Posts Tagged ‘Cooper T23 Bristol’

(B Thomas)

Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar won the Sunday 7 November 1954 Australian Grand Prix at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast…

Here, (above) just after the start, Lex is behind Kiwi Fred Zambucka’s Maserati 8CM, with Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 behind the HWM and then Jack Brabham’s partially obscured Cooper T23 Bristol ‘Redex Special’.

Race favourite Stan Jones, in the Repco Research built Maybach 2 is already out of shot and some distance up the road ahead of this next group. Stan led until lap 14 when some welds on the chassis of the new car failed causing a very high speed excursion backwards through the Queensland countryside, writing off the car but fortunately without causing injury to the plucky Melbourne motor-trader.

Sydney’s Curley Brydon’s MG TC Spl s/c was second in the Formula Libre, scratch, 150 mile event from Ken Mitchell’s Brisbane built Ford Spl in third place. Davison’s time was 1 hour, 50 minutes and 18 seconds.

After heavy rain in the days before the meeting the race was run ‘on one of the hottest days of the season and drivers had a trying time with the heat and dust’. It was Davo’s fifth attempt at the AGP- a race he was to win four times- in 1954, 1957, 1958 and 1961.

Australia after the initial ‘Phillip Island AGP era’ (1927 Goulburn AGP duly noted) for decades had a wonderful tradition of each of the states hosting the AGP in turn- in that sense ‘everybody got a fair crack of the whip’. The disadvantage was that there was not until the sixties investment in a permanent facility to stage motor-racing let alone events on longer courses of the sort appropriate for events of Grand Prix length. Warwick Farm and Sandown are examples of fine venues and circuits but even then were built within pre-existing horse racing facilities.

The #15 John McKinney MG TC Spl 1.3 DNF lap 11 and Curley Brydon’s MG TC Spl 1.3 s/c, 2nd in a fast reliable run (B Thomas)

Queensland’s first GP was held in September 1949 when 30,000-40,000 people converged on Leyburn, a quiet little hamlet on the Darling Downs- the race was held on a disused wartime airstrip and won by John Crouch in a Delahaye 135S imported by John Snow pre-War.

The venue for the 1954 event was similarly distant from major population centres, an hours drive from Brisbane on a good day, being a road circuit using roads in the Ashmore/Benowa/Bundall areas a mile or so from Southport. International readers are probably aware of the Surfers Paradise location from television coverage of the annual Indycar race, Southport is close by.

These days the Gold Coast City has a population of 560,000, back then before the tourist boom of the sixties the area was a quiet farming and agricultural hamlet adjoining the Pacific Ocean. The organisers, led by the Queensland Motor Sporting Car Club laid out a 5.7 mile course on public roads- the event was contested over 27 laps of the undulating, narrow bitumen surface in sparsely settled, scrubby coastal bush. The local population of 40 swelled to somewhere near 60,000 on raceday!

(Brisbane Courier Mail)

The organisers said the road, much of which had not been sealed before, had a minimum usable width of 22 feet made up of 14 feet of bitumen and at least 4 feet of smooth gravel shoulder on each side. There were two no-passing sections at the causeway leading into the main straight at Boston’s Bend and another about 40 yards long on a narrow bridge at the start of the tight section beside the Nerang River, past Dunlop Bend at the start of the second long straight.

The intersecting two straights as you can see above formed one corner of the triangular course , the section beside the Nerang up to the Courier Mail hairpin was continuously jinking. There were some very quick curves on the return section with a total rise and fall of 60 feet- including several jumps where faster cars became airborne and blind corners with the road overall very bumpy- and surrounded by barbed-wire fences for most of the distance.  The organisers forecast a 90 mph lap average by the faster cars which proved to be quite accurate

The Maybach main men- Stan Jones and Charlie Dean. With the marvellous but shortlived Maybach 2, perhaps at Fishermans Bend in early 1954- cars technical specs as per article linked at the end of this piece. Dean a remarkable fella- engineer, businessman, racer inclusive of several AGP’s and public company Director. No book about him sadly! (unattributed)

The bulk of the racers in the smallish Australian racing scene were based in Sydney and Melbourne so it was a long tow up north for many, but the competitors nevertheless journeyed north to contest the event, the biggest such social occasion ever held in South Queensland to that point.

From Victoria their were six entries including the fast-boys Jones and Davison. The New South Wales contingent of 11 included Stan Coffey in a Cooper Bristol and similarly mounted ‘Pre-race favourite ex-speedway champion Jack Brabham driving a 1971cc Cooper Bristol’, as one of the Brisbane papers saw it. No way did Jack’s 2 litre machine have the mumbo to win this event though.

Redex Round Australia Trial personality/winner Jack Murray added to the gate, he raced an Allard Cadillac V8. Dick Cobdens Ferrari 125 V12 s/c was acquired from Peter Whitehead after the ’54 NZ GP with the wealthy Cobden very quickly getting to grips with the tricky handling of the rear swing-axle suspension car. His dices with Brabham at NSW meetings in the months before Southport were a spectacle all enthusiasts looked forward to at the time with Brabham the better racer but there was little difference in lap times between the two cars.

This paddock shot does not show the muddy conditions competitors endured. #4 is Charlie Whatmore, Jaguar Spl 3.4 7th and #9, the 3rd placed Ken Richardson Ford V8 Spl (D Willis)

The Queenslanders came out in numbers, sixteen in all. The group included Charlie Whatmore’s Jaguar Spl built around a Standard 14 chassis with Jag Mk7 power and Rex Taylor who had bought Doug Whiteford’s dual AGP winning Talbot-Lago T26C. With the replacement Lago a long way off Doug raced ‘Black Bess’, his famous Ford V8 Spl and winner of the 1950 AGP. Arthur Griffiths had just bought the Wylie Javelin.

Much was expected of Kiwi Fred Zambucka’s Maserati 2.9 litre s/c but the very stiffly sprung pre-war machine was all at sea on the very bumpy country roads.

Stan Jones’s new Maybach 2 was a classic single seater built around the same engine and gearbox as Maybach 1 but was shorter, narrower and lighter and was the real favourite for the race. The Melburnian had his tail up as a consequence of his NZ GP win at Ardmore aboard Maybach 1 in January and the speed of Maybach 2 built by Charlie Dean and the rest of the Repco Research team in Bruswick after they returned from NZ. Its pace had been proved from its first appearance in winning the Victorian Trophy at Fishermans Bend in March and was reinforced at Bathurst over the Easter weekend.

The car was without doubt the quickest in Australia at the time, remember too by this stage the AGP was a scratch event (the 1951 Narrogin AGP was started in handicap order but the AGP winner was the car/driver which completed the distance in the fastest time- Warwick Pratley in the Ford V8 powered George Reed Spl) so a machine capable of winning the event on speed and reliability was required. This change had immense impacts on the content of our grids. Very quickly, older or lower powered machines which were half a chance in the handicap days were rendered uncompetitive at AGP level overnight. The time was right for the change mandated by the Australian Automobile Association but that view was hardly one universally held at the time.

Lex Davison, HWM Jag, Southport. Circuit safety aspects clear- crowd close to the action! (Davison)

Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar had been continuously developed by Ern Seeliger and his artisans over the previous 12 months since it’s unsuccessful debut during the 1953 AGP weekend at Albert Park.

There the ex-Moss/Gaze (then Alta powered) car ran its bearings in practice and did so again shortly after the start of the race. The car was modified terms of its lubrication, oil and water cooling and other areas almost on a race by race basis becoming fast and reliable. The ‘C Type’ spec 3.4 litre engine gave 187bhp on the Repco dyno in early 1954 but the clever car was not as quick as Stan, Jack or Dick’s- it had gained reliability though, a quality which was to be rather a valuable one come raceday.

