Posts Tagged ‘Delahaye 135CS’

(F Pearse)

The Jack Saywell Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 and John Snow Delahaye 135CS and friends at The Coorong, South Australia on January 5 and 6 1939…

The two intrepid Sydney racers contested the 1939 Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal on 2 January, the handicap race famously won by Allan Tomlinson in his MG TA Spl s/c. Saywell aboard ‘the fastest car in Australia’ was off scratch and finished sixth, slowed by tyre problems on the scorching hot South Australian summer day. Snow was off 4 minutes 15 seconds in the French sportscar and was fourth. Everybody that day was outfoxed, out-prepared and outraced by the three youngsters from Perth- Tomlinson and two fellow racer/fettlers Clem Dwyer and Bill Smallwood.

Whilst in South Australia they decided to attack some Australian speed records on the pipe-clay surface of The Coorong, at a little spot near Salt Creek, 210 km from Adelaide.

Huge amounts of preparation went into the attempts with the Sporting Car Club of South Australia playing an organisational role and in ensuring compliance with international rules.

Not the Coorong but the Lobethal paddock earlier in the week- John Snow’s gorgeous Delahaye 135CS- he used the Hudson behind in the Australian Stock Car Championship that weekend too (N Howard)

Whilst attempts were being made by Snow and Victorian racer Lyster Jackson over longer distances/times, both Snow and Saywell also wanted a crack at The Flying Mile (Class C for Snow and Outright for Saywell) which had to be timed to the nearest hundredth of a second rather than a tenth of a second- the best which could be achieved with a chronometer. The Adelaide University Physics Department were involved in creating some automatic photo-electric timing equipment which met the accuracy requirements of the international regulations.

Two existing speed records had been set in South Australia during February 1935 at Sellicks Beach by John H Dutton (Class C 92 mph Flying Mile) and CW Bonython MG (Class A 76.09 mph) but the Fleurieu Peninsula beach would not suffice in length for this endeavour which sought records between an hour and twenty-four hours.

A huge open area was needed with space for long, high speed corners to keep average speeds up. Whilst the opening photo may be at the Coorong, it could be at Sellicks- perhaps its a promotional shot taken prior to the record attempts or maybe a test run. Let me know if you have certainty about the locale.

Weather delayed the attempts by a few days but the SCCSA officials were out and about at 5 am on the morning of Thursday 5 January 1939 and prepared a surface as ‘smooth as glass’- the wind was up on the day and was said to be anything up to a 40 mph headwind.

The temperature was 96 degrees Fahrenheit, by the end of the week the temperature in Adelaide was 117 degrees! ‘Despite that a crowd of over 200 people ventured out into that desolate landscape and into those incredible temperatures, setting up a tent city’ wrote John Medley.

The chosen course had been professionally surveyed by an SCCSA club-member and measured 10 miles 318 yards- it was a huge oval comprising two straights of 5 miles and ‘wide circles at either end for turning’.

John Snow started the blue Delahaye 135CS at noon and was soon lapping consistently, the intent being to stick to a plan to coax the car through 24 hours- it wasn’t a sprint after all.

John covered the first 185 miles in just over two hours averaging 92 mph. The car was then refuelled in 4 minutes and Lyster Jackson jumped aboard- he maintained the average of 92 mph in his 10 lap stint and then made another refuelling stop and some ‘engine adjustments’ were made. The first tyre stop, which took 49 seconds, was made a little later and then Jackson was relieved by Snow after the speedy machine had completed 35 laps, or about 366 miles.

Snow had been going again for less than 3 miles when valve trouble ended further motoring at about 6.30 pm.

A perfect world would have been popping a spare engine into the car between the 150 mile Grand Prix and the record attempt but Snow didn’t have a spare despite his wealth. The car ‘was overhauled by the Englishman brought to Australia specially to prepare the car’- lets come back to that point.

The distance travelled in the first hour was 92 miles, for three hours about 275 miles. Jackson did the quickest lap at 6:26 with Snow’s 6:32. ‘No attempt was made to push the car’ but a mean speed of 130 mph was reached on the long straights.

 

 

The team claimed records to the Australian Automobile Association for 50, 100 and 200 miles- 50, 100, 200 and 500 kilometres- and 1 and 3 hours. Those recognised in the Australian record books are;

Standing 100 km 40 mins 45.5- 91.47 mph, Standing 200 km 1 hour 21.29.0- 91.51 mph, Standing 50 Miles 32.55.4- 91 mph, Standing 100 Miles 6:5.33.0- 91.51 mph.

Obviously the Delahaye was in no fit state to attack the Flying Mile, whilst one newspaper report has it that Saywell’s Vittorio Jano designed masterpiece did 132 mph for the Flying Mile and 88 mph for the Standing Mile.

