on parkland on the outside of this corner.

Racers headed down the straight for a fast run into the double-right hand ‘Atze’s Corner’ and then onto Railway Terrace- gently to the right, then a short straight, then a quick left before another hard application of brakes for ‘Tolleys Corner’- the intersection of Railway Terrace and Nuriootpa’s main drag- Tanunda Road/Murray Street.

There the cars kicked away with parklands on the left, gently left over a wooden bridge to clear the North Para River before heading straight- going past the shops then more hard braking for another right-hander at the Penrice Road intersection.

Exiting, the cars gently curved left and gently right before another straight section past the finish line just before the Penrice Road/Research Road intersection and then another lap…

Bill Patterson, MG TC Spl s/c. Plod on this side, St Johns Ambos on the inside. Probably, as many of these shots are, the intersection of Murray Street and Penrice Road- Bill is entering Penrice for the run to the finish line (HTSA)

 

Harry Neale’s Ford V8 Spl at left and Jim Gullan, Ballot Oldsmobile on the right (HTSA)

34 cars and 46 motorcycles entered the meeting, no doubt the poor entry of cars was a function of the traditional Easter fixture at Mount Panorama which took place the weekend before.

Top guns at Bathurst were Lex Davison’s 1934 GP Alfa Romeo P3, Frank Kleinig’s legendary Kleinig Hudson Spl, Bill McLachlan’s Mackellar Spl (Bugatti T37A Ford V8) and Jack Murray’s Day Special (Bugatti T39 Ford V8). The feature event, the 25 lap All Powers Handicap, was won by Arthur Rizzo’s Riley Spl from Curley Brydon, MG TC and Kleinig.

Bathurst contestants who made the trip to South Australia included Davison, Tony Gaze, HRG and Bill Patterson, MG TC Spl s/c.

The Davison and Patterson crews had barely 24 hours to give their cars a tickle in Melbourne before loading up again for the 750 km trip on the Western Highway to the Barossa.

Tony Gaze had an amazing couple of weeks- he drove the HRG from Melbourne to Bathurst, raced it to fifth in the All Powers Handicap feature race won by Rizzo, then drove to Nuriootpa, raced it again for a couple of third places and finally drove it back to Melbourne!

Lex’ machine had misbehaved at Bathurst- he had braking problems, nor would the exotic 2.9 litre twin-cam straight-eight reach maximum revs. Patterson didn’t start his events at Mount Panorama so his boys in Ringwood no doubt had a busy night as well.

Other entries included plenty of MGs- John Nind’s TB Spl, plus four South Australians in TC’s of varying specification- David Harvey, Ron Kennedy, Steve Tillet and Harold Clisby- the prodigiously talented, intuitive, eccentric engineer of 1.5 litre Clisby V6 F1 race engine fame, and much, much more who was making his race debut.

John Crouch raced another HRG, Ken Wylie his clever, fast Austin A40 Spl s/c, Eldred Norman ran his Ford Double-8 Spl- which as the name suggests was powered by two Ford V8’s. Later driver of that car, Harry Neale entered his Ford V8 Spl and Les Robinson the ex-Segrave/Hope Bartlett 1922 GP Sunbeam Ford V8 Spl.

Jim Gullan brought from Melbourne his quick Ballot Oldsmobile Spl with close mate Doug Whiteford there to race his legendary Ford V8 Ute based special ‘Black Bess’- a combination which would win the AGP at Nuri seven months hence.

Lex’ Alfa landed in Australia in February 1948, he was still getting the hang of the car without too many circuits upon which to race it at the time. Theoretically it was the fastest car in the country- in reality Alf Barrett’s older Alfa Monza was the quicker combination but the Armadale blue-blood was at the end of his career at 38, ‘retiring’ in 1948 whereas the 26 year old Lilydale blue-blood was just at the start of his long, distinguished career.

Interestingly, Davo’s car was being looked after by later four-time Gold Star champion Bib Stillwell who, at 22, had commenced his first retail and repair automotive business in partnership with respected, experienced, ten years older than Bib, Derry George in January 1949.

‘Magnette Motors’, or more commonly ‘Stillwell & George’ operated from 121 Cotham Road, Kew, a building owned by Bib’s mother- it was the start of Stillwell’s motor businesses which occupied this and adjoining sites into the 2000s. George learned his craft with Reg Nutt and before that legendary outfit A.F Hollins in Armadale, who would ultimately prepare Lex’s cars with great success upon the recommendation of Tony Gaze.

