Posts Tagged ‘Cooper T51 Climax’

(Natlib)

Jack Brabham sorts some Coventry Climax, or more particularly, Lucas electrical problems on the Ardmore pit counter during the 1960 New Zealand Grand Prix, January 9 weekend…

That Brabham’s mechanical abilities were right up there with his talent at the wheel has never been in doubt!

Note ‘the breakfast of champions’ bottle of Coke at the ready. The wooden box of Macleay Duff whisky is more troubling but I think its safe to assume Jack was not mixing the two liquids to assist his quest for greater speed. Not that early in the day anyway.

Brabham at Ardmore 1960, Cooper T51 Climax (Natlib)

Bruce led the race in a Cooper T45 FPF 2.5 ‘brought up to 1959 specs’ wrote Bruce Sergent, whilst Jack’s car was a new 2.5 litre T51.  McLaren’s 3 laps up front ended when he was passed by Moss’ Rob Walker T51, also fitted with a 2.5 FPF.

Brabham and Moss then staged a spirited dice with the lead changing a number of times before ‘Brabham’s determination and slight edge in performance’ put Jack in front on lap 18.

Moss was stopped by a broken clutch-shaft on lap 27- Brabham and McLaren then put on a show for the crowd before a ‘form-finish’- Brabham won from McLaren and then Aussies Bib Stillwell and Stan Jones in 2.2 litre engined T51’s. John Mansel and Arnold Glass followed in Maserati 250F’s in fourth and fifth and best of the front-engined, now, old guard…

(Natlib)

David Piper’s Lotus 16 Climax (DNF driveshaft) from Moss’ Rob Walker Cooper T51 Climax 2.5, #88 Ron Roycroft’s ex-Gonzalez Ferrari 375 (twelfth), Malcolm Gill, Lycoming Special (DNF) then Stan Jones, Cooper T51 Climax 2.2 and Ted Gray, Tornado 2 Chev DNF.

Brabham raced on in Australia after his NZ Tour, click here for that; https://primotipo.com/2015/01/20/jack-brabham-cooper-t51-climax-pub-corner-longford-tasmania-australia-1960/

Credits…

‘Natlib’- National Library of New Zealand, Bruce Sergent on sergent.com

Tailpiece…

(Natlib)

A couple of beaming youths- Brabham and a somewhat bloodied McLaren with the goodies. I doubt Jack thumped him so circuit grit is probably the culprit.

Finito…

(N Tait)

‘Victory Swig’: Jack Brabham partakes of the winner’s champagne, Aintree, 18 July 1959…

Brabham won the British Grand Prix from the British Racing Partnership BRM P25 driven by Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T51- Jack similarly works mounted to Bruce.

This story of the race was inspired by a couple of marvellous pieces from Nigel Tait’s Repco Collection. I wrote a largely photographic article about this weekend a while back too; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/01/masten-gregory-readies-for-the-off-british-grand-prix-aintree-1959/

(N Tait)

The reality of the win was a bit more complex than the Telex back to Repco HQ of course.

Brabham was aided by the very latest version of the Coventry Climax Mk2 FPF 2.5 ‘straight port, big valve’ engine as Doug Nye described it, and the very latest version of the modified Citroen-ERSA gearbox which used roller rather than plain bearings and oil pumps to aid the reliability of the transmission which was being stretched beyond its modest, production car design limits by the increasingly virile FPF. The short supply of 2.5 litre Climaxes was such that Denis Jenkinson noted ‘…Lotus have to share theirs between F1 and sportscars and a broken valve or connecting rod means a long delay’ in getting an engine returned from rebuild.

This you beaut gearbox was not made available to Stirling Moss or Maurice Trintignant, driving Rob Walker’s T51’s so Moss elected to race a BRM P25- he had lost leading positions in the Monaco and Dutch GP’s due to dramas with the new Colotti gearboxes the team had been using in their Coopers. The BRM was prepared by the British Racing Partnership given Moss was not confident in the Bourne marque’s standard of race preparation after brake failure of his works Type 25 at Silverstone in May.

(Getty)

Moss in the BRP BRM P25- he raced the cars in both Britain and France (Q4 and lap record but disqualified after a push start) with Brooks #20 trying to make the most of a Vanwall VW59 that lacked the advantages of monthly competitive pressures and consequent development in 1959. The champion marque or ‘International Cup’ winner in 1958 of course.

Ferrari stayed in Italy due to industrial unrest, the metal workers were on strike. On top of that Jean Behra bopped Team Manager Romolo Tavoni in an outburst of emotion after Tavoni glanced at his tachometer tell-tale after the conclusion of the French GP and challenged his driver. His Ferrari career was over, and all too soon, two weeks after the British GP, he died in a sportscar race which preceded the German GP at Avus.

Without a ride in his home GP, Ferrari driver Tony Brooks (works Ferraris were raced by Brooks, Behra, Phil Hill, Cliff Allison, Olivier Gendebien, Dan Gurney and Wolfgang von Trips in 1959- no pressure to keep your seat!) raced an updated Vanwall instead. He was without success, back in Q17 despite two cars at his disposal and DNF after a persistent misfire upon completing thirteen laps.

The Vanwalls were the same as in 1958 ‘except that the engine had been lowered in the frame, as had the propshaft line and the driving seat, while the bodywork had been made narrower and some weight reduction had been effected’ noted Denis Jenkinson in his MotorSport race report. Such was the pace of progress the Vanwalls had been left behind after their withdrawal from GP grids on a regular basis. Nye wrote that the performance of the car was so poor Tony Vandervell gave Brooks all of the teams start and appearance money in a grand gesture to a driver who had done so much for the marque.

(unattributed)

Aintree vista above as the field roars away from the grid, at the very back is Fritz d’Orey’s Maserati 250F- whilst at ground level below Jack gets the jump from the start he was never to relinquish. Salvadori is alongside in the DBR4 Aston and Schell’s BRM P25 on the inside. Behind Harry is Masten Gregory’s T51- and then from left to right on row three, McLaren T51, Moss P25, and Maurice Trintignant’s Walker T51.

(J Ross)

So the race was a battle of British Racing Greens- BRM, Cooper, Lotus, Vanwall and Aston Martin- in terms of the latter Roy Salvadori popped the front-engined DBR4 in Q2, he did a 1 min 58 seconds dead, the same as Brabham but did so after Jack. He faded in the race in large part due to an early pitstop to check that his fuel tank filler cap was properly closed- an affliction Carroll Shelby also suffered. The writing was on the wall, if not the days of the front-engined GP car all but over of course- there were three front-engined GP wins in 1959, two to the Ferrari Dino 246, in the French and German GP’s to Tony Brooks. At Zandvoort Jo Bonnier broke through to score BRM’s first championship GP win aboard a P25.

The stage was nicely set for a Brabham win from pole but it was not entirely a soda on that warm summers day ‘The big drama was tyre wear. I put a thick sportscar tyre on my cars left-front. Even so, around half distance i could see its tread was disappearing…so i began tossing the car tail-out in the corners to reduce the load on the marginal left-front.’

‘Moss had to make a late stop, and that clinched it for me. I was able to ease to the finish with a completely bald left-front’ Brabham said to Doug Nye. The Moss pitstop for tyres was unexpected as the Dunlop technicians had calculated one set of boots would last the race but they had not accounted for Stirling circulating at around two seconds a lap quicker than he had practiced! Moss later did a fuel ‘splash and dash’, taking on five gallons, as the BRM was not picking up all of its fuel despite the driver switching between tanks.

(MotorSport)

Whilst Jack won, the fastest lap was shared by Moss and McLaren during a late race dice and duel for second slot- Moss got there a smidge in front of Bruce ‘…as they accelerated towards the line, which was now crowded with photographers and officials, leaving space for only one car, Moss drove straight at the people on the right side of the road, making them jump out of the way, and to try and leave room for McLaren to try and take him on the left. This was indeed a very sporting manoeuvre…’ wrote Jenkinson. McLaren won his first GP at Sebring late in the season delivering on his all season promise. Harry Schell was fourth in a works BRM P25 and Maurice Trintignant fifth in a Colotti ‘boxed’ T51 Cooper despite the loss of second gear, with Roy Salvadori’s Aston, after a thrilling, long contest with Masten Gregory’s works T51, in sixth.