‘On the following day , it was Jack Saywell’s turn…the task was perhaps simpler, the red car attacking only two records, the standing start and flying start mile- but the blistering temperature, sandy surface and blustery 45 mph sidewind across his path were going to be a hindrance…in accordance with AAA rules, a run in each direction was required, and the Alfa used its Lobethal rear axle ratio, the second highest of four available’ John Medley wrote.

‘Using a four mile run in against the breeze, Saywell averaged 128 mph for the first officially timed run. In the opposite direction he used a shorter run in and averaged 140 mph for the flying mile. The average of the two runs was 134.7 mph, the fastest officially recorded speed in Australian history breaking the previous record by over 35 mph’.

‘The Alfa was then prepared for its attempt on the standing start one mile record. Spewing dirt off its spinning back wheels for the first 400 yards, the booming Alfa then got into its stride and crossed the line at 142 mph, wind assisted. Into the wind Saywell crossed the finishing line at 125 mph. When the times were totalled and the speed averaged, the mean speed was 89.2 mph, another new Australian record’ John Medley wrote.

Some Australian enthusiasts will be aware that John Snow, scion of the wealthy Sydney ‘Snows Department Stores’ family made annual trips to the UK both to purchase merchandise for the family business and to race and purchase some top-end cars either to order or for re-sale back in Oz.

The 1939 AGP grid, for example, comprised at least four cars (John Crouch Alfa 8C2300 Le Mans, Colin Dunne MG K3 Magnette, Saywell’s Tipo B and Snows Delahaye 135CS) imported to Australia by the front-rank Sydney racer.

John Snow during the 1939 AGP weekend at Lobethal, Delahaye 135CS (N Howard)

The Delahaye was a remarkably astute purchase by Snow for Australian handicap racing- it was not an outright winner other than on the ‘right day’ but with enough speed and reliability built into it by virtue of its sports-racer intent would always be ‘thereabouts’ in the handicaps which predominated in Australia. And so it was, mainly. The car probably coulda-shoulda won several AGP’s, but in the end it only took the one, in John Crouch’s hands at Leyburn, Queensland in 1949.

The 6 cylinder, 3557cc, OHV 160 bhp car, chassis ‘47190’ was turned into a ‘corn-chip’ as a consequence of a disastrous trailer fire due to an errant cigarette butt flicked out of the car window upon the trip back to Sydney after the 1951 AGP at Narrogin, Western Australia. Enough of the car existed to reconstruct in the seventies/eighties.

The English mechanic referred to earlier was ‘Jock’ Finlayson, he was brought to Australia by Snow and Saywell who by that time were operating ‘Monza Service’, at 217 Bourke Street, East Sydney looking after various racing and top-end road cars.

The very well credentialled (ex-Bentley, Birkin, Straight, Seaman) poor chap totally stuffed up the timing of Saywell’s 2.9 litre, DOHC, supercharged Tipo B engine when he rebuilt it and rooted the engine as a consequence.

With no confidence in anyone else locally to address the engine and having plenty of moolah Jack popped the engine onto a boat back to Milan, but the ship is thought to have been sunk in the immediate months of the War- Saywell never saw that engine again!

Chassis ‘5002’ was not reunited with a motor of kosher original specification until it was restored in Australia in the early sixties. It had an active, long, eventful racing career mind you, albeit fitted with GMC and Alvis motors…

Credits…

Fred Pearse Collection, ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley, Norman Howard from the Bob King Collection

Tailpiece: Jack Saywell, Alfa Romeo Tipo B, AGP Lobethal 1939…

(N Howard)

Finito…

(unattributed)

‘It is not common for racing cars to be photographed from the rear- more usually from the side or front.
Here are a few rear views (or views of rears) from my archives’ – Bob.
Jack Saywell, above, in his only appearance at Bathurst in his 2.9 Alfa Romeo P3, Easter 1939.
He could do no better than 6th when his engine was reluctant to start after a pitstop to adjust the brakes. The photo below is from ‘The Magnificent Monopostos’ by Simon Moore- this pitstop one of several during the very hot 1939 AGP at Lobethal, the heat caused major tyre problems for the heavier cars which did not afflict winner Allan Tomlinson’s nimble, light MG TA Spl s/c, Jack was 6th again.

(GP Library)

My anal side, not dominant at all in normal life kicks in with a wonderful selection like this- I feel the need to pop in chassis numbers where I can- but I am going to resist given the time required to do so! Good ole Google works pretty well- ‘Jack Saywell Alfa Romeo P3 chassis number’ will give you anoraks a path to finding what you want, otherwise just enjoy these magnificent photographs from Bob’s archive, Mark.