Australian racing events were mainly run to handicaps at this stage. Bill Patterson’s marvellous Reg Nutt/Doug Whiteford built, Bob Baker bodied MG TC Spl s/c was half a chance. Whiteford’s ‘Black Bess’, continually developed by the talented and driven racer/engineer since it first appeared in 1939 was a well known combination to the handicappers, his challenge would be greater.

Jim Gullan commented about how little time there was to practice and had the opposite braking problem to Davison- his anchors were too good!

With the assistance of Jack Pearce at Paton Brake Replacements (P.B.R. later the Repco Brake Company) Jim and Doug Whiteford had been supplied with a new braking package which comprised light commercial drums, aluminium brake shoe castings copied from Jim’s Ballot, aluminium backing plates and large wire air-scoops which looked great and were no doubt a wonderful psyche!

Gullan found his new brakes so powerful that ‘they were bending the chassis, making the car almost unsteerable on the rough Nuriootpa roads. The only thing to do was to apply them gently.’

Jim Gullan, Ballot Olds in front of a group shortly after the start of the over 1500cc Vintage Festival Championship scratch- #2 Bill Wilcox, Dodge Spl, #11 Harry Neale, Ford V8 Spl then #2 folks and in the dust behind, Robinson’s GP Sunbeam Spl (J Gullan Collection)

 

Davison now in front of Whiteford in their Vintage Festival Championship tussle- from Murray Street and into Penrice Road (HTSA)

A crowd estimated at 30,000 people attended Sunday raceday, the final day of the carnival to see a six event program- it was fine and warm, good conditions for racing.

The lack of practice Gullan commented on was because practice was scheduled to start on raceday at 6 am but there were still revellers from the night before in Murray Street, so the circuit didn’t open until 6.40 am and was then made over to the bikies at 8 am.

The only incidents were spinners John Crouch and John Nind- who bent his front axle in the process.

Whilst the 48 mile, 8 lap Barossa Valley Handicap was nominally the feature event, the Vintage Festival Championship scratch race for the over 1500cc cars was probably the thriller of the day with a wonderful scrap between Davison and Whiteford.

Contrary to modern practice, the fastest cars started from the back of the grid. Whiteford’s Black Bess made the best start, then came Gullan, Ballot Olds, Davison’s P3 and Harry Neale in his Ford V8 Spl.

He was followed by Melburnian Bill Wilcox in the Gullan designed Dodge Special- a Dodge six-cylinder engine and Lancia gearbox clad in a sexy Bob Baker built body of Mercedes Benz GP style, and then Mount Gambier’s Les Robinson in the GP Sunbeam Ford V8.

During lap 2 Davo passed Gullan and ranged up behind Whiteford, Wilcox was close to Neale but behind Robinson.

It took Davison 3 laps to get past the hard driven Bess, which was not as quick in a straight line as the Alfa (Davo did 144 mph on Conrod aboard the P3 in 1949 whilst Doug did 121 mph in Bess in 1950) but stopped better and had Doug’s cornering brio- and then stay ahead of Whiteford. Positions then remained the same to the end of the race, Davison won from Whiteford, Gullan, Neale and Robinson.

Graham Howard wrote that Davison’s win was an important milestone, it was his first victory after only two and a half years racing, discounting a ‘club level’ win on the grass at Nar-Nar-Goon in Victoria.

Davison in front of Whiteford in Nuriootpa village- Murray Street into Penrice Road corner (HTSA)

 

Ken Wylie, Austin A40 Special s/c (1250cc) on the Murray/Penrice corner- note the ever present, cast iron/concrete ‘Stobie’ poles distinctive to South Australia. Lex Davison famously bent one of these whilst destroying wife Diana’s MG TC Spl at Lobethal in January 1948- and lived, a bit bruised, to tell the tale! (HTSA)

The car racing program opened with the Motors Ltd Championship under 1500cc scratch event over 8 laps, 24 miles.

Crouch’s HRG led for the first lap- Patterson spun with the Tillet and Harvey TCs, Gaze’ HRG and Ken Wylie, Austin A40 Spl coming through in a bunch.