(BRM)

Nearest is Schell’s fourth placed BRM, then Trintigant’s T51- fifth, and up ahead McLaren’s third placed T51. BRM took the teams first championship win at Zandvoort in late May. No less than nine Cooper T51’s took the start in the hands of Brabham, McLaren, Trintignant, Gregory, Chris Bristow, Henry Taylor, Ivor Bueb, Ian Burgess and Hans Hermann

Photo and Research Credits…

Nigel Tait Collection, MotorSport 1959 British GP race report by Denis Jenkinson published in August 1959 and article by Doug Nye published in December 2009, Getty Images, John Ross Motor Racing Collection, BRM, Pinterest

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

The relative size of the McLaren Cooper T51 and Moss BRM P25 is pronounced on the grid. The pair were to provide lots of late race excitement after Stirling’s second pit stop.

(J Ross)

Wonderful butt shot of the Salvadori Aston Martin, #38 is the Jack Fairman driven Cooper T45 Climax, DNF gearbox, and Graham Hill’s Lotus 16 Climax up the road- he finished ninth.

(J Ross)

Roy Salvadori racing his DBR4 hard, he was at the top of his game at that career stage- if only he had stayed put with Cooper for 1959! He recovered well from an early pit stop but ultimately the car lacked the outright pace of the leaders however well suited to the track the big beast was. Carroll Shelby failed to finish in the other car after magneto failure six laps from home.

Two of these magnificent machines found good homes in Australia in the hands of Lex Davison and Bib Stillwell in the dying days of the Big Cars- Lex only lost the 1960 AGP at Lowood from Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati by metres after a magnificent race long tussle.

Tailpiece: Brabham, Cooper T51 Climax, Aintree…

(MotorSport)

It’s almost as though Jack is giving us a lesson in Cooper designer/draftsman Owen Maddock’s T51 suspension geometry arcs!

Jack was famous for his ‘tail-out’ speedway style of driving, one eminently suited to the Coopers of the era. Lets not forget, according to Jack’s account of the race, he was accentuating this aspect of his driving to save the load on his increasingly threadbare left-front Dunlop.

Jenkinson in his race report observed that ‘The Coopers, both F1 and F2, were going extremely fast, and looking horribly unstable, yet the drivers seemed quite unconcerned, whereas drivers of more stabile machinery following behind were getting quite anxious at the twitchings and jumpings of the Surbiton cars.’

However untidy it may have all been, they were mighty fast, robust weapons of war.

Finito…

(K Devine)

Three men and a car- the 1962 Australian Grand Prix winning Cooper mind you…

Eoin Young, journalist and author of considerable renown, Wally Willmott, mechanic of similar standing, the incomparable Bruce McLaren and Cooper T62 Climax at Styles Garage on the corner of Sussex Street and the Albany Highway, Victoria Park, Perth during the 18 November weekend. The Austin has a 15 kilometre tow from this inner south-eastern Perth suburb to Caversham now also a Perth suburb in the Swan Valley.

All so simple isn’t it, three blokes and a car?! And they won the race- with a little bit of luck thanks to Jack Brabham’s late race collision with Arnold Glass, but that in no way diminishes the achievement.

I wrote about this race and somewhat tragic car a while back; https://primotipo.com/2016/05/20/bruce-lex-and-rockys-cooper-t62-climax/

Here are a few more brilliant photographs from Ken Devine’s Collection of that weekend- I was going to retro-fit them into the old article but it seems better to let the photos ‘shine on their own’ so here they are with a few supporting notes.

(K Devine)

David McKay and Jack Brabham chewing the fat- don’t they look like youngsters?!

McKay didn’t race that weekend but was scooping up information for his newspaper and magazine reports of the race. Morover he was spinning Jack a line about how long-in-the-tooth his Cooper was and how much he would like to buy Jack’s brand-spankers BT4 Climax- a feat he would accomplish! The BT4 was in essence an FPF engined BT3- Tauranac’s first, 1962 F1 car.

Jack raced the car in New Zealand (a win at Levin) with David racing it in the Australian events- Graham Hill took the wheel in the 1964 Tasman Series achieving one win at Longford.

(K Devine)

Lex Davison looking stern as he motors past at some clip in his T53 Cooper- like McKay he was after a new car too- at the end of the summer Bruce’s T62 was his, a car around which a good deal of tragedy occurred. Lex was classified 8th from grid 4 but only completed 46 of the races 60 lap, 101 mile distance.

(K Devine)

Bib Stillwell must have been flogging quite a few Holdens from his Cotham Road, Kew, Melbourne dealership by then- he really went about his motor racing in a thoroughly professional manner.

To me he was slow to peak having started racing just after the war, but man, when he did he was an awesome racer taking four Gold Stars on the trot from 1962 to 1965- he had his tail up on this weekend as he had just taken his first Gold Star in this Cooper T53 Climax with wins in two of the six GS championship rounds.

Its interesting to look at Stillwell’s results that year- he had an absolute cracker of a season inclusive of the internationals when the big-hitters were about. His record is as follows; Warwick Farm 100 3rd, Celebrities Scratch Race Lakeside 1st, Lakeside International 2nd, Victorian Trophy Calder 1st, South Pacific Championship Longford 3rd, Bathurst 100 1st, Racing Feature Race Calder 1st, Victorian Road Race Championship Sandown 2nd, Advertiser Trophy Mallala 1st, Hordern Trophy Warwick Farm 1st, AGP Caversham 3rd- it was a year of amazing speed and reliability, the teams only DNF was at the Sandown International (engine) the only other ‘non-event’ was a DNA at Lowood- by early June Bib no doubt figured the long tow to Queensland from Melbourne was a waste of money.

Click here for Bib’s time in Intercontinental Brabhams; https://primotipo.com/2018/07/20/matich-stillwell-brabhams-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1963/

At Caversham Stillwell was third on the grid behind McLaren 1:19.6 and Brabham 1:20.1, Bib’s 1:20.3 was pacey- he finished third, 47 seconds adrift of McLaren and 5 seconds behind John Youl in a Cooper T55.

(K Devine)

Lets not forget the Cooper Monaco either- a car I wrote about a while back and which received the ex-Scarab Buick-Traco V8 a little later in its life- the motor which was in the engine nacelle of Arnold Glass’ BRM P48 (#7 below) this very weekend.

The story of Bib’s Cooper Monaco is here; https://primotipo.com/2015/03/10/bib-stillwell-cooper-t49-monaco-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1961/

(D Van Dal-K Devine)

The cut and thrust between Brabham and McLaren went on for over forty laps- Jack saw an opportunity when Bruce ran wide lapping Arnold- Jack focussed on Bruce, Arnold on taking his line for the next corner, a collision the result. Jack was out on lap 50 whereas Arnold survived to finish in fifth place from grid 7.

The story of the BRM P48 is here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/16/bourne-to-ballarat-brm-p48-part-2/

(K Devine)

Jack and Roy fettle the 2.5 litre Climax engine lent to them by Bruce McLaren, Jack having popped his 2.7 ‘Indy’ FF in practice.

The Brabham BT4 was the first in a long line of ‘Intercontinental’ chassis built by the Tauranac/Brabham combination all of which (BT4/7A/11A) won a lot of motor races in this part of the world.

Paragons of practical, chuckable virtue the cars won races in the hands of World Champions Hill, Stewart and Brabham as well as championship winners in domestic competition for the likes of Stillwell, Spencer Martin and Kevin Bartlett (whilst noting the latter’s Gold Star success was aboard a BT23D Alfa Romeo.

(K Devine)

 

(K Devine)

Plenty of hopefuls entered the meeting not least Jim Harwood in the ex-Whitehead/Cobden Ferrari 125 which by then was fitted with a small-block 283 cid Chev V8.

His times were too far behind the modern mid-enginer racers of the top-liners so he elected not to start- with 1962 still just into the period of Austraian motor racing where everybody could have a go with a high-born special such as this ex-GP 1950 Ferrari.

The car is notable for the fact that it was one of Tom Wheatcroft’s first Donington Collection acquisitions.

