Posts Tagged ‘Australian Motor Sports magazine’

First and final issues, February 1946 and April 1971, with 298 issues between (S Dalton Collection, as are all of the following images)

Recording history, as it happens was a very different process before internet based websites and twitispheres made for real-time instantaneous news access across the globe. February 2021 heralds 75 years since a doyen of Australian motoring journals began its journey. Let’s reflect…

World conflict had not long ceased when those with a motor sporting interest began thinking of ways of getting a little bit of their sport happening again – War related fuel rationing or not. The 500cc movement (and its Iota magazine) in the UK saw young John Cooper and a whole host of hopefuls garnering a passionate interest. The colonials had an interest too, and despite the same sort of restrictive measures in those early post war years, also made things happen.

The monthly, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ began its days from the Melbourne-based home of its founding editor/ publisher, Arthur Wylie, under the auspices of Wylie Publishing Co. He had pre-war Motor Racing/Speedway competition driving already on his resume and shared an engineering talent with his brother, Ken where they built their own racing cars and speedway midgets. But nothing relating to putting a magazine into production. In for a penny, in for a pound after his wartime Royal Australian Air Force service. Leading to setting up a small network of often well connected early correspondents, such as John Barraclough and Bob Pritchett to help fill the pages (and get the gossip) to cover all facets of ‘the sport’ – motorcycles, speedway and cars (and occasionally even boats). The ‘car folk’ very much like the UK relied on Hillclimbs as the main means of getting a fix early post conflict with road racing venues difficult to access. This is where the motorcycling clubs tended to lead the way sourcing new venues that the car folk would later often access and benefit.

Bruce Polain and Arthur Wylie aboard his Wylie Javelin at Amaroo Park in 1976 (B Polain)


Ken and Arthur Wylie at Western Springs Speedway, Auckland, NZ 1938. These cars are 2 of 4 kits imported from the US by George Beavis, make folks? (Just Midgets)


A small selection of 1947 and 1948 issues

The first AMS issue dated February 1946 started the Wylie Publishing formula complete with enough advertising and sold copy to help lead to a second issue…and a third… Usually dated to the 15th of the month in the first few years, with the distinctive blue toned cover to brighten things up in an era of basic printing means. That first issue even ran a very brief piece on the “…overseas magazines have been suggesting 500cc Car Racing, using motor cycle engines…” With, like the movement itself, things expanding over future issues and Cooper getting a run in the May ’47 issue (although in reality basically a re-use of UK’s The Autocar story). It would be 1950 before any Coopers arrived Down Under in the metal and Arthur Wylie was in the right place when that happened.

Talented artists tended to be well used as part of magazine publications everywhere during the times when the ‘dark art’ of photo reproduction was an expensive exercise. AMS was no exception, utilising the talents of Sydney-based artist/ enthusiast, Bob Shepherd. With a steady hand bringing forth his gifted ability to create illustrated columns such as ‘Vintage Competition Cars of Australia’ that began in the August 1946 issue and ‘Interesting Power Units’ beginning 12 months later.

Those with a penchant to capture an moving vehicle at close quarters were also welcome submissions in AMS with George Thomas and Ed Steet and many others from across Australia making contributions. With Ed even having time to put the camera down and compete on occasion.

There was another popular column that began in the August 1946 issue, ‘Australian Specials’ heralding what modern day historians can be forever grateful for in these concoctions being recorded in period. There was a fairly broad scope in what determined an Australian Special, some baring quite exotic basis, other less so. Budget dependent often and the builder’s talent also at play. That August ’46 issue sets things going with ‘The Day Special.’ The underpinnings of Jack Day’s special being Bugatti with a Ford V8 crammed in where Ettore’s straight-8 had once resided.

August 1946 issue and the debut of Bob Shepherd’s Vintage Competition Cars of Australia series, The Day Special


Beginnings of the ‘digest-sized’ era from June to December 1951 issues


February 1950 and Cooper gets featured on Australian soil. Phil Irving is shown on the right, Keith Martin (Cooper importer) on left

Arthur was also able to bring UK ‘Motor Sport’ editor, Bill Boddy onboard with his ‘English Newsletter’ column to keep the colonials familiar with what was happening in that part of the world. And on occasion things were reciprocated, with AMS stuff going into Motor Sport. Of course Bill was probably only trying to supplement the miserly pay handed out by Wesley J Tee, publisher of MS.

As mentioned earlier, Arthur Wylie was in the right position as both publisher and competitor to be the one who debuted Cooper into Australian motor sport at the 29-30 January 1950 Fisherman’s Bend race meeting. By engaging Arthur as driver, the original Australian Cooper importer, Keith Martin – under the guise of ‘Cooper Racing Car Distributors’ was hoping to showcase Cooper JAP exploits and get some publicity in AMS as a means to move the four cars he had just landed on Aussie soil four days earlier. Two were complete, the other two were imported minus body. Resulting in the February 1950 issue having the race report where things didn’t go as well as hoped with not enough preparation time between boat and racing. There was also the separate Cooper 1000 feature.