Despite the new Southport circuit being unfamiliar to the drivers, practice was available for only two one hour sessions on the Saturday, the time was allocated after the longer sessions planned were diminished by clearing up the debris of the Mrs Geordie Anderson driven Jaguar XK120 Coupe which left the track on the fast swerves of the return section of the course and hit a telegraph post. She was not badly injured but the car was substantially damaged.

After a rainstorm cleared,  faster times were recorded in the afternoon session with Cobden a little quicker than Jones. There had been fifteen consecutive consecutive weekends of rain before the meeting, and plenty in between, so the course road shoulders were soft and the paddock areas boggy which made for rather grim conditions for crews and spectators alike.

Only Stan and Dick got under 4 minutes with Cobden the quicker at 3:55, an average of 88mph. Whilst the times were indicative of performance they did not count for grid positions which had been allocated by the organisers at their discretion.

Jack had engine problems running in a fresh Bristol motor which would also play out on raceday whilst Maybach needed repairs that evening to repair a split fuel tank and reportedly to raise the ride height. Davison’s HWM also needed repairs to the underbody and to straighten some suspension parts after an off by Lex, his best time was 4:14.

Whatmore’s Jaguar Spl, Standard 14 modified chassis and fitted with a Jag 3.4 Mk7 engine for this race. Car descended from a Studebaker powered ex-speedway machine he raced in the 1949 Leyburn AGP (HAGP)

Spectators near Skyline Bend, 4.5 miles from the start reported the faster cars were leaping two feet into the air as they crested the top of the hill. Over 5,000 people attended practice causing plenty of chaos to surrounding access roads indicating the challenges of race day access!

The quick guys were worried about the driving standard of some of the locals with Brabham not confident his Cooper would last the race without some sort of chassis breakage.

In an interesting sequence of events which played out during the race the Maybach’s aluminium fuel tank was split during practice, as was Davison’s.

Whilst Brian Burnett had built much of the Maybach body, chassis and other parts he attended Southport as part of Davo’s crew not Jones team so prioritised Lex’s repair over Stan’s. In the end he did not have time to complete the Maybach repair due to an incident whilst working on the HWM’s tank ‘…when Burnett prepared to weld up the crack by following his customary method of clearing fuel vapour out of the drained tank- by waving a lit welding torch inside- the tank exploded. He gathered up the scattered pieces, worked out where they belonged, hammered them back into shape and then, finally, was ready to start welding the tank back together again.’

Between 50,000-60,000 attended on raceday, the early birds camped overnight with day-trippers arriving from 4am. The day dawned bright and sunny in contrast to recent weather patterns… 

‘People dressed in gay holiday clothes, some in swimming costumes, went in transport ranging from a family in a horse-drawn buggy to the latest model sedans’ the Brisbane Courier Mail reported.

‘Farmers let down their fences to allow thousands of vehicles to park…at the township of Benowa people watched the roaring motors from the shade of a church. Others watched from houses, some from the rooftop whilst men and boys perched in the trees. Dairy calves not far away ran into the bush as the quiet bitumen road running through tall green turned into a snorting carrier for Australia’s fastest cars…’

Sounds fantastic to me!

The huge crowd blocked the track between races and strolled across the circuit whilst races were running, the chaos was not helped by the lack of an effective public address system throughout much of the course area.

Brightways and Farren Price Trophy sportscar race- A Mills Jag XK120, leads David Griffiths Triumph TR2 and G Greig’s Austin Healey (E Steet)

The program commenced at 11.15 am with the ‘Brightways and Farren Price Trophy’ 5 lapper won by won by Adelaide’s Eldred Norman in a G.M. 2-71 supercharged Triumph TR2.

Norman was an extraordinary character as a businessman, racer, engineer and specials builder- the twin Ford V8 engined ‘Double Eight’  and Zephyr Special s/c are at the more extreme end of his creativity and speed. Somewhat ironic is that his most conventional AGP mount, the TR2 gave him his best AGP result- he was 4th in the car later in the day.

The TR2 was still hot when he contested the ‘Cords Piston Ring Trophy’ First Division event which he also won, the Trophy was won by Les Cosh in an Aston Martin DB2 who did the fastest time in the Second Division event for closed cars.

At the conclusion of the meeting Eldred loaded up the TR2, the first delivered in South Australia, re-attached a lightweight trailer containing two empty 44 gallon drums of methanol racing fuel, some basic spares, tools, odds and sods to the sportscar and then drove back to his base in Halifax Street, Adelaide. The trip is 2050Km one way, so lets say he did around 6,000 Km in all inclusive of the return trip, a bit of tootling around the Gold Coast, race practice, two race wins…and fourth in the AGP. I’d call that a pretty successful trip up North!

The Grand Prix was due to commence at 2.45 pm, but by that time the program was an hour late for the reasons mentioned earlier. This was then exacerbated by speeches of the Southport Mayor to welcome Queensland’s Deputy Premier- who made a speech formally opening the GP and finally another by the local State MP who gave a vote of thanks to the Deputy Premier. Still, to their credit, the Queensland politicians allowed the race to take place on public roads, a situation which existed only in WA and NSW at the time.

Lex hustling the victorious HWM Jag thru Olympic Corner, preceding the start/finish straight (B Thomas)

The drivers waited patiently and nervously with the start, not based on lap times remember, and a road not nearly wide enough for the 2-1-2-1 grid. Their difficulties now also included the sun which was lower in the sky than would have been the case had the program been running to time.

The two front slots were allocated to the fast Stan Jones/Maybach and the slow Rex Taylor in the fast Lago. Then came Fred Zambucka’s very stiffly sprung pre-War Maser which was said to be almost uncontrollable on the bumpy Queensland country back-roads.

The sprint to the first corner with the quicks Cobden, Davison and then Brabham promised to be interesting whilst Stan, up front was not to be impacted if he got away cleanly.

AMS reported that ‘The two minute board went up, engines were started, then their was a minute to go, then ten seconds, then they were off in a mad frenzy of wheelspin, smoke, haze and dust.’

When the flag dropped Jones and Maybach disappeared, he had a lead of 10 seconds at the end of the first lap. All the front runners survived the first corner unscathed but there was a tangle of mid-fielders which was cleared by the time the leaders emerged 4 minutes later.

Stan led Lex by 10 seconds from Jack 6 seconds back who had already passed Dick Cobden’s Ferrari.

‘The order and intervals reflected the various drivers success at passing Taylor and Zambucka; Brabham and Zambucka’s cars had actually touched’ wrote Graham Howard.

Almost immediately Jack’s Cooper cried enough with re-occurrence of the Bristol engines practice dramas where a camshaft bearing shell rotated in the block, cutting off the oil supply and seizing the camshaft, shearing the timing-gear key, bending valves and pushrods. Jack would take a Bristol engined AGP win at Port Wakefield in his self constructed mid-engined Cooper T40 at Port Wakefield, South Australia in 1955.

John McKinney putting out an Xpag engine fire in his MG TC Spl. He needed assistance to restart so retired (HAGP)

Taylor has just spun the Lago and Jack Murray joins the fun in his Allard- the latter restarting, the former DNF after receiving outside  help, Ferodo Corner (HAGP)

Jack Murray provided early excitement and entertainment in the pits as he arrived very quickly in his Allard soaked with fuel from a failed jerry-rigged auxiliary fuel-tank system.

Murray unzipped his fuel soaked britches to reveal that the fuel had dissolved his nylon jocks- all he was wearing was the elastic waistband of said garment! He got the Allard going, having borrowed a set of overalls, only to retire on lap 8 but not before a half lose spinning and just kissing Taylor’s Lago which had arrived shortly before Murray, see the photo above.