(K Devine)

 

(K Devine)

Brabham, Stillwell and McLaren from left to right at the drop of the starters flag. Brabham BT4, Cooper T53 and Cooper T62 respectively. On the second row its John Youl at left, Cooper T55 and Lex Davison’s red T53 alongside him. In the dark helmet on the row behind is the red with white striped BRM P48 Buick of Arnold Glass and at very far left is Jeff Dunkerton’s Lotus Super 7 Ford 1.5- to the right of the Lotus is the red front-engined #14 Cooper T20 Holden Repco of Syd Negus.

(K Devine)

Whilst ten starters is not a big grid, Dunkerton’s achievement in finishing ninth in the little Lotus 7 was an amazing one- the last placing ever gained by a sportscar in an AGP.

(K Devine)

Bill Patterson was the reigning 1961 Gold Star Champions but his old Cooper T51 was never going to be a competitive tool going into that year with plenty of more modern well-driven machines on Australian grids.

In reality Patto was easing himself slowly out of racing as a driver albeit he would remain involved as a sponsor/entrant in the next couple of decades. He started from grid 6 and finished fourth albeit three laps behind McLaren.

Bill Patterson’s story; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/02/patto-and-his-coopers/

(K Devine)

John Youl is another driver I’ve waxed lyrical about in the past- its a shame commitments running the family pastoral properties in northern Tasmania took him away from motor racing. Youl’s ex-works Cooper T55 was beautifully prepared by Geoff Smedley and pedalled very quickly by John in the 1963 Internationals. It would have been very interesting to see just how far he would have progressed up the elite level totem-pole had he stuck with his racing career.

Click here; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/08/bay-of-plenty-road-race-and-the-frank-matich-lotus-19s/

(K Devine)

Bruce on the way to a Caversham win, Cooper T62 from Youl, Stillwell, Patterson and Glass. Bruce McLaren Motor Racing had rather a bright future.

Credit…

Ken Devine Collection

Tailpiece: McLaren takes the flag…

(K Devine)

Is it Jack in the blue driving suit obscuring the man with the flag?

Bruce won two AGP’s, the other aboard his self designed and built- with Wally Willmott, Cooper T79 at Longford in 1965.

Both were great wins after a long tussles with Jack Brabham- at Caversham Arnold Glass ruined the fun when he mistakenly put Jack off the road and at Longford he won by a smidge under four seconds from the Aussie’s Brabham BT11A Climax and Phil Hill’s Cooper T70 Climax. It was a great day for the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing as Phil drove a terrific race- in the American’s opinion one of his best in the T70, another car built by Bruce. (McLaren’s winning T79 was an updated T70)

Longford joy was tempered considerably by the death of Rocky Tresise early in the race aboard the very same Cooper T62 in which Bruce won at Caversham in 1962…

Finito…

(P Geard)

John Youl attacks Mountford Corner, Longford in his Porsche 356 during the late fifties…

John and his racer brother Gavin were scions of a prominent Tasmanian grazier family and very successful, competitive drivers until business pressures forced early retirement. Symmons Plains is a permanent legacy for the racing brothers built as it was on the family property.

(P Geard)

John proved his world level pace in several seasons aboard Cooper Climax T51 and T55 prepared by Geoff Smedley, whose just published book will be definitive on both drivers careers.

In the 1961 Longford shot below he is in the best of company (at right) aboard a Cooper T51 alongside #14 Brabham’s T53 with Austin Miller’s distinctive yellow T51 Climax behind.

(J Richardson)

Roy Salvadori won the South Pacific Trophy race that weekend from Bill Patterson and John with Austin fourth. Brabham was outed with a broken half-shaft on lap 16 of the 24 lap distance.

Here John’s appearance in the Porsche is a little earlier, the last photo below perhaps in 1957 and the others a little later- you can see the evolution from road car still fitted with hubcaps! to lowered rortier racer. I wonder what modifications were made to that 356 Super?

Credits…

Paul Geard, Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Ellis French, Geoff Smedley, John Richardson

Tailpiece: Youl, White, Walkem on ‘The Flying Mile’, Longford circa 1957…

(HRCCT)

Youl in what looks like a motor-cycle racing helmet beside his Porker, the yellow machine is Graham White’s Vincent Spl and the obscured Cooper is Jock Walkem’s- the man in black. Delightful bucolic scene belies the high speeds and sound of straining engines which took place annually on this stretch of road over the March Labour Day long-weekend from 1953 to 1968…

Finito…

(I McCleave)

Jack Brabham playing with the kids in the Phillip Island paddock, Cooper T51 Climax, 14 March 1960…

Jack won the ‘Repco Trophy’ over 16 laps in a T51 rout from Bill Patterson, Bib Stillwell and Austin Miller in similar cars albeit none shared the latest 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF fitted to Jack’s ‘F2-4-59’- said to be ‘Brabham’s main car during the early part of 1959’. Austin’s motor was 2.2 litres with Bib and Bill having 2 litre units.

Brabham had a successful fortnight during his short summer of 1960 Australian racing tour, three races from three winning the Longford Trophy and Light Car Club of Tasmania Trophy on 5 and 7 March at Longford the week before.

Ian McCleave took the opening photo of ‘A youthful Jack Brabham showering my younger brother in dust…I seem to recall Dad charged with adrenalin winding the Austin A95 up to 90 mph on the way back to Melbourne!’

Lukey Heights is well familiar to ‘Island regulars in the background, its a top shot and another enthusiast that day, Robert Jones caught the start of the race, below.

Credits…

Ian McLeave, Robert Jones, Gordon Dobie Collection

Tailpiece: The Off- Brabham, Stillwell, Miller with Patterson on row 2…

(R Jones)

 

(G Dobie)

Finito…

 

Ron Flockhart and Mustang P51, Moorabbin Airport, Melbourne 1961…

I wrote an article three years ago about Ron Flockhart, his win together with Ivor Bueb aboard an Ecurie Ecosse Jag XKD at Le Mans in 1957 (he won in a D Type with Ninian Sanderson in ’56 too) and tangentially about his death in a Mustang P51 fighter in Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges during preparations for his second attempt on the Australia-United Kingdon air record in April 1962. Click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2015/01/17/le-mans-1957-d-type-jaguar-rout-ron-flockhart-racer-and-aviator/

Recently I came upon some photographs of Ron in Australia taken during the 1961 pre-Tasman racing internationals, this led to another ‘Flockhart Google cruise’ and discovery of the substance of this piece which is an article first published in ‘Pilot’ magazine written by Neil Follett and Nick Stroud. That article is from an aviation rather than a motor racing perspective- I found it fascinating, I know many of you ‘crossover’ into ‘planes as well as cars so here ‘tis, the racing bits which are mine, will be clear I think.

Ron Flockhart in red and Ivor Bueb with Jag XKD ‘606’ after the 1957 Ecurie Ecosse Le Mans win (unattributed)

‘One of the first racing drivers to fly himself to meetings in his own aircraft, Ron Flockhart raced at the top level in sports cars and Formula One before a growing interest in long distance record flights led to high adventure and stark tragedy.

William Ronald Flockhart was born in Edinburgh on 16 June 1923. He began his motor racing career in 1951, going on to win the 24 Heures du Mans race in 1956 and 1957 while driving a D-Type Jaguar with the Scottish Ecurie Ecosse team. Flockhart also participated in Formula One races, entering his first−the British Grand Prix−in 1954 and continuing throughout 1956–60. The Scotsman competed in fourteen F1 races with five different teams, his best result being a third in the 1956 Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Flockhart also displayed an early interest in flying, owning Auster 5 G-ANHO during 1954–57, and becoming one of the first Formula One drivers to fly their own aircraft to race meetings. In the early 1960s he became interested in record flights between England and Australia, noting that the record was held by Arthur Clouston and Victor Ricketts in the DH88 Comet G-ACSS Grosvenor House.

The Comet won the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race and was the aircraft in which Ricketts and Clouston flew from London to Sydney (and then on to New Zealand) in 80hr 56min in March 1938. Flockhart considered that this record could be bettered. He was also interested in bettering the standing solo Australia−UK record, held by H F ‘Jim’ Broadbent, who had left Darwin in Percival Vega Gull G-AFEH on 18 April 1938, and landed in England on the 22nd having covered 9,612 miles in five days 4hr 21min, the last pre-war record flight between the two countries.

