Posts Tagged ‘Earle Vienet’

1938 Phillip Island 1

Ewald Kluge, DKW SS 250, Phillip Island 31 January 1938 (Earle Vienet)

I love some of these evocative older shots of a time in motor sport such a long time ago, this series of shots at Phillip Island in 1938 are some of those…

These photos were taken by Earle Vienet, father of a friend of mine, Trevor Vienet, at Phillip Island in 1938. By then the original rectangular, dirt, incredibly dangerous 10.6km circuit, host of the first eight Australian Grands’ Prix, had been replaced by a shorter 5.3 km course using part of the original track.

Phillip Island plays an important role in the pantheon of Australian Motor Racing History, not only did it hold the events described above, it was the place road racing first occurred in Australia. You can still drive the original road course, it’s well marked. There is also the current ‘modern’ purpose built circuit built in 1956, well known to International readers via its globally televised V8 Supercar and Moto GP events.

Cowes Pits the baron 1938

Cowes pits, Baron von Oetzen of Auto Union (left), see text below. Cowes is the main village on Phillip Island (Earle Vienet)

Many international and interstate visitors have made the trip to the ‘Island to see the ‘bike GP, historic car event in March or perhaps a V8 Supercar race. These days the tourist playground is well serviced from Melbourne with freeway-highway access and a bridge (opened in November 1940) from San Remo on the mainland to Newhaven on Phillip Island.

But back when Earle, his wife and thousands of other fans made the raceday/weekend pilgrimage it was literally a ‘cut lunch and camel ride of a trip’.

A train was taken from Flinders Street Station, Melbourne to Stony Point on Westernport Bay, then a very crowded ferry from there to Cowes on the island and finally a walk, bus or horse-drawn cart ride to the track on the outskirts of Cowes. These photos are from their trip on 2 January 1939.

(Earle Vienet)

(Earle Vienet)

Prominent Australian Motor Racing Historian/Author John Medley said of the shot above ‘The Baron was Baron von Oetzen from Auto Union who with his wife accompanied world champion Ewald Kluge and two DKW race bikes around Australia racing in 1937-38, using DKW (and other Auto Union vehicles) as support vehicles. Les Friedrichs rode one of the DKWs. The Baron promised Auto Union racing cars in Australia (as he already had done in South Africa) before the war intervened’.

Medley, ‘It is a story worth telling. We know some bits, and South Australian Eric Williams made a film about it, partly used in Tony Parkinson’s ‘History of Racing at Lobethal’, pearl handled revolvers and all!’

See ‘Etcetera’ below for more details on both Kluge and The Baron.

kluge 2

Ewald Kluge, Baron von Oertzen and Mr Green the Melbourne DKW agent. This shot is in Northcott Avenue, Canberra before their unsuccessful attempts to raise the Australian 250cc Land Speed Record in 1938. DKW SS 250, 2 stroke supercharged machine. These were annual events in Canberra at the time (The Velobanjogent)

Click here for an interesting article on Kluge’s DKW SS 250, 2 stroke supercharged racer at Lobethal, SA…

Ewald Kluge, DKW and the Lobethal TT

Great Australian Motor Racing Historian Graham Howard published an article in ‘Motor Racing Australia’ magazine some years ago about The ‘Island pre-war. He wrote that the triangular layout was used twice per year from 1935 to the final meeting on public roads at Phillip Island in November 1938, it would be interesting to know if these shots are from that last meeting?

Interested to hear from any of you who could help with the details.

the Straight cowes 001

The straight Cowes 1938, any assistance in ID’ the cars gratefully received (Earle Vienet)

brooklyn speedway

Earle Vienet was a motor racing entrepreneur in the 1960/70’s as the promoter of the Brooklyn Speedway as it was called then, located on Melbourne’s western outskirts. The difficulties of making a buck in motor racing on ‘that side of the fence’ have always been extreme, but Earle worked hard, in fact he toiled at four jobs to put his five children through private school.

The speedway was built on land first used a greyhound track. The original owner, a Mr Wilson built the track, installed wooden fencing and named it ‘Brooklyn Speedway’. The enterprise was then purchased by three partners; Ezmat Haken, Earle Vienet and Laurie Rowland. In the initial stages Earle and Laurie built up the speedway infrastructure, including putting in the lighting. They bought an old tip truck and made many trips to the local quarry to create spectator mounds. Ez was the marketer and Earle the promoter.

The business was very much a ‘do it yourself affair’, some of the stories about the contribution the Vienet boys, particularly Graeme, the elder made shows the level of commitment required to make a buck and the cavalier way in which things were done in those far away days. Occupational Health and Safety? What’s that!?