Jones and Maybach 2, on the hop, as ever, Olympic Corner (E Steet)

Meanwhile up front the gaps between the top three cars widened by the end of lap 5 with the Maybach 20 seconds up the road from the HWM and then 40 seconds further back to the Cobden Ferrari.

‘Nonetheless there was a touch of desperation about Stan’s erratic lap times, and reports that the Maybach was again leaking fuel suggested he might have to make a pitstop.’ To be fair the cause of his erratic laptimes was passing back- markers- he was lapping them from lap 3.

Cobden started to speed up from lap 6 with times of around 4:04 sec- shown a ‘faster’ sign by the crew he dropped his times to 3:55 by lap 9 and closed the gap to Davo to 7 secs and Jones to 30.6 seconds. On that circuit, in that car that drive would have been great to see- he barged past the HWM on that lap taking 4 more seconds from Stan’s lead. And did the fastest lap of the race at 3:51.0 seconds.

The speed that thrills…On the next lap passing the Sefton Ford Spl after the no-passing bridge Dick was gone, Cobden was baulked, both cars spun away from the direction of the river with Cobden motoring the 2 litre, supercharged Ferrari into retirement. Sefton was illegally push-started but was not black-flagged until late in the race.

Stan Coffey’s Cooper Bristol ahead of Downing’s Rilry Imp Spl with Lex Davison bearing down on the pair, Olympic Corner (HAGP)

Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 #49 passes Rex Taylor’s Talbot-Lago T26C just after the pits at the start of lap 2, Taylor completed only 6 laps and Cobden’s wonderful charge was ruined when a back-marker took Dick’s line on lap 10 (HAGP)

Howard writes that Stan’s press-on style had not abated despite the easing of the threat ‘Stan Coffey had a chip taken out of his Cooper Bristol’s front wheel when Jones slashed past; one magazine reported Jones was black flagged for passing in a no-passing area, but did not stop, and the flag was withdrawn…Jones…in the fast curves of the return section…came through lap after lap, airborne and sideways over a crest at about 115mph.’ Oh to have seen the bellowing six-cylinder Maybach do that too!

AMS reported that Maybach was still leaking fuel and that therefore Stanley was building up sufficient a lead to do a ‘splash and dash’ to get him through the 157 miles. His margin over Davison at half distance was more than 40 seconds.

Howard, on ‘The next lap Jones too was gone. Through the fast sweeps and crests of the return section the Maybach had a major chassis failure, the car became unsteerable, and at well over 100 mph it slithered off the road and disappeared into thick scrub. Spectators rushed to rescue Jones- who was miraculously unhurt- and others manhandled the detached front suspension and wheels off the road.’

The very ill Maybach 2 in the Southport countryside, devoid of ‘front suspension section’ which detached, causing the accident. Its said Stan mowed down 4 trees, some of the more substantial ones in this shot would not have readily yielded to the car and its fearless pilot (HAGP)

The car had chopped down four trees, jumped a six foot deep culvert and finished in a gully under the tangle of uprooted casuarina trees with Stan still strapped in the driving seat, unhurt other than a cut on his face.

Lex drove past the mess- skid marks, dust, debris, scurrying officials and spectators and then did his fastest lap of the race, and then slowed right down at the scene to ensure his friend and Monte-Carlo Motors business partner was ok- and then raced on to victory.

He reduced his pace by about 2 seconds a lap, and other than muffing an upshift passing the pits had a comfortable run to the line having taken 1 hour, 50 minutes and 18 seconds to finish the 157 miles, an average of 83.7 mph. At the time of Jones accident his lead over Curley Brydon’s MG TC Monoposto was 1.5 laps.

#16 Snow Sefton Ford V8 Spl 4.2, being passed by Ken Richardson’s Ford V8 Spl with Owen Bailey’s smoke obscured MG Holden on the inside behind and then Gordon Greig’s Austin Healey. Meanwhile Taylor’s Lago is stranded at left. Ferodo Corner lap 2 (HAGP)

Courier Mail Corner action- #29 Frank Tobin in the Rizzo Riley Spl 1.5, 6th, leads the 10th placed Charlie Swinburne Cooper Mk4 Norton 500 and 5th placed David Griffiths Triumph TR2 (HAGP)

Doug Whiteford’s Black Bess was out mid-race with Ford V8 maladies, Bill Pitt’s Jaguar Spl had a tyre go flat with Whatmore’s Jag engined machine out with head gasket failure.

Survival was the whole story of this race.

On his victory lap Davison stopped at the crash scene and picked up Stan who rode back to the pits astride the tail of the HWM. Stan was a force in all of the AGP’s he contested, he finally took one, most deservedly, aboard his Maser 250F at Longford in 1959 whilst Lex took four as recorded earlier. Both were very fast drivers, both drove very well prepared cars, perhaps Lex was the more mechanically sympathetic of the two. For sure Lex had more AGP luck than Stan.

The remains of Maybach 2 on its trailer ready for the long trip back to Sydney Road, Brunswick in Melbourne. ‘…this photo shows how hard the car hit the trees- parts of the cast alloy cam-cover and upper cylinder head have been broken. Other evidence of the impact is the pile of broken SU pieces (bottom left) near the flattened right-side main tube frame. Closer inspection reveals some telling details: front wheels and nose section have just been dumped as a unit and the spare wheels have been almost thrown onboard, as has the hand operated pump which would have been used to fill a re-fuelling churn’- G Howard (HAGP)

For years Jones ‘carried the can’ for the 1954 Maybach crash until Graham Howard carefully researched the matter in preparing the ’54 Southport chapter of ‘The Bible’- ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’.

It seems that in the day it was chosen not to report in accurate fashion Repco’s engineering failure as the accident cause with Stan holding his tongue rather than ‘bite the hand which fed him’ in terms of Repco’s ongoing support.

Howard addresses all of this at length in the 1954 chapter he wrote. Note that this wonderful book was written by a number of writers- Howard, John Medley, Ray Bell….

I’ve included this section of the chapter in full as Stan still seems to get the blame from older enthusiasts for the accident to this day and for international readers who will probably not be aware of the situation, somewhat arcane as it is.

Graham Howard wrote ‘…It is difficult to find the full story of Stan Jones’ Maybach accident, partly because it happened well away from any of the crowded areas, but also- quite obviously – because most writers chose to conceal the truth.

The deservedly respected ‘Australian Motor Sports’- whose report of the race was written by by Bob Pritchett, one of Dick Cobden’s Ferrari pitcrew- offered a number of possible causes, none of them the real one, and a month later recounted what was termed “the correct story told to us by Stan Jones and Charlie Dean” which blamed chassis/axle contact which in turn put the car off line.

Brisbane’s daily ‘Courier Mail’ merely reported that Jones had crashed, and did not offer any possible reasons. General-motoring monthly ‘Wheels’ quoted “the official explanation” and “other probables” while obliquely making the point that “the car was in two pieces”. ‘Modern Motor’ came closest to an outright declaration. “Officials said a broken chassis had caused the accident…” its race report said, observing “the car appeared to split in two.”

Yet if this had happened it was remarkably quickly forgotten, and has never been referred to since in histories of the Maybachs. Without the ‘Modern Motor’ story there would have been no published clue to the real cause of the accident.

Only a remark by Len Allen sparked this book’s enquiry. He remembered how he and a mate had walked around the inside of the course, and had found a great spot to watch Jones, who was so spectacular they chose to wait for several laps purely to watch the Maybach aviate into view. On the critical lap, Allen remembers watching the Maybach touch down and immediately asking himself, “What’s happened to his ground clearance?” Allen and his mate joined the people running after the crashed car, which ended up hidden from the road down a trail of flattened scrub and trees. Allen was adamant something had broken on the car, and – while AMS, the Courier Mail and Wheels gave him no support- Modern Motor’s hearsay evidence suddenly became very credible.