Patterson worked through to the front, overcoming his spin and led from Crouch and Wylie- then Wylie passed Crouch and set the fastest lap of the race, and came to within 12 seconds of Patterson but the Wylies and Gaze cars faded with overheating, the latter having lost its fanbelt.

Patterson won from Crouch, Gaze, Wylie- then Tillett, Kennedy and Harvey having a ball in their TCs then R Head, Riley Spl and I Jackson, GN.

John Crouch had a good year, he won the 1949 Australian Grand Prix that September in his ex-John Snow Delahaye 135CS on the Leyburn ex-RAAF base runways in Queensland- he was 5 minutes ahead of the pursuers led by Ray Gordon’s MG TC Spl.

Tony Gaze would soon return to the UK, having had a distinguished flying career during the war, to say the least, for the ‘serious’ part of his racing career in Europe. Jim Gullan and his wife Christine joined Tony and Kaye Gaze for the early part of that trip, 1951- an interesting story for another time.

In the Barossa Valley Handicap 16 lap feature, Bill Patterson won off 4 minutes 25 seconds.

The cars initially ran in handicap order with Head, Clisby and Ravdell Ford A Model Spl s/c early retirements. After 8 laps Keith Rilstone led in a Morris Minor from the Howard Austin Ulster then the MGs of Tillett, Kennedy and Ohlmeyer (TA).

Patterson was past Crouch, Harvey and Wilcox whilst Davison passed the Ford Double-Eight driven by Eldred Norman- ‘…while Norman was out on the dirt passing Harvey, Davison was dancing from one side of the road to the other, behind them, shaking his fist in search of an opening, Nuvolari style’ AMS reported.

Jim Gullan passed Tony Gaze whose car was boiling, with Patterson taking the lead on lap 14- at this point Rilstone was second from Tillett, Kennedy and Howard.

With 2 of the 16 laps to run Patto had consolidated his lead whilst Tillett was within striking distance of the Rilstone Morris then Wilcox, Dodge and Howard, Austin.

Doug Whiteford only gets a mention towards the end of the AMS report but consistent laps in the 2 minute 30 second mark saw him finish fourth behind the top three- Patterson, Tillett and Wilcox. Kennedy’s TC was fifth, then Gullan, the Crouch HRG, Rilstone, Ohlmeyer’s TA, R Howard’s Austin Ulster, the Harvey TC, Harry Neale’s Ford V8 Spl and the Nind TB Spl.

Bill Patterson first raced a modified MG TC before switching to his new racer (below) which was built in late 1948- he first competed in it at Rob Roy in January 1949, so the Sports Car Club of South Australia handicappers did not have much to work with in the way of results, always handy!

25 year old Bill Patterson in the Nuriootpa paddock after his first big win- the Barossa Valley Handicap in the ‘Patterson’ MG TC Spl s/c’. His ascent as a driver was commensurate with better cars, itself a function of the growing success of his outer eastern Melbourne, Ringwood Holden/truck dealership. Won the Gold Star in a Cooper T51 Climax in 1961, his pace was apparent from the start of his career (R Townley Collection)

 

Stobie pole growing from the cockpit of the Patterson TC- fine lines, driven and developed further by Curley Brydon after its sale by Patto in 1950 (HTSA)

To qualify for the last event of the day, the Consolation Handicap 6 lapper, entrants had to have not won more than forty pounds in any of the previous races!

For the first 4 laps the lead was swapped between Rilstone and later Australian Tourist Trophy winner, Derek Jolly’s Austin 7 Spl with the race won by  Ron Kennedy from Steve Tillett both in MG TC’s and then John Crouch’s HRG which had a very consistent weekend, then came Gaze, Gullan, Wilcox and Davison who set the fastest race time and a lap record of 75 mph.

Then was Ohlmeyer, TA, Jolly, Austin 7 Spl, the Nind TB Spl, Harry Neale, Ford V8 Spl and the N Jackson GN.

Harold Clisby made the local papers after losing control of his MG TC and backing it into a fence. The Clisby family account is that ‘…he was leading the race until another car cut him off on a corner sending him careering over a bridge with only the fencing wires preventing him ending up at the bottom of a creek.’

