Posts Tagged ‘Dick Cobden’

Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 being pushed through the Gnoo Blas paddock- that’s lanky, slim Jack Brabham with helmet on behind (F Pearse)

The natural or established order of Australian motor racing was shaken up and greatly changed by events over the summer of 1955…

The Ardmore, New Zealand Grand Prix in January was won by Prince Bira’s Maserati 250F from Peter Whitehead and Tony Gaze in their matching Ferrari 500/625 3 litre, four cylinder hybrids, Jack Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol and Reg Hunt’s new Maserati 250F engined A6GCM, fifth.

Other Australians who made the trip but failed to finish were Stan Coffey, Cooper T20 Bristol, Lex Davison, HWM Jaguar and Dick Cobden in the Ferrari 125 V12 s/c he acquired from Peter Whitehead after the NZ GP the year before.

Lex Davison being chased by Bira and Tony Gaze at Ardmore, 1955 NZ GP. HWM Jaguar, Maserati 250F and Ferrari 500/625 (thechicaneblog.com)

 

(CAN)

A group of the front running cars at Ardmore in ‘Phil Neill’s showroom a day or two before the race.’

Bira’s 250F and Gaze Ferrari 500 in front with Whitehead’s #2 similar 500, #3 is Reg Hunt’s Maserati A6GCM, #77 Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar, #9 George Palmer’s Mercury powered Palmer Spl, #6 Cobden’s Ferrari 125 and hidden, unfortunately, in the corner Bira’s ‘second-string’ Maserati 4CLT Osca V12 with a Ford Consul providing marvellous context!

 

Tony Gaze warms up his 3 litre Ferrari four with plenty of admiring Kiwis by the Dunedin wharves, Ferrari 500/625, January 1955. Reg Parnell’s Aston Martin DP155 is behind and then an Aston Martin DB3S (unattributed)

 

By the end of the Ardmore weekend, Brabham, buoyed by his speed and his mind filled with ambition, ideas of opportunity and success paid bonuses from trade suppliers in the UK by the visiting RAC’s Dean Delamont- had determined to sell his Cooper and chance his luck in the UK.

Dick Cobden, another of the fast-men in Australia- his dices with Brabham during 1954 had drawn fans to meetings from far and wide, also planned a racing holiday in England in between continuing his stockbroking career in a London brokers office.

‘He was accompanied by mechanic Fred Pearse and the fascinating, frustrating Ferrari (125), and enjoyed some mobile spectating…Cobden hoped to collect the D Type he had ordered, but long delays led to him cancelling the order, and the overseas trip was effectively his farewell to motor racing’ Graham Howard wrote.

Fred Pearse attending to Cobden’s Ferrari 125 (F Pearse)

 

Pat Ratliff and Tony Gaze with Gaze’s Ferrari 500/625- the oh-so-famous ex-Alberto Ascari 1952 and 1953 World Championship winning chassis- one of the ‘winningest’ if not the most, GP cars ever (F Pearse)

But first the travelling circus headed by sea to Sydney and then by road west to the Gnoo Blas road circuit at Orange for the ‘South Pacific Championship’ international held on 31 January. Bira, Whitehead and Gaze then planned to race their cars in South Africa.

Whilst Brabham and Cobden contested Gnoo Blas, Hunt and Davison, Lex the winner of the 1954 Southport AGP did not- Hunt was short of some critical parts for his A6GCM whilst Lex did not make the trip.

Hunt’s pace had always been apparent in Australia and in the year he raced a Cooper 500 in the UK and Europe- with the purchase of  the A6GCM he vaulted over the top of everyone in Australia- the speed of car and driver was THE combination of 1955.

Whilst Lex’ HWM Jag was fast, it wasn’t fast enough nor, despite ongoing development was it sufficiently reliable, it did of course hold together at Southport some months before, the 1954 AGP win was the first of Lex’ four victories in Australia’s premier event.

Davison no doubt showed more than passing interest in his good mate Gaze’s Ferrari 500 in the early months of 1955- a purchase he would consummate later in the summer of 1955-1956 and as a consequence set the standard- along with the local 250F’s of Hunt and Jones and Ted Gray’s bellowing V8 Tornado 2 Ford/Chev in the coming years.