In following up this issue, chapter and verse was willingly provided by Brian Burnett, the man who actually built the chassis at Repco. He explained that the two main chassis rails, of 4 inch 16g chrome molybdenum alloy steel, passed through holes in the diaphragm-type front cross-member and were completely electrically-welded in position. These welds crystallised and cracked, and in the course of the Grand Prix one chassis tube eventually broke away and touched the ground. It was as simple- and as enormous- as unfamiliarity with new materials and techniques.

The Maybach was not rebuilt in its Southport form, but emerged- after another incredibly fast revision- as the inclined-engine, offset driveline Maybach 3 which made its debut at Bathurst at Easter 1955. This car used locally-developed continuous- flow fuel injection, partly because at least two of its three 2 3/16-inch SU carburettors had been broken in the Southport crash. The amazing part was how little else had been damaged- not least the car’s remarkable driver.

Yet it was Stan Jones who became burdened with the responsibility for the accident. It was a situation which, 30 years later, (the AGP book was first published in the mid-eighties) says a lot about the rarity of mechanical failure at the time, and about the veneration which both then and today surrounds those wonderful Maybachs.’ Graham Howard wrote.

From top to bottom- Davison HWM Jag, Cobden Ferrari 125 and Brabham Cooper T23 Bristol (G Edney)

The question which flows from the collective non-reporting or misrepresenting the truth as to the cause of Maybach’s demise is why those choices were made by those who knew the facts?…

 Lets explore that, my ‘educated surmises’ are as follows.

 As Graham Howard wrote, the accident itself happened ‘out in the boonies’ away from the sight of large sections of the crowd or where the pro-photographers situated themselves. In the rush to rescue Jones the focus was rightly on him not so much the car. Not everybody had a camera then as they were expensive and iPhones were in short supply, so there is little in the manner of photographic evidence taken amongst the casuarina trees where Maybach came to rest.

 The racing scene in Australian then was very small with ‘everyone knowing everyone’ and Jones, Dean and all of the Repco crew were part of that scene, liked and respected. It is not the case that, unlike today, that ‘blame’ be sheeted home in a public way. Best we ‘keep it in the family’.

 Repco were the only corporate to provide significant support to motor racing in Australia at the time. Whilst Maybach 1 was built by Dean, the balance of the cars were built by Dean and his team with the tacit corporate support of Repco in the Repco Research premises in Sydney Road Brunswick. In fact this factory was where Maybach 1 was built before ‘Replex’, Dean’s electric transformer business was acquired and absorbed within the Repco conglomerate.

Jones certainly bought Maybach 1 from Dean but the commercial arrangements between Stan and Repco after that have always been opaque, but there is no doubt it was to their mutual advantage. When I say opaque I mean unknown not dodgy. Repco’s press advertisements of the day, on occasion used Maybach in its ads. Dean, a racer, engineer and arch enthusiast- and a Repco senior employee (and a decade or so later a Director of Repco Ltd) would have been intent on that Repco support continuing and therefore keeping quiet the accident. Jones equally wanted the support to race so the form of words given by he and Dean to AMS was a narrative which did not accurately portray what happened but were words unlikely to cause corporate offence or embarrassment to Repco- and at the same time making clear ‘chassis/axle contact put the car off line’ and in so doing sought to get Jones ‘off the hook’, unsuccessfully it seems, as the accidents cause.

 Repco were a major advertiser in the press of the day, that is the daily newspapers, general motoring magazines such as Wheels and Modern Motor and Australian Motor Sports, the racing specialist monthly. It would not have been in those publications commercial interests to put at risk valuable ad revenues by publishing the truth of the accidents cause in the event said ads were pulled as ‘retaliation’ for negative Repco press.

 Motor racing was still very much a fringe sport in Australia in 1954. The authorities (including the police) were downright antagonistic about motor racing generally and specifically about using public roads for that purpose, particularly in New South Wales. Negative racing publicity of any kind at the time was not needed by the sport as it sought to become more prominent, recognised and respected.

 Whilst negative press about motor racing was probably of no issue or concern to daily papers the general motor magazines and especially AMS would have been keen to avoid coverage detrimental to the growth of the sport, and therefore a circumspect approach by them makes sense. For the general press the day after the race they had moved on to the latest bit of death and destruction locally or globally.

 Its easy to take pot shots of course in retrospect. Hindsight is one of my strengths my sons tell me. But what would I have done, what would I have written in publishing the November 1954 issue if I were Arthur Wylie, racer, editor and owner of Australian Motor Sports- knowing the facts of the accident?

 Exactly what he did and wrote my friends in all the circumstances outlined above…

 For Davison the post race celebrations started when he saw the chequered flag, his wife, a noted racer herself was given the flag to greet Lex as he completed his final lap.

After the formalities trackside the HWM was driven on public roads from celebratory gig to gig by the very popular Davo who became increasingly pickled as the evening progressed. Different times, wonderful times.

Things were more serious in the Maybach camp of necessity, their debrief took place at the Chevron Hotel in Surfers. During these discussions Brian Burnett was stupid enough to tell Jones he had driven ‘too fast and recklessly’ only to have Stanley floor him with one punch. In the circumstances he is lucky the pugnacious, tough little nugget from Warrandyte didn’t launch him into the next decade.

Maybach would be back of course, Maybach 3 had more than a nod to the contemporary 1954 Mercedes Benz W196 but alas Maybach never bagged the AGP win one of the cars surely deserved?…

The Maybachs…

The feature I wrote about Stan Jones is as much an article about Charlie Dean’s Maybachs, click on the link below to read about this amazing series of three cars- albeit the cars were under constant evolution! as befits any ‘works’ racers, the cars effectively Repco factory entries.

In my analysis and assessment of Repco’s racing history there were a series of distinct steps which led to Repco-Brabham Engines P/L World Championship success in the mid-sixties. The first is the  ‘Maybach Phase’, the second the shorter ‘Coventry Climax FPF/Repco Phase’ and the next RBE itself. The final bit is the Redco Engine Developments P/L ‘F5000 Phase’ of 1969-1974. So, the Maybach piece is a long, critical foundation component to put its importance into the correct historical context.

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

(Wheels)

 

 

Bibliography…

Various newspapers via Trove, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ November 1954, ‘The History of The AGP’ Graham Howard and others, ‘Larger Than Life: Lex Davison’ Graham Howard, ‘From Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, Graham Edney Collection, ‘Wheels’

Photo Credits…

Eddie Steet, Brier Thomas, ‘Larger Than Life: Lex Davison’, ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’ (HAGP), ‘From Maybach to Holden’, Dick Willis, The Nostalgia Forum

Tailpiece: If only- Stan Jones, Maybach 2, Southport ’54, pressing on as usual, maybe he was a bit more of a ‘percentage driver’ towards the end of his career, maybe…

(HAGP)

Finito…

Ted Gray’s #1 Tornado 2 Chev and Len Lukey’s Cooper T23 Bristol being pushed to the ‘Longford Trophy’ grid in 1958…

What an amazing shot! Colour racing photographs in Australia at the time were relatively rare given the cost of film and that professional ‘snappers mainly worked in monochrome given the demands of publications of the day.

So these pictures took my breath away. The Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania is posting some amazing photographs on its Facebook page. Its incredible the way FB and other online forums provide mediums for the distribution of enthusiast photos which would otherwise be chucked out upon someones death or locked away forever.

The shots are of ‘the more you look the more you see type’. Note the black Repco van and bucolic feel of the parched, brown Longford paddock and surrounding countryside. About 40,000 people attended that March long weekend raceday, it was a big meeting for its time in the Apple Isle. The little yellow Cooper T41 Climax is local boy Austin Miller’s.

