Posts Tagged ‘Bugatti Type 37’

(B King)

Yes, there is such a place, and a good deal of carnage seems to have befallen this Nar Nar Goon race competitor…

It is a small hamlet of a little over one thousand people 65km east of Melbourne in Gippsland- the name is an Aboriginal expression meaning ‘native bear’ or ‘water rat’ the degree of certainty implied is hardly reassuring on a government website!

The Light Car Club ‘ran a surprisingly successful race meeting on a nine furlong grass track at Nar Nar Goon, 40 miles from Melbourne on Sunday 23 November 1947’ MotorSport reported in its February 1948 issue. It covered both this meeting and the 1947 Australian Hillclimb Championship won by Arthur Wylie’s Ford A Model Special ‘Wyliecar’ at Rob Roy, 75km from Nar Nar Goon on 2 November.

Arthur Wylie in his Ford A Spl, ‘Wyliecar’ at Rob Roy, whether these two shots are during the 1947 Oz Title meeting I’m not sure (L Sims)

 

(L Sims)

Owing to doubtful weather, practically no publicity was given to the Nar Nar Goon meeting, but about 3000 spectators turned up to see thirty competitors. At that time, the local population would have been tiny in an area focussed on timber growing, felling and milling. Ideal for motor racing really- out of harms way and the scrutiny of officialdom!

I’m not suggesting the LCCA were ‘hackers’ in any way at all- they were for decades, lets say 70 or so years, one of the continuously premier motor racing clubs in Australia. At one time or other they owned or operated venues such as Rob Roy, Albert Park, Sandown, Balcombe, Ballarat Airfield and others, including the little known Nar Nar Goon.

It isn’t clear to me how many meetings were run at the villages racecourse but cursory research shows LCCA/Junior Car Club/Light Junior Car Club competitions dated back to at least April 1932 when it appears the owner of the course, a Mr Coombes, first gave consent for cars to use his horse racing facility. By November 1933 a range of cars from the pedestrian to Brescia Bugatti’s were being put to the test.

On the wet grass many of the 1947 entrants had incidents during the time trials which preceded the races, ‘spinning with great abandon on one corner in particular’. No damage occurred and by race-time the track had dried out.

Arthur Wylie, racer and founder of Australian Motor Sports magazine at Nar Nar Goon in a Bugatti T37 ‘#37145’. Easter 1934 meeting (A Wylie via L Sims)

‘It was decided to run (love the organisation on the fly, can you imagine that today?) four handicaps, each of two or three heats and a final. At first four competitors were on track at a time, but it was found six was safe, so some events were run with six starters. Finishes were close and spectators were treated to eighteen 5 lap events.

‘The LCCA prides itself on organisation, at this meeting the average period between finishing one race and starting the next was less than five minutes’. Happy days indeed.

The LCCA should rightly be proud of its history of race organisation, I can attest to it as a competitor and spectator during the ‘glory years’ which all came crashing down as a consequence of the financially crippling burden of the two World Endurance Championship events the club ran very unsuccessfully in 1984 and 1985.

Sandown lived on of course thanks to the tenacity and entrepreneurship of racer Jon Davison but the LCCA sadly, was no more. A story for another time, not one I really want to tell when I think about it!

‘Racing Ron’ Edgerton in his ex-Charlie East/Advanx Tyres Bugatti T37 ‘#37104’ at Nar Nar Goon (B King)

Etcetera…

(JO Sherwood)

The car above is Les Jenning’s MG Magna L-Type contesting a handicap during the Easter Monday meeting in 1934- 1087cc six, four speed non-synchro box, less than 600 built in 1933 and 1934.

He achieved some great results with this car in the Australian GP- finishing third outright and setting fastest time behind Bill Thompson’s Riley and Harold Drake-Richmond’s Bugatti in the 1933 AGP at Phillip Island. The following year he was fourth outright and set second fastest time behind Thompson’s MG K3 and in 1935 he was third outright and again set second fastest time to Thompson’s MG K3.

Before he raced the MG he ran a Morris Cowley in the 1928 race supported by his employers, Lanes Motors (who were still Morris dealers in the sixties, my Dads Morris 1100 was supplied by them) but he failed to finish as he did also in 1930 and 1931 in Morrises.

‘The Car’ 16 April 1934 issue covered the meeting above and brings the flavour of the times to life, ‘Houdaille’ wrote that ‘The track was in excellent condition for cornering, albeit exceedingly dusty. The great rolling clouds must have been a nightmare to following drivers, but it thrilled the spectators tremendously.

The sight of the leader hurling his car into a corner and tearing up a walloping cloud of multi-coloured dust brought acclamation from the men and shrieks from the ladies. These gurgles and shrieks grew or decreased in intensity according to the ferocity with which other begrimed and determined pilots flung their machines at the leader.’

‘ How those racing behind managed to see the corners through the soupy pall astonished everyone. Their guiding sense must be naturally developed, for surely their eyes could have been of little use. Their were no accidents, which proves the ability of the drivers, to fly blind.’

‘It is not the intention of the article to detail events but rather give some impression of an enjoyable programme. The test trials were pursued with remarkable vigour, for it be known that no man shall exceed his test time by more than ten-percent lest he incur the displeasure of the organising committee which could mean disqualification should he win a race.’

‘Competitors drove all manner of makes, powers and vintages of cars. Posh MG’s sang around. Bugattis, some quite venerable in years, boomed along at high speeds. George Pocket, of course, brought the deceptive Ford A of his. That very long, very snaky and most odouriferous Ballot of Fred Bray’s did the fifteenth-shall act many times…’

And so the report went on- a good time was had by all. The article pronounced the end of Victorian Junior Car Club meetings at the venue but clearly satisfactory arrangements were entered into by them or other club(s) later.