In October 1960 British holding company United Dominions Trust (UDT), through its subsidiary Laystall Engineering, formed an agreement with the British Racing Partnership to form a motor-racing organisation known as UDT Laystall Racing. As an extension of its racing activities, UDT became involved with the purchase of (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Fishermens Bend, Melbourne built) Commonwealth CA-17 Mustang Mk 20 VH-BVM for Flockhart’s record attempt.

This aircraft had originally been purchased from the RAAF by former RAF and RAAF pilot James L ‘Wac’ Whiteman, who intended to enter the aircraft in the 1953 London to Christchurch (New Zealand) Air Race. Wac withdrew from the race when he realised it would not be competitive with the jets entered and in 1954 its ownership passed to Arnold J Glass, a fellow racing driver against whom Flockhart would compete in the 1961 and 1962 New Zealand Grand Prix races. Used latterly for target-towing experiments, it was sold to UDT for around £2,000 with around 100 flying hours on the clock. Flockhart was also able to obtain 63 gallon combat droptanks for about £7 each’.

Flockhart with the unloaded left front of his Cooper T51 Climax just kissing the Warwick Farm Causeway tarmac in 1961 (J Arkwright)

Racing in New Zealand/Australia, Summer 1961…

Ron organised an ex-works Cooper for his limited campaign of races in the Antipodes in the hot summer of 1961. T51 Climax ‘F2-7-59’ was ‘ex-Works Car No 3 according to the Cooper Register…believed to be Masten Gregory’s regular car during 1959…Bruce McLaren’s race-winning car at both Sebring December 1959 and at Buenos Aires in February 1960…and may be either the works teams spare car during 1960…or the car sold to Fred Tuck for 1960’ according to oldracingcars.com. Whatever the case, whilst the T51 was a good jigger, it was no longer in the full flush of youth with the quicker cars that season the T53 ‘Lowline’ Coopers of Brabham and McLaren, the works P48 BRM’s of Graham Hill and Dan Gurney and Rob Walker’s Lotus 18 Climax driven by Stirling Moss.

Flockhart and Denny Hulme fighting for 4th place during the 1961 NZ GP at Ardmore both in Cooper T51 Climax 2.5 FPF, Ron 4th, Denny 5th (sergent.com)

Moss disappeared into the distance in the 7 January NZ GP at Ardmore but was outed with a badly slipping clutch mid-race giving the win to Brabham from McLaren, Hill and Flockhart a plucky fourth.

With much preparation to do in Australia for his pending flight he missed the balance of the NZ events and re-acquainted himself with the Cooper T51 at the first international meeting held at the new, technically challenging Warwick Farm circuit laid out amidst a horse-racing facility on the western suburban outskirts of Sydney on 29 January.

Getty Images caption dated 2 February 1961 notes ‘The Flying Scotsman’ is travelling from Australia to England on a dual mission- first to marry BOAC hostess Gillian Tatlow and second to attempt to break the Australia-Britain record for single-engine planes..(Getty)

He was fifth in the ‘Warwick Farm 100’ held in scorching hot weather and won by the Moss Lotus 18 with its side-panels removed to help cope with the extreme conditions. A fortnight later he contested the last race of his ’61 tour, the ‘Victoria Trophy’ that year held on a circuit laid out on Ballarat Airfield, Ballarat is in Victoria’s Goldfields region 120 Km from Melbourne.

Flockhart at Ballarat Aerodrome, 1961. This Cooper T53 Climax  (autopics.coma.u)

Ron raced a Border Reivers Cooper T53 Climax to third to the works BRM P48’s of Gurney and Hill with Dan scoring the only ‘international win’ for that chassis that weekend. With that, and a fortnight until his scheduled Mustang departure for the UK he re-focused on a high-performance machine of an altogether different type.

Flockhart with G-ARKD, place? (Pilot)

Preparations begin…

‘With the end of the Antipodean motor racing season in early 1961, preparations began for the flight to the UK. Rolls-Royce ran checks on the Packard Merlin 38 engine, which had only run 110 hours since new, and which had never been ‘through the gate’. The magnetos were overhauled in Scotland and Smiths Australia set to work on overhauling the cockpit instruments.

Preparatory work on the airframe was undertaken at the Illawarra Flying School, which modified the fuel system by introducing a manual device by which the system could be depressurised. Two static vents were incorporated into the airframe under the cockpit sill, each containing a valve. This would enable Flockhart to run the droptanks dry without the risk of sucking air into the system. The system would then be repressurised from the exhaust side of the vacuum pump to assist initial transfer. This worked well, although a stiff bootful of rudder was required to counter the rolling moment causd by the change in lateral balance as a tank emptied.

In the limited space available in the Mustang’s cockpit two German Becker VHF radio sets were installed, which provided 36 communications channels, and Lear T12 automatic direction finding (ADF) equipment was fitted in the position usually occupied by the gunsight. No VOR, ILS, HF radio or marker-beacon receiver equipment was fitted−Flockhart held no instrument rating. Normalair supplied the oxygen equipment, Dunlop provided new tyres, and Lodge delivered new plugs. Rolls-Royce suggested that the Merlin be opened up to maximum continuous power every half-hour during the flight and again briefly during descent and approach.’

Bankstown Airport Sydney 1961 (G Goodall)

G-ARKD lookin’ a million bucks outside Fawcett’s hangar at Bankstown after final prep for the 1961 flight (G Goodall)

‘Final preparations and modifications were undertaken by Fawcett Aviation at Bankstown Aerodrome in Sydney, and the Mustang was officially added to the British register on 24 February 1961 as G-ARKD, in the name of Ronald Flockhart. In the days leading up to his departure for the UK Flockhart had logged a mere twelve flying hours in the Mustang.

In March 1961, Flockhart told British magazine Flight that piloting a Mustang for the first time was like ‘driving an ERA after a sports car; things happen very quickly’. He also admitted that it had taken some time to get used to the Mustang’s long nose and the technique of a curving approach, and had accordingly suffered ‘one or two bumpy landings’, but had quickly come to like the aeroplane very much. Flockhart noted that although the Mustang was big and powerful, ‘it was amply stable for the long hours of steady, level cruise’.

The planned route for the flight was Sydney—Alice Springs—Darwin—Sourabaya—Singapore —Rangoon—Calcutta—Karachi—Bahrain—Beirut—Brindisi—Nice and on to London, with overnight stops at Singapore, Karachi and Brindisi. Flockhart’s plan was to fly only during daylight hours and in segments of a maximum of five hours. All fuelling arrangments along the route were to be made by Esso, which Flockhart found to be ‘unfailingly helpful and efficient’

(Pilot)

Setting off…

‘On Tuesday, February 28, 1961, Flockhart and G-ARKD, painted in an overall bright red colour scheme with white detailing, departed Sydney for the first stop at Alice Springs. En route from the latter to Darwin, Flockhart experienced a magnetically charged dust storm, which affected his ADF equipment. He settled in at 12,000ft and followed the faint line of a solitary railway across the endless red terrain to Darwin.

The next day Flockhart departed Darwin for Surabaya on Java. Well out over the Timor Sea he saw an ominous line in the distance, marking an inter-tropical front piling clouds up to 50,000ft and higher. From 12,000ft he dived to low altitude to find a hole in the milky mist. After ten minutes the Mustang popped through the other side of the front with most of the paint on its leading edges stripped off. The diversion had cost a substantial amount of fuel and Flockhart elected to divert to Baucau on East Timor for replenishment.’

G-ARKD, Darwin 1961 (L Brighton)

‘After a quick refill from fuel kept in 45 gallon churns in a thatched hut, Flockhart took off for what he later recalled as ‘the loveliest part of the trip’−east-north-east over the Balinese islands and coral atolls to Singapore. The maximum endurance of the Mustang was seven hours, for six of which Flockhart could be on oxygen. Typical cruising speed was 225 knots at 12,000ft, although the speed would increase to 280 with the periodic opening of the throttle, as per Rolls-Royce’s suggestion.