I wrote a feature article about both this event and the Lou Abrahams owned Tornado a while back, click here to read it rather than repeat myself.

https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

Bill Mayberry, looking very natty in his red team overalls, takes a well earned rest beside Tornado. Its got a touch of 250F about it in terms of styling albeit not as voluptuous. Slimmer tho, with a higher cockpit surround- perhaps it slipped thru the air a bit better than Masers finest. You can see just how small the cars frontal area is relative to the Cooper Bristol in the opening head-on shot. Austin Miller’s raised yellow Cooper tail you can see and to the right M Hart’s Fiat Abarth 750 (HRCT)

It was a challenging weekend for the Tornado crew as Ted Gray was ill for most of it and there were major dramas with the car, specifically its gearbox. So, the calm looks of the crew are not reflective of some late nights.

Len Lukey’s Cooper was outgunned at Longford, very much a power circuit but Len was soon to become an outright contender- and 1959 Gold Star winner with the purchase of a 2 litre Coventry Climax FPF powered Cooper T43 Climax from Jack Brabham after the Melbourne Grand Prix at Albert Park later in 1958.

Simply marvellous really…

Tailpiece: Tornado 2 Chevy V8…

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The attention to detail of this wonderful car extends to the engines rocker covers. Chev Corvette 283 cid cast iron, small block V8. Surely there are few production V8’s which spawned more race success than this family of engines? Small block Le Mans winning ‘Windsor’ Fords duly noted! Vertex magneto, hand made fuel injection system using Hilborn Travers componentry, fabricated extractors, note the steering shaft and universal joint. Body in aluminium by the Mayberry brothers in Melbourne (B Young)

Credits…

Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Bob Young, Stephen Dalton

 

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Tom Hawkes, Cooper T23 Holden Repco, AGP Bathurst 1958 (unattributed)

Tom Hawkes racing his way up Mount Panorma towards a giant killing 3rd place during the 1958 Australian Grand Prix at Bathurst…

He finished behind Lex Davison’s winning Ferrari 500/625 and Ern Seeliger’s 4.6 litre fuel injected Chev V8 engined Maybach. Hawkes’ Cooper T23 is the ex-Brabham car chassis # CB/1/53 i wrote about not so long ago. Click here to read the article;

https://primotipo.com/2016/06/24/jacks-altona-grand-prix-and-cooper-t23-bristol/

Tom replaced the cars Bristol engine and fitted a Repco Hi-Power, Phil Irving designed head breathing much life into the standard 6 cylinder, OHV, inline Holden 6 cylinder ‘Grey Motor’. The engine raced at 2.3 litres in capacity.

The interesting thing is exactly where on Mount Panorama the shot is taken. The right hander at the top of Mountain Straight perhaps, ‘Quarry Corner’? All suggestions taken. Its a quintessential Australian country scene, in the absence of a crowd it could be anywhere!

Photo Credit…

Unsure, intrigued to know who took the wonderful shot

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(Popperfoto)

Engineers building a production run of these very successful T20/23 series of cars which were important in helping launch the careers of Mike Hawthorn and Jack Brabham amongst others. And positioning Cooper as just not builders of 500’s…

The photos were taken in Cooper’s Surbiton workhop in early 1953, the cars are the CB Mk2 or T23.

The essential difference (there were other improvements as well) between the T20/23 is that the latter used a spaceframe chassis, clear in shot, the earlier car a more traditional box section frame. Note the stack of frames, not yet stove-enamelled on the lower right of the shot.

I wrote an article about the T20 a while back so I won’t repeat myself, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

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Australian Gold Star Champion 1959, Len Lukey’s Cooper T23 Bristol (chassis CBR/2/9/53)  pictured at Mt Druitt, a circuit west of Sydney on 25 May 1958, the car did a 13.53 seconds standing quarter to take FTD. Shot shows the handsome lines of these cars to rather good effect as the gent looking on would attest. Later fitted with a Holden 6 cylinder engine, restored, for a time part of the Donington Collection and still extant (John Ellacott)

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The workshop shots are great, the unclothed cars show the Bristol engine, the chassis and the suspension mix of wishbones and transverse leaf springs front and rear.

Cooper were somewhat maligned over the years about their ‘curvy spaceframes’ by engineering purists but in comparison with other cars of this period, the Cooper is a paragon of modernity if not a perfect example of triangulation!

Doug Nye credits Dante Giacosa’s design of the 1946 Cisitalia D46 for Piero Dusio, as the first modern customer spaceframe car ‘the production racing car trendsetter for an entire generation of designers’.

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Cisitalia factory drawing of the D46 voiturette and its lovely, stiff spaceframe chassis, Fiat 1100cc 62bhp OHV engine. Suspension F/R lower arms/live axle with transverse semi-elliptic springs front and rear, hydraulic drum brakes. Drivers of the cars included the elite, Tazio Nuvolari and down

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Robert Manzon’s 14th placed Cisitalia D46 during the 330Km GP du Comminges, St Gaudens 0n 10 August 1947. Race won by Louis Chiron’s Talbot Lago ’39. The caption with this shot simply says ‘1947 French GP’, which it is not. I have arrived at the above driver/car/event by elimination, some French readers will be familiar with the background, the other hint is the ‘team badge’ on the cars side, let me know if i am wrong or right for that matter! (GP Library)

As stated above the Cooper Bristol Mk1 (T20) used a simple fabricated box-section single plane-ladder frame with tacked on body supports and was very successful.

John Cooper and Owen Maddock’s (Cooper designer/engineer/draughtsman) 1953 Mk2/T23 used a multi-tubular frame which took advantage of the entire cross-sectional area available inside the body ‘and looked more like what would become known as a ‘spaceframe’ design though still sparsely triangulated…this new welded-up chassis frame employed all the same sized round section tube, and it was effectively the forerunner of many more British GP cars ‘spaceframes’ to follow’ Nye said.

So, if the car isn’t the trendsetter Giacosa’s was the Cooper lads were certainly spaceframe ‘early adopters’, very successfully so.

Note the beautiful light alloy Cooper wheels, rudimentary independent rear suspension set up of lower wishbones and top transverse leaf spring which would serve Cooper well till the end of the decade. Double wishbones and coil springs at the front appeared a bit earlier but the transverse top leaf is in use here.

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New Cooper T23 on what is perhaps its first test at Goodwood in late ’52 or early 1953, triple Solex fed 1971cc circa 155bhp spec engine as per text. Frame, neat throttle linkage and beautiful hand formed aluminium body also clear in shot (Popperfoto)

The Bristol/BMW engine develops around 155bhp from its 1971cc in BS4A spec, the engine is worth a paragraph or two. What follows is a summary in relation to the engines race application, not a chronology of the many variants fitted to road cars.

As demand for aircraft and engines eased towards the end of WW2 the Bristol Aeroplane Company decided to diversify into cars. The history of this great company is interesting, click here to read about it; http://www.bristolaero.org/bristol-built/

One of its directors, HJ Aldington, had impeccable BMW connections, another of his companies, AFN Ltd were both the constructors of Frazer Nash cars and the pre-War importers of BMW. The 2 litre engine the subject of this article, was fitted to BMW’s superb 328 sports car, famously the winner of the 1940 Mille Miglia in Huschke von Hanstein’s hands..

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BMW 328 on Avus’ North Curve, Germany on 19 May 1938, driver and event unrecorded (Ullstein Bild)

In the post-war German mess, der Deutschlanders were keener for their technology to be shared with the ‘goodies rather than the baddies’ (the Ruskies), Aldington did a deal via the War Reparation Board which gave the engine technology to Bristol. The Brits fitted the engine to a 326 chassis and dressed the lot in an aerodynamic body similar to the 327 ‘Autenreith’ Coupe.