Barry Watt Qld in pits for 1969 Speedcar champion ship

Barry Watt all the way from Queensland for the 1969 Speedcar Championship. Brooklyn pits(unattributed)

Trevor recalls the English Motor Cycle Test Team slept ‘in our 20 foot caravan which was parked at the side of the house in suburban Balwyn. Nigel Boocock (the captain) gave my mum a pair of pantyhose. I don’t think she had ever seen a pair before. The night the test team raced was the biggest crowd we ever had, approximately 10,000 people. Sadly, we didn’t get those numbers on a regular basis so the speedway, in my dad’s time was not a financial winner.’

Elder brother Graeme was Earle’s right hand man though ‘As a youngster at 13 I used to go to the speedway every single week with Dad. Initially I sold programs and ice-creams. A few years later I graduated to being the guy who pulled the elastic cord across the track and engaged it in the old bomb release mechanism mounted in the fence for the starting of solos and sidecars. I of course also used the watering can to mark out the white lines. I was paid $5 per night.’

‘When Speedcars came to the Speedway I also drove the black and yellow Holden panel van to start the cars. After race meetings I would often jump onto the Fiat tractor and do a rough grade of the track, pulling the dirt away from the fence line. I remember once a car going off the track and dropping a wheel into a small hole where the taps were for watering the track and the tap being broken and a huge spout of water shooting into the sky and out onto the track. Dad told me later that all the officials were saying to him that the race had to be stopped. Dad said, just give it a moment knowing I was outside the track at this stage. I was half way round the track from the main water valve and I ran like hell through the crowd and turned off the water at the main.’

‘I almost lost my eye sight one night when I was switching off the track lights (24 poles, 48 lights at 1,500 watts per light, 72,000 watts on three circuits) up in the judges box when one of the switches broke apart inside as I threw the switch.It arced and threw a massive fireball at me, hitting me in the neck just under my chin. If it had been dad, it would have hit him right in the eyes. Great ride in the ambulance though with full lights and sirens and dad following behind in his ’66 Studebaker Cruiser with 283cid V8 in close attendance’.

Working Bee Melb speedway 1968 copy

Love this shot which captures the entrepreneurial hands on zeal of the partners, Earle Vienet on left of the tractor bucket. Working bee at the Speedway (Earle Vienet)

Other classics of impecunious entrepreneurship included;

‘The yellow and black panel van donated by a car dealership as a push car, which could never be registered again as it wouldn’t have passed a road-worthy. The Fiat tractor which Steven Walker rolled one night whilst doing a series of fancy one wheel brake turns in front of his mates, whilst dragging some dirt back into a small hole on the main straight was a sight not forgotten by spectators there on that particular night!’

Trevor, ‘One year we entered entered a float in the Moomba procession to promote the Speedway ( a big annual festival of activities over a fortnight the highlight of which is a huge procession through the streets of Melbourne) with a Speedcar on top of a huge trailer surrounded by some pretty girls one of which was my elder sister showing off ‘her assets’. It was pulled by a Super Modified with a special fan which overheated, the whole rig had to be pushed at times by a bunch of mechanics during the procession, causing a good deal of chaos!’ All with 100.000 spectators on Melbourne’s CBD streets closed for the Public Holiday.

The partners sold the business in 1972 after six years of ownership. Earle died, very young at 51, the year before. The Speedway closed in 1988.



Ewald Kluge.

cowes race meeting 1938.2

Ewald Kluge or Les Friedrichs DKW, Cowes race meeting 31 January 1938 (Earle Vienet)

‘The Canberra Times’ 0n 15 January 1938 reported that Kluge successfully broke the Australian 250cc Flying Quarter Mile in Canberra on 14 January 1938. Further, whilst in Australia Kluge won the South Australian Lightweight and Junior TT’s, on the same DKW SS 250 at Lobethal on December 27 1937. Elsewhere it was reported that Ewald attracted a lot of attention from the German speaking locals, many people from Germany emigrated to South Australia and settled in the Barossa Valley, near Hahndorf in particular. The Authorities  gave him attention in relation to the displaying of Nazi Swaztikas. Whether he liked it or not he was a member of the N.S.K.K., the ‘Nationalist Socialist Drivers Club’, difficult for the German racing heroes of the day to avoid. In Victoria he won the Lightweight TT at Ballarat Airfield, he also raced at Phillip Island on January 31 1938, as reported here, returning to Germany on February 8.