The diversion to Baucau meant a late arrival at Singapore, where Flockhart was further delayed by an accident which had closed the runway at his next stop, Rangoon. Having received the all-clear to depart, Flockhart headed into the darkness, his first experience of flying the Mustang at night. Finding that the ADF equipment functioned better at night, he followed airways all the way to Rangoon, where the scarlet Mustang received a great deal of attention, not least from the Czechoslovakian crew of a SA Tupolev Tu-104.’

G-ARKD- 63 gallon drop tanks being filled, place unknown but looks like Australia (I Leslie)

Across India…

‘The following morning there was still plenty of interest in the aircraft, and on departure for Calcutta Flockhart held the Mustang down on takeoff until he could pull up 4,000ft almost vertically into cloud.

Navigating largely by means of contact flying−using established landmarks− Flockhart experienced difficulties on the leg to Calcutta, becoming embroiled in a cloud layer at 2,000ft which caused him to miss the let-down beacon into Calcutta and overshoot, forcing him to put down at Barrackpore, some fifteen miles north of Calcutta.

After a swift refuelling, Flockhart was off again for the longest leg of the journey, across India and Pakistan to Karachi, which he completed in 5hr 50min using 43gal/hr of fuel. Flockhart later related that he ate only a few Horlicks tablets on this leg, and refreshed himself on landing at Karachi with ginger beer kept cold in the ammunition bays.

At Karachi the Mustang was turned around in less than an hour, Flockhart taking off in the moonlight to follow the Iranian coast to Bahrain. As he later told Flight: ‘Navigation at night was wonderful. There is a great tranquillity about it. The isolation and the beauty contrasts sharply with the actions of those on the ground, who try to tie you down with streamers of paper. Flying at night in the moonlight, the only shadows are on the surface’.

It was still night when Flockhart landed at Bahrain, where he discovered that air had been leaking from the port main wheel oleo. This caused little concern, however, and after a safe landing the undercarriage was quickly repaired by the RAF. Flockhart was soon off again, to follow an oil pipeline to the mountains of Lebanon and Beirut. He was cleared−and then recalled−by Damascus air traffic control shortly after passing over the city, but, short of fuel, he elected to continue to Beirut and face the consequences there.

It was indeed at Beirut where the trouble started.

Despite the diversions and delays owing to minor repairs, Flockhart was still well ahead of his own schedule when he taxied out at Beirut for the next leg to Brindisi on 3 March.

Confusion on the ground, however, led to the Mustang’s coolant boiling while Flockhart was held while other aircraft landed. The Mustang finally departed for Brindisi but poor weather forced Flockhart to divert to his nominated alternate, Athens.’

G-AKRD on the deck at Athens Airport. Aircraft later damaged by a cockpit fire, left exposed for years in Athens and eventually scrapped, now seemingly resurrected from the dead (I Leslie)

‘Anxious not to lose any more time, Flockhart refuelled quickly and requested clearance from the Tower, which was refused as no flight plan had been filed. Requesting to file an airborne flight plan, Flockhart was refused again, the Tower demanding that he pay landing fees, despite the fact that these had already been seen to by Esso. As Flight elegantly put it: ‘temperatures rose−in the Tower, in the cockpit and in the cylinder heads’.

Realising that resistance was futile, Flockhart retired for a rest, before trying again in a few hours. With the paperwork sorted, he returned to the Mustang in the early morning, but found on starting that steam was issuing from the cowling. Refilling the coolant system, he found that the coolant was running out between Nos 3 and 4 cylinders on the starboard bank. By this time he was twelve hours behind his schedule, but two days ahead of the solo record.

Exhausted and frustrated, Flockhart left G-ARKD at Athens and continued to London by commercial airliner to be married as planned a few days later on 11 March 1961. The Scotsman subsequently told Flight that it was ‘not the flying, nor navigation, nor preparation which was responsible for the failure. It was an air traffic system out of touch with the individual needs of a type of flying that has not yet, by any means, disappeared from the global scene’.

In September 1961 the Mustang was severely damaged by a cockpit fire while being taxied at Athens airport, putting paid to its use in any further record attempt.’

Arnold Glass’ BRM P48 inside Ron Flockhart’s Lotus 18 Climax, DNF for both – Lycoming Special of Forrest Cardon to the right 16th- Maser 250F to the left of Cardon is Chris Amon 11th  to the Lycoming’s left, Ardmore 1962 (sergent.com)

Racing in Australasia 1962…

There was plenty of the depth in the international fields local drivers confronted in 1962- visitors included Moss back with a choice of Rob Walker cars- Lotus 21 and Cooper T53, McLaren and John Surtees also ran T53’s with Jack in a T55. We had our first look at Jim Clark aboard a Team Lotus Lotus 21 Climax but like Flockhart, Clark was hamstrung a bit by having only a 2.5 FPF- in the hands of the top-liners de-rigeur in ’62 was a 2.7 FPF ‘Indy’ engine. Ron raced a Border Reivers Lotus 18.

In a bit of Mini Cooper racing trivia the first such cars were taken to New Zealand and on to Australia by Bruce McLaren and Ron- a third car intended for Roy Salvadori missed the trip. They raced the ‘bricks’ at several of the meetings in which they contested the feature races with their GP cars. The potential of the machines, despite their size, was not lost of any of the racers or spectators who watched cars which of course became icons which define an age.

Dennis Marwood’s Humber leads Jim Steans Mini and the Coopers of McLaren and Flockhart at Wigram in 1962 (J Steans)

It was a mediocre tour really, Ron’s two NZ races were the Ardmore NZ GP and Wigram with DNF’s due to engine problems and a failed universal joint respectively. Moss won both races, the NZ GP famously a very soggy one in the Lotus 18 powered by a 2.5 FPF.

Fifth at Warwick Farm was much better for Ron and a high point, Moss took that win too, this time aboard the T53 2.7 having tried both cars in practice with Moss preferring the more-chuckable Cooper to the Lotus around the ‘Farm. Flockhart had an early day in the Lakeside International after a collision on lap 20, the race was won by Brabham’s T55.

Flockhart in the Border Reivers Lotus 18 Climax in the Sandown paddock 1962 (autopics.com.au)

Flockhart missed the Longford round won by Surtees and rejoined for the first Sandown International, like Warwick Farm it was laid out within a horse-racing facility and on Melbourne’s then south-eastern outskirts 40 km from the city. Brabham won again with Flockhart suffering bearing failure in what turned out to be his very last motor-race.

Sandown Park is only 10 Km from Moorabbin Airport and 30 Km from Kallista in the Dandenongs, both sadly to loom large for all the wrong reasons shortly thereafter.

Flockhart and mount, outside the Brookes Aviation hangar, Moorabbin Airport, fateful morning of 12 April 1962 (G Goodall)

Take two…

Not to be deterred, within months (of the 1961 Athens airport fire) Flockhart began looking for another Australian Mustang for a second attempt on the record that had eluded him. The aircraft chosen was former RAAF Mustang VH-UWB, acquired on Ron’s behalf by AREF Ltd of Ascot, Berkshire and registered G-ARUK. Flockhart had announced his intention to try and beat the record again, with plans to follow the route Melbourne—Sydney—Darwin—Singapore—Madras—Bahrain—Brindisi—London, starting on 16 April 1962.

‘Jock Garden, chief flying instructor and manager of the Civil Flying School, the flying training arm of the Mustang’s operator in Australia, Brookes Aviation, recalled in his memoirs: ‘Ron arranged to buy VH-UWB from John Brookes, and Brookes Aviation undertook a complete overhaul on the aircraft. Rolls-Royce, as a co-sponsor [of his next record attempt], sent out two engineers from England to service the engine; the aircraft was repainted in red and re-registered in the UK as G-ARUK.

I flew Ron over to Essendon Airport in the [Beech] Debonair early in 1962 and during the flight I asked if he had any recent instrument flying experience. When he told me he had none in the last eighteen months, I suggested it would be wise for him to gain recent instrument flying practice in view of the intended long flight, but he did not follow up on that advice.