The first Bristol built engine was fired up on their dyno on 22 May 1946 and was soon fitted to its prototype ‘400’ car.

The engine was tall, slim and short despite its long stroke. The bores were cleverly siamesed within the cast iron block to allow the use of 4, rather than the 7 main bearings considered normal for a straight-six. The head had hemispherical combustion chambers with valves inclined at an included angle of 80 degrees with downdraught inlet ports between them.

Rather than twin overhead camshafts the valves were operated by 18! inclined cross-pushrods. For its success it demanded great engineering precision in its build, something Bristol had in spades. A steel crank ran in Vandervell ‘ThinWall’ lead indium bearings. Dry cylinder liners were of Brivadium alloy-steel so hard that for racing Bristol didn’t consider them run in until the engine had done 8000 miles!

After fitment of three downdraught SU carbs the ’85A’ engine developed 80bhp. The ’85C’ was fitted with three Solexes.

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Bristols; Type 171 Sycamore helicopter and 401 Coupe in 1950 (Hutton Archive)

In 1948/9 Aldington asked Bristol to develop a high performance variant for Frazer Nash, this ‘FNS’ (Frazer Nash Specification) unit with 0.15 larger inlet ports, improved crank counter weights, Delco-Remy distributor rather than the Lucas unit developed 126bhp @ 5500rpm. In the FN Le Mans Rep the engines were very successful.

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The 8th placed Bristol engined Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica of Dickie Stoop and Peter Wilson about to be swallowed by the winning Aston Martin DB3S with Reg Parnell at the wheel, he shared with Eric Thompson, during the Goodwood 9 Hours 22 August 1953 (GP Library)

Encouraged by the Frazer Nash success, Bristol built a new ‘Bristol Sport’ (BS) engine based on the ‘403’ Type 100 spec engine. These had blocks cast in chrome alloy steel. With a 66mm bore and 96mm stroke they displaced 1971cc.

The head was aluminium alloy with inlet valves made of chrome-nickel steel, exhaust valves of austentic-chrome steel. All of the valve gear was very light and polished. The crank was in aviation spec nitriding steel still running in 4 main bearings. A short duplex chain drove from the cranks nose to the high camshaft which ran in four bearings and carried a skew gear driving the distributor and oil pump shafts. High pressure lubrication was used but a wet sump retained. On ‘BS Series’ engines the head was ‘ported and polished’.

These engines, the Mark 2 version used by Mike Hawthorn’s Lavant Cup winning Cooper T20 at the Goodwood Easter 1952 meeting developed 149.8bhp@5550rpm on the Filton dyno before Leslie Hawthorn deployed his secret ‘witches brew’ of nitro-methane to produce more power still.

The ‘BS4A Mk1’ engines  developed 155bhp@6000rpm and 148lb/ft of torque at 5000rpm.

Ultimate versions of the German/British engines were Cooper Bristol driver/engineer Bob Gerard’s de-siamesed port 2.2 litre variants running nitro-methane which developed 180bhp@7000rpm. Bristol’s own de-siamesed engine which ran at Le Mans in its Coupes developed a reliable 160bhp. By that time the 2 litre F2 racing for which these engines were developed was over.

The Cooper Bristols were important cars in the rise of the Surbiton marque and formidable weapons in the right hands if not Ferrari Tipo 500 beaters…

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Cooper T23 Bristol being unloaded from its trailer on a bleak, winter Goodwood day in late 1952 or early 1953. 85km trip from Cooper’s Surbiton ‘shop to Goodwood. These shots (of the mechanics fettling the engine above and the two below) are undated other than 1 January 1953 which will be an approximation, there are no details of the mechanics or driver. My guess is that its a Cooper instigated press shoot, as are the workshop ones above, probably of the cars first test, the ‘stub exhausts’, these engines not usually raced as such, indicative of a ‘quick fix’ overnight to run the car for the first time. If any of you have the details please provide them and i will update the text (Popperfoto)

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Bibliography…

Doug Nye ‘History of The GP Car’, Automobile Year, John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia

Photo Credits…

Popperfoto, John Ellacott, GP Library

Tailpiece: John Cooper, but its just a guess…

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Brabham, Cooper T23 Bristol, Altona, 9 March 1954 (SLV)

Jack Brabham thrilled a crowd of over 12000 with his Cooper Bristol’s speed during the inaugural car meeting of the new Altona circuit in Melbourne’s inner west on 9 March 1954…

Brabham made the switch from speedway to circuit racing in, one of the characteristics of his driving style was the ‘Brabham Crouch’ over the wheel, its much in evidence down the years and very much present at the 2 1/4 mile Altona track.

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Brabham crouch, Cooper Bristol, Altona 1954 (SLV)

Jack set a lap record of 1:50, an average speed of 73.5 mph, the Cooper was timed at nearly 130 mph. Stan Jones won the F Libre open event after Jack’s Cooper sheared the magneto drive of its Bristol engine. ‘The duels between Brabham and Jones Cooper 1100 were a feature of the meeting, the brilliant cornering of the latter helping him hold the bigger faster car’ The Age newspaper reported.

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Many of the noted racers of the day entered the meeting; Jones, Reg Smith, John O’Dea and Lex Davison in 1100 Coopers and Bill Patterson in a 500. Cec Warren’s Maserati 4CLT, Ted Gray’s Alta Ford, Tom Hawkes Allard, Doug Whieford in his Ford Spl ‘Black Bess’ as well as Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar, it won the AGP at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast, later in the year completed a strong line-up

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Aerial view of the Altona Circuit and Williamstown horse racing course taken in 1958 after the circuits closure , at the top of the shot is Port Phillip Bay (SLV)

Over the years there was motor racing at Point Cook (one race only, the 1948 AGP on the airforce base) Fishermans Bend and Altona, they are all in the ‘same part of the world’, respectively 26/6/16 Km from Melbourne’s CBD. Of the three, Altona was the least successful, only six meetings were held.

Well known Melbourne racer/businessmen Stewart and Neil Charge invested between 35000-40000 pounds in the venture. They acquired land on the west side of Millers Road transforming ‘ a swamp into a GP track…they formed the Altona Motor Racing Co with preliminary work to commence in two weeks’ the ‘Williamstown Chronicle’ reported on 2 April 1953.

Neil Charge took leave from the family trucking business to pull the enormous project of creating the facility, ‘the track was built from fly-ash from the South Melbourne gasworks’

The swamp was converted into ‘Cherry Lake’, later reports suggested the promoters intention to ‘dredge the lake (deeper) to form a speedboat circuit’. Six meetings year were planned with local charities to benefit to the tune of about 4000 pounds per year.

Somewhat prophetically ‘The Chronicle’ noted the circuit may pose new problems for the promoters of Phillip Island, the expectation that Altona because of its close proximity to Melbourne may draw larger crowds. In the event, Phillip Island is still with us, despite a few ups and downs over the decades and Altona is long gone and largely forgotten!

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‘Williamstown Chronicle’ 19 February 1954

Altona was completed on time, its first meeting, for bikes, was opened by former Australian Olympic cyclist, Federal Parliamentarian, Sir Hubert Opperman on 21 February 1954…

Before the opening meeting the Williamstown Chronicle described the circuit as the first of its type in Australia, the Charges ‘have laid more than 2 1/4 miles of all weather bitumen fully enclosed by a steel safety fence…future plans provide for stands, changing rooms, fully equipped racing pits and permanent refreshment rooms’. The opening included a novelty match race between Jones Cooper and F Sinclair’s Vincent Spl sidecar, its not reported who won!