The Brisbane ‘Courier Mail’ on 15 June announced plans for Kluge to return to Australia in December 1939 but war put paid to that.

Ewald Kluge was born on 19 January 1909. After leaving school he was apprenticed as a mechanic. Kluge soon bought a Dunelt motorcycle, entering the 1929 Freiberger Dreiecksrennen, starting first and finishing in third place. Over the next few years, Kluge rode a private DKW before joining the works team in 1934 as a mechanic and backup rider. In 1935 he was made a full member of the team.

From 1936 to 1939, Kluge was German champion in the 250 cc class and in 1938 and 1939 he was also European champion. In June 1938, He won the 250 cc Lightweight TT at the Isle of Man. He was the first German and only the second rider from continental Europe to win the race.

During the War Kluge was a Sergeant in Leipzig at the school for army motorisation in wunsdorf In 1943, he was released from his role at the request of Auto Union, for whom he went to work in their testing department. After the war, the Russians denounced him as a Nazi and between 1946 and 1949 he was imprisoned.

From 1950, Kluge once again rode for DKW, often riding in both the 250 cc and 350 cc classes. In 1952 Kluge competed at the German GP finishing fifth in the 350 cc race and fourth in the 250 cc race. In 1953 he had a serious crash at the Nurburgring in which he fractured his thigh, ending his riding career. Later he worked in public relations for Auto Union.

Kluge died on 19 August 1964 from cancer. He was married and had a son and a daughter.

kluge 2

Ewald Kluge on his DKW SS 250, Lobethal, South Australia, December 1937. (Tony Parkinson Ray Trevena Collection)


Baron von Oetzen (unattributed and undated)

Baron Claus von Oetzen.

During 1932, four German motor manufacturers; Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer merged under the pressures of the depressed German economy to form Auto Union. The new company’s four-ringed emblem is credited to von Oertzen.

von Oertzen, in charge of sales at Wanderer, became sales director and chairman of the board of Auto Union.

Von Oertzen wanted a showpiece project that would bring fame to his new firm. Together with Ferdinand Porsche and Hans Stuck (senior), one of Germany’s most successful racing drivers, they began work on a new ‘people’s car’ and also a government-sponsored racing program.

Initially a sum of 500,000 reichmarks  was pledged to Mercedes Benz but Dr. Porsche convinced the government that two programs were better than one, and the 500,000 RM would be split by the two competing firms.

Von Oertzen had to leave Germany as his wife was a Jewess, in 1935 they relocated to South Africa away from the Nazis view. From 1936 he initiated the export of the DKW saloon car to South Africa and Australia, the visit by he and Ewald Kluge in 1937/8 was partially about racing but largely to establish export and distribution arrangements for Auto Union products. In 1937 he arranged for the Auto Union racers to be brought to South Africa for promotional purposes.

In addition to South Africa and Australia, von Oertzen also worked in Indonesia, where he and his wife, Irene, were interned in separate prison camps during the War.

After the cessation of hostilities Volkswagen Germany appointed him as their representative in South Africa. He was instrumental in the early stages of negotiations to bring Volkswagen to South Africa.

In Australia von Oetzen appointed his pre-war DKW partner, Lionel Spencer’s Regent Motors as the local VW importer and distributor, the first cars arrived in October 1953.

Oetzen was born in 1894 and died in 1991.

baron 3

‘The Canberra Times’ report on the Kluge/ DKW 250cc Australian Speed Record attempts on 14 January 1938.

pi circuit

Diagram of the original Phillip Island, ‘gravel surface with some blue metal stone chips rolled in’ road course. The roads, now bitumen, still exist, the circuit is well marked including signs which explain the locations historic significance (kolumbus.f1)

waite 1928 agp

Capt Arthur Waite, the Australian born son in law of  Herbert Austin, on his way to winning the first AGP in 1928. Phillip Island in his factory backed Austin 7 s/c, specially developed for Brooklands. Event has become known as the AGP but was called the ‘100 Miles Road Race’ by The Light Car Club of Australia, the promoters at the time. March 31 1928. Race 16 laps, total 170Km(unattributed)

Rugby or chrysler at cowes 1938 001

Caption; ‘Rugby or Chrysler at Cowes 1938’.Speedway cars, these two (Earle Vienet)


Earle Vienet Collection, Trevor and Graeme Vienet, Motor Racing Australia Magazine #35 ‘Phillip Island Pre-War’ article by Graham Howard, Wikipedia

melbourne, Kolumbus.f1, Stephen Dalton and John Medley for research assistance

Tony Parkinson Ray Trevena Collection, The Velobanjogent