‘I had the pleasure of doing the flight-testing of the Mustang on 19 March 1962, after its extensive servicing and it was in perfect condition with the Merlin the smoothest running engine I had ever encountered.’

‘A couple of days before he intended setting out on his record attempt Ron was to fly to Sydney to have maintenance done on his ADF unit. The weather conditions on 12 April were bad, with low cloud and rain, but Ron was determined to go. This proved to be a fatal decision as, within only a few minutes after departure, he lost control in cloud over the Dandenong Range and entered a spiral dive from which he could not possibly recover. He was killed instantly.’

The official report of the accident by the Australian Department of Civil Aviation gives the following conclusion: ‘While there is insufficient evidence to establish conclusively the cause of the accident, the possibility that the pilot temporarily lost control of the aircraft while circling in cloud, and that it subsequently stalled during the recovery and turn to avoid high terrain, cannot be excluded’.

Flockhart was flying the Mustang from Moorabbin to Bankstown to conduct fuel consumption tests and have the ADF equipment serviced. After encountering low cloud, he reported that he was returning to Moorabbin. The Mustang then changed course some 140° before entering a narrow gap between cloud-obscured hilltops in the Dandenongs.

The report stated that ‘the pilot circled in the vicinity of Kallista several times at low altitude and for the most part in cloud. The aircraft then emerged below cloud at a height of approximately 1,300ft, carried out a left turn probably to avoid higher terrain and, in the course of this turn, the nose dropped sharply and the aircraft struck trees and the ground at a steep angle, while rolling and turning to the right’.

At the time of the accident Flockhart held a British PPL endorsed for single-engined landplanes under 12,500lb (5,670kg) maximum permissible all-up weight. His total flying time was 961hr of which 69 were on Mustangs. During the six months immediately before the accident he had flown only five hours. He was not rated for instrument or night flying. In late 1960 he had undergone about 21 hours of ground-based Link trainer instruction on ADF, ILS and VDF procedures, but his logbook showed no record of any instrument flying or Link trainer instruction since that time.

Flockhart’s flying achievements were substantial and deserve a great deal of credit; his Mustang flight from Australia to Athens had been made with limited professional backing by a club-trained private pilot. Sadly, he never got the chance to finish the job — with his death on 12 April 1962, his final race had been run.’

Etcetera…

Flockhart hooting across Warwick Farm’s Causeway during the WF 100 in 1961, Cooper T51 Climax ( J Arkwright)

Flockhart’s Cooper T51 Climax in the Warwick Farm paddock in 1961. Car raced to a Longford win by Roy Salvadori the week later and then sale to David McKay at the end of the summer post the Hume Weir meeting also contested by Roy (J Arkwright)

‘Historic Dandenongs’ tribute to Ron Flockhart

Mustang A68-152, 135 and 175. All aircraft issued to 23 Squadron Brisbane so guessing RAAF Amberley circa late 1952/3. CAC Wirraway’s alongside (L Potts)

Etcetera: The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Mustang P51’s…

Source: airforce.gov.au- Point Cook Museum, Victoria

‘One of the finest American fighter aircraft of World War II, the North American Mustang owed its origin to a Royal Air Force (RAF) specification for a single-seat fighter to replace the Curtiss P-40. The first flight of the prototype NA-73 occurred in October 1940. Production models reached the RAF in November 1941 and these aircraft became known as Mustang Mk I (P-51) and Mk II (P-51A). The original 1,150 hp Allison engine lacked performance at high altitude, and the RAF employed the early Mustangs on low-level armed tactical reconnaissance sorties. Meantime, the US Army Air Force (USAAF) ordered a limited number of P-51s and P-51As as the Apache, to operate in the dive-bomber role.

However, once the basic P-51 design was mated with the proven Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the aircraft became an enormous success. Through P-51B, C and D models, the Mustang became one of the finest Allied fighters of World War II, and was just as capable at long-range escort as short ground-attack sorties. Fitted with a bubble canopy in place of the earlier ‘Razorback’ fuselage, the P-51D was the most widely produced version of the Mustang, with 8,956 built.

Interesting developments of the Mustang included the XP-51F and XP-51G lightweight versions and, the fastest Mustang of all, the P-51H, with a top speed of 487 mph at 25,000 ft. The ultimate development of the aircraft occurred post-war, when two Mustang fuselages were joined, resulting in the USAAF’s F-82 Twin Mustang.

In November 1944, RAF Mustangs were first flown by the RAAF’s No 3 Sqn in Italy.

Mustang P51D cutaway drawing (Haynes)

In 1943, the Australian government arranged for the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) to manufacture the Mustang Mk IV (P-51D) under licence from North American Aviation. The RAAF urgently needed a new fighter, and so the first CAC Mustangs were built mainly from imported semi-finished parts. A prototype Mustang, A68-1001, was used for development trials and the first Australian production Mustang, A68-1, flew on 29 April 1945. This aircraft was handed over to the RAAF on 4 June 1945 and was used for trials by No 1 Aircraft Performance Unit until October 1946. It was placed in storage until 1953 when it was delivered to the Department of Supply at Woomera.

The first 80 Mustang 20s (A68-1/80) were delivered with Packard Merlin V-1650-3 engines, under the CA-17 designation. A second contract called for 170 improved Mustangs, but only 120 were completed. Known as CA-18, the first 40 were built as Mustang 21s (A68-81/120) with Packard Merlin V-1650-7 engines. The remaining CA-18s comprised 14 Mustang 22s (A68-187/200) with Packard Merlin V-1650-7 engines. A CA-21 contract for a further 250 Mustangs was cancelled and, in lieu of the remaining CA-18s and CA-21s, 298 lend-lease P-51Ds and Ks were taken on strength (A68-500/583 and A68-600/813). In addition, the RAAF also accepted Mustangs for the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (N3-600/640).

Produced too late for World War II, RAAF Mustangs were assigned to Japan for occupation duties and, early in 1946, Nos 76, 77 and 82 Squadrons flew into Iwakuni. In 1949 Nos 76 and 82 Squadrons withdrew to Australian and the Mustangs of No 77 Squadron remained to take part in the Korean War from June 1950 until April 1951, when they were replaced by Gloster Meteors.

In Australia, Mustangs remained in service with Citizen’s Air Force Squadrons until they were withdrawn from service in 1959.’

(MOV)

Technical Specifications CAC CA-18 Mustang Mk21…

Type/Airframe- Single seat long range fighter. All metal stressed skin construction

Engine- Single Packard Merlin V1650-7. SOHC, 2 valve, carburettor fed, two-stage supercharged V12. Bore/stroke 5.4×6 inches, 1650 cid, circa 1490 bhp @ 3000 rpm. Weight 1640 pounds

Dimensions- Span 11.28 m (37 ft): length 9,83 m (32 ft 3 in); height 3.71 m (12 ft 2 in).

Weight- Empty 3567 kg (7863 lb); loaded 4763 kg (10 500 lb).

Performance- Max speed 636 km/h (380 kt); Climb, 13 mins to 30,000 ft (9144 m); Maximum rate of climb 1059 m (3475 ft)/min; Service ceiling 41,900 ft (12 771 m); Range 1529 km (825 nm) on internal fuel tanks.

Armaments- Six 0.50 in calibre machine guns; two 454 kg (1000 lb) bombs or up to 10 rockets

Rolls Royce Merlin cutaway drawing (Aeroplane)

CA-17 A68-34 a pretty picture. Issued to 25 Squadron in 1951/2 so probably in the air over RAAF Pearce, Perth (SLSA)

Plane dudes have as much interest in chassis numbers et al as us car chaps of course, here they are..

A68-5 RAAF Serial no / Type CA-17 Mk20 Mustang / Construction no 1330 NA110-34370 (Flockhart’s 1961 plane)

Early build- 5th of a batch of 80 shipped to Oz as kits of parts, delivered to 1 Aircraft Depot ex-CAC 6 July 1945. To 78 Sqdn, then stored 14/11/45 till sold 30/1/53 to ex-Flt Lt JL Whiteman with only 35 hours up, Sydney- reg VH-BVM. To Arnold Glass, purportedly acquired with winnings from a racehorse ‘Johnny Zero’ which the aircraft was then called, Sydney May 1954. Target towing experiments with Fawcett Aviation in 1959, also flown by A Oates. To Ron Flockhart August 1960 with around 100 hours on the clock- reg UK G-ARKD Feb 1961. ‘Abandoned’ in Greece 4/3/61, cockpit fire whilst being taxied in Athens 7/9/61. Rego cancelled by UK CAA as ‘aircraft destroyed’ 26/11/61. Abandoned and left in the open in Athens 1961-1970. Reportedly broken up for scrap in Athens circa 1970.