Gaze #4 and Whitehead Ferrari’s getting a tickle- car behind is Bira’s Maserati 250F and at the rear the Broadbent/Haig Hurst Bentley (F Pearse)

In Orange the ‘star cars’ were garaged in a workshop where several of these photographs were taken. The images by Fred Pearse, kindly circulated on social media by Peter Reynell who cared for Fred in his final years, take ones breath away.

Bob Pritchett makes mention in his AMS report of the race, of the OSCA being looked after at Lapham’s Garage in Orange, Mr Lapham was the Chairman of the Orange ‘Cherry Blossom Car Racing Committee’ which staged the event along with the Australian Sporting Car Club. Laphams is most likely the venue of the garage shots.

Tony Gaze Ferrari 500 (F Pearse)

 

Ratliff and Gaze (F Pearse)

Thirty-nine cars entered the 100 mile South Pacific Championship, there were also events for sport and touring cars, a purse of two-thousand five hundred pounds was offered for the feature race, very good money at the time.

The entry included Kiwis Fred Zambucka in the Maserati 8CM he raced in the ’54 AGP and John McMillan’s Alfa Romeo Tipo B- both pre-war machines which were at that stage a little too long in the tooth to be a threat, the race was a scratch event, even if, in a nod to the past, handicap placings would also be awarded.

Jack Murray, Allard Cadillac, Ted Gray aboard Tornado 1 Ford was fitted with the Lou Abrahams developed fuel injection setup for the first time. Tom Sulman had rebuilt his Maserati 4CM after a blow up at Gnoo Blas’ last meeting with parts flown specially from Italy to Sydney. Curly Brydon’s supercharged MG T single-seater special was one of the fastest in the country. Albury’s Jack Seaton entered a Maserati, Jack Robinson his Jaguar Special and Stan Jones had Maybach, a Cooper JAP and his Lancia GT entered- in the end Stan raced only the Lancia .

A special practice session was laid on before breakfast on the Sunday for the benefit of Bira, Gaze and Whitehead but it wasn’t of much benefit to the member of the Thai Royal Family when his Maserati 250F threw a rod after only 3 laps of practice, the car had done some miles in New Zealand, was rather tatty and overdue for a rebuild- this was the precursor to the tragedy which followed involving Iain Mountain and his very clever Mountain Peugeot Special the following day.

Practice itself started after breakfast and continued with breaks through until 5.30pm. No appearances were made by Hunt, Zambucka, Davison, the Jones Cooper 1100, James Barclay Special, the Moy MG Magnette Holden or the Peek MG Q Type.

Both Gordon Greig and Sydney’s Bill Reynolds appeared at the wheel of the Alfa Tipo B Alvis which Greig had only just acquired from Ash Marshall. Cobden’s Ferrari was spewing oil out of its breathers, Gaze’s had clutch and magneto problems and Bira’s crew had work to do on the exotic V12 OSCA’s oil scavenge pumps, so there would be no shortage of midnight oil poured in Lapham’s workshops.

Alf Harvey, ex-Bira Maserati 4CLT Osca V12 aka Osca V12 from Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 at Gnoo Blas during the 1956 South Pacific Trophy – Can’t find a shot of Bira in the car the year before (Gnoo Blas)

 

The ill fated Ian Mountain aboard his neat Peugeot Special, Sulman’s Maserati behind (K Devine)

 

Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol

 

Raceday started at 10.20 am with the ‘KLG Handicap’ for closed cars under 1100cc won by R Long’s Fiat 1100. The 5 lapper for Sports and Closed cars was taken by Jack Myers Holden, was he the ‘King of The Holdens’ at that stage?

Bira’s spare car was his OSCA V12- a marriage of a 4.5 litre, circa 300 bhp OSCA V12 with his old Maserati 4CLT/48 chassis, as noted earlier his crew had been trying to adequately prepare the car the evening before the race.

In the preliminary 5 lap ‘Gnoo-Blas Handicap for Racing Cars’ event it too suffered a major mechanical failure- a scavenge pump, the motor dumped its oil all over the road with Iain Mountain, who was following closely, lost control on the oil, left the road and crashed through a barbed wire fence at Connaghans Corner killing himself and 26 year old Ballan, Victoria, spectator James Young. Several spectators were injured, two of them were admitted to hospital- all were standing in restricted areas.