Then Arthur was back in the same Cooper’s seat for the 13 March 1950 Rob Roy Hillclimb meeting where he not only took Fastest time, but broke the course record with his 26.55 sec time. Although it didn’t turn into a rush of quick sales or fresh orders that Keith Martin had probably hoped. They did eventually sell, one of the bodiless cars as a rolling chassis to Ken Wylie, who completed the car and popped in a 500cc JAP. Keith Martin however was never responsible for importing another Cooper to these shores. But he did visit the UK and compete at the likes of 5 July 1952 Rest-and-be-Thankful Hillclimb in Scotland. Where, like many others before and after, he had a moment at the venue damaging the Cooper he was using.

From those humble beginnings, Cooper certainly played a major part in both Aussie motor sporting activities with AMS recording their many exploits over the next 15 odd years. Not that that was the exclusive domain of Cooper. Because AMS helped promote and record the growth of the sport as many ‘new’ racing cars, either arrived ex UK / Europe or was homegrown built in the Australian Special tradition. It was of course the period whereby the old nails from the UK and Europe motor racing could be cast off to the colonials as their hunger for fresh mounts gained momentum. Be they, even then, rare MG, Bugatti or Maserati and the like having reached their sell by date for those chasing victories with no further requirement for last year’s racing car in the northern hemisphere.

May 1947 issue ran this Cooper 500 feature


Lex Davison ready to clear his Ferrari 500/625 from his Lilydale property

The names of Davison, Jones,  Patterson, Mildren, Stillwell, Whiteford and a whole host of others can be tracked through the pages of AMS with their more obscure mounts of the 1940s taking them on their racing journey’s into the ’50s when they boldly stepped into the likes of Ferrari, Lago-Talbot, Maserati, D Type Jaguar and Cooper as their careers grew and more spending power became available to try to outgun each other on the circuits. Then into the ’60s as the Brabham/Tauranac inspired Cooper’s and Repco-Brabham’s became the preferred (or more the point, necessary) means to continue their competitive on track combats of 15 or more years that had begun somewhat more humbly with steads such as HRG, MG or Riley and Ford specials that were fairly easy to access, tweak or build in a back shed or servo with a few skills and basic tools.

Along the journey Arthur Wylie was able to take a little inspiration from Cooper, by way of building his own interpretation of a racing car where the driver sat low and forward of the engine. Originally known as the Jowett Javelin special, although more famously known as the Wylie-Javelin. This was Arthur’s way of constructing a car around Jowett’s Bradford-built flat four – livened up by his addition of a supercharger. That in the early ’50s was a fairly typical ‘hot-up’ to many car engines, be they humble to special with an owner ready for their quick HP fix. After Arthur had his fun with the car, it was owned and raced by others who used it as a stepping stone up the open-wheeler ladder. Tasmania’s John Youl being one who would go on and race a couple of Cooper Climaxes.
You can view and read about Wylie-Javelin, right here;

Of course magazine publishing has always had its challenges, AMS was no exception on that front. Juggling the fine line of budget, gathering and/or writing the copy and advertising, printing and paper supplies. Or the complications of distribution across a vast country like Australia. And what I can easily relate to with simply these scribbles, a deadline quickly looms each month (for the Mini Cooper Register). AMS announced in their December 1949 issue they had been sourcing scarce paper supplies from Sweden to get by. But they weren’t happy on the quality stakes. Then by May 1951 it was another scarcity and the rising cost of paper issue announcement. Bringing about the shrunken A5 Digest-sized issues introduced from the June 1951 issue before a return to an A4 type magazine some three years later with the July 1954 issue – that was also the beginning of yellow cover era.

Mid-50s yellow cover era, shows the factory racing cars that were progressively taking over the grids


UK ‘Motor Sport’ editor, Bill Boddy moonlights with his summary of the then ‘just released’ BRM V16 for February 1950 AMS

By 1954 there was several new players in the Australian motoring magazine department, adorning newsagent shelves. Although Motor Manual, Wheels and Modern Motor were more general motoring scene related with a smattering of sport.

By 1957 the Aussie motor sport scene was beginning to flourish, however Arthur had decided enough and edited his last issue with July’s edition that year. He could finally take a proper holiday! Although the whiff of ink never completely stopped as he began a fishing magazine in the 1970s.

The sale began an era under Jim Webb’s ownership and influence and an era whereby proliferation of racing Cooper’s graced covers month on month. Which of course only reflected the number of Surbiton product touring from circuit to circuit across Oz during those late 50s/early 60s times.

That same timeframe saw new writers’ names appearing in AMS with the likes of Tuckey, Howard, Kable and Polain submitting copy during the growth of their motoring scribblers-related careers.

As the Mini era dawned, AMS covered things from even before the 1959 Mini release through to running a test of the Aussie Mk2 Cooper S ‘KMD 400’ press car in the May 1970 issue. UK rally driver, Brian Culcheth used the car during an Australian visit promotion. More broadly AMS covered a whole host of Mini related news, tests and even graced covers on a couple of occasions. And of course race track exploits scattered amongst many race reports.