6 June 2012 re-registered as G-ARKD to ‘Classic Flying Machine Collection Ltd’, Foulsham, Dereham, Norfolk, UK-‘remains/parts storage for restoration’

A68-113 RAAF Serial no / Type CA-18 Mk21 Mustang / Construction no 1438 (Flockhart’s 1962 plane)

Delivered to 1 Aircraft Depot ex-CAC on 1 April 1948. Issued to 78 Wing November 1949, to 1 AD July 1950, 10 Sqdn Townsville May 1953 for target towing duties. Sold August 1957, then again February 1958- Reg VH-UWB. Sold to Flockhart April 1962- reg UK G-ARUK. Flockhart’s fatal crash at Kallista 12 April 1962. Rego cancelled by UK CAA as ‘aircraft destroyed’ on 23/5/62.

CAC production line, Fishermens Bend circa 1945 (T Lyons)

Photo Credits…

‘Pilot’ magazine, Geoff Goodall Collection, W Cdr L Brighton, Ian Leslie, Jim Steans Collection, John Arkwright, autopics.com.au, Lionel Potts, Museum of Victoria, State Library of South Australia, Tony Lyons, Haynes, Aeroplane magazine

Bibliography…

‘Pilot’ magazine article by Neil Follett and Nick Stroud via aeroexpo.co.uk, sergent.com, oldracingcars.com, adf-serials.com.au, airforce.gov.au

Tailpiece: Cool dude- Flockhart, Warwick Farm 1961…

(J Arkwright)

Finito…

 

(R Lambert)

‘It goes just like a bought one Bib!’…

Jack Brabham about to give Bib Stillwell’s newish Cooper T51 Climax ‘F2-18-59’ a whirl during practice for the Longford Trophy in February 1960. Bib and his mechanic Gerry Brown are giving the car a shove.

Nobody knew those little babies like Jack of course. There was nothing wrong with the car a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF would not fix, but neither love nor money would get you one of those in Australia at the time.

Jack and Bib swapping notes @ Longford in 1960. ‘What ratio did you say again mate’. These fellas had much in common-racing, business and aviation. Bib bought a heap of stuff off Jack- Coopers, Brabhams and planes! (K Drage)

Stillwell’s new car was shipped from Surbiton to Australia in July 1959. Fitted with a 2.2 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine, Bib first raced it in the 1960 NZGP at Ardmore where he finished 3rd behind the Brabham and McLaren 2.5 litre T51’s.

Back home, he won the Victorian Trophy Gold Star round at Fishermans Bend in February before the Longford International where was 2nd to Jack. He contested the Repco Trophy at Phillip Island in March where he was 3rd behind Brabham and Bill Patterson, Patto’s car 2 litre FPF powered like Bib’s that weekend.

Bib oversees Gerry Brown’s fettling of his Cooper in the 1960 Longford paddock. Near new car superbly prepared and presented as the racer/businessmans cars were right thru to the end of his historic racing career in the nineties (R Lambert)

The naughty corner bit came as a result of an accident Stillwell had at Easter in 1960.

He had won his Bathurst 100 heat but had an indiscretion with the fence at the bottom of Conrod Straight in the final, damaging the front of the car. Alec Mildren’s Maserati 250S engined T51 was victorious that weekend at the start of a very successful season for the veteran racer/motor dealer- he carted away the AGP and Gold Star.

Repaired, Bib’s machine was fitted with a 1.9 litre FPF and became his spare car  parked in the corner of his workshop. He focussed his affections on the just acquired ‘Victa’ T51- David McKay’s car ‘F2-14-59’ which was carefully assembled by Victa’s factory Foreman, Jim Roberts at Coopers before shipment to Sydney. The car, of similar leaf spring rear suspension specification to ‘F2-18-59’, was on the market after ‘Victa Consolidated Industries’, manufacturers of iconic Australian lawnmowers, decided to sell it rather than have David continue racing it after only 2 events.

The interesting part of the story, you knew I would get there eventually didn’t you?, is that in a quirk of fate and fortune the spare car in The Naughty Corner of Stillwells Cotham Road, Kew workshop won the 1961 Australian Grand Prix at Mallala, South Australia.

The sequence of events goes like this.

Lex Davison raced his Aston Martin DBR4/250 3 litre GP car to 2nd by a bees-dick to Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati in the 1960 AGP at Lowood in June. He raced the car again at Lowood and Warwick Farm in 1960 and the Farm, Ballarat Airfield and Longford in early 1961 before shipping it to the UK.

Lex Davison’s Aston DBR4/250 outside Gino Munaron’s Cooper T51 Maserati during the Guards Trophy Intercontinental race at Brands Hatch in August 1961. There were 17 starters with Brabham’s Cooper winning a race of attrition, the only other finishers Salvadori, Davo and Bandini. With the new 1.5 litre F1 ‘taking off’ this was the last Intercontinental race (Getty)

He raced it throughout 1961 in the Intercontinental Formula races prevalent that year during an extended family trip and racing holiday. He also contested some sportscar races and Le Mans with Stillwell in an Aston DB4GT Zagato, click on the link below for some information on that adventure.

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/22/aston-martin-db4gt-zagato-2vev-lex-davison-and-bib-stillwell/

When it became clear the Aston DBR4 would not arrive back in Oz in time for the 9 October Mallala race he sought an alternative and immediately thought of his Melbourne competitor, friend and fellow Holden Dealer, Stillwell, who had five Coopers at the time according to Graham Howard! (4 single-seaters and a Cooper Monaco sports-racer I think)

Melbourne Holden Dealers meeting? Stillwell, Davison and Patterson cluster around Lex’s renta-drive soon to be AGP winning Cooper at Mallala in the lead up to the ’61 race. They had Holden dealerships in Kew, Richmond and Ringwood respectively until Bib jumped ship ‘sensationally’ from Holden to Ford circa 1965 (Davison)

Bib kindly agreed to rent Lex one of these, his Naughty Corner spare ‘F2-18-59’, fitted with a 2.2 litre FPF.

By that stage Bib’s frontline tool of choice was a T53 ‘Lowline’ Cooper fitted with a 2.5 FPF. Whilst he wanted Lex in the field Bib did not figure the ‘Crafty Cobbler’- Davison’s primary family business was in shoe manufacture and distribution- three time AGP winner would present too much of a problem to he and the T53 who, together with Bill Patterson’s T51 were the quickest combination in Oz at the time.

A quarter page agreement between the two racers dated 5 October- four days before the race provided for a hiring fee of £100 with the car to be returned in a condition satisfactory to the owner. If the racer was written off, Bib was to be paid £3000.

Stillwell T53, David McKay T51 and the nose of Jones T51 before the start of a Mallala heat. Stan DNS the GP itself with mechanical mayhem- a great shame. Gerry Brown is behind Bib’s car in the top shot with Kevin Drage leaning on the cars tail (K Drage)

 

 

In a race full of irony, David McKay, by then aboard his Scuderia Veloce ex-works T51 which Brabham raced in Australia that summer of 1960/61, was adjudged by the Race Stewards to have jumped the start. This is still a controversial decision in the view of objective observers all these years later- he was punished a minute for his alleged misdemeanour.

Bill Patterson dominated the race from the start in another T51 before fuel vaporisation problems caused multiple stops.

Bib was never a threat as his team managed to fit the wrong tyres to his T53. Accounts of this vary, but Graham Howard’s ‘History of The AGP’ version is that the team erroneously had a Dunlop R5 D12 and a D9 fitted to the rear of the car with a matched set of D12 R5’s at the front. The result was difficult handling and a ZF slippery diff which was worn out by the races end.