The MotorSport account is the one above, the Australian Motor Sports report of the race attributes the accident to driver error ‘Ian had been cautious about the corner on which he came to grief and it could be that he was off line to avoid stones thrown up by Curly Brydon’s car, which he was chasing; Curly actually saw him behind, and slowed down, having discussed the corner with Ian and knowing how he felt about it…’

Whatever the case it was a tragic motor racing incident, the ‘lotsa-money superb preparation of car’ Bira days were long gone. Poor Mountain, 26, had only married four months prior to the 1954 AGP weekend at Southport and had only been racing the beautifully built car from its first appearance at Fishermans Bend in early 1954.

Jack Robinson’s Jaguar Special won the race in which Mountain died, the South Pacific Championship for Closed Cars and another similarly titled 14 lap 50 mile race were won by Les Cosh’ Aston Martin DB2 and Bill Kelly’s Jaguar XK120 respectively.

South Pacific Championship…

The main event was delayed by 50 minutes for obvious reasons, with some indecision about the grid- it was to be 4-3-4, then decided to be 3-2-3 given the narrow road and ended up being 3-2-4. What follows is a summary of the AMS race report.

As the flag quivered before dropping, Jack Murray shot his Allard Cadillac between Gaze and Whitehead and led the field out of sight of the hill crest; Gaze somehow managed to get his clutch operational enough for the getaway and almost as soon as the last sound of the last cars had died, Jack Brabham flashed past the pits, his Cooper Bristol a good fifty yards ahead of Whitehead’s Ferrari, then Murray, Gaze, Cobden, and MacMillan in close quarters.

Gaze was past Murray in the next lap, but Cobden’s Ferrari was smoking and retired after 2 laps at Muttons Corner with a cylinder full of water and a bent rod which was shades of the last Orange meeting.

Brabham (K Devine)

 

Murray, Allard Cadillac (K Devine)

 

Tom Sulman, Maserati 4CM

Brabham’s lead was shortlived, it was not many laps before Whitehead was past the Cooper Bristol- but he drew away slowly indeed and, on the fast sweep and slow right angle corner, Brabham was very visibly fastest of any car in the race, drifting the sweep beautifully with all four wheels leaning outwards, braking late and going through Muttons Corner as clean as a knife…

Gaze, hampered by not having a fully operational clutch and only one effective magneto, was not as happy as he could have been.

For some laps there was a good duel between MacMillan in the Alfa Tipo B and Greig in the Alfa Tipo B Alvis, the two red cars looking very impressive as they came around in close company. Jack Robinson and Joe Murray went at it for most of the race, the Jaguar just ahead until towards the finish when he stopped briefly at the pits and lost two laps.

Curly Brydon, always quick and neat, kept hard on Tom Sulman’s hammer, and Bill Wilcox went very well in his green Ford Special until it went bad over a space of 3 laps or so and he retired. Noel Barnes had the ex-Ron Ward MG Special sounding very sweet and healthy even though he was lapped several times by the faster cars.

Finally, the sun well down on the Western horizon, Peter came around grinning and without his crash hat and we knew the race was finished. As Brabham was less than a minute behind at the end he naturally won the handicap, Peter had fastest lap in 2:21.

Peter Whitehead Ferrari 500/625, won from Brabham, Cooper T23 Bristol, Gaze, Ferrari 500/625, Jack Murray Allard Cadillac, Tom Sulman Maserati, Curly Brydon MG Spl, G Greig Alfa Tipo B Alvis

Whitehead’s top speed was 149 mph, Gaze 147, Brabham 136, Sulman 110 and Brydon’s 115mph.

Cobden about to go out, Sulman readies his Maserati (K Devine)

 

One of the Ferrari 500s at Laphams (F Pearse)

Snippets by AMS’ Bob Pritchett…

‘The 3 litre motors of Gaze and Whitehead have a bore and stroke of 104 x 90 mm and the inlet valve is open for, wait for it, 330 degrees of the revolution…I saw Gaze’s motor stripped later; the valves are simply tremendous, and the pistons are like outsized salmon tins with bumps on them, rods like a short length of RSJ and the five bearing crankshaft a beautiful piece of work’.