Jim Gullan, Ballot Olds, the chassis rails of which have been copiously drilled for lightness, no doubt at the cost of torsional rigidity which probably was not great before he started. Which corner? Dunno. Stobie pole marks the apex (unattributed)

Etcetera…

Jim Gullan and Doug Whiteford were close friends, as noted above, in the best traditions of the day, after the 1950 Nuriootpa AGP ‘…we drove each others car around Albert Park one evening, both previously having driven the other’s car a short distance’ wrote Gullan.

‘My impression of the Ford was it had more power and torque than the Ballot, with a rougher engine. The brakes had a very hard pedal and poor retardation, the steering was light and spongy. The car was tail light, tending to wander at speed, difficult to drive at racing speeds.’

‘Doug’s impression of the Ballot, very smooth high revving (6000 rpm) engine, steering and brakes too sensitive, difficult to drive!’

Gullan, mused over the changes to ‘the scene’ in 1950 with drivers getting faster imported cars and ‘nearly half the field in the 1950 Grand Prix had been made up of MG’s, which made for interesting under 1500cc Scratch Races.’

He concluded that the Ballot had reached the limit of its development without a new chassis fitted with independent suspension.

By the time he returned to Australia after twelve months in Europe, in early 1952, air-cooled Coopers were plentiful, Stan Jones was racing Maybach 1, Doug Whiteford had his first Talbot-Lago T26C and much, much more- the times were changing with much of the evolution due to the growth of scratch racing, to win one needed the equipment to do so.

 

Yet one more shot of the Davison/Whiteford dice, Doug almost wholly obscured by Davo and the Stobie (HTSA)

 

(State Records SA)

 

(SLSA)

This is the only clear motorcycle shot I can find, John Medley identified the rider as South Australian, Les Diener, his machine is a Velocette 350 MkVIII KTT.

He had a great weekend, winning the 5 lap Barossa Junior TT and finished third in the Senior event despite giving away capacity to most other entrants.

Diener and Lloyd Hirst had a good go in the Junior event, Hirst leading for the first 2 laps, in the Senior TT Laurie Boulter’s Norton and Hirst’s Vincent-HRD finshed in front of Diener.

Check out this fascinating article about Les Diener- what a talented rider and engineer he was; https://www.shannons.com.au/club/bike-news/old-bikes-australasia-the-eldee-velocettes/

After the final race the crowd swarmed into Nuriootpa’s main street- Murray Street for the start of a procession of sixty decorated floats. At the end of the day 25,000 people converged on Tanunda Oval above, ‘to see the most lavish spectacle ever staged in a South Australian country town.’

The Barossa Vintage Festival is now held biannually with a week long calendar of events including wine workshops, heritage events and church services- the Barossa’s Lutheran leanings reflect its German heritage, which is about where we came in…

Otto Stone’s copy of the race program, programme I should say! from Stephen Dalton

Bibliography…

‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘As Long As It Has Wheels’ James Gullan, ‘Harold William Clisby: The Life of a Restless Engineer’ on clisby.com, Australian Motor Sports 16 May 1949 via the Bob King Collection, Stephen Dalton Collection

Photo Credits…

‘HTSA’ History Trust of South Australia, State Records of South Australia, Adelaide Advertiser, State Library of South Australia, Richard Townley Collection

Tailpiece…

(State Records SA)

Grape pickers during the 1949 Festival- its seventy years ago my friends. Lots of happiness and optimism in those pretty smiling faces.

Finito…

(N Henderson Collection)

MG on Mount Tarrengower, Maldon, Victoria circa 1946-1947…

Its funny what ya find sometimes, this was a random catch found sitting in front of the tello whilst searching for something else.

The photograph, from artblat.com, is part of the Nicholas Henderson Collection and thought to be Tarrengower given the preponderance of Maldon shots in the collection- further evidence cited the surrounding box-ironbark trees. We had a country drive to Castlemaine, Kyneton and Maldon inclusive of a cruise up the mountain again six months ago-Tarrengower it is i suspect.

I am no pre-war expert but the stance of the machine and its grille reek of MG, perhaps not a supercharged one mind you, so that narrows the model choice somewhat- but it’s no more than a guess, perhaps it’s Peter Vennermark’s Maserati 4CL?

Below are two more cars, one sporting and the other not- love to know what they are, bonus points for the drivers and the date of the meeting.

(N Henderson Collection)

For some of you the dress of the spectators may help give us a fix on the date, as perhaps will the model year of the most recent car built- perhaps the sedan below.