AMS had some great classified adverts for a whole swag of wonderful machinery. Here Rupert Steele tries to move his ex-Barrett Alfa Monza


Talented artist Bob Shepherd, his work remains highly prized

No doubt as an attempt to broaden readership and sales, the AMS masthead was given a mid-life makeover by the addition of ‘& Automobiles’ to the cover upon publication of the August 1960 issue. By mid-1963 the title became part of Southdown Press, at the time they were a major player in all variety of Australian magazine publications.

I’m more than aware some enthusiasts with a motor sport historian side can be quite dismissive of the 1963/64 onwards era of the magazine. Especially given Racing Car News had popped up in 1961 and was now chasing the original AMS mantra to cover the sporting side of things. But some foolhardy souls prefer more than one source, so persist in having 25 years of hard copy AMS to the very end when things wound up with publication of the April 1971 issue. Representing 300 Individual issues (4 years had 11 issues only –  46, 55, 61 & 69) Winding up with staff such as Peter Robinson, moving towards a longtime stint as Wheels magazine editor. Before he headed for a motoring life and journalism in Europe.

Arthur Wylie was celebrated by the Aussie Historic movement over the weekend of 11-12 August 1990 with the Historic Amaroo race meeting run in his honour. He passed away on 26 July 1997 – just 4 days shy of his 86th birthday. He would probably be somewhat surprised all these years later enthusiasts are still utilising his journal to solve some obscure moment. Or simply perusing the for sale and classified adverts that showcase cars now worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions in today’s historic terms. But it’s tread easily, that ‘Swedish blond’ paper complained about in-house 70 odd years ago can be on the suntanned and delicate in 2021!

Of course, since AMS & A’s departure from the newsagents shelves, many other brave souls have come (and often gone) trying to establish motoring and motor sporting magazines. The irony there is that as one title ended its print run, Auto Action was beginning its journey. With it now up for celebrating 50 years – 1805 editions through the presses later. With presence on Twitter, Facebook, website or old fashioned hard copy that some of us old dinosaurs prefer. See here;

1967 and 1968 issues with a variety of automotive ‘treasures’ and awkward publicity


The email below was forwarded to Stephen Dalton by Peter Robinson, respected Australian magazine editor/writer in response to Paul Newby’s comments below about the final phases of AMS.

‘Hello Stephen

My thoughts on AMS. It was a long time ago, of course.

In 1966 I was working as a journalist at Keith Winser’s Australian Monthly Motor Manual. While I will always be grateful to Motor Manual for giving me a start (in 1962) in this business, it was a humble publication with no real aspirations for excellence. At the end of 1966 Winser sold to The Age and the small staff moved to the Age building in Collins street, Melbourne.

Shortly thereafter, in early 1967, Pat Hayes, editor of AMS approached me with a job offer and sold me on the idea that Southdown Press, owners of AMS, wanted to take on Wheels and Modern Motor as a more general motoring magazine with a strong motor sport content. Pat required somebody to take responsibility for road testing new models and, not knowing what would happen to Motor Manual (Len Shaw became editor and produced a much improved magazine that eventually became Car Australia).

I jumped at the chance. My first issue I was May, 1967, ironically, given my recent involvement with helping him write a book on his racing career, with Spencer Martin on the cover. My contribution was a story on car insurance. The road tests quickly became an important part of the magazine (we even dyno tested each car), alongside Mike Kable’s excellent motor racing reports and the other regular contributors. Sadly, when compared to Rupert Murdoch’s Southdown Press TV Week and New Idea, AMS remained a minor player in terms of circulation and advertising and was never given the financial support to break out of its newsprint paper quality or with a significant budget increase.

In late 1968, AMS was bundled into News Ltd’s Cumberland Press, based in Parramatta, NSW. The paper quality and reproduction improved, but the ambition to challenge Wheels disappeared. In mid-1969, Pat’s frustration led to his departure to the Age, where he became the newspaper’s letters’ editor. Len Rodney, already editor of Power Boat and Yachting magazine, became editor of AMS and my title changed from Assistant (editor) to Melbourne editor.

In November 1970, on the Austin Tasman/Kimberley launch, I meet Wheels’ new assistant editor Mel Nichols and we struck up a friendship. After Rob Luck resigned as Wheels editor, Mel turned down the job, believing he didn’t have the necessary experience. Mel suggested Murray Publishers approach me for the editor role, a huge step forward. As it turned out, my decision to move was most fortunate. In early March 1971, I moved to Sydney to run Wheels.

My name and byline appear in the March, 1971 AMS. Although I was largely responsible for the editorial and wrote the road tests (and showed up in photographs), my byline does not appear in the April 1971 issue, the last issue of AMS. Len Rodney’s name as editor was also dropped. Shortly after I moved to Wheels, I learned that Cumberland Press had decided to kill off both AMS and the boating magazine.

Hope this provides some worthwhile background.

Peter Robinson’


Stephen Dalton- many thanks for a wonderful article. The images are all from Stephen’s Collection too