Big Muvvas: Weber sand cast 58 DCO’s (F Pearse)

Hunt didn’t race but was present in person ‘…With no Maserati, marooned in Melbourne with a broken back plate. He tried to borrow one of Bira’s spares but received the rather discouraging reply, that he could have them all and the car for 4000 sterling. Slightly different to the Australian approach- Tony Gaze did the race with a magneto coil out of Cobden’s Ferrari for instance.’

Bira’s Maserati 250F (F Pearse)

‘I reaped some sort of macabre delight out of watching the Clerk of Course Daimler steaming around festooned with advertising matter during the wrangle about slogans on cars which resulted in Coffey’s dramatic retirement on the (start)line, masking tape all over Murray’s Allard Cadillac, funny little blobs of green paint on Brabham’s Cooper Bristol and such.’

Stan Coffey’s Cooper Bristol, after a stoush with CAMS about advertising he did not take the start, I see Clive Adams prepared the car. Cobden Ferrari 125 at rear (K Devine)

Etcetera…

(K Devine)

Jack Robinson being push-started in his Jag Special whilst alongside Tom Sulman fettles his Maserati, photo below of Robinson’s Jag XK engine.

(K Devine)

 

#2 Whitehead, Ferrari 500 #4 Gaze’s similar car and #1 Bira’s 250F (F Pearse)

 

Tom Sulman, Maserati 4CM

Bibliography…

MotorSport May 2006 article by Jim Scaysbrook, Australian Motor Sports February 1955 race report by Bob Pritchett

Photo Credits…

Fred Pearse Collection, Ken Devine Collection, Stephen Dalton Collection, Allan Dick’s ‘Classic Auto News’, Australian Motor Heritage Foundation, Russell Hawthorn, Doug Chivas Collection

(D Chivas)

Postscript…

Brabham left for the UK in mid-March 1955 after a function held at Jack’s parents home in Hurstville attended by over 100 guests including the Mayor and Mayoress- at that stage he was expected to be away for six months.

It turned out to be rather longer than that of course, the great Australian finally retired from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1970 having been a front runner that season inclusive of one GP win which but for poor luck should have been three- competive to the very end of his long career.

He couldn’t stay away from racing for too long though, by August 1971 he was back in the seat of the Jack Brabham Ford sponsored Bowin P4X Formula Ford and won the ‘Race of Champions’ at Calder from Frank Matich, Kevin Bartlett, Bib Stillwell, Alan Hamilton, Allan Moffat and others.

I think it was his last ever real ‘race win’, 1978 Sandown demo with JM Fangio duly noted?…

(R Hawthorn)

Tailpiece: Smorgasbord of ‘Big Red Cars’…

Whitehead, Cobden, Gaze and Bira, not that his 250F was red (F Pearse)

Finito…

(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.

Maybach 2 in the very muddy Southport paddock- almost literally so (J Psaros)

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 before the start, lovely profile shot of the winning HWM Jag (J Psaros)

 

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.

Dick Cobden, Ferrari 125 s/c (F Pearse)

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.’

The Repco crew push start Maybach 2 before the off (J Psaros)

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.

Ken Richardson, Ford V8 Spl and Owen Bailey, MG Holden- track verge indicative of the huge volumes of rain in the days before the race (J Psaros)

 

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.

Cobden, Fred Pearse and ? after the race in a local Gold Coast servo- Ferrari 125 showing the bruise sustained during battle (F Pearse)

 

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 machines were under constant evolution as befits any ‘works’ racers, the cars were 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)

 

 

Etcetera…

This group of photographs taken by George Litfin are not clear so have limited use but are great to add context and flavour.

(G Litfin)

 

(G Litfin)

 

(G Litfin)

 

(G Litfin)

 

(G Litfin)

 

(G Litfin)

 

Brabham’s Cooper, Cobden’s Ferrari and the nose of Jones’ Maybach in the background (R Baker)

 

Davison’s winning HWM Jaguar (R Baker)

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’, George Litfin

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, Jock Psaros, The Nostalgia Forum, Fred Pearse, Robert Baker

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…