(unattributed)

Paul Swedberg drove John Snow’s Delahaye 135CS to 2nd place at the Bathurst 1939 meeting, in John’s absence overseas. Paul’s own Offenhauser Midget, in which he was virtually unbeatable on the on speedways, was not entered.

(unattributed)

Ted McKinnon finished 13th in the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in his Maserati 6CM. Doug Whiteford won that day aboard the first of his two Talbot-Lago T23C’s.

(S Wills)

An unknown car exhibiting the disadvantages of a swing rear axle system. Something tells me that this is DW Stephenson in his DWS? Templestowe Hillclimb in outer eastern Melbourne, September 1954.

(S Wills)

Maserati’s chief mechanic Guerino Bertocchi is leaning into the cockpit of Moss’ victorious Maserati 250F at Albert Park during the AGP weekend in 1956.
Having debuted as a riding mechanic with Alfieri Maserati in the 1926 Targa Florio and subsequently being riding mechanic in thirteen Mille Miglias as well as the 12 Hour of Pescara, it has always saddened me that he should die in 1981 as a passenger to an American during a trial drive of a modern Maserati. Car enthusiast Peter Ustinov told an amusing story concerning Bertocchi. Guerino delivered a new Maserati road car to Ustinov in Switzerland and said to Peter “I don’t know who you are Senor Ustinov, but you must be important to have me, Bertocchi, delivering your car”.

(S Wills)

Reg Parnell enters Jaguar corner in his Ferrari Super Squalo during the same wonderful 1956 AGP weekend.
The 30mph sign would not have deterred him. It also serves to remind us that ridiculous speed limits are not a new phenomenon – this sign was at the start of Albert Park’s main straight.

(S Wills)

This photograph shows the large SU required to feed the highly modified supercharged Vincent engine in Lex Davison’s Cooper. Phil Irving was the designer and the modifier of this motor – still labelled H.R.D on its timing cover. Templestowe 1957.

(S Wills)

Stirling Moss in the Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre, Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park, November 1958.
This photograph is taken during practice – the race was held on a hot day and the Cooper was denuded of much of its rear body work in an endeavour to keep the driver cool. The long shadows show that the photograph was taken in the early morning – I seem to recall that practice was at 6.30am.

In spite of the hour, note the huge crowd at Jaguar corner. In a previous post I have mentioned that Moss really only showed his sublime skill during the 1956 AGP when it began to rain with just six laps to go. On this morning Stirling was struggling with locking brakes and again demonstrated phenomenal car control – I was crowd marshalling at about the point from where this photograph was taken.

(S Wills)

Almost a rear view – note the missing engine cover to cope with the heat. Moss won the 32 lap, 100 mile race from Jack Brabham’s similar Cooper T45 Climax FPF, Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S and Bib Stillwell’s Maserati 250F.

Sadly this was the last race meeting at the ‘Park until the modern AGP era.

(S Wills)

Len Lukey (5th) in the Lukey Bristol tailing Bib Stilwell in the 250F Maserati through Jaguar corner in 1958.

(S Wills)

Ted Gray in the Tornado 2 Chev- again at Albert Park of course in 1958, Ted retired the Lou Abrahams car after completing only 4 laps.

(S Wills)

Len Lukey in the eponymous Lukey Bristol at Templestowe 23/3/1958 – or was it still called the Cooper T23 Bristol until it got its Vanwall inspired body?

(S Wills)

JW Philip in an Austin Healey at Templestowe on 20/04/1958. We know nothing of this car and driver.

(S Wills)

Jack French in a  Cooper Norton of only 499cc, but still good enough to break the magic (to me) 30 seconds. His time 28.15 Rob Roy, 1959. Coopers with various power plants were ‘King of the Hills’ in those days.

(S Wills)

At Templestowe in 1958; Bruce Walton in his Walton Cooper. Six times Australian Hillclimb Champion from 1958 to 1963.

(N Hammond)

And lastly, me at Rob Roy in my Type 35 Bugatti in 2008.
Credits…
Bob King Collection
References: ‘AGP – Howard et al’, Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing John Medley, ‘ The Magnificient Monopostos’. Simon Moore. ‘Bugattis in Australia and New Zealand, 1920-2012. King and McGann
Tailpiece: Spiro (Steve) Chillianis, Rob Roy 1960, with some work to do …

(S Wills)

Car is the ex-Eddie Perkins rear engined Lancia Lambda Special, now fitted with an Austin A70 engine, or should we say ‘was fitted’. He recorded a time of 80.88 seconds- perhaps the ambulance broke the timing strip?
Finito…