Another car (not shown) in the same batch of photos had a registration expiry date of February 1947 and was therefore indicative of the approximate timing of the photographs to the curator of artblat.com, Dr Marcus Bunyan.

(N Henderson Collection)

 

1947 postcard of the meeting that year shows the spectator car park at the bottom of Mount Tarrengower- horse and cart is a nice touch!

 

A little bit more research shows the the first pot-war event was on Easter Saturday, April 5, 1947. The climb has been pretty much in continuous use since the dawn of motoring in Australia. The ninetieth anniversary of the first event was held last year- 2019.

The climb had not been used for a couple of decades until the Vintage Sports Car Club ran an event on 29 February 1964, FTD that day went to Bill Leach in an E Type Jaguar. The club returned that October when FTD was set by no less than Lex Davison’s Cooper T62 Climax 2.5 Tasman car in 50.34 seconds. Davo was a very experienced hill climber with an Australian Championship amongst his many racing achievements, see here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/05/mount-tarrengower-hillclimb/

I’ve never raced there competitively but I did run my Elfin Crusader Formula Vee up the hill during an Elfin Owners Club event from Bendigo to Mount Tarrengower and back in November 1993. About 40 cars did that event from Peter Brennan’s MR8C Chev F5000 ‘down’ to one or two Vees- a Gendarme up front in a fast pursuit car ensured speeds were civil but quick on 80km of public highways. What fun it was.

Jim Hawker and George Wightman aboard the awesome Chamberlain 8, Tarrengower April 1947 (The Chamberlain)

 

(Maldon Museum Archive)

A group of competitors gathered in Maldon during the Easter 1947 meeting.

Many thanks to the combination of David Zeunert, Tony Johns, Bob King and Stephen Dalton who between them provided the shots and nutted out the date and competitors.

We are not sure of the white sportscar by the kerb, then the Hugh Stuart aka Tim Joshua Frazer Nash single-seater, Jim Gullan’s Ballot Oldsmobile and at right Lex Davison’s Alfa Romeo 6C1500 s/c Spl aka the ‘Little Alfa’.

Stephen reminded me this site at 51-57 High Street is still a servo, Robert Cox Motors are the current operators.

Entry list of the Easter 1947 meeting (Ash Tracey)

 

Later 1960’s shot of a Geneer Outlaw VW, I think, gives perspective on the open nature of the tourist road and surrounding terrain (Ken Bolitho)

 

Peter Vennermark, Maserati 4CL 1.5 at Tarrengower, 24 March 1951 (Maldon Museum)

 

Lex Davison, Cooper T62 Climax, Tarrengower October 1964- Davo in collar and tie (M Williams Collection)

The climb is about 1500 metres long, the bitumen is narrow, patchy and rough at the edges- the shot above of Lex in 1964 is not that much different to now, it is a tourist road with a lookout at the top. It’s a very fast open climb, a big challenge, I notice that a chicane half way up was used last year which is a bummer in some ways but probably makes good sense.

My first visit to Mount Tarrengower was as an official with a mate in 1978. We camped overnight and took up our post about two thirds of the way up the hill on Sunday, a beautiful clear, hot day. What impressed was the speed of the more powerful cars but the dangers were great given the unguarded edges and unforgiving trees awaiting those who goofed.

During the afternoon we heard the unmistakable wail of a Porsche flat-six off the start line- it was the very impressive Dr Will Darvall’s 2.7 RS mounting another assault. The rise and fall of the engine note indicated his commitment and rapid progress until about 100 metres or so below us the throttle closed rapidly, then followed a sickening series of dull-thuds as the gorgeous car pinged from eucalypt to sheoak. I will never forget that sound.

We looked at one another and said in unison ‘He’s fucked!’ It seemed and sounded that bad. But the good doctor recovered, I know this as he was ‘me mate Big Bad Brucie’s GP in Heidelberg, but he was a sick boy for a long while. The car was rooted, but it too lived to fight another day after bulk dollars were spent on its resurrection around a new shell.

The point to be taken here is that there is no ‘good place’ to leave the road on this challenging mountain.

Maldon High Street 1934 (Maldon Museum)

 

Maldon High Street circa 1975 (Ellen Hansa-Stanyer)

 

Maldon High Street 2019, refreshingly little change over the last eighty years or so (Maldon FB)

The Central Goldfields area of Victoria is quite beautiful and so named as a consequence of the 1850’s Gold Rush which attracted massive numbers of fortune seekers from around the world.