Lex took the win behind McKay on the road but ahead after application of McKay’s penalty. The Naughty Corner Car had been beautifully prepared by Stillwell’s Kew based team led by Gerry Brown before handover to Davison’ s crew led by Alan Ashton’s AF Hollins boys in Armadale not too far away from Stillwell’s Kew Holden Dealership and race workshop in Melbourne’s inner east.

Davison’s Cooper rolled to a stop several hundred yards after the finish of the race- a fuel union attachment on one of the cars fuel tanks had cracked when he hit a straw-bale after a spin at Woodrofe Corner, the borrowed Cooper was out of fuel, it could not have raced any further! Lex’s luck extended to the start of the race too when his crew noticed a gearbox leak which they plugged with a rag soaked in gasket goo.

Sometimes things are just meant to be!

Many say Lex was lucky with all of his four AGP wins, he was too. But he made his own luck in that his cars were always beautifully prepared and driven very fast with mechanical sympathy- he finished races where others did not. Was 1961 his luckiest win?, only he can say.

Ecurie Australie onto the grid. Peter Ward, Lex in his usual cloth cap, Alan Ashton, Warwick Cumming with T51 ‘F2-18-59’.  McKay’s car behind with then, I think then the amazing, fast, radical Eldred Norman built Zephyr Spl driven by Keith Rilstone (Davison)

Lex may have been a dark horse before the start of the weekend, his disdain of the ‘Anti-Climaxes’ as he called the Coopers a matter of record- then he won the AGP in his first race of a water-cooled Cooper, amazing really.

But he was hardly a Surbiton novice having raced air-cooled Coopers for years in hillclimbs and shorter circuit events, the Cooper Irving/Vincent s/c was a very potent device. He knew the probable handling characteristics of the T51 prior to commencement of Fridays practice in a car beautifully prepared by Gerry Brown but cared for by Lex’s mob- Alan Ashton and Warwick Cumming over the race weekend.

Further, like Patterson and Stillwell, he was razor sharp. Whilst Bill and Bib were the form drivers locally, Lex had been sharpening his skills in the UK in the DBR4 and some drives in a DB4 Zagato. He arrived home very much ‘ready to boogie’- the Cooper may not have been instantly familiar but he was in the zone from the moment he arrived in South Australia. Another factor to Lex’ advantage is that the 2.5’s were having trouble getting their power to the road. Mallala was a brand new facility, the bitumen was slippery, his 2.2 litres in the circumstances were enough to do the job that weekend.

Finally, the ‘rear-leaf sprung’ T51’s (later series T51’s had coil spring rear suspension) were very chuckable, forgiving devices. The Mallala layout then is the same as it is now with many tight corners- the circuit is a delight if your open-wheeler has good front end bite and a tad of oversteer on exit- the Naughty Corner Car was just the right spec T51 for that circuit on that particular weekend.

Last word on Mallala to Graham Howard in his biography of Lex; ‘On lap 31 Patterson pitted…Lex…in his first race with an “anti-Climax”- was leading an Australian Grand Prix. It was an odd situation, but even odder were Lex’s repeated attempts to overtake McKay (with a minute penalty applied): Lex only had to follow him over the line to win. Lex’s needless repeated attacks and waved fists spelled it out: he drove most of this race with almost red-mist passion.’

Back to the history of the AGP winning Cooper.

In late 1961 after occasional use by Stillwell and three-time Australian GP winner Doug Whiteford, the naughty Cooper was sold to Tom Wilson, then to Frank Coad who raced it on the Victorian country circuits. Barry Stilo was up next in 1965, then Ray Deighton in 1967 and later Michael Robinson.

For many years the car was owned and used in the early days of historic racing in Australia by Stan Rumble. I recall seeing it race a few times in that period. It was sold by him in 1996 to Sydney’s Peter Landan who completely restored it. I’m not sure who owns it these days.

T51’s to the fore, bucolic Bathurst ‘Craven A’ Gold Star race Easter 1961. Stan Jones from David McKay and Bill Patterson on the run to Forrests Elbow- Patterson won the 19 lap race from Jones and Stillwell- T51 2.5’s, 2.3 in Stan’s case (J Ellacott)

The Cooper T51 is one of the great customer Grand Prix cars. Its up there with the Bugatti T35 and Maserati 250F as the best of competitive tools for the privateer which could be acquired off-the-shelf.

Eleven factory built T51’s were resident in Australia ‘in period’, an amazing number given the size of the country and the racing scene at the time. The previous sentence was easy to write, but the research carried out to come up with the number was robustly tested and discussed by a group of very knowledgeable Cooper enthusiasts on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ between January and March 2010. Click here to read the thread, don’t do so unless you have 90 minutes though!

http://forums.autosport.com/topic/122950-how-many-cooper-t51s-came-to-australia/?hl=%20cooper%20%20t51

So, many thanks to Dick Willis, Stephen Dalton, the late David McKinney, Jim Bradshaw, David Shaw, Eldougo, Ken Devine and Ray Bell for their painstaking research through old records, race accounts and results, photographs and car sale advertisements.

The list is as follows, the fellows above were smart enough not to apply chassis numbers, I have done so using Allen Brown’s oldracingcars.com to assist but any additions to the experts narrative or errors of interpretation are all mine…

‘F2-20-59’: Bib Stillwell’s red and yellow new car. Delivered to Stan Jones and transferred to Bib Stillwell, then to Austin Miller incl Chev Corvette V8 fitment and Australian LSR (extant)

‘F2-18-59’ Bib Stillwell’s darker red car, Davison’s ’61 AGP winner, Whiteford, Wilson, Rumble et al as story above (extant)

‘F2-4-59?’: Bib Stillwell’s ex-works 2.5, Sternbergs in Tasmania (extant)

‘F2/14/59’: Victa Consolidated Industries/David McKay new car, Stillwell, Bryan Thomson (extant)

‘F2-15-59’: Bill Patterson’s new, first car crashed at Lakeside 1961, to John Brindley (unknown)

‘F2-2-57 or F2-5-57’: Bill Patterson’s replacement car, 1961 Gold Star winner, apparently ex-works via either Atkins or Tuck team (extant)

‘F2-16-59’: Noel Hall’s new car, destroyed in 1961 but parts used in the build of his Rennmax Climax 2.2 FPF (extant)

‘F2-22-59’: Alec Mildren’s new car, Maserati 250S and later T61 engine, 1960 AGP and Gold Star winner, dismantled and parts used to construct the Rennmax built Mildren Maserati sports-racer. Replica or reconstruction later built for Paul Moxham by Gary Simkin and Ivan Glasby (extant)

‘F2-7-60’: Stan Jones light blue new car 1960, later Sternbergs Tasmania (unknown)

‘F2-9-60’: John Youls 1960 car, stayed in Tasmania (Hobden, Curran) (extant)

‘F2-5-57 or F2-7-59’: Scuderia Veloce ex-works car, McKay, Cusack, Amon driven (extant)

Note that the Arnold Glass raced T51 Maserati 250S engined car ‘CTA/59/F1’ is excluded from the list as a machine built ‘offsite’ by Harry Pearce at Tommy Atkins workshop rather than at Cooper’s Surbiton factory.

Stillwell, T51 , Forrests Elbow, Easter Bathurst 1961, Gold Star round- this car the ex-works ‘F2-4-59?’ (J Ellacott)

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, The Nostalgia Forum, ‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘History of The Australian GP’ Graham Howard and Ors, oldracingcars.com, The Nostalgia Forum

Photo Credits…

Ron Lambert Collection, John Ellacott, Kevin Drage, National Motor Racing Museum, Davison Family Collection, Getty Images

Tailpiece: Like ‘r-soles really, everybody has one! A plague of Cooper T51’s, ‘Craven A International’ Bathurst 2 October 1960…

Jones in blue, Mildren, Brabham up front, then John Leighton Cooper T45 FPF and Bib Stillwell in red, front engined car on row 3 is Arnold Glass Maser 250F, Noel Hall and Austin Miller in yellow. Then John Youl beside Bill Patterson’s white car- the other yellow machine is Doug Kelley’s ex-Miller Cooper T41 Climax FWB. The cars are all T51’s except where specified otherwise (NMRM)

Finito…