 

(The Car 16 April 1934)

 

 

 

Bibliography…

MotorSport magazine February 1948, Trove, Leon Sims Collection, Bob King Collection, Arthur Wylie Collection, ‘Half a Century of Speed’ Barry Lake, John O Sherwood Collection, ‘The Car’ 16 April 1934 via Bob King

Tailpiece…

Competitor names and cars folks? The leading car is the one which come to grief in the opening shot.

Finito…

 

(B King)

Many European and American engines were used to replace the tired original in racing Bugattis in Australia – notably Ford’s V8 and Hudson’s side valve straight eight – ‘there’s no substitute for litres’…

However, it was Australia’s own cast iron, pushrod-OHV ‘grey’ Holden six that was as effective as any.

We will take a look at two important examples where a ‘grey’ successfully replaced the sophisticated mid-nineteen twenties single overhead cam, three valves per cylinder, 1500cc, Bugatti unit.

Bob Baker of coachbuilding fame, powers through Tin Shed corner at Rob Roy. This body would not have been the best example of his art (B King)

Type 37 Bugatti, chassis no. 37209…

This is the Bugatti that multiple Australian Grand Prix winner Bill Thompson made his Phillip Island debut with in 1929.

His race lasted but two laps before he exited with a blown-up motor – youthful over-enthusiasm perhaps? This was far from the end of the cars participation in the AGP, with the next owner Ernie Nichols contesting the 1934 and 1935 GPs at the same venue.

After a succession of well known drivers, it returned to Sydney where it was prominent in the early post war racing scene, first with Roy Murray and then Irwin ‘Bud’ Luke. The latter finished a splendid seventh in the 1949 AGP at Leyburn the ageing car winning the handicap and averaging 73 mph for the 150 miles. At Easter Bathurst, 1951, it was a victim of the well named Conrod Straight after having achieved almost 98 mph.

Fishermans Bend did not provide the most exciting background for photographers to display their wares. This is John Hall at the wheel, possibly on the way to a podium in the B Grade Scratch Race (B King-Spencer Wills)

 

Paddock shot at Phillip Island (B King)

It was back at Bathurst for the AGP in 1952, but now Holden engined. It was said to be the first Holden engined racing car – do our readers know of an earlier Holden powered special? The car today is little changed from when it was last raced seriously in the nineteen sixties and is still in regular use.

In terms of the articles opening photograph.

The Holden Bugatti was still an effective racing car into the sixties in the hands of a number of drivers – the 3 inlet trumpets are a give-away that this is no ordinary Bugatti. Who is the driver entering Repco Corner at Phillip Island, probably in the late nineteen-fifties though folks? We can confidently rule out Valery Gerrard. John Hall was rotund, as was John Marston. Therefore it is likely to be Barry Elkins or John Pyers?

(B King)

The old girl (above), still with unsupercharged Bugatti engine, was  still able to hold a bevy of stripped TC’s up the mountain at Bathurst.

(P Coleby)

‘37209’ again, and still in action at Calder circa 1962 when owned by the Watson brothers.

 

John Cummins in ‘37332’ keeps Bill Sherwill honest on the dirt at Tarrawingee, near Wangaratta, Northern Victoria. This is a good illustration of Cummo’s flamboyant style (B King)

Type 37(A) Bugatti, chassis no. 37332…

John (Cummo) Cummins, grand prix driver, raconteur, racing commentator and all round good fellow will be familiar to many readers as the driver of this Holden engined Bugatti special.

And it was a very special car. New in 1928, it gained fame as the feature car of TP Cholmondeley Tapper’s “Amateur Racing Driver” (Foulis). The car was owned by New Zealander Tapper’s partner, Eileen Ellison, and they campaigned it extensively in England, Europe and South Africa.

David Evans frightens a sapling in the unmodified Type 37 at a Bugatti Owners Club sprint meeting at Chalfont-St Giles. Presumably when the car was owned by Eileen Ellison (via Kees Jansen)

In the early thirties they had it supercharged at Bugatti’s Molsheim factory. In the mid-thirties it was modified by Leslie Bellamy; he fitted his eponymous independent front end which was detrimental to the cars appearance, and probably also to its handling, as it shortened the wheelbase.

(B King)

Cummo found the engineless car in Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1952 and brought it to Australia where Len Sydney fitted a hot Holden engine.

Here above is the down-at-heel Bellamy. No engine, no problem- fit a ‘grey’. This was possibly the third racing car so fitted with Lou Molina and Silvio Massola splitting the two Bugattis in the precedence stakes with their ‘MM Special’.

John’s position as an engineer at Chamberlain’s gave him access to a veritable Who’s Who of tuning experts – this resulted in a standing ¼ mile time of 14.4 seconds and 135mph on Conrod Straight. In recent times the car has been returned to the standard configuration of a supercharged Type 37A Bugatti.

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

‘Bugattis in Australia and New Zealand, 1920 – 2012’. Bob King & Peter McGann. (Self published 2012), ‘Amateur Racing Driver’ TP Cholmondeley Tapper. (Foulis, undated)

Bob King Collection, Kees Jansen, Spencer Wills, Peter Coleby Collection

Tailpiece: John Cummins, ‘The Wall’, Templestowe Hillclimb, in Melbourne’s then outer, now inner east…

(B King)

 

Finito…