The ‘Golden Triangle’ area marked by the towns of Ballarat, Maryborough and Bendigo yielded massive amounts of the precious commodity, Mount Tarrengower is a couple of kilometres from the tiny village of Maldon at the Triangle’s northern end- short walks around and from the village allow this wonderful history to be seen and experienced- the steam train ride is a beauty for ‘big kids’ too.

Maldon is a must visit for any Victorian international tourists list, the town was classified by the National Trust way back around 1970 so the streetscape now is little different to the way it was during that 1947 hillclimb weekend.

Peter Holinger on the line aboard the very fast Holinger Repco ‘620’ 4.4 V8 circa 1978, the dimensions of which were provided by Jack Brabham’s 1969 Tasman contender- Brabham BT31 Repco (John Bowring)

Etcetera…

 

(M Bisset)

A couple of happy-snaps of the Elfin ‘Tour To Tarrengower’ in November 1993 I mentioned.

The five red cars are Catalina, Mono, Mallala sports, Mono and Catalina, then a white and blue pair of 620s- this is in Bendigo.

Below is Pete Brennan’s MR8 F5000 and the arse of his 400 Chev at right, the big white monster is the ex-Schuppan MR8 in Can-Am dress, now owned by Bill Hemming, it is in F5000 guise. The other white sporty is a 360, a personal favourite.

(M Bisset)

Peter Brennan on the way to FTD circa 1982 in his Elva Mk8S BMW 2 litre.

(P Brennan Collection)

 

(A Tracey)

Another crop of Peter Vennermark’s Maserati and a report on that meeting below, Easter Saturday 24 March 1951- where he had an off.

Chassis #1555 was later sold to long time racer Cec Warren who alighted the machine during the March 1954 Fishermans Bend meeting for adjustments, collapsed with a heart attack and died.

 

(A Tracey Collection)

 

(D Zeunert)

Lovely photo of the vibe in the ‘modern era’, crowd and carpark in the background, 1982 with Stuart Anderson on the line, Maserati 4CM 1100, above and below.

(D Zeunert)

 

(G Thomas in L Sims Collection)

Bob King has his money on our opening car being the Lindsay Head driven Riley Austin Spl, here being driven over Skyline at Rob Roy in 1946- without its lights, it is a possibility’

Photo and other credits…

Nicholas Henderson Collection on artblat.com, Maldon Museum, Maldon Facebook, Ellen Hansa-Stanyer, Max Williams Collection, The Chamberlain, Tony Johns Collection, ‘Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys’ Ray Roberts, John Bowring, Ken Bolitho, Peter Brennan Collection, Ashley Tracey Collection via Tony Johns, George Thomas in the Leon Sims Collection, David Zeunert/Collection

Tailpiece…

Bentley in High Street, Maldon circa 2018, Tony Johns tells me it’s a 1950 Mk6 rebodied coupe. The Mount Tarrengower road and car park is well worth a visit on race weekend and a tootle up from Melbourne for the day anytime.

The many closed shops in town at the moment are a bit of a worry, I have not seen the place so depressed in all the years of regular visits since 1978.

Back to the Bentley, with a bit of assistance from John’s copy of ‘Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys’.

The car was designed by Queensland graphic designer Ian Shaw who was considerably influence by the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic.

The chassis (#B4JO) ‘was reclaimed from an earlier touring body conversion’, seven inches were taken from the frame, the engine moved aft twelve inches and lowered- whilst the ‘X brace’ part of the chassis was removed other cross members were added to restore and enhance torsional rigidity.

Mechanical upgrades include dual boosted hydraulic brakes, Koni shocks, sixteen inch wires and a smaller than standard MkVI steering wheel.

The steel body was built to Ian’s full scale drawings by Venkat, Bodrog and Evans around one inch by one inch steel tubing and incorporates highly modified MkVI front wings, a shortened radiator shell and bonnet.

Initially a 4.25 litre Bentley motor was used, this was later replaced with an ‘S type’ 4.887 litre straight six which was blueprinted and modified by the incorporation of a higher lift cam with the head ported and fitted with larger valves.

This beautiful looking 2+2 motor car is a credit to the fine eye of its creator, it first ‘broke cover’ over the 1998 Bay to Birdwood weekend in Adelaide and is now good for 125mph which would make it a fine interstate express.