Car racing events were promoted by the Victorian Sporting Car Club, there were problems with the surface from the start. The track was ‘re-surfaced and built up where necessary after the recent ‘consolidation’ meeting. The track surround is safer with the removal of boulders and an encircling safety fence’. Edges were levelled to give a safe emergency run-off area. The Argus reported the improvements cost 4000 pounds with speeds expected to be higher by 20% compared with the first meeting.

In a 2013 interview Altona owner Neil Charge said that had the investors in the consortium, (there were 6 he said, not just he and his brother as reported by the media at the time) known that Albert Park was to be used for motor racing they would not have proceeded with their investment. International readers will understand the inherent beauty of Albert Park and its proximity to Melbourne’s CBD. Imagine the exact visual opposite; what was then flat, featureless, muddy or dusty, industrial land on the cities outskirts. In short, in a popularity contest close to Melbourne’s CBD, Albert Park wins hands down every time from a spectators perspective.

That the Charge brothers didn’t know about Albert Park as a racing possibility is a little hard to fathom, they were well connected Melbourne businessmen and stalwarts of the local racing community, which was even more incestuous then than now.

Other issues which inhibited the circuits success was the converted swamp land upon which it was built, land consolidation not understood as well then as now. The land continually subsided making the track difficult to maintain and dangerous, which is the reputation it gained from competitors. Entry numbers suffered as a consequence. If you can’t attract the cars, the ‘punters’ don’t come to watch and so a bit of a downward spiral started.

The Phillip Island Auto Racing Club in its own history relating the trials and tribulations of getting their circuit running have this to say; ‘ One example of a circuit hurriedly built and opened was Altona in 1954. With sharp corners, narrow straights and a dangerous lack of shoulders running along the edge of the circuit the track started to deteriorate from the very first (motor cycle) race. With four cars rolling over the same spot and several parts of the track crumbling to powder, it was clear the track was doomed from the beginning. This was despite an average lap speed of below 65mph’

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Cherry Lake, Altona in modern times, the industry of the Inner West is in the distance (unattributed)

Ultimately the Altona investors made the commercial decision to sell the land, the acquirer, local authorities who used it as parkland. Charge said the transaction resulted in a small profit which must have been some kind of miracle given the sum invested and paucity of spectator numbers in the 6 meetings run. Now the area is a residential one, the local amenity very much enhanced by Cherry Lake!

There are few photos to be easily found of this interesting track, if any Australian readers have an image or three you would like to share I am sure we would all like to see them! Please get in touch.

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Hand colored print of the Redex Spl prior to the 1954 AGP at Southport on Queenslands Gold Coast. (Kev Bartlett reckons its Mt Druitt not Southport) The Bristol engines front camshaft bearing turned in its housing blanking off the drilling for lubricating oil, seizing le moteur. Stub exhausts interesting, not they way they were raced in the UK (Nye/Brabham)

Jack’s Cooper T23 Bristol…

I have done the ‘Cooper Bristol to death’ in terms of articles written, check these links out for information and photos about these important, wonderful cars, rather than me repeat it all again;

The shots of Jack’s car do beg the question about its history though, important as it was in his development as a driver. His success in it directly lead to his decision to try his hand in England in 1955, in fact he regretted selling the car in Oz, carefully developed as it was. Peter Whitehead’s Cooper Alta, the car he bought and raced when he first arrived in the UK was not a patch on the car he left behind.

The summary of the car is based on an article from John Blanden’s book, that research largely based on Doug Nye’s Cooper tome albeit its somewhat truncated. The best source of information on Jack’s formative years is the biography he wrote with Doug Nye, picking that book up always brings a smile to my face.

JB publicised ‘The Jack Brabham Story’ in Melbourne shortly after it was published and in the Friday before the 2004 AGP. He spoke at a function at the Windsor Hotel, the book was sold after the event and autographed by the champ for those prepared to stand in a long queue. My youngest son was 8, the only kid amongst 300 businessmen at the breakfast.

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Windsor Hotel menu of the day! I wish i had the presence of mind to get Jack to sign this as well as the book! Sponsors are the Age Newspaper and Dymocks, a book retailer

Local ‘motor-noter’ and TV commentator Will Hagon was MC for the event, they used a question and answer format which worked well. Hagon was a great choice as the ‘right questions’ were asked rather than the crap someone with no knowledge of the sport, ‘how fast did she go Jack?’ ask.

Brabham was an absolute prince in the way he dealt with Nick when we collected his signature. ‘Bic’ still remembers that gig, Jack and the long day we had together strolling the wide open spaces of Albert Park. We still do the wide open spaces of Albert Park but all three sons are as interested in the beers on dad as much as the racing! You would think I would get one racer outta them given the number of events they did with me racing my Historic FF!? (Lola T342 at that time)

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Brabham at Parramatta Speedway on 26 February 1954. Harley V twin engined speedcar owned by Spike Jennings modelled on Jack’s old car (Fairfax)

Brabham cut his racing teeth in the immediate post-war years on Sydney Speedways. By the early fifties he was essentially making his living on his prizemoney, racing three times a week made it difficult to keep up with the workload of his machine shop as well. He ran his Speedcar in some hillclimbs, and, fitted with front brakes won the 1951 Australian Hillclimb Championship at Rob Roy in outer Melbourne.

Beating the road racers with his Speedway car caused quite a stir, but also ‘put his name and capabilities up in lights’. He was effectively a professional in an amateur sport (road racing in Oz) well before he left for the UK. It was during these years he met Ron and Austin Tauranac who were racing their Ralts at the time, RT of course the other half of the ‘BT’ partnership.

Jack enjoyed the hillclimbs which convinced him to give circuits a go. In quick succession he acquired and raced Coopers Mk 4 and 5. To fund his road racing he sold his speedcar, continuing to race on the dirt tracks in a car owned by Spike Jennings with whom he shared the prizemoney.

The big step up was purchase of the Cooper Bristol.

Chassis ‘CB/Mk2/1/53’ was despatched to Australia as a new car to the order of David Chambers, prior to the cars arrival by sea, he committed suicide as a consequence of the financial trauma in which he was engulfed. The car was offered for sale on behalf of his deceased estate, Brabham’s bid of 4250 pounds, supported by some funds from his father and Redex, his sponsor, was the successful one.

Jack recounts how, upon testing the new car at Mt Druitt, an old WW2 emergency landing strip just outside Sydney for the first time, the Bristol engine lost oil pressure within a few laps. A subsequent tear-down revealed a bent crank and badly worn bearings. It soon became apparent that the new car was thoroughly ‘shop-soiled’, it had been raced by its first owner, John Barber in Argentina. Upon return to the UK, it was given a ‘cut and polish’ and then despatched to Chambers as a new car. It was not the first or last time ‘colonials’ were shafted by ‘nasty furriners’ in the UK and Europe a long way from the South Pacific!

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Jack fettles the Cooper in his Penshurst workshop. He recounts the story of welding a crack under the engine, the torch ignited some fuel vapours. Brabham’s extinguished was in another locked shed, he ripped the lock off in his bare hands to get the ext and doused the fire but ‘that day i could have lost everything’ (Nye)

When Jack carefully assessed the Bristol engine, having raced the car a few times, he couldn’t believe the hefty flywheel and quickly modified it along the lines of the Harley Davidson clutch assembly used on his Speedcar. He lightened the clutch/flywheel assembly from around 34Kg to 7kg thereby vastly improving the responsiveness of the engine and its reliability. The long, thin crank of the Bristol engine was a weakness because of the vast weight of the flywheel assembly. Further improvements to the engine were made with the assistance of British pre-war racer Frank Ashby who had moved to Sydney’s Whale Beach.