Finito…

I love watching busy test sessions such as this.

It’s the Thursday or Friday before the second round of the Australian Formula 2 Championship at Oran Park, New South Wales on August 5 1973.

The Birrana Cars onslaught is underway, Malcolm Ramsay and Tony Alcock’s 272 impressed all in 1972 including Leo Geoghegan who drove the car late in the year and was happily seduced back into single-seaters with a works Birrana 273 Ford-Hart 416-B 1.6 for 1973.

Leo mopped up that year winning six of the seven Australian Formula 2 Championship rounds despite opposition from Tony Stewart and Enno Buesselmann in 273s, Bob Skelton’s Bowin P6 and Ray Winter in the old darlin’- the ex-Gardner/Bartlett Mildren Yellow Submarine. Of these Skelton was quick everywhere and led Leo at Amaroo and Symmons, missed the last two rounds and ultimately could not convert the potential of the variable-rate suspension Bowin.

But all of that is in the future, the flurry of activity centres on Leo’s car and a back to back test between Goodyear and Bridgestone tyres- who is the the Goodyear tech looking closely at the right front- i am being assertive with my identification of people but in some cases ‘i think’ should be used- just letting you know rather than write it ten times.

Check-shirt man is Bruce Cary, the driver at left is Ray Winter, to his right in the short sleeved shirt is Bruce Richardson- the car in front of Leo’s is Tony Stewarts, the guy in the Singapore Airlines T-shirt is Malcolm Ramsay and the car at the end of the pitlane is one of the black Bowin P6s- either Skelton’s or Bruce Allison- Bob liked the car more than Bruce!

Goodyears in the first shot, Bridgies here.

All of the Birranas are superb racing cars- FF, ANF3, ANF2, F Pac and the mid-engined Speedway machine, Adelaide strikes again! Those who have driven both cars either say the 273 was a better car than the tidied up in the body and bracketry 274, or its equal- Bob Muir gave Leo ‘absolute buggery’ in the 274 bodied 273 owned by Bob and Marj Brown in 1974 didn’t he?

Note the mounts on the nose to accept another small wing- in search of more front bite.

Business end with Varley battery and oil catch tank- forward of them is a Hewland FT200 five speed transaxle and the Brian Hart Ltd, Harlow, Essex built ‘416-B’ Lotus-Ford DOHC, two valve, Lucas injected four cylinder motor.

This engine was aimed at the large American Formula B market, where all of the British tuners fought a pitched battle and in much smaller numbers Australian F2.

The ‘ducks guts’ variant was alloy blocked, the late Peter Nightingale, who looked after Leo’s and Geoff Brabham’s Harts amongst others quoted 200bhp @ 8500rpm and 130lb/ft of torque @ 7500rpm for the 1973 iron block variant and a ‘minimum’ of 200bhp @ 8500rpm and 125lb/ft of torque @ 8500rpm for the 1974 alloy block.

Line ball call but the alloy block was lighter and in the very best of hands every liddl’ bit counts.

No idea who blondie is but the vertically challenged fella looking at the engine in front is ex-Repco immensely talented engineer and multiple Australian hillclimb champion Paul England looking at Tony Stewart’s Jack Godbehear built engine.

Oh yes, come raceday Leo won from Peter Brock’s 273 and Bob Skelton, i am intrigued to know what tyres the works 273 raced…

Credits…

Brian Caldersmith, Peter Nightingale on The Nostalgia Forum

Tailpiece…

Leo is ready to boogie- fuel check and off. Bearded Ramsay, tall isn’t he, wandering past.

I’ve often wondered what Tony Alcock could have achieved in his second European stint, as most of you know he was in that plane, on that day, and in those circumstances with Graham Hill in 1975.

Finito…

(D Lupton)

Not quite actually.

Lionel Marsh aboard Norman Hamilton’s Porsche 550 at Templestowe Hillclimb’s ‘The Hole’ on Melbourne’s eastern outskirts circa 1961/2.

Denis Lupton took a cracker of a shot- ignore the eucalypts, pretend they are pines and it could be the Eifel Mountains, sorta.

Denis was sure the pilot was Alan Hamilton, son of Porsche Cars Australia founder Norman Hamilton, but after some investigation and comment by Ron Simmonds, Gordon Dobie, Tony Johns and Stephen Dalton, Alan Hamilton resolved the ‘mystery’.