Jack had already replaced the Bristol’s Solex carbs with ex-Holden Stromberg units which were modified further after Ashhby’s suggestion to incorporate smoothly shaped bell mouths to aid air entry with consequent increases in power. Jacks hands-on engineering capabilities were part of his ‘competitive back of tricks and unfair advantage’ which never left him.

Brabham quickly established himself as one of the men to beat with the Cooper winning many events. His battles with the nascent Confederation of Australian Motorsport and their ‘no advertising on cars’ policy became  a constant thorn in his side, RedeX’ commercial involvement essential to his ability to run the car.

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Brabham at Altona again in 1954 (SLV)

In Europe and the UK the ‘no advertising thing’ didn’t seem to hold the sport back, there were enough wealthy individuals to make up the numbers and manufacturers to give worthy drivers without wealth a steer. Here in the mid fifties the drivers of ‘ANF1’ cars were either ‘silvertails’ like Lex Davison, mind you he made much more than he inherited or ‘self made’ blokes, a whole swag of whom were motor traders (Mildren, Jones, Stillwell, Patterson, Hunt, Glass and others, I’ve included Patto and Stillwell on this list but they too had family $ behind them from the start). The point is it was RedeX money which helped fund Brabham’s campaign, without it he probably wouldn’t have achieved what he did. What am I saying? The Americans goddit right from the start with a totally commercial approach which allowed those with talent access to sponsors funds to help them progress.

The cars race debut was at Leyburn, Queensland on 23 August, he won the ’53 Qld Road racing Championship. Brabham set quickest time in the NSW GP at Gnoo Blas, Orange but non-started the 1953 AGP at Albert Park after he ran the Bristol’s rear camshaft bearings in practice due to excessive friction.

Brabham contested the 1954 New Zealand Grand Prix, finishing 6th, meeting Tony Gaze, Reg Parnell, Peter Whitehead, Ken Wharton and a VERY young Bruce McLaren. Jack stayed in the McLaren home, Leslie McLaren a local racer and garage owner. The race was won by Stan Jones Maybach .

The car continued to do well throughout Australia, his clashes with Davison’s HWM Jag, Dick Cobden’s Ferrari and Jones Maybach were highlights of the period.

At the ’55 NZGP meeting two visitors from the UK, Dunlop Racing Manager Dick Jeffrey and Dean Delamont, Competition Manager of the RAC, convinced him he should try his hand in the UK the following year. By the time he alighted the ship on the journey back to Sydney he determined to do just that, and the rest as they say is history.

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Stan Jones in the ex-Brabham Cooper T23 Bristol, Altona, date uncertain (unattributed)

Stan Jones was the eager buyer of the Cooper having destroyed his new Maybach 2 whilst leading the 1954 AGP. Stan was lucky to survive a very high speed journey backwards through Southport’s trees. Whilst Charlie Dean and his band of merry, Repco men designed and built Maybach 3, Stan first raced the CB in the Victorian Trophy at Fishermans Bend on 19 February. The nose of the car was slightly modified before his next race at Albert Park in March 1955.

Stan retained ownership and had Ern Seeliger race at Bathurst Easter 1955, Ern was 2nd in the ‘Bathurst 100.’ Jones was forever buying and selling racing cars, ‘moving metal’ was his business after all! Have a read of my article about the champion racer if you are unfamiliar with Alan’s father and his own impressive racing CV;

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

Later in 1955 Jones sold the car to ‘Ecurie Corio’s’  Tom Hawkes, the Geelong businessman raced the car for 3 years before leaving for Europe.

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Hawkes in the Cooper T23 Holden at Port Wakefield, SA, Labor Day meeting 1957. Top shot! (Geoff Chennells)

Hawkes first race was the 1955 AGP at Port Wakefield, winning a heat but DNF in the race itself with fuel feed problems. Tom then modified the car by lengthening the nose, altered the front suspension and most importantly fitted a Holden ‘Grey Motor’ incorporating a Phil Irving Repco ‘Hi-Power’ head. The car raced in this form at Albert Park in March 1956 and over the next 2 years in this spec.

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Cooper T23, with its neat 6 cylinder Holden Repco engine Gnoo Blas or Bathurst (Ian McKay)

The car was very fast in this form, not quite an outright contender amongst the ‘heavy metal’ of 250F’s, Ferrari 500/625 and Ted Gray’s V8 engined Tornado but still quick enough to finish 2nd in the 1957 Gold Star series to Davison. Those points were amassed by finishing 4th in the Victorian Trophy, 2nd in the Qld Road Racing Championship, 2nd in the NSW Road Racing Championship. He was a terrific 3rd in the 1958 AGP at Bathurst.

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Same meeting as the pic above, longer in the nose and all the prettier and quicker for it. Gnoo Blas or Bathurst (Ian McKay Collection)

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Tom Hawkes, Cooper T23 Holden Repco, about as pretty as racer of the period can get, and mighty fast in ‘Hi-po’ Repco head form (Ellis French)

Ace historian/researcher Stephen Dalton dates these Phillip Island shots (above and below) of Tom’s T23 as during the October 1957 meeting, note the mixed grid of MG T Spls. The shots show just how sleek the car has become in its ‘definitive’ later Repco headed Holden form. It may not have quite been an outright car in terms of outright performance by then but Hawkes did a mighty fine job of extracting all the car could give.

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Next to Hawkes Cooper T23 Holden on the right is Eddie (father of Larry) Perkins, Porsche Spl and Ted Gray in the Tornado Chev at left, Unlimited Racing Car event, October 1957, Phillip Island (Ellis French)

When Hawkes left for the UK at the end of 1958 he retained the car but tasked Murray Rainey to fit a Chev Corvette 283cid ‘small block’ V8 into the Coopers lissom spaceframe chassis.

This job was completed by Earl Davey Milne who bought the car in April 1962. Gearbox used was  Borg Warner T10, a slippery diff was also fitted and the bodywork modified. The car is still retained by his family 50 years later. Because it never raced ‘in period’ in this form the Cooper is ineligible for a CAMS ‘Certificate of Description’ and appropriate logbook.

The car appears in demonstrations from time to time, looking immaculate, its importance as the first Mk2 CB and its role in the ‘Brabham Ascent’ appreciated by all enthusiasts.

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The ‘Cooper Corvette’ ex-Brabham T23 driven by Troy Davey-Milne at Albert Park  in one of the historic demonstrations during the AGP carnival (Davey-Milne)

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Chev 283 Corvette ‘small block’ with 2 big Holleys atop, installation very neatly done ‘in period’ but ‘Cooper Corvette’ never raced in this form. Albert Park 2006 (Davey-Milne)

1995 Geelong Sprints - Davey-Milne 01

Troy Davey-Milne in #CB/Mk2/1-53 Cooper T23 Chev at the wet Geelong Sprints, Ritchie Boulevard in November 1995 (Stephen Dalton)

coop 3

Still a handsome car, Troy Davey Milne at Albert Park in 2006 (Davey-Milne)

Etcetera…

Probably too arcane a topic for international readers but some Australian enthusiasts may find this short photo based article about the Charge Brothers on the great ‘Aussie Homestead’ site, of interest. None of the photos of the brothers cars are at their Altona circuit. In fact they are everywhere in Victoria but the place which is not what I wanted at all! Click on this link to have a look;

http://aussieroadracing.homestead.com/Charge-Bros.html

altona prog

Photo Credits…

State Library of Victoria, Stephen Dalton Collection, Fairfax Media, Troy Davey-Milne, Ellis French, Ian McKay Collection, Geoff Chennells

Bibliography…

The Age 3/3 and 9/3 ’54, Williamstown Chronicle 2/4/53, 19/2/54, The Argus 17/2/54, 28/4/54

Doug Nye ‘The Jack Brabham Story’

Tailpiece…

a brabs

JB again @ Altona in 1954 (SLV)