He recalls ‘Sadly, the 550 days were just a bit too early for me. That is Lionel Marsh at Templestowe. I did drive the 550 a couple of times at Fishermans Bend. Sometimes, after the races, Alan Jones and I used to disappear to a deserted end of the airstrips and drive our respective fathers, cars.’

‘I don’t recall how Lionel came to “own” the 550 other than he was a great mate of Jack Godbehear. (a renowned but low profile engine builder) I have a feeling that Jack might have been the owner, or at least, a major shareholder in it. Jack certainly did the preparation for Lionel and in many ways, this was the most successful period of the 550’s
life.’

‘My father and Frank Kleinig took the car to New Zealand to race there in 1956. Frank had difficulty coming to terms with the 550 as it handled total differently to his Hudson Special. Unfortunately, Frank earned the reputation of “hay bail Charlie” because of his habit of hitting hay bails which marked the track limits. My father asked Stirling Moss if he’d like to drive the car in the Ardmore Handicap, which he won.’

‘In about 1964, I located the car in a panel beating shop in Sydney and bought it. The engine was part disassembled, the gearbox was missing, as were the front brakes. The body work was “bruised” in various places. One of the panel beaters from Duttons (our authorised body repairers at the time) commenced work on the “bruises” and I sent the engine back to Porsche for a full rebuild.’

‘I spent six months living and working at Porsche in 1965 and came back with the 906 Spyder, chassis # 906-007. I also came back with a burning desire to race, but with no money. Part of my assets to be turned into cash, was the 550, which was sold to Lindsay Fox with the restoration beautifully completed by Brian Tanti.’

‘Lindsay also owns my 718 RSK which is also beautifully presented in the Fox Classic Car Collection. Incidentally,
the chassis number of the 550 that James Dean was driving when he died was 055, just one car earlier than my father’s car, chassis number 056.’

(D Lupton)

‘I spent 6 months living and working at Porsche in 1965 and came back with the 906 Spyder, chassis # 906-007. I also came back with a burning desire to race, but with no money. Part of my assets to be turned into cash, was the 550, which was sold to Lindsay Fox with the restoration beautifully completed by Brian Tanti.’

‘Lindsay also owns my 718 RSK which is also beautifully presented in the Fox Classic Car Collection. Incidentally,
the chassis number of the 550 that James Dean was driving when he died was 055, just one car earlier than my father’s car, chassis number 056’ Alan conculded.

The close up shot of Hamilton’s ex-works Porsche 904/8- chassis # ‘906-007’ ‘Bergspyder’ is a beauty, Calder 1966- colour too, thanks Denis!

By this stage the machine was fitted with a 2 litre 906 six-cylinder engine, click here for a piece on the car and one of the biggest friends Australian motor racing has ever had; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/20/alan-hamilton-his-porsche-9048-and-two-906s/ . The 550 Spyder is here; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/28/hamiltons-porsche-550-spyder/

(R Simmonds)

Etcetera…

As usual, a flurry of communication with others of our friends after upload of the piece resulted in a few more images.

The first above is from Ron Simmonds, again at ‘The Hole’ with then owner Lionel Marsh at the wheel, whilst below is one from Tony Johns of Stirling Moss having a steer of the car in a sportscar support race- winning the ‘Ardmore Handicap’, as Hamilton notes above, before setting off for a victorious run in his Maserati 250F in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore in 1956.

(T Johns Collection)

 

(T Johns Collection)

During the period Norman Hamilton owned #’0056′ it was driven by ‘every man and his dog’- the array of talent included Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Frank Kleinig, Bruce Walton, Otto Stone, Eddie Perkins, Ted Gray, Austin Miller and Ern Tadgell, who is shown aboard the car at Phillip Island below.

Credit…

Special thanks to Denis Lupton and Alan hamilton

Ron Simmonds, Tony Johns Collection, Dick Willis, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden

Tailpiece…

(Dick Willis)

Ern Tadgell again, in Dick Willis’ shot, this time at Lowood, Queensland in 1957- the car worked hard all over Australia as one of Hamilton’s primary brand recognition tools all those years ago when the Zuffenhausen giant was a small family business start-up, hard though that is to imagine